As I wrote in Part 1, being a Golden Child can be summed up perfectly by the lyrics of an old country song:
‘Cause I ain’t never was that kind
Silver threads and golden needles
Cannot mend this heart of mine
Earlier in Part 1 I mentioned that even Golden Children experience narcissistic abuse and compared their situation to be the “MVP” of a cult. Their damned to a lifetime of it because of the “niceness,” the perks, the favors, the bribes. The abuse they experience is oh! so subtle: infantilization (“Never 21”), parentification, victim-playing, clairvoyance, false guilt, and that oldie-but-goodie, vicarious living. But those golden needles weave a Shelob-type web it’s impossible to escape from. Your love has been bought. If you’re a Golden Child son, your “loving mother” might even break up your relationships and even marriage. And, as the decades pass, the expectation, perhaps unspoken, is that the Golden Child will automatically welcome their aging narcissistic parents into your own home and care for them for decades as they become progressively more cruel, more unkind, more demanding, exacerbated by dementia.
The result is, of course, pain and anger but GCs may be utterly confused by their feelings. Unable to identify the source. Result? Breakdowns. Anxiety. Depression (anger at others turned against yourself). Agoraphobia. Screaming your head off with no idea why. I watched this happen in real life in the 90s to “Golden Child” I loved the most. (She later discovered she wasn’t the Golden Child after all!)
Here’s how I would explain what it feels like to be a Golden Child. Remember when you came home from school with a drawing and your mother stuck it proudly to the refrigerator door with magnets for all to see? That’s how I felt, being the Golden Child, especially after I reached adulthood. It felt like there were huge, strong neodymium magnets biting cruelly into my flesh. They were all over my body, pinning me like a vice to the refrigerator door. I was stuck.
I was pinioned with no hope of escape or freedom. I was displayed there for all to see what a Great Project my proud parents had produced. Someone who would do anything and everything they asked, obey them implicitly and take care of them for the rest of their lives. Leave or complain and you are invalidated or told to go and decorate your childhood bedroom (as if that helps.) Dare to expose the abuse and you’ll be called spoiled and they’ll demand you return everything they ever gave you. Leave and you, Golden Child, can kiss your self-esteem goodbye too because the narcissists own it. Leave and you will experience one of the worst emotions a human can feel: cult withdrawal. It haunts me to this day.
But stay .. and you will start dying. A little at a time. I know. I was dying inside. Dying of false guilt, dying of shame, dying of dashed dreams, dying of hopelessness. My narcissists were living happily while the will to live was slowly, silently draining from me. Sure, I had some money. A great education. Career success. But what price glory if you’re controlled, displayed, limited, infantilized, shamed, controlled … oh, I said that.
Life is hard: Whether you’re a Golden Child or a Scapegoat. Life is hard! But the ways in which it’s hard are wildly different for the Scapegoat versus the Golden Child and, unfortunately, money seems central to the angst SCs have against GCs. That’s a very “surface” way of looking at it. Sure the GC might be given money by their narcissistic parents, but what price glory!?! I believe that price is far too high. My love cannot be bribed. My silence cannot be bought.
I hope this article has helped you to set aside some of your anger and see the Golden Children for who they are — abused and miserable. It’s harder for them to figure out why because supposedly, on paper anyways, they “have it so good.”
Can you spare a little empathy for the poor Golden Child? It may help to crack their prickly exterior and mend those fences between estranged siblings.