The Golden Child and the Black Sheep, Two Sad Family Dynamics

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I was five when I realized I was the most mature person living in my home. My mother threw temper tantrums and my father was a perpetual five year old, and my sister needed protecting. I felt a deep responsibility to create peace and stability where my baby sister could thrive outside the violence I had never come to see as normal. My belief, or personal delusion, was that I had the power to create balance and love in my family. This delusion made me the black sheep and began my long battle with reality, mental illness, and depression.

Delusion is a powerful force. It comes to all types of psychological conditions in all kinds of forms. You can be delusional about your job, your marriage, your home town, your parents, your religion, and your government. You can believe what is not true because it’s safer and easier and less traumatic than facing reality. In a family riddled with dysfunction it is common to find a black sheep or a golden child or sometimes both. These titles come from the delusion that one child is better or less worthy, than the other.

A golden child has a high degree of merit in beauty, talent, athleticism, that the dysfunctional parent (usually a narcissist) lives through them and gains a sense of superiority through that child. The black sheep is the child the parent dose’t identify with because the black sheep is so different they seem alien. This child is bright, emotional, insightful, creative, and comfortable expressing their emotions. The black sheep will also slip easily into depression and anxiety as their needs go unmet. All aspects of the black sheep upset the mentally ill parent who sees them as a threat and an embarrassment. The black sheep is a threat because they see through the family delusions of normal, happy, and well adjusted while also being a constant embarrassment because they ask all the wrong questions, don’t play the pretty and perfect game, are way too authentic with everyone and reach out for clarity when they feel misunderstood.

The black sheep gets most of the punishment which they turn into defiance and depression while the golden child is objectified, trotted out at family events and public events like a prized pony and general decorated with good clothes and better care and yet still not loved unconditionally because as long as they are making the parent proud they are safe but if they fail in glorifying the parent by not being the best, the prettiest, the most sensational being in the room then love is withdrawn and their pedestal is kicked over and they lose their place in the family. Wether they are the black sheep or the golden child, each child is living in a perpetual hell. 

It’s hell because the children are living on a tight-rope of conditional love that gets smacked with a hammer each time the mentally ill parent shifts moods. A mood shift can be dependent on something as small as the weather or how pretty or ugly that parent feels that day. The children in this family must learn to read their parent like a book to know if they are safe or in danger, if people pleasing, or avoidance is the best tactic to choose. Should they clean the house or leave and go outside. 

Both the golden child and the black sheep experience these shifts in conditional love from day to day. One tells them they have the right to live and feel secure and the other says they were never wanted or liked to begin with. The children in these family dynamics only have each other for comfort, and seeing this the narcissistic parent will create sibling rivalry in order to separate the children from one another and make them primarily attached to the narcissist. “All roads lead to mom,” was a saying I used to remind myself with. I knew that all secrets, all dreams, all hopes somehow made their way to her to be used as tools of punishment when she chose to wield the garnered information collected by other family members who felt it their family duty to report on one another. 

The delusions that last longest after the family as crumbled and the children have grown and left    are the delusions held by the damaged children which perpetuate through their families if they don’t get help. As the black sheep my delusions or core beliefs about myself state that I’m unlovable, unworthy, easy to abandon, and can’t trust anyone but myself. A golden child’s core delusions or core beliefs about themselves state that pretty makes perfect, the right clothes make you safe, nothing less than perfect makes you lovable, and your only value is how others perceive you so you better get out there and shine. There are a myriad other negative core beliefs that go with these syndrome and I’m telling you now that if you experienced conditional love from a narcissistic parent you will need help with healing from a highly qualified trauma specialist. Growing up in these levels of hell are no joke and you don’t want to pass your trauma onto your children. 

End the cycle now. Seek help. Healing is possible. I love you. Find peace to know peace. You can do this.