One of the dubious privileges of having a history of belonging to environments where Cluster B behaviours are normalised is that you have the opportunity to watch intergenerational relationships evolve. (Before someone accuses me of allowing evil to triumph of evil by standing idly by while it unfolds, there isn’t a damn thing anyone can do unless people cross certain lines. The more functional ones never do.)
You can follow the lines on family trees and see the development of various dysfunctions. Sometimes you can see completely separate lines run in parallels, and then converge. It’s uncanny how often couples will have similar monsters in their family closets, even though they absolutely did not pick each other for that reason. In fact, they might not even know it until a family discovery reveals a shared history of substance abuse, mental health problems, domestic violence, suicide, etc.
It’s even more uncanny to see how kids are brought up. Some are raised to be equals, encouraged to engage in the same behaviours. Some are raised to be prey. I’ve seen siblings under the same roof raised completely differently, with one designated as a prey item for the whole family to feast upon.
It never seemed to have much to do with the personality, skills, or attitudes of the kids. I’ve come to suspect that it’s literally nothing more than the reflection of how well the needs of the parents are met outside the home. Provided that their needs are not bottomless or focused, how good their home behaviour is seems to be somehow correlated to how self-actualised they are. It may be a combination of two factors. Firstly, if they’re meeting their needs from the outside world, they don’t need to prey at home; they might choose to keep their family life an oasis of peace, quiet, and safety, while wreaking havoc elsewhere. Secondly, if their social group validates the way they are and their behaviours, warts and all, they may not be suffering not only from social conflict but also from any internal conflict. Or it could be something else entirely; this may be a wild theory with no reflection in the real world. I do know, though, that a happy narcissist can be a joy to be around. It’s when they are unhappy that you’ve got a problem.
None of this seems to have much to do with how the kids are – their attitudes, needs, or personality. All of it is subject to change; if the world outside stops providing, the nature of the relationship may alter beyond recognition.
I don’t know what’s worse for the kids, realising this or being blissfully unaware. It’s horrendous to grow up realising that, regardless of how you’re treated, you are nothing more than a character in a family play. That you’re not a person; you’re an item with an externally designed function whose sole worth is in how well you perform that function. I know that’s bad, but I can’t even begin to know how it must feel to grow up buying into the deception only to discover the shallowness of it all when the situation changes. Between constant othering and the possibility of sudden and inevitable betrayal, it doesn’t seem much of a choice.