Updated: Aug 6
What is Triangulation?
Triangulation is where a manipulative person, or someone with high narcissistic traits, brings others into the dynamic to create disorder and gain control.
Before attempting to tackle such a task, the narcissist carefully studies the individual's weaknesses and levels of jealousy or envy. The narcissist picks up the signs in the target, and they use this knowledge as a weapon for triangulation to succeed with their goals. There can never be too much communication between the people; otherwise, the plan can't work.
It is a powerful strategy designed to lure people into conflict and chaos with one another. A game that creates doubt and feeds the narcissists superiority and ego. Triangulation isn't limited to romantic relationships or family dynamics; it's also implemented in the workplace and the wider society and against groups of people. The rule is to divide and conquer for the one seeking power. Covert narcissists find discreet and indirect ways of manipulating others to gain control which is much more scheming.
Triangulation and the Golden Child-Scapegoat Dynamics
A shiny new toy that we will call the golden child. The narcissist is very happy with the shiny new toy and sees it as an extension of themselves. So sweet and perfect is the golden child, but all the narcissist sees is their own perfect image being reflected back to them through the new toy. The reflection fuels the narcissist on multiple levels, and they soak it up energetically. The new toy is too young to speak or have an opinion or explore its own surroundings, so they're not seen as a threat to the narcissist unless the narcissist is jealous, which they often can be.
Over time, the narcissist praises the golden child and puts them on a pedestal, only caring about their attainment and achievements; and whatever else makes them look good. After all, the narcissist needs to be propped up by the golden child, so the golden child must do everything right. The reflection must be a comfortable and agreeable mirror for the narcissist; otherwise, they feel worthless as it reminds them of their imperfections.
When a new toy comes onto the scene, the golden child's place is at risk. The narcissist now assigns the roles to the children. You see, the narcissist splits their good and bad traits and projects them onto both the golden child and the scapegoat. If the golden child has played a satisfactory role, they stay on the pedestal. If they have opinions that contradict the narcissist's opinions, or if they rebel against the narcissist, they will be discarded like a piece of garbage.
The shiny new toy is showered with love and affection, whilst the golden child fights back for their spot. They know the narcissist's expectations, and they hop on board seeking perfection in everything they do. They know what makes the narcissist disappointed, and they do everything in their power to keep them happy. The golden child is idealised by the narcissist once again!
The narcissist coerces each child to think and feel things that don't exist, for example, sowing seeds of jealousy or envy to create drama and hostility in their very own children. Narcissists don't always like their children to be close because they can't play the game of triangulation when siblings are closely knit.
The narcissist sets up the dynamics between the golden child and scapegoat by dividing and separating them as if they're enemies getting ready for war. The narcissist sows chaos, confusion and hatred between the two or more siblings by not acknowledging one child and praising the other in full view of the children. The narcissist may buy gifts or sweets for the golden child and tell them not to mention it to the other. This treatment makes the golden child feel special and entitled, and they see the scapegoat as worthless.
Sometimes the golden child seeks their own idea of freedom and fights back against the narcissist from a very young age; this is when they get demoted and devalued into scapegoat territory, which is not a nice place to be. Once the golden child is knocked from the pedestal, they are forced to watch the new golden child receive all the love and attention; and the new scapegoat receives the harsh words, criticisms and blame for everything that goes wrong in the narcissist's eyes.
On the other side, the narcissist uses the scapegoat as a target for their frustrations, and the golden child becomes a witness to this unfair treatment. The golden child may become too frightened to stick up for the scapegoat, or they may even be glad as they have been fed lies about the scapegoat child, leaving them with no empathy for their sibling.
What happens to the scapegoat?
For many years, the scapegoat may seek validation from the narcissistic parent, only to be kept as a placement or shunned. The narcissistic parent plays by their own rules and will seek out the scapegoat when they need them to perform flying monkey duties - or when they have run out of supply from the outside world.
Sometimes the scapegoat lets go in later years as they see through the narcissistic parent's patterns. Sometimes they cut them off completely, as they realise how much damage has manifested. Sometimes they keep the relationship at a distance and are very superficial to keep the relationship going. Everyone has their own way of dealing with this dynamic. The scapegoat is often labelled as 'the black sheep' for having the courage to call out the dysfunction. Occasionally, the scapegoat child walks away for good to heal any trauma that has occurred.
What About the Golden Child?
The golden child may not be so lucky, especially if they were never swapped, from being the golden child to a scapegoat. Sometimes the golden child may develop high narcissistic traits or even NPD or another personality disorder as they too have suffered trauma. The golden child could never do any wrong. They were encouraged not to express any empathy for their sibling and golden child never had opportunities to reflect. They never had to respect boundaries, which continues to follow them through life. They can also see themselves as perfect, so they set themselves up for a similar fate like the narcissist. They don't think they need to change, and they don't think anything is wrong, so they stay stuck in a very limited mindset.
How to Respond to Triangulation
Disarm the narcissist by stepping away. Cut off all contact with them if you have to or if it's affecting your health. The triangle is not complete without you, and it will fail.
Stop giving them your energy!
You can minimise the triangulation by not giving the narcissist any of your energy. They thrive on your attention so take it away from them.
Ignore any flying monkeys that come to tell you tales, as this will only make you react, which gives the narcissist what they want.
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