One of the things that a narcissist can’t live without is a scapegoat.
Narcissists need a scapegoat to feel emotionally stable. They use scapegoats as repositories for their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions because they are so emotionally immature and stunted that they are incapable of managing their thoughts, feelings, and emotions on their own.
This article is going to help you grasp a comprehensive understanding of the reason that narcissists need a scapegoat.
1. How to Tell If You’re a Scapegoat (Family Setting) by Lucianne Gerrard, Registered Counselor Specializing In Narcissistic Abuse
Narcissists Need a Scapegoat to Feel Emotionally Stable
Emotional stability refers to our ability to remain stable and balanced.
Narcissists use scapegoats to feel emotionally stable.
Now, the keyword here is feel.
This is because it is very unlikely that a narcissist could ever truly be emotionally stable.
In fact, they are the complete opposite of emotional stability.
In order for someone to truly be emotionally stable, they must be able to withstand the whirlwind that life throws their way, and still be productive and capable through it.
The reason that this is extremely unlikely for a narcissist is because they have so many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they can’t manage on their own.
We are going to speak more thoroughly about this later on but this is the reason that a narcissist uses a scapegoat as a repository for their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
How do they do this? They rely on a defense mechanism called projection.
Narcissists Project Their Emotional Pain onto Their Scapegoat
Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when someone takes a part of their identity that they find unacceptable and places it onto someone else.
For example, if a cheating husband accused his wife of cheating instead of acknowledging his own actions, this would be considered projection.
The way that narcissists project their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions onto their scapegoats is through the most vile forms of abuse and manipulation imaginable.
This is because when a narcissist is able to destroy the self-esteem of their scapegoat, it allows them to figuratively point their finger at them and think to themselves, “I’m not the unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak one, they are.”
Now, it is important to mention that scapegoats are not chosen randomly.
Scapegoats are chosen because some part of their identity reminds the narcissist of all the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they have suppressed within themselves.
So, when a narcissist attacks their scapegoat, what they are really doing is attacking the parts of themselves that they find unacceptable.
To be fair, if you’re just learning about narcissistic abuse, it can be hard to imagine that the narcissist has these types of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, but it is true.
Narcissists just do a really, really, good job at hiding them or convincing others that they are the ones with the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions through projection, hence the reason projection makes them feel emotionally stable.
Now, the reason that narcissists rely on a scapegoat and projection to manage their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions instead of a healthy alternative such as therapy is because they have low emotional intelligence.
We will dive into this in the next section but here are some articles that you may find helpful (see below).
Our article “How Are Narcissists Made?“ has information that will help you understand the origin of narcissists’ painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Our article “How Do Narcissists Choose Their Scapegoat?“ has more helpful information about how scapegoats are chosen.
One Reason Scapegoats Are Chosen by Dr. Karen Kuemerle-Pinillos, a PhD Level Clinician, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
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Narcissists Rely on Projection Because They Have Low Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.
Having low emotional intelligence means that you have difficulty recognizing and understanding your emotions and those of others.
People with low emotional intelligence tend to have poor emotion regulation.
This is the reason why narcissists are incapable of managing their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions on their own.
Many mental health professionals believe that the origin of a narcissist’s low emotional intelligence is an abusive or unhealthy childhood upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers.
Before we go any further, it is important to mention that this belief has a very broad spectrum of possibilities.
Meaning that it could range anywhere from primary caregivers who are physically abusive to those whose emotional availability, responsiveness, and consistency is unhealthy (e.g. too much pampering, being overprotective, lack of boundaries).
We are often too quick to associate the terms “abusive” and “unhealthy” with physical abuse, and more evident forms of psychological abuse.
But there are many narcissists who never experienced those forms of abuse.
Now that we are clear on that, let’s move on.
So, the emotional neglect that narcissists are believed to have experienced prevented them from getting the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development.
This is because emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers are incapable of mirroring the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of their children.
In this context, mirroring refers to a primary caregiver’s accurate reflection of a child’s expressed thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.
Unfortunately, without healthy parental mirroring, narcissists were left to figure out both their internal and external environment on their own.
This caused them to develop many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions because their primary caregivers’ neglect essentially taught them that they were unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, weak, and worthless.
Sadly, narcissists had no way to manage these painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions because of the low emotional intelligence that they developed as a result of their unhealthy cognitive development.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
Narcissists need a scapegoat to feel emotionally stable. They have many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they’re too emotionally stunted and immature to manage on their own so they make up for this by projecting them onto their scapegoat.
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Gemmill G. The Dynamics of Scapegoating in Small Groups. Small Group Behavior. 1989;20(4):406-418. doi:10.1177/104649648902000402.
Caplan, P. J., & Hall-McCorquodale, I. (1985). The scapegoating of mothers: A call for change. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 55(4), 610–613. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1939-0025.1985.tb02711.x