5.c. Narcissists Playing the Victim While Vilifying the True Victim

The Scapegoats of a Narcissistic Mother by Gail Meyers

My narcissistic personality disordered mother dearly loved pleas for pity, ascending the martyr throne, playing the victim, and vilifying the true victims. The destruction these ploys can inflict is nothing less than astonishing. This includes immediate results, such as swindling people out of money or inflicting abuse by proxy on the scapegoat, as well as cumulative damage to your reputation and other relationships over time.

Why Narcissistic Mother Loves Pity 

Plays for pity are a favorite for narcissistic mothers because empathetic, compassionate people do not want to see someone suffer. We want to help. Many of us were raised to fix it. When we pity someone we let our guard down. Narcissists know this, so they often resort to manipulating with pity in an attempt to get what they want. 

Narcissistic Mother's Pity Play Con for Money 

This is a real life example of what I repeatedly, although completely inadvertently, caught my narcissistic personality disordered mother doing when I was in my twenties.  Poor little narcissistic mother has been saving her pennies in hopes that one day she can buy this garden statue. She loves to garden and after searching and searching, this is the perfect finishing touch. She works so hard (always with the implication that she somehow worked harder than anyone else), but she just has not been able to save enough money for it. She is going to keep saving until one glorious day she is able to buy it.

I was a single mother at the time, but she had her heart set on it. So like a well programmed adult child of narcissists I surprised her by buying it for her even though I could not afford to.  A couple of weeks later, just in the general course of conversation, my grandmother announces how she gave my mother the money to buy a statue she wanted for her garden. She was so excited to finally be able to buy it after saving for it for so long.  She works so hard.

One would think that is shameless enough behavior, but it did not stop there.  A few days later I hear my aunt tell how she also bought my mother the exact same statue.  She works so hard, but she just could not afford to buy it. So my narcissistic mother accepted all three gifts without telling anyone the other two had already given her the statue or the money to buy it.

This is just one more example of why I am astounded by those who claim narcissists just do not know what they are doing!  She knew exactly what she was doing. She was conning people out of money with pity ploys. I do not even know how many times I discovered her pulling this scheme over the years with various extended family members.

My mother then attacked me when she realized I inadvertently discovered her schemes. She then orchestrated several nearly unfathomable melodramas in a methodical attempt to convince extended family members and others I was the con artist instead of her. In true narcissistic style, she set out to do her usual preventative lying and smearing of anyone she realized saw through her or one of her schemes, usually accusing them of the very thing she was doing.  

Narcissists Are Always the Innocent Victims

My mother openly told me she did not feel about me as her child, but as her peer. This on its own is dysfunctional, but my mother did not have peers. My mother had competitors. Due to my childhood sexual abuse by my step-father my mother often treated me like the other woman. Even though numerous friends told me how jealous she acted, I did not fully realize until years later that in her mind she was competing with me.

In true narcissistic style, my mother considered herself the victim when I went to childhood sexual abuse therapy and told the truth of my childhood abuse. I was sexually, emotionally, physically and spiritually abused under her roof as her child by a man she married. Yet, she thought I ruined her life by telling the truth about it! She repeatedly told me how I ruined her life, but only privately.

My mother was mad as hell I told about the childhood sexual abuse. She was especially angry I told my grandmother. My narcissistic mother's entire defense was that she did not know, but had I told her of course she would have done something. However, even this feigning innocent while victim blaming was exposed years later upon discovering the true reason she was so focused on me telling my grandmother. My grandmother knew my mother had every reason to know all along due to my step-father trying to molest my mother’s then 12 year old sister shortly after their wedding.

My narcissistic mother was also as mad as hell because revealing the truth forced her to have to leave her pedophile husband and get a job since she could no longer convincingly pretend not to know she was married to a pedophile. Again, in her mind, this was me ruining her life. 

Playing the Victim While Vilifying the True Victim

As a child and young adult, I still believed the tall tales that this one or that one attacked my innocent mother because they were jealous of her, but she did not have a jealous bone in her body. In reality, she was perhaps the most jealous person I have ever known. When I was an adolescent my mother's jealous rages took the form of spankings, beatings really, with whatever was handy and wherever she happened to strike. As an adult, my narcissistic mother viciously verbally assaulted me when there were no witnesses, then told everyone I attacked her. She was the aggressor, but played the victim while vilifying the true victim.

When I told my mother about my childhood sexual abuse, I broke the toxic unwritten family rule of never telling the truth about the abuse. In this extremely toxic environment, the abuse is not viewed as the problem, exposing the abuse is considered the problem. It was also against the toxic family rules of my family of origin to seek therapy, allowing new knowledge or information into the closed system.

I realized later that revealing the sexual abuse put me in her highly cherished victim role.  I inadvertently knocked her off of her martyr throne, and cast her in a poor light for failing to protect me simply by seeking therapy and healing. She went to great lengths to return to her martyr throne and put me back in my scapegoat role. Thus, even with my childhood sexual abuse she played the victim while vilifying the true victim.

She did not want me to have any support or compassion from anyone, but in true narcissistic style wanted it all for herself. I later discovered it was also because she had every reason to know my late step-father was a pedophile as early as a few days after their wedding. Hence, it exposed more than I realized at the time, things her mother and extended family members knew that I did not yet know at that time. The truth certainly was not a tale of innocent martyrdom or heroism, but more one of a co-conspirator.

So my mother cast therapy and my excellent therapist as the real issue by telling everyone how I was supposedly attacking her after every therapy session. She used my sexual abuse as the reason for my (fabricated) attacks on her in order to turn the situation around in the eyes of others.

She considered me telling the truth about the sexual abuse to be me ruining her life. After repeatedly pulling this stunt of falsely claiming I had savagely attacked her when she had in fact attacked me, she eventually declared how she hopes I heal from the sexual abuse. She really does, but she has done all she can. She just cannot handle being attacked all the time. She is a person too, you know.

She pulled this exact same stunt on my late brother after he confronted her. She smeared his name literally for the rest of her days claiming he had irrationally attacked his mother without cause. She often repeated her heroic escape from her drug crazed, irrational son. This was your queue to pity her and abhor him. 

Narcissistic Mother's Victim Maneuver

If you are on the receiving end of this psycho maneuver, it can really do a number on you. My mother caused untold damage with this maneuver, yielding both immediate and long-term damage.

  • Conceals her contemptuous, abusive behavior allowing her to avoid accountability. This is always on a narcissist’s agenda. 
  • Moves narcissistic mother back to her martyr throne garnering a surplus of pity for more manipulation. 
  • Moves everyone back into the role she assigned – her the innocent martyr and my brother and I the scapegoats.
  • Causes the true victim to be disparaged with false accusations of vicious behavior in the eyes of others.

    • Thus, it can deny the true victim any validation or support from others, adding to the invalidation and gaslighting effect. 
    • There is potential damage to reputation and relationships, which can be infuriating, demoralizing and increase isolation. 
    • It may result in abuse by proxy from the flying monkeys. The true victim first verbally assaulted by the narcissistic mother may now be abused or punished by proxy for treating his or her mother so poorly! 
  • It moves the scapegoat closer to being ostracized by others who believe the lies. This damage to reputation is not forgotten. The narcissist will continue to build on it as she destroys as much reputation and as many relationships as she can. 
    • The other narcissists in an narcissistic extended family may also build on the false image a narcissistic mother creates if it suits their purposes. 

Recognizing Narcissistic Mother's Victim Stunt

Playing the victim while vilifying the true victim is one hell of a deal for narcissistic mother. Narcissistic mother pulls her well trained children's strings, punishes the scapegoat by proxy using the golden child or her flying monkeys, then plays innocent while even garnering more pity as she proclaims how she must endure these contrary children.

In my experience, all of this can transpire overtly or very subtly and covertly.  So you may clearly see what your narcissistic mother is doing or you may not. Our mother was much more dramatic and obvious when we were children, but had honed her acting and manipulation skills by the time we were adults.  It is for this very reason my late brother and I often called her Scarlett O'Hara. So you may just know something is wrong, but not be able to put your finger on it.  You may not see the absurdity until much later or when you learn about some of the narcissistic mother's nasty maneuvers.

It is essentially taking you down a notch to make toxic mom feel superior and in control while making you feel and look bad.  Whatever characteristic you value in yourself, or narcissistic mother envies, are often the target in this scenario. For example, you pride yourself on being a generous person, but narcissist mother is a con artist.  So, narcissistic mother will rip you off, then accuse you of being a money grubbing thief to anyone who will listen - including you.  While you are thinking surely her conscience will kick in and she will pull herself back, she is thinking how brilliantly she pulled off her latest stunt.

Things quickly become much clearer when you realize the same behavior you consider immoral and treacherous, she considers a brilliantly executed maneuver she pulled off without being caught.  If you watch for it, you will notice the smirk or the glimmer in her eye that will reveal the truth to you.

I like to believe most of us are compassionate human beings, but it is a mistake to assume everyone has normal human characteristics.  You will never catch on to a narcissist's treacherous stunts until you accept the fact that regardless of the reasons why, some people are consistently treacherous human beings. There are those walking among us who, for whatever reason, do not possess such human characteristics as compassion, empathy or remorse. In my experience, narcissistic manipulators have no problem using, abusing, conning, lying and slandering even close family members.  Actually, they seem to reserve their worst behaviors for those closest to them.

If you are waiting for validation in the form of an acknowledgement of the abuse, remorse or an apology, you are thinking like a normal human being who is dealing with another normal human being. However, what the narcissist is doing when it is all said and done is feeling smug as she tells herself how superior she is for orchestrating the whole ordeal and getting away with it.

My mother pulled the same stunt with various people in many circumstances.  As I look back over the years, I can pretty clearly see who caused her an issue. If you heard a martyr tale about someone attacking her, you could almost be sure they figured her out, she was paying them back for something or she was jealous.

Listen to your instincts! Start recognizing when you are being manipulated, pressured into doing something you would not freely do if you were asked directly with no pressure.  Notice your body and listen to your body, when your muscles tighten up.  Notice that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Seek to strike a balance, between being so protective of yourself as to help no one and so easily manipulated that you are easily played with pity ploys.  This balance naturally came in time once I began paying attention to when I was being manipulated.  For many years now when someone starts manipulating, it feels to me like I walked into a sticky cobweb.


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I just came across your site today, looking for more answers beyond what has been explained to me in counseling, and it's astounding the similiarties. The tightwad gift situation, pinning siblings against me (currently going on), flying monkys, even the Scarlett O'hara reference. I've started to become aware of this behavior within the last 4-5 years (I am 32) and I'm defn the sensitive one, the whistle blower. I can't stop reading b/c it helps so much to know someone understands so clearly. Again, thank you.

  2. Thank you for this! It explains a lot. I have to wonder why your grandmother did not do anything to protect you even though she knew your stepfather was a child molester.

  3. My Mother said almost word for word what is written in this article when I first started to talk to her about the way I was treated by her second husband as a child. She said that she was sorry, that she loved me and wanted me to heal, but she was not going to allow me to beat her over the head regarding the past.

  4. My Mother said almost word word what the mother in this article said when I tried to talk to her about the abuse I suffered at the hands of her second husband. She said she was sorry and that she wanted me to heal, but she would not allow me to keep beating her up over the past and I could not discuss it with her anymore. It is very strange to read this. I had this conversation with her almost 30 years ago. I did see myself as wrong for bringing it up and believed that I was being a bad child who was hurting my Mom. It has taken me this long realize her narcissistic traits, her role in scapegoating me. I have lived all this time believing the way I have felt about myself and the things I have failed at overcoming were due to his abuse. I failed to see how she has always, with great stealth, and under the guise of "love" kept me in the position of being the family scapegoat for my entire life. Now I am starting to understand and see things I just could never see before. Now I know why I have always felt so bad around her and my family, why I have spent a lifetime holding myself back, feeling inferior, feeling as if I should not be here. It is a strange thing, the fog, the brainwashing and how hard it is to accept the truth when I have been so well trained not to. Seeing it almost word for word here is an incredible validation every time I start to doubt my newly found insight.

  5. Hi,
    I am 34 and the scapegoat child of my N mother, my younger sister,the golden child and my father, the flying monkey both passed away one year ago, it is very hard for me... i have tried reading on N characteristic from every possible sight n video but unfortunately they just give us the characteristics of the N mother,which by now I already know very well... but no one, no sight, no video tells us how to heal, how to deal with all the repressed emotions, all the depression, the low self esteem, how to find out who we truly are,how to stop seeking validation from every stranger we meet, how to stop criticizing myself, how to stop talking to myself(which I have and still is using as a survival technique),how to stop doubting every thought,every action, every emotion that comes to me, how to stop feeling trapped, how to stop feeling guilty all the time...

    1. Hello Mila. There is a lot of good quality information available in my opinion. However, I don't know that you are going to find any quick answers. And while I definitely understand the desire to, that may be just as it should be. For example, when I went through childhood sexual abuse therapy many years ago I had repressed memories. There were years of my childhood I could not recall. My therapist suggested I do things like free association journaling, keeping a pen and paper by my bedside to write down what I was dreaming before it vanished from memory after I awoke, etc. However, I would not want to have gone through what can be such a frightening experience with a YouTube video. A qualified therapist is a huge part of the equation (healing process) in my opinion, someone who knows what they are doing to guide you through the healing process. Then, maybe compliment that relationship and work with helpful reading online.


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