It may appear as “cliché”for some people, but the truth have to be said, the way we are raised and the relationship we have or had with our family of origin impacts our relationships throughout our lives. Think about it – our family is our first social group. We learn our “place” within our family years before we attend school. We learn the dynamics of a relationship by watching our parents – whether they were together or not. Was it a loving, respectful relationship? Or was one parent constantly belittling the other?
More importantly, how were you treated as a child? Were your accomplishments met with rejoicing, or did your parent take the credit? Were your praised, or did your parent always say you could “do better”? Were you always the problem?
Many of my clients are children of a narcissistic parent. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. “ The sadness of a childhood filled with conditional love and emotional abuse, of course, leads to difficulty with all relationships, particularly with romantic partnerships.
I’ve read many articles on children of narcissistic parents, and the majority seems to focus mostly on the narcissistic mother. This is most likely because mothers are typically the nurturers, the parent who is seen as the one who wipes away the tears – and narcissistic mothers are the complete antithesis of what most of us picture when we think of “Mom”. And the spouse of a narcissist is also a victim, giving in to avoid the wrath of the narcissist, or coming to their defense.
Some of those articles contain an extremely accurate list outlining the behaviours of a narcissistic parent. I’ve included here the behaviours I’ve heard most often:
They loved to lay on the guilt- “I’ve sacrificed everything for you”
They liked to “get even” with you – usually passive-aggressively. Maybe something of yours got lost, or broken, or they “forgot” to send in field trip money.
They never respected your boundaries – you had no privacy, anything they bought for you was “theirs”. They might read your mail, listen to conversations – this could all be used against you later
They competed with you and “owned” your accomplishments – Were you sick? They’ve been sicker. Did you win an award? Well, you got that talent from them.
They never listened to, or cared about, your feelings, and they never displayed empathy– If you shared your feelings, they might make fun of you, tell a roomful of people about it, or make it about themselves. Whatever you were struggling with, they had it worse. If you got hurt – they would tell you to “walk it off”, “stop being a baby”.
They constantly insulted you – They loved to humiliate you, especially around others.
They “gaslighted” you – They would make you feel like you were crazy, or would make you question your sanity. If you try to bring up something that happened in childhood, they will say, “That never happened”. This is especially damaging if there was any childhood sexual abuse, and the parent denies that it happened or that you “made a big deal over nothing”.
They reacted intensely to any form of criticism – Either this would be “How dare you criticize me? I sacrificed everything for you!” or, would lead back to gaslighting “You’re crazy – I never did that! “
They “parentified” you – you would take care of them rather than them taking care of you. You had many chores and weekends were rarely for fun or relaxing
They were infallibly correct and would never admit wrong – They would apologize – it was always your fault.
They liked to present a perfect image to outsiders – Outsiders most likely loved the narcissistic parent. The narcissistic parent does so much for people outside of the family, to look good and feed their need to be the center of attention.
As the child of a narcissist, it makes sense that relationships would be extremely difficult. How can we possibly trust anyone if we cannot trust our own parent? And if one parent is the narcissist and the other is not – that parent did not come to your rescue to save us from the narcissistic parent, thus making us unable to trust them as well.
Aside from trust issues, it is easy to see how children of narcissists often struggle with anxiety and depression, poor boundaries and an inability to say “no”, being a “people pleaser”, codependency and fear of taking chances.
And, as much as we hope to avoid a relationship like this, we are often drawn to the narcissist because of the dynamic in which we grew up. We are drawn to the narcissist’s outward charm, and receiving the attention that we did not get as a child.
Healing from being emotionally (and, often, physically) abused and manipulated by a narcissistic parent takes some time and energy. It is important to create boundaries with the parent if you still have a relationship with them, and, through support, heal the inner-child and the childhood that was taken away and begin taking care of your own needs. Through therapy, Thetahealing®, Reiki healing, support groups, etc., you can recognize that you are not at fault, and that you deserve unconditional love and nurturing. And healing is vital so as not to be drawn to other narcissists. We may have to work with them, we may have to interact with them, but we do not have to invite them into our lives.
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