Tag Archive | Children

The Child of the Narcissist

(Originally published May 2011)

Sometimes I get ideas in my head and know that I must get up and type; otherwise I will never get to sleep.  Having been one of these children and having recently had very moving conversations with another person who also felt this dread, I knew I must write about it.  As a therapist, I feel responsible for airing out all those things which give us torment, so that we have a place to share, cry, and be heard.  For having a parent who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you do not get the chance to do so.

A child who grows up with a parent who has NPD, has no parent at all.  In fact, they have no self as well.  The child’s life is consumed with pleasing the parent in a way that no other child, not sharing the same type of parent, can understand.  Your childhood revolves around this parent.  The opposite parent must revolve around the NPD spouse.  Your needs and wants must be that of the parent with NPD.

If there is more than one child, one will inevitably be the scapegoat.  You know who you are.  The one who takes the blame for everything because the NPD parent will not.  Someone must be at fault for ruining their life.  Another child will invariably be the rescuer for this parent and they are the prodigal child.  This is the one who does all that was intended, perfectly and in the order presented by this parent.  There can also be a child who will have dependent personality disorder.   This is the one who will need the parent for anything and everything because they are so challenged by life and the NPD parent will gladly be needed for their mercy.  Someone who needs the Narcissist to be at their beck and call, is exactly what they want.  The NPD imagines in their head that their brood should be around them at all times, because you are incapable of living your life without them.  This is the bird that does not kick the chicks out of the nest because it does not want them to fly.

Thus, if the child of the NPD is capable of getting away and growing up once and for all, they are the enemy to this parent.  No one is allowed to leave the NPD’s kingdom unless it is to do their bidding.  Most survivors whom I have known are those who have had to push away this parent.  Yet even still they live with the lifelong feelings of insecurity and the threat of a phone call which could come at any time – lest you forget the NPD parent is still alive.  A call which will put all your time in therapy to shame, as you are ridiculed and punished once more for anything that they happen to make up.

Unfortunately, I do not know of any Narcissistic parent who was capable of going into therapy and there is no medication for this mental illness.  Why should they go to therapy when it is your fault after all?  At the same time, therapists couches are filled with the children of the Narcissist; most especially the scapegoats.  Children who cling to the hope that their problems will be cured so that for once in their life, the NPD parent will love, respect and be able to have a conversation with them.  The bottom line that we all must realize is that the NPD parent will never change.  Only you can and then you have to figure out how to be in the same room with this person, with your head held high.  It is a lesson in reclaiming your power, even though the abuser will never leave your life.

Tips (for the Scapegoat): Find what works for you.  The answer is not the same for everyone.

1. Tell this person not to talk to you unless they can say something nice.  Be strong when setting this boundary.  Don’t get caught up in their sarcastic or overly dramatic response.  They have loose boundaries, so you must set high standards to preserve your own.

2. Don’t expect to talk for more than 5 minute sound bites, because they aren’t listening to you anyway.

3. Try to stay out of their way – if you can, don’t attend functions where they are present (unless you absolutely have to).  You don’t want to boycott your whole family either.

4. Forget trying to discuss your therapy sessions and what you’ve learned.  Remember, they aren’t listening anyway.  Don’t bring up the past, it is pointless because it had nothing to do with them.  They were there as an innocent bystander.

5.  Whenever you start thinking about them in your head, start whistling a happy tune.  If you think, you will begin punishing yourself as you remember all the “bad” things they said you did.  You will take yourself down and beat yourself up emotionally.  If you can whistle, you switch focus in your mind and soon forget what you were thinking. If meditating and their voice comes in, tap your feet, put on music, do something to re-focus and think of something else.  It takes time to re-program your mind.

6. Do get into therapy, tell your therapist about your NPD parent.  Learn to meditate, take exercise classes, eat healthy, drink plenty of water. Pamper yourself with massage and other holistic treatments.  Get so focused on yourself that you look and feel good, which will make you strong.

7. If you fail to do at least #6 let me give you a warning – you will end up finding yourself in abusive relationships whether at the office, the home, or amongst the people who surround you.  You have to reclaim your power or be a doormat, or punching bag forever.

8. For young people and adults – it can be helpful to get to know older people who are in your life and whom you can talk to.  This is like creating a surrogate parent.  Everyone does need a parent.  Young people can talk to guidance counselors, grandparents, aunts/uncles, friends of family, whomever seems to take a healthy interest in you.  Adults you can do the same – get to know those people in the family who might have been staying away from the same person you are having problems with.

If you are reading this and you are still a young person, you have my sympathies.  Do the best you can to follow the tips above and remember – it isn’t you, you are not a bad person.  You may make mistakes – all kids do. If you are reading this and you are an adult, remember that – you are an adult and you are free to make choices in your life.  Don’t let them control you and tell you what to do.  You are not an adult child and you must take responsibility for your life.  Of course whatever you do will be wrong (to them), but you must keep in mind that what you are doing is for you, it is your life and you can’t blame anyone for your adult choices but yourself.  Let them go, move forward and keep your distance.

Over time, you will begin to heal and make a life for yourself.  There will be setbacks now and then when you have to be in their life.  You have a mentally unhealthy parent and this comes with the territory.  The only person you can change is yourself and if you are strong and set your boundaries – you won’t get a parent but they will leave you in peace.

Now you can read Part Two of The Child of the Narcissist

And purchase the CD: The Child of the Narcissist: Guided Meditations for Healing

Now Available on Download too!

CD Cover

Addition 7/28/12: I found a good book that I want to add to this article. “Will I Ever be Good Enough” by Dr. Karyl McBride. Lots of good case studies to think about.

He Never Says He is Sorry, an article I wrote later about being in a relationship with a Narcissist.

Angry Daughter, Narcissistic Mother written on 1/11/14, is a review of the movie August: Osage County with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.

Advertisements

A Holistic Divorce

This past week I attended a two-day training on collaborative law that I would like to share because it is important to be informed of all your choices when considering a #divorce. Disclaimer – this is for #Ohio residents though there are about 18 states and about a dozen countries who practice collaborative law, so please check in your area to find out what applies to you.

If you are considering a divorce, there are four ways to go about this.

A. Collaborative Law

B. Litigation

C. Dissolution

D. Mediation

I’ll start with litigation which everyone knows about and this is your traditional way of going about getting a divorce. The judge may require mediation as a result of this and this is to try and cut down on court time.

Dissolution is where both parties agree on everything and they have an attorney write up their agreement and present to the court. A very inexpensive way to get a divorce however, as mentioned, both parties must agree. Usually this can happen when there are no children involved.

Mediation is where the couple hires a mediator to discuss what needs to happen and they present their agreement to their attorneys who files it in court. This can be done at the onset, you don’t have to wait for the judge to decide on this.

Then there is collaborative law which I call a #holistic divorce. This is where all parties (professionals and spouses) come to a table and discuss the business of getting a divorce. There is *no court involvement in Columbus, Ohio because the judge comes to the attorneys office to sign off on the divorce (*not the same with other major cities in Ohio, check with your state or country). If court involvement it would be once everything has been settled and then there is a filing of paperwork to approve the divorce.

Collaborative law includes two attorneys, a mental health coach or neutral (not in the capacity of a therapist, nor are they providing therapy but, the service is provided by a licensed therapist), a financial coach or neutral and in some cases other specialists are brought in, if need be, for consultation. All professionals meet with the spouse/spouses individually or as a couple upfront to explain the services and begin to assess the couple. Then all parties and professionals come to the table to begin a discussion of what is to take place. This can involve several sessions but there is no court involvement so the schedules are based on everyone at the table rather than dealing with court being in session. Therefore appointments can be more flexible.

What captivated me by this process is that a mental health coach is involved as well as a financial coach. This means two things. One, the mental health coach is there to help determine what is in the best interests of the children and the family. Someone who understands #psychology vs. a Guardian Ad Litem (aka GAL) who, most often, is not a therapist and does not understand mental health. The mental health coach is also doing an assessment to determine if the couple is going to be a good fit for the collaborative law process. In some instances, i.e., domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness might not be a good fit for the collaborative law process. Two, the financial coach presents the facts of the figures. Then the parties say whose side of the page the items go on and talk about what they see. Eventually, how things will be divided up occurs with much discussion from the team.

In collaborative law, even the attorneys are in a relationship with one another that is not antagonistic as it would be in litigation. While they clearly will represent the spouse who has hired them, at the table they are not in a defensive position but in an empathic position for both parties. This means the spouse who hired them pays for them under the knowledge that their attorney will be listening and be prepared to be concerned for the opposite spouse as well. This is important because the process will not be about “winning” for their side but about the family gaining a supportive outcome.

The divorce process is an uncomfortable position for two people to be in. It is a major transition in someone’s life and how it is dealt with will determine the health and well-being of children involved (as well as the spouses) going forward. When the egos of two people can be mediated by a group of professionals who are helping them to see what is in the best interests of their family, it is more likely that a good outcome can be assured. This is not an inexpensive process yet compared to the time, energy and money that would be spent in litigation, it will most likely be less costly than litigation. The results will most assuredly be less costly on the emotional well-being of both parties and the children involved.

Please note this is NOT legal advice as I am not an attorney. This was presented merely for informational purposes. You should consult with your attorney to find out more information on these options. Also, please take a look at the links provided to gain more knowledge for  yourself. Thank you, Jeannine Vegh, M.A., I.M.F.T.

Attachment Issues and Women Abandoned

If you can struggle through the first half of this movie, with its extreme versions of a woman who appears to be histrionic, you will get a second half that is much more intense and mature. This is typical with Bollywood films. They start out with characters who seem like people you have never known (unless you work in a psych hospital) because they often have bizarre personalities, overact their emotions and then there is the dancing and usually lip synching. In this film they actually added what appears to be a real singer. What I found sad was the deterioration of their society by trying to imitate western culture instead of embracing their own. However, the attachment issues are what this film is really about. Something I did not even realize until they finally brought in the psychotherapist, who was actually portrayed in a realistic and therapeutic way, to give a nod to an acceptance of psychology in a culture that does not embrace this at all (not unusual as most cultures don’t).

The therapist is played by Shah Rukh Khan, a very famous actor in India who has played everything from a person with Asperger’s to a psychotherapist. The last film I saw him in he acted like someone sniffing cocaine through the entire movie, so it was refreshing to see him in a more serious role. They actually show the psychotherapist with ethics in this film. Of course there is some suspense now and then as they try to bait you into thinking he might do something very bad. It made me tense because I am tired of seeing these disturbing portrayals of psychotherapists in the media. I even kept thinking, please, please, don’t do it. He didn’t. However, what the psychotherapist is able to uncover, with his unconventional, but appropriate, modalities are the young girl’s attachment issues.

Attachment issues occur in infancy when a child is removed from the mother and father for whatever reason. I have seen this occur with a woman who’s mother was taken from her at birth for quite some time because of the mother’s mental health issues. A young man I know had yellow jaundice and was hospitalized for a week – with mother coming in each day but for only an hour. Another young man was kidnapped at a year and a half by his father and the mother had no idea of his whereabouts. All foster babies in social services end up with attachment issues. In this movie, the girl’s father’s business goes under and the parents leave her with grandparents and go in search of work via new business deals. She writes to them daily but they never respond to her letters. Mom returns with a baby, temporarily and still does not return to take daughter back until later when her child fails miserably in school.

Thus the real concern here is mother being taken from baby or young child and the child is unsure whether they will return. As a result of this, the child develops coping mechanisms to survive. In this movie, the child sought to get attention from her parents, when they did return and she was seen as an unruly child. The parents (this is not unusual) do not take responsibility for the fact that their child is behaving as a result of their actions early on. As an adult, she is unable to attach to the men she believes she is in love with and runs away from them before they have a chance to abandon her.

Many women come to me with an inability to have healthy attachments as a result of birth trauma (or trauma as a young child). I have spoken about Narcissism on here quite a bit and this is similar but not the same. With Narcissists, the parent (s) is there but they do not form a healthy attachment to their child or they are not warm and nurturing and able to respond to the babies needs. Attachment issues can be seen in a variety of diagnoses as it really depends on how the person has interpreted the situation, their emotional intelligence level and the meanings they have placed on scenarios around them. The only constant I see is an inability to have a healthy relationship with a partner. I see unhealthy relationships with parents as well because it is hard to fix these things. The parent (s) is not in therapy. Sometimes the parent is a Narcissist, a substance user still, have mental illness, or they are ignorant to self-awareness in general because they live in denial. With foster children or adopted children, if they are able to find the biological parent, the parent is unsure how to attach to them after all these years. This causes more trauma.

In this Indian movie, “Dear Zindagi,” (2016) it appears that everything comes together within about ten sessions. This is not realistic but it is a movie and they had spent an entire hour or so showing you a histrionic woman doing things like bouncing around in her apartment so you could watch her hair twirling around (about three times there was a scene like this for several minutes). Several scenes of she and her work mates getting drunk, and the second break-up scene was very confusing because I wasn’t even clear they were in a relationship in the first place (mistake in scriptwriting or editing, who knows). In real life, it is easy for this therapist to see attachment issues but not so easy to help a person turn it around.

Childhood wounds are not as easy as having a nice conversation with your parents or bringing them flowers, as she did in this movie. It is not easy to grow up and act like an adult with your parents, when you have been behaving like a teenager around them for most of you adult life or just rejecting them completely. It is difficult when there are multiple babies from fathers and finances are more of a priority then self-awareness and healing. When a couple comes in for therapy and working on communication issues are taken over by dual self-esteem problems that are very deep and untouched. So you are not looking at a simple process. Nonetheless, I think the movie did do some good things. Show psychotherapy in a positive way – to get people to consider this as an option. It opened the door to a conversation of attachment issues, though I don’t believe they actually ever used this phrase. It became an intellectual discussion about life, even though it did not start out this way.

Try to be patient with the subtitles if you are not a foreign film fan like myself and give this movie a try if you can relate to the above. It is on Netflix and I think you will find it entertaining and enlightening if you can be patient through that first half.

 

Growing Up With a Narcissist

Remember back when you were young. Did you often feel as if you were to blame for everything? Was one sibling revered over you (usually this might be the male child)? Did you try to assert your opinions only to see them turned aside with a phrase similar to “What do you know anyway?” Or at times you might hear “It’s always about you isn’t it?” Did you then and do you now feel as if you are desperately trying to get your parents approval for the decisions you make in life, yet never seem to do anything right? It is very possible that you grew up with a Narcissistic Parent.

My original blog article, The Child of the Narcissist was published in 2011 and today has more than 10,000 readers from around the world – and still counting. I published a part two about a month ago and then just recently put together a CD: The Child of the Narcissist – Guided Meditations for Healing. This CD is available on CreateSpace for only $10.99 a great deal for someone looking for something to utilize as an adjunct to therapy.

CD Cover

A Narcissistic Parent robs a young person of their childhood and then makes life difficult when they try to become a parent themselves. It is emotional abuse that you will suffer your entire life until you take your power back, as an adult. A child of a narcissist has a difficult time individuating from the parent and growing up into an adult. How can you when they are continuously keeping you down? If you also suffered physical and sexual trauma from this parent, it is even more difficult to go out into the world and try your best to be a successful person. The tragedy is that as a child of a narcissist, as long as they hold you emotionally hostage, you continue to seek their approval which you will never get.  How do I know all these things? I am not just a psychotherapist but a survivor as well. I took my power back and write about this now on my website jkvegh.com

The Meditations which I recently published on CD through CreateSpace (and soon to come on Amazon) came about as I began to search for a different way to approach clients in the healing process. I am a great believer in  meditation  and will share this with clients. Then one day I sat down and wrote a script for different meditations that might help a person who was a victim of parental narcissism. Having meditated myself for over 30 years, I used my knowledge of guided meditations from Jon Kabat-Zinn and Shakti Gawain and thought about what someone might need to hear as a child of a narcissist.

This is meant to be an adjunct to therapy because, as a professional, I know doing the CD alone will not be enough. You can’t just self-heal with a series of meditations.  Your voice has been blocked and you need to talk and be validated. Make sure you have a therapist whom you are beginning to do work with and have discussed your mother or father with. Of course this might also include other family members too. Whomever you were raised by and considered a parent.

After you listen and participate in the meditations, make sure you have pen/pencil and paper available to do stream of consciousness writing. This is so beneficial to the process as well. A lot will come up for you and you want to jot this down and then share it with your therapist.

Many things are written about Narcissism and there are even many wonderful movies which highlight this topic as well. These are great resources to utilize. However, the most powerful process in healing from Narcissism is transforming from child to adult in therapy. Now I am offering you this really great CD which has different tracks focusing first on the mind – holistic, than on the body – somatic, and finally, on the spirit – transpersonal.  Taking your power back from the perpetrator will allow you to have the life you have been holding yourself back from all these years. You deserve it!

Mindful Parenting – Eliminate the electronics

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings. Goethe

I went to Hoover Dam today (in Columbus, OH) and was absolutely amazed to see every single person on the bridge with a cell phone in their hand and their heads down. It was a beautiful day of mid-high 80’s and a crisp breeze was reaching out to us from the exploding water down below. In the horizon to the right were deciduous trees commanding attention for over 200 years or more. To the left the river flowing by with a few scant boaters in the midst. Many unoccupied boats sat docked rather than utilized.   As I walked by these people, no one said hello or even noticed that I existed. A man and his son, heads bent down walking, oblivious to the fact that other humans existed. They are discussing something of importance, probably a game they are playing via a smart phone. A bunch of teens were crowded around the building that houses the engineers and they were all gabbing about, looking down at their smart phones – rather than facing each other like men. A bunch of adults who were clearly together sit under the observation deck on the opposite side of the bridge, every single one of them heads down poking very quickly on their mini keyboards. A woman rode by on a beachcomber, right hand clutched to her ear gossiping about life, left hand on the handlebar. Others walk by had head phones on and were staring straight ahead like a zombie.

Dam in Fall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel so bad for these children who’s parents deprive them of nature’s beauty. Who have no ability to set boundaries for themselves, let alone are teaching their children to have no boundaries and to just ignore the world. Parenting like this is neglecting human connection and is creating isolation. No holding hands, no rides on dads shoulders, no talking about the boats and dam and what it is there for. It is not just here that I have noticed this and I am sure you have too. In restaurants families have their heads bent down over IPads. In cars, parents are on their phones rather than focusing on the road, with kids in the back watching videos. Parents are not attaching to their children, they are teaching them to detach from life. The violence level in this world is to such extremes as we have never seen before, in modern times and the stories we hear about the perpetrators are people who have been neglected in life on some level.

What is our future to be like if we are all walking around with our heads down ignoring life around us?