Tag Archive | Narcissistic parents

A Narcissistic Family: Lies, Lies, and More Lies

Meet the Valour family, (names changed to protect the victims). There is the Narcissistic Mother, aka the martyr, the chameleon, the adaptor over the years as it suits her. There is the Father or the placator (someone who gives in to the demands of the Narcissist to keep the peace). He, however, is the one who doled out the physical punishment to his stepchildren. There are five children total, one son from a previous marriage who was rarely in the home. There are two daughters (Jenny and Joan) who are stepchildren to the father and then came two sons (Ronny and Frankie) from the Narcissistic Mother.

Jenny was the oldest and ended up being abused the most. She suffered physical abuse from the stepfather and emotional abuse from the mother. She never knew whether she was coming or going, with so many mixed messages growing up. She was beautiful but not as smart as other people’s children, which she was often told. She was old enough to hear “TMI” that her mother enjoyed confiding in her but not old enough to make decisions for herself. She ended up with Severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and got pregnant as a teenager. She married an abusive male from the wrong side of the tracks and got divorced a couple of years later. Her child was given to her Narcissistic mother to raise, because the father of the child disappeared and the courts determined Jenny would end up on welfare.  Jenny’s story is the most compelling here because she became the proverbial “black sheep” of the family and it is her life that will be betrayed to others as the decades went on.

Joan was Special Needs or Borderline Intellectual Functioning. She wasn’t abused as much because the family felt sorry for her. She would become the placator (child) and spent most of her life living with her parents – because she was told by her mother that she couldn’t live in the world by herself. She ended up with a child out of wedlock because she was desperate to have a baby. That baby grew up to have a child out of wedlock as well. As the placator, Joan tells lies to suit her mother or herself and this deflects any responsibility onto herself. She presents as a narcissist because she has no self-awareness.

Ronny ended up the family hero and went on to retire from the military. He exhibits in narcissistic ways because he was entitled as a child. Nothing he can do is wrong in the family’s eyes so he is unable to empathize or take criticism from others.  He is perfect and assumes the world revolves around him when people are with him. That is what he learned growing up. He is a very caring person but very detached from the family. He raised several children but his wife sought to compete for his attention and thus kept the children from Jenny and keeps tight rings around all of them now so that they are one great big enmeshed family. Joan is allowed entrance but only because she continues to elicit sympathy from everyone. Jenny lived most of the time in another state, as well, so the children did not see her much and gifts were given to them (as far as she knows) but there was never acknowledgement so she ceased to send them. She is not sure if the gift giving ever attempted to create a relationship or not.

Frankie died early on as a child so he is the saint in the family. No one ever talks about him because it is too uncomfortable to confront one’s emotions. It is as if he never existed. Jenny tries to create a space for him but the family changes the subject. The father died a decade after his son, and when this happened, the high standards that were expected in the family ceased to exist. This is because the Narcissistic mother focuses too much attention on getting attention from her descendants. Rather than being the mother she once was, who also expected these standards, as it might make her look bad, she allows lowered standards to appear cool and modern.

Thus the family has become like every other family in America with very low standards. The second generation of girls have tattoos all over their bodies. At family events, people show up in whatever they feel like wearing. The third generation toddlers have mohawks and pink hair. One family is raised in filthy conditions. Their parents feed them  daily amounts of sugar through soda and candy to pacify them. This is because their parents raise them like toys and are afraid to set standards. The latter family is Jenny’s child and grandchildren, whom Jenny’s mother raised.

The mother enjoys taking comfort in harming her daughter Jenny. She loves to hear negative things said about her and Jenny’s bitterness and anger have become much darker and deeper over the years. While Jenny has tried to do therapy and create a better life for herself, she feels she has never really found happiness. Her child (whom her mother raised) became a drug addict like his father. He had multiple children from various women, two of which he never sees or has anything to do with.  While he finally did become a “dry drunk,” which means clean but without a mental health support system, his life continues to be a mess.

The lies are the denial that goes requited generation after generation. The matriarch or the Narcissist, who perpetuates the lies, with gossip and tales to feed to the others about her favorite target: Jenny. This has trained the others to feel it is acceptable to lie about Jenny or create stories about what she is like. As they see this anger and frustration coming from Jenny whenever she is at family events, she continues to feed into their beliefs about her created by the Narcissist. Jenny was the scapegoat from the time she began to find her sense of self, as a teenager, and this coat of arms has never been removed. This web of deception in this family will never change unless the descendants begin to question things. Why should they though when the Narcissist adores them and praises their every move.

Family gatherings in the Valour family consist of everyone, but Jenny, adoring themselves and being adored by the Narcissist. No one is honest, is allowed to have opinions, but generally they don’t speak up about their beliefs – if they have one – because they have learned to appease one another.

The Valour family has no courage, no self-awareness, and no empathy. They have empathy for others in their desire to look like good people but not amongst their own kin. They have all ceased to individuate from the mother, with the exception of Jenny who has been outcast. In order to keep her sanity, she continues to try and develop a stronger sense of self but struggles with this daily. She made the mistake of returning home, assuming she was stronger and more prepared but ultimately finds herself collapsing each time she tries to develop some connection with her nieces and nephews or grandchildren. Every attempt she makes is thwarted by their mothers who have developed a bond with the Narcissist in order to be accepted by their own partners.

This type of family is not an exception. I learn about very similar stories of families like this month after month in my office. Either it is the mother or the father who can be the Narcissistic parent. I am often surprised to hear just how far the Narcissists will go, as I learn different ploys these parents will use to take advantage of their children. Some go as far as sexually abusing their children, because they can. I have heard of a parent who put their kids in another house down the street, so they could have their own life (without a parent in the other house and often without enough money to live on). Anything they can get away with, the Narcissistic parent will. Social services have been called out in many of these stories I have heard about. However, as Narcissism is not well understood and many social services staff are not clinically trained (at the master’s level), they are fooled by the Narcissist and close the case. In Jenny’s child’s story, the house is not filthy enough to remove and the unhealthy food is not a reason to remove either. As long as a child eats (even if it is McDonalds everyday), they are eating. As long as the house does not have feces on the floor, needles lying around, and maggots in the food, it is not considered a reason to remove. Having worked in social services for eight years, I know that my standards and the standards of most of us are not a reason to judge others for their stupidity.

There are always the same roles within the Narcissistic family. The spouse placates his/her spouse to keep the peace and generally is the most miserable emotionally (because they have no spouse).  Often the placating spouse stays with the Narcissistic partner because they become too weak from the emotional entrapment. Next there is the prime scapegoat (there can be more than one), the hero (often the opposite sex of the Narcissistic parent), and the child who placates the parent who is the Narcissist and is generally the sidekick of the placating parent.

If you were raised like Jenny, in this type of family, it is important to get support from a therapist who understands Narcissism. Unfortunately, not many do because there are not many trainings on this topic. Most people assume the Narcissist is the CEO or the egotistical person. There is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the Narcissist but why would they go into therapy when there is nothing wrong with them – the fault lies with the scapegoat. I have known people who went to family therapy with the Narcissist and the therapist became fooled as well and the children were blamed. I have also known where the Narcissist was brought into the room – so the therapist could meet them and became emotionally trapped by this person causing them to deflect from their own client.

It is a tricky situation to be in when you are a therapist. You have to be able to know it, smell it, hear it, taste it, (metaphorically) when you see it. Narcissists have a similar language that they use (I hear certain phrases over and over again). It is always emotional abuse to the victim and as I mentioned earlier can sometimes include physical and sexual abuse and even torture. Thus there needs to be more trainings available to social workers and therapist who are practicing in social services, the medical field, in private practice or for counseling centers (both at the academic and community level). The client will often present as bewildered and confused; who know something wasn’t quite right with their parent. With their Narcissistic partner they will think that they (the client) was at fault and will constantly be apologizing when explaining their relationship. We, as clinicians, must always listen and believe and trust the path the client is walking down. We have to look for the things they cannot see and ask questions to understand more. Most of all, we have to normalize their pain. It isn’t important that you meet the Narcissist. If you can feel (your instincts are saying) that this looks like one, it probably is. Never diagnose the person who is not in the room but you can state “This sounds like…” and help the person to get resources to better understand what you are seeing. If the person is a Narcissist, the client will identify with this when they read articles on this topic. They will also be able to better explain to you, as the clinician, their symptoms from learning more about it.

A terribly misunderstood topic, that needs to be more widely understood; so that we can help to identify and bring healing to our clients.

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Mothers Day Video for Victims of Narcissists

Here I am by video; talking to you person to person. A new approach to the blog.

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.

Going Low Contact & No Contact Is Much More Difficult in a Culture Emphasizing Filial Piety

This is a great article from a woman in the Taiwanese culture. I think it gives a much different perspective than what I have tried to talk about here. She has a group on Facebook called ACoNs (Adult Children of Narcissists).

An adult daughter's struggle to recover from narcissistic parents

sad factGiven the cultural gap, it’s difficult for westerners to understand filial piety. Urgh….this is when I feel I was born to the wrong culture, & obviously the wrong parents.  I’m a westernized person trapped in a traditional Asian society that emphasizes filial piety to parents.

Yea, (unfortunately), filial piety is a HUGE part of Taiwanese culture, since we’re deeply influenced by traditional Chinese culture. We learn this — more like, are brainwashed by this– very early on in school– respect & abide by your parents no matter what, re-pay what they do for you by taking care of them when they grow elderly & frail, filial piety is the biggest virtue everyone must strive to achieve … Blah, blah, blah… Dang, it’s all from the thousands of years of influence from Confucianism. In my high school, we even had to memorize the whole book Confucius wrote & took test on…

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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!