Here I am by video; talking to you person to person. A new approach to the blog.
Here I am by video; talking to you person to person. A new approach to the blog.
(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!
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.
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).
Given 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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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.
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!
“In my day families stayed together,” so sayeth the character Violet, played by Meryl Streep. Violet is in denial yet at other times she is very ruthless about how horrible her mother was to her growing up. As a result of this, Violet has grown up without being nurtured by her parent, without love and an ability to trust someone. Thus we see the makings of a Narcissistic mother. In order for a child, who has grown up like Violet has, to soothe herself, she must externalize the pain and give it somewhere to go so that she can feel safe as a little girl. Then she grows up to have a family and all hell breaks loose.
In comes Barbara, her eldest daughter played by Julia Roberts. Barbara has lived a life with a woman who has never said she was sorry for anything. Barbara grew up being told she could never do anything right and thus she continued to try to do the right thing over and over again, only to fail in her mother’s eyes. Her father washed himself daily with alcohol, in an attempt to drown in his sorrows. A man can never be “the man,” in a marriage to a Narcissist. He had to defend his wife to the children he loved. A man should not be disrespectful to his wife, even if she is to him. While Barbara desperately needed her father to be there for her, he couldn’t even though he wanted to. She knew this but learned to accept that he could never be the father she craved. Her husband couldn’t play that role either. When women leave the home searching for a partner, without first finding themselves, the man they are led to is their father and those same unmet needs.
Barbara escapes to this new world with a husband. Running away can provide distance and hope. She could make herself believe anything in a world she creates all her own. The truth is there and she wants to believe it is not but over time, not having a father or mother to turn to, in times of need, the pain slowly crawls up inside her. She can’t turn to her husband either, because he doesn’t know what to say to her or how to give her the love and nurturance she so desperately craves. He continues to disappoint her and eventually she tells him, until he is so sick of hearing it that the marriage becomes a wash and the fantasy of her story continues to be passed down to her daughter. A daughter who has no empathy because she just can’t understand the years, the generations of what went wrong in her gene pool.
Barbara has come to realize finally that she is all alone, the bitterness has swelled up inside of her womb, her breath wreaking of the bile that lingers in her throat, she becomes more and more cynical over time, as reality will just not go away.
When her father takes his own life, she is forced to see herself in the mirror for the first time. She wants to believe that she is now in charge yet once again she is reminded that as long as Violet has a breath to breathe, she has no power at all. Her world crashes around her but then she drives off in the end, left to deal with the pain. The result will be that she will go off into her new world, alone with her anger and tears and the madness of living on a daily basis; knowing that she created this mess herself.
“Thank God we can’t tell the future. We’d never get out of bed.” Barbara, the angry daughter who has begun to see that her world will never change.
Unless of course, she enters into psychotherapy. Preferably with a therapist, who empathizes, too much, with the angry daughter.
***7/31/16 A good start to healing for Barbara would be a therapist and now this wonderful new CD The Child of the Narcissist: Guided Meditations for Healing.