Tag Archive | NPD

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.


The Narcissist’s Wives Club

Ah Yes, and the Stepford Wives. Remember them?

Ah Yes, and the Stepford Wives. Remember them?

This is a club for women (or men) who find that they are always to blame for everything. At first you felt, okay, I could work on this issue and he has a point.  Now, many months/years later, the blame game has become a little tiring and you are emotionally exhausted. Can you really be the problem in the marriage? Would this relationship really be magically fixed if only YOU would see a therapist?

Probably not. Nothing is ever one sided. Marriage/Relationship is a two way street. If your partner is not ever, and I mean never taking responsibility for his problem and they are always re-directing the issue toward you, you are probably with a Narcissist. So let us examine the facts according to the psychotherapists/psychologists/psychiatriasts manual, aka the DSM IV.

DSM IV definition: Someone who suffers from Narcissistic Personality disorder (NPD) has at least 5 of the following characteristics:

  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. requires excessive admiration
  5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  7. lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

As you look at this list, think of your partner’s behaviors without giving an excuse to any of them. Either he does it or doesn’t. If you are not sure what something means, ask. Remember this is a manual for professionals to use. It is written in language that is not in layman’s terms. I have known and worked with, personally and professionally, many Nacissists. They don’t always act exactly the same and the symptoms manifest in different ways. Here are some examples:

A. Spending lots of money for hobbies that never really go anywhere – you have no money to pay for them but the money continues to be spent (pre-occupied with fantasies). I had a friend going out with a man who spent several years working on a movie project. It was a low grade film and had no chance of making him a success. He made very little money and she ended up footing the bill for household expenses.

B. Always to blame – this is their specialty. Once I bought a couple of cans of root beer for a friend and I who were out hiking one day. I brought them back to the car and he opened his up and it burst out all over the inside of MY car, making the trip very sticky. He immediately yelled at me stating that I had shaken the cans up before handing them to him. So this is an example, they initiate a behavior, but somehow it is turned on you. I have even known someone who fell down upstairs and he began yelling at his wife downstairs for the fall. As if she could possibly be responsible for something when she is not even there!

C. Excessive need for attention – Recently at a dinner party, one man was complimented by a woman in the room for his polite behavior. Another man yelled at her that she was stereotyping all men and had issues with men. The second man was nearby but was not involved in the conversation. It had absolutely nothing to do with him but somehow he turned it around to be a personal attack on him and “other men.”

D. Everything must meet the needs of their schedule – You take vacations that work for him. Your sick days are to take care of him. You take the family on an outing but dad gets bored so you have to end the trip for him. Meals are made for him on his time – sometimes women make separate meals for the kids, just to accommodate him.

E. Odd parenting behaviors – their way is right no matter what. I knew a man who prided himself on spoiling his child to take away the “pain” of the divorce. The divorce occurred because this Narcissist wasn’t meeting the needs of the wife, so she cheated on him. This man made a dinner of milk shakes and macaroni and cheese, every single night, to placate the child. It had been pointed out, by the partner, the lack of nutrition in this meal, along with the fact that entitlement parenting is not a healthy style to provide to a child. The child appeared very balanced and able to move forward from the divorce. The child was quite mature in many ways. This man also allowed his child to smoke pot in the house because he had done this as an adult and so would chastise his partner by saying “Its not pot, it is incense.” Lying is a gift with Narcissist. They turn the situation around with an answer readily prepared to show nothing is their fault or in this case they are not a bad parent.

F. Arrogant behaviors – I once returned from a leave of absence to a new supervisor. They called me into their office and spent a half hour telling me all about themself both personal and professional. They never asked me any questions about my performance in the past (at this company) or if I had any questions about working with them. Then they promptly said I could return to my desk and get going. One day I turned up and they had gone into my organized filing cabinet (I am extremely thorough) and had re-organized it the way they thought it should be. Since I worked as an independent, along with my colleagues, it was very unorthodox. To his credit he did acknowledge doing it but only because it was the best way “he felt” that things should be organized. I re-organized my cabinet and he never did it again (that is because I freaked out when I saw it and he was right there).

G. Sleeping with the Narcissist – A woman told me that her husband had to get up at 5:30 am to listen to Amy Goodman on the radio. She didn’t get up till 7am and it was difficult for her to sleep like this because she was not a morning person. She was going to work exhausted.  He refused to put on headphones and then blamed her for turning it down because he could not hear it. He refused to compromise and she was forced to sleep on the couch during weekdays.

H. Exploitative – Your at your kid’s soccer game. Your husband is interrupting the game all the way through, telling the coach how to do the job. He takes credit for winning the game because if it weren’t for his suggestions, the coach has no clue. Kanye West who has twice now interrupted Taylor Swift’s award winning moments – to spout his opinions.

It can make you sick to your stomach when you think about it. However, many women (and as I said earlier, sometimes men) walk on eggshells on a daily basis because they have been programmed to believe this is all part of being married. I feel so sad when they come in to meet me and I have to explain to them that Narcissism is not something you can find a cure for. And I have to explain this after I help to boost their self-esteem and explain that it is not their fault and they are not going crazy.

Women who go through this generally organize the family and sometimes even the pets so they are all on the same page with dad. I’ve seen some handle it with humor, most stay in denial and just say “that’s just dad,” kids grow up and move thousands of miles away to get away from the mess, mom’s are torn from families because they won’t let go [of dad]. Women stay married so they don’t lose custody of their kids (See the book Splitting: Protecting Yourself while Divorcing a Narcissist). Women stay with him because they are afraid of being alone. They have been emotionally tortured for so long they have no strength to move. A Narcissist is a batterer. I have already mentioned financial and emotional abuse but sometimes, the longer a person stays, the more it is apt to turn into physcial and maybe even sexual abuse.

These husbands can be helped with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – as many will argue who specialize in this disorder.  However, as the saying goes “Why should I [the Narcissist] go into therapy when there is nothing wrong with me?” Implying that something is wrong with you. Whether or not they do go to a therapist (and actually commit to more than one session), this is not a guarantee of success in the relationship. It is in your best interests, as the victim, to seek out a therapist so you can begin to rebuild your sense of self.

Finally, my favorite comment from a Nacissist as told to me by a friend. He called my friend, his ex-girlfriend up to comment on his marriage (he married someone on the internet six months after my friend left him) and this is what he said, “We have a wonderful relationship, it is very quiet and peaceful. She never questions anything I say.”