Tag Archive | Parent

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.

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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!

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?

The Child of the Narcissist – Part Two

In 2011, I wrote the article The Child of the Narcissist and since this time, I have grown quite a bit as a psychotherapist and as a person surviving this type of parent. The reasons for this is that I worked on taking my power back from this person, in order to be able to help other people do the same thing. I also did this because I felt as if I were out of integrity as a therapist not being able to do so.  I still felt like a child around this person and, as a therapist, I needed to grow up personally to be a better professional.

I won’t be able to do a step by step plan in this circumstance because it really depends on who this person is to you. You know them. You know what it might take intuitively, so standing up to this person will vary. It is important though, for your own healing process, to not only understand what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is but to understand how to heal from this. How to move forward in your life without continuing to be a victim. So I am updating the original article here from a more mature, healthier perspective. You can read all types of pop psychology books that will make you more “in the know.” Reading these books will only give you tools to make you believe you can now diagnose this person and prepare you with a suit of armor. This is not healthy – to only read about them. It is important to read about how to heal from this parent and for you to become a healthier person.

One thing I want you to understand before you continue reading is that you are not changing the Narcissist here. You are changing yourself.

Firstly, focus on taking your power back from the Narcissist.

1) You have to stand up to them in whatever way makes sense with this person. Maybe you confront them head on (sometimes this can be dangerous though, especially if you are unprepared for the outcome. I know people who have been assaulted by the person as a result.) In my case it was spontaneous, without warning, somewhere deep inside of me I just snapped (unlike the TV show no one was killed or harmed in anyway). It helped in my case because the placater in the family stood up for me and the hero just remained aloof. Everyone else just stayed quiet. After this person (the Narcissist) threw a temper tantrum and saw they would receive no attention from anyone, it just ended right then and there.

I have also known people who stood up to their parent and the family abandoned them. This is something you have to be prepared for and reconcile this within yourself.

2) You have to set boundaries with this person and continue to set boundaries, and continue to set boundaries and continue to set boundaries.

3) Be prepared not to take the bait – there are going to be times when you are with this person. I have found that, in my circumstance, a long time passes without criticism and then out of nowhere I am hit with some strange comment, an insult, or some type of questioning that I know is going to lead to trauma in the family. I know if I am not careful answering this question, to deflect the intended result on their end, people will be hurt.

Example: Lets say you mention something to the Narcissist. You are with other family members, whom you said something about. The Narcissist says something out loud “outing” what you said. You are suddenly caught between a rock and a hard place.

In this type of situation you could get caught up in defending yourself, or you could just be honest. Yes I said that. Then you talk to the other family privately on your own, without the Narcissist in the room.

4) Work on detaching yourself from this parent or family member – You have to be in a place where you no longer need them or their nurturing. This means you get your mother/father from a surrogate. Find an elder or older friend that you look up to. It is also important to heal from these wounds by focusing your attention on yourself and building your ego.

This last part is the most important aspect of healing from the Narcissistic parent. You don’t think of this parent as being dead. You just don’t worry about what they say or do because you are not invested in gaining something from them. You know longer need them for validation, love, support. You have separated and individuated (become an individual separate from your parent) and are behaving like an adult now. This is very important because what I have learned is that until you are able to do #4, you will continue to behave like a teenager around this parent, no matter if you are 30 or 60. Until you individuate, (let go and mature) you will find that when you are around them you continue to act like a child.

Now that I have individuated from my parent fully, I find I am actually able to listen to them differently. Sometimes I actually learn something from what they say. Sure, there are moments, such as #3 above but I recover from this more quickly because I realize they have no power over me.

In 1980, I ran away from this mess and during this time lost an ability to grow with nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters. I missed out on so much simply because I could not bare being around this parent anymore. The emotional abuse was so overwhelming to me. I had a “parent” in California, where I was living for 30 years. This woman guided me, protected me, taught me, nurtured me and I was able to grow as a person. However, I returned to Ohio in 2010 because I realized, as a therapist, it was time to heal from the Narcissistic parent. I did not really understand this until I became a psychotherapist. I knew it would help me in my practice and help me to teach others as well. I was guided to this process intuitively.

*To understand separation and individuation a little more, here is Murray Bowen’s philosophy which I kept trying to read and understand in my graduate program, until I finally got it one day. It also helped that I worked with a clinical supervisor during my internship who focused on Bowen’s theory of family systems. (a selection from Wikipedia)

Differentiation of self

Differentiation of self is one’s ability to separate one’s own intellectual and emotional functioning from that of the family. Bowen spoke of people functioning on a single continuum or scale. Individuals with “low differentiation” are more likely to become fused with predominant family emotions. (A related concept is that of an undifferentiated ego mass, which is a family unit whose members possess low differentiation and therefore are emotionally fused.) Those with “low differentiation” depend on others’ approval and acceptance. They either conform themselves to others in order to please them, or they attempt to force others to conform to themselves. They are thus more vulnerable to stress, defined as stressor(s) and psycho-physiological “stress reactivity,” and theirs is a greater than average challenge to adjust/adapt to life changes and contrary beliefs.[7]

To have a well-differentiated “self” is an ideal that no one realizes perfectly because, like with Abraham Maslow’s concept of “self-actualization“, it is a concept without literal physical or material example. Even if total self-differentiation is achieved in a given moment or context, it is, like feeling states or thoughts, temporary and ephemeral. Those with generally higher levels of “self differentiation” recognize that they need others, but they depend less on others’ acceptance and approval. They do not merely adopt the attitude of those around them but acquire and maintain their principles thoughtfully. These principles, morals, and ethics help them to decide important family and social issues, and to consciously or unconsciously resist lapsing into emotional reactivity and feelings-based—-usually impulsive—-thoughts and actions. Thus, despite conflict, criticism, and even rejection, those with greater capacity to “self differentiate” can stay calm and rationally “clear-headed” enough to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotion. What they decide and say matches what they do. When they act in the best interests of the group, they choose thoughtfully, not because they are caving in to relationship pressures. They’re more objective observers, more capable of calmness under relationship and task pressures. Confident in their own thinking, they can either support another’s viewpoints without becoming wishy-washy; or, they can reject another’s opinions without becoming hostile with them, or passively disconnected from them. This is especially relevant to the family of origin, and as we grow and develop maturity, also with extended family members, friends, or associates.[8]

Now on CD The Child of the Narcissist: Guided Meditations for Healing

Also available for download too!

CD Cover

Absent Hearts, Missing Pieces

This is the title of a memoir I published in 2003 but it is now out of print. I thought of the title again today when I was thinking of the holidays and all the sadness I continue to have of missing people in my life. Memories that won’t be made because of family members who have died or grandchildren who I am not allowed to see. I thought about being a single parent and all the women in my ancestry who were single parents, who began this trend long ago. I think about women today who glamorize this topic, the media who puts an entertaining spin on it, the women who argue with women who don’t want to have children, the 50% rate of unplanned pregnancies in America and the 40-50% divorce rate. I wonder about all the children who I have worked with over the years, who had no fathers because they weren’t allowed to see them. Mothers who were mad at the man they slept with because he didn’t give them the fantasy they craved. Fathers who are absent from children’s lives because they were players, addicts, pissed at the mother, never had a father themselves and didn’t know how to be one, the list goes on. These parents, who were quick to have sex but refused to take responsibility for the future by using birth control. I have been the kid, the granddaughter, and a single parent myself.

Imagine what it is like to be a child and your father is no longer around, as mine was at the age of four. By nine, my stepfather adopted me, because my father signed off on the papers so he would not have to pay child support. It sounds like a quick fix but I did not want this. I loved both my father and my stepfather. Imagine what it is like to suddenly be told that I could not see my two half-sisters, my grandparents, my stepmother, my aunts and uncles. As a young adult, it would be my maternal grandmother who put me in touch with my father and I began to become re-acquainted with my paternal family once more. She did not believe it was right what my family did. Re-connecting is not very easy when you have lost over a decade of growing with the people you once loved. It is not easy for them either. One of my half-sisters died before I could ever see her again. My memory of her is when she was about seven or eight years old.

Coming from such a tragic childhood, I fell into the trap of searching for someone to feel an emotional void. A guy I met in high school, who came from a father who was not there and who was at one time a batterer to his mother and an addict. I never knew addiction growing up; this was one issue I was lucky to not have to face as a child. Once I did face this and domestic violence from my husband, I got out quickly but not before having a child of my own.

I never re-married but I did continue to follow a path of looking to fill an emotional void. The difference though between myself and many other woman today, I took responsibility by making sure I did not bring another child into the world, just because I was looking for love in all the wrong places. One child raised by a single parent was enough for me. I learned my lesson there and I learned my lesson as a child. Life wasn’t easy for me, for my child and I wouldn’t do that to another until I figured life out and was more secure financially and emotionally.

My son grew up, eventually we found his dad and later, my son became a father as well. Unfortunately, he also took the path of an addict and brought three children into the world with three different women. He has since become a recovering addict, his father died unwilling to ever take responsibility for his health, his child or get off of the drugs. As a result of being an addict for so many years, these mothers of my son’s children were unable to admit to their own failures in the choices they made with men. The fact that neither they nor my son used birth control but yet it is “all” my son’s fault and they are angry with him. As a result of this, two of my grandchildren are not allowed to be visited by my son. He is able to keep in touch with the eldest who is 15 and old enough for Facebook but lives in a tiny town far away. This child wants to visit his dad but is forced to do what his mother requests. My son pays child support, gives him gifts for birthday and Christmas, talks to him almost daily but never gets to see him. In Ohio, it is not what is in the best interests of the child but what the mother wants. Men have no rights here to their children. Grandparents have no rights to their grandchildren.

My granddaughter lives near my son and goes to the same school as her half-brother and step-brother. Her name is not on the roster and my son believes she has been adopted by someone that her mother began a relationship with after him. My local grandson knows who she is though as he did meet with her a few times before her mother decided no one could be involved with her child. Her mother was in a relationship with my son, while he was in a relationship with my grandson’s mother. They were together in the same house he shared with my grandson’s mother even. Both of them were using drugs and partying “like there was no tomorrow,” but my son is the one who is in the wrong and my granddaughter is being punished, as is my son and I, because of this.

Being a single parent is no joy ride and it is difficult for the children to bear. I do not believe any parent should stay married for the sake of the children because this is not the answer. I do believe that we need to take more responsibility with our sex lives and the partners we choose. Having sex is fun, raising children is a lifetime and it costs money. It is easy to blame another but both parents have to take responsibility when a child is brought into this world. It is never ONE person’s fault. It is certainly not the fault of the children that the father did not give YOU, the mother, what you wanted.

My father was a player and hurt my mom’s feelings. This was wrong of him. I understand her animosity toward him because of this. I understand she needed the money from him as my stepfather was paying the way. However, it was not my fault that he was a player or that he wasn’t paying child support. He never harmed me and my parents were not desperate for money. After I was adopted, they made the same amount of money as beforehand. Meanwhile, I was emotionally wounded at the loss of my paternal family.

My son IS a recovering addict and has taken steps to clean up his life, get in touch with these women and reach out to be an involved parent. It is not my grandchildren’s fault that they want him to choose them now that he is clean. It is not my grandchildren’s fault that their mothers are jealous of his new life. These children will never have the benefit of their father and his family being in their life. They are being punished for their mother’s mistakes which they refuse to acknowledge and take responsibility for. My son was wrong for what he did and their mothers are wrong for their part too.

Many children will grow up in households, never knowing their fathers and in some cases their mothers. They will be turned against their fathers and in some cases will be told lies about who he was. From being a psychotherapist and having worked in social services, I see family patterns repeating themselves for many generations. I see girls being sexually molested by stepfathers, mom’s boyfriends, uncles, grandfathers. Often their mothers were too in childhood. I see boys who have spent time behind bars. Often their fathers were too.  I see adults coming in to tell me their anger toward the father who was never there. Telling me about fathers they didn’t know they had because they assumed the guy who raised them was the dad. I hear stories about mothers who never recovered from the man who jilted them and so the children aren’t really sure what to believe. Sometimes adults hold out hope that he might have been a good guy but more often than not, they take their mothers or grandmothers side of the story. Sometimes there is a huge blank from the families, because this is never discussed. The adult kids of missing parents don’t know what to believe.

Children have a right to know their families, both paternal and maternal. They have a right to figure out for themselves what this guy was like on their own as both my son and I did. If they then choose not to have a relationship with this person, it is on them. Closed adoptions are inappropriate and unfair to the child and to the family involved. If a mother has been raped by a man or if the man is a dangerous person to be around, this is one thing. The child should still be told. Many circumstances, neither of these situations are the case. In almost all circumstances, the grandparents are not to blame, nor the aunts/uncles, cousins, etc… The half-siblings of these children are certainly not to blame. Why do we continue to create this vicious cycle over and over again? Why do men and women continue to have unprotected sex? Why do women continue to lie to their children because they are upset with the father? It won’t end as long as we continue to ignore this topic because we don’t want to shame the single parent. Or because we aren’t being politically correct for some reason.

The holidays are meant to be spent with family. This is a time to create memories. It is a time to learn the stories of your ancestors. It is a time to find out who is who and make your own interpretations of what you see for yourself. Don’t kid yourself into believing that your lies will somehow help the child to have a better life. It never does.