So you’ve realized you have a narcissistic parent. Parental narcissism can be exceptionally damaging for the children, even when you are an adult.
Narcissistic parents are completely devoid of empathy and subject their children to mental emotional and even physical abuse. They have an extreme sense of entitlement and will micromanage your life well into your adulthood. However, there is still hope and you can fully recover from all the abuse and trauma. Let’s take a look at how you can start the healing process.
“The typical adult from a narcissistic family is filled with unacknowledged anger, feels like a hollow person, feels inadequate and defective, suffers from periodic anxiety and depression, and has no clue about how he or she got that way.”
~ Pressman and Pressman, The Narcissistic Family
Since narcissism is a touchy subject and parental narcissism is even worse, let me start out by lightening the mood here.
Did you know if you hit up Google images for parental narcissism that Kanye West’s photo is among the first to show up?
Yes, seriously. There it is to the left. That, my friend, is the visual representation of narcissism, according to Google images.
But wait a minute, Kanye, Ima let you finish, but really, shouldn’t this post be all about Beyonce?
Okay, I’ll stop playing now. But one last thing: I DO find that Kanye thing rather amusing, and somewhat appropriate for this post since it’s all about parents who are also narcissists.
But seriously, living with a narcissist can be difficult for anyone, but growing up in the care of one can affect your life in very significant ways. For example, most narcissists use a horribly painful sort of manipulation called gaslighting – it’s the worst kind because it messes with your mind in ways you’d never expect. This is especially true for the children of narcissists, who can’t get away from it and have no concept of what “normal” actually looks like from the inside.
Many children of narcissists spend their whole lives thinking “I wasn’t good enough,” and wondering if their mothers/fathers/other caregivers could and would always be better than they.
The faces of parental narcissism
“Narcissists have two faces — the one they wear in public, and the one they wear at home,” according to LightHouse.org. “Only those close to the narcissist have any idea there is more than one face. And the narcissist’s children know best of all because children – those who have the least power – are the ones the narcissist allows him or herself to be the least guarded around.”
So, kids of narcissistic parents are forced to pretend in public that all is well–all the while knowing that when they get home, things will be different. In some cases, they dread going home because the difference is so significant.
“Narcissistic parents lack the ability to emotionally tune in to their kids,” writes Karyl McBride, Ph.D. “They cannot feel and show empathy or unconditional love. They are typically critical and judgmental.”
Many kids of narcissists express the same kind of frustration: everyone thinks their narcissistic parent is a saint–the best person ever, McBride says, noting that “while at home their children suffer in silence with their parent’s tantrums, disinterest and put-downs — this is clearly NOT the most wonderful person if you truly know them — not even close.”
What are you trying to prove?
“Because of its insidious nature, gaslighting is one form of emotional abuse that is hard to recognize and even more challenging to break free from. Part of that is because the narcissist exploits one of our greatest fears – the fear of being alone.”
~ From my book on overcoming gaslighting and narcissism, Take Back Your Life
When you’re raised by a narcissist, you might spend your life trying to prove something–maybe that you have value. Whether you choose to become “perfect” or you go to the other extreme, your narcissist will likely actively discredit everything you do, say or feel. You might start to think you don’t matter–and that you’re not even all that “real.”