The Narcissistic Family Tree

 November 29, 2017

 

7.Unclear Boundaries.

There are few boundaries in the narcissistic family. Children’s feelings are not considered important. Private diaries are read, physical boundaries are not kept, and emotional boundaries are not respected. The right to privacy is not typically a part of the family history.

 

8.One Parent Narcissistic, the Other Orbiting.

If one parent is narcissistic, it is common for the other parent to have to revolve around the narcissist to keep the marriage intact. Often, this other parent has redeeming qualities to offer the children but is tied up meeting the needs of the narcissistic spouse, leaving the children’s needs unmet. Who is there for them?

 

9.Siblings Not Encouraged to Be Close.

In healthy families, we encourage our children to be loving and close to each other. In narcissistic families, children are pitted against each other and taught competition. There is a constant comparison of who is doing better and who is not. Some are favored or seen as “the golden child,” and others become the scapegoat for a parent’s projected negative feelings. Siblings in narcissistic families rarely grow up feeling emotionally connected to each other.

 

10.Feelings.

Feelings are denied and not discussed. Children are not taught to embrace their emotions and process them in realistic ways. They are taught to stuff and repress them and are told their feelings don’t matter. Narcissistic parents are typically not in touch with their own feelings and therefore project them onto others. This causes a lack of accountability and honesty, not to mention other psychological disorders. If we don’t process feelings, they do leak out in other unhealthy ways.

 

11.”Not Good Enough” Messages.

These messages come across loud and clear in the narcissistic family. Some parents actually speak this message in various ways; others just model it to the children. Even if they display arrogant and boastful behavior, under the veneer of a narcissist is a self-loathing psyche—that gets passed to the child.

 

12. Dysfunction—Obvious or Covert.

In narcissist families, the dynamics can be seen or disguised. The dysfunction displayed in violent and abusive homes is usually obvious, but emotional and psychological abuse, as well as neglectful parenting, are often hidden. While the drama is not displayed as openly to the outside world, it is just as, if not, more damaging to the children.

 

Reviewing these dynamics, one can see how this kind of family can look pretty but be decaying at the same time. If you recognize your family in this description, know that there is hope and recovery. We can’t change the past, but we can take control of the now. We do not have to be defined by the wounds in our family systems.

As Mark Twain defines the optimist, I see the recovering adult child:

“A person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.”

We can create a new life that will flow through us to the future and stop the legacy of distorted love learned in the narcissistic family. If we choose recovery, we can defy intergenerational statistics.

We Can!

5 comments on “The Narcissistic Family Tree

  1. First off, could you please repost the image as it’s still illegible but obviously insightful! Thanks! This article is very interesting… I’m currently the parent orbiting the narcissistic while our two children are the victims of our triangulated conversations and pretense that all is ok. Well, not anymore — the divorce papers have been filed, hooray! I don’t necessarily see my husband as being quite as indifferent to our kids as is portrayed here. He seems quite caring and attentive, even tuned in to one child’s feelings. Maybe because he’s the more covert narcissist? Thanks, Karyl, for your work and books — Will I Ever Be Free of You was the first one I read when exploring this topic and it was very insightful! Fingers crossed I make it through this divorce relatively unscathed….

  2. I’m interested to know if you have any information on being the only child of a narcissist. I find I’m usually the scapegoat but alternate between that and the other types, because there is only one of me and it depends on my mother’s mood as to what I am.

  3. Please link to a larger version of the Narcissistic Family Tree cartoon. It’s not legible when enlarged, nor is the copyright info. Thanks!

Leave a Reply