What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic Personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance as well as an intense preoccupation with themselves.
Children of Narcissists:
Generally, Narcissistic Parents are possessively close to their children when they are small because their children are a source of self-esteem. When their children grow to become more independent, the narcissistic parent may feel envious of the child.
While there are many ways in which a narcissistic parent abuses his or her child, there are times that a narcissistic parent is kind. This makes the abuse harder to handle for children of Narcissistic Parents – the child knows that the underlying tension means that one wrong move means that things will go wrong and the narcissistic parent may fly into a rage.
Children of narcissistic parents often feel they must adhere to the agenda of the the parent for their lives to be stable. Asserting their feelings, their rights, or their thoughts can lead to much bigger problems. This causes the children to learn that their feelings are invalid, unimportant, and inconsequential. They will often stifle all feelings to keep the peace in the house.
Types of Narcissistic Parents
1) Engulfing Parents: are Narcissistic Parents who see no boundaries between themselves and their children. Children are seen as extension of the parent – not as another person. For babies and toddlers, this is okay – small children don’t often see themselves as separate from their parents anyway. This type of narcissistic parent will ignore all boundaries as a child ages. .
2) Ignoring Parents: are narcissistic parents who don’t actually care much about their children. Unlike engulfing parents, an ignoring parent sees the boundary between themselves and their child, and has little interest in their child.
Sibling Dynamics In Narcissistic Parent Households:
If there are several children in a narcissistic household, the dynamic may be one of the Golden Child versus the Scapegoat, which can cause major friction and jealousy between the children.
The Golden Child, seen as an extension of the narcissistic parent, can do no wrong, and even the most minor of achievements are cause for celebration, admiration, and rewards.
The Scapegoat Child is to blame for all of the family woes. While the Golden Child can do no wrong, the Scapegoat Child can do no right. All achievements are dismissed.
Traits of Narcissistic Parents:
While these traits may not match all Narcissistic Parents, what follows are some common traits of Narcissistic Parents:
1) A Narcissistic Parent has difficulty understanding the emotions of empathy and how to create meaningful connections. As the personal needs of Narcissistic Parents dominate, these parents have little room for the needs of anyone else.
2) A Narcissistic Parent owns the successes of his or her children. In a Narcissistic Parents mind, he or she has been sacrificing everything for his or her child – the child must retaliate by performing at or above expectations. These childhood achievements are then owned by the Narcissistic Parent as their own.
3) Narcissistic Parents must be in control. No matter what. A Narcissistic Parent controls his or her children by dictating how these children should feel, should act, and the decisions to be made. This can lead to adult children of Narcissistic Parents being unsure of what they, themselves, like and want out of life. These Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents never learn to be autonomous and make his or her own decisions.
4) Narcissistic Parents emotionally blackmail their children. A Narcissistic Parent often is indulgent, kind, and sweet if a child is behaving in the way their Narcissistic Parent wants. However, the moment a child is disobedient, a Narcissistic Parent becomes enraged and cruel. This show of “I love you, go away,” creates insecurity and dependency among children of Narcissistic Parents.
How Do Narcissistic Parents Control Their Children?
There are a few ways that a Narcissistic Parent controls his or her young children. These control mechanisms include:
1) Codependent Control: “I need you. I can’t live without you.” This prevents children of Narcissistic Parents from having any autonomy, from living their own lives.
2) Guilt-Driven Control: “I’ve given my life for you. I’ve sacrificed it all.” This method of control creates a feeling of obligation in children; that they “owe” their Narcissistic Parents and must behave in a certain way to make their parents happy.
3) Love Withdrawal Control: “You’re worthy of my love ONLY BECAUSE you behave the way I expect you to.” So long as their children are behaving properly, a Narcissistic Parent will be loving. That love disappears the moment a child doesn’t meet expectations.
4) Goal-Oriented Control: “We have to work together to achieve a goal.” These goals are generally the goals, dreams, and fantasies of a Narcissistic Parent. A Narcissistic Parent often lives vicariously through his or her children.
5) Explicit Control: “Obey me or I’ll punish you.” Children of Narcissistic Parents must do as they’re told or risk shame, guilt, anger, or even physical abuse.
6) Emotional Incest Control: “You’re my one true love, The One, the most important person to me.” An opposite-sex parent makes his or her child fulfill the unmet needs of the Narcissistic Parent.
How Do Narcissistic Parents Abuse Their Children?
Narcissistic Parents have many subtle – and some not-so-subtle- ways in which they abuse their children. These types of abuse include the following:
- Compulsively lying to children
- Ignores and/or overwhelms the children
- Neglects needs of the child
- Makes child feel as though he/she does not matter
- Puts parental needs far above those of the children
- Mold children to an “ideal” image
- Promotes and fosters a dependent relationship between parent and child
- Distorts the concept of “love”
- Manipulation for pleasure
- Says one thing one day, something else the next
- Uses the child’s vulnerabilities to exploit the child
- Subtly and not-subtly insults children
- Ignores personal boundaries
- Treats others as objects, not people
- Makes child feel as though he or she is insane
Here are some guidelines for recovery for Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents:
- Begin working through the grieving process – allow yourself to grieve the parent you never had.
- Acknowledge that you’ve never learned how to properly deal with feelings, and begin to start working through these feelings.
- Work toward loving that little child inside you in the ways your Narcissistic Parent never did.
- Stop hoping that your Narcissistic Parent will change.
- Remind yourself every day that you need to take care of yourself – those needs for self-care are incredibly important.
- Remember – you matter too.
- You do not need to harm yourself or hate yourself. You’re a great person, worthy of love and devotion.
Stop being afraid of your Narcissistic Parent – you are an adult, you survived , and you need to reclaim your life as your own. Start by erasing that fear.
- Get rid of that feeling of not fitting in or belonging. It was put there by your Narcissistic Parent and it’s got to go.
- Find and connect with other Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents.
- Find a therapist who specializes in treating Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents.
- Remember you are in charge of your own life.
- You are more than worthy. No matter what your Narcissistic Parent told you,
- You do not need to feel guilty if you decide not to stay in touch with your Narcissistic Parent – it may be for your own good.
- Remember that your needs are important. Don’t be afraid to make them known and ask for what you need.
Do I Stay In Contact With My Narcissistic Parent?
As an Adult Child of a Narcissistic Parent, you have two options:
1) Total Estrangement – no contact, nothing, with your Narcissistic Parent.
2) Measured Contact – contact, but limited interaction with Narcissistic Parent.
If you choose to keep measured contact with your Narcissistic Parent, be sure to follow some strict, clear guidelines with your parent. Growing up with a narcissistic parent is difficult but remember as an adult you can choose whether or not to have them in your life.