Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Narcissistic Parent ~ Guiding Your Child: 10 Tips

image via gps-gracepowerstrength 

As the child of a narcissist…
You grow up feeling unheard.
You grow up feeling unseen.
You grow up feeling forgotten.
You grow up feeling not wanted.
You grow up feeling not loved.

I lived like this most of my childhood when it came to my father.
If it hadn't been for my mother's empathetic example I don't know what would have become of me.
I likely would have taken after my father; being led to believe that everyone operated as he did… because I wouldn't have had any other point of reference.

I scrutinize and reflect and second guess myself constantly. Having ADHD I do believe can sometimes make someone come across as narcissistic even if they aren't. If we forget our appointments (shocking) and always have to reschedule (ugh!) it can begin to be viewed as narcissistic; no regard for the doctor, the dentist, the therapist, right?!… when in reality we feel deep guilt, embarrassment and give ourselves another mental scolding! You've GOT to do better! Get it together! What is the MATTER with you?! Having issues regarding regulating our impulses in the brain goes with ADHD; creating issues for us when we really want to let someone have it verbally… who has probably pushed us to our breaking point and driven us batty. Sometimes it's like pulling nails to keep a lid on it so to speak. And when it slips (watch out, yikes) it can make us appear narcissistic; "Wow! She said what?!", "He did what?! Well, I don't know what's gotten into them! Obviously they aren't the 'nice' person I THOUGHT they were!" But ADHD is not a diagnosis of being morally flawed, lacking empathy etc. It's about restlessness, difficulty focusing and impulse issues. Naturally anyone diagnosed with ADHD or even Bipolar could also be diagnosed as personality disordered. But having ADHD or Bipolar does not automatically mean you're narcissistic. Having ADHD requires a lot of self care and time to re-charge because quite frankly if we aren't medicated… it's at minimum three times more exhausting just to get through a typical day compared to regular functioning folks. Throw in trying to keep a job, (and being right with Jesus, mind you) navigating traffic (does anyone use a blinker anymore? And why do some people believe the brake is gas?! And obviously some people never learned in kinder that green means GO!) and then all the little annoying things that always seem to get forgotten like mailing your health insurance payment, calling the doctor for that appointment and getting your sticker updated on your vehicle (I literally told a cop once innocently but honestly enough: "Well, Officer, I'm really sorry. I've been super busy and it totally slipped my mind." Him: "For SIX MONTHS??? You were busy for SIX MONTHS?!" Ummm, yes I was, I really don't know where the time went… ***bright red face and wanting to shrink into the seat*** (Welcome to the world of ADHD) … it's like pulling nails for most of us to just make it day to day sans medication… we don't have enough focus to put it on anything for more than two seconds.

It seems to go with the territory of having been raised by a narcissist that you're suspected of being one. And were raised to be on our own so to speak… you learn from a young age to be self-reliant, to "figure it out", and not ask for help. With a narcissist help is never free. You always pay later. So you learn not to receive help. Not to ask. Then you feel like an island. Alone. You so badly don't want to become what you knew growing up that you're at times fearful; questioning if maybe you don't have enough empathy… you may begin to feel like you are selfish, defective and unlovable…  throw in the fact that with the PTSD you can often feel emotionally numb… you've been through so much that the sweet emotions of happiness and joy just don't seem as happy and joyful as they should (or as they did once upon a time). Instead joy and happiness feel more subdued versus vibrant… more like when you're coming out of anesthesia and melancholy is your name… a fuzzy, quiet, sober thoughtfulness that cascades over joy and dampens it a bit.

But the thing is…  those who are willing and ready to seek therapy are very often the ones who often take the brunt of the blame for any problems they might have; including those in their relationships. The narcissist, however is the one who believes therapy is for everyone but them. They may initially go to "appease" their partner but at some point the therapy will be for the healthy one… the one who has self-reflection, who has empathy, who has a desire to grow and develop. The healthy one will ultimately enter therapy to figure out how to "deal" with the narcissist. In a healthy relationship there is the mutual sharing of ideas, celebrations, dreams, joys, losses, goals, problems to resolve, etc. But in a relationship where one individual is narcissistic the only person of importance is the narc. The non-narcissist was raised to always cater to their narcissistic parent… thus they have been trained to always put what their partner wants first… essentially disappearing in the relationship; they dance around the narcissist losing who they are as an individual. The non-narcissist tends to have difficulty setting boundaries and being assertive… or at least until it's so bad that they explode… then feel enormous guilt for "losing it" when in reality they finally set a long overdue boundary that many would have set initially way back. There is much inner turmoil and conflict within the non-narcissist because they have anger toward the narc who is always taking and taking… yet on some level the non-narc is frustrated and angry with themselves because the last thing they ever want to be characterized as is selfish… hence not setting boundaries so as not to be seen as "mean."

Growing up with a narcissist… it's like this odd dance of where you waffle between being given negative attention; being yelled at etc, and just being ignored… neglect happens a lot. There is little to no positivity… and if there is… it feels put on and not genuine. They may use their children to brag to others and or take credit for their accomplishments. Being heard doesn't happen in being the child of a narcissist. I grew up never feeling heard and if I was ever upset about anything I was told by my father I was behaving as "high strung." If there is more than one child surely one will be chosen as the golden child and another the black sheep. The golden child is viewed as one who can do no wrong and likely to follow in the narcissistic parent's footsteps. They are an extension of the narc's identity and give adoring supply to their ego. Unless you do something to get yourself knocked off the pedestal… like being the eldest, the willful one, the outspoken one. I was once upon a time the golden child but as I became older and realized how I was being used to puff up my father's ego I slowly began showing more and more disgust for him, openly challenging and questioning him and his actions. I rebelled. Not knowing what to do with me he was at his wits end… he turned to my youngest sister and soon she became the revered golden child instead and I… the black sheep. But he used her… bragging to acquaintances that he was paying for her to attend the local expensive four year christian university to assuage his fragile ego. After she passed away he slowly began realizing all he had was me… (that must have been a huge disappointment) as he had disowned my middle sister when she married. Me, the black sheep suddenly looked like all the supply he would be able to attain. How he would have to "settle". But I saw how I was still not being treated well. I could sell a painting as quickly as I could snap my fingers… and yet when I put my hand out for my commission suddenly he was busy, MIA, what have you… "I'll get it for you later…" came his reply. And yet later never came. Finally having had enough I pulled out of the family business and said goodbye to everything my family had built for generations. Sometimes having to say goodbye isn't an overnight decision. Sometimes it's made many many times… you say goodbye and then try again… only to realize that goodbye was the right choice.. again… time passes and then you dip your toe in AGAIN… (it's that fervent hope that your family will exude a healthy love time and time again) it can take years, maybe decades to disentangle yourself from the toxic web of family and realize that every time you go back you get stung again… and eventually say enough and never ever return.

March 2016 

names have been omitted in this post 


"So he was making us go on a walk and I didn't want to go because we were dog sitting and that neighbors dog was going to jump all over me and I don't like that so I told Daddy no, I wasn't going. I wanted to stay in my room." My daughter confided in me regarding her dad as we sat in the den. The partially open plantation shutters to our right revealed a setting sun with streaks of orange and grey. The scent of parmesan and herb crusted chicken and potatoes baking in the oven filtered throughout the house.

"Ummm… okay… so what did he say?" I asked her.

"He said 'tough!' and then he walked outside and I got so angry I called him a bad word." She told me.

I sighed and grimaced. Great. Just great. "What did you call him?" I asked her wearily.

Silence. Finally she spoke "The A word. I called him it three times." She told me.

I rubbed my temples to stave off a headache coming on "Oh my gosh… you cannot call him bad words. Do you understand me?" I asked her calmly but sternly.

She stared at me and nodded "Okay. But he made me so mad!" She exclaimed.

"Ok…" I exhaled… "I totally understand that. I get that you were mad. That is something we will talk about and you need to talk to God about. But you can't go around calling him names. You can tell him why you're mad but you can't say bad words. You have to be respectful." I explained to her.

"B-but…" She stammered with exasperation then angrily continued, "He doesn't listen to me! He NEVER listens to me! If I tell him how I feel he just says 'tough!' or his favorite thing to say 'it's fine!' He doesn't care what I think!" She told me forcefully. This I knew to be true based on his continued actions in how he treated her. But I kept my thoughts to myself. No, he doesn't give a rat's rear what you think, I thought to myself.

"So what did he do? Did he hear you calling him a bad word?" I asked her.

She nodded "Oh, yeah… he came running back in the house and was so mad! He was like 'Young lady, you go to your room right now!' and he took my phone away from me. Which I knew he'd do." She shrugged like she didn't care. I listened intently…  I saw the signs… she was beyond sick of him and how he treated her. "I told him I want to spend more time with you… that I want to be at mommy's more. I wrote him a letter telling him that. He didn't read it till the next day. And even then he didn't say anything. Basically, he doesn't care!" She added with a snip.


Oh how the past re-plays itself slightly different and yet all too familiar and painful. It was my childhood all over again… not being heard, not being seen, one sibling being favored over another; in her case her brother being the golden child and she the black sheep. It was like a re-run of a terribly bad movie and all you could do sit and watch it play out and hope for eventual change… meaning escape for her… Oh how liberating to grow up and finally be able to tell your narcissistic parent: "No more", "I'm done", and "Goodbye" at best although many other words came to mind. The narcissistic parent isn't capable of love… only control, manipulation, deceit… ultimately making people suffer because they don't want to be around them anymore and yet… their stuck if only temporarily.

So what do we do? How can we guide our children through their experiences with the narcissistic parent and be there for them WITHOUT negatively speaking about said narc? It's entirely possible and absolutely necessary.

10 TIPS:

1. Ask your child how he or she feels.
2. Listen.
3. Confirm that yes, they do have a right to feel angry.
4. Also point out that anger often follows hurt, sadness, etc. Ask about those feelings.
5. Point out behaviors that are absolutely not acceptable for ANYONE; lying, twisting, spinning the truth, etc. Also hurting others feelings by not listening, not giving attention, etc.
6. Remember to affirm that anger in itself is not a bad thing. Anger actually gives us signals that a wrong has occurred and something needs to change. But do remind them that anger can become sin in how we show it and act on it.
7. Encourage your child to also talk to God about his or her feelings regarding their narcissistic parent. Remind them that they can pray about the relationship and offer to hold their hand and pray with them.
8. Encourage your child to write down what is bothering them. Keep a journal handy by their bed so they can jot down anything that goes on in the narcissistic parents home that upsets them.
9. If possible get your child in therapy with an experienced therapist.
10. Remind your child that they are loved by you… and show that selfless love by your actions.

© ~ 2016 

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