Have you ever had to choose between two equally unpleasant options, or be seen as disloyal? If you were raised by a narcissist, you might have experienced parental alienation, and you might have faced such a choice.
What is parental alienation?
In its most basic form, parental alienation means one parent turning a child against the other parent. The goal may be to try to get full control over the child, using them for attention and away from other people who could give it to them; aka narcissistic supply. But in the case of a toxic, narcissistic parent, they don’t even see the child as a whole person but as an extension of themselves or an object to be owned.
In other words, a narcissist is likely to use their child as a weapon or an object to hurt the other parent. It is a form of psychological manipulation and is used to trick the child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect, or hostility toward you and or other people in your family.
For the child involved, it’s a painful and invalidating experience that lasts long into adulthood. complicating every relationship they happen to be involved with, from romantic ones to their own children, friends, colleagues, and more.
Can narcissists be good parents?
Maybe, says Dr. Judy Rosenberg, but there’s a catch. We know that there are plenty of malignant, toxic narcissistic parents who completely neglect their kids’ needs, ignore them, control them, physically or sexually abuse them, or otherwise make them miserable.
But there are also many narcissists who appear to be great parents. They take care of their kids’ physical needs and ensure they’ve got the latest and greatest in fashion, gadgets, and everything else. They have beautiful, expensive homes that are perfectly decorated and always spotless.
But even those who do take care of the physical needs may barely even know their children, and the rest are sort of like live-in bullies until the kids move out – and even then, often continue to abuse and control their adult children.
This is the ONLY Way a Narcissist Can Be a GOOD Parent (But Not GREAT)
“A narcissist can be a good parent if they are ethical and moral and fulfill their obligations to their children,” Dr. Judy said. “But they will never be a great parent because they just don’t have the wherewithal to show empathy.”
That trademark lack of empathy would effectively leave the child feeling unseen, at the very least. If we were talking about a malignant narcissist, the effects on the child would be more profound.
But, Dr. Judy said, “If they choose an empathic partner it can buffer the effects.”
So, if a narcissist chose a good partner with decent empathy skills, any potential damage to the child’s psyche could be mitigated. However, since we know that narcissists are notorious for emotionally and psychologically abusing anyone who gets close enough to see behind their false self (the mask they show the world), we can safely assume that this abuse would also, directly or indirectly, affect the child.
What happens when you raise children with a narcissist?
When you have a narcissist who marries a codependent or someone who becomes codependent, you’ll see a strange thing happening in their family: the codependent parent tends to throw themselves under the proverbial bus more often than you might think when it comes to protecting their kids, but sadly, the kids are still affected by the tension between the parents.
Kids think toxic is normal.
They start to think that this is how a relationship works, and depending on which parent is the narcissist and how they treat the other, among other factors, they may become either a narcissist or a codependent. The only way to prevent this is for the narcissist to be self-aware enough to allow the more empathetic parent to do most of the discipline and daily dealing with the kids.
So, not only would the narcissist need to be self-aware enough to actually recognize this issue, but they’d also need to let the other parent be in control on some level.
While that seems nearly impossible given what we know about toxic parents and toxic family structure, Dr. Judy said that “if they can learn not to demean them but to value their children, and at least make an offer to put their needs first, that would be a good start.”
But could or would a narcissist ever do what would be necessary to be a “good” parent?
It’s debatable, but in my opinion and according to my research, narcissists are infamously terrible parents, whether they ignore and neglect their children or fully control them – or some uncomfortable combination of both. There are many other common behaviors among toxic parents, of course – physical abuse, psychological abuse, and more – though not every toxic parent physically abuses their children, which can make abuse difficult to prove.
This makes it even more difficult to swallow. But it’s important to understand that narcissists have no level to which they will not stoop – and often, this includes actions (or lack thereof) toward their own children. They are not afraid to use a child as a narcissistic supply – and they’re happy to use them as a tool to hurt the other parent.
Narcissists Use Loyalty Binds to Support Parental Alienation
Let’s discuss another kind of manipulation and a whole new low for narcissists: loyalty binds and how they’re used by toxic people to actively alienate their fellow parents and other family members from their children.
What are Loyalty Binds?
Loyalty binds are used against you by someone who is forcing you to choose between them and someone else – often, a parent forcing a child to choose them or the other parent (or a step-parent, in many cases).
In the process, the victim feels forced to choose against their own best interests. This can happen in any type of relationship but it has been previously identified as an issue with step-parenting.
But when you really think about it, it also applies to narcissistic abuse in relationships and families – specifically related to parental alienation.
Loyalty binds are confusing for the recipient because the abuser will say that one thing is true, but behavior shows something else. They then blame their victim for not seeing reality in the same way that they do. This can and often does lead to cognitive dissonance.
For example, a narcissistic parent may tell a child that he loves them very much but then verbally abuse them at every opportunity. The child will believe his mother’s words about her love for him even though she keeps doing things that cause him pain and harm because he believes (rightly) that if his mother does not love him, he cannot survive due to his total dependency on her. The child’s survival depends upon keeping his mother happy so she doesn’t abandon him so he accepts her words and denies how hurtful her chronic abuse is to him.
When toxic parents use loyalty binds to alienate the other parent
The children of narcissistic parents are the most vulnerable to the effects of this vicious cycle. They often feel a tremendous amount of love and loyalty for their other parent, who is trying to protect them from their abuser. However, this abuser will use their bond and affection against them.
It can be incredibly difficult for a child that has grown up with parental alienation to stand up and question what they’ve been taught. In many cases, even as adults, they will continue to have difficulty forming relationships in which there is give-and-take, healthy boundaries, or mutual respect. The bonds they had with their targeted parent have been severed (or weakened), leaving them feeling abandoned, scared, and alone.
The relationship with the child may be distorted by the narcissist in order to maintain control.
The child may also be made to feel like they have to keep a secret or that they’re not allowed to tell the truth about how they feel for fear of disappointing the toxic parent.
They may be put in the position of having to keep the happy parent happy, or they risk punishment. The child might experience guilt and be actively triangulated by the toxic parent through guilt-tripping and other forms of manipulation. In some cases, children are made to believe that they are better off with the toxic parent, regardless of how much abuse they suffer at their hands (or how much better off they would be if they lived with the non-narcissistic one).
Attachment styles are affected deeply as a result of narcissistic abuse. The child may feel obligated to the toxic parent and guilty for loving or wanting to know the other parent (or even just being curious about them). They are often made to feel that it’s betraying one or both parents somehow just for them to want love from both sides (which is their natural right as children).
A child (or adult child) may have to choose one parent over the other.
When a child (or adult child) is forced to choose between the toxic parent and the narcissistic parent, they can experience very uncomfortable emotions. Examples of these situations include having to choose which parent’s birthday party to attend or being torn between visiting a sick parent in a hospital or going on a romantic vacation with a narcissistic partner.
When the narcissist is abusive toward the other parent, they may try to discourage a relationship with that other parent by demonizing them or by creating intense situations where choosing their parent would demand courage.
A child who is loyal to a narcissist parent will often have a difficult or impossible time visiting or seeing the other parent. The narcissist may create intense situations in which the child must choose between being loyal to their parent, which requires courage and strength or choosing the other parent.
The narcissist may actively try to alienate the child from their other parent by using verbal abuse, emotional manipulation, and guilt trips to discourage contact with them. An example of this might be if a child has plans to visit their father for his birthday but the mother strongly discourages it. They do this because they know that they can use fear, guilt, and shame as powerful tools against their offspring.
The abuse can escalate when it’s time for one of the parents to move out of the home.
From a child’s point of view, the custodial parent who remains in the home may get a disproportionate amount of attention. This is because the child will only spend part of their time with the non-custodial parent.
As for the non-custodial parent, he or she will feel as if they are walking on eggshells around their children. The children may be very angry at them for leaving in the first place.
They may also have been brainwashed into thinking that the non-custodial parent has done something wrong by leaving and that they somehow deserve to be punished. For those parents who live far away from their children, weekly phone calls can become awkward and difficult.
Children may experience grief, anger, and embarrassment over how the narcissistic parent talks about their other parent when they’re not around, or when they are on Skype or Zoom or over the phone.
The child may feel ashamed of what their parent is doing and feel like they are the only one dealing with this, or they may learn that this is one way to get their needs met.
They may think that they are alone in having a parent who acts this way because no one else’s parents appear to act like this.
A narcissistic mother will often try to force her daughter into submission through guilt trips or through anger and aggression that has no reason.
When a narcissistic mother has decided it’s time to give you a guilt trip, she’ll disappear, suddenly and without warning. You might be in the middle of a conversation, but she won’t respond to your questions or calls, no matter how many times you try. She’ll ignore you until you’re so worried that you track her down and apologize for whatever offense she believes deserves your groveling.
A narcissistic mother will often threaten suicide when her daughter makes positive changes in her life that don’t involve the mother. The point is to get her daughter emotionally hooked again so the daughter will be forced to stay in the relationship and keep doing things for her mother. This can also work with threats of harming herself physically or going on “hunger strikes” when she doesn’t get what she wants from others.
Another common way of making people feel guilty is by threatening others with harm—especially if the threat includes children or pets. Mothers who are more concerned about their own needs than those of their children are always looking for ways to manipulate their daughters by using their emotions and fears as weapons against them—and there’s nothing they won’t do to ensure they have control over everyone around them.
Here’s the good news.
You can recover from being made to feel like you were stuck between two parents who were demanding your loyalty but not giving any back to you.
It wasn’t your fault.
You are not alone.
You are not responsible for the dysfunction in your family.
In fact, millions of people have been affected by narcissistic abuse from their spouses or partners, family members, friends, bosses, coworkers, and even acquaintances. So many survivors suffer in silence, and some don’t even recognize the abuse due to its pervasive nature.
But now you can change all of that – and the best part is that you don’t have to go it alone. You can get personal help from celebrity psychologist, Dr. Judy Rosenberg.
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Yes, the same one that countless celebrities have used to heal from their own childhood traumas and adult toxic relationships.
The catch? Because she wants to personally guide each survivor through the system, she has limited access to this exclusive event to only 25 people.
So how do you qualify to be part of this rare event?
First, you must be able to attend each session and ready to take back your power.
Second, you must be willing and able to do the work involved.
Finally, you must be genuinely committed to creating profound personal change in your life.
What do you get out of this?
I mean, besides the opportunity to have this celebrity psychologist personally walk you through the system that has been helping the elite heal for years?
Not only will Dr. Judy teach you how to “think like a shrink” so you can manage your own mental health, but you’ll come away with a new secret superpower: you can reuse the Mind Map, again and again, to dig into and resolve most issues that keep you from living your best life.
Plus, you’ll get the benefit of the shared community experience with others who are on their own healing journeys.
Learn practical strategies for making a successful transition from victim to survivor and master how to: avoid the pitfalls of narcissistic abuse, interpret narcissistic signals, manage distorted feelings and emotions, avoid the problems of codependency, gain clarity from past experiences including childhood wounds, and reclaim your true identity, once and for all.
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What Dr. Judy’s Clients Say
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I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Judy who really does all this from her heart! I’m still working through a lot even though I’m almost on panel 9 but what I know is that deep within me a seismic shift has taken place. I’m discovering more about the effects of narcissism and uncovering deep offshoots of my core belief which is painful fascinating at the same time.
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When you’re a survivor of narcissistic abuse, you may have trouble managing your emotional state, especially if you’re deep in the throes of grief and anxiety as you transition to life without the narcissist. Issues connected to C-PTSD and other after-effects of the trauma you’ve just experienced will run rampant in your mind and body until you find a way to heal.
In the meantime, there are so many things you can do to help yourself feel better right now. For example, you could use a pattern interrupt to shift from feeling weak and worthless to feeling empowered and worthy.
What is a pattern interrupt?
A pattern interrupt is a way to stop one of your habitual reactions. This can be helpful because you can stop yourself from reacting in an unhealthy way and choose a better response. It can also be used to help your brain notice small things that you might otherwise overlook.
This concept is commonly used in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), as well as other self-help practices, to help people change their habits, thoughts, and emotions. In other words, pattern interrupts are deliberate actions that break undesirable habits.
You can use pattern interrupts to redirect the flow of a conversation when it’s going too far off-track, or when you’re ready to move on to talking about something else. They’re also useful for breaking up long monologues by other people.
Most importantly, pattern interrupts can help you get through the difficult moments in your relationships, including the one you might have or have had with the narcissist. This way, you can truly begin to heal yourself and take back your life – one baby step at a time.
How does a pattern interrupt help?
Pattern interrupts are highly effective for so many different aspects of narcissistic abuse recovery, and this is one more way they can be used. During and after a toxic relationship, your grief, anxiety, and depression can become automatic behaviors – patterns – that you fall into without thought.
So, when you begin to work on letting go of the narcissist and the toxic relationship, you can use mindfulness to pay attention to your thoughts and ideas, and then you can choose to use a pattern-interrupt to change it.
Try These Simple Pattern Interrupt Ideas
Pattern interrupts are part of NLP (Neurolinguistic programming). Sounds complicated, right? But it’s so simple. Here are some quick and easy-to-implement pattern interrupt ideas for you.
Try a simple affirmation you repeat to yourself in the moment.
Try standing up and moving into a different room of the house.
Try taking a quick shower.
You can brush your teeth or hair or wash your hands.
Try to count all of the items in a room that are a certain color.
Pattern Interrupts to Change Your Emotional State Quickly
If you need to change your mood or emotional state in a hurry, you have options available to you. Your emotional state affects your attitude, focus, decisions, and your ability to act.
The ability to manage your emotional state is a powerful skill that must be mastered if you want to be able to get the most out of each day. If you can control your emotional state, you can be happier and more successful.
Surprisingly Effective Pattern Interrupt Strategies for Emotional Control
Your emotions are actually body feelings created by your thoughts. If you move your body, the way your body feels will change. Moving is one of the most effective ways to change your emotional state. There are many ways to use your body to alter your emotions. Here are just a few options:
● Stand straighter.
● Do jumping jacks.
● Stand up quickly.
● Spin around.
● Walk like a robot.
Laughing feels really good! Make yourself laugh and you’ll feel differently, and the change is instantaneous.
● Think about something funny.
● Watch your favorite comedian.
● Talk with your funniest friend.
● Read a joke.
3. Give yourself a change of scenery.
It’s amazing how much difference you can feel if you just move to a new location.
● Spend an hour at the coffee shop.
● Go to the library.
● Walk around the park.
● Sit out on your back patio.
4. Do something that frightens you.
If you want to take your mind off your current thoughts, fear is an effective way to do it. Your emotional state will change, guaranteed.
● Strike up a conversation with an attractive stranger.
● Have that conversation you’ve been avoiding.
● Go to the pet shop and ask to hold that scary-looking snake.
5. Drink a large glass of cold water.
A good drink of water can change how you feel. Making sure that it’s cold makes the experience jolting. Pour yourself a tall, cold glass of water, stand outside, and drink it.
6. Use heat or cold.
Anything that impacts your body significantly can impact your emotional state, too. Heat and cold are all-encompassing experiences for your body. Your attention can’t help but notice them. Your brain and body are also taking notice. Your blood vessels expand or contract. You sweat more or less. There’s a lot going on when you expose yourself to significant temperatures.
● Sit outside on a hot or cold day.
● Take a hot shower or bath. Sit in a hot tub or sauna.
● Try a cold shower or bath (this is known to help tone your vagus nerve – which is shockingly effective in helping to heal your trauma).
7. Sing or hum.
Singing is a novel way to change how you feel. If you’re not used to singing, it can feel awkward. If you sing regularly, you do so because it’s enjoyable. Either way, your emotional state will be impacted. (Also good for the vagus nerve!)
8. Do something new or unexpected.
Shock your system by doing something totally out of character.
● Pull out the bike you haven’t ridden in years and go for a ride.
● Take a walk around the neighborhood if you rarely do so.
● Go out to a new restaurant.
● Call an old friend you haven’t spoken to in ages.
● Eat a tablespoon of hot sauce.
● Shake things up.
You have an emotional state of some sort every waking moment of the day. The real question is whether or not it’s a useful emotional state. Even more importantly, is it the optimal emotional state for the current moment? You can change your emotional state with practice. You can even change it quickly!
Get Help With Your Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by a lack of empathy, combined with extreme self-centeredness and a need for constant attention. It’s a disorder that can have a profoundly negative effect on people, and it can be difficult to deal with someone who has it.
Today, we’ll dig into the collapsed narcissist and identify some of the red flags or signs that you might be dealing with a narcissist who might be what psychologists call a collapsed narcissist.
What is Narcissistic Collapse?
When someone with NPD (or even toxic narcissist traits) loses the ability to get their unrealistic needs met through their usual methods of manipulation and deceitful behaviors, they will often begin to exhibit signs of collapse as they struggle to maintain control over the situation. A narcissist may also collapse if they’ve been confronted about their behavior and are forced to accept accountability for it.
Collapsing is a painful process for them since it’s often a point of extremely high stress and anxiety in their lives. In so many cases, the narcissist may have developed an entire persona around being superior to everyone else, but when this starts to break down, so does their false self.
While there are many signs to watch for, most are related to how a narcissist experiences a significant event or loss of supply; or in many cases, they just fail to maintain the normal amount of narcissistic supply.
Another form of narcissistic collapse occurs when a person becomes depressed without their narcissistic supply. This happens usually post-discard when the narcissist feels that he/she has lost control over someone’s admiration and adoration.
When someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or narcissistic traits can no longer uphold their grandiose, confident image, they feel profoundly threatened due to the lack of narcissistic supply – or even the potential of lack.
As a result, they tend to become enraged, resulting in impulsive behavior, intense lashing out, or hurting other people.
In severe cases, a person with NPD or NPD traits may feel so wounded they become suicidal or homicidal. They may see suicide or murder as the only way to get back at a perceived slight.
Narcissists who are in collapse also tend to become enraged, resulting in impulsive behavior, intense lashing out, or hurting other people.
What does a collapsed narcissist look like?
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this kind of narcissistic rage and have wondered what prompted it, then you’ve probably seen a collapsed narcissist in action.
This is especially true if you’re involved with a narcissist who has been removed from their primary sources of supply: family members who have wised up to their manipulation and gaslighting; former friends who have rejected their lies and abuse, or even employers that have caught on to their toxic ways.
They have become devastated, hollow versions of what they once were. You ALMOST feel sorry for them. Of course, the specific reaction will also depend on the type of narcissist they happen to be.
Vulnerable narcissists tend to be shy and self-effacing. They are also hypersensitive to how others perceive them, which means they are easily hurt and offended by criticism. They tend to be pessimistic, insecure, and fragile. A vulnerable narcissist will respond with shame or anger when their sense of superiority is threatened or injured by criticism or rejection.
By contrast, grandiose narcissists are those most people think about when they hear the word “narcissist.” Grandiose narcissists are arrogant, indifferent to others’ feelings and needs, and expect special treatment. When criticized or challenged in any way, they lash out with contempt and rage.
Can a collapsed narcissist recover?
Sometimes we’ll see a narcissist who has “collapsed” or otherwise seems to be going through some kind of emotional upheaval and distress. This begs the question: Can a collapsed narcissist recover?
Is it possible for a collapsed narcissist to become normal again?
Sadly, the answer is no. A collapsed narcissist is not able to recover and be normal, because they do not understand that they are a narcissist or why they have become a narcissist.
In other words, they almost completely lack self-awareness, at least when you compare them to non-narcissists.
This lack of self-awareness, combined with their natural sense of entitlement and other typical narcissistic traits makes it nearly impossible for a malignant narcissist to recover from collapse.
In fact, most of them will never realize the truth about themselves, even if their life depended on it. It is difficult for anyone to admit that their entire life has been a lie and a waste of time and energy.
The narcissist, a highly disordered personality, is incapable of having a healthy relationship with anyone. Because of this, their relationships are toxic and riddled with abuse.
Perhaps even more confusing, narcissists can be incredibly charming and enticing when they want to be. They’re also extremely manipulative and adept at grooming you to meet their needs. They do whatever they can to suck you in and hold you tight, to use you up until there’s nothing left.
When they “move on” or the relationship ends, they will often discard you without another thought. This is because they have no empathy or regard for anyone but themselves. In fact, they’re quite pleased with themselves when they can leave you utterly shattered as if it were some kind of game to them.
What triggers narcissistic collapse?
In the end, the collapsed narcissist is someone that has had their self-image severely damaged so much by a particular experience or situation, that they’ve begun to lose all sense of who they are. This often leads them down a path of anxiety, depression, and an inflated sense of oppression when dealing with others.
Narcissistic collapse is often triggered by narcissistic injury – a perceived threat to their self-worth or self-esteem. When this happens, narcissists typically respond with rage and contempt and may engage in destructive or self-destructive behavior such as substance abuse, suicide threats or attempts, violent outbursts, or physical violence directed toward themselves or others.
The Empty Shell Person
The best way to gain a better understanding of what is going on with the collapsed narcissist is to use the term “empty shell.” That’s because the narcissist in collapse very much appears to be a hollow shell of what they once were.
Most people have a solid sense of who they are. An empty shell person has lost their sense of self.
Because they’re so afraid to let their facade down, it’s hard to understand what is really taking place because underneath.
After all, beneath the ego structure of most human beings lies a sensitive and vulnerable narcissistic child. This can be a very painful place to be, and if this child was neglected or abused enough, they may have collapsed into themselves in order to survive.
This means that a lot of the personality structure and defense mechanisms had to go away in order to just cope with life day by day.
This affiliation is part of an effort to provide more effective and useful solutions for healing from narcissistic abuse.
Who is Dr. Judy Rosenberg?
Dr. Judy Rosenberg is the founder of the Psychological Healing Center and the Be The Cause® Mind Map System to help “Heal Human Disconnect,” the cause of most psychopathology. By helping people identify their problem and dismantle it, Dr. Judy helps her patients to paradigm shift from the problem into the solution. She completed her undergraduate work in psychology at UCLA and her graduate work at CGI (California Graduate Institute).
Dr. Judy is currently in private practice in Sherman Oaks and Beverly Hills, CA, and continues to help people with various psychological issues. You may also know her from YouTube as Dr. Judy WTF?!, as she has a weekly call-in radio show titled Dr. Judy WTF (What The Freud?!). Her focus there is on healing the “hole in the soul” that results from Human Disconnect.
She is a consultant to the media and has appeared on several television shows and is often interviewed by high-profile publications. Her recent appearances include Huffington Post, MTV, E Entertainment, KCAL News, CBS News, CNN, and Animal Planet. She has been in private practice as a clinical psychologist since 1996.
What is QueenBeeing?
QueenBeeing is an online, comprehensive Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support System created by certified life coach Angie Atkinson and continuously supported by our team of fellow survivors, certified life coaches, and mental health professionals. QueenBeeing also features a strong, vibrant, supportive community for survivors of Narcissistic Abuse that offers support in the form of support groups, counseling, coaching, and a number of courses and tools available for low or no cost.
In addition to the mission of empowering survivors of narcissistic abuse to become thrivers and to create the lives they want, QueenBeeing.com has launched a movement to spread awareness and to help survivors create change in their own families and social circles to prevent enabling and creating toxic people in this world.
Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today