Self-Identifying as an Adult Child of Narcissistic Parents

Self-Identifying as an Adult Child of Narcissistic Parents

Did you grow up feeling like you didn’t matter, or like you weren’t good enough? Did one of your parents teach you that you weren’t as important as they were, or did they control every move you made? Or maybe your parent was more of a lazy, hands-off type who didn’t seem to care what you did – or who only paid attention to you when it was convenient for them.

If any of that sounds familiar to you, have you ever wondered if you might be the adult child of a narcissistic parent? If you are, chances are you don’t have the best memories about at least certain parts of your childhood. But the good news is that you don’t have to allow the effects of your abusive, gaslighting parents to control your life anymore. Even better, there is plenty of help and support available for adult children of narcissistic parents.

Signs You Were Raised by a Narcissistic Parent

.Were you raised by a narcissistic parent? If you were, then you might already know how significantly it can impact your adult life and your relationships. If you’re not sure it can help to take a look at the signs you were raised by a toxic parent.

Signs of a Narcissistic Parent in Infancy and Early Childhood

In early childhood, narcissistic parents can be more difficult to detect, as the children won’t have as much of their own, separate opinions yet.  Even more confusing, narcissistic parents tend to go to one extreme or the other – either they are highly engaged and controlling, or not. For example:

  • Narcissistic parents are often extremely possessive of their kids. If not possessive, then they are completely dismissive of children.
  • They see kids as extensions of themselves, and they use the kids as accessories when they’re small. Or, they see them as extensions of themselves which means they don’t matter as they’re not as “real” or “important” as other people. They are often not even able to imagine that their child might be a “whole person” in any given moment.
  • They act like taking care of their babies is above and beyond their responsibility as a parent. They may have wanted or expected praise for completing basic parental responsibilities.  Alternatively, they ignored their responsibilities and pushed them off on to the other parent or even a grandparent, babysitter, or, in some cases, a sibling.
  • They may have been fans of the helicopter parenting style. If not helicopter parents, they’d have been very hands-off.

Signs of a Narcissistic Parent in the Tween and Teen Years

Of course, since we know that narcissists rarely change, we know that going into the tween and teen years, the toxic parent will want to retain control, if that is their weapon of choice, or they will increasingly ignore and neglect their kids if they’re a “hands-off” type.

And the older a child gets, the more separate they naturally become from their parents. It is a healthy and normal part of a child’s development and journey into adulthood. They form their own opinions, thoughts, feelings, and styles. They may see the world differently than their parents, and they may talk back or openly rebel against even the most easy-going parent. But when it comes to kids being raised by a narcissist, this time will look a little different.

Just like during infancy and early childhood, you’ll see a lot of extremes. For example: 

  • The kids will actively either be people-pleaser types, actively trying to please the parent, or in some cases, they’ll sort of “become the adult” who is responsible for taking care of the parent as if they’re responsible for their emotional and even physical wellbeing – or they may actively and directly defy the parents and lean into that whole “black sheep” role.
  • The kids will either struggle with boundaries and be regularly walked all over, or they’ll be so firmly anti-authority that they’ll be the one doing the walking all over someone else.
  • In many cases, the kids will feel responsible for everyone’s problems and mistakes. Narcissistic parents almost never take responsibility and often blame one or more of their kids for their issues.
  • In families where there is more than one child, the narcissistic parent will often assign various roles to each child, such as scapegoat, the golden child, and the lost child. These roles will be interchangeable over the years, depending on which child happens to be in the toxic parent’s good graces at the time.
  • Parents often become oddly jealous of or feel threatened by their children, especially those of the same sex as the parent.
  • The parents may feel that their kids’ sole purpose is to fulfill their own wishes or dreams and often live vicariously through them.
  • The children of narcissistic parents often feel like they’re unimportant and don’t matter. They feel not good enough and often accept whatever affection they can find – which is why they also often end up in toxic relationships as adults.

Are you the adult child of a narcissist parent?

Does any of that sound familiar to you? If so, you might be the adult child of a narcissistic parent. And the real question is how did your parents treat you growing up? And how do you view them now when you think back on it? Children of gaslighting parents will have a lot of emotional trouble and psychological effects from the way they were treated, including having and struggling with a lot of different triggers, low self-esteem, and more.  Many people are shocked when they finally learn the dark truth of how narcissists really treat their families.

Shocking: Effects Narcissistic Parents Have on Your Adult Life

If you are the adult child of a narcissistic parent, then you’ll relate to some of the surprising effects that their parenting had on you. Let’s look at them now.

1. Narcissist Parents Teach You to Blame Yourself

Children of toxic, narcissistic parents are often told (and tend to believe) that they (or their birth, or something they’ve done or not done) are the reason that things have gone wrong in their parents’ lives. If you are a child of a narcissistic parent, as soon as you exercise your independence, your parent might have constantly made you doubt yourself by subtly (or not so subtly) tearing down your efforts, your attempts to do new things, and even your personal self in the process.

Since you were told over and over again everything was your fault, you may have believed you were the problem and the source of your narcissistic parents’ unhappiness. This might have led you to become extra hard on yourself – and this is where self-loathing comes in when you make mistakes.

All any child really wants is the love and approval of their parents. And the games your parents may have played made you think that if you did well, then they would love you. Especially if you were the scapegoat. Of course, if you were the golden child, you were terrified of losing your parents’ approval. In either case, you never quite felt like you measured up – and this is just one of the many toxic effects being raised by a narcissistic parent can manifest.

2. Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents May Develop Insecure Attachment Styles

The toxic family – also known as a dysfunctional family – is often lead by a narcissist and/or an enabler. In addition to the fact that narcissistic parents may cause their children to be subject to trauma bonding. Similar to Stockholm Syndrome, this is a condition that causes abuse victims to develop a psychological dependence on their abusers as a survival strategy during abuse. Of course, trauma bonding makes recovering from any toxic relationship significantly more difficult.

All of this leads us to attachment theory, which describes how the dynamics of interpersonal relationships affect us on so many levels. Your attachment style is brought on by your relationship with your mother or another primary caregiver. Studies tell us that narcissistic parenting often causes insecure attachment styles.

In some cases, you can feel numb on a consistent basis, having on some level completely abandoned your ability to emotionally attach to anyone. In cases of extreme neglect early in infancy, this can be even more serious, often resulting in reactive attachment disorder (RAD).

This would have made you a loner that keeps walls around so you never form interpersonal relationships. Do you have trouble trusting others? You were made to believe that others don’t like you as soon as they meet you. Or you believe that no one is trustworthy. Therefore, you grow into someone who builds ‘walls’ around so that others don’t get close. You would end up alone and have a hard time building any type of friendship or connection.

Here’s additional information on narcissistic parents and how the way they treated you during infancy and early childhood could literally, for the rest of your life, affect you, your psychology, and your relationships.

3. Adult Children of Narcissists Might Become Narcissists or Codependents

This does not always happen, of course, but often, the adult children of narcissistic parents will go to one extreme or the other in personality as well – they’ll be either a narcissist themselves, or they’ll be codependents who may feel doomed to serve narcissists for their entire lives.

In either case, there is a pretty good chance that, unless you’re careful, you might sort of “pick up” certain narcissistic tendencies (also called narcissistic fleas) as you navigate your adult relationships, and later your children. This would unfortunately keep that toxic family legacy intact, and the cycle would continue.

It’s important to understand how narcissists are created – here’s a clear explanation of the psychology of how a narcissist develops. 

4. Adult Children of Narcissists Might Marry a Narcissist

If you’re not a narcissist yourself, chances are that being raised by a narcissistic parent could lead to you ending up being involved with a narcissist in a relationship as an adult.  In fact, if you’re being honest, you may have seen the effects of narcissistic parenting in someone else in your life,  and you might understand how a narcissistic parent could create narcissistic children. Often, the “people-pleaser” child will end up with a narcissistic partner.

If you’re anything like me, you may have gone the other way by becoming so concerned with making people happy that you forget about making yourself happy. You just really want people to love you, so in your efforts to avoid any stress and drama, you become incredibly selfless. You make it your mission to avoid conflict and you might appear to be overly nurturing and caring for others. And often, you’ll be the person who supports everyone around you but who gets very little support from anyone else. You tolerate this because you just want to be loved and not “alone” and abandoned as you felt you might be growing up.

All of this is of course due to having this subconscious longing for someone – literally almost anyone – to give you the love and care that you deserved, but never received as a child. See, there are just a few people in our lives who are SUPPOSED to love us unconditionally, and when those people never show up for you, you very often feel like you are intrinsically unlovable. You may manifest this in a number of ways.

For example, you might end up having a large family yourself. If your parent was the “hands-off” type, you might have felt very lonely growing up, so this could lead you to become so involved and supportive of your kids that you fail to put yourself on your priority list at all.  Or, if your parents were helicoptering, controlling types, you may become so “laid back” and permissive that you fail to discipline your children correctly. It’s a fine line you have to walk.

In either case, you grew up being made to believe your needs and wants didn’t matter. Or, you do this because you deeply crave the experience of having the love and warmth that you never had. Here is additional information on how growing up with a narcissistic parent can cause you to engage with narcissists in relationships as an adult.

(Side note: there are a few situations in which the parents are not to blame for their adult child’s narcissistic behaviors – you can learn more about acquired situational narcissism here.)

5. Adult Children of Narcissists May Develop C-PTSD

Do you ever find yourself having invasive thoughts and flashbacks of the psychological, emotional, or physical abuse you experienced growing up? Do you ever find yourself feeling positively numb, like you’re not even a real person?  Sadly, the adult children of narcissistic parents often end up developing complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), a serious mental health condition affecting a large percentage of victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse. As life goes on, you may also find that you end up caring for – or at least dealing with – an aging parent who demonstrates narcissistic tendencies. If that’s the case, you might be dealing with a collapsed, aging narcissist. This, clearly, can add to the triggering and other issues related to C-PTSD and certainly will stifle your ability to heal and move forward.

C-PTSD can take years to heal from, and treatment may be difficult to obtain as many professionals aren’t familiar with its symptoms and often tend to misdiagnose it. Therapists and other medical professionals may even victim-blame you and believe your abuser, if you go to therapy together, especially if they aren’t familiar with the subtle tricks of a narcissist.

There are so many different ways we can be affected by C-PTSD as adult children of narcissists. Here’s a handy playlist that will walk you through the complications, signs, and some self-help options for your healing after being raised by a toxic parent. 

Unfortunately, C-PTSD can be a lifelong condition, but it can be managed with mindfulness and behavior modification, among other therapies and modalities. On the plus side, if you’re willing to do your homework, there are plenty of trauma-informed coaching and counseling professionals as well as traditional therapists who are qualified to help you heal from your toxic childhood.

If you’re struggling to get over your abusive, traumatic childhood, you’re not alone – but you do have some healing to do. Start by getting these abusers out of your head so you can focus on the business of healing and evolving.

 

Additional Resources for Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents and Toxic Families

Toxic Family Relationships: Identifying Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Toxic Family Relationships: Identifying Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Toxic family relationships can take a toll on anyone who has to deal with them, especially when mental illness is involved.

Any sort of mental illness among family members, especially left untreated, can cause stress and discord in the family, but sometimes, the affected person doesn’t even realize there’s a problem.

If you’ve ever dealt with someone with narcisisstic personality disorder (NPD), you’ll know exactly what I mean.

“They tend to exaggerate in an immensely obvious way – as people they’re unusual in their personality,” says clinical psychologist Jillian Bloxham. “It becomes very evident when a person is narcissistic.”

Healthy self-esteem is important for everyone, but some people develop an over-inflated sense of self-importance that leads to the belief that other people’s feelings, thoughts and beliefs have no relevance.

This is the first sign many people recognize in a person who suffers from NPD.

NPD is a tricky condition, because often, narcissists don’t even realize anything is wrong. They have a sense of personal entitlement that causes them to expect people around them to cater to their every desire, to anticipate their every need and to respond post-haste in fulfilling them.

“It is good to think highly of yourself – but for these people it is out of control,” says personality disorders expert and consultant forensic psychologist Kerry Daynes. “It has gone off the scale.”

Do you know a narcissist?

Narcissists tend to be caught up in their own lives, their own personal worlds. This means that in general, they have no time to consider the feelings, thoughts or needs of the people around them.

Rather than offer sympathy if you are dealing with pain or frustration, they’ll just share some of their own with you (which, of course, will be far more serious than your own.)

While a narcissist may appear to be an upbeat, happy person to outsiders in his or her life, people who know him or her intimately are likely to see a whole other personality.

This can manifest in several ways–but a primary marker is that they are unable to empathize with those around them, and they consistently blame others for problems they’ve caused.

Since narcissists tend to see other people as objects or possessions, they cannot fathom it when they are not obeyed or catered to.

If the person is a friend or acquaintance, the narcissist may just discard them and pretend they don’t exist–but if it’s a family member, things can get more serious.

For example, the narcissist may try to pressure the family member into conforming to his or her wishes, and if that doesn’t work, additional and potentially life-altering steps may be taken to get what is desired.

Because narcissists are incapable of empathizing with others, they don’t even consider (or care) how their words or actions could affect others–and they will never admit that they are wrong.

Instead, they will play the victim and use the situation to gain more attention from others around them.

As with any other toxic family situation, it may be best to distance yourself from a person with NPD. This is especially true because they don’t generally realize that anything is wrong.

Plus, there is currently no known “cure” for NPD–though if a person affected with it seeks therapy, change is possible. However, it’s very unusual for a person with NPD to seek therapy since they don’t see a problem with their behavior.

“Why would someone who thinks they’re special and great come for therapy?” Bloxham says.

Do you think someone you love might have NPD? Tell me in the comments. 

 

Just Can’t Get You Out of My Head (And Not In a Good Way)

Just Can’t Get You Out of My Head (And Not In a Good Way)

“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” ~Mark Twain

Everyone has something (or someone) in their past that they’d just rather forget–but as everyone knows, sometimes that’s a little easier said than done. Yet, as we focus on obtaining our ultimate personal fulfillment, we know that focusing on those negative things or people from our past is doing nothing but keeping us from obtaining our true divine desires.

When we focus on the things we don’t want in our own lives, we draw more of those things toward us–and then we may not remember to focus on the things we DO want. This leaves us unhappy and unfulfilled, living with a general sense of dissatisfaction and we’re left wondering what we’re doing wrong.

The law of attraction doesn’t discriminate–it’s very simple. What you think about, you bring about. So, if you think about how exceptionally awesome your life is–then you’ll draw more reasons for exceptional awesomeness into your life. If you think about how much your life sucks–then you’ll soon find many more reasons for the suck factor.

I know, this is all very basic and may seem far too simple, especially when you throw whole “we’re all human” thing into the mix.  After all, we don’t always control the external factors, the little reminders in our everyday lives that trigger thoughts of the negative things or people in our pasts.

So what is a positive-thinking person to do?

Take an Honest Look at Yourself

“If things go wrong, don’t go with them.”  ~Roger Babson

First things first, it’s important to be aware of the problem. So, if you are always thinking about, say, that job you got fired from, you need to begin to be conscious of your internal dialogue–keep an “ear” on your thoughts. And the next time you think about that job, mentally “cancel” that thought and replace it with an affirmation of what you REALLY want.

So, for example, if what you really want is a new, high-paying and secure job that you enjoy, then you might tell yourself something like, “I work for ____. My job is secure and fun, and I make $_____ per ______.”

Take the Good, Leave the Bad

“Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts.  It’s what you do with what you have left.”  ~Hubert Humphrey

In almost every situation, there can be a positive. Using the example of the lost job, you could probably come up with at least one good thing that happened as a result of working there. Maybe you made a new friend, learned a good lesson or made enough money to send your kid to college.

If your negative thoughts revolve more around a past personal relationship, take the love, lessons and happy parts of that relationship and forget about the rest. That doesn’t mean that you have to get involved with that person in the present, but it means that you can move forward without the negative baggage “the rest” brings with it.

Keep the “good stuff” from your past and let the rest of it go. Again, this can be achieved through “thought replacement.” So, if you’re thinking about that ex who dumped you for no good reason, remind yourself of the things that you liked about the relationship with that person. Smile, give yourself a minute to reminisce, and then replace thoughts of that person with an affirmation of what you want today. Maybe something like “I am so very grateful for the healthy and fulfilling relationships in my life.” It takes some practice, but it works.

Don’t Worry–It Won’t Help

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”  ~Leo Buscaglia

You get where I’m going with this, right? The bottom line here is that focusing on negative things–worrying and upsetting yourself–will do you no good. In fact, these negative thoughts can actually cause harm by drawing more negativity into your life.

Worrying never solved anything, so why should you sit around feeling bad? Choose to feel good instead, choose to think and feel positive things–and watch as you begin to manifest the life you’ve always wanted.

How are you going to choose to feel today?

Balancing the Roles You Play: Maggie’s Story

Balancing the Roles You Play: Maggie’s Story

We all have different roles in our daily lives. Personally, I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter…a writer, an editor, the co-founder of a blogging network, a lover, a healer, a friend…the list goes on and on. I’m not alone with my mile-long list. Everyone has their own, and most everyone has, at one time or another, found themselves struggling to effectively fulfill all of the roles on their lists.

Maggie’s Story

Maggie, a 29 year old mom of two and midwife, says that her relationship with her husband suffers because she’s too exhausted to spend quality time with her husband after taking care of the kids all day. Plus, she says, she’s lost touch with all but one or two of her friends and can’t even find the time to slap on make up in the morning. She has essentially lost her mojo.

Maggie’s Problem

Maggie loves her kids dearly, and that’s important and admirable–but she’s put herself (and her relationships with her husband and friends) on the back burner. She hasn’t seen her friends in person in months and she’s no longer enjoying her work. She finds herself snapping at the kids more often, and she’s slipping into a bit of a depression, though she’s not sure why. She argues with her husband on a regular basis and feels a general sense of boredom and dissatisfaction.

Maggie is struggling to balance the roles in her life. When she became a mother, her kids became her first and most important priority. While that’s a normal and healthy perspective for any parent, Maggie made the same mistake many dedicated parents make–she focused so much on her role as Mother that she forgot about the pre-parent roles of daughter, friend, wife, lover…woman. As a result, she has not only neglected her friendships and her marriage, she’s also neglected herself.

Maggie has become frustrated with her life because she has neglected some pretty important components–her friends, her marriage and herself. Even though she’s not fully aware of it yet, her quest to become The Perfect Mother has had quite the opposite effect. She is ineffectively dealing with the things that matter in her life–including her ability to be the kind of mom she wants to be.

How can this be?

Think about it. Since her children were born, Maggie has allowed parts of her personality and her life to slip away. She has focused all of her attention on her children, neglecting other important relationships in her life. She has become a faded version of her former self–she doesn’t laugh much, she no longer sings in the shower and these days, she only wears makeup on special occasions (and those aren’t often.) As her depression and frustration grow, it spills over into her relationship with the kids.

She’s no longer so tolerant of the little things that she used to let slide. She finds herself directing the kids around like a drill sergeant, and even though she feels terrible about it, can’t seem to stop. And, she says, she has even worried that she might physically discipline the kids–even though she and her husband decided against corporate punishment when they first found out they were pregnant.

So, in her effort to become The Perfect Mother, Maggie has become the mother that she never wanted to be–and she has lost so many important parts of herself.

Maggie’s Solution

Maggie needs to re-evaluate her situation. She needs to make a list of top priorities–and she needs to put herself on it. She needs to decide what’s really important to her, and to restructure her time to accommodate the things and people that matter in her life.

Of course, her kids will be on the list. But so should her husband, her friends, her passions and her self.

She doesn’t have to make big changes right away–but even small steps, like setting up a (kid free) date with her husband and lunch with a friend, can have a big effect on Maggie’s perspective. (And hey–if she’s going on a date and to lunch, there are two more occasions she’ll find to put on a little makeup!)

By giving herself time to be Maggie (instead of Mom), she will actually be giving a gift to her children: a happier, more relaxed and generally more pleasant Mommy. And, I have no doubt, her husband and friends will be grateful to have Maggie back.

So What About You?

Do you find yourself struggling to balance the roles in your life? How do you put things back into perspective?

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