PART II: WHAT HAPPENS WITH CHILDREN WHO WERE RAISED BY A NARCISSIST IN ADULTHOOD?

Family system good or bad influences our personality, the way we see the world and feel about ourselves. Unfortunately being raised by the narcissist parent is a tough spot to be in. You are probably dragging with yourself a very negative perception of you which influences a lot of areas in your life. In this article we will take a look on the hardships that comes from being raised by the Narcissist.

Pain from upbringing
Having to accept that your parent doesn’t love you like other parents love their children is the painful process. You have to grieve the loss of the parent you never had. Really grieve the fact that you didn’t get the love and support you needed. Part of that requires releasing the fantasy that your narcissistic parent can change and eventually give you what you need. They are unable to change. At least not to the extent that they would be able to give you genuine love. Sometimes accepting that can make your relationship with narcissistic parent bearable but there is nothing wrong with cutting all ties with your narcissistic parent.
Also we often forget about the other parent-the not narcissistic one. There is a lot of pain hiding there too. This parent was allowing the abuse to keep happening. He was the silent observer and didn’t protect you the way he should. Usually children defend this parent, because he was the safe haven while growing up. But in therapy after we deal with pain that was cost by narcissistic parent the new pain and anger emerge directed toward the other parent. Why didn’t you do something? Why you haven’t protracted me? “One of the most heart-breaking moments for me as a child was realizing that dad knew what was going on. After a bad beating from mom, he brought me a candy bar.”

Negative self-image
Children of narcissistic parents often wonder if they are really lovable. You distrust and devaluate your inner selves as nothing of value could come from inside. “I feel worthless and unlovable. If anyone shows affection, I know that they only do it because they want something in return.”
You are chronically unsure of themselves, and overly-worried about what others think of them. You feel insecure, because you never experienced unconditional love. “I fight the things I’ve been called almost every day, things like stupid, lazy, fat, drama queen, property, slightly mentally retarded, selfish, paranoid, hypochondriac, and more.”

Underdeveloped identity
Child raised in Narcissistic family is forced to ignore his own needs and desires. The boundaries between mother and child become so blurred. Not only that, the parent was not in tuned with the child and they labeled children’s emotions according to their own. That leaves behind the confusion of who I am, what am I feeling? Also child often don’t know how to read their own body because parent didn’t give the right words to emotions and body sensations. Person who is not connected with his feelings is puzzled by an ache in the heart, palpitations, shortness of breath and a churning in the stomach. They become dissociated from their feelings and bodily sensations and consequently often end up exhausted and ill.
Consequently, you don’t trust your instincts, and have trouble expressing your feelings. You worry that if you assert yourself you will risk losing love. Because you are so used to please others your identity don’t have the opportunity to fully develop. “I sense for a very long time that my body wasn’t my body. It could be abused, or I could be held down and tickled to crying point or made to dance for visitors. I’m still over-sensitive to being grabbed or pulled by anyone.”

Guilt and shame
Another major sign of being raised by narcissists is the constant feelings of guilt and shame. They are coming from inability to meet your parent expectations and being constantly humiliated. You can also experience chronic feelings of emptiness. To avoid this feeling you can escape to hyper sexuality or acting out (in a potentially harmful manner) for attention.

Avoiding error
Child of narcissist tries to avoid error even at a brand new or difficult activity. Some can be deadly afraid to go out of their routine.  Narcissistic parent teaches their child that there is only perfection or failure.  They believe that they should appeared perfect and with no need of help. Consequently they avoid taking chances because of the fear of (parental) judgment. They stay in the security of sameness.

Boundaries
Most likely you have poor interpersonal boundaries and inability to say “no”. People-pleasing is very common behavior. You are deeply afraid to speak up confidently or challenge others. You are going to need to discover boundaries, where you begin and your parent ends, to free your authentic self. When you choose who you want to be, rather than who your parents wanted you to be, you break free from their narcissistic grip.

Noticing the details
Like in Borderline families also child from Narcissistic family becomes attuned to the changes in the environment. “Changes in tone? Check. Micro-shifts in facial expressions? Noted. Gestures that contradict spoken words? Documented.” You had to be “emotion detective” in order to survive your childhood. You can be highly sensitive and intuitive to the needs of others, but you are also constantly on the lookout for what’s about to come. This can lead to taking on other people emotions and not being able to set a healthy boundary in adulthood. “I’m intensely aware of body language, and that comes from the ‘walking on eggshells’ life and trying to anticipate. It’s distressing when people are telling me one thing and their body language is telling another.”

Narcissist becomes Narcissist?
If you were a golden child there is a strong possibility that you will become a narcissist. You can turn out to be self-centered, have the compulsive need to be always right, you are unable to take criticism, demand perfection from others and yourself, you can become hypersensitive and continuous feel mistreated by others and you desperately need to be loved. If you grow up watching your parent exploit others, you can lack a strong moral compass and transfer this behavior to the people around you. “I’m ignorant. You may tell me things, and I will even ask you where you went on holidays, how long did it take you, who was with you – and 2 minutes later I won’t remember a thing. I learnt to block out the screams and nonsense that my mother tells me over and over again, and unfortunately, I now subconsciously do the same to the other people.”
Beside Narcissistic personality disorder, you can also develop other psychological disorder such as Borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, addiction or Schizoid personality disorder. “I self harm. During my life it varied, but included things like blade cuts, excessive masturbation, biting lips and gums.”
Beside psychological problems you can develop a bunch of (psycho) somatic issues like migraines, autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, and heart problems. Bottom line is trauma causes all kinds of physical and psychological problems. “I eat. I am morbidly obese. I would gladly trade for one of those addictions that don’t show so prominently, like workaholic or excessive exercising. But this is what I’ve got. I wish I could lay it down.”

(Romantic) relationships
Children from Narcissistic family often have unhealthy relationship. There are several aspect contributing to it:

  • All children are vulnerable in front of their parents but with horrible experiences child in Narcissistic family learns to keep to himself. The child is deeply hurt by the parent who uses his feelings for a personal gain. Consequently you learn that you can’t trust others with what is truly going on inside of you. “I can’t trust anyone. I don’t completely trust my girlfriend, I don’t trust my friends (I always think “Are they going to stab me while I’m asleep? Why does my girlfriend pretend to love me?”) even if there’s no reasons to think that. At work I do everything myself, even if there’s help available. Sometimes that means I’m a bit overloaded.”
    Often you are unable to tolerate your feelings as well. On the other hand children of narcissists have a tendency to overshare in the hopes that someone will see their pain and come rescue them. That normally ends up in another toxic relationship.
  • You are so used to be mistreated in the relationships that you don’t recognized when mistreatment is going on and you don’t know how to stop it.
  • Many are desperate for a love they never received. You can have idealized perception of romantic relationship. Usually the image is created from what you saw in the movies. This can also be one of the ways to avoid intimacy. Meaning that you are looking for something that doesn’t exist. Probably because you are joining for parent love that was never there. Going into the same destructive circle causes re-traumatization but you don’t know how to end vicious circle. “I ended up marrying an emotionally unavailable man. I was married 23 long years. I finally had the courage to leave. With my next relationship, I thought I’d finally found love! I thought I’d finally found my soulmate! I realized, after a year, that he was a covert narcissist of the exhibitionist variety!”
  • You form insecure attachment, mostly avoidant attachment, in which you deal with your fear by shutting people out. “I will never risk depending on anyone ever again!” or anxious attachment, where you chase after love. “Why won’t you pay attention to me!”
  • Some stays in the relationship just for the sake of settling down. Long-term relationships can provide an odd sense of comfort to someone who has always felt alienated. However most of those raised by a Narcissist have an intense fear of commitment, especially when it comes to committing to a person who may actually truly care for you. Commitment to you signifies another person having complete control over you and your emotions. As a result, you tend to defend your freedom whenever you feel it might be challenged and can withdraw when things get too intense. Even staying in long-term relationship that doesn’t work indicates the fear of commitment. “I rather be here and know what to expect than be in healthy relationship where I would need to deal with my fear of closeness.”
  • You have a tendency to become attached to toxic people and chaotic situations in early adulthood in a more intense. Unfortunately you internalized verbal and emotional abuse as a twisted sense of “normal” in childhood, so it’s no wonder that you rationalize toxic behavior in adulthood.
  • You often get into one-sided relationships where you get drained by the other person without getting any benefits in return (=codependency). This endless ‘giving’ is usually rooted in a deeply painful feeling of never being quite enough and having to work hard to receive love.

Being raised by a Narcissist causes a deep wound that takes a lot of time and determination to heal. Basically, you need to put your energy in to mothering yourself. Maybe that means getting re-parented by a therapist, to some extent by romantic partnership, friends or nurturing neighbors. All of these people can become part of your collective parent who gives you love, support, helps you through painful times and reminds you that you are worth it. With time you will internalize this nurturing collective parent that you didn’t have at the time of growing up.

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