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Author: Ania Seretny

When we think of our anger and aggression, the approach often relies on fixing these states, quietening them down, or getting rid of them completely. This article will explore if these strategies are possible, recap what anger and aggression are, and relate fundamentals of Aggression Replacement Training. 

What is anger and aggression?
Anger is the adaptive emotion that plays into the vast pallet of our feelings. We need anger as a part of our reactive toolbox. It is a big part of our self-protecting safety mechanism that our ancestors needed when they were fighting off and hunting animals. That held true for when we lived in steppes and forests and holds true until today as we live in the urban jungle. Years of psychological work however distinguished the emotion of anger and aggression. Aggression is the behavior that is hurtful to others and ourselves. You may ask if it is always hurtful. Yes, even when our moral compass is agreeing with our decision to engage in aggressive behavior we still actively are hurting someone or ourselves.

Why do we continue to be aggressive?
Aggression can play a big part in relationship building. These are behaviors that we train our whole lives and bring into our intimate relationships. The drawbacks of anger are simple to list: feeling of guilt, physical and psychological pain, stress and anxiety, withdrawal, losing relationships, consequences of breaking trust, and many more. So the question arises why we still engage in behaviors that are so destructive. The answer is simple: there is something to gain. Aggression is powerful, it is lively, and even passionate. This is not being said to glorify aggression but bring it into a realistic light. If we discard these gains of aggression we can quickly slip into the above mentioned strategies: “I’ll just get rid of it and won’t do it again”, “I’m a calm person, I will stay calm next time”. 

Underestimating the powerful gains of aggression is one of the main reasons we do not successfully approach changing our behaviors. Life-long training of aggressive reactions and relationships that feed off aggressive interactions cannot be fixed overnight. However this behavior can be trained over time. 

How to change my aggressive reaction?
To anyone who is stepping on the journey of self-development and is interested in anger management and Aggression Replacement Training – congratulations! Being open to changing hurtful behavior and finding the motivation to retrain aggressive reactions is a big task that I find to be connected to courage. It is a journey during which you first need to realise that working on your aggressive reactions is also taking away those gains mentioned above. Powerful gains that serve as our protective shield. The principles of Aggression Replacement Training say that deciding not to be aggressive should be paired with training other skills. We take away aggression and replace it with prosocial skills. Skills that do not hurt others or yourself. So, the foundation lies on realistically analyzing my anger and aggressive reactions, deciding not to engage in the aggressive reaction, and using an arsenal of social skills to communicate in a different way. 

Realistically, you need to put a lot of effort into such a training but the effects are ones to look forward to. Long term effects of aggression are detrimental to our health. Learning communication tools that are non-aggressive aim to build relationships and most importantly realize that arguments and unpleasant situations do not have to come at such a high emotional cost. 

My name is Ania Seretny, I am a psychologist and a certified Aggression Replacement Trainer. I conduct training for adults, supporting them in developing social skills and dealing with aggression. Sessions are conducted as dynamic workshops in accordance with cognitive-behavioral practices.

Initial consultation:

Type: Lecture.
This workshop is educational, which means you will get a better understanding what anxiety really means. You will learn what is happening in your body during a panic attack, what is happening inside of us regarding thoughts and feelings and what behaviors help anxiety to persist. You will gain the idea of what can you do when feeling anxiety, but there will be no direct guidance or practical exercises.

Duration: 2 hours.

Price: 45 euro.

When: Friday, 22. November 2019.

Hour: 18.00-20.00.

Where: Less than 10 people: Raumer Strasse, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. // More than 10 people Ruppiner Strasse, Mitte, Berlin.

Suitable: People dealing with panic attacks/anxiety and people who are close to someone with anxiety.

Payment: Through bank transfer or Paypal before the workshop.

Cancellation policy: In case you have already booked the spot and you are unable to come, I will pay the full refund back if you cancel at least one week (until Friday, 15.11 at Midnight) prior to the workshop. After that no refund (full or partial) is possible.

Apply here:



In this article I want to touch a psychology effect of wealth. Scientists found that children from homes with an annual income of more than £100,000 were suffering anxiety, depression and somatic symptoms twice as often in comparison to their peers. Also children from multi-generational wealth are more at risk for criminal behavior, eating disorders, and addictive disorders. It is important to emphasize that it is not the wealth per se causing the higher risk of mental disorder development but also the cultural context and environment.

Traps that occur by raising a child in privileged environment
• Unfortunately, many wealthy parents neglect their children. They are too busy to pay emotional attention to their child. The child may have been over indulged with material things while starving for parents love and attention.
• Rich parents may intrude excessively into the lives of their child. Meaning that they are crossing the child’s boundaries and not letting him develop his own ways. They are doing things instead of him and also telling him what and how to do things. Which can later in life lead to a loss of self-sense.
• Impossibly high expectations are transmitted not only by parents but also by the entire community-teachers, schools, coaches, and peers. The child can feel the pressure of succeeding in larger than life terms but on the other hand very little is expected from him in a sense of responsibilities. Parental expectations can be particularly excessive if the family has an established tradition of wealth and position. While this works well for some children it doesn’t for others. This is especially true if the same standards are applied across all the siblings. There is no space for individual identity-family and others sees you as part of the family dynasty.
• Kids aren’t required to support themselves. Which can give you a feeling that you are incapable of such a thing. That makes you dependent on your family even if you don’t want to be. To learn how to provide for your self plays important role in self-esteem.
• Envy from others plays significant role in wealthy child psychological development. We don’t only have pressure from inside of the family but also outer world is putting pressure on our personality development. Wealthy children are often target of envy. They are seen as successful by their peers simply for being born in wealthy family. They can respond with feeling guilty to have so much. Consequently many hold back and stay beneath the radar so that they won’t feel over exposed. Also it is hard to distinguish if people pay attention to you because of your wealth or because of who you are.
• On the other hand they can gain a lot of admiration from surrounding. People don’t admire their true self and accomplishment but what they have. Which makes your personality connected to the family wealth and is hart to feel stable without it. They often feel like they have only one way out-continue the tradition. Also being admired all the time makes you feel lost when someone is not responding to you this way which can show up as anger or self-doubt.

Personal characteristics that wealthy children often develop
To grow up in wealthy family encourages development of certain characteristics that are not excepted well elsewhere. Behind their backs people may resent them for this type of behavior but they are rarely faced with direct disapproval due to their status. It is hard for this children to develop realistic identity if they are not confronted whit their dysfunctional behavior.
Among those characteristics are:
• Lack of empathy/awareness of others. They can believe that they are empathic person and are surprised to learn that people see them differently. They often mix their charity work and materialistic help with empathy. From their perspective this is familiar behavior because in their home they got material things instead of emotional support. At the same time they secretly expect praise for this kind of help and are wearing it proudly.
• Selfish, insensitive behavior which they feel is justified or they are not aware of it. They refuse to face how people respond to them. Although in same level many of them can see that people are not sincere to them.
• Feeling of entitlement.
• Difficulties with taking interpersonal responsibility.
• Elitism and materialism infiltrate their character, their relationships, and their quality of life.
• They can have low capacity for tenderness in close relationships, high capacity for chauvinism and narcissism.
• The wealthier people become, the more they believe that they can control many aspects of their life and design exactly the kind of life they want. They come to expect perfection and submissiveness from others.

Problematic areas that are hidden behind mental disorder
• Lack of self-discipline: Wealthy children have problem focusing and sustained energy, as well as postponing gratification for ultimately higher rewards. Lack of consistency and following the rules (that were agreed ahead) also shows in therapeutic relationship. Last minute cancellations and arbitrary requests to re-schedule are commonplace.
• Delayed maturity. Living in a cocoon of wealth often prevent a person to mature. Most overprotected children eventually do grow up, but many delay or even avoid the process.
• Low self-esteem: Person that was raised in wealthy family describes well how low self-esteem is built: “You’re not taught to do practical things, because everything is done for you. Being denied the opportunity to fulfill developmental tasks and experience the ebb and flow of triumph and mistakes breeds the narcissistic expectation that all things should be simply handed over on a silver platter. But inside it feels like you are incapable to do it alone.” Children that are high in the spectrum of Narcissistic personality disorder doesn’t realize their low self-worth. They are covering it up with narcissistic behavior which is only a symptom of their very low self-esteem.
• Week identity: Children of wealth often begin life with prescribed identities and a sense of social and financial superiority. Expectations of what they should become are preventing them to development a firm identity.
• Suspiciousness or even paranoia: to not to trust others is probably how they were raised. “People want you for money”. It must feel really horrible that you are haunted by the feeling that it is never you but your family money. “What does he or she really want from me?” Consequently there is a fair amount of isolation. “We grew up hearing warnings about every girlfriend and buddy we had. So I learned to be suspicious, and it has been hard for me to overcome that legacy.”
• Fear of failure runs high among inheritors. The child of wealth may feel that nothing they can accomplish will ever match the huge accomplishment of the money makers. They suspect their successes are due to wealth and position. All of this can undermine the self-esteem. It’s hard to be sure they have achieved anything, or are really liked by others.
• Lack of motivation: “My biggest hurdle is my laziness and the fact that I know that I won’t be ruined if my art doesn’t work out.” Available wealth makes it hard to stick to goals in the face of setbacks and frustrations. Sometimes inheritor’s goals are ill-defined, particularly when it comes to career. Inheritors are not driven by life’s necessities. Their motivation is often short-lived and lacks intensity. “You might want to and you might make the effort, but you don’t have the same pressure to earn enough to live on. And that takes away a lot of the incentive to find meaningful work. The biggest curse of intergenerational wealth for me and many other people is the illusion that you don’t have to do much with your life.”

Final words
To rise psychologically healthy children it is essentially to give them emotional and not just material attention. This is far more important for healthy development then material things. Moreover it is important that they take responsibilities suitable for their age. Taking responsibility away have negative influence on positive identity and self-esteem.
Teach your child about finances, responsibility and work. It doesn’t need to be hard work, just work. So they learn to put off gratification and enjoy in their own achievements. Also realize that they are individuals just like you and I. They have their own wishes and they are not obligated to follow your lead as well you are not obligated to support them once they become adult.
For the child raised in wealthy family that feels lack of motivation, anxious, and depressed it is important to find help. In therapy proses with them the privilege is “taken away” which can be really hard for some. Pushing through it brings something far more important-the sense of self.
Base of this article is a book by Madeline Levine: The price of Privilege and my personal experience working with privilege clients. We often think that where is money there is no problems. As seen from this article privileged children have far greater possibility to develop mental disorder in comparison to their peers. Their problems might be different from ours but that doesn’t make them less serious. In therapy it is important to work with them on distinction between them and family inheritance, on feeling that they are capable of taking care of themselves, give them sense of how they come across, on learning to take responsibility and help them to become their true self.


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.

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.


Narcissism runs on a spectrum, from healthy narcissism to malignant narcissism, with a lot of gray in between. Narcissistic people suffer tremendously from their childhood trauma and this pain is too much for them to carry, so they pretend it’s not there or they keep lashing out on other people to ease their own pain. Narcissism doesn’t have to be absolute. It can show up in little ways and often under the guise of doing “what’s best” for your children. It tends to play out inter-generationally, with narcissistic parents producing either narcissistic or codependent children. Parents who are narcissistic share many traits with parents who have Borderline Personality Disorder. The traits of these two disorders overlap quite a bit. The difference between BPD and NPD is how they use manipulation. BPD is trying to prevent abandonment and NPD is trying to maintain the image of perfection.

Narcissistic trails in parenthood

Narcissistic parent can be defined as someone who lives through their children and is possessive towards them. Typically, the narcissistic parent perceives the independence of a child as a threat. As long as you don’t represent a threat to your narcissistic parent, and are making them proud, they are OK towards you, or continue to ignore you. But the moment you become difficult or don’t meet their expectations, you become a problem. It is very hard for them to let their possession go. This typically shows when you get serious romantic partner. Your new girlfriend is viewed as a major threat. “My mum criticized my girlfriend to me when she wasn’t around. She was showing her disapproval through little things, like never included her name on any Christmas cart that she wrote.” In the eyes of some narcissistic parents, no romantic partner is ever good enough for their offspring.

  • “When you support her or don’t oppose her, she has this charming personality that’s very hard to resist. But when you oppose her, you can expect her to throw in every trick she has to make your life miserable.”

Within the realm of narcissistic parenting, personal boundaries are often disregarded with the goal of molding and manipulating the child to satisfy the parents’ expectations. They would go through your private belongings, without a thought, sometimes even using what they found against you. Asking nosy questions without noticing that you are feeling uncomfortable is also very common. You don’t have any truly private space even in the bathroom. Narcissistic parent crosses boundaries in many ways. Verbal and/or physical violent is common in their home.

  • “My mum has given away my property without my consent, sometimes even in front of me. Not to mention she expressed (her) opinions instead of me and make an appointments for me without even consulting me. “
  • “I told my mum she cannot bring her friends to my party but she showed up with them anyway. I couldn’t send them away because she told them they were invited. So, I either have to give in, or be the bad guy to these poor dupes on my doorstep.”
  • I came home from school when I was 15 or so, and found all my drawers dumped out on my bed, and my mother sitting in my desk chair, holding my diary. She was livid. Apparently, I hadn’t put my socks in the drawer right, so she decided to check all my drawers and closet. Seeing that none of my clothing was put away to her standards, she dumped it all out and in the process found and read my diary. That was a bad day. I wore long sleeves for weeks, and had to wear a sweat suit in gym to hide what she did to me.”

Lack of Empathy
Narcissistic parent is incapable to be mindful of the child’s own thoughts and feelings, and validate them as real and important. Only what the parent thinks and feels matters. Some of the most common issues in narcissistic parenting are due to the lack of appropriate, responsible nurturing which ultimately contributes to a child’s dysfunctional patterns. Consequently children feel little or no emotional attachment to their parent.

  • “My mum minimizes, discounts or ignores my opinions and experiences. Even when I talk about the subject that I am an expert on, she choose to demine the information. She never listens to a word that I say.”
  • My mother sees herself as a loving person. Nothing could be more far away from the truth in reality. She is incredibly cold-hearted, rude, ignorant, and callous with an inability to show compassion.

Narcissistic parent use manipulation to mold you the way they want you to be. The most common tactic used by the narcissist are:

  1. Ignoring: They can ignore you for days or weeks when you are not doing the things they want you to do. “When I didn’t do well in school my mum didn’t talk to me until I corrected my mark.” There is also one subtype of Narcissistic parent called “Ignoring Narcissists”. This parents have very little interest in their children. They take notice only when it is necessary. Usually when they need to portrait the perfect family picture or when they need to make sure that their child is taking the path that was chosen for him. “My mum showed interest in me only when it has something to do with school. The moment I tried to talk to her about something else she didn’t really listened.”
  2. Withholding love: Love is given as a conditional reward, rather than the natural expression of healthy parenting. On the other hand, the withholding of love is used as threat and punishment.
  3. Threatening: Narcissistic parent often use your personal information you told them a while against you when you don’t want to follow their direction. Child quickly learns not to share anything with their parents and hides everything from them.
  4. Guilt and shame: Narcissistic parent make you feel guilty and ashamed of yourself if you want to do something different from what they expected. “Ow, you are going to take the trip and I have to stay at home with your dad, how thoughtful of you” or ˝Because you can’t play the piano well, mummy looks like a fool˝.
  5. Being in the middle: Narcissistic parent uses their child to manipulate others-most likely their partner. Children are often expected to deal with adult issues and are put in the middle of disputes. This forces the child to make difficult decisions. Putting the child in the position where he needs to choose between one parent instead of the other leaves profound trauma. “How can I take my father’s side when my mother needs me more?”
    All of this manipulation tactics are preventing you to develop into a healthy individual with strong and clear identity.

Narcissistic rage
Their rage is based on fear. Anything that is threatening to expose their inner feelings of unworthiness needs to be destroyed. “My mom just flipped out when I said I am getting tired of pretending in front of my relatives that I am still studying to be a doctor. She started hitting me and screaming unclear sentences. I didn’t dare to tell my relatives the truth after that.”

Everything is about them
Narcissistic parent take all of the air in the room. Their profound need for attention and praise subverts everyone else’s needs. They turn others to be their listener. They don’t notice their boredom, exhaustion and desire to speak too. They love to show others how “special” they are (grandiosity). They enjoy publically parading what they consider their superior dispositions, be it material possessions, physical appearance, projects and accomplishments, background and membership, contacts in high places, and/or trophy spouse and offspring. They go out of their way to seek ego-boosting attention and flattery.

  • “My mother creates odd occasions at which she can be the center of attention, such as memorials for someone close to her who died long ago, or major celebrations of small personal milestones. She loves to entertain so she can be the life of her own party.”
  • “At the dinner table me, my sisters and my father were talking. My mother suddenly slipped from her chair and collapsed onto the floor, apparently unconscious. Shocked and concerned, we rushed to her side and picked up the phone to call 911, at which time she regained consciousness. The same scenario played out a few more times at the dinner table. If the conversation shifted away from her she would dramatically drop to the floor. We started to ignore her and talked over it. She continued to fall sometimes. She’d lie there for a bit and then pretend to wake up in confusion.”

Maintaining the appearances
They like to present a perfect family image to outsiders. They go to great lengths to ensure that others perceived your family as a loving, successful and enviable. Children are normally aware of this play, but kept silent for fear of wrath from their parent.

  • “I’m in therapy to deal with the effects of being raised by a narcissistic parent. I didn’t even realize until I was pretty well into adulthood that’s what it was. I thought it was me. I thought something was wrong with me. Everyone loves my mom. Everyone talks about how amazing she is, how charming, how much she sacrifices for her family, so I figured that if I was miserable at home it certainly couldn’t have been because of her. The truth is, everyone thinks so highly of her because she has carefully crafted that image and manipulated and lied to maintain it. She has used other people to make herself look better, and hurt others in the process. That’s the truth.”
  • The thing about narcissists that is the absolute worst is that no one else knows what’s going on. They have fooled everyone else because they are master manipulators. Everyone else in my family and extended peer group thinks my mother is this amazing, strong, dedicated woman who has raised two severely challenging children. What’s funny is, as much as I can’t stand my brother, we are a lot alike and have suffered a lot of the same traumas at the hands of my mother. We are both incredibly sensitive souls who have been abused and luckily, I found my way out of it. I moved 3000 miles away from her. My brother was not so fortunate, and depends on her to survive.”
  • She cares excessively about what people think. “What will the neighbors think”, is a sentence that I’ve heard countless times. If you actually have a genuine problem, don’t expect her to care about you, but about how it will appear to others. Keeping up appearances is key, regardless of whether you’re suffering or not.”

Everything is personal
Narcissistic parents take their children’s every feeling or action personally. These parents are easily angered when a child doesn’t agree with them or mirror them. They expect the child to be happy when she is and miserable when she is. If the child is happy when the parent is sad, it is taken as a sign of disloyalty and insensitivity. They are so sensitive to praise and admiration as fuel that it makes them overly sensitive to criticism. So children learn to tiptoe around these emotional minefields, trying not to trigger that anger, or worse, have their parents withdraw love. The child of narcissist parent is never seen as he truly is. Of course, there are moments when child objects to his parent, but even then he feels bad, wrong, and confused.

  • She also makes up ridiculous lies about trivial mistakes. Just to give one example: she once repaired a shirt, but put the button on the wrong side. I pointed this out to her — I wasn’t angry or anything, I thought it was funny, and she made up absolutely silly excuses like: “it just shot through”. She can never do something wrong and thus she will never apologize. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say “sorry”.

Some narcissistic parents are threatened by their child’s potential, promise, and success, as they challenge the parent’s self-esteem. Consequently, they might make a concerted effort to put the child down, so the parent remains superior. They are nit-picking their child, they are judgmental and critical towards him, they constantly compare him to someone better and reject his success and accomplishments. Whenever someone complimented your achievements, your parent would jump in and shift the attention to themselves. “Yes, she gets it from me. I was always athletic as a child.”

  • “When I got married a few years later, she told me that my wedding was “not for the bride, but actually for her mother”. I made her my Matron of Honor and chose her favorite color for the bridesmaid’s dresses. She bought a dress the same color as mine.”

Grandiosity and Superiority
Many narcissistic parents have a falsely inflated self-image, with a conceited sense about who they are and what they do. Some children of narcissistic parents become the same: “We’re better than they are.” This sense of grandiose entitlement, however, is almost exclusively based on superficial, egotistical, and material trappings. They feel more important because of materialistic things or status they have in the society.

Narcissistic person is strongly dependent on others. The dependency can be emotional, physical, or financial. They are trying to make you dependent on them (possessiveness, manipulation), so they can control you. One common tactic to do that is to infantilize you. This can be as direct as making you feel incompetent every time you try something new, or it can be as subtle as always stepping in and offering to do something you can clearly do for themselves. Unfortunately, this behavior rarely stops even after you become an adult. In fact, it can sometimes become worse as the narcissistic parent fears their children’s growing independence and the end of their narcissistic supply.
On the other hand some parents expect their children to take care of them for the rest of their lives.

  • “My mom expects me to support her financially on an on-going basis. She says that she can’t live without me.
  • “Walking into my office, (I managed the number 3 top Allstate office out of 900 agents) not respecting my employees and still undermining me on how I need to go back to school and finish my degree or I will never make it in life. She homeschooled me and deliberately kept me from finishing school in order to keep me locked in her web of abuse. She took me out of school when I was 11 because she was about to have another baby and “homeschooling was a great option!” She had me working two full-time jobs at 16 and I barely had a 9th grade education when I ran away at 17.”
  • “I grew up a text book co-dependent, always looking outside of myself for validation. Since I was solely focused on my mother, I did not develop my own identity – it was given to me by her. My identity was based on my role. I had an “underdeveloped self esteem (no boundaries) combined with an inappropriate caring for others (invading a boundary), and an inappropriate reliance on another’s response (invading a boundary), in a negatively reinforcing loop.”


Narcissistic parent berated, demeaned and harassed you on a constant basis. She often latched onto an insecurity of yours and used it to humiliate you. “My mom made fun of my birth mark on my face all the time.” Many of her putdowns are simply by comparison. She’ll talk about how wonderful someone else is or what a wonderful job they did on something you’ve also done. The contrast is left up to you. She’ll spoil your pleasure in something by simply congratulating you for it in an angry, envious voice that conveys how unhappy she is. If you complain about mistreatment by someone else, she will take that person’s side even if she doesn’t know them at all. It is impossible to confront someone over their tone of voice, their demeanor or the way they look at you, but once your narcissistic mother has you trained, she can promise terrible punishment without a word. Being constantly put down or told that you are in a wrong rubs off on you and lowers your self-esteem.

  • “When I was getting more independent 16+ according to my mum all my friends were bad influences, my boyfriend was horrible, my choices of clothing was also too grandma for my age. When I started working she needed a wanted a contract phone so I got one for her. She ran up the bill which I had to pay for over £400.”

Golden child doesn’t shine so bright
Narcissistic parent often choose the favorite child or so called golden child. A golden child can’t do anything wrong, is the smartest and the best at everything they do. This is what the narcissistic parent believes and will enforce in their child. The other child (scapegoat) is seen as the black sheep, and the cause of all issues. Everything the scapegoat does is wrong, not as good as it should be, and they always have to take the blame. The scapegoat stands for everything that is not perfect in the family. The roles of golden child and scapegoat can also switch frequently. Consequently all communication between siblings is superficial and driven by duty, or they may never talk to each other at all.
The narcissist also uses favoritism and gossip to poison her children’s’ relationships. While she may never praise you to your face, she will do that in front of your siblings. The end result is a family in which almost all communication goes through the narcissistic mother. Golden child can become narcissist himself but not necessarily. They can see the favoritism and feel guilty for it.

  • “It didn’t make any sense, my brothers were wonderful humans. They are much more talented than I am. I had very strong feelings of guilt. I watched the people I loved receive the rage. I felt like I should have been able to fix things. My mother would tell me to go to my room and be very, very quiet while she was taking her frustration out on them.”
  • “My brother was and is the Golden Child. He could do no wrong, he was the perfect baby, the perfect child, and when he wrecked 3 cars in a row while in High School, none of those accidents were his fault. I, on the other hand, was a disappointment. I “cried all the time when I was a baby”, my mother had to cut her college education short because I “cried at the daycare that she put me in”, I was “always losing things”, and she couldn’t have a pet “because the cat scratched me.”
  • “He was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and given two years to live. He has been depressed about this, but not for the reasons you might think. When he cried the most was when he was telling me how sad he was that he wasn’t going to be around for my sister, as she didn’t have a boyfriend yet and she needed to be trained on how to be attractive to other men. He then went on to blame me for not teaching her how to get a boyfriend as I’m her older sister. He especially put me down for not convincing her to get plastic surgery for her face.”


There is a lot written about anxiety and its symptoms. In my work, I notice few more indicators or symptoms that occurred often together with the anxiety. I decided to list them below. It doesn’t mean that you will have all the symptoms but it can help knowing that it’s not so uncommon to experience the following:

»I will die, go crazy or have heart attack« this is an obsessive thought that is common with anxiety. With time you will realize that nothing serious will happen while having panic attack but this thoughts will still pop up in your head. It is hard to get rid of them. It is very common that you have more than one intrusive thought. For example, »Will I have panic attack again?” or “How will I come through the day?” or “I am not strong enough«. Even if you proved yourself other vice time and time again you will still have this thoughts that comes to your mind.

Unusual or long persistent pain can cause fear that something is seriously wrong in people with anxiety.

“Unknown food or medication”
Thoughts that something bad will happened when we swallow unknown medication or eat new food are common.

Sensation when heart beads faster during sport can resemble panic attack. Which can begin real panic attack. Consequently many people with anxiety may avoid Sport.

In my work I have notice that ¼ of people with anxiety have fear of swallowing. Usually they have previous experiences with asthma or their throat becomes dry and tightens during panic attack.

“No escape”
Fear that you can’t escape form situation, feelings or place can cause enormous distress and anxiety.

“Smell, sight or sound sensitivity”
During panic attack many people have very sensitive sight, hearing or smell. It can even deepen their unpleasant feelings while experiencing the attack.

“Vivid imagination”
Persistent negative thoughts connected to us or significant other. For example, we are crossing the road and we imagine how we will get hit by the car. Imagination can get very detailed. I also notice that people with vivid imagination often report to me about fear of the dark.


In this article I want to write what I experienced through my own personal story and as well through the stories of my clients. The loss of trust in your own body. I want to point out two ways that I notice this can happen. The first one is the loss of trust after psychological disorder, mainly anxiety, because anxiety usually hits our body first. Meaning, we all the sudden feel like we are going to die. I believe all individuals with panic attacks were at some point 100% convinced that there is something wrong with their body functions. After a while they learned that they suffer from anxiety. But also having depression or other mental illness for a longer period of time can easily makes you feel that your body (brain) is broken.
The second way is losing your trust after physical illness such as cancer or different chronic illnesses. I also notice that people with anxiety mostly weren’t in touch with their bodies before anxiety happened. They learned to feel their body through therapy. But in case of physical illness this is not always the case. Never the less in both cases it feels like a huge betrayal from our own body.

How much control do we really have?
I often get the feeling that society in which I am believes that if you suffer from mental or physical illness the reason for it lies in you. For example “because you smoked you got the lung cancer”-which can be true. But reasoning like “because you work too much you got a cancer, because you weren’t vegetarian you got a heart attack” are a little too farfetched. There is always some room for improvement considering our life style. Not just in eating healthy and exercising but also in connecting to our bodies, understanding them, give them space and time to relax and heal. A lot of pressure is put to our bodies from toxins, stress, and unhealthy life style. For sure. But this is not the only reason why some diseases occur.
“Personally I knew what my body was capable of. I was the picture of perfect health and fitness and the most severe illness I ever had was the flu. I had never broken a bone or had stitches and found myself proud of that. Then, on December 27th, 2004 everything changed. I was 24 years old and I was just told that I had a precancerous polyp in my colon and had to have surgery to remove it. What? Surgery? A colon polyp? My mind was a jumbled mess of confusion. But I did EVERYTHING right AND I was only 24 years old. Isn’t colon cancer something old people get? It shouldn’t have come as such a huge shock being that my older brother was just over a year in remission for colon cancer, diagnosed at the age of 26 but it was happening to me and it was. A shock that is. “
To conclude, sure we can do a lot for our health. And of course we can get sick because we are not taking care of ourselves. That is a positive thing, because we can actually do something about it. But to believe that everything what is happening to us is somehow our fault is to extreme. Maybe we would like to believe that we have so much control but unfortunately we don’t. And probably realization we don’t have total control awakes feelings of fear and distrust in our body after illness.

Where is my old body and old self?
Whenever you are faced with illness or an injury you are also faced with change and change is hard to accept and deal with. “I once felt so strong, so invisible and now I was left feeling like a stranger in my own body. My body was different. Now I barred a scar about 6 inches from my belly button to the top of my public bone, I had a bag connected to my stomach (that I had to go to the bathroom in) and I could barely walk a quarter of a mile without feeling tired.”
It is really hard not just to adjust to our new physical appearance but also to the feelings connected with the change. Sometimes we deal with it by forcing our body to behave the way it was before. “So, I got militant, mean, and aggressive to make sure that these crazy things didn’t happen again. I tried to shame, criticize, and force my body to be something different so I could finally be back to where I was before illness!”
It is completely normal to miss our old self and our old abilities. It is normal to envy other people that still have them. The illness changes your perspective on life and brings a lot of fear-fear of dying, fear of repetition, fear of not being able to live normally, fear to never feel good again, fear of how I am going to make it, fear of taking your own life. You can feel on your own skin what it means to be unhealthy. What a tremendous change it is. A lot of people need to redefine their lives on many areas and this is not easy at all and we can’t always be in peace with our new normal. That is the reality of the situation. Sometimes the lost is so big that we are never completely fine with it.    

The trust is lost
When we are surprised by illness or psychological condition the trust is broke. More so if we live a healthy life style. It feels like it caught us by surprised. Why me? I am doing everything right. “Your cancer was probably discovered when you thought you were healthy. It’s frightening to realize that you had a life-threatening disease without even feeling ill – and it is natural that you now notice every ache and pain and worry you won’t spot the signs of cancer coming back. And treatment has changed your body, so you are also experiencing a new set of strange and unfamiliar sensations.”
I’m a fitness instructor and had exercised all the way through – I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I eat healthy. I felt angry and betrayed by my body. I thought: how dare you! I’ve looked after you so well and now you’ve done this to me again. First time round I had counselling, but strangely it’s easier this time because I know what to do and how to look after myself.’
“I don’t trust my body after my cancers. No way. First I was betrayed by breast cancer and then by melanoma on the opposite side of my body. We worry about cancer coming again, and we wait hopefully for solutions—sooner, rather than later. We all want to get along with our bodies, or at least call a truce.”

“With my experience of illness came a lack of trust in its ability to heal and stay healthy. I lost all trust that it was able to do its job.”
I choose this examples because you can literally feel it how deep the betray feels and how unsure we are after experiencing mental or physical illness.

Learning to trust again
To heal your relationship with your body, you must reclaim body trust. Unfortunately for many the trust was lost way before illness. Or better said the connection was broken through well meaning parents, the medical establishment, a toxic culture, trauma, and dieting behaviors which make us less trusting of our bodies as we age. We end up turning away from our bodies. You can try to make better relationship with your body through different ways. Not all at once of course.

  • I cannot stress enough that it takes a lot of time for learning a new way of existing within your body. You really need time to heal and time to adjust. It is very common that you push your body too hard to soon. “I slowly gain my strength back. I rushed back to the gym only to find myself with a hernia and back in the hospital.” It is very hard not to rush back into your old ways of existing. On the other hand it is also very hard to accept if time doesn’t help and you are not able to go back to normal. “Fitness was my life. I opened a gym and was working out and teaching classes all the time. Then I got a heart condition. At first it looked that the operation will solve everything and I will be back to normal very soon. It didn’t turn out that way. I am struggling to find any meaning in life. What will I do if not fitness? I feel mad, betrayed and lost.”
  • We normally focus on what we aren’t able to do anymore. How many times I hear in my office: “Before panic attacks started, I was able to drive without a problem or I was active and running around the city all day long. Now I am afraid to go to the grocery store.” If the things doesn’t fall back to normal in decent amount of time we feel frustrated. And I agree, we need to grieve our old life as well as we can focus on what our body is able to do despite the difficulties. Something so “little” like we are able to walk or we are able to come to therapy despite anxiety counts.
  • Although I don’t believe everything is preventable with a healthy life style many of illnesses and psychological disorders get better with healthy, organic eating, moderate exercise and self-care (bath, good book). “Many of us, as cancer survivors, vow to take better care of our bodies after cancer treatment, and data does show that this helps lower the risk of recurrence. I work on healthier eating and physical movement. Fear was a great short-term motivator, and I was extremely fearful. After active cancer treatment ended, though, fear was not a good long-term motivator for me. My psychotherapist says fear is not a good long-term motivator for most people. It isn’t sustainable.” Fear shouldn’t be our only motivation we need to realize that it will be quite a bit of work to maintain healthy life style and falling off the rails is something that is expected.
  • Learning to listen to your body. Our body is sending us signs all the time. Mostly we ignore them because “we can’t rest now, we can’t eat now, we can’t bread now because there is stuff to do.” I love to give my clients one exercise that drill us to listen to your body more: Before you eat ask yourself how hungry you are from 0-10. After eating ask yourself again how hungry you are form 0-10. This is one example how we can start. With asking our body: “Hi, how are you, tell me what you are saying.” I suggest that you checking in regularly, acknowledging what is needed, and acting accordingly. “I was still disconnected from my body. Sure, I was eating at regular intervals throughout the day, but it still had very little to do with my actual appetite cues. It was more of a prescribed regimen for eating. Thus, I ate pretty much the same thing every day because I knew how it would make me feel, and I trusted that it was the “right” amount for my body to maintain its current weight. It was also hard when I had a food craving for something out of the norm.” The body sends us signals about its internal state. “All the discomfort and discombobulated symptoms I felt during my descent into depression and anxiety were by no means my fault but they did give me clues to what I needed in order to start healing”. This clues are not the same every day. We cannot put our body to regime-this is just another form of not listening to what it is saying. Our body will tell us what and how much of it is needed.
  • I believe there is nothing wrong to go to the doctor and check if your fears (something is wrong with my body) are real. It is ok to go and check for calming your mind. It is a part of healing process and trust me with time, work on yourself and positive experiences the checkups will be less frequent. “When I am afraid of my body, I try to get reacquainted with it. I hug myself and tell myself it will be OK. When something concerns me, I allow that it is OK and rational to go see the doctor right away, especially given my history as a cancer survivor. There is no point in letting worry eat away at me. On the days that I don’t like my body, I focus on something else or face up to everything that happened and honor my scars with massage and lotion. I try to make peace with my body. It is an ongoing process for me.”
  • Touch is very important. And a very good way to connect with your body. Your touch and touch of others. “I schedule regular massages and other self-care activities such as Epsom salt baths, facials and manicures.”
  • Sharing your experience has tremendous power in healing process. You can speak about your experience in therapy, with friends and family or take it the step further and speak in public or teach others about what you are going through.
  • Build trust by engaging your body in mental conversations about your desire for the two of you to cooperate and overcome the ailment. You can lay down comfortably and close your eyes. Imagine your body laying down. Start talking to your body in your mind and imagine what your body would answer. Listen to it and ask questions. Tell him how you are feeling and why you are hurt by it. Tell him also what you love about it. Mental conversation should be a regular thing between you two. It is like maintaining a friendship.
  • Find a balance between fighting for recovery and quality of Life. Managing your symptoms and working on your recovery can be a full-time job which leaves little room for anything else. Without joyful moments it’s harder to cope with hardship and to stay motivated during the long process of setbacks and recovery. Try to nourish your soul and take the “time off” from your recovery. I am not advising to go off the diet, exercise plan, medication etc. just a couple of hours or days to refresh yourself. Take a trip, go to sauna, have a tea with a friend, help in animal shelter, make art etc.
  • Practice self-compassion which involves being kind to yourself and recognizing that you’re not alone in your suffering can reduce self-blame. One way to cultivate self-compassion is to treat yourself the way you’d treat a friend going through a similar situation.
  • You decide what makes your body comfortable and give your body positive experiences again. It is like you re-teach your body through pleasant sensory information. This often involves being intentional about where you take your body and what you expose it to. “I often met up with a trusted girlfriend as I recovered from the hardest stretch of my twenties, and we’d just go get a cup of herbal tea at the local Coffee Bean. With the familiar ambiance, the soothing beverage, and my dear friend’s company, I felt safe and cared for while also technically being “out and about”.”

Healing is a process, not an event. Regaining trust when it has been lost takes time and is not all that different from how we rebuild trust in any other relationship.
One thing that is very important is to realize that it is normal to feel anxious when you are not 100% if illness, cancer, asthma or anxiety will resurface. It is normal to fear the unknown. Most people get uncomfortable when they don’t know what to expect. To make your fear of unknown milder you can “prepare” yourself for it. I don’t have doomsday preppers in mind but just gathering valid information, write down in diary what you will do in case certain event happens again. Also there is a good visualization exercise that you can practice. Visualize your body in the unknown, fearful circumstances and imagine how your body is getting more and more relax.
It is important to realize that fear will come back. Yes, you can move forward and heal from the experience but that doesn’t mean that this didn’t happened. Especially in the first few years you will be triggered by news, similar stories around you and your body sensations. “Anticipating a check-up, or the news that someone you know has been diagnosed, had a recurrence or died, can bring it all back. As time passes, there are days when it goes out of your mind, but the milestones are hard.” “Fran was approaching her five-year anniversary when she found another lump. It took me straight back to a really dark place. Thankfully it was fine, but it made me realize how vulnerable I feel.”
In my practice I notice that when our outlook to circumstances starts to change two “parts of us” emerge. One is “old part”-the anxious one, the one with intrusive thoughts, have a lot of fear and distrust, doubt that things will ever change. And the “new part”-encouraging one, one that sees change and is more optimistic, the one who believes that there is a light in the end of the tunnel. With therapy, persistence or regular practice the “old part” becomes weaker. Consequently even when the fall back occurs the new part helps you to go out of anxious feelings much quicker which makes your trust in you and your body even stronger. “I’ve done a lot of soul searching, had a lot of therapy, and done a lot of work on myself over the years and I’ve made immense progress. But I have come to realize that the roots of self-doubt and insecurity are planted deep and they don’t die easily. I don’t always know what wakes those sleeping roots up, but inevitably, every now and then, they awaken. And I struggle again. I start to feel unsafe again. The ground begins to feel unsteady and I lose trust in myself again.
When people talk about recovery from illness, they usually refer to being fully healed and getting back to normal life. But in reality, regaining your former health and resuming your activities isn’t always possible. Some suffer from health problems that cannot be cured. Recovery is not all or nothing deal. You decide what recovery means to you in a sense of realistic expectations. One thing I am sure of: working on your trust will make things better even if the trust will never be fully regained.




Pregnancy is a time when our body and minds go through changes. Most of this changes are out of our control-meaning our stomach and breasts are growing, our hormonal levels are changing and our body will push the baby out whether we like it or not. Body memory can be awaken when a woman’s body starts to change during pregnancy. Transformation to parenthood can evoke feelings and memories that we weren’t ready to deal with in the past or even memories that we didn’t realize that we have.  Especially early memories are not clear, but they are talking to us through our body and emotions. In early childhood we didn’t have words to express ourselves, instead we were showing things with our body and sounds.

Feelings about your upbringing
During this time it is not uncommon that good or bad memories are awoken in us. In this article I will focus on traumatic events but at the same time I want to point out that positive memories are also awaken during this time which connect us to our parents even more.
I would like to separate conscious memory from the one that is unconscious. The first one is not in our minds all the time but it comes to live when we are becoming a parent. For example: “Seeing how my husband interacts with our child reminds me of the relationship that I never had with my dad.” Looking at their interaction she was remembering the void that she felt as a child.
On the other hand unconscious memory can come to us through our body memory and feelings that can be felt also on physical level-as a tension, stomach irritation etc.
“All of the sudden I experienced a fear that I will be jealous of my daughter. I secretly wanted a boy because I was so scared that this may happen. I was going through my mother’s jealousy of me and fear that despite all the knowledge and experiences I will feel the same way towards my daughter. The memory came to me through my body. I clearly felt my mother’s jealousy and her burden of raising me. Although the fear of continuing the pattern troubled me, I felt relieve that it was not all in my head but it was actually what was really going on in my childhood.”
Becoming a parent can awaken feelings and memories that you felt as a child about your own relationship with your family.  Any developmental stage of your child can evoke memories in you. Some people doubt the accuracy of this memories. It is true that memories are not objective representation of what really happened but I believe there is a lot to it. It is your reality. You can grab the opportunity and work on long forgotten memories and feelings that have awakened in you. When my client made a sense of her fear of being jealous of her daughter it brought relieve to her. In her own mind she got a confirmation that her suspicious of her mother’s jealous was real. Maybe she would never get that confirmation from her mother. Probably also the mother didn’t realize it either.
Sometimes there is a thin line between conscious and unconscious memory. Once that unconscious (body) memory is triggered it can feel very familiar to us. It feels like it was always there in the beck of our minds. On the other hand during the pregnancy and parenthood unconscious memories that we didn’t know that were there can be awoken.

Traumatic memories-sexual abuse
Pregnancy draws attention to a woman’s body, particularly to sections of her body that she has kept private-her genitals, stomach and breasts. She is subjected to pelvis exams, a loss of body privacy, and finds herself the center of attention from strangers and (male) medical professionals. This can often trigger memories of sexual abuse or awoken feelings and memories of sexual abuse that we didn’t realize we experienced.
It is very important to take sexual abuse in consideration and to prepare as much as possible to potential complications. For example, researchers have found out that sexually abused woman:

  • has more health problems during pregnancy,
  • is more frequently in conflict with her partner,
  • experiences higher levels of anxiety and fear,
  • has more trust issues with the personnel during birth,
  • is also more prone to a caesarean section and other complications,
  • has statistically significantly higher number of complications,
  • experiences depression in the prenatal and the postnatal period much more often in comparison to others.

The following unpleasant feelings can also occur:

  • feelings of body betrayal,
  • feelings of physical intrusion and invasion,
  • flashbacks to the original abuse,
  • depression, anxiety or panic,
  • abuse memories resurfacing for the first time,
  • hostile feelings toward the fetus,
  • projecting feelings about the abuser onto the fetus,
  • feelings of guilt associated with her feelings,
  • feelings of shame associated with body changes,
  • survivor with PTSD can fear the intensity of her feelings,
  • fear that the child will be born deformed like her,
  • fear that the child will be born dead as a punishment or prophesy,
  • fear of being an incompetent parent,
  • fear of being an abusive parent.

In case the future mom is aware of abuse or starting to get flashbacks of abuse, it is very important to seek help. And if possible let other medical personnel know what is going on. The same can occur in future dads. Little research is available on the impact of sexual abuse on a man and his perception of fatherhood. But that doesn’t means that man can’t go through the same emotional crises as women.

In this article I wrote about memory that can occur when becoming a parent. Some of them are pleasant, some not so much. Some memories are very painful and we would rather avoid them and forget them once again. While pain and unpleasant emotions are very hard to hold and work through they are also a possible way to personal freedom.

A trigger is a stimulus that triggers feelings of trauma. What triggers us is completely individual. Trigger can come from outside through one or more senses- sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. For example music can trigger an old memory. But we can also be triggered by internal processes such as stress.
A flashback is a vivid, often negative but can be also positive memory that may appear without warning. It is usually pretty strong, meaning that you can lose track of your surroundings.
Body Memory
Body memory is a hypothesis that the body itself is capable of storing memories, as opposed to only the brain. Body memories are involuntary. Memories of incest or sexual abuse can be retained and recovered through physical sensations. Sometimes, the body memory is not always conscious because you may have been too young to remember or you have blocked the traumatic memory out.



In this article (Part IV) I want to take a deeper look at some of the research that was done regarding relationship between Borderline parent and children in comparison to mothers that don’t suffer from BPD.


Studies have found that interactions between mothers with BPD and their baby are characterized by insensitivity, high levels of intrusion, and low levels of positive response to infant distress. Mothers with BPD smile less, touch and imitate their infants less, and play fewer games with their babies. They often have difficulty identifying and appropriately responding to their children’s emotional state. These unmet psychosocial needs at critical moments of development increase risk of disorganized attachment and rob children of security, comfort, and safety from the very beginning of their lives. Newman and colleagues found that infants of BPD mothers aged 3 to 36 months were less attentive and less interested in interactions with their mother during a free-play interaction compared to infants of healthy control mothers.

Macfie and Swann examined mother-child attachment in 30 preschoolers (4-7years) in comparison to 30 children with healthy mother-child bond. They discovered that role reversal was significantly more likely to be present in the narratives of children with a BPD mother. More negative parent-child relationship expectations, such as the relationships characterized by danger and/or unpredictability were also found in the preschooler’s narratives. The children also exhibited greater fears of abandonment. Lastly, the children of BPD mothers also showed more incongruent (e.g. the child cleans his/her room then ruins it) and shameful self- representations (e.g. the child says he/she is bad) in the narratives.

School-age children
Different studies showed that children of mothers with BPD have more psychiatric diagnoses, such as ADHD and higher rates of BPD symptoms in childhood. These children also reported more cognitive and interpersonal vulnerability, such as a negative attributional style, ruminative response style, dysfunctional attitudes, self–criticism, insecure attachment style, and excessive reassurance seeking. Adolescents
Adolescents whose mothers had BPD exhibited more attention problems, delinquency, aggression, more anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. In general BDP mothers reported that they feel less satisfied, less competent and more distressed with their parenting abilities.

DSM IV criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
  4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving).
  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats, or self-mutilating behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing scars (excoriation) or picking at oneself.
  6. Affective instability due to marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness and worthlessness.
  8. Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
  9. Transient, stress related paranoid ideation, delusions or sever dissociative symptoms. (APA, 2000, pp. 292-293)
BPD can often occurs together with other psychiatric problems, particularly bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and other personality disorders.

My movie recommendation for understanding BPD dynamic: 
Mommie Dearest


Experts wonders whether there are actually distinct types of borderline personalities. The minds are divided but experts still try to distinguish between the different types of BPD in academic literature as well as in popular one. In Part III we will take a look at both of them. Please note that this list of types serves as a guidelines and person who suffers from BPD can have a mix of everything.

Popular Literature
Dr. Christine Lawson in a book Understanding the Borderline Mother introduces 4 types of borderline mothers that fall into high functioning or low functioning category:

High-Functioning BPD Mothers

The Witch
The Witch is someone who acts out viciously when they feel threatened, rejected and criticized. This type of mother seeks power and control over others, and reacts with unpredictable rage. Family members live in fear of triggering her. Unconsciously she is consumed by self-hatred and tends to be extremely hostile and cruel towards their children. She tends to be self-obsessed and has little or no concern for others. The Witch has no remorse and will not apologize for hateful acts she has done to her child. At the base of their need for power and control is their intense desire to prevent abandonment. This particular sub-group of BPD is very resistant to treatment. It is not uncommon for their children to develop depression, shame, insecurity, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

  • “There was a problem with my report card, showing I had a 0, even though I knew for a fact I had done the assignment. I didn’t have enough time to tell the teacher about it, so I would do so the next day, in order to fix my grade. I showed my Mother, trying to explain it to her, and even though I had a simple solution to fix it the next day, she proceeded to slap me across the face and scream at me for getting a 0, as well as proceed to call me lazy and not caring about my education. Yeah, I had the proof to show her I had done the assignment, could easily get my grade changed, and even then, I was still getting yelled at, grounded, and getting my things taken away. And slapped across the face.”

The Queen
The children of a Queen Mother are supposed to be her loyal subject. Queen needs to be the center of attention and uses her children to fulfill her own needs. “Pay attention to me! Love me, love me, prove to me you love me and do everything as I say!” If you disagree with her, don’t do as she says or you have your own needs, you don’t love her. Children are not permitted to have their own needs or opinions, and are not encouraged to become individuals in their own right.
She pretends to be a perfect woman who has it all together, independent, powerful, and in control of everything. They can be manipulative and vindictive and have a strong sense of self entitlement. They cross boundaries without recognition or regret. Inside they experience chronic feelings of emptiness and inability to self-soothe when distressed.

Low-Functioning BPD Mothers

The Waif

The Waif portrays the helpless victim, exhibiting how everyone is treating them and how they need protection. They can suffer from depression, anxiety, irrational fears, and feelings of vulnerability, helplessness, hopelessness and are prone to deep despair. But they are rejecting attempts by family members to help them. In this way, they passively control others and are generally unable to nurture anyone. 
They expect from the children to “save her” and believe that people are out there to get them and do not trust others. Children may feel that they can help if only they do more, learn more, and give more. Unfortunately the Waif continues to stay helpless as a means to control and avoid abandonment. She neglects her children, often they feel angry and alone and may develop codependency issues as adults.

The Hermit
Hermits may have a tough exterior and a superficial image of being confident, determined and independent. Except, they’re actually terrified of the world, and distrust everyone and are prone to rage and paranoia. They feel constantly betrayed by others and take criticism as a condemnation of who they are. Perfectionism is a hallmark of the Hermit, and they can rage or criticize (which they often do) when others fail to meet their expectations. They have no desire to go out in the world and have close friends outside of their family, especially their children. They gain their self-esteem from work or hobbies.

  • “My mother often said that as she got older, she became afraid of everything. We could never get her to try and go out with friends unless we took her out for coffee or shopping. We were the only real “friends” she had. And honestly, we were because we had to, or else, who else would she have?”

BPD types in academic literature

There were quite a few attempts to find different subtypes of BPD in academic research.

In The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder, Randi Kreger grouped BPD into:

  • Lower-functioning/conventional types is described as engaging in a lot of self-destructive behavior that requires frequent hospitalization. They are very low-functioning, meaning they may not be able to work or go to school. The author calls this self-destructive behavior “acting in,” an idea that correlates with the concept of internalizing symptoms.
  • Higher-functioning/invisible type is described as functioning well in most contexts, but engaging in a great deal of “acting out” behavior, such as verbal abuse, criticizing others or becoming violent. This description correlates well with the concept of externalizing symptoms.

One study examined types of borderline personalities based on a personality disorders that co-occur often with BPD. They categorized person in one of the 3 clusters:

  • Cluster A tended to engage in more paranoid thinking and eccentric behavior.
  • Cluster B tended to have more dramatic or arrogant personalities.
  • Cluster C tended to be more fearful.

Another study examined BPD subtypes in adolescent boys and girls. Interestingly enough study found reliable BPD subtypes in girls, but not boys. Girls with BPD tended to fall into one of the following categories:

  • high-functioning internalizing
  • depressive internalizing
  • histrionic and angry externalizing

Another study found three BPD subtypes:

  • withdrawn–internalizing
  • severely disturbed–internalizing
  • anxious–externalizing

Individuals with different presentations of BPD may respond differently to the treatment. In this study, individuals from the severely disturbed-internalizing subtype did not see symptom improvement with treatment, where those in the anxious-externalizing and withdrawn-internalizing subtypes did.

The last subtypes of BPD I want to write about is from T. Millon. He lists 4 subtypes of BPD:

  • The Discouraged Borderline looks like individual with Dependent Personality Disorder (codependent). They tend to be clingy, go along with the crowd, and walk around feeling somber and somewhat dejected. Deep inside however, there are often angry and disappointed with the actions of those around them. Scratch the surface, and that anger could explode, but they are much more likely to do harm to themselves by self-harming or even suicide. 
Some of the symptoms common to this subtype are: excessive dependence upon others, cycles of withdrawal and aloneness, passive, permissive, recurrent depression including tearful episodes (more common than rage episodes), anger can feel sudden and surprising to others, paranoia and self-persecution, more likely to deprive rather than indulge oneself, victimized, tendency to evoke sympathy, feelings of abandonment can invoke psychotic episodes, trigger desperation and suicidality, irresponsible behavior, uses drugs, alcohol, food, money, or sex for self-soothing, tendency to use fantasy to escape reality, gives away or destroys belongings, suffers from chronic or recurring illness or somatic complaints.
  • Impulsive Borderline seems to be a first cousin to the Histrionic Personality Disorder. These individuals tend to be flirtatious, captivating, elusive and superficial. They are highly energetic and seek out thrill after thrill. They are easily bored and seem to have it never ending appetite for attention and excitement. As their name implies, they will often act without thinking, getting themselves into all sorts of trouble. Such individuals can often be very charismatic and it’s easy to get caught in their spell. This type of person is in constant conflict with society. Bouts of violence are not uncommon. This person may have antisocial personality disorder as a co-occurring diagnosis. This person is operating in an Abandoned Child mode–a plea for attention, any attention–as well as an Angry Child mode. The Angry Child believes that other people deserve to be punished for his/her pain, and behaves accordingly. This type of person with BPD may have poor impulse control, abuse substances, or self-harm. On the other extreme he or she may not care about himself/herself, it’s all about what the other person thinks. This often results in extreme efforts to avoid disapproval and abandonment.
  • Petulant Borderline is unpredictable, irritable, impatient, and complaining as well as defiant, disgruntled, stubborn, pessimistic and resentful. They are torn between relying upon people and at the same time keeping their distance for fear of disappointment. They vacillate between feelings of unworthiness and anger. This anger can be quite explosive. This is a passive-aggressive person. He or she will injure himself or herself, either physically or emotionally, in an attempt to get needs met. This person has an unstable sense of self, a frantic fear of abandonment. They operate in an Angry Child mode. He or she is angry and will hurt friends and family as a result. They often doesn’t recognize the anger-the world is the problem, not them. They don’t know how to express their needs in a healthy way, so relationships seem to be a game of “If you really loved me” or “You should know what I want”.
  • Self-Destructive Borderline is marked by his constant sense of bitterness which they turn inward. They will often engage in self-destructive behaviors whether it is conscious or unconscious. Their levels of self-hatred can often reach monumental proportions leading them into all types of self-destructive behaviors, ranging from poor healthcare to reckless driving to performing humiliating sexual acts. This person often suffers from depression as a co-occurring diagnosis and is a self-injurer. This is a person who feels that no one cares, and reacts by not caring about himself or herself. They operates in an Abandoned Child mode. Since they don’t feel loved, they reacts in self-destructive ways in an attempt to feel something instead of nothing. They lives in terror of abandonment, is self-loathing, and has no idea who they are inside. Thoughts of self-injury or actions are a given in this type.