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Being raised by a Narcissistic Parent and Healing after being parented by a Narcissist

Updated: Apr 15

Narcissists are so focused on their own needs, desires, and appearance to others that their ability to care for another person, especially a child, is severely compromised. Narcissistic parents may view their children as an extension of themselves and will only provide support and engagement to their children if it is a means by which to raise their own status or enrich their own ego. Narcissistic parents feed on their children’s successes to stroke their egos but diminish, berate, or ignore their children when they fail to live up to the narcissist’s expectations of what a “good child” should be.

Unfortunately, narcissists seldom are capable of being a “good enough” parent and engage in self-aggrandising behaviour with no shame and will demand the best of everything and make scene if they are denied.

In public they appear to be loving, pleasant, concerned and sincere and in private they are demeaning, irresponsible and controlling.

TTI refers this to: They Will Give You The Shirt Off Their Back - But Only If People Are Watching

When there are children involved the narcissist uses the children to get back at the other parent. Narcissist is able to brainwash them in the same way and turn them against their own father or mother or even grandparent. Again, narcissist has an “us against him & her” attitude – the same tactic used to get you ensnared with him & her.

Narcissists are really skilled at the game of "chess" but instead of chess figures, they use real people like players on the chessboard. Narcissists can be transactional parents who mete out love based on their child’s performance. Insecure attachment is often seen in these children as there is an absence of unconditional love, underlying support, and dependable consistency, which are essential to parenting success.

Possible impacts of being parented by a narcissist

While the impacts on the child will vary as widely as the ways in which narcissistic parenting may manifest, some may include:

  1. Absorbing and deeply believing in dysfunctional and destructive emotional templates of what love looks like.

  2. Believing their worthiness depends on how they act and what they do, not on who they are, or not believing that they are worthy just for existing.

  3. Struggling with setting healthy and appropriate boundaries.

  4. Failing to recognize healthy romantic partners and even being drawn to dating or marrying narcissists themselves.

  5. Falling into caretaking and rescuing roles, seeking validation and worthiness from taking care of others and people-pleasing.

  6. Neglecting their needs and wants, or even being “needless and wantless."

  7. Having a hard time trusting that their feelings and thoughts are valid and that their needs will ever be met.

  8. Deeply struggling with their self-esteem and with maintaining a stable and cohesive sense of self.

  9. Attempting to cope with their emotional pain from a childhood of neglect and emotional abuse through addictive and self-destructive substances and behaviors.

Again, this list is in no way exhaustive of all the psychological impacts being parented by a narcissist may have on someone. The impacts will vary and will depend on the context of the child or adult child, how strong their sense of self was, whether they had stabilising, functional relationships with other adults in their childhood, whether they were the scapegoat or the favourite child, how much or how little contact they had with the narcissist, etc.... Ultimately though, the adult children of narcissists will likely face complex psychological healing tasks as a result of their parenting experiences.

Healing after being parented by a narcissist

The healing work required by adult children of narcissists will likely include the following:

Educate yourself: Whether through books or speaking to us and or other professional support, you will likely need to begin learning about what narcissism is, how it can show up in parenting, and what its possible impacts can look like. TTI highly recommends books as per Grow Your Knowledge Section.

The first step in any healing process is bringing awareness to what is, and we find that psycho-education about narcissists can be deeply illuminating as you begin to make sense of your past. Confront your personal history of trauma and neglect.  We strongly recommend working with a trauma therapist or other trained professional as you begin to remember, talk about, and make sense of your past. Also, don’t necessarily look to your own family of origin for an accurate reflection of your personal history if you have memory gaps or questions. They may not be willing or able to validate your personal history based on their own trauma with the narcissist.

Give yourself time to grieve what you did not receive: Inevitably, in the course of educating yourself and confronting your past, you will need to grieve what you did not receive—essentially, the chance to truly be a kid. This grieving process may take quite some time—it can, at times, often feel endless—but it’s also valid and necessary to your healing process.

Work through the developmental milestones you may not have achieved: Often as children of narcissists, we don’t fully get the chance to be children or teens with our own identities, needs, wants, and preferences. We may also have missed out on certain development milestones like lifestyle experimentation, dating, or even the pursuit of the education or career we wanted due to the impacts of psychologically unhealthy parenting. It’s therefore part of your healing work to begin working through any developmental milestones in conjunction with your personal history confrontation and grieving work.

Set boundaries:  You'll need to set boundaries with either the narcissist(s) still in your life or those you may be over-accommodating and catering to. Learning what healthy boundaries are and how to set them with others is critical for recovery from narcissistic parenting. 

Seek out healthier, more functional relationships.  At first, these may feel hard if not impossible to recognize, and you may not trust yourself that you can actually draw these kinds of relationships into your personal life. That’s okay. Start with your relationship with your therapist (a trained professional whose job it is to show up in a healthy, functional way) and allow them to help show you what could be possible in healthier relationships.

Over time, may influence who you attract into your personal life.

Focus your healing and recovery work on developing a more cohesive and stable sense of self: For most adult children of narcissists, the core healing work revolves around developing a more cohesive and stable sense of self, learning to love and value ourselves for who we are, not for who we think we “should” be to win approval. A poor sense of self can impact every area of your life, from your physical and mental health to your relationships and career advancement. It can even impact your bank account.

So cultivating and developing a more cohesive and stable sense of self with the help of a therapist can be a wonderful way to focus your healing work.

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