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Joanna Rose Health and Wellness

What Does A Narcissistic Parent Look Like?


3/15/16 the last day I heard Mom's voice

Before hearing the term, I thought what I experienced growing up was *just* emotional and mental abuse with a touch of physical abuse thrown in. Discovering the term "narcissistic parent" was eye opening because it occurred to me that it described my father completely and it helped me to understand the crazy thoughts going through my head relating to my own son. 

I am so thankful I have not acted out the abuse I endured on my son. The relationship with my husband, on the other hand, has been the stomping ground for working out all the dysfunctional debris leftover from childhood. I am both grateful (that we've grown so much as a couple and that he can hold space for me to the point where I can FINALLY hold space for him) and horrified at what we've done and said to eachother over the years. 

The thoughts that go through my head feel like a battle inside that I am overcoming one word at a time. Because of these thoughts I recognize what my father must have been thinking about himself and us, even if on a subconscious level, and I feel compassion for him. Sometimes.

It's a struggle, but it's the same compassion I struggle to find for myself. The thoughts echo "how could you be so selfish?" "Who do you think you are?" "You're so needy and annoying". "What about me and my needs?" 

At the same time I can relate to how my Dad must have felt, I feel sad for the little girl (me) who had one seriously abusive parent and an extremely neglectful one who didn't protect me from the abuser and who did nothing to help me cope (you can't teach what you don't know yourself). 

I feel sad for my son because he doesn't deserve a Mom who is battling these thoughts, knowing where they come from and having emotional reactions to them at inappropriate times. He may never hear the harsh words, but knowing what we do about energy, he can certainly feel the energy.

It is because of my son that I am beginning to shed light on my darkest areas by sharing here. The only way to really change is to find the root and expose it, look at it, and intentionally make changes until it becomes second nature. 

For me, slowing down is necessary. It's when I become stressed and do not use my coping skills or move so fast that there is no time to practice my coping skills that my thoughts spin wildly out of control. 

So what does narcissistic parental abuse look like when there is absolutely no awareness and at its absolute worst? Here are some signs:

1. Pitting you and sibling against one another, one of you is the Golden Child and one is the Scape Goat. Oddly, the roles can be changed. Or have you noticed you and your sibling argue, especially when around narcissistic parent? 

2. You consider what your parent thinks when making decisions for yourself or you rely on what they think to determine if something is good for you or not. Or every decision you make for yourself is questioned by them and you get put down for any decision they don't approve of. 

3. Feeling resentful and angry towards your parent, but having a hard time putting your finger on why. Their manipulation can be so covert, it's not easy to detect or describe.

4. Your parent must take center stage in your life. If you're not spending time with them they complain. If your visits aren't long enough, they complain. If you don't call often enough, they complain. Not only do they complain, they become demanding in their needs and wants without any care or concern for yours. 

5. They constantly tell you how they "gave up or lived their life for you!" So, you owe them.

6. They don't take ownership of their feelings or any actions they've done that may have hurt you. As a matter of fact, you caused the problem because you were too difficult or not understanding enough. Abusers don't know how to take's always someone else's fault. 

7. In the eyes of the parent, your needs don't matter. Only theirs does and they make that very clear. Everyday example: when it comes to spending time with them it's on their terms, their preferred location, and at the time that suits them.

More subtle examples include:

1. Giving you the cold shoulder or silent treatment and you're not sure why.
2. Leaving you out of family events.
3. Only showing up in your life when they have a new partner and contact may be made by the new party (it's possible they've told the new partner they've no idea why their kids don't talk to them and the loving new partner wants to help). 
4. Only giving affection when you behave the way they want. 

Does this sound familiar to you? Do your parents do any of the above or do you hear yourself talking this way to your children? 

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