Adult Children of Narcissists

by Michelle Piper

Adult Children of Narcissists (ACON’s) sometime fear that narcissism breeds narcissism.

While this may hold true in a minority of cases, it is not always what happens, especially when a child grows to realize that the family he or she was brought up in is not the norm. You may realize and that your childhood experiences are not something you want to replicate in the new life you are making for yourself.

Narcissistic parents are incredibly jealous and envious of their children when they see them grow and develop into an independent self. As you may know, they will do anything in their power to keep you with them as long as possible, to keep stroking their thirsty but fragile egos.

What happens when you grow up, venture out onto your own (reluctantly allowed to do so by your narcissistic parent) and realize that life outside of that narcissistic bubble isn’t what real life is about? It is enough to make anybody’s head reel from the contradictions of what “love” was when you were growing up, to what “love” actually is.

When you, an adult child of narcissistic parents, grows up, you may feel something is wrong but cannot necessarily identify what that is. You may have always associated love and appreciation with conforming to the demands of your parents and therefore assume that is how it all works.

You were “parentified” as a kid, taking on the role of a parent to be emotionally and psychologically responsible for the well-being of your narcissistic parent, when it really should have been the other way around.

You may not have realized the stigmatizing effects that this has had on you until you grew up into your own person. It takes a toll on the self-esteem, self-concept, self-worth, and altogether life satisfaction. During childhood, siblings often mistake “parentification” as favoritism and resent or compete with you.  Quite the burden, I’d say.

There are typically two types of responses displayed by parentified children. Let me know if these sound familiar.

You have the compliant response and the siege response.

The compliant response is much what it sounds like, complacency reigns supreme in your adult life. You may spend a great deal of time caring for others (much like you had to do growing up), always trying to please those around you, and do whatever it takes to maintain a harmonious atmosphere, which usually means that your needs are put on the back burner. This may have caused you to be self-deprecating, feeling that you can give and give, but it will never be good enough.

Then there is the siege response, the complete opposite of the compliant adult child of a narcissist. If this is/was you, then you were probably defiant and rebellious, protecting yourself by becoming less sensitive or walled off and extremely independent.

You would do whatever you had to do to manipulate others and treat them as if they are the parents who wanted you to meet their every expectation. This is more or less a passive-aggressive attack on your parents through other people, doing to others what you wish you could’ve done to your narcissistic parent.

The fear of abandonment is a common theme among children with a narcissistic parent, as you may know. Always having to earn love from them and knowing that it can be taken away if the needs of your parent are not met is a heavy load for any child to carry, especially when you are the one that needs to be nurtured, shown empathy, and be taken care of.

This can carry on into adulthood, feeling that you need to perform to the standards set by your spouse or significant other. You might feel that you are only there to serve your counterpart, always feeling less skilled and deserving than the other, and doing whatever is needed to prove yourself in the relationship.

In many families with a narcissistic parent, children are used as pawns and played off one another for the amusement of the parent. If you have brothers and/or sisters this may be familiar to you. There is typically a golden child and one or more scapegoats. Usually, the daughters of narcissistic mothers are chosen as the scapegoats, while the son(s) are chosen as the golden child(ren).

Your narcissistic mother may have cast you in all of these roles, abruptly changing your purpose when it suited her needs. This sudden demotion or promotion can be enraging or devastating to a child. Which role or roles did you play?

The golden child is the extension of the narcissistic parent, the perfect child that can do no wrong and is mirrored as a replication of the parent’s wonderfulness. Proper boundaries are not made between the golden child and the narcissistic parent, giving a sense of oneness between the two that leaves little or no room for the child to develop his or her own identity. As this adult child of a narcissist grows, he or she feels entitled to this same treatment, expecting others to act in the same way the parent did. Sound familiar?

Then there is the scapegoat, the outcast, the family member or members that take the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong. This child can never measure up to the golden child, even if he or she has greater accomplishments or does better in their life than the puppet of the parent.

Scapegoats are always seeking approval only to be turned down and made to feel inadequate for even attempting to outshine the golden child. This can cause a major rift between siblings, always competing with one another in a lose-lose situation where the referee is not fairly judging the players. Does that hit close to home?

As the scapegoat grows and ventures out into the world of freedom, they have a firmer grasp on their independence than the golden child does, as that child has never been allowed to be independent in their life.

I guess you can say that, retrospectively, the scapegoat is the lucky one. You may or may not agree. Typically, scapegoats can break free from the twisted and distorted dynamics of their dysfunctional family, and break the ties binding them to the abusive life that they were forced to lead. They have more of an opportunity to create a healthy life outside of their family.

However, the burdens they carried from childhood can still play a role in their adult lives. In the workplace, the scapegoat has a tendency to be overworked and underpaid even if their work is superior to others. They can be marginalized and never have the sense that they fit in comfortably with those around them, much like how they felt during childhood.

Scapegoats often do realize that this is a problem and are more apt to seek out professional help and psychotherapy than their other family members. If you happened to be the scapegoat in your family and have taken the steps to recover, you may have sought support from many different sources including meditation, spirituality, and truly loving relationships. What things have helped you to heal and have a better life? I would greatly appreciate your feedback.

With your narcissistic parent, you were most likely devalued and extremely under-appreciated. In the larger world away from the old narcissistic family system, you have the opportunity to be valued for your opinions, values and needs.

You find you can find others who allow you to express yourself and give a nurturing response to your own beliefs and needs. It can help you to recognize that you are an adequate human with positive attributes and skills to share with the world.

You learn that it is not your fault that your parent did not love you or show any empathy towards you, which is something that you really need—to be rid of the guilt and weight you have borne for so long.

I think The Beatles had it right: all you need is love.  And, for those who had narcissistic parents, sometimes it takes awhile to figure out what love is.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Rubies May 30, 2017 at 11:11 pm

Hi Jo!
I wasn’t going to comment on this thread anymore as I felt I had made a faux pas earlier, and so I don’t monopolize a whole section of Michelle’s blog. However as I occasionally check back I keep wanting to respond to your comments.

My mother grew up during the Great Depression and I can now see how that affected her throughout her life. And in turn how it affected me. She was a penny pincher and would make things last as long as possible when I was young. By the time I was seven I’d learned not to ask her to buy me anything, as the answer would always be NO. Even if I had a need, I learned to do without. I really didn’t get anything unless it was my birthday or Christmas. Even then it was minimal, and what she wanted me to have. I’m not complaining, just stating fact. I remember going to school and being picked on for wearing clothes she’d made. I really didn’t want to wear them, but there was no way I could tell her that. I would have never lived it down.

Just like what you said about your mom Jo, “… she will hang on to that one bad thing forever.” “And it isn’t anything that horrible…” I wouldn’t try on some pair of shoes when I was TWO years old and she “forever” defined me as a difficult child because of it, no matter how hard I tried to change her mind. I gave up trying in my teenage years and went back to trying in my later twenties. That story about my not trying on the shoes was even brought up in our “last conversation” almost five decades later. Unbelievably true! I was her only daughter out of five children, and I think once she realized I actually had a mind of my own, I became her disappointment. At that point or somewhere along the way I became the scapegoat.

Thinking of her growing up during the Great Depression reminded me about something she told me when I became a young adult. She’d said she’d really liked another man more than my father when they’d started dating, but she chose to date and marry my father because he was an officer. That she knew he’d make more money than the other man. I remember thinking I did not want to hear my mother married my father for the sake of money. She had this phrase she’d say to me back then: “It’s just as easy to marry a rich man, as a poor man.” I was clearly suppose to get the message, marry for money, but all it did was cause me to look for love without such judgements. What probably really bothers her is that I married a man I LOVE of modest means, and while we struggled for awhile, I’m doing just as well as she ever did now, if not better in some ways.

Looking back, I realize that after I left home she started spending money like it was going out of style. Shopping seemed to become her occupation,(She didn’t work.) and she would only go to the nicest department stores. Her walk in closet became filled with pricey clothing, purses and shoes. She also seemed to be turning her nose up at me more and more, especially when she’d hear me say something about watching my money. I wonder, did I somehow become a competitor upon my becoming an adult, and she was making sure I knew she was winning. Maybe keeping me from my share of the inheritance is a way of keeping me from possibly surpassing her past quality of life. I don’t know.

I know the GREED of the golden ones is a major part of the problem. Of course now that they’ve gotten her to cut me out of the will, over a year ago, I’m sure they’re not paying her much attention anymore. I think that’s why she’s tried to “Hoover” me back several times now. I’m imagining she’s realized that I was the one who REALLY cared about her. I still do, but I wish I could kill that. I’m not going back to the lies, and it would take an utter miracle for her to actually be truthful about some things that are quite important to me. I also refuse to accept anymore crazy DRAMA. There’s a limit. I feel bad for her (sometimes) but you can’t treat people as hatefully as she has, and then expect them to pretend everything is normal simply because time has passed. (Wait, that’s EXACTLY what a narcissist expects.) Sometimes I wish she didn’t have ANY money, then they would have left her alone, and I wouldn’t be going through all this. I guess this way is best though. It all becomes the mythical choice between the red pill or the blue. Do we want to live in the truth that hurts, or not know and continue to live in the lie?

That was truly a sweet story about the ladies giving you the Christmas ornaments, and it’s quite touching that you still put one up each year. It is enlightening to see the sharp contrast between virtual strangers behavior towards us, compared to our mothers. I could give some examples of this, but I won’t. Yours is perfect.

I can’t say I did a “MILLION MORE THINGS” for my mother, but I know the scale would most definitely be tipping in my favor. Remember YOU were a GOOD DAUGHTER, even if your mother couldn’t or wouldn’t see it. <3

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Jo May 31, 2017 at 7:58 pm

Rubies,
Hearing from you and reading what you had to say was very meaningful. I think we have a lot in common in that our mothers grew up in the Great Depression. They are very old now, and we (as daughters) have been dealing with “this” for a long, long time. I read all of the posts that people write, and I did not know you were the only daughter. I can well imagine how that makes things all the more difficult and painful.

It was interesting what you had to say about your mom and how she chose to marry your dad. Just today I was at the “family graveyard” standing by my dad’s grave. Their gravestone says “Together forever”. I read that and thought about how horribly she has disrespected him in the years since he passed away.

My siblings all “work against” me. I am fairly confident that I am removed from the will. They have spent the past years getting the things they want. It hurts to know that I will not have “memories” from “home” … but I tend to think that anything that I would get from this point on would only present itself as a bad memory. But still, it’s hard.

My mom was similar to your mom in that she went crazy buying things for decades. My mom actually had a “purse room” (full of purses, all hanging up, etc.). But yet, if I had five purses, she would be upset that I had five. It never made any sense. It still doesn’t make any sense.

I read the recent post about the father who wrote, hoping his two sons would stumble upon this site someday. I thought that was a very poignant message! I read the response from the person who said the “only answer is to forgive”.

I am not able to forgive. Every single time I do anything for my mom, every single time I am with her, every single time I talk with her on the phone, she does the wrong thing. She stabs me in the back, she insults me, she undermines me, she plays games with me, she blames me, and so on. Every single time. I finally came to the point in my life where it was “her or me” … and I had to choose me. I stay away.

I think about my mom … and she is a very small woman … and I think about how much damage she has caused to so many people. And the damage will always “be there” living in the minds of those who knew her. I just don’t get it!

These days, the Golden is mom’s best and only buddy. My mom is consumed in thoughts about herself when she was young, feeling sorry for herself … and the Golden is right there, giving her a constant string of pity. They give each other pity.

I am very aware these days of the damage that a parent can do to their kids. I have been a good parent … and I will continue to be a good parent. I just wonder how we (ACON’s) will feel, years and years from now, long after our mothers have passed away. We will no doubt be pretty old ourselves. But I wonder how we are going to feel about all of this … then.

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Rubies June 4, 2017 at 2:14 am

Dear Jo,
I imagine it’s just as sad for you as it is for me, that our mother’s didn’t seem to really appreciate our fathers. Inscribing on the stone “Together forever” and then going on to “horribly” disrespect him is a disturbing example of how reality contradicts their facade. My mother rarely mentioned my Dad to me after his funeral. She tried to blame him a few times for one of the major issues between her and I, though she’s clearly the one responsible. One time she accused me of having loved him more than her. To which I told her that wasn’t true. (I didn’t think in terms of loving one parent more than the other.) I can now see how her saying that caused me to try even harder to show her love, and trust me I was already doing enough. She was living with us at the time.

I’ll be the first one to tell anyone, if their mother is truly a narcissist, DO NOT LIVE WITH HER. My mother lived with us for almost exactly a year and a half, and while it all seemingly started off well, it gradually declined to virtual madness. I could say a great deal about that time period, but I’ll relay just one event. So one day when she was quite angry she left in a huff walking towards the stores, which are almost a mile away. Now she’s very healthy for her age, but she was 86yrs.old at the time and wearing her winter coat on a fairly warm spring day. So I followed her out trying to convince her to come back inside. No matter what I said she kept on walking with a horrid scowl on her face. I then tried standing in front of her a few times, and practically pleading with her to come back inside, but she just went around me each time. So I literally put just two fingers on her shoulder while asking her to stop for at least a minute, and she said in a hate-filled tone “What are you trying to do, push me down?” To which I quickly exclaimed “Of course not.” I stood there shocked she’d say such a thing as she began to walk on again. A moment later she turned around to me and said “I’ll call the services and report you for abuse.” My mouth practically dropped open in that moment as she stood there looking at me so hatefully. I then spread my arms out in a gesture conveying I wasn’t going to try to stop her again. As crazy as things were getting, I never would have imagined she could say such a thing to me. One may ask why did we ever have her living with us. And I’ll say because she lived three hours away for twenty five years, and while we knew she was a judgemental perfectionist, we didn’t know what we were REALLY dealing with.

Don’t feel too bad about not having the “memories” from “home”. I know it’s hard not getting things hoped for, so I can imagine not getting at least something. However, I’m finding more and more that the things I did get ARE presenting themselves as bad memories, just as you’d said. The only thing I want to see now is a small stack of books that were my fathers. I use to have some framed photographs of my mother as a young woman taken back in the forties out on display, but I couldn’t take seeing them anymore.

Please forgive me Jo. While I want to say more to you, I’ll need to post it later. <3

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Bertie June 5, 2017 at 6:33 am

Thank you, Rubies. I know we are going through the same pain right now. (And have been, for quite awhile). I know the one positive thing that will come from this, is that we won’t do this to our own children.
I am mad at myself for not recognizing “what it was” decades ago.

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Bertie June 5, 2017 at 6:36 am

My middle name is “Jo”. Awhile back, it appeared that the NM website “Leave a Comment” section changed, and it asked for e-mail and website name, and I thought, oh no, if I respond … my real last name and our town’s website would give me away. So when I finally wrote back again, I did it as a “test” and used my middle name … and sure enough, it was okay. My e-mail and website were not disclosed. Anyway, I am one and the same.

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Bertie Jo June 5, 2017 at 7:00 am

Rubies, I appreciated the sharing of your recent story. I think I physically “felt” what you were feeling when you were trying to get her to stop walking.
I lived in a different state for 25 years. And so, if NM came to visit, she was there for about a week. Not one visit worked out. It always ended badly. She only went to visit my sister (Golden Child) once, in recent years, and it didn’t work out there either. My sister has often said, “Mom is two different people”. She was referring to the fact that she can be nice (motherly) one minute and switch and be the worst person you ever saw one minute later. Recently, on that trip to the ER … the doctor said she shouldn’t be alone that night. Mom responds very sweetly to him, “Well, I can’t move in with my kids!”. And I stood there, said nothing, and thought to myself, “Not one of us would EVER take her. She’d have to go to a nursing home”. I have a niece who is in her 40’s now, married with kids of her own. When she visits her parents she has to drive right past my mom’s house. (AKA: her grandma’s). The other day I saw my niece. She said her husband scolded her that they never stop and see “her grandma”. She said she blurted out loudly, “Because she’s mean!”
My husband was upset with me this weekend in that I am talking about my NM too much. He is sick of listening to me. I told him it’s because she’s so old and I know she could pass away any day. And I can’t go and visit her … because it’s “always the same”. (Really awful/nuts). And if I go to see her, I’m sucked right back in to the dysfunctional family, and then I go insane. Because the rest of them “dump” everything on me. And mom is abusive. And so, here I sit … writing on here.

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Bertie Jo June 5, 2017 at 8:43 am

I think this will be a interesting post. If nothing else, it will help the “younger folks” recognize symptoms much earlier and react accordingly.
I have often complained how I was left to support myself with no assistance, after I moved away from home with a high school education. Early on, I had several female roommates and we rented a house. To make a long story short, something happened, and I abruptly moved out and never had roommates again. I had just paid my portion of the rent a few days earlier. I went to a credit union, borrowed the money I needed to pay a full month’s rent and deposit on an apartment and set up a payment plan (which was to start immediately). That first month, in my apartment, by myself, I barely ate any food. I lost a lot of weight and was downright skinny. Years and years later, my mom would laugh about that and say, “That was good for you”. I have lots of examples of things in my lifetime, where they just plain never helped me. She often said, “That was good for you”.
I would probably, maybe, have forgotten about them had she not been so greedy, selfish, and demanding … especially in her later years. When she behaves poorly these days, I say to her, “Mom, do you remember when ….” (referring to when she didn’t help me. Well, THEY BOTH didn’t help me). And she would answer in a mean voice, “Well, that was good for you, wasn’t it?” (The words almost have a rhythm and a snap to them. It sounded the same each and every time she said it). These days, when she is so demanding, I want to say back, “Well how is it for you now? Do you need help now?” I do the minimal for her.
The only other interesting little story to share, I find interesting, and may help younger people: During one other time period in my life, I lived an hour away from my parents. I was pregnant with our first child. We lived in an apartment. It’s a long story, suffice to say that I was ignored like the plague. We buy our first house, I have the baby, and “there she is”. She never offered any help, just came to visit. She let me know early on “she didn’t babysit, she raised her kids already”. Our son was born on “closing day”. (It took me a year to unpack because we JUST had our first baby). When holidays would come around, I would invite them over. She said, “I’m never cooking another holiday meal! I’m coming over here!” And sometimes she would even insult my meal afterwards. “I didn’t particularly care for (whatever first course it was, etc.)”. I remember my first Mother’s Day being a mom, myself … I had put in a pretty hard first few months with a newborn. She came over, and the entire day was “all about her”. It was her Mother’s Day. Nothing about me. I thought that was “peculiar”.
A few years later, I end up moving away and live states away. One year she had a minor surgery close to the holidays. I said I’d bake up a double batch of whatever cookies I was making and would send her Christmas cookies and she wouldn’t have to bake. That particular year, it was easy for me to do this. I had time. I sent a pretty big plastic Tupperware-like tub of cookies to her. She was pleased. I remember her saying, “I’m never going to bake Christmas cookies ever again. You’re going to make them and do this every year”. I thought, “Huh?”. But my thought process didn’t go much further. (I was totally being buffaloed for years, but never saw it). That next year, I had a newborn. It was a HUGE STRUGGLE to make cookies, much less a double batch, of each. If I would have had half a brain I would have made two batches of cookies, for us, and called it done. But no, I try, and it was a nightmare, because I had a new baby. I sent off a significantly smaller tub of cookies to her. She got them and remarked how far less she received from me, this year. She said it in one of those tone’s, to show definite criticism. Nothing like, “Oh, thank you! You shouldn’t have done it at all! You have a new baby this year! What were you thinking?!” Oh, no … nothing like that. She was critical and showed disappointment that it wasn’t the big tub.
I was appalled. Finally. I silently told myself, “Well, she’s done getting any cookies from me, ever again”. And, I didn’t send her any again.

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Rubies June 5, 2017 at 6:36 pm

Jo/Bertie/Bertie Jo
LOL!!! I can’t explain how amused I am that you both are one and the same. It’s really funny to me, since I was thinking when I was writing to Jo that Bertie could be part of the conversation, due to the fact I read somewhere you said your Mom was 90. LOL!!! I’m glad you told me. Know too that it was a little sad to me that Bertie had not responded any further, and I felt the same urge to respond to Jo that I did to Bertie. Thx! I really needed to laugh.

I’m thinking we’d do well to be talking on the phone and venting to each other, rather than annoying our husbands any further. LOL! Of course putting out contact info isn’t good, and this way is more educational for others. However I’m thinking we’re on one of the more popular threads, so I thought maybe we could move our conversation over to one that seems dead. That way people can respond to this article of Michelle’s without feeling like they’re interrupting a conversation. And if they want to keep reading our posts they can find them there. The article “Never good enough” seems to have no traffic. I posted there in March and no one has added to it since, nor for a long time before that. You can just put that title in Michelle’s search on the side to find it. If you agree, then let me know here, and I’ll put my next post there.

LOL!!! Still amused. : D

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Bertie Jo June 6, 2017 at 6:37 am

Rubies,
I am not very tech savvy and usually my name “bertie” would already be loaded in the “name” section. All of a sudden, one day, it disappeared. I thought, perhaps if I wrote again, my e-mail address would show up. As said, Jo was a test, that one particular day, just to see And then, too late. I actually thought you would figure it out.
I had such a need to talk at the time!!! It was my way of still conversing.
I apologize if it seemed not quite right.
Yes, I agree — I will seek out the “Never Good Enough” site. We probably are monopolizing Michelle’s right now.

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Rubies June 6, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Bertie Jo,
It’s not a different site. It’s the same one, just a different article to comment on. Michelle has her own search engine for her site which is kind of near the top, and on the right side. Look to the right of her writing, and you should be able to find it. It has the word “Search” listed three times there. It’s underneath her list of “Recent Posts”. Let me know here, if you’ve found it and are able to find the article “Never Good Enough for a Narcissistic Mother”.

No worries about the confusion. I understand. : )

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Rubies June 6, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Just scroll up on this page and search for the word “Search” on the right.

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Vic June 7, 2017 at 4:01 pm

I have come across your article and I found this very interesting. The thing that popped out to me was the scapegoat section. After reading this I had found this very helpful. I have been dealing with this my whole life. There seems to be a pattern in which I am trying to break here. I am currently searching for a support group that deals with Narcissistic people. I believe that my father was. My mother had passed away and I had come across a journal she had. It was about her life with my dad. He was abusive mentally and physically. He had also cheated and had two other children why he was married. Which I knew something was wrong. I had remembered also being kind of targeted by him. But, while i was growing up my older sister was somewhat the same. She would also say i was the black sheep and i was wrong and everything was my fault as a child. I believe my older sister had gone back and forth as a child behind my mother back and telling my father things. She had also admitted she was a people pleaser as she was older. She was projecting at an early age onto me. She had also tried it with my daughter when she was young and my own daughter at the age of six had asked me if her aunt likes her. Right then and there I realized what she was doing. My mom’s journal had a lot of information. I also married a Narc man but divorced and have moved on. When i had come across your article it made alot of sense. I have great friends and am now moving foward with my life. Which is just what i want to do. I have tried over the years for no contact with my sisters due the other sister and i had realized how bad they had treated my mother as well but they had constantly thrown the blame back onto my mother. I have read studied and learned as much as i can about this. I have looked at myself inside out and i knew that i had to break the pattern for myself but mostly for own daughter I have always felt like I deserved more and so did she. Getting away was the best thing for me.
Thank you for your post

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Rubies June 7, 2017 at 8:51 pm

Dear Bertie Jo,
I hope you come back to read this, and are able to find the article I spoke about. I do think we have a lot in common with our elderly mothers, and want you to know I feel your “need to talk”, as I feel it as well. Know I’m checking back here, waiting for your response. However if for some reason you would rather not correspond, I’ll understand. You won’t need to give me a reason, but please let me know. Either way I’ve truly enjoyed communicating with you, and want you to know that. : )
Sincerely, Rubies<3

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shy July 5, 2017 at 1:21 pm

I’ve had a difficult relationship with my mother for as long as I can remember. Things got worse when my brother was born. I went from being the Golden Child to the Scapegoat. I grew to resent both of them immensely. My parents divorced when I was 2 and my mother ran straight into my step-fathers arms. My father blamed the divorce on my step-dad, who according to him, was already in the picture before the papers were signed and my mom blamed it on my father’s complete and total lack of desire to be a father to me. Turned out they were both right. My dad took much longer to re-marry, but when he did, he managed to find someone even more sinister and vile than my mother. It didn’t take me long to realize I had no allies. My mother “loved” my brother, my step-dad loved my brother (his biological son) and my father and step-mother loved no one but themselves.

I tried to just stay under the radar, but I couldn’t. My brother figured out quick that my mother would always side with him, unless he did something that caused her grief. I couldn’t own anything nice, my things were always destroyed, because my brother could always get away with it. I hated asking for anything, even necessary things, because it was always a negotiation. What could my mother blackmail me for? Everything always came at a cost. I learned early, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Not even from your parents. My father would generally buy me whatever I needed, until he re-married. Then every expenditure had to be approved by his vengeful bride.

My father, thanks to his wonderful taste in women, had ingratiated me with not one narcissistic female in my life, but two. My grandmother once said to me “What do you want your father to do? He’s stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.” Her metaphor could not have been more fitting, only thing is she mixed my father up with me. I was the one completely and utterly trapped. Both times, he had a choice and both times he chose wrong. I don’t remember having ever been given a choice. Speaking of devils and deep blue seas, if I had to assign my mother and step-mother with the title of one or the other, the answer would be easy. My step-mother is the devil and my mother is the deep blue sea. My step-mother is for all intents and purposed, the essence of pure evil. I won’t go into the soul crushing details of how I reached that conclusion, but I am sure anyone who’s read a Grimes Fairy tale with an evil step-mother in it, can use their imagination. Now why is my mother the deep blue sea? Well she has this uncanny ability to envelop your entire life. Like being trapped under crashing waves, she just keeps dragging you further and further down, into the abyss that is her life. Not only does she make you hate your life and everything it entails, but she just keeps smashing you and smashing you into the cliff, until you’re ready to just stink and never resurface. It took me years to learn how to swim parallel to the shore and get myself out of her rip-current.

Two years ago I had a mental break down. It was brought on by a thyroid disorder, but what came bubbling to the surface was years and years of hate and anger. I wasn’t able to cope with the venom I had generated and I needed to strike at anyone who was in close proximity. That was when I realized I needed to seek professional help. I always thought that was for the weak, which is ironic, seeing as I have a bachelors in Psychology. It helped tremendously and for once I wasn’t burdening the people around me with the wounds of my past. I was able to finally get a diagnoses for my mother, which is BPD with Narcissistic tendencies. That alone was the key to everything…validation. Validation that my experiences weren’t just something I had fabricated. Validation that the pain I had endured was legitimate and I wasn’t the only one. If that had been the only thing I got from therapy, that would have been enough, but what came out of it was so much more. I am now armed with a set of tools, tools I can use to manipulate my surroundings, not for malice, but so I can live a healthy and productive life. I have been able to create boundaries, not only with my mother, but with all the other people in my life who have done terrible things to me. I used to love my hatred. I carried my hatred around with me like a badge of honor, because hatred is what fueled my survival, hatred is what gave me the strength to fight and hatch my best laid plans. Now, I see that love is just as powerful as hate, without all the burn out.

P.S. I would highly recommend everyone on this forum read a couple of book: “Understanding the Borderline Mother” and “Surviving a Borderline Parent.” Both helped me tremendously.

Lots of Love

Shy

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Susangh July 16, 2017 at 10:28 pm

I have a narc mother and covertly manipulative narc husband.
I have been in therapy since age 15. The thing that has helped the most is treating my brain, not my mind. I get a type of neurofeedback called LENS. I am finally calm enough inside to reflect rather than react. I feel amazingly different inside, physically and emotionally. It is expensive but worth it. God knows how many houses or cars I could have bought with what I have spent on talking cures and pills. Also, I recommend George Simon’s book, In Sheeps Clothing and any of his other books.

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Jane July 5, 2017 at 11:17 pm

As the adult daughter of a narcissistic mother, I wanted to share how very helpful yoga can be as a source of self empowerment, embodiment, and healing. Both asana (pose practice) and pranayama (breathing practice) help bring clarity of mind and smoothness of nerves.

I also would like to stress how important it is to maintain some sort of distance from one’s NPD mum as she will never, ever be well. Mine is now into her late 80s and, tragically, has not changed one iota (though she’s still a very sharp dresser!).

I wish anyone reading this peace and health. I feel compassion for both you and the NPD in your life. Good luck!

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Jessica July 6, 2017 at 10:02 am

This really hit a nerve with me. I had never spent much time analyzing why my mother treats me like she does, but this is her to a “T”. I have gotten both sides, both the Golden child and the Scapegoat since I’m an only child. The previous comment about mom being “two people” is something I’ve said for years, and you never know which one you’re going to get at the moment. She will brag to anyone and everyone about how she helped and encouraged me to get this or that award/accomplishment, vastly over-exaggerating her contribution. Behind the scenes of course, nothing I ever did was enough. I grew up with the philosophy that if I couldn’t do it perfect every time, there was no point in trying. She would tell me that as long as I was honest about a mistake, that she wouldn’t be mad, but that was just a trap. I learned to lie, hide and cover up every possible perceived mistake or fault. Even now, at 33 years old, I struggle with admitting mistakes, even when I know that the other person will be understanding. I’m so scared that someone will think I’m not good enough, and the mere thought of disappointing someone is almost paralyzing. She still makes things up that I allegedly did, even though I can prove that she’s lying, she continues on with the story, sometimes changing a detail or two. Everything is always on her narrative, truth be damned, and she is perpetually the victim. She tried so hard to make sure I had a good start in life, gave me everything she could according to her. Anything bad that happened was my dad’s fault, never hers. She inherited close to $500K and was supposed to pay me back the $12K or so she had borrowed from me and pay off my student loans. She decided that her entire inheritance would be better spent on dancing lessons and jewelry, but it’s my dad’s fault that she now has no retirement money (they are divorced). Everyone is out to get her… family, friends, anyone who doesn’t do things exactly as she wants. Her health is starting to decline, and as an only child, all responsibilities fall to me. It’s incredibly draining to have to spend days/weeks taking care of and helping her while enduring the verbal abuse and constant victim monologue. I can’t abandon her, she’s my mother afterall, and while she may not be a pleasant woman, I did not go without the necessities as a child.

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Susan July 6, 2017 at 3:01 pm

I am 65 years old and it’s only been in the last few years that I have started to understand why my mother treated me the way she did. I am also wondering why, since she disliked me so much, I was the child who cared for her at the end. As the only girl I had been told all my life it was likely I would be the caregiver in my parents old age, but as the only girl I was also subjected to endless criticism about my hair, my dress, my friends…etc…My 24/7 care for the last 6 months of her life didn’t count for anything, my brothers ended up with all the control. Funny I should see it as control…I have just cut them out of my life (after they cut me out first) and refuse to beg and cower at their feet. I feel a freedom I have never felt before in my life. It still hurts but not as bad.

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Alex July 7, 2017 at 10:49 am

Hey Michelle, thank you so much for the article. I’ve stumbled upon the idea of narcissistic parents just yesterday and honestly, I feel like you’ve written this article about my family. I started therapy 2,5 years ago because of severe panic attacks and it took me a looong time to realise the main cause of my problems was my mother. She did treat me like a “golden child” my whole life, saying how smart and perfect I was only to declare I was useless and unable to have any success after I opposed her in any way. Many times I’ve heard I was a disappointment to her and her family because of completely irrelevant stuff, like forgetting to do shopping. She compared her body to mine, tried to flirt with my boyfriends. She played tricks and manipulated me and my whole family, telling them I said stuff about her that I haven’t. She called me in extreme hours, or visited without announcing first. It was always about pleasing her, not saying or doing anything she wouldn’t like which caused me to be very self-conscious and nervous in my daily life. As she’s a doctor, she made me get all sorts of tests literally every month (blood test, xray, smear, you name it) which made me hypochondriac to the extreme.
I’ve tried explaining and coping and going to therapy with her but she wouldn’t hear about any of that, she was sure that my depression and anxiety was my fault. So I just cut off all the ties. It might be radical but I just moved out of the country, stopped answering phone, messages, emails, anything. I ignore her and my whole family which is heart-breaking but necessary, I feel. I do yoga + meditation + antidepressants+ journaling everyday, therapy every week which is hard but panic attacks prevented me from living my life.
If you have any questions for your research, please let me know, I’d be glad to help 🙂

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Rubies July 14, 2017 at 1:06 pm

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Bonnie August 8, 2017 at 8:35 pm

Thank you for sharing some great information! I have searched many years to find a therapist that understands what being the child of a narc is like….never found one. In my early adult years, therapists I saw seemed to have some connection with NM and was quick to mirror hers or my enabling father’s sentiments that I was the problem and I needed to suck up. I felt very alone for many years….NOBODY understood why I wouldn’t want contact with my own mom….until they dared to get close enough to me and saw her in action. I grew up the middle child of three girls…older sis bounced back and forth between golden and scapegoat, younger sis is solidly the golden. I never saw golden, was always the scapegoat. Older sis passed away angry and bitter from drug abuse complications, younger sis is NM’s twin. Along the way, I have developed close relationships with older females that each loved me as their own daughter and I credit to “raising” me at different stages of my life. Each of those women I still cherish as my true “moms”. I no longer require the love of NM, nor do I hate her….but I do wish she would disappear off the face of the earth. She still tries to strip me of my independence and anything I have that is of any intellectual, material, or emotional value to me…and will stop at nothing to try and take it if not by manipulation then by force. I am on no contact with all family members (they are all her flying monkeys) with my two adult children and enabling father as exceptions…this keeps me at only 90% no contact with her, because they are in contact with her. My two children were raised with “knowledge”, but they still get sucked in and back off when they realize it….too often their realization is not soon enough for me to avoid a big hit, or get one themselves. Enabling father seemed to have a soft spot for me and would shoulder some hits when I was growing up…but as he has aged, he has put additional blame/pressure on me to do all the mending and take the abuse from NM and NS, who of course, can do no wrong. A light bulb is going off with dad now and it makes me sick to my stomach :(. I’m struggling with that now, asking myself if I go no contact and he passes….? I have found healing, peace, and love in the rooms of a 12 step program….at the time of this post, I have had a hard week tho. My biggest source of solace is knowing, while I may have some traits from her….I am NOT her. I have love to give and receive, I have compassion for others and have received compassion, I can FEEL outside of the Narc bubble….and today I have a wonderful life that is my own, that is much bigger than I had growing up, and filled with many loving, imperfect souls that I call my friends, co workers, and non blood family. If you have any questions for me, as well, Michelle, please feel free to ask.

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Leslie August 16, 2017 at 5:33 pm

I am so glad I found this site. I am 63 my mother is 89. She has always seen me as her ‘caregiver ‘ ,emotionally and now physically. She is currently suffering with her lack of mobility. For 8 years I have been taking her to doctor appointments, church, and shopping, because she needs to touch her food. I retired from a great job because I could no longer balance work with her needs. She refuses to sell her house or get any additional help, why should she I do everything. I am divorced with 2 grown daughters. I can not explain how horrible my childhood was! My dad was hard working but removed himself from daily life. However he would explode -and hit my mother because he couldn’t take her constant nagging. I thought it was my role to protect my mother. My younger brother would close his door and wait it out. After the fight, I had to hide in my room while my mother pampered my father. My mother didn’t learn to drive until I got married. Why should she learn I had to come home from my daily 80 mile commute to college and drive her wherever she wanted to go. I married my first husband to get out of my house. My second husband saw my mother for what she was and my mother knew it. She refused to come to my house anymore. I was distraught and this caused a real problem in my marriage. She encourged me to divorce him and when I did she said, ‘I am so proud that you chose me.’ That is when I realized what a mistake I made. I am single but have been in a serious relationship for 15 years. We do not live together but my mother has expressed on several occasions that she hates him, publicly. My mother expects me to be at her house 3 days a week and take her wherever. She has no friends…and constantly tells me and anyone who will listen how smart she is and how kind and beautiful she is. I have reached my limit. My brother lives in LA and has not come back to NY in 3 years. My mother got angry with him once and said, ‘he was a good reason for an abortion’. He calls her and she tells me how wonderful he is. I have always had terrible eczema and my doctors all agree it is from anxiety. I would love to never see her again.

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