Narcissistic parents are emotionally immature. When you have a narcissistic mother or narcissistic father as your “role model” you may feel you haven’t been able to evolve and progress the way you want to.
At times, especially under stress, you may see you inadvertently mimic immature behavior of your narcissistic parent.
Or, you may note a return to a behavior that had been essential to protect yourself against someone with pathological narcissism but is now toxic in a healthy relationship, such as lying about an opinion or what you did that day.
Yet, you are far beyond your years in other ways, or you couldn’t have survived your childhood as well as you did.
So, it is especially confusing when you see–or, worse, someone you trust sees–you acting in an immature way that doesn’t match with the majority of your behavior or character.
Many of the people I coach across several cultures–Turkey, Hong Kong and Norway, to name a few–report feeling like they are two different people.
The first person is the “good one” who’s there most of the time. The one who’s responsible for their much improved adult life, the true adult self versus the second. The “other” that shows up once in awhile who acts far less mature and seems to appear without warning.
You can be shocked and ashamed of this other self. You can feel you’re some sort of fake. You’re not. You simply haven’t fully recovered from the narcissist in your life.
You’re just exhibiting behaviors you learned in your childhood, either out of role modeling from the narcissistic parent or out of what you had to do to survive a crazy family system.
Following are a few steps to help you understand your own emotional terrain and decrease actions and feelings you no longer wish to carry.
Step One: As an adult child of a narcissist (ACON), create the safety you couldn’t as a child by surrounding yourself with healthy relationships and avoiding exploitive ones.
Step Two: In your safe adult environment you can assess which behaviors are compatible with your best self versus those “young” behaviors from your childhood so you can extinguish them from your behavior.
Step Three: As an adult, notice what are your own feelings and what are actually “carried feelings” from your narcissistic parents and refuse to carry them or release them as recycled energy for better use as they show up.
In order to better understand what emotional skills your narcissistic mother may have passed on to you, assess how “old” she acts when under stress. You can then better define her behavior and catch it if you act that way.
Is she seven or two years old when she displays her narcissistic behavior? Look at other young children and begin to compare that “behavioral blueprint” to your narcissistic mother.
When children are very young, they can be grandiose and refuse to take blame for their behavior. They’re always trying to get around the rules because they don’t believe the rules apply to them.
A narcissistic mother reverses the roles that apply in normal family dynamics. She wants to be taken care of by her husband and children and sometimes can’t be bothered to care for her children. Her needs come first.
If things don’t go her way, she will throw a tantrum, much like a child would if they candy they wanted at the grocery store was denied. Narcissistic mothers are often too focused on themselves to show concern for others, even their children.
Much like a child at their worst, narcissistic mothers can be incredibly self-serving, looking to get their narcissistic supply from anyone and anything. They depend on others for emotional gratification while being needy and demanding in the process. They fear abandonment and are extremely clingy of their family members. They need admiration and attention “on demand.”
Narcissistic mothers display a defense mechanism called regression. Rather than handling unacceptable impulses in an adult way, there’s a reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development. This becomes a problem when used frequently to avoid situations and causes problems in life because no new skills are tried out and practiced to advance the maturity of one’s behavior.
Blame is another primitive behavior narcissistic mothers often exhibit and too often, you, the child, are targeted. You can end up “carrying” those projected feelings throughout your adult life. Or, you may carry the habit of blaming. Following are some other areas to assess.
Over-dependence: When children of narcissistic mothers grow up and start their own relationships, they may want to be taken care of like a child, thirsty for the childhood they never got to be because they were always tending to their mother’s needs.
Adult children of narcissistic parents long for the feeling of being loved and can regress back to a time when they should have been taken care of by their parents, felt loved and given attention.
Defensiveness: The pain and trauma a narcissistic parent inflicts on the vulnerable child is substantial. We, as adults, are most sensitive to using defense mechanisms during pivotal developmental times in life, such as adolescence or puberty.
And, poignantly, when the stakes are highest and the ability to be vulnerable to someone healthy is required we may recoil. For instance, the usually trusted other may be now seen as suspect because they have confronted you on a truly troublesome behavior.
Indecisiveness: When a child is growing and developing and doesn’t have the proper guidance on how to take care of themselves and be independent, it can be difficult when they become an adult.
When you’re not allowed to make your own choices and don’t know how to express feelings, being autonomous can be tough.
Inappropriate Guilt: You may feel that your decisions for self care are selfish. Or, you may feel guilty all the time and not know why. This is likely the feeling you carry from your narcissistic mother’s shameless, boundary-less behavior. You are actually carrying guilt because she did not deal with her own shameful lack of control over her needs and actions.
Rage: Though you are usually a calm person, rage may be triggered in you which is actually anger from your narcissistic mother. This oversized, irrational anger is a “carried feeling” from the narcissistic parent who projected their anger onto you in a boundary-less way when you were far to young to process it or realize that you were separate from your narcissistic mother or father.
In sum, learn to define boundaries between you and your narcissistic mother, identify her carried feelings within you versus your own, believe you can be loved unconditionally by someone, and strive to seek self-approval as opposed to trying to gain mother’s approval, you can continue to claim the emotional territory you need to truly be your own person.
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