Parent-child relationships can have a hint of drama, especially during the teenage phase.
However, when your parent is a narcissist, this drama is part of your life despite age, and it can leave a long-lasting scar. Sadly, because this scar has been there your whole life, you might not even notice it unless you pay close attention.
According to the Mayo Clinic, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a...
“...mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their importance, are exploitative, belittle others, are manipulative, have a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, have troubled relationships and lack empathy for others.”
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual states that people with NPD will have at least 55% of the common narcissistic traits, which include entitlement, control, lack of empathy and an extreme need for attention.
Narcissistic parents view their children as an extension of themselves. To them, their children are another chance for the parents to accomplish all the things they didn’t accomplish when they were younger.
Doesn’t that just sound exhausting? Well, there is more to it. This treatment affects the children even when they are adults.
Below are some of the effects you might experience as an adult child of a narcissistic parent.
Boundaries exist to regulate how the outside systems interact with us. They help us achieve happiness, productivity and confidence.
Because narcissistic parents are pros at disregarding boundaries, from an early age, their children have difficulties setting firm boundaries. This is because when they do so, their parents consistently disregard and brush aside those boundaries.
Eventually, these children start believing that boundaries don’t really serve a purpose. And they grow up to be adults who do not set firm boundaries and perpetually have people push their boundaries.
When you’re raised by a narcissistic parent, you don’t necessarily have room to express yourself assertively.
Especially if your thoughts and feelings differ from those of your parent. Expressing different thoughts can result in an angry outburst from your parent. Consequently, you become wary of how you express yourself just so that your opinions always concur with those of your parent.
Unfortunately, this wariness persists even in adulthood. Whether in a romantic relationship, work setting or even with friends, you find it difficult to express your thoughts and feelings.
You find yourself agreeing with anything and everything others would have suggested because that is what you have been doing your whole life.
As we grow older, we use the relationships we had when we were children as reference points for relationships.
Subconsciously we want to recreate those relationships because that is what we grew up with, and that is what we know.
As an adult child of a narcissistic parent, you will likely end up attracting and selecting partners who also have narcissistic tendencies because you are used to being ‘loved’ in a narcissistic manner. This will result in toxic relationships with controlling partners.
On the other hand, you could also mirror your parent’s narcissistic tendencies and end up with a passive and quiet partner just so that you have control. In this case, you will be the toxic partner.
Gaslighting is a term derived from a 1944 psychological thriller called Gaslight. The film accurately demonstrates what gaslighting is. In short, it is a form of psychological manipulation where one makes another person doubt their feelings, memories, perception or thoughts.
Narcissists thrive on gaslighting. So, if you were raised by a narcissist, gaslighting has been part of your everyday life. As a result, it becomes part of you, and you internalize it.
You start to doubt your worth and capabilities, undermine yourself and downplay your skills and success. Over time, this gives birth to imposter syndrome.
Many people raised by narcissistic parents take the blame upon themselves and do not realize the extent to which their upbringing affected them.
Sometimes we have to take a step back and evaluate our childhood experiences. If you had a narcissistic parent, that could explain why you have some of the above traits.
Now you are aware of how your upbringing might have impacted you, and you can work towards getting the help that you need. You can’t just ‘get over’ or reverse your childhood. But there are certain things you can do to heal the wounds.
The first step in doing so is to understand narcissism and its effects. This will help you recognize traits about you which aren’t your fault, but products of your upbringing. Once you have this understanding, you can go on to seek therapy.
Therapy can help you become aware of your past experiences, and your therapist can also guide you towards recovering from those experiences. Surrounding yourself with supportive and non-judgmental people who understand your past is essential when going on this journey.
Remember, your past doesn’t always have to define you!
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