How to heal from being raised by a Narcissistic Parents

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don’t think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not a woman in that same role.

How you heal from being raised by a Narcissist depends on what type of emotional wounding you experienced. This is a more complicated question than it appears to be at first glance. There are at least five separate variables interacting:

  1. Type of Narcissistic Parent
  2. Gender of Narcissistic Parent
  3. Type of Child
  4. Presence or Absence of Other Supportive Adults
  5. Degree and Type of Abuse

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don’t think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not a woman in that same role.

Types of Narcissistic Parents

There are 5 basic types of Narcissistic parents and each type treats their children differently.

  • Exhibitionist Narcissists—Plain Vanilla

They basically want their children to uncritically admire them and never disagree with anything they say. They will devalue their children for any attempt to express their individuality, if this conflicts with what the Narcissistic parent views as important. In fact the whole household revolves around what the Narcissistic parent thinks is important.

If the parent is smart and successful, the children may accept the parent’s value system and grow up trying to please and emulate the parent. The one thing that they are not allowed to do is directly compete for dominance with their parent. This type of Narcissistic parent needs to be acknowledged as the number one and sees anything else as a sign of disrespect that must be squashed.

  • Failed Narcissists—Type 1: The Stage Mother

These Narcissistic parents want to be admired as special, but they have not succeeded in anything that would get them the admiration that they crave. They use their children as extensions of themselves and push the children to excel.

If the parent wanted a career in music, the children are given music lessons. If they wanted to attend an Ivy League school and could not get in, the children are groomed from infancy to get into a prestigious college.

Unfortunately, these parents do not care about their children’s actual interests, abilities, and talents. The children are under incredible pressure to succeed in whichever area the parent chooses and are bullied and devalued if they do not go along with the parent’s agenda.

Example: Think of the ruthlessly pushy stage mother Rose in the show, “Gypsy.”

  • Failed Narcissists—Type 2: Devaluer

These parents are bitter. They have not achieved the success in life that they feel that they deserved. They view their children as rivals. This leads them to resent any success that their children have in life. Instead of pushing them to excel, like the “Stage Mother,” they want them to fail. They mock and devalue their children in an attempt to break their spirit.

The “Devaluer” Narcissistic parent often says things that are directly aimed at destroying any signs of self-respect or pride that their children exhibit, such as: “Who do you think you are?” “Don’t think you’re better than me.” “Stop showing off.”

  • Toxic Narcissists—The Sadist

All Narcissists are preoccupied with self-esteem enhancement. Toxic Narcissists do not want to be admired, they want to be feared. They enjoy dominating their children and get sadistic pleasure from destroying their self-esteem. Unlike the bitter failed Narcissists who also devalue their children, Toxic Narcissists can be successful. They have a strong sadistic streak. If this were a thousand years ago, they would be raping and pillaging the countryside or poisoning their rivals.

  • Closet Narcissists

Closet Narcissistic parents often choose one of their children to idealize as special. Their personal dilemma is that they want to be special, but they are too afraid to be that overtly exhibitionistic because that would make them feel too exposed and vulnerable. They solve the problem by exaggerating the talents of their children. They brag to anyone who will listen about their children’s accomplishments. Their child is showered with compliments by the Closet Narcissist parent and their parent overidentifies with the child’s successes and problems.

Unlike the Exhibitionistic “Stage Mothers” who want to be in the spotlight along with their children, the Closet Narcissist feels safer putting the spotlight only on the accomplishments of their children.

Gender of Narcissistic Parent

In my experience it is worse for the child when the main Narcissist in the family is the mother. In the first years of life, there is an intense relationship between infants and their mother.

There is lots of research that has been done on the importance of the mother (or primary parental caretaker) in helping to regulate the baby’s mood through appropriate attunement and soothing. In general, whoever is in the mother role, whether male or female, has a large impact—positive or negative—on the baby’s developing nervous system.

It is very hard on the child when the person who he wants to run to for comfort is the person who is hurting him.

Type of Child

If the child’s talents and temperament fit the Narcissistic parent’s expectations and can be used to enhance the parent’s self esteem, the child is likely to experience some praise and support. This is a much better situation then where there is a complete mismatch and all the child experiences is devaluing put downs and rejection.

All children want their parents’ love and approval, but some children are innately more sensitive and reactive to the feelings of their caregivers. They feel their Narcissistic parent’s shifting moods more acutely. Other children are more preoccupied with their own interests. Think of the adults you know—some are very concerned with pleasing other people and are highly sensitive to other’s approval or disapproval, and some are more self contained and inner focused.

The worst child/parent child match would be between a highly sensitive child and either a Toxic Narcissist or Devaluing Failed Narcissist parent. This is a recipe for the destruction of the child’s psyche.

Presence or Absence of Other Supportive Adults

The luckiest children of Narcissists have other, more normal, loving adults around who give them what the Narcissistic parent cannot—consistent love and support for who they really are. These children feel “seen” and understood. As a result, they tend to develop a better sense of self and more stable self-esteem than the children who are totally reliant on their Narcissistic parents.

Degree and Type of Abuse

There are different types and levels of abuse that children can experience at the hands of a Narcissistic parent. Some children experience a great deal of traumatic abuse of various types—beatings, sexual abuse, continual verbal devaluation, intrusion, lack of privacy, and so on. These children grow up very traumatized and have lots of complex issues to resolve in therapy before they can lead a normal life.

Other children are not physically abused, but are conditioned through a combination of praise and devaluation to accept the Narcissistic parent’s value system. They have been brainwashed to see themselves and the world through their Narcissistic parent’s eyes. Their therapy is a bit like deprogramming a cult victim.

Conclusion: The best way to heal from Narcissistic abuse is to recognize that it is very likely that you have been brainwashed by your Narcissistic parent. Many of the insecurities you have about yourself are directly traceable to having a Narcissistic parent.

Step 1: Read the above and find out as best you can which combination of circumstances best describes your situation.

Step 2: Find a therapist who understands Narcissistic issues.

Step 3: Read all you can about Narcissism so that you can better understand what happened to you and that it was based on your Narcissistic parent’s limitations, not yours.

Step 4: If you suffered some form of ongoing trauma, you may find yourself reliving it in your mind over and over again, having nightmares, or becoming depressed and afraid around other people for no obvious reason. This generally means that you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This can be dealt with by going to a psychotherapist who has training in that area.

Note: Not everyone who has a traumatic childhood gets PTSD.

Step 5: Be careful to not choose friends and lovers who feel “familiar.” This instant familiarity often means that this relationship is likely to be a repeat of your childhood experience in some way.

The unconscious motivation for doing this is usually: (1) We feel an immediate connection to this person, (2) We set the bar for acceptable behavior too low, and (3) We are hoping for a reparative emotional experience that will heal us.

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