Raised By A Narcissist
Few phrases sum up the idea of narcissism better than:
It’s all about me.
But the most defining feature of a person with narcissism is actually not his self-involvement. It’s his deeply concealed fear of being exposed as inadequate.
Underneath the bluster and arrogance of the narcissist lies a hurt and fragile core. Deep down, narcissists fear others will see that they are not special or superior (they are just human beings after all), so many of their grandiose behaviors are designed to prevent that exposure. Surprisingly, this deeply buried vulnerability is the trait that can do the greatest damage to the narcissist’s child.
What is it like to grow up with a narcissistic parent? Meet Lucy, who was raised by a narcissistic father.
Lucy grew up knowing that she was her father’s favorite. A straight-A student and accomplished athlete, she made sure to never let him down by making a B or dropping a ball in a game, like her brother did. Lucy noticed early that she was special in her father’s eyes. She saw how enraged and embarrassed her father was when her older brother got in trouble at school, and she made sure never to make him feel that way.
Lucy made many decisions in her life that were designed to please her father. She felt that if she let him down he would stop loving her, so she followed in his footsteps to take over his dry cleaning business. Lucy never thought about what she herself wanted as a career because her father made it clear to her from birth that he had already set up her life for her.
At age 23, Lucy was feeling bored behind the counter of the dry-cleaner and yearned to go back to college and get an MBA. It took her months to gather the nerve to tell her father her plan. When she did, he was enraged. “I’ve given you everything, and this is how you repay me? You have no idea what you’re doing. When you’re broke and miserable, don’t come to me for help.”
From that point on, Lucy’s father treated her coldly, as if he no longer loved her. She was no longer the apple of his eye. Her brother finally got his turn as the favorite, and Lucy was on her own.
The narcissistic parent is not able to see his child as a separate person. The child is an extension of himself; an object to deliver admiration, but also capable of bringing shame. These parents often choose one child who they feel most likely to reflect positively upon them and lavish favoritism upon that child, as Lucy’s father did. This leaves the other children jockeying for attention and love.
Since the narcissist’s child is seen as an extension of the parent, any normal failure, struggle, or flaw of a the child poses a threat to the narcissist of being exposed as imperfect. So he keeps a tight rein upon the children, especially the favored one, out of fear of being exposed. When any child, particularly the chosen one, expresses his own wants, feelings or needs, this makes the parent feel vulnerable. The child is likely to meet with harsh rejection.
Throughout childhood, Lucy’s own identity was neglected while she toiled to be the perfect child to protect her father’s vulnerable core from exposure. This is one of the many ways in which Childhood Emotional Neglect can happen. As an adult, Lucy will struggle to define her own wants and needs. In fact she may feel selfish for simply having wants and needs. As an adult, that long ago child will be trapped in her father’s mirror, yearning for his lost love and approval.
- Separate Yourself: Your parent probably gave you what he/she could, but it was limited, and some of it was painful. If you need distance from your narcissistic parent, take it. The more you can do so with compassion for his/her deeply buried vulnerability, the better.
- Discover yourself: You are behind on discovering who you are. As an adult, you now have to define yourself and what you want. Start paying attention to your feelings, wants and needs in a way that your parents never could.
- Lose the guilt: This is not your fault. You are not responsible for your parent’s needs and issues. But you are now responsible for your own healing. Now is the time for you to stop feeling guilty and take control of your life.
- Seek help: Enlist the support and guidance of an experienced therapist. Visit EmotionalNeglect.com. Follow the recovery steps set out in Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect. Or both.
Today, for your healing and for yourself, it’s your turn. Right here, right now:
To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty.
I was physically, mentally and emotionally abused by my grandmother for years. Unbelievable, horrific things she did to me which I always questioned how a person could be so cruel/mean spirited to their own granddaughter. It would take a book to tell my story of 54 years of abuse and the wicked things I suffered from the relentless mistreatment from my grandmother. It wasn’t until recently, after she passed away in August 2016 at the age of 90 that I discovered the answer to why she was the abusive, horrible person she was to me all these years. Months later, after she passed, I was still in severe pain, along with memories of the many ruthless, cruel, wicked things she did to me, I googled(grandmother abusing granddaughter for years). I was shocked with what the search revealed. I found out my grandmother was a narcissist.She had narcissistic personality disorder. The characteristics, traits & personality of people with this disorder described my grandmother, the things they do,there behavior and the damage they inflict on their (target). I had been raised by and the victim of a narcissist. I finally found out there was an actual name/ medical term for the person I had been hurt by over & over again all these years. It gave me validation and confirmation that something had to be wrong with someone to do the things she did and could care less about the effects of her wicked seeds. It was another shock to discover that one of the characteristics this person possesses is, they get pleasure from seeing you hurt and in pain. They enjoy hurting you. They do it intentionally. This explained why she had no problem with abusing,harming and hurting me all these years. She enjoyed it. Another significant, shocking but accurate thing about this type of person(which I had also experienced and was still experiencing after she passed)is that they never stop. The older they get the worse they get. I was shocked and amazed to read everything I experienced with my grandmother was right there. I tried for years to figure out how she could be so cruel,how could or why a person could do such things. I find out all along my grandmother had a mental illness. How dangerous it is to be involved with a narcissist. I wished I had known this information years ago. They also emphasized, getting away from, disconnecting and having nothing to do with this type of person because of how dangerous they could be. Oh if I had known this!!! I had no one tell me all these years that something was wrong with my grandmother. All the adult relatives that knew her growing up, before me & my brother were born had to know something was wrong with her and she wasn’t normal. They may not have known the name for it but there’s no way they didn’t know something was wrong. Everybody acted like nothing was wrong. This revelation hurt me as well!! The way narcissist deceive others to think they are the sweetest,nicest people in the world to discredit what you say about them. How they are so good at tricking people to believe they’re sweet, wonderful people that these people won’t even entertain, believe anything you say about them. I’ve experienced this first hand. The multitudes of lies they tell. They are brain wash specialist. It’s terrible what I went through. It was so true and profound when I read they don’t stop, continue even in old age and get worse. Also the information advised to keep your children away from them because they would become victim to their narcissist behavior. Brain washed and used in their mission to destroy you. I’m a victim of this also!! Oh how I wish I knew all this information years ago. I was correct to feel the way I felt about my grandmother. I was correct about how horrible & not normal the things were that she did to me. Before I discovered this information, silly me for the last 10 years or more felt obligated to be there for my grandmother. I called myself letting go of the past because she was up in age & me, her & my son were the only 3 left. I devoted myself to my grandmother and son. Taking care of everything they needed still being mistreated while doing so many times. Being taken advantage of and disrespected by her and my son. I still pushed through, always dependable and reliable. In the midst of being hurt many,many times. They put me through HE’LL!,but I felt it was my responsibility to take care of them as best I could and believe me it was a hard,hard job. The devastating things is just like the information aboutpeople with narcissistic personality disorder said,little did I know,all those years I was being a great granddaughter to my grandmother,she was stIll doing wicked things behind my back. Destroying me and my son’s relationship,lying,manipulating and still doing everything she could to destroy me. Even after she passed I discovered many more things I would never have expected. She continued to inflict pain and hurt to in death and the things she did were so diabolical they still linger and effect me even though she’s gone. I’m in excruciating pain. At least now I know what was wrong with her but it pains me that I was a victim of someone with a mental illness for years. My grandmother and no one intervened or understood the severity of the things I sometimes told about what I was going through with her. It was crime that was ignored and I never got any cooperation,help or justice. I’m the last one standing to tell this horrible story not to mention that I believe me and my brother were kidnapped based on many things I learned over the years and didn’t make sense when I was younger. People got away with serious crimes and me and my brother were the victims.