The Challenges of having a Narcissistic Parent - Part 1


Sobriety Navigator: The challenges of having a narcissistic parent. Part 1 

Note:  The terms “parent” and “she” are used generically and also represent the male and plural forms of the words. 

Definitions of Narcissism: Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism. (Mayo Clinic) 

A narcissistic parent will objectify her children and view them not as individuals but as extensions of her own identity. They are viewed as tools and pawns to be used for the parent’s own self-absorbed wants. One of the best ways for a narcissistic parent to ensure a life of servitude from her children is to deny them any self-esteem. By keeping them in constant emotional and mental turmoil and undermining their self-confidence, she keeps their internal equilibrium off balance.  This ensures that the emotional and mental instability and arrested development that they endure will keep the children emotionally and psychologically dependent upon her long after they are grown. We have all heard stories of people from all walks of life, education and levels of success who feel themselves a failure because they could never earn their parent's approval. 

A woman I know, whose grown, middle aged son had recently died, made the statement that she did not allow her children to have any self-esteem. This admission came as no surprise to her other grown children.  They previously had discussed their belief that their cherished, deceased, brother was a causality of mom’s narcissistic, self-absorbed greed. The other middle-aged children had successfully struggled to break free from her mental and emotional grip and became successful in spite of her best efforts to keep them pinned down.   

The healthy role of a parent is to raise her children to be confident, self-sufficient and strong. These fundamental building blocks, along with a strong moral compass, will provide the strength to face their own unique challenges in life.

This is in complete contradiction to the agenda of the narcissistic parent. The child’s best interests never affect her actions. In fact, the slightest questioning or confrontation from another person about her actions is met with self-righteous indignation. If her tactics fail to silence the challenger, then she can and will display an unbridled rage. The self-absorbed narcissistic parent has an unabashed sense of entitlement and is a master manipulator, determined to get whatever she thinks she wants. She is never satisfied and is in a constant state of agitation because she fears not getting what she wants or enough of it. She is never satisfied, no matter what. In fact, she generally sees her life through a prism of victim-hood.

By Cynthia Peterson

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