Do You Have a Narcissist Parent / Parent-in-law?
Emotional abuse within families and especially originated by parents is still a taboo subject. In particular, narcissistic abuse remains undetected. Almost all people have experienced violence in their childhood. But we imagine that violence has to be physical with blows, shouts, and cries. But there is also emotional violence and it is almost worse because it is invisible to outsiders. It is a violence that at first sight is not detectable. We speak of manipulation, ignorance, insults, disdain, and degradation.
Do you actually think your parents or in-laws are narcissists, and you are suffering from this type of abuse? Keep reading to find out!
First, what is a narcissist parent? Narcissism is a personality pattern characterized by a great lack of empathy, airs of greatness and a chronic search for admiration and constant validation. Superficiality, greed, and vanity are other characteristics that form its central core.
The problem of a narcissistic adult, when they have children, is that children do not offer the kind of continuous positive feedback they crave and these egocentric parents tend to react in two different ways: some lose interest in their children when they do not find that approval and look for other sources of validation and others see their children as a reflection of themselves and become "helicopter" parents: hyperactive and controlling. In both cases, the disconnection is the key point, because even the overly involved narcissistic parent is emotionally separated from his child.
Narcissistic parents have great expectations for their children. They push their children to excel in sports, to do well in school, to attend elite universities and to follow important careers. Narcissistic parents believe that their children are special and that they deserve special opportunities and privileges. In other words, they tolerate nothing less than perfection. They see their children as part of themselves, Like their arm or their leg, and when their children do not achieve the goals that extend them, they withdraw their affection and disconnect, which is what probably is happening to you.
Children, or basically anyone that has parents, are not prepared to handle that disconnection from their primary caregivers. I mean, we all need parents that are consistent, available and unconditional, mainly to be able to form secure attachments. In adulthood, we will rely on these secure attachments formed in childhood to dictate how we relate to others, to ourselves, and even to external situations, hence their importance. When the formation of that secure union is interrupted, the impact can last a lifetime.
The problems that are caused by narcissist parents include higher than average rates of depression and anxiety, lack of self-regulation, eating disorders, low self-esteem, an altered sense of self, extreme perfectionism and even substance abuse, which are probably one of your current conditions.
If this whole situation seems too alike to yours, you do have narcissist parents. Keep reading to see what you have to do in this case!
Narcissist Parent / Parent-in-law Check List
If you are still in doubt, there is a much easier way to find out if you have narcissist parents. Just answer yes or no to each point of this checklist:
- When talking about the problems of life with your parents, do they divert the speech to talk about themselves?
- When talking about your feelings with their parents, do they try to devalue the feeling by comparing it with theirs?
- Do your parents only support your issues if they make the remain as "good parents" in public?
- Have you always felt a lack of emotional closeness with your parents?
- When something happens in your life (accident, illness, divorce) your parents react as if you had made them suffer on purpose?
- Are your parents too aware of what others think (neighbors, friends, family, co-workers)?
- Do you feel responsible for your parents' issues (headaches, stress) or have you ever been accused of being the culprit of parents' illnesses for not behaving as they wanted?
- Do your parents want to control their decisions
- Do your parents change their mood very quickly from selfish/offensive to a depressed and victimized state and vice versa?
- Did you feel that you had to take care of the emotional needs of your parents as a child?
- Do you feel manipulated in the presence of your parents?
- Do you feel valued by your parents for what you do and not for what it is?
- Do your parents act in public as a victim or martyr?
If you have many “yes” answers, more than half of the questions, chances are that you actually have narcissist parents. As this is now an actual issue for you, we will give you some tips on how to live with this next, so no worries yet!
Should You Confront a Narcissist Parent (or in law)?
Sometimes, loving a narcissist means doing it at a safe distance, even if the narcissist in question is your parent.
Realizing and accepting that you have one or more narcissistic parents is a long and intensely painful path. That's because children, even adults, still want love and approval, often against the evidence that your parents have not been able to and can never provide you with the unconditional love you so long for.
Ultimately, having a zero or low contact with a narcissistic parent can be a healthy and liberating option. So, the answer is no, you shouldn’t control a narcissist parent, but instead change the way you handle them, in this case, by creating distance.
Creating distance with your parents means giving up the illusion that they will one day change and releasing the feeling of responsibility for them that they may have instilled in you.
What is more important than starting a break is learning to be assertive and setting limits when parents are inappropriate, controlling, invasive or abusive.
Getting out of the shadow of a narcissistic parent can be difficult, but often incredibly necessary in adulthood. Find out more about how to do this next!
15 Ways to Deal with Narcissist Parents (or in laws)
1.Recognize that your health and well-being come first
It is more than likely that you have tried to please your narcissistic parents a lot, in fact too much, to the point of not recognizing or thinking that you have a right to your own needs and desires.
As an adult, it is time to reappropriate your wishes and needs and put them as priorities. If you prioritize the wishes and needs of other people (friends, couples, bosses) you will have dysfunctional relationships, repeating the dynamics of your narcissistic family. This does not mean that you do not take others into account and that you do not take care of the link you have with the people who are important in your life. It is about prioritizing yourself taking into account the other person and negotiating. Negotiating includes setting limits and saying no.
2.Learn to detach yourself and set limits
To truly disassociate yourself and forge an identity outside the shadow of your parents, you will have to learn to detach yourself, which essentially means ceasing to be reactive, sharing only certain information or setting limits to demands such as messages or daily calls. To summarize, stop being a child and empower yourself.
3.Try not to be conflictive, but set clear limits
Narcissists do not take responsibility for their behaviors and are generally not able to have empathy, so a confrontation is a trap for more pain, disappointment, and anguish.
Still, you need to communicate your need for space. Say it as something that you need, expose your position without reproaches or accusations, and then set solid limits.
It is important to work on yourself during this time. You are taking the best possible decision for yourself and your mental health to move forward. You have the right to it. Always remember that!
4. Accept that your narcissistic parent will make everything harder
Keep in mind that there is a high probability that your parents do not respect your desire for a while. That's because narcissists often see their children as extensions of themselves instead of people with their own needs.
They may try to punish you, boycott you or blackmail you for your decision. Once you have established your limits, do not move them. Do not succumb to scolding, threats, accusations or any other form of manipulation.
5. Do not blame yourself
Children of narcissistic parents usually have a long history of self-blame, feel fear as the most present emotion in their lives and have the feeling that they are "defective". This is because in their narcissistic families they were very manipulated to feel this way, they have internalized these feelings and as adults and they keep repeating them until they start therapy.
Narcissistic parents are very good at lashing out or crying when their children express their own needs, training them to point to themselves whenever they feel hurt, alone or angry about the abuse. In turn, the children grow thinking: “I am too demanding, very sensitive, extremely selfish”.
Now that you are an adult, it is essential that you free yourself from guilt and recognize that the behavior of your narcissistic family was very toxic and harmful to you as a child. Then, you could not do anything, you were completely dependent on your parents. Now you have the power to create a new, healthier link for yourself and to which you are entitled.
6. Learn to say no
Children do it all the time. At two years old, they dare to say "no" when they are fed, "no" when it is time to sleep, "no" when something they do not like. Shout it, repeat it, say it as many times until it comes naturally to you. And then say it when it matters. Say mostly to your parents, but also learn to say it when you are at work and you are that guy who has three times the workload for not knowing how to say "no". Say it when your friends drag you on a spree even though you're tired and all you want is to sleep. Go on, say it, the coolest thing is to realize that nothing bad happens when you say "no".
7. Deal with stress
And I'm not just talking about the horrible expectations we have about ourselves. Growing up with a narcissistic parent means living stressed: you're never good enough, smart, beautiful or whatever they say you are not. And that means you grew stressed. Panic attacks, night paralysis, nightmares, insomnia, tremors, depression, anxiety, your body reaches the edge of collapse when you reach adulthood, so go, give yourself a little love and adopt anything that makes you leave that cycle, from yoga to a good and classic psychological therapy.
8. Don't be afraid to rebel
Maybe you did not get angry because the anxiety would eat you up. But the truth is that guilt is a perpetual symptom in those who grew up with narcissists parents, especially if it was your turn to be the "golden child". You still remember that time you wanted to go on vacation with friends and ended up calling your abusing parent every day because guilt made you think that they were going to die from your "abandonment" or that time you wanted a tattoo but you did not get it because definitely, even if you are an adult, you feel that your body does not belong to you. That is not the way to go anymore, or ever again.
Now it is time to go on and mount a micro rebellion. Get that tattoo, go on vacation wherever you want to. They will blame you whether you do it or not and you know that, so do it anyway.
9. Their problems are not yours
Okay, I know this sounds pretty obvious, but if you grew up having to deal with the emotional weight of your narcissistic parents' problems, it's not that easy to understand. If your parents go for you for solutions for their problems, tell them to look for a therapist, that you do not get paid a dime for solving them.
10. Reduce or end contact
Pigs do not fly. And narcissists do not change. And no, your friend that came to you with that sermon that with therapy everyone can change has no idea that not even a battalion of psychologists would make your parents stop being a narcissist. So, do what is necessary. If you think you can deal with what it means to maintain a reduced contact (and all the guilt that they are going to throw at you), do it. If the damage is too great and you can no longer live with that psychological torture, end the contact.
11. Get angry
The children of narcissists have a terrible sense of guilt. But worse than that is the shame we feel for having rage, because, although you know that your narcissistic parent, was negligent (and because of that you were a constant victim of his viperine language), you still have the idea that you have no right to be angry. Assume you're angry. You are not Christ to walk lavishing forgiveness. You have every right to be pissed. Feeling angry is something completely normal, and as far as you do not direct it to others or to yourself, it is fine that it exists. Not feeling it in the case of violent situations (physical or psychological) is the problem. So go, say it out loud: I'M MAD!
12. Find allies
Look for people, friends or family, that can help you and support you through this hard experience.
13. Find experts
Therapy and counseling are also a great help for this process, so lose the fear of doing it. You will be surprised at how good it will be for you, and how much progress it will make you have. After all, experts are called experts for something.
14. Be strong
Strength is the only thing that will make you get through this and succeed, so hold on to it. If you have a strong mindset, things will go your way, that is all you need.
15. Don't give up
There will be some times when you will feel defeated, down, worthless, guilty, or you will want to go back to your old ways, but as with everything, don’t give up. Every process has its ups and downs, so don’t get scared when one of those comes up, just get up and keep going, but never give up!
If you keep letting your narcissistic parent control, manipulate, blame, ridicule you ... it's like having an open door to other people who are like them to do it, too. If you start putting limits on your parents, it will be easier for you to do it with other people in your life. That will be the beginning of a change not to remain trapped emotionally in an abusive childhood that you did not deserve at all. With all of these tips, we are sure that you will get to that place where you feel entitled, independent, and yourself once and for all. You can do it!