For decades I have been treating adult children of narcissistic parents. Usually, however, these clients come in citing other issues as their cause of distress, such as depression, anxiety, low self esteem, and an inability to ever feel good or accomplished enough. Time and again, I have discovered that so many of these symptoms reflect back to a childhood where one or both parents were narcissistic. While narcissism is a spectrum disorder, the hallmark of it is a person who is incapable of expressing empathy or unconditional love. Life is always about them, rarely about the child. These relationships with the narcissistic parent, of course, continue into adulthood and their toxicity effects many aspects of everyday life.
The dynamics of this relationship is that it is always about MOM. And this particular mom not only can't be empathic but is often critical and judgmental. She (or he) can't deal with her own feelings and will try to make their child a friend, therapist or confidant rather than a daughter or son. In these relationships, there is often a profound lack of boundaries. These parents can be engulfing, the "smother mother", where there is no room for the child to develop his own self, or ignoring and under parenting, offering no guidance or support. Sometimes the narcissistic parent will be both, alternating between engulfment and abandonment. The effects on the adult children include growing up to be over achievers and/or self saboteurs. Many also have difficult issues with trust The children of narcissists learn a distorted idea of love and may not learn that healthy relationships are about interdependence and reciprocity, not about dependence/co-dependence and self involvement. This may hamper their choice of life partner, friends and even work situations.
I have recently completed certification in a five-point program of recovery developed by Dr.Karyl McBride entitled "Will I Ever Be Good Enough". The steps are:
Healing and Grief
Separation and Individuation
Becoming the person I really am
Dealing with parent during recovery
Ending the narcissistic legacy
If you are an adult child of a narcissistic parent, please contact me and we can work together toward your healing.