Childhood with a narcissistic parent

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Learning how to understand and make peace with your childhood is one of the most healing and empowering experiences you could ever go through.

Are you the child of a narcissistic mother or father? If so, the first step in healing is to be willing to explore what you went through as a child.
This process of exploring the narcissistic actions of your parent is not done to condemn them or to victimise yourself.

Instead, this process is done to help you understand the root cause of any pain you are still experiencing, to learn how to release it, and to move on with your life.
This becomes a strengthening and rejuvenating process.

The thing about having a narcissistic mother/father is that you have been taught to believe that you are the crazy and imbalanced one, instead of them. This causes you to constantly doubt yourself and any feelings you have about them.
Another major sign of being raised by narcissists is the constant guilt you struggle with. In other words, while you might suspect that there is something ‘off’ with your parents, you feel ashamed to think about them in such a way, and you tend to start beating yourself up instead.

There are two main kinds of narcissists:

Engulfing narcissists — these are parents who see their children as extensions of themselves. In other words, engulfing narcissistic parents become obsessively involved in your life to an extreme extent. They do not respect your boundaries or acknowledge you as a separate person.
Ignoring narcissists — these are parents who have very little interest in their children. Ignoring narcissists clearly see the boundary between themselves and their children.

Signs you were raised by a narcissistic mother/father:

They tried to control you through codependency — you were told by your parent/s “don’t leave me. I need you. I can’t live without you. This made it impossible for you to live an autonomous life or establish independent priorities other than catering to the needs of your parent/s.

They laid on the guilt thick — another method of controlling you was to constantly guilt trip you into doing what they wanted. They may have told you “I’ve done so much for you, I’ve sacrificed everything for you”. As a result, you felt indebted to them and as though you ‘owed’ them complete compliance.

They only loved you when you did what they wanted — if you failed to do what they wanted, they would punish you severely, or give you the silent treatment. You had the impression that they only loved you when you proved your worth to them.

They liked to ‘get even’ with you — when you did something ‘wrong’ or against their will — even in the smallest way — they made sure they punished you.

They never respected your boundaries — there was not any ‘private’ space to call your own growing up

They competed with you — if you ever got something nice, they took it from you, or got something nicer to ‘out-do’ you

As a child of a narcissist, you will likely struggle with these problems:

Co-dependency in other relationships
Weak sense of self
Poor interpersonal boundaries and inability to say ‘no’
Chronic guilt or shame
Self-loathing
Emptiness
Trust issues
Inability to express or handle emotions
Anxiety or depression
Being a people-pleaser

If any of the above resonates with you, contact Rhita Russon, social worker, Jewish Community Services on 021 462-5520 or rhita@jcs.org.za about attending a narcissist support group.

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