Sep 25

Parented by a Narcissist?

Parented by a narcissist? The following quotes about being parented by a narcissist have been selected from the following books:

Ramani Durvasula: [Being parented by a narcissist] is an early manifestation of a phenomenon termed by some as “co-narcissism.” Alan Rappoport describes this as unconsciously adapting to and supporting the narcissistic patterns of another person. He argues that this pattern starts in childhood, with the child having to adjust and calibrate to the narcissistic parent.
Narcissistic parents are not tuned into their children, and the narcissistic parent largely views the child as an object with which to satisfy his or her needs. Narcissistic parents will be overly indulgent and intrusive about some things and detached and uninterested in others. Children in these situations often believe life is unpredictable and strive hard to please “unpleasable” and distracted parents. If you grow up like this, you learn that you are valued for what you did, but only if it was aligned with your parent’s wants and needs. It can be a confusing way to grow up and also the perfect set-up for accepting narcissistic behavior as “normal” and then tolerating it from a partner or in other close relationships.

Danu Morrigan: Being raised by a narcissist is a special kind of crazy. It is a pure and lasersharp form of psychological and emotional abuse. But even more devastatingly, it is an invisible abuse. Neither the perpetrator nor the victim even knows it‟s happening. The perpetrator, the narcissist, doesn‟t think she‟s abusing anyone because, by definition, she‟s perfect, remember, and perfect people don‟t do imperfect things like abuse people. And the abuse victim, the daughter – this would be you – doesn’t realise she‟s abused because she believes her mother‟s lies and thinks that everything is her fault, that she is the one who is broken.

Karyl McBride: Boys seem to have a different kind of relationship with Mother. Just about every daughter of a narcissistic mother has reported to me that her brother or brothers were better liked and more favored than she or her sisters were. Daughters consistently report how hurtful this has been. Typically, the mother appears not to notice the imbalance, or if confronted, denies it, but it does make some sense. Her sons are not threatening to her in relation to the father as another girl or woman is, because the boys are not as much an extension of her as is a daughter.

Danu Morrigan: Our Narcissistic Mother told us a Big Lie. She told it subliminally if not in actual words. And The Big Lie was this: If we tried hard enough we could win her approval and her love. If we were good enough, or wise enough, or beautiful enough, or that-magical-unspecified-ingredient enough. In other words, if we achieved perfection, she would love us.

 Joseph Burgo: Narcissistic Parents often enlist other family members on their side, causing rifts and building alliances against a “bad” child. In other words, they may bully their own children. The victims of such behavior often describe themselves as a “scapegoat,” held accountable for all the family troubles. Their mothers often compare them unfavorably to a sibling viewed as “golden,” one child a loser and the other a winner. Narcissistic Parents tell blatant lies, too, painting themselves as victims and their children as heartless ingrates.

Robert M. Pressman and Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman: The typical adult from a narcissistic family is filled with unacknowledged anger, feels like a hollow person, feels inadequate and defective, suffers from periodic anxiety and depression, and has no clue about how he or she got that way.

May 07

Adult Children of Narcissists: Six Books

The following six books contain useful info for adult children of narcissists:

I. Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in their Struggle for Self. Elan Golomb, PhD (1992)

Clinical psychologist Elan Golomb, who had a narcissistic father, authored one of the first books on this subject. Kirkus Reviews noted that she has a psychoanalytical orientation and “writes in language more accessible to other therapists than to general readers, unleavened by humor, and without a specific agenda. But difficult as her approach may be, it’s sound and ultimately rewarding as well.”

“Simply put,” says Golomb, “the children of narcissists…share a common belief: They believe they do not have the right to exist.”

Dr. Karyl McBride, who wrote the next book on this list, wrote on Facebook in 2011: “I have always liked Elan Golomb’s quote from Trapped in the Mirror: ‘There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead and when she was good she was criticized anyway’.”

II. Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. Karyl McBride, PhD (2008)

A few sample quotes:

We daughters of narcissistic mothers believe we have to be there for them—and that it is our role to attend to their needs, feelings and desires—even as young girls. We don’t feel that we matter to our mothers otherwise.

Sometimes being a supportive friend to her mother is the only way for the daughter to get positive strokes from Mom. The daughter may fall into the friend role willingly, not even realizing there is something terribly wrong with the arrangement until much later in life.

A narcissistic mother sees her daughter, more than her son, as a reflection and extension of herself rather than as a separate person with her own identity. She puts pressure on her daughter to act and react to the world and her surroundings in the exact manner that Mom would, rather than in a way that feels right for the daughter.

III. You’re Not Crazy – It’s Your Mother. Danu Morrigan (2012)

An excerpt from Morrigan on sons of narcissistic mothers (on her website):

…It is through his relationship with his mother that a boy learns how to relate to women, and of course with a narcissistic mother a man is going to not have a healthy model for those relationships.

It can cause problems in later relationships too, as his narcissistic mother can try to interfere in his marriage and the son’s partner would struggle to understand why he concedes to his mother so much. This can be a problem for daughters of narcissistic mothers too, of course, but I imagine it’s worse for men as our culture expects men to be strong and independent, and here is this man giving into his mother’s demands and whims. His whole concept of masculinity can be damaged by this. We could of course discuss whether that’s a fair concept of masculinity, but that’s a whole different topic. The reality for now is that strength and independence are considered hallmarks of masculinity, and the bullied son of a narcissistic mother can fail to show those traits sufficiently for his, or others’, liking.

IV. Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up’s Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents. Nina W. Brown, EdD, LPC (2008)

The predecessor to the following by the same author…

“Growing up with a parent who is self-absorbed is difficult, and they may become more difficult to deal with as they age,” states the publisher of Brown’s latter book.

Therapist and professor Eleanor F. Counselman: “Brown delineates four types of self-absorbed parents—Clingy, Suspicious-Defensive, Arrogant, and Belligerent—and provides excellent strategies for managing interactions with each type of parent. The book has useful exercises designed to help readers manage their side of these very difficult relationships more effectively.”

VI. Adult Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers: Quiet the Critical Voice in Your Head, Heal Self-Doubt, and Live the Life You Deserve, Stephanie M. Kriesberg, PsyD, Wendy T. Behari, LCSW (2022)

Jonice Webb, PhD: “Stephanie Kriesberg has written a reassuring and easy-to-read book about what it’s like to grow up with a mother who is raising you to meet her own needs and is generally incapable of empathy. Kriesberg describes the causes of narcissism in vivid prose. Replete with real-life examples, exercises, and thoughtful journaling questions, I will be sending clients and friends to this book again and again.”

(This post was last updated 2/7/22.)