My name is Asiya Nasir, aka @Mamabasic on social media. I studied Psychology, Counseling, and Therapies, worked with adults with mental health psychosis challenges and worked under a Child and Adolescent Mental Health psychiatric doctor. I have come across narcissistic parents in my line of work, and I have some personal experiences when dealing with them. I am very interested in this topic, as it can be very complex yet fascinating at the same time, so thank you for having me.
What defines a narcissistic parent?
A parent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder displays classic traits such as lack of empathy, very controlling over their offspring, often very self-absorbed and rarely acknowledge their children’s achievements. They come across as arrogant, but many are insecure deep down and in need of constant admiration and attention.
What are the different forms of abuse caused by narcissistic parents?
There are five main types:
- Parentification: The parent teaches their child early on that they are responsible and need to take care of their parent, which makes a child feel a loss of childhood, no sense of self-worth and a lot of guilt.
- Infantilization: The opposite of the above, where this time the parent teaches the child that they are utterly dependent on that parent, which makes the child have no free will and brings helplessness in life.
- Triangulation: The parent controls what happens between the child and someone else, usually a sibling. They team up with one sibling and go against the other. The targeted child feels like an outsider, not “in” the family.
- Narcissistic Supply: When a parent tries to live through their child, they “use” their child. Usually, children then feel under pressure and unhappy living for someone else.
- Gaslighting: When the narcissistic parent lies to their child and causes the child to question their reality and what is the truth. For example, the parent insists that the child did not hear what they have heard.
What are the signs and traits of narcissistic parents?
There are many signs to look out for, however here are four common ones:
- Lack of empathy: When they cannot understand their child’s thoughts and feelings,
- Egoism: They love to talk about themselves, and any conversation with or about their child will somehow come back to talking about how wonderful they are. The world revolves around them.
- Emotional blackmail: They put down their offspring, blame them, guilt trip them and manipulate them so the parent can get what he or she wanted.
- Jealousy: Narcissistic parents often feel jealous of their kids especially if the child is maturing and gaining independence. The parent believes they should remain their child’s one and only priority.
How does this relationship affect the child?
Ultimately, this approach will make the child very confused and question if they are loved. Most times the child’s feelings, reality or achievements will not be recognized, and this will instill in them the idea that maybe they do not matter. This inability to trust their feelings has massive long-term effects right into adulthood.
The child may not develop their sense of self, they may feel used and manipulated, or learn not to trust others. They will also be very conscious about their image in front of others. Their emotional void of not feeling loved may result in the child seeking love or validation from other people, making all future relationships unhealthy especially when looking for a life partner. Poor self-esteem, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety is very common too.
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Tell us more about the golden child and the scapegoat
Just as it sounds, the narcissistic parent assigns roles to their children, labeling one as the golden child and the other as the scapegoat. The method of triangulation is used to target the golden child against the scapegoat, through fabricated lies: the parent would reveal private information about the scapegoat, creating rumors and essentially gang up against him/her. It sounds bad for the scapegoat; however, both roles face daily psychological whiplash of being raised by a narcissist. The golden child ends up just serving the parent and losing their sense of who they are and the scapegoat carry’s around a lot of shame and constant blame.
How do narcissistic parents affect the relationship between siblings?
In my experience, I have seen a lot of siblings develop sibling rivalry, sibling competition and a confusing bond between themselves where trust, love and respect is questionable. From a young age, siblings are taught to compare each other in a bid to win the parents ‘love’ and be the golden child. Sometimes this sibling relationship cannot be fixed in later life of the siblings However I did study a case where the siblings grew older and both understood what had happened to them (through therapy) and now have a very close bond. Obviously, the therapy factor here was a massive aid in their mind-set to be able to realize they had a narcissistic parent but also gives hope to the sibling bond for other sufferers.
realize they had a narcissistic parent but also gives hope to the sibling bond for other sufferers.
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How do you deal with a narcissistic parent?
If you have suffered from being raised by a narcissistic parent, the best way to deal with it is to educate yourself about the condition and come to terms with the fact that unfortunately, a narcissist parent will not change. There is no cure or a quick fix. Recognizing the roles in your family will help open your eyes, such as the previously mentioned golden child and scapegoat roles and then boundaries need to be put in place against that parent. But most of all, the child needs to learn to stop self-blaming because it is not his or her fault. There is help out there in forms of therapists, counselors, life coaches, etc.
If you are not the child of this type of parent and are wondering how you can deal with it, the same process applies: education, create firm boundaries, do not give them an ego boost and watch out for your own mental health, as it is really easy to get sucked into their drama.
Lastly, accept that you may actually have to cut ties and move on in order to do what’s best for both you and the parent. Unfortunately, these parents do not really improve or see how unhealthy their behavior is. Just remember you are never alone dealing with this, so reach out to others, join an online support group, read other peoples experiences etc.
Does narcissism run in the family?
There is a possible genetic component to narcissism but there is not conclusive evidence that suggests so. It is more likely that it is genetic however it is hard to separate genetic factors from environmental influences. The line between nature and nurture is very thin. Is the narcissistic parent actually behaving because of a genetic personality disorder or from what they were taught/shown when they were growing up?
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