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How To Recover From Growing Up With A Narcissistic Parent.

How To Recover From Growing Up With A Narcissistic Parent. | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

Imagine…

A father who puts his 11-year old daughter on the bathroom scale and tells her that no man will ever love her if the line goes above 150lbs, but then he says he’s “only telling her this for her own good”…

Imagine…

A mother who seems like the perfect, well-regarded soccer mom, sweet and helpful to other parents and kids out in public but who rages and screams at her children and husband at home when they displease her…

How To Recover From Growing Up With A Narcissistic Parent. | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

How To Recover From Growing Up With A Narcissistic Parent.

Imagine…

A father who plays blatant favorites among his children and who only shows any of them love when they do what he wants or when they act like he wants them to…

Imagine…

A mother who deliberately makes her kids feel confused by telling them something didn’t happen when it objectively did, invalidating their experience and helping them learn they can’t trust themselves…

Do any of these scenarios feel familiar? Do they make you angry or feel uncomfortable? Do they remind you of anyone you know?

Each of these sample vignettes describes a narcissistic parent, or, rather, common actions a narcissistic parent may inflict upon their children.

And in each of these examples (assuming they’re not just one-off experiences), the impact on the children can be profound.

This is a painful, complex, and deeply important topic to talk about because the relational collateral damage of having been raised by a narcissistic father or mother can be vast, hugely impactful, and sometimes intergenerational in continuity if left unhealed and unaddressed by the adult child.

So in today’s post, I want to talk about what a narcissist is, the potential consequences of narcissistic parenting on children, and share suggestions and resources for recovery if you identify with having been raised by a narcissist. Also, if you are ready to stop letting narcissistic parenting affect your life, please be sure to explore my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries.

What defines a narcissist?

It’s important to clarify that narcissism – excessive interest and pre-occupation in oneself – exists on a spectrum of severity and that all of us as humans are narcissistic to some degree.

And while sometimes narcissism is developmentally appropriate (think toddlers who still haven’t figured out the world doesn’t revolve around them), for others who fall on the more severe end of the narcissism spectrum or who possess the full criterion of narcissistic personality disorder, this would not be considered developmentally appropriate.

So there is narcissism as a trait (with variance falling across a wide spectrum), and then there is a narcissist, or, for the sake of this article, someone who meets the criteria of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM).

The clinical criteria of someone with NPD include:

[box] “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates accomplishments and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate accomplishments).

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).

4. Requires excessive admiration.

5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.

6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).

7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.

9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.”*

*American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.[/box] 

According to the DSM, prevalence rates for NPD “range from 0% to 6.2%” of the population and, of those diagnosed with NPD, “50-70% are male.” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)

Official criteria and statistics aside, I’ll add that in my professional experience, there is no one single, universal profile of a narcissist.

A narcissist can be a leader of the free world, or a mediocre small business owner, a washed-up old con man, a homebody recluse, a brilliant and accomplished academic, or a stay at home mom. Narcissists can be male or female and found, indiscriminately, across work sectors, races, and socioeconomic strata.

Ultimately, though, regardless of this profile variance, narcissists are defined by an almost exclusive, self-serving focus on themselves and firmly entrenched psychological defenses that guard against almost intolerable feelings of shame stemming from a deeply wounded psyche.

Simply put, deep down, narcissists feel terrible about themselves and do whatever they can to make themselves feel better.

This leads the narcissist to cope through a variety of ways, ultimately seeking to make themselves appear and feel more important and special than, at their core, they truly feel.

Unfortunately, in the pursuit of trying to appear more special and important, they often relationally wound those around them, particularly their spouses and their children.

What can make being raised by a narcissist parent so damaging?

The psychological effects of childhood neglect and emotional abuse are, fortunately, and unfortunately, well documented.

We know that children have core developmental needs that include consistent attachment, mirroring, attunement, and positive regard from their primary caregiver(s) in order to help them establish a stable, cohesive, and positive sense of self and to help them learn secure relational attachment.

We also know that when children don’t consistently receive this, or when they instead receive consistent invalidation, frequent insecure attachment experiences, a lack of empathy, or outright hostility from their caregiver(s), this will impact them in myriad ways.

Unfortunately, parents with NPD possess character traits that are almost antithetical to being able to provide their children what they need to emotionally and mentally develop and thrive.

For example:

  • Narcissists can struggle with being able to focus their attention and orient towards someone else instead of towards themselves (refocusing parenting begs of us);
  • Children’s normal and natural childhood needs can be a “bother” to a narcissist;
  • The moods of a narcissist may be highly variable and explosive in nature if their fragile emotional regulation skills are challenged (which is inevitable with children);
  • Narcissists can often seek to put their children down to make themselves feel better and/or play favorites among their children, seeking to stabilize themselves through manipulation of the family dynamics;
  • Seeing the child as an extension of themselves, a narcissist may attempt to control the appearance, pursuits, and trajectory of the child so that they align with the image the narcissist is personally trying to display to the world;
  • Narcissists may only show love to a child when they perform or act in ways that are pleasing to the narcissist, disallowing a child’s authentic experiences and individuality to come forth;
  • Instead of displaying and providing consistent support for their children, a narcissist may invert the dynamic and expect validation, support, and esteem stabilization from their children, therefore parentifying them;
  • A narcissistic parent, confronted with a child who is particularly strong-willed, defiant, or independent, may rage, abuse, or even disown the confrontational, scapegoated child.

And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. There are myriad ways in which narcissistic parenting can manifest.

However, despite how the individual actions of the narcissist show up, and whether the child was raised by a single narcissistic parent or in a blended or married family that colluded with the narcissist, it’s safe to assume that any child – whether this child was the favorite or the family scapegoat – doesn’t escape the ill impacts of being parented by a narcissist.

So what can the ill impacts of being parented by a narcissist look like?

Again, while the impacts on the child will vary as widely as the ways in which narcissistic parenting may manifest, some of the impacts may include:

  • Absorbing and deeply believing in dysfunctional and destructive emotional templates of what love looks like;
  • They can learn their worthiness is dependent on how they act and what they do, not on who they are or that they are worthy just for existing;
  • They may struggle with setting healthy and appropriate boundaries;
  • They may struggle or fail to recognize healthy romantic partners and even be drawn to dating or marrying narcissists themselves;
  • Adult children of narcissists may fall into caretaking and rescuing roles, seeking validation and worthiness from taking care of others and people-pleasing;
  • They may neglect their needs and wants, or even be “needless and wantless”;
  • They can have a hard time trusting that their feelings and thoughts are valid and that their needs will ever be met;
  • They may deeply struggle with their self-esteem and with maintaining a stable and cohesive sense of self;
  • Adult children of narcissists may attempt to cope with their emotional pain from a childhood of neglect and emotional abuse through addictive and self-destructive substances and behaviors;
  • Also, adult children of narcissists may possibly grow up to become narcissists themselves.

And again, this list is in no way exhaustive of all the psychological impacts being parented by a narcissist may have on someone.

The impacts will vary and will depend on the context of the child or adult child, how strong their sense of self was, whether they had stabilizing, functional relationships with other adults in their childhood, whether they were the scapegoat or the favorite child, how much or how little contact they had with the narcissist, etc..

Ultimately though, the adult children of narcissists will likely face complex psychological healing tasks as a result of their parenting experiences.

So how does one begin healing after being parented by a narcissist?

Healing from a narcissistic parent.

The healing work required by adult children of narcissists will likely include the following tasks:

  • Educate yourself. Whether this is through books (see my reference list below) or through professional support, you will likely need to begin learning about what narcissism is, how it can show up in parenting, and what the possible impacts of it can look like. The first step in any healing process is bringing awareness to what is, and I find that psychoeducation about narcissists can be deeply illuminating as you begin to make sense of your past.
  • Confront your personal history of trauma and neglect. I strongly recommend working with a therapist or other trained professional as you begin to remember, talk about, and make sense of your past. And, side note, don’t necessarily look to your own family of origin for an accurate reflection of your personal history if you have memory gaps or questions. They may not be willing or able to validate your personal history based on their own trauma with the narcissist.
  • Grieve what you did not receive. Inevitably, in the course of educating yourself and confronting your past, you will need to grieve what you did not receive which, essentially, was a chance to truly be a kid. This grieving process may take quite some time, it can, at times, often feel endless, but it’s so valid and necessary to your healing process.
  • Work through the developmental milestones you may not have achieved. Often as children of narcissists we don’t fully get the chance to be children or teens with our own identities, needs, wants, and preferences. We may also have missed out on certain development milestones like lifestyle experimentation, dating, or even pursuing the education or career we wanted due to the impacts of psychologically unhealthy parenting. It’s, therefore, part of your healing work to begin working through any developmental milestones in conjunction with your personal history confrontation and grieving work.
  • Setting boundaries. Either with the narcissist(s) still in your life or with those you may be over accommodating and catering to. Learning what healthy boundaries are and how to set them with others is critical for those recovering from narcissistic parenting. 
  • Seek out healthier, more functional relationships. At first, these may feel hard if not impossible to recognize and you may not trust yourself that you can actually draw these kinds of relationship into your personal life. That’s okay. Start with your relationship with your therapist (a trained professional whose job it is to show up in a healthy, functional way) and allow them to help show you what could be possible in healthier relationships. Over time, may influence who you attract into your personal life.
  • Focus your healing and recovery work on developing a more cohesive and stable sense of self. For most adult children of narcissists, our core healing work revolves around developing a more cohesive and stable sense of self, learning to love and value ourselves for who we are, not for who we think we “should” be to win approval. A poor sense of self can impact every area of our lives, from our physical and mental health to our relationships, our career advancement, it can even impact your bank account. So focusing your work with your therapist on cultivating and developing a more cohesive and stable sense of self can be a wonderful way to focus your healing work.

Further resources you may want to look into to support your healing journey may include:

Wrapping This Up.

This post is not meant to demonize narcissists.

At the end of the day, narcissistic parents likely developed this way because of what they were modeled by their own parents.

And so it goes through the generations until one person of one generation decides to consciously and intentionally break the cycle.

My hope is that if you saw yourself in this article, whether as a child of a narcissist or possibly as a narcissist yourself, that you will make the choice to break the cycle for yourself and whatever family or legacy you create and leave behind.

If you would like support in doing this, I encourage you to reach out.

Now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: Do you identify with having been raised with a narcissistic parent? If so, what’s been one big lesson or discovery you’ve made in your healing journey that could help others traveling this path?

Leave a message in the blog comments below so our community of readers can benefit from your wisdom.

If you would like additional support with this and you live in California or Florida, please feel free to reach out to me directly to explore therapy together. You can also book a complimentary consult call to explore therapy with one of my fantastic clinicians at my trauma-informed therapy center, Evergreen Counseling.

Or if you live outside of these states, please consider enrolling in the waitlist for the Relational Trauma Recovery School – or my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, designed to support you in healing your adverse early beginnings and create a beautiful adulthood for yourself, no matter where you started out in life.

And until next time, please take very good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.

Warmly, Annie

*This is an affiliate link and any purchases made through this link will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you).

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  1. Mel on  

    I am a 38 year old woman who grew up with a narcissistic mother, my father and sister are enablers (and my sister is now the golden child, I was but now my sister has filled that role). I have alternated between the golden child and scapegoat all my life, have been gas-lighted all my life and even with extensive self-development (including therapy) I still find it difficult to trust myself and I am getting there with time – starting with small things, and working to bigger ones.

    The boundaries of my life outside of the family have never been respected, and if I enforce them it takes a major effort that is anxiety inducing. This seems like a struggle that is never-ending – but it is getting easier to trust myself because I’m able to sort what I see, what my family wants me to do (the “shoulds”) and make choices for myself.

    It has been a long road, and I am still chugging along.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Mel,

      What you’ve described in terms of the length of the journey and the work of the journey to cope with and recover from a narcissistic family system is what I find so many people have to do. It’s a long and sometimes arduous road (I wish it wasn’t!) but I’m really glad you’re on that path.

      I’m wishing you all the very best as you put one foot in front of the other.

      Warmly, Annie

    • MaryAnn Brackman on  

      I did not realize the effect that my mothers protection and her enabling of my gden child brother was so strong until some time after her death, both on myself and later on my eldest son. I should have pulled away long ago to protect my sons, especially my eldest son. I gained perspective after she was not around so finally I saw the whole disgusting picture. When my son or I said anything to protect ourselves, she jumped in to fight my brothers battles. Then she made me feel sorry for HER, tried to anyway. I decided to begin counseling again to help my son deal with all of this.

      • Annie on  

        Hi MaryAnn, thank you so much for taking the time to reach out and share a small piece of your story. I’m so sorry that you were faced with this difficult situation, but I’m so pleased to hear that you’ve gained a new perspective. I’m proud of you for doing the hard personal work and seeking out counseling support. I wish you all the best on your healing journey, take such good care of yourself. Warmly, Annie

  2. Simon on  

    Massively helpful. Absolutely on the money. Thank you very much. My mother is a narcissist par excellence. She’s still hellbent on destroying me and she’s eighty-two and I’m fifty-eight. But this has helped enormously.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Simon,

      I’m sorry to hear that you know first-hand what this feels like but am glad the article felt helpful in some small way. I’m wishing you all the best and hoping you do what you need to do in order to take care of yourself.

      Warmly, Annie

    • Heather Holmden on  

      Ditto. Great article. I just realized I am a child of a narsastic father focused on taunting his millions while his children struggle to simply survive, who’s all about self promotion and fits of rage when it’s not about “him.” Having spent my life keeping the peace, last night I shared my feelings about this topic and it didn’t go well…thus in search of information, I found this article. After reading, I’ve spent my life blaming him, and now won’t do that any more. It was HIS parents doing I turned 60 realizing, identifying and starting the healing. Thank you for sharing such insightful info, and stories! Be strong fellow children. You got this …

      • Annie on  

        Hi Heather,

        Thank you for your comment, I’m so pleased that the article brought some insight, though I’m sorry that this was your experience with your father. I’m proud of you for searching for information and for starting your healing journey.

        If either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be of support to you as you work toward healing, I’d love to support you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

        Warmly, Annie

    • Annie on  

      Thank you so much, Alice! I really appreciate your feedback and want to thank you for taking the time to read the post. Warmly, Annie

  3. Natasha on  

    Thank you for the great article and helpful information. I am 57, my mom died of cancer 16 years ago, I loved her more than anything in the world. Only 20 years after her death the reality hit me like a hammer: I was robbed of my childhood, normalcy, stability and unconditional love. I lived inconstant fear of losing her love, often receiving silent treatment for not behaving the way I was “supposed to”…Name calling, shaming, threats to disown me for talking back… I grew up believing that was just part of life and I had to take it. I know now that’s not the way most people grew up. The last blow of her narcissism was shortly before she died. I went back to Russia after she was diagnosed, and I knew her days were numbered. One day I got emotional and simply started sobbing because I couldn’t keep my sadness inside. She told me very firmly to immediately stop it because “it was very annoying “ to her. That was my last failed attempt to get vulnerable around her.
    My side effect of narcissistic abuse was my overeating habit and sugar addiction. I exercised a lot but could not maintain a healthy weight because of high calorie intake. Food was my compensation for what I didn’t get from my mother. Very slowly but steadily I am forming healthy eating habits and breaking my sugar addiction. My love and hugs to all my fellow brothers and sisters who went through the same life challenges, and to great psychologists helping us figure things out. ?

    • Annie on  

      Hi Natasha, thank you so much for taking the time to reach out and share a small piece of your story. I’m so sorry that you were faced with this difficult situation, but it’s inspiring to see how you are growing and taking care of yourself. I hope that you’re proud of yourself every single day for all that you’ve overcome and the progress you are making. I’m rooting for you and sending you my very best. Warmly, Annie

      • Riley on  

        Just coming to terms now with how my narcissistic father (age 55) robbed me of my childhood and continues to belittle me as I (23, female) find myself as an adult. It’s a dark time for me navigating my career, love life, and personal battles all the while knowing my dad doesn’t approve of what ever I do (he makes it clear over the phone) and pays no mind to others I’ve brought into my life (including my boyfriend of nearly 4 years). I’m ready to get after my life without making him a part of it, and working on myself day by day.

        • Annie on  

          Riley – I’m touched by your honesty and vulnerability and am glad that this article could bring you even a small sense of hope and healing. I know it is such a difficult journey, but your commitment to healing is really truly inspiring. I hope you continue to take care of yourself as you navigate through these dark times, and please seek extra support if you need it. You are so worth it. Warmly, Annie

      • Sally k on  

        My father was a pathological naccist still is. He loved to hit and abuse me since I was a few months old. My sister was the golden child and I was the devil.. Since we lived in an African village, everyone else hated me because my father demanded that they do so. When I was just 6 years old he would beat me up soo mercilessly and even give me black eyes, swollen limbs and I’d be disabled to go to school most of the time because of these injuries… I surely believed that I was a devil from that much constant exposure to torture and having no understanding as a child it had to go on that way. As a teenager he constantly accused me of having sex with multiple men at ago, when I was a virgin for God’s sake! He would say, “you dirty disgusting prostitute I know you get sexed by not less than 10 men in a day” this is when I was just 13!and I had no right to say otherwise because he made it a habit to always beat and torture me that sometimes I’d end up in hospital beds for more than 5 days.any attempt to justify myself was regarded as disrespect and i wouldn’t go without brutal punishment. Fast forward I later on ran away from home at 17, have struggled through life and now I’m 28,i have a husband and a child… (I was a B student by the way so I went through campus on my own and I’m pretty educated) to date, he still torments me, attempts to control my life and that of my husband… He constantly demands that my husband and I should give him money and take care of him unconditionally… And sets standards on how much money he should be receiving failure to which he gas lights, throws tantrums and curses me out! He even says that I should tell my husband to give him the money we use to pay bills, and says my husband is imperfect and that he is a disgrace and that I should get a better job and direct all my salary to him, and I do not have rights to even have an insurance fir my child that the money should be given ti him and nobody ekse.. Not even my child, it’s sickening!!

        • Annie on  

          Hi Sally, thank you for your honesty and vulnerability here. Growing up in a caustic environment can feel unsafe and painful. You have tolerated and overcome so many traumas, and I wish you only the best as you continue this journey with your father. Take such good care of yourself, I know all of this is challenging. Warmly, Annie.

        • CINDY on  

          Hi Sally K, I am so sorry that you had to experience physical and emotional abuse from your father. No offense, your father is a psychopath and undeserving of ANY financial assistance. His behavior is unacceptable and disgusting. If I were you, I would cut ties with this man for the sake of your mental health and you child’s development. Children are like sponges they learn from everyone. I hope you heal, God bless you.

  4. Louise Rawlings on  

    Hi,

    I was married to a narcissist and am now trying to navigate my way through supporting my three children in their relationships with their narcissistic father. All three have ended up self harming at some point. To cut a long story short…my 14 yr old is my worst concern. She has huge low self esteem, self hatred but does not acknowledge her fathers involvement in this. I’d love any information or texts that help a parent support a child in this situation.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Louise, it sounds like you’ve been through a lot in life and it also sounds, too, like you’re taking care of yourself and holding the boundaries that will best serve you. I would encourage you to browse through my library of posts about Healing Childhood Trauma here: https://www.anniewright.com/category/healing-childhood-trauma/. I think this is a great place to start in learning more about the best ways to support your children and yourself. If you need additional support in this, please don’t hesitate to seek that out. I am here for you. Warmly, Annie

    • Heather Holmden on  

      Talk to them about the things in this article. Had I learned it from a loved one, who cared and helped me thru would have helped me from decades of struggle. Keep talking!

      • Annie on  

        Hi Heather,

        You are so right, having an open dialogue can make such an impact on our kids. I encourage anyone who is struggling or raising children who are struggling, to seek support as it can be a safe place to talk about and process their experiences. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

        Warmly, Annie

  5. Jon on  

    Hi, My father died a few years ago and from reading my mother’s diaries and through our own childhood experiences my sister and I have realised that he may have been a narcissist. We are now consuming as much information as we can in order to come to terms with this discovery. I have two young children myself, and I am drifting between wondering if I am the victim, or whether I have become my father’s protege as it were and am perpetuating his narcissistic traits. I am so scared of messing up my children’s lives as well as my partners. I am analysing my every word and deed and it’s exhausting. I’m hoping that my self-reflection puts me in the victim camp but is this just a learned process to protect myself from the other possibility. As I said, it’s exhausting.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Jon, I truly and firmly believe that the parents who worry and wonder if they’re doing a good enough job as parents are actually the parents who are doing a great job. It’s the parents who never question that that tend to be more problematic for their children. It sounds like you’re doing you’re very best and are quite self-reflective – I applaud that! You may also want to check out this article I wrote some time ago: https://www.anniewright.com/how-to-raise-a-healthy-family-when-you-dont-come-from-one/ I hope that what I shared feels helpful to you. As I said, it says a lot about you (in a very good way!) that you’re even questioning how you can be a better father to your kids. Take such good care of yourself, Jon. Warmly, Annie

  6. Megan M on  

    Thanks for this. A therapist put a name to my mother’s behavior when I was 45. After my mother died, I found myself in a string of relationships with men who were abusive like her. I think part of it is I miss her terribly. She was abusive but I loved her. Am I looking for her in these men? I think so, maybe. Change is very hard. Slow but sure.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Megan, thank you for posting a comment and sharing your past. I appreciate your openness and vulnerability. I’m sorry to hear about your mother. Relationships with abusive parents can feel so complicated, and I’m proud of you for plugging along, no matter how long and tedious the healing process may feel. Thank you again for your comment, Megan.

  7. R H on  

    I was brought up in a single parent household by a considerably abusive NPD mother. I was lucky that her narcissism was so bad that I quickly learned it was an atypical upbringing and although I never got that validation from her there were plenty of others who could see it from the outside. Not the true extent, but that validation was lifesaving I think. I am still young, 19, so I have hope that I can lead a normal life. However a recent relationship brought up some pretty deep problems that I need to work on, including some narcissistic tendencies in myself which I find horrible. So far the most troubling discoveries I have learned about myself is that I have very bad trust issues and I struggle to appreciate the concept of reliability of outcome. Nothing feels ‘safe’ because no matter what I did her reaction was also unpredictable except for its tendency towards aggression- physical and emotional aggression. Couple that with an anxious attachment style and a perverse sense of how argueying works- seems like the recipe for having no confidence in my own psyche. I am struggling with the thought that I have no way of knowing if I am a good person or just an intelligent narcissist who has manipulated even parts of my own self into furthering a corrupted version of reality.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Rory, thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability in sharing your story. You’re not alone in questioning your history or your own struggles. You are absolutely not alone. I know relationships ending can feel painful and isolating, but your feelings and fears are completely valid. Please take such good care of yourself and take all the time you need. Thank you again for sharing your experience, Rory. Warmly, Annie.

      • Gábor Szurdoki on  

        “I am struggling with the thought that I have no way of knowing if I am a good person or just an intelligent narcissist who has manipulated even parts of my own self into furthering a corrupted version of reality” You are DEFINITELY not a narcissist. A narcissist does not read about narcissism, victims do.

        Love.

  8. Gábor Szurdoki on  

    First of all thanks for the article I’ve been studying this for a decade but you know, there is information that does not hit at a time, but later does when the right time comes.

    For a long time I thought actual intentional hurt and abuse is the most important thing in NPD parent abuse (guess, if it was 6 years ago I’d say it is and I would be right, I guess I’m just already over that), but it what the NPD or other Cluster B parents does NOT give to the children.

    That is at least as much detrimental, which we call this very very weak word: neglect.

    NPD-BPD neglect leaves you growing up, maybe you are even successful but walking around trying to figure out who the hell you are. You know it mentally but you don’t really know.

    Wish you all much love never give up

    • Annie on  

      Hi Gábor, I’m so glad you found this essay and that it resonated with you now in this chapter of your journey. I think you name something incredibly important that we now know from clinical research: neglect can be just as psychologically detrimental as outright abuse. Thank you for naming this and helping fellow blog readers perhaps feel more seen and validated. Warmly, Annie

  9. Niek on  

    Your article is very helpful, especially the “wrapping this up” in which I recognize myself being the one who will end this happening in the next generation. I do know that many CEO’s and political figurers are narcissists, I can know how to identify now, but why do you have to use a picture of Rudy Giuliani? I don’t think that is appropriate.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Niek, I’m pleased that this article felt helpful to you. I make it a point to only use purchased stock photos with models who have licensed their image to be used. However, I do see the resemblance you’re pointing out between this stock photo stranger and Rudy Giuliani. Warmly, Annie.

  10. Siree D. on  

    Thank you so much for this content. It’s really helpful.

    I’ve brought up by a narcissitic mother, who is self-oriented and unable to provide me emotional support. She also owns some toxic behavior, for example, she lashed out mean words and anger to me, when she feel bad about herself. It’s painful to receive calls from my mom, which she would talk about how I was a horrible daughther for 30mins to 1 hour. The worst part is that i couldnt tell this to anyone, because everybody around me would be confused as everybody sees her as a caring and kind mother.

    I have just started a journey on healing my wounds from a narcisstic mother. From the psychologist consultations, the psychologist told me that since i was born, my mom feels jealous of me as I am the one who takes my father love from her. And she sees me as a competitor. This results in her saying things to make me feel insecure such as “You are not pretty, You are not that smart. She doesnt like me when I was young, because my dad spoiled me.” It’s really painful to hear those words from the person you love the most.

    Since I have started to accept the truth that I have a narcisstic mother and I am a wounded adult child (29 years old). Many of the bad memories of me and my mom started to arise. I would let myself cry on it and let go of my sadness for these emotional abuses.

    It’s still not easy for me on the process of healing, but I know it’s worth it, I have started to feel lighter as im letting go of my emotional past.

    So, anyone who is just realised that you have unhealthy parents dont hesitate to seek help and heal these wounds.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Siree, I’m so happy this post resonated with you! And I’m so proud of you for doing the personal growth work of healing from childhood trauma. Thank you for sharing your story with us and take such good care of yourself. Warmly, Annie

  11. Starpetals on  

    My sister and I are still having flashbacks of how horrible our parents were while raising us. We are both stuck and even in our late 20s we are still grieving our troubled childhood full of unnecessary comments and physical abuse from our father, and the absence/indifference of our mother because of fear to my father. I’ve been struggling because as an adult I keep seeing in pop culture what is a normal family and I keep asking myself why I didn’t have that. I was a perfect daughter, the most applied student of the whole school, which means my father felt envy and was always looking for an opportunity to “proof” he was more smart than me. Until we had an argument and they kicked me out of the house (I had no money to get out sooner). Probably the worst thing is that they are too proud to ask for forgiveness, so they act as if nothing happened and want me to act like that as well. I don’t know what to do, so I will keep reading about healthy boundaries.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Alma, thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in sharing your story. I’m so proud of you for putting in the personal work and learning more about what healthy and functional families, relationships and boundaries *actually* look like. Fragile family systems often rely on others acting as if nothing has happened. But that doesn’t mean you have to participate and deny your own reality. I’m thinking of you and sending you all my best. Warmly, Annie.

  12. Bradley on  

    Mother held my sister and I to perfection and nothing was ever good enough. Mother & Father were hoarders and my childhood home was a disaster. Never had the childhood I saw other kids having. -Sleepovers, girlfriends, cheering me on at my events. Our Mother bragged about us in public and then shamed us at home. Now in my early 30s I’m starting to realize why I struggled through my college years making lasting relationships with quality people. Always found myself getting in my own way and being passively angry all the time. Also held myself to this grandiose standard of how my life needs to be which was impossible to achieve. Little Sis has sought out therapy and is doing great! I want to heal and I’d like to say I’m on the path.

    This article is incredibly helpful. I get a sense of deep isolation and the feeling of being all alone in this world, but material like this helps me get a better understanding of my childhood experience and how it wasn’t my fault.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Bradley, I’m so happy this post felt helpful to you! I know that healing from our trauma can feel isolating at times, but you’re absolutely not alone. I’m proud of you for taking things one step at a time and wish you all the best as you continue to grow and heal. And I’m so pleased to hear that your sister is doing well as a result of having gone to therapy! Have you explored that as an option for yourself, too? If you’re here in California, my team of trauma-informed clinicians at my therapy center could be a wonderful support to you: https://www.evergreencounseling.com/about/meet-our-team/ We work with the adult children of narcissistic parents regularly. Have a wonderful week and take such good care of yourself. Warmly, Annie

  13. Rosa on  

    Thanks for this piece which chimed with me. I’m a 43 year old with a narcisstic mother, an enabling father and 2 enabling (learning disabled) sisters… I played the golden child when I was younger, always trying to please. I’m now the scapegoat and get blamed when my autistic sister doesn’t understand things. My other sister is now the golden child, doing things to please my mother which she doesn’t necessarily enjoy herself, like speaking at big scary conferences to be a spokesperson for disabled people because my mother likes her to. Difficult set up as my sisters will never really become emotionally ‘grown up’ and are still quite dependent upon my mother. For years I tried to change the dynamics a bit because I felt they were all stuck but I was moving on. When I became a mother myself I started to realise that my choice of parenting was very different to what I received as a child. My mother would not respect my parenting choices and invalidated me over and over again, going against my wishes. She has explosive tendencies. She also gas lighted me over and over again, telling me there was something wrong with me (so she could choose to ignore me). Things came to a head when she yelled at me down the phone over nothing and I actually stood up for myself as anyone deserves to be treated better than that. I put the phone down on her because she wouldn’t stop yelling. The next day she accused me of being mentally ill, when I absolutely wasn’t. The whole thing was so unjust and unfair and I was so angry and upset that I actually then had a breakdown and needed treatment, so I guess she felt justified. She refused to apologise for what she’d said (and done, leaving morphine out when she was looking after my kids and refusing to answer the phone to me when I needed to let her know that my daughter had a fractured wrist). I guess I feel thankful in a way that things became so obviously wrong that day that I chose to cut off from her, with very minimal occasional contact, instead of continuing to expose myself to be hurt by my mother over and over again. My husband supports this decision as he saw the impact it had on me and our family. I still have a long way to go on my healing journey. I found validation from my aunt who is a trained counsellor and saw the toxic dynamics in my family. I also found validation from another aunt who was treated similarly by my mother who also gas lighted her, and ended up cutting herself off from my mother. My mother will not admit any fault and other people think she is really nice and supportive – they simply don’t understand what she can be like. It is so difficult. These people can destroy you completely if you let them, and they don’t even care if they do – it just confirms what they thought about you already! Being ‘right’ to them is more important than recognising they are hurting someone else and taking any steps to resolve things. Sending love and empathy out to everyone experiencing a narcisstic relationship. I have also found a family of support through church.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Rosa, thank you for your honesty in sharing your experience. I’m sure that there will be many other blog readers who see themselves in your story and who feel less alone and less crazy because of what you wrote. It sounds like you’re seeing your reality more clearly and making the hard choices to take care of yourself and your children. I know how hard and sad this can feel, and I also know how critical, at times, it can be to our mental health and our lives. I’m glad you have supports around you who can validate your experience and help you feel less alone. Again, thank you for sharing your story, and please, take such good care of yourself. Warmly, Annie

  14. SD on  

    Hi Annie, thanks alot for tackling this topic. Love how not very lengthy yet compact this post is, highlighting stuff that indeed rings bells to all of us who have lived with a narcissitic parent. I only had this realization that my mom was not who she was, the ‘loving, caring, kind’ mom she always made me believe she was when in reality she was just a manipulative, cunning, gaslighting, mentally unstable woman. She always plays the victim and calls herself the most smartest, often making very insulting remarks of me infront of my brother. Since 2017, I became the golden child, as I had gotten straight As for all my important examinations and secured a spot in medical school ( I am now a 3rd year medical student) To this day I still wonder how I made it this far without loosing my sanity. Constant gaslighting, emotional, mental abuse, even physical at times. where she would pull my hair since young, knowng that I had suffered a major hair loss (Alopecia areata) at the age of 10 and was still recovering. She continued to pull my hair, up until I had cut it short. Always calling me names, and telling me that I should NEVER keep secrets from her, and that she will ALWAYS know.

    boy was she soo wrong. I got very uncomfortable with her when an incident happened where me, my mom and my brother and my stepdad were in the car on a HIGHWAY. She was paranoid that my stepdad was cheating on her and was spending all the money on other woman (she was not wrong) At the time I also blamed him, mind you my brother was only 10 at the time. As she snatched the handphone off my dad’s hand, the whole time yelling and screaming, not even thinking about me and my brother and I who were in the back seat (this happened during my semester break right before my 1st year of medical school, and to this day, I NEVER return ‘home’, and thankfully am part of the military as well as I am studying in a military university, soo that keeps me very occupied)

    Back to the horrifying incident that scarred me to the point that 1 year later I broke down and had my Dark Night of the Soul moment.

    Mother yanked the phone off his hand, and threw it out the window on the busy highway The car stopped at a chevron, in the middle of the highway, as my stepdad got out of the car to retrieve the phone that this woman had thrown, all that while I could tell, he had had enough… years of abuse. Me and my brother were frightened for our lives… we could have died that day… we could have, as SHE began the fight.

    He still put up with her… then came the day when he left the small room we were staying in, me my brother and her, alone, never to return again. At the time I did not understand, I blamed myself. She the next day, proceeded to vandalize his car that she somehow found in the streets, and went to the police, dragging my brother and I at 2 am in the morning, to make a police report on the incident that happened in the highway… framing HIM. making the police think that it was HIM who deliberately tried to kill us three by stopping the car in the middle of the highway, my brother too played along as he was FORCED too, telling the police a false story… I was… on the verge of breaking.

    and I did, from that day on, I made it a point to never goo back… it broke me, but I still was not aware that she was a narcissict, as I blamed myself, enabling her behaviours which were soo extreme to the point that I was enabling her to go thru my phone, when I didnt she would lash out the typical phrase

    “How dare you speak to me like that! I am YOUR MOTHER!! I KNOW YOU BEST!”

    It kept happening, when I would return to see them both who were livng in a small room, she was jobless, often boasting about how she deserved more and that everyone around her was inferior, even me. At this point I had already began my spiritual journey, my intuition getting stronger.

    the realization hit me just 2 months ago… when I found out about a youtuber whom I had watched who was now framed as a narcissict and abuse… her behaviours seemed oddly familiar…
    I knew it, Mother was a narcissict… I began googling, and… loss for words.

    I am only 21, but am soo glad I realized this sooner than later even though I realized this just 2 WEEKS before my finals for my 2nd year of medical school (which I still managed to successfully ace) now my brother is the golden child as she is continuing to manipulate him, even using him to guilt trip me to the point that I just dont pick up their calls anymore. I cant.
    I got back into contact with my stepdad, but he is suffering too, after surgery to remove his diabetes affected leg… he had no choice, after studying pathology I know why he did what he did, because if he did not cut off his leg knee below, he would have lost the whole leg eventually as it spreads…
    and Mother, who is a know it all, said that he cut off his leg deliberately to stop serving the family… pathetic.

    at this point of my spiritual journey, the last time I spoke to her and stood up for myself setting healthy boundaries which again she got very madddddd and continued to preach about how she used up all her money for buying me clothes… and soo much more
    I just slammed the phone as I had had enough. she made me believe that all my family members were toxic, that if I supported them she would disown me. and much more. but she was the MOST toxic one all along. What can I say, she herself was raised by a narcissict (which ironically, she came to find out about it herself)
    and I must say this, her biggest fear of parenting her kids wrongly like her mom did… unfortunately became a reality, for she is now a full blown narcissict.

    I may be busy in medical school, in Malaysia, a country where the culture is such that family is most important. Yes I am faced with such a difficult challenge, and will have to seek therapy from overseas as the therapists here do not understand narcissicm well… Currently thankfully, for the past 2 yrs I have been on scholarship, she has not been financing me, just my narciissitic grandmother, whom I can somehow set boundaries with as I am now the golden grandchild. But I will deal with this. Mother continues to try to gaslight and guilt trip me thru my brother, but i just dont pick up the phone and only text, as I know what to expect. Mother is still manipulating stepdad and even her own mother for money, not working… nothing…
    this may all seem like a lifetime movie drama, but the reality is that it is true… but I will break this cycle, even if it takes me a lifetime. Still working on trusting myself and self confidence… I can do this.

    Mothers’ biggest nightmare is now a reality, she herself is a narcissict, brought up by a narcissict herself… ( I am a lady btw, not wanting to reveal my name, but yeah)

    again,thank you soo much for this Annie! I really appreciate this!

    Thanks Annie! really appreciate this post!

    • Annie on  

      Hi there, I’m so pleased this post resonated with you! Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your experience. I’m so sorry you’ve had to navigate these difficult situations, but I’m wishing you all the best as you continue to do the personal growth work.

      If either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be of support to you processing the impacts of your childhood, I’ll look forward to seeing you inside and working with you personally. In the meantime, please take such good care of yourself, you’re so worth it. Warmly, Annie

  15. Elise on  

    Dear Annie en others,

    I’m Elise. A 35 years old woman from France buy living in the Holland.
    Shen i was 19, i went away for the love. Still being with this man, 2 girls (7 y and 10y). I’m a Social Worker in mentale illness sector since 10 years.
    My rol toward my mother was that i was het confidentieel since always… Buy i never had the same from her. It took years for me to see that.

    Past year my eyes opend up about how my mother treating is: me, nu brothers, now my daughters….. It was like i finally could see with distance what happens. Constant blaming, rages, giving guilt feelings to my children. This last made me stood up. I faced met mother. I rolde het that children are worthy. Haar answer was children become what you make them to. My heart broke. That was IT. What i AM don’t matter if it not fits her expectation/image. Hey would it be other for my children? I developped flashbacks, suicidal thoughts….. Like even i was young. I tried to let me feel…. I cryed days out.
    What i didn’t get, i could give IT to my children. In this moment i decide this patterns stops with me. I set boundaries to my mother. Of course i was the one who dammaged everything. No i choose that this violence stopts with me. My mother gives me now the silence treatement. I got two letters who demonstrates how bad i AM. I kept Them in order to have prove for my daughters later. I only dat yo my mom, i maintain seeing you but we will no longer sleep in your house of eat meals with you, only come tot visit for few hours.

    I’m happy to live so far away in a country which to different is from her standards. I feel safe because language, school systeem zo different is that she can’t put any weight on it.

    I see my niece. I feel sorry for her. She’s me. Constantijn doing Jobs in house with my mom, het grand-ma, not playing and only getting affection even she obeys. I saved myself. But wow…. Transgenerationel lasts goes tot other generations. This understanding gives me straight to one day become a therapist in systems.

    For now living with the emptyness of my childhood. I have no hard feelings for my mom, sshe did better than her own mom.

    I feel like a broken survivor….. A immature father,child abuse on my brother, movings out in childhood, 2 stepdads one alcoholic….
    I’m going to get married only the witness wil come. I plan to celebrate met birthday big over 5 years. I’m giving the time i neef ro recover. I can receive love from my children and man, wchich earlier difficult was. Every day I can slightly recover.

    That was a litte of my life. For people who goed tot the same, take it day by day.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Elise, thank you so much for your bravery and honesty in sharing your story with all of us. I’m so sorry that you have to experience guilting and manipulations, especially from your mother. I’m so proud of you for setting boundaries with her and for identifying your current supports. It sounds like you’ve done and continue to do amazing personal work and I’m wishing you all the best.

      If either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be of support to you as you progress and continue along with your grieving and sense-making journey, I’d love to be of support to you. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best. Warmly, Annie

  16. Grace Segovia on  

    I am Asian and our culture put mothers in the pedestal. I did too. Then I saw my mothers inappropriate behaviors when I had my own family. It is so hard to talk about Narcissism in my country. Your article is a great help and comfort for me.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Grace, thank you for sharing your experience with me. I’m pleased that this post felt comforting and supportive to you. I can imagine how challenging it must be to navigate a relationship with a narcissistic parent under a lens of culturally reinforced idealism. I’m wishing you all my best.

      If you feel that either of my courses, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School could be of support to you, then I’ll look forward to working with you there. In the meantime, please take such good care of yourself. Warmly, Annie

  17. Phase on  

    Is it a sin to go no contact with a narcissist parent? I struggle to maintain a relationship with my narc mother. She is upset because she pretends to want a relationship with my 4 year old and 9 month old. She has never met them and has dodged times she could have met them. She is not okay with boundaries I set and has even proceeded to tell my then 3 yr old son Santa Claus doesn’t exist because he wanted to three way Santa in in a call. She felt rejected and almost ruined his childhood fantasy of Christmas even though she raised my brother and I on Santa. I’ve recently decided to keep them away. I truly feel sorry for her but I have to protect my boys at all costs. Is it a sin to do so?

    • Annie on  

      Hi Phase, Thank you for your honesty and openness in sharing your story with me. I’m sorry your boundaries aren’t being respected, especially by your mother. It can feel challenging and frustrating to interact with narcissistic parents, and I encourage you to make the most self supporting choice for you and your family. I’m not religious, so I don’t believe in sinse, but as a therapist, I believe it’s your human right to do what feels right and supportive for you and your children.

      If you feel that either of my courses, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School could be of support to you as you navigate your relationship with your mom, then I’ll look forward to working with you there. In the meantime, please take such good care of yourself. Warmly, Annie

    • J on  

      Phase or anyone else wondering this, I don’t think so. So long as our conduct toward a parent is honorable I dont think an adult parent has a moral obligation to keep up a regular interpersonal relationship. That said, caring for ones parents or working for their well being in life or later life is often inevitable and morally good. I think it is morally good to make efforts for the wellbeing and care of ones parents physically, but we shouldn’t sacrifice the well being of our own children to do it. In situations like this, the verse “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” in James is helpful. We must live by our moral convictions and study to align our convictions with the truth as best we can and with Gods help. I’m working through all this myself, hope it helps. Also to Annie, you dont have to be religious to be familiar with Judeo-Christian philosophy. Its troubling to me that you counsel people on moral and identity issues without any understanding of sin, even if you dont believe in it personally. How do you even define good and evil then? How can you counsel toward good or away from evil if its all relative? Dont you think narcissists also “do what feels right and supportive for [them and their] children”?

  18. Bhavani Priyadharshini on  

    It’s sickening to open any topic against him… He makes it difficult to co exist… Validates only the people who will consent with his ideas….Any time he opens his mouth it would only be to exaggerated description of his achievements be it throwing the trash into the can to the pain of earning the expense of the family orelse it would be the blamegame description of how he couldn’t achieve just because of somebody else who budged in to help him actually….he opens his mouth only to complain or boast!!!! Confront him once and he ll verbally abuse everybody in the spot with his high pitched voice… Make the spot a hell for everybody to breathe…especially the dependants …. Make everybody feel worthless….as a kid I was made to attend his calls answer every caller with a lie that he isn’t home…then he ll torment me with his enquiry making me feel why the hell did I have to pick a call behalf of him…. I was made never enough! There were times when he would refuse to face delicate topics…like he will not bargain with the electrician and the plumber but would make me feel wasted to have accepted their service charges….I didn’t really realise he s NPD until very late… It took me 30 years to get to know it was my father’s fault and not mine…only when I got married to the most wonderful human being I did get to know I’m worthy of my life too.. those would just look like trivial things … but it’s never easy to always feel like walking on eggshells… a person who s always leaving you feel unsettled for none of your mistakes….I’m 36year old mother of two kids…yet it’s traumatising to attend a simple call from him or even to call him and speak casually is a nightmare!!!! I realised his whole process of trauma only when I got married and the family is all empathetic and no shout outs on a daily basis and nothing u speak out is assumed with negativity! I was so much adapted to his toxic brought up and this family was heaven to me… Even then my husband insisted that I don’t have to feel guilty for all their love as I well deserved and this is no wonder as this is the way family works… To tell u the truth… He was one to taught me to love myself better… That self care and self grooming is more important than to be a people pleaser… To teach my kids never hurt others and never to get hurt my others!!!Just venting out!!! (P.S : my father is a darling to many outsiders)

    • Annie on  

      Hi Bhavani, thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in sharing your story. I’m sorry you’ve experienced those challenging situations with your father. Interacting with a narcissistic parent can feel really frustrating and isolating.

      I’m so pleased to hear that you’ve experienced a reparative, loving relationship with your partner! Healing relationships can really make a difference.

      If you would like additional support in dealing with challenging family members through either Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School, I look forward to working with you there. In the meantime, please take such good care of yourself. Warmly, Annie

  19. Steve Capchak on  

    The pain, self doubt, guilt, confusion and damaged relationships have reached a tipping point for me. At 56, I’ve managed well enough as viewed from the outside world, but inside, I have no idea who I am and why I’m here – everything is tentative, everything related to my family and mother and my failed personal relationships causes me pain on levels that I can’t describe in words. How will I’ll manage to my last days? I have no dreams of a better day. My sister and I are our best hope for survival but we’re both so broken and fragile. I thought about mother passing away and wonder if I’ll ever be free of the grip after she’s gone. I lost any chance of a relationship with my father thanks to this disorder – now that he’s gone, I have great compassion for the life he must have endured. He spoke very little, was angry all the time and drank heavily through much of his life. I wish I’d had the chance to understand his role back then – I realize now how miserable he was….I wake up and show up most every day of my life – but that’s it.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Steve,

      Thank you for your comment and for your honesty. I am so sorry that you are in pain. The fact that you do show up every day speaks to your strength and I urge you to seek support in working through all you have endured. There is help out there and you are so worth it.

      If either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be of support to you as you progress and continue along with your journey, I’d love to be of support to you. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  20. Sally on  

    Thank you so much for this article.

    My father died when I was 10 and my narcissistic mother turned me into her emotional confident from then on. I was also given a lot of household responsibilities. My sister was 4 and was treated as different and special.

    These patterns have continued for decades. I am only just working out how to disentangle myself. I have a therapist, am journaling about my childhood to get it straight in my head, and am reading one of the books you recommend.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Sally,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, I’m so pleased that my words resonated with you. I commend you for doing the difficult personal work of disentangling yourself from your past. The fact that you have the support of a therapist and are journaling is wonderful!

      If I can be of support in either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – I’d love to work with you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  21. michael gisi on  

    Hello there, I am currently struggling with a decision on what to do. I’ve had three professionals(Therapists/counselors) tell me based upon my conversations with them and their speaking with my wife as well, that my wife has narcissistic traits. Our problems started about a year after our daughter, who is 8 now, was born. She began to get upset about my work, which was a regular 9-5, but sometimes I would have to go back to the office or bring home work, since I was learning a new job. Meanwhile, when I was home I was remodeling our house just the way she wanted(which I was excited for and loved) until it started to cause her to berate me. The snide comments here and there about my job I just brushed off as her just being stressed from being a SAHM, but then the comments started to turn dark.
    When I was going to be home late, or if there was a night that I wasn’t going to make it before our daughter went to bed, I could hear her telling our 18 month old that her “Daddy is staying at work because his work is more important than his family”. She would say things like that with no thought or regard to their damage. Then they turned again and she started telling our 2 year old that her father doesn’t want to come home….or that I didn’t want to put her to bed….or that I didnt want to spend ime with her…..and then the worst, she would say “Well I guess your Daddy doesn’t love you”. From that point on I couldn’t take the abuse anymore and started to be angry with her.
    The comments only got worse, she was and still is to this day not appreciative of the life she is living, stay at home mom, homeschooling our daughter….but even back then, there was no appreciation for anything. When I finished remodeling the house, myself mind you, there was no thank you…..it actually turned into where she was calling me selfish because all my time from work was being devoted to remodeling….but if I didn’t keep working on the house she would complain about when it would be done.
    Fast forward to recent, she tried to ruin my career by actions she took, which forced other agencies to get involved…..only for them to corroborate my side of the story and even documented “Emotional Maltreatment” towards our daughter by her, which has still completely unfazed her. She has not changed her outlook or the attacks, and I feel myself constantly having to stand up for my child because she’s being yelled at over everything. My wife will tell her to clean her playroom….and once it’s done, she will go in and critique it telling her this doesn’t go here or this isn’t good enough.
    And now to-date, she has kept me from taking our daughter to my parents’ house 5 blocks down the street because they need to be taught a lesson and need to be punished. What happen was, I told my parents they could take our daughter to the Zoo during the day…shes homeschooled and we just moved close to them….should have been a wonderful day and drama free with lots of love for my daughter. Well my wife was mad that I made that decision without her….fine, I can correct that easy, but what transpired that day is the horrific part. She text my parents and was being rude and disrespectful to them. Telling them how to take care of her and what she put in her bag. Those pieces my parents didn’t mind…..but when she asked my parents what time they were bringing her back, and they replied not sure yet we will leave that up to the child, she didn’t like that and told them that was unacceptable. Then started to be real rude and told them they better enjoy this day because they won’t see her ever again.
    That was in March of 2021…my daughter has been heartbroken, as my parents have as well. I have taken her over there a number of times, but myself and my daughter feel like we have to escape from our own home. She tells my daughter that if she goes with me to their house, then she will be in trouble, and tells her they are bad people. To put the icing on the cake, I took her over one time and my wife drove to their house, caused a scene demanding our child go with her, and when my parents told her to get off the property, she pushed her way into the house in which my step mom kept her from doing…..and since that day my daughter has only been there 5 times in 7 months. I can’t even go anywhere with my child alone because she thinks I’m going to take her to my parents. It’s devastating to my daughter and to my parents and I’m just so lost as what I should do as her father to protect her.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and for your vulnerability in sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear about the incredibly tough position you find yourself in. Wanting to protect your daughter is commendable and speaks to your desire to do what’s in her best interest. I’m glad that you’ve sought support in the past and I’d like to urge you to continue to find the support you need while coming to a decision about what’s best for your family.

      If I can support you in either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – I’d love to be work with you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  22. Pete on  

    Until I was around 10 years old, I thought that I had a normal childhood. I am the oldest of four brothers. My father had a heart attack the year I was 10 and it seems like when he came back from the hospital, things were different. I n the meantime helped my mom, who was an immigrant from Italy, and her English was not very good. I spoke both languages so I would do most of the interpreting of bills and other types of communication. I learned to write checks at 10 years old to pay bills.my father started back at work on the night shift as a machinist. He made good money. We never seemed to have any though. He also seemed to enjoy working nights, more than likely to get away from four young kids and left my mom to deal with parenting us.

    He had the bright idea of having his own business. He bought a a closed down store with an apartment above it. Yes, we moved into that…He set it up as a pizza and grinder shop, but mom did all the work and he kept his second shift job. So by the time that I got into 9th grade I was helping her out, parenting my three brothers, taking music lessons, baseball and soccer. No time to really study. He shut me off because I was not happy and he didn’t want to deal with me. He emotionally neglected me for probably 7 years or so.

    In the meantime I had met this wonderful girl in school and I was so broken at that point that I had a very difficult time with relationships and trust, not to mention lack of self worth. We were friends until the time that we went to college, and had not heard from her for almost 49 years. I recently reconnected with her by the way. I could not figure out what was wrong with me, and why I couldn’t get closer in our relationship.

    In the meantime for my high school years and maybe before, he was gambling all of our money away. We had nothing although we had two incomes coming in. I got accepted to a prestigious music school in 1972 which was also closer to my female friend’s school. He said that we did not have any money to send me there. He suggested that I get a job instead of college. I figured out a way to work and put myself through college that was more local. I spent less and less time at home even though I commuted to college because I could no afford to live on campus.

    I met a number of male teachers over my time at this college who became my life long friends and colleagues. My self esteem and self worth were at an all time high for me. I met a girl who would be my wife who I am still with today. I decided that I had to distance myself from him. After graduation I went into the Air Force as a musician. The only thing that he and I had in common was baseball. I was a good player but decided that I had to just removed myself from that connection also. Being a musician has been great therapy for me. And he had no interest in it. He never came to any of my performances and the college that I attended was 2 miles from home. Four years of concerts and not one time was he there. I felt a bit guilty about distancing myself from him but it made me feel better overall. He died at 54 years old while I was still in the service. I was 24 years old then. The scary thing is that I repressed the gambling and emotional neglect until this past summer. Now I am angry, but I don’t feel guilty anymore.

    So, in finishing, having something that was personally gratifying while getting positive praise and attention in the music world, it has given me a sense of purpose, along with my family. We have two adult daughters. The videos and articles that I read have enlightened me about this. I have not thought about therapy yet, but I have done many of the things at 20 years old to free myself of this hold he had, even though I really did not know what it was and why I felt the way that I did. We are good people, we just were not treated like we were good people. I hope this is of help to some.

    Pete

    • Annie on  

      Hi Pete,

      Thank you so much for your vulnerability in sharing your experience, I know that there will be many readers who’ll relate to your story. I’m proud of you for intuitively knowing that you needed distance in order to take care of yourself. I’m happy to hear that you found a sense of purpose in your family and music, finding that purpose in life is a wonderful gift that I’m glad you were able to give yourself.

      I know you haven’t thought about therapy yet, but if either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be of support to you, I’d love to work with you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  23. Rose on  

    This Christmas my boyfriend spend with my family, which is my mom, my brother and me. He was shocked by the behaviour of my mom, and was under constant stress because of her. I know this behaviour from my youth. Even I still feel tense around her I’m used to her behaviour. As I see her only about 2x a year and as I know I can’t change her (she would never be willing to see a therapist), I let her be mostly and don’t let it affect me. Now my boyfriend told me how I resemble her, and told me he is not sure if he wants children with me, as he would want to protect them from me. He accuses me of emotionally blackmailing him. I felt my current partner as supportive and empathetic. I had a very empathetic father, whom I loved a lot and who loved me a lot, but who died 10 years ago. I thought of myself as a empathetic person, now I wonder how much I took on narcissistic behaviour from her. My ex-partner was a narcissist and I took me a long time from recovering from that. I wasn’t sure often, of what was true, as he manipulated me. Now I wonder who I can believe and how I can detect my own narcissistic behaviour, as I know that it’s hard for narcissists to acknowledge that.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Rose,

      Thank you for your comment. I so appreciate your vulnerability in sharing not only your experience with your mother, but your curiosity around the possibility that you took on the narcissistic behaviors that you saw growing up. The fact that you’re self-aware and willing to explore this says a lot about your strength of character and your desire to break any cycle that may be in place.

      The wonderful news is that cycles can be broken through personal work and support. If either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be helpful to you as navigate your journey and work toward a positive future, I’d love to be of support to you. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  24. Anonymous on  

    I’m 34. My counselor suggested that both my mother and father appear to be narcissists and suggested i begin reading up on the subject. The behavioral traits of me and my sister (who is starting counseling due to depression) are consistent with children with narcissistic parents. While I have a counselor, I think I need some further support. Do you know if there are any support groups / AA equivalent groups to help with the recovery?

    • Annie on  

      Hi,

      Thank you for your comment, I’m glad that this post resonated with you. I’m happy to hear that you have a counselor to support you on your healing journey and applaud your desire for additional support.

      Your counselor may be a good source of information regarding support groups in your area, however, if either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be of support to you as navigate your journey and visualize and work towards a positive future, I’d love to be of support to you.

      In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  25. Jessica S on  

    This article has been extremely eye opening. I have very recently discovered I was raised by a narssist father, after moving 17 hours away. It has been a difficult journey for self discovery. Reading this article I cried in relief. It has helped me realize how I feel is validated. I am on the process of recovery! ❤ Thank you!

    • Annie on  

      Hi Jessica,

      I’m so pleased that this post resonated with you! It’s no small thing to embark on a self discovery journey like yours. Please know that your feelings are valid and I’m proud of you for beginning the process of recovery.

      If my either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be of support to you as you progress in your healing journey, I’d love to be of support to you. In the meantime, I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  26. Mia Williams on  

    Hey guys, I’m going to be 21 tomorrow and my dad that has narcissistic tendencies kicked me out a couple of weeks ago because I told him how I felt about a situation. He told me to come talk to him about a week prior. This whole situation was a blessing from God honestly. I’ve always been afraid to talk to him and I faced a fear that shouldn’t even be one. Now I get to be the woman God created me to be without someone being in my ear trying to tear me down. Thank you for this article!!

    • Annie on  

      Hi Mia,

      I’m so pleased that this article felt helpful! I’m proud of you for facing your fear and coming out the other side in what sounds like a more peaceful, hopeful place.

      If either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be of support to you on your journey as you visualize and work towards a positive future for yourself, I’d love to work with you there.

      In the meantime, I am sending my best and wishing you a very happy 21st birthday!

      Warmly, Annie

  27. Kelly on  

    Hi,
    I have been trying to navigate through the last 2 years keeping my narcissist father away from my children.
    I have been trying to hold together relationships between my children and my mother but as she is still with my father and has been a key person in enabling his behaviour I am now struggling to see her too. No matter what happens I.e he started a fight with my husband in front of my 5 year old-she still defends him and will not understand why we have cut him off. Even after over 20 years of him emotionally abusing myself and my brother and physically abusing my mother over that time.
    I guess I’m just trying to find out if I’m doing the right thing, they try to emotionally manipulate me by telling about illness’s (cancer) that my dad has. But I can’t let him damage my family just because he’s unwell?
    This article solidified my reasons for keeping him away so thanks 😊

    • Annie on  

      Hi Kelly,

      Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your story. I am sorry to hear that your father’s behavior has done so much damage in the lives of yourself and your family. I am proud of you for wanting to protect your children and for creating boundaries for yourself. I urge you to seek support in navigating and maintaining those boundaries if that feels like it would be helpful.

      If either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be of support to you, I’d love to work with you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  28. Brooke on  

    I’m a 27 year old woman and I’m just now finding out my mother is a narcissist. I grew up with verbal and physical abuse from my mother and my dad wouldn’t recognize the abuse I sustained from my mother, even until this day. I went through my childhood, teen years, and adulthood thinking I was the problem and questioning my existence. I fell into addiction at the age of 16, and been battling alcoholism since. I have 3 children and each relationship I was in was very abusive, I’m most certain narcissistic. I struggled for years with this cycle, and I could never figure it out why I chose these men when I had a very good relationship with my father and that he was always there growing up. Now that I began my healing journey I’m learning just how deep my trauma is and how it’s affected every aspect of my life and relationships. Im so glad I’ve come across these articles it’s been very eye opening for me and now I truly understand why I went through what I did and that my feelings are valid. I know my healing is not going to be easy but I’m excited to know that I can finally heal and recover from something that has had me lost in life for a very long time.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Brooke,

      Thank you for your comment and for your vulnerability in sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear that you experienced verbal and physical abuse both as an adult and as a child. Please know that you were never the problem – it is never, ever, under any circumstance a child’s (or adult’s) fault when they are abused. I am proud of you for beginning your healing journey, you are worthy of a wonderful life and the support to help you get there.

      If either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be of support to you as you work toward a positive future for yourself, I’d love to support you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  29. Ashley on  

    Thank you for this insight. Ever since I was a child mother has always been manipulative, controlling, narcissistic, and always cared about what every one thought while disregarding my comfortabilities. Even to the point of allowing my mentally abusive stepfather to treat me in any manner he pleased. Anytime I had ever tried to tell her how I felt about something it was always some how my fault. And even with circumstances that I knew weren’t fully my fault I ALWAYS took accountability for any part that may have been my fault and found ways to fix and correct it. Now at the age of 28, and having had my baby back in August 2021, it became a real eye opener on what type of example I want to be for my baby girl and realizing the type of toxicity she would be exposed to if I don’t set boundaries with my mother. I had constantly had respectful (to her standards)conversations with her to let her know how I was feeling in regards to her over stepping boundaries with my daughter and husband and about her constant criticism on our parenting choices. Last month I finally put my foot down and set boundaries and of course the conversation took a turn with her turning the tables, telling me I’m going overboard, telling me if my husband has an issue to get his balls together and call her, making snide comments, and bringing up the past. The conversation pretty much ended with her saying she’s unwilling cutting me out of her life because I’ve changed and she doesn’t recognize the person I am anymore. Honestly it felt like a huge weight off taking a direct approach with setting boundaries. But now that some time has passed I can’t help but have these evasive feelings pop up every now and then. In the beginning it was anger but now it’s more feelings of hurt. And asking myself, why was I never enough for her to be respectful to? Why we’re only my feelings invalid while everyone else’s were in high regard? Why couldn’t she care enough to try to understand where I was coming from and work together to find resolutions to better our relationship? How could she just rather shun her own daughter than deal with her? Why is there never any accountability on her behalf? I’m trying so hard to focus on just my daughter and husband but every now and then these emotions creep. Just wish I can find full peace with this

    • Annie on  

      Hi Ashley,

      Thank you for your comment and for your vulnerability in sharing your story. I’m sorry that this has been your experience, it sounds like you have tried your very best to maintain a relationship with your mother, going above and beyond. I’m really proud of you for creating those boundaries to protect not just your baby girl, but yourself as well. Please know that you were always enough and that it wasn’t your place to “earn” love or respect from your mother. It is normal for feelings of hurt to pop up, you are on a healing journey and it will take time to work through these feelings.

      I’d like to encourage you to seek support as you heal and if either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be of support to you as you work toward finding peace, I’d love to support you there. In the meantime, please take care of yourself and know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  30. Kyauna Sanders on  

    I feel so lost and confused. I don’t even know who I am anymore. I survived what myself and therapist identified as narcissitic abuse in my marriage. At during therapy for this I began to see subtle ways my mother was almost the same person as my husband. My therapist warned me about moving back home which I thought would be a place for healing and support after I fled my marriage. And when I returned I started to see even more the very toxic family dynamics at play led by my narcisstic mom. I did the worst and confronted her about some of her behaviors. I was learning how to set boundaries and raw from years of emotional abuse in my marriage. I couldn’t tolerate anymore gaslighting, twisting of my words, deflecting and blaming me. She lied and told people at home I was “crazy” because of my divorce. Here I was being smeared by my ex husband and mother simultaneously. Her anger and neglect continued to point she showed me no support or compassion as I was divorcing. She began to attack me often during my interactions with her. I was the child who was standing up to her. I’d quickly went from seemed to be one of her favorites to being blamed for all family drama. She began to triagulate me with my sisters as she had done with me being her dumping ground about them for most of my life. Soon enough my siblings were verbally and physically attacking me to point of assault. They have not apologized. My youngest sister is now close to my mom. Uses every chance she gets to rage against me. I was always the child who stayed out of the way, tried to do right, go to school, make my parents proud. I never got into trouble but still was criticized and felt had a higher standard to uphold. I easily could disappoint my parents. So its surprising to me that my mother is calling me bipolar now, that I’m hormonal and “crazy”, painting me as the disrespectful one and the one who is abusive to her. Granted I have had some volatile reactions because my mother provokes us to the point of no return. No respect for boundaries. And the gaslighting is intense. she will insult or say mean things or lie, and when confronted say it didn’t happen or twist it around on me. The gaslighting has been the worse. My memory is bad, my brain is foggy, I feel indecisive and lacking in purpose. I thought I healed from my ex husband, but feel emotionally blindsighted and re-traumatized being home around my family again. I have had to limit my contact and start healing all over again. I know I’m not a bad person. But I don’t know who I am because they continue to try to convince me I’m the problem. I feel something is wront with me. Maybe I’m the narcissit. I can feel intense rage in my soul sometimes. Angry for mistreatment, lies I can’t prove, I cant defend myself against smearing. Angry I am left to raise a child and terrified I will traumatize her as a single mom wrapped up in her own trauma and who has little support. I don’t feel I ever got a chance for a healthy happy life. No tools for true emotional intelligence, maturity etc. I have had to learn along the way. And others never quite get why you can be reactive or defensive or guarded after years of invalidation and criticism and insults and gaslighting. They just see you as a problem. Maybe I am.. I don’t know. I just keep trying to do better, be better, heal. Sometimes I feel my daughter deserves a better mom. I am unlearning and breaking cycles while raising her alone. Any emotion I feel she is there to witness. And i don’t know what is healthy or not. I just apologize when I feel I’ve done wrong. Sometimes I want to escape and hide away and heal without responsibilities, the threat of harming others, or the threat of constantly attracting more narcissists (don’t let me start on dating). When was I supposed to heal from my marriage? No one even hugged me and said it would be ok/ My sisters scoffed and seemed happy Id failed in marriage. They throw this in my face, and things Ive told them when they want to hurt me. I don’t know how not to be a bad mother when I’m so tired and I keep being abused anytime I see my mother. If I don’t see her, I’m a bad daughter again, guilted and shamed and “keeping my daughter away from them”. I feel bad to avoid my parents as they are aging. My dad had a year of illness and hospital stays and is fragile. I go with the intent to stay calm and help and be a good dutiful daughter, I usually leave fleeing attacks from my mom, trying to set boundaries only to realize if I don’t leave I will react and be enraged by her tactics. I wish I could not be able to react to her. She’s so good at demeaning us and being controlling and overbearing. Its triggering. I feel I have no choice to but accept I will have no family and raise my daughter alone, trying to find a community elsewhere.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Kyauna,

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your story. I am so sorry for all you’ve been through and that you have not received the support and compassion you so richly deserve. The fact that you keep trying to do better, be better, heal and be a good mother to your daughter tells me that you are strong, aware and capable of breaking the cycles you’ve been taught. I urge you to seek support while you are doing this hard work and to find that sense of community through friends, support groups or even online.

      I’d love to support you in either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – as you work toward a positive future for yourself and your daughter. In the meantime, please take such good care of yourself and know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  31. Cindy on  

    It was not until I met and married my current husband that I was able to put a name to my trauma or even realize that there was a trauma. She is dead for 3 years now and my Father who did what he could was her enabler. He passed 3 weeks ago. I recognize what happened to me although at the time I did not know that my actions, responses and trajectory of my life were not normal. Now I spend time examining choices I made as a result of my trauma. Although I am in a very good relationship with my husband, my biggest regret was when I was very young, about 23 I had a person I worked with that we were best friends, we did everything together then one day he kissed me. I wasn’t aware he felt that way and we might have had a life together but I ran. I ran because he wanted me for me and what he saw in me. First person who ever felt that way about me without my seeking it out or forcing it. I mourn this probably more than I should. When she died, I felt no grief. Only relief that she could hurt me no more.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Cindy,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear of both the trauma you experienced with your mother and the recent loss of your father. I’m proud of you for being on a healing journey where you are able to reflect back and examine how trauma may have influenced your decisions.

      If you feel that support would be helpful as you continue on your path, I’d love to work with you in either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  32. Liz on  

    I am 60 and the youngest daughter of a narcissistic mother and a father who enabled her. There are four children, the oldest a boy and 2 sisters. Growing up, we knew how to behave individually and together and how to treat the “Queen” (our nickname for her at a young age – how sad!) to survive. We developed coping skills without realizing why. When I went away to college, I began to see how freeing it was to be away and that others had “different” family relationships. But I still tried to please her.
    Through a loving marriage and raising two successful children whom I love dearly, I intentionally distanced myself and my family from her and her harmful influence. My husband and I respected her role with family visits but were highly aware of the damage she could inflict in a single phone call or a visit and did our best to protect our family. I recognized I mourned her death years before she passed, always carrying the guilt of the strained relationship wondering if I was “doing enough” or “doing everything I could” so I wouldn’t find myself with any regrets that I didn’t try hard enough or fight long enough for a mother-daughter relationship or to facilitate a “grandmother/grandchild” relationship.
    When she died, I found I didn’t shed a tear and neither did my husband or adult children. What a waste of the gift of a mother/grandmother role in life.
    My current disappointment from the narcissistic fallout is in my siblings. She managed to manipulate her children’s relationship with each other (she outlived my dad by many years) and rewarded those in her good graces at any given time with money, invitations, events, trips with her etc. We always knew whoever was in her good graces at her death would be the “winner.” This was not a surprise – we all knew it and told each other that we would balance out the resources after her death. Money and things can be given freely-settle the estate then honor our families. Well, I was honestly stunned (and hear it shouldn’t have been a surprise) that as my siblings played her game, they received the bulk of the distribution of my parents remaining resources and stopped communicating with me – from the day after the funeral. To do otherwise may just make them think they should redistribute their ill-gotten fortune. I never cost my parents a dime beyond what we all got – upbringing, weddings, college – I was not a “drain” on them in any way and I or my own family never received the handouts of trips, events, and money that my siblings and their families did.
    So, in passing on learned wisdom that may help others:
    -Protect yourself and your own family. You do not have to live under the influence forever just because of a biological relationship.
    -Recognize the damage they can inflict is widespread; don’t expect anything out of anyone they can have influence on.
    Wisdom gained for me? Not receiving an equitable share of my families’ resources, even though I lived through what they lived through and had my equal share of adult years caring for them both was the cost of living a free and healthy life. Raising my children away from her influence as her influence grew more and more hateful, was well worth the cost. And we are talking about an estate that made my siblings millionaires.
    -My siblings have shown themselves for who they are, and I can now free myself from further hurt by acknowledging myself as both an orphan and now, an only child.
    -Childhood years are formative, and I can “heal” and move on but I will always have a core of thinking I am not good enough, am unlovable, and unworthy to just be alive. I don’t intentionally state that but, no matter what anyone says, actions and words of others in any scenario, can pull the deep trigger and my “healing” takes me back to my coping skills of childhood. I will always be safe in keeping to myself and not risk putting myself out there. Setting my own healthy boundaries. Because I mean really, doesn’t healing that says another’s words reflect more on them than you ring of “it’s always someone else’s fault?” I’m more of the bent to own my role in any relationship and recognize I have deep triggers that guide me-some best kept chained up. My work remains in mislabeling other’s words and deeds into something bigger than what they are meant.
    -No one, and I mean no one, can understand what it is like to be raised in a narcissistic family except for those who have been here – and even that is a spectrum of experiences. As a child, with a mother who could “snow everyone” as narcissists are so good at – there was no one to help us. No one saw our pain. Life is not a Hallmark movie. If you have a loving mother, you cannot possibly understand what it is like to NOT have one. You can imagine, but you cannot know. Every word and deed of hers set a scar. Scars are not healed, they are accepted.
    -Narcissism has a genetic component. My reading continuously states narcissism is the parent’s fault. No. One of my children exhibits his grandmother’s traits while the other does not. All this while we have worked diligently and hard to guard ourselves and family from any narcissistic tendencies or exposures from Day 1. To say there is no genetic component in how the mind works is unscientific and careless to the work ahead.
    Thank you for the forum and the opportunity to reach out to others in our collective healing.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Liz,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and for your vulnerability in sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear of of your difficult childhood and strained relationship with your mother and now, your estrangement from your siblings. Your insights will be incredibly helpful to others who are still struggling with this dynamic and I truly appreciate your sharing them. I couldn’t agree more that protecting yourself and your family by setting boundaries is so important.

      If I can support you through either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – as you continue to work toward healing, I’d love to work with you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

      • Zuri Chavarin on  

        Hi Annie,

        Thank you so much for this article. I am 28 years old, and I recently went on no contact with my mother. It has been very difficult, sometimes I miss her, sometimes I feel so angry when I remember all the hurtful things she did/say to me and my children. If I don’t do as she says, or disagree with her, she wants to cut me off and make me feel like I am the problem. The last time she cut me off (a few months ago) I realized how she only keeps me close for money. She was getting to dependent on me, and more and more manipulative to keep asking for money. She lied about illnesses, problems and small things.

        After the last argument, she left me a message “I regret telling you you’re not allowed to come to my funeral, if you want you can come. Oh, and I don’t have cancer” Her voice showed no regret.

        Like… you regret you said so many hurtful things, or you regret you’re not getting any benefits from me???

        Another message “I think you’re angry because I don’t have cancer eh? Well let me make you more happy, I don’t have anything to eat. There you go, feed your ego”

        I have thoughts coming to my head everyday about my childhood and reviving those conversations and her messages. To my family, she is my mother and I have to let go of “my resentment” act like nothing happened and help her financially.

        I learned through her sister that she finally got a job….

        • Annie on  

          Hi Zuri,

          Thank you for sharing your story. I’m truly sorry that your relationship with your mother has been so painful and that you’re reliving the hurt each day. Please know that healing is absolutely possible with support and you are so worth seeking that support out.

          If I can support you through either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – as you work toward a positive future for yourself, I’d love to work with you there.

          In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

          Warmly, Annie

    • Bonnie on  

      Liz,

      Your comments strike a nerve. I am 70 and my younger brother and I were raised by a Narcissistic Mother. Our dad, bless his heart, was an enabler and my brother and I followed his lead. . . keep our mother “happy” or attempt to please her, at all costs. My mother is now 87 and little has changed in the ways she continues to treat me, my brother and his children. For many, many years, I have witnessed the scars on my brother from my mother’s destructive abuse and it has broken my heart. I stood by and witnessed her abuse on her grandsons, my brother’s sons, and was sickened but incapable of stopping it. Today, of three grandsons, my mother has one who actually bonded with her. Only recently, have I begun to recognize and acknowledge my own scars in an attempt to finally heal. My unsuccessful marriages were to military men and as a result, I moved many miles away from my family. That separation aided in my ability to recognize the problems and the dysfunction of my family but was never able to actually give it a name (narcissistic mother) until very recently. My goal now is to attempt to heal . . . to rid myself of the anger I feel toward my mother not only for what she has done and continues to do to me and my brother but to my nephews. I’m so tired of the anger and the pain.

      Many of your words and advice have been very helpful to me. Thank you and my best wishes to you in your healing process.

  33. J.young on  

    I was reluctant to categorize my Mother as a narcissist, although my father is a Classic Case. At 35, I began sorting through what I finally recognized as NPD in my Father only to discover upon reading this article, every sign listed as a narcissistic trait was fulfilled by either one parent or both throughout every stage of my life.
    I have not had therapy but relied on faith which had it’s pro’s and con’s. Loving unconditionally helped me maintain, but it did not help me heal and in many ways made me an enabler, one that was quickly discarded by everyone in the family the moment I began to speak the truth. Also, it seemed to make me a target for other narcissist who seek passive loving people to take advantage of. A vicious cycle.
    My entire life has been a struggle, depression, anxiety, repeated bad choices, low self-esteem, intelligent and educated but never excelled in employment, attracted to other narcissist and painfully trying to reshape my life which has this cloud over it.
    I am hopeful, but my fears are that I will never achieve a normal life with a normal spouse and family, and that I will continue to pick up people that like me or my family. I held a belief, fake it till you make, it but this is a spiritual battle and there is no faking well being when it is not there.
    This will be a lifelong recovery. I wish well-being to all who read this and are on the journey as well. God Bless.

    • Annie on  

      Hi J,

      Thank you for your comment and for your vulnerability in sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, and repeated patterns. Please know that healing is absolutely possible and with support, that positive future you so richly deserve is obtainable.

      If I can support you through either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – as you work toward that positive future for yourself, I’d love to work with you there.

      In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  34. James on  

    I’ve always known that something was up with my family. I don’t know how I discovered the term narcissismm but I knew as soon as I read about it that a lot applied to my experience with family. I can’t pinpoint a single family member; though some are worse than others. I’m 39 now (male), have moved overseas and reached a plateau. I’ve had therapy before, and want to take the first step which seems to be the same regardless of the article which is education about the topic and then confronting history.

    • Annie on  

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your comment and for your vulnerability in sharing your story. I’m sorry that this was your experience with your family.

      I’d like to invite you to explore my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School. If I can support you as you work toward healing, I’d love to work with you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  35. Rose on  

    This article just made me realized I was raised by a narcissist father. I’m 48 I knew Our family was very dysfunctional growing up and this article allowed me put a word to it all. I’ve hurt my child because of my trauma and pain from it. I became my father.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Rose,

      Thanks so much for your vulnerability in sharing. I’m sorry that this was your experience growing up and please know that it’s natural to repeat the patterns and behavior we grew up with – it’s what feels “normal”. The good news is that now that you’re aware of this pattern, you can heal and grow toward a more positive relationship with your child.

      If I can support you through either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – as you work toward healing, I’d love to work with you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  36. Christina on  

    I am a 53 year old who recently discovered my mother and my sister are narcissists. I always knew something wasn’t as it should be. Certain things my mother did, like getting my friends phone numbers and inviting them to her house, then talking badly about them, seemed so wrong. And then you could never talk about it with her. Having horrible anxiety whenever I had to go to my parents house, and wondering why my parents talk to me like I am stupid. I have been a nurse for 27 years but I have never been respected. I have always been the scapegoat. My father died over a year ago and since then my mother has increased her gaslighting and manipulation ten-fold. I came home from my moms sobbing, and shared everything with my husband. I started showing him my text messages from her. Having someone else confirm that its not okay to do or say these things to another human being was all I needed to say “NO”. I have stopped my mother from coming to our house or doing any in-person events. My mother has given me the silent treatment, except to write me a horrible letter (which I did not respond to), and my sister (the golden child) disowned me for speaking out, even though she has seen it first hand.

    I have been reading anything I can get my hands on to help me through this life altering realization. I am learning a lot about myself and why I do certain things or react certain ways. My relationship with my husband has been so much better without my mother in it. I still have bad days but work through the guilt. Learning how to be more selfish and meet my expectations and no one else’s is strange. The guilt is the worst part but I am talking it out with my husband and working through it. I know it will take some time, feeling a little better each day. I no longer take any anti-anxiety medications after over 6 years. My anxiety is gone. Which only confirms that I made the right decision and will continue to move forward.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Christina,

      Thank you for your comment, I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing your story. Please know that it’s not selfish to hold your boundaries to take care of yourself. I’m proud of the hard work you’ve done so far and I encourage you to seek support as you continue to heal.

      If I can support you through either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – as you work toward a positive future for yourself, I’d love to work with you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

      • Chrisitina on  

        Thanks so much for your response. May 10th is my birthday. Still having a hard time with all the “firsts”. This was the first mother’s day that I did not have to share my birthday and mother’s day with my mother. Both days were all mine. And they were so relaxing and only did what I wanted to do. I didn’t read my birthday card from my mom, just threw it in the garbage and mailed back the check she wrote me. Could bring myself to send her a mother’s day card. Had nothing to write in the card that wasn’t going to be a lie. And telling you about it feels so good. No one else would understand why I am not wanting to have anything to do with my mother (or sister). Or that I have to protect my teenage son from my mother as well. It’s foreign territory for all of us with Narcissistic mother’s. So sometimes we need encouraging words, especially when we still get painful text messages. So thanks Annie.

        • Annie on  

          Hi Christina,

          First let me say, “Happy belated birthday!” I’m proud of you for giving yourself the day to relax and do exactly as you wanted. I understand your feeling like no one else would “get” why you aren’t wanting to be around your mother or sister. I’d love for you to explore my blog posts, starting with this article – Brittle, Broken, Bent: Coping with Family Estrangement, where I discuss how family estrangement is fairly common. I hope you find a sense of community and feel less alone as you read my words. Take such good care of yourself, you’re so worth it.

          Warmly, Annie

  37. June (Not my real name) on  

    My partner’s 18 yr old adopted daughter is being raised by a narcissist adopted mother except that this daughter was not a scape goat child. This adopted mother only wanted two of the younger siblings and was willing to separate the older siblings. This 18 yr old was the chosen golden child and provided privileges and allowed to bully her other birth siblings. She is cruel and spoiled. My partner and I continually argue about holding her accountable to her cruel and selfish intentions. He believes she is not responsible for any of her actions because of her privileged upbringing “because she doesn’t know any better”. I on the other hand believe she needs to be held accountable for her cruel acts and haughty attitude. Am I wrong for this? I know she was groomed 11 years ago but morale and reasoning at some point should have come into play. Again am I wrong for this?

    • Annie on  

      Hi June,

      Thank you for sharing with us, it sounds like a tough spot for both you and your partner to be in. I’d like to encourage you both to seek support in processing your differing feelings about her behavior and to perhaps explore what healthy boundaries might look like when interacting with her.

      If I can support you through my online course – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, as you work toward a positive future for your family, I’d love to work with you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  38. Niesa on  

    I am a 26-year-old woman. I live in the Netherlands. I grew up with two brothers and two sisters. The consequences of our past are hard to see. We experienced all forms of child abuse. Mother was not allowed to leave the house without permission, we were not allowed to play with children, and we didn’t have money.

    I spend my childhood reading and doing what my father wanted. Eventually, I went to study medicine. Because of violence, I left. He was angry. I have had many depressions, many diagnoses. Unfortunately, I got diabetes one year after I left. He said en says that it is my own fault. Until a year ago I learned that I also want things, that I don’t have to work 16 hours a day, that I don’t have to give them my money.

    Now he has kidney failure. I pushed him to go with me to the emergency room this week. He asked nothing about me, only when I would finish my study. In three hours time he has said only bad things about me. How awful I am. I saw that he manipulated the nurses and doctors. He said that I needed to listen to him and that I had to do everything he wants. He got more angry when I disagreed. At the end, I said that he could go, that he is not my father anymore. He followed me to the train station.

    My sister was his perfect daughter, because she always listened. When she married he called her a whore. At the moment she married, she was still a virgin. He didn’t visit her when his first grandson was born. The first time he saw him, he was already one year old.

    I realise after the incident in the emergency room that he propably is a narcissist. He is deeply wounded, but he broke us all. I was part of him, I was a server (I wanted nothing, I needed nothing. This until a year ago.).

    It is painful, because also he has very deep wounds. But his behavior is unacceptable. I intended to give him a kidney. I know for sure that he will say the most ugly things ‘because I wanted him to be operated’. Now I am going to finish my study. I met a boy who doesn’t lie. He has a comparable childhood. – It is very painfull en sad, but it is the best thing I can do for myself. I hope that my anxiety will diminish.

    Niesa was the name he wanted to give me. I use this know my whole live as my nickname. I love him and I know that he will still influence me. However, I promised myself that I will not allow anyone to abuse me.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Niesa,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. I’m sorry for all that you’ve been through with your father, but I’m so proud of you for realizing that you deserve to be treated better. Keep that promise to yourself, you are so very worth it.

      If I can support you through either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – as you work toward a positive future for yourself, I’d love to work with you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  39. Lauren on  

    I’ve gone NC with my parents and my sister March 24, 2022 due to a huge event (not a fight) and my need to heal. I’m sure part of the reason I put my foot down this time is that I’ve been working on this through counselling. I feel a sense of peace that I am not constantly getting criticized anymore, but I miss my dad, who was an enabler. I also wonder if because I didn’t say anything, I just stopped talking to them, if I’ve done this no contact thing correctly. I’ve had small times of not speaking to my parents but this is the longest time with no communication and that I haven’t broken when they’ve reached out.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Lauren,

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your situation with us. I’m proud of you for taking the time to heal and for maintaining the boundaries that give you the space to do so. I’d like to encourage you to continue discussing how you feel about going NC with your counselor to give yourself the chance to work through any emotions that may arise.

      If I can support you through my online course – Hard Families, Good Boundaries – as you work toward a positive future for yourself, I’d love to work with you there. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  40. Jyothsna on  

    Hi. I am raised by a narcissistic mother. When my marriage ended up in divorce, she was
    1. Afraid of how others would react
    2. No one would respect her.
    3. Refused to help me in court procedures and guide me when I asked for some help.
    4. Afraid that my brother would suffer because of my failed marriage.

    None of them were concerns about me. I was shocked, sad and felt like a failure. While trying to recover from the trauma of physical and sexually abusive marriage, I read many self help books, expert opinions, stories of survivors. During that time I realized that I was raised by a narcissistic mother.

    I sometimes wonder if I am a narcissist too because I think I seek appreciation and feel I am different and important. But, I can empathize and try to give too much care and attention to people. Sometimes I feel whatever I do, I can never be someone good enough to find a loving partner. I don’t know if I am a narcissist or not. But, I don’t want to be one. I am sure about it.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Jyothsna,

      Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your story with us. I’m sorry that you didn’t get the support you deserved from your mother during a really tough time. Please know that you ARE good enough to find a loving partner and I’m sending you my best as you move toward healing.

      If I can support you through my online course – Hard Families, Good Boundaries – as you work toward a positive future for yourself, I’d love to work with you there. In the meantime, take such good care of yourself, you’re so worth it.

      Warmly, Annie

  41. Christine on  

    My Mother was a Narcissist. I left home at 18 to immigrate to another country. I escaped it’s taken years to understand my childhood. I began my healing with Buddhist teachings they helped to heal my heart and open the void enough to deal with an emotionally neglected upbringing. A lot of wisdom has come from reading articles that have helped guide me through the stages to heal, I Thank you for yours.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Christine,

      Thank you for your comment! I’m so pleased that you count my article among those that have helped you heal. Sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  42. Andrew O'Sullivan on  

    This read made me cry as I recognise so much of myself in this. Both of my parents were Narcissistic in their very different ways. Even as an adult when I spoke up, I was the one that got abandoned, gaslighted, projected.

    I’ve fought not to be like them. However there are so many scars. Especially now that I’m working through them and also fighting to not pass the same rubbish into my son. Yet I can now see I’ve done some of the same things.

    Trying to work on yourself and right your wrongs with your child is tough. This is where my therapist and lots of reading comes in.

    At 52, it’s going to be a long journey but I will get there.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Andrew,

      I’m sorry that this has been your experience with your parents, but I’m so pleased that this resonated with you. Working on yourself and righting wrongs with your child IS tough – please know that you’re giving yourself and your child a gift by putting in the work. Take such good care of yourself, you’re so worth it.

      Warmly, Annie

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