Narcissistic parents and their children’s relationships

 

Narcissistic parents will interfere with all of their children’s relationships.  Those will include:

  • Relationships between siblings (triangulation) and setting one off spring against another.
  • Friendships must be with people that the narcissist does not feel threatened by in any way, so they will disallow friendships that they do not feel that they can completely control. With young children, they will simply refuse to let certain friends of their children over to play.  This could be because the friend of their child is too confident and “sets a bad example” for their own child.  Or because the narcissistic parent is threatened by the parents of the other child. They could be too rich, too popular, too poor, too intellectual or accomplished in some field.
  • As the child gets older they will control friendships by making their own child feel like they make “bad” friendship choices if they do not feel completely in control of the relationship. They will do this by sneering, belittling and overtly mocking their friendship choices.  They will also make that friend feel unwelcome in the family home by ignoring the friend or by being overtly rude to that person.
  • When their teenage children start to have romantic interests they will go into over drive. A narcissistic mother will be overly invested in the sex life of her daughter (especially the scapegoat), repeatedly yelling at them about the perils of getting pregnant and the dire consequences for them if they do, or they can like the drama of teenage romance and want to know every single detail, demanding that their daughter or son over share with them.
  • Children (even adult children) are hard wired to want to belong to their family of origin, so usually they will try to select friends, lovers or partners that will be accepted into their family, as they know that this is the only way that they themselves will be accepted. So, in a way children of narcissistic parents do not choose their own friends/partners it often becomes “a family decision” which leaves that “child” wide open to abusive relationships because the narcissistic parent is not thinking about how that person will behave towards their child, they are only thinking about what that person can offer the narcissist.  Even if they see that the person is being abusive to their child it will not matter to the narcissist so long as that person is charming to them, brings status, celebrity or money or anything that they perceive will make the “look good”.  The narcissistic parent will very often try to be more “important” in their children’s relationships than the child itself.  Or in the case of opposite sex parents will try to be more important to their child than their husband or wife, marginalising the influence that the wife or husband has on their own family decisions.  This can be done by bullying, ignoring the needs and wants of the spouse or by threatening to withhold financial support.  Frequently favouritising more compliant siblings to show how beneficial it is to do the parent’s bidding.

Overt traits of covert narcissists

They are extremely judgmental of others.  This is because they have so many insecurities they are hyper critical of those around them.  Their criticism of others bears absolutely no relation to reality, if fact, the more threatened they are of the positive attributes of a person, the more critical they will be and the more inclined they will be “to bring them down a peg”.

They are usually charming to the person’s face and viscous about them behind their back. They are quite capable of all sweetness and light and make horrible comments under their breath as they walk away. That charm will be increased when they want something from a person.  This can include material goods, money and status.  There is absolutely nothing authentic about their relationships with others.

Their motto is “attack is the best method of defense”, so no matter what happens nothing is ever their fault.  This denial of responsibility refers to everything from taking a wrong turn in traffic, a failed relationships, abusive behaviour or even a badly cooked meal. They will project every potential negative feeling about themselves on to someone or something else.  A classic comment from a covert narcissist is “now look what you made me do”.  Their arguments are so illogical and so repetitive that there is no point in giving a counter argument.

You will never have a more isolated or lonely “relationship” than that with a covert narcissist.  They may act like part of a couple but every now and then they will drop a comment that makes you think “they have absolutely no idea who I am”.  They will also constantly tell you “who you are” and “who they are”, they never let actions speak for themselves, they always accompany their behaviour (and yours) with a narrative that paints them as nothing less that flawless and is designed to devalue you, they will often feign pity for you for being so substandard and imply that you are very lucky to have them because not many people would tolerate such an imperfect partner/ friend like you.

Covert narcissists are completely amoral and without conscience or remorse.  They objectify other people and they only see them in terms of what they can harvest out of another for their own gain.  They do not care if they suck someone dry, they will merely cast them aside and go on the hunt for a better resource of attention, money or status.  When a narcissist cheats, lies or abuses another person they see it as a “hit, a point or a score”, it makes them feel powerful and in control.

Narcissists are extremely condescending and they need to be like this because they have to feel superior at all times.  It is as though they think that if they “permit” the freedom of expression of others in their presence that they will completely and disappear.  Because like all bullies they are weak and cowards, so they have a tendency to negate, devalue and disregard the thoughts/opinions and feelings of others almost out of a fear that they will be over shadowed. However, if you listen to the content of what they say, there are no core values/beliefs and their opinions change depending on who is in front of them and how much they think they can “impress”.

They are the people who can walk over someone who is obviously in distress/dying on a busy street and will get annoyed with them for “being in their way” (unless of course there is an audience in which case they will be the epitome of “compassion”). They despise it when people talk about their illness or misfortune but expect 100% attention/empathy when they are talking about themselves.

Their emotional/self-awareness and interpersonal/social skills are extremely low. They also have absolutely no capacity for logic (which is directly related to their inability to take personal responsibility for anything – including things that they say themselves), it is for this reason that you can never have an authentic connection.

The saying goes “if you are looking for offense, you will always find it” and so it is with narcissists.  Their radar is constantly in search of possible slights on their character. Like all highly critical people they are extremely sensitive to even the mere hint of anything other than an accolade. This could include not being at home when they called by (naughty you, you should have known), to laughing at yourself (which they will see as an indirect attack on them).  Everything that happens around them, they revert back to themselves.  For example, if you go on holiday somewhere nice and have a great time, they will see that as you doing it on purpose “to rub their nose in it” because they couldn’t get time off work/spent their money on an extension of their house.  Either way you went on your holiday specifically to insult or make them jealous.  They literally cannot understand that you might have booked your holiday without them in mind.

If they know that you want/would like something from them, they will deliberately withhold it from you because they would see that as you taking advantage of them and that is their job not yours!  This could be anything from old clothes that they are discarding that you admired, a lift to the airport to someone to listen to a problem you are having. The answer will always be “NO” unless there is something in it for them.

They are extremely envious of others (to a pathological extent), they will try to hide it but they will also try to get some of what you have from you.  Even if they have much more for example in material wealth, they will still try to take from those who are less affluent.  This is linked to the fact that they cannot feel gratitude for what they have and are always looking for more even if it means cheating, stealing or lying.

The covert narcissist constantly needs low level attention, they don’t necessarily want to be a pop star but they do expect to be the centre of attention in all of their other relationships, they will constantly charm new people and utterly ignore those who they think that they “have”.

Controlling people

 

Controlling people

 

Controlling people are very keen on telling others who they are, what they are, what they are thinking and the motivation behind their actions.  They will deliver their “insights” with such “authority” that you will feel that you have to defend yourself.  No one has the “right” to define someone else, most people do not know themselves very well never mind somebody else.  It is a complete and absolute violation of boundaries and one of the narcissists favourite means of control.  The narcissist will believe their own fantasy world and think that what they are saying/doing is actually right or constructive.  They will justify their actions by saying/thinking “well someone had to tell him/her, I was the only one who had the courage to do it!”

 

Control is a really destructive problem in any relationship whether it is romantic, friendship, professional or familial. When people try to control others they are attempting to define that person according to what they want/need them to be.  They cannot see that the other person exists and a sentient being that exists in their own right, they don’t respect you for who you are and it can be done in many ways such as:

  • Negative comments couched in false concern or “helpful advice”.
  • Gaslighting, denying your reality and projecting their own made up one.
  • Complete disregard for your feeling.
  • Constant lying about even the most frivolous things
  • Inventing “stories” about negative things that other people said about you.
  • Trying to prevent you from expressing yourself and negating everything your say.
  • Cruel “jokes” that are designed to hurt.
  • Adapting a really condescending and contemptuous attitude towards you.
  • Making examples of other to demonstrate what could happen to you if you do not submit to their coercion.
  • Going on a smear campaign behind your back if they feel like they are losing control, so that they damage your reputation before they are exposed.

The problem with recognizing controlling people is that a lot of their control is very subtle and we tend to see their comments as bad taste, we think that we must have missed something when they lie (because they are absolute masters at inventing lies on the spot) or accuse ourselves of being paranoid when people’s behaviour changes as a result of a smear campaign.

 

Controlling people will always play the victim if they are pulled up on their behaviour.  They will say things like “I was only trying to be helpful, you are so ungrateful”  or “you always misunderstand what other people are saying” (universal miscomprehension – how could they possibly know this?) or “do you always have to be so negative, you are not always right you know”.

When a person has good intentions (in general) it is hard to imagine the motivation behind a controllers behaviour because the big question is “why would anyone want to do that?”, the best “reason” that I have come across is because they are essentially very weak personalities and they think that if anyone else shines that they will disappear completely. Everything that happens around them they relate back to themselves, so for example a child could get sick at a time when a narcissistic parent wanted to go on a weekend break and the narcissist will think that the child did it on purpose to ruin their holiday, a puppy could chew up their favourite pair of shoes and the narcissist will think that the puppy “knew they were my favourite (and did it on purpose)).

It is possible to break free from the spell binding dominance of a controller and this is done by standing back and taking a long hard look at their actions, not their words.  The disparity between their actions and words is also a controlling tactic. When you see the pattern, there is absolutely no point in addressing it with them because they will deny everything and project their bad behaviour back on to you.  What needs to be done is to move out of their presence as much as possible, create relationships with other people who will support your reality and to learn (or relearn) to trust yourself and your intuition/gut feelings again.

 

Narcissism and suicidal feelings

 

If you come from a narcissistic family of origin or have had a narcissistic partner, suicidal feelings are “normal”.  This is because you have been drip fed poison about yourself over a long period of time, interjected with acts of “kindness”.  The acts of “kindness” were performed simply to keep you doubting yourself. In reality the narcissist wants to destroy you because it gives them sadistic pleasure and makes them feel strong. They invalidate everything that you do or take credit for it themselves.  If you come from a narcissistic family of origin you will have been caught up in a system (more than one person), that has constantly devalued you.  This only adds to the confusion that you will be experiencing, one person could be wrong – but all of them?

What the narcissist is out to achieve is to murder your soul.  To attack your personality because they do not have one.  They do it by choice not by accident, they know how to behave but they choose not to (all you have to do is notice the difference in how they behave publically vs privately).  They get away with it in part because you project good intention on to them where there is none, even if we think that they are “up to something” it is our incredulity, politeness and our cultural mores that keep us stuck (such as you should respect everyone, being vulnerable and open is a “good” thing, don’t judge people and universally trust everyone until proven otherwise)

A narcissist might well speak of you in glowing terms in public and at the same time demean, humiliate and abuse you behind closed doors.  This is an inverted smear campaign designed to discredit you if you say anything about their abuse.  They are extremely paranoid and their fear of exposure makes them capable of anything, even murder.  That sounds very melodramatic but when you are dealing with someone who has no conscience there are no limits to what they will do.   They do not see you as a sentient human being, merely an object for them to feed off, provide drama and entertainment for and generally make them feel more alive inside their emptiness.  Being offensive and crippling others self-esteem just makes them feel powerful.  Another really unpleasant thing about narcissists is that the nastier you are to them the more respectful they will be to you.  So if you are abrupt and uncooperative with them they will simply see you as a bad source of narcissistic supply and move away.

No matter how strong a person is, there is no way that they could stay strong under a constant vicious, vile and sadistic attack like that.  It is no wonder that sometimes you feel filled with a sense of utter despair, unloved (and unlovable), and helpless.  The reason for this is that you were looking for love where there is none, you were told that they love you, but a narcissist notion of love is to draft someone else into their service.  The minute that doesn’t work for them, that person will be totally discarded like an empty wrapper, the only time you will hear from them again is when they want something from you.  It is not your fault that a narcissist treated you the way that they did.  In fact, it has nothing to do with you at all, it could have been anyone with a kind and trusting nature that they felt they could push around.  Knowing that does not take away the pain or scars that they have inflicted but it is a good starting point to take back ownership of your life and to become the whole and beautiful loving person that you were always intended to be.

To do this you have to do a few things:

  • Work on creating stronger boundaries
  • Realise that no one has the right to tell you who you are, what you are thinking or the motives behind an action or decision that you took
  • Realise that you are being lied to constantly with only a light dusting of truth to make their lies seem credible
  • Know that they will say bad things about you behind your back, there is nothing you can do to prevent that (they can do it about anyone) authentic people will see through their smoke and mirrors
  • It isn’t personal, it is an extension/function of their personality disorder
  • Try to remember who you were when you were a young child, before people tried to mess with your head
  • Keep a journal
  • Show compassion to yourself
  • Be careful (judge without being judgemental i.e. is this person a good fit for me, my strengths and my weaknesses) about who you let get close to you

Narcissism and suicidal feelings

If you come from a narcissistic family of origin or have had a narcissistic partner, suicidal feelings are “normal”.  This is because you have been drip fed poison about yourself over a long period of time, interjected with acts of “kindness”.  The acts of “kindness” were performed simply to keep you doubting yourself. In reality the narcissist wants to destroy you because it gives them sadistic pleasure and makes them feel strong. They invalidate everything that you do or take credit for it themselves.  If you come from a narcissistic family of origin you will have been caught up in a system (more than one person), that has constantly devalued you.  This only adds to the confusion that you will be experiencing, one person could be wrong – but all of them?

What the narcissist is out to achieve is to murder your soul.  To attack your personality because they do not have one.  They do it by choice not by accident, they know how to behave but they choose not to (all you have to do is notice the difference in how they behave publically vs privately).  They get away with it in part because you project good intention on to them where there is none, even if we think that they are “up to something” it is our incredulity, politeness and our cultural mores that keep us stuck (such as you should respect everyone, being vulnerable and open is a “good” thing, don’t judge people and universally trust everyone until proven otherwise)

A narcissist might well speak of you in glowing terms in public and at the same time demean, humiliate and abuse you behind closed doors.  This is an inverted smear campaign designed to discredit you if you say anything about their abuse.  They are extremely paranoid and their fear of exposure makes them capable of anything, even murder.  That sounds very melodramatic but when you are dealing with someone who has no conscience there are no limits to what they will do.   They do not see you as a sentient human being, merely an object for them to feed off, provide drama and entertainment for and generally make them feel more alive inside their emptiness.  Being offensive and crippling others self-esteem just makes them feel powerful.  Another really unpleasant thing about narcissists is that the nastier you are to them the more respectful they will be to you.  So if you are abrupt and uncooperative with them they will simply see you as a bad source of narcissistic supply and move away.

No matter how strong a person is, there is no way that they could stay strong under a constant vicious, vile and sadistic attack like that.  It is no wonder that sometimes you feel filled with a sense of utter despair, unloved (and unlovable), and helpless.  The reason for this is that you were looking for love where there is none, you were told that they love you, but a narcissist notion of love is to draft someone else into their service.  The minute that doesn’t work for them, that person will be totally discarded like an empty wrapper, the only time you will hear from them again is when they want something from you.  It is not your fault that a narcissist treated you the way that they did.  In fact, it has nothing to do with you at all, it could have been anyone with a kind and trusting nature that they felt they could push around.  Knowing that does not take away the pain or scars that they have inflicted but it is a good starting point to take back ownership of your life and to become the whole and beautiful loving person that you were always intended to be.

To do this you have to do a few things:

  • Work on creating stronger boundaries
  • Realise that no one has the right to tell you who you are, what you are thinking or the motives behind an action or decision that you took
  • Realise that you are being lied to constantly with only a light dusting of truth to make their lies seem credible
  • Know that they will say bad things about you behind your back, there is nothing you can do to prevent that (they can do it about anyone) authentic people will see through their smoke and mirrors
  • It isn’t personal, it is an extension/function of their personality disorder
  • Try to remember who you were when you were a young child, before people tried to mess with your head
  • Keep a journal
  • Show compassion to yourself
  • Be careful (judge without being judgemental i.e. is this person a good fit for me, my strengths and my weaknesses) about who you let get close to you

Holding space for someone

When we hold space for others it means that we empathise that we can feel other people’s pain where ever their journey might have taken them, without judging them for making “wrong” decisions, making them feel “less than”, by trying to fix them with our “superior knowledge” or influence the outcome or get annoyed with them because they don’t take our advice.  What holding space for someone means is that we open our hearts and our minds, we offer a non-judgmental non-controlling space where they can just be themselves and try to work their own problems out.

It is really hard to hold space for other people unless we feel that someone has “our back” which is why “normal” people in relationships with narcissists can appear really flakey and unreliable because they can seem really supportive and loving when all is well with their narcissist and disintegrate for their friends when they come under a barrage of fire from the same, as a narcissist’s attack is nearly always savage and can leave their victim very unstable because all is not what it seemed to be.

Holding space for other people is the essence of being a human.  It is not about money, success and all of those superficial things.  It is not what we have been taught but it is what is true.  We need to let people (now more than ever) be weak, be vulnerable and to feel safe to ask for help.

The rules are very simple:

  1. Don’t try to tell people who you think that they should be. That does not mean that you should live without boundaries.
  2. Don’t “over advise” or get pissed off when they don’t take your advice, they are living their own journey and trusting their own intuition (however that might be at the time), it is their journey not yours
  3. Don’t overload people with information, narcissism is a really hard concept to accept – be gentle/ be kind.

When people first learn about narcissism there is a lot of incredulity/half acceptance because they cannot believe that they are “that bad”, to be supportive expect to hear the person you are supporting become quite obsessed with the topic and be very repetitive, they only want you to listen so that they can work it out for themselves.  They are learning about the condition and are trying to mold the vast amount of information out there in to their own particular situation.

If we judge them as they grapple around in their confusion they will immediately recoil into their shell, when we hold space for them we give them the courage to move on and the resilience to keep going.

There is a phase in the journey on learning about narcissism when people have a tendency to beat themselves up and wonder “how could I have been so stupid/blind?”, “how could I have been so “accepting” of this type of abuse?”.  This is just an inevitable part of the journey and each person’s story is different.  However, there are two main reasons why people accept abuse the first is they come from a narcissistic family of origin, so abuse is their form of “love” and the second is that a narcissist will constantly check boundaries (like a small child) and every time they are permitted an abuse, the next time they will push a little harder.  So what might feel like a behaviour that occurred as a result of a bad day or fatigue is really the first steps towards something much more sinister.

A person who has been abused will be very confused so when they come to you for advice, instead of telling them what you think that they need to know, ask them open questions so that they can discover for themselves.

When a person feels that they are in a safe space, that is to say with people who are empathetic, compassionate and tender, they can get in touch with all of their more complex emotions and if necessary completely break down in front of the person(s) who is supporting them.  This is of immense help to the victim because they can then get in touch with “stuff” that they have been denying or minimalizing up to this point.

Strength and confidence are very important if you are going to hold space for someone.  Which means that you are in for the long haul (while respecting your own boundaries) and that you will not be shocked or aghast by what you hear or “turned off” by excessive emotional outbursts.

It is not easy to hold space for other people and it takes patience and practice.  It is also important that you do not hold space for the “wrong” person, someone who just wants an emotional crutch and shows no real desire to grow and move on. This is a hard thing to recognize because it is not always obvious