The wounds that are inflicted through a narcissistic family dynamic

Many people who have grown up in a narcissistic family fully understand how the core wounds that are inflicted manifest themselves.  Many more don’t because the child is confused by the fact that someone who claims to “love” them wants to hurt them and as such they grow up with the message that “love hurts”.


The main wounds that are “passed on” are as a result of never being able to champion, celebrate or praise their child, unless that child is a Golden Child, in which case they will be applauded for the slightest achievement.  This in turn will result in very low self-esteem and self-confidence (in the children who have been neglected) on the one hand and a ridiculous sense of entitlement and grandiosity on the other from being over cossetted and praised).

There are some wounds that apply to both children who have been scapegoated and golden children and those are:


  • Comparison to others, a scapegoat you will feel that they are not good enough and no matter how hard they try it will not be appreciated. The golden child will be praised for everything and will have a sense of superiority to just about everyone on the surface, however, inside their self-esteem is low and is merely protected by this false persona.
  • You will only be loved on the condition that you comply with the parent’s “needs”, this applies to both types of child rearing, since love and affection are the mainstay of healthy parenting, the child will do anything to get these very limited resources and they will always compete against each other to attain them.
  • Shaming children so that they constantly feel that there is something wrong with them and that they MUST try harder.
  • Infantilising so that their children are never really “allowed” to grow up. They want their children to look to them for guidance at all times, this way they have more control and attention.  Suppression of the child’s development also means that they will never outshine or take the lime light off the parent, it also keeps the child immature so the narcissist can relate to the child more.
  • Feeling guilty for wanting more from you parents and “taking them for granted”. Guilt is a big part of the narcissistic family dynamic.  The will guilt trip you for not being good enough (at school, doing the house work, or as good as other children), they will guilt trip for being too good (showing up the golden child, or drawing attention to yourself) and they will guilt trip you for wanting stuff, “you have a roof over your head, food on the table just think of the poor Syrian refugee children, you are so ungrateful for all of the sacrifices that I have made for you”.

The effects of this sort of “parenting” style on a child are many and all negative.

  • Low self-esteem, lack of self confidence
  • Fearful of doing anything that might draw attention to yourself.
  • Tolerating shoddy treatment from others
  • Physical ailments due to stress and anxiety such as panic attacks, chest pains and depression etc.
  • Feeling responsible for making things “better” for others, minding adults
  • Adopting behaviours that sabotage yourself when you are doing well or feeling happy
  • Feeling guilty when you are enjoying life
  • Addictions in their various forms such as drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling etc.

When a child does stand up for themselves the narcissistic parent can feel rejected (as the child is not following their “guidance/script”) and this can manifest itself with rage, counter rejection, sadness or an exhibition of extreme weakness and vulnerability so that the child feels like s/he has to protect their parent.  The consequence of this behaviour is that the child might feel pressured to shrink back into a supporting role for the parent and abandon realising their own potential.  Many parents will project the pain that they carried from their own childhood on to their children and will use phrases such as

“the sacrifices I have made for you”

“if it wasn’t for you I would be…”

“you are so ungrateful”

“I had to do … because of you”

“you were/are a mistake”

“I spend my whole life doing things for you”

Our culture will say:

“you are duty bound to your parents”

“your family is everything”

“you owe your mother loyalty and affection”

“there is no love like a mother’s love”

The message to the mother is that “if you don’t love being a mother and love your children there is something very wrong with you”  (no narcissist would ever admit to not loving being a mother, so it has to be the fault of their ungrateful children).

When you acknowledge and heal the damage that your family of origin has exposed you to, you will be clearing a way for healthier and happier relationships, both with yourself and with others.



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