Being raised by a narcissistic parent or two causes a person to act differently than people raised by healthy, functional parents. Aside from the most obvious common problem, C-PTSD, being raised by narcissists creates certain unique behaviors that almost every victim exhibits. This post addresses those behaviors.
Being afraid to say no. Narcissists don’t allow their children to have boundaries. “No” can be met with abuse- name calling, scathing criticisms, guilt trips & even physical violence. Children use “yes” as a survival skill as a result. They learn early in life that it’s easier to do whatever their narcissistic parent wants than to say “no” & face the consequences. This behavior becomes such a habit that it is often carried into adulthood. While it served a good purpose as a child, it no longer does as an adult. Being a healthy adult means having healthy boundaries. You need to start asking yourself why are you saying yes? Are you saying yes because you want to or because you’re afraid of disappointing someone if you say no? Start saying no when you’re saying yes when you don’t want to. Some people won’t like it, but one thing to keep in mind- healthy, good, caring people respect boundaries. Users & abusers don’t. If someone gets upset with you for having a healthy boundary, that isn’t the kind of person you need in your life.
Apologizing too much. Narcissistic parents blame their children for every single thing, so their children learn to apologize for everything, whether or not it’s their fault. This dysfunctional survival skill also carries into adulthood, & needs to stop. When you feel the urge to apologize, pray. Ask God is this truly your fault? Should you apologize or are you only doing so out of habit?
Being unable to express emotions in a healthy way. Narcissists can’t handle the emotions of other people, including their children. They force their children to stifle their emotions, often by shaming them for having them. This tells children their emotions are bad. To cope, may continue to repress their emotions while others express them in inappropriate ways such as getting angrier than is appropriate for the situation. It can be hard, I know, but you need to learn to get in touch with your emotions & give them a healthy outlet. Ask God to help you to do this, because it will get scary, especially showing anger after a lifetime of stifling it. Journaling can be helpful, too- seeing things in writing brings clarity.
Not trusting your intuition & perception. Constant gaslighting is possibly the most cruel form of abuse there is, & also a favorite of narcissists. Gaslighting makes a person second guess everything about themselves- their instincts, perception, feelings, thoughts- because it makes a victim feel that they are wrong about everything or even crazy. The fact is though that you aren’t wrong or crazy- you are FINE! The gaslighting made you doubt these things but it doesn’t mean that they are actually wrong or flawed somehow. Your instincts, perceptions, feelings & thoughts are just fine. They are trustworthy! Ask God to help you to learn to trust yourself. Pay attention, too. You’ll see that the more you you’re right about little things, the more you learn to trust yourself.
Over explaining yourself. Narcissistic parents demand their children behave in certain ways that are acceptable to them, no matter how their child feels about it. When the child fails to meet the impossibly high expectations, the parent demands an explanation for the failure. One more dysfunctional survival skill children of narcissists learn is to explain anything & everything, & again, this often continues into adulthood. It feels strange at first to stop over explaining yourself, but if you stick with it, it gets more comfortable as time goes on. Always remember, not everyone needs an explanation for what you do.
These behaviors, although dysfunctional, don’t have to be permanent. With prayer & work, you can make healthy changes.
10 responses to “Things Adult Children Of Narcissists Do Because Of Their Parents”
I still find myself doing these, especially not being able to say no.
It’s hard changing these habits. They become such a part of who you are. It is possible though & you can change. God will help you! ❤
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One of the biggest changes I was able to make after going NC was to say no and not allow anyone to demand that I explain my answer or argue me out of it. This was something I was trained to do by my NM. If I refused to do something she wanted she would demand an explanation, then argue against my rationale, telling me I was wrong about my decision. An incident in which she did that was what led me to begin to question our relationship and our family dynamic. She became furious with me for saying no, even more furious when I became angry with her for trying to talk me out of it, and then incited my siblings to hurt me. She also caused me to be fired from my job which was a financial disaster for my family. I should have gone NC right then.
Your mother sounds like evil personified, Suzanne 😦
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Your comment got me thinking. I’d always thought of my mother as a supremely selfish, immature, and controlling person. After learning about narcissism I realized that she exhibited most of the common traits, and employed many of the tactics, of a N. But I’d never really applied the word evil to her, mostly because her covert narcissism was so insidious and well disguised but also because she was so horribly abused by my MNF and always used that to play the victim. And if she was a victim she couldn’t be the victimizer, could she? It was easier for me to say that someone elses mother was evil because their abuse was so much more obvious (physical assault, neglect that put their child in danger, etc.). But now when I look back at the EFFECTS of all the things she’s done, rather than just the acts themselves, I can say that THEY were evil. And doing those abusive things was and is her choice. She hasn’t changed. She exhibits no remorse or desire to change. She knows that she hurts people, mostly her own children and grandchildren, but what she does works for her and she won’t give that up. I believe that anyone who sacrifices the happiness and well-being of her own family to benefit him/herself is evil.
I understand all too well, Suzanne. I grew up thinking my father was a great guy, & my mother’s innocent victim. I never would have labeled him evil. Her yes, but not him. The more I learned about narcissism though, the more it became crystal clear he was evil. He did some terrible things & not only to me. But, when you grow up with an over & a covert narcissist, compared to the overt one, the covert seems like a good parent. Plus, as children, we crave the love of our parents. It’s hard enough to accept one parent doesn’t love us. Both of them is excruciating to accept.
Subject matter aside though, I think reading your post was cool.. I can tell you’re an INTJ because you sound so much like my husband does when he works through things. That’s pretty cool! 🙂
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Maybe it’s because I’m INTJ. But maybe it’s because I had to shut off my emotional response from a very early age just to survive that I employ reason instead of emotion when making decisions. My mother didn’t like that about me, but she was the cause.
That’s a good point too. Eric also had to shut off his emotions growing up & even now at 53 sometimes has trouble expressing emotions in a healthy way. Or, maybe being INTJ makes that easier to do because INTJs are more logical than emotional naturally.
Interesting your mother didn’t like that about you & was also the reason for it. My mother was much the same. Always told me how “cold” I was growing up. Well, I always have been cold.. with her. Self protection. Interesting how they can pick on their children yet not have even a moment of wondering if they may have contributed to the behavior.
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Since they take no responsibility for their abusive words and actions, it wouldn’t enter into their minds that any damage in us was caused by them.