Tag Archives: covert narcissism

When Narcissistic Parents Expect Their Children To Be Their Parent

Narcissistic parents often expect their children to care for them rather than the normal course of events where parents care for their children.  They expect their children to meet their emotional needs, listen to their woes, make them happy when they are sad, fix their problems & more.  This is called parentification, parentalizing, emotional incest or covert incest.  (For simplicity sake, we’ll use parentification in this article.)

 

While parentification may not sound all that bad, its effect on children can be devastating.  Children feel responsible for their parents, which burdens them with the false belief they are responsible for everyone in their circle as adults.  That type of responsibility is incredibly stressful, no matter a person’s age, & as everyone knows, stress can cause a plethora of physical ailments.

 

It also robs children of their childhood.  Parentified children aren’t allowed to hang out with their friends.  They have their parents to take care of instead.  Basically these children are living an adult life in their childhood.

 

Parentified children also are depressed.  They often feel like failures for not being able to fix their parents’ problems, & narcissistic parents only make this feeling worse by blaming their children for not being able to accomplish the impossible.

 

These children often carry a great deal of anger inside, too, yet are unable to express it.  To be angry at their parents feels so wrong since their parents have made it their job to protect these parents.  Since expressing that anger is wrong, as far as the children are concerned, the anger gets stuffed inside & often manifests in very unhealthy ways.  It can come out as self destructive ways (such as addictions) or other destructive ways (becoming abusive towards other people).

 

Parentified children have a right to be angry.  They have been subjected to an incredibly cruel & insidious form of abuse by their own parents.  And, to make matters worse, unknowing people compound their pain.  They tell the children how lucky they are to have such a close relationship with their mother or father.  Some people compound the guilt & responsibility on their child by saying things like, “I don’t know what your mom would do without you.”  “You have to be strong for your dad- he needs you.”  These kinds of things only make a child feel ashamed for having any complaints about the relationship, extra responsible for the parent they shouldn’t be responsible for in the first place & angry that they have been forced into this position.

 

If this describes you, you are NOT alone!  Many people have been the victims of parentification, in particular children of narcissistic parents.  I’ve been through it myself & sympathize with your pain.  My parents came to me ever since i can remember with complaints about each other & even wanting me to fix their disagreements.  I still have moments when I think of it that I get angry.  And you know something?  It’s ok!  Being abused in any way, shape or form isn’t right.  It’s ok to be angry about the unfairness of abuse & being forced to live with the painful effects, such as PTSD or C-PTSD.

 

The best way I’ve learned to cope is to go to God, & tell Him about what I feel.  He truly understands & gives me a lot of comfort.  I also have friends who have been through the same thing & understand.  Sometimes one of the most helpful things for me is when they get angry over something I went through.  That can be so validating!  What my parents did wasn’t right, but, as a typical child of narcissists, I’ve always felt guilt for being angry with them.  Although it’s diminished a great deal, it’s still there a little.  Someone else getting angry about what my parents did helps me to understand that it’s ok to be angry about what they did & to realize just how wrong it was.

 

If you’re still in a relationship with your parent who indulges in parentification, you are not in a good place.  Until such time as you decide to end this relationship, if you decide to take that step, you will need to learn ways to cope.  Narcissists don’t accept boundaries like normal people, so you will need to get creative.  Whatever you do, do NOT tell your parent, “It hurts me when you talk about/do that.  Please don’t do it anymore.”  Statements like that are like throwing gas on a narcissist fire.  They will mock you for being oversensitive or do the behavior more often just to hurt you.

 

Instead, try changing the subject.  Since narcissists love to talk about themselves, you can use that to your advantage.  Ask your narcissistic parent something about herself.  How is her job going?  How did her last doctor visit go?  Has she talked to her favorite cousin lately?  It’s really not that hard to get a narcissist to talk about themselves.  Why not use it in your favor?

 

Suddenly have to go.  You just looked at the time & you have to go.  You don’t owe any explanations- you just have to go.

 

Ask if your parent has talked to someone else who has been through something similar about this situation.  After all, that person knows a lot more than you do & no doubt can help your parent more than you can!  Let them think that you’re only suggesting this because it helps them in some way, not you.

 

Whatever your situation with parentification, I truly wish you the best.  I pray you find effective ways to cope with your parent or are able to release any false guilt you may feel for no longer being in that situation.

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health, Narcissism

Sometimes “Less Wrong” Is Your Best Option When Dealing With A Narcissist

When dealing with a narcissistic parent, often there are no right answers, only “less wrong” ones.  This is because narcissists are masters of creating a situation where you can’t win no matter what you do, but they will win.   One example in my life that comes to mind is if I don’t answer the phone when my parents call, they will either call back repeatedly until I do answer, attempt to make me feel guilty for not answering the next time we speak or manipulatively demand to know where I was that I couldn’t answer the phone.  I am left with some poor choices here:  answer the phone & deal with whatever games they are playing at the time, or don’t answer the phone & later deal with guilt trips (which don’t work, but really tick me off!) or their anger & especially nasty treatment because I didn’t bend to their wishes by not answering when they called the first time.  Not nice choices!  So, often times I answer the phone, even when I don’t want to, because it’s the lesser of the evils.  While the phone is ringing though, I am weighing my choices & deciding what I can & can’t handle before I pick it up.

It’s frustrating, but this is often the position you are forced into.  And, equally frustrating is others who don’t understand the situation, tell you what you’re doing is wrong & firmly believe you need to hear their opinions on the matter.  I don’t think most people are aware of how incredibly frustrating it is to be forced into these no win situations with a narcissistic parent.  They just see that you are doing something wrong, & that you should do something else, without realizing that their solution would have even more disastrous results than yours does.  They don’t grasp that you are doing what you are doing because it is going to create slightly less disastrous results than what they think you should do.  Or, if they know about narcissism, they may say you’re giving the narcissist that narcissistic supply they crave so desperately, which is why what you’re doing is wrong.  They aren’t seeing that while yes, sometimes you do give that supply, it’s better to give only a small amount of it than a ton of it.  The times when I do take my parents’ calls?  It seems to give them less supply than when they treat me poorly for not answering the phone right away.  Those times after they’ve given me sufficient grief, they seem happier & lighter by the time they hang up the phone.  I feel like I have chosen the lesser of the two evils when I take their calls immediately.

However you choose to handle situations with your narcissistic parents, choose wisely.  Sometimes your best answer isn’t going to be good or even right, but only less wrong.  Unfortunately that is normal.  Don’t listen blindly to the advice of others- listen to what they say & see if it would make sense  in your situation.  Hopefully others will give you a new & helpful solution, but sometimes they don’t, which is why you must consider carefully what they said. After all, no one knows your specific situation better than you do.  Just make sure you pray about what to do & weigh your options.  Do what you feel is right (well, less wrong) in your heart, & you will be doing the best thing you can do in your particular situation.  And, don’t forget to take care of yourself too.  If you end up frustrated, hurt or angry, vent your feelings in a healthy way.  Be good to yourself, too- dealing with a narcissist, especially a narcissistic parent, is very trying.  You need plenty of self-compassion & self-care after having dealt with a narcissistic parent.

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Why Not Tolerating Abuse Is A Godly, Loving Behavior

One thing it seems like all adult children of narcissists share is the large amount of people who  think that we should continue to tolerate anything & everything our narcissistic parents dish out, because of such logic as, “That’s the only mother you’ll ever have!”, “She’s doing her best!”  or, “She won’t be around forever yanno!”  So many people think tolerating abuse is loving, Godly, martyr-like behavior.  How people can think this is utterly beyond me.

Consider Mark 12:32-33, & notice the last part of verse 33…

Mark 12:32-33   “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  (NIV)

What exactly does it mean to love?  Here is how love is defined in the Bible..

1 Corinthians 13 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  (NIV)

I see nothing in there that states how tolerating abuse is a good thing for anyone.  Basically, I see 1 Corinthians 13 this way- love wants what is best, & tolerating abuse is hardly best for anyone.  The victim certainly doesn’t get what’s best- instead they end up hurt & angry at best, or possibly even doubting their sanity at worst.  Depending on the type of abuse the narcissist dishes out, they may also end up in financial straights or with physical injuries.  The abuser doesn’t end up with what’s best when abuse is tolerated either, because being allowed to get away with bad behavior certainly isn’t loving!  Getting away with bad behavior only encourages that bad behavior to continue, & probably even to escalate.  Narcissists in particular, when not confronted with boundaries or consequences for their behavior, will continue to push the limits to see just how far they can go.

People who try to tell you that you need to let your narcissistic parent abuse  you truly have no inkling of God’s definition of love.  Sadly, many of them are very convicted in their beliefs, so trying to explain this to many of them will be a waste of your time.  However, if this is someone you know well, you will know if this person will be open or not to hearing you explain what God’s definition of love really is.  If they are, then hopefully your relationship will survive this bump in the road unscathed.

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Some Thoughts For Those Unable To Sever Ties With A Narcissistic Mother

Good afternoon, Dear Readers!

The last few weeks, I’ve been feeling led to focus on helping those with narcissistic mothers who are either unable or unwilling to go no contact with them.   There are many in this position, & there is very little information out there for these people.   I hope this post will encourage you!

My mother called last night, & hubby & I are going to lunch tomorrow with my folks (my father’s birthday is Monday, hubby is off tomorrow, so I thought this could work).  Unfortunately, I learned quickly during the call that my mother’s niceness has ended for now.  She was very nasty during the conversation last night, talking quite a bit about how hard it was for her doing so much all by herself for her mother when she was alive.  A guilt trip, I suppose, for not doing enough.  Not nice considering I was her mother’s primary caregiver for a year… the hardest year of my life, by the way, since she was a very malignant narcissist & just a hateful, heartless human being.  And,  my mother mentioning this was not surprising, since she has said these exact same things many times over the years, even while her mother was still alive & I was helping her.  *sigh*

While this turn of events is disappointing, it’s certainly not unexpected.  While some of my readers seemed to think I believed my mother was going to maintain her much nicer demeanor indefinitely, that was never the case.  I’m hardly that naive.  My mother only can be nice to me for brief periods of time, like many narcissistic mothers, & I am well aware of that fact. I accept that about my mother, because, well, let’s face it- she has no desire to change that about herself.  It’s either accept it or try to change her.  I’ll accept it, rather than overstep my bounds by trying to make her into something she is not.

While accepting that fact about my mother, that doesn’t mean I accept her abuse however.  I’ve learned how to handle this relationship with my mother, how to maintain a civil contact with her.

When my mother is in one of her pleasant moods, I enjoy it.  I never know  how long it will last, so I don’t think about that.  I just enjoy it, whether that mood lasts for a day or a month.  I also remember that this change isn’t permanent, & she can go back to full narcissistic mode at any moment.  That keeps my expectations realistic (well, low), so I am not disappointed when she changes.

When the narcissistic mode kicks back in, I keep a distance from my mother.  I answer her calls less frequently, & spend less time with her.

I’ve noticed her narcissistic mode lasts less time doing this.  She is now nicer, or at least civil, more often than not.  While I certainly can’t say my relationship with my mother is perfect by any means, it is way better than I ever thought it could be.  We have pleasant conversations pretty often now, & I don’t cringe every time the phone rings.  I’m also able to relax some during the good times where I wasn’t able to before.  I now know they may not last long, so I just live in the moment, enjoying them as they come up.  When they stop, I knew it was going to  happen, so I am not surprised or disappointed.  That is when I keep my distance, & wait for the nice mode to start again.

I believe these changes have happened for a couple of reasons. First, God. I prayed a lot recently as I’ve mentioned before, because I was so close to going no contact with my mother.  He told me that decision was up to me.  I asked Him to help me be able to stay in this very difficult relationship, at least for now.  I assumed that meant He would give me strength & courage as I needed it, but it’s been so much more than I could’ve expected.  I am now able to hear my mother’s nasty, cruel words, & not feel devastated.  Hurt sometimes, sure, but I am more able to see them as a result of her issues, rather than taking them personally.  That helps to take much of  the sting out of her words.  I also am now able to say “no”  & defend myself where that was once very difficult for me to do sometimes.  I also, for once, haven’t trouble speaking my mind to my mother.  Granted, I don’t do it all the time, but sometimes, it’s just not worth it.  Sometimes the topic is trivial & we simply have different opinions- so what?  That just means we’re different people.  Other times, if I need to speak up to her about how she treats me, I can tell she is going to ignore me, so there just isn’t a point in frustrating myself by speaking up.

God also has enabled me to be much stronger with setting & forcing very strict boundaries with my mother.  She has no choice but to go along with them now, whereas I used to have very weak boundaries, if any.  Does she like this?  No, but I really don’t care.   They are reasonable, & I am taking care of myself.  I think by doing this, I have gained a slight amount of respect from my mother for the first time ever.  Narcissists are bullies, & one thing I’ve learned about bullies is that they respect someone who has the guts to stand up to them.  They may not like that person, but they respect her!

I’ve also gotten a real revelation on something else- my mother can’t hurt me anymore!  When I was a kid, she threatened me with military or catholic school or to have me locked up in a psyche ward, she screamed in my face, calling me filthy names, she was also strong enough to throw me into a wall so hard when I was 19, my back was injured to the point I had to quit working a few months later.  Even in my early 20’s, my mother once threatened to contact my landlord because I had more cats than the lease allowed, all because I disagreed with her about something.  Those times are gone now.  We’re both much older, & now I’m the physically stronger one.  I also don’t need to sit there while anyone screams at me- I can walk out & never come back if I’m so inclined.  She also can’t have me taken away or contact my landlord because I am now a home owner.  The only weapon my mother has left are her words, & frankly, that weapon is rather lame.  She called me so many terrible names & said so many terrible things about me when I was growing up, while her current tactics may hurt me, they really don’t hurt me all that badly.  After all, I’ve been through worse!  The comic Chris Titus once  talked about how critical his father was when he was growing up, & said something like, “Thanks to him, I’m like an insult Navy Seal!”  That is how I feel about my mother.  My mother accused me of terrible things like doing drugs & having sex with the entire high school football team when I was a teenager (neither of which I did) & called me awful names. After surviving that, what else is there?!  What else can she say?  Nothing!  And, I’ve also realized that my mother needs me much more than I need her.  I have my own home & life now- I need nothing from my mother.  She has no hold over me.

These things have been very freeing to me, & very helpful in dealing with my narcissistic mother. I pray they will help you to find ways to deal with yours as well.

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Ahhh…the joy that is a narcissistic mother

My mother has ended her silent treatment. I had a good run of a couple of months of silence this time, but it’s over now. She called me this morning & acted as if we’d just spoken yesterday. It’s like nothing happened- no silent treatment, no trashing me to my father, nothing bad…

In case I haven’t said it lately, I absolutely freaking HATE head games!!!

It was a typical conversation with my narcissistic mother. The exact same conversation that happens every time she stops speaking to me then eventually resumes talking to me. It’s also why I love it when she gives me the silent treatment & dread when she ends it.

She called under the guise of looking for my father- as he often does, he vanished for hours. Without a cell, she has no means of reaching him when he is away from home. Then there was the complaining about him, & that morphed into “did I tell you about my latest back problem?” Side note: I have no sympathy for her back problems, because, as many of you know, when I was 19, my mother threw me into a wall so hard, I was in constant pain for 10 years. I quit working outside the home a few months later. Then there was the usual guilt trip because my husband works long hours (my parents seem to believe I have some evil powers that make him work long hours against his will while I live like I’m on vacation..), & telling me again about a man who recently died who my mother is glad is dead. I must admit, that last part had me laughing. Not because the man has passed away of course or even her coldness about his passing (that was just disconcerting!), but because my mother claims he is a terrible person because he liked to present himself as such a great person when he really wasn’t. According to her, this man even wrote his own obituary & “it sure made him sound like a great guy!” Yes, you read that right. A narcissist is complaining about another person’s narcissistic behavior. Can you wrap your head around that one? I’m still working on it..

Is it any wonder I’ve had a headache all day? As if starting out my day that way thanks to anxiety & nightmares waking me last night wasn’t quite enough…throw in a Mom call & my head is not happy with me..

My mother’s call has skewed my day. I was ok considering I had a rough start to the day. Now? I feel shaken up. Anxious, angry, depressed, dissociating a lot, head achy, & exhausted. It is ridiculous things are this way, however, it is the norm for those times that I have to deal with my mother.

There was also a small part of me that was feeling guilty earlier today for not calling my parents or suggesting lunch together or something similar. Unfortunately, this seems to be the norm for children of narcissistic parents- always at least some guilt in there somewhere for something, some perceived slight against the parents or failure to measure up to their unrealistic expectations.

I think the reasoning is because we are raised by narcissistic parents to feel guilty because we never quite measure up. We don’t get good enough grades in school, or study the right subjects. We always fail because we aren’t whatever they think we should be. We don’t choose the career they want us to work, or marry the person they think we should marry, or drive the right car, or we disappoint them with some other life choices. We are conditioned to feel guilty & the frequency in our lives of knowing how often we disappoint our narcissistic mothers is so painful. That isn’t always easy to shake off, even when we are adults & know better.

But yanno something?? When we “fail” our narcissistic parents, we are simply living life according to our rules as we should. We are following God’s plan for our lives rather than their plans, which is obviously way more important! As Shakespeare said in “Hamlet”, “To thine own self be true.” What wise advice! Living for someone, anyone, else is a guaranteed way to make yourself utterly miserable!

And, as for feeling guilty for not spending time with your narcissistic parents, I’ll share something that God has shown me many times. My parents are reaping what they’ve sown with me. I don’t want to spend time with them because of the sorry way they have treated me for my entire life. Who wants to spend time with anyone who mistreats or abuses them?! If you are battling guilt for setting boundaries on your interaction with your narcissistic parents, please remember that- they are reaping what they have sown. People who sow bad seeds (being abusive, neglectful, hurtful, manipulative) will sow an unpleasant harvest (being ignored, strong boundaries that are enforced, not tolerating abuse) in return. That doesn’t mean something is wrong with you- it means you are a normal person!!

Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m off for some well needed self care. Music, relaxing, snuggling furkids & a shower…

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