Whatever stage in life you are, if you’ve come to the realization that one of your parents is a narcissist, it’s time to work on recovery. There are things you can do right now to heal, as everyone with a narcissist parent will need to do sooner or later. The healing process will take some time, and it’s never easy, but it’s worth the work. Here are some thoughts:
- It’s not your fault. You feel bad about yourself. You feel shame and guilt, often for things beyond your control. Your self-esteem is in the basement. You may feel depressed. But it’s not your fault. Now that you’ve realized you’re the child of a narcissist, you can work on feeling better. You’ve taken the first step already.
- Accept that you can’t change your parent. Narcissists are not responsive to changing themselves because they’re narcissists—they already think they’re superior so why should they change? Accept the fact that the unconditional love you crave will never be forthcoming from a narcissist. Nor will your parent ever show you empathy. Once you understand and accept this, you can grieve for the loss of a loving parent that you never had. Then you can move on.
- Understand your family dynamics. If you have a narcissist parent, then the other, more functional parent is probably an enabler. Sometimes it’s harder to forgive the enabler than the narcissist, because the enabler didn’t protect you. You may even feel betrayed. Furthermore, you and your siblings may have been singled out to take on roles of scapegoat or golden child. The scapegoat takes the blame for family dysfunction while the golden child gets entangled in a codependent relationship, constantly feeding the narcissist’s need for being on top.
- Establish healthy boundaries. Your narcissist parent has his own idea of reality and he tells you what to think and how to feel. If you’re the golden child, you’re an extension of your parent that he can control and manipulate. Your job is to reflect what the narcissist wishes. If you’re the scapegoat, your job is to take the blame for the family. Neither role allows you to be the individual you are—a thinking, feeling person with your own identity. Once you understand and disengage from your role, you need to assert boundaries so the narcissist can no longer control and manipulate you.
- Learn to love yourself. You have been raised to think that your needs and feelings don’t count, because only the narcissist is important. You have been taught to believe what isn’t true. But your feelings do count, and a big step toward healing is to reconnect with how you feel. Listen to yourself. Try not to judge how you feel. Try to be aware of your needs and respect your feelings. This includes how you feel about your narcissist parent, who has done you harm. You may still love that parent and understand that that is how he was raised. Or you may feel used up and done with that parent. However you feel, recognize and honor it.
- Don’t cause further harm. As the child of a narcissist, you have learned to blame yourself, and you’ve learned how to soothe yourself, sometimes in destructive ways. You may be prone to substance abuse and addictions that only exacerbate the emotional damage you have already suffered. Also, you may risk further injury by seeking out relationships with narcissists outside of your family because unhealthy relationships are familiar and all you know. You may have to repeat the past until you find the strength and courage to break the chain. Then forgive yourself and move on.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact