Surviving the Narcissistic Parent: ACoNs (Adult Children of Narcissists)

A superb account of what it is like to be the child of a narcissistic mother, which also applies to a narcissistic father.

We need to inform ourselves – whether we are ACoNs (Adult Children of Narcissists), their partners, spouses, friends or otherwise, or whether we are in a relationship with a narcissist, have children with them, or are affected by them in any other way.

The more we understand them and how they affect us, the more we can understand how to heal, undo what they have done, find a way to be free from their programming, training, influence and control.

By finding out what is ‘wrong’ we can find out what is ‘right’, with us, with others.

By sharing we help ourselves and we help others help themselves too.

Thank you for sharing.

The Invisible Scar

narcissistic-mothers-smApril is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month. At The Invisible Scar, we are focusing on emotional child abuse, such as the various types, how to help emotionally abused children,  resources for healing, adult survivors of emotional child abuse, and the special case of narcissism.

Adult children of narcissistic parents (ACoNs) know a special type of emotional abuse in being raised by narcissists. (Biological mothers, stepmothers, biological fathers, and stepfathers can be N parents.) 

Before we discuss the special case of narcissism, please note that not every emotionally abusive parent has the narcissistic personality disorder. In some circumstances, an emotionally abusive parent who is not a narcissist can change and improve his or her parenting.  The same is not true for the narcissistic parent, however. Every narcissistic parent is an emotional abuser.

A narcissist is a person who has the narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissistic personality disorder is one…

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19 thoughts on “Surviving the Narcissistic Parent: ACoNs (Adult Children of Narcissists)

  1. When I awoke today I thought of a word single word. A word to describe my childhood experience as a child of a Narcissist.

    un·bear·a·ble
    /ˌənˈbe(ə)rəbəl/
    adjective

    adjective: unbearable

    Not able to be endured or tolerated.

    synonyms: intolerable, insufferable, insupportable, unendurable, unacceptable, unmanageable, overpowering; unsupportable

    Related Words unacceptable; crushing, overwhelming; comfortless, hard, harsh, painful, uncomfortable; appalling, dreadful, excruciating, gruesome , harrowing, horrendous, horrible, horrid, horrifying, nightmarish, shocking, terrible, tormenting, torturous, vile, wretched; acute, extreme, intense, piercing; disgusting, distasteful, loathsome, nauseating, obnoxious, offensive, repugnant, repulsive, revolting, sickening; heinous, noxious, odious, unspeakable

    Antonyms livable; acceptable; adequate, admissible, allowable, reasonable, satisfactory endurable, sufferable, supportable, sustainable, tolerable

    Yet , all children of Narcissists must somehow survive despite this reality of the daily unbearable situations that encounter and are forced to endure.

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    1. I did appreciate your association of related thoughts and feelings-poignant and meaningful to me too.

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      1. Seashell,
        Thanks for that. I think I appreciate the related words best now that I look at it. Hope this all help you in some way. . (:

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  2. http://theinvisiblescar.wordpress.com/suggestions-for-adult-survivors/

    this piece from their site was excellent too.
    I printed both. I decided to share my new discovery about my mom being a Narc with my spouse today. He was asking me when I was going to “get over this new problem I was working on”.
    I used your metaphor that the problem is not a problem at all- it is not going to be able to be nicely buried or put away . I explained it was a facet of me, it was a facet that had always been there but I did not know about in these specific terms so I was never able to put it in words and make sense out of it. . He got frustrated & told me that if i did not get over it I would take it to the grave. I told him that yes I will because it IS me . It is my underpinnings, my experiences that which makes me who I am .
    It is something I have to learn to make peace with and somehow accept & integrate into myself . I have known about the abused child inside of me of course but always ditched her inside a closet or somewhere to get rid of “the past ”
    but now I see that I was just hurting her more by denying her then by respecting & acknowledging her. She was re victimized each time since noone wanted to deal with her, not even me. He is always supportive of me but was having trouble seeing things this way. So I read him this shorter print out first. Guess what- he immediately said that sounds like your friend ( Narc Friend of mine for 30 years) !!!!!! Right then I knew he understood!!!! How cool is that! When I read all the stuff on your Narc magnet piece when I found you I immediately saw my mom ,then my friend, the a few others…. My life will never be the same – now I have words, validation, I feel like my bound hands have finally been unbound. Now I can finally tell my story & then have some validation,get alot of insight into things I do & have been through ( that I blocked out) and hopefully get closure & some peace for once.
    TY so much for all you do! You’re awesome ! (:

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    1. Narcvic…I am so happy for you!!! He understood you once you read him that piece. Just having ONE (real life) ally that “gets it” is the lift off for it all. I have also read my husband, Ursula’s Magnet for Narcissists post. He is getting more of it but I’ve realized too that I’m O.K. if some of my babble seems weird/crazy because in my heart of hearts I know it is all true and real. I have realized the words “trust yourself” that Ursula uses so often is not just a line of sweet kindness. It is really trusting yourself, without always needing confirmation from the outside. It’s not about the outside, it’s about the inside. I think when you stop “ditching” the girl inside, and realize that your thoughts & feelings from the past were real, there is no denying that you are on the road to peace within. So freeing.

      On a side note, would you just change your blog name to something else, ha…maybe to IfoundMe or trancefree or something silly & ridiculous like that. If not, I’ll forgive you & narcvic it is. Take care;)

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      1. olivebranch Even though I will know intuitively the right answer or in my gut that something is true or real, I always worry and need reassurance from those close to me. Its pretty chronic despite my keen intuition.
        I do have to work on processing on a deeper level that my thoughts & feelings from the past were real.. I had to disassociate a lot to survive so I have blocks of memory amnesia.They may surface every decade or so when something brings it up. Also I tend to minimize and play down everything that occurred due to confusion, repressed memories, stuffing it down to survive it, the hurt it caused, lies my mom told me , an also from trying to tell some of my story to many many many therapists who could not grasp the gravity , frequency and extent of the abuse Or even get me to recall the memories of repressed abuse inflicted by my dad.
        It is only in the past few weeks that i even realized that I could not recall the abuse both of my parents inflicted on me in a simultaneous thought .All my adult life , I could talk about what my mom did , But it was only at separate rare times that I would recall what my dad did to me . I usually just thought of him as the more sane parent when I recalled the scenario.

        About the name change suggestion — You made me giggle & smile BIG . (: I literally made that name up in a split second when i intended do a one time post. (HA- little did I know what that would turn into- thanks to Ursula’s awesomeness) I’m flattered that you have even raised this suggestion…….
        As you may be able to tell from my posts , I really don’t consider myself a victim. I am more of a problem solver type person , I want to see the best in people It may be all due to denial and distraction from pain but I am never bitter . I do however consider myself a survivor of child abuse because I truly am. I will think about this and maybe use something like that if I do change it ! (: TY

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        1. I talk tough…my internal dialogue tells me what & how I should handle things but I need so much reassurance that it is kind of annoying me! I have always been the giver of advice and now I am needing it and support more than I ever have in my life. I’m learning but it is uncomfortable for me to need so much. It’s funny, when my Mom calls she may ask me how I’m doing but you can tell in her voice that she doesn’t really want to know. I was telling her some weird stuff the other day and she literally told me to stop. So there you have it…I learned self reliance since my parents wouldn’t really listen if it was something hard/difficult which is inevitable when living life. I think she may have to go to counseling if I tell her anymore, ha! I was taught to ignore and move on as a child but I can’t with this. I feel very stuck and even when things that I think should unstuck me, they aren’t & I still don’t have resolution. I am really thinking hard why I feel this way. I think it’s because my ex narc friend is stuck and won’t let me go. I must learn to let go without permission. New territory for me & probably many of us when dealing with these types.

          Narcvic, you are such a natural problem solver and healer. I like your openness, it’s very refreshing. You aren’t afraid to just say it…there is great value in that. I struggle with that. You are helping me. Thanks…and you are an awfully cool narcvic…but trancefree makes me laugh. We’ve been there, done that:)

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          1. I think you’re cool too & very genuine ! The first time I connected to you was when you described the seductive/flattery techniques that your friend used to lure you. It was so eye opening to hear you describe the dynamic. so well The setup you were enticed into was practically irresistible.
            Then when you described what she proposed to you which put you in a bind of cognitive dissonance because you wanted the “feel good” friendship but not the other aspects that she wanted. You found yourself feeling entrapped wondering if she had different original motives all along . Also, what were you to do now with all of your invested emotions in her? You found your self in a bind & in a very tangled web. That’s a difficult place to find yourself, wondering how the hell did I end up here? You have been asking good questions, retracing your steps, and rethinking out loud. You have done alot of untangling & you’re making progress with it. Sounds like you usually can “ignore when necessary and move on when necessary” but are just having trouble now because her hold on you. She knows which buttons of your to push. Try to figure out which ones she is good at pushing. Once you figure that out, you will take back more of you power. You can completely untangle yourself , when you are ready to.

            I also am glad we were able tor relate about the trance part. I know your friend and my doc both talk incessantly. You cant even process your own inner thoughts when they just keep talking & talking & talking. Its very amusing & alluring to just have them entertain you that way. That’s what put us both into that trance like mindset. Also as you said, all the feel good components are very thrilling & give you a chemical adrenaline rush. Its hard to just turn that off. It s addicting. You re mind tells you things are wrong but your body needs the fix of that chemical feel good aspect I’m so grateful to you that we can laugh about this. It sounds nuts , but we both have lived it.

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            1. You mentioned, motive or intention -it’s very important to look at this.I feel like I am a private investigator in unraveling it all. I think when you are trying to figure it out and determine if someone you know (whether it be a parent, friend, colleague etc) is a narcissist, one of the things that I think defines them as such is their intention/motive. These people are not just your typical a-holes that piss you off or act obnoxious. Narcs do that too, all the time, but it is so ego motivated that it takes us by surprise. The Ego drives it all (Me, Me, Me…I love the illustration that goes with this post).

              My ex narc friend has kids. She is good at faking the good Mom, and sometimes she shines more in certain areas with this since she is basing it off of a script & doesn’t want to mess up. When you are not a narc parent, you also question yourself but the robotic nature of what you do and the motive is very different. It’s about them (your kids)- hoping they learn life’s lessons and turn out to be good people. Without a doubt, my ex narc friend would buy herself something nice before ever thinking about getting her kids something they actually really needed. Her husband was her keeper and would keep her on task with this, since it just didn’t cross her mind. How terribly exhausting! I’d rather be paired up with a 6 year old versus a 6 year old spoiled brat living in an adult body…so much worse in many ways!

              So looking in on her parenting, I recall distinctly her cleaning her kitchen all day. Going through it all and reorganizing. It surprised me since she never did that. I said something about that always feels good to get things organized and throw out the clutter etc. Her response was, I want my husband to know I can be organized and appreciate it. Or something along those lines. It caught me off guard a bit, but it was her motive/intention. Nothing, I mean nothing is ever done for free or for the internal feel good pleasure of doing a good job. Their is no internal satisfaction, it’s all externally based on how others react. This is a big red flag.

              So her motive with me was always the same. I will not deny the good times we had but the intention Never changed. I am coming to peace with this, since she is unable to do it any other way. She would always say while hugging me “It’s hard, but worth the work. Everything that is hard is worthwhile.” I never really knew what that meant. I thought it was hard because she was so messed up and confusing me all the time. But I now know what she meant by it. From the ego speaking she was telling herself out loud that I was hard to get and a challenge (she had never pursued someone for so long without the reward she really wanted…my body & my life) but if she kept chipping away at me that eventually I would give up. It’s hard to think that someone thought of me as an object and a game. It’s very demeaning and violating- emotional rape leaves major scars. I do believe it was emotional rape. For all of you that have been touched by a narc or personality disordered person, the untangling involves getting over this violation. It cuts you to the core. But I can see that it has taught me much too. I am stronger in many ways now and thankful for that.

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              1. olivebranch I think you are hitting the nail on the head with this. You have take a look back at the red flags to be smarter for the future . The words you used about the chipping way were the exact phrase I was reading about today on how abusers operate, by slowly chipping away at you , yourself esteem and belief system.They can slowly “shape” your behaviors. Almost like training a dog. They blind you with the charm & good feeling stuff so you are too distracted to see what is really happening Wth Narc Doc I ended up acting like a spineless needy child within a few weeks when I was around him. That way of acting is not in my repertoire . I’d find myself acting that way & while it was happening asking myself what the hell I was doing. I did not even enjoy it. You mentioned behaviors like this too. I was reading about the cognitive dissonance and how the more we invest in something emotionally , the more we fight to believe it is right even when the evidence is contrary, We justify & “make” it seem ok in our mind to justify what we have already invested into it. . Honestly, Narc Doc spoke in a demanding ordering voice to his nurse which i noticed early on & even knew that this is the tone only of a man who abuses . I made a mental note & it did not really effect me ( he was pleasant to me & I was nothing to him – just a patient ) so I just left it at that. Mind my businesses kind of thing. It was long till the next visit so by then I conveniently forgot it. I have to say I was always guarded with him due to his confusing behavior , but in retrospect I should have perceived him as “harmful” not “but oh he’s so nice to me how harmful could he be?” I should have known better. I just never encountered this kind of person before in my own life so I made these mistakes. I also learned today interestingly that one thing to look for when noting an abusers body language is that some tend to stand very far from you in order to mark their personal space. This is fascinating to learn cause he always stood very far from me every time and I always wondered what that meant. Of course I always put positive meanings as to what this may have meant ( respect etc) . I will know better for the future. You are right, how evil intention ed people play on kind hearted people is a kind of emotional rape, especially when it happens in the course of everyday life when you are going about your business & not out looking for any trouble or anything. Like a mom from the neighborhood or a doctor why would you suspect anyone like that to mindf*** you? It makes the process happen so much easier for them.

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                1. Thanks & so true narcvic…they shape your behavior by slowly chipping away at you. I recall in many of Ursula’s post, her saying something along the lines that what was done to you (the victim) was previously done to them. They know how to do this because it was used on them by an abuser. The highly repetitive nature of these disordered types makes it easier for them to continue with the same repetitive brainwashing since they are actually very undynamic individuals. A person with a normal range of emotions would get tired of the this chipping away at someone since it they would respect someone’s boundaries and they would look at you as a separate individual. A narc can’t do this.

                  Interesting how you read how they stand back from you and your narcdoc did this. Sort of like an animal assessing it’s prey. I think it’s predatory in nature but for a normal person, it may feel like respect, like you mentioned. Nothing is at it appears. That’s why they can get away with so much…very frustrating! Also, being an unsuspecting victim…in the case with any authority figure that you would think have your best interests in mind like a parent, doctor, best friend, etc. This is used against us and our trusting nature.

                  Looking back I also felt guarded when with my friend. I was on a heightened sense of awareness when I was with her. I mistakened this keen awareness for closeness and being more present. But it was actually fear. I knew something was Off but the cognitive dissonance was giving me a major mindf’ headache and I did not know up from down. I was so confused. One thing I noticed about my behavior is I wanted to drink alcohol more when I was with her. I think it’s because it helped me ease my nerves (fear) and also I was more able to be in her fantasyland. Being intoxicated makes you act more childlike, decreased inhibition etc. So, it’s not surprising her husband is an alcoholic. I am not an addictive type personality but I felt myself becoming more prone to addictive behaviors. It was her projecting and me absorbing. Her obsessiveness and love bombing activated the addictive regions of my brain. Very scary stuff. I am 40 and have never had this area activated like this ever. Being addicted is not love, it is being addicted. Withdrawal follows in recovery which is more reason to get away from these types of people. Their impact on others is multifaceted and the web is very hard to untangle.

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                  1. olivebranch I am in your age group too and even with my Narc relationship past & all the decades of my life experience , this situation went completely under my radar. I have only known more upbeat shiny magnetic type of Narcs, not someone like him who has a darker insecure energy. . I truly would not gravitate to someone with this kind of energy normally. He just would do that baking up thing & banter , banter , banter. I guess it is chipping away . I didn’t know what he was doing, I found it amusing. How can you be chipped away at and mentally manipulated right under your own nose while you are allowing yourself to be amused.? It reminds me of what your friend did to you. I have never heard of or experience anything like this in all my years either. I had a NArc boss who did something similar to me with witty banter but it just stayed there and it was fun . I know you now realize that the alcohol compounded it, which does make sense. It made it easier for her. I also had this added layer because he did use some light anesthesia on me a few times and I was not of sound mind. He also used Neulolinguistc Programming on me . It sounds crazy but I do remember things at least twice that happened where I remember what he said tha the used NLP embedded commands. . That pisses me off because it is a huge violation of my free will. Some doctors use this to help patients relax before a procedure I was reading , but he not only used it for that, he used it to manipulate me. All very violating.
                    I did want to ask you a question. He asked me to text him once to let him know how I was doing after the procedure. I got that twinge of crossed boundary feeling & told him I would just call his office in the morning.. Are doctors these days having their patients communicate them in this way, by texitng?

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                    1. Sounds like he was able to speed up the process of messing with your head by using the anesthesia and then the NLP techniques. So very violating, sorry. He knew what he was doing and it was intentional. Same as my friend. I’d be drunk and she’d intentionally drink less and then do & say inappropriate things, play songs on youtube that made her think of me, and then plant seeds in my mind with seductive talk. She’d say things like, “my husband has no clue about that, it’s fun not telling him,” “don’t tell your husband about my marriage stuff, I don’t want him to think less of me and my husband”, “my one girlfriend is hot,” “I think sexuality is on a spectrum-you may mostly like men but sometimes women too-it’s a choice.” Then the confusion would ensue with her saying she doesn’t know if she morally agrees with people being gay. Then she’d post stuff on FB supporting the gay marriage amendment that passed. Who the fuck are you? It’s the ultimate Mind F’! If you feel like this with someone and they have conflicting views that change with the wind…this person has something very wrong going on inside. It’s not you. I freed myself but she is an enabler to her husbands drinking problem. I so want to tell him all. I think he knows but is addicted like I was. She would say, “no one would want him, he’s a alcoholic.” So callous. I’d like to respond now and say “because of you, he is an alcoholic. You have beat him down.” She intentionally is feeding his problem. Co-dependency at work. Sad but I can’t save others. But I wish I could.

                      In regards to texting, I think it is becoming more prevalent. There is HIPAA compliant texting that health care professionals can use. It must be confidential and abide by HIPAA rules. I do not do texting but I know it is used. I’m glad you did not text him. You knew instinctionally that it was wrong to do with him. I know you have lots on your plate right now but in the future you may want to consider filing a report about your experiences with him to the medical board in your state. If he has used this technique on you, he has used it on others. But obviously the most important thing right now is taking care of yourself and being an outsider looking in at it all. I’m happy you are freeing yourself & using your energy right now to focus on you.

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              2. You might find this post interesting – http://decodingbones.wordpress.com/tag/angela-montenegro/ – it’s a perspective on a character – Angela Montenegro – in the TV series Bones. The post focuses on her as a friend to the lead female character – Dr. Temperance (Bones) Brennan – and it gives a good insight into the narcissist female and how she operates. It’s particularly interesting because the lead character – Brennan – is often accused of being a narcissist by viewers of the show and this is a fan’s response to those accusations in an intelligent and analytical way. It’s a good comparison between someone who might be perceived by others as being a narcissist (partly because they are just being themselves) versus someone who actually is a narcissist and may be perceived by others as being a great person (because they are a narcissist they are focused on how they are perceived therefore more likely to deceive those who go by superficial impressions and don’t look being the facade).

                This show is very irritating because the narcissist (Angela) keeps getting away with her behaviour while everyone else has to ‘pay’ for it. And she gets praised for being the way she is, is excused for it and encouraged to keep doing it. In one episode, she literally tells everyone that they have to give her money to save a pig she’s fallen in love with (why she doesn’t use her own money to save the pig which she cares about so much is not explained), and if they refuse she uses dollops of emotional blackmail to force their hand. Brennan refuses, so Angela breaks off the friendship. Brennan’s reason for refusing is invalidated and dismissed as bad and wrong and that is that. At the end of it Brennan is persuaded to give Angela what she wants – persuaded (and her position undermined) by the resident psychologist who thinks he’s very good at what he does. So there’s a happy ending for Angela and she gets the message that her behaviour is right and good. F-ing annoying!

                The writers have created an excellent portrayal of a narcissist and how they get away with being one, and the actress is superb in the part. 🙂

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                1. I enjoyed that article, thanks. I like how she said the Brennan character “genuinely cares about bringing identities in closure to those whose remains she studies” and that she puts the emotional needs of others above hers even though she acts like a know-it-all. While Angela is driven by her own wants, drama, outright fabrications and stretching the truth. She is the narcissist when you look closely. Her motivation is very different from Brennans but most peoples frame of reference is their own and it is shocking to believe others can be so self driven- not just occasionally but All the time.

                  I laughed when she referenced what Angela was thinking when she was putting a wedge between Brennan and Booth- “I want you to tell me you understand everything’s forgiven, so I can continue to look like the best friend in the world.” Ha ha ha! This relates to me and my situation. Funny thing is that I am so very clear now and she still has her “glaring blind spot” that you have mentioned before. I have used this to my advantage- I am shocking and confusing her. I know she hates me. I have shattered her mirror. But I will never back down. Letting her off the hook would mean that I not only deny myself & my integrity but that I also enable all that I saw and unknowlingly participated in when she was intentionally hurting others too (her friends, husband, bosses, parents etc). I was backing her ass when I should have been kicking it. I am know officially kicking it but she doesn’t know where to look or how to react. How’s that feel? I will do this in such a way that is moral and honest but my mouth is open now and I will not be silenced. These people get away with so much…standing my ground may not do anything but it’s not for her anyways, it’s for Me.

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                  1. I think the ‘blind spot’, especially when we can see it clearly and they don’t, is one of the things which drives us most crazy about narcs. They can be so incredibly dense and stupid and yet they consider themselves to be the smartest person on the planet. So they can be standing in front of you doing their thing, being all clever and manipulative in a complicated way, using all their tools which they think no one else knows about, doing their routine which they somehow think is original and we won’t spot the fact that they’re doing the same thing over and over again, and you’re watching it all play out. The thing is that for us the novelty wears off, but for them it never does, they are obsessive/compulsive about themselves. They never observe, never reflect, never learn. They certainly never ask themselves – is there an easier way to do this? – as in rather than trying to use people, why not work with people, But they can’t because they can’t see people as people.

                    Once you take the interaction you have with them into new territory and start making your own rules, they get very frustrated because it’s their way or… well, there is no other way for them but their way. And they usually end up screwing themselves because they’re so narrow-minded and rigid.

                    It is very strange to watch them trying to channel you back into the role they want you to play for them. It doesn’t matter how many times you say ‘No, this isn’t happening!’ they just keep doing the same thing hoping to get you to do what they want you to do. It’s a bit like one of those wind-up toys when it hits a wall and just keeps trying to move forward waiting for the wall to miraculously part for it 😉

                    Keep your focus on yourself, this is vital when dealing with a narc because they keep trying to subvert your attention away from you and onto them. It’s also useful when dealing with other people too, so there are many bonuses in learning how to deal with a narc. The best one is seeing your own strength and confidence at work! Rock on!

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    2. The Invisible Scar is a great resource, glad it’s helping 🙂

      What your spouse said, it made me chuckle a bit because that’s the sort of thing I say to myself because sometimes I just want to just ‘get over it’. But usually a problem sticks to us until we figure out what it is telling us, which is why sometimes a problem is not a problem at all, sometimes it’s a solution in disguise.

      Sounds like you have a great spouse, who cares and truly wants to understand. It is always difficult for someone else to understand us, just as it is difficult for us to understand them, making the effort is always to be appreciated. So this is great!

      You are the master of your life now that you own your story and can tell it. Remember that the person who has to understand you and your story the most is you. That is where the best validation comes from because that is also where the release comes from. You’re awesome, enjoy being yourself 😀

      Thank you for sharing this with me 🙂

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  3. This is piece is written with precision & obviously well researched. . I must print a copy of it to refer to. It accurately zeros into so many subtleties of the dynamics . ( which really are not subtle at all, just hard to pinpoint with words) For myself & my Narc mom I see so many things that apply — . Its a cluster of these many things that make them a Narcissist . There are so many patterns & tactics that they all similarly use I also do not recognize a few which illustrates that not all Narcissist are exactly the same in their tactics and personalities.. Just having something like this article i is priceless in validating the situation that happened . It is very healing .So much must have went into writing this piece. Thank you to the author (s) !
    Also thanks for posting it here.

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