My books have helped thousands to step back, and away, from the damaging effects of a narcissistic person, whether it’s a present-day relationship or one that has haunted them from the past. Now, they may help you, too.

Narcissist ruining your life?

Maybe you love one. Or work for one. Maybe you’re related to one. Or were raised by one. Whatever the relationship, you’ve likely been hurt by the narcissist in your life.

“When you are first coming out of denial, the anxiety spills over. Denial, to some extent, thwarts anxiety about the original issue of concern. But it also causes its own set of secondary anxiety due to all the issues that have remained unaddressed.” Adapted from When Your Parent Is a Narcissist 

In a blog post featured on Psychology Today titled “What Are Your Thought Triggers?” Jeffrey S. Nevid Ph.D., ABPP describes the concept of “thought triggers” and how emotions like anxiety and anger impact our thoughts. Nevid writes:

“Feeling your thoughts doesn’t mean that thoughts are felt in the same way you feel a pinprick on your arm or the touch of a feather.  Rather, it means recognizing the interconnections between thoughts and feelings—how behind every emotion lies a thought that triggers it.  Feeling angry?  What’s the thought driving it?  You need to be angry with someone or about something.  You can’t be angry about nothing or while keeping your mind blank.  Underlying the felt experience of anger are thoughts about being treated unfairly and not being able to stand it when people are treated this way…Emotions do not occur in a mental vacuum. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find a thought tethered to your emotional responses…”

Read the post including a helpful exercise for identifying triggers here

In healthy development, the parent “exists” for the sake of the child. With the narcissistic parent, the child “exists” for the sake of the parent.

You may be the child of a narcissist if you’ve been:

  • blamed for causing their discomfort
  • accused of doing what the narcissist is doing (and denying)—being cold, selfish, manipulative, and so on
  • compared to someone else who always does everything perfectly
  • attacked about something that the parent knows you are sensitive about
  • caught off guard, even though these things have happened before
  • confused and wounded after being reprimanded for doing something you were told to do, but then the parent did the bait and switch and you were blamed for how they felt
  • told to stop causing drama, that the parent hates drama, and that you don’t understand how much relationships mean to him or her

From When Your Parent Is a Narcissist 

Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 song “Over My Head” depicts a tumultuous, yet alluring relationship. In the lyrics, Christine McVie echos how one might feel when they’re dealing with a narcissist. In particular, the metaphor of an ever-changing circus wheel certainly reflects the “hot and cold” and “off and on” aspect of a narcissist’s behavior.

You can take me to paradise,
And then again you can be cold as ice
I’m over my head,
But it sure feels nice.

You can take me anytime you like,
I’ll be around if you think you might love me baby,
And hold me tight.

Your mood is like a circus wheel,
You’re changing all the time,
Sometimes I can’t help but feel,
That I’m wasting all of my time.

Think I’m looking on the dark side,
But everyday you hurt my pride,
I’m over my head,
But it sure feels nice,

I’m over my head,
But it sure feels nice.’

Check out a live 1976 version here featuring excellent harmony by Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie.

 

At any age, the parent-child relationship can be fraught with emotion. We all grow up, but when it comes to certain patterns with a parent, it can be hard to let go even when we say we want to—or need to. Whether you hate or love your parent, the fact is these original relationships are a body of work you’ve studied and turned over and examined with all your heart and soul. You’re attached and invested, even though it’s toxic.

And something else—the you in those parent-child relationships.

Who is (and was) that person?

From When Your Parent Is a Narcissist 

As the child of a narcissist, you may feel like you’ve spent a lifetime trying to understand how your parent feels. You may have learned to tilt your world to track them as though they are the satellite and you need their signal to survive.

However, your “survival” depended upon their satisfaction with you. When you track (in other words, feed their ideal self) to their satisfaction, you might be rewarded with a compliment, a gift, or the slightest feeling that maybe, just maybe, you two were starting to connect.

Then again, maybe you weren’t rewarded. Even though you thought you were tracking the right satellite, it’s possible that your parent threw away that particular satellite (in other words, persona) without telling you. Turns out, you were reading the wrong the signal the entire time. And sadly, you were probably the one who felt a bit foolish.

Adapted from When Your Parent Is A Narcissist

In a project at Arizona State University, researchers analyzed data and conducted studies determining how parent-child and caregiver relationships and attachment styles impact a child’s self-regulation skills. Kimberlee D’Ardenne quotes Nancy Eisenberg, Regents’ Professor of psychology who says:

“Although differences in children’s self-regulation are partially due to biological factors, including genetics, the environment also plays a big role. Self-regulation can also be affected by the caregiving relationship, and the security of a caregiving relationship can be improved through interventions that train parents to be more responsive and sensitive to their children.”

Read the findings here

“If you are the child of a narcissist, you may have grown accustomed to a parasitic relationship. A toxic parent-child dynamic creates a blueprint from which you unconsciously build other relationships… Once you understand how you replay these patterns, you can begin to reexamine your self-view, and change it. This is a key to healing.”

Adapted from When Your Parent Is a Narcissist

In a post on Psychology Today titled “Why Do Narcissists Need to Outdo Everyone Else?” Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. cites new research explaining the differences between high self-esteem, the need to be liked by others, and true narcissism.

“In distinguishing between self-esteem and narcissism…researchers note that both refer to a form of self-regard. Self-esteem is defined as a positive or negative attitude toward the self. People high in self-esteem feel that they have worth, but don’t need to see themselves as better than others. People high in narcissism, though, have a more grandiose set of needs that include a sense of entitlement, a tendency to exploit others, and unusual sensitivity to criticism. “

Read the entire post including the outcome of the studies here

The parent-child relationship is inherently rich with emotion, but when the parent is a narcissist the child is often fraught with confusion and filled with inexplicable desperation as the parent says:

What is wrong with you?

 

This is one of the reasons the child of a narcissist slips into anxiety quicker than anger.

Becoming aware of one’s own anger is intimidating. It tends to causes shame for those who have been taught that anger is their flaw. It may manifest as low-grade anxiety or vague worry that something bad is going to happen.

Sometimes the child’s anger or anxiety is the parent’s displaced anger or anxiety. When a parent berates, “What is wrong with you?” the parent is actually calling their own anger or anxiety flawed. However, now ascribed to the child, the parent’s feelings are handily projected, disowned, and criticized as separate from them.  The adult child who must work through it appropriately.

Adapted from When Your Parent Is a Narcissist

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