How to Recover from the Impacts of Narcissistic Parenting
In the first article in this series on the impacts of narcissistic parenting, we explored the question: “Was your parent narcissistic?”
In today’s article, we explore in more detail the impacts of narcissistic parenting on a young child, and also, very importantly, what you can do to heal and overcome these impacts.
Possible Impacts of Parenting a Narcissist
Although the impacts on the child vary as widely as the ways in which narcissistic parents may manifest, some of the impacts may include:
- Absorb and deeply believe in dysfunctional and destructive emotional patterns of what love looks like;
- Believing that their worth depends on how they act and what they do, not who they are, or not believing they are worthy simply to exist;
- Struggling to set healthy and appropriate boundaries;
- Not recognizing healthy romantic partners and even being attracted to dating or marrying narcissists themselves;
- Falling into caretaking and rescuing roles, seeking validation and the dignity of caring for others and pleasing people;
- Neglecting their needs and wants, or even being “useless and wantless”;
- Having difficulty believing that their feelings and thoughts are valid and that their needs will ever be met;
- Struggling deeply with self-esteem and with maintaining a stable and consistent sense of self;
- Attempting to cope with their emotional pain from a childhood of neglect and emotional abuse through addictive and self-harming substances and behaviors;
- Maybe grow up to be narcissists themselves.
And again, this list is by no means exhaustive of all the psychological impacts parenting a narcissist can have on someone.
Impacts will vary and depend on the background of the child or adult child, the strength of their self-esteem, whether they had stabilizing and functional relationships with other adults in childhood, whether he was the scapegoat or the favorite child, much or little contact with the narcissist, etc.
Ultimately, however, adult children of narcissists will likely face complex psychological healing tasks due to their parenting experiences.
Healing after being raised by a narcissist
The healing work required by adult children of narcissists will likely include the following tasks:
- Find out. Whether through books (see my list of references below) or through professional support, you will probably need to start learning what narcissism is, how it can manifest in parents and what its possible impacts may look like. The first step in any healing process is becoming aware of what is, and I find psychoeducation on narcissists can be deeply enlightening as you begin to make sense of your past.
- Confront your personal history of trauma and neglect. I highly recommend working with a trauma therapist or other trained professional as you begin to remember, talk about, and make sense of your past. And, side note: don’t necessarily look to your own family of origin for an accurate reflection of your personal history if you have memory lapses or questions. They may be unwilling or unable to validate your personal story based on their own trauma with the narcissist.
- Grieve what you didn’t receive. Inevitably, in your upbringing and coming to terms with your past, you will have to mourn what you did not receive, which was essentially a chance to truly be a child. This grieving process can take a while, it can sometimes seem endless, but it is so valuable and necessary to your healing process.
- Work through developmental milestones you may not have reached. Often, as children of narcissists, we don’t have the full opportunity to be children or adolescents with our own identities, needs, desires, and preferences. We may also have missed certain developmental milestones such as experiencing a lifestyle, dating, or even pursuing the education or career we wanted due to the impacts of psychologically unhealthy parenting. . It is therefore part of your healing work to begin to go through all the stages of your development in conjunction with your coming to terms with your personal history and your work of grieving.
- Set limits. You will need to set boundaries with the narcissist(s) still in your life or with those you may be too accommodating and caring about. Learning what healthy boundaries are and how to set them with others is essential for those recovering from narcissistic parenting.
- Look for healthier and more functional relationships. At first, these may seem difficult or even impossible to recognize and you may not trust yourself that you can actually integrate this type of relationship into your personal life. Its good. Start with your relationship with your therapist (a trained professional whose job it is to present yourself in a healthy and functional way) and allow them to show you what might be possible in healthier relationships. Over time, this can influence who you attract into your personal life.
- Focus your healing and recovery work on developing a more consistent and stable sense of self. For most adult children of narcissists, the basic healing work involves developing a more consistent and stable sense of self, learning to love and value ourselves for who we are, not who we think we are. “should” be to gain approval. Poor self-esteem can impact all areas of your life, from your physical and mental health to your relationships and career advancement. It can even impact your bank account. So, cultivating and developing a more consistent and stable sense of self with the help of a therapist can be a wonderful way to focus your healing work.
The impacts of narcissistic parenting can be severe, but they can also be overcome.
If you want help healing from the impacts of narcissistic parenting, psychology today is a wonderful resource for finding a trauma therapist near you.