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


April 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 of a group of conditions called dramatic personality disorders. People with these disorders have intense, unstable emotions, and a distorted self-image. Narcissistic personality disorder is further characterized by an abnormal love of self, an exaggerated sense of superiority and importance, and a preoccupation with success and power.” (Cleveland Clinic, Narcissistic Personality Disorder)

Though people often refer to someone vain as a “narcissist,” NPD is far more destructive, sneaky, and layered than mere vanity. The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists specific traits of NPD.

  • An exaggerated sense of one’s own abilities and achievements.
  • A constant need for attention, affirmation and praise.
  • A belief that he or she is unique or “special” and should only associate with other people of the same status.
  • Persistent fantasies about attaining success and power.
  • Exploiting other people for personal gain.
  • A sense of entitlement and expectation of special treatment.
  • A preoccupation with power or success.
  • Feeling envious of others, or believing that others are envious of him or her.

(The DSM is a manual used by clinicians and psychiatrists to diagnose psychiatric illnesses. It’s published by the American Psychiatric Association and categorizes mental health disorders of adults and children.)

Other traits psychologists have mentioned (in addition to the official list above) are…

  • Exaggerating  one’s achievements or talents
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration
  • Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
  • Expecting others to go along with every single plan and idea she has
  • Requiring constant attention and positive reinforcement from others
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships
  • Being easily hurt and rejected if someone doesn’t agree with his or her every thought and command
  • Reacting to criticism with anger, shame, or humiliation
  • Lacking empathy and disregarding the feelings of others

What NPD Parents Are Really Like

The best essay of the characteristics of a narcissistic parent (in this essay, a mother) is below.

(Note:  The author is unclear, but the essay has been reprinted in myriad ACoN blogs. If I find the proper attribution, I’d like to give credit to the author.) 

1. Everything she does is deniable. There is always a facile excuse or an explanation. Cruelties are couched in loving terms. Aggressive and hostile acts are paraded as thoughtfulness. Selfish manipulations are presented as gifts. Criticism and slander is slyly disguised as concern. She only wants what is best for you. She only wants to help you.

She rarely says right out that she thinks you’re inadequate. Instead, any time that you tell her you’ve done something good, she counters with something your sibling did that was better or she simply ignores you or she hears you out without saying anything, then in a short time does something cruel to you so you understand not to get above yourself. She will carefully separate cause (your joy in your accomplishment) from effect (refusing to let you borrow the car to go to the awards ceremony) by enough time that someone who didn’t live through her abuse would never believe the connection.

Many of her putdowns are simply by comparison. She’ll talk about how wonderful someone else is or what a wonderful job they did on something you’ve also done or how highly she thinks of them. The contrast is left up to you. She has let you know that you’re no good without saying a word. She’ll spoil your pleasure in something by simply congratulating you for it in an angry, envious voice that conveys how unhappy she is, again, completely deniably. It is impossible to confront someone over their tone of voice, their demeanor or they way they look at you, but once your narcissistic mother has you trained, she can promise terrible punishment without a word. As a result, you’re always afraid, always in the wrong, and can never exactly put your finger on why.

Because her abusiveness is part of a lifelong campaign of control and because she is careful to rationalize her abuse, it is extremely difficult to explain to other people what is so bad about her. She’s also careful about when and how she engages in her abuses. She’s very secretive, a characteristic of almost all abusers (“Don’t wash our dirty laundry in public!”) and will punish you for telling anyone else what she’s done. The times and locations of her worst abuses are carefully chosen so that no one who might intervene will hear or see her bad behavior, and she will seem like a completely different person in public. She’ll slam you to other people, but will always embed her devaluing nuggets of snide gossip in protestations of concern, love and understanding (“I feel so sorry for poor Cynthia. She always seems to have such a hard time, but I just don’t know what I can do for her!”) As a consequence the children of narcissists universally report that no one believes them (“I have to tell you that she always talks about YOU in the most caring way!). Unfortunately therapists, given the deniable actions of the narcissist and eager to defend a fellow parent, will often jump to the narcissist’s defense as well, reinforcing your sense of isolation and helplessness (“I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that!”)

2. She violates your boundaries. You feel like an extension of her. Your property is given away without your consent, sometimes in front of you. Your food is eaten off your plate or given to others off your plate. Your property may be repossessed and no reason given other than that it was never yours. Your time is committed without consulting you, and opinions purported to be yours are expressed for you. (She LOVES going to the fair! He would never want anything like that. She wouldn’t like kumquats.) You are discussed in your presence as though you are not there. She keeps tabs on your bodily functions and humiliates you by divulging the information she gleans, especially when it can be used to demonstrate her devotion and highlight her martyrdom to your needs (“Mike had that problem with frequent urination too, only his was much worse. I was so worried about him!”) You have never known what it is like to have privacy in the bathroom or in your bedroom, and she goes through your things regularly. She asks nosy questions, snoops into your email/letters/diary/conversations. She will want to dig into your feelings, particularly painful ones and is always looking for negative information on you which can be used against you. She does things against your expressed wishes frequently. All of this is done without seeming embarrassment or thought.

Any attempt at autonomy on your part is strongly resisted. Normal rites of passage (learning to shave, wearing makeup, dating) are grudgingly allowed only if you insist, and you’re punished for your insistence (“Since you’re old enough to date, I think you’re old enough to pay for your own clothes!”) If you demand age-appropriate clothing, grooming, control over your own life, or rights, you are difficult and she ridicules your “independence.”

3. She favoritizes. Narcissistic mothers commonly choose one (sometimes more) child to be the golden child and one (sometimes more) to be the scapegoat. The narcissist identifies with the golden child and provides privileges to him or her as long as the golden child does just as she wants. The golden child has to be cared for assiduously by everyone in the family. The scapegoat has no needs and instead gets to do the caring. The golden child can do nothing wrong. The scapegoat is always at fault. This creates divisions between the children, one of whom has a large investment in the mother being wise and wonderful, and the other(s) who hate her. That division will be fostered by the narcissist with lies and with blatantly unfair and favoritizing behavior. The golden child will defend the mother and indirectly perpetuate the abuse by finding reasons to blame the scapegoat for the mother’s actions. The golden child may also directly take on the narcissistic mother’s tasks by physically abusing the scapegoat so the narcissistic mother doesn’t have to do that herself.

4. She undermines. Your accomplishments are acknowledged only to the extent that she can take credit for them. Any success or accomplishment for which she cannot take credit is ignored or diminished. Any time you are to be center stage and there is no opportunity for her to be the center of attention, she will try to prevent the occasion altogether, or she doesn’t come, or she leaves early, or she acts like it’s no big deal, or she steals the spotlight or she slips in little wounding comments about how much better someone else did or how what you did wasn’t as much as you could have done or as you think it is. She undermines you by picking fights with you or being especially unpleasant just before you have to make a major effort. She acts put out if she has to do anything to support your opportunities or will outright refuse to do even small things in support of you. She will be nasty to you about things that are peripherally connected with your successes so that you find your joy in what you’ve done is tarnished, without her ever saying anything directly about it. No matter what your success, she has to take you down a peg about it.

5. She demeans, criticizes and denigrates. She lets you know in all sorts of little ways that she thinks less of you than she does of your siblings or of other people in general. If you complain about mistreatment by someone else, she will take that person’s side even if she doesn’t know them at all. She doesn’t care about those people or the justice of your complaints. She just wants to let you know that you’re never right.

She will deliver generalized barbs that are almost impossible to rebut (always in a loving, caring tone): “You were always difficult” “You can be very difficult to love” “You never seemed to be able to finish anything” “You were very hard to live with” “You’re always causing trouble” “No one could put up with the things you do.” She will deliver slams in a sidelong way – for example she’ll complain about how “no one” loves her, does anything for her, or cares about her, or she’ll complain that “everyone” is so selfish, when you’re the only person in the room. As always, this combines criticism with deniability.

She will slip little comments into conversation that she really enjoyed something she did with someone else – something she did with you too, but didn’t like as much. She’ll let you know that her relationship with some other person you both know is wonderful in a way your relationship with her isn’t – the carefully unspoken message being that you don’t matter much to her.

She minimizes, discounts or ignores your opinions and experiences. Your insights are met with condescension, denials and accusations (“I think you read too much!”) and she will brush off your information even on subjects on which you are an acknowledged expert. Whatever you say is met with smirks and amused sounding or exaggerated exclamations (“Uh hunh!” “You don’t say!” “Really!”). She’ll then make it clear that she didn’t listen to a word you said.

6. She makes you look crazy. If you try to confront her about something she’s done, she’ll tell you that you have “a very vivid imagination” (this is a phrase commonly used by abusers of all sorts to invalidate your experience of their abuse) that you don’t know what you’re talking about, or that she has no idea what you’re talking about. She will claim not to remember even very memorable events, flatly denying they ever happened, nor will she ever acknowledge any possibility that she might have forgotten. This is an extremely aggressive and exceptionally infuriating tactic called “gaslighting,” common to abusers of all kinds. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up without any confidence in your intuition, your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the abuser.

Narcissists gaslight routinely. The narcissist will either insinuate or will tell you outright that you’re unstable, otherwise you wouldn’t believe such ridiculous things or be so uncooperative. You’re oversensitive. You’re imagining things. You’re hysterical. You’re completely unreasonable. You’re over-reacting, like you always do. She’ll talk to you when you’ve calmed down and aren’t so irrational. She may even characterize you as being neurotic or psychotic.

Once she’s constructed these fantasies of your emotional pathologies, she’ll tell others about them, as always, presenting her smears as expressions of concern and declaring her own helpless victimhood. She didn’t do anything. She has no idea why you’re so irrationally angry with her. You’ve hurt her terribly. She thinks you may need psychotherapy. She loves you very much and would do anything to make you happy, but she just doesn’t know what to do. You keep pushing her away when all she wants to do is help you.

She has simultaneously absolved herself of any responsibility for your obvious antipathy towards her, implied that it’s something fundamentally wrong with you that makes you angry with her, and undermined your credibility with her listeners. She plays the role of the doting mother so perfectly that no one will believe you.

7. She’s envious. Any time you get something nice she’s angry and envious and her envy will be apparent when she admires whatever it is. She’ll try to get it from you, spoil it for you, or get the same or better for herself. She’s always working on ways to get what other people have. The envy of narcissistic mothers often includes competing sexually with their daughters or daughters-in-law. They’ll attempt to forbid their daughters to wear makeup, to groom themselves in an age-appropriate way or to date. They will criticize the appearance of their daughters and daughters-in-law. This envy extends to relationships. Narcissistic mothers infamously attempt to damage their children’s marriages and interfere in the upbringing of their grandchildren.

8. She’s a liar in too many ways to count. Any time she talks about something that has emotional significance for her, it’s a fair bet that she’s lying. Lying is one way that she creates conflict in the relationships and lives of those around her – she’ll lie to them about what other people have said, what they’ve done, or how they feel. She’ll lie about her relationship with them, about your behavior or about your situation in order to inflate herself and to undermine your credibility.

The narcissist is very careful about how she lies. To outsiders she’ll lie thoughtfully and deliberately, always in a way that can be covered up if she’s confronted with her lie. She spins what you said rather than makes something up wholesale. She puts dishonest interpretations on things you actually did. If she’s recently done something particularly egregious she may engage in preventative lying: she lies in advance to discount what you might say before you even say it. Then when you talk about what she did you’ll be cut off with “I already know all about it…your mother told me… (self-justifications and lies).” Because she is so careful about her deniability, it may be very hard to catch her in her lies and the more gullible of her friends may never realize how dishonest she is.

To you, she’ll lie blatantly. She will claim to be unable to remember bad things she has done, even if she did one of them recently and even if it was something very memorable. Of course, if you try to jog her memory by recounting the circumstances “You have a very vivid imagination” or “That was so long ago. Why do you have to dredge up your old grudges?” Your conversations with her are full of casual brush-offs and diversionary lies and she doesn’t respect you enough to bother making it sound good. For example she’ll start with a self-serving lie: “If I don’t take you as a dependent on my taxes I’ll lose three thousand dollars!” You refute her lie with an obvious truth: “No, three thousand dollars is the amount of the dependent exemption. You’ll only lose about eight hundred dollars.” Her response: “Isn’t that what I said?” You are now in a game with only one rule: You can’t win.

On the rare occasions she is forced to acknowledge some bad behavior, she will couch the admission deniably. She “guesses” that “maybe” she “might have” done something wrong. The wrongdoing is always heavily spun and trimmed to make it sound better. The words “I guess,” “maybe,” and “might have” are in and of themselves lies because she knows exactly what she did—no guessing, no might haves, no maybes.

9. She has to be the center of attention all the time. This need is a defining trait of narcissists and particularly of narcissistic mothers for whom their children exist to be sources of attention and adoration. Narcissistic mothers love to be waited on and often pepper their children with little requests. “While you’re up…” or its equivalent is one of their favorite phrases. You couldn’t just be assigned a chore at the beginning of the week or of the day, instead, you had to do it on demand, preferably at a time that was inconvenient for you, or you had to “help” her do it, fetching and carrying for her while she made up to herself for the menial work she had to do as your mother by glorying in your attentions.

A narcissistic mother may create odd occasions at which she can be the center of attention, such as memorials for someone close to her who died long ago, or major celebrations of small personal milestones. She may love to entertain so she can be the life of her own party. She will try to steal the spotlight or will try to spoil any occasion where someone else is the center of attention, particularly the child she has cast as the scapegoat. She often invites herself along where she isn’t welcome. If she visits you or you visit her, you are required to spend all your time with her. Entertaining herself is unthinkable. She has always pouted, manipulated or raged if you tried to do anything without her, didn’t want to entertain her, refused to wait on her, stymied her plans for a drama or otherwise deprived her of attention.

Older narcissistic mothers often use the natural limitations of aging to manipulate dramas, often by neglecting their health or by doing things they know will make them ill. This gives them the opportunity to cash in on the investment they made when they trained you to wait on them as a child. Then they call you (or better still, get the neighbor or the nursing home administrator to call you) demanding your immediate attendance. You are to rush to her side, pat her hand, weep over her pain and listen sympathetically to her unending complaints about how hard and awful it is. (“Never get old!”) It’s almost never the case that you can actually do anything useful, and the causes of her disability may have been completely avoidable, but you’ve been put in an extremely difficult position. If you don’t provide the audience and attention she’s manipulating to get, you look extremely bad to everyone else and may even have legal culpability. (Narcissistic behaviors commonly accompany Alzheimer’s disease, so this behavior may also occur in perfectly normal mothers as they age.)

10. She manipulates your emotions in order to feed on your pain. This exceptionally sick and bizarre behavior is so common among narcissistic mothers that their children often call them “emotional vampires.” Some of this emotional feeding comes in the form of pure sadism. She does and says things just to be wounding or she engages in tormenting teasing or she needles you about things you’re sensitive about, all the while a smile plays over her lips. She may have taken you to scary movies or told you horrifying stories, then mocked you for being a baby when you cried, She will slip a wounding comment into conversation and smile delightedly into your hurt face. You can hear the laughter in her voice as she pressures you or says distressing things to you. Later she’ll gloat over how much she upset you, gaily telling other people that you’re so much fun to tease, and recruiting others to share in her amusement. . She enjoys her cruelties and makes no effort to disguise that. She wants you to know that your pain entertains her. She may bring up subjects that are painful for you and probe you about them, all the while watching you carefully. This is emotional vampirism in its purest form. She’s feeding emotionally off your pain.

A peculiar form of this emotional vampirism combines attention-seeking behavior with a demand that the audience suffer. Since narcissistic mothers often play the martyr this may take the form of wrenching, self-pitying dramas which she carefully produces, and in which she is the star performer. She sobs and wails that no one loves her and everyone is so selfish, and she doesn’t want to live, she wants to die! She wants to die! She will not seem to care how much the manipulation of their emotions and the self-pity repels other people. One weird behavior that is very common to narcissists: her dramas may also center around the tragedies of other people, often relating how much she suffered by association and trying to distress her listeners, as she cries over the horrible murder of someone she wouldn’t recognize if they had passed her on the street.

11. She’s selfish and willful. She always makes sure she has the best of everything. She insists on having her own way all the time and she will ruthlessly, manipulatively pursue it, even if what she wants isn’t worth all the effort she’s putting into it and even if that effort goes far beyond normal behavior. She will make a huge effort to get something you denied her, even if it was entirely your right to do so and even if her demand was selfish and unreasonable. If you tell her she cannot bring her friends to your party she will show up with them anyway, and she will have told them that they were invited so that you either have to give in, or be the bad guy to these poor dupes on your doorstep. If you tell her she can’t come over to your house tonight she’ll call your spouse and try get him or her to agree that she can, and to not say anything to you about it because it’s a “surprise.” She has to show you that you can’t tell her “no.”

One near-universal characteristic of narcissists: because they are so selfish and self-centered, they are very bad gift givers. They’ll give you hand-me-downs or market things for themselves as gifts for you (“I thought I’d give you my old bicycle and buy myself a new one!” “I know how much you love Italian food, so I’m going to take you to my favorite restaurant for your birthday!”) New gifts are often obviously cheap and are usually things that don’t suit you or that you can’t use or are a quid pro quo: if you buy her the gift she wants, she will buy you an item of your choice. She’ll make it clear that it pains her to give you anything. She may buy you a gift and get the identical item for herself, or take you shopping for a gift and get herself something nice at the same time to make herself feel better.

12. She’s self-absorbed. Her feelings, needs and wants are very important; yours are insignificant to the point that her least whim takes precedence over your most basic needs. Her problems deserve your immediate and full attention; yours are brushed aside. Her wishes always take precedence; if she does something for you, she reminds you constantly of her munificence in doing so and will often try to extract some sort of payment. She will complain constantly, even though your situation may be much worse than hers. If you point that out, she will effortlessly, thoughtlessly brush it aside as of no importance (It’s easy for you…/It’s different for you…).

13. She is insanely defensive and is extremely sensitive to any criticism. If you criticize her or defy her she will explode with fury, threaten, storm, rage, destroy and may become violent, beating, confining, putting her child outdoors in bad weather or otherwise engaging in classic physical abuse.

14. She terrorized. For all abusers, fear is a powerful means of control of the victim, and your narcissistic mother used it ruthlessly to train you. Narcissists teach you to beware their wrath even when they aren’t present. The only alternative is constant placation. If you give her everything she wants all the time, you might be spared. If you don’t, the punishments will come. Even adult children of narcissists still feel that carefully inculcated fear. Your narcissistic mother can turn it on with a silence or a look that tells the child in you she’s thinking about how she’s going to get even.

Not all narcissists abuse physically, but most do, often in subtle, deniable ways. It allows them to vent their rage at your failure to be the solution to their internal havoc and simultaneously to teach you to fear them. You may not have been beaten, but you were almost certainly left to endure physical pain when a normal mother would have made an effort to relieve your misery. This deniable form of battery allows her to store up her rage and dole out the punishment at a later time when she’s worked out an airtight rationale for her abuse, so she never risks exposure. You were left hungry because “you eat too much.” (Someone asked her if she was pregnant. She isn’t). You always went to school with stomach flu because “you don’t have a fever. You’re just trying to get out of school.” (She resents having to take care of you. You have a lot of nerve getting sick and adding to her burdens.) She refuses to look at your bloody heels and instead the shoes that wore those blisters on your heels are put back on your feet and you’re sent to the store in them because “You wanted those shoes. Now you can wear them.” (You said the ones she wanted to get you were ugly. She liked them because they were just like what she wore 30 years ago). The dentist was told not to give you Novocaine when he drilled your tooth because “he has to learn to take better care of his teeth.” (She has to pay for a filling and she’s furious at having to spend money on you.)

Narcissistic mothers also abuse by loosing others on you or by failing to protect you when a normal mother would have. Sometimes the narcissist’s golden child will be encouraged to abuse the scapegoat. Narcissists also abuse by exposing you to violence. If one of your siblings got beaten, she made sure you saw. She effortlessly put the fear of Mom into you, without raising a hand.

15. She’s infantile and petty. Narcissistic mothers are often simply childish. If you refuse to let her manipulate you into doing something, she will cry that you don’t love her because if you loved her you would do as she wanted. If you hurt her feelings she will aggressively whine to you that you’ll be sorry when she’s dead that you didn’t treat her better. These babyish complaints and responses may sound laughable, but the narcissist is dead serious about them. When you were a child, if you ask her to stop some bad behavior, she would justify it by pointing out something that you did that she feels is comparable, as though the childish behavior of a child is justification for the childish behavior of an adult. “Getting even” is a large part of her dealings with you. Anytime you fail to give her the deference, attention or service she feels she deserves, or you thwart her wishes, she has to show you.

16. She’s aggressive and shameless. She doesn’t ask. She demands. She makes outrageous requests and she’ll take anything she wants if she thinks she can get away with it. Her demands of her children are posed in a very aggressive way, as are her criticisms. She won’t take no for an answer, pushing and arm-twisting and manipulating to get you to give in.

17. She “parentifies.” She shed her responsibilities to you as soon as she was able, leaving you to take care of yourself as best you could. She denied you medical care, adequate clothing, necessary transportation or basic comforts that she would never have considered giving up for herself. She never gave you a birthday party or let you have sleepovers. Your friends were never welcome in her house. She didn’t like to drive you anywhere, so you turned down invitations because you had no way to get there. She wouldn’t buy your school pictures even if she could easily have afforded it. You had a niggardly clothing allowance or she bought you the cheapest clothing she could without embarrassing herself. As soon as you got a job, every request for school supplies, clothing or toiletries was met with “Now that you’re making money, why don’t you pay for that yourself?” You studied up on colleges on your own and choose a cheap one without visiting it. You signed yourself up for the SATs, earned the money to pay for them and talked someone into driving you to the test site. You worked three jobs to pay for that cheap college and when you finally got mononucleosis she chirped at you that she was “so happy you could take care of yourself.”

She also gave you tasks that were rightfully hers and should not have been placed on a child. You may have been a primary caregiver for young siblings or an incapacitated parent. You may have had responsibility for excessive household tasks. Above all, you were always her emotional caregiver which is one reason any defection from that role caused such enormous eruptions of rage. You were never allowed to be needy or have bad feelings or problems. Those experiences were only for her, and you were responsible for making it right for her. From the time you were very young she would randomly lash out at you any time she was stressed or angry with your father or felt that life was unfair to her, because it made her feel better to hurt you. You were often punished out of the blue, for manufactured offenses. As you got older she directly placed responsibility for her welfare and her emotions on you, weeping on your shoulder and unloading on you any time something went awry for her.

18. She’s exploitative. She will manipulate to get work, money, or objects she envies out of other people for nothing. This includes her children, of course. If she set up a bank account for you, she was trustee on the account with the right to withdraw money. As you put money into it, she took it out. She may have stolen your identity. She took you as a dependent on her income taxes so you couldn’t file independently without exposing her to criminal penalties. If she made an agreement with you, it was violated the minute it no longer served her needs. If you brought it up demanding she adhere to the agreement, she brushed you off and later punished you so you would know not to defy her again.

Sometimes the narcissist will exploit a child to absorb punishment that would have been hers from an abusive partner. The husband comes home in a drunken rage, and the mother immediately complains about the child’s bad behavior so the rage is vented on to the child. Sometimes the narcissistic mother simply uses the child to keep a sick marriage intact because the alternative is being divorced or having to go to work. The child is sexually molested but the mother never notices, or worse, calls the child a liar when she tells the mother about the molestation.

19. She projects. This sounds a little like psycho-babble, but it is something that narcissists all do. Projection means that she will put her own bad behavior, character and traits on you so she can deny them in herself and punish you. This can be very difficult to see if you have traits that she can project on to. An eating-disordered woman who obsesses over her daughter’s weight is projecting. The daughter may not realize it because she has probably internalized an absurdly thin vision of women’s weight and so accepts her mother’s projection. When the narcissist tells the daughter that she eats too much, needs to exercise more, or has to wear extra-large size clothes, the daughter believes it, even if it isn’t true. However, she will sometimes project even though it makes no sense at all. This happens when she feels shamed and needs to put it on her scapegoat child and the projection therefore comes across as being an attack out of the blue. For example: She makes an outrageous request, and you casually refuse to let her have her way. She’s enraged by your refusal and snarls at you that you’ll talk about it when you’ve calmed down and are no longer hysterical.

You aren’t hysterical at all; she is, but your refusal has made her feel the shame that should have stopped her from making shameless demands in the first place. That’s intolerable. She can transfer that shame to you and rationalize away your response: you only refused her because you’re so unreasonable. Having done that she can reassert her shamelessness and indulge her childish willfulness by turning an unequivocal refusal into a subject for further discussion. You’ll talk about it again “later” – probably when she’s worn you down with histrionics, pouting and the silent treatment so you’re more inclined to do what she wants.

20. She is never wrong about anything. No matter what she’s done, she won’t ever genuinely apologize for anything. Instead, any time she feels she is being made to apologize she will sulk and pout, issue an insulting apology or negate the apology she has just made with justifications, qualifications or self pity: “I’m sorry you felt that I humiliated you” “I’m sorry if I made you feel bad” “If I did that it was wrong” “I’m sorry, but I there’s nothing I can do about it” “I’m sorry I made you feel clumsy, stupid and disgusting” “I’m sorry but it was just a joke. You’re so over-sensitive” “I’m sorry that my own child feels she has to upset me and make me feel bad.” The last insulting apology is also an example of projection.

21. She seems to have no awareness that other people even have feelings. She’ll occasionally slip and say something jaw-droppingly callous because of this lack of empathy. It isn’t that she doesn’t care at all about other people’s feelings, though she doesn’t. It would simply never occur to her to think about their feelings. An absence of empathy is the defining trait of a narcissist and underlies most of the other traits I have described. Unlike psychopaths, narcissists do understand right, wrong, and consequences, so they are not ordinarily criminal. She beat you, but not to the point where you went to the hospital. She left you standing out in the cold until you were miserable, but not until you had hypothermia. She put you in the basement in the dark with no clothes on, but she only left you there for two hours.

22. She blames. She’ll blame you for everything that isn’t right in her life or for what other people do or for whatever has happened. Always, she’ll blame you for her abuse. You made her do it. If only you weren’t so difficult. You upset her so much that she can’t think straight. Things were hard for her and your backtalk pushed her over the brink. This blaming is often so subtle that all you know is that you thought you were wronged and now you feel guilty. Your brother beats you and her response is to bemoan how uncivilized children are. Your boyfriend dumped you, but she can understand—after all, she herself has seen how difficult you are to love. She’ll do something egregiously exploitative to you, and when confronted will screech at you that she can’t believe you were so selfish as to upset her over such a trivial thing. She’ll also blame you for your reaction to her selfish, cruel and exploitative behavior. She can’t believe you are so petty, so small, and so childish as to object to her giving your favorite dress to her friend. She thought you would be happy to let her do something nice for someone else.

Narcissists are masters of multitasking as this example shows. Simultaneously your narcissistic mother is 1) Lying. She knows what she did was wrong and she knows your reaction is reasonable. 2) Manipulating. She’s making you look like the bad guy for objecting to her cruelties. 3) Being selfish. She doesn’t mind making you feel horrible as long as she gets her own way. 4) Blaming. She did something wrong, but it’s all your fault. 5) Projecting. Her petty, small and childish behavior has become yours. 6) Putting on a self-pitying drama. She’s a martyr who believed the best of you, and you’ve let her down. 7) Parentifying. You’re responsible for her feelings, she has no responsibility for yours.

23. She destroys your relationships. Narcissistic mothers are like tornadoes: wherever they touch down families are torn apart and wounds are inflicted. Unless the father has control over the narcissist and holds the family together, adult siblings in families with narcissistic mothers characteristically have painful relationships. Typically all communication between siblings is superficial and driven by duty, or they may never talk to each other at all. In part, these women foster dissension between their children because they enjoy the control it gives them. If those children don’t communicate except through the mother, she can decide what everyone hears. Narcissists also love the excitement and drama they create by interfering in their children’s lives. Watching people’s lives explode is better than soap operas, especially when you don’t have any empathy for their misery.

The narcissist nurtures anger, contempt and envy—the most corrosive emotions—to drive her children apart. While her children are still living at home, any child who stands up to the narcissist guarantees punishment for the rest. In her zest for revenge, the narcissist purposefully turns the siblings’ anger on the dissenter by including everyone in her retaliation. (“I can see that nobody here loves me! Well I’ll just take these Christmas presents back to the store. None of you would want anything I got you anyway!”) The other children, long trained by the narcissist to give in, are furious with the troublemaking child, instead of with the narcissist who actually deserves their anger.

The narcissist also uses favoritism and gossip to poison her childrens’ relationships. The scapegoat sees the mother as a creature of caprice and cruelty. As is typical of the privileged, the other children don’t see her unfairness and they excuse her abuses. Indeed, they are often recruited by the narcissist to adopt her contemptuous and entitled attitude towards the scapegoat and with her tacit or explicit permission, will inflict further abuse. The scapegoat predictably responds with fury and equal contempt. After her children move on with adult lives, the narcissist makes sure to keep each apprised of the doings of the others, passing on the most discreditable and juicy gossip (as always, disguised as “concern”) about the other children, again, in a way that engenders contempt rather than compassion.

Having been raised by a narcissist, her children are predisposed to be envious, and she takes full advantage of the opportunity that presents. While she may never praise you to your face, she will likely crow about your victories to the very sibling who is not doing well. She’ll tell you about the generosity she displayed towards that child, leaving you wondering why you got left out and irrationally angry at the favored child rather than at the narcissist who told you about it.

The end result is a family in which almost all communication is triangular. The narcissist, the spider in the middle of the family web, sensitively monitors all the children for information she can use to retain her unchallenged control over the family. She then passes that on to the others, creating the resentments that prevent them from communicating directly and freely with each other. The result is that the only communication between the children is through the narcissist, exactly the way she wants it.

24. As a last resort she goes pathetic. When she’s confronted with unavoidable consequences for her own bad behavior, including your anger, she will melt into a soggy puddle of weepy helplessness. It’s all her fault. She can’t do anything right. She feels so bad. What she doesn’t do: own the responsibility for her bad conduct and make it right. Instead, as always, it’s all about her, and her helpless self-pitying weepiness dumps the responsibility for her consequences AND for her unhappiness about it on you. As so often with narcissists, it is also a manipulative behavior. If you fail to excuse her bad behavior and make her feel better, YOU are the bad person for being cold, heartless and unfeeling when your poor mother feels so awful.” (Characteristics of a Narcissistic Mother, author unknown)

How Does a Narcissistic Parent Affect the Child?

Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents grow up disempowered and disconnected from their authentic selves. They fear retribution, punishment and condemnation, and are their own harshest critics. Until they resolve the issues resulting from their upbringing, they struggle with a deep sense of inferiority and fear of rejection. ACONs are often either overachievers or underachievers.

Adult children of narcissists are well-practiced in the art of pretending they have no needs, believe that they must present as demand-less in order to gain others’ acceptance, and that if they show their true wants and needs to others, they will be rejected.” (ACON Page, Light’s House)

The childhood of a person raised by a narcissistic parent is all kinds of horrible. The narcissist parent does not recognize the child as a separate human—but either an extension of self, an Echo, a mirror, an object, or a servant. 

The childhood of a narcissistic parent is a brutal one. And, unfortunately, due to the amount of psychological manipulation and abuse that the child is conditioned to accept, the abuse of the narcissistic parent often extends far into adulthood.

What Happens When the ACoN Awakens

If you’ve read the description below and do not have an NPD parent, you may find the description far-fetched, unbelievable, and just ridiculous. However, if you have an NPD parent, you know that the description is spot on. The author brilliantly captured how a narcissistic parent acts.

Unfortunately, because the NPD parent is so good at disguising her true self, the only one who knows the true personality of the parent is the awakened ACoN. The ACoN will almost always find herself alone in her discovery that her parent is a full-blown narcissist (or that both are). Everyone else who knows the parent will find it exceedingly difficult to believe that the charming, gentle, thoughtful person that they know could be so different when they are not around.

“There is a theme that runs through responses that I receive from children of a narcissistic parent(s). The child is subjected to unbearable levels of ongoing abuse–scalding criticisms, withering humiliations in front of other family members and alone, routine secret physical beatings and other horrendous acts of brutality including psychological and literal abandonment. When the child lets family members know what is happening to him, this person is not believed. When the victim of a narcissist tells the truth about his dreadful pathological parent, he is not treated with kindness or understanding. The family is shocked; the victim is treated with disdain and often told he/she is the sick one or that this is all lies to get attention. The narcissistic mother or father gets a complete pass. A masterful coverup takes place and remains ongoing. The child victims become family pariahs. Often the suggestion is whispered that they belong in a psychiatric institution or are in need of intensive psychotherapy.” (Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D, author of Freeing Yourself From the Narcissist in Your Life)

A Brief Word About Siblings

If the ACoN has siblings, the ACoN should not expect the sibling(s) to awaken just because the ACoN has.

The narcissistic parent has already waged a lifelong campaign to make sure the siblings will not be close. For example, a common thread in narcissistic parents is to triangulate their children… The narcissistic parent will choose a Scapegoat (to bear the brunt of all her/his criticism and abuse) and a Golden Child (to bear all his/her praise, even if for the smallest achievements). The parent will also play the children off each other (known as triangulation), encouraging the Golden Child’s abuse of the Scapegoat and the Scapegoat to grow envious of the Golden Child. (Note: Both the Golden Child and the Scapegoat suffer, though the Scapegoat is far more likely to grow up and break the cycle than the Golden Child.)

And because the narcissistic parent has dominated the lines of communication in a family (all communications go through her), the siblings may not know the truth about one another, may not even talk to each other, etc. The narcissistic parent has spent her lifetime gossiping about her children to one another, distorting their perceptions of one another, and making sure that the siblings will not communicate honestly with one another; she has done this to guarantee that they will not rise united against her.

An awakened ACoN should hold fast to the truth and be aware that her siblings–if they are still communicating via the narcissist and in constant communication with her—will deny the existence of abuse. The ACoN siblings still remain in hope of winning the narcissistic parent’s love, cannot bear the truth, and, if the sibling is a Golden Child, unwilling to break off the source of exaggerated praise and neediness that passes off as a “relationship.”


Despite the lack of empathy or understanding from relatives, the ACoN should stay awake and begin the path of healing.

A Brief Word About the Enabler

An abused child will often make the mistake of thinking the enabling parent is kinder and more loving than the NPD parent. The child thinks that because she has to think that for the sake of her own survival. (A child’s psyche would hardly be able to bear the idea of two NPD parents.) The truth, however, is that the enabler often causes his own brand of damage.

If you read blogs from ACoNs, they often refer to the other parent (the non-NPD one) as the “flying monkey.”

The narcissist is the one dominating the family dynamics and destroying everything in her path that does not directly feed her sense of ego; the enabler is the one who will yell at the kids, cajole them, manipulate them, bribe them, threaten them, etc. to step in line and do what the narcissistic parent demands. The consensus is that the parent enables the abuse of the children in order to escape the abuse himself.

In some circumstances, the awakened ACoN will realize that the enabling parent, which they have always preferred to the outright NPD one, may also be an NPD parent. Many ACoNs have written about having a closer “relationship” with the enabling parent, only to find out, through growing self-awareness and therapy, that the enabling parent was also causing severe damage to her—though the enabler’s method was more covert.

Can an ACoN Ever Heal?


Many children of narcissistic parents do survive although they have suffered horribly. They are courageous individuals who never give up even when they feel like they can’t go one more step. They learn the lessons of survival well. Many of them become hypervigalent and suffer from anxiety and depression. Many benefit from highly skilled empathic psychotherapy and other healing modalities: gentle yoga, a form of meditation that works for you, journaling, exercise that you enjoy and spending time with Nature.” (Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D, author of Freeing Yourself From the Narcissist in Your Life)

If you have just come to the understanding that your parent has the narcissistic personality disorder (or both have it), please start looking for ways to heal.

You are worth it. You deserve to be loved, to be happy, to find peace, to be the person that you were created to be.

You deserve a good life filled with love, peace, and healthy relationships.

Here are some resources to help you along the way…

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

    • Hi, i have recently sourced help about my Adopted mother, all my life i didnt know why i was always getting into trouble by her and constantly belittled, and her turning my brother against me as well… i always prayed so hard for god to change her.
      I cant remember one night of my life i have not cried over and over about this.
      i tried so often to talk to adults and tell them what my mother was doing… but they would speak to mum and then nothing was done and those people use to treat me differently after speaking to her.
      She turned all my friends against me
      i was always so alone
      this has effected me so much i cannot go on anymore

      • Please, please know you are not alone. Seek help, whether from a therapist, school counselor, hotline…. You can find a caring voice here:

        I’m not sure how old you are… but if you are still a child, then please talk to a favorite teacher, librarian, etc. about what is happening. You need to know you are not alone and that, despite what your mother is like, you are still lovable and need to be safe. If you are over 18, I highly suggest finding some free resource for therapy, whether at the local college or hospital, and finding somewhere you can be safe…

        Please keep safe.

      • Oh Marie, you are not alone. None of us are alone. I had to cut off all contact with her and move on in my mid 40′s. I have no friends from my younger years, but I have been able to make a life with my husband which has not centered on her. You CAN do the same. I don’t now how old you are, but there is always hope. I pray that there are counseling centers where you live and they have to keep your healing a “secret” from your mother. It is like escaping from a prison of war camp. You heal inside until you are strong enough to BREAK away from this person who has treated you so badly. If you do something to yourself, she will crow to the heavens that she was right about you and will revel in her martrydom. You are Worth More Than to be her byline. You Have Value. Find a counselor, or a church where they don’t know her and find one with confidentiality clauses to protect you while your beautiful butterfly body can safely come out of it’s coccoon.

  1. Reblogged this on Bipolar For Life and commented:
    Well, folks, I was praying in the shower again (my religion is not so big on praying in the bathroom, but I hold that if G-d made all of me including my bodily functions, then He certainly can handle my praying in the bathroom). I was praying about finding some really good material for you on the topic of Psychological Abuse. And what do you know, the wonderful blog Tell About Abuse reblogged this fantastic post on surviving the Narcissistic Parent, from the other wonderful blog The Invisible Scar. I can’t exactly say “enjoy,” but I can say that this validated a lot of my suspicions that I was *ahem* “raised” by a narcissistic mother.

    • The shower is a wonderful place to pray, actually. When you emerge from the shower, you feel better physically and emotionally. Or so I’ve heard…

      Thanks for reblogging this post and helping to spread awareness of emotional child abuse/psychological abuse. When I use the term “emotional CHILD abuse,” I mean it for both children at home and adult children, so it’s good to share and help others find healing.

      No, it’s not the sort of post one enjoys, but I’m glad to hear that it has helped validate a lot of your suspicions—”glad” because awareness is the first step towards healing. Even though the road is difficult, the road is worth taking.

      I will include you in my prayers. Please keep The Invisible Scar in yours, too.

  2. I am in the middle of a book called “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? (Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers)” by Karyl McBride, PhD. I actually gave a copy to a girlfriend with similar “mother issues”, and she’s found it to be very informative and helpful. Perhaps others of you out there might take a peek at it and see what you think.

  3. You are worth it. You deserve to be loved, to be happy, to find peace, to be the person that you were created to be.

    You deserve a good life filled with love, peace, and healthy relationships.



    All the best to you :)

  4. One thing I’d add (I may have missed it in the blog) is that when a narcissist parent does compliment, it’s usually a compliment that attributes your success to them. For instance, I remember my mom complimenting me on my musical talent, then saying that my ear for music came from her.

    • Good point. Narcissistic parents are notorious for that!

      Compliments are always so very twisted. “You have such pretty blond hair… Too bad your eyes are brown, not blue, though. It’d be more striking that way.” “You play the cello so well! If only you wouldn’t have an awful slouch when you play it.” “You’re good at cooking… you must get that from me because just yesterday so-and-so was complimenting the dinner I prepared…” etc.


  5. Oh dear, where do I start? I guess when I was adopted in The US by non american parents and taken to Mexico, all the judge could see was my rich adoptive parents. I think they should have checked the egos of my parents! I feel like sueing the US governement.

    • Christine,

      Glad to be of help. And may you continue awakening and growing…

      THANK YOU! I was wondering about the author. Thanks so much.

  6. This reads like a blow-by-blow of my childhood, only replace “mother” with “father.”

    My mother was also pretty narcissistic but my parents got divorced when I was about 10 and I saw her maybe 4-5 times a year throughout my teens. I didn’t wriggle out from under my father’s direct influence for almost another 20 years.

    • That’s my case also… kind of.

      Not everything applies exactly in my case, but is like a 90% match.

      My mother is very narcissistic also, but i grew up with my dad after they divorced. I have been struggling to be out of my father’s influence since a long time… I’m finally “achieving” it at my early 30′s… It makes me a little sad … but then I think it is better now than later. I don’t know. I’m still struggling. It is getting easier. But it can get tricky sometimes. Anyway, i’m so much better now.

      Thank you all for all your comments!!! They are very helpful!!!

    • James,

      We were tempted to replace “mother” with “parent” but we didn’t want to mess with someone else’s essay. ; )

      Though we’re sorry that you know how having an NPD parent feels, we’re happy to hear that you finally DID awaken. The hardest part is the awakening… And some folks never do wake up to the horrific realization that they had an emotionally abusive childhood.

      But you did… and it sounds like you’re doing well… That’s very good news indeed.

      Onward and upward!

  7. English is my second language so I´ll try my best.
    Five years ago, I went to therapy I was ending a bad relationship.. later discovered..he was a narcissist. Some time into therapy I understood why I was attracted to narcissists … My mother was one.. My life has been always competing with my mom…. I was the only girl in 3 children and my dad´s favorite. My dad always told me I was his sunshine ,. it was like having day & night in the same family. He was the opposite of my mother. He showered me with unconditional love and told me how much he loved me .. everyday(true)
    and for my mom I was was a difficult duality.
    As time passed into therapy and I got to learn more about my moms effects on me. I have limits now. I talk superficial things only, I live in another city and I let her now I´m not tolerating her crap. I´ve confronted her several times over the years. I never let my guard down .. I know her. i´ve learned to know her perfectly.. I could write a book.
    My dad passed away 8 years ago, and I believe to this day ..that I am the woman that I am .. thanks to him .He was always very proud of me and always made me feel special . Even though i suffered emotional abuse from my mother.. There´s a part of me in my essence and in my soul that she just couldn´t reach and damage.
    Since I put my limits and stand beside my decisions in every aspect…. She knows where she stands ..She is now careful with me.. i see her in her true size.. very small and shallow. Her power over me has ended.. I know I never had a mom … and in a way I forgive her for not having love to give me.. She is paying a price with her loneliness. She´s old & vulnerable and that´s cryptonite to narcissists.

    • sorry to hear your story,
      in my case my child now with a narcissistic/borderline mother, she knows well the western laws and play with it. since his birth she ignored him then when he is 5 she disappeared with him. he is totally destroyed and I cant help.
      search for borderline BPD punishment, very nice vedio about her , all her life is a punishment toward me, her family and our son.
      I hope you don’t punish your mother, stay away but don’t hate her, and if you help her there will be great reward for you in the dayafter

    • Steve,

      You are very welcomed… (passing over the tissues for the tears … and also passing chocolate because, why not? :) )

      Peace to you…

  8. I am almost 60 years old, and finding this just turned my whole life around. I always knew there was something wrong with my mother, but like it mentions, no one would believe me. And I still have siblings that will not admit to her bizarre behavior. If I could have written a definition of my mother in a dictionary it would have been this article. I don’t like saying this, but I have hated her ever since I was young. I know she is ill, but the things she did to me as a child, and as an adult, just made me hate her. Just the other day yet, my dad made me go over to their home because she was threatening to leave, because I called her on one of her stunts. I stood there for 30 minutes while she told me how useless I am as a human being and a daughter and then when she was done, he told me to hug her. How sick is that! I told him that she will never talk to me like that again, I’m done.

    • I’m 65 and am discovering that my mother, borderline with narcissism on the side, has had serial relationships with unadulterated narcissists all of my life, beginning with my father and probably before. I never got much verbal abuse, just abandonment and indifference. Thank God, I had grandparents for her to dump me on and without them, I’d hardly know how normal people act. Well, that took decades of learning as she undermined them in my eyes and God knows what she told them about ME. In spite of all this, I never doubted THEY loved me. I was her only child, but not the Golden One, more the scapegoat before and after she found a narcissist husband to rescue her from bad 12-year-old me. That marriage lasted 10 years but I’ve been done with her emotionally for 50 years. I am always polite however and let her know my children, too. I built a psychological citadel, but from behind my walls, I have been a dutiful daughter. BUT this is the strange part. Both my parents told me, when I was young, that I would forgive them and understand their points of view on each other and the world in general. MUCH TO THE CONTRARY, the more I advance through the stages of my life esp. in my own role as mother in an intact family, the more harshly I judge them The more I marvel at the hard-heartedness, the indifference, the dangers they put me in, the damage they did to my teenage self. Thanks to a certain strength t (the power to endure in silence and to want to survive) , I pulled what appears to be a normal life out of the magician’s black hat I came from. But sometimes I still feel that it’s all appearance, that I’ve been faking my whole life. Now that I am 65, I sometimes wonder what my grandparents thought of their daughter’s performance as a mother. I know that one time my grandmother, in tears, told me that she wished she’d taken me in when I was little. I said nothing. I had learned to say nothing to anyone about anything. This post shows I’ve come a long way, baby.

      • Wow! Talibabe, your life sounds like mine… I love my parents, but, my mother is hot and cold hundred times daily. My father was all over the place? I suspect they both had narcissistic parents growing up. I was completely ignored growing up… they had no interest in knowing me and teaching me anything. At 50, they still don’t care about what I do and who I am… not a bit of interest. Now, if I’m making good money–they love love love me… if not, I have zero value. The sad part is all my siblings are amazing people… they may never know that.

        Forget being loving. I’m surprised I’m so loving… I send them love. They did the best they could do.

    • Debbie,

      We’ve often read that recognizing one’s emotionally abusive childhood is very, very difficult… and some people go their whole lives thinking that what they endured was normal, making the same mistakes, stumbling along… but it wasn’t. And it’s never too late to discover the truth.

      The important thing is that YOU know the truth. Unfortunately, the NPD parent are very skilled at dual personas and they make it almost impossible for other folks in their lives to see what they are really like. It’s maddening for the adult child… but as long as the adult child knows, that’s the most important thing.

      And, Debbie, you are not useless…. You are here. You matter. And good for you for standing up for yourself.

      Onward and upward.

  9. As a present to my daughter, my parents wanted to buy her letterman’s jacket for her. I ordered it and had her letter and all the other patches on. I am the author of the book, Asleep with One Eye Open, a book about one child’s journey through abuse, and my brother is also an author. I arranged to have us both promote our books at the state reading conference. My mother, that this article explains her to a t, is trying to make this conference about her, basically saying that our books are on the market because of her, she booked a hotel by the conference, and plans on being at the conference so she can make it about her. When I told her I did not want her there because I thought it would bring a negative aspect if she was not getting the attention, she threw a temper tantrum and refuse to pay for my daughter’s jacket after she promised to do so, I paid for the jacket myself. I am working on my next two novels, right now. One is about a narcissistic mother and the abuse that came with it and articles like this are truly helping me with my research.

  10. OMG!!!—how much of what was written in the article I could relate to—and YES!!!—debbiesdone (one of the emails submitted this site) I am 61 yr’s old and finally come to the realization I WAS/AM the child of a narcissistic parent. I was “labeled” the “difficult” child from the time of my birth right up to the present(my mother just reiterated it to me in a recent phone call) and said I always was difficult and she has all kinds stuff to back it up with. From the time I was a baby I was her “difficult” child—she was too nervous to nurse me…I was a colicky baby…I was headstrong as a toddler and she had hard time handling me, etc. etc. etc. In fact she told me recently as well that she tried to love me despite our differences. AH!!!!—that’s just it!!!!—she just could never truly be accepting of me for ME!—and there was always this niggling feeling that she “resented” me for who I was, my needs, wants, etc. There were “3′”of us kids and yet I WAS the one that was made to clean my room at a younger age than either of my brothers. I was the one that had to act as child therapist to my parents and hear them complain about each other, etc. I was the one that had to give up my dog, bike, etc. when we moved and when I later said something to this about my mother as an adult and how as a child I felt I had NO control in matters involving my possessions she just lays it back on me and said she’s saddened that I chose to feel this way about the matter. Oh yes, and the “golden child” is my youngest brother—the one she can brag about and impress with now and she told me what a “wonderful” son he is and how easy it was to raise him. Although, after he blew up at her a year or so ago then she calls me and is in despair about what a horrible personality he has—on, but that has been forgotten now since his last visit and he is her golden boy once again and of course I am still the ‘difficult’ child despite the fact I have a college degree and some graduate credit and have been married for 31 years now. THANK YOU for a site like this that let’s me know I am NOT alone!—RK

    • RK,

      Nope. You are most definitely not alone.

      What struck me most in your comment was that you said you felt your mother resented you. One of the traits of emotionally abused children is this feeling that their parents just don’t like them, that they reject who they are…It’s a reality that people who had healthy upbringings cannot understand. “How can a mother NOT love her child?” “How can a father NOT love his child?” But an emotionally abused child knows that it’s possible.

      Unfortunately, an emotionally abused child often thinks it is his fault that he is not loved—-when it is the parent’s fault. The fault is not in the child, but in the parent.

      • The Editor’s reply was appreciated! It was so considerate and shows true empathy and dedication when someone takes the time to reply personally to so many survivor’s emails. There was mention in the Editor’s reply that one of the traits of emotionally abused children is that they feel their parents just don’t like them—and YES, I felt that way as a child because I felt my mom was dissatisfied with me and now as an adult I can understand clearer that my mother was a very ambitious, driven—and intelligent person and that I as well as my brothers interfered with or caused inconveniences in her life-plan and career, which added to underlying resentments at times, etc.—which came out in emotional diatribes at times. AND…being a female she had plans and hopes for me—but I had my own aspirations and was trying to establish my “own” identity not a carbon copy of her–or what she wanted or thought was right for me. As an adult I struggled a lot with where I stood with my mom and I realize she didn’t have the best relationship with her own parents and was always attempting to get “approval”—so I know that had to shape/affect some of her parenting as well. Yeah, I know I held grudges at times—but at the same time I can’t let that rule my life and we still “talk” over the phone at times. I’ve learned a “long distance” relationship” is best for both of us. We just “talk” and then go on with our “own” lives.—RK

  11. Oh, just to add to my email above as it was got rather lengthy— several of the comments I heard MORE than once growing up that my mother would utter in me and my brother’s presence were…
    1. “WHAT did I do to deserve this?”—meaning when the going got tough with us kids or she got frustrated about something she would let this fly.
    2. “This is MY cross to bear”.—meaning she thought she had displeased God in some way and now she was being punished.
    3. “You kids are a reflection on me”.—meaning we better not misbehave in any way in public or get in trouble because it would make HER look like she was a bad parent. AND… the “classic” which she throws out now when she starts telling me things she doesn’t like about me or what I shouldn’t be doing— I have responded by saying , Mom, you do those things and you know what she says????—”Well, that’s different”. yeah, meaning she can do, say, or behave however she pleases and it is above reproach. Enough said…RK

  12. YES–it’s RK “again”—but there is just sooooooo much I need to purge myself of and I can do it safely on this site. I could “never” do that as a child because my parents were both white collar professionals and yeah, I feared “who would believe me”. AND.. my mother skillfully used the difficult child card to her advantage to make me out to look like I was always the problem making her life difficult. I didn’t start out wanting to willfully hate my parents but after all the multiple stuff I went through just in grade school I admit I hated them at times. They were both dysfunctional adults who entered into a marriage and as a result were dysfunctional parents ill-equipped to handle children at times. My father had a temper and could easily get frustrated. He threw my one brother over the fence one time when he was frustrated with my brothers behavior and as a result my bother’s leg was fractured. My father picked up my dachshund when I was in grade school because he was frustrated and angry with ME and started to choke her–later when I was a teen he stuck me on the head when he got frustrated with me. Oh, and as for my mother I too was the child she took out her frustrations and anger on many a time. I was told I was a moody, angry child who would grow up to have difficulty in relationships and was even told I would end up mentally ill. Oh, she even went so far to tell my present husband I was an angry young woman. WELL…yeah, I did get angry when I was abused verbally, emotionally and physically. Hey, and like I said in a previous submission I am 61 yr;’s old and my mother just recently wrote to tell me, after we had a disagreement, that she thinks I need to see a psychiatrist because she thinks I have bi-polar disorder. When I told my girlfriend this she just got a disgusted look on her face and shook her head. Yeah, and talk about competing—when my mother has been in my presence and someone compliments me on my looks she expects to be complimented too. Well, thanks to my husband I finally have an ally and someone that “believes” me and he was the one that finally told me my mother was/is mentally ill. YES!—I always knew there was something not right—but who likes to have to accept that about their mom?—RK

    • Having an ally is so important…and it’s wonderful that your husband is yours.

      Your story was very emotional, and we’re sorry for what you endured.

      Peace be with you, RK…

      • Sometimes it takes another person to point out to us things we overlook or ignore and even “deny” or don’t want to be true at times. Husbands, life partners and friends can do that for us.—RK Thanks to the Editor for the response!

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  14. I am a 53 year old male that has lived in another country than my family for 10 years. I just returned to my family (mom, dad, sisters) for a vacation, after not seeing them for 6 years, my dad who is the narcissist, and who made my life a living hell, destroyed my wife and my visit to such an extend that we left after one week. ( We live on opposites of the world)

    The article above describes him and his behaviors to a T. I have always felt extremely guilty, yes even after 53 years i still did.

    But to give others hope out there, i have only realized now that i am not to blame (sorry but i am crying as i am typing) and i can see him for what he is, for the first time in my life

    I am FREE tonight and see him for what he has done to me.

    Thank you for the article and God bless!!

    • Eugene,

      No, no, you are not to blame…

      We’re sorry that you cried during the reading of this article, but we’re glad that you’ve found freedom from that harmful relationship.

      Stay strong. Live in the truth.

      God bless you, too.

  15. My heart goes out to all of you who have grown up with a narcissistic parent … I did too (my mother; physically and emotionally abusive), but have learned at age 68 that it really was not about me, but about her. I got some relief during many decades from my relationship with my younger sister, although that relationship also seemed to be weird and frought with her rages and gaslighting; discovered that she, too, is highly narcissistic. Is it any surprise that I picked some narcissistic men as partners in relationships? I was exquisitely well-trained for it! No more; I have addressed my codependency and esteem issues (a work in progress but I’m kickin’ butt) and have eliminated ALL narcissists from my life, yes; even my sister. My house, life, and head are narc-free zones!

  16. First, I want to thank The Invisible Scar for affording those who are trying to recover from abuse a forum and opportunity to share their stories in the hopes of aiding their healing. Second, I am humbled to read the comments here and moved to tears to read of such pain and suffering (I too am an awakened AcoN). Third, I am in the final stages of recovery in my 4th year of intensive psychotherapy with an amazing counselor so I want you all to know that, no matter what your age is, (I am 60) there is hope and healing…please keep working toward it! Finally, I wish I could reach through the computer screen and hug each one of you, but since that is not possible, please take a moment to hug yourself and know that my prayer tonight is for you to experience God’s love, compassion, grace and healing. Reading our individual stories of abuse has a way of validating our experience, as only other AcoN’s can attest. Let’s also be mindful that we can encourage healing in each other, lift each other up, and support each other with positive examples from our own recovery journey….we can’t change the past but WE CAN CHANGE THE FUTURE and it starts today….may you all have better tomorrows!

  17. Thank you for the article. My mom fits so much of the descriptions. When I was 53 years old I finally had had enough. My mom health…mentally and physically was deteriating even though she had always complained about head aches, and general pain when she needed to do something for her children. She was fine when she was out with her friends pursuing her hobbies…art,dance,lunches, etc. Once my dad died in her 50s and I moved out after college to get married, work, and have a family of my own she cranked up all the horrible characteristics of NPD. I tried and succeeded for a long time keeping up the dutiful and self sacrificing daughter. After all that was all I knew to get along…trained so well from birth. But my depression was no longer easily treated with a low dose of antidepressant and my anxiety was unmanageable. That is when I made the decision that I may not love myself enough to separate from my mother but I certainly love my autistic son, daughter and husband. I am 60 and these last 7 years have been the best years of my life. I am experiencing who I am without the tremendous burden I endured (for my survival in my youth). She no longer has the phychological hold on me she once did. Occasionally I suffer embarrassment when people ask how she is ….of course they only know her as the charismatic person she revealed to them. I am very lucky to have a wonderful husband who checks on her and takes care of making sure she is ok. She is in a very nice nursing home. My sister does not understand because she is younger and was treated very differently but I don’t allow that to prevent my progress….she does complain about me to others…o…well…my brother understands. I had a friend ask me if I will feel guilty when she dies that I have had this self induced separation from her. I can honestly answer I do not think so.

  18. I have so much to say that I don’t even know where or how to start. I’m 30 and just finally realizing my mother is this person. My father is the one who allows the behaviour but then himself becomes a narcissist too. I am the oldest of three, the younger two are twins. I have been the scapegoat ever since I can remember. As I grew older, none of my relationships would work out. My mother was always so involved even if I lived far away from her. I was and am always wrong, emotional (“they have to walk on eggshells when talking to me” according to her) I have never been praised and if I mention that it’s “poor me”. I was even told(screamed actually) that I am as crazy as the “I said no wire hangers!” Lady because I told my daughter I would take away her birthday present if she got an attitude with me….to which my daughter snapped back that she can do what she wants, mind you this was her 4th birthday, and when I took the gift away she flipped out and cried and my mom told her, “its ok you can have it back.” As I said no way and don’t undermine my discipline. Man was that the craziest and most insane I have ever seen her….well with that issue. She’s gone through the roof so often, any and all conversations we have turn to an argument that for some reason I never see coming because its so crazy. I have dated so many abusive men but I’m always the one who has the problem or, “what did you do wrong this time?” I will be honest and say I just want a family for my child and myself and have jumped into relationships. The biggest part and most horrendous is that one of these men sexually abused my child. my child was the one to tell me, at a very very young age. I did everything to report it and get away. Even becoming homeless with my daughter, living from hotel to hotel and couch to couch for an entire summer. Well I was told by her and am still told, that its my fault it happened and I am selfish and put my happiness before my child’s. its been just her and I since she was basically born. I am now deciding to move a couple hours away with a man I love(who also has a daughter and is an amazing and dedicated father and worker) and I was told that its the worst decision I can make, I’m harming my child, I’m taking her away from the only stability she knows, my child is not happy, if something happens to her I’ll be sorry(as in a threatening way), the state is going to take custody of her. Here’s a side not, I was sexually abused and so was my mother. When I told my mother I was, I was cutting myself and very depressed as a teenager, the only thing she said to me is, “you lier, f*ck you!” Nothing more has been said. I used to be an alcoholic, 5 1/2 years sober, I put myself in treatment( my entire family are alcoholics in denial and when I say anything its, “how dare I embarrass them like that!” My daughter even calls her play glasses wine glasses because that’s what grandma calls them. my parents have fought horribly since I can remembed. my dad always has the say over my mom and will wholeheartedly tell her so in front of anyone. I have always been the one, with them putting me in the argument and asking, since I was little, to tell them who’s right and wrong and if one of them does one more thing and they find out from me then they are getting divorced. When drinking, they fight like that in front of anyone, completely embarrassing me and putting me in a very awkward situation. When confronted by their downfalls, I am the worst person and how dare I ever talk about my parents like that and its like I’m saying they beat me and I had a horrible childhood. These are all their words. I take meds for anxiety and depression, according to them, I am the one on too many drugs (yes they are talking about my prescription drugs as if they are narcotics and I’m actually only on one daily and another only if I need of or have an anxiety attack) and I’m the one with the issue. according to them, the were and drinking are way better than some shrink dishing out drugs. I recently had a major surgery that at my age is not common. My parents have been helpful but its a “fine I’ll de it but I have more important things to do and I can’t believe you decided to have this emergency surgery and inconvenience” us kind of help.
    Sorry for the length. I could go on forever and on fact have always joked that I could write multiple novels from my life. But who am I kidding, how dare I share family secrets and the bad things going on. I keep forgetting that we are a perfect loving good looking healthy well to do family……my ass!!

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  20. hi…….iv spent most of my life scared and the fog of self blame and hate and difficult relationships is lifting.i always doubted my own capability as a mother.i have been exhausted in toxic relationships and so called friendships.i just hope i can heal and the amazing knowledge of this mental illness invisible to others outside of it reaches to others in pain.the sickness is being unloved but treated as abnormal for needing parental love…and that vunrability being exploited

  21. In my 50′s, and finally things are making sense. Then somehow I was guided to ACoNs. I had worked it out to a certain point, but it was when my father died, it all became so clear. I’m one of multiple children, and one of the two scapegoats, who is also recognising this at a similar time, and thank goodness we have each other to talk to about the issue. The golden child and other siblings are fast becoming more distant as they do not see or understand yet, if ever.
    So many similar events and situations. But when our father died, I could see that it was all about her, and she was the only one that had a right to grieve. I understood her grief, but she also successfully denied her children the right to do so, never ever acknowledging that we had lost our father. I was there for her day and night, for many weeks, having travelled from the other side of the world. I listened and listened and
    listened, while she went on and on and on and on and grieved and grieved. The ONE time that I let her see MY sadness and vulnerability, it was ” and what’s wrong with YOU?”. Then, when I answered that I miss him too…. the cutting, scathing glance, roll of the eyes, and flinging of the rubbish that was in her hand, into the bin beside her, before she then left the room was almost more than one could possibly take. But no…say nothing, suck it up, don’t rock the boat and upset her by speaking up, or trying to pursue or discuss the matter further. Just internalise your feelings again….and say nothing that might even dare challenge her actions. That’s how she reigns supreme, and has done so over many years. But when I was a child I didn’t understand, and always thought that her bad moods were actually MY fault. Because she took all her frustrations and disappointments and marital problems out on me, both emotionally and physically, from a very young age.
    I strived to be the “good girl”, strived for her approval always.
    Gotta stop that now, I don’t have the energy anymore.

  22. I too am in my 50′s and recently figured out the crazy-making that I endured through my narcissistic mother. I am in major recovery now. I knew intuitively something was seriously wrong but couldn’t put my finger on it. All these years I thought my dad was the “bad one” but in actuality he was under her spell, working his ass off to please her (he ignored us..) where she constantly berated him and looked down on him. She did this in front of us and caused a severe breach between the relationship that could have been between a father and his daughters. Unfortunately he emotionally checked out and so I had little or no relationship with him growing up. Mama liked it that way – this gave her some kind of twisted control. She also made sure to sabotage any kind of relationship between me and my sister. Of course all this wasn’t as clear as it is today.

    So I was the child who left home at 18 and kept low contact. I felt I was smart to do it , but not without its damage. For years I wasn’t good enough. That underlining thought, “what’s wrong with me?” looming over my head. I’ve suffered bouts of low self esteem, depression and was been extremely hard on myself. I’m sure I’ve run off almost every good love relationship due to my crappy role models. These currents run deep and that intense bitch was good at getting into the psyche. When you grow up in a household where a Jewish mother is “cloaking” the abuse with love its much worse then lets say alcohol because with alcohol you have something tangible to grab, the drink and the behavior changes are easier to detect for a child. NPD is not toxic alcohol but rather toxic manipulation.

    My mother compared everyone and everything, blamed everyone and everything. Never ever saying she was sorry for anything or taking responsibly …also lying. Its confusing as a child growing up with it. She had no boundaries, constantly criticizing, judging, screaming .. its amazing I survived it. Pitting me and my sister against each other. My friends never came over. She was also constantly praising her motherly achievements. Since she gave us girls piano lessons, summer camp and ballet we were suppose to kiss her ass because she never had any of it growing up. Using the guilt card for everything. I became the rebellious one, a freedom lover and my sister was the golden trapped child. When I got in trouble in junior high school she saw this as an extension of herself, rather then sincerely concerned about me. She was ashamed of me and my dirty laundry on the family . This lack of emotional support at 13 years old was one of the most damaging experiences that shaped my life.

    My sister never cut the cord from her. As an adult she moved back in with her, leaving her husband (mom blamed him for her bad life..) where they enabled each another for years. My sister was a chain smoker and ended up smoking herself to death. She died suddenly on Oct 3rd 2012 at 54 years old. My mothers supply was gone, the spell was over. T his is when I was forced to go back into the family. I had to do a funeral literally over night since my mother is now 81 years old. It was a shock to my system and very traumatic and I had to deal with my mother and her illness. Being away so long and then up close and personal was eye opening since Ive done some much personal work on myself and was able to see clearly how sick she is.

    • I am sorry you had to deal with all this. I too am acting the dutiful daughter now that my mother is 90 and has dementia. She lives in another country, but I telephone twice a week. This is SO much more than she ever did for her mother, but so much less than her friends seem to expect. She herself often fails to recognize me and actually does not know how many children she has. I was her only child, but never the favorite. Her husband was her favorite and it’s tough to have a stepfather as a sibling rival! One thing they agreed on: I wasn’t worth bringing up. Like you, I slipped away in my late teens (actually 16, thanks to being rescued by my grandparents). Then on my own altogether after high school graduation. For years, I grieved for the childhood I should have had if not for HIM. I have children of my own and realize how great were my mother’s and father’s shortcomings (he was a narcissist and a pioneer dead beat dad). Observing me as a mother, she actually said (self-censorship never being her strong part). “You love your children so much. But they were so beautiful, and I always expected to have other children.” The implications just keep rolling out….

  23. Each time I come here and read everyone´s life summaries ..I feel I´m not alone….(by
    the way thanks to the editor for her comment). Right now in my life.. after my recovery job books, therapy etc. (and still working)….I feel … I don´t love my mother… or hate her … it´s a total sense of indifference ..that allows a superficial chat.. and nothing else….. after going through anger, resentment, sadness ..Has anyone experienced it.?. is like always being aware of who she is.. in every answer.. and in general… and the best part.. you don´t give a shit..
    In a sense after I purged myself of everything I felt for her.. (and realized through many cries, sandness etc… That she didn´t love me and will not love me.. she aint capable of..)..There´s NOTHING left…I don´t feel sad anymore.. socially I have a mother… that´s it…

    • That is exactly how I feel about my NPD mom (and NPD dad who died back in 95). The anger, resentment, sadness you mentioned… been there, done that. I have completely cut her off for the last couple of years. I feel like I have rebuilt my life from a void of nothingness-like I was a stranger to myself. No way am going to let myself or my 4yr old son near that life sapping dagger! And now the best part…as far as her life goes…I don’t give a shit. In fact, I don’t give a f&$k that I don’t give a shit.

      You are one of the strongest people in this world. They tried to destroy you and you came back stronger, enlightend. Many have never escaped from the abyss of NPD parents. Love yourself for that.


  24. I feel drained and exhausted by everything, hopeless, because of my narcissistic mother. How do you regain a sense of self-worth, and trust in other people, when you have been so badly betrayed and in so much danger that you had to build the most enormous defenses around your true self – any movement of other people feels to me like a threat, a danger. I am on guard all the time, bowing down to people to avoid the (to me, inevitable) danger of them crushing me and hurting me. I am so low, and degraded. How can I get my head round the fact that SHE was dangerous, and that is was abnormal, and crazy, of her to do this – that it wasn’t my fault at all, that with a non-crazy, normal person as a parent I would have been loved and respected and listened to? I would have felt safe, and the parent would have supported me and HELPED me in life – rather than trying to humiliate me and diminish me and crush me at every opportunity. Why couldn’t she ever be happy for me? Why wasn’t I important to her, why was everyone else in the family important and not me? Why was I the “selfish” one all the time, even though I got nothing?
    This anguish and lethargy that I feel about everything in life is starting to make sense. Life has been too much hell.
    What a bitch.
    And I did nothing to deserve it.
    It feels like what I need the most, and what we all need, is validation of what we’ve been through, recognition of the agony and the injustice of it – and permission to breathe out, to collapse, to suffer, to grieve appropriately – which is enormously.
    I need to collapse, and be loved and accepted. Then maybe there is a chance of real life beyond that.
    That is what none of us received from our narcissistic parents – justice, acceptance, safety to be who we are, and being loved in that. And that is what we all deserve.
    Thank you for this article.
    Prayers and love to everyone who has suffered under the abuse of a narcissistic parent, and I pray that we will all find justice, safety, acceptance, joy in life, and peace.

  25. I am an only child who was raised by an apparently narcissistic mother, and an enabling father who stayed away from home as much as my mother would permit. My mother brainwashed me from earliest childhood into serving, very literally and without exaggeration, as my parents’ personal slave for life.

    My mother always said that I was thoroughly incompetent to manage my personal affairs, and so my parents needed to control every detail of my personal life to save me from myself. In return for their self-sacrificing, loving and altruistic efforts (irony intended), I was expected to show my eternal gratitude by willingly submitting to my parents’ total control, including very literally slaving for them, for as long as they lived. My mother never failed to remind me of my moral obligation to do so.

    I was so thoroughly brainwashed that I voluntarily allowed myself to be kept in slavery by my parents for 43 years! Still, my mother took additional steps to ensure my compliance. The doors and first floor windows were barricaded nightly. Outside interests and friendships were strongly discouraged. I was only permitted to work in the family business, and all earnings were placed under my parents’ control. All personal communications were monitored. The family car was to be used only with explicit parental approval, with one or both parents usually accompanying me. And I was intentionally not taught basic living skills in order to ensure that independent living would be impossible.

    Finally, despite my mother’s desperate efforts to prevent it, when I was 43 years old(!) outside friends at long last helped me to realize what was really going on. Sensing my new-found awareness, my mother began raging violently, day after day, and she promptly took away what little freedom I still had. At that I fled from my parents, on foot, with only the clothes I was wearing and very little money, and posessing few basic living skills. When my mother realized I wasn’t coming back, she began stalking me in a relentless campaign to destroy any chance of living on my own.

    My mother also stirred up family friends, acquaintances, neighbors, and others to heap as much reproach and shame upon me as possible, accusing me of heartlessly and selfishly abandoning my ‘poor’ and now elderly parents. This despite the fact that at the time my parents were still perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. But my efforts to explain the facts proved futile and my words fell on deaf ears. One neighbor even threatened to report me to the authorities for “elder abuse”!

    What made things considerably worse was that I simultaneously had to deprogram myself from my parents’ brainwashing while at the same time staying literally on the run from them and also trying desperately just to survive and learn basic living skills along the way. As the deprogramming did not happen all at once, the deluge of reproach and shame that was heaped upon me cut deeply and led me to frequently agonize over whether I was truly as horrible as the others were claiming that I was.

    Eventually my father developed Alzheimers. I tried to return to help, but my mother was only concerned with re-enslaving me. My father became violent and threatened to kill me. The self-righteous finger-waggers did nothing to help. I then had to flee a second time, and then the finger-waggers promptly resumed threatening and scolding me. My mother broke her hip, and her doctor put her in a nursing home. Living alone, my father’s irrational behavior led the police to have him hospitalized, and the doctor then put him in the same nursing home as my mother. They have both since passed away.

    Now I am suffering from complete burnout. I have cut off all contact with the finger-waggers from my past, but a fresh crop of new finger-waggers and amateur wannabe psychologists has now appeared. They assert that since my parents are now deceased and no longer able to do me harm, I should immediately be just fine and dandy, without a trace of emotional baggage anywhere in evidence. (My doctor, on the other hand, is astounded that I am not seriously mentally ill from all I have been through.)

    The finger-waggers, however, tell me to move on, put my experiences in the past, snap out of it right now, and generally to toughen up. One of them told me, ‘My old man used to beat me to a pulp with a two-by-four and I never suffered any emotional harm from it!’ Some imply that I am only seeking to justify being lazy and self-sparing, excusing it with false claims of burnout. I don’t want or expect or ask anything from anybody else, but I’m so tired of other people assuming that they have the right to tell me how to think and how to feel and how quickly it should take for me to recover, or even whether they think I have sufficient reason to feel burned out at all!

  26. Unlike many posts here, I’m most defiantly sure that my father, unlike my mother, is narcissistic.I thing think the hardest part for me was the deception of it all. Ya’know, that feeling where you mean the world to these people, but at the same time they somehow make you feel guilty and terrible. Sure I broke away from it 3 years ago…..but sadly in the whole slew of breaking free, my siblings were alienated against me. The pain of how was used, and the loss of a whole family that is supposed to love and cherish you is quite difficult to move on from.

    But I don’t let it get me down!
    And a lot of the time, I try to shut that part of my life off, as if it was a different life. Do you think I’m in denial? Am I dealing with this properly? I’ve tried to go to many a few psychologist, and still found that I never really got any answers. My theory now is that there are no real answers…just time and surrounding yourself with people that love you.

    I’m still not a 100% sure but I’m ready to move forward.

  27. I can’t believe I am who I am and I got to where I am with all I had to put up with!! There was an inner strength somewhere that kept me going! I don’t know where it came from. I keep thinking of where I really could be if I had had the loving parents that so many others seem to have had. I am 62 and just finally realizing what went on in my life. I was so determined to raise my two children so differently. My mother told me once that I should never expect any help from her to babysit them. She said that she raised her own two kids and she sure as hell will not raise mine! But she babysat my brother’s kids!! Once she did that, I knew something wasn’t right, but it has taken me 40 some years to figure this out!! My father was a very strong man, but I’m now seeing that she made his life miserable. But Mom always made it out to be that HE was responsible for all of her grief and unhappiness. She now has Dimentia, but she still remembers a lot…especially when it comes to her money. I really want to leave her alone and not have anything to do with her anymore, but my brother stole my Dad’s business right out from under him and my parents never made him pay for it! I worked my fingers to the bone to get where I am today. I did everything in an honest fashion, but not my brother. I have tried so hard

  28. I was adopted when I was 7 from Russia into a family that eventually had 12 kids. My dad is a pastor and my whole life growing up in their home I felt trapped or my orphan life never ended. I was always “bad”- biological siblings were turned against adopted kids, we all had different rules for living under their roof. I could never have opinions or wants or dreams,they were always right no matter what they did,even if my dad slapped me so hard my face bled. They used horrible punishments like eating food out of a freezer, writing books of the bible, cold showers, locking me in my room at night, taking anything precious away from me. Everything I did they just told me was my fault because i came messed up from Russia. I always just felt like i was going to go crazy at any minute. I left at 18 and realized I was not bad,people liked me, I had friends for the first ever in my life.I went once a year home for x max and it was torture,I would feel so confused and angry all the time. When I held them accountable for my childhood they went off the walls, angry, guilt filled letters were sent to me. My mom didn’t even come to my wedding last year. Now I am still figuring out what to do,they forbade to even talk to other siblings since I am not honoring them as the Bible says I must. I just want to cut them off and never talk to them again,but then feel guilty like i am giving up on them. They have cut off so many kids now, even a biological daughter but they are always right and “we are the ones choosing this for our lives”. I am so happy and blessed in my marriage and have amazing in- laws that love me and have helped me through everything but I don’t know what to do with my parents because there is no winning with them and i am so done trying to make them love me. But then I don’t know how to just move on and be emotionally alright because it hurts really bad.

    • I was saddened to read your story of the abuse you appear to have suffered at the hands of adoptive parents. Their disciplining techniques from “slapping your face until it bled” to such extreme punishments as “cold showers” and “locking you in your bedroom” sound horribly abusive. The fact that they “went off the walls, angry” when you confronted them about the truth of how they mistreated you as a child, is a huge RED FLAG for dysfunction on their part. Emotionally healthy parents gently listen to their child’s concerns, respect their story and feelings, and attempt to address each issue in a loving, caring way. Instead, your truth was met with anger and revenge. Your statement that your parents “forbade (you) to even talk to other siblings since (you) are not honoring them as the Bible says” really concerned me. Forbidding you, as an adult, to talk with your siblings is indicative of manipulation and control. No one has the power to do that to you. It is your choice who you talk to as an adult. The Bible does ask us to “Honor your Father and Mother” but there are many ways to honor parents without taking their abuse. And, the Bible also gives directions to parents to discipline their children with love. The Bible states that we should “love our neighbor (and this includes children) as ourselves” and to “do unto others as you wish others do unto you”. Would your parents like to be treated the way they treated you? You mention that they have “cut off so many kids now, (claiming that the kids) are the ones choosing this for our lives.” Choices work both ways, they choose and you choose. Their children are not the one’s choosing to be cut off, rather it is your parents who are choosing to do that to their children’s lives. I was so happy to read in your story that you have a wonderful husband and awesome in-laws who love and support you. What a blessing to finally have that in your life. When you state that “(you) are done trying to make them love (you)” I felt your pain. I, too, am a survivor of parents with NPD. I am in the final stages of recovery with a wonderful therapist. And I felt the desire to speak to you about trying to make your parents love you. I want to share with you what I have learned from my therapy in the hopes that it will encourage you in healing. When I discussed this exact topic with my counselor…about getting my parents to love me…..she explained that I don’t have control over them for that. They choose to love someone or not love them based on their own will. Many people and counselors argue whether or not NPD parents are capable of truly loving and the jury is still out on that discussion…some think yes and others no. But in either case, my counselor worded it so eloquently to me: “try not to think of them as NOT loving you…..think of it more in terms of…..because they were Narcissistic….they might have loved you, but they loved themselves MORE.” I felt this was a monumental insight and a good base to build healing. I hope my comments have helped you in some way and I wish you much love and blessings on your journey to heal.

    • Hi Rebrova, I’m 49 years old and have come finally to the absolute recognition of my mother’s personality disorder – that she is not just on the spectrum of narcissism, but has a NPD. The relief of now knowing I’m not mad is huge – the info in these blogs utterly confirms my assessment of my mother, and incidentally of my only brother who were both extremely emotionally abusive to me. It’s such a relief to know, but also very confusing to acknowledge that their behaviour is text-book material.

      I think I understand your confusion, even though you now have safe and unconditionally loving people around you. I think there is a kind of biological need for love from our abusive family member/s – even when we know how disordered they are and how unable they are to love in a healthy way. The abuse we have been through has altered us. It makes us want was is unhealthy (better to have negative reinforcement than no reinforcement at all) one minute and then to despise it the next. We are often on a pendulum between glimpses of clarity and the guilt, or need for approval, that pulls us back for more. So we call them, or go and see them, hoping vainly to finally break through the negative pattern of our relationships with them. But it never changes and it never will!

      Rebrova, you have suffered more than many people. What your parents have done to you is unforgiveable. I’m sure you know that. But it is also normal (for abused people like us) to still want to please abusive parents and to want be loved and validated by them. The truth is they are utterly INCAPABLE of doing so!!

      The healthier we get Rebrova, the less guilt and the less need for our narcissistic parent/s we will have. We will know when we are healing when we can let go of our need for their approval. It’s so sad and so hard to do. Feeling intense ire, loss, and all emotions in between, is a natural part of the process. But I believe indifference (if it’s at all achievable) is our true goal – because then they can never hurt us again!

      P.S. So happy you are “blessed” in your marriage. Nothing will anger your narcissistic parents more, by the way, than living happily and well!

  29. I haven’t seen my mother for 9 years, she moved country. In these 9 years we have had little contact.
    I remember the day she left our family home. It was a huge relief for all of us (my father, my younger sister and older brother). Finally we were free, no need to walk on egg shells, no rules, no fighting, no tantrums. The bliss didn’t last long. Short after I was awakened one night by a deep profound pain, I burst into tears and cried violently until my body could take no more. This happened again, over and over again, for months. The nightmare wasn’t over, the damage done was still so vivid, it was only the start. 14 years on I am still not completely recovered. In my life I keep choosing my dad, over and over again. All the important men in my life are victims of a narcissist woman themselves (be that their mother or their ex partner), who never have the courage to get themselves (and their kids) out that unhealthy situation. I never win, as I never won with my mother.
    9 years after she left the country I am going to visit her, and as the date approaches I am getting more and more scare about what will happen…

    • Oh Jessica, You TRULY Don’t HAVE to GO! Your body and mind are not able to handle what you know she is going to dish out. My mother would love to get me under her control again, I refuse to have any contact because there is no other choice. It will not be a happy reunion. In fact, it will probably be the same horrible emotional pain.

      I know that going back means being Under Her Control, and when we are there, we are powerless. Powerless to love ourselves, to exist AS Ourselves, and definitely powerless to get away again without having to start the entire process over. There is never a happy ending. There is only the same ending.

  30. Jessica, You don’t HAVE TO GO. Really. The fact that you’re frightened is a reflection most fundamentally of your body sending you a very *important* message: You’re in danger. The underlying paradigm that appears from your comment is “Winning vs. Loosing” and of course, you already know there is no “winning” with a CB Parent. We’ve been inculcated with this faux paradigm/Black and White type of thinking since our earliest experiences and memories.
    What does “Winning” mean to a CB Parent? Your humanity, your autonomy as a human being in your own right must minimally be subsumed to the (often outrageous) demands of the CB Parent if not completely destroyed: You are not now, nor will you ever be treated with dignity and respect as a human being by a CB Parent. You exist in their world at best as a mirror, at worst as an object to be manipulated at their demand. And make no mistake, no matter how it’s couched, the “request” be it for your presence or presents/material gifts is a demand you must not defy under pain of more CB Parental abuse.
    Clearly, you see the Recapitulation of the Primary Trauma as it’s played out in your life within the context of other relationships. You’re still working on your Recovery as you call your experience of awaking. IMO, to place yourself in her presence will reap havoc on your continuing journey and it appears you know already this. What would be the worst possible outcome if you chose NOT to go? She’ll be furious, of course. The reality is, she’s gonna be furious even if you DO go and spend time with her. It is simply impossible to “fix” what ails and despite your best efforts, the proposed visit will be fraught with tension, dehumanizing behavior, cutting comments etc. all designed to hurt you in some way, to impede your progress, to free yourself from the very real Legacy of growing up under a CB Parental Regime.
    I well remember how absolutely frantic I would be about “HAVING to” visit. I ignored those messages at my peril. It was not until I pulled out the “HAVE TO” wiring and examined my underlying assumptions that I recognized the inherent FOG imbedded in my thinking and knee-jerk responses.
    I can not conceive how ignoring our most basic, primal instinct for Self-Preservation can be at all good for any of us and particularly as ACs (Adult Children.) Please don’t go: The first behavioral change we make is the hardest, Jessica, and how well I know this. sigh. We can know everything there is to know about a phenomena; however, until we make the changes and choices necessary in the real world to protect ourselves from the very real damage inflicted by a CB Parent all that knowledge avails us nothing but wheel-spinning at best, huge set-backs in our journey at worst.
    Please choose “Jessica:” You haven’t come this far to self-sabotage. Your Fear (as in Fear/Obligation/Guilt) is telling you exactly this-please don’t ignore it.

  31. Reading this description was like reading a story about my mother! I am an ACoN and thankfully my two brothers are as well. Somehow we managed to maintain close relationships with each other throughout our childhoods and over the years, and it is a blessing to have this. I have a question. My father passed away about 7 months ago and my mother has had a very difficult time since then. But I’m wondering if narcissists really feel grief and pain, or if it’s all just a way to get more attention. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • My father also passed away in 2013 (July). My mom (the narcissist) very rarely shows any emotions (as usual), and when one of us kids cried over him (except at the funeral), she would say to the other “what do they want me to do about it?”. So dysfunctional. I believe her mom also had NPD, so I think she does not know how to handle/express her emotions. I am not sure if this is the case with your mother. I’m so sorry for your loss…

  32. I’ve questioned my sanity for many years over this very topic, never really knowing whether I was correct in what I saw/felt, or if I was, in fact, overdramatizing everything. I was the last-born of 5, and diagnosed with hypothyroidism at birth; and into a rapidly-failing family. My real father disappeared when i was 5, my stepfather (who was my mother’s husband) was deported when i was 6. I was left to be raised by my mother– the narcissist; which, coupled with my medical issues, made for a difficult upbringing. Everything this article describes is spot-on, and I feel validated in my suspicions.

    I am a 31-year-old single mother now, with 2 children ages 12 and 9. We live with my mother, and I’ve worked very hard the last 4 years going to school and supporting them, while dodging and deflecting my mother’s sociopathic behavior, feeling like a failure every step of the way. Now reading this I see my accomplishments, and my life, in a whole new light.

    It’s too late for my siblings– they’ve all drank the kool-aid, and my oldest brother died from its poison earlier this year. He became a horrible alcoholic and died from cancer at 44 years old. His unhappiness drove him to drink, use drugs, and abuse his wife and daughter for years, and now he is gone. I loved my brother dearly, but reading this article, I see how he was an enabler AND a scapegoat. My mother regularly plays us all against each other.

    I just want to know: how do I keep from repeating the same behavior with my own children, and how do I shield them from emulating her behavior as well? I want to break this vicious cycle, at least with my own children.

  33. I am 56 years old and am reading the above stories and want to cry with each one. It seems to me that no matter how horrible or perhaps even the lesser abuses lead to some kind of entrapment or hinderance of personal growth throughout the victims life. I have a ‘religious’ narcissist abuser for a father. The control and manipulation ended just recently when I confronted him on my recent memory of past child sexual abuse. Actually, it wasn’t me confronting him that ended his power over me, it was me placing him out in my periphery of emotional connection that freed me! I am not a victim anymore! I am a survivor!

    I am fortunate in that I have sibling support. I have friends to support me and I have been seeing a shrink for several months now. I want to encourage everyone to read and study what you can on your situation. Read and view U Tube videos about narcissism, narcissistic supply, gas lighting, and what it means to be assertive/vs aggressive. Read and view then again and again. After awhile, things sink in and you can face truth. Start writing in a journal. Look at yourself critically in order to know yourself, so you can then spot toxic persons. Learn how to set effective boundaries. If the toxic person or parent won’t honor them, place them further out in your periphery or circle of people that you are emotionally connected to!

    I feel like I have a new lease on life! I am on a mountaintop emotionally! I know there is some pain yet to experience because my father said he will disinherit me! Money/vs emotional bondage? The fact that my father can disown me simply fits with his toxic person!

    I am going to purchase a locket in which I will place a picture of me as a child on one side, and me as an adult on the other. the sweet, friendly, trusting child inside of me is now free to become part of who I am as an adult because the adult person now has effective boundaries and the little girl is safe to come out and play!

  34. I have recently been awakened and removed myself from an abusive home life. I’m 21 years old and estranged from my family, trying to graduate college and support myself at the same time. I was the victim (boy do I hate that word) of exploitation, parentification, gaslighting, triangulation, terrorizing, inappropriate control and manipulation. I was the scapegoat, my mother denied and lied about her actions. I was fully aware of it for 6 years and tried repeatedly to acknowledge and fix our problems. The abuse turned physical when I saw my mother last and that was the last straw. That was 6 months ago and I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with it all. I see a therapist, have been working on forming a strong support group and try to journal. But there is so much more to heal from than I can comprehend. Reading these kinds of things on the internet helps me to acknowledge (and believe) that I was abused. That means I can be a bit easier on myself, it means it’s okay to not be okay. I’m afraid I won’t graduate college because of this. That the emotions will be too much and I’ll have to drop out. I’ve lost sight of the inspiring person I used to be, I loved myself, I believed in myself. Now I see myself as sad, weak, helpless. I am a victim. I have never identified like that, I also only recently started to use the word “abuse”. I thought it would be empowering, telling people in such a simple way what was happening in my life, but I realize now it’s so complicated. I know I’m strong in having found a way out. But the isolation and sadness that come from estranging myself from my family is overwhelming. Certain family members are pressuring me to accept that my mother is as she is and that I cannot change her, because having a mother is just that important. That’s a lie. I don’t want anything to do with my mother until she makes serious life changes and takes responsibility for her emotions and actions. I know that’s right.

  35. What a great page! I am new to this world of bloggers but am documenting my own journey as an Adult child of NPD’s at Happy to add to your page to my page if we can do that for each other.

  36. Well…its nice to have stumbled upon this page….I see the shredded particles of my life described here. I now have a rare cancer and mummy knows this. Mummy has more money than most of you will see in a lifetime (meant to be illustrative, but very true) and she is now refusing to continue to care for me. You see, the bitch, bought my insurance, went to the doctors appointments with me and now finds it to be….I don’t know…I have no answers now. What I do know is, I will die without treatment. Knowing this, mummy thinks she can take over my life…my daughter. My daughter hates her for many of her transgressions and now grandmummy has the keys to kill me. I have had a lifetime of pain, manipulation, stealing from me, etc., etc……I am 52…not a child. Apparently she made it so I can never escape….well now I have a chance with her blessing. Who will be her victim when I’m gone?

  37. Hi,
    I’m 19 years old and I’ve found myself looking a lot into psychology and NPD lately. It caught my attention because, for years, I’ve been dealing with many of the things mentioned by other sources and this article.. For as long as I can remember my father has acted this way. He has always been self-absorbed and obsessive about things, and extremely defensive whenever confronted about his behavior. I didn’t grow up living in the same house as him. I lived with my mother and stepfather, which I believe helped to isolate me a little from his behavior and the emotional abuse. I don’t really like saying “abuse” because I don’t feel like my situation is really worthy of that level of a word… Of course I’ve felt hurt, but I’m not sure I felt abused. Anyway, my father is not diagnosed with NPD, however he does have OCD and an extreme issue with anger management. It’s affected his relationships with every woman who’s ever been in his life, from my mother to my stepmother to his recent girlfriends. On top of that he’s always been obsessed with himself. Bragging and over-exaggerating about the things he owns and how much money he’s spent or how much things are worth. He can go on for hours about cars and money and his intellectual prowess, but if anyone tries to get a word in edgewise he likes to cut them off and redirect the subject somehow back to himself. Lately I’ve been noticing it and recognizing it for what it is. I’ve confronted him about how unimportant I felt as a kid, when he would avoid contact with me until it was convenient for him, when he would “forget” to pick me up for visitation, or not contact me for months at a time and then suddenly send a random text or phone call (which he does to this day). But it doesn’t matter, in the long run. I can explain it a thousand different ways and listen to him blubber over the phone about how much he swears he loves me and wants to be a part of my life and doesn’t want me to cut him out, but the next time we talk he’ll act like the conversation never happened and he’ll be the same way. I feel like maybe my ultimate solution will be to cut him off- even though a big part of me loves him and wants to keep him in my life the other part of me is saying he never really was there, wholly; and he never really will be.

  38. This is such a helpful article! I am 42 and realized my mom had NPD about 3 years ago, but I continued to maintain a surface relationship with her (not very successful…there was still a ton of dysfunction and problems). Recently, I have realized I cannot do so. She gossips about me and my kids (I’m married with 4 children, aged 6-11) to my siblings and always lets me know how great they are and how much money she gives them. She has destroyed/stolen many of my things. We even had to put up a security camera outside our house because she was killing our flowers, stealing our garden globes (two of them…I replaced one and then it disappeared too), and destroying our seasonal decorations (cutting flowers off of faux arrangements, etc.). She used to do this inside our house, along with rearranging things until we finally started insisting on dropping the kids off at her house if we needed her to watch them. My dad died last summer of lung cancer, and I was dreading this ever happening. I want to stay as far away from my mom as possible because of her toxic and controlling behavior towards me. I have finally had it, and I’ve decided to cut contact with her for good. I am unable to have a surface relationship with her because if I call her, she calls me back a few times. If I don’t answer the phone in time (second ring) and call her back, she won’t answer it at all. It’s all about mind games (gaslighting…making me feel crazy). I hope to move forward in the Lord Jesus Christ and receive healing from 40 years of damage.

  39. Pingback: Growing Up Narcissist: The Narcissistic Parent and Child Abuse - Esteemology

  40. Thank you, thank you. I am 27 years old and, after reading this article, I realized this is exactly what I went through all my life. I had no idea there were others who went through what I went through and that there was even a name for the step-mother who raised me. She was the person suffering from NPD and I am the scapegoat. I have two younger siblings, one of which is the definite golden child. I want to help my siblings, but I don’t know what to do. When I turned 18, I moved out and am completely independent with no communication with this horrid person who made my first 18 years a depressing, sad time full of self-loathing.

    As an adult, I am very happy and well-adjusted, but it took many sad years of realizing it wasn’t my fault. I don’t have a happy family dynamic even now and am very envious of many others who do, but all I can say to myself and others who are in similar situations is live a good life and make a happy family for yourself. I can’t wait to get married, have a family, and build the family that I never had. I will never treat my family the way I felt every day growing up.

    Thank you immensely for this article. I can’t believe it took me 27 years to put a name to my sadness. I did grow up to be a completely independent strong woman, so not all is lost for those still going through this. Cut those out who are poison in your life.

  41. I love this site. And, I hate my NPD mother. Since I was old enough to recognize that she wasn’t normal, I have vascillated between hating her and “trying again” because maybe this time will be different. I was adopted at three days old because she and my dad couldn’t get pregnant (gee, I wonder why? There’s a good biological reason why an insane person shouldn’t have a child). I’m 51, and throughout my life I’ve often wondered, “why me? how was it that i was given up for adoption by my real mother and given to this crazy narcissist with the emotional IQ of a 7 year old?” But, as much as I detest her, she was never physically abusive and she does love me in her own effed-up, weird way. But she’s never “seen” me as my own person….I was an extension of her. Constantly criticized about my hair, my weight, my clothing, my attitude, Nothing was ever good enough. She condescends, preaches, yells, projects, and throws tantrums like a child if anyone dares contradict her. Well…..that was my job, and I did it well! When she gets angry with me for something I say or the way I act I tell her, “You raised me in your own image. I’m EXACTLY like you.” It’s also very, very, frustrating when other people say to me, “Oh, just give her a break, she’s not that bad.” Only me, my dad (the enabling SAINT who died January 30, 2014), and mother know how sick she really is. When my dad was dying of Stage IV lung cancer in the hospital, Mommy Dearest would throw a tantrum if he was asleep when she’d get to the hospital. “Well, if you are just going to be drugged-out and sleep and not pay attention to me, I’m going to go home.” IT WAS ALWAYS ABOUT HER, and even as he lay dying with hardly a voice (due to the cancer and pnuemonia), he’d say to her “I’m getting better (and going home to help you with chores was the implication).” The interesting thing has been to see her complete and utter denial and shock that he died, when she knew how sick he was for six months. She actually thought he’d never die. He was there to “serve” her, and now, she is the lonely, shell of an old, 85 year old woman with no inner or spiritual life, hardly any friends, and she cries every day, about how lonely she is, and how nobody understands, and how I can’t possibly understand because he was my father not my husband (competitive, of course). She won’t take anti-anxiety meds, won’t go to a grievance support group, won’t reach out to professionals, etc. It makes me mad because I have feel “guilt” since I’m the only child, and like’s it’s my duty and obligation to help her. However, she and I do NOT get along, and I do all that I can to stay away from her. Her few friends think I’m a horrible person probably, but they have no idea who she really is or the damage she’s wrought on me my entire life. So I pray for her to die, not only for my peace but for her own. It’s the only thing that will put her out of misery. She likes to say to me and my kids, “I have nothing to live for now, so I’ll get my affairs in order and then take all the meds in the house.” My response to her is, “maybe you should.”

    • Carol, I still do love my NPD mom (or really, I love the hope that she will one day be the mom I wish had), but I often fantasize that I would be free if she would just die. Of course, to normal people that sounds horrible, but as a child of NPD mom, it seems like one of very few options to escape the misery of having this person in my life. The anger and frustration IN SECRET that you have endured your whole life – I feel you deeply and hurt with you too. Yes – trying to explain this to other people is useless. Even my husband says, “she’s not that bad” and I want to punch him in the face. I am going to be 40 years old this year and recently have fallen in to deep depression and anxiety, brought on by returning to my mom’s company and working with her. Like an idiot, I cannot believe I actually thought things would be different. I left her company for 2 years after 13 years of working with her, and came back last year, because I thought it was the “right thing to do” (more brainwashing than anything). I think that 40 years of dealing with her NPD is now coming to the surface and I just CANNOT TAKE IT ANYMORE. I feel like Mt. St. Helen’s and that I am about to erupt with anger, bitterness, hurt, rage and frustration, and I have no idea how bad the devastation will be when it happens. I am seeking out professional help now, because I need to deal with these feelings before I go berserk in the office one day and wind up being dragged off in a straight jacket. I just don’t want my 4 yr old son to see me go off the deep end like that. It’s so sad – WE ARE NOT THE CRAZY ONES! But mom has made us this way! Anyway – hang in there with dealing with your mom to the end. I wish you much peace, relief and deserved happiness when it’s all said and done, and that you would get all the help you need to work out your emotions when the time comes.

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