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. It was written by Mary Lynch of The Harpy’s Child website.

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…


Veronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications.

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

  1. Hello to all those who are reading this and thank you to those who have shared. I have learned a lot from your experience and words. I am in a crisis of dealing with my mother who will never admit to the abuse she put my brothers, sisters and cousins through. How could she when she hasn’t had treatment from the abuse she has endured.

    My mother will be going for an operation and I am afraid that I will have to be the one stuck dealing with her and that has triggered me. She cannot figure out why we all mistreat her and don’t want to be around her and to be honest, I don’t care about her and will make up an excuse not to be the one so I can protect myself from her.

    I have had a few counseling sessions and what I learned is that she is in denial and so I will have to find my own way to deal with this. My mother will do things like pretend she is sick, ends up in the hospital and then my friend went to see her (my mom and I don’t live in the same town but we are about two hour flight away) and took her pic and she was smiling and looked okay so when I called her, she answered just fine and then after I identified it was me, she quickly sounded sick. She does this for attention in hopes that we all snap to and cater to her needs.

    Not only is my mother self centered she is an alcoholic where I remember clearing her bashing my head in to clean up her puke and crapped pants after being drunk and then allowing my step father to sexually abuse my sisters and I while she is out drunk. She doesn’t remember any abuse and I tried to confront her before and she yelled at me saying, I AM YOUR MOTHER RESPECT ME! Why? I can write a book on the crap she put me through along with my brother who is the biggest bully and my sister the sociopath plus my creepy step father.

    She still tries to manipulate us. I distance myself from my family but she will nag my brother for me to call her and he will yell at me an then it’s a dog fight. She is 79, fourth grade education and grew up being abused her life but I just can’t get there to feel for her pain. She will never admit pushing my head in the dish pan and I grasped for my life while she beat me after. Thank you for reading and any advice or words of wisdom will be welcomed and appreciated. Thank you.


  2. I’m back from last year after visiting this excellent website before, as well as another good one called luke173 ministries (from a Christian point of view, even though I’m not a good Christian). Long story short, I went no contact with my NPD mom for a few months this year, then “reconciled” and eventually apologized for MY behavior, etc. And of course, I’ve never gotten a real apology from my mom that wasn’t “I’m sorry, BUT” or wasn’t swiftly withdrawn entirely. I was feeling pretty down about my situation with her when the old feelings of weakness descended upon me last night, thinking I’d never be free from her because she’s always been so domineering and powerful. But then I flipped this narrative around: what if I’m not that weak little girl at all anymore, but in fact she is the weak one? All the signs are there. She’s getting on in age, has lost friends through broken relationships and deaths, her husband is chronically ill, and my brother went no contact years ago with us all. She told me before that I’m all she has, all she lives for, and at one time I believed her, then at another time it was obviously a manipulative ploy to get her way with me somehow. But maybe it’s always been both. We all know unfortunately that an NPD will never truly love us, but we also know that deep-down NPDs are extremely needy and weak people. They’ve spent a lifetime conning, conniving, raging, beating, and manipulating their way through people’s lives. They’ve never done honest work in any area of their lives for very long and have naturally driven away good people they’ll never get back. They are incapable of the deep, selfless love necessary of rewarding relationships, and they know this. They know their bag of tricks has holes in it. And I realized something else: I know my mother better than she knows herself. I know her so well she would crumble if I unshakably confronted her with every lie, misdeed, and manipulation she’s ever committed against me and some others. The reality is, this feeling of weakness around her is actually me unintentionally cowering in the shadow of my own latent power; and as a caring person, I worry how my power may hurt her should I unleash it. (And oh, how tempting that is to do.) Because you see, those of us ACoNs who took responsibility for our own emotional scars, our own bad, destructive habits we picked up from the adult examples in our childhood and/or those of us who went into therapy/spirituality/etc and did (and still do) the hard work of healing ourselves and taking care of the precious, healthy relationships in our lives: we have been to hell and back. There is very little left that scares us — we’ve been through it, handled it, and we’ll handle it again, come what may. But paradise to NPDs has always been their ever-weakening reign of terror over their victims. And they know that with each passing day their hell is coming. It waits for them and there’s no stopping it, unless of course they genuinely change. And they know they won’t change.
    So, in a way, for the first time in my life I actually feel the genuine pity for her I’ve read a few others speak of. I guess that comes from realizing *the truth*: also known as the mortal enemy of every NPD. And that truth is, I was in fact never weak, even when I was a child. I was perceptive, steadfast and stoic, emotionally intelligent, patient, loving and hopeful. And so were you. You and I not only survived, we prevailed. And the joke of it all is those NPDs in our lives underestimated us tremendously and are still shaking their heads as to how we ever outlasted their abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am seventeen and I am beginning to suspect that my mother is narcissistic. Right now, I am in tears after yet another fight. From what I can recall, I think that she has almost always been like this. I don’t even know where to begin.
    My current situation: I am a senior in high school. I live with my parents in what is pretty much the middle of nowhere–in the middle of the woods, almost miles from anyone else. My mother is controlling in the way that I am almost never able to go out without begging and completing a list of tasks. I would be fine with this, but whenever i complete the one thing she asks me to do, she piles on many more. This may seem insignificant, but it is so emotionally draining to always stress about being able to get OUT of the house.
    We have wifi, but I am never able to use it–probably once a week. I don’t have a phone, either. So basically, I have no control over my life, until I go to her first. She realises how much control she has over this, and uses it to manipulate me.
    Whenever I try to point this out, she gets mad at me, asking me why I didn’t do my homework earlier, or telling me that I speak rudely to her. My siblings are allowed wifi almost all the time–it’s just me. I pointed this out to her today, and she flipped out on me.
    Please help me. I’m going crazy.


    1. Hi Hannah. Well the best advice I can offer is stay in school, get graduated then get out of the house. Go to a friend of thr family or a shelter after your last exam if necessary. You have to figure out your limits and then stick to them. In the meantime, treat it like a prison sentence. Meditate, or just try meditating to start, read Dr Phil, pray if you can, and try to be thankful that you are not in a third world country dealing with the same thing. Keep your standards high for the friends you choose — you can’t choose your family but live is not how much you are willing to suffer for others. Don’t let their fowl moods ruin yours. Realize you probably don’t know as much about their parents as you think you do. They got their behaviour from somewhere…


    2. you need to take control for yourself empower yourself, the tasks youre given might seem drudgery but if you can find some joy in satisfaction in doing them it takes the pain away ie everything you do take pride in it and do it well even if you have to keep that pride to yourself. it probably makes sense to run away and get away but if you do you will spend youre whole life running from everything, i know this because its what i did and i suffer for it.
      a time will come when you can leave and make a life for yourself so work on doing everything you do as the best you can and think of it as training yourself to have a better life.
      make the negatives into positives if you can
      i hope this helps x


    3. Heya Hannah hang in there. Learn all you can about NPD & find people in recovery you can relate to. There is a. VAST community of support.
      It will be tempting to try & defend yourself or make a point using facts that you learn. I caution against it.
      these YouTube channels have been helpful for me, but most importantly find what speaks to YOU.
      Escape from Narcissism
      Each is very different than the other.
      Stay strong.


    4. You’re lucky in that you are onto her so young! Both my parents are Narc’s and I’d suggest getting away asap. Military, school, work program anything but the only answer is to get away from them as soon as you turn 18 or they let you leave.


    5. My heart goes out to you and breaks. I Know what you’ve been through because, like everyone who has responded to your post, I’ve been through it too. Physically surviving it isn’t the hardest thing to do. Physical survival isn’t that hard. Not really.
      The important thing to do is not let it defeat you, because you’ll become what you hate if you do. You will survive this. You’re so young but already so wise. It took me so much longer than you to really wake-up. I am smart. You are smarter. I am strong. You are already so much stronger. You are so much stronger and smarter than they will ever realise. Their failure to appreciate this is their loss, not yours.
      All their deceptions, their deceits, their manipulations; they are follies. The narcissist will play and play and play their games, and make a god almighty mess in the process. They will destroy everything within their grasp; just be patient and give them time. Develop a strong sense of irony and you will realise how absurd such people are. They’ll never get what they really want. You should already feel sorry for them. The only thing you can do, ultimately, is step far enough back to make sure they don’t make a mess of your life too.
      But appreciate the following, be warned and heed this story.
      A narcissist can never learn. You can’t reason with them for this very simple reason. You see, it’s never a narcissist’s fault. I’ve come to realise that this isn’t simply a perspective on their part; it is their reality and as nothing is ever their fault, they simply can’t learn. How can they? They are never wrong, so how can they learn from their errors? It never fails to amaze me that such self-absorbed individuals can possess so little self-awareness. They don’t realise what monstrous entities they are. No more than that. They will never realise.
      Your doubts are not a weakness, they are a strength. You can learn from their example and be wiser.
      You see, my father only ever performed one act of genuine kindness, though I doubt that was ever his intent. As a troubled adult struggling with depression, I found the courage to confront him. I demanded an explanation for his behaviour, but I very quickly realised that he couldn’t genuinely put his hands up and accept responsibility for it. He couldn’t say, ‘yes, ok, I’m a dick. I’m sorry, but I’ll try to do better’; it was beyond his ability. Perhaps I could have forgiven him if he had, but no, the abuse could be excused because of all the injustices he’d suffered.
      When he sought to deflect the blame, I realised how weak he was and resolved not to follow that example. I also realised that I had used his abuse as an excuse for my own poor behaviour and that sitting before me, was my eventual destination. It broke my heart. I cried, but not out of pity for him; I was that enraged. I wish I could say that I thought anything other than ‘what a selfish fucking prick!’ I suppose I lacked the poetic heart I now possess, but true strength comes from accepting the truth and never flinching from it, even when regarding an abyss. While his assertion was truly selfish, in that it was intended to inspire pity – it did, but only in retrospect and certainly not with the perspective he would have desired –, it’s one of the most significant events that saved me.
      I suppose I’d thank him, but I have the sense not to have him involved in my life and I must say that this state of affairs is one of the reasons why I am so much happier in my life. My resolution comes from accepting that there is no point; he can’t learn, so why should I bother? Develop a fine sense of irony ma’am, for such appreciations will save you spiritually and emotionally. Never let them rob you of your sense of humour, or your wits, or your kindness, for these will let climb out of that shadow.
      A narcissist is incapable of appreciating that accepting responsibility for one’s actions is liberty from victimhood. I am not a victim and I have not been one for a very long time. There are some residual facets to my personality that result from my experiences and I found reading the above article enlightening, to tell the truth; it seems I am a typical survivor. I won’t label myself a victim though; pardon my French, but fuck that for a game of soldiers. I do not see myself as a victim and, even though I do seem to exhibit the behaviour typical of survivors, I feel I have climbed out of victimhood’s shadow. Only way is up, right now. I do not blame my parents for my flaws, my errors, or my follies; I embrace them as my own and in doing so, I have achieved something they will never have; genuine self-awareness, or rather, the ability to learn from my errors.
      So, until you escape, smile at their absurdity, suppress your snigger as you mock it silently while observing it and as each unfortunate encounter concludes, declare privately: I will be free of you one day, and in the meantime, I will not let you break me, or make me in your image.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Veronica, this is very detailed and it is very helpful that this is so. I was mentally checking off more than 90% of all the examples of narcissistic behaviours and comments, in all 24 categories. It helps one to see just how systematic and broad the abusive behaviours were, and how all that added up heavily, despite being so invisible to many outsiders. It helped me realise what I have actually survived. As a child, you have no compass if brought up in that kind of environment.


  5. …hi. delving deep and wide into ACON recovery by any & all means necessary. I am 54. Still feel 11.
    Once, at the age of 37, I had the presence & courage in the face of another histrionic display (while visiting I had left water drops on the sink in the guest bathroom, she had to have followed me in to check because I was being shredded within minutes. She’s shrieking what a horrible guest I am & that was the reason would never let me visit any of her friends in NYC- ???WTF huh? – of course no one else was home . It was the last day of my visit & as punishment for being a “horrible guest” she refused to take me to the airport. ????!!!??? With the presence of mind to recognize this pathetic floundering, without a word, I simply opened the phone book to find a shuttle. After successfully scheduling transport, I turned & asked a question that I know now is fatal to a narc: “can’t we just both be two powerful independent women in the same room?” She froze to the spot. The tornado came to a dead stop. I think she literally went into shock. Her eyeballs were shaking in their sockets. I don’t think she’s ever been the same…of course…she hasn’t been any different, either.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for this article. It’s unbelievable that it took me all these years to understand who my mother really is. It makes me sad to have spend all that energy on feeling terrible in her company, but never really understanding anything. Until this last year.
    The article explains the way our minds get twisted in a really good way. How the abuse is never visible to outsiders. Then reality testing becomes impossible. Noone sees what you see.


  7. My mother has lung cancer, she has decided not to get chemo because “she wants to die”, like she has my entire life. I moved in four years ago before I really understood what was going on after my father died. I move in to help my brother because I didn’t think it was fair for him to deal with her alone. We all thought she would be gone by now with all the hospitalizations, surgeries etc. Even with lung Ca she is still hanging on but refusing to do anything for herself. I call her Queen Mary. I am aware of her Narcissism my brothers are not. She has been manipulative and abusive since I returned home. Now that I am in control of her Hospice medications she waits outside my door and screams if I am a second late. I feel like the the drug dealer. My mother has a prescription drug problem, she has such a high tolerance nothing seems to work and now all see wants to do in her final months is be “gone”. At this point she really not in pain, but has a lot of anxiety and I would like to guess psychological pain but that might be wishful thinking. I realized after I got home, after all the crazy making, why I moved out 30 years ago and never came home after college. My father really had five kids not four. She was horrific to my younger sister, the black sheep and I had been groomed to hate my sister, not my mother. My oldest brother and golden child can’t understand why I can’t be nice to her ‘that’s just the way she is”, while she makes him her emotional surrogate which I refuse to be. I have given almost five years of my freedom to this woman and everybody around me wants me to give more and more as I will be sorry when she dies. Newsflash I will not. I will get a tattoo, maybe a new piercing and I will celebrate my new found freedom, knowing I have given enough. My mother’s three grown children’s lives have revolved around her care for the past seven years and she thinks is the way it should be. I certainly have a new found appreciation for my father who abandoned us to take care of her. I struggle that when she finally is in pain I will not believe it or she really can’t do something instead of faking. I will let the Hospice nurse decided those things and let it go. I really have no relationships with my siblings they were destroyed a long time ago and I am not the POA. and I am really happy about that.Although having 25 plus years in the health care field specifically with aging, I am not taking seriously. I have told my family I am not giving up my job when my mother screams in the middle of the night ” you’re not going to work tomorrow.” . We do we have a wonderful aide who has put up with my mom for over two year and I will be hiring an aide for the weekend. Thank goodness we have the funds to do so, what a blessing. I was packing and planning to move out this Summer until her diagnosis and my therapist thinks I still should. I am not going to grieving my mother or the relationship we had. I am going to grieve the my life, what I could have been or done and maybe I still will. I am trying to live my life now, but really I sit here dying with her waiting for my new life to begin.


  8. This is spot on. I can related with almost every point.

    What I’m concerned with is… have I become them? I also behave in similar ways with my loved ones. I do the silent treatment routine. I lash out when I’m stressed. I complain about how bad I have it. I want it to be quiet and peaceful and I get angry if someone disrupts my environment.

    I don’t have a clue as to how to solve problems by communicating.

    I often make excuses, if not in total at least to take the edge off, when discussing some event or action on my part.

    I’ve noticed a lot of this in myself over the years and have always wanted to stop it. To weed it out of my system. But now I’m 45 and it feels like maybe it’s too late.

    I want to heal from their abuse so I don’t suffer, but I also want to stop abusing those I love. Selfishly I don’t want to lose them.

    I’m always confused about who is right an who is wrong. I think I’m right most of the time until someone puts things in a different perspective that causes me to doubt myself.

    I feel like I deserve balance and fairness and rarely get it. Then I reflect on it and question if my perspective it true.

    It’s really hard to figure out how to heal myself while also fixing the behavior that seems to have infected my own instincts and reactions.

    Am I lost cause or is it natural to become like “them”?


    1. It takes a while to break away and turn off all the messaging, as long as you have empathy you are not like them. Don’t beat yourself up as you work through changing, it has taken a lifetime to learn so will take you a while to unlearn.


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