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. 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.


  2. 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?


  3. 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.


  4. 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.


  5. 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.


  6. 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.”


    1. 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.


    2. That was great Carol, I can appreciate a lot of what you say. My mom was visibly unhappy when my stepfather lived longer than his projected expectancy from his cancer, yes, he wasn’t dying fast enough for her; it was interfering with her plans for her life. I was watching a man I loved die, while I woman that I hated since I was about 2, who had never told me she loved me in my life, and had spent her life making mine a living hell was being inconvenienced by us. My sisters and I haven’t spoken to her in many years although she did try to convince them that I was the problem and not her. She is a sad old mean spoiled lonely woman and she will die alone, we don’t care.


  7. THANK YOU for this post… I’ve just recently started reading about NPD and everything I find describes my dad to a T! Even since my only sibling’s suicide 3 years ago… it hasn’t changed. It’s still all about him. If that won’t snap him out of his crazy, I don’t think anything will. I’m just now beginning to get the courage to sever ties from him and I’m liking it. Thanks for sharing, it’s helping to talk to others!! 🙂


  8. Reblogged this on An Upturned Soul and commented:
    A superb account of what it is like to be the child of a narcissistic mother, which also applies to a narcissistic father.

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

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

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

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

    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for sharing. Glad I stumbled across this post. Went through a difficult time after discovering that the woman who was supposed to love me simply wasn’t interested in bettering our relationship. Rather than take responsibility for all of her insecurities affecting me, she chose to stonewall me so I’ve been thrown away again by her and her husbands family. They all have admired to me that her behavior is terrible yet I was the only one brave enough to say it to her. I only told her because I wanted a healthy less dramatic more equal friendship. She refused. It was all my fault. After all, I did not call at the right time of day on her bday, I didn’t pick up everytime she called (very few times bc It was my job to call her, she refused to believe otherwise) I sent e-cards instead of mail, I talked of my pals parents but “secretly wished to have them as my own” (insane) I was to be a victim so “mom” could feel needed, “mom” ignored my infant baby bc she was mad at me during our stay at Her home, at the same time she also packed my bags & my children’s bags bc I was going to stay at my mil house two days from then…. Have me a car on conditions, revoked paying for my college education bc and I quote “her relationship w/me was not fulfilling her needs!” As if it were Ever my job to fill the needs of a woman whose supposed to be mothering me!
      Don’t get me wrong, she did a lot of nice things for me all of which have been thrown in my face at one time or another. Now, her husband was great with my kids & is truly a great guy…. Except when around her, even kids pick up on it. She Refuses to believe she has anything to do with it.
      I’m at a loss, despite her ridiculous childish behavior I love them both & do not want them to miss out on the joy of having grandchildren however I am being completely ignored no matter how many times I stretch the olive branch. I accept that she is a martyr. Hell she’s the one that used that adjective to explain herself…. Just took me awhile to see it. Please help me, I don’t know if there’s any hope not how to say goodbye if there in fact isn’t any.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Kortini30, I hear your anguish. I too have felt stuck between a rock and hard place for many many years, wanting to end the relationship with my NP mother but also wanting the relationship…perhaps still “needing” the relationship. I purposely limit the amount of time my mother spends with my kids as my eldest child (who is similar to me and more introverted) is negatively affected by my Mother’s narcissistic antics. She bosses my daughter around and, when I’m not in ear shot, tries to undermine my parental authority by telling my kids she knows more than I do. It’s hard to believe an adult could behave so childishly, but that’s a typical jealous, deceptive and undermining narcissist for you – even though, she’s also my MOTHER. And that’s just the thing, isn’t it? It’s just so hard to wrap your head around the fact that is our very own MOTHERS who have the capacity to behave so appallingly! But that is the fact, and my advice to anyone with NPs is to keep this fact firmly in the forefront of their minds, cause your NP is not going to miraculously change and become a loving caring parent. So if you feel you need them in your life, keep them at a manageable distance, don’t share intimate secrets with them and get want YOU want from them and only give them what you WANT to give.D

      Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2015 18:04:07 +0000 To:

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Both my parents come from the ‘me first’ generation and to this day, father is emotionally void and could care less ‘he never wanted children in the first place’. Good. Mother has been jealous and envious since day one of my grandmother’s love for me. Mother is passive aggressive, manipulative, narcissistic, opiod for years drug dependence-oh poor me (health is bad-but doesn’t take care of herself ‘can do no wrong’. When I was 7, packed my suitcase because I was so distraught from being neglected, humiliated, abused, and ignored. Mother said, ‘I can carry that downstairs if you want’ I burst into tears. Nothing has changed all these years. She’s a narcissist. She’s always put herself ahead and at center of everything. When I have said something, while still having hope she could change, she would guilt, shame, gossip, and silent treatment. She is still the same to this day. I’ve been through long struggles of working, raising a family and trying to cope with very little help from either. Father is on my no contact list for years; gave several chances but he took no responsibility for anything. Mother is soon to be on my no contact list-forever.
      At this point, neither have cared enough to actually be parents. Believe me, they have enriched themselves. I really don’t care if they suffer or have a crisis. They have never been there for me emotionally and financially-to the minimum, the bare minimum. For me after years of therapy, i let them go and cut emotional ties. They are pathetic, but would actually gloat how horrible and troubled their daughter is. Good bye forever both of you.


  9. Thank you for this valuable and honest documentation. At 56 I realized yesterday that my mother is a narcissist too! Yes, that’s wonderful because my recovery continues. I have set many of your suggestions in motion in order to take back my life. I have a business which assists others to break through anxiety and depression and to love and care for themselves. My clients break through their dross quiet quickly. I have recently written and published my book The Wisdom in the Silence Within about many of the practices such as meditation, yoga and walking in nature that I practice regularly to honour nurture and heal to my authentic self. It is truly wonderful to know that others have survived and that what I have always known about my parents was correct. Your description of the spider and the web is spot on. I recognized my mother as the black widow a few years back which is when I began my work in stepping out of her web. My father passed 4 years ago which it when I truly began to see my mother with greater clarity. Yes there is further to go but truly today I deeply understand how far I have come and how strong and wise I really am. I was born into this family to break the cycle and yes I have been achieving continual success. My loving husband and family has shown me the way forward through their love.
    I truly am blessed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Liked by 6 people

  10. Thank you for describing my mother. I am an ACoN whose sisters are still in denial after decades about the obvious narcissism of this infantile person. I assure anyone who reads this excellent article that many victims of narcissistic parents never escape the lies which are perpetuated as a hegemony during formative years, all lies about how wonderful the narcissist is. The victims just repeat these lies like parrots. The lies seem to provide a sort of comfort in the face of doubt. The narcissist has made sure that they have no other family, so they cling to the lies because they can’t bear to face the fact that the little they have is no good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I especially thank you for your comments regarding gaslighting, and regarding everyone else’s inability to see that the ‘touching concern’ for the ‘mentally ill’ child is completely fake. In my case, this particular weapon emerged when I reported that I had been incested by my father for years. Both of my parents were narcissists, both claimed to love me while they taunted me with ‘mentally ill’ labels, and both were believed by everyone – even mental health ‘professionals’! – because I was disturbed and they were as cool as cucumbers. And they were never exposed, ever. So I thank you for seeing the truth when so many do not.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi,
    First of all I would like to excuse my self for the errors I am about to make because I am mainly french speaking so I cannot put in such beautiful words as all of you my emotions and situation.

    First, I really liked the description of the narcissistic mother although I am still in doubt because certain traits are not my mothers. For instance, my mother is very generous ( gave me a travel trailer, a boat but I know she just did not want to put them up for sale because she does not want anyone to come to her house because in her mind everyone is there to steal from her, she even uses the side door of her house because she does not want the neighbors to see in her house when she opens the front door!)

    There is absolutely no way I could write all the incidents and feel bad for it because it`s like I have no proof to give you. The only thing I can do is resume the worst; First of all I am 44 and what I feel is; Fear, doubt and shame for even thinking she might be a N ( as she said when I was a child, I was ungrateful… she suffered so much in her life and everything she did was for me) and also because she also tells me I am so talented, pretty but anorexic (i am not I eat like 2 men).

    She also can’t stand the fact that my husband is so discreet and silent she can’t get anything out of him. So she constantly insinuates that he might be using me. I think she hates men too ( is married with a bunch of contracts that my stepfather had to sign to make sure if he dies she gets everything and nothing for his previous 2 boys because she made all the money).

    She is a very well known artist and it was always about her. My stepfather sacrificed everything he wanted to do (little model planes) for her career. She paid for all my studies but I had to become a Doctor ( I am finally nothing!) I don’t even know what I want of who I am. And if so it is not her fault because she paid for everything. I had a lot of talent when I was young but she denied me into becoming an artist and then became one herself. She always exaggerated what she did in life as an artist to become well known. She says that all the other artists are envious and copy her. What infuriates me is she paints very religious and spiritual things, prays god and Jesus but then has only negative things to say about , men, thin girls are anorexic, sexy girls are sluts, veiled Arabic women are stupid and dirty, anyone nice is an hypocrite, and the list goes on..That in my opinion IS very hypocrite and not very Jesus like.

    I am so embarrassed how she constantly ( and even trained my stepfather to do so so she doesn’t look like a fool) brags about all the merits, medals and things she got for her work as an artist worldwide. Even once I invited them for a Christmas dinner along with my beloved stepmother (truly an angel) and her boyfriend ( also so nice and polite) well the whole night my parents just kept talking about my mothers work and my mother has a very condescending and snobbish look (eyebrows lifted – I kind of ”hey look at me I am so above you all and am so pretty, intelligent..” look) She was very pretty and had a goddess body when she was young but as she got older said looks are not important its your brains.

    She also wants to know EVERYTHING about me, my financial situation (she even gets help from friends from the bank to know whats going on in my bank account and maybe even my husbands), the way I educate my son ( funny she says she did everything for my studies but all she did is pay and gave me dictation once a week, she worked in a boutique and when she got home, she prepared the diner, I had to do the dishes then she sent me to my room to study alone. I do homework with my son every single day and sit with him for an hour.) I could not watch t.v as a kid, Saturdays (my mom was off to work) I had a list of chores to do and my stepfather after working outside the house all day had to come inside to touch the t.v and see if it was hot! She then started painting and its my stepfather (a teacher) who started to help her into that career but she does not admit it. She is always the one who worked the most (as she says she had 3 jobs; salesperson, painter ( siting and doing something she loves), and being a mother( that is a job, sorry mom). She is the one who suffered the most in life and no one else.

    ah this is the most horrible. She had cancer (but was completely removed before she knew it with a breast reduction) and had radiotherapy just in case, then my stepf had cancer and spent 2 months in the hospital and my mother was there all day and night and his beside because the nurses were incompetent supposedly and thanks to her only he survived but then she went in a deep depression and all that because of my father and what she did for him (that is what she constantly says right in his face!) Now he has a pouch(colon-cancer) and she controls everything, and supposedly he can’t take care of himself and she has that HUGE burden (she does not want him to be independent in mu opinion). She criticizes every thing he does to the way he talks, eats, walks and of his age ( 14 years older than her eve though I remind her that he did not put a gun to her head to marry her). oh and poor her in 1978 when she married him he had an outrageous debt of 10 000$ ( she says it is like 100 000$ today … yeah right…)she had to pay for him although he was a teacher with a good salary and a little house.

    She says he is ungrateful and manipulative but I understand him ( he probably thinks now; THE HECK I will profit the most I can from her!) She kept is 2 sons far from him but in some way manages to make everyone beleive that they are the faulty ones ( they probably could not stand how she was treating and controling their father) THey are the lucky ones they got away.

    I remember when I was little around 8 years old, I could rarely go to my friends and no one was allowed in our house. She would hit me with a belt laying down on the bed with my pants down( I knew in advance though how many slaps for every bad manner) and she would say that I was lucky because she was hit with the buckle when she was little (remember she always suffered more). She would plant her nails in my arms and tossed me around (the marks stayed in and my friends would make comments at school). I suffered from bulling at school and had to buy candies to one girl for her to be my friend and protect me. Everyone would laugh at me at school and in the bus for the horrible clothes I had on ( she made me wear a one piece winter suit to make sure I did not go outside at recreation with only the top) all that for my own good. I never dared to talk to her about it because I was AFRAID of her ( my worst bully) She had me change schools to follow my father so he could keep an eye on me. Never once was I asked what i wanted to do in life.

    Hey , once ,and this is funny. I was permitted to go to my friend ( she hated her and said she was a slut ( 8 years old!)) so my mother was across the street and I wanted her to comb my hair but I was so excited I did not look both sides of the street and got hit by a car, I flew in the air and hit a tree. All I remember even to this day is as I woke up for a second laying down on the grass is the fear of her being angry and I told her ” I’m okay! I’m okay” and then fainted again.

    I also remember she used to ask me to caress her arms with the back of a pen while she was sleeping in the afternoon ( I used the wrong side on purpose with a ink ball point hi hi ). She would not do the same to me because she said it would make me lazy. I do remember though she would sometimes bring me a glass of water during the night and caress my hair while I was drinking (that is the ONLY thing I remember that was nice) besides the vacations she brought us on.

    She always reminds me that everything she has will go to me and I have to make sure that my step father gets nothing if she dies. She always tells me ”I hope you are not going to let me rot in a old people house when I am old”, ”you never hug me”( true..I don’t), ”you never say you love me” ( true again), ”you never say I’m sweet or say poor mommy”(she isn’t)

    When ever I did something wrong I had to look down at the floor and excuse myself. I would have a liver paté sandwich, an apple and a tomato juice witch I hid in my closet because I hated it. Today my son’s lunches are filled with all sorts of fresh fruit salad, yogurts, homemade hot meals, vegetables, cookies, granola bars ect.. and he is dressed like a king but to my worst fear he is introverted like me and suffers from bulling at school too. God da…

    When I was very young ( probably 9-10) I used to pull my hair out until my mother noticed a bald spot and brought me to the hospital to see my uncle doctor who had me sit in a room with a bunch of specialists all staring at my scull under a huge light. I also use to take at that age a bunch of pills ( adult allergy pills (ornade) and some of my stepfather pills witch I can’t remember the name) I was drugged and had a red face and tingling all over and my mother never asked a question ( I’m pretty sure it was obvious I was not in a normal state). I also use to try to choke myself, you know when you put your fingers in some specific place on your throat where you can still breathe but you suddenly pass out just for a couple of seconds.

    When I was 9 i think I wrote a letter to myself that I wanted to run away from home and my mother found it so she told me first of all “writings stay” and second ” I have no problem with you leaving but you have to leave as you came… undress yourself completely and leave with nothing because you own nothing”

    I love to please the most I can people ( strangers) who are nice. A simple ”thank you” or some sort of appreciation will make me give the world to anyone (but my mother…her case is CLOSED..can’t do it)
    She is sooo sneaky in the way she is it took me many years to show my husband how she really is.

    I was even afraid to announce her I was pregnant at 36. She did not react well at first. She was there at the hospital and I had a girlfriend there too with me in the room ( my mother also hated her and as I was laying there on the bed half drugged she kept saying bad things of my friend whenever she left the room) WHY are you ruining this moment for me? I wish you never came. She did not wanted to be called grandma and instructed me to tell my son to call her by another name. She buys him all sorts of things but rarely takes him home ( too demanding at her age 68) But says its my fault she never sees him ( she want’s to go to a restaurant and shop with me and him but I tell her a 8 year old boy is not interested in that, he wants to play )

    Oh yeah I cannot take family trips anymore without my parents. She says in front of my father (82) that she will never take a trip with him alone and I have to be there. Make me feel guilty in front of him ( he has always been an angel and I love him more, I think she knows and she always tells me how I don’t know him well.. I am not the one living with him… bla bla bla) So for his sake we are going on a trip in a week ( and she is paying for me, my husband and son) I do not want to pay for a trip that is going to be hell for me just listening to her being so negative and saying out loud how she is a shame of my step father and ” don’t do this”, ”close your mouth”, ”walk this way” , ”pull your shirt down, I don’t want people to see you have a bag and had cancer, I am ashame of you…”. She is so demanding, every trip we did I have to check for everything. She says she is not difficult and anything will do BUT make sure we have connecting rooms, a floor above I don’t want bugs, I hope I won’t get sick like last time, in the plane make sure our seats are next to each other, your father wants to be next to the window but you know he is old so don’t put your son next to him it will be to aggravating for him so you should sit in between and just put your husband and son in the other row with strangers because your husband although he is the one supporting you financially at home he should be at your feet because that is what men are suppose to do (that is what she meant in her sneaky words but she denies it completely).

    I am also stuck into going to Paris with her alone ( she somehow extorted a promise from me). Yeah you heard right (but I have to pay for it ) can you believe me if I tell you I would rather go on a camping trip in Lake George, NY with my family than go to Paris with her? I don’t give sh…t about the Eiffel tower, she wants me to prepare everything but make sure we are in the center of all and that the hotel is good and you know exactly what we are going to visit. I made the mistake of talking of the ”moulin rouge” forgot she had a psychiatric problem with anything remotely associated with the faintest relation to sexuality ( I’m sure she is just jealous of those pretty girls since she does not have the body anymore but OH NO those are just sluts ( with that same condescending bi…ch look)) But I can’t get that eager I have to make people happy and thought since she loves Christmas so much we could go to Paris in december (and also get it over with ) She went to Pairs once with my aunt and they were both crying as she kindly reminds me because that is when I just left at age 23 to go see my real father in Key west ( if I did not came back 10 months after she was on the verge of disinherit me because I was so ungrateful to do that to her after all he did to her that drunken son of a God If I only knew I would of stayed just a bit longer to close the deal.

    I wish I had the guts to go on the Caribbean trip and then give her the money it costs ( after so she does not suspect anything) and then just say… Arrivederci! scr…w Paris. Godbye my love

    God this text is tooo long, nobody will read it. I told you, I have a bible of 44 years of experience to write. I am just writing this to get it off my chest and will have to continue another day.

    Last thing and this might seam horrible but it is true.

    p.s: After reading this long text again before posting it I feel bad …. Is my mother a pro or am I really a rotten golden kid. ( question to myself …) please do not respond to this. I have no self esteem and am not ready to hear if I am wrong cause I am on the verge of craziness ( hopefully I have a son which I adore).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Monique
      My blessings to you,,, you are not WRONG, my mother like yours is ALSO a NARCISSIST ….they don´t have to have all the traits .. some are more accentuated than others….
      The guilt, the shame … the invisibilty that you feel .. is part of the narcissist upbringing.. it makes you feel unclear of who you are and everything concerning yourSELF and SELF ESTEEM I´ve felt EVERYTHING you say …you´re not ALONE, I´ve wasted YEARS trying to understand my mother… that´s what I regret the TIME.. and DANCING the DANCE.. ( trying to get validation and acceptance, what you do for her today doesn´t count for tomorrow) it never ends until you DECIDE TO..
      One day I MADE the decision… of standing for my self, STEPPING ON ….the guilt , the shame and not DANCING the DANCE.. ( is like a rabbit running always trying to get the carrot.. you get close but not enough) …. But you have to be ready to accept the consecuences… they won´t like it… there will be intense rages, tantrums.. Litanies of guilt inducers…evertything.. you may think of…¨I will desinherit you.. you´re the worst… evil… ungateful. etc.¨…
      Then you will see her in her true size.. small, insecure .. and frail my mother is 80 yrs old. But she knows I don´t take her bullshit anymore.

      In the last couple of years I started to go to therapy and read books of narcisssist mothers and read topics related .. like.. Will I Ever be Good enough… , Children of the Self Absorbed, In sheep´s clothing etc….
      They help to enlighten your PATH.. and start… DISCOVERING YOURSELF..
      Start taking small STEPS and other STEPS will follow… My mother lives in other city.. I only talk superficial things with her …. I´m in low contact… . What I learned in therapy,books.. GROUPS AND MANY CRIES …NOT to EXPECT NOTHING from her…. she CAN´T LOVE ME… SHE ISN´T CAPAPABLE OF…..I thought I will never get to this point… I DON´T CARE….Í´M


      Liked by 1 person

    2. I really truly understand. Really truly I do. I told my siblings we were not the only ones out there dealing with this. It is a shame. The worse part is she will NEVER change. I have to grieve my mother as though she is dead and she lives 5 minutes from my house.


Comments are closed.