Unloved Daughters: The Dance of Denial



Why it sometimes takes so long to see the damage done in childhood.

It’s a testament to both the centrality and complexity of the mother-daughter relationship that, for many unloved daughters, the recognition of their wounding and its source comes late in life. Some women are in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 60s—and, often, mothers or even grandmothers themselves—before they finally begin to understand how their mothers’ treatment of them in childhoodhas affected—and continues to shape— their lives.

I know this because I hear from them—at Psychology Today, on Facebook, and via email. They always write a variation on of “How could I not have known for all this time?”

Some unloved daughters know at a very young age—as I did—that their mothers didn’t lovethem. They “know” it long before they can even put it into words. I was no older than three or four; others say they knew at six, seven, or eight. These daughters don’t know why their mothers don’t connect to them; in fact, they are very likely to blame themselves for whatever might be wrong. Additionally, their perceptions don’t stop them from trying to become the kind of daughter their mother would or might love. But they know deep inside nonetheless and, as they get older, they begin to wrestle with the problem. Note the word begin because this is a long process, even with therapy.

Why the Mother Wound is Denied or Rationalized
What gets in way of a daughter's seeing her mother’s behavior as hurtful, destructive, or even willful? Part of it is certainly the hardwired need for a mother’s love and approval which is part and parcel of every infant’s being. This need doesn’t appear to have an expiration date; it lasts long into adulthood and, perhaps, the entire life span. This is what one daughter wrote, reflecting on her mother’s death, and capturing many of the feelings an unloved daughter has:

"She was on her deathbed and someone said, 'Do you want to tell Linda you love her?' My mother answered 'no.' Of course, I rationalized her behavior because it felt better than thinking I was unloved. I rationalized her behavior for years but it never helped my pain. I would tell people she behaved that way because she was 'sick,' because she grew up with a detached mother herself, because she was abused…. I barely cried when she died and cried more when I had to put a beloved dog to sleep. Why did I rationalize? Who wants anybody to know that they were unloved by their mother? I think that on some level I felt that if my mother couldn’t love me, how could anyone else?"

That fear—that her mother is right, that she is ultimately unlovable—underlies much of a daughter’s denial. You can mix that in with a sense of shame at being “the only girl in the world whose mother doesn’t love her”—an easy conclusion to reach when the culture preaches not just the idealization of motherhood but insists that maternal love is “instinctual,” which it is not.

Trying to Find a Reason
Because the world of a child is small and the interactions that go on in it are familiar, most daughters begin by accepting their mothers’ treatment as “normal.” That’s reinforced by the fact that the mother doesn’t just rule that little world but dictates how actions and interactions in it are to be understood. Harsh words and castigation are labeled "discipline" that is “necessary” for building a daughter’s character. Even if her mother treats other children in the house differently, the daughter is likely to believe that, somehow, it must be her fault that she’s treated one way and her siblings another—and, besides, she remains hopeful that, somehow, she’ll be able to change things. The effort to make sense of things—especially for adolescents and young adults who don’t seek counsel from either friends or a therapist—is emotionally turbulent and confusing, and can keep a daughter locked into the patterns for years, as another daughter wrote:

"I rationalized how my mother behaved toward me my whole life until last year. (I’m 37.) I wanted there to be a reason for her behavior that I could actually get my head around. I don’t think you ever want to admit what’s really going on when you want so desperately to be loved by your mother."

Sometimes, the wake-up call—the moment when the rationalization and denial finally stall out—comes when the pain of rejection becomes too much to bear or the daughter’s own patterns of behavior learned in response to her childhood experiences have begun to wreak too much havoc. That was certainly true for Deidre, whose A-ha! moment happened in her late 30s:

"I was in two serious relationships and, in hindsight, both were abusive. I left the man who abused me emotionally and made me feel like nothing—pretty much as my mother did—and then married a man I thought was different. He wasn’t. Once we were married, he tried to control my every move—as my mother did—and eventually moved from being verbally abusive to physically threatening. A light went off in my head. I went into therapy and finally saw the pattern: I was going back to Mom. My mother denied it and so when I divorced my husband, I divorced her, too. Sad to say, my relationship to her thrived on denial but it could not survive an ounce of truth. She wouldn’t allow it and I couldn’t go back."

Sometimes, it’s a third-party intimate—a friend, a lover, a spouse—who opens the door to seeing the pattern, as Jenn’s story makes clear:

"I was living with the man I ended up marrying and we invited my mother to dinner to celebrate my getting my master’s degree. He’d met her before but never one-on-one in this way, in an intimate setting. It was the same old thing with her but when she left, he turned to me and said, 'Was this Beat Up Jenn day? I thought we were celebrating.' He then went on to rattle off every criticism and lousy thing she’d said about me—my flat looked slovenly, I’d gotten fat, did I think I was really going to succeed outside of school?—and I burst into tears because I realized I was so used to her being that way that I just sponged it up. He encouraged me to go into therapy and I did. Unfortunately, my mother didn’t want to take responsibility for anything so we are long estranged. It’s a pity, really."

Is it any wonder that unloved daughters deny in order to unconsciously protect themselves from recognizing such a painful truth? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.

Denial and the Code of Silence
There’s more that feeds into the dance of denial, of course. All children want to fit in and the unloved daughter who already feels as though she’s an outsider in the one place she’s supposed to belong (yes, home) is unlikely to share her feelings with anyone, especially if she feels—as she does—that she’s the only daughter on the planet whose mother doesn’t love her. The irony here is that the daughter is not altogether wrong; even when she moves out of the stage of life where she wants to be like “everyone else,” she’s not always likely to find a sympathetic audience.

Rationalization is fed by other people’s responses—the people who tell you, as they tell me, that “It couldn’t have been so bad because you turned out just fine” or “Stop complaining. You were fed and clothed, weren’t you?” My own, thoroughly unscientific take is that people want so badly to believe that one kind of love is immutable, unconditional, and never wavering—given that we all know love in the world is hard to get and harder to hold on to—that they’re resistant to giving up that belief. An unloved daughter’s story challenges that pastel-tinted vision of the all-loving mother—and there’s the Biblical commandment to boot.

Speaking up and recognizing the truth of a mother’s behavior may be made harder by other family members who prefer to continue to deny, as one daughter wrote:

"My mother’s behavior is still excused by my siblings and they hate it and get triggered when I name it. My mother and my family explain and excuse her behavior by painting her as the victim due to her upbringing. I still doubt my own impressions and thoughts daily because of this. And I'm still afraid of being punished in some way because of what I think of my mother. All I can do is try to trust the feeling of disconnection and lack of secure base I experience, but it’s hard because I end up questioning my impressions even though they’re definitely real."

Because the unloved daughter has her view of the dynamics in the family challenged throughout her life, she often doubts her perceptions and understanding. To let go of denial, she has to rise to the challenge of believing in herself, which isn’t always easy.

Ending Denial and Confronting the Self
The moment at which the daughter stops denying and starts looking is the first step of what is a long journey—unraveling the ways in which her own behavior was shaped in childhood and how it stands up to scrutiny now. It’s a journey of self-discovery that can belie chronological age, as Gillian’s experience testifies:

"I rationalized and excused from a very young age and from early on, the only constant in my life was the huge question mark hanging over my head: What was wrong with my family? My mother blamed my father in order to hide her own responsibilities, as well as her past. Now, 25 years after her death, I realize I never knew my mother as a woman or a person—only as a dysfunctional and ineffective parent figure who inflicted her own pain on her children. While my counselor thinks it’s important not to 'dwell' on the past, the things I’ve learned about my mother since her death have brought understanding, and put pieces of the puzzle together, though not forgiveness. What appalls me is how like her I am, while spending my life in search of what I thought was a different way of being. So much still not understood but it helps me to grow."

Coming to terms with the self and experience requires self-compassion, insight, and emotional fortitude—which, of course, denial does not—and a decision about how to use and process both the information gleaned and the experience. This is what Laura came to understand:

"I rationalized my mother’s behavior all of my life. I always had an excuse or rationale for why she said or did things. This was all about minimizing me, because if there were a ‘reason’ for her behavior, somehow it was OK. Eventually, after getting out of the blame cycle and ignoring all the New Age garbage about ‘forgiveness,’ I decided on honesty and accountability. As long as I was excusing/rationalizing her behavior, I was discounting what it did to me, condoning it as OK because I didn’t deserve any better. A-ha! It took a while to figure this one out—I’m 59. I’m a mother myself so I’m tired of being on a pedestal or in the gutter."

It’s not just that the unloved daughter truly gets to see her mother once she stops the dance of denial, but that she is finally afforded the opportunity to see herself in full, unobscured by the second-guessing, self-doubt, and shame which looking away from the real problem induces. For many, it’s a hard path but it is a hopeful one, as Alicia wrote:

"We are filled with so much self-doubt that loving ourselves and having belief in our worth is so hard. For so long we believed the trouble lay within ourselves. As a mother myself now, there isn’t a thing I wouldn’t do for my kids and I won’t put a price tag on it. Loving my kids unconditionally has let me see that I am actually a much more capable and stronger person than I ever knew."

The dance of denial is born out of many impulses, fueled by the need to be loved and supported by the women most central to our young lives. It’s a dance that may keep us going for a while, but when the music stops and we reflect in stillness, it’s the moment we begin our own re-imaginings—no longer hers but belonging first and foremost to ourselves.



This Article Was Originally Published In psychologytoday


To The Girl My Boyfriend Cheated On Me With, Thank You



Thanks for taking one for the team. It takes a lot of will power to handle someone like him and after five years, you can imagine it got exhausting.

I despised you from day one. I kept hearing about you and when I finally thought you were out of our lives for good, you came back and kept coming back and coming back for months on end. Then suddenly you started working at the same place as he did. Coincidence? Nah. You took him away and you knew you did. You took him- the one I was madly and insanely in love with. The one I would have done anything for. The one I gave up so much of my time for. The one I had conversations with about what our children’s names would be and how excited we were to go furniture shopping once we would get our own place. The one I thought was really the one. You took my best friend.

Through it all, I have but one thing I want to say, thanks.
It sounds odd to say that after everything that has happened. Yet, I do not wish to curse you both or even take revenge for the nights I spent crying over him, over you. I only wish to express my gratitude towards you for without you, I would still be stuck in a relationship hanging on a fragile string of lies. Without his presence, I realize how beautiful life really is. Life is so much better when I no longer question my self-worth because the boy standing by me always did.

Thank you for taking him away from me.
He was no longer the person I knew. Words that came out of his mouth once made my heart skip a beat, but turned into spears aimed to break my heart. Although he had the same face, talked the same, smelled the same, he was not the person I fell so hard for- the sweet and innocent boy before he turned into the manipulative and emotionally abusive person whom I was a fool to have stayed with. I should have left once he started changing. Once he met you.

Thanks to you, I’ve done things I’ve always wanted to do (in the span of two weeks) that I had always been restricted from doing for five years.

Thanks to you, relationships with those who were already in my life have strengthened greatly and new ones formed with amazing people I would have never met if he was still here.

Thanks to you, I can blast country music without him complaining or turning my radio off.

Thanks to you, I went on another first date and experienced another first kiss.

Thanks to you, I have learned to embrace the pain and use it to develop myself into who I am today and who I will be.

Thanks to you, I can finally and honestly say that I’m happy.

Sincerely,
The girl you helped gain her freedom back.



This Article Was Originally Published In thoughtcatalog

10 Things That Happen When You Meet A Good Guy After A Toxic Relationship



When you are in a toxic relationship you don’t realize how much the emotional abuse impacts you. Not while you’re in it at least. When you’re in a toxic relationship, everything about it is kind of addicting. It’s the knowing and not knowing what’s going to happen. It’s the hope that’ll it’ll change but there’s also comfort in things that are the same. There’s a comfort in someone knowing you so deeply.

And it takes everything in you to not walk away. And even when you walk away, you find yourself going back so many times because you miss him. You miss the adrenaline rush of high intense emotions. From love to screaming to making up.

But then you meet a good guy. And when that happens that’s when you realize how negatively this past relationship has affected you. And sometimes you even push people away because of it.

You aren’t used to being treated so well, you almost reject it.

1. At first, you expect the worst.
After a toxic relationship, you don’t trust anyone. Even yourself. You wonder how you tolerated such a relationship for so long. And you enter every relationship expecting the worst of someone. For a while, you don’t believe good guys do exist. Because for so long you looked for the wrong qualities and you accepted a lot of these people who didn’t deserve you.

2. And overthink everything.
You think everyone has motives or doesn’t mean what they say. When you’ve caught someone in lies so often it makes you paranoid as fuck. You don’t believe people can be honest or mean what they say. You make crazy assumptions and doubt really good people just because of one person.

Next thing you know you’re explaining to this guy how you got to this conclusion in your head and he’s baffled. Not because you’ve questioned him but that someone has made you this way and all he wants to do is reverse this.

3. You’ll think he’s too good to be true.
Someone treating you this well has got to be too good to be true. You’re expecting the other shoe to drop. You’re expecting him to lose it one day. You’re expecting some abrupt ending without closure. But every day he just proves to you he’s the same person he’s been from the start. He’s given you no reason to question him but it isn’t him you don’t trust it’s everyone in the past.

4. After you push him away.
Someone in the past has led you to believe you don’t deserve the best. So when you get it you reject it. You fear something good because you don’t want to lose it. You don’t want to get hurt again so you try and ruin it first. But what you’ll realize that’s different about this guy is when you run he’ll chase you. When you push him he’ll grab you close and not let you leave.

5. You’re going to expect fights.
You keep waiting for a fight. But instead, everything gets talked out and explained. And there’s this wave of comfort afterward and you realize normal people don’t leave the second something goes wrong.

6. Then you’ll apologize too often.
He’s going to wonder why you apologize so often or what it is you’re saying sorry for. He’ll see the pain in your eyes from someone in the past whose made you question yourself. He’ll see the pain in your heart trying so hard to love again when you’ve only known heartbreak. And he’s going to constantly reassure you everything is okay.

When a good guy loves someone who is broken who has only known toxic relationships, what he does is teach her she didn’t deserve anything she got.
He redefines these horrible standards she has and he chooses to be the exception.

7. And question if they are better off without you.
You think they are better off without you but the truth is just as they have made your life better it goes both ways. And I know you’re scared to love again. I know you’re afraid to let anyone that close. But your sensitivity. Your compassion. Your strength and understanding and lack of judgment in everyone is what makes you beautiful.

In the past, you were able to love someone who was completely unlovable and intolerable. You found the good in them. You took a chance on them. You never gave up on them. And it’s your turn to have that reciprocated.

This new relationship isn’t what you are used to but it’s exactly what you deserve.

8. You overcompensate.
And when you finally get comfortable and accept this relationship you are going to love this person with everything you have in you. But don’t try too hard. Don’t think you have to. In the past, you were taught your best isn’t good enough. So you had to try too hard. You had to compete. You had to prove yourself.

What you should have learned was your best was good enough and it was him that didn’t deserve it.

9. Then you trust him.
There’s going to be a moment where you tell this guy everything that’s happened. A moment you trust him to let him that close. And when you tell him about the past and the people who have hurt you what you’ll find isn’t that’s he’s going to take off. It’s just given him a reason to stay.

I know someone in your past taught you about tough love. They taught you vulnerability is a weakness. You’ve had to be strong for so long and you’ve had to endure a lot of things you didn’t deserve. But all of it has made you more beautiful than you know. And all of it will make the right person appreciate you for overcoming all of it.

And with tears in your eyes even you will be grateful for a toxic relationship that didn’t destroy you but rather made you the strong person you are today.

10. Finally you learn what love really is.
You begin to realize that relationship that used to define your standard of love was so far from the real thing. You learn that love isn’t supposed to hurt you or be demeaning. Love isn’t supposed to break your heart just to build you back up. Love is not anything that comes in the form of jealousy. Whether it’s making you jealous or being jealous of you. The right type of love does not play games with your heart or want to see you in pain.

You realize all of that wasn’t love but control.

You build yourself back up and fearlessly love again, only this time you do it right.

The right type of love heals you and that’s exactly what this guy has done. 



This Article Was Originally Published In thoughtcatalog



Anxiety Disorders Are Linked To This Type Of Abuse



As the saying goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” By now, most of us have figured out just how untrue that old saying is. Words can be extremely hurtful. It might be through bullying, cyberbullying or verbal abuse at the hands of a parent or spouse. Words hurt, and scientists are now saying that verbal abuse can inflict lasting physical effects on brain structure.

You probably know that the human brain doesn’t fully develop until after birth. Self-awareness, personality and cognitive abilities take years to develop, and they develop different in everyone. The way your brain is wired largely depends on your experiences as a child.

As Dr. Douglas Fields explains for Psychology Today, “When [an] environment is hostile or socially unhealthy, development of the brain is affected, and often it is impaired. Early childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, or even witnessing domestic violence, have been shown to cause abnormal physical changes in the brain of children, with lasting effects that predisposes the child to developing psychological disorders.”

The Study
In a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, young adults ages 18-25 were asked to rate their childhood exposure to parental and peer verbal abuse when they were children. These participants had no exposure to domestic violence, sexual abuse or parental physical abuse. The were then given a brain scan.

The results showed that the individuals who reported experiencing verbal abuse from their peers during middle school had underdeveloped connections between the left and right sides of the brain. Psychological tests showed that this group of people had higher levels of anxiety, depression and anger.

Verbal abuse from peers during middle school years showed the greatest impact. Scientists believe this is because the brain was still developing during that period. Researchers concluded, “Verbal abuse can cause significant psychological problems in later years and brain damage, including anxiety, depression, anger hostility and dissociation.”

The Link Between Verbal Abuse And Anxiety
The most common targets of narcissistic abuse are often people who are highly sensitive or wear their emotions on their sleeve. Narcissists take pleasure out of finding someone who is slightly vulnerable and manipulating them until they have complete control. Whether you were a victim of verbal abuse as a child, teenager or even as an adult, the manipulative words and actions of a narcissist can have a lasting effect on your brain, as shown by the study. As your self-worth begins to deteriorate and you feel like you’ve lost control, your mind and body react in different ways – one of which is the development of an anxiety disorder.

Learn more about emotional and verbal abuse in the video below!




This Article Was Originally Published In davidwolfe


EVERY Single One Of These 10 Things Is Emotional Abuse



Have YOU experienced any?
If you’ve never been involved with a cunning, pathological lying, narcissistic, abusive partner, you may not know what you’re dealing with.

When you date an abusive personality, you may buy into his charm, braggadocio and phony fa├žade while downplaying his inconsiderate and questionable behavior. Or you mistrust your instincts that your boyfriend or husband is lying to you, demeaning and controlling you. Worse yet, you may think you are overreacting and crazy — as he claims you are.

NOTE: You can be in an emotionally abusive relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, male or female friend, family member, boss or co-worker.

An abuser’s goal is to affect and control the emotions, objective reasoning and the behavior of his victim. Covert abuse is disguised by actions that appear normal, but it is clearly insidious and underhanded.

The abuser methodically chips away at your confidence, perception and self-worth with his subtle hints, unnecessary lying, blaming, accusing and denial.

The abuser fosters an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability and unpredictability. He steadily pushes you to the edge with his deception, sarcasm and battering until you erupt in anger and then you become the “bad guy” giving him the ammunition he needs to justify his hurtful actions.

If you are experiencing any of the following things, you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship: 

Accusing and blaming: He shifts the responsibility and the emphasis onto you for the problems in your relationship. He says things, like: “It’s your fault.” What’s wrong with you?” “You didn’t remind me.” “Nothing I do is ever enough.”

Punishment by withholding: He refuses to listen, he ignores your questions, he withholds eye contact and he gives you the “silent treatment.” He’s punishing you! He may refuse to give you information about where he is going, when he is coming back, about financial resources and bill payments. He withholds approval, appreciation, affection, information, thoughts and feelings to diminish and control you.

Blocking and diverting: He steers the conversation by refusing to discuss an issue or he inappropriately interrupts the conversation. He twists your words, he watches TV, or he walks out of the room while you’re talking. He criticizes you in a way that causes you to defend yourself and lose sight of the original conversation.

Contradicting: He disapproves and opposes your thoughts, perceptions or your experience of life itself. No matter what you say, he uses contradicting arguments to frustrate you and wear you down. If you say, “It’s a beautiful day,” he’ll say, “What’s great about it, the weather’s crappy.” If you say you like sushi, he’ll say, “Are you kidding, it’ll give you parasites.”

Discounting: He denies your experience of his abuse. He tells you that you’re hypersensitive or that you’re imagining things or that you can never be happy. He disfigures the truth, causing you to mistrust your perception and the reality of his abuse.

Disparaging humor: Verbal abuse is often disguised as jokes. The abuser teases, ridicules and humiliates you with sarcastic remarks about your appearance, personality, abilities and values. He makes fun of you in front of your friends and family because he knows you will avoid a public confrontation. If you tell him to stop, he tells you that you are too sensitive or you can’t take a joke.

General crazy-making: He uses a combination of distortion, blaming, forgetting, stonewalling and denial to confuse, frustrate and drive you to the brink of insanity. He denies the truth and twists your words, putting you on the defense. He wants you to second guess yourself, doubt your reality and your ability to reason.

Judging and criticizing: He harshly and unfairly criticizes you and then he passes it off as “constructive” criticism. If you object, he tells you he is only trying to help in an effort to make you feel unreasonable and guilty.

Undermining: He breaks his promises and he fails to follow through on agreements. He minimizes your efforts, interests, hobbies, achievements and concerns. He trivializes your thoughts and suggestions. If you suggest a restaurant or a vacation destination, he says, “The food is awful at that place!” and “Why would you want to go to Florida; it’s nothing but a tourist trap!”

Forgetting: He “accidently”  forgets the things that are important to you. He forgets to pick up the dry cleaning, to make a household repair or buy tickets to the movies. By doing this, he’s saying, “I’m in control of your time and reality.”

Abusive behavior is not always verbal. Your partner may use body language or gestures to control and diminish you. For example:
-Refusing to talk or make eye contact
-Sulking, strutting, posturing and stomping out of the room
-Boredom-crossed arms, showing disgust, rolled eyes and frowning
-Inappropriate sounds, deep sighs, words like, “Soooo!”
-Hitting or kicking something or driving recklessly to scare you
-Withdrawing or withholding affection to punish you
-Patronizing, laughing at your opinion, mimicking or smirking
-Interrupting, ignoring, not listening, refusing to respond
-Distorting what you say, provoking guilt, or playing victim
-Yelling, out-shouting or swearing to shut you down
-Starting a sentence with, “Forget it”

Now that you know the conniving, covert signs of emotional abuse, what are you going to about it?



This Article Was Originally Published In theearthchild

Anxiety Disorders Could Be Caused By Being Exposed To Narcissistic Abuse



People Who Believe In The Good Nature Of Others, Are Highly Sensitive Or Emotionally Intelligent, Are The Most Common Targets For Narcissistic Abuse.

Residing where any kind of emotional or mental abuse takes place is going to affect your health. Not only that, but the way you see yourself, and how much worth you believe you have, will suffer greatly. When you are constantly told that you are the problem, and that your rational and completely normal ways of responding to their abuse is contributing to the issue, what else could possibly be expected to happen? Your mind begins to sever- rationale and fear are intertwined, and the body reacts in several different ways, all displayed through types of anxiety disorders.

It’s unhealthy to surround yourself with these types of people, or to stay in a relationship with them. But for some people, the abuse comes from a family member, or parent, and escaping is only an option when you can leave their home. For those individuals, some disorders might have developed as a teenager, and continue to impact their adult relationships today.

The Mayo Clinic Has Compiled A List Of Several Types Of Anxiety Disorders, And Describes The Most Common Conditions As Follows:

-Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.

-Anxiety disorder due to a medical condition includes symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are directly caused by a physical health problem.

-Generalized anxiety disorder includes persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about activities or events — even ordinary, routine issues. The worry is out of proportion to the actual circumstance, is difficult to control and affects how you feel physically. It often occurs along with other anxiety disorders or depression.

-Panic disorder involves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). You may have feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a rapid, fluttering or pounding heart (heart palpitations). These panic attacks may lead to worrying about them happening again or avoiding situations in which they’ve occurred.

-Selective mutism is a consistent failure of children to speak in certain situations, such as school, even when they can speak in other situations, such as at home with close family members. This can interfere with school, work and social functioning.

-Separation anxiety disorder is a childhood disorder characterized by anxiety that’s excessive for the child’s developmental level and related to separation from parents or others who have parental roles.

-Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) involves high levels of anxiety, fear and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others.

-Specific phobias are characterized by major anxiety when you’re exposed to a specific object or situation and a desire to avoid it. Phobias provoke panic attacks in some people.

-Substance-induced anxiety disorder is characterized by symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are a direct result of abusing drugs, taking medications, being exposed to a toxic substance or withdrawal from drugs.

-Other specified anxiety disorder and unspecified anxiety disorder are terms for anxiety or phobias that don’t meet the exact criteria for any other anxiety disorders but are significant enough to be distressing and disruptive.

Those toxic people who willfully abuse others get a kick out of telling their victims that they are somehow socially, emotionally, and intellectually substandard. You’ll notice that whenever these people are caught or confronted about their behavior, they will always resort to playing the victim. In extreme cases, they even try to make it seem as though you are the abuser.

People who feel like they have become trapped in the poisonous whirlwind of narcissistic abuse tend to know something is just not right. The irrational and maddening claims the narcissist makes never fully sit well with them. However, unless they are educated about these toxic personalities and abusers, they will continue to find themselves in the endless cycle.

Why is that? Because narcissists target those who are prone to behaving like actual human beings; compassionate, empathic, and believe in the good nature of humankind.

And because these people are the ones who are more likely to be the victim of narcissistic abuse, they are also the ones who are prone to suffer from mental and physical health issues. According to a study by Muhammad Gadit from Memorial University of Newfoundland, “Verbal abuse can cause significant psychological problems in later years and brain damage, including anxiety, depression, anger-hostility, and dissociation.”

Doctor Douglas Fields reports on PsychologyToday, “When [an] environment is hostile or socially unhealthy, development of the brain is affected, and often it is impaired. Early childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, or even witnessing domestic violence, have been shown to cause abnormal physical changes in the brain of children, with lasting effects that predisposes the child to developing psychological disorders.”

Anxiety disorders are unpleasant to live with. They can take over your life at a moment’s notice, and they don’t make sense to those who don’t have them. To be honest, they don’t make much sense to those who have them either. That’s why this information is important.

It’s Important To Know That If You Suffer From Any Of The Above Mentioned Anxiety Disorders, And Have Been A Victim Of Narcissistic Abuse, You Can Take Your Life Back.



This Article Was Originally Published In iheartintelligence

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?
Yes.
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.



This Article Was Originally Published In theinvisiblescar