It’s a difficult journey of angst, longing, and acceptance for the child of a narcissist.
There’s the intense emotional pain. The hope of wanting more from the abandoning narcissist. And ultimately, the harsh acceptance and reality of Narcissistic personality disorder.
The narcissist is a parent with a harmful and intrinsic deficit.
The lack of critical empathy means the narcissist will always choose themselves over their child. This is unnatural for an adult to comprehend and een harder for a kid who wants to believe their parent thinks they hung the moon.
If the average human being can’t recognize Narcissistic Personality Disorder, how can a child?
It’s charming and deceptive, it’s obvious and elusive, it’s warm and it’s cold.
It’s a confusing contradiction.
It takes years of counseling and research for adults to identify Narcissistic personality disorder.
This is one of the reasons a narcissist can manipulate their children. It’s why they are able to use, confuse, and abuse their own kids if they see it as a means to winning.
And of course, because a parent is in a position of power, a child doesn’t believe their parent wouldn’t have their best interests at heart.
But again, the child of a narcissist doesn’t necessarily understand who and what they are dealing with.
Regardless of their age, be it very young, a teenager, or a young adult.
But once they do, as parents, we have a choice.
The clear and present torment of having a narcissist as a parent is a troublesome burden. One that must be addressed because the narcissist’s behavior is abusive and unhealthy. We have to teach our children how to avoid repeating our relationship mistakes.
Especially since the family of origin is an intense pull in our romantic choices. We also need our children to recognize that despite us ensuring they have empathy they shouldn’t repeat the behavior of the narcissistic parent.
It’s important to clarify what empathy is.
Empathy is the ability to feel the pain of another human being. We are born with a propensity to feel and then it’s nurtured by our parents.
Empathy is a developmental stage we receive in childhood. We encourage our children to understand the feelings of others. If you don’t share your toy, your friend will be sad. Someone got a Boo-boo —that must hurt. Let’s cheer that person up because they look sad.
Back to the choice we have as parents. My own father was an alcoholic. It was devastating in a different way but there are similarities. My children told me they loved their father but they didn’t want to be like him.
I never said these words out loud yet it’s how I felt about my own dad.
My mother made mistakes during her marriage. She yelled and said things she shouldn’t have while my dad was drinking. But she didn’t compound her choices.
She did two important things. She made us well aware of our reality. My father’s drinking was not a family secret. We understood the dangers of alcoholism. We fully grasped the unhealthy behavior. And then she told us our father loved us but he had a serious illness.
This illness meant he loved us as much as he was capable of loving anyone. Alcohol would always take precedent over us. The severity of his alcoholism dictated this. He wasn’t present physically, emotionally, or financially.
As a spouse of an individual with Narcissistic personality disorder, I temporarily felt victimized.
I felt deeply sorry for myself.
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It was an unhappy space in my life. Yet as the child of an alcoholic, I freely embraced my truth despite its harshness. I realize my mother freed me not by denial but by allowing me to understand there are severe illnesses that prevent people from being the parent a child needs.
Narcissism is an abusive disorder. I want my children to understand this reality but I don’t want them to question how loved they are or to feel sorry for themselves. They deserve better than Narcissistic personality disorder following them any more than it already has.
Their father’s personality disorder didn’t change the beautiful people they are.
It shaped them into even more compassionate human beings.
Their father loves them as much as he is capable of loving anyone.
Narcissism dictates that he will always choose himself over them because there are severe illnesses that prevent people from being the parent a child needs.
Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist.