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MOTM May 2014
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This thread was created after reading a post by @Bear987 in the You thread. Shows up that we have some similar experiences growing up with a narcissist parent and that it, obviously, impacted us greatly as persons.

Bear987 and I did discuss which forum would be the appropriate one to post this thread in and decided on S&R, because growing up in a dysfunctional family tends to have a large impact on all your future relationships.
We were specifically interested in hearing from people growing up under similar circumstances and how you think that your parent’s narcissism impacted who you are today.
For example:
- When did you first understand that your parent is/was a narcissist?
- Do you believe that the experience impacted the type you became (MBTI, enneagram, etc).
- How did it impact your relationships as an adult?
- Did you resolve your personal issues that stemmed from growing up with a narcissist parent and is you feel you have, how?
Edited to add:
- What were/are your personal coping mechanisms?
- What are the positive things that have come from the way you grew up?

This thread is intended as a sort of support group for children of narcissist parents AND any other type of emotionally absent parent scenario, where we can share thoughts, experiences and tips about how to move forward. If it seems to be needed, I can ask the mods to make it sticky later on.

There have been a couple of similar threads posted in the past, but they have not been discussing the issue on a broader scale.
Former threads are
The Narcissistic Parent and romantic relationship by @Myoho Traveller
Narcissistic Mother, Enabling Father by @superbundle
Does being raised by narcissistic parent affect behavior? by @Babieca

Did I forget anything @Bear987?

I can call on people I know have been affected, but this topic may be a little bit personal and sensitive to many of us.
 

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MOTM September 2012
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@Swede -- You'll probably also find comparable material in other Cluster B homes as well as alcoholic homes; apparently growing up in an alcoholic home made being with a narcissistic man seem "familiar" to me, according to my psychiatrist. So, I guess all I'm saying is that narcissistic parent will be important, but you'll find comparisons in homes with sociopathic or borderline parents, as well as in those with alcoholic/substance-abusing parents. These types of homes will bring up FOG (fear, obligation & guilt.)

Not trying to hijack; just letting you know that you'll find valid comparisons there.
 

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MOTM May 2014
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Discussion Starter #3
@Swede -- You'll probably also find comparable material in other Cluster B homes as well as alcoholic homes; apparently growing up in an alcoholic home made being with a narcissistic man seem "familiar" to me, according to my psychiatrist. So, I guess all I'm saying is that narcissistic parent will be important, but you'll find comparisons in homes with sociopathic or borderline parents, as well as in those with alcoholic/substance-abusing parents. These types of homes will bring up FOG (fear, obligation & guilt.)

Not trying to hijack; just letting you know that you'll find valid comparisons there.
Yes, you are absolutely right - it was probably not real well-thought out to limit the thread to a very narrow subject matter! I wish we could change the headings... :-(
Please feel free to share your experience, if you are comfortable. I'd be very interested in learning more and hear how you have dealt with your situation.
(And I may be out of line saying this, but IMO, when a parent/partner chooses drugs over family, he/she is not far off from being a narcissist.)
 

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Please feel free to share your experience, if you are comfortable. I'd be very interested in learning more and hear how you have dealt with your situation.
(And I may be out of line saying this, but IMO, when a parent/partner chooses drugs over family, he/she is not far off from being a narcissist.)
I'm not sure if I'd call my father a narcissist, though the input he's had with the family he left behind years ago is minimal at best. It really is practically non-existent at this stage, I put in the majority of the effort to visit him.

When I was very young it was his career (worked internationally in IT - I don't know everything because of NDA's which is frustrating but understandable) and now its his other family (I have a half-brother). For me its quite complicated as I believe him to be a quite a brilliant man who made innovations in his field while not being particularly focused on my development or his role as a father. I could probably pin my being typed as INTJ on all of this but I also find that he and I are quite similar and share similar interests in all spheres of life, so its obviously more than a reflection of his choices within our familial unit.
 

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MOTM September 2012
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Yes, you are absolutely right - it was probably not real well-thought out to limit the thread to a very narrow subject matter! I wish we could change the headings... :-(
Please feel free to share your experience, if you are comfortable. I'd be very interested in learning more and hear how you have dealt with your situation.
(And I may be out of line saying this, but IMO, when a parent/partner chooses drugs over family, he/she is not far off from being a narcissist.)
You don't need to apologize for the specific headline, and you're not out of line suggesting that substance abuse is in some ways narcissistic. You'll find that people who abuse substances have exaggerated narcissistic or sociopathic traits that they might not otherwise have. Putting up with my alcoholic father's rages (it's very similar to narcissistic rage) primed me for thinking that a male partner who was constantly raging at little things was somehow normal. It's taken months of therapy for me to understand that an adult man throwing a tantrum like a two-year-old is completely abnormal and something that I should've never put up with. The general atmosphere of gaslighting that I lived in as a child also primed me to easily allow others to subvert my reality. I'm twenty eight now; I didn't know that gaslighting was a thing that actually happened, and I was surprised to learn that that's what I'd put up with my entire life until this point.
 

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@Swede Excellent thread start, I reckon. Don't worry about the headings, I reckon people will find their way here. You know, similar to @koalaroo thanks for adding how there's more causes (type of parents) that lead to similar problems.

For today I would like to share in what ways it's hard to even take an honest look at yourself - to try and identify the ways in which my childhood, trying to stay safe from my narcissist dad, has affected me.

Firstly, there's the denial. It's no fun looking in the mirror and scrutinize and introspect for possible damage. Who'd look forward to uncovering trauma? Most days, I'd rather just go through the motions and not check in with my self to see how I am doing, since I am afraid of my own answer. As an NF it is easy to focus on someone else, or some cause, to get through the day. But, I'll be honest, at 34 now, I feel like I have had enough. Of living life this way.

Secondly, as a child, it was very clear to me that objecting to my dad's narcissistic behavior was not allowed, actively discouraged by my dad through ridicule or aggression, and ultimately utterly ineffective. As a consequence, rather than speaking up against being bullied, shamed, verbally attacked or physically abused (slaps in the face, spankings and so on), I learned to just take the abuse at the cost of my self-respect, my self-worth and my self-esteem. To cope with the daily, unrelenting pressure and stress having to face a narcissist parent, I learned to deny myself and pretend I didn't have feelings or thoughts. Not noticing myself, not taking into account my thoughts and feelings has become a second nature.

Thirdly, I have lots of siblings. All these siblings have dealt with our narcissist dad in different ways - common denominator being to shell ourselves from the influence of my dad as much as possible. All my siblings, and my mom, have a story to tell. All these stories are like pitfalls. Focusing on the stories and lives of my mom and siblings keeps me from looking at myself. Just today I started telling my younger sister something about myself and within minutes I noticed we trailed off and we talked about my mom instead.

I reckon in this thread, it will be a good thing for people to be extremely selfish (that's how it will probably feel) and talk about themselves, instead of focusing on other people's stories. Biggest hidden hazard, and a very telling one mind you, will be the urge to 'help others' by playing down the things they share. I really think that trivializing other people's grievances or complaints signals how bad you're still in denial yourself.
 

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MOTM September 2012
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As a note, my narcissistic ex has a mother who is probably both histrionic and narcissistic. He was raised as the golden child and ended up narcissistic himself, probably as a defense against his mother's less-than-stellar parenting habits. In some ways, I feel very bad for him. The perfectionism and constant sense of doom must be crippling.
 

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I think I had some sort of a break through today. It made me think of the ways in which I have more or less successfully kept myself from honestly looking at myself - my previous post.

When looking for a new wallpaper for my PC, I stumbled upon the following picture. I have looked at it for quite a while today and it made me think...



Source: Wallpaper child, stylish, sunglasses, cute, boy HD

When I look at this kid, I see how he's enjoying himself. He seems contend, satisfied. Why shouldn't he be? The sun feels warm on his skin and he's looking at someone (I imagine) who loves him and (quite literally) sees him, notices him. There's no danger on the horizon for this boy.

Now, on the one hand, I wish I could raise a child who'd be this happy when it looked at me. It would mean that I am a good parent, the kind of parent I wish I would be: a loving one who goes to great lengths to ensure the happiness of his kids. I wish I were like the sun and be nothing but love and light to a person this age.

On the other hand, I wish I could be this kid. I wish I could turn back the clock and be that young again. I wish for a do-over. With a different dad, of course. I wish I could just be young and this satisfied and not scared at all. I wish I could have a chance of actually growing up, of developing my full potential.

Now for the scary part - well it scared me a bit. When I look at this kid, the way he is in the picture all happy and just feeling good - and imagine from this point in time on he'd have my narcissist dad as his dad - I immediately thought to myself: "You wouldn't last very long, kid." and "Your smile will be gone but soon, kid." and "I feel so awful for you, kid." and "He will destroy you, kid."

When I let these thoughts, and others similar to those, sink in a bit, I suddenly realized that I just said those things to my younger self - not just to the kid in the picture. I suddenly realized that I really (must) have been through hell when I was young. I also realized that somehow, I have been protecting myself from this realization for so long. I realized that apparently I am still just surviving, still in protective, combat mode - as though my narcissist dad is still around, even though I have broken off all contact with him.

I am pretty sure I am really really sad inside - but I can't quite reach it (yet). Thinking of my youth and comparing my younger self to the kid in the picture, I feel some rage, some sadness - but I end up feeling just numb.
 

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I'm not sure if I'd call my father a narcissist, though the input he's had with the family he left behind years ago is minimal at best. It really is practically non-existent at this stage, I put in the majority of the effort to visit him.

When I was very young it was his career (worked internationally in IT - I don't know everything because of NDA's which is frustrating but understandable) and now its his other family (I have a half-brother). For me its quite complicated as I believe him to be a quite a brilliant man who made innovations in his field while not being particularly focused on my development or his role as a father. I could probably pin my being typed as INTJ on all of this but I also find that he and I are quite similar and share similar interests in all spheres of life, so its obviously more than a reflection of his choices within our familial unit.
From what I read, narcissists are very controlling. Focusing their attention and limiting their world (in every sense of the phrase), makes it easier for them to control their lives and especially the people close to them. It is no surprise this focus may well lead to success in the workplace. Therefore, it doesn't surprise me that you describe your dad as brilliant in his field. Does your dad succeed in working at the same company or with the same people for long?

I am asking, because my dad has been successful in the workplace too, because of his focus, but he failed to establish good relationships with the people he worked with. Therefore, he was moved around a lot, from one department to the next. He ended up supervising million-dollar (well, euros) projects.
 

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MOTM September 2012
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I am asking, because my dad has been successful in the workplace too, because of his focus, but he failed to establish good relationships with the people he worked with. Therefore, he was moved around a lot, from one department to the next. He ended up supervising million-dollar (well, euros) projects.
The reason they do this is because everything they do is couched in competition. Everything for them is "me versus the world." My ex has no concept of compromise, and he usually leaves a job after 18-24 months because no one "appreciates" his supposed hard work. All of his bosses are referred to as being controlling or having Napoleon complexes, and in the relationship itself, any time I had a need, I was called "controlling".
 

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As a note, my narcissistic ex has a mother who is probably both histrionic and narcissistic. He was raised as the golden child and ended up narcissistic himself, probably as a defense against his mother's less-than-stellar parenting habits. In some ways, I feel very bad for him. The perfectionism and constant sense of doom must be crippling.
My dad is gradually ending up being all alone, deserted by just about everyone who was once close to him. From what I read, narcissist tendencies cannot be healed, a narcissist just has to find a way to deal with it.

Still, I have decided I am not the one to feel bad for my dad's demise. Others may feel bad for him and reach out to him, but he's been my tormentor, it is not up to me to care for him anymore. I am glad there's distance between me and him now and I think this distance will remain in place indefinitely.
 

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The reason they do this is because everything they do is couched in competition. Everything for them is "me versus the world." My ex has no concept of compromise, and he usually leaves a job after 18-24 months because no one "appreciates" his supposed hard work. All of his bosses are referred to as being controlling or having Napoleon complexes, and in the relationship itself, any time I had a need, I was called "controlling".
I recognize the switcharoo that a narcissist pulls. My dad would always turn things around and blame my mom or one of us kids, for the things that were really his problems. This would confuse us, especially my mom, to no end.

I now think it is just part of the limited view a narcissist has of the world. More importantly however, it might just be a very efficient technique to control others, to confuse and manipulate others. For outsiders, the way a narcissist deflects and turns things around is very easy to detect - but still very hard to call BS on, since the narcissist will just leave and not be open to criticism or a regular conversation.
 

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I visit the following website from time to time, it has a list of authors "who have written in an empathetic and understanding way about how people are seriously damaged during their childhood, birth and their prenatal life in the womb."

Breaking Down the Walls of Silence

This link directs to this list of authors. The main page has links to different categories of abuse, child abuse being one of them. There are some interesting videos too, but beware, there's also home videos which feature child abuse that will make your skin crawl.

Personally, I recommend the works of Alice Miller, Susan Forward and Konrad Stettbacher. But that's mainly b/c I haven't read any of the others yet!
 

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From what I read, narcissists are very controlling. Focusing their attention and limiting their world (in every sense of the phrase), makes it easier for them to control their lives and especially the people close to them. It is no surprise this focus may well lead to success in the workplace. Therefore, it doesn't surprise me that you describe your dad as brilliant in his field. Does your dad succeed in working at the same company or with the same people for long?

I am asking, because my dad has been successful in the workplace too, because of his focus, but he failed to establish good relationships with the people he worked with. Therefore, he was moved around a lot, from one department to the next. He ended up supervising million-dollar (well, euros) projects.
My father's career during the 80's and 90's (working with one corporation) involved contributing to the advent of desktop publishing, various initial versions of software and also working in business analysis, he seemed to change a lot in that sense. The latter part involved heavy travel across Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle-East. I literally only found this out over the last 2 years mind, as a child I had no idea that he was negotiating contracts between internationally-based companies and the corporation he worked for, during the time I saw him the least. I'm unsure of whether his inability to maintain a relationship with myself reflected in the rest of his work life, as our familial problems seemed to arise with the tumultuous ending of his career.
 

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MOTM September 2012
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I'll explain what my experience was like when I'm done with video games.
 

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I don't know whether I'd categorize my dad as a narcissist by the criteria of the official disorder. However, he was capable of some narcissistic behavior, mostly in the realm of (1) dismissing other people's opinions and talking over them, he was a terrible listener, (2) bullying people who didn't agree with him or who impeded him from doing what he wanted, (3) making unilateral decisions for everyone (basically saying his needs and wants were more important than anyone else's), and (4) always having to be right (his opinions were better than everyone else's).

He was also a lifelong addict, and his addiction finally killed him after years of eroding his health and tearing apart the family.

I'm not sure it's what you were looking for here or if you would count it. I'll just describe the impact of behavior that was narcissistic. EDIT: I read more of the thread in detail and saw Koalaroo's posts; yes, my father was an alcoholic, like his parents and his brothers, from about the age of 20 until his death at 71. That's my point of intersection here, with those dynamics in play. Everything centered around him, and he had no issues, it was all everyone else who was wrong.

When did you first understand that your parent is/was a narcissist?
I don't remember the age, but I was very quick to put things together and realize that my dad's main priority was my dad. It actually jars me nowadays when I remember the occasional rare event where he did something that was actually sacrificial for someone other than himself with the family; he actually could give to those outside the family (because he got strokes for it), but we were all targets of his self-absorption.

I don't think my dad was the classic narcissist that looks in mirrors all the time and preens on himself, but definitely he was always self-interested and focused on what he wanted, what he might lose, what he couldn't live without, etc. And it came out in so many ways, sometimes dumb ones.

For example, he would always take the cheese out of the fridge and leave it on the counter because "it tastes better that way." Everyone in the family hated warm cheese, and he didn't even buy the cheese -- it was the family cheese, bought during her weekly grocery shopping. He wouldn't even compromise and leave a portion out for himself, he would ruin all the cheese by leaving it on the counter. it sounds stupid, I know, but it's just one example among many (and I have to say that one of my best pleasures today is having my own fridge, where I keep my cheese cold, and eat it cold. I get a thrill from it, it's like a forbidden pleasure). That was the problem ... EVERYTHING was subject to his whims. he was the kind of guy who would walk into a room and simply change the TV channel while you were watching it because he wanted to watch something else.

But it wasn't just dumb stuff, it was larger things where other people's voices were eradicated. our family black lab dog died when I was in ninth grade, I think, and we talked of getting another one, but a year or two passed and we had no dog, and I badly wanted a dog. Well, a friend of mine down the street had a beagle mutt and she had puppies, and she said I could have one. So I told mom and picked one out and even came up with a name for it (Belit), and was very excited about this puppy... and my mom told dad, and suddenly my dad came home with a new dog -- another black lab (because he loved black labs). So I didn't get my dog. And I just couldn't even stand to be around the new lab, I never did much with her. My father never talked to me about it, or explained why he did what he did, he just imposed himself yet again. There was no conversation, I simply did not exist.


Do you believe that the experience impacted the type you became (MBTI, enneagram, etc).
No, I do not believe that experiences change inborn temperament preferences. however, I think that experiences do temper who we are, force us to learn new skills and coping strategies we might not have learned otherwise, etc.

Looking back, I've always wondered why I've been pretty compliant as an INTP type -- I have a decent Agreeableness score. I think it comes from being primarily raised by my ISFJ mom and by having to deal with a dad who you simply could NOT win with ... the only survival route I had was to be agreeable and avoid making waves, and otherwise get away from him. TBH, while I do not like conflict in general, that could partly be because conflict was a "100% loss" for me regardless if my dad was involved, you couldn't win; and even as an adult, I find myself acting agreeably (or did for a long time) even when I totally disagree or am very upset inside. I try to let myself get into arguments nowadays at times, just to liberate myself from that lousy pattern.

I also became great at negotiating between contrary frameworks and seeing things from various perspectives, to understand things better. I became a great risk manager. I learned to think through everything. I learned to control as many facets of the unfolding situation as I could. But I also became very indecisive, unable to speak up, carried a lot of internal shame, etc.

Interestingly, it made my normal inclinations even more extreme in some ways as well. I discarded all my emotions as "dangerous." I became hyper-intellectual until my mid 20's. I became even more withdrawn and closed off, even if on the surface I was "nice." I was pretty judgmental under the surface as well, when I felt like people were being hypocrites. My dad's hypocrisy left me hypersensitive to other hypocrisy, including my own... and I'm still self-critical.


How did it impact your relationships as an adult?
it messed me up badly, but I did not realize it at first. SOme of the things that happened:

- Commitments and promises left me feeling very smothered and tied down, because they might be exploited and I'd be trapped. Even decision-making was hard, because I never felt as if I could change my mind later.

- I would hide information from others, to control my own life (since my dad would dominate me if he ever knew anything about my life). Again, i wasn't used to relationships where we could negotiate, I was just dominated by my dad... so I would not engage.

- I would put on a fake agreeable face, just to keep the peace, even if I disagreed, and then try to just go off and do my own thing.

- I would emotionally detach, which was less painful than caring about anything. Because if I cared, the other person would break my heart anyway since they wouldn't look out for me or want to see me happy. It was better not to care, and if the relationship didn't work, then not much was lost. I could only depend on me for my needs (emotional, practical, etc).

- likewise I had no expectations for people in relationships, so that they couldn't let me down. No one knew what I really wanted from them in a relationship, so I never got the things I needed. I wasn't even sure myself what I wanted.

- I would isolate myself alot, just out of routine. I would feel smothered just by being around people too long.


Did you resolve your personal issues that stemmed from growing up with a narcissist parent and if you feel you have, how?
Well, I think I have reoriented myself in a lot of good ways, through the experience of my marriage and through some other relationships. Even being a parent helped me, it was like I was redeeming the painful years where my parent let me down and I felt victimized -- being a better parent for my own kids.

But it took me years to get to where I am now. Nowadays I can actually recognize what I feel, what I want and don't want, and share it with a friend or partner. i can ask other people for things without taking a refusal as personal rejection. I can give to people and put limits on my giving when I recognize the need to do so. I communicate now, and I take responsibility for my own choices by being honest rather than trying to sidestep or sneak around to avoid conflict. Lots of good stuff, and the growth was scary and painful at times.

However, I still carry old wounds and I will probably always have those scars. I still find it easier to be alone, even when I'd like to be with someone, for example, and I still need my space. inside i can still feel very insecure and have bad self-esteem / fear that who i am and what i can offer is not worth much at all, even when my head is telling me otherwise. Those emotions still linger, and each day I have to commit to fighting them off so they don't derail my life. Sometimes I feel unlovable or wonder why anyone would like or love me. I can't help but trace some of that at least to my father's open disregard for me growing up.

I guess the skill I developed in writing was partly to give myself a real voice that could be heard, so that I knew I was real and mattered.
 

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Fascinating. Question for all the posters here.

What is the MBTI type of the narcissistic parent and what is your MBTI?
Any patterns?
 
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