Adult Children of Narcissistic Abuse
Written by Randi Fine
Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine
Adult children of narcissistic abuse can learn about their past, validate their past, heal from their past, make peace with their past, but they will never make sense of their past.
Being unable to make sense of your past is very hard for the rational mind to accept. How many times have you looked back at your childhood, trying to figure out why your parent treated you the way he did? You want to know why—what was it about you that never measured up to your parent’s expectations and why were you so impossible to love?
These are painful and illogical truths you have spent years trying make sense of, only to have gotten more confused. The rationale you keep coming back to is that you were somehow to blame.
Logic tells you that you must have played a role in the way you were treated. After all, you were not the perfect child. But logic is wrong. You had nothing to do with it. You were only a child. No child is perfect, all children make mistakes, all children act out; these are expected behaviors that come with job of parenting. Good parents love their children no matter what they do.
It has been hard for you to pinpoint exactly why you feel the way you do, why you think the way you do, or why life seems so easy for others and has always felt so difficult for you. You are not alone in this conundrum.
All Adult Children of Narcissist Abuse (ACON’s) struggle with similar issues:
- They are always searching for the self. Deprived of autonomy by parents who dictated how they should act and feel, they never became their own person. They do not know who they are as individuals or what is best for them, therefore allow others to define them.
- They believed they are flawed, not good enough, not smart enough, not good looking enough and socially unacceptable. They are never sure how others will perceive them or if they fit in. Since they place a great deal of emphasis on what others think about them, they often get taken advantage of. These insecurities make them vulnerable to victimization by other narcissists or those with similar agendas.
- No matter how old they are they never feel like “grownups.” Since their parents sabotaged their stages of emotional development, they did not mature in ways other children did. As adults they continue to be treated like children by parents who still take ownership of them.
- They experience bouts of extraneous anger, anxiety, depression, or other emotions. Being overcome by thoughts or emotions unrelated to their current reality is a constant reminder of how broken they still are.
- They have issues with self-love and self-esteem. Feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy are difficult to overcome after years of being told that they were not good enough.
- They are prone to self-blame, shame and feelings of humiliation.
- They tend to be over-responsible, often taking on more than their share.
- They often wonder if something is wrong with them or if they might be going crazy. It seems no one is able to understand their feelings or relate to their experiences. People get impatient when they talk about their childhood. They are told to “grow up already,” or “just get over it.”
- They are conflicted about not liking or wanting to be around their parents—often feeling protective over them. It is socially unacceptable to not love their parents, yet hard to love ones who have treated them so badly. Terrible guilt feelings arise out of this emotional tug-of-war.
It is important to understand that your narcissistic parents suffer from a mental disorder for which they will never seek help. Whatever love seemed real or hopeful was an illusion. That love never existed and never will. You will never have a healthy or satisfying relationship with your parent; he or she will never change. For the sake of your own sanity you must try to come to terms with that fact.
Accepting that reality means grieving the loss of a parent you never had. The process can be equal to grieving an actual death and therefore very painful. Allow yourself as much time as it takes—days, weeks, months. Do not set expectations for the process. It is different for each of us.
There will be times when you may feel hopeless—when it becomes hard to imagine ever feeling free of the burden of your childhood. Your past is not something you will ever outgrow nor will you “just get over it.” But with awareness, the determination to create a better life for yourself, a good support team, and patience with the process, you will heal the festering wound. A scar will always remain, not to remind you of your suffering but of your hard-earned triumph.
I cannot emphasize strongly enough how invaluable counseling or therapy is in the process of healing from this type of abuse. If you want to put your past behind you once and for all I urge you to get help. Without professional help you will make some strides, but it is likely that you will fall back into your parent’s same manipulative traps over and over.
Adult children of narcissistic abuse with children of their own must see this process through to completion. If they do not, their kids will somehow suffer for it. This is something I see over and over with my clients. Do not fool yourself into believing this is not so. You may not think your pain negatively impacts your children, or may believe that their other parent compensates for what you lack, but you are wrong.
The damage is not likely to be apparent when they are young, but your children are certain to experience difficulty in their adult life when it is too late for you to do anything about it. If you do not want to heal for yourself, then at least heal for your children.
Adult children of narcissistic abuse have a great deal to overcome. The pain you feel is real. You were severely abused and as a child you could do nothing about it. But the picture is entirely different now. You are an adult. It is time to reclaim your life as your own. Your parent is not the omnipotent figure he always appeared to be nor does he hold any power over you. As a full-grown adult you do not have to answer to anyone but yourself. Your parents can only hurt you if you allow them to.
You have suffered long enough. It is time to embrace self-love, to nurture your inner child and to take good care of yourself.
You have the right to progress, grow, and thrive in your life. You have the right to love and honor yourself. You have the right to psychological freedom and inner peace.
You are worthy, you are lovable, and you matter.
This is copyrighted material. May only be shared with permission and proper attribution.
Randi Fine is the author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing, the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. In addition to helping survivors recognize their abuse and heal from it, this book teaches mental health professionals how to recognize and properly treat the associated abuse syndrome. She is also the author of Cliffedge Road: A Memoir, the first and only book to characterize the life-long progression of complications caused by narcissistic child abuse.