Learning how to understand and make peace with your childhood is one of the most healing and empowering experiences you could ever go through.
As the son of a drug-addicted narcissistic mother and totally absent father, I know how important it is to come to terms with your parent’s mental illness.
When we were children, we looked up to our parents for support, encouragement, nurturing and love. But when we were denied these things, we developed a variety of beliefs, behavioral patterns, and coping mechanisms to help us survive in such a difficult environment. As adults, we often play out these same coping mechanisms, often to our own detriment.
The thing about being the child of a narcissistic mother and/or father is that it often contributes to something known in shamanic terminology as soul loss. Soul loss is the inability to contact or experience our souls due to the unresolved wounds, traumas, and fears we’ve accumulated over the years.
The first step in healing this soul loss is to be willing to explore what you went through as a child. This process of exploring the narcissistic actions of your parent isn’t done to condemn them or to victimize yourself. Instead, this process is done to help you understand the root cause of any pain you’re still experiencing, to learn how to release it, and to move on with your life. This becomes a strengthening and rejuvenating process.
19 Signs You Had a Narcissistic Mother and/or Father
The thing about having a narcissistic mother and/or father is that you have been taught to believe that you are the crazy and imbalanced one, instead of them. This causes you to constantly doubt yourself and any feelings you have about them.
Another major sign of being raised by narcissists is the constant guilt you struggle with. In other words, while you might suspect that there is something “off” with your parents, you feel ashamed to think about them in such a way, and you tend to start beating yourself up instead.
But there is a very good reason why you’ve come to this article. And while you may still have lingering doubts, I hope the following information can clear your mind.
Firstly, you should know that there are two main kinds of narcissists:
- Engulfing Narcissists — these are parents who see their children as extensions of themselves. In other words, engulfing narcissistic parents become obsessively involved in your life to an extreme extent. They don’t respect your boundaries or acknowledge you as a separate person.
- Ignoring Narcissists — these are parents who have very little interest in their children. Ignoring narcissists clearly see the boundary between themselves and their children. As a result, they neglect to take care of their children or show an active interest in their lives.
Depending on what type of narcissistic parent you have, you’ll struggle with slightly different (but similar) issues.
How does a narcissistic mother or father behave?
Here are some of the main signs:
- They tried to control you through codependency
- They laid on the guilt thick
- They only loved you when you did what THEY wanted
- They liked to “get even” with you
- They never respected your boundaries
- They competed with you
- They “owned” your accomplishments
- They constantly lied to you
- They never listened to (or cared) about your feelings
- They constantly insulted you
- They exerted explicit control over you
- They gaslighted you
- They “parentified” you
- They had a “favorite” or “golden” child
- They reacted intensely to any form of criticism
- They projected their bad behavior onto you
- They never displayed any empathy
- They were infallibly correct and never wrong
- They liked to present a perfect family image to outsiders
Keep in mind that there’s a difference between narcissistic behavior (which only comes out every now and then) and narcissism. We all have a tendency to be narcissistic given the right circumstances (such as high stress). But narcissism is ongoing, chronic, and pathological.
I’ll go into these nineteen signs more in depth below:
1. They tried to control you through codependency
In other words, you were told by your parent/s, “Don’t leave me. I need you. I can’t live without you.” This made it impossible for you to live an autonomous life or establish independent priorities other than catering to the needs of your parent/s.
2. They laid on the guilt thick
Another method of controlling you was to constantly guilt trip you into doing what they wanted. They may have told you, “I’ve done so much for you, I’ve sacrificed everything for you.” As a result, you felt indebted to them and as though you “owed” them complete obedience.
3. They only loved you when you did what THEY wanted
Your parent/s withdrew love very easily. If you failed to do what they wanted, they would either punish you severely or give you the silent treatment. You had the impression that they only loved you when you PROVED your worth to them.
4. They liked to “get even” with you
When you did something “wrong” or against their will — even in the smallest way — they made sure they punished you. This petty and childish way of “getting even” may have been subtle or very obvious. For instance, they may have deliberately sabotaged something you cared about, broke something of yours, or hid something to get back at you.
5. They never respected your boundaries
There wasn’t any “private” space to call your own growing up. Your narcissistic mother or father would go through your room and private belongings, without a thought, sometimes even using what they found against you.
6. They competed with you
If you ever got something nice, they took it from you or got something nicer to “out-do” you.
7. They “owned” your accomplishments
Whenever someone complimented your achievements, your parent/s would instantly jump in and shift the attention to themselves. For example, if someone congratulated you for winning a soccer trophy, your parent/s would butt in and say something along the lines of, “Yes, she gets it from me. I was always athletic as a child.” They love the spotlight and frequently stole it from you.
8. They constantly lied to you
Your parent/s lied to manipulate, control and take advantage of you in some way, shape or form. You never knew what you could trust was “real” or truthful around them, or whether they were setting up a hidden trap for you to fall into.
9. They never listened to (or cared) about your feelings
You felt that you could never share your feelings with your parent/s because they would either make fun of you or talk about themselves instead. Somehow, whatever issue you faced as a child was spun into a pity party for them, not you.
10. They constantly insulted you
Your narcissistic mother or father berated, demeaned and harassed you on a constant basis. They may have even latched onto an insecurity of yours and used it to humiliate you.
11. They exerted explicit control over you
In other words, when you didn’t obey them, they would punish you. The message was very clear, “Obey me, or I’ll punish you.” You were punished through emotional or physical abuse including emotional blackmail, hitting or beating.
12. They gaslighted you
In order to control you, they used a psychological manipulation tactic known as gaslighting. What this means is that they would deliberately make you feel crazy, or cause you to doubt your sanity, in order to gain the upper hand. This led to the development of constant self-doubt during your childhood, adolescence and present life. Read more about gaslighting.
13. They “parentified” you
As a child, you were expected to “parent” your parent, or behave as a surrogate parent to cater to their needs, instead of them catering to yours.
14. They had a “favorite” or “golden” child
In your family, there was the “golden” child and the “scapegoat” child. In other words, one child was seen as perfect and capable of doing no harm. The other child was seen as the black sheep and the cause of all issues (this is also known as an identified patient). These roles could have also switched frequently.
15. They reacted intensely to any form of criticism
Did you ever criticize your mother or father? What was their general reaction? If your mother and/or father was a narcissist, they likely reacted in an extreme way. They would scream at you and likely physically hurt you through smacking, or some other method.
16. They projected their bad behavior onto you
For example, if you were in an argument, your narcissistic mother or father would hysterically scream at you, “ How dare you talk to your mother that way. Go to your room. We’ll talk after you stop screaming at me.”
17. They never displayed any empathy
They never asked about your feelings, sympathized with you, or cared. They seemed to be solely interested in their own feelings.
18. They were infallibly correct and never wrong
Even when they made a mistake or treated you in an unfair, or unjust way, they never apologized for their mistake. When you confronted them about it, they denied all accusations and tried to spin the blame onto you.
19. They liked to present a perfect family image to outsiders
Your parent/s went to great lengths to ensure that others perceived you as a loving/successful/enviable family. Likely, you were very aware of this ploy but kept silent for fear of wrath from your parent/s.
How to Confirm That You’re the Child of a Narcissistic Mother / Father
After reading through this list of symptoms you might still be unsure of how to define your parent/s. That’s normal. Your narcissistic mother and/or father wouldn’t have exhibited all of the signs above (but if they did, pay attention).
If you’re the child of a narcissist, you will likely struggle with these problems:
- Codependency in other relationships
- Weak sense of self
- Poor personal boundaries and inability to say “no”
- Chronic guilt or toxic shame
- Trust issues
- Inability to express or handle emotions (resulting in emotional numbness)
- Anxiety or depression
- Being a people-pleaser
How many signs can you relate to? Obviously, the more issues you can say ‘yes’ to, the more likely you can confirm (without a doubt) that you were raised by a narcissistic mother or father.
Click on any of the linked articles in the list above to gain further guidance.
How Do You Deal With a Narcissistic Mother or Father?
If you’re quite sure that one, or both, of your parents, was a narcissist, it’s likely that they still have some kind of involvement in your life. Many narcissist support groups recommend cutting off contact from such parents or interacting them in small, measured ways (such as through a phone call, or text message).
To begin your process of soul healing, you might like to do the following:
- Stop hoping that your narcissistic parent will change — you can never change them.
- Allow yourself to grieve the parent you never had.
- Understand that you have been raised to suppress and deny your feelings. Now is a good opportunity to slowly open up to those years of repressed feelings. You can do this by seeking traditional psychotherapy that focuses on shadow work, or alternative methods such as shamanic healing, hypnotherapy, holistic remedies, etc.
- Learn to take care of your own needs through the practice of self-care.
- Learn how to love yourself.
- Reconnect with your inner child and learn how to care for it in a way your parents never could. This is called inner child work.
- Keep an active daily journal in which you self-reflect. This will help you become more self-aware.
- Explore soul retrieval, which is a vital part of inner work.
- Express your emotions in a healthy way, particularly any anger you have inside.
- Join a support group and connect with others who have experienced similar childhood experiences. You can find many on Facebook, or you could search the internet for local groups.
- Arm and empower yourself with knowledge by reading books such as “Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare” and “Disarming the Narcissist.”
While you may feel broken, it’s important to remember that you are not broken. Your soul can never be broken. It is still there, waiting for you to access. This experience only serves to show you that everything you need is within you. No matter what your childhood was like, it’s still possible to heal and reunite with that source of unconditional joy, wonder and love inside.