Your Feelings are Wrong! Growing up with a Narcissistic Parent.

Nicole Franco, LPC-MHSP on Apr 20, 2023 in Relationship and Family

The Narcissistic Family

You grew up in family where your feelings were wrong or they didn’t matter. Where submission and complacency were essential to survival. Where, if you had a different opinion, belief, or outlook, you were wrong.

Sound familiar?

The above description is a common experience for individuals growing up in a home where one or more parent displays narcissistic personality traits. Being raised by a narcissistic parent can often be scary and have a long-lasting impact on all immediate family members. Family members have no choice but to conform to certain dynamics to avoid the narcissistic parent’s rage. This family system is sometimes referred to as The Narcissistic Family.

Dynamics of a Narcissistic Family

  • Affection is conditional: A narcissistic parent will show affection and praise for a child’s accomplishments but criticism and cruelty for a child’s perceived failures or inadequacies. Children experiencing this often equate success and achievement with love. This can result in the belief that they are never enough, no matter what they do.
  • Sibling vs. sibling: The narcissistic parent often forces family members to choose sides, with the “right” side being the narcissist’s side. Frequently, a narcissistic parent will favor one child (The Golden Child) over the other (The Scapegoat), often causing rifts in the family long into adulthood. Love is limited in this family dynamic, and the narcissist can only show affection to one child at a time.
  • Competition is normal: The narcissistic parent will often compare family members and encourage competitiveness among siblings. This leads to further mistrust and discord among family members. In an effort to feel safer from the narcissistic parent’s rage, one sibling may join the narcissistic parent in antagonizing another sibling.
  • Manipulation: Gaslighting, lies, and manipulation are common in a narcissistic family. This helps convince family members that these dynamics are normal or are not actually happening.
  • Rage is expected: Family members are expected to absorb and accept the narcissistic parent’s rage. Children sometimes learn to adapt anger as a means for communicating needs or to feel heard.
  • Your feelings don’t matter: A child in a narcissistic family often has their feelings discounted or minimized. They may be told their feelings are wrong, made up, or a weakness.

How Therapy Can Help

Recognizing that these dynamics occur within your childhood family can be very difficult and upsetting. Therapy is a safe place to help you process and heal from the abuse of a narcissistic parent at your own pace. Through therapy, you can:

  • Learn to set appropriate boundaries with family members
  • Change negative beliefs you developed in childhood, such as “I’m not enough” or “I’m not worthy”
  • Relieve yourself of the guilt for wanting to limit contact with family
  • Improve communication skills and strengthen romantic relationships

Nicole Franco is a Counselor in Brentwood, TN.

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