How to Deal with a Narcissistic Parent and Begin the Process of Healing
A relationship with a narcissistic parent often causes feelings of inadequacy, failure, and insecurity. Some relationships with narcissists can be avoided or abandoned to protect yourself. However, what do you do when a narcissist is someone closest to you?
The relationship with our parents is the foundation of our sense of identity, self-worth, and well-being. Moreover, it determines the quality of all our future relationships.
So, what if your parent is a narcissist? And how to deal with a narcissistic parent?
What is a Narcissist?
A narcissistic personality disorder is a long-term mental health condition that often begins in adolescence or early adulthood and lasts throughout one’s life. It affects the person’s thinking, behavior, and relationships.
Your parent may be a narcissist if they fall somewhere on the spectrum of the following self-centered traits and behaviors:
- They lack empathy
- They are susceptible to criticism
- They have an exaggerated self-image
- They show arrogant and self-centered behavior
- They never take responsibility for their behavior
- They are incredibly charming and persuasive
- They have a strong sense of entitlement
- They experience sudden mood swings
- They are impulsive
- They often react with abrupt aggressive outbursts
- They show an excessive demand for admiration and attention
- They take advantage of other people to meet their own needs
- They are manipulative and controlling
Understanding the most common narcissistic traits can help you recognize them in your parent’s behavior patterns and learn how to deal with a narcissistic parent.
Because narcissistic manipulation and abuse are frequently subtle, you may have been a victim of narcissistic abuse for a long time without recognizing it. Narcissists use various manipulation techniques to twist the facts, confuse their victims and maintain a much-needed narcissistic supply.
Narcissistic Parents Can Have a Big Effect on Your Mental Health
Growing up with a narcissistic mother or father can have a long-lasting impact on your personality, mental health, and adult relationships. Narcissists are excessively self-centered and incapable of forming healthy connections with others, even with their children.
As parents, they are typically possessive and dominant. They see their kids’ independence as a threat because they need them to stay close to feeding their narcissistic egos.
How to Deal with a Narcissistic Parent
However, it is never too late to acknowledge your parent’s narcissism, set boundaries, and move on with your life. So, here are some tips to help you learn how to deal with a narcissistic parent and begin the healing process.
Define Your Personal Boundaries
Every relationship in our lives requires us to set personal boundaries. Boundaries indicate what we will and will not tolerate or hold ourselves accountable for.
Many people mistakenly interpret boundary setting as an act of distancing. However, our personal boundaries can help us establish our identity, define our responsibility, and protect our rights and safety.
So, in a relationship with a narcissist, personal boundaries are a necessity. They can include recognizing and rejecting your narcissistic parent’s usual manipulative tactics, such as gaslighting, love bombing, or triangulation.
Also, personal boundaries may determine how often you see the narcissistic parent, how many calls you make a week, and how much of your personal life you share with them. When you try to set reasonable limits, your narcissistic parent may get angry or play the victim, accusing you of being insensitive or ungrateful.
Maintain your cool in the face of their provocations and stick to your boundaries.
Learn to Accept Them for Who They Are
Narcissists are typically incapable of real reciprocity regarding emotional exchange in relationships. Your narcissistic parent may often break your rules and use manipulation to keep control over you because they don’t care about what you need.
However, remember that it’s not you and your behavior that triggers their reactions; it’s your parent’s narcissistic personality, and it is most likely that they will never change.
Be Aware of Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a manipulation method narcissists use to get their victims to question their reality, memory, and sanity. Gaslighting is a standard emotional abuse method that may cause you to feel insecure, anxious, and unable to trust yourself.
They will tell you apparent lies and then deny ever saying them. As a result, they will make you feel insecure, confused, and lonely. So, you may start doubting everything you know until you lose your sense of self-confidence, integrity, and identity.
A narcissist will use gaslighting to make your feelings seem unimportant, discredit you, and turn other people against you.
Here are some of the common gaslighting phrases narcissists use to control and manipulate their victims:
- You are too sensitive.
- You are taking it too personally.
- I was just joking (although they obviously didn’t).
- Everyone thinks you’re acting crazy.
- You are just so dramatic.
- You get upset over nothing.
- It’s all your fault.
- I didn’t say that.
- I never did that.
Stop Questioning/Blaming Yourself for Everything
Again, keep in mind that it is not about you. It’s about them. Nothing you say or do will satisfy your narcissistic parent. They will always make you feel guilty, ungrateful, and insecure. They will always demand that you do things for them, but they will offer very little or nothing in return.
Keep a journal of your thoughts to track when you start criticizing or doubting yourself so you can break the cycle.
Putting Yourself First
Remind yourself that you are not responsible for your narcissistic parent’s feelings, mistakes, and behaviors. Practice self-compassion and mindfulness to overcome self-limiting beliefs, let go of guilt and anger and cope with negative emotions. Learn to say “no” and stop feeling guilty about putting yourself first; doing so is a sign of self-care, not selfishness.
Maintaining Your Relationship with a Narcissist Parent Takes Practice
A relationship with a narcissistic parent is one of those toxic relationships that most individuals find difficult to stop. If you decide to maintain your relationship, learn about narcissistic personality disorder and how it manifests in behavior and relationships. Be patient and practice self-care to protect and empower yourself.
Consider counseling. A skilled counselor or life coach can help you learn how to deal with a narcissistic parent and begin the process of healing.