Growing up with a narcissistic parent can devastate a child's self-esteem and emotional well-being. Here are five signs your parents may have been narcissists.
1. Overly critical: Narcissistic parents can be highly critical. They will criticize your looks, behavior, and even your achievements. Nothing ever seems to be good enough for the NARC parent. Everything you do is under the eye of criticism. If you accomplish something good, they will find everything wrong or how you could do better next time. Often, you only hear a genuine compliment when it benefits them, usually in front of others they are trying to impress.
2. Toxic Environment: Drama is the typical environment. There always seems to be a new and chaotic event the family must hear about. There is typically constant conflict between family members or others. The common denominator is the NARC parent. Someone did them wrong once again. The chaos keeps the family in perpetual "fight or flight." Often, those living in the home of the NARC do not know from day to day what kinds of drama the children will be exposed to.
3. Playing Favorites: The siblings have a golden child and a scapegoat. The NARC parents will play the child against each other for complete control. Each child is fighting for the love and approval of the NARC parent. The scapegoat often gets in trouble to gain attention. The golden child is doing everything the parents ask not to receive their wrath and to win approval. The NARC teaches the children to turn on each other and to tell all their secrets to the NARC parent. The NARC stays in control, and the children fight to survive by playing by the unspoken rules.
4. Conditional Love: The children receive the superficial love of the NARC by doing or behaving the way the NARC parent has asked them to. If the child does not act in the manner that is expected, then love is withheld. The most outstanding people-pleaser child will receive the reward of "love" from the parent. Often, the prize is something the other child is not allowed to participate in because they didn't do what the parent required. The NARC parent is known for creating a chaotic situation to upset the child, only to then reward the child after winning them over again. The abuse cycle is a cycle that repeats itself over and over. The children quickly learn how to play the game to get what they want. A very unhealthy environment can create NARC children when they become adults.
5. Emotional Manipulation: NARC parents are master manipulators. They will stop at nothing to get what they want. There will be instant conflict when a child or adult learns the word "no." NARCS will use the emotional desire for love and approval to get what they want from the child/adult. NARCS uses tactics of victimhood such as "you owe me." They love to use things they did for you in the past to call in a favor for them now. Nothing is off the table, including health issues, financial hardship, etc. If the child or adult does not give in to what they want from them, then anything they face after will be the fault of the child or adult. They even go so far as to threaten suicide sometimes. Unfortunately, the child or adult often gives in to the demands out of fear and manipulation.
Overcoming a narcissistic parent can take many years and support. Having a parent as a NARC brings so many complexities, especially to the Christian adult. We are often reminded of "honor thy father" and have been programmed to think honor means we must do whatever they want. However, God never tells us we must continue being used and abused to be good Christ followers. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts. You must establish healthy boundaries with a narcissistic person. The relationship is toxic and harmful. The only way a NARC may ever truly get help is if confronted with destructive behaviors that harm others.
Another important thing you must do is practice forgiveness. Forgiveness does not condone what the NARC has done. Instead, forgiveness is releasing them from the way it's affected you. Have you ever heard that holding on to unforgiveness is like taking a syringe full of poison and injecting yourself, expecting the other person to die? Colossians 3:13 tells us to forgive as God has forgiven us. Forgiveness will help you heal. Remember, the NARC is mentally ill. They believe they are the victims. They need an encounter with Jesus Christ to escape the sin that binds them. You may not be the person who can bring them to Christ but pray for them. However, this does not mean you should excuse their bad behavior or allow them to continue the abuse.
Finally, seek support. The Bible gives us instructions on having Godly, wise counsel around us. (Proverbs 19:20-21) With the rise of narcissistic personality disorder, we see it everywhere. We do not want to use the occasion to gossip about our parents, so find a trusted friend, counselor, or Pastor you can confide in. When dealing with complex relationships, it is good to have counsel around you.
Greif Recovery gave me the tools to break free from my vicious cycle with narcissistic people. The recovery tools helped me see the patterns and behaviors and forgive them for all they had done. If you would like to learn more about Grief Recovery, click here.
I am praying for you. Being raised by a narcissistic parent can leave a lifetime of complexities to heal from. But, with God's guidance and the proper tools, you can learn to walk in freedom.