How to Break Free from a Parent’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder (Part Three in a Four-Part Series)

03_red phoneiStock_000003517999XSmall

This is the third post in a four-part series by former blogger ‘One Angry Daughter,’ who shares her wisdom for Adult Children of Narcissists.

What’s Next?

Due to all the strong emotions attached to the NPD-inflicted loved one, the first instinct is to try to save the relationship.

A person involved with a narcissist must realize there is not a healthy relationship to save. There is a reason that narcissists are described as “emotional vampires” – they literally feed off of your empathy because they are devoid of any themselves.  Taking action to protect your emotional well being from their harsh attacks, means they can not victimize you any longer.

Making the decision to stop enduring the abuse can invoke many emotions.  Personally I was scared of the loss of the relationship and angry that I had to be the only one working towards change.  It was hard for me to let go of the fantasy of having one big happy extended family that could come together and share in the birth of my son and all the events that were to come. Beyond the painful emotions, there is a sense of renewal and peace once you realize it is acceptable and healthy for you to expect mutual respect in relationships, to have boundaries, and to institute your own moral compass.

If you are involved with a narcissist – whether it is with a parent, spouse or friend – you have the power to stop the abusive relationship.  This change does not happen overnight.  It takes a series of small investment in changes that pay out over time with self confidence and healthier relationships.

The four areas of concentration that continue to help me move towards this goal are:


Buildng a Support System

Setting Boundaries

Adjusting to a New Normal


Learning about Narcissistic Personality Disorder was a life-changing event for me.  The internal messages I had about myself, shaped by my childhood, were challenged.  I learned that I was not a person with poor intentions, overly selfish, too dramatic or always wrong. I learned that my family dynamic did not support healthy shows of emotion or independence since such shows threatened the fragile and unhealthy family system in which we lived.

Education took three forms in my experience.

Education – Phase One

The first was learning the definition and symptoms of NPD.  In understanding the disorder, you get insight into how narcissistic people process thoughts and the tools they use to manipulate those around them.  This is useful reading for those of us who have a narcissistic parent. We typically only understand the dysfunctional relationship and are just discovering it is not OK. As such, we require help knowing what to look for so we can avoid similar relationships in the future.

Narcissism belongs to the Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic) personality disorders as described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) published by the American Psychiatric Association.  Many of these disorders share similar traits and it is possible for an individual’s behavior to closely relate to more than one in the group.  For that reason, it is also useful to educate yourself on the other disorders:




It is easy to get stuck in this phase of education because validation feels good.  However, the point of the journey is to make a positive change in you.  No amount of reading will help you to completely pinpoint what makes your narcissist tick.  NPD is likely to be one small piece of the equation as there could be other mental health or addiction issues in play.

Read just enough to gain enough to gain confidence that you are making a healthy decision by changing the relationship with the narcissist.

Education – Phase Two

The second phase of education involves how to interact with the narcissistic person going forward.  Healthy people try to use reason and compromise. The narcissist only uses tactics that preserve their false self. In fact, your use of logic, explaining your feelings and an expression of your desire to change may only prove to do one thing:  make the narcissist a better narcissist. They play dirty and the last thing you want to do is give them ammunition for their drama gun which has you fixed in its sights.

The tactics for dealing with someone who has NPD will include:

Limiting contact

Setting boundaries

Detaching emotionally

Education – Phase Three

The third phase is a desire to cultivate your self confidence and develop your own set of standards.  In this phase, you disable the narcissist (or any person) from triggering you emotionally in a negative way.  When I was ready for this step, I felt it indicated a healthy transition.  I had become less concerned about NPD and more concerned about how I was going to obtain and maintain mental health and foster healthy relationships.  This is the knowledge that hands you the keys to your own life – taking the abusive control away from your narcissist.  If you are a parent, these are the changes that help ensure you prevent passing damaging behavior on to another generation.


One of the ways an abusive dynamics keep you from changing is by making you feel damaged and isolated.  The truth is, no matter what your family history, there are many people who can relate to at least part of it.  Finding these connections will help fortify your resolve to change and demand healthy, respectful relationships.

Support can come in many forms:


Other family members



Virtually – through online support groups.

Seek people who are empathic – so that even if they have not experienced a narcissistic relationship first hand, they are willing to try to understand and support you.  If anyone is making you feel guilty that you haven’t done enough to smooth things over with someone you believe to have NPD – do not discuss the situation with them again.   Your support system should make you feel safe and feed to express all of your emotions.

When finding support within your family, tread lightly.  Your narcissist likes to divide and conquer by bad mouthing and projecting.  It is essential it does not appear you are doing the same thing.  Until you know you can trust a family member to understand what you are going through, do not bring up the subject of NPD.  Concentrate on foster relationships with relatives independent of your narcissistic parent.  If a well meaning relative want to help, make it clear that you do not want them to get in the middle to try to smooth things over.  The damaged relationship can only be resolve by you and the NPD person if both parties are willing.

A relative who understands the narcissist is an asset.  Reaching out to them can re-enforce the fact that your experience with your self absorbed relation is not normal.  Family members have insight into the narcissist’s history and may be able to offer you clues as to the origin of the disorder.  This will help you realize that you are not to blame, but that the narcissistic person is too disordered to be an equal partner in your relationship.

When seeking out a therapist, approach it like starting a new relationship.  Therapists are human being just like the rest of us, with their own belief systems, moral codes and personality quirks.  If you feel like the therapist is pushing you down a path you do not agree with, seek out another.  Look for a professional who has knowledge of personality disorders and family therapy.  A good therapist will help you to feel empowered.


I went to therapy with the hopes I could learn some magic language to get through to my mother that I was grown up and living my own life.  I wanted her to know that I did not expect her to be pleased with all my decisions, but that she would need to respect that they were mine to make.  I did not want to keep pushing her away, but something in our relationship needed to change so we could move forward in a healthier direction.  I wanted an adult relationship with my mother.

What I really was searching for was very obtainable – I needed to know how to set boundaries.  Growing up, we lived without healthy boundaries, so when it came time for me to define my own, it was difficult. A simple way to think of a boundary is like a force field around you physically and emotionally that protects your personal values.  Effective boundaries make you feel safe in relationships.  It keeps what is important to you close and what is damaging at a distance.

Enforcing your boundaries will mean being able to say “no” effectively.  Saying no was really hard for me because it is my nature not to want to disappoint others – which is a feeling shared by many Adult Children of Narcissist (ACON).  Narcissistic parents react strongly when their children say no, feeling like they were wrongly denied. We may feel as if everyone will treat us the same way a narcissistic parent did and feel this need to please everyone by saying “yes”.  This destructive behavior will result in becoming emotionally drained and you will not have the energy to focus on the things that are important to you.  It is ok to say “no” to enforce your boundaries – keeping the good in and the bad out.

People who have a healthy sense of self normally do not need to be reminded of boundaries.  People who have empathy are able to read people and more importantly, listen to people and adjust their behavior accordingly.  Narcissists do not have these capacities and will trample any personal boundaries you have to control the situation.  When dealing with someone who has NPD you need to be painfully explicit about your boundaries and stand your ground to enforce them.  Narcissists are bullies. Backing down after setting boundaries is one of the most damaging things you can do as it shows the narcissist your boundaries are easily broken.

Communicate your boundaries to the narcissist in a medium that makes you feel safe and gives you the best chance of being heard.  Some people choose to do this face to face, often with a spouse or other support person presents.  Others feel more comfortable over the phone.  Still others, me included, feel more comfortable expressing ourselves in writing. Anytime I had tried to voice disagreement with my mom in person or over the phone, it resulted in her yelling over me.  I react strongly to that behavior by backing down.  I needed to express my feelings in a medium that made me feel strong.  Everybody is different, but make sure you are stating your boundaries in a way that makes you feel confident.


The relationship will change after boundaries are set.  The narcissist may intrude more forcefully, or withdraw completely from your life.  You may choose to limit or terminate contact, either temporarily or permanently.  Or you may choose to keep the narcissist in their life, but are diligent about enforcing boundaries again and calling abusive behavior out as unacceptable.

There will be times of enormous guilt, feeling like you were wrong to stand up for yourself.  You may find yourself thinking there was a better way to maintain the relationship.  Over time, I came to realize that yes, maybe I could have handled things differently, but I wasn’t holding my mom accountable to the same standard.  There were things she could have done better as well.  I had to forgive myself for not knowing what I didn’t know, and accept that my mother has a disorder that is blocking our path to a healthy relationship.

As you adjust to the change, be kind to yourself and respectful of the strong emotions that come your way.  Many mourn the loss of the idealized relationship we had with the narcissist as if that person had died.

It is not unusual to find your self going through (sometimes multiple times) the five stages of grief:






Never think that your emotions are silly or uncalled for.  If you feel like crying, cry.  If you are angry, be angry.  However, make sure you do not become consumed in the feeling.  Take time to understand the root cause of the emotion and look for ways to improve the situation so that you can move on to more positive and fulfilling experiences.  If you need help, reach out to your support system or therapist.

Seek out experiences that make you feel good about yourself.  They can be creative outlets like writing or painting.  Treat your body right by eating nutritiously and exercising.  Reconnect or redefine your spirituality.  Do things that make you feel in control, such as taking a self defense course (I highly recommend this).  Nurture relationships that are mutually respectful and distance your self from the ones that are not.  These healthy activities allow you to focus on the good in your life, while taking focus away from what was toxic.

The Full Four-Part Series:

Part 1 – How to Break Free from a Parent’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, by OneAngryDaughter
Part 2 – How to Break Free from a Parent’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, by OneAngryDaughter
Part 3 - How to Break Free from a Parent’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, by OneAngryDaughter
Part 4 - How to Break Free from a Parent’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, by OneAngryDaughter


Recommended Books – How to Break Free from a Parent’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Defined in the DSM.


  1. Paulstrobl says:

    Excellent site! There is very little out there on steps to break free from NPD parents. As an ACON, it’s been quite a long battle to get where I am today, and our work is never done.
    I wanted to mention that I didn’t see Nina Brown’s book, Children of the Self-Absorbed in your Amazon list. Highly recommended–was great for me when I needed it.
    It’s funny how we attract what we are. More and more of my coaching clients are ACON’s–I’ll definitely recommend your site for clients who would like to get their bearings on N parents. Here’s my site:

    • Tami says:

      I just found your site and wanted to say that I knew I had a difficult relationship with my emotionally volatile abusive mother. I just really never had a name for her pissy bitch critical behavior. She vilifies one son and favorites another son and is cautious around my sister who is just as volatile as my mother and my mother treats me the worst,

      I have tried to convey to her how i want toe be a live and respond in the universe as a person of kindness thoughtfulness and non reactive and she just laughs and makes fun of me.
      I have been in therapy off and on for over 30 yrs,

      first for being the oldest in Alcoholic father — and just now am coming to understand how little nurturing my mother was to me growing up –expecting me to care for the other 3 young children.

      Recently, I had an encounter with my younger sister’s raging inappropriately thru email name calling – very similar to my mother.

      I want to cut them both out of my life. Forever I wish. That is my anger and hurt speaking.

      But for now I am going to read and practice boundary setting and NO CONTACT.

      i AM a very strong self assured confident person and i feel my mother is jealous, competitive and critical of me for not being more like her.

      I made a decision a long time ago how I wanted to live in the world with peace and serenity, respect and health supportive relationships.

      But it still wounds me when these 2 narcissists in my family rake me over the coals and think it is normal acceptable behavior. I feel they are toxic people. When they act the way they do — All it does is push me further away from them and they loose credibility and respect in my eyes.

      I pray I can find peace and serenty and set boundaries with these 2 people.
      thank you for your writings.

    • Judy says:

      I researched narcissism for the first time a couple of days ago – it was a revelation – it described my mother perfectly. This is one of the most measured and constructive pages I have read and I thank you very much. I do not live with, but care for my ageing mother and do not have the option of walking away, much as I would like to. I have to find ways of coping with the situation in as kind a way as I can whilst preserving my sanity!

  2. amy eden says:

    Hi Paul – thanks!
    Just checked out your site and blog – really like your ‘Eating & Budgeting’ post. Really wise. Very cool how you come at that from such a unique and refreshing angle.
    It’s good to know about what you do (and where you do it!).
    Curious – what do you think about the upcoming changes to the DSM (2013 revision) with regard to NPD? Do you think it will alter how people understand or define their parents…? What does that change “mean” to us?

  3. susan smith says:

    I’ve been perusing your site again Amy and still finding gems like this one! Great advice! Thank you for sharing your wisdom! Susan:)

  4. marie says:

    Do you have any advice to help children who must have long visitations with a parent with NPD? They cannot say “no” without putting themselves in danger of his rage. He actually pinned my son to the floor for that one. I don’t have much chance of our courts here stepping in to change custody unless there has been physical injury, which almost happened but did not. My children recognize the abuse and control but don’t know how to deal with this parent. He can become dangerous if crossed or he does not have control. Two of my kids are afraid of him and the other “needs” to be more afraid of him for safety reasons. I don’t want them getting physically hurt or suffering any more emotional hurt. If I don’t give them up for visitations, I will be held in contempt of court. They are court ordered to go until 18 and the youngest is 9.

    • Amy Eden says:

      This is a hard one! There are a lot of resources online for ex-spouses of NPD people (and exes of psychopaths/borderline personality)…so I recommend checking those out. First thought I have is – document. Document everything. Dates, exceptions to scheduled dates, and that he pinned your son to the floor. Keep notes on it all.
      I also strongly suggest finding a counselor that can help you with your side of things (detachment) and also help you prepare your children for how to interact with their dad — it’s a minefield, clearly — but the important thing is for you to be as nurturing as possible and help reinforce your kids’ healthy self-esteem so that it’s clear to them that they are OK people, and that their dad’s issues aren’t a reflection on them. You can’t change a person, but you can help to ‘arm’ your kids with healthy perspectives and an emotional toolkit, and you have control over being the most healthy parent you can be. But definitely I recommend doing some work with a therapist around this issue because the worst thing would be for your ex to take up more space in your life than he deserves and he sounds like he extends his presence through drama…
      What do you think….?

  5. Meg says:

    Hi Amy, really great article. Just out of curiosity is Amy Eden a ‘ghost writer’ name? Reason I ask is that you are incredibly brave to put your honest blog out there public ally in view of your own family – has it caused further tension?
    Cheers, Meg

    • Amy Eden says:

      Hi Meg! Thanks so much for your bravery comment. Amy Eden is my first and middle names. Am I still brave? :-)
      My family hasn’t said anything. But I take care to be factual in my mentions them — but, not for them, for me. So while they’re welcome to say something, I’d like to think that my factual representation of them isn’t a point of dispute…and the rest is my feelings. Also not up for dispute.
      All that aside, they don’t read my blog. They are THAT interested! Heh.

      • Rhonda DeAlvarado says:

        Dear Amy, I am thanking God for your post about Narcissistic mothers. I am FINALLY planning to leave my mother and sisters permanently, even if I have to sell everything I own! My mother is horrible. She has gone so far as to have another family member kill my pets, and her latest ugliness, when she found out I had a job interview for a good job 3 hours away, was to tell my sisters to post my prized piano for sale in a near by city. Imagine my pain when I turn on my Facebook page and see the piano that was a gift from my ex-husband (my children s father) posted for sale by The Golden Child, Liked and Shared by another sister, and I was called “stupid” by the last sister for letting it be known that I cared about the piano. We are all in our 50s and mother is now 80. She is not going to get better and I can not take it anymore. I am the scapegoat because I was born handicapped and have been on the receiving end of her nastiness for as far back as I have memories. Have you heard of other evil parents killing pets and selling special objects in order to keep control of those they scapegoat? Thank You!!!

  6. Middleagedmom says:

    I have recently discovered after many years of hearing my mother tell me that my FATHER had NPD that SHE is actually the one with the disorder. My Father passed several years ago and was a functional absent alcoholic. My mother spend all of my life making excuses…some plausible and some not so plausible why my Father wasn’t a good Father. Never mind that she was a terrible mother. LSS…through many years of frustration and much self realization we have struggled quite a bit lately due to conflicts among family members. I discovered through a website that my mother is very very sick. In the past month her behavior has been so deplorable but so sneaky and it is the epitome of NPD. I asked my husband to read the break down to which he handed me back the e-reader about half way through with tears in his eyes and said I cannot read any more and that it was scary how much that it described my life. I am the youngest of three and my struggle is this. I have a 10 year old daughter and she loves her “Gramma” very much. They spend some time together but my mother is certainly NOT a requirement for care or transportation or anything of that nature. After all she did tell me when my daughter was 3 that “She wasn’t that kind of Grandma”. I want to limit exposure because I do NOT want my daughter to be harmed by her lunacy. On the other hand I feel a bit of guilt for denying them to spend time together. What do I do here???

  7. Christian Santos says:

    Only if i knew about this guide 1-2 years ago, if i did the situation im in wouldnt be happening. My mom had molested me and has beeen denying and cops have found no evidence and she hired a lawyer while i was in a foster home to prove she didnt do it. She’s now planning to send me to a farm in Utah where I will work there until im 18 because she believes im a bad child and thus self-fulfilling my prophecy.

  8. AZ says:

    “The relationship will change after boundaries are set.”

    My experience has been that the person with NPD doesn’t care that you set boundaries and actually enjoys disrespecting them -over and over again- so that the only true boundary IS to escape this person altogether. If they are respecting boundaries, they don’t have NPD.

    • Amy Eden says:

      Thanks. It’s a lot like dealing with a skipping record (if one is old enough to have a memory of what a skipping LP record sounds like…it’s a difficult sound to withstand) or dealing with a toddler who repeats the question till you address it. Which is to say, it doesn’t stop; the other person doesn’t stop attempting to push past the boundaries we establish because that’s their groove. So if I don’t want to repeat, repeat, repeat that “Thanks but I can’t join you for dinner” response, then certainly getting distance is key.
      The “enjoys” it part…ooof! No fun. If the narcissistic person actually enjoys trying to push past the boundary, or treats it like a game and pushes back for sport — distance, like you say….escape, yes. Pull the rip cord.

    • Sue says:

      I am so happy to have come across your comment. My mother enjoys smirking and mocking me when I try to set boundaries. She goes on to challenge them over and over. It is a game to her.I feel like it has done nothing but give her ammunition as the boundaries let her know which things I find most intolerable. I keep thinking I am going about this in the wrong way.

  9. Robeaner says:

    I’ve been married for 19 years with three beautiful daughters and a great husband. I figured out my dad was a narcissist a few years back. I’ve been setting boundaries and him and his wife have been with drawing from their only three grandkids. I got a nasty letter from my dad two weeks ago for saying no to a visit and I responded that we could set up a time that works for both but that hasn’t happened. The more boundaries I set the angrier and more pathetic ge becomes. I’m in counseling to help with the

  10. Robeaner says:

    ……guilt. One example of my dad – he hung up on my husband for canceling a weekend hunting trip last minute because I had to be on bed rest for a possible miscarriage after under going fertility treatments and we had a three year old. I ended up having a miscarriage and they came to visit me the day of my D & C. My husband told my dad he needed to apologize for such bad treatment, especially during a stressful time. My dad didn’t apologize but mumbled “so your trying to blame this on me”. They walked in and let me serve them the small meal I made for my family – the day if my D and C- they weren’t invited but thought they were doing me a niceity by dropping by at supper time. I have tons more stories! I’m made out to be selfish and self centered for not bowing to his wishes.

  11. Annie says:

    Do you have any advice for an adult daughter who is forced to live with her narcissist mother due to her own (ie the daughter’s) very severe physical disability?

    • Amy Eden says:

      I would begin with reading (or listening to audio books) about dysfunction and narcissism and recovering from it, as well as books about nurturing your love for yourself and self-esteem. Is that possible? If there was one thing you’d like to do differently in the relationship, what would it be?
      1. LifeSkills for Adult Children (Woititz)
      2. The Adult Children of Alcoholics Syndrome (Kritsberg)
      3. The Guide to Compassionate Assertiveness (Vavrichek) **great book!

      Compassionate Assertiveness

  12. Rachel says:

    hi Amy, I really benefited from reading your work. I too am the daughter of a narcissistic mother. I’m 42 and only began to realise in the past 4 to 5 years, starting to step back from contact about 8 years ago. Since then I have been the subject of my mothers bad mouthing to her friends & family members & further lying. I have got you wits end with her & really need to start my life aside from her completely ~ easier said than done. My main concern is the effects this has all had on me &you inner child & my children. I see I now have some unpleasant traits from my longstanding abuse, I’ve been unable to maintain any long standing relationship & tried all sorts of counselling. I find myself exploding in anger unnecessarily or breaking down in tears at slight hurtful actions, very over sensitive! Any advice is welcomed

    • Amy Eden says:

      Thank you for the note! Sounds like creating space from your mother was what you needed and has opened some insights for you. Congratulate yourself on getting the space and perspective that your spirit so badly needed. That’s not easy to do. Some never do it.
      I highly recommend the book The Guide to Compassionate Assertiveness. It taught me how to think about compassion in negotiation and confrontation, but also toward myself and my own self-confrontations. Learning to be very, very kind to yourself is the first step. To be compassionate with yourself, to see yourself as you truly are — with the traits you inherited from dysfunctional others and your own wonderful unique traits, all of that — and to accept it. It’s hard to see all of that and still love yourself, but it’s the first step. And a step to be repeated over and over, over time. A lot of us were raised to think in terms of “all bad” such that when we’re imperfect, we think we’re a terrible person who doesn’t deserve good things or love. It takes time to adjust to thinking more openly and generously about yourself. Can you embrace your flaws with as much love as you embrace your assets and talents? When you explode in anger, that’s a moment for self love. And lots of breathing. Lots and lots of breathing.

      Here’s that book –

  13. maks says:

    Disagree. Nobody can feed off empathy. People can feed off your emotional reaction, your sympathy, but not your empathy. If anything, empathy will make them uncomfortable because true empathy always helps freeying our true emorions so people who try to hide their true self actually get queit agressive when you give them empathy because they need to maintain their sense of control.
    Love never fails, and empathy never fails. But we need to learn what love and empathy ARE and what they are not.

    • Margaret says:

      Hi Mark, If I may add to your comment, you may be correct in what you are saying although we are not dealing with the normal, my NPD Mother feeds off empathy, love, caring, attention, all the good stuff. She sees it as attention which she craves, she thinks that she has you when you are kind to her, that is her IN to control you. she has made me very submissive because that suites her. The moment i have withdrawn her food she is very confused and turns very nasty in a bid to regain control.
      I am 55 and only realised when my dad died 18 months ago, what has been happening in my life. Although I have been seeking counselling since I was 26.

      • Amy Eden says:

        Just yesterday I was talking with a healer who only discovered her mother’s narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) after many, many years. It can take a long time to have that “ah ha!” moment of realizing that it’s not US, it’s THEM. And it’s painful. We’ve grown up thinking that our needs aren’t equal or valid. Yet our needs are valid and equal.

  14. Kay says:

    This is incredibly helpful! I have been struggling with the realization of and coping techniques for my mother’s Narcissism in recent years. I research but am often lead to very severe forms of abuse that took place from one’s childhood. My mother was an outwardly loving mother and great physical caregiver growing up but emotionally distant. As an adult, with 4 marriages behind her and no other children or siblings besides myself, she has become an emotional vampire, manipulative, negative and without boundaries toward my 20+ year marriage and teenage children. I am currently, communicating with her on the most basic necessary level only (via text) after her latest tantrum at a family event a month ago. That event was the final weary straw and made me aware of the draining effect it has on my nuclear family. I am peaceful since disengaging but feel a great deal of sadness when I think of her and what she and our relationship has become. Thank you for the encouragement. I will re-read this often.

    • Amy Eden says:

      Oh my. YES. Manipulation is at the core of Narcissism, isn’t it? I can hear in your words that you know that very well.

      I remember, after years of trying to explain myself (if only I could do it more carefully, more accurately, be precise, choose better words, better timing…), explain myself to someone who didn’t care to understand me, I had a life-changing realization: I was living in a closed system, one in which I was trying to get the approval, agreement, and understanding of the very person who was manipulating me. Someone I believed I loved. All of a sudden I understood that I would never have an equal voice and that I was in a power game — also, much more importantly: that I needed only to convince myself of what was true and right, for me, and not that person. I had to be strong enough, for it takes bigtime bravery to withstand their kind of manipulation-storm, to speak my truth knowing that the person wouldn’t understand or appreciate it and would in fact react with twisted projections of me (I was horrible, a selfish person, crazy, etc.) I began to understand that when I was called some version of “bad,” I was doing “good” for me. Twisted, to normal people – but I suspect you get what I mean by ‘when we trigger their hostility, it’s a sign that we’re using healthy boundaries, for us’. (Eventually I got out of that environment.)

      Thank you so much for your comment!

  15. Carol says:

    Wow. Thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself, and for especially for part three. I am 41 years old and live with my narcissistic father. I live with him because I have mental illness issues that became severe in 2012. Severe depression to the point that I barely left the house for two years. It was suffering to a crazy painful extent. Luckily, I got help a year ago. Well, let me qualify that, I have been in some form of therapy since I was 15, sadly, I never got a correct diagnosis or effective treatment. Until now. My illness largely centers on my inability to regulate my emotions and thoughts, and also a very deep sense of self hatred. To label it, it’s Borderline Personality Disorder, however, I shy away from exposing that because of the stigma that accompanies it. Actually, I have always related very well to others, I just saved the hatred and disgust for myself. Anyway, that being said, I have been engaged in an amazing program called DBT that has changed my life in the most profound and deepest sense. I have worked hard on learning to regulate my thoughts and emotions, be mindful, and, love myself on some level, truly, for the first time ever. I have always known that my father was deeply disturbed on a profound level since, idk… I can remember. And long story short and for the sake of sparing myself the torment of a million words I could relive and rehash to back that statement up, I never had a name for it. I didn’t know how to make sense of all he said and did because it was so manipulative and sneaky and under the guise of “love” that I had no idea what was wrong with him because he fit no mold that I faced or heard of. I just knew that he was wrong and every message he sent me felt wrong and I fought it while my older brother and mother were so scared, and probably slightly relieved, that I became what was wrong with my father and the family. I was the scapegoat. And I tried to tell people, but they knew nice Richard… so loving and caring and generous and genuine, not the man who destroyed me. So, having finally sorted out some of my personal issues and utilizing new coping skills I have gotten, well, healthier. And of course, since my father is “perfect” (his words), now that his crazy daughter is finally getting fixed then that’s great because he has suffered so much. What about my suffering? What suffering? Unless it hurts him for his sake then there is no suffering, well maybe some, but none like his. I have largely been the focus of my therapy, because, true, I am what must change to have a happy, productive, meaningful life. The focus is to get me to the place where no matter what is going on around me that I (my core, my center), will remain at a reasonable level of peace and effectiveness. That I have unconditional self-acceptance. Well, best as anyone can do those things. And it’s working. Way better than I EVER hoped. I think it may be a good time to mention that a very substantial contributor to my emotional regulation issues would be the father who didn’t let me feel anything but happiness and shamed me if I displayed or conveyed any emotion (or thought for that matter) that he felt I shouldn’t have. He STILL tells me “you shouldn’t feel that way”, to which I have JUST recently learned to reply, “That’s interesting you say that because I get to feel whatever I choose to feel and should or shouldn’t doesn’t apply. Period.” And funny thing, I can sense his dysregulation every time I assert just a small boundary. And even funnier… Mr. I have something to say always, somehow comes up with nothing to say. I would be a liar if I told you that in the moment I didn’t have a twinge of “how’s that feel?” I do. And I feel it and understand that’s ok. I speak calmly and respectfully without the intention to hurt him, but I will make the allowance for him to be uncomfortable to ensure that my reaction to his irrational statements are comfortable for me.
    So, how did I get from working on me to finding out who he is and how that affected me? One statement. “I guess you didn’t hear me.” BOOM! I almost dropped the dish I was washing, I gasped slightly, my heart sunk, my mind raced and I (without showing it) stood in total disbelief of what that statement meant, what he meant, what I now knew it meant, and terrified by what it meant to me. It started when my father made a racist remark, which he knows I hate, he does it almost daily, and this day, my therapist instructed me to stop responding at all to those remarks. Don’t disagree, don’t validate, just stay silent and manage the anger it made me feel using my skills. So I did. And he responded to my silence by saying “I guess you didn’t hear me”. I said “I heard you” as the shell of my delusion about who he is cracked with such intensity I felt dizzy. And for the first time I saw a glimpse who my father is and who I am to him for the first time clearly. This man who “loves me” so much, who knows that I have trouble regulating my emotions, who knows that racist remarks piss me off just proved to me that he doesn’t say it to voice an opinion, he says it to upset me. OMG! Omg! No, no, no way… he wanted to piss me off and get and emotional reaction from me that is painful for me and when I didn’t give it to him, he pushed harder hoping he would upset me. WTF? Who does that? I mean seriously? WHO DOES THAT TO THEIR DAUGHTER? Well, an asshole, clearly. I mean it was like being sucker punched. And I’ll tell you… the next few weeks were rough. I didn’t know what to think because I had always said how he’s “difficult”, but means well for me and there was no way I could logically reason that out now and believe it, given what I knew as fact with my new way of thinking. And I mentioned it to my therapist and they have this way of kind of letting things unfold, which is great, but I still didn’t quite know what my observation meant. So a few weeks blow by and I start remembering things from my childhood, things he would say and do, not a looking back remember, an out of nowhere YOU WILL REMEMBER THIS NOW, remember. Like his disregard for what anyone thought and felt, the way he never laughed, not even at hysterical things, no friends because he “doesn’t wanna hear people talk about themselves”, the way he would cut me off mid-sentence in the middle of a story, the way he would disown me for months at a time if I dated the wrong person, the creepy way he felt there should be no distinction between me and him… like I’m an appendage, the way something bad would happen to me and it was “just his luck”. The way he would buy me gifts I told him I didn’t like, give away my bike, no tolerance for any opinion as valid unless of course it’s his own, frequently says he “doesn’t make mistakes”, complains incessantly, makes fun of strangers for what they’re wearing, no feeling are valid but his, he knows better than everyone and on and on and on…
    So I’m getting pissed. I mean pissed. Like hard to be in the same room with him pissed because I’m starting to figure out that this man has essentially set out to destroy any part of me as a person, my life for my sake, for the sake of himself. And yet, I have to be silent because if I engage him, it won’t be effective for me. I won’t be calm, and I don’t know why, but I don’t want him to see me out of control. And then one night I was researching for a psych paper for school and came across an article about narcissistic parents and for the next 4 hours or so I couldn’t stop reading the articles and blogs from people who described, sometimes verbatim, the same childhood as mine. Well, I would welcome the pissed I felt 4 hours earlier rather than the absolute gut wrenching disgust, fury, betrayal, soul crushing disappointment and sadness that I would live with for the next few weeks. And I did live with it. And it scared me because it was a whole kind of new to be that torn up inside toward anyone else but myself. And my skills got me through. And my therapists got me through, and I got me through. And my dad had no idea what was happening only that something had shifted. I resisted my constant desire to scream at him for being the disgusting human being he is and for making me believe it was me that was ugly and flawed and bad and wrong. I wanted to punch him in his face more times than I care to acknowledge. And what made me madder was that I knew if I did all of those horrible things he wouldn’t feel badly for my feelings at all, on any level, and would have no understanding of what I was even talking about. And THAT was the emptiest kind of idk… almost like a death of a part of something… but not like any feeling I ever felt. And it was uncomfortable because it was different from the suffering I was well acquainted with. And then I started to get depressed. WOW, my dad cares for me only so far as it serves his needs, my mother and brother sat back while I begged for them to acknowledge he was nuts and they sacrificed me and my sanity instead for what little peace they could get from being the target. Then, as an adult they all blamed me for the whole insane shit show and omg! Omg! So no one ever really loved me like I believed they did? And to bed I went for four days. And I mourned, and then I thought about how hard I have worked the past year and how I wasn’t gonna be his victim OR my own victim anymore…. And I called my best friend and told her what I learned about the soul crushing violence he had perpetrated on me and my mom and brother and how they sacrificed me to save themselves and as I discussed this with her and a therapist that day, and in days to follow my own therapist, I started to see the other truths I never knew. I learned that my instincts as a child to fight back were accurate. I learned that I was brave to even take that monster on as a kid. I learned that I am good, and always was and that he taught me to think I’m bad so he could feel good. I learned that every feeling I ever felt was appropriate and valid, even the irrational ones. I learned that I can use my knowledge about his sickness to guard myself from its carnage. I learned that he feeds his need for control when my emotions are out of control and that he will try to illicit that response at any time. I learned that it is imperative to not give him that control. I learned that his existence is a very shallow and empty one and he will never exist any other way. I learned that he is selfish and that most everything he does is self-serving and to enjoy any unintended benefits I get from it. I learned that in his own way, he’s doing his best. I learned that his critical and racist remarks serve to convince his tiny self that it’s much bigger than it is. I learned that his opinion doesn’t really matter much at all because it’s not in line with reality and serves his own interests. I learned that I can set a boundary and guess what… he may say something smartass, but then I’ll calmly assert myself with confidence again and chicken shit backs down. And I learned even if he doesn’t, SO WHAT. I walk away and do what I know is right and good for me. I learned that given my circumstances there was NO way possible for me to have anything but the life I did, be the person I was, and make the choices I did, none of which happened through any fault of my own, there was no choice PERIOD. I learned that I always was the sanest one in the house… I saw it, knew it, and fought the insanity. I learned wasn’t born crazy, the whole family dynamic sick mess made me that way. I learned that he will never be the father I wanted and that it is futile to have any discussion about anything related to this ever, because exactly none of it would make sense or matter to him. I learned that I don’t react with anger in the intense way I did before, maybe because I finally felt the anger and disgust for him I needed to, maybe because his words affect me less since I know its bullshit. I learned that he and I are not the same inside and that I can’t expect him to relate to me in a healthy way. I learned I am just learning what to do from here… it’s uncomfortable because I don’t really know how to interact with him. I am learning to trust my same instincts that told me what was right as a child before he made me believe I was wrong. I learned that I see him, and I see myself more clearly now and that anger fueled self-hatred I had doesn’t live in me like it did… It found its rightful owner. I learned the anger left toward myself casts just a faint shadow against the empty space of things I have yet to learn. I learned the one thing I NEVER wanted to face… my father is an asshole. And because of that, I learned the one thing I never thought I would know and that is that I’m NOT an asshole. And that makes the entire lesson worthwhile.

    • Amy Eden says:

      Thank you so much for sharing some of your story in return. The blogger who wrote the guest posts (One Angry Daughter) was really kind to share all of this, her perspective and story. It has resonated with a lot of people.
      There’s some peacefulness in how you say you’re just learning. That’s a tough place to be, a raw one, but as you’re probably finding out, it’s also one with potential and healing. Not being quite sure what to do means you’re holding the reins, not reacting but readying yourself to act on your own behalf bit by bit.

  16. Jenny says:

    Hello Amy, thank you for writing such an amazing post about NPD. I cannot express how spot on you are about my current feelings since discovering my mother was a narc. I’ve suffered most my life. Although there were some happy times most times I lived with a dark cloud over my head and constantly feeling unhappy and reaching to self harm just to be heard. I’ve been going no contact with my mother for a year now and I’m still finding it very painful to not see her and the rest of my family. I still feel the need to want to see her and make sure shes OK. I’m constantly looking for confirmation from friends and family if I’m doing the right thing. Here is afew lowlights of my life I’d like to share with you:
    1) I was only 6 when I discovered 2 beautiful stray newborn kittens in my garden. I nurtured and feed them for 3 days and kept them well away from my mother (as she believed cats are bad luck) it was only a matter of time then she found out and grabbed these poor kittens and threw them far away as she could, she killed them right before my eyes! She screamed cats are badluck and said I should never have had them. I punched her and cried so hard I fell to the ground, I will never forget that incident. She was so cruel.
    2) She boiled my feet in hot water since I was 5 telling me it would kill the frost bites. She never did it to my other siblings but me. She was telling me I’m a good daughter if I did was she was told so I cried and boiled my feet. I’m 35 and I look at my cooked feet thats constantly cracks till it bleeds. DR said the skin is around it is dead.
    3) When she argued with my dad she would grab a knife and threaten to kill him, when he closed the door to stop her, the knife went through that door and missed him only by few inches.
    4) She would get drunk and run out at night screaming that she would kill herself. I would chase her outside and tell her not because I love her. But then she’d run out into the roads leaving me and my siblings behind tearful and upset while my dad chase her.
    5) She would run around the house full on naked whens she drunk. Me and my siblings saw everything of hers since we were little and only wish we could unsee everything but it still haunts me to this day. She would be naked and slap her private part infront of us while swearing at my dad.
    6) She bullies me so badly my dad tried to tell her to stop then she accuse my dad of having feelings for me. So twisted it makes me sick!
    7) I was so desperate for help I stabbed the back of both my hands with broken sticks for attention blood was everywhere but my narc brother gave me a knife and said if you’re so brave why don’t you put his through your stomach? I was so so so hurt.
    8) I was pregnant with my first born and we had an argument. She told me ‘treat me badly watch what might happen to whats inside you.’ I was speechless and cried endlessly.
    9) Any friends of hers who died she’d say ‘did you know they were treating me badly?’ and hinting they deserve it because they weren’t nice to her.
    10) I was 23 when my dad called the police on her because she threatened to kill him. But when the police came she lied to say my dad abused her. The police gave my dad a serious warning and ask me to drive my mother to our shop just to separate them, I did tried but as I was driving she ran out of the car and ran along the road at 4am screaming. I was in tears, I couldn’t chase her. Luckily the police turned to the direction we was at and arrested her and locked her in the cellar for a night. I picked her up the following morning and the police ask me who I’m picking up and why, I told them I’m picking up my mother and she was arrested for drunk and causing public disorder. Police laughed and said shouldn’t it be the mother picking up the daughter? This is the first! I laughed along but deep down I was crumbling.

    There have been more incidents but I keep choosing to forgive and forget. But now I’m married with and great husband and 3 beautiful children she and my dad still wants full control (at this point my dad is a changed man, he’s joined her because he didn’t want to be the victim). My son got bullied by my sis in law and made him cry and when I stand up to her my parents said I was the trouble maker. My mom also told me my sis in law has the right to hit my children if she wants to. I went crazy and told her no one hurts my children! but yet I chose to forgive her. Many times I pressurize my husband to do as we’re told incase we upset them but its got to a point where its costing my marriage. The last straw was when My hubby took me and our children including his mom and sisters on holiday without asking her and my dad (we been on many many holidays without them because of the way they were and the tension in them was building). My parents got so envious and violent and my mother wanted to hurt my husband infront of my children. My children fell on the floor running out, my son cried (age 6) and both my daughters screaming (age 2 and 4) ‘don’t hurt my daddy!’ I screamed to my mother that I’ll never see her again. I hate her for doing this to my husband and getting voilent infront of my kids.

    I’m getting therapy now, its been 9 months. And since that incident her and my father turned up at my doorstep and I let them in because I simply couldn’t bear the thought of living without them in my life even though it was beyond bad. But my hubby said he’s had enough (he’s also been abused and controlled by my parents even before we were married but he said he loved me too much to let me go). He told me ‘you have a choice but I also have a choice, my choice is to seal my children away from this toxic grandparents’ he also said if I go back to my parents he’ll do all he can to stop our children from seeing them again. He’s right in every way. I’m simply to brainwashed into believing my parents are my god. I remember my Dr said I must break away from feeling like I must do what others are doing with their parents. I’m so torn because I’m going through a phase of feeling guilty for ignoring my parents. I dread the day they fall ill and I cannot go and make sure they are ok. I still have that urge to be loved by them. I told my therapist I just want things to be normal but she said things were never normal. She told me I was emotionally abused as a child without even realising it. Now Amy please can you tell me I’m doing the right thing and that I shouldn’t feel guilty? I know its a long story but I’ll appreciate any feedback and thanks for reading this.


    • Amy Eden says:

      First things first: You are doing the right thing. Absolutely. You should not feel guilty, not for a moment.

      What you described above describes ongoing childhood abuse. Even if you’d listed only a couple of incidents, you would be the portrait of a child who suffered abuse. You owe nothing to either of your parents. You do have a choice, and it sounds like you are making it – to go no-contact with your mom and to be in therapy. Those are good choices. I can imagine it’s very scary to go no-contact with your mom. Setting boundaries with people who violated us is scary and very difficult. It’s essential that you have support — it sounds like your husband supports your decision to get away from your family, which is good. Do you have friends who understand how important it is for you to get away from family? What you’re doing is hard, and it’s important to have support so that you KNOW in your deepest heart, soul, and mind that you are doing the right thing.

      Here are some ideas for boundary-setting and knowing the difference between what you control, and what you don’t:

      There’s a book that you might like, “Toxic Mom Toolkit,” which I recommend to many readers in your situation. The author is Rayne Wolffe, and she has a website, too. She knows a lot about going no-contact with mothers who shame and belittle their daughters. Please connect with that community for support. You will relate to a lot of what you read and see there — I’m talking about daughters whose mothers criticize, hit, shame, and manipulate daughters, leave them in cars, tell them everything is their fault, and refuse to believe them of help their daughters when they are in need. That’s the site, “It’s no you. It’s her.”

      Great for you that you’re in therapy. That person should be helping you and supporting your decisions to go no-contact and to learn to believe in yourself in the here and now, while healing the very deep wounds from a childhood with a toxic mother. It’s likely that you have PTSD, so I recommend reading up on that, as well as about Adverse Childhood Experiences. You’ll relate to a lot that you read.
      Here’s more on PTSD and childhood trauma:

      Another resource is ACoA meetings – adult children of alcoholics meetings might really resonate for you, and give you a community. The people in those meetings have all been neglected and abused in some form by their parents.

      Also – don’t fear the word “abuse.” I know it’s a big, scary word. We think of “abuse” as violence. But the truth is that being belittled and shamed is abuse, too. You might consider researching Emotional Abuse to better understand that and to see how much you relate to it.

      Now, here’s something to know: when your family, anyone in your family, tells you that you’re making waves, causing trouble, making a big deal of things, they are telling you that YOU ARE DOING THE RIGHT THING FOR YOU. That’s how to translate those messages. I have come to know, without a doubt, that family doesn’t like it when we change and they will do anything to try to keep us from changing. So when they start to say things like you’re just causing trouble in the family — that is your signal that you are doing something right and the family is taking notice. So, good for you!
      I wrote about that here:
      And we did a blog talk radio show on this, too:

      Keep away from them. You are saving your life. Your life, marriage and children — your well being — is more important than anything else. They raised you – and you own them nothing. It’s your turn to raise yourself right from this point on. You are saving your life – you’ve just begun and that is something to be very, very proud of.

      Be kind to yourself.

      • Jenny says:

        Thank you thank you and thank you so much for your help Amy. I cannot express how reading your reply had made me felt. Almost like a lift to my heart and I feel like I’m doing the right thing for myself my family and my marriage. Trouble is I go through phases almost all the time for the past 9 months. Like you said a phase of anger, depression and acceptance. Then I get depressed thinking about the future, ie my sisters wedding when I face must them, they’ll probably cause a scene at the wedding and blame my husband etc….. I think too ahead.

        I have 2 friends who also have narc mother but they both had lucky escape as their mother left them when they were young and they manage to escape the abuse. When their mother do contact them they keep their distance to avoid being emotionally abused. They told me to do what makes me happy and this is the bit I’m confused with…..I’m still struggling to find happiness even though I know I’m making the best choice.

        But I’m going to read all the links you recommended then hopefully I’ll be able to make a better choice in the future without feeling any guilt. Thank you again Amy, I’m so grateful to have come across your website and very happy to get such a quick reply from you. You are very kind and helpful and you made me feel alot happier than I did yesterday. Thank you again.

        Take care

        PS Can I write here if I ever feel down again? Or can I email you directly? I just want to be able to talk to someone about my feelings.

        • Amy Eden says:

          You are so welcome! You can write a comment anytime you like, and feel free to email me whenever you like!

          When I started to set boundaries with family members, I felt less and less guilty as I felt better, stronger, and healthier being away from them. So the way you feel will help you keep it up. And from time to time I spend more time with family or have discussions with them that reminds me of why my boundaries are so important, and I adjust as necessary. Sometimes we forget why we’ve established distance and boundaries, and then we get the reminders. It’s going to be helpful to you to have those friends who have narcissistic mothers – great that you have support even though their stories are somewhat different. (If you look at the Toxic Mom Toolkit site, you’ll find more stories like yours.)

          It might take a little while to feel good. It may involve taking care of yourself in addition to getting away from your mom.

          You are worth love and kindness. And it’s your job to create a life that has only love and kindness in it. You don’t owe mean people your time or attention.

          Take care,

  17. [...] – How to Break Free from a Parent’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, by OneAngryDaughter Part 3 – How to Break Free from a Parent’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, by OneAngryDaughter [...]

  18. Kathy says:

    Thank you for your information, both my parents are narcissists, I didn’t realise they were narcissists until a few years ago at my grandmothers funeral, they showed no emotion on the day and on the trip up there they were nasty and negative and glad they hadnt spent 20k on a wedding for me, just pure evil and negative about everything and materialistic.

    My father has always been a dictator like Hitler, in charge, manipulative, getting his own way, he’s a control freak with money and if anyone dare challenges him he will shoot them down through lawyers. He isn’t afraid to spend money on lawyers letters in order to prove a point. And when I recently asked when I would receive my grandmothers inheritance he sent this straight to his lawyer. I couldn’t believe this, despite him promising it to me, he now is dictating his terms through lawyers. Despite him being fully aware of myself going through another traumatic personal situation recently which involved lawyers and my health suffering and he deliberately chose to go through his lawyers. He couldn’t care less.

    And there is no other siblings in this either, my sister is retarded and with epilepsy. My father has been an alcoholic and drink driver for several years and has verbally abused many people in the family. My mother stays silent on all of these calls and arguments or she will get bashed and tortured. I want her to leave like many others but she stays there, I believe they are just as bad as he is, she lets him get away with this behaviour time and time again. They attend church every week, which they only started a few years ago, in an effort to suck up to them and get them to look after his property while they holiday.

    I am permanently banning them from all contact, I have just about had enough.

    He is an extremely sick deranged man, that doesn’t deserve a normal daughter and he can stick his millions of assets up his arse. He has created that much damage in the family they all hate him, including his own brother. The money / retarded daughter / wife that doesn’t love him has turned him into an unhappy man. He is unhappy in his own life and in turn looks constantly for targets he can power play and manipulate. My mother is much part of it all and plays out the zombie role when she wants to, I told her she deserves him.

    He continues to live in a million dollar mansion, whilst I am 41 years old and renting.

    I have been nice to them for several years and when I ask for help to buy a house I am shut down immediately through lawyers. They have over 1 million in Supa and live very comfortably. They will never see me again, I am disgusted and appalled by both of their behaviours.

  19. Lu says:

    Thank you so much for your information! I have known for a long time about my mother’s NPD. 27 years ago my only brother was killed in an accident, my divorced mother was devastated to the point of quitting her job and relying on me to take care of her. I did that for nearly a year, while being newly married and finishing college, until my own neglected grief hit me like a ton of bricks. My mother’s reaction to my breakdown was, “what’s wrong with you? I lost my only son!!!” This became an actual conflict which she could not understand. I invited her, with my counselor’s request to a session. It ended with her walking out. The therapist explained to me afterwards about her being narcissistic, and a lot of things fell into place for me. My difficult childhood, my brother and I had different fathers, he was always her favorite and I was the ungrateful daughter who could never please her. She was married to both our dad’s, but she was devastated when my father left her when I was an infant. I have been punished by her abuse because of this my entire life.
    Fast forward to the present. Life has not been easy. I am 50, and have stayed in the same marriage, to a functioning alcoholic because I feel it is my duty to stay. We have 3 children, and I have no place to go. My mother is on her third husband, and still tells me what an ungrateful daughter I am. I recently told her I was finished. After a misunderstanding where I couldn’t give her a ride to the train station, she told me, “the only reason I have you as a daughter is because I lost my son.” Really! I told her I was finished, and hung up. I want to be strong about this and move forward. Time will tell.

  20. ElizabethT says:

    Wow, I just want to say thanks for your website. You give wise advice and I really appreciate the steps to take to deal with a narcissistic parent, which is what I was looking for. It’s really hard. Those with normal parents really cannot understand. I wish we were friends, so I could talk with you about things now and then. Anyway, thanks again. This is useful.

    • Amy Eden says:

      Hi Elizabeth! I’m so glad that the information hit the spot! The post was written by a guest author, so I can’t take credit :) Feel free to email me anytime – I’m here to help. OK?

Leave a Reply