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

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This is the second post in a four-part series by One Angry Daughter, who shares her experience and resources for Adult Children of Narcissists on her blog, One Angry Daughter

A Diagnosis

After I was done explaining the situation with my family and my mom in particular, the therapist declared that “less is more with your family.”  I was not expecting this.  I had entered therapy with the hopes of fixing a problem so that I could be closer with my birth family.  The therapist told me that my mother sounded like she had Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  She sent me home with a title of a book and a reminder card for our next appointment.

(The book was "Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers" written by Karyl McBride.)

It is hard to explain the myriad of emotions I felt as I started to learn what NPD was.  On one hand, I was hopeful.  Naively, I assumed if there was a disorder, then there must be a cure.  Later on, I felt empowered because I learned that I was the one who could heal and improve my life.   I also felt validated when I learned that I wasn’t intrinsically flawed, but was dealing with a dysfunctional family dynamic.  I was also frightened at how “textbook” we were in our roles – a narcissistic mother, an effacing father, a self sabotaging sibling and an over achieving sibling. All of us trained to walk on eggshells around my mother in an attempt not to set off a fit of rage.  All of us believing that our value was determined by what we did rather than who we are.

Up until this point, when I thought of someone who was narcissistic, I thought of someone with a huge know-it-all ego or someone who liked to stare at themselves in the mirror.  In my reading, I learned that a person with NPD is someone with severely damaged self esteem.  Many people with NPD had traumatizing childhoods that may have included physical and emotional abuse.  A narcissistic mother is very likely to be a daughter of a narcissist herself – as the abuse is passed down through the generations.

A person with NPD builds what is called a false sense of self.  It is a fragile façade that is used to mask the damaged true self they want to hide.  In order to keep up the façade, narcissists are very controlling of the people around them, insisting that they live up to a set of standards or morality as defined by them.  In order to enforce their moral code, narcissists use various weapons that are fueled by people’s emotions, commonly using FOG to maintain control.

FOG refers to:

Fear

Obligation

Guilt

Narcissists view those closest to them (such as a spouse, friend, but particularly their children) as an extension of themselves.  This perception is much like the way a person views an arm or leg as an appendage of their body.  Imagine how maddening it would be if one of your arms suddenly developed a mind of its own and you could not control it.  This is what I imagine it must be like for a person with NPD not being able to control the people they view as extensions.  They will go through great lengths to regain a sense of control and maintain their false reality.

As far as a cure for NPD, an easy remedy does not exist.  The negative aspects of personality disorders can be countered with therapy or even medication.  The crux of it is, the NPD person must be willing to expose the damaged sense of self he or she has been working at trying to hide in order to heal. 

As such, most people with NPD will not seek out help and rather project blame on those closest to them.  One of the hardest parts about realizing someone has NPD is letting go of what ever fantasy happy ending you may have and being willing to accept a different, healthier reality. 

 

Comments

  1. Cyndi Lopez says:

    OAG – this is such an excellent description of NPD and I went through the same emotions when I discovered my mother was a N. In all my research I’ve never seen “FOG”, but it is spot on. Interestingly, my therapist explained it to me exactly as you have here. How confusing and frustrating for them to not be able to control their own arms. Great GREAT post!

  2. @Cyndi – thanks for your comment! The need to control others actions in such a severe manner was something that was hard for me to comprehend at first. But when I started looking at the root – the need to maintain an ideal face to the outside world, no or little self esteem and the fear of being wrong – those are all powerful motivators.

  3. madeline says:

    …wow… I am feeling that deep sinking stomach feeling .., not only does it relate to my father’s behavior toward me growing up, but now to my soon to be ex-husband. I have always said to my ex that I feel he view’s me as his appendage, and I feel invisible around him. Being invisible was a preferred state for me growing up, I’m finally feeling ready to be seen. But also scared to be seen…

    Thanks so much Amy !! I love reading your posts. !!

  4. Nick Lloyd says:

    I Finally believe I can now be free , Iam 32 years old and now feel as if I can escape into the world that my engulfing controlling NARC Mother has been holding me back from , she fits 95% of descriptions of engulfing NARC Mother and I cannot believe that there is help out there for us , such a great feeling knowing I am not alone and I am or can be “normal” thanks to all who have published this literature and thanks from the bottom of my heart , wanting now to make friends with others in this situation add me on Facebook Nic liam dave loyd nicklloyd0880@live.com xxxxx

  5. Becky says:

    Thanks for a really great article – a very good explanation. I recently realised at the age of 40 that my Dad is a narcissist, obviously through no fault of his own. It’s such a huge relief to realise it’s not me. But I totally relate to you Madeline, and feeling invisible – that’s exactly how I felt growing up, but also petrified of being visible which makes it very hard to have a life!! I also seek out other narcissists to hide behind, I went out with many and suffered bad emotional abuse and also recently escaped a narcissist boss, who ended up harrassing me so much when I left that I had to get the police involved. All of that left my self esteem at rock bottom, and very difficult to operate. I feel I have to overcome pre-programmed instincts with my mind. To give people hope out there, I now have an extremely loving husband, who I still can’t believe is not a narcissist (but still keep thinking maybe he is a hidden one). But before I met him I made a conscious decision to override any natural attractions and use my brain, all a bit strange really. I think I have a long way to go, but so good to be able to empathise with people.

    • Amy Eden says:

      Forty is younger than they say! I’ve had all my best realizations at age 40! :-)
      I hear you on using your brain solely! I do think there’s a trustworthy sweet spot where the gut/heart intersects with the brain, and in that space some trustworthy decision-making can be made. But there’s no “mistake” made in life. …maybe?
      I just loaned the book “Children of the Self Absorbed” to a friend who had a similar discovery to yours. I bought the book to get a view on my father.
      It’s normal to partner with narcissists after being parented by one (or three of them in my case). I mean, it’s not your fault and in no way did you choose it!
      Without realizing it, I was…”safe” with a narcissistic mate because it protected me from having to confront my fear of expressing myself and needs.
      Until I burst.
      Thanks for the comment!

  6. Wendy says:

    I have just confronted my mother honestly for the first time and I am 40. It has taken this long to heal myself enough and find the internal power to stand up to her. I feel like a terrified little girl. I have always known something was wrong and off and I believe I have finally found an answer, she ticks every single box for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. My mother has escaped responsibility her entire life by simply denying reality. When confronted she just says ‘I never said that’ or ‘I never did that’ or her final defense ‘I never meant it like that’. I am terrified, my palms are sweating and I have had a knot in my stomach for the past 24 hours which wont go away but I finally feel like I have found an answer to this puzzling person who has marauded through our family like a rogue elephant for my entire lifetime. I am in shock.

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