Healing The Past: Children of Narcissistic Parents

“Why is getting along with my mother so hard?” said my client, sighing deeply as she wiped away tears in session. “I feel anxious all of the time, I’m depressed, and I can’t even hear her sigh of disapproval on the phone without wanting to run and hide. What am I doing wrong?”

The tendency to feel like everything is your fault, and that YOU are in fact the one “doing something wrong”, is typical of the child of a narcissistic parent. Karyl McBride, PhD* also notes the following symptoms:

  1. feeling “not good enough”
  2. valued by your parent for what you DO, not who you are
  3. feeling unlovable
  4. constantly trying to win your parent’s approval
  5. your parent emphasizes how your behavior LOOKS, or makes them look, over how you FEEL
  6. your parent is jealous of you
  7. your parent doesn’t support your healthy expressions of self, especially when it conflicts with their own needs or threatens them
  8. In your family, it’s always about pleasing that one parent
  9. your parent can’t empathize with you
  10. your parent is critical and judgmental

There is typically a family “scapegoat,” a person on whom the family blames the problems. “If only Jane wouldn’t cross Mother…if only she would call her more often…THEN Mother wouldn’t get so upset.”

The truth of the matter is, a parent who is narcissistic is always going to be looking for ways that the “scapegoat” lets them down. This parent’s attitude is not, “what have you done for me,” but instead “what have you done for me TODAY?” It truly is never enough to get the “scapegoated” child off the hook.

Freedom comes when, with the guidance and encouragement of your therapist, you begin to gently challenge these things in the family and express your own needs.

*Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers

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