Navigating the Negative Effects of the Narcissistic (or Emotionally Immature) Parent

People often stay in relationships with narcissistic or emotionally immature partners in hopes that it will be better in the long run for the kids. Unfortunately, staying can often send the exact opposite message. Tony reads another poem from his private women’s Facebook group and a letter from the son of a narcissistic father. He then shares Karyl McBride’s article “How Narcissistic Parenting Can Affect Children” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-legacy-of-distorted-love/201802/how-narcissistic-parenting-can-affect-children Karyl is the author of the book “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers” https://amzn.to/40P1ZdT

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Narcissistic Mothers Transcript

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 68 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist, host of the Virtual Couch podcast and one that I would be just so grateful that you, if you will go check that out, is the Waking Up to Narcissism premium question and answer podcast. So the links for all of the above will be in the show notes. Just look for a, it’s a link tree slash Virtual Couch. And then that has links to everything, including marriage course, marriage workshop, Instagram accounts and TikTok and all those sorts of things. But let’s get to today’s topic. I want to start with another poem that comes from my women’s private Facebook group. 

I wish I was a poet. I wish I was creative and thought in the ways that the people that are sharing their talents around this difficult topic of narcissism and emotional immaturity. So I’m going to start with a poem and then, boy, today, we’re going to talk about the effects of narcissism and extreme emotional immaturity on children and someone in the group, they had a teenage son write a letter to their dad and they said that they were okay if we just kept the name out of it, anonymous, and shared that on the podcast and it’s powerful. And then I found a really good article by someone that has done some amazing work with narcissism and emotional immaturity. Carol McBride. She’s a licensed marriage and family therapist and she’s the author of a book called “Will I ever be good enough? Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers”. And I’ll have the link to that in the show notes as well. If you just read the reviews alone, it just speaks to people that weren’t even aware of the effect of having a narcissistic parent and specifically in our system, mother had on their life. So let’s get to the show. Let me start with this poem from one of the women in the group and she titled it, “Let me go”.

“Let me go, release me. Let me be on my way. And no, there’s not one bit of me that would willingly stay. You revealed to me a part of you I’ve not seen before, and I’ll never forget. It was cold contemptuous, a looming shadow of terrifying threat. You acted fast at the start, setting me up for this gradual fall. Conditioning my mind. So I couldn’t think clearly at all. Confusion and self doubt became the biggest parts of me. You took my freedom, stripped away my self esteem. It was inevitable. Impossible to see. You know, I’d never hit you is what you would always say is that reassuring. I wondered in a hazy fog of dismay. Silently. I thought if you did, at least I would understand this underlying feeling that somehow I was under your command. You worked relentlessly. I was questioning myself every single day. Pieces of me were being chipped at gradually floating away. I started not to recognize the person I saw in the mirror. The truth is I was too trusting, too naive even to consider. Why would a person want to do this to another human? Dismantled their brain. Keep them prisoner in a state of delusion. Surely only a person who’s hurting to the very depth of their core. As you like to remind me often to fix me, the body keeps the score. But the pieces of me, I thought had gone, were waiting for me somewhere else. 

I was forming another version of me with a stronger sense of self. I could see glimmers of her and momentary flashes. It took some time, but she started to emerge rising from the ashes. I’m not asking you to let me go. I’m telling you I’m on my way. And whilst I’m edit, you’ll never have another opportunity to make me obey. I’m sorry, you have so much pain that you chose to act as you do. But for me, I’ll no longer take part in your play.”

The taming of the Shrew. I think we can just let that one sit there on its own, but it just speaks so beautifully to just the awakening of, that it’s okay to have your own thoughts and opinions and to recognize how unhealthy that control and manipulation is in a relationship. And, I will beat this drum every chance I get that that is not part of a healthy human relationship. You’re allowed to have your own thoughts and opinions. And if you are continually trying to figure out how to negotiate the complicated nature of trying to communicate with someone else at the risk of who you are and your own self-development, then, welcome, welcome to the podcast. And in this, getting your, in essence, your PhD and personality disorders and extreme emotional immaturity. And it can be difficult and the process can be lengthy. But there is hope there, there is absolute hope. Let me jump right to this letter. I’m going to read this letter from a son, a teenage son that again, was given full permission to share on the podcast and share with my women’s group in emotionally immature relationships or narcissistic relationships. And then we’re going to talk about narcissism and the effect on kids. The person in the group said that her son who is 18 sent this to her to get her thoughts on it. And she said she bawled. She went downstairs. She bawled some more while hugging him and telling him how sorry she was, that he had to deal with this. 

She said that she was racked with guilt, that she didn’t know how bad it was. And then she said, I asked if I could share this with a group. And he agreed as long as it was anonymous. And then I had asked permission to share on the podcast as well. But I believe the comment that I made to her even in the group was I’m so sorry that she feels the way that she did. But she truly did not know what she did not know. And I believe was 100% trying her best because this whole process of awakening to this, it can be really difficult because none of us want to think that we ever put our kids in a position where they weren’t allowed to grow and thrive and emotionally mature because the people that are waking up to this and themselves have to come to this realization of what that’s been like for them to even start to understand what that’s been like for their kids. And this is where I just, I implore you to give yourself grace beyond anything else, because if you are listening to this, if you’re starting to do your homework, if you’re starting to recognize and learn the things you didn’t know that you didn’t know, then you are changing the dynamic and the pattern in your family, there’s no doubt about that. And your kids will appreciate that. And it may take a while and some will be like this letter that I’m going to read. And they’re gonna, they’re gonna really understand that boy you weren’t aware of what you weren’t aware of just as they weren’t as well. And so the fact that you are starting to open up to this will give them a voice because you’re going to be a safer place for them to be able to share and express their feelings and emotions. 

So here’s the letter. And the son said for dad, been working on this, let me know what you think. And then it had the crying face emojis. I mean, you can tell that, that he’s saying, okay. You know, here we go. We’ll see how this, how this goes. So the letter that he wrote, the teenage son said, “I hate you. I think you should know that. I’ve thought about you a lot recently, actually, and I realized something. I have no happy memories with you. Everyone I have, there’s a sense of fear or guilt or anger or something along those lines that pops up. I avoid you now, because anytime I speak to you, there’s an inescapable feeling of rage that boils up.” So if I just pause, I wasn’t going to commentate on the letter itself, but even this teenage boy and boys that, that most teenage boys, like to watch cartoons, eat cereal, play video games and compartmentalize. So the fact that his own body keeps the score is pretty phenomenal. That even when he’s in the same room, he has that inescapable feeling of rage that boils up. So back to the letter. Like I said, “there’s no happy memories. You know what I do remember? I remember you telling me not to wear my favorite color to school because it was a girly color.” And he said, “literally it was red. I remember you commanding me from the couch to refill your whiskey glass. I remember you driving 80 to 90 miles an hour on gravel roads at night drunk with me and others in the car as you swerved all over, not being scared for myself and the others safety. I remember you blocking the doors out of the house, stealing my keys. So I couldn’t get away from you. I remember walking miles down a driveway in boots with no socks to get away from you so [the mom] could drive over an hour to come and get me. I remember you threw me around into the walls of the house. I remember you throwing me into the bathtub when I was younger because I accidentally woke others up before school. I remember the sound of you screaming in my face and I could smell your nasty breath from it. I remember the emotional manipulation that you put me through. You made me feel guilty for seeing who you are. And as I got older and I learned more, you got angrier. I remember you playing with my emotions to make me compete in sports year after year, when it was clear that I didn’t enjoy those particular sports and the list goes on and on. Some thinking about all these things. And I realized that you never saw me as a human being and you still don’t. You have no sense of respect or love for me, I’m nothing more than an extension of yourself and your eyes. You made me do the things that you wanted me to do my whole life with no regard for what I wanted. I realized that what you wanted so badly for me to be with something that you were. I realized that you wanted so badly for me to be something because you’re nothing, you’re a liar, a manipulator and an abuser, nothing more. You wanted to parade me and my siblings around like prize possessions to make up for the fact that you’ve done nothing inherently good your whole life. You want to throw it in mom’s face, you’ve got more money than her, and you can afford to buy all these things, but you still don’t manage to pay your child support on time because you don’t give a crap about us. Which sucks because your money is the only thing you’re good for. I’ve also realized through all of this that you don’t love me. And that the only reason you say it so much is to make up for the fact that you don’t and to try to convince yourself that you do. You’re a pathetic father, a sad man, any decent man is supposed to protect his children and loved ones, not be the person that endangers and hurts them. I’m done talking to you even after all these years, you’re still putting on an act for everybody else. You still want to portray yourself as the almighty loving father and take credit for everything you didn’t do. And then deny the blame for everything you did. Do I see your whole act of getting quotes, changing? Out in public, but you’re still the same miserable, horrible person when it really comes down to it. And when you’re behind closed doors, don’t respond to this. Don’t try talking to me. I’m done with it. Just sit this, read it and sit in it.” 

So you can feel that emotion. And I’m trusting that if you are already here and listening to this podcast, that there isn’t judgment at all on that letter, that there’s empathy, compassion. You can feel the strength and the, just the anger and the power and the just trying to see someone take control of their life. And at 18 to have to have this kind of awareness over some human being, you know, you hear that concept of an old soul and sometimes it sounds like it’s pretty cool. Like this 16 year old is going to fire up a bass guitar and play jazz, like that’s your old soul, but really an old soul is somebody that has not been able to really find their sense of self as a kid. And they’ve been having to figure out how to survive and how to cope and how to not get in trouble and how to protect siblings sometimes. And how to just say, man, there’s nothing I can do right now. I gotta get out. Instead of just being a kid and being a teenager and just caring about school and relationships and movies and all the things that a teenager is missing out on because they have to grow up and they have to protect and they have to learn to read the room and manage others expectations. So I’m just, I’m grateful that he took the time to write this, that he shared it with his mom, that his mom shared it with the group. And so I often find myself getting asked questions about children and co-parenting with a narcissist and staying in the relationship. So that at least they have a mom or a dad, whoever is the more emotionally immature. 

And I try to, I feel like, tiptoe around this because I don’t know what divorce is like. Because I am, I’m still married. My parents didn’t divorce. And but I work in this world of divorce and it’s easy for me to say that in these emotionally immature relationships, that when somebody gets out of that emotionally immature relationship and finds themselves, that they also become a completely different person and the way that they show up with their kids. And when a kid gets their own sense of self through external validation. That then when they, that you can really reverse the tide of who that kid is or what it feels like to be them. If you become this, not just a safe place where they can then dump and share emotions about the more emotionally immature parent. But where you can actually start to build that secure attachment with them so they can go out and explore and be, and do and know that they have a safe place to come back to. And that your interaction with them isn’t constantly talking about, hey, watch out or things, you, you know, make sure you don’t do this, or I understand, I understand how frustrated he is, but if it’s more about, hey, how was your day? And what was that like? And how’s your job going? And what do you want to be when you grow up? And what’s that relationship like? And what do you like about this boy or this girl? And I mean, that’s the way you build a real relationship. Not trying to continually figure out, okay, how do we all manage this? How do we see how we approach mom or how we approach dad, whoever the more emotionally immature person is. 

So on that note, I want to get into an article that I really do appreciate. And the article is from Psychology Today and it’s titled “How Narcissistic Parenting Can Affect Children.” And this is from Carol McBride. She’s got a PhD in clinical psychology. And then she again is the author of this book that is highly recommended. The book is called, “Will I ever be good enough? Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers.” She’s also a licensed marriage and family therapist. And she has 30 traits of how narcissistic parenting affects children. So I’m going to read just a couple of paragraphs that she has as part of this article. And then I’m going to go through that list. And I’m sure that I’ll comment on some of those, if not all of those how. How narcissistic parenting affects the children. She says, why does it matter if a parent is a narcissist, how does that hurt a child? She said, you might be asking this question. If you’re a person that is currently co-parenting with a narcissistic ex, someone raised by a narcissistic parent or one who is in a relationship currently with a narcissist, or if you’re a divorce professional working on a case that involves a narcissistic parent. 

And I’ll put that out there right now. I now understand a lot of therapists listen to Waking Up to Narcissism. I’m grateful for that. I am so grateful for the ones that reach out and want to be a part of the women’s group or one that would love to talk about this. A group of therapists so that we can start to really address this population. But I also have a thread in the group this talking about experiences in therapy that have been detrimental because if someone, if you are going to a professional who is not familiar with emotional immaturity or narcissistic personality disorder or traits or tendencies, then it can actually be, I feel pretty detrimental because you’re often being told that you’re just buying into the hype of narcissism and the, what will, what are you doing and what can you do? And just stand up to him or her, just tell them. And all of those things are things that can actually end up making things worse because you’re engaging. You’re letting the person see, you’re letting the narcissist see your buttons to push and they will do so. Carol says, given my research and clinical experience, I want to provide some education and awareness about how this disorder hurts children. She said first, let me explain it. Narcissistic personality disorder is misunderstood when applied to someone who is just boastful, arrogant and all about themselves. 

So all these traits are annoying and not fun to be around. Narcissism is a deeper, more destructive disorder that has devastating effects on the people in relationships with the individual. It’s a difficult disorder to treat. And some do believe it’s untreatable. And she said the cornerstones of the disorder or lack of empathy. And the inability to tune into the emotional world of others. And I am hearing, I don’t want to be dramatic, but on a fairly regular basis, that from those who don’t understand what narcissism really is or emotional immaturity, is that just the fact of the, that the word is being used, causes a visceral reaction and people tune out. And I’ve also been told pretty regularly that the shifting I have been intentional on shifting the word narcissism to emotional immaturity and that, yeah, that’s a lot more palatable. And then we can all take a look at the areas where we are emotionally immature. And then the key difference is the, are the people that are willing to then sit with the discomfort of the things that they are facing. And that, that is uncomfortable for them as a human being or as an adult. And then are they willing to self confront and do something? So then when somebody will inevitably, maybe even right now, the kind person is saying, okay, I got it. Tony finally gets it. He’s telling me I’m the narcissist. You are not. If you are listening to this because you are trying to do something, you are trying, you’re obviously uncomfortable and you’re out there seeking help, even though you’re just, you’re uncomfortable. 

So that is, this on this road of empathy. And so you are literally tuning into the emotional world of others because you’re worried about how you’re responding to your maybe narcissistic spouse in this. What we now know is a reactive issue, a reactive abuse issue, or you’re worried about, am I doing damage to my kids? So you’ve already broken the rules of being a narcissist. That you are not lacking empathy. You’re maybe overly empathetic because you are just, what is wrong with me? I gotta figure this out. And then you absolutely are able to tune into the emotional world of others, maybe even your tuning fork is on high alert that if you’ve ever used a tuning fork, which I haven’t, that might’ve made no sense. If we go back to Carol’s list, she has a list of how narcissistic parenting affects children. The child won’t feel heard or seen. The child’s feelings and reality will not be acknowledged. And I just did an episode a week or so ago talking about the emotional abandonment that is there in our childhood, that then we bring into our adulthood that we don’t even recognize is not normal. And that is if you are trying to manage your relationship with your parent as a child, then there is a high, I mean, I’m going to say it’s pretty much a given. That you, your emotions are not being acknowledged and you are not being asked to be taken on your train of thought about how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking about a situation. It’s, if you are trying to express emotion, you’re probably getting a lot of either just indifference, a flat affect or a, not right now, or will you need to get over it, or how do you think that makes me feel, or you got the version of emotional immaturity or narcissism where a parent then says, no, I get it. 

Let me tell you stories of my high school days and how I overcame it. And so the fact that if you look at how great I am, and then if you aren’t doing the same, then it shows that you are not as good as I am. And then if you don’t listen to me, then I can say, well, I told you. And then if you try to do what I’m asking you to, because it won’t feel authentic to you, then I get to say, you’re not even doing it. So it’s a no, it’s a no win situation. When you’re trying to even express yourself as a kid, to an emotionally immature/narcissistic parent, the child will be treated like an accessory to the parent rather than a person. The chat will be more valued for what they do, usually for the parent then for who they are as a person. And I think that the letter that this teenager wrote that I read earlier. It starts to feel like that quite a bit. You’re valued for what you do. You’re only as good as what you do for others. I mean, that is a way you truly lose your sense of self. And that’s where the pathologically kind people that find themselves in again, what Rosenberg so well says, the human magnet syndrome is that you are in this place of self-love deficit. So you feel like you are only as good as what you do. And so what do you do you continue to try to do for others to try to, to get them to love you? And that, that is working absolutely counter to the fact that you are of worth and lovable as a human being. 

And so if you are trying to get people to recognize or acknowledge you or love you, then that is you’re not in a healthy relationship. The child will not learn to identify or trust their own feelings and will grow up with crippling self doubt. Here’s what, this is what I tried to identify last week is that if you’re not allowed to explore your feelings and emotions, if you’re continually told that they’re wrong or not now, or just get over it or don’t worry about it. Then you are continually given this message that your feelings, you don’t even understand them. They’re wrong. And look at how that makes me feel. So now all of a sudden, I can’t trust my own gut. I can’t think on my own. And what am I doing now? I’m now actually going to start going to this person to ask for their advice or their opinion or what they think I should do. And they don’t have my best, they don’t have what’s good for me in mind. It’s oh, well, what can I do? How can I manipulate this at the moment? 

And that’s that form of, of really, it’s a form of betrayal trauma, where you’re starting to go to this person. If you’re a kid to your parent, or if you’re a husband or wife to your more emotionally narcissistic spouse, and you’re saying, hey, here’s my heart. And, I need some help in managing emotions because we are inherently designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human being. It’s part of our attachment. But then that other human being is taking advantage of that opportunity and manipulating it for their own gain. The child will be taught that how they look is more important than how they feel, because when there is a real lack of knowing or understanding your kid, and if they are only as good as the things they do or how they make you feel as an emotionally immature parent, then they need to look the part they need to look the part of, if you look a certain way, then that makes me look better as a parent. The child will be fearful of being real and will instead be taught. That image is more important than authenticity. And this is part of that, when I talk about abandonment and attachment issues that we bring into our relationships is that I’m so afraid that if I am being real. That then I may lose this other person. Now if a kid grows up with a secure attachment to their parent, and if they know that it is absolutely okay to be them, whatever that looks like, whatever they like to do. And again, I feel like this is where the emotionally immature person’s listening to this, which I’m sure they haven’t, they wouldn’t have made it 24 minutes in at this point. 

But it’s like, oh, okay. So if they just want to go shoot heroin between their toes all day, then I got to support that. If you’re at that point right now, you’ve already been looking to pick apart this entire podcast. So there’s not much that I can do to convince you. But if they want to go be a, I don’t know if they want to go be an explorer and then a pirate and then an astronaut, and then they want to become a surgeon and then they want to raise bunnies and then they want to, I want to go on that journey with them the whole way because if any of that becomes a, I don’t think that would be good for you, champ. Why am I saying that? Because I have no idea what it feels like to be them. So don’t be the person that gets in the way of the hopes and dreams of your spouse or your kid. Because the reality is that doesn’t mean that they’re going to all of a sudden, want to be a pirate, astronaut who raises bunnies. The thing is that, if they feel like, oh, it’s okay for me to say that I want to do that. Actually, I don’t know if I really even want to. But if I’m continually told no, there aren’t even pirates anymore, whatever that looks like. Well then what, what do I feel like? Okay. I feel kind of dumb. And I don’t know if I’m going to keep bringing my hopes and dreams to you as my parents. Because you’re shooting those down. And what is, I had someone in my office recently and all the person said was they wanted to look at going to a particular grad school and the parent immediately said, that’s too difficult. And I just thought, wow, that was within seconds of this person sharing something that no doubt they’ve been thinking about for quite some time. And then they were met with their parent who doesn’t even really know. Hey take me on your train of thought. Tell me more about that. And I just said, no, you wouldn’t be able to do that. 

And in essence, implying that, hey, that’s really difficult. I don’t think you can do difficult things and you’re not very smart. So then this person just said, okay, I guess I will not open up about anything again. The child will be taught to keep secrets, to protect the parent and the family boy triangulation. Hey, don’t tell your mom, don’t tell your dad. That is not a healthy way to live because then the child is now again, you know, feeling like anything they say, boy, am I split? Am I going to get anybody in trouble? Is this, wait, is dad gonna get mad at me because I said something to mom or vice versa. And the child will not be encouraged to develop their own sense of self. It goes right back to that secure attachment. They’re trying to figure out what they can do to then, please me. I was going to say I’m going to be dramatic and throw out a very controversial thing and it’s not that, but I was with one of my adults, two of my daughters over the weekend and we’d gone to help paint my daughter Mackie’s new salon. So as a matter of fact, plug two, if you are, if you live in the Provo/Orem area of Utah, then look up at beauty by Mackie on Instagram. And she’s an amazing cosmetologist. But I had some of my nieces and nephews there while we were doing this and it was late at night and it’s just so fun to talk to the kids these days and listen to how old I sound. But when we were talking, they were saying, you know, a couple of them are graduating college and they’re not 100% sure what they want to do. And they were almost expressing that, like I know, I should know. And I said, oh, you know, if I can just speak from some experience as a human being and throw the therapist card in there as well. 

I feel like it’s very rare that somebody at the age of 22 says, I think I know what I want to do for the next 50 years of my life. I’ve made this choice over the last two or three as an emotionally immature individual. But in reality if you are just on the path of just trying to learn and do and be that then you’re going to develop your sense of self. Now, the controversial point I made was that I just threw out that I’ve worked with enough people that are people like lawyers and doctors and some of those professions that you’ve had to spend a tremendous amount of schooling on. And just, I’m just talking about anecdotal evidence that I have as a therapist for the first 15, 16, 17 years. And talking with some of those professionals and then I’m getting them in their mid thirties to early forties and their midlife crisis phase. And that’s because when we sometimes dig back and go deep, they want it to be the let’s just take a doctor for example. As long as they can remember, but when you go back and look at why. That it was because whenever they said, I want to be a doctor, you watched the parents beam because boy, talk about external validation. And then whenever you talk to your friends and if your friends saying, I don’t even know what I want to do. And if you say I want to be a doctor, then all of a sudden, everybody kind of lights up and like, oh, that’s cool. And then if you’re a kid. Oh, you’re gonna be so rich and you’re gonna get to do all these cool things. So then the person got the validation and then that might’ve carried them all the way, even through medical school for some, it hasn’t for some, they get two or three years in and then at that point, they’re in a crippling amount of debt and they feel stuck. They really do. 

Or others, I remember talking to a podiatrist a long time ago. And he was talking about we’re looking at scheduling and he said, I can’t come in on, it was like Tuesdays or Thursdays because those were surgery days. And I said, oh my gosh, what is that like? I mean, that’s just gotta be crazy. And then he just said you know, he’s like after about the 2000 at the time that I released the plantar fascia, he just said, yeah, not so crazy. They all kind of look the same. And I just thought, oh, to that person that was thinking, this’ll be amazing. They just have foot lined up after foot lined up and slice cut into that release of a plaintiff. Release the fascist to get rid of the plantar fasciitis. And so he said, I don’t mind surgery. It’s still a little bit cooler than just the office days, but the only point that I’m making is that boy, when you know, or you think, you know, that young, a lot of times that’s because of that, I believe that external validation from parents. So the child won’t be encouraged to develop their own sense of self. They may want to then say the things that will get them, if they are just truly being an extension of their emotionally immature/narcissistic parent. 

Then, if they say I’m going to be whatever and the parent goes, yeah, that’s, that’s my boy. Then they’re going to be driven more to do that. Even if that isn’t something they feel passionate about. The child will feel emotionally empty and not nurtured. The child will learn not to trust others because boy, if you’ve grown up in an emotionally immature household, there are going to be times where you have said something and you felt like that was in confidence, but then your narcissistic parent has then told somebody else that is that when it happens so often. And it’s because that narcissistic parent in that moment is getting the validation off of you giving them a secret, promise you won’t say anything, mom. And it’s like, hey, you bet champ. And then as soon as I, mom’s talking to her sister, well, no, I just told her because she lives in a different state. Or then telling a neighbor like, no, I told them, but they don’t, I mean, they don’t run in the same circles as you do. So it’s like, oh, I’ll absolutely keep your promise. I mean, until I don’t, that’s basically the creed of the narcissist in a sense. The child will learn. And that’s not trusting. The child will feel used and manipulated. And I feel like that’s where you start. Getting the vibes of highly sensitive people or the body keeps the score. The child will be there for the parent rather than the other way around as it should be. And that’s what starts to create that anxious attachment vibe is that when the child needs the parent from an emotional standpoint, and the parent is, it’s not a good time, which I, and I know we’re all human, but I want to say which should not be the answer because if you’re the parent, then I would love for you to model the fact that, hey for you, now is a good time because this now isn’t about me. It’s about the tiny human being that I’ve helped create. 

In that scenario then you’re going to be there for your kid because if it’s the other way around, that’s where you start seeing this anxious attachment show up in adult relationships where you’ve said all I ever wanted to do was feel heard and understood. And then when the spouse finally says, okay, I hear you. And I want to understand you. It can feel emotionally overwhelming and engulfing, and it really can. The child’s emotional development will be stunted. The child will feel criticized and judged rather than accepted and loved. And that’s again where we have this vibe where we say, hey, champ, you can come and talk to me about anything. And then you come and say, I think I want to quit school. Or I think I want to join the army or I think I want to, and if the parent is saying, okay. That’s just ridiculous. Why do you know how much time and effort I put into your schooling or if I really didn’t teach you well enough to want to continue to be an attorney like me. And so when you’re putting that vibe out again, it is all about you, not your kid. And so in that scenario, then the kid’s going to feel criticized and judged. The child will grow frustrated, trying to seek love approval and intention and attention to no avail. Which will often then lead them to looking for external sources to provide them with the love approval and attention. 

And I’ll just talk about, I was speaking at a conference not long ago. And somebody asks a question about, all the kids, everybody’s smoking pot these days was the way that the question was put. And I just said, here’s the challenge. And, and I’m with them, I’m with them on that. I feel like I still grew up in a time where, you know, that was the stoner. And I don’t know what it’s like to be a kid that is in their early twenties that has in essence grown up within most of the states, it’s legal. So that’s a whole different ball game. But I mentioned that I often talk with kids when they were feeling judged by their peers and especially if you’re, I work in an area where there are a lot of people that are part of a religious community. And so then if that religious community says, hey, we’re all together, we’re all a community. But now within that community, let me do some judging. You drink energy drinks or your shorts are too short. Are you swear yeah, we’re all the same. Except for now. I’m going to judge you about those things. And I said but pot, that world has no respect for the people that they’re, we don’t care what you’re wearing or what you’re saying or what you’re doing because we all have this, this shared sense of purpose, which is, it’s sad in that regard. But so in that scenario, though, if they’re going to find love, approval and attention and not, if that is not provided in the home. Then they will seek that elsewhere. The child will grow up, not feeling good enough. The child won’t have a healthy role model for emotional connection which then starts leading into the, when I say we don’t have the tools from the factory to be able to communicate in a healthy way or to hold boundaries. Because, I feel like, I want to say, just remember that if you have grown up with a secure attachment as a child, and now you’re a teenager and you know that you’re okay because your parent has never continued to, I mean, they haven’t hammered you with, I can’t believe you said that, right? 

I don’t, you know what, that, how that impacts me, if you just be able to say and feel and be, and now you go on a date and somebody says, oh, I don’t think you should do that in college. Then your radar is going to be off the charts. You’re gonna think, okay. I wasn’t asking you for your opinion on what I should do with my career. But if you’ve been judged and manipulated and not heard or seen. And so you’ve tried to recognize, man, how do I show up? So I don’t get this person mad. And then you say, you know, I want to be a, I don’t know, computer programmer. And then that person, the person that you’re sitting across the table from who you don’t even really know. And they say, oh boy I’ve heard that those computer programmers now work long hours or are they sleeping all the time? Or, you know, you have to drink four liters of Mountain Dew every day. And they rot their teeth. I don’t know, whatever it would be. But then if you as a person, then go, yeah, maybe I don’t want to be one. And maybe I don’t want to be a computer programmer. That’s insane. I want the person who wants to be the computer program or showing up on a date. And if they’ve grown up and their parent has said, what do you want to do? And they’ve already explored pirates, they’ve already looked at astronauts, but they kind of found a sense of purpose with computer programming. 

So then the parent may not know anything about computer programming, but that doesn’t mean that then, oh, you think you’re better than me or smarter than me, but it’s a holy cow. This is incredible that they’re already finding and enjoying something. Let me get them all the computer stuff they need. And let me now ask them questions like, hey, what are you working on? And what does that like in, How hard is that and what do you love about it? Imagine being that parent. Now that computer programmer goes out into the dating world. And if anybody says, I don’t think you should do that. They’re saying, I don’t understand why you’re telling me what you think I should do. I mean, we’re just here trying to order appetizers at this point and get to know each other, not tell each other what to do. Which I think that’s the big key there. Which then leads into, she says the child will not learn appropriate boundaries for relationships. The child won’t learn healthy self care, but instead will be at risk of becoming codependent. Taking care of others to the exclusion of taking care of self, not wanting to rock the boat. But not wanting to then question my sense of self, because that’s what it’s been like to be me growing up in a home where the parent was even letting you know that they did things better than you. When they were your age, the child will have difficulty with the necessary individuation from the parent when he or she grows older.

I was talking with somebody recently and we were talking about the enmeshment that they felt as they, after they got married, where their parents still felt, they wanted to say, I don’t know, you don’t seem like yourself. And this person was saying, I actually feel better than I’ve felt before with this connection, with my new spouse. But the narcissistic parent, they were not in essence saying, okay, we have done all we can do. And we have created a secure attachment with our, with this person. And now we hand them into the world of marital relationships. This individuated person and they are now going to go now, go, go and couple and thrive and start to form a secure attachment with your spouse. And then you guys will live happily forever and we’re over here. And if you need us, let’s go on vacation together. No, it’s hey, let’s talk every, you know, a couple of times a week and let me just make it all about myself. And let me start to tell you that you don’t seem like yourself. When in reality, that means that you don’t understand who I am. The child will get a mix of mixed and crazy making messages of do well. Make me proud as an extension of the parent, but don’t do too well and don’t outshine me because then you’re going to think that you’re better than me. 

I hope my kids turn out better than me, please. That would be a wonderful thing. Because, you know, we want to, I hope we want to advance those generations and every generation gets better. That would be a wonderful thing. I don’t need to say, I always have felt like I was better than all of my kids. That’s crazy. If the child out shines the parent, then they may experience jealousy from the parent. The child is not taught to give credit to self when deserved. Yeah, one of the things that drives me crazy is this concept around it’s so bad to be proud of yourself, pride is bad. No, there’s a healthy ego and healthy ego changes the world. Healthy ego is based on real life experience. If you can help somebody find the real sense of self and security, and then they start to go and do and achieve and explore, they change the world. But if that person is always worried about, I don’t want to make anybody mad. And yeah, maybe I don’t want to do that then, they’re taught to burn all these emotional calories. Just trying to figure out how to manage emotion, relationships around them and trying to figure out is it okay to be me? I waited, I don’t even know who I am versus the person that has been given the secure attachment. And again, they are going out and doing, and being, and finding and discovering and loving and connecting. 

Because that will, without that the child, again, if they haven’t been taught to give credit where their own credit is due or self deserved, ultimately they’ll start to suffer from a level of post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, in adulthood. The child will grow up believing that he or she is unworthy and unlovable, because if my parent can’t love me, then who will be that one that resonates. If you create that secure attachment and that love with your kid. And they know that they are worthy of love, then they don’t, are they going to be less likely to find themselves in relationships where they’re trying to prove their worth or their love, they just get to be and do. The child will often become either a high achiever or a self sabotage or are both high achievers, because I’ll be darned if I’m going to, that’s the only way I got my validation. So I got to go above and beyond and I got to go overboard. And then I have to even puff myself up because I want to make sure that everybody knows that I’m good. Look you’ll love me now, if I’m really special, right. And this one’s hard that the last one that she talks about as a child will need trauma, recovery and want to reparent themselves in adulthood. Carol then concludes her article by saying, being raised by a narcissistic parent is emotionally and psychologically abusive. And it causes debilitating long lasting effects on children. It’s often missed by professionals because the narcissist or emotionally immature person can be charming in their presentation. Displaying an image of how they wish to be seen. 

Now behind closed doors, the children feel the suffocation of self and struggle with loneliness and pain. The narcissist is not accountable for their own mistakes or behaviors. So the child believes that they are to blame. That they’ve flunked childhood. Sad, but I appreciate the way she says that, she said having worked as a mental health provider with thousands of children, as well as the adult children of narcissistic parents. She said, I see the above symptoms over and over again. And, boy, amen to that. I agree. And this is what I love that she said, because it’s, I think this says this so well, the lifestyles differ and the stories differ, but they all have the same emotional banners and it’s quite a list and it takes serious recovery work to get better and feel better. So she said, if you are the other parent or part of the extended family and are trying to ward off the effects of a narcissistic parent, then you’ll have to double do it. You’ll have to do double duty as the responsible one. And the best approach is to parent with empathy, the antithesis of narcissism. If you are a divorced professional working with a case that involves, help the kids. By first really understanding the dynamics of the disorder, don’t minimize it. Make sure the children are in therapy and learning assertiveness skills to use with the parent who does not emotionally tune into them. Put the kids first. 

And I feel like in the work that I do, it really is approached by the pathologically kind person with empathy. The, and to the system narcissism. And help that person realize that they need to understand the dynamics of the disorder. Even if it’s just along the lines of emotional immaturity, don’t minimize it. And, and then if I’m talking to them, hopefully they are in therapy. And they’re learning these skills. Now, the place where I feel a little bit different is that learning those assertiveness skills can be okay. But sometimes that’s going to be just from a place of, I need to practice being heard and seen, even if I recognize that it’s not going to be the case, but it’s going to start to help define what it feels like to be you. 

So this one resonated. If you, if you feel like this would help anyone in their situation, feel free to forward it. If you have additional questions for me, reach out at contact@tonyoverbay.com or get ahold of me through Instagram at, I think Tony Overbay underscore LMFT or TikToK, if that continues to be a thing, the therapy account just cracks me up because it’s, so it’s so funny to watch, uh, just little random, uh, uh, videos that can be a minute, two minutes, go from just a few thousand views to all of a sudden you just watch one, just kind of take off for no reason. And then you refresh every hour and it’s another. I don’t know, 20, 30,000 views. And it’s just interesting to see what people connect with, most of the stuff does have to do with traits and tendencies around narcissism or emotional immaturity. So it’s just fascinating. Okay. Have an amazing week. And I will see you next time on Waking Up to Narcissism. 

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