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Recovery for Adult Children Raised by a Narcissist

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Narcissistic Personality Disorder » Featured Article

By: Karen Ognibene, MA, LPC

Karen Ognibene, MA, LPC

The term narcissist has become more familiar to us all; we may work with them, see them in politics or even in our own family. But, what if it’s your mother or father? There’s a sadness that swallows you at times, but has no label, right? That is what happens when you are raised by a parent that lacks empathy and unconditional love.

Understanding that your parent has a mental illness is a much-needed validation to truly believe that you are not at fault. Acceptance of this truth means that you understand the narcissist parent has limited capacity to love and only loves with conditions.

There are three stages to the work:

  • Understand the diagnosis and history
  • Deal with feelings relating to the history
  • Begin to re-frame the new reality of your life

In my experience, “get over it” simply doesn’t work nor does cognitive behavioral therapy. A person-centered therapy approach where your needs are met for the first time through the therapeutic process is critical for personal growth. It’s important to work on cleaning up the residual effects of formative years trauma and accepting that your parent is not going to change and possibly that the other parent is an enabler. The change is going to be all about you, and this can be very scary when it’s never been about you. Imagine being allowed to grieve for the parent that you never had and the small child that was deprived a childhood.

For your recovery, we will focus on using revised steps of grief to help you heal.

Acceptance: Understanding the parent’s limitations to love you is required and to understand your own feelings that have been pushed to the side over your lifetime. Processing the expectations that were unmet and grieve the loss.

Denial: You are most likely still denying that your parent was unable to love you. All children want is to be loved and this denial was necessary for your basic survival. You have gone back for more, thinking the parent will change this time, but they never do.

Guilt and Anger: Your anger seeps out at unexpected times due to build-up over your lifetime. These strong emotions are expected when your emotional needs were unmet and the neglect has affected your life in severe, adverse layers. At times, the anger turns inward on yourself for being stuck.

Anxiety and Depression: Not getting the parent you had hoped for is sad and anxiety provoking. The parent will never meet your emotional needs and at times the emptiness feels like an un-parented child.

During the therapy process it is typical to bounce around in all of the 4 stages. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself time to heal from the trauma wounds and allow yourself to get stronger to break the patterns that have been holding you back.

About the Author...

Karen Ognibene is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in Trauma related issues.

Click here to contact or learn more about Karen Ognibene

Last Update: 7/26/2018



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