Five Things You Learn From Having a Narcissistic Parent

One thing a child of a narcissistic parent eventually learns is that what they might need, feel, or think doesn't matter. In fact, everything revolves around that figure of power who absorbs everything like a black hole.
Five Things You Learn From Having a Narcissistic Parent
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 02 December, 2021

There’s one outstanding thing you learned when you have a narcissistic parent. It’s the fact that not every person is suitable to be a parent. In fact, those people who should’ve given everything for you, who should’ve loved you, respected you and made you feel secure and worthwhile, instead, prioritized themselves at all times. Unsurprisingly, this has a deep emotional impact on you.

Furthermore, you bring to adulthood the wound of a trauma that needs to be healed. Indeed, it’s extremely common to see many people with disorders such as depression, eating problems, and self-image as a result of this reality. As a matter of fact, growing up with a narcissistic parent means you think you don’t deserve what you need. Furthermore, you feel that it doesn’t even matter.

The emotional neglect you suffer in these types of family dynamics is highly damaging. Undoubtedly, you suffer unspeakable wounds and there are certain dimensions you need to understand to overcome your complex experiences. We take a look at them here.

Feelings of emptiness, guilt, constant insecurity… Growing up in a family with one or more narcissists always has consequences. In fact, it alters your personality and your way of relating to others.

Child thinking about the things you learn from a narcissistic parent

Things you learn from having a narcissistic parent

The Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York conducted a study in 2003 claiming that all forms of emotional abuse and neglect in childhood have a clinical impact in adulthood. In fact, many people come to psychological therapy with shocking stories to tell. Furthermore, on many occasions, they don’t even realize that their parent was suffering from this personality disorder.

If you have or had a narcissistic parent, they probably constantly criticized, humiliated, and ridiculed you. Indeed, you experienced the trauma of an upbringing where you were treated as a mere accessory and not as someone with their own needs and rights.

Several approaches are often used in helping victims of childhood narcissistic abuse. In general, it’s correlated with various psychopathologies. These can range from anxiety, addiction problems, eating disorders, and self-destructive behaviors, etc.

However, therapy works and when this happens, you start to become aware of many things. In fact, let’s see what you learn from the experience of having a narcissistic parent.

1. Love doesn’t mean domination

The narcissistic parent acts as a leader of a cult. They seek to override others in order to control them. This involves carrying out the persuasive task of continually underestimating others, including their children. Therefore, nothing you feel, need or think matters, only what they want is important.

If you’ve been through this life experience you finally learn that unconditional love isn’t based on domination. However, the narcissist needs victims on whom to exercise their control and thus achieve superiority. In addition, they love being able to belittle and have everyone under their control.

2. Your life purpose no longer consists of satisfying a narcissist

One of the things you learn when you finally escape your narcissistic parent is that you’re free. Your life is your own. You can make your own decisions and lead the kind of existence you want. As a matter of fact, understanding this is vital for victims of any kind of narcissistic abuse, but especially when you’ve grown up with a narcissistic parent.

When you grow up in an environment dominated by a narcissist your only purpose in life is to fulfill the narcissist’s needs. This implies giving up all your dreams, desires, or longings. Manipulation in these cases is absolute, to the extent that you don’t even know what you expect from life or what goals you have.

3. You’re free to interact with whoever you want outside the family

Narcissistic parents are extremely possessive of their children. Not only do they nullify them psychologically, but they also tend to isolate them. So much so, that it’s common for them to control their activities and the time they spend away from home. In fact, they prefer that they don’t have friends or partners.

Therefore, when you have a narcissistic parent, you finally learn that you have the full right to build the relationships that you want. You’re free to leave the dysfunctional orbit that this figure built for you. You’re complete, prepared to cut the umbilical cord at last, and build your own world.

Narcissists can’t perceive their children as unique individuals separate from themselves. Domination is absolute.

4. You’re not responsible for their parents’ happiness or unhappiness

As a child of a narcissist, you eventually understand that you’re not in this world to fulfill your parents’ wishes. Indeed, your role isn’t to achieve what your parent didn’t achieve, to be their reflection, and even less to find their happiness for them. Therefore, if your parent says they’re disappointed in your behavior or they express hurt that you’re making your own decisions, you mustn’t listen to them. Your parents aren’t your responsibility.

You ultimately realize you have the right to shape your own projects, regardless of what your parent wants or feels. However, you must realize that you mustn’t continue to feed your parents’ narcissistic appetites or pay attention to their dramas.

Sad woman because she feels hurt thinking about the things you learn from a narcissistic father

5. You have the right to distance yourself from those who hurt you

Finally, you realize that you have the right to decide how much time you want to invest in your narcissistic parent. You might feel that a monthly visit is sufficient. Alternatively, you may prefer to break the link with them entirely. Everyone who finds themself in this kind of situation is different, and you have the full right to decide what type of relationship you want or don’t want to have with your narcissistic parent.

Finally, if there’s one thing to be learned from these kinds of experiences, it’s that the most important thing is to seek and create healthy connections. As a child of a narcissistic parent, you must establish links that enrich you emotionally and don’t leave you with mental injuries. Indeed, true families are forged through love. Genetics really don’t matter.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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    Abuse and neglect in childhood: Relationship to personality disorder diagnoses. CNS Spectrum, 8, 737–754.
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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.