Thilo Beck at WEF Roundtable - A Roadmap to Sustainable Health and Better Well-being in the Workforce and Society

Goals House Roundtable, World Economic Forum, Davos – Thilo Beck

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Children of Narcissistic Parents

People who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder tend to be highly self-involved with a distorted sense of self largely based on the praise attention and approval of others They generally have an inflated idea of their own importance lacking any true empathy or concern about the feelings and needs of others.

Narcissists are often preoccupied with elaborate fantasies of success power wealth and love and they need to be constantly recognized for their intelligence and talent In spite of all that bravado their self esteem is actually very fragile.

It isn't surprising then that people with narcissistic personal disorder have children not so they can love and nurture their progeny helping them grow into happy well-adjusted adults but because their children will provide them with unconditional love Narcissistic parents tend to be aggressive hostile manipulative and demanding often using their kids as young slaves.

Life with a Narcissistic Parent

Life with a narcissistic parent is undependable and kids live with nonstop anxiety as they try without success to please their parent It's difficult for parents to grasp the extent of the damage they inflict but children growing up with narcissistic parents live in a combat zone As a result they frequently suffer similar trauma including PTSD.

Love is always conditional for children growing up with one or two narcissistic parents it is never freely given Parents often demand an unrealistic level of perfection of their children but then they belittle and criticize when children can’t live up to their lofty ideals.

As a result children learn to be insecure and are often convinced they are unlovable They have trouble expressing themselves and are fearful that speaking out will result in loss of a parent’s love Their self-esteem is squashed and they may feel they are invisible It isn’t possible for children of narcissistic parents to have normal healthy childhoods.

People outside the family are rarely aware of the problems occurring within the family as narcissistic individuals are secretive and usually highly skilled at putting on a public face In fact they are often very charming and personable However they have no respect for their children and no qualms about announcing humiliating details about their children’s lives to outsiders.

Growing up

Most children of narcissistic parents suffer abuse for many years and usually carry the problems into their adult lives Adult children of narcissists:

  • Often don’t realize their parent is mentally ill until they seek therapy for depression or anxiety.
  • All too frequently children of narcissistic parents use drugs or alcohol to cope with the pain and may require drug and alcohol treatment or rehab to address their addiction.
  • May not understand what a normal healthy relationship is like As a result they continually end up in stormy unhealthy relationships with partners who are judgmental demeaning and unloving.
  • Try constantly to please other people and keep them happy often at the expense of their own happiness.
  • Tend to feel selfish when they dare to express their own needs.
  • Blame themselves for the abuse or for feeling worthless flawed and unlovable.

What to do if You Grew up with a Narcissistic Parent

Getting on track with a whole healthy life isn’t easy for children of narcissistic parents If you are struggling here are some suggestions:

  • Read and study all you can about narcissism Learning more about the disorder will help you learn how your parent’s illness affected you In time you may develop some degree of empathy for their suffering.
  • Give yourself permission to grieve You’ll never get your childhood back and it’s important to grieve the fact that you’ll never have the type of parent you needed Accepting the truth of the matter is the first step to healing.
  • Reach out to your siblings It’s typical for narcissistic parents to select one child as a scapegoat for their anger while other children may be the clear favorites Keep in mind that being the favored child is no easier than being the scapegoat what is freely given is freely taken away.
  • Establish boundaries and do what is required to take care of your own needs without guilt or shame.
  • Realize that you may need to put distance between yourself and your narcissistic parent Stepping away doesn’t mean you hate your parent but removing yourself from a toxic relationship is critical for your own well-being.
  • Seek help as it’s common for children of a narcissistic parent to need intensive therapy to heal the damage break out of destructive behavior patterns and learn to create healthy relationships.
  • Get treatment as soon as possible if you think you have narcissistic tendencies especially if you have children Remember that parenting is not about you or your ego but it’s about loving your children unconditionally without limits but healthy boundaries Your children cannot make you okay.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek drug and alcohol treatment or rehab if you have turned to substance use to self-medicate your pain and sorrow.

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