No One Believes You—Psychological Damage Caused by Narcissistic Parent

There is a theme that runs through responses that I receive from children of a narcissistic parent(s). The child is subjected to unbearable levels of ongoing abuse–scalding criticisms, withering humiliations in front of other family members and alone, routine secret physical beatings and other horrendous acts of brutality including psychological and literal abandonment. When the child lets family members know what is happening to him, this person is not believed. When the victim of a narcissist tells the truth about his dreadful pathological parent, he is not treated with kindness or understanding. The family is shocked; the victim is treated with disdain and often told he/she is the sick one or that this is all lies to get attention. The narcissistic mother or father gets a complete pass. A masterful coverup takes place and remains ongoing. The child victims become family pariahs. Often the suggestion is whispered that they belong in a psychiatric institution or are in need of intensive psychotherapy.

In some cases the narcissistic abuse has been so severe that the victim needs to work with an excellent psychotherapist to deal with the painful aftermath of surviving a narcissistic parent. The child of the narcissist is doubly abused—Once throughout childhood and another round when he or she tells the truth about the narcissistic parent. After all the entire family must keep the secret intact especially if the narcissist is highly successful, has a high profile, is generous monetarily with certain family members or cravenly sets one child against the other. Does the narcissistic parent feel any guilt about what he has done to his children. Certainly not! He does not have a conscience. If the marriage and the kids don’t work out, he/she moves on to the next opportunity. What about a younger prettier wife with whom he can make more perfect children? Whom does he think he is? a god? The answer is Yes! These individuals are despicable especially when they disrupt and in some cases destroy their children’s’ lives.

Many children of narcissistic parents do survive although they have suffered horribly. They are courageous individuals who never give up even when they feel like they can’t go one more step. They learn the lessons of survival well. Many of them become hypervigalent and suffer from anxiety and depression. Many benefit from highly skilled empathic psychotherapy and other healing modalities: gentle yoga, a form of meditation that works for you, journaling, exercise that you enjoy and spending time with Nature.

I want you to know that I Believe You. I know what you have endured. You are courageous. You deserve to lead the life that was given to you originally. Keep healing. You are taking the path less traveled–the one with fewer travelers, the way that has deep meaning. Here you will find the peace that you have sought all of your life.

Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.

This entry was posted in Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, narcissistic abuse, narcissistic mothers, narcissistic personality disorder, narcissistic rage, self help. mental health. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to No One Believes You—Psychological Damage Caused by Narcissistic Parent

  1. David Kelly says:

    Excellent post – thank you! “Crazy-making” is a tool used by narcissistic parents to convince the child that what is happening is not happening or is not as bad as they think. I was convinced that something was wrong with me until I moved away from my mother and got counseling. Even today – 30 years later – I am viewed as the crazy one in the family because I called my mother on her narcissistic behavior while she looked to people outside the immediate family like the perfect mother who did her all to raise two boys by herself. I still doubt myself at times because, of course, I was crazy and didn’t have the correct perception of reality. Recently I had an aunt ackowledge all is not right with my mother, but I couldn’t talk with my aunt about my mom’s non-diagnosed narcissistic personality disorder. I’d be looked at as crazy all over again.

  2. Katy says:

    Comment:From Katy
    This post is exactly what my husband and I are going through with his mother. There hasn’t been any physical abuse, but the mental abuse given from her, thereby turning his family against us is almost unbareable! We have been married for almost 3 years and I no longer have any desire to have any relationship with her! I stand in awe of the situation at times because my family believes us, but my husbands side no longer speaks to us. She has even turned family friends against us, and I feel that I have slipped into a deep depression! We continue to pray for the situation but its just so hard to handle. It’s comforting to know that we are not alone, thank you for posting this, it has helped!

  3. Caroline says:

    Comment:From Caroline
    Linda, thank you for writing about the problem of “No one believes you”. As a girl, I was the first born of two children; my brother is six years younger than me. We have very different personalities. I am career oriented, driven, perfectionistic and have obsessional tendencies. My brother is laissez-faire, social by nature and much less goal-focused.

    I am currently dealing with the emotional cataclysm of the end of my marriage to a man who I failed to recognise as having a covert and perverse narcissistic personality style. It has been very traumatic for me as I face the truth of our marriage and I still experience waves of incomprehensibility. As I question why and how I failed to see what was before me for all those years, I have asked myself what is about me that allowed me to suffer the abuse I did. Why would an otherwise intelligent woman allow herself to submit to incessant put-downs, little humiliations, ongoing negative commentary, snide criticisms, guilt-inducing questions, excessive levels of scrutiny and challenges to her ability to even comprehend her perceptions? In essence, to live in an emotionally unsafe and toxic environment.

    My answer has been as disturbing as my growing realisation about my marriage. I have experienced much of this before at the hands of my mother. My mother and father are both dead, so I will never be able to adequately understand the reasons she was like this, but she was cold and cruel towards me. I have no recollection of my mother saying she loved me or even receiving a cuddle from her. There were never any mother-daughter shared moments and I always had a feeling, which I was unable to name, that she didn’t want to be a mother. Unlike some mothers who take pride in their daughters, my mother seemed to feel quite the opposite about me. I have always struggled with standing out and I suspect this has to do with the fact I am the only member of my family with red hair. As a child, my hair was thick, wavy and bright fire-red in colour. I recall when I was about 14 years of age my mother told me I was going to the hairdresser. At this stage, my hair was very long; I could nearly sit on it. I had no idea why we were going to the hairdresser and I don’t think I wanted to go. But I was a compliant child and did what I was told. I sat in the chair and my mother was behind me, out of my sight. My hair was cut short and in the process, my hair was carefully collected by a second hairdresser. Nothing hit the floor. It has taken me all this time to accept my mother sold my hair.

    Recently I told my brother that I felt mum hated me. He was appalled with what I said and told me I was wrong. My brother doesn’t believe me.

    I now see the outcome for me of living in an environment of constant low-grade emotional abuse interspersed with extreme moments. The abuse becomes like “white noise”. I learned maladaptive ways to accommodate the “white noise” abuse. Faulty thinking such as believing I deserved it, that it wasn’t really as bad as all that, things will get better, I need to try harder, if I hadn’t done “x” to provoke her and so on. There is no such thing as unconditional love; in fact, it is exactly the opposite, to the extent that I am actually wondering if I even know what love really is. To me it is an over-used word empty of meaning.

    Now, when my husband tells me how much he loves me I feel sad and have an empty hollow space in my chest. Today he said to me that even though he knows I have fallen out of love with me, he still loves me very much. And today I rang his therapist when I found out he had bought a book on suicide methods. I could not bear the burden of that knowledge. It is now three months since I moved out, but hours later, I still cried.

    I recently read an article which made a great deal of sense to me. I recommend it to anyone trying to understand life with a narcissistic person:
    Filippini, S., Perverse relationships: The perspective of the perpetrator, Int J Psychoanal 2005;86:755–73

  4. kathy says:

    Okay, so my Narcissistic Mother just tried to guilt trip me about a tablet computer she was obsessed with. She bought us (herself and myself) the tablets with keyboards this month. I had told her I was excited about the new technology, because I thought it would be less stressful to finally have the new tech that my hyper-speed virgo moon Writer brain had been waiting for, and had been trying absent-mindedly to use my laptop screen like a tablet touch screen, but I was worried about money. I don’t like spending a lot of money. I am neurotically vocal about this. She suddenly took us out one day and bought ‘us’ (dad and myself) two new phones (she had been obsessing over how our phones suck and don’t work right- mine was fine GULP) and herself and myself these two tablets. Well, the other day she said something nice to me (not really nice, I’m being sarcastic) about how she ‘needed’ me to see if my keyboard that arrived in the mail (because they hadn’t had the keyboard at the store in stock when we bougth my tablet with hers) worked with my tablet, because she had had trouble setting hers up. I refused coolly, because we were in the middle of dinner and she was really just trying to get at my father and myself with a comment, after she had just said that dad could watch this show we had on record, and made abig ufss about him watching it. N-LOL. If I am not forgetting anything here it’s hard for me not to, I had severe memory issues as a child andd yet I could remember many unhappy things- like how the lady who ran the preschool on my street pscreamed at me and put her foot on my back when I had an earache nad couldn’t keep still due to adhd at nap time… just not my name. or where I lived, or what building I was standing in or why, but that’s another story) she then flew into a sublimated rage and twirled around LOLOLOLOLL, then proceeded to attack me indirectly by getting dad to feel sorry for her and attack me, going into this sublimated tirade about “don’t you care about this? I wanted this to be a family thing! You got this today in the mail so I just wanted to make sure it worked! I need you to check it out right now!” riiiiiiight. Interrupt dad’s ONE tv show he gets to watch that day after coming home from work. Interrupt his dinner with your histrionics. We’re eating dinner nad watching tv, dumbass- DO. IT. LATER.

    • kathy says:

      then today, she tried it again, by ‘finding’ the tablet after i had put it and all its accoutrement plain to see on her wicker basket she keeps near her desk. I wanted nothing of her at that point. ;O Well, what happened today was this: she verbally attacked me by claiming that sheneeded me to check out the keyboard and ‘why was this here’ when she ‘found’ it on that basket. Like she didnt know. N-LOL. she whined again that she needed me to do this and “are you going to cost me 80 dollars because we can’t return these- they’re registered” okay little girl. time for spankies!!!!!! ARGH. I wish I had the means to move out. I wish I didn;t love her. the first night, seh even manipulated my poor aspie dad, like she always does, into taking her side and hating me for my standing up to her. sigh.

  5. Hanna says:

    This is exactly how it is. I’m so afraid that people won’t believe me or think I’m the crazy one. It makes me so angry!

    Even my husband, when he met my mom, quickly believed her acting. Maybe not entirely but he felt a bit sorry for her. She even lied to her former husband and said she wasn’t the mother of me and one of my siblings and that our aunt was our mother. She was only “nice enough to take care of us for her aunt”. I was totally shocked when my brother overheard this.

    My mom fools everyone until they caught her lying and stealing. Then they hate her.

  6. Survivor says:

    Thank you SO much for posting this! It is a gift to any and all survivors who’ve endured the liberal doses of abuse that NPD parents rely upon for complete control of their targets.

    The hardest part of this is that she is the only mother I have.

    As the Holidays approach, a specter of depression, fear and apathy paralyzes the days and which I struggle to overcome every year. Mom never failed to turn Christmas into her special brand of horror, from drunken rages and fist fights to burning gifts in the fireplace. After a lifetime of training, the holidays are not a joyous time for me. I hate them with every fiber of my being as I associate only misery with them.

    As an elderly narcissist, Mom continues to make unreasonable demands and when she can’t force me away from my family she injures herself and demands that I come to the hospital.

    My mother hated that I was the product of an affair she chose to have and went to great lengths to punish me for being born. I was a constant reminder of her despicable selfishness. She had tried unsuccessfully to spontaneously abort me and when I survived, she set about making my life a living hell.

    Growing up in her home, she assigned my siblings enforcement of her hatred and encouraged them to punish and abuse me as they were her “Golden Children.” I was the designated scapegoat. They beat me and emotionally abused me so often that I learned to find good hiding places in the house just for the few hours of safety.

    I was labelled “lazy” and “willful” because I was terrified of being physically attacked doing housework and would hide until the house was empty or dad came home and I felt safe again.

    I was shamed on a daily basis that caused me to weep often and was met with the snarling remark from my mother “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.”

    I was never more than a prop for her to use in order to get attention from others. I hated going anywhere with her because she would place me in situations where I would be forced to speak or answer her friends / acquaintances. I learned to be afraid of saying the “wrong” thing because she would hit me across the mouth with force, using the back of her hand, regardless of who was present. No one dared stop her.

    As a child I had regular crying jags that would go on for hours because she had hit me in the face in public, yet again, for some perceived faux pas. If I wept, I was sent to bed without dinner. She would then lie about me to others including my school friends who either abandoned me or ganged up on me for a beating. My siblings lied and encouraged their friend’s siblings who were my age to hurt me.

    I was beaten and harassed at school on a daily basis until we moved away. By that time my siblings had moved out of the house and my life at the new school improved remarkably. For the first time I was not beaten at school and did not fear walking the halls. I had real friends for the first time and my siblings had no involvement in my life.

    My mother had affairs with younger men and would leave messages at my school telling me not to ride the bus home and that she would pick me up. Instead, she would leave me sitting outside in the cold until late evening and even showed up with her boyfriend driving the car my father had bought her. I stood up to her just one time: She beat me so viciously that I learned never to object to anything she did ever again.

    She stayed married to my father until my older sister moved out and I was the last child at home, then she divorced my dad, moved us into a small home and moved her boyfriend in with us. She forced me to lie to my father about our living situation and he never forgave me. Her boyfriend who later became my step-father was given carte blanche to terrorize me.

    I sought therapy to work through my problems before I became a parent, myself. I believed that I could handle things well and as she got older, Mom seemed to tone down her Narcissistic tendencies. I have exercised patience and consideration where she is concerned even when she has been abusive or rude, realizing that she has a disorder and is a very sick individual.

    Recently, my siblings abandoned her after getting their mortgages paid by her, music lessons paid and cars purchased for their kids.
    She became very despondent then placed an enormous load of pressure on me for attention to fill the void. Her husband avoids her for the most part and has made it plain that he would rather be somewhere else. I gave her as much time as I could but do have a life of my own.
    I recently discovered that she is still lying about me to other people and continues to use them for attack:
    I went with her for a check -up and the nurse roughly grabbed and wrenched my arm pulling me aside to tell me how great my mother is, then a friend of hers called me to scold and rant at me all while telling me what a great person my mother is.

    That she has continued to betray in order to abuse me at every opportunity is shocking to say the least. That other adults are drawn in to her Narcissist’s lies then act on them with vitriol is even more shocking.

    Detachment and distance are my best choices and I have plenty of work to do to keep me busy. While I forgive her I choose not to continue being her foil.

    With the Holidays looming, I count my blessings with deep gratitude: After many years of psychotherapy the cycle of abuse has been broken. I have a happy, committed marriage, I am the parent of a kind, thoughtful adult child who is balanced, and good friends who are considerate and honest.

  7. Darla says:

    Thank you! I can’t express enough gratitude for this post!

  8. Frank says:

    After reading all that I have on Narcissistic parents, I find that this describes my parents, but then it actually describes all of us and everyone I have ever met or known in my 72 years. There may be a few instances where this label is true, however I am finding that a very high number of people are using this to avoid responsibility for themselves. I think now that there has been great damage with all this labeling as it only describes differences in personalities.

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