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.

3 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

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