Concealed Narcissists Induce Shame in Their Children

Shame is a dreadful, intolerable feeling, a visceral reaction that goes deep inside of us. Often, children carry their shame into adulthood, especially if they are raised by narcissistic parents. When we feel ashamed we want to disappear, to hide where no one can find us.

The narcissistic parent expects perfection from his child. A child learns how to feel about himself through the loving attachment of the parent–the empathy, affection, acceptance of the son or daughter as a unique human being. The good parent accepts his/her child’s true authentic self.

The narcissistic non-parent expects the child to mirror him perfectly and to obey without question and become a source of narcissistic supply. This occurs frequently through the narcissistic parent’s tapping into what he perceives as a child’s  “good qualities” — physical attractiveness, high intellectual capacity, athletic prowess, social skills.

The child with this highly dysfunctional parent is never permitted to be his authentic self–that wonderful spontaneous, creative,  joyful individual that is expressing the real self.  Instead, the concealed narcissist projects shame into his small child from the beginning–telling them that they are always wrong, stupid, unworthy, worthless.  The messages the child receives are:  ” You must do what I say perfectly or you will be severely punished because you are bad.”  “You are an embarrassment to me, a  disgrace, a nothing, a nobody.”  “All you do is make mistakes. What is the matter with you.”  “You are a cry baby. Stop your whimpering, you stupid kid.”  These and other horrid messages are hurled at the child each day. Sometimes they come through nonverbal cues, looks of disdain and hatred in the face of the narcissistic parent directed at the child.

Children raised in this psychological environment of being demeaned and humiliated feel deep shame inside themselves very early.

On the surface the concealed narcissistic parent is all smiles, lovely manners, impeccable image,  lauded, praised and worshipped as an outstanding human being by professional peers, social acquaintances, other family members not privy to their dark, cruel secrets. Those who do not know this mother or father would never guess that beneath the surface is a psychological and emotional monster who is terrorizing and shaming his children.

I hear from many children of concealed narcissists who have suffered throughout their lives with inflicted shame. They have a very difficult and challenging road that they travel to healing, recovery and the fulfillment of their creative and spiritual gifts.

I have spoken to and heard from many of you who are in the process of healing the shame that has bound you and are on the road to rediscovering your true self and leading the life that you deserve. Remember to put the emphasis on taking very good care of yourself for the first time.  Continue to pay close attention to your intuitive gifts and your creative energies.

9 thoughts on “Concealed Narcissists Induce Shame in Their Children”

  1. When I receive an email newsletter from Dr. Linda, I am pleased to find that someone out there knows the pain, suffering, and the strength it takes to endure this kind of abusive parent and/or family. Dr. Linda’s newsletters speak the truth to me and I look forward to each of her writings, simply because she knows what I, and, most likely, you as well, are dealing with, or have had to deal with.

    With each of her messages, I know there is high degree of likelihood that I’m going to be familiar with something she is conveying. I consider it a true blessing to have come across someone who finally understands where I’ve been.

    After reading this writing, I feel privileged, in a way, that I didn’t have the severe parent who would be blatant with criticism. My parents and grandparents were like surgeons, knowing how to make their slices with more subtle expressions and the use of “control mechanisms”.

    I’m sure there’s probably some fancy professional term Dr. Linda can attach to my meaning of “control mechanisms”. For me, these were mediums through which my parents and grandparents were masters of [their] influence. My mother used dieting and weight control as her area of arm-twisting, my grandmother used religion for her influences, and my father used his business acumen and savvy, including his WWII military experience, to always keep me grateful for my “having it so good”.

    I know most kids think their moms were really good cooks, but mine made food her god. She drew compliments from most everyone who ever ate at our house, so I wasn’t just boasting without witness testimonials. The irony was that she could make desserts that would put today’s chef’s to shame, but as I matured, she would watch my weight closer than her own.
    She always had to grill me about what I was eating, if I gained weight, and would always tell me where I was going wrong, yet I always yearned for the sweets I grew up with, and loved.
    Due to my active nature in sports and outdoor activities, I didn’t fight the scale until I left home.

    My grandmother was a devout Christian Scientist, not to be confused with a Scientologist.. Christian Scientists believe in Divine Healing through prayer, as do most Christian denominations, except that Christian Scientists denounce our material existence as “real”, calling such false belief, “Mortal Mind”. Devout Christian Scientists try to heal through God rather than seek medical treatment, however, the church now has the policy that seeking medical treatment is based on each individual’s prayerful guidance and preference. There have been cases when children have forgone treatment due to their parents, but have suffered as a result of not receiving the Divine healing they expected. There have been court cases attesting to this conflict. On the other hand, had I not had faith in my life growing up, I would not have acquired a deeper appreciation of Truth.

    Fortunately, my parents were independent and strong enough to provide us with the medical and dental care we needed, but Christian Science provided the backdrop for our daily survival, no matter how hypocritical it later appeared. In my late thirties, I reasoned that if our existence was not real, and that “sin, sickness, disease and death” were false concepts of “Mortal Mind” as stated by Mary Baker Eddy in her book, “Science and Health with Keys to the Scriptures”, then why should I have to pray for relief from them?

    My father was a complex man, but the complexity, as with the other family members, was due to his belief he was “always right” — at least, most of the time. As Dr. Linda points out, the narcissist sees themselves as the authority, always being “right’ and their view should be respected and obeyed. Such an example of his subtle “surgical” downplays was to always tell me, as did my mother, that I wasn’t doing as well in school as he, and my mother, knew I was capable of doing. I remember him promising me he’d buy me a Ford Thunderbird if I got all “A’s” on my report card. I was startled and asked, “Really?” I never forgot his response… “Yes, but I know I don’t have anything to worry about.”

    My step-grandmother, who recently passed away at 113 years of age, was a lady by the most conservative definitions. She was reserved, but could speak up and speak her mind, yet you would thank her in the end, not realizing that she had just crushed your ideas and told you to get to work. If I got a job, I should have a better one. If I moved, it should have been to a better location. If I got into an argument, I should have apologized for my view and respected the other person’s point.

    In summary, I’ve had my fill of narcissism. Looking back, I’ve done exactly what Dr. Linda knows to be true, that siblings of narcissists continue seeking those who resemble the characters of their upbringing. Experts often called such natural attraction, “chemistry” between people. Thanks to Dr. Linda and the Bible, I can know live with the peace of mind that I have been experiencing a real “spiritual battle” for most of my life — and now I realize what I’ve been fighting all these years.

    Is there hope for you who are reading this and know what I’m talking about? Well, I’ve made it far enough to write about it. Some of you have it a lot tougher than I did, but without “blowing smoke”, thumping Bible passages at you, or prescribing a miracle drug, I can say that the Bible can be a source of refuge for you, as will Dr. Linda’s writings, and others. Your faith and communication with God will arm you and carry you through. People and wisdom will come into your life as you seek them. At times, you will feel desperately alone, as if no one understands what you’re going through. Rest assured, there are those of us who DO understand. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Keep on reading, studying, communicating — and, eventually, you’ll gain the confidence and strength to deal with whatever is in your path.

    Remember, when identifying narcissists, “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, has feathers like a duck… it’s probably not a chicken.”

  2. Michael

    I only came across Dr. Linda’s blog a few weeks back and have read some of the articles but I suppose this one on ‘shame’ has hit closest. It just happens to coincide with the subject being brought up with my therapist.
    I have had issues throughout most of my adult life with a few hospital admissions, alcohol dependency, self harm incidents thrown in. There have been great times of feeling good about myself and life but looking back even those times times were marked by a yearning to find something more in life or myself. Nothing is ever enough if the expectations are perfection. After another crisis early in 2015 I finally wanted to get a handle on all of this, perhaps get some help. I had been under the care of quite a few Psychiatrists who attempted to give me a diagnosis load me with chemicals of one sort or another, a bit of Electric Shock Therapy to shock this thing out of me. Most but not all of the time these Doctors only served to reinforce my feelings of shame. If they could not find a diagnosis and cure then the only conclusion was I must be a ‘weak’ ‘oversensitive’ human being. I am over half way through my course in therapy and its only in the past few sessions that i am trusting my therapist more. It so happens that his purpose is not to mock or belittle me and make me feel bad. This is all part of the syndrome. The feeling of shame runs to the core but identifying it and acknowledging it is a great start.
    So if anyone is reading this and is doing some therapy or thinking about it then stick with it. The most important thing is your relationship with the therapist. Unfortunately there are many out there in the healing professions who are in it to feed their own narcissism but there are also many out there who genuinely want to help. You will know.
    The relationship with my Mother has always been key to things. I have felt such hate and loathing. This naturally brings with it, its own shame. I don’t want to feel these things. I know that if i want to move on I have to get beyond this primeval anger and childlike rage. That takes forgiveness. That is another part of the journey. Somehow forgiveness is acceptance for what is and what has been. My Mother is not an evil person. She had a real traumatic experience when she was under 5 years old, walking alone into a room where her father was laid out on a table covered in a shroud having died earlier that day. Sent away to boarding school at 9 years old all served to give her some very peculiar coping strategies of her own.
    I was the ‘golden child’ I suppose, fairly academic and artistic. My brother and sister saw it as me getting all the attention. But I remember the fear and shouting if i didnt get the maths formula, the constant ‘you are useless’ ‘you’l just end up like your uncle’. The looks of contempt and disdain because i was afraid of dogs. She did profess later (via my father) that perhaps she should not have locked me in a room with our adorable family Labrador. My father was the great ‘facilitator’, a passive lovely man but he stood no chance really. remember the rows. He would try every now and then to put another view across but you cant argue with a narcassist. As children all we heard from him was ‘don’t upset your mother’. My brother remembers her spending days mostly in her room and dad organising us to clean up the house so there was nothing to upset her when she arose. We were 6, 8 and 9 at the time.
    It feels guilty writing this stuff down and self indulgent and ‘poor me’. I know my experiences pale compared to others but it is important now for me to recognise the effect things have had on me, just as it is important that everyone recognises their own individual story. Honouring the self and especially the child within is really important for me at the moment.
    My therapist gave me a task of writing a letter to my younger self. I chose to write a letter to a 6 year old me because that tied in with a particularly lucid dream I have had where I an cradling a young boy in my arms who has no skin and a deformed skull. Reading out that letter and even now recalling that dream again bring tears to my eyes. My healing process connects to me communicating with that lost and confused child. I can empathise with a lot of what Stan has written in the previous post. Its definitely a chicken and not a duck. I have strong beliefs also but i no longer attach them to any particular creed or faith. Nevertheless, having something, whatever it is, that is greater a beyond myself is a great comfort to me personally. On one level this also includes the help i have sought. One of the sideproducts of being a victim of shame is the isolation that goes with it.
    It has been part of my recovery and therapy to write this even if no-one else reads it so thanks.

  3. I much prefer chickens since chickens are more apt to let their weakness show, intimacy can develop from there. Not so with those who hide there faults and character traits they feel shame about. Nothing there but a false self, and that’s the cruz of the matter with narcissism, afraid to let the real stuff show, so no healing! Thank you for sharing your story, difficult journey you have been dealing with. My heart goes out to you. Be at ease and do take best care of yourself.

  4. Dr. Linda, I can so relate to all you say in your article. However, my parents were both severely traumatized in their childhoods. My father grew up a Mennonite in Southern Russia during the revolution. the first fourteen years of his life were lived exposed to seeing his father stabbed beaten and taken away by the army of the era. He had to watch the females in his family raped and beaten, and some killed. All their possessions were stolen, including vast property, cattle, homes, servants …much wealth. They all fled to the United states. My father was a ferocious man and filled with rage. I would guess he would be diagnosed with PTSD if he had ever sought help.

    My mother had witnessed much sexual trauma with her father and brothers which most likely included herself although she never said as much, but the signs were there.

    How does one hold those severely emotionally damaged parents accountable for how they became so bent on harming their children ….mindless tortures and convincing their children they were evil which caused the raging behavior?? I used to chew on my fingers until they bled with the fear instilled when my father was on a rant.

    My healing has begun in my senior years, after the symptoms of so much trauma would no longer stay contained from living with those parents in childhood, and as an adult trying to find some measure of relationship and love with them. Those parents had no other way to cope except to become, as would look like, narcissists.

    Maybe my story is much different than others. I can not hate them the way they seemed to hate me and apparently tried to get rid of me. (that’s another story)

    I do so appreciate your encouraging and affirming message in your articles. Maybe those are questions I may never find answers for.

  5. “In the mountains of truth, you never climb in vain. Either you already reach a higher point today, or you exercise your strength in order to be able to climb higher tomorrow. -Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)

    I’ve just read something that sent me back to this page, and perhaps momentarily to the dark ages. There is nothing quite like feeling as though your head is being plunged underwater, like being hazed.

    It is an editorial titled “What is envy?” written by a Catholic priest for “Magnificat.” He begins with the parable of the workers hired late in the day (Matthew 20:1-16) who are paid the same wages as those who toiled all day long. He argues that if the workers had just taken their wages, gone home, and minded their own business, all would have been well. He goes on to say, “what envy is about is this: doubt about how much we are loved…or doubt that we are being loved in the way that we need to be loved.”

    I never would have survived my childhood without my beloved pets and appreciation for beauty.

    Stan, you mention the solace you find in the Bible, as do I. You also mention the ways in which you realize how rectitude and religion influenced the character of family members and their razor sharp ability to slice away your soul. When a child is relentlessly abused physically and psychologically, love is a very abstract concept. It seems to me what this priest is trying to say is simply, turn the other cheek. For some of us, that means NO CONTACT.

    J. Krishnamurti says that when the mind is totally aware of its conditioning, there is only the mind. Antoine de Saint Exupery says it another way; “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

    Our healing journey is all about finding our way back to God, the authentic source of love that the narcissists in our lives did everything within their power to annihilate. How could we help but doubt how we were loved?

  6. Thank you so very much for sharing your story and your sincere encouragement. Until I read your post, I felt like the damage I incurred at the hands of my malignant narcissist father and my ignoring narcissistic mother was something I would have to write off as, at best, an unfortunate tragedy. It was, and still is, an absolute abnegation of my soul and utter decimation of my life and any hope I might have for the future. Your words reassured me and inspired me to continue onward, despite the unyielding weight of this monstrous family atrocity.

  7. Hey everyone i know all to well the pain a narcissistic personality disorder can cause. Especially if it’s from one’s own mother. For as long as I can remember my own mother has purposely sabotaged me. Shame isn’t in her not one single drop of it. And the older i get the more extreme lengths she goes through to do so. Im 31 now and it’s been getting so bad lately. But before I tell of any incidences let me make something clear first. For the people who struggle with mental illnesses weather it be your own or a frinds or family members you are all extremely strong and important people. So much so that the world couldn’t exist without you. For anyone else that doesn’t have to deal with these issues but like to squeeze in your inputs and think your wise to do so. Well your not and that goes for anything in life. You know absolutely nothing about anything unless you’ve had experience in it. For example I could study the controls and aerodynamics of a jet for a thousand lifetimes. But until i actually sit in that jet and take off i don’t really know anything about it. So if your out there to poo poo on these issues please know that you don’t know. So let’s get started on one of my horror stories. This one starts with my first full time job at the age of 17. To this day it was the most physically demanding job I’ve ever had. I was working at a salvage yard scraping up metals with mostly cutting torches. Lots of heavy lifting and all that fun stuff. Well at that time 6 bucks an hour was minimum wage around 800 bucks a month for pay it wasn’t much. But it was even less once I was forced to pay 400 bucks rent to my mom and step farther. So I rebelled against it and moved out into a appointment building with a roommate. Whome was 16 and just got out of jail. But that still sounded better then just letting them two take money from me. Don’t get me wrong it’s not that i didn’t want to pay my own way at my mom’s house. I just wanted to be able to do what most teens do at that age. Get a car and hangout with friends you know how it is at that age. Well after only 3 days of freedom away from my mom’s iced glazed heart i wake up in the morning to get ready for work. Then I hear my mom’s voice coming from my 16 year old roommates bedroom. So I left them a note on the kitchen table sayin how sic they were for doing what they were doing. Oh hlod on it get worse cuz on my lunch break my mom and step farther both show up at my job site. They caused a huge scene in front of many people and were freaking out at me for writing a note saying that they were sic. Don’t forget my mom had just cheated on her husband and had somehow managed to get him to focus his anger at me for calling her sic. I never realized till that day how much power one person can have over people. I have a endless amount of stories just like this one because im still dealing with these types of behavioral deformities to this day. And the most odious question is why don’t you move far away. No it’s not possible she will always find me cuz she won’t stop until she does. Any time I’ve tried to inform the authorities it’s always backfired on me. These types of people are the best of actors because they don’t have actual real feelings to prohibit the lies. They will repeat what they want to believe over and over until they to believe in the lies they poetry. Until she hurts herself or someone else there is absolutely nothing i can do towards her. But that’s not to say that I can do nothing. I tell ya that i have the most amazing coping skills and am able to deal with more crapp than most people. Do whatever it takes to stay calm in any situation and you will develop abilities to benefit from. Like the ability to walk away from any and all arguments against you. Because you know what truth is only after you’ve gone completely through hell and can find a comfortable stop to rest on the way back through hell.

  8. This was my childhood Linda. You know I go back and forth with myself . . . am I . . . is mom . . . is sister? In addition to your book, I got a great deal out of this book

    I wonder if there is such a thing as a narcissistic family system, where the family dynamic itself is narcissistic. Tribal. Clanish. Buried in shame. Wielding shame, generation after generation as a tool to keep the children, spouse, parents, in line with the currently adopted belief system/comfort zone. Perhaps none of the current generation being clinically narcissistic, but reflecting a system of behaviour that was initiated by a clinically disordered person of previous generations.

    When I am off medication (Loxamine) I am very intense, driven, impatient, focused . . . get things done. I am also prone to terror and rage, however, the rage is more along the lines of, we discussed the umpteen times, we scheduled it, what the hell happened! So when it pops up, it is not necessarily without some merit. The intensity, drive, and focus when I am off loximine seems to be what unnerves others most. I take it primarily to insure that I can be a patient and loving mother to my children. I get less done but, they get more of what they really need from their mother.

    I did not need medication to negotiate intensity, drive, and temper, before my first husband became ill with Cancer when I was 25. Although before that time, I do see where I was incredibly immature.

    Does medication have the power to relieve a person of symptoms of narcissism?

  9. This is happeneing to my niece right now and its breaking my heart that I cant do anything about it! Im the sibling of the Narcissist and have been brutally psysically, emotionally and psychologically abused by him all my life now he’s using his own children to hurt me confusing the hell out of my innocent niece… these people should be locked away!

    She’s going to grow up damaged like me and theres not a thing I can do :(((

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