Narcissistic abuse is often generational. It is not genetic. Studies have not shown that there is a genetic marker for this severe personality disorder. However, with many individuals there is a destructive cycle of repetition that occurs. From narcissistic mother to narcissistic husband–from narcissistic parents to narcissistic wife–from narcissistic siblings to narcissistic spouse. There are many other combinations and permutations of these painful psychological patterns.
Having a narcissistic parent is one of the most difficulty psychological legacy you can have. You grew up without a parent who was capable of love, who blamed you for everything that went wrong (according to them) who undermined your taking initiative for yourself, who dismissed your feelings, even made fun of them and told you that you were weak and even crazy. You had a brother or sister who was venerated and adored because he or she was being groomed to be the family star–the chosen one–a young lord or lady of the manor. You were not even second best. In some cases when the narcissistic rage went out of control you were a punching bag–in some instances, literally.
After leaving this house of desolation you found someone you loved. You were swept up by the charm, the energy, the attention you were getting from this special man. It was like a fantasy that had come true. He was too good to be true but you were going for it. Sometimes early–for others late–into the marriage you recognized that you were married to a narcissistic personality. After years of suffering under his bubbling rage, outrageous demands and threats, lies and multiple cruelties, you divorce the guy. He doesn’t make it easy but you walk away to re-establish your life. Some of those who leave the narcissist benefit from excellent psychotherapy. If you decide to take this route be sure to do all of your homework. There are a some narcissistic psychotherapists who are out there for the money, even individuals who collect retainers in advance. Working with a strong therapeutic alliance with a gifted therapist can help you through the transition to becoming a person on your own again. Even if you have had a solid career throughout the marriage, there are adjustments to be made in your new role of running your own life completely without the narcissistic baggage. Give yourself credit for stopping the cycle of narcissistic abuse you have endured all of your life starting with the narcissistic parent. When past memories come to the surface especially those from childhood , be kind to yourself and recognize there and then that you are not to blame for having a narcissistic parent and that you were ripe to marry a narcissist. Let go of this past—do not let it hinder you.
Energize yourself in the new life you have chosen. No one can ever tell you how to lead your life again. You have won. Now use all of your creative gifts to the max and beyond. You will find friends and a support group of those who are not living in delusion like the narcissists. When you meet a narcissist you will recognize him/her immediately. Keep your distance—you know what they are all about–Using you to get what they want. Your life is different now. Some of those who prevail send out the message to others that they too can be free without excuses or guilt. Rev up your intellectual and creative engines. You are rediscovering your real self.
9 thoughts on “Stop the Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse and Win”
I’ve done this twice. The first marriage, he used me to get a college degree. The more important he became the less important I became. I was taught to never leave once married. I went through neglect, emotional and physical abuse. One day he got up from the breakfast table and said he was going to look for what he was missing in life. He left me and three children. I didn’t know about narcissism. I went to college and met my second husbsnd. I thought he loved me but my ego was very low. It didn’t take much for me to think I was finally loved. I repeated the same mistake. Life is all about him. I just happen to be a meaningless part of his life. I was married the first time for 16 years…this time for 30 years. I am too old to start over. Don’t make the same mistake
I was married to a Narc for 12 years, and believe me, it truly is like being forced to star in my own episodes of the Twilight Zone. The whole thing was a frightening ordeal, finding out what was wrong with my ex. I researched NPD for 7 months. I always look forward to your article. Thank you so much, Greg Bernstein
I would like to see you write an article on the narcissistic adult child who is guilty of quiet cruelties against a parent or parents. I know a mother who raised two children, exactly alike (they had two different fathers). The mother was the primary custodial parent of both children. The older child, a 41 year old adult daughter, exhibits traits of a narcissist, without the rage, but instead is guilty of quiet cruelties against the mother. Lately she has started lying on the mother, with three of those lies coming in rapid succession. The 31 year old adult son is the opposite of his half-sister — loving, giving and cooperative, and would not think of lying on anyone, let alone his own mother.
We will have to agree to disagree on this one. I firmly believe that narcissism is genetic. There is no logic to it being environmental.
I and my sister were neglected, abused, unloved, ridiculed, scapegoat children. Life with a malignant cold narcissistic mother was harsh.
We are not narcissists though, if anything at all we are empaths. We feel too much.
I am damaged. Social phobia, OCD, body dysmorphia, agoraphobia, depression, anxiety. Oh yes, many issues. Fear has filled my life instead of confidence because of mother (father wasn’t much better either)
Mother killed the person I should have been.
But then there’s middle sister, the Golden Child. Different from the get go. She was the chosen one. I think because mother knew, she ‘smelt’ a creature the same ilk as herself. Mother’s little prodigy become a ‘monster’ sister.
I think middle sister was born a narc, her entitled treatment encouraged the PD but did not cause it per say.
My question is, if abuse/neglect/no warmth/ no love in early years causes narcissism why am I and my other sister not narcissists?
I work with damaged children and the result of neglect, no love, no main and consistent care giver in early years can cause R.A.D (reactive attachment disorder) which is rather like narcissism I suppose. A severely affected child cannot make deep attachments, as they have no genuine empathy.
Neural pathways, chemical messengers, are in babies, stimulated by a normal mother’s warm loving touch, conversation, chatter and intense eye contact, all those things create strong attachments and stimulate empathy. If that does not happen at all child will be badly damaged.
In general severe neglect/abuse as a baby creates R.A.D.
Narcissism however is a personality disorder that people are born with, in my experience. It used to be believed that psychopathy, like narcissism, was caused by abuse but it is not.
James Fallon is a psychopath, saved from being a killer, he believes only by his exceptionally good childhood. His family say they always knew he was’ different’, and that on a few occasions they felt scared of him, realizing what was capable of. A very powerful personality.
As for a genetic marker not being found yet, it will be eventually. There is still much research to be done on this subject.
Nonetheless I do like your blogs and take great comfort in them. And most of what you say is spot on.
Some notes and research on genetics and personality disorders.
since my links were “spammy” plug these search terms into google:
(google “nlm nih PMC2844885” )
(google “pubmed 18638644” )
(google “pubmed 17974938” )
(google “nlm nih PMC3181941” )
(google “jamanetwork articleid 204348” )
(google “samvak journal43” )
Shari Scheiber’s “gettinbetter” site is a fabulous resource for people who are recovering from relationships with borderlines and narcissists. http://gettinbetter.com/
Need info on narcissistic break
My early life was very traumatic to such a point, that I had to leave and join the U.S. Navy to get away from the abuse. Only one month into my new duty station in Pearl Harbor, Hi, I met a very tall, and handsome sailor in the chow hall, and asked a friend to introduce us. I was only 22 years old then, and after only dating a few weeks, I moved in with this man and another sailor into their apartment. I was enamored and was very swept away by this man’s charm, his maturity, and smarts, since he was on a nuclear submarine as a fire control technician, and know the tough schooling and discipline it took for him to get there. When we decided to get married, I pinched myself all the time, because I couldn’t believe that I was married to such a handsome and intelligent man.
But I jumped out of one fire, and into another fire, but didn’t know the damage he would cause me until 33 years later. At age 57 years old now, and his only being gone for a little over a year, the regret I have has definitely taken its toll on me, and feeling that i was used, and should have seen the clues many eons ago, but didn’t.
My counselor is a family and substance abuse specialist, who has helped me to know it was not my fault, I was young and in love. I gave my marriage to this man my all, moved all over the U.S. for 33 years, gave up my friends, never had a sense of belonging anywhere, and feel so lost because of him. I lost myself in this marriage, and now need to reclaim my life again, stop beating myself up for what has happened to me, and learn from my experiences so far.
omg that is so sad. thank you for sharing.
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