Narcissists cast dark shadows over our lives, especially when we are very young. Deep inside, instinctively, we know that we must survive. Many of us go along not only to get along but to stay alive psychologically. Some young children in highly disturbed narcissistic families become hyper-vigilent—always surveying their environments for danger, threats, visceral feelings of being completely unsafe. Other children are less aware of the dynamics in the family on a conscious level. They distract themselves with activity, telling themselves that everything is all right. In our earliest years our minds normalize what we are experiencing. It is the rare person who as a small child knew that there was something fundamentally wrong, unjust, and highly disturbed about one or both of our parents.
Narcissistic fathers cannot parent. They are emotionally unavailable to their children. They go through the motions of interacting with them. They may give greater attention to a child whom they perceive will become a star, a standout in the family—-this is another narcissistic supply for the father. He doesn’t care about the individuality of this son or daughter. He sees potential in them that can be nurtured and eventually will reflect his greatness. The kids who don’t make the cut–the ones who are less attractive, highly sensitive, not socially skilled—-are set aside for neglect and constant ridicule. To the narcissistic father you are either his possession or you don’t exist. This man constantly appraises the value of his children to him. He sets unapproachable goals. Everyone must be at the top of the class or else. These fathers will take a son who has athletic capability and make them work out to the point of exhaustion and injury to fulfill their dream of having a son who is a professional athlete. Andre Agassi, the great tennis champion talks about his cruel narcissistic father’s forcing him from early childhood to practice hour after hour without let up. He didn’t care that his son hated tennis. Father prevailed. And yes, Agassi became a great champion but at a great price–years of abuse and agony.
There is an accumulation of truth about your narcissistic father. Some of his children recognize early that they are being used to prop up their father’s ego supplies and his grandiose self vision. Others identify with the father and spend their lives as his living servants. Those who wake up to the truth that the father is a merciless narcissist, sever this toxic relationship and begin the healing process of fulfilling their birthright of becoming a free separate individual. Some turn to professional psychotherapy and grieve for the real father they never had. There are other healing paths–meditation, hatha yoga, journaling, the forming of meaningful close relationships with individuals who care deeply about the real you. Those who go through this passage discover that they are finally free to lead their lives on their terms. They thrive, discover creative gifts that have been left dormant and gain confidence and inner peace by embracing their real selves. Visit my website:thenarcissistinyourlife.com
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.
Telephone Consultation: United States and International
Book: Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life