OK, Aunt Alex is going to tread into some very delicate territory here. And, no, I don’t mean the risks taken by posting about yet another Cat Stevens song. Though this one is awesome.
I would have given you all of my heart
but there’s someone who’s torn it apart
and she’s taking almost all that I’ve got
but if you want, I’ll try to love again.
Now, I’ve railed pretty consistently about how the people who get tangled up bad with narcissists aren’t the crazy ones in the relationship, and I’ll keep right on railing about it. People get involved with personality disordered people because they’re emotionally generous, not because they seek out the punishment narcissists dish out.
That doesn’t change the facts, though, about how particularly vulnerable people are if they were raised by a narcissistic parent. (VULNERABLE. NOT DEFECTIVE.)
When a kid grows up with a narcissistic parent, they’re forced by the situation to bend their healthy boundaries in order to survive. Their psyche KNOWS Mom (or Dad) is a psycho, but they can’t really internalize that point because little Junior or Jane has to keep living with the Parents from Hell until they reach adulthood. Or, if they’re lucky, until they get rescued by other, much more sane relatives. But usually they have to put up with fake, passive aggressive, no-empathy Mom or Dad for the duration, and they have to be able to get through the day for a whole lot of days before they can leave the nest. So, they bend the boundaries in order to interact with NPD Mom or NPD Dad on a daily basis.
Then, Junior or Jane grows up. They go out into the world. They meet flaming narcissists, who smell their vulnerability from a mile away. They can’t shove them away before the narcissists gets their tentacles wrapped around them, because their boundaries are bent from childhood. So they get sucked in, idealized, devalued, thrown away, dangled, contacted…. You know the routine.
For these folks, the recovery from the narcissist assault is basically the same, but they do need one more step in the process. And that’s to go back to the first cut. When they think about the narcissist’s damages, they also have to think about those of the narcissist parent. When they blow off some healthy anger at the narcissist they broke up with, they also have to let some loose at the narcissist parent. The “no-contact” rule is also perfectly appropriate for narcissistic parents of adult children.
I can’t say this enough: When a kid of a narcissistic parent grows up and end up pairing up with a narcissist, it does NOT mean they’re damaged. Or crazy, or neurotic. It means the boundaries have been bent. Those boundaries can be repaired with some work and time, and the adult kid will go on to live a full, rich, NPD-free life. This is in contrast to the narcissist, who isn’t fixable, has no hope, and will never change.
The first cut is the deepest. If you have a narcissistic parent, then you had a horrible childhood that also needs to be mourned, along with the losses in the break-up with the narcissist. Your parent didn’t bond with you properly, didn’t take care of you properly, and didn’t love you properly. These don’t “damage” a child, but they definitely stiffed you and made you feel unsafe. You did NOT “get yourself” into this current narcissist situation; there is no “repetition compulsion” or “seeking out of abuse”. That victim-blaming is disgusting. Mending and fortifying those instinctive boundaries of yours will put you right where your psyche wants you to be — Creep-free. And it’s never, ever too late to start.