It’s Narcissist Friday!
Adult children of narcissists find themselves with special struggles. Like adult children of alcoholics, those who grew up in narcissistic families suffer identifiable and treatable obstacles that usually manifest in relationships. In fact, because of the special circumstances of the family dynamics, these people often find themselves enduring the same kinds of problems repeatedly in adult relationships. They also find themselves unable to conquer the struggles of their narcissistic family, even though they may be grown and away from home.
One of the common challenges for those with narcissistic parents is the ability to express feelings. I recently visited with someone who said that when she was in a new relationship she had no opinion on where they should go out to eat. She simply didn’t care. Her boyfriend found this very frustrating because he wanted to make her happy. But she could express no desire for one place over another.
Someone might suggest that this is an inability to make a decision, but that is not the case. This is a lack of feeling. And where did it come from? Well, imagine the little girl who expresses her desire for something only to be told she is bad for wanting it, or to have her desire ignored. I knew a young woman who expressed to her mother that she liked a certain dress in a store window. The mother bought the dress for her sister. She never understood why, but she also never expressed that kind of desire again.
Children of narcissistic parents find that their own feelings are an offense to their parents. The daughter learns that she can only express happiness when mom is happy and then only for the same reason mom is happy. If the daughter expresses sadness, she becomes a burden to her narcissistic mother. Even the baby, who brings so much positive attention when things go well, becomes a burden when sick or tired or upset.
So children of narcissistic parents need to be given the freedom to express their feelings. They may not do well at first. They may find it difficult to trust someone else with honest feelings or they may find their new freedom intoxicating and offend others. Those who care about these folks will want to be patient and understanding.
Sam Vaknin suggests that one of the most common feelings expressed by the victim of a narcissist is rage. Anger, shock, sadness, pent-up frustration, and more may come together to create powerful emotion. Children of narcissists should be allowed to express those feelings and then may be helped by moving beyond them.
Bottom line: your feelings are yours and are legitimate. Don’t let someone tell you how you ought to feel and don’t let that person manipulate your feelings. If you have suffered a narcissistic home, let yourself feel and express sadness, anger, joy, etc. and don’t be ashamed or afraid. Those who truly love you will let you be who you are. (Even God.)