Adult Children of Narcissists


A narcissist loves to provoke a reaction from you, especially in public. They will provoke you into responding in an angry or emotional manner. (Your angry response is further evidence of your unbalanced state of mind).


The black sheep is blamed for just about everything that goes wrong within the dysfunctional family. They can’t do anything right. Their achievements are not recognized by the narcissistic parent and are swept under the carpet.


Boundaries are a code of conduct or an unwritten set of rules which we consider to be reasonable behaviour from those around us and our response when someone steps over the line.


Closure in a normal relationship involves open and honest communication about what has gone wrong, you then wish each other well, say goodbye and move on. After a relationship with a narcissist ends you are left with so many questions and no answers. It feels like the book has been closed before the story has ended. We cannot expect any form of closure from the emotionally immature narcissist who is completely lacking in empathy, and has no regard for your feelings. The only closure in this type of relationship is the closure you give yourself.


The individual characteristics vary from person to person. Some of the more common characteristics would include trying to avoid making decisions, preferring to rely on others. Co-dependents are often perfectionists who tend to put the needs of others above their own, which results in them feeling needed. Unfortunately, co-dependents often stay in relationships that are emotionally destructive or abusive.


A narcissist will dismiss or nullify their target’s thoughts, feelings or experiences and make them feel that they are wrong to hold such feelings or thoughts.


Cognitive dissonance occurs when one holds two or more contradictory beliefs or values at the same time.

Sometimes people hold very strong beliefs and when they are presented with evidence which opposes those beliefs, they find it impossible to accept this evidence. Dissonance is often strong when we go against our own moral standards, for example, if someone believes that they are a good person and goes ahead and does something wrong or bad, the feelings of guilt and discomfort are known as cognitive dissonance.


Deception by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people about the same subject. Dishonest behaviour.


Dissociation from mild to moderate is a detachment from reality, usually in the case of abuse. It is a defence mechanism.


A target of abuse is denied the right to hold their own feelings. For example, being told that you are much too sensitive or have no sense of humour, thereby invalidating your reality.


Emotional abuse may be referred to as psychological violence or mental abuse, which involves subjecting someone to behaviour which may result in psychological distress or trauma such as chronic depression, stress, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.


An enabler is someone who, by their action or inaction, encourages or enables a pattern of behaviour to continue, or removes the consequences of bad behaviour.


False guilt is guilt that someone places on themselves because of their perceived failures or inadequacies. If they have not broken a ‘moral law’ and feel guilty, this is known as false guilt.


Narcissists love to be admired and receive compliments, so they assume that everyone needs this too. They will tell you that you are special, no one can understand them like you do and put you on a pedestal. I’m not saying that you are not special but don’t be fooled by their compliments. They are all part of the game!


The narcissist creates a false image of his or herself. This image is not a reflection of their true character. They will display this image to impress and mislead others, knowing that their real self, the person who they really are, is not likely to impress anyone. This false image is not likely to be maintained for a lengthy period of time.


The narcissist often pretends that they need you. This makes you feel good about yourself, an important part of their lives. You are important to them for as long as you give them the attention they need, but replaceable when you don’t.


Flying monkeys are people who have been convinced by the narcissist that he or she is the real victim. They inflict further harm on the real victim by submitting to the narcissist’s wishes and demands. They may threaten, torment, discredit or add fuel to a smear campaign by spreading lies and gossip.


Gas-lighting is a manipulative tactic where a mentally healthy individual is subjected to conditioning behaviour so that they doubt their own sanity. The target starts to believe that their perception of reality is false. The narcissist may simply deny saying something didn’t happen when in fact, it did, telling you that you heard wrong or lie about an event or situation. Over time a victim starts to think they are confused and going crazy. They come to rely more and more on the narcissist to keep them right.


The golden child can do no wrong, will be encouraged to do well and be given the best of everything. The narcissistic parent will celebrate even their most minor achievements whilst their faults and failings are swept under the carpet. This child may receive special treatment for being the perfect child and for doing everything that their parent wishes.


An unrealistic sense of superiority. A grandiose narcissist sees themselves as better than others and views other people with disdain.


Grey rock is a term used to describe your behaviour when trying to cut contact with a narcissist. The aim is to be utterly boring so that the narcissist no longer sees you as good supply and subsequently disappears. Grey Rock differs from no contact in that you don’t avoid the narcissist. Instead you keep contact, albeit to a minimum, but keep your responses so extremely boring that the narcissist will see you as a poor source of supply. Your aim is to blend into the background, become  insignificant and be as boring as you can possibly be. Talk about the most boring topics you can imagine such as ironing, doing the laundry or how you enjoy watching paint dry. No-one wants to be in the company of boring people and the narcissist is no different.


The term hoovering, derived from the Hoover vacuum cleaner, describes how a narcissist attempts to suck their victims back into a relationship. They will use every trick in the book to get you back under their power and control. Hoovering often takes place after you have left them or after a period of the silent treatment. They promise to change their behaviour or say that they have already changed dramatically.


Invalidation is a manipulative tactic used to get a target to believe that their thoughts, opinions and beliefs are wrong, unimportant or don’t matter.


Love bombing is a term used to describe the typical initial stages of a relationship with a narcissistic personality, in which the narcissist goes all out to impress their target with flattery, holidays, promises of a future together, having the target believe that they have met their perfect partner, their soulmate.


A narcissist will mirror what they see in you from your mannerisms to your dress sense, your behaviour and your likes and dislikes. They basically become just like you.


A narcissistic injury can be described as any perceived slight, threat or criticism, whether real or in the narcissist’s imagination, which they view as an insult, an act of rejection or disagreement.


Narcissistic rage is a narcissist’s reaction to a narcissistic injury, usually a rather aggressive response which may be likened to a child’s temper tantrum. This outward display of rage is normally directed towards whoever the narcissist feels has been the cause of their hurt. On occasion, the rage can be directed towards themselves, where they take the criticism and turn it inward, so they feel a sense of shame and depression.


A narcissist is lost without narcissistic supply. They need supply like a plant needs water. Supply consists of attention, admiration, respect, adulation and even fear. However, it should be noted that a narcissist can draw on negative supply such as detestation and hatred. Without these vital nutrients of life, the narcissist will become dysfunctional.


No contact is put in place by a victim to give themselves time to recover. It is not, in any way, like the narcissist’s silent treatment. A narcissist who initiates the silent treatment is doing so as a punishment and to exert power and control.

No contact is a self-imposed set of rules whereby there will be absolutely no contact with the toxic person. (No texts, no emails, no phone calls, no snooping on social media). It has been likened to building a wall between you and a toxic individual. You will not care or even be aware of what happens on the other side of this wall.

(Minimal contact is advised in circumstances where one has to co-parent with a narcissist).


A narcissist is an expert at projecting their own character flaws or bad behaviour onto others.

They will go to any lengths to avoid being held accountable for any wrong doing and will blame others for the very things that they do themselves. The main objective is to make themselves feel superior, displace responsibility and place it on the shoulders of their unsuspecting target.


They may promise to keep you safe from the world. This may make you feel dependent on them for your own safety.


Rumination can be described as a chain of repetitive thoughts which focus your attention on the symptoms of your distress, personal loss, depression and/or anxiety. Instead of focusing on solutions, your focus is drawn to the possible causes and consequences. Healthy alternatives to rumination are positive distractions, things that take your mind off your problems.


The scapegoat is someone (or group of people) who is unfairly blamed for the wrongdoings, failures, mistakes and faults of others. A child in a family may be singled out and subjected to unwarranted negative treatment.


Self-esteem is the overall judgement one holds about their own self-worth, including pride in oneself, self-respect and self-assurance.


There’s a reason for everything a narcissist does. If they do something for you, they will remind you somewhere down the line. They will want something from you in return.


This term comes from a real-life hostage situation where several of the hostages became emotionally attached to their kidnappers (The Stockholm Syndrome). Trauma bonding is a misplaced loyalty where a victim is emotionally bonded with their abuser and finds themselves unable to leave an unhealthy or dangerous relationship. The victim remains loyal to someone who has betrayed them time and time again.


Narcissists thrive on chaos. They provoke rivalry and jealousy between people, creating triangles to boost their own ego.


The vulnerable narcissist has a very low self-esteem and is constantly on the look-out for proof of their worthiness. This type of narcissist hides behind a mask which masks their deep- seated feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. They are haunted by fears of rejection and abandonment.

Written by Anne McCrea

Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse, Shattering the Illusion, now available on Amazon

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