THE EFFECTS OF BEING RAISED BY A NARCISSIST?
By Annie Tanasugarn
You learn hypocrisy is the norm. Do you remember that old saying? ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ That mind**** becomes your mantra. When you’ve heard it a thousand times growing up and witnessed the hypocrisy of the person who spoon-fed it to you, you learn not to trust yourself or others. You fear everyone. You become conditioned to listen to people’s words while overlooking their deeds. Narcissistic parents, family or caregivers may hide behind religion, putting their best foot forward publicly to uphold their fake image of being a God-fearing religious person whilst calling another churchgoer a son-of a b**** under their breath in the parking lot for taking their spot.
You learn that image is everything. Your sole purpose is to please the unpleasable. They don’t care about your opinion. To them, public image is everything and a reflection on them. Who gives a shit if you just got beaten with a belt and can’t sit down now? You sit. You fake a smile. You wipe the blood off the fat lip they gave you and you psyche yourself up and act like you’re ok… because if you somehow embarrass them and the fraud they pretend to be in public, there’ll be a shitstorm to deal with, again in private, away from witnesses, away from help.
Your worth and your value doesn’t exist. Repeated verbal abuse and devaluations are daily ‘conversations’. You become a verbal and physical punch bag for them, conditioned to believe that you’re so unlovable. You’re mocked, belittled and blamed for everything that has gone wrong in your parent or caregiver’s life. You carry the cross for their lack of accountability.
You’re held captive. As an abused kid, you’re often too embarrassed to have friends. You fear being hit or insulted in front of them so you stop trying to make friends. Neighbours keep a strict balance between being neighbourly and just distant enough to turn a blind eye to the screaming, crying and sounds of leather hitting bare skin coming from your room. Common with abusers is the sense of power and control that they exert over their target. This rings true for kids who rely on their parents for everything, reinforcing the power they have over you. So the eleven year old child’s world is reduced to just them and their abuser, no friends, no family and no support… Game on for the abuser. Captivity includes being a puppet to your abuser, smiling when you want to cry, dismissing anger and faking happy when you wish you could tell them to f*** off. Instead, you keep it all inside because the last thing you want is another beating.
You keep an extensive array of ‘masks’ to wear. Because of the abuse, you’ve learned what emotions are acceptable in public or around other people. Your narcissistic parent has used a lethal combination of negative reinforcement, positive and negative punishment and fear conditioning to turn you into a complete neurotic mess that includes what are acceptable masks.
You as the dutiful straight A student.
You as the perfect Catholic in church.
You as the respectful child to elders.
You as the mannerly kid around strangers.
You as the obedient child to your parent (s).
This is another form of control that keeps you held captive under your narcissistic parent’s thumb. What you’re learning to do is to fake your way through life and to never ‘out’ your abuser. What you’re learning is to dismiss and not recognize your own emotions or the emotions of others. Emotions are unacceptable (except the pre-approved masks from mom or dad). So you become completely disconnected from emotions. Ironically, or not, this disconnection makes the abuse you suffer somehow easier to tolerate. Tossing emotions out the window in exchange for a mask to wear actually helps soften the blow from the verbal assaults and physical beatings. It’s almost as if the masks become functional to the abused child. The problem with wearing the masks comes later in life, when you want to experience true love with your partner but push them away because you don’t have a matching mask to wear for love. What the f*** is love? The problem comes when you are so enraged and depressed and don’t know how to ask for help because there is no matching hat in your closet to wear. The problem comes when you realize you’re only existing and have pushed away any one you cared about and can’t function around people – there’s no pre-approved mask for this.
You learn conditions of worth = love. Who you are as a person doesn’t matter, it’s all about your accomplishments and how good you make your narcissistic parent look. You become like a trained seal that is thrown a fish for reinforcement each time you’re good.
You aren’t taught life skills and have to figure them out on your own. This dynamic totally sets you up for failure. As an abused kid, your life is not typical or normal. If you’re held in captivity, you may not be allowed to date, have friends or experience what most kids do in childhood or adolescence. You learn that feeling sad for not getting asked to the prom is met with your abuser making you feel better by buying you a supersize burger and fries and a shake to wash it all down. Now you’re depressed and fat! Abuser 1 – Kid 0. You don’t say, ‘No,’ because you were not taught to make healthy choices for yourself. You weren’t taught how to make friends and you don’t want them meeting your abuser anyway. You weren’t taught how to have self-respect because your personal boundaries were always violated. You weren’t taught how to use a washing machine to wash your clothes at 13 years old keeping you that much more reliant on your abuser. You weren’t taught how to balance a check book or open a bank account. You were verbally attacked as ‘spoiled’ for being fully reliant on your abuser, which is just what they wanted.
You go with what is familiar in your adult relationships. If you are a survivor of severe trauma as a kid, you often become more empathetic and emotionally sensitive adult. You now seem to attract the same type of people around you in adulthood that abused you in childhood. It’s not your fault but you don’t know how to get off the merry-go-round. You’re sick of the abuse and long for a loving connection, but your intimate relationships have been a mix of those with NPD, ASPD and Dark Triads who promised you the world but discarded you and bounced to the next victim they had waiting in the side lines.
You now recognize you want better for yourself. You deserve better. You begin the road to recovery. It’s painful but it’s enlightening. Self-awareness always is. You care about yourself. For once in your life, you’re owning it, crushing it, getting your voice and respecting yourself.
This article was written by Annie Tanasugarn.
Annie Tanasugarn is a Published Author and Researcher on Trauma Recovery; Personality Disorders and Interventions; and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is a Behaviour Analyst with over a decade of experience in the field of Autism. Her interest and research in the field of ASD prompted her interest in researching correlations between high-functioning ASD and personality disorders. She is the owner of www.theautismanalyst.com which is an online resource for families embracing Autism or other special needs. Annie is a free spirit who has a passion for coffee, travel, jogging, the mountains and most importantly, her family.