It takes a long time for the child of a narcissistic parent to stop blaming themselves that they were not perfect. That is what narcissists expect of others, especially from their spouses and children. The ignominious exception is the Golden, Exalted Child chosen by the narcissistic parent to be the little prince or princess of the family. This child is picked because of certain qualities or abilities that the NP sees in this child that will enhance the Image of the narcissistic parent. Narcissists are all about Image. Substance is meaningless to them. They only look beneath the surface if they can steal your idea, concept or invention. Then they suddenly become "fascinated" with you.
Children in this family constellation suffer horribly.There is no true affection or love that the narcissist is able to give or communicate to a child. Often children are dismissed as if they don't exist. They are turned over to nannies, caretakers, sent early to boarding schools and long summer camps when they are very young. I have heard heart breaking stories of kids that were sent away very young--at five or earlier. They were abandoned to strangers or as I view it: "Thrown to the winds of fate and chance." Before these children were taken from what was supposed to be their home, they were treated coldly even in infancy. There are some exceptions in which the caretaker attached to the baby and nurtured him/her and a strong bond formed. When the time came for the child to be thrown into boarding school he/she was abruptly wrenched from the one person whom he loved and cherished. This is heartbreaking. The psychological wounds of this loss linger in the young child and do not fade easily.
In other families the highly dysfunctional narcissistic parent(s) runs the whole show. He writes everyone's script, gives the stage directions, determines all of the rules, makes clear who is in favor or disfavor at any given time. No one knows what the narcissistic parent will do at any particular time except that the trio of fear, dread and apprehension will be the constant companion of these children.
Many narcissistic parents bellow and scream piercingly when the slightest wave of disquiet disturbs them. Being on the receiving end of these waves of psychological projected vomit is unbearable. Most of us will go into survival mode and ask ourselves: "What is going to happen to me? Will I survive the next moment? Will it get worse? Is there any way to escape? Will I be injured? When will the onslaught stop? Question after question floods the mind. Finally it stops. But the child knows that it will resume. He can bet on it. He just doesn't know when the next wave of attack will occur. He remains in a state of readiness day and night. Even at school he thinks about what will happen when he goes home. What new horrid fixation, obsession, bottomless rage or crazy fancy will strike narcissistic mom or dad this time?
Even if you did everything perfectly as a child or adult of a narcissistic parent it was and never will be up to par. It is a sadistic source of ridicule for the narcissistic parent who will seize on each occasion to denigrate his child. Projection after nauseous projection fill the air and hit the child in the gut. Some children shut off their feelings; others live wounded and worn--never finding a place inside for peace or respite. If you are still trying to make your narcissistic "parent" proud of you or happy--this is not going to happen--certainly not in a genuine way. It is very hard to come to terms with this.
Some children discover that psychotherapy if it is excellent helps them to heal and to psychologically separate from the parent so they can move forward unfettered to lead their individual lives. Some find healing and peace in a quieting the mind practice that they do routinely. Always there is music---the kind that you love the most---You go there and it comes inside of you. Be receptive. As you listen and become immersed, the music is healing you, inviting you to find the place where you can lie peacefully inside yourself and rest. Stirring your creative powers and acting upon them brings a dynamic energy to our lives. Creativity is transpersonal and unconnected to our parents. When we act creatively we are being our true selves. Let your spontaneity and humor flower. They have been waiting a long time to come out from their hiding place. Humor is one of the greatest gifts given to us in this difficult passage we call life. Call upon it and it will multiply a thousand fold. 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