“How do I avoid growing into my narcissistic mother?”
“How do I avoid growing into my narcissistic mother?” my client asked. I could relate to the anguish in her voice.
When I gave birth to my daughter, I didn’t know the first thing about Narcissists. However, I did know that I absolutely did not want to bring my child up the way that I had been brought up – my child had to grow up feeling that her well-being really mattered to me. Today, I want to look at everything I know about how to overcome the fear of growing into your narcissistic mother.
Obviously, children do not only have narcissistic mothers. They can have narcissistic fathers, also. I had a decidedly narcissistic father. I never worried about growing into him. Instead I married him – or at least a carbon copy of him.
The carbon copy had no fear of growing into his own narcissistic father. Nor did he have any fear of not being a good enough parent – but then Narcissists don’t.
But I didn’t feel good enough to be sure I could do a good enough job of raising my own daughter.
I didn’t feel good enough to raise my own daughter
In fact, for the first few weeks of my daughter’s life, the carbon copy changed a fair few diapers, and acted quite the besotted father. But then as reality kicked in and the needs of a young baby lost their novelty, he got bored and went back to his default state of deep resentment towards the world at large. The devoted dad persona largely disappeared – unless he had an audience.
Still, the point had been made: right from Day One he had established himself as the better, more competent parent.
Meanwhile, I struggled with depression, anxiety and a terrible fear of not being good enough to raise my own daughter.
I knew I had to do better than my mother had done for me – which was not saying a great deal. Mother – who was more than a touch narcissistic herself – was a good role model… for precisely what not to do.
That meant that I had to think through every last choice, however small, that I made for my daughter, for fear of slipping, unawares, into what I had absorbed about child-rearing at my mother’s knee.
Programmed to repeat what we lived
We are, after all, programmed to repeat what we have lived.
My husband, notwithstanding his own narcissistic parents from hell, had no such qualms. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, did my brothers – one of whom grew up to be a carbon copy of his narcissistic dad. (The other one grew up to be co-dependent. He, in due course, married his mother – metaphorically speaking. Both brothers parented confidently, but certainly not optimally. But then nobody could have accused my brothers of being empaths.)
To the best of my knowledge, male empaths who grow up with a narcissistic father, harbour the same anxiety. The life of one male client of mine was dominated by that fear when we started working together. Fortunately, the more able he became to separate emotionally from his father, the more confident he became in his capacity to co-parent lovingly with his wife. He wanted more than anything to give his own child a better upbringing than he had had.
When the fear of growing up into your narcissistic parent kicks in
It is only when you become a parent, or think about becoming a parent, that the fear of growing into your own narcissistic parent kicks in.
That fear can even stop people from ever having children.
That fear stymied me for a long time. Plus, I had a deep conviction that children were a burden. It was only after I became a mother that I realised that that conviction came to me from my own parents – for whom children were indeed a burden.
It took me quite a while to deconstruct that burden idea and realise that, for Narcissists, another person’s needs are seen as demands and anyone who makes demands is a burden on their precious freedom.
Narcissists see children differently
Notice that Narcissists don’t see that children – and other people in general – bring much joy and meaning to a life.
Narcissists don’t experience and enjoy the same feelings that we empaths have.
In fact, that is the key to my client’s fear about growing into her narcissistic mother.
That fear puts her on the empath’s side of the divide. As an empath she is never going to grow into her narcissistic parent.
Empaths do NOT grow into narcissists any more than dogs grow into wolves.
That fear is understandable but not going to happen.
That still leaves the issue of how, as the child of a Narcissist, you are going to parent your own child.
How do you parent your own child
So, how do you parent your own child?
The answer has to be “better”.
Whatever you do, you will do with the well-being of your children first and foremost in your mind. So, how could you possibly fail to do better?
The problem that you face lies in your own self-doubt and your anxiety about being a good enough parent.
The solution to how you avoid growing into your narcissistic parent
The solution – which, curiously, is the solution to most of the problems faced by victims of abuse – is learning to trust yourself.
When you have been brought up to believe that nothing you can do is ever going to be good enough, how can you not extend that belief to your parenting, also?
You have to learn to like and trust yourself, so that you can start to open up to your own healthy, emotional responses and intuitive wisdom.
All the work that I have done over the years with survivors of abuse has shown me that, when they step out of their programmed, abused mind-set, they always have good ideas and good answers to the challenges that they face.
Abuse serves to bring down the shutters on your own innate wisdom. Healing enables you to rid yourself of those counter-productive shutters.
The empathetic children of a narcissistic parent are never going to grow up into the toxic parent – they would sooner cut off their own head. However, it will make life better for them and their own children if they heal their own heart. That way, they can be more present to their children, without the undue anguish and uncertainty.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
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