Narcissistic families are like spiders trapping their children in an emotional web that causes suffering.
There is always one member in a narcissistic family who puts his own needs ahead of all others and thus gains unlimited power within the family. He uses his power to manipulate other members of his family so that these others mistakenly think that they are cared for, recognized, and accepted at all levels.
People who have grown up in disturbed environments like this say their family looks perfect on the outside, but there’s a living hell inside of it. It’s not easy to get rid of.
Although the relationships between the members of each family have their own characteristics, they have some key features as unifying factors.
The most distinctive feature of narcissistic families is the existence of very specific but wordless rules. They are rules that revolve around one person. They deprive all other members of the same family of their rights and recognition.
Because of this, it is common for children from narcissistic families to have no emotional bond with their parents. Parents look down on them and subject them to silent but constant abuse.
The truth about the poor internal functioning of the narcissistic family does not usually come to the attention of others but is often silenced forever at the risk of severing relationships with the reporting family members.
The moment a child becomes an adult and he or she is finally able to escape his or her black-and-white childhood environment, he or she is branded a “bad child” who abandons his or her family and dares to cut off relationships with his or her family.
Sara is 20 years old and studying psychology. A year has passed since he no longer lives with his parents. He now wants to start his life again from a certain distance, to get a little perspective on life, to put the pieces of his own life back in place so that he can get over his past and move forward in his life.
His wounds come from a narcissistic family where both his parents played a game of power.
Sara’s father suffered from some type of personality disorder. Sara now knows about it based on her studies in psychology. No one ever dared to recommend professional help to Sara’s father because her living environment made it possible for her to do very well despite her disruption.
Sara’s mother was an intermediary in the action, but at the same time her father was another victim. Mom agreed to all of Dad’s needs and was never able to set boundaries for them.
Sara was a scapegoat, the target of her narcissistic father’s projection. Sara was subjected to her frustration, failure, and anger.
Her older sister was instead the most beloved child in the family. Sara’s father shaped him to his own liking. For some reason, Sara’s father considered Sara’s older sister Sara more talented. The situation affected Sara so much that she began to think there was something wrong with her.
Typical features of narcissistic families
If you belong to a narcissistic family, it is not easy to escape it, because growing in it means internalizing many destructive powers. These are derived through models and ideas that have a significant impact on a child’s mind. Here are some common characteristics of narcissistic families:
- You act as if your family is the best and you don’t tell anyone outside what’s going on in your family. Narcissistic families care a lot about their image. In fact, they often say: We have no problems. We are the perfect family.
- Completely dysfunctional parents. The role of a parent in a normal family is to provide security, affection, and to raise and nurture their children emotionally. In a narcissistic family, a child has one requirement: he or she must raise and care for his or her parents.
- Lack of effective communication. The most typical mode of communication in narcissistic families is tripartite communication. In other words, communication is never direct, but family members express passive-aggressive behavior based on tension and mistrust. For example, in Sara’s case, every command, wish, or comment his father made to him came from his mother. Dad used Sara’s mother as an intermediary to get Sara to obey.
How to get rid of a narcissistic family?
In the adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain wrote that we must not let our family’s problems define who we are. In some corner of your heart, there is always a piece of your own self left that still smiles and is well – it may be enough to push you from nothing to happiness.
To get rid of a barren, toxic environment, consider the following options:
- Understand that people who have had narcissistic behavior in the past usually don’t change easily. There are therapies they can try, but the problem is that only a few seek therapy and admit that something is wrong.
- Try not to feel guilty about what your narcissistic family members might be doing. Use cognitive defense mechanisms so that you don’t end up at the same point as Sara, who thought there was nothing good about her.
- You needlessly talk about your feelings with the narcissist. He will probably only cause you more pain. Limited to saying the following types of things: “I understand what you mean, but I won’t let you…,”, “you should understand that you have no right…,” and “I ask you from now on…” Set boundaries clearly and convincingly enough.
- Find allies for yourself among your family members and other social contacts. Good allies understand and support you in difficult times.
- Take a distance from a narcissistic family member. This does not mean that you should completely sever your relationship with him. Make sure you clearly understand what kind of situations you can handle and how often you want to meet a narcissistic person.
It is not only uncomfortable to live in an environment where emotional principles are distorted but it is completely unsustainable, especially for children.
When children become adults, they are unable to say “no” to other people or understand that they have the right to set boundaries. Children have difficulty expressing their own wishes and needs and choose not to tolerate ill-treatment against them.