More Than Caregiving

The new truth about life with aging parents

When Your Parent Is a Narcissist

Narcissism is easy to misunderstand. Many people believe that the narcissist is deeply in love with himself or herself—the true self, that is. If the narcissist is in love with anything, it's the image of himself. The narcissist is in love with the image of the self he or she has created. That image is an illusion (hence the term "false self"). Read More


Neat article. I'll have to share it with my friends to help them overcome their narcissistic tendencies. I am pretty much the awesomest person I know.

I've really just recently

I've really just recently realized that I'm dealing with at least one, if not two, narcissists in my husband's family. It was a relief to finally realize that THIS is the issue. Thanks for this!

How does a young adult child

How does a young adult child sort through the painful confusion of finally opening up to what is happening and seeing that the behavior of the parents is not right. Everything you described in your post I have begun to see since I have come home from college to look for work. I did not understand where all of this behavior was coming from (the attacking, blaming others and myself for their feelings and mistakes, changing stories and lying to suit the situation so that they appear right) since I came home from college (I was not able to see what was happening as a child and teenager). Growing up, I felt this sense that something was off...I felt angry, hurt, upset and I was told that it was because of me..I was too sensitive...too emotional etc... I received subtle messages of inferiority and shame but was told I was loved and that I should "forgive" and was criticized for not forgiving although I was not told what I was supposed to forgive!. All of this now sounds like projection and blame...I was not able to understand all of this growing up. I have begun this journey and it feels as though there is no end in sight. Do you have any words of courage or hope or other resources I can look into? I feel painful confusion. I have been trying my best to make small steps to understand what is happening, but it does not alleviate the intense hurt and confusion I feel. I realize I have much work to do on myself..but I feel as though I am going crazy seeing their behavior and being blamed for things I know I did not cause.

The very positive part of

The very positive part of what you wrote is indeed the fact that you are realizing something that you didn't or couldn't see before, about your relationship to your parents. To help move through the intensity, as mentioned in the post, seek the assistance of a licensed and trained therapist in your state. Many local hospitals, health centers and university hospitals provide referrals to licensed professionals. In addition, the American Psychological Association has a referral listing online.

To Anon above

I just want to say that I'm happy for you that you are seeing this as a young adult - I know that probably sounds weird or maybe even insensitive to say that I'm "happy" for you, but I really am because I am in my mid-40's and I've only been seeing it in the past three years after growing up with a narcissistic mother and being in a 20+ year marriage to a narcissist. Discover is confusing, and painful, and sometimes downright depressing, but stick with it and get help if you need to to find out who you really are!!

Reply to young Adult Child

I too am happy for you that you have discovered this and can find recovery. I didn't know what you know and married a Narcissist who did the same as my mother did. 23 years later I divorced him but I have children who are harmed by his disordered thinking and the way he undermines me. It is hard work but worth it.

Be Brave!

I too didn't realize until much later that I was a child of a narcissistic parent. It took many years to come to grips with it and learn how to deal with her without losing myself. Small steps that you mention will turn into big ones if you just keep forging ahead. Good for you! It's painful, but going backward is more so. I agree with the others, I'm happy for you that you are moving through this. Ms. Resnick gave you excellent advice, and her Tip #3 about grieving is so essential, especially the relationship with yourself.

Can dementia cause this?

Your "More Than Caregiving" blog popped into my life at just the right moment, as I've found myself in this role and looking for answers, so thank you! In this post when you ask "Does any of this sound familiar?" - it did. I suppose I've noticed it off and on before, thinking it's just human nature to project. But a few days ago, it became glaring, and I could have immediately checked off three out of four of the things you listed - all attributed to dementia. Can dementia cause someone to project like this?

This is an interesting

This is an interesting question, one that I am seeking to address with a physician or psychologist who works readily with people with dementia, but who also has a wealth of practice with personality disorders. Look for a future post with more detail. Thank you for raising a valuable issue.

Very interesting article. My

Very interesting article. My mother was a 'low-key' narcissist. Of course, I didn't learn that until much later in my life.

Yes, it certainly was a rock road to adulthood and beyond for me with my mother. She had her own problems but mostly I realize that I was the invisible child. Plus, my sisters were much older than myself, by 20 years, so I was alone with my mother for a long time.

Just wondering how I came away with any sense at all. Lucky me!

Thanks for tackling such a

Thanks for tackling such a difficult and ofttimes , missed, behavior pattern. This really makes caregiving so much more challenging than it already is, doesn't it?


Luckily, I don't have to interact regularly with a narcissist. What an ordeal, but just one of many difficult-to-deal-with personality disorders.

I'm wondering if you can

I'm wondering if you can expand more on your point #5. If we're not talking about a parent, and you're looking to set realistic expectations, any advice on how to approach the situation? Also, do narcissists 'recover' or can they 'overcome' their condition? Intriguing...

Also a great comment and

Also a great comment and interesting point. I plan to run a post in the future that more deeply address these questions - all very important ones.

My husband's grandmother was

My husband's grandmother was diagnosed as a narcissist. She was a very difficult woman!

Thank you!!

Thanks for the reassurance and confidence building. This post is essential reading for anyone dealing with a narcissist. Parent or not, it's a tangled relationship that you've provided excellent advice to begin the unraveling. I'll pass it on.

We've all dealt with

We've all dealt with narcissists before - some loved ones, some definitely not - but it's never an easy task to get through. I hope your piece helps those caregiving for narcissists remain patient and positive.

Some Good Resources

Hi there -
I discovered that I come from a narcissistic family 2 years ago - I went into counseling for a failed romantic relationship and the counselor knew within a few sessions. I have not read either book mentioned in the article, and will read those too. I have found two books IMMENSELY helpful. The first is "Will I ever be Good enough" by Karyl McBride. This book literally felt like it was written about my mother. It gives exercises to do that help walk through the recovery. Another is a book I found in Barnes and Noble but never purchased bc it was $45 (basically a textbook). It is called the Narcissistic Family - diagnosis and treatment. It is for counselors and gives them questions to ask their patients - so I found this helpful because I just went through all the questions.

Long road but so glad to finally be dealing with this! So glad for all of you too!

I'm wondering if you have any

I'm wondering if you have any insight into the healing process for someone raised by narcissists who continues to use her as the scapegoat while seemingly having a beautiful relationship with a golden child sibling? I think this undermines the healing process and makes it much more difficult.

What you describe is such a

What you describe is such a painful and sadly common occurrence when in a long-term relationship (or short term, for that matter) with a person who is narcissistic. There is a sense of mourning that comes with this realization, which seems natural, but gives another realization to move through. Get the support you need, when you need it, from people (or a therapist) you trust.

Along with some of the other questions that have appeared here, I'm going to be posting more about this subject as it seems many many are dealing with it.

I am NOT

Hello, great article. I am an only adult child of a severe narcissistic mother. In this role I am "the good child" and "the bad child", the role to be changed as needed by the narcissist and never knowing which role was the correct one from minute to minute. Our roles were always reversed, me being the adult and having to deal with an adult child. I grew up as her slave, I learned very early in life that my emotions and feelings were a fault. The only way our relationship works is by letting her be the queen and I am the puppet. There is no right answer dealing with a narcissist, but I believe the sooner you realize that she is who she is, somehow you must draw a solid line in wanting her to be a mother. Emotionally this was the hardest thing for me to accept. My childhood was taken from me by this person. I only have the power to make changes within myself. So take care of you, first and foremost. (I wish I would follow my own advice).
Although I am 56years old now, I still have not reach the point of taking care of me first.
Work still in progress.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Meredith Resnick, L.C.S.W., is a health writer and licensed social worker. She is also the mother of two adopted daughters.


Subscribe to More Than Caregiving

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.