Inferiority is an ever-present issue with an individual with narcissism, which often includes feeling inferior to one’s offspring. If a parent struggles with his or own sense of worth, this can be passed on to the child—as in passed on for the child to carry for the parent, to take on as though it were his/her own, and act less than the parent so that the parent can be greater than.

Keeping all that in mind, here are 12 ways of looking at the narcissist parent. Observe how you react, even subtlety when you read them. They could provide ways into yourself, a path to open up how you are accommodating. Once you have the slightest awareness to hold onto, you can sit with that, take it to therapy, write about it and use it to prepare for the next step of awareness. Seeing patterns objectively—yours and the narcissist's—is as important as acknowledging your feelings.

  1. By not owning your own traits they are up for grabs by the parent. At the same time, if you own your own traits you likely, on some level, fear the parent’s wrath.
  2. By taking on the parent’s projected traits (that are typically negative), you find yourself in the situation of trying to “better” yourself, often with advice from the parent to whom the projected trait actually belongs. If you don’t own their negative traits, you also fear the parent’s wrath.
  3. You have been conditioned to hate all your good work or remain unable to see what value you provide. Or you hesitate to invest your time in something to become proficient because a part of you wishes the parent would notice. This is how you reverse project or maintain focus on the parent.
  4. You act out your parent’s impulses—and get shamed for it by your parent.
  5. The fear of what is yours being stolen (ideas, friends, roles, place in the family) is the flip side of unconsciously giving it away (via the dynamic we are now working to heal)
  6. Your light and attention is always being tracked by the narcissist parent looking for ways to take it/feed off of it
  7. You get to exist in the family by propping up your narcissist parent and they can never be accused of being selfish (because that would be in opposition to the images YOU have created for them—but you can…and will. 
  8. The fake seems more real than the real.
  9. You become impotent when you focus on the parent.
  10. You thought you were powerful when you could “make” the parent happy.
  11. The narcissistic parent takes credit for your good work—actually believing he did the work.
  12. You may have been conditioned to call what you are “emotional.” However, if the parent is calling himself emotional, you have likely been conditioned to call yourself “cold.”  At the same time, the parent may align with you, calling you both “the sensitive/creative/smart/misunderstood/etc ones.” The important thing to keep in mind is that, for the narcissist, the words and labels are hollow and subject to change.

—From When Your Parent Is a Narcissist ©2016 Meredith Resnick

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