Unconscious patterns can get us in trouble, mostly with ourselves, especially if we are relating (or trying to relate) to someone with narcissistic tendencies. Friend, spouse, parent, employer, adult child or siblingcaregiver, person you are caring for, and others. Unconscious patterns stem from childhood for myriad reasons. We need to see them as precious and valuable attempts by the then-child to survive within a particular environment even if, as a grown-up, he or she always believed their family of origin was loving.

Little kids don't known they are adapting. An adult might flippantly say they suffer from the "need to please" but still don't fully understand why they are adapting either (and growing resentful). But the roots of adaptation as such—the behaviors that ultimately make one feel like a dirty doormat—are both hard to see and painfully obvious once one really truly begins to look.

If any of the above ring true, you may find the following to be familiar.

Feeling that:

  • You’ve lost so much time even as an adult, and you’re still hurting.
  • You’ve lived like you don’t exist in order to make the parent happy.
  • You’ve been used.
  • You can seem to say no to your parent.
  • You’ve worked so hard not to see the reality of your parent to keep the peace (both with them and inside yourself).
  • They didn’t see the real you or cringed when you showed it.

Letting go can trigger one’s own feelings of loss and abandonment. In other words, sometimes the “something bad” is perhaps the fear of the abandonment you’ll feel, an echo of the abandonment you’ve already felt most of your life but suppressed. The aloneness. These are the thoughts of a child in an adult’s body, of old wounds that are resurfacing. They are resurfacing in order to be examined, cleansed, and healed—by you. Only you can heal them now. Just the fact that you're reading this is a big step. Help from a licensed therapist who understands the dynamic and can help you unravel and, yes, analyze the patterns, can be invaluable in your growth and flourishing.

Adapted from When Your Parent Is a Narcissist, © 2016, Meredith Resnick

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