The Haunted House of Narcissism

A journey through a truly haunted house.

Posted Oct 25, 2010

As Halloween approaches, one of my patients referred to the narcissistic family as similar to the journey through a haunted house. You move along with intimidation and fear, knowing there is unpredictability and something can jump out at you any moment. You brace yourself as you secure your old familiar mask to survive and defend yourself, but it is that mask of denial that we attempt to rid ourselves of in our recovery. The family may “look good on the outside” and even tempting and delicious, like the shiny red apple. But, we know, on some level…there is a worm inside. Your identity and self-worth are at risk, but you are moving forward. There is a soundtrack with ominous hints… you almost can’t hear, that you are being threatened. Can I be myself here?  Probably not easily. Will that self be stolen?  Must I wear my mask and appease? What do I do?

Maybe the costume will have a zombie feel, numbed out and lifeless, awaiting orders. Will the vampires attack anyway? Is the disguise good enough to be left alone? Denial does create a feeling of death inside. Or do I allow my authenticity? No mask, no costume, no fear…just allowing the self to carry on no matter the environment, time or space…knowing that my recovery will bring me the boundaries to carefully protect even while choosing to go through that familiar haunted house once again.

What’s your mask this year? Do you need one? Do you even want one? Let’s see…I think I will dress for the party as Sleeping Beauty! Oh yeah…darn…there is some poisonous apple in that story too. And, an evil mother figure. What am I thinking?    

The beauty of being alive, out of denial, in touch with self, and allowing authenticity is the goal for our new sisterhood and brotherhood out there. Come as you are! Bring YOU to the party!

Q: If you are an adult child of narcissistic parents, are you unmasking this year?

Dr. Karyl McBride