As per my last article, narcissistic parents cause considerable damage to their children. Being raised by narcissists, is not normal and there are many wounds created, that affect the survivor – right through to their adulthood.
The following 12 steps, can be very helpful for the adult survivor. They may aid healing and greatly improve quality of life. They can aid moving towards creating a healthy life and a life of thriving and building genuine healthy relationships.
1. Dealing With The Full Extent Of The Abuse & Neglect Is Necessary
It is necessary to deal with the extent of the abuse, and this is not being disloyal or unfair to the narcissistic parent. A survivor of childhood narcissistic abuse needs to confront the truth, reality and issues in full, in order to be able to heal the complex wounds.
It may feel very uncomfortable and very painful to deal with the reality of parental narcissistic abuse. Survivors can feel they are in some way being unfair to the parent, which is usually due to the brainwashing throughout childhood.
It is needed, to understand whilst the narcissistic parent may have wounds from their own childhood, or life, this is not an excuse to abuse their children. Narcissists often also know the abuse is wrong. And this is shown by the narcissists’ capacity to act differently around people they are not abusing. Often they behave very differently at home, than they do elsewhere. Plus, they often lie about the abuse, which again shows they do know it’s wrong. The hallmark trait of narcissists, is a lack of empathy, remorse or conscience. So whilst they do know the abuse they choose to inflict is wrong, they have no desire to do differently, as they have no empathy for those they abuse.
2. Understand It Takes Time To Process The Extent Of The Abuse & Grieve
This period of time needed to process all of the damage caused, is different for everyone. I personally did not start to deal with the truth about my toxic parents, until I was 40. And it has taken a few years to process the full extent of the damage caused. For others they will begin to start dealing with the childhood abuse, in their 20’s and some it may be in their 60’s. That’s okay. And it is never too late to start to heal the wounds. We are only read to deal with it, when we are ready.
For some adult survivors, dealing with too much too soon, can be emotionally overwhelming, and it may require a gradual process. That is okay too. Each person is different and there are no hard and fast rules to healing, and no set timespan as to how long this healing journey takes.
A childhood full of toxicity and narcissistic abuse, needs to be grieved. This can take time. Grieving abusive parents, grieving a horrible childhood, grieving all the abuse endured, grieving all the child should have had, but didn’t, is hard. Like love, safety, protection, being cherished, being encouraged. It can be an emotionally painful grieving process. But, as with any loss – grieving is necessary and it allows the survivor to feel all the normal emotions they were never allowed.
3. Read Up On Different Types Of Abuse Caused by Narcissistic Parents
Narcissists often treat each of their children differently. They often assign roles to each child, and those roles are entirely for the benefit of the parent. One child may be assigned the role of scapegoat. And another child may be assigned the role of ‘Golden Child’. Both of these are very different, and may have different consequences, to the child and the adult they become. Narcissists often triangulate, and pit their children against each other and they rarely encourage healthy relationships between siblings.
Narcissists also have their preferred manipulation tactics. Some love to use the silent treatment. Others love to shout, scream and call their children names. Some love to make their child responsible for caring for other siblings.
It’s good to read up on the different types of abuse, as this helps us learn all the abuse was in fact entirely due to the parent’s own issues, and not due to anything the child did wrong.
I have a selection of resources from mental health professionals and best selling books, on my Website @ https://www.healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.com/
4. Learn About Boundaries
Narcissists don’t have healthy boundaries, and this affects the growing child. Often the adult survivor will need to learn what healthy boundaries are, how to implement them and how to maintain them.
This can be a huge area of healing, and it can take time and a lot of willingness to look honestly at any deficit of healthy boundaries, and make the changes needed.
Some of the issues created by unhealthy/poor boundaries…. not being able to protect self from further toxic abuse, being a people pleaser and having a belief system that life is about meeting other people’s needs.
For resources about healthy boundaries – see https://www.healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.com/developing-boundaries-
5. Learn About Self Care
When raised by narcissistic parents, the child’s needs, are not a consideration. The normal self care needs – normal parents model and teach their children, don’t exist.
Self care involves emotional, psychological and physical care for ones own needs. Learning to…
- Ignore dysfunctional family members criticism or opinions.
- Manage the inner critic survivors often have, as a result of hearing so much criticism and no healthy feedback throughout their childhood.
- Learning how to develop healthy self esteem and self worth.
- Learning one’s own needs, how to relax, how to have healthy sleep, healthy eating.
- Learning we are all worthy of care, kindness, compassion, and being treated with respect and dignity.
- Learning our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs are valuable and we can develop our own, that are not based on the toxic parents needs.
6. Deciding Whether To Go No Contact, Low Contact
Narcissistic people rarely change. It is necessary to understand this and accept that a narcissistic parent will probably not change their thinking and behaviours.
Often when an adult child starts to insist on healthy boundaries, and expresses to the parent they now know they were treated abusively in their childhood, the narcissistic parent will react badly. They may angry, and they may choose further abusive actions, such as starting to smear the name of the adult child, to others. They may threaten to cut them off.
The narcissistic parent will resent the adult child survivor truly knowing what was happening, and that the parent was responsible for choosing abusive behaviours. The narcissist nearly always refuses to own any responsibility, refuses to be accountable, and may in fact ramp up the abusive behaviours, in an attempt to gain back control.
This is when the adult survivor needs to decide what they need to do, for their own needs, and to protect their healing.
Some survivors come to a decision that no contact is necessary. Particularly if the narcissistic parents refuses to comply with new boundaries and refuses to stop their abusive behaviours.
Some survivors choose to keep some contact, and this will require a commitment to insisting on boundaries, and learning what to do when toxicity is being projected.
There are differing opinions on whether people should ‘always’ go no contact, but this is not always an option, or a preferred way of dealing with the narcissistic parent. As long as the adult survivor does not continue to engage in a ‘co-dependent’ type relationship, and has the needed boundaries, low/careful contact is okay.
7. Learning All The Different Forms Of Manipulation
Narcissistic people, have a range of manipulation tactics they use, and narcissistic parents are no different. Ways they manipulate include lying, gasliting, minimizing, blaming, shaming, denial, guilt trips, silent treatment and more. Learning about these, how to detect when they are occurring, how to deal with these manipulation behaviours, helps the adult survivor to manage their own responses to them, when they occur. This is particularly necessary if still in contact with the narcissistic parent and other dysfunctional family members. Or if around their friends, people at church etc.
Learn more about this @ https://www.healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.com/types-of-abuse
8. Learn The Red Flags So To Not Become Any More ‘Narcissistic Supply’
People already abused and traumatised by narcissistic parenting, can become easy prey for more toxic people in their adult life. The lack of healthy boundaries, willingness to meet other people’s needs and ignore their own, is what toxic people look for. Narcissists use people as ‘narcissistic supply’ and will look for people easily manipulated and used. It is common for adult survivors of childhood abuse, to be easily preyed upon, and this all too often lead to further abuse and trauma.
9. Choose To Invest Time In Healthy People
It can be difficult for adult survivors, to know what healthy relationships look like. It can also be an issue of not believing they deserve healthy relationships.
Once enough self esteem is established, to begin to see healthy relationships are what we all should have, the survivor can make steps to forming those healthy relationships and friendship, based on carefully and slowly building up relationship.
10. Therapy Can Be Very Helpful
I always suggest appropriate therapy for survivors of any abuse, and this may be particularly helpful for survivors of toxic childhoods. A caring and insightful therapist, can help the survivor to deal with processing the abuse, help them grieve all the abuse, and find new healthy ways to cope, and move forward to a more healthy life.
Childhood abuse can also lead to depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a range of other mental health issues. Therapy can also help managing these and finding coping strategies.
11. Learn What Brings You Joy
Learning activities, hobbies and finding things that make us happy, is an important part of healing. Knowing we do deserve to be happy, and have joy, can take time. But it is so needed.
Often creative hobbies can not only help create joy, but also aid healing. Hobbies, sports, yoga, meditation, reading, photography, arts and crafts, volunteering etc….can all be ways to increase meaning and joy in life. And there are many more.
12. Inner Child Healing Can Help
Adults, who had abusive childhoods, and/or childhood’s with neglect, often have wounded inner children. When a child’s needs are not met, these needs do not just go away, when they become an adult.
Re-parenting the inner child and meeting all the needs the parent did not, can be a profound way of healing.
See this link for info on inner child healing https://www.healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.com/inner-child-healing
This may all seem very overwhelming, and it is necessary to take all this at each person own needed pace.
The survivor also needs to develop self compassion and know this won’t all happen overnight. It takes time. There may be set backs. That’s normal.
My advice, is to gently persist, and know that the journey will create so much healing. Healing that is deserved.
It is also needs to be known, the child never deserved to be abused and treated badly. It was never acceptable, never justifiable, never okay, and never appropriate.
Every child deserves to be treated with love, dignity, respect, to feel cherished, encouraged, worthy of good, and to be protected from anything abusive. For all survivors, please know this and remember this.
~ Lilly Hope Lucario
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