Perhaps, they were narcissists themselves. Your very first entanglement with the disease could very well have been right out of the womb and into gaslit hands.
In a few of the emotional abuse support groups/pages I follow, I was disturbed by the number of people on Mother’s Day who became a little unhinged over the thought of their mothers, and questioned whether their maternal guide was, in fact, a narcissist. And of course, since we are opening the subject up, let’s not forget those who were victim to psychologically abuse fathers. (To read one such story, check out *Bethany's* tale: How I Muted My Mom and Took Control of My Life).
Is it possible that the reason you have/had fallen into toxic relationships is that you didn’t know what it was like to be in a healthy one?
Think about it. Here are a few red flags that instantly come to mind. Do any of these concepts remind you of your own childhood?
Reigning Control Over Everything You Do. From the clothes you are allowed to wear, to the activities you are allowed to take, to the friends you are allowed to have (and not have), to what your major will be in college—these decisions were not your own. Now, this is not the same as parental guidance, that gentle push in the right direction. It was an all-out dictatorship, and if you did not do exactly as they said, then you feared for what they might do to you. Cut you out? Stop loving you?
If you didn’t let them control every decision, then you were not being a good child. Mother/father knows best, and you best always remember that and not try to have any of your own thoughts, opinions, or beliefs.
Guilt Trips & People Pleasing Pressures. You were led to believe that you are here on this planet to serve other people—and only other people—and not yourself. It is your job to make everyone around you happy, and to do as you are told. It didn’t matter that you didn’t like Aunt Ida’s barf-a-licious casserole. Eat it and make HER happy. Grandpa Louie made you feel uncomfortable with his tickles? Get over it; that’s how he shows you he loves you—do you really want to hurt his feelings? Be quiet—Daddy is drunk again; we know how angry he can get when he’s like this, so you have to be the perfect little boy/girl right now so that he doesn’t take it out on mom.
And there begins the spiral of guilt trips to make you feel bad about yourself and forgo all rights to having your own boundaries or honor your own feelings. The adults are the ones who are important; not YOU.
Taking Credit for Your Accomplishments. You graduated with honors. Got into a top college. You got the lead in a play. You were the quarterback or head cheerleader. You ran a marathon. You sold the most Girl Scout cookies. But that wasn’t about you, your talents, your hard work, or anything else related to YOU—it was because of your parents, their values, and their awesome raising of you that made you like this. The accomplishment wasn’t something to be recognized as a personal achievement; it was a marker of their own success, which they needed to feel better about their own shortcomings in life. Again, this is different than normal parental pride in their child—it’s the way it is presented that takes the attention of you and projects it instead onto them.
The better you fared, the more they could brag to their friends (and frenemies) about what an amazing child you are because it makes THEM look good.
That’s just a few I can think of off the top of my own head, but I did come across an interesting article that outlines more narcissistic traits in a mother specifically, but they can be applied to any adult family member that you grew up with. You can check it out here (and you might be amazed at how many signs were present in your own childhood if you are a current survivor of relationship abuse).
But take heart, my survivors. You can heal this, too, and come to understand where the wound started. For any of those interested, I once took an online course on the mother wound, and would be happy to pass that along!
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