Tag Archives: narcissistic personality disorder

Narcissistic Parents: Adult Survivors of Childhood Emotional Abuse

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Scapegoating

Emotionally abusive parents are manipulative, cunning and toxic. Brilliant impersonators these narcissistic fakes create a world of “alternative facts”. Abused children wear cloaks woven with invisible scars inflicted by the parents’ permanent smear campaigns. Myths follow into adulthood: difficult, crazy, oversensitive, problem child, doing it for attention or they tell lies or possesses a big imagination. Scapegoating is reinforced by siblings falling into the “rescuer” trap. Such lens creates a belief that the child fabricated everything and is responsible for upsetting the heroic parents subjugating the child into submissive gratitude for even existing. Feeling confused, humiliated, angry and filled with self-doubt.

 

Comparisons

Spiteful, jealous and resentful, the abusive parent mocks the child, comparing them with a (fake) image they hold of themselves. The child feels unacceptable in basic ways. Belittling, condescending and hurtful: “When I was your age, I could…”, “Everyone else…”. The cruel messages communicate: “I am always going to be superior, as you are inferior.” Exaggerated and extreme responses for the slightest misdemeanour results in projection of the parents’ shadow side so they can avoid feeling inferior.

“True love heals and affects spiritual growth. If we do not grow because of someone else’s love, it’s generally because it is a counterfeit form of love.” John Bradshaw

 

Adult survivors

Seek relief through validation. Any physical violence by the parents creates bodily trauma that results in the child becoming accident prone, extremely vulnerable leading to susceptibility to harm or illness, depression and anxiety. Such stitches bind a complex pattern of mistrust and abuse. Beaten and broken the child is spiritually bereft, emotionally confused, toxically enmeshed on a permanent secret mission, destiny marked “I must prove I’m ok”.

 

Triangulation

Leaves the child feeling hopeless and helpless, vulnerable and despairing, a lone soldier without any allies. Defending this war on home turf the battlefield takes shape in their mind. Overpowered by betrayal, rejection, isolation and loneliness, opportunities, privileges and liberties appear legitimately denied. Siblings, peers or groups are given preferential treatment: help with fun tasks, birthdays, presents, outings, special food or the chance to continue their education. Feeling deeply inadequate, the abused child will place themselves at the bottom of the “needs met” pile, seeking out relationships that act as a mirror reflecting their early family environment. Conditioned and brainwashed into adapting to meet the needs of toxic parents, the child is unconsciously drawn into a relationship with partners who are similar.

 

Gaslighting 

Living under a smokescreen of denial, narcissistic parents use gaslighting to make the child look completely mad and entirely bad. Poor frustration tolerance, tantrums, jealousies and breaking boundaries, e.g., flirting with, seducing or conning the child’s partner or friends is the parents’ game. Control dressed up as care justifies the parents’ violations such as interrogation or torture and making decisions about with who the child should hang out, date, marry, even where they must live. Rigid rules override, censor and eclipse the child’s propensity for self-regulation.

 

Low Self Esteem

Ill-equipped to negotiate the messy terrain of adulthood, the abused child suffers low self-esteem due to imposed conditions of worth, insecure attachment patterns result in mistreatment, different, lower or second best standards in every aspect. The child may comfort eat, drink or take drugs to keep the parents idealised. Denial is the way they learn to ride the storm of life. An abusive father may tell a prospective groom or bride: “I hope you know what you’re taking on”. No words of pride.

 

Bunny Boiling

Conditioned to receiving a fascistic torrent of blaming, naming, shaming, shouting, humiliating, embarrassing, beating and withdrawal, if there was any in the first place, of affection, food, treasured toys, clothes, activities and any sense of comfort (aka “bunny boiling”), severely impacts a child’s ability to feel safe. Fearing abandonment, feeling sad, guilty, frightened, inferior and deeply ashamed, this anxious, angry, enraged child becomes even more passive, dependent, reliant and attached to the brainwashing parents. Time spent in the company of a healthy family is how the child discovers things are far away from ok. Their craving for love cuts hidden wounds buried deep inside. Alternatively, the child may rebel leaving home during teenage years. Suffering premature maturity they face a lifelong struggle with acute anxiety.

 

Control dressed up as Love

Living under a dictatorship no personal freedom exists. All interactions including phone calls may be monitored, letters and diaries will be read. Extreme control over study and career choices is exercised. Berated, ridiculed and interfered with in terms of physical appearance, constant comparisons and competition is set up with other siblings, or the children of friends invoking feelings of worthlessness. Scolded for talking too loudly, asking “stupid” questions, ridiculed for anything from the way the child sits, smells or curls up to the cat, abused children never feel good enough. Falling short of the parents’ demanding standards, failure is inevitable, the words “you’re, ridiculous, stupid, mad” ignite an “idiot” button. Set up in seemingly impossible situations, devoid of praise for successes, the child feels like there is always another marathon to run, acting this scenario out at every opportunity seeking resolution from all the harm done.

 

Unmet Needs

Abusive parents pathologically or compulsively lie. Not just about any overt mistreatment of the child, they make promises they have no intention of keeping. Backtracking leaves the child in a state of extreme anxiety, depression and resentment. Lies or promises can be simple: “if you pass your exams I will buy you a treat” that never manifests, or grandiose: “one day we will go to Disneyland”. Or simply, “Next week/month I will take you out to dinner”. This will numb the child’s ability to dream, feel passionate or excited and erase imagination. The child’s needs will be rendered totally invalid.

 

Persona

The parents may pay for a plaque in their name, or give to charity again and again whilst they continue to be mean and uncharitable behind closed doors. On the one hand, those they seek to impress will believe they are affluent, whilst at home, they plead poverty lying about money, purchases, or expensive holidays booked. Any sibling who buys the lie, helping to fund the parents’ lifestyle or pay for their mistakes even as extreme as bankruptcy, is favoured over the one who refuses to collude with any farce. Punishment for real or potential exposure at being seen as less than perfect may result in the abused child being cut out not just of the parents’ lives, but also out of their will. The smallest request by the child will be met with resentment, unwillingness and a sarcastic put-down, another push towards inevitable breakdown.

 

Emotional Abuse

Walking on eggshells following any minor accident in the house such as breaking a cup is the child’s way of life. Needing support, if the child fails to leave home or has cause to return, the parents’ resentment will escalate their cruelty. Often, they will charge excessive rent making it harder for the child to break free from their grip. If the child manages to have their own children, a feeling of sheer desperation will set in when, oblivious to acts of manipulation, their children join in.

 

Trauma

Sadly, the adult abused child is left with unhealed scars and open wounds. Psychological trauma is triggered by painful memories of feeling overpowered, weak, fearful, humiliated, betrayed, rejected, scapegoated, and favourited over. Upon hearing what sounds as if it’s a familiar empty promise, a feeling of exclusion or fearful boundaries may be violated, the adult child will erupt in anger as if under a live grenade attack. Mirroring the symptoms displayed by an abandoned child, it’s as if the child has been physically left. Addict parents will steal pocket money, use the child to hide alcohol, make the child their alibi or force the child to risk the local drug run. In such a manner, their own self-corrupted, any chance of a happy childhood is stolen. Alternatively, it may be that the abuse is implicit, covert and passive-aggressive. Continuously distressed these children believe they have hurt the parents and enter adulthood adapted, increasingly guilty and ashamed, feeling evermore responsible for the parents’ hurt feelings.

 

Consequences 

Relocation may create enough emotional distance for the adult child to find the freedom necessary to make life successful. Assertive movement creates possibility as they start winning the struggle to achieve their fragmented identity. However, as an adult, struggling with trauma after trauma, risky relationships, or any other form of harm to self and/or others alongside dissociative periods may become the norm. Flashbacks, unwanted images accompanied by feelings of terror, sadness and helplessness can be triggered at any moment. Authority figures strike the sharp note of fear. Sadly all it takes is the flick of a psychic switch to mentally revert back to a time when boundaries were broken, the child was set up, controlled, humiliated and severely punished. Self-loathing causes retreat or withdrawal into a fantasy world of addiction including drugs, alcohol, gambling, gaming, porn, anger, excessive masturbation, co-dependency, endless tv/film watching, internet use, spending or social media activity. On the other hand, perfectionism, eating disorders, inexplicable, extreme, overt fury and rage may turn outwards lashing out at others or inwards to self-harm. Mental health challenges arise from the internal chaos: depression and anxiety, narcissistic bipolar, borderline or paranoid personality disorders, eating disorders, OCD and/or PTSD.

 

Healing 

If the above sounds like your journey, reconciliation with the self will seem a distant dream. Can you ever imagine feeling healed and strong enough to keep your parent(s) in the space and at the pace you choose in your life? Maybe you feel overwhelmed by painful memories? Perhaps periodically cutting your parents off has become an effective coping strategy? Relief comes through learning to recognise defences, triggers and emotional buttons that place you into an altered state. Find a therapist who can help you make friends with your feelings so you can experience emotions that were frozen in time. Inside this crisis is a hidden opportunity that only another can help you see. Develop a healthy growth mindset filling it with joy and wonder. You will be amazed at how adult you can be in keeping your composure. The choice of “reaction” or “response” leads to destruction and death or growth and healing. If you are struggling with addiction, a 12-step programme alongside therapy can prove ideal to aid your recovery.

 

Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn

 

Bibliography and Recommended Reading

Bradshaw, J. (199) “Healing the Shame that Binds You”, Health Communications

Cruse, S. W. (1990) “The Miracle of Recovery: Healing for Addicts, Adult Children and Co-Dependents”, Health Communications

Engel, B. (2002), The Emotionally Abusive Relationship,” John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey

Forward, S., & Buck, C. F. (1989). Toxic parents: overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life. New York, Bantam Books.

Nhat Hanh, T. (2010), “Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child”, Parallax Press, Berkeley

Steiner, C. (1974) “Scripts People Live” [Transactional Analysis Life Scripts] Grove Press, New York

Stern, R. (2007), “The Gaslight Effect”, Random House, New York

http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/caught-up-in-the-cycle-of-emotional-abuse

12 step recovery

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-36257791

http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/understanding-personality-disorders-symptoms-and-treatment

http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/understanding-personality-disorders-triangulation

http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/why-we-project-understanding-our-alternative-reality

http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/anxiety-and-escapism-pre-traumatic-stress

http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/male-adult-survivors-of-childhood-sexual-abuse-men-coming-out-of-the-shadows

http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/emotionally-abusive-relationships-how-to-tell-if-youve-been-manipulated-by-a-na

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The Sociopathic, Narcissistic or Psychopathic Company, Boss or Colleague

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Companies as entities, purely profit-driven and lacking in ethics, can behave like bullies.  Its as if the whole world has been blinded by the impression an organisation can promote of themselves. It may appear that they offer fair treatment of staff, practice equality and diversity whilst in reality they promote a culture of fear and blame, literally “killing off” their staff in the process. Ambitions are hidden under a smokescreen of the charities for which they raise money, or their charitable status is used to hide their real profit-making agenda. For example, equality and diversity “champion” Labour’s ambassador for women at work, Dr Glenda Stone, killed off 27 secretaries in 2 years. Her reign of terror only ended when, upon being sacked, a brave male employee took her to Court.

 

Recently demonized are bank workers named in the Libor rate rigging scandal. What isn’t clear under the smokescreen is that Directors of these Banks instilled the idea in the minds of their traders constant competition to make as much money as possible for their employers. Anyone who refused to “comply” with these “unwritten” yet “implicit” rules was at risk of removal. Taking no responsibility, the banks have accused and blamed the traders for being greedy, selfish and irresponsible, setting up their loyal employees to feel ashamed by the emotions of which humans are ashamed and therefore believe are deserving of punishment. Ask yourselves this question. Can blame even be laid at the doors of the banks themselves? Why are we ‘banker bashing”?  What about the role of the then elected Government? Entities such as the FSA are drafted in as the official authority to “prove” the traders’ wrongdoing. Other employees are coerced into testifying against their colleagues. The media’s cloudy discourse spun a moral panic and the general public encouraged to hate the traders. As such, the category of trader has been shifted from ordinary “human” worker into “animal”. Numerous investigations, tribunals and Court cases have pushed such workers to the brink. Their only crime was to be well-paid and obedient employees, seeking to reap the standard banking world rewards promised.  Punishment is often as severe as a prison sentence A stretch in time is just that. However, damage to the psyche can last a lifetime.

 

If you have been subject to any kind of bullying company or boss, rumours about your competency, capability, about your very sanity will have been widely spread. Publicly humiliated, your character almost entirely assassinated, you will have been left feeling broken. Increasingly you may have found yourself relying on the support and approval of the abusive boss or company.  Never more so when they threatened to remove the promotion for which you worked so hard. You may have reached the stage where there was nothing you wouldn’t do to keep or regain their once seemingly high opinion of you. In the same manner, the person brought in to take over your job role you realize existed only to cause you escalating grief. Or the team member you nurtured and cared for as if a sibling or child, has been turned into another weapon of mass destruction in the war waged against you. Mostly you will have simply felt confused.

 

A narcissistic boss or company lies to cover up their mistakes. However, they also deliberately lie to make you look bad.  As if in a love relationship with an abusive person, when a boss or company sets out to destroy you, whilst pretending to care for you, when the truth finally dawns on you, the rage you feel will at times be physically, mentally and unbearably exhausting. Dragging yourself into work, with a feeling of dread and impending doom, you find yourself walking on eggshells to avoid being shouted at, criticized, humiliated and shamed.  Often left suffering a range of psycho-complex disorders, which may manifest into physical illnesses such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (“GAD”), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) or, if you weren’t previously challenged with, albeit more manageably, any type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (“OCD”). Nervous twitches, acute anxiety manifesting in stomach and digestive related ailments, sudden anger, a constant desire to apologise, tearfulness, depression, anxiety, paranoia, suicidal ideation, relationship issues alongside a need to control your own environment are just a few of the symptoms.

 

For individuals, the type of person who is at risk from a bullying boss is one who has an admirable work ethic. A person who is loyal, conscientious, capable, organised and ethical. A person who is vulnerable, anxious, eager to please and perhaps seeking resolution of unresolved family issues through their working environment. You may have something markedly different about you in terms of, say, disability, sexuality, minority religion or culture. Perhaps you just have never felt like you quite fitted, or suffered bullying from your peers during your early years, or, endearingly innocent, have been brought up to believe the whole world is beautiful.Perhaps this is you?

 

Are you the one who once was developed and progressed at work, instead now you are being unfairly promoted over, made redundant, performance managed out and as a result suffering silently or otherwise from a stress breakdown as they use the established rules and policies against you. Sometimes even the ones you introduced. Heartbroken, you feel so betrayed, so sad and so depressed that it physically hurts you inside. Convinced that you alone were either the only one who understood the boss, or could do that job “properly”, you were easily pulled and pushed into submission, leaving you addicted to a toxic style of management. Incapable of enjoying relationships based on equality and mutual respect, if a bullying company or boss, doesn’t manage to gain full power over you, they move you on, rather than sorting out typical working relationship norming-storming-forming issues. Sometimes you are drawn into conflict http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/understanding-personality-disorders-triangulation when invited to side against a colleague set up to appear as the devil incarnate who they say is in your way. Oh how little do you realize that you are next. Time you never had endlessly sacrificed will never be enough. Or worse having taken as much advantage of you that they can, without blowing their cover, such bosses coerce you into leaving; appearing faultless as you find another job.

 

Narcissistic colleagues or bosses are ones who takes credit for your work or have sexual relations with the staff, the boss who blames you for their poor presentation or the one who’s business failure is all your fault, the manager who overlooks you for promotion or the one who sets you tasks you will fail. The type of boss or colleague who pretends to have only your best interests at heart, while secretly stamping on you to serve their own. http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/understanding-personality-disorders-symptoms-and-treatment

 

So how do you move forward and heal? Learning assertiveness skills, entering into therapy in order to have your experience witnessed, validated and affirmed, acceptance and approval of yourself in order to build your inner strength will not only protect you from further psychic attack, it is the key to healing. You will gain clarity, strength, resilience and strategic tools to regain your dignity. Releasing the past and forgiving everyone, including yourself, is vital for recovery. However, forgiveness doesn’t excuse the bully. Forgiveness stops them from destroying your heart or worse – turning you into them. For now it is enough to understand their intentions were always flawed. Even though you may feel as if you have lost your footing as the world spins on its axis appearing frighteningly distorted, off-kilter and unreal, keep remembering it is not your fault. If you are reading this you survived. You made it. You are here and you have a life. Wishing you good luck on your journey back to earth.

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