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    Hi Victoria,

    I can really relate to how you feel. I too grew up with narcissistic parents, although in my case one was an overt and one a covert narcissist. I interpreted their dynamic as being my father the bully against my mother the saint, so I was especially susceptible to abuse from my “saintly” mother, who turned out to have fangs. I knew that they were both “off” as parents from a very early age, but I was far less intuitive than you in understanding what the problem was. Truthfully, I have found therapy to be a hit or miss proposition. It’s extremely helpful when you find a therapist who understands narcissism well and can connect with you as a person. To that end, I would suggest researching therapists online, using resources like the Find A Therapist tool at the Psychology Today website. Identify therapists who specialize in treating children of narcissists, not just ones who say that is an issue they treat. It makes a big difference. Often these therapists are people who have had narcissistic parents themselves.

    As for hearing your parents voices internalized as your own and feeling that you are being pursued by them when you’re alone, coachjim gives some great advice. This is similar to a panic attack and might even be a symptom of PTSD in your case. Allowing yourself to experience the discomfort and get through it is what you have to do to desensitize yourself. Some people do specific PTSD trauma therapy to counteract this type of abuse. You’ve spent many years living with people who DID pursue you, both mentally and physically, who were trying to do you harm. At one point in my teen years I developed an intense claustrophobia which could only be relieved by exiting wherever I was at the time and sprinting as fast as I could away until the sweating, chest pounding and panic stopped. I eventually realized that I felt like a trapped animal around my family and that I had to get away, which I did following my 18th birthday. It took me until my 30’s to go no contact. Although you may resist the thought of reaching out to others, it does help to find a community of people who have had similar experiences. After years of never talking about my parents to others, of pretending that my childhood was just fine, I finally found that in a support group for adult children of narcissists.

    So – therapy can be slow, yes. But you should feel like you’re making headway each week and if you aren’t, you need to find a therapist who can help you get to the crux of the matter more directly. Here are some that have helped me:

    1) When you feel your parents voices in your head it helps to listen to and evaluate them. Then compare them to what YOU think about the matter. I used to literally keep a notebook where I wrote two headings: What my parents think and What I think. So for example, if I wanted to quit my job for a new one, or even something mundane like I want to get a new hair style, I would list both points of view. I did this because I found I was making knee-jerk decisions in which I either couldn’t sort my point of view from my parents anymore, or I was afraid and automatically defaulted to their fear mongering. I would also list why each of us felt the way we did about the matter.

    2) Read and listen to every book, article, blog or You Tube video you can find on the subject of parental narcissism and narcissistic family dynamics. It helps to find that there is a system, that various issues tend to play out in very similar ways, and that you and your siblings (if you have any) are cast into roles beyond your control within the family. We tend to try to become the things our parents want us to be. In my case I was the scapegoat, an especially damaging role to play. I suspect that this may be your role as well. If so, take special care not to become a second-guesser and underachiever who disregards their own dreams.

    3) When things get confusing or you’re feeling angry, write down your feelings. Get them all out, and say whatever you want to say to your parents. It helps to organize your thoughts so that you can start to see patterns, step away from the emotion and into a more detached and logical place. Narcissists thrive on getting the people they abuse into “fight or flight” mode where they’re forced to make rash decisions, and you benefit from NOT being in it. If you fear for your privacy, shred it after you write all of it out. This may seem pointless since after all, you know what you think already – but you would be amazed at some of the insights you will gain into your own psyche after doing this for a while.

    4) Know that it doesn’t really matter WHY your parents are acting the way they do. It won’t help you even if you could come to understand them. Nothing you do or say can change them and really, it has very little to do with you. They may or may not be consciously sabotaging you, what really matters is that they are, and that they won’t stop. Your mileage may vary, but I found it useful (before I just gave up and went no contact) to be amiable, discuss nothing of importance with my parents and even to sort of agree when they pointed out my shortcomings. Something like, “Huh! You think so? That’s interesting…I’ve never looked at it like that before. That’s valuable insight.” Which it was – insight into them!

    5. Arguing, recrimination and reliving events with your parents are all pointless. Asking them to respect your boundaries though, is non-negotiable. Decide on your own boundaries on each issue that matters to you, then let them know what these are as appropriate to the occasion. If they violate them, walk away immediately. Say, “I’m sorry, but I’ve let you know how I expect you to treat me and if you can’t respect that, then we won’t be talking until you can.” Ha! And THIS is how I ended up going no contact once and for all with my parents. They couldn’t respect me, and no one should have to endure a one sided relationship in which they are not respected.

    And now I have written you a book. I hope that some one what I’ve shared is helpful and that you find some relief from this situation soon.


    Hi Jess,

    You sound like someone in need of practical career assistance and kindred spirits rather than a career overhaul. I too always wanted to be an artist, but I let my family talk me out of it. They convinced me that I would be forced to go door to door with my portfolio, doing odd jobs so I didn’t starve to death. So instead I studied something practical, hated it, and now am in the process of complete career overhaul. P.S. I’m reconsidering Graphic Design.

    I’m going to give you the only known antidote to fear: information. I no longer believe that art is a sure route to poverty. Schools do a terrible job of preparing art students for the practicalities of making as an artist, and I think that is what you’re feeling now. This information is available if you seek it out, and I would especially like to recommend mentorships to you. There is a great organization called The Arts Business Institute which helps artists do everything from finding mentors, develop pricing and advertising strategies and locate relevant artist’s guilds. Here is a link to a great article on finding mentors:–-and-how-to-find-one/

    It’s very hard to start any kind of business without the assistance and support of others, so don’t beat yourself up or worry that you’re not capable – you just don’t yet have the information that you need. Another thing that I would wholeheartedly recommend is taking business courses. You can take arts-centered business courses at places as diverse as NYU, Sotheby’s, or the Maryland Institute of Art. There are hundreds of art industry business courses available online.

    Another resource which I have found valuable is the biographies and autobiographies of modern day artists. It can be tempting to look at successful artists and think that the Stars converged for them and success fell into their laps. It’s rarely the case. As Ashton Kutcher once wisely stated, success looks a lot like hard work. I wish you the best of success.

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