January 27, 2015 at 7:37 pm #71987VictoriaParticipant
I have narcissistic parents. One thing they have done on numerous occasions when I was a child was over-supervise me, actively discourage me from trying new things for the fear I would make a mistake. They’d literally watch over my shoulder and scoff and make disapproving noises, and if I was even about to do one thing slightly incorrectly, they’d take the thing away from me and forbid me to never try again. This isn’t hyperbole. They’d sometimes cause me to make an error. It very much seemed like they didn’t want me to succeed.
When I was a teen I came to recognise that I wasn’t going to live with them forever, and so I told my parents very plainly and respectfully that I’d like them to teach me how to do things (like my taxes or how to buy insurance for my car) and they told me that they’d take care of it. I kept imploring them politely that I wasn’t going to have them forever to help me, and that it would be in my best interest if they’d teach me instead of doing for me. I cited the phrase, “give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” They verbally agreed with me, but when I tried to do things on my own, and asked them to stop taking the tasks from me, they’d have outbursts. It got to the point at which my dad had outbursts when I refused his help. My car had broken down and I needed a tow truck, and I arranged the whole tow and garage work, and when I got home, he had a hissy fit (stamped his feet like a child and burst out his chest and stared me down) and claimed I was insulting him for doing this on my own.
Other times, my mother gets this trance-like look on her face, and she watches me silently and unblinkingly, and she’s looking for weakness in me so she can get a chance to use me as an emotional punching bag. Unfortunately she had become quite dependant on me for that as a child and young adult, and when I finally said enough was enough, her blood pressure went up and now she’s on medication for it. When she looks at me I’d compare it to a stalking tiger. My dad also purposefully hangs around me, watches me for even the slightest misstep, even a literal physical clumsiness, and waits for the opportunity to touch me. He has always played this like a game, how many times he can tap my butt. He cringes away and smiles like a four year old when I yell at him for it. They both seem to take pleasure in my weakness and inability, and when I was younger they promoted it.
So now I have this fear of not being perfect the first time I undertake something, and have a fear of making mistakes, particularly in front of them, because in this household, you have to be perfect at all times or you are fit to be dominated, if that makes sense. I cannot show weakness or imperfection, because if I do, either parent will “swoop down” and judge me to be lesser and unfit, and deserving domination. And when I say deserving, I have actually tried to bring this to their attention, that they lie watching and waiting for the slightest mistake so they can try to take control of me and gloat their natural superiority over me, and they literally punish me for not “accepting what I deserve.”
So I realize that cutting off contact with them is the best thing to do. In this and in other matters, they are on their own planet and cannot comprehend other people (my mother has literally told me that she cannot put herself in another person’s shoes) and cannot be communicated with.
But besides that, they still exist as that voice in your head. So now whenever I work, and I mean every single fucking time, my mom’s voice is at my back screaming at me that I can’t and that I should not be allowed to continue, and that I need to stop, that I’m no good and that’s just how it is. And then it keeps screaming at me, and screaming at me, and screaming at me.
I realize the “cure” here is to gradually realize that skills are developed slowly, and that I’m going to make mistakes before I get consistently good. But that voice in my head, how do I kill it?
One of the reasons I don’t want to be around people (at all) is because I fear being judged lesser than human, that I’m to be relegated to “lesser human status” just because my first tries aren’t successful or good. It feels very much as if I can’t do it perfectly the first time I try, then I’m not allowed to try at all after that, and I get relegated to “lesser” status and I “need to be dominated.” This is how my mother operated. Sometimes she wouldn’t let me try in the first place for fear that I’d fail.
I continue to speak to my parents, and they continually keep trying and trying with every conversation we have, to get me to doubt everything about myself, and I think they do it to make themselves feel superior. I have brought this to their attention, and they act like I’m the bully for thinking such bad things about them. I really do think this is the only thing they want from me, to be there to accept all the bad things about themselves they don’t like, and to be available to bully when they need a boost. When they are in need of a boost it is quite literally that they can’t hear me, they just keep coming after me, my mother on several occasions goes into this trance-like state where she cannot be communicated with, her eyes go wide and unblinking, she LITERALLY chases me from room to room and speaks in this hissing deep voice, she repeats the same phrases over and over again to me. One common one is, “YOU STINK!” and another one is, “THIS IS YOUR FAULT!” and like I said she literally literally literally (this isn’t hyperbole) cannot be communicated with, she cannot be shook out of her trance, she cannot be talked out of it, I can only run to a room and lock the door but she stands outside and bangs on it and rattles the handle. They are completely rotten and cannot be communicated with, I get that, but I am still strongly affected and I’m not willing to live like this anymore.
I know to get physically away from them, but they are still in my head. Sometimes it gets as bad as getting the feeling of being pursued and felt up (not like a hallucination but more like a feeling) and grabbed and restrained, when I’m the only person in the room and there’s nothing happening.
I am going to a therapist, but she continually just says that “therapy is a long process” and I’m getting pretty frustrated with her.January 28, 2015 at 8:22 am #72014LucindaParticipant
Aw, I think you’re doing great, I really do. You are recognizing your parents’ voices, and that they are wrong. And you are recognizing that you need to get help, and you’re doing that through therapy. She’s right, it took several decades to make you the man you are today, it may take the rest of our life to become the man you really are. Some things you could try along the way:
– Listen to that parental voice when it comes up – actually LISTEN to it. Don’t shove it away, or automatically poo-poo it, just listen to it. Be with that voice. Hear the words, and let them flow over you. Sometimes we think we have to AGREE with what we are hearing, but that fight-or-flight response misses the opportunity to move PAST what we are hearing. So give it space, a few seconds, to just BE.
– After their words have passed over you (and with some practice I bet it will take fewer and fewer seconds), look at your hands. Be where your HANDS are, and continue with your task. Their words are now gone, and you are present with your task and can get on with it. If their words pop up again, try not to block them but HEAR them, WATCH them flow over you, then RELEASE them and move on.
Their words are not the truth, and their words are not YOUR words. Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. God bless you on this journey.February 2, 2015 at 7:42 am #72250Jim McCarthyParticipant
I’m glad to hear you are working with a therapist. Unfortunately there are no magic pills or quick fixes to the years of emotional and mental scars we acquire from childhood and into adulthood. I’ve had years of counseling. Some counselors I’ve liked, some I didn’t. Some medications have worked, some haven’t or required changing.
It’s part of the journey of evolving into the person we deserve to be. I’ve learned from my past to become more compassionate and passionate about working with others to make a difference, to discover and reclaim their true selves. My past has enabled me to fall in love with learning. I love learning about people’s stories, their pain, their triumphs. I love learning and sharing what I’ve learned about empowerment, possibilities, procrastination, emotions etc.
I encourage you to learn what works for you to quiet your parent’s voices, the voice of your inner critic and to challenge those voices with your new empowering voice.
God blessFebruary 2, 2015 at 1:28 pm #72263JuliaParticipant
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.