Adult Children of Narcissistic Families
Narcissistic families come in two forms: overt and covert.
Overtly dysfunctional family dynamics can be easy for the children, or outsiders, to identify. Example of overt dysfunction include drug use, physical abuse, verbal abuse (such as yelling), sexual abuse and incest, abandonment and neglect, and some forms of emotional and psychological abuse. As an adult reminiscing on your childhood, the trauma you experienced may be easily identifiable upon inspection.
But what happens when the trauma is not so easily identifiable upon inspection? Covertly dysfunctional family dynamics are different. Everything may have seemed average or even great to you and to outsiders. You may have had all of your physical needs met with plenty of food, clothing, after-school activities and hobbies to keep busy, and your family may have been actively involved in the community. Your family probably looked like most other families on your street, or maybe even better. Yet, you may feel a sense of discomfort when reminiscing about your childhood. Something feels off and you may wonder, "how could I feel this way when everything truly seemed normal?" You may feel confused and begin to question your experienced reality, especially if others do not share your discomfort. The answer lies in the statement, "seemed normal."
Children of overtly and covertly narcissistic families could not go to their parents for emotional support or comfort, and were often responsible for meeting the needs of their parents. These children were afraid to rock the boat, felt defective or inadequate, or felt they could not meet their parents expectations no matter how hard they tried and how well they listened. These children may have experienced emotional and psychological abuse such as silent treatments, gaslighting, denying and minimizing (see resources page for more examples). As adults, they may:
- focus on pleasing others
- struggle with being assertive with their own needs and wants
- have limited or no boundaries
- feel uncomfortable with their own emotions
- look to others to guide their emotional expression
- have trouble trusting others
- feel defective and inadequate
- fear being abandoned
- and so on.
Our childhood experiences can have lasting impacts on how we function as adults both independently and within relationships. Through our work together, I hope that you will come to accept that you, the child, had little control over or blame for how your parents raised you. You are not worthless, defective, crazy, selfish, or any other label that was unjustly placed on you.
As an adult, you can gain mastery and control over your life. You can learn to trust your reality and accept your emotions without fear. You can establish and maintain healthy boundaries across all aspects of life. You can also come to identify the specific dynamics of your childhood experiences so you learn to avoid them in future romantic or platonic relationships, thus putting an end to the cycle.
Young adults and Twenty-Somethings (18-30)
We spend the first 15+ years of our lives in school, often having our days scheduled for us by others. But what happens when we graduate college and this life-long career comes to an end? What happens when we suddenly have too many choices that feel overwhelming? What happens when we decide college is not for us?
- We have to adjust to a new role or identity outside of "student"
- We have to adjust to a potentially new living situation
- We may lose close friendships and gain long-distant friendships
- We often feel stressed, anxious or scared about the job market in this new and challenging world that we may not feel prepared or trained for
- We may feel depressed, ashamed, guilty or envious when keeping up with social media's definitions of success.
It is common for us to feel "stuck" as we transition from teenage years to college years to post-college adulthood. Aside from what is mentioned above, we may also struggle with:
- balancing college courses, work requirements and social lives
- Goal setting and attainment
- Intimate relationships, sex and dating apps
- familial and societal expectations
- financial stress
- global warming and environmental anxiety
- political stress
All of these, plus many personal and unique factors, can make young adulthood feel like anything but what you expected it to be.
Individuals, Couples and Families
We all could benefit from therapy time to time. Sometimes we just need someone to sit with us and hear us without wanting to "fix" the problem. Other times we need help finding solutions.
Examples of reasons to come to therapy:
- you want intermittent therapy to help you handle life situations you may not feel prepared for
- you feel you are not connecting when you communicate to your partner or family members
- you are in a difficult life transition
- you feel sad, hopeless, stressed, stuck, powerless
- you are dissatisfied with an aspect of your life
- you want more coping skills
- you're struggling with conforming to your identity or roles
- your new family is not blending as well as you had hoped
Whatever it is, I can be a helping hand on your journey.