Monday, January 31, 2011

Narcissistic Family Resource Page

by Lynne Namka
"Sorting out your family’s dysfunctional behavior helps you take charge of your own life. Parents are a mix of both positive and negative attributes. We examine family patterns not to blame our parents, but to understand how our own neurotic behaviors were formed so they can be changed."

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"The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment" 

by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman
and Robert M. Pressman

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The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment (Part One)

by Marisa Mauro, Psy.D

"The consequence of this parenting style is that the children become a reflection of their parents' expectations and are deprived of the opportunity to be unique. Furthermore, the children learn to ignore their feelings or become completely detached from them altogether. As a result of having no emotions on which to direct their actions, the children become dependent upon others for guidance. This is the process of becoming what the authors term a reactive and reflective individual.

The tendency towards reacting and reflecting will follow children of narcissistic families into adulthood. Eventually they are likely to become distressed by their own pervasive need to please others, chronic need to seek external validation, and difficulty identifying their own feelings wants and needs. They tend to suffer from a myriad of emotional stressors including anger that lies just below the surface, depression, chronic dissatisfaction, and poor self-confidence. Many also struggle with indecisiveness as they have learned to make decisions on the basis of other's needs and expectations. Interpersonally, they tend to share a history of failed romances and have difficulty trusting in others. Sometimes their inclination towards distrust is shattered by periods of total self-disclosure, usually made injudiciously, and met with poor outcome. At work they are overachievers, workaholics even, that are never satisfied with their success..."

The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment (Part Two)

by Marisa Mauro, Psy.D

"...The key to recovering from a narcissistic family and thereby improving one's adult self is acceptance. To move on, the adult survivor must accept the full reality of their childhood and the effects that their experiences had on their development, which includes who they are today. In doing so, they must acknowledge two things: First, that they were not responsible for the events of their childhood, and second that they must take full responsibility now. 

The point of acceptance, the authors note, is not to place blame on parents or caregivers, but for the individual to acknowledge reality, which encompasses taking accountability for positive change today..."

Linda Martinez-Lewi
"Some individuals are born into narcissistic families where mother and/or father is a narcissist. Narcissistic siblings can be part of the family constellation. Growing up under these psychologically brutal conditions is a matter of survival. No child asks to be placed in the center of such severe family pathology. I have known some individuals who were surrounded by narcissistic family members in childhood. They survived the narcissist wars to become competent, compassionate solid individuals.  This is not easy and most often the exception not the rule. Some children fall by the wayside into a morass of depression and anxiety disorders or psychosomatic illnesses. Others, as a result of their individual temperaments and the psychodynamics within the family,  follow the narcissistic parent's lead and become narcissists. Some children who survive their narcissistic family learn how to become invisible to protect themselves. Others are scapegoats who are routinely attacked by their cruel narcissistic siblings and  parents. Some children find ingenious ways of escaping through their imaginations, writing, art, reading, etc.. They learn to find safe places in their minds where they remove themselves from the psychologically toxic narcissistic household. 

Those who grew up in narcissistic families have decisions to make about maintaining any relationship, even the most superficial, with family members. There is the old argument of "keeping peace in the family." What peace?  What home? There never was a family, an authentic attachment or genuine relationship.  Neither warmth, acceptance, mercy or love flowed from the narcissistic parent(s) or siblings. The narcissists to be were idolized for their attractiveness, intellect and artistic gifts that gratified parental egos and created a false image of perfection and superiority.Those who didn't fit the narcissistic parental mode were ignored, neglected, vilified and abused.  They were the "untouchables."  These families are as toxic as a nuclear waste dump. . 

If your narcissistic family members are living, it is your decision whether to deal with them or not. There are times when the relationship with a narcissistic relative must be severed. They have caused too much heart ache and emotional distress. Their behavior and attitudes are hermetically sealed in a rigid narcissistic personality structure that will not change. 

Some individuals who grew up in narcissistic families decide to have very limited contact  that they can control. If you choose this route, it  is wise not to be alone with a narcissistic parent for example. The narcissist is always waiting to project  his primitive projections onto you. These fulminations that are ejected from their mouths, wrench your nervous system, disrupt your mood, cause rage and guilt and can give rise to depression and anxiety. You don't deserve this brutal treatment even if you share their gene pool and family heritage. Your narcissistic mother, father, brother, sister, in-laws, aunts, etc., are unmoved by your humanity and will never change. As a child you were a prisoner in the house of narcissistic pathology. As an adult, although you carry the memory of dark childhood days, you have the choice to disengage from your narcissistic relatives and step forward into the life that awaits you and you deeply deserve."

by Karyl McBride
"The disorder of narcissistic parenting creates significant emotional damage to children. If not understood, children raised by narcissistic parents grow up in a state of denial, thinking it is their fault and they are simply not good enough. If good enough, they would have been loved by that parent. While this is a cognitive distortion about self, the myriad of internal messages gleaned from childhood have a haunting effect on adult children of narcissistic parents. "Will I ever be good enough?" "Am I lovable?" "Am I only valued for what I do and how I look?" "Can I trust my own feelings?" Sound familiar?"  (List of articles by Karyl McBride)

by Joanna M. Ashmun

"As a child, I used to be dazed by my narcissistic parent's public demeanor -- I wanted to take that person home with me or else live our entire family life in the protection of the public eye -- so attractive, modest, and sweet that even I could hardly believe that this same person could be the raging fiend I knew at home and had seriously thought, for a while when I was about ten, might be a werewolf. But truthful reports about narcissists' private behavior are often treated as symptoms of psychological problems in the person telling the tale -- by naming the problem, you become the person with the problem (and, let's face it, it's more gratifying to work on changing someone responsive than it is to tackle a narcissist). And I'm talking about the experience many of us have had with "the helping professions," including doctors, teachers, clergy, counselors, and therapists. This stuff is hard to talk about in the first place because it's weird, shameful, and horrifying, and then insult is added to injury when we're dismissed as overreacting (how many times have we heard "You're just too sensitive"?), deluded or malicious, as inventing stories, exaggerating, imagining things, misinterpreting -- it goes on and on. The fact is that there is next to nothing anyone can do to modify a narcissist's behavior and the only useful advice I ever got (first from my non-narcissistic parent, later repeated by my Jungian analyst) was "Get out and stay out."

But that's much more easily said than done. We're still members of families that have been damaged, corrupted and corroded by narcissists' pathology, and we can't totally remove ourselves from the narcissists' sphere of influence without also forsaking other family members and old friends. Parents sharing child-rearing or custody with narcissists, or who have narcissistic children, can't just get out and stay out.

Anyhow, these are chronic troubles that I haven't even attempted to address fully on these pages, because it's a horrible mess and I can hardly be coherent about it. Additionally, most of my narcissists are still living and, regardless of the hell they put their intimates through, as long as they keep their behavior out of the news, they're entitled to privacy. Besides, I still love them and have residual protective feelings. Mea culpa -- though my steadfast husband tells me that loving someone is never wrong."

Boundaries and Dysfunctional Family Systems

By Mark Dombeck

"Children ideally need to be allowed an age-appropriate amount of autonomy, but not allowed to have so much autonomy that they feel neglected or not also reigned in when that is necessary. Most families decidedly don't manage to do all of this perfectly, but many do manage to pull off enough of these goals to make it work.

Then there are the families where there are significantly non-ideal and problematic boundaries. The parents who fail to nurture their children, or who nurture them so much that the children feel smothered. The parents who do not manage to keep their private business private; who sexualize their children before they are ready for that information, or who recruit children into adult confidant roles and confide their loneliness or anger towards the other spouse. The parents who divorce ungracefully and continue to fight after their divorce is complete, using their children as messengers. There are many examples of how boundary problems within families can create significant pain for family participants."

Over the past twenty years, a growing body of literature has developed on personality styles, in particular Narcissistic and Borderline styles. Millon (1996) not only focused on the disorders themselves, but those personality traits and features which impact upon relationships, rather than the individual. He has grouped personality disorders into four types. Many custody evaluators observe that most high-conflict families have one or both parents who exhibit either narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, histrionic, paranoid, or borderline features. They may have parents who become rigid in their perception of the other and tend to deal with things in their extremes. Many parents are polarized, viewing themselves as all good and the other as all bad. These parents focus on the traits within the other parent that reinforce this perception, and they approach each new conflict as verification of just how difficult the other parent is. These parents experience chronic externalization of blame, possessing little insight into their own role in the conflicts. They usually have little empathy for the impact of this conflict on their children. They routinely feel self-justified, believing that their actions are best for their children. No matter how much the helping professionals try to keep the focus on the child, these parents remain focused on the conflict."


  1. Thought I'd come over and read a bit. I always enjoy my visit here, as I did this morning.

    My apologies for not commenting much, esp., after watching movies on your cinema, but I'm very, very tired lately. My brain just can't handle much thinking in a way that I would be able to write about my thoughts coherently. I can write about birds and butterflies, and I've found it is a great escape.

    As great as it is, healing the pain inside me about the narcissists I've loved is not happening. I am grateful for the escape, but I would rather just get through some issues.

    After the past several years of learning about NPD, I realize I've known one all my life. It's so tricky! The narcissist is so tricky I should say. One minute I think I was totally wrong, and the next, just after I've come up for air, I get a blow to my heart.

    Thank you, as always CZ, for your forum, hard work, and amazing knowledge on this subject. I wish you could take a tour, and teach therapists. There should be a class just on dealing with narcissists before a student could graduate in psychology.

    I enjoyed this read. Thanks again, and thanks for the sweet comment on my blog too.

    Big Hugs xoxo

    1. You are so welcome, I love it when you feel 'up' to a visit. Sorry about not seeing your comment earlier, though. My email is a mess. You don't wanna see it. ha!


  2. Hi CZ, I am reading around on this site, and realizing all over again what a HUGE resource you and your managers have assembled here. What a masterwork. Thank you. love CS