“Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.” – Mary Oliver
Are you someone who grew up having a difficult relationship with a parent?
It can be a tough experience to grow, from womb to adulthood and beyond, trying to make sense of oneself and the world. And then add in to that a parent or parents who don’t see, hear or acknowledge that we matter, let us know that we are loved and worthy.
Worst still, maybe you lived with a parent or parents who criticised, judged, manipulated, controlled, demanded, abused, denied, hated or gaslighted. Maybe there was alcohol, drugs, absence, divorce, violence, abuse…
There are parents that aren’t able to be loving and affirming because it wasn’t there for them. It wasn’t modelled or experienced when they were growing up. They had difficulties with their own parents that led to not feeling loved or worth much. That’s not to say that a child who had a dysfunctional parent grew up to be dysfunctional themselves. Sometimes, the child becomes the healer of the entire generational family trauma. Sometimes, dysfunction is the starting point for such a journey.
Nothing said here is intended as criticism or judgement. There are few more unfortunate circumstances than a person becoming disordered in their personality because it happens during the earliest years of childhood. I feel sad for every one of us that’s subject to such a life story.
One of the most complicated labels is Narcissistic Personally Disorder. A person with NPD has little or no chance of understanding or accepting that they have this disorder and even if they do, it’s almost impossible to commit to treatment that could help them unpick it, because to do so would go against the absolute need to deny their wound is there.
When an NPD parent brings up a child, undoubtedly it means that the child experiences some shocking deficits that would impact their life. They may need to walk away. Maybe they stay. Either way is difficult.
A parent with NPD would find it difficult to show genuine love, empathy, compassion or gratitude. They may say they understand you, love you or are grateful, but over time, you realise they’re hollow words that are not backed up.
Almost everything revolves around the NPD person, leads back to them and their needs, worries or affairs, although they may be skilled at making it look otherwise. Truth is, they live for drama and their life is often chaotic and complicated as they draw drama around them.
An NPD parent will usually have a charming and highly social persona so that others think they’re fun, charming people. They may be overly affectionate, a ‘talk-to-anybody’ kind of person. They are charismatic, often successful people. As their child, you will see this side being demonstrated, but not so much within the core family. The side projected towards you may be a completely different picture which is very confusing since many will see your challenging parent as a lovely person and that’s not likely to be your reality at all.
The NPD person contains and expresses an absolute sense of entitlement. Maybe they need to express how special and unique they are, maybe they become angry when they feel someone doesn’t understand or appreciate them or didn’t value their specialness, maybe they simply make things about themselves and expect others to organise their lives around them, be at their disposal.
Walking away from an NPD parent is a real consideration, sometimes it’s the only way to heal and learn to love ourselves. I didn’t.
I maintained a good distance and limited contact for many years. Eventually, I found a way to get closer, to abate the onslaught, stay calm, ignore or walk away when needed. I learned it’s of no use to try to explain things in the hope they may understand and adjust their behaviour. Totally pointless.
I love my parent and feel sad that they’re trapped by conditions that were never asked for or deserved and they don’t understand any of it. My parent created in me a pleaser and fixer from a young age but I don’t please or fix so much nowadays, thanks to inner child healing. It’s such freedom to no longer carry the drive to have to do that. I can accept other people’s journeys for what they are, including that of my parent, and focus on my own journey, the only one I have the power to change.
Do you have an NPD-type person in your life? Did you have a difficult time with a parent growing up? Are you still struggling? Have you learned to love yourself, through healing from such a dynamic? Have you understood the gifts and opportunities that are open to you? Have you found all the love you need inside yourself, so you don’t need it from your parent anymore?
If this resonates for you, my love and blessings are with you. There are many others sharing this journey, you’re not on your own. Quite often, we live for years without knowing that it’s never been about us. Then, we hear or read something and start to see the whole of our past in a new way that makes sense. It helps to understand, it’s part of the healing. There may be little we can do but understand, yet that, in itself, is the start of healing, not only for ourselves but for previous generations.
Many of us are healing now and our insights are changing the energy of the past too. We are clearing it for our parents and grandparents and their parents too. We are all healing, only some of us consciously, but that’s all it takes.
(Image: “Opening The Box” by Amenet Drago)