Adult Child of a Narcissist: Pt 1 of 3

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Is Your Parent A Narcissist?

This is part one of a three-part series regarding adult children of a narcissist. Do you think you were raised by a narcissist?

Did communication with your parent growing up make you feel like you were constantly tiptoeing? 

Did you feel like you were walking on eggshells to avoid unfair or out-of-proportion negative reactions? 

Does your parent consistently respond to your differences in thoughts or feelings with dismissal or anger? 

Does your parent seem to have an exaggerated view of their self-importance?  

Do you tend to feel more anxiety, guilt, self-doubt, and exhaustion, even after small interactions with your parent? 

Are you currently struggling with issues of high anxiety, vulnerability, boundary setting, and feelings of being not good enough? 

If so, you may have been raised by a narcissistic parent. Growing up with a narcissistic parent is exhausting. These parents dismiss the thoughts and feelings of their children. Meanwhile, they require a constant appreciation for themselves. They are hypercritical of their children, yet hypersensitive to receiving any criticisms or disagreements. Such parents may show a completely different and charming side of themselves to those in public. While at home, they are cold and demanding. 

Image of a child crying next to the shadow of her father yelling at her. Are you the adult child of a parent who is a narcissist? Dealing with narcissistic abuse is hard. Reach out today to talk with an EMDR therapist in Scotch Plains, NJ 07076.

How A Narcissist Acts As A Parent

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) can be shown in various ways. Generally, a person with this disorder will show an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Their fixation on appearance and lack of empathy makes it nearly impossible for their children to receive the nurturing and validation they needed growing up. Even if your parent doesn’t have NPD, they may have demonstrated traits that made growing difficult and an ongoing relationship one-sided.  If your parent is a narcissist or has narcissistic traits, you may have noticed some of these behaviors growing up:

A Narcissists grandiose sense of self:

Is every experience of yours incomparable to how your parent had it? Does every story you share tend to go back to their more important story? Narcissists have developed this grandiose idea of themselves and their lives. This enables them to feel superior to other people as well as different viewpoints. If you agree with their superior thoughts you may get to stand in their light. However, if you disagree, they can be very dismissive of your thoughts or react with rage and upset.

Feelings of Entitlement: 

Did your parent ignore your boundaries? Did they take offense at your signs of independence? Narcissists’ tendency to see their children as extensions of themselves allows them to hold unreasonable expectations and intrude on their child’s boundaries. As the child is not viewed as being a separate person, the narcissist’s needs should always come first. Therefore, these parents may show intolerance towards individual needs or thoughts expressed from their children. Narcissists often view their child’s successes as their own. They will not approve of their children unless they are succeeding in areas the parent values. They feel entitled to control you and get upset when they cannot. 

A Narcissist May Have Jealousy Towards You:

On the other hand, if your parent was not taking the credit for your achievements, they may have actually shown jealousy. They might have compared your success to their more important successes or more difficult circumstances. Additionally, they may have found other ways to unreasonably critique, invalidate or reject you. As the child of a narcissist, you were not allowed to be celebrated for your achievements. Somehow, your moments became about them and you may have felt inadequate or even guilty after these responses. 

Invalidation & Gaslighting: 

Image of a crying boy. Being the child of a narcissist is hard at every age. Even as an adult. To help you overcome the emotional trauma we offer EMDR therapy in New Jersey 07091. Our EMDR therapist also offer EMDR for kids.

Do you ever try to explain your different perspective or feelings to your mom or dad on something, only for the conversation to end with you apologizing or feeling guilty? You may have left the conversation losing confidence in your own perception or memory. Narcissists fail to empathize with and validate their children’s thoughts and feelings. They will not own up to mistakes and often resort to gaslighting.  

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and psychological abuse. It can be done several ways, but it sets out to create self-doubt in the person targeted. Gaslighting is done through denying. Narcissists second-guess the person’s memory. They may outright accuse the person of lying. They may belittle one’s feelings, accusing the person of being too sensitive or dramatic. Additionally, they may even accuse the targeted individual of being crazy or needing intensive amounts of mental help.  Ultimately, gaslighting makes a person question their perception of reality or even their sanity. The effects of gaslighting can lead a person to rely on the narcissist’s judgments, as they may have lost confidence in themselves.

As EMDR therapists we have seen how narcissistic parents tend to gaslight their children when a difference of opinion or feeling is shared, making the children question themselves. This harms the confidence and development of self-identity in these children. 

Projecting Onto Others: 

Narcissists struggle with their own feelings of inadequacy and flaws, which they will not allow themselves to consciously acknowledge. Instead, they project these “flaws” onto others. Children of narcissists will often receive and internalize these projections, which can alter their own sense of self. Often, narcissists will pick a ‘chosen child’ or ‘golden child’ who will receive the projections of the positive qualities the narcissists sees in themself. The ‘scapegoat’ child will receive the projections of qualities the narcissistic parent sees to be negative in themself. 

The Hypercriticism of a Narcissist:

Did your parent put you down? Did they criticize everything from your thoughts & feelings to your experiences & abilities? They may have found other ways to hurt or humiliate you, such as belittling you, using unfavorable comparisons of you to others, guilt-tripping, and many more. Narcissists will also set unrealistic expectations for their children which set them up for failure. These criticisms and expectations can sabotage the child’s sense of self-worth and help secure the control the narcissistic parent wants to have over them. 


Triangulation happens when a narcissist brings a third person into a two-person relationship. The two individuals triangulated by the narcissist have limited contact, most of which goes through the narcissist. If the narcissist parent is giving you the silent treatment, they may only speak to you through a sibling or someone else. This keeps children of narcissists comparing themselves to and feeling beneath others in their lives. These behaviors give the narcissist more control and a narcissistic supply. Narcissistic supply is the continuous and excessive attention or praise that narcissists require from others to fulfill their need for validation. 

The narcissist parent may also triangulate you by bringing you into their issues with another relationship they have. For instance, they may complain or lie to you about your other parent. In order to secure you as their ally, they may also say things to gain your sympathy or do things to gain your favor. This can serve to create distance between you and your other parent. Again, in this case, the triangulation would still serve to give the narcissist control and narcissistic supply.

A Narcissist Tends To Hoover: 

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Have you ever tried to create some distance or even stopped contacting your parent altogether? Are they suddenly more pleasant and respectful of your boundaries? Do they return to their hypercriticisms and disregard for you soon after sensing the distance has closed? Hoovering is a manipulation that narcissists use when they sense they are losing control of a person, and they may do this to validate or guilt their children until they are secure in their role again.

Growing up with a parent who is a narcissist will often leave you with low self-esteem and overwhelming feelings of guilt and not being “good enough.”  These feelings can show themselves in various ways throughout your adult life. In the next piece, we will explore some of the effects Narcissists have on their adult children. 

Continue reading this series with Part 2: Adult Children of Narcissists and Part 3: A Trauma Therapists Tips for Adult Children of Narcissists

Start EMDR Therapy to Overcome Abuse from A Narcissist in Scotch Plains, NJ and Branchburg, NJ

Processing emotional trauma caused by a narcissistic family member(s) can be difficult. That’s why the skilled therapists at our Scotch Plains, NJ office offer EMDR therapy for children, teens, and adults. With EMDR therapy or telehealth counseling, we can help you process your own trauma.  If you want to stop the cycle of the narcissistic family and heal your trauma follow these simple steps:

  1. Reach out to Brave Minds Psychological Services
  2. Meet with an understanding counselor 
  3. Break the cycle and heal from your emotional trauma


Brave Minds Psychological Services Other Counseling Options in New Jersey

EMDR Therapy isn’t the only service that our skilled therapists offer at Brave Minds Psychological Services. For adults, we provide trauma therapy, food allergy therapy, and couples counseling. We offer counseling for parents along with postpartum counseling, and birth trauma therapy. Supporting teens and children is also important to us. This is why we offer teen anxiety treatment, social phobia therapy for teens, child sexual abuse therapy, child anxiety treatment, and more. If you are wanting to connect with peers going through similar struggles we offer several options for group therapy. Our services are offered in person at our Scotch Plains, NJ office and through telehealth counseling in New Jersey.



Image of Claire, Master’s of Social Work Intern at Brave Minds, standing against a brick wall. A lot of emotional trauma can be caused be a narcissist. It's great if it is caught as a child and they can go through EMDR for kids. If that wasn't the case for you reach out and start EMDR therapy in New Jersey. You can start healing today with an EMDR therapist in Scotch Plains, NJ 07016.






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