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Growing up With a Narcissistic Father: How to Turn Things Around

Growing up With a Narcissistic Father: How to Turn Things Around

The father-daughter relationship is a special one! It should be nurtured and encouraged because Daddy does have a lot of impact on his daughter. Unfortunately, not all fathers are a positive influence. Some of them are downright damaging. My own father often told me, as a teen, “Your too fat. I will never be able to marry you off!”. I look at pictures now and wonder how I ever believed him! A girlfriend in high school often spoke of her father’s threats to cut her out of the family if she didn’t go to his college after graduation. And yet another spoke of how her father constantly trivialized her good grades and community work because she was “only meant to get married and have babies”.

The Power of a Narcissistic Father

Dad’s narcissism causes chaos in the family home, especially if the home follows the age-old model in which Dad is the Head Of The Family. When we grow up in that model, we always look to Dad for leadership. When Dad is a narcissist, the damage is insurmountable. Young girls’ are wrought with emotional stress from Day one on being the perfect child. But for the narcissist, that child cannot possibly be perfect. The child is not capable of understanding that their father is the cause of their issues, rather they blame themselves. Often reverting to the common phrase “I am so stupid, why did I do this?”

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The Traits of a Narcissistic Father

Identifying the narcissistic father can be hard as they will convince you that they are anything but a narcissist. However, there are very noticeable signs that you can track and learn to heal from. Here are the top signs to look for:

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  • Lives through their childThis is the father who expects their child to follow their footsteps (take up the same career, go to the same college, take the same jobs) and/or accomplishes the dreams the father did not. If the child does not follow through, they are often threatened to be disowned.
  • Marginalizes the childThis is the father who is actually threatened by the potential and successes of the child. When the child succeeds, the father must put them down so that they feel worse about themselves.
  • Superiority Narcissistic fathers have an inflated sense of self and will project upon their children that they are superior in every way.
  • ManipulationManipulation is the most common trait in the narcissist. Often they use it to guilt trip (I did this and you are ungrateful), blaming (It’s your fault I am unhappy), shaming ( you embarrass me), and emotional coercion (you are not a good daughter/son if you do not live up to my expectations).
  • Lack of Empathy the narcissistic father is unable to be mindful of a child’s feelings and validate them as real.
  • Co-Dependency expecting the child to take care of them for the rest of their lives. This includes emotionally, physically, and financially. If the child tries to sever this dependency, the father will resort to guilt trip and shaming to achieve their dependency goals.

Why He Becomes a Narcissist

The truth of the matter is, we are all a tad narcissistic. However, many of us keep in check with expressions of humility that balance out the narcissism. So why do some fathers fail at humility for balance? According to Psychology Today, narcissism is a taught behavior in childhood. Perhaps the boy child was coddled just a little too much. Perhaps his own parents took care of things for him out of guilt rather than allow him to stand on his own two feet. Or maybe there was praise for doing something wrong. Or the idea that “boys will be boys” was drilled into his psyche just a little more often than necessary. And rather than correct the parenting and teach him some humility, it kept going well into adulthood. Now you have someone who does not know how to function in any other capacity.

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How to Grow Up with A Narcissistic Father

Just like anyone else, you will desire some normalcy to your life and healing from Daddy is the place to start. It can feel like an overwhelming endeavor, but it will be well worth it in the long run. How you choose to heal is completely up to you. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

  • Keep some things to yourselfYes, we all want to share our inner most secrets or successes with someone. Since narcissists lack any empathy or compassion, it’s best to share those secrets or successes with someone else.
  • Set boundariesjust because you recognize the hurtful things he says, does not mean you have to take it. When he begins a tirade, immediately acknowledge it. “Stop playing mind games” and “Dad, this is not constructive” are two ways to assert that you know what he is doing and that you are not going to be abused.
  • Accept him as he is – this is tough. When we know something is wrong, we want to fix it. You can’t fix him, he must come to that decision on his own. The more you try to fix him, the worse things will get.
  • Get into good therapy – consider therapists that specialize in domestic violence (which does include emotional abuse) or narcissistic abuse.
  • Cut ties – as an adult, you have a lot more say about what is happening in your life. If your father is going to physical violence, you are not obligated to maintain that relationship any further. It’s difficult. And you should speak with your therapist, if you have one, before cutting ties.
  • Leave if you mustInitially acknowledging the abuse will make it happen more often. Some fathers will go into physical territory if challenged. Do not stay if you do not feel safe. Leave. Keep your car keys and your phone on you at all times so that he cannot interfere with your leaving.
  • Change your futureMany young women who have a narcissistic father, end up pairing themselves with a narcissist. Do your best to remember the signs and acknowledge them in your partner. Avoiding a repeat of the past means you can meet a great partner who truly loves and respects you.

Many of us have had a narcissistic parent, you are certainly not alone! By joining therapy groups and seeking counseling to heal, we can truly change the future for ourselves and our own children.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

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Angela Kunschmann

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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