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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 February 19, 2019

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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