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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

Angela is a passionate writer who shares communication and lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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