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?”
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:
- Lives through their child – This 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 child – This 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.
- Manipulation – Manipulation 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.
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 yourself – Yes, 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 boundaries – just 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 must – Initially 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 future – Many 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.
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