Pain, Boundaries and the Narcissist
“Mommy,” I sobbed. “Tell Daddy to stop hurting me when we play!” Smiling she responded, “Now, Honey, you need to tell him yourself.” Thinking of his blackout rages, I wept, “But I can’t! He’ll get mad at me! Please, Mommy!?” I was five years old. It would be another thirty years before I realized that normal fathers don’t hurt their children.
I was raised to be a little lady. To run if a stranger offered me candy. Never to get in anyone’s van. Alway to tell if something weird happened. What kind of touch was okay…and what definitely wasn’t.
But verbal teaching isn’t enough.
It’s not enough to verbally teach a child to set boundaries. As a parent, you must also respect the boundaries they set on you.
But a narcissistic parent’ll be damned before they’ll respect their child and his/her wishes.
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Did I want to spoon with my mother? Nope! No five-year-old would. So I wriggled and I squirmed, but that didn’t matter. I just had to wait it out.
Did I want to have my ears licked out by my father? Nope! No child would. So I wriggled and I squirmed, loudly protesting. But it didn’t matter. He held me down to be throughly licked.
If you like this article, you’ll love Privacy? Fugetaboutit!
Did I want my inner thighs slapped…hard…for their amusement? Nope! It hurt and tickled like Hell. But that didn’t matter. When the tickle got so bad I screamed, I was immediately and sternly chastised. “Be quiet! Do you want the neighbors to hear and call the police!?”
Did I want the sensitive, ticklish soles of my feet tickled and painfully slapped and hit? Nope! But it didn’t matter. My cries went unheeded and to this day, I retract my feet like a turtle when anyone walks by them.
Did I want to be dropped on my head on the bed, straining my neck? Nope, but maybe it was an honest mistake. When confronted by my angry mom, Dad flew into a rage saying, “Well, a boy would’ve known how to fall properly and not gotten his neck hurt.” (See!? Narcissists can do no wrong!)
Did I want to have tension headaches, that sometimes got so bad vomiting was the only cure? Nope! But my head had to be agonizingly pounding before I was allowed medication.
Regardless of “Stranger Danger” training, the children of narcissists come pre-groomed. We’re afraid to set physical boundaries. Our bodies don’t belong to us and neither do our voices. The narcissists make sure of that.
Do you remember puberty? I certainly do. I remember being fifteen and, like all adolescent girls, worrying that my new bosom wasn’t normal. Naturally, I asked my mother for her opinion. But why did she ask to touch? To this day, I rue being too downtrodden, too scared, too boundaryless to say the resounding, “No!” I wanted to say.
This memory follows close on the memory of “Dr. Dad’s” examination. Like all narcissists, he considers himself to be on a par with a medical doctor. I must’ve been, oh, about twelve or thirteen and my wiggly spine that always threatened to curve into full-blown scoliosis was the item of concern at the moment.
Don’t forget to read Privacy? Fugetaboutit! It’s all about how narcissists won’t allow their children any privacy in the bathroom, bedroom, etc. “You wouldn’t have closed your door if you weren’t doing something wrong…” Sound familiar?
I’ll never forget Mother leading pubescent little me, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, into the kitchen. Smiling that smarmy, ingratiating smile I see to this day in my recurring nightmares, she stripped off my shirt and taped a skimpy towel over my front. Imagine the horror and shame in my soul as she led me out, in my towel-and-masking-tape bikini, for my examination. I bent over, reached up, laid down and dutifully obeyed their commands as I was examined, measured and talked over as if I wasn’t even there.
Thankfully, the scoliosis never happened. I wish their examination had never happened either.
One must ask if parents who knowingly cause their child physical pain are sadists. Mr. Vaknin indicates as much in his writings. When I idly asked my friend’s father if he ever hurt his ebullient quiver of children when they were little, he turned on me with a horrified expression. “No!” he snapped. “I never hurt my kids. Why would I!?”
And that’s when I realized just how unnatural (and even inappropriate) my question and personal experiences had been.
Apparently, normal fathers treat their little girls like fragile princesses. They don’t slap ’em, lick ’em or drop ’em. They listen to their dislikes and respect them. Now I finally understood why tender songs like You’re My Little Girl always reduce me to tears.
That was nice to know.
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The majority of my friends who survived upbringings by narcissists often report sexual abuse in their youths, but not necessarily by the narcissists. Unfortunately, being raised without a voice and boundaries leaves a child “pregroomed” and vulnerable to the Dangers from Strangers. Too weak and terrified to defense themselves from abuse…in childhood and in adulthood.
That is a very sad state of affairs indeed.
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This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Under no circumstances should it be considered therapy nor replace therapy and treatment. If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is staffed by certified crisis response professionals. The content of these blogs and all blogs written by Lenora Thompson are merely her opinion. If you are in need of help, please contact qualified mental health professionals.
Thompson, L. (2016). Pain, Boundaries and the Narcissist. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 18, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2016/05/pain-boundaries-and-the-narcissist/