Sometimes, adult children of narcissists need validation. No. Make that all the time.
I’ve written about being raised like a Project, not a Person. I’ve written about feeling like Exhibit A for the Defense to prove what a Good Parent my parent was. I’ve written about being raised “by the book” (Dr. Dobson, that is), instead of with some empathetic common sense. But I needed to hear it from someone else. I needed validation.
That someone else is Dr. Ross Rosenberg, writer of PsychCentral’s SelfLove Recovery: The Codependency Cure blog. The article that made me feel like I was discovering fire again was The Good-Parent Fantasy – Why Narcissists Need to Have Children.
Point #4 was sheer brilliance, quoted by permission of the author. (Seriously, you gotta read his stuff!)
“4. Look at Me Now—I Was Always Good
This philosophy is adopted by narcissists who are or were shy and introverted children…adults who were once emotionally neglected and deprived children. Although being invisible made them feel safe, they were crushed by the fact that no one ever noticed or showed appreciation for how good or talented they really were. This good-parent version allows them to finally put themselves front and center in the lives of the people whose attention, appreciation, and love they always wanted, but never received. Putting the spotlight on themselves, they can showcase their “good parenting” abilities and finally get the accolades and acknowledgements they always deserved.”
Exactly. It was like shaking hands with my family. And your family. That most confusing conundrum, good, good, good, good, nice, nice, nice, nice narcissists.They were good kids. They were good teens. They were good young adults. And no one noticed. Perfection was expected. But never acknowledged. No matter what my father did, he could never win his father’s approval. No way, no how.
Let me tell you a little story. When Dad was a little boy, he was bullied. A lot. Going home from school each day became a torment. His one saving grace was being able to outrun the bullies who chased him home each and ever day. I guess it was a blood sport to them.
Then one day, he couldn’t outrun his tormentor, so he had to turn and fight. Being the 1950s and 60s, his mother let her sons fight when necessary, but she stood guard with a baseball bat…in case things went too far.That day, they went too far.
In the mêlée of flying arms and fists, my dad’s arm got stuck under a chainlink fence. With only one arm left to defend himself, his mother and her baseball bat stepped in to end the fracas.
Dad was devastated. For the first time, he’d lost. His father made it infinitely worse. “You should have won” he said. No empathy. No humanity. Not even common sense! Just heaping shame on shame. Perfection was the mark…nothing less was accepted. But perfection was not acknowledged either.
What happens then? What happens to a good little boy who excelled at everything – scholastics, sports and caring for his three siblings – when he never gets a lick of acknowledgment. When his parents never attend even one of his many school sporting events.
He goes for broke. He doubles-down. Come Hell-or-High-Water, he’s gonna prove what a wonderful person he is and always was.
By raising the perfect child.
Exhibit A for the Defense.
And that’s when a good, good, good person crosses the line into bad. Because it’s bad to use a little tiny person, or any person, for an agenda. A very narcissistic agenda. That may’ve been the first bad thing our narcissist actually did.
The child of a good, good, good narcissist thinks they’re just a normal kid, having a normal growin’ up and looks forward to having their own normal life. Oh, dear me, no! That ain’t happenin’.
There’s nothing normal about it.
What they don’t realize is that they’re not a person. They’re a Project, born and raised to prove a point and play a role. End of story. The pain of being a Project, not a Person, could’ve been avoided if our parents threw up their hand and said, “I give up. I’m an adult now and I’m going to stop trying to win my parents’ approval. From now on, the only approval I need is my own.” Perhaps it defies the natural law but with unloving, disapproving, probably narcissistic parents, there are no other healthy options.
That what our parents should have done. Gotten off the titty, if you’ll excuse a crude expression, and cut the apron strings.
What made our parents’ parents so god-like in the minds of their children? What makes any parent so god-like? They’re human beings, we’re human beings. They’re adults, we’re adults. At some point after you reach the age of emancipation, the playing field needs to leveled mentally if nothing else.
If only our parents had stopped in their desperate and doomed-to-failure quest to compel the approval of the previous generation, our grandparents.
Grow up! Our parents needed to grow up, all the way up…and they didn’t. If they had grown up, then we could’ve been just a little person. Growing up in a normal way. Not anyone’s Exhibit or Project to prove a point. Just a normal person. Born to live a normal life and enjoy it. Finis.
When my grandpa lay dying, Dad rushed to his side. The man who’d rejected him, blamed him, shamed him, held up impossible standards, withheld all praise and affection, terrorized him with his towering inferno rages, never said “I love you” but did say he didn’t mind not seeing Dad’s birth. The man who gave my father, his eldest son, his first hug when Dad was in his fifties…Dad rushed to his side.
While I applaud his love for his father, my second thought was how pathetic! I would have gone contact No Contact with a man like that years before. Was Dad still trying to receive that spark of fatherly approval? I guess their meeting was, in Dad’s words, “a god-send.” I’m glad for them. But I wouldn’t have done that myself.
The true god-send would’ve been our good parents staying good by resisting narcissism. By not resorting to narcissistically using their children to prove their “goodness.”
It wasn’t goodness when they used us to prove a point. It was badness.