Those who have had a narcissistic parent can testify how damaging it can be to one’s psyche. Narcissistic parents lack empathy, show a severe sense of entitlement to micromanage the lives of their children, and may even subject their children to neglect, as well as emotional and/or physical abuse.
Daughters of narcissistic fathers face all the common challenges of having an unempathic, cruel and abusive parent, but along with these they may also encounter unique triggers and obstacles on the path to their healing journey. Here are five common challenges daughters of narcissistic fathers experience and tips on how to overcome them on the healing journey. Sons of narcissistic fathers may also be able to relate to these.
(1) The grandiose self-image and reputation of their fathers rarely matched the coldness and indifference behind closed doors, habituating their children to accept interpersonal danger as the norm. Narcissists are masters of impression management and the charismatic narcissistic father is no different. As the daughter of a narcissistic father, you may have noticed that your father prioritized his reputation in the community above the happiness or wellbeing of you and your family members (Banschick, 2013).
Your father was most likely known as generous, friendly and exceptionally charming to all those who knew him in public; yet behind closed doors, he was verbally, emotionally and/or physically abusive to his spouse and children. This is not uncommon in households with a narcissistic parent; their ‘false self’ is rarely a match for the true self within the realm of the family unit.
As a result, daughters of narcissistic fathers are likely to have been silenced should they ever have attempted to speak out against the abuse or speak ill of the father within the household or in public.
Combined with gender roles and expectations for young women to be quiet, demure and polite, daughters of narcissistic fathers may have been conditioned to adapt to danger rather than to protect themselves from it.
That is why dangerous situations and people with a Jekyll and Hyde personality – people who are rarely consistent in their character or integrity – feel like an oddly familiar unsafe comfort zone to daughters of narcissistic fathers in adulthood.
What to do:
Validate and acknowledge the experiences you had with your narcissistic parent and don’t allow the opinions of others detract from the reality of the abuse you experienced. It is common for survivors of any form of abuse to doubt and question themselves about the horrific violations they experienced.
This is especially true when their abuser is a loved figure in the community or projects a charitable and loving image to the world.
They may have also experienced an enormous amount of gaslighting from their abusers or enabling family members or friends of the family (Canonville, 2015). Survivors of narcissistic abuse tend to ‘gaslight’ themselves into believing their experiences were not valid, due to the reputation of their abusers.
If the abuse is taking a severe toll on your mental health and well-being, consider limiting contact with your narcissistic parent to only holidays and special occasions. Limited contact enables you to take your power back, as you can control the frequency with which you interact with the parent and walk away from potentially threatening situations before they escalate.
Some survivors find that their particular situation warrants going No Contact with their abusive parents; if that is the case, know that you do not have to feel guilty or ashamed. You have every right to protect yourself from dangerous people, even if they share your DNA.
Learn constructive ways to self-validate. Journal or speak with a counselor about the abuse you endured to reconnect with its reality. Confer with validating family members or friends who were also recipients of the abuse and do not minimize it. Honor what you experienced and recognize that you did not deserve it, in any shape, way or form.
Find ways to give yourself the emotional nourishment you needed but didn’t receive in childhood. ‘Re-parent’ yourself with the soothing words, actions as well as acts of radical self-care that can combat some of the destructive conditioning you may have faced in your childhood (Cooney, 2017; Markham, 2014). Connect with your inner child through visualization, meditation and self-soothing whenever you’re in emotional distress (Jenner, 2016). We will talk more about specific healing modalities in Part 3 of this series.
Identify and consider limiting contact with any people you currently have in your life who also have a ‘false self’ that do not align with their true ones.
Often when we’ve been raised by a father figure like this, we tend to gravitate towards people who feed us empty words and false promises, or who are also emotionally unavailable. No wonder: our early role models for relationships also lacked emotional depth and an inability to connect with us emotionally.
We can become ‘tone-deaf’ to verbal and emotional abuse as well (Streep, 2016). That is why it is important to recognize any toxic patterns of communication we may also be tolerating from our other family members, friends, acquaintances and dating partners and to set firmer boundaries that honor how we deserve to be treated.
Finally, ensure that you’re in touch with your authentic self – honor all of the facets of your identity that make you who you are. Know that you don’t need to hide your true self from others and that you don’t have to follow in your narcissistic father’s footsteps in excessively depending on external validation.
Self-validation and connecting with your true self is key on the healing journey. We may not be able to change the narcissistic parent, but we can take steps to ensure that we ourselves are living authentic lives and not modeling the parent’s destructive ways of behaving and relating to the world.
Banschick, M. (2013, March 13). The Narcissistic Father. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/201303/the-narcissistic-father
Canonville, C. L. (2015). The Effects of Gaslighting in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome. Retrieved May 19, 2017, from http://narcissisticbehavior.net/the-effects-of-gaslighting-in-narcissistic-victim-syndrome/
Cooney, L. (2017). How to Re-Parent Yourself. Retrieved May 19, 2017, from http://drlisacooney.com/how-to-re-parent-yourself/
Jenner, N. (2016, December 28). Re-parenting your inner child. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from https://boundariesofthesoul.com/2013/05/23/re-parenting-your-inner-child/
Markham, L. (2014, January 19). Committing to Radical Self-Care. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/201401/committing-radical-self-care
Streep, P. (2016, September). Why Unloved Daughters Fall for Narcissists. Retrieved May 19, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/knotted/2016/09/why-unloved-daughters-fall-for-narcissists/