Saturday, February 12, 2011

The aging narcissistic parent and the role of the "chosen" child

The child of a narcissist is trained to meet the needs of the parent from the day they are born. If the narcissist fathers more than one child, usually one is designated as the "chosen" one, while the other(s) can never do enough to warrant pride, or even love, from the narcissistic parent. Even the "chosen" child is not actually loved by the parent, though the narcissist will do whatever they need to in order to make it appear that the chosen child is loved. The chosen child will be showered with praise in comparison to the other child(ren). The "chosen" child is in a precarious situation: on one hand, they do not get the same level of wrath from the parent as the others do; however, the chosen child is also the brainwashed child that is the parent's servant. The chosen child is so chosen because the child feeds the narcissist's ego and jumps through the thousands of hoops required by the narcissistic parent. In some sense, one could compare the chosen child to a well trained dog. The owner appreciates the dog when the dog does what the owner wants it to. The chosen one will have a hard time letting go of this assigned role as they mature. The burden of serving the narcissistic parent will continue long after the child has left the nest. The chosen child will be faced with countless decisions, burdens, and an enormous feeling of guilt as their narcissistic parent ages.

The aging narcissist faces desolation in the twilight years. They've created a wasteland for themselves. They've pushed everyone close to them out of their lives. They've used everyone they know; those who have given (and given and given) of themselves to the narcissist realize that their work has no reward. This realization creates isolation for the narcissist. There is nobody that wants to continue to serve the narcissist's needs with nothing in return. The narcissist is a black hole that will suck you dry. When you're dry, you're no longer of use to them, and you are tossed aside like trash. The chosen child of the narcissist has a complex role in the aging narcissist's life; they're the last string for the narcissist when his wife has left him and his friends have jumped ship.

The chosen child will grow to a point in which they either realize the parent is a narcissist that is not capable of providing the love and acceptance the child has been seeking their entire lives OR will never wake up and realize the abuse that has been imposed on them. If the child takes the latter route, the child will live a stunted life; they will propagate the abuse they endured onto their own children.

For the child that realizes his parent is, in fact, a narcissist, there are three choices. Choice number one is to continue to cater to the narcissist and allow the guilt the narcissist impels upon them to push them in directions they do not wish to go and to do things they do not wish to do. To do this is to basically give up your life for a worthless cause. Nothing you ever do will ever be enough. They will use you forever and ruin your life. They will tell you nice things to get what they want (admiration, caring, help, etc.), but- to them, you're only as good as the thing you're doing for them at that moment in time (or about to do for them). For them, NOTHING YOU DO IS EVER ENOUGH- nor is it ever GOOD ENOUGH!

Choice number two is to limit the abuse from the parent by setting boundaries with the parent.
 Choice number two is not an easy choice, but none of the choices are easy. If the child chooses to continue a relationship with limits with the parent, the child will be tested and tested to their limits by the parent. The parent will become extremely needy. The parent will call with emergencies at all hours of the day and night, with each emergency more dire than the last. The narcissist senses the child imposing distance, and the narcissist is agitated at the prospect of losing their one, true, lifelong, source of admiration, service, and adulation that was supposed to be guaranteed by the chosen child. The parent begins to feel bitter. Rage and negativity take to an entirely new level. The parent is angry at everything and everyone. None of his "friends" or family members are good enough (even moreso than before; of course, we all knew that they were no-good before, but when you make choice number 2, prepare to hear about them and their no-good deeds constantly). He's got a lot of anger because you're imposing limits on your relationship with him- but his anger about it knows no bounds. He is like a wildfire that will talk about every single person he knows behind their back (more than before). He'll make up lies about them and tell you how they're no-good. But, to their faces, he'll continue to be nice. During the face-to-face contact, the parent is getting his admiration fix. Someone's feeling sorry for him. He's telling them they're great. He's offering them things. All of this is just to ensure that they'll be there for the next favor he needs or for the next visit he needs to feed his ego. The narcissist constantly needs help from everyone around him. This neediness is really a guise; what he really needs is your attention. And- the higher the status of the person giving him their attention, the better. The higher- status listeners (or service providers, helpers) are the ones that don't get shit-talked for awhile. Maybe even a few months. In the end, though, even the high-status people turn out to be pieces of garbage to the narcissist.

Choice number 3: Completely cut ties with the narcissistic parent. This is not an easy thing to do. You've been trained from the time you were born to provide for the parent. You were there to please them. You knew that any wrong movement, twitch, facial expression, would set him off. You've been trained to feel guilt for everything you do. Nothing you do is ever good enough. You feel a sense of doom about the future because your narcissistic parent made promises over and over that were never fulfilled. You carry these perceptions into your adult life, with your children, spouse, with your job. You feel that people are conspiring against you. That they don't really like you, that you're going to lose your job at any time. Cutting ties with the narcissistic parent is the first step to gaining your own life- a life that can actually feel peaceful and fulfilling. You'll have pangs of guilt from time to time. Treat them like cigarette withdrawals. Feel them, realize they are aftershocks of guilt, but do not give into the guilt. The aging narcissist has lost most of his sources of admiration and service. He's still counting on you: you are the one that has been supplying him steadily, constantly, they way you were trained to do so, since you were a child. When you pull the plug on him, you have to realize that he is an adult. No matter what his excuses are for needing you, remember, he is an adult that has created this life for himself. He is the only one who can help himself. While you may be able to help logistically with this and that, if you do, he will never stop asking for more.

Choice number 3 is the best choice for the child of a narcissist. However, be cautioned that when put in this position, the narcissist will become extremely volatile. The parent will be in a new situation where he'll have to face himself. In this position, the narcissist will likely become extremely depressed, think of suicide often (or even commit suicide). He may frantically go in search of a new source of admiration; he may delve even deeper into his addictions. These are not your worries. These are not your problems. These are not your fault. These problems are for HIM to deal with. Is there someone in your life that you force to pay attention to you? Do you have someone that you guilt into doing everything for you? Do you pretend as though you are completely helpless? NO! You don't require the attention that your parent does. You cannot continue to give him all the good parts of yourself while you let it ruin your own life. His problems are HIS problems. Cut ties. If he does commit suicide, prepare yourself mentally before it happens. And if it does happen, realize it was HIS decision. And it was a selfish decision.

The narcissist knows no bounds and will ruin your life if you do not stop him from doing it. The only effective way to stop him from ruining your life is to cut ties with the parent. You will NEVER get anything good out of helping him. Even if you think that it makes you feel good to help him, you're enabling him and you're not being true to yourself. No matter what you think could happen if you cut ties, no matter how bad, you must do it.


  1. Thank you, just wondering where you got this information: any links you can refer me to? I am currently no longer in contact with my mother (and consequently my father) for the last year. I tried Low Contact, and it did help somewhat, but I needed the Full Monty. lol

    1. Me, too! I keep thinking I can do it, or she will be better this time and then I just get caught in the vicious cycle again.

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  3. Thank you for this "pep talk." I have two narcissistic parents. I've done lots of reading and therapy, but today, Mother's Day, is especially hard for me. It always is, but for some reason this year is worse than usual. And I know that the next wave is Father's Day. Good times.

  4. Thanks so much. I had you cut ties with my npd mother and slowly with my entire family including my daughter more than ten years ago. My mother was extremely narcissist and sided with my abusive npd husband when I left him over some serious physical and emotional abuse. I was hospitalized for mostly 10 years throughout our 17 year marriage and tried suicide a few times. Came very close the last time. My husband was transferred alot so I was isolated quite a bit and he didn't want me to have friends or to work and acted like he hated my family. She started shutting me out of family functions and wouldn't visit because she thought he was too mean yet always had a way of preventing Me from going
    Home. They both kept me from going home to the point where I had become estranged from family and friends uninvited to weddings, events. When I finally left him he had just pushed me down the stairs. I was in school at the time in my final two weeks, too of my class. I was meeting new friends and was so proud of myself. I was recovering from another two month hospitalization. This time diagnosed worn histrionic bipolar illness and major depression. My mother became too busy to talk to me or would berate me. I had to quite my course as my classmates started alienating Me along with the prof. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I moved to a rat hole out of the house. I was so afraid in a new city. still sick, my mother writing me off that I let him drag me into his lawyers office and signed house, retirement money, child support, full custody to him and he cut me off benefits. I had to stop meds. I never told anyone but i signed yhe wrong last name and ran out of his lawuet's office. Shortly after found retail work told the doc that's felt too sick not to sign the document, not telling him I signed the wrong name. I also kept lying saying I was still taking meds. I was miraculously getting better and he finally discovered after a year that I was getting better on my own. Not having graduated high school I dubbed on my resume, practiced word excel and ended up getting a better position with promotions leading to an Insurance adjuster, hr generalist and executive assistant with Zurich insurance Co to assistant to a Canadian research chair in medicine at university of Toronto. I spent the rest of my time devoted to my daughter throughout her high school years from skating, zoos,museums. I introduced her to all my bosses who she worked for each one day to learn about women in the work force

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  6. I moved away from my narcissistic parents 5 years ago. Everyday away from them my life gets better. Even the pain I was having in my neck is getting better. My dad is a narcissist and my mom was codependent. I feel that after she has been married to him for 50 years she is becoming more like him which is creepy. They are in their 70s my dad just recently diagnosed with kidney disease. I guess the deceitful ways are finally eating away at them. they have done unspeakable things to me. Especially when I first left they realize quickly that they had no power over me so they tried to use the legal system against me in very sick ways with their money and top notch sHark lawyers. Anyway after many years of me maintaining my independence it has finally gotten better. I will never trust them. Even with all their sickness and old age they are unable to admit their mistakes

  7. My N-dad is finally in a nursing home and driving other people crazy with his endless demands. He must be the only nursing home resident on the planet who "needs" lumber cut (to put his garbage can on???). Thank god for the nursing home staff who say that they would rather deal with N-dad on is worst day than some of the other residents on their best day. What a relief that he doesn't cause them the same stress he does me and my mom. She moved away, and I am waiting for a house to sell then I will do the same... we feel guilt for leaving him "alone" (under the best care medicade can buy) but I don't ever want to see him again. There is no point in "visiting" because N-dad doesn't visit, he demands things (favors). He is a hoarder and is trying to start another hoard in the nursing home. Doing even one favor will quickly lead to spending all day running around town buying things for him if allowed. Giving even one inch leads to him taking several thousand miles.
    He has been circling the drain for 8 long years now, I can't even count how many calls we have gotten in the middle of the night "your father is not responding", only to have him back to making demands a day later. The whole process has made me numb in ways I feel might be extinguishing my humanity. The day he does actually die I am quite sure the response to "the call" will be "are you quite sure? he's never done that before".
    I have been reading blogs about elderly N-parents for some time now... they seem to just end one day. I always wonder if the blogger's n-parent died, or if they just got the poison out, or what.
    My N-dad has not mellowed with time.. it has gotten worse, so much so that narcissism is all that is left... and it is quite in charge of everything else that is wrong with him (a ton of crap, cancer, diabetes, fecal incontinence, a catheter, Lewybody dementia, seizures, UTI's, can't walk, etc, etc....) And the narcissism doesn't allow him to acknowledge any of it.. he is 80 but views himself as a spry 45, who needs a little rehab to get walking again. He has had the pooping the pants problem for 15 years, doesn't care that there are other people around when he does it, like it is perfectly normal for people to crap themselves, he wants to go to restaurants, ride busses, planes.. like his sh*t don't stink, literally... He complains endlessly about all the old people at the home, how he can't stand "them", and how he doesn't belong there.
    Right now, as I type this, he is less than a mile away, but I haven't been to see him in 3 months, and even then I went to chaperone his visit with mom (it was a disaster, full on N-tantrum). A part of me says 'he's your dad', but then I remember that I am not a son, I am an indentured servant to him... that is how HE views me, and there is nothing I can do about his view.. but I can limit my exposure to his demands.
    It still leaves a hole inside... a sadness that I am not a better (stupider) person by going to "visit" (subject myself to the endless "needs"). But the fact that I can type the preceding sentence means I am stronger than I was five years ago... or at least smarter.
    I don't know how long this will go on with him. It really doesn't concern me at all, it has nothing to do with me. It IS his bed, he did make it. And as much as I would want better (family around) for him, he never wanted that for himself... so it really isn't my problem. My problem is recovering from him. Thank god I don't have kids.

  8. Thnku ive very recently cut ties with my n dad but heart breakingly have had to leave my bed ridden post major sttoke mum to its the hardest thing ever but your report is spot on. I have to try save my life n my own family