Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family

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sonofanarc

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Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« on: October 22, 2015, 05:01:32 AM »
I wrote this a few months ago. I find writing and putting this stuff out there helps break the taboo in my FOO of letting the world know were are not a healthy functional family. Maybe it will help others.

I woke at 1 am last night after yet another nightmare. Iíve had recurrent nightmares for as long as I can remember. I had night terrors as a young boy. They always involve dark negative entities, witches, monsters, ghosts that are trying to get me. Last nightís was one of the worst. I woke up screaming feeling such visceral fear that words donít encapsulate my feelings. Every fibre of my being felt invaded by terror. The fear of being annihilated. Sleep did not return to me easily last night. I lay in bed and raged that once again my fatherís inability to deal with his own feelings bears its burden in the trans-generational trauma that I carry.

There is no coincidence me dream was preceded by me meeting my dad for lunch yesterday. I havenít seen him for 4 months. Iíve purposely been keeping a low profile as Iíve increasingly noticed that I somatise after seeing him. My knees and ankles become inflamed, causing me much pain for weeks at a time. Iíve been pain and nightmare free since I last saw him. Over the past two years we have both been working at rebuilding the bridges between us. Perhaps that should be building the bridges, as they were never laid down when they should have been - whilst I was growing up. With the help of therapy and more latterly, the menís work through the ManKind project, I have been able to have more honest conversations with him about my feelings.

I was raised in a family where feelings were not allowed to be expressed. My three sisters and I were raised with many dysfunctional beliefs, one particularly pernicious one being ďdonít do anything to upset your father, heís suffered enoughĒ Ė his torment being at the hands of Nazi persecution. So even now, when I have the temerity to tell him about his less than staller fathering, it feels viscerally like I am doing something very wrong. I recognise this is my inner child who is expecting to be punished for speaking out.

Yesterdayís lunch started as it always does, with superficial stuff. I wasnít going to raise the issue of my withdrawal unless my father asked. After 20 minutes he asked about the menís work I am doing, whatís involved? Who goes along? Do I get paid for it? I explained its about learning how to be a better man, to live a life with integrity, honesty and taking responsibility, how to be a better father to my daughters and a better husband to my wife, how to feel safe amongst other men that donít judge me and to help me get more connected to my feelings.

He then asked about us, our relationship. I asked if he wanted me to be honest? He said ďI want to know why you are angry, why cant you just leave things be but donít tell me anything that I might find hurtfulĒ. Howís that for a double bind? I told him I cant predict if he will find what I say hurtful All I can do is talk about how I feel, to take responsibility for my feelings and I that cant be responsible for his reactions. If he doesnít like what I say, then thatís for him to reflect upon and take to his own therapist he sees at the Holocaust Survivors Centre.

He tells me he gives his therapist therapy such is his sceptism of the effectiveness of talking therapies. What was said between us was little different to what we spoke about a year ago, although this time I also reinforced my appreciation of the things he has done for me and also how I am starting to gain respect for some of his behaviours. We agreed to disagree on many things, his belief that parents deserve the respect of their children irrespective of how they behave, that children have a duty to be there for their parents come what may and that having children is a two way street.

My beliefs are very different, a parent has to earn the respect of their children, its not a childís duty to carry their parentís emotional baggage and having a child is a one way street where our children own us nothing. We as parents decide to bring them into this world and that comes with lifelong responsibilities of being that childís parent.

He cant understand that whilst he now accepts he was not the best of fathers why cant I just sweep my anger I hold over the past under the rug, let sleeping dogs lie. He wants me to forget the beatings at the hands of my mother whilst he stood passively by. I explained that by doing that, I just push my feelings back into my shadow where they will continue to impact my behaviours. And having done that for 53 years, Iím no willing to do that, to save his feelings and to let the world believe we are a perfectly normal happy functional family.

The reality is I come from a narcissistic family of enmeshed co-dependent love addicts.  I am being used as the scapegoat that needs to be told what I am doing is wrong, that finding my voice is not appropriate. Maybe my dad sees me as being mentally unwell?  something he and my mother felt when I was 7 when they took me to a psychiatrist to label me as the one that was sick so they did not have to look at their inadequate parenting.

Our last conversation 12 months ago did not end well. Whilst the content was similar, I was less able to contain my anger. I told him then that he failed me as a father emotionally. He provided for me materialistically but I had no emotional templating on how to transition from a boy to a man. My dad has been emotionally absent all my life.

My father plays the victim, one of the most malignant ways to get our needs met. Last year he went back to my sisters and told them he was left feeling worse after our meeting than how he felt after the Nazis murdered his 7 brothers and sisters and parents. The drama triangle of the victim, rescuer and persecutor, which is so common in narcissistic families kicked in, my dad seeing me as the persecutor, he reverts to playing the victim, my sisters move to rescue him by trying to persecute me.  when i confronted him about his crass statement, he said he didn't say Nazis, he said the Germans!!!!

The only way to deal with the drama triangle is to get off it, which is what I did last summer, breaking all contact with my family of origin for a few months. I told my father there would be similar consequences this time around, if he felt the need to try and manipulate my sisters into siding with him. I told him in my book, thatís where part of the sickness lies in our family, with the enmeshment of a parent involving other siblings when there is disagreement between parent and a child. Its one of the few times Iíve seen my father get angry. He was caught between a rock and a hard place, wanting to maintain contact with me and also wanting to get my sisters to feel sorry for his hurt feelings because at last I had found my voice. In that moment I lost my centre, my feeling of being grounded and became furious as I saw my fatherís attempted manipulation in that moment.

We covered much ground in this conversation, with no real new territory apart from the physical manifestation of my emotions. I spoke of how I felt last year with his comment about my behaviour as compared to the Nazis. His version was it was a measure of how hurtful he had found my honesty. I asked him what I had said then and also during this meeting that he found hurtful, so brutal, so destructive? He could not tell me. All he said was he finds my honesty hurtful as Iím insensitive and inconsiderate to his feelings and that makes me selfish. Its why he hates the journey I am on, because I am one of the few if only person that has the audacity to challenge his beliefs.

My father talked about how sad he felt about how I felt towards him. I said thatís OK, why wouldnít he feel sad? I told him I too feel sad that Iíve failed my own daughters in my own inadequate fathering, something Iím trying to make amends with through the work Iím doing to grow. I told my father Iím no longer prepared to sugar coat things and tell him what he only wants to hear. Its another point we agreed to disagree on. He chooses to remain a co-dependent people pleaser to avoid conflict. The adult intellectual part of me understands where this needs comes from. My inner child did not. All I knew was growing up in my family did not feel safe, secure nor loving. I did not feel seen, validated, nor accepted for who I was. My mother was a rageaholic and my father did not protect me from her abuse. There was also much religious hypocrisy that has left me with a distaste for organised religion.

I told him there is nothing he can do for me. I am no longer seeking his approval and now on my own path to individuation. This is my work for me to do. If he does not agree with my life choiceís, I cant help as I no longer feel it's  a childís duty to subjugate their feelings to keep a parent happy.

Even in writing this article feels in some way like a betrayal of the family system I was raised in. "dont upset your father...." My fatherís desire to project out the image of the perfect loving caring family is being challenged. And if there is one thing for sure that is guaranteed to elicit narcissistic rage is for someone to defy their belief system.

For me, i no longer need to be perfect - its OK to be perfectly imperfect, after all im only human. 
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. - C.G. Jung

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Bloomie

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Re: Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2015, 02:23:35 PM »
sonofanarc - What an eloquent, beautifully written testament to what happens when we determine to recover and take full responsibility for ourselves in relationship to others in a Narcissistic Family paradigm. There is tremendous humility, strength, vulnerability, and peace throughout this post and while you most likely never intended it - in my opinion this post serves to light the pathway for others of us here, to finding the fullness of life that is available as we break free from our own type of imprisonment where we experienced cruelty and abuse at the hands of one parent as the other, who knew first hand the unholy terribleness of abuse of an innocent  - stood by and watched.

IMHO if anything, your father's experiences as a Holocaust survivor would compel him to intervene and stand up for anyone being victimized. To embody a protector and to indwell a staunch refusal to stand by while others are suffering. Yet, the victim role has served to encase and protect him from any further responsibility and anything that could further hurt him - and fully engaging in life with our children and family sometimes hurts and is risky. There is no question your father has experienced truly horrific things and my heart breaks for his losses. And yet, you have also experienced abhorrent abuse and lost much as well. The difference it seems is that you have chosen healing and truth, while he has chosen woundedness and denial. It must be very difficult to be a truth teller under such a compelling and painful family legacy.

Yet, you have found your voice! And a cogent, reasonable, measured, and loving voice it is. While not recognized as such, speaking the truth, attempting to find connection with your father in the face of such rigid denial and entrenched thinking - is an act of love and takes great courage. Thank you for this post! It is beautiful!
"You can understand and have compassion for someone and still not want a relationship with them."
Amanda E. White, LPC @therapyforwomen

Bloomie 🌸

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sonofanarc

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Re: Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2015, 05:41:00 AM »
Really appreciate your kind words and affirmation Bloomie. The last 10 years have been tough, the past 5 particularly so with me almost destroying my marriage due to my own narcissistic wounds, and acting out after developing an intense obsessive infatuation to another woman. This triggered a mid-life crisis and entry into my own dark night of the soul. This lasted a few years.  I feel at last i'm coming out of the other side, Out of the FOG, having crossed the soul's river.

New challenges will continue. I take each one as it comes, holding onto the knowledge that my sisters are unconscious, equally as damaged as i was and for their own reasons still choosing to stay enmeshed in the sick family system.

If what i write can help other's, in a way that helps me. I come from a family where giving back was not high on the list of attributes. My soul is fed more by the voluntary work i do than anything else.

Thanks again.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. - C.G. Jung

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JollyJazz

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Re: Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2015, 06:51:23 AM »
Wow, good on you sonofanarc. You sound like you are doing such a great job of working on all those things :)

The volunteer work you are doing sounds great.

Volunteer work is great aye, its such a good way to remind ourselves that actually, we have a really good nature (hard to remember sometimes for those of us that were constantly told we were bad growing up). AND of course, to just bring more goodness into the world. Cos it can never do with enough :)

I so identify with many of the things you are saying - some excerpts below! My mother was the main aggressor too, and my father refused to discomfort himself by lifting a finger standing up to her remorseless bullying of me.

I know what it feels like to be expected to just have no needs, to tiptoe around. Its an appalling way to treat a child. Good on you for working on it all.

So sorry to hear about your pain and nightmares :( You sound like you've been through so much terrible trauma. I guess its your mind working through it all, and trying to heal it through your dreams.

Sometimes trauma/pain is stored in the body as well. I don't know if you have that kind. Maybe? For me, I do a kind of (non religious) meditation. It is a kind that that I've read can also help with somatic pain, and post traumatic stress disorder (body scanning type meditation). It definitely helps with my traumas too, as well as therapy.
If you're interested here is a link to some audio files: http://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/mindfulness/programs/mbsr/Pages/audio.aspx

Lots of internet support to you. You sound like a brave, kind good person. I hope you heal well.


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... Iím no longer prepared to sugar coat things and tell him what he only wants to hear...I did not feel seen, validated, nor accepted for who I was. My mother was a rageaholic and my father did not protect me from her abuse...I cant help as I no longer feel it's  a childís duty to subjugate their feelings to keep a parent happy... "dont upset your father...." My fatherís desire to project out the image of the perfect loving caring family is being challenged....

For me, i no longer need to be perfect - its OK to be perfectly imperfect, after all im only human. 

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RUN

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Re: Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2015, 05:16:16 PM »
 :applause: :applause: :applause:

I'm glad you are taking steps toward healing. I also agree with your comments.
I'm sorry for the horrors your father went through and the lasting effects it had on your family. It's not easy to take responsibility for your actions. Many people, like your father, don't.  You shouldn't have to continue to walk on eggshells. I think you made the right decision by minimizing contact.

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Spring Butterfly

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Re: Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2015, 11:37:46 AM »
So much of the family dynamic you write about is something I identify with including the intense nightmares and night terrors. Your post and reading of your journey, the strength you've found in having your voice is profound for me. Finding my voice has been the absolutely most difficult part of my journey. I struggle to this day and some days are better than others. Reading your journey inspires me to continue my struggle and continue to find my voice one little peep at a time. Thank you. 
∑ Every interaction w/ PD persons results in damage. Plan accordingly, make time to heal
∑ Individuation is the key to emotional freedom
∑ It's foolish to expect of others what they have no capacity to give
∑ If others were self observant, introspective, this forum would not exist

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sonofanarc

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Re: Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2015, 05:21:56 PM »
Thanks for all your responses and feedback.

Such is my father's denial, he wanted me to have a DNA test as he cant accept i am his son, he says no real son would cut themselves off from him. I told him he would do better to hold a mirror to himself and his parenting as the real reason why I've withdrawn from my FOO.  He and a sister also wants to cut me out of his inheritance. I had the foresight a few years back to get him to sign over his assets to me and my sisters when he became infatuated with his housekeeper.

He was never capable of being a father. He remains unfit for purpose. Its a pity i cant return him for a refund - shop soiled goods.  ;D
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. - C.G. Jung

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all4peace

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Re: Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2015, 10:27:32 AM »
What a life, sonofanarc. His request for a paternity test is absolutely incredible. My mother once told me growing up that I must be adopted (because I wasn't like her). I still remember the burst of pleasure I felt that this might actually be an explanation for me! Strength and peace to you.

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Spirit Girl

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Re: Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2015, 10:56:53 AM »
You are so inspiring to me, especially the part about struggling being a parent and the effects of everything that happened to you. All the work you've done is paying off.

You give me hope, light. Thank you for writing this.

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openskyblue

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Re: Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2015, 10:34:59 AM »
Thanks so much for posting this, sonofarc. It explains so much about my FIL.

My NPD FIL is also a survivor, and his need to always be the center of attention, have the greatest needs, etc is exhausting. At the same time he demands family togetherness and respect as the patriarch, he is vocally dismissive of anything he is not interested in (or doesn't understand) and has never spent time with any of our children. A sa result, my kids don't feel close to him or look forward to seeing him. He completely flips out about every other year that one grandchild or another is not showing him respect or reaching out to him enough, as they are required to as his grandchildren. (This may be failing to email him back within 24 hours.) If that doesn't do the trick, he gets my MIL, SIL, and even BIL calling and emailing me (and sometimes my kids) to explain how they are hurting and upsetting their grandfather. My husband is never able to stand up for his kids in these situations, nor see how these accusations are hurtful to them. I have become the evil, disrespectful DIL over the years, because I make them  knock it off and explain to the kids that their grandfather's (and other IL's) behavior is unacceptable.

I don't know how or why NPD plays out in survivors, but many people in my husband's family come from that background -- and are all to some degree terribly scarred by it -- as are their children. My MIL and FIL donned the mantle of "ultimate suffering" a long time ago. No one -- and especially their kids -- were allowed to have problems or fears that were as considerable as theirs. Certainly their grandchildren don't.

It always strikes me as sad. These survivors made it out, when so many didn't, yet they bind themselves and their families in a kind of endless turmoil that is like a prison itself. At least, that's what I see.

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sonofanarc

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Re: Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2015, 05:00:41 PM »

It always strikes me as sad. These survivors made it out, when so many didn't, yet they bind themselves and their families in a kind of endless turmoil that is like a prison itself. At least, that's what I see.

Thxs for your experience OBS. I agree with you and dont see many children of survivors doing the heavy lifting to let go of past traumas. I am sorry your husband doesn't have the balls to stand up to his FOO. Id suggest the ManKind weekend to help him get his balls back and find his voice. My 3 sisters choose to remain playing out various sick roles in my family system. All this leaves me feeling sad and angry that the "repetition compulsion" still gets acted out by so many.

I am working with the grandson of a Nazi SS officer who carries an equal if note greater burden. We are helping each other heal our trans-generational wounds. Its painful work. the past 10 years work of growing up has been painful. And if i dont do it, my children will pay a price and that's selfish of me to expect them to carry my burden. My father is selfish in not doing his own work and instead suppresses and represses his anger and rage. It leaks out everywhere, and me being an empath, picks up on it and absorbs it, hence my need for NC.  I hope its not too late for my own daughters.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. - C.G. Jung

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openskyblue

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Re: Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2015, 07:10:43 PM »
I'm happy to hear that you are doing all this work to heal for yourself and your daughters. What a bold step!

It's also a relief to have this exchange with you, not to mention validating. It's nearly impossible to mention anything might be difficult or broken about survivors or that effect on their families. There seems to be a taboo silence. But how could a group of people with extreme PTSD not be affected -- or their kids?


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sonofanarc

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Re: Reflections on growing up in a narcissistic family
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2015, 04:42:48 AM »
But how could a group of people with extreme PTSD not be affected -- or their kids?

The second generation are between a rock and hard place. All the sympathy goes onto the survivors, which is understandable. And yet, in most cases the children are the ones left holding their parent's unresolved feelings. When i went to Auschwitz-Birkenau with my father 2 years ago i would say to people "im going back to Auschwitz with my father" such was my felt sense that i had been there before.

I am the only one in my father's proximity that has the courage to stand up to his victimhood. My sisters carry on paying on the price with his manipulation. Im better off out of the drama.

And lets not forget, this applies not just to children of holocaust survivors, but all children of parents who havn't resolved their own childhood traumas. And with so much dysfunction in the world, the madness is set to continue for a long time yet. Its sad, that as a species, we don't learn from our lessons. Despite all the brilliance we show with technical innervation, we lag far behind with regard to emotional and spiritual intelligence.  :(
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. - C.G. Jung