Adult children of narcissists aren’t all the same, but we do have similarities. We were raised by a parent or parents whose mental illness robbed them of their ability to be an effective parent. Or a loving parent. The end result is frustration and anger and damaged sense of self. Dealing with the aftermath is a lifelong chore. Sometimes, that chore is really fucking hard.
Narc parents don’t fit the same mold. Their narcissism can manifest in a plethora of ways. While I have read about many different types of narcissist, I can only speak about the narcissistic parent I know.
My father was a thin-skinned, loud, grandiose, lying bully. That is the narcissistic behavior I know all too well.
I remember the first time I witnessed how my father’s paper thin skin. Middle sister hadn’t been born yet, and I was barely 4 years old. I sat at the table in our tiny 2 bedroom apartment and ate a snack. My dad picked up a carrot stick from my plate and took a bite out of it. I was pissed. He completely ruined my carrot stick.
I took the carrot from him, flounced over to the garbage can, and threw it away. My parents were both heavy smokers and I remember seeing a tuft of ashes rise up from where my mom had emptied their always overflowing ashtray. My father was angry and hurt. It hurt his feelings that I suggested that his touch would ruin something. I don’t remember if he yelled at me or not, but the memory is strong enough that it is still mostly clear and cohesive. I remember how his reaction scared me.
After that, I saw examples of his thin skinned behavior hundreds of times throughout my childhood. If I dared to criticize my father or, if he even perceived a criticism, he would melt the fuck down. He took everything as an insult. If a car passed him on the highway, he took it personally. He would see put downs in the glances of strangers.
My dad had a health issue over twenty years ago that left him slightly brain damaged. He’s frail and mostly quiet now. He didn’t meet Randy until after his health went south. Prior to Randy, though, he was bully. He enjoyed people being afraid of him. He would tell me, whenever I was in a relationship, how my boyfriend/husband was afraid of him. They weren’t. He would insist anyway. He offered anecdotal proof of their fear whenever they were nowhere around.
While he was definitely comfortable with violence, his preferred method of bullying was to find a person’s weakness and attack the weakness. He was unrelenting when grinding insecurities into the ground. My father had no qualms about waiting until I was at a low point and then stomping on whatever was left of me. When I left my first husband and a long time job to go back to school, I was at a low point. My mother talked me into bringing my son home and living with them. I was depressed, I could barely breathe. My father looked at me and said “You know what is wrong with this country? There’s no loyalty. People just bail out of jobs and bail out of marriages”. So, that was great for me. My life sucked and I ruined America.
In a way, I hated this humiliating behavior the most. We knew who my dad was at home. Of course, we did, but he couldn’t resist looking for narcissistic supply from people outside the family. He would make up ridiculous tales of travel, gambling, and business conquests. We were poor. His stories obviously didn’t add up. Everyone around him was uncomfortable when he told his self serving lies, but he wouldn’t notice. Or it wouldn’t matter to him. As long as he was getting attention. He would also inflate or completely make up his children’s accomplishments. So, that was cool. You know, to find out your actual life was so unacceptable that your parent had to make shit up about you.
My dad lied about everything. He lied about the money he had. He lied about vacations. He lied about stupid shit. Inconsequential shit. Like, he’d buy a blue ballpoint pen and then tell people he bought a black one. I don’t know if that last thing actually ever happened, it is really just an example. He lied so much that he couldn’t always keep them straight. I learned early on to not call him out on a lie. Back a narcissist into a corner and you will witness a meltdown of biblical proportions.
Not all misogynists are narcissistic. Some are just assholes. But many male narcissists are also misogynistic. I remember watching the summer Olympics when Nadia Comaneci was the reigning darling. My dad scoffed, “This is worthless. Women can’t be athletes.” For the record, they also cannot be chefs or sing. I remember railing against these comments. Which was really stupid on my part because remember what I said about criticism? These conversations would always end with him screaming insults at me and me sobbing. I tried. Holy fuck, I tried so fucking hard to not respond to his bullshit. I would respond, though. I would every single time.
My dad wasn’t a bigot. Nope. I know this because he told us over and over and fucking over what a great person he was and that he didn’t care where a person was from. Because that didn’t matter. What matters is what is on the inside. Unless, a person was British. My dad hates England and all the inhabitants of England. In his defense, he has good reason.
His grandmother, who was Irish, made him promise to forever hold a black and seething hatred for England. So, he did. He was unwavering in his loathing of the Brits. He was righteous in his animosity. Never mind that he had never been to England or knew anyone from England. He just knew that they were all murderous and evil humans. Plus, hating stuff is awesome for a narcissist. They love to spew venom about groups they hate, because it’s not enough for the narcissist to be the very best, there also has to be a very worst.
Accepts zero responsibility
My father was never wrong. Not ever. He would apologize occasionally, but only in a way that made him look like the bigger person. And then he wanted to be congratulated for apologizing. He had lists of ways he got fucked over in life. He didn’t get promotions because of back stabbing coworkers or crooked bosses. He lost his paycheck playing poker because other people were cheaters and thieves. He was unhappy most of the time and it was always someone else’s fault.
Often, it was my fault. I sinned in that I was his first child and not a boy. I sinned for existing at all. He told me many times how much better his life could have been if I hadn’t been born. Sometimes, he would forget to hide his behavior from my mother. She would hear the horrible things he said and get upset. I can remember being told when this happened “Do you see what you’ve done? You’ve upset your mother.” He didn’t upset her because he never did anything wrong.
When my dad told me I ruined America, I protested. It hurt to hear him say that. I was hurting for fuck’s sake, why? Why would he say the worst possible thing to me? Well, since I questioned him, he got pissed. He yelled at me that he never said it was me he was talking about. Then the conversation probably took either the “I thought the world owed me everything on a silver platter” path or the “Your mother and I took you back in and you’re an ingrate” path. My dad phrased things in such a way that he had wiggle room. He could deny everything and accuse people of misunderstanding, or twisting his words to try to make him look bad. So, he got to be a dick and then he got to blame other people for his dickish behavior.
Which brings us to today
Imagine, what it would be like for a person who was raised by this type of man and then they find themselves living a life where his behavior is literally everywhere. Not just news stories on the internet, radio, and TV, it’s in conversations at home,work, and with strangers. Grandiose, thin-skinned, misogynistic, dishonest, bullying behavior on display 24 hours a day. It would be like life had become one, long, constant trigger.
It’s enough to make a person’s anxiety melt the fuck down.