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Author Topic: Responses to being "Parentified"  (Read 3209 times)
Certain Hope
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« on: August 28, 2006, 07:25:47 PM »

Hi,

 Over on the other board, Nat has mentioned the Destructive Narcissistic Pattern, which is something less than full-blown NPD. This was a new one on me, so I did some research and found this.

   I believe it was Jac who posted some info re: the effects of being "parentified" as children. This is when parents do not assume the parental role, but instead, wrongfully put the responsibility for personal, emotional, and psychological well-being upon their child. This situation results in the child being put into the parent's role, instead of the reverse.

   I wanted to look a bit deeper into the overall outcome of such a situation and found:

There are two major responses that parentified childrenhave; the “compliant” response and the “siege” response.

The compliant response is illustrated when you, as an adult:• spend a great deal of your time taking care of others• are constantly alert about acting in a way to please others• are very conforming• feel responsible for the feelings, care and welfare of others• tend to be self-depreciating• rush to maintain harmony and to soothe others’feelings• seldom get your needs metThe compliant response is a continuation of how you acted as a child — when you were expected to take care of your parents. You are continuing to act out these behaviors and attitudes in your relationships, but don’t seem to be able to have a relationship where your needs are met.

[ Jac, please forgive me if I'm repeating something here that you've already covered, but I don't recall seeing this part of the info before. Could be that it just didn't hit me at the time how much it fit. ]

The siege response is one of defiance, rebellion, withdrawal and/or insensitivity. You work hard to prevent being manipulated by others, getting engulfed or enmeshed byothers’ demands and feelings, assuming responsibility forothers’ welfare and emotional well-being and from feelingdiminished when you do not meet others’ expectations. Inshort, even though you are an adult, you are reacting to others as if they were your parents who expected anddemanded that you meet their expectations. You decided atsome point that you did not want to comply with your parents’wishes and demands. You were trying to become separate andindependent and had to fight hard to overcome beingparentified. You are still fighting that battle with others in your life and this is negatively impacting your other relationships

I'll interrupt here to say that I think I moved from compliance as a result of parenting by a mother who displays this destructive N pattern into siege mode, as a result of marriage to a full blown NPD. wow. Will copy the rest of this here in the hopes that others will find it useful and return to comment further later. Dinner bells are ringing here.

Hope

Life Themes

To get an idea of the persistent effects of parental destructive narcissism, take a moment to review this list of life themes that can result from a parental DNP.

Do you display two or more of the following life themes?

• Generalized dissatisfaction with self and the course ofyour life
• Trying, but not succeeding, to be in emotional syncwith others
• Constant reflection on your flaws, incompetence, andother faults
• Lack of meaningful and satisfying relationships
• The inability to allow others to become intimate or close
• Meaning and purpose in your life is lacking
• There are interpersonal problems with family, friendsand/or work relationships
• You constantly feel isolated and alienated (i.e. notconnected to others)
• You are overwhelmed by others ’demands or expectations

• These themes point to some lasting effects of yourparentified childhood experiences that have implications for your life and your relationships today

Adult-Parent Relations

You may still have an unsatisfying relationship with your destructive narcissistic parent even though you are now an adult.
You may have:
• made attempts to react as an adult in interactions withhim or her
• tried to start a dialogue to explain the negative effectsof his or her behavior and attitudes on you
• confronted your parent about their insensitivity,indifference or exploitation and lack of empathytoward you
• tried to not get upset when your parent blames, criticizesor devalues you only to find that nothing workedYou may even have experienced feeling worse after tryingany of these as your parent was able to arouse yourfrustration, anger, guilt and/or shame.

You probably had one of two responses. Either you gave up and withdrew, or you continued to try that which wasnot working or effective. You did not understand what washappening and continued to carry some intense negativefeelings in either case. If you withdrew, you may havesevered relations with the parent. You do not want to have anything to do with him or her, nor do you want your parentas a part of your life. The down side of this strategy is thatyou may have distanced yourself from other familyrelationships that you value.If you continued to try and get your parent to understandwhat you were experiencing, you stayed churned upbecause you made no headway. You are not accepting thatyour attempts to get the parent to understand did not workbefore, are not working now and will not work in thefuture. It is difficult to recognize and accept that there is nothing you can do or say that will cause or help your parent to change. The only change you can affect is personal.

You can learn to:
• emotionally insulate yourself
• keep your uncomfortable feelings from being triggered
• build and fortify your boundaries
• develop your underdeveloped narcissism to becomehealthy adult narcissism
• erect defenses against their negative projections,accusations, remarks and the like

You cannot change your parent, but you can become an adult who does not have to dread interacting with your parent or having negative feelings triggered and other uncomfortable reactions. You will never have the kind of parent-child relationship that you consciously or unconsciously yearn for — and it can be difficult to give up that fantasy.
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Stormchild
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WWW
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2006, 08:25:49 PM »

Oooooo! OOOOOOOOO! OOOOOWEEEEEEE!!!!

link? link link? link link link? Wow wow wow wow wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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gratitude28
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« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2006, 10:35:38 PM »

Boy was I ever COMPLIANT. Getting better, though. See? I put the word in Caps and that goes way against my teachings Smile
I am leaning towards becoming an ee cummings type Smile
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Certain Hope
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« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2006, 08:49:18 AM »

 Smile Beth... me, too!!
  .... you are so cute!  Very Happy

Stormy....  :)l   I thought you'd like this one. Hope your hand is all better!  Last night, I got caught up in stuff here at home and then lost internet connection  Shocked   T'aint a bit fair!!

Anyway, the original source of this article is Dr. Nina Brown, but this particular link where I found it is actually a dead end ~ one of those automatically generated hotmail documents that Google presents as a search result.

http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:rlf72fiovTIJ:www.onlineparadigm.com/archives/214-F02_A.GI.MH.P.pdf+destructive+narcissistic+pattern&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=2

Another excerpt: 

Healthy Adult Narcissism

You may have the idea that narcissism is not desirable because the focus thus far has been on destructive narcissism.
However, there are the concepts of age-appropriate narcissism and healthy adult narcissism that point to the positive aspects of a self-focus. Age-appropriate narcissism is a concept based on the notion that we grow and develop in our ability to become separate and differentiated people and that this is aprocess that begins at birth and continues throughout life. One way of illustrating age-appropriate narcissism is to think of the infant as self-absorbed, grandiose,omnipotent and all the other characteristics described as destructive narcissism for an adult. It’s ok for the infant and early child states, but not age-appropriate for adolescents and adults. When adults have failed to develop age-appropriate narcissism, this is termed as underdeveloped narcissism. These adults are still in an infant, child or even adolescent state as far as their developed narcissism is concerned.Healthy adult narcissism is characterized by empathy, a sense of humor, creativity, wisdom, sense of personal responsibility, the capacity for developing and maintaining satisfying intimate relationships and altruism.

This is the ideal state for adults. What happens is that the process to develop healthy adult narcissism continues throughout our lives. Children of the self-absorbed have to work particularly hard throughout their lives to attain this level of development, as they were not allowed to complete the expected tasks at an earlier age. If you had a parent with a DNP, you may have areas of underdeveloped narcissism that need attention


Onward to an exploration of underdeveloped healthy narcissism!

Hope
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SilverLining
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« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2006, 03:04:43 PM »

Looking back through my notes, I see the concept of destructive narcissistic pattern is discussed in the book "Children of the Self Absorbed".    The book also goes into the issue of the parentified child.

I like the DNP concept because it gets away from labeling the person and directly addresses behavior.  I don't believe the N-ish people in my life fully fit the label of NPD, but their behavior still qualifies as a narcissistic pattern.   It was something of a breakthrough for me to figure this out. 
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Certain Hope
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« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2006, 04:54:36 PM »

Hi tjr,

  Exactly. I think that the whole "N" theme gets too generalized and ... well... overused. For me, too, there's only been one difficult person in my life who I believe fully qualifies as NPD or perhaps even more as a psycopath. For the others, including myself, it's more a question of behavior patterns and varying degrees of narcissistic traits.
  And yes, that book "Children of the Self Absorbed" (although I haven't yet read it) is by the same author as this article I found yesterday... Nina Brown. She's written several others that I'd like to check out and I'll see whether our local library can get them.
I definitely agree with you in preferring to address behavior rather than to lump people together under generic labels or labels of any kind. I'd been getting rather flustered with all the psych language and so to deal with these behaviors in more clear-cut terms and to see the patterns in which they're displayed has been a real breakthrough for me, as well!

Jac... lol @ hogwash! (I say that, too  Razz)   Thanks  Smile  Thanks for the validation, especially, because I know that alot of this stuff goes around and around and has probably been covered numerous times, but as you say...  it's not anything that we should ever stop saying and posting and reading until we've all GOT IT!  Yup and amen. And I think that consistency is a great goal. Aiming for that now. In health.

Love,
Hope
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penelope
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« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2006, 10:46:08 PM »

hi hope,

ick.  As I was reading the explanations, a very strong feeling came up in me and it was anger/hatred for the therapist that counciled me a couple times before seeing me with N parents last year.  I suddenly felt an urge to write him a letter:

Dear Dr. R:  While in a therapy session with you last year, it felt like you defended my N Dad as he proceeded to go into yet another narcissitic rage against me, blaming me for all the crappy things in his life, because I was a "bad" teenager, because I was "the problem" in the family, and basically because I wrecked his life.  "I am an ungrateful and rotten daughter..."  blah blah blah.   Do you realize how this made me feel?  Not only did I feel invalidated, I was furious at you.  My Dad, I expected this from, that was par for the course (he is a N!).  But at my subsequent sessions with you, I invited my boyfriend for moral support cause I think I was afraid to be alone with you.  I did not trust you after this.  It is the reason why I sought another therapist, using the excuse that you were too far to drive to and because you did not take insurance. " Thanks, but I've found another therapist on this side of town who takes my insurance... that I'm going to start seeing, but thank you for all your help," is what I remember saying on your voice mail.  But what I was really thinking was: you a$$Hole!  And Ya, now, that I think about it, you also screwed up when my mother called you to make a separate appointment with you (and showed up with my Dad), not telling me she was doing this, wasn't that a major boundary violation?  You felt so guilty about it, you told me several weeks later.  Decided to come clean did ya?  Ya, probably cause you felt Guilty.  I'm not sure you realize the damage you've done or the hurt you've caused me, but I hope that you have at least an inkling that when I was trying to explain how it felt to be raged at by my N Dad, when I was trying to say "he went off on a tangent, it's as if he didn't even Hear me"  but I could not even get this out cause you interrupted me to say "NO! (quite violently, such that I was startled by the way - this was not caring of you) he just sees things differently than you" - do you know how this made me feel?  Invisible.  I felt completely devalued, crazy and unheard.  ick.  That is not something any therapist should be proud of.

BLEH!  pheewww, glad I got that out.

pb

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gratitude28
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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2006, 10:56:28 PM »

Ugh PB... That is what my parents do too. They haven't thrown out things from when I lived there 20 years ago, so it is my fault that there house is a mess. My college was expensive, so it was my fault they had no money. Everything is always blamed on something or someone else... and much of the time I was the one to blame. My husband gets so irritated with me when I aske (repeatedly sometimes) "What's wrong." I walk around all day (Honestly, not as much now, thank goodness) thinking I am the reason for everyone's mood, good or bad, or their happiness or unhappiness. I killed myself in the past trying to make sure every single person around me was happy.
I don't have a healthy amount of narcissism, because I always feel like the mangy beaten dog. Nowadays, I am, for some reason, especially sensitive about my looks. I am attractive, albeit heavy... but I know I have a pretty face and decent enough figure and some people are attracted to me. But I feel like I can't even look at people... like I am deformed or hideous. It is an awful feeling. I don't think people know it. I act confident, but inside all I hear is, "God, I bet that person thinks you are so ugly."
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"There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable." Douglas Adams
Certain Hope
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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2006, 01:07:48 PM »

Dear Pb,

  I understand. To me, one of the most devastating features of my own involvement with NPD ex-husband was that there was always a seed of truth to his allegations. Of course there was... he was a master at preying on the weakness of others. It's the blame shifting  and utter failure to accept personal responsibility which makes it all so sick and twisted. What I learned pretty quickly is... it doesn't pay to take issue with N because he WILL make you pay. When you have an issue with him/her, even if that issue remains unexpressed , he will launch an all-out war to assasinate your character, defame your integrity, and destroy your reputation... all to prevent himself from ever being in a position to be held accountable.

   Good for you for leaving that therapist and I'm glad you got to get all that off your chest.

Hugs,
Hope
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Hopalong
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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2006, 07:19:12 PM »

Oh Beth...I'm sorry. You so do not deserve self-loathing.
It's a sticky pit and I've been stuck there too.
Please go talk to the lovingest person you know...
I just got back from meeting with a minister to share similar struggles, triggered by R's death, I know.
I do know this isn't a feeling you have to stay with. I'm so glad you identified it here.
I hope you'll start a thread on the issue sometime...I think a lot of people suffer it, and it's horrible.

Let's fight it!

Hops
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Hopalong
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« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2006, 07:22:00 PM »

PB--
GOOD for you for expressing yourself, even privately, to that T.
I had a similar episode...a T urged me to override my feelings that I needed time to waitand think when my ex was pressuring me hard to marry him. It turned out that he (the T) was uncomfortable with my being single. After I got back from a wedding night on which I was abused and a nightmare honeymoon, I went to see him and confronted him about giving me such horrendous advice. He looked abashed and said, umm, I'm sorry that happened.

My life was in ashes and that was what he had to say. I walked out and then later he sent me a bill. He got a letter that must have removed his eyebrows...and I never heard another thing. I very nearly sued him...

Hops
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"That'll do, pig, that'll do."
Hopalong
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« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2006, 07:23:54 PM »

TJr,
I so agree with you. "Narcissist" is the big gun, the nuke of all epithets.

It is very important, imo, to remind ourselves that it is a continuum. From our own internalized Nistic behaviors/traits, to full-tilt NPD, and many many gradations in between.

Thanks for mentioning this.

Hops
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"That'll do, pig, that'll do."
reallyME
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« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2006, 09:45:42 AM »

it is time for me to talk about something that I have been hesitant to share here, but I'm upset so I'm going to...it's about a person in my life, in a type of parent-role...

this person has a lot of struggles that I don't choose to get into, but this morning I called to talk to this person because I work a lot so we don't get much time to talk.

First, I didn't realize the person would not be awake, so I apologized for waking them up.  Then, I offered to call them back later and let them sleep...their reply "oh I won't sleep now"  Next, this person told me "my neck hurts" so I said "well, don't you take pain meds?"  The person said "I dont' usually but last night I took 2 so I could sleep"  Next thing I know, there is complete silence on the other end, at which point I begin calling this person's "name"...still silence, till finally a very irritated, resentful "WHATTTTTTT?"

I said, "oh sorry, sounded like you weren't there."  Then, I get "I don't want to talk right now. Bye"

There have been many convos that went like this over the years.  I have put up with this but yes I have also SPOKEN UP.  I am not one to NOT speak up.  It generally turns out the same way...the next time we talk, this person is apologetic and wants to tell me all about what's happening in their life, so I sit and listen, pretty much wondering when what I have to say will be really cared about.

Just so you all know, my time with all people is very limited due to work and school, and it is best that way.  Most of the people in my life have some really intense struggles, so rather than be in the midst of it all, it's best that I just stay focused in my life. 

I'm not one to be scapegoated so I'm heading to work now, rather than hear another I'm sorry, till the next time happens.  I'm BETTER than this!

~
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Certain Hope
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« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2006, 11:53:32 AM »

Hi again Laura,

   I've gotten out of this sort of quandry for most of my life by making it a point to never really expect much from anyone. Now I'm not at all advocating that viewpoint, but it's what I can see now I've done. Rather than allow resentment to simmer and brew, I've avoided it (along with alot of other problems) altogether. I'm glad you shared this here because it gives an opportunity to re-think and consider... what might be a better way of handling such situations from now on. I definitely want to stop the avoidance! So....

   For myself, I think I'd first consider whether this is someone I really want to have as a "parental" figure in my life. I mean, we cannot choose our biological parents, but we sure can be more picky about who we allow to fill that mentor type role in our adult lives.

   Then I'd think... well, maybe she was agood mentor for a season but now I've outgrown that phase and need to adjust expectations accordingly. Of course I know she has alot of issues of her own to deal with and those are things I cannot fix for her... but I can agree to listen, if I choose. Sometimes people do a complete switch of roles in relationship and don't even realize that it's happened till something like this comes up.

    And finally, I would wonder... if I choose to remain in relationship with this person, what can I do to facilitate growth in that relationship... for instance, if it's going to be more of a regular friendship and not a mentor situation any longer. In that case, I think I would just say to her...  do you want to redefine our relationship and make some suggestions as to how we can communicate more effectively? This is where the timing of phone calls could be addressed and maybe a better balance achieved, so that if it really isn't a good time to talk, one or both parties don't have to feel guilty about cutting the call short.

   I dunno, just some thoughts... like I said, Laura, I've never expected much from others where this is concerned, so the thought of defining terms more clearly is a whole new idea to me and something I definitely want to practice! Relationships are always in flux, with one needing to lean more heavily than the other at times, and I know that the 50/50 plan doesn't work. I think it's gotta be a commitment to 100/100 in order to really thrive.

Love,
Hope
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