Friday, December 28, 2007

The Narcissistic Parent: Sometimes, You Gotta Stand Up

Most of the professional advice about dealing with a narcissistic parent centers around emotionally detaching. If the parent is toxic enough, the advice is often cutting them off entirely. As a way to save oneself.

So it was with some surprise when I heard my new therapist say, "Say something. Don't let him get away with it. Stick up for yourself. Tell him that behavior isn't okay and that you'll stop calling him if he tries that again."

He said I'd feel better. But my (adoptive) father has got some dementia now, I pointed out. The poor guy. Then my therapist pointed out that while that was true, his behavior toward me hadn't changed at all. It was same old, same old. And it wasn't about correcting my a-dad's behavior, but how I saw and treated myself. Just letting a-dad spout off and not standing up to him reinforced my image as a passive nothing. A receptacle.

While this made sense, I've been reluctant to do this. I've done it once. Maybe twice.

But I did it today. Big time. And if the goal was to make ME feel better, more empowered, it worked!

I'm having a nuclear family problem. Not the end of the world, but it is - rightly - taking all of time and mental effort. It is my primary focus and I missed a day or two calling my a-dad at the assisted living facility.

So he just called and he was extremely peevish and said, "Why haven't you called to check on me? I'm all alone and..."

I'd had it. Absolutely had it. It's never occurred to him - ever - that I have problems of my own. That I've had to deal with children or work or the plumbing. That I've been sick. And I've never asked for special consideration or sympathy or any sort of help. It never occurred to him that I hadn't called because something had happened to me. That he could have said, "How are you? I just wanted to make sure everything was okay." But he's only capable of starting out from a place that starts with him.

So I said, "I haven't called because I have some problems I'm dealing with and I can't talk right now. I'll call you later." And hung up.

And you know what? It felt fantastic. I was taking care of myself. It sounds silly, but it validated my priorities. That I'm a real person with real needs and concerns and worries. I said it not just for today...but for all those yesterdays.

Labels:

52 Comments:

Blogger Celera said...

*cheer!*

I have learned that it is possible when dealing with people with NPD to set some boundaries. If they know that they cannot get what they want from you without accepting some limits, they can comply with this. So in addition to making yourself feel better, you may be able to make some (admittedly limited) changes in the way your father deals with you.

Happy New Year Nina! :)

4:22 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Thanks for that, Celera.

The books pretty much emphasize that you can only change YOUR response, but I can see now that you are right. Even in an elderly narcissist, it's never too late to set some boundaries that make it all easier to deal with. Especially when the person is so isolated...as is my a-dad. He has no other choice but to accept some limitations.

Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year to You!

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nina, I am an adoptee who also had the "benefit" of narcissitic, controlling, non-empathetic a-parents. I wanted to thank you for this blog, as it's helped me immensely to know that there are people out there who understand my experience, and the adoption issues we face every day (the gratitude expectation, etc.). I don't mean to be "anonymous" but I don't yet have a blogger account. Anyway, I just wanted to wish you a happy new year. All the best in 2008! -Anne

9:03 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Anne,

You are definitely not alone! I am so glad you found your way to my obscure blog and that it has been of some help. If you haven't yet visited the forum for adoptees, Adult Adoptees Advocating for Change, please stop by. The link is to the right. You will find others like yourself there and it's a great place to explore and vent in a safe, supportive environment.

THE HAPPIEST OF NEW YEARS, ANNE!

10:39 AM  
Blogger Elise said...

Nina,

Great post. So glad you're standing up for yourself. I agree that, with many N-parents, it can cause change.

Unfortunately, not all...but many! I'm so glad you were able to feel that rush of empowerment!

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