The children of narcissists are taught that they live in a frightening world — one where love is rarely unconditional. In the early stages of healing, the sight of healthy love and affection always looks slightly suspect to us. On the other hand, the sight of toxic love is all too familiar and feels like a comfort zone.
We trust in the monsters disguised as saviors far more easily than we do those who offer us a stable version of love. Dangerous people represent the same challenges that we underwent in early childhood, so to our subconscious, they ironically feel a lot less frightening. The trick is not to trust too easily or not trusting at all: We deeply desire commitment, but we also fear it like the plague. Outwardly, we seem to be the types in search of long-term commitment.
Some of us may even have a habit of settling just for the sake of settling down; long-term relationships can provide an odd sense of comfort to someone who has always felt alienated, especially by their own flesh and blood. However, deep down, we also have an intense fear of commitment, especially when it comes to committing to a person who may actually truly care for us.
Due to the enmeshed and dysfunctional family we grew up in, commitment to us signifies another person having complete control over us and our emotions. As a result, we tend to defend our freedom whenever we feel it might be challenged and can withdraw when things get too intense. On one hand, this is good when it comes to weeding out those who were just trying to fast-forward us into a shady arrangement anyway.
On the other, it can also put a damper on a healthier longer-term relationship when things always feel at a standstill. We are hyper-attuned — to everything. Micro-shifts in facial expressions?
Gestures that contradict spoken words? We are emotional private investigators that are highly attuned to changes in our environment. We had to be in order to survive our childhood — we had to be on the lookout for whenever our parents were about to verbally, emotionally or even physically harm us.
We cannot control the actions of others, but we can control which relationships we continue to pursue and how we reclaim our power from toxic ones. Well, it comes in handy for being caretakers but not so much when it comes to maintaining boundaries. We learned to cater to the needs of our toxic parents at a very young age in order to survive. Many of us even took on parent roles. This means our boundaries are porous and need extra work and maintenance.
Their needs can become our fixation, often at the expense of our own. On the rare occasion we find consistency in a partner or even a friend, it can initially scare the hell out of us. What does it mean to have someone believe in us and support us without a hidden agenda?
It can also be a protective barrier against predators who are drawn to our empathy and resilience. Unfortunately, when taken too far in some contexts, it means we lose out on opportunities for true intimacy along the way. During the healing journey, children of narcissists can heal their fear of intimacy once they begin getting to know and trust themselves first.
We become easily enmeshed with toxic people. Due to our past experiences of abuse, we tend to become attached to toxic people and chaotic situations in early adulthood in a more intense way because they bring up past wounds while also cementing new ones.
Children of narcissistic parents may find that they have unwittingly become tethered to numerous toxic people throughout their lives. We have to do a LOT of emotional house-cleaning to detach from these toxic relationships once we reach adulthood. It is crucial to clear that space for heathier relationships to enter and to breathe fresher air away from the constant toxicity.
We are fiercely independent. The thing about children of narcissists is that they learn to fend for themselves early on, to strategically navigate a psychological war zone. Do not allow your independence to deprive you of the love and affection you deserve and give freely to others, especially to those who are undeserving of your time, energy and efforts. You are not an emotional punching bag or sponge.
You are your own person and you are also deserving of having someone care for you in return should you need it. Many children of narcissists tend to get into one-sided friendships or relationships where they get drained by the other person without getting any benefits in return.
Children of narcissists are conditioned to become givers by their parents and they grow up with the belief that no one is there for them anyway.
We are afraid of being seen, so we either become too visible by oversharing or disappear altogether by withdrawing. Sometimes, children of narcissists have a tendency to overshare in the early stages of healing in the hopes that someone will see their pain and come rescue them. However, once they become their own saviors, children of narcissists tend to vacillate in the other direction — they tend to close themselves off so no one can hurt them.
We crave that intimacy. But we take a huge risk in this, because for us, being visible was always akin to being punished and degraded. Despite it all, we are magnanimous with our love. When we grow accustomed to the safety of someone truly safe, we give it our all and our all is a whole lot of love that we never received ourselves. Just give us time and space to adjust to this sense of safety as a new normal.