Why Children of Narcissists Become Control Freaks
Waking up in a narcissist-controlled environment means never knowing what’s going to happen next. Maybe they decide to move, quit their job, or get into a senseless argument with their neighbor just before breakfast is ready.
Children of narcissists never experience stability, all they do is maneuver their way from one situation to another in order to escape the next major havoc.
Indian mystic Osho once said that humanity begins when basic needs are met. What he meant is that as long as one faces existential threats, all higher virtues are on the back burner. Living with narcissists is just that: a constant existential threat which inhibits all possibility for growth and prosperity.
If good parenting consists of providing support, showing love, setting limits, and teaching responsibility — then narcissistic parenting provides none of that. Not only do their children need to figure out these cornerstone structures for themselves, they often end up in a reversed role, trying to set boundaries for their parents’ out of control behavior.
Children of narcissists live in an inverted reality
Driven by a true wish to find common ground with their parents, their children turn to every imaginable way to communicate their frustration — but to no avail. Of course, what their children don’t know is that they are not dealing with a “lack of understanding” but with a serious personality disorder which at its core encompasses all good parenting traits — only mirror-inverted.
Providing support turns into ➜ Demanding attention
Showing love turns into ➜ Requiring constant admiration
Setting limits turns into ➜ Grandiose fantasies and entitlement
Teaching responsibility turns into ➜ Reckless, impulsive, and risky behavior
The narcissist’s complete lack of self-reflection and denial of shortcomings completely oppose what their children want to achieve. Conversely, narcissists deliberately sow instability every step of the way to maintain influence over their children, or any other person for that matter.
The idea behind this behavior is to disable anyone from leaving by incapacitating their ability to function independently. Driven by a pathological fear of abandonment and wish for total control over others, they avoid teaching personal agency to their children.
Sound decision-making is not their priority; their reasoning centers around keeping a grip on their narcissistic supply chain. ‘Supply’ meaning anything that can stir up chaos and disorder. In times of crisis narcissists take advantage of the confusion, aiming to draw from this dynamic as often as they can — preferably on a daily basis.
This repeating pattern can often be found in civil war-torn countries where narcissistic leaders suddenly emerge out of nowhere, exploiting the situation in order to play everyone against each other to come out on top. It is their favorite way of operating, luring everyone onto their playground, their turf, their terms, where they can hardly ever be beaten.
It takes a concentrated effort to remove them from their position of power. This is why children of narcissists feel like they are trapped in a war-zone. A pervasive sense of insecurity, of never knowing what the next step may be, what random thought may provoke another day torn to pieces.
Even a child perceives the narcissist’s irresponsible, impulsive, unreasonable, and absurd way of handling life situations as completely insane.
It is one of the reasons why children of narcissists turn into control freaks.
Children of narcissists look for predictability
It is quite natural that someone who never experienced a secure environment longs for greater predictability. The amount of forced “spontaneity” one endures at the hands of narcissistic parents more than compensates for any lack thereof in the years to come.
To those who don’t know narcissists, they may come across as “spontaneous” or “flexible” people who seem to make decisions very easily. While others struggle with debilitating self-doubt, they exhibit a confident, unencumbered personality who takes on the toughest decisions effortlessly.
In truth, they are over-compensating for their lack of sound decision-making. They are willing to defend their worst judgements at any cost only to cover up for their incompetence. Even their worst decision is good enough for them. There will never be an apology, a retraction, a reconsideration, any kind of remorse or understanding.
➦ Narcissists don’t make mistakes, other people just don’t follow their instructions.
Children of narcissists may exhibit low self-esteem, self-destructive, or self-sabotaging behavior as a direct consequence of their upbringing. They have not known or seen sensible decision-making in their life, therefore, they need to learn the art of decision-making from scratch.
Narcissists demand constant awareness of their needs. In order to escape their rage, their children develop an extraordinarily sophisticated mood swing detection system. It helps them avoid much of the random anger directed at them.
This very same system helps them later on in life to deal with other people. Children of narcissists are exceptionally good at reading other people, and exceptionally bad at standing on their own two feet. All their brain power goes into avoiding anger or catering to the interests of their narcissistic parents, hence all other important abilities remain either muted or underdeveloped.
As a consequence, they start “checking their environment” for the slightest disturbances. Even a remote threat is taken very seriously, and if possible, avoided all together. The result is a very controlling personality who in order to protect itself from further abuse, engages only in situations it can predict.
Life poses much uncertainty which often turns this approach into an obsessive, compulsive need for controlling their environment. It is therefore no surprise that children of narcissists develop complex post-traumatic stress disorder, suffer from panic attacks and become socially avoidant or even phobic.
Children of narcissists face a disproportionate challenge
Surviving narcissistic abuse as an adult is difficult and may end up to be one of the most challenging experiences to endure in one’s lifetime. But it pales in comparison to what a child faces during its upbringing. The child’s subordinated and dependent position in the family makes it impossible to escape the situation. And the damage done to such a young psyche poses a disproportionate challenge.
The child can’t simply pack up its things and move to another place. It will have to deal with this all until it can support itself independently. For a person discouraged from learning how to be independent— a sheer impossible task to untangle.
Only years of disciplined study through trial and error, steady willpower, and mental toughness may slowly reinstate a fully functioning personality, able to support itself on all levels — be it mentally, emotionally, or physically.
Stability is one of the core preconditions for progress. Whole civilizations emerged because they managed to better control their environment. And they also disappeared because they lost that ability. Famine, war, disease destroy favorable conditions. This is true for groups of people, but also for the individual.
Of course, people have proven their resilience and somehow managed to come back from the worst situations imaginable, but it is also true that those with the longest stretches of peace and stability have seen the greatest prosperity.
Children of narcissists live in constant fear, because they never know what tomorrow will bring. They’re never allowed to be themselves, to express their personality, to let loose, relax, because any such sign will be interpreted as a direct threat to their parents’ control mechanism.
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Growing up in a narcissistic environment skips all incremental steps of a normal upbringing. Normal means “appropriate for someone’s age”. Narcissists demand immediate maturity because they don’t want to squander excessive time on other people.
This split reality of needing to be mature but not independent is one of the main reasons that children of narcissists suffer from complex post-traumatic stress disorder. They’re purposely kept in a state of a ‘mature child’ who has not gone through the natural stages of development, and therefore never arrived at adulthood.
On the one hand, never fully living as a child, on the other hand, dealing with the infantile behavior of one’s parent(s), the burden stands in great disproportion to the challenge.
Without therapy and a high degree of self-awareness, these two very opposing notions remain a constant problem. Children of narcissists stay in limbo for much of their lives if they don’t learn how to explore new things without fear of losing control. They must learn that everything that happens around them is not their “responsibility”. They don’t need to please people to get approval for every small thing they want to do in their life.
It is important to make a conscious effort and recognize that one person can only do so much. That is not a resignation, rather an acceptance of what ‘is’. The inherited idea that one is responsible for ‘everything’ stems from the desire to satisfy the narcissistic parent.
Allowing mistakes to happen without needing to find excuses for whatever goes wrong is a great exercise in acceptance. Children make mistakes all the time, and they serve to improve what they are attempting to achieve. Even to just mentally understand this concept is of great value, because it shows how learning develops in all instances.
No one is just good at something. One may be more talented than someone else. But everyone needs to make mistakes in order to develop a skill. Learning how to repeat a pattern in order to establish a new empowering habit changes one’s life drastically.
In the end, all our mind does is repeat patterns. Therefore, implementing or ‘programming’ new patterns lead to a different life experience.
Finding a passion for a skill is a great way of self-therapy. Honing a craft, allows the mind to explore and learn in a childlike fashion with the positive side-effect of creating a set up for independent future projects that help introduce the unexplored dimension of adulthood.
And the best moment to start doing it would be— now.
It is a simple thought that children of narcissists never consider: They don’t need to wait for permission anymore. They can just do it.
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*** This article expresses the author’s personal views and opinions only, and is not meant to serve as medical advice. Please seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding yours or someone else’s condition. Never delay or disregard professional medical help because of something you’ve read here. All you read on this Site is for informational purposes only. Reliance on any of the information is solely at your own risk. ***