The effects of childhood trauma, including emotional neglect or abuse in childhood, can have alarmingly potent effects on our psyche as we enter adulthood, even to the extent of rewiring the brain (van der Kolk, 2016). The children of narcissistic parents, those who meet the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, know this all too well, having been raised by someone with a limited capacity for empathy and an excessive sense of grandiosity, false superiority and entitlement (Ni, 2016). Children of narcissistic parents are programmed at an early age to seek validation where there is none, to believe their worthiness is tied to the reputation of their families, and to internalize the message that they can only sustain their value by how well they can ‘serve’ the needs of their parents. They have lived an existence where love was rarely ever unconditional, if given at all.
This is not to say that childhood survivors of narcissistic abuse cannot rise above their childhood conditioning; in fact, they can be stronger survivors and thrivers as a result of the resilience they are capable of developing and the ways in which they channel their traumas into transformation (Bussey and Wise, 2007). It takes real inner work and bravery to unravel the traumas that we’ve had to endure as children as well as address any retraumatization as adults. Being able to understand our relationship and behavioral patterns, as well as any negative self-talk that has arisen as a result of the abuse, can be revolutionary in challenging the myths and falsehoods we’ve been fed about our worth and capabilities.
As children of narcissistic parents, we often learn the following from a very young age: