The Therapy is Dandy Guidebook to having a Narcissist for a Parent. Chapter 14.
An ongoing survival guide.
Narcissist Family Values.
The way people arrive (or don’t) at their own value as a human being is complex and complicated (and, thankfully, someone else’s blog). But it gets downright murky if they happen to have a narcissist as a parent.
First, the narcissist has his/her own over-inflated sense of their own own value. That leaves those of us around the narcissist with little value to ourselves. Outside of how we contribute to the narcissist’s need for their over-inflated belief in themselves. That means we (the adult children of narcissists) often are left with an empty feeling. About ourselves.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Once you become aware of this emptiness, it’s up to you to fill it up with something good. The narcissist is not going to help you find yourself.
Being angry at the narcissist isn’t going to fill up the emptiness. Being angry in general to anybody is not really a “reparative” sort of behavior, sorry all you primal scream adherents. Into the same category goes addictive behavior of every kind: alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, video games, whatever the latest behavior labeled as an addiction is this month. All of those behaviors mask the emptiness with things that give a great payoff initially, but over time cause their own problems. But as a culture, you have to admit, we are really fond of this sort of problem solving. The-avoid-the-problem-by-being-focused-on-something-other-than-what-we-are-responsible-for problem solving.
I mentioned emptiness. I also want to mention shame. Shame is one experience a narcissist will never actually admit to. In fact, narcissists are fantastic at projecting their own shame on to others, in this case, you or someone else close to them. What do you do with that?
Having that extra glass of wine, spending hours on the internet, or even spending an extra hour on the treadmill makes more sense now if what you are hiding from is that secret sense of shame. That isn’t even yours. But you feel responsible for it. And that needs to stop.
Shame is so bad for our psyche, I don’t even like writing about it. Because I know how it has gotten its claws into me and my world. I have actually been sitting on this entry for weeks, wondering how I can write something useful and not completely transparent about the topic. If there was still any doubt, that’s therapy code for “I have issues with this topic myself.” That, by the way, is called therapeutic self-disclosure. You’re welcome.
We must not be afraid to admit we have feelings. It’s perfectly reasonable to admit that we can feel shame for one of a thousand, million different reasons. To be ashamed (on occasion) is to be human, or some such business. Carl Jung has a quote about illuminating the dark, hidden parts of ourselves to fully understand ourselves. I couldn’t agree more. Shame hides in the dark.
Getting back to the question: what do you value about yourself? Write down three of them. That’s a good place to start. Maybe think about why they have always been important, what puts them above all else into the top 3 positions. I will even share my top spot on the list as an example, and in the spirit of proceeding despite feeling fearful.
My number one value about myself that took a very long time to identify is surprisingly enough, value. As in, I have it. I am a valuable person. I have value despite what others think or say about me, despite what I have lived through, despite what my life has or doesn’t have at the moment.
Values are not written in stone however. My list is only in my head, where it competes with a lot of other information. We can lose sight of values, even our own, if we are not mindful. Think about that the next time you are sitting across from a narcissist and they want your attention for their needs.