Did you grow up with a father who tried to be the best father he knew how to
be? Do you know anyone who didn't? It is likely that someone you know grew up
with a father who lacked the empathy to treat his children with a healthy
father's unconditional love. A father who has Narcissistic Personality
Disorder often creates children who see themselves throughout their lives as
somehow unworthy of being loved, unless they perform according to someone
When Jerry first came into my office, he said he wanted to "Learn to like
himself so he could be a better father to his ten year old son." He told me
that he felt criticized for everything he did. When I asked him who was so
critical of him, he looked at me quietly for a minute, and then said he often
felt like his father was inside his head, telling him how he "blew it again".
"Have you ever told anyone about this before", I asked? "No", he mumbled, "I
thought maybe I was crazy or something!" "Tell me about your father", I said.
He recited phrases is father had used toward him regularly such as, "How could
you embarrass me like that" and, "Why can't you be more like..." or "You'll
never amount to anything". As I had suspected, his father's actions and verbal
patterns fit the criteria for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality
Disorder. Once we knew the messages he had been given about himself throughout
childhood, Jerry and I were able to construct a plan to help him begin
learning to like himself better than he had ever done before.
Although rare, NPD occurs in some individuals who encounter a highly disorienting experience during the first three years of life. This experience could include loss of a parent or other traumatic life events. Emotional development stops at the point of the trauma, while the mind and body continue to grow. People with NPD, along with other traits, are only minimally capable of seeing any point of view beyond their own. This particular trait in a parent can be devastating to a child.
Children who grew up with a NPD parent (one who truly lacks empathy for the viewpoint of his children) are often wounded in specific ways as adults. They may spend their energy on making other people feel loved and valued, forgetting to take care of their own emotional needs. Often, they are extremely self-critical, seeing themselves as much less lovable and capable than they really are. If you know someone who may have been wounded in this way, here are some tips that could help them begin to heal.
1. SPEND AS MUCH TIME AS YOU CAN WITH PEOPLE WHO ENERGIZE YOU. Notice which people make you feel tired after you have been with them. Notice which people make you feel energized. As a child, you may have felt required to give all your energy away to the task of pleasing your NPD father, which left you with low energy reserves. Now it is time to please and energize yourself.
2. DISCOVER YOUR BLISS. Try out lots of alternate daily activities. Discover activities and places which give you pleasure simply because you like how they feel. No logical reasons are needed, just pure wordless joy. Teach your children to do this too. Tell family members you will be taking daily "Bliss Time". Take it.
3. DO THE THINGS YOU ARE NATURALLY GOOD AT DOING AND GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO GET BETTER AT THEM. Your father may have ignored your talents and tried to get you to be good at things he thought were important. Try a new thing weekly until you find one natural talent. Enjoy the discovery by doing this activity as often as you like. Allow yourself to evolve your personal best performance.
4. ENTERTAIN YOUR CHILD/CREATIVE SELF. Create a "play area" for yourself somewhere. This could be a table no one else is to touch. On it, allow your current interests to accumulate and intermingle. You don't have to straighten it up. Let the joyful corners of your mind come alive as you dabble first at one and then another area of interest. Create a place where nobody's ideas matter but yours. Enjoy!
5. RE-RECORD YOUR INNER SOUND TRACK. Your parents recorded the original version. Now make one that works for you. Talk to yourself lovingly. What do you wish your father could have said to you? Say it to yourself. You can do this out loud or you can do it in your head. The little child inside you needs to be verbally re-parented by a loving father who can empathize. Watch old wounds begin to heal as the supportive words in your head re-create the adult you were meant to be.
For further information on this topic you can read:
Where were you when I Needed You, Dad? : A Guide for Healing Your Father Wound
By Jane Myers Drew
© Copyright 1998 by Kathleen Brizendine, MA,
Psychological Assistant (reg.#PSB22641) to Lois Nightingale, Ph.D. (lic.#
To read more about this topic you can find
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook,
by Bourne at amazon.com.
All rights reserved.
Submitted by: Lois V. Nightingale, Ph.D *
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