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David Baxter

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Why Narcissistic Parents Infantilize Their Adult Children
By Rachel Lee , World of Psychology
July 27, 2016

One trait that nearly all narcissistic parents have in common is the need to infantilize their children. This can be as direct as making the child feel incompetent every time they try something new, or it can be as subtle as always stepping in and offering to do something they can clearly do for themselves.Unfortunately, this behavior rarely stops even after the child becomes an adult. In fact, it can sometimes become worse as the narcissistic parent fears their children?s growing independence and the end of their narcissistic supply.

The Collins Dictionary defines infantilization as ?the act of prolonging an infantile state in a person by treating them as an infant.? In other words, deliberately treating someone as being much younger than their actual age.

Narcissistic parents do this because they see their child as an extension of themselves. If the child begins to realize this, the narcissistic parent will use guilt, control, fear and any other tactic they can think of to bring the child back into line. This is why many of them find the teenage years unbearable as their growing adolescent demands to be allowed more freedom and control over their own life ? the very thing the narcissistic parent feels most threatened by.

In order to combat this threat, the narcissistic parent will undermine their children?s growing independence in a variety of ways. This can include anything from giving them the message that they lack the ability to handle things on their own to talking down to them as if they were still a toddler.

Here are some other tried-and-true ways narcissistic parents infantilize their adult children:

  • Disapproval.
    This can take the form of looks that silently tell you you have failed in their eyes or it can be pointed questions regarding your lifestyle choices or other decisions you have made. Almost any decision you have made without consulting them first will be met with disapproval. They do this to try to get you into the habit of running everything past them first, thus reinforcing their belief that you are incapable of making your own decisions.
  • Interference.
    Many narcissistic parents believe they have the right to interfere in their adult children?s private lives. This can take the form of telling you who you should date ? or that you?re not allowed to date. At the extreme end of the spectrum, narcissistic parents have been known to deliberately sabotage their adult child?s relationships.
  • Excessive criticism.
    Excessive criticism is designed to destroy your self-confidence. Many narcissistic mothers do this to their daughters under the guise of ?being helpful.? Hurtful comments regarding your weight, clothing, choice of career, choice of partner or your ability to be a good parent to your own children are all ripe subjects for the narcissist mother to show that she knows what?s best for you, implying that you don?t.

Being infantilized by a narcissistic parent may have been such an integral part of some people?s lives that they may not even realize until they reach adulthood just how much they are enmeshed with their parent.

So how can you make a narcissistic parent stop treating you like a child?

Set boundaries.
There is nothing a narcissist hates more than being stood up to, but until you start setting some healthy boundaries, they will continue to control your life. Don?t overshare details of your private life with them or tell them anything they can later use as ammunition against you.

Have a few handy phrases ready.
Memorize four or five phrases you can use for any given situation. When your narcissistic mother starts telling you that?s not how she would do it, simply say in a respectful, but firm tone: ?You have your way of doing things, and I have mine. And neither of us is wrong.?

Other phrases could include:

  • ?Thanks, but I can manage.?
  • ?That may be your opinion, but I don?t have to agree with it.?
  • ?That?s my decision and I?m not prepared to discuss it with you.?

By closing the conversation down, you deny the narcissist the chance to gain control of the situation.

Walk away.
If all else fails, leave the room. There is no point in arguing with a narcissist. They will never see your point of view and will always insist on being right. However, if the situation has become so toxic that your mental and physical health is suffering because of it, you may want to ask yourself if it?s worth having them in your life.
 

amazingmouse

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Good read, thank you David. It outlines the main tactics used by narcissists in general. These tactics unfortunately get carried on not only by parents, but by all narcissists, towards people they want to dominate. Some narcissists are more narcissistic than others. Children are especially vulnerable to these mistreatments, due to assuming that the parent must be always right. I actually remember all the remarks I had to endure when I was little, like: "why did you stare at this lady". "why did you clap at the wrong time", "why did you do this". "why did you say that", followed by a lecture about how embarrassing my behaviour was and what a bad impression it made to everybody. As an adult, I can protect myself and see how irrational and manipulative this kind of treatment is. As a child, it is very difficult to know that accidentally staring at someone did not make you the worst person on earth. In my childhood the worst was that I always had to worry about other people before worrying about myself. My mother was and still is a firm believer in external locus of control and in the fact that I should be prioritizing everyone else's thoughts and desires. Eventually, children grow up and discover the other side of the world. I realize now that doing what everyone wants me to do, means that I will never get to do what I want, in fact, I would never get to even think about what was that about. It is different to sacrifice and do good to others than it is to not be given a chance to be yourself. Narcissistic people do not understand that they rob others of their lives.
 

MHealthJo

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An awfully hard and unfair thing to experience for such a long long long time. I'm glad that you can now have a chance to think through what you have experienced and then find your own wants, needs, thoughts and feelings Amazingmouse.
 

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I don't expect life to be easy or fair, it's not for most of us . As I heard recently on TV "The search for meaning is the meaning itself", this is what Paul Kalanithi's wife said in connection with his story and the book "When breath becomes air", a very inspirational book indeed.
 

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. Excessive criticism.Excessive criticism is designed to destroy your self-confidence. Many narcissistic mothers do this to their daughters under the guise of ?being helpful.? Hurtful comments regarding your weight, clothing, choice of career, choice of partner or your ability to be a good parent to your own children are all ripe subjects for the narcissist mother to show that she knows what?s best for you, implying that you don?t.

This hit home for me.

My mother is no longer in my life,but if I were to see her right now,instead of saying hello or asking how I have been she would greet me with criticism.I would either be too thin,too heavy,hair not perfect,clothes not perfect," why did you wear that"," you should not have worn those shoes","your face doesn't look right when you smile"....and her departure would be full of critisim also,no goodbye or see you later,it would be more like "if you had fixed your hair right today nobody would notice the huge zit on your forehead" or "when I first got here I was thinking what is wrong with you,why would you wear THAT".

Sigh...it's one of many reasons I just can't allow her in my life.

---------- Post Merged at 01:38 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 09:47 AM ----------

Do you know how hard it is to never be good enough,no matter what?No matter how hard you try to look perfect,speak perfectly,sit and stand perfectly,BE perfect,it's never enough,there's always,always something about you to be criticised for?That's what it was like,that's what she is like.

When I went to the hospital to have my first child she told me I had better not scream in pain or make any sounds,said she didn't want me to because my sister in law had and she was embarrassed of her,and she didn't want me to embarrass her too.So,I made sure I didn't make a sound,and I didn't allow anyone in the room with me during labor,not even my husband,because I needed to have 100% focus on controlling the pain so I wouldn't make a sound.I was able to do it,all drug free too.Too bad even that wasn't good enough for her.Too bad that I was that eager/programmed to do as she wished.

I could rant all day...but I won't.
 

MHealthJo

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I am so glad you are so much more free now.

I believe that the stories and information definitely helps to free others.
 

Melpub

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What helped me deal with my narcissistic mother was knowing I could lie to her. Although I'd like to cut off contact completely, I don't do so for the following reasons: (1) She's rich, probably left me something, and I'd get nothing if I cut her off--nor would my kids. (2) She's 95. No need for a battle here. I live in a different country--way across the ocean. So I've taken the I-tell-her-whatever-she-wants-to-hear tack. I send wine and foods she enjoys via Amazon and say I'd just love to visit but I can't because of . .. . (blah, blah, blah). I do visit once in a blue moon for a day--that's more than I can take, even though she's old. I know I can't change her. I would love to tell her off, but think I'd regret the cruelty of that, too. Lying to her is the easiest way, and at the moment I believe it is the best. I also tell her nothing about my personal life--nothing I really care about, because she'd be sure to hurt me in some way with that information. Lying is bliss. For years I had no idea I could do that.
 
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Being under the control of a narcissist is very scary.

Here is the name of a book that really helped me out. It's called "Will I Ever Be Good Enough?" by Karyl McBride. I first heard about the book a few years ago on Psychlinks.

I have all my old medical files plus copies of the letters my family wrote to my doctors, so I now know how and why I was trapped in the psychiatric hospital for 22 years. It's just scary to realize my doctors were listening to my family more than me. Thank God I now have my old medical files and can prove that I couldn't break free of the system until Mom died in 1999, and no one was bothering to write my doctors anymore, to report on my [so-called] "behaviour."

The scary thing is Mom set up a trust fund. Dad and my brothers are named as trustees. This means Dad can legally record assets from the trust on my income tax form. He can also collect my disability tax credit because my only other source of income is from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), a form of social assistance. It's non-taxable. I've looked for ways to legally extricate myself from the family's control, while still keeping access to the money Mom saved for me, but there doesn't seem to be a way to do it.

I don't want the money anymore because the family is using it as a tool to bully me and keep me under their control. I just don't know how to get away from it. If I give up the trust fund, I'll lose access to the funds that enable me to buy healthy food, get my teeth fixed, repair my wheelchair, buy new clothes, furnish my apartment, or even pay for the odd social or recreational activity. It's the extra funds that have enabled me to get, and stay, healthy. I don't want to give that up.

I'm trying to find a job so I can replace the lost income, but try getting one when one spent the first 22 of their productive years locked inside a psychiatric hospital for an illness, it's now been proven, didn't exist.

If anyone has tips on how to extricate myself from being under the financial control of my family, please let me know.
 

MHealthJo

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I am always so sorry to hear of the inconceivable things you have had to experience at the hands of family, Wheelchairdemon.

Yet I'm always inspired by your survival and strength as well.

Whenever I hear of situations where someone could really do with a 'foot in the door' in terms of finding work, I always think of the idea of spending a little time in a workplace as a free 'intern' or in other places we call i work experience.

Spend more than a couple of months at one place doing it and you can end up being exploited, but doing it just for a month or two sometimes opens up a job opportunity. If possible choose an area you are passionate about and have some sort of knowledge or background relating to it. Maybe for you some sort of advocacy organisation or support organisaton, or something like that...

Work at home /virtual / telecommute options are starting to widen too.

Best wishes to you Wheelchairdemon....
 

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If anyone has tips on how to extricate myself from being under the financial control of my family, please let me know.

Have you spoken to a lawyer and/or a qualified (non sales) financial expert?
 
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Hmm... good idea. I never thought of a non-sales financial expert. Lawyers, at least the ones I've tried to contact, either want money or won't touch the case because my father is a retired provincial court judge, my brother is a retired police officer, and my cousin is a chartered accountant.

I believe the actions of my family are legal. I just don't want their strings attached anymore because I'm sick and tired of them having so much control over me.

Thanks.

---------- Post Merged at 05:23 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 05:21 PM ----------

Thanks for the tip.

I'm doing this to some degree. I have 5 volunteer jobs now. I work at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), at the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), at BridgePoint Rehabilitation Hospital, at Mount Sinai Hospital, and as a receptionist at a church. At the TTC and at the two hospitals, I advise on barrier removal [for people who have a didabiliy] and improving customer service towards people who are disabled.

Until I moved to Toronto, I couldn't get volunteer work at all because no one would take me. It's made a huge difference to finally be able to do things that are productive.

Now that I have these jobs and there has been a willingness to give me the much needed job references, things are looking up. I have some of the 'proof' an employer would need, that shows I can actually do the jobs I'm applying for. Management at the TTC took my resume and tried to get me hired, but anti-nepotism rules blocked their efforts. Even still, it's been a huge relief to know I can now, at least, get the much needed job references.

My dream would be to work as a consultant for making public transit accessible. My next dream would be to act as a consultant and advise on how to remove the physical and attitudinal barriers which block a person with a disability from having equal access to goods, services, jobs, etc.

I get to act in this advisory role now as a volunteer, and I have been urged to share my stories so that others won't have the same problems I had, within the health care system. The Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA) mandates that communities and large organizations create accessibility advisory committees. According to the law, the advisory committee members must be volunteers who have lived experience of having a disability.

It's possible to get hired as a consultant but I'd have to promote myself a lot more because of that law. Many big organizations would rather use the free advice of volunteers, instead of paying them.

That's why I value the help of some of the places who are asking for my resume and then trying to get my foot in the door.

For now I'm gathering up references, and building up professional networks of people who I believe can help promote my abilities to potential employers who might be doing a background check.

I refuse to give up. Since I moved to Toronto, 2 1/2 years ago, a lot of the stigma has vanished. This has made life so much sweeter. Im sure things will improve even more, as time goes by.

Thanks for the good advice though. You're right, getting out there to show our capabilities can really help a lot.
 

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wheelchairdemon said:
I believe the actions of my family are legal.

There's a difference between being legal and justified. You need your own legal advocate to represent your rights. There are legal aid options you might explore. Just because your family has people in the judicial or law enforcement system doesn't mean their actions cannot be challenged, when you believe their actions are contrary to your own interests.

You might need to do some advocacy on your own to find a legal representative who understands your financial situation and is willing to accommodate you in order to take on your case.
 
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There's a difference between being legal and justified. You need your own legal advocate to represent your rights. There are legal aid options you might explore.

Steve,

I've been everywhere. I can't get a lawyer. I've been trying to get a lawyer for years. I've been to the Community Legal Clinics, ARCH legal services (they focus on helping people with disabilities), ProBono Lawyers of Ontario, the Barb Schlifer Clinic, and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. Not one of these places will take my case on. They say my situation is outside of their mandate.

Here are the mandates:

Community Legal Clinics: Am I eligible for a legal aid certificate? | Legal Aid Ontario

These services include free legal information and advice, support from courthouse lawyers who are there to explain what you need to do and help you when you have to appear, help for criminal or family matters and help if you are entering or remaining in Canada as an immigrant or refugee.​

Family law is about relationships and rights within families. It includes divorce and separation, child custody and access, and support payment matters.​

I'm no longer living with my family so, according to the Community Legal Clinics, I don't qualify for legal support.

ARCH legal services: Services for Individuals | ARCH

Legal Representation

ARCH provides legal representation to people with disabilities whose cases meet the priorities set by ARCH’s Board of Directors and who meet Legal Aid Ontario’s financial eligibility guidelines. For more information about ARCH’s current priority areas, please contact us or see the toolbar to the left.

The Priority Areas are as follows:

  • Attendant Services
  • Education Law
  • Legal Capacity
  • Services for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities

Barbara Schlifer Clinic: http://schliferclinic.com/how-we-can-help/legal-services/

We deal with

  • spousal assault (domestic violence)
  • adult sexual assault
  • childhood sexual abuse
  • violence against you as a woman in your home country

We help you

  • address your safety needs
  • identify your legal issues
  • make informed decisions about legal action
  • find the right legal help


We also

  • provide you with information about your legal rights, legal protections available to you and your legal options in and out of court
  • advocate on your behalf in such areas as human rights and criminal injuries compensation
  • advocate for you within the legal mechanisms that deal with violence by doctors, therapists and other professionals

Pro Bono Lawyers of Ontario: http://www.lawpro.ca/insurance/pdf/LawPRO_approved_ProBonoProjects.pdf

I've called every one of these agencies and I've told them my story. Their answer is, they have to take on cases that fit within their mandate. The odd time I've come close to fitting within a set of criteria, and then the lawyer will come back to me and tell me they will only take on the cases they know they can win.

I can't stand any more rejection, so to stay sane, I focus on the good things - volunteering, choir, swimming, advocacy, and that kind of thing.

This province is so wrong - and, by letting people slip through silos like I am, potentially deadly.

Thank God I am strong.

If anyone can offer a name, please do so. It's shocking how often I've been denied the right to protect myself.

Oh yeah, I've also been told that if I had stayed within the mental health system, I would get the legal help I require. I fled the system because, in the end, it got very abusive.

I've tried to go back. Lots of referrals have been made to treat the PTSD... but alas, I'm too resilient.

Maybe there is no answer, but if nothing else, these links will show others that there may be a need to lobby for something better. Anyone who is in a position to do so, please do it. The world needs to be made aware.

Thanks for listening.
 

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I don't have first hand experience working with the legal system, so your feedback has been very informative.

Maybe someone else may have some insights to offer.

It sounds like you are, indeed, a resilient person!
 

MHealthJo

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Wow. You are quite frankly amazing, Wheelchairdemon.

Your story and achievements are incredible, and your story is so important.

I hope so much that your story and experiences will somehow at some point make things better for people... (although I suspect that just being able to read it here, or people seeing you doing things that you are doing / have done, has given some people out there somewhere some amazing hope and encouragement.....) But seriously..... you need to at some point be doing TED Talks or something. This needs to happen.

Goshdammit, it makes me keen to tackle obstacles that I haven't been able to figure out yet.... this will be a thread to come back to and get some inspiration from at discouragement times, that's for dang sure........

Wish you lots of enjoyment in your activities WCD, and wish you success in the next parts of your journey.....
 

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If you grew up with an emotionally immature, unavailable, or selfish parent, you probably still struggle with anger, sadness, resentment, or shame. As a child, your emotional needs were not met, your feelings were dismissed, and you likely took on adult levels of responsibility in an effort to compensate for your parent’s behavior. Somewhere along the way, you lost your sense of self. And without this strong sense of self, you may feel like your own well-being isn’t valuable.

In this compassionate guide—written just for you, not them—you’ll find tips and tools to help you set boundaries with others, honor and validate your emotions, and thrive in the face of life’s challenges. You’ll discover how to protect yourself from hurtful behavior, stop making excuses for others’ limitations, forge healthier relationships, and feel more confident in your life. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to stop putting others’ needs before your own, and manage daily stressors with competence, clarity, and optimism.

Self-care means honoring and respecting the self. But when you grow up with emotionally immature parents, you are taught that setting limits is selfish and uncaring. You are taught to seek approval instead of authenticity in relationships. And you are taught that empathy and emotional awareness are liabilities, rather than assets. But there’s another way to go through life—one in which you can take care of yourself, first and foremost.

Let this book guide you toward a new way of being.
 
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Boy oh boy, a lot has changed for the better since I wrote this initial post back in 2017.

Today I have healed the wounds with my family. I’ve even forgiven my dad. I got access to my medical files as I said above, and I dug out some of the letters Mom wrote to my doctors.

I showed Dad some of them, but I made sure I did it in person. I pulled out a letter, handed it to him, and let him read it. I then pulled out another and another and I watched his body language very carefully. There was no mistaking it. He was shocked and said he had no idea Mom was writing those letters.

Next I pulled out some letters from the school principal of a boarding school I’d attended and was successful at until Dad pulled me out. The letters cautioned Dad about putting me too close to my Mom. There was no mistaking that he now realized he’d made some bad mistakes.

By that point Dad’s health was failing. He’d became very angry and my brothers suddenly found it was too difficult to talk to him anymore. My one brother, recently diagnosed with PTSD, told me he had to stop talking to Dad. He asked me to take care of him. He said, if financial resources were needed, he’d look after it. My other brother soon had to distance himself as well. I was on my own.

Now was my chance to shine. I was never allowed to take part in family decision-making before this. Now I could show the power of forgiveness. I could also show that I too, was capable.

I began making weekly visits to the city where Dad lives. Taking the train during the pandemic was scary, but I had no choice. I decided I had the abilities to help Dad cope with his rapidly failing health.

Dad soon became aware that his days were numbered. He met with his lawyer several times, rearranged things, and balanced things out in a manner that was more fair. I’ll be financially safe now.

I was also designated as dad’s principal care giver and decision maker for health.

Soon I was steering him through the health care system. His heart valve failed and he progressed into advanced heart failure. Despite this, he was deemed a valid candidate for microscopic heart valve repair surgery.

It was in the pre-op screening interviews that I learned how far behind dad got in taking care of his health. On top of that, he had an infection that needed to be treated before he could have his surgery. The surgery had to delayed because of it.

I arranged for the Retirement Home to dole out his pills, I increased his PSW care, and eventually I got him moved to another spot in the same Retiremrnt Home where he could receive active, ongoing, and high quality care.

While waiting for the infection to clear, he was hospitalized twice because he was barely able to breathe. He was put on oxygen. His family doctor and the local hospital felt it was too late.

I wasn’t so sure. I emailed his cardiology team. I also phoned his family doctor and I said, if his time has come, it’s come. I just don’t want him to die before my brothers have a chance to speak to him again. I didn’t want my brothers or my Dad to part ways with regrets and I healed wounds.

Dad’s family doctor offered to call both my brothers and he told them how sick Dad was. Slowly but surely contact was reinstated. The heart valve was repaired in March, my brothers are talking to him again, and Dad’s moods and health have improved dramatically.

It’s still not perfect. Dad’s heart won’t fully recover. But an opportunity was opened up for lots more healing to take place. Better yet, my relations with my brothers are also starting to heal.

We’re now realizing that the perceptions we had as siblings towards each other were tainted by an unhealthy parental situation that no one corrected. My medical notes and notes from school comment a lot on the problem, but no steps were taken to intervene. The main thing is, healing is starting to take place.

As for self-care, I became very active in Toastmasters. Toastmasters helps people to improve their communication and leadership skills. I’ve completed all the steps required to attain DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster Status), the highest award one can achieve within the organization. But I didn’t quit. I turned my energies into leadership. I discovered that there are many people who aren’t quite sure of what direction to take in life. Many don’t know what hidden skills they have. So, through Toastmasters, I lead. I help point the way, share the resources to help them do it (achieve a goal), but they themselves do the work to actually succeed.

I’ve been an Area Director twice, a club coach, and a club sponsor. This year I’m a Division Director. I was also elected Area Director of the year in 2020-2021. I will get the award next month.

The moral of the story is:
  • To never say never.
  • To find ways to forgive.
  • To find a strength or passion and pursue it.
If you believe you can do it, you likely can.

I can’t speak for the experiences of others but in my case the people who were supposedly supporting me…. Mental health workers, employment counsellors, etc., had decided I was less capable than I truly am.

I consider it a miracle to have progressed this far. I can also say my story is probably very unique.

Please, if you have a dream, follow it. Write back if you want to ask questions.
 

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