Healing

How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse by a Parent

How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

As someone who grew up with a narcissistic mother, I’m sadly too aware of the long-term damage childhood abuse can have on a person. Learning how to heal from narcissistic abuse won’t be easy. But healing is possible.

Growing up, we’re supposed to rely on our parents for love, support, and guidance so that we can grow and thrive into the best versions of ourselves. Unfortunately, for those of us with narcissistic parents, we are left with the effects of the abuse that can linger well into adulthood.

My childhood experiences have deeply affected how I think, act, and feel. Even now as an adult that’s been actively working on healing, I am still struggling with the effects of the abuse I experienced. But I am healing and doing better as time goes on.

It’s important to remember that healing isn’t linear, so it’s not all upward from here on out. There will be obstacles, challenges, and setbacks. But every step forward, no matter how small, is progress. They will add up and could make a world of difference.

Related: Things to Remember for Your Healing Journey

It’s also important to remember that there is no correct way or pace to heal. I’ve put together this post based on my personal experiences and research on what could help someone heal from narcissistic abuse.

I hope this post can point you in the right direction if you are unsure of how or where to start. But it is in no way trying to dictate what you should or shouldn’t do in your healing. This journey is yours so do it your way.

Also, while this post is tailored towards narcissistic parents, it may apply to other types of abusive or unloving parents as well. It may also be helpful for those who endured narcissistic abuse by other types of narcissists in their lives.

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How to Heal from Narcissistic Parents - Steps | Hopeful Panda

1. Recognize that it was not your fault

It is not your fault | How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

Why You May Blame Yourself

Society tends to frown upon people who speak ill of their parents because as their children, we’re supposed to “honor” them. No matter how they treat us, we’re expected to tolerate it. On top of that, we’re expected to respect and love them unconditionally because they “gave us life”.

You might have tried to make sense of your parent’s hurtful behavior by turning it into self-blame. To the world, if there’s something wrong with the relationship between you and your parents, it’s because there’s something wrong with you. But that’s not how it works.

Your parent hurt you. And sometimes, it’s because you’re close to them that makes you an easier target. But think about it this way – your behavior or your parent’s hardships does not justify their treatment of you no matter what. You were the child. They were the adult.

If they were depressed, stressed, or whatever else, it is THEIR responsibility to deal with it or find healthy ways to cope, NOT take it out on a child.

The Narcissist’s Purpose

I’m sure your parent’s treatment did a number on you. And you likely repeat that same treatment to yourself now. It’s difficult to change what has been programmed in you so early on.

But try to recognize that your parent’s criticisms and accusations about you have nothing to do with you but everything to do with their own unresolved issues.

Narcissists believe nothing can ever be their fault. They will blame the world before they even think to look at themselves. So it only makes sense that your narcissistic parent blames you, the helpless child that no one would side with because, “What’s wrong with you? Your parents love you”.

They criticize others whenever they feel insecure, disappointed, or defeated. They tear you down to build themselves up. The less secure they feel the more extreme their anger, drama, and attempts to feel superior are likely to become. This is why they attack you.

Every criticism a narcissist throws at you is to make you feel bad, small, and hurt. It teaches you to aim low and keep your head down. It’s their way to maintain control over you so they can feel powerful.

It Is Not Your Fault

The reasons for the abuse you faced had everything to do with your narcissistic parent and nothing to do with you. Do not blame yourself for your parent’s inability to love, respect, and empathize.

Recognize that how they behave is likely something they’ve learned from their parents. Narcissism can be traced back through generations. When it’s a multigenerational pattern, which I’ll go into more later, it makes it less about you.

You are not the reason your parents didn’t love you or treat you right. You were born into it and that isn’t on you. The abusive patterns were well in effect before you came along.

Little you were innocent. Nothing you did could’ve made them love you more or treat you better. They are unable to and you’ll never truly know why. But remember, it has nothing to do with you.

You can finally start healing once you accept the fact that none of it was your fault, that no matter who you are or how you behaved wouldn’t have changed how your parent treated you.

Read more: How to Accept that Childhood Abuse is NOT Your Fault

2. Learn how the abuse affected you

How The Abuse Affected You | How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

I think to be able to truly heal, you have to learn about how the narcissist’s abuse affected you and shaped you into who you are today.

Your parent has likely implanted in you many false beliefs that became your reality. You might not realize that these beliefs distort your perception of yourself and the world. They hide in your unconscious, influencing you without you knowing.

You unknowingly tell yourself what you’re allowed to do, think, feel, have, and how much or how often. These unconscious beliefs end up picking your partners, determining how much success you’re allowed to have, and shaping the quality of your relationships and overall well-being.

You were programmed with a flawed set of messages that predisposed you to work against your own interests. Mechanisms you used as a child to protect yourself from the abuse might have emerged into self-sabotaging behaviors.

Learn more about the common abuse tactics of narcissistic parents and the effects each of these forms of abuse had and continues to have on you. Being able to identify these tactics and how they affect you can help you make sense of the abuse you faced.

Effects of the Abuse

The reasoning behind how you act, think, and feel likely boils down to your attempt and struggle to earn others’ approval, love, respect, and affection because you missed out on it growing up.

You were falsely led to believe that your actions, appearance, and/or accomplishments dictate how worthy and lovable you are. These negative behaviors and feelings likely continued into adulthood regardless of how accomplished you are or how loved and cared for you are.

In a way, it’s like you’re seeking specific situations to replay similar scenarios in search of a better ending to your childhood losses and failures.

To Heal

To resolve your negative feelings and behaviors, you have to first identify the problems you’re encountering. What do you want to improve or change right now?

Once you identify the problems, gather background information and try to understand it on a cognitive level. Try to ask yourself these questions:

  • How does the problem play out in symptoms and life patterns?
  • How is it affecting my life?
  • Where did it originate from?

Once you start realizing how the past affected the present, it’s time to face your past issues and tackle them. And doing that requires you to process your past and change the way you view yourself and your life.

3. Process the past

Processing the Past | How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

Processing the past might be the most difficult part of healing. It might feel like you’re reliving your past abuse. But there’s no need to relive it; just try to look back and remember it.

Healing involves exploring all aspects of yourself. It involves figuring out what part of who you are is a result of the abuse you endured.

As you go through this process, you will likely feel a lot of anger or sadness. You may feel angry at your parents or even at yourself for letting them mistreat you. You may feel sadness or grief for having missed out on the childhood and parental love you deserved.

This process would be painful. But it lets you deal with your feelings. If you don’t fix the sadness or anger inside of you, it’ll remain a part of you forever and manifest itself in negative ways. Being in denial, bottling it up, and suppressing it only hurts you, even if it may not seem like it.

The Grieving Process

Karyl McBride, the author of Will I Ever Be Good Enough, called this a grieving process. Grieve for the little you that didn’t get to exist because your parents took that away from you. Grieve for the parent you never had and never will have.

It’s normal and even healthy to feel sad or angry that you didn’t receive the love you deserved and needed from a parent. Don’t push away the feelings. Work with them.

Think about what happened and what you were feeling. Try not to rationalize the pain like “I shouldn’t feel this way” or “I don’t have it that bad”. Try not to let other people do that either. It will not help.

Instead, release whatever it is you need to release and continue until you begin to feel relief.

It might be difficult because, throughout your life, you were taught to suppress your emotions. You might feel weird or uneasy to be giving yourself emotional attention. But you no longer have to pretend that you’re fine when you aren’t.

Being able to stay with difficult feelings and listen to what they’re trying to tell you is also a good way to ensure that you won’t turn into a narcissist like your parent. And remember, this doesn’t have to happen all at once. Do it as many times as you need until you feel better.

Writing as a Way to Heal

One method that many professionals recommend for this process is writing. And for me, it has been immensely helpful in my own healing since I can express myself without fear of interruption or backlash.

You can keep a journal or use prompts to process your childhood experiences. You can find over 100 journal prompts here.

You can also do a letter-writing exercise to get to the root of your relationship with your parent and express everything you’ve been keeping in. Personally, writing my letter has been very cathartic, freeing, and empowering.

4. Accept reality for what it is

Abusers Don't Change | How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

First off, accepting something does not mean you like it, approve of it, or that you got over it. It simply means acknowledgment – acknowledging what has happened, what’s happening, and what can possibly happen.

Acceptance is necessary because there are things we can’t change. So sometimes, accepting is the only thing you can do in order to move forward and begin healing.

And to heal, you must accept your past, your parents, your journey ahead, and most importantly, yourself. Denial or avoidance keeps you from healing.

Some children of narcissists end up becoming narcissists themselves because they push away their trauma rather than face, accept, and heal from it.

To keep yourself from following in your parent’s footsteps, it’s important to acknowledge what happened to you. This doesn’t mean you have to relive your trauma. It simply means accepting the fact that something bad happened to you.

Accept that your parents hurt you. Accept that their behavior affected you.

Learn more: Why Acceptance is Essential in Your Healing Journey

5. Limit contact if possible and set boundaries

Limiting or Establishing No Contact

It is very difficult to completely remove yourself from what you’ve known your entire life. Besides, you might not even have the option.

Establishing no contact is usually the recommended step, especially if you have a severely narcissistic and abusive parent. However, it can be really difficult to completely cut contact with someone you’ve known all your life and who’s your only source of connection to others you care about.

But remember that the amount of contact you establish or the boundaries you set can always change. Learn more in How to Go No Contact with Abusive Parents.

If you have no choice but to remain in contact with your narcissistic parents, learn more about how to deal with them and how to set boundaries.

How to Plan for Your Escape

If you’re still living with your parents, that’s okay, I’ve been there. While it’s easy to tell you to just pack your bags and leave, the reality isn’t as simple as that. Leaving one problem behind can create a bunch more. But it is important to plan for your escape.

You don’t have to leave anytime soon, but it’s still important to be prepared so you have the option. Please refer to How to Escape Abusive Parents for more information.

Leaving the narcissist means leaving the fog they cause in your life. Once you leave, you can finally live life how you want to and be who you want to be.

But remember, just because you’re physically away from your narcissistic parent doesn’t mean you emotionally are. You still have to go through the process to heal from the damage they’ve done.

6. Reparent yourself

Reparent Yourself | How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

The best way to make up for the parent you’ve never had is to be a parent to yourself. Like a parent should, be compassionate and patient with yourself as you go through this reparenting process. Learn more in How to Reparent Yourself

Unfortunately, your desire for having a loving parent might never go away even after reparenting yourself. And that’s okay.

Although that parental role can never truly be replaced (and you shouldn’t go around finding a new parent to love you) anyone who values or respects you could provide the love and affection you missed out on.

However, the most important thing is that you give yourself the love and affection you missed out on.

7. Break the cycle

Break the Cycle | How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

To ensure that narcissism won’t be carried onto the next generation or even the next relationship down the road, you must start healing from the abuse you faced.

As much as it’s unpleasant to hear, it’s important to acknowledge that being a child of a narcissist means possibly having acquired some traits of narcissism.

Children learn from their role models growing up. For us, that “role model” was our narcissistic parent. So it only makes sense that we picked up some of their tendencies and behaviors.

However, it is something you can prevent or manage. Learn more about how to avoid becoming a narcissist like your parent.

And if you plan to have children someday or you have children now, the behaviors and attitudes you model for them are important. It’s extremely crucial that you don’t unconsciously pass down negative beliefs and attitudes to your children.

As difficult as it may seem, you can break the cycle of abuse with your children and do better than your parents.

8. Find strength in your scars

Signs of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

We cannot completely heal the scars of our childhood. Whether we like it or not, our early years significantly shape who we are. However, we can work with them, process them, and learn how to deal with them differently so that we feel better.

This is called reframing – viewing a person, situation, relationship, or problem from a different perspective.

Scars are a part of who we are. They made us into who we are today. However, try not to let your scars define you. Instead, try to find strength in your scars.

Think about what your experiences have given you and see if you can be grateful for them. It can be very difficult to do, but it’s possible.

For instance, although your journey was full of pain and hardships, it was also a journey of transformation, growth, and resilience.

Please note that recognizing the positives that came out of something negative doesn’t mean what happened to you was okay. It is most definitely not okay. But it does help a lot in healing. Read more in Finding Strength in Our Trauma.

9. Discover the real you

Who Are You | How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

Beneath all the hurt and suffering that you’ve endured is a person. Don’t let your experiences and past define who you are. Part of healing is trying to discover the real you.

Try to separate yourself from the false, automatic reactions to people and your environment to which you’ve become used to. Recognize that your reaction towards others and the world isn’t who you are but because of how you were raised. It does not define you.

Being yourself used to be seen as selfish or wrong. But not anymore. Now is the time to think about YOU and put YOU first.

  • Separate yourself from the effects of the abuse
  • Reflect on your values and beliefs
  • Figure out what your interests, passions, and hobbies are
  • Think about what you want out of life
  • Do what YOU want to do and be who YOU want to be

Do not let someone else tell you who to be, how to feel, or what to want. Accept and embrace your own identity, feelings, and desires.

Learn more: How to Find Yourself After Narcissistic Abuse.

10. Change your life

Abuse puts you in a state of constant alertness where you’re always prepared to dodge the next danger. This typically leads to chronic anxiety and even a foreshortened sense of the future.

The abuse you faced was likely traumatizing to the point that you ended up leading a fearful approach to life. You probably became so fixed on simply surviving that you lost the ability to truly enjoy living or to imagine life beyond the present.

The future doesn’t have to be some unrealistic dream like you’re rich and famous sipping martinis in a hot tub. However, the future can be a dream. You can live life the way you want to.

Try to stop doubting yourself and actually feel good about who you are. You can…

  • Surround yourself with people who genuinely respect and love you
  • Do what you want to do and live life how you want to without worrying about what anyone else might think
  • Be free in the sense that you were never able to when you were growing up under your parents’ control
  • Live life being in touch with your real feelings, values, and beliefs
  • Live life being true to who you are and what you want

Try not to be afraid to dream and hope for the future. Try not to be afraid to do the things you want to do. You have every right to be happy, be free, and live life the way you want.

How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse by a Parent - Overview | Hopeful Panda

How to Know You’re Healing

Healing is a lifelong process. It’s difficult to get rid of something you’ve known and have been used to for so long. It’s impossible to erase the past and the effects it had and continues to have on you. Your history is what made you who you are today.

But it is important to come to terms with the past and try to find strength in your trauma to help yourself grow and continue to heal.

It would take daily effort to keep old patterns from reasserting themselves. But remember the benefits that come with it because it makes every effort worth it. And it does get easier the longer you do it. It’s like what they say – practice makes perfect.

Read more: Signs You’re Healing from Abuse

Conclusion

After everything, I would like for this to end on a positive note. But unfortunately, you can never underestimate the power of the familiar. You’ll be drawn to old habits and beliefs which might cause you to revert to the past you.

When that happens, it’s okay as long as you don’t stay stuck there. And of course, try your best to be aware of it. Once you catch yourself slipping back, try to stop yourself.

Your healing journey will likely be a lifelong one. But try not to let that discourage you because as long as you continue, there will be improvements and it will make significant differences to your life and well-being.

There will be downs, but there will also be ups. And as long as you continue on this path, those ups will continue to increase. It will take hard work and effort, but it’s worth it.

How to Heal from Narcissistic Parents | hopefulpanda.com

Resources

Of course, just one mere blog post won’t be able to fully cover the complexity of healing from narcissistic abuse by a parent. So here are some resources you can check out to help you along this journey.

Consider seeking a therapist who specializes in abuse recovery. It can validate your experience and help you understand that you aren’t at fault. You can connect with a certified therapist here.

To learn more about narcissistic parents, how their abuse affects you, and how you can begin healing, I recommend checking out some of these books.

Many of these titles helped me recognize and process my mother’s narcissistic abuse, how it affected me, and how I can begin healing.

Sign up for a free trial of Kindle Unlimited to read some of these titles for free or at a discount. Or sign up for a free trial with Audible and claim an audiobook for free, which is yours to keep even when you cancel.

See more resources

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Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

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