Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Detaching from narc parents - dear god, the pain....(53 Posts)
Am struggling massively these last few days. Both parents are narcs and brother and sister also have traits. I visited them all 2 weeks ago and had a pretty horrible time. It's clear they have no interest in me, my life, my DP or anything to do with me at all unless it's on their terms. I grew up in Ireland but now live in UK and they are so angry with me for leaving. Of course, being narcs, this is all unsaid but I know it's there.
The emotional pain has been feeling physical recently. I've been feeling nauseous and also like I have a huge weight in my chest. I have cried a lot and talked out loud to them as if they are here, sworn at them and told them how angry I am. I have so many years and years of repressed anger inside, it feels like it will never end. The pain is unbearable sometimes - I have thought of self-harming for some relief but I haven't done it and know that this is not the way forward.
I feel so hurt, so rejected, so alone, like I don't matter to them at all and am tolerated at best. They hardly ever contact me or visit me but expect me to do all the work of keeping the relationship going. This makes me so angry but also so guilty. Aaaaagh!
I see a psychotherapist weekly, have been on ADs for 4 months and have great support from DP and from friends. Things are just feeling extremely raw right now.
What helped you/helps you to handle detaching from toxic family members? Thank you for reading
Hi lotta. I'm so sorry this had been so traumatic. My only experience of people like your family are my ILs, and my DH found detaching very upsetting indeed (still does).
I'm sure someone will be able to give better help and advice soon but I didn't want this to go unanswered. You have done a wise and brave thing.
I sympathise. I had some experiences recently which demonstrated to me yet again how unimportant I am to my mother. I got very depressed - paralysed almost - and felt like I was carrying a ten ton weight around with me. I realised with the support of a counsellor that I am grieving for the family I will never have.
I'm now working with her on 'letting go'. I won't be going nc because my mum is elderly now and will need support, but I have to be able to visit without getting angry and upset.
"What helped you/helps you to handle detaching from toxic family members? "
Live life on your own terms. Make a better future for yourself that is full of meaning, purpose, friends and fun. Take a leaf out of your family's book and be the centre of your own universe rather than a disrespected bit-player in someone else's. All baby birds fly the nest and if the nest was too comfortable, they'd never make the effort to leave.... so in a way they've done you a favour and spurred you onto greater things. You can't pick or change your family but you are master of your own destiny. They didn't reject you.... you chose something different and better.
'I realised with the support of a counsellor that I am grieving for the family I will never have. '
Yes exactly - this. It is grieving. I'm trying to treat it like that and to give myself permission to have bad days and fall-apart days and to do lots of crying and lots of feeling angry. What also makes it tough is that, if it was an actual bereavement, you could tell people and they would be sensitive and give you space etc, but I feel I can't tell general people (work colleagues etc) as most people are unlikely to understand it. I have told my line manager and a couple of close colleagues but that's it.
I know that my family are not healthy people for me to be around, I know they are all narcs and so everything has to be on their terms, I know that I'm not prepared to be their little puppet. It's just 30 years of conditioning that I'm trying to come to terms with here and the guilt and sadness just floors me sometimes
I can't consider going non-contact right now although I've decided I'm not going to initiate any contact with any of them for a while and see what happens. I already know what is likely to happen - they won't contact me either - but I find it hard to accept that I'm so insignificant to them.
Thanks all for your advice
My work colleagues were astonished that I came to work the day after my step father died. I just said - "you don't know my family!". The truth was that my mum's sister had told me not to phone when my stepfather was dying and no-one had called me to tell me the news when it came. I found out when someone else called me assuming I knew. The same aunt, who I rarely see and wouldn't be able to pick out my kids in an ID parade, had already told me that they wouldn't be upset when their grandfather died (my stepfather but the only grandfather they have ever known) because "he's just an old man to them".
There has been no falling out - that's just the way things are in my family. Some people are good enough and some are not. That's hard to explain to people who live in normal families.
I think you are right to just step back a bit. That's what I'm doing. I call my mum once a week to keep the lines of communication open but I expect nothing from it for myself.
DeckSwabber, families are very dark places, aren't they? I find it hard not to snort out loud when I hear things about blood being thicker than water or how all parents love their children more than life itself. I know that is some people's experiences of family but it's not true for everyone. Thank heavens for places like MN, where you can share experiences with people who have been through similar!
Do you feel hurt by your mum's behaviour? Or do you feel quite resigned to having weekly contact, which will be initiated by you, and which you will most likely get nothing emotional from?
Lotta pianos - I could have wrote all you have said myself. You've explained it very well.
It's hard to accept. I havent accepted the way things are but trying to. I find it hard to accept that a parent even more than sibling could make there children feel like this. I think the worst thing about is is how can they not understand there children's needs.
My dad is more like your parents. If he has been mean which he often is. He will not contact to say sorry or even just to say how am I. He will leave it and wait for me to ring and if I don't, I'm not sure what would happen. This pattern often occurs and I blame myself, then end up ringing or texting, I presume this isnt good for my self esteem, he just gets away with being nasty all the time and I take it all. I find it hard to just cut my family off as I don't see how a family should be in the way they see it. I feel families should be loving, supportive etc but not one acts this way. I think this is the bit I need to accept. They don't see things in the same way.
I think some of the reasons I always feel guilty and should ring dad is because it's also been 30 years of conditioning for me too.
My mum has traits of a narcissit and she gets overbearing and will not let it lie. Mum and dad are divorced so at least I can deal with them separately in a way but they always bring everyone else into things.
I get the anger. I often feel furious and sometimes raging. I don't have an outlet for this to go, so I feel stook inside like I have no where for it to go and can't escape. I want to escape but can't. Like you I feel almost paralysed, it stops me in my tracks. I suffer anxiety/ panic attacks badly and there behaviour doesn't help.
To be honest I actually feel better if I haven't spoken to them in a few weeks. Yes it still there a bit but the anger lessens, but when I do resume contact. Dad will takes all his problems out on me and gets critical, mum can't get by without some sort of dig at something. It's hard to handle. I'm trying to ignore and not let it get me angry.
If they have done something I spend many days feeling sad, angry, in pain. Yes that's the way I would describe it in deep pain. I get moody, irritable and just so sad. Find it hard to concentrate. Lose focus. Do you get like this lotta? Is it usually after something they have said or done? Or isit because time goes on and they haven't rang so you are on edge wondering if they will ever ring, then you end up feeling you should ring as you don't want the rejection and hurt if you have to face that they haven't rang if you don't.
I find forcing yourself to keep busy helps, refocusing your attention on sonething that is to do with making/ helping your life. I must admit myself though I find that hard straight after something that has upset me as I feel too caught up in it all.
That's true I get nothing in a way from them emotionally. It's all about them first.
It does hurt and you probably have years worth of repressed anger/sadness that will bubble up on and off for a long time (I still do). PLus the anxiety and panic. I went NC from my narc F just over a year ago. My M died a while ago. I also have stopped contact with my sisters. You just have to hang in there somehow. What amazed me is the other doors that have opened for me once I finally decided to shut this one. Once you stop running after emotional connection and support from people who cannot give it to you, you will find all that becomes available elsewhere.
Just hang on. It gets better, much better that you ever thought it could!
To cope I wrote stuff down, saw an excellent counsellor, took up ADs and read up on narcs. I also posted sporadically on the stately home thread. I still do a lot of these things tho am slowly coming off the ADs. I look after my family and myself and I cut myself loads and loads of slack on the not able to focus thing.
I alos realised that because of how I grew up I never had a chance to really become myself so I try to self actualise. I think hard about what I like and dont like, I try new things, I ahve totally new thoughts about things that I realise I just didnt allow myself to before. I try to just let that happen and support it and not panic even when I feel I am doing something Im not allowed to - like buy shoes that arent sensible!
Occasionally I hate him with every fibre of my being - I hope that will lessen, I dont want to be full of hate but I do let myself absolutely hate him because I was never even allowed to voice the teeniest criticism of him even when he did really crappy stuff.
Hello again Bedtime1
I'm sorry you're suffering like this too. I relate completely to everything you wrote. It's dreadful wondering if you will hear from them, just wishing desperately that they would pick up the phone or send a text and playing the waiting game. It sounds like your parents expect you to take all the responsibility for keeping the relationship going, as do mine. I'm coming to the point where I am just not prepared to shoulder all that guilt and grief any more. I get absolutely nothing positive from my relationship with them, not in an emotional sense anyway. When I compare it to how I am treated by my DP and my friends and even my colleagues, it helps me to see how deeply strange and dysfunctional their behaviour is.
I understand about your moodiness and loss of focus too. I sometimes find myself getting the rage at something small that DP has done which I would usually find mildly irritating. I desperately want to avoid taking my anger out on him so I force myself to think about what is really making me angry at that moment and spend time thinking about it.
Anger is such a huge issue for me, and for you too it seems. I dont know how you were brought up to feel, but for me, as far as my parents are concerned, anger is not something I am allowed to feel and is something to be ashamed of. It's taken a good couple of years of weekly therapy for me to get to the point where I can recognise my feelings towards them as anger. I think the moodiness and irritability and snappiness is like a little valve which allows me to express small amounts of anger in a way that I feel is not too risky. Losing focus too - I have done sweet FA at work today as I find it really hard to concentrate. My head is just full of thoughts about them. I'm sure they think that I don't care about them and dont' think about them at all - if they only knew!
'I find forcing yourself to keep busy helps, refocusing your attention on sonething that is to do with making/ helping your life'
This does help me sometimes but to be honest, I find it's usually just putting off the inevitable. The pain has to be felt and has to be processed. It's horrendous, it's the most difficult thing I've ever had to do but I find that after a long sobbing session, or a session of talking out loud to them (pretending they are in the room) and saying how angry I am with them, I do feel a sense of relief. You're right though, it's important to be aware of the good things in life while all this is going on.
Hand-hold for you
After nearly years of pain, guilt, obligation, of feeling less, trapped, paralysed and helpless, of being absolutely certain my needs came last and that the constant demands, the belittling, the lack of interest on their part, the secrets and backstabbing, were my lot - I went no contact. I just switched it off completely. I didn't suddenly see the light or get strong, I just got sick, worn down, tired and fed up and thought there is nothing good in this for me whatever I do, it makes my life worse; I'm out of here.
Nothing else I had tried had ever worked. No explaining, no working hard, no being a good daughter, no trying hard to be better, no plan where I would just phone once a week and not let it upset me.
It's still early days, but each day the feeling of freedom, of stretching my wings grows. At last the voice I hear inside my head isn't theirs, it's my own - and I like what it has to say, I'm kind to myself.
What helps, is that it's so good to be free of them. Lotta, give yourself space and time to heal, stay with the therapy, let yourself be loved by those who love you and the freedom will come and be the answer.
'I try to just let that happen and support it and not panic even when I feel I am doing something Im not allowed to - like buy shoes that arent sensible!'
My therapist calls this building up my 'nurturing parent' voice. I tend to be extremely harsh on myself too, and I know that's my parents voices judging me and making me feel like a ridiculous drama queen. We didnt have enough of the supportive, caring, encouraging voice from our parents so we have to create it for ourselves. It does get easier with practice!
Firstimer7259, I understand the hate you feel and I think it's important to allow yourself to feel it. It's there, it's as real as any other emotion you feel and it's there for a good reason. Denying your feelings just fuels the anxiety and panic and self-loathing.
'It's still early days, but each day the feeling of freedom, of stretching my wings grows. At last the voice I hear inside my head isn't theirs, it's my own - and I like what it has to say, I'm kind to myself. '
That's really lovely DogEgg - I feel quite tearful on your behalf! How very precious that freedom must be after years of being controlled by other people. I know it will have been hard fought and hard won and you deserve it.
You are so right - there is nothing I can do that will ever be good enough for them so I need to start conducting the relationship on my terms. I'm still struggling with putting my needs first though and I think every day of how much my lack of contact must be hurting them I know they are uncaring and toxic and don't deserve my thoughts but it's just the non-stop
brainwashing conditioning that takes so long to re-set
Lotta, I'm probably a bit older than you so I've had more time to deal with this, so no, it doesn't really hurt any more.
I have tried everything I can think of to make things better - being nice, being angry, asking questions, crying, giving gifts, not giving gifts, initiating visits and trips out. I just feel I'm being tolerated, and I've been left out of quite a few family events.
I've come round to thinking they are the ones missing out on my lovely family, and its entirely their choice.
'I just feel I'm being tolerated'
Yes! This! And who wants to just be tolerated?!
Nothing is ever good enough is it? Absolutely nothing
You worry about how they're hurting due to the lack of contact. Contact isn't your responsibility alone. How awful that they've made us feel like this. If a normal parent realised their grown up child wasn't contacting them they'd be straight on the phone trying to help and sort out the problem.
The brainwashing does take a long time to reset. It's been their life's work and it's so effective.
So true, I've often thought that they should be worried and concerned when I don't get in touch, but instead they're angry at me
I know how you feel. Any lack of contact is because I'm selfish and self absorbed. I've internalised all this. Any time I feel even slightly bad I say all these terrible things to myself.
Me too rough. I'm so hard on myself and I can hear my parents voices coming through. I do try to counter it with a nurturing voice but it takes a long time to undo everything you've heard all these years
Thank you all, your comments are helping me feel less lonely and less desperate
Lotta I feel so sad for you.
I think I'm realising what they're like quite young - I'm 27 but I feel like they're pushing me towards no contact. I get nothing from them and they make me feel guilty for not wanting to be around them. They hate it when I'm there though. Tell me to go home, told me I couldn't ever emigrate, 'well you could go but wouldn't let you take DS' WTF. I have so much anger towards them just now.
However f you want cheered up out on bbc4 just now as watch Parks and Recreation.
I have just re-read this thread and your very kind words are helping me so much. I'm having a bad day today - was very upset and panicky last night. After about 6 weeks of no contact, I texted both of my parents with chatty stuff of no consequence on Sunday, and had upbeat chatty texts of no consequence back from both of them. For the first time, it's starting to dawn on me that this kind of meaningless contact could be ok, it could be something I could do and feel ok about. But that means letting go completely of any hope that they might change or that I will one day become important to them. It's very hard and very scary - something I need to do, but still very hard.
I'm just trying to remind myself that they didn't contact me all that time, and stop taking all the responsibility for the relationship on my shoulders. That's a flipping hard habit to break!
Thank you again
If you've spent all your life being made to feel responsible then feeling responsible becomes second nature to you, and that habit is damn hard to break. How have you felt during the six weeks of no contact Lotta? Did you feel a kind of release and freedom? If so, maybe repeat the process over time allowing yourself to gently and slowly let go of the hope that they'll change - because they won't and they can't.
You are important to your DP and friends. You are important to you. Don't waste your precious time waiting to be important to people who clearly aren't capable of the love you deserve. They are losing out and it's their fault and their fault alone.
Join the discussion
Already registered? Log in with:
Please login first.