Liberation Therapy Blog
Narcissistic parents and the complementary moral defence.
I love the words in this image, because we repeat what we know even if that means ending up in abusive situations.
The biggest problem with this is that when there is parental narcissistic abuse, sometimes those who have suffered don’t realise until they’re a LOT older and have already experienced abusive relationships.
Narcissistic parents create a world view, and as such will repeatedly tell their children that the childhood they had was amazing. And of course the children believe them.
Whenever someone tells me their childhood was perfect, I’m always wary. My spidey senses flare. And so far they’ve been right.
The problem is that you don’t know any different. You’ve been taught that everything the narcissistic parent has said and done, or the way they treat you or expect you to behave is completely normal. And because a lot of narcissistic abuse doesn’t involve physical abuse in the ‘traditional’ sense, a child doesn’t know the way they are being treated is wrong. We don’t get taught about emotional abuse in schools.
As a child you have no other point of reference, so whilst you might not have liked it very much, and maybe even rebelled against it now and again (or a lot!) you will have been taught that YOU are the problem. Nobody else, just you.
And so children of narcissists come to view themselves as fundamentally flawed and that they are lucky if anyone loves them at all, even if that love is abusive.
It’s called ‘the complementary moral defence’, and means the child of the narcissist has to absorb all the wrong in the relationship so as to maintain the attachment, because if challenged the narcissist will withdraw their ‘love’ as a punishment. To a child that isolation is catastrophic.
That complementary moral defence plays out over and over again in other relationships as the child grows, ultimately establishing itself in the adult love relationship.
It leaves children of narcissists vulnerable to abusive relationships and it’s why it’s SO important to understand all the ways in which you’ve been affected and educate yourself around all the different behaviours.
And that’s where hope lies. Because on the other side of that understanding and education are healthy relationships, self respect, self worth, self LOVE, self esteem, boundaries and so many other positive affects.
Going through and weeding out every unhealthy behaviour attributed to you is the only way to be free of the pattern but oh my goodness it’s worth it.
I watch clients go through this process and blossom into their true selves and it’s magical to see.
Be kind in the process, but process ❤️