It gets complicated anytime you have a narcissist in your life and it’s particularly difficult dealing with a narcissist parent. When your father’s a narcissist, the relationship you have with him can be downright nightmarish.
If you’re the adult child of a narcissistic father, you’ve likely endured a lifetime of abuse. Your father lacked empathy and exploited you for his own agenda. Now that you’re an adult, he’s unlikely to change any of his behaviors.
Still, he is your father, and it can be hard to cut off all contact with him despite his abusive treatment of you through the years. You need to realize, however, that those same tactics he used on you as a child can even be more powerful when he uses them on you once you’ve become an adult.
When you are exposed to the same kind of emotional abuse that you experienced as a child, it can trigger your symptoms of C-PTSD; it can take you right back to the same childhood states of fear and shame.
If you’re adamant about staying in touch with him, there are some alternative coping strategies you can use to keep your narcissistic father from continuing to abuse you. Read on to learn about effective strategies for handling a narcissistic father.
What Can You Do?
If you stay in touch with your toxic father, you must understand that he will use the same techniques of narcissistic abuse that you suffered as a child. To take care of yourself while still continuing to have contact with him, here are five strategies you can employ.
Recognize the Truth
Your father is not just ‘difficult,’ he’s got a personality disorder that is abnormal. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) thrive on control, manipulation and power. They often make what you might consider unreasonable demands with no concessions on their part.
If your father refuses to compromise with you in order to resolve problems in a mutually agreeable manner, that’s not just difficult: it’s abnormal, unhealthy human behavior. If you’re going to stand a chance in dealing with him, you’re going to have to recognize his problem. That’s the first step toward healing.
Set Strong Boundaries
Any narcissist will simply ignore boundaries that are not well-defended, but this is an even bigger problem when the narcissist in question is your father. You might find he disregards your wishes about how to interact with your own children, he’ll refuse to compromise on when to visit, and much more.
If you don’t set strong boundaries and enact consequences as promised when they’re violated, you won’t stand a chance at managing his behavior. Determine your boundaries, discuss them openly with your father, make the consequences clear, and then, follow through on what you say you will do.
Gaslighting is one of the favorite tricks of a narcissist. They like to try to convince you that you’re the crazy one. Your father might, for example, express concern for your mental health, consistently remember events differently from how you remember them, or even outright call you crazy.
This kind of manipulation is called gaslighting, and it’s a very destructive technique. It can cause you to doubt your own perceptions of reality. To keep it in check, you should document your interactions with your father in writing or even with a recording. That way, he can’t say something didn’t happen.
Trust your own sense of reality, and when the gaslighting starts, tell your father it’s time to end the conversation.
Understand that Your Friends Might Not Get It
Well-meaning friends might try to convince you that you should be nicer or treat your father better. They might say things like, “He’s the only father you’ll ever have,” or, “He’ll come around.”
The truth is that your narcissistic father will not come around, and you can’t deal with him in the normal way that people interact. The problem is with his incessant need to manipulate and control you and the situations in his life so that he can get his need for external validation met.
His attempts to control you are abusive. Your friends might simply not understand because they haven’t had that kind of experience before. Trust your own perceptions and commit to taking care of yourself regardless of what your friends might say.
Accept the Possibility of Going No Contact
You might feel you have a responsibility to work things out with your father simply because he is your father. You might think that you have to stay in contact with him because it is your duty to do so.
The truth is that it is not your duty to continue to expose yourself to emotional abuse. You don’t have to allow him to keep treating you badly, pushing your buttons, gaslighting you, deceiving you, and doing everything possible to create the image of a perfect father. This is an image you know doesn’t exist.
You can go no contact if that’s what you need to heal and move on with your life. You must accept that this is always a possibility when dealing with a narcissistic father. Going no contact in that situation does not make you a bad child or a bad person. It’s what you need to heal yourself from years of emotional abuse.
Dealing with a narcissistic parent is just about one of the most difficult things to do. You’ve been abused your entire life. Now that you’re learning more healthy coping strategies, it’s time to do what is right for you.
It can be difficult because you might have to go it alone. People in your life may not understand the abuse you have suffered because they think it’s normal parent/child tension. You know differently. You know the stress it creates in your life and the damage it does to your self-esteem.
You’re not alone in your experiences. It might be worthwhile to find a support group where you can vent your frustration. You’ll also want to keep in mind the many techniques you can use to disarm your narcissistic father. You’ll also need to employ many self-care techniques to keep yourself healthy and happy. You deserve that peace in your life.
If you’re wondering if your father is a narcissist, you can learn more in the post, “What Are The Character Traits Of A Narcissistic Father?”
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