How Narcissistic Parents Create Boundary Deficiencies

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Ask any child of a narcissistic parent if they felt loved by their parent and you will get a resounding, “NO!” Narcissistic parents are focused on getting their own needs met and are heavily invested in their image of themselves as a parent and the positive feedback that mirroring a “golden” child gives them, but they are NOT invested in that child as a person in our own right.

Boundaries don’t exist to a narcissist. The narcissistic parent feels entitled to transgress the boundaries of their children because they feel that they “own” us. They do not recognize that their children (or anyone else) are separate from themselves.

Here are some of the common ways narcissistic parents cross our boundaries as children:

a) Physical boundaries: The childs physical space and person.

How we’re violated: Our right to be protected from unwanted touch or unwelcome hugs are ignored, negative comments about our physical appearance are given without being asked, our  personal space is violated, or they exert power over our physical movements, bodily functions, sexuality, sexual preference or how a child dresses and presents themselves. Narcissistic parents idolize children who are physically talented or gifted in sports. Narcissistic parents focus on appearances. If you were a cute kid, your narcissistic parent likely gave you a lot of praise and attention for your looks – giving you the feeling that you are only lovable based on how cute or good looking you are.

One example from my childhood, where my narcissistic mother repeatedly crossed my physical boundaries was when I would be using the bathroom. She often would barge in without knocking or if the door was locked would stand outside and threaten to leave me if I didn’t stop what I was doing in the bathroom and leave immediately. I recall many times, we’d take trips to the library, a time I looked forward to spending with my mother. She’d often interrupt me while I was in the bathroom, so I’d spend the first 15 minutes in the library in the restroom finishing my bathroom time, due to my mother’s interruption. To this day, I cannot walk into a library or book store, without first stopping to use the bathroom.

How we’re affected: 

We put up with uncomfortable touching, unwanted sexual attention or focus, people getting too close, too fast or pushing us to begin a physical relationship before we’re ready or comfortable. We put up with people judging our exterior. We place too much emphasis on getting attention through superficial means; the type of appearance attention our parents gave us.  We are left with the feeling that we’re not allowed to say, “No!” Or that we are not suppose to feel uncomfortable when someone encroaches on our physical territory. It sets us up to be used and exploited both sexually and physically without telling those around us we’ve been violated because we internally believe we either deserve it or didn’t have the right to say NO!

b) Mental Boundaries:

Our ability to be in control of our own thinking, opinions and beliefs.

How we’re violated: Narcissists cannot tolerate disagreement. For the child who expresses their own thoughts freely, we will be met with much friction from a narcissistic parent. “You don’t think that!” “That is NOT what we think in this family!” Defectors from the narcissists delusional reality of perfection and being the perfect parent or family, will cause the narcissist to act out, typically with rage, to squash the independent thoughts of their children. The child will be called names, ostracized, shut down, shut out, and/or ignored. The resulting feelings will be that the child is not safe to freely share their opinions or thoughts about any topic that goes against the narcissist’s reality. The child is not allowed to experience or express their own reality. To take it a step further, it is typically the child who won’t stop thinking for themselves and expressing the truth they witness, that will become the “scapegoat” in the family; the person on whom all the problems and dysfunction of the family will be blamed for or deemed the cause of.

Scapegoating within the narcissistic family is in effect an innerfamilial smear campaign. The child who’s got the courage to face down the narcissist’s attempts to squash the truth of the child, is bullied by the group to bring the child under compliance with the group’s (the narcissist’s) mentality lest the child face the ostracism of their family unit.

How we’re affected: 

We doubt our own thoughts. We need validation of our thoughts from others we perceive as “stronger”. We fear our independent thinking. This can set us up for abusive relationships or to acquiesce to narcissistic and domineering individuals because they seem “more sure” of themselves and seem to “know better” for us than we do for ourselves. We learn to be meek and take the passenger seat in our own lives which leads us to feeling powerless. We become people pleasers. It sets us up to choose people who want power over us, because we’re accustomed to that and we doubt ourselves. We give our power away and this sets us up for disastrous results because allowing a narcissist to control us, will run our lives right into the ground.

c) Emotional Boundaries

Our ability to have and be in control of our own feelings, opinions and beliefs.

How we’re violated: Narcissists are out of touch with their own emotional state. They’re only driven by their wants and desires. The people around them are there with the sole purpose of meeting the narcissists wants and desires; NOT to be a separate person with their own feelings. Feelings of others conflict with the narcissists desire to be the focus and be in control. Children who express feelings of sadness or other feelings of “needing” the narcissistic parent causes great frustration; because the narcissist views the child as serving the parent’s feelings not the other way around. The child’s needs are competing with the narcissist getting their own needs met. The narcissist tries to downplay the feelings of the child if they are in direct conflict with their own needs. The child will be told they “don’t really feel that” or to “Get over it” or to “stop being such a baby!” – Any means which gets the child to stop being so “needy” and requiring the narcissist to put the child first will be the narcissists goal.

The child learns that their feelings are:
1) Not important and dont matter (insignificant)
2) Can’t be trusted or relied on by the child (untrustworthy)
3) Are not cared about by their parent  (dishonored)
4) Of secondary importance to the narcissist’s feelings (come last)

How we’re affected: 

This sets us up to feel comfortable in the presence of another narcissist who minimizes, denies, belittles and ignores our feelings. We put ourselves, our feelings and needs last, because of the constant messages that our feelings don’t matter.  It’s why we don’t listen to and trust our intuition (our feelings) about narcissists in our adult lives who are taking advantage of us. It’s why we extend benefit of doubt to a predator who is attacking us rather than respond to our feelings and escape them.  We learn to put selfish people, like the narcissist, who demands their needs be met, first to ourselves. We spend most of our time in adulthood catering to the needs and feelings of others while ignoring our own. We don’t learn to trust ourselves and we don’t learn how to protect ourselves because we were punished for doing so by our caregivers. We become out of touch with our own feelings and thus remain stuck, depressed and hopeless. We’re at a loss for how to get out and think and feel for ourselves because we’ve been so accustomed to a narcissist doing it for us. Getting back in touch with our own feelings becomes a scary endeavor that we feel overwhelmed by. We feel desperate for validation.

Here’s the good news:

With hard work and honestly exploring each area of your personal boundaries and how your internal beliefs were shaped by a person who was heavily invested in serving themselves, you can begin to take your power back for rewriting the messages from your narcissistic parents.

Ask yourself how your boundaries were violated by your narcissistic parents. You will likely find that the way your narcissistic parent violated your boundaries are areas in your life now, where you are a target for exploitation by another narcissist. Learning about your own vulnerabilities will teach you where you need to shore up the holes to prevent further abuse.

Re learning the proper boundaries for ourselves is liberating to our identities. The more we identify and assert our limits in each of the areas mentioned above, we will begin to feel that the new boundaries are protecting someone of WORTH: OURSELVES!

Posted on October 18, 2015, in Narcissism. Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. My father was vain, immature,and narcissistic
    He had to be at the centre of the family dynamics. He abused me in all sorts of ways as did my mother. I have been unable to form relationships. I am now a suicidal person ,having lost everything.


  2. I am a woman aged 49, I am happily married to a great man and I am a mother to two very well adjusted teens, I am constantly amazed that I have managed to achieve this along with a successful career in teaching. My childhood and teenage years and adulthood have been hostaged by my parents non stop abuse of one another, infecting my life and those of my three siblings. Strangely it seems to have happened lately that now we are all in our 40s there is a collective rejection of their behaviour and a distancing from them in order to allow for self awareness. The saddest part is now having to ‘re assess truths and relationships with my brothers and sisters, nobody really wants to acknowledge that home was messed up. It was never allowed to be spoken of. However in sadness there is healing. The relationships I shared with my siblings were based on protectiveness and could be often influenced by my ignorant parents. It feels as if we all need to begin again. It is too painful to discuss the past with them however there is an understanding now, how did it take us until our 40 to stand in the light?


  3. Onewhowillnolongerbesilent

    Thank you for the very validating posts. I am still dealing, at a 250 mile distance, with my 80 year old narcissistic father and my enabling mother who can also be very manipulative.

    I am searching blogs to “gear up” for an out of town visit to their home where I will be around him 6 hours at the most and I have to prepare for anything. I have an older and younger brother who, like me, have suffered for over 45 years with this man. He recently made me executor of his will because he “does not trust” the other two, when the truth is, I am the only one that hasn’t told him to go to hell. He thinks that he is bestowing upon me the handling of the crown jewels when he has little to be executor of.

    I have two grown children that are learning to make their own boundaries. My father used to to grab my hand when I would walk past his chair and squeeze it. As harmless as that may sound, it still gives me the whoolies. When I am at his house, I still walk to the kitchen by way of walking thru the back dining room and living room to avoid passing him on his “throne” there.

    He was never sexually inappropriate with me at all, but if he wanted me to sit in his lap growing up, I was not allow to say no. I was pulled into his lap. He made it clear to my husband years ago, that “he had to accept that I was just not the cuddly, sit in his lap, daughter he would have liked to have,” that is of course because I literally get anxiety and discomfort at the thought of even hugging his neck. He repels me. I love sitting in my husband’s lap, I just can’t stand my dad.

    If he wanted his neck or feet rubbed, I was told to do it and would not dare refuse although I would be experience nausea in doing so. If I tried to be honest about some painful memories to my mother on the phone to find healing years ago, he would see her crying, have no clue why and take the phone away from her and tell me “How dare you talk to your mother that way!!!! She is the queen and you will respect her!” Not having any clue as to why she was even crying. Once when they fought on my wedding day, I asked them not to “please not fight on my wedding day”, I was literally begging them. I was embarrassed with my fiance’ in the home. My dad literally chased me up the stairs screaming at me “How dare you try to tell me in my home what I can and cannot say” He is a strong man and when i was younger, he was whip me with a belt so hard it left whelps and once he did so when he believed I had let his precious high bred terrier outside by leaving the door open, when actually, it was not even me who let him out. If I did, I had not knowledge of it. I had gone outside to look for fourleafed clovers and heck, I may have let the dog out by accident, but I believe to this day, he was mistaken. He unleashed on my 7 year old butt. He has arms like Popeye and is insanely strong. My mother was gone at the time.

    She, at times would put us in the car when we were little and drive us around while he calmed down from a fight with her. Sometimes we would hear him hit her, but she denies to this day, that he did it. Besides “we just remember the bad stuff.” My oldest brother is a wonderful man who never married, he was afraid he would be my dad. He has tortured memories of hiding my brother and I when dad got mad. He got it the worst being the oldest.

    Mom is still with Dad and is enabling him still after 55 years. My siblings and I all fight not to be rage-aholics and two of us have gotten help for it and I have a healthy relationship with my grown children that I have to backtrack, acknowledge and apologize to. still. I went through years of therapy and I take medication that help tremendously. My children do not want to go to their grandparent’s house. We spent little time there to protect my daughters from my dad’s rage and my husband made three trips out of town through the years to visit my dad to try and open his eyes to the damage that he had done to me. To encourage him to make amends with hope it would help me heal. But my dad just got furious. I love my husband for it.

    I do find that I am not secure in any decision that I make without my husband’s approval because I do not have confidence in my own abilities. I, too, have to have validation at work and home on things I should be able to set myself on as an adult. A couple of years ago, my husband and I and our two children were out of town in my parent’s home. My dad gets on these long rants or “talks” when it is like he goes into an altered state where he can listen to himself talk for 3-5 hours and he wants your undivided attention and you’d better agree with him. My husband and I decided, narcissist or not, that we disagreed with his very biased, bigoted, idiot opinion and politely disagreed with him. He could not handle it and unleashed. First, he belittled me. My husband politely said “________, you are not going to talk to my wife that way” to which he replied, “This is MY house and I will talk to anyone who is in it anyway I want to!!! How dare you come in my house and talk to me this way.” Then he proceeded to bring up every time my husband “Spoke to him like a dog in his own home and NOBODY disrespected him in his own home.” in the past when my husband tried to lovingly open his eyes. I then, with 50 years of pint up anger and rage, let into him. I told him that I had had it. That he had spoken to me like that for that last time and that I was not going to take it anymore.” I told him that “I lived in terror of him my whole life and I was not going to take it anymore.”

    My highschool and college age daughters were in the next room. I did not want them to hear it, but I literally exploded. I have been terrified of this man my whole life and I thought, he may kill me, but he IS going to hear me. He then kicked us out of his home, One child was still in bed. We got her up and were gone in under 10 minutes. I really thought my mom would leave him. I told her that we were going to leave town immediately and that she was welcome in my home, but that he was not. She went thru a week of plans to divorce him, she came and stayed with me, and within a week, she was defending him, and turned on me in the end finding her anger at me for taking a stand.

    My younger brother is getting a divorce after 20+ years. He has two young children and things are a mess. He has my father’s rage and he is divorcing an alcoholic himself. I think he married his own narcissus and is now going off the deep end trying to have the “life he deserves” and my heart breaks for his children.

    I am going to see them tomorrow. They will be in town at my parents house with their dad. I have told my mom that I will be coming to town to see them ( they all live far away and we rarely see each other) but I will not be staying at her house. I have a hotel. I just got another text from her about how she is so excited to see me but really wishes that I would stay at the house. She acts like she cannot understand why I would not stay there. She tries to manipulate the rest of us to stay with them, so we can pretend and be around him and act like we are one big happy family. She lives in a fantasy and each time, I have to go around the mulberry bush to address what I will and won’t be willing to do. My daughter is in grad school near their home. She has been there once in the past few months and will not be back. Right in the middle of dinner, my dad told my mom to “Shut up! I am trying to talk” and what my mom does not realize is first, that he even said it, and secondly, my daughter will not be going back. At least I raised a strong woman.

    My family is small. My dad’s sister and other relatives will not stay at his house either or go out to eat with him because he is so narcissisticly abusive of waiters and waitresses with his demands and the way he rewrites the menu just for his taste. If I had a nickel for how many times I would tip a waitress behind his back for having to take it, I would be rich. It is SO embarrassing.

    I love and adore my mom, but she is so damaged, she has gotten more challenging in recent years because she is devoted to a flaw, but she also manipulates to get her needs met and certainly could be another rant for Stockholm Syndrome. I hate my body. My dad called me names about my face shape, teased me about my legs and my mother was never satisfied with my choice or shoes or something I would wear with an outfit. The crazy thing is, I had gorgeous clothes. Appearances were big to her. I was known for being a fashion plate, but if I did not have on the right shoes or hairdo, heaven help me.She had her faults for sure. But my boundaries with her are just as vital for me. If you want to delete this, I understand. I basically wrote a book. It was cathartic. Boundaries are crucial to survival. I just wish I was stronger at setting them. It is harder with her than him. I just don’t talk to him. She wants things to be wonderful and that will never happen.

    Thanks for the avenue to share. I will be coming back to this site to “gear up” on the rare times that I see them again.


  4. Sadly I have watched my two step-children grow up under the influence of their narcissistic mother and with her having the majority of custody instead of my husband (who had every other weekend so 4 days out of a month) throughout the year…we had little time to attempt to un-do some damage before returning them back to her. I had to do research because I was so frustrated with these two that I felt were always ‘graveling back’ to their mother whom they felt ‘hated them’ only to realize there is also a Stockholm Syndrome effect taking place here. They are both early twenties now and struggling so much in their lives and both STILL try to move back in with her every chance they get when things are ‘going good’ and they crave that small window of ‘happy times’ until she unravels again within a few weeks after they move back in. Being a step-parent on the side lines to a narc mother determined to build a wall between me and ‘her property’ is so difficult to live with. I keep hoping that with the small chance of positive influence my husband and I have we can just wait and be ready for the day when they take back their lives and are done with her. I feel with her having such a strong position of matriarch we may never see that day and I fear what this will do to potential grand kids in the future.

    I hope everyone dealing with this, whether personally or someone you love is affected, keeps reaching out and learning more and more. It really does help.


  5. thanks for sharing this…it helps to see..and validate what I went through


  6. Loved this article!!! Really makes me understand things about myself that I was not able to articulate to anyone. Please continue to raise awareness of this. I think you have given me a huge piece of the puzzle that I have not been able to understand about myself. It is going to take alot of work, but now I know what direction I should be moving in. I could never understand why the older I get, the more immature I feel. I’m 51 and still emotionally feel like a child that everyone around me can reprimand, belittle, treat me like a child, etc. and I let them, the whole time always trying to make everyone else happy. Not wanting to be disrespectful, selfish, everything you have named. Thank you sooo much for writing this. I do not know how I got to this area of pinterest, but you have just helped me more than anyone can I ever imagine.


  7. Thank you.


  8. How do I cope and protect my young daughter when I currently don’t have the option of cutting off contact with the narcissistic abuser? I left my daughter’s abusive father when she was 4 months old. I’ve worked so hard to move forward and keep her safe. I moved in with my mother after I was accepted into graduate school. Now as an adult I realize that she was my original source of abuse. Very covert emotional abuse and a lot of gas lighting. I am in the midst of it now and without financial means to move out of her home. As everything unravels, I see more of how she is breaking me down and it impacts my ability to be a mom. My 3 year old daughter is suffering for this. How do I keep us healthy until I can move out?


    • I am on the same boat as you, have you found any solutions?
      I am even considering giving up custody and leave, I honestly don’t have anything left in me anymore.


    • Just move out. Surely taking responsibility for your child’s welfare is your top priority given no one starves these days with social welfare systems in place.


    • I wish i knew myself. All i can do is pick up the slack by supporting them as the individuals they truly are and loving them in ways the will never feel or see from their dad and by being my kids’ avocate by teaching them self-worth, boundaries and how to speak what’s ‘in their mind, on their heart and felt in their gut’ and how not to deny themselves those feelings and thoughts when being manipulated even if it means keeping their mouth shut in the moment….they know they can debrief with me later and will get validated.

      At 3 years old, i would suggest teaching and emphasizing boundaries related to her “privacy,” private parts and being forced to hug, touch, kiss ANYONE if she doesn’t feel comfortable. The sickos are really good about pushing those boundaries too! My ex started “tickling” my youngest in her belly button and she told me “but it doesn’t tickle,” despite the fact he was selling it to her as a tickle, she new and felt comfortable in telling me otherwise. I immediately knew it was sick and twisted and emailed him accordingly asking him to stop the behavior and also encouraged HIM to Google it bc it is very inappropriate behavior!


    • Read this article and take it to heart. I hope it helps you as much as it did me. I am almost 4 years divorced from my kids’ narcissitic father and they don’t get any easier to deal with so you must get stronger and more aware of who you are dealing with so you can lower your expectations and rise above him.



  9. Thank you so much. I have been to 12 step programs- in and outpatent programs. I accepted all the labels. Enabler, co dependant, etc. These are but only symptoms. It is the language that we were taught from birth.
    To understand- not for self pity but to be able to be the authentic you. You were abused in the worst kind of way. For one it is so covert .silent. For another the narcissist recruits others in the friend\family circle to abuse as well.



  10. Thank you for making this blog, and it’s dead-on in so many ways. I’ve learned a lot from it, and I wish you the best of luck in your journey of healing.


  11. “How we’re affected:

    We doubt our own thoughts. We need validation of our thoughts from others we perceive as “stronger”. We fear our independent thinking. This can set us up for abusive relationships or to acquiesce to narcissistic and domineering individuals because they seem “more sure” of themselves and seem to “know better” for us than we do for ourselves. We learn to be meek and take the passenger seat in our own lives which leads us to feeling powerless. We become people pleasers. It sets us up to choose people who want power over us, because we’re accustomed to that and we doubt ourselves. We give our power away and this sets us up for disastrous results because allowing a narcissist to control us, will run our lives right into the ground.”

    Wow. Ive never seen this articulated so well. This is exactly how I live. every day, every decision, every commitment, every relationship, every task… I need to check to make sure that its ok. I need to verify with someone who knows better than me before Im sure that my feelings are accurate. It is so confusing and I am suffering pretty bad health (digestive) issues and emotional issues (Comlex PTSD) from a lifetime of swallowing my thoughts and feelings and acquiesce to everyone else’s preferences. My marriage, my parenting, my job, my friendships… And i have a current narc in my life who is more than willing to prey upon this weakness in me. I’m so scared of what will come next with the Narc in my life. And I don’t trust myself to deal with it in a healthy and assertive way to make sure the chaos doesn’t happen again. I know what I should do- speak up- but I don’t know if I can.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Is there a way to change my ‘signature’ from BDion (whatever it is) so that I am anonymous?  Or have a pseudonym?  Thanks Barbara Dion


  13. Reblogged this on lasenoritagrande and commented:
    This resonated with me so much. Thank you to the author for publishing this.


  14. This was my life. It is exactly right.


  15. thank you so much for this explanation, it is nice to see I am not alone in experiencing this…. parents who were only interested in themselves, ignored their children and only thought of their own needs…. and in later life only narcissistic men because this is the only way I know how to handle other people and myself; by pleasing, going on my knees, doing all to be helpful to the other..and forgetting about myself.
    I am now 46 years old and looking back, seeing it has made my life hell up untill now and feeling my sadness is very painful and very difficult… but… I will survive… tips on how to move forward are very helpful please….


  16. Damn. “I” exhibit, not “I’ve” exhibit.


  17. Ugh. You just punched me in the stomach. I have very few memories of specific situations when my parents acted like this, but I’ve exhibit every single symptom you list. This is a hard truth to face.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. So glad to have found your blog.
    I honestly never thought of my mom as narcissistic, but yes, severely disfunctional. I always felt I raised myself more than she raised me… But I am learning form this new ways of taking back my inner life, exploring my emotions and boundaries, as you suggest.
    Thank you.


  19. Absolutely spot on. I love your posts, the information validates exactly what I’ve been thru and how it has affected me. You are able to put so clearly the very things I struggle to explain. Thank you.


  20. Dear ANA.

    The following is an except from a post from a victim of narcissitic abuse and emotional abandonment. There are many such stories on the sites about narcissistic abuse.

    “I was married for twenty years three kids. Man home every night with zero compliments, hand holds affection or hugs. … He couldn’t think of one reason he wanted to get married twenty years prior with counselor, I cried and divorced. I still miss him he was family. But it was too lonely of a way to live. He will not speak to me ever and sees me as the blame. …. People like you help. I understand your story first hand it’s mine. He stiffened like a board if I wanted to hug him, never hugged me back. My ex was severe passive aggressive, the more I wanted the less he gave. I’m free and looking for one that wants to hug and love me well….

    When you said “How we’re violated: Our right to be protected from unwanted touch or unwelcome hugs are ignored….” I had to begin to wonder, “just who is the victim and who is the narcissistic abuser in the excerpt above?” It seems like a person who is a rabid narcissistic abuser who emotionally neglects his or her partner could use your statement as a completely self-centered narcissistic excuse:”This is an unwanted hug and I am just honoring MY boundaries.” Can a narc really learn the impact of emotional neglect?


  21. Thank you so much for this. Its extremely helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This has been the story of my life and terribly difficult to dig yourself out of. I think the first step is recognition and wanting change for yourself. It is a process.


  23. I have been told scapegoating could be triggered/happen to the same sex child. My son was born second. I did not see anything different until he was about 3. Then at 5 dad started screaming at him he was going to be drugged for his bad behavior; at the time there was none except for dad’s. Later I have learned that dad wasn’t only medicated for his ADHD as a child – there were other problems with dad needing an intense 10 years of a pychiatrist, behaviorist, social worker and then military school instead of juvenile hall. No one in the N family said a thing to me- and they also kept far away from him. Not having any experience in that, I thought it was because N had been falsely labelled as the “black sheep” – nothing false about it.

    One other thing that has happened with my children is N makes sure if they like something or want something, to use it to get what he wants (emotionally) or to threaten them with not getting it or being taken away, so they will do what he wants. How do you combat the N as a parent, being the other parent that is trying to protect them?


    • I think you need to get away and their time spent with you will allow you to model what a normal, healthy parent/child relationship looks like. This will give them the opportunity to grow up and mirror the normal, mentally healthy relationship you built had with them.


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