Parents can naturally be self-absorbed—even narcissistic at times—as they seek to balance and reconcile their individual identities with that of being responsible parents. However, when a caregiver becomes so self-absorbed that they project their own emotional needs, selfish desires and expectations upon their child, their child’s normal emotional development is arrested.
As an adult who is struggling with the reality of being raised by an overbearing parent, there is often a lot of guilt and shame that distorts trust in moving forward independently. Perhaps your strategy for self-preservation was to put your faith in complying, believing that you could buy stability by giving in to your parent’s demands; however, it is important for you to understand that you had no way of knowing that you were only reinforcing your parent’s behavior that was tearing you apart. Being raised by a critical, neglectful, or cruel parent, it’s almost certain that you were not provided with the level of bonding and emotional attachment that you needed as a child. Most children are taught to always honor their parents and, over time, assume age-appropriate responsibilities for their actions. Conversely, you may not have had the good fortune of appropriate parental guidance and love. While your parent may have a personality disorder, their mental illness was not your fault. Furthermore, owning that you experienced a difficult childhood does not mean you must blame or disconnect from your parent.
Once you stop waiting for your parent to change and start working on your own behavior, your transformation will begin. Depending on your circumstances and emotional needs, an insight-oriented approach to healing called Psychodynamic Therapy, is the primary intervention for trauma/abuse histories. This intervention allows us to understand any unconscious thought processes developed during childhood that may be driving unproductive behaviors now. Similarly, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help to identify and change the way you act and feel by reframing old, negative thought patterns into something positive and empowering.
The goal in therapy is about becoming aware of who you are, understanding the dysfunctional family dynamics you lived with, and to develop healthy boundaries so you can evolve from your abusive past and move on. Know that even if your parent and other family members around you change very little, you will be different, and the world will look different to you. You will know that any relationship that can only survive if you remain a compliant target of emotional abuse is not a relationship that will nourish your well-being. Learning new skills that will disarm abusive patterns, will be restoring your dignity and integrity—a wholeness you have been robbed of your entire life.
Our human yearning is to push our growing edge to think, feel and respond, with more confidence, with more commitment, and with renewed clarity in our lives. The therapeutic relationship is a collaborative one; a commitment to respect your intelligence and wisdom, and honor the forces of positive growth already present within you, while supporting you to grow beyond negative patterns of the past. It is an opportunity to learn to cultivate a sense of self-compassion and confidence that will enable you to overcome the suffering you have endured, and realize that you are worthy of being respected, valued, and loved.