Friday, 13 May 2011

To Confront, or Not Confront a Narcissist Parent?

I once heard a true story about a man who, in his early fifties, finally got up the courage to confront his narcissist father. Ed was in therapy at the time, working through some ‘issues.’ He was beginning to heal and restore some of his self-esteem that had been demolished by his abusive dad.  At the urging of his therapist, and as a way to bring about some closure, Ed decided to make a long trip across country to go see his father and speak to him about how his abuse had negatively impacted his life. He decided he wouldn’t notify him of the visit, he would just show-up. 
Ed booked a flight, arranged a car rental, and reserved a room at a hotel. He was feeling really positive about the plan and figured it was only a matter of time before he would be liberated from his traumatic past. On the plane, he leaned back comfortably in his seat, closed his eyes and envisioned touching moments of him and his dad bonding.
When the plane touched down at the airport, Ed started to feel a little nervous. That’s normal, he thought. After all, he hadn’t seen his father in years and the only communication he had with the old guy was what he instigated. Besides, he was about to embark on a face-to-face mission that he had once deemed impossible.
In the hotel room, Ed started to feel a little edgy so he fixed a drink and busied himself with some work he had brought with him. But he couldn’t concentrate – thoughts of what he would say to his father kept racing through his mind. Eventually, Ed calmed down. He had a relaxing shower and went to bed early – he wanted to be well rested and on the ball for the big day.
The next morning, Ed felt ready to take on the world. He was about to make a very positive step forward in his healing process, and wondered why he had psyched himself out the night before. Eager to get the show on the road, Ed telephoned his dad and arranged a lunch time meeting at his house.

When Ed’s father answered the door he seemed fairly happy to see him but not overjoyed - then again, he wasn't the 'joyful' type. The two men had a beer, barbecued some steaks and ate lunch in the backyard. They made polite small talk and caught up on each other’s lives. Everything was very cordial.

When the meal was over and there was a lull in the conversation, Ed decided to take the opportunity to tell his dad the reason for his visit. He took a deep breath; remembering everything the therapist had told him about not being ‘confrontational’, and speaking in a non-defensive tone, using “I feel” instead of the accusatory “You did this. You did that.” Ed had all the pop-psychology moves down. He was ready.
With heartfelt sincerity, Ed carefully explained to his father his feelings of loss, and the pain and sadness of his childhood, and the far reaching effects it had on his adult life. His father listened; never once interrupting. When Ed had finally said what he needed to say, he breathed a sigh of relief, leaned back in his chair and waited for his father’s response; hopeful that his confession would bring them closer together.  Ed's father sat silently for a moment, and took a good long look at his son. Then he got up from his chair, stared right into Ed's eyes and sniped, “so what”and walked back into the house.  


  1. So true. You know what's screwed up about this whole "to confront, or not to confront" conundrum? This story IS what really happens, but nobody could have stopped me from confronting my NM. Bottom line, folks, if you've waited 50 years to work up the courage, you're probably right about him. Nobody could have stopped me because I had to find out for myself how pointless this exercize is for the relationship. Reading this story, I hope for Ed that he's like, wow, okay I know the truth now. You don't give a shit, Dad, thanks for confirming this! I needed to know that in order to deal with myself and I'm going to keep moving on.

    "Hopeful that his confession would bring them closer together" - I felt the same exact thing. I guess sometimes you gotta test your hope against the facts in order to really deal with the reality of a narcissistic parent. So that was a long winded way of saying "only confront if you know it's really about knowing you gave them a chance, and finding out the truth for yourself." Sometimes I think we have to hear the "so what" to really get it. That this is a done deal right here, this dysfunction is here to stay.


  2. Upsi, I couldn't agree more - "you gotta test your hopes against the facts in order to deal with the reality of a narcissistic parent."

    Also, I think because we're 'human' it's hard for us to wrap our head around the narcissist's utter shamelessness.

  3. I confronted my father once about aspects of my childhood. It needed to be done and I actually did a good job of it. He needed to be shocked into leaving my child and my family alone, so I shared my memories with him, watched him go pale and then red, and then I changed the subject, calmly informing him that this is beside the point of the current conversation, which is about me being an adult and my child's parent and needed to be respected and honored as such, and he was in no position of lofty perfection over me. It worked to serve that purpose.

    I would never expect closure with a narcissist. Heck, I would never expect a conversation with one. The confrontation I had was about shifting positions of power and authority. That's all they understand.

  4. Pronoia, that's a really good point: they only understand positions of power and authority (nothing emotional). I'm glad you did what you needed to do to get your father to leave your family alone. I think they sometimes comply when it comes to other people's territory like family, for there's safety in numbers. However, it's my experience that they don't budge an inch when it comes to power and authority in one on one relationships.

  5. Good observation! Territory and numbers! I was wondering why he was honoring my "no"s all of a sudden after this conversation. He appears to be terrified of my family as a unit and especially my husband as an individual, whom he keeps flattering and kissing and "my dear"-ing. We no longer have a one on one relationship - not that we ever had a real one anyway - and this is what makes him tolerable. He only encounters my family as a whole and even if my husband happens to be away when I see my father, I still always behave as a representative of my family of choice, and never as his daughter any more. And I'm going to do this even more!

    That was an amazing insight that will help me tremendously! Thank you!

  6. Your welcome! I just remember growing-up that my foo always reigned in their nastiness when I had a boyfriend I could report to.

  7. I wanted to add that your father's kissing-up is very familiar. They have sooo much to hide. They constantly live in fear of exposure and they always turn-up the charm around their victim's allies. It's nauseating to witness.

  8. Amen Lise-"turn up the charm around the victim's allies" oh how true this is.

  9. I'm the fourth of five kids,(two boys and three girls), in my family. I have always been the family scapegoat, by both parents and siblings. I'm also the middle sister. I recently flew from two states away, to help my elderly folks out, after my NDad fell and broke his shoulder. During my visit, my NDad was sent to physical therapy rehab at a nursing home. I've helped them now three times, in the past. Twice for my Dad, and once for my NMom. As usual, my NMom berated me about everything! I became very upset and confronted my NMom, after she yelled at me for apologizing too much! My husband drove 8 hours to pick me up, that night. The next day, after meeting with my NMom to pick up some items that I'd left at her home. We left on good terms, or so I thought. Even though she threatened to end our relationship, the night before. I calmly told her that was her choice to make. She kicked me out of her life, a few days later! Even though My husband and I, have their only two grandchildren! My other four siblings have all had drug and alcohol addictions. My two brothers have both been in jail for multiple DUI/drug convictions. I'm proud that I confronted my NM. She lied and denied any responsibility for her's and my Dad's overt golden child favoritism that has caused years of sibling strife, verbal abuse, and drunken beatings. They are both bullies, refusing to accept blame for their evil actions! I finally feel free of the family dysfunction! Glad to be gone! I wish I would have chosen to stand up for myself, years ago!

  10. I'm glad you chose to hold your NParent Bullies accountable for their crimes. It sounds like they've left a trail of family destruction in their wake, and I'm very happy for you that you survived that disaster and broke free.

    It's so typical that when a victim FINALLY takes an N to task for their wrongdoing, they are swiftly banished from court. The truth teller is ALWAYS eliminated from the family system. It's just a form of silencing. The ONLY way anyone can have a relationship with a malignant narcissist is to offer themselves up for abuse as the MN's obediant servant.

    I say good-bye enslavement, hello freedom!

  11. Yup, my father called me a fucking bitch and threatened to slit my throat when I confronted him about turning a blind eye to the abuse in the family dynamic with myNM...and, I am supposed to crawl on my hands and knees for forgiveness! I am damaged goods because of my train wreck of a family

  12. Even though the nc was on my part, they(nfoo) were always pushing me out of the family because I was the truthteller. Nm always(projected)accused me of trying to run away from the family when in fact they were always the ones pushing me out. Later on, it became more aparent. It is quite obvious that they are happy that I'm gone because I haven't heard from them in years. Now they all can play let's pretend without me getting in the way.

    And yep, they deny responsibility for anything and are BULLIES...

  13. "It's so typical that when a victim FINALLY takes an N to task for their wrongdoing, they are swiftly banished from court. The truth teller is ALWAYS eliminated from the family system. It's just a form of silencing."

    Yup--my experience exactly. Once MNM had sufficiently slandered me to the FOO that few of them would even acknowledge me (like--taking down the Christmas decorations and realizing I had received NO cards from the family!), she started on my adult kids. NDaughter succumbed and, when MNM died, she disinherited me and my sons in favour of ND...and ND then lied to her brother about the inheritance to keep NGramma's "image" intact. Some years later I started a blog about my childhood, and ND cut me off. I found out years afterwards that she cut me off because of the blog because I was "telling lies for the whole world to read," and that people who knew us would know who I was talking about when they read it, even though I changed the names. She doesn't seem to realize that people could only recognize us if the stories were TRUE--if they were lies, there would be nothing to recognize--and no exposure for her to fear!

    The truth tellers are the dangerous ones--we threaten their fragile little lives of smoke and mirrors. Of my entire extended family (which is large), only two members speak to me-one sister and one son. The rest of them, like my grandparents and uncles, bought MNM's lies, which ND has perpetuated.

    Thank goodness I have a great set of in-laws and live half way around the world from the craziness!

  14. I got drunk to bulk up the courage. What came out even surprised me...but...looking back...yeah it probably wasn't such a good idea. It didn't even register. The only thing it made my Nfather do, was work harder for his narcissistic fix, provided by me. It just got pathetic. But as soon as I caved in and gave him praise and such: " Yes, you're a genius for having build that closet *rolls eyes* " he apparently thought he got me where he wanted again and he started with his hatefilled little remarks and criticisms again. I then completely disengaged. Narcs are pretty idiotic actually...but you have to take a step back to notice.

  15. At my dad's funeral I am going to say "he was a good man, and whe good men do nothing- evil thrives".then walk out on my MN brothers/family.

  16. Im an 18 year old, going to university this September. I am convinced my father has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Looking back his actions all relate to being a narcissist.
    1) He wanted me to be a footballer, for over 10 years he took me to EVERY match and training session, as i became a teenager my interest waned and eventually after 1 yr of playing a sport i didnt like anymore (around 2 yrs ago) i decided to tell him i was quitting, he shouted alot and got in my face but once he realised i was resolute he decided to block me out like i didnt exist and ever since he hasnt really talked to me.
    2) he has 3 children from another marriage which he hasnt seen in yrs, he doesnt know i know about them, although he doesnt care one bit about them, he doesnt even try to talk to them.
    3) he has never shown any sadness about a family death. his mother and brother died and he didnt cry or say anything, just went to the funeral which we didnt and came home as normal.

    I am cutting him out of my life completely once i live for uni although we are two strangers in the same house now, i do not know 1 person who has been positively influenced by him, my mum hates him but is stuck as she has no money and they arent legally married.

    1. Anon,

      Your N father was clearly living vicariously through you - as a Narcissistic extension of his footballer fantasies of glory. Glad you decided it wasn't for you and that you got out. Too many get brain washed into carrying-out the N parent's unfulfilled fantasies, and live to regret it.

      I am glad to hear that you are leaving for University and will be cutting him out of your life. Univiersity will open a whole new world to you, and you will likely find good friends who can be your future roommates.

      Bottom line, please do whatever it takes to NEVER live with your N father ever again. And, if posssible, take the necessary steps to go NO CONTACT for good.

      Like you said: "I don't know one person who has been positively influenced by him..."

      Protect yourself from his toxic influence.

  17. There are many things coming together for me as I read through the posts and comments. I knew my grandmother was a tyrant, but am just putting it together that being more than a tyrant, she was a narcissist. There was a comment about a golden child in the family. In my family, my brother was always the golden child. I have a cousin who was the golden child in his family. I am the oldest girl, second oldest. Golden child was first. I was the family slave--from age 6 doing laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, while others were going to the movies, watching tv or playing sports and having me fetch for them. The other piece that I am putting together is the narcissism in the extended family. The discussion about confronting the narcissist. When I did, there was a letter written by another family narcissist that I should be committed for a psych evaluation. Her ndaughter is carrying on her mom's work. If she doesn't get mirror time, she is a mess. I know that not all narcissists need that, but there is a group of them that do, and she is one. She would rather spend an hour in front of the mirror and be an hour late for an event, than not get her mirror time.

    1. Welcome Rita and thank-you for your posts,

      I'm glad you are making sense of the insanity of coming from a N clan. It's typical when confronting a narcissist, or a narcissistic clan, that you - the sane one - is labelled the identified patient. It's all just projection and scapegoating. I've been there.

      As far as "mirror time" goes, they ALL NEED IT! Whether it is primping and preening in front of a mirror, and/or just using others as objects/mirrors to gaze at their own reflections - all narcissists need mirrors. That's all we are to them.

      As the chief slave, bottle and dish washer you were used as a mirror for your FOO to aggrandize themselves and maintain their delusions of superiority. It's no different than any other unjust society/court where there is the high ranking and the lower ranking (without any natural cause, but simply because the laws of that unjust society permit this type of human rights abuse).

      I hope you continue to connect-the-dots, and share your insights and experiences. And if you haven't already, you might want to check-out the blogs "Narcissists Suck" and "What Makes Narcissists Tick". These ACoNs (Anna Valerious and the late Kathy Krajco) are seminal writers in the field, and I don't know where I would be today if it weren't for their dedication to the subject.

      I sure as hell would have never gotten the information I needed from any therapist. And yes, knowledge is power.

      It's about putting a label on THEM. The one they deserve: dangerous and evil, and unfit for human interaction.

    2. You speak the truth, plain and simple!

  18. Confronting my NPD mother today was helpful and productive for me because her typical NPD gaslighting, guilt-tripping and manipulating reactions, as well as her self-righteous denial. It helped me feel less crazy in thinking she has a personality disorder; now I KNOW she has it. It also helped me feel a bit of relief in telling her exactly what I knew to be the truth and showing her that I was not afraid of calling her on it whether or not she denied it.

    I know that now she's just going to go even more crazy and do more mad shit, but there's only so much she can do legally and only so much she can do without my father getting angry with her himself (she's totally dependent on him for everything, totally financially dependent on him, leaves all major decisions/responsibilities to him, does everything in his name even uses his email and Facebook and other accounts). I'm a bit worried that she'll interfere with me financially She has my bank numbers because for the academic year I'm financially dependent on my father to get through college. I have just one year left. I'm worried about what she might do, and I'm worried about my father siding with her if I try to convince him to send me cheques instead of lodging money directly into my account that way. I'm worried about the bullsh1t story she's going to make up for my father to side with her and he's a lot harder to stand up to because he's even more stubborn and can be controlling if he wants to... and this would count as one of those times.

    I guess I have to look into options like taking out a student loan, though I have no way of paying it back... Not sure what to do really... Going to ask around for ideas. Maybe it won't happen, but on the small chance that my funds will be cut I need to be prepared!

  19. My NM has thirty thousand worth of jewellery belonging to me that she hasnt returned in eight years she keeps asking for.conditions met. May she die soon. you could squeeze more emotion out of a stone. I am on my fifth pregnancy after many miscarriages not sposed to be stressed but all she can do is yell in my face and nd facilitates. We r keeping distant from them nlw. Truly cant wait till she knocks off.

  20. Well, I confronted my NPD mother, and I felt good about it. I did it for me, and it gave me a sense of closure. As long as you have no expectations, and you want to do it, go for it.

    I thought it was very telling when she just ignored and disregarded the whole thing. It helped my brother see her for who she really was, and in the beginning, he stuck up for me when she would complain to him about our estrangement. It felt really good to hear, "well, you had your chance. If you cared about your relationship you would have responded to your daughters letter. You didnt. Clearly you did not care, and your actions speak loud and clear" That made me feel really really good.

    That was soured, however, because my mom then lied to my brother, saying how we were best friends now, and he beleived her. My brother lives across the country, and is LC, so he has no clue what a monster my mother is, and what she is capable of doing. I tried to warn him, but you know how that goes.. it something you have to experience. Me and brother no longer speak, because I sick and tired of him being a spy, since he stayed in contact with my parents.

    Now, my husband has N parents as well. I think he emotionally cut them off before we even married. Right away in our marriage, his mother woulud always come to ME with her requests, I guess intrinsically knowing that her own son dismisses her. Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I was polite, and obliged, and we visited once a year, (horrible visits as all the mom did was complain and moan and groan).

    After her grand child was born, she went batshit obnoxious crazy. We decided to never speak to her again. Its been three years.

    I have to say, that option 2, keeping your mouth zipped is perfect. I think my husband learned from my predicament that it was a no win situation, so why waste breath on someone who is disordered and just going to turn your word around.

    I say option 2 was more peaceful, but I am still proud of my good riddance letter. I refer to it when they used to come over unannounced, and I say, "come over again, and I will gladly call the police, they've been notified of your intrusions".

    My parents live around the corner, where as my inlaws are 8 hours away, so that had something to do with me being firm and vocal about my boundaries, and consequences of violations. I can tell they are scared now. One year for Xmas, they left a garbage of gifts on the doors for the kids, but then ran away like some prankster halloween kids, because they know I would gladly call the police. (still, it was violating for them to come over at all, now they dont know where we live.)

  21. So amazing to read these stories! I just confronted my NMom for the first time. She forgot my birthday again and I finally just told her that she was inattentive, uncaring, and egoistic. Of course, she made this all about her and how mean I was to her and then BAMB, all of a sudden she had a bunch of medical issues that she never told me about. She said she had a stroke a year earlier. What a great time for her to tell me! Anyways, she completely freaked. I just don't want to turn 30 with all this hanging over my head. If she can't take the criticism, at least I've had my say.