When I log into my blog, there is an option that allows me to see my site stats, how many people per day who read my blog. Along with the site stats information, I can also see the google search terms that people type in that lead them here. In keeping up with search terms now, the most googled is with regards to the narcissistic or psychopathic parent. Sociopath is a term I rarely see.
I’m an adult survivor of a psychopathic parent, a survivor of three long term romantic relationships with psychopaths, and I have a psychopathic child. The statistics do not bode well for me genetically overall, however, when I have done my own researching and reading about psychopathic or narcissistic parents, there is very little about this anywhere. I find the search for healing from the psychopathic/narcissistic parent, an interesting one, given how many survivors out there who have experienced romantic relationships with the disordered. The need for support and information in dealing with the parent, far outweighs the need for support in the aftermath with the partner, because there is so little of it. Ironically, when a survivor leaves a psychopathic partner, the parent eases the blow with the continued dynamics that play out with the parent. It can also be the most harrowing of romantic relationships with a psychopath that can drive a survivor to therapy, only to discover that she/he has a background of pathology.
People have more difficulty letting go of the parent, then they do the romantic relationship. This makes sense to me, given the patterns I see of those who eventually leave the psychopath, yet cling tightly to the parent. A transference of a trauma bond with the partner, is foundational with the parent as the root and is the source original trauma bond.
Adult children of psychopathic parents, surprisingly separate the dynamics with their pathological partners from the original bond and abuse tactics of the parent. When looking more closely at their intimate relationships as well as their own patterns in response to pathology, many of the dynamics are the SAME. It’s a continuation of an original trauma into new relationships. This is why I put so much emphasis on healing from such deep childhood wounds. We really do repeat our patterns. We really do continue our toxic relationships with our parents, when we choose our partners. My last psychopath was eerily close to my own father, right down to his career position.
In my case, it was easier to detach from my pathological parents, then it was from my last psychopathic partner. Although this happens, it is less common.
There are so many reasons that we continue to engage with the abusive parent. Fear, as the original authority figure threatens to abandon. Obligation, out of a societal and perhaps personal distortion of respect for our parents. This can also be based on religious convictions. Guilt in that these people gave us life and we are somehow beholden to them, and subsequently giving them some aspect of our lives. Some of our parents are elderly and very ill, requiring us to provide care giving services to them.
We don’t consider having boundaries with our parents. Oftentimes, while growing up in a toxic environment, we are not taught to have them. We are assigned roles that we subconsciously play into adulthood with the parent. We appease, please, take care of, put up with, listen too, argue with (in a futile attempt to be validated or stand up for our personal rights) our parents, while they abuse over and over again. We justify the abuse couched in terms of respect or that the parent is somehow helpless and sick, requiring us to “care take”. If we have siblings we are often triangulated by the psychopathic parent. Psychopaths and narcissists love the triangulation game and there are hundreds of ways this can be played out, with many, many people.
Our victimization becomes a habit, an addiction, and our disordered parents are the first to provide us with an ample source with which to continue in it. The feelings that come with our reactions and responses to the parent are familiar. They feel normal. We’ve learned to normalize abnormal behavior. The feelings of potential abandonment by the parent into adulthood are distorted in that we really can’t be abandoned in the truest sense, because we are no longer children, but this does not remove the intense fear that this would or could happen. In reality, the abandonment has already happened in our childhoods, by the psychopathic parents inability to empathize or to love.
In normal families, personal growth is encouraged. Children really do know when they are loved. Even though I could not identify it at the time, I knew I was not loved. This has taken a very long time to accept. The reality that my parents did not love me and could not, called into question my identity and my experiences from my very first memories in childhood. The “who am I?” question becomes one of despairing for a long time. For those of us who grew up in these homes, depending upon the role we played or the extent of the abuse, coming to awareness in adulthood can feel as if you have had whatever illusions of a foundation, swept out completely from under you. I believe this is why I hung on much longer to my last psychopathic partner, because I had already gone no contact with my biological, pathological family. The dynamics between us, like father to daughter, continued and I was terrified of letting go of the only way of relating that I knew. This made the ending of the relationship far more devastating to me.
Recovery from childhood trauma and abuse can not only throw us into despair, but it can also create an intense feeling of helplessness in realizing that we were never taught to function in healthy ways in the real world. For some of us, for me, not even in the simplest of ways. I was extremely emotionally dependent and carried this dependence into my relationships. I could not sustain a modicum of success in my personal or professional life. My psychopathic parents sabotaged my ability to build my own personal foundation for survival in the real world, by pretending to encourage my personal growth, while in action, as well as in words, injecting entrenched projections of my inevitable failure at whatever I might do. My passions and desires to engage in activities that were healthy for me, whether it was with a career, school, parenting, were severely undermined through emotional and verbal abuse. I was told countless times that I would never succeed and would always fail.
These messages from a psychopathic parent are especially traumatizing as they are delivered with conviction. We believe what they are telling us and it is internalized. In adulthood, we are acting out their projections, of themselves as the failed lives that they are. During the recovery process, when we begin to realize the level of destruction delivered upon us, the road to recovery can seem especially daunting and overwhelming. We are not faced with just having to learn how to have boundaries, or to assess values, morals, and identify our vulnerabilities, for many of us, we are starting from a place and age in childhood where our traumas began. It’s tough being a 12 year old in a 49 year old body. The foundations for success, from career to personal relationships, are literally having to be rebuilt from scratch. We are having to “re-parent” ourselves. This part of recovery is extremely difficult and enormously frustrating. It also creates a level of anger that lasts a long time, while trying to come to terms with all of the damage. It is extremely anxiety provoking to feel such intense fear at doing for yourself, things that others can easily do who were raised in healthy environments.
There was no way I could make much progress in therapy if I was not no contact with every pathological in my life, including my psychopathic parents. Just as entrenched as I believe personality disorders are, so are our responses and reactions to it. I do not believe it is truly possible to heal while we are still acting out our roles with our parents. The last time I spoke with my psychopathic father, I realized just how easy the transition from being “me” to being my “psychopathic father’s daughter” happened. While before I was not aware of it, even with awareness the overwhelming temptation not to engage in dependent/scapegoat behavior with my father was not possible. I have met very few survivors who are able to have contact at all once they have awareness, and those that do, have a level of denial that allows them to continue to engage, further stunting their own personal growth, as the needs of the parent, whatever they are, continue and leave the parent in a place of power, control and dominance upon us, which is what psychopathy is all about.
Just as it is with the psychopathic partner, when we come to realize that our parents were incapable of love, it’s hard for us who can, to imagine how a parent cannot love their own child. I think the painful reality that the pathological parent is incapable of this, makes it very difficult for survivors to let go. They continue to work for childhood validation that will never come. Love that is ever elusive, because of its absence. What the pathological parent did not and cannot give us, we have to learn to give to ourselves. Part of learning to love ourselves and to embrace healing is accepting the reality of what it was and is with our parents, that the cycles of abuse will continue, always, with them because pathology does not change.
Many of the search terms that I see typed out are about how to work a relationship with a parent, or a behavior that is wreaking havoc by the parent. You cannot make a relationship with a psychopathic, narcissistic, sociopathic parent work. You will not stop or change the behaviors and abuse that are delivered upon you. You will never make them love you, never have their validation. You cannot make these relationships work because these people, whether parent, partner or child DO NOT CHANGE. Efforts to appease and please will go unappreciated and instead, EXPECTED, due to the narcissistic prevalence of the disorders.
The inability to let go of the abusive parent, is not about the parent anymore. It’s about you.
When we come to awareness about our psychopathic partners, we understand that continued involvement with them means more abuse. Why is this not the same with our parents? Many survivors give the parent a “pass” in this way. When you think about it, it IS NOT different. This is where your behaviors in response were learned, which is why continued involvement is still dangerous to you, if not more so. It continues the original trauma bond and leaves you open for MORE psychopaths involved in your life.
Some survivors will cut off the parent, unable to tolerate their toxicity, only to hold onto a psychopathic partner or other intimate relationship that guarantees that the original trauma bond continues. It’s contradictory to say that one has healed from a pathological childhood, while still engaging with psychopathic partners, friendships or other intimate relationships. The one thing I can say about survivors is that they are enormously creative people, whose creativity is better served in how to disengage and go no contact and heal themselves, rather than continue to justify involvement with the parent or another disordered individual.
It’s very difficult to remove all toxic, psychopathic/narcissistic individuals from your life, particularly so for those of us who grew up in these homes, because we may come to find that most of our relationships are all toxic. It can mean that in order to remove these people from your life, that you will know what it is to truly be alone. It is a very frightening experience and I do believe that professional help is most critical and valuable in extricating yourself from it all. It can be very difficult to build a support system when you are facing such a monumental shift and change in your life. It requires a great deal of courage.
I have a page on face book called “The Ability To Love”. Please feel free to leave a message there if you are in need of support in your efforts to extricate yourself and to heal.
It is possible to have a peaceful and happy life after pathology, but it will be painful and difficult work. Healing is not for the faint of heart, but if you really want to be free, and to learn to live in peace, a life without drama, it CAN be done.
CHOOSE TO BE FREE.