Home > Narcissism, Well-Being > The Elderly Narcissistic Parent

The Elderly Narcissistic Parent

August 30, 2010

I wish I never had had children – my mom said that to me about four years ago; that is something a parent should never say to their child – but nothing surprises me any longer about my mom; unhealthy narcissism is really about insecurity, gross immaturity, and the maladaptive personality that tries to cope by being controlling, grandiose, arrogant, and self-centered. The personality is inadequate so it focuses on the locus of the grandiose self and directs all energy towards keeping that fragile self functioning. As old age and death approaches all the old methods start to fail; they cannot garner enough attention, there are fewer and fewer people to dominate, control and manipulate, their envy shoots up as they envy others youth and vitality, their sense of entitlement aggravates them as they cannot get the results they desire — all of which makes them feel out of control and very vulnerable.

And why would a parent say such a thing? It is classic narcissism, she was showing how insignificant I was and how powerful she was – it was a pronouncement indicative of the unhealthy narcissistic god-complex. She must be one up, and others one down. These kinds of verbal attacks are rooted in envy. The unhealthy narcissist envies what they are not. My mother has often attacked me for claiming my autonomy and personal freedom, although I have been at her beck and call when needed. I love my mother very much, but I struggle with ambivalence. Knowing what I know about unhealthy narcissism, it makes it all the more difficult to watch as my mom’s false-self has increasing difficulty coping with her health problems. She has become belligerent and combative. I receive calls from her caretakers describing to me what I have dealt with all my life. I counsel them. I counsel the professional social workers at the nursing home like I counseled the home caretakers, and even her doctors. I tell them to suggest things to her, be gentle, do not demand, be sensitive to her personal space and know that she is passive-aggressive, meaning she aggresses through non-cooperation.

Unhealthy narcissism is not well or widely understood and the irony for me is as I watch my mom struggle through this period I myself have come to greater awareness through my own recent discoveries about unhealthy narcissism and why my family was a difficult environment in which to be raised (the result being the writing of my book).

Unfortunately, unhealthy narcissism gets worse the older the N-person gets for the reasons i stated above: dwindling lack of attention, no one to control, rising but unanswered envy and entitlement. The fragile grandiose false-self simply cannot cope. The result — deep depression that will drive the person to impaired cognitive thinking and will to live.

It is tempting to turn away, but we must not. We should maintain healthy space and distance so we can maintain a balanced sense of self. We must not allow the unhealthy narcissist to shame dump on us making us feel inadequate. We must remain sensitive to their needs and provide aid and protection where possible. Most importantly, we must for our own sake and sanity and well-being, be a person of compassion.

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  1. Barelysane
    February 21, 2012 at 2:57 am

    My mother is 91 and very narcissistic. However, she praises me to everyone and says, “I don’t know what I would have done without him.” She does have one friend who is her narcissistic equal. What she says to that friend is totally different and it is because this friend is supportive of her narcissism and denial. If she were to say anything like that to family members or other friends who know what I have given up to help care for her she would be recognized as self-centered and narcissistic. It is amazing to me that despite her age and dementia, that she somehow still knows what to say and what not to say to particular people. Somehow she has figured out how to use her bad health, much of which is exaggerated, to get what she needs in the form of attention and sympathy.

    There are days when I truly believe that I am completely crazy myself and it is all my fault. But co-dependency is as much a part of a narcissistic home as the family portrait on the wall.

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