How to Leave Narcissistic Parents

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Clinical narcissism is a spectrum mental disorder which, at its worst, makes a person's behavior almost entirely self-centered and self-interested. Adult children of narcissistic parents often consider cutting off all contact with their parents in order to better live full, independent lives and heal the emotional damages of their childhoods. If you're considering leaving your narcissistic parents, you will face both practical and emotional challenges in your decision.

The Right Time

It's important to know the right time to leave your narcissistic parents behind you. Once you've gained enough of an awareness of the situation and started to develop some personal self-confidence, it's common to wonder if you need to cut your parents out of your life completely. The question of whether or not to eliminate parental contact is common, according to therapist Karyl McBride, author of “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.” If you do decide to eliminate contact, know that this alone will not be enough to heal the damage of being raised by narcissistic parents. Know, also, that you may not be able to go no-contact without a fight, both with yourself and with your family. McBride recommends that the final decision about parental contact be made after a process of healing and self-discovery is already well under way.

Fighting Guilt

Before and during the process of leaving your parents, be prepared to confront many layers of internalized guilt. To the narcissistic parent, the child is a possession or extension of herself and even into adulthood, the child is shamed for expressing needs that deviate from this. Chances are, you've learned to feel guilty about your own needs as coping mechanism to help you conform to your parents' wishes. Unlearning this process can take years of hard work and in the meantime, the thought of cutting off contact with your parents is likely to elicit strong feelings of guilt in you. This guilt can prevent you from doing what you need to do. Learn to affirm your own right to self-realization with the help of supportive friendships, support groups, therapy and through learning about how your childhood was different from a healthy childhood.

Going Low Contact

Consider going low contact instead of cutting your parents out of your life completely. Minimizing your contact can be done gradually, making it both a strong strategic move and an effective way to test the waters emotionally. Look for excuses to limit your contact, such as moving far away, incompatible schedules and becoming busy with other commitments. If your parents complain about the change, try to avoid internalizing their complaints by keeping your responses lighthearted and casual.

Breaking Contact and Fallout

The more deeply narcissistic your parents are, the stronger their reaction to your leaving will likely be. Expect guilt-trips and prepare yourself for what they're likely to say. Do not expect them to understand or change their ways for your sake; narcissists will interpret even your deepest and strongest feelings strictly from their own point of view and how it hurts or inconveniences them. Remember that you do not need their permission to cut off contact, you only need to inform them that you are doing so. If they do not respect your wishes, consider getting a restraining order.