If a narcissist can convince his or her victim that the victim is immature and naive, that narcissist can have a great deal of control over said victim. After all, if a victim believes that he or she is immature and naive, he or she will not feel capable of making decisions and will have a great deal of self doubt. The victim may resort to going to the narcissist for information, which opens the door for the narcissist to control the victim and change him or her into whatever the narcissist wants.
This sounds ridiculous does it not? However, it does happen and it happens often. Narcissists can do this in several ways…
- If the victim is a significant other and the narcissist is older than the victim, the narcissist can use the argument that he or she has been around longer than the victim, and obviously the narcissist knows much more than the victim because of this.
- The narcissistic significant other also may simply treat their victim like a child. Saying things like, “No, you don’t like that” make a person feel stupid and even child like.
- Narcissistic parents go about this process differently. They may discourage their growing child to do normal things that other children their age are doing, such as being more independent or getting a driver’s license. They may discourage their young adult child from moving out at an appropriate age or do their best to make that person feel ill-equipped at facing life on their own.
- Telling embarrassing stories is another tactic of narcissistic parents. This humiliates their adult child. When the adult child says something to that effect, the narcissistic parent will shame the child for being upset. “You’re too sensitive.” “It’s a funny story! You just don’t have a sense of humor!” “You need to lighten up!”
I understand how difficult these situations are since I have been in them. When I was 19, I dated a man who was 28. While not a narcissist, he did have some issues and he often treated me like a child who needed his wisdom and guidance. It quickly got very frustrating and took a toll on my self-esteem. Also my mother did her level best to shame me for growing up and embarrass me by telling stupid stories about me from childhood in front of my husband and even in-laws.
Certainly there is no way to stop narcissists from behaving as they do, but there are some ways you can deal with this ridiculous behavior.
Always maintain a calm demeanor around the narcissist. If he or she treats you like you are a simple child, do not show that it bothers you. If you must say something, do so matter-of-factly and calmly, but ignoring is often best. I remember over dinner in a restaurant once, my mother told my father what to order. He was in the mood for something different, so he asked what I was ordering. I wanted a taco salad, and he said it sounded good so he ordered the same. My mother was angry, yet said nothing. When dinner arrived at our table later, she looked at our plates and said, “It looks like someone threw up on your plates.” Rather than be upset, neither of us responded to her comment. Instead, he and I ate our taco salads and happily talked about how yummy they were.
If you are a young adult living with narcissistic parents who are trying to discourage you from growing up, my heart goes out to you. You are in such a difficult place! It will not be like this forever though! In the meantime, do your best to prepare to move out of your parents’ home as soon as you can. Save every penny you can. Buy household items. If you cannot store them at your parents’ home, see if a friend or relative can hold them for you until you move out. Look at other people your age who come from healthy families. If they are doing things your narcissistic parent discourages, then chances are your parent is trying to keep you a child. Remember that if your parent shames or discourages you for wanting to do something normal people do. Guard your heart, and do not let their poison get inside of you! Even if you cannot do those things because your parent prevents it, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a normal kid!
If your narcissistic parent tells embarrassing stories about you to others, no matter your age, this is such a nuisance! Always remember your parent’s motivation for doing this to you is to keep you a child, forever dependent on your parent. It is no reflection on you. Actually, it makes a parent look bad because what parent would enjoy humiliating their child?! When faced with this situation, stay calm. Come up with some quick comebacks to say when the situation happens again (because you know it will). I went the logical yet sarcastic route with my mother. “Oh good.. because this story is just so freakin’ awesome it needs to be told again. The first thousand times weren’t quite enough!” “Pretty interesting how you’re trying to humiliate me.” Not particularly nice, I know. At least they did work to shut her down pretty quickly and without a narcissistic rage because she knew if she got mad, she would have looked foolish.
I really think the best thing you can do in these situations is to ask God to help you and to give you creative, effective ways to handle the situation. That is what I did with my parents, and He never disappointed me!