Narcissistic Parents Use Fear to Control Their Children

Walter Rhein

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It is reasonable for a child to feel afraid. The world is a confusing place filled with dangers. Everybody is physically stronger than a child. Children don’t know who to trust or where to go to feel safe.

Most children can rely on their parents to protect them. But that's not the case with narcissistic parents.

Society is aware that children are inherently vulnerable. We save our greatest contempt for individuals who abuse children. Children are trusting. Individuals who abuse the innocent trust of children are beyond forgiveness.

When I was very young, my narcissistic father used fear to establish control.

My father often combined fear and guilt to manipulate me. The thought of losing a parent is terrifying to a child. My narcissistic father played on this fear in many ways.

My father would often claim that my behavior was hurtful. He would say things like, “When I’m dead you’ll feel guilty about this.” I would then conform to his demands.

My father had an extreme focus on his feelings. At the same time, he disregarded my feelings. I discovered this when I tried to reverse his tactic and say, “Someday I’ll be dead and you’ll feel guilty.”

He interpreted that statement as a personal attack. He became offended and punished me because I said something hurtful. However, this didn't stop him from using the guilt line himself.

Growing up, I was constantly reminded that my parents were going to die someday. That caused anxiety which made it difficult to form healthy relationships.

I became unwilling to take risks. The problem is that it’s difficult to reach your full potential without running a few risks. Taking a new job is a risk. Getting an advanced degree is a risk.

Narcissistic parents set their children up for failure when they attempt to control their children by exploiting their fears (Laroche). Exploiting fears creates self-doubt as can be seen here:

Self-doubt is a fear that you can’t trust your own inner knowing. The narcissist establishes himself or herself as having superior knowledge, awareness and intelligence and downplays yours. He or she uses gaslighting and brainwashing techniques to keep you doubting yourself and your own reality--Kaleah LaRoche, 5 Ways a Narcissist Uses Your Fears To Hook You

Fear is a natural emotion. In a healthy relationship, parents show their children how to navigate their fears. Good parents do not want to see their children controlled by fear or anything else.

To escape the control of my narcissistic father, I needed to learn how to face my fears. It was a long process that required the support of a loving community.

It is reasonable to fear things. I learned that fear is a useful emotion that can help with decision-making (Hagan). Children of narcissistic parents have to learn how to overcome their fears. It’s important to get help if you feel your fear stops you from pursuing your ideal life.

I discovered that it is possible to reverse the abuse of narcissistic parents. I began by taking small steps and finding the courage to take on minimal risks. With time, I developed a more reasonable relationship with my fear.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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