Opinion: Narcissistic Parents Accuse Their Children of Making Them Crawl Over Broken Glass

Walter Rhein

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At first blush, narcissistic parents seem just like anyone else. It is only in the depths of a conflict that they reveal their true nature. Narcissistic parents become completely unreasonable and use psychological tactics to prevent conflict resolution.

My narcissistic father has managed to make my brother into a narcissist. Today, both of them use the same bizarre language designed to magnify rather than abate tension.

The phrase they use is, “You want to make me crawl over broken glass.” The comment is not literal. They’re using a metaphor to express their belief that I make unreasonable requests from them.

However, in a conflict, it is not productive to use metaphorical language. Instead, both parties should remain rational and discuss the actual issues.

The statement, “you make me crawl over glass” creates a kind of shadow memory. When my brother and my father say something like that, they create a false memory of me being completely unreasonable.

You don’t make any progress until you discover the actual request. If you ask a child to do the dishes, the child might believe it’s an unreasonable request. The child might also say, “you’re making me walk over broken glass.” However, the reality is that a request for a child to do the dishes is completely reasonable for a parent.

Narcissists have no interest in resolving conflict. Instead, they want to win all encounters and beat people into submission. They want total control. One of their tactics for total control is to present reasonable requests as torture.

When you corner a narcissist with a logical argument that shows they are wrong, they become hysterical. Rather than acknowledge that you are correct, they accuse you of being unreasonable. This is part of their psychological defense mechanism.

Narcissists discuss their conflicts with other people. When they discuss you, they are dishonest. They like to use inflated language to make it seem like you are a terrible person.

If you request that your conversations be mediated by a third party, a narcissist might become offended. They might explain the situation as “He wants to bring somebody into the room who punches me if I say anything he doesn’t agree with.”

That is not a reasonable assessment of the situation. The narcissist will use that assessment to justify their non-compliance.

Nobody makes anyone “crawl over broken glass” in a relationship. It is fantasy language. Narcissists focus on fantasy as an excuse to avoid compromise. The fantasy turns real.

The truth is that most of the things that narcissists label as “being forced to crawl over broken glass,” are completely normal components of healthy relationships. Healthy partners need to use kind language and be mindful of each other’s feelings.

Narcissists convince themselves that these expectations are unreasonable. Narcissists are doomed to solitude because they refuse to treat other people with basic decency and respect.

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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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