Opinion: Narcissistic Parents Are Common in the United States of America

Walter Rhein

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I grew up with a narcissistic father. As a child, I knew that something was wrong, but I didn’t have the power to do anything about it.

I don’t feel hatred for my narcissistic father. Instead, I pity him. In my view, he keeps making bad choices. He drives people away from him. He does not take responsibility for his actions.

My narcissistic father lost much of his power when he chose to leave my life. He would say that I cut him out of my life, but that’s not true.

The truth is that he refused to treat me with the respect I deserve. I calmly told him what behaviors were unacceptable. He said he would continue to do whatever he wanted. I left.

In the end, he made the ultimate choice, not me.

To escape my narcissistic father, I moved to Peru when I was twenty-six. I didn’t know anyone there. I had some moderate savings.

When I was twenty-six, my narcissistic father still had a large influence over me. He always knew exactly what to say to break me down.

I was a good student in college. I had a good job. Even so, every time I was around him I found myself wincing in anticipation of his next attack.

I left the United States not caring what would happen to me. It was a move of desperation. I didn’t know the language.

It stunned me to discover that the people of the country immediately adopted me. The longer I stayed there, the more I recognized the differences between the culture of Peru and the culture of the United States.

Families are kinder to one another in Peru. It is not even close.

In the United States, if a child falls on hard times he is considered a failure if he moves back in with his parents.

In Peru, it is common to live at home for no other reason than to save money.

This difference is just scratching the surface. The people there are more inclined to help strangers. They are more aware of the emotional development of their children.

When I was in college in the United States, there was a bar fight every time I went out. In Peru, I saw only one bar fight and an American started it.

Most Americans don’t want to recognize the undercurrent of violence in our culture. It’s not normal. Some of the problems we face in the United States do not exist in other countries.

I meet a lot of people who have had similar experiences with narcissistic parents. Some people don’t see the point of adopting a philosophy of kindness.

Kindness takes more effort in the short term, but it yields greater benefits in the long run.

Anyone who takes the time to travel can see that the family units of other countries treat each other with greater kindness.

It’s strange to discover that perfect strangers in foreign lands will treat you with more kindness than your own family.

It took me years to recognize the truth about my life. For a long time, I thought my conflict with my father was a natural part of any relationship. It was a revelation to discover that relationships do not have to be painful.

It is a valuable exercise to evaluate your deeply held assumptions. It takes a long time to recognize that much of the pain in your life was unnecessary. Learning this helps to prevent you from passing it on.

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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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