Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Narcissistic Family

1. inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.
2. being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.

From Psychology Marisa Mauro, Psy.D. reviews the book, The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman.

"In narcissistic families, this basic goal becomes skewed and the meeting of parental needs becomes of primary importance for the family."

Sound familiar?

The book reveals that children from narcissistic families tend to grow up with traits that mimic those of Adult Children Of Alcoholics. It comes as no surprise that there is some overlap between the two. Narcissism and parental dysfunction, whether it's addiction, abuse or neglect, go hand in hand. The patients studied reported no parental substance addiction or overt abuse. But the emotional needs of their parents took precedence over their own.

This normal developmental process is difficult for parents who are most concerned with fulfilling their own needs... to compensate, the parents fight back, ignoring the child's needs and at the same time forcing the child to respond to their own by withholding attention and affection until they do so.

From the article: "The children's emotional needs go unattended while they learn to wait to see what their parents expect and then react, negatively or positively, to those expectations. They learn to ignore their feelings or become completely detached from them altogether. As a result of having no emotions on which to direct their actions, the children become dependent upon others for guidance. This is the process of becoming what the authors term a reactive and reflective individual."

Or to put it another way, We become reactors rather than actors, waiting for others to take the initiative.

More from the article: "In adulthood... they become distressed by their own pervasive need to please others, chronic need to seek external validation, and difficulty identifying their own feelings wants and needs. They tend to suffer from a myriad of emotional stressors including anger that lies just below the surface, depression, chronic dissatisfaction, and poor self-confidence."

"Many also struggle with indecisiveness as they have learned to make decisions on the basis of other's needs and expectations. Interpersonally, they tend to share a history of failed romances and have difficulty trusting in others... at work they are overachievers, workaholics even, that are never satisfied with their success."

It is striking how this correlates so closely with ACOA traits. As I've heard in meetings, "ACOA" is an umbrella term that encompasses just about any type of chronic family dysfunction (including narcissism) leading to emotional or physical trauma. I believe narcissism is deeply intertwined in most, if not all, dysfunctional families.

The opposite of the narcissistic family is one where parents assume responsibility for their children's emotional and physical needs. The children learn to be independent as they slowly take responsibility for meeting their own needs in a developmentally appropriate manner, eventually becoming independent adults.

Children grow up learning to identify and act on their feelings, wants and needs. Parents take care of their own needs or seek help from other adults. In this way, the children have also learned how to be good parents through the process of observational learning.

The book includes strategies and tips on healing for survivors.

Read the original article at:

Thanks for listening,


Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

12 Step Videos: Steps 7, 8 & 9

Steps 7, 8 & 9 in a continuing series of 12 Step videos. Originally created for AA, these also apply to adult children of alcoholics in need of recovery.

Video: Step 7 Of The 12 Steps:

Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings

Video: Step 8 Of The 12 Steps:

Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all

Video: Step 9 Of The 12 Steps:

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children