Narcissistic Parenting

Liz Ryan is an outlier in the Human Resources field. On any given day, she’s trumpeting the virtues of putting a human face to the corporate world. Her jargon espouses the concept that “human beings are the workplace” and the environment should reflect. Quite often, as happened  yesterday, there will be another post with an equal number of followers lamenting the “ridiculous trend” toward individualising the corporate monolith “…as if Corporate America should care about individuals’ likes & dislikes.”

This post made me laugh out loud. Liz Ryan is not a therapist. Noooooooo…. She’s very good with the tools of a therapist, but she doesn’t act like one. And so it should be. She’s in Human Resources. She tells this dad exactly what I would have wanted to say, but would have had to be rather more therapeutic about it, given the context in which I work.

People appear quite happy to jump on the Millennials-are-an-over-indulged-underwhelming-generation-addicted-to instant-gratification-and-allergic-to-responsibility bandwagon, and have themselves a good helping of “Kids these days” criticism. I would posit that the fault for this (if it were true) would lie squarely on the shoulders of parents who raised their children to think this way.

As a psychologist, over the last ten years I’ve noticed a distinct trend toward what can only be described as narcissistic parenting, or a parenting style which fosters enmeshment. Enmeshment is the absence of emotional and psychological barriers between two people. In other words, mom (or in this case, Dad) doesn’t know/recognise/acknowledge where he stops and his daughter begins. (This is not unlike an enmeshed married couple – “No, no garden anymore. We have a bad back.”)

I hear this all the time. What can “we” do? What are “our” options? “We” are not dealing well with college, can you help?

Wha…..?   You’re attending college with your daughter? You’re stressed out at home because of the homework you’re doing? You’re hanging out with your daughter/son and friends in the Student Lounge?

I didn’t think so.

Liz Ryan’s response to that father is over-the-top, hilarious, and not at all client-centered. Unless one recognises that the “client” in this case is the daughter, and someone needs to speak up for her since she apparently has no voice in her family.

Books I often recommend these days are: “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers” (Karyle McBride); “Emotional Incest” (Patricia Love); “Parenting Out of Control” (Margaret K. Nelson)

More reading here, here, and here.

2 Comments on “Narcissistic Parenting

  1. Thanks for linking me in. It’s a thrill to be in such esteemed company.

    • You are very welcome! An excellent article and perfect for encouraging continued exploration of the pain of enmeshment.

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