(THE BOOK) Chapter 14: Family

You need not be in relationship with an addict to develop a codependent approach to life.

There are plenty of other ways.

One of the most common is to grow up in a narcissistic family.

Narcissistic families are those unconsciously organized to meet the needs of the parents, not the children.

This description covers a wide range of possibilities.  It includes families that abuse children physically, sexually or emotionally; families fixated on addicted or mentally ill members; families stressed by poverty, racism, or chronic illness; those where the parents are strict, rigid and demanding; those where the parents are not present, physically or emotionally; and those which teach their children to be seen and not heard.

Kids in narcissistic families have no choice but to adapt to their emotional environment. To protect themselves by trying to control the big people on whom they depend, mainly by pleasing and appeasing them.

Such kids typically experience at least some of the symptoms of codependency: guilt, shame, anxiety, depression.  They see their own feelings and needs as at best inconvenient, at worst inappropriate — even dangerous.  So they go into hiding.  They become pleasers and appeasers and rescuers, better at taking care of others than themselves.  And they tend to carry those symptoms into adult life.

And since no family is perfect, and no parent is perfectly healthy, every family is at least slightly narcissistic.

Which means nearly all kids grow up at least slightly codependent.



5 responses to “(THE BOOK) Chapter 14: Family

  • svmcelligott

    It all makes sense now. I grew up with both patents not being emotionally available. Arguing with each other and I became a pleaser and a ‘fixer’. Now I make my living helping others to connect to their own emotions for growth and fulfilment, thank you for this post, Susan

  • Lisa Marie

    Great chapter Steve. A little help…one of your sentences has the word “as” two times in a row and I think you meant “as at”. I’m definitely not the grammar police, but thought you would like to know. I enjoy and look forward to your writings.

  • (THE BOOK) Chapter 39: Hammer | Monkeytraps

    […] sometimes happen after we’ve spent hours discussing their narcissistic family, or their abuse as children, or the ravages of socialization, or how inevitably all of us get split […]

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