"Being mindful and being present is really important. So that entails appreciating that you are safe now. You know, it's your sympathetic nervous system that's constantly in a state of arousal. Your fight or flight is always on when you are traumatized, when you experience trauma. So to get yourself into the parasympathetic, a rest and digest state, you need to know that you're an adult, you do have the capability to stick up for yourself, to advocate for yourself."
On November 17th, 2021, Starts With Youth Outreach & Media Lead, Punit, spoke with Michele Johnson about Narcissistic Parenting and its effects. Below is the video recording from this Instagram Live, as well as the transcript.
Michele is dedicated to her incredible husband and beautiful daughters. With a Master's degree in psychology, along with a Bachelor's degree in psychology, Michele founded Bumped Bruised and Blessed as a glimmer of hope for victims of narcissistic abuse. She and her husband endured the atrocities of childhood cancer and lost their three-year-old son, Joey, to GBM in 2013. Though currently disabled, Michele continues to persevere through adversity. Her dysfunctional upbringing with a narcissistic mother, enabling father, and flying monkey/goldenboy brother, have provided her with emphatic sensitivity to other victims. A previous romantic entanglement with a narcissist also enables her to relate to this insidious form of abuse from that perspective as well. The Bumped Bruised and Blessed community is a community of victims, providing support through validation and education. Michele maintains both the YouTube and Instagram resources for both forums.
SWY: Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your experience with childhood abuse and trauma?
MJ: My experience with childhood trauma was very covert. It was very behind the scenes. Anyone looking in would see that there was a mom, a dad, older brother and myself. I was the youngest and it appeared to be a nuclear family. But my mother, you know, I don't like to use Terms of Endearment referring to these people. But she was the head narcissist. My dad was the henchman, the enabler. He was her sidekick and my older brother was the golden boy. A flying monkey. So it was very dysfunctional to the core. You know, I was targeted, I was the scapegoat, I was very much the black sheep. So I suffered the brunt of the trauma. But as I say, as well, no one in a dysfunctional unit is spared from the impact of having a narcissistic parent. They wreak their havoc on everyone, the unaddressed disorder, you know, it's a ripple effect, butterfly effect, if you will, it just causes problems for everyone involved.
SWY: What is narcissistic parenting, how would you define this type of abuse, and what are the traits/behaviours of narcissistic parents?
MJ: Narcissistic parents are extremely egocentric, predominantly selfish, and immature. Having an immature parent, it's a terrible feeling, being a child in an environment where your alleged role model is not mature enough to give you a sound example of someone that you're trying to emulate. Like a structure for how you're going to acclimate into the world. It stinks like having narcissistic personality disorder where that person is essentially hiding from their demons, their issues, they're on, you know, on a dress drama, and rather than, you know, tackling it head on, they are just, unfortunately, trying to impose it onto whoever is available, and their children are the most accessible victims.
SWY: In a household, can you provide an example of the dynamics of this parenting style (i.e. enablers)?
MJ: The narcissistic parent, essentially makes everything about them. And everyone else is essentially a supporting role. So the henchman, which was my dad, the enabler, I believe he was also an inverted narcissist. What that means is that person is kind of riding the coattails of the narcissist. Like they kind of have aspirations for the same, you know, goals, the same things that the narcissist wants, you know, like excessive admiration and they want to be portrayed in a certain way. A recurring sentiment that I hear from everyone is that their narcissistic parents are trying to appear bougie or affluent, you know, they're trying to look like they're rich, and wealthy and all of those things. Materialism is a big element for narcissism. So the henchman, that was his role, you know, he would support the narcissistic mother at all costs, including sacrificing relationships with his own children, which is disgusting. I'm super blessed that I have a husband that has incredible relationships with our beautiful children. And I just cringe thinking back to what I was subjected to. It was terrifying, and everything was awkward, and there was no communication. Because again, the narcissist sets the tone. The narcissist calls all the shots and as a child in that environment, you're not entitled to your own feelings. You can't get angry, you can't experience big emotions because that would detract from the narcissist. Attention is everything that they crave, that's their number one supply, but it's also like a nuisance to them. A big element to childhood narcissistic abuse is negligence. The children’s emotional needs are not met. Physically, sure, they put a roof over our head and they feed us but they don't see or acknowledge us as individuals. And the golden child is essentially groomed by the narcissistic parent. They take them under their wing and birth order has a lot to do with it. He was the first born and also a boy. I'm a female, and she, the narcissist, my mother, that's like competition for her, you know, female narcissists don't want other females competing for attention. So essentially, that's how she viewed me. It's disgusting. And it's completely backwards.
SWY: Can you describe the intersectionalities of narcissism? Do social determinants such as race or ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, create more disadvantages to the abuser and/or the victim?
MJ: Biologically speaking, men are more likely to be narcissists, in my case my mother was the narcissist, but I was also in a relationship with a narcissistic man. I do believe that there's a lot of discrepancies or inaccuracies in terms of data collected, referring to narcissists. Typically it's generational, essentially. So, a narcissistic parent would have had a narcissistic parent, and so on and so forth. I don't really believe that other socioeconomic factors would leave someone to be more likely or less likely to be narcissistic.
SWY: What is one way to break this intergenerational trauma cycle, where one narcissist leads to another?
MJ: Educating yourself is huge, I am a psychology major, I have my graduate degrees in psychology. But it wasn't until the last few years that I really identified what I was dealing with all this time. It took a YouTube video to really open my eyes to that. And back in my 20s, I was unfortunately entangled with a narcissistic creep, I was engaged to him, he treated me terribly. And unfortunately, that's a dynamic that typically ensues, a child coming from a narcissistic upbringing will most likely gravitate to a narcissistic, romantic relationship, because that's what we were taught, we were conditioned to believe that chaos and being treated poorly is love, is something that we would feel comfortable with. And it just is very unfortunate.
SWY: For those who may be experiencing narcissistic parenting, what are three coping mechanisms and/or boundaries that you advise?
MJ: I keep posting about this because I value it so very much. Being mindful and being present is really important. So that entails appreciating that you are safe now. You know, it's your sympathetic nervous system that's constantly in a state of arousal. Your fight or flight is always on when you are traumatized when you experience trauma. So to get yourself into the parasympathetic, a rest and digest state, you need to know that you're an adult, you do have the capability to stick up for yourself, to advocate for yourself. You are in a safe environment now. I know there are certain adults that are unfortunately stuck living with their narcissist, but you have the ability to protect yourself now. And you have the ability to educate yourself and that's paramount. So be mindful and appreciate your life now and be away from them. Because narcissistic abuse is just this dark, ominous cloud that's constantly cast over you. It's just, I call it like this cloak. They're trying to shame you, and distract you from appreciating how awesome your life is. Good people that you have in your life and the good things that you have available to you. They don't want you to see that. Because they're so miserable. They don't want you to get out of it. Misery loves company, they want to draw you into their misery. They basically want to ruin your life. So being mindful has been wonderful. And educating yourself is a huge element because you know what you're dealing with, and I find that to be so validating. Communities such as the one that I've developed on Instagram, I'm so grateful for as well as my YouTube community. Everyone heals through supporting and validating one another and I find that to be invaluable.
Starts With Youth sincerely thanks Michele for taking the time to share her experiences with abuse and trauma, as well as her journey towards healing. For more information about Michele and narcissism, take a look at Michele's Instagram, @bumpedbruisedandblessed.