Recovering from unloving/narcissistic or enmeshed parenting

Christmas is a time for joy, but it also brings up painful feelings for many adult survivors of wounding parenting. Self centeredness and self absorption is the common theme in unloving/enmeshed parenting, whether the mother/ father was critical, sadistic, or required you to take on a caregiving role for them and/or the family (e.g due to mental health issues/addiction or the inability to step up to role as nurturing parent).

This can leave you with overwhelming feelings as an adult such as fear, helplessness, anxiety, depression and crushingly low self esteem. It can lead to self destructive patterns of behaviour such as seeking love in unhealthy/unavailable or unloving individuals, confusing sex and love, difficulty setting healthy boundaries, shrinking or blowing up in rage, not to mention countless self sabotaging behaviours. These keep you in the familiar dynamic. For example if your mother began to consider you a threat or compete with you as you grew into an adult, you may hold yourself back from accomplishing what makes you happy- the new job, the qualification or pursuing a relationship with the emotionally available man. This is because the unconscious message that was internalised through much of your life was ‘make me look good but do not threaten my sense of self worth by outshining me’. You may have been encouraged to go for opportunities such as parts in a show but at the same time she may have criticised your appearance. Even if you had an enmeshed mother who made you overly dependent upon her, self esteem and self confidence/trust in oneself is eroded by making you feel you need her to do anything, keeping her in a vital role in your life/psychologically.

Understanding these dynamics is crucial to disentangling yourself from the unhealthy dynamic of the parent child relationship, unburdening yourself limiting beliefs, changing sabotaging behaviours as well as moving towards healthy responses/boundaries and moving towards thriving, not just surviving.

Anger and grief in abundance and equal measure will inevitably erupt during this process and it is important to receive therapeutic support which is empathic, holding and proactive in therapeutic interventions. Avoid those who simply tell you that you need to forgive and move on, avoid those who sit passively and remain on the outskirts of empathic response or questioning.

It is wise to choose carefully who you disclose the details of your childhood to; there are so many societal expectations and false beliefs that mothers can only be nurturing, kind and compassionate and responses such as ‘just be lucky you have a mother’ and ‘you’re so hard on her’ can add to the gaslighting effect and cause boundless damage to one’s self trust and decision to get help and heal/put boundaries in/walk away.


IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT. Nobody would choose to have parents that they would have to walk away from. Nobody deserves cruel, disrespectful and physical/emotional abuse. Children are innocent, sweet and sensitive souls, that deserve compassion, patience, care and unconditional love. It is very difficult to imagine having an unloving mother if you have never had one, so expect that the majority of people (influenced by widely held societal beliefs) will not comprehend the insidious nature of cruel parenting and the pervasive legacy that it leaves behind. But this does not mean that there is not good help out there, and kind people who can be trusted with (the honour of) knowing what you have been through.

I specialise in helping individuals who have been through developmental trauma, who have been victims of unloving/self-centered mother or fathers. Please contact me for online sessions (or face to face if in the Sussex area).