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Breaking Free From Your Narcissistic Family

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

Breaking Free From Your Narcissistic Family

Written by Randi Fine

Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine

The home life of children growing up under the constraints of narcissistic parents is loveless, chaotic, confusing, volatile and unpredictable. The mind games narcissistic parents play with their children cause a lifetime of damage; emotionally, psychologically and physically.

Conditioned to believe that the way their family functions is normal and that there is nothing unusual about the narcissistic parent’s behavior, never existing in a family with healthy dynamics and patterns, children often do not recognize the abuse. If they do recognize it they somehow believe they deserve it.

It is constantly reinforced, either subtly or directly, that the children must not do anything to make their family look bad, and that they are never to share their family’s secrets. Narcissistic parents insist that nothing is wrong with the family and that the children show a perfect face to the world.

Narcissistic parents triangulate siblings to control information, gather allies and pit them against each other. It is no wonder that siblings in this environment are precariously bonded to each other, if at all. Though they may not outwardly express it, the children carry resentments for each other. They have no way of knowing that their animosity toward each other has been deliberately orchestrated by their narcissistic parent.

These parents preach that the family must stay close and loyal to each other. This can be very confusing for children who, on one hand believe what their parents tell them, and on the other hand feel no closeness at all.

Since narcissistic parents have no true love to give, the children are starved for it. Every crumb thrown their way feels like a feast. The children compete with each other in pursuit of these morsels. One child’s loss is another child’s gain.

Only one child in a narcissistic family will break free from this chaos and confusion. Some children have clarity all along; they can’t be fooled—they have always seen the narcissistic parent for whom he or she is. Some wake up to the reality in their adulthood and then make the choice to heal from their past. But only one will rise up out of the ashes.

This is seen as betrayal. Family members are prohibited against having an identity that is separate from that of the narcissistic family unit.

Siblings, envious of the one who got out, capitalize on their brother or sister’s escape. With one gone there are more crumbs to go around. The siblings move in closer to their abuser seeking acknowledgement and a larger portion of favor. The family unit bonds together tighter in their dysfunction, leaving the one who got out shamed, blamed and severely ostracized. Siblings who remain are now even more trapped. The likelihood of them ever seeing the light or breaking free is slim to none.

Watching the family bond tighter together in his or her absence causes the expatriate to feel left out, remorseful, and regretful. The loss feels greater than anticipated, the grieving deeper, and the healing that much more challenging.

In time the decision to leave will prove to be the right one.  It is tempting for the survivor to wish to help save other family members, but it cannot be done—at least not by the one who got away. There will always be deep resentments toward him or her for having the courage to break free.

Randi Fine is the author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing, the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. In addition to helping survivors recognize their abuse and heal from it, this book teaches mental health professionals how to recognize and properly treat the associated abuse syndrome. She is also the author of Cliffedge Road: A Memoir, the first and only book to characterize the life-long progression of complications caused by narcissistic child abuse.

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