This is a personal opinion essay about emotional abuse and chronic pain. The writer of this piece is not a mental health professional, nor are the editors of this blog. If you think you have been emotionally abused, please reach out to a mental health professional in your area, or seek out an online counselling service.
Most of us have parents who want the best for us. But some parents can be emotionally abusive – even when they think they are doing what's best for their kid. A problem arises when parents try to control their children to fill their own emotional needs.
These children, sadly, lack autonomy and freedom to be authentic. This can lead to mental health issues like anxiety or depression and in some cases, chronic health conditions. These parents are vulnerable narcissists who fear abandonment and mainly want to control their children. Even when those children become adults.
These parents can become highly critical, judgemental, perfectionists, and never satisfied. They project their own insecurities onto their children, such as the shape or size of their body. This, in turn, can result in body image or other mental health issues.
Emotionally abusive parents
They compare their children in a negative light to their peers, implying they’ll never measure up, never be as good as the next kid. These parents may never express their true emotions. For Highly Sensitive Children, this can spell disaster as emotions and emotional expression is their first language. They also lack empathy and self-reflection, which can also make life for a Highly Sensitive Child unbearable.
Vulnerable narcissists have poor self-esteem and self-confidence. They have a history of poor relationships across the board, from family and friends to work, and romances. Relationships for them are an above-below affair, not equal and level. They see relationships as a transactional concept, where you do something for me and I do something for you.
They thrive in chaos when most people do not and nothing is straightforward for them. Everything is a big deal, a big hassle. They have the world view that everything and everyone is against them. They don’t apologize for what they do wrong or stay accountable for their actions. This is a victim mentality or external locus of control.
Why can emotional abuse cause chronic pain, especially for highly sensitive people?
- The individual is burdened with the emotional work of the relationship, which should be equal and balanced, a give and take event.
- You deplete emotional/mental energy being hypervigilant (watching what you say, how you say things, what you share, watching how they’ll react, etc).
(This is not normal acting or thinking. You should feel comfortable saying what’s on your mind without fear of any kind of consequence or judgement.)
- Being around people who behave in this erratic way can have a physical effect on things like serotonin levels, cortisol levels, muscle tension, and blood pressure
- Your sleep can be affected, as being around or having contact with these people causes anxiety that can impact sleep quality.
In the self-therapy I’ve done, through using resources like blogs, podcasts, and Youtube channels, I’ve learned that you should do the following to help rewire your brain against pain and fatigue.
Tips for children of narcissistic parents
1. Set boundaries
Narcissists and emotionally immature people hate it when we make these, but they are necessary for our health and sanity,
2. Manage expectations
Don’t expect them to change for the better at any point, as they never will; it’s up to you to change anyways.
3. Limit contact
Whether this is in person or via text/sm/email/phone, set a limit of how much time/energy to invest in this person,
4. Practice meditation, mindfulness, and yoga
Tuning into your thoughts and emotions on a regular basis can help you peel away some of the manipulative stories about yourself you've been told by an abusive person.
5. Use the grey rock technique
A technique that you use when you must be in their presence. Basically, shutting down, zoning out and not letting them into your mind. No matter what little digs they make, no matter how snide their comments, you don’t react to them until they are gone.
You do you! Do what makes you happy, what makes you smile, what makes you laugh. doing something joyful for just a few minutes every day can be beneficial to your mental health. It could even mean do nothing. You deserve this more than anyone, after shouldering what’s not yours.
7. Go no contact
This is the last resort, as this requires a lot of thought. Severing ties means you may go through custody battles, be left out of inheritances, and be the black sheep of the extended family. It means becoming financially independent and self-reliant. This can bring on major stress and aggravate your already stressed-out body.
8. Find new supportive relationships
These relationships should be equitable, synergetic, and relational (not transactional).
If you feel you've been emotionally abused by a narcissistic family member, it may be beneficial to work with a licensed therapist to see if this past emotional trauma can be causing your pain.
This is a guest post by Jade. A Canadian, history graduate, fibro patient, walker, writer, and cat mom.