Co-narcissism: how we adapt to narcissistic parents (PDF article)

This is an interesting article about co-narcissism — picking up narcissistic traits or codependent behaviors from narcissistic parents (sometimes known as “fleas”) as a defense against abuse.      It also discusses therapy with narcissists and co-narcissists (co-dependents).


14 thoughts on “Co-narcissism: how we adapt to narcissistic parents (PDF article)

  1. Thank you so much for this article! It makes a lot of sense to me, especially now where I’m pondering some stuff from childhood.
    Talks with a psychiatrist led me to think that my mother probably is narcissistic in her relationsship to me and my brother, but still I doubt it sometimes. Sometimes I think I’m blaming everyone, which would be a typical NPD-thing to do. And that I’m not at all right about my mother.

    But this sentence made a lot of sense: “Often, the same person displays both narcissistic and co-narcissistic behaviors, depending on circumstances.” So actually in relation to my mother I could be co-narcissistic. And I do feel like I’m very co-dependent in many relationsships, and maybe that explains why I feel like that? That doesn’t rule out my NPD. But I feel like it’s difficult to live my own life. I feel like a spectator to other people lives.

    “Compliance refers to the co-narcissistic adaptation described earlier, wherein the child becomes the approving audience sought by the parent.” This sounds like my childhood.

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    1. I think it’s very possible to both be co-dependent/victimized and also be a narcissist. In fact, I think it’s commoner than people think. It’s not black or white. Some people think if you’re a narcissist you can’t be codependent or a victim, or vice versa, but there’s a lot of overlap. From everything I know that you’ve told me it sounds like your mother might have emotionally abused you even if she was never physically abusive. Was she very cold to you? I got that impression from you for some reason. That’s where the anger would come from too but for some reason anger is unacceptable to you (maybe because you were shamed out of expressing anger?) so you became a covert narcissist instead of an overt one. I still doubt very much you’re malignant because if you were, you would not be talking the way you are about having NPD or willingly going into therapy. It sounds like your therapist is helping you. 🙂 I’m glad you identified with this post.
      I’m curious about something. You say your mother treated you and your brother almost the same. How has that affected him?


      1. I don’t remember much of how she was. But I do remember coldness, and annoyance. Like she didn’t really have the strength to cope with us. Except when other people were around. Then she was all different.
        I’m not sure if she treated us the same or not. But we did develop very different coping strategies. He became self-sufficient, not needing his family,and grew up fast. He has been quite functioning most of his life I think. No great depressions or trouble with keeping a job.
        Yes it was a great article this one. Yesterday I read some posts on Burgo’s blog ‘After Psychoterapy’. I really like his style too. Very humane and not judging at all 🙂

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        1. It’s interesting the way different children develop completely different coping strategies. Part of that could be natural temperament, birth order, or differences in the way they were treated– even if there is no scapegoat or golden child, a male is probably more likely to be encouraged to be independent, unemotional and not being needy. I just looked up the blog you’re talking about and it looks fascinating. I never saw it before, which surprises me because I always look for stuff like this, so thank you!

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      2. What you say about the anger makes sense. Because apparently I really needed to repress it – didn’t even notice it until my psychiatrist told me about it.

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  2. This is one of those articles that helps me on this journey in understanding where my own fear comes from. Thank-you. I’ve also linked it into one of my blog posts as it is so relevant to what I wrote a few months back.

    Liked by 1 person

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