Have you ever had someone accuse you of name calling because you identify your family member as a narcissist? Most of us didn’t go looking for a label to call our parents. Some people just don’t get it because they’ve never had to live through the abuse that comes with narcissism. They might even be apathetic.*
For many of us, it was a relief to discover the term narcissism to describe our parents’ lack of empathy. Even though we use the term narcissist like a noun, the word narcissist is not as much a label for someone’s identity, as it’s a category to describe behaviors we have experienced. We wish it weren’t so, but the proof is in the behavior. If it walks and talks like a narc, it probably is a narc.
Calling someone a narcissist usually occurs because they have become toxic in their behavior toward others. Recognizing these narcissistic behaviors is simply one way to create awareness and protect ourselves. If we fail to recognize the gas-lighting, scapegoating, lying, manipulation and flying monkeys for what it is, we will continue to be abused over and over again.
While narcissism personality disorder should be diagnosed with a professional, most narcissists hate counselors and will usually avoid counseling at all costs, so all we can do is get counseling for ourselves. Once we have gathered the facts from an expert opinion and realize there is no other explanation for such behavior, most Adult Children of Narcissists find it a relief to recognize there is a name for what they have been experiencing.
It’s ironic that the very people who once called us names are the ones who complain because we refer to them as narcs. Many of us have struggled with self-worth for decades due to the names our parents called us.
Consider how the words lazy, ignoramus, chunky, chubby, klutz, idiot, loudmouth, stupid, brat and snot actually harm the child’s psyche that grows up with such labels. Some narc parents never stopped calling their children names. Even in adulthood, they just use more sophisticated names like selfish, irresponsible, inconsiderate, ignorant and loser.
We don’t label our parents narcissists because we wanted to get even with them for calling us names–remember most ACONs** are the empathetic ones in the family and most don’t even want to hurt even an abusive parent. Calling someone a narcissistic is not a gut response or an attempt to get even–it is simply piece of the puzzle to our ruined relationship with the narc parent for years.
Adult Children of Narcissists is the term we use to recognize other people who have been through what we have endured. While it’s a name we call ourselves, it reflects negatively on our parents, but it also gives us a way to find other people suffering from the same issues who can provide us with support. Avoiding such labels would only isolate the survivors. Most ACONS have lived lives of secrets and isolation due to the control of narc parents, so it’s time to step out into the light.
For some people the only way to healing is to name it and claim it. Calling someone a narcissist is not name calling, it’s simply recognizing a chain of symptoms that can only be described as narcissism. There is no shame in calling a rose a rose. Just as Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” a narc by any other name would stink the same.
* Check out the Empathy Trap Book to learn more about the empathetic, apathetic and narcissistic triad.
**Adult Children of Narcissists