(2) The affection stopped once daughters reached puberty or it may have overstepped boundaries. It is common for parents and teenagers to be engaged in a power struggle especially when it comes to the teenager dating or entering relationships. Yet with a narcissistic father, the devaluation is excessive and immense during this stage.
This is especially true if there was idealization (putting you on a pedestal, doting on you) involved in the beginning. Perhaps your father did show affection and care towards you when you were a toddler or a young child because you were easier to control. However, the tender hugs right after he came home from work or the sweet praise may have come to an abrupt halt as you reached puberty and he found himself confronting a teenager who was not as easy policed.
For some daughters, affection was never present at all; the narcissistic father may have refused to touch or even care for the infant child and emotionally neglected the daughter throughout her life span.
Perhaps the narcissistic father chose one daughter as a golden child to spoil and dote upon, while assigning another daughter the role of the scapegoat, barely interacting with her at all, or even going so far as to shun her from his attention altogether.
Affection or no affection, the narcissistic father’s lack of boundaries can take a disturbing turn. As some daughters of narcissistic fathers can attest to, becoming aware of one’s sexuality and entering relationships can be a huge ‘trigger’ for the narcissistic father’s need to micromanage his children.
The narcissistic father believes he ‘owns’ his children and your burgeoning sense of independence – as well as your interactions with those who challenge his power and authority – can cause him severe narcissistic injury and rage.
To the narcissistic father, no one is ‘good enough’ for his ‘little girl’ but this belief has even deeper and darker implications – he has a need to ensure that his daughter stays in a state of perpetual childhood so that she is easier to control.
Her sexuality and interest in boys (or girls) as an adolescent challenges this and compels him to police and shame her in unhealthy ways. He may have instilled in his daughter an overreliance on his approval that can be difficult to extricate from.
The narcissistic father may have engaged in covert emotional incest that ‘parentified’ his daughter so that she felt that he was the only ‘partner’ she could turn to (Weiss, 2015). If he struggled with addiction issues, he may have assigned her the role of caretaker or even more disturbingly, in the absence of a mother in the household, a surrogate ‘wife’ figure.
He may have substituted emotional connection with financial ‘generosity’ and control, teaching her that in order to be loved she had to also be ‘bought’ – and that, whoever did ‘purchase’ her was entitled to her.
Or, if he had a son, he may have bragged about his sexual exploits and taught his son to follow in his footsteps while holding a sexual double standard for his daughter, who he demanded be kept sexually ‘pure.’
There are many ways that this form of sexual micromanaging can manifest, but rest assured: all of them can deplete the child a sense of security and independence when growing up.
According to Dr. Karyl McBride (2011), in the most extreme scenarios, a malignant narcissistic father can even cross over to sexual abuse and violence. This is because narcissistic fathers have no boundaries in the ways they see their children. They see them as objects to fulfill their needs, as extensions of themselves, rather than individual human beings.
By degrading or devaluing them sexually, they maintain control over their daughters (or their sons) in ways that are damaging beyond words.
How to deal:
Track the journey from idealization to devaluation. Was there a certain point where your narcissistic father stopped idealizing you or was there always devaluation and abuse? Learning the ‘trigger point’ can be helpful to reducing the cognitive dissonance that arises when we’ve been raised by these types of toxic individuals.
As we identify that the point when we were devalued was also when we were becoming independent of the narcissistic parent, we understand that it was not our fault in any shape or form.
We may have felt ashamed or even engaged in self-blame as a result of the abuse, without realizing that this had more to do with the toxic parent’s deficiencies and malignant traits rather than any of our own perceived shortcomings.
Recognize faulty and negative feedback as attempts to control you. It’s helpful to begin to deconstruct and reframe any criticism we received during this time as illegitimate nonsense meant to keep us from becoming our authentic selves and from establishing relationships that would have facilitated our transition into adulthood.
Replace negative feedback and distortions with healthier self-talk – harness the power of positive affirmations, pattern ‘interrupting’ thoughts and behaviors that redirect you from your inner critic, and remodel the ways you’ve been speaking to yourself (Martin, 2016; Roe, 2015). Bring the power and agency back to you.
Gain mastery over your body and sexual agency. As daughters of narcissistic fathers, our sexuality may have been stifled, eroded or misused to serve the narcissistic father’s needs. It’s time to regain mastery over our bodies and our sexuality.
Some ways of doing this might include:
reconnecting with a spiritual sense of sexuality that enables us to see our sexuality as sacred rather than shameful
experimenting with self-pleasure and/or greater emotional intimacy in our relationships to increase feelings of safety and trust
working with a trauma-informed counselor to unravel any deep-seated core beliefs or triggers that may be holding us back from embracing our sexuality and finding fulfillment in physical intimacy.
Narcissistic fathers work hard to maintain power and control over their daughters. It is essential that daughters of toxic parents take their power back, emotionally, financially, sexually, and psychologically on the journey to healing.
HealthyPlace (2017). Positive Sex Play for Sexual Abuse Survivors – Abuse – Sex. Retrieved May 19, 2017, from https://www.healthyplace.com/sex/abuse/positive-sex-play-for-sexual-abuse-survivors/
Martin, B. (2016, July 17). Challenging Negative Self-Talk. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/challenging-negative-self-talk/
McBride, K. (2011, March 25). Child Sexual Abuse and Narcissism. Retrieved May 19, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201103/child-sexual-abuse-and-narcissism
McBride, K. (2013). Will I ever be good enough?: Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers. New York: Atria Paperback.
Piatt, J. (2016, February 28). 11 Steps To Sacred Sex. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-23995/11-steps-to-sacred-sex.html
Roe, H. (2015, September 03). Why a pattern interrupt is just what you need. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helen-roe/why-a-pattern-interrupt-i_b_8075800.html
Weiss, R. (2015, October 13). Understanding Covert Incest: An Interview with Kenneth Adams. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-and-sex-in-the-digital-age/201510/understanding-covert-incest-interview-kenneth-adams
This is a five-part series which will feature five common obstacles daughters of narcissistic fathers encounter on their journey to healing and how to heal.
This is part 2. Look for Part 1 here and watch out for Part 3 of the series, coming soon.
Daddy Issues: How Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers Can Cope (Part 2)