Life Advice



Barton Goldsmith: Filling the void of a narcissistic parent

Barton Goldsmith, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

I have had very positive female support in my life, but the real truth is that my mother was a narcissist and was incapable of loving me. In fact, she really disliked me from the moment I was born, because I was a Taurus and so was the guy who left her at the altar (not my dad). I got all that negative projection from the day they brought me home. And it’s not because I was adopted and she never had that bond a woman gets from carrying a child. She was kind to my sister, who was also adopted. The truth was that she didn’t want to bond with me, and she let me know it every chance she got. That’s what a narcissistic parent does.

I’m still here, thriving by most people’s standards, but almost always feeling that something is missing. I know I’m not alone. Many children suffer from parental neglect. It’s a form of child abuse, and the effects can last a lifetime. Everyone is different, but those who have had to go through this usually process it for a very long time. It’s important to realize that filling the void of a narcissistic parent, while not your fault, is your responsibility.

I don’t feel sorry for myself. I have lived a good life, gotten help when I needed it, and been able to help others. I may not have gone into the psychology profession if not for surviving my difficult past. This lack of love early on led to a lifelong search for meaning.

In an aha moment, I realized that all my research and experience has led me to one conclusion: without family, your life is going to be a lot harder and a lot less fulfilling. Maybe that’s why I fight so hard to keep families together as well as work hard to keep my own relationship on a positive track.

When you don’t have parental support, your sense of the world gets distorted, and you can’t help but think, “What the hell did I do, and what is wrong with me?” A child will blame himself when all he gets is rejection from the person who is supposed to nurture him the most.


Every child who has gone through this handles it differently. Children sometimes blame themselves, which lowers their self-esteem and makes them perfect targets for emotional and financial predators when they become adults. Others push it down and channel their pain into their work or sometimes their addictions.

Most don’t seek revenge. Instead, most of us crave connection, and sometimes we don’t make the best choices, which just complicates an already complicated life. This is not something that can be ignored, because eventually the pain will come out in ways you don’t understand or expect. It is never an easy path to walk, but you can fill the void of a narcissistic parent by doing the best self-parenting and self-care that you can.

With some work and a good relationship, you can heal much of the pain from a parent’s neglect and abuse, but you do have to work on it. There are a few books, but self-help can only do so much in serious cases, so I do recommend therapy. It helped me and has helped many others. There are a lot of good therapists out there, so if you want to let go of this burden, make a call.

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