Going "No Contact" with your Narcissistic Parent: Good or Bad? (1)
By: Beth McHugh 2010
The act of going no contact, (or NC as it is commonly referred to by therapists and clients alike) with a narcissistic parent is one that crops up often during the therapeutic process.
Often people ask me "Should I go no contact with my narcissistic parent?" This is not a question that I can ethically answer, since all decisions in therapy, no matter of what nature, need to be made by the client themselves.
This doesn't mean that the scenario of going NC cannot be discussed. In particular, the pros and cons of going NC, which vary from client to client.
For some clients, in fact the majority, the option of going no contact is not a viable one. The circumstances surrounding the adult child of the narcissist and the narcissist themselves may make going no contact an impossible task for the client concerned.
Many adult children of narcissists go no contact after a particularly nasty argument. Because the anger level is high, it is relatively easy to detach and decide never to contact the parent again. This period may last for several days or weeks, sometimes months. However, if there are unresolved issues, and there always are in a case where a rapid decision has been made, it becomes increasingly difficult for the narcissistic victim to stay away from the parent. Only adult children of dysfunctional families would understand the seemingly nonsensical nature of this behavior. Nevertheless, it is both true and common.
Because the primary pain for the adult child is a lack of love, this decision to stop contact cannot be sustained because it is impossible to maintain the rage forever. Once the rage dissipates the longing for contact returns and so the victim can find themselves in an endless cycle of being in and out of contact with the narcissistic parent. And of course, each time the adult child returns to the parent, there must be an apology of sorts, an appeasement gesture of a kind in order to be allowed back into the fold and for the anxiety of the victim to be reduced. There is a brief feeling that all will be well and so is it -- for a while.
But sooner rather than later, the old dance between parent and child begins again,. The feelings of being used, unappreciated and unloved rise and the problems begin again.
In the next article in this series we will look at what makes it possible to go no contact without the problems that frequently accompany this decision.