So this meme is circulating on Facebook. It brings very divisive reactions. Some people think it’s great, and that all adults should take full responsibility for everything that happens to them. I think that, while the idea is good–that of being accountable for your choices–the meme is completely wrong and ignorant for children of narcissistic abusers.
Because there is a whole slew of studies showing how our childhoods affect us in the long-term. Bullying, abuse, neglect, trauma, you name it, all have life-long effects. One recent study showed that neglected and emotionally abused girls are far more likely to grow up to have chronic headaches, other studies have shown that childhood abuse leads to other health problems. Everything we are as adults is influenced by everything that has happened to us in our pasts. If all of these things are still affecting our adult health, doesn’t it follow that they also affect the way we have learned to live as well as our decisions?
Furthermore, if you look at research about the causes of many mental health disorders and personality disorders, you will find that they are caused by a mixture of genetics and environment. If parents can create a narcissist, doesn’t that mean they can screw up or positively influence their kids in other ways as well? We know that statistically children of single mothers are more likely to have social problems while children of married parents or wealthy parents already have a better start in life. Do kids choose this reality? No. Some people are born into easier situations while others have far more to overcome.
Psychologists know that many children of abusive parents grow up to date and marry more abusers. There’s a reason that children of abuse are more likely to get into more abusive relationships. (I read a while back that 44% of crimes happen to 4% of people because abusers can recognize a previous victim so easily!) Once you’ve been abused, predators are drawn to you. You don’t choose to be a narcissist magnet! You don’t purposely look to be abused. You just live what you know to be normal. People who marry abusers aren’t looking to be abused. They are only doing and accepting what they know to be normal. They may be making their own choices, but they aren’t fully-informed choices.
There is nothing in our lives that wasn’t shaped or biased by our previous experiences, even if we aren’t conscious of it. Many people go for years or even life just repeating the *only* way they know how to live–which is what they learned from their parents. How can you make different decisions if you don’t know something is wrong or what is wrong? Education is something that comes to us; it isn’t something we are born with. Many of us do get into more relationships with narcissists before we realize what’s going on. I don’t think we should be victim blamed and shamed for making uninformed or naive decisions.