5 Superpowers of Adult Children of Narcissists
By Amy Marlow-MaCoy, LPC – THANK YOU AMY!!
“You are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know.”
-Antiope to Diana, Wonder Woman (2017)
If you can believe it, there was a time that young Diana of Themyscira did not know that she was a badass half-goddess Amazon warrior princess.
In her early years, Diana was raised to believe that she was a normal Amazon, no more special or important than the next woman. When she learned the truth, she was able to come into her true power and embrace her identity as Wonder Woman.
When she learned who she was, Diana faced a choice: see the world as a hopelessly broken place, or fight for the chance for a better tomorrow. Her perception of the world as a place worth saving made all the difference in her journey as a heroine.
Perception is a powerful thing. If there is one thing that strikes me over and over again when I work with adult children of narcissists, it is that so often the strengths and skills they’ve developed are seen as flaws or weaknesses.
Many superheroes have a difficult backstory that shapes the abilities which set them apart, but tragic pasts and unique powers aren’t only found in comic books. Instead of being the damaged victim of an abusive environment, let your past be the origin story for how you gained your unique set of superpowers.
Let’s take a look at 5 superpowers that adult children of narcissists develop to survive and thrive!Click Here for Additional Support 🙂
1. Super Senses: Being able to feel the vibes in any room
Where have I seen this before? The Amazing Spider-Man.
One of Spider-Man’s signature skills is the “Spidey Sense” – an instinct that lets him know when trouble is coming. Adult children of narcissists often develop their own version of this ability by learning to “read the room.” Tuning in to your Spidey Sense allows you to sense how your narcissist is feeling so you can prepare yourself to respond. This is both a necessary survival skill AND a rare and unique talent!
The Spidey Sense can also come in handy in learning to read the moods of others in your life, including authority figures, romantic partners, and other close family members. Being able to read the room may make a new mother more sensitive to her infant’s nonverbal cues. It can help a husband notice when his partner needs some extra support. The upgraded version of this talent is learning to turn that sense inward, to sense and respond to your own needs. Don’t miss out on leveling up in this important skill!
How can your Spidey Sense help you tune in to what you need?
2. Super Strength: You are a tough cookie and a true survivor
Where have I seen this before? Jessica Jones and Wolverine.
Jessica Jones is in many ways the poster child for adult children of narcissists. Her super strength and traumatic backstory make her a desirable target for her narcissistic nemesis, Killgrave. Killgrave uses his powers of mind control to make Jessica believe that they love each other. He then manipulates her to do his bidding. Even after she breaks free of his influence, he continues trying to regain control of her.
Although she exits the relationship with a sizable load of depression, anger, paranoia, and alcoholism, Jessica also brings with her a tremendous amount of strength – physical and mental. Once she sees through Killgrave’s manipulation, she resists him despite the personal cost to herself. She is the definition of a survivor. Similarly, mutant Wolverine is lied to and manipulated by a military leader who experiments on him to turn him into a living weapon. Wolverine suffers physical and emotional pain, but his remarkable healing ability helps him continue to fight on no matter what.
Adult children of narcissists are a strong bunch. It is easy to underestimate or overlook that strength when you are too focused on your flaws or how growing up with a narcissist damaged you – but don’t forget that you’re still standing because you are strong and resilient. You have come through fire and you are still standing. Scars and bruises don’t mean you failed or that you lost your fight. They mean you are still fighting.
How can you honor your strength and resiliency as a survivor?
3. Super Adaptability: Going with the flow as an art form
Where have I seen this before? Black Widow, Loki, and Mystique.
Here are two ladies who define adaptability: the Russian spy/assassin and sometime Avenger, and the mutant who can literally change her shape to look like someone else. Both women, in their separate worlds, have been through painful experiences that taught them to bend so they wouldn’t break. Black Widow was trained to be able to fit in to any environment and respond to any and every situation. Like God of Mischief Loki, Mystique uses her shape-shifting mutation to infiltrate enemy camps or to meet her own needs for connection, power, and companionship.
Adult children of narcissists often develop a talent for being whoever or whatever a situation (or relationship) calls for. In the short run, it is easier to meet expectations than to risk rejection by holding your ground. It is another survival strategy that allows you to minimize confrontation or choose when and how to confront a difficult person. It can make you easy to get along with among your friends.
One challenge that this skill brings with it, however, is that being too adaptable can make it hard to keep sight of who you are and what you want. Making decisions can be a nightmare when you’re so focused on how someone else will respond that you forget to factor in your own feelings about it. Or when you don’t know how you feel, because you’re not used to being You.
How can you stay true to yourself while making wise choices about how to engage in difficult relationships?
4. Super Protector: Taking the bullet to save someone else
Where have I seen this before? Luke Cage and Captain America.
Luke Cage is a superhero built around a unique combination: bulletproof skin and a propensity for making himself a human shield to protect those around him. He is reluctant to fight and only uses his super strength and fighting skills when he absolutely must, but willingly steps up to take bullets for the innocent (and sometimes the less innocent). He has a strong moral compass and a code of honor that requires him to protect others.
Similarly, Captain America is known for his sense of morality and his dedication to protecting the world from evil. Although he is not bulletproof, he will put himself between innocents and evildoers without hesitation. His shield is more literal than Cage’s, but he uses it for the same goal: Protect the innocent.
Adult children of narcissists – and partners of narcissists – often develop a strong desire for justice in the world. In narcissistic relationships, this desire for justice may translate to falling on your sword to protect someone else. A mother protecting her children’s perception of their father by not telling them about his verbal abuse is one example. A man volunteering to take the blame for his little brother’s error to protect him from their mother’s wrath is another. But even bulletproof people can still be hurt when they take on too much.
How can you support your loved ones without sacrificing yourself into oblivion?
5. Super Truth Seeker: Finding the truth through the rest
Where have I seen this before? Wonder Woman, Superman, Daredevil, and every telepathic hero ever created.
Superman and Daredevil can both determine if someone is lying by tuning in to the other person’s heartbeat. Jean Gray and Professor Xavier can read minds to determine if someone is being honest. With the Lasso of Truth, Wonder Woman can compel anyone in contact with the lasso to tell the truth. Imagine having that ability in real life! There is something very desirable about being able to instantly and without question know that what you are hearing is true, particularly when you have grown up or been involved in relationships where truth was a moving goalpost.
Growing up in a narcissistic home is akin to growing up in thick fog. You may be able to see shapes through the clouds, but if you don’t learn how to see clearly you will run into a tree you didn’t know was there. Adult children of narcissists often develop this important and underrated skill, although you may not give yourself much credit for it. Being able to see through gaslighting, veiled insults, backhanded compliments, and dismissive invalidation is both a gift and a challenge. When you can see what no one else can, you can become the odd man out, and be left to figure out how to proceed with little or no support. It also requires you to trust your intuition – something many adult children of narcissists find difficult.
How can you support yourself in seeking truth and trusting your intuition?
Every superhero has an origin story that influences the strengths they develop and the choices they make. Maybe your childhood is yours. Remember this: origin stories are only the beginning. The choices you make every day determine your path just as much as – if not more than – the past you carry with you.
Amy Marlow-MaCoy is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in Jenkintown, PA. Amy specializes in supporting adult children of narcissists in developing self-confidence and healing from the pain of the past. For more nerdy references, check out Amy’s blog and sign up to receive weekly articles in your inbox! Learn more about Amy’s practice and sign up for her blog at www.amymarlowmacoy.com.
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