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with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

The Loyalty Bind of the Narcissist’s Child

The loyalty bind with a narcissist is different than other loyalty binds, in that it requires the individual involved with the narc to choose between the narcissist and herself.  And of course, when you’re the child of the narcissist it is no contest. The child will choose her parent’s desires every time.

One woman explained to her therapist when he asked her to visualize her abusive mother as a lion and put her in a cage. The therapist wanted his client to realize she could walk away safely from her mother, whom the client perceived as dangerous. What the therapist failed to comprehend was the plight of a narcissist’s child’s experience with regard to the loyalty bind.  This woman explained to the therapist, “As a child of a narcissist, I will get inside the cage with the lion.”

This grown “child” has been indoctrinated, brainwashed, conditioned, trained, and programmed to do whatever her parent wants – no questions asked.  She has learned well that she is to be loyal to her parent, for the price not to be is too great to pay. She has learned both through experience and observation.

If the parent hates someone, the child must also hate that person, for to have a relationship with the hated person will cause the narcissist great injury and the child knows how hurt her parent will feel if she is to continue to have a relationship with this great “enemy.”

Even if the child is completely befuddled by the war between the two, she must not dare venture anywhere near the “enemy camp.” After all, this would be very injurious to her parent.

The child already realizes she is responsible for her parent’s happiness and she also knows she hasn’t been successful at keeping her parent very happy overall. Why on earth would she add further injury to her already wounded parent?

Loyalty is life blood to a narcissist. While she does not understand or play by common interpersonal relationship rules, such as cooperation, reciprocity, collaboration, mutuality, or partnership, she does play by a set of pseudo-relationship rules; these include loyalty, respect, competition, and position.

These pseudo-relationship rules also include one other dimension – the double standard.  Loyalty and respect belong to the narcissist, as do winning and being in the superior position. The loyalty bind only goes one way as well – from the child to the narcissist.  The narcissist doesn’t have to play by the same set of rules she requires of her children.

Of course, the narcissist’s child doesn’t require her parent to be loyal to her; nor does she gather enemies or people for her parent to hate in order to prove her loyalty.  The narcissist’s child does not require loyalty. She requires nothing. She’s not allowed to have personal wants and needs, let alone requirements.

Nor does the narcissist’s child require her parent to be responsible for her happiness.  In fact, the child doesn’t even think of terms of her “self.” Her vantage point always rests with her parent’s happiness (or lack thereof, which is more the reality.)

The loyalty bind applies to other narcissistic relationships as well. Everything goes swimmingly as long as the family, workplace, church, or otherwise involved system plays by the narcissist’s rules. But, all bets are off when a group member tends to veer off on the independent path, playing by his own set of rules.

In order to remain “safe” in a relationship with a narcissist it is recommended that you make sure you do not commit any loyalty infractions.

But, if you’re reading this article because you want to find a way out of this bind, you must do one thing, which is of utmost importance – you must GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to get out of the lion’s cage.


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The Loyalty Bind of the Narcissist’s Child

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


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APA Reference
Stines, S. (2017). The Loyalty Bind of the Narcissist’s Child. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from