10 Traits of a Narcissistic Father (as seen in The Sopranos)
A narcissistic father is different from a narcissistic mother in the sense that, he creates less emotional damage. A narcissistic mother is deeply destructive to the child’s mental and emotional health.
Every child’s emotional stability depends on his mother’s emotional and physical presence. However, if the father is absent from the child’s life but the mother is present and gives him extra care and nurture, the child might grow up with a better confidence.
Some of my friends had narcissistic fathers growing up and I gotta say, they’re better off than I am. I see that they struggle with the same things I struggle however, their attitude is much better. They were encouraged and supported by their nurturing mother and, in a sense this balanced the situation.
However, having an absent or abusive father is no better than not having a father at all. Nothing can justify abuse and it’s better to live without it than with it.
A narcissistic father can very well behave like Tony Soprano in ‘The Sopranos’ or just be his exact opposite: really nice & charitable on the outside but violent& selfish on the inside.
Tony Soprano is a well-known New Jersey mobster portrayed on screen by James Gandolfini. Created by David Chase, ‘The Sopranos’ is an intricated story about the psychology of a sociopathic Mafia boss who’s diagnosed with panic disorder.
David Chase broached such important topics in his award-winning show like: narcissism and sociopathy, dysfunctional family, mental illnesses like depression and anxiety that just don’t go away with pills, the stigma of psychotherapy and mental illness, homosexuality and homophobia, infidelity and so on.
It´s interesting to know the reason why Chase chose to write about narcissistic personality disorder in ‘The Sopranos’. In an interview for Vanity Fair he declared that his own mother exhibited the signs of NPD and, because he couldn’t make sense of the disorder, he decided to make a show about it.
Yeah, David but what about those who have a sociopathic mother or father and don’t have your brilliant genius to create Tony Sopranos and Jennifer Melfis? you might ask. How do we cope with our own dysfunctional caretakers?
First, we need to recognize what we are dealing with. Having a narcissistic father might be obvious for some. However, others with covert narcissistic fathers will have trouble identifying the traits. We know that covert narcissism is very hard to spot due to the nice guy façade the male narcissist is putting on to impress others.
Here are few signs of a narcissistic father as seen in ‘The Sopranos’.
(And, if you haven’t watched the show, what are you waiting for? The therapy sessions between Tony and Jennifer Melfi are eye-opening for anyone struggling with panic disorder and toxic family members.)
1. He is self-centered and vain
Tony Soprano used to pride himself on owning huge villas, big cars, 3000-dollar-coffee makers, luxurious prostitutes and much more.
He also liked to give expensive gifts to his secret girlfriends to lure them into a relationship with him. Gift-giving is a popular manipulation trick used by a narcissist to charm the ‘victim’. Instead of giving his emotions, support, thoughts and feelings to his loved ones, the narcissist gives expensive objects to show his importance.
2. He lacks empathy
See the image below? That’s one of the scariest crime committed by Tony (he committed others more cruel than this, yet I remember this one more vividly). When I was watching this I couldn’t believe that people like Tony actually exist (he was watching his victim die). A chronic lack of empathy is I believe the trademark of narcissistic personality disorder. If you really want to find out if your father is a narcissist, observe his empathy.
Does he say Yes when his friends are in trouble and need help? Is helping someone something he does to feel good or to gain attention and praise?
If you’re sick is your father concerned about you or is he just brushing your symptoms under the rug, assuming you’re faking it? If your father says he cares but doesn’t show it, he probably pretends to be empathetic to keep you close.
3. His rage is scary (sometimes even dangerous)
When a narcissist fights, he fights dirty. He’ll put you down, call you names, manipulate you into thinking you’re in a certain way (when you aren’t), and even humiliate you in front of other people. Put downs during fights are common weapons used by narcissists because, if you’re at the end of the abuse, you’ll have little power to fight back.
The goal of a narcissist during a fight is to win. Remember that nothing tickles the narcissist’s ego more than winning and being better than his opponent.
In ‘The Sopranos’, Tony loved to bend over the victims and be so close to them that he’d breathe in their face. As if he wanted to suck the life out of his opponent with his threatening presence. Scary!
4. Other people’s opinion matter more
If your father is more concerned with what his boss or friends think of him than with what you, his adult child thinks he might be a narcissist.
5. Emotional unavailability and aloofness
Tony was rarely emotionally available for his daughter, Meadow and his son, A.J. Even though he was the man who brought home the bacon, while Carmela was in charge of the household, he didn’t make the slightest effort to bond with his own children.
As a result, A.J developed depression (after suffering through a series of panic attacks) while Meadow buried herself in her work and career.
Psychologist Mark Banschick says that, even though a narcissistic father might satisfy all the material needs of a child, he can deprive him of the most basic needs. A narcissistic father would give attention to his children only when it worked for him (and that would rarely happen).
If your father rarely gives you attention, he might not be interested in you. And, perhaps you’d be better off limiting the contact with him.
6. He uses people for his own good
Remember Irina, Tony’s slightly younger and emotionally needy concubine?
Their whole relationship was based on the fact that Tony needed his gumar to satisfy secret urges and have fun on the side. Not even once he paused to think how the relationship with Irina would affect Irina (who ended up falling in love with him and cutting her own wrists when Tony broke off the affair).
Narcissistic men rarely think of how their own actions affect those close to them. As a result, they engage in affairs that destroy families and spread jealousy and resentment around.
7. He hates criticism
If your father can’t take criticism well and snaps at you each time you ask him to do something that’s not about him, he might have unhealthy narcissism. Banschick says, not only a narcissistic father can snap at others after receiving criticism but he can even plan to hurt them for daring to say something he didn’t like.
8. He leaves child rearing in the hands of the mother
A narcissistic father can’t handle the responsibilities that come with raising a child. He is not around much and, when home, he barely interacts with his children. If your father had little or no involvement in raising you, he might be emotionally unavailable or worse, he might have the emotional age of a toddler. Not everything in life is supposed to be easy and fun.
Raising children involves a great deal of duty, discomfort, dealing with bodily fluids and sicknesses that come and go. A narcissistic man is unaware of these challenges and will refuse to put up with so much ‘discomfort’.
9. He invalidates his children
How many times have we heard Tony Soprano mocking his son A.J and his moods? Quite a few.
A narcissistic father invalidates the emotions and moods that a child goes though. He is simply incapable of putting himself in someone else’s shoes.
10. You often did ‘dad stuff’ with him
Healthy parents often take an interest in their child’s activities even if they’re not excited about it. They go to football practice together, arrange piano lessons if that’s what the child wants or play Dungeons and Dragons together just to have some quality fun.
On the other hand, narcissistic fathers force their sons to do dad stuff together. They may want their kids to watch his type of movies or go fishing because it’s their favorite pastime. But they never do ‘kids stuff’.
If your father had some of the above traits, he might have an unhealthy dose of narcissism. Check out my previous article on how to set healthy boundaries and learn to become more assertive in front of him.
In the case you decide to go no contact with your narcissistic father, I suggest you ask the help of a therapist or a support group. No Contact is a good boundary to have with an abusive parent but it has its challenges. Don’t go at it alone.
Did you have a narcissistic father growing up? Leave a comment below.