Emotional detachment is possible.
About a year ago, I was a wreck.
The phone would ring and I'd feel sick just thinking about my father on the other end of the line with the complaint de jour.
Before, there was the year when he kept having panic attacks disguised as heart attacks and spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital, requiring my attention.
I spent nearly every evening fuming and stewing about what he'd said, how he'd said it. I was furious, depressed, resentful and above all, trapped. Okay, I still feel trapped. But less so.
Reflecting on the past, trying to understand it, writing about all of it and learning that others have had similar experiences, too, have done me a world of good.
I can actually have a terrible encounter with my father, then forget about it ten minutes later.
"He's such an asshole," I'll say, then go back to whatever it was I was doing.
Now, I won't even bother describing, in great detail, to my husband what awful thing just happened. Because I don't want to let my father ruin a perfectly good meal or movie or time with my husband or daughters.
I managed to accomplish this with a great deal of PRACTICE.
Stewing and fuming, I'd concluded, had got out of control.
So I started with small chunks of time. I would force myself NOT to think about my narcissistic father. After a bad encounter, I'd let myself FEEL. I'd get angry or sad and sit with it for a while, respecting my feelings, but not allowing them to completely control me. Then I'd say, that's enough stewing. Time to move on.
I've also become better at anticipating problems and taking precautionary measures.
For example, my narcissistic father was winding up for mother's day. A week before, he started calling me daily to wish me happy mother's day. With each call, he'd become more maudlin...saying what a wonderful mother I was to my daughters, but that HE'D never had that kind of childhood because his mother had allowed his father to beat him. HE'D been a latchkey kid. And on and on. So I knew, for sure, that his attempt to take the spotlight (again) would be upsetting and triggering, so I asked my husband to answer the phone that day. I also didn't call my father on Saturday, the day before, just in case. I was able to have a lovely mother's day with my daughters...at the horse races!....without letting my father ruin it.
I'd allowed him to ruin so many important occasions: going away to college (first weekend spent at hospital w/hypochondriacal father); birth of first child (trip to hospital due to his "bad" back); birth of second child (taking care of mother w/Alzheimers b/c father hadn't told me about her illness).
No matter the occasion, I was never allowed to enjoy it. To be in the moment. My father always had some problem or drama that required my attention and involvement.
But it's soooo much better now.
I'm not nearly the quivering mass of spineless jelly that I was a year ago.
And I'm REALLY glad I'm doing this while my father is still alive.
I'd like to end with a comment left by Anonymous Bob...which made me think about this subject in the first place:
"if I was to wait for my mother and father to die before I could have a good life or start working with myself I would be giving my parents power over my destiny. I would continue to be at their mercy like I was when I was a kid. Why should they control how I feel? Isn't this what we're trying to get out of - our parents controling our lives? When we were children we had no choice, but when we're older we can say "no, I will no longer let my parents control me".