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How Narcissistic Parent Impacts Young Adult Mental Health

Unseen Scars: The Dire Impact of Narcissist Parents on Young Adults

How Narcissistic Parent Impacts Young Adult Mental Health by Som Dutt

Parenting is a complex and challenging endeavor that shapes the lives of children significantly. However, when a parent suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), it complicates the family dynamic and often leaves a lasting impact on a young adult’s mental health. 

Narcissistic parents tend to prioritize their own needs, exhibit a lack of empathy, and manipulate others for personal gain. This article will explore the effects of narcissistic parenting, its impact on the mental health of young adults, and strategies for overcoming these challenges.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the traits and characteristics of narcissistic parents can help young adults recognize how they may have been impacted by narcissistic parenting patterns.
  • Children of narcissistic parents often experience emotional neglect, manipulation, and invalidation, leading to long-term consequences on their mental health.
  • Recognizing the signs of narcissistic parental influence is critical for young adults seeking help, healing, and coping with their experiences.
  • Breaking the cycle of narcissistic parenting is essential to prevent the transmission of toxic parenting practices to future generations.
  • Young adults can build resilience and positive mental health by developing strategies to navigate relationships with their narcissistic parents and seeking support from peers, professionals, and support networks.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Parents

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental health condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. 

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These traits can significantly impact the parenting techniques and priorities of individuals affected, leading to a range of Narcissistic Parent Characteristics that may have negative consequences for their offspring.

Key NPD traits that often manifest in parenting behaviors include:

  • Believing they are always right and disregarding the thoughts or feelings of other family members
  • Constantly seeking praise and validation, often at the expense of their child’s needs
  • Becoming easily jealous or threatened when their child shows signs of success or independence
  • Manipulating and controlling their children to maintain power and control over them

Individuals with NPD may also struggle to maintain healthy relationships with their children due to their inability to express or receive genuine empathy. This deficiency can result in poor communication and emotional connection, creating significant stress within the parent-child bond.

“So often victims end up unnecessarily prolonging their abuse because they buy into the notion that their abuser must be coming from a wounded place and that only patient love and tolerance (and lots of misguided therapy) will help them heal.”
― George K. Simon

The presence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in a parent can profoundly impact family dynamics, as children raised in such households often endure emotional and psychological challenges. These experiences may include excessive criticism, conditional love, and a constant demand for absolute devotion from their narcissistic parent.

The Dynamics of Growing Up with a Narcissistic Parent

Children who grow up with a narcissistic parent often face numerous emotional and psychological challenges. They are subjected to a complex environment marked by childhood trauma, psychological abuse, emotional neglect, and a chaotic family system. The influence of a narcissistic parent can have long-lasting effects on the mental health of children as they transition into their adult years.

Manipulation is a common technique used by narcissistic parents to control their children and ensure their own needs are met, often at the expense of their child’s emotional well-being. Manipulative behaviors can include guilt-tripping, lying, and offering conditional love or affection. As a result, children may develop a distorted sense of self-worth and become overly reliant on their parent’s approval for validation.

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Gaslighting is another tactic used by narcissistic parents to undermine their child’s reality and instill self-doubt. Through constant belittling and questioning of their child’s perceptions, the narcissistic parent creates confusion and insecurity within the child. Over time, this can lead to a profound sense of helplessness and an inability to trust one’s own instincts and perceptions.

“When we meet and fall into the gravitational pull of a narcissist, we are entering a significant life lesson that involves learning how to create boundaries, self-respect, and resilience. Through trial and error (and a lot of pain), our connection with narcissists teaches us the necessary lessons we need to become mature empaths.”
― Mateo Sol

One of the most damaging aspects of growing up with a narcissistic parent is emotional neglect. Narcissists typically lack empathy and are primarily focused on their own needs, making it difficult for them to provide genuine emotional support to their children. This can leave children feeling isolated and invalidated, unsure of how to express their emotions or form meaningful connections with others.

The narcissistic parent influence often extends to the entire family system. Siblings may be pitted against each other through favoritism, fostering an atmosphere of competition rather than support and cooperation. 

Furthermore, the other non-narcissistic parent may be rendered incapable of providing adequate emotional support to the children, as they are typically focused on managing the dysfunctional relationship with the narcissistic spouse.

Signs of Narcissistic Parental Influence

Identifying the effects of a narcissistic parent on a child’s psychological development is crucial in understanding the complex relationships within the family. 

Parental Manipulation is a tactic used by a narcissistic parent to maintain control over their child by distorting their perception and emotions. It can manifest in various ways, leading to feelings of confusion, guilt, and self-doubt in the child. Typical signs of parental manipulation include:

  • Using guilt trips to coerce the child into meeting their unreasonable demands.
  • Blaming the child for the parent’s own failures or shortcomings.
  • Creating an environment where the child constantly seeks approval and validation.
  • Isolating the child from friends, family, or support networks.
  • Projection of their own negative traits or failures onto the child.

Gaslighting is another prominent sign of a narcissistic parent’s insidious influence, wherein they intentionally distort their child’s reality. The primary objective is to manipulate the child’s perceptions and invalidate their experiences or emotions. Common indications of gaslighting include:

  • Denying or dismissing the child’s feelings, thoughts, and memories.
  • Planting doubt in the child’s mind about their sanity or judgment.
  • Withholding information or lying to create confusion and self-doubt.
  • Manipulating the child to question their perception of significant events or conversations.
  • Using confusion and uncertainty as a means of control.

Emotional Impact on Young Adults with Narcissistic Parents

Young adults who grew up with narcissistic parents often experience a range of emotional challenges that affect their mental well-being in adulthood. Experiences, such as emotional invalidation, lack of empathy, and narcissistic rage, can significantly impact their emotional health and relationships with others.

Emotional Invalidation

One of the primary tactics employed by narcissistic parents is emotional invalidation. It can manifest in several ways, including dismissing their child’s feelings, minimizing their achievements, or criticizing them excessively. As children, young adults were likely subjected to a consistent pattern of having their emotions dismissed or invalidated, leading to a host of emotional challenges and difficulties in establishing stable relationships as they become adults.

“Playing the victim role: Manipulator portrays him- or herself as a victim of circumstance or of someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. Caring and conscientious people cannot stand to see anyone suffering and the manipulator often finds it easy to play on sympathy to get cooperation.”
― George K. Simon

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Lack of Empathy

Narcissistic parents often exhibit a lack of empathy and genuine concern for their children’s emotional needs. This emotional neglect can leave deep wounds that persist into adulthood, leading young adults to question their self-worth and struggle to form healthy relationships. As young adults, they may find it challenging to express their emotions or allow others in their lives to be vulnerable.

“It is no accident that narcissists and altruists often have a magnetic attraction to one another. Can you see how perfect the fit is? The altruistic feels the need to selflessly serve others and this is just what the narcissist wants. Narcissists want to be worshipped and gratified in every way possible, and this is just what altruists offer, thinking it demonstrates their moral virtue.”
― Ellen Kenner

Narcissistic Rage

Another defining characteristic of narcissistic parents is their tendency to experience narcissistic rage. It occurs when their sense of entitlement, vanity, or self-centeredness is threatened. Narcissistic rage can result in verbal or emotional abuse towards their children, leaving a lasting impact on their young adult mental health. 

Growing up in such an environment, young adults may become anxious, depressed, or even experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The long-term emotional consequences for young adults who were raised by narcissistic parents cannot be understated. By understanding the impact of emotional invalidation, lack of empathy, and narcissistic rage, young adults can begin to heal from their experiences and move forward in life to cultivate healthy relationships and positive mental health.

Long-term Consequences of Narcissistic Abuse on Mental Health

Exposure to narcissistic abuse and toxic parenting can have lasting effects on a person’s mental health and overall well-being. 

Depression is a common consequence of narcissistic abuse. Narcissistic parents often subject their children to emotional invalidation, neglect, and a constant need for approval. Over time, this can lead to feelings of worthlessness and chronic sadness, which may develop into depression in adulthood. 

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Having difficulty forming healthy relationships, experiencing guilt, and harboring a negative self-image are frequent outcomes of prolonged exposure to toxic parenting.

Anxiety disorders may also result from narcissistic abuse. Toxic parenting often involves manipulation, control, and emotional turmoil. As a result, children who grow up in such an environment may become hypersensitive to potential threats and develop anxiety disorders in adulthood. Social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, and performance anxiety are common manifestations of the long-term impact on mental health.

“Survivors have trouble communicating and may experience social anxiety and agoraphobia, the fear of open space and crowded places. The feeling of isolation stemming from the days of a relationship persists and people who dealt with a narcissist feel too vulnerable to expose themselves to the outer world, which is often followed by a state of paranoia and beliefs that people are evil and want to cause us harm. It is like a constant state of fight or flight.”
― Theresa J. Covert, The Covert Narcissist: Recognizing the Most Dangerous Subtle Form of Narcissism and Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships

The trauma from narcissistic parenting can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in some cases. PTSD can manifest in different ways, such as nightmares, flashbacks, or heightened emotional reactions to seemingly benign stimuli. In the case of adults who have suffered narcissistic abuse, PTSD symptoms may be triggered by experiences that remind them of their childhood.

Children who experience narcissistic abuse may also struggle with attachment issues in adulthood. Due to a lack of emotional stability and support in their upbringing, they may struggle to form healthy and secure attachments with others. This could result in a pattern of unstable and unhealthy relationships, further exacerbating their emotional distress and mental health problems.

Types of Narcissistic Parent Figures: Scapegoat vs. Golden Child

Narcissistic parenting patterns often involve assigning children specific roles within the family, the most recognizable of which are the golden child and the scapegoat.

At its core, parental favoritism plays a significant part in determining which role a child is assigned. It is not uncommon for a narcissistic parent to divide their children into these categories as a means to maintain control and manipulate familial relationships.

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The golden child is usually the one favored by the narcissistic parent. This individual is showered with praise and tends to enjoy better treatment compared to their siblings. Importantly, the golden child reinforces the narcissistic parent’s inflated sense of self, affirming the belief that they are infallible. Consequently, this child may grow up feeling entitled, less empathetic, and more focused on success at any cost.

“Coverts do have a grandiose sense of self, are preoccupied with fantasies of power, require excessive admiration, but they hide these attributes so people will like and trust them. They know if they are obvious about their self-absorbed traits, people won’t like them. They believe they are “special” and entitled, but they know it would turn people off to let that be known. They know they must appear humble to be liked and revered. They know how to play people, how to charm them. They are master manipulators. They don’t have empathy but have learned how to act empathetically. They will look you in the eyes, making you feel special and heard, make sounds and give looks that tell you they care, but they really don’t. They mirror your emotions, so it seems like they have empathy. They have observed and learned how to appear to care. They thrive upon the attention of others. People who think or act as if they are amazing are their energy supply. They have people around them who adore them, respect them, revere them, see them as special and almost perfect, and in some cases seem to worship them.”
― Debbie Mirza, The Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissist: Recognizing the Traits and Finding Healing After Hidden Emotional and Psychological Abuse

Contrastingly, the scapegoat is the child who bears the brunt of the narcissistic parent’s anger, frustration, and criticism. Often seen as the “black sheep” of the family, they are frequently subjected to verbal and emotional abuse. This role is assigned as a way for the narcissistic parent to project their unresolved issues or feelings of inadequacy onto the scapegoat, who must then carry that burden. As a result, the scapegoat often grows up with a deeply instilled sense of worthlessness and struggles with making emotional connections or feeling confident in their own abilities.

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It is essential to understand that these roles are not set in stone and can be interchangeable, depending on the narcissistic parent’s whims and current preferences. A child may easily shift, in the course of a day or a lifetime, from a golden child to a scapegoat or vice versa simply because the parent’s perception of each child evolves.

Ultimately, both the golden child and scapegoat are negatively impacted by this warped family dynamic, suffering emotional consequences that can persist into adulthood. In the quest for personal healing and healthier relationships, it is crucial for these individuals to recognize and confront these narcissistic parenting patterns and their effects on their self-worth and mental health.

Complexities of Parental Favoritism and Sibling Rivalry

Parental favoritism can have a profound impact on family dynamics, especially in narcissistic families. Sibling rivalry can result from the uneven distribution of love and attention, which may lead to long-lasting emotional scars on all members involved. 

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
― Edward Bernays, Propaganda

Narcissistic parents often use favoritism as a tool to control and manipulate their children. They may assign different roles to their offspring, such as the scapegoat or the golden child, which can cause divides and breed resentment among siblings. 

This divide-and-conquer strategy falls under the umbrella of narcissistic triangulation, a toxic tactic commonly employed by those with narcissistic personality disorder to maintain power and control within the family.

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In order to navigate these complex family dynamics, it is essential to recognize the signs of parental favoritism and triangulation within the household. Being aware of these patterns allows individuals to better understand their relationships with their siblings and parents, which can be a crucial step in fostering healthy emotional connections. Siblings should strive to maintain open lines of communication, discussing their experiences and feelings openly and honestly, without fear of judgment or retaliation.

One useful strategy in mitigating sibling rivalry in narcissistic families is fostering an environment of collaboration, not competition among siblings. Encouraging siblings to work together on shared projects or interests helps build empathy and understanding, even in the face of parental favoritism. Children of narcissistic parents should be encouraged to support each other emotionally and offer validation for their feelings and experiences, helping to build trust and foster a sense of unity amidst the turmoil.

“Abuse manipulates and twists a child’s natural sense of trust and love. Her innocent feelings are belittled or mocked and she learns to ignore her feelings. She can’t afford to feel the full range of feelings in her body while she’s being abused — pain, outrage, hate, vengeance, confusion, arousal. So she short-circuits them and goes numb. For many children, any expression of feelings, even a single tear, is cause for more severe abuse. Again, the only recourse is to shut down. Feelings go underground.”
― Laura Davis, Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child

Another critical aspect of navigating parental favoritism and sibling rivalry is setting healthy boundaries with narcissistic parents. This may involve limiting instances of emotionally manipulative behavior, setting clear expectations regarding communication, and maintaining self-care practices to cultivate emotional resilience. Siblings should also have each other’s backs when setting and enforcing these boundaries, presenting a unified front against potential manipulation or negative consequences.

Breaking the Cycle: Strategies for Healing from Narcissistic Parenting

Recovering from the effects of a narcissistic parent can be a difficult and ongoing process. However, with the right tools and support, it is possible to heal and move towards emotional autonomy. 

Therapy options

Professional help, such as therapy, can be invaluable in narcissistic parenting recovery. Mental health professionals can help you process your experiences, offer coping strategies, and address underlying issues related to self-esteem and relationships. Look for therapists with expertise in narcissistic abuse or family trauma to ensure they can provide the tailored support you need.

“The sadistic narcissist perceives himself as Godlike, ruthless and devoid of scruples, capricious and unfathomable, emotion-less and non-sexual, omniscient, omnipotent and omni-present, a plague, a devastation, an inescapable verdict.”
― Sam Vaknin

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Establishing healthy boundaries

Learning to set boundaries is vital for emotional healing and taking back control of your life. Setting clear limits on how you interact with your narcissistic parent or others who exhibit toxic behaviors can protect you from further emotional harm. This might involve limiting communication, refusing to engage in manipulative conversations, or even taking a break from the relationship if necessary.

Building self-esteem

One of the primary tactics used by narcissistic parents is undermining their child’s sense of self-worth. To counteract this, it’s essential to engage in activities that foster self-esteem and self-compassion. This could involve pursuing personal interests, developing supportive friendships, or seeking out positive role models who validate and encourage your growth.

Embracing emotional autonomy

Moving towards emotional independence is crucial for healing from a narcissistic parent. This process involves recognizing and addressing the patterns of codependency, approval-seeking, or emotional enmeshment that may have developed during childhood. Mindfulness practices, support groups, or therapy targeting codependency can be valuable tools for developing emotional autonomy.

Coping Mechanisms for Dealing with a Narcissistic Parent

For those who wish to maintain a relationship with their narcissistic parent, it’s important to develop effective coping mechanisms to alleviate the emotional and psychological challenges that may arise. This includes understanding how to set boundaries, avoid falling into codependency, and manage the limitations of a self-centered parent.

Setting Boundaries

Establishing clear boundaries is vital when dealing with narcissistic parents in order to protect your emotional well-being. By defining what behaviors are unacceptable, it becomes easier to communicate your needs to your parent and assert yourself when those boundaries are violated. It’s crucial to be consistent in maintaining these boundaries, even when they are challenged by the narcissist’s manipulation tactics.

Avoiding Codependency

Experiencing a codependent relationship with a narcissistic parent is common, as they often foster an unhealthy reliance on their adult children. In order to break free from this cycle of codependency, it’s important to prioritize your own emotional needs, learn to say no, and seek out supportive relationships outside of your family. Surrounding yourself with empathetic individuals who value and respect your boundaries can provide a solid foundation for developing healthy relationships.

The Limitations of a Self-Centered Parent

Recognizing that a narcissistic parent might be unwilling or unable to change is crucial. It’s important to find ways to maintain your emotional well-being without relying on them for validation. 

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To manage the frustration and disappointment that may stem from your parent’s self-centered behavior, it can be helpful to cultivate a strong support network, engage in self-care practices, and develop a sense of self-worth independent of their approval.

The Journey to Recovery: Realisation, Acceptance, and Support

Embarking on the path to recovery from the effects of a narcissistic parent requires several crucial steps, starting with the realization of their toxic influence. This awakening brings forth the opportunity to confront the issue and take proactive measures toward healing. 

As difficult as it may be, acceptance is an essential component of the healing process. Accepting the reality of having a narcissistic parent enables individuals to move forward and seek appropriate support systems.

Finding narcissistic parent support is crucial for young adults suffering from the long-term effects of toxic parenting. There are various support networks available that cater specifically to individuals affected by narcissistic parents. These networks can provide invaluable resources, peer guidance, and emotional encouragement to help individuals navigate their healing journey.

Treatment options for the narcissistic parent also play a vital role in the recovery process. While it may be challenging to persuade a parent with NPD to seek professional help, encouraging them to undergo therapy can greatly benefit the entire family. Therapeutic interventions such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or family therapy can help parents with NPD work on their destructive behaviors and enhance family dynamics.

As young adults pursue their path to recovery, prioritizing self-care and self-exploration is essential. Engaging in activities that promote self-awareness, resilience, and emotional intelligence can reinforce the healing process and empower individuals to overcome the impact of narcissistic parenting.

Preventing the Transmission of Toxic Parenting Practices to Future Generations

Breaking the cycle of narcissistic parenting and preventing its transmission to the next generation is a crucial step in fostering healthy family dynamics. Understanding the key concepts associated with toxic parenting is the first step in achieving this goal. 

With self-awareness and mindful parenting practices, it is possible to create a supportive and nurturing environment that allows children to thrive.

One of the primary concerns tied to toxic parenting is parental control issues. Parents with narcissistic traits often impose unrealistic expectations and excessive control over their children, which can hinder their development and sense of autonomy. 

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To avoid perpetuating such behaviors, it is essential for parents to recognize and address control issues early on. By fostering trust, open communication, and encouraging independence, unhealthy control dynamics can be mitigated.

Another significant aspect of breaking the cycle of toxic parenting is understanding the concept of transmitting parenting practices. Children who grow up in a narcissistic household may unconsciously adopt the harmful parenting patterns they experienced, perpetuating the cycle of abuse with their own children. 

To counteract this, parents should actively work on developing healthy parenting strategies by seeking professional guidance and attending parenting workshops.

Moreover, acknowledging the narcissistic parenting impact can lead to a deeper comprehension of the effects of toxic behaviors on children’s mental well-being. 

By understanding this impact, parents can rebuild their relationships with their children, nurture their emotional resilience, and support their development into well-adjusted adults. In addition, being transparent about past narcissistic parenting experiences and actively addressing unresolved issues can provide a strong foundation for change.

Mitigating the Impact of Narcissistic Parenting on Young Adult Mental Health

As young adults transition into adulthood, it is crucial to develop strategies for mitigating the negative impact of growing up with a narcissistic parent. This includes recognizing parental self-absorption patterns, reducing the search for parental approval, and fostering emotional independence. 

When equipped with the right coping strategies, young adults can protect their mental health and build resilience against the harmful effects of narcissistic parenting.

Recognizing Parental Self-Absorption Patterns and Building Awareness

Developing an understanding of narcissistic parental behavior patterns is the first step in mitigating the impact on mental health. This involves recognizing when a parent is excessively self-absorbed, manipulative, or fails to provide emotional support. By identifying these patterns, young adults can begin to separate themselves from the toxic behavior and prioritize their emotional needs.

Reducing the Search for Parental Approval and Internalizing Self-Worth

One consequence of narcissistic parenting is the constant search for parental approval and validation. This can lead to shaky self-esteem for young adults, which can be harmful to mental health. 

To mitigate this, individuals must learn to take pride in their accomplishments and decisions without seeking constant validation from the narcissistic parent. Reducing the reliance on external validation and internalizing self-worth is essential in building resilience and confidence.

Fostering Emotional Independence and Establishing Boundaries

Emotional independence is vital for young adults looking to protect their mental health from the influence of a narcissistic parent. This may involve developing personal coping strategies, seeking out supportive relationships outside the family, and asserting boundaries with the narcissistic parent. 

By cultivating emotional independence, young adults can shield themselves from the negative impact of their parent’s behavior and focus on building a healthy future.

Breaking Free from Narcissistic Parental Supply

One of the key strategies to mitigate the impact of a narcissistic parent on mental health is to detach from the dynamic of narcissistic parental supply. 

This involves becoming aware of the ways in which the parent relies on the child for constant attention and admiration and putting an end to this unhealthy relationship pattern. By refusing to engage in the narcissistic supply dynamic, young adults can take a stand against manipulation and prioritize their emotional well-being.


Overcoming the challenges posed by narcissistic parenting is essential for young adults seeking to build resilience and foster positive mental health. 

Recognizing the influence of a narcissistic parent is the first step toward healing and growth. By understanding the patterns of manipulative behavior, the effects of emotional neglect, and the long-term consequences of such toxic environments, individuals can work towards finding the best strategies and support systems for overcoming these hurdles.

Building resilience involves forming new, healthy relationships with oneself and others, and establishing boundaries to protect against further harm. Learning to navigate the complexities of sibling rivalry, parental favoritism, and other toxic parenting practices is paramount in mitigating the impact on mental health and breaking the cycle of narcissistic parenting.

It is through self-awareness, emotional independence, and professional intervention that individuals can move forward and create a brighter future, free from the constraints of a narcissistic parent. Despite the adversity faced, young adults can cultivate a sense of resilience, embracing the opportunities to foster positive, lasting change in their lives and for future generations.

About the Author :

Som Dutt, Top writer in Philosophy & Psychology on I make people Think, Relate, Feel & Move. Let's Embrace Inner Chaos and Appreciate Deep, Novel & Heavy Thoughts.

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