If we frequently felt threatened when we were growing up, it is likely we have developed a dysfunctional response to perceived danger, threat and stress now that we are adults. Many of us may find we react in a more volatile way to such experiences compared to the average person (all else being equal).
This is likely to be because our childhood experiences have caused us to have difficulty regulating (controlling) our emotions ( in some cases this can be because our childhood experiences have adversely affected the development of a brain region involved in the processing of our emotions ; this brain region is called the AMYGDALA – click here to read my article on this).
In relation to this, not untypically, we may find we have an exaggerated and augmented fight response to perceived danger (both physical and psychological). If this is the case, it is possible, too, that we have developed commensurate narcissistic traits as a psychological defence mechanism : the narcissistic defence.
The individual who uses the narcissistic defence is, usually on an unconscious level, using power and control to prevent abandonment and secure love; s/he is responding to the threat of abandonment with anger. As already stated, this can be as a result of having felt frequently threatened as a child, but, also, especially, if too, we were spoiled and given insufficient limits during our childhood or were allowed to imitate an aggressive, narcissistic parent.
Individuals using the narcissistic defence may frequently display contempt for others, intimidating them for the purposes of their own psychological needs. They may, too, see others less as individuals in their own right and more as extensions of themselves.
Often, too, they will form relationships with subservient and submissive types in order to more easily dominate and control them. As a result, the dominated party may lose all sense of his/her identity and lose touch with his/her own needs, preoccupied as s/he is in catering to the endless psychological demands and needs of the narcissistic partner.
However, such individuals who have developed this narcissistic defence are frequently not true, full-blown, card carrying narcissists (ie. they would not meet the diagnostic threshold to be diagnosed as suffering from narcissistic personality disorder).
Whilst full-blown narcissists are very hard to treat, the type described above is amenable to therapeutic intervention. They can be helped to understand that their criticisms, intimidation of, and contempt for others alienates potential intimates.
Their demanding, over-cotrolling behaviour leads to a vicious cycle: feelings of abandonment leads them to making excessive use of power tactics and controlling behaviour; this, in turn, causes the person so treated to be scared away and to, in effect, emotionally withdraw; this then leads to feelings of even greater abandonment leading to even more extreme controlling behaviour and so on as infinitum…
The individual who uses the narcissistic defence needs to redirect hishis/her anger, which s/he displaces on to undeserving others, onto how his/her childhood was managed resulting in his/her intimacy-destroying behaviour. His/her misdirected anger is an acting out of his/her sadness and hurt in relation to his/her childhood. Such individuals need to allow themselves to be sad about their childhood. It may also be necessary for them to work at developing their empathetic skills.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).