Category Archives: Effect Of Narcissistic Parents Articles

Three Types Of Narcissist : Extraverted, Introverted / Covert And Communal

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We have already seen what the effects can be upon the child who is brought up by a parent with narcissistic personality disorder as well as how some forms of dysfunctional upbringing can put the child him/herself at risk of developing narcissistic personality disorder.

However, some narcissistic individuals are more easy to identify than others and in this article I will briefly describe three different types ; these are :

  • THE EXTRAVERTED NARCISSIST :

  • THE INTROVERTED / COVERT NARCISSIST :

  • THE COMMUNAL NARCISSIST :

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

The Extraverted Narcissist :

Narcissists who have an extravert type personality are, as one would guess, the easiest to identify ; accordingly,they are also the ones who fit most people’s stereotype of a narcissist : They crave attention, always desiring to be center stage and in the limelight. If wealthy, they are likely to ostentatiously flaunt their economic status by the means of material objects (e.g. flashy cars with personalized number plates, extravagant jewelry etc. ). They are also likely to be highly competitive in the workplace with a strong urge to rise to the highest possible positions thus enabling themselves to exert maximum power over others and to be able to insist upon respect and deference.

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The Introverted / Covert Narcissist :

Introverted narcissists have just as strong a need to feel special and superior to others in the way that the extraverted narcissists do, but manifest this desire in more subtle and less obvious ways (which is why they are also sometimes referred to as ‘covert narcissists’ in the psychological literature).

In fact, on the surface, they may even appear to others to be self-effacing and, in direct contrast to extraverted narcissists, are likely to actively avoid being the center of attention (due to an intense fear of being negatively judged by others).

Such behavior, though, is paradoxical because underneath this seemingly humble exterior lies a firm conviction of great superiority to others. The introverted / covert narcissists rationalizes this belief of great superiority – in the absence, of course, of its confirmation by others – by telling him/herself that others are simply not intelligent or perceptive enough to have recognized his/her ‘supreme and unique’ talents.

Due to this perceived ‘failure of insight’ by others, the introverted narcissist may go through life feeling deeply bitter and resentful ; a typical, secret belief an introverted/covert narcissist might hold is : ‘The only reason other people don’t realize how brilliant, superior and wonderful I am is that they are just too stupid to see it!’

The Communal Narcissist :

The communal narcissist wishes to be seen by his/her community as an outstandingly compassionate, caring, giving, nurturing and charitable individual and derives his/her self-esteem and self-worth by cultivating such an image. Just like the extraverted narcissist and the introverted narcissist, the communal narcissist’s primary motivation is a desperate and overwhelming need to feel special.

 

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Characteristics Of Narcissistic Parents

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Typically, the narcissistic parent views his/her child as a kind of possession whose sole purpose is to continuously fulfill his/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent’s) emotional needs.

In order to keep the child in this role (i.e. the role of existing solely to meet the parent’s emotional needs), the narcissistic parent may exert power over the child in highly manipulative and controlling ways.

Because such parents are so possessive of the child, as the child grows older and starts to become more independent (especially during early adolescence), the narcissistic parent may feel threatened that his/her hitherto exclusive relationship with the child is becoming increasingly precarious. Indeed, if the child begins to show signs of no longer fulfilling the role that the narcissistic parent has assigned to him/her, such parents may become deeply resentful of the child and start to punish him/her through emotional abuse (including directing intense rage toward the child).

The narcissistic parent essentially EXPLOITS their child, capitalizing on the fact that the child is biologically programmed to be dependent upon him/her (but especially the mother); as already alluded to, this enables such parents to exert enormous power and control over the child, a power which they ruthlessly abuse. Such parents feel little or no empathy for their child and are have scant regard for the child’s personal boundaries.

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Narcissistic abuse tends to be covert in the sense that it takes place in the privacy of the family home ; in public, the narcissistic parent tends to be extremely careful to present as good an image as possible (in an attempt to maintain the illusion of being superior to others), perhaps trying to act ‘the perfect parent’ to keep up appearances (as already implied, narcissists are exceptionally concerned about how others perceive them)’

The child of the narcissistic parent is doomed to failure in as far that whatever s/he does in order attempt to meet the parent’s emotional needs, it will never be enough as, in this regard, the narcissist is impossible to satisfy.

Unfortunately, when growing up with a narcissistic parent, the child is highly unlikely to realize that the parent is suffering from a serious disorder that results in highly dysfunctional parenting. This is because most children just accept their family circumstances as ‘normal’ given that they have no point of comparison (in most cases).

Even more sadly, if and when they do realize how dysfunctional their family environment was whilst they were growing up, perhaps in early to mid-adulthood, they may have already suffered a great deal of psychological damage which may well require extensive therapy to alleviate.

in order to minimize the psychological harm caused to children by narcissistic parents, EARLY, EFFECTIVE, THERAPEUTIC INTERVENTION IS OF FUNDAMENTAL IMPORTANCE.

 

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Healthy Narcissism Versus Unhealthy Narcissism (Kohut’s Theory).

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‘Healthy’ Versus ‘Unhealthy’ Narcissism :

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that being brought up by a parent or primary caregiver who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can result in us developing serious psychological difficulties in later life ; indeed, this includes increasing the risk of developing narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) ourselves.

Whilst extreme, destructive narcissistic personality traits are clearly undesirable, the psychotherapist Heinz Kohut (1913-1981) suggested that there is also such a phenomenon as ‘healthy narcissism.’ I briefly explain what he meant by this below :

‘Healthy’ Narcissism :

Kohut was of the view that we have primary need to develop a strong, solid and stable sense of self if we are to live a contented and fulfilling life.

He also believed that, in the case of young children, it was particularly important that their parents made them feel special and gave them a sense of being admired (and, therefore, as being admirable) and that this would lead such children to develop a healthy sense of self and general, emotional resilience.

Kohut also believed that as these children got older, and assuming their parents were psychologically healthy role-models, they would learn that nobody’s perfect, that this is OK and that it was not necessary to constantly ‘outshine’ others in every aspect of life.

As such, Kohut suggested, such children would, as adults, develop what he termed ‘healthy narcissism.’

Qualities Of The ‘Healthy’ Narcissist :

Kohut suggested that qualities of the ‘healthy’ narcissist included the following :

  • the ability to accept the admiration of others
  • the ability to admire others
  • a solid sense of self-worth / self-esteem
  • a healthy sense of pride
  • an appreciation of the needs of others
  • the ability to empathize with others
  • the capacity to feel self-love as a means of self-protection / obtaining emotional resilience
  • the ability to connect to our ‘authentic selves’
  • the confidence and self-belief to have hopes, dreams and ambitions (and the capacity to cope with, and to accept, failure to achieve them)
  • the ability to approve of ourselves and to withstand the disapproval of others

Unhealthy Narcissism :

Kohut contrasted children who were brought up in such a way that they were able to develop ‘healthy’ narcissism with children who are brought up by parents who were abusive and /or neglectful ; these abused/neglected children are at risk of developing unhealthy narcissism.

The unhealthy narcissist feels, deep inside, a profound and pervasive sense of inadequacy, inferiority, worthlessness, emptiness and vulnerability (as a result of his/her parents’ deeply psychologically damaging treatment of him/her when s/he was growing up) and, as a form of psychological defense (manifesting as overcompensation), develops a dysfunctional personality marked by intense hostility towards others, extreme arrogance, a condescending attitude and an insatiable need to feel superior to others at all times.

Furthermore, the unhealthy narcissist does not view others with empathy but views them as ‘servants’ and ‘playthings’ to feed his/her own ego.

On an unconscious level, the unhealthy narcissist strongly needs to avoid meaningful, emotional connection with others lest s/he becomes dependent upon such a connection which would make him/her vulnerable to being hurt emotionally in the way s/he was hurt by his/her parents as a child. As such, the unhealthy narcissist’s subconscious reasoning goes, a mutually loving bond with others is to be avoided at all costs; by desperately trying to convince him/herself that s/he is better than, ‘above’ and superior to others, s/he is simultaneously, frantically attempting to convince him/herself that s/he is emotionally self-sufficient and, therefore, emotionally invulnerable.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Enabling Fathers And Narcissistic Mothers

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Parents can hurt their children both by acts of commission (what they do) and by acts of omission (what they don’t do). We have seen already how narcissistic mothers can profoundly damage their children, and, if the father does nothing to intervene to prevent such damage occurring it is an act of omission; fathers who commit such acts of omission are often termed ‘enabling fathers’ or, more simply, enablers as, by failing to intervene or take preventative or protective measures, they are enabling the mother to continue her emotional onslaught against the child with impunity, unabated.

It is not unreasonable, then, to regard such non-interventionist fathers as complicit in the mother’s harmful behavior, whether this be due to fear of the mother, weakness of character, simple neglect, ignorance, complacency, moral cowardice or laziness (confronting such a situation requires considerable mental energy, after all).

Indeed, my own father was one such ‘enabler’ and, for the vast majority of the time, could not, or would not, confront my narcissistic mother, preferring instead to try to humor, placate or pacify her (although he did once hit her so hard she was knocked over and heated rows were far from uncommon) and effectively challenge her about her behavior, no matter how disturbing and extreme it became.

In the end, though, unable to tolerate her any longer, he left the family home when I was eight years old and divorced her (on the grounds of her adultery – indeed, she used to taunt my father by telling him he could not satisfy her sexually) not long after, leaving me, as it were, in the lioness’ den (and, to extend the metaphor a little, the den of a lioness who was soon to savagely turn on her very own cub).

It is not at all unusual for fathers to leave the narcissistic mother, as forming a stable, healthy relationship with a narcissist is not a realistic prospect (unless the narcissist undergoes therapy ; however, it is notoriously difficult to persuade narcissists to seek therapy as they tend not to accept there is anything wrong with them  – in their minds it’s everyone who’ve got the problem).

Some fathers, however, do remain living with the narcissistic mother, but not in a relationship which is healthy ; rather, they tend to have enmeshed / codependent / highly dysfunctional relationships with the mother.

Also, if the narcissistic mother is emotionally abusive towards the child, some fathers may take the side of the mother against this child even if they know the mother to be in the wrong so as not to ‘rock the boat’ and have an easier life. This, of course, amounts to complicity. Some such fathers may even agree to physically beat the child at the mother’s behest.

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The Manipulative Parent

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The Manipulative Parent :

There are many ways in which the manipulative parent may manipulate their offspring, including:

– emotional blackmail

– threats (explicit or implicit)

– deceit

– control through money/material goods

– positive reinforcement of a behavior which is damaging to the child

– coercion

Because parental manipulation, by the mother, father or both, can take on very subtle guises, when we were young we may not have been aware that we were being manipulated; we may only come to realize it, in retrospect, with the extra knowledge we have gained as adults.

POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF THE MANIPULATIVE PARENT:

If we have been significantly manipulated, it can give rise to various negative feelings such as :

self-doubt

– resentment/anger

shame/guilt

– a deep and painful sense of having been betrayed

EXAMPLES OF PARENTAL MANIPULATION :

– causing the child to believe that s/he will only be loved by complying with the parent’s wishes at all times; in other words, there is an ABSENCE of unconditional love.

– causing the child to feel excessive guilt for failing to live up to the parent’s expectations/demands

– with-holding love as a form of punishment to cause emotional distress

– direct or implied threats of physical punishment

– physical punishment

– making the child feel s/he is ‘intrinsically bad’ for not always bending to the parent’s will

– spoiling the child and then accusing him/her of ingratitude

– making the child believe s/he is ‘uncaring’ for not fully meeting the parent’s needs

index 150x99 - The Manipulative Parent

 

WHY DO SOME PARENTS BEHAVE MANIPULATIVELY?

The reasons a parent manipulates his/her offspring are often subtle and complex. However, explanations may include

– the parent is narcissistic

– the parent has a grandiose self-view (often linked to above)

– the parent has low self-esteem/feelings of inadequacy and so abuses the power they do have as a form of overcompensation for own shortcomings

– failure of the parent to view the child as a separate, distinct and unique individual, but, rather, to view him/her as an ‘extension of themselves’ so that the child feels responsible for the parent and becomes ‘enmeshed’ in the relationship.

 

DEALING WITH A MANIPULATIVE MOTHER OR FATHER :

The effects of having been significantly manipulated by a parent in early life can have serious negative consequences in terms of our emotional development ; these consequences may be very long -lasting.

As adults, if we are still in contact with the parent, it is likely that the relationship remains problematic. We may have pointed out their propensity to manipulate, but to no avail – indeed, perhaps only making things worse.

So, what is the best way to cope with the manipulative relationship?

Essentially, we are less likely to be manipulated if we :

– develop good self-esteem (click here)

– develop a strong self-concept/sense of identity (click here)

– developing strong assertiveness skills (click here)

– being confident enough to refuse to do what we don’t want to do

– being confident enough to ask for what we do want

– have the confidence to act according to our own values and convictions

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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Effect Of Parents With Low Empathy For Others’ Feelings

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Parents with low empathy typically show little or no regret, remorse or guilt when they behave in ways that hurt and harm their children and children of such parents are therefore at particularly high risk of experiencing abuse.

At the extreme end of the scale, those with very low empathy are termed by psychologists as sociopaths or as suffering from anti-social personality disorder (however, this does not mean they will necessarily have been diagnosed or have broken the law – many such individuals can function well on a superficial level, seem charming on the surface and have cultivated a public persona that very effectively disguises their disorder; they may even strike the outside world as ‘model citizens’).

Other personality traits (on top of lack of feelings of guilt and superficial charm referred to above) of the sociopath include the following:

  • egocentricity
  • unreliability
  • dishonesty
  • an inability to form long-lasting relationships
  • superficial emotions
  • lack of awareness/concern regarding the harmful effects of their behaviour on others
  • poor ability to make long-term plans
  • experiences abnormally low levels of anxiety (so can be good at jobs that require a strong nerve such as surgery)

People with very low empathy, such as sociopaths, tend not to be easy to change ; they are also, as implied above, often very hard to detect – this makes them all the more potentially dangerous.

POSSIBLE BRAIN DIFFERENCES :

One of the possible reasons why sociopaths may find it difficult to change is that research suggests they may be suffering from brain abnormalities (specifically, in the region of the brain responsible for giving rise to feelings of empathy for others, as, indeed, one may expect). However, much more research still needs to be conducted before a full picture can be built up of both biological and environmental causes (and, indeed, of how these two categories of causes interact, of course).

LATEST RESEARCH :

It is worth noting, however, that (at the time of writing), the latest research suggests that sociopaths may not so much lack empathy as have an abnormal ability to suppress it (Keysers et al. 2012).

HOW THE SOCIOPATH CAN BECOME AGGRESSIVE TOWARDS THE EMPATH :

First, an EMPATH  can be defined as a particularly sensitive and perceptive individual who is often the first to intuit that there is something ‘wrong’ with the sociopath. Such individuals can represent a threat to the sociopath as they have the potential to expose him/her (the sociopath) and challenge his/her manipulative behavior.

Frequently, due to this threat, the sociopath turns on/ becomes aggressive towards / attacks / tries to discredit the empath in an attempt to stop him/her (the empath) exposing him/her (the sociopath) and speaking the truth about his/her (the sociopath’s) behaviour.

HOW THE SOCIOPATH ENLISTS THE SUPPORT OF THE APATH :

In order to try to defeat, or, even, psychologically destroy the empath, the sociopath will often enlist the support of the apath (or the support of several apaths).

An apath is someone who lacks the judgment or insight to perceive the sociopath’s malevolent manipulative behaviour, or someone who is too apathetic and morally cowardly to care about it or do anything about it. If, on top of this, the apath bears the empath a grudge, the perverse collusion between the sociopath and apath may prove particularly devastating.

The psychological theorists, McGregor and McGregor, who originally formulated the above theory, termed this dynamic the sociopath-empath-apath triad. By way of illustration, the concept could apply to a family in the following manner :

  • mother = sociopath
  • youngest son = empath
  • oldest son = apath
  • father = apath

In the above example, there are two apaths; however, in other situations there may be just one or three or more.

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Physical Differences In Narcissists’ Brains

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I have written elsewhere on this site articles about how being brought up by a narcissistic parent can be extremely traumatic for a child and can have life-long adverse effects on his/her emotional and behavioural functioning in the absence of effective therapeutic intervention.

I will quickly recap the list of the main symptoms of the disorder below :

THE SYMPTOMS OF NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER :

– expect to be recognized as superior (even without any achievements to warrant this)

– exaggerated sense of own importance

– a tendency to exaggerate their achievements and talents

– belief of only being able to be understood by equally special people

– obsessed by fantasies of power/success/brilliance

– strong need to be constantly admired by others

– constant sense of entitlement

– expectation to be granted special favors

– expectations to always have wishes complied with by others

– exploitation of others for own ends

– unable or unwilling to acknowledge the needs of others / the feelings of others (lack of empathy)

– frequent envy of others

– frequent beliefs of being envied by others

– behaving in a high-handed, superior, arrogant and haughty manner

(Above list of symptoms adapted from the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, otherwise known as DSM -V).

 

WHAT ARE THE PHYSICAL BRAIN DIFFERENCES IN THOSE SUFFERING FROM NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER?

 

A study conducted by Ropke et al examined 34 individuals, 17 of whom had an official diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder; these 17 individuals had also, through testing, been found to be deficient in feelings of empathy (a main symptom of narcissistic personality disorder – see list of symptoms above).

Using a brain scanning technique known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) it was found that the 17 individuals who had been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder had differences in the structure of a region of the brain called the cerebral cortex compared to the individuals in the control group (i.e. the individuals in the study who had NOT been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder).

 

WHAT WERE THE SPECIFIC BRAIN DIFFERENCES FOUND BY THE STUDY?

Specifically, the MRI scan revealed that those who had been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder had cerebral cortices (plural of cortex) that were thinner in the region responsible for producing feelings of compassion for others (known as the insular region) than the cerebral cortices of those in the control group.

This finding emphasizes the fact that those with narcissistic personality disorder require treatment rather than moral judgment.

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Self-Defeating Personality? Its Link To Childhood Trauma.

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Why Do Some Seem To Have A Self-Defeating Personality?

I have written elsewhere on this site about how my illness caused me to behave in ways that were self-sabotaging in the extreme.

Some psychoanalysts refer to people who are, to put it informally, their own worst enemy, as having a self-defeating personality disorder; below, I briefly explain how this disorder, according to psychodynamic theory, can be strongly connected to traumatic childhood experiences.

download 3 3 - Self-Defeating Personality? Its Link To Childhood Trauma.

Self-Defeating Behaviour And Its Relationship To Childhood Trauma:

Self-defeating and self-sabotaging behaviour in adulthood, with its roots in adverse childhood experiences, often lies at the heart of addictions (such as drugs and alcohol), compulsions (such as gambling) obsessions (e.g. in connection to romantic relationships), depression, low confidence, pride and poor self-esteem.

However, most people are unaware that the source of their problematic behaviours lies in their difficult early life.

This lack of awareness of what really lies behind our self-destructive inclinations is due to the fact (according to psychodynamic theory) that we repress (banish to the unconscious) the true cause (our painful childhood) as to be conscious of it would be too distressing. This is known as a psychological defense mechanism.

Psychodynamic theory also postulates that it is necessary to break through our psychological defense to bring into consciousness understanding and insight into these clandestine, dark and dysfunctional motivational forces.

Only then can we turn our behaviour around so that it helps, rather than hinders (putting it very mildly in many cases, including my own) us.

Essentially, then, to cure ourselves we need to resolve our, thus far, unresolved childhood emotional conflicts; these may include, for example:

– having been rejected or abandoned by our parents

– having been unloved by our parents

– having been emotionally deprived by our parents

– having been excessively controlled and manipulated by our parents

If we do not resolve these issues (again, according to psychodynamic theory) we will continue to be unconsciously driven to put ourselves in situations that cause us to re-experience the highly distressing emotions originally generated by our traumatic childhood experiences.

BUT WHY ON EARTH WOULD WE BE UNCONSCIOUSLY DRIVEN TO RE-EXPERIENCE THESE DISTRESSING EMOTIONS TIME AND TIME AGAIN?

Well, according to Sigmund Freud, the answer is that this repetition compulsion (as he phrased it) represents our inwardly driven frantic and desperate attempts to gain mastery over the original trauma and its associated negative emotions, something we (inevitably, because we were powerless) failed to do in childhood.


Example:

A woman rejected in childhood by her parents may be unconsciously driven to try to form relationships with utterly unsuitable men who are bound to reject her.


Yes, incredible as it may sound, according to psychodynamic theory, her unconscious mind compels  her to form relationships that are doomed to failure (some go as far as to say all our behaviours are, in the final analysis, unconsciously driven and our sense of control over our own fates is a foolish fantasy; but we are submerging ourselves in murky and hazardous philosophical waters here).

Finally, it is also theorised that we will also interprete events negatively, when it is not objectively justified, in an attempt to recreate our adverse childhood experiences and the negative emotions which pertained to them at the time.

So, following on from the example above, if we were rejected by our parents as children, we may constantly believe others are rejecting us when this is, in fact, NOT the case.

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Shame Caused By Childhood Trauma And How We Try To Repress It.

 

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We have seen in other articles published on this site that if we have experienced significant childhood trauma we may, as adults, develop profound feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, self-hatred, rock-bottom self-esteem, feelings of being ‘innately bad’ and irrational self-blame for what we experienced. This pernicious brew of feelings about the self can devastate every area of our lives and cause us to live with a deep, abiding sense of shame.

Because feelings of such shame are so psychologically painful to live with, some individuals may develop certain psychological defense mechanisms (the cause of which is generally unconscious) in order to banish them from conscious awareness into the dark recesses of the unconscious where they simmer and fester.

According to the psychoanalyst, Joseph Burgo, PhD., the three main types of defense mechanisms we may unconsciously be driven to employ in a desperate attempt to avoid feeling this shame are as follows:

narcissism

– blame

– contempt

Let’s look at each of these defense mechanisms in turn.

NARCISSISM:

Narcissists have a relentless and desperate need to prove to both themselves and others that they are superior. They crave admiration from others and aspire to make themselves the object of great envy.

They feel that they must perpetually be the centre of attention and may be driven to achieve, or attempt to achieve, high social status (including ‘social climbing’), earning a high salary, and seeking positions of power.

Or they may always try to appear cleverer, wittier or more interesting than those around them (although these attempts, especially if perceived as desperate, generally serve only to annoy, irritate and alienate others, as opposed to enthralling them).

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They tend, too, to treat others as if they are beneath them. However, their view of themselves as superior beings is often strongly out of kilter with reality – in other words, they may suffer something approaching delusions of grandeur. Indeed, they may provoke comments from others such as the following (overused) one: Who does she think she is? The Queen of Sheeba?’ Or others may regard them as a prima donna.

To reiterate, this constant need to view themselves as superior is a desperate attempt to avoid coming face-to-face with who they (deep down) believe they really are, as fully experiencing such a deep sense of worthlessness and shame is psychologically intolerable to them.

BLAME:

Because acceptance of failure would cause the individual who feels worthless and inadequate in the core of his/her being, and who needs to keep these feelings repressed, s/he cannot tolerate criticism and will shift the blame onto others when things go wrong. Such individuals may also be perfectionists.

CONTEMPT:

Another defense mechanism an individual may utilize in an attempt to keep feelings of shame buried in the unconscious is to ‘look down’ on others and to see them as inferior beings to be mocked or pitied. Such individuals may relish the humiliation of others and delight in their failures. The more s/he can view others as beneath him/her, the more effectively s/he can keep his/her own profound feelings of inferiority and shame at bay.

The Role Of Therapy:

Psychoanalysis can help the individual realize that his/her core feelings of inadequacy and shame, hitherto largely unconscious, were caused by his/her childhood trauma that the trauma was not his/her fault and by absolutely no means means s/he is inferior, worthless, or, in any way whatsoever, needs to feel ashamed. Under the supervision of a skilled therapist, this can cause the individual’s dysfunctional defense mechanisms to start to melt away so that s/he may start to live an altogether more authentic life.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Is Your Mother Narcissistic?

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I have already published several articles on the effects on us of being brought up by a narcissistic parent. In this article, I intend to focus upon the main characteristics that are frequently found in narcissistic mothers. These characteristics are as follows:

1) Self-absorption : she regards her own needs as absolutely paramount which completely take precedence over the needs of her children. Indeed, she fails to properly recognise her own children as distinct and separate individuals with their own unique needs; if their needs get in the way of her own, she is likely to bitterly resent the fact. She is selfish and has a strong need to be admired by others and to be the centre of attention. For example, she may expect her own birthdays to be treated as a cause for international celebration, dancing in the street, ticker- tape parades and a twenty-one gun salute whilst resenting the birthdays of her children for deflecting attention from herself (as I have written elsewhere, my own mother utterly ignored me on the morning of my thirteenth birthday due to my having incurred her displeasure for some minor infraction the previous day).

2) Lack of empathy : this is one of the main hallmarks of the narcissist. She does not only lack empathy for her own children, but for other people in general. In this way, she invalidates the importance of her children’s own feelings, worries, concerns and problems by dismissing, ignoring or minimising them.

3) Warped relationship with her children: she may exploit and ‘parentify’ her child (click here to read my article on ‘parentification’), expecting him/her to cater for her emotional needs rather than the other way around. She may, too, scapegoat one child – often the most sensitive and vulnerable child (click here to read my article about how children may be ‘scapegoated’) whilst favouring another child (perhaps treating this other child as a ‘golden child’).

Often, too, any attempt children make to demonstrate affection for the narcissistic mother may be coldly rebuffed. As regards any loving, affectionate behaviour flowing from the mother to the children, this is likely to be extremely minimal or utterly non-existent.

The narcissistic mother may relate to a child in a strangely intense and possessive manner as a means to manipulating and controlling the child.

Also, she is only interested in her children doing well so that it will reflect well on her and enable her to ‘bathe in reflected glory.’ What the child him/herself derives from his/her success is largely immaterial to the narcissistic. Indeed. If she herself does not gain psychologically from her children’s success she is liable to resent it.

download31 - Is Your Mother Narcissistic?

4) Makes sure her child’s appearance is always immaculate in order to give the outward display to others that she is a ‘good and caring’ mother. She may, too, be extremely dictatorial about what the child wears, how s/he has his/her hair cut etc… Again, this is because she is only concerned that the child’s appearance reflects well upon her. She is unlikely to care, or take any notice of, what the child would like to wear / how s/he would like his/her hair cut.

 

5) Uninterested in your hobbies/interests but expects you to be fascinated by her own. Eg Never coming to watch you play a sport you excel in or even ask you about it whilst expecting you come to watch every performance of an Amateur Dramatics production in which she is performing and subsequently to express your ‘limitless admiration’ for her ‘supreme, Oscar-deserving, acting abilities’.

6) Prone to outbursts of extreme outbursts of narcissist rage/hysteria often over very petty issues and refuses to be pacified

7) Can psychologically terrorize her children

8) Lacks maternal instinct – does not derive pleasure from her children and frequently resents them as a burden and great inconvenience

9) If challenged denies her behaviour harms her children and may lie to cover up her treatment of them. She is highly sensitive to criticism in general and extremely defensive.

10) Projects her own faults onto others, particularly her selfishness.

11) Her moods pervade and dominate the home.

12) Can be sulky and petulant in a childish way and employ passive-aggressive strategies to emotionally punish her children such as the ‘silent treatment’ (click here to read my article on the ‘silent treatment’).

13) Vengeful and spiteful – driven to ‘get even’ with those whom she perceives to have ‘crossed her’.

14) If her child is suffering a crisis, she may actually derive pleasure and excitement from the drama of it

15) She does not experience shame in connection with her behaviour.

 

Resources:

audio lessn 1 - Is Your Mother Narcissistic?.     Dealing With Narcissistic Behaviour (instantly downloadable hypnotherapy audio). Click here for further details.

 

David Hosier BSc; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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