Category Archives: Effect Of Narcissistic Parents Articles

How Destructive Narcissists May ‘Parentify’ Their Children

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Parents who suffer from a destructive narcissist pattern (DNP) of behaviour frequently ‘parentify’ their children whereby a kind of role reversal occurs and the child is expected to act as the parent’s parent (although this may well occur on an unconscious level rather than it coming about due to a parent’s conscious decision making).

Such parents are likely to:

– use their children to feed their constant need for positive attention

– use their children to feed their insatiable need for admiration

– need to be made to feel they are particularly special/important/superior to others

– lack empathy

– regard children as an extension of themselves rather than individuals with their own needs/interests/desires

– have shallow emotions (except for fear and anxiety)

– behave in a grandiose manner

– exploit others (including own children)

– be emotionally abusive towards own children

– expect emotional support from their children, even when child obviously far too young to provide it

– expect the child to bolster and endorse his/her sense of special entitlement

Such parents lack the capacity to nurture the child and put his/her needs above their own – it tends to be more a case of what they can ‘get out of’ their children rather than what they can give them.

Also, these parents lack empathy when it comes to their children’s feelings, whilst always expecting the child to fully sympathize and empathize with their own.

Furthermore, such parents lack patience when their children are demanding and incapable of holding their children in unconditional positive regard.

Additionally, DNP parents will find it very hard to relate to/tune into the child’s own rich emotional life.

Such parents, too, tend to set their children extremely high and exacting standards of behaviour which are impossible to meet and then become very angry when the children inevitably ‘fall short’.

EFFECTS OF SUCH DNP BEHAVIOUR ON THE CHILD :

Being treated in such a way over a long period of time will frequently have a profound long-term effect upon the child. Indeed, without therapy, such effects can last for an entire lifetime.

As a result of this treatment, in adulthood the now grown child may :

-constantly expect others to manipulate him/her and, therefore, have a cynical and distrustful attitude towards them

– have a high level of anxiety about the possibility of being trapped by,and enmeshed in, the emotional needs of others

– paradoxically feeling responsible for the needs of others and ashamed and guilty that they are unable to fulfil them

In order to prevent him/herself being manipulated by others and being caught up in their needs the adult child who was brought up by the DNP parent is also likely to develop certain DEFENSE MECHANISMS. These defense mechanisms are likely to include :

– DEFIANCE

– REBELLION

– WITHDRAWAL

– APPARENT INSENSITIVITY

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1) DEFIANCE – this occurs when the individual does not want to do whatever it is that others are trying to get him/her to do. It occurs because painful memories of being manipulated as a child are triggered (either on a conscious or unconscious level) and the individual desperately needs to avoid being treated in such a way again.

2) REBELLION – whereas ‘defiance’ relates to the attitude that the individual adopts, ‘rebellion’ relates to the ation they take.

Rebellion can be a healthy way to establish independence from parents but it can also be destructive if it becomes a kind of indiscriminate, reflexive, knee-jerk reaction to everything (including things that it would be in the person’s own interest to comply with).

3) WITHDRAWAL – an individual brought up by an DNP parent may constantly feel compelled to withdraw from :

– intimacy with others

– disapproval from others

– the needs of others to be ‘nurtured’

– the emotional intensity of others

– the emergence of own strong emotions

– criticism from others

Withdrawal can be emotional or physical.

It is used as a defense mechanism in order to protect the individual who was brought up by the DNP parent from those behaviours which trigger memories of how s/he was treated as a child which would cause intolerable levels of anxiety.

Unfortunately, because such defense mechanisms are automatic, they are very likely to occur even when the other individual poses no objective psychological threat and has no intention of exploiting them.

In this way, opportunities to form satisfying relationships are frequently missed.

4) SEEMING INSENSITIVITY – the individual who was brought up by the DNP parent may well, underneath, be a very sensitive person but s/he covers this up to protect him/herself due to his/her fear of being emotionally overwhelmed and manipulated by others. This can mean his/her inability to fulfil the emotional needs of others actually leaves him/her with a constant sense of guilt.

Furthermore, his/her defense mechanisms may lead him/her to be viewed by others as hard to understand and get to know, as well as cold, distant and aloof.

Sadly and paradoxically, however, the individual, deep down, may well yearn for love and affection, validation, admiration and have a strong desire to be free of his/her profound and pervasive fear of emotional intimacy.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

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Narcissistic Parent : Typical Behavior

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What Is The Typical Behavior Of The Narcissistic Parent?

I have already written about the narcissistic parent in other articles and now I am going to look, in a little more detail, at such parents’ typical patterns of behavior.

The psychologist Brown, an expert in this area, highlights for us the kinds of characteristics narcissistic parents frequently has; these are :

1) A need to constantly be the centre of attention

2) A need for constant and unconditional admiration from others

3) A need to be treated at all times with special consideration / as having special entitlement

4) Grandiosity

5) Lacks empathy

6) Has shallow emotions

7) Sees her children as an extension of herself

8) Exploits others

9) Emotionally abusive towards others

Let’s look at each of these nine areas in turn :

1) A need to constantly be the centre of attention

Narcissistic parents may try to achieve this by being boastful, sulking, having tantrums, complaining (often about trivialities), frequently teasing others

2) A need for constant and unconditional admiration from others –

Narcissistic parents display great vanity, seek status (eg try to form relationships with people of high social standing), make excessive demands to be shown gratitude, be desperate to gain compliments and approval, overspend to impress others, gloat, neglect family to seek status/limelight for herself.

3) Expects at all times to be treated with special consideration / has deep sense of own entitlement –

Narcissistic parents may feel what she has to say is far more important than what anyone else has to say, get angry if they believe they have somehow been overlooked, expect to receive better service than the ‘run-of-the-mill’ person, have excessive expectations of others to do things and say things to make them feel special (and become annoyed and angry if they do not), expect always to be deferred to by others, be inconsiderate of others, be contemptuous and disdainful of others, demand unwavering obedience, frequently issue ‘orders’, and always regard her own needs of taking priority over the needs of others

4) Grandiosity –

She may have an highly inflated opinion of herself, have false prtensions, exaggerate achievements, and constantly try to impress others (however, beneath this their lies a sense of deep inadequacy).

She may react very badly to even a hint of criticism, see others as inferior, be very arrogant, find it very hard to laugh at herself.

 

5) Lacks empathy –

Narcisstic parents may be extremely insensitive to the feelings of others, be very bad at listening to others, blame others for their own negative feelings, change the subject when others are talking about things that have great emotional significance for them, belittle/criticize the feelings of others (eg by telling the person they are being ridiculously oversensitive), regard her own feelings as being of far greater importance than the feelings of others.

6) Has shallow emotions –

Because they has shallow emotions, they may fake feelings such as pretending to be concerned when another person is upset but then give themselves away shortly afterwards by saying something obviously insensitive, changing the subject back to themselves or generally displaying a complete lack of proper understanding.

They may also take no pleasure in the happiness of others (eg if they are pleased because they have made a particular achievement, such as getting a good degree) and may resent and be jealous of such happiness

Whilst she experiences mainly shallow emotions, there are two notable exceptions to this which are ANGER and FEAR.

7) Sees their children as an extension of themselves :

Children treated  by narcissistic parents as an extensions of themselves will tend to fail two extremely important developmental tasks – the tasks of INDIVIDUATION and SEPARATION. As a result, they may have A VERY POOR SENSE OF THEIR OWN IDENTITY AND OF WHO THEY REALLY ARE (click here to read my article on this). They can fail to differentiate between where their ‘self starts’ and where their ‘self ends’; in other words, they only have a vague notion of which aspects of themselves are under their own control and which are not.

Narcissistic parent who views their child as an extension of themselves do not fully regard the child as an individual who is separate from them. As such, they will tend to :

– not respect the child’s boundaries

– interfere inappropriately in the detail of the child’s life

– act in an overbearing and over-controlling manner towards the child

– become angry with, and resent, the child if s/he rebels against such behaviour

– become offended if the child’s opinion on particular matters is at odds with her own

– deny the child appropriate choice in decisions affecting his/her own life

– expect the child to be compliant, at all times, with her own wishes and needs

– expect the child to neglect his/her own needs in order to help her to satisfy her own

8) Exploits others –

They may see others existing solely as objects to help them fulfill their own needs. They may, too, sever all connections with ‘friends’ when they cease to be of use. Further characteristics may include :

– being ruthless in getting what they want

– lying and dishonesty / distortion of the truth to serve their own interests /prone to exaggeration

– manipulation of others

– making frequent use of emotional blackmail

– frequently expects favours and becoming angry if they are not granted, but rarely returns such favours

– avoid feeling shame and guilt by rationalizing (justifying to herself) the things that she says and does; any expression of shame and guilt is likely to be faked

9) Emotionally abusive towards others –

They may be very adept at verbally hurting others (knowing their sensitive points/weak spots/emotional triggers). They are also likely to expect the person they are abusing to simply accept such abuse uncomplainingly even though they would never tolerate it were the boot on the other foot, so to speak. Also, they may :

– make frequent upsetting, hurtful, degrading and disparaging remarks to others

– unfairly and aggressively blame others

– makes others feel constantly defensive when in her company

– belittle, or show minimal interest in the attainments and achievements of others

– become verbally aggressive to others when they have done nothing to deserve such treatment

– displace (take out) their own disappointment in life, frustrations, regrets etc on others

– project their  own, unconscious, negative image of themselves onto others

NB : ALL BEHAVIOURS LISTED ABOVE MAY BE DIRECTED TOWARDS THE NARCISSISTIC PARENT’S CHILD, THUS MAKING HIS/HER CHILDHOOD ALL BUT IMPOSSIBLE.


Resources:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Effects of Narcissistic Parents Who ‘Parentify’ Their Child

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Dealing with A Narcissist MP3. CLICK ABOVE

Dealing with A Narcissist MP3. CLICK ABOVE

A ‘parentified’ child is a term that psychologists use to refer to a situation between the child and the parent in which a role-reversal has occurred resulting in the child having to care for the parent (emotionally and/or physically) rather than the other way around.

I have already written articles about narcissistic parents (eg click here) but I will briefly repeat the ways in which they often interact with their children.

Ways in which the narcissistic parent may interact with their children :

The diagram below gives an indication of the narcissistic parent’s typical behaviour patterns :

Additionally :

1- they may show limited or no empathy with their children’s feelings

2- they may be emotionally abusive towards their children (my mother, for example, would refer to me as ‘poof’, ‘scabby’, and tell me she wished I’d never been born, and that she felt ‘evil towards’ me, or ‘murderous towards’ me. She also constantly threatened to throw me out of the house and did exactly that when I was thirteen)

3- they may treat their children as an extension of themselves, rather than as a unique individual with his/her own hopes, dreams, needs, desires etc

4- they may constantly seek/demand admiration from their children

5- they may perpetually expect to be treated as the ‘centre of the child’s universe’, rather than the other way around

6- they may constantly demand that the child pays them attention (this may involve dramatic gestures – when I was about ten and alone with my mother, she threatened to take an overdose of her tranquillizers and commit suicide, for example, making it necessary for me to phone for help ; she never took the overdose, however)

7- they may constantly behave in a grandiose manner

8- they may display only shallow emotions (eg the child may sense any love and affection s/he is occasionally shown is extremely tenuous, fragile, conditional and transient)

9- they may generally exploit their child (again, to use a personal example, from about the time I was eleven, I operated as my mother’s personal counsellor – indeed, she used to refer to me as her ‘little psychiatrist’).

What Is The Parentified Child Deprived Of?

The parentified child tends to be deprived of :

– being treated with empathy

– being treated as a unique individual with own needs, desires, ideas etc

– being unconditionally treated with positive regard

– having his/her needs treated as a priority

– having his/her faults accepted

– being treated with patience

Essentially, then, the parent is emotionally unavailable to the child. The emphasis is on the child meeting the needs of the parent (eg the parent’s need for attention, admiration and emotional nourishment).

Effects Upon The Child :

When the child who was brought up by a narcissistic parent becomes an adult, s/he may find that his/her own functioning has been adversely affected by his/her narcissistic parent’s influence. For example, s/he may :

– feel lonely and isolated from others

– have low self-confidence/self-esteem

– have problems with his/her relationships with others (including family, friends and work colleagues)

– have low empathy with feelings of others

– be highly self-critical

– have a sense of being a deeply flawed human being

– have a low stress-tolerance threshold

– often feel overwhelmed by, and unable to cope with, the demands of other people

– have an inability to form satisfying and fulfilling intimate relationships

– feel they are always operating on a different emotional level compared with others

– react badly to criticism – eg feel far more angry and hurt because of it than would be more objectively warranted

In my next post, I will look in greater depth at how a narcissistic parent typically behaves with his/her children.

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder : Its Link To Childhood Trauma

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This article examines the link between narcissistic disorder and childhood trauma. Several of my articles have already looked in some detail at the link between childhood trauma and the subsequent risk of developing a personality disorder (or disorders) if appropriate psychotherapeutic intervention is not sought.

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Narcissus from Greek Mythology

Whilst precise mechanisms underlying the link between childhood trauma and subsequent development of a personality disorder are still being researched, it is a statistical fact that the experience of childhood trauma and personality disorder are very frequently indeed seen to be ‘comorbid’ (this is a psychological term used to mean existing in the same patient – ie if the patient has a personality disorder, he/she very probably also experienced severe childhood trauma).

Suffering from a personality disorder has a profoundly damaging impact on a person’s life if it is left untreated. People who suffer from personality disorders tend to have very rigid, inflexible and damaging (both to themselves and others) ways of managing vital areas of their lives such as work, relationships and even leisure time which, naturally, causes a whole host problems.

NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER :

A good place to start is to look at how the DSM-IV (a diagnostic manual used by psychologists and psychiatrists) defines narcissistic personality disorder. Here’s the definition :

‘a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy’

Other features of narcissistic personality disorder are :

– a grandiose sense of self-importance
– expectations of being treated as special
– extremely fragile sense of underlying self-esteem

The psychologist Masterson (1981) expanded upon the definition to include two particular types of narcissist:

1) the manifest narcissist
2) the ‘closet’ narcissist

Let’s look at both of these :

1) the manifest narcissist : similar to the description provided in DSM-IV (above)

2) the ‘closet’ narcissist : the person suffering from this disorder tends to present him/herself as timid, shy, inhibited and ineffective but reveals in therapy elaborate fantasies of a grandiose self

Narcissistic personality disorder is thought to be due to ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. In therapy s/he will tend to seek the admiration s/he craves from the therapist, and, if the therapist is skilled and experienced, s/he will often uncover an array of psychological defense mechanisms which the patient uses to protect him/herself from unbearable emotional pain. These can include :

1) IDEALIZATION : this is often the primary defense whereby the individual IDEALIZES HIS/HER RELATIONSHIPS at first, elevating both self and other in terms of status and specialness to (illusionary) high levels

2) DEVALUATION : this refers to the individual discounting and regarding as worthless anyone who undermines his/her grandiose vision of him/herself

3) DETACHMENT : this is linked to DEVALUATION (above) and refers to the individual’s propensity to sever links with anyone who threatens to undermine his/her exalted view of him/herself

4) ACTING OUT : this refers to performing extreme behaviours to express thoughts, feelings and emotions the person feels incapable of otherwise expressing

5) SPLITTING : this refers to the cutting off from consciousness the part of themselves that holds the emotional pain to prevent it from becoming integrated into consciousness, as, for this to occur, would be psychologically overwhelming

6) PROJECTIVE IDENTIFICATION : this is when the person (unconsciously) projects onto another (imagines the other to possess) parts of their own ego and then expects the other to become identified with whatever has been projected

7) DENIAL : in its simple form this just means not accepting certain unpleasant parts of reality to protect the ego

8) AVOIDANCE : also sometimes referred to as ‘escape coping’ – making efforts to evade dealing with particular stressors

9) PROJECTION : this defense mechanism involves attributing to others one’s own unwanted or socially/culturally unacceptable emotions, attributes or thoughts

In essence, the individual with narcissistic personality disorder lives in a world where everything is viewed in extremes of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Underneath the defense mechanisms, there invariably lies an extremely FRAGILE SENSE OF SELF-ESTEEM. Therefore, the individual really feels EXTREMELY VULNERABLE and tends to have an overwhelming need to PROTECT HIM/HERSELF FROM ANY THREAT TO HIS/HER EXTREMELY PRECARIOUS SELF-IMAGE. The person with the disorder has a disturbance of the basic structure of the self.

THE THERAPEUTIC APPROACH TO TREATING NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER :

Research suggests that one of the main keys to psychotherapeutic intervention is an acknowledgment of the person’s pain, their overwhelming sense of their own vulnerability and their consequent desperate need to protect themselves from further psychological suffering. The therapist needs to reassure them that their defenses have been identified as self-protective, and, as such, are understandable.

RESOURCE :


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

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