Category Archives: Narcissism Articles

Effects of the Narcissistic Mother. Part 1.

Effects of the Narcissistic Mother. Part 1.

In Greek legend, the beautiful youth, Narcissus, fell deeply in love with his own reflection as he gazed into a pool of water, only to fall in and drown when he attempted to embrace it.

Effects of the Narcissistic Mother. Part 1.


As young children, we need our mother’s attention and approval, and, indeed, feel distressed if we fail to receive it when it is necessary. As we grow older, for most of us, our mother’s view of us continues to be of great importance, defining, in not insignificant part, how we view ourselves (in particular, our self-worth).

However, this view of ourselves becomes distorted when our mother is far more concerned with us fulfilling her emotional needs than she is with fulfilling ours.

The narcissistic mother is likely to use us, as we grow up, to bolster her own aggrandized self-image, and to continually require us to feed her insatiable hunger for flattery, compliments, reassurance, and having her ego boosted.

Narcissists are entirely self-obsessed. Their conversation tends to focus exclusively upon themselves. They also tend to greatly overestimate their own talents, achievements, skills and importance and may, superficially, exude a smug sense of superiority. However, because of the fact that, beneath the surface, their own sense of self-worth is actually extremely fragile, they will constantly rely upon others to bolster this deluded self-image and to keep the illusion of their own fundamental superiority to all the other mere mortals alive.

Narcissists will also tend to devalue, belittle and demean the achievements of others, fearing their lime-light will be stolen. All admiration, and an inexhaustible supply of it, must, they believe, be directed from others onto themselves.

Often, especially when the mother cannot obtain admiration from elsewhere, she will come to rely upon her children to provide it. This means that they are deprived of being the focus of their mother’s attention – indeed, in this regard, roles are reversed. It’s almost a case of the mother, I suppose, metaphorically riding the bicycle and shouting out to her child, ‘LOOK SON!! NO HANDS!’

My own mother, for example, would never come and see me play, say, rugby for the school, but would INSIST I came to watch her performance in her latest amateur dramatics society’s production (amateur dramatics being a tediously predictable hobby for the narcissisist, of course). After the performance , naturally, she would settle for no less than to be compared to Elizabeth Taylor and nominated for an Oscar. Not that I’m bitter.

Because the narcissistic mother has a very poor sense of self-identity beneath the shallow veneer of grandiosity, she will tend to vascillate between a highly inflated view of herself and deep insecurity. As she is essentially highly vulnerable, she may be hugely sensitive to criticism, have her exquisitely delicate feelings injured easily, and feel easily humiliated. In the face of attacks upon her self-worth, she may well become intensely defensive, hostile and aggressive.

Furthermore, the narcissistic mother will tend to live her life carefully monitoring, in a hyper-sensitive manner, other people’s reactions to her. She will be quick to perceive criticism, usually blowing it out of all proportion, and may well hold long-lasting grudges against those who dare to suggest she has failings. Very often, too, she will ‘read in’ criticism where none was intended.

Those who do dare to criticize her will incur her wrath, and she will seek to punish them emotionally and psychologically : she is likely to hold the person who criticized her in contempt and to openly and bitterly express this contempt both to the ‘offender’ and to others. She may declare that both he, and his views, are worthless.

Please click here to read Part 2 of this post; it includes some further musings on my own experiences.


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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Narcissistic Personality Disorder : Its Link To Childhood Trauma

Narcissistic Personality Disorder : Its Link To Childhood Trauma

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.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder : Its Link To Childhood Trauma

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.


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.


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.



Narcissistic Personality Disorder : Its Link To Childhood Trauma



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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery