The narcissistic parent frequently demonstrate the following characteristics :
– possessive of child
– controlling (often by using emotional blackmail)
– has no empathy (though pretend to have empathy)
– uses the technique of ‘gaslighting’ i.e. (they deny your reality e.g. by constantly telling you that your experience of your childhood was not as you claim / believe / perceived it to be) to the extent that you may even begin to question own sanity)
– blow sall criticism way out of proportion / exceptionally thin skinned
– can be sadistic / relish psychologically crushing the child with devastating verbal abuse / enjoy being cruel to the child and the feeling of power / omnipotence this may provide
– makes frequent use of ‘triangulation’ e.g encroaches upon the child’s friendships to use to his/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent’s) advantage, including turning them against the child if necessary)
– lacks capacity to love in any meaningful way the child (though may ‘act loving’)
– cares deeply about what others think so will present image of ‘perfect mother / father’ to the outside world
– withdraws of any pretence of ‘love’ / approval as soon child fails to please (especially by giving the child the ‘silent treatment’) or outright punishment)
– uses of emotional blackmail (especially by instilling feelings of guilt)
– posseses a conscious or unconscious belief that child exists solely to fulfil his/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent’s) needs
– ‘parentifies’ child / uses child as an ’emotional caretaker)
– only wants the child to succeed in a way which benefits him/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent), NOT on his/her (i.e the child’s) own terms
– wants to keep the child dependent and needy so may derive satisfaction from him/her (i.e. the child) being emotionally upset as this puts the child in a weak position, makes him/her (i.e. the child) easier to manipulate and provides the narcissistic parent with the opportunity to display false concern. S/he (i.e. the narcissistic parent) is motivated NOT by the desire to alleviate the child’s suffering, but by the wholly egocentric wish to demonstrate what a ‘good parent’ s/he is – as such, s/he may toy with the child’s emotions, alternating between ensuring s/he (i.e. the child) becomes emotionally upset and then acting as his/her ’emotional rescuer.’
– does not respect the child’s personal boundaries / right to privacy / may insist the child divulges highly sensitive information only to use this information against them at a later date
– becomes jealous and resentful if the child tries to become independent and successful (in a way which does not benefit the parent)
The harmful emotional impact such parents may have on their children can be profound ; as an adult, the former abused child may suffer from a whole multitude of serious problems, including :
– anxious attachment (constantly fearful people don’t like us or will suddenly ‘turn on’ us as we believe we are, in our very essence, in some indefinable but undeniable way despicable and others will surely ‘sense’ this, too – ‘it’s simply a matter of time,’ we tell ourselves)
– equation of intimate relationships with making oneself unsafe and vulnerable ; this may cause us to become self-protectively aggressive
– depression (frequently due to repressed anger which can, in turn, lead to physical illness)
– self-blame and a perpetual feeling of being ‘a bad person’ (connected to the narcissistic parent’s focus on the child’s ‘faults’ / ‘failings’ and ‘failure’ to meet his/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent’s) impossibly demanding needs)
– emotionally enmeshed relationship with the narcissistic parent and consequent profound uncertainty as to own identity and personal boundaries caused by the parent’s view of the child as an extension of him/herself (i.e. of the narcissistic parent’s self).
Psychotherapists frequently stress the importance of drawing clear boundaries with narcissistic parents, limiting contact with them or cutting off contact altogether (with the support , ideally, of a therapist who has expertise in this area). They also frequently advise that truly narcissistic parents have a mental illness which will make it extremely difficult for us to change them and that, therefore, our energies should be focused on our own recovery.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
Extreme emotional detachment can operate as an unconscious defense mechanism to help us cope with traumatic experiences including, of course, childhood trauma (such as emotional, sexual and physical abuse). If it is necessary for us to employ this coping mechanism for extended periods of time, it can become a deeply ingrained and pervasive part of our psychological make-up and we may continue to use it to protect ourselves from potential, emotional harm for the rest of our lives.
Extreme emotional detachment can also lead to a lack of empathy for others, which, in turn, is associated with a higher likelihood of developing other psychiatric problems such as antisocai personality disorder or pronounced sadistic tendencies.
More frequently, however, those who have learned to detach emotionally as a way of mentally escaping the psychological pain of their adverse childhood experiences go on to develop serious difficulties with adult relationships due to a deep mistrust of others and a general fear of intimacy ; furthermore, such individuals may come across to others (including family members) as ‘cold,’ ‘aloof’, ‘distant’ and ’emotionally unavailable’.
Other symptoms of being cut off from emotions include a lack of emotional intelligence, a tendency to have a preference for logical and rational thinking styles and a propensity to intellectualize potentially emotionally charged subjects.
Suppression of emotions may also result in dysfunctional, ‘compensatory’ behaviors including promiscuous sex / sexual addiction, drug / alcohol abuse and gambling.
In very extreme cases, some theorists believe that when emotional detachment gives rise to severe dissociation as in cases of, for example, posttraumatic stress disorder, multiple personality disorder may result.
Get In Touch With Your Emotions | Self Hypnosis Downloads
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
What Is Meant By Hypervigilance?
A person who is hypervigilant feels constantly ‘on edge’ , ‘keyed up’ and fearful. S/he experiences a perpetual sense of dread and of being under threat despite the fact, objectively speaking, there is no present danger. Indeed, the person affected in this way is so intensely alert to, and focused upon, any conceivable imminent danger that s/he may develop paranoia-like symptoms and frequently perceive danger in situations where no such danger, in reality, exists.
In physiological terms, the nervous system becomes ‘stuck’in an over-activated state and it is very difficult for the hypervigilant individual to calm him/herself sufficiently to enable it to return to a normal level of activation ; instead, it becomes locked into the ‘fight or flight‘ mode (the hypervigilant person’s body is in a continuous state of preparedness to fight or flee because of the anticipation of threat the person feels).
Hypervigilane, Hyperarousal, Childhood Trauma And Complex PTSD :
Hypervigilance is one of the many symptoms of hyperarousal.
Hyperarousal, in turn, is a symptom of PTSD / Complex PTSD which are conditions linked to severe and protracted childhood trauma.
Other symptoms of hyperarousal may include :
- insomnia (e.g. constant waking in night and finding it hard to go back to sleep)
- extremely sensitive startle response
- problems with concentration and mental focus
- abiding feelings of irritability and anger, perhaps giving rise to outbursts of extreme rage / verbal aggression, or, even, physical violence
- constant anxiety
- panic attacks
- reckless behavior
- using short-term ‘solutions’ such as drinking too much alcohol or using street drugs to reduce painful feelings which, in the longer-term, are self-destructive
It is not difficult to see why the experience of childhood trauma should be linked to increased risk of develop hypervigilance as an adult : if we have lived our early life in an environment that made us feel constantly anxious, under threat and fearful ,our very neural development (i.e. the development of our brain) can be adversely affected and it is such negative effects that can leave us so vulnerable and predisposed to developing the disorder, particularly at times when our adult lives expose us to further stressful experiences.
David Hosier BSC Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)
Many children who grow up in dysfunctional family homes find themselves living in a state of hypervigilance, never knowing how their parents are going to respond to them at any given time (for example, this is often the case in homes where one or both parents are alcoholics or in homes where the parents are subject to dramatic mood swings and outbursts of explosive rage (perhaps due to substance abuse or to mental illness). In other words, such children live in environments in which they are frequently exposed to severely stressful events but are unable to predict when such events will occur.
A study conducted by J.M Weiss (1970) was conducted to investigate the somatic (i.e. bodily) effects of unpredictable stressors on rats.
How was the study carried out?
In the study, the rats were split into two groups :
- GROUP ONE : The rats in this group were given UNPREDICTABLE electric shocks (the stressor)
- GROUP TWO : The rats in this group were also given electric shocks (each shock that the rats in this group received were of exactly the same intensity and duration as the shocks that the rats in group one received – HOWEVER, the shocks given to the rats in this group were PREDICTABLE (a warning signal was given immediately prior to the application of each shock).
So, to summarize :
- GROUP ONE RATS WERE SUBJECTED TO UNPREDICTABLE STRESSORS
- GROUP TWO RATS WERE SUBJECTED TO PREDICTABLE STRESSORS
Were The Somatic (Bodily) Effects On The Rats Different According To Which Group They Were In?
Yes. The rats in Group One (who were subjected to UNPREDICTABLE STRESSORS) suffered greater adverse somatic stress reactions than the did rats in Group Two (who were subjected to PREDICTABLE STRESSORS).
Somatic stress reactions shown by the rats included :
- changes in body weight
- stomach ulceration
- effects upon plasma corticosterone concentration
Similarly, living in an environment in which one is exposed to unpredictable stress can seriously, negatively impact on a young person’s psychological develpopment. Indeed, studies show that parents who treat their children in harsh and unpredictable ways, especially when the child is in an emotionally distressed state, increase these children’s risk becoming emotionally deregulated and unable to cope effectively with stress.
Such children may also be placed at risk of developing various physical problems such as obesity.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).