We have seen from other articles that I have previously published on this site that narcissistic parents tend to see their children as possessions and as extensions of themselves, as opposed to individuals in their own right (this can lead to the child growing up to develop serious identity problems).
They also lack empathy for their child (and for other people in general), tend to transgress his / her (i.e. the child’s) personal boundaries and view his / her (i.e. the child’s) sole purpose in life as being to serve their (i.e. the narcissistic parents’) needs.
Two main ways in which narcissistic parents tend to use and exploit their child is to treat him/her (i.e. the child) as both a source of emotional support and an emotional punch bag.
Being Used As A Punch Bag :
Narcissistic parents tend to be unhappy, unfulfilled, frustrated, thin-skinned and hypersensitive to criticism and disapproval (real or imagined). This makes them very prone to feelings of anger and resentment and they are liable to displace and redirect such feelings onto their child in the form of aggression (verbal, physical or both), thus, in effect, using the child as a punching bag on which to vent their vitriol.
But this is not the only reason why narcissistic parents may use their child as a punching bag – it also serves to keep the child ‘in his / her place’ and also to ensure that his / her self-esteem and confidence remain resolutely low, thus making him/her easier to control and manipulate.
This parental betrayal of the child may also be amplified further by the fact that such parents, too, may also rely on the child to provide him/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent) with constant emotional support, resulting in the child becoming not only the parent’s emotional punch bag but, also, his / her (i.e. the parent’s) emotional caretaker (sometimes referred to as ‘parenting’ the child).
The Narcissistic Parent’s Binary View Of The World :
The behaviour of the narcissistic parent described above, oscillating between using the child for emotional support and using him/her as an emotional ‘punch bag’ is elucidated in part by the fact that narcissists tend to view the world in a binary fashion, by which is meant in terms of ‘all good’ or ‘all bad,’ or ‘black and white,’ rather than in a more nuanced manner which also acknowledges the shades of grey in between. In line with this, then, narcissistic parents tend to oscillate between, at times, demonizing their child whilst, at other times, idealizing him /her.
It is extremely hard to correct this hurtful behaviour in the narcissistic parents as they tend to be incapable of empathy and love – not only for people in general but for their own children; indeed, in the case of narcissistic mothers, they seem to lack the normal maternal extinct to nurture the child.
It is for this reason that some adult children sever connections with their narcissistic parent altogether. Others, however, do not take such drastic action but, instead, attempt to reduce the dysfunctionality of the relationship by learning to incorporate appropriate personal boundaries into it.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).