Category Archives: Narcissism

Narcissistic Parents’ Use Of The Complimentary Moral Defense




Having lived with my highly unstable mother until since my parents’ divorce when I was eight,, I moved into the house of my father and step-mother (I have explained how this came about elsewhere on this site) when I was thirteen. It was obvious from the start that I was not wanted in my new environment : soon after I moved in my father told me that what I had to understand was that when his new wife (i.e. now my step-mother) married him (a year or two previously) she didn’t realize that I was going to become ‘part of the package) ; indeed, the antipathy she felt towards my presence was palpable from the start (whilst my father coped with my presence by essentially ignoring me).

My step-mother was a highly religious woman who was a pivotal member of her church and started a charity for the homeless (and eventually built it into an organization of some local significance) which was ironic in as far as several years later she insisted my father threw me out of the house (a demand to which he acquisced without apparent quibble), thus making me homeless (I had to move in with a friend and his parents – my step-mother’s homeless charity was not forthcoming with support). Although my step-mother had an impeccable public image, I believe she was what is known as a communal narcissist (she also worshipped her own, biological son, whilst intensely disliking me and it is a recognized phenomenon that narcissistic parents often have one favourite child and another they make the family scapegoat.

But back to when I was thirteen and had just moved in. As I have said, my step-mother was highly religious and attended a Charismatic church (i.e. one that beieved god actively intervenes in the world through miracles, signs, symbols, prophecy, healings, supernatural events and general spookiness. Congregation members, for example, would apparently sometimes spontaneously start talking in so-called ‘tongues ; this is, Charismatic Christians believe, a ‘divine language’. Notwithstanding this spurious and bogus claim, it is nevertheless incomprehensible to not only the listener, but also the speaker. However, it  superficially sounds like an actual language in so far as it is made up of syllables from a real language and tends to be spoken with at least some degree of rhythym and melody (Williams, 1972). Anyway, the point is that after I had just moved in and was in the middle of some fairly trifling argument with my step-mother, she suddenly started shouting at me in said ‘tongues’ (with, as I recall, a somewhat crazed look on her face which did little to reassure me).

So, what was she trying to communicate? Although I was stunned into a sort of mental blankness (an example of dissociation, I assume) by her bizarre and disturbing behavior at the time and, for a long time afterwards, blocked it out of my mind, in retrospect it is clear (although the ‘tongues’ themselves were, I can see now, amounted to nothing more than nonsensensical prattle) that the message she intended to convey was that she herself was a holy, godly and good person whist I was the polar opposite : unholy, ungodly, and evil (so evil, in fact, that she wished me to believe that god had seen fit to give my step-mother the ‘gift of tongues’ with which to really drive the point home) ; I undoubtedly internalized that message, reinforced constantly by her attitude towards me over the years which has led to a life mired in self-hatred and self-contempt.

I retell the story because what happened between myself and my step-mother that day, so many years ago now, but still vivid in my mind, encapsulates very well what is meant by the psychoanalytic phrase : THE COMPLEMENTARY MORAL DEFENSE.

As I alluded to above, for much of my life I have felt essentially worthless and this, if Shaw’s (author of : Traumatic Narcissism :  Relational Systems Of Subjugation, in which he expounds upon this) theory (an expansion of Fairbairn’s original theory) is correct, may well be due to the complementary moral defense (which I’ll refer to as CMD).

Essentially, CMD involves, firstly, the child of narcissistic, abusive parents being unconsciously driven to perceive himself / herself as ‘bad’ rather than the narcissistic, abusive parents as bad because this is the only way s/he can maintain an attachment to them, upon which s/he is so pitifully dependent.

Secondly, CMD involves the narcissistic, abusive parents developing the diametrically opposed belief about themselves which is complimentary to the child’s view of himself as being ‘all bad’, i.e. they regard themselves as ‘all good.’ This appallingly destructive relational dynamic is maintained by the narcissistic parents continually projecting their own badness onto the child which s/he internalizes : like a diabolical form of osmosis, slowly, but surely, over the years, the psychological poison projected from the narcissistic parents is absorbed into the child’s self-image, potentially condemning him / her, without effective therapy or meaningful emotional support, to a life of having to endure profound feelings of self-loathing, shame and guilt.

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


5 Defenses Used By Narcissists To Hide Inner, Extreme Fragility



As we have seen in many other articles that I have published on this site, despite superficial indicators of the polar opposite, internally narcissists are wracked by intense feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, vulnerability, fragility, worthlessness and self-loathing ; in essence, their internal, camouflaged self is that of a highly anxious, uncertain, frightened and deeply insecure child.

And, because it is so painful to live in a state of mind which is acutely conscious of these weaknesses, the narcissist desperately needs to  defend him/herself, psychologically,  from living in a state of perpetual awareness of them and so, unconsciously, develops defensive psychological mechanisms in an attempt to keep them mentally subjugated and prevent them impinging upon and  dominating his / her conscious awareness.

Below, I list some examples of the kinds of psychological defense mechanisms the narcissist employs (on an unconscious level) in order to be able to keep his / her potentially paralyzing, self-denigrating inner feelings at bay.


GRANDIOSITY : The defense mechanism of ‘grandiosity’ serves to protect the narcissist from his / her inner feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy.

PROJECTION : Projection is a psychological defense mechanism employed by individuals to deny and repudiate faults that exist in themselves by attributing them, instead, to other people. For example, a narcissist who is controlling and demanding may acuse others of being controlling and demanding.

ENTITLEMENT : This defense mechanism, a kind of ‘the-world-owes-me-a-living’ attitude is used to disguise inner feelings of being fundamentally undeserving of anything good in life.

FANTASIES OF GREAT SUCCESS : Internally, the narcissist feels deeply inferior to others and an object of scorn and contempt ; fantasies of great success help to defend against this. S/he may, for example, believe they are an, as yet, undiscovered genius who will, sooner or later, achieve the recognition of which s/he has, thus far (due to the imbicility of others, naturally), been so cruelly deprived, and become the object an envy, jealousy, worship and devotion (i.e. his/her rightful place in the world). Or, the narcissist may fantasize about having great power and control over others to protect against feelings of impotence and incompetence.

ARROGANCE AND SANCTIMONY : Narcissists can hide behind attitudes of ‘better-than-you’ and ‘holier-than-thou’ to ward off inner feelings of inferiority and shame.

Taking all of the above into account, one way to view narcissism itself is as a psychological defense to distance awareness from an inner, psychological reality that is too emotionally painful, distressing and potentially catastrophic to confront directly.

To read my previously published article about how narcissistic mothers may invalidate us, click here.

Alternatively, to read my previously published article about charateristics of narcissistic parents, click here.

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

Two Main Ways Narcissistic Parents May Use Their Children.

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 punch bag on which to vent their vitriol.

But this is not the only reason why narcissistic parents may use their child as a punch 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 ‘parentifying’ the child).

The Narcissistic Parent’s Binary View Of The World :

The behavior 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 inbetween. 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 behavior 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).

Narcissistic Mothers May Form Enmeshed Relationship With Their Child.

I have already published on this site several articles about narcissism and narcissistic parents, but, in this article, I wish to focus, more specifically on a particular phenomenon which can occur in households in which the mother is narcissistic ; the phenomenon is known as an ENMESHED RELATIONSHIP and, whilst it can develop between the narcissistic mother and her son, more commonly develops between the narcissistic mother and her daughter.

However, I should point out that enmeshed relationships are not restricted the narcissistic mother and her offspring, but can develop between various combinations of members (whether female, male, narcissist or non-narcissist) of any dysfunctional familyor, indeed, between partners.

First, then, I will briefly explain what is meant by an ‘enmeshed relationship.’ Essentially, an enmeshed relationship is said to exist when personal boundaries between two people are indistinct and porous, allowing the emotions of one person to ‘leak through’ (as if by osmosis) and powerfully affect the other person’s emotional experience.

For example, as a child, my own relationship with my mother was enmeshed – this meant that my own emotional state was powerfully dictated by hers ; her emotional pain was my emotional pain, and, as I got older, I reciprocated her destructive emotions, too, of anger and aggression (a feature of relationships that have weak boundaries is that as one person’s emotions intensify, so, too, do the other’s).

Another hallmark of an ‘enmeshed relationship’ within a dysfunctional family is that family roles can become confused, especially in relation to age ; specifically, family members adopt (mainly unconsciously) roles that are inconsistent with their chronological age. For example, the emotionally immature parent may ‘parentify‘ their child (i.e. expect the child to take on a role, such as the parent’s emotional caretaker, with which s/he is not psychologically developed enough to cope – in essence, s/he is expected to become the parent’s parent. And, of course, the other side of this coin is that the parent may regress to a psychologically childlike state by demonstrating excessive dependence and neediness.

Perhaps the most famous depiction of an enmeshed relationship in fiction is that between Norman Bates and his mother in the film Psycho.Most people are familiar with Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film, but fewer may be aware that it was originally a novel (published in 1959) by Robert Bloch.

Of course, their enmeshed (and, possibly, incestuous, the novel implies) relationship is epitomized by the fact that Norman’s highly, psychologically abusive mother is almost identical to his own : Norma (viewing children, not as individuals in their own right but as possessions and as an extension of themselves is a hallmark feature of both narcissistic and borderline mothers).

In short, Norman eventually murders his malevolent and tormenting mother (by poisoning her with stychnine) because, ironically, he fears she is abandoning him to marry her fiance (whom, for good measure, he also murders by employing the same modus operandi). Following this double murder, Norman frequently dresses in his (now deceased) mother’s clothes and takes on her personality.

Narcissistic Mothers And The Enmeshed Relationship :

Narcissistic mothers may form such an emotionally interwoven relationship with their son or daughter (sometimes referred to as ‘emotional incest‘) that the boundary between her identity and her offspring’s becomes nebulous and indistinct – whatever the mother feels, the son or daughter is expected to reflect back (e.g. if the mother is happy, her offspring must be happy and, if the mother is sad, her offspring must be sad.

Furthermore, the mother who has an enmeshed relationship with her offspring may instil guilt in him / her if s/he tries to behave independently in a way that excludes her.

She may, too, be highly controlling, dictating her offspring’s life-style and vetting their relationships with others and demanding compliance.

In divorced households, these types of mothers may also manipulate the child into breaking off relations with his / her (now absent) father so as to have the child ‘all to herself’, making him / her all the easier to dominate, control, and, essentially, to ‘possess’. This phenomenon is known as ‘parental alienation’ (and also occurs when one parent, motivated by a need for revenge, tries to hurt the other (absent) patent by denying him / her any contact with the child (irrespective, often, of the psychological harm that such a course of action may do to the child, sadly).

If the child grows up into an adult who does not assert his / her right to introduce healthy boundaries into the relationship, s/he is likely to suffer a very weak sense of his / her own identity as an individual as how s/he experiences his / her emotional life will continue to be dominated by his / her mother. Such individuals, without therapy, can go through life feeling deeply uncertain about who they actually are

Furthermore, they may have serious problems asserting themselves as well as a low tolerance of emotional pain (‘distress intolerance’)

Other problems they may experience include : lacking a sense of autonomy when it comes to how they feel (i.e. believing that how they feel is out of their control and is dictated by the emotional state of others) ; feeling ’empty’ as they are unable to take responsibility for their own emotions ; neglecting their own needs while feeling overly responsible in relation to how others are feeling.

Once individuals are aware that they are in an unhealthy, enmeshed relationship that is spoiling their quality of life and they become willing to take steps to rectify the problem, they may find both family therapy and individual therapy to be useful for helping them set the healthy boundaries within the relationship which it had, up until then, lacked.

Related Post : The Effects Of Unloving Mothers


Setting Boundaries | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

Narcissism : The Roles Of Nature, Nurture And Culture

narcissism nature and nurture

To what degree are narcissists created by their genetic inheritance (nature) and to what degree by the environment in which they grow up (nurture)?

The Role Of Nature :

According to a leading expert in the field of the study of narcissism, Dr Craig Malkin  (Harvard Medical School), author of the fascinating book The Narcissist Test, some individuals may be born with an innate, or, in other words, genetic, predisposition towards developing narcissism in later life (which is, of course, a very different thing from asserting that there exists a gene for narcissism).

Indeed, he states that some young children start to display a temperament with narcissistic-like elements even before the age of three years, such as an abnormally intense need for attention. Furthermore, according to Dr Malkin, those children who display a deficit of empathy and compassion in relation to others’ feelings are more likely to go on to develop full-blown narcissistic personality disorder in adulthood. Also, importantly, says Dr Malikn, it is those with an extravert personality who are at particular risk of becoming narcissists.

The Role Of Nurture :

However. inborn temperament and predispositions are not enough per se to determine whether a person will go on to develop narcissistic personality disorder. Instead, it is how the child’s upbringing interacts with his/her particular temperament that is crucial.

It is when a child is brought up without receiving ‘secure love‘ that the s/he will feel driven to try to compensate for this deficit by desperately attempting to gain attention, but in ways that are ultimately dysfunctional or ‘unhealthy’.

Types Of Parenting That May Put The Child At Risk Of Developing Narcissism In Later Life :

Dr Malkin states that certain parenting styles may put the child at risk of developing narcissistic personality disorder later on in life ; I summarize these below :

  • parents who only show their children admiration and approval when they (their children) achieve tangible successes (for example, in the realm of sport or academia). This can, ultimately, addict children to the desperate pursuit of similar admiration and approval in later life by constantly feeling compelled to achieve further successes (such as the accumulation of large sums of money and the gaining of high social status) because their fundamental sense of self-worth becomes inextricably linked to, and dependent upon, publicly/socially acknowledged achievements.
  • parents who excessively intrude’ and ‘interfere’ with their children;s lives, ignore their need for privacy’ and place their own needs for ‘control and attention’ over their children’s needs for autonomy’. (Dr Malkin also points out that parents who behave in this ways are, themselves, narcissistic) Children exposed to such treatment at the hands of their parents may develop into adults who therefore have an intense need to prevent the desires of others impinging upon their own in order to preserve their identities (that were so threatened by their parents’ overbearing behavior during their childhoods).

The Role Of Culture :

Finally, Dr Malkin stresses the importance of the influence of particular cultures on the development of narcissism in individuals.

He suggests that :

Resources (Self-hypnosis downloads).

  • Dealing With Narcissistic Behavior : Click HERE for further details.
  • Escape Emotional Abuse : Click HERE for further details.

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

Characteristics Of Narcissistic Parents

effects of narcissistic parents on child

narcissistic parents

Typically, the narcissistic parent views his/her child as a kind of possession whose sole purpose is to continuously fulfil 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 (though pretends to have) for their child and are have scant regard for the child’s personal boundaries.


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.


What Are The Main Characteristics Of The Narcissistic Parent?


Narcissistic parents may also display the following characteristics :


   – extreme possessiveness of child (in the sense of owning, controlling and using the child)

   – uses emotional blackmail

   – 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 all 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 (e.g makes sure the child is immaculately turned out to ‘prove’ to others what a ‘good’ parent s/he is.

   – withdraws any pretence of ‘love’ / approval as soon child fails to please (especially by giving the child the ‘silent treatment’ ) 

   – controls the child by instilling feelings of shame and guilt into him / her

   – possesses a conscious or unconscious belief that child exists solely to fulfil his/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent’s) needs

   – narcissistic parentification : the narcissist ‘parentifies’ child / uses child as an ’emotional caretaker)

   – creates an atmosphere in which the child is constantly anxious / fearful / hypervigilant

   – 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)




Potential Long-Term Harm Narcissistic Parents May Do To Their Children :


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 :

   – complex PTSD

   – inability to trust others

   – emotional detachment

   – self-sabotage  / self-defeating personality

   – invasive thoughts of emotional abuse

   – 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)

   – avoidant attachment

   – equation of intimate relationships with making oneself unsafe and vulnerable ; this may cause us to become self-protectively aggressive

   – slowed down emotional development / arrested emotional development

   – narcissistic personality disorder

   – borderline personality disorder

   – anxiety

   – depression (frequently due to repressed anger which can, in turn, lead to physical illness)

   – desperation to achieve high goals (in frantic attempt to bolster profoundly undermined self-esteem).

   – 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).


How Destructive Narcissists May ‘Parentify’ Their Children :

Narcissistic Parentification :

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’.


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 :





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.



How To Reduce Harm Done By The Narcissistic Parent

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

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).




Eleven Signs Of Unempathetic Mothers


An UNEMPATHETIC MOTHER is one who is unable to take her child’s perspective and see things from his/her point of view. For example, if her child responds in a negative way towards her, she is unable to see how her own behaviour contributed to such a response, or to accept that the child’s response may be absolutely normal and understandable given the circumstances. Essentially, she is unable to appreciate how her own behaviour makes her child feel and how it may negatively impact upon him/her.



The psychologist and writer, Apter, suggests that unempathetic mothers frequently :


For example, she may say things like: ‘I am your mother so you must always show me the utmost respect and never defy me!’


For example, she may say things like: ‘Just accept that I always know what’s best for you, so do what I say without questioning me.’


For example, she may say things like: ‘Be quiet, you’re far too young to have an opinion on this; nobody’s remotely interested in anything you have to say.’


For example, she may say things like: ‘Don’t cry – you made me slap you by provoking me so much; you’d try the patience of a saint. I hope you’re happy now, making me do that!’


For example, she may say things like: ‘Stop crying, you’ve no idea what it is to suffer – you should try living my life for a day, having to cope with a little bastard like you!’


For example, she may say things like: ‘You’re just a bad kid through and through’ or, even, ‘you’re utterly evil.’

Sound familiar?

Sound familiar?


For example, she may say things like: ‘Have you managed to compose yourself now? – it must be awful for you, having such a destructive temper.’


For example, she may say things like : (delivered in bored tone): ‘Yeah…right…uh-huh…uh-huh …’(yawns) ‘sorry, I slept very badly last night…I’m utterly shattered…it’s not that you’re boring me…’ (yawns again, more ostentatiously this time)


For example, she may say things like: ‘I promise I’ll be the world’s best mother from now on.’


For example, she may say things like: ‘I’ve never acted against your interests.’


For example, she may say things like: ‘Oh, you think you’re a big shot, do you? All Hail the big-shot! – Don’t make me laugh. You’ll never amount to anything. You’re a complete embarrassment to me and to everybody else who’s ever had the misfortune to know you!’

A particular kind of mother who may be especially prone to behaving in ways suggested above is the NARCISSISTIC MOTHER.

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