Sadistic-narcissistic parents need to feel superior to others and maintain power and control over them.
In order to achieve this end, s/he is willing to inflict pain upon others, most frequently emotional and psychological pain, but sometimes physical pain too.
Sadistic-narcissistic parents will frequently be prepared to inflict such pain on his/her own children in order to maintain power and control over them. This sometimes involves scapegoating one child (usually the most sensitive and vulnerable) whilst largely sparing the more favoured/psychologically tougher child. This more favoured child may sometimes join with the sadistic-narcissistic parent in scapegoating the more vulnerable child.
Indeed, it was my own misfortune to experience such a malignant and poisonous alliance between my own mother and older brother, which I have referred to elsewhere so will not repeat here (to read my article on how the child can become the family scapegoat, click here).
The infliction of psychological and emotional pain upon the child by the sadistic-narcissistic parent may include:
– humiliating him/her (e.g. cruel and derogatory name-calling, palpably motivated by spite)
– threats of abandonment and total rejection
– ignoring him/her in a vindictive manner for protracted periods of time in order to intensify the child’s feelings of insecurity and of being unwanted
– saying to the child ‘I wish you’d never been born’
– shaming him/her in front of his/her friends/significant others.
– cruel and unusual punishments such as locking him/her in a closet
– subjecting him/her to protracted periods of ‘the silent treatment
– seeking out reasons to punish him/her even when absolutely nothing has been done to deserve punishment
– never apologizing to the child for the abuse or relishing upsetting child further by refusing to admit abusive behaviour has occurred and treating his/her opinions on the matter as contemptible
– deriving pleasure from the ‘drama’ that might ensue from the child’s negative life events (e.g. the break-up of a teenage romance
– intimidating him/her and enjoying the fear this induces in him/her
– ignoring or mocking his/her desperate apologies (e.g. if s/he cries, belittling him/her for doing so and carrying on, or intensifying, the abuse
– provoking and taunting the child to the degree s/he feels psychologically crushed or, in desperate self-defence, becomes angry him/her and then ridiculing him/her for being ‘weak’ (in the case of the former response) or rejecting/punishing him/her (in the case of the latter response).
At the risk of sounding self-indulgent, all of the above were frequent occurrences in my own childhood, it feels me with pain to report. The sadistic-narcissistic parent is able to behave in this extraordinary and shocking manner as s/he feels no empathy with his/her children and is sadly devoid of, or severely deficient in, feelings of normal parental protectiveness, love and affection.
Furthermore, after behaving towards his/her children in such a way, the sadistic-narcissistic parent will feel little or no genuine remorse, but, instead, justify and rationalise his/her behaviour by telling him/ herself, as well as others, that the child ‘deserved’ it and ‘brought it upon themselves. And, whilst it may sound like parody, s/he may actually blame the child for ‘making [him/her] behave that way.’The psychologist, Vaknin, an expert in this field, has put forward the theory that the sadistic-narcissistic parent behaves in this way to gain ‘narcissistic supply’ ( the word ‘supply’ here refers to the feeding of the sadistic-narcissistic parent’s ferocious and insatiable hunger for power and control) or to punish those who have previously provided him/her with such narcissistic supply but have stopped being sufficiently ( in the view of the sadistic-narcissistic parent) compliant, respectful, obedient and admiring of him/her.
One way that helps psychologists try to decide if an individual is a sadist or not is to administer what is known as the Short Sadistic Impulsive Scale (SSIS). The questionnaire comprises the following ten questions:
- Do you enjoy seeing others hurt?
- Would you enjoy hurting someone physically, sexually or emotionally?
- Do you think hurting others would be exciting?
- Have you ever hurt others for enjoyment?
- Do you think people would enjoy hurting others if they tried it?
- Have you had fantasies involving hurting others?
- Have you hurt others because you could?
- Would you intentionally hurt anyone?
- Have you humiliated others to ‘keep them in line’?
- Do you ever get so angry that you want to hurt people?
N.B. The above questionnaire is for information only. You can’t self-diagnose or diagnose others simply by answering the above questions (which represent only a very small part of the medical profession’s tool-kit when it comes to diagnosis of personality disorders).
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.