Tag Archives: Narcissistic Parents

How Narcissistic Parents Weaken Our Sense Of A Personal Boundary.

weak personal boundaries

Because narcissistic parents are so unpredictable, and their mood changes so mercurial and frightening, the young child quickly learns, largely on an unconscious level, that s/he (i.e. the young child) must be able to ‘read’, with great precision, such a parent’s feelings and emotions lest s/he fails to respond in such a way that meets the parent’s emotional needs and, as a result of such failure, inadvertently upsets him/her (sadly, this is never possible to fully achieve as the narcissistic parent’s emotional needs are infinite and cannot ever be fully sated).

In other words, the child is driven and compelled to develop a profound level of empathy for the narcissistic parent as a means to helping to ensure his/her (i.e. the child’s) psychological survival (the alternative is to be psychologically crushed). I remember, as a child of about four, I had a recurring nightmare of being a tiny insect next to an enormous boulder which was invariably and inexorably rolling towards me, threatening to crush me. In fact, sometimes this image would intrude on my mind when I was awake, seemingly out of nowhere. At the time, of course, I could not discern its (now) all too obvious meaning.

personal-boundary

By the time I was eight or nine years old my empathy for my mother was so acute that she (in her typically melodramatic manner) would tell me that I had ‘a sixth sense’ and could ‘read her mind’ or, even, that I was ‘psychic’, so good was I at being able to tell exactly what she was feeling within a second of her entering the room. Absurd nonsense, obviously. The truth is, I’d simply had no choice, and no conscious control, over developing my unusual empathetic abilities.

There is a heavy price to be paid for this process. When my mother was very depressed, for example, I felt her pain as my own and would become obsessively preoccupied by her unhappy condition, able to think of nothing else. This could last for days at a time.

Indeed, because the child of the narcissist becomes so deeply attuned to his/her parent’s mental state, this substantially interferes with his/her own sense of self as a separate, distinct, individual person in such a way that his/her sense of a personal boundary between him/herself and the parent becomes blurred and nebulous. This, in turn, is highly likely to lead to a collapse of his/her incipient and precarious sense of a personal identity as well as of his/her sense intrinsic value (if, indeed, any has been allowed to develop).

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

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’.

EFFECTS OF SUCH DNP BEHAVIOUR ON THE CHILD :

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 :

– DEFIANCE

– REBELLION

– WITHDRAWAL

– APPARENT INSENSITIVITY

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).

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The Self-Contradictory Behaviour of The Narcissistic Parent

childhood_trauma_questionnaire

The Narcissistic Parent :

One of the most confusing and frustrating aspects of dealing with a narcissistic parent is that they seem to have two sides to their personality which appear to be diametrically opposed (although, actually, they are inter-related – two sides of the same coin, as it were).

The dichotomy at the heart of the personality of the narcissistic individual is that they, unpredictably, oscillate between acting in a GRANDIOSE manner and, at other times, in a NEEDY and DEPENDENT MANNER. Indeed, they may well change from one manner to the other in the course of a single encounter/argument/confrontation.

So, dealing with a narcissistic parent can be rather like a batsman in a cricket game facing fierce, fast-paced bouncers one minute, and slow, tricky spinners the next – always sans indication of what to expect.

Furthermore, whichever side of these two opposing personality types the narcissistic individual displays at any one time, its counterpart is invariably lurking just beneath the surface, co-existing and ready to emerge without warning or notice.

However, there is no deliberate ‘scheming’ involved – the presentation of the alternative personalities is operated on an UNCONSCIOUS LEVEL and serves, for the narcissistic individual, as a CRUCIAL DEFENCE MECHANISM.

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THE GRANDIOSE PERSONALITY STATE :

In grandiose ‘mode’, the following characteristics can be frequently observed :

– superiority/surface arrogance/displays of utter contempt for others

– surface feelings of being very powerful

– desire for complete control/controlling behaviour

– sense of own great importance/specialness

– desire to be loved/adored/profoundly respected

THE ‘NEEDY’ PERSONALITY STATE :

If the grandiose personality state is operating, one can be certain that, just beneath the surface, the needy personality state is lurking (in this way, the grandiose personality state can be seen as a form of OVER-COMPENSATION for the latent ‘needy’ state)

In ‘needy’ mode, the narcissistic individual is likely to feel :

– as if they are utterly worthless

– as if they are completely inferior to others

– full of fear and anxiety

– deeply insecure/unsafe/threatened/in danger

HOW IS IT BEST TO DEAL WITH THE NARCISSISTIC INDIVIDUAL?

I have already said that dealing with a narcissistic individual can be extremely confusing and frustrating – indeed, in trying to do so, one can quickly find one feels disoriented and emotionally exhausted; one feels as if one is ‘walking on eggshells’ and is inevitably worried that one may say something to make the situation worse; in relation to this concern, I list, below, responses to the narcissistic individual which are usually best AVOIDED :

1) relying on rational argument

2) verbally attacking the narcissist

3) highlighting aspects of the narcissist’s behaviour you consider to be unreasonable

4) attempting to persuade the narcissist to accept responsibility for any of their destructive behaviours

Why should these approaches be avoided?

The reason that these responses are best avoided is that the narcissist has a deep, psychological need to deny and repress his/her negative thoughts/beliefs about him/herself. To achieve this, the narcissist will PROJECT his/her own faults onto others. As I have already stated, their defence mechanisms operate on an unconscious level and prevent them from accepting criticism, however rationally and tactfully presented to them.

Were they to become fully aware of their own faults and failings, they would be flooded with an overwhelming and unmanageable amount of emotional pain, shame and guilt.

EMOTIONAL INSULATION :

One method that can be useful for those who need to interact with narcissists is called the emotional insulation technique; you can read my article on this by clicking here.

RESOURCES :

Dealing with Narcissistic Behaviour hypnotherapy MP3/CD – click here (or see the ‘Recommended Products’ section of the main menu.

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

 

Narcissistic Parent : Typical Behavior

 

 

 

What Is The Typical Behavior Of The Narcissistic Parent?

The psychologist Brown, an expert in this area, highlights for us the kinds of characteristics narcissistic parents frequently has; these are :

1) A need to constantly be the centre of attention

2) A need for constant and unconditional admiration from others

3) A need to be treated at all times with special consideration / as having special entitlement

4) Grandiosity

5) Lacks empathy

6) Has shallow emotions

7) Sees her children as an extension of herself

8) Exploits others

9) Emotionally abusive towards others

Let’s look at each of these nine areas in turn :

1) A need to constantly be the centre of attention

Narcissistic parents may try to achieve this by being boastful, sulking, having tantrums, complaining (often about trivialities), frequently teasing others

2) A need for constant and unconditional admiration from others –

Narcissistic parents display great vanity, seek status (eg try to form relationships with people of high social standing), make excessive demands to be shown gratitude, be desperate to gain compliments and approval, overspend to impress others, gloat, neglect family to seek status/limelight for herself.

3) Expects at all times to be treated with special consideration / has deep sense of own entitlement –

Narcissistic parents may feel what she has to say is far more important than what anyone else has to say, get angry if they believe they have somehow been overlooked, expect to receive better service than the ‘run-of-the-mill’ person, have excessive expectations of others to do things and say things to make them feel special (and become annoyed and angry if they do not), expect always to be deferred to by others, be inconsiderate of others, be contemptuous and disdainful of others, demand unwavering obedience, frequently issue ‘orders’, and always regard her own needs of taking priority over the needs of others

4) Grandiosity –

She may have an highly inflated opinion of herself, have false prtensions, exaggerate achievements, and constantly try to impress others (however, beneath this their lies a sense of deep inadequacy).

She may react very badly to even a hint of criticism, see others as inferior, be very arrogant, find it very hard to laugh at herself.

 

5) Lacks empathy –

Narcisstic parents may be extremely insensitive to the feelings of others, be very bad at listening to others, blame others for their own negative feelings, change the subject when others are talking about things that have great emotional significance for them, belittle/criticize the feelings of others (eg by telling the person they are being ridiculously oversensitive), regard her own feelings as being of far greater importance than the feelings of others.

6) Has shallow emotions –

Because they has shallow emotions, they may fake feelings such as pretending to be concerned when another person is upset but then give themselves away shortly afterwards by saying something obviously insensitive, changing the subject back to themselves or generally displaying a complete lack of proper understanding.

They may also take no pleasure in the happiness of others (eg if they are pleased because they have made a particular achievement, such as getting a good degree) and may resent and be jealous of such happiness

Whilst she experiences mainly shallow emotions, there are two notable exceptions to this which are ANGER and FEAR.

7) Sees their children as an extension of themselves :

Children treated  by narcissistic parents as an extensions of themselves will tend to fail two extremely important developmental tasks – the tasks of INDIVIDUATION and SEPARATION. As a result, they may have A VERY POOR SENSE OF THEIR OWN IDENTITY AND OF WHO THEY REALLY ARE (click here to read my article on this). They can fail to differentiate between where their ‘self starts’ and where their ‘self ends’; in other words, they only have a vague notion of which aspects of themselves are under their own control and which are not.

Narcissistic parent who views their child as an extension of themselves do not fully regard the child as an individual who is separate from them. As such, they will tend to :

– not respect the child’s boundaries

– interfere inappropriately in the detail of the child’s life

– act in an overbearing and over-controlling manner towards the child

– become angry with, and resent, the child if s/he rebels against such behaviour

– become offended if the child’s opinion on particular matters is at odds with her own

– deny the child appropriate choice in decisions affecting his/her own life

– expect the child to be compliant, at all times, with her own wishes and needs

– expect the child to neglect his/her own needs in order to help her to satisfy her own

8) Exploits others –

They may see others existing solely as objects to help them fulfill their own needs. They may, too, sever all connections with ‘friends’ when they cease to be of use. Further characteristics may include :

– being ruthless in getting what they want

– lying and dishonesty / distortion of the truth to serve their own interests /prone to exaggeration

– manipulation of others

– making frequent use of emotional blackmail

– frequently expects favours and becoming angry if they are not granted, but rarely returns such favours

– avoid feeling shame and guilt by rationalizing (justifying to herself) the things that she says and does; any expression of shame and guilt is likely to be faked

9) Emotionally abusive towards others –

They may be very adept at verbally hurting others (knowing their sensitive points/weak spots/emotional triggers). They are also likely to expect the person they are abusing to simply accept such abuse uncomplainingly even though they would never tolerate it were the boot on the other foot, so to speak. Also, they may :

– make frequent upsetting, hurtful, degrading and disparaging remarks to others

– unfairly and aggressively blame others

– makes others feel constantly defensive when in her company

– belittle, or show minimal interest in the attainments and achievements of others

– become verbally aggressive to others when they have done nothing to deserve such treatment

– displace (take out) their own disappointment in life, frustrations, regrets etc on others

– project their  own, unconscious, negative image of themselves onto others

10) Narcissistic Rage –

The term ‘narcissistic rage’ was first coined by the psychologist Heinz Kohut in 1972. Kohut believed that it results from ‘narcissistic injury’. ‘Narcissistic injury’ can be defined as ‘A PERCEIVED THREAT TO (the narcissist’s) SELF-WORTH’.

Whilst, on the surface, a narcissist acts as if s/he is highly superior to others and has a greatly inflated, grandiose sense of self-worth, just beneath this superficial facade lies an extremely fragile, weak and vulnerable ego which the narcissist is desperate to protect from further damage.

It is because their ego, in reality, is so fragile and vulnerable, which the narcissist is desperate to protect at almost any cost, that even the slightest threat to their tenuous grip on their self-esteem, such as a very minor criticism, can trigger an outburst of extreme and disproportionate rage directed at the person who dared make the criticism.

In this way, extreme aggression becomes the narcissist’s form of defence.

This self-protective narcissistic rage can take on two forms :

1) Explosive rage

2) Passive-aggressive rage

Explosive rage : this type of rage is self-explanatory. My own mother would hysterically yell that she felt she ‘could knife’ me / felt ‘murderous towards’ me / felt ‘evil towards’ me / rued the day I was born / would throw me out of the house (this last one a threat that she carried out when I was thirteen years old.

Passive- aggressive rage :  this type involves the narcissist becoming petulant, childishly sulky and, often’ giving the object of her wrath ‘the silent treatment’ (click here to read my article about what ‘ the silent treatment’ entails).

The rage that the narcissist expresses can be extremely vindictive and is often employed as a way of seeking revenge on the person who ( often inadvertantly) upset them. The narcissist may well want the person punished and psychologically hurt ( or, indeed, physically hurt, as some narcissists will use physical as well as verbal violence in their inexorable pursuit of vengeance).

Summary :

Narcissistic rage is a defense mechanism employed by the narcissist in a desperate attempt to preserve their extremely precarious and tenuous sense of self-confidence and self- esteem. They have an overwhelming need to maintain their false, superficial, grandiose view of themselves used to keep their deeper feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness at bay.

 

 

Possible Effects Of Narcissistic Parents :

 

Outlined below are the main, possible ways in which the narcissist may have negatively impacted our childhood experience and adversely affected our psychological development? 

1) SENSE OF BEING INTRINSICALLY BAD: If our narcissistic parents did not love us we are likely to feel that there is something INTRINSICALLY BAD about us and that the profound essence of who we are is somehow repellent to others no matter what our superficial behaviour. In my own case, I certainly felt this; if people were nice to me I assumed it was due to pity or politeness. Because, as children, we are genetically programmed to believe and learn from parents, we feel our narcissistic parents’ constant negative appraisal of us must be correct, and, as a result, we carry around with us a deep sense of personal shame.

2) PERFECTIONISM: if our narcissistic parents were constantly highly critical of us when we were children we may have believed that if only we could stop making the ‘mistakes’ that seemed to displease the NP we could finally win his/her approval (a vain hope, sadly, as nothing would ever have been enough for the NP).

We may, therefore, have developed an obsession with ‘getting everything right’ or perfectionism; this is often likely represent a subconscious drive to finally win love from our NP.

This can lead to high levels of anxiety, so we need to realise that our NP’s expectations of us were not only utterly unreasonable but also completely unobtainable.

Only then can we get off the treadmill, accept we are human and inevitably prone to making human errors just like everyone else.

3) LOW SELF-ESTEEM: if, pretty much from birth, we were treated as unimportant and not mattering very much, shown little interest or affection and not listened to, it is easy to see that we are likely to become adults with serious self-esteem problems.

Linked to this, we are likely to have low confidence and difficulties with asserting ourselves.

4) PROBLEMS WITH OUR RELATIONSHIPS: many people who are abused by their parents are, as Sigmund Freud pointed out, likely to have an unconscious drive to repeat similar abusive experiences as adults, perhaps by always forming relationships with abusive partners.

Freud referred to this as a REPETITION COMPULSION and it is based on the theory we are unconsciously driven to keep repeating our abusive experiences so that we can, eventually, ‘master’ them.

5) ADDICTIONS : we are more likely to develop addictions than the average person to help numb the intensity of our emotional pain, or, to use a technical term, to dissociate.

 

6) PERPETUAL, UNFULFILLED HOPE: we may constantly hope that we will finally be able to resolve our problems with our narcissistic parents but find that a permanent rrapprochement remains stubbornly elusive.

7) PROBLEMS WITH TRUST : if we found we were unable to rely upon our narcissistic parents, it is probable we will generalize these feelings of distrust onto other people we interact with in our adult lives.

8) PRONENESS TO SELF-HARM : physically self-harming (such as self-burning, self-cutting etc) detracts our attention from unbearable psychological pain and also floods the brain with endorphins (these are chemicals produced in the brain which have a soothing effect upon us; we use self-harm to induce this as it is probable, due to our childhoods, we have never learned more helpful self-soothing techniques).

9) PRONENESS TO SELF-NEGLECT – if we have learned from our NP to believe we are worthless, we may stop bothering to look after ourselves (it sounds disgusting, but when my illness was at its worse I went three months without properly washing or changing my clothes – my socks became all but welded to my feet).

10) PRONE TO UNDERACHIEVEMENT: we may, unconsciously, be driven to underachieve as, deep down, our narcissistic parent has made us feel we are not worthy of success. Indeed, if we had success in childhood, our NP may have resented this, as it detracted attention from him/herself.

11)PRONE TO OVERACHIEVEMENT: alternatively, we may be strongly driven to overachieve due to an unconscious overwhelming need to finally win our narcissistic parents’ approval and love. Such individuals may become obsessive workaholics.

12) EXISTENTIAL LONELINESS : rejection by our narcissistic parents can lead to a deep sense of painful, existential loneliness in our adulthood.

13) SOCIAL ANXIETY : due to the fact we feel intrinsically unlikeable, we are likely, as adults, to find it difficult to interact confidently with others.

Unfortunately, believing this can become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy – our lack of confidence and subsequent awkwardness may be sensed by others and make them feel uncomfortable, leading them to withdraw from us.

We are then likely to (falsely) interpret this as evidence we are intrinsically unlikable.

14) DISLIKE CELEBRATIONS : our narcissistic parents may have resented our celebrations when we were young as it would detract attention from him/her.

I remember, due, apparently, to a minor argument with her the night before, my single mother completely ignored me on my 13th birthday, not even acknowledging me when I got up in the morning and went downstairs to the room in which she was sitting.

However, she made as much out of her own birthdays as possible, excitedly talking about what presents I might like to buy her days, even weeks, in advance.

Such experiences can lead to us being uncertain how to deal with celebrations that centre on us as adults. In my own case, for example, I did not attend any of the three graduation celebrations I was entitled to attend to receive my degrees/diplomas.

15) PRONENESS TO QUESTION OUR OWN PERCEPTION OF REALITY: this is a particularly devastating effect of having an narcissistic parents.

The narcissistic parent, with his/her pathological need to protect his/her self-image, will deny and invalidate our perception of our own childhoods using every available tactic – evasiveness, dissembling, outright denial, minimization etc.

Research suggests that such invalidation of our adverse childhood experiences is especially psychologically harmful and can prove a significant obstacle to recovery.

16) FEELING OF BEING TREATED LIKE AN ACCESSORY OF THE PARENT RATHER THAN AS AN INDIVIDUAL WITH OWN HOPES, NEEDS AND FEARS ETC.

17) FEELING AS IF THEY ARE VALUED MORE FOR WHAT THEY DO THAN WHO THEY ARE (i.e. what they do directly for the parent or what they achieve that reflects well on the parent / allows the parent to bathe in reflected glory.

18) FEELING INTRINSICALLY UNLOVABLE AND INADEQUATE

19) FEELING UNCERTAIN ABOUT OWN IDENTITY

20) FEELING EMOTIONALLY EMPTY

21) FEELING THAT THEY HAVE BEEN EXPLOITED AND MANIPULATED BY THE NARCISSISTIC PARENT

22) FEELING DISTRUSTFUL OF OTHERS

23) ARRESTED EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

24) INABILITY TO MAKE HEALTHY EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS WITH OTHERS LEADING TO SIGNIFICANT RELATIONSHIP DIFFICULTIES

25) DIFFICULTY INDIVIDUATING FROM THE NARCISSISTIC PARENT DUE TO AN ENMESHED RELATIONSHIP

26) LACK OF SELF BELIEF

27) PROBLEMS SETTING PERSONAL BOUNDARIES WITHIN RELATIONSHIPS

28) DEEP FEELINGS OF SHAME

29) SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR

30) STRONG NEED FOR EXTERNAL VALIDATION DUE TO INABILITY TO GENERATE FEELINGS OF VALIDATION INTERNALLY

 

WHAT ARE THE PHYSICAL BRAIN DIFFERENCES IN THOSE SUFFERING FROM NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER?

 

A study conducted by Schulze et al. examined 34 individuals, 17 of whom had an official diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder; these 17 individuals had also, through testing, been found to be deficient in feelings of empathy (a main symptom of narcissistic personality disorder – see list of symptoms above).

Using a brain scanning technique known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) it was found that the 17 individuals who had been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder had differences in the structure of a region of the brain called the cerebral cortex compared to the individuals in the control group (i.e. the individuals in the study who had NOT been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder).

 

WHAT WERE THE SPECIFIC BRAIN DIFFERENCES FOUND BY THE STUDY?

Specifically, the MRI scan revealed that those who had been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder had cerebral cortices (plural of cortex) that were thinner in the region responsible for producing feelings of compassion for others (known as the insular region) than the cerebral cortices of those in the control group.

This finding emphasizes the fact that those with narcissistic personality disorder require treatment rather than moral judgment.

OTHER ARTICLES ON NARCISSISM AND NARCISSISTIC PARENTS :

 

RETURN HOME TO ABOUT CHILDHOOD TRAUMA RECOVERY

 

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

 

 

 

Effects of Narcissistic Parents Who ‘Parentify’ Their Child

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A ‘parentified’ child is a term that psychologists use to refer to a situation between the child and the parent in which a role-reversal has occurred resulting in the child having to care for the parent (emotionally and/or physically) rather than the other way around.

I have already written articles about narcissistic parents (e.g. click here) but I will briefly repeat the ways in which they often interact with their children.

Ways in which the narcissistic parent may interact with their children :

The diagram below gives an indication of the narcissistic parent’s typical behaviour patterns :

Additionally :

1- they may show limited or no empathy with their children’s feelings

2- they may be emotionally abusive towards their children (my mother, for example, would refer to me as ‘poof’, ‘scabby’, and tell me she wished I’d never been born, and that she felt ‘evil towards’ me, or ‘murderous towards’ me. She also constantly threatened to throw me out of the house and did exactly that when I was thirteen)

3- they may treat their children as an extension of themselves, rather than as a unique individual with his/her own hopes, dreams, needs, desires etc

4- they may constantly seek/demand admiration from their children

5- they may perpetually expect to be treated as the ‘centre of the child’s universe’, rather than the other way around

6- they may constantly demand that the child pays them attention (this may involve dramatic gestures – when I was about ten and alone with my mother, she threatened to take an overdose of her tranquillizers and commit suicide, for example, making it necessary for me to phone for help ; she never took the overdose, however)

7- they may constantly behave in a grandiose manner

8- they may display only shallow emotions (eg the child may sense any love and affection s/he is occasionally shown is extremely tenuous, fragile, conditional and transient)

9- they may generally exploit their child (again, to use a personal example, from about the time I was eleven, I operated as my mother’s personal counsellor – indeed, she used to refer to me as her ‘little psychiatrist’).

What Is The Parentified Child Deprived Of?

The parentified child tends to be deprived of :

– being treated with empathy

– being treated as a unique individual with own needs, desires, ideas etc

– being unconditionally treated with positive regard

– having his/her needs treated as a priority

– having his/her faults accepted

– being treated with patience

Essentially, then, the parent is emotionally unavailable to the child. The emphasis is on the child meeting the needs of the parent (e.g. the parent’s need for attention, admiration and emotional nourishment).

Effects Upon The Child :

When the child who was brought up by a narcissistic parent becomes an adult, s/he may find that his/her own functioning has been adversely affected by his/her narcissistic parent’s influence. For example, s/he may :

– feel lonely and isolated from others

– have low self-confidence/self-esteem

– have problems with his/her relationships with others (including family, friends and work colleagues)

– have low empathy with feelings of others

– be highly self-critical

– have a sense of being a deeply flawed human being

– have a low stress-tolerance threshold

– often feel overwhelmed by, and unable to cope with, the demands of other people

– have an inability to form satisfying and fulfilling intimate relationships

– feel they are always operating on a different emotional level compared with others

– react badly to criticism – e.g. feel far more angry and hurt because of it than would be more objectively warranted

 

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Above e-Book now available from Amazon. Instant download. Click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)