Narcissism 101

After feeling alone for decades and wondering what was wrong with me, I began to hear story after story from members of the ACON* group that sounded exactly like my own. Many times I was blown away by the similarities and I am not the only one who has had this experience. This is because narcissism has a cycle or a pattern that seems to repeat itself by blatant selfishness and zero empathy for others.

Good to Go, cherilynclough.com,http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/14021397-good-to-go

Prints & Accessories Available Here

I realize some people think that by calling our parents narcissistic, we are calling them names, but most of us didn’t go looking to label our parents. Many of us struggled with self worth for decades because of the labels and criticism our parents gave us. Calling the mystery narcissism was not a gut reaction, but a calming balm of relief to a third degree emotional burn that has plagued many of us for years.

We didn’t diagnose our parents, we simply gathered facts and realized there is no other explanation for the mystery we have been trying to solve. It’s sort of like finding out that striped horse is actually called a zebra.

So what are the stripes we now recognize as narcissism?

1. A Violation of Boundaries.
The narcissistic mother sees the child as an extension of herself. She wants the child to reflect her at all times and she also views all resources of the child as hers. In such a world of no boundaries, it’s difficult for the child raised by such parents to stand up for himself. He or she doesn’t know how to take responsibility for themselves because they’ve been raised to let their parents tell them what to do. If they vary from the parent’s wishes, they will experience shunning or abandonment so younger ACONs often try to stay close to the parent to please them.

2. Lack of Empathy for How They Affect Others
This violation of boundaries is often made possible due to lack of empathy. If a parent truly imagined what it is like to be their child, they would treat their children with more respect from childhood. Empathy allows a parent to imagine how it feels to have the belt stinging their legs or what it is like to go to bed without supper while the scent of popcorn drifts down the hallway. As their children grow into adulthood, empathy reminds them to own and apologize for their mistakes and love their grown children unconditionally. Lack of empathy is often manifested by a parent who talks about their adult children when they can’t control them. There is research that says many narcissistic parents recruit their most empathetic child to do their bidding. So while narcissists are low on the empathy scale, they definitely have a use for it in other people. For more on this topic read The Empathy Trap Book.

3. A Desire to see Their Own Reflection in Their Child

Like Narcissus who stared at his own reflection in the pond, a narcissistic parent stares into their child looking for their own image and doing all they can to mold their child into a mini me. This does not end when the child becomes an adult. It often continues until the parent dies.

When the parent fails to see what they are looking for, they will keep trying to teach and remake their child into their own image for their entire lifetime which results in the adult child never feeling good enough.

I have to wonder how many new parents hold their precious new born and whisper, “You’d better meet my needs or I will ruin your life and reputation.” No, they say doesn’t he or she look like me? And while all parents look to see what this baby will look like, the extreme is the narc parent who never grows past that stage to view their child as an individual. By never acknowledging their child’s individuality, they are ignoring healthy boundaries.

Perhaps narcissism grows out of selfishness and a survival of the fittest mentality where people feel they need to destroy their enemies and sadly, with the parent’s lack of empathy, their children become their imagined enemies because they failed to meet their expectations.

4. The Not-So-Fun Circus of Manipulation
All of these add up to a cycle of patterned behavior:

  • A sense of entitlement and refusal to follow the law
  • Manipulation
  • Lies
  • Mind games and gaslighting
  • Recruitment of flying monkeys
  • Playing the victim
  • Seeking revenge
  • Ostracizing the scapegoat

These behaviors might happen in stages or at different times, but eventually patterns will emerge.These are all are part of the narcissistic agenda or better known as the narcissistic circus. A polish proverb has it right:

Not my monkeys, not my circus.

If only it were that easy, but most narcissistic parents will do all they can to ruin their child’s reputation when they won’t go along with their plans. Many ACONs will tell you their narc parents have spent hours taking notes about their enemies and researching how to win their case in court and sadly many of them have been sued by their own parents. Having a narcissist for a parent can be a continual abuse–first in childhood, then in adulthood and even after discovery of the problem it seems like the wounds never really heal.

The only solution for healing is love. But the narcissistic parent doesn’t seem able to love their child. If they did, they might not have abused them in the first place. They wouldn’t be angry if their adult child remembers the abuse and they would apologize, rebuild the relationship to show their child unconditional love.

All of these things could happen, but don’t hold your breath. By it’s very nature extreme narc behavior focuses on self and cannot bear to be wrong, so if your parent is a true toxic narcissist, these symptoms of love will never happen–they will simply go on talking about you until the day they die.

So to recap, we are not name calling, we are identifying a chain of symptoms that can only be described as narcissism. These four possible identifiers are all based on selfishness–

1. Violation of Boundaries and Using Others

2. Lack of Empathy for How They Affect Others 

3. A Desire to see Their Own Reflection in Their Child

4. The not-so-fun Manipulative Circus 

If you have been treated in these ways, if you have been feeling not good enough and alone most of your life, If you feel you cannot be yourself with your family, just say no to narcissism. There is a world full of people who DO have empathy and people just like you who are worthy of love, go out and find them.

*ACON — Adult Children of Narcissists

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s