11. REJECTION IN CHILDHOOD CAN LEAD TO EXTREME NARCISSISTIC BEHAVIOUR
To understand relationships we must first understand how we all develop emotionally.
Remember that my blogs are divided into major sections. The blogs in this first section describe the behavioural habits so many of my clients presented me with. They are the fundamental issues that we all grapple with. Because we are all the same – our issues are just packaged differently.
So here is another of these behavioural habits that you may want to get your head around because on a scale of 1-10 we all to some extent fall under this category. I will describe the more extreme angles of narcissism and this is usually the best way of describing behavioural habits or patterns.
Much has been spoken about Narcissism and you can Google tons of information with regards this vast subject. And remember that in a previous blog I wrote that we are all abandoned to some extent. Getting your head around Narcissism and the extremes traits if this behaviour pattern will help you understand how abandonment of whatever kind in childhood can have vast destructive consequences like narcissism in adulthood. By understanding this important topic can help you possibly understand these aspects within yourself or in others.
Narcissism dovetails all the issues I have written about so far – how a parent connects with a child, abandonment, punishment, the emotional roller-coaster, how our brains are our worst enemies, the rescuer-victim-punisher/bully triangle, the knight in shining armour and putting ourselves or others on pedestals and better still, is that we are all have the same issues, they are just packaged differently.
I will try to summarize this topic.
Narcissus is a beautiful young man who falls in love with his own reflection. Unable to love anyone other than himself, his inability to enter the world of human relationships proves fatal: he literally drowns in his own image.
This story is similar to what we call a narcissistic disorder. It describes someone so needy of positive approval, that all their energy is directed towards satisfying this insatiable self-centredness. They live in fear of that Black Hole scenario I spoke about in one of my blogs. Terrified of lurching into a pit of insecurity and self-hate, they try to stay in control by manipulating situations. They can become conscious or even unconscious bullies. By unconscious I mean that the behaviour has become such a habit that the bully isn’t even aware of what they may be doing.
And narcissists construct a massive ego to defend a shatteringly fragile self-esteem. It’s a fatal combination with manipulative charm and relentless cruelty depending on the levels of abandonment or cruelty they experienced as children. They may even resort to threats as tactics to get you under their control. They can dominate relationships with little regard for other’s needs or wishes. They can be openly hostile and aloof. Often they are unable to accept that others have needs, interests and expectations of their own. And if you don’t constantly give them attention they can throw tantrums with often loud and vehement protests. They can be aggressive and destructive. And at a minutes notice they either violently blow up, go silent or they just get up and leave. It’s like their world becomes smashed up. They can also let go of relationships at the ‘drop of a hat’ as they either idealise or denigrate their relationships. And any attempt to offer solutions will only incur more aggression. Unable to see their own vulnerability and anxiety, they often accuse people of failing them. Because they feel deeply abandoned, they will attack at any moment if they feel insecure or ignored.
They do however love adoration and they thrive on getting your attention. If at the same time they can feel that they’ve become your ‘knight in shining armour’ this will thrill them to no end. However, once they’ve got your attention and your admiring gaze, be warned lest you dare to gaze or give anyone else attention even if it’s just for a moment. It can result in them feeling that they’ve slipped back into that bleak hole, all because their fear of abandonment and it’s consequent feelings and emotions is huge. All the feelings of the black hole can come rushing back at a moments notice: feelings of rejection, self-hate, rage, depression, isolation, loneliness and despair, leaving them feeling terrified and totally out of control.
Then look what can happen and it can happen very quickly too:
In order to punish you for this perceived abandonment, the Narcissist can stomp off furiously and/or throw a tantrum. Be careful – they have just turned into a bully. And if you are prepared to play the victim the Narcissist may just have ‘won’ the game. They may have just got back the control they thought they had lost.
This behaviour relates to the rescuer-victim-punisher/bully triangle. I covered this triangular behaviour in a previous blog. So yes, it’s a game of cat and mouse. And Narcissists can thrive on playing the game because it has become either a conscious or unconscious game. It has become a habit.
There are of course widely differing degrees of narcissism. All of us have our self-engrossed and needy moments. A certain amount of narcissism is essential for our psychological health. There are times when it is vital for narcissism to prevail: the baby needs the reflection of a mother’s adoring gaze and her attention in order to feel secure.
As we grow older, the idea is that we will begin to feel secure enough after receiving sufficient ‘good enough’ love and attention as well as praise from our parents.
The opposite or varying degrees of Narcissism can develop if a child is continually rejected, never praised, criticized, abandoned or unloved. This can result in ‘extreme’ narcissism, and a feeling of never having experienced being loved unconditionally. So they search endlessly for positive reflections of themselves to ward off an ever-threatening insecurity. If they do fall in love they will experience ‘feeling on top of the world’ but if any real separateness is felt, they will rage and quickly withdraw. Why – because their inner life is frozen with loneliness, sadness and fear.
And partners of Narcissists will fall into the triangular system I mentioned earlier: the rescuer-victim-punisher/bully triangle. Partners become victims and usually accept blame readily, are eager to please, defer to other’s opinions, and fear being considered selfish if they act assertively. Their crumbling self-belief might mean that they only accept mere crumbs that are thrown their way, believing that they are at fault. So they collude with the Narcissist.
Narcissists are often emotionally empty shells. And yet, they can be full of themselves. They throw their toys out of the cot when they don’t get their way. They need others to look up to them and reflect their glory. Consequently, they may find empathy difficult. Failing to gain the love of a parent, the child or adult is ill equipped to understand others. Feeling insecure, they create a self-protective shell of arrogance and grandiosity around themselves.
And this is all because they lack the love that most of us take for granted.
The Narcissistic Parent:
A narcissistic parent can be so preoccupied with protecting their self image that they tend to beinflexible, and lack the empathy necessary for child rearing.
The narcissistic parent has low self-esteem and their need to control how others regard them; their fear of blame or rejection; their fear that their personal inadequacies might be exposed; often leads them to become very possessive and exclusively close to their children.
And narcissists have two faces – one they wear in public and the other they wear at home. Only those close to a narcissist have any idea that there is more than one face. A frequent frustration for the children of narcissists is that everyone else thinks that their mother or father is the most amazing person ever. Yet in reality and at home, the child suffers the control and manipulation in silence.
The child can be denied friends because when the child begins to show independence, or when they begin to develop relationships and friendships with others, the narcissistic parent often becomes very envious. Seeing a child with others may feel like a dreadful betrayal all because the narcissistic parent may feel rejected and even abandoned by their child. And if the child does spend time with friends they might feel guilty, knowing that the parent will be sitting at home feeling hurt even angry. Returning home then becomes fraught with anxiety as the child knows they will be confronted with a perceived betrayal by the manipulating parent.
Narcissistic parents also love to brag about their children – not as authentic individuals but rather as objects of their creation. A common phrase can go something like – “Look what I have achieved – isn’t it wonderful!” This is an example of what is meant by the child ‘becoming an extension of the parent’. Their identity is ignored in preference of the parent’s need of praise and an applauding audience.
So the child becomes an extension or possession of the parent. Here I find myself wanting to refer to the child as ‘it’. By becoming an extension of the parent, the child can even loose their identity.
By trying to control the child and instilling within the child an expectation that the parent comes first, can be very isolating and very claustrophobic for a child.
It is not the role of the child to ‘mother’ the parent.
We all can display narcissistic tendencies. We all need attention at times and we all need positive reinforcement. If however our needs begin to supersede those of others and if this habit is getting in the way of you moving forward and building constructive relationships then I urge you to spend some time dissolving this behavioural pattern or habit.
Negative childhood experiences and trauma can result in destructive behavioural habits that don’t serve a purpose any longer. Begin by watching yourself like a hawk. Read my blogs and get to understand my work. Start working at breaking your negative habits (I have blogged about – how to break habits, and I will blog about it again and again). This will help you make better choices to suit your life goals.
And I leave you with this thought – It is quite amazing when you think just how much energy it must take to be a Narcissist and to constantly seek out affirmation! We often tire ourselves out and we get ill without realising that our bodies are trying to tell us something – “Stop, look, I cant do this any more!” This is why I urge you to stop and begin to watch yourself like a hawk. It will do you no harm.
Note: © 2014 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
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