Blog 11. How It All Starts: Rejection And Abandonment In Childhood Can Lead To Extreme Narcissistic Superior Behaviour. Find Out Why.
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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 that my clients presented me with. They are the fundamental issues that we all grapple with. Why? Because we are all the same – our issues are just packaged differently.
Narcissism and Abandonment:
Abandonment, either emotional or physical abandonment, is an important element of understanding narcissism. And in a previous blog, I wrote that on a scale of 1 -10, we are all abandoned – and therefore to some extent we are all narcissistic. However extreme narcissism, also known as a narcissistic disorder, can become a problem.
And narcissistic disorders can be experienced not only via parents but also via personal and business partners, as well as colleagues and bosses too.
But what is narcissism?
It is a combination of:
– An inflated sense of self.
– A delusion of grandeur.
– A need for praise and admiration
– A sense of entitlement.
– And manipulative, controlling and bullying behaviour.
– A lack of empathy.
Narcissus is referred to as 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.
It is a survival or a defensive mechanism attempting to replace the unconditional love they feel they never received in childhood.
This defensive mechanism can lead to what we call a narcissistic disorder. It describes someone so needy of positive approval, stemming usually from their early years, and from either emotional neglect or abuse. Terrified of a repeat of the emotional abandonment and it’s effects, and terrified that they’ll lurch into a pit of insecurity, self-punishment, self-hate and shame, narcissists prefer to stay in control by manipulating their surroundings or situations. As a result, all their energy is directed towards satisfying this insatiable self-centredness. But this can result in controlling and manipulative behaviour.
A narcissist usually also constructs a massive ego so as to defend a shatteringly fragile self-esteem. It’s a fatal combination, consisting of manipulative charm and relentless cruelty. And this usually depends on the levels of abandonment or indeed abuse, they themselves may have experienced as children.
As a result of their trust issues, which will have emerged out of any emotional abandonment, they usually develop and expect unusual levels of loyalty from others. If it isn’t given freely, they can become very angry and disappointed. As a result, they may walk away from relationships – if they sense even the slightest disloyalty. Unfortunately, if they ever get confronted or if anyone disagrees with them, then this could also be construed as a form of betrayal.
And when a narcissist starts feeling insecure, they often resort to threats or blackmail as tactics to get people or a situation back under their control.
They can also become very aggressive and even destructive. And at a minutes notice they can either violently blow up, or usually – they choose to just go quiet. They may even resort to punishing you further, by remaining silent for long periods without contact – hoping that you’ll seek them out. And when you don’t, they often start grooming others to take your place, because their need for an applauding audience is paramount to their ego’s survival.
However they CAN, at the ‘drop of a hat’, let go of relationships they cannot control. Unable to see their own vulnerability and anxiety, they often accuse people of failing them – not realising that they have indeed failed themselves.
But although they may denigrate some relationships, they may actually idealise others, especially if a relationship suits their ego, or if they can say, show off who they know. As a result, they may tolerate abuse and bullying from the relationship – as long as they get the applaud they crave.
Narcissists therefore, feed off adoration and they thrive on getting your attention. Many will do all sorts of things to get attention and they’ll do anything to attract an audience – because mostly they get bored very easily too. Consequently, they are forever concocting the next saga or happening, even if it’s just in their heads.
And if a narcissist feels that they’ve become your ‘knight in shining armour’, this will thrill them to no end. But, once they’ve got your attention and your admiring gaze, be warned – lest you dare to gaze or give anyone else attention, even for just a moment. It can result in them feeling abandoned and this can cause them to slip back into their emotional bleak black hole – filled with with fear of rejection, self-hate, despair, ugliness and so on.
Then they may start plotting again as away of climbing back out of their black hole on order to feel in control again. As a result, they may be the instigators of all sorts of drama. Yet they always fear being caught out or exposed. And if they ever are, they can behave as if their world has been smashed up. Because if they are ever reminded of their past rejection or abandonment, they will attack at any moment if they feel vulnerable or insecure.
But a narcissist will usually never acknowledge the full extent of their emotional black hole feelings. And they also will never take responsibility for anything. It will always be someone else’s fault – and they will go to great lengths to prove it too. They can spend hours or days coming up with manipulative stories or lies, that can even seem quite believable – but really the only one convinced is the narcissist. Others usually sense that something is not quite right.
But once they sense any form of betrayal be careful, at this point they can start making your life a misery. Often they can turn into abusive bullies as they turn the tables and accuse you of victimising them. This is how they usually try to get back their own control, and this is how they try to control you again – by making you feel guilty.
This behaviour also might remind you of Karpman’s Drama Triangle, (the rescuer-victim-punisher or bully triangle), which I explained in a previous blog. Yet although they may apply these techniques on others, they will only ever admit to playing either the victim or the rescuing hero – but never the punishing villain.
And they love to play a game of cat and mouse. They love trying to dominate and prove you wrong – because they must be right, always and at all times. And sadly, this game can become a habit of which they are totally aware of.
Narcissists are often very clever and as a result, they know exactly what they’re doing. They often have many reasons too, except of course the reason for their narcissism, which in most cases could be too scary for them to even begin to contemplate.
So they prefer to surround themselves with a faithful audience of admirers which they can manipulate and control – an audience that never questions but marvels at everything they say or do. As a result, their egos often inflate even further and this is usually why nobody can tell them anything. And they certainly would never consider therapy or advice from anyone, as they always know it all.
But because they are so focused on themselves, they have no real interest in you. They may offer excellent advice but only so that they can appear superior or all-knowledgable.
And sadly too, narcissists can dominate relationships with little regard for other people’s needs, feelings or wishes. Often they’re unable to accept that others have different interests and expectations of their own.
And if they fear you in any way, they will try to turn everyone else against you, just to prove they were right about you. And they will try everything to prove that they are indeed loved and supported by others and certainly, not as bad as you might think.
There are however differing degrees of narcissism:
All of us have self-engrossed and needy moments. And a certain amount of narcissism is essential for our psychological health. There are even times when it is vital for narcissistic neediness to prevail as the baby for example, needs the reflection of a mother’s adoring gaze and her attention in order to feel secure.
As we grow older, we usually begin to feel confident and secure enough within ourselves, after receiving sufficient and ‘good enough’ love and attention as well as praise from our parents. But sometimes this does not happen. If a child is continually rejected, never praised, criticised, abandoned or unloved, or even abused physically or sexually, they can begin to develop the negative traits of narcissism. Consequently, narcissists can begin searching endlessly for positive reflections of themselves to ward off an ever-threatening inner insecurity.
And if they do find someone who will love them, and if and when, for whatever reason they feel any separateness or abandonment, they will rage and quickly withdraw. Why? Because their inner life is often frozen with loneliness, sadness and fear.
But unfortunately, narcissists are often emotionally empty shells. If they’ve never received unconditional love themselves, how on earth would they ever know how to return it? How would they ever truly know how to give of themselves or indeed, how would they understand the joy of giving, if all they ever wanted was to receive?
And often this is what a narcissistic parent struggles with too.
The Narcissistic Parent:
A narcissistic parent can be so preoccupied with protecting their self image that they tend to lack the empathy and compassion necessary for rearing their own children – and usually their own needs always come first. As a result, they often find it very hard to see and accept that their children have needs besides their own. The only way they can survive emotionally – is if they can control you. And they need to control you – so that they always remain in the limelight. This way, they can also get away with their bullying tactics as well as their abusive or destructive behaviour.
Narcissistic parents however, also love to brag about their children – not as authentic individuals but rather as objects. Often they can refer to their children as ‘they’ or ‘it’, and rather as ‘my child’. Often they refer to ‘MY’ children as having done this or that – this is because the child is viewed as an extension of the parent.
And if a child ever tries to assert itself or reclaim their identity – this could be seen as a worrying and dangerous threat.
Very quickly a parent may bully the child back into submission. And if the child is smart, they will quickly learn that within the family unit, and in order to survive emotionally, they will have to behave in a manner that appears to support and admire their parent. But this can become very isolating and even emotionally and creatively claustrophobic for a child.
Narcissists have two faces – one they wear in public and the other they wear at home. Only those close to a narcissist would have any idea that there is more than one face. A frequent frustration for the children of narcissists is that, everyone else often thinks and views their narcissistic charismatic parent as the most amazing person ever. Yet in reality and at home, the child suffers the control and manipulation in silence.
And the child can also be denied friends, because the narcissistic parent often becomes very envious. Usually they desire to have the full attention of their child and any friend may be seen as a threat. And seeing their child playing, talking and laughing with others, may feel like a dreadful betrayal. Consequently, 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 or even angry. Returning home could then become fraught with anxiety as the child knows they will be confronted with a perceived betrayal by the manipulating parent.
And they may enjoy the game of divide and rule as the play one sibling against the other.
But breaking away from a narcissistic parent can however be very hard, and it often takes an enormous amount of skill and courage:
The narcissistic parent will try to make you feel guilty. They will blame you and they will play the victim in order to try to keep control of you. If you accuse them of anything they will try to find ways of projecting the blame back onto you. But staying in the clutches of a narcissistic parent can become detrimental to both your emotional and physical well-being.
And any relationship a child has, would be seen as an even greater threat. The narcissistic parent would either try to flirt with boyfriends or girlfriends or indeed husbands or wives. They will try to win them over in order to get their permission to continue bullying you – as they put you down and find an ally in your partner – or indeed any children you may have.
And this can be very worrying. Exposing your children to either a narcissist grandmother or grandfather can be very painful. And it can be very distressing when your own children begin to turn against you. So be careful.
And know this too – narcissists can be found everywhere especially if you are attracted to their charm and charisma
Narcissistic personal and business partners, colleagues and bosses:
Unfortunately, we attract what we know and if our parents were narcissistic in any way, then we may continue to attract a partner who has narcissistic characteristics.
Become aware and watch out for this.
Narcissists can be found everywhere and their victims can be easily drawn in, especially if they fall for the charismatic facade of the narcissist.
And sadly, any lack or crumbling self-belief might mean that some are prepared to accept mere crumbs that are thrown their way, believing that they don’t deserve more. Consequently, many land up colluding with the Narcissist.
And even if a narcissist appears to be smart and clever, often they have no real concern for others. Their prime focus is usually beamed on how they can create a self-protective shell of arrogance and grandiosity around themselves, so that they can get away with outrageous and often shocking behaviour as they smile and walk away. All because they never received the love they wanted and craved.
Are you a victim or do you have contact with a narcissist?
If this is the case, you may want to reconsider your relationship or you may want to keep any communication to the minimum. This is because:
– As hard and as frustrating as this might seem, no matter what you say or do, you will not change or convince a narcissist. Their ego’s are so huge, yet so fragile that any prompting only makes matters worse. Leave well alone and get on with your life.
– If you are a victim it is impossible to make them realise or admit anything through communication. They can’t help themselves and their trauma is usually very deep.
– The best way to forward is by severing all communication. Leave – and don’t ever look back.
– The hardest part of dealing with a narcissist is that you will never get closure.
– You will never get any admission of guilt, and if you do, it means you will be back in their clutches. Why?
– Because narcissists never admit to anything – without an ulterior motive. They will only ever act if it suits them.
– Also, if they go silent this is their method of punishing you. Often they start the silence off by stating that they’re not going to argue with you. But during the silent treatment they may actually be grooming their next victim – which they’ll take great joy in parading in front of you.
– And any reaction from you will only get used against you in order to make you look crazy, especially when they tell others only half of the story, as they conveniently leave out their actions that riled you in the first place.
– Because a narcissist excels at deception – which should never be underestimated. They will go to enormous lengths to distort the truth and mislead.
And this is why it is so important that you learn to protect yourself. And for your own peace of mind, contact should be minimal – yes, even if it is your parent.
Bullying, controlling or abusive behaviour should never be tolerated.
If you are finding asserting boundaries and pushing a narcissist away hard, then it might be time for you to ask for help. There are many support groups for partners, children and work colleagues of narcissists. Therapy may also be another avenue to explore.
Trying to deal with a narcissist on your own can be very difficult. They can be extremely manipulative and controlling – and their mind games can also be utterly overwhelming. This is why you may need support.
It is also not the role of the child to ‘mother’ the parent.
No matter how sorry you may be for a narcissistic parent or partner, as adults they have choices. They could seek help. What happened in their childhood is for them to deal with. As hard as this may seem – it is NOT your responsibility, and the quicker you walk away the quicker they may find help. And if they don’t, then at least you got away.
We all display narcissistic tendencies. We all need attention at times and we all need positive reinforcement. However, it’s quite amazing, when you think just how much energy it must take to be a Narcissist, and to constantly manipulate and control others so as to seek out attention and affirmation!
Emily Levine once wrote, “I thought Narcissism was about self-love till someone told me there is a flip side to it – rather it is unrequited self-love”.
And Mason Cooley also once wrote that, “Narcissus weeps to find that his image does not return his love”.
Sad but so true.
The Real Effect of Narcissistic Parenting on Children by Karyl McBride, Psychology Today, Feb 19, 2018.
Narcissists raise children who suffer from crippling self-doubt.So how does narcissistic parenting affect children?
- The child won’t feel heard or seen.
- The child’s feelings and reality will not be acknowledged.
- The child will be treated like an accessory to the parent, rather than a person.
- The child will be more valued for what they do (usually for the parent) than for who they are as a person.
- The child will not learn to identify or trust their own feelings and will grow up with crippling self-doubt.
- The child will be taught that how they look is more important than how they feel.
- The child will be fearful of being real, and will instead be taught that image is more important than authenticity.
- The child will be taught to keep secrets to protect the parent and the family.
- The child will not be encouraged to develop their own sense of self.
- The child will feel emotionally empty and not nurtured.
- The child will learn not to trust others.
- The child will feel used and manipulated.
- The child will be there for the parent, rather than the other way around, as it should be.
- The child’s emotional development will be stunted.
- The child will feel criticized and judged, rather than accepted and loved.
- The child will grow frustrated trying to seek love, approval, and attention to no avail.
- The child will grow up feeling “not good enough.”
- The child will not have a role model for healthy emotional connections.
- The child will not learn appropriate boundaries for relationships.
- The child will not learn healthy self-care, but instead will be at risk of becoming co-dependent (taking care of others to the exclusion of taking care of self).
- The child will have difficulty with the necessary individuation from the parent as he or she grows older.
- The child will be taught to seek external validation versus internal validation.
- The child will get a mixed and crazy-making message of “do well to make me proud as an extension of the parent, but don’t do too well and outshine me.”
- The child, if outshining the parent, may experience jealousy from the parent.
- The child is not taught to give credit to self when deserved.
- The child will ultimately suffer from some level of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and/or anxiety in adulthood.
- The child will grow up believing he or she is unworthy and unlovable, because if my parent can’t love me, who will?
- The child is often shamed and humiliated by a narcissistic parent and will grow up with poor self-esteem.
- The child often will become either a high achiever or a self-saboteur, or both.
- The child will need trauma recovery and will have to re-parent themselves in adulthood.
Note: Narcissism is a spectrum disorder, so think of it as a continuum ranging from low-level traits that we all have to some degree to a full-blown personality disorder. The higher the level of traits, the more damage gets done to children.
Note: © 2014 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
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