Not all child abusers are narcissists, but all narcissistic parents abuse their children. They cannot not abuse them, for it is the nature of narcissists to see others, including their own children, as sources of ego gratification—otherwise known as “narcissistic supply”—regardless of the consequence to those suppliers.
Narcissists are supremely entitled individuals who lack conscience or remorse for the pain they inflict on others. They are the people who believe that if you get your feelings hurt as a result of something they did or said, that is your fault for either being “overly sensitive” or even for “choosing to feel hurt”—because they truly believe that you could have chosen not to feel hurt by their insensitivity.
But there is a class of narcissist, the “malignant narcissist,” who takes things a step further. These people actively seek to hurt others in countless ways, both large and small, for the sheer pleasure of “winning.” To the malignant narcissist, in any contest of will, in order for him/her to “win,” you must lose, and you must suffer in the bargain. Narcissists are the ultimate control freaks and the malignant narcissist must not only control but inflict punishment as well. Having a malignant narcissist for a parent is a terrifying thing…
My mother was a malignant narcissist. But in the Fifties, the time of my childhood, there was no word to describe personality disorders like narcissism. Society surreptitiously swept ugly things under the rug unless a situation was so bad it was impossible to look away. The mythology of motherhood reigned supreme—all mothers loved their children and children who presented with bruises and welts and other signs of abuse were deemed “troublemakers” for having provoked their mothers to such extremes in the name of discipline. Somehow, nobody seemed to pick up on the cognitive dissonance between the “innocence” of childhood and the ability of such an innocent to provoke physical violence in the person who supposedly loved the child more than anyone in the world: her mother.
Growing up under the rule of a narcissistic parent, especially a malignant narcissist, is a terrifying, emotionally agonizing, spiritually impoverishing experience. Lisette, of the blog House of Mirrors, describes what it is like to be in a relationship with a narcissist:
. • Being rejected and denied value as a person
. • Being degraded and having your self-worth and dignity as a person degraded
. • Being exploited and used for the narcissist’s profit or advantage
. • Being terrorized by intimidation, control, coercion, and stalking
. • Being denied care, affection, and attention of any kind
. • Being dismissed, humiliated, manipulated, and belittled
. • Being violated by pathological envy, greed, and entitlement
. • Being plundered, pillaged and systematically destroyed
Narcissistic abuse tears at a person’s self-worth and manifests in social withdrawal, anxiety, fearfulness, depression, self-blame and self-destructive behaviour. It results in feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy and powerlessness."
Narcissists come in both genders, every shape, size, colour, ethnicity and belief system. They are often charming and engaging when first met, and it is not until the narcissist has his or her claws deep into you that you begin to realize that there is something “not right” about the person. That usually begins to happen when you begin to deny the narcissist something that s/he believes s/he is entitled to have. It doesn’t have to be something big—it can be something as small as five minutes of your attention at a time you need to focus on something else—the narcissist is entitled and if you deny him or her, the narcissist will be miffed…and somewhere down the road, you will get punished.
Narcissists have long, long memories. They never forget a slight, real or imagined. And they feel entitled to redress that slight, over and over and over again. There is nothing rational about their perception of being slighted, either: a narcissistic mother may feel that the necessary tasks of motherhood, like paying attention to the needs of her children, are excessive demands on the part of the child, demands for which the narcissistic mother will ultimately exact revenge.
For the narcissist, it is “all about me!” When my first child was born and I was lying in a hospital bed after having a Caesarian, my mother, father, and his second wife came to visit. My stepmother commented on how pretty my new baby girl was, my father inquired as to how I was feeling, and my mother tried to engage my father, from whom she had been divorced for eight years, in reminiscences of her Caesarian when I was born, and how much worse hers had been than mine (I was able to laugh, her stitches hurt too much to laugh, etc.). My surgery, my new baby (their first grandchild) and all my mother could talk about was herself!
One of the favourite tools of the narcissist is called “gas lighting,” after the 1944 movie, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. According to Wikipedia, “Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.” Narcissistic parents use this tool to rewrite history, to make themselves look blameless, to even deny some events ever occurred. My NM abandoned me for adoption when I was 2, keeping my baby brother. Her own parents told me this and I lived with them for nearly two years until they were able to get my mother to take me back. When queried about this, however, my NM denied it ever happened. My father and my other grandparents, one aunt (on my father’s side) and an uncle on my mother’s side all support my grandparents’ tale, yet NM maintained the fiction that it never happened for the rest of her life. Today, 14 years after NM’s death, at least one of her “flying monkeys” keeps the lie alive, accusing me of lying about my abandonment! (Actually, she claims all 46 of the stories below are lies, even though she was not witness to any of the events and wasn’t even born when most of them occurred! Such is the power of a narcissist to hoover people to their sides and completely suck out their brains!)
I will explore the narcissist and his/her tricks in succeeding posts, and in particular I will focus on the Malignant Narcissist and the legacy of dysfunction and damage they leave behind. But first—46 stories from real life, a life shaped and distorted by a malignant narcissist mother…
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.