In previous articles I have talked about many aspects of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). See the links below for further insights into this puzzling yet extremely damaging condition. In this series of articles, we will look further into the mind of a narcissist and will also address ways for the adult child of a narcissist to deal with the challenges before them.
To survive in an environment dominated and controlled by a narcissist, you need to be aware of your own weaknesses, i.e. the way your narcissistic parent manipulates you. I have called this characteristic a “weakness,” but under normal circumstances, this quality you may possess may not be seen as a weakness at all.
Let’s look at the case of Marie, whose mother is elderly and chronically ill, yet also a narcissist. Marie has grown up in a household dominated by the rules of her narcissistic mother. It was only because Marie suffered a life crisis as an adult that she sought counseling, and it was then that she slowly became aware that her mother suffered from NPD.
Marie spent many sessions denying that her family was harmful; such is the strength of the child’s need for a loving parent. When the gates of denial were finally open, out came the rage. Marie was extremely angry at her mother for not loving her. There were countless incidences of her mother’s negligence. As a child, Marie’s mother didn’t allow her to play with the neighborhood children, simply because she didn’t want “all those screaming kids” in her backyard. She thought nothing of the fact that Marie was an only child who needed the companionship of her peers.
The family home was close to a park, but her mother never took Marie there during the entire course of her childhood. This mother, unbelievably, never played with her child on the swings, the most simple of childhood pleasures. The swings had no interest for the mother, so Marie never got to enjoy them as a child. There was no natural mother-daughter bonding in this relationship.
Marie was very intellectually gifted, and always did well at school. This gave her mother enormous pleasure, as it would any mother. But the difference between Marie’s mother and other mothers is that Marie’s mother compartmentalized Marie’s behavior into good and bad. Doing well at school and college was good, and Marie’s mother would tell anyone who would listen about the excellent results. But she never talked to Marie or praised Marie. This is too difficult for the narcissist to do. Marie’s mother viewed Marie as an extension of herself, and therefore Marie’s achievements became her own. This explains why there could be no real praise for Marie herself, as that would be an admission that Marie was a separate entity to her mother.
Today, Marie is torn between wanting to tend to her ailing mother yet needing to release herself from her mother’s sticky narcissistic web. I alluded earlier to Marie’s “weakness” not being a weakness at all. It was the admirable quality of being humane. Yet Marie needs to be vigilant, as her mother will use that good characteristic for her own selfish means.
Next blog, more on NPD.
Contact Beth McHugh for further assistance regarding this issue.