Can parents be narcissistic?

Narcissistic Parents: With this behavior, they harm their children

  • Parents with narcissistic disorder overcompensate for their lack of self-esteem with behavior that most of us interpret as falling in love with ourselves.
  • The more narcissists devalue others, the better they stand and the better they feel, says psychologist Udo Rauchfleisch.
  • This can have fatal consequences for children with a narcissistic parent.
  • You can find more articles from Business Insider here.

Each of us is unique. We all have our own needs, desires, goals and dreams.

But not all of us can live it out.

Because if you have a parent with a severe narcissistic personality disorder, you have to do what the parent wants. Instead of developing and becoming a strong personality, the child does what is asked of them - hoping to get a little love, or at least recognition, from their mother or father.

This can have serious consequences, explains Udo Rauchfleisch, psychologist and author of the guidebook “Narcissists are only human”, in an interview with Business Insider.

The more narcissists devalue others, the better they feel

"The term 'narcissistic personality disorder' is common, but it is a very unfortunate choice," says Udo Rauchfleisch. Many associate this term with self-love, arrogance and cocky demeanor - but it is basically a self-esteem disorder.

People with narcissistic disorder are completely insecure inside, feel inferior - and overcompensate for this lack of self-esteem with behavior that most of us interpret as being in love with ourselves. "These self-doubts also quickly lead to the devaluation of others," said Rauchfleisch. "The more you devalue someone, the better they are and the better they feel." This is fatal for children with a narcissistic parent.

If the child only serves as a trophy

A heavily narcissistic parent does not perceive their own child as an independent being with their own needs. Instead, it serves only one purpose: to strengthen the parent's self-esteem.

If the narcissistic parent has more than one child, it can happen that only one of them is the chosen child - the prince or princess, so to speak. “This then has the advantage that it is apparently the beloved child. But it has the disadvantage that it is exactly the one that has to meet all the expectations and allay the self-doubts, ”says the psychologist. The other children, on the other hand, are lucky: although they are in the shadow of their sibling, they have the advantage that they do not come under this pressure to meet the high parental expectations and have to give up on themselves. "But it can also be that all children have to serve equally for the self-affirmation of a parent."

For example, if a severely narcissistically disturbed parent promotes their child's musical abilities - regardless of whether the child actually feels like it - this only happens, according to Rauchfleisch, because the mother or father wants to adorn themselves with the child's success, like a trophy . “The admiration that the environment shows the child is of no interest to the narcissistic parent. What interests them is that it makes them look like great parents themselves. "

Because we must not forget: deep down, narcissistic parents are plagued by self-doubt - including doubts about whether they are a good mother or a good father. “That is why they have to get confirmation from the outside again and again: 'No, you are great parents.' And therefore also the manipulation of the children,” explains Rauchfleisch. "The fatal thing about it: The children learn very early that they have to meet parental expectations in order to get at least some attention and acceptance."

Children of narcissists learn to flex in order to be accepted by others

In this context, the psychoanalyst Winniecott speaks of the "true and false self". His theory: People either develop in the sense of their own, true personality - or they develop a "false self", that is, they build an attitude that does not represent their own inner being, but where they bend in order to be accepted by others .

"That has serious effects on the children," says Rauchfleisch. “Depending on the degree of disorder in the parents, serious injuries remain.” These injuries can last a lifetime. The thought that you are not loved for yourself and that you always have to look to meet the expectations of others runs like a red thread through the later course of your life - at work, with friends and in romantic relationships.

According to Rauchfleisch, how well or badly a child gets along with it depends on two factors. One of them is the child's personality. "Of course there are children who are more stable and resistant in their personality." At the same time, the living conditions play a role - above all, whether the child has someone around who is appreciative and who the child realizes that it accepts and loves becomes. This could be the second parent, for example, who is healthy, stable and can even handle the other parent's narcissistic disorder reasonably well. It can be a grandparent or a teacher. "This has an influence on the further development of the child that should not be underestimated."

Escaping Narcissistic Parents: Does Losing Contact Help?

Confiding in other people can be difficult for children of narcissistically disturbed parents. "The problem is that people with narcissistic personality disorder can appear very charming," explains Rauchfleisch. They need this external, positive facade because they protect their fragile self-worth with it. So if the child talks to other people about how much they are suffering, the answer may well be: "It can't be, she is such a great mother or he is such a great father."

Those affected cannot always rely on outside help. It is all the more important that they try to help shape their environment on their own initiative. Some children of a narcissistic parent will move out of the home as soon as they can afford it. To do this, however, they need a certain assertiveness, which is not a matter of course in this toxic parent-child relationship.

Also read: “Echoists” are the opposite of narcissists - and that's not necessarily better

According to Rauchfleisch, it is also important not to refer to childhood experiences for a lifetime, even if they were really bad. “In adulthood at the latest, you should think about how to deal with your injuries. It is important to take it into your own hands now and work on it by doing therapy, ”advises Rauchfleisch.

Breaking off contact is actually often useful. “It shakes some narcissistic personalities a little bit. If there is at least a bit of love a parent has for a child, the distancing of the child can really cause a shock and a willingness to seek therapy. "