I’m hoping to have some time to work on another post about the narcissistic parenting style tonight. In the meantime, Trapped in the Mirror, by Elan Golomb, was something I read years ago. I don’t remember too many specifics, but it cast a very revealing light on a lot of my struggles. I have combined some excerpts here as a point of interest. The excerpts may not be separated out quite correctly as my original notation has been lost to formatting issues. However, it should still convey some key points.
When a person plays, the flow of the unconscious is closer to the surface of the mind. Healing increases when unconscious and surface touch in a fiery force that liberates our energy. We need to expose our wounds to the sun. For children of narcissists, open play is difficult since we fear exposure to criticism and the enemy is imagined near. If we are alone, the enemy dwells within our minds and sees our wounded vulnerability. Wounds are defensively left to fester in the dark, unhealed beneath their psychological wraps.
People always try to heal their wounds but efforts can be limited by self-protective and counterproductive defensive mechanisms of which they are unaware. One terrible defensive outcome is to settle into an emotionally robotic existence in which we feel neither the pain of childhood nor the realization of life’s pleasures. Feelingless and neutral, we defer to the parent’s prohibition of our becoming a separate person. Neutrality is a compromise that falls between being and nonbeing.
Selfhood is created partly out of the inchoate experiences of early interactions between people and animals, and self-creative activities. How do these activities reinforce our sense of being? To improve a self mangled by rejection and improper use we have to experiment with being. We need situations in which to practice the reality of a self, places that reflect our dreams and fantasies, where we can behave in a way that shows who we really are and what we feel. We need responses that support the development of our being. We are social animals who find recognition within a group. Acceptance of our selves is needed to correct distorted, isolated, and unacceptable self-images. Acceptance draws us back from self-destruction or a solitary and unrelated life.
Experiences between humans can be nourishing to the self. A mother’s loving attention is usually more nourishing than that of a “stand-in” like the police guard at the school crossing who is kind and considerate to a timid child. To a child with narcissistic parents, however, the importance of “stand-ins” can be crucial. There are rescuers who give more to the child than does his family, who do not see him as a separate person.
Many children of narcissists get pleasure from misery, a process that is sadomasochistic. She walks an emotionally spiked path out of childhood. Children of narcissists are miserable but hang on by taking pleasure in such misery to make life bearable. Each episode is pleasurable torture accepted with the hope of change. Since his self was rejected by narcissistic parents, the child of a narcissist turns away from his self and finds its need for love unfamiliar. Sometimes she felt love when nothing was given. Children of narcissists manufacture this feeling from whatever comes their way.
Do you know what you need and what you have to offer, what you can and cannot do? Are there people who rely on “inadequate” you and seem to enjoy it? We can feel hopelessly confused, wonderfully good and horribly bad at the same time since the parent put our ideal image on a pedestal and our ordinary self in a ditch. All this has to do with knowing our buried selves, so far out of range that sometimes we feel nonexistent at the core and strangely empty. Are we centerless and different from other people? Can something unfelt exist? Can a self grow out of emptiness? Since the reflecting mirror of our mind is stained with our parents’ views, how can we see ourselves? Where and how can we see ourselves at all? We need a reliable mirror in which to look, to be accepted as we are to achieve a sense of being.
Children of narcissists gravitate toward the negative. Long demeaned by our parents, we feel hideously unworthy if there is no one who loves us and in whose love we believe. Without love to contradict the parents’ message, their opinions and treatment rule how we feel. Children of narcissists can develop emotional soft spots from parental pounding. We are like tenderized veal. Criticism keeps hitting home because we believe what is said. Children of narcissists have been pounded into belief. Our parents know our sore spots because they originally created them.
Narcissism is a tale of codependency. The codependent cares for the person that abuses some kind of drug. The codependent has her arms wrapped round a person who has his arms wrapped round his drug, be it alcohol, cocaine, fame, power over people, money, etc. If the abuser is narcissistic, his arms are wrapped round his image. From his defensive isolation, the narcissist demands that his codependent child get vicarious satisfaction from the parent’s pleasure in self. The child hears what is wrong with herself or about her and her parent’s “greatness.” Otherwise the child is ignored and must be happy that her parent can have an admirable and independent image. In the parent’s philosophy, the child cannot say no.
Children of narcissists are confused about what is fair to self and parent. They need to develop such judgment, but how are they to do it? It helps to talk to friends and to observe relations between non-narcissistic people. A grownup’s desire to lean too heavily on his child, while pitiful, is not fair. The narcissistic parent is needy, which makes his child feel guilty for withholding. But the child should not surrender to pressure that he go beyond his means and reason. Children of narcissists are trained to ignore reality and stick to their parents’ rationalizations. The narcissist stars in a psychic play with only one character, who is looking in the mirror. His child does not have the time or energy to supply what the parent’s deficient system needs. The child’s energy must go to his or her own future. Like all grownups, the parent must fix himself. Narcissism is a sickness and a weakness. You, his child, can be angry at the lack of love received from him and can bypass rage to feel compassion and regret. But his problems require expert help. We get along better with the narcissistic parent if we stop living by his opinions and his rules.
Healing is out there, folks. It’s possible. And please believe me when I tell you: it’s worth it. Cheers. ~J8