Researchers and psychologists, therapists and counsellors have lots of valid theories of why people end up with narcissist personality disorder. One of those theories is childhood. So what could happen in a narcissist’s childhood for them to end up the way they are and hurting so many people without care?
As a narcissist is all about themselves. They use others to better themselves. They feel entitled to exploit people for their own gains, and they lack in the Empathy to care for those they hurt in the process of getting their own needs met.
Human’s sense of self-worth develops in early childhood and the relationships they have with those around them.
So if lack of self-worth is why a person would end up on the narcissist personality disorder spectrum, and self-esteem is developed in early childhood hood, then it’s more than possible that something went wrong within the narcissist’s childhood.
This could be down to a number of things.
First, they suffered from some form of trauma, perhaps ending up with PTSD, yet instead of doing the inner work and recovering, they carry the pain throughout life. There is plenty of hurt people who help people. Then there are those hurt people who choose to hurt people. Although trauma at the hands of another is never the victim’s responsibility, the victim is never to blame, as it’s always the abuser’s responsibility for their toxic behaviour. Healing our traumas are our responsibility. We can reach out for help, and there are many ways to recover. However, we have to do the work, as a narcissist never sees any issue within their own toxic behaviour. You can not help them; you can not save them. That’s something we all have to want for ourselves.
Attachment in early childhood to our parents is something all humans have a need of to form a secure bond with our parents. The certainty we will get our food when we are too young to get it for ourselves. The social development of our minds to help our interaction with those around us, learning from our parents what is and is not acceptable.
The basic human need for the body is a good varied diet of food. For the mind, it needs love and connection, hugs, play, and communication. Growth is a place to learn and develop. Certainty, a place to feel secure. Uncertainty, a variety of experiences to learn new skills. Contribution, to play our part in society. Significance, to feel like we matter. A need to feel understood, a need to grow and develop a sense of self, interaction with others, if this is missing in early childhood. People can have profound deficits within the brain functioning.
Being a parent is a tough job. We make mistakes, we learn on the job, and we get it wrong sometimes. Parenting in early childhood is unconditional love, responsibility, watching and helping children understand the things they love for themselves and help them achieve these, proud of the child for who they are for themselves and not who the parent wants them to be. That doesn’t make the parent a narcissist if they want their children to succeed. Often the, a narcissistic parents taking credit for their child’s successes and do not recognise their children’s achievements, dismissing their child’s accomplishments. Invalidating the child’s feelings puts the parent towards the spectrum. Parents are there to guide and support children and love unconditionally while imposing appropriate boundaries, values, what’s right, what’s wrong, how to treat others, respect, and manners. While at the same time, positivity and praise for who they are.
For the narcissistic personality disorder to develop, it’s not a case of a depressed parent or parents making mistakes. There has been something very wrong within the narcissist’s childhood, and that can be lots of circumstances, from teachers to religious leaders, friends, to cults. Just because someone is a narcissist doesn’t always make their parent one, although often this can be the case. Just because someone has a narcissistic parent doesn’t mean they will grow to develop the disorder themselves.
If they have a parent on the disorder, a narcissistic parent often raises A scapegoat, a golden child, or the forgotten child. Some children will grow up with greater empathy towards others. Some will grow up narcissistic. Which is why it’s vital children have limited contact with the narcissistic parent and lots of positivity and boundaries with the healthy parent.
As a narcissistic parent relates to their children as an extension of themselves. So the child is never seen for who they are, but for what they can provide for the parent. Often the child is made to feel more of a friend as they grow, then taking over the parental role as the child has to comfort the parent, regulating the parent’s emotions, so the child’s self-development is slowed as they have to meet the narcissistic parent’s needs.
This happens either by the parent making the child the scapegoat, repeatedly putting the child down and not allowing the child to express their true sense of self. If they are crushed and criticised at every turn, they will become vulnerable, so the child grows to believe they are not important. They then start to hide these feelings burying them deep within themselves to protect themselves from feeling hurt. Through being ignored and receiving constant criticism and humiliation, or they are ignored because they don’t conform. They may develop narcissist personality disorder to cope and feel better within themselves. They may turn into a greater empathetic person knowing how much it hurts, wanting to protect others, and often becoming a people pleaser for fear of rejection.
Or making the child the golden child, idealising them, making them believe they are better than all others, so the narcissist forces them into hobbies that the narcissist enjoys, not allowing the child to develop the sense of what the child enjoys, with excessive praise for achieving and beating all others, and the excessive criticism when they fail to hit the top mark. They also often ignore the child when the child is unable to reach the narcissist’s expectations. They may grow with great empathy towards others as they know how others feel or with a narcissistic personality disorder.
Or the forgotten child, often given no encouragement, no support, ignored completely and left to do as they please, neglected in many ways. Again they may grow with greater empathy toward others or with more narcissistic traits towards others.
In any of the cases, the child may learn they have to act in a false way to who they indeed are in order to get love or to feel loved, appreciated and respected. So they have to develop fake qualities to protect themselves from their parents and also to get approval from their parents. To cope, they remove their vulnerabilities, creating a false self to please others.
The parent may burden the child with all the parent’s problems, so the child almost becomes a counsellor to the parent. Or continuously put down the other parent to the child, all messing with the child’s true sense of reality.
They become aware of their parent’s moods. How they need to act around the parent to protect themselves, as they learn from a young age if they don’t comply to the narcissistic parent’s demands, the parent may tantrum, give criticism, or withdraw affection from the child. So the child ends up creating a false outer self to protect themselves. That false outer self takes over their mindset to create a false inner self, as they don’t often get to experience reality. They accept this as reality, often believing that’s just how all humans are to survive.
Most toddlers sulk and lie to protect themselves, instincts and human nature. They usually grow out of this. Teenagers with hormones can appear to be narcissistic again. They do grow out of this. People who are not on the spectrum can lie if they believe it’ll hurt another if they know the truth, the guilt from that lie will usually hurt them, and they’ll come clean. Some adults who aren’t narcissistic can seem sulky if there feeling misunderstood.
Those children raised by narcissistic parents, who grow up to be narcissistic themselves, as a child, they disconnected themselves from their Vulnerability, disappointment, and self-awareness in order to protect themselves.
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Elizabeth Shaw is not a Doctor or a therapist. She is a mother of five, a blogger, a survivor of narcissistic abuse, and a life coach, She always recommends you get the support you feel comfortable and happy with. Finding the right support for you. Elizabeth has partnered with BetterHelp (Sponsored.) where you will be matched with a licensed councillor, who specialises in recovery from this kind of abuse.