Narcissism: Is Your Child In A Path To Self-Destruction?
Do you look in the mirror to admire yourself more often that normal people would? Do you believe that you’re more important person than everybody else? Do people say that you’re self-centered and you believe that it’s okay to be like that?
Once there was a boy named Narcissus
In Greek mythology, there was a boy named Narcissus. He was a very handsome young man. He was so beautiful that women and nymphs swooned over his striking appearance. Even the goddess Echo had fallen prey to his charms and was helplessly in love with the young man. Unfortunately, he was full of himself and rudely shunned the goddess Echo and the other nymphs and ladies that were in love with him. One day, a young woman who tried wooing Narcissus prayed that he be taught a lesson on unrequited love. Echo, hurt and vengeful, granted the woman’s prayer and punished Narcissus to fall in love and receive no reciprocation. Narcissus fell in love with himself, watching his own image day and night over the lake’s reflection, losing thought of eating and resting. He did this until he lost his old beauty which had charmed Echo and the other nymphs in the beginning. He wilted away loving himself and was changed into a flower that later on bore his name.
Simply put, this condition relates to self love. Sigmund Freud said that self love is an essential part of all men since birth. Andrew Morrison said that, in adults, an adequate amount of healthy self love allows a person’s perception of his needs to be balanced in relation to others.
Pathological narcissism is a life-long pattern of traits and behaviors which signify love and obsession with one’s self shutting out everybody else and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one’s gratification, dominance and ambition.
Compared to having a healthy amount of self love which we all have during childhood and even now, pathological narcissism is maladaptive, rigid, persisting, and causes significant distress, and functional impairment. It manifests in the chronic pursuit of personal gratification and attention (narcissistic supply), in social dominance and personal ambition, bragging, insensitivity to others, lack of empathy and/or excessive dependence on others to meet his/her responsibilities in daily living and thinking.
Pathological narcissism has been debated to have rooted from: genetic programming; faulty upbringing and/or growing up in a dysfunctional family; or reclusive societies and disruptive socialization processes.
It has been said that pathological narcissism is a defense mechanism. Certain medical conditions, chronic ailments and brain trauma may induce a pathologic narcissistic tendency. However this kind of narcissism disappear once the underlying medical condition or trauma is cured.
As mentioned earlier, as toddlers, we were all narcissistic. Babies think they are the center of everybody’s universe, and that parents are there solely to protect them and cater to their needs. But eventually, as babies grow old, these idealizations are disillusioned by the difficult conflicts that life throws them. If these conflicts occur abruptly, inconsistently, unpredictably, capriciously, arbitrarily and intensely, then the injuries sustained by the infant’s self-esteem are severe and often irreversible. Coupled with the parents’ lack of support to the child, these conflicts cause the child’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem to fluctuates between over-evaluation and devaluation of both himself and the other people surrounding him. When a child is faced with a difficult obstacle, he regresses back to his infantile narcissistic phase rather than work around the hindrance. If the same obstacle comes up and continues to fail in it, the child might continually regress. And while in that regression stage, a child starts acting up: displays childish and immature behavior, feels omnipotent and pretends to know everything. His sensitivity to the needs of others will drastically deteriorate and becomes intolerably haughty and arrogant, with sadistic and paranoid tendencies. To top it all, he will then expect unconditional admiration from the people around him, even if he doesn’t deserve it. This is the start of a self-destructive behavior cycle as the child engages in fantastic, magical thinking and daydreams. In this mode he tends to exploit others, to envy them, and to be explosive.
A personality disorder arises only when repeated attacks on the obstacle continue to fail — especially if this recurrent failure happens during the formative stages (0-6 years of age). The contrast between the make-believe world occupied by the individual and the real world in which he keeps being frustrated (the grandiosity gap) is too acute to countenance for long. The dissonance gives rise to the unconscious decision to continue living in the world of fantasy, grandiosity and entitlement.
Healthy adults would normally accept their limitations and eventually cope with disappointments and failures that come their way. The opposite may be said for narcissistic adults. So it is best to watch your child closely during his growing years. Provide your child with sufficient support and teach him how to cope. This will help lead him to a better path in life, away from malignant narcissism.