Thursday, June 14, 2007

"Now We Are Six"

If you had a narcissist for a parent, you lived in a world governed by whim enforced without mercy.

Narcissists have normal, even superior, intellectual development while remaining emotionally and morally immature. Dealing with them can give you the sense of trying to have a reasonable discussion with a very clever six-year-old -- this is an age when normal children are grandiose and exhibitionistic, when they are very resistant to taking the blame for their own misbehavior, when they understand what the rules are (e.g., that lying, cheating, and stealing are prohibited) but are still trying to wriggle out of accepting those rules for themselves. This is the year, by the way, when children were traditionally thought to reach the age of reason and when first communions (and first confessions) were made.

Having a narcissist for a mother is a lot like living under the supervision of a six-year-old. Narcissists are always pretending, and with a narcissistic mother it's a lot like, "Let's play house. I'll pretend to be the mother and you pretend to be the baby," though, as the baby, you'll be expected to act like a doll (keep smiling, no matter what) and you'll be treated like a doll -- as an inanimate object, as a toy to be manipulated, dressed and undressed, walked around and have words put in your mouth; something that can be broken but not hurt, something that will be dropped and forgotten when when something more interesting comes along. With narcissists, there's also usually a fair element of "playing doctor," as well -- of childish sexual curiosity that may find expression in "seductive" behavior towards the child, such as inappropriate touching of the genitals, or it can also come out as "hypochondriacal" worries about the child's health and/or being most interested and attentive when the child is ill (thus teaching the child that the way to get Mother's kind attention is to get sick). Having a sick child can also be a way for the narcissistic mother to get the sympathetic attention of authority figures, such as doctors and teachers.

Joanna M. Ashmun