There are a lot of people suffering.

"Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist." Michael Levine

If you can see, look. If you can look, observe. from the book of Exhortations

There is one taboo that has withstood all the recent efforts at demystification: the idealization of mother love.
Alice Miller

Mothers, and fathers to some degree, are supposed to 'mirror' back to babies an image of the baby. Theories say that the developing baby receives his or her self worth from the parent - as a good baby. This forms the babies ego. But if the parent is a narcissist, the baby sees a blank image, because the narcissist is always looking for others to give them approval and Narcissistic supply. The narcissistic parent is feeding on the child, like a vampire; the roles of the parent baby are reversed, the baby becomes the parent and the parent the child. As the child grows up, he or she continues in this strange reversal of roles, feeding the parent's ego. Some children become the good ones and other children the bad ones (Narcissists think in black and white). Or the narcissist may change their view of the child, because the narcissist parent sees the child as their toy, possession. Each child of a narcissist parent suffers in some way. I started to understand this dynamic after reading Alice Miller's books. SM

Alice Miller's enlightened books have brought understanding to many. In her book, The Drama of the Gifted Child, she broke with the Freudian idea of the Oedipus complex, finding real physical and emotional abuse. She writes about interviewing mothers who tell how unequipped and un trained they are for motherhood, and how they hate it. It is a universal taboo - criticizing mothers. We assume that all women are innately and genetically fit to mother. Not true- according to Alice Miller. She came to her conclusions based on her clients who told her real stories of abuse.

Attachment theory seems to echo Alice Miller's books; children and young animals who are not touched as babies suffer physically and psychologically damage. Children suffer from too much attention as well. Alice Miller is concerned with abusive attention, both physical and emotional.

One of her patients described what it was like growing up - like living in a glass house where all the bad was hidden away in the cellar. Most of her clients came to her after suffering for years but without any known cause. Alice Miller revealed in her subsequent books, including her latest, The Body Never Lies, that she too had suffered a traumatic childhood, pointing the finger at her parents. Alice Miller has become an advocate for the abused children of the world; she is adamantly against physical punishment for children.

She has theorized that much of the cruelty of WWII was caused by abused children who grew up to repeat the abuse on others. A bit like the guy who has a bad day at the office and takes it out on his family and dog. (Splitting and Projecting) The chain of events is sometimes long, and hidden even from those who are closest to the events. Many of the abusers suffer from personality disorders that enable them to be charming on the outside, and vicious people behind closed doors.

In the book,"The Words To Say It" Marie Cardinal describes her childhood in Algeria and her subsequent hysterical disease (now called conversion syndrome) caused by her mother. Only later did she admit that her mother physically abused her, but Marie Cardinal wrote that the emotional abuse was more traumatic and longer lasting. Woman's Inhumanity to Woman  by Phyllis Chesler talks of the pain inflicted on children by the Demetrian mother.

Narcissistic fathers can be just as guilty as mothers of abusing their children. But one has to be careful not to paint all narcissistic parents with the same brush; some are loving, and some children resist the narcissist parent.

Remember, Narcissistic love has room for only one person - the narcissist. This is a painful truth that takes years for a child of a narcissist to understand.

Alice Miller's web site

Mary Katherine Armstrong on Child Abuse

Go to Transference

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Narcissistic Personality Symptoms

  1. grandiosity / exaggeration
  2. fantastic thinking / romantic
  3. believes special / unique
  4. requires admiration
  5. entitled / demanding
  6. exploitive / manipulative
  7. lacks empathy
  8. envious / jealous
  9. arrogant / haughty

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All text is copyrighted © Stephen McDonnell 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007,2008, 2009. 2010, 2011.


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