Monday, 14 January 2013

Closet narcissistic mum :-(

Here is a link to a chart which I find helpfully (and compassionately) summarises so-called "exhibitionist" and "closet" "narcissistic personality disorder".

A big hug and huge sympathy for those of you out there who have come to know yourselves as children of "narcissistic" parents. Perhaps you have found the pattern of nursing an idealised "false" self image in you, but there, you have that self awareness and so also the possibility of mastering this crippling disorder.

Mum's mum humiliated and disparaged her. She needed, all her life, to compensate by maintaining a kind of idealised version of herself that, at the end of her life, emerges more clearly as fantastic and not realistic.

"Narcissistic", we say. It is a term that is so common, at least on the internet, and it loses its meaning, and becomes simply something bad.
I prefer to think of self esteem. We all need self esteem. (We are all narcissistic, if you like.) It is what propels us through life. But the self regarding part of ourselves is not there from the start. The little infant finds innate wants, urges, needs met by tending mother. There is no boundary between the infantile self and the world. Cry, soothing mum is there. Hungry, soothing mum is there. Rage, soothing mum is there. Despair, soothing mum is there. The responses of mum have the same character as the responses of "my" body: raise arm, smile (mum smiles back).

It can be that innate expressions of this kind do not get recognised by mum (or dad). Maybe the response is one of coldness, flatness or rejection. A kind of reasoning happens, even before speech, as a little child absolutely needs the love and attention of mum (or dad). "I will be what you love", "respond to me". Maintain an indifferent response long and consistently enough and the infant will simply give up, and express no needs.

(Unbelievable! Loss of self! It happens!)

The time comes when mum is not there to soothe the innate urges. When I feel frustration or hurt, what self-images help to compensate? I think the beginnings of a personality are here. The "I" is the collection of attributes of mum's responses found in oneself. One finds oneself in the eyes of mum, the knowledge that one is desirable, loveable. But if that mirroring look is not there, then what memory of mum's response can stand in for "me", and soothe the destructive feelings?
Precisely the needless, "good" self that mummy seems to want.

All real needs (what makes me "bad") are projected out, split off, placed in others who come to be disparagingly regarded as weak or needy. A secret contempt is there so one doesn;t have to feel envy.

Life ends up serving this "all good" thing that is only ever at best a partial self. It can't be sustained except at the cost of denying reality. One can't always be the one without need (always in the position of being the one who gives) without denying reality. Serious mental ill health results.

Mum's "good self" was so good, she could not risk sharing it with her needy son. No "good" mum could have a son who was quite so "bad", needy of hugs and love and attention. So she did not hold and hug and feel "I love you". She could not feel that!

Appeal to readers for Compassion
I am someone who sought help with depression when I was thirty years old, and again at thirty-five. The second time I was referred to a psychotherapy unit, and offered (through my local NHS trust) twice-weekly psychotherapy for two years, or six-monts intensive counselling. I opted for psychotherapy. Through the therapeutic relationship that I formed with J, I developed awareness that “covert” or (to use James Masterton’s term) “closet” NPD was “me”. It has devastated my life, and after six years I am still only beginning to build up the void formerly concealed by my “false self”. I appeal to readers, people perhaps trying to find out about “closet narcissistic personality disorder" to reflect on two points. First, the “false self” (a term due to Donald Winnicott) is created in a child in response to a hostile, un-empathic family and wider social environment. It is a total nexus of ego defense, which emerges with the child's consciousness: there is no other “self” consciously operating the “false self” from behind the scenes but an inner life steeped in painful affect. It is a condition suffered by the individual and those closest to him or her. Secondly, it is a serious and devastating mental disorder visited on individuals through unempathic parenting. The prosper response to it, after rage, anger and despair, is compassion. Please take care to read about this phenomenon through primary texts (e.g. Kohut, Kernberg, Masterton, Winnicot) and not on amateur sites, in which the choice of language all too often creates the impression that people trapped in “false selves”, hurting and hurting others, are doing it for no other reason than to inflict suffering.

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