Narcissistic parents often beget narcissistic children because they are used by damaged parents to regulate their own self-esteem.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: A discussion recently erupted on my Facebook blog about our current child-centered parenting culture. One woman, who works in admissions at the University of Southern California, described spoiled, entitled applicants with hovering parents and wondered if we are creating a generation of narcissists. Another woman posted evidence of this "trend" in the explosion of reality television and the influx of regular people vying for the spotlight. I beg to differ, and offer this explanation: Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a bona fide diagnosis with clear criteria, and it is estimated to be evident in about 1% of the general population -- hardly a cultural trend. Its name comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus, who died while gazing at his own reflection in a pool of water.
To be a true narcissist, one must exhibit at least five of the following symptoms:
• Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
• Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
• Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
• Requires excessive admiration.
• Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
• Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
• Lacks empathy, is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
• Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
• Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
No one is really sure what causes this disorder, but certain theories make sense. Like all psychological disorders, a biological predisposition must be in place. As far as what environmental stimuli (like parenting) activate the biology, there are suspicions that too much flattery or too little flattery can play a role. Every child knows the truth. When parents' perceptions of their behaviors are inaccurate, feelings of shame can develop -- shame over their true feelings that don't match a yearning to believe their lifeline, i.e., a parent. Severe emotional abuse can also trigger a narcissistic disorder, as the child grows up to create a grandiose version of themselves to protect their inner, damaged child. This self is the antithesis of the weakened self with low self-esteem that hides in a constant state of shame.
As hard as it is to imagine, narcissists need a hug. They need you to believe their bragging in order for them to trust you and let you in. Their large ego is protecting a very shameful inner core. Certain industries and jobs attract narcissists because the traits that may harm personal relationships often help them climb the ladder of success. The entertainment industry is one world that rewards narcissism. The ability to shirk off criticism and shameless lack of boundaries can be viewed as deeply "creative" by those who package and market entertainment. Narcissists are usually in front of a crowd with a microphone in their hands. Look for the disorder in the ranks of religion, politics, and Wall Street.
Parenting may contribute to narcissism. Narcissistic parents often beget narcissistic children because they are used by damaged parents to regulate their own self-esteem. But child-centered parenting most often creates selfish people with questionable morals who are somewhat hard to live with. And, these individuals are a far cry from true narcissists. Anyone who has had a relationship with one who truly lacks empathy knows they are beyond selfish.
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and her area of interest is Attachment Theory, a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between human beings. As a psychological assistant registered with the California Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental health concerns including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders, and depression.|