First of all, I’d like to mention that I’m no expert on this topic at all, I’m just a person who has found themselves confronting circumstances that I have never had to deal with before and I’m just trying to make sense of it all. I’m just a lay person sharing information I discovered because of what I was going through in my family. Like I said previously, I decided to do some research on the topic after learning that my family member was a narcissist and these are some of the information that I discovered on the internet.
The term ‘Narcissism’ and ‘Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)’has been used by psychologists to describe someone with an extreme preoccupation with satisfying self/ selfishness/self gratification. According to experts most sufferers of NPD are men, but women suffer from it also.
Psychologists have concluded that for a person to be diagnosed as suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder he must present with five or more of the following traits:
• A grandiose sense of self importance (e.g exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements).
• A preoccupation 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 favourable 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 recognise 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 behaviours or attitudes.
(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed))
During my research I found out that this personality disorder develops due to some trauma suffered during the narcissist’s early developmental stages of their life, that’s during the formative early years. During our formative years, we learn certain skills that help us later on in life such as, reading, writing etc, we also learn learn other important skills such as learning how to regulate and control our emotions and other coping strategies. However if the environment is not conducive to learning and developing the latter important skill, then an personality disorder may develop.This trauma could be emotional, sexual psychological abuse and or neglect.( Trauma, by definition, is any experiences that has caused psychological injury or pain)
This trauma happened before the stage when the young child would have learnt emotional development like empathy and compassion for others.. Because his emotional development was stunted and he did not learn normal emotional responses, they can get out of control with their own emotions. That’s why when an adult narcissists feelings flares up, he behaves like a little child, because he did not learn how to respond in a normal way.
The narcissists parents were emotionally or physically unavailable and the needs of the child were ignored and or rejected and in some cases one of the parents, one of the parents (or both) is a narcissist. Because the child’s needs are not met by either parent, the child begins to focus more on his own needs, on his own world to the exclusion of everyone else. He learns to take care of only himself. There is no one to guide the child to teach him empathy and how to care for people other than himself, he becomes more and more focused on himself (Hence the extreme selfishness in narcissists) As they grow older and reach out to their parents for acceptance, validation, approval they are often rejected. Based on what I knew about my cousin and his background ,it certainly seems very accurate.
My cousin described an incident that happened in his childhood, where he used to act out just so he could receive some form of attention even if it was negative. When he was in school, he was naturally very bright and he knew the way to get approval was to do very well in school. That was the only way he could get his father’s approval and approval from authority figures in his life.
In my husband’s case, his mother died when he was very young and his father remarried. His stepmother neglected him and his older sister. His father used to travel a lot, during that time she didn’t care whether he had anything to eat, but she fed her own children. According to him, he would have to find food in the dustbin, or some neighbours would give him something to eat. When his father was around, he didn’t pay any attention to him at all. They basically abandoned him.The only time he ever got attention was when he did well in school or when he misbehaved. He learnt to survive and take care of himself. His father would go on trips abroad and buy clothes and things for the children, but his stepmother would not give him anything. Can you imagine how it would feel to a child where all the children sitting together in the living and things being distributed to each child, but you are the only child exclude?. It is so sad that adults can behave in such a manner.
So in such cases, the child basically has to fend for himself and as he grows older he believes that nobody loves or cares for him and nobody can be trusted because they’re all fake. These thoughts play out in his head all the time and he believes it. The reason why this happens is because if a child is rejected or ignored by the parent then the child believes that there is something wrong with him. (Children, most of the time ,have the tendency blame themselves if anything bad happens in the home.) So the child will begin to believe that they are worthless and damaged.
In the situation where the parent is a narcissist. For example the mother is a narcissist and the child is rejected by the mother and ignored by the father who is trying to cope with the mother’s toxic behaviour. The child learns to take care of himself. The only time they pay attention to him is when people visit, but as soon as they’re gone, both parents revert back to the same behaviour. The parents would give him everything he wants or desires, except for what he needs, which is love, validation and acceptance. Which explains why the child will later on in life conclude that all people are fake and everyone is out to get what they want. The child will associate having everything they want as a sign of love, he has not been taught any different. This also happens to very spoiled children who are given everything they want. They have never been told ‘no’ by their parents. So when they become adults they associate denial with lack of love. As adults they explode in anger when they are denied anything. Very much like a child.Which is why as an adult, they always have an child like view of things of that nature because they have not been instructed by their ‘care givers’ on how to mature and appropriate a healthy outlook on life.
So they grow up as adults on the outside and toddlers on the inside. People with the intellect and experiences of an adult but the emotional capabilities of an infant.
So a narcissist becomes a narcissist through neglect, abandonment, indulgence and abuse.