Understanding that our childhoods are the building blocks for our adult lives, we must be able to recognize that to build successfully we must have a solid foundation. Not everyone has been born to stable parents and so we research how a Narcissist comes to fruition, and the destructive impact that is implemented into a Narcissist’s victims lives. Narcissist’s suffer from extreme self-importance, leaving them incapable of feeling any empathy, pity or care for any fellow man. Feelings of grandeur and a self-righteous perspective on life leaves no room for the family in which they inhabit.
This research paper allows us to explore the history of Narcissism, recognize a Narcissist’s traits, understand the Narcissist’s psyche, and the coming to terms with the personality disorder of the self-imposed individual among us. We will gain an insight on whether the Narcissist has ever had, or ever will grasp the concept of empathy or is the person lost eternally in the abyss? To fully grasp the true understanding and birth of Narcissism, we must recognize its primary starting point in world folklore.
The concept of self-adoration and extreme selfishness is acknowledged in early historical mythology through Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book III). This Augustan age Latin myth in summary, tells the story of Narcissus, who was a Greek hunter. Narcissus was extremely handsome and adored by many women. Towards these women he only showed disinterest, contempt and disdain. Whilst out hunting in the woods, an Oread Nymph named Echo noticed him and fell in love instantly. Throughout Narcissus’ time hunting in the woods, he became aware, sensing that he was being followed.
Once Narcissus had become aware, Echo revealed herself to Narcissus and attempted to embrace him. Narcissus rejected her advances and pushed her away, asking her not to interfere or interrupt him. Because of the upset of her rejection, Echo travelled the woods in despair for the remainder of her life, dwindling until there was just a mere Echo of sound. This was looked on with a furious gaze from Nemesis, who was the goddess of retribution and revenge. Nemesis felt that Narcissus should suffer punishment for his rejection of Echo, so leads him to a pool of water where Narcissus unwittingly falls in love with his own reflection.
Once Narcissus became aware that it was his own reflection that he had fallen in love with, a gloom and misery fell over him. He had realized that his love could never form for any other. Narcissus ends his own life. What is gathered from this myth, opens our understanding that through self-love, obsession and selfishness, a true depiction of the word Narcissist begins to materialize. Early Psychology deals greatly with the concept of Narcissism. One of the first psychologists who used the term “Narcissus-like” in clinical terms was Havelock Ellis (1898).
Sigmund Freud, wrote and published an intricate set of ideas in 1914, named on Narcissism: An Introduction. Within this paper, Freud’s suggestion was that Narcissism was connected to one’s libido, which Freud believed was the energy behind a person’s survival instincts. Freud believed that this energy was directed inwards, at themselves rather than outwards at other people. Freud felt that infants or children were born with their libido automatically set inward. Freud labeled this as primary narcissism.
As the infant matured, the energy of the libido (libidinal energy) would be shared with others who would form attachments, causing the libidos energy to lessen inwards within the infant. By sharing this energy, or giving it away, Freud believed that people experienced diminished primary narcissism. To continuously gain a sense of satisfaction and to replace this energy, Freud believed that it is critical that love and affection needed to be returned by a worldly fashion.
Ultimately, Freuds theory believed that children were born egocentric and spent a period as so, until a stage of healthy departure happened, and they shared their libidinal energy with an attachment (parent or loved one) and this became object love or object libido. Freud believed that libidinal energy, although limited, could only be invested in one attachment at a time. This allowed for the child’s own self-regard or inward energy to be decreased. Libidinal love is regarded by Freud as reciprocal. The attachment or relationships libidinal energy is mutual and shared equally. When this is not the case, and one side is invested but the other is unwilling and the libidinal energy is not returned to the specific individual, this can lead to regression which in turn can cause secondary narcissism.
Secondary narcissism being, the withdrawal of the libidinal energy from the object love and the return to the ego or the inward libido. This allows for self-love and protection. In early childhood, we must be aware that children will naturally show narcissistic traits in the natural maturing process. This is something that parents must not be alarmed with as most children will grow out of them. From research carried out on (NoBullying – Bullying & CyberBullying Resources, 2018) “The number of children and teenagers who have a high sense of entitlement has been increasing. There are many reasons for this fact. However, this doesn’t mean most children who feel entitled are narcissistic”. Children will usually learn that they cannot win in all competitions or that it is wrong to break the rules to win.
Children are usually guided by responsible parents to consider other people’s feelings and to think of others before thinking of themselves. If negative signs persist throughout a child’s life and negative signs become constant such as; the child only thinking about or talking about themselves or the child is constantly craving attention and admiration from others and exaggerating his/her abilities and achievements, these can be serious red flags that there is a Narcissist in your midst or one certainly in the making. Children of the narcissist are raised in a world where unconditional love is not recognized.
According to (Psychology Today, 2018), “The truth is, narcissistic parents don’t have children because they want to nurture and guide their offspring through life; they have children so that they have an automatic, built-in relationship in which they have power, one in which the narcissist can write the rules without any checks and balances.” Children of the narcissist are viewed as a means of getting power over another being, which can then feed the narcissist’s insatiable hunger and need for control. Within a family which is run by a narcissist, a survival mechanism ends up being constructed by the children as a means of being and simply existing. The children assume roles within this dynamic.
Based on one parent being the narcissist, commonly the other partner is an enabler. The enabler can be born out of fear or a sense of learned helplessness, meaning that they have endured the narcissist’s traits for so long that they cannot escape, and end up behaving in a helpless manner. Given an opportunity to leave, they won’t. Instead they tend to back the narcissist’s every move, reinforcing the narcissist’s every command in order to have an easier life.
The children become characterized as the Scapegoat and the Golden Child. Understanding the concept that the scapegoat is the cause of all the family’s problems from the narcissist’s perspective. This child is usually the narcissist’s greatest nemesis within the family dynamic and is recognized by the narcissist from a young age. According to (Hall, 2018) “The scapegoat is the one most likely to care about and fight for justice within the inherently unfair narcissist family system, defending herself and others often in direct opposition to the narcissist”.
The Scapegoat is hated for all the things that the narcissist finds weak with him/herself. The Scapegoats traits include being empathetic, caring and thoughtful. In direct competition is the Golden Child. The Golden Child fits into the family dynamic by being on the opposite end of the spectrum. From the narcissist’s perspective, the Golden Child can do no wrong. The Golden Child is what the narcissist believes to be his/her mirror image. The child is everything that is good in the world and nothing that is wrong. The narcissist firmly believes that the Golden Child is an extension of his/herself.
The narcissist’s tyrannical exploits, pits the scapegoat and golden child against one another. The narcissist will openly adore and praise the golden Child in front of the scapegoat, whilst belittling and verbally destroying the scapegoat, attempting to diminish any self-respect that the scapegoat would have for his/herself in front of the golden child. Empathy, will it ever exist? Surveying the damage that a Narcissist implements on their victims and viewing how uncaring they seem towards their family and fellow man, you would be led to believe that empathy is the furthest word from the narcissist’s vocabulary and possibly the last thing in their thoughts.
This may not be the case! According to (Baskin-Sommers Krusemark, Ronningstam 2014) “From a theoretical and clinical perspective, growing evidence suggests that the narcissism–empathy relationship is not all or none, but instead is a more complex relationship reflecting fluctuations in empathic functioning within and across narcissistic individuals”. From this we gain an understanding that it is ultimately controlled by the narcissist in question. There is a possibility that the narcissist does not have any empathy, but there is also a possibility that the narcissist can switch it on and off when needs be, depending on the narcissist in question.
To truly understand if the narcissist ever had or has empathy, each case would have to be individually assessed and diagnosed. Most narcissists believe that there is nothing wrong with them or their behavior and unless they recognize that they have a problem, most will probably be unwilling to engage with research into their behavior in an attempt to control or possibly cure their issues. This is the conundrum that the family of the narcissist and licensed medical health professionals face. It is the narcissists belief that they are always right! How do you get the narcissist to recognize their fault and gain treatment?
According to (Pedersen, 2015) a study carried out at the University of Surrey and the University of Southampton expressed that “The findings suggest that narcissists do have the capacity to empathize with other people’s needs given the right conditions”. We must realize as people, that most narcissists that gain public note or fame, almost always fall into the bracket of severe narcissism or pathological narcissism.
This can brain wash us into the fact that narcissism is incurable or unmanageable. We must not have any preconceived notions when approaching this subject and take all cases as individual patients. Conclusion, throughout life you will meet many different personality’s that can shape you in a positive manner. This cannot be said for the narcissist. If you have the unfortunate luck of falling victim to one and or being squarely in a narcissist’s sights, you may liken it to a metaphor from Sedikides et al. (2004) “The mind of a narcissist is like a sports utility vehicle. It is great to be in the driving seat, but fellow motorists must watch out, lest a collision with this mobile fortress demolish their more humble hatchbacks” (p.412).
If you are not up for a challenge or do not wish to have an enemy for life, do not engage this tyrant. They are driven in their goals to not only level the playing field, but level you along with the playing field. Most will not stop until you are metaphorically obliterated or possibly worse. Children of the narcissist are subject to this treatment daily in their lives. Understanding the psyche and recognizing the characteristics of these deviants can save you much unwarranted aggravation.