How does Narcissism transfer from generation to generation?
How do we break that chain?
Narcissism is a shame based learned disorder. As a child the at least one parent is disconnected emotionally and views their offspring as an extension or object that can potentially bring pride or shame to them.
The child is objectified into a performer of sorts, a trained animal that showcases its “owners” ego and talents. The child is a reflection, whose emotional needs are discounted in proportion to the parents need for approval by their peer group.
The parent experienced this themselves as a child. Thus it becomes a generational training and child rearing modality in a families lineage.
In the training process, if the child does not perform correctly, and it goes unnoticed, there are no consequences, obviously.
If the child misbehaves or doesn’t perform there is a punishment. It will be severe.
Punishment and discipline are two different words for a reason. Discipline instils logical, just frameworks that encourage growth, conformity to ethical and social norms and rules. Yes, they include consequences yet with a goal of resulting in a moral person.
Punishment seeks control and obedience and often is anger and shame motivated. It often seeks humiliation and pain as its modality.
Narcissistic parents do not make the “punishment” fit the crime. They radically and disproportionately punish. The thinking is “I will punish you so severely you will never consider making that mistake again.”
The punishment could be a beating, screaming, even a verbal thrashing or inappropriate threat. This will often accompany a verbal nod to themselves. “You are embarrassing me”.
Later you will hear.
“I didn’t hit you, I just tapped you.”
“I just swatted you”
“Oh that pinch didn’t hurt at all”
“You’re so dramatic, you could barely feel that”
“If you think that hurt, I’ll show you next time what hurt means. My parent hurt me. That was nothing.”
“Well maybe next time you’ll think twice”
As the child ages beyond the “I’ll pull your pants down in front of all these people and spank you in public ” age, the bigger guns get deployed. Wooden spoons, yardsticks and belts join the arsenal of pain and humiliation controls.
Discipline is not the purpose, control is.
Eventually the threat of repercussions can be translated into a look or even the clearing of the throat or an eyebrow raise. The child knows that this cue in public translates to terror later in private.
Punishments could be inappropriately long periods of isolation, confinement or “restriction”.
In many families, sports can be a major player in narcissistic controls and projections. Kids must perform to excellence often to the disproportionate cheer or anger of the parent. We’ve all seen these people in the stands, professional losers using the kid for glory days. What is worse, practice itself often becomes the punishment for a perceived lack of performance.
Sports autobiographies of champions are written every year revolving around this narcissistic parent or coach.
Andre Agassi, Michael Jackson, Carrie Fisher and Christina Crawford all had horrifically narcissistic parents.
The intent of the punishment goes beyond behavioral modification and tilts towards psychological intentional trauma to induce permanent change through one specific incident. The narc parent is not attempting to correct a wrong behavior or teach a principle, they are laying “in wait” to rewire the child’s being, in one simple painful step that offers permanence.
It is lazy and large parenting. It is not a fence around a behavior. It is an electric fence whose voltage may be instantly turned up during the punishment phase depending on the compliance and malleability of the child. The parent is looking forward to turning up the voltage as it increases their feelings of power and control and releases the frustration of their personal failings and insecurities.
Submission and shame are the intent.
If a child resists, the punishment is escalated rapidly and indiscriminately. For instance the child commits an infraction and are put on “restriction” for a week. The child begins to protest. The protest is shut down, “Shut up- it’s two weeks.” The child does not relent. “But I…” . “I said shut up- three weeks, want to make it a month?”
The child is not being taught principles. They are being taught the are powerless and have no freedom to reply or discuss. They are de-personified into a decommissioned human with no voice or power. They are a trained animal, and they feel it. It is narcissistic grooming.
The individual parent with power and authority is actually a weak person in the world at large and getting their “supply” from the child.
The parent will then love bomb the child creating confusion. A random unexpected reward will come in as unexpected as the punishments.
“No one will ever love you as much as I do”
Sounds nice until you think about it.
No one will love me as much as you do?
Of course the truth is quite contrary. Many people are fully prepared to love you a lot including a romance , friends, kids. Many people will love you as well or much better in the future, guaranteed.
The punishment is no longer about the offense, it is now about intimidation and control. The power in the relationship is being used to crush and dominate the spirit of resistance and the child’s own sense of discussion and justice. This is a child that is not actually learning discipline and principles. They will learn how to be incredibly covert, controlling and manipulative themselves as that is the value they are being taught.
The communication becomes clear that the err itself is not the issue but the embarrassment or shame the parent is experiencing is the problem in their eyes.
This instills a unique set of values in the child. Wrong is not necessarily wrong. The punishment after all is so over the top the child cannot connect the punishment with the crime. In fact, they are taught that the misbehavior isn’t wrong intrinsically, the shame of getting caught or exposed is the real crime.
When the crime in the child’s mind becomes “getting caught”. The child learns it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you don’t get caught. Getting caught causes pain and shame that is wildly magnified.
You may see how this becomes the perfect training ground for criminals, sociopaths and narcissists that routinely navigate our society unscathed. Remember we only consider people criminals when they are caught and convicted.
The fact of the matter is the vast amount of the worst criminals are expert at avoiding accusation and getting caught in the first place. Many end up in places of high power.
As children, narcissists in training also learn that shame can and should be gifted or transferred and externalized to another person.
They learn to admit to nothing, lie about anything and blame everyone else to escape rejection, isolation, disconnect and shame from the people they trust the most.
This model is a pure training ground for sociopathy where there becomes a hardwired brain that cannot properly connect good and bad, outcomes and consequences.
The fear of irrational pain in comparison to offenses produces an individual who sees all punishment for them as irrational, unfair and to be avoided at any cost.
The adult narcissist is usually engaging, charming and very well liked socially. They have learned highly adaptive social skills to be “accepted” and not “embarrass” as a child. It is difficult to impugn the character of a narcissist publicly as their villainy is a very private affair kept in the home and focuses on children and spouses.
They are “The Talented Mr. Ripley” of parents.
They have secretly miserable marriages.
They become their own lawyer internally rationalizing and marginalizing all their bad behavior and projecting the cause of their deeds externally.
They end up looking for what their parent looked for in them, soft spots and triggers in others. If they see blame coming on the horizon they will subtly psychologically provoke others into anger through a variety of tools including gaslighting.
Gaslighting serves to confuse and eventually anger an “object person”. It is a denial of another persons reality or true experience. The narcissist frustrates you by telling you things you know to be true are not. They will say you are remembering incorrectly. They will start talking about “what that means” to suggest you don’t understand language you both speak with word games called “word salad”.
They will accuse you of lying about facts that occurred. The purpose of this is to mentally spin you in circles until you snap. When you do, they point and scream that you are unstable, crazy, irrational, out of control, immature… whatever they can say to double down and expand your reaction to provoke a larger explosion. They will instantly enroll a jury of your peers and family to convict you socially. It's a means of discrediting you through causing reasonable anger in you. The narcissist loves having this power. This is the vampire in them. They feel in control of you when they can trigger rage in you. They love it.
Your crime will be the anger they were able to provoke in you.
Now they have you on public display where they can shame you to other people and get a consensus that you are in fact crazy, problematic and the one in the wrong.
A professional gaslighter will also tell a subject that their feelings are incorrect as well as their reality. “You shouldn’t feel that way because I…”. This is a hallmark statement of the narcissist. Another is “I know you think I (insert bad character trait) but it’s really you (insert bad character trait).
Yes. A narcissist relies on the phrase “I know what (that) you think_____”. You must always shut this sentence down. They are marginalizing you intellectually, they know it.
Stop them. “Stop there. You do NOT know what I think. You do not have that ability. That is a fantasy superpower you are attempting to claim. You do not read minds and anyone who claims that is a charlatan and a liar attempting to psychologically dominate another person. You cannot read my mind. You do not know what I think. You cannot dominate me. We’re done.”
The narcissist exists to impugn your feelings, perceptions, memories and thoughts. In their mind, nothing you think feel or remember is valid unless they determine it is. They want to be the arbitrator of your reality. There is one reality for them. The one where they are superior and you are inferior.
That’s not reality. That is insecurity, weakness and a lack of character and empathy on their part.
This narcissism is a learned skillset. It is a family craft of sorts passed down from parent to child cascading generationally.
Later in life the narcissist will say. I don’t know what happened they were such a great kid when I had them. Something changed. I mean, I didn’t get a manual. I gave them everything I could. They had a great childhood and home. We did our best.
This is a clear alibi. The narc is claiming modest perfection and slyly transferring any negative perception to lay at the feet of the now teen or adult child.
The trained animal has issues? Must have happened after the escape because they lived in a paradise prior.
Children also learn through the modeling that self-esteem can be easily externalized and gained through others works and taking credit for things they did not actually do.
Most people have experienced a narcissistic boss in action. The “C’mon team” leader who takes full credit for the success and points fingers at failure and fires sacrificial lambs to produce compliance and fear with subordinates.
This person seems very two faced as the fake chummy social equal suck-up of senior management and whip-master to the galley below.
Inside the family unit the narcissist parent is king or queen and everyone else staff. You are an employee of their shallow ego. There is not a sense of family but a sense of division where favorites are being played based upon public achievements that the parent can bask in. Kids are encouraged to be competitive and in conflict.
Yet in public and in photo’s… you better show up looking like the picture perfect family or there will be a price for you to pay.
The narcissist parent rarely intervenes to fairly resolve conflict with siblings as emotional conflict in others is not problematic as long as the parent looks good in public. The number one rule in parenting is “Don’t embarrass me in public”.
Siblings that are in conflict give the puppet master parent power. They don’t want kids in alignment and creating coalitions of agreement against their authority. Divide and conquer is a must. The narcissistic parent will avoid solving conflict between kids. They prefer every family member have a sense of villainy about the others.
Often this produces golden children and goats. One child may be routinely celebrated, funded and supported while others are criticized and demeaned. The roles can switch depending on who can bring the greatest adulation to the parent in any given moment.
The identity of the narc is to work all sides against each other whilst they ride high and appear morally superior to everyone in the family unit. They'll use shame to get there.
As kids it sounds like, "It takes two."
As adults. "I wasn't there I don't know what happened."
Insinuating you are lying. Why? Because they would be lying.
There are sticks & carrots, cages & whips, perks and freedoms. All doled out as training tools.
The important thing is that the kids always feel just short of approval, in emotional conflict and the parent is always considered “right”, “in-control”, “morally superior” and “intellectually superior”. The parent is the supreme authority and always correct. When it is doubt, they will be the evaluator and arbitrator of what is right, what is real and what was meant.
There will be lots of use of the phrase, “You misunderstood my intentions.”
When they get to advocate for their intentions suddenly reality bends and their bad actions were great actions, you idiot.
They are the law.
Yes. It’s absurd.
Tragically many narcissists become well ensconsed in the behavioral pattern in their teens and can only attempt to gain acceptance socially through sexual promiscuity, which is confused for loving acceptance, drugs or abandoning the family unit and becoming a runaway which can lead to a lifestyle of self-abusive behaviors.
Think about this parent as a ringmaster with a trained animal. The animal (object child) performs the “trick” and the narcissist takes the applause and the bow. The narcissist doesn’t celebrate the animal, they may give them a morsel to reinforce the behavior but the ringmaster takes the full glory of the animals talent.
“I never talk bad about YOU. All my friends only know wonderful things about you. You are so talented.”
“How could you say that? I bought you those $125 shoes when your team won the championship and you scored the third highest points.” There’s always a cloud in their silver lining.
Yet. Oddly good word of your works has never truly reached your ears until this moment of conflict where they were secretly your greatest cheerleader. Insert eye roll. In their shallowness they take credit for you like a possession when you are not around then claim they are your noble P.R. department.
Praise for the Ringmaster, peanut for the monkey.
Since the ringmaster grew up as the trained animal themselves, this is a very natural ascension where personal identity, both glory and shame, are externalized and self-esteem is dependent on controlling and training your own animal.
The only manner of escaping this cycle is literally an escape. The ringmaster narcissist parent will never escape as the die is cast. The animal object-child must recognize their captivity and chew threw the tether of the relationship to break free. They must leave and establish complete independence physically, emotionally and financially.
This trauma bond is terribly difficult to break and the child will feel heartbreak, disloyalty, guilt and you guessed it… shame.
This is a time consuming process for most but once escape happens, the generational curse can break and healing for future generations can occur.
This is terribly tough and a high emotional price gets paid by the escapee.
First the escapee has to separate as solidly and permanently as possible with the parent(s). Part of this painful process is realizing they were probably not “loved” in the normal view of that word. They were objectified and marginalized as their worth has been groomed to be a function of their performance on behalf of the narcissistic parent.
They are an appendage to the parents ego, not a person. Just like a limb, expect to hear about the pain caused when they were so cruelly torn away from the host. The focus will always be on the parents pain. “You hurt me so much”. The child has no right to feel any feelings other than gratitude, appreciation and fawning for the narcissist, from the narcs perspective. All other feelings are null and void and surely the evidence of a mental illness according to the narc.
Remember this animal trainer has no act without you. How will they explain this to their friends?
You went rogue. Crazy. Insane. Cruel. Evil.
Could be Satan has you or even worse, that spouse of yours they never really thought much of.
Expect to hear how all these years they were covering for your violent anger, your sneakiness, your laziness… drinking… money problem. Who knows but they WILL be telling a disparaging story behind your back where they are the victim and you are the villain. They “lived in fear of you” every single day. Weird they never mentioned it til now and were covering for you their entire life.
This is the only shame they will admit.
They are ashamed of you. See how nicely that transfer works?
Now. What about the escapee. The survivor.
They may have to have massive therapy to be able to let go if the past and reframe their vision of the world.
They must learn for the first time what it is to love and be loved. This may happen overtime with and through their own experience with a spouse and children.
The important realization is that it can be done. It takes a tremendous amount of courage, strength and outside support.
The escapee must relearn and commit to practicing a whole new style of interpersonal relations. Self-esteem must be gifted to themselves then supported by positive thinking. Taking care of their body, mind and pursuing activities that grow personal achievement while most importantly serving others in a supportive manner ensures they find true value in lifting others and contributing to the build of others self-esteem.
They have to take a break from winning the trophies the narc taught them to strive for. At least for the time being.
There is no drug treatment for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as it is mostly appearing to be a learned style of thinking that is imprinted on the neurology in formative years of pattern development. That is to say, it is learned thinking reinforced by a great deal of physical stimuli and teachings.
It is a form of brainwashing done to a child that can last a lifetime and handed down. An individual must recognize it and choose to escape while re-educating their brain and emotional reward centers into a new pattern of thinking that includes empathy and other-centeredness and legitimate simple joy that is not an event centered dopamine, serotonin or oxytocin dump.
A person who grows up in this environment and experiences the ramifications of this cannot fully break the curse on themselves alone. They need an outside guide to recenter their emotional reality.
That is like any other “ism” like alcoholism or addiction, their brain will have a default that needs to be kept in check. They will always have a sense and a memory that they could slide back into mirroring the behavior of their narcissistic parent yet the “taste” of the recollection may be enough to steer them away.
The true miracle comes with their own children and they see healthy happy, self-fulfilled children that love them back unconditionally.
The personal satisfaction of breaking this generational curse is incredibly rewarding.
You can do it.
If this dialogue was useful to you please feel free to repost, no credit needed.
If you feel you may have experienced living in a similar situation please find a therapist a counsellor or a smart friend that can help you get help and talk to someone who can help you unravel the hurt.
You are loved.
You are worth it.
The shame is not yours and you do not have to carry it one more day.
If you have a friend who has experienced this. Be patient. Listen. Remember you may be the one person they have experienced true unselfish love from.
These stories are very real. The people who live them may have just as well have been imprisoned unjustly for decades.
The individual is going through a process of forgiving themselves and the perpetrator. Eventually they will discover that the villain in their story was a grown-up victim and they will have empathy for them.
The number one thing to understand is that as a grounded person living in reality you are capable of sorting through this. Mind you your tormentor is not grounded in reality. You must stop trying to make sense of what they do.
You have to stop thinking "What did I do to cause that reaction in them?"
That is the primary power of a narcissist. They want you dancing on the head of a pin for them. They use irrationality as a joyful tool to destroy you.
The best path is to live as free from them as possible and live joyfully.
After-all that is exactly what they have been sucking out of you for years. You are their fuel. They are vampires. Walk away.
Forgiveness will come in time.
Healing as well.