Unconscious Narcissism In Parent-child Relationships

In the case of unconscious narcissism, the child may begin to feel that their desires are not their own. They are imposed on them by the expectations of the parent.
Unconscious narcissism in parent-child relationships

Narcissism, understood as love of self and the constant search for satisfaction through admiration, is present in relationships between parents and children. Parents project huge impulses for life and love onto their children as a result of unconscious narcissism.

But many times this impulse is driven by their desire to a greater or lesser degree to color the relationship of non-possessing narcissism, but still being with longing or expectations.

The literature and theory talk about how children interact with their parents, rather than the other way around. Therefore, it is difficult to find literature that clearly refers to the narcissism that exists in the relationship with the parents, understood as how a stranger would look at it, or how the child’s characteristics are perceived as their own.

Freud showed the first signs of interest in this phenomenon. He theorized over the existence of this tendency to attribute all these perfect things to the child. It should be noted that he was not only interested in the way the parents formed their relationship with the children.

The little majesty

This can be felt in the beginning with the parents, where the child becomes the little majesty.

This phenomenon of “ His Royal Highness baby ” is a way for adults to renew the privileges they imagined they had when they were children themselves and which they had to put behind them. We see parents giving their child countless privileges and destroying them by worshiping their qualities and then demanding that their development go along the lines of their master plan.

Many parents end up projecting “their ideal selves ” onto their children, making them the ” perfect and perfectionist ” version of what the parents think they themselves would have become.

In that sense, the parents project their ideal selves onto the child. They make the child responsible for the frustrations and deepest desires of the parents’ egos.

This is why when we talk about unconscious narcissism and projection, the parents’ love becomes more a love for themselves, for how they themselves perceived themselves as a child or would like to be. However, it has also become a way to unfold more of this loving relationship.

Girl in dress of leaves with apples and snake wrapped around her

How is unconscious narcissism constructed?

Clinical experiences cause professionals associated with the area of ​​parent-child relationships to dwell deeper into unconscious narcissism, which can be found in these types of relationships. In this regard, the psychoanalyst, Juan Manzano, tells us about the four essential elements that form the basis of unconscious parental narcissism:

1. Projection from parents to the child

Parents project their own characteristics that they had or wanted to have as a child, characteristics that they either no longer possess or that they feel they lack. The father or mother wants their son or daughter not to miss what they themselves wanted.

They can see their children as the perfect representatives of their own ideal selves. It is possible that this projection is for the most part unconscious. Or at least the parents do not consciously reflect on this behavior.

2. Complementary identification of the parents

The father or mother will consider their son or daughter as part of themselves or as a type of internal object that to some extent depends on their parent. It is, so to speak, the parent who in a way identifies what they feel as a persistent sense of possession over the child. It can sometimes prevent the formation of the child’s own self-image.

Girl with closed eyes and withered leaf in hand

3. Specific purposes

As we mentioned earlier, the goal of this projection and complementary identification is a realization of the satisfaction of a person with a narcissistic nature. However, there may also be other reasons for this type of parental behavior such as denial of a loss.

4. A relational dynamic

The interaction is based on early assigned roles. It will eventually surpass the imagination and form the development of relational dynamics with other people and within the child himself. The important thing is that this type of relationship creates a fictional profile that ends up becoming reality.

In pathological cases, children may react in different ways. Sometimes they adapt to the roles given to them. It creates disturbances that can hit them later. It will make them rebel later because they feel abandoned.

This feeling of abandonment occurs for the simple reason that the relationship between the child and the parent does not exist or is limited. In doing so, the child may begin to feel that their desires are not their own. They are imposed on them by the expectations of the parent.

Note: The content of this article is an excerpt from “ Narcissistic scenarios of parenthood,”  by Juan Manzano.

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