“Anybody who hates children and dogs can’t be all bad.”
(Leo Rosten, introducing W.C. Fields at a dinner)
Why would a husband or wife be jealous of their own children? A parent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder who has children opens up a world of damage and abuse to them. Some narcissistic parents are possessively close to their children when they are small, as their children can be a source of self-esteem.
However, as their children grow and become more independent, the narcissistic parent may feel jealous of the child (or children). Narcissists playing the “grandiose” role promote themselves as powerful figures, demanding gratitude and hero worship from their child. Nevertheless, if the child is too successful or becomes too independent, they will incur jealousy and recrimination. No narcissist wants to be upstaged or outgrown so they suppress signs of independence or any behavior beyond their command. Invasions of privacy, boundary violations, and direct attacks are the norm.
While there are innumerable ways in which a narcissistic parent abuses his or her children, there are times when a narcissistic parent is kind. This makes the abuse harder to handle for children of narcissistic parents – the child knows that the underlying tension means that one wrong move and things will go terribly wrong- the parent may fly into a Narcissistic Rage. The household learns to walk on eggshells.
When a narcissistic parent is kind, the child learns that this kindness comes with strings attached. The strings may include guilt or a feeling of being beholden to their narcissistic parent such as “If I do this for you, you OWE me.” The child is exposed to conditional love- love is given only under certain conditions.
It is hard for an emotionally healthy person to understand the mind of a narcissist and how they can possibly treat their children in the ways that they do. Sam Vaknin, a self proclaimed narcissist and author of Malignant Self-Love helps us understand what it is like from a narcissist’s point of view: (bold type is mine)
I see in children feigned innocence, relentless and ruthless manipulation, the cunning of the weak. They are ageless. Their narcissism is disarming in its directness, in its cruel and absolute lack of empathy. They demand with insistence, punish absent-mindedly, idealize and devalue capriciously. They have no loyalty. They do not love, they cling. Their dependence is a mighty weapon and their neediness – a drug. They have no time, neither before, nor after. To them, existence is a play, they are the actors, and we all – are but the props. They raise and drop the curtain of their mock emotions at will. The bells of their laughter often tintinnabulate. They are the fresh abode of good and evil pure and pure they are.
Children, to me, are both mirrors and competitors. They reflect authentically my constant need for adulation and attention. Their grandiose fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience are crass caricatures of my internal world. The way they abuse others and mistreat them hits close to home. Their innocuous charm, their endless curiosity, their fount of energy, their sulking, nagging, boasting, bragging, lying, and manipulating are mutations of my own behavior. I recognize my thwarted self in them. When they make their entrance, all attention is diverted. Their fantasies endear them to their listeners. Their vainglorious swagger often causes smiles. Their trite stupidities are invariably treated as pearls of wisdom. Their nagging is yielded to, their threats provoke to action, their needs accommodated urgently. I stand aside, an abandoned centre of attention, the dormant eye of an intellectual storm, all but ignored and neglected. I watch the child with envy, with rage, with wrath. I hate its effortless ability to defeat me.
Children are loved by mothers, as I was not. They are bundled emotions, and happiness and hope. I am jealous of them, I am infuriated by my deprivation, I am fearful of the sadness and hopelessness that they provoke in me. Like music, they reify a threat to the precariously balanced emotional black hole that is myself. They are my past, my dilapidated and petrified True Self, my wasted potentials, my self-loathing and my defenses. They are my pathology projected. I revel in my Orwellian narcissistic newspeak. Love is weakness, happiness is a psychosis, hope is malignant optimism. Children defy all this. They are proof positive of how different it could all have been.
But what I consciously experience is disbelief. I cannot understand how anyone can love these thuggish brats, their dripping noses, gelatinous fat bodies, whitish sweat, and bad breath. How can anyone stand their cruelty and vanity, their sadistic insistence and blackmail, their prevarication and deceit? In truth, no one except their parents can.
Children are always derided by everyone except their parents. There is something sick and sickening in a mother’s affections. There is a maddening blindness involved, an addiction, a psychotic episode, it’s sick, this bond, it’s nauseous. I hate children. I hate them for being me.
On an internet forum, another narcissist wrote: “I often feel very intense jealousy, but it’s sort of very specific. The people who I’m “closest” to, that not being on an emotional level but a possessive level, I get very jealous over. I feel as if I own them, and the more they feel they are close to me on an emotional and intellectual and connected level, the more I feel “close” to them on a possessive level. And so if then these people ignore me, or favor someone else over me, I feel sudden intense hatred for them, as if they’re being hypocritical in their own connection towards me. It’s as if by admitting they’re close to me, good friends with me, they’re signing an unwritten contract that they must give me complete attention constantly, and when they don’t, I completely hate them and want nothing more to do with them. I think it’s the closest I can feel to a normal emotion, and it’s the only way I can judge my relationships with others.”
From these writings, it seems that narcissists can be jealous of their own children for several reasons. They see their children as extensions of themselves which can lead to Narcissistic Supply (if the children are gifted, beautiful, talented or so on) or can lead to jealousy (if the child is too successful, too independent, is a competitor for all the attention or other Narcissistic Supply, gives their attention to someone else and betrays their ‘ownership” by the narcissist) or even to hatred (for being just like the narcissist himself- a mirror to his faults). Being the child of a narcissistic parent can open up Pandora’s Box when it comes to emotional damage.