It’s understandable to wonder if you might become a narcissist as a result of narcissistic abuse. Narcissistic abuse is often very intense and designed to make you feel devalued and worthless which seems to be the opposite of what the narcissist feels about themselves. The truth is that the situation is more complicated than it seems because just like there are different types of narcissists, there are different types of narcissistic abuse.
There are several different kinds of narcissistic abuse, and it is possible that type of abuse can produce narcissism. Narcissism typically results from an undeveloped sense of self, but that can happen both from abusive or neglectful situations as well as from situations of excessive pampering.
If you think you’ve been or are being affected by a narcissist, it’s critically important to understand the different kinds of narcissistic abuse and how they affect the victims of the narcissist. It will help to understand better the origins of narcissistic behaviors and heal from the abuse.
What Causes Narcissism?
The most common cause of narcissism is a childhood environment that is characterized by some kind of extreme deviation from what we would consider ideal parenting. That can mean an environment of abuse or neglect, but it can also mean an environment in which a child was overly pampered.
In most abusive or neglectful situations, the child may internalize the abuse they suffer and come to one of two possible conclusions: I don’t want to be like my abuser or I don’t want to be an abuse victim ever again. Sometimes, children who decide they don’t want to be the victim anymore come to a natural conclusion that to avoid that, they must become like their abuser.
Additionally, extreme narcissistic abuse can inhibit the child’s ability to form a healthy sense of self. Since the narcissist views their children as mere extensions of themself, they seek to tightly control their behavior through manipulation and sometimes violent abuse. That can inhibit the development of a healthy sense of self.
Excessive pampering can have the same effect. Narcissistic parents may tell their children that they are special and deserving of everything good in life. In doing so, they can create a sense of entitlement in their child, and by providing their child with a kind of preset identity, they prevent that child from developing their own ego.
It is in this way that both abusive narcissistic parents and narcissistic parents who overly pamper their children can cause narcissism in their offspring. There are, however, several different ways this can manifest in the child.
The Victim as a Substitute for a Real Identity
Some children of narcissists will accept their identity as that of the victim. They were abused, and therefore, anyone in their life who did not suffer the same abuse they did is expected to cater to their needs in each and every moment. With this kind of narcissistic identity, no one in the victim’s life can ever be supportive enough.
The victim tends to view their loved ones who were unaffected by abuse with resentment. They build up their identity around everything bad that has happened to them. They usually believe no one has suffered as much as they have, and everyone owes them for the abuse they suffered. They lean on the sympathy of loved ones for their narcissistic supply.
Many narcissistic ‘victims’ may seek help for the abuse they suffered, but they can never seem to get the help they need. They will frequently respond to efforts to help them with “yes, but…” They also use their victim status to explain away any life failures, and they believe that everyone around them should not expect them to take care of themselves.
The People Pleaser
These are the vulnerable narcissists who derive their sense of identity from caretaking other people and then receiving praise and recognition for their efforts. The focus of their caretaking, however, is not in the good deeds themselves, but the praise for having done them. This is their narcissistic supply.
These types of narcissists can result from having to try to constantly please a narcissistic parent. Their identity constructed in their false self is one of goodness, but they behave with resentment if they don’t get the recognition they feel they rightly deserve and expect. Their caretaking is not a selfless act, but one where there is an expectation of a return on their valuable gift, something they learned from a narcissistic parent.
The Overly Pampered Narcissist
This is the narcissist whose narcissistic parent or parents told them they were special and deserving above all others. While it seems like treatment that is not abusive, the problem is that narcissistic parents are not saying this to a child they see as an autonomous individual; rather they view this child as an extension of their grandiose ideas about their own superiority.
Because they overly pamper their child, they prevent them from developing their own identity and self-esteem. They also often expect their child to serve a particular purpose in the family that will ultimately fulfill the adult parent’s needs. While their narcissistic parents treat them as they themselves want to be treated, they don’t let them become their own person. The narcissistic parent or parents choose the activities the child will be involved in and virtually control every aspect of their life.
As one patient describes it, “My parents always have treated me like a special being, I believed I was unique, superior… going out into the real world was very traumatic for me. I wondered why they (others) didn’t realize how wonderful I was.”
Many people raised by narcissists don’t become narcissists themselves, but it is possible that narcissistic abuse can produce narcissism. This happens as a result of the emotional and sometimes physical abuse that narcissists use to manipulate and control their children.
Moreover, it’s unlikely that an adult who has never been abused would become a narcissist as a result of narcissistic abuse from another adult. There are many adverse and sometimes long-lasting effects from that narcissistic abuse, including low self-esteem and self-confidence, but they are unlikely to convert to narcissism as it were. Usually, that only happens with child victims who are in the early stages of forming their identity. The effects of narcissistic abuse, however, are extremely damaging whether or not the abuse results in narcissism.
Now that you understand a little more about what causes this devastating mental disorder, you need to read this article about Cluster B narcissism. Cluster B mental disorders include several conditions that demonstrate overlapping or similar symptoms, and understanding why narcissism is categorized in this way is vital to helping you identify NPD and heal from the abuse of a narcissist.
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