At some point, in order to grow up, all children must
mentally confront their idealized parent.
For most children, this means coming to the realization
that the adult who has raised them from birth is not perfect.
A child of a narcissist, though, will struggle to grow up for this
Because, for a child of a narcissist, mentally confronting
the idealized parent does not mean coming to an understanding of the
No. For for the child of a narcissist, coming to an understanding of the parent
means uncovering the fact that the parent never, ever loved the child- for
no narcissist can ever truly love.
For too many children, this is too much to confront, so the child of the narcissist
stays forever locked in the fantasy the parent created and never grows up-
in order to maintain the illusion that the narcissistic parent really does “love”.
As most of you know, I stepparent two great kids (now teenagers!). It is interesting to witness the transformational stages of teenagers. One of the components of this is the “rejection” (perhaps too strong of a word?) of the parent, in order the teenager can get enough space to continue their individuation. This is completely normal and needs to happen.
Children of narcissists have a very, very difficult time doing this. As I write above, when children of narcissists reach teenage years and begin to look at parental figures with critical eyes- they can’t do it. For to really look at a narcissistic parent with the evaluating/critical eye of a teenager (if you have raised teenagers, you know exactly what I mean about their “evaluating/critical eyes”!!) reveals more than the teenager can handle.
Teenagers with healthy parents will look at their parents and begin to evaluate such things as “I can’t stand how Mom dresses. Dad is always so annoying when we have company, etc” But, these are superficial items. The core of “I am loved” is not brought into question. Not so for a child of a narcissist. If a child of a narcissist begins to really “see” the narcissistic parent, the bottom of the world falls out beneath the child, for they will come to the realization the parent does not love him or her, because the narcissistic parent can love no one but self.
The child of a narcissist can not go through this developmental stage common to most teenagers. They stand on the other side of the doorway, unable to step through. It also goes without saying that a child of a narcissist, having lived the dynamic for a decade and more, is VERY, VERY aware that to become critical or judgmental of the narcissistic parent in any way result in immediate banishment from the “kingdom” or “queendom”. Thus, their compliance with the fantasy is assured.