My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
What happens when the narcissist becomes a father or a mother to a disabled child, a challenged child, intellectually or otherwise, or a sick child, chronically ill, weak and frail?
The narcissist regards his disabled or challenged child as an insult, a direct challenge to his self-perceived perfection and omnipotence, a constant nagging reminder and source of negative narcissistic supply, and the reification and embodiment of a malevolent and hostile world which tirelessly conspires to render the narcissist a victim through misfortune and catastrophe.
The precarious foundations of the narcissist's false self and therefore his ability to function are undermined by this miscegenation. Relentlessly challenged by his defective offspring's very existence and by the persistence of its attendant painful reminders, the narcissist lashes out, acts out, seeking to persecute and penalize the sources of his excruciating frustration, the child and his mother.
The narcissist holds the mother responsible for this failure, not himself. She brought this shame and perturbation into his otherwise fantastic and orderly life. It was she who gave issue to this newfound fulfillment, this permanent reminder of fallibility, imperfection, mortality, impotence, guilt, disgrace and fear.
To rectify this wrong, to restore the interrupted balance and to firmly regain an assured sense of self-brandiosity, the narcissist resorts to devaluation. He humiliates, belittles and demeans both the unfortunate child and his suffering mother. The narcissist compares their failings unfavorably to his own wholeness. He berates and mocks the child and his mother for the combined disability, frailty, weakness, meekness and resourcelessness. He transforms them into the captive parts of his unbridled sadism and the cowed adherings of a cult-like shared psychosis. Serves them well for having thus ruined his life, figures the narcissist.
Fasting himself outwardly as a compassionate proponent of tough love, the narcissist eggs his charges on mercilessly. He contrasts the slowness with his self-imputed illacrity, their limitations with his infinite grasp, their mediocrity with his genius and acuity, their defeats with his triumphant life, real or imagined. He harps on and leverages their insecurities and he displays his hateful contempt for this mother-child dire with a fiery vengeance whenever he is confronted, criticized or resisted. The narcissist may even turn violent in order to enforce the discipline of his distorted worldview and delusional exigencies of reality.
By reducing the child, by confronting the mother, the narcissist feels elevated yet again. Bonding and attachment in infancy are critical determinants and predictors of well-being in adulthood.
A small minority of children are born, indeed, with dysfunctions, such as attention, hyperactivity, deficit disorder or Asperger's disorder or some other kind of autism. These dysfunctions prevent the children from properly bonding with or attaching to a primary caregiver. Environmental factors such as an unstable home, parental absenteeism or a disintegrating family unit also play a role and can lead to the emergence of reactive attachment disorder, RAD.
Totals, adapt to this sterile and hostile emotional landscape by regressing to an earlier phase of unbridled, self-sufficient and solipsistic primary narcissism.
Disabled and challenged children of narcissistic parents may well end up being narcissists themselves – a sad but inescapable irony.
Narcissistic parents of seriously ill children derive narcissistic supply from onlookers, friends, family, colleagues and community, and they do that by attracting attention to their role as saintly caretakers, selfless and sacrificial.
They are demonstratively and ostentatiously patient, compassionate, suffering heroically and dedicated to the child, its welfare and ultimate healing. They flaunt the child's sickness as a kind of a hard-walled but well-deserved medal, down in the trenches with a tortured offspring doing desperate battle with a pitiless enemy, the disease.
It is an intoxicating part in the unfolding film that is the narcissist's line.
But this irresistible craving for attention should be demarcated from the sinister affliction colloquially known as Minkhausen Bitroxi Syndrome.
Patients afflicted with a factitious disorder colloquially known as Minkhausen Syndrome seek to attract the attention of medical personnel by feigning or by self-inflicting serious illness or injury.
Minkhausen Bitroxi Syndrome, factitious illness or disorder by proxy or imposed by another, or fabricated or induced illness by contrivance, there are many names.
Well, this disorder involves the patient inducing illness in or causing injury to a dependent child, an old parent. And they do this in order to gain in their capacity as caretakers, the attention, praise and sympathy of medical care providers.
Both syndromes Minkhausen and Minkhausen Bitroxi are forms of shared psychosis, fully adieu or fully apluze, forms of crazy making with hospital staff as unwilling and unwitting participants in the drama.
Superficially, this overwhelming need for consideration by figures of authority and role models, doctors, nurses, clergy, social workers, this resembles the narcissist relentless and coercive pursuit of narcissistic supply, which also consists of attention, adulation, admiration, being feared, noted, etc.
But despite the superficial similarities, there are some important differences.
To start with, narcissist, especially the somatic variety, worships his body and cherishes his health. If anything, narcissist tend to be hypochondriants. They are known to self-harm and self-mutilate, let alone fake laboratories and consume potentially deleterious, militarily sinister substances and medications. They are also unlikely to seriously damage their sources of supply, for instance, their children, as long as they are confined, of course, and adulating.
As opposed to narcissist, people with both Mid-Housen syndromes desire acceptance. They seek love, caring, relationships and nurturing, not merely tension.
The landscape of the Mid-Housen disorder and Mid-Housen by proxy disorder, patients, is emotional. And they have emotional deeds that amount to more than the mere regulation of their sense of self-worth.
In other words, they look for more than attention, while narcissists are looking only for attention.
People with Mid-Housen have no full-fledged false self, unlike the narcissist. There's only a clinging, insecure, traumatized, deceitful and needy true self.
Mid-Housen syndrome may be comorbid, but it can be diagnosed with personality disorders.
Though in both cases, the patients are illogical liars, schizoid, paranoid, hypervigilant and aggressive, there are still massive differences between people who are diagnosed only with personality disorders and those who are comorbid with Mid-Housen.
While narcissists are indiscriminate and promiscuous when it comes to their sources of narcissistic supply, anyone will do.
Patients with Mid-Housen syndrome derive emotional nurturers, assessments, mainly from health care practitioners.
So we should not confuse the two mental health categories.
Still, in all these cases, the child is a prop in the adult theater of life. He is a pivot. He is abused. And when it becomes autonomous, when it becomes critical, discard him.