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Narcissist: Mother Looms Large

Uploaded 4/13/2013, approx. 4 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

I am the author of Cold Therapy. I am the author of Cold Therapy. I am the author of and become a part of the child's conscience.

Super ego, for better or for worse, she, the mother, is the art stick, the benchmark against which everything in his future is measured.

One forever compares oneself, one's identity, one's actions and omissions, one's achievements, one's fears and hopes and aspirations, and one's partners to this mythical figure.

Growing up entails a gradual separation from one's mother.

At first, the child begins to shape a more realistic view of her, and incorporates the mother's shortcomings and disadvantages in this modified version.

The more ideal, less realistic and earlier picture of the mother, is stored and becomes part of the child's psyche.

The later, less cheerful, more realistic view enables the infant to define his own identity and gender identity, and to go out to the world.

Thus, partly abandoning mother is the key to an independent exploration of the world, personal autonomy, and to a strong sense of self.

Resolving the sexual complex and the resulting conflict of being attracted to a forbidden figure is the second determining step.

The male child must realize that his mother is off-limits to him sexually and emotionally or psychosexual, and that she belongs to his father or to other males.

He must thereafter choose to imitate his father, become a man, in order to win in the future someone like his mother.

The third and final stage of letting go of the mother is reached during the delicate period of adolescents.

One then seriously ventures out, and finally builds and secures one's own world replete with a new mother lover.

If any of these stages, any of these phases, is thwarted, the process of differentiation is not successfully complete, nor autonomy or coherent self are achieved, and dependence and infantilism characterize this unlucky person.


What determines the success or failure of these phases in one's personal history?

Mostly, one's mother.

If the mother does not let go, the child does not go.

If the mother herself is a dependent narcissistic type, the growth prospects of the child are indeed doomed.

There are numerous mechanisms which mothers use to ensure the continued presence and emotional dependence of their offspring, of both sexes.

The mother can cast herself in the role of an eternal victim, a sacrificial figure who dedicated her life to the child, with the implicit or explicit proviso of reciprocity that the child dedicates his life to her.

Another strategy is to treat the child as an extension of the mother, or conversely, to treat herself as an extension of the child.

Yet another tactic is to create a situation of shared psychosis, or folie de, the mother and child united against external threats, such as the father, or to create an atmosphere suffused with sexual and erotic insinuations, emotional incest, leading to an illicit, psychosexual bonding between mother and child.

In this latter case, the adult's ability to interact with members of the opposite sex is gravely impaired, and the mother is perceived as envious of any feminine influence other than hers.

Such a mother is frequently critical of the women in her offspring's life, pretending to do so in order to protect him from dangerous liaisons or from ones which are beneath him.

Such a mother says, you deserve more, she's a gold digger.

Other mothers exaggerate their neediness, they emphasize their financial dependence and lack of resources, their health problems, their emotional barrenness without the soothing presence of the child, their need to be protected against this or that, mostly imaginary enemy.

Motherhood is a prime mover in the perverted relationships of such mothers and their children.

The death of the mother is therefore a devastating shock and a deliverance.

It's ambivalent, it creates ambivalent emotional reactions.

Even a normal adult who molds his dead mother is usually exposed to such emotional duality.

The ambivalence is a source of great guilt feelings.

I am shocked and devastated, but I am also relieved and delivered.

With a person who is abnormally attached to his mother, the situation is more complicated.

He feels that he has a part in her death, that he is to blame, somehow responsible, that he could have done more.

He is glad to be liberated, but he feels guilty and punishable because of it.

He feels sad and elated, naked and powerful, exposed to dangers and omnipotent, about to disintegrate and to be newly integrated.

These precisely are the emotional reactions to successful therapy.

With the death of his mother, the narcissist embarks for a process of healing.

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