My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
If you want to drive a motorcycle, let alone a truck, you need a license. If you want to sell liquor, alcoholic drinks, you better have a permit.
But if you want to bring children to the world and raise them, you need nothing. A renting requires no screening, no testing, no exams, and no licensing. Even narcissists and full-fledged dangerous psychopaths can and do have children.
In my opinion, a parent diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder should be denied custody. Such a parent should be granted only restricted rights of visitation and care, on the supervision.
Here are the reasons.
Narcissists accord the same treatment to children as they do to adults. Narcissists regard both children and adults as sources of narcissistic supply, near instruments of gratification.
So they start by idealizing the child, and then they devalue the child in favor of an alternative, safer, more subservient source.
Such up and down, such idealization devaluation cycles, they are traumatic, and they can and do have long-lasting emotional effects on the child as he becomes adult and adult.
The narcissist's inability to acknowledge and abide by the personal boundaries set by others puts the child at a heightened risk of abuse, verbal, emotional, physical, and sometimes sexual.
The narcissist's possessiveness and poignantly of indiscriminate negative emotions, transformations of aggression like envy and rage, these hinder the narcissist's ability to act as a good enough parent.
Narcissist's propensity is for reckless behaviors, substance abuse, sexual deviance, in danger, the child's welfare, and even the child's life.
So at the risk of oversimplification, narcissism tends to breed narcissism.
It's true that only a minority of children of narcissistic parents become narcissists, and this may be due to a genetic predisposition or to different life circumstances, like not being the first born or being raised by a step-parent.
But it's also a fact that the overwhelming majority of narcissists have had one or more narcissistic parents and caregivers.
The narcissist's marriage regards his or her child as a multi-faceted source of narcissistic supply. The child is considered and treated as an extension of the narcissist. It is through the child that the narcissist seeks to settle open scores with the world. The child is supposed to realize the unfulfilled dreams, wishes, and fantasies of the narcissistic parent.
And this vicarious life by proxy can develop into ways. The narcissist can either merge with the child or he can become ambivalent about the child.
The ambivalence is the result of a conflict between the narcissist's wish to attain his narcissistic goals, grandiose goals, through the child and the narcissist's pathological destructive envy of the child in his accomplishments.
So the narcissist pushes the child to accomplish, to achieve, become famous, and then he envies the child for having done exactly this.
The alternative is that the narcissist merges with the child and then the child has no life of his or her own.
To ameliorate the unease bred by this emotional ambivalence or merger, the narcissistic parent resorts to myriad control mechanisms. These can be grouped into guilt-driven mechanisms, co-dependent mechanisms, goal-driven mechanisms, shared psychosis mechanisms, and explicit ones.
Let me describe each and every one of these control mechanisms.
Start with guilt-driven mechanisms.
The narcissistic parent who uses these mechanisms says, I sacrifice my life for you and you owe me.
The co-dependent mechanism? I need you. I cannot cope without you. Don't leave me.
The goal-driven mechanism? You and I, my child, have a common goal which we can and must attain and achieve only together.
The shared psychosis or emotional inset mechanism? You and I are united against the whole world or at least against your monstrous, no-good mother or father. You are my one and only true love and passion.
And finally, the explicit control methods.
If you do not adhere to my principles, beliefs, ideology, religion, values, timetables, agenda, if you do not obey my instructions, I will punish you.
This exercise of control helps to sustain the illusion that the child is a part of the narcissist.
But maintaining the illusion calls for extraordinary levels of control on the part of the parent and extraordinary levels of obedience on the part of the child.
The relationship is typically symbiotic and emotionally turbulent. The child feels ill at ease, he is, but cannot express his aggression, cannot express his resentment. The child who feels another important narcissistic function, the provision of narcissistic supply.
There is no denying the implied, no imaginary immortality in having a child. The early natural dependence of the child or his parents and caregivers serves to assuage their fear of abandonment and to make them feel omnipotent, all-powerful and omniscient in the early years.
The narcissist loves this dependence. He loves to feel all-powerful, all-knowing. He loves to play God. So he tries to perpetuate the child's dependence on him.
You have seen therefore mentioned before mechanisms.
The child is really the ultimate secondary source of narcissistic supply. The child is always present. He admires the parent, the narcissist. The child witnesses the narcissist's moments of triumph and grandeur, remembers them and recalls them time and again.
Going to the child's wish to be loved, the child can be extorted into constant giving.
To the narcissist, a child is a dream come true, but only in the most egotistical sense.
When the child is perceived as reneging on his main obligation, that is, to provide the narcissistic parent with a constant supply of attention, then the parent's emotional reaction is harsh and revealing.
The narcissist's love is conditional upon the supply of narcissistic supply. No narcissistic supply, no love. It is when the narcissistic parent is disenchanted with the child that we see the true nature of this pathological relationship.
The child then is totally objectified and rejected. The narcissist reacts to a breach in the unwritten contract.
His reaction is with words of aggression and aggressive transformations. His contemptuous, courageous, there's emotional, psychological abuse and even physical violence.
The narcissist tries to annihilate, to destroy the real disobedient child and substitute for it with a subservient edifying former version.
He would like the child to remain a child forever.