Every child desires to be loved unconditionally for who they truly are. The first place they will have the chance to get that love is from their parents. When parents look into their baby’s eyes and tell him that they understand exactly who he is and what he feels, they also tell him he is good and worthy to be loved. With the help of his parent’s empathy, the child knows it is fun to be happy and okay to feel sad.
His parent helps him regulate his body when he is hungry and his emotions when he is mad. He can trust his parent will meet his needs both physically and emotionally every day. He knows that he is good and worthy of relationship. He can trust another person to be benevolent and meet his needs. He can meet the needs of others without feeling eroded or tired. He is confident enough in his own worth to explore his world with curiosity and imagination. This is called a secure attachment.
But what happens when a parent is not empathic? What happens when a parent has masked the pain of rejection for so long that he is hidden beneath a lifetime of masks and disguises?
A child cannot see through the masks. Instead of the parent mirroring the child’s emotions back to him with empathic understanding, the child becomes the mirror in which the parent only sees and loves herself. The child decides it is he who is not worthy of the love his parent cannot give. He becomes fearful and mistrusting. He cannot believe anyone could love him if his parent couldn’t. He is afraid to explore and fail at new things. He cannot trust in his own goodness enough to bear the pain of failure. This is called an insecure attachment.
Many of us have parents like these who are on the narcissistic spectrum. We may not understand or realize how much their narcissism has affected us.
If you are concerned that you may suffer from an insecure attachment as a result of having a narcissistic parent, it is important to seek help. A qualified counselor will be able to hear your story in a safe environment, give you space to heal those parts of yourself that have been wounded, and help you discover the worth and goodness of your true self.