Narcissism : The Curse Of The Chosen Child

There are many articles around on the internet about all types of narcissism and the dangers of being in a relationship with someone who has these tendencies. The advice is clear : get away from the situation as quickly as possible. Anyone who is more on the codependent side of the continuum will testify that this is harder to put into practice than it sounds. However, what if the narcissist is your parent and has cloned you to be a living “perfect” version of him or her,? A child chosen to heal the parent’s own broken past. It happens more than we might imagine. For ease, I have highlighted this case with father and daughter. However, this concept is not limited to just that.

A parent who has developed a sense of narcissism through his own dysfunctional childhood often believes that by bringing a “perfect ” child into the world and being seen as a “perfect” parent, he can heal the wounds of his own childhood. This scenario is often played out through a  “chosen” child, the prince or princess who gets all his unhealthy attention. Through this child, he is proving to all of the people who doubted his self-worth (including himself) that he is a worthwhile individual with real value. However, the emotional manipulation that goes hand-in -hand with being the chosen one creates havoc for the child leading to extreme codependency or the next generation of narcissists.

Since a narcissist parent will use emotional manipulation that is based on his own shame, anxiety and self-loathing, he will rely on his chosen child to make him feel competent and worthwhile and the child is burdened with the ongoing responsibility of making her parent feel good about himself. The child rarely develops a healthy identity of her own and is seen as just an extension of their parent’s raging ego issues. The child is given the never -ending task of primarily “pleasing” the parent to the detriment of personal ambition and relationships. As this child grows up and in an attempt to deal emotionally with the demands placed on her by the parent , she adapts to the narcissist parent by becoming an accommodating child. This will bring in turn praise and conditional love as long as the child continues to feed the monster. Codependency is formed when a child incorporates this behavior as a habit on its search for unconditional love. Those who resist are given harder treatment and are more likely to be narcissists in later life due to being cast out as a “problem child”.

In practice, the above scenario often moves into the child’s adulthood unchanged. Her prime task set as a child continues, causing havoc with relationships, self-esteem and the child’s own parenting style. This is a child who has been taught to first think about her narcissist parent’s needs before her own. Her parent, who is often to the outside world, a loving father, successful businessman and a pillar of the community, is in reality an ego driven individual who has a grandiose sense of superiority over everyone around him . The demands placed on those chosen to be in his inner circle are impossible to fulfill and tailored only towards his needs. The chosen child may at one stage decide to resist and make decisions based on her needs, something that could be very new to a person who has been controlled all her life in her choice of career and partner. This causes the classic narcissist injury, revoking old feelings of rejection and abandonment for the narcissist parent who responds with classic emotional manipulative tactics..emotional withdrawal, disapproval and focus on the less chosen children in the family. This punishment is done with the knowledge that the codependent child will always return, seeking forgiveness and apologizing for what they have “done”.  The child is trapped in the psyche of the narcissist parent who sees her achievements as an extension of his abilities as a “parent”.  The parent is motivated to care constantly for her because it makes him feel good about himself.

While the child is extremely codependent towards the narcissist parent, it is often a different story with other people she becomes involved with. Here she resists any form of treatment that she perceives as controlling and manipulative and often plays a narcissist role herself and becomes an emotional manipulator.  Given that she has learned to be pleasing and accommodating and is seemingly stable, she will attract partners easily. However, any relationship that is likely to clash with her incessant need to please the narcissist parent will be discarded, even if in some cases she might have wanted to stay in the relationship. Worse case scenario for her is the disapproval of her partner by the narcissist parent. This places her in conflict between his and her needs and true to form, her needs are subdued.

For the chosen child,  life is never easy until they can learn to put healthy boundaries around their own and other people’s behavior. They first have to understand what is really happening to them. They often refuse to see their narcissist parent for what they are. They are held by the child on a pedestal beyond reproach, their counsel sacred and the child often sees the narcissist parent as the only one who can truly understand them and provide them with the security they need. In effect, they are just only another pawn in the narcissist parent’s need to feel good about himself. It is child abuse of the highest order.

12 Thoughts

  1. My question is this. If you believe you are a narcissist and are a parent. What then should you do to ensure that your children do not suffer the same fate as yourself.

  2. I feel like someone just hit me with a baseball bat. This has been literally the biggest source of fighting between me and my fiancee. As a third party witness he saw through my relationship with my parent way better than I could, and my parent in return lashed out every time I gained any independence, friendship and my relationship with my fiancee ESPECIALLY, telling me that they were using me/ controlling me, when really they were the one doing those things. I’m in the middle of some really painful boundary setting, and the amount of guilt, tears and victim-playing alternating with belittling and degrading personal attacks on me is insane. Of course, all of this proves that taking a leap of faith that maybe they were maybe the narcissist as opposed to 98% of the other people in my life sure has TOTALLY convinced me that they’re NOT A NARCISSIST……….

  3. This is my daughter. I left my covert narcissistic husband and she is living with me but he still has her doing a dance and helping him to feel good about himself. Having my daughter around normalizes him into a loving father. She is at his beck and call when he texts her and it has become her job to emotionally manipulate and guilt trip her siblings into seeing their father. How do I help her to break free without shattering her world?

  4. It’s scary how this plays out almost identically in families. I was the child of a mother who (I’m not sure if she is a narcissist) but she certainly used me to build her fragile ego up, demanding I live the life she didn’t achieve. I rebelled against this and after leaving home at 16 went through a life of codependency and addiction. Now I can see it happening identically with my stepdaughter and her mother.
    As you say happens in this piece, the child has rejected her father because she considers him to be controlling because he insisted she went to school and he wanted to see her regularly, while her relationship with her mum is really enmeshed. I hope the family court system can get better at spotting these dynamics to better help families and I think education about this is vital.

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