Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about narcissism, especially in parents, and I keep running across this idea of the perfect parent. As children, we need to believe that our caregivers are “perfect”, not perfect in the sense of doing everything “just so” but perfect in the child’s sense that everything our parents do is for our benefit. Perhaps it is better described as a perfect trust in our parents to always look out for us. Thus, their actions are always for our highest good.
The idea that we have this need makes sense to me. We are born completely dependent on our parents to give us shelter, nourishment, love and to keep us safe. When we grow up without any one of these things, we are not able to see that anything is missing. We have no reason or ability to question anything our parents do or fail to do. We trust them and accept their behavior regardless.
When we are abused or neglected, this behavior is not questioned. Indeed, we may grow up believing that we deserve the treatment we get, that we are less important than others or that we are bad or wrong. Our parents, in essence, feed us from a poisoned bottle of abuse. We drink the poison without question. Our parents might even tell us it’s good for us. Perhaps it even tastes good. Nevertheless, it is all we have and our parents are our sole providers. When we are old enough we may even drink the poison ourselves, still unaware it’s destroying us inside. And when we go on to form relationships of our own, we may feed the poison to others, not knowing it’s true destructive nature.
With the realization of my mother’s narcissism, the proverbial veil was lifted from my eyes and I could see that my mother had been feeding me poison in the form of covert abuse and neglect. I grew up completely enmeshed, acting as a friend, partner and parent to my mother. With no idea that anything was wrong, I continued to cater to my mother’s needs while my own needs were neglected. I enjoyed a very “happy” relationship with her. She was caring and affectionate in my eyes and to the eyes of the world. But underneath my happy existence ran a deep undercurrent of immense loneliness, fear and self-hatred.
I understand now that I’ve been living off of the same poison I was fed as a child. Even though I see it, I still struggle not to drink it. I know I didn’t cause any of this to happen nor could I have known any of it was wrong. I grew up believing my mother was the most important person in the world, me — the least important. I believed I was never precious and that anything I had could be taken from me at any time. I believed that any pain I suffered was my own fault and a result of something I did.
It is painful for me to write this now. My mother made the poison she fed me very sweet and I never thought she would do anything to hurt me. When I have thoughts and feelings of worthlessness now, I have to say to myself, “No! That’s the poison, don’t drink it!” I am even trying to replace the poison with antidote — the good, healthy nourishment all children need and deserve from the start. I imagine a kind and caring inner mother who loves me unconditionally. I even have conversations with her sometimes.
I hope, with time, that I can get most of the poison out of my system and that I won’t make the mistake of feeding it to anybody else. We are so precious, people are, and we deserve to be taken care of, by ourselves and each other. When we fail to care for one another, the legacy of that loss can be immense. We don’t need that.
Thank you for reading and listening.