Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The child of Narcissus

Narcissists should never have children. Ever. They make horrible parents. They view their children as extensions of themselves--apendages that they get to dress and manicure and manipulate--and consequently, the child has a hard time realizing who they are away from their parent.

The story of Narcissus tells about a man who sees himself in a lake and just can't take his eyes off of himself. The child of Narcissus looks into the lake or mirror and sees their parent reflected back to them. Similarly, the parent sees in the child himself, only with flaws. In order to make the child a true reflection, these flaws must be cut out, sanded down, removed and made into the image of the parent, who views himself as a creator.

Many narcisstic parents have a "golden child" and a "scapegoat". The golden boy or girl can do no wrong and is usually as much like the parent as the other one is unlike him. In my family, I was the scapegoat and my brother was the golden boy. However, for some odd reason, it was my brother who bore the brunt of the abuse from our father. He had his "flaws" that did not reflect my dad. They reflected perhaps my mom or a grandparent, or maybe even just his own personality that was slightly off from my dad.

My brother as a boy was a dreamer, a magician, a reader, a dad as a boy was what his parents told him to be. My dad had to work hard because his parents decided to be farmers and live on a farm, and that meant that my dad had to help around the house. Was it any wonder that he joined the Navy when he was 17? And yet he never realized that my brother was looking for as much freedom as he was.

I was the scapegoat, and that meant that everything that happened wrong was my fault. There was also no communication in my house, and I'm a communicator. I like clear, concise instructions that tell me what to do, and this is mostly because whatever it was, I was sure to do it wrong, or at least not to the standards of my father, who would give me ambiguous instructions such as, "mop the floor." Having never mopped a floor before, I botched the job. I used too much soap, the water wasn't hot enough...but was my failure my fault? I was not told or shown what to do. In fact, if my dad was on a quest to get the house clean, we usually vacated the premises because he was a serious whirlwind of activity and aggravation, and he almost always threw away our most prized possessions without asking, or without thought to whether we would want to keep it or not.

I have a Snoopy doll from when I was a baby, and it is all I have from that time. My brother doesn't have anything from when he was a child. My dad would decide we had "outgrew" something, and then it would be gone. It didn't fit his idea of who we were and what we wanted or needed.

We are both currently low-level hoarders, and we have trouble culling our possessions when they start to be too much for the house to handle. I have no doubt that we are this way because our things were given away and thrown away without our knowledge or input.

Being a child of Narcissus is difficult. It takes a long time to unentwine your parents' roots from yours. Time, distance...none of it helps until you sit down and try to untangle yourself. The Narcissus bloom is hardy, though, and likes to try and keep its hold. Your parent will wonder why you're doing this to him. All he ever wanted was your happiness (as long as it aligned with his idea of happiness) and success (as long as it was his idea of success). All he wanted was your love (as long as you didn't expect any love in return).

Being a child of Narcissus means being emotionally manipulated a lot. To this day, my biggest struggle with depression is the fact that I get depressed for no reason. All I can think about are the people in the world who have it off so much worse than I do. This is because any time I wanted something from my dad, particularly affection, I was reminded that my life was relatively pretty good, and that my needs were, well, a little selfish. He would never come out and say that, of course, but that was the message. My hierarchy of needs was satisfied, therefore there could be no want.

Getting untangled is difficult because you think you've done it, you think it's over, and then you look down and somehow one of your roots decided to grow back into the direction of the parent plant. Your own body is betraying you. Your own emotions are still searching for that need to be filled.

One of the worst parts for me is knowing that the void never will be filled. In that way, it's almost like my dad still does have a hold. I still want that love, but I can't have it, only it's not because I'm too selfish, it's because he is.

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