There are no rules for “special people” right? This is held as fact particularly by sociopathic narcissists; that is, narcissists who believe that breaking the laws of man and nature, even to the great detriment of others, don’t apply to them. Currently the news is full of stories of sociopathic narcissists, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump to name but a few. These “celebrities” dominate new cycles and expose a dark nature that few of us have had to look at personally. But if you are the survivor of a narcissistic parent, particularly one who is far up on the scale of pathology, the abuse and pain caused by this “specialness” is all too clear.
Some years ago, I had a client who was subjected to the bizarre practices of a religious cult because his parents felt that they, and other members of the cult, were so special that rules didn’t apply to them when it came to raising their child. This extraordinariness meant that their child could, and even should, be introduced to adult sexuality at the tender age of 13. The boy was handed over to a willing female in the group who initiated him into adult sexuality. He was then passed around to other female members of the cult on a regular basis. Of course, he didn’t see this as abuse, but merely the norm in his community culture. He even enjoyed it. This wasn’t considered child abuse because the group and the inpidual’s parents felt superior and above the mundane rules of nature, common sense and the law. I saw this young man in my practice when he was in his early 30’s and he had become so sexually addicted that despite a real desire for genuine relationship, he couldn’t even begin to be faithful to one woman. In addition, he faced financial ruin because of spending massive amounts of money on high end prostitutes and suffered from extreme panic attacks. There are many theories and explanations for why people sexually abuse children. One of the most toxic is this notion that they are entitled to by their “specialness”. Members of the clergy who sexually abuse children as often in this category.
While not all criminals are sociopaths, most sociopaths have committed crimes, although they are not always caught. A young woman who consulted me because she felt her mother was a criminal, presented with very low self esteem and extreme anxiety. Aside from the usual neglect, rejection and criticism that narcissistic parents often exhibit, her mother, a physician, got involved in an illegal drug prescription ring, writing prescriptions for opioids to addicts and for sale on the black market. My client, as a teenager, knew about these activities and it colored her every waking hour. She lived in fear of her mother getting caught and having to spend her own teen years in humiliation and shame, not to mention in foster care. Her mother was open to her child about the illegal nature of her behavior and explained that she was entitled to supplement her income in this way because it enabled her to work at low fee medical clinics serving the poor and it also allowed her, as a single mom, to support herself and her daughter. In other words, she was special and rules did not apply to her. She also entangled her only child in this situation thereby making her “special” as well. My client was confused, depressed and anxious and until beginning therapy, never had considered her mom a narcissist. That knowledge helped her make a modicum of sense out of a bizarre and otherwise unexplainable situation.
These are extreme examples of narcissistic behavior. Down the scale of narcissism, we find a more common, but equally destructive, pattern of behavior. Many narcissists feel entitled to say whatever they want because they are “special” and not subject to rules of civility and respect. This gets played out on their children more than in public where they are often seen as quite charming. I’ve heard countless stories of clients being verbally abused, dismissed and criticized by their parent, while that same parent is seen by the community as a loving mom or someone who all their girlfriends want to be their mom. This Dr. Jeckle/Mr. Hyde persona is incredibly difficult for the survivor of a narcissistic parent. The outside community reinforces the narcissist’s “specialness”. The survivor/victim feels alone and unseen and fears never being believed. So they remain silent and, if lucky, find their way into therapy at childhood’s end. I am incredibly pleased that the whole phenomenon of narcissism is finally coming out of the closet and people are seeking help before symptoms become intolerable.