Recently I was recommended to read a book about self-absorbed, narcissistic mothers. I read some of it, yet the book only focuses on mother-daughter relationship.
When I looked back the Asian culture environment I grew up with, I have to say, narcissism is not about one or two parents. Narcissism is a system, it’s a culture. It’s not just one mother’s job to provide validation to children. It always takes a village to support a child. At the same time, the lack of nurturing (the Ying, feminine force) behinds the narcissism came from thousand years old of over-emphasis on dominance (the Yang force) in human society.
My sharing is not to blame certain culture or any single parent. My intention is to reflect on what happened to this world with loving and caring mind. Only though honest reflection, we can evolve into a better group of existence.
So, I came up with this term: Adult Children of Narcissists, ACON. (When I refer to narcissists, I include caregivers, such as grandparents, parents, older siblings, aunts and uncles, as well as authority figures, such as teachers and employers). Also, there are times I thought about recommending people to go to an ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meeting because they encountered complicated issues from their family of origin, yet their parents are not really alcoholics. This made me think, maybe our society needs to start support groups such as ACON.
The original author (Dr. Karyl McBride) lists ten stingers from narcissistic mother; I condensed them into five:
1. ACONs may find themselves constantly attempting to win caregivers and authority figures’ approval and attention, but never able to please them.
In different culture/subculture, ACONs may work on different areas to win approval, such as getting higher degree of education, losing few more pounds, getting another plastic surgery, and making more money.
2. It’s always about the caregivers (authority figures). ACONs’ caregivers may be jealous of them. ACONs’ caregivers usually emphasize the importance of how things look to them. (Similar to the extreme “saving face” Asian culture.)
3. ACONs have hard time to set boundary with their caregivers (authority figures). In some culture, the caregivers overly empathize how they treat the children as “friends.” In some culture, the children are always family “property,” which should be used to maximize familial gain.
4. The caregivers (authority figures) don’t really feel the feelings (although, they may show a lot of emotions toward others, such as yelling, guilt-tripping, and being judgmental). The caregivers (authority figures) are unable to empathize.
Emotion is different from feeling. Since empathy is rooted in the capacity to feel other’s pain, not being able to feel compromises the capacity to empathize. Not receiving enough empathy, the ACONs are never really validated for their being.
5. ACONs’ caregivers (authority figures) don’t support the healthy expressions of self – especially, any expression should not threaten the caregivers and/or authority figures. In other words, ACONs can’t challenge the hierarchy by becoming better than the caregivers/authority figures.
Reference: Will I ever be good enough? by Dr. Karyl McBride
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