As a child you needed to be seen for whom you really were, to be understood, to express your feelings and needs, to be taken seriously, and to have your feelings and needs respected by your mother and father. These are normal narcissistic needs. If they were filled adequately during the co-dependent and counter-dependent stages, you probably have healthy self-esteem. One of the initial ways you could meet your narcissistic needs during the co-dependent stage was through your mother’s mirroring of your essence while you gazed up at her face. This is how infants learn who they really are. If your mother mirrored back her desires for you to be a certain way, perhaps to take care of her unmet narcissistic needs, this may have twisted or distorted your self-image. You may have stayed fused with her in order to be loved and cared for. Mothers must be able to meet their needs with other adults rather than to use their children. Children who are mirrored correctly during this bonding stage develop healthy narcissism that they eventually outgrow. Once the establish a strong sense of Self, they move on to become true humanitarians able to serve others without losing themselves. This is essential for the completion of the counter-dependent exploration stage of development. In her book, Prisoners of Childhood , Alice Miller lists the ways that parents can help their children develop healthy narcissism. As you read this list, ask yourself, Can I imagine my parents doing these things for me when I was a child
What I Needed from My Parents When I Was a Young Child I needed them to:
- react calmly and reassuringly to any of my aggressive impulses
- support my attempts to become separate and autonomous instead of being threatened by them
- allow me to experience and express my natural feelings and urges such as rage, fear, jealousy and defiance;
- allow me to develop and follow my natural curiosity safely during each developmental stage, rather than overprotecting me or requiring me to do things to please them
- be available both physically and emotionally when I needed them
- permit me to express conflicting or ambivalent feelings and treat those feelings seriously and with respect
- see and treat me as separate from them, as someone with my own needs, wishes, fears, dreams, and accomplishments.
With this kind of parental support, children develop a healthy sense of narcissism and grow up without unmet narcissistic counter-dependent needs. The only truly unselfish, genuine people in the world are those who were able to meetthese healthy narcissistic needs at this stage of their development. If you didnt get this kind of support, it is likely that you have narcissistic wounds with defenses around them to protect against any further wounding. Alice Miller describes people who did get their narcissistic needs met in childhood this way: Children who are respected learn respect. Children who are cared for learn to care for those weaker than themselves. Children who are loved for what they are cannot learn intolerance. In an environment such as this they will develop their own ideals, which can be nothing other than humane, since they grew out of the experience of love.