Narcissistic sibling rivalry
The Effects of Living With a Narcissistic Sibling & 5 Ways to Deal With ThemSkip to content
Published: March 16, 2022 Updated: October 24, 2022
Published: 03/16/2022 Updated: 10/24/2022
Everyone has heard of sibling rivalry, but narcissistic sibling relationships are toxic. Even siblings with just a few narcissistic traits can make family dynamics complicated, exhausting or unhealthy for the rest of the family, including you.
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Narcissistic Sibling Characteristics
People with narcissistic personality disorder are characterized by a need for praise, extreme arrogance, and inflated self-importance. 1 Some are overt, displaying these traits for all to see, while others are covert narcissists, who keep these tendencies under wraps except to those closest to them.
Here are some common characteristics your narcissistic sibling may display:
- They need to be the center of attention: If you are tired, she is exhausted. If you bought a new car, he did too, only a much more expensive model.
- They always feel entitled: Even though you remember his kids’ birthdays, he has never acknowledged yours. She feels entitled to your time, money or support, even though she never reciprocates.
- They lack empathy and don’t care about your feelings: Your grief is causing her stress. She is jealous of your accomplishments. Telling him how you feel seems to just give him more ammo for your next fight.
- They only see you as a source of narcissistic supply: To a narcissist, others are a way to get praise, or narcissistic supply. They only care about themselves and your role is to be their audience cheering them on.
- They are the golden child and you are the scapegoat: In a dysfunctional family system, the scapegoat holds the blame for all of the family’s problems, while the golden child–in this case the narcissistic child–can do no wrong.
- When you take a break from them, you feel better: Your guilt leads you to reconcile without hearing an apology from your sibling and the abuse cycle begins anew.
- They are downright cruel to you and relish in your pain: This type of behavior is called narcissistic abuse, and can involve name-calling, gaslighting, DARVO, or physical abuse.
How a Narcissistic Sister or Brother Affects Your Mental Health
A narcissistic sibling can have profound and lasting impacts on your mental health, especially if you were raised with one. It can potentially cause you to be more conflict-averse, distrustful, and tolerant of abuse in other relationships. Research has shown that warmth between siblings is negatively impacted by high levels of narcissism, among other factors. 3
Some common effects of living with a narcissistic sibling include:
Desire to Avoid Conflict/Criticism
Sometimes getting into a confrontation with your narcissistic sibling comes with a terrible aftermath. To a narcissist, even the slightest criticism is taken as a grave insult, a pattern of behavior known as narcissistic injury. After establishing this pattern in childhood, it can continue to impact your relationships into adulthood. You may shy away from confrontation at any cost, with bosses, colleagues, friends, neighbors.
Distrust in Others
Betrayal by a narcissistic sibling can lead to trust issues. It can be hard to know if someone is trustworthy or not when you have been jerked around by your love/hate relationship. From best friends to sworn enemies, to best friends again, it is a roller coaster of emotions.
Overly Tolerant of Abuse Within Relationships
Sometimes siblings will tolerate abuse in relationships that healthier people would not. Walking on eggshells around a narcissist can lead to seeing this behavior as normal. Putting up with put-downs, shaming or other forms of verbal abuse may seem like the inevitable cost of friendship or romantic relationships.
Lack of Stability in the Family
If you are the scapegoat, you can feel like a stranger in your own family of origin. Confiding in your parents may lead to backlash, as the golden child can typically do no wrong. When everyone else makes excuses for your sibling, speaking your truth can seem daunting.
Lack of Nurturing Relationships
Beyond nurturing relationships within your family, you may find yourself taking on a helper role in other relationships. Perhaps your friends use you as a sounding board, but don’t do the same for you. If you don’t have anyone you can be yourself around, this takes a toll.
5 Tips for How to Deal With Your Narcissistic Sibling
Dealing with a narcissistic sibling may feel like an impossible task, but there are ways to protect yourself. Setting and asserting healthy boundaries, knowing your limits, and taking care of yourself can all make the situation easier to deal with.
Here are five ways to deal with a narcissistic sibling:
1. Assert Your Boundaries
Boundaries are important for not only you, but the relationship with your sibling. Strong boundaries can preserve a relationship, while weak ones may lead to you cutting them off. Setting a boundary may look like this: When your sibling berates and humiliates you in front of others, walk away. This may be going to another room, leaving in your car for a bit, or going home.
2. Build Your Self-Confidence
After years of gaslighting and abuse, your self-confidence has taken a beating. It can be hard to see yourself as a good person when you have been told otherwise your whole life. Ask people who know you well to help you come up with a list of your positive traits. Start this list and add to it over time. You can do the same for them.
3.Know Your Limits & When to Walk Away
Sometimes taking a break is the healthiest thing you can do. Even if you have shared responsibilities (care for elderly parents, etc) you do not need to be all things to all people. Your mental health matters.
4. Take Care of Yourself
Engaging in self-care goes beyond bubble baths. Being kind to yourself is a skill you can work on and it pays dividends. Start by examining the way you talk to yourself. Is your inner voice kind and encouraging or harsh and unrelenting? The Mountain is You: Transforming Self-sabotage into Self-Mastery by Brianna West is a great place to start.
5. Speak With a Therapist
A therapist can help you with setting boundaries, building self-confidence and being kind to yourself when you need a break. Seeking therapy is a sign of strength and willingness to look at areas of your life that are in need of changes.
“Regarding ways to deal with having a narcissistic sibling, my best advice is to set boundaries in the relationship, such as by limiting the time one spends with the sibling or when they spend time with the sibling. It might also help if they realize and accept that their sibling will likely not meet their emotional needs and find others who can fill in those voids (friends, romantic partners, other family relationships). This is assuming the relationship is not abusive. If it is, the person should work towards ending their relationship if they are able to (and seek out counseling for support).” –Dr. Amy Brunell
Help For Narcissistic Abuse
Individual Therapy – Get personalized help with recovering from narcissistic abuse from a licensed therapist. BetterHelp offers online sessions by video or text. Try BetterHelp
Support Groups – You are not alone in dealing with a narcissist. Sesh offers over 100 different support groups per month, with at least once a week focused on narcissism. First Month Free
Books On Narcissism – See our handpicked selection of Narcissism Books List
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When to Get Professional Help for Healing from Narcissistic Siblings
You may benefit from seeing a therapist if your relationship with your sibling is causing you pain, stress or anxiety. People start therapy for many reasons. Some need to respond to unexpected changes in their lives, while others seek self-exploration or personal growth. When coping skills are overwhelmed by guilt, doubt, anxiety or despair, therapy can help.
Therapy can provide supports, problem-solving skills and enhanced coping for issues such as relationship troubles, lack of confidence, or unresolved childhood issues. People seeking therapy are willing to take responsibility, work towards change, and create greater awareness in their lives.
Signs therapy may help include:
- Stress about your sibling is spilling into other areas of your life
- You suffer from low self esteem
- Your sibling is having a negative effect on your children, spouse, or others in your life and you need help setting boundaries
- You want to look at your childhood and the ways your sibling impacted your mental health then and now
How to Find a Therapist
It can be helpful to work with a therapist trained in narcissistic abuse and recovery. An online therapist directory can help. When looking for a therapist, be sure to ask about their experience with personality disordered siblings. A therapist with little or no training and experience in this can do damage, especially if they urge you to reconcile with a toxic or dangerous narcissist.
Dealing with a narcissistic sibling can be frustrating and have lasting effects for other siblings, but by employing coping strategies, you can find healing. Be kind to yourself as you process your emotions and take steps to improve your relationships.
Education is just the first step on our path to improved mental health and emotional wellness. To help our readers take the next step in their journey, Choosing Therapy has partnered with leaders in mental health and wellness. Choosing Therapy may be compensated for referrals by the companies mentioned below.
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Choosing Therapy strives to provide our readers with mental health content that is accurate and actionable. We have high standards for what can be cited within our articles. Acceptable sources include government agencies, universities and colleges, scholarly journals, industry and professional associations, and other high-integrity sources of mental health journalism. Learn more by reviewing our full editorial policy.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA.
Caligor, Eve, Levy, Kenneth, Yeomans, Frank. (2015, April 30). Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Diagnostic and Clinical Challenges, The American Journal of Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.14060723
Finzi-Dottan, R., & Cohen, O. (2010). Young adult sibling relations: The effects of perceived parental favoritism and narcissism. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 145(1), 1–22. https://doi-org.svproxy.svcc.edu/10.1080/00223980.2010.528073
If you are in need of immediate medical help:
Is a Narcissistic Sibling the Reason for Your Estrangement?
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Many estranged siblings realize over time that a brother’s or sister’s narcissistic tendencies are the underlying cause of their toxic relationship.
That’s what happened to Karen Martin, 65, a Californian who is estranged from her older brothers. All three are narcissistic, she says; she has a limited relationship with one, none at all with the others. She describes her sibling complexities:
It’s difficult to sustain sibling relationships with three brothers who are narcissistic. They always get upset over trivial things. Underlying every conversation is envy and competition. No matter what subject comes up, they have to be right.
All of them are very bright, and each needs to be better than the other, and each needs extreme approbation. Sometimes it shows up in small ways. I’d ask one brother, “What’s the weather?” He would answer by telling me about meteorological isotopes. He had to show that he’s not inferior. All of them monopolize conversations so they are the center of attention. Life is a game they need to win.
They completely lack empathy. Around others, I feel loved and admired, but around them, I feel unacknowledged. There is no exchange of ideas or validating conversation. I don’t get anything out of these relationships.
They were envious of me because I was the only girl and the youngest, and they felt my parents favored me. But they don’t realize that, as an adult, I’ve really worked on maintaining a fulfilling relationship with my parents. They never did.
None of the brothers talk to each other now, and I don’t talk to two of them. All are toxic.
When I don’t hear from any of them, I’m relieved because I don’t worry about when the next earthquake will hit. Also, I really don’t like the person I become when I’m with the one brother I still talk to. I’m a strong, assertive woman, but around him, I become frightened and tentative, and I succumb to his demands. Sometimes, when he calls and I see his name on my cell phone, I begin to shake. Around him, I lose myself quickly.
Karen’s description identifies many characteristics of narcissistic people:
- Changing the rules; “moving the goal posts” to benefit themselves
- Lacking empathy; never recognizing the needs of others
- Consistently being entitled and arrogant
- Altering reality to their benefit: defending or rationalizing self-serving behavior; deflecting blame; lying to exaggerate their own achievements
- Gaslighting to persuade others that they’re mistaken in their perceptions
- “Shape-shifting” to misrepresent personal traits or an entire identity at will
- Manipulating others to the their advantage
- Engaging in cruel behaviors to obtain advantage or just to inflict misery
- Triangulating; pitting people against each other
- Belittling, invalidating, and ignoring those they consider inferior
- Monopolizing conversations; demanding constant attention
- Disrespecting boundaries; feeling entitled that they needn’t comply with others’ wishes.
- Betraying confidence
- Launching “campaigns” against others: making themselves look perfect and their sibling look like the “crazy” one
- Competing so relentlessly that the jealousy and rivalry between adult siblings leads the non-narcissistic sibling to give up on spending time together
- Avoiding responsibility; blaming others; apologizing rarely (if ever)
- Taking advantage of others with cunning style and charm
Siblings Who Experience Narcissistic Abuse
Siblings like Karen Martin have had to study narcissism to understand their family dynamics. Many are fluent in the psychological language of narcissism. They speak of the following:
- “Gray rocking"—a way to interact with a narcissistic person, by being boring and unemotional like a gray rock
- “Hoovering”—when narcissistic persons suck their victims back into the relationship
- "Flying monkeys”—other people who act on behalf of a narcissistic person, usually for abusive purposes
Many in narcissistic families complain that as children they were pitted against their siblings. Often, a sibling's narcissistic characteristics and injuries were evident when siblings were young. Typically, narcissistic siblings keep score and feel compelled to outplay a sibling. They often triangulate in the family, playing two against one. Children reared in narcissistic homes rarely feel connected to one another as adults.
As adults, narcissistic siblings believe they’re entitled to more of a parent’s attention or money, although they’re not interested in helping to care for parents. Adult siblings of narcissistic individuals often find themselves in a confusing, twisted reality when a toxic sibling abuses the victim, who, predictably, reacts with anger. The toxic person then responds by accusing the victim of being abusive. It is difficult to sustain any kind of relationship when these patterns are repeated. This places the relationship at great risk for estrangement.
Parents often enable narcissistic siblings by excusing bad behavior and requiring a sibling to be nice to his/her narcissistic brother or sister. The parents may insist that family comes first, even when the relationships are abusive. In some cases, siblings must break away from the entire family to protect themselves from a narcissistic sibling’s damaging behavior.
Those who have experienced narcissistic abuse often struggle with the following:
How to Handle a Narcissistic Sibling
Narcissistic people rarely make changes. Even in therapy, they may lack the ability to reflect on and recognize their role in a dysfunctional relationship.
Therefore, siblings who are abused by a narcissistic brother or sister should protect themselves by setting solid boundaries. Determine what behaviors you’ll tolerate, communicate your boundaries, and decide on a consequence. If your sibling violates that boundary, enforce the consequence.
If the relationship is violent or so toxic that you are chronically hurt, consider ending contact. Another possibility is a limited relationship in which you effectively manage your exposure and maintain a superficial relationship with the toxic sibling.
Dr. Sherrie Campbell, author of Your Pocket Therapist: Quick Hacks for Dealing With Toxic People While Empowering Yourself, advocates ending the abusive person’s ability to continue the behavior: “It’s unhealthy for us to keep taking the abuse. We need to take care of ourselves.”
Relations between sisters. Establish relationships with brother and/or sister
The family for each person is a separate world in which a person feels comfortable and protected. The basis of any family is children, because it is...
There are alarming cases when children quarrel with each other, because they imitate the way their parents communicate. If you and your other half quarrel in front of a child, shout at each other, do not be surprised that your delightful little daughter reproduces this scheme in relations with her brother or sister. Disagreements between siblings get worse, especially when parents don't take their children's conflicts seriously. Children are endowed with a great sense of justice and can express their rebellion through sharp conflicts with siblings. In theory, children observe their parents and copy their behavior. In practice, however, it turns out that the younger children in the family not only react to the actions of the father and mother, but also to the actions of the older offspring. Younger children are equally likely to adopt good and bad behaviors or habits from their older brother. While parents diligently teach their heirs good manners and decent behavior in society, younger children learn life from their elders, copying manners in order to appear "cool". If we are talking about acquaintance, informal behavior, then for growing children, an older brother or sister is a role model.
Conflicts between brother and sister are especially frequent. This is due not only to jealousy of parental love or a conflict of interest, but also to gender differences. Psychologists note, however, that, as a rule, ambiguous feelings predominate in the system of relations. On the one hand - hatred, anger, anger, the desire to get revenge, and on the other - love, care, compassion and support. Relationships along the brother-sister line contain a great emotional charge. In addition, the behavior of a brother contains a great educational effect, just like that of parents.
Throughout life, the relationship between siblings changes in a characteristic way. What does it mean?
The relationship between brother and sister is usually characterized by fewer conflicts than on the line sister-sister or brother-brother. This is due to various interests, objects to follow. The most harmonious relationships are observed in the system "elder brother-younger sister" because their relationship fits into the traditional division of roles. The boy can show his masculinity, protect his sister, perform difficult household duties, and the youngest daughter will help her mother at home, and willingly used her brother's kindness. The big sister-little brother layout is already less stable and more likely to come into conflict, especially during the puberty of a boy who may begin to dominate his own sister in physical strength and want to take on a dominant position in the relationship between brother and sister.
Families with two or more children often face the problem of childish jealousy, when brothers or sisters become real rivals...
The role of parents in the upbringing of children.
As a rule, it is noted that the smaller the age difference between brothers and sisters, the greater the intimacy between them, but more often it comes to conflicts. Brothers between the ages of 3 and 5 tend to compete very fiercely with each other , competing for love and acceptance from the mother. Sisters are not so poisonous . They may argue with each other, but usually without hitting, although there are exceptions to the rule. An older sister is usually an incomparable role model in all aspects of life (fashion, makeup, relationships with boys). Hurtful systems of relationships between brothers and sisters happen when there is a significant age difference between them.
What should parents keep in mind when raising brothers and sisters in the family?
Do not arbitrate . Let the children learn to find compromise solutions themselves. Try to be honest with the kids - don't make one of them the favorite. Do not allow yourself to be blackmailed or used by children when there is no consensus on parenting methods. Treat each child individually , avoiding labeling on the principle: "You are older, give in." Give clear and specific rules of conduct and have fun with the children, giving everyone attention. Reward children for correct behavior, praise them when they play politely. Emphasize the individuality of each of the children so that they feel important, valuable and remember that they are loved. During quarrels of children, do not react with shouting and aggression. This only indicates your helplessness and is a negative pattern for toddlers. Probably, there are no brothers and sisters who, living under one roof, did without conflicts, fights, misunderstandings, scandals and bruises.
But the life of children is not only envy, hatred and desire for revenge, but also friendship, mutual understanding and mutual assistance . Brothers and sisters naturally represent competition for themselves, which provokes their rivalry and quarrels. If misunderstandings occur within reason, there is no cause for concern. Intervention is needed where there is disrespect, disregard for rights and violence. One of the most important educational tasks for parents is to ensure that from a young age brothers and sisters live in harmony with each other. It does not matter if there is a difference in age, what gender the children have. The main thing is that parents should be able to teach brothers and sisters, mutual respect, support and cooperation.
Question to a psychologist
Hello. I am 23, I study at the university. I live with my parents and sister. Recently, my sister got married and lives with her husband with us. They will have a baby soon. My sister has a very domineering personality. My mother is ill and is in the hospital now. My sister and I always quarreled because we have very different personalities. She is very lazy and rarely does housework. I fight with her because of this, and also because of her attitude to the family. She doesn't worry about her parents, she only cares about her husband. When we quarrel strongly with her, she raises her hand to me and hits me on the head. And recently, when she hit me, I answered her and pushed her in the stomach, she said that she hated me. My young man advised me to write a statement to the police against her, because this is not the first time she has raised her hand against me. But I don't want to act so hard. Dad does not support me, he himself cannot say anything to his sister, because he has a weak character and he is always on her side. My sister was always a very difficult child and her mother always scolded her, and I was always very obedient. Please tell me how to improve relations with my sister. Thanks in advance!
Hello, Evelina! You have already decided for yourself who is bad in a relationship and who is good. Do you see flaws in your sister, but do you see something good? Can you accept flaws in yourself? You and your sister are contacting in a way that both provoke each other into fights and backlashes - and consider how your sister might feel, why she might be like this and support this behavior - doesn't she know that you treat her like a difficult child, bad? what can she do to protect herself - just be stronger and attack. Your relationship is built on competition, not compromise! And here it is worth reconsidering the style of both communication and relationships - how much do you say something pleasant to each other, do you support each other - after all, you are close people, and what we put into relationships comes back to us! Perhaps you should express your feelings more so that you can finally trust each other, and not be offended and act like those two little girls who argue for the attention of their parents pointing out how bad she is, and not me! I don’t think that parents are pleased to watch this competition! Show maturity, make contact first, try to find out and understand how she feels!Good answer 0 bad answer one
Evelina, is your sister older or younger? According to the text, you are the eldest, although in reality, most likely, she is. In any case, evaluate, for example, how lazy (you can also organize your life in a different way), teach her about life (this is the business of parents - how they brought up, brought up, it’s not in your competence to teach her, especially in relation to the family - You have it - one thing, she has another, as an example, she is her father's daughter, and you (most likely) are her mother). The trick of striking is interesting - she hits you on the head, and you hit her in the stomach, where the baby is ... Do you know what this could turn out to be? A young man with advice acts recklessly - a sister can also write a statement about your aggression ...
"Difficult child" is not synonymous with "bad", and "obedient" does not always mean "good".
"How to get along with my sister"? Live your life and let her live hers. Her current (partner) family has come out on top in importance, she is preparing to become a mother herself, her husband is important, he is the father of their child.
Build your relationships with men, be invaluable to your parents, love them and respect your sister. It’s not for you to evaluate the character of dad as weak - this person gave you life - and passed on to you, in addition to many positive qualities and seemingly not very "good" - "weakness", so become softer, weaker (relax) ...Good answer 7 bad answer 2
It is commendable that you want to improve your relationship with your sister. To do this, you need to use the rule - if you want to get a different result, do something differently.
As long as you live in a war zone that you yourself have created.
So what can be changed in your relationship?
First, stop looking at your sister as an enemy, realize that no one is better or worse, you are just different.
Secondly, if you want to fix something, that is, to be in tune with something, you need to make contributions. In this case, it will be contributions to a good relationship. Don't wait for your sister to make them, it's better to go first to the meeting.
It would be nice to say: "You are my sister, my own person and that is why I want to have a close relationship with you. I am very sorry that we treat each other this way. I do not need anything from you, just let's agree that we We will never hit each other again."
This is a very important contract to start with.
Think about what else can be a contribution? Maybe joint actions, a joint trip somewhere, for example, to my mother in the hospital. Make a joint tea party, remember something good from childhood, buy yourself something for tea - this is also a contribution.
You need to act without sucking up, namely wanting to change something.
If all your actions are met with hostility by your sister, you will only have to disperse.
Sincerely, EvgeniaGood answer four bad answer 0
Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said: "There is no rivalry in the family more acute than between sisters, and no friendship is stronger than the friendship between adult sisters" .
Sister knows you better than anyone else. She saw what happened behind closed doors, she is aware of all your childhood secrets, she shared grief and holidays, fun and tears with you. Those who are lucky enough to have a sister understand very well that she is a real treasure that must be valued and protected.
Relationship with sister
A sister is much more than a friend. The bond we form with her goes far beyond family relationships. She will protect you in all battles, will become your indestructible support, which you can always count on.
Relations between sisters is often far from ideal and not without controversy. From arguing about cartoons to fighting over toys, from dress competitions to winning parental love, childhood and adolescence can be like a battlefield. But years pass, and you realize how close and important your sister is to you.
It is often said that our is a real family - the one that we choose ourselves, and not the one with which we have blood ties. Experience really confirms that sometimes friends become closer than relatives. But psychological and biological kinship is stronger than any other kind of relationship.
A bond that is stronger than family ties
When was the last time you had a heart-to-heart talk with your sister? Perhaps an eternity has already passed in silence? Sometimes in life we find ourselves at a crossroads: our feelings are hurt after a quarrel, pride presses, and a truce still does not come. Despite the irritation, the heart languishes from the wound and the resulting distance. It is very difficult to fight for a long time. After all, she is still your sister, younger or older. She guided you, gave advice and was always there.
One phone call, familiar laughter, memories - and your connection will be restored, despite the distance and problems, resentment and caustic reproaches.
Grew up in the same family, but so different
Sometimes you wonder how it turns out that children brought up in the same family, who received the same education, are incredibly different from each other in character.
Some sisters are rebellious rebels who help you find your own voice, teach you to protect rights and territory, choose what is best for you.
Others, like an ocean of calm and harmony, always reward with valuable advice, support in difficult times, can listen and understand.
Your sister doesn't have to be like you. Just as children are not copies of their parents, siblings can have completely different interests and reactions to the same things. This is another factor that helps your personality grow, because you and your sister complement each other.
When you don't even need words
There is no need to verbally explain to your sister that you feel bad. Emotional connection and blood relationship make her intuitively know that something is wrong with you. This is what it means to feel comfort from closeness and care!
You may have friends, beloved spouses, even parents close by, but you and your sister share a common heritage of various stories and events. So only she can truly understand you and help you.
Differences and distance are not obstacles
It doesn't matter how far life scatters loved ones. Let us have long ago acquired separate families and there is already a whole abyss of circumstances between us. But concern for her sister and interest in her life will not go anywhere. This is natural, almost at the level of the sixth sense. There is always an opportunity to receive or provide the necessary support to the other half of our heart, whether it be a phone call or a message.
Nobody is as sincere and truthful as a sister
Perhaps the reason is the years lived together or the baggage of shared experience. But you know very well that your sister will always speak the truth straight to your face. There is no need for a sister to be condescending with you, let alone flatter. She knows that honesty and sincerity are an integral part of family relationships, and, without a doubt, this is exactly what you need.
You can fool the whole world, but not your sister. With her, you go through a difficult childhood experience, ups and downs, mistakes of youth, disappointments, meet maturity together - personal triumphs unite you in a wonderful way. All this remains in your hearts.
© DepositPhotosIf you are now estranged from your sister because of disagreements, temper your pride and understand that it is not worth it. Life is much easier than you think and sister friendship is a special gift that is a sin to neglect.
When relations with the closest person deteriorated, the advice of wise and experienced people comes to the rescue. .
It's hard to be a good sister, but it's even harder to be a good granddaughter for your grandmother. But it plays an important role in your life. .
Parents will someday leave our lives, only we will remain - their children. Is it worth it to quarrel with your sister if there is no longer a closer person in the world? All people make mistakes. Is a quarrel so important that because of it to harbor a grudge for years? If this topic is close to you and the article made you think, share it with your sister!
This is a real creative laboratory! A team of true like-minded people, each of which is an expert in his field, united by a common goal: to help people. We create materials that are really worth sharing, and our beloved readers serve as a source of inexhaustible inspiration for us!
The bonds of brothers and sisters with each other are usually very strong, but contradictory: complicity and rivalry, love and hate are mixed in them. These conflicting feelings can both coexist and alternate, changing every minute.
Rivalry can be temporary, passing quickly, it is revealed mainly when a younger child appears in the family: the one who has become the eldest is afraid that the mother will now take care only of the newborn, and will stop loving him. At the heart of the jealousy of brothers and / or sisters for each other lies the rivalry between children for the right to the exclusive love of their parents, especially mothers.
It must be said that the relationship between brothers and sisters is not only rivalry, there are plenty of other difficulties. It is in communication with the family that a small child first gets the opportunity to identify himself with significant people for him: the younger ones want to be like the older ones and do the same as the older ones do.
There is another side, perhaps not so obvious: the older child no less often allows himself, when playing, to see in his younger brother or sister the baby he was, and to reproduce his behavior. Thus he enjoys a pleasure that neither his present status nor his age will let him know. And the younger one projects the image of the older one onto himself, wanting to become a friend to his friends.
When the oldest child in a family identifies with the youngest, and the youngest with the oldest, it helps both of them to grow up, reconciling the desire to become adults sooner and the need not to grow up too quickly.
In relationships with brothers and sisters, the child has to give up the thirst for omnipotence, because he needs to know his true place. Such a “disillusionment” is beneficial and even saving, because it is thanks to him that the child breaks out of the captivity of symbiotic, primitive love, the one in which the parties are too psychologically interconnected, interdependent and each loses its individuality. It breaks out to open up to the love of equals that promotes personal growth.
If a child is jealous of a baby who is yet to be born
More recently, your child was sure that his mother exists for him alone, is to some extent his property. Growing up, he begins to understand that no, this is not so: his mother is a separate person with her own desires, and she can love other people too. She, for example, loves her father, and the child should share this love with her.
When a newborn is about to appear in the family, the child who is about to become the eldest again experiences anxiety and fear that his mother will no longer love him (such a state in science is called frustration), and sometimes it becomes completely unbearable for the baby. It is in such cases that he demonstrates terrifying jealousy. The reaction to the event depends on the age of the child, and in addition - on the difference in age between him and the newborn.
Feelings of jealousy are strongest when the child is about four years old, especially if he was the only one for a long time. Reactions are less severe if the age difference between children is less than two years.
- The elder has the right to think: “It would be better if he (or she) was not born at all.
- However, he is forbidden to hurt the little one or hit him.
- As far as possible, allow the older child to touch the baby, which should not seem to him to be either a precious or especially fragile object. Behind the awkward but affectionate touches of the elder lies jealousy mixed with curiosity.
- Better not to force the older child to say that he is glad that he now has a younger brother or younger sister and that he loves this brother or sister.
- And if you insist on it, then most likely - for the sake of your own comfort : just not to feel guilty about having imposed a brother or sister on your baby.
If the children fight all the time
Even if the youngest child in the family does not initially cause burning jealousy, things can get complicated when he starts walking and wants to touch things belonging to older children. In this case, the competition between children becomes much more serious.
Relationships with siblings are the first space for a child's socialization. The feeling of competition is natural and often precedes the emergence of true love.
- You taught the elder that one should not raise a hand against a younger brother or sister from the day he or she was born. However, it is impossible that the ban on assault constantly forces the child to capitulate, besides, in this case, the roles may change, and the younger will feel that he is allowed to show aggression towards the elder, while the latter is strictly forbidden to defend himself.
- and tend not to defend themselves when their younger brother or sister attacks them. And since too much is forbidden at home, some children find an outlet for this repressed aggressiveness in kindergarten.
- It is necessary that everyone knows how to defend their territory and their rights, which may justify a certain degree of aggressiveness . It is also necessary that conflicts reveal themselves: the true mission of parents is not in the requirement “Stop quarreling this very minute”, but in finding ways to resolve each identified conflict.
- The need to restrain aggression does not mean that in the name of the parental dream of ideal relationships in the family it is necessary to suppress any, even minimal, manifestation of rivalry between children.
Often such an ideal is a reflection either of what the parents themselves experienced in childhood, or of what they dreamed of experiencing in childhood.
- You shouldn't constantly encourage only the younger , parents should keep a distance so that the conditions in which the youngest is not become more favorable than the conditions in which the elder is.
- If you want children to believe that you are capable of resolving any conflict, or if you want to be objective at all costs, this is only to the detriment of both older and younger : in the end, they will believe that you are able to make amends for every injustice that can be encountered in life, of which everyone considers themselves the only victim.
— Sometimes it is better, having assessed the situation from the outside, to pretend that you do not notice what is happening.
— Even if deep down you would prefer that children show only tender affection for each other and nothing else, it is necessary to give them the opportunity to choose: to love or hate .
Also, let them, as far as possible, deal with their own conflicts. This is the best thing you can do for your children. On the one hand, you will more often feel that you failed to show absolute impartiality during the intervention, and on the other hand, the ability to seek a compromise, the ability to negotiate, find ways to get out of the conflict are a source of pride and self-confidence for the child . And as an added benefit, this way the child acquires skills that will help him better understand relationships with other people in the future.
- As a result of the fact that what is happening between the children will remain out of your field of vision, they may have areas for cooperation, complicity .
- But if the children start fighting, intervene immediately . It is possible to treat each other badly, even hostilely, but both physical violence and when one person “beats” another with words are unacceptable.
If you intervene in a conflict between children, the main thing is to tell them how to adapt to each other, to rise above the quarrel .
- Biennial show how you can share with others.
- Three years the child is able to understand what "taking turns" means.
- From four to five years of age you can already teach your child to find a compromise with the help of words. Negotiation is the main way to resolve conflicts, which is why it is so important to give children the opportunity to extricate themselves from their quarrels.
- Be especially attentive to a child who systematically loses in conflicts. Perhaps the point here is insufficient language development, perhaps he lacks faith in himself, while both are the two main trump cards in any negotiations.
- It is necessary to help the child, while avoiding constant intervention aimed at protecting him.
He says that I love his brother or sister more. You think that this is wrong and unfair, but if you actively stand up for one of the children, trying to prove that for you there is no difference between them, you risk aggravating the situation, exacerbating jealousy in the family.
Why do parents try to do exactly as much for one person as for another? Children are subtle psychologists, and they will quickly notice that mom and dad do this solely to atone for hidden guilt in their own eyes.
It is actually very difficult to completely eliminate preferences . Naturally, there can be no question of talking about your preferences or even inadvertently admitting to them, nevertheless they exist. And it is not at all necessary that your "favorite" be the youngest, as it usually seems to be the eldest. It may well be that you have retained a special attachment to the eldest, because he made you a father or mother - or maybe to a second or third child, without even knowing why.
- Preference is an intimate feeling and most often unconscious or subconscious , it is related to the parental expectations of each child.
- As a rule, one of the parents recognizes his own traits in the character of one or another child. But this does not necessarily become the basis for preference: sometimes there are more conflicts between very similar parents and children.
— Personal relationships with each child arise in connection with the peculiarities of his birth and the history of his life.
A child with a disability, a child who needs constant medical care or who lives apart from you, can be especially strong attachments. Even if he is not your favorite, you care about him more than all the others, and other children, "problemless", may complain about this disturbing preference. This reaction can help you by forcing you to realize that the time has come to do something about the duality of such connections.
Encourage children when they play together, make it easier for them to play together.
- Take time to sit and watch your children play , but try to interfere less. You will see that the younger ones become like the older ones.
- It is important that the games between "two generations" of children are varied and so that the elder does not always lead, does not always make decisions alone.
- Senior may be interested in toddler's games and bring him, for example, your old toys. Both will enjoy it immensely.
- When playing with a younger brother or sister, the older child allows himself to go back to an earlier stage of development, and is not ashamed of this .
In a family with several children, games between boys and girls are possible
Four year olds prefer to play with children of the same gender, especially in a team. Brothers and sisters games can be the first step towards games with children of the opposite sex.
The opportunities that are born in the joint games of boys and girls are especially important at the age when gender identification occurs .
At four or five years Male and female roles are very often not differentiated, and when children play together, the alternating performance of one role or another makes their model of gender more flexible. Of course, this is an age when boys and girls are by no means inclined to welcome joint games, but the mask that a child puts on in front of his friends or girlfriends does not necessarily reflect what is happening at home.
At six or seven years old children are becoming more interested in board games and puzzles.
Acting as a judge, you should basically explain the rules - to each in turn, and not scatter in congratulations to the winner.
- The rivalry here is more like a competition, and this should convince you of the need to keep an eye on the score.
- If the results in children are not too satisfactory, refrain from comparisons!
Every child has the right to their own space and time to play if they want to play alone
— Conflicts with siblings often become an expression of claims that the child is already a person in itself.
— It is important to provide for each child not only the day and hour when he is taken, for example, to the dentist, but also the time when he does something “for himself” - plays, walks ...
Frustration is a mental state, arising in a situation of real or perceived impossibility to satisfy certain needs.
The unconscious in psychology is the totality of the content of mental life, which is inaccessible to direct awareness; the subconscious is what a person does not think about now, but what he knows in principle, is associated by association with the subject of his thought and is capable of influencing its course as a subtext.
One of the studies of psychologists showed that the parents of two daughters consider themselves the happiest. The positive aspects of such parenthood are called greater mutual understanding between children and parents, more common games among children and fewer quarrels between them. But the parents of 4 daughters are considered the most unfortunate. Yet many parents of even two daughters admit that friendship between sisters remains only their cherished, parental dream.
Why is true friendship between sisters - is it such a complexity? There are many reasons for this.
- Firstly, psychologists are convinced that the bright, endless friendship between sisters is simply one of the most widespread myths of public consciousness. In fact, in these respects, competition is more natural.
Every child strives to remain the most important thing for his parents. This will be especially acute in the case of the birth of a second sister before the first sister completes the age of narcissism, when the child considers himself the center of the world, the most wonderful being. In narcissism, the child only demands a variety of goods. Until the end of this period, he cannot be grateful, take into account the interests and desires of others. Therefore, if the sister appeared during the narcissistic period of the first sister, then the elder sister will begin to compensate for her own “inferiority”, elevate herself and belittle her sister in a variety of ways. The release of aggression, self-affirmation, the construction of self-confidence and the devaluation of a sister will often occur through slander, denigration of her virtues and actions.
Such hostility may be unconscious. Anthropologists and evolutionists are convinced that talking nasty things about others is a habit from the prehistoric past of the genus Homo sapiens. This technique was used for competitive struggle in the flock. In addition, slander is the desire to unite in one flock with those who are told negative things about a competitor. Thus, the child also tries to get closer to his parents, denigrating his sister.
What should parents do? Exposing the gossip, clarifying the relationship can only inflame the confrontation between the "slanderer" and the "victim". The situation could get out of control. Tell the sister who is trying to denigrate her sister that you are hurt by these words (tell about your feelings, about the feelings that her sister may have), do not try to rebuke, but make every effort to resolve the situation. The unachieved planned result may reduce the desire of the child to repeat this “trick”.
Sometimes parents also create competition with their own comparisons of sisters, especially in public. By the way, girls can have much more such obvious reasons for comparison than between boys or children of different sexes. One of the hottest competitive topics will always be appearance. Avoid comparisons, especially in front of others.
By the way, girls' self-image will largely be formed precisely on the basis of their place in relation to their sister (who is prettier, who is smarter, who is neater, etc. ). It is important to maintain the self-esteem of both girls at a decent level. It is worth making it clear that each girl has her own individual merits and comparison is simply impossible.
- Secondly, regardless of gender, enmity between children is being prepared even before the birth of the second child. The distance between the first child and mother is increasing. She feels worse, you can’t just jump into her arms because of her growing belly, she is often not in the mood. Not only is the child closed the usual way to communicate with his mother, but the elder is also “pleased” with the prospect of a competitor for the mother’s love with the requirement to love this fact unconditionally.
With the advent of the youngest daughter, pressure may also begin on the older one (“no matter how much she hurts”) or simply there is a desire to drive away from the baby (“no matter what happens”). At the same time, the tradition is to read a bedtime story to the elder, go for a walk in the park, etc. recede into the past. Therefore, do not be surprised if the eldest wants to return the youngest to the hospital, or even throw her out of the balcony. A “quiet” manifestation of the need for attention can be a wet sheet at night (which was not observed before and is not associated with an illness), your favorite object broken, tantrums, etc.
So, in order to give a chance to friendship between sisters in the future, you will have to find enough time to communicate with the eldest daughter.
- Thirdly, friendship between sisters cannot be cloudless if there is conflict between the parents.
If adults are used to expressing their grief, resentment, disagreement, despair in conflicts, then girls will easily copy this way of communication. The conclusion is obvious, fewer quarrels in front of children. But it is also necessary to solve problems so that they do not “hang in the air” of the home atmosphere.
- The next factor against friendship between sisters may be forcing the older girl to take care of the younger one.
It is girls who more often become nannies for younger ones, in contrast to older brothers. The appearance of another child is not a reason to deprive the older girl of her childhood. From this relationship, the sisters will not become stronger. The child should help according to his mood, for a sense of significance, and at first even in some kind of playful way. It is necessary to involve her in taking care of the youngest in order to help you, to be with you together, to become one team. Communication with the younger sister should bring pleasure to the older one. This is especially important in the beginning. Forcing the eldest daughter into early adulthood can lead to the fact that she may begin to abuse alcohol, cigarettes earlier and seek the missing parental love in early sexual relations. And a more comfortable role as the youngest can make her remain childish for a long time.
- Same-sex children are also forced to go through the division of things.
So, by depriving the elder of her favorite dress or toy in favor of the younger one, when the former did not yet agree with this, you yourself create a new reason for the fight. Be sure to consult on such issues with the older girl, ask permission and teach the younger daughter to do this.
- Girls will almost always be jealous. But its level depends on parental behavior.
For example, if one is severely punished, while the other one is lisped in the most gentle way, one cannot do without jealousy. The unequal distribution of purchases, the fulfillment of desires, permissiveness in the behavior of the younger and, at the same time, the truncation of the rights of the older are the most common provocateurs.
- Psychologists have proved that conflicts between sisters arise much more often than between brothers or children of different sexes, because of the increased emotionality between them.
Try to take this into account without inciting emotional outbursts for other reasons. And teach children not to pour aggression, anger on each other (sports, beating pillows, screaming in the forest, etc.).
It is interesting that the warm friendship between sisters minimizes the risk of depression in adulthood. Therefore, it is especially important for parents at the initial stage to reconcile the biological and psychological characteristics of the two parties, their relationship, creating a favorable balance for the future. If friendship between sisters is not established in any way, it remains to accept this and settle on a formally polite relationship. This is better than constantly forcing them to be friends, exposing one of the children to constant psychological violence, manipulation and forming a desire for revenge, cultivating a feeling of hatred. Children should be happy - this is the most important condition for any good relationship.
Can't mend relationships between your daughters on your own? psychologist of the Family Center "ABC for Parents" will help you .
Narcissism and Narcissistic Disorders | Journal of Practical Psychology and Psychoanalysis
Year of publication and journal number:
2008, no. There is probably no area of psychoanalytic literature more abundant than that devoted to to narcissism : it seemed endless when I understood this topic. I will spare you most of this literature, and will only cite what is directly related to my research - however, there is a wide field of work left outside of it. This literature is not only vast, it is full of confusion. There are different patterns of development, which makes any discussion of narcissism difficult - but the confusion is compounded by the fact that the term "narcissism" itself is used in different senses.
Therefore, before moving on, I would like to clarify my use of this term. I decided that the word narcissism is used in three ways in psychoanalytic literature. 1) First, it describes narcissism as a phenomenon : an apparent lack of interest in others combined with an obsession with oneself. This can be observed in various psychological disorders, as well as in everyday life. Second, it is used to describe the strength or innate tendency in the personality that prevents relationships outside the self. Thirdly, it is used to refer to a special group of cases of personality dysfunction called narcissistic disorders . In this chapter, I will consider the second and third meanings of the term "narcissism." I will try to answer the following questions: what role does narcissism as a force play in narcissistic disorders, and is there a difference between libidinal and destructive narcissism.
Development of the concept of narcissism
The beginnings of the distinction between libidinal and destructive narcissism can be found in the history of the development of the concept of narcissism. From the very beginning, two themes have been counterpointed in the discourse on clinical narcissism. One is narcissism as a defense against unfavorable object relations ; the other is narcissism as a manifestation of a fundamental hostility to object relations. Even the original myth of Narcissus exists in two versions: one gives a solipsistic presentation, the other a traumatic explanation. In the famous retelling of Ovid, Narcissus pays the price of considering everyone but himself unworthy of his love; but Pausanias found another version known, in which Narcissus lost his twin sister and mistook his reflection in the pond for this lost sister.
A useful but inaccurate generalization can be made that Freud's train of thought leads us to the concept of libidinal narcissism, while Abraham's ideas, which actually precede Freud's, lead to the concept of destructive narcissism. Freud made it clear that he sees secondary narcissism as a means of maintaining or restoring love when object love seems impossible, while Abraham emphasized hostility to transference objects in narcissistic disorders. Freud described self-love as a substitute for mother-love in narcissistic characters; Abraham, on the other hand, believed that envy promotes narcissism and delays object love.
From the beginning, Abraham associated self-absorption with "negativism." "The negativism of dementia praecox (schizophrenia) is the exact opposite of transference," he wrote in the first psychoanalytic paper on the subject (Abraham, 1908, p. 71). Abraham noted this for the first time in a letter to Freud, with whom he was yet to meet in person. Abraham suggested that, in contrast to hysteria, "dementia praecox destroys a person's capacity for sexual transference, that is, for object love" (Abraham, 1908, p. 69). The term "narcissism" was not yet in use at the time, and Abraham was talking about autoeroticism. He believed that the schizophrenic turns away from all love objects, instead reverting to autoeroticism. Freud was certainly impressed and convinced of the validity of Abraham's theory.
Freud adopted and developed the term narcissism from Paul Nacke and Havelock Ellis, who used it to describe a person who treats his body as a sexual object. Freud's own development of the concept of narcissism began with a footnote he added in 1910th year to Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (Freud, 1905d) and describing narcissistic object relations. Speaking of male homosexuals, Freud wrote:
"in early childhood [they] experienced a short but very intense fixation on a woman (usually their mother), after overcoming which they identify themselves with a woman and choose themselves in as your sexual object. That is, out of narcissism, they are looking for young men similar to themselves, whom they could love as their mother loved them" (Freud, 1905d, pp. 144–145 fn.).
In the article "On Narcissism" dated 1914 (1914c), Freud further develops the idea of this striving for the ideal of mother-child love. Usually falling in love, in his opinion, drains the ego in favor of the object whose mutual love is the only remedy for this hemorrhagic libido. Those unfortunates whose love is unrequited lose not only the love of another, but also self-love, and therefore suffer from pain and loss of self-respect. However, secondary narcissism, according to Freud, arises only when there is some obstacle to the realization of object love according to internal reasons . He wrote:
“the satisfaction of love is impossible, and the enrichment of the ego can again be secured only by withdrawing the libido from objects. The return of the object libido to the ego and its transformation into narcissism represents, as it were, happy love again; on the other hand, it is also true that true happy love corresponds to a primordial state in which object libido and ego libido are indistinguishable” (Freud, 1914c, pp. 99–100).
Suddenly, in this last sentence, Freud makes us understand that the accomplished libidinal narcissist is in love with himself just as someone can be "in love" with another person. But is it really another person if "happy love corresponds to the original state in which object libido and ego-libido are indistinguishable"? Here Freud suggests that this "original" - "happy love" - is essentially narcissistic object love, whether it unfolds with another person in the external world or turns out to be a love affair with the self in the internal world. In both situations, whether the object is external or internal, a positive attitude is conditioned by the elimination of difference.
If this is true, the "narcissistic state" is not just a withdrawal from external objects to an internal object. This is a special type of internal object relation in which the separate existence and proper qualities of the internal object are denied and an internal narcissistic relation is created through projective identification. This sounds like a description of the ideal relationship between the self and the ego-ideal, replacing the relationship between the ego and the super-ego: twin inner souls united by a narcissistic love that may make the ego's need for the super-ego love that Freud considered redundant a necessary condition for life. Isn't the narcissistic state an escape from the superego? Do narcissistic object relations serve as an alternative to the superego's desire for love? And in this case, is it not fear of a hostile Super-Ego or envy of a powerful, impeccable Super-Ego that prompts them? I was convinced of the validity of this assumption by a number of cases, one of which I will describe later in this chapter.
Following Abraham's discussion of narcissism, we find ourselves exploring a topic that will reach its logical conclusion in Rosenfeld's concept of destructive narcissism. In his 1908 paper, Abraham relates the shift from object love to autoeroticism in dementia praecox to the negativism of the patients. In a further approach to the subject, he suggests that the excessive self-esteem of some patients is accompanied by contempt and hostility towards their love objects. In his article on premature ejaculation (Abraham, 1917) Abraham describes narcissism as a source of sexual resistance : “Their object love is very imperfect. Their true love object is themselves. In accordance with Freud's opinion, we find /.../ a particularly high and abnormally emotional evaluation of the penis. Abraham goes further and connects this phallic narcissism with a hostile contempt for women: "he takes revenge on every woman for the disappointments of love to which his mother subjected him in childhood" (ibid. , p. 297). In his work on the psychogenesis of melancholia, he describes Clinical narcissism, which exists in both positive and negative forms: positive when it is manifested as self-admiration, and negative when it manifests itself as self-denigration (Abraham, 1924).
Two years after he described phallic narcissism, Abraham writes the first paper describing narcissistic disorder as a concept that has psychoanalytic meaning and is supported by clinical practice (Abraham, 1919). In this article, he discusses a small group of patients who are unable to comply with the rules of the psychoanalytic method, although they seem to succeed, and notes that "among my patients, these were those in whom narcissism was most pronounced" (Abraham, 1919, pp. 304–305).
This 1919 paper by Abraham was the starting point for Rosenfeld's first major paper on narcissistic disorders (Rosenfeld, 1964). She also influenced two important papers, published in 1936, linking Abraham's description of narcissistic character disorder with negative therapeutic reactions. One of them belonged to Joan Riviere and the other to Karen Horney. Article by Riviere (Riviere, 1936) brings Klein's new theory of the depressive position and manic defense to the previous understanding of negative reactions in analysis, and adds to it the author's concept of "defensive organizations". Horney (1936) emphasizes the compulsive rivalry of such patients with the analyst, as well as their demand for unconditional love. This love is necessary for them to withstand a double anxiety: the anxiety associated with the awareness and expression of their own hostility, and the anxiety associated with retribution from outside.
Rosenfeld took up and developed Horney's description of the patient's response to the work of the analyst and Riviere's (1936) concept of defense organizations. He developed his own theory of "narcissistic organization" in the personality, which is opposed to true object relations and achieves patient loyalty through seduction, control and tyranny.
Rosenfeld thought it important to distinguish between narcissistic states in which the libidinal aspects predominate and those in which the destructive aspects of narcissism predominate. Although in the first, libidinal case, when the narcissistic belief system is damaged, envy, resentment and revenge do flare up, analysis improves understanding and reduces negativism. However, in predominantly destructive narcissism, envy is more powerful and less acknowledged, and there is an overwhelming desire to destroy the analyst or the self. In this destructive case, as Rosenfeld notes, "death is idealized as the solution to all problems" (Rosenfeld, 1987, pp. 106-107).
Hanna Segal notes that she disagrees with Rosenfeld on the distinction between destructive and libidinal narcissism: in her opinion, there is only destructive narcissism. However, she limits the scope of the term narcissism to a force in narcissistic organizations that is fundamentally hostile to object relations: “Under narcissism, life-giving relationships and healthy self-love are equally attacked,” she writes. “Envy and narcissism are like two sides of the same coin” (Segal, 1997, pp. 75, 85). Self-love - and, by implication, Freud's description of the "happy love" of narcissistic relationships - Segal categorizes life instincts, which he considers to be object-love-based rather than narcissistic. As part of her definition of narcissism as a force directed against object relations in the individual - I completely agree with Segal. But if we talk about narcissistic disorders - I believe that they include a whole range of phenomena - both destructive, and libidinal, and protective.
John Steiner embraces them with his broader concept of "pathological organizations": in his view, the defenses in them are combined with destructive and libidinal narcissistic forces (Steiner, 1987). Realizing that narcissistic systems are inevitably driven by mixed motives, he does not consider it necessary to separate them (personal communication with J. Steiner). Nevertheless, in my opinion, whatever the set of motives may be and however varied, at any given moment the main motive is either libidinal/protective or hostile/destructive. The formation of narcissistic object relations may be motivated by the desire to retain the capacity for love, giving the object of love a semblance of self, or it may be aimed at the annihilation of the object as a representative of otherness. Aggression can be generated either by predominantly defensive or predominantly destructive narcissism. But there is a difference between the struggle to retain love and the unbridled violence of hostility towards objects. In the public sphere, war may be defensive, and patriotic aggression may be love misdirected, but genocide is never: it is caused by the xenocidal impulse to annihilate otherness.
To illustrate my understanding of this distinction, I will briefly describe two patients. The first I would call suffering from a predominantly destructive narcissistic disorder, the second from a predominantly libidinal narcissistic disorder. What they have in common is the generation through projective identification of a narcissistic relationship with the Ego-ideal in order to avoid a relationship with the destructive, parental Super-Ego. Moreover, in the first case, destructiveness is translated into a relationship between twins, which then becomes a deadly alliance; on the other hand, in the second case, destructiveness becomes a mental refuge, where the original “happy love” is sought in mutual understanding.
Mrs. L.: twin self vs. old woman
I would like to give a short example from the supervision analysis of Mrs. L., a narcissistic patient. Dr. A was particularly eager for this supervision, for although the analysis had just begun, she already felt considerable difficulty. Dr. A. is a conscientious and skillful analyst with experience in analyzing disturbed and difficult patients; she could not understand her inability to establish and maintain an analytic setting with this patient.
Dr. A described a series of uncharacteristic blunders that led her to confess to a patient something she had not intended to confess, which she immediately regretted. Therefore, she felt that the analysis was out of her control. Mrs. L., an attractive young woman, came to the analyst after the upsetting end of her relationship with a certain man. She also had teenage disorders and episodes of anorexia in her history. She left the city where she lived with her ex-man and returned to another, where her rich father lived with his second wife and where she was to undergo analysis. Everything was agreed, but when the workers came on the day of her departure to arrange the move, she refused their services and missed her plane.
Arriving at her new home and arranging the start of the analysis, she missed the first session. She called and explained that she had lost the analyst's office number. Dr. A, feeling the need to establish her analytic stance and method of work from the outset, "firmly decided" to discuss the issue of paying for the missed session. An alarming signal for the analyst was the inexplicable loss of "firm determination" and some other points. When Mrs. L., who was due to pay by check at the end of the month for her missed session, did not do so, Dr. A., to her annoyance, was unable to draw attention to it. Following this session, the patient, very wealthy by any measure, called Dr. A. to say that she could not continue the analysis because she could not afford it. Dr. A suggested that the patient come to the next session on time and they could discuss the matter. The patient agreed, and then in the session, Dr. A., to her horror and despair, found herself drawn into further fruitless conversation with the patient. For the next session, the patient arrived twenty minutes early, which caused some confusion in the process.
During this session, Mrs. L. lay restlessly on the couch, constantly crawling and getting up several times for sweets and napkins. What disturbed the analyst the most, however, was her own behavior. In this session, she surprised herself by agreeing to reduce the payment for this patient. The feeling that her countertransference was out of control was further heightened when, instead of considering the problem in self-analysis in preparation for the next session, she inadvertently prolonged the current session - which rarely happened to her. However, it was in this session that the patient reported a dream that shed some light on these events.
“I had a very strange dream,” said Mrs. L. - I was in a house - this strange house - in every series of dreams I have recurring dreams about a new house. This one was new - but the sensory experience tells me I was here a hundred years ago. Next to me is another person who was my lover - or sister - or brother, not sure what gender this person was. I was neither a man nor a woman - or was both a man and a woman. I was protecting this other person - we lived with an old lady - we conspired to kill her. It somehow involved ladders and something written, something like a letter. Apparently, we gave her the letter without her seeing it, which led to her death. For our own sake, we had to do it. But six or seven years later we were arrested. I know it was me in the dream - usually I don't lie (she lies all the time, the analyst added) - I remember thinking this is the first time - they won't expose me, they won't find out that we committed murder. If she, the old woman, knew, she would take revenge. She was a kind of vicious old woman - a destructive force. It was not a malice killing, but a matter of life and death for me. The reason was this internal struggle. I felt in my mouth such a taste as from a huge piece of chewing gum - it was cannibalism - like chewing tasteless meat.
“When I woke up this morning, I felt sick,” the patient continued. “Finally I threw up.” The patient herself recognized the vicious old woman as her mother.
Undoubtedly, there is much condensed in this dream, and it is tempting to explore topics such as cannibalism and oral sadism. But I think the best way to use this dream is to explain what was really going on in the analysis and what light it might shed on the problem of repeated enactments. I suggested that Dr. A. is represented in the dream by and as "twin soul/lover", and as an evil old woman - then the last events make sense. Dr. A's unconscious countertransference identification with the patient is represented in the dream by the patient's "twin soul". Then the plot of the twin souls to kill the "evil old lady" can be seen as an unconscious conspiracy between the patient and the analyst to destroy Dr. A's professional self. under the threat of being fed poisoned meat through the mysterious practices of psychoanalysis.
The analyst regained her habitual analytic position and lost it only from time to time when the patient dramatically introduced some unexpected complications into the analysis. A stereotypical pattern emerged in which negative therapeutic responses followed forward movement. As the analysis progressed, the full extent of the patient's impairment became more apparent. She had problems with drugs, and episodes of bulimia and vomiting had been repeated for a long time. The unfolding history and transference of the patient indicated that she was bisexual. In particular, there were periods of oscillation between homosexual erotic transference and negative, paranoid transference.
I would like to emphasize my point - that the narcissistic object relationship developed by this patient, the 'soul-twin' relationship, was a conspiracy formed to counter the deadly super-ego represented by the 'old woman'. However, the destructiveness turned into a narcissistic relationship. The purpose of the libidinal connection, expressed in erotic transference, was to create an alliance whose goal was murder. A dream that the patient had a year and a half after the events described shed more light on this complex narcissistic organization.
Ms. L. is spoon-feeding her baby - her mother is in the room - Ms. L. is not sure whose baby it is. During feeding, the spoon becomes a fork, which tears off pieces of skin from the baby's lips, and he then ate these pieces. The patient turns to her mother for help. The mother says: “do it like this,” and tears off a larger piece from the child’s mouth, while saying: “this is what he eats.”
Ms. L. objects that there must be another way for the child not to eat itself. The lips of the child are very red and tightly clenched, in appearance they resemble the genitals. Then the patient realizes that this is not her mother, but X, her former lover, and they are not feeding the child, but having sex.
“In real life,” the patient noted, “I had a homosexual sexual relationship with X.” “X,” she continued, “had a perfect body, I adored him. When I say “perfect”, this is what I mean: my father, in my opinion, would like a woman to have such a body.”
“We were together in college,” added Ms. L. “It reminded me that at that time I often had one masturbatory fantasy: that I was watching a man in boots with steel-studded socks, who was kicking in the genitals woman until her clitoris falls off.
"When I was little, I thought that a woman gets pregnant because she swallows something big and round."
“Food comes in good, but comes out crap. I had another dream, she said, in which shit covered everything, nothing was visible behind the shit; it was impossible to get anywhere, everything was covered in shit.”
What goes in can be good, but when it comes out again, it's crap covering everything around. A better description of how the analyst experienced the sessions I cannot imagine. Again and again I see here a model in which the session begins clearly and clearly, which leads to straightforward interpretations and a positive response from the patient. Then all this is lost in the confusion of confusing and confused information from the patient.
This analysis and the dream have many aspects. But for now I would like to focus on the patient's sexual relationship with her ideal Ego, represented by X, which was constructed from the patient's own Ego-ideal—that is, a woman with exactly the body her father would have wanted. Thus X usurps the place of the mother in the primal scene, and the patient takes the place of the father with X. Thus the idyllic, illusory, narcissistically based homosexual primal scene is built and played out. However, this is due to a sadistic masturbatory fantasy of intercourse resurfacing, which is similar to the scene of feeding a child in a dream with the same substitution of mutilation for satisfaction. So in this case, the ostensibly defensive withdrawal from the terrifying relationship with the lethal nursing figure into an autoerotic genital fantasy entails the same destructive elements. The cannibal breast-fork that feeds the child itself becomes a steel-studded penis that castrates the female genitals.
Mrs. D.: predominantly libidinal narcissism
My second case is Mrs. D., professor and head of a successful university department, a woman of early middle age. She entered analysis a year after her lengthy course of psychotherapy had been terminated by mutual agreement with her therapist. By the time of this completion, she felt in good shape. Now she came to the analyst because she was afraid, in her words, of "completely breaking down." According to her description, she constantly suffered, being obsessed with a relationship with a young man - a relationship not of sexual, but of intellectual intimacy. She considered her feelings completely irrational and told me that this had happened before to another young man during her previous course of treatment. Both young men were her junior colleagues in her department. Both cases were deployed according to the same scheme. At first, the patient felt that she and her friend had a complete understanding, a spiritual unity. Then, when this mutual understanding could not be maintained, she began to suffer.
The patient considered her marriage a happy one; children were central to her life. But as soon as a relationship with a young man arose in her soul, they completely absorbed her attention. She was plagued by fears that the children would no longer appreciate her and what she had given them. Whenever something happened that confirmed this idea, she began to consider herself a bad and worthless person. Love, admiration, respect and approval from her husband, children and friends calmed her, but in no way softened the power of the attitude of young people over her self-esteem.
The configuration that determines obsessive relationships with young people became more understandable. The patient was the only child of parents who lived separately. Her mother suffered from a severe narcissistic disorder, and her father was legendary for his egocentrism and vanity. In the course of her analysis, she was taken aback by dreams in which her brother appeared. In these dreams, she was not surprised by the presence of her brother. She had never seen this man before, but she knew it was her brother. As a child, she had an imaginary companion, and as a teenager, she said, she developed a close but platonic friendship with a young man.
This deep emotional dependence on young people's perceptions contrasted with her relationships with those she truly depended on, such as her husband. Her relationship with him was mutually warm. However, they were guarded by the limitedness of her expectations regarding understanding from her husband - and thus regarding the painfulness of disappointment and the expression of displeasure. Her transference to me followed the same pattern. Although my understanding obviously benefited her, she did not seek it, but she did not resist it either - she simply avoided expecting it. The analytic transference, like her relationship in marriage, followed the pattern of her relationship with her parents. Relations with them were maintained by Mrs D's severe limitation of expectations and by her search for a kindred spirit somewhere on the side. Turning the expectation of understanding to the parent object, from her point of view, had no chance of success and would lead to the denial of her own subjective existence.
The twin soulmate Mrs. D. hoped for in return had an additional aspect - she served as the ideal of her self. The patient believed that the ideal young man should be the primary love object of an ideal mother, the like of whom she did not know. Therefore, in the relationship of twins, the patient could play both roles - to play the ideal mother and through projective identification to experience (for the other) love that she had never received.
I believe that both patients had catastrophic ego-relationships - but with some difference. In Mrs. L., the first patient, the super-ego figure was a deadly woman; in Mrs. D., this place was usually occupied by the inner parent, which seemed to be a void—not merely an absence, but a negating presence. They both shied away from the relationship with the super-ego by forming an attachment to the ego-ideal - which created a narcissistic organization. This was realized externally in relations with an idealized double. In the first patient, a perverse, sadomasochistic relationship arose; in the second, the authority of superego judgments was invested in the narcissistic object, whose approval thus became a matter of life and death. I think that narcissistic object relations in the first case led to something like the infamous Bonnie and Clyde couple, and in the second to something like the Romeo and Juliet couple. Death lurks in both scenarios, but in one the partnership is based on a shared love of murder, and in the other, death is preferred over life without the love of the other.
The backgrounds of both patients are similar. Both parents divorced; both mothers found it difficult to perform maternal function; both had successful fathers, distinguished by merciless egocentrism. However, these unfavorable parental traits were much more pronounced in the parents of the predominantly libidinal patient, Mrs. D. Her own disturbances were significantly less and less narcissistic than in either of her parents. Mrs. L., who suffered from predominantly destructive narcissistic disorder, was, on the contrary, significantly more severe than either of her parents. In her case, one can note an aggravation of the situation in the next generation, and in the case of Ms. D., on the contrary, an improvement in the situation.
So, I believe that narcissistic disorders arise from the failure of containment in infancy and childhood, which gives rise to an ego-destructive super-ego. A narcissistic organization develops, using narcissistic object relations—internal, external, or both—in order to evade the hostile superego. This may lead to a predominantly libidinal organization or a predominantly destructive narcissistic organization. Further, I believe that libidinal, defensive organization occurs when the main factor in the initial failure of containment is on the side of the parents; and destructive organization - when the main factor is the excessive hostility to objects in the infant.