Erik Erikson, the great psychoanalyst, introduced what he called the Eight Ages of Man. The beginning phase he named Trust versus Mistrust. This stage takes place during the first year of life. How the child perceives himself inside as either secure and trusting of himself and his environment depends greatly on the maternal relationship. The mother communicates to her child through her attachment to him, her own trustworthiness and steadiness. As the result the baby internalizes these feelings of safety, security and of being cherished deep inside himself. This internalization “forms the basis in the child for a sense of identity.”
So many children as a result of poor or non-mothering develop a sense of mistrust from the beginning. The mothering figure was unreliable, emotionally unsteady, psychologically cold and distant, incapable of being affectionate and emotionally intimate with her baby and young child. This is a description of the narcissistic mother. Quite often those who have been through the ordeals of growing up with a narcissistic mother are attracted to men and women who are narcissists. They are returning to a pattern of psychological abuse, deprivation, unsteadiness, fight or flight mode, becoming again the recipient of cruel projections that are injurious to mind, psyche and body. This is what is familiar to the child who grew up with a narcissistic parent or within a narcissistic family.
The individual who survived under the ordeals of childhood with a narcissistic parent often repeats this self destructive pattern by marrying a narcissistic personality. What was left unknown and buried inside of us as children is often repeated as adults. Being married to a narcissist is a daily waking nightmare. You try to change this person and hope that his/her outrageous demands, demeaning criticisms and humiliations will come to an end but they don’t and will not. You are wearing yourself out trying to be perfect in response to this individual’s deep pathology. You are sacrificing yourself and your life to the narcissistic spouse. You ask yourself? Is it worth it? What is happening to my life, my state of mind, my emotional and physical health, my creative potential, my sense of security? The answer is that you have become the human object upon which all of the vituperative unconscious thoughts, feelings and impulses of the narcissistic spouse are constantly being projected on to you. This is unhealthy for you in every way. Some spouses awaken to this crisis they are in and take action by severing their relationship with this person who has taken over their lives, thoughts, emotions, feelings of hope, dreams, etc.
If you decide that you must end your suffering by breaking this “relationship” you will change your life. This is not easy but it can be done. Your steadfastness and courage will lead the way. Your strong sense of entitlement to lead your own life will prevail. In the process of healing after the narcissist many individuals return to work out their trust issues. Some benefit from skilled psychotherapy and other healing paths such as gentle hatha yoga as well as forming relationships with those whom you know are understanding and supportive of your healing process. You will learn to trust people who are worthy of it. You will become skilled at recognizing the narcissistic personality and never choose him or her as a partner. You will work to become calmer inside, to appreciate the unique person you are and to use your many gifts. You will become secure within yourself and appreciate who you were always meant to be.
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.