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Mental Disorders

by Nina W. Brown
New Harbinger Publications, 2001
Review by Elizabeth Batt on May 8th 2002

Children of the Self-Absorbed

There are varying degrees of narcissism and although most can be viewed as healthy, there is a type of narcissism that when present in a parent can have far-reaching unhealthy consequences for the children of that parent. Nina W. Brown's Children of the Self-Absorbed:  A Grownup's Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents introduces us to the persona as well as the hardship of having to cope with the destructive narcissistic parent or DNP.

While the book's emphasis rests with coping strategies and self-help for dealing with the DNP, its aim is also to break the cycle of narcissism that can penetrate and impede the emotional stability of an adult who has grown within a DNP environment.  The author achieves this by examining the actions of the parent as well as evaluating your attitude towards your parent and how that attitude might have influenced your life to date.

The key issue of the book is determining whether your parent can indeed be classed as a destructive narcissistic parent.  This is easier said than done, as it can be difficult to maintain objectivity when such high emotions are involved and when many years of conflict with a parent have left the grownup child somewhat embittered.  However, the author manages to successfully promote a series of identifying causes to differentiate between a DNP and the likely case of a parental/child misunderstanding that has merely festered.

The author clearly recognizes the difficult role a parent sometimes has to face and throughout the book she carefully urges caution about labeling your parent too easily with destructive narcissism.  Once it has been determined that your parent does indeed have destructive narcissistic tendencies, then you are free to pursue the many excellent and practical exercises designed to assist and protect you in your dealings with the DNP.

The exercises are extremely flexible.  Not needing to be followed one step at a time, they can be adapted to suit individual needs.  The author merely gives you a starting point to build upon and offers strategies for developing your sense of self-worth as well as accommodating the DNP without incurring the emotional trauma that dealing with a destructive narcissistic parent can bring.

One thing this book will not tell you is how to change your parents.  Brown freely admits that to focus on this route is to court disaster – "You can't make your parents change, but you can effect personal changes." (page 42.) 

The author is extremely adamant about this issue and acknowledges that it can be a bitter pill to swallow.  However she urges that if we can understand why our parents act the way they do, this could be a major factor in winning the battle.

This book will certainly help those grownups that have to cope with a DNP, however it isn't and shouldn't be seen as an entire solution.  There is a certain amount of strength required on your part because quite often in the book, we're urged to indifference.  Not easy to achieve with heavy emotional involvement, we're also attempting to change a habitual process that has been present for years.

The author does skillfully recognize the many problems and emotional efforts that you'll have to face and certainly she'll steer you towards the solutions.  While the book might not have the physical presence of therapy to urge you towards success, it is an excellent start for advocating change while nurturing the self, and if it were coupled with external therapy, the end result could and probably would be a remarkable success.  

 

 

ã 2002 Elizabeth Batt

 

Elizabeth Batt, Managing Editor Ancient & European History, Suite101.com