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
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
Managing Editor Ancient & European History, Suite101.com