La Santé Mentale, La violence, Psychologie

Why Does Trauma Change Your Memories?

Do people who experience trauma have problems with their memory? It seems as if many people who talk about experiences they have endured cannot offer detail about the events that transpired. Why is it that it seems like people who have PTSD have the worst memories?

What were you doing three Sundays ago at 8:15 PM? Don’t look at your calendar,  just take a second to think. It’s likely that you can’t remember every detail. But let’s just say something really exciting happened. At 8:15, maybe you were down on one knee proposing to the love of your life and can remember every detail from the curtains to the way the lasagna on the table smelled. If this is the case for big events, why does it seem like people who have experienced trauma can’t remember specific details?

About Your Memory

Not everyone who experiences trauma will have problems remembering their incidence. However, if the event affected the individual enough to make them develop PTSD, they may have some problems remembering what happened. They may remember really odd details like a cup off of a coaster or that the clock was broken, but they may not be able to remember who was there or how it all came into fruition. This concept is easier to comprehend when you know a little bit about the memory.

Types Of Memory

There are four different types of memory that are separated into two categories. The first being explicit memory which involved semantic and episodic memory. The second category is implicit memory which includes emotional and procedural memory.

I’ll go over the different types of memories with an example of a traumatic event. In this event, someone has experienced a fire that has burned down their home, and they barely made it out alive.

Semantic Memory

This is the memory of general knowledge and facts. You would remember that the fire was hot and it started in the living room. The clock read 7:00 and you were wearing your pajamas. All of these things are facts and aren’t tied to any emotions felt at the time of the incident.

Episodic Memory

This is the autobiographical memory of the experience answering the questions of who what and where. You remember the fireman who saved you from the fallen ceiling beam. You remember being taken to the hospital a town over and that your childhood home was burning down to the ground as you sped off in the ambulance. These memories are specific to you and your viewpoint. This is normally remembered in order, but our imperfect memories can rearrange these events.

Emotional Memory

Your emotional memory is remembering how you felt during the event. You remember being confused that the smoke detector was going off. You remember the shock you felt as you came downstairs and saw the flames licking at the curtains. You remember how devastatingly terrified you were when the ceiling beam fell onto you. You remember the relief you felt when the firemen busted down the door.

Procedural Memory

This is the memory that helps you know how to perform a commonly done task without having to think about it actively. Things like how to light a match, how to go down the stairs, and how to call 911 when you start smelling smoke.

Trauma And Your Brain

Now that we know a little bit about memory and what each of the different types of memories do for us, we can learn how trauma comes in and messes it all up. Each of these types of memories are controlled by different regions of the brain and studies have shown that PTSD causes changes to these areas creating memory and behavioral issues.

Trauma And Semantic Memory

So if something happened to someone, why can’t they get all of their facts straight? They must be lying! Of course, this is a possibility. But there is a reason that people who come back from overseas or experience assault don’t have all of their facts together. Two reasons actually, the temporal lobe and the inferior parietal cortex.

Trauma can make certain parts of your memory like words or images not combine to make a cohesive semantic memory. The temporal lobe and inferior parietal cortex collect information from different regions of the brain to create these factual memories, but there might be a miscommunication in people with PTSD.

Studies have shown that PTSD has an impact on communication between the temporal and parietal regions of the brain. Even when the patients were in remission, the miscommunication was still occurring. With people who have experienced trauma and developed PTSD, their brain isn’t keeping their unemotional facts straight.

Trauma And Episodic Memory

Trauma can shut down this type of memory as well as how the sequence of events is perceived. Someone who experiences trauma and develops PTSD may say that they went to get food after the hospital and then in another instance say that after the hospital they went straight to the motel and got back out to go eat. The hippocampus is to blame for events being spun in a blender.

Your hippocampus helps to store and retrieve your memories and also plays a role in the ability to overcome the fear response. This is because the amygdala sends messages to this region of the brain, but I’ll get into that part later.

Studies have shown that constant stress may damage the hippocampus because of the hormone called cortisol that is released. This chemical is great because it helps to mobilize your body during a time where you are threatened, but at high levels, this chemical can damage or destroy cells in the hippocampus.

An interesting note is that scientists believe that a smaller hippocampus may predict your vulnerability to developing PTSD after experiencing trauma. This may be due to its inability to control your response to fear when the amygdala sends its signals.

Trauma And Emotional Memory

You know how people joke about being triggered? And how annoyed people are by trigger warnings? Well hey, guess what, triggers are a real thing. Trauma can make a person start to feel a painful emotion without any context; It can be like having a panic attack after you hear your fire alarm beep because it makes you remember the sheer terror you felt trapped under a ceiling beam. And we can thank our amygdala for that.

Your amygdala is what is in control of your fear response. It is what creates the fight or flight response you get whenever there is a threat nearby. A tiger running at you? Your amygdala elevates chemicals like cortisol to help pump blood into your muscles so you can run as fast as you can for safety. People who have experienced trauma, their amygdala sees tigers everywhere.

Your subconscious never forgets the events that transpired, which is why your amygdala is always on guard. “Never again,” it thinks as it gives you anxiety while you cook an omelet constantly imagining flames growing from the pan.

Trauma And Procedural Memory

Trauma can even change the patterns of procedural memory. Someone who experiences trauma may form new habits when they do things that once were a breeze like cooking over a hot stove after your house just burned down. Sure, you know to turn it on but you can’t help but feel that every muscle in your body is tense like it isn’t sure what to do. This happens because of the striatum.

The striatum is what forms habits. It helps to control the reward center and motor functions in your brain. Studies have shown us that people who have PTSD have hyperactivity between the hippocampus and the striatum and the activity is very difficult to reduce.

This overactivity can lead to habit-like responses towards memories that involve the event that caused the trauma. Like flinching every time you hear a beep because it reminds you of a fire alarm. Scientists believe that this makes sense because of the behavioral manifestations that are related to patients who developed PTSD from combat.

They Don’t Remember, But They Do

Like I said before, your subconscious remembers everything. This is why the primitive aspects stay with us while the words do not. The heart palpitations are there, but the exact order of events may be fuzzy. This isn’t because anyone who has experienced trauma wants to lie or has ill will, it is just that their brain is damaged from the excessive stress they have experienced.

The memory issues don’t stop here. Even after the event, people who have PTSD can have a difficult time remembering things that are unrelated like appointment dates, where they set their keys and the name of the waiter. This makes it troubling for people in school or work to go about their daily lives. Many people who have experienced trauma can become successful and happy; it just takes more work for them because their brain is a bit behind.

Can CBD Help?

CBD oil has shown in studies to help the damage that occurs in the hippocampus and reduce the activity of the amygdala. Research suggests that it may be able to help patients with PTSDwith their memory issues. It may also help with the anxiety, anger, confusion, and depression that comes along with this disorder.

Sarah Potts has been writing about the wonderful benefits of cannabis for CBD Instead since 2017. Medical cannabis has changed her life and her goal is to show others how it might help them as well.

La Santé Mentale, Santé, spiritualité

D’après la médecine chinoise, le choc émotionnel est à l’origine de toutes les maladies

Selon la médecine chinoise, la cause sous-jacente de toutes les maladies sont les émotions, et chaque organe possède ses propres émotions. Les poumons sont associés à la tristesse, le foie à la colère, les reins à la peur, l’estomac à l’inquiétude et ainsi de suite.

On appelle l’énergie Chi et elle est codépendante du sang, donc les médecins chinois disent que les sang est la mère de l’énergie et que l’énergie est le maître du sang.

Les reins sont l’un des organes les plus importants selon la médecine chinoise, car ils représentent la base du yin et du yang et sont l’un des centres énergétiques les plus importants de notre corps. Ils sont liés au système squelettique, à l’ouïe et à la peur. En traitant les reins, vous affectez tous les systèmes.

Le foie est lié au sang, il filtre le sang et est généralement traité en cas de troubles du cycle menstruel chez les femmes.

Certains des symptômes de la dysfonction hépatique apparaissent sous forme de démangeaisons, de maux de tête et de vertiges. L’une des fonctions les plus importantes du foie est d’assurer un flux continuel d’énergie à travers notre corps, mais aussi de maintenir le flux de nos pensées. Si le foie fonctionne correctement, il ne devrait pas y avoir de stress ou de pression. Les gens avec un foie en bonne santé sont calmes, prennent des décisions facilement et font de bons leaders.

Les premiers signes de déséquilibre du foie sont liés à la colère, l’irritabilité, l’entêtement, l’anxiété, l’amertume, la violence… Si ces émotions ne sont pas exprimées et canalisées, elles peuvent conduire à la dépression ou à de fréquentes sautes d’humeur. Il existe également un certain nombre de symptômes physiques qui indiquent un déséquilibre du foie.

Les symptômes les plus communs de ce syndrome sont les problèmes menstruels, la fatigue, les tensions, la raideur du corps, les douleurs costales, les allergies, etc…

Comment et pourquoi les chocs émotionnels se produisent

Les émotions sont capables de provoquer différentes maladies, même chez les personnes fortes. Elles ont juste besoin de frapper l’endroit le plus sensible du corps pour provoquer un dysfonctionnement. Nous les appelons des maladies psychosomatiques ou « maladies de l’esprit ».

Nous ne pouvons pas toujours éviter les situations stressantes, nous sommes obligés d’affronter et d’essayer de les surmonter. Les gens utilisent différentes stratégies axées sur la résolution de problèmes.

Sinon, les gens se tournent vers des stratégies d’adaptation axées sur les émotions, qui aident à réduire l’expérience stressante.

La pire chose à faire est d’éviter la confrontation qui, à long terme, augmente les niveaux de stress et accélère le développement de la maladie. Les maladies psychosomatiques peuvent être définies comme des maladies induites par le stress, avec des dommages permanents aux systèmes et aux organes du corps.

Une équipe de médecins et de psychologues a conclu que « l’amour et la souffrance passent par le coeur ». Cependant, d’autres organes du corps humain ne sont pas épargnés par les « attaques de l’âme. »

Cela signifie qu’une « âme blessée » affecte le plus souvent le système cardiovasculaire, respiratoire et digestif. Mais, souvent, les parties visibles du corps sont également exposées à de « fortes attaques de l’âme », comme, par exemple, la peau sur la poitrine, le dos et les bras.

Les femmes sont plus touchées que les hommes

Les femmes sont plus souvent victimes de diverses maladies psychosomatiques. Cependant, elles sont enclines à croire que la cause de leur souffrance est d’origine psychologique.

Les zones du corps les plus sensibles

Les organes qui sont les plus affectés par les « attaques de l’esprit » sont :

Le dos : lorsque vous pensez que vous portez tous les fardeaux du monde sur votre dos, les douleurs les plus fortes et la tension apparaissent dans cette zone.

Le système respiratoire : vous êtes incapable de respirer ou vous respirez lourdement, vous étouffez et vous sentez que quelque chose bloque votre gorge, tous ces symptômes proviennent du monde extérieur et vous donnent des signaux clairs. Cela indique que certaines personnes, situations ou événements vous étouffent.

Le cœur : c’est l’organe qui est le plus fortement lié à notre vie émotionnelle et à la survie dans certaines situations. Quand vous vous préparez pour un rendez-vous, votre cœur bat fort, et quand vous êtes en compagnie d’un être cher, vous avez l’impression que votre cœur va sortir de votre poitrine.

Le système digestif : les personnes introverties et introspectives ont de gros problèmes avec le système digestif. Surtout ceux qui ont des problèmes de communication avec les autres souffrent le plus souvent de gastrite ou d’ulcère.

La peau : les éruptions cutanées, les boutons ou les taches sur le visage montrent qu’une personne « ne se sent pas bien dans sa peau. » Souvent, différentes maladies de peau indiquent indirectement que nous voulons rejeter certaines personnes ou la situation que nous avons dans la vie.

La violence

Qu’est-ce que l’intimidation?

L’intimidation peut prendre des formes diverses et se manifester dans différents contextes. Toute personne peut être touchée par l’intimidation, peu importe son genre ou ses caractéristiques personnelles. Elle peut en être l’auteur, le témoin ou la victime.

La Loi sur l’instruction publique(article 13, paragraphe 1.1) définit ainsi l’intimidation : « Tout comportement, parole, acte ou geste délibéré ou non à caractère répétitif, exprimé directement ou indirectement, y compris dans le cyberespace, dans un contexte caractérisé par l’inégalité des rapports de force entre les personnes concernées, ayant pour effet d’engendrer des sentiments de détresse et de léser, blesser, opprimer ou ostraciser. »

Le schéma ci-dessous présente des éléments-clés qui doivent tous être présents pour que l’on puisse conclure qu’il s’agit d’intimidation :

Texte de remplacement du graphique : Caractéristiques de l'intimidation

Texte de remplacement du graphique pour les personnes présentant une déficience visuelle : Caractéristiques et manifestations de l’intimidation

Des précisions relatives aux caractéristiques

  • Chacune des caractéristiques mentionnées dans le schéma doit être présente pour que l’on puisse conclure qu’il s’agit d’intimidation. Il est donc nécessaire d’analyser la situation sous tous ses angles : le contexte, la nature des gestes et les conséquences pour la personne ciblée.
  • L’intimidation est un phénomène social. Il faudra toujours évaluer l’effet du geste chez la personne ciblée. Plusieurs gestes ne sont pas nécessairement criminels en soi, mais ont des conséquences importantes chez la personne visée (ex. : détresse, insécurité, faible estime de soi, humiliation, sentiment d’impuissance à agir, etc.) et constituent, en ce sens, de l’intimidation.
  • À l’inverse, les mêmes gestes peuvent ne pas être considérés comme étant de l’intimidation si la personne ciblée ne se sent pas affectée. Cette précision n’exclut aucunement qu’une intervention soit nécessaire devant des comportements inadéquats, qu’il s’agisse ou non d’intimidation.
  • À l’égard du caractère répétitif, il importe d’apporter certaines précisions :
    • La répétition peut naître du fait que le geste se produit à plusieurs reprises sur une certaine période de temps. Par exemple : un élève en pousse un autre lorsqu’il se trouve en même temps que lui aux casiers; la situation dure depuis quelques semaines.
    • La répétition peut aussi signifier que plusieurs personnes différentes font régulièrement le même geste (ex. : enlever la casquette, pousser, insulter). Même si chaque personne n’a commis le geste qu’une seule fois, la somme des gestes individuels constitue de l’intimidation.
    • Un geste unique qui atteint l’intégrité physique ou morale d’une personne requiert une intervention même s’il n’est pas répétitif.
    • La plupart des gestes uniques objectivement graves sont sanctionnés par le Code criminel et peuvent faire l’objet d’une plainte auprès des corps de police pour enquête. Le cas échéant, une dénonciation pourra être soumise au Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP).
  • Bien que les gestes manifestés dans une situation d’intimidation réfèrent généralement à un comportement délibéré, dans certaines situations, ils peuvent être involontaires et sans anticipation des effets sur l’autre. Ce peut être le cas d’enfants ou de jeunes qui, par manque de maturité, ne mesurent pas bien la portée de leurs actes, ou de personnes qui présentent des troubles neurologiques associés notamment à un trouble du spectre de l’autisme, à un traumatisme craniocérébral ou encore au vieillissement, qui les empêchent de mesurer objectivement la portée de leur comportement ou qui les privent de l’inhibition nécessaire pour s’abstenir de commettre certains gestes. Il faudra donc toujours prendre en compte les caractéristiques personnelles de l’auteur des gestes.
  • La caractéristique « Inégalité des rapports de force » peut s’exprimer notamment par une supériorité en nombre, une supériorité fondée sur l’âge, une plus grande force physique, un contexte d’autorité, des aptitudes différentes ou la volonté d’un des protagonistes de gagner du pouvoir aux dépens d’un autre.

Phénomènes connexes

Les manifestations d’intimidation peuvent faire partie de phénomènes plus larges et sanctionnables, comme la maltraitance, la négligence, la discrimination, l’exploitation ou la violence conjugale, familiale ou sexuelle (voir le glossaire). Toutefois, elles ne s’accompagnent pas nécessairement de ces autres problématiques.

Exemples de comportements où l’intimidation est associée à d’autres problématiques

  • L’intimidation fait souvent partie du cycle de la violence conjugale.
  • L’intimidation est parfois une composante de la maltraitance.
  • Les personnes victimes d’agressions sexuelles peuvent être intimidées par leur agresseur afin qu’elles ne le dénoncent pas.
  • Lorsque les biens de la personne ciblée sont volés, vandalisés ou détruits (ex. : faire des graffitis sur le casier, la voiture ou d’autres objets personnels; briser des objets personnels), il s’agit d’un acte criminel qui pourrait aussi constituer de l’intimidation.
  • Lorsqu’une personne mineure transmet une image intime d’elle-même à son partenaire et constate ensuite que cette image circule sur les réseaux sociaux, elle peut se sentir trahie et humiliée. De plus, les personnes faisant circuler l’image, y compris la personne mineure concernée, peuvent être accusées de distribution ou de possession de pornographie juvénile ainsi que de publication non consensuelle d’une image intime (Code criminel).
La violence, Psychologie

Are Psychopaths Actually Narcissists?

Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to encounter a sociopath will tell you that sociopaths are the most selfish people on the planet. They care literally nothing for other people. All they truly care about is what they want. Seeming to have no genuine feelings of their own, the sociopath is like an empty machine which can only fill it’s own wants and endlessly hunger for more. This is not so different from the way the pathological narcissist behaves. So how similar are they? What’s the difference? 

The Science

Both sociopaths and narcissists suffer from what is called « the narcissistic wound. » This is the defining injury to the psyche which occurred during the young sociopath or narcissist’s development. It is the trauma or series of traumas that made them what they are.

In the narcissist, the trauma(s) occurred aftersome emotions developed but before regulation of these emotions or empathy was learned. Therefore, we could say the narcissist suffers from « too much » emotion, rather than not enough. The emotions he does possess are out of control and unregulated because he is unable to control them, much the same way a very young child is unable. The narcissist’s emotions are all self-focused however – again like a very young child – and if he possesses empathy at all, it is generally maladaptive and dysfunctional. His few emotions are simply too important; they are the focus of his entire being. It is for this reason that he is unable to empathize with other people. Other people just don’t matter as much as how he feels.

In the sociopath, the narcissistic wound occurred before any truly genuine feelings developed at all. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, the sociopath has no real feelings. These feelings have never developed and they never will. There is no empathy, dysfunctional or otherwise – even for himself. He may feel primitive variants of fear or anger (the kind all animals feel to ensure self-preservation, like fight-or-flight), but many sociopaths don’t even feel those. There is literally nothing there. They only feel « physical feelings, » such as when something feels good to the body and they can become addicted to these things because it is the only experience they have with « real » feelings. This is the dynamic we see at play with serial murderers and sociopaths that are adrenaline junkies.

The Difference

In relating to other human beings, there are some differences between the sociopath and the narcissist, and there are many similarities. The main difference seems to be in interpersonal relationships. The pathological narcissist and the antisocial personality are both manipulators and both wear masks. However, the narcissist needs other people very much. The sociopath does not. Unencumbered as he is by the emotional baggage carried around by the narcissist, the sociopath can play out a role for a very extended period of time if he must. He can derive private satisfaction from his wrongdoings, without relying on external validation of how powerful he is. This is something the narcissist has a lot of trouble with; his true self always comes through in the end, because it demands acknowledgment and it demands satisfaction – loudly. His end goal is purely selfish. The sociopath’s goals are selfish as well, but they do not rely on the validation of others. Because of this, his ego does not come in to play the same way the narcissist’s ego does and the sociopath can remain « hidden » for far longer. In fact, unless he makes a very serious mistake (which is rare but does happen), he may never be revealed. 

The difference between sociopaths and narcissists then, is one of degrees. We could say that a sociopath is an « end stage narcissist. » When narcissism is taken to the nth degree and the personality is so self-involved and self-focused that literally the only feelings which may occur are those aimed at making the self feel good, you have a sociopath. This is why there is so much overlap: sociopaths arenarcissists. Many narcissists have antisocial tendencies as well.

The Theory

In healthy people, there is a level of narcissism but it is not pathological. That means that it isn’t inflexible. Healthy narcissism does not demand that others worship, revere, admire or give things to the person just because the person wants these things. Healthy narcissism does not scream that it’s being oppressed or abused just because the person can’t have what they want. People with healthy amounts of narcissism do not insist that others go without so that they can have more. People with healthy amounts of narcissism do not insist that you must set yourself on fire to keep them warm – and that if you won’t, you are abusive and uncaring.

This graphic shows the whole narcissistic spectrum for human emotion and personality. As we can see, cluster B personality disorders are grouped beneath « pathological narcissism. »

As seen in the above graphic, there is a theory which postulates that all cluster B personality disorders sit on a « pathological narcissistic spectrum. » This is a theory which carries a lot of weight. The cluster B personality disorders are: histrionic, borderline, narcissistic and antisocial. If we were to envision the spectrum of malignant narcissism to start at histrionic personality disorder and end with sociopathy, we can see that there is indeed quite a bit of validity to this theory.

Note that this particular spectrum does not encompass all narcissism, as the first one did. This second graphic measures malignantnarcissism, or pathological narcissism. All of the cluster B personality disorders express some type of pathological narcissism. The further down on the spectrum someone is placed, the worse the pathological narcissism is, until we arrive at Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is the complete absence of empathy or conscience.

Notice that there is not a large gap between Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder. This is because there is a great deal of overlap in these. It is interesting to note that most of the cluster B disorder do occur in « clusters; » that is, they rarely exist on their own. There is almost always another cluster B personality disorder that is co-morbid. Many people will be diagnosed with HPD, NPD and BPD. Or they may be diagnosed with BPD, NPD and APD. This is another signal that the « narcissistic spectrum » theory is right on the money.

There is more than one type of sociopath and another interesting thing to note is that the further down the spectrum a person is placed, the fewer symptoms of the other cluster B personality disorders are present. You wouldn’t expect a sociopath to go into the hysterical tizzies that Borderline Personality Disorder is famous for, and most of them don’t. This can probably be attributed to sociopaths having no true emotions. If a sociopath were to have such an emotional outburst, it would serve you well to investigate if it’s an act first, before concluding that it’s genuine. It probably isn’t. Histrionics, Borderlines and Narcissists feel cheated, overlooked and discarded by the rest of the world. The sociopath just doesn’t look at things that way. As the quintessential narcissist, it is impossible for the true sociopath to feel anything about or for other people at all. This usually includes anger.

The idea that sociopaths are « mad at the world » is interesting but really a misnomer; they feel nothing for the world or the people in it. The difference between this and the narcissist is that the sociopath generally feels nothing for himself either, whereas the narcissist feels onlyfor himself 95% of the time. Most sociopaths don’t fear death, illness or injury (whereas many narcissists fear these things greatly). This could be because – as some experts have stated – sociopaths are never even really alive in terms of human existence. 

The Conclusion

If we follow the spectrum, we see that the focus on the self increases like a balloon being inflated more and more until it reaches a frenzied, unsustainable importance in Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Then we hit Antisocial Personality Disorder and it is as if the balloon bursts. The focus has become sonarrow that not even the self can fit into it. It is as if rather than being a slave to the hungry, selfish, malfunctioning ego – as the histrionic, borderline and narcissist are – the sociopath becomes the hungry, selfish, malfunctioning ego. The narcissist, histrionic and borderline are miserable because they are forever trying to silence and appease the ego but they still exist outside of it. The sociopath is the ego; he is empty but does not feel miserable because those kinds of more « evolved » feelings exist outside of the primitive desire and selfishness of the ego, and he does not.

Since all sociopaths are « end stage » narcissists, we can therefore conclude that sociopaths are in fact narcissists and that narcissists are in fact « lesser » sociopaths.

La violence, Psychologie

How Narcissists Are Created

The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & a specialist in Cluster B personality disorders. Schedule an appointment today!

We’ve heard a lot about the abuse and destruction that pathological narcissists are capable of, but what it is less-often discussed is how narcissists are created in the first place. This is something people ask all the time, so let’s get right into it.

The Why

The article « Are Psychopaths Actually Narcissists? » goes into a lot of detail about the narcissistic wound and how important that is to the creation of the pathological narcissist, so we will just summarize that briefly here. The narcissistic wound is basically the trauma or series of traumas that happened to the person which made them into a narcissist. It is the defining psychological injury which occurred during the narcissist’s development. This is usually at a very, very young age. For the narcissist, the trauma or traumas occurred after the emotions developed but before regulation of these emotions or empathy was learned. This would be around the time they were a toddler. The closer down the scale the narcissist is to a psychopath, the earlier in development we can assume the trauma happened or began.

Things like empathy and self-control do have to be learned. They are not innate. If a person is never taught these skills, they will never have them. Therefore, we could say that many narcissists suffer from « too much » emotion, rather than not enough – even though they may seem to have none. The emotions they do possess are out of control and unregulated because they are unable to control the emotions in a normal way, much the same way a very young child is unable. The narcissist’s emotions are all self-focused however – again like a very young child – and if they have any empathy at all, it is generally dysfunctional. The few emotions they do have are simply too important; they are the focus of the narcissist’s entire being. To the narcissist, feelings are facts. Feelings are everything. It is for this reason that they are unable to empathize with other people when their own emotions are involved in the situation. Other people just don’t matter as much as how they feel.

The How: Neglect & Abandonment 

So what could have caused the narcissistic wound? It could be many things but often, it is abuse of some kind. There may be sexual or physical abuse in the narcissist’s past. One of the key elements we often see with narcissists is neglect – either emotional or physical. We find that the narcissist’s parents were often unavailable, either emotionally or physically. One of the parents may also be a narcissist of some kind; this is not uncommon and would certainly fall into the category of an emotionally unavailable parent. Because the child’s needs are ignored by the parents, the child begins to hyperfocus on their own needs in self-defense.

All children are narcissistic in nature, but with the narcissist, at the time during development when the child’s parents should be guiding the child’s attention outside of themselves to learn empathy and concern for the world around them, the soon-to-be-narcissist only becomes more focused inside, on themselves. There often is no guide for the narcissist. They are ignored and left alone to teach themselves. They have only themselves to rely on and this becomes a pathological situation where, though they grow older and gain adult intelligence and experience, the emotions and ego never mature beyond this point.

The problem becomes compounded as they grow older and continue to reach out to the parent for guidance, love, validation or approval only to be ignored and rejected. They are often only noticed when they act out, or when they achieve something extra-special. This is especially true in situations where there is a narcissistic parent and the child is used by the parent to make the parent look good, or where the child is only treated nicely in front of others. This creates a reward cycle where the child continues these behaviors to get attention the only way they’ve been taught they can.

The result of all these things is that they create a person who believes nobody loves them, that nobody can be trusted because everybody is fake. Their brain screams these things at them 24 hours a day, even as adults. Narcissists have a brutal superego that spits abuse at them nonstop. Nobody loves you, nobody likes you, you’re stupid, you’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re worthless, you’re garbage… on and on and on. This happens because if a child’s parents reject them, the child begins to believe something must be very wrong with them. Children are narcissistic, remember. If something happens in their lives, they believe it is because of them. If you notice, this is the same way adult narcissists behave. Many narcissists were also actually told these things by their parents, and it just plays over and over in their mind 24 hours a day. In the article « Why Narcissists Abuse, » this was covered at length. They have been neglected and rejected by their parents and it creates a situation where they believe they are worthless and defective. That in turn creates a person who believes that everyone in the world is just out for themselves and therefore no one will look out for them if they don’t. It creates a person who believes that you only give in order to get something in return. In fact, many narcissists will straight tell you that if you ask them. They insist that everyone acts like that, that everyone uses people and only gives when they want something in return. This is of course a justification for their own behavior, but in a very real way, they believe that. It’s what they’ve been taught: other people only matter what they can do something for you – and you only matter when you can do something for them.

Do you think narcissists are to blame for their behavior?

The How: Indulgence & Entitlement

Neglect alone can be enough to create a narcissist but we also usually find another key element in the development of a narcissist, and that is indulgence. You might think that neglecting a child and spoiling a child cannot occur together, but they certainlycan.

Example I: Little Jane’s parents are never home. They work all the time. Jane cries and begs for her parents’ time but they are too tired and too frazzled to give her. When they are not at work, they are sleeping or trying to relax because they are so exhausted, they don’t want to be bothered. When Jane complains that she never sees them or feels like they don’t care about her, she is told she is wrong or that her parents’ jobs are very important. This both invalidates her feelings and tells her that she is less important than the other things her parents are doing. Jane plays by herself all the time and waits for her parents to come spend time with her. She is a very sad, lonely little girl. 

Jane’s parents feel guilty that they are always pushing her aside for work or because they are so tired. Instead of actually spending time with her, which would take real effort, they try to make up for it by always giving Jane whatever she wants whenever they are with her, regardless of how she behaves. They are too tired to deal with tantrums and they feel guilty, so they give in. This does not stop Jane from feeling abandoned (a KEY feature in narcissism, especially Borderline Personality Disorder) and it does not teach her to turn her focus outward instead of inward, but it DOES teach her that she can have whatever she wants. She begins to equate being given things with love and so it creates a situation where whenever someone tells her she cannot have something, this feels to her as if they are telling her they don’t love her. This hurts her very badly. It also angers her furiously because she has been taught that she deserves whatever she wants just because she wants it. She explodes and rages in grief and anger every time she is told « no. » She is never encouraged or helped to mature and learn to take care of herself. Jane’s parents have created a narcissist with their neglect and indulgence.

Example II: Little Johnny’s mother is a narcissist. He is ignored almost all of the time because his mother is too caught up in her own problems, and his father locks himself in a bedroom whenever he is at home because he cannot deal with Johnny’s mother’s behavior. Johnny does not understand why his mother is angry all the time, but he learns to avoid her and take care of himself. She seems to be angry at him, and he receives a lot of verbal and emotional abuse from her and from his father. When he comes to them with problems, he is ignored, dismissed or even laughed at. The only time they is nice to him or notice him is when other people are around. His mother is given to fits of hysteria; she cries a lot and is often overtly suicidal. When Johnny talks about these things later, he is told he is imagining things or that he is lying or crazy. 

Johnny’s mother’s constant denial and his father’s endorsement of it, along with his support of everything the mother does – even when it is blatantly wrong – invalidate Johnny’s feelings to the point that he learns not trust his own feelings or perception. Johnny’s parents never tell him they love him or validate him emotionally in any way, but they do give him whatever he wants. The father does it because he feels guilty and the mother does it because she wants other people to see the things her son has. In her mind, this is proof she is a good mother. As with Jane, Johnny begins to equate being given things with love. It also teaches him that he deserves whatever he wants. He has never been able to mature out of a toddler’s way of looking at things. His parents have simply reinforced it, rather than enabling him to grow out of it. He is never encouraged or helped to mature and learn to take care of himself. Johnny’s parents have created a narcissist with their neglect, abuse and indulgence.

Neither Johnny or Jane have a guide through their development. They are on their own, wandering and trying to figure things out for themselves. Because of this, they are never taught the things people need to know to mature and as a consequence, they don’t mature. They are simply stuck, with no way to bridge the gap between their age and their emotional development. As they get older, this gap becomes more and more noticeable, and more and more of a problem. They don’t realize they are the problem because they have always been that way. It is difficult to notice a problem when something has always been the same. The disorder was « created » by their brain to protect them from the trauma of abuse and neglect, but what protects the child impedes the adult. Behavior that is acceptable in children is notacceptable in adults, but narcissists have not matured enough to be able to change it. And by the time they are adults, they don’t see any reason to. The disordered thinking is so entrenched in their mind that they believe they are right, even when they know they are wrong. You can show a narcissist all the logical, tangible evidence in the world and if it contradicts how they feel, it won’t matter. They either can’t or won’t recognize the problems in their own behavior. If they ever do see these problems, there is always a reason why it is someone else’s fault.

This « helplessness » is also very childish. Children are not the masters of their own destiny and adult narcissists do not seem to feel they are, either. They seem to view themselves as helpless children in a world of domineering, oppressive adults – or, conversely, as needing to become the most domineering, most oppressive person around in order to protect themselves, like a schoolyard bully. Even the manipulations they employ against people and the lies they tell are often very childish; they are the types of things children would do to each other, or use on a parent to try to get their way. Narcissists can easily be thought of as 2 year olds in adult bodies, because that is what you are dealing with: a person with adult intelligence and experience who has the emotional capability and control of a toddler. There is a huge disconnect here in their minds and this creates some very specific problems in their thinking and with their reasoning. These things are very hard to overcome. If the person is also unwilling to try or unable to even see it, overcoming them then becomes impossible.

The Conclusion: A Recipe For Disaster

So, there you have it. The recipe to create a narcissist is neglect and indulgence. If you alternately ignore, invalidate and spoil a child, you will likely create a dysfunctional, empty, angry person who is not only unable to see or care about anything except for their own feelings, but who also believes they are entitled to absolutely anything they want and is unable to deal with the frustration that results from not getting it. Narcissists are lost, sad, crippled, empty children walking around the world with nowhere to be and no one to care about. Prisons and psych wards are full of them. It’s a terrible, crushing disorder that completely ruins lives.

The best way to combat this disorder is to be a good mother or a good father. Spend time with your kids. Listen to them. Validate them. Don’t try to talk them out of their feelings. The world is in the midst of an epidemic of narcissism right now. We have to try to reverse it before it’s too late.

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