In children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder, don’t agree with what some people describe as RAD narcissism.
I’m not Sure it’s “Narcissism,” Per se
“But she only cares about herself!” you say. Oh, I’ll give you that. But treating her the way a true narcissist deserves to be treated will only make matters worse. As a regular reader of my blog, you probably agree with most of my articles. I have a feeling you are sitting with at least one eyebrow raised this far into this article. Let me try to bring you back. Bear with me. This is important for helping our children that suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder. As we discuss RAD narcissism, it’s not just an argument of semantics. Whether or not our children are true narcissists, or if something else is going on, determines what we should do to help them to improve.
In children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder, I don’t agree with what some people describe as RAD narcissism.
Psychologically described narcissisms gets its name from the mythological Greek character Narcissus. He (like most mythological Greek characters) was quite a psychological mess. Narcissus couldn’t be bothered with the almost desperate advances of the nymph, Echo (about the sexiest thing the inventor of the myth could think of). Instead, he preferred looking at his own beautiful reflection in a pool of water and kept himself lying on the bank, admiring what he saw until he turned into a flower. OK. Stop right there. I immediately picture some self-absorbed supermodels, pop star idols, a few professional sports icons and more than a few politicians. In children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder, I don’t agree with what some people describe as RAD narcissism. In fact, it’s all I can do to get my kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder to comb their hair or brush their teeth. I don’t know that I have ever seen a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder that would rather gaze into her own beautiful eyes in a mirror than glare at someone else, through slits in dyed-black hair, hanging to cover her face.
What we often misunderstand as RAD narcissism comes from an entirely different place.
A real narcissist thinks he is better, more beautiful, more successful and more worthy than anyone else. He believes that he is entitled to money, service and even worship from everyone else because they are so inferior to him. In fact, a true narcissist actually believes he is doing someone a favor by letting them worship him, which in his eyes, fulfills their own greatest desire. GIMME A BREAK!!! These are not the foundations for our children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder caring only about themselves. In fact, what we often misunderstand as RAD narcissism comes from an entirely different place.
Because of how my wife handled the betrayals she experienced, no one would ever wonder if RAD narcissism was a possibility. My wife is the furthest thing in the world from a narcissist.
My wife, Amy, grew up in an abusive home with a father who was such a notorious sex felon that according to my wife’s mother, he was a suspect in murders that were later attributed to Ted Bundy. (Now there’s a narcissist!) My wife felt rejected by her parents and after, her foster parents. She felt valueless. But here’s the differentiator between her and my children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder: Amy thought that if she was a high achiever that finally, others would love her. She thought that if she was loyal, even when loyalty was not deserved, that people would love her. She went out of her way on so many levels to try to prove to people that she should be loved, all because she felt like she was somehow unworthy of love. Because of those traits, she was constantly showing up on the radar of those who seek such personalities because of their recognition of those who are easiest to abuse. Because of how my wife handled the betrayals she experienced, no one would ever wonder if RAD narcissism was a possibility. My wife is the furthest thing in the world from a narcissist. But… that is not how most children handle betrayal.
Our children did not handle betrayal like my wife did. They were stereotypes for what some people misunderstand as being RAD narcissism.
One of the biggest difficulties that my wife had with our children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder was that they didn’t handle rejection and betrayal like she did. Amy had expected to work with children from hard places, explaining to them why they deserved to be loved if only because they existed. She wanted to teach them that they didn’t need to love us more than we loved them to get our love. She wanted to be able to give a child a hug and kiss when they brought her a perfect report card and tell them that she didn’t care about the grades and loved them no matter what. The good news was that Amy never had to tell those children that she would love them even without a perfect report card because there never was a perfect report card. She didn’t need to try to convince them that loving us more than we loved them was not a requirement, because such a situation was never present. Our children did not handle betrayal like my wife did. They were stereotypes for what some people misunderstand as being RAD narcissism.
Such self-centered behaviors made many people (including myself, in earlier years) wonder if my children had RAD narcissism.
My children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder didn’t want us to love them. Oh, sure… they charmed us, hugged us, flirted with us and groomed us to accept them as our children because they knew they needed parents. Or, they at least knew they needed the things that parents were supposed to provide. But they didn’t want us to love them. More importantly, they didn’t want to love us. Our children who suffered from Reactive Attachment Disorder took their early betrayals as a template on relationships. To them, all relationships would fail. And their hearts couldn’t take more rejection of their love. My children’s early lives taught them that the only one whose love they could trust was their own. They learned that the only ones they could rely on were themselves. Everything my children who suffered from Reactive Attachment Disorder did was to obtain an immediate want or need for themselves. Such self-centered behaviors made many people (including myself, in earlier years) wonder if my children had RAD narcissism.
Children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder, which others often misdiagnose as RAD narcissism, believe that they are of so little value that they don’t deserve to be loved.
Here’s the difference. A true narcissist believes that he is more important than anyone else, and that it is an honor for everyone else to serve him. He needs to be taught that he is no more important than anyone else by being voted out of office, kicked out of the NFL, by being de-frocked or by having her make-up kit and convertible taken away. Children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder, which others often misdiagnose as RAD narcissism, believe that they are of so little value that they don’t deserve to be loved. They need to be taught that they are of value, even as they use their own bad behaviors in an attempt to prove that they are unworthy of any love what-so-ever. The more they try to manipulate for things they want, the more we need to show them that they get the things they need with-or-without manipulation. The more they try to force us to prove our love, the more we need to show our love, whether or not it is deserved. That’s the hard part. I don’t know how to help you to get there. I guess that’s why I write blogs rather than stand at a pulpit.
Often, readers receive as much help from other readers in the comments section as they do from the blog article, itself. Please be generous with your thoughts and experiences in the comments section. There are lots of people who need what you have to share. This is your chance to help them.
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