A father is abusive to his child. The mother wants to restrict his parenting time. Her attorney asks if the father is abusive to his other son and the mother says he is not. Then, the attorney says, the mother is not likely to win her case because the judge would not accept that the father is abusive to only one son.
Neither the attorney nor the judge understand Narcissistic Personality Disorder. They do not understand that a narcissistic parent often “chooses” one child. That chosen child, the narcissistic parent believes, “is just like me.” The other children, seen as different from the narcissistic parent, are not special and therefore may be saved from abuse.
Why might the “chosen” child be abused? A narcissist parent identifies with this child. He sees in his son everything he believes himself to be. To him, his young son reflects the public persona that the narcissist believes is his true self. The narcissist then expects this chosen child to behave as the narcissist believes he would behave. The narcissist parent expects his chosen child to do his bidding, the same as he expects his arm to move when he commands it. But the child is an independent person and he may or may not do what his parent expects. This refusal to comply can enrage a narcissist parent who may then physically or emotionally abuse that child. The narcissist parent both adores and despises his chosen child. He adores the fantasy and despises the reality. Their relationship is a cycle of “I love you” and “I hate you.”
This child will grow up doubting himself and his ability to process the world around him. As a young child, he witnesses the public, friends and neighbors, responding to his narcissistic parent‘s charm; accepting his “public” persona as real. But behind closed doors this child is exposed to his narcissist parent’s rage and ridicule. How can this young child understand that his parent has two personalities? If other people think his parent is nice, then he too should believe his parent is nice, and therefore his fear or anger must be wrong.
As this confused young child grows into adolescence, where it is developmentally appropriate for him to begin questioning his parents, the narcissistic parent’s anger grows even stronger. While having been raised not to believe in himself, this adolescent child fights hard to find his own identity. He struggles to separate from the parent who sees him as “just like me.” The “I love you ~ I hate you” cycle becomes weighted towards the anger and hate as the narcissist parents fights to remain in control of both the child and the fantasy. It is then that the chosen child is most at risk for abuse, while the other children, disregarded, remain safe.