The Development of Narcissism

By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed, LCPC, CADC
PsychotherapistAuthorEducatorExpert Witness

Early childhood conditions that are responsible for the development of narcissism. Narcissists come from a childhood in which their pathologically narcissistic parent abused, neglected and/or deprived them of love, care, and safety.

The gifted child, the trophy child, is afraid of triggering the narcissistic parent. This child can’t figure out that secret recipe of how to make his mother or father smile. This child in essence becomes a threat to the narcissistic parent and resents this child’s badness. They project their own personality trace on to this child. Whether they call the child selfish, ungrateful or bad, this is really a pronouncement of who they really are.

The child who can’t be controlled or changed is a victim of retaliation, abuse and neglect. This child lives with fear. This child has a different life than the one that figured out what to do. The child is constantly resentful and angry at the parent. This is a child that does not attach to adults. This is a child that doesn’t trust adults, this is a child who develops a selfish and hostile worldview. The child feels is an object of hatred and a disappointment. The child develops this idea that the world is similar. This is the core and the very beginning of the development of narcissism. This is where narcissistic personality disorders start.

Without warmth, acceptance and unconditional love, or even conditional love, this child closes down emotionally, loses hopes forever being considered lovable, she or her learns that they are essentially unworthy, that the world is unsafe and that they have to rely on only themselves because only through their own efforts will they feel good about themselves.

They learned that they can’t figure out how to get people to love them. This child can’t figure out a way to coax the parent to pick them up, to cuddle with them, to feed them. They got their view of the world is a place where everyone is out for their own. Shame and anger accumulate as a child learns that he or she and the narcissistic parent are indeed separate and will always be separate. That the parent’s needs are always more important than theirs. The love and safety never come. Criticism, neglect and abuse are the norm. This is a child that grows up feeling that they are burden to their parent and they can’t figure out how to reverse that.

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Ross Rosenberg

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT, is an international codependency, narcissism, trauma, and sex& love addictions expert who provides psychotherapy, training and consultation services. Ross is a keynote speaker and trainer, presenting in 27 states and 3 countries. He owns Advanced Clinical Trainers and Clinical Care Consultants, an Arlington Heights IL counseling center. He wrote the best-selling book, "The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us." Ross’s YouTube channel contains 75 instructional/educational videos, which have over 2.6 million views and amassed 24,000 subscribers. He has been on ABC Late Night, a ABC "Swiped" documentary, Fox News and WGN News. His work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune & Publishers Weekly and he blogs for The Huffington Post, &

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