Friday, December 9, 2011

Narcissism and Having Children

This is a fascinating issue that is so commonly swept under the rug. What is the role of narcissism in the process of people having children? It's a simple enough question. But it's something no one really wants to ponder.

If you believe - like I do - that narcissism is a spectrum thing and that most people have certain relatively sane levels of narcissism that don't impede their functioning as human beings - then you'll concur that most parents out there are somewhat narcissistic, though they don't have Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder prevents people from being able to actually relate to any human being in any real way. It prevents real parenting, period, whether the child is genetically related or not.

Now, sane levels of narcissism we can all relate to, right? I sure can. Thinking that something is cool about the color of your eyes. Or your aptitude for literary creation and interpretation. Or your musical talents. But that those engineers are just not quite as fun as your kind of people - no offense, right? Can we all relate to this? Or am I really very narcissistic for sometimes feeling this way?

Sane narcissism seems to conspire with genetic heritage in order to help kids get the unconditional love they need from their parents. You love who you are and you love your partner so together you get kids who resemble yourself and your partner. You're likely to favor these kids over other humans out there and invest in them. Thus the species survives. It makes sense.

Now, completely non-narcissistic people who truly love all humans in the world non-discriminately and have absolutely NO preferences at all for, say, their musical penchant over someone else's tone-deaf hatred of all music, will likely make quite suitable parents for other people's children - through adoption or unknown gamete donors (though this will not necessarily answer all the issues these children may face in not knowing their genetic parents). These rare godlike perfectly altruistic people will make perfect parents for anyone.

The rest of us imperfect parents have to concede that we we enjoy seeing our traits, penchants, temperaments - and those of our beloved partner, and our ancestors, and his ancestors - in our children. It's really sweet. It's delightful. Can't help it.

It's a form of sane narcissism. The sort of sane narcissism that has quite possibly allowed the human race to survive.

This is the stuff that compels many people to want to have kids.

That makes people go through all sorts of unpleasant infertility treatments before considering donor conception or adoption.

That makes many people who eventually do turn to donor conception or adoption as last resorts have, well, issues. Natural issues. Issues that shouldn't be suppressed. Issues their (")children(") are likely to have, too, because they will likely want to think of their traits / ethnicity / heritage as good, and valuable, and important. These issues cannot be wished away.

And where does that leave the true narcissist, the parent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder? He will never be a true father to any child, biological or not. But a non-biological child he has to pretend he has fathered so he could present himself as fertile will never ever even theoretically be able to please him.

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