Some scientific research claims that narcissists are “born not made.” Well, I refuse to do such a grave disservice to suffering narcissists everywhere by just throwing up my hands in that way. You can have the worst parents and become a narcissist or have the worst parents and not become a narcissist. As a former narcissist, I know that it’s a choice.
That being said, there are certain kinds of fathers who “predestine” their sons towards narcissism. Here are three such fathers. Their similarities are striking. They all deprived their sons of of love, of approval and of validation as a man when their son reached adulthood thus tempting them to narcissism.
One of these sons became a narcissist, one did not and the other…I have no idea!
The Condescending Father
When Burt Reynolds passed away, the DailyMail’s bio of him included some fascinating details about his father, a police officer. That’s what interested me. His father.
I’m almost ashamed to say that I know nothing about Burt Reynolds. But I do know that his father is the kind of man who’s begging for his son to become a narcissist. About his father, the actor wrote “Big Burt, as he was called, was my hero — but he never acknowledged any of my own achievements. No amount of success, I felt, could make me a man in his eyes. Not playing in the university football team, not even Hollywood stardom.”
The actor went on to say, “Big Burt, however, thought acting was for sissies. Later, whenever I mentioned the name of one of my friends, he’d say: ‘Is he an actor or does he work?’ Even after I’d done a TV series, all he could say was: ‘When are you going to get a real job?’ He never acknowledged that I was any good, yet all the officers under him were proud of me. I once asked them: ‘Does he ever talk about me?’ ‘Nope.’ He never told me he loved me, either.”
His father was, apparently, the only man in the family. He couldn’t bear to acknowledge his son as an equal man with a successful career. I’ve no idea if Burt Reynolds was a narcissist or not but I do know that his father is the type who predestines their sons toward narcissism.
The Criminal Father
What is a man to do when he’s busted in heinous criminal activity? Project all his self hatred and guilt onto his growing son. Heap abuse on abuse — in addition to the horrible bullying his son endured at school after his father’s crime hit the headlines.
There was nothing this particular father wouldn’t stoop to — stealing his son’s piggybank, beating him mercilessly for any item he drunkenly misplaced, calling him “you son of a bitch” and, quintessentially telling him “you won’t amount to shit.” Is it any wonder that every time the schoolbus dropped this little boy off at home, he would vomit from extreme acid reflux!?!
As his son reached adulthood, this father actively sabotaged his son’s ability to make that difficult transition. Anything that wasn’t nailed down, including his son’s cars, came up missing. Inheritances disappeared. Yes, family stealing from family. He did everything he could to sabotage his son’s confidence and successful entrée into adulthood both verbally and actively. Refused to help him get loans for college. Isolated him. Prevented him from driving. Charged him high rent. Blackened his character by gossiping about him. Sabotage, sabotage, sabotage.
Somehow his son grew up to be a successful, pleasant, upstanding man and not narcissistic despite shocking abuse.
The Unwilling Father
This father’s only crime was accidentally getting an underage girl pregnant. This was in the 1950s and he married her as was expected in those days but took out his guilt and frustration on the baby son that resulted from the statutory rape.
It would have been better if he’d made a clean breast of it and told his son the truth, but he never had the courage. Instead he projected his guilt and disappointment in his own life onto his eldest son who sensed it but never understood it. He could feel that he was the pariah of the family but he never knew why. So extreme was their guilt that they lied to him when he discovered his birthdate was significantly shorter than nine months after the date of their wedding. “Oh, you were premature,” they claimed.
Naturally this unwanted boy took his father’s attitude personally and strove to earn the love he was never unconditionally given. He rose to his father’s demands for perfection and excelled at everything, desperately seeking his father’s approval. He never got it. His father never attended one football game or track meet. It would be decades before he gave his son his first hug.
His son did become a narcissist. A successful, hard-working, faithful man, husband and father, but still a narcissist.
All three of these men are the type of fathers who are begging to raise a narcissistic son. They all withheld love. They all refused to acknowledge their sons’ accomplishments. None of them accepted their grown sons as equals and men in their own right. All three sons are a credit to themselves and their fathers should thank their lucky stars for sons who grew up to be successful men in spite of their abysmal parenting…not because of it!