Children are particularly easy to brainwash because the relationship between parent and child is not one of equals, far from it, the child is literally hostage to the whims of their parents.
The parents decide not only where they live, what food they eat, where they go to school, but also what is acceptable to them in terms of behaviour from their children and how their experiences and events in that world are interpreted.
It is very hard for a child to grasp that the very person who is in theory responsible for helping you grow strong, confident, manage life skills, emotions and have a sense of self-worth actively and systematically goes about sabotaging you and your reality and reputation.
Brainwashing does not only exist between parents and children, it happens between adults too, there is an over laying formula for how this is done.
The first step is to launch an attack on the identity of the other person. Naturally this is much easier on children because they haven’t yet developed a sense of self, so their identity is being stifled rather than changed. Adults will be told by the narcissist that you are not who you think you are and what you believe, your core values are all wrong, this is done slowly, consistently and methodically over a period of time. They deny or deride everything that you stand for. In the end you become confused, exhausted and start to loose trust in yourself, because why would someone who claims to “love” you mess with your head in this way.
Guilt and shame are powerful tools that the narcissist uses. With a child it is easy to shame them by telling them they are a bad child rather than they did a bad thing. Children growing up in narcissistic families are well used to jumping through loops to please their parents from a very young age. To be told you are “bad” to a child implies that they are not lovable and might be abandoned at any time. Narcissistic parents will frequently threaten abandonment as a means to control.
Obviously this is not so easy in an adult. However, the narcissist will employ a punish and reward system here too. If you do what I tell you to do, I will be nice. If you don’t I will punish you and you will never know where or how until the damage is done until it is too late, this is to destabilise and strike fear into you.
The narcissist will then make you agree with them when they say horrible things because now you know that if they don’t the narcissist will just up the game and become more malicious. The narcissist will isolate their victims from any support system so that they become their only point of reference. They will stand between family, friends and any social networks. You will feel bad about abandoning your loyalties but will come to think that you are doing it for their own good.
You will become completely confused and bewildered, you don’t know who you are any more, you don’t know what you want or how to move forward or out of the relationship, or to move out of a designated role(s). At this stage the narcissist has taken control of your reality, you will begin to look to them for the answers as you will have become so self-doubting. The narcissist is now happy and in control.
What is wrong with these controlling narcissists and what motivates them to behave like this?
- They will have been abused or neglected in childhood this sort of thuggish bullying behaviour is largely learned. It was not corrected in the family of origin and so they get the message that it is okay to behave this way, in fact it serves them well and might well have been encouraged to split siblings
- They have a disorder that “allows” them to see other people as their servants. They objectify and use others without compunction.
- They want someone to “pay” for the pain that they felt in the past That can also be their very young children. They are looking for validation and admiration that they never received growing up.
- They are extremely self-absorbed. They don’t listen to others, nor are they interested. They can easily completely disregard the welfare of their child, if it suits them even to neglect in extreme cases to the point of killing their own child in both body and spirit. They can also drive their adult partners to suicide, if this happens, they will feel no remorse. On the contrary they will use it as a means to gain attention and sympathy and will milk it for everything that they can get.
- They see others as an extension of themselves as such they feel that they are entitled to use and manipulate others for their own personal gain.
- They have no conscience, if they hurt you – it is your fault
Once the narcissist has broken you down you will wonder “Who am I”, “What am I supposed to do? What is my role?” In other words, you have a complete identity crisis/nervous breakdown. This can involve sobbing alone, depression and confusion. You will not know what is true and what is not, because everything that you say will be negated and “corrected”. Every decision or action you take will be criticised. When a person is “broken” like this you are much easier to control and manipulate which is exactly the result the narcissist is looking for. The narcissist will not tell you that you have done something wrong, they will let you know you are wrong by shaming you (parents as well as partners are guilty of this).
Why would anyone want to do this to someone else? For the same reason that narcissists do everything:
- Power and Control
- Life is a game to them and they play to “win”
- Winning to them is everything
- They enjoy destroying other people because it bolsters up their low self-esteem.