In the context of grandparenting, it is incumbent upon us to consider the various manifestations of narcissistic tendencies. However, it is pertinent to acknowledge the inherent complexities, as the connection of interpersonal dynamics within the family unit may both give rise to and be influenced by these tendencies. Yet, despite these intricacies, certain recurrent patterns of behaviour emerge:
- Grandparenting as a Conduit for Adulation: For those who harbour narcissistic tendencies, the elevation to the status of grandparent presents a fertile source of validation, an opportunity to satiate their insatiable desire for adulation and admiration. Their grandchild becomes, in this instance, the instrument by which they can elicit accolades and commendations. Such individuals may often be seen to flaunt their grandchild, orchestrating scenarios in which the focus is on them and where others are compelled to offer adulation.
- Manipulation and Dominion: Under the auspices of grandparenting, those with narcissistic tendencies may assert dominance over their progeny and their offspring’s offspring. They wield the grandparent-grandchild connection as an instrument of manipulation, endeavouring to subvert the authority of the child’s parents and reposition themselves as the paramount arbiters of the child’s existence.
- Extension of the Self: Narcissists are prone to perceive their descendants as mere extensions of their own being. The achievements or transgressions of the grandchild are inextricably tied to their own self-conception, with the grandchild’s persona and pursuits shaped to accord with their own desires and expectations, as though the grandchild were but a vessel for their aspirations.
- Rivalry among Grandparents: Those burdened with narcissistic inclinations may engage in internal competition with the opposing set of grandparents or other familial figures for the grandchild’s regard. This pursuit of supremacy may manifest in their attempts to depict themselves as the pre-eminent grandparents, ceaselessly striving to surpass others in the extravagance of their gifts, the novelty of their activities, or the profundity of their involvement in the grandchild’s life.
- Dearth of Empathy and Emotional Presence: Inherent in the narcissistic persona is an impediment to empathy, a tendency to prioritise one’s own needs over the emotional needs of others. In the capacity of a grandparent, this manifests as an absence of emotional support, an indifference toward the grandchild’s sentiments or experiences, and an overarching inability to establish an emotional connection with the grandchild.
It is, however, crucial to underscore that the presence of some or even all of these traits does not automatically indicate a diagnosis of narcissism. These tendencies are indicative of behaviours that may be exhibited by those with narcissistic tendencies, but the nuances of individual circumstances must not be disregarded. Should one discern that a grandparent’s behaviour is exerting a deleterious effect on the well-being of the grandchild or the balance of the family, it is advisable to solicit the expertise of a psychotherapist or counsellor to navigate the situation effectively.