Trapped in The Mirror


In this compelling book, Elan Golomb identifies the crux of the emotional and psychological problems of millions of adults. Simply put, the children of narcissist -- offspring of parents whose interest always towered above the most basic needs of their sons and daughters -- share a common belief: They believe they do not have the right to exist.

The difficulties experienced by adult children of narcissists can manifest themselves in many ways: for examples, physical ...

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Trapped in the Mirror

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In this compelling book, Elan Golomb identifies the crux of the emotional and psychological problems of millions of adults. Simply put, the children of narcissist -- offspring of parents whose interest always towered above the most basic needs of their sons and daughters -- share a common belief: They believe they do not have the right to exist.

The difficulties experienced by adult children of narcissists can manifest themselves in many ways: for examples, physical self-loathing that takes form of overeating, anorexia, or bulimia; a self-destructive streak that causes poor job performance and rocky personal relationships; or a struggle with the self that is perpetuated in the adult's interaction with his or her own children. These dilemmas are both common and correctable, Dr. Golomb tells us.

With an empathic blend of scholarship and case studies, along with her own personal narrative of her fight for self, Dr. Golomb plumbs the depths of this problem, revealing its mysterious hold on the affairs of otherwise bright, aware, motivated, and worthy people. Trapped in the Mirror explores.

  • the nature of the paralysis and lack of motivation so many adults feel
  • stress and its role in exacerbating childhood wrongs
  • why do many of our relationships seem to be "reruns" of the past
  • how one's body image can be formed by faulty parenting
  • how anger must be acknowledge to be overcome
  • and, most important, how even the most traumatized self can be healed.

Rooted in a profoundly humanist traditional approach, and suffused with the benefit of the latest knowledge about intrafamily relationships, Trapped in the Mirror offers more than the average self-help book; it is truly the first self-heal book for millions.

Narcissists are people who believe themselves to be the center of the universe, with the people around them merely servants. These parents view their children as only extensions of themselves, and are unable to see their children as individuals. Golomb reveals that the adult child's ultimate goal is the development of strength to free themselves from their parents.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
It seems reasonable to expect self-help books to accomplish one of three goals: to explain behavior, to assist readers to develop their potential or to change unwanted behavior patterns, or to motivate readers. This book fails on all three counts. People who may be attracted to the concept have probably already realized that their relationship with a self-absorbed parent has caused problems, and they will not learn much else. The suggestions for change are too general to be useful, and the tone is at times spiteful and depressing. Susan Forward and Buck Craig's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (Bantam, 1989) covers the same topic in a more positive and helpful fashion. Not recommended.-- Mary Ann Hughes, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688140717
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 193,592
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Elan Golomb is a graduate of Bennington College and earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology and her certificate in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy from New York University. She has been in private practice in New York since 1972.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

How To
Recognize A
Narcissist And

It has been said that narcissism is a common condition of modern society, that in the past there were narcissists but never in such profusion. Louis XIV, when he uttered his famous comment, "L'etat, c'est moi" (I am the state) was expressing the quintessential narcissistic viewpoint of monomaniacal self-centeredness. The French Revolution was set off by his feelings of narcissistic entitlement. Louis's ego was so inflated that he felt it represented the needs of all France. If Louis ate, France should feel satisfied. Marie Antoinette offered her own narcissistic reaction to the starving masses begging for bread when she uttered her insouciant cry, "Let them eat cake." Since her belly was filled, their request for mere subsistence seemed ridiculous. These two comments are like bookends of similar design. They imply, "My needs are all; nothing and no one else counts."

A narcissist is interested only in what reflects on her. All she does or experiences is seen as a reflection of self. The name of this psychological aberration is derived from the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus, a beautiful young man beloved of the nymphs. The nymph Echo fell in love with Narcissus's beauty but he paid no attention to her increasingly mournful cries. To the gods looking down upon the play of men, unrequited love was a crime. They punished Narcissus in appropriate symbolic form by causing him to fall in love with his own reflection, ever reaching out to embrace an illusion.

Each time Narcissus reached for his adored image mirrored in apool of still water, it would dissolve into numberless ripples. The narcissist, who is constantly trying to repair her injured self-esteem by adorning and admiring her gilded self, is also haunted by the terror of psychological fragmentation should she become aware that this self is not all she claims it to be.

The narcissistic character disorder is described in the DSM-III (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as having the following characteristics: an inflated sense of self-importance, fantasies of unlimited success, fame, power, beauty, and perfect love (uncritical adoration); exhibitionism (a need to be looked at and admired); a tendency to feel rage with little objective cause; a readiness to treat people with cool indifference as punishment for hurtful treatment or as an indication of the fact they have no current use for the person; a tendency toward severe feelings of inferiority, shame, and emptiness; a sense of entitlement accompanied by the tendency to exploit; a tendency to overidealize or devalue people based largely on a narrow focus; an inability to empathize.

This list is extensive but not all-inclusive. We are said to live in the age of narcissism. Few of us are entirely free of its traits. It is in our label, "the Me Generation," and shows up in popular expressions such as "What's in it for me?" and "taking care of number one." Those who are philosophically inclined might ask which comes first, the narcissism of the individual or that of the society in which he is formed. There probably is a point at which the ills and emphases of a society and the neuroses of individuals living within it feed into a common stream.

If society worships such external things as how you appear to others, your status, power, and money, a person may acquire the belief that what she keeps inside, her emotions and the deeds that only she knows about, do not count. Yet the only real and lasting sense of self-worth that a person can have is the feeling of and for her essential self, the sense of being real, of doing what possibly she alone thinks appropriate. Having an appreciation of the subjective intangible is what we mean when we say that someone has "character," a rare trait today.

Applying the values of an externalized society to one's self causes narcissistic wounding. We use the word narcissistic to show that it is self-love that is harmed. When self-love depends on externals, on others' opinions of what you are and do, the self is betrayed. A woman who possesses great natural beauty was described by her boastful mother in front of company as "beautiful as a movie star." When she heard these words, the daughter cringed in shame, feeling herself to be worthless because she was only valued for her surface.

A healthy self has nothing to do with stardom. Psychological health comes from acceptance starting in early infancy of all that you are, good and bad, dirty and clean, naughty and nice, smart and stupid. In the adult, health is manifested by an accord between ideals and actions, by the ability to appreciate yourself for what you attempt to do as well as for what succeeds. It means recognizing that although you are not perfect you are still worthy of love.

In high school, coaches attempt to strengthen character by telling their charges to do their best and to ignore whether the outcome is win or lose. Our externalized society is so addicted to winning that such advice is but a weak antidote to the pressure placed on youngsters by hysterical parents, idealizing students, and the school board, all of whose egos need a win to contradict a basically shaky self-image.

To grow up to be a whole person, infants, toddlers, and children in their formative stages need the experience of genuine acceptance; they have to know that they are truly seen and yet are perfect and lovable in their parents' eyes; they need to stumble and sometimes fall and to be greeted by a father's or mother's commiserating smile. Through parental acceptance, children learn that their "is-ness," their essential selves, merit love. Self-love is learned through identification. Positive self-regard is the opposite of what the narcissist knows. He is "in love" with himself precisely because he cannot love himself.

Trapped in The Mirror. Copyright © by Elan Golomb Phd. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2000

    Powerful insights hampered by Author's own experiences

    Because I so identified with many of the case studies, I found this book to be a painful read. It offers many insights into the mind of the narcissist and the devastating cycle of narcissism in the family. However, I found the author's personal anger and hatred for narcissists to be distracting and even irritating. A good book to gain understanding but it offers little real help for those in need.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2005

    I'm not crazy after all!!

    This book was a painful journey, but, an awakening to the truth in my life and relationships. It was the catalyst that began my journey in aswering the questions why I feel the way I feel? This book has been revolutionary in my life. I beleive that the concepts discussed in this book are valid and necessary for everyone to understand. The tone is very real,truthful, and painful. This is a book was written for me, to help realize, who I am and why. This book has most definitely changed how I view my world that finally makes sense to me.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2004

    A Victime finds Hope in quest for knowledge

    If you have ever been haunted by the encounters of a childhood less than the average man experiences, and wondered why. When answers are provided it provides healing and relief from an unstructured and floating stress which has caused many a heart ache. Some of these places I felt as though I was actually in this book! Relieved to know I was not the only one who suffered, and putting a label on the suffering helps to understand and reason yourself back into a reality in which you thought was impossible for you to have. Excellent job on understanding the narcissistic mind, and the reaction and emotions and scars of their victims. When knowledge is provided, healing occurs, along with the possibility of help for the people who are doing the victimizing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2010

    Psychological read

    A book for someone with some psychological background or familiarity via therapy.
    A collection of Case studies illuminating the concepts presented by the author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2001

    The Victims of Stealth

    Pathological narcissism is a stealthy, pernicious and all-pervasive form of semipternal and venomous abuse. The narcissist is not necessarily as 'evil' person. He (for 75% of all narcissists are men) is simply oblivious to the long-term outcomes of his actions and inaction. He uses and discards, idealizes and devalues, derives narcissistic supply and then moves on. To be the child of a narcissist is a harrowing, devastating, incomprehensible experience. Golomb does an unparalleled job of mapping the territory of pain and rage that her childhood was - and by implication the childhood of victims of narcissists is. One of 5 books that are a must to anyone who wants to come to grips and demystify this disorder - Sam Vaknin, author of 'Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2001

    Another Child of a Narcissist Weighs In

    Coming to grips with your parent¿s inability to love is a very, very difficult process. And it is a process. Two talented counselors and this book were the beginning of my journey. This book is written from the heart, and because it is, it connected to mine. The story and insights were powerfully important in my life. Because of my parent¿s narcissism, one life was lost and two more were in peril. It was imperative that I understand and repair the damage my parent¿s illness caused. This book does not provide many answers to recovery. But it is a very important part of connecting to the pain and finding a beginning. I had to know the ¿truth¿ before I could begin the process of healing. This book will help you find the truth.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2000

    Adult Child of Narcissist Finds Answers

    Narcissism is a very real, very specific disorder, and should be approached clinically and directly, as in Trapped In The Mirror. Golomb helps readers get a proper grasp on the often misunderstood concept of narcissism, and in turn leads readers who are also victims to understand the magnitude of what has happened to them. There are the beginnings of ideas for change by the end of the book, and whereas these are not explored to the full, the book is none the poorer for it. When one is ready to learn about the topic of narcissism, Trapped In The Mirror is simply an excellent place to BEGIN. And in fact, for this reader in particular, great strides were made in the healing process as over and over and over again 'light bulbs' clicked on - familiar scenarios were demystified - and because the author writes from personal experience, a bit of weight was lifted just by realizing 'somebody gets it.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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