Infants are completely helpless, and completely dependent on adults to attend to their needs. As children grow, and gradually become able to more effectively advocate for their needs and to do some things for themselves, mirroring between the child and the mother/parental figures, becomes more complex.
It becomes more difficult to draw the line between appropriate, and inappropriate mirroring. At this point, another type of inappropriate mirroring can occur. This form of inappropriate mirroring is known as overindulgence. It stems from an often unconscious refusal to recognize that the child is no longer an infant.
It is a lack of acknowledgment of, and appreciation for, the child’s physical, emotional and intellectual growth, and development.
This form of mirroring is also known as spoiling a child. Like other forms of inappropriate mirroring, overindulging or spoiling a child can producing narcissistic injury, that the child invariably carries into adulthood and, if unchecked or unaddressed, projects the injury onto others, including their own children.
As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.”
It is important to note that no parent consistently displays appropriate mirroring as no mothers/caretakers are perfect. To prevent serious and enduring narcissistic injury in the child, a parent simply needs to be good enough, though “good enough” may often be difficult to define.
Like consistently inappropriate mirroring, a sudden, dramatic, and radical departure or shift from a pattern of mostly appropriate mirroring, to inappropriate and/or abusive mirroring can produce severe narcissistic injury and leave lasting scars.
In short, narcissistically-injured mothers tend produce narcissistically-injured children, who grow to often become narcissistic mothers or narcissistic caretakers themselves.
Therapy can be tantamount to damage control. If narcissistic injuries are sufficiently treated, via the corrective emotional experience known as psychotherapy, restoration can occur. Therapy can be conceptualized, after all, as reparenting and, basically, this is accomplished via the therapist offering consistently appropriate mirroring responses.
This means active, supportive, non-judgmental listening, and active exploration of unresolved experiences, internal conflicts, and developmental impasses originating in inappropriate mirroring between mother and child.