Icarus, shadow child.

Most of us know the story of Icarus, the boy who flew too high to the sun on wings made of vulture feathers and wax..

him fell an’ drown.

There is a back story that puts the tragedy into some perspective. Its a salutary tale about the fate of children raised by narcissists.

always, with the back story.

The back story is where meaning lies…

Daedalus, Icarus’ father, was a master craftsman, a vain man who ended up being imprisoned in a tower by Minos, king of Crete.

a poetic fate..

Icarus was imprisoned with him. He was a dark and moody boy who liked his own company and showed little interest in his father’s crafts. His adopted brother Talos, back home and waiting for them to return was very different, outgoing, bright and ever at Daedalus’ side in his workshop.

These two boys and the polarised differences between them represent a common underlying dynamic in the children of narcissistic parents.

What happens is that the children embody the parental split between the idealised self and the shadow, relieving the parent of the burden..

and the responsibility..

of having to deal with their own internal divisiveness.

Narcissists idealise themselves. In order to do this, they must hive off their shadow onto others. When this happens in the family..

as it does..

you will often find one of the children inexplicably slow and clumsy, a bit stand-offish and perhaps socially arkward.

if there is another child you will also often find that this one is apparently brilliant and can do no wrong. They are smart, popular, sporty and attractive.

What is going on?

Narcissists don’t do relatedness particularly and have this black and white attitude of ”you’re with me or against me”…

identify with me and how great I am or get out…

Other people, especially impressionable children, wind up either having to carry the parent’s shadow, or they are persuaded to identify with the parent’s more expansive, solar qualities.

They get to be the ‘golden child’ in the equation and are often treated very differently from the one delegated to carry the family baggage.

The dark scapegoat builds a defensive wall around themselves, sealing their status as aloof and uncouth,

”to ward off the pains of the toxic shadow material” Sylvia Brinton Perera.

Interestingly, Perera also describes the clumsy,  guilt laden child as one who’s experience..

”leads to generalised panic and flight.”

And, of course, this is Icarus’ fate.

When Daedalus comes up with his plan to escape the tower, he forgets how well he’s schooled Icarus in being slow and dumb. He can’t take in the hasty, impatient instructions not to fly too high or too low, the irritated sub-text that says he’s too stupid to take in even simple things and so he faithfully lets the warnings go unheeded and his panicky flight soon ends in tragedy.

Once Daedalus returns home, Talos fares as badly.  You might think the blue-eyed favourite would get a better deal but he too soon winds up dead at Daedalus’ hands.

Apparently, the exuberant Daedalus is swinging the boy around and around at the top of a tower..

not another tower!

But he’s so carried away with his idealised and co-dependant relationship that he forgets about practical things like gravity  and games you shouldn’t play at the tops of towers…

His grasp on the boy slips…

he falls..

you know the rest.

The golden child of the narcissistic parent is strangely prone to accidents. He’s been raised in a rarified atmosphere where the normal checks and balances aren’t in place, indeed, they don’t apply..

And because he’s had to identify with his parent’s inflation he’s had to disregard his own destiny and sense of self-preservation.

The tragic fates of these two boys is well portrayed in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by the characters of Borrowmere and Farrowmere, sons of the narcissistic Steward and pretender to the throne of  Minas Tireth, Denzil. They both die, the golden child, Borrowmere, by over-reaching himself, imagining he can use the ring of power, the dark and clumsy Farrowmere, sent to his doom by Denzil who refuses to heed the impossibility of retaking the lost town of Osgiliath.

Sometimes the roles of Icarus and Talos are lived out in the same child, alternately idealised and dumped on, or praised to the world but vilified behind closed doors. I once knew a mother whose ‘amazing’ son was bound to win X factor one day because of his incredible, extra-ordinary musical ability but wouldn’t pay the pittance his school required for violin lessons because he was, ”too stupid to learn’.

Such a child internalises this contradictory split, entertaining grandiose fantasies and un-realistic expectations of himself alongside self depracatory feelings of failure and incompetence.

Nor does Daedalus escape unscathed despite the various uses to which he has put his children. His shadow projection onto Icarus means he can’t grow, cannot integrate his own darkness and can’t stand back enough from Talos to enjoy the child’s own unique journey. He becomes increasingly childlike himself and ends his days eternally carving the figure of a winged boy….

Wiki equates the figure of Daedalus with the term ‘disambiguation’.

yes, I had to look it up too..

Its a poetic link. It means not to be ambiguous -to be single minded, and of course he can be once he’s foisted off his divided self onto his kids. But even then, and without reference to the fate of his offspring, it ain’t always a good thing..

no matter what Wiki says..

Why? because the compulsively single minded has no internal dialogue..

no conversation between I and me..

no reflecting and musing, no looking at stuff from different points of veiw, no variation in feeling, no living with the manure of paradox. His mono-voice, his one track mind, his single point of veiw ends..

in madness.

Published by

andywhite

Psychotherapist/writer/artist/ author of, 'Going Mad to Stay Sane', a psychology of self-destructiveness, about to come into its third edition. Soon to be printed for the first time, 'Abundant Delicious.. the Secret and the Mystery', described by activist Satish Kumar as, ' A Tao of the Soul'. This book documents the archetypal country through which the process of individuation occurs and looks at the trials and tribulations we might expect on the way. In the meantime..... Narcissisim is the issue of our age. This blog looks at how it operates, how it can damage and how we may still fruit despite it.

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