Possibly, the child’s actual seduction did not take place the way Freud’s hysterical patients related it. Yet, the parents’ narcissistic cathexis of their child leads to a long series of sexual and nonsexual seductions, which the child will only be able to discover with difficulty, as an adult in his analysis (and often not before he himself is a parent).
A father who grew up in surroundings inimical to instinctual drives may well be inhibited in his sexual relationships in marriage. He may even remain polymorphous perverse and first dare to look properly at a female genital, play with it, and feel aroused while he is bathing his small daughter. A mother may perhaps have been shocked as a small girl by the unexpected sight of an erect penis and so developed fear of the male genital, or she may have experienced it as a symbol of violence in the primal scene without being able to confide in anyone. Such a mother may now be able to gain control over her fear in relationship to her tiny son. She may, for example, dry him after his bath in such a manner that he has an erection, which is not dangerous or threatening for her. She may massage her son’s penis, right up to puberty, in order ‘to treat his phimosis’ without having to be afraid. Protected by the unquestioning love that every child has for his mother she can carry on with her genuine, hesitating sexual exploration that had been broken off too soon.
What does it mean to the child, though, when his sexually inhibited parents make narcissistic use of him in their loneliness and need? Every child seeks loving contact and is happy to get it. At the same time, however, he feels insecure when desires are aroused that do not appear spontaneously at this stage in his development. This insecurity is further increased by the fact that his own autoerotic activity is punished by the parents’ prohibitions or scorn.
Alice Miller – The Drama of the Gifted Child p.96