The King Baby concept emerged from Freud’s paper “On Narcissism”. Freud describes how
parents’ own narcissism is channeled into their child: “the center and core of creation- ‘His
Majesty the Baby’”.
As a baby, all your needs are met. Cry- you get fed. Scream- you get attention. You expect
everything from your caregivers, and they expect nothing from you. You are the center of your
own universe, and the center of theirs too. As we develop, we typically mature out of this King
Baby mindset. We learn to take care of our own needs, we see others have their own universes,
and we accept things aren’t always how we’d like them to be.
Yet, sometimes, through no fault of our own, we don’t shed certain parts of the King Baby
mindset. This might be due to overprotective or overindulgent parents, or if we suffer a
“narcissistic wound”, when our needs are neglected or our self-worth painfully undermined.
King Baby narcissism served us well as babies. It helped us get our needs met. But if it persists
as we get older, it starts causing us more problems than it solves.
Perception of Self
King Baby syndrome affects the way we relate to ourselves, others and the world. The King
Baby believes others must take care of their needs, but they feel no responsibility for the needs
Although King Babies may appear narcissistic, at the core is a sense of vulnerability and
helplessness. When they are told “no”, they may hear “you’re bad”, interpreting it as a direct
attack on them as a person. This makes it hard for the King Baby to compromise, to comply with
rules, and to accept any constructive feedback.
Beliefs at the core of King Baby syndrome include:
Others must do as I want
If someone says no it means they don’t like me
The world is not fair
Others don’t care about me
I am special and different
I am unlovable
I am worthless
I deserve the best
It’s never my fault
Those beliefs may sound contradictory. Feeling both worthless and superior creates painful
internal conflicts. That is why it is so valuable to explore our King Baby beliefs and behaviors. It
helps clear the path to personal growth and sustained recovery.
Traits and Behaviors
King Baby syndrome manifests in many ways. Common traits include: grandiosity, demanding,
entitlement, mood swings, selfishness, neediness, superiority, attention-seeking, fragile ego and
These traits lead to many unhelpful behaviors. The King Baby often struggles with authority
because when they don’t get their way, they may feel attacked. Responsibility is repulsive for
the King Baby, because it means putting their own desires on the back-burner at times. The King
Baby will often blame others when things go wrong, refusing to recognize the consequences of
their own behaviors.
Relationships are challenging for King Babies. They expect to be the center of their partner’s
universe, but struggle to consider the needs of their partner. Often the King Baby will coax
others into the role of enabler. The people around them may find it easier to cater to their
demands than face the explosive consequences of saying no. This can make it challenging for
the King Baby to change: the patterns of behavior have become so ingrained.
King Babies and Addiction
Many addicts experience some features of King Baby syndrome. Some more than others.
These can be an obstacle to recovery. Addiction is steeped in denial. People deny to
themselves and others that they have a problem, and that their behaviors have consequences.
This is only natural given how painful it is to acknowledge how much your behavior is hurting
you and those around you. But the King Baby’s denial and rejection of responsibility perpetuates
addiction. It becomes easy to blame a relapse on the behavior of others or the injustice of the
world. Instant gratification is the norm for King Babies. For sustained recovery this needs to
The Challenge of Change
Like Peter Pan, King Babies are often afraid of growing up. This is understandable, given that
making difficult changes and taking responsibility can seem overwhelming. Surrounded by
rescuers and enablers, the King Baby may fear stepping into a world where their actions have
consequences. Through no fault of their own, the King Baby may feel they lack the strength and
coping strategies to stand on their own two feet.
But change is possible.
The first step is acknowledging your problematic behaviors and perspectives. This can be
tough. At Embrace, you will be in a community of peers who are also on a journey of self-
awareness and growth. Through compassionate, constructive feedback, you can help each
other acknowledge unhelpful patterns and develop new ways of relating to the world.
Your view of responsibility might change from meaning “doing what you hate”, to “having the
capacity to respond”.
It’s not an easy process to alter patterns of behavior that have been long embedded. But it is a
rewarding process. You will feel empowered.
Acceptance is key. You learn to accept things are not always as you would like, and you
become OK with that. You learn to accept imperfections in yourself and others, and you see that
this is normal in a world where we are all flawed individuals doing our best. The mindfulness
program at Embrace Sober House can help you to build acceptance and compassion for
yourself and others.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a powerful tool that helps us recognize and
alter our King Baby traits and behaviors. Working with our CBT therapists, you can explore
deeply held beliefs and make positive changes to the way you see yourself, others and the
Although we might not like to acknowledge King Baby traits in ourselves, having the courage to
do so can be an important step on your journey to wellbeing and a happy recovery.