This is part of series on Narcissism.
The original is at: Peak to Peak Mountain New
Posted By: Jacqueline Hart-Gibson 4725 Views
When we think of crazy mothers we often think of Joan Crawford screaming, “No more wire hangers,” or Norma and Norman Bates who could not live with or without each other, becoming so enmeshed Norman can’t tell the difference between himself and his mother.
Off the silver screen and out in the wild where we live, a narcissistic mother isn’t so easy to spot. When the mother in question is our own, it becomes even more challenging to understand and accept the truth right before our eyes.
The first step to healing from a narcissistic mother is to recognize we have one. Because the symptoms and behaviors of Narcissistic Personality Disorder exist on a continuum, some NPD’s are harder to spot than others. If we choose to be healed and to end cycles of abuse in our families, we must be willing to honestly face and accept the truth of our upbringing.
Before researching the specific and numerous lists of “traits of narcissistic mothers,” instantly available with a Google search, remember to go back to the three core traits that exist in all NPD’s; lack of empathy, lack of insight into themselves and exploitative. In practice this looks like; When I am sick my mother is upset because she is inconvenienced, when I tell my mother wearing her own wedding dress to my wedding is not appropriate she insists I am selfish, and my mother uses my pain to garner attention for herself, while showing little to no concern for my well being.
Narcissistic mothers see their own children in terms of how the child can serve their needs and never vice versa. Love is conditional and available as an insincere temporary reward for pleasing the mother’s ego. In the book, “You’re not crazy, it’s your mother,” by Danu Morrigan, NPD mothers are divided into two categories; the engulfing and the ignoring narcissistic mothers. Some narcissistic mothers move back and forth between these two types as well.
The Engulfing Narcissistic Mother
Sometimes referred to as the “overt” narcissistic mother, this mother does not allow for healthy boundaries between themselves and their children. Everything the child does has a direct effect on the mother. The grades they receive, activities they choose, talents they possess, friends they have, and partners or jobs they choose as adults, are all about mom. The child is discouraged from autonomy and becomes wired to consider what mom will think, before making any decision. A program they must consciously delete as adults, if they are to ever live independently.
This mother is jealous of anyone else in the child’s life; friends, teachers, and definitely spouses. When the adult child has children of their own, grandchildren become pawns in the mother’s game.
Friends the child has may be charmed by the mother and recruited as the mother’s friends or allies, to motivate the child to do more of what the mother wants. Unsuspecting friends may believe this mother just “cares a lot about the child,” and oblige continued abuse unwillingly. This can make the child feel abandoned by friends and more powerless regarding the mother.
The mother may tell stories to teachers and other adults to recruit them as well. Stories will always be told with dripping sentimentality, but are attempts to manipulate, not lovingly guide.
Potential partners the son or daughter of a narcissistic mother brings home are in for a ride! Think evil stepmother in Cinderella. Only a prince will do for her daughters because it serves her. The same is true for the NPD mother in the real world. How does my son or daughter’s partner serve my agenda? If the answer is, “They don’t,” than this partner is unsuitable, no matter how well the couple care for each other. Sabotaging the relationships of the child, small or adult, that don’t serve the NPD mother is common.
The engulfing NPD mother sees their grandchildren as their own and believes it is their right to intrude regarding parenting. This isn’t the loving grandmother who wants to be helpful, this is the grandmother who sabotages the parents by directly opposing parental rules frequently, often gossiping about one or both parents to children, or otherwise creating needless conflicts between parent and child. We can tell that this is more than “letting the grandkids stay up later or eat more sweets,” by the grandmother’s response when we respectfully ask her to stop. When the NPD mom is confronted about boundaries and asked to respect them she will likely become angry, respond that we are being unreasonable, ignore the request, or claim the incident we are referring to never happened. Denials are usually a lot more dramatic than seems appropriate for the infraction, which is an attempt to control the adult child.
The Ignoring Narcissistic Mother
The ignoring NPD mom is also sometimes referred to as the covert narcissistic mother. As the title implies, she is as distant as the engulfing NPD mother is smothering. She is unavailable for a variety of reasons like; work, relationships, the gym, dating, socializing, and anything to avoid parenting. Many mothers, especially single mothers, are not as available as they would like to be. The difference here is that an NPD mother chooses to be busy and when she runs out of distractions and finds herself in the presence of her child, she remains distant and lacks remorse for time spent away. When confronted am ignoring NPD mother will likely; blame someone else and ignore the child’s feelings, become angry, or dismiss the accounts entirely. Again, noticing a lack of empathy and refusal to own mistakes is the key difference between a possible personality disorder and a human being struggling with uncomfortable truths.
Although the ignoring NPD mom appears disinterested, she will still take advantage of opportunities to use her child to make herself look good, taking credit for her child’s achievements, or to play the victim card when the child acts out.
To the child of an ignoring mother attachment is often insecure as the messages from the primary nurturer are erratic and confusing. When there is an audience, they are suddenly visible and either fawned over and bragged about, or presented as exhausting and a discipline problem. The child is always presented to the world as the mother wants them to be, not as how or who they are.
When this narcissistic mother sabotages the child, the child is likely unaware of the incidents of betrayal until later in life. The NPD mother barely lets on they notice the child, allowing her to set up the child to continuously try to do, say, behave, achieve, or change to become a child the mother can love, like a racetrack dog who never catches the rabbit. This behavior, this need of the mother’s approval, often follows the child into adulthood where they experience similar relationships through friendships, co-workers, supervisors and romantic partners. They may be needy, chase after people that don’t want them, or seek to be invisible from others for safety.
Thankfully, as adults, children of all NPD mothers can learn to let go of past abuse and re-define the terms of relationships and love. They can unlearn toxic messages. “You will never be enough,” or “You were never wanted,” or “You were never meant to be.” With some work these thoughts and beliefs can be replaced and the mind of the child who grew up in a toxic home, can become an environment that’s loving and safe to hang around in.
For more information on healing from narcissistic abuse visit any of these sites.
Healing from Narcissistic Abuse Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/774731022666224/?ref=share
On YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ7XmDQDtyqfRNn4YcbONrA
Or order Holistic Healing from Narcissistic Abuse at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1983132691/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_YvE4DbXE06T9M
(Originally published in the February 6, 2020, print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)