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Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother

Narcissistic Personality Disorder - Personality Disorders: Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother By Carlin Flora, Psychology Today September 23, 2008 How to get over your narcissistic mom. ...

 

  1. #1

    Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother

    Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother
    By Carlin Flora, Psychology Today
    September 23, 2008

    How to get over your narcissistic mom.

    We tend to throw around the descriptor "narcissist" when we really mean "selfish," but the term can properly refer to someone who consistently exhibits narcissistic traits as well as to someone with a full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The APA estimates that 1.5 million American women are "official" narcissists, meaning millions more can be found on the lower end of that personality spectrum.

    Karyl McBride, Ph.D., has spent more than 20 years studying and treating women who grew up with narcissistic moms. I interviewed her about her new book, Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing The Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. Here's an edited version of our conversation:

    What are the hallmarks of maternal narcissism?
    An inability to give love to, and show empathy toward, the child.

    How would you describe the typical husband of such a mother?
    The spouse has to revolve around her, often, in order to stay in the relationship. He may practically worship her. That means he may never help or protect the child who is being ignored. Some fathers I've talked to realize the damage being done to their child, but feel that they can't do anything about it. Others seem to not be aware.

    You found two typical patterns of behavior in daughters of narcissistic mothers.
    Yes. There's the high achieving daughter—I call her Mary Marvel—who appears to be perfect in all she does. One of the main messages that gets internalized when your mother is narcissistic is, "You are valued for what you do and not for who you are." So Mary Marvel is constantly trying to prove to herself that she does have worth, by mastering different endeavors.

    The other kind of daughter is a rebel. She's an under-achiever who self-sabotages. She may end up on welfare or addicted to drugs or alcohol. It's interesting, the two types look very different on the outside, but their internal landscape is similar. The self-saboteur also thinks she's not good enough, but has given up on disproving it.

    What determines which way a daughter goes?
    I was really interested in this question, especially since my sister and I fit this pattern— where I'm the "Mary Marvel." It's not entirely clear, but it seems that in the case of the over-achiever, she had someone in her life—maybe a grandmother—who gave her unconditional love.

    What typically happens to these daughters in their own romantic relationships?
    These daughters learn a distorted view of love. They learn that love is about "what I can do for you and what you can do for me." They may be overly dependent on their partners, or choose people who are entirely dependent on them. A healthy relationship, meanwhile, is based on the back and forth of interdependency.

    How can an adult daughter "recover" from narcissistic mothering?
    In the book I outline a 5-step program. The first part is accepting that you had a mother that didn't love you. This is very hard for some women to acknowledge, especially because daughters in these families were not taught to deal with their feelings.

    Then the daughter must separate psychologically from her mother. Part of that is tapping into who she is and figuring out who she wants to be. It's also important to end the legacy, to prevent the next generation from suffering in the same way.

    How can these women avoid becoming just like their mothers, then?
    It's really about internal changes, and changing how they interact with other people.

    You can learn how to be empathetic with your children. That doesn't mean loving "my kid the ballerina" or "my kid the soccer player," but really tuning into who your children are as people. And it's not about praising them just to praise them. That leads children to feel entitled, which is a narcissistic trait.

    If these women treat their mothers differently, will the mothers react differently?
    If a daughter starts setting boundaries in the beginning of this process, the mother's bad behavior may in fact escalate. That's why I often recommend a temporary separation.

    The mothers may not change. I wouldn't want to give daughters hope that they will. But once a daughter understands her mother's narcissism, her own anger and resentment will fade. She can approach her mother in a loving way, and not as a victim.

    It's really about accepting your mother's limitations. One of the women on my online forum described her old mentality toward her mother as something like this, "It's like my mom is colorblind, and I keep asking her to appreciate a rainbow."

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    Re: Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother

    Firstly, I think Carlin Flora is doing a great job of bringing awareness to all of us about narcissistic mothers. I think pretty much most of what she writes is pretty good advice.
    However, as a survivor of a narcissistic mother, I have some problems with some of what Carlin Flora has to say...

    "The mothers may not change. I wouldn't want to give daughters hope that they will. But once a daughter understands her mother's narcissism, her own anger and resentment will fade. She can approach her mother in a loving way, and not as a victim."
    I find this statement potentially dangerous. For me and one or two others I know online, no contact was the safest option, the only option. This statement does not allow for the 'no contact' option. Also, I will never be able to 'approach my mother in a loving way' because of all the hurt I have endured. In fact I simply cannot (note cannot, and I don't mean will not) love my mother the way I would like to because of the enormous hurt; it would in fact be dangerous to try.

    You found two typical patterns of behavior in daughters of narcissistic mothers.
    Yes. There's the high achieving daughter—I call her Mary Marvel—who appears to be perfect in all she does. One of the main messages that gets internalized when your mother is narcissistic is, "You are valued for what you do and not for who you are." So Mary Marvel is constantly trying to prove to herself that she does have worth, by mastering different endeavors.
    The other kind of daughter is a rebel. She's an under-achiever who self-sabotages. She may end up on welfare or addicted to drugs or alcohol. It's interesting, the two types look very different on the outside, but their internal landscape is similar. The self-saboteur also thinks she's not good enough, but has given up on disproving it.
    Not sure that I am any of these but I may be the Mary Marvel because I have achieved many qualifications over the years and it really feels like I have done these for me rather than pleasing my mother - I haven't seen her for years so I can't be doing, can I. In any case, can you really pigeon hole people like that?

    Sue

  5. Re: Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother

    My mother has been dead for almost 20 years, so I sure have separation, but I still carry her destructiveness in my mind and feel the pain.

    As the rebel, however, I was able to separate some. Early on, I developed an "I'm okay--you're not okay" belief system so she could tell the world (and me) that I was bad and worthless. I always disagreed in my mind, and, in fact, was pretty productive and positive in the view of so many others. I accomplished and gave (not as much as I might/could have if I had had more caring parenting) and grew despite her always finding a way to diminish me.

    I did things in my life to prove to myself that I was a worthwhile and perhaps even admirable person, and because achieving felt good. Yet I never stopped trying to achieve that never-possible love and/or approval from her.

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    Re: Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother

    From reading some information on this site, I have come to realise that my mother fits in the criteria of the narcissistic mother. However, at a very young age, I learned to not care about what others thought of me. I simply learned to not care. That stance also made me a bit anti-social I admit.

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    Re: Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother

    Hello all. I originally joined this site to read and help me understand my own situtation with my narcassistic mother. This is my first post on the topic.

    With the help of my doctor over the last 11 years, we have been trying to help me get through my emotional termoil after I have had contact with my mother. I have been referred to psychologists over the years by my doctor. These sessions helped to a certain extent, but I find that even though I use some of the techniques give to me when I talk to her, the barbs from her come out and I end up trying to defend myself, which then turns to anger. The last argument was on Christmas day and we haven't had contact since.

    Yesterday I watched a show on TV that reminded me that they are getting older - mum is 76 and dad is 85 - and I wanted to make contact again. So I sent an Easter card. I felt the need to connect again. I just wish we could spend the time we have together just being nice to each other. I have offered to help her and dad out (several times over the years), but they don't want me to. Ever since I moved away from close to where she lives (45 minutes away) she feels that I have "left" her and I am too far away to help her anymore.

    The arguments we have are usually my mum saying, if you don't agree with me or see it my way, I will cut off contact. She always calls or writes letters at some point, after a couple of months, to tell me what a selfish daughter I am. The last phone call we had at christmas, she finally admitted that she cannot get past the hurt and pain I have caused her over the last 15 years. I apologised - several times over the years- and it's not enough. I then have to crawl my way back into her good graces. It's like she is waiting for me to make another mistake - and I may too because I am human - and then we are back to square one again. It was an easier relationship when I just adored her and did as I was told. When I "left the fold" after my brother died, that's when things got worse with my mother and haven't got better since.

    I just want some sort of relationship with my parents. I just don't know what to do anymore. Sorry, I have probably gone on too much. Thank you for the opportunity to write some of my feelings down.

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    Re: Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother

    Hello Wanda,

    I have so much I would like to say to you and wish I had more time to write this. However, I so identify with you. From what you tell me, your mother is pulling all your strings for as long as you remain emotionally connected to her. For me (and I am not necessarily saying that you should too) the only way out was to break the emotional bond between myself and my mother and for me it meant no contact whatsoever. Once I had done this the emotional pain subsided and I also dealt with any guilt. I feel guilty no more. Now, I realise when you read this it may horrify you and you may think I am selfish and horrible for breaking all connections. I would understand this. However, please know that I am not a heartless person and I broke the bond for my own sanity, self-respect and a stable life for myself and my family (my mother would have interfered no end). I have the love of a brilliant husband and sons and i know I am capable of love. I also have the self-respect to be able to say I am not going to be emotionally pushed and pulled from one direction to another and I will save my love and devotion for those who graciously accept it and for those who do not abuse any emotional bond I have with them. Lastly, you say that you want some sort of relationship with your parents. Ask yourself these questions; do you want a relationship with what you want your parents to be? Or do you want a relationship with what they really are? Are you opening your eyes wide enough? Are you keeping in touch with them just to save yourself from guilt?

    Sorry if I sound harsh but it may mean distancing yourself emotionally at least to be able to function properly.

    Wanda, do yourself a favour and please read When you and your mother can't be friends by Victoria Secunda

    Hope this helps and best of luck

    Sue

    ---------- Post added at 04:37 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:45 PM ----------

    To remain in a relationship where the bad actors are refusing to change, and when you have determined that their behavior is more than annoying and definitely in the realm of evil and destructive, then you must remove yourself from the relationship if you are going to avoid being an accomplice to their evil.
    You don't have the power to change the narcissist, so you don't have the responsibility either. Please let that soak in. Some of us stay way too long in relationships with narcissists because somewhere in our minds we feel responsible for changing them. Give up that thought. Recognize the little bit of grandiosity in your opinion of yourself that allows you to believe you can be so wonderful, wise, loving or compassionate that you can change the narcissist. It is a heavy burden to be a savior...and an effort in futility. Step out of the way and let the law of consequences have a chance. You are without blame. They chose this outcome.
    both quotes by Anna Valerious - website address Narcissists Suck: To cut off from a parent, or not....that is the question

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    Re: Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother

    Hello Sue,

    Thanks for your reply. It gave me quite a lot to think about. And no, I don't think you are a horrible person for the choice you made. You made a decision that is right for you. But I had a couple of questions, if that is okay. How did you "break it off" with you mother? Did you talk to her over the phone and give her your reasons or did you send her a letter?

    Secondly, how did you deal effectively with the guilt you mentioned? If you don't mind sharing.

    I read the article in the link you gave me. It helped. I have also ordered the book from the library called "When your mother can't be friends" by Secunda. Hopefully I will be able to get it sooner than later.

    I had a big cry tonight. I want to maintain some ties with my mother and father (the way they are) but then my sister reminded me what I would have to do to get back in, and stay in, with her good graces, and I found I got angry again and then started crying. What I wanted seemed so simple, a phone call once a fortnight to my parents to say hello and how are you.

    Anyway, I sent the Easter card saying best wishes for Easter and kisses and said if they needed any help around the house or buying groceries, paying bills, I am happy to help. I will wait to see if I get a reply back - and what will be in that reply. I will then have to find the right words to reply to get my thoughts across. I always feel I say the wrong thing. And then it comes back to bite me.

    Thanks for your wise words Sue. I will let you know how things go. You are a kind person. Thanks for sharing with me.

    Take care.

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    Re: Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother

    Hi Wanda,
    You asked
    How did you "break it off" with you mother? Did you talk to her over the phone and give her your reasons or did you send her a letter?
    I can't really say here as is it a long story. However, when I last saw her I didn't realise at the time that it would be the last time. It was during a big argument when she turned up unannounced to my house where I lived with my husband (she had travelled far so she was not just passing). She always had a sense of entitlement and she probably thought I would automatically just let her in (you really need to understand the whole context of the events that lead up to this moment but it is too long to write it here). I had not long been married and she had shown a lot of jealousy before that. The long and short of it is I told her to go and leave me alone (she had been pestering me all week at work and at home constantly phoning etc). I never heard a thing for a couple of months and I loved it. It was so nice and peaceful life without her. I decided then to move and we did without telling her. I felt a little guilty but it was easier to deal with the guilt than her. I eventually (after some time) got to know about therapy and found a very good Person-centred therapist and had many sessions and I feel guilty no more because now I know I did the right thing.

    I will tell you the whole story and will send my email address in a private message.

    Sue

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    Re: Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother

    When I started to need to break free and had had enough, I was unintentionally taking emotional relief and I guess, support by playing music by Metallica such, 'Mother Said'. I was not ever the stereotypical head banger. In fact, people were surprised when they learned I listen to Metallica. Music has always been one of my nurturers. Music and mother nature.


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    Re: Getting Over a Narcissistic Mother

    The Narcissist Mother Returns!

    The time I have been waiting for arrived yesterday. The favoured son fell out of favour when he finally did something that would upset her. That being, spread lies about his brother who is deceased. When he was told to stop, he threw a tantie and refused to contact our mother for months. At least a year.

    He suddenly rocked up to our mother's home and yes, the time I have patiently been waiting for arrived. I get this phone call where she's all over over him, the cuddly him, the one who handles disagreements with his hands and fists to get his way when he can't with his mouth. The one who destroyed our eldest brother's career for revenge for something that happened two decades ago. Typical.

    I was fine with it as I don't let it get me down any more as I'm long past it. This morning I get another phone call from my mother where she's mooing over the much loved son. Not surprised and wonders why we won't talk. Apparently we're all 14 year olds. Now, the one thing I won't do is let her put me down and I didn't feel like arguing so I said, "Whatever", and hung up. I get this phone call back asking why I was upset and yes, the berating started but no, I don't take that rubbish any more and sadly, had to raise my voice over hers to get a word in edge wise, telling her that I'm more than happy to talk with her if she holds a reasonable conversation without the insults but until then, I told her to get lost. Well, in stronger language to drive the wedge home. I'm formerly active in politics as an active behind the scenes participant - I know how to wedge. I hung up.

    Now, I won't allow this into my family as we raise our children to be loving and caring of each other, which they are. All four children are very close and are protective of each other. When we lived with my mother for two years while deciding where to go, my mother did everything to try to create a division between our two eldest. The eldest just starting school and the second, a toddler. She favoured the toddler and I had arguments with her about this. One day I followed my mother to see what she was up to as I know when she's sneaking about, I caught her as she was about to hit my eldest. I grabbed that swinging arm and pulled her back and onto the floor, telling her that next time it would be a breakage. I said this because I know how violent she can get with children. Not long after that, we left.

    I refuse to let her soul destroying influence to enter this house. My eldest is still very uncomfortable with my mother despite all this happening 6 years ago.

    It will be interesting to see how long it takes for her to call as I'm most certainly not going to go back groveling back to her. She probably rang up somebody else to complain about me. Oh well, too bad for her, and why I put 1800km's between us.

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