Life is complicated. We are products of our environment, & whether our families are rich or poor, it is the quality of our care which defines who we become, initially in life.
Some family environments can be very very harmful to us, but because they are often all we have known, they seem totally normal – infact children from dysfunctional families are often those repeatedly programmed to feel lucky that they have had the parents they have.
The goal of many such “families” is to ensure ‘compliance’ with parental authority, and a child can easily be forced to surrender their entire identity and individuality, in order to get the smallest crumbs of attention, affection, love warmth, affection and acceptance which are freely given in abundance by healthy parents. Such children have to give any and every part of themselves away when they are starved of parental approval.
So for a 5 minute health-check, here is a resource for you to have a quick look through if you want. It is not a polarized thing (black or white), but if you find yourself experiencing some or many of these things, strongly or weakly, you may need to start a lot of recovery work before you pass this onto your own children, and cycles repeat to a large extent until they are recognised and resolved.
For a more indepth health check, you can obtain a copy of Pete Walker’s most excellent book, which is also one of the best resources for recovery.
If you pass the health check, congratulations! Around 80% of people recognise that their childhood involved surrendering large parts of themselves to inappropriately please a parent. Consider yourself very very lucky – You are either free to live your life entirely free of deep unconscious (hidden, to you) destructive automatic responses guiding and limiting your choices – or you are in the ‘denial stage’.
Health-check – was/am I unlucky enough to have experienced any of the following?
Narcissistic mothers cause pain, but there’s much you can do to reclaim your life and thrive despite having one.
I’m often asked, “What can you do when you have a narcissistic mother?”
It is a poignant question because we’re all an extension of our mother in some way or another. You, for instance, may have similar physical features or personality characteristics that make people realize you are a product of your mom.
But, how do you protect yourself when your narcissistic mother, the very woman who gave you life or raised you, demands you provide her with the unconditional, one-way love that she feels entitled to…no matter how she treats you?
When this is the case, your narcissistic mother may see you as something that she created with the hope to have a copy of herself for her own amusement. Or, she may see you as an object, like a piece of luggage that should serve her when she needs it and be out of the away when she does not.
If so, you may have been treated with such disrespect and abuse that makes it difficult for you to develop any sort of real relationship with your mother, let alone feel the love towards your mom that she expects you to give. To the outside world, everything may have appeared perfect, but behind closed doors? That’s where the horror was released.
Many a narcissistic mother is aware of her demanding ways and believes everyone should treat her in the fantastical way that she sees herself. She may live in their own little world where her accomplishments, real or fake, are of grand proportions that no one else can live up to.
To this day, her expectations of you may be ever-changing and not truly attainable. If you have a narcissistic mother, you may feel you are never good enough, or that you must compete with your siblings for her approval or affection. And, no matter how much you achieve or strive to accommodate her, you will not measure up to her unrealistic expectations.
When a narcissist has a child, it is not for the same reason that others procreate. She does so because she wants that child to satisfy her unmet needs. These can vary from the need to feel like she will always be loved by you, or the hope she’ll be more bonded to her husband by providing a child, or the belief she’ll never be alone, or to have the illusion of another chance at life and so on.
Some narcissistic mothers essentially want a real-life extension of themselves, only to be deeply upset about the fact that they did not receive that “mini-me” from you. If, due to being a child, you could not meet her needs, your mother may have withdrawn from you or have become demeaning, critical, and manipulative. In short, it wasn’t acceptable for you to be a child because a child is, by its very nature, needy and “perfectly imperfect.”
The narcissistic mother’s love is typically volatile and conditional.
There are many faces of narcissism. Some of these may not be scientific or politically correct terms, but I feel that if you have a narcissistic mother in your life, you may be able to recognize some of these and nod your head in agreement.
- The Time Hostage: Your mom gets mad at you when you need to reschedule but assumes you will reschedule with her and/or repeatedly cancels on you last minute.
- The Quietly Self-Absorbed Narcissist: She’s socially withdrawn and odd thinking, with morose self-doubts and a relentless search for power and has fantasies of great achievements.
- The Nice Narcissist: She’s nice. She just needs you to agree with her at all times or she won’t like you.
- The Victim: She is unable to take accountability for her choices. She looks at a problem and blames it on something out of her control instead of searching for anything in the situation she can change.
- The Attacker: She comes at you with attacks to see if you admit to anything or, as a way of expressing her fears.
- The Downer: She is so busy talking about why everything is lacking that she isn’t emotionally present to you.
- The Assessor: It is her job to critique how you measure up and point out anything you could improve on, not to give at least equal time to telling you what you do right.
- The Credit Taker: She takes credit for everything, whether she deserves it or not. She passes the blame onto others, whether justified or not. She’s always right, never wrong.
- The Jealous Narcissist: If you have it, she wants it or will strive to make it seem worth less than it is and devalue it.
- The Competitor: She lets you know you may be good but she is better, or prettier, or smarter, or more accomplished than you’ll ever be.
- The Operator: She work’s her own agenda at all times. She’s walled off in her plans for you and everyone else whether you agree with her or not.
- The Fading Beauty: She is not handling the aging process well and looks at your comparable youth as an affront.
- The Beauty Queen: She identifies herself strongly with her attractiveness and may have been the homecoming queen, the best dressed, or known for her beauty. She’s especially bothered if you don’t try to make the most of your looks.
- The Innocent Narcissist: She’s highly defensive and extremely hostile but masks it behind a “poor me” facade of vulnerability.
- The Enraged Narcissist: She screams to get her needs met and projects rage without a filter, not caring who sees it. She doesn’t apologize for her actions.
- The Vengeful Narcissist: She enjoys inflicting pain on others and getting back at them if she does not get her way.
- The Passive Aggressive Narcissist: She sulks and gives the silent treatment and plots how to punish those who don’t give her what she wants. She is vindictive and capable of becoming a stalker.
- The Stealth Narcissist: She fakes an interest in other people and their needs and knows that acting concerned with get her what she wants.
- The Cruel Narcissist: She is never fair and her discipline shows that. She knowingly causes you pain and enjoys knowing that you are miserable.
- The Character Assassinator: She is always trying to tarnish your reputation by lying, exaggerating, or manipulating the facts to make you look bad and to make her look good.
- The Stingy Narcissist: Gifts, compliments, advice and money are given, but look out when you inevitably fail.
- The Wounded Narcissist: She feels victimized and the world is against her. She needs you to take care of her and aid in her every want and need.
- The Disdainful Narcissist: You are treated as though you are less than what she expected, a disappointment or failure.
- The Scapegoating Narcissist: Her life would be better if you were better, or whoever she’s choosing to scapegoat was better. And it will not be better until this person changes.
- The User Narcissist: She takes advantage of you and treats you as more of an employee than anything else. She uses you to get ahead in her own life.
- The Boundary-less Narcissist: There is no difference between you and her, you are an extension of her and therefore she has no limits. She intrudes on your space and looks through your personal belongings. She embarrasses you constantly.
- The Amnesia Narcissist: No matter what healthy requests you’ve made, it is as if you have to repeat yourself every time. For example, “Please don’t hug me or kiss me, it makes me feel uncomfortable,” is ignored.
- The Needy Narcissist: “You don’t give me enough calls” or attention. She wants more from you than anyone could deliver.
- The Time-Sucker Narcissist: You could spend every minute with this person and they would still feel neglected.
- The Mind-Reader Narcissist: You didn’t say it, you didn’t think it, and yet they have read into something and insist it is true.
- The Clairvoyant Narcissist: You didn’t say it, you didn’t think it, but once they have said it you realize it’s true and it’s usually something negative about them (can cause identity confusion for you).
- The Touchy-Feely Narcissist: You are expected to tolerate her touching you however and whenever they want.
- The Holiday Narcissist: You don’t exist unless it is their birthday or a holiday where she feels the need for family time.
- The Glamour Narcissist: She is all about making herself look good. She buys the most expensive clothes, gets her hair and nails done, and doesn’t care about the amount of money she spends.
- The Rockstar Narcissist: She believes that she is the center of attention and it should always be that way. She’s the main attraction and wants everyone to idolize her, even if she really has no talents or reason to be in the limelight.
- The World Traveler Narcissist: She brags about places she’s been and makes up stories about the places she hasn’t been, but tells people she has. She has grandiose fantasies about how worldly she is.
- The Professor/Elite Intellectual Narcissist: She is brainy and seeks admiration for her intelligence. She uses her intellect to put others down and make them feel stupid.
- The Stage Mom/The Promoter: She lives her fantasies through you. She makes you do the things she wish she could [still] do and believes your achievements are her own.
- The Fashionista: She tells you how to dress and what not to wear—often when you’re already wearing it!
- Miss Manners: She still meticulously points out your etiquette failures– from how you eat to what family events you should attend.
- The Publicist: She brags about you to others but is excessively critical of you when you are alone.
- The Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde Narcissist: She is nice in public, but mean under her breath or when alone.
- The Forever Young Narcissist: When did you become more mature than your mother? How old is she, really, emotionally?
- The Hot Mama Narcissist: Sexualized and distracted.
- The Lovesick Narcissist: Always chasing that ideal mate or trying to win the affection of her partner.
- The Enabler Mom: She is too distracted with your rebel siblings’ problems or her partner’s addictive behaviors and seems to get a bit of a rush or power out of rescuing.
- The Social Butterfly: Everyone in town loves her, she is a generous host, but she can’t be bothered to make time for you.
- The Hypochondriac Narcissist: She believes something’s physically wrong with her, you should be checking in on her. And, if you don’t, as luck would have it, she unfortunately has something real going on every once in awhile. Or, it’s nothing a reputable doctor will confirm but she’s fighting off her cancer, leprosy, etc. with special treatments she’s managed to find through her own sheer will to survive.
- The Financially-Challenged Narcissistic: She just needs a little bit of help for this umpteenth self created crisis and she’s sorry she hasn’t paid you back yet for the last time you lent her money.
- The Martyr Narcissist: Her refrain is “How Can You Do This to Me?” She tells you that you make her miserable, suicidal, isolated, or some other negative emotion. You are told that, in one way or another, you control her emotions and that if you would just do what she wanted she would be fine.
- The BFF (Best Friends Forever) Narcissist: You are her best friend, she doesn’t know what she would do without you, unless she had a better offer, in that case you’ll just have to wait until the next time she’s lonely. You are brought out like a doll when she wants attention then ignored when she doesn’t need it (but seriously, when doesn’t she need it?). This is also a description of what is experienced when someone is another’s “narcissistic supply.”
- The Expensive Narcissist: She has ruined your credit through manipulation to use your credit.
- The Criminal Narcissist: Some narcissists exploit their children or others through identity theft, mismanagement of trust funds, and fraudulent financial dealings. You may or may not have been the target of her crime, but she doesn’t see the rule of law applies to her. She may have Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is a pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others. As if the narcissism wasn’t enough!
If you found this article helpful, I encourage you to read my free eBook The 7 Steps to Recovering from a Narcissistic Mother.