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The Narcissistic Mother

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The Narcissistic Mother

Postby LifeSong » Thu Apr 08, 2010 12:16 am

Here's an article I've had in my files for a long time... can't give it source credit anymore than what is shown on the bottom line.
It was written by a woman with a diagnosed NPD mother. Her mother is dissimilar than is mine in many ways - she expresses her narcissism differently than does my mother - but the underlying pathology is similar.
From that viewpoint, this was helpful to me. I found this useful and familiar enough so that I often thought when first reading it, "yeah, I know that feeling"..."yep, that's the pinch she put me in as a kid".

I'm offering it here for anyone who can recognize it, from either side of the interaction, narcissist or not.
There have been a few posters recently inquiring about possible narcissistic parents, so... see if this rings any bells for you.


The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self.
It's about secret things.
It's about body language.
It's about disapproving glances.
It's about vocal tone.
It's very intimate.
And it's very powerful.
-Chris


Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers

1. Everything she does is deniable. There is always a facile excuse or an explanation. Cruelties are couched in loving terms. Aggressive and hostile acts are paraded as thoughtfulness. Selfish manipulations are presented as gifts. Criticism and slander is slyly disguised as concern. She only wants what is best for you. She only wants to help you.

She rarely says right out that she thinks you’re inadequate. Instead, any time that you tell her you’ve done something good, she counters with something your sibling did that was better or she simply ignores you or she hears you out without saying anything, then in a short time does something cruel to you so you understand not to get above yourself. She will carefully separate cause (your joy in your accomplishment) from effect (refusing to let you borrow the car to go to the awards ceremony) by enough time that someone who didn’t live through her abuse would never believe the connection.

Many of her putdowns are simply by comparison. She’ll talk about how wonderful someone else is or what a wonderful job they did on something you’ve also done or how highly she thinks of them. The contrast is left up to you. She has let you know that you’re no good without saying a word. She’ll spoil your pleasure in something by simply congratulating you for it in an angry, envious voice that conveys how unhappy she is, again, completely deniably. It is impossible to confront someone over their tone of voice, their demeanor or they way they look at you, but once your narcissistic mother has you trained, she can promise terrible punishment without a word. As a result, you’re always afraid, always in the wrong, and can never exactly put your finger on why.

Because her abusiveness is part of a lifelong campaign of control and because she is careful to rationalize her abuse, it is extremely difficult to explain to other people what is so bad about her. She’s also careful about when and how she engages in her abuses. She’s very secretive, a characteristic of almost all abusers (“Don’t wash our dirty laundry in public!”) and will punish you for telling anyone else what she’s done. The times and locations of her worst abuses are carefully chosen so that no one who might intervene will hear or see her bad behavior, and she will seem like a completely different person in public. She’ll slam you to other people, but will always embed her devaluing nuggets of snide gossip in protestations of concern, love and understanding (“I feel so sorry for poor Cynthia. She always seems to have such a hard time, but I just don’t know what I can do for her!”) As a consequence the children of narcissists universally report that no one believes them (“I have to tell you that she always talks about YOU in the most caring way!). Unfortunately therapists, given the deniable actions of the narcissist and eager to defend a fellow parent, will often jump to the narcissist’s defense as well, reinforcing your sense of isolation and helplessness (“I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that!”)

2. She violates your boundaries. You feel like an extension of her. Your property is given away without your consent, sometimes in front of you. Your food is eaten off your plate or given to others off your plate. Your property may be repossessed and no reason given other than that it was never yours. Your time is committed without consulting you, and opinions purported to be yours are expressed for you. (She LOVES going to the fair! He would never want anything like that. She wouldn’t like kumquats.) You are discussed in your presence as though you are not there. She keeps tabs on your bodily functions and humiliates you by divulging the information she gleans, especially when it can be used to demonstrate her devotion and highlight her martyrdom to your needs (“Mike had that problem with frequent urination too, only his was much worse. I was so worried about him!”) You have never known what it is like to have privacy in the bathroom or in your bedroom, and she goes through your things regularly. She asks nosy questions, snoops into your email/letters/diary/conversations. She will want to dig into your feelings, particularly painful ones and is always looking for negative information on you which can be used against you. She does things against your expressed wishes frequently. All of this is done without seeming embarrassment or thought.

Any attempt at autonomy on your part is strongly resisted. Normal rites of passage (learning to shave, wearing makeup, dating) are grudgingly allowed only if you insist, and you’re punished for your insistence (“Since you’re old enough to date, I think you’re old enough to pay for your own clothes!”) If you demand age-appropriate clothing, grooming, control over your own life, or rights, you are difficult and she ridicules your “independence.”

3. She plays favorites. Narcissistic mothers commonly choose one child to be the golden child and one to be the scapegoat. The narcissist identifies with the golden child and provides privileges to him or her as long as the golden child does just as she wants. She attempts to replicate herself in the golden child. The golden child has to be cared for assiduously by everyone in the family. The scapegoat has no needs and instead gets to do the caring, or is ignored, or is harmed. The golden child can do nothing wrong. The scapegoat is always at fault. This creates divisions between the children, one of whom has a large investment in the mother being wise and wonderful, and the other(s) who hate her. That division will be fostered by the narcissist with lies and with blatantly unfair and favoritizing behavior. The golden child will defend the mother and indirectly perpetuate the abuse by finding reasons to blame the scapegoat for the mother’s actions. The golden child may also directly take on the narcissistic mother’s tasks by physically abusing the scapegoat so the narcissistic mother doesn’t have to do that herself.

4. She undermines. Your accomplishments are acknowledged only to the extent that she can take credit for them. Any success or accomplishment for which she cannot take credit is ignored or diminished. Any time you are to be center stage and there is no opportunity for her to be the center of attention, she will try to prevent the occasion altogether, or she doesn’t come, or she leaves early, or she acts like it’s no big deal, or she steals the spotlight or she slips in little wounding comments about how much better someone else did or how what you did wasn’t as much as you could have done or as you think it is. She undermines you by picking fights with you or being especially unpleasant just before you have to make a major effort. She acts put out if she has to do anything to support your opportunities or will outright refuse to do even small things in support of you. She will be nasty to you about things that are peripherally connected with your successes so that you find your joy in what you’ve done is tarnished, without her ever saying anything directly about it. No matter what your success, she has to take you down a peg about it.

5. She demeans, criticizes and denigrates. She lets you know in all sorts of little ways that she thinks less of you than she does of your siblings or of other people in general. If you complain about mistreatment by someone else, she will take that person’s side even if she doesn’t know them at all. She doesn’t care about those people or the justice of your complaints. She just wants to let you know that you’re never right.

She will deliver generalized barbs that are almost impossible to rebut (often in a caring tone): “You were always difficult” “You can be very difficult to love” “You never seemed to be able to finish anything” “You were very hard to live with” “You’re always causing trouble” “No one could put up with the things you do.” She will deliver slams in a sidelong way - for example she’ll complain about how “no one” loves her, does anything for her, or cares about her, or she’ll complain that “everyone” is so selfish, when you’re the only person in the room. As always, this combines criticism with deniability.

She will slip little comments into conversation that she really enjoyed something she did with someone else - something she did with you too, but didn’t like as much. She’ll let you know that her relationship with some other person you both know is wonderful in a way your relationship with her isn’t - the carefully unspoken message being that you don’t matter much to her.

She minimizes, discounts or ignores your opinions and experiences. Your insights are met with condescension, denials and accusations (“I think you read too much!”) and she will brush off your information even on subjects on which you are an acknowledged expert. Whatever you say is met with smirks and amused sounding or exaggerated exclamations (“Uh huh!” “You don’t say!” “Really!”). She’ll then make it clear that she didn’t listen to a word you said. She doesn’t care what you said.

6. She makes you look crazy. If you try to confront her about something she’s done, she’ll tell you that you have “a very vivid imagination” (this is a phrase commonly used by abusers of all sorts to invalidate your experience of their abuse), that you don’t know what you’re talking about, or that she has no idea what you’re talking about. She will claim not to remember even very memorable events, flatly denying they ever happened, nor will she ever acknowledge any possibility that she might have forgotten. This is an extremely aggressive and exceptionally infuriating tactic called “gaslighting,” common to abusers of all kinds but especially used by the subtlety of narcissists.. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up being extremely confused, and wondering if you are as she says you are; usually, you will begin to believe deeply her lies about you. You will end up without any confidence in your intuition, your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the narcissistic abuser.

Narcissists gaslight routinely. The narcissist will either insinuate or will tell you outright that you’re unstable, otherwise you wouldn’t believe such ridiculous things or be so uncooperative. You’re oversensitive. You’re imagining things. You’re hysterical. You’re completely unreasonable. You’re over-reacting, like you always do. She’ll tell you that she’ll talk to you when you’ve calmed down and aren’t so irrational. She may even characterize you as being neurotic or psychotic to your face, but often will say these things to others, particularly to other family members in her efforts to destroy your credibility Once she’s constructed these fantasies of your emotional pathologies, she’ll tell others about them, as always, presenting her smears as expressions of concern and declaring her own helpless victimhood. She didn’t do anything. She has no idea why you’re so irrationally angry with her. You’ve hurt her terribly. She cannot understand why you won’t talk to her or won’t spend time with her. She thinks you may need psychotherapy. She just doesn’t know what to do (and she’ll ask others for their opinion of you, carefully skewing the impressions they have of you to fit her image of you). You keep pushing her away when all she wants to do is help you.

She has simultaneously absolved herself of any responsibility for your obvious antipathy towards her, implied that it’s something fundamentally wrong with you that makes you angry with her, and undermined your credibility with her listeners. She plays the role of the doting mother so perfectly that no one will believe you.

7. She’s extremely envious. Any time you get something nice she’s angry and envious and her envy will be apparent when she admires whatever it is. She’ll try to get it from you, spoil it for you, or get the same or better for herself. She’s always working on ways to get what other people have. The envy of narcissistic mothers often includes competing sexually with their daughters or daughters-in-law. They’ll attempt to forbid their daughters to wear makeup, to groom themselves in an age-appropriate way or to date. Or they will encourage you to present yourself in a sexually provocative way, and then they will directly compete with you for male attention. They will criticize the appearance of their daughters and daughters-in-law, no matter what their appearance is like. This envy extends to relationships. Narcissistic mothers infamously attempt to damage their children’s marriages and interfere in the upbringing of their grandchildren.

8. She’s a liar in too many ways to count. In fact, her lying usually reaches pathological proportions. Any time she talks about something that has emotional significance for her, it’s a fair bet that she’s lying. Lying is one way that she creates conflict in the relationships and lives of those around her - she’ll lie to them about what other people have said, what they’ve done, or how they feel. She’ll lie about her relationship with them, about your behavior or about your situation in order to inflate herself, cause divisions between people, and to undermine your credibility.

The narcissist is very careful about how she lies. To outsiders she’ll lie thoughtfully and deliberately, always in a way that can be covered up if she’s confronted with her lie. She spins what you said rather than makes something up wholesale. She puts dishonest interpretations on things you actually did. If she’s recently done something particularly egregious she may engage in preventative lying: she lies in advance to discount what you might say before you even say it. Then when you talk about what she did you’ll be cut off with “I already know all about it…your mother told me... (self-justifications and lies).” Because she is so careful about her deniability, it may be very hard to catch her in her lies and the more gullible of her friends may never realize how dishonest she is. If you do try to take action to expose her lies, you will look like the one with ‘the problem’ as she has carefully cultivated others to believe you are. The more emotional or dramatic you become in trying to have others see the truth of how you are treated by her, the more unbalanced you will look and the more solid will become their agreement with her subtle assessment of you that she’s planted into them.

To you, she’ll lie blatantly. She will claim to be unable to remember bad things she has done, even if she did one of them recently and even if it was something very memorable. Of course, if you try to jog her memory by recounting the circumstances “You have a very vivid imagination” or “That was so long ago. Why do you have to dredge up your old grudges?” Your conversations with her are full of casual brush-offs and diversionary lies and she doesn’t respect you enough to bother making it sound good. For example she’ll start with a self-serving lie: “If I don’t take you as a dependent on my taxes I’ll lose three thousand dollars!” You refute her lie with an obvious truth: “No, three thousand dollars is the amount of the dependent exemption. You’ll only lose about eight hundred dollars.” Her response: “Isn’t that what I said?” You are now in a game with only one rule: You can’t win. If you press the issue, you will slowly see the outrageous anger that a narcissist can display towards you – she will only show you or others whom she has devalued and ‘split off’; others who are still useful to her will not see this side of her. Thus, if you try to tell others of the depth of her anger or her fury or her harm, they simply will not believe you.

9. She has to be the center of attention all the time. This need is a defining trait of narcissists and particularly of narcissistic mothers for whom their children exist to be sources of attention and adoration. Narcissistic mothers love to be waited on and often pepper their children with little requests. “While you’re up…” or its equivalent is one of their favorite phrases. You couldn’t just be assigned a chore at the beginning of the week or of the day, instead, you have to do her wishes on demand, preferably at a time that was inconvenient for you, or you had to “help” her do it, while she quietly glories in the command and control she wields over you. For a narcissist, it is always, and only, about them. Your primary function is to satisfy their needs and wants.

A narcissistic mother may create odd occasions at which she can be the center of attention, such as memorials for someone close to her who died long ago, or major celebrations of small personal milestones. She may love to entertain so she can be the life of her own party. She will try to steal the spotlight or will try to spoil any occasion where someone else is the center of attention, particularly the child she has cast as the scapegoat. She often invites herself along where she isn’t welcome. If she visits you or you visit her, you are required to spend all your time with her, doing as she wants. Entertaining herself is unthinkable. She has always pouted, manipulated or raged if you tried to do anything without her, didn’t want to entertain her, refused to wait on her, stymied her plans for a drama or otherwise deprived her of attention.

Older narcissistic mothers often use the natural limitations of aging to manipulate dramas, often by neglecting their health or by doing things they know will make them ill. Sometimes they will do this by addictions to alcohol or drugs or other obsessions. This gives them the opportunity to cash in on the investment they made when they trained you to wait on them as a child. Then they call you (or better still, get the neighbor or the nursing home administrator to call you) demanding your immediate attendance. You are to rush to her side, pat her hand, weep over her pain and listen sympathetically to her unending complaints about how hard and awful it is. (“Never get old!”) It’s almost never the case that you can actually do anything useful, and the causes of her disability may have been completely avoidable, but you’ve been put in an extremely difficult position. If you don’t provide the audience and attention she’s manipulating to get, you look extremely bad to everyone else and may even have legal culpability. (Narcissistic behaviors commonly accompany Alzheimer’s disease, so this behavior may also occur in perfectly normal mothers as they age. But, in narcissistic mothers, it is a given.)

10. She manipulates your emotions in order to feed on your pain. This exceptionally sick and bizarre behavior is so common among narcissistic mothers that their children often call them “emotional vampires.” Some of this emotional feeding comes in the form of pure sadism. She does and says things just to be wounding or she engages in tormenting teasing or she needles you about things you’re sensitive about, all the while a smile plays over her lips. She may have taken you to scary movies or told you horrifying stories, then mocked you for being a baby when you cried. She will slip a wounding comment into conversation and smile delightedly into your hurt face. You can hear the laughter in her voice as she pressures you or says distressing things to you. Later she’ll gloat over how much she upset you, gaily telling other people that you’re so much fun to tease, and recruiting others to share in her amusement. . She enjoys her cruelties and makes no effort to disguise the smaller cruelties – the most serious cruelties, she will perform with you in secret or when just you and she are alone. She wants you to know that your pain entertains her. She may also bring up subjects that are painful for you and probe you about them, all the while watching you carefully. This is emotional vampirism in its purest form. She’s feeding emotionally off your pain. She enjoys your pain. This may be the hardest aspect of the character of mothers with narcissistic personality disorder to believe and accept. After all, she is your mother.

A peculiar form of this emotional vampirism combines attention-seeking behavior with a demand that the audience suffer. Since narcissistic mothers often play the martyr this may take the form of wrenching, self-pitying dramas which she carefully produces, and in which she is the star performer. She sobs and wails that no one loves her and everyone is so selfish, and she doesn’t want to live, she wants to die! She wants to die! She will not seem to care how much the manipulation of their emotions and the self-pity repels other people. One weird behavior that is very common to narcissists: her dramas may also center around the tragedies of other people, often relating how much she suffered by association as she cries over the horrible murder of someone she wouldn’t recognize if they had passed her on the street.

11. She’s selfish and willful. She always makes sure she has the best of everything. She insists on having her own way all the time and she will ruthlessly, manipulatively pursue it, even if what she wants isn’t worth all the effort she’s putting into it and even if that effort goes far beyond normal behavior. She will make a huge effort to get something you denied her, even if it was entirely your right to do so and even if her demand was selfish and unreasonable. If you tell her she cannot bring her friends to your party she will show up with them anyway, and she will have told them that they were invited so that you either have to give in, or be the bad guy to these poor dupes on your doorstep. If you tell her she can’t come over to your house tonight she’ll call your spouse and try get him or her to agree that she can, and to not say anything to you about it because it’s a “surprise.” She has to show you that you can’t tell her “no.”

One near-universal characteristic of narcissists: because they are so selfish and self-centered, they are very bad gift givers. They’ll give you hand-me-downs or market things for themselves as gifts for you (“I thought I’d give you my old bicycle and buy myself a new one!” “I know how much you love Italian food, so I’m going to take you to my favorite restaurant for your birthday!”) New gifts are often obviously cheap and are usually things that don’t suit you or that you can’t use or are a quid pro quo: if you buy her the gift she wants, she will buy you an item of your choice. She’ll make it clear that it pains her to give you anything. She may buy you a gift and get the identical item for herself, or take you shopping for a gift and get herself something nice at the same time to make herself feel better.

12. She’s self-absorbed, totally self-centered. Her feelings, needs and wants are very important; yours are insignificant to the point that her least whim takes precedence over your most basic needs. Her problems deserve your immediate and full attention; yours are brushed aside. Her wishes always take precedence; if she does something for you, she reminds you constantly of her munificence in doing so and will often try to extract some sort of payment. She will complain constantly, even though your situation may be much worse than hers. If you point that out, she will effortlessly, thoughtlessly brush it aside as of no importance (It’s easy for you…/It’s different for you…). If you refuse to give her the attention that she demands, she may cut you off and ignore you outright.

13. She is insanely defensive and is extremely sensitive to any criticism. If you criticize her or defy her she will explode with fury, threaten, storm, rage, destroy and may become violent, beating, confining, putting her child outdoors in bad weather or otherwise engaging in classic physical abuse and emotional abuse. It’s easy to provoke her wrath because she takes everything personally and any attitude short of constant emotional and physical availability is perceived as a slight. If you’re short with her because you’re exhausted and depressed, she has to have it out with you over your “hostility.” If a toddler shouts “I hate you” at her she gets angry and punitive – punishment is payment and is often cruel and way out of proportion to the event. If you refuse her nosy request to let her read the letter you got she shouts about how unappreciative you are and how you only think of yourself…. She has no sense of perspective or separation – there are no boundaries between narcissistic mothers and their targeted daughter - and she can’t let anything go. Because the narcissistic mother is so extremely defensive, she is completely resistant to change. Narcissists infamously cannot be helped because they simply refuse to see that there is anything wrong with their behavior – it is not them, it is you..

14. She terrorizes. All abusers use fear to control their victims, and your narcissistic mother used it ruthlessly to train you. Narcissists teach you to beware their wrath even when they aren’t present. You are very very afraid of them, to your core. The only alternative you have is constant placation. If you give her everything she wants all the time, you might be spared. If you don’t, the punishments will come. Even adult children of narcissists still feel that carefully inculcated fear. Your narcissistic mother can turn it on with a silence or a look that tells the child in you she’s thinking about how she’s going to get even.

Not all narcissists abuse physically, but most do, often in subtle, deniable ways. It allows them to vent their rage at your failure to be the solution to their internal chaos and havoc (narcissists are deeply self-loathing but absolutely will not let themselves feel that), and simultaneously to teach you to fear them. They want you to fear them. You may not have been beaten, but you were almost certainly left to endure physical pain when a normal mother would have made an effort to relieve your misery. This deniable form of battery allows her to store up her rage and dole out the punishment at a later time when she’s worked out an airtight rationale for her abuse, so she never risks exposure. You were left hungry because “you eat too much.” You always went to school with stomach flu because “you don’t have a fever. You’re just trying to get out of school.” (She resents having to take care of you. You have a lot of nerve getting sick and adding to her burdens.) She refuses to look at your bloody heels and instead the shoes that wore those blisters on your heels are put back on your feet and you’re sent to the store in them because “You wanted those shoes. Now you can wear them.” (You didn’t want these shoes. All you said was that the ones she wanted to get you were ugly. She liked them because they were just like what she wore 30 years ago). The dentist was told not to give you Novocaine when he drilled your tooth because “she has to learn to take better care of his teeth.” Unlike psychopaths (which is an extreme version of narcissism), narcissists do understand right, wrong, and consequences, so they are not ordinarily criminal. She beat you, but not to the point where you went to the hospital. She left you standing out in the cold until you were miserable, but not until you had hypothermia. She put you in the basement in the dark with no clothes on, but she only left you there for two hours. She sadistically used you in some way, but never when someone else could witness it, and she bought you an ice cream or let you watch a movie afterwards.

Narcissistic mothers also abuse by loosing others on you or by failing to protect you when a normal mother would have. Sometimes the narcissist’s golden child will be encouraged to abuse the scapegoat. She finds some kind of pleasure when she is able to turn others against you and manipulate them into harming you. Narcissists also abuse by exposing you to violence or to horror of various kinds. If one of your siblings got beaten, she made sure you saw. She effortlessly put the fear of Mom into you, without even touching you.

15. She’s infantile and petty. Narcissistic mothers are often simply childish. If you refuse to let her manipulate you into doing something, she will cry that you don’t love her because if you loved her you would do as she wanted. If you hurt her feelings she will aggressively whine to you that you’ll be sorry when she’s dead that you didn’t treat her better. Anytime she feels hard-done-by, she pouts and whines, or she gives the silent treatment. When you were a child, she would justify things she did to you by pointing out something that you did that she felt was comparable, as though the childish behavior of a child was justification for the childish behavior of an adult. “Getting even” is a large part of her dealings with you. Scores must be settled, and she will wait for an opportunity to take action to settle a score. Anytime you fail to give her the deference, attention or service she feels she deserves, or you thwart her wishes, she has to show you.


16. She’s aggressive and shameless. She doesn’t ask. She demands. She makes outrageous requests and she’ll take anything she wants if she thinks she can get away with it. Her demands of her children are posed in a very aggressive way, as are her criticisms. She won’t take no for an answer, pushing and arm-twisting and manipulating to get you to give in.

17. She “parentifies.” She shed her responsibilities to you as soon as she was able (sometimes as early as birth), leaving you to take care of yourself as best you could. She may deny you medical care, adequate clothing, necessary transportation or basic comforts that she would never have considered giving up herself. She, without exception, will deny you herself – she will give you nothing of her. She never gave you a birthday party or let you have sleepovers. Your friends were never welcome in her house. She didn’t like to drive you anywhere, so you turned down invitations because you had no way to get there. She wouldn’t buy your school pictures even if she could easily have afforded it. As soon as you got a job, every request for school supplies, clothing or toiletries was met with “Now that you’re making money, why don’t you pay for that yourself?”

She also gave you tasks that were rightfully hers and should not have been placed on a child. You may have been a primary caregiver for young siblings or an incapacitated parent. You may have had responsibility for excessive household tasks.You may have been the go-between between she and your father, or she and others with whom she had a rocky relationship. Above all, you were always her emotional caregiver which is one reason any defection from that role caused such enormous eruptions of rage. You were never allowed to be needy or have bad feelings or problems. Those experiences were only for her, and you were responsible for making it right for her. From the time you were very young she would randomly lash out at you any time she was stressed or angry with your father or felt that life was unfair to her, because it made her feel better to hurt you. You were often punished out of the blue, for manufactured offenses. As you got older she directly placed responsibility for her welfare and her emotions on you, weeping on your shoulder and unloading on you any time something went awry for her, and forcing you to carry the weight of her emotional burdens.

18. She’s exploitative. She will manipulate to get work, money, or objects she envies out of other people for nothing. This includes her children, of course. If she set up a bank account for you, she was trustee on the account with the right to withdraw money. As you put money into it, she took it out. She may have stolen your identity. She drug you into her schemes and made you a part of her wrongdoing. She used you as a protective cover for herself. If she made an agreement with you, it was violated the minute it no longer served her needs. If you brought it up, demanding she adhere to the agreement, she brushed you off and later punished you so you would know not to defy her again.

Sometimes the narcissist will exploit a child to absorb punishment that would have been hers from an abusive partner. The husband comes home in a drunken rage, and the mother immediately complains about the child’s bad behavior so the rage is vented on to the child. Sometimes the narcissistic mother simply uses the child to keep a sick marriage intact because the alternative is being divorced or having to go to work. The child is sexually molested but the mother never notices, or worse, calls the child a liar when she tells the mother about the molestation.

19. She projects. This sounds a little like psycho-babble, but it is something that narcissists all do. Projection means that she will put her own bad behavior, character and traits on you so she can deny them in herself and punish you. This can be very difficult to see if you have traits that she can project on to. An eating-disordered woman who obsesses over her daughter’s weight is projecting. The daughter may not realize it because she has probably internalized an absurdly thin vision of women’s weight and so accepts her mother’s projection. When the narcissist tells the daughter that she eats too much, needs to exercise more, or has to wear extra-large size clothes, the daughter believes it, even if it isn’t true. If she is sexually conflicted, the mother will often project her own insecurities, or propensities for ‘acting out’ behaviors onto you. If she wishes that she could ‘go wild’, she will accuse you of being a whore.

She will sometimes project even though it makes no sense at all. This happens when she feels shamed and needs to put it on her scapegoat child and the projection therefore comes across as being an attack out of the blue. For example: She makes an outrageous request, and you casually decline. She’s enraged by your refusal and snarls at you that you are such an ungrateful child that she regrets having you, and says that she’s refusing to talk to you anymore. And she ‘disowns’ you. Your refusal has made her feel the shame that should have stopped her from making shameless demands in the first place. That’s intolerable to her. She can transfer that shame to you and rationalize away your response: you only refused her because you’re so unreasonable, and so selfish. Having done that she can reassert her shamelessness and indulge her childish willfulness by turning your refusal into a subject for further discussion. You’ll talk about it again “later” - probably when she’s worn you down with histrionics, anger and the silent treatment so you’re more inclined to do what she wants.

20. She is never wrong about anything. No matter what she’s done, she won’t ever genuinely apologize for anything, because she does not feel responsible. She will not take responsibility. Rarely will she apologize. If she ever feels she is being made to apologize, she will issue an insulting apology or negate the apology she has just made with justifications, qualifications or self pity: “I’m sorry you felt that I humiliated you” “I’m sorry if I made you feel bad”, “There’s nothing I can do about it now” “I’m sorry you feel clumsy, stupid and disgusting” “I’m sorry but it was just a joke. You’re so over-sensitive” “I’m sorry that my own child feels she has to upset me and make me feel bad.” The last insulting apology is also an example of projection.

21. Sometimes she seems to have no awareness that other people even have feelings, and yet she can seem to be sensitive to other people’s emotions, just not yours.
Every child of a narcissist recognizes this contradiction because narcissistic mothers do possess the ability to exercise faked - empathy, and in abundance. They can perform in ways that make them appear that they identify emotionally with people who are suffering and to express caring for them. When caring about another’s suffering interferes with something the narcissist wants, though, the caring vanishes. When a narcissistic mother wants validation, when she feels like eliciting some emotional pain, when something she wants hurts someone else, the faked-empathy is turned off as though it never existed. Narcissistic mothers have a very ‘cold’ feeling to them.

From the perspective of ability, narcissists are ‘sensitive’ in a strange way to others; indeed they have a gift of telling what other people are feeling and thinking. Their skill at discerning and guiding the emotions of other people is the basis of many characteristically narcissistic interactions. Narcissists are very socially adept which is why no one ever believes their children when they complain of their mothers. They know just how to make everyone think that they’re delightful. Narcissistic mothers are exceptional manipulators, and manipulators must be extremely aware, on a moment-by-moment basis, of the emotions of their targets. If you don’t know what people are feeling, you can’t push their buttons. Their exceptional sensitivity to the feelings of others is also the wellspring of their pleasure in inflicting emotional pain through dramas and no-win scenarios. Narcissistic mothers enjoy inflicting emotional pain and they do it very well because they know just what their “target children” are feeling. That exquisite sensitivity is the reason they don’t need to batter. They can inflict agony without lifting a finger, so why risk exposure and waste effort with beatings when they can elicit the same pain and suffering with words alone?

What narcissistic mothers lack is concern for the consequences of their actions, a behavior that seems rooted in profound selfishness. Mothers with NPD are certainly capable of feeling for others: they’re always feeling for the people with whom their scapegoat has conflicts. They feel for their fellow narcissists. They feel for people who have validated and praised them. They feel for people that they can see have potential to be used by them. They even feel for their child when it doesn’t cost them anything to do so. They just don’t feel for their child when they’re using or abusing her. They don’t feel anything that interferes with their absorption in their own wants and needs.
22. She engineers “no-win” situations that leave you violated and angry and not sure why you feel that way. In the classic “no-win” scenario, the narcissist’s child is subtly manipulated into a corner and then presented with a demand that the child do something degrading, humiliating or painful in order to please the narcissist. Any response other than compliance triggers retaliation.

These sadistic scenes are a defining characteristic of the narcissist. As so often with narcissistic behavior, the payoff for your mother is the elicitation of painful emotions. Whether you subject yourself to her degradation or you fight back and provoke punishment from the narcissist, you will experience a sense of entrapment and fear, and those emotions are very satisfying to her. Her pleasure is augmented by the pain she elicits by undermining, insulting and demeaning you and, as the scene winds down, by blaming you for the entire event. There is no way out for you in her scenarios at all.

These scenes are set up very stealthily; so much so that the children of narcissists rarely realize that a trap has been laid before it’s sprung. As always, the narcissist maintains deniability, but the consistencies between scenes betray their deliberate nature. Although the narcissist plays the scene as though it was spontaneous, it never is. It is scripted and premeditated and the stage is set well in advance. If a scene plays out away from home, you can be sure that the mother is in charge of transportation so that the child doesn’t have the option of walking away. If the scene is staged at home, it’s almost always in the absence of others, or if the child is an adult, it will occur in the mother’s home, not the child’s home, and engineered so that once again, it’s extremely difficult for the child to walk away. The narcissist commonly arranges things so she is alone with her victim, but she may also use the presence of a young child or complicit spouse to ensure that her target doesn’t react with any real force.

Often the worst part of these scenes for the child is the awareness of how much her mother enjoys her distress; the children of narcissistic mothers often describe their mother’s “little smile” and air of pleasure as she plays out the no-win scenario. When confronted, some narcissistic mothers will even defend their behavior by saying they were “just having fun.” There is no betrayal more wounding than knowing your own mother is reveling in the pain she purposely caused, nor any emotion more delicious to your narcissistic mother than your sense of shock and misery at your knowledge that she is hurting you deliberately and for fun.

In the following story, an adult daughter is manipulated into a no-win situation. If she does not want to provoke retaliation from her narcissistic mother, she must accept and express gratitude for a gift that was clearly meant as an insult:

A few days before Christmas, my mother walked into the room where I was sitting carrying a pair of old, worn tennis shoes - the kind with the rubber soles and canvas uppers. She said “I know you asked for a pair of running shoes for Christmas. I thought I could give you these and get myself a new pair instead.” My mother was a clothes horse, and always had many pairs of new running shoes in her closet. What’s more, her feet are bigger and narrower than mine, so there’s no way her shoes would have fit me, but I was too shocked and angry to think of that. I said “I don’t want your cast-offs” and she looked very satisfied and pleased and said “Fine” and walked away. That year I got no gift for Christmas, even though I had bought her something from her wish list, and even though my brother and sister got gifts from her.

I did get a letter after I got home that started “I’m sorry you felt that I offered you “cast-offs” and went on to describe how good her intentions were, how she thought I would be happy to let her do something nice for herself, and how hard she had it as the mother of an “unappreciative” child like me. This wasn’t the first time either. The preceding year she had tried to give me an old, rusty bicycle for Christmas with the stipulation that she would then get herself a new one.

This story illustrates a classic no-win scenario (although the stakes here were much smaller than many ‘no-wins’ that capable narcissists perform). Although the young woman did not realize it at the time, her mother had manipulated her into a corner. She had traveled to her mother’s house for Christmas and it was late at night. As a graduate student, she was perpetually short on funds, and going to a hotel, even if she could find one at that hour, was out of the question. None of the rest of the family was there yet, so she and her mother were alone in the house. There had been no argument or tension, and the attack by her mother came out of the blue. Her mother proposed something very insulting: she would give the daughter her own worn shoes (which didn’t fit the dtr and, for which gift the dtr was to be “appreciative”). You would have to be very aware and self-possessed to respond calmly to such a demeaning suggestion, and the dtr, tired, shocked, and angry, blurted out the first thing that came to mind. Her mother got exactly what she wanted: a good feed on the dtr’s hurt and anger, and an excuse to punish the dtr with exclusion and withholding and later with a letter filled with guilt-inducing remonstrations.

In reality her mother never planned on giving her a Christmas gift. She was angry that her dtr had made herself unavailable for abuse by going to graduate school in another state, and seeming to enjoy it very much, and she wanted to punish the dtr for her defection. So she manipulated a no-win scenario in which she could simultaneously insult the dtr and turn her predictably angry response into an opportunity for punishment and narcissistic venting. In her letter, she projected her own hostility and selfishness on to her dtr, blamed her dtr for her own bad behavior, and depicted herself as a martyr, all the while maintaining complete deniability about the deliberate nature of the original interaction. In fact, in telling of this to her other children, it is certain that the mother arranged the story so that the other siblings would ‘blame’ the daughter, thus drawing them closer to the mother and separating out the ‘split off’ daughter even more.

23. She blames. She’ll blame you for everything that isn’t right in her life or for what other people do or for whatever has happened. Always, she’ll blame you for her abuse of you. You made her do it. If only you weren’t so difficult. You upset her so much that she can’t think straight. Things were hard for her and your backtalk pushed her over the brink. This blaming is often so subtle that all you know is that you thought you were wronged but now you feel guilty. You may find yourself telling her time and time, “I’m sorry” and not quite knowing what you are apologizing for. Your brother beats you and her response is to bemoan how uncivilized children are. Your boyfriend dumped you, but she can understand - after all, she herself has seen how difficult you are to love. She’ll do something egregiously exploitative to you, and when confronted will screech at you that she can’t believe you were so selfish as to upset her over such a trivial thing. She’ll also blame you for your reaction to her selfish, cruel and exploitative behavior. She can’t believe you are so petty, so small, and so childish as to object to her giving your favorite dress to her friend. She thought you would be happy to let her do something nice for someone else.

Narcissists are masters of multitasking as this example shows. Simultaneously your narcissistic mother is 1) Lying. She knows what she did was wrong and she knows your reaction is reasonable. 2) Manipulating. She’s making you look like the bad guy for objecting to her cruelties. 3) Being selfish. She doesn’t mind making you feel horrible as long as she gets her own way. 4) Blaming. She did something wrong, but it’s all your fault. 5) Projecting. Her petty, small and childish behavior has become yours. 6) Putting on a self-pitying drama. She’s a martyr who believed the best of you, and you’ve let her down, again. 7) Parentifying. You’re responsible for her feelings, she has no responsibility for yours.

24. She destroys your relationships. Narcissistic mothers are like tornadoes: wherever they touch down families are torn apart and wounds are inflicted. Unless the father has control over the narcissist (which is nearly impossible) and holds the family together, adult siblings in families with narcissistic mothers characteristically have painful relationships. Typically all communication between siblings is superficial and driven by duty, or they may never talk to each other at all. In part, these women foster dissension between their children because they enjoy the control it gives them. If those children don’t communicate except through the mother, she can decide what everyone hears. Narcissists also love the excitement and drama they create by interfering in their children’s lives. Watching people’s lives explode is better than soap operas, especially when you don’t have any empathy for their misery.

The narcissist nurtures anger, contempt and envy - the most corrosive emotions - to drive her children apart. While her children are still living at home, any child who stands up to the narcissist guarantees punishment for the rest. In her zest for revenge, the narcissist purposefully turns the siblings’ anger on the dissenter by including everyone in her retaliation. (“I can see that nobody here loves me! Well I’ll just take these Christmas presents back to the store. None of you would want anything I got you anyway!”) The other children, long trained by the narcissist to give in, are furious with the troublemaking child, instead of with the narcissist who actually deserves their anger.

The narcissist also uses favoritism and gossip to poison her children’s relationships. The scapegoat sees the mother as a creature of caprice and cruelty. As is typical of the privileged, the golden child doesn’t see her unfairness and she/he excuses her abuses. Indeed, they are often recruited by the narcissist to adopt her contemptuous and entitled attitude towards the scapegoat and with her tacit or explicit permission, will inflict further abuse. The scapegoat predictably responds with fury and equal contempt – or is so beat down that she acquiesces and goes silently inward. After her children move on with adult lives, the narcissist makes sure to keep each apprised of the doings of the others, passing on the most discreditable and juicy gossip (as always, disguised as “concern”) about the other children, again, in a way that engenders contempt rather than compassion.

Having been raised by a narcissist, her children are predisposed to be envious, and she takes full advantage of the opportunity that presents. She may never praise you to your face, but she will likely crow about your victories to the very sibling who is not doing well. She’ll tell you about the generosity she displayed towards that child, leaving you wondering why you got left out and irrationally angry at the favored child rather than at the narcissist who told you about it. She may tell you of gifts she’s given to the golden child, or lunches they’ve had together, or trips they’ve taken, always in glowing terms, intended to make you, the scapegoat, feel confused or less-then by comparison.

The end result is a family in which almost all communication is triangular. The narcissist, the spider in the middle of the family web, sensitively monitors all the children for information she can use to retain her unchallenged control over the family. She then passes that on to the others, creating the resentments that prevent them from communicating directly and freely with each other. The result is that the only communication between the children is through the narcissist, exactly the way she wants it.

25. As a last resort she goes pathetic. When she’s confronted with unavoidable consequences for her own bad behavior, including your anger, she will melt into a soggy puddle of weepy helplessness. It’s all her fault. She can’t do anything right. She feels so bad. What she doesn’t do: own the responsibility for her bad conduct and make it right. Instead, as always, it’s all about her, and her helpless self-pitying weepiness dumps the responsibility for her consequences AND for her unhappiness about it on you. As so often with narcissists, it is also a manipulative behavior. If you fail to excuse her bad behavior and make her feel better, YOU are the bad person for being cold, heartless and unfeeling when your poor mother feels so awful.

© 2007 Psychological Services, Inc.
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Re: The Narcissistic Mother

Postby qvxp » Fri Apr 09, 2010 2:40 am

I had no idea people could describe it so accurately. Its as if someone sat down and wrote specifically about my mother.

This has emmensely altered my perception.

This article ^:
http://www.deconstructingjezebel.com/na ... t-one.html
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Re: The Narcissistic Mother

Postby LifeSong » Fri Apr 09, 2010 3:52 am

qvxp wrote:I had no idea people could describe it so accurately. Its as if someone sat down and wrote specifically about my mother.
This has emmensely altered my perception.
This article ^:
http://www.deconstructingjezebel.com/na ... t-one.html


Looks like that site picked a portion of this up from somewhere as well. Thanks for the citation.
I'm glad you found value and it rang some bells for you. Although my mother behaves differently, as I said, the motivation is the same and this article helped me to 'feel' those childhood feelings again.

Narcissists, can you see yourself in any of these items?
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Re: The Narcissistic Mother

Postby littlewing » Sat Apr 10, 2010 9:21 pm

I recognize my mother in most of this. However, she took care of our basic needs - made sure my sister and I looked cute, took us to the doctor and dentist, fed us well, helped us with our homework, etc. Here are a few examples of why I suspect she's a narcissist. She's only been to a therapist once and he diagnosed her with PTSD. My aunt thinks she has BPD.

1. She isolated us and was deeply suspicious of anyone who had any influence over us - teachers, friends, parents of friends. If a friend wanted to play with us, she took us shopping instead. If a friend knocked on our door I had to tell them I couldn't play through a crack in the window - I couldn't even open the front door. Nobody was allowed inside the house because she was a hoarder. Once my dad tried to vacuum around her piles and she flipped out and started hitting him.

2. She beat us with her slipper in a fit of rage on a regular basis. It went on for a long time and she seemed to be in a trance of rage while it was happening. Sometimes she foamed at the mouth. She also grabbed our arms and shook us. Once we went to have professional pictures taken and the photographer had to cover my sister's bruises with makeup. Why didn't she call child services? I'm sure my mom had some crafty explanation to ease her mind.

3. She cut off all contact with her family when I was eight. She claimed they were all abusive and that we were better off without them. If we questioned this or said we missed our cousins, she sat us down for hours while she told us her sob stories. If we tried to leave she would hold us down. She would make us repeat her statements back to her until she was convinced we were on her side.

4. She publicly humiliated us on a regular basis. When she picked us up from school she would stay in the car and honk until we came to the car. Often a teacher or student would have to come find me after she had been honking for twenty minutes. My mother had many colorful nicknames at my school. There were jokes that we kept dead bodies in our house and that's why nobody ever came over. She also treated us like slaves in public. At the mall, she would order us to tie her shoes - sometimes when she knew a friend from school was watching. Yelling at us violently in public was common. It's like she wasn't satisfied until everyone was staring in disbelief.

5. She invalidated our accomplishments and called us names. When we lost our virginity she called us whores. When I graduated from college with honors she said "It seems like they give honors to anyone at this school".

6. She told us that my father was impotent (I knew this by the time I was 10) and often ridiculed him for it in front of us. She told him he wasn't a real man on a fairly regular basis. I was very close with my father, so I was a target of her rage more than my sister. He died of a heart attack when I was 18 (I'm 32 now).

7. She has never apologized for a single thing or taken the blame for anything. Any criticism instantly triggers a terrifying fit of rage.

8. People who meet her superficially often describe her as delightful.

9. My sister and I are both unmarried (she's 35). She likes to complain to other people about how difficult and embarrassing this is for her. My sister and I are currently living together and she often thinks we are ganging up against her. She plays favorites now more than ever to drive a rift between us. My relationship with my sister was superficial and strained growing up. This is the closest we've ever been and it makes her really uncomfortable. Three years ago we went on a mother's day cruise and I had a terrible fight with my mom. Her and my sister spent the day together and took professional photographs. After we "made up", the three of us looked at the photos together. She said "I look happy. It must have been because you weren't there" while glaring at me. My sister is the complaint, dutiful one but will sometimes blow up. When this happens, she makes my sister doubt her sanity and sometimes it drives her to do reckless, impulsive things. When my sister was in Florida and my mom and I were still in California she would complain about being all alone. When I told her she had me she said "You don't count".

10. She's sabotaged almost every friendship and romantic relationship my sister has ever had. My sister has never had a serious boyfriend. She tells my mom everything that happens in her relationships and eventually my mom convinces her that they are bad people and this leads to a falling out.

11. She lies about her childhood and about her family. Five years ago I got back in touch with my aunt and she told me her version of things. My aunt has problems, but she's not delusional. I believe my aunt's version.

12. She refuses to go to the doctor or get life insurance. She's 62 and has dangerously high blood pressure. Her mother had already had 3 strokes by the time she was 62. Recently she had to have a tooth pulled and had a huge pity party about it. She doesn't take care of her teeth - I doubt she even brushes them. She's lucky she had all her teeth until now.

13. If I try to talk to her about my problems, she immediately switches the subject to herself or says "don't call me unless you have good news". I have a chronic illness, but she refuses to acknowledge it. She says I just have to pray (she's a born-again Christian).

14. She was jealous when I started to get attention from men as a teenager. She would subtly imply that she was prettier than me at my age. She was movie star beautiful and her family favored her for it. They put her on a pedestal and accommodated her impossible behavior because she was so gorgeous. If I had problems with my female friends she said it was because they were jealous of me.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but I think it gives you a good idea. The problem is that now we have to take care of her. She recently lost all of her money in a bad investment and is living beyond her means. We're currently in Florida, but planning to move back to the bay area where I grew up. I'm trying to find low-income housing for her. She doesn't use a computer so I'm her personal secretary - she dictates emails to me and I check her emails regularly and do online orders for her. She also doesn't drive so we take her everywhere she needs to go. She's not as bad as she used to be - menopause seemed to calm her down a bit. For three years she was living in Florida and I was in California. I got used to the distance and now I'm trying to adapt to having her around. It's really bad for me, but I don't want to dump her with my sister. I feel like we won't be able to have normal relationships while she's alive.

Thanks for posting this article. This is the first time I've taken any kind of written inventory of my mom's behavior. It was helpful.
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Re: The Narcissistic Mother

Postby Feel76 » Mon Apr 12, 2010 2:02 pm

I don’t know if my mom is narcissistic or not. At least she isn’t overtly narcissistic in a manner that this article describes narcissistic people. However, the article has gleaned a lot of light to a relationship (or rather the non-existence of it) between my mom and me.

Growing up I always felt that:

•I was never good enough in my mom’s eyes. The few moments that my mom ever praised me was when I did well in my senior year of high school. Maybe this made her feel like I was good enough for her praise since she was a high achiever academically in her own right, a legacy that I could never leave up to. However at tertiary level; I started doing badly and needless to say, the praises stopped.

•She’s always come across as emotionally distant. Although I believe she loves me, I don’t “feel” that love in my heart but have to use my head to convince myself of it. For example, I know that my mom loves me because she paid for my education and upbringing all my life, took care of me since I was young, did this and that for me etc. BUT I don’t “feel” that love in the absence of those things.

•Now that I’ve achieved relative financial independence and can afford to pay my way, my siblings make it subtly or explicitly clear that I’m cold-hearted towards my mother because I literally don’t want anything to do with her (except when I need some financial assistance; something she’s mentioned herself, though not to my face but to someone else). So it’s okay for my mom to be “cold” towards me but when I behave in a similar manner (to shield my emotional state of mind by keeping her at an arms length so she won’t hurt me) I’m a bad and unappreciative child for doing likewise? Her being a quite and a kind person I guess justifies their thinking that I'm the cold-hearted one. She certainly doesn't come across kind to me when she criticises just about everything I do, even the smallest mistake. I'd like to believe that I've done some good in my life and though I'm not seeking her approval all the time, I don't need disapproval all the time either. Besides, “punishment” should fit the crime.

•All my siblings seem to think that my mom has sacrificed a lot (for her kids and the entire family) that they think that I’m being unreasonably cold towards her. This is frustrating since one cannot begin to solve a problem with people who believe they cannot make any mistake in their own eyes, at least as far as it concerns their relationship with me. So they’re right all the time and I’m wrong all the time, is how I perceive their attitude towards me.
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Re: The Narcissistic Mother

Postby littlewing » Mon Apr 12, 2010 6:54 pm

The cold, detached mother presents a huge dilemma. Since you can't pinpoint overt abuse, it's so difficult to have your feelings validated. Both of my grandmothers were distant and detached. Since they didn't speak English and I don't speak Spanish, I can attest to that intangible feeling of not being loved regardless of the words exchanged. There were gifts and occasional kisses, but never the adoration and warmth of a normal grandmother. My maternal grandmother came from a shameful past - rape, illegitimacy, poverty, abuse. My grandfather was paralyzed in a car accident when my mom was eight - thus her struggle continued. She always had a rough, angry energy to her. She would do things for us, but everything seemed like a huge chore and inconvenience to her. My mom says she never felt love from her mother. My paternal grandmother was more content and even-keeled, but she was the most detached person I've ever met. She came from a stable, wealthy home and married the top surgeon in Havana. He left her for another woman when my dad was 22. He said my grandmother was so apathetic it was like living with a ghost. She would often criticize the way I looked - telling my father in Spanish that I was too tan or my hair was too frizzy. She would bring me ice cream and sometimes do my nails. I felt some sense of being valued by her, but not love exactly. I find it fascinating that both of my parents had mothers like this. It's as if the lack of approval and love from their mothers drove them to each other - they were kindred spirits in a way. Though my own mother is overtly abusive and deeply disordered, I think I can understand your feelings about your mother because of my experience with my grandmothers. The fact that your siblings don't share your feelings must be very difficult for you.
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Re: The Narcissistic Mother

Postby LifeSong » Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:16 am

littlewing wrote:I recognize my mother in most of this. However, she took care of our basic needs - made sure my sister and I looked cute, took us to the doctor and dentist, fed us well, helped us with our homework, etc. Here are a few examples of why I suspect she's a narcissist. She's only been to a therapist once and he diagnosed her with PTSD. My aunt thinks she has BPD...

...This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but I think it gives you a good idea. The problem is that now we have to take care of her. She recently lost all of her money in a bad investment and is living beyond her means. We're currently in Florida, but planning to move back to the bay area where I grew up. I'm trying to find low-income housing for her. She doesn't use a computer so I'm her personal secretary - she dictates emails to me and I check her emails regularly and do online orders for her. She also doesn't drive so we take her everywhere she needs to go. She's not as bad as she used to be - menopause seemed to calm her down a bit. For three years she was living in Florida and I was in California. I got used to the distance and now I'm trying to adapt to having her around. It's really bad for me, but I don't want to dump her with my sister. I feel like we won't be able to have normal relationships while she's alive.

Thanks for posting this article. This is the first time I've taken any kind of written inventory of my mom's behavior. It was helpful.


This is a horrible story. I feel for you and your sister. Your mother may very well be a product of her own awful upbringing, yet that still doesn't excuse her behavior towards you. She may have taken care of your basic needs but she certainly did not take care of your emotional needs. It doesn’t surprise me that your sister is unmarried and having difficulty entering into a healthy intimate relationship with a man.

I wonder why you two think that you MUST take care of your mother now. Yes, you can be assistive to her in ways, but to uproot your lives and move back home and enter (again) into the type of dependency on both sides that you had with her as children just does not seem good or even fully adult.

Your statement “I feel like we won’t be able to have normal relationships while she’s alive” is very telling. She is only in her 60’s... she may live 20 or more years. Do you really want to delay normal relationships for that long? I do not know if she is narcissistic or not, but I do know that NPD mothers engender this kind of twisted behavior into their children.
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Re: The Narcissistic Mother

Postby LifeSong » Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:30 am

Feel76 wrote:I don’t know if my mom is narcissistic or not. At least she isn’t overtly narcissistic in a manner that this article describes narcissistic people. However, the article has gleaned a lot of light to a relationship (or rather the non-existence of it) between my mom and me.

Growing up I always felt that:
•I was never good enough in my mom’s eyes. The few moments that my mom ever praised me was when I did well in my senior year of high school. Maybe this made her feel like I was good enough for her praise since she was a high achiever academically in her own right, a legacy that I could never leave up to. However at tertiary level; I started doing badly and needless to say, the praises stopped.
•She’s always come across as emotionally distant. Although I believe she loves me, I don’t “feel” that love in my heart but have to use my head to convince myself of it. For example, I know that my mom loves me because she paid for my education and upbringing all my life, took care of me since I was young, did this and that for me etc. BUT I don’t “feel” that love in the absence of those things.
•Now that I’ve achieved relative financial independence and can afford to pay my way, my siblings make it subtly or explicitly clear that I’m cold-hearted towards my mother because I literally don’t want anything to do with her (except when I need some financial assistance; something she’s mentioned herself, though not to my face but to someone else). So it’s okay for my mom to be “cold” towards me but when I behave in a similar manner (to shield my emotional state of mind by keeping her at an arms length so she won’t hurt me) I’m a bad and unappreciative child for doing likewise? Her being a quite and a kind person I guess justifies their thinking that I'm the cold-hearted one. She certainly doesn't come across kind to me when she criticises just about everything I do, even the smallest mistake. I'd like to believe that I've done some good in my life and though I'm not seeking her approval all the time, I don't need disapproval all the time either. Besides, “punishment” should fit the crime.
•All my siblings seem to think that my mom has sacrificed a lot (for her kids and the entire family) that they think that I’m being unreasonably cold towards her. This is frustrating since one cannot begin to solve a problem with people who believe they cannot make any mistake in their own eyes, at least as far as it concerns their relationship with me. So they’re right all the time and I’m wrong all the time, is how I perceive their attitude towards me.

I understand what you are saying here, Feel76. For me, I was a high achiever and eventually out-achieved and exceeded my mother – this accelerated her bad feelings towards me. No one was allowed to ‘better’ my mother, and if they did, she either twisted it into something else or she found ways to make that person pay. Your statement about feeling love and having to convince yourself of this through some cognitive process strikes chords of understanding in me as well – parents, however, can do their duty to provide the essentials for their child, but not feel any real ‘love’’; the existence of one does not correlate to the existence of the other. Although my mother is a wealthy woman, I stopped taking financial support from her in my second year of college; for me, it was the price of freedom and I’ve not regretted it. I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that I’m ‘self-made’ in that sense and that I’ve become wealthy on my own. Plus, my mother is not one to give gifts freely; were I to have taken money from her or other kinds of ‘gifts’, there were/are always strings attached and I pay a price; I long ago decided that the price exceeded the value of the ‘gift’. I am sorry that your siblings don’t see things as you do; that just increases your sense of discord and disconnection (and maybe even challenges your reality?) and all around makes things tougher.
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Re: The Narcissistic Mother

Postby Leviathan » Tue Apr 13, 2010 4:03 pm

I think this is a very good article because it actually shows how twisted a true NPD character really is. All those who suspect or claim to have NPD, need to read this article and be honest and ask themselves if they really are anything like the character in the opening post.
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Re: The Narcissistic Mother

Postby littlewing » Tue Apr 13, 2010 5:46 pm

Feel76 wrote:Now that I’ve achieved relative financial independence and can afford to pay my way, my siblings make it subtly or explicitly clear that I’m cold-hearted towards my mother because I literally don’t want anything to do with her (except when I need some financial assistance; something she’s mentioned herself, though not to my face but to someone else).


I know exactly what you mean. When my mom had money, she helped my sister out with money a lot. This gave her leverage for manipulation and kept her close. However, my sister was her personal assistant so she earned every penny. Now that my mom is broke, she says we have no use for her anymore. If we say we're busy and can't give her a ride or do whatever she wants, she uses this trusty guilt tactic. Mothers like this have a huge problem with independence of any kind. Maybe she's threatened by you more than your siblings and this is why you have a different experience with her.

LifeSong wrote:I wonder why you two think that you MUST take care of your mother now. Yes, you can be assistive to her in ways, but to uproot your lives and move back home and enter (again) into the type of dependency on both sides that you had with her as children just does not seem good or even fully adult.


I was planning to move back to the bay area all along. I came to Miami to help my sister with my mom and convince her to move back with me (we grew up in the SF Bay Area). I have no life in Miami and I'm eager to get back to California. My sister is also done with Miami after five years here. My mom will go wherever my sister goes because she has no one else - she lives a very isolated life. After years of running away from my mom, I want to help my sister. I know we could dump her in a home and never look back, but my sister won't do it.

Thanks for the feedback and support LifeSong. Whether my mom is Narcissistic, Borderline, or just plain abusive - she needs us. I know it's dysfunctional but I don't know what else to do.
Dx: Bipolar II, ADD

Rx: Abilify 5, Prozac 20, Wellbutrin XL 150, Vyvanse 40, Ambien 12.5
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