When you think about it, where better could a narcissist get such a ready, biddable, vulnerable source of Narcissistic Supply than from her own children?
These women have, of course, all the specific traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. But as mothers they have a few other tricks too, especially for their children.
They fall into one of two categories – engulfing mothers who see no boundaries between themselves and their daughters on the one hand, and ignoring mothers who don’t particularly even see their daughters at all, and certainly don’t care. Each is hugely dysfunctional and damaging.
One trick, or aspect, of narcissistic mothers, is that they’re quite often nice. This can be so confusing – part of the head-wreckingness of this whole NPD. The niceness always has strings attached though.
One of Narcissistic mothers’ favourite tricks is invalidation, including a particularly nasty and insiduous form of invalidation called gaslighting. No matter what emotions or memories you bring up, they’ll dismiss them. This leads you to not knowing which way is up. Are they really toxic, or are they right about it all being your fault? (Light’s Toxicity Test sorts this dilemma out beautifully!)
They master various forms of abuse, including forcing their children into the Golden Child or Scapegoat roles, and pure and simple bullying.
They’re emotional vampires, feeding off yours and others’ tragedies, and always dismiss or otherwise ruin your successes and celebrations. I found therefore that dealing with my narcissistic mother involved only the most banal of conversation – I could share neither my highs nor my lows as both were used as fodder for her drama and self-centredness.
Narcissistic Mothers also have the twin cruelties of parentification and infantalisation, where they get you to parent them and keep you dependant on them. respectively. A narcissistic mother could do either or both of these.
Another one of their tricks is triangulation, where they make themselves the pivotal point of the family dynamic and everything has to go through them.
Add to this, many narcissistic mothers’ extreme vanity, and their sometimes bizarre attitude towards sexuality, and you have quite a combination.
Mothers with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can’t always do it alone, of course. They need help, and Enabling Fathers are the perfect ones to give them that help.
Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers was the website that made everything click for me. I had known that things weren’t “right” about my childhood for years, but finding that website was truly the beginning of my awareness of what went wrong and how to go about fixing it. I spent about 7 months seeing a therapist regularly. She helped me in ways I can’t fully explain. I think that having a good therapist is a must for some people to be able to work through their past and close that chapter in their life. It can be discouraging to find a therapist who is right for you (it took me three tries), but I urge you to keep at it.
It has been years since I first read through that website. I have gone no contact with my mother twice now. I went through feelings of hatred, contempt, depression, and pity. I have minimal contact with her now, and a tentative acceptance that this is just who she is and what our relationship will always be.
At this point in my life, I have come to realize that narcissism is one possible outcome of having one’s emotional needs neglected as a child, especially a young child. It’s simply part of the cycle of emotional/physical abuse. Children are born basically as little narcissists, for their own survival needs. Emotionally healthy children outgrow that stage and begin to see how they fit into the world around them. Children who are neglected keep that narcissism as a survival mechanism. They aren’t being adequately cared for, so they must care for themselves. My mother often talked about how she felt abandoned and neglected growing up. Though, I also know that my grandfather had a horrific childhood, my grandmother’s wasn’t peachy, and both had to work a lot just to put food on the table for my mother and uncle. So my mom’s narcissism is a product of her upbringing and circumstances surrounding her childhood, but also of my grandparents’ upbringing and circumstance. When I began to see it as a multi-generational issue, I had more compassion toward my mom and could see that she truly did do better for me than was done to her. That doesn’t change the mistakes she made, the emotional and physical abuse done to me. But it explains it. And that explanation helped me to move forward in my recovery, and strengthened my resolve to do the best I possibly can for my kids so they don’t have the same path of recovery that I do. I think that seeing authoritarian parenting as a long cycle of abuse is a key component to breaking that cycle.
That’s exactly what I’m aiming to do with the page I run on Facebook: Recovering From Authoritarian Parenting. We can break the cycle of abuse. We can raise the next generation with gentleness and peace. Authoritarianism and permissiveness are not the only options.