Narcissistic mothers are among the worst parents around. They do extensive damage to their children in many different ways. As they age, their narcissistic traits get even worse. They must deal with the realities of being an aging woman who will inevitably lose her looks and become increasingly frail. That makes dealing with them a challenge for any adult child who takes on that responsibility. And it is a challenge. So how should you deal with a narcissistic elderly mother?
It’s vital that you determine and protect your limits. She may be elderly, but she shouldn’t abuse you. When she is, you should avoid confronting her and just walk away. Get some distance where you can process her abuse. Taking care of yourself is another critical element of dealing with her.
I have an aging narcissistic mother, and I understand exactly why it is a difficult task to care for her. She is increasingly bitter, always angry, hypersensitive, and overly critical. That’s why I make sure to do the following things to ensure that I don’t have to endure her abuse. I can and do put a stop to it, and you can too.
Let’s examine just how narcissism affects a person’s behavior, what that means for the children of a narcissist, how she will change as she gets older, and the strategies you can use to deal with her while still taking care of yourself.
How Does Narcissism Affect a Woman’s Personality?
Narcissism is identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder – 5 (DSM-5) as a “pervasive pattern of grandiosity (fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and with lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood.”
The requirements for a diagnosis include at least five of the following symptoms:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements, expects to be recognized as superior without actually completing the achievements)
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, brilliance, beauty, or perfect love.
- Believes that they are “special” and can only be understood by or should only associate with other special people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has a sense of entitlement, such as an unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment or compliance with his or her expectations).
- Is exploitative and takes advantage of others to achieve their own ends.
- Lacks empathy and is unwilling to identify with the needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes
What the manual doesn’t specify, however, is how the personality disorder affects women. In fact, researchers in psychology, applied sciences, and academic development and quality at several universities in the UK have found that the DSM-5 emphasis on grandiosity may be obscuring its presentation in females.
They found specifically that females were often as aggressive as males in the expression of coercive and exploitative traits, but they were often excluded from the research on the basis that males are more naturally aggressive.
The researchers found that while the core of narcissism operates the same in males and females, the expression of traits differs based on the gender of the narcissist. Female narcissism may, therefore, appear covert in nature because of the gaps in the research.
Are More Women Overt or Covert Narcissists?
The difference between covert and overt narcissism is in the expression of traits. Overt narcissists are those that you likely typically think about as examples. They are loud, braggadocious, and attention-seeking.
Covert narcissism, on the other hand, is expressed in more subtle ways. As the researchers in the UK found, the core of narcissism is the same in both males and females and in covert and overt narcissism. That is to say that all narcissists want attention, exploit others, lack empathy, have a grandiose sense of self-importance, and so on.
The thing that differs is the way they go about getting those needs met. Here are some ways in which they differ:
|Trait||Male Narcissists||Female Narcissists|
|Appearance||Use it to accomplish a goal||Use it to feel superior|
|Seduction||Use charm||Use their body|
|Confidence||Use self-confidence||Use comparison to others|
|Money||Use any means to get it||Spend it excessively|
|Fidelity||Serial adulterers||Idealize and emasculate mates|
|Children||View them as a nuisance||View them as an extension of their own identity|
|Competition||Other males are rivals||Other females are rivals|
As you can see from the differences between male and female narcissists, though the objective is similar, the perspective is different. The differences often result in females using more subtle tactics than males to achieve their goals.
Thus, they are more frequently viewed as covert in their narcissistic style. You can learn more about the signs of a covert narcissistic mother in the video below. This shouldn’t, however, be interpreted as less aggressive or damaging within the context of their interpersonal relationships.
How Can You Identify a Narcissistic Mother?
For the children of a narcissistic mother, it’s difficult to know something is wrong. She’s all you’ve ever known about mothers. How could you be expected to know there’s something wrong with her?
For me, it was a friend who commented on something abusive my mother said to me that opened my eyes. It was then that I realized not everyone’s mother was like mine. So how can you tell if your mother is a narcissist?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to identify a narcissistic mother:
- Is she able to deal with negative feedback in a positive way?
- Does she focus excessively on her looks?
- Does she need you to constantly compliment her or provide positive feedback?
- Does she tell other people she’s the most overworked, underappreciated, and giving mother?
- Is she constantly telling you that you owe her?
- Do you feel like you must behave to receive her love?
- Does she seem to need attention in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable?
If you answer these questions in a way that indicates your mother can’t handle negative feedback, focuses on her looks in an unhealthy way, needs constant compliments from you and other people, extols her virtues as a mother while simultaneously expressing that those are not appreciated, makes it clear that you owe her, withdraws her love if you misbehave, and needs attention in ways that make you uncomfortable, she’s probably a narcissist.
Though she has probably gaslighted you enough times that you don’t feel as though you can trust your gut, you can. If you think that something is off with your mother’s behavior, you should listen to that intuition.
How Does a Narcissistic Mother Treat Her Sons?
Narcissistic mothers, like many mothers, often have a special kind of relationship with their sons that is substantively different than that they have with their daughters. They see their sons as potential spousal replacements, perhaps not sexually, but in many other ways. Here is how that affects their relationship.
The Golden Child Dependency
Narcissistic mothers often groom their sons as a golden child to stay dependent on their mother for the rest of their life. In this way, the narcissistic mother sees her son as someone who will be an ongoing, long-lasting source of narcissistic supply.
He will take care of her as she ages and continue to feed her ego to prop up her false self-image of superiority and perfection. She doesn’t want him to become independent or have relationships of his own.
As a result, she will often undermine any romantic relationships he does develop as he’s becoming an adult. No other woman will ever be good enough for her son because she wants to keep him by her side.
She often manipulates him financially so that he will always need her as well. She also commits what is referred to as emotional incest. She burdens her son with her own needs and insists that he constantly validate her.
Additionally, she is emotionally needy and clingy while simultaneously trying to exert undue control over her son. Everything she does is designed to keep her son in her life, and while she may not commit sexual incest with him, he becomes a spouse replacement in every other way.
How Does Mother-Son Enmeshment Affect Their Relationship?
According to Psychology Today, emotional incest creates scars that damage a child’s ability to experience closeness and intimacy. The effects of this kind of enmeshment on a child restrict their ability to form healthy relationships as adults.
More specifically, the following three effects are indicators that you suffered emotional incest in your childhood:
- Though you might be able to form romantic relationships, and they start off strong, they decline quickly as you become more intimate with your partner. After the honeymoon period ends, you find yourself feeling insecure or trapped, and you are unable to sustain your intimate relationships for long.
- You find yourself experiencing dissociation, where you detach emotionally from your partner, and this may cause confusion and result in you distancing yourself from your romantic partner. As a result, you become cold, critical, and quick to find fault with them. You blame them for those feelings. Additionally, sex becomes unsatisfying and even revolting.
- You find yourself responding in a panic to intimacy. You feel the desire to flee or fight, and as your fear grows, you invent reasons to avoid your partner or even ghost them. You might also initiate fights to get them to break up with you.
If this is a pattern you’ve noticed in your relationships, it strongly suggests you suffered emotional incest. If you’re a man and you believe your mother is a narcissist, it indicates mother-son enmeshment. Without professional help, it will be difficult for you to heal from this kind of trauma.
How Does a Narcissistic Mother Treat Her Daughters?
The relationship a narcissistic mother has with her daughter is completely different than that of her son. For a narcissistic mother, her daughter is a younger, better version of herself.
She is more beautiful, younger, and more physically adept. She is often more intelligent too since she is up-to-date on the latest technology. As the narcissistic mother watches her own body age and her beauty fade, her daughter becomes more of a threat. That’s part of why a narcissistic mother tries to destroy her daughter, as explained in this article.
As a result, she is often harshly critical of her daughter, and she tries to undermine everything she does. The narcissistic mother’s love is conditional, and she always manages to find a reason to withdraw affection for her daughter.
As a result of the harsh nature of her narcissistic mother’s treatment, it is not uncommon for a daughter to rebel as a teenager. She may even elect to run away from home. She is also more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol as she seeks any way she can find to escape the pain of her mother’s abuse.
The narcissistic mother has no empathy for how her behavior is affecting her daughter. She can’t put herself in her daughter’s shoes and understand how she feels. She is only able to focus on her own needs, and as a result, she has little concern for anyone else, not even her own daughter.
How Does Jealousy Affect the Mother-Daughter Relationship?
It is ultimately jealousy that is at the heart of the narcissistic mother’s relationship with her daughter. The ultimate portrayal of a narcissistic mother’s relationship with her daughter can be found in the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
In the original version of the fairy tale, the queen, who was so obsessed with her own beauty that she constantly asked her mirror who is the fairest of them all, was actually Snow White’s mother. She poisoned her daughter with an apple, and while it didn’t kill her, it achieved her goal of incapacitating her competition.
“Jealousy runs in a narcissist’s blood. They can’t wait to see others fail. And when someone succeeds, they would go green with envy.”
– Sushmita Barman, Author and Content Writer
This is exactly what the narcissistic mother seeks to do to her daughter. To understand why you have to understand that a narcissist doesn’t just seek to overcome their enemies, they want to crush them. Her daughter has become a narcissistic mother’s enemy because she is her competition.
She will, therefore, treat her daughter as the scapegoat of the family, and she will undermine everything she does to the best of her ability. She is constantly critical and may be openly competitive to the point of flirting with her daughter’s boyfriend.
It is one of the most toxic of all parent-child relationships. The daughter has little recourse other than to leave home as soon as she can escape. Her mother will even try to thwart that effort in order to completely destroy her.
Considerations of the Narcissistic Mother’s Relationship with Her Daughter
The efforts of a narcissistic mother to destroy her daughter is a further expression of her own self-loathing. She sees her daughter as a younger, more beautiful, and generally better version of herself. Yet, deep inside, she hates herself.
She can’t let her daughter continue to outshine her, and toward that end, she seeks to utterly destroy her. Paradoxically, she often does that by chaining her daughter to her pathology.
This is particularly true if her daughter is an empath. She converts her daughter into a codependent husk of the empathetic person she used to be. She sucks the life out of her daughter while continuing to critique everything she does.
She crushes her self-esteem, trains her to be dependent on her mother’s approval, and violates every boundary her daughter attempts to erect. If she dares to push back, she immediately withdraws her love and any signs of warmth she may have previously shown.
It’s devastating for a daughter, particularly an empathic daughter. It perverts her empathy into a sickening state of codependence, which is something that will affect her for the rest of her life.
If the daughter manages to respond to this in any way, it’s often by running away from home or turning to substance abuse to soothe her pain. If she does escape her mother, she will often seek out romantic partners who are similarly abusive.
It’s a dark, lifelong legacy that the daughter may ultimately pass on to her own children.
What Happens as a Narcissist Ages?
As psychologist Phebe Cramer, a professor at Williams College, notes, some types of narcissism decrease, some increase, and some remain the same. More specifically, hypersensitive narcissism, which is related to emotional maladjustment, decreased, autonomous narcissism, which is related to empathy, increased, and willfulness narcissism, which is also associated with emotional maladjustment, stayed the same.
While US researchers in psychology have found that narcissistic traits decline with age, they are also quick to note that this is not true with pathological narcissism. People with a personality disorder like narcissism tend to see their symptoms worsen over time, which has negative effects on their mental and physical well-being.
How Does Aging Specifically Affect Women?
Female narcissists are often significantly affected by aging. Many societies view the aging woman as increasingly worthless. She has lost her beauty and youthful vigor, and unlike a man, that prevents her from aging gracefully.
The narcissistic woman is laser-focused on her physical appearance since it has played a significant role in her ability to manipulate other people throughout her life. Therefore, she may experience several of the following effects as she gets older:
- Addiction to cosmetic surgery
- Obsession with her appearance
- Prone to try fad diets regardless of their health effects
- Increasingly bitter
- More likely to lash out in rage, particularly at her daughters
- Increasingly critical of everyone around her
As she becomes more frail and vulnerable, her anger increases as does her attempts to manipulate the people around her. She becomes increasingly desperate as she watches her image crumble and her power to sway others fade.
How Does Dementia Affect the Narcissistic Mother?
You might think that dementia could make a narcissistic mother even more self-absorbed than she already is, but you might be surprised to learn that’s not necessarily true. While narcissists do initially become angrier and lash out more often in the early stages of dementia, as the disease progresses, it can wipe out their memories and personality.
That means it can wipe out their narcissism. Caregivers often get a glimpse at this point of what their loved one would have been like without narcissistic personality disorder. While you might not believe it, that can create some nice final memories of your loved one to carry with you after they’re gone.
Still, as you deal with a narcissistic mother in the early stages of dementia, you will see her become more angry and frustrated by her increasing vulnerability. You may even have to witness a complete withdrawal as she realizes she can’t stop what’s happening.
That’s why it’s vital to take good care of yourself as you go through this process with her. Despite her illness, you still don’t deserve to be abused.
How Does an Elderly Narcissistic Mother Treat Her Children?
The elderly narcissistic mother often treats her children very badly. She will use her age and increasing fragility to further manipulate them. She will make every attempt to draw them in so that won’t leave her.
Her goal is to have them stick around and provide her with the narcissistic supply she so desperately needs. She spends a lot of time telling her children about the many things she’s done for them through the years.
How Will a Narcissistic Mother Treat Her Grandchildren?
A narcissistic mother reminds her children constantly that they owe her, and because of that, they should dedicate themselves to her care as she ages. She may also, however, focus on her grandchildren as valuable sources of narcissistic supply.
She can, for example, choose a golden grandchild to shower with love and attention, all to get her other grandchildren to compete for her attention. She will also undermine her own children’s parental authority.
She still sees herself as the head of the family, and of course, she sees her family members as extensions of her own identity. She believes it is their duty to attend to her needs as they would their own. In fact, she believes they should ignore their own needs in favor of hers.
It can be difficult for her children to realize what’s going on since they’ve been abused their entire lives. They may not recognize the toxicity with which she is threatening their relationships and family members. That’s why it’s helpful to understand the sometimes subtle manipulation tactics she might use to control her children.
How a Narcissistic Mother Controls Her Adult Children
There are several tactics a narcissistic mother will use to control her adult children. Some are more obvious than others, but all of them are toxic. Here are several things your narcissistic mother might do to control you as an adult.
- Points out how she has helped you when you asked in the past (you owe her)
- Feigns illnesses or a weakened state (plays on your sympathy)
- Compares you with your supposedly more successful siblings (makes you compete)
- Tells you something another family member said about you (triangulation)
- Suggests things you say happened never did or weren’t as bad as all that (gaslighting)
- Suggests you can’t do something without her (you need her)
- Criticizes your efforts (makes you seek her approval)
- Fishes for compliments (draining you of narcissistic supply)
She also won’t hesitate to sabotage your other relationships, including romantic relationships. She wants you to herself so that you can continue to give her the narcissistic supply she needs for the rest of her life. You can learn more in this video.
You might not even realize some of the toxic manipulations she’s using to control you. These can be secretive messages to other family members or your spouse. She may even contact work colleagues to cause problems for you there.
She can’t let go of you because she needs you to prop her up as she passes through a very vulnerable period of her life. If you succumb to her control, you’ll never have a life of your own until she is gone.
How Can You Heal from Your Mother’s Narcissistic Abuse?
Despite all the abuse, it is possible to heal from your mother’s narcissistic abuse. The key to healing is recognizing the abuse for what it is. That means you need to recognize the signs that indicate you’ve been abused by a narcissist.
|Signs You’re the Victim of a Narcissist (Source: Healthline)|
Of course, there are many types of trauma that can cause similar symptoms, but if you’re experiencing these kinds of symptoms, you have suffered some type of trauma. You’ll want to see a professional therapist to learn more about why you have these problems.
They can help you discover if you have been the victim of narcissistic abuse and, if so, what you can do to heal.
There are many ways a professional therapist can help you heal from narcissistic abuse. First, they can help you identify that you’re the victim of a narcissist. As I’ve said before, you may not realize it because you don’t have other parents to compare yours to, and you only know what you’ve been exposed to.
It wasn’t until my friend said something to me about my own mother that I realized something was off. It was like a light bulb went off above my head. I realized that her mother must not treat her that way, or she wouldn’t be surprised.
When I finally went to a therapist, I started seeing the depth of the abuse I had endured. The therapist helped me to recognize the many ways my mother had been abusive and how that abuse had affected my own psychological well-being.
Then she helped me to begin the difficult work of confronting those old wounds and healing them. It’s a difficult thing to do, and it will take a lot of courage, but you will be glad you did it once you begin to see the effects of healing those wounds.
A therapist is an objective source of observations and helpful information. They can help you see things that you’re too close to the situation to see. Additionally, in our modern world, there are numerous convenient ways to engage in therapy.
If it would be more convenient for you to use online therapy, check out Online Therapy.com. They offer a complete toolbox for effective therapy, including access to therapists, a journal, and even yoga sessions! They were also voted the best online therapy for anxiety in 2022. If you’re looking for convenience and effectiveness, this is a great service.
Inner Child Work
Part of the problem with being abused by a narcissistic mother is that you didn’t have the kind of parenting that every child deserves. What’s more, you can’t go back and change that, even if your narcissistic mother were to admit she was wrong.
That’s why it’s important to be the parent to yourself, that little you who still hurts deep inside you, that your mother should have been. Much of the reactivity you experience is that little you inside trying to tell you that something’s wrong.
They need your attention, and, more importantly, they need your unconditional love. Your narcissistic mother’s love was conditional. She withdrew it whenever you didn’t do what she wanted, or she perceived some kind of slight from you.
Now, it’s your job to recognize what your inner child is saying and what you need to do to make them feel loved and accepted. This means diving deep into the abuse caused by your toxic mother and creating a different environment for the rebirth of your inner child.
It’s some of the most helpful personal growth work that you can do. When you work on healing your inner child, you become your own hero. You stop looking to other people for what you can give to yourself. You start accepting not just the little you inside but the bigger you outside as well. That’s how you cultivate self-forgiveness and self-compassion.
How Should You Deal with an Elderly Narcissistic Mother?
Once you understand what you’re dealing with, the abuse you’ve endured, and how to begin the process of healing yourself, you are in a better place to deal with your aging narcissistic mother. She is still the same abusive mother you’ve always known, so you should expect her to change, but you have.
Now, you can start taking control of how and when you interact with her and what you will and will not accept in terms of how she treats you. You are in a better state of mind and have more knowledge about narcissistic personality disorder.
As a result, you can better spot her abusive tactics, and that allows you to determine how you will respond when she acts that way. You can also call her out on her behavior so that she will know you know what she’s doing.
You can also employ one of several tactics that will help you to prevent any further abuse if you continue to have her in your life. I know this can work because it has worked for me.
I did have to go no contact with my abusive mother for a while during the time that I was beginning my own healing journey, but I have since come back into her life. It’s different, though, since I have set strict boundaries that I rigidly enforce, and I have taken control of our interactions.
That has forced her to modify her behavior when she’s around me. She’s not healed from her narcissism by any means, but she doesn’t treat me in the abusive ways she did before.
This will work for you too, and here I will outline what you need to do to deal more effectively with your elderly narcissistic mother.
1. Understanding the Elderly Narcissistic Mother
The first step in the process is to know exactly what you’re dealing with when you have a narcissistic mother. You have to educate yourself about every aspect of narcissism so that you can better deal with the changes that happen with age in a female narcissist.
You’ve already begun that process, but don’t stop here. Keep educating yourself and learning more about the nature of this devastating personality disorder. The more you know, the more you can understand how her abuse has affected you.
You can then do what you need to do to take care of yourself while taking care of her. She will be increasingly toxic as she has to face her own mortality and increasing vulnerability. That means she will increase her efforts to control your behavior and that of other family members.
To combat that kind of toxicity, you have to understand as much as you can about Cluster B personality disorders and the nuances of narcissistic personality disorder, particularly with respect to how the mental condition affects women and mothers.
2. Knowing Your Limits
As you gain more of an understanding of narcissism, one of the things you’ll notice is that narcissists routinely violate everyone else’s boundaries. When their own mental condition was forming, they had no boundaries, so they don’t have an understanding of what that means.
Whether from trauma or the unintentional abuse of overprotective parents, the budding narcissist was never allowed to do anything for themselves, and/or they were denied the luxury of setting their own limits.
That’s part of why they don’t respect anyone else’s boundaries. But boundaries aren’t really about making other people respect you; they’re about you respecting yourself. That’s why it’s very important to determine your boundaries.
You do that by thinking about all the times in your life that you have felt that someone has crossed a line. What line did they cross? What did you feel you lost when they did that? For example, maybe your narcissistic mother read your diary, and you felt you lost privacy or dignity.
Perhaps she called you names, and you felt you lost respect or self-esteem. Identify those times when you felt a boundary was crossed and what it was that you felt you lost or had damaged as a result of that experience. These are your limits.
Once you’ve determined your limits, you can then begin the process of setting consequences for anyone who violates them ever again.
3. Protecting Your Boundaries
The next step in the process is to actually set and protect those boundaries. This means confronting the people you believe violate your boundaries regularly, including your narcissistic mother, and letting them know the consequences of doing so in the future.
For each boundary you identified, you need to determine a consequence. This might be something as minor as calling out the behavior or something as major as leaving the person’s presence or even going no contact until they can behave more appropriately.
When you present your boundaries and consequences to toxic people like your narcissistic mother, you’ll want to ensure they won’t later claim they didn’t know anything about it. That’s why it’s often a good idea to give them a written copy of your boundaries. It might look something like the following.
|Boundary||Consequence for violations|
|Yelling||Leaving until you can talk in a calm voice, rationally.|
|Calling me names||Not speaking again until you apologize and refrain from doing this again.|
|Lying||I will question everything you tell me and double-check those things that are important to me by asking the people involved and telling them what you told me.|
|Gaslighting||I trust my own intuition and interpretation of reality. I will dismiss what you say happened.|
|Triangulation||I will openly tell everyone involved what you tell me about them, and I will ask them to do the same when you say something about me.|
|Smearing me||I will openly tell everyone involved how you’ve treated me. I will no longer have contact with you until you tell the truth.|
4. Put Yourself First
It’s also important when dealing with an elderly narcissistic mother to put yourself first. This is likely not something you’re used to doing when you have dealt with her in the past, particularly during your childhood.
She groomed you to put her needs first, even at the expense of your own. That’s exactly what she wants from everyone around her, and she demands it from the people over whom she has control, like you.
Now, however, it’s time to put a stop to that abuse tactic. It’s time to put yourself first. The truth is that because it’s your job to take care of her, you’ve got to keep yourself in good health. You can’t help her as she grows older if you aren’t capable of doing so.
More importantly, you’ve given enough to her already. It’s time to start caring for yourself. She didn’t when you were a child, and now, it’s up to you to give yourself that loving support she was supposed to give to you.
Do the things you love to do, whether that’s going out in nature, spending time with your friends, or just reading a good book. Make sure you eat well and get regular exercise so that you can stay physically healthy as well.
If you have to make something she needs to wait to take care of yourself, then make her wait. First responders always do this because they realize they are of no use to anyone if they put themselves in more danger than they might already be exposed to.
The same is true for you with your narcissistic mother. You’re already choosing to continue to have contact with her so that you can help her out. That kind of caretaking should not come at your own expense.
5. Call Out the Abuse
Another important thing you need to do when dealing with an elderly narcissistic mother is to call out her abuse in blunt language. It’s easy when you’re dealing with a narcissist to get into the habit of placating them and not calling out their abuse just to keep the peace.
In fact, they learn that if you do call them out and they erupt in rage, it makes you reticent to call them out again. It’s one of the reasons they use their narcissistic rage in that way. They know it works because they learn that most people don’t want to start a fight.
But if you don’t call it out, it will continue. Keeping the peace comes at a high price – too high of a price. You can just call out her toxicity in a calm manner each time you see it. If it crosses one of your boundaries, state calmly that it’s not acceptable and implement the consequence.
Do it every time she abuses you…every time. If you fail to do so even one time, she will see that as a weakness and exploit it. She will continue to do what you let her get away with. Remember, toxic people use the tactics they do because it has worked for them in the past.
Don’t let it work anymore for your toxic mother. Call it out on every occasion. She will know that she’s not fooling you, and if you implement your consequences for boundary violations, she will eventually modify her behavior.
6. Use Grey Rock
One of the best techniques you can use to make a narcissist lose interest in trying to manipulate you is called the grey rock technique. Part of the reason that your narcissistic mother likes to push your buttons, and she does like to push them, is that it gets a rise out of you.
She feels powerful when she realizes she can get an emotional response from you. It makes her feel superior to you. It also teaches her more about what bothers you, and she already knows enough about that.
To combat that, you become as boring as a grey rock when you’re dealing with her. You act unresponsive and unengaged when she brings up those things she knows bother you. When she stops getting the response she wants or expects from you, she will eventually lose interest in trying to manipulate you in that way.
It doesn’t mean she’ll never try it again, but she will definitely stop using that kind of manipulation as much as she does when she gets a response. The more you can stay cool, calm, and collected, the more success you will have with this technique.
It feels a little like you’re being manipulative yourself, but you’re really not. You’re responding to her manipulation, and you have a right to do that. You can’t change her, you can’t fix her, and you can’t control her, but you can use tactics that get her to change her own behavior in your favor.
7. Plan Your Responses
Another tactic to use is to plan your responses to the kinds of things you know she might say. She uses her knowledge of your life against you, and it’s fair game for you to do the same. You’ve lived with her abuse your entire life.
You know what she’s likely to say and do, so you can use that to your advantage. Plan out what you will say if she tries to trigger you or does something that you don’t like.
If you plan it out, you can deliver the remark in a calm way that doesn’t betray any emotional reaction. You should also be prepared, though, for her response to what you say. She might respond in a way you don’t expect.
While you can’t exactly plan what to say to her response, you can plan to stay calm. It’s critical, because if you become emotional, she’ll know she’s getting to you. That’s not something you want to let her know.
There are numerous techniques you can use to stay calm no matter what she says. They include the following:
- Count to 10 before responding and use that time to calm yourself
- Take ten deep, belly-expanding breaths to activate your parasympathetic nervous system to stay calm
- Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom until you can collect yourself
- Smile at what she says and respond with, “I see you don’t have a good response to that, do you?” It will catch her off-guard
- Smile at what she said and walk away – the mystery of your reaction will bother her
8. Employ Positive Reinforcement
This sounds like you’re training a dog instead of a narcissistic mother, but the idea is similar. If you reward her good behavior with positive reinforcement, she will be good more often. It’s a simple but effective behavioral modification technique.
That sounds very manipulative, but the reality is that you won’t change your mother’s behavior any other way than by using such tactics. You’re not fixing her, but you are changing how she behaves with you.
It won’t change anything about how she feels inside, and it won’t change how she acts toward other people – only long-term, intense therapy can do that – but it will change how she behaves toward you. That’s the goal, and to do that effectively, sometimes you have to use tactics that push her to modify how she behaves.
Positive reinforcement is a technique that people use all the time with their children. If your child behaves well, you praise him or her. You might even give them some kind of reward. That’s positive reinforcement.
It works with your children, and it will work with your elderly narcissistic mother too. It will take some time, but in the end, you’ll notice a difference in her behavior.
9. Build a Strong Social Support Network
As you deal with the challenges of your elderly narcissistic mother, you’re going to need a strong social support network to get you through the tough times. Even though your mother is toxic, you will still experience a mixture of emotions as she ages and gets closer to death.
You’ll also have to continue dealing with her toxicity. Loving, supportive friends and family are vital to helping you get through. You want to surround yourself with supportive people who have your best interest at heart.
They can help you process your feelings and spot the abuse your mother might try to use on you. They can get you out of the house regularly and help you see that there’s more to your life than your toxic mother.
They can also help you recognize when you’re falling prey to her abuse again. It’s difficult for you to see everything because you’re simply too close to the situation. You’re also dealing with the past abuse that has left emotional scars. A good social support network can recognize and heal those old wounds.
If you have become isolated through the years, as is typical of narcissistic abuse victims, you can build a social support network by getting in contact with old friends on social media. You can also make new friends by volunteering for causes near and dear to your heart.
You’ll be surprised at how many different ways there are to make contacts with people who were or will become part of a strong social support network.
10. Get Away Regularly
Another thing you want to do when dealing with an elderly narcissistic mother is to make sure you get away regularly. It’s essential for your mental health. You need to take care of yourself if you are to help your mother.
There are several things you can do to take a break. Here are just a few ideas.
- Go for a hike in nature
- Go out to dinner with friends
- Go to a movie
- Get away for the weekend
- Take a vacation
- Take a class in something you always wanted to learn, like painting, learning a new language, or cooking
Even just getting away for a few hours can be enough to refresh your mind and renew your energy. It’s important for your own mental and physical health.
Your social support network can help you find things to do if you’re not sure of what you might like. They can help you find new things to interest you and take your mind off of caring for your elderly narcissistic mother.
11. Work with Professional Therapists
Working with a professional therapist can help you take your healing to a whole new level. It’s important because you will experience myriad emotions as you’re caring for your toxic mother.
You’ll be dealing with her aging issues as well as her narcissism. One of those things is a lot for anyone, but the combination can create big problems for you mentally and physically. A therapist can help you sort through the emotions and challenges that will come up throughout this process.
They can provide an objective viewpoint, and of course, they have expertise in how to help you process your feelings, past trauma, and the challenging situations that lie ahead. You can do a lot of personal growth work on your own, but a therapist can help you move beyond any blocks you’re experiencing.
They can also help you work through your issues faster than you might be able to do on your own. There is very little social stigma anymore around seeking help from a therapist, and I can tell you that it takes a lot of courage to do this kind of work.
It is perhaps the bravest thing you’ll ever do in your life. And that’s really the point; it’s for your benefit, so don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Help yourself because you deserve it. You’ll be so happy you did in the end.
12. No Contact is Always Possible
Another thing you always have to leave on the table is the possibility of going no contact. You might not want to do this, but if your elderly narcissistic mother becomes too abusive, you must keep it as a possibility.
If she requires a caretaker, you can always arrange for someone to work with her before you cut all ties. You can also turn to your siblings to help if you need some time away from her.
No contact doesn’t have to mean forever, but when you decide to do it, it needs to be complete. Don’t take any phone calls from her, don’t respond to any of her attempts to contact you, and block her from any other way of contacting you, such as social media.
Give yourself the complete break you might need to work through her abusive treatment. If there comes a time when you think you will want to contact her again, you can do that when you’re ready, but it’s okay to stop being in contact with someone who is toxic.
That always has to be an option, and you should make sure your mother understands it’s a possibility if she continues her abusive behavior.
What NOT to Do When Dealing with an Elderly Narcissistic Mother
There are also many things you should not do when you’re dealing with an elderly narcissistic mother. Sometimes, the things you shouldn’t do are just as important as the things you should do. Toxic people are easily triggered, and that’s when they ramp up their efforts to manipulate and control others.
An elderly narcissistic mother will push all of your buttons if you give her the chance, but part of dealing with her also involves moderating your expectations. You might want to fix her or make her apologize, or compare her to other mothers, but all of that gets you nowhere fast.
It’s helpful to remember that the goal in dealing with a toxic older mother is to create a relationship with her that involves mutual respect. It might not be warm or comforting, and it certainly won’t be filled with the unconditional love you would expect, but it can be built on mutual respect. That’s a step in the right direction.
Here are several things you want to avoid doing when you’re dealing with your toxic older mother. These won’t help you to get her to change her behavior toward you, and they will only end up making you feel frustrated and unfulfilled.
Don’t Expect Apologies
The first thing to understand when dealing with an elderly narcissistic mother is that you will never, ever get an apology from her. She can’t admit that she has made any errors. To do so would result in a collapse of her fragile false sense of self.
It would also, in her eyes, expose her flawed true self. She will go to extremes not to have to apologize. She might say something like, “I did the best I could given the circumstances.”
While that allows for some level of admission that things weren’t ideal, it’s not an apology for her abusive behavior. In fact, she’s likely to blame you or attempt to gaslight you. Here are several things she might say toward that end.
- You were always such an overly sensitive child
- That never happened
- You’ve always had a vivid imagination
- I never did any such thing
- You’re too sensitive
- I was just teasing you
- Everything I did was for you
All of those statements suggest that you are either imagining what happened to you or that it wasn’t as bad as you’re making it sound. She’s trying to distort your reality, and if you let her, she’ll completely rewrite history.
Don’t Try to Fix Her
You cannot fix anyone. The only person who can fix a narcissist is the narcissist themselves. Your elderly mother would need to recognize that she has a problem and seek treatment for it. You can’t do it for her.
There is nothing you can say or do that will suddenly make her realize the error of her ways. This is also not your responsibility. Her personality disorder is not something you caused, and it is not your responsibility to fix it.
If your mother stands any chance of truly changing and healing her mental condition, she will have to see for herself that there is a problem in the first place. Were she to do that and seek professional help, it could help her, but it’s not very likely that will happen.
You can change anyone other than yourself. So you have to focus on your own needs and what you will and will not accept insofar as how you allow other people to treat you. That’s the only way you can modify how your narcissistic mother treats you – by taking ownership of your own choices.
It does you absolutely no good to compare your mother with other people’s mothers or your experience with other children’s experience. The truth is you got a raw deal, but you also survived it.
How you got through your childhood is by utilizing coping mechanisms that made you stronger. What you did is something that is unique to your experience, so comparisons won’t get you anywhere.
It’s better to simply focus on the gifts that your experiences have provided for you. It might not seem like there was any gift in anything you lived through, but the very fact you survived shows that there were several gifts. Focus on what you learned and how you got stronger instead of comparing yourself or your mother with other people.
You may not realize it, but you are a truly brave soul, and you deserve credit for surviving. You also deserve credit for beginning your healing journey so that you can thrive. You are an incredible person, and there simply is no adequate comparison.
Saying Goodbye to a Narcissistic Mother
You might be surprised to realize that when your elderly narcissistic mother passes, you will experience a mixture of emotions from anger to sadness and even joy as you can see in this video. You might be confused by these emotions, given the nature of your relationship with her.
But whatever else she was, she was your mother, and she had a profound effect on your life. It can be hard to say goodbye, but sometimes it can help to do the following things:
- Write her a letter
- Give her a eulogy using euphemisms and coded language
- Focus on how her abuse made you stronger
- Let your anger flow
- Write out the messages she sent you and why you know they’re not true
- Write out a new Bill of Rights for a free you
Sometimes, these actions can help you let go of your mother’s toxic treatment so that both she and you can truly rest in peace.
A narcissistic mother is a nightmare parent for any child, and she only gets worse as she ages. You might end up having to deal with her in her old age. Aging is particularly hard for a narcissistic woman who is accustomed to being able to use her looks to manipulate people. As you try to deal with her, you’ll find she will turn up the heat on her manipulation tactics. One important one is that she will use the very emotional wounds she created against you. But you don’t have to allow her to do that.
I have created a 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers to help you identify, defuse, and heal the emotional wounds and triggers she created with her abusive treatment. It’s a free guide, and if you would like a copy, just click on the link here. I’ll send it directly to your inbox, and you can get started on your healing journey today!
If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel