The Narcissistic Mother, The Empath Daughter, And The Good Daughter Syndrome
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Probably the best thing a narcissist could ever hope for is to have an empath in the family. For a narcissistic mother, the ultimate is to have a daughter who is an empath. Narcissists are drawn to empaths because they are compassionate and want to help. They can sense the narcissist’s pain and want to help them heal. Toward that end, they will cater to the narcissist’s needs. It doesn’t quite work out so well for the empath daughter, however.
The empath daughter of a narcissistic mother is usually exhausted. Her narcissistic mother will drain her life away. It’s also not uncommon for the empath to experience what is called the ‘Good Daughter Syndrome.’ This happens because they’ve been trained to prioritize their mother’s needs.
Empaths are people highly-attuned to the emotions and needs of other people. Some can even literally feel the emotions of others as if they were their own. It makes them very compassionate people who want to help others heal, and it’s very attractive to the narcissist.
When an empath daughter is raised by a narcissistic mother, however, she never has the opportunity to set good boundaries to protect herself from her mother’s neediness. Read on to learn how that affects her and what the symptoms are for the Good Daughter Syndrome.
The Relationship Between a Narcissistic Mother and an Empath Daughter
A narcissistic mother is one of the worst parents a child can have, particularly if that child is a daughter. Narcissistic mothers are needy, manipulative, self-absorbed, and extremely critical. They see their children as mere extensions of their own identity, and so, they expect the world from them.
The problem is that no matter how hard her empath daughter tries, she will never be able to satisfy her narcissistic mother’s needs. Narcissists are famous for setting impossibly high expectations for their loved ones. You will never be able to do enough for a narcissist.
For the empath, the situation is complicated by the fact that they can sense the underlying fragile self-esteem and emotional wounds that created the narcissist in the first place. It’s as if they can see through the facade to the wounded inner child within.
As sensitive and caring individuals, empaths want to help the wounded people they encounter. For the daughter of the narcissistic mother, she has always been able to sense her mother’s frailty and fears. She works hard to make sure her mother is okay, but her mother’s problems are not something she can fix. What’s more, it’s not her job to fix them.
Still, the narcissistic mother demands and drains and critiques everything her empath daughter does. She trains her to comfort and support her mother’s every need. In fact, she trains her empath daughter to put her mother’s needs ahead of her own. When her daughter fails to satisfy her impossible demands, she receives withering criticism.
I know how it goes all too well. My mother was a narcissist. I remember how awful I felt when she never thanked me or praised me for anything I did. It is quite simply devastating.
What are the Signs of the Good Daughter Syndrome?
As life coach, therapist, and author Katherine Fabrizio notes, for the empath daughter of a narcissistic mother, the Good Daughter Syndrome is “a trap that sucked the life out of them and chained them to their mothers’ pathology.” The narcissistic mother is uniquely positioned to destroy her empath daughter.
The signs of the Good Daughter Syndrome illustrate just how she does it. First, nothing you do will ever be good enough. Your narcissistic mother will never praise what you’ve done. This crushes her child’s self-esteem. They try, but they cannot please their narcissistic mother.
She also gives her empath daughter constant, unsolicited advice about everything in her life. She wants to train her to be dependent upon her mother’s approval. She’ll never receive her mother’s approval.
The children of narcissists never have any boundaries either, and this is true for the empath daughter. She likely doesn’t even realize what personal boundaries are because she’s never been able to set them in her life. She has been groomed to believe she is responsible for her mother’s happiness, and any rejection of that premise is construed as a rejection of her mother.
Of course, her mother won’t hesitate to let her know that, to criticize her, and to reinforce the idea that the empath daughter is responsible for how her narcissistic mother looks and feels. Because this is an ongoing process over the course of her entire life, it’s almost impossible for the empath daughter to stand up to her mother.
Finally, the constant criticism and withholding of love creates soul-crushing self-doubt and insecurity in the empath daughter. Without help, it can be difficult for the empath daughter to heal from these emotional wounds.
What Happens to the Good Daughter?
There are a number of consequences for an empath daughter as a result of her narcissistic mother’s emotional abuse. First, as with other children of narcissists, the empath daughter has low self-esteem and self-confidence.
Everything she does for her mother is criticized, and her narcissistic mother has taught her to be dependent on her for any approval. That approval, however, is only given if it suits the needs of the narcissist to do so. The empath daughter is always second-guessing everything she does and even what she thinks because the message she has received her entire life is that she is not good enough.
Next, the empath daughter is at risk for codependency. This happens when a child must constantly subvert their own needs in favor of their dysfunctional parent. Over time, they actually become dissociated from their own needs. They see their needs as being simply to keep their narcissistic mother happy.
That’s why the empath daughter often settles for being ‘good’ instead of being real. It creates another layer of insecurity because it makes her feel as though she is a fraud just waiting to be exposed. Ironically, her narcissistic mother fears something similar, and it has devastated her sense of identity.
What is the Treatment for the Good Daughter Syndrome?
Treatment for the Good Daughter Syndrome means healing the emotional trauma caused by your abusive narcissistic mother. Good daughters need to get in touch with their authentic self and reclaim their unique personality traits. They have to learn to express their own needs and emotions.
They also need to learn that it’s okay to disagree with someone. They are allowed to have their own opinions and ideas even if other people don’t agree with them. They also have to learn to set and maintain strong boundaries to preserve their mental and physical wellbeing.
All of this personal growth work is hard to do without the help of a therapist, and it’s very difficult to do if you’re still in contact with your narcissistic mother. It’s often the case that it’s better to go no-contact at least for a while to begin the healing process.
For someone who has put their narcissistic mother’s needs above their own, that can be very challenging. When you take that step, however, it will likely feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from your shoulders.
The combination of a narcissistic mother and an empath daughter is a recipe for disaster for the child. Empath daughters often subvert their own needs in favor of their mothers, thereby falling into codependency. That pattern can persist throughout their lifetime even after their mother is deceased. There is hope, however, but it means taking some difficult steps to learn to value yourself.
If you’re the empath daughter of a narcissistic mother, and you’re ready to take the steps necessary to heal, you’ll need to watch this post about eight things your narcissistic mother might do when you cut off all contact.
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