One of the most profoundly disturbing questions any child of a narcissist must ask themselves: why would my mother (or my father) deliberately hurt me like this? The truth is that they will hurt in ways that you don’t even see coming because they are often working behind the scenes as explained in this post.
It is disturbing because your earliest experiences of love and learning to trust are formed through your relationship with your parents, most specifically with your mother. If your mother is a narcissist, then your conception of love and trust are fundamentally warped, and many children of narcissistic mothers need a lifetime of psychological awareness to be able to overcome the damage wrought by their upbringing.
Ultimately, what one has to grapple with is that your narcissistic mother is unaware that she is hurting you. In fact, and this may be even more difficult to come to terms with, your narcissistic mother may not even fully see you as an individual.
To understand how narcissistic mothers hurt you even when they aren’t aware of it, read on.
Mechanitions of the Narcissist Mother
Let’s first take a look at the defining characteristics of the narcissistic mother, as we also examine how her behavior impacts her children. While a healthy mother expresses her love for her child unconditionally, a narcissistic mother’s love is nearly always conditional—upon your compliance, upon your codependence, upon your ability to serve her interests. She is invested in your success, but only insofar as it reflects well upon her. She needs you to make her look good.
The narcissistic mother isn’t interested so much in a mutual relationship: she wants control over you, and her whims dictate the ebb and flow of the relationship. The narcissistic mother will become irritated, if not outraged, by any attempt to brook her authority or separate from her needs.
Your feelings are of very little important to the narcissistic mother; she is unable to validate your feelings, particularly if those feelings imply any criticism of her. When you try to speak to her of your problems, she will often turn the attention back to herself: “I’m not sure why you’re complaining. I remember when I had to . . .”
Not only does the narcissistic mother insist that everything in the relationship is about her, but she also works tirelessly to manipulate you into becoming an accomplice for her every feeling and every request. If you find yourself afraid to say “no” to your mother—especially when her requests are unreasonable—then you are likely dealing with a narcissist.
The narcissistic mother is mercurial in her responses to you, full of praise one moment and then dark with criticism the next. She knows exactly where you are vulnerable and will exploit that to her advantage. Remember: her praise is reserved for when you respond to her needs and desires, while her criticism is armed and ready for any time you try to break away from her control.
Narcissistic Mothers Lack Boundaries
Narcissists in general have a disdain for the rules; those are for average people, not for their superior vision of themselves. The narcissistic mother often insists on preferential treatment, becoming inordinately angry if they don’t receive it. Much has been made of the “Karen” stereotype in the media, and it isn’t clear that all or any of these women are technically narcissists, but this is the kind of entitled behavior that narcissistic mothers often display.
One of the most distressing things about being raised by a narcissistic mother is that she is very unpredictable, showering you with attention in one moment then essentially ignoring you the next. This has an enormous impact on a child and erodes their ability to trust others. Remember: her attention, like her praise, is garnered when she wants something from you or when you are behaving in a way that serves her ends. She ignores you when you have nothing to offer her.
The narcissistic mother is often overly concerned with appearances: she isn’t so much interested in the substance of her life but rather in the cultivation of a particular self-image. As such, many narcissistic mothers will appear to be highly successful, keep a beautiful home, and/or engage in activities designed to impress powerful people. The image is far more important than the reality.
Narcissistic Mothers Lack Emotional Control
When you express your perspective about anything, the narcissistic mother will have little understanding or empathy for how you see things. This is one of the fundamental signs of narcissism, the inability to see things from another person’s point of view. Your opinion will hold little value to her, unless it contradicts her opinion, which can trigger anger and criticism.
If your mother is a narcissist, she is almost certainly emotionally volatile. She can move between cold indifference and smoldering rage within the space of a few minutes. Just about anything can trigger her mood to swing from one extreme to the next.
The narcissist mother typically rules the household with her unpredictable mood swings, with everyone tip-toeing around her while looking for cues to determine what kind of emotional state she is in. That can add significantly to your teenage angst and leave you looking for a way to better manage the situation. This post gives you some strategies for dealing with toxic parents and their manipulative mood swings.
One of the most important factors to remember if you must deal with a narcissistic mother is that, underneath all of the manipulation and unpredictability, the criticism and the vanity, the narcissistic mother is basically hiding behind her bad behavior because she fundamentally lacks a fully developed sense of self.
She lacks self-esteem, an internal sense of worth, and thus her behavior relies on making everyone else around her feel inferior. She does not know that she is hurting you, because she is too wrapped up in her own hidden pain to see beyond herself.
Accepting the narcissist mother for who she is should be your choice; for some, it may be too difficult to maintain a relationship, while for others, there may be a way to set boundaries and foster some kind of bond. But accepting that her behavior is not your fault is crucial for your own psychological well-being.
It is a hallmark of narcissism that the person with the disorder most often sees her child as a mere extension of herself, rather than a fully realized individual in their own right. Once the child of a narcissist accepts this premise, then they can begin the long process of healing.
After learning about your narcissistic mother, you might be interested in a free copy of my “Narcissistic Rejection Guide.” You will learn how to say no even to your mother and push back against her manipulation. Just click here and I’ll send it directly to your inbox for free!
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