A narcissistic mother is an expert at sending you on a guilt trip. It’s a manipulation technique that narcissists of all kinds routinely use, but a mother is particularly adept at it. Guilt is a difficult emotion to get rid of, but it is really a useless emotion. It does nothing to solve problems, but it is a powerful tool for getting you to do what your narcissistic mother wants you to do. So how can you deal with it?
You might be surprised at some of the techniques you can use to disarm your narcissistic mother’s guilt-tripping; however, these 11 tactics are very effective:
- Say Something Nice;
- Walk a Mile in Her Shoes;
- Make Sure You’re Not Doing the Same Thing;
- Focus on Your Needs and the Needs of Those You Love;
- Don’t Call Her Names;
- Detach Emotionally;
- Problem-Solve Where Possible;
- Be Kind but Firm;
- Keep Your Distance;
- Accept and Let It Go;
- Get Some Support.
Guilt is a difficult emotion for anyone to handle whether they have a narcissistic parent or not. It doesn’t really do anything for us other than make us feel bad about ourselves. Understanding this emotion and using effective strategies to neutralize it can help you to deal with your narcissistic mother. It’s critical to understand how your narcissistic mother uses guilt, and then, you can employ these effective strategies to keep her from manipulating you.
1. Say Something Nice
When you have a narcissistic parent, you fall into a common pattern of interactions. It’s one of criticism and resentment. The emotions her toxic behavior provokes in you make you strike out at her because of the anger you feel.
You want to say something to make her feel as bad as she makes you feel, but sometimes one small change in the way you interact with her can change everything. This isn’t about lying, but it’s about finding something good you can say to her.
A narcissist is driven by the need to manipulate people to give them adoration that will boost their self-esteem. That’s behind everything they do. Their treatment of you is not the result of a personal desire to hurt you; rather, it’s all about what they need – as someone with a broken sense of identity – to feel good about themselves.
While that doesn’t excuse their behavior, when you’re able to understand that, you can develop some compassion for their tortured state of mind. That can help you look for positive things you might say to your narcissistic mother.
If you’re able to do that, it can completely change the nature of your interactions. It’s not going to cure her, but it can result in better treatment for you. That will make it easier for you to heal the emotional abuse you’ve suffered through the years.
2. Walk a Mile in Her Shoes
If you can put yourself in your narcissistic mother’s place, you might better understand why she acts the way she does. That will make it easier to feel compassion for her and do the kinds of things that reduce her narcissistic criticism that makes you feel so guilty.
The mind of a narcissist is a truly frightening place. It’s filled with fear, shame, and self-loathing. Narcissism forms when a child fails to develop a healthy sense of self. This happens because they have become convinced their true self is worthless.
In place of a true sense of self, a narcissist constructs a false self so that they can interact with the world around them. That false self is not capable, however, of supporting the narcissist’s self-esteem.
That’s why they need other people to prop up their ego. Without a constant external source of validation, the narcissist risks a mental breakdown. What’s more, they’re in a constant state of fear that their true self will be revealed for all to see.
This causes them to manipulate the people around them to ensure that constant flow of adoration known as narcissistic supply. When you refuse to do something that she wants you to do, it feels to your narcissistic mother like rejection and abandonment, something she fears the most.
If you understand that, you can reassure her that you aren’t abandoning her, but that you have other obligations you know she would want you to fulfill. You can use kindness to put her at ease which will ultimately make your life easier too.
3. Make Sure You’re Not Doing the Same Thing
It’s not uncommon for the children of narcissists to adopt narcissistic strategies themselves. This creates an extremely combative relationship with your narcissistic mother. It’s almost guaranteed to create more grief in your life rather than make it easier.
Check yourself to make sure you’re not also using guilt as a manipulative tool. It’s not uncommon and it’s understandable, but it ultimately only perpetuates an unhealthy cycle in your relationship with her.
It’s better to set strong boundaries with clear consequences for violations. Write them down, and go over them with your mother. You can even give her a copy of them so that she cannot claim to have not known these things bother you.
When she violates your boundaries, including by trying to guilt you into doing something, simply enforce the consequence without any anger. Let her know that’s what you’re doing and that you won’t be interacting with her until she can use a different approach.
Doing that is a more honest and healthy way to approach the situation, and it can be used for her many other manipulative tactics as well. It will make you feel better and stronger, and it will change your relationship with your narcissistic mother and any other toxic people in your life for the better.
4. Focus on Your Needs and the Needs of Those You Love
Your narcissistic mother will try to make you feel as though you’re being selfish when you focus on your own needs. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s essential to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of anyone else.
Don’t buy into your narcissistic mother’s guilt-tripping tactics. Instead, remind yourself of how important it is to honor your own needs and the needs of other people in your life. You can even tell your mother that she would always take care of you, and you are following her example by taking care of your family.
That builds up her ego, and it’s true, but even if it’s only yourself that you’re taking care of, that’s not something wrong to do. In that case, you can tell your mother that you’re doing what she always tried to do and taking good care of your own needs.
When you focus on your needs and those of your family, you can see that it’s something you have to do. No matter what your mother says, it’s not wrong, and you will be able to clearly see that by understanding that it’s vital to stay healthy and happy if you are going to help other people do the same.
Because of her mental condition, your narcissistic mother neglected your needs in favor of her own. You adopted strategies to survive that toxic reality, and now, you not only have every right to take care of yourself, it’s your obligation.
Envision that little you who never got what he or she really needed, and be there for that child. It’s exactly what you need to do.
5. Don’t Call Her Names
Resorting to calling her names will not get you anywhere, and it will only make the situation worse. Name-calling is a toxic strategy that many narcissists use to devalue the people around them.
You don’t want to turn to those same strategies. They only make you feel worse about yourself. When it gets to the point where you want to call her names, it’s time to walk away from the discussion.
Give yourself a break so that you can calm down. You can then return to the conversation with a cool head. When you show a narcissist that they have gotten under your skin, and name-calling does that, they will continue to push those buttons to keep you confused and manipulate you.
Don’t let them get you to that point. Instead, it’s better to simply walk away, and that is often a very effective technique to get the narcissist to calm down and talk in a more rational way.
Emotional responses like that just simply don’t work with a narcissist. It’s understandable that you might become that angry, but showing your anger by devaluing your narcissistic mother will only make matters worse.
6. Detach Emotionally
If you were in a healthy relationship, detaching emotionally is the last thing you would want to do. The relationship you have with your narcissistic mother, however, is anything but healthy.
In reality, showing your emotions to a narcissist only gives them more ammunition to use against you. That’s why detaching emotionally can help you respond calmly and rationally to their emotional abuse.
This is not always easy to do, but you want to think of yourself as an observer. In other words, you want to act as though you’re someone who doesn’t have any attachment to a particular outcome.
When you step back into that observer position, you can more clearly see the personality disorder that your narcissistic mother suffers from. You can see how it affects her behavior, and you can more clearly see her attempts to manipulate you.
When you see that clearly, you can better avoid allowing her to do that. You can sidestep her attempts to control you without giving her any more ammunition she can use against you. It’s not really withdrawing, but it is a way of more clinically analyzing the situation.
When you are in a safe space, you can let yourself process the emotions your narcissistic mother’s actions provoked in you. You can examine the core beliefs those critical barbs triggered and work to heal those old wounds so that she won’t be able to use them against you in the future.
7. Problem-Solve Where Possible
The problem with guilt is that it doesn’t solve any problem. Feeling guilty about something only undermines your ability to take effective action. Instead of indulging in guilt, ask yourself if there is something you can and are willing to do to help the situation without hurting yourself.
Remember, your narcissistic mother doesn’t care if you’re feeling hurt. She only wants to get her needs met. If you let her make you feel guilty or manipulate you, it’s not solving anything. It’s not helping your relationship.
If you can do something to help the situation, then do it, and if not, then you have to let it go even if your mother can’t accept that. There is only so much that is under your control. Do what you can and let the rest go.
This is another way of setting a boundary with your narcissistic mother. Over time, she will see that her attempts to make you feel guilty are getting nowhere and she will adopt other strategies.
Those strategies may be equally as unhealthy, but you can cross that bridge when you get to it. For now, don’t let guilt guide your behavior. Do what you can in a way that is healthy for you, and if there’s nothing else you can do, let it go.
8. Be Kind but Firm
Don’t lower yourself to your narcissistic mother’s toxic level. You can enforce your boundaries by being kind, but firm in your statements and actions. Don’t let yourself get involved in a shouting match with your mother.
Tell her that you respect her needs, but you also respect yourself. You won’t do anything that compromises your own integrity or sense of self. You can tell her this in a kind way, a way that reassures her, but lets her know she won’t get anywhere by trying to use guilt to manipulate you.
Being kind helps you maintain your own integrity, and it sets a good example for your narcissistic mother. She won’t necessarily follow your example, but she will come to understand that her behavior can’t move you to do something you don’t want to do.
Over time, you’ll start to notice a change in your interactions with her. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to watch what she’s doing anymore, but it does force her to adopt other strategies that don’t violate your strong boundaries.
9. Keep Your Distance
Anytime you’re dealing with a narcissist, spending time away from them is vital to your own mental health. You need that to maintain a healthy perspective. It’s always a good idea to spend time with friends or family who support and love you.
They can help you to see through the manipulative tactics of your narcissistic mother. That time away also gives you an opportunity to process the complex emotions your mother stirs up in you.
As you heal, you’ll get stronger in your ability to set firm boundaries, keep a healthy distance from your toxic mother, and keep your interactions civil and as loving as they can possibly be.
You should call the shots on when you will spend time together and what you’re willing to talk about. If your mother tries to do something else, tell her you have to go. To keep your visits to a specific length, arrive with a story in place of when you have to leave.
If your mother starts to try to guilt you into anything or make you feel bad about yourself, tell her you have to go and leave. You don’t have to fight with her or feel bad about yourself, it’s just time to leave. She will get the message and change or you will spend less time with her.
10. Accept It and Let It Go
There’s only so much you can control. Really, all any of us can control is our own behavior. As education consultant David Dempsey aptly points out, “In reality, no-one can ‘make you feel’ anything. She chooses to act a certain way (perhaps in response or reaction to something you’ve done or said). You feel a reaction (guilt or judged) based on your perception, personality, learning and environment. How you next choose to respond is your point of control.”
Whether your mother changes or not is entirely up to her. You can’t make her change and there is only so much you can do to help her. You are only responsible for your behavior.
You are not responsible for making her life better. You are only responsible for taking care of yourself. That means not putting up with someone who tries deliberately to devalue you. You have to accept that fact and act appropriately.
You may have to eventually go no-contact with her to preserve your own mental, emotional, and physical health. Accepting that will open your mind to other perspectives and help you to act in your own best interest.
Even if you don’t decide to go no-contact, once you accept your mother’s behavior, how it has affected you, and what you need to do to stay healthy, you will find the right path to move on and live your best life.
Take responsibility for no one else other than yourself. Your mother is on her own path, and you have to let her go her own way. You have yourself to take care of, and doing just that is the most important thing you’ll do in your life.
11. Get Some Support
Going through all of this is the most difficult thing the child of a narcissistic parent will ever do. You’re going to need some support. This can come in several different forms.
You might have friends and/or other family members to whom you can turn and express your feelings about what is happening. If that doesn’t help or you feel as though you’re stuck in emotional abuse, you always have the option of seeing a therapist.
In fact, a therapist can really help you move forward with your life. They can help you look inside and really understand how the abuse has affected your life. Once you’ve done that, there are several techniques they can use to help you heal those wounds.
Healing your emotional trauma will be difficult, but it will free you to live the life you’ve always dreamed you could live. Sometimes, you have to look back to see a clear way forward.
Don’t be afraid to reach out. As the song says, “Everyone needs somebody sometime.” That includes you, and you should never feel ashamed to reach out and get the help you need.
A narcissistic mother is one of the most toxic people you can have in your life. She has had an effect on you for your entire life. It’s hard to recognize the emotional abuse and even harder to escape it and heal from it. But it can be done. One of the first things you must do is recognize the situation, and then, you can identify her abusive tactics and respond in a way that is healthy for you.
An important part of the healing process, especially if you’ve had a narcissistic mother, is recognizing the emotional triggers her abuse created. This is one of the ways she can manipulate and control you. When you recognize those triggers, you can heal them and stop the abuse. A free copy of my 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers can help you do that so that you can free yourself to live your best life. Just click on the link below this video and I’ll send it directly to your inbox for free!
If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel