For the children of narcissistic mothers, the world is a confusing place full of conflicting experiences and instability that persists into adulthood. That’s because she’s trying to keep her children off guard to facilitate her control over them. If you’re wondering whether your narcissistic mother might be doing manipulative things behind your back, the short answer to your query is yes, your narcissistic mother will do many things behind your back to retain her control of the narrative.
To the outside world, she seems like a supermom, but that’s not how you experienced her in what was supposed to be the safety of your own home when you were growing up. Rather than being a protective, nurturing parent, a narcissistic mother is, in fact, a source of fear: she’s always protecting her own image, doing many things behind her child’s back to bolster her narrative as a loving parent.
This behavior continues when the child is an adult. It’s an impossible situation for any child to live with and it leaves emotional scars that last a lifetime. If you’re wondering if your own mother would undermine you behind your back, read on to find out just how a narcissistic mother can manipulate your world.
It Starts With Understanding
Understanding what she did — and will continue to do — can help. Here are seven things you should know about what a narcissistic mother will do behind your back and sometimes to your face.
1. She Asserts that She’s the Best
The narcissistic mother will commonly carefully cultivate her image as the caring, devoted, principled, and always self-sacrificing parent. It is you, her child, who simply doesn’t see that what she is doing is in your best interest. She may even paint you as a ‘bad seed,’ and as she is skillful at manipulating even your own family to support what she is saying, you may have little recourse to contradict her.
This creates a surreal experience for any child with such a parent. Even into adulthood, you are left uncertain of your own interpretations about her behavior. You’re being told what a good mother she has been, but that’s not what you’re experiencing. This creates a situation of cognitive dissonance where you have contradictory thoughts and feelings that can eat away at your self-confidence regarding how you interpret your own experiences.
2. She Uses Cultural Assumptions to Her Advantage
Our culture programs us from infancy to believe a certain way about the roles we will later assume in life. With respect to our parents, we are told that they want the best for us, and it’s difficult to accept that might not be true. That is something that the narcissistic mother can use to her advantage.
She will project the image of a loving parent to the outside world and dismiss any assertions to the contrary as simply a childhood phase or behavioral problem on the part of the child. She will describe her adult children as being unaware and unappreciative of all she has done for them, all while professing her undying love, of course.
Her descriptions of how her children are ‘acting out’ or are unappreciative will often generate sympathy from people outside the family. Once she has created a believable narrative, it will be difficult for any child, even any adult children, to push back.
3. Little Cuts
Narcissistic mothers are masters of killing you with a whole lot of little cuts, called microaggressions. You know these well even if you don’t know that’s what they are called. Microaggressions are those biting remarks that your mother disguises as humor or backhanded compliments. These types of comments put you in an impossible situation because any attempt to contradict them makes you seem like you’re the petty one or like you can’t take a joke.
Examples of microaggressions include statements like, “I like that dress on you. It hides the extra weight you’ve put on,” or, “You look so good without your glasses.” These seemingly minor slights are insidious wounds that accumulate through the years to damage your self-esteem. They are designed to make you seek out your mother’s approval and become dependent on her opinion even when you’re an adult.
4. She’s a Master Saboteur
The narcissistic mother wants to keep her children dependent upon her even into adulthood. Toward that end, she believes she has the right to interfere in your private life. She frames her interference as concern for you, and she is not above deliberately sabotaging your relationships behind your back.
She is often willing to tell you her unabridged opinion of your life choices, including who you should and should not date. Her deliberate attempts to undermine your life choices can present a real obstacle to you as her adult child. You might feel a strong sense of instability and lack the confidence you need to make your own decisions or set appropriate boundaries.
5. She Uses Triangulation
Triangulation is when the narcissistic mother uses a third person to relay a message to you rather than simply talking to you herself. By doing this, she can effectively manipulate the relationship between both of you because she is controlling the communication. This is a common ploy when you’re an adult.
It’s a way to pit one person against another. If you challenge the message, she can simply dismiss it as a misunderstanding on the part of the third party rather than anything being wrong with her message. In this way, she can create a rivalry between siblings or between you and your father.
6. She’s All About Plausible Deniability
Narcissistic mothers are great manipulators: they often dismiss, minimize, or even gaslight their children, leading them to question their own perceptions of the situation. This emotional abuse is done in a way that the narcissistic mother can employ plausible deniability if she is questioned about a situation or event.
She will often claim you misunderstood or misinterpreted what happened. She may even outright lie about what happened, and if the situation is one where multiple interpretations are possible, it can be difficult to prove what you know to be true.
7. She Ignores Boundaries
For a narcissistic mother, boundaries are inconvenient. She frequently will ignore them, and any attempts you make to set limits will be met with ridicule or anger. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for family roles to become blurred or even reversed.
You or your siblings may have been used as emotional confidantes, and you might even have been put in a parental role to comfort her or adopt other adult responsibilities. By doing this, she eroded your sense of self and robbed you of the childhood experience.
As an adult, she has no problem inserting herself into every aspect of your life. Any pushback on your part is met with an aggressive response on her part.
A narcissistic mother is not able to provide the nurturing environment to help her children grow their self-esteem in order to become independent. In fact, she doesn’t want you to be independent. Her own inner turmoil sees that independence as a threat to her carefully cultivated image.
Clearly, these manipulative tactics employed throughout your childhood can leave you with emotional trauma that can affect your adult life for years to come. But, you shouldn’t lose hope.
By learning to develop self-awareness and compassion as well as how to grow your self-esteem, you can begin the process of healing from the trauma inflicted by your narcissistic mother when you were a child. Ending all contact with her can help, and check out this article for some different ways she might react.
With a better understanding of some of the things your narcissistic mother does behind your back, you might also want to know more about the mean things she might say to you! Read through the article, “Five Circumstances Where Narcissistic Mothers will Say Mean Things to Hurt You” to learn more.
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