Before you say, “Fathers can be narcissists too!” please know you are absolutely right.
It’s just that it’s Mother’s Day and victims/survivors of maternal narcissistic abuse tend to find a day like today troubling, as friends and nearly every business online will make over thousands of public posts that contribute to the pain of the alienated child that will, or already has, become an adult.
I use the term ‘alienated’ because there is a cultural (and sometimes connected to biological) understanding of mothers as representing the beacon of unconditional love toward their children; acting as at worst imperfect, but wholly loving. But when your mother is a narcissist… you simply will not develop in a healthy environment within the home or outside of it.
Our society assumes that mothers must love their children— as they should. But unfortunately, we live in a world in which this is alarmingly not the case and much more prevalent than we attempt to realize. All too often, those that suffer from this kind of abuse are told that their negative relationships are ones that should be understood as complicated, or even a phase, and not approached as toxicity and abuse that would be better to break away from in part, if not altogether.
Concerned parties may turn a blind eye, assuming that as long as the abuse is emotional and not physical that there is no way, or not one’s place, to intervene. The burden to give the mother a chance to improve her kindness or care is placed onto the child, paradoxically placing the child in the place of the parent. The child becomes a prisoner of emotional warfare, especially since narcissists are keen on finding others that enable their behavior to surround themselves with.
These children may grow into people that are either:
-emotionally detached: avoiding intimacy, sometimes extreme independence
-have insecure attachment: either pushing others away or anxiously pursuing attachment, typically a combination of both, which largely can seem like “testing” the other to witness (sometimes prove) their response.
-crisis dependent: causing or finding chaotic situations or people in order to maintain what they are normally accustomed to.
-the “parent”: generally one who is very empathetic will take on this role, and is constantly focused or responsible for the happiness of others.
-frightened: “walking on eggshells,” grow to see themselves as a burden, worries about selfishness, hates their own needs, and tends to seek out someone to “echo”— typically having difficulty having a voice of their own
-overwhelmed with guilt, self-blame: “If I did x, then Mom would love me.” Heavy associated understandings of shame in not receiving the emotional response desired. “I must need to fix myself,” instead of understanding that it may not be their fault or burden to carry.
-may have PTSD or C-PTSD: Emotional trauma can show itself in ways that result in adults who think they will not live as long due to the constant danger they are in and who are used to having to shutdown (typically dissociating) or explode during arguments (fight or flight responses)
-narcissists themselves: typically someone that is more aggressive or reliant on ego will adopt a recuperative way to respond to abuse, “I’ll make sure I won’t be treated as unimportant by being the best/smartest/prettiest myself.”
I think I was raised by a Narcissistic Mother // I think my loved one is suffering/has suffered from a Narcissistic Mother… What should I do?
I cannot stress this enough: Encourage them or encourage yourself to seek out therapy and attend on a regular basis. Without coming to terms with the destructive behaviors we’ve been taught, we will be doomed to repeat them— Destroying our relationships, families, and selves in the long-run. If you are unsure of how to approach a loved one, attempt supportively discussing points brought up in this article with them without placing judgements in their reactions. It takes time, and sometimes it is very difficult for someone to ask for help— especially since it is a common response for narcissistic parents to belittle psychology and gains from therapy, leaving the victim feeling shameful in accepting that they need professional help and guidance.
Try to tell them, or yourself: “Life can and will get better as much as it hurts and seems impossible right now. But by following steps to talk about it, finding methods to these solutions, and taking an active role to learn how to take care of yourself, you will get there.”