Living with a narcissistic mother is probably one of the biggest challenges anyone can face in their life time, surviving it is the ultimate challenge. Narcissistic mothers can inflict very deep wounds early in childhood, and rather than help those wounds heal will ensure the wound not only remains open with devastating consequences but also seek to carry on inflicting pain. This is so damaging that if left unchecked can create huge problems with a person’s self-esteem, and affect their relationships well into adulthood.
I was aware of my mother’s lack of presence both physically and emotionally from a very young age. She spent long periods being absent, from home, left in the care of my father, it was never really spoken about. Upon return she was cold, indifferent, moody, and explosive. Years later, putting the jigsaw puzzle together it became clear that she had been locked into a marriage she wanted no part of and yet refused to take responsibility for and walk away from, purely out of her own greed, materialism. In essence she wanted all of the benefits that went with the marriage, such as the financial security and the ability to have beautiful clothes etc, but none of the emotional attachment. She chose to stay out of her own insecurity and also greed, and with that came resentment and bitterness. She would inflict venom in the most explosive way possible, she was cold and lacked responsiveness. I longed for my mother’s affection and warmth, her approval and acceptance, and quickly learned that it was never going to be an easy thing to achieve. My heart at times, ached to be cuddled, nurtured, accepted and loved was in stark contrast to the reality, which was the harshness, coldness, austere, brutal, accusatory that resonated in her and the loneliness it generated all around. To be controlled and told to be grateful for it was against every fibre of my being. I took upon the role of rescuer and sought ways to appease, and generate humour within her and around her. Walking on eggshells became a regular occurrence. Her dysfunctionality was toxic. She was without doubt, strikingly beautiful, high cheekbones, her skin flawless, gorgeous hair with a perfect figure, always dressed elegantly, intelligent, she had an inquiring mind, a beautiful singing voice. To the outside world, a dream, a beauty, the reality couldn’t have been more different! She was manipulative, controlling, secretive, materialistic, vindictive, and poisonous. She was a Narcissist.
To be met with such coldness as a child is a terrible thing. She would vent her fury at the smallest thing, and use anything as a weapon to drive home her message and re affirm her control. Everyday items such as a hair brush, brooms, or belts became items that she would use as weapons whilst in a fit of fury. Nothing was ever good enough, or too fast enough, she had no patience or empathy.
Having sustained a violent sexual assault as a child whilst out on an errand for her, I returned home traumatised. She in one of her usual fits of rage firstly accused me of lying, I was 10 years old! The police arrived to take a statement and observed her mask of congeniality slip, and were horrified, but nothing was said or done about. After that, I was forbidden by her to ever speak about it again. In her mind, it was done and dusted.
I was 13 when I stopped believing my mother was capable of ever-loving me. This realisation occurred during an episode where she had me pinned by the throat to the wall, and was threatening me with a broom handle. I remember looking at her square in the eyes and seeing her dark anger, it was so strong you could almost see the vapours emitting from her body. I was terrified, but something rose in me and managed to summon up the physical strength to push her off me. It was at that precise moment, that I made a decision that she would never raise her hand to me again. I also decided that she would never see me cry again, it was giving her too much power. A fight for survival was necessary, but it also came with devastating loss, I suffered the full impact of bereavement. The realisation that she was never going to change, and with that the loss of any hope of having any kind of warm loving relationship with my mother was gone forever.
It became apparent that her toxicity and spiteful nature extended to grandparents, and other relatives, causing division, arguments, tension and sadly alienation. Of course she would never admit to anything, but it all came to light when having received a letter from one of my grandparents, the truth was out, she had deliberately and callously caused alienation from them which was devastating. At 15 it became blatantly obvious, that she was jealous and in constant competition with me.
A child hood shaped by a mother with so much negativity and mood swings, so I escaped into a marriage, which was another version of my mother, but far worse! It was a truly devastating moment when the reality dawned. I had allowed it to happen all over again! I left the marriage, and my mother was furious. I moved back into the family home, she took most of my salary, leaving me in a situation where I could not escape .She sided with my ex in an all-out attempt to break me completely. I was met with aggression and lies from both of them, every fibre in my being knew this was my one chance of escape and I took it and refused to budge. She betrayed me on levels that are beyond comprehension. Even though in complete shock, I managed to summon an inner strength to confront her, she was a formidable opponent, I was met with denials, lies, ridicule refusing to listen, and gas lighting with full intent. Gas lighting was a term that I came across a while later and explained things very clearly to me. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting). Time passed and as usual I would offer the olive branch, she refused, even during family bereavements, she would never take any responsibility for her own wrong doing. She chose to continue her vendetta, and it was whilst she in the middle of another rant, the idea formed in my mind that I was allowing this to continue. It made me realise, enough was enough, and to walk away from herfor my own preservation. These issues were hers, not mine, and I was no longer going to keep trying to fix her at the expense of myself!
I was left to pick up the pieces, and took the time, although completely devastated to heal on all levels. I came to discover, that my own experiences although traumatic were sadly not in the minority, but fundamentally it helped validate what I was trying to understand and come to terms with. I went through the whole cycle of a bereavement, denial, anger, sadness etc. I worked on repair at cell level, nurtured and consoled the inner child, and repaired my own self esteem.
Surviving a narcissistic mother, was a challenge, at times I showed I strength, I didn’t even know that I had, but I can now say, I survived , started again and rebuilt my life. So whilst it is true that narcissistic mothers cause so much pain, there are things that you can do to build your life, survive and be happy and hopefully some of these suggestions might help you.
Still living at home:
- If you are still living with a narcissist mother, for your own wellbeing, firstly reach and speak to someone. If this isn’t possible, then know that she will never change, she is incapable of doing so, and attempts to evoke change will only cause her to fly into a rage.
- Bide your time, keep yourself centred, and try not to react, that gives her power at your expense.
- Use meditation to keep you focussed and centred.
- Do not believe in her abusive analysis of you, what she is deep down speaking about is a description of her, but is too toxic to admit that there is anything wrong with her.
- Just bide your time, read as much as you can about narcissism, and look for a ways that you can move forward with your life. This means study hard, work on getting financial independence, see this as a means to an end and your survival
- Look at options for getting financial independence.
- Use affirmations such as Louise Hay; work on improving your self-esteem.
- Surround yourself with a good supportive positive network of people.
If you are no longer living at home,
- The following are some good reads, “You’re not crazy; – it’s your mother by Danu Morrigan, The Empathy Trap by Dr Jane Mcgregor, and Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood, and other support material that helps you deal with the trauma.
- Use Louise Hay affirmations, and apps such as Think up, which will improve your self-esteem.
- Accept that your mother did not and was incapable of loving you, that she has a problem; it does not define you as a person. You are not a bad person as a result of her disorder.
- Get to know You. What do you like? Love, to do? What is important to you?
- Make healthy boundaries.
- If you wish to maintain contact with your mother, put in place a time limit on visits, putting you in the driver’s seat, this will restrict any potential threat to you or your children.
- If you feel that maintaining contact is too stressful, then dis connect from her completely. Ensure that you have a supportive network around you that can help you through the bereavement process.
- Journal about your thoughts and feelings, it will help you work through the process in a more structured way and will help to release anger.
- If possible, use exercise to help you with the stress levels.
- Put 2 chairs in a room, sit in one and imagine the narcissist mother or father is in the other. Talk openly about how she has made you feel, this exercise is a very powerful one.
- Get help and support to help calm the nervous system, which for perhaps way too long has been in a state fight or flight scenario. Counselling is a good option which can help guide you through painful memories with a view to releasing them completely.
- Learn to look after Number 1 that is You. Even small things such as buying yourself a small bunch of flowers, bubble bath, if it makes you feel good that is the objective that you can build upon.
- Quieten the mind using meditation, which will reduce the inner critic, that has been raging within.
- Music is a great mood booster. Omharmonics has binaural waves which help calm the mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46DuYDhTkZM
- Be proud that you are a survivor of narcissist abusive mother; you can and will survive anything.
- You are not alone.
- Observe red flags in behaviour of others.
- Acknowledge your strengths.
- Take the first step in healing, you are worth it.
- Learn to have fun, and connect with things that make you laugh and feel happy.
- Check your diet, and keep it healthy.
- Perhaps adopt another mother, or volunteer.
- You cannot change anyone else, only yourself.
- The past is over, you cannot change it, but you can choose this moment, right now to build a new life that will make you happy, why wait?