Overcoming a Narcissistic Mother: Injured Instincts

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It’s not so easy to overcome a narcissistic mother for two simple reasons. Every child loves her mother no matter what. While I can enumerate the ways she built me up emotionally then knocked me down, whatever narcissistic indignity she bestowed on me seemed perfectly normal.

Mamma took pride in being a Good Wife and a Good Mother. Of the two, I suspect being a Good Mother was paramount. And she truly went to the wall for all of us.

When I was an infant and toddler, she dolled me up and showed me off. She took pride in my accomplishments. She took me into her confidence when she fought with Daddy. That made me feel special and conflicted at the same time. She ran interference for me with Daddy so I could have the things I needed – clothes, shoes, eyeglasses. Voice lessons? Dance lessons? Piano lessons? Not so much. She didn’t enjoy those activities, why should I? Still she made sure, one way or the other, I had everything she thought a little girl could need and I never had to negotiate through Daddy’s ire or disapproval by asking.

Sure she spanked me when I was bad and punished me when I was disobedient. True she violated some very personal boundaries with an enema bottle and a douche bag. Okay, she berated me when I made mistakes, but you better believe I learned how to pick an onion without rot afterwards. Everything she did to me was for my own good.

I was 11 when my sister was born. Mamma often entrusted me with Cheree’s care. She could count on my help around the house. Many was the summer day I stood in the living room ironing the family’s clothes and watching the daytime soaps. If I felt neglected in lieu of a new baby in the house, it was my imagination. She still did plenty for me: driving me to and from school, bringing my lunch, gossiping with me and my friends until the bell rang for class. Feel fat, take a diet pill. Feel anxious, take a Librium. Have a breakdown from uppers and downers. Pull me out of college prep classes. Bored to tears after that, the days I didn’t feel like going to class; she made excuses for me. She picked my clothes. She picked my friends. She chaperoned school trips, drove me on dates and to dances.

When I started dating at 15, she waited for me in my bedroom for a full report. We dished liked girlfriends about my personal life. Her friends marveled at how close we were. Intercepting my mail was probably over the line, but a mother has a responsibility to protect her daughter. She was the life of the party with my girlfriends. They loved her. She picked my boyfriends. And flirted shamelessly with them. They loved her. Everyone loved my mother. But me.

I felt inferior to her bubbly charms. I felt threatened by her flirtatious rivalry. I resented what I perceived as invasions, manipulation and control. What an ungrateful, unappreciative daughter I was. After all she did for me. She risked her life to have me. I felt hateful and hated myself for it.

The issue becomes one of trust.

If the one person in the whole world who is supposed to love you devalues you, then tells you that you are wrong for feeling like shit, who can you trust? Instead of hearing and heeding that voice from the stillness of your soul that guides and inspires, you tune it out, turn it off, stuff it. Then when you go out into the world to live your life, you are foolishly gullible, misplacing trust in all manner of people and situations that only spell trouble with a capital “T”.

With injured instincts, you are vulnerable without protection.

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8 thoughts on “Overcoming a Narcissistic Mother: Injured Instincts

  1. Pingback: Fun to Be One | Reinventing Life at 64

  2. I entirely understand. I was adopted by a much older widow foster mother, who didn’t seem to love her own sons or grandkids, unless they showered her with attention and gifts, I suppose. I was the hand-picked pet, and everyone on the outside always made it a point to tell me how lucky of a little girl I was, but I felt so empty and plastic inside. “You don’t need a dad, do you?” and “You don’t want to go back to your birth mother, do you?”, were things I heard before entering kindergarten. She also looked the other way when any normal mother would have known the teenage boy next door was a little too interested in spending alone play time with her 4 year old “daughter”. I could go on and on, maybe write a book about how depraved I felt, and how depraved I acted from adolescence through young adulthood…but I won’t. Thank you for posting so clearly the conflicts of heart and mind you experience/have experienced. I think I speak for both of us when I say these things are always being worked through, in our souls, personal interactions, even in random arising thoughts. Keep going.

  3. OMG…you too had ‘the enemas and douche bags! At the age of 6 my evil mother would do this to me. As years past I figured out that she did this to me so that she could ‘flirt’ with my doctor. Her ‘Dr. Clay’ would give me numerous x-rays of my stomach, later admitting me to the hospital for 2 weeks, due to”ulcers”.
    My stay in the hospital: Drs. surrounding my bed asking me, “what is the problem?” My six year old brain thinking, “what does problem mean?”
    My life included my precious baby Brother, just 18 months younger than myself, however, we did not have the comprehension, education, vocabulary to comprehend that our mother was a ‘classic Narcisstic woman. Our life to say the least was a living hell. We had each other, however, the mother would keep us divided, but when she traveled we bonded! We lived in a different time. Secrets were held tight. I was not allowed to have friends, overnights were prohibited. ‘The Rules’ prevailed.
    My Dad was never allowed to hold my hand as an infant or toddler, nor as
    the years past. Dad was the ‘enemy’. How terrible to know how awful this was for him, but it was one her ‘The Rules’.
    As a young women I read everything possible, including, ‘My Mother, My self,
    by Nancy Friday. (The Daughter’s Search for Identity). I felt Crazy. I asked my mother to go to theraphy with me. That was a NO. Always trying to figure out what she wanted. When she said go right, it was “I said go left”. This is a very simple clarification of living with the mother felt like.
    As the years past I struggled. My Daughter was diagnosed as ‘bi-polar’ when she was in her late teens. That road has been pure hell.
    I continued to study, research all aspects of this illness, and my situation with my relationship with my mother. I strongly believe, ‘Past is Prologue”, thus, my need to understand and not repeat the past.
    In my advocacy, I initiated the Barbara Schneider Foundation. Improving Mental Health Crisis Response, Preventing Mental Health Crisis, thus, De-escalation Techniques, dealing with people with mental crisis.
    I was nominated to our County Health Board, and nominated to Minnesota
    NAMI (National Alliance Mental Illness).
    I had a major awakening during a NAMI Conference while selling books regarding Mental Health. I STOPPED everything I was doing and read,
    UNDERSTANDING THE BORDERLINE MOTHER, by Christine Ann Lawson. “Helping her children transcend the Intense, Unpredictable and Volatile Relationship.” It Was ME, It was my Mother, My Father, My Brothers!
    Our life in almost every page, from the ‘Cinderella Complex’ to the very self-absorbed mother that created our world.
    If I was a writer, this would have been my story. The transformation was uplifting. I had another person’s perspective, words, vocabulary, understanding. Almost forgiveness.
    Time has pasted. I am back! My Daughter, at the age of 40 had our precious
    Grand Daughter. The joy of our life, and happiness that cb could be a Mother.
    Now we begin a new chapter. Now I am back, researching, studying. A new word is in our vocabulary, but is really an old word with ‘Understanding the Borderline Mother.’ NARCISSIM
    My tw0 and a half year old Grand Daughter is living with a Mother who is narcisstic.
    Many stories could be told, however, my goal, is to learn how to cope with and allow my Grand Daughter, my other Daughter, her family and myself to function knowing that cb’s life is all about her and NOT her daughter, nor us.
    All that I have experienced, understand in reading about people with Narcissism do not change, thus, I believe we must figure out a way to live life with a narcisstic parent and daughter.
    Please comment, positive or negative criticisms are all welcomed.

  4. It sounds like you handled your challenges really well. I’m very happy to hear that you have a good relationship with your daughter and grand daughter and that you have made some peace with your past. Thanks for sharing your story. It helps so many people who stumble onto this blog because they are seeking insight, information and reassurance that we can be okay even after growing up with crazy people. Hugs. Pam

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