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.