The trauma of being the daughter of a narcissistic mother
A number of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) may have grown up with a narcissistic mother. These women were never meant to become mothers, but in those times it happened as contraception did not exist or wasn’t available. It must be hard for those women, having arrived at the state of motherhood, just before the empowering choice of becoming a parent became reality. Maybe that is one of the reasons that there seemed to be quite a high number of narcissists around.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, a Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterised by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others.
What are the damage and benefits of having a narcissistic mother?
I am one of those daughters, growing up in family that was all about image, lacking warmth and safety. It took me years to recognise that my mother had a Narcissistic Personality Disorder and way longer to repair the damage of my childhood experiences. Below is a list of the messages I received from her and the impact it had.
- I am never good enough – typical leading to low self esteem
- I never try hard enough – gave me good work-ethic
- I can always do better – made me a perfectionist
- Always looked down upon – there is no self esteem
- Keep on trying to get her approval – trained me to be persistent
- Talking about her terrible and harsh behaviour was usually dismissed. People did not believe me – this was leading to self doubt and loneliness
- Alienated from others – feeling lonely
- Relationship with siblings is disturbed, due to her interventions – you are alone
- Keep hoping that one day, she will change – harbouring that hopeful, positive attitude
- No sense of self – feeling lost.
How to start leaving her behind?
This is a very painful process, and there are three key steps to consider that will help you move forward:
- You may have to give up all hope that you can have a relationship with your mother (you might be in contact, but may never have a balanced, open and two-way relationship). Stop engaging with her. I am in regular contact, but never tell her anything that matters to me. There is a lot I don’t tell her, so she has no ammunition to hurt me.
- Recognise and dismiss her messages about you: never good enough, ridiculous, how dare you comment on her, you are so ungrateful, etc. These messages are not true. They are the perception of a distorted person. List your positive attributes: how you are experienced by others, and what you really deep down think about yourself.
- Your family may be conflicted over the issue and the support they can give. The family members that are under her influence won’t risk upsetting her, and the family members that have stepped away most likely don’t want to be reminded of her and the pain it has caused. This can change over time, but when you start the process of moving away from her influence, be aware that others may be unable or unprepared to support your decision.
A coach will be able to guide you through this process and make it easier. You have been on your own for long enough…
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About Mariette Jansen
Dr Mariette Jansen (Dr de-stress) is a psychological coach, using therapy models, coaching techniques and mindfulness meditation to help you become balanced, stress-free and in control of your life. Focus areas are work-life balance, confidence, food/diet stress and general stress.
Author of two books: on meditation and exam stress.