How to know you have a narcissistic mother wound

narcissistic mother
Photo by Tamara Gak on Unsplash

When Christina Crawford wrote about her abusive mother, Joan, in Mommie Dearest, several celebrities came out in defense of the actress.

Narcissistic mothers are good at presenting an image to the public that directly contradicts their behavior behind closed doors. This makes it difficult to receive support when you reach out for it.

The cruelty of the narcissistic mother gets saved for the times you are alone without onlookers. People might even go out of their way to tell you how wonderful your mother is. They have no idea what she’s putting you through in private.

When in public, she may hiss at you under her breath. Or use code that only you understand to remind you that you’re under her thumb.

Narcissistic mothers think you belong to them. In their minds, you are an extension of them rather than a separate person.

Narcissistic mothers think you belong to them. In their minds, you are an extension of them rather than a separate person. Click To Tweet

Most, if not all, of my clients have been raised by narcissistic mothers. If it’s true that like attracts like, this makes sense since I had to contend with one myself.

If you’re like me, you had no choice in any matter, whether in what you wore, how you styled your hair, or your activities.

‘No’ and the narcissistic mother

narcissistic mother
Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

The word ‘no’ would not cross your lips in relation to your mother’s demands. This becomes a subconscious response to the wrath she unleashes on you if you deny her wishes.

That could be physical or emotional abuse, rejection or abandonment. It could look like screaming or silent treatment depending on the day.

Your job was to regulate her unpredictable emotions. That taught you to suppress your own emotions and do everything you could to keep her happy.

You learned that no one would help you process your own feelings so you stuffed them down. The only feelings that mattered and got voiced in the house were hers.

You learned that no one would help you process your own feelings so you stuffed them down. Click To Tweet

And no matter how hard you tried, you could never make her happy. She enjoyed watching you fawn to try and win her love.

As a result of her refusal to allow you free will, you have nonexistent boundaries in every one of your relationships. This led to abuse of all kinds, including sexual, with future partners.

She inserts herself into your life, even as an adult. When you move to a new location, she announces she’s moving across the street.

If you ever dare to set a boundary with her, she will turn you into a villain. You are ungrateful and mean-spirited because she’s only trying to help.

Your feelings don’t matter

Your feelings never come into the equation and you’ve grown accustomed to believing they don’t matter. All your energy goes into tiptoeing around this ticking time bomb who will go off at any moment.

You may notice she believes the rules don’t apply to her. She takes pride in using people or situations to get what she wants.

You can succeed because that’s a sign of her good parenting. But don’t shine too much, because she’ll make you pay if you take the spotlight off her.

You can succeed because that's a sign of her good parenting. But don't shine too much… Click To Tweet

If you’ve been married, you may have noticed that your wedding plans set her off. The attention you receive as the bride is untenable to her and she’ll find creative ways to ruin that for you.

You have endless empathy for others, especially her, but none for yourself. Your willingness to blame and shame yourself instead of holding her accountable serves her agenda well.

If you do hold her feet to the fire, she will gaslight the hell out of you. That means she will say you are lying, too sensitive, misremembering things, or that you have no right to your feelings.

How to deal with a narcissistic mother

narcissistic mother

Admit she’s never going to change or at least let go of the hope that she will. All that focus you’ve put on her – turn it toward yourself.

Learn about narcissism and see that no matter what you do or say she’ll never understand. She is likely incapable of empathizing with you and you’re fighting a losing battle believing she will.

Stop trying to have a relationship with her and admit that’s not possible. Narcissistic mothers are all about themselves and incapable of the give and take of a functional relationship.

Set firm boundaries that include limiting or eliminating contact altogether. You may want to use the gray rock method which preserves your energy by only having surface level conversation with her.

You may also choose to go no contact which is exactly how it sounds. No phone, email, or any other contact because you can’t move forward in life with this boulder shackled to your ankle.

Of course, she will do everything in her power to get you back. Gaslighting gifts and cards will abound. Remember these have nothing to do with you and come from a need for power and control, not love.

Get support from someone who understands narcissistic mothers and their tactics. This will likely be someone outside your circle of family and friends.

Flying monkeys within the family will only do your mother’s bidding. Friends may have been fooled into believing her public persona is real.

You need a neutral and educated party who believes you. One who is not invested in covering up your mother’s transgressions.

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  1. Very true! I have never thought of my mother as narcissistic but she meets some of the criteria. She would make me feel guilty if my house wasn’t clean to her standards. I was a single mom to 4 children. I worked full time. I tried to keep the house spotless but you know that’s not possible. Spending time with my children was my priority. If my mom came to my house, she’d find the one thing I didn’t get done or it wasn’t good enough. I have never felt as if I was enough. My mother would call around 8:30 At night if she the children’s voices she’d ask “why are they still up. It’s past their bedtime.” She was always in my head. I’d try to make decisions thinking about what she would want me to do. This was hard on my marriage. Sometimes I didn’t do something with my husband because I didn’t think she’d approve. I’m 65. We have a decent relationship now. She hasn’t changed much but my focus is not on her anymore.

    • That’s so hard, Julie! I’m glad to hear you’ve stopped focusing on her and hope you have found the courage to focus on yourself.