Adult Children of Narcissists

by Michelle Piper

Adult Children of Narcissists (ACON’s) sometime fear that narcissism breeds narcissism.

While this may hold true in a minority of cases, it is not always what happens, especially when a child grows to realize that the family he or she was brought up in is not the norm. You may realize and that your childhood experiences are not something you want to replicate in the new life you are making for yourself.

Narcissistic parents are incredibly jealous and envious of their children when they see them grow and develop into an independent self. As you may know, they will do anything in their power to keep you with them as long as possible, to keep stroking their thirsty but fragile egos.

What happens when you grow up, venture out onto your own (reluctantly allowed to do so by your narcissistic parent) and realize that life outside of that narcissistic bubble isn’t what real life is about? It is enough to make anybody’s head reel from the contradictions of what “love” was when you were growing up, to what “love” actually is.

When you, an adult child of narcissistic parents, grows up, you may feel something is wrong but cannot necessarily identify what that is. You may have always associated love and appreciation with conforming to the demands of your parents and therefore assume that is how it all works.

You were “parentified” as a kid, taking on the role of a parent to be emotionally and psychologically responsible for the well-being of your narcissistic parent, when it really should have been the other way around.

You may not have realized the stigmatizing effects that this has had on you until you grew up into your own person. It takes a toll on the self-esteem, self-concept, self-worth, and altogether life satisfaction. During childhood, siblings often mistake “parentification” as favoritism and resent or compete with you.  Quite the burden, I’d say.

There are typically two types of responses displayed by parentified children. Let me know if these sound familiar.

You have the compliant response and the siege response.

The compliant response is much what it sounds like, complacency reigns supreme in your adult life. You may spend a great deal of time caring for others (much like you had to do growing up), always trying to please those around you, and do whatever it takes to maintain a harmonious atmosphere, which usually means that your needs are put on the back burner. This may have caused you to be self-deprecating, feeling that you can give and give, but it will never be good enough.

Then there is the siege response, the complete opposite of the compliant adult child of a narcissist. If this is/was you, then you were probably defiant and rebellious, protecting yourself by becoming less sensitive or walled off and extremely independent.

You would do whatever you had to do to manipulate others and treat them as if they are the parents who wanted you to meet their every expectation. This is more or less a passive-aggressive attack on your parents through other people, doing to others what you wish you could’ve done to your narcissistic parent.

The fear of abandonment is a common theme among children with a narcissistic parent, as you may know. Always having to earn love from them and knowing that it can be taken away if the needs of your parent are not met is a heavy load for any child to carry, especially when you are the one that needs to be nurtured, shown empathy, and be taken care of.

This can carry on into adulthood, feeling that you need to perform to the standards set by your spouse or significant other. You might feel that you are only there to serve your counterpart, always feeling less skilled and deserving than the other, and doing whatever is needed to prove yourself in the relationship.

In many families with a narcissistic parent, children are used as pawns and played off one another for the amusement of the parent. If you have brothers and/or sisters this may be familiar to you. There is typically a golden child and one or more scapegoats. Usually, the daughters of narcissistic mothers are chosen as the scapegoats, while the son(s) are chosen as the golden child(ren).

Your narcissistic mother may have cast you in all of these roles, abruptly changing your purpose when it suited her needs. This sudden demotion or promotion can be enraging or devastating to a child. Which role or roles did you play?

The golden child is the extension of the narcissistic parent, the perfect child that can do no wrong and is mirrored as a replication of the parent’s wonderfulness. Proper boundaries are not made between the golden child and the narcissistic parent, giving a sense of oneness between the two that leaves little or no room for the child to develop his or her own identity. As this adult child of a narcissist grows, he or she feels entitled to this same treatment, expecting others to act in the same way the parent did. Sound familiar?

Then there is the scapegoat, the outcast, the family member or members that take the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong. This child can never measure up to the golden child, even if he or she has greater accomplishments or does better in their life than the puppet of the parent.

Scapegoats are always seeking approval only to be turned down and made to feel inadequate for even attempting to outshine the golden child. This can cause a major rift between siblings, always competing with one another in a lose-lose situation where the referee is not fairly judging the players. Does that hit close to home?

As the scapegoat grows and ventures out into the world of freedom, they have a firmer grasp on their independence than the golden child does, as that child has never been allowed to be independent in their life.

I guess you can say that, retrospectively, the scapegoat is the lucky one. You may or may not agree. Typically, scapegoats can break free from the twisted and distorted dynamics of their dysfunctional family, and break the ties binding them to the abusive life that they were forced to lead. They have more of an opportunity to create a healthy life outside of their family.

However, the burdens they carried from childhood can still play a role in their adult lives. In the workplace, the scapegoat has a tendency to be overworked and underpaid even if their work is superior to others. They can be marginalized and never have the sense that they fit in comfortably with those around them, much like how they felt during childhood.

Scapegoats often do realize that this is a problem and are more apt to seek out professional help and psychotherapy than their other family members. If you happened to be the scapegoat in your family and have taken the steps to recover, you may have sought support from many different sources including meditation, spirituality, and truly loving relationships. What things have helped you to heal and have a better life? I would greatly appreciate your feedback.

With your narcissistic parent, you were most likely devalued and extremely under-appreciated. In the larger world away from the old narcissistic family system, you have the opportunity to be valued for your opinions, values and needs.

You find you can find others who allow you to express yourself and give a nurturing response to your own beliefs and needs. It can help you to recognize that you are an adequate human with positive attributes and skills to share with the world.

You learn that it is not your fault that your parent did not love you or show any empathy towards you, which is something that you really need—to be rid of the guilt and weight you have borne for so long.

I think The Beatles had it right: all you need is love.  And, for those who had narcissistic parents, sometimes it takes awhile to figure out what love is.

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Vicariousrising July 26, 2012 at 8:26 am

As the family scapegoat who has been in therapy for pretty much most of my adult life, I have issue with the idea that therapy offers the opportunity to have my ideas or whatever valued. Therapy shouldn’t be about the therapist handing over what I didn’t get as a kid. It should be me figuring out what I need and how to find appropriate places to get it. The therapist might be a figure of transference, but it is terrible if the reflection back is a lie. I’m pretty sure I’d recognize false regard by a therapist.

I also don’t think they it’s a minority that begets narcissism. There were 3 kids in my family, and I’m the only one to seek help. I really hope my family is not the norm, but based on how hard it’s been for me to shed the past, I tend to think most people default to honoring the parents no matter how piss poor they are at their job.

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Michelle Piper October 27, 2012 at 8:52 am

The last part of your comment, “I tend to think most people default to honoring the parents no matter how piss poor they are at their job” is a common challenge for many of the readers on the blog. Thank you for sharing your insight!

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Anonymous May 20, 2014 at 8:33 pm

So very true, thanks for saying that..

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Gina August 3, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Hi just found your blog and it is brilliant!! It’s spot on about Narcissitic mothers!! I was the “scapegoat” of the family. I met a wonderful, patient, loving man when I was 22 (obviously my NM hated him!) and went on to have two fab children, only when I was 31 and had the kids did I realise my upbringing was not normal. My mother tried to wreak havoc at every opportunity, she burnt a hole in my wedding dress and was so drunk at both my kids christenings that it was embarrassing. Everything you say about them is so true. I sought counselling when I was 31 and through that started the recovery journey. But my family were so toxic that I had no choice but to go no contact. It’s been 5 years now. I think it was very interesting what you said about siblings and how they didn’t like me being so responsible and “parentified” in fact my siblings were often my persecutors. I still struggle with depression sometimes now but life on the other side is amazing! I have wonderful friends and I don’t miss my family, thank you for your blog it is always good to read about this subject to keep me strong x

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Michelle Piper August 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Thank you very much for your comment and generously sharing some of your life story. You seem to have clarity about your history and a healthy compassion for yourself. That will be a gift to those children you mentioned. I am new to the blog world and am grateful for your thorough feedback. I appreciate the dialogue with more people and will create more content to further explore the sibling challenges that arise in a narcissistic family.

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Monica January 31, 2014 at 3:53 am

Thanks everyone for sharing.
A few words here because I have a weird realization. I was an only child (just my bad luck, she had only me to abuse!)
I seem to have been both, ‘golden child and scapegoat’: sometimes the ‘golden child’ (she even took my school reports to show her friends my good results; I suppose because she thought it was a reflection on her!), and sometimes, especially since I became an adolescent, the scapegoat who wouldn’t do anything right.
To make it worse, she enlisted the help of my enabling father when I became ‘too much’ for her to control me. It still makes me sad to think about how my father also betrayed me. Both my mum and dad had terrible verbal fights with each other, but when it was ‘me’ they would be firmly supporting one another.
I guess this was so very confusing. It still is, with both my parents now deceased for years.
Any comment? I wrote another post asking if someone here has a NM who is deceased.
I would like to know your thoughts.

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Ann February 8, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Hi Monica,
This must have been a terribly confusing situation for you. Thank you for sharing. It has brought up some realizations for me.

I was mostly the scapegoat. In hindsight, and in addition, I realize I was manipulated to do the dirty work in exchange for her approval. I feel like such a sucker, such a fool, for falling for her tricks, her false praise. It took so little to buy my love. That was then.

Father passed three years ago and since that time, she has lost her rudder. He was the only brake on her behavior. Now she uses the anticipated inheritance to pull strings and is in full-blown NPD behavior.

These words by Michelle sum up my views of “her”: “Although it may seem like the narcissist is self centered and full of herself, the truth is that, deep down inside, she loathes herself and and is chronically envious of you and the fact that you are able to love and empathize with others. She projects her hateful feelings about herself onto others, like you or another family member. Then she doesn’t have to bear the weight of her own negative, confined emotions.”

I feel such pity for her – even as a child I felt this. It was this pity that weighed on me to take emotional care of her and to abandon myself, sacrifice my life to carry her emotional brokenness.

A few days ago I decided to go no contact. For support I am reading everything I can find and focusing on staying grounded. I have been stuck on the sofa for two solid days but managed a walk today and tomorrow will do the same. I know my personal cycle and know I will be back to my artistic pursuits very soon. Until then, it is alright to sit and pout for a few days as I process this new awareness and decision.

To all those lovely 40 year olds who feel disappointed that it has taken so long to see the light – I turned 65 two months ago!

I have two absolutely brilliant loving and very free (adult) children and six grandchildren all of whom adore me and clamber to be in my lap or playing games and making art in my studio. Somehow, though I did not have a name for it or any understanding of what had happened to me as a child until about 5 years ago, I managed to intuitively/instinctively parent my children in a fairly healthy way. Perhaps therein lies some information that is useful to others – that we know more than we credit ourselves and perhaps by turning our focus away from the pain and towards the joy, we can better hear where our hearts are guiding us which is always towards the clearest expression of love and compassion to the little ones.

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Anonymous June 30, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Hi Monica,

I have a NM who passed away a little over five years ago. I also have a special needs child and live about 2000 miles away from my mom so fortunately I had enough sense, compassion and love for my own child to handle the situation very carefully. We visited my mom about two months before she died of lung cancer – this was on purpose so that my daughter could process the loss without the trauma of seeing her grandmother in the end stages of the disease. However, of course there were guilt trips, if you don’t come now don’t come at all type of thing. Even at the funeral it felt like I was at someone else’s mother’s funeral – I did not know the woman that my only sibling – the golden sister – spoke about at the ceremony. Because I started developing healthier boundaries with my mom – and therefore my dad and my sister too – all three of them eventually cut me out of their life until she was diagnosed with cancer, but even then I was not included at all in the process – I was treated like an acquaintance rather than a family member. It really hurt.
Now, my dad has dementia and the rejection has started again. My sister is looking after everything and leaving me out of everything. I found out from a police officer that she is his power of attorney , etc. etc. I have tried really hard to re-establish a relationship with my dad since my mom died but have realized that he was just as much a part of the abuse as she was. My dad at one point told me that he “made a choice years ago not to get involved in my mother’s bullsh*t” – essentially he knew what was going on and ignored it. I realize now that he likely did this to keep the family together – he had to be compliant or she would have taken us kids and left as she did once already when we were really young. However, after mom died I mistakenly thought that we could have relationship based on us and not her influence over us. You see if that were to happen that the rest of the family falls apart – if you are not the problem (the scapegoat) then that means someone else was or at least had a part to play in the family disfunction – my dad nor the rest of my immediate or extended family could handle that. No-one would take responsibility for their part – especially my dad.
With the rejection being fresh yet again I have a lot of memories and anger resurfacing – even though she is not even here, her legacy still lives on. It is a struggle, but please know you are not alone! It is very hard to be angry or bitter with someone who has passed away – somehow it just feels wrong. I believe it is because there is no longer any hope of making the situation better or obtain any healing within the relationship. You have not only lost your parent or parents but also a level of hope. Please be kind to yourself and know that you did not do anything to deserve the rejection – it was your dad’s coping mechanism and nothing more.

I hope this helped.
Penny

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Tamela October 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm

As I was reading, I wondered if there was a third option. For most of my life I was the compliant and my brother was (is) the siege. For the last 5 years I’ve not been compliant, but not siege either. Instead, I’ve withdrawn into a hermit-like existence… at least when it comes to dating.
But I guess that wasn’t an automatic response to the narcissistic parents, but a chosen response during the therapeutic process. Now that I’m stepping out of the cave, some of these issues are rearing their heads in new ways. Now I’m more in control of the issues and my responses in a small, controlled environment, but I need to step out into a bigger world. It’s just scary. I’ve done enough of the navel gazing, meditation, self-love talk and rebuilding of my character. Now I’ve got to test the waters in the real world of dating.
Reading this blog is really helping me to see that I can do it. I just need to take it slow, don’t rush myself. Don’t beat myself up when I get it wrong. Don’t rush into relationships. Just breathe and take a step. Then breathe and take another step.

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Michelle Piper October 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Hi Tamela,
You have answered part of your question with your comment “I’m more in control of the issues and my responses in a small, controlled environment, but I need to step out into a bigger world. It’s just scary.” It sounds like you are aware you have good reason to feel fear being vulnerable to another in the dating arena, because being open to those you most trusted in the past (your narcissistic parents) cost you considerable time and energy to repair. You are now smarter for it, however, and so if you watch for a few important things, it will help. One great self-check is:
How do I feel after being exposed to this person in the dating arena?
Do I feel validated by this person for healthy choices that I make? Notice I don’t just say more validated in general, but specifically for making healthy decisions about your own life. Many of us feel initially validated for all ranges of our behavior to the point of gleeful grandiosity by a narcissist but, then must go through the inevitable self loathing that comes if they later tear you down and you see you compromised your own values to bend toward their admiration. I will talk more about this in a post so feel free to ask for more specifics you would like to see covered.

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antelope December 28, 2012 at 8:18 am

i just realized my parents are narcs! In addition to all the other memories, i remember the one memory that traumatized me the most. Im sorry, i really need to mention this to someone. There was a servant in my house.
He had peeked through my shirt
While i was sleeping. I felt shame. I went to my mother for comfort. She, of course, spoke only about her childhood in response. Later she told it was my fault that i was sleeping when the servant was cleaning my room. She then told me he must have done it before too or else he wouldnt get the “courage” to do this. I know it isnt true. I at least expected her to instantly kick the servant out of the house. But she kept on asking me questions like “was he near your bed or far off? As soon as you woke up did u find him near you?” when i got angry and told her to stop asking me those questions, she said it was because she wanted to know the details and”the whole truth”before she removed him from work. Finally she did remove him from work because she had to show it to herself what a good mother she was. Later she started complaining to me about she had to all the housework,how much burden she had to go through working all the chores herself like she just didnt care that the servant had peeked through my shirt. I did go to a counsellor before not being able to understand what was wrong with me and why i had the low self esteem. Unfortunately i didnt really know what was the problem and i went with my mother. So the counsellor brought into my mother’s lying concern.If i fight with my mother now, she tells me that iam acting crazy, that she will take me to a psychiatrist. thanks 4 reading this long post really made a difference 2 me. :)

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antelope December 28, 2012 at 8:25 am

it wasnt the incident that traumatized me as much as my mother’s reaction to it. :(

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roan January 8, 2013 at 10:24 am

I’m so sorry that happened to you. I can relate to feeling more traumatized by your mother’s reaction than the incident itself – this happened to me, too. Instead of tending to your feelings and needs, it became all about her and blaming you for something that was in no way your fault.

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Gail Moniz November 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Hi Antelope…

What happened to you was what made me too afraid to tell my Mom what the boarders were doing. We had six male boarders and there were three of us sisters. When we were little kids it wasn’t too bad, but once we started to mature, the boarders started noticing us. One of them tried to kiss my older sister when Mom and Dad were out, and she freaked and told my parents. That man was practically thrown out onto the street.

So we knew what the consequences would be for the boarders should they be caught. One of the boarders was quite pushy, and would try to force his way into our bedroom (across the hall) which had no lock. He was always grabbing us in the hallway and trying to cop a feel. Another older man tried to lure me into his room while he was sitting in the dark masturbating. I didn’t even know what he was doing until my boyfriend explained it to me later. I just knew it made me feel creepy.

However, I ended up marrying one of them, a young man a couple of years older than me. We had a son together, but he was a violent man, and we broke up after 3 years or so. So began a lifetime of abuse and failed relationships.

Anyway, thanks for validating my decision not to tell my parents what was going on. I just felt that Mom wouldn’t believe me (especially about the older man, because he was her best boarder). I had the feeling that it would get turned around on me (that I was too provocative, too familiar with the men, or whatever).

I’m so sorry for what you had to go through.

And I get what you’re saying about being more traumatized by your mother’s reaction than to the incident itself.

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Recvoery December 30, 2012 at 8:08 pm

I was raised by two Narssasits. I always knew my father was one but recently realised my mother is as well. Ive been making excuses for her as she is short, blonde and can put on the im just a ditsy frail woman act but that is all it is an act. She believes she have every illness known to man and makes it up as she goes along. She knows what she does and she chooses her behaviour. She lies about her childhood fabricating incidents that never took place and lies about mine making out it was wonderful and she was my saviour from my evil father.

Ive only realised that my recently deceased grandmother was a NM mother as well that is where she got it from. My G’mother has been acting old since she was in her 20′s she fabricated illnesses exaggerated real illnesses and my mother does the same thing. Keeping people feeling sorry for them is their game. I grew up being told i have this illness or this weird disease. I am tall they are not and was accused of having marfans disease because im tall. My mum made me paranoid that im always sick or there is really something wrong with me. My mum abused her body when she was pregnant with me she drank copious amounts of coffee and ate choclate every single day instead of real food. I was born with jaundice and a hernia my muscles did not develop properly so my knees pop out of joint if i dont exercise and build them up. She blames my father but she chose to neglect her unborn baby she was punishing me before i was even born!

I was the scape goat and the oldest of 4. When my siblings did wrong i was punished too because i should have known better than to let them even if i was not around when it happened. When I had my son my younger siblings who lived at home were fighting my mother called me up screamed at me and made their argument my fault we didn’t even live in the same town nor did we speak! She said Christmas is cancelled and its all my fault. I said i live on my own now if you want to cancel Christmas then fine ill have Christmas at my house and invite my siblings you can sit alone this Christmas. Yep that shut her up and she didn’t cancel Christmas after all but sulked the entire time.

I was beaten to a pulp as a child and was told it was for my own good that God wanted them to discipline us that way. When I was a teen and got my first part time job after school she locked up the toothpaste toilet paper food everything and said i am not allowed ot use it any more i have to buy my own. When I got another job she told me she wants board from me i said im still at school she said im your landlord you must pay me 50% or get out. I paid her alright and i still got kicked out at the age of 17 for sticking up for my sister after she was brutally beaten and her head smashed against the sink by my brother. She was told by my mother and step father that it was her fault he beat her. When I spoke out i was the one who got a beating by both of them. I was dragged across the carpet, punched in the face and all my things were thrown out on the lawn, yep this was right b4 Christmas she loved doing things like ruining b-day’s and Christmas for us.

My other 3 siblings hated me for years because they didn’t see what she was when i tried to tell them who she really is. Thy accused me of being unreasonable because she bought them things paid them attention. It was when they hit their teens she changed i was no longer around i had cut all of them out so she turned on my sister then my brother until none of them remained. Then she changed her tactics and wesealed her way into our lives to manipulate us in entirely other sneaky ways. My siblings and i love each other dearly but we cant get along even when we despertley try too she has seen to that no one has a relationship without her being involved.

She is frozen in her teen years she didnt get what she wanted when she was a teen and she created these personalities to get what she wants. So when we hit our teens she rejected us because no one can be older, (mentally), smarter, richer than her. Sex is only for her, dating is only for her, driving a car owning a house she is special, unique and is destined for greatness. She is in her late 50′s and im cutting her off for good this time she is on husband number three who has a teenage son yes they have known each other for 4 weeks and again she says I FEEL SO ALIVE LIKE A TEENAGER AGAIN that is her fav line with all the men she has been with. She is not happy to be herself her own age she wants to be a teen again. She is going to ruin her new husbands relationship with his son just as she did with her ex husband and his son.

She talks to me like a child and uses my child to try and prove i am nothing she buys us things then makes us regret accepting her gifts. She pretends she dosent know she is doing it. She took credit for my achievements and recently tried to give my son credit for my achievements. Nothing i have done or achieved is me its all out of my control according to her. She wants me to feel out of control and not worthy.

When we were little we used to cry and beg our mother to please continue to look after us because she would tell us we are lucky she didn’t give us up for adoption and we were lucky she didnt kill us injure us etc and kept us as her children and we should be grateful that she has decided to have mercy on us and allow us to be in her family.

We were good kids no drugs no gangs no violence sure we argued but her reaction to normal behaviour was that we were so evil and abnormal. She tried to give me to a nunnery at the age of 15 telling me i am beyond help she told the nuns to take me because im so evil and out of control i need exorcism that was after she pushed me down the stairs. All i did wrong is join a drama group with my friends without consulting her and started sticking up for myself around her by not taking her insults at me any more. Telling her no im not stupid i will amount to something im not like my father at all i am pretty i am worth something. She loved to tell me i was a looser and would never amount to anything. Her justification its not fair on me at all poor me why me why are you doing this to me? I never did squat to her she recently said the same thing when i warned her about marrying a man she has dated for a month.

I have suffered her yelling at me in the streets chasing me down with her car to hurl insults at me for not saying goodbye when i left the house. I have suffered her coming to visit me only to trash my house having her period in my sons bed not wearing a towel and not washing the sheets leaving ground up chocolate in the carpet and dirt on the walls. Getting drunk and saying wine is good for your heart, the list goes on and on.

I moved countries to get away from her! And she is still traumatising me from across the water. My development as an adult was stifled and i have always felt more immature than my peers. My mum loves is when one of us is down and out so she can be the hero and loves it when one of us is successful so then she can brag and say its all because of her either way we are not seen for who we are or heard. This Christmas we had an intervention and she told me she does not care about my thoughts, feelings, opinions, nothing of that nature matters to her.

I have made my choice now and i feel free for the first time in a very long time. I recognise my mum chooses her behaviour. She chooses to be who she is. It is not out of her control i have seen her act normal and kind for short periods of time it is possible for her to be loving genuinely. But she chooses to be fake. To everyone else she is amazing to people who truly know her she is messed up beyond belief. She is in a position of power and she preaches to people to do this and that and behind closed doors she is doing the opposite.. oh only if they knew what she is really like! But that’s not my concern any more.

Im walking away for my own sanity and for the sake of my child. I am no longer a victim i am a survivor and i am free to just be me.

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Roger January 16, 2013 at 2:56 pm

That last line is so powerful. Everyone should be able to feel free to be themselves and not what their NM wanted them to be. When I decided to go no contact with my mother, it was the scariest but best decision of my life. For the first time in my life, I felt like myself and wasn’t afraid to do the things that I wanted to do. Everyday, the guilt becomes less and less and I find myself becoming happier.

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Mia March 16, 2013 at 2:57 am

Recovery,

Your story echoes with some of my own personal experiences being the child of a narcissistic mother. My mother also had a litany of medical problems that she used to gain attention/affection/sympathy along with all the classic symptoms – the central theme being my actions (and the actions of my siblings) were always a reflection of her. She was unrelenting to us at home yet adored by her friends who saw her as a perfect wife and mother. I feel your pain. What really struck a cord, was that you too have been subjected to lines of “you are lucky I haven’t harmed you or killed you like other parents… you should be grateful.” Those are painful words to hear. Seek professional help and move past this. My prayers go out to you for tranquil and peaceful days ahead.

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Kathy Baker January 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I am the scapegoat of a narcistic mother. I’m 53 & the oldest of 4 siblings. After my birth, my mother didn’t think she could have any more kids and 6 yrs later, adopted my brother. Then 8 yrs later she became pregant with a girl, 10 yrs later another girl, and 11.5 yrs later, pregnant with the golden child. I couldn’t put my finger on any of this until 2 yrs ago, my parents came to visit me in Florida, I had not seen them in 10 yrs. (parents live in Ohio). My fiance noticed all the pecularities of my Mother. My parents flew in on a Friday and my Mom said she was leaving on a Sunday. Well on that Saturday, she said, we’ve decided to stay two more days, so we want to see you on Sunday and Monday too, we’re not flying out like planned. Well, I had to work that Monday and couldn’t see them. This angered the golden child and my mother because I knew their game and i wasn’t playing. I stuck to my boundaries and they labeled me the bad guy.
My Mother called me 2 wks before this visit and said they were coming to Florida to watch the golden child’s husband referee a college football game and that they’d like to see me. So, I figured they could come to my house, and see where I live. Everything about their trip was peculiar. Before they came to FL, my Mom says, your sister (Nikki-the golden child), may come along too. Well, Nikki decided to fly in the day after my parents arrived (she too lives in Ohio). Everything was soo secretive among the two. When they arrived @ the airport, my Mom had to get to the mall right away, she wanted to buy presents for the golden childs 3 kids. It was just downright crazy this circus she had us all involved in. She also told me I should wear my hair like the golden childs. I was so upset & angry by the way I was treated that the day they left, I fell and split open my head and ended up in the hospital. That was 2010, I’ve been searching, and trying to figure out why my Mom doesnt like me, the only thing that makes sense is this.

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joan January 28, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Your story sounds so familiar to me that it hurts.
Hearing you relate your experience helps me recognize that the similar things that have happened to me are not normal. They are the sometimes horrific and always deeply, tragically sad. I am just begining to really look at and be reality about my relationship with my mother. It is hard to revisit the hurtful history and grieve it, but grieve it I must. Thank you for sharing your experience. It brings forth compassion for others
and for myself. Thank you.

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Anne February 10, 2013 at 5:38 pm

This is my mom exactly. When I was a kid, everything I did on my own was crushed. Everything I wanted to do independently was made to seem like a transgression. We went to the East Coast as a family when I was in junior high, and I loved New York so much I told my mom I’d love to live there. She immediately burst into tears and told me I was horrible for wanting to live there. I knew I’d never be able to live my dreams at that moment. I still get flack for going to college six hours away, and I graduated over ten years ago. I wanted to move to Europe as an adult, and can, but there is always drama that keeps me here. I hate that this is my life. I have taken pains to keep myself out of relationships; how can I invite someone else to crush me like that? Now in my 30′s, I realize, I am going to be alone forever, fail forever, and I will never be the person I was born to be.

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SF February 16, 2013 at 9:28 am

THANK YOU for this piece. I have been searching for answers to my own feelings of inadequacy for decades; my family’s pattern is perfectly described here. I grew up with a physically abusive father, so I always attributed my family’s dysfunction to my dad. I have been incredibly resistant to thinking about my mother as part of this dysfunctional pattern…. now I’m asking myself why I’ve a priori excluded her. Anyway, this article has convinced me that I can work through the emotional problems I’ve been suffering with for years with a qualified therapist. I think I will be calling someone in the morning. Thank you.

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Michelle Piper February 16, 2013 at 11:13 am

Dear SF,
Your observation about your mother is an important one. Usually, when I coach or counsel people on this issue, they, at first, deny that the less abusive parent was hurtful to them. But, to heal from a dysfunctional childhood, it is very helpful to hold parents accountable in one’s mind for what they did wrong. Many of my clients worry that means they need to actually confront the parent, but that is often of little use. What’s important is witnessing for oneself what was needed and not given (such as protection of your vulnerability as a child by enablers of the abuse) as well as what was done to you and harmful (such as objectifying you in roles like golden child or scapegoating). Then, you can give yourself what is needed to heal.
Good luck on your journey and thanks for being part of our community.

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Andy February 18, 2013 at 7:34 am

Hi,

This is so amazing, I grew up being a golden child and my elder sister the scapegoat, I am now 35years and married to a wonderful man*hated by my mother of cause*. It felt like i have been carrying burden since I was born and knew nothing about depression, naccism nor anxiety. I was trained to please my mother in all aspects of life whilst I never got a positive comment from her. Emotionally, physically and spiritually I was soooooo exhausted. Until I resigned at the company I worked for as a Chemist. I was beautiful and dressing up veery beautifully and she would say she is and pin point only when there is something negative. But life is soooo strange, she got married to a stranger and it didnt work out and she said it is me who forced her to marry the person. My sister passed away*stabbed by the boyfriend she stayed with at age 20*, I guess she was running away from mom, I said the weekend she was to die “mama lets fetch her-18years then* she refused. She used to hit us until we bleed when we were younger, told us how much she regreted not aborting us BUT I only found out after I was healed that my mom is the naccist mom, I never even knew there is such a word. My source truelly came from the Lord*strong biblical background*, unconditional love from the husband I almost divorced because of her. We lost our house as I was paying the bond, I am just wondering if I can not have a case now that I am healed. It took me full 7 years to recover and by the grace of God I have 3 loving sons and I never knew she was sick until I heard her yelling at my son cause I even looked for a job to wash dishes and mop from being a qualified Chemist. Where do I start approaching my x-employer for me to get my job back. The considered my resignition whilst I was on medication and on sick-leave. Please heeeeeeeeelp I cannot allow this monster to destroy my children any further.

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Tiana February 18, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I’m the daughter of a narcissistic mother. Among my siblings I was one of the scapegoats. I just wanted to add that the major Golden Child in my family, luckily, turned out mostly okay. I’m mentioning this so that anyone who’s had the golden child turn out to be compassionate and kind doesn’t mean the parent wasn’t a narcissist I absolutely have this dynamid in other families. I think our family’s golden child turned out okay because of a sweet and loving father and I, as the super kind and nurturing big sister helped raise him. My mother did teach us the importance of getting along, being fair and compassionate but did not really follow her own rules. She is sadistic and callous to very children and strangers. It wasn’t until my in-laws saw my mother treat me so horribly at a holiday dinner that I found out how bad she was. I’ve dropped all contact with her since.

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hollie February 22, 2013 at 10:05 am

Im 19, still living with a narcissitic father and my parents are divorcing. I feel really disconnected with my family and I have an extremely difficult time opening my heart and trust to them. I’ll do anything to avoid family get togethers and when I’m at them I exclude myself because of extreme discomfort. My mom yelled at me last night because of my behavior. My biggest fear is that I end up like my dad. I went searching and found this:

“Another way that extreme narcissists are created is when a child receives a significant emotional wound or a series of them culminating in a major trauma of separation/attachment. This can happen when the parents, as narcissists themselves, are emotionally disconnected from their child. It creates a dysfunction in the ability for the narcissist to connect emotionally to others. No matter how socially skilled an extreme narcissist is, he/she has a major attachment dysfunction and wound. This wounded person constructs one or more false fronts in order to survive and insulate themselves from people because of distrust and fear (Lopez De Victoria, 2008).”

This sounds like me! I’m terrified of being hurt and I trust no one! Because of it I don’t create close relationships with my family and friends and I’m friends with absolutely everyone so I can spread out my trust instead of putting it in one person. I know that I am a scapegoat and my brother is the golden child. I have done a lot on my own to work towards normality but I feel confused and scared. A lot of you seem to have been able to overcome your trials and come out on top. How did you do it?? I need help!!

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Calendula February 27, 2013 at 9:24 pm

I also had/have a narcissistic mother. I am a middle-aged only child, and still figuring out way to deal with mother, and lick my own wounds. I was both, the golden child when I was age 12 and under, then the scapegoat until I was 30ish. I was indulged and over-encouraged as a child. As a teen and young adult, I chose the resistant defiant option. I was/am independent and rebellious in direct reaction to mother and her attempts at infantilizing me. (That’s when I became a scapegoat) I sought counseling as a 21 year old, knowing that something was wrong. Mother accused me of being “Theda Bera” (drama queen) upon learning that I wanted to go to group therapy for about a year.

As it turns out, I exhibited many annoying behaviors that I learned at home: judging people based upon their appearance, feeling that I could accomplish any task without having the proper experience or training, believing that all persons older than me should look out for me and check in on my well being, etc. (LOL! How embarrassing to admit how I behaved!) Simultaneously, I knew deep inside that I needed to grow up and mature myself….or at least appear that way to the outside world. So, I stepped out and embraced my own culture shock. During this time, mother made constant negative comments, ie: I mentioned that a classmate at community college is a self-supporting student, and mother retorts with “He probably never bathes, and his mother lives in a flea-ridden trailer park!” (My apologies to those who actually do reside in trailers– these were mother’s words, not mine.) Totally out of left-field, and leaves a person wanting to argue and defend theirself, right? But you will never win, so don’t bother.

Career-wise, I had to start at the bottom, and would have to endure mother’s infuriating comments like, “Why do you WANT to be a receptionist? It doesn’t PAY anything….” No amount of logical explanation about being a25 year old of average intelligence with no experience or schooling made any sense to her.

The thing that I still to this day seeth over, is that her comments always have a tinge of “You set the bar too low for yourself.” Never mind reality. Always, her comments contain an heir of “mommy knows best”, as in: “Your brown pants are more attractive on your figure.” or “Brisket is only stew meat. Is THAT what you want to serve to your guests?” or “Texturizing hair products are ‘out’ this year.” Always trying to work an angle, and inflict guilt or embarrassment into my motivation, and implying that I am too stupid or ignorant to choose my own choices. (Grrrr!) Look how out of it I would be without mommy’s input. And, I am old enough to be a grandmother, myself!! My rage appears when someone needs to show me how to do a task, or correct a mis-step, etc. In other words, I am the lady who cannot take constructive critisizm. I DO try to keep that in check, since it took a lifetime to figure out why I am that way.

If we go out to dinner, I can give my husband money, which he then gives to her, and she will accept it from him, but not from me. She views him as an instrument that takes care of me. But I am viewed as incapable of earning money or paying money. Or, cooking, cleaning, choosing my own wardrobe, etc. So I have learned to simply not bring up these subjects. Instead of being proud of me for being a responsible adult, she become angry with me for making “dumb” choices that result in my having to work, contribute, be part of a group, do my fair share, etc. At this point in my life, I can live with her disapproval, knowing that I have become a grown up in spite of her interference. I HAD to…what other rational choice does one have?

When I was 44, we were backing down the driveway (she insisted to drive) to go to a home show. (Her “treat”–yes, yes, I agreed to go, and as usual, she refused my attempts at financial reimbursement.) She threw the car into ‘Park’ exclaiming, “Wait here, I almost forgot the tickets.” The car was running, the air-conditioning was blowing, but before she ran inside the house, she knocked at the passenger’s window. I unrolled the window, asking “What? Do you want me to come with you?” Her: “No, keep the window down–I don’t want you to suffocate!” Oh. My. God. She really sees a 2-year-old in a car seat! The part that raises serious rage within me is: people outside this thread think it’s cute! It’s NOT.

I can create boundaries, draw lines in the sand. Affirm these edicts with authority, etc. And mom will ignore them. It creates a power struggle. Yes, yes, yes….I have not backed down. But she will challenge every request demand or suggestion. Even to the point of, me: “Turn right to get on to the freeway” She turns left, gets lost, and finally 20 minutes later has to sheepishly ask, “How do I get home, now?” Of course, I didn’t take the bait to squwak when she purposely showed that she “knew better.” These days, I am vindictive enough to silently let her drive around until she is forced to address her situation. Kinda passive-aggressive probably, but it felt good at the time.

I chose to stay in contact with my mother. Not because I was afraid of the world and needed her input, but I chose to have an imperfect, infuriating mother rather than none at all. After all, if I’m as clever as I was raised to believe I am, then I can withstand her jabs with grace and humor (okay, maybe sarcasm!), then change the subject. But I am sensitive to our culture’s mother-worship. I do not partake, but I love the lovable parts while trying to endure/forgive the annoying parts. And I’m still on the path of healing.

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k March 1, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I am 32 years old and just realizing I have a narristic mother and a father whom I had an emotional incest relationship with. My parent relationship was like a business transaction. They decided when they got married that my mother would solely raise the children and my dad would build his business. They have no relationship other than this. Growing up my dad always told me that marriage was a business deal and you needed to find someone who would take care of the things you didn’t want to deal with. My dad started introducing to me to his girlfriends when I was about 12. I had to lie to my mother about it. One was my friend and boss at a gymnastics studio whom he hired to be his secretary when I was in high school. He didn’t have my mother to talk to about business and his personal life, so he always told me and treated me like I was an adult. All the while my overbearing mother attempted to control every aspect of my life. I was required to wear shirts she picked out three days a week in high school.

It was a weird place to be in. Treated like a peer/best friend by my father where I had no rules (we lived in the same house, he just never came home). We would get drunk together when I was in high school and then we’d come home, lie to my mom and I’d rush to be in bed by 10 like I was an elementary school student.

And my dad knew that my mom didn’t like me, but never did anything about it. He recently admitted it (his way of apologizing). He told me that she told him she wanted nothing to do with me after the age of 12. That I wasn’t her daughter. It feels weird saying, but I guess I was the scape goat. He knew this was going on, but never interfered because he didn’t want to have to deal with my mother.

I am dyslexic and in 4th grade the teachers urged my mother to get me tested. She finally agreed, but they lost the first of series of tests I was supposed to do. She said it was sign from god and wouldn’t not allow me to get tested again. I would be grounded for entire semesters for not getting a C in reading. I finally got myself tested when I was 18. She always wanted me to be her best friend. I always had to stay home and clean when my brother got to go work with my dad. I think this is why I became the scapegoat. Because as much as I tried to make her happy, I wasn’t girly enough to actually be her perfect daughter.

I am extremely close with my baby sister. Our relationship is somewhere between mother/daughter and sister than a normal relationship. She is 23 now. Since the day she was born, I didn’t want her to grow up the way I did. And even though I only slightly understood at the time, I wanted her to understand our family wasn’t normal. She was in a series of emotionally abusive relationships.

My other sister was the golden child. While I drank heavily and did a lot of drugs in high school, she had a very serious substance abuse problem. While I was grounded all the time, her serious need for help was met with my mother giving her no rules which fueled the problem.

I feel like I am at a strange cross roads, where part of me feels like I need to cut off ties from my parents. My mother constantly makes me feel guilty that I am not there for her enough. When I haven’t talked to her in a couple days she asks who I am and says it must be her long lost daughter who never talks to her mother. Whenever my dad calls me it’s to tell me how terrible the world is and how bad his business is going and about his new secretary that he bought a new house for next to my parents house.

My response was seige. I have little regard for rules and am fiercely independent. I have built a successful business and it’s been my primary focus since college. I also have trouble committing to relationships. I’m torn on abandoning my relationship with my parents. My family is extremely close. Today my sister called because my dad’s business is in disarray. My brother works for Dad. She was heart broken that my dad was so upset and like every issues that comes up in the family, they all call me to fix it. So, now I am flying to my parents to restructure his business.

I don’t know how to walk away from my parents and maintain a relationship with my siblings. As much as I tell myself that they’ve made the choice to stay close to home, it’s so ingrained into me to leap anytime my baby sister is unhappy. We are so entangled and I have no interest in ever confronting my parents. For so long I knew that my mother did not treat me right, but I would always justify it. That she had 4 children and no support from my father. That she didn’t intentionally act this way. It wasn’t right, but she did the best she could. And that I am being overly sensitive – which I was consistently told as a child. At the same time I know I am extremely unemotional tough person.

Since my friends started having children, it’s just brought up these old issues. I can’t imagine treating an innocent child the way my mother treated me. And since my dad’s admission that my mother told him she didn’t like me, kind of justified my qualms with my childhood. I just want to be free of it. I want to be able to have normal relationships with people. But I keep getting sucked in. I talked to someone in my family once a day at minimum. They call me with all their problems. I think after this trip, I’m going to try and decrease my contact with my parents significantly. I can write them a plan to get my dad into financial straights, but then it’s up him and my brother. I just wish I could cut off ties. But, I don’t know how without creating a big blow up with my siblings, especially my little sister. I just wish there was an easier way to reverse this damage.

Thanks for the article, it’s helped me to recognize these issues.

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Anonymous September 30, 2013 at 8:57 am

Wow. That’s a lot to put on you! You really need to worry about You!
I had Brain surgery, and found out a couple of years ago I have a autoimmune disease do you think that mattered to my mother. Nope! She showed up at the hospital where they were doing the Plasmapheresis to make everyone think she cared, but talked about herself and how she couldn’t go through this! Everything that happens to to me is all about Her! The same with all her 8 kids!!!! But she does baby some and takes it out on some of the rest of us.
I’m much better. I tell her off, and stay away! I have a sister that stays away. She has to. I have 2 brothers that moved very far away! 2 other sisters that need her approval and think they are her Favorite. But she does that to all of us. I just feel sorry for her.
I am glad I read this! I will be sending her this!
She needs to read it! All sibs too!

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Becky March 12, 2013 at 4:14 am

This is so helpful hearing others’ experiences very similar to my own and good to know I’m not alone in this crazy world. What I’m struggling with is how to find a self as I feel my life doesn’t matter / I don’t really deserve to be in the world and just beat myself up constantly and feel like a failure. This sounds very self pitying but am finding it hard to see the point of life when the very person who brought you into the world tells you they didn’t want you and were nothing but horrible. I know there are other people but I have a craving to be looked after as a child even at 42 and don’t seem to be able to operate very well in the world. Does anyone have a clue how to deal with this?

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Mia March 16, 2013 at 2:22 am

Becky,

Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Your comment on trying to understand ” the point to life when the person who brought you into this world tells you they didn’t want you and you were nothing but horrible ” is a concept which I’m sure most people of narcissistic parents grapple with. Myself included.

Being a child of ineffective parenting doesn’t necessarily mean you are doomed to life of misery. It may take some time to understand how you got where you are and some new skill sets to help you get where you are going, but asking for professional help is the first step to getting peace of mind.

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Elizabeth March 20, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I realize a narcissitic parent is one who consider’s there own happiness only the important thing and alway’s. They pit there children
sibling’s against one another by using competition and comparison then riducle or tease one in front of other siblings and enjoy it. They alway’s complain about having to spend any money on there children that are under 18 in front of stranger’s (employees in markets or stores) cloths, food etc. ) but act like they are really joking and what a great guy they are to spend any money on there children. And they must have a scapegoat to blame in life when a women to young for them is’nt interested in there flirting.
It’s a parent without the natural maturnal instinct because it was smothered in there very selfish nature, they are quite a chamer outside the home a jeckal and Hyde. Only the siblings know’s how unfortunate they were as they get older and leave, living with a narcissit’s is a life without a parent growing up and having to be one for them and yourself.

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Becky March 21, 2013 at 2:18 am

Thank you Mia for your advice and sorry to hear you have been through similar – I have never been to see anyone as always a bit scared of people in authority, and thought that may defeat the object but I guess the answer would be to find someone with specialised knowledge (who’s not a narcissist themself!!). It’s a great help hearing from other people who have been through the same thing

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NOTthebadseed April 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm

My mother is a narcissist. My father, now deceased, was passive with her to avoid problems; in retrospect, I believe his mindset was to be a good husband, but, as my father, I wish he had confronted her more. Nonetheless, he made me feel loved.
Since childhood, I learned that I fell short in every aspect of my being. I rebelled as a teen and was a habitual runaway. Due to that, I spent a lot of my adult life trying to be a good daughter. I would spend countless hours listening to her talk about herself on the phone while rarely having the opportunity to speak. While my younger sister fought with her non-stop, I would silently take her insults or walk away. Our oldest sibling lived in close proximity to our parents. While judgmental to his sisters, he doesn’t argue with mom. While presenting as the perfect Christian, he is, in fact, the most cruel in mocking her behind her back. He has made remarks that suggest he has a low opinion of women; I suppose he has felt controlled, you think? (insert sarcastic smile). He is the golden child in part due to close proximity and that he will not argue.
My father had been a heart patient for numerous years. At one point he nearly died and his recovery took a long time. He was on strong medication and mom’s story was that he was very cruel to her. She never forgave him for making roof repairs during his recover. I recognize he was not in a physical condition to do so, hence her concern. However, he was preparing her for his death (my opinion); he made home repairs and paid cash for a new vehicle. All she could focus on was some remarks he made to her while on strong medication and how his home repairs made her fear for his life. For many years prior to his death, she would always inform him he would be placed in a nursing home if he ever got into such bad shape again. Her rationale is how it all impacted her, not him. While dad was alive, mom would ask if she could live with me when widowed. She would then display concern that I lived out of state, so that would make it very hard on her. Her youngest child told her she’d place her in a nursing home before allowing her to live with her. The joke between us was that mom had told me “I’ll wait until I’ve lost my mind and then you can care for me. I don’t want to go to a nursing home, but don’t want to live with you out of state. I wouldn’t be happy.” Mind you, she threatened dad with a nursing home and refused for his mother to live with them when she was in need.
During dad’s last hospitalization, we all knew that this was the end. Mom began making unfounded accusations against me to her best friend who continually confronted me. I would speak to her calmly, but began to crumble at dealing with the additional stress to the pain of losing my father. During one accusation made in front of my father, I said, “There is no truth to that. In fact, here’s mom and I’ll ask her to clarify things. Mom, your friend states that you “live in fear” that I will make a complaint to the hospital staff. Mom, you complained to the DON, not me. You asked that we not discuss the complaint and I have not. Mom, you tell every staff member that you made a complaint. Why do you say it is me?” My mother blushed, bit her lip, and said not one thing. Another time her friend yelled at me stating, “Because of you, I will be late to my son’s shower.” I asked her how my sitting at the hospital had anything to do with her choice of time to visit or when she left. I had a witness throughout this interaction. The woman said, “Your mother couldn’t find you, so I had to stay.” I assured her that my mother was always informed if I left the sitting area for a short period and that our mother was never alone. My mother denied, to me, that she had said anything to her friend. Mom made continued statements about my weight gain throughout each day. Exasperated, I asked her what could I do right at that minute to magically be perfect for her? I told her to never again mention my weight and her words were, “I won’t, but your brother is concerned, so….” I assured her my brother could lose weight and that, out of stress, he said extremely hateful things to me at the hospital, so to just leave his concern out of conversations.
After dad passed away, my mother would call me 3-4 times throughout the day. I had a contract job and accepted her calls even when it was difficult. Her calls were the same: my weight, her defense for her son’s vile statements to me (she did not witness, yet took up for him), negative remarks about my deceased father, and how I needed to visit her. I began encouraging her to discuss more positive things and shared that I’d accept her calls, but the content was upsetting me and I did have to work. She continued, but would scream at me for confronting her. One day I told her I was unable to be on the phone until I completed a work deadline. The deadline was in two days. She demanded I complete a task for her and I held my ground and told her I had no time to argue the point that was clearly explained to her. I hung up exasperated, emotional, and fed up with her disregard for me. She notified my siblings that I refuse to speak to her OR THEM and that I have no desire to have further contact.
While humiliated to know lies are told about me (to family, parents of childhood friends, etc.), I recognize it as her form of control; and, it solidifies her ability to gain attention as a victim. Regardless, the consequences of my setting a boundary, I mourn the loss and she successfully placed all blame on me. I try to not hate. I realize that she always has to have a target. My dad was threatened for years to be sent to a nursing home and then refused hospice. I suppose it’s easier to now focus on me as my use to her ended.
I have a wonderful husband of over forty years who has witnessed my mother’s behaviors. I’ve heard others describe her as one of the most controlling people they’ve ever met. I was informed, years ago, that my mother’s preacher removed her from their hospital visitation program due to complaints. Evidently her non-stop talking was all about HER and the patient…..not so much. I’m a person that likes to resolve things, but cannot do so in this instance. I try to view the humor in some of it and think it’d make a good offbeat sitcom or movie. Shall I attempt to write a book? :)

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NOTthebadseed April 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I forgot to add that my mother’s response to my deadline was to call me non-stop during that time. Others were informed I refused to speak to her. No one was told she went into a rage and harassed me and, of course, she’d never admit it as her memory is selective.

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A April 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Last week I Googled the phrase “why do I engage in negative self-talk?” after noticing myself doing so upon waking, before even getting out of bed. Not in an especially bad mood either, just a peculiar little motor running in the background, spewing continuous self-hating babble. Google, in its infinite wisdom, pulled up the site ‘Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers’ as a first hit. The timing couldn’t have been more ironic. I quit my job last month and moved across the country on the premise that I had to care for my mother, who is in poor health and unable to care for herself. The more I look into this the more disturbed I become. It’s something I’ve known all my life, but never formalized or had a name for. All the stories here resonate so strongly with my own experiences. I’ve realized, just in time, that what’s happening to me currently is that I’m being roped in once again. Now that fear doesn’t work on me, she uses self-destruction and self-neglect to incite pity and a sense of duty or responsibility. If you don’t come care for me I’ll die. Which she is. Not because she’s actually dying, but because she refuses to care for herself. Doesn’t eat, doesn’t drink water, doesn’t leave the house. She’s the fucking Gandhi of narcissists. What am I supposed to do, watch her die? I just finished watching my father kill himself with alcohol few months ago, he was the only real parent I had, despite his illness. He was wonderful and loving, and imperfect, and unable to save me and my sister from her. He knew it too, and reading his journal entries about this is gutting. Going through this I feel like I am losing both parents, and have only one remaining family member (my sister). I feel lucky to at least have her.
And to boot, she has a hoarding disorder. I moved from Chicago back to Dayton, OH to help her care for herself and her house in 2008, stayed for a year, realized it was futile, and then moved to San Francisco. At which point she refused to speak to me for several months, until she got lonely. In retrospect, the only reason I was able to leave was because my sister had moved back to Ohio, and she has been the one bearing the burden for the past four years. I’m coming back mostly because of my sister, she is literally at a breaking point dealing with our mother. I’m trying to pack up all of her flaming worldly shit (which she’s now too sick to deal with herself) so we can get her into an assisted living or smaller more appropriate house and hire an aide, and she rages every time I try to get rid of something. She has 8 (count ‘em) EIGHT real fur coats in her closet. In her shitty dilapidated formerly-opulent house in a redneck ghetto in Ohio, across from a strip club. That she bought with money from Dad’s alimony and child support. And she’s bought thousands of dollars of make-up off HSN (now that she’s not mobile enough to get out of the house to shop, goddamn you HSN!), along with high heel platform shoes that she literally cannot wear and shitty polyester beaded blouses which she unfortunately can, and does wear. {Insert scream}. I feel like this, she, is part of who I am, my identity, and it’s killing me. I thought I was dealing with a hoarding disorder…turns out the obsession with material wealth is narcissism….
I’m so traumatized by the recent death of my father that I fear losing my remaining parent, even if she is manipulative and abusive. The worst part is I realize she’s succeeded in her endeavor as a narcissistic mother–I have no one else. I’ve found myself unable to truly connect with others, and form sincere and intimate bonds, whether they be friendship or romantic. I literally have no friends. Have had one boyfriend in my life (I’m age 31). And this is not for a lack of trying, believe me. Romantic relationships seem unimaginable, at least those that are not completely superficial. I feel like it would be unethical for me to bring someone into my life. I feel like the best thing I will ever do with my life is to not have children, and not perpetuate this pattern, even though that’s something I deeply want as a human being. The even worst-er part is that I recognize patterns of narcissism within myself, and I just wonder how one goes about living out the rest of their life without intimacy or connection of any sort.

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Another A :) April 28, 2013 at 3:22 pm

“The more I look into this the more disturbed I become. It’s something I’ve known all my life, but never formalized or had a name for.”

I am sooo in the same situation. I hope there’s a way out. I am still scared to cut contact….

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Maggie June 20, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Great article Michele, its not sugar coated, all of it. I lived it with my mother, but found out a very young age that she was as I came to terms with evil. NPD is a diagnosis I was not aware of till my college years in the disorder.

However A, your story caught my attention!! Wow and WOW!!! You don’t connect with others because you have been living your life through her. You have YOU, YOURSELF. Love yourself first. Your never going to please your mother. What is it that you fear? You can’t be afraid of loosing what you never had? Think about it?

I was the scape goat, my mother when dying was angry at me, STILL, always angry at me. I could never do anything right to HER ONLY!! GET it? Why do you feel so entrenched at 31 with the abuse? Shes going to take you down with her if you keep this up. LIVE..You have a right to live, be loved, love, care about, care about someone else that gives you that.

Have you not hear the saying, ” IT was better to Love, then to not have loved at all.” Wow, no you don’t watch her die, BUT you don’t have to care for her yourself either. She can get assistance. The have caregivers who get paid. My mother did not want anyone in her home living with her, but would call me with lies, making up stuff like they put a lien on her bank account. lol Yes I’m laughing, theres no such thing.

I know all about this personality and I got away from it at a young age. My half sister and a half brother are both her golden children. I am her only child, my oldest half brother, stayed away also. BUT empower yourself, there are alternatives for care for her.

You deserve better and to live. As you state you feel you have adapted the traits? How do you feel that? You write down affirmations, by writing I will beat this, I will love myself, I deserve to be loved. Narcissists are like vultures, they pick at you until your gone. Is that what you want?

I took a promotion when my mother was living that moved me six hours from her. To have her tell me I was abandoning her? lol I didn’t live with her, hello I was the one who she abandoned emotionally when I was a kid. I call it the twisted evil. I never allowed her to lay the guilt trips on me, she should have felt guilt for even saying it. What are you scared of? That she won’t love you, is this love to you? Love yourselves….

You just connected here with us, its a start. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, if you want it. You should fear the treatment you get from her, so how do you fight fear? You have nothing to fear, but fear itself. Get with it! My husband is dealing with the reality of his mother also.

I sent him this literature, hes a scape goat, his oldest brother the golden child. But he struggles, then he sees it, it takes time. I don’t struggle, I stand by who I am and survived all of it.
Again its a start here with us, your not alone. Get stronger!!!

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Maggie June 20, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Oh I confronted my mother and anyone else who does this stuff. It does good and did for me. Then I moved on. If you don’t confront it, you suppress it and it eats you up inside, just what I have seen and experienced with others I have helped with this behavior.

They deny what they do, but when you do not allow them to convince you of their methods of gas lighting, so what if they ignore you. Good!! Who needs this stuff from anyone!!! But you still confront it. My mother at one point started speaking of how she was treated as a kid. She had a horrible childhood, lost her mother at 13 years of age. Her father and mother divorced when she was 12. She had trauma being the oldest became the scapegoat also. Do you see the parallel. BUT, its no excuse to repeat the cycle and cause suffering to others.

Just my point of view. When she passed away, I felt and had mixed feelings, but I never felt any guilt, for what? I never hurt her in anyway. She was to busy causing or trying to cause hurt to me if I allowed it. These persons live for that. So A, I ask you where do you want to be soon?

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Karen July 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I didn’t figure out that my mother is a narcissist until about 7 years ago. One day it dawned on me that most of the family problems traced back to my mother. Whenever the family was in turmoil, the initial trail of destruction led right back to her. My mother is quite charming to outsiders and my father is her spineless enabler, so she got away with her controlling and manipulative games for many years. I was always a shy person, with little self esteem due to my mother’s games of ridiculing and denigrating my hair, legs, lack of friends, on and on. She loved to point out how the girls in the neighborhood were pretty, had poise, were cheerleaders, blah, blah blah and I WASN’T. Little did I realize, she was playing similar denigrating games on my brothers, except the Golden Boy, my youngest brother. He could do no wrong. In our family conversations are like interrogations. My mother and father pump you for information, so that they can find fault and denigrate you. I wasted most of my life trying to please them and looking for their approval. My father has become just like my mother and plays the same baiting and denigrating games mom does. He has written several non apologies for his behavior since I have been refusing to go to family functions for over 10 years. I have written two letters detailing their behaviors that I find offensive. He chose to ignore both. I used to idolize my father and now I have no respect for him. My parents are both in their 80′s and I in my 50′s. I dread the thought of returning to this dysfunctional family. I came to the realization that I am NOT OBLIGATED to endure their abusive controlling and manipulative tactics. When my brother had terminal cancer and they pulled their garbage on him, when he needed their support, it confirmed the understanding of the dysfunctional family dynamics that I had started to recognize were legitimate. My youngest brother bought a house across the street from my parents. Now he wants to sell his house to get away from them. He still falls into the trap of making excuses for their behavior which urks me, considering he’s the one who is looking to sell his house to escape their games.
All of the relationships in this dysfunctional family are superficial. I recognize that even though I no longer speak to my parents, their controlling and manipulative strings are still wreaking havoc, as I really am not interested in a relationship with my youngest brother, simply because I view him as a spineless enabler, like my father. My brother, whom I’ll call Mark, tells me of the ignorant things my parents say, but then Mark claims it doesn’t bother him. The latest one is my father telling Mark that “you cheated me out of grandchildren”.
Mark never married. I did, but we didn’t have children. If we were on speaking terms, I’m sure my parents would be using that line on me as well. I realize both my parents will probably go to their graves without re-establishing a relationship with me. When it comes down to it. I can accept that. It is much better than returning to the same old dysfunctional family and hating every minute of it.

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Taylor August 4, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Your story resonates with mine. Especially the part about how all the relationships within the family are superficial and conversations are like interrogations.

Of the 7 of us, i only have a decent relationship with 2 of my brothers. My golden child sister whom my NM and EF will travel 6 hours each way to see her every one of her sons soccer games and spend every single holiday with barely makes appearances at other family events, but then has the nerve to whine and complain about how we as siblings dont spend time together. I live 25 minutes from her and i cant recall a single time she actually called me to say hi. I gave up calling her because she didnt return my messages. When i went no contact with my NM and EF she cried about what is happening to our family (one sister killed herself, another is no contact, and we dont have family gatherings anymore because the holidays consist of my NM and EF spending the holidays with her exclusively) and then had the nerve to bail on a holiday event where there were a bunch of us siblings to take off and drive for 6 hours to see none other than the NM and EF. Why bother crying about it if were all together 25 minutes from your house and you dont bother to show up and you merely continue on with the status quo? She could have left the next day as she intended to spend a week up there and that just rubbed salt in the wound.

In our family there are two families. My NM, her golden child daughter and her family, my now dead sisters kids, and then the underclass rest of us (5). When i was still in contact with them i could not so much as visit their house for a bit when i was in town if my sisters son was there, despite that i have a girl a couple years younger than him and that he must have been bored stiff. I was literally a block away with my kid and my friends wife and their four kids playing on the beach and at the water park and i was expressly forbidden from even going to their office to say hello, my sisterd son was stuck inside playing nintendo while they worked. Not only was i forbidden from taking the poor kid to the park to do something more fun than watch them work in an office but i couldnt even come to the building to say hello. Apparently nobody can come when she has my sisters kid for a week in the summer because its time just for him, but my dead sisters’ kids have often been there at the same time.

As for the rest of us we usually got visits crammed in a few hours after they had spent the whole weekend, holiday, or even week with my golden child sister. Like they “offer” to come over for brunch and ask me to get as many of the rest of us to attend so they can see us for an hour before they leave town between seeing my sister and her family for three or four days and leaving on the ferry.

I even chatted with one of their neighbors briefly and when i said i was one of of my parents kids they thought i was lying because they thought that she only had two daughters, one dead and my golden child sister. Imagine that one – i was floored beyond all recognition. It was like for the ten years these people lived right next door in a small rural enclave she acted like the rest of us didnt even exist!

My relarionships with the rest of my siblings are awkward and we never really seem to connect on anything other than the superficial. Computers for one, house projects for the other. My golden child sister always seems to be snickering and snide whenever i talk about work or my boat or anything else.

For god sakes even berries. I was making small talk and somehow saskatoon berries came up. I explained that saskatoon berries only really grow around saskatoon and how they are similar to blueberries but they taste a bit different, almost a bit of rasberry flavor to them. She flatly told me that there was no such thing and that they were just blueberries and they came up wirh the name to market saskatoon. Despite telling her quite bluntly that i had eaten them and they were definitely not blueberries (blueberries qre my favorite i can eat buckets of them) she just treated me like an idiot and got her yes man husband ro agree with her and gave me a snide smirk. Like because your husband who has never set foot in saskatchewan agrees with you i must be wrong. This over a berry? This was just small talk at my brothers wedding for god sakes. It drove me so insane that i looked it up the next day, and sure enough here is a different genus of berry similar to but distincly different from the blueberry and i was right. My NM is no different in this crazyness.

While my siblings are by and large nice people i am at the point where i dont really care anymore about trying to maintain a relationship with the most of them. I realize that their viewpoint of me is so warped from my NMs bull lies she twists and tells about me because of her hub and spoke means of family communication that these siblings dont even really have any kind of a clue who i really am and it would take years to show them what i am really like. Its sad but true.

I wasted 15 years trying to show my NM that i was not a two bit loser alcoholic two steps from. Skid row and every success was censored and every failure was magnified. No wonder these siblings of mine are afraid to let me anywhere near their kids without direct supervision. Its no use.

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Maggie July 21, 2013 at 6:39 pm

I am impressed Karen. You have a VERY healthy outlook on life! Nobody should have to take abuse and distress in our lives. Its suffocating, to not be able to breath around the dysfunctions of the imprisoned life these type of relatives display. This is only my opinion. I just told a coworker of mine who I work part time with that I march to the beat of my own drum. Thats what you have done also, taken your life as wanting the positive influences.

There is NOT 0ne thing wrong with that. Relationships should never be toxic…Having kids is a personal choice. Cheated? lol He and his other half have cheated you all from being real people and living and letting live. I know all about that; however my father never enabled my mother. He checked her and then she would turn on him, he didn’t care, he checked her again, until she had to choice but to get it!!!

Confronting bad behavior does work regardless of how old we are. lol

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BJ August 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Hi Michelle,
I can’t believe I’m 58 years old and have found someone that knows how I have lived my whole life. I’ve had several therapists who have given their unofficial diagnosis of my narcissistic mother with also having borderline personality and histrionic disorder.
My mother was pregnant with me when she and my dad got married. No one knows for sure if it was an accident or on purpose to trap him. I would bet its the latter. I have three siblings, two younger brothers and a sister who is the youngest and the golden child. I, of course am the scapegoat.
My mother went to work full time as a file clerk (not a career job..ha) when I was nine and we had a black women take care of us. This black lady was my surrogate mother named Ella. I loved her like a mother. Thank God for her and my paternal grandmother. When Ella left I was twelve. I then took over the role of taking care of my siblings and housework every summer and during the year. I think back of those preteen and teenage years and what a contrast of my life from my siblings, especially the golden child. I was always respectful. Even in my adult life. Somehow that didn’t count.
I was grounded most of my school years due to bad grades. There were lots of beatings with the belt for grades and whatever else was deemed bad behavior. I remember being asleep and my dad woke me up to beat me. She put him up to it because he was late coming home and had to be told to do it. To please her no doubt. I did graduate from high school. That time in your life is supposed to be a highlight and all I remember was that my mother wasn’t speaking to me for some reason. She didn’t finish school, and that’s probably why. She later got her GED. My wedding day she was mad at me for something too.
My father was somewhat nice to me when he was around. He worked to jobs. Think he was mostly working to be away from her.
We were never told we were loved. I was the mother of my siblings. She always told them if they had a problem to go to me. Role reversal for sure.
The mood swings as you described we’re right on. I remember she would get her birth control pills refilled and her script for Valium. She never sought counseling just wanted the meds. “She didn’t need it…there’s nothing wrong”. I never knew what mood she was in. She lied so much I never knew what to believe. Wen I was 21, my aunts husband died. My aunt was an alcoholic-violent at times. My mother and my grandmother wanted my aunt to come stay at my grandmothers house. She was begging me to take her to get more liquor. I was scared she would jump out of the truck. Luckily, she passed out and slept half way. I would never ask my child to do that.
I always wanted a family like the Walton’s.

My dad was successful had his own business and retired at 55. At 60 he started with lung issues and for the next twelve years emphezema. During the last couple of years she was having an affair and would take off and leave him. My oldest brother and I would take him meals. My youngest brother lived forty minutes away (excuse) and sister in FL. I remember my mother telling my daughter and my niece she wished their grandfather was dead. She was evil. She wouldnt allow him to have a phone or a TV when he was in rehab a couple weeks. He was rushed by ambulance several times to ER. he would get breathing treatments. She would would tell him “to go on” she was telling him to die.
When he died she invited her boyfriend to the viewing. A real whacked out psycho wouldn’t you say? Anyway, she stopped speaking to me and wouldn’t allow me in their house after he died. It’s been ten years and I haven’t spoken to her. It’s been a peaceful ten years. I heard she has remarried a man 20 years older and has money. I don’t talk to any of my siblings. The two youngest were the golden children and have no idea what I went through. They think its terrible that my kids never see her either and she has never met her great grandchildren. My brother next to me -we were close, but he can’t understand why I won’t be around her. He shared things about my life to her (as if she cared) and I don’t appreciate that. He thinks he is being a good Christian by honoring his mother. She was not good to him either. I believe he needs her validation and any compliments he can get. Sons are different too.
Any one can give birth , but not all can be called a mother. She has torn up her mother card as far as I’m concerned. Thanks for listening.

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Gem October 13, 2013 at 6:22 pm

I am in my late forties and never could until now put a name to my mother was. I knew that I was terrified of her and she bullied me and when I tried to exert my independance she would come after me or trash my belongings. I was the ‘scapegoat’. Yet I had the utmost respect for her. She was a practicing psycologist so she had to be right I thought. I had nightmares about my mother coming after me until I was well into my 30s. And around that time her mental illness only got worse and she devoloped a severe case of anorexia. I remember sitting across the table from her in her weakend condition and thinking ‘ I beat you’. It’s an awful thing. Now years after overcoming my own eating disorder and engaging in a 12 step program for alcoholism for most of my forties, I must continuously try to improve my interactions and relationships with people. I look for spiritual paths as well and yes, self-care can still be a struggle some days. My mother is a much kinder person now. There are 2,000 miles between us so we communicate mostly be phone which is probably for the best. If I get too close, I can get sucked into some crazy drama. My brother won’t talk to her. The hard part is she still continues to starve herself at the age of 69. I don’t bring up the past but I think she is holding on to a lot of pain and believe it or not it saddens me.

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Amazed at the Revelation November 2, 2013 at 8:53 am

My mother is a narcissist, and an alcoholic too. Growing up I always knew something was “off” but couldn’t figure it out until I looked through adult eyes. More accurately, through a mother’s eyes. With two kids of my own, I see so many things that were disturbing about my upbringing. I am 30 years old, the oldest of three (two girls and a boy). My younger sister is 25 and has Asperger’s Syndrome. I am currently pursuing legal guardianship of her, and this experience has been absolutely unreal. My mother is the one who is always Looking for Love (yes, in all the wrong places) and when things turn sour, treats me as the girlfriend who wants to hear her analyze every facet of the relationship over and over… While she’s trashed, of course, bringing up all kinds of warm and fuzzy memories of my childhood. Sadly, the times she was drunk and unloading on me were the only times I ever received any “affection” from her. And I realize now that it was because I was her Supplier.

Every relationship she enters is the beginning of her next transformation. She completely wraps herself up in this man’s life and casts everyone and everything aside to “make it work” and find that Perfect Love of her life. This time, she’s cast aside her special needs child. And I’m done. Enough is enough. After all the guardianship changes are over, we’re quits. Incommunicado. I cannot do this anymore. We’ve been low contact for years, and the end is near. It just really stinks to realize and admit that your Mother, who gave you life, who’s supposed to love and nurture her children, has never been and will never be the Mother you dream of.

Her loss. All of us and everything we are and ever become are her loss. My children and joys as a mother are her loss as a non-existent grandparent. My sister and her beautiful spirit and gifts are her loss. My brother and the man he will become when he heals from being her scapegoat are her loss. As a compassionate person, it deeply saddens me to know that one day she will be all alone in this life. She has alienated everyone. Our whole extended family – for this one man. As she’s done so many times before. But I’m done picking up the pieces of her life and being the Fixer of all her problems. No more, starting today.

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Sara November 21, 2013 at 11:09 am

I’m new to this site and still having great difficulty opening up to people. I am the only child of a 91 year old narcissistic mother who is still trying to control my life. I’d like to share more of my story but am unsure what to say or if this is the right forum. At this time, I do have a question to throw out to your community. Has anyone else out there foregone having children due to the terrible fear of being like your mother? I have an amazing husband of 30 years who has loved and supported me unconditionally and accepted the fact that I would never allow myself to become a mother. I read about others who grew up in the nightmare of a narcissistic mother’s world and have gone on to have families of their own, but never about someone like myself who fears taking the chance. Thank you for letting me ask this question.

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Linda B. November 23, 2013 at 6:00 am

Sara, I am new to this site also. Take the test she offers at the top of the website. I did yesterday…scored 63….severe traumatic effect on me…I am almost 65. I am rather upset with my score because I thought I was starting to heal, but I still have too much attachment to her and so on and so on. Anyway, regarding children, I have never wanted any. Feel like I wouldn’t even have known how to raise them properly. My 2 sisters never had children either. So, understand that you are normal…have heard this before. Only the “golden boy” brother had children….he has 2. And also, my mom is 82 and I have to take care of all her finances and other things. Just want my own life :(

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Anonymous December 3, 2013 at 9:20 am

Hi Linda. Thanks for writing. I did take the test – scored 77. Our situations seem very similar. I’m 54, my mother is 92 and now in a nursing home for about a year. I thought I had done a good job of healing, also. I had a life with my incredible husband in a town far enough away that I didn’t see my mother as much, a good job…all the right things except children. I’ve had family members put me down for not being a mother, and calling me a “child hater”, which is not in the least true. I chose not to have children out of fear, not lack of caring. When my beloved father had a stroke 12 years ago we moved back to my hometown to care for him and my mother engulfed me once again. Like you, I’ve been taking care of finances, as well as caring for her home, running her errands, etc. all the while being scapegoat while the woman across the street (who used my mother terribly) became a substitute daughter and was treated as the golden child. My mother now has dementia, but not to the point of forgetting to mistreat me, unfortunately. I know how you feel about wanting your life back. I thought having her cared for in a facility would free me, but I find that I’m paralyzed with self-doubt and don’t know how to get started. Thanks for letting me vent this. It helps to know I’m not alone in my feelings.

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Barbara Dothan Alabama December 27, 2013 at 11:47 am

I felt the same way you do , really did not know what being a real mom was until I held her. She is 40 years old and I can remember the shock of holding her and bathing her and doing all the little things you do for a baby. I had the most heartwarming feeling towards her , protective also.I could not imagine my own mother not feeling these same feelings. I felt so much love for this little human that I was responsible for. I realized that she never ever felt this way with me and never acted like a Mother to me at all. She ignored me totally . When I relate to my childhood I would describe me as a Sad little Girl. She never spent any time with me , never attended any school functions , never ever gave me a birthday party, she would downplay, ignore or totally ruin any special occasion in my life. This was all done on the sly and she could change her mood in the blink of an eye when someone might here her or see her in action. I myself was always there for my daughter, I wanted her to have a beautiful bedroom, My parents never bought me anything for my room. The room of a sad little girl. My dolls of which I only had 4 my childhood years would just disappear and I was never given a reason, she would just say I had lost them. I went to her school functions, her birth of our grandson who I really adore and I am so thankful I could share in her and my grandsons lives. My mother was never interested in my life, never ever visited my home. She could not even be bothered to help when I gave birth to my daughter. I was right there when my daughter gave birth. I have tried to be the total opposite from her and that is what you need to do. You are not her and you will have your own individual feelings, I myself think you would make a wonderful mother, your already seeking help and see how she really treated you , that is a lot to swallow right now but I say GO For IT! Motherhood is such a happy time, don’t miss it! You have the power to end her mindgames.

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Sara January 30, 2014 at 11:03 am

I’m happy for you, that you had the courage to be a mother. I never had it, and now, at almost 55, it’s a bit too late. I do have nieces and a nephew and they now have children. Sadly, I have never felt closeness to any of them and could not relate to them until they were older teenagers. I have an absolutely amazing husband who understands and supports me unconditionally, and that is enough for me now.

My own childhood, unlike yours, was full of dolls and toys and fancy “girlish” things – things that came with strict instructions of how to use them and what was acceptable play activity. And that I was NEVER to break or get dirty anything in my life, with the consequences of being berated and humiliated. Also never be sad or angry or sick or tired; never make noise; never for any reason cry, even if I was in terrible pain. I fell out of a tree when I was ten and tore open my leg on a rusty fencepost, which I hid from my mother and bandaged myself. It’s a miracle it didn’t get infected.

Anyway, my congratulations on being able to be a mother, and a loving, caring mother at that. You are an inspiration to younger women in our situation. Take care. Sara.

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Sara December 5, 2013 at 9:34 am

Sorry, I forgot to sign in on my above reply.

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GK February 4, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Dear Michelle,
Thank you so much for your writing and resources made available online. I find your website by accident, and felt so relieved that I am not alone, and that there is a term “Narcisstic Mothers/parents” to sum up my experiences.
I have been a strong-willed scape goat since day one. Fortunately, my paternal mother had showned me unconditional love, so I am not as “screwed up” as I could have been.
I had found my power in my early twenties, and had attempted to “Separate” both of my parents numerous time, but “guilt” and “filial responsibility” have always drawn me back to the relationship “to try one more time.”
I finally file for “Divorce” after I realize I couldn’t change her, and being me is good enough, her evaluation no longer matter to me.
I no longer feel anger, just sadness that I have to terminate contact. My younger brother (the golden child) had tried to presecute me. But I had told my brother if he and I couldn’t have a relationship without talking our parents, then I will have to cut him out of my life as well.
So far we have very limited contact. Every encounter with him, I do sense the fear in me, that he would “judge” me for my decision.
My question is what do I say to good intention people, or distant relatives whom want to know why, or want to help “resolve” this dysfunction, or want to offer “advice”? Is there a smart, short response, without casting blame on either parties, nor would I invite further discussion on the subject matter?
Thank you Michelle.

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Older and Wiser February 10, 2014 at 10:15 am

I don’t think I had a golden child sibling; we were both treated as ungrateful burdens. Our parents’ affluence provided a shield against any meaningful scrutiny. I take solace in the memory that when my parents dumped me on professionals to “fix” me, my mother lamented to me that “They always blame the mother.” So I knew that at some point, someone(s) saw the truth and confronted her with it.

Marrying a wonderful man has been a real blessing, but it was becoming a mother that finally made me wake up and stop blaming myself for so much. It was during my pregnancy that I first began to withdraw from my parents, especially my mother, out of a fear that she would undermine me as a mother, or worse, treat my children as she treated me.

Watching her carefully, her careless behavior around my baby was the final straw. (Baby was unhurt, but only because I was always present to immediately intervene.) She, predictably, accused me of being ridiculous, lied to my face about things I (and sometimes my husband) just witnessed, and pointed to my unharmed child as proof of her innocence. My confronting her led to her storming off to the airport. She later tried bribing me with gifts a few times, but I always returned her packages unopened back to her.

My relationship with my childhood family is over. I have been smeared by my mother to all cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. Before my father died, he would lament that I was uncharitable toward my mother, and unforgiving of my brother’s physical and emotional violence against me. (I have since tried to find a way to reach out — at a safe distance — to my brother. I realize he was hurt by his childhood as much as I, but his hurts made him at least somewhat sociopathic.). It’s been more than a decade since this final rift. I pity my mother, realizing that she never knew the joy of maternal love, of loving one’s children with fierce tenderness, of reveling in the joy that family life can and should be.

I still sometimes catch myself (only rarely now) hoping that I could somehow find the words that would prick my mother’s heart, to make her know how much she hurt me. But to prick her heart, I realize she would had to have actually loved me. I get it now, she never really did. But God is so good, He never stopped loving me, and He let me have a family of my own that is filled with the love and joy I never knew in my childhood.

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Kristin May 19, 2014 at 8:38 am

Thank you for such an enlightening blog. I am the Granddaughter of a Narcissistic woman. My mother has suffered a great amount of abuse from her but in turn has some of the same traits. She is now seeking counseling and trying to find peace. I think what she is finding in her journey is that she is hearing things about herself that she does not like. She has become angry with her therapist at times. There are things my Grandmother said and did to her growing up that haunt her to this day. She will tell me about them and they all sound too familiar. She did a lot of the same things to me growing up. I have tried to address that right them and there but it never goes over well as you can imagine. She either denies it, says I am seeing it wrong or ends up justifying her actions for weeks after the conversation. It is exhausting.
Our family is very small so the dynamic with my Grandmother and her Narcissistic behaviors have had a great effect on everyone. Growing up, I believe my mom was the scapegoat. Her youngest brother, the golden child died young suddenly and tragically. My Grandmother then made my mother the golden child and her older brother the scapegoat. Then several years after that he died as well. After that my mother permanently took on the scapegoat role once again.
When my brother and I were growing up he was the golden child. Since we have grown up and he has not shown my mom the appreciation I believe she expects there are times when she wants to put me in that golden child role. It makes me very uncomfortable. I almost don’t know how to handle it or accept it when she compliments me. She wants me to take on a lot of her stresses. She has had 3 failed marriages. She left my dad for his best friend when I was just 18 months old because she did not feel my dad paid enough attention to her. Her next marriage (to the best friend) lasted 15 years and was extremely dysfunctional. She is in the process of her 3rd divorce. Husband #3 could not deal with the family drama between my mom, Grandmother and the rest of us so he just shut down and walked out.
I feel that the root of a lot of my Mother’s issues as well as the issues in our family have been because of her unstable relationship with my Grandmother. A few years ago a fight broke out between the two of them at a family event because my Grandmother was angry that my baby son crawled to my Mother and not to her. My husband and I scooped up our baby, left and said we were done. This was not something we wanted our child (now children) exposed to. That was the last straw and I was ready to cut contact. At the urging and guilting of my Mother my husband and I made amends. There have been several more incidents since and as a result I have pulled far away from my Grandparents. My mom feels she is a victim of Stockholm Syndrome and cannot break free of her aging parents. My Grandfather is an enabler and will always back up my Grandmother. My Grandparents see me as dismissive of them and have basically disowned me as a result. My mom makes sure to let me know that.
I am sorry for such a long message. As you can see these roots go deep and it would be nice for all of us to have peace.
I guess my question is can these be carried on from generation to generation? Can anything be done to break the cycle?

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eileen June 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you! My parents are/were narcissists. I believe that my father was raised by narcissists therefore he wasn’t so much a narcissist as he was a person with narcissistic traits. My father didnt lack empathy but he did have a fragile ego yet an inflated ego, his biggest mistake was marrying my mother who was and still is a full blown narcissist/cluster B personality. It took me my entire life to finally realize that the problems with my family was caused by narcissism. I truly believe (from experience) that narcissism breeds narcissism. Its highly likely that if our parents or parent was narcissistic then some of that narcissism will have rubbed off on us, to some degree, the same way a southern accent is passed on….a few lucky ones will escape untainted but most will not. Unfortunately, Narcissism is the gift that keeps on giving. My parents had four children two girls and two boys. My mother was/is indifferent towards me and two of my siblings. My brother was/is the golden child. Hes 52 years old and still lives with my mother. She showers him with love and affection, he is truly an extension of her. He can do no wrong in her eyes. His smallest achievements are exaggerated and celebrated and his mistakes are excused and kept secret. I was the scapegoat and its a role I’ve found impossible to shake when it comes to my family. My mother has manipulated, triangulated and brainwashed my entire family for as long as we’ve been a family. Its impossible to repair the damage she’s done. Thank you again for your insight, and for allowing me to share my story here. For my entire life I was alone and thought no one would ever understand nor relate to what I’ve lived with. I read your blog and it helps me feel hopeful. Validated.

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laura June 11, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Hi Eileen, my sister is also the golden child and i am the black sheep of my parents.Still, they love her only as long as she does what they say.One day they love her, tomorrow they won’t.

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Anonymous June 13, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Hi Laura,
Its amazing that it took me my entire life to finally figure out/stop denying that my mom is mentally ill. I always knew her actions were disturbing but I was in denial and made excuses in my head for the unfair and flat out evil things she did to me. Hate isnt the opposite of love indifference is the opposite of love. Depraved indifference is what my mother has for me. My family have turned against me…they are still in denial as I once was. I hope you are doing well Laura…its not easy I know. I wish you the best …narcissistic people suck!

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Sarah June 28, 2014 at 2:33 am

Hello. It was like a fog was lifted from my mind when I understood what my moter is. I used to call it “the game” she played where she would talk about one of the kids in 3. Person to the others and she could never be friends with more than one of us at a time. It Nearly destroyed me (cutting, eating disorders, dissociation…) until I went no contact for 2 years. I only missed one of my sisters and we have now startet takling again, she is beginning to understand about the narcissism. The problem is that my other sister is also a narcissist but everyone loves her Even when she is abusive. How can I 1: have a relationship with my sister whithout beiing manipulated by the other one? 2: stop feeling sorry for my mother that treated me so badly? I have a loving man and a perfect little boy at almost 1. It is off course difficult when I feel that I have to let my mother see him. My brother, 13 years old still lives at home

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alice July 11, 2014 at 3:01 am

I have been and continue to be the scapegoat and the disappointment to a child that exists only in their imagination, hopes and dreams. Nothing i have ever been good at or enjoyed was or is ever sanctioned. It was always my fault. Even my mothers attempt at suicide and my fathers drinking. So now i am 30, working in the family business because i have no other options and living in the desperate hope that one day they will be proud and love me. I know this will never happen, but i can’t just leave in case it will. I dont believe anyone will ever want me, not because i don’t deserve it but because the years of pain and suffering would be too much for someone else. I can live with it because i have had a lifetime to practice. The possible future partner has not. No one wants someone so damaged. I love this website because at least i don’t feel so alone or deranged.

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Brownhare July 20, 2014 at 7:45 am

Hi I grew up feeling my Moms resentment for caring for me, it increased whenever my father was kind to me or played with me. She cut my hair very short like a boys after yanking a fine comb through it hard enough to make me cry ( I think as a justification for shearing it off) she dressed me in boys clothes, denied me anything pink or girly, everything was navy blue or brown or cast off. She locked me in the room to prevent me from running to my Dad when he came home from work, I had to eat alone, I was put in bed at 6.00pm until I was 11 or 12.

She controlled my toilet habits from aged two sitting me on the toilet on command and keeping me there until I went (in front of her) she washed my genitals roughly in the bath so it hurt when I had to pee. She forced food down my throat until I choked and threatened she would make me eat my puke if I was sick. Many evenings at the table sobbing for two hours.

She was an alcoholic who blamed her drinking on my ‘terrible behaviour’ when dad came home from long shifts she would subject him too a long speech about my wrong doing and insist he discipline me with a belt ( which he did) often when drunk himself. I used to listen from my bedroom and wait in dread for the sound of his steel toe cap boots coming up the stairs to give me a punishment beating.

She lied about my attachment to my baby brother when I was ten and he was born I used to get up in the night to feed him and change him because she was snoring, she told people I was jealous of him and wanted to harm him. I didn’t, I adored him, and wanted to protect him I was a very fiercely loving big sis and I still am and have helped him every step of the way to have a normal life with cash and love and visits and we are now still very very close siblings who both despise her for the divisive manipulation. He was the golden child for a while but then she abandoned him when I cleared off. He came to live with me once I had established a job and an apartment that was lovely and clean and safe and full of fun and food and love.

When I was a teen she either hit on my boyfriends or asked them why the hell they were with such a terrible person telling them how ‘difficult’ I’d been for her and how I drove her to drink.
I cut her off when I became pregnant and she accused me of trying to be ‘better’ than her because I had bought a baby sling, I have had two contacts ( both spiteful and nasty) since.

I now have a well balanced very loved and stable 16 year old son, a wonderful partner who had an N engulfing Mom himself and my son has a raft of adult mentors who have all to some degree or other suffered the narcissist encounters and come out equipped to spot and call. Many of these adults are ex out of control teen rebels, grown straight speaking, strong working and tough morally committed adults like me.

The problem is I no longer am able to have relationships with the ordinary slightly competitive, amusedly bitchy, school run women. Women for whom competition and a bit of slagging off is part and parcel of getting ahead in life. In their world nothing to get stressed about just a little casual evil, because that’s OK in life right? Not for me it isn’t and can’t be ever.

The hyper vigilance takes me to a point where once I know there has been back biting or nasty gossip that has no foundation other than ordinary human envy or just plain catty lady boredom, I go code black and I am like a human apocalypse of ‘how the fuck dare you pollute my gift of love and loyalty?’ I don’t take casual bitching well at all. In fact it detonates me into full blown fury.

I am very loyal, very careful to honour and support my friends and very conscious of not running people down behind their backs or furnishing other women with spiteful put downs regarding success or possessions etc. I can’t handle casual cruelty or abuse of any sort not in the work place , not in life, not at the supermarket, not anywhere. I am a human missile when I see cruelty or bullying taking place, I wade in and I go bananas at bullies. I’m a big strapping woman these days not a little ghost hiding under the dining room table or in the airing cupboard. But inside I feel I shouldn’t be taking on the worlds bullies every time I see them in action, it depletes me and the anger lays waste to my peace and joy.

It seems to me that women from NT families are able to roll with these failings in others and accept these bully tendency women or men still have good points that make them OK to be friends with. For me it is a game over, do not collect $200 and do not ever expect me to be on your team ever again.

The hurt that disloyalty, bitchiness and back biting causes me collapses me into a siege mentality and a bridge burn of tremendous ferocity followed by a total shut down and cut off. I then grieve for a while and remember my Mom as I work through why this person cannot be in my circle or close to me ever again. It has caused me a LOT of broken friendships and that worries me in a way that I regularly wonder if I might be the fucked up one.

I still don’t know if this is healthy or normal, what I know is that lots of women I have been friends with are still happily in the same groups with a fair degree of bitchery going on as well as a fair degree of fun and social time. I can’t bring myself to participate unless I can trust someone’s emotional decency and straight up ‘do as you would be done by’ one hundred percent.

This has left me with a lot of burned bridges in my life and a very small number ( count on one hand) of tight good folk whose moral compass is bang on the North at all times in their dealings with me and others as a friend who they trust and rely on to be consistent in loyalty. It is very black and white isn’t it? But not knowing how much I should let slide and when to call a halt is the issue. I can’t do semi friendship with a touch of mean. It crushes my joy and self patched together self love.

This is the legacy of my Mom that I can’t get past. I wish I could roll with a bit of nasty and just love the good stuff but the moment I see or hear a distinctly cruel put down towards someone not present or hear a grapevine tattle about me or a kind friend I am a cocked pistol waiting to fire a deadly shot to the friendship, and I do it to the extent that the bridge can never be rebuilt, no matter how much I grieve it’s loss.

This keeps me safe emotionally, but it carves me up not to be able to handle a bit of mean in life the way that those with solid loving parental bases and rock solid inbuilt self esteem can.

I wonder if I’ll ever be able to accept that a bit of mean behaviour in life isn’t a disaster for everyone. For me it seems like the evil that allows people like my mother to prosper socially.

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