Angry at a Narcissistic Mother: Part Two

by Michelle Piper

When you carry anger due to a narcissistic mother, you are bound to have “highs and lows”.

One contributor to the “highs” is when you use your anger as energy to protect yourself or your loved ones from harm. One cause of the “lows”, however, is when the anger seems bottomless and out of control.

During the lows, you may feel your life is engulfed by anger–much like you once felt, or perhaps still feel, overwhelmed by your narcissistic mother.

One way to deal with the bad side of anger is to interrupt the stress response of fight, flight, or freeze. Decreasing toxic anger effects is done with a special form of breathing which will be explained below.

Many of us who grew up in a narcissistic family system are frustrated when asked to breathe in order to calm down. Our discomfort often shows up because we’ve learned only shallow breathing from the upper chest. Shallow breathing is necessary for a quick get away or to hide from danger.

Remember, growing up with a narcissistic mother put you in survival mode. Your response to a threat, then, was the instinctive fight, flight or freeze response. If stuck in a fight, flight or freeze mode due to our childhood challenges, we may not have received the benefits of deep breathing.

Fight allowed you to do battle, flight enabled you to retreat, and freeze helped you attempt to avoid negative attention, dissociate or hide. This instinctive stress response involves shallow breathing, is meant to be a short-term solution to an immediate danger and often associated with a response to trauma.

It makes sense, then, that breathing isn’t the first thing we think of to relax. Shallow breathing that feels only heart deep tends to raise the shoulders instead of using the diaphragm, a muscle designed to pull air deeply into the body, and only continues the stress response. Unfortunately, chronically breathing this way causes a feeling of being on guard and ready to spring to action, which can tire us out and make us irritable.

Instead, practice deep breathing otherwise known as diaphragmatic or belly breathing. Learn to redirect your breathing energy so you can move from surviving to thriving mode.

Deep breathing relaxes the body out of the primitive, reactive part of the fight, flight or freeze response mode and allows us to access the more advanced, proactive, strategic parts of our brain so that we can access wise mind or functional adult skills and capacities.

Breathe deeply, way down into your core. You should see your stomach push out to the world, as a drawer opening to fill with air. If you sit or stand in front of a full-length mirror, you should see the tummy go towards the mirror to take a breath in and push toward the spine to squeeze the air out. The shoulders should not move much at all. If they are, it is a sign you are practicing shallow breathing instead of deep breathing.

A great time to practice this one you’ve checked your form in the mirror is while waiting at a stoplight or in line. Practicing during times such as these has three benefits; you are using otherwise wasted time, you are reducing your stress response to waiting, and you are practicing a way to let go of negative feelings.

Part three of this article will cover another strategy helpful in reducing anger’s cost to you.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicki July 10, 2014 at 9:35 am

Hi Michelle.

Thank you for this post. I look forward to your sharing of more strategies/tools for healing from these experiences. Also can you write about how to forgive both your Nom and your Nad.


Janet January 16, 2015 at 9:53 am

Hi Michelle,

I’ve never found a group I was comfortable opening up to about my mother, nor a therapist who could help me in as few words as you can. Your explanation of why deep breathing isn’t something I’m naturally inclined towards is the first to help me want to incorporate the technique into my daily living. And I’m a physical therapist who teaches the skill!

Thank you so much for giving this public forum/blog to us all and for sharing your understanding freely. I am deeply grateful.


hanna January 26, 2015 at 10:43 am

Before I found this post I was already breathing really really deep haha so yes this is a good advice 🙂 I’ve read that anger is better than shame, hopelessness and depression but of course one wants to move away from anger when it’s time to do so.


Nea March 13, 2015 at 2:40 pm

I literally LOLed when I read this part:
“Many of us who grew up in a narcissistic family system are frustrated when asked to breathe in order to calm down. Our discomfort often shows up because we’ve learned only shallow breathing from the upper chest. Shallow breathing is necessary for a quick get away or to hide from danger.”
SOOOOO incredibly true. I am always annoyed when people tell me to take deep breathe. Also explains why I hold my breath when I’m in pain and my doctor has to remind me to breathe all the time.


Sandy April 21, 2015 at 10:10 am

Thank you so much for the deep breathing advice. I’ve been told this before but never understood why or what good it would do. Your explaination made sense to me, and I started to deep breath when I’m feeling anxious and overwhelmed. It works!!!! I’m grateful


Suzanne June 30, 2015 at 8:46 am

Anger has been a driving force for me for many years, and I always thought my mother was crazy, but until I found this website and others similar I had no understanding of so many whys…….Thank you!
Six months ago I took my mother once again out to lunch and once again she got drunk, stumbling out of the restaurant (she’s 89) after 2 martinis. I asked her not to drink more than one and she fought me like a petulant child. I was worried she would fall and break a hip, or worse. In the car ride home after I got her coffee at a doughnut shop she started to pat my shoulder and then to caress it saying, “I loved my babies.” She meant my brother and myself, but it turned my stomach and I pushed her away. She has never been physically affectionate and disciplined me by slapping me in the face until I turned 15 and I slapped her back–telling her to never do it again. So I really do not like being touched by her on a good day never mind this day. Then I let loose all the pent up anger, telling her how she hurt me over the years, letting her know how entitled she acted and how I would no longer put up with it. Can I tell you how much better I felt–then I got a phone call from my daughter, my mother had called her right away to tell my daughter how mean I had been, I am (according to my mother) a bitter, angry woman who hurts her own mother. No surprise–my daughter was curious, not understanding the dynamics–yet.
Since then I backed off and no longer feel as obligated (and this is the tough part–I still feel very guilty and I am 64!).I try to make myself and my needs known if they ever ask(they never do). My brother (the golden child or as I always thought my mother’s favorite) texted me to ask if I would help him plan her 90th birthday party. I was wary because a few years ago I “helped” him plan our parent’s 50th wedding anniversary party by getting a hall, the caterer and a musician and paying for half only to have him scream at me the day before on the phone when I asked him if my daughter could man the guest book–he said I had “done nothing, he had to do it all”! I do not trust him.
I let my mother and brother know I could not be available to participate in the planning etc. of this birthday party but would be there and bring a special cake. I was shocked at what they did next–my brother who is not in contact with either my daughter or myself texted my daughter asking her if he should/could invite my former husband (her father)! My brother and he are not friends, the divorce was not amicable, my mother thought my former husband “never did anything to her” and after all “he was once part of the family” so why not invite him? My daughter was shocked, texted it would not be comfortable. A few weeks later my brother texts my former husband directly and says “do not mention this to your daughter but (my mother) would like you to be at her birthday party”. Now my former husband is shocked-texts back he does not keep secrets from his daughter like this and no he would not go.
My anger was palpable–I think now they both did it on purpose to punish me. I went to the birthday party, was gracious to all the guests, ignored my brother and his family and was kind to my mother–but I am done.


Jean October 30, 2016 at 6:41 am

My nm has been my responsibility since childhood. She divorced my father when I was 5 and never said anything nice about him. Her comments were as followed: You were not wanted, your father does not love you, your father did not care if you lived or died, you and your brothers and sisters always had your problems, you were too sensitive, you need to keep your weight down, your grandmother and grandfather don’t like you, the list goes on and on. I always knew there way something extremely wrong with her and my dysfunctional family, the bullying, sexual abuse, physical violence, lack of socialization, feeling inferior and never good enough or smart enough. I am in my 50’s and I started reading a lot of books on dysfunctional families, narcissistic personality disordered mothers and ptsd about 2 years ago. My mother lived next to me for most of my adult life, then a year ago when I started putting my needs first, due to health issues. I could not take her everywhere any longer, she freeked out! She has always smeared my name but it got really ugly. She started with accusations of elder abuse, telling total strangers that I would not do anything for her to help her. It got so bad that she hired a young girl from Church to come in and clean her house and cook for her. She also sent her to the bank and to the post office because she said I cannot be trusted any longer. People that knew my mother and my husband and I would not talk to us anymore and avoided us altogether. She was on the phone all of the time gossiping and saying she could not stand to live by us. Then coming over and saying ” So and so think that you need help and they were going to call me to find out why I treat my mother so badly. Six months ago she saw my husband out in the yard and asked him to come over to her house for a minute. She had asked him if I had dementia. I called her on the phone and told her off and I said I have taken all the crap and false accusations that I am going to take and I want her to leave me alone. She went into attack mode then and said that she is moving to another state with my sister ( who was jailed for domestic violence) and works in a nursing home. My sister and brother came in the early morning hours with a uhaul and left without saying a word to me. She did tell my husband “it was nice knowing him”. and drove off giving us the finger as she drives down the driveway. I think she thought that I would cry and tell her not to leave, but instead I rejoiced! I wish that I would have read these books years and years ago. I feel like most of my life was wasted on her needs. Thank God for my immediate family. I have no contact with my sibling and my narcissistic mother and it feels great.


Millie January 1, 2017 at 8:34 am

Your family sounds like mine. Way to go by leaving them high and dry 🙂


Jen November 29, 2016 at 10:12 am

I think the shallow breathing may be causing pain in my body actually. When I take deep breaths, I am more aware of the pain and then it dissipates some. Deep breathing helps me feel less focused on problems and more open to the big picture.


Susan December 27, 2016 at 4:26 am

Today is Family Xmas day. No one knows if my NM will show up or not but this is the first year I have successfully avoided begging, cajoling or otherwise giving in to her attention seeking needs. Every Christmas has been a bad m emory for 45 years due to sobbing, fighting, pathetic gifts and favouritism towards my brother and one of his three children. This is the first Christmas I have truly enjoyed myself and it is entirely due to six months of low to no contact. Today, I am a nervous wreck worrying that she may arrive and cause a scene but I will do those deep breathing exercises until my lungs burst to keep this a nice day for thecrest of my family.


Susan December 27, 2016 at 4:27 am

PS Michelle
Those emails you sent me have been immensely helpful. I have found a counsellor with experience with NPD and will get better in 2017


Jean December 28, 2016 at 11:03 am

This Christmas my NPDM contacted my son and wanted to meet his new girlfriend for lunch. He thankfully was not available at the time. She left a message that she needs his address. When he called back she did not answer the phone because she was staying at her friends home and gave him her friends phone number. She has managed to smear and keep her flying monkey’s out in full force. She can not wait to try to make my son and his new girlfriend to hate me. She even managed to call my mother in law and boo hooed about her mean nasty daughter that will not talk to her. Yikes when will this crap ever stop!!!!!!!


Bertie January 17, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Ten years ago my NM was approaching a milestone birthday. She announced to me that she wanted her birthday party at a supper club (she proposed two) and said she wanted to invite relatives from around the US and that we were to provide everyone with a very nice meal. This was “her” telling “me” that this was what she wanted “from me”. First of all, I don’t come from a family where any of us has ever had a gala event at a supper club. I made the phone calls and got prices. I talked to my husband and he said, astonishingly, “We can’t afford that!” I told my mother. For the first time, she spoke back to me in a “different voice”. It was very low and slow and evil sounding. She said, “You know you can afford that”. I thought, what the heck is going on here. It’s bad enough she is telling me she wants a birthday party like this, but now I hear her speak to me in an evil voice. This, was the first time in my life, that my eyes were made “wide open”.
Things changed between us.
Flash forward ten years. It is another milestone birthday. Our relationship declined severely over the past ten years. Regardless, I knew that it was “still me” who would be the only one of the siblings to put on a party for her. And so I did, on my terms. It was at her church and not a supper club. We served cake. I put a lot of time, effort, and expense into it. I worked on it, diligently, for about two months. She knew that I was. Early on, it was announced that The Golden Child (my only sister — the first born) would be traveling home to attend. I knew that from that point on, the entire focus of this (for my mom) would be about seeing my sister. Two days before the party, I called my mom and asked her to please stay home because someone from the church would be dropping off a key for me, as I had to set-up the church meeting room the day ahead of time. My mom snottily said, “I’m busy!” and hung up the phone. And so, I make arrangements to get the key another way. All of the two month’s of work is culminating to this point and this woman doesn’t have the decency to even be polite to the One Person who would do this for her. On the day of the party, my sister (who is now home and with mom) calls me 1 1/2 hours before the party and asks, “Is there anything I can do?” I answer, “I’ve done everything already”.
And so, the party takes place. It is an odd event because my family doesn’t “do” events. One of mom’s best buddies at her church is very rude to me, several times. I’m sure my mom has poisoned her mind about me. We get through the event and my mom walks up to me and says, “Hug me”. I give her a faint hug. “Hug me tighter”, she says. But, I don’t. I reply that I don’t want her corsage pin to poke her. The day before was my mom’s actual birthday and she spent the entire day with my sister — just the two of them. I felt as though I am only around to pay for things. My sister left and didn’t even say good bye to me.
A few weeks later it is Christmas. My mom remarks to me that she is “so happy” that the shirt she ordered for my sister got to her in time. Since it is Christmas Eve, and I didn’t get anything from mom, I ask her, “What about me, Mom?” She says, “You don’t need anything”. The last thing I want to say is that for my Entire Life, it has been I who has showered her with gifts. It was I who felt as though I had to make up for my siblings. My mom always had Huge Expectations at Christmas time. My sister (Golden Child) has always acted “The Ditz”. She routinely sends a gift one month after the event. That’s okay with my mom! I have one brother who hasn’t given anyone a gift since the mid 70’s. I have two other brothers who are normal — and present her with a normal gift. Gift, as in singular. But I was always programmed to pick up the slack. Mom would sit there and say, “I have nothing under my tree!” Stuff like that. And so, each year, I would/we would spend more on her than we would spend on any one member in our own family.
And here … this year …. I put on her birthday party. The party she was looking for. She makes a point of telling me she got my sister something and she tells me I will be getting nothing. My husband says, “No one should be expecting presents from her anymore!” I told him, “That’s not the point”.


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