Don’t Self Attack for Feelings About Your Narcissistic Mother

by Michelle Piper

‘It is awful and sad… I am 40… When will I stop being hurt and crying about my mother???’ A recent comment on the blog.

As a psychotherapist in my 40’s, I feel it in my bones when someone says on the blog or in my coaching practice, “I’m X years old and I’m still effected by my narcissistic mother. When will this ever stop?”

Your narcissistic mother can be alive or dead, vibrant or frail, in high, low or no contact and the inner child within you will still at times cry out for attention about the emotional abuse and less than nurturing behavior you experienced in her care.

That means you are alive and growing stronger, not weak.

When we feel mad, ashamed or negative about ourselves for having emotions, we are treating ourselves like our narcissistic mother treated us. As if, though human, we shouldn’t have vulnerability or needs.

Don’t make the mistake of stuffing that part of you away or berating yourself.

Instead, notice.

Give that part of yourself what you need in a moderate way.

When I fall into these self attacks, I practically hiss at myself that I’m really, really supposed to know better…15 years as a therapist, working from growing up in a trailer to earning cum laude from a top university…all that external stuff… and I can’t stop myself from feeling very sad and powerless at times.

My functional adult knows I can’t change others, that I’m supposed to meet my own needs in a moderated way within my value system that respects other’s boundaries. And I still make mistakes. So have the CEO’s, VP’s, best selling authors, and elite military I’ve treated.

So, just notice when you have feelings about your narcissistic mother. Forgive yourself for being a perfectly imperfect human being, and come back to the healthy part of yourself that can soothe the wounded part of yourself. In this way, you will heal.

It helps to have a trusted other who can catch you in this process and coach you through doing this for yourself. Choose this person carefully, and soon you are building a strong support network and these feelings become less intense.

If you have found this article helpful, please hit the “Like” button.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Dawn June 4, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Excellent post! Self Compassion is what its called nowadays. You are right, we must be kind to ourselves first and formost. Thanks for this.

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Anonymous June 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Thanks, Dawn!
Michelle P.

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Sandi June 5, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Thank you for giving my sometimes-overwhelming feelings a voice. Oddly, now that I figured out my mother (and father) were narcissists it gave me a renew self image. For years I kept ghinking “This is weird and wrong.” The frustration of seeing what others seemingly couldn’t made me doubt myself constantly. Now, it’s as if a switch has flipped. When I get into the negative self talk…the kind that makes me slide down the rabbit hole of trying to make sense of what will never make sense, the automatic answer is now, “Oh that’s right. It was not you, it was them. You’re doing great.” There’s great comfort in letting go of a responsibility that was never yours to begin with.

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Maggie June 7, 2013 at 10:07 am

Michele thank you for this, its so true, regardless of how successful we are, people don’t know at times that overcoming those obstacles is the key to success. You being a firm example of that. Thank you for sharing, I could write a book about my mother.

Although it has assisted me in knowing the difference as yourself. I remember when my father passed away. He was everything to me. I didn’t even have time to cry, I was so busy assisting my mother with the funeral, my hubby and I both did. The other three half siblings did nothing.

At the funeral, I finally broke down and cried, it just came out, I barely remember saying, he was my pride and joy! My hubby and niece ran to me to console me. Nobody had ever seen me cry like that, including myself. Heck I was never allowed too. I was always crying for nothing according to my mother.

For some reason as strong as I am, I couldn’t stand up, my legs were shaking? I reached out to my husband and said, I can’t stand up my legs are shaking. My mother was to my left side as she always positioned herself when growing up to my right or left side, so she could talk in my ear so nobody else could see or hear her to upset me.

She aggressively said, when I said, I can’t stand up to my husband. She said, OH yes you can!!! and my name, yes you can!!! She was so angry for me having feelings. It was always like that. I told her to leave me alone!! To get away from me.

As time went on I would pick her up and take her to the cemetary with me. I would stop to get flowers for my father, my aunts who are buried not far from him. One of my aunts being my favorite, she was a wonderful human being and her sister, but not like her at all.

As I would buy the flowers at one time she started getting weird again and said, you don’t have to buy flowers for everyone? I said, its my money, how dare you. We got to the cemetary this particular time and she was angry and hostile, stood over my father’s marker, actually jealous because I was putting flowers on his grave.

Then when I went to my favorite aunt she started up on me again. I told her, I will never bring you with me again. I couldn’t even grieve or find peace at whats supposed to be one of the most peaceful places to be at.

Can you imagaine? She sabotaged everything, wanted to control me every second. BUT, I also cut the ties and created the boundaries. She was so nice when she wanted to go, but once there, would act angry and hostile?

Michele, I know all about the illness. So many suffer from families who display what I referred to my mother was at one point coming to terms with it as evil.

I was always her target for her tirades, but would confront her behavior. When she died she was still angry at me. I felt nothing, I said to myself, what else is new. I expected it. No matter what I did, it was never going to be good enough. But I did it anyway. Live and let live my father would always say, he would tell her she had rabies.

And would confront her all the time as he said to her, your always on her, your always picking on her, leave her alone! Then the anger would turn on him for not defending her abuse.

Michele, it made me stronger and thank you for this blog, I have a half sister whose worse than my mother. To all of you and us out there, know that loving yourself is the greatest love of all. We all deserve to be loved and love who ever we want. Don’t ever loose sight of that.

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pall July 27, 2013 at 5:51 am

Its so awful to have a mom who is not caring and loving, now my mom says she will not give my share in my paternal granddad property, I am thinking of going legal with her, but kind of feel so bad about it, never expected myself to against relationships like this,

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Maggie August 3, 2013 at 10:53 am

Pall, you empower her and she gets what she wants, control over you…Its a carrot being waved over your head; however its pathetic that she would disrespect the wishes of your patermanl grandfather. Is there a living trust? If there is and he left one, she is breaking the law by not honoring it, aka living will..

Its extortion, what does she want in return, your life? What has occured that she has threatened you with not giving you something that does not belong to her, but that you have a share in? If its in writing and a legal document, shes breaking the law.

IF there is a clause that states that if contested, all who do, or whomever, forfeits their share, are pre-deceased and disinherited, including her. How do you know you have a share? IS she the trustee for the said property? I am a trustee for my parents…Both now deceased…

So all who share a part, should have a copy of the trust, once lets say your grandfather is deceased. But think about it, what if he had not left you a share? You would have survived anyway and are. But the real reality is, we or our parents, grandparents, whomever can’t take it with us or them when we pass.

So we make decisions or they do to leave those hard worked accomplishments to who we want or they want. It violates the wishes and respect of those who pass on…Greed is the root of all evil.

You don’t have to like each other, but legal and whats in writing, if violated is breaking the law. A judge does honor a living trust or living will….So is she contesting that he is leaving you a share?

Hope this helps,
Maggie

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Deidra July 21, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Thank you for this post. I’m in my 40s and thanks to this website now have the language to talk about the abuse at the hands of my mother, who I now define as severely mentally ill. I’ve opted for no contact to save myself. I know very well that this decision saved my life, but I used to get over come by the disappointment and grief that bnot only was my child hood lost, but that despite wanting a better relationship it was never going to happen. I used to wake up crying, why what have I done. As I work on establishing an identity out side from the bad seed I was cast as, this happens less and less. I realize now she needed some one to demonize, to justify punishment for mostly imagined fronts . I insist on paying and learning from mistakes. But she would find a way to twist every thing with negative intent

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HollyR August 21, 2014 at 12:10 pm

I am 45 and just now have found a name for what I experienced as a child and throughout my life. I’m struggling…my mom just moved closed to me…and for so many years I was able to cope…and detach…and now all sorts of memories are flooding over me…and the narcissism is stronger than ever. I have so many unfortunate stories…but the one that comes back to me the most…is how I always wanted to grow my hair long…like a princess…when I was little…and every summer my mom would force me to sit in the chair at the hairdresser and have it all cut off….really short…I would cry. I would beg her not to make me have short hair…and she was always so “delighted” with the results…even as I was crying. I started pulling all of my hair out around age 10ish…I guess it was the only way to gain some control over my own body. I’m happy to find this blog…maybe it will help me process some of this stuff…because I will never be able to process it with her. Anytime I bring up my childhood…or any type of topic regarding her behavior…she starts crying….or leaves…or accuses me of attacking her. I’ve given up on any sort of real intimate, caring relationship with her. I’m just exhausted…and I’ve recently experienced so much joy in my life…getting married…finally purchasing a dream house…and her negativity and lack of interest threatens my way of life. I refuse to continue to let it.

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Anonymous August 22, 2014 at 11:04 pm

HollyR-
I hope to hear that these days, you keep your hair the way you want it! I grew up with a BPD mother, then because that seemed “normal” my 1st and 2nd marriages were to NPDs.
I am pleased to say that I’ve now broken free, and am spending these years to lick my wounds as it were.
The advice I wanted to offer is this: for those still living with their Narcissist (mother or otherwise) by now you know that they enjoy watching you squirm. So, don’t them them know everything about you. Keep what is dear to you a secret, then it can’t be used against you later! If my mom knew that I would be humiliated that my grandma knew that I was having sex, she would either threaten to spill the beans or actually do so in a guise of confidentiality. But if I didn’t let on that it would bother me, then she wouldn’t have the weapon to use against me.

Or, if my Ex thought that I cherished a particular piece of furniture or jewelry, I learned that later, he would “accidentally” destroy or lose the very thing I held dear. So I learned to drop decoys: I would casually mention to please be careful around (something I felt was cheap, ugly, and replacable ) then later, when turned up broken, I would PRETEND to be saddened…when actually, hahaha! He didn’t get the correct target, because I refused to let him know what any correct target was! He had no ammo. He thought he was getting to me because I acted mopey about the decoy. Ha. He was overjoyed to believe that he had upset me. I was overjoyed and relieved to know that I had successfully thrown the bully off course!

Or, if I said to either of them something like “Please don’t tell you sister this, but I don’t like it when she jokes about your dad’s ugly old car” then it would be within the hour that they had called their sister to tell her precisely what I didn’t want her to hear…just so they could gaslight, humiliate, and start drama. But, if I said in plain English “I don’t like when Sally jokes about your dad’s car” and didn’t stipulate anything, then their was a 90% chance that my comment would be bypassed.

If they think they are punishing you for whatever it was, LET them believe so. This way, you are saving yourself some hurt anger and outrage. So what if it’s a convoluted coping mechanism? The Narcissists aren’t sparing your feelings, so why shouldn’t you spare your own feelings?

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MK January 16, 2015 at 11:51 am

Your story about your mother being obsessed with your hair is just so similar to mine. One of my most horrible memories from childhood was when during one morning before school (I was an eary teenager), when I was getting ready in front of the mirror, my mother grabbed huge scissors (used for cutting fabric) and chopped of the hair that I had tried so hard to grow long. It was my dream too to have long hair because as a child it was also always cut short.
I don’t remember what I had said that got her in this rage, but certainly it wasn’t anything that could justify what she did. Even worse, she made me go to school without even trimming the uneven hair and with my eyes puffy from crying. I felt so ashamed and shocked. But I think that also made me realize that there was something wrong with my mother- especially because she did not feel any compassion after the act (if she herself would have been immediately shocked after what she had done, then I think I would not perhaps even remember this, who knows…)… I think I also became very scared of my mother (who still seems so nice to many outsiders), but in a way it has saved me as it made me instinctively keep some distance and not reveal too much to her… but it is still a process, more than 20 years after this incident (of course many many more incidents followed and since the mother is still alive (despite her numerous illnesses for as long as I can remember), I’m expecting more drama in the future and try to arm myself with enough information for that.

However I feel more encouraged and confident after finding this page and hearing about all the stories. I was thinking that even though we may never be able to heal our wounds completely, it is worth trying to get better as much as possible, because we still have a lot to give and I hope to become strong enough to help someone who has fallen a victim to a narcissist some day in the future.

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Maria January 28, 2015 at 3:35 pm

“I guess it was the only way to gain some control over my own body. I’m happy to find this blog…maybe it will help me process some of this stuff…because I will never be able to process it with her. Anytime I bring up my childhood…or any type of topic regarding her behavior…she starts crying….or leaves…or accuses me of attacking her. I’ve given up on any sort of real intimate, caring relationship with her. I’m just exhausted…and I’ve recently experienced so much joy in my life…getting married…finally purchasing a dream house…and her negativity and lack of interest threatens my way of life. I refuse to continue to let it.”

YES…..God i started crying when I read this part….it reminds me of me having bulimia and punching myself in the stomach and hitting myself with a brush when I self-shamed. Therapy helped me to come to better terms with the fact my mother is a narcissist.

I also refuse to let this continue, if I do not mother myself and care for myself, nobody does. Growing up my mother would often just cry when I asked her to talk about something she did, that upset me or that I did not understand. Or she would storm off crying and complaining about me acting ‘like a princess for who nothing was ever good enough’, and she would then double punch me by saying things like “because of YOU I am having an existential crisis.” Or she would use emails I had sent her, in which I opened up, and underline every sentence. Then make me come to her computer, and reply to each and every single one, denying all claims, shifting the blame to me and only resting HER case after I had apologized for daring to be so unthankful.
My mother also knew we had one photograph I HATED from when I was 8 or so. It was the ONLY photograph she ever hung up, made 28464535 copies off, and rubbed into my face and said it ‘is something to show on your wedding day.”

It took me until I was 30 to understand what was going on, and really understand it was never my fault. It will be a lifelong healing journey, but even one year of therapy already helped me so much.

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sue July 7, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Dear Holly, yeah what is with these sorts of muthas – their insisting on short hair. As a child, i wanted to look and dress like a girl – (uhm, i am a girl, was born that way 😉 and would get shot down for it, and my hair butched.

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ONLY DAUGHTER August 19, 2016 at 7:05 am

YES!!! I was also forced to have a short pixie cut and my heart would break when I’d look at myself in the mirror. It made me feel so ugly. So cruel. I hope all these sick, pathetic bullies go to hell.

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Teresa December 30, 2014 at 10:57 am

I’m 62 and my mother is 85. A couple of years ago I found out what was wrong with her. The insults, the screaming, the backstabbing , the humiliation my sister
and I had to go through was “normal” for us. It was so liberating to find out about NM. She screamed at me everyday telling me I was crazy, now I know it is her. She has manipulated and divided my sister and I. My sister became an alcoholic and divorced. Since our mother adored her daughter, my sister mistreated her to the point my niece left to live with her father and his new wife. Sadly, it was her way of getting even with our mother. We have been subjected to so much slander, her neighbors think we are such bad people. As for me, my kids could kick me and spit on me and I would not care since I want to be the exact opposite of her. But thank God they love me very much. My husband knows exactly how she is and supports me, which is great . I am still trying to recover from so much abuse. For The Lord everything is possible.

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Annmarie February 4, 2015 at 7:34 pm

Delighted to find this site. I remember when I was 7 and told my mother I knew she hated me and loved my baby brother more. I knew she was messed up when I was 4. At 49, and a year and a half after my dad died, I said I was done with her. I haven’t seen my brother and his family in 2 years. He married a woman just like my mother. My little sister is a mess. Strange, she’s both narcissistic and terribly abusive to herself. Haven’t seen her in over a year.

I meditate. I talk openly to others about what I have been through. I have been in therapy on and off for a decade. I divorced my mother and shortly after my therapist said I no longer needed to come. I purposely make sure to treat myself wonderfully and I come first. Massages, sleeps, good food, meditation, saying no, traveling. It’s finally and about me and self care.

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JK May 17, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Am so glad I found this site. I went NC with my NM 10 years ago when I was 41 – before realising what was going on – it was just such an intolerable situation I just walked out after visiting her one day and never went back. It was a few years later when she was still trying to manipulate me into getting back in touch that I came across info on the web about Narcissism and it was such a relief to realise I wasn’t alone and that it wasn’t just something wrong with me. I stuck to my guns apart from replying to a few texts saying I wished her well, bore no grudges but wanted to lead a separate life. I thought I had dealt with it although still felt a huge amount of guilt and due to living only 5 mins walk away from her, had to be careful to avoid certain places for fear of bumping into her (so she was still controlling me to an extent). Then this weekend was the funeral of my friends dad and I felt like I should go to support my friend but knew there was a high chance my NM would be there as they were connected through church friends. I saw her as soon as I arrived and just couldn’t go through with it. I managed to speak to my friend who totally understood but when I got back to work I had a complete breakdown. I couldn’t stop crying and all the old feelings came flooding in of being manipulated and I felt as desperate and worthless as I had all those years ago since I was about 7 yrs old. Another friend of mine helped me to process what was going on and made me see that having such an extreme physical reaction to seeing her was a sign of how unhealthy the relationship had been and was my body’s way of saying NO! Don’t go back into that situation! I think I needed to go through that now in retrospect as I think for the first time in 10 years I feel a lot less guilt over my decision not to see her and I realise fully now that her behaviour was actually a form of abuse – emotional abuse – and I am not responsible for that. But I am responsible for my future sanity and mental health so I am more sure now that there is no going back and giving her another chance despite other family members thinking I am just being awkward and selfish and stubborn. So I am grateful for this weekends emotional trauma as it has proved to be another step in the healing process! Hearing other people’s experiences on this site helps too so thank you everyone!

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Scapegoatdaughter December 26, 2015 at 11:17 am

I too feel my GC and LC sisters think i am selfish because I can’t bear to pick up the phone to talk to her. I have to gear myself up to do, and have the right positive energy to deal with the sound of her voice and her never ending egocentric chatter about how marvelous she is. She praises my GC sister to the skies but hardly mentions my LC, who has spent hours doing my NM’s bills and accounts for her. In fact ,she tries to sabotage my LC’s accounting, and when my LC remonstrates (mildly) my NM accuses her of being bullying! Now my LC has been in a relationship with a guy who has delusional jealousy syndrome, and believes the worst of her. This must be a direct result of being undermined constantly by her NM. I took off out this whole mess when I was 21, and put 6000 miles between me and the NM. But now she’s 92, she needs me to call her more often. Unbearable.

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ONLY DAUGHTER August 19, 2016 at 7:17 am

Scapegoatdaughter, Unbearable is right. It’s a common complaint that children of NM despise having to talk on the phone with them. I’m the only child of an elderly NM and am also forced to occasionally call her and it literally makes me ill. When I see her name on caller ID I spew 4 letter words at the phone before I answer and of course sometimes I just don’t answer. But she’s old and sickly and I can’t go NC. Of course it’s tough on you because you then have recriminations from your sisters. Is there any way you can form some type of supportive alliance with your LC sister?

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