Maternal narcissism results in you, as a child, growing up with a woman who is a mother in name only. When my coaching and psychotherapy clients see the pattern of narcissism in how they were “parented” they say something similar to the recent comment on our blog, “Until today I always thought it was something about me that made my mother treat me the way she did.”
You were a child, a perfectly imperfect human being, and you didn’t get the normal and natural things you needed in your childhood, that any child would need.
A child, by its very nature, is vulnerable and in need of protection.
If you felt angry, anxious, and overwhelmed around this type of mom, it was your natural response to maternal narcissism. The healthy part of you telling you something was wrong, and so you learned, alone, to emotionally survive.
A narcissistic mother is not truly a “mom.” She doesn’t really parent her children and has little to no compassion for her children. The conditional love she shows her kids is only present when her children do what she wants them to do. It is and always only about her, never about her children or anyone else in her life.
Everything you do is a reflection of her. A minor mistake is often seen as an attack and an embarrassment which is met with a narcissistic rage. When you do something well, she may not acknowledge it or, instead, do the opposite and take credit for your accomplishment, attributing it to her amazing parenting. You can never win because it will always be solely about her.
No matter what the situation may be, a narcissistic mother has the uncanny ability to make it about her. For instance, if she’s at a funeral, she may make herself the center of attention, extolling how tough it is on her and how she misses the person most, to the point of discomfort for those around her, distracting the other grieving loved ones during a painful time. Every conversation, every event, has to revolve around her or else.
This is one reason why maternal narcissists have children. Especially when young, children are the perfect audience because they hang on every word their narcissistic mother says. They need her to survive.
She keeps them alive, but it’s the children who are taking care of their mother. They feed her ego and tend to her needs and she gives nothing in return unless it is to her benefit.
Many of my clients express they weren’t parented in a healthy way and have a low sense of worth from trying so hard to be what their narcissistic mother wanted them to be and that they never felt good enough.
Maternal narcissists dole out roles for each of her children to play and change those roles when it fits her needs. An only child of a narcissistic mother is sometimes put in many roles.
There is the golden child, hero child, scapegoat, and the lost child. She parentifies each child, making them do for her what she should be doing for them while she triangulates and pits each child against one another.
If placed in the hero child role, you may have felt a nagging sense of being used for what you could do for your mother. She has the hero child to do her bidding for her, in some cases coercing you to abuse your siblings emotionally or physically, and then rewards you for doing so. This causes anger and resentment between the siblings which can last years into the future, fueling sibling rivalry.
If scapegoated, you were made to feel like the crazy one in the family for wanting to feel unconditionally loved. Your mother may have called you “oversensitive,” “a baby,” “a drama queen” or “little prince” for expressing normal needs and emotions.
If in the golden child role, you may remember getting the positive attention you craved only when you accomplished something your mother valued.
Narcissistic mothers are only nice to their children when stipulations are attached.
They do things for others because there’s some sort of benefit for them.
For instance, a narcissistic mother gives to charity but doesn’t do it anonymously. She wants recognition to show she did a good deed and others to thank her for her generosity. She’ll attend her child’s sports event and say things like, “that’s my baby girl!” or “he gets that from me,” to brag about her child’s accomplishments as if they are her own.
Being the product of maternal narcissism can be both physically and emotionally damaging.
Physically, for instance, because the scapegoat or lost child can be ignored when medical attention, a dental visit or basic knowledge about hygiene is needed. If the narcissistic mother didn’t feel proper care was necessary, the child wouldn’t get it. This can range from needing care for the flu to braces to an emergency room visit for a dislocated shoulder. If it wasn’t the golden child who needed something–while in her favor–it didn’t really matter.
The emotional effects of maternal narcissism become obvious to those who have a narcissistic mother but may not seem so blatant to the outside world. The internal wounds an adult child of a narcissist, ACON, are so expertly masked that most people may not recognize it. Some were told never to show their emotions and in response hold it all inside until one day they burst or become incredibly fatigued.
Each narcissistic mother has her own unique way of emotionally damaging her children. Clients have told me things such as she would read through their diaries or confide things about her significant other a child should never hear. I have also been told of narcissistic mothers who made her child her house servant, having to wait on her hand and foot to get any sort of recognition. Maternal narcissists often run emotionally cold then hot, are critical, combative, and draining of others.
If you have survived such abuse, you’re stronger than you may give yourself credit for. You know the horrors of growing up with a narcissistic mother and can continue to take the steps to overcome past abusive patterns and move on towards a happier and healthier lifestyle.
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