Narcissistic mother enmeshment is unlike anything else. It is restrictive, confining, and is not real, unconditional love. As Tom Cruise said in the movie Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.” Of course, he was saying it to a woman he fell in love with, not to his children, and hopefully not because of his own selfish needs. When narcissistic parents utter this line or have that mentality, it’s often enmeshment, not the unconditional love of a parent.
Enmeshment is an extreme form of proximity and intensity in family interactions. The literal meaning of the word is to catch or involve in or act as if in a net or snare. This is what narcissistic parents do to their families. They entangle them and wrap them up in their own web of self-absorption.
When you’re a baby, you begin to form boundaries with your family members, dictated by your parents of course, but that is how you learn them. When you are old enough to communicate your boundaries to others, you do so. However, people who grew up in a family with a narcissistic parent or a narcissistic mother boundary problems develop and all those involved become emotionally less functional. Children become victims of her enmeshment and lack of proper boundaries.
She is the one who created you, why shouldn’t she get to have complete control over what you do and how you live?
From her limited point of view, she believes since she took care of you when you weren’t old enough to care for yourself, you owe it to her to never keep a secret from her or have your own space.
You are an extension of her, a product, an object, a mirror. You are a part of her and she gets to treat you as such.
This is the mentality of an enmeshed narcissistic mother.
Narcissistic mothers know how to overtly and covertly control their family, using tactics that may be unbeknownst to others. She may make you feel guilty if you are not attending to her every need. When you are always on pins and needles around her, it may cause you to grow up to be hypersensitive, especially when it comes to rejection.
To the outside world, this enmeshment may come across as intimacy or your narcissistic mother really cherishes you. But in reality, you were never allowed to develop your own identity separate from her. She was always trying to make you take on her identity, whether she was aware of it or not. She may have also tried to live vicariously through you once you were old enough for her to be jealous or want to be more like you, becoming overly involved in your social life, school, sports, etc.
If you are not careful, this enmeshment from your narcissistic mother can persist an entire lifetime. Your own boundaries may be poorly developed as an adult with inadequate self-protection against others and their manipulations. When you have a narcissistic mother, it is hard to tell where your feelings start and hers end. Her feelings take over you and these feelings can generalize into other relationships you may form in your lifetime.
This emotional blueprint of boundary violation may be something you unintentionally allow in or carry to your other important relationships with a partner, friend, boss, or children.
When you finally realize what is going on, you may (or possibly already have) try to move far away from her, distancing yourself physically to try to heal the emotional wounds which are so deep you may not know where they end. You could move across the country or across the world and it still may not seem far enough. Regardless of distance, the emotional enmeshment my still be there because you never got to find out who you really were outside of your narcissistic mother.
When you were young, you were taught to look through the eyes and hear through the ears of your narcissistic mother.
You were forced to make choices, either consciously or subconsciously, based on whether or not you believed she would approve of your decisions. In time, you lose yourself within the narcissistic family system of enmeshment and fuse yourself with your mother. That sense of wholeness which others get from just being themselves is not something you were allowed to know. Your wholeness came from being psychologically bonded to her.
The abusive patterns, psychologically and perhaps even physically, do not stop until you make the conscious decision to end them yourself. For as long as you allow it, your narcissistic mother will continue to go about this boundary-less relationship and keep you from experiencing your true self and true identity.
Narcissistic mothers know exactly how to keep their children close by their sides, making sure their dependence on her is strong and so they are unable to break the ties between the two of them. She rewards her kids for being like her and meeting her needs. As soon as they do something she does not approve of, such as making their own decisions or being unique, the are condemned and made to feel inadequate. She makes them earn their way back, which many desperately try to do.
In your case, and for all those who have to deal with a narcissistic mother, you have the option of severing the enmeshed ties that have kept you overly vulnerable to your mother for so long.
Set boundaries and set them high. Let these boundaries be known and enforce consequences when boundaries are violated. This is about you, your healing, and your recovery from having a narcissistic mother. Decide what is best for you, your happiness, and your overall life’s contentment. Be the change you need, because your narcissistic mother won’t be.
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