It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Demeaning, criticism and denigration: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 5

 The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at  Copyright 2007, all rights reserved

[There are two basic types of narcissistic mothers, the ignoring type and the engulfing type. These may—and often do—overlap but most NMs have a basic style and will be primarily one or the other. Some of the following points may not apply to your NM simply because they describe an engulfing characteristic when your NM is an ignoring type—or vice versa. But our mothers are not the only narcissists we will encounter in our lives. In fact, being raised by a narcissistic parent actually sets us up to be prey for more of the self-centred emotional vampires as we go out into the world, from girlfriends who are anything but friends to lovers who love themselves best to husbands who are the mirror image of dear old mom. So, whether something looks like it applies to your NM or not, read and consider it carefully—it may give you the awareness necessary to avoid the predator lurking around the next bend. As ever, my comments are shown in violet. -V]

It's about secret things. The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self. It's about body language. It's about disapproving glances. It's about vocal tone. It's very intimate. And it's very powerful. It's part of who the child is. ~ Chris

5. She demeans, criticizes and denigrates.

The Word Reference website offers the following definitions:
Demean: cause to suffer a severe loss of dignity or respect.
Criticise: disapprovingly indicate the faults of.
Denigrate: criticize unfairly; disparage.

Undermining is what she does; demeaning you, criticising you, and denigrating you…that is how she does it.

She lets you know in all sorts of little ways that she thinks less of you than she does of your siblings or of other people in general.

The “little ways” is actually key. Like water dripping ceaselessly on a rock, each drop is small and seemingly harmless. But let enough of them fall over a sufficient period of time and even granite can be worn away, diminished, even cracked and broken. Complaining about her incursions into your peace of mind makes you seem petty and hypersensitive because her jabs are too often easily reinterpreted by those who are not her constant target. And if you are the daughter of a MNM, may heaven help you because she is not beyond setting you up.

I was supposed to be the smart one, as evidenced by my (unwelcome) mid-year promotion from second to third grade. Forever after, this was used against me. No help was forthcoming when I asked for it—instead, I got “You’re supposed to be the smart one, you figure it out.” Of course, this set me up for a lifetime of failures because few people “figure it out” and do it perfectly the first time and every one of my failures was an opportunity for her to ridicule, demean, criticise and denigrate me.

An example: at the age of 10 or so, washing the kitchen floor on Saturday mornings became my chore. I was a skinny kid, not very strong, so I had difficulty moving the kitchen furnishings and moving a full bucket of hot water. Everything I tried garnered criticism, but not once did she give me suggestions as to how to manage the task better. And, to make matters worse, NM would tell her friends, hooting with laughter, about my mistakes on the way to learning something, like how I spilled a bucket of water I had balanced on the edge of the sink, soaking myself as well as the floor, how I just “pushed dirty water around” because I didn’t have enough water in the bucket to properly rinse the string mop…or the strength to properly wring it out. If I tried rinsing the mop under running water in the sink, I was wasting water. Nothing I could come up with worked (and wouldn’t until I was physically big enough to do the job right), which gave her endless opportunities to make me feel inadequate and stupid and useless.

My GC brother, by contrast, never suffered such indignities. His chores were always done, she would remind me. He didn’t have to be reminded, he did them properly, and didn’t make stupid mistakes like I did, trying to get attention. Right—I suspect she knew that I did his chores for him. If they weren’t done, I got punished because it was my job to make him do his chores and if I failed, I was punished for my failure. Since he refused to do them as he knew the consequences for his inaction would fall on me, I did them to spare myself from NM’s wrath. A side benefit for him, of course, is that it polished his halo, raised his esteem in NM’s eyes, and the fact that is was all based in falsehood meant nothing to either of them.

In any contest with another, if your NM is the judge, you lose. If you win and you are proud of yourself, you are a poor sport. If you lose, you are worthless. If you don’t compete, you are lazy. In fact, you may occasionally realize with surprise that you are actually in competitions you never signed up for—to be the smartest or the cutest or the most obedient or helpful…or even the worst, most incorrigible…child among those children NM can observe, including famous children she can know nothing about personally, but whose imagined attributes you are put into competition against. And you always, always lose.

If you complain about mistreatment by someone else, she will take that person's side even if she doesn't know them at all. She doesn't care about those people or the justice of your complaints. She just wants to let you know that you're never right.

This can be taken to grave extremes. When I was frightened by a man exposing himself to me in the school yard late on a Saturday and I ran screaming through a small creek in my escape, she was totally unsupportive. She labelled my story as a lie and an “attention getting device” and an excuse to ruin a pair of shoes I hated. As a result, subsequent sexual assaults upon my person I never reported to her…I knew I would not be believed and that I would be held up to ridicule and maybe even punished.

Because I knew my NM would not support me in anything, I never told her of being bullied or teased, isolated or ostracized in the school yard. I fully expected her to take the side of the others, much as adults took her side when I complained of being beaten at every opportunity. “Whatever did you do provoke her that she would do such a thing?” I have been asked, and when I answered “nothing,” I was not believed.

She will deliver generalized barbs that are almost impossible to rebut (always in a loving, caring tone): "You were always difficult" "You can be very difficult to love" "You never seemed to be able to finish anything" "You were very hard to live with" "You're always causing trouble" "No one could put up with the things you do." She will deliver slams in a sidelong way - for example she'll complain about how "no one" loves her, does anything for her, or cares about her, or she'll complain that "everyone" is so selfish, when you're the only person in the room. As always, this combines criticism with deniability.

Mine was an ignoring malignant narcissist…they don’t find it necessary to hide their nastiness, at least not from their victims. I wasn’t difficult, I was “incorrigible,” to hear her tell it, so incorrigible that I was to be sent away to reform school. The judge, however, disagreed with her since I had never been in trouble with the law nor at school, but it didn’t change her view of me…if any thing, it made it worse. Despite the fact that I didn’t attend the hearing, NM later accused me of “charming” the judge and making her out to be a liar, something worthy of a lifetime of animosity.

Less blatantly antagonistic NMs, however, likely eschew such direct accusations and unashamed lies. For them, subterfuge and manipulation, back-handed insults and digs, damning with faint praise or seemingly innocuous remarks accompanied with a snide tone of voice giving away the insincerity. And MNMs are not above adding these tactics to their arsenal. I wrote a term paper once that took months of research and a lot of hard work to put together. I got an A+ on it. Proudly, I handed it over to be read and she put it on the coffee table. Weeks later I found it under a pile of newspapers and magazines and when I asked what she thought of it she said “You already got an A on it. What do you want? A medal?” She had not bothered to read a word.

Remember, NMs are not the only people who engage in this kind of demeaning, denigrating behaviour. If you are a DoNM, you were raised by someone who set you up as a purveyor of Nsupply and other Ns can smell it. You will attract both male and female narcissists to you, so if you have a friend or lover or spouse who criticises you relentlessly, makes comments that make you feel small or inadequate, who makes you feel small and weak rather than strong and empowered, you could be dealing with a narcissist in best friend’s clothing…

She will slip little comments into conversation that she really enjoyed something she did with someone else - something she did with you too, but didn't like as much. She'll let you know that her relationship with some other person you both know is wonderful in a way your relationship with her isn't - the carefully unspoken message being that you don't matter much to her.

There is more than one way to accomplish this. Malignant NMs often do these kinds of things with a conscious intend to wound and because they have no conscience or sense of familial loyalty, they can turn other family members into their flying monkeys in order to use them to hurt you. In my case, it was my daughter who was used in such a way. She became a substitute for me, and because she bought into the bullshit, she became a better daughter than I was. Of course she had to jump through a lot of hoops, turn her back firmly on the truth and even “forget” some hurtful things my NM did to her, like the time NM told her that she wished she had never had kids, that she had just stuck to cats instead, which sent my daughter to me in tears—“If she never had kids then I wouldn’t be here!” she wept. “Doesn’t she want me?”

One cannot mistake the message left in a will that disinherits one child and three of four grandchildren. The ones left out, the ones specifically singled out in the will to be told they were being rejected one last time, know they never mattered, and probably knew it long before that final confirmation.

She minimizes, discounts or ignores your opinions and experiences. Your insights are met with condescension, denials and accusations ("I think you read too much!") and she will brush off your information even on subjects on which you are an acknowledged expert. Whatever you say is met with smirks and amused sounding or exaggerated exclamations ("Uh hunh!" "You don't say!" "Really!"). She'll then make it clear that she didn't listen to a word you said.

This is pretty much true of just about any narcissist when dealing with information that they don’t like, don’t want, or don’t agree with. If they can denigrate the messenger, then they don’t have to pay any attention to the message.

When my NM was 65, she had a heart attack. After a quintuple bypass she was given certain instructions, chief among them to stop smoking, change her diet (less fatty foods) and take certain meds. On a “duty visit” to her (with my now-late husband along—I would never, ever visit with her alone! She watched her mouth in the presence of witnesses!) I watched her light up cigarette after cigarette and finally had to ask what her doctor had to say about her smoking. “That young pup?” she said. “What the hell does he know?”

Later on, as she continued her litany of complaints (that’s what a “conversation” with her consisted of: her complaining and everybody else nodding and making the appropriate noises at the appropriate times) she complained about how expensive her medicine but that she, clever thing that she was, found a way to cut the cost in half—by only taking it in half the dosage ordered by her doctor! When I observed that if half the dose would do the job, surely the doctor would have ordered the lower dosage. I was completely ignored and she went on a diatribe about how expensive everything is and how she could barely afford to live…this from a woman who was on Medicare and had just inherited a small fortune from her own mother.

Her mother, my grandmother, lived 21 years after her triple bypass, but quit smoking, changed her diet, and took her medications as prescribed. My NM lived only four years after her surgery. She would take advice from no one, not me, not her doctor, not from any source. With the arrogance of a true narcissist, what she “knew” trumped anything anyone else could tell her, and she held our contrary knowledge and opinions in disdain.

It killed her.

Next: Part 6. She makes you look crazy


  1. Violet,
    What you describe above resonates with deeply. My mother is very similar to yours. She has written me out of her will, guaranteeing that there will be strife between my sisters and me long after she is gone. And yet she pretends to be an expert on generational legacy; but she cares nothing about the damage she is doing to her daughters' relationship with each other. It's a sick, twisted thing. She has been an ignoring neglectful malignant narcissist my entire life. World class passive aggressive too. It is very difficult with such mothers because they can present so well to others, and because they get to dump out their toxic garbage on one child, the others don't experience it the same way, setting you up to not be believed. It's amazing such people can think of themselves as "maternal," since they are anything but.

    1. You are exactly right.

      If you spoke to my GC Bro about our NM, he would say "oh, she could be vindictive at times..." In fact, he said exactly those words to me in our last phone conversation shortly after she died almost 15 years ago. That was it--faced with being executor of her will in which I was disinherited, he could only acknowledge her being "vindictive at times." The fact that she was not "vindictive" to him and that he was in possession of a will in which I was disinherited meant that he couldn't completely ignore the fact that she could behave in such a way, but he certainly could minimize it!

      My NM liked to play her children against each other. Not being an N myself, I find it difficult to grasp what she got out of it, but obviously she got something because she did it her entire life. Is it possible your NM is fully cognizant of what she is doing to the relationship between her daughters and gets something out of it?

      Mine was also passive aggressive but not so much as my ex NH...he was a master at it! But I have to agree with you--exposing a masterful narcissist to the world for what they are is not an easy task--they present so well, and their actions are so often so deniable, that people who do not experience their nastiness simply cannot believe what we try to tell them.

      I cannot speak for you, but I grew up in a time when most mothers stayed home and maternal love was a foregone conclusion. Mine worked outside the home and she was perceived as "sacrificing" her time with us to help provide for us--and so when I presented with ugly lash marks all over my legs and buttocks, it did not occur to people that mine was a brutal narcissist of a mother: no, *I* must be an awful, awful child to have provoked my loving, self-sacrificing mother into punishing me thus. If only they could have lived behind my eyes for a week or two...

  2. Do these witches come off the same production line or what?! I remember my N-monster smirking as she selected photographs to send to my Aunt in the US, and she turned one around (it was of me and her) to show she'd written on it 'Beauty and the beast'. I was already a very insecure outcast (also not allowed to shave legs, armpits, wear clothes that didn't look like they were for an eight-year-old instead of a teenager) and once she saw the stricken look on my face, her lips stretched into an even wider smile and she said 'oh I was only KIDDING. Fine, *I'm* the beast.' She wasn't wrong about that. Fast forward a few years later, I had no idea how beautiful I actually was due to all her put-downs and insults. My height made me ungainly and a 'hunchback', my hair was all wrong, etc etc. And she was enraged and obsessed when I got a modelling gig that she found out about. I did a swim-wear shoot for a glossy magazine and she went ballistic. She purchased copies and came home screaming about the 'shame' and 'embarrassment' - you'd think it was hard-core porn the way she went on about it. In fact it was a very innocent and typical fashion-spread of swimwear and summer-wear shoot at an upscale country club. She had really got it into my head that I was awkward and ugly that I was baffled when approached by a casting agent, but thought 'what the hell, I need extra money'. She also had me believe that my N-sis, her little golden witch was the pretty one. Now I can see objectively that she is a plain-jane, but once, a friend who turned out to be at the same university asked me to describe her. I said 'oh she's SO beautiful - she's the pretty one in the family.' He stared at me and said; 'Sorry Lola, but she's OK, kind of average if you ask me'. It was my turn to stare back at him, because my N-monster used to always go on about her 'good looks' and talk in detail about how she was going to enter her in beauty pageants, and what song she would play at the pageant when my N-sis made her entrance and so on. Totally warped, huh.

    1. Yup--they are warped, all right.

      When I look at pictures of me when I was a young woman, sometimes I don't recognize myself. I see pictures of an extremely attractive young woman, not the Plain Jane I remember seeing in the mirror way back then.

      Today I am old--almost 66--but most people think I am closer to 50. My husband is 40. He tells me I am beautiful (I am seriously overweight) and I have reason to think he is lying to me...and yet there in the mirror is that Plain Jane, the ugly duckling...all these years, all this healing, and still bits of debris still cling to me.

      But it is SOOOO much better than it used to be. And it continues to improve, day by day...

      Hang in there--and keep ignoring her voice in your head--sounds to me like you are doing well and there is no reason that you cannot continue to do better and better...



  3. I don't doubt you're beautiful, Violet - had you been plain or ordinary, she would not have put so much energy into brainwashing you into thinking otherwise or trying to 'delay' your blossoming into a woman and then resenting you for the inevitable! Also, 66 is not old :) By the way, have you seen the Disney film 'Tangled'? The whole time I was watching, I kept thinking 'whoever wrote this must have experience with an N-'mother'.

    It's not here in the trailer, but the Rapunzel character is kept prisoner by a woman pretending to be her mother, who needs to keep her there to hold onto her own youth. Please watch if you haven't, and tell me if you think the same as I did!

    Reading this blog voraciously and loving it, by the way. Hope you consider compiling all the great material you have here into a book one day :)

    Hugs back,


    1. I saw the movie and thought exactly the same! My husband, who never met my NM (but who has met my Ndaughter) didn't seem surprised when I said it was a fairy-tale version of my early years(I have told him about my NM and he believes me--he trusts me, so he believes me). And yes, whoever scripted this movie MUST have had an NM or NGM or NMIL...there is just so little other explanation for the dead-on portrayals, right down to keeping Rapunzel dangerously naive of the reality of the world outside her tower.

      Just got back from a five day holiday to visit inlaws (who are great people--not at all like NM) so I will resume writing today. Next topic--Low Contact.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!



  4. Oh MY DEAR GOD!!!
    You described my BNM to a tee!
    I LOVE you--how did you know this?
    Yes, I know you suffered the same. It's just so uncanny.

  5. I recently discovered the concept of Narcissistic Mothers: alas it describes mine to a 't'. She has spent her whole life spitting out criticisms of others- usually her children, except for her chosen one- and seeing herself as a victim. Today I lost patience after she launched a diatribe against my sister. Horrid.

  6. I whole heartedly agree that if you have a NM that you draw others to you - that's all I have ever known is to take the verbal, emotional, physical and spiritual abuse that comes along with it. I too am 60+ and I have lived with it every day. I never had any dreams, aspirations or right to make a decision about my life. Everyone else has done that for me and it's just been a struggle for existance. The control and abuse sometimes overwhelms me.

  7. Yes I think the fact that the abuse sets you up for a life time of narcissistic relationships is unfair. It is like being in her abusive relationship prison with a life sentence. I just wish there was a way to transform the pattern. As for my mother she was and is far more abusive then the profile and those above!
    I am not trying to be competitive just stating a fact. If life is kind I hope to never see her again with the occasional quick hi email or phone call.
    I refuse to be in relationships at all because my pattern is strong and affects working environments and most relationships in my life.
    The narcissists come out the wood work. Lucky I love nature the ultimate relationship and escape from this pattern.
    I never had children as my mother never failed to remind me of the fact she hated them should never had them especially me!
    The fact I am soo single and childless really hurts my mother now. I am not the type of person to get pleasure from others pain although this to me is her karma. And even though I would never hurt her she knows what it is to hurt from something I have done and that to me is justice. Forgive me if this sound sic.

    1. There are other, healthier ways to deal with this than isolating yourself from relationships. I found a great deal of value with an empathetic therapist who had a lot of experience in helping women who came from abusive, dysfunctional familes. I would recommend you look into is NEVER too late to be whole and to enjoy both life and love.

  8. You have braved it all sweet violet. Proud of u !! Keep writing , enlightening and inspiring others !!

  9. My N-step monster has her hooks into my adult brother. Her & my Nf raised my brother but not me. Now my bro is swimming in low self esteem & lack of confidence. He is an on & off drug addict in & out of prison. They also raised bro 2 kids now they are in early 20's and drugging & running the streets! I seem to be the only one who sees a pattern. NM is insane with the alcoholic step sister can do no wrong but bro must make restitution for every wrong step. He has literally rebuilt most of the family home & all of a 2story shop but is denied a stabled place to lay his head or a pack of smokes once in awhile! I try to pick up the pieces but i get so blown away but the level of hate spewing from this woman. I pray alot!! She even picks fights with very I'll Nfather. She left him Christmas day to sit at her daughters complaining that she's unappreciated & unwanted. The temper tantrums are epic!! Then the woe is me, serve your dying patriarch gets pretty intense too. Disfunctional & discombobulated. I just try to keep up & keep my brother alive.

  10. Sounds like my NM only mine admittedly uses alcohol as a means to "say things I wouldn't otherwise dare" and abuse women and children. My daughter recently died at 20 as a result of sudden onset of bipolar mental illness but had been a wonderful kid, generous, cheerful, loving, and excellent student. My NM never had any use for her and no matter how good my sweet girl was, my NM would counter with some negativity (i.e., she was "manipulative" as a newborn, spent too much time ogling toys in the store at age 7 or ate too much as a adolescent). Now my NM rubs my nose in the wonderful relationship she develops for a few hours with a construction worker's daughter or whatever strangers she encounters. I asked her not to because it breaks my heart to hear about other people's daughters but that only encouraged her to do it every time I speak to her and when I remind her that her granddaughter was an exemplary sweet child, she counters that she wasn't in the end and reminds me that she died of drugs and NOT alcohol as if to justify and glorify her drinking at my deceased daughter's expense. She also continues to denigrate Americans even though I'm an American married to an American with American children and the more I remind her that it was her choice to marry an American, have an American kid and that her bigotry is hurtful, the more she does it. But now that she continues to criticize my beloved daughter in the same breath as telling me has given family gifts (including one of my daughter's gifts to her) to strangers' children, I am filled with animosity and excruciating pain. I honestly think that I will celebrate this woman's death even though I once adored her and proved at an early age to be repeatedly willing to lay down my life for her but that's another story.


I don't publish rudeness, so please keep your comments respectful, not only to me, but to those who comment as well. We are not all at the same point in our recovery.

Not clear on what constitutes "rudeness"? You can read this blog post for clarification: