[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
Part 20. She is never wrong about anything.
This is more than just crazy-making—this is a situation that can be devastating to a young child’s ability to learn to think critically and make accurate assessments of the world around him. Having a mother who will tell a child is he wrong in order to make herself right skews a child’s perceptions and sets up a cognitive dissonance in the child. Cognitive dissonance makes people uncomfortable, even children, and so the child is placed in the position of having to find a way to resolve that uncomfortable dissonance. The basic choice open to someone in this position is to either stick with one’s own perception or adopt the alternate perception. When the alternate perception comes from the person upon whom you depend for your food and shelter and protection, a young child is not be blamed for accepting that person’s “reality” over her own.
What happens now, however, is that the child begins to doubt her own perceptions and over time loses confidence her ability to make decisions or accurately perceive what goes on around her. She becomes accustomed to adopting NM’s beliefs, perceptions, and opinions as reality and when dissonance arises she automatically resolves it by discounting anything that runs contrary to NM.
Some children don’t succumb. They either outwardly dispute the difference in perceptions or they pretend to accept NMs views while silently holding their own. Either way, they don’t learn that their mothers are rational, trustworthy people, nor do they have a model for rational observation and thinking.
No matter what she’s done, she won’t ever genuinely apologize for anything.
This assumes, of course, that she can be brought to an apology. My NM died when I was 52 and I cannot, over all of those years, ever recall a single apology from her, ever. Not to anyone for anything. Not even a perfunctory “sorry” when she bumped someone or stepped on their feet: it was their fault for being in her way, why should she apologize to them? She once punished me for something my GCBro did and later found out he had actually done it and then punished him for it as well. I waited for her to apologize and when it didn’t happen, I screwed up my courage and asked her about it. Her response? “Consider it punishment for something you did do that I didn’t catch you at.” Even when she knew she was wrong, no apology ever escaped her lips.
Instead, any time she feels she is being made to apologize she will sulk and pout, issue an insulting apology or negate the apology she has just made with justifications, qualifications or self pity: “I’m sorry you felt that I humiliated you” “I’m sorry if I made you feel bad” “If I did that it was wrong” “I’m sorry, but I there’s nothing I can do about it” “I’m sorry I made you feel clumsy, stupid and disgusting”…
Many of my DoNM friends call this a “fauxpology.” And that is exactly what it is: a false apology.
My NM might have made these comments, but they would be made in an exaggerated, condescending, and sarcastic tone. She was never really sorry for anything because she was never wrong. Children of such a mother learn that apologizing is undesirable, even bad, and something to be avoided...but something to be extracted from others as a punishment or humiliation. The last thing they learn is remorse and the cleansing nature of genuine apology: instead they learn to rationalize, lie, and blame others. My NM might say something like “Well, Miss Priss, I am soooooo sorry that I hurt your little feelings. I’ll be sure to be more careful around them next time,” in a tone just oozing sarcasm, but she would never say anything that could be construed as a genuine apology.
“I’m sorry but it was just a joke. You’re so over-sensitive”
I was often accused of not having a sense of humour as a kid. My stepfather, Frank, liked to tease me and I invariably took him seriously. NM labelled me gullible, but I had grown up in an environment in which it was downright dangerous to mistake something NM said as a jest. It was always safer to err on the side of seriousness. Often I would hear “Oh, for Chrissakes, it was a joke! What is wrong with you?”
I never knew where I stood with her. When I was about 16, I was in the kitchen with her one evening, wearing a skirt I often wore to school and a long pull over sweater. She smacked mein the stomach with the back of her hand saying “pull your stomach in! you look like you are 3 months pregnant!” I don’t (and didn’t even then) particularly like very tight clothes but if wearing the comfortably loose things I preferred made her suspect I was pregnant, then I probably needed to snug a few things up a bit. I took a dress that had been given to me by my stepmother and took it in a little, enough to show off my figure a bit more but still loose enough to sit comfortably. NM had a screaming fit, accusing me of being a slut and a whore and trolling for customers! It did not occur to me until years later that the dress made it plain that I had a much better shape than she did and the whole meltdown was because of jealousy—I just thought that I had misinterpreted, mis-read what she wanted from me yet again.
It was not until years later I could look back and see how capricious she was, and how insensitive. She regularly called me “hypersensitive” and if one of her cruel remarks hurt me, I had better not let her see it. For one thing, if she saw my nose go red or my eyes start to smart, she would get angrier at me…and further cruel and disdainful. “Oh, for god’s sake,” she would say, “not the water works again!” Or “Don’t you start that damned blubbering again,” or the classic “If you want to cry, I’ll really give you something to cry about!” Secondly—and perhaps most important—was that if I let her know what upset me, it gave her a weapon to use against me again and again.
I was hypersensitive and she was never, ever wrong, therefore my tears weren’t genuine, they were “crocodile tears” designed to play on her sympathy.
“I’m sorry that my own child feels she has to upset me and make me feel bad.” The last insulting apology is also an example of projection.
This is a very manipulative kind of thing to say. And it is passive aggressive. And self-pitying. You, who have been wronged and are owed an apology, get from her a fauxpology that makes her the victim and you the bad guy. How’s that for neatly turning the tables and twisting the truth? And what does this do to children growing up under this kind of influence? Depending on whether you are a scapegoat or a GC, you could learn that everything…or nothing…is your fault; that apologies are not for soothing hurt feelings and making amends, they are weapons to be used to humiliate your victims either by extracting them from those who do not owe them, or by twisting the ones truly owed to victimize the victim even further.
My own NM went to her death having convinced herself that her lies, from little ones to whoppers than changed the lives of other people, were true. By rationalizing and justifying her lies and her nefarious deeds, she could believe herself right and justified in everything she did, even reversing herself and remaining right both in her original deed and in the undoing of it—a neat trick, if you ask me. For example, she married my father and later divorced him…but she would never say that marrying my father was a mistake because she was always right—she didn’t make mistakes. Her rationalization was that marrying him was the only way she could get away from her oppressive Old World father, therefore it was the right thing to do. That she was 16 and her father was no more oppressive than the fathers of other 16-year-old girl of that era was not material: she wanted to run her own life and marrying my father was an immediate and certain way to do that. So, even though she divorced him later, she did not consider marrying my father a mistake: it was merely an means to an end, he served his purpose and then she got rid of him. Without remorse, without regret, without any thought for the feelings of the people who would be hurt by her actions.
And not an apology in sight because you only apologize when you are wrong and, of course, she was never, ever that!
Next: Part 21. She seems to have no awareness that other people even have feelings