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, August 1, 2012

She makes you look crazy: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 6

 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

Part 6. She makes you look crazy

She makes you look crazy. If you try to confront her about something she's done, she'll tell you that you have “a very vivid imagination” (this is a phrase commonly used by abusers of all sorts to invalidate your experience of their abuse) that you don't know what you're talking about, or that she has no idea what you're talking about.

My NM would tell me (and others) that I had an “overactive imagination”: different words, same intent. Don’t you wonder how all of these women, all over the world, who have never met each other, come up with the same nonsense??

The problem with this is that it is invalidating. It makes you doubt not only yourself, but reality. If you saw something happen with your own eyes, heard it with your own ears, felt it in your own heart, and then are told you are imagining things, what does this do to your confidence in your ability to recognize what is going on around you? Aside from the fact that this tactic allows NMs to effectively lie by neutralizing your experiences and observations, it sets you up to lack essential confidence in yourself—it attacks your self esteem.

The self-doubt this creates is multi-faceted. For example, if you are being abused or bullied, if, when you tell your mother, she accuses you of having a vivid imagination, you have to re-define your perception of abuse or bullying or be thought a drama queen. This can lead to an acceptance of situations in which you have every right to be offended or outraged simply because your NM had caused you to re-define “abuse” or “bullying” to accommodate her lack of interest in taking care of you. If you feel ill or have a toothache or a pain somewhere and you are told it is just your imagination, you learn to ignore bodily clues that, in later years, could lead to severe illness or even death.

At the very least, it hurts to be invalidated and your concerns minimized by the one person above all others who should have your back.

She will claim not to remember even very memorable events, flatly denying they ever happened, nor will she ever acknowledge any possibility that she might have forgotten.

This was my MNM’s stock in trade. She would deny anything she did not want to own by saying “I don’t remember it that way” or simply denying it happened. There was no chance that she might have misremembered or simply forgotten—no, if she couldn’t call it to mind in exactly the way I did, then I was wrong and the subject was closed.

This is an extremely aggressive and exceptionally infuriating tactic called "gaslighting," common to abusers of all kinds. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up without any confidence in your intuition, your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the abuser. Narcissists gaslight routinely. The narcissist will either insinuate or will tell you outright that you're unstable, otherwise you wouldn't believe such ridiculous things or be so uncooperative.

Breathes there an abuser of any ilk who does not gaslight? Gaslighting seems to come to abusers naturally—without comparing notes with each other, without lessons, it just seems to be a natural part of their persona. It is, essentially, a subtle form of lying. An example from my life was gift-giving time: at Christmas or my birthday is was not uncommon for me to get an envelope with some strange amount of money in it, like $1.16 or $3.62. This was NM’s way of proving she treated me and my GCBro “equally,” because however much more she spent on his new fishing rod or bicycle or skateboard, she made up by tacking this odd sum onto my pile of plain cotton underwear, socks and ugly shoes. We were treated equally, you see? And any intimations to the contrary drew “Whatever are you talking about? I spent the same amount on both of you!” reactions (assuming she was in a good enough mood to talk and not in a mood to swat me and just call me “ungrateful” or threaten “You want ‘unfair’? I will show you what ‘unfair’ really is, if you keep this crap up!”).

You're oversensitive. You're imagining things. You're hysterical. You're completely unreasonable. You're over-reacting, like you always do. She'll talk to you when you've calmed down and aren't so irrational. She may even characterize you as being neurotic or psychotic.

When I was in therapy one of the things I did was to write to each of my (long divorced) parents and tell them about sexual abuse I suffered as a child that I had never revealed to them. One episode involved my stepfather and when NM responded to my letter, she flatly denied it ever happened; later in the letter she twisted what I had written to look as if it was an accusation against my father which she also denied the possibility of occurrence because, in her words, “he was married to me at the time.”

Because these things, in her estimation, could never have happened, I was “imagining things” (just like her favouritism of GCBro, something independently observed by numerous family members but soundly denied by NM). Or I was “making a mountain out of a molehill.” Or I was over-reacting to something much more innocent. Or I was crazy and making shit up. The only time she was behind me was when something was going to cost her money: my PE teacher in the 7th grade made me sit outside in bad weather in response to my doctor’s note saying I should stay warm and benched. My pneumonia relapsed and my NM gave the school and that teacher the tongue-lashing of their lives. Her funds were imperilled and I was a believable accuser. But earlier in the year, when I was humiliated and embarrassed by the same teacher for not having a gym uniform (NM refused to buy me one on the grounds that some shorts and a shirt from my wardrobe would suit fine), there was no fierce protective Mom facing the teacher down—it cost her nothing in funds or face for me to be humiliated by the teacher for my lack of a uniform and I was over-reacting to something not worth paying attention to, in her mind. It was not until the money for continued medical care was at stake that I was supported.

Once she's constructed these fantasies of your emotional pathologies, she'll tell others about them, as always, presenting her smears as expressions of concern and declaring her own helpless victimhood. She didn't do anything. She has no idea why you're so irrationally angry with her. You've hurt her terribly. She thinks you may need psychotherapy. She loves you very much and would do anything to make you happy, but she just doesn't know what to do. You keep pushing her away when all she wants to do is help you.

Mine, being an ignoring malignant NM, was not so much into expressions of love or feeling hurt by me. And if I was angry with her, it was something to hide because I was not allowed to be angry at her or anything she did. Being angry with her was a punishable offense. But she had her fantasies about my emotional pathologies, all right—and she spread them to anyone who would listen, telling them how awful I was and painting herself as a long-suffering victim of me and my awfulness. When I was 13 I had to have a D&C for an infection—I was a virgin—but she took my symptoms to mean I was having a miscarriage and spread it about—even to my father!—as an example of what she “had to put up with” with me. At around age 12 she so convinced herself I was “incorrigible” that she tried to have me committed to reform school. Because I did well in school and because I had never been in trouble with the law, the court refused. I was not present for the hearing, which is why, in later years, I was surprised to overhear her explain to a friend that I succeeded in staying of reform school by “charming the judge.”

She has simultaneously absolved herself of any responsibility for your obvious antipathy towards her, implied that it's something fundamentally wrong with you that makes you angry with her, and undermined your credibility with her listeners. She plays the role of the doting mother so perfectly that no one will believe you.

While I am confident that engulfing, enmeshing NMs play the role of doting mother to the hilt, ignoring mothers can’t carry that off. My ignoring NM, instead, played the role of put-upon, long-suffering mother whose child was so incorrigible and headstrong that she could not be controlled. I was a “bad seed,” a kid who got into the kinds of trouble that doesn’t get you sent to reform school, like wilful disobedience and sexual precocity. This caused a lot of tongue clucking amongst family and friends and a lot of sympathy to flow towards her. They couldn’t know it was a pack of lies, and their own observations of me were tainted by her tales—why would any mother say such awful things about her own child if they weren’t true? Indeed…everybody knows that kids lie but mothers automatically love their children and wouldn’t say bad things that were not true…

Next: Part 7. She's envious.


  1. Wow-it's as though we were raised by the exact same mother. No one believed me when I was growing up that this woman was abusing me. Not being believed plagues me to this day and causes me to be wary of if others are indeed telling me the truth. When you've been raised by someone like this you question every aspect of your life and yourself. I hate that I doubt myself so much; it spills over into distrust in the most basic human relationship that I try and engage in. I don't have many friends and aren't really in a hurry to make a bunch of them. I don't trust people and narcissists come a dime a dozen; making the process of finding true, authentic people more challenging to engage with. I hate my mother and my sorry ass sperm donor to the fullest extent. Maybe one day I won't but today-I hate both of them. Period.

    1. Hate can be a corrosive emotion that hurts you a lot more than it hurts the object of your hate. It is fuelled by a feeling of have been wronged, there is nothing you can do to set it right (and they won't admit their wrong-doing to absolve you), and so you hate them...because you don't feel like you have the power to do anything else.

      Hate is not the solution--it doesn't hurt them and it doesn't help you. Don't mistake me, though--I am not suggesting you forgive them because I don't think that is the right thing to do, either (at least not until after they acknowledge their wrongs, apologize, make amends, and ASK for your forgiveness--and even then, you are under no obligation to forgive). What you might consider, however, is that instead of hating them and perpetuating your feeling of helplessness, begin to do things to empower yourself.

      For example, consider people in your family who have bought into the lies that have been told about you. Are there any of them you care about and would like to have a relationship with? If so, you might consider writing a letter expressing your feelings about your estrangement and your sadness that they have believed the falsehoods your NM has told about you. If they don't respond or they respond negatively, you know they are unwilling to consider they might have been wrong and they are people you have good reason to keep on your "do not trust" list. But if they respond positively, then you can make some inroads into establishing a relationship with them.

      Each step you take towards establishing an emotional life that doesn't include your N parents or their legacy, the more independent you become...and the more independent you become, the less hate you will feel until, one day, you don't feel much of anything at all with respect to them. That is the day you know your feet are firmly on the healing path...when you feel indifferent.

      Until then, you are living in reaction to them, which means your life--or at least your feelings--is still being controlled by them. And I am quite certain that is NOT what you want for yourself or your future.

      The very best advice I can offer is for you to find a therapist who is skilled in dealing with people who were raised by abusive parents. Such a therapist will already have some insights into you and you won't need to try to explain or convince him/her that it is your parents who were crazy (people--even therapist--who have not personally experienced abusive parents often discount and minimize the experiences of those who grew up with them). A clued-in therapist is the single most valuable asset you can have in this struggle, because s/he can see further into your future than you can at this time, and help guide you to the healthy and happy life you can have and deserve.

      Thanks for writing, and please keep in touch.



    2. Could you believe that I'm from Asia and my NM behaved the same way as your Western mom even though we are so different in cultures? I had an abusive husband, an abusive boyfriend and tons of bad girlfriends. I thought i was a spychopath because no one could have that many bad relationships. I ve experienced all the things you said and I was excellent student in school as well. What saved me from going insane was my strong analytical abilities, a believe in logics and a very good memory. These spychopath could not kill me because i had to live for one person: my 6 year old child who is still in the hand of my narciscist ex-husband. Currently we are still fighting for custody and I would never let him win. I know he would raise him to become another narciscist or someone like me and either way is bad for him.

    3. I think your N/M moms have alot to learn from mine about how to become the best narcissist. She is capable of playing both engulfing type and ignoring type depending on the situation. She has our entire family and relatives both from my dad side and her side back her up. My grandparents were very rich and she was the only child. Whenever i told someone about her bad behavior they always replied: you must be wrong, your mom was a swan, according to my experience she was nice to everybody and could not hurt a fly. They made their judgement based on how she treated them not how she treated me. But they don't know how she acted behind their backs.

  2. My NM is currently p*ssing my Dad off (he is still paying her maintenance even though they have not been together for 15 years and she has no kids). He cannot get any discussion out of her regarding this and when we have both tried to contact her she "plays games" with the phone, ie doesn't answer for weeks even if you leave messages. We are not and have never been "bad" people but to her other people's families and their so called achievements are more important, she treats us like something she's wiped off her shoe even though she has scarcely worked for 50 years (since she married my Dad) and has no achievements of note (although to hear her talk you would think she was a genius).
    I have had CBT with an extremely good therapist and this has hauled me out of a 25 year depression where I felt constantly suicidal. I am able to see the positive to such a degree that even when recently I appeared on national TV (the programme was also shown on the Internet all over the world) and I and my work were roundly dissed by journalists (I do in fact work very very hard and my work is in fact very good and visibly so to anyone who cares to Google me) I was able to shrug it off despite various friends being appalled at the treatment of me. So fundamentally you have to be on a different wavelength. I also agree that hating back doesn't solve anything. Indifference and taking steps to move forward does.
    I spelled out a couple of my previous grievances to my father in texts yesterday, but he is not someone who talks much or answers these sorts of things, so I don't know what his reaction will be. Lord help me, though, from people who try to tell me she was a good mother and has done so much for me. There is no help for them.

    1. The most sure-fire way for your father to get your mother to engage in a dialog is to not sent that next maintenance check. Yes, she will be rude and abusive, but he holds the cards: talk to me when I call, treat me with respect, or you won't get the next check. HE holds the trump card here...don't you wonder why he has never played it?

      He is in an enviable position because we who are abused by narcissist seldom have something they consider valuable to hold over their heads. Yes, it is manipulation but when your opponent only speaks Chinese, then you need to use Chinese to communicate with them. Narcissists don't respond to nice or forbearance or polite: they perceive those as signs of weakness. The only way you can effectively communicate with a narc is on their own terms: set boundaries, establish penalties for violating them, and then follow through and don't back down. Your father can say "from now on, I will no longer accept you treating me with disrespect. (Boundary). If I call you and you don't return my call...and act respectfully on the phone...within 24 hours, I will not send you money for maintenance that month. (Consequence). Then, when she gives him the silent treatment or is rude to him on the phone, he simply says "No cheque this month" and then quietly put down the phone. He shouldn't have to do it more than once or twice for her to be more cooperative.

      As far as other people....those who try to tell you what a good mother she is...ignore them. If you feel you must say something, you can say "she wasn't YOUR mother, so you really don't know what it was like" and then walk away from it.

      YOU control how you react and how much you will take from her....exercise that control by setting boundaries and then sticking with them. Your boundary can be as mild as "no more name calling" or as severe as going completely No Contact--but YOU get to choose, not her. But remember, boundaries cannot work if you allow her to violate them with impunity.

      Best advice I can give you: Do not engage.

      Best of luck to you.

  3. Well my Dad has tried various things like bouncy cheques in the past. My ex H used to joke that my Dad probably had an empty account open in his name just for her. The effect that had was to make her turn up at his workplace and scream at him, as well as try to kill him (!), even though he hadn't been paid, therefore hadn't any money and couldn't pay her. She used to complain that he gave her "so little housekeeping money" yet was spending a fortune on face creams and fitness stuff. I don't know why, as she never saw anybody - I think it was just so every time she saw relatives every decade or so, she could congratulate herself that she looked younger/ thinner than them, as in "Weren't They FAT! I Look So Young!" My dad left her for someone else because she was being very difficult and getting on both our nerves and she got in through the window of this woman's flat and checked out all her clothes, was horrified to find this woman was several dress sizes larger than her! Eventually a court order was put in place in favour of my mum (God knows why as my Dad and I did most of the housework, my Mum cooked every 3 days, laundered every 6 weeks (I had to handwash most of my stuff), did not get up until 10 am and spent an hour body brushing and doing what she called "whirling" (spinning on her own axis) every day. 4 wardrobes full of clothes she never wore. When she had to move following my parents' separation and agreed on what is now her home, she said to the estate agent "oh dear what a come down from the previous area" and the estate agent gave her a look and said "MOST people would be GRATEFUL for this home!"
    She used to beat me with a wooden spoon and admitted trying to drive a wedge between me and my father to such an extent that we ended up breaking each other's noses. He refused to get involved in fights after that but she still tried to make life as miserable for me as possible. I just cannot understand why or how a mother can hate their daughter that much, and use them as a punching bag for all their grievances. The only couple of reasons I can think of is that a) I looked like my Dad and not her, b) she claimed I was like her mother (whom she did not get on with - my mum was the black sheep of the family and has tried to pass the scapegoat role onto me). When I was 21 she used to chase me into a corner with a wooden spoon and say "please let me beat you" WTF? I said "go away, Mum, you're being pathetic".
    I think she has always just felt such a loss of control in her own life that anything she feels she can lord it over is manna to her. She was adamant about getting a certain breed of dog which was very expensive, hyper intelligent and had certain needs (and coincidentally had the same birthday as me). She was warned about purchasing it by the breeder as they thought she was not a good fit but went ahead and got it anyway and nearly had a nervous breakdown because of it. She had to give it away to an animal shelter (of course after,a certain time if these animals cannot be rehomed they are put down) and now has a smaller and more obedient breed of dog.
    I stay away, as being in contact with her just creates more suffering and I can't stand being swept up in the morass of stupidity and BS

    1. Seems to me your father failed to take advantage of the opening he created with the checks that bounced: telling her that as long as she behaved outrageously, there would be no money. What he did, by paying her after she made such a fuss, is reward her for her bad behaviour--he taught her that having a tantrum and throwing a fit works, so now she controls him...and other people...with that behaviour.

      ONLY thing that works to modify the behaviour of a narcissists is to find something that is of value to the narcissist and use it to modify the behaviour. Most people are never lucky enough to find something the narcissist values enough to force a behavioural change and your dad has it served up to him on a plate but hasn't used it.

      The only thing that works for peace when you have a narcissist in the family and no leverage, is no contact, which you have discovered. I hope you are seeing a therapist because it really helps.




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