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.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Low Contact—an alternative to No Contact

We have explored No Contact and its pros and cons. The anticipated backlash from the NParent can be intimidating and may cause some people to shy away from it. Others may find No Contact to be unworkable in their personal situations: they may have sickly family members they feel they must stay in contact with and it can’t be done without the NM being involved, they may still live at home due to youth or economic pressures, they may have NM living in their homes or have some financial link with NM that cannot yet be broken. The reasons one cannot (or will not) go NC are as varied as the people who back off from it.

But there is a saying that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing, over and over again, expecting to get a different result. If you want something to change, then you have to change something, and this goes double when you are dealing with an NM. So if you can’t go No Contact—for whatever reason that motivates you—you might want to try Low Contact.

Unknowingly, I went LC with my NM when I was still a child. I did what I had to do—chores, listening to her diatribes, whatever else she demanded of me—then I disappeared to my room. I found ways to make her willing to leave me alone by observing what things I said or did that resulted in her giving me space…and then I did them. One of the things I discovered was that she would not bother me if I told her I was doing homework. Even if I was reading a novel, I would tell her it was for a book report, which made it homework. For some reason, when I was holed up in my room with “homework,” she left me alone. She would also leave me alone if I was sleeping. So I slept very late on weekends, even if I didn’t feel like it…just to minimize contact with her. The secret, I realized many years later, was to find something she respected and then do that (or say I was doing that). I got many peaceful hours at the library by telling her I needed to access their research section for a school paper.

I learned early that “out of sight is out of mind.” If you have an ignoring NM, making yourself scarce just puts you further out of her mind. When you are present, when she can hear and/or see you, she is reminded of your presence and that can trigger anything from her besetting you with petty complaints to putting you to work to finding yourself at her mercy for some real or imagined flaw like your hair, a pimple on your face, or some other thing you would be better off if she didn’t notice. I cannot tell you how many awful home perms I had to suffer through, how many boils on my legs she forced me to submit to her squeezing, how many lectures I had to sit through about my inadequacy as a daughter or as the household help…nothing I did was ever good enough—and neither was I—and her awareness of my presence could trigger anything from being ordered to do additional work to outright abuse. I spent a good part of my childhood hiding from her.

Engulfing mothers, I think, are a different species and need to be handled differently. I have no personal experience with an engulfing mother—just about everybody I knew had “normal” mothers (which was one way I could tell mine was not), my grandmothers and aunts (save one clinically depressed aunt) were all pretty much normal as well. I really cannot know how the daughter of an engulfing mother could escape enmeshment except through tactics like those I employed with my own ignoring NM: to be out of sight as much as possible. Our positions as children in the household severely limited our ability to challenge their abnormal behaviours, had we even recognized their unhealthy conduct for what it was.

Engulfing mothers, I think, may be more difficult to manage than ignoring ones. With an ignoring mother you can disappear for extended periods of time without notice, whether you are a child or an adult. With an engulfing mother, I suspect you can’t do that without her hunting you down and forcing contact. Many DoNMs are enmeshed to the degree that they don’t know what they want or how they feel, as they are mirrors or echoes of their NMs and have never individuated. Others have to engage in stark rebellion in order to individuate—I have a friend who went through a Goth phase and very overt rebellion—and it didn’t do any good. She has gone NC with her smothering mother and even years into NC, her NM will take the tiniest crack in the NC as a sign that all is back to “normal” and she swoops in, trying to take over my friend’s life yet again.

Low contact is probably easier to maintain with an ignoring mother than with an engulfing mother. But the process and rules are the same, regardless of your NM’s type—it may just require more effort on your part to establish and maintain if your NM is an engulfing type.

First of all, there is no LC letter to consider. You don’t write one (unless it is for yourself to remind you of what you are doing and why), you don’t announce you are going LC, you just do it. Your NM may start questioning why you are suddenly too busy or not around so much—you owe her no explanation. And that is the very first step of LC: for you to realize that you owe her nothing: no explanations, no excuses, none of your time or your attention or your soul. You owe her nothing and you can give her as much or as little time as you want to give.

This is huge. This is the very core of Low Contact: turning the tables so that you are in control of the relationship, so that it is based on your desires and willingness to spend time with your NM. And that means all kinds of time, not just face time. It means telephone calls, emails, texts, letters, visits, lunches out, shopping expeditions—it means all forms of contact. It means that you take control of those contacts, rather than allow her to drop in and disrupt your life at her whim.

How do you do it? Well, you start with recognizing that she is not going to like it, no matter what method you employ and you prepare yourself for it. Depending on the type of NM you can get anything from tantrums and threats to pathetic self-pity as a response. You know your NM better than anyone else…project what she is most likely to do when you tell her “no,” and prepare yourself for it.

The next step is for you to figure out what is an acceptable amount and form of contact. Suppose your NM calls you four times a day for petty reasons and keeps you on the phone for half an hour each time: that’s two hours a day she is sucking out of your life, two hours that you could (and probably should) be using for other things. So, when she calls, instead of hanging on the phone waiting for her to get tired of yakking, you say “Mom, I can’t talk right now. Can you call me back at 11…I think I can spare 10 minutes for you then.”

She won’t like it. She may talk over you, ignore you. She may go all bombastic on you, or pathetic and whiny. She may tell you she is busy at 11. Ignore it. She is negotiating with you and you are not going to negotiate. Interrupt her…yes, interrupt her…and tell her, “Mom, I have to hang up now. Call me at 11,” and then put down the phone. If she calls back, don’t answer. If you are at work, pick up the phone and put her on “hold” without even saying “hello.” Do not answer until she calls at 11.

If she calls at the designated time, be prepared for a diatribe. Interrupt her (you will be doing this a lot in the beginning) and say “I told you I couldn’t talk then and I only have 10 minutes now…what did you call about?” When the ten minutes is up, tell her firmly, “I have to go now, Mom. Talk to you tomorrow.” Then hang up. Do not take any more calls from her that first day.

On the next day, she will call you and be furious (or, depending on the personality, hurt and bewildered and guilt-inducing). Now is the time to clearly set your boundary. “I just don’t have time for all those leisurely chats anymore. I can set aside about 10 minutes in the morning for you around 11, but that’s it.” Allow her to negotiate a time that is better for her if it works for you, but don’t let her negotiate more time. Expect her to want multiple phone calls, expect her to want more time, expect her to want to be in charge. But, just like dealing with a greedy toddler, you have to say ‘no’ and you have to enforce it.

If she starts texting you in place of the phone calls, send her a message that limits her texts: tell her you will read her first text of the day and, if you have time, you will respond to it, but subsequent texts you will delete unread. Then do just that, ending your one response with “No more texts or calls today, Mom…I have too much going on.”

At some point she will want to know why you are suddenly so busy that you don’t have time for her. How honestly you respond will have to depend on what kind of reaction you can realistically expect from her. Some NMs will take “I just don’t have time for chitchat on the phone and keep up with the house and the kids and the job…” well, others will feel insulted that washing dishes and changing the cat box is more important than they are. You have to tailor your answer to the kind of response you expect to get. Just don’t tell any blatant lie that she can check up on because that will end up being circulated around the FOO and will eventually be busted, making you untrustworthy because you are a liar.

NMs will drop in unexpectedly and unannounced. You have to use the same tactic: “I don’t have time to visit today, Mom. Can you call first so you don’t come over for nothing?” Of course, when she calls, you will be unable to accommodate her. To make this work, however, you need to actually invite her over every few weeks or so, when you do have time to entertain her for a short time. When you invite her, expect she will not want to leave, so try to make it late in the day so her visit does not usurp your entire day or make it an invitation for coffee in a public place where you can’t linger for too long.

Some NMs try other tactics: one friend of mine found her NM presuming she could stay at her house while she was in town on a business visit—expecting to use my friend’s house like a free hotel with no consideration for the imposition it might pose. Another friend found her engulfing NM planning an overseas trip for the two of them, completely ignoring the fact that my friend has a husband, two young children, and her own business. NMs will try to find ways to inflict themselves that look not only innocent but generous, making the daughters look selfish or spiteful for refusing. What if NM offered an all-expense paid trip to Disney World or some other such child-magnet, the catch being she would be part of the party (or the catch being you now owe her attention in return for the largesse)? Your kids would be upset, your friends would be appalled, if you turned it down, even though you know it to be just one of her insidious ways to weasel more attention and time and contact with you. Be prepared to set limits for anything and everything because if one thing works, she will repeat it over and over again. If Disneyland worked, then tickets to a concert, Cirque du Soleil, a Broadway musical—whatever she thinks you cannot turn down—will be next. She will refuse to understand than you simply need less time with her and more to yourself, or that you need to be able to schedule your time without her barging in and seizing control of it.

Low Contact is about one thing: putting yourself in control of the relationship instead of her. As the mother of an adult daughter and sons, I invited my kids over for holidays and birthdays and I waited for invitations from them to visit. I grew up in the old days when it was considered impolite to drop in on someone unannounced and unexpectedly, and it was bad manners to overstay a visit. Since those particular points of etiquette seem to have fallen by the wayside in today’s society, you are going to have to revive them for people who disrupt your life and impose on your time, including your own mother.

You have to make a decision about how much contact you are willing to have with your NM and then set limits and then enforce those limits. I would guess that most of them will, at least initially, resist because they don’t like their power taken away from them. They act like spoilt, thoughtless children, imposing on your life with no thought of what you have on your plate, and they resent limitations and boundaries imposed on them, especially by you, whom they view as their subordinates…they have never let go of the once-legitimate role of them being in charge and you being obligated to submit to their rule. And they won’t let go until you force it upon them.

Low Contact, in my opinion, is harder to pull off than No Contact for two basic reasons: 1) you must remain in contact with your NM so you are constantly reminded of the difficulties she imposes on you and 2) because you remain in some contact, she will invariably do whatever she can to sabotage and disrespect your attempts to control that contact. NC is tough, especially in the beginning, but eventually is eases off as all parties become accustomed to the lack of contact, but LC is a battle that keeps on being fought.

For some of us, however, LC is the only way we can go if we are to remain in contact with our dementia-suffering father or to continue to see siblings, nieces and nephews, to participate in family traditions and continue being part of the family. For some of us, it is worth it…for others of us it is not. Only you can decide which is right for you.

Next: The ABC of Boundaries

Friday, November 16, 2012

On Holiday

I have been out of town on holiday. But I am back now and I promise to get cracking on the next blog entry ASAP!

Hugs and love to you all,


Friday, November 9, 2012

The Art of No Contact: Part 2

What to expect from your NMExpect she will neither like it nor respect it. A narcissist will not respect your boundaries unless they align with what she wants. Each NM is different, but there are several common responses to learning your daughter has gone NC with you: 1) hoovering; 2) shaming; 3) outrage; 4) denial; 5) pathetic self-pity; 6) sour grapes: ignoring you, pretending she initiated (or wanted) the lack of contact. Your NM may have more than one reaction and she may segue from one to another.

A hoovering attack may be combined with denial: she will show up at your door the day before Christmas…or maybe at your holiday party that she found out about from a friend or relative…bursting with good cheer and overflowing with presents. She will act like she had no idea you didn’t want contact with her any more and silently dare you to shut the door in your own mother’s face. She thereby puts you between a rock and a hard place: if you let her in, she knows how to break your NC—show up and silently dare you to rebuff her (especially if she brings a witness like her sister or husband or a niece or nephew); if you shut the door in her face, now you are the bad guy with everybody in the family, most especially if she brought the aforementioned witnesses. What do you do? NC means NC, nobody said it was going to be easy or that it would win you a popularity contest: you say “I told you I wanted nothing more to do with you,” and then you shut and lock the door. And if she won’t leave, if she keeps pounding on the door or ringing your bell, you call the police.

Shaming is usually also combined with denial, only this time she refuses to believe you mean it. “What a terrible mother I must have been to raise a child with so little gratitude and love for her own mother!” She may send cards and letters, emails and texts, and get family and friends to contact you, all with the same message: you should be ashamed of yourself for treating your poor mother like this, you are breaking her heart. What do you do? You don’t answer the phone when she calls, if other people try to intervene, you tell them that this is not their business, thank you for your concern, but kindly butt out. You don’t open mail from her, you delete her emails and texts unread. If she starts pestering your friends, co-workers or employer, you send her a cease and desist letter, preferably from an attorney, threatening legal action if she does not stop.

If she is a malignant type, she will go into outrage mode. How dare you take control of the relationship and end it? She is the mother (meaning she is the superior entity in the relationship) and you are the daughter (meaning you are the subordinate) and you have no right to dictate to her. Actually, you do…but she will not acknowledge that (her denial at work). She may decide to retaliate by badmouthing you or worse. I know of an instance where a narcissist actually impersonated her target and took out a contract to buy a refrigerator and then took delivery of the item and never made any payments on it. The target was shocked to find her credit damaged as the result of a “bad debt” she had never even taken on. I battled with a person who has the same name I have who took out a five-figure loan with a credit union and made no payments, as well as a Macy’s account she did not make payments on. These were, to the best of my knowledge, errors on the part of the creditor but it still damaged my credit…imagine if your NM were to do the same (and some of them will). With a malignant NM, or one who reacts negatively to such acts of autonomy on your part, you have to be on your toes because her revenge could be anything from calling in to cancel your telephone and electricity accounts to sending anonymous letters full of lies to your employer. Be prepared for anything from them. What do you do? You do not break NC, you use the remedies provided by law and hope she does something so illegal that she actually can get arrested for it—and you have her arrested; you keep a journal of her incursions into your peace and try to get a restraining order, otherwise.

What to expect from other people, including your friends
Outside of immediate family and perhaps a few very close family friends, you just don’t tell anybody. Unless they have been victimized by a narcissist, nobody you tell will “get it” because they simply cannot conceive of a mother behaving so badly that you would not forgive her and keep the relationship going. By revealing that you have cut off contact with your mother, you risk people viewing you as somehow emotionally deficient when, in fact, it is they who are lacking in empathy.

If it becomes essential to reveal that you are NC with your mother, the way I handle it is to say something like “You know, the world is full of unpleasant people who just don’t care about anything but themselves…I am sure you have met a few of them. Some of those people reproduce and they are no better to their kids than they are to anyone else. Unfortunately, my mother was one of those people.” Most people will mumble something like “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” and drop the subject. If anyone pries further, you can simply say “I prefer not to dwell on it,” or “I would rather not discuss it.”

Family, on the other hand, may be trickier. Even if they know what your mother is like, you may find yourself pressured to forgive her, to “be the better person,” or to “get over it.” You may find yourself called “bitter” or “childish” or worse. People will implore you to “think about her feelings,” and tell you how much you are hurting her. Don’t fall for it. What all these urgings have in common is that nobody is showing any concern for your feelings at all, it is all about hers! Who is saying “Oh, goodness, Ophelia, how awful that must have been for you, that it was so bad you actually had to cut off contact with your mother…”? Who is supporting you, the victim in all of this? Even after my mother lied to the family and dragged them unknowingly into being participants in stealing my children and keeping them away from me for eight years, my grandmother begged me to “bury the hatchet” with my NM for the sake of “family unity.” This is what I meant when I said, earlier, that you may have to cut off contact with a host of other relatives when you go NC with your NM, because most of them will side with your NM, no matter what she did to you, for the sake of “family unity” and because they do not want to admit she has fooled them for all these years into thinking she was a much nicer person than she really is. And they won’t like your violating that “sacred motherhood” thing, either.

Maintaining NC
Whether you send a letter ending the relationship or just fade away, at some point either your NM will try to contact you or someone may try to do it on her behalf. What do you do then?

Snail mail, packages, flowers, etc. Unless you suspect the mail contains something you would want to keep, like your baby pictures or some family heirloom (NMs will sometimes spitefully send all of your pictures and keepsakes back to you, rather like a girl breaking her engagement by throwing her ring in her fiancĂ©’s face), then open the package. DO NOT READ ANYTHING that may be contained therein, like a letter or card. You can open them to make sure there is no old photo or cash inside, but the minute you read something from her, you start the churning going on inside yourself, the churning you wanted to stop with NC. The best situation is to have someone else open the packages/envelopes and give you whatever is in there that might be of interest to you, but in the event that you have to do it yourself, do not give in to the temptation of reading what she wrote to you. Instead, burn it in your fireplace or barbeque. If the contents are gifts of some kind, donate them to Goodwill or some other charity; if she sends flowers, ask the delivery person to take them back or take them to the nearest nursing home. If it’s a check, burn it (she will have proof you received her gift and presumably kept it, based on her getting the cancelled check back), if it is cash, you can either keep it as a small bit of compensation for the years of pain she has visited on you, or you can give it to a charity…preferably some charity she would not like supporting (or to the campaign fund of a politician you like but she doesn’t).

Email, chats, forums, Facebook: If she is on your Facebook or other social media site, unfriend and block her. If there are family members who take her side against you, unfriend and block them, too. They won’t be able to see anything you post. You may want to close all of your online accounts that use your name or a name she would recognize and re-open them in a name she wouldn’t know. My NM was not computer savvy, but if she had been, she would never have figured out Sweet Violet was me—she was too self-absorbed to make the connection (Violet was my paternal grandmother’s name and NM’s mother collected Japanese porcelain in the Sweet Violets pattern). Choose a name your NM and family members won’t figure out. (If you collect dolls, for example, calling yourself “Doll Lady” or “Ms. Jumeau” or using the name of your favourite doll might give you away; but if you are afraid of horses, Quarterhorse Queen would completely throw them off your trail.)

No Contact is just that: NO contact. Do not read her mail or email or texts—delete it, throw it away when you receive it and never, ever respond. If she telephones you, hang up as soon as you know who it is—get caller ID so you can tell by the number that it is her, don’t take calls from her, delete texts unread. If you want to really throw her off the scent, return all mail to her with “Moved—left no forwarding address” written on the envelope in a handwriting she won’t recognize.

If you have children, you have to have them involved as well: NC is pointless if you have a kid sabotaging you because he wants his Christmas and birthday loot from Grandma: and Grandma will exploit him to any extent possible and undermine you at the same time. And your husband or long-term partner has to be on board as well because there is nothing quite so damaging as your NM calling while you aren’t home and getting into cosy little chat with your partner who thinks you are being “a little hard on that sweet old lady.”

How you handle NC with kids can be tricky. If your children are small you can simply say nothing to them and if they ask later on about their grandparents, you can simply say “we do not get along so we don’t see each other.” If your kids are older, or even teens, it is not so simple. Older children will require that you flex some parental muscle: “we are not in contact with them and do not plan to be in the future,” spoken in your best “because I am the Mom and I say so” voice may be all you need. It is really not advisable to go into the gory details of your life with a personality disordered mother if your kids don’t have any experience with that kind of personality—it may cause them to fear that you will do the same kind of thing or it could cause them to simply disbelieve you because the tales seem too far-fetched. Both of those outcomes can lead to behaviours on the part of your kids that you just don’t want to motivate. Teens, on the other hand, are at a totally different place in their lives: they are individuating and learning to make decisions for themselves. I would not bring up the topic of NC with Grandma, but if they bring it up, it is time for the “not a nice person” chat. You may also be able to appeal to them from the standpoint of bullying: they know what bullies are, they may have been bullied, and if you can give an example or two where you were bullied by your own mother, you could elicit some empathy from them. If none of this works with your teen, then some more parental muscle flexing is necessary: “…we do not have contact with them…when you are over 18 and out on your own, if you want to make contact, you are welcome to do so. But this household does not have any contact with them.” It may not work, but it is certainly worth a try.

Be aware that keeping your kids from their grandparents and other relatives, while it protects them from the undermining and toxic messages, may make them resent you for depriving them of their grandparents and cousins. Some grandparents will single out a grandchild as the Golden one or another one as a Scapegoat. My MNM had four grandchildren and when she died she not only disinherited me, she disinherited three of her grandchildren (one of whom she had refused repeatedly to even meet!) and left half of her estate to the fourth grandchild. Another DoNM I know has said that her NM sends Christmas cards to her kids with money in them…except for one child, who gets nothing but a card. Your children can learn a lot of nasty stuff from a narcissistic grandparent; your children can also grow up to resent you for keeping them away from that same grandparent. It’s one battle you may not be able to win, so you have to choose the consequence you feel is the least damaging.

Be aware that one of the problems of maintaining NC is you and your all-too-human memory. Our brains tend to soften and wipe away some of the sharp edges of our unpleasant experiences, forgetting the specifics of our hurts, leaving only the more benign images immediately accessible. It is a protective mechanism—imagine living a life in which you could never escape the emotional pain of horrible experiences? If we could clearly remember the pain of childbirth, the agony of the hours, would any of us ever have a second child? No, the body takes the sharp edges away, the mind dulls the pain and that’s where we get fooled: we forget stuff and we start to doubt ourselves.

The NM of a DoNM friend of mine, Ambrosia*, started a hoovering expedition at just about the time Ambrosia fell into that “…maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought…” mindset. The peace NC can bring to your life can actually make you susceptible to that because NM is not there all of the time, doing things to upset and hurt you and thereby keeping you constantly reminded. Ambrosia’s NM actually offered to go to therapy with her, if that would help restore their relationship. Ambrosia accepted her NM’s offer, but with warnings from me and others to be on her guard. Sure enough, NM “graciously” offered to book a session with a “wonderful therapist” who turned out to be an uncredentialled “New Age” practitioner who was wholly unprepared for a narcissist’s games. Ambrosia ended up with the “therapist” faulting her for not listening to her NM and not falling for the woman’s crocodile tears! Then, assuming this one session with the bogus therapist had made everything OK again, the NM invited herself to stay at Ambrosia’s house while she was in town for a wedding and began planning an overseas trip for the two of them (completely ignoring that Ambrosia has a husband, children, and a business!) and just generally started engulfing her all over again. Forcefully reminded of why she went NC in the first place, Ambrosia had to re-establish her boundaries with her NM, uninvite her from staying over during the wedding, and step back from the whole reconciliation thing.

One thing that might help you from getting caught in this forgetfulness trap is journaling. Start now, start today, even if you don’t plan on going NC at this time—there will come a day when an in-the-moment reminder of not only your NM’s behaviour but your feelings about it, is helpful to you, even if only trying to explain to someone close to you—like a fiancĂ© who can’t understand why your mother isn’t invited to the wedding, or a close friend who just can’t seem to “get it” about narcissists. Often times it isn’t just the action she perpetrates, but the sheer volume of incidents, the never-ending, unceasing nature of one little episode piled on another like drops of water wearing away a rock. And when the erosion stops and we begin to heal, sometimes we second-guess ourselves, like Ambrosia did, forgetting what it was really like and thinking maybe we overreacted and were too harsh in cutting off contact completely. Our own empathy and compassion can sometimes be our own worst enemy when it comes to dealing with NMs.

So, if NC is that bad, if it is that tough, why does anybody do it? Because as tough as it can be, it is better than being worn down daily by the actions—or the anticipated actions—of an NM. In the beginning it can be very fraught, people taking issue with your decision and trying to talk you out of it, but eventually, most of them back off—a flying monkey or two may keep at you, like your GC sibling or your Enabling Father—but, for the most part, the pressure dies down and you start getting some peace. If you changed you phone number and got an unlisted one, you stop jumping with anxiety when the phone rings; if you got a new email address, you stop dreading opening your email, you stop waiting for that phone call or text that will ruin your day. You begin to heal, slowly at first, but faster as you being to actually feel your freedom. You stop living in fear, you become less hypervigilant, more open to new ideas, feelings, experiences. You start actually feeling autonomous. You begin to live in peace. As hard as NC can be, I cannot think of any DoNM I have ever met or corresponded with who has gone NC only to regret it.

If you read this whole thing and have decided that NC is perhaps a bit too daunting for you, though, you might want to consider going Low Contact and see if that relieves some of the pressure. You can always go NC at a later time if LC doesn’t work for you. Whatever you decide, I wish you the very best of luck!

* not her real name

Next: Low Contact

The Art of No Contact: Part 1

If you have a Narcissistic Mother, the idea of cutting her out of your life must have crossed your mind a time or two…or three…or three hundred. It is a tempting thought, especially after she has done something egregious or particularly maddening. Yet somehow we always back away from it and wait…but for what?

I think we all intuitively know that there will be some kind of price to pay for going NC (no contact) with our mothers. It may be so painful or frightening to face—or even contemplate—that we cringe away from examining it. Since breaking contact with a family member, especially a parent, is a decision of major import, it is probably a good thing that we don’t do it lightly or in a fit of pique. It is, however, something each of us should give serious consideration to, especially during one of the more “peaceful” periods with our NMs. That way, it can be examined and thought through in the most calm, detached and dispassionate manner we can manage.

Let me start by saying I did it all wrong (at least where my own NM was concerned) and it simply gave her more fuel for her anti-Violet fire. Because I did it wrong and suffered some really ugly, painful consequences, I gained some valuable insights into the issue and can now see what I should have done to minimize the backlash. And the very first thing I should have done was to think about it much more carefully than I did.

For all that NMs are similar, they are also each very individual. What will send yours into manipulative tears of despair would provoke mine into a towering rage, what would motivate mine to play vindictive little tricks could motivate yours to do something entirely different. And while we have absolutely no control over them (if we did, would allow them to be so awful to us??), we do control what we let them know about us. Additionally, we know them very well and can be pretty good at predicting their reactions. And that is all we need to start.

Before you take any steps, you first need to understand exactly what NC is and what it means. LC, or Low Contact, may be a better choice for you, but you won’t know until you thoroughly think through what No Contact may mean for you and your family.

The first rule of No Contact is: No Contact means NO CONTACT! This is a permanent decision on your part, one that you will have to reinforce with your NM and yourself (and possibly other family members and even friends) for the rest of your life. If you don’t think you can or want to, then you should investigate LC (Low Contact) instead.

Why does it have to be permanent? Because narcissists are little children, emotionally, and they are very devious. Like little kids they will test your boundaries (and NC is a boundary) to see if you really mean it. If you break NC, they assume you don’t really mean it, and they become more and more persistent in getting you to talk to them, to interact with them. If you deviate even once, the narcissist presumes you are not serious and redoubles her efforts to get what she wants. And while NC, to you, is a serious matter intended to protect you and your loved ones from the toxic incursions of a narcissistic parent, the N sees it very differently: she sees it as a battle of wills and she will pull out all the stops to get you to capitulate and put her back in the driver’s seat of your life.

So, just to be very clear, if you choose to go NC with your Nparent, the decision has to have permanence and you cannot make exceptions for anything because once you make one exception, the narcissist will dedicate her life to finding more things you will make an exception for until your No Contact just disappears. Once you break NC, consider it irretrievably broken because once your NM knows you will make an exception, you will be inundated with information she considers exception worthy. To work, No Contact must be all or nothing. If you aren’t prepared for that degree of permanence and inflexibility, consider Low Contact—there is nothing preventing you from going No Contact at a later date. No Contact means NO CONTACT.

So, if you still want to go NC, there are some things you need to really think about first.

The first thing to consider is what could be the worst case scenario—because it very well could come to pass. If you were to tell your NM “Do not ever contact me again, directly or indirectly. I am having nothing to do with you from this day forward,” what would her most extreme reaction be to that? Would she ignore your wishes and come pounding on your door, inundate you with mail and email and telephone calls, show up at your office and talk to your boss and co-workers? Would she turn to her family in tears and do the martyr thing, telling them how awful you are to her, what a wonderful mother she has been to you and what a hurtful, ungrateful child you are, milking the situation for all the sympathy she could get? Would she react with hostility and tell you that you had no right to do it and who the fuck do you think you are, telling her what she can and cannot do and she will teach you a lesson you will never forget, you ungrateful bitch?

You really need to sit down and, to the best of your ability, project the absolute worst scene she will stage when you tell her you are going NC with her and forbidding her to contact you or your children. Don’t put any brakes on your imagination except for your NM’s proclivities: my NM, for example, would never stage a tearful, broken-woman scene but would have been more likely to say something nasty to me like “You made your bed, now you have to sleep in it…don’t come running to me to rescue you when things get tough!” and then plot behind my back to make things tough for me. Just what would yours stoop to? How low would she actually go to force you to be in contact with her again?

And don’t think that because yours is an ignoring NM (as opposed to an engulfing one) that she will just shrug and respect your wishes. My NM was an ignoring one (I didn’t exist until she needed or wanted something from me) and she would have taken such an action on my part as an affront, as an attempt to control her, and she would have gone to great lengths to “show me” that I couldn’t do that. And being a malignant narcissist, her lengths were very, very extreme. What will your NM do when you give her the news?

Now you need to ask yourself “Can I deal with this? For how long? Am I willing to also go NC with my father and my siblings, my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, nieces and nephews, and long-term family friends? Because in many, many cases, you can’t just divorce NM, you have to walk away from everybody she knows and/or is related to as well.

Why? Because she is going to paint you blacker than sin itself, herself as your bewildered, heartbroken (and unjustly accused) victim, and then she is going to force them to take sides. In her dark, narrow, twisted little mind, if they aren’t for her, they are against her, and she will find a way to penalize them for not taking her side. Given that it is easier to fool someone than to convince them they have been fooled, don’t give a second’s thought to the notion “Yeah, but when they know the truth,(i.e., your side of the story) they will understand…” because it ain’t gonna happen—they won’t…they will side with her because they are unwilling to admit they were conned (unless they already have NM’s true number but, unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be very common). And even if they do believe you, it may still not change their allegiance because you are committing one of the major sins of our society: turning your back on your own mother. We aren’t supposed to do that because they are our mothers—and for no other reason—as if giving birth suddenly renders them sainted, no matter how toxic and horrible they are to us.

OK, your NM may take another tactic (she may rage and bully, she may play suicidal, she may decide to pre-empt you and ignore you) but you can be guaranteed she will badmouth you to the rest of the family in an effort to get them to take her side over yours, especially if you haven’t prepared them ahead of time, and she will find ways to punish those who refuse to be taken in by her cries and lies. And even if you have prepared them, you may still lose them over that “sainted mother” tripe.

So, can you take it? Can you take being shunned and ignored, withstand pleadings from other family members to make up with your mother, stalking by phone, internet, even at your home or place of employment? YOU know your mother better than anyone else…based on your knowledge of her previous behaviours and responses to provocation, how is she likely to react? And how is the rest of the family likely to react as well? And can you take it for the rest of your life?

If you have decided that you can withstand the repercussions of going NC, the next step is to figure out how to do it. You have two basic choices: 1) contact her and let her know that you wish to have no further contact with her and 2) just disappear (which can be done abruptly or in a gradual disappearing act, depending on your NM and family). There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Most of us harbour the honourable notion that it would be wrong to just disappear out of our NM’s lives, that at the very least, we should tell her we are leaving her sphere and why. Others of us, fuelled with fury and hurt, want to “tell her off” one last, final time. I suspect few of us want to leave in such a way that feels like slinking away with out tail between our legs and that most of us want to have that last, final word.

It’s not a good idea.

Oh, go ahead and write the letter—write a dozen of them or more if it makes you feel better—but don’t send them. Don’t even keep them around for someone to see and maybe report back to your NM. The very last thing you want to do is give your NM information about you…like you are feeling hurt by her actions or angry at her neglect…because the more she knows, the more ammunition she has to use against you.

How can she do that? Well, for starters, she can send your emotional missive around to family members with a letter from her that contradicts everything you say, then adds in some stuff like “how conveniently she forgets how much I sacrificed so the could have those zither lessons she wanted so badly and that she got to go to Blue Bird Camp only because I used the money I was saving for getting my nose fixed. And that expensive college she went to…how she ignores what I gave up to give her the education of her dreams…” She will brand you selfish, ungrateful, and cold-hearted to her. “And now, just because I suggested that it was time she got rid of that free-loader Josh, who is still in college after eight years, and find a man worthy of marriage, she decides to cut me off like I was nothing to her, after all I have done and sacrificed…” She won’t tell the family that Josh is “still in college” because he is working on his Ph.D. in applied physics and he works part time at the university…or that he loves you and treats you like a princess…no, she will only tell people things that support her point of view, make you look like a heartless monster, and her your poor, beleaguered victim.

She may take a more aggressive approach and make up outright lies: I worked nights in clubs as a cocktail waitress and go-go dancer (yes, it was that long ago) to support my kids and be home with them during the day: my NM’s version of this to the FOO was that I was a “drug-addicted prostitute who stays out 'til all hours, leaving those poor kids with a baby sitter every night.” The bottom line is, anything you tell her or let her know about you, your life, your feelings and your reasons, is grist for her mill. And the more you let her know, especially about how you are feeling, the more she can and will hurt you in retaliation.

If, for example, you tell her that your feelings have been hurt all your life because she preferred your sister Suzie over you, she is not going to be sorry for hurting you, she is not going to feel remorse and try to make it up to you. No, she is first going to deny that she treated Suzie any better than you, then she might say “But if I did, it was because Suzie deserved it (or you didn’t deserve it) because Suzie was obedient, trustworthy, loyal, and loving,” implying that you were none of those things. But now she knows that your feelings are hurt when she does or gives more to someone else in the family, and when she wants to punish you, she can now do it even more to punish you…or tell you about things she did for others that you don’t yet know about. I know a woman, Emily*, whose cousin was treated to a trip to Europe by Emily’s NM and Emily didn’t know about it for decades afterwards. It was only when her NM was dying that Emily found out and her NM’s excuse was “you were too busy with your children…” One can argue that the NM had every right to take anyone she wanted on the trip, but to presume Emily couldn’t go because of her children without even giving Emily a chance to accept or decline the offer of the trip was presumptuous and high-handed…and it hurt Emily. If your NM knows such things will hurt you, you can be sure she will not only do them, but that even if you are NC, you will find out about them.

Another reason to not send such a letter is that it can motivate some NMs to mount a campaign to defame you. If you tell her the truth, especially if you fill your letters with examples of ways she has hurt you over the years, she may well perceive your letter as an unwarranted attack and that she has to fight back. You can be guaranteed of two things when an N decides to “fight back”: she will not tell the truth and she will not fight fair.

Ngrandparents have been known to take their adult sons and daughters to court to get not only visitation rights, but unsupervised and even overnight visitation. Your kids have to go whether they want to or not and you have no control over what goes on in visits like that. I made the mistake of leaving my kids with my NM for a couple of weeks while I went out of town on a high-paying temp job. When I came back she had bought them practically a whole toy store full of toys, but kept them all at her house so in order to play with the fabulous toys I could not afford to buy for them, my kids had to go to my NM's house. My kids, ages 3 and 5, clamoured to go live with Grammi because she had bribed them with toys and junk food and promises of having anything they wanted and doing anything they wanted if they lived with her!

NMs have been known to call employers, to damage their adult children’s credit ratings, to interfere in their romantic relationships and friendships…and not everything they tell those employers, creditors or friends and lovers have any truth to them. She will say whatever she thinks will work to create a circumstance that will make you contact her again, whether it is to berate her for her interference or to beg her assistance because her plan to disrupt your life is bearing fruit. It is dangerous to let them know what hurts you, what angers you, what distresses you because once in their hands, the knowledge becomes a weapon they can turn against you.

You can notify your NM that you are planning to go NC with her, but if you do that, I have two pieces of advice:

1) Warn any family members with whom you hope to stay in contact. Your letter to them should have some kind of explanation (but remember that it will doubtless be shown to your NM and she will respond in her typical, invalidating fashion) and a request to please respect your decision and not act as a go-between or attempt to change your mind. A possible letter could be: “After much considering and soul-searching, I have decided to stop all contact between my mother and me. Ours has been a difficult relationship for a very long time and I am no longer willing to continue making a futile effort. I would ask that you please respect my carefully considered decision and neither try to act as a go-between, attempting to broker a reconciliation, nor be drawn into an attempt to defame my character or damage my reputation. I do not do this lightly nor without substantial reason, but for the sake of integrity, they are reasons I cannot in good conscience reveal. I will be informing my mother of my decision within the next 24 hours, but wanted you to know in advance so that you are not caught unaware if she should contact you.”

This benefits you on two fronts: you have made it clear to family members that you do not want them to try to be misguided peacemakers and, by pre-empting your NM and delivering the news first, you have set a tone for the recipients of the news, that you have given this serious consideration, you have tried your best (implying your NM has been difficult), and you are removing yourself from the fray but refuse to indulge in petty gossip. Anything your NM does or says after they receive such a message from you will only cast her in a poor light.

It is therefore very important that, under no circumstances, should you badmouth your NM, no matter how tempted you are, no matter how true your tales of woe. To do so would be very bad for you because it violates the “sainted mother” meme, and could be perceived as an unprovoked attack on your mother which will invariably elicit sympathy for your NM (“Poor Jaundice, I would be soooo embarrassed if my daughter sent out a letter to the family saying such awful things about me…”). It also opens the door for NM to attack you in her own defence. Just don’t say anything except that the relationship is not working and you are now opting out of it. This letter should en route to family members before you make your announcement to your NM.

2) Make your letter to NM as terse as possible, i.e., “From the date of this letter I will no longer be in contact with you and expect you to make no attempts to contact me by any means whatsoever, direct or indirect.”

Your other option is to just disappear from her life and say nothing about it. Move, change your phone numbers and address, get your landline unlisted. If you can change jobs, do so and don’t let anyone who knows your NM know where you went. If you have an ignoring NM like I did, you could have years of peace before she figures out you’re not communicating with her and she goes looking for you!

* Not her real name

Next: The Art of No Contact: Part 2