Dealing with a Narcissistic Mother
By: Beth McHugh 2007
Recent statistics indicate that the incidence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is on the increase. Therefore more and more of us will come across narcissistic individuals in the course of our daily lives, whether at work or in the family home.
We recently looked at the case of Elinor, who has a mother who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. As narcissists rarely seek treatment as they are not aware that they suffer from the disorder, it is up to friends and family members, the primary sufferers at the hands of the clinical narcissist, to take steps to protect themselves. Related articles, includes diagnostic criteria are included as links at the conclusion of this article.
Elinor has suffered for most of her life at the hands of her narcissistic mother. Of course, when Elinor was a child she had no idea that her mother had the disorder. As with any child, we accept our parents as being how all parents are, until we arrive at a point where we are able to reason that this is not the case. As we mature we are able to better gauge as to whether our parents did an “okay” job, which is the acceptable professional standard for parenting, or whether their style of parenting left a lot to be desired. It is often after we have children of our own that we can truly decide how effective both our parents and our own parenting style is.
But back to Elinor. Because narcissists can never be pleased, except for very short periods of time, the partner, friend or child of a narcissist is in a continual battle to please and amuse, flatter and placate, the narcissistic person in their lives. Selfish and self-absorbed, the narcissistic parent gives little emotional return and so the child of such a parent continually seeks approval, attention and most of all, love. It is a pointless task, as the narcissist does not really understand the concept of others, much less love for them.
But Elinor had tried her best. Over the years she has showered her mother with gifts, tried to interpret her every whim and do all in her power to get that all important love and attention. Elinor is now 39. Despite having a husband and two children of her own, she still puts her mother first. This is because neither her husband nor her children can fill the hole in her heart that should have been filled long ago by her mother.
Elinor’s mother has a habit of rejecting many of her daughter’s gifts, simply because she doesn’t like them. When Elinor gets it right, her mother’s face lights up with joy and Elinor feels happy. At last! She has done something right! But just as often as not, Elinor’s mother does not care for the gift and tells her daughter so, even though many times the gift has been hand made by her daughter as she is an excellent craftsperson.
Elinor sought counseling due to her increasing anger and spells of depression. What we discovered was that part of Elinor was still seeking approval from her mother. But worse than that, she was seeking approval from a mother who was clinically unable to give approval. Elinor was playing a losing game: no wonder she felt an increasing sense of rage and sadness. Furthermore, her marriage was under strain as each time one of these event occurred, she lost valuable time crying and withdrawing from her family. With teenagers in the house, she was in danger of losing precious time with those people who were actually capable of loving her.
In coming blogs, we will continue the story of how Elinor got out of
a 39-year-old trap with her mother.