The Importance of Boundaries for Good Mental Health (2)
By: Beth McHugh 2010
We touched on this issue in a previous article on this subject where we looked at how much damage a person with no respect for personal boundaries can inflict intense psychological damage on those around them.
Today we will look at the case of Noreen. Noreen’s daughter Jane had just had a baby girl and Noreen had never respected Jane as a person but considered Jane a mere extension of herself. She made unreasonable demands of Jane and Jane, for the most part, complied.
Noreen suffered from Narcissistic personality Disorder (see links below)
but Jane did not know this. Noreen had a “thing” about using
dummies, or pacifiers, for babies and was a big fan of them, having
used them for both her own babies.
Jane was having none of it as her baby was placid and slept well and she didn’t see the point of introducing an item that her baby would get attached to and consequently get upset if it fell out or went missing.
The two women had many fights over the issue but Noreen wouldn’t let it go. No matter how many times Jane said “no” her mother persisted in trying to break her down. Here is an example of a parent who will not let their adult child be an adult and have a differing opinion. Noreen typically sulked after each argument and Jane was then forced (=trained) to cajole her mother back into a good mood. But she would not back down of the pacifier.
One day, Noreen came over to visit her daughter and patiently waited till Jane went out to hang a load of clothes on the line to dry. When Jane returned she noticed her mother had a strange look on her face and her first instinct was to glance at her baby daughter. There, in her girl’s mouth, was a pacifier. Jane went ballistic and shouted at her mother and pulled the pacifier from her daughter’s mouth. The baby started to cry at all the commotion whereupon Noreen calmly pointed out that it was obvious that the baby needed the pacifier.
This mother had bulldozed through all the niceties of manners and respect for others and imposed her will over that of her daughter’s. It took her several months to do it, but she was single-minded and not about to back down. When her daughter yelled at her in rage, Noreen then started crying, saying she was only trying to help her daughter. This is one of the classic ways that Noreen and others like her react when they do not get their own way.
In a future article we will look at a better way for Jane to have handled this situation, even though she did quite well under the circumstances.