George Hodan, public domain Our mother is our first love. She is our introduction to life and to ourselves. She is our lifeline to security. We initially learn about ourselves and our world through interactions with her. We naturally long for her physical and emotional sustenance, her touch, her smile, and her protection.
Her empathetic reflection of our feelings, wants, and needs informs us who we are and that we have value. Like Narcissus in the Greek myth, she sees only a reflection of herself. There is no boundary of separateness between her and her children, whom she cannot see as unique individuals worthy of love. The following are some of the characteristics and consequences of having a narcissistic mother. Notice that they unwittingly get repeated in adult abusive relationships , including relationships with narcissists , because they're familiar - it feels like family.
Lack of Boundaries Some of the effects on daughters are different than on sons, because girls usually spend more time with their mother and look to her as a role model. Due to lack of boundaries , narcissistic mothers tend to see their daughters both as threats and as annexed to their own egos.
Through direction and criticism, they try to shape their daughter into a version of themselves or their idealized self. At the same time, they project onto their daughter not only unwanted and denied aspects of themselves, such as self-centeredness, obstinance, selfishness, and coldness, but also disliked traits of their own mothers.
They may prefer their son, although they can harm him in other ways, such as through emotional incest. Narcissistic abuse Narcissistic abuse, including repeated shaming and control, undermine the developing identify of a young girl, creating insecurity and low self-esteem.
In severe cases of emotional or physical abuse or neglect , a daughter may feel she has no right to exist, is a burden to her mother, and should never have been born. Some mothers lie and hide their abuse. She may feel defenseless or not even recognize mistreatment later in adult abusive relationships. Toxic shame She rarely, if ever, feels accepted for just being herself. Her real self is rejected, first by her mother, and then by herself. The consequence is internalized, toxic shame , based on the belief that her real self is unlovable.
Children are supposed to love their mothers, and vice versa! Never feeling good enough her life is one of continual striving and lack of fulfillment. Since love must be earned, her adult relationships may repeat a cycle of abandonment. Emotional unavailability Emotional comfort and closeness that normal maternal tenderness and caring provide is absent.
She yearns for an elusive connection, felt fleetingly or never. She may look to fill it in other relationships, but often the pattern of emotional unavailability is repeated. Control Parents with NPD are myopic.
The world revolves around them. Such mothers attempt to live through their daughter, who they see as an extension of themselves. They want her to dress and behave just as they do, and to choose boyfriends, hobbies, and work that they would choose. Their attention on their daughter is accompanied by their envy and expectations of gratitude , and compliance.
In adult relationships, these daughters often are in controlling relationships or get into unnecessary power struggles. These mothers may deny or not protect their daughter if they abuse her. Recovery Recovery from the trauma of growing up with feelings of rejection and shame takes time and effort. See Conquering Shame and Codependency.
Ultimately, it means recovery from codependency. It starts with identifying and understanding that the shaming messages and beliefs transmitted from mother to daughter are untrue. Replacing the internalized, negative maternal voice — the internal critic — with self-nurturing comes next. See 10 Steps to Self-Esteem: Recovery entails both healing the past and learning new skills to overcome codependency.
See Codependency for Dummies. To learn how to deal with a narcissist in your life, whether your partner or parent, follow the steps in Dealing with a Narcissist: