Ever since women opened forbidden doors on Father Abuse and Patriarchy, it's been okay to talk about Dad and his selfishness, his entitled misuse of power and control. I remember the 1970's when the truth of the nuclear family was exposed. Talk shows like Phil Donahue encouraged victims to stop protecting male abusers and reclaim their lives by restoring their power.
Speaking up does that. Speaking up breaks the silence, eroding illegitimate power over vulnerable people, especially children.
We've unpacked the patriarchal system emphasizing narcissistic values like control, self-reliance, and independence; while, at the same time, limiting appreciation for non-narcissistic values like compassion, empathy, connectivity. We have educated one another about family systems, the legacy of fathers abusing children and partners. We've been doing this for four decades. At this point, when someone says they hate their father, it doesn't shock me the way it did in the seventies. Back then, talking smack about Dad was taboo! Those of you who are older might remember the secrecy, the whispering of the word "abuse". You might also remember the public reprisals for anyone describing the Father who did NOT know best. And now, we have Homer Simpson. Our work is done. Patriarchy will never be the same. *wink*
In 2012, we are opening doors once again only this time, we are breaking the code of silence about narcissistic mothers. If history repeats itself, people will resist criticizing mothers. They will silence those who dare broach the topic. It is the same resistance society had to people talking about abusive fathering. I remember it well. Defining the narcissistic mother will be even trickier. It will frighten people, anger people, it will make people feel like pariahs for daring say their mother was or is a narcissist. Whistle blowers have never had an easy time opening the door on taboo topics. And what is the first thing people do when they are afraid? They shush the people knocking on their door of I-don't-wanna-know-that-denial. People whose stories trigger forbidden feelings they'd rather not experience within themselves. They blame the victim. But you can't keep a lid on secrets without making everyone sick---we must allow fresh air to heal old wounds. Then we can stop protecting motherhood from further scrutiny through the use of platitudes, illusions, denial, and preposterous sacrilization. Blech!
A friend wrote to me: "One memory that stands out about my mother is her telling the dentist not to use novacaine. I remember as a child feeling sick with terror every time I had to see the dentist. Finally one time I passed out in the chair and the dentist started giving me novacaine after that."
When someone writes about their mother, the narcissist, it triggers people's resistance. But maybe the ones who resist truth are the one's who most need to hear our story. Turning our attention to Narcissistic Mothers is important. Just like it was for those of us who flung wide the door to Patriarchy.
"A narcissistic mother is such a heartbreak. She never asked me if I was tired or how things were for me. She 'favouritises'. One morning she slopped her breakfast all over her bed and I just sat down and cried. I asked why none of my sisters would help and she said '"they are busy people - they have their own lives to get on with." I asked her if she thought I had no life and she said, "I need you here because I am sick." That was the only thought that she had - her neediness. And I felt so sad - because I knew that it was my own neediness that was keeping me chained there."
There is no Universal Law about what anyone must do if their parents are narcissistic. It depends on the parent's degree of pathology and your emotional resiliency (the ability to sustain inevitable insults to one's integrity and self-worth). This isn't to say anyone is stronger or better than anyone else if they choose to END or MAINTAIN contact with a narcissistic parent. Even though there are similar dynamics, each relationship is unique and complex! What one person might need to do is not a prescription for anyone else.
Remember: The Law of No Contact is NOT a commandment. If you are still being physically or sexually abused by a narcissistic parent, you need to enforce No Contact and seek therapeutic intervention. For other people who's lives are not in immediate danger, there's a broad continuum of dysfunction. Some people will be able to change dysfunctional patterns without severing contact. There are however, extremely abusive mothers whose children take two steps forward and get knocked back ten or more by narcissistic parents. Eventually, despite their determination, children feel helpless, hopeless, and inert which carries into adulthood. They give up on themselves rather than giving up on the narcissistic parent.
I do not make judgments and avoid projecting my situation onto others. I hope other people will do likewise and listen to those who are breaking free without telling them what to do, or worse: chastise them with Biblical scriptures about honoring parents who can't love their children.
"All my life I have longed for her to like me, to respect me as much as my sisters but she never did. She has always hinted that she thought my morals were loose and has often called me a whore. This is so untrue - I never slept with a man until I was in my thirties and live a celibate life now. My pattern was there to fall easily into a romantic relationship with a narcissistic man who only ever wanted my resources."
Sadly, there are relationships requiring No Contact. People will feel divided within themselves for taking such extreme action. The narcissistic parent will intensify control, manipulate emotions, and deny their children's natural desire to love and be loved. Narcissistic mothers, just like narcissist fathers, threaten punishment, rejection, and even abandonment of the children they own but cannot love. Your disengagement, in any form of separation, will be perceived as a threat her superiority, her status as a mother. You are betraying her code of silence and shattering her image. This will be difficult for you to tolerate. The guilt is crippling.
The narcissistic mother is just as incapable of change as the chauvinistic patriarchs of the 1970's. Look for a good therapist you can trust and consider joining support groups of experienced people reinforcing good will and compassion as natural human qualities. Making healthy connections with compassionate people can make or break your recovery.