July 06, 2012

Why It's Hard To Write About Narcissistic Mothers


"The Sleeping Girl Kizette" by Tamara de Lempicka


Numerous people responded to my recent posts about narcissistic mothers which was validating because writing about abusive mothering is excruciatingly difficult for me. Like fingernails-on-a-blackboard neurotically painful. Being critical of women upon whose shoulders burdens of responsibility have been heaped without requisite empowerment, sets my teeth on edge. It doesn't feel right. It doesn't seem fair, blaming women for being insufficient parents when the province of child-rearing has been left to her.

Saying "she did the best she could" usually reconciles relational deficiencies for both she and her children because the majority of women are heroic in their desire and their ability to protect and love their children despite onerous circumstances. Maybe it's familiarity with my female ancestors, but I marvel at the countless ways women have defied the system. How they supported their spouses, coped with serial pregnancies, stillbirths, deaths, sicknesses, dreary jobs, political disenfranchisement, educational segregation, and financial deprivation threatening survival. Read (or  better yet: write!) your family's history and you'll be inspired by women's resilience. Everyday families have invisible heroes who deserve a place in your story. 

Dysfunction caused by oppression Based on my philosophical views of women's oppression, I've been reluctant to criticize mothers because their dysfunctional behaviors might be the result of subordination. It's understandable if women developed a false self with codependent behaviors and narcissistic defenses in reaction to the patriarchy. Yea...you guessed it. I grew up in the sixties. 

Limited Options for Self-determination Before the pill (contraception), a woman couldn't think of her self as an independent agent without  choosing celibacy. She might be somewhat resentful of successive pregnancies and children since she had few options other than marriage and motherhood.

Mothering as a Career In the 1950's, raising children became a career. This wasn't the greatest twentieth-century idea we ever came up with but it got women back in the home after WWII. It also justified male proprietorship, while solacing women with platitudes. Children became in-the-flesh reviews of her job performance which means a mother may have over-invested in her children living out her dreams.  This is conjecture on my part but it merits some consideration, I hope. 

Women Needed Time to Adjust I believe most mothers benefit from additional kindness, patience, and understanding during our transition from 'obligatory motherhood' to 'motherhood as a choice'. Determining who you are and what you want to do is an adjustment. Women need more than one lifetime to change. Old patterns and beliefs are passed down from one generation to the next. 

Challenging ignorance; Challenging beliefs

What totally gets my goat is that you think you understand reality and then your illusions are head-butted with a reality check. And I've come to understand that psychological pathology is not gender-specific. What threw my Give-Her-the-Benefit-of-a-Doubt philosophy off kilter is that I wanted to believe bad mothering was situational, not the result of mental illness, disorders and pathological traits. Yea, yea, I know. Idealization isn't just for narcissists. Which brings me to another reason why I've hesitated writing about the Maternal Ideal: what's idealized is rapidly demonized. You should never poke the sleeping bear, if you get what I mean!

"Le Chevre" by Picasso 1950
In defense of my idealism, the same ignorance applied to my beliefs about mothers as my belief in marriage: I did not know about personality disorders. Once you know about pathological traits and behaviors, everything changes. Your sense of control is viable because it isn't based on dangerous folk wisdoms, such as: forgive and forget 'cuz you can get the love you want if you teach people how to treat you.  Don't cry...I'll stop with the platitudes. 

Pathological or normal? Understanding pathology renders abusive relationships transparent, just as your own yuck behavior stands naked in the light of normalcy. People do yuck things that are considered to be normal because most people act similarly yuckily. This begs the question though: if enough people act yucky, is yucky normal? Well, temporary yuckiness is normal; but, permanent, intractable, impervious-to-change yuckiness is not normal. Persistent patterns of behavior transform quotidian yuck into a pathology. If someone was yucky as a kid, yucky as a young adult, and has a yucky midlife crisis, you can pretty much guarantee she'll be yucky pensioner. Consistency. Consistency connotes pathology. 

One more reason why I've been reluctant to write about narcissistic mothers? Neurotic mothers are overly critical and self-blaming when they needn't be. I didn't want to make matters worse knowing how hard it's been mothering up to my expectations while married to a narcissistic spouse  undermining my parenting. While narcissistic mothers would never see themselves in anything I've written, vulnerable and fragile mothers would.

And so: For all the good enough mothers who criticize themselves unfairly, please remember that the longevity of narcissistic behaviors distinguishes pathology. These traits are consistent in a variety of situations, resistant to change, and getting worse each year. I added the getting worse bit because pathological narcissism crystallizes overtime, like territory-marking cat urine sprayed on baseboards. Clean it up. Clean up after yourself. If you don't, you won't be able to chisel that stuff off with a stick of dynamite and a professional therapist.

The normal mother catches herself in the act. She corrects her behavior. She has insight. Self-awareness. Her self-knowledge increases as she ages. The normal mother is emotionally available, empathetic, resonant. She encourages her children to be comfortable with their own peccadilloes, values, desires, and quirks. To  find themselves. To be themselves. The normal mother grieves her losses, celebrates her children's victories, and bears their criticism. She neither blames herself excessively, nor excuses herself. She seeks no absolution from her children. The normal mother matures as she ages, generativity granting meaning to her existence.  She is satisfied with her contribution, her place, her life. She neither competes with her children nor denies their desires to achieve. To do better than she. The normal mothers sees herself on an evolutionary scale, not more extraordinary than others. Not less than. The normal mother is never all of these things at all times.

Hugs,
CZ




37 comments:

  1. Beautifully turned, CZ. You've managed to get all your reservations about being critical of mothers down here with crystal clarity and even-handedness. I too am a child of the sixties, raised in a patriarchal household in which the father "provided" the money and the mother "raised" the kids. For many years I too looked for ways to explain my mother's pathological behaviors: her own patriarchal father was a bully and a rigid ideologue; she got married too young (and had me very hard upon that); my father patronized her efforts to improve herself, and so on. But what always niggled me was the steady and unrelenting nature of her mild and not so mild emotional cruelties. Dismissive, disdainful (I remember once standing on a diving board wanting to show her a new dive I'd learned. I said Mom, look it. She parroted me "look it, look it, look it, that's all you ever say." I was a 10 yr old child. Over the years her privileging of her own emotional needs over mine and my sisters was utterly consistent; her dismissiveness, obvious dislike of being "stuck" having to take care of us; her cruelty and rejection of emotional support when it was obviously needed; finally, her lies and insistence on our compliance with them, made it clear that narcissistic personality disorder, and not patriarchy, were to blame here. In terms of the disposition of her character, she turned out to be exactly like her father: cold, disdainful, superior, envious, resentful, and self-righteous about her own moral rectitude. So congratulations on nailing what's wrong when a mother isn't "good enough" not because she isn't perfect (which is the NM's fallback: I wasn't perfect, who was?), but because she wasn't LOVING.

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    1. Hi Anon! I started a list of reasons why I'm reluctant to write about narcissistic mothers and it was long enough to call it a book. It took hours to get my list down to a readable essay. ha!

      You used the word 'disdainful' and that says a lot. A mother might be neglectful when she's preoccupied and we've all been preoccupied at times. Having disdain for a child though---that suggests pathology. Disdain is similar to contempt, isn't it? And every single narcissist on the planet bears contempt for his or her subordinates.

      It's hard to imagine being contemptuous towards one's child. Or disdainful. I can definitely relate to your comment because this is how my X made me feel at the end of our marriage. It sucked the breath out of me...I can only imagine how devastating it would be to a child.

      You also wrote about your mother privileging her needs over her children's and this seems to be a common experience amongst children of narcissists. Mom took center stage and everyone else attended her needs and whims. Her self-absorption and entitlement is so CONSISTENT that children begin to believe their servitude is normal. That their duty in life is to wait on other people to make them happy and then everyone will be happy. I think that fits with the codependent model commonly applied to children of Ns. This behavior CAN BE unlearned.

      And yes, you are absolutely correct: the biggest difference between a normal Mom and a narcissistic mother is the ability to love.

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  2. Ahhh, another great Post!
    I don't think ANY mother hasn't had their moments with their kids. That's just how it is and sometimes you just have to punt. However, it's that capriciousness of behavior over time that separates a NM/Pathology from a "normal" mom. If they had been consistently nasty we would have walked away years before; however, every now and then "normalcy" may prevail for some short period-just enough to get our hopes up, to believe they really do love us, care about us and we're actually "good kids."
    It never lasts. And nothing we seem to say or do makes it "better" or "worse" because they're reacting to their internal world and we just happen to be on the receiving end of their crazy. As kids we don't understand it was never about us personally although it sure feels like it. And they'll swear we "made then do it." The damage they inflict on their kids is stunning in it's chronicity and severity. The good news is we might be dinged and banged but we're still here and we're committed to NOT passing on The Legacy.
    TW
    TW

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    1. Thanks, TW!

      You wrote: "If they had been consistently nasty we would have walked away years before; however, every now and then "normalcy" may prevail for some short period-just enough to get our hopes up, to believe they really do love us, care about us and we're actually "good kids."

      I appreciate your comment about "intermittent reinforcement" which explains why people keep going back for more abuse. It's the slot-machine syndrome. You just know that at some point, if you keep dropping nickels in the machine, it'll pay off. I felt so empowered after learning about Intermittent Reinforcement that it changed my life in numerous ways, not just the N-relationship.

      When you've grown up scrambling for Golden Crumbs, you have to unlearn that behavior and leave miserable crumbs for the buzzards...I'm looking for buttered toast now. hahaha

      Many many people were raised by narcissistic mothers and they have made a conscious choice to stop passing the Legacy forward. I remember distinctly, the day I decided the buck stopped with me. Luckily, that was when my children were very small and I had time to learn how to be an effective parent before they were teens. The book I used to help me was called Parent Effectiveness Training.

      Now that my daughter is in her late thirties, she teases me about some of the things I said and did...like always offering her a choice. "Do you want to wear the red dress or the green one?" because now she realizes she didn't even think about picking the plaid dress. hahaha!

      I believe that our children are more than willing to give their parents the benefit of the doubt IF they feel loved and valued by that parent. When an adult finally throws their hands up in despair and walks away, you just know they have suffered for decades before realizing their mother or father was incapable of loving them.

      Actually, let me clarify that last sentence a little bit. Even knowing a parent is unable to love isn't enough to make that child walk away. It's when the cruelty is ongoing, the sadistic need to punish the adult-child and continue causing misery and pain in their lives. That's when people use No Contact as a last resort.

      Of course, there are adult-children of narcissists who are just as punishing, hateful and sadistically oriented as their parents. They usually enjoy 'hurting' their mother and I think most ACoNs resist doing that. If they do find satisfaction in revenge of some kind, it's temporary---usually right in the beginning of their recovery. This is my experience anyway.

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  3. Feminism can be dangerous. I don't understand what feminism has to do with anything. Women are not victims. They never were victims. I don't understand this whole patriarchy vs women set up. Since the beginning of time, there have been males and males have wanted to help females just as much as females wanted to help males. Men need women as MUCH as women need men. And men can be victims too. So a guy is acting sexist. What about all the mothers who treated a male poorly and that led to him being mean and thinking that women and men are different and women are inferior. Why do more males commit suicide and more males commit homicide? If women are so much more victims then men, then why do MEN more often commit suicide or homicide? There is no difference between men and women and boys and girls and most of the world's problems come because no one can point out what a bitch their mom was. The problem can be traced back to a really shitty mom. Women are not fragile, women are not stupid, women are not powerless and victims. Why on earth would they be when they have so many men around to help them. It is this exact type of thinking that hurts many people, men and women alike. Many males have killed themselves for females. I don't know why I'm such a boy advocate, I just am. I think it's because of the suicides and because I am a girl. Too many boys commit suicide and it's because they keep trying and trying to understand a horrible mom. A mom has power. Whether you're a boy or a girl, your mom has power over you. I am not going to feel sorry for a woman who hurts children who are so much smaller than her. Women powerless my fucking ass. Isn't it clear how CRUEL she is? How BAD? How she can make or break you with one choice? How much POWER? A boy is just as good as any girl, just as feminine, just as pure. It's when they can't realize that that it kills them. As a girl, I am a boy and girl advocate. They have equal responsibility.

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    1. Hi Lisa!

      I dropped in on your blog after clicking your screenname and see that your family is in Korea? Well, how serendipitous to post an article on narcissistic mothers in Korea. How did that article fit your experience?? I'd love to know.

      I am more of a systems-thinker which means I view patriarchy as a social system that hurts all people. It's not as simple as male against female, although lots of people leap to that conclusion when the word 'feminism' is mentioned! I used to be that way myself---back when the patriarchal system rewarded me with a picket fence, two kids and a hard-working husband. I hadn't defined my own values from those I was taught at home and my family-of-origin is most definitely patriarchal. It has taken decades of consistent work on my part, to eradicate notions of inferiority that were imposed on me by my community, my religion, my family. Now i kneel before no man, nor ask permission to breath. ha!

      Patriarchal systems have hurt our sons, too. Never forget that. I witnessed this when my son was quite young and wanted to play with dolls. His father, the all-mighty patriarchal warrior, was infuriated that his son might be effeminate. Well, the reason why a father would be worried about an effeminate son is if he regarded females as 'less than'. Narcissists, whether male or female, are renown for their misogyny. Even a slight narcissist is chauvenistic which means women are looked down on even while placing them on pedestals.

      There were many many experiences in my young mothering days that prepared me for a feminist awakening in my thirties. And because I love my son as much as I love my daughter, I would never subscribe to any system that hurt either of them, or granted power to either one of them, based on their gender.

      A great book to read about the patriarchal system was written by Allan G. Johnson (i have a link on my sidebar). The title is "The Gender Knot: unraveling our patriarchal legacy."

      On page 4-5, he writes, "Patriarchy is not simply another way of saying "men". Patriarchy is a kind of society, and a society is more than a collection of people. As such, "patriarchy" doesn't refer to me or any other man or collection of men, but to a kind of society in which men and women participate."

      I hope this helps clarify my position to everyone reading my blog.

      Hugs,
      CZ

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    2. Yeah, I saw the article. My parents aren't in Korea. They are Korean. They are in California. The article was like any other psych mag article. Lame. Also irrelevant to me. My parents are psssssyyyychopaths. But good for Korea for trying. I like Korea. Not all Koreans are insane.

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    3. I didn't figure ALL Koreans were insane. Just some. Like the rest of the world.

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    4. Haha, I didn't mean you thought all Koreans are insane! That's just what I tell myself.

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  4. Lisa, with all due respect, history is what it is. Patriarchy has done severe damage to women up until
    the last century, and that's just a fact. Even now in many cultures, women are brutalized by male-centered cultures. Remember, women didn't get the vote in this country until 1925. And women were legally men's property until the last century, even in Europe. These are facts. Not subject to debate.
    We can argue about how things are now; but we cannot deny the reality of historical fact.

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    1. My eyes were opened wide during a college history course that taught by a feminist professor. Suddenly, my interest in history was peaked and my son took the same classes the following semester. He was relieved to discover a broader understanding of history than wars, generals and who stuck flags where. ha!

      From time-to-time, I google 1800's feminists. Seeing a historical chronology of women's rights helps keep me balanced AND it fosters an attitude of appreciation for the women who've gone before...womenwho were not able to enjoy the freedoms we do today. Imagine going to jail because you believed in women's right to vote?

      By the way, I saw a video a couple of weeks ago, by a 'reverend' (using the title lightly here) who said the biggest mistake America made was giving women the right to vote...because we cannot think logically like a man.

      Pass me the smelling salts!!

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  5. ps. this is NOT to defend cruel narcissistic mothers! Let's separate out the pathology of individual mothers from the history of patriarchy. Yes there are connections, as oppressed women will often "take it out" on their children, the one province where they have direct control. But ongoing cruelties that are repeated over many decades, there's no excusing that.

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    1. I know of many patriarchal families that are not pathological. This means that their family is organized by a 'benevolent dictator' (the father; i.e.: head of household).

      While I disagree in principle, their families are flexible and supportive of one another, even if men and women are assigned specific roles that ARE gender-based. I see love expressed in their actions and words, not contempt nor disdain. In fact, 'normal" families organized around patriarchal leadership have their benefits. For one thing, everyone knows their role in life and can eliminate traps many of us fall into while figuring out who we are and what we want to do with our lives.

      Still, I disagree with any system that privileges one group of people over another.

      But no doubt about it, PATHOLOGY is a destructive element in any social system or organization. I think one of the mistakes we make is NOT accounting for pathology. We assume everyone is normal, has normal restraints, normal empathy, normal morality, normal capacity to learn and change, etc. and we aren't looking for pathological behaviors.

      One of the changes I've made is that I now expect a certain percentage of people will be "disordered". Then you can prepare yourself for likely problems to occur, AND, you won't blame yourself for causing them when they do.

      I was a sitting duck for Relational Aggression, women's way of stoning one another to death.

      Hugs,
      CZ

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    2. CZ, hi, Caliban's Sis here. I think you've made a really important distinction in your comment above. That there's a difference between structural inequity, of the kind that many centuries of patriarchy imposed, and the kind of pathologies that we are all exploring here on our blog. Those of us who write here know the difference between someone who is stuck in a role imposed on her by society (the role of most mothers until, frankly, the last thirty years or so), and someone who has a disordered and malevolent psyche. I was on the receiving end of so much jealousy as I started blossoming into womanhood years ago; then more when my professional career took off. It always took the form of damning with faint praise (at best) and snarky put-downs (at worst). My NM actually once said to me "you don't know any more about psychology than anyone else." I TEACH it for god's sake. The example of the "benevolent dictator" is a good one, as in the best of families during the Donna Reed era, the structural differences were, at the level of love, benign. But we are talking about individual pathology here, and like the difference between erotica and porn, we know it when we see it. It FEELS different. hard, cold, and mean.

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    3. Ah.....the jealousy! The unconscious, unmitigated, unclaimed envy narcissistic mothers feel when a daughter succeeds. I mentioned this a little bit in my original article:

      "She neither competes with her children nor denies their desires to achieve. To do better than she."

      I'm glad you've written about your N-mother's DRIVE to put you down to build herself up.

      I think a normal mother who was denied the opportunities women have today, might feel a twinge of sadness or regret. But she would:

      1) recognize her feeling and 'name' it
      2) own that feeling as hers
      3) process her grief (loss of opportunities)
      4) be grateful she paved the way for her daughter
      5) Bake that daughter a cake

      I might (okay, I have) felt jealous of my sisters careers because I chose to do what I believed God wanted me to do and stay home with my children. Since the ending to my fairy tale story REALLY SUCKS WIND, I've regretted not taking better care of myself with a professional career.

      However, I know I'm feeling envy and I do NOT try to destroy my sisters nor deny their accomplishments and successes! I usually work it all through in about five minutes after the initial alert that my Inner Envier was awake.

      I have never, and can't even imagine, feeling envious of my daughter's achievements. It's hard for me to understand why a mother might be competitive with her daughter. We are NOT peers, we are not siblings, and we never will be. I HOPE my daughter does better than I!

      As you said, the narcissistic mother isn't wistful about her unfulfilled dreams. She is hard, cold and mean and most of the time: completely deluded about her envy. How many times have people said that their narcissistic mother insisted she didn't have a jealous bone in her body and yet, she undermined, criticized, mocked and diminished her daughter's accomplishments!

      Hugs,
      CZ

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    4. CZ
      I couldn't agree with you more. We ALL feel jealousy; envy is not unheard of between mothers and daughters. As you say above, it is the DENIAL of such feelings that creates the malicious need to let it out through passive aggression. When I feel envy I admit it to myself and I know it's normal and human. I then do what I can to offset that feeling and separate it from the person. My mother plagiarized, then had the nerve to say she "would have been proud to cite me" had my work had any impact on what she'd written. Well, she told me several years ago that my work had INSPIRED her "next project." Project done, inspiration forgotten. As she so eloquently put it, "you have nothing to teach me about parenting or family." A truly insidious character. Feels a little like evil to me. And as with evil, it's the denial and hence failure to process that creates malevolence. You are not "shame-based": you can accept your feelings as part of the normal human spectrum. But narcissistic mothers have such an investment in being seen as good mothers that they deny anything that isn't consonant with that. It's tragic.

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    5. It is so up for debate, Anon. Facts my ass. I just think it's lame to focus on one set of events in the world and history and act like women are more victims than anyone else. There have been acts of injustice everywhere since the dawn of time, unspoken ones, invisible ones. What about the people in the Holocaust. People have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. You mean to tell me that it's only up till 50 years ago that things have been like they are today? So gee, for hundreds of thousands of years minus 50 people were all stupid and sexist neanderthals. I don't think that much is that different now than a long time ago. People have been the same, there has always been injustice. And women being brutalized by men...just asking, why do you think those men were brutal. Could it be because someone was brutal to them when they were little...like say..their mom. I don't believe in the patriarchy. I don't like feminism, but I am a feminist. At least, for myself. So women are brutalized. So are children every day. You don't need to be such an ass about it, which you are with your feminist bullshit. Ongoing decades please. You are generalizing. No excusing that? As if we can toss our hands at mean mothers because "women have been oppressed for decades", poooor them because I'm sure every guy 50 years ago beat his wife for the hell of it because he is a mindless pawn, the man is keeping her down! You and your feminist bullshit, that you are hiding behind like an anonymous half troll. Well, treating your children like shit.
      There is no excusing THAT.

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    6. Lisa, with all due respect, you cannot insult readers on my blog. This is my house and I get to make the rules. I wouldn't walk into your house and shit on the sofas. Please don't do that here.

      Also, please refrain from writing comments until you can respect other people's points of view.

      Further irrational comments from you will be deleted. Fair warning.

      CZ

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    7. Maybe I overreacted. I don't like her tone though. Didn't seem to me like SHE was respecting my POV. I don't think I'm irrational. But whatever, I don't care. I'm not shitting on you or your blog. I'm shitting on her. Why can't I insult a reader if they are a bitch? I was responding to her comment on MY comment. I have the right to do that. But of course, it is your blog. You have the power to delete comments.

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    8. This is your comment deemed to be an insult:

      "You and your feminist bullshit, that you are hiding behind like an anonymous half troll." ~Lisa

      People can respectfully disagree without resorting to ad hominem attacks.

      As far as "feminist bullshit" goes, you are fully within your right to argue against history. We have lots of people denying global warming, too. *wink*

      My stance is that women have historically been oppressed by cultures in which male power has predominated. This is not to say that women have not participated in patriarchal domination but there is incontrovertible evidence of women's lack of power within that system.

      The domination argument isn't between women and men. Not really. Patriarchy is between men and men. Women are just 'the things' in the middle. Their battleground. I think that's a second-wave feminism idea, too. ha! Well, that is where I earned my combat boots!

      I make an effort to understand younger women's views about feminism and hope my interest in their thoughts and experiences is reciprocal.

      Thanks for replying.

      Hugs,
      CZ

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    9. I don't care about feminism or patriarchy. What she said was feminist bullshit and I meant it as an insult. What I mean by feminist bullshit is not that feminism is bullshit. I mean that what she is saying is feminist bullshit...meaning it's not real feminism. It's a bitch pretending to be a feminist by rattling of some random facts from a history book and then telling me that that's how everything is. She is hiding behind feminist bullshit. She did not respect my POV at all. "History is what is is" as if she can decide what history is based on a few very narrow facts from some book and that basically means that my POV is nothing. She might as well have said, "And women were legally men's property until the last century, even in Europe. So shut up." "Oh yeah?!! Children complaining? Well, women have been brutalizzeeeddd! So shut up!" Don't get it twisted. She has it in the wrong order. Nothing excuses women for treating children like shit. Once again, I don't care about feminism. And by the way, I don't believe in global warming.

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    10. This is YOUR perception of what she was saying. I disagree. She was not disrespecting your opinion, Lisa but it appears that you choose to view it that way.

      And so: this is your last word on the topic. You cannot call anyone a bitch on this blog, or twist their words around to validate your "reactions".

      Game Over.

      CZ

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  6. Beautiful post. I especially enjoyed reading the last paragraph about what normal mothers do. It felt good to realize that I am in the normal range. Growing up in the 60s was a time of change. I agree that I was hesitant to criticize my mother then I recognized the continued behavior and unwillingness to change. As she gets older narcissism is getting worse. My daughter only sees her grandmother about once a month and she noted how each time she sees her that her grandmother is getting more fragile and difficult. Any hope of change is long past. Like you said dynamite would be useless. Thank you for writing and posting this.
    Ruth

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    1. Hello Ruth!

      How lovely to read your comment!

      Most people have a hard time writing about their mothers. We know women haven't enjoyed the privileges men have and many of our older mothers were unable to pursue their dreams. That makes it even more difficult holding them accountable. Besides, people yearn to love their mothers no matter how old they are. It's such a core loss to a child.

      I am so very grateful that information about pathology has reached my household. This has cleared up the mud in my life. I'm not confused. (well, sometimes, ha!). I can make better choices about where to invest my time and my love. Ya know? If someone has pathological traits, we're better off putting boundaries in place rather than taking them down. I didn't know this before.

      Plus, I think (hope) I'm a better mother for having learned about pathology. I'm not as insecure about my natural instincts and intuition. I hope other people have experienced the same thing because we mothers have a hard job. There's an awful lot of criticism directed towards mothers. Some of them deserve it. Some of us don't.

      Time to learn the difference!

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  7. I really appreciate how you distinguished not only the difference between Patriarchy and the ensuing "Fall-Out" as manifested through the change in Women's Roles historically but particularly the abrupt change from the '50s to the '60s. When women were needed to work in the factories during WWII to support the war effort, we had "Rosie the Riveter" as the Societal Model of Womanhood. When the men who had traditionally held these jobs were returning from the war, women were unceremoniously kicked out of their lucrative employment opportunities back to home and hearth. My dear friend Rita grew up here in The Tundra and in typical abject poverty-no indoor plumbing, her mom taught her, the oldest daughter how to forage through the fields for greens, berries etc.-they lived off the land. Her mother had such aspirations for her to attend college and she was accepted. However, the "norm" for the girls in HS at that time was to get married to their HS boyfriends. And that's what Rita did. Despite her mom's disappointment, mom accepted her decision and supported and encouraged Rita in her choice. As Rita said, "Then they CHANGED THE RULES." The advent of The Pill, the rise of the Women's Movement-so many changes by the mid to late '60s including and significantly structural changes in the economy. Wives in the US did not return to work as a "Feminist Statement:" It was economic necessity. They were now expected to fulfill BOTH roles: "Home and Hearth" AND "Bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan" blaa-blaa-blaa while hubby retired to his recliner after a "long day of work." For women, 5PM signaled the start of the "Second Shift." And while women's wages at all levels remained stagnant, men's continued to improve albeit at a slower pace. Women were finally being admitted to Professions which had historically remained de facto closed to them: Medical School, Law School, Engineering Schools etc.
    I am a proud Feminist. I am a proud Humanist. The history you and I and millions of other women lived through speak to these times of incredible change, of social unrest and rapidly changing mores.
    Women's wages STILL lag behind men's across the board despite "Equal Opportunity" and equal qualifications. The ability to chose our reproductive futures is being further eroded by white-haired men in positions of power who can't speak the word "vagina." Women and our collective power (IMO, the REAL "Threat") are being "Divided and Conquered" through the media, the politics of power and affluence, hidden behind "Religious" imprecations, the portrayal of impossibly distorted "images" of "What a woman SHOULD look like" leading to all kinds of eating disorders, plastic surgery and abject fear of aging. Superficially it appears we're becoming more "Inclusive" as a society: Reality is we're becoming further polarized.
    Narcissistic mothers have always been around-I'd bet on that. Now we're calling them out. Those that are will never admit the horrors they inflicted on their off-spring. "Good-enough" moms worry unnecessarily. "Good-enough" Moms love unconditionally. They have the ability to reflect, to own their own screw-ups with their kids (we all screw-up-we're human, remember?!); the pathological lack those abilities...and that's what makes all the difference. Rita BTW is happily divorced now for many years, her two mid to late 40s "kids" have done well, have passed down her knowledge to the grandkids and her relationship with her ex is easy and comfortable. She is a true "Matriarch" and is treated as such...most of the time. Except when the "kids" STILL think mom's 40-something!
    TW

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    1. Wow, TW! I enjoyed reading your take on women's history. You are an older woman like myself, so we've seen a lot of changes. Some of the things we experienced, would set young women's hair on fire today, they'd be so riled up! And yet we thought the situation was 'normal'...in an abnormal, unfair, egregiously sexist, and degrading way.

      I'll never forget my science class when the male teacher said women should never have walked upright since we're basically breeding stock. Then he drew pictures on the chalkboard. The boys in my class were smirking but nobody walked out. That teacher hated me. He said, and I quote, "You will never get an A in my class even if you do A+ work. The best grade you will get from me is a C-. Maybe a C." This was said in front of the class.

      My parents, being extremely accepting of the teacher's authority, did nothing. I got a C. But as the science teacher told our class, he hated women. Especially ones like me: UPPITY.

      So yea, I married a guy who accused me of being uppity, too. Unless you're a doormat, you were 'uppity.' If your self-esteem wasn't in the toilet, you were 'uppity.' If you said "NO" and meant it, you were 'uppity.' Anything that denied a guy what he believed to be his right, made you "uppity."

      I could go on and on and what good would it do? All it does is remind me that while progress is notoriously slow, slow is better than no progress at all.

      When you think about where we were in 1960 to where we are today, you wanna take every young woman by the hand and lecture her about the rights and privileges she takes for granted. *sigh*

      I got paid less than men when I started work. When I confronted the manager about starting a sixteen-year-old boy at a higher salary than mine after a year of work, he said, "That is our policy. Men get higher pay because they're working to feed a family."

      I was pregnant and my income supported both myself and my husband who was finishing college. That was 1972 and things have definitely changed. But not with out women who knew how to organize and work together.

      I don't mean to write a book, however, when we talked about equal pay for equal work in 1970, all women agreed. Today, women are fragmented on nearly every issue, even women who call themselves feminists. I haven't seen a group called "Feminists for Unequal Pay", but I'll bet a google search would turn one up.


      Hugs,
      CZ

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    2. Every single ranting feminist was once a sweet little-girl, then either a s*itbag teacher, relative, parent, or a combination messed with the girl's mind, and naturally, the girl wanting to preserve her sanity, her humanity, became a no b.s. feminist. Narcs aren't only cruel - it gets worse than that - Narcs are Christless (i.e., rotten fruit) and that ends bad, real bad.

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    3. I was a perceptive child and figured out very early that it was easier to obey the patriarchy than rebel against it. When I first learned about feminism in the 1970's, it was like shining a light in a deep dark chasm and I never turned away completely. Yes, it was difficult negotiating a "new" relationship with the men in my life....especially the men I loved and respected. I could see that "I" had everything to gain in asserting my fair share of the sky (power) and they had something to lose (dominance) so I expected things to get rocky and they did.

      My goal was creating a healthier and safer world where women were respected as mothers and homemakers; and men were respected as fathers and homemakers, too. Because first and foremost, our early environment has more to do with our fate than self-determination and "free will." We must protect and nurture our children. That's our primary obligation as adults and we have a long way to go (as a culture) in caring for our kids.

      The "individualistic" focus of some feminist theory leaves me speechless. It's narcissistic and it's short-sighted. I believe however, that we will eventually move through this stage into a more mature focus on "the collective" (community).

      Thanks for commenting, Sue. You've left several comments today and I appreciate your participation.

      Hugs
      CZ

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  8. TW, this is a wonderful comment. The conversation on this post is a fascinating one, as are the reactions. CZ, you did a really nice job 'moderating' some inflamed feelings and I agree with you that Lisa misunderstood where Anon was coming from. I thought she (Anon) took pains to differentiate between women oppressed by patriarchy (female circumcision anyone?) and plain old personality disorders! You handled it like a champ.

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    1. Hi Cal's Sis! I've meant to write back to TW about her last comment and haven't gotten around to it. It was terrific!

      I give no excuses to people being rude, crude, lewd or pee-you'd. There can't be any excuses for reactionary behavior because if ACoNs can excuse themselves from social propriety, then narcissists are excused too.

      It's good to know this incident didn't upset people. I used to delete comments that might upset or trigger readers. Depending on the situation of course, its better to let people stand behind their words. It certainly makes me think twice before posting!

      One of the biggest challenges for ACoNs is managing our reactions. It does no good for everyone to clean up our messes for us (enabling). Being responsible for the way WE treat other people is part of healing. That's how I see it anyway.

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  9. Amen.
    And it's beyond belief colleges/universities are turning out young people who have no sense of RECENT history, and that in fact many of these Colleges/Universities would not even have allowed them to APPLY because they were, you know...GIRLS!
    Which IMO doesn't bode well for the US: If we have no sense of even recent history (Vietnam) we're bound to repeat it-and we have: Iraq and Afghanistan. But since there's no draft, no money to attend college, no jobs, (changes in the structural economy) what "options" are left? Oh, that's right-they enlisted so it's THEIR problem to deal with the fall-out, physical AND psychological. It doesn't effect me or have anything to do with MY "world" and besides, who reads about that "stuff"-if you can find it buried and sanitized somewhere in the back of any mainstream media. As long as I've got mine, too bad for you-it's all YOUR "fault" anyway.
    (SIGH.)
    TW

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  10. My mother has Narc tendencys, Mostly towards forgetting I have my own soul and goals, It's less then other Narc.s who almost literally ruined my life for 6 LONG LOOOOOOOONG years. But she does have those tendancy's, but it's not as bad as other mothers who forget they,re childs favourite food or to ask them what they want, or competting childishly over attention or whatever, None of that, just one or two inssufficiency's in the mothering department,

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    1. Mothers have been a taboo topic for a long time and most people feel guilty about criticizing mothers considering they're usually the ones caring for children. It's a tough job so naturally, we make concessions for her 'failures'. However, some mothers are pathologically disordered and they are the ones who do so much damage to their children if those children have "no voice". People usually blame themselves instead of recognizing their parent's dysfunction!

      It seems to me that since our societies are more "individualized" than ever before, we will see more narcissistic traits in mothers than we used to. Heck, we see more narcissistic traits in ourselves! Perhaps one way to distinguish between normal issues between a mother-and-child is by what happens when the child confronts her mother OR complains to her mother? How does Mom react?

      Narcissistic mothers are extremely sensitive to criticism. They can even be hostile towards a child who dares confront her. If a mother tries to change behaviors that bother/hurt her child, then she's probably not a pathological narcissist. But if she blames the child for being ungrateful or even disinherits the child, then "pathology" is likely.

      I'm glad to hear your mother wasn't horribly abusive. Some of the things people have told me about their mothers are so sad....even heart breaking.

      Hugs
      CZ

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  11. You aren't the only one. Most of society doesn't want to talk about disordered mothers. It is not very PC. I say fuck PC.
    I had an extremely mentally, emotionally, manipulative, controlling, verbally abusive mother. She fits every single criteria for sociopathy. Mothers have an immense impact on their children. I say let's talk about disordered mothers. I don't think it's "hard to write about" at all. I really don't care if patriarchy oppressed her. Patriarchy has oppressed everyone, male and female, yet not all parents abuse their kids. Stop making silly excuses for these people. I say let's do away with the delicacy and talk about the effects that disordered parents have on their kids.

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    1. I just found your comment six months later but I say, "Fluck PC." I'm commenting anyway.

      It's not difficult spotting the truly pathological mother, the mother who is psychopathic and beyond help. The problem is discerning distinctions and that's what I hoped to accomplish with this post. By all means, write about the pathological mother on my blog or yours or anyone's. But remember there's a difference between people who learned maladaptive coping mechanisms and people who caused those maladaptive coping mechanisms!

      I don't make excuses for people anymore. I do challenge myself to understand social determinants, how we have been affected by "society." In my personal experience, most mothers are not pathological. They may not be the "best" mothers according to current psychological standards but they were far from malicious and callous and/or cruel. Those mothers are always shocking to hear about and yet we know they exist. I believe the explosion of blogs about narcissistic mothers is finally educating the public about pathological women and the damage they do to vulnerable children.

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    1. haha! Okay, its gay. What does that even mean? And why are you reading this blog? Isn't it past your bedtime?

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