July 23, 2012

Dr. Karyl McBride, "Will I Ever Be Good Enough?" ( Video and Book Sample)



Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers 
by Karyl McBride, Ph.D 

Chapter 1
INTRODUCTION

Our relationship with Mother is birthed simultaneously with our entry into the world. We take our first breath of life, and display the initial dependent, human longing for protection and love in her presence. We are as one in the womb and on the birthing table. This woman, our mother...all that she is and is not...has given us life. Our connection with her in this instant and from this point forward carries with it tremendous psychological weight for our lifelong well-being. Oddly, I have never wanted to believe this.

First, being a feminist-era mom myself, I didn't want mothers and women to bear so much responsibility or ultimate blame if things go wrong. Certainly many factors other than mothering shape a child's life. Second, I didn't want to face how feeling like an unmothered child had such a devastating effect on me and my life. To acknowledge this meant I had to face it.

While doing research over the years, I have read many books that discuss the mother-daughter bond. Each time I read a different volume, unexpected tears would stream down my cheeks. For I could not recall attachment, closeness, memories of the scent of Mother's perfume, the feel of her skin, the sound of her voice singing in the kitchen, the solace of her rocking, holding and comforting, the intellectual stimulation and joy of being read to.

I knew this was not natural, but could not find a book that explained this lack. It made me feel somewhat crazy. Was I delusional, or just a chick with a poor memory? I could not find a book that explained that this phenomenon of feeling unmothered could be a real deal and that there could be mothers who are not maternal. Nor could I find a book that discussed the conflicted feelings that their daughters have about these mothers, the frustrated love, and even sometimes the hatred. Because good girls aren't supposed to hate their mothers, they don't talk about these bad feelings. Motherhood is a sacred institution in most cultures and therefore is generally not discussed in a negative light. When I decided to write a book on mothers who don't mother their daughters, and the pain this causes girls and adult daughters, I felt as if I were breaking a taboo.

Reading books about the mother-daughter bond always gave me the sensation of a deep loss and the fear that I was alone in this suffering. Experts wrote of the complexity of the mother-daughter connection, how it is rife with conflict and ambivalence, but I felt something different -- a void, a lack of empathy and interest, and a lack of feeling loved. For many years, I did not understand and tried to rationalize it. Other members of the family and well-intentioned therapists explained it away with various excuses. Like a good girl, I tried to make excuses and take all the blame. It was not until I began to understand that the emotional void was a characteristic result of maternal narcissism that the pieces began to fit together. The more I learned about maternal narcissism, the more my experience, my sadness, and my lack of memory made sense. This understanding was the key to my beginning to recover my own sense of identity, apart from my mother. I became more centered, taking up what I now call substantial space, no longer invisible (even to myself) and not having to make myself up as I go along. Without understanding, we flail around, we make mistakes, feel deep unworthiness, and sabotage ourselves and our lives.

Writing this book has been a culmination of years of research and a soul journey that took me back to when I was a little girl who knew something was wrong, feeling that the absence of nurturing was not normal, but not knowing why. I am writing this book now in the hopes that I can help other women understand that those feelings were and are not their fault.

This does not mean that I want you to blame your mother. This is not a journey of projected anger, resentment, or rage, but one of understanding. We want to heal ourselves and we have to do that with love and forgiveness for ourselves and our mothers. I do not believe in creating victims. We are accountable for our own lives and feelings. To be healthy, we first have to understand what we experienced as daughters of narcissistic mothers, and then we can move forward in recovery to make things the way they need to be for us. Without understanding our mothers and what their narcissism did to us, it is impossible to recover. We have been taught to repress and deny, but we have to face the truth of our experiences -- that our longing for a maternal warmth and mothering is not going to be fulfilled and our wishing and hoping that things will be different are not going to change things. As girls, we were programmed to look at the dynamics of the family in a positive light, even though we knew we lived under a shadow. Our families usually did look good to outsiders, but though we sensed something was wrong, we were told that really "it is nothing." This kind of emotional environment and dishonesty can be crazy-making. Smile, be pretty, and act like everything's good. Sound familiar?

I am still amazed whenever I talk to other daughters of narcissistic mothers at the similarities of our internal emotional landscapes. We may have different lifestyles and outward appearances for the world to see, but inside, we wave the same emotional banners. My greatest hope is that this book will offer you acknowledgment and validation for your profound emotions and allow you to feel whole, healthy, and authentic in who you are today.

In writing this book, I had to fight many internal battles. First, I had to trust my ability to do it, as I am a therapist, not a writer. Second, and of more interest, I had to talk to my mother about it. When I brought it up with Mother, I said to her, "Hey, Mom, I need your help. I am writing a book about mothers and daughters and I need your input, suggestions, and permission to use some personal material." My mother, bless her heart, said, "Why don't you write a book about fathers?" And of course, she was worried about being a bad mother, which would be expected. She was able to give me her blessing, however, and I think it is because she was trying to understand that this is not a book about blame, but a book about healing. I have to admit I wanted her to say many things like: "Are there some things we need to discuss or work on together?" "Do you have pain from your childhood?" "Is there anything we can do about it now?" "Can we heal together?" None of this happened, but after all these years of my own recovery work, I knew not to expect her to be able to do this empathic inquiry. I was grateful that I had mustered the nerve to broach the book to her, which admittedly took me some time to do. At one time in my life, this exchange would have been unthinkable.

Somehow, after taking this risk, I found it easier to move forward and be authentic in talking about my own experience as well as about my research. Although it would have felt emotionally safe to write at arm's length from a purely clinical perspective, I hope that my own stories of being a daughter of a narcissistic mother will help you know that I do understand. I have been there.

I've divided the book into three parts that parallel my approach to psychotherapy. Part 1 explains the problem of maternal narcissism. Part 2 shows the impact of the problem, its many effects, and how it plays out in daughters' lifestyles. Part 3 is a road map for recovery.

I invite you now to come with me to learn about yourself and your mother. It won't always be a comfortable and easy trip. You'll be emerging from denial, confronting difficult feelings, being vulnerable, and facing characteristics of your own that you may not like. It is an emotional undertaking. Sometimes you will find it funny. Other times you will feel a great sadness as you try to understand what you experienced and heal from it. By doing so, you will change the legacy of distorted maternal love and make a lasting difference for your daughters, sons, and grandchildren. As you face the honest reflections of your life patterns, you will ultimately like yourself more and become better at parenting, in relationships, and in everything else in your life.

Emotional legacies are like genetic legacies; they pass along to each generation without anyone really taking a lot of notice. Some of the "hand me downs" are endearing and wonderful and we feel grateful and proud, but some are heartbreaking and destructive. They need to be stopped. We need to stop them. Having done my own recovery work from my distorted maternal legacy, I can say that I've been there and I can help you change yours too.

I welcome you to read further with me. Sit with me, talk with me, cry with me, laugh with me. Together we will begin to deal with the reality of your emotional legacy. Even if it's always been "all about Mom," it's your turn now. It gets to be about you, the "you" that maybe you've never discovered or didn't even know existed.

Copyright © 2008 by Dr. Karyl McBride




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15 comments:

  1. Hi CZ,
    I have this book and it is one of the better ones. Also great is "Why is it Always About You?: The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism," by Sandy Hotchkiss. It's very well-written and breaks narcissism down into its various mechanisms. The only problem I have with McBride's book is that it is the "treacle" factor. But I tend to be snooty about stuff like this! One of my fleas!.

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    1. Hi Caliban's Sister,

      You can be snooty about the books you like, CS...ha!

      I haven't read this book very carefully. Sometimes I purchase a book and flip through it for awhile...checking out the chapter topics and scanning the index. This is one I would like to read though since as you know, I'm supportive of those who ARE able to resolve mother-daughter problems. After all, my daughter and I had our trubbles and we still bump heads from time-to-time.

      I read books like this with one eye on my mother--and the other eye on me. ha!

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  2. Just an observation: It took some considerable introspection to separate "blame" from "responsibility." My Psychob IS responsible for inflicting abuse, neglect, her "stuff" on me growing up. I AM responsible for the choices I've made in my adult life secondary to her...."motherly ministrations." I know if I continued to try to foster some kind of mutually respectful relationship with her, I would never have recognized either the genesis of the "Problem" or been able to claim my own life and live in it, not just merely exist in a world of pain, more pain and confusion.
    It's interesting the author speaks to the "Spectrum" of maternal narcissism: That she was even able to approach her mother regarding writing her book speaks to far more courage than I ever would have had-that simply would have provoked another rage-which BTW does not have to be screaming, yelling and overt aggression. You also spoke to your NM, CZ and how you finally were able to set boundaries a la "F*** You!" Guess you got her attention, huh?!
    I found that setting boundaries resulted in her viewing them as "targets of opportunity." I erected my nice, lady-like white picket fence around my "house." Hmmm, what's that SOUND in the distance? Here comes Psychob with a front end loader, crashing through the picket fence, backing over it and then digging a hole and burying the remnants. As she left in her loader with a smirk, I thought, "Well, there WAS a gate you could have used..."
    So then I built a wall of concrete steel re-inforced rebar, about four feet high. What's that SOUND?
    KABOOM! She lobbed a morter attack right over the top. Huh. That was one expensive wall and now my yard and house are in ruins. As I peeked over the mess, I saw her standing a distance away and smirking.
    So I rebuilt the house underground, made the wall thicker, taller and yet MORE reinforced. What's THAT SOUND?? Holy crap, here comes a drone attack, a "precision bombing" that destroyed EVERYTHING. As I crawled out of the rubble I heard her screaming, "I'M YOUR MOOOTTHHHEERR!"
    Not any more.
    TW

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    1. Hello there, TW!

      Sometimes people have to use NO CONTACT to even get the healing process going. We didn't use to say "No Contact" back in the day when I was doing my intensive therapy work. We just abstained from relationship for awhile---put distance between ourselves and the pareNt that was causing us pain. I'm not sure this new way of doing things (actually DECLARING a No Contact zone) doesn't but escalate the drama. I keep learning from readers though and people who are willing to share their stories with me. And I never tire of mother-daughter stories.

      But TW, wow...most people write about Relational Aggression, the psychological abuse women wage against each other. Your mother went WAY beyond that. No Contact would have been the only way to protect yourself. From fences to drone attacks, and nothing stopped the escalation. She sounds scary to me...as in physically dangerous. Were you concerned that she might physically harm you?

      Setting boundaries might ESCALATE the narcissist's drive to Crush Those Boundaries with sledgehammers. It's like telling the narcissist "No!". They have to defy you to maintain their self-esteem. But sometimes, No Contact is the only choice people have!

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  3. Oh absolutely. And so was my late DH. We didn't talk about it much directly because we didn't need to. Besides being a very considerate guy anyway he started my car every morning year round-with one foot out the door. I happened to look out the window one morning and noted he was looking very carefully under my car. Smart man..
    After his death I brought all of my documentary evidence for a Risk Analysis. If I just happened to turn up "Missing" or the victim of an "Unfortunate Accident" I thought it was prudent to let some Professional know so they'd have an idea where to start looking. I gave them very little info, just the written stuff.
    They called me a few days later and made an appointment for me to come in right after work that day. After I sat down in the office, the first statement they made was, "What steps are you taking to ensure your physical safety?"
    No surprise there.
    TW

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    1. Sorry about the delay getting back to you! Sometimes I had all day to sit at my computer without a single phone call or interruption. And then...................there are those days when every five minutes is interrupted with a crisis. Like the air conditioning not working.

      So then the repair guy shows up for a hundred dollar 'trip charge' and flips the circuit breaker.

      ARGH...and then you don't wanna post comments because you might use words you've only ever read in the YouTube comment section.

      Anyway...where we were?

      O yea. Your mother was a malignant narcissist who wanted to eliminate her daughter for being defiant...rather than getting help for herself.

      How TERRIFYING.

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  4. BTW, it was 1984 when I terminated the relationship. I didn't make any big drama about it, just wrote a very short 4 line snail mail letter telling her I did not wish to have any further contact with her. It was very polite and respectful; I was well past the "You did this, you did that" blaa-blaa-blaa. Stick a fork in me, I was DONE. (If my presence isn't helping, my absence won't hurt.) In those days there were NO "self-help" books, I knew no one who had a "mother" like mine and I just bumbled through this alone. PCs and the internet were the stuff of sci-fi, Popular Mechanics and Scientific American.
    sigh. Let the games begin.
    The crazy went on for 18 yrs. until her physical death. I have never regretted that decision despite all the retribution. If anything, her behavior post NC reinforced just how crazy-and dangerous-she truly was. Beware a PO'd MN/Psychopath having significant financial resources. When I tell you money can buy any "service" you desire, believe it.
    TW

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    1. The Internet has been invaluable in not only discovering information about mental illnesses/disorders, but also in finding knowledgeable support for myself. I can't give back enough to what was given to me and that is the God's honest truth. I might still be hobbling around the neighborhood, blaming myself for not being competent enough to keep a man. Yea, that line of thinking goes back several generations of women in a patriarchal society.

      I'd like to know what you think though (if you get find this comment: Do you think it would have been better to let the relationship Drift Apart rather than declaring a 'termination'?

      I'm torn right now, between declaring NO CONTACT and taking a less-direct approach. Like taking a long time to return phone calls, emails, letters, always being busy, tactics like that.

      CZ

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  5. Actually, I tried that first. However, as soon as she sensed I was moving out of the line of fire, she upped the tactics...and KEPT them up. That's why I did the short, sweet note. Which actually makes sense when you think about it: What would you DO if your arm or leg started drifting away?! ;)
    (yeah, I know-get yourself to an in-patient Psych Unit for assistance with your delusions/hallucinations, right?!)
    TW

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  6. I just bought this book and have started reading it - can't seem to put it down - it is SOOOO me! Thanks for posting...

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    1. Hi Paulette!

      I pulled the book from my office shelves and carried it to my nightstand where there's a decent chance it'll get read. I may need intervention on my netflix though...there's nothing quite as relaxing as watching movies in bed on an iPad. ha!

      When I finish reading it, I'll post a blog entry and maybe you can tell me what you thought of the book, too?

      Thanks for letting me know you were reading it! That was very inspiring to know...I'll keep searching for other authors writing about their narcissistic mothers.

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  7. Each situation is so unique, CZ. IMO if your current "distancing" is working for YOU, then stick with it. But the most important variable here is YOU. Really! If it results in MORE of the same when you do reply (and phone calls are veritable IEDs of "provocations") then reassess. I tried to maintain a formal but distant relationship via snail mail only, but that didn't work either.
    I've been trying to figure out for quite some time if there's some association between the NP (or likely Cluster B "parent") and their responses to terminating the relationship: Is there some sort of contingent variable depending on which party initiates the termination? ie, Is there a difference in response on the part of the "parent" depending upon who is the "Leave-ee" and who is the "Left"? I haven't seen any pattern I can discern. Some parents never respond. Others initiate a scorched-earth policy regardless of which party NC'd. More commonly, if the "parent" disowns (so to speak) their snot-nosed, ungrateful 20/30/40/50/60/70 yr. old "kid" inevitably somewhere down the line they resume contact by either playing the "Let's Pretend" Game or some nasty, behind the scenes maneuver if not a nasty-gram directly to said snot-nosed, ungrateful "kid." I knew once I terminated the relationship I was NOT going back: That whole intermittent reinforcement would have made the "next time" even MORE difficult. And I had no reasonable cause to believe change was possible. I had every reason to believe my presence wasn't helping matters-for EITHER of us. Acceptance is a tough road for ACs.
    Sometimes the most compassionate move you can make for all involved is "pull the plug." Chances are, the relationship has been terminally ill or in a coma with no reasonable hope for any form of restoration for years. By the time we're even thinking about terminating the relationship we've lost sight of the reality if the relationship had some vestiges of healthy, we wouldn't even be mulling over the "dilemma" of "What to do." If we truly had "good enough" parents this would be a non-issue. It takes a lot of time and concerted effort on the part of the "parent" to destroy that bond, but they succeed in doing so eventually.
    Guess that's why your Blog is so aptly named "Continuum" eh?!
    TW

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    1. Ooo...at first, I couldn't follow what you were referring to since I'm not considering going "No Contact" with any of my narcissistic family members.

      Then I read my hastily written reply to you (above) and it sounded like I was choosing between Limited and No Contact. Well, not really. It's just that people ask me frequently enough about whether announcing an official No Contact plan is a good idea or not. And about the best answer i have (after running forums for ten years) is: It depends.

      It all depends. On that person. On the narcissist. On the narcissist's pathology. On the purpose of No Contact. On their intent. So I appreciate your comment since you've also been paying attention to what people are doing to end the relationship.

      The Leavee, the "left", the scored earth policy (lol)...how best to separate oneself?

      Since diagnosis is an 'art form' to some degree, it's impossible to have a one-size-fits-all policy. The narcissistic personality ranges from guilt-inducing martyrs to the type of mothers you're writing about: scary, dangerous, mercilessly cruel and malicious.

      No Contact would be your best resort, TW.

      And let me say that you were absolutely brilliant analyzing what you had to do to get away from her. You were figuring this out on your own, when people were still preaching "All God's Chilluns" philosophies. That's really amazing.

      (I just got back from my parent's home where we spent the week-end celebrating Dad's 86th birthday!). That's why my replies are late!

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  8. Yes, exactly. I weighed and evaluated on more than a few occasions the pros and cons of getting an RO. My late DH and I discussed it at length at various times. I'm SURE some people would have thought, "ABSOLUTELY! Get one!" But you need to know WHO you're dealing with and what you wish to accomplish for YOURSELF. There's just no hard and fast rules in these situations: They all exist in those messy, sloppy grey areas of adult life.
    However, if I'd known about the importance of legal issues and how they would have intruded post NC, I absolutely would have had an attorney write a Cease and Desist" letter rather than my little 4 line polite note. I do believe that would have been far more effective-at least initially-than my letter. OTOH, since I was certain the relationship was OVER, period the end, someone who isn't that certain may not find this strategy effective for them.
    OK, I'll shut up on this topic. Thanks for a good discussion. Hope you enjoyed your weekend!
    TW

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