Without medical intervention, I wouldn't be here. My daughter and I wouldn't have the pleasure of one another's company.
Without medical intervention, my mother wouldn't be here. She and I and my daughter wouldn't have the privilege of one another's company.
Without medical intervention, my daughter wouldn't be here...
My mother is in her eighties. She recently had heart surgery. A physical illness in my early forties nearly killed me. Two years ago, surgery saved my daughter's life. We three would have died had we lived a century ago. I am grateful we're together today. I'm also grateful that since the mid-fifties, none of our female relatives has passed away in childbirth. In America, women dying during childbirth went from 60.8 per 1000 births in 1915, to an almost non-existent 0.8 per 1000 births in 1997. (1) This must have had a profound impact on women's psyches! When you realize that women's lack of reliable birth control meant either celibacy or lots of babies and possible death...well, that puts a whole new spin on being hawt. One way to beat the creeping crud of narcissism is to expand our awareness beyond our own story. So let's appreciate that we're free to be hawt because contraception liberated women from concerns about being hawt.
My great-grandmother in Louisiana gave birth to twelve kids and raised the son of the man she married whose first wife had passed away in childbirth. But I don't think she was worried about being hawt. She loved hawt hats, though. I inherited that fetish from her. "Nellie!" the family would shout. "We're late for church!" And off the porch great-grandmother would saunter in her Sunday best, a hat always a hat, and freshly laundered gloves. I love hearing stories about my Southern relatives.
What I really intended to write about today is the healing power of mother-daughter relationships. Now that women are living longer, longevity grants space for soothing emotional and psychological wounds we still carry as adults. As mothers, a longer life graces us with sufficient time to bond with our adult children, making up for past mistakes. I made mistakes. All mothers do. In cyberspace, women read criteria for the Narcissistic Personality Disorder and faster than they can flip pancakes, diagnose themselves, "I shoulda been, done, said, known…" Lotsa tears. Lotsa regrets. Lotsa self-blame. Most mothers are quick to blame themselves with a list of failures as long as Bruno Bettleheim's reign of terror. However, and this is important: my mistakes put me in the category of the "good enough mother," not pathological. Most mothers are like myself. Good enough, not perfect. The only perfect mothers I've ever known, are pathological. hahaha
To reassure those of you who partnered with narcissists, a mother's immature narcissism will be naturally forgiven by her children---usually when daughters have made scores of mistakes, too. Raising a child is never as easy to do as it is to watch others doing it. Recognizing our own errors and arrogance gives birth to humility, and humility initiates reconciliation of old quarrels and petty grievances.
When a mother is not pathological, empathy and appreciation foster mutual respect and love. My daughter forgives me, I forgive her, and we forgive ourselves. It's a natural maturation process. I remind my daughter daily that she is the apple of my eye, the joy of my life. I feel the same way about my son and he gets <3's just as often as his sister.
At sixty years of age, my priorities are in order: how can I make life better for them?
How sweet our later years when we realize what's valuable and what's disposable. Like kids and husbands. Kids being valuable, husbands the latter. Don’t flame me. I'm still a little pissy about being dumped after following that rat bazturd from one city to the next and...darn...I got myself side-tracked thinking about the scalawag My Mother Told Me NOT To Marry and I did it anyway. Mom accepted my decision without further admonishment, it's important to clarify. We hard-headed daughters should listen to our mothers more often. Unless our mothers are pathological. Then we shouldn't take their words to heart because they'll hurt us more deeply than lovers ever could.
As we age, we become more ourselves
A long-term research study reported that the narcissistic personality disorder may not be a life sentence. (2) In other words, pathological narcissism might improve over time. Some psychologists say pathological traits mellow. People also say fairies live at the bottom of their garden but I'm not inclined to believe it even though I'd like to.
First of all, these studies are usually based on self-report. So tell me, how does a pathological narcissist who lacks self-awareness, self-report? The very nature of the disorder suggests excessive self-enhancement and inflated self-esteem. You can't ask a pathological narcissist if she’s gotten better! She'll say she's more together than she’s ever been. She'll say she's finally, after years of putting herself last, prioritizing herself because it's healthy and it's the right thing to do and if she hadn't had kids in the first place, she wouldn't have been so miserable the first half of her life, the little ingrates! She is focusing on herself now and shoulda done it years ago, thus proving she's cured her narcissistic personality disorder.
Pathological mothers get meaner with age, ask her family
She holds her children hostage through obligation, guilt and fear. And even after years of miserable care-taking, she punished her children by leaving her money to charity, telling other people that she'd never want to cripple her children with something as burdensome as an inheritance. If a research study asked about the quality of her relationships, she'd check box 10 for Perfect. "I'm a strong enough mother to do what's right for my children!" This hateful, selfish and punishing behavior is contrary to what happens with normal mothers. Non-pathological mothers naturally move into a generative and wise phase of life when we want to give back. (3) We're concerned about our progeny, our community, leaving the world a better place for having been here. This is healthy maturation according to Erick Erickson. I believe that the majority of human beings become wiser and more gentle as they age, graciously accepting their vulnerability and their family's support.
But there are those older people who aren't generative and wise. Who are still concerned about their hawtness, concerned about their status, as in Over Others, who still seek vengeance for perceived insults, narcissistic injuries, and threats to their superiority. With a pathologically narcissistic mother, the prognosis for a rewarding late-life relationship with her is slim-to-none. Close relationships gets worse as the narcissistic mother's self-control and power over others deteriorates. She becomes meaner when she no longer has the hope of eternal youth and unlimited possibilities.
I used to think caustic women were hostile because they were old. I don't view mean women that way anymore. I see pathology. When an old woman proudly says she's cut off her children and is giving her money to the church, I see a narcissistic pathology. When an old woman is abandoned in a rest home with no one caring enough to visit, I see pathology. Children, who are not pathological, do not abandon parents who loved them. Even children of difficult mothers are devoted to giving back to her when she’s older.
My relationship with my adult daughter becomes increasingly intimate and precious as we age. I am grateful to have the gift of time, growing old with her. I do not off-load my guilt onto her shoulders, insisting I stayed in the marriage because of my kids even if that was part of my decision after the first raging incident suggested my mother was right about that guy all along. No. It's selfish to beg children for absolution. I am no martyr and don't want her to be one either. We carry the burden of our mistakes ourselves with the intention of forgiving ourselves because had we known then what we know now, we wouldn't have done what we did. Life is a series of mistakes and errors, sorrows and joys, false beliefs and unquestioned assumptions.
Getting old is hard. Getting old is hard on your ego.
It only makes sense then that an egotistical disorder would worsen with age. Being elderly increases dependency, makes us more vulnerable, reduces our status, triggers regrets, shouts hello to envy. Being old whittles illusions of immortality.
For years, narcissists were able to hold everything together---effectively mirroring their community, perhaps through brute strength and sheer will. When they get old, when they lose control and become more impulsive, narcissists quit trying. When it's too hard pretending to be someone they're not, they quit trying. Narcissists get worse with age because they give up giving a shit. They've earned their right Not To Care about their impact on anyone anymore ever again. After trying so hard to please everyone their entire lifetime, what did it get them? A bunch of ingrates just waiting for them to die.
Benign, immature narcissism improves overtime. Pathological narcissism doesn't. You'll know the difference because people become more of who they always were.
(2) The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Referenced research study: Prevalence, Correlates, Disability, and Comorbidity of DSM-IV Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Results From the Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions
7. Middle-aged Adult: 35 to 55 or 65 Generativity vs. Self absorption or Stagnation – Care Career and work are the most important things at this stage, along with family. Middle adulthood is also the time when people can take on greater responsibilities and control. For this stage, working to establish stability and Erikson’s idea of generativity – attempting to produce something that makes a difference to society. Inactivity and meaninglessness are common fears during this stage. Major life shifts can occur during this stage. For example, children leave the household, careers can change, and so on. Some may struggle with finding purpose. Significant relationships are those within the family, workplace, local church and other communities.
8. Late Adult: 55 or 65 to Death/Integrity vs. Despair – Wisdom Erikson believed that much of life is preparing for the middle adulthood stage and the last stage involves much reflection. As older adults, some can look back with a feeling of integrity — that is, contentment and fulfillment, having led a meaningful life and valuable contribution to society. Others may have a sense of despair during this stage, reflecting upon their experiences and failures. They may fear death as they struggle to find a purpose to their lives, wondering “What was the point of life? Was it worth it?”