The Narcissistic Mother

Before I decided to stop writing my ‘Movies and Mental Health’ blog, I had intended to do a video about the narcissistic mother as portrayed in two different films, Black Swan and The Fighter; in this post, I’ll be referring to those films but I won’t include video clips. If you haven’t seen them, I recommend both movies for their psychological insight into family dynamics and, in particular, the role of the narcissistic mother.

There’s a degree of narcissism inherent in the relationship between most parents and their children: we take pride in their achievements and feel they somehow reflect well upon us when they do succeed. I’m very proud of my kids and take pleasure in recounting their latest achievements to my friends, and those friends in return (the ones who have kids of their own) appear to feel the same way about their offspring. “My son the doctor” … you know what I mean. On some level, I suppose we view our children as a type of achievement of our own: we’ve spent so many years raising and caring for them that we feel pride in ourselves, as well as in them, when they turn out well.

Under normal conditions, even if we do take a kind of narcissistic pleasure in their achievements, we nonetheless see our children as having identities of their own. When parents have poor boundaries, however, or struggle with separation issues, they may instead regard their children as an extension of themselves, not truly separate. Alice, the matriarch in The Fighter is just such a narcissistic mother. She and her oldest son Dicky have a merged relationship and she exploits his past success as a boxer for her own narcissistic needs. As her second son Micky becomes more successful, she tries to exploit him in the very same way.

Alice reminds me of my own mother, and stirred up one particular memory. During fifth grade, I was given a battery of intelligence tests for admission into the gifted education program. The school psychologist called my mother in for a consultation to discuss the results; when Mom came home afterward, she said to me, “The psychologist told me not to talk to you about what we discussed but I’m going to tell you anyway. She said you’re highly intelligent and you could do anything you want with your life, even become a nuclear physicist.” Even then, at age 11, I felt the expectation being placed upon my shoulders. This incident is but one example of an ongoing way she related to me, as if I were supposed to fulfill some ideal that would reflect well upon her. (We’re in Alice Miller territory, and The Drama of the Gifted Child.) During my senior year in high school, she broke down sobbing when she discovered I’d been smoking pot. “I failed with your brother and sister; if you turn out bad, my whole life will have no meaning.” It’s all about me.

If you’ve read my post about the mostly bad mother, you may remember that Mom had very little ability to empathize with me (or anyone else, for that matter), a problem shared by most narcissistic mothers. Matriarch Alice in The Fighter also demonstrates a complete lack of empathy for son Micky’s needs and suffering. Some my clients were burdened with mothers even more lacking in empathy, so completely self-absorbed that they neglected their children entirely. One type of narcissistic mother uses her children as a narcissistic feed; another type abandons them in her solipsistic pursuit of admiration, attention from men, etc.

For the narcissistic mother who tends to merge with her child, struggles ensue as the child begins to separate. Mother Erica in Black Swan treats daughter Nina as if she were a little girl and refuses to accept that she has grown up. When Nina is cast in the lead role in Swan Lake, Erica (a retired ballerina herself) buys a cake to celebrate — the kind of sheet cake you might serve at a child’s birthday party. When Nina doesn’t want to eat the cake, Erica feels it as a kind of narcissistic injury; she becomes angry and manipulative until Nina backs down and lets Erica feed her a bite. Don’t grow up, Erica seems to be telling Nina; if you do, I’ll turn on you. It’s also clear that, not far below the surface, Erica envies her daughter. She subtly undermines Nina’s self-confidence and repeatedly tries to sabotage her as the premiere approaches.

Natalie, one of my clients, had a mother who resembled Erica in many ways. Natalie’s mother had been raped as a young woman; during her childhood, Natalie repeatedly heard that nothing she suffered could ever compare with her mother’s suffering. Natalie felt as if her own experience didn’t matter. In her teenage years, as Natalie developed into an attractive young woman, her mother would often tell her, “Men won’t be interested in you after you’re 30.” Natalie felt very clearly that her mother envied her, especially for her youthful figure. This narcissistic mother threatened to have Natalie admitted to the hospital for “anorexia” because she wouldn’t eat more. Natalie did not suffer from an eating disorder and merely wanted to stay slim. She felt that her envious mother wanted her to get fat, and in her late teens, Natalie eventually did put on quite a bit of weight. Relations with her mother subsequently improved.

So here, then, are three types of narcissistic mother: (1) the one who merges with and exploits her child as a kind of narcissistic feed, with little or no capacity to empathize; (2) the one who completely abandons her child in pursuit of attention or admiration from others; and (3) the one who envies her separating child for everything the child seems to possess but she does not. I’m sure many of you have stories to tell, about your own narcissistic mothers. Feel free to share them here if moved to do so.

UPDATE: May 23, 2013

Inspired by reader comments to my posts about narcissistic mothers and vindictive narcissists, I’ve released a new eBook on the Kindle platform. It’s a novella-length retelling of the classic Cinderella story, focusing on my usual themes of shame and narcissism, with a look at the tumultuous emotions behind self-injury.

Joe is the author and the owner of AfterPsychotherapy.com, one of the leading online mental health resources on the internet. Be sure to connect with him on Google+ and Linkedin.

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463 Responses to The Narcissistic Mother

  1. daughter of narcissa says:

    There are MANY types of narcissistic mothers, and they also merge. I had an envying/abandoning/raging NPD/borderline mother who was also incredibly covert in public, which was incredibly crazy-making for me. Her waif martyr attitude convinced all her born-again friends that I was the problem. My brother was the enmeshed one and married someone very much like my mother.

    Is it polyanna of me to ask if there is anything good that comes out of us from being raised by a narcissistic mother? My therapist thinks not. I realize I am like a fully-loaded car with defense mechanisms. The ability to survive the situation is not the answer I am looking for. Thank you!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      As a result of my own upbringing, I learned to become highly sensitive to other people. I had to be able to “read” my mother in order to chart the waters, to make sure she was okay before I could get what I needed. I think this type of reaction isn’t unusual, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many therapists have had narcissistic mothers. I still tend to approach many relationships that way — trying to figure out what other people need instead of focusing on my own needs first. There’s a pathological element to it but it has also helped me become a good therapist who readily empathizes with other people.

      • daughter of narcissa says:

        Thank you, Joseph. You are such a wonderful resource. Yes, I have the gift of incredible intuition, so much so that I decode my therapist when she is trying to relate to me by detailing a similar situation and I will completely deconstruct her situation and “guess” what it was, with 100% accuracy so far. But I think she sees this as one more example of my hyper-vigilance and need to understand and categorize anything. I have thought this was a bonus myself, especially after discovering a huge thread of sociopathy in my family, but I believe the T would argue that too much of a good thing is an energy drain. And focusing on others is just another defense against focusing on myself. Ach dieu.

      • Dave Hawkins says:

        Hi Joseph

        I was a scapegoat at home and looking back, treated quite cruelly both physically and mentally. I learned form an early age to separate my 2 lives. At home, always on the defence and always unpopular. Away from the home, I could be my self, although shy , I was averagely popular, good at sport , and treated normally.
        I left home as a teenager to join the army, still shy , but soon realised I could do as well as anyone else. I could also read people and motivate them. I found my self getting promoted quickly. I guess my driving factor was not trying to please, but trying to avoid crticism. Over time this negated my mothers put downs and implanted hang ups. I could also relax, with a narcissist you can never do well enough, with normal people, they congratulate and promote.
        Also, as I don’t like to see others believing they aren’t capable of something, so I encourage. But before you say it, I don’t try to be part of others successes, but I enjoy their success.
        Is this normal?

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          It sounds extremely healthy. You’re trying to give others an experience that was just the opposite of your own. I expect that is healing for you, as well, and I don’t think that’s unhealthy.

          • Kate B says:

            Thank you for that remark. I do enjoy seeing other people growing and improving, though I didn’t get the same support in my family. It is one of the ways how to heal myself, I believe. I want to transform my painful experiences to something beautiful…

        • Sherry DeMuth says:

          Hi Dave,
          I can identify with your post. When I tried to gleen any good that came from living a NM, I discovered that along with empathy and compassion for others, her behavior gave me more determination than the average person. From the 3rd grade forward, when I realized my mother was not the norm, I became determined to leave that home ASAP and never live with them again. So, at 17, I went to a college 5 hours away which meant she couldn’t get to me in a day. I survived and thrived. It was the beginning of finding me. There have still been bumps and bruises because I have chosen to still have guarded contact with her and use firm boundaries with consequences she doesn’t like. I also found your blog about your dying mother. I’m not there yet, but have thought about it often. I will be sad and I will grieve, but it will be because of never having the relationship I could and should have had with an uncondtional loving mother.

      • JoJo says:

        I have a dream, that one day particularly we realize that narcs are ill evil things; that we inherited part of that concoction, and we all get treated. This stuff happens in the brain, people.

      • sabiha says:

        This article explains my dad

    • Carolyn S. says:

      Daughter of Narcissa, Our Mothers sound like they can be best friends! Or would two of the same type be bad together?! I lost a normal childhood.My mother is older now, and I doubt will ever change. She’s great covering herself on the outside, a pro, that’s for sure, it’s a threat to her that I know the “real” her. She tells anyone who will listen, what a very bad person I am, (reflecting all her shame& remorse,& guilt off of her,) I don’t praise her enough, (for what? I don’t know. Never told me she loved me, ever, years of abuse when I was a child, (can’t believe I survived that now that I look back) On and off huge problems with her throughout my life. I was always hoping she would miraculously change, I have to put my armor on when near her, although I’m a pretty loving person, I can’t be like that with her, I finally realize that at 50! It very much helped when my therapist sent me this info by e-mail! I thought I was stuck with the sickest mother my whole life, until I realized there are many more victims. At times through my life I thought, maybe shes right& I am a crazy, bad person, which led me to drink. Now I’m in AA, and I care about myself, and know I have self worth. I am so glad I’m not alone with a mother that has N.P.D. ! Thanks everyone for writing your thoughts, and of course, thanks to Joseph Burgo!

    • Heather Guilin says:

      The answer is an undeniable NO. The long term abuse is unfixable. There is no silver lining.

  2. SW says:

    What about a mother who’s father was *very* English and whose parenting style was ‘no emotion – stiff upper lip’ like a ‘Proper Englishman?’ My mother was the youngest of four and I’m convinced had to suppress her entire emotions in order to live up to the ‘stiff upper lip’ style of her father. This ‘no emotions are to be seen’ was subsequently her parenting style of me (her only child/son). Having seen ‘The Queen,’ I was floored at the Queen’s insistence of no displayable emotions for the daughter in law Dianna. THAT was my childhood. Thus, I’m not exactly enthusiastic to embrace my own emotions. I’ve learned to display them, asking for what I want, establish boundaries, ask for my needs to be met etc. But embracing those emotions? Especially fear and discomfort (my Dad died when I was 17, Mom at 29 and first wife at 35). Still very difficult to feel and then work through fear and discomfort. It’s as if ‘why should I have to feel more pain? I gave at the office. Multiple times.’

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I think emotional reserve and indifference aren’t the same thing. One can be emotionally reserved and yet be able to care about other people, even if the expression of their and your own emotions makes you uncomfortable.

  3. Jodi says:

    I enjoyed your post and loved the Alice Miller reference, as that is my favorite and most-often-read book on my shelf. I am currently enjoying a 4th helping of “Understanding the Borderline Mother” identifying my mother as the Borderline Witch. I also have keen intuition and find it a challenge and reward when I know what my therapist is thinking, sometimes before she even does. But drats when she won’t confirm it for me. :)

    Keep up the good work, Joe! Your articles resonate soundly with us.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I have a client who is remarkably intuitive about what I’m feeling; what complicates matters is that she can sometimes use her intuition in an attacking way, plus she’s not always accurate and has a hard time recognizing that she might just be projecting.

  4. Gayle says:

    Thanks for not becoming a nuclear physicist. Your insight is helpful and is very much appreciated. Sorry for what you went through growing up, though.

  5. Hermes says:

    This is so exact, Joseph.

    “I think emotional reserve and indifference aren’t the same thing. One can be emotionally reserved and yet be able to care about other people, even if the expression of their and your own emotions makes you uncomfortable.”

    Hermes

  6. Loveey says:

    I started to respond to this post but realized i did not want to other than to say like Gayle I am also glad you did not become a nuclear physicist,

    I mostly feel compassion for my mother as I know the parenting they received and as inadequate as mine was theirs was worse and my grandmother as 1of 23 children had it even worse.

    Yes her behaviour has affected me in a profound way but it seems sort of deflecting responsibility for myself to catalogue her short comings. I am not sure if that is healthy or not but that is how I feel

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It seems healthy to me. Sometimes I feel that a part of my own growth-to-come, where I need to go in my emotional development, is to reach a place of forgiveness about my mother and to feel some compassion for her, as you do for your mother. I’m not there yet.

      • GT says:

        That’s a topic I’d love to read your thots on – how does one get in that authentic emotional state of forgiveness & compassion? It seems some people have a gift for it & I often wonder what is wrong with me, what am I missing … – love ur honesty of simply stating ur just not there, without any underlying guilt (at least it seems to me u don’t have it)

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          I feel that I’ve forgiven my father (who wasn’t so great, either) and have many affectionate memories of him now; I see so much of him in myself. The problem with my mother is that all of the parts of me I don’t like, and the ones I struggle with on a daily basis, come from her. It isn’t a question of “forgiving myself,” either — that sounds too wishy-washy. It’s that I work so hard not to express those parts of myself that resemble her, but I felt she made very little effort to do the same. She didn’t do her very best, of that I feel certain, and it’s hard for me to forgive her, given the effect upon me and my life struggles.

          • Jul says:

            What you wrote above about having a hard time to forgive your mother because she made very little effort to change her ways really resonates with me.
            I don’t blame my father anymore for being such a difficult person. Had I been raised by my paternal grandmother, I guess I would have been like him or worse. But when my mother suggested therapy to him to get a grip on his rage attacks which scared the hell out of my sister and me, he refused and said: “I know something is wrong with me. But this is the only me that I know, and I do not want to become someone that I don’t know.” And that was that. Eventually, my mother started therapy to learn how to deal better with our troubled home life.

            And that is the part that I can not forgive and probably never will. The day I realized that neither my mother nor my sister and I were important enough for him to make that effort, that was when the grieving process began.

            Dr. Burgo, you mentioned that you also have narcissistic clients. Isn’t it difficult sometimes to keep your emotions in check when a client does or says something that reminds you of your mother’s behaviour? Or would you say you have perfect control?
            If so, how do you do it?
            I am still struggling on that front….

            • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

              I don’t have “perfect” control — hardly! — but I do know myself pretty well and I know when to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes feelings come up in session and I understand that they’re “me”; I try just to sit with them in silence and not start talking. Those feelings may also (but not always) tell me something about what my client is doing; in other words, just because I get triggered by something said or expressed, that doesn’t mean we can’t look at the client’s behavior and understand something about it, too. It’s hard to sort out sometimes, and that’s why therapists need to have undergone in depth and lengthy therapy themselves.

        • Carolyn S. says:

          Wow, thanks Joseph Burgo, this fits my mother to a tee! My whole life she tried making me feel inadequate, worthless, making me feel like I was the one who was crazy, not smart enough,(study time hurtful, physically& mentally.) Telling friends& relatives who’ll listen, how “horrible I was/am, where they don’t know my side. I faked I was sick while being a young teen, and went to two hospitals, one being Yale New Haven, gladly went through every test,(and that was in the late 70′s,) I would not say a word once they brought in the psychiatrist, being too frightened to what would happen to me when I got home, not too much help out there in the 60s& 70s about abuse. I have an older brother, yet I was her main target since as far as I could remember. He moved far away after marriage. She didn’t like his wife. I remember being on a tricycle, riding it past the driveway, on to the street, where a couple in a car came to a halting screech, after a moment of shock, I turned back in the driveway& my mother yelled from the window upstairs in our house; “What would your father think about what you just did?! I was around 4 or 5, & I remember feeling very uncomfortable to say the least, after she yelled that out loudly,yet never came out to check how I was. That’s “one” of many evil things she had /has done to me my whole life. When my therapist sent me this, it opened my eyes about everything, and knowing others had/has suffered from this same problem, because I thought I was the only one with the “craziest” mother where others would never “get” me when I’ve tried to explain her ways, which is hard to do. THANK YOU!, I will start reading yours/others, books on NR mother’s etc. Carolyn

      • Amber says:

        So well said. Its very very hard to get to that point of accepting our narcissistic mothers. Their hurtful actions and words seem to always get to us no matter how old we get. At least this is my story. I pray for sudden insight on my mothers part to miraculously become the loving parent i’ve needed in life .Reallistically I know it will never happen. I have the hardest time accepting that .

        Rosebud

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          I know what you mean. She is, after all, the only mother you will ever have. It’s natural to wish she could suddenly change and be the kind of mother you need. But don’t hold your breath!

    • JoJo says:

      Loveey, I totally agree. Our mothers are victims of victims of victims. It’s called transgenerational trauma. Why do we so enjoy recounting their shortcomings? Have we not learn to take care of our-selves yet? Quit blaming the victims, including ourselves, and get help!

      • Carolyn S. says:

        Some “Narcs” are worse than others, and go on & on through your life, (they don’t stop after childhood,) mine still tries everything she can, lets see, most recent; trying to have me arrested by going to the Police Station, and making up a story that I sold her diamond rings, all because I got tougher through life when it comes to not putting up with her crap, and told her, calmly, what I think of her comments,or excuse me, her “suggestions,” as she, the tyrant, puts it whenever she comes to town. I decided to stay out of her life for good. That decision took me many years to make. Anyhow, that’s my opinion& answer to your comment. Although, I understand you trying to make something negative, be positive. It doesn’t work that way in every case. Peace, Carolyn S.

  7. RC says:

    I loved The Fighter, especially Christian Bale’s and Melissa Leo’s performances.

    This post makes me wonder what the opposite of the narcissistic mother is. I recently saw a video of Heinz Kohut (link below), who said that the worst suffering he ever saw in adult patients was caused by the “very subtle and difficult to uncover absences of the mother, because her personality is absent.”

    http://youtu.be/ZQ6Y3hoKI8U

    While the narcissistic mother projects all her shortcomings and resentments onto her child, the “absent mother” may just not be there at all, emotionally and psychologically speaking. You can imagine the damage done to a child who looks to his/her mother for mirroring and love and acceptance and sees nothing but an empty shell of a person with no passion, no desire, and no joy.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I totally agree. One of the issues that has come up in my work these last few years — as I’ve come to understand it better — is the devastating experience of finding your mother beautiful but realizing that she doesn’t feel the same way about you.

      • AB says:

        That kind of resonates with me. I just realized recently (thanks to my dreams which I try to decode and to this page) that my mother was disappointed at me since I was born. She has always tried to “fix” me going to doctors ( I remember wearing orthopedic shoe very early on life). I don’t remember any emotional interchange between us and I became a very reserved and quiet child. My defense to the shame was to repress my feelings (as much that they were quite unavailable), and fantasize.

        Now, I have a wonderful relationship with a man that loves me (although he has many emotional issues which I could be contributing with my projections) and I have a good relationship with my parent (although I don’t live in the same country).

        However, my dreams (and not my feelings) push me to something I quite don’t understand yet.

        It would be nice to hear your insights about this mother/daughter dynamic.

        Anyway, thank you and the posters for your help. I really emphasize with you all. There are so many people suffering around due to parent/children relationship that it’s quite devastating. My partner doesn’t want to have children, I don’t blame him, not this way.

    • Jul says:

      I can wholeheartedly agree with that. Absent, empty-shell-like parents seem to do the most damage. I have a narcissistic father so I grew up having to walk on eggshells around him, which damaged me to an extent. But at least he loved to talk about himself like all (I guess?) narcisstists do, so I learned a lot about our family history and had the chance to figure out why he became what he is, why my paternal grandmother became what she was and what I would have to learn to deal with in order to not pass this damage on to my child.
      But I have a friend with shell-like parents who did not seem to have any personality at all and never shared anything about themselves with their children, and he and his sister were like ships without rudders, constantly struggling for some kind of orientation in life. They lost so many years because of that…

      • I wonder if empty shell parents have some organic brain dysfunction, in addition to their narcissisim . My
        ex-wife and both of my children do not seem to experience anxiety or fear.

        • JT says:

          In my opinion there is a cognitive problem in some extreme mental health disorders which involve such narcissism, for example my mother suffers schizophrenia and I can say for sure she is now at a point where her brain absolutely is not functioning on many levels. Some may argue there is a deterioration due to age or the lifelong necessity of medication but I see she has such limited capacity to think and has always been so blinkered that over the years her neural pathways are quite literally entrenched and new ones do not / cannot form.

    • JoJo says:

      Those mothers are absent because they are ill. Narcissism is just one of the many personality disorders and mental illness who produce victims. We are producing victims too.

  8. Christienne says:

    What has been your experience with relating to people who have good relationships with their mothers? I find that dealing with others who cannot understand that a mother would be as you described above to be more frustrating than having to deal with my mother herself. I have learned how to walk on eggshells around her but have difficulty when others, like significant others and friends, are critical because, for example, I don’t call her every day or talk to her about personal things like relationships or work. She hates that I did not become a doctor like her, so I cannot mention my job around her. She was divorced and therefore relatiinships are another taboo topic. People don’t understand why my relationship with her consists of only superficial things like talking about the weather or movies. Any advice or insights from you or others on how to handle this situation?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I know surprisingly few people who have good relations with their parents, so your situation is not one I’ve often experienced … plus my own mother has been dead for almost 20 years now. It must be extremely frustrating for you. One of the unfortunate facts of life, as we get older, is realizing how few people can truly understand our own experience and we’re alone with it. I suppose you have to accept that most of those friends and significant others just can’t understand, and then seek out the people who do. My sister and I can talk about how awful our mother was because she truly understands. People who knew her well while she was alive also understand — it was fairly obvious if you were around her for very long. It sounds like your mother might not be so obviously narcissistic and hostile as mine.

      • A.L. says:

        I find that I can’t tolerate a relationship like Christienne describes, though I admire and feel empathy for those who attempt it.
        I tried tiptoeing for years, but all the accommodation came at the expense of my sense of self. My mother has morphed over the years from histrionic promiscuity with men (sometimes obviously married) and a self-absorbed partying single mom in my younger years, then progressively enmeshed and manipulative, moving into envy and control, with an on again off again high functioning alcohol problem throughout.
        All of my life she advertised herself to be a victim and a paragon of virtue. I agreed on some level (I think I must have known that was safest) until I got enough space and differentiation to think for and trust in myself.
        Our relationship unravelled in a very big way one day when I made a cheeky remark in order to defend myself from one verbal attack too many and found myself with a fist raised in my face. She followed me around her house nudging me, bumping against me and screaming at me, trying to start something as I ran around and tried to get myself and my children out. She lied about this to everyone else in the family later.
        When I talk about our relationship (or lack thereof) other people do try to be understanding, but I feel myself looking for absolution from someone, validation that I’m not a bad person because I refuse to sacrifice myself just to have her in my life.
        It is most difficult with my sisters who relate to my mother differently. While we all agree she has MAJOR issues, they make efforts to incorporate her in their lives and work to wade through the minefield that is a relationship with her.
        I just can’t do it. If I can’t lay out boundaries without risk of verbal or physical attack, then how can I interact with her and ensure my own emotional safety or health? I guess this is my way of differentiating and trying to heal, but it is sooo lonely.
        My husband is disgusted by her, appalled and rarely willing to go through the anger it would incite in him to discuss her. My sisters understand who she is and what she has cost all of us, but I don’t feel right (though the temptation is sometimes excruciating) to talk to them about her. I’m trying to respect their choices where she is concerned. Maybe because deep down I wish that we were all in the same boat and none of us talked to her so that I wouldn’t be so lonely in this experience (co-dependant much?)
        My son’s have her on facebook which is sometimes difficult for me, but it was important to me not to manipulate them for my own sense of safety (my mother disowned my grandmother for her own reasons when I was a child and didn’t let us keep in contact). I monitor their contact to ensure safety and appropriateness on her part, but admit to sometimes feeling threatened, like my kids will one day pick her side. Logically I know this is probably silly, but that wounded child in me creeps back up to the surface when I don’t take good enough care of her.
        Also, given the shortcomings of my parents, I was parentified at a young age and often took care of my sisters when my mom/dad was for some reason unavailable, so I already feel like I lost something with this distance between us (again, maybe co-dependence). Anyway, I would love to get some feedback about coping. I have gone to therapy and will go again at some point, but I like to come up for air sometimes and do some work on my own as well…

        …In re-reading this I see my old pattern of looking outside myself for the nod or the pat on the head that tells me I’m okay, but I know that’s only really going to meet my needs if it comes from me. Back to the drawing board, it’s a process ;)
        Anyway, thank you for creating this blog. It’s helpful to read, and cathartic to share. I respect and admire your willingness to include your own struggles and I appreciate your focus on the set of characteristics rather than the diagnosis-focused medical model. I also appreciate all the people who share, it helps to know that others understand. :)

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          If it helps to get this particular “nod” from the outside, it sounds to me as if you have followed the best course of action in distancing yourself from a very destructive relationship.

          • leemob says:

            One of the hardest things about having a dysfunctional parent, is having other siblings who are not of the same view about that parent. I agree, it can be a very lonely and sad experience. My mother has just recently been relocated to an aged facility because of dementia. I thankfully have the ability to forgive and or forget pretty quickly, for the sake of my own sanity. I understand that she was a product of her upbringing and if she knew better, she probably, would have done better. Believing a parent shouldn’t make the same mistakes of their own childhood is naïve. I believe we are controlled by our sub-conscience, in times of high emotion and it’s at these times our childhood experiences re-enter. My mother’s mother was a product of the 2nd world war and my mother was the casualty. “Walk a mile in my shoes”

          • Anonymous says:

            I myself have a mother ho constantly day after day reminds me of my failures..not lessons learned but as failures…I’m forty four and my mother talks about things from twenty if not farther years ago…she asks me for money every payday to go gamble and then if I need help she talks no dog me out ans tell everybody in the family what a failure I am…therefore I have relatives thinking I’m terrible to my mother…when I’m the one being degraded in a daily basis. Its so painful to be reminded everyday of the things you have done wrong in life…never does she speak on my success unless she puts herself in the mix and main character first…I love her but I am are so much peace when I’m not around her…oh I am her only child therefore I get it all….I have a daughter which whom I very proud of. She has had some lessons in life herself and came out a much matured person. I maid a point to remind her how much I loved and proud of her even when she was doing wrong….bescause this was something I never and still don’t receive from my own mother….when she gets started on my daughter I become very defense BC I know how this can emotionally break you down.

            • CS says:

              I would just like to say I sympathize with this comment and you are not alone. My mother constantly degrades me, even for things that are nonexistant or are in reality good things. I have learned she is just a negative person and there is nothing I can do to change that. The only thing I can change is reducing our conversations to a minimum. Although I will always feel slightly guilty for not talking to her, the ability to create my own life without her in it is extremely freeing.
              I hope you can find a way to deal with your mother’s criticism, or, if possible, to remove yourself from those hateful comments.

    • Kelly W says:

      My NPD mother was very, very covert…an angelic, perfect mother of 4 in public and the very devil himself at home. Add an absent father who turned a blind eye to the hell we were living and you’ve got me…so filled with toxic shame I feel like a living shadow. Others do not understand why I have zero relationship with my parents. What they truly can’t understand is that I NEVER had a relationship with them…I was a singular burden in their lives to be annihilated at every turn.

  9. Shizzle says:

    For me, it was my disabled dad who told me about my high test scores and how I was bound for greatness, not at all concealing his glee at his chance at personal redemption. But Mom was always there for me too:

    -she threw me a college graduation party against my own wishes; I had no friends to invite, but the party was for her friends, anyway.
    -she collects newspaper clippings that mention achievements of people she wishes I was more like, such as the friend from high school who became a successful chef
    -against my wishes, she repeatedly asked a local news website to publish articles I’d written, so when I met website editor myself, he said “oh, you’re the guy whose mom keeps contacting me”
    -asks me to accompany her to book signing event featuring Al Franken, without mentioning that her real plan is to ask Franken to help me market some humorous political t-shirts I’ve designed — which she does, causing him to look at us like crass idiots

    Point any of this out, she denies it, often revising the past (“I never said that!”). I love her but I hate her more.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Ugh. When I read about that Al Franken moment, I cringed on your behalf. My mother at least kept it at home.

    • Monica says:

      I can relate to all that you’ve said but especially the Al Franken story. I was always a very shy child and terrified of being the center of attention. My mother was oblivious to this. When I was about 9 or 10 I used to sing along with the tapes in my mom’s car. Evidently, I sounded pretty good with Tammy Wynette backing me up so my mom, unbeknownst to me, arranged for an audition with the leader of a local band. Against much protest, my mom made me sing without benefit of music or even the tape that I would sing with. I am not a good singer and I know this but if there was ever any doubt, it was pretty much laid to rest after seeing the looks of horror on everyone’s faces. Did I mention there was some yodeling involved? Anyway, it’s not the humiliation of having to sing in front of those people that stands out in my memory, it was the absolute look of disappointment on my mom’s face as she kept urgently telling me to “do it like you do it in the car” . I felt an immense amount of shame by disappointing her by not performing. So even my humiliation didn’t get to be mine, it always was about her. I can only thank God that American Idol wasn’t around back then!

      Thank you for this site and all of you for sharing your stories. As painful as I know they are, they truly are helpful.

      • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

        I cringed in sympathy as I read your story. The narcissistic injury you inflicted on your mother by failing! Ugh.

  10. Diane says:

    My husband had a narcissistic mother. I use the past tense because he died in 2006. they would talk on the phone (he usually had to make the calls, she would only if she needed something), and he would be sharing something with her about his accomplishments in his career, and she would change the subject to herself or to one of the other kids or son-in-law and relate their accomplishments. He felt slighted somewhat. She also would send birthday cards late, or call late, or give gifts from her own closet which were usually things that were inadequate for her home. After he died she warmed up to me more until she realized that I wasn’t going to share life insurance proceeds with her. On a side note, i know that I have a co-dependent personality and find myself attracted to guys that need fixing, or need a responsive person in their lives. I’ve identified this about myself but I seem to get involved with men that have very strange and complicated relationships with their mothers.

  11. FG says:

    The timing is great for this article. I am just now printing up a letter to my narcissistic mother to bring into my therapist for review this afternoon. I haven’t spoken to her since December when she decided to withhold my inheritance from me (she has the power of attorney on this-it’s complicated) in order to sit me down and list years worth of slights she views as horrific invalidations of her need to have central status in my life. When I told her she could keep the money (I don’t want to be manipulated or bought) she continued trying to manipulate me. Then she switched into her “poor me” victim voice and blamed me saying “don’t punish me for my stupidity!” I am so sick of trying to get along with this woman. It is exhausting. Now I know how far she will go and I am appalled!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Sigh. Sometimes I think (as one of the other commenters said) that the only thing to do is break off contact. I’m sorry.

      • pam says:

        That’s a familiar tune! Three times it has been implied to me that I will be written out of the will! All my life my mother has behaved as if she is jealous of me and when I was younger even though it felt that way, I could not wrap my head around that as being a real possibility. We were never ‘equals’ and I knew that, so why would she, who held all the cards be jealous of ME? My dad always told me how much she loved me, tho when I was a teenager she made my life such living hell had I not believed I would go straight to hell if I killed myself – and who needed it to be worse than it was right NOW? – I would have don myself in, I think. She was driving the car when I was three and I crashed through the windshield. Even tho I had numerous hospital visits and surgery for the facial scar (mostly on my forehead and therefore she could hide it under bangs and pretend it wasn’t there) she would never talk about the accident. I dealt with it on a daily basis as kids can be mean and would call me names like “Scarface”, etc. My mother would dismiss any emotion I had about it saying “you can’t even see it!’. My terror of hospitals, the smells (ether when I was little), stiff yellow jello that was served to me there, still haunts me today. She pretends it didn’t really happen, because she would have to feel maybe guilt for it.
        My best asset in life has been that I am fiercely independent and that miraculously, have a very sensitive BS meter. I am so fed up with lies that this family tells themselves to deal with this crazy person in their midst I cannot be with most of them. (Last year on my dad’s birthday, in the middle of a big party for HIM, she was making comments about how “when Daddy dies, I am going to get married again”. One of my sisters got drunk and began defending my mother’s right TO get married if she felt like it while one of my brothers, also inebriated, was calling my sister a drunk crazy person and saying he could not see either of my parents ever being married to anyone else! It broke up the party and half the family left in tears. I wasn’t even invited, though for such a big birthday we would have attended (my crazy sister and mother planned it as a surprise and therefore my dad was unaware my husband and I were not included till the day of, although my son and his wife were there – that’s how I even found out there WAS a party!). Later, when we called my dad to wish him a happy birthday we apologized for not being there but my husband told him we had not received an invitation. My dad made an excuse for that and blew it totally off, once again our feelings inconsequential. I am not sorry that I wasn’t there – esp. after the free for all that ensued – but my parents’ friends got professionally printed invitations and his own family members at best got an email about the event, or in our case, no invitation at all!
        The times I have been rumored to be ‘out of the will’ it is always my sister, mentioned above who has clued me in on the fact that they are made at me for whatever my latest infraction is and that’s what they are planning to do. I do believe they probably will cut me out or at least diminish me in some way. My mother has already given expensive jewelry, her mink coat (yuck anyway!), furniture, etc. to other family members and never to me.
        The latest threat to me being disinherited came when I tried to set boundaries around my mother’s free for all comments about my sister and her family, who came to live with them for a while after my brother in law and sister neglected their jobs enough to get let go and they needed a place to stay. I told my mother, knowing she has no warm spot in her heart for me, to not talk to me about my sister’s family, self or kids because she knows how I feel and I would like to stay off incendiary subjects. She hung up on me in a fury of nasty words – can’t stand being told what she can and can’t do by anybody. She bitched enough to my dad that he called me and told me that if I didn’t apologize “this would have a long tail”. There was nothing to apologize for. I have a right to not listen to her gossip and venting especially when I know she would hang up and do the same thing to me! I said I was sorry he felt that way but I have nothing to apologize for. I don’t.
        Since then I have gotten random, crazy nasty grams in the mail from her, ranting about me and how she has “kept a file of all the hateful things” that I have written them in my life and how full of hate I am.
        I’m not. I am truthful and in the past – we are talking back to high school! – I have tried to tell them how I felt and hoped one day I would be heard. I had no idea what kind of person I was dealing with. Being told someone loved me caused me to think a) it was true and b) she cared . I have cut off all contact with her. She has continued out of the blue to send these nutty things, with cards with puppies and flowers on them, and the most off the charts crap inside. She will wind up quoting a Bible verse or “God Bless” – ing me.
        I am the scapegoat and 5 foot tall, beady eyed, crazy person has run this family and seems to have a twisted death grip on all of them. She delights in any differences I may have with one of my children in particular, a daughter, who I swear, inherited her (and her dad’s, my ex) NPD. Two of my kids and I have good relationships with me and vice versa but my mother likes to rub it in with the one I unfortunately can’t have a lot of contact with (who now is close to her dad who ignored her most of her childhood). Both my mother and oldest child seem to delight in disturbing the SH__. It is hard to realize that you need to cut off contact with people like this but you do. The only “hold” my parents perceive they have on me is their money and I don’t need it. It’s not worth the price of admission.

  12. Mimi says:

    After reading your post, I can confirm that my mother has attributes from all of the three types you describe. She has NO empathy for her children, period. She likes to use our successes or failures to gain attention, be it praise, or sympathy.

    Last year she exposed my husband’s affair to around 7-8 people (that I know of, and she confessed because apparently, she’s also stupid). She did so within hours of finding out. Yet, she’s said on many occasions that I can trust her with any personal business because she “doesn’t tell”. How is that even logical in her mind?? How does that equate? To really add salt, my husband and I know the people. Clearly, she needed sympathy for MY husband’s affair. PFT!

    I am only in the beginning phases of exposing my mother and holding her accountable. It should be a fun ride. I’m thankful to know what she’s about, however, getting here was a most painful journey. I am out of the woods now though, and I am determined to stay on top of her mistreatment of me. She can follow her own advice to me when I was young, “shape up, or ship out”. My preference would be for her to choose to ship out.

    Thanks for this enlightening post.
    Mimi

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You’re welcome, Mimi. In my own experience, I had NO IDEA that my mother was so narcissistic until I was in my early 20s. Before I started therapy, I thought all my issues were with my dad! Sometimes it takes a long time to recognize the truth because it’s so incredibly painful to face.

      • IG says:

        I was in the same situation! My mom convinced me that my dad (who left her for a younger woman) was a terrible person who didn’t care about me and so I didn’t speak to him for 10 years. After him and I reconciled (thanks to therapy) she accused me of betraying her by being best friends (we’re polite) with my dad’s wife and choosing to be in my half-brother’s life. She cursed my wedding and wrote out lists of 20 or so items of why me, my dad, and a few other people are terrible people. After that blowup I made up my mind to not speak to her at all but now she just found out she has cancer and since there’s not a single other person that could care for her I will have to grin and bear it.

        • Joseph Burgo says:

          I think you’ll have to consult your conscience and do what you feel is necessary. It won’t be a truly loving gesture — more a sense of obligation — but it’s important to guard yourself against later feelings of guilt.

    • pam says:

      2nd comment. The lack of empathy is truly another appalling part of the NPD personality. I call it the wheel hub and spokes. All the spokes feed into the hub and that is who these people are in their minds. The center. All energy, all paths, all spokes feed into them so it is all about them. My mother’s only tragedies in life have to do with her drama surrounding other people’s tragedies! Her life has been privileged and almost perfect, although I say that and would never want it, because she gives nothing. She only takes. That to me doesn’t sound rewarding.
      I never tell her if I have any health issues, anything, because I swear, if I said, for example, “I have Stage Four Pancreatic Cancer and 6 weeks to live” she would immediately tell me about someone she knows who died a horrible and painful death, how she made food for the meal after the funeral but no body appreciated how much work she put into that casserole (which could divert into a conversation ABOUT casseroles and what she should serve at her next bridge party!) and then she’d hang up and cry to someone for sympathy and attention because “I just found out my daughter is dying of cancer!”. Ha! Sounds extreme, but this could be a real scenario with her. No empathy, no interest in anyone but herself, no tact and no attention span unless the subject is the one she brought up.

  13. Hermes says:

    Until about eleven years ago I had never heard the word “narcissistic”. And if I had heard the word narcissism it merely brought to mind someone who was always looking in a mirror and obsessed with physical appearance!
    Hearing about narcissistic mothers (or parents) was a further eye-opener. I have read some of Alice Miller’s writing, and others, such as Dr. Richard Grossman’s essays. That such awful, abusive people could exist, particularly a mother, took me a while to process, and the fact that they could so adversely affect their children’s lives, probably forever, was to me horrific. A child cannot escape from the clutches of such a parent, but my feeling is that once an adult, the healthiest course is to have no further contact wth the abuser.
    Certainly one becomes more aware now, and I can find myself listening more sharply for interchanges between parents/offspring. And I can recall, many many years ago, a woman we knew whose daughter had just got her first job at about 18 years of age, and with her first own money had bought herself a little outfit. The outfit was not haute couture, and the cloth was synthetic, but she was so happy to have made her own first purchase. The mother sniffed when the kid appeared to show what she bought, saying something like: “Shoddy stuff – poor quality”. Instead of praising the girl.
    I know my own mother rounded on the woman, and gave her a piece of her mind, along the lines of “if you can’t say something good, then don’t say anything”. Good for my mother!

    Yes, of course, one hears about abusive families, physical abuse cases brought before the courts, and that is what most people, including myself, would have considered “abuse”.

    However, it has to be said that surprisingly many parents, mothers, are good, non-narcissistic people. I know from my own parents, as I have probably mentioned before.

    As regards others not uderstanding or seeing what is going on with the narcissistic mother/parents, well you can take it from me that they do, but it often doesn’t suit to say so. As in “none so blind as those who do not wish to see”. And then of course, despite considerably more information being available in the past years on the subject, a vast number of people know nothing about disorders, narcissism/NPD, or even mental illness matters in general.
    A short little book (70 pages) simply titled “Narcissism” I’ve read by a Professor Jeremy Holmes (Exeter University – U.K.) who researches personality disorders, points up how important the gleam in the mother’s eye is to the infant, and how important it is for the parents to show they are proud of their offspring. Of course, I used to think all parents were like that.
    How sad is it that mothers could be otherwise?

    Hermes

  14. Wonderful, concise and interesting breakdown of the narcissistic mother. I think some have a hard time conjuring narcissism and mother if there’s not the traditional narcissistic qualities of grandiosity, attention to appearance and an outgoing, gregarious personality. Narcissism is often more subtly observed in the mother (or other) who doesn’t primp and preen, with a more low-key (but no less psychologically deadly) personality.

    It’s all about your mother, right? ;).

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Linda — yes, you ended up in the spam file but I fished you out. I don’t know that it’s ALL about your mother, but for many people, she’s absolutely at the core of everything.

  15. Jessi says:

    As someone in my early 20′s, 1.5 years after the realization that my relationship with my borderline/anxious/depressed mother was problematic, there is a lot that resonates in this post. Beginning to separate from a needy, demanding woman who is also giving and generous, I have begun to understand how I have lived my life to satisfy her needs rather than my own. It took me making decisions that she felt didn’t reflect well on her to see that I was raised to provide her with a sense of self-worth that she otherwise lacked. My own experiment (if you could call it that!) with pot which I jokingly made the mistake of telling my mother warranted a similar response to the one above…Taking a medical leave of absence from work was met with concern for my career and employment prospects, rather than my well-being.

    Perhaps I am lucky that there was an all-good side to my mother, as well as an all-bad, but it makes making sense of the chaos exceptionally difficult. I can’t, as some can, walk away or completely distance myself from this relationship, but instead have been working to set boundaries and redefine on my own terms what I want this relationship to be. In the short-term it’s meant pulling away and not sharing details of my life with her, because I can’t hold myself away from her very well yet. My problems become her problems and then I am tasked with comforting and fixing her issues as well as my own. It’s a vicious cycle.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Have you come to all those excellent realizations on your own? You’re an extremely insightful person and it sounds like you’re doing a great job of trying to set some good boundaries with her.

      • Jessi says:

        A car accident and complicated recovery which stripped me of my normal means of coping (control, achievement, etc..) have resulted in acute anxiety/depression as well as PTSD symptoms which I have currently been working with in therapy.

        One of the main issues for me has been that, because there is a civil lawsuit associated with the car accident, I am re-traumatized through the proceedings (the recovery is as much the trauma as the actual accident). Thus I am working both retrospectively with my issues from childhood, in addition to dealing with the more recent traumas as they arise. My therapist tells me that I would have eventually worked through most of the mother issues on my own, in a more ‘natural’ way, as I had begun before the accident had I not been so suddenly and completely incapacitated.

        As this is a situation that I am powerless to change in many ways (these aren’t ‘normal’ stresses in that I should be adapting my flawed responses to them), I am curious to your thoughts on how to approach this. I am currently on low-dose a/d’s just to get through the next couple of months but have become increasingly uncomfortable with that decision- not the least because they don’t really seem to be helping-the question is would it be worse without? Feeling awful in the short-term while I wait out this legal process so I can deal with the real issues doesn’t seem to be that palatable of an option either.

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          Since the drugs “don’t really seem to be helping,” I think you already have your answer. Why continue taking them? This may be an unusually challenging time in your life, but I think it’s a mistake to consider it an anomaly, and that once you get through it, you’ll never have to deal with such feelings again. I don’t mean this in a negative way, but who knows what awaits you in the future? Maybe you should try to enlarge and strengthen your capacities during this difficult time, so you’ll be more able to meet the next challenge, rather than trying to get rid of your feelings with a drug.

          • C.S. says:

            This previous post raises an aspect not yet discussed here so I will post my thought. We of the mean-caretaking figures are often under the impression we can do everything by ourselves, including figuring out our early relationships. It’s a trick you play to avoid NEEDING anyone because when was it ever safe or healthy to need? I love what Gregory Bateson says, “It takes two…to know one.” As painful as it is, a therapeutic relationship is necessary for pain this deep; no one has the self sufficiency kryptonite to escape this stuff. Further bias of mine – CBT can’t touch this stuff. Find a certified psychoanalyst and work through it WITH someone.

    • KARE says:

      jessi,

      you should realize that you are fortunate to have a mother, and to have a mother with an all good side is great

      chances are she had to come by that much on her own – her socalled all bad side may be signs of the abuse she experienced, even still does experience

      you may be in the same boat

      perhaps opening your heart will heals both of your hearts

      • cher says:

        it is really sad that the cyle continues when it is not broken

        families should work together

        many won’t due to denial and fear though

        anyone willing to do the work should be admired

  16. a reader says:

    Poor mothers! (And fathers too). Would they not all be perfect, if they could?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I suppose all parents would like to be perfect, if they could. I’m sure my own mother would have loved to be perfect, just as long as it required no effort or sacrifice on her part.

      • Sundra says:

        Do you think that when children experience behavioural and emotional problems, they are indeed reflecting what is lacking in their parental care, and that what is behind that is the parent’s own injuries and coping mechanisms, not just in cases of narcissism, but most parents? Parenting theories are so often focused on correcting a child’s behaviours or problems, with an underlying assumption the parent is not a part of the problem, but I’ve come to believe that whenever a child is experiencing behavioural and emotional problems, or developing copying mechanisms, etc., it’s an opportunity for parents to look within and see if this isn’t the child reflecting the parent’s own dysfunction. The solution then starts with the parent facing that dysfunction or defense mechanism so they can try to provide the child with the positive nurturing they need, or at least, understand the issue is more complex than just “the child’s problem”? Except for severe cases of parental abuse, we seem to live in a culture of blame the child and only when the child is an adult, do we start trying to understand the effects of the parent on the child through psychotherapy. What if parents were taught to listen and observe their children as they’re growing up and use those observations to learn and grow and improve themselves as people and parents?

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          I couldn’t agree with you more. In working with children long ago, I eventually came to feel that, in most cases, the child was “acting out” some issue that the parents hadn’t resolved. When parents brought a “problem” child in for treatment, what they really needed to do was to get into therapy themselves.

          • Sundra says:

            Once you publish your book on defence mechanisms, could you write a book for parents ? :-)

            • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

              I’m not sure if I have a book’s worth of material to offer, but I’ll give it some thought. Thanks. Actually, once I finish this book on defenses, I’m going to return to the book I had already started — one on shame — and publish it myself sometime next year.

              • Sundra says:

                After the book on shame then. :-) My feeling is that while there’s obviously a percentage of parents (much higher than most would like to believe, I think) who are extreme and abusive, narcissists who would be incapable of considering what impact they have on their child’s psyche through their own defense mechanisms, there are many more whose own defense mechanisms and shame are having an impact on how they parent and relate to their children without them being aware of it. It is the last thing they want to do but in turn it creates a new generation with defense mechanisms and shame, etc. And there are also copying mechanisms, such as the parent who was abused is often overprotective and controlling, for example, out of fears for their child brought on by their own trauma. That in itself creates its own type of psychological injury on the child—and then as adults they need to seek therapy to help them overcome their resulting injuries and mechanisms. If you could write a book with all your insights on the role of parents in shame and defense mechanisms, everything you write here on your blog, for all those parents who, if aware, would try to change, it could help break the cycle. The other side of this is that children, I think, have an innate understanding of what they need to grow up in a healthy, nurturing environment, and when something is missing or wrong, they express that in many ways, through behaviour, mirroring, through anxiety, low-self esteem, the whole spectrum. I ’ve seen children of parents who were very authoritative develop anti-authority rage at school, which resulted in the parents punishing the child with more authoritative measures, which just made it worse because in fact the child needed more freedom to develop their own sense of self, or others who had entitlement as a defense mechanisms from their own troubled childhood who projected that entitlement to their children, who grew up being taught that if they didn’t receive special treatment in the world it was a tragic injustice and so developed that constant sense of misfortune and depression as adults. So I envision a book that can help parents see how they can not just work on themselves but also learn how to listen and understand their child’s problems and work on changing that at least in how they parent. There’s so much knowledge already in people such as yourself. If it could be used for prevention, to break the cycles of psychological injury, it would be a big step for humanity, I think.

  17. Ben Morgan says:

    I think I’ll give a story of my two parents. Now, I’m highly intellectual and want to go off to University. My father, having done 9 years, feels compelled with me going to Hawaii State or the like which are in the USA; we’re Canadian. I personally don’t want to go to an American university as I have always had this vision of the US being evil, manipulative, and quite frankly dysfunctional. My mother, who tells her kids “become anything you want; just make sure you love it.” I don’t really mind any of this, but what stabs at me is the fact that everytime I fail at something, its my mother, not my father, that tells me how unrealistic any of my ambitions are such as going to University. My brother managed to receive Ontario Honours for getting 80 and above in his college level classes and his co-op. Now, I have no co-op, but a full university workload of classes with a science fair project, a website, and a full-time job. My mother tells me how much my faather and her are expecting e to make honors like my college brother who lugs around playing video games from dawn to dusk and evermore.

    Why is it that y healthy mother who has no psychological problems able to exert such anxiety while my troubled and “distraught” father is a bit of a support beam?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Maybe you need to reconsider your view of your mother as “healthy” with “no psychological problems.” That sounds unlikely. Are there ways in which you get a double message, one verbal — “become anything you want, just be sure you love it” — and another non-verbal or subtly undermining? The fact that she responds by telling you your failures were inevitable makes her earlier words of encouragement sound awfully hollow.

  18. Hermes says:

    No one says parents have to be “perfect”. I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect human being, parent or otherwise. The “good enough” parent will not demean, belittle, blackmail emotionally, and in general play mind games with his or her offspring. The narcissist is adept at mind games and covert abuse. Put plainly, the narcissistic parent makes the child’s life a misery.
    And that is abuse.
    Subtle, but abuse nonetheless. But, of course, the narcissistic parent is, in her (or his) own mind, absolutely perfect. After all, others are just objects.

    Hermes

  19. Arrested Development says:

    Dear Dr. Burgo,

    I’m 42 and, for years, I have struggled with my inability to develop a direction in life. I was fine through my twenties, when accomplishment consisted of staying on the high-achievement academic track — Ivy League college and Ivy League law school. But once I got to the point in life where I needed to make decisions for myself — the primary one being what do I want from my own life? — I was completely lost. My career went into drift. My relationships with women went from being mildly unsatisfactory to being non-existent or outright terrible. I watched friends from college and law school begin to rack up incredible achievements, while also experiencing great personal and career satisfaction, while I could never even figure out which direction to point the car, let alone get it into first gear.

    After years and years of therapy in which no one ever pinpointed the issue for me, my current therapist finally suggested that my mother is a narcissist. I suppose I always knew this on some level, since every discussion always seemed to revolve around her; since she constantly did things I asked her not to do because they were hurtful or irritating; since her explanation for doing these things was simply “because I want to” — as if that reason was self-evident and should end all debate; since her explanation for why I was unhappy was always that it was the fault of my father for leaving her, etc., etc., etc. But having my therapist put a label on my mother’s illness has been revelatory for me. Now there is something to google, which leads me to blogs like this one, which help me put the pieces together. I always wondered why I am the way I am — why I felt so directionless, so powerless, so half-a-man, so cowardly, and so unsure of myself, in spite of my (objectively speaking) impressive accomplishments. Now, I know the answer.

    But that leaves me still groping around for a direction. And, every day, as I see classmates and former colleagues profiled on TV and in national publications, interviewed for their expertise on TV, appointed to high government and business positions, I feel tremendous sadness for what I could have accomplished with my talents had I only had parents who felt it was their responsibility to take care of me as a child, not mine to take care of them. For many years, I survived in the working world sheerly on my great ability — inculcated by my mother — to do the bidding of others, regardless of the personal sacrifice. But I could not jump to the next level, which requires ambition, self-confidence, passion, and a “north star.”

    How do I get these things? I’m only 42 and I have a lot of life and career left. But, every day, I struggle with the fact that I have no passion that powers me, no great ambition to push me through on the days when I feel uninspired (which is most days). My mother always shot down my dreams as a child, so I stopped having them. I never developed the dream muscle. How do I get it now, when my default position is to shoot myself down before my mother does? I want nothing more than to have the passion that my friends have, which is what drives them to do the great things they have accomplished. (None of them are purely success-driven; they’re successful because they love the thing they’ve devoted themselves to, whether it’s music or public service or finance, and have become among the best in the world at it.) My mother deprived me of passion and drive; how do I develop these things at this stage in my life?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I wish I had a simple answer for you. It sounds as if you have a good therapist; now the goal would be to discover the ways that your mother is alive and well and living inside you every day. An early focus of the kind of work I do is to counteract the emphasis on cognitive-behavioral views about learned behaviors and automatic thoughts pervasive in the mental health profession today and to help my clients recognize parts of themselves that function like separate people, with intention and goals and feelings of their own. How does the narcissistic mother in you continue to shoot you down, deprive you of your passions, make you feel as if you can’t have the things you want out of life? We internalize our parents and they become aspects of ourselves — internal objects, as we say. It’s not a construct or an idea; they really do function with a kind of independent mental existence. The work of your therapy might now be to bring those “people” into the light.

      I enjoyed both of your comments — you’re a very good writer.

      • Arrested Development says:

        Thank you very much for the compliment — writing is something I really enjoy. As for what I’ve internalized, there is a piece of code operating in my brain like the old Basic computer language. It’s an “if-then” statement that reads: “If I want X, then I can’t have X.” It’s the result of my mother’s constantly shooting down everything that I wanted to do that did not fit her model for me. (Her model was for me to become a professor like the man who left her, my father, but that’s a separate issue.) It’s pretty much worked that way throughout my entire life. If I want something, then I immediately decide I can’t have it and give up. I’ve literally walked away from beautiful women in bars who were clearly (in retrospect) interested, because I unilaterally decided that they already be spoken for. There was no evidence for it, and they must have been single (or at least looking) since they were flirting with me, but I decided that I did not stand a chance and walked away. I’ve never been one to “go for” what I wanted, because I just assumed it wasn’t there for me. I think this is the fundamental reason for my lack of passion and direction, and if I could rewrite this piece of code, then I would be a long way towards getting what I want out of life.

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          I don’t think it’s a bit of code but rather a part of your mind that’s alive and full of intention — the mother that you’ve internalized and made a part of you.

        • A.L. says:

          Arrested Development,
          I wonder if that internalized mother within is afraid of what you might accomplish if you really invested some passion? Sounds like you might be unstoppable? What effect would that have on her? Could she fear that you won’t need her? Could she be envious of what you might achieve?

          My NPD mom liked to feel necessary and wise. She like to pit herself in the role of encourager and cheering section, wise sage, talking to me as though I were holding myself back, (meanwhile flinging undermining passive aggressive digs and debilitating labels at other times). Talk about your double bind! Am I powerful, or powerless? Both it would seem, at least until I can crawl out from under the emotional oppression and discover a self that is of my own making and not this half-baked product of someone else’s mould.

          I think that on some level I sensed my mother felt envious/threatened by my successes and the threat to her had an emotional cost for me. My way of coping and ensuring that she met my needs (or at least appeared to) was to subvert myself, make myself smaller, less than I am, sometimes invisible.
          This core believe could also explain why I feel shame/anxiety whenever I let my enthusiasm or passion about something show. Same thing when I feel confident.
          My experience has taught me that having the gall the let these characteristic shine through will inspire resentment in others, resentment I will have somehow deserved.
          So I guess she was right, I am the one holding myself back, I just never understood why I might choose to until now.

          It sounds like you might have also bought into and made someone else’s beliefs your own, for whatever reason. I hope that you are able to work through that and follow your own direction because it sounds like you have even more to offer the world!
          Thank you for sharing, as you’ve certainly helped me understand my own situation a little more :)

          Cheers!

          • Marilu says:

            Arrested Development, another very late reply: I was wondering, when you mentioned the issue of losing confidence/ not having passion for things, whether the problem might be also that it feels as if your passions, dreams, feelings and thoughts are not even your own, but perhaps your mother’s, which of course makes it very logical that you give up on them. What I mean, could it also be a problem with autonomy and ownership of your own mind that plays a role in this? Hopefully this is useful and helps you to work this through.
            Good luck!

        • Gina says:

          ArrestedDevelopment, I know that your post was over a year ago, but I feel the need to pass on how I started, and now I feel almost “over” my mother completely. I am still in contact with her, but it is only through a line or two on a card for a special occasion. Just hearing her condescending voice on an answering machine gives me an anxiety attack. Thankfully she doesn’t even try anymore, since she knows that I won’t call her back.

          Anyway, when I first discovered that the problem was with my mother and not me, and that my mother was still directing me from my own head, I got angry. I’ve been told that anger is the first step. Well, this anger lasted about a year or two. But, in this anger, I learned to fight back. I learned to stick up for myself. Whenever I’d think that I was doomed to failure or debate even trying, I’d yell, “SHUT UP, MOTHER!” Naturally I only yelled out loud when I was home or in my car, but even mentally saying it was a great first step.

    • anon says:

      we could be similar. only diffrence is not only was my mother narcissitic but so was every one else in the family – 2 sisters and 3 brothers… and a mojority of relatives and their offsprings… and the charismatic preachers in the mix.
      all i have had in my life for 20 years was therapy… not careers and family.
      so if it will help you have not been alone in this strange life of narcisstically poisoned environment.

  20. Lisa thomson says:

    Excellent article. I like your movie characters as examples as it really puts into perspective the narcissist in ‘action’. i.e. loved the “Citizen Kane” example.

    Do you have an article on Narcissistic Fathers?

  21. dedea says:

    Hello, this was an incredible article to read after having my NM stay with my family for three weeks. She just left today and I was feeling really guilty, as I often do, after spending time with her and not providing her with all the N supply she needs. After all these years and miles between us she still has this power over me. It was an incredible revelation when my therapist pointed years ago, after my father’s death, her illness and the impact that it had and continues to have in my(and siblings) life. I thought that I could put up boundaries and face the fact that she would never be the mother I think every child deserves. It still hurts and the little child in me still longs for her to change even though I know it is not possible. I want to protect my family and I want to be able to not feel this way any longer. I try to work through this but do you have any suggestions?
    Thanks on advance,

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      What I don’t hear in your description is any sense of your own anger. I’ll bet you’ve got quite a lot of it somewhere. In my own therapy, because I was so keyed into my mother’s needs, it took me years to access my anger. So in addition to the hurt child longing for a “real” mother, there’s probably a very angry you who had to bottle up all her own feelings to give her mother what she needed.

    • Dave Hawkins says:

      Dedea

      If your NM comes to stay with you, you control it. Control the amount of time, control the activities. I put up something on my blog about this.
      However I have to say, when my NM visits, I still have little palpitations, feelings of resentment, always wonder what trick she will have to make everyone feel uncomfortable., how extreme will she get this time, how can I avoid being alone with her.
      But please Dedea, believe me, the guilt you have is implanted maliciously. Don’t allow her into your head, she has no business there. Don’t fight fire with fire, just distract , distract, distract. If she then gets frustrated and makes a mistake, ask her to explain, explain , explain.
      Sounds exreme I know, but consider yourself and your children first.

  22. dedea says:

    You are absolutely correct, the entire time I am with her, I spend trying to control my anger. That is an extremely tiring effort as you may know. Thank goodness she lives very far and we do not get to spend that much time together (she usually comes for a visit for 3 weeks once a year). Although I have to control myself a lot on my weekly phone calls.
    I feel like I have made a lot of progress in dealing with her (tools given to me by a therapist) and the distance helps. After her toxic presence leaves I feel like I can breathe again.
    My main concern is that my husband and child are not affected and I try to keep the peace when she is around. Thank you so much for writing about your experience and for answering concerns.

  23. Judith says:

    I have just recently cut all ties with my mother and I have reasons to believe that she may be suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). I have been reading as much as I can about this disorder and I can’t help but believe this is exactly what our family has been suffering with for decades. My mother recently spewed so many hurtful words to me that I decided I simply can’t deal with this anymore. She told me that I don’t know what love is, I don’t have a conscience, and that if I wanted to have a relationship with her that it would be on her terms, not mine. She demanded that I read the bible, particularly referencing the parts about honoring thy mother. She implied that my father, who passed 6 years ago, always knew that I was nothing but trouble. I begged her to stopped saying such things and that I have never tried to hurt her, but she replied saying that I need to rethink that and that there were many things I had done to hurt her, she just would not tell me what, apparently I am simply supposed to know. In order to be as forthcoming as I can, I believe that it is worth sharing what it is that I actually did to deserve the verbal assault. My mother has stopped all visits to her since Christmas saying she is just not feeling well. She allows my eldest sister in, but that is whole different situation. My brother and I have become increasingly concerned about her health, but she has refused to see a doctor. Her last doctor visit was in January 1965 (47 years), this was her last check-up after I was born. I spoke to her last week and she had sounded as though she could not breathe, she said that she felt like she was having a heart attack, and with great fear I called emergency medical services. I told my eldest sister what I had done and both mother and sister screamed at me, telling me that she was fine and they informed me that the medical technician came and said that my mom was fine and that they had no idea why I would call. I knew from the minute I called the emergency line that I was going to be punished for defying my mother and I was. She told me to stay the hell out of her life and that she was going to call the police and file charges against me along with all the other things mentioned earlier. I did find it interesting that my mother’s breathing was fine when she was screaming at me over the phone, even though ten minutes earlier she sounded as though she was dying.
    My mother for as long as I can remember demonstrated very strange behavior, she has no ability to empathize with anyone, she would never apologize to anyone no matter what she did, and I only remember growing up being told why a particular person would no longer be in our lives and it was always because they did one thing or another to my mother. I have tried to please her for as long as I can remember and always hoping that one day she would really be proud of me. I went to university and graduated with honors, I have moved up professionally for the last 15 years and all I would ever be told, “I am proud of you, but I am proud of all of my kids”, but I felt like what she has been saying for so many years is “don’t think you are that special”.
    My mother never calls me and has not called me for as long as I can remember, it was up to me to call her. She has appeared to be delighted when I have called or excited when I would come home for a visit, but we could never seem to be on the same page with much of anything or how we think about friends and family. My mom did not speak to most of her siblings and we never had the opportunity to get to know our aunts/uncles/cousins etc… Apparently my father’s side of the family said something about her 40 years ago and so we stopped visiting them. Sad thing is I think most of these people are deceased now so I can’t even reach out them in order to be a part of a larger family. I do wonder what I can expect from my mom, as I wrote her a letter explaining to her that I am honoring her wishes and will no longer engage in a relationship. I did let her know that what she said to me did hurt me, but also told her that it might be best to simply move on and it is best for both of us. I did not hear of NPD until after sending this letter to her, now I know it won’t mean anything. I need to start healing myself as I can see how many bad traits I have picked up as a result of my mom’s behavior. I have no idea where to start.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Getting real about who your mother is, as you are doing, is where you start. I wouldn’t get too preoccupied with the NPD label. Your mother has many features of Borderline Personality Disorder as well. The important thing is to have recognized that she’s an extremely troubled person who is toxic to be around. You wondered what you can expect from her — more of the same would be my guess. People like her who rely so heavily on blame as a defense never recognize they have any emotional difficulties and so it’s impossible for them to change.

    • Linda Olsson says:

      Dera Judith, Reading your description of your life with your mother brought tears to my eyes. For the first time, someone described something very similar to my own experience. My mother is not outwardly aggressive. To people who don’t know her she comes across as gentle and quietly charming. She is artistic and she used to be very beautiful. But throughout my childhood she scared me. There was a constant threat that underpinned my entire life that if I angered her she would abandon me. My brother and I were told never to greet our neighbours. I never knew why, but I knew I had to obey. My mother has always lived in a black and white world: people are either good or evil, there are no shades. Even people she has never met, such as celebrities are classified. And I always knew that it would take very little for me to pass from one category to the other. It scares me that even now when I am 63 and my mother 84, she still exerts that same kind of power over me. Recently, though, with the help of therapy, I have tried to tell myself that I can accept my mother’s abandonment. That it might even be a blessing.

  24. Bowden says:

    Hi, I don´t know if this thread is still alive, so I´ll try to keep it short. I found this page after, quite late in life, having made the possible insight that my mother has some kind of narcissistic personality disorder. There are many things that fit; her random violent rage-outbursts while I was growing up, physical and verbal abuse, emotionally manipulative strategies. She was never able to maintain long term relationships in her personal life or in her work. She talks badly about basically everyone that ever has entered her life. Here comes the tricky part: she is a proffessional psychologist, and psychological terminology is her first tool, she loves to label other people as “narcissists” or “sociopaths”. When her relationships abruptly ends, this is often her explanation, that she found that the person in question was either of the before mentioned. She can also express something wich is, or sounds like profound self-insight. She can say that she knows she did wrong and that she is sorry, but that the reason was a sort of “crime of passion”…she is simply “too emotional” and sensitive and therefore has an excuse ,wich I always felt forced to accept. Her “official face” is of a person who cares too deeply about people, who sacrificies herself too much, who always ends up getting used(her children, her patients etc). It´s a face full of sweet, loving words and gestures.
    Sooner or later it cracks, and the other “face” pops up, wich is it´s complete opposite; violent, hateful,destructive.
    She can express an ambition (like for example constantly repeating: “The most important thing for me is that you and your sister has a good relationship” ) and later act in a way that is completely contradictory to that. (for example to manipulate me and my sister against each other).
    When having conflicts with her while growing up,it happened that she used her proffessional skills as a tool, saying that there was “something seriously wrong with me” and that I should be taken to a mental hospital.
    My problem is that the psychological vocabulary that seems to help many people in understanding and distancing themselves from a destructive parent, is for me too infected to use, or to trust in, having heard it being used all the time from the person I am trying to distance myself from. My other problem is that when she is in her official “normal” mood, she seems to be communicative, open, solving problems etc; a behaviour that would be contra-productive if her only goal was to “divide and conquer”. She can also be generous and self-sacrificing. When reading about narcissists, I never came across a description of this kind of behaviour.
    I have before had the thought that she is somehow bipolar, that the one hand doesn´t know what the other one does. But for the first time I suspect that perhaps both hands know exactly what they are doing together. My question would be; can a narcissist develop such refined strategies? Self insight as a pure act? Self sacrifice as an act?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Your wonderful (but awful) description of your mother highlights the problem with diagnostic labels. She definitely sounds narcissistic but she also has features of borderline personality disorder. The personality disorders aren’t really discrete categories; many of them display narcissistic traits.

      To answer your questions, a narcissist will do almost anything to achieve the impression he or she is after — so yes, it is entirely possible, even likely, that your mother has developed a professional facade to convey the very opposite of the person she is inside, and she is indeed “acting” a part, although it doesn’t sound as if she’s conscious of doing so. If she is, if she understands it’s a manipulative facade, then she starts to sound a bit more anti-social.

      • Bowden says:

        Many thanks for your reply. Very interesting to read about borderline personality disorder. It is somehow helpful

  25. RACHEL says:

    Reading the comments here has been a hugely reassuring, but uncomfortable, trip into a world of stories with alternative, but shockingly similar aspects to those featured in my own life.
    Unfortunateley, as I’m sure is the case with many of you, I also realise that my sister is just like my mum – the womam my sis rants and raves about being so self absorbed and impossible, not to mention, emotionally abusive, embarrassing, neglectful, cold and spiteful.
    It hurts me so much to realise. And I know there is nothing I can do about it.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      As I always say, all you can do is protect yourself from the ways they treat you, because they’re certainly not going to change.

  26. Lisa G. says:

    Dear Dr. Burgo:
    I, too, had a narcissistic mother (merging/abandoning alternating type for the most part), along with a psychologically abandoning father. I too found that my capacity to read people and empathize was enhanced by my childhood experiences of constantly trying to read my parents, trying to find some way to convey to them that I existed. I too pursued a PhD in psychology–I’m ABD. Unfortunately, although I spent many years healing from my childhood, enough visible scars remained that I was bullied out of my PhD program (long and separate story). My scars from being raised by a narcissist have caused me to continue to be a target of workplace abuse and harassment–workplace narcissists can “smell” when you’ve been raised by one of their own. As a result, I now work at low-level customer service jobs, my resume being permanently ruined. I also care for my 98-year-old narcissistic mother in her home, which is where I and my husband live. We lost our own home and were forced into bankruptcy due to the loss of my career and my husband’s own troubles with workplace bullies. My mother is worse than ever, her narcissism evident to all in our family (except complete outsiders, who she charms with her vivaciousness). She is in incredibly good health for her age, and is bound to live to 100 at the very least. It is, as you can understand, a trial every day to deal with her.
    My own issues are now not so much an active healing process, but the grief that I experience from my lost career, lost home, lost financial future, and other lost opportunities (including a lost family I never raised, due to having no sense of what a mother should be like). I’m 55 and and all my skills, talents, and abilities are wasted. Just as I had no impact on my parents, I have now had no impact on the world–my career would have provided that, but it is gone. So grief for all the losses is something I deal with on a daily basis. I’m currently writing a children’s book, in hope that in this manner, perhaps my existence will leave some kind of mark on the world. How does one deal with the grief of all the losses linked back to having a narcisstic parent–if those losses continue into the present?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Lisa, this is truly sad. I don’t know how you deal with that grief other than to go through it as you’re doing, and to try finding some way to engage in your world in a way that makes a difference. You’re doing that, too. I wish you the very best of luck and I’ll grieve a little for your lost opportunities, too.

  27. Alexis says:

    Joeseph this is for you and all others who have contributed to this blog. Your views and your opinions really moved me, I can relate and empathsise with you all.

    Two months ago I finally made the decision to sever the relationship with my narcissistic mother. I was an emotional conduit for my mother throughout my childhood; I was the families scapegoat, punch bag and a never ending extension of her. I can remember anger manifesting within me from an early age; however I could never understand why. It was only as an adult that I began to understand where the fire in my belly came from. I learned to realise that none of my emotional needs had been met; I had never been loved, valued, protected, significant, cared for,seen, heard, accepted, respected, appreciated, acknowledged, held, or ever felt a sense of belonging. Yet I can safely say her needs were met.. by me.

    When I was a child I would stand at the top of the stairs and will myself to fly. I was only 7 years old and I had a dream of being a bird. I thought if I could fly, I could be totally free. One day I willed myself so hard and when i opened my eyes I was at the bottom of the stairs. I spent many days after at the top of those stairs but it did not happen again..Did it really happen? I don’t know; but the only way I could describe it was an out of body experience.

    That dream returned to me 2 months ago and I have to say the eurphoria of freedom feels amazing. My anger has evaporated, my positive relationships have strengthened and I feel safe.. for once in my life I have a true sense of self and I know in my heart I will never look back. What’s important is to take care of your inner wounded child. You will feel guilt for your so called abandonment of her because she will not let you go easily..she will try to put you back in that role that meets her needs. They are emotional vampires! But I beg you to save yourself and be free. It is only when we are stripped of everything that we are free to be anything.. Something I learned as a therapist..(Children internalise parental distress, they internalise it and carry it around like it is their own. A child is not automonous, it does not stand alone; significant individuals in a childs life will project and transfer emotionally. If we dealt with parental distress first we would have far more chance of preventing child abuse. ) Thankyou so much, I felt like I found myself some peace..I hope you all eventually find yours because you are all deserve to be free. Alexis

  28. Alyssa says:

    I just recently went No Contact with my mother who may be Narcissistic. From early on, she made it very clear she hated children, and that my brother and I were both accidents. As soon as she was able to, she trained me to do all the housework, while she would sit and talk on the phone to one of her boyfriends or friends-then take the credit for what I did. I had to make sure my brother did his homework, wore clean clothes, cleaned himself in the shower. She made us lie to our Dad when he was home about her affairs. If we made her mad, she’d heat a hamburger flipper in the oven and smack us with it. Of course, we thought this was normal until our Step-mom (who I consider to be my real mom, now), was appalled that a parent would do something like that.
    After years of her stealing from all of us, committing multiple crimes (tax fraud, ID theft against me, arson), I still tried to maintain a relationship with her. She’d brag about my art skills while asking if I was going to return to playing the violin because ‘she wanted me in an orchestra so badly,’ or do something nice once in a blue moon, then tell her friends what a great relationship we had, and how much I trust her. Never mind the week before was the first time I’d talk to her in months.
    She treated her second husband’s daughter better than she ever treated my brother and I, because the girl idolizes her. Even now, after divorcing the girl’s dad, both the ex-husband and his daughter live with my mom. After her third wedding, she moved to an entirely different state, and gets upset we won’t visit her, even though she always wanted us to drop everything (I was my dad’s parents caretaker until recently, and my brother is still in high school.) and figure out how to get up there on our own. She claimed to still have parental rights over both of us-which made no sense since I’m legally an adult now, and in our state, moving like she did means she voluntarily gave up her parental rights to my brother. When my grandfather was in the hospital, she threw a fit because my Dad didn’t want her to go back there and see him. He was in ICU, unsteady, and the things she did to my Dad and us during the divorce really upset him. She got mad at me later because I told her I was staying instead of going back with her, because I didn’t want to be gone if his condition worsened. My brother went with her, but she refused to bring him home, demanding our father drive all the way up there and get him if he wanted him so bad. I sold some jewelry to pay for the trip, because Dad was just getting back into the workforce, and didn’t have the money to drive 800 miles to and fro there unless he borrowed some from someone. Now, she keeps telling my brother he should move in with her, that she can get him a job and the school there is SO good.
    But, after she tried to plan my wedding, my bridal shower and my baby shower (when I was only 8 weeks, mind you) all at once…I felt a bit uncomfortable. Then, I found out she had stolen my identity-which at the time she said she was clueless about, now she says her second husband did it-I called her out. She turned it into my fault, and went on about how her health was so unsteady, and she couldn’t bear to be under so much stress because it could hurt her. Again, I was about 8 weeks pregnant at the time, so I really didn’t need stress. But she didn’t care about my well being, or my child’s. She came to my wedding, and threw a fit that I requested a few moments alone before the ceremony. When we did pictures, she threw a fit I did the photos with my dad and step-mom first (my step-brother had to get back to his school several hours away for band, so I did those before any other pictures.); she refused to smile in our pictures; she smeared me to her whole family because I had a picture of my deceased grandmother (dad’s mom) who raised me, but not one of her parent’s-her mother was a lot like her, and always put me down. My cousin, who’s mother is my mom’s older sister, told me about this. She has similar problems with her mom. At the reception, she refused to talk to anyone except her family, then when she was given a slice of cake, she threw it away without eating even a bite, claiming it was disgusting and dry. Nobody else had that complaint, in fact, most people said it was the best cake they ever had and asked where I got it. The problems continued to the next day, when she told me she wasn’t going to give me my wedding pictures. Her friend did the pictures, which I now regret. Her husband called me a b***h, and she threatened to call the police on me for ‘harassing her and her friend,’ when all I did was ask the friend if I could get a copy of the pictures cd, and even offered to pay him. When I DID get the CD, from her, she had it addressed to my brother who is her current favorite child, and had deleted the pictures of me and my Dad and Step-mom. She tried to play nice then, but got mad when I refused to give her my new address. Since then, she’s left me voice mails that were verbally abusive, then others that were “I love you, I’m sorry. Please call me.”
    Even more recently, I found out she still had me on her health insurance. I had to call her today to ask her to remove me, as I’m covered under my husband’s insurance. She tried to play nice with me, asking how I was and how the baby was doing (I’m now 5 months). When I made it clear I still wasn’t going to talk to her, she demanded to know what she did because ‘she wanted to apologize.’ I hung up, and not even ten minutes later, she left me a hateful voice mail letting me know that since ‘I didn’t trust her, she wasn’t going to trust me. Isn’t life a b***h?’ Then proceeded to tell me that she would just get a copy of my marriage certificate herself instead of giving me the address that I need to mail it to. At this point, all I can do is laugh because she just keeps reminding me why we can’t talk. She hurt me enough as a child, I don’t want her to do it to my child. Still, sometimes it hurts that she doesn’t care for me and I had to do this.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Ouch! It’s amazing, isn’t it, that we take so long to recognize the truth about our mothers? It makes me think of those poor monkeys in the Harlow experiments, clinging to the wire mother because there’s no other source of comfort.

      • Alyssa says:

        It is amazing, and sadly my brother still hasn’t seen it. With me out of the picture, he’s the “Golden Child.” The fact he has a difficult time with our step-mom makes it easier for the N Mom to manipulate him. I guess it’s easier to believe she loves him in some way or another than to accept she’s just using him.
        He’s very violent prone, and I think it might have something to do with how different our infancy was (especially after reading up on Harlow’s monkeys again,). When I was born, we lived with my Dad’s parents-so my grandmother was the one who really took care of me until I was about 2 or 3. When he was born, we lived in our own house. Although we still saw our grandma, N Mom was his primary caregiver.
        Harlow was on to something, even if his experiments were a bit controversial.

      • JT says:

        Strange you mention that as I always think of myself as being one of those sad lil monkeys bashing themselves in frustration :( not to mention there are NO family photos in which I don’t look anxious, pale, thin, and I am biting my nails in all of them from the age of 2 right up to teenage years. It’s so sad to think of oneself as being such a lonely emotionally intruded upon and simultaneously neglected infant. Then I think of the sheer brutality of the environment my mother was raised in – in utter poverty in a bleak remote northern village on the edges of a coal-mining village – and I start to see how / where it all traces back to. It is also not possible to feel incredibly sorry for someone who suffers terrible psychotic episodes as a result of her schizophrenia and was brutalised by my father and ‘the authorities’ in her young adult life. I am all in favour of the ‘run for the hills’ approach for dealing with extreme narcissists (Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward is an excellent book), however, if we cannot feel sorry for them -from afar- then we are not much better than them. It’s a sad case of there is no good outcome no matter what stance one takes in my opinion.

  29. Jean-Emmanuel says:

    Thank you for this post. I have a question though
    How may one be sure that he has (had) a narcissistic mother?
    I’m 33 now and need to move on with my life. I don’t very often talk to my mum anymore, though when I call her we pretend to be polite and have a “normal” mother / child considering-each-other-as-adults relationship (now it may be once or twice a year, but I very often talk to my dad however).
    My ‘normal” (most often) emotional state is anxiety. Sometimes with paranoid thoughts, but those I can better overcome now, taking the time to think and convince myself, that: “no, this person does not make fun of you” or “this total stranger won’t judge you, and even if he does, that won’t affect your integrity”. Sometimes I feel lonely but I’m very used to it now. I’ve been used to it for years. I don’t go out very often. Can’t assume a job for that reason of normal satisfactory social relationships. but things are getting better anyway.
    I think I respond well to the clinical depiction of a child who had a narcissistic mother. I remember her manipulate me to think or say bad things about my dad, being disgusted by him because he made to much noise chewing his food, or simply breathing too loud. By the way, I’m a male (and I’ve learned since that no young boy should be brought to disregard his father with the complicity of his mother). I remember the discreet grin of triumph on her face when I actually burst in anger against my father (who wouldn’t even punish me for this) because he disgusted me. I remember she forgot me often: once in an airport, once on a stone, from which I fell (I still have an ugly scar on my left leg) when I was a boy. When I was 20, I met someone who told her, in front of me, that she dressed me as a girl when I was younger (but is that true?)
    I have an older brother who I think may be the “golden child”. Never had to fight for anything.
    Today, I feel stuck. I don’t have a job and can’t figure out how to draw a professional project. even if I attended top notch universities where I got three master degrees, and play the piano at a concert level (but nevertheless dare not play in public), have many cerebral field of interest (including psychology, of course). Those results I obtained mainly for her I guess. But I know they are mine now, even if I got them through heavy years of deep emotional suffering and loneliness.
    My situation is not entirely desperate because now there’s love in my life. There are things I’m not proud of, of course like the fact that I’m still dependent on my father’s financial help (I think he makes it as a kind of compensation for having let me in the arms of that cold dangerous mother of mine). I’m in a relationship now. My partner says to me that it is an obvious fact that my mother does not love me, did never love me as a matter of fact. She probably loved her through me, as long as I was her slave, serving her ego through my successes, and that everything I will keep on doing to make her love me is a loss of energy and a gain in more suffering. I think he is quite right. But deep inside I have this terrible, unrecoverable wound, known from nobody else in my entourage (because everything she did to me was so subtle, every word, every gesture concealed under a frost of “everything looks so perfect in this family, where there is money and love etc. we don’t have to care about Jean, he’s clever, loved, he will always be all right”). How can you talk about that early abuse? First I have alway considered my condition as normal, I had no right to complain since I had ANYTHING on a material point of view. But one day I tried to commit suicide (I took some pills and remember I phoned my mother on that particularly festive occasion: “are you happy now, that’s what you wanted no?!”)
    I recently became aware that my passion for piano playing consisted symbolically to seeking emotions I was deprived from the early interactions with my mother who probably felt nothing for me as a person needing to grow towards his own autonomy.
    Hope those few line will help someone. Sorry for my english, I’m not a native speaker (my god, this last word tells a lot on me: how can one be sorry for something he’s not). I would greatly appreciate an answer to this comment. Best regards.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Thanks for telling us about your mother. I think your partner is right — your mother is incapable of love and there’s no point in going back to the source, hoping that one day she’ll love you the way you had hoped. It sounds to me like it would be a good idea if you had a professional to talk to. Do you have a therapist, or have you considered looking for one? If so, try to find someone who won’t offer you medication as the answer. Look for someone who works psycho-dynamically.

      You’re English is excellent!

      • Jean-Emmanuel says:

        Thank you for your advice. And congratulations on the insight: My comment sounds like I’m asking for therapy, which is right: I need to talk. Actually I’m craving to communicate. I had three therapists in my 20s but stopped 5 years ago when I met my partner. I was under medication at the time (antidepressant and depakine), didn’t help me at all (on the contrary: too many side effects). After a while I realized like many others that my therapists were more concerned about the pharmaceutical industry than about my health. So I quit the zombie dope (surprisingly easily). I’m now considering hypnosis to help me let go with my anxiety, paranoid tendencies, over-idealistic expectations and all the if-I-don’t-succeed-she-won’t-love-me-(and-I-will-die) stuff. I think I have quite a clear map of who I am “on the inside” now, I just need to find a way to make my way without the burden of the past (which is precisely what I would call “living”, neither in the past nor in the future, but right here, right now) and without behaving like I’m an emotional slave to the first person I meet on the street (in short terms: let go that sad and lonely inner child of mine). My mother was cold as ice, false and jealous. The child I was will never receive any kind of a nurturing attention from her. But the hell with it I’m not in prison any more ! And I can tell that to those who feel they had similar life stories: surviving her is the sign that you are a strong, resistant, and resilient person. Never forget some part of her tried to kill you when you were in a state of total dependency and vulnerability. And nevertheless you made it to this day: You are a survivor. Never under estimate what you’ve been through: it is a serious condition, though invisible to others (the world won’t spare you no more than some lambda happy other), your childhood years were years of intense inner suffering behind a mask of everything-is-so-perfect-in-her-beautiful-puppet-world-of-her . I was a hostage for many years: double-binded, like I had a gun on my back, compelling me to smile on any occasion. And that was my mother holding it ! That can lead to schizophrenia. And now is the life, and it’s beautiful, and my desire is sky-rocketing. My mother is not powerful any more, I won’t have to deal with her urine like she said I would have to do soon (she told me that the last time I talked to her… what a charming and respectful thing to say). My father tried to be a saint to her. I won’t waste my life with it. I have compassion but I have a life of my own to live, and with alway more happiness in it, come rain or come shine. I’m lucky I’m becoming aware of it at the end of the first third of my life. I have many friends who can relate with compassion. I think us who suffered from women with that kind of affliction (and luckily the clinical depiction of narcissism exists and makes its way: we are not alone) can make something good out of it. As I say now: not everybody had a chance to be raised by Dracula. Thanks for your ears, advice and blog. I will come back often and try to participate to the general discussion. Have a good day.

  30. Johan says:

    Hello Dr. Burgo,

    Thanks for being open with your thoughts and opinions on this site. There is so much useful information here. Thank you.

    Quite recently I found out that my mother’s way of relating to me indeed was toxic. I aquired the “golden son” role, which meant that I was entitled to everything without any effort on my part. As long as I was in union with her anyway.

    She was never outright mean to me, and if she was, she hid it well under her ‘i’m-a-happy-saint-persona’. I felt a lot of guilt towards her, like I had to be there for here. That was my mission. Feeding her with whatever she needed that moment. And being with her would make me feel good, although it got more and more awkward the older I got.

    She would never express her anger openly, but I have a feeling that she put it over on me somehow.

    What bugs me now is that there can’t be a resolution to this. I’m left with a terrible value system and a non-existent sense of boundries. My sense of self is increadably unbalanced. It feels like I will be stuck with her forever, like I wont find anything better than her. Relating to other humans in a normal way is so foreign to me.

    I’m still young though (i’ll be 20 in august) and very determined to be comfortable in my own skin.

    My question to you Joe is, how do you think “golden childs” in genreal should go about if they want to separate themselvs? I’m guessing that you’ve had to do with clients from those kind of backgrounds.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I think you need to set firm boundaries for yourself, and limits as to how much time you will spend with her. It doesn’t sound like you need to break off contact with her but you definitely need to break free. Get some distance. Getting some therapy would certainly help with the transition, and help you learn better ways to relate to those other humans.

      • Johan says:

        Joe, thanks for your reply.

        Yep, boundries seems just about right. I have huge troubles to distinguish between my and other’s business. It makes social interactions restricted and essentially fruitless, because I either take too much responsibility or you know, don’t care at all. And I think it’s somewhere in between those extermes that it starts to get interesting.

        Thanks again for answering

  31. Barbara says:

    I truly believe many children of Narcissistic parents (I had an NMother) become empaths in the same way people born blind or deaf developed their other working senses to a higher degree. Being an empath was our way of dealing with the capricous, unpredictable and soul-less treatment we got and to anticipate it in the future. We become highly attuned to the needs of others but sadly, until we learn about Destructive Narcissism we have a hard time seeing it in the people around us. I was 45 when the lightbulb FINALLY went on.

  32. Jen says:

    After nearly 2 years of twice-weekly insight-oriented psychotherapy, I am no closer to resolving the issues I have with my narcissistic mother. She typifies the diagnostic criteria for NPD and HPD, although her behavior is ego-syntonic so she externalizes all blame. Her behavior has worsened with age which I attribute to her heightened defensiveness in response to the narcissistic injury that aging inflicts. It took many years (well into my 30s) before I started setting boundaries with her (anathema to a narcissist). After countless attempts at establishing/re-establishing boundaries, I decided to completely cut off contact with her. This sounds absolutely terrible, but I often think I will never be free of her until she dies. Even then, I doubt that would affect any positive intrapsychic change for me. My therapist sees my avoidance of her as a negative therapeutic indicator, which I disagree with. I’d rather suffer attacks from my introject then from her anyday.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I disagree with your therapist, too. Sometimes there’s nothing to be done but establish the ultimate boundary — no contact. I’m not sure what you mean by “resolving the issues”. You’re never going to stop feeling distressed by her, or mourning the mother you never had. It sounds to me as if you’ve made quite a lot of progress in understanding her and protecting yourself.

  33. Lu-Lu says:

    In 2009, I fled 19-yr marriage to psychopath. His kids from previous marriage took his side, so I lost my grandkids of 16 yrs. Spouse died 2011, after setting up legal process to carry on ad infinitum; his kids are continuing abuse through court. (We weren’t divorced.) The bad news: I seem to have PTSD from continuing legal nightmare. The good news: I’ve done lots of healing from spousal abuse & set clear boundaries w/ my toxic family. They took his side, choosing to believe I had a mental breakdown (1 of his many fabrications). They don’t know where I live or my phone #—since 2009. One time I’d call & Mom would be nice; next time she’d be nasty; so I stopped calling. I write & send cards. She tried to tell me what I could & couldn’t write to her, but I write what I want, although I’m respectful. She tries her lovey-dovey best to draw me back, which won’t work. I’m the family scapegoat for a # of reasons, which is their problem—not mine. An underlying problem between Mom & me is she blames me for her boyfriend sexually molesting me at age 11. She never dealt w/ that or her own childhood sexual molestation (common for her generation). My goal is to mentor other women who experienced spousal abuse—once my life is on an even keel. Your website is helpful, so I thank you Dr. Burgo.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You’re very welcome. This phenomenon of women who blame their children for sexual abuse at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends makes me so angry. I suppose I can find a way to understand it from a clinical perspective, but I personally find it infuriating.

  34. Lu-Lu says:

    I understand many reasons for toxicity in my/spouse’s families. However, accepting both families, dealing w/ feelings/issues, setting boundaries & moving on are more difficult. Unfortunately, the “victim” (can’t think of a better word) of abuse shoulders most of the consequences, deals with many losses & is often re-abused by family/friends who blame her for abuse & label her a “nut” case. Frequently, they expect her to “get over it” quickly, without support, then blame her again if she doesn’t recover speedily. Yet it takes long-term therapy to truly recover & be healthy. Re-abuse & isolation make it more difficult.
    Sis/Mom deny sis was also sexually abused (not as serious) by Mom’s BF. I was chastised when I complained as he groped us in Mom’s presence. At 18, I told Mom he had sexually molested me for 2 yrs; she insisted I get him to admit (she secretly recorded); she believed me “for the moment” then went into denial; she later married him; it felt like she chose him over me. Mom seemed to think I enticed him (jealous?), but I was only 11 & not interested in having sex with my “father”. Sis/Mom mention I was almost certainly sexually abused also at age 4—implying there’s something wrong w/ me to be molested by 2 people. And they think I’M nuts!! I’m sad they choose to stay toxic, which makes it impossible for us to have a good relationship. I learned to stop hoping for love & acceptance from them. As the saying goes, what they think about me is none of my business. Mom frequently says she wants me to be “happy” (probably includes keeping family secrets). Living in integrity is more important to me, so I treat people respectfully even if I lose all respect for them. My true family are my dear friends who love me, encourage me & support me—as I do them.

  35. Sunny says:

    I have a 14 month old daughter. I have told a couple of people that I feel like my daughter is an extension of myself- that I take everything I think I would feel in a given situation and assume that’s what she’s feeling. When she hurts, I hurt. When she’s happy, I’m happy. I’ve used the sentence you wrote, “or struggle with separation issues, they may instead regard their children as an extension of themselves, not truly separate” almost word for word when describing my relationship with my daughter. I do have separation issues. I leave her at daycare during the day, and I am fine with that, but I do not like leaving her at any other time. I feel that my time with her is precious, and I don’t want a moment of it to go to waste.
    It scares me that this aspect of my motherhood is described so accurately in this sentence in a blog post about mothers that are narcissistic and damaging to their children.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      The fact that you’re aware of these issues is a big plus. You can take note of the way you see her as an extension of yourself but not necessarily let it rule your behavior. Also, you need to distinguish between the narcissistic attitude you describe from ordinary (healthy) maternal preoccupation. If you’re away from your daughter all day at work, it’s natural that you don’t want to lose another precious moment.

    • anon says:

      i wouldn’t want to say you are a narcissistic mother but may be you are just having a normal and healthy instinct to protect your very small child. may be a little more exaggerated.

      my daughter is 5 and the thought of her wandering in the estate without me or her mother ….. even though i see other even younger children doing that…. makes me cringe.

      indeed i see many teenage girls going home from boarding school alone with their big bags meandering in crowded town and i always wonder if i would want that for my daughter and the answer is almost like no. She would need to have a phone fully loaded with airtime to call and a battery that can last a week if she was to do that journey alone.

      so am i narcissistic? i do not think so…. but may be very over protective. and yes i wonder if i would not be undermining her self confidence and hurt her in the process.
      its not easy being a parent. Just do what you can. and be easy on calling yourself a narcissist. May be you are not.

  36. jaybird.flyaway says:

    i have been blown away by your site, and more recently your blog on narcissistic mothers.
    i have been dealing with depression/anxiety for some time now and have been seeing a psychologist for just over two years, which has significantly impacted on my life – especially learning about boundaries and my own codependency. i live a long distance from my mother and 5 siblings. About a month ago i had an overnight stay with my mother and a 3 night stay with my sister, who live around the corner from one another, which went ‘pear-shaped’.
    after witnessing my mother’s abuse toward my sister, i (foolishly) decided to challenge her on her anger. i crossed boundaries during the ‘discussion’ and i can see that i became embroiled in an issue (my sister and my mother’s relationship) that is none of my business; however the slippery slide of enmeshment and codependency overtook me. in the end, my mother screamed and waved her fist in my face as i drove along the highway, making all sorts of accusations, hurling emotional abuse and cruel comments at me. i apologised for crossing the boundaries to her and sought to use my own personal experiences of being on the end of her anger – my mum could not remember them. she congratulated me for not crying. she then dropped me at my sisters house and drove off in a huff. later that night she sent me a text saying ‘thanks for taking me to the podiatrist, the shoes are good’. there have been 3 text messages since the outburst, i have responded in a factual manner. we have played our online scrabble shots, however there has been no other communication. i am not sure what to do next! do i pretend it never happened, like i’ve done for 47 years? am i doing that already? do i forgive? my sister has now withdrawn from me also, with limited ‘love you’ messages. my heart is breaking! but maybe it always was anyway?
    thanks so much for your blog. i love it. and thanks to the responders too – i am amazed to be finding some answers.
    oh and as a mother of 3 adult children, i can definitely see my own narcissistic mothering tenendencies. ihope for healing, restoration and forgiveness for my own sins against my children.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      While I understand the feelings of guilt that come up when you recognize your own “narcissistic mothering tendencies,” try not to think of them as “sins”. The point is to see one’s limitations and try to do better, not to expiate or beg for forgiveness. You will always have that narcissistic tendency and you can best help your children by being aware of the way it is an ongoing issue and try to minimize its influence. The past is the past and forgiveness won’t change it; being onto yourself and doing your best now can make a very real difference.

      As for your own mother, you need to understand that nothing you can do or say will make any difference or improve the relationship. The destructiveness and the poisonous emotions are established by her her limitations as a person. The best thing you can do is protect yourself and set good limits. Don’t try to fix it … you can’t.

  37. Jean-Emmanuel says:

    Dr. Burgo, you should write something about the movie “Suddenly last summer” with Liz Taylor and Montgomery Clift: it’s a great deal about narcissistic – phallic mothers , the kind of pain they inflict to their children, used as objects to magnify their ever-hungry ego and finally leading them to the terrible fate of being devoured by their peers.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I haven’t seen that film in years but I remember liking it very much. I’ll give it another look. I’ve been thinking about a video on narcissistic mothers using “Black Swan” and “The Fighter”; this might be a useful third film to round it out. Thanks!

  38. Suzy says:

    I cut off all contact with my mother, whom I believe to be narcissistic personality disorder, 5 years ago when she went to a lawyer and tried to make me pay back everything that she ever ‘gave’ me. She had loaned money to my brother and I (equal amounts), at 1% above the going bank rate, so that we could pay off our mortgages and car loans. She said that this was an advance on our inheritance and it benefited her because she was getting more than the bank would pay her (she wouldn’t have done it otherwise, believe me). She is a moderately wealthy woman and can live comfortably on her income. She lived across the street from me for 13 years and demanded that me, my husband and my children spend every evening with her watching TV – when we didn’t comply she would ‘disown’ us for awhile. I’ve been disowned many times, but when she went to the lawyer to demand that I pay her back the loans immediately, it was the final straw. Her lawyer asked for a very large retainer fee as he felt that she wouldn’t win the case, so she backed down. Thank goodness for that because we would have been on the street had she pushed the case – it didn’t matter to her, punishment for not doing her bidding was all that mattered. She would have happily watched her own grandchildren live in poverty. I haven’t had any contact since. She moved away last year because her health was failing and now I have heard that she is terminally ill with lung cancer. Some people are appalled that I don’t want to go see her and say goodbye, but honestly I only think she’ll reject me. She would even be capable of screaming, calling the police and making a big drama. I just don’t feel I can handle it emotionally. My feelings are complicated and many people just don’t understand how messed up a narcissistic parent can make you feel.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I do understand, though. You were wise to break off contact, but I wonder if you might want to seek some kind of closure without visiting in person. You might write to her and say goodbye in some very real, non-sentimental way. If she asks for personal contact as a result, you’ll have to decide what to do then, but you want to make sure you have no significant regrets about her death later on.

  39. Jean-Emmanuel says:

    Dear Dr. Burgo, I came upon an interesting psychological result while rehearsing the Chopin concerti this morning.

    First thing, it appears that my posture at the keyboard and broadly speaking my way of approaching piano technique on a physical – mechanical level was to this point misguided by the traumas I underwent during my childhood. Victims of traumas by psychopaths happen to have a very peculiar way of walking: their knees are “turned” inward; my mother wanted a daughter (a double, in a mainly male family), so she was disappointed as I am a male, and being a child on the inside (she never grew up to a genital level on a psychological point of view), she “abandoned” me, as years ago she abandoned the nice paper made puppet she had received from her parents (she had give it a bath). Craving for love as every infant does of course, a part of me tried to become what she desired of me, and a part of me tried to kill myself, as I was not destined to live, being no worth of any value. To come back to the piano technique issue: my thumbs tend to go “inward” while playing, the main articulation can almost make a 180° angle: on a symmetric perspective, my thumbs tend to do like my knees, thus preventing me to “grab” the chords, that is to say to avail the full potential of their prehensile purpose. So one result of her abuse is incarnated in my body. And I think the result of early abuse can be seen in other areas of human development: intelligence (which is no other thing than the ability to “grab” abstraction)…

    The good news is: once you become aware of this, you can work on it. Not directly though, you know that, through physical exercises for instance, but by being attentive to and analyzing your unconscious.

    And as I grew aware of this while playing, my playing improved dramatically, more passionate, and more accurate too.

    Second thing. I had my mother on the phone yesterday, unconsciously she brought two messages to me: first she wanted me to “sleep” (she was consciously talking about my nephew, who happens to bear my next “incarnation”… I use this term to synthesize my thought), in other words: she keeps on wanting me dead, something I responded to when I tried to commit suicide 6 years ago. Second, the told me she was “cold” (she’s always cold), that is unconsciously: frigid, and my father being a masochist: you get the whole picture: An over powerful phallic mother.

    I have to make clear though that she was a “sufficiently good” mother, as I live today. But my way to happiness I don’t owe it to her.

    That’s it, I wanted to share this with your readers, somebody might find something useful in it, even though it goes beyond the issue of narcissism.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      That’s very interesting about your thumbs and what they express. Did you at first try going about it in the opposite way — that is, with exercises to increase their flexibility and “prehensile” nature, as you described it? I’m wondering whether challenging a psychosomatic symptom of this kind would tap into the underlying trauma and make you extremely uncomfortable, the way body work can address “armoring” so as to release painful emotion.

  40. genevieve says:

    Hello to all,

    I just found out about NPD the other day and am now researching it although I’ve known my mother to be manipulative and secretly mean all my life. Now I finally know what it is. I can see how she became that way coming from a strict religious background. It’s sad to think of the grandparents I loved (and who were very nice to us) to have raised their kids in such a way so that at least one of them became a momster.

    She died a few years ago. And the active emotional abuse stopped a few decades ago when I moved out for college and then grad school. But I feel like this thing is following me through life like a spectre. I can do things well but I can’t for the life of me succeed at anything. It’s like Mom is still around undermining me and sabotaging anything good that comes along. The world treats me like she did.

    Luckily, although I was my mother’s Scapegoat, I was my father’s favorite (talk about a tug o’ war) and so I have not been too unlucky in love and have married a man who is love personified. Whose mother is a mother hen, just adorable.

    But here I still am, with this curse on my back. I have a nice little life, but I feel like I’m only a shadow of what I could have been if I’d been raised in a loving family.

    Best regards to you all.

    Gen

  41. Jean-Emmanuel says:

    Actually flexibility is not the problem with my thumbs. I think it has something to do with the unconscious image of the body (a concept built and used by french psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto):
    - at the piano the thumbs have a pivotal purpose, in many moves you have to use them to grab the chords at the right tempo. Thus the issue here is to make them strong (but not rigid) and sharp (quick to react). Instead: they are often soft and they run after the other fingers. This is also a result of wanting to play the music directly, not having “grabbed” it on an abstract level in the first place.
    - I don’t think about it as a psycho somatic symptom but as a way my body was structured by successive traumas. It is not something I really “suffer” from, it is something I have to deal with on a mechanical level, since my body is now fully developed as the one of an adult male. On the other hand I think it reveals a great deal about how the unconscious image of the body works on my moves, my way of walking, and on a more anecdotic level, my way of playing the piano. It is especially striking with the “knee” problem. Psychically, a male libido is oriented according to a movement that goes from the center to the periphery. If you want to coincide with the desire of your mother to see you as a little girl, being in a state of total dependance towards her during the first years of your live, your libido tends to be ” inwardly” oriented. The posture of my knees is the result of this early negation of my desire (my nature) to grow as a male to become.

  42. Iris says:

    Oh wow! I wonder why I didn’t read this and the mostly-bad mother when I posted on the Child Psychopath thread?! It is such a relief to read these, and know that I am not the only one to have had these conflicting feelings for my mother. We have learn to just let her be, and find ways to live our lives sidestepping her as much as we can. While she was almost neglectful towards my sister and her son, she was almost tentacled onto mine. At its height, she called my children HER children and dictated our day, our meals, through daily visits in the day, and calling to leave instructions after she leaves.

    I have largely adopted a see no evil and hear no evil attitude, but when the child psychologist highlighted to me that my son’s anxiety may be exacerbated by an inherited obsessive compulsive tendency, I knew immediately that I had to draw the line and get her out. I also knew what NOT to do with my son, having spent years reading self help books to pull myself out of anorexia and the quagmire with my mother.

    I will say narcissistic mothers are damaging, but a steady rock in a father can be a balancing influence. My father was the steady rock, straight talking, never manipulative, always listening. I learn most of my mothering skills from my father and a slew of parenting books. :)

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      This is a frequently missed point — that deficiencies in one parent can be remedied by another. Maybe not entirely, but we can seek out qualities lacking in our mothers by turning to our fathers instead. You’re lucky to have had a father you could rely on for honesty and steadiness.

  43. Lisa Bailey says:

    I’m 51 and I still can’t believe it took me so long to realized that my mother is a NMother. It explains so much. I haven’t spoken to her in two months and yesterday the message on the answering machine was “I’m laying here on the floor in a fetal position, intermittently sucking my thumb, because I haven’t heard from you in such a long time.” I decided two months ago that I had to say goodbye to this toxic relationship and I finally feel free and the possibility of a happy life feels real.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Interesting that she paints herself as the baby and you as the mother. Take care of me! From your description, I imagine it has always been that way.

      • Lisa Bailey says:

        ..and yet she recently proclaimed that she will always have authority over her kids. Not this child. Not anymore. I’m just waiting for her to beg my other siblings to call me and give me hell because I’ve cut off contact. After all, I’m the child she’s “always had the most problems with.”

  44. Carmen says:

    Reading this post and comments make me feel less alone in my suffering. My mother blames everyone else for her shortcomings and for so long, I thought it really was me being too judgmental of her. I was her first born and was supposed to be her unwaiving companion, and almost have been my whole 25 years of life. “You promised me with your eyes as a newborn that you would always love me and never leave me”. My family is full of pastors and church volunteers and for as long as I can remember, my mother has used my beliefs to manipulate me. “Honor your father and your mother… no matter what. Rebellion is an abomination.” Oh and how I’ve rebelled! My siblings and I purposefully kept a dirty room, I moved out at 18, decided to major in political science (not her major, math), got a college boyfriend, and have a best friend (whom I “replaced her with”). After her first divorce she pretty much left me and siblings to ne raised by our grandparents, ever attentive to my step fathers needs, even after he molested me. He left her and my goodness, she is so dependent on me!

    My worry is, can there be a chance that I can become like her? I’m sincerely afraid of having children or getting married. I QUESTION MY OWN MOTIVES CONSTANTLY!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Your doubts and self-reflection already make you different from her. But you will certainly pass on along some of these issues if you have children. You won’t be able to help it. Maybe some in-depth therapy before then would be in order.

  45. cilipadi says:

    OMG,I have only visit your site twice…everything is so crystal clear now…thank you very much…I think closure is now possible for me and probably sooner than I ever imagined before.My NPDs are my mom-in-law and my husband.

  46. Vivi Zaftig says:

    Hello everyone! I’m dealing right now with my mother’s mental/emotional health deteriorating and revisiting emotions that I’ve lived with all my life. I have two things to share. Firstly, I am a practicing student and teacher of humanistic/counseling using astrology, myths and spirituality in my work with others and I specialize in what is called the progression of our natal chart, and more specifically the Moon BECAUSE our natal Moon sign tell us about our emotional needs. My work is concerned and focused on emotions, every 2.5 years the Moon progresses to a different sign and house in our chart and our natal Moon must ‘entertain’ this incoming progressed Moon energy~ so to speak ~to learn lessons~basically in lay terms, the progressed Moon house is going to bring new experiences, circumstances and events, including other people into our lives and the progressed Moon sign is us responding to all of that. For any naysayers or skeptics about astrology just let me say that for over 40 years I’ve worked with people and understanding one’s natal Moon sign/house and then how it was ignored, squelched, denied, criticized, you name it, it gives you a very broad view of how the child felt and feels about the abandonment. In this way we can take blame out of all of it. I agree that it is the perpetuation of emotional/spiritual/mental/psychological abuse and neglect~whatever you want to name it~that brings us to our knees while we keep fighting for our survival and place in a world that actually as a macrocosm is just one big dysfunctional family. Our family of origin is simply the microcosm of that dis-ease within the society. So my work helps people enormously, we can hone in on the actual energy that is being denied. When I read how people felt, what happened, etc. I of course begin to wonder “Did that child have a water Moon and her mother was an Earth Sun person and so she just thought that kid [esp. boys] was an emotional mess, so let’s just sweep all of that under the table!” We are all unique like snowflakes, no one is the same, EVER! difficult to believe that about snowflakes but it’s true and so nothing in therapy is going to help IF the ‘talk’ just keeps looking for ways out of the dilemma of why we think we aren’t okay. The chart work tells us EXACTLY what energies we have and need to feel comfortable, safe, celebratory. Okay, I’ll stop with the astrological stuff now. In summary though, my point being, that the perpetuation of denying the child their energy [and this is where it is an amazing tool for healing] is evident, obvious, all over the world, any culture, religion, whatever! We know we are all feeling like sick puppies, where is our mom to FEED US?! BUT/AND when we discover who we truly are, our natural energies, well then, we can take responsibility for our gifts and realize finally that IF we are very very fiery [me] and need freedom and independence and movement, that my very very earthy practical mom was going to try to squeeze me into restrictions and limitations that caused me to stuff those parts of myself. Many many years ago an astrologer [before I became one] asked me at my first class with her: “Do you know how fiery and powerful you are?” At which time I burst into tears of course! All I had ever heard is you are TOO this or that!
    Secondly, I think everyone needs to be very very careful about the ‘mother’ factor in our lives when it borders on blaming and shaming women who in their own right have been abused, neglected, treated without respect or honor. You all might come back and say you aren’t doing this, but it is leaking through believe me. NO MALE on earth even if he becomes a stay at home dad [at which time he will be called AMAZING!] will ever get it, what it feels like to be a mother. MOTHERING is the most important job on the planet, the only job whose outcome creates a human being, which by the way IF there are no mothers or births, well end of society! Maybe that is why we are all so upset! We didn’t want to be born into this mess to begin with. Alice Miller is the bravest ex-therapist who has managed to be published. She was driven and had to share her thoughts about child abuse/neglect. She takes it to a place in which we can begin to say YES! I was hurt, I was lonely. She helped me survive in deep depression, still in the closet with a denying family of my incest, my rapes, my loss of a child because I was unable to function and when I slit my wrists as a teen, my parents stayed on vacation. A test? Sure, I was a child screaming for help. I’ve managed to work on recovery all my life, and now that my mother is starting to lose her sanity, all the demons are coming out of the woodwork, AGAIN!
    So in a way I can empathize totally with you, Joseph, the FORGIVING movement is just completely absurd if you think about how damaging it is for people who are struggling so much anyway with their hearts filled with fear, when we become the ‘little child’ again with our adult parents! Alice Miller was NOT into that false ‘niceness.’ BTW: the archaic original meaning of the word nice is ‘to lie.’
    So *1: who we are, our energies ARE our natural way of being and IF we can understand that and realize our power and gifts, well then we can begin to embrace and finally OWN the abuse/neglect in a way that has more to do with our parents being unable to nurture us, their energies also so neglected, they can’t get outside that narcissistic desire to experience themselves through their child. I see it all the time with the people in my readings AND I read to daycare kids and see it with their parents, the constant PRAISE and focus on that child as if they were a commodity [which they often are].
    and #2. If you really want to go deep with your feelings about your childhood read Alice Miller. Also, Gabor Mate is a man now coming out of a more private practice with people [working mainly with people with serious addictions] and he is on the lecturing circuit. He, I think, is closely related to Alice Miller in his thoughts and beliefs about addictions and how we are suffering with the childhood stuff. Society GIVES the MOTHER absolutely ZERO acknowledgement for her WORK, no compensation [oh the man can do that!] no market value, though no one could work IF someone isn’t taking care of the kids AND that means daycare providers for the most part are working raising human beings. living in poverty with their own families. We can’t separate the abysmal treatment of the female on this planet from their struggle in society. Sexism, domestic violence, and the long list of what the female is subjected to, cannot be denied in regard to why and how mothers become dysfunctional. Yes, girls come out of childhood wounded and in trauma, affecting their experience as mothers; but, remember, some girls may not want to be mothers, they might be able to contribute to society in other ways, but girls are still [if not worse] being shaped into being WOMEN, which is simply a construct. WE ARE NOT BORN women, we are born female.
    I have NEVER taken my healing so seriously [i.e. narcissistically :)] that I would corner myself into a diagnosis or label myself this or that. BECAUSE I AM A FIERY creature, I have to flame into my healing and burn up every possibility to transform myself, so I’ve covered a lot of ground searching for the mustard seeds wherever I go for my healing, while raising three children, painfully experiencing two divorces as if I was a failure, unlovable, and I’m still upright. whew!
    So I encourage you to try different avenues than psychotherapy and understand that the conversation about perpetuation of dysfunction is extremely important to understand; that acknowledging feelings of ongoing resentment are real and important to navigate through with ‘sympathetic witnesses’ [thank you Alice Miller] and that KNOWING who you are, your energies, your gifts, your purpose in life on this planet is AMAZING and always there for us to uncover and embrace and SEE just how impossible it might have been for our suffering parents to be there for us. Easy to do? No. But it’s worth fighting for. WE, OURSELVES, is a worthy cause to fight for!

  47. Ivan the Terrible says:

    This sounds like my mother. For my entire childhood, I was the problem child, and of course that made me tough and a fighter, and the talk of the family. Still to this day, my mother never passes up the opportunity to tell the many tales of Ivan the terrible, how I was so awful, so horrible, so bad, so difficult… just fill in the blank… any phrase will do. I have 3 siblings and I was the nightmare, and they were not. I have tried to keep a relationship with her but for the last 20 years ,since i have had children, it doesn’t seem to be improving. She sees nothing wrong with her behavior. She justifies it. Telling my children, “I only did that when it was legal”, as if that makes it okay. She says horrible, mean, inappropriate things to my children and the other grandchildren all the time. She has no remorse and when we correct her version of whatever tale she is telling, she becomes mean and hateful, reminding us that SHE was stuck with us and her dream was to runaway one day (although she never did). When we were children she tended to like us less and less as we got closer to 18, and then began to like us again once we had children. Now my children are approaching that age, and i see it happening to them. I could tell you my life story, but no one would believe it. Reading this hit me like a ton of bricks. I have chosen to keep my distance and visit on occasion, although i visit my dad when she not home. I have to do what is best for my children, and I believe that is to limit their interaction with her. I am not sad; I am informed and now I have a name for it , thank you.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I think your self-protective course of action makes sense for many of us. The narcissistic mother almost never feels remorse and can go on being incredibly hurtful, both to her children and grandchildren.

  48. Lauren says:

    Hello, I am just starting out in therapy. I have a narcissistic mother, and I have two pre-school children of my own, which have provided the catalist to understanding that all is not well. Right now recognising narcissitic traits in myself is the hardest thing I’m dealing with and the shame I feel as a mother is intense. I am also recognising the effects of my own experience at the hands of a narcissistic mother. My oldest child is 3 1/2 and our bond from birth has been difficult. I am also finding it difficult to break ties with my own mother. Deep down I still want her love and approval and the ‘hope’ that it will come is much easier to feel than the pain of not getting it. Can you recommend any reading, either books to purchase or online which provide practical steps to parenting whilst dealing with these issues? Thank you in advance.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Hi Lauren, I don’t know of any books that would meet your needs, but then I’m not a good person to ask as I don’t keep up with the advice/guidance books that are available. I’m sorry. I think the most important work you do will be in your therapy anyway.

  49. Kiki says:

    I live in a different country from my narcissistic family and I have just arrived back from visiting. So now I am in the mode of recovering from this experience, looking for the resources on the interweb to make some sense of it all. Thank you, Dr Burgo, for this website.

    I grew up in a family of ‘difficult’ people: my Dad was openly labelled as difficult and my Mum never got tired reiterating it. Very quickly my Sister got the same label (she has now developed into a full-blown rage-prone narcissist). My Mum would always tell me how alike she and I were: pleasant and easy-going. I was clearly a Golden Child and an extension of her perceived image of herself.

    There is nothing easy-going about my mother. She has an unpredictable temper, she is manipulative and controlling and plays all the family against one another like puppets. She loves making scenes and as her emotionally unavailable husband did not really get involved or react as desired to these elaborate scenes, she would use me and my sister as her audience.

    I will never forget one winter evening when I came home from school, I must have been 8 years old. When I walked into the communal lobby of our apartment building, my Mum walked into me looking like a corpse. I asked where she was going and she said she didn’t know, she was just going to leave. She had no bags, she wasn’t even particularly warmly dressed. Even as a child I sensed that this scene was staged solely for my benefit as she needed an audience, someone to beg her to stay. My parents had had a fight and my Dad obviously did not give her enough attention. How cruel must a mother be to do this to her 8-year old child???

    So I grew up with 3 people who flew off the handle, raged, sulked and threw tantrums on regular basis. We lived in a relatively small apartment and my only way to survive was to be good all the time. I maintained this goodness without a fail for 38 years. Every time I deviated, all hell broke loose. And by deviating I mean the following events: developed curves at the age of 16 (which my Mum labelled as being fat), got a hairdo that my Mum did not approve of at the age of 23 and, the worst of all, had my first ever boyfriend at the age of 24! My Mum went into rage, called me names, threw things at me and, in case of the hairdo, said that I looked like I was worth 3 cents!!! Other than that, I was the most perfect child one can imagine. Always happy, smiley, over-achiever.

    Though my Mum wanted me to be this perfect child, she didn’t like it when I was doing too well either. She is clearly an excellent example of the envious type. When I went to the university, where at the time we had entrance exams, I got all As and was invited to the President’s ceremony, my mother’s response was ‘Do you think you are so clever now?’

    When I started working as a doctor, that is where she really kicked in. Constant negative comments about her having treated more people than me (she meant the family, my parents work in television) and that I did not know what I was doing. Finally when my parents’ colleagues started to come to me and they kept telling my parents what a good doctor I was, my mother stopped. She still takes any chance that she gets to undermine anything what I say about medical matters!

    When I got my PhD or when I have any success in my academic career, her comments range from ‘That’s lucky’ to ‘Does that mean you get more money now?’. I was offered a professorship in my home country, the absolutely top job I could have in my field there, she said ‘That’s normal. The real news is, your sister and her husband bought a BMW!!!’

    Amongst all this dysfunctional chaos and inappropriateness I never allowed myself to express any negative feelings. None whatsoever.

    It was only at 38, after I had broken up my long-term partner of 15 years, when I started looking at what was going on with me and my family. It was mainly caused by the fact that I got no support or empathy from my family when I was going through this difficult time, quite the opposite, I was told to smile!

    That was genuinely the first time when I thought that my family was different. I had heard so many people telling how their families were there for them, supporting them through their break-ups. My sadness was just seen as a major inconvenience. And a narcissistic family is like a pack of hyenas: the moment they see your weakness, they turn on you. Before I knew it, my Golden Child position was switched into that of a Scapegoat.

    Yet this is the best thing that ever happened to me because that made me uncomfortable enough to open my eyes and earnestly search for answers.

    Now I am seen as difficult because I have set my boundaries and refuse to play along. I get the ‘Who do you think you are?’ as well as ‘You used to be so fun and easy-going!’. Strangely enough, it is my perceived difficulty that has ‘brought the family down’. Not my Dad’s habitual weeks and weeks of not talking to anyone, not my sister’s regular fits of rage, not my Mum’s melodramatic scenes. So just before I was ready to fly back to England, I was left to watch my Mum’s fake crying and listen to her laments of how our perfect family has disintegrated. And, of course, how bad it looks to others. As I did not fall for her yet another ‘I am a bad mother and I regret I ever had children’, she stopped crying immediately and tried another angle: money that she lent me. And of course Dad’s illness. Well, noone can blame her for the lack of resourcefulness when it comes to manipulation. She could run courses…

    Apart from maintaining my boundaries and identifying/addressing the impact of having grown up in a narcissistic family, one of my main concerns is my own narcissistic tendencies. I think I fall under Rescuer category. I don’t think this manifests professionally (I have been very very mindful of that!), but it there is evidence of it in my other relationships. My need to always be super reasonable, always rise above and take the high moral ground needs to be explored. Most of it is totally genuine, but there is most certainly an element of righteousness to my modus operandi. My need to be good AND seen as good is somewhat pathological and, yes, narcissistic.

    Fortunately, both my long-term ex-partner and my current partner are extremely sesnible and emotionally healthy men, so I never felt that this impacted negatively on my intimate relationships, but, truth be told, my righteousness does concern me.

    I would be thankful for any comments or thoughts.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I very much enjoyed (if that’s the right word) reading your account of your family. So vivid and insightful. Thanks very much. I don’t know that I have any insights or guidance to offer. What seems most important to me is that you are looking at your own narcissistic tendencies and wondering about them — you’re on the right track. If you’ve read much on this site, you know that I write a great deal about the link between narcissism and what I call ‘basic shame’, often unconscious. Given how ill your mother seems, I expect she has left you with a residue of shame beneath that righteousness and narcissism. I’d start exploring your feelings about yourself and the lasting ways you were damaged by your upbringing.

  50. The Doctor says:

    I moved my mother into my house 7 years ago. My mother has been “disabled” since the age of 40, and I have spent my life helping her as much as I can. I was away for 10 days recently visiting my only son; my other son was murdered over 10 years ago at the age of 19. My brother came several states away to help my mother care for my sons’ cats while I was away. When I came back home, my deceased son’s cat was lying on the floor, unable to move, and was in renal failure due to not being able to get to water. My living son’s cat was missing from the basement where I kept the cats. Neither my mother nor my brother will admit to letting the cat out. There were maggots in the cat food, and I smelled the stench when I walked through the outside door, far away from the basement. Being a doctor, I felt there must be some significant pathology going on, so I consulted with a psychology major, who suggested that my mother may have narcisissitic personality disorder; she said they don’t like caring for animals, because they only want others to care for them. I know my father accused her of letting a dog choke itself on a chain, and I know my dog, who my mother didn’t want to feed, mysteriously disappeared shortly after I went to college. My mother claimed there were people going around picking up dogs for scientific experiments. My question is this: How do I deal with a narcissitic mother who lives in my house and walks feebly on a walker? I asked my brother to take her in and, honestly, his complete answer was to describe a scenerio of my father sexually abusing me. I was Never abused by my father. I feel like I came home to copperheads and cobras in my house. What is your advice? I’m a doctor, so I’m not going to counseling. I just need practical advice on how to deal with this situation.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You need to take care of yourself, first of all. If you’re a physician, then you likely have the means to get your mother into some kind of assisted care facility. She sounds incredibly toxic and narcissistic. Get her out of your house because there’s nothing you can do to change her.

      • The Doctor says:

        Thank you for your objective reply. I also appreciate the information you have provided on your website. I do believe my mother’s affectionless control is the root of my lifelong low self-esteem, despite success in my career, good health, and other positives that I can readily see.

  51. Katrine says:

    My husbands mother is the first Nperson I have ever had to deal with on an intimate level, and I did not know the warning signs. I found your article and the comments here very helpful. When my husband and I got married one month ago, his father, mother, brother and grandparents basically tried their best to ruin our wedding. My father had to spend the entire day doing crisis management in order to minimise the extent to which they embarrassed my husband. His father tried to leave 2 hours into the wedding, without giving a speech, his mother gathered approx 10 people in the living room to watch her cry, his brother verbally abused both me and my husband, his grandparents called our ceremony a waste of space etc etc… Subsequently, my husband has confronted his mother and told her that he can only begin the process of forgiving her and his father if they take responsibility for their actions and apologises. He has given up on his brother and grandparents. They have refused to do this so far. I am not holding my breath.  

    At first, his mother seemed very sweet and helpful, but when I moved to my husbands (then fiancee) country (where she also lives with her husband) in December, everything started going really bad. She became extremly controlling and demanded to be part of everything we did. My husband and I met in grad school (his PhD, my MA) and we had both travelled away from our countries of origin to study, so I didn’t meet his family until after we got engaged. His father has been diagnosed with an anti-social personality disorder and was an alcoholic and drug addict when my husband was a child. He is not in any therapeutic treatment anymore and has started drinking again a few times a month. His parents are still married. It appears that his mother was negatively influenced my her marriage and this may have caused her personality disorder, as her two brothers are fairly normal and have highly successful careers. His mother stays at home all day and watches tv. However, she refuses to acknowledge the pain his father caused  my husband growing up. She also refuses to admit that she is partially responsible for this, as she did not do anything to stop the abuse. Instead, she now uses it to get attention (!) and will tell anyone who will listen about how hard her life has been. Everything is about her, and only her pain is valid. Because his father had a substance abuse problem, they lost all their money and their house at least two times when my husband was a child. His mother backwardly uses this against my husband, telling him how she sacrificed everything for him and how it is because she worked to support his brother and him that she is now sick with high blood pressure and asthma. She uses her illness as a way of getting what she wants, and she never does what her doctor tells her. She is overweight, does not exercise, does not work, and eats very greasy food – but it is my husbands fault that she has a heart condition?! 

    When my husband was a teenager and in high school, his mother and father left him alone when they moved away to another country – they did not give him money or made sure he had a place to live, so he lived on the streets for a summer until he got a paying job as a musician. He still managed to get into uni and now has a PhD, an accomplishment his mother takes full credits for! Even though he received a full tuition and living scholarship for his PhD abroad, she claims that she and his father paid for it because they once game him money for a couple of books. She never gives him credit for any of his accomplishments. Even in her speech at our wedding, she had to focus on his older brother, not my husband. His older brother was physically and emotionally abusive to my husband, and they have not been on good terms for a long time. In early spring, his brother started verbally abusing me as well in emails, after which my husband cut contact with him. His parents refused to accept this, and tried bullying my husband into making his brother his best man for the wedding. In what appears to have been designed as a punishment, she let his brother and his family stay in their house during the wedding, so his parents could only stay briefly for the rehearsal dinner as ‘they really had to get back to his brother’.

    My husband has only recently started telling me the things his family has done to him. He told me that whenever he mentioned any of it to his mother, she tells him he is making it up, she can’t remember any of that, he was a difficult child so it was his own fault, she tried did her best why does he blame her for that, etc. 

    She used to make him call her 5 times a week – if he did not call for a few days, she would get very upset and make him feel guilty about leaving ‘his sick, old mother all alone’. She would only rarely call him, and she is not alone as her husband is there. The weird thing is that my husband really, really loves his mother, and feels extremely guilty about not speaking with her right now. He is slowly getting used to it now, but I think he will eventually start speaking with again on a casual once-a-month basis. He feels that there is an obligation for him to do so. I think the biggest problem right now is that she lies about us to his aunts and uncles (and everyone else) and tells them how crazy and controlling I am, and how my husband is a sociopath. I don’t know what the best way to deal with this is. As i wrote, this is my first experience with Npeople.  It is very frustrating to start our married life like this. My husband is taking up an amazing Post Doc in a few days and I am starting my PhD program fully funded by a very prestigious and competitive funding body, and we have not been able to really be happy yet. Everything reminds him of his parents neglect. 
    I would very much appreciate any advice…

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Reading your comment makes me think that I need to write a post to use as a general response to situations like this. I’d call it You Can’t Make People Change. There’s nothing you can do about these toxic people other than to protect yourself. I feel bad for you: it truly is a hard way to begin a marriage, especially when you have so many other reasons to rejoice in this time of life. I hope his post-doc and your PhD program are in a city or country far away from his parents. If I were you, I’d refuse to have any contact with his family and help your husband limit his own contacts.

      • Chris says:

        I couldnt help but stop here after reading your post to give you what I have found to be the most best advice on this situation as I and my wife are currently in this same exact situation. I like your husband was made the family scapegoat while my older brother was the golden child and yes he would assist my abusive mother in abusing me. I was made to believe I would never accomplish anything in my entire life and was used and abused for 31 straight years by my family up until I married my wife 3 years ago. The most happiest day in my entire life was reuniting with my soul mate after a 12 year seperation from her. We dated as teenagers and ended our initial engagement to be married due to our dysfunctional families prying their corruptive selves into our personal lives back then. Well here we are now 15 years later married with 2 beautiful children together and 5 from our previous encounterments with the wrong people. Surprisingly we both ended up with ex-narcs but I guess it was inevitable as we were both raised by Narc mothers. Thats all we ever knew until we met each other and fell in love. We have both went NO-CONTACT completely now for almost 3 solid years from our family’s. The most contact we have had is a phone call maybe every 6 months that ends up prematurely ending with a slam as soon as our Narc mothers and other brainwashed family members start intruding into our marriage with negative talk about our ex-realtionships that no longer exist. We have both found that Narc mothers love to bring up Ex’s to try to spark up some negative feelings in the both of us. This is one of the most common cruel methods of destruction upon your marriage that they love to try to manipulate you and your spouse with. DO NOT allow this mal treatment and outright ABUSE to take place in your lives by these very sick individuals. They love to bring you to where they truely live within themselves HELL!! We have a very happy marriage and home and our childre are happy since we kicked them the hell out of our lives!! They do not change they only readjust their manipulation games. They will try to defeat your happiness and successes in an alternate way once you let them in. The abuse never stops they just find a new improved route to take once given an opportunity. Narcassists are a very rare breed of very corrupt abusers who will seek to destroy your life happiness success and everything you accomplish. I honestly would rather take my chances with a sociopath if given a decision between the 2 types of personality distorted persons as with a sociopath their only purpose in gain is to con you not strip you of who and what you are as an individual. I wish you and your husband the best and hope you 2 find the truth behind the never ending lies that come out of these scums.

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          For many people, the course of action you chose is the only thing to do. As you say, this type of narcissistic character almost never changes or gains insight; when they’re as destructive as your family members, you sometimes have no choice but to shut them out.

          • Theresa says:

            I landed on this site looking for answers and possible help in coping with my 18 year old, newly married, only daughter. I came from a home with a very controlling mother, and decided many years ago that I did not want to be that in my own children’s lives. I have had many challenges, as I chose to marry not one, but two men very much like my mom, so I suppose I have felt a great need to BE the balance to MY kids. Anyway, here I am, with a very young daughter who married someone she net only two months earlier, and I am having a VERY difficult time accepting him and this marriage. I guess I was a bit alarmed when I began reading many of there. posts. These people filed with hatred and pain instead of love and healing, which WE ultimately have control of in our lives as adults. We each will hopefully reach the various stages of life, and through our own experiences, will better know how to love and live through all of it just fine! Please forgive the “choppy” way in which this is written. Time for a new “smartphone”!!communicate with our adult children, but maybe they will view us the sameway if we don’t learn to find a healthy way to love and forgive our parents for not being exactly what we wanted, when we wanted it. It took me three years of therapy and a new way of looking at my mother to get here. Through it all, I realized that SHE had a mother too! No one could be more controlling and, by these definitions narcicistic than my mom, but I forgave her, and learned that I could keep her in my life, and share the love that a child feels for their parent…an ADULT child. After reading here, I starter to feel guilty myself, for any input that I feel is my role at this stage. I haven’t read anything here about love and affection, or pain of loss of said mother. Is that what we’re learning how cope with these people with problems themselves? I believe we can be strong, live our lives…with them in it…on our terms

            • Maureen says:

              The problem is, with people like this, you do not actually share a “relationship” so forgiveness with that in mind isn’t really possible. And I also think there is much denial to work through. So far as you daughter is concerned, however young she may be, it is her life, and it’s really not up to you to “accept” her new husband or not, but to respect your daughters right to make her own choices, because it is, as we know, her life.

          • Michelle says:

            Thank god for this reply. This is my mother…After years of horrible verbal abuse from her and her re-married family (also narcissists), asking for change and getting no insight and even insulted about why I have asked for change, I have finally stepped away.

            I am so thankful for your response. It has been very difficult to make this decision and it is heart-wrenching to explain to other family members when they don’t understand why you have cut off contact.

        • Dave says:

          Chris, thankyou for your words.

          I am in an unusual situation – Both my parents wont let me leave the house. I am 28.

          I have been bullied into oblivion. I am FINALLY after 20 odd years starting to actually believe that im not the problem. I have been literally ripped into shreds, I have been forced into 100s of discussions about MY LIFE and made to answer very imposing questions over what were usually about 4hr periods. I had the temerity to get a haircut last week that was rather short, and naturally any fault I made in my life was used against me so I would finally admit that i was in the wrong, what right do I have to make a choice as a human, even a haircut.

          The worst part of these lectures (which are mercifully over, pending that I dont do something for myself) was essentialy that there would be a yes or no answer scenario. Each answer would be met with a response that would tear me apart.

          I was admittedly a misfit as a teenager, and I never blamed it on my environment, because I always assumed every family was like this. When I got alittle older I started to come out of my shell, and I became quite popular, I began to enjoy my life. I still couldnt understand why the only people who treated me with such disrespect where my parents. Alas, this thought pattern had developed so far that I tookthemature route and decided that my parents did know whats best. They simply think they are better than everyone else, anybody who ever taught me anything about being human is now out of my life and I have spent the majority of my 20′s thinking everyone is out to hurt me, because they have told me over and over that they are the only one,s who care.

          I have been completely fucked in the head for the last few years because they have stripped my whole identity away from me. all my friends I lost turned out they weren’t such a big loss, I was a number and thats all. I recently opened up to a true friend and he had to keep repeating that Im not the problem. He knew the real me, which my folks have absolutely refused to get to know.

          Im sorry for the long message but your story really grabbed me . Basically the simple version of my story is this. Any thought Ive ever had and had the cheek to speak is wrong. What kind of parent act so callously to their 10 year old child who hopes to be a lawyer when he grows up. If I ever didnt succeed in anything Ive wanted to do Id have been okay with it. I’m still somehow amazingly a glass half full kind of guy, the MAJOR depressing thing to me is that I have never ever made a decision to suit me . My da’s technique is to repeat himself over and over, and when I had theballs to call him on his bullshit I always had to accept defeat after a tirade of abuse, eventually making me into a mute who struggles to form a coherent sentance which has gone into the outside world. So now I isolate myself. People I knew think Im ignorant, I just wish somebody tried to get to know me instead of making crazy assumptions about me. I know Im pretty smart, but I would never just talk about myself to impose on other people.

          I really dont know if anything I’m writing is coming off as coherent. When im truly myself I am very confident, but I wouldnt brag about myself. The problem is Ive been warped into this person who thinks he can never do anything he wants to do because it would cause the earth to fall down, the disgrace of the family . I can honestly say Ive never done any wrong to anybody else, because I really just dont understand hoe people could do that.

          Your message helped me. Ive been struggling with my identity for years. I never should have been the bigger man and made peace, which in my view doesn’t include making a song and dance about it. I have completely ruined their lives when in reality Ive completely changed everything of my personality all so they can be happy. Again, sorry for the extra rant but as you can see Icould write a book. I just want to know, have your damily ever radically changed you? Any advice would be amazing, from anyone who reads this. Do I just have to cut them off to rebuild my life? I only have one ftiend, but I have become petrified of everyone else because I have been literally brainwashed into questioning every single scenario. One son who is extremely good natured when im my own man. Two narcissist parents who have read the riot act too many times because I dared defend myself. If anyone read this, thankyou. Need help, I know what to do but completely in fear of another total annihilation. Dave

          • christine says:

            Hi Dave. Wow your story hit me hard.
            I have an older brother who could have been your twin. You describe scenes from my life growing up with a narcicisstic parent.

            • David says:

              Hi there :)

              Thanks for replying to my problem a while ago, I have written a big reply to yours and everyone elses messages of support, it’s at the bottom of the thread, thought I’d just give you a heads up because you were so kind to reply to my before. Thank you :)

          • mary says:

            I empathize with you. I had a narcissistic Mother too. It sounds like you have a harder situation than I, though mine was maddening to say the least. I was so emotionally wrapped into her emotions that it was almost like a possession….the fear, guilt and deep sadness I would feel when I had been “such a bad girl” when I didn’t do/be what she wanted…it was overwhelming: even when I moved 2000 miles away. Two things have helped me to assuage the guilt and terror and to separate my emotional and psychic life from her: Hatha yoga practice and the mediations of the Arica school, particularly the Autodiagnosis Training, which is rare, but well worth the effort to track one down. While I still am noticing ways in which my relations with other people is less than what it could be, I have made enormous strides and I wish you the very best life because you sound like a super person and you deserve it.

          • Heather Cooley says:

            Hi Dave,
            I think I understand. It’s not your fault, though you experience the punishment.
            I have a narcissistic, widowed mother who has invested years in mindfucking me. I know the constant little things that go on and the emotional attacks that no one else knows of….the invisible chain that shackles you.
            Its hard to trust and deal with ppl, but I swear if you’ve made it this far surviving your parents you can handle any other type of person out there.
            I’ve found a way to have pretty good, emotionally healthy relationships with most PPP (other than my mother) and its the only thing that helps or gives me hope.
            With all of my heart, one person to another, I wish you the best and I wish you happiness.-ill be checking back to this site, greatful I’ve found it :)

            • David says:

              Hi there :)

              Thanks for replying to my problem a while ago, I have written a big reply to yours and everyone elses messages of support, it’s at the bottom of the thread, thought I’d just give you a heads up because you were so kind to reply to my message before. Thank you :)

          • Annette says:

            Wow Dave, from what you’ve described, you have an extreme situation. I read as much as I could on Narcissists when I separated from my N-spouse. So I’m just speaking from my experience with moving on from a relationship with an N. There are a lot of sites online and books that describe the narcissistic personality disorder. Understanding what you are dealing with is the key to starting to get help, but it only takes you so far. The rest entails moving on.
            I believe that narcissism is a continuum and at the very far end is a type of N that is destructive, abusive and emotionally dangerous. They inhabit you. They steal your identity for themselves. They seek to destroy whatever you have. They don’t feel empathy or remorse. They take 100% and give nothing. From descriptive websites you can figure out what type of N’s your parents are and figure out whether or not it is worth having a relationship with them.
            I recently read the book, The Narcissistic Family, by Pressman. It’s written in a way that allows you to see how N parents are the ones having their needs met and the child or children are the ones that are supposed to meet the parents needs. Just the opposite of what’s supposed to happen in a functional family. Kinda like excellent therapy in book form with real case study material.
            The other book I’m reading and re-reading is Eckhart Tolle’s, A New Earth, Awakening to your Life’s Purpose. The premise here is that through meditation or mindfulness you have a way to acknowledge your feelings, experience them, deal with loss and find your soul within. You can find purpose to your life and a way to way to live that you value. There will be help in many ways, big and small.
            If there is someone you can trust, ask them for help. Write back.

            • David says:

              Hi there :)

              Thanks for replying to my problem a while ago, I have written a big reply to yours and everyone elses messages of support, it’s at the bottom of the thread, thought I’d just give you a heads up because you were so kind to reply to my before. Thank you :)

          • Coldroses says:

            Dave,

            Thankyou for writing this. I read everything you wrote and it feels like our situations are identical. It resonated with me a lot.

            I am your age and recently, and finally, came to the realisation that my mother is narcissistic. I have had so many issues over the years, which all began when I reached adolescence. Gradually as I got older, the relationship with my mother turned sour, to the point where we basically no longer speak now. I realised that as I began to grow up and forge my own identity, and attempt to separate from her, she was increasingly turning against me. For the last 10 – 12 years I have been subject to a barrage of emotional abuse (manipulation, guilt, fear, putdowns etc.) which, to this day, she denies. I am still spoken to as though I am still an insolent/disobedient child, despite having moved halfway across the country and managing on my own quite well. Some years ago I had an anxiety disorder which seemingly developed out of nowhere, but putting it all in context now I know it is because my self-esteem was completely taken from under me and I became terrified of the potential that others would judge me. Ever the overachiever in an attempt to win love and approval, I suffered quietly for a long time (the issue was played down by my mother who thought it was far less serious than it was). I have come a long way since those times, but I feel like half a person now – there is still a long way to go until I find myself, and start enjoying life. I realise now that I have never been loved by anyone for who I am, and that is pretty painful. It is a relief to know that there is a way forward though.

            Best of luck to you. I hope you find your own way – away from your parents.

            • David says:

              Hi everyone,

              I thought I’d give you the courtesy of writing back to you all since you took the time to reply to me baring out my soul a while ago, I have tried to reply before actually, but I was so spent mentally and physically that I didn’t know how to handle even emails. I’m sure you know yourself.

              Well, i did it. I got out of my NPD parents house a month ago. It just occurred to me about an hour ago that the last month has seen me remain in “victim mode” and what has been largely wrong from me is that I have had it in my mind that I am acting like an escaped convict on the run. How mad it that? That’s what years of psychological abuse does to a person though, I have been living in fear of “the inevitable” this whole month, and feel a big weight off my shoulders that they won’t suddenly burst through the door and deconstruct my whole makeup.

              I have worked REALLY HARD in the last year, I would say when I wrote that big long spiel that that was the start of me starting to realise things because I have had it in my head that October was the month were things started falling into place a little tinchy bit. All your replies were brilliant but only now have I been able to read them properly, I was in hell, any nice thing you could have said to me was a struggle to believe that I was a good person, and even for the words to go in properly.

              The real tonic for me has been helping people on the internet. I was so convinced I was a useless horrible piece of shit that I believed it. If someone tells you you are NOT YOU 1000 times you are going to start believing it, especially when every time you have to admit that you’re wrong, they’re right through narcissistic rage attacks, guilt tripping, manipulation, gaslighting. The guilt tripping got me bad, and whatever array of techniques they used always resulted in me apologising for causing them so much trouble. I have been gaslighted all my life, and I’m enjoying my brain being able to breathe significantly better.

              Helping people, and the people I’ve helped giving me glowing responses, has slowly (VERY slowly) seen me wiping away the toxic shit that was living in my head most of my life and realising things about who I am. Realising I’m actually a good person, that was unreal. That eventually made me remember that when I was 20 years old, after years of being berated for not knowing what I was going to do with my life (since the age of 10 I was analysed about what I was going to do for the rest of my life, 10) I went up to my mother and told her I wanted to be a psychologist, I wanted to help people for a living. That was one thing I really wanted to do that resulted in me being read the riot act and being made to think about the apocalypse I was bringing into the house and leaving me in limbo as far as for what I was going to do with my life. I remembered I wanted to help people for a living, because I was REALLY GOOD at talking to people and helping them through their problems. Helping people on the internet, I remembered this fact and was amazed that I had totally forgotten it. I was forced to forget it, it wasn’t an option for me. This was always the thing. I would be berated for not knowing what I was going to do (like most parents do) but any time I had a suggestion or actually knew what I wanted to pursue I would be obliterated. I have been helping people since December, and I have a real knack for getting to the root of peoples problems. It’s what I always wanted to do :) I have nothing official in that field, but I don’t think I need to. I have realised there are so many more avenues to pursue in my life. As I have learned “Knowing is half the battle”.

              I have literally ripped up my whole mind because I had to find out what was “wrong with me”. I was really lost for years, because society tells you that you can’t blame your parents, so I didn’t, I learned to blame myself. Until I started doing some IQ tests last August, I was suicidal as I had been for years. These were just online tests so they’re all different, but they gave me the perk I really needed. Then I started doing Sudoku, which is a game about logic, and in a short time I became pretty damn good, and I remembered I was always good at maths and thinking things through logically. This was what my parents HATED, I fought back for a while with LOGIC, which is either man’s biggest enemy or best friend. And eventually, that I wanted to help people for a living. And recently, I’ve started drawing again, and surprise surprise, I remember I was really good at art when I was younger. And I have a book idea in my head, marketing campaign and everything, and have laid out the foundations to it. It’s shocking how much I have remembered about who I am as I’ve been recovering from things, stuff just comes flying back to you. I’m sorry if this sounds like “me me me me me” but to say I’m ecstatic would be an understatement. Basically what I’ve realised is that my biggest crime now is that I am the person I always was. And I’m even better than I was, stronger than I ever was. I wish things were different, but I control my mind now and use it to help out others, the more I help the better I know myself, it helps me wipe away the muck. And helping people wipe away their muck is something that gives me pride. I just can’t believe how far I’ve come. A long way to go, but I can’t believe I can think straight. I’m using all this shit I went through as a positive, so i have no problem empathizing with others, because I know people are just alone.

              All those friends I was on about before, they were shallow, that’s the depth of them. It just hurt me that friends would hold it against you that you had problems, I couldn’t understand it, pretty much the “everyone looks at the world through their own eyes” philosophy. I live in Ireland, and to recover from all the trauma I underwent I realised I had to give myself a chance, and a big part of that is not drinking. In this county, if you don’t drink, “you’re making a statement” or “you’re wierd”, so I had a whole lot of ignorance to beat away from me. Shallow people just believe what they want to believe, and I just made the mistake of thinking highly of them. I’ve got a couple of GENUINE friends anyway, thats perfect for me :D

              In a way what has happened to me is the best thing that could ever have happened to me, well, it was hell but I try and look for positives in things. Other people not looking at themselves has made me look at myself, and I have questioned every thing (I think) about myself to death. So thank assholes, thats what I’m thinking.

              Importantly, I remembered that all I ever wanted to be was a good man. I was making vows at the age of 12 that I wouldn’t do any of that insane shit to my wife and kids, and I remembered that along the way, and recognised it as not some deluded insanity of mine but a great STRENGTH of character I had to aspire to those things. I wouldn’t put anyone through any hell, and I haven’t done that in my life, what were “weaknesses” of mine are in fact big strengths that I am lucky to have. And I won’t fall into the trap, If I get married, ahve kids, my life isn’t going to be about proving them wrong. It can’t be about proving anyone wrong, it has to be natural. Something I read along the line was “the cause of depression is the forcing of unnatural conditions on a person” and that was definitely true for me. I was never allowed to be natural, being natural and happy around a narcissist (even if they are your parents) is a slap to the face of them. Everything has to be natural from now on, if I make my life about being a better husband/father than my dad was to my mother or my parents were to their children, they just win, because it is all still about them.

              Anyway, just thought I’d give you all an update. All this shit is total bull that we have all had to go through in our lives but I think it is important (for me at least) to use these things as a springboard. Strength is not displayed, it is earned by being humble and not forcing your strength on to others. These fuckers make us humble, it’s a disgusting thing to do to another person, but it’s our responsibity TO OURSELVES to rise above it and turn the negative energy we have accrued from others and turn it into positive energy. We have the positive energy within us, we just gotta scrape away the negativity that BELONGS TO OTHERS, it’s not yours :)

      • susan says:

        I wrote this before reading your post…. Now I can at least give it a name “the mostly bad parents”… I have been under my parents’ spell for so long… 45 years. I have always known they were emotionally abusive but any time I would try to validate my feelings with my siblings, they would so come after me raving – may be they were also under my parents’ spell. Every time I paid my parents a visit I would be traumatized throughout my stay. This culminated to totally breaking down on the day of leaving their home. The trauma actually would start with just the thought of the visit and on the day of the actual trip, I would throw up in the morning and then suffer travel sickness throughout the journey. I would then develop rashes and itch throughout my stay. Now I am 46 and only this year I have been able to call it what it has all along been – emotional abuse and blackmail. That acknowledged, I was able to reclaim some sanity. I have not been home this year and contact with my folks has been minimal… and sadly it has been the best year of my life.

    • Maureen says:

      Your husband is very, very lucky to have someone like you to support and validate a more objective view of his crazy family, because when you’re right in the middle of one, and the designated “outsider”, trouble-maker, or scapegoat – it gets wearying to stand up to them all, mentally. Good luck to you both!

    • Sue says:

      Live life with your husband. The only person who matters is the arms that hold you when all the lights are out and the doors are closed. Never forget it because Mothers and MIL, Fathers and FIL pass away eventually but the arms and warmth of your husbands arms live on.
      Dont waste your precious time worry about sad, cold beasts who would give their right arm for the love you and your husband share. Its called LOVE (they have never experienced the feeling)

  52. A_T says:

    I recently stumbled upon your blog and found this post particularly resonating with the current ‘direction’ of my self-reflection. I am expecting a baby and pregnancy raised a lot of thoughts about my own childhood experiences and relationship with my mother. The question that I am struggling with after having read this post is whether my mother was narcissistic or not?

    I was raised entirely by her, didn’t know much about my father except the fact that he 1) had problems with alcohol and therefore needed a lot of attention to keep him away from drinking and 2) had another family with 2 daughters. Therefore my mother felt she need to make a choice and eventually sacrificed her relationship with him in order to devote herself 100% to me. There were no other family to help her, since her parents died early, the only one – her sister, my aunt. She also didn’t have many friends and the ones she had never came to our house, so my only 2 adult relations during childhood was she and my aunt.

    I will share a couple of childhood memories related to my relationship with her.

    In my childhood, there were no small mistakes. Even a grade slightly smaller than ‘A’, was perceived by me as as a failure, because she would always tell me that I could do better . Actually, not even tell directly – she was never openly expressing her opinions – but she would imply it somehow through a sigh or a remark like “It’s OK, don’t get upset, it happens”, and only then I would realize that I was supposed to feel upset about a ‘B’. I remember this feeling of pressure that I needed to excel at my studies, even though she never openly demanded it from me.

    Another memory – when I got sick it was always a mixed feeling, since mother would inevitably get upset and start worrying how she will need to take a day off work, which we couldn’t afford financially etc. Again, she expressed it not in agressive, but in ‘poor me’ kind of way. I always felt guilty about getting sick and at one moment started to delay telling her about pain, which led to me almost having died from peritonitis – a result of my not telling her for several days about pain in my abdomen. But then, the other side of being sick for me was the liberating feeling that I don’t owe anybody anything, that I don’t need to be good, like I’m exempted from the necessity to keep up with some standards of performance.

    And the final one. My mother seemed to not have any source of joy in life except me. She would deny it consciously, not allowing herself even very little treats like cosmetics or a box of chocolate (for financial reasons, we lived quite poorly for several years), sacrificing everything for me. For a couple of years she even ate separately from me, because she said we couldn’t afford to both eat meat, cheese etc. She would never put it openly in my face as an accusation, but I always felt it it and inside I raged about this self-imposed sacrifice. It made me always indebted to her, always in need to repay her goodness to me, to bring her only good emotions.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      She certainly sounds like she suffers from some kind of narcissism. Have you seen Black Swan? Your mother sounds like the mother in that movie — the type who appears to dote on the child but makes everything about herself and secretly resents her child for what she has to give.

      • A_T says:

        Thanks for your response. I saw the Black Swan, however I haven’t really detected any hidden resentment in my mother, she seems to be genuinely happy for me, but she still dotes on me and treats me like I am a teenager, and that always provokes rage in me.

        • amy says:

          A_T, I don’t know if you’re still reading, but:

          I’m a single mom without much family help, and I can sympathize with her worrying. It sounded like she didn’t handle it terribly well — but then a decade or two is a long time to walk a financial tightrope carrying a child with no net and no help or encouragement. Her world may have been so full of worry, and so devoid of resources, that she feared terribly for you. That may be the source of her fretting and criticism about grades etc. She may have felt it was imperative for you to do well for yourself.

          Her self-denial — it was a bad idea for her to have told you what she did, that there wasn’t money for ____ for both of you. My guess is, though, that it was true. She may have thought she was being straightforward with you, and had no idea what kind of effect her words might have had on a child. I find it’s a real minefield, talking to my daughter about money — I didn’t realize what kind of effect my own words were having until my daughter made clear she felt bad and guilty for having anything nice or special. She sees what I often forget: that I don’t often buy myself anything, that no one makes a birthday party for me, etc. She’s also too young to understand that I get by this way, that I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into in having a child, and thought (and still think) she was worth it; also that if I buy myself things, I have to work more to pay for them — and oh, I’d rather not, I’m dead on my feet already. <– just the kind of thing that'd make a kid feel guilty, but what can I do, besides tell her I'm grateful for what we have, and happy that we have all we need? There's no magic money tree.

          One of the things I see chronically online is that children of single mothers feel uncomfortable, unhappy, guilty, and often resentful that they had to watch helplessly for so long as their mothers struggled. For many it leads to a decision not to have children. I wish I knew what to do about this. The kids are right, they're stuck. And the mothers, who are also stuck, will generally deprive themselves to help the children because we love them, we want to, and it's the right thing to do, and the children have no choice to accept, even if it makes them feel guilty. And unfortunately when a mother is carrying so much with no support, it may be hard or impossible for her to speak carefully or hide the difficulties, insulate the children adequately. This is in many ways a social problem, not just a problem of individual psychology.

          It's also unlikely she was all that together before she had you. A woman who will marry an alcoholic who's already been left by one family is not generally in great shape. It's unlikely she thought well of her own chances, abilities, self. After all, where were her own parents, who you'd expect would try to keep her away from such a man?

          If she really takes interest in your achievements and your life in general — for you, not as proof of her own wonderfulness — then maybe it'd be helpful to see her as someone who already had some cracks and then went through decades of hard and frightening times, with little relief, which I think usually makes things worse. It seems to me a narcissist has real trouble maintaining interest in other people, being genuinely pleased for them, applauding them, seeing anyone but themselves as the main event.

          Regardless, though — look after yourself. If she makes you crazy, set boundaries. It can be really hard when there's a new baby involved, and of course everyone's family situation is different, but I'm glad I was clear with my mom while I was pregnant about what I would & wouldn't allow after my daughter was born. She was livid and who knows what she decided in her own head, and she's got no relationship with my daughter, but my daughter's just such a gentle, sturdy person, really sensitive to others and considerate, but also disinclined to spend time with people who are mean or sort of social tornadoes. She doesn't get why people behave like that when obviously "nobody will want to play with them if they're like that."

          Good luck with the pregnancy and have an easy birth, and enjoy the baby, your new family, and motherhood. :) And if you're feeling sort of low on family, there's a plethora of groups and online sites that can be a huge source of support.

          • A_T says:

            Hello amy,

            Thank you very much for your comment. It holds a lot of truth and I think you are very right about how things really were.

            The issue is that I am prone to a lot of self-reflection and sometimes think too much. It all actually started with me beginning to fear that I am a narcissist myself. I started reading on the topic and the more I did the more “evidence” I found. Then I started finding narcissists in people around me (because they cane be so cunning) and ended up casting my mother as one. I realize now that i have to take it all with a pinch of salt, but at the moment it felt like “this is it”. :-S

            That’s why I’m grateful for your comment, as it confirms that other perspective I always thought was true but only recently started to suspect was something else, i.e. a case of narcissism. Aslo, to finish this paragraph of gratitude and appreciation, I’d like to say how much I symphathise with your situation and every word you wrote felt to me as if you lived with us.

            The one learning point that I take for myself out of this is that you can’t treat your children as naive and blind “children”. Even at the early age they observe and feel things seriously and draw conclusions that can be the opposite of what you as a mother intended them to draw. There’re were two things in my case. First is that as of quite an early age I was perfectly aware of the cost at which my upbringing came to my mom, I mean how much she had to work, deny herself things, etc. And that huge sacrifice left me with very perplexing feelings: a mix of guilt, desire to “pay back” to her, contemplations on whether I was worth it etc. Second is that even when I tried, as a child to explain this to her and asked her to please please spend something on herself, take some time off, she wouldn’t do it. So not only did she perceive me as a clueless child in the first place, but also – when i tried to tell her that i am not and that i want to change things – denied me any decision power, continuing to spend resources solely on me as if that was what I wanted. A self-imposed martyrdom (now I begin to feel a bit of a rage again…) How i would have loved if one day (let it be her birthday, to stay realistic) she would come to me and say “today is mommy’s birthday and we will only take care of me today, do you agree?”

            Indeed, you can not insulate kids from everything, but in that particular case this continuous giving did the opposite thing to me. I saw at what cost it was made and yet was powerless to make it up to her in any way. Well, maybe not in any way (I could still get good grades), but in the ways that i wanted. And it really weighted down on me, as it accumulated and accumulated and i couldn’t see how will i ever be able to pay it back. I think it would’ve been better to break this chain of sacrifice from time to time and have a bit of “me” and if possible, allow me to give it to her. And if it costs extra time to work which she’d rather not, treat it as an indirect investment in my mental health, another act of necessary giving.

            Don’t get me wrong, i do not pretend that at the age of 8, 9, etc. I could have not be a child and be a real supporting partner to her, i couldn’t. But I’m talking that instead of 100 to 0 percent, 90 to 10 would’ve made me feel much better. But now I think that seeing things in such extremity (me – helpless child, her – protecting mother) was the only way for her to stay strong and carry on.

            And also to be clear, we have a good relationship and we talk about these things. Although many times i do not feel like pressing too much so as not make her feel guilty now, something she doesn’t deserve. That’s why your comment is important – it confirms to me what i already thought without the necessity to may be hurt her by touching this topic. And when i feel rage it’s not directed at her, but at i don’t know who or where, but it comes from that feeling of being powerless to influence things and feeling guilty about it. And that me if not a narcissist, but a controlling person now. I also feel this extreme responsibility for her now, that I am the only source of her happiness etc. (which she, by the way, tells me herself from time to time) and it weights down on me.

            And the last thing may be. People often tell me that i am very serious, even grave. I feel it myself and i would love to be more light, but it is really a foreign state of mind to me, since all my childhood taught me that if one thing, life is serious…

  53. scapegoatofnmother says:

    I am the middle aged daughter of a narcissistic mother and I now have a family of my own. I feel like I have overcome most of the trauma of being the scapegoat of a totally self absorbed mother. What I hate most about it now is that I feel like I am constantly evaluating/assessing my interactions with my children and my responses to them and asking myself “Is what I’m doing or saying for their benefit or mine?” I know what is unhealthy, but what is ok to talk to your older teenage and young adult children about? with a narcissistic mother, the roles are reversed. We were caretaker for our “mother” rather than her caring for us as she should have. I am always so afraid of saying or doing something that would make my children feel that they are responsible for my mental, emotional, or physical well being. Does anybody else struggle with this??

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I certainly understand what you’re saying. I felt the same way about my own mother, and I’ve worked hard to make sure my own children don’t feel the same way (even though I’m probably not 100% successful). I’ve also heard the same anxiety you expressed from my clients who had narcissistic parents.

      • Mandy says:

        My mom likes to take credit for my achievements even though she has done nothing for me, she acts like we are in some sort of bizarre competition she only wants to focus on negative things for instance a recent conversation we had I was discussing how happy I was and how great my recent travels were for my birthday, she replays with how are your Inlaws she hates my Inlaws and knows its a sore subject ? Your cat is going to die soon your dad needs eye surgery and your grandma is sick. I was in a car accident 2 months ago which totaled my car and I got injured, I finally got a new car and now she wants one just like it , she also told me while I was driving my new car not to have an accident , really? When I was a kid she would spend all her money on herself and make me wear stuff that got me made fun of, when I try to diet and am successful she tries to buy me cookies , cakes ect. She puts on an act for people in public acting like we are close or what not, but its totally false , every significant life event Ive had she takes credit for and has made sure to ruin it in some way or humiliate me . I’m not sure how much more of her I can deal with . I’m 35 by the way she had me when she was a senior in HS and was married and divorced before I turned 1 .

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          Get some distance, that’s my advice. What makes these people so difficult to feel compassion for is that they know their behavior is hurtful and destructive; why else would they put on the act for other people in public?

        • Anonymous says:

          Oh my god Mandy, this was like reading my life! Everything you described was my mother to a T. Even my wedding day she took from me. Actually I’ve been married twice. The first time I was very young and my mom planned it and ruined it by saying since she was paying for it, it was all her decisions even the ugly wedding dress. By the second one I was a much stronger woman with a successful career and my own home that I had just bought. And we payed for it. She was so jeolous of her lack of control she planned a birthday party for herself two weeks later with a banquet, cutting of the cake, first dance and she made us all say speeches where she told us what to say. Unlike the surprise kind speeches I got from my friends, we were told to praise her just above what I got praised at my wedding. My brother, my father, me and a friend all were given them. And she kept saying “it’s not as nice as your wedding”.  And she had her engagement ring upgraded as soon as she found out mine was worth more than hers. She only copied any home renovation as soon as we did one. And every time I thought I could trust her she used what I told her in confidence to hurt me. She subtly bad mouthed me to anyone who would listen. My whole life too I struggled with my weight. I see now it was largely her telling me I had no will power etc and she would bring over cookies, cake, chocolate and try to sabotage me if she noticed I was thinner. About fifteen years ago I got on top of it by exercise and loving myself enough to care about what I put in my body. And no amount of sabotage would work and the prettier I got the meaner and angrier she got. I have long curly hair and she would tell me to give up growing it because hair in our family doesn’t grow and after it grew she would try to get me to cut it even though I get compliments on it wherever I go. She would try to copy my  looks, running out to get the hair products I use, when I start wearing wide belts she would and so on.  She gaslights a lot too saying things and pretending she never said them after. And she can lie better than anyone in this world. But the worse things is how she kept me and my brother apart our whole life and how she tries to start fights between my husband and I by talking about sensitive subjects she knows we disagree on like parenting. Most of the time I say we’ll discuss it later mom that is too sensitive a subject and change it but sometimes she wins. Sometimes I think I the her other times I think I love her and I feel guilty for those feelings. Overall I think things would be easier for me without her in my life but she can seem like a friend sometimes too. It’s hard…

          • anon says:

            And she had her engagement ring upgraded as soon as she found out mine was worth more than hers.

            … boy do i hear you…. my brother rushed to the shop to buy a jacket like mine and i was sooo freaked. i realised he was very sick and that began the dance of no contact that lasted very many years to break.

        • S'more says:

          Oh my god Mandy, this was like reading my life! Everything you described was my mother to a T. Even my wedding day she took from me. Actually I’ve been married twice. The first time I was very young and my mom planned it and ruined it by saying since she was paying for it, it was all her decisions even the ugly wedding dress. By the second one I was a much stronger woman with a successful career and my own home that I had just bought. And we payed for it. She was so jeolous of her lack of control she planned a birthday party for herself two weeks later with a banquet, cutting of the cake, first dance and she made us all say speeches where she told us what to say. Unlike the surprise kind speeches I got from my friends, we were told to praise her just above what I got praised at my wedding. My brother, my father, me and a friend all were given them. And she kept saying “it’s not as nice as your wedding”.  And she had her engagement ring upgraded as soon as she found out mine was worth more than hers. She only copied any home renovation as soon as we did one. And every time I thought I could trust her she used what I told her in confidence to hurt me. She subtly bad mouthed me to anyone who would listen. My whole life too I struggled with my weight. I see now it was largely her telling me I had no will power etc and she would bring over cookies, cake, chocolate and try to sabotage me if she noticed I was thinner. About fifteen years ago I got on top of it by exercise and loving myself enough to care about what I put in my body. And no amount of sabotage would work and the prettier I got the meaner and angrier she got. I have long curly hair and she would tell me to give up growing it because hair in our family doesn’t grow and after it grew she would try to get me to cut it even though I get compliments on it wherever I go. She would try to copy my  looks, running out to get the hair products I use, when I start wearing wide belts she would and so on.  She gaslights a lot too saying things and pretending she never said them after. And she can lie better than anyone in this world. But the worse things is how she kept me and my brother apart our whole life and how she tries to start fights between my husband and I by talking about sensitive subjects she knows we disagree on like parenting. Most of the time I say we’ll discuss it later mom that is too sensitive a subject and change it but sometimes she wins. Sometimes I think I the her other times I think I love her and I feel guilty for those feelings. Overall I think things would be easier for me without her in my life but she can seem like a friend sometimes too. It’s hard…

    • Michele says:

      “I am always so afraid of saying or doing something that would make my children feel that they are responsible for my mental, emotional, or physical well being”
      Yes, I can be like that.

      I’m trying to learn to be ‘good enough’ and to be realistic and that sometimes I might not say the completely right thing to my kids. I think being honest with my kids when I say the wrong thing and ‘fessing’ up is my strategy! It shows that I’m willing to be wrong and at the same time can be honest with them. You aren’t alone!

    • effie says:

      i just found this page and i had to reply to you. you described my passive aggressive mother perfectly. guilt. major feeling in my life. i actually hadn’t realiozed until recently, the last five years since my only sibling died and her behavior was magnified towards me, what has been going on and who she really is. she is ‘nice’ and everyone thinsk she is kind etc…but with me, she is rarely satisfied, not affectionate, i have heard i love you maybe ten times in over 40 years. i come from a waspy connecticut mayflower family. the ice storm…that’s more like my family. as long as things look perfect we should pretend they are. my mom has essentially ‘helped’ me so much i am totally under her financial control after i lost my home in a divorce. she offered to help me get a new home, and she ended up getting me one i said no to because it cost too much. she said not to worry, i had two small kids, nowhere to go and i was not allowed to live with them because after all i would get in her way…so against my better judgement i allowed myself to become trapped in this web and i am trying so hard to get out. on top of that i just got married to my soul mate and she is nice to him, much nicer than she is to me. which is how it’s always been. but she says things to him when i am not there like ‘i guess she hasn’t been able to get to the house cleaning..but that’s ok she’s busy’. and now he’s not wanting to be around her. but i love my dad and he needs me. he is 76 and lost his only son. i won’t abandon him. she cheated in him and took everything in a divorce about 10 years ago, then somehow convinced him to get back together. and she is still unhappy with him and complains to me, like she always has, about my dad. she effectively distanced me from my dad and brother, boyfriends, best friends…she needs to be admired and the center of attention. she says really subtle things that make me feel so bad sometimes. passive aggressive. yet she likes to point out when other people possess the things she actually is. but on the flip side she really loves me. i am adopted as was my brother. so maybe there is a bonding issue. it seems like she isn’t able to see it in herself, because i have pointed it out to her and when she is lucid we have great talks. it’s very splitting. on the one hand i love her and like to be with her sometimes. i can talk to her about anything. but other times, and i can tell by her posture or tone of voice, it’s like she is a hateful bitch under her smile. it’s kind of creepy. anyway, thank you for this and it make s alot of sense and helps me understand things better. i just woke up kind of when it started to effect my marriage. time to draw the line. i’m working on it. both my parents are old and kind of stressed since my brother died in a car wreck. it’s been hard. so i try and cut them slack. but i did confront them and said i refuse to live in this house i didn’t want and cant pay for to fulfill some plan of my mom’s. this is a house she would live in, and she loves to tell me how she would organize things or what she would plant in the garden. and i have to get permission to do anything to the house, even make it more efficient. it’s a battle every step of the way for her to let me grow up essentially. she and i have discussed this. then she forgets and it’s like it never happened. but she is not that forgetful. i think when the subject turns to her and it’s her turn to deal, she can’t do it. again, thank you so much.

      • S'more says:

        I see my mom in many of the things you said like her need to be the center of attention and to keep family members apart and I so understand the confusion of love you feel. I so feel that too. And I got tingles on my arm when you said you saw the hateful bitch under her smile. That is the same feeling I get. Seeing the truth behind her smiling eyes is so disturbing. And the warm loving tone as she says something hurtful in the guise of being kind and helpful.

  54. Rosemary says:

    If it’s not one thing, it’s your Mother! So True.

  55. daughter of NM says:

    I am the only child of a NM and my father is deceased 16 months ago and with that I had no idea she was NM even though I knew she was controlling, but never so manipulative. She is 92 years old with dementia and lives now in an aged care facility which she is finding hard to accept after 8 months. 10 months ago my breast cancer returned for the 5th time which she has told me several times “why didn’t this happen when your father was alive” or “why did this happen now”? which didnt go down well with me. I used to see her every week but with what I have been through with chemo etc. I am now seeing her on a fortnightly basis for 1/2hr in which she tells me that she doesnt see me often or long enough. That I dont understand that she feels alone. Its always about her. How do I get her to accept what has happened to me?

  56. Erin says:

    I am not sure my mother is a narcissist. I would like some feedback as to whether or not people think she is based on what I am about to share. If she is a narcissist, I think she is the ignoring type? My mother loves attention, especially from men. When she meets someone she is calculating, like she is weighing them for what she can play them for or to see if they can be easily duped. For most of my life, my mother has ignored me. I have a sister and a brother. My sister and I experienced similar treatment from my mother, while my brother had a different experience. Growing up I felt like I did not exist, at least to my mom. My father was abusive, but at least he acknowledged my existence. I always thought that my mother simply didn’t know how to love a daughter. Her own mother is almost a flat-line when it comes to giving emotion or knowing how to interact with people.

    As an adult, I was shocked when my mother called me the first time after I moved out. I know it sounds weird. Most mothers call their children to talk to them from time to time to see how they are doing, but for some reason on a gut level I just wasn’t expecting her to care one way or another how I was doing, because she never talked to me or made conversation when I was in her house. I really didn’t know how to take it. Hope sprang up in my heart I guess. Maybe my mom and I were actually going to have a relationship after all. Not so. I only got attention from her when she was alone. (My dad and she divorced after 25 years). When she was single, she called. I am guessing now it was only because she wanted attention, and I was good at giving that. I only get from her if I give to her first.

    In recent months I got engaged, in the wedding planning process I have become more “needy.” While my fiance was out of town, I began to call my mom. Email. Text. She does not respond. It seems if I need anything from her like reassurance or any type of emotion she back away. She calls my pointing out that something is wrong with this picture, “bad behavior.” She told me she cannot and will not respond to my “bad behavior.” She tries to say I am BPD, like my father. My father has never been diagnosed BPD. I have never been diagnosed BPD. As a child I was quiet, shy, and very calm. I did my best not to make waves, and I walked on the eggshells as best I could when it came to my dad. With my mom, I didn’t even try. I knew no matter what I did I would never be there or matter to her. I was to stay out of her way and cause no problems for her whatsoever. If I tried to interact with her, I was treated like an alien creature.

    A part of me says, ‘well, that’s not so bad. At least she wasn’t like some of the other mothers people talked about.’ A part of me knows, that this sounds like neglect and knows not acknowledging someone’s existence, can kill a soul. Another part of me wonders if she ignored me because of what my dad was doing. I remember disturbing things. I know there was an attraction from my dad to me, even as a small child, but as far as I remember right now, it was only looks, stares. It was highly creepy and instilled a lot of fear. I remember my mother dealing with this one day by tying a romper I had too tight so that it dug into my 4 year-old crotch. Almost like a punishment. Like it was my fault for getting my father’s attention in this way. I was bad. I was doing something wrong. And I needed to find a way to get him to not notice me. My sister also says she felt that to my dad, she was simply a nice thing to look at, especially as a teenager. I know this is difficult to share and probably difficult to read about. I wish the world was not so sick and broken. Things like this should never happen to anyone. Please, let me know what you think you hear and see when I talk about my mom. Narcissist? I guess I would like a label because I feel like it would be a place to start picking up the pieces of my life to try to make something beautiful.

    Lately my mother seems to indicate that unless my “bad behavior” stops she won’t come to the wedding. Also, she has manipulated my sister into feeling guilty about coming as my mom paid for her plane ticket and dress, so now my sister says she is not coming either. She was going to be the maid of honor. I haven’t talked to my father in about 5 years. As things stand now, the only member of my family that is coming to the wedding is my brother. I am trying to start a new family. I want to be happy, but it feels like unless I comply with my mother’s demands I won’t be having much of a wedding. However, I’m going to stand my ground. I feel I have to stand up for myself even if the only person from my family there is my brother, to whom I am not very close. A part of me is so embarrassed to stand there mostly alone. Ashamed, admitting no one really cares about me except my fiance. But I feel that would be falling into her trap.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      This is a painful story, and I’m sure other readers will respond. All I can say is that whatever the label you attach to her, your mother is a very ill woman. I understand the shame you feel about your wedding, but whether or not your mother shows, the shame will remain because of the family dysfunction. You can make it “look” better, with your sister nearby as maid-of-honor and your mother in the front row, but it won’t change the years of pain, manipulation, neglect and confusion. I’m so sorry.

    • Julia Tom says:

      It sounds very much like you have a narcissistic mother – one who is unable to see or appreciate anyone other than herself, even if that someone is a very dignified, intelligent daughter, very much worthy of being loved. The cruelest thing, and one which very few people will be able to understand (I say this from my own experience), is: the fact that you may be standing on your wedding day with very little family around you is just the tip of the iceberg to the lonely place that you have had within your family your entire life. Do not let anyone convince you that this is your fault, that you are being too harsh in not accommodating your mother more. It is a fixed fact within your mother (NOT within you), that she cannot see you nor care for you nor love you, despite having brought you into this world. There is little that can be said to smooth over that loss for you, except that it is the world topsy-turvy, unfair and unjust to your very existence.

      That said, many, many congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I hope with all my might that you have found a partner and community around you that sees you and appreciates you as you deserve.

    • Teeque says:

      Erin, I was moved by your story. I can’t relate to all of it, but I can relate to the anguish in your upcoming marriage. Weddings seem to be one of those things that brings out already dysfunctional behavior and make it worse. Stay strong, you are very bravely working to change your family pattern and create a new, healthy life for yourself. That is something to be proud of. Congrats, I’m happy for you. Thank you for sharing.

  57. daughter of NM says:

    I am the only child of a NM and my father is deceased 16 months ago. I had no idea she was NM even though I new she was controlling, but never so manipulative. She is 92 years old with dementia and now lives in an aged care facility which she is finding hard to accept still after 8 months. In this time my breast cancer returned which she has told me several times “why didnt this happen when your father was alive”or “why did this happen now”. I used to see her on a weekly basis for 1/2hr as I found her very draining on me, so now I see her fortnightly for 1/2-3/4hr in which she tells most times that she doesnt see me often or long enough. That I don’t understand that she feels alone and abandoned. Will she ever accept what has happened to me?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      No. You can’t expect her to change at 92 years of age. It sounds like you’re doing the right thing in limiting your exposure in order to protect yourself.

  58. Girl50 says:

    I am so sorry for others’ experiences recounted here, so similar to mine.

    I am the middle-aged daughter of a NMother, who is by turns desperately emotionally needy and sobbing and condescending and entitled. She and numerous other female members of my family were sexually abused as children by their father/grandfather; a whole string of us were abandoned by our parents (my twin and I were left with a mentally ill paternal grandmother who was herself sexually abused as a child); there is alcoholism and drug addiction, depression, anxiety, etc., also. I have a deep, pervasive sense of shame over “who I come from,” and I can’t shake it, though I am loving, professionally successful, and fairly mentally healthy (though definitely have an “adult child” profile and am now in Al-Anon). My twin sister is a recovering alcoholic with depression and anxiety…a loving person, but fearful, anxious, and low functioning in many ways. Her husband is also a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.

    When my first, beloved husband was dying of a brain tumor, my NMother said to him, with dramatic tears, “What’s happening to you is killing me.” A week after his funeral, she sat at my dining room table and told me SHE was terrified of being a widow. When I remarried almost four years ago as a 46-year old woman, she tried to use my wedding as a stage for her two sets of siblings (other children of her divorced biological father mother) to meet and “be one big happy family” with her in the center. Recently, she moved herself and my step-father into a wildly expensive, upscale retirement community/nursing home (she is only 72 and healthy, and husband has Parkinson’s with dementia) and can’t pay for it. She has alienated family members and many social contacts (I’m not sure she has any real friends). She is despondent and wants me to be her “girlfriend,” and I just can’t. It is SO frightening for me to see her reach a mature age having few or no true emotional or spiritual skills to handle her challenges. She’s like a four-year-old trapped in a older woman’s body. I have feelings of hatred and disgust for her, and I have enormous guilt over it and fear that, when she gets sick and dies, I’ll think I should have felt differently or tried to “help” her more than I have. Any suggestions for self-acceptance and being loving to myself? Thanks to all.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Because these mothers are so lacking in the ability to empathize, it’s hard for us to empathize with them in our turn. I’m not sure what to tell you in that connection; it’s my own struggle, trying to find a place where I can empathize with my mother’s struggles and understand her pain.

      As for self-acceptance, that’s a subject I’ve written about extensively on this site. In my view, true self-acceptance comes from facing one’s shame and one’s limitations and then learning to live with them, in ways that promote authentic self-esteem. Try starting with this particular post.

      • effie says:

        it’s funny, my mom seems empathetic, but not in the right way. if i am sick she feels pity for me. and says things like, you seem to get sick so much, maybe you need to take better care of yourself. i get sick once a year if that. there is a lot of drama. she acts like she cares but somehow it doesn’t always feel like caring. it really confuses me. just as a for instance, i ended up making bad financial decision by buying a second home before i sold my first one to keep my kids in a good school system. it was stupid but well intended. years later when my parents and i are discussing that and my dad makes a comment my mom says, she did it because she was trying to find herself. i was shocked. i was mid thirties, been through a divorced, was working and taking care of two small kids on my own. i found myself. in a really difficult situation. but she sees me as a child, eternally, i am not allowed to grow up. she thinks she understands me, but as a 18 year old, not a 45 year old mother of two teens. she empathizes with really inappropriate things. like i said it’s really confusing sometimes. mostly because i want her approval and i want her to care. and abnormal psych was my major. so ironic. and i too was married the first time, to a man just like my mother. and it was he, of all people, but it figures, who said one day ‘i think your mom is the problem’. takes one to know one. but he was right. even though i defended her at the time. my mom tries to live my life for me so i can’t grow up. and that is changed and it’s caused a lot of problems.

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          Your mother sounds as if her communications to you are all about reinforcing some view she has of herself, rather than being about you.

          • effie says:

            yes. exactly. i thought of something this morning that kind of sums it all up. after my brother died we all went to hawaii for christmas to avoid being in new england and missing him more. it was a great place to be and my girls loved it. so did i. it was a spiritual experience. but it was also a lot of physical stuff too and traveling a great distance one gets tired. my mom asks me all the time how i am and i am always honest. that’s just how i am. i don’t do small talk. i grew up with it and it makes me cringe. in hawaii, for a week or so, she would ask and i would respond with, i’m tired but enjoying our vacation. one of those times she screamed at me, why are you so tired all the time. why can’t you say you are fine and leave it at that. why are you so negative all the time…so i asked my mom if she wanted me to lie when she asks me how i am and she said, yes. i don’t ask to know how you really are, i ask to be nice. and that is what she said to me. so that was eye opening for me. and little by little especially since alex died it’s gotten worse and worse. it’s much easier to walk away from a marriage than your mom. at least for me.

  59. Lauren says:

    Wow. I’m really glad I found this site.Im going through a very challenging time with my mother. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am going to have end my relationship with my mother ASAP. I’ve been trying to talk her about the effects her outrageous behavior has had on me since I was 14 (I’m 26 now). I really have put my heart and soul into reaching out to her, but just about every single time I do it’s either a bad time or she gets upset even though I am talking to her in a non confrontational way, she ends up literally running out of the room crying and scream and nothing ever has gotten solved or corrected. To give you a little bit of background history, my mother let me live in physical about from age five until twenty two – when finally divorced my father after eleven years of debating whether she should stay with or not. Even though they are divorced and always argue they still spend time together. My mom invites my father to the house all time even though she knows I am very uncomfortable around him as he is still explosive and violent. I felt it was necessary to mention my father since he is so intertwined in this mess. I’ve told my mother how it takes me hours of recovery after being around my father for me to go back to my normal state and how it breaks my heart that she is okay being so close to a man that was very violent towards me throughout my life. In my early life there was constant yelling and screaming and abuse- physical abuse and verbal…there was never a peaceful moment and I never felt safe at home. Finally at age 12 my body could no longer take it and I became very sick. I’ve worked with a lot doctors all through my teens and early twenties. I have been working with an excellent doctor for the past year and I am finally beginning to get my physical strength back and beginning to feel much better mentally even there is so much chaos from my mother. I have told my doctor about the chaos surrounding me from my mother and she has told me that the body can still heal in high stress but it takes longer. I’m going to give a list of some behaviors my mother does often. For one, she yells and screams at the top of her lungs at me about small things or when she misunderstands me and calls me names like curse words and stupid. She tells me she hates me and that she wants to hurt me as much as she can. That’s something she’s told me since I was 15. When we are in the car and if she gets upset with me she starts driving out of control , wild and fast. This used to make me scram and cry when I was a teenager but now I just stay silent, even though I still feel scared. She’ll drive way past the speed limit and make push the gas hard until the car makes sounds. Because I have been sick she thinks she is stronger than me physically and she used to be but I have regained some strength now. But when we are at home sometimes she tries to get into physical fights with me and says if I defend myself she will call the police on me and have me arrested, but it’s okay for her to attack me. She gets in my face and when she acts violent I hold her back. She’s had me cornered against the wall before though. I usually remain calm during her outburst because quite honestly I’ve tried every approach with her-yelling back, fighting back, trying to reason with her, staying quiet and walking away and talking about it when she’s calm. Nothing works, so I just remain calm to keep myself as relaxed as I can be so it doesn’t hurt me further, health wise. I decided to keep a log of all her outburst (yelling, screaming, hitting, ect.) and I found that in one month she had 95 outburst of rage. Sometimes she makes fun of my health problems and does reinactments of me being sick. If I come to her with a concern of mine she always ends up making the conversation about her and her problems. Even though I have told my mother how deeply she has hurt me with her words and actions to the point that I have contemplated suicide in the past it’s pointless. That’s why I’ve decided to get away from her because I can’t have a relationship with someone who thinks nothing me and has no consideration for me as a human being. I think more of myself than to put up with that. Everyone out in public think my mother is the sweetest, most charming woman and a wonderful mother to me that I should treat with the upmost respect. She tells strangers her life problems and starts crying and they all feel sorry for her. She misquotes me and makes up things that I never said and tells people I them. She also tries to make look bad in front of others and make them turn against me. She even tries to get my own friends to laugh me either at something I did that wasn’t intended to be funny or about something that is important to me. At the same, she wants me to end my relationships with all my friends because she thinks I like them more than her and that they are trying to come between my mother and I even though they are not. She also thinks they know me better than she does which makes her angry and makes her cry. But any information she finds out about me or my friends she eventually uses it against me in the future at a time when I am most vunerable. She tries to listen into my phone conversations and demands to know what was said if she doesn’t listen in. I’ve had trouble sleeping for a few years and she tells me I’m just trying to be rebellious because I suffer from insomnia and when I am finally able to relax and go to sleep within two or three hours she is beating on my door and screaming out my name. I wake up in a panic and get an instant headache and I ask her what she wants and she says for me to get up and come watch someone on tv cook a dish or talk about a book they’ve written or a discovery they’ve made. Sometimes I have difficulty falling back asleep after that. I’ve talked her about this many times and plastered signs on door requesting that she not talk to me and it works for a few weeks then she’s back at it again and I make a new sign for the door when she starts ignoring the old one. If I get hurt in any way physically she yells at me (it’s been that way since I was a little girl) instead of trying to help me or comfort me. She says she can’t have a life for taking care of me. I go to the doctor once a week and she says that prevents her from having job. I don’t drive because of the medications I was taking but now that I am getting stronger I have plans to learn to drive. My mother pressured me to drive at sixteen even though I was on medication that made me feel exhausted almost as soon as I would take it. My current doctor tells me I made a very adult decision not to drive under those conditions despite my mother pressuring me. I am getting better now but my mother acts like I am all consuming of her and she says things to me like “thank you for letting me take a shower. It’s so nice to be able to do something like this for myself.” Even though she can take a shower pretty much anytime she wants. She is also obsessed with my eating habits. If she doesn’t see me eat then to her that means I didn’t and she is afraid I will pass ourfrom low blood sugar (which is not a health problem I have). If she knows I am trying to lose weight she brings how sweets and tells me to just take one bite and that it won’t hurt me and sometimes she pushes a spoon filled with food up against my lips and then pretends like the spoon is in airplane and says “eat your food baby”. I am a fashion designer (since age four) and a songwriter (since age twelve) and my mother thinks that if I go in that career direction that I will become a slut and that I am only doing those things to get sexual attention because she says I want to be a whore. But designing and writing is a craft that comes naturally to me. My mother gets angry and tells me to stop if I express myself- it doesn’t matter if I am crying, happy, acting silly or dancing. She used to spank me for dancing innocently at four and it still upsets her to this day. She tries to use religion against me to control me asking me if I would dance like that in front of Jesus or if i would sing or wear a dress like that in front of Jesus and tells me that if I don’t honor her and obey her God won’t give me a long a life. Shes admitted that my expression embarrasses her and she fears people will think shes a bad parent. And she tells me people will think bad of me and she says “stop! People are looking” if we are in public and Im expressing myself a little, and I stop only to notice no one is looking. Her biggest fear for me is that I would have sex outside of marriage and get pregnant and she lectures me a lot about it even though I am old enough to decide for myself. Everytime I save up some money she takes it. Recently she stole $600 from me. She also belittles me and tells me how do simple things like make a ham sandwich, she told me to put the meat between the two pieces bread and she tells me hot to wash a frying pan or how to cook hamburger meat and she asks me if I washed my hands before we eat. She watches tv non stop and when I am on the room with her while she’s watching tv she changes the channel if a bedroom scene comes on. She takes parenting advise that she hears on tv for parents of toddlers and tries to apply it to me. For instance, if we are in the car going shopping or to a movie and if she gets mad at me she turns the car around and drives home because she heard that’s how you respond if your toddler is acting out. I ask her if she is trying to punish me and she says yes she is and she says because she can. She’s told me I can live with her forever. And gives me examples of mothers and daughters that are older than me and live together and are just as happy as can be. When I was little she told me I could live in a trailer in her back yard and now she says she wants to buy a house with two master bedrooms one for me and one for her or if not that she wants me to live in a guest house in her yard or says we could be next door neighbors or at least live in the same neighborhood. One time when I was extremely sick before she divorced my father and when he still lived with us I felt my body getting weaker and weaker and I had her move me into a condo so that I wouldn’t die from the stress my father put on me along with my condition. She hired nurses and doctors to come out to my condo and care for me and they were amazed I recovered. One nurse told my mom most people that go through what I went though get cancer and die and that I was very strong. When I was at the condo in 2006 and started to recover and slowly begin to have a life my mother called me all the time. In ten days time she had left me 30 voicemails and that’s just the voicemails, the calls I missed that doesn’t count how many times she called me during those ten days. When I felt strong enough to hold a job she laughed at me for working for only $7.95 an hour in a pet store for three days a week but it was all I could do and I wanted to do something. In December 2006 someone tried to break into my condo and the police couldn’t catch them and they kept coming back and I got scared and moved back in with parents and eventually my illness came back. If I try something new and do not do it perfectly the first time she is disappointed in me and acts like I can’t do whatever I am attempting, it’s been that way since I was little and still is. Mistakes are not allowed, neither is learning- not to her anyways. That makes me feel pressured. Also when she is in a rage she throws objects and just screams out, and sometimes pulls her own hair and screams out while she makes a crazy face at me. She also blames me for her health problems saying I caused them even those it’s conditions she’s had since before I was born. My question is how to I remain focused and positive while I am trying to focus on getting out? Or what are some ways I can cope until I get out? When she loses control sometimes it takes me hours or a day to recover and focus again. Thank you much for reading this. I also have anxiety from time to time. Any tips will be much appreciated.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Sometimes when I read accounts like this, I think that maybe I didn’t have it so bad after all.

      I think you’re quite clear that you need to remove yourself from this toxic relationship. The only way to survive until you can extricate yourself is simply not to engage with her. It seems like you “can never win,” and every interaction is destructive to your health, emotionally and psychologically. I’d advise humoring her and distancing yourself as soon as you possibly can.

      • Roxanne says:

        Dear Dr. Burgo,
        Everybody’s suffering counts. Your’s is not discounted because it was different. Thanks for the encouraging comments you give to others. This one is for you. Your suffering should not have happened. You deserved to be loved, protected and put first by self-sacrificing, kind parents.

        Roxanne

      • Michelle says:

        This is both my mother and my father actually. They both had a terrible childhood and as a result, have developed some pretty bad coping skills for dealing with their relationships with others, including me (their daughter). After years of trying different responses to them both, I figured out that I “can never win” and that if I let myself be bothered by them then I will eventually go crazy.

        I have cut off contact with my mother (the most destructive out of the two) and severely limit contact with my father. Just wondering how to handle him and his family when I go home for the holidays?

        AKA: Abused people that have developed terrible coping mechanisms as a result of their abuse = extremely critical father and children…

        I know that no matter how I act, I can’t please them. However, I have only recently figured this out/ have started trying to develop good self-esteem apart from what they think of me or my life as an adult. Sometimes the criticisms they dole out still really get to me…Any advice on how to handle low self-esteem after dealing with harsh criticism from narcissists?

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          My thoughts about developing authentic self-esteem — not the phony, pumped-up-with-affirmations kind — can be found in this older post. It involves facing shame and accepting one’s limitations.

    • jessica says:

      Have you ever thought maybe sge has manchausan syndrome and is keeping you sick so you will stay dependent on her? And do you think it couldve been her that kept trying to break into your house so you would get scared and move back home??

      Im so sorry you have to live with this psycho woman as a mother. Please please do whatever you can to get as far away from there asap before she drives you insane or kills you!

    • effie says:

      your life sounds a lot like mine. everything you said about people thinking she’s nice and you should think so too but she is cutting you down every chance and isolating you from other people. same thing. i am 45 and just realizing all this now. i have talked to my parents a few times and then she acts like either we didn’t or she disagreed. she acts like i am smart yet can’t possibly succeed at anything i plan to do. i got my husband to give her an idea i had but say it was his, for their yard, and she loved it. then he told her it was my idea and she laughed and said well, we’ll see. i rescue dogs and was fostering one and had him two days. my mom said to my husband, doesn’t look like she made any effort to find this dog and home’. then when i confronted her hours later she denied it saying she meant isn’t it great he’s so happy at our home. what. she lied, to my face. but is so nice and everyone loves her. i have a lot of anger right now, i want my life back. i wrote her an email two months ago laying it all out saying i am not sure i can be your daughter anymore because…she never responded. i finally was able to get a moment of her time and she said she had read it and disagreed. i had to freak out and yell to get her to admit it’s pretty messed up that i lay my heart on a platter trying to get her to understand why things are so hard and she doesn’t even get back to me to tell me she doesn’t agree. i’m not even worth an email or a phone call. all this time i thought she agreed and was going to try and be something else i guess. i am trying to draw boundaries. and we did talk, after that and she cried, as usual, and said she understood, but next week, who knows. it’s so stressful. so i hear you and you are so brave to disconnect. my parents are old and could be gone tomorrow so i remind myself it’s not forever. but that makes me sad too because i do love them. but man does he hurt me, over and over again. so like you, i should be brave and distance myself. good luck to you. i admire your strength.

  60. the witch's daughter says:

    I have only very recently (within the past few days) started to realize that my mother may actually be a narcissist. I always thought she was just heartless, but now I’m sure it is some sort of “cluster B personality disorder.” I’m just not positive which one.

    The main reason I believe this is because she takes such great pleasure out of other people’s misery. The only time she ever smiles or seems happy is when she is talking badly about someone else. I have a feeling that I am the main source of her pleasure since I am so lucky to be the scapegoat. She told me from the time I was about 12 years old that I had to move out as soon as I turned 18. I knew that she was serious so I got a job the day I turned 16. She would make me walk to work and back which doesn’t seem so bad in itself. However, now that I’ve become a mother I think, “who would let their 16 year old daughter walk home from work alone at 11pm while they are sitting at home watching TV?” I sure wouldn’t. One day it was POURING down rain. It was “raining cats and dogs” as they say. So, I hesitantly and politely asked my mother if she could give me a ride to work that day. She was furious and when I pointed out how hard it was raining she said, “I guess you need to get an umbrella!”

    She has never, ever said, “I love you” or given me a hug. I mean, I’m sure she probably did when I was a very young child, but she has not once shown any bit of affection since I’ve been old enough to remember. Any time I’ve ever expressed any frustration over the way I was raised, she’d always reply with some story about what SHE had to go through when she was a child. She made me watch the movie “Mommie Dearest” when I was a teenager. I guess that was her attempt to make me see that she wasn’t so bad afterall! I used to tell her when I was a teenager that I thought she was really a witch. She takes some sort of sick pride in that title and even posts pictures of the witch from “Wizard of Oz” on her Facebook page or writes, “the witch is in.” You can imagine how strange it was when I came across the different “types” of personalities (the queen, the witch, etc).

    When I did move out on my own at 18 just as I was expected to do and had planned for, she didn’t help me with anything. I mean, she didn’t give me so much as a utensil or a nickel to get started. The money wasn’t a surprise because she hadn’t given me any financial support since before I was able to work. When I got a job I was responsible for my own groceries and everything, but even before that she would never give me money or buy me something as simple as a fast food dinner. Graduation pictures? Nope. On the other hand, my sister who was pregnant at 15 and gave birth at 16 was given a dining table, a bed, and an entire living room set along with dishes, pictures for the walls, etc. That was when I realized that the way she treated her children had nothing to do with how much or how little they accomplished.

    Then, I got pregnant while I was in college. She made it clear that she thought I should get an abortion and she didn’t believe I would ever finish school if I didn’t. So, you would think she would be bursting with pride when I proved everyone wrong and not only graduated, but finished at the top of my class. Wrong. She didn’t even come to my graduation “because the roads were bad.” Yes, it had been snowing out. No, the roads were not so bad that I couldn’t make it. She lives about 30 minutes from where my ceremony took place.
    My sister a.k.a “the golden child” lived out of state when she graduated from college. My mother genuinely couldn’t make it to her graduation because of the timing, distance, etc. I honestly think she didn’t come to my graduation because she didn’t make it to my sister’s. It’s like she feels as though giving me any attention is a way of betraying my sister. That, and attending my graduation would be admitting that she was wrong about me.
    My sister and I are estranged for reasons that are not even clear to me. Not only does my mother not care that her children don’t speak to one another, but she seems to get great joy out of it. Apparently, my mother and sister speak to each other several times a day on the phone. My stepfather (who sees how strange this whole thing is) told me that. Now, I live about 20 minutes from my mother’s house and she has not once been to my home. She’s taken several trips to go visit my sister who lives about 10 hours away.
    My sister is “successful” in that she has a college education, a nice home, and a child. So, it’s not so uncommon that the “successful” child is the favorite, right? Except for the fact that I have a college education, a nice home, and children as well.
    She really isn’t that much a part of my life now. I used to try to have a relationship with her, but I’ve pretty much given up. I only call every blue moon if my daughter wants to visit or if one of my children have a birthday party. The last party she came to, she sat at a table trying to take pictures of me without me noticing. She wasn’t even pointing the camera at my face, but at my body. No doubt she was trying to capture on film all the weight I’ve recently gained so she could show it to my sister and they would have something to talk about on the phone that night. When I told my husband what I caught her doing, he said, “Why do you even bother inviting her? Why do you want her around?” That’s a good question.
    I guess I always thought that she had a good reason to be disappointed in me since I didn’t finish college, get married, buy a house, and then have children in that order. Now, since I am successful and realize that I have done nothing that would be disappointing to any sane mother, I know it is she who has the problem. Nothing I have accomplished has been good enough and nothing ever will be. It doesn’t even matter that she herself was a teen mother and never went to college.
    It’s very hard to understand since I’m a mother myself. I tell my children I love them several times every single day. I would be heartbroken if my children ever stopped speaking to each other. I don’t get it, and I probably never will, but at least the realization that my mother VERY likely has a mental illness will help.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      This kind of splitting between the children, favoring one and denigrating the other, is common with narcissistic mothers. I think you’re wise to expect very little (or nothing) from her other than hurt and to keep your distance. It’s hard to give up on the idea of “mother”; we always hope she’ll turn herself around and become the person we’ve always needed, but it just doesn’t happen.

      • Michelle says:

        I’ve been hoping this would happen for years. Ever since I was a little kid actually. I even defended her actions when I was little (too innocent to know better). I finally just had to say to myself “Girlfriend, wake up because it ain’t ever gonna happen.” :-)

        • the witch's daughter says:

          I did the same, Michelle. I had a couple of people tell me when I was younger that they thought my mother was jealous of me. I thought that was a very strange thing to say. I still don’t know if that’s accurate, but a number of people from the outside looking in have said it so it’s an idea worth entertaining. Being jealous of your own child is something I’m not even able to comprehend, but I wonder if that is in fact a trait of narcissistic mothers?

  61. Shane says:

    Not sure that my mom in narcissitic, however many of the traits answer that question with a resounding YES! I feel conflicted because my childhood was mainly good, happy, wholesome with bouts of a lot of criticism from mom. When we dared convey our displeasure to the criticism, we were always told “you kids are soooo sensitive, get a thicker skin” or ” I cant say anything to you kids” and dad would calmly add ” your mother loves you, she didn’t mean it that way, it’s just the way she is”.
    Now that I’m an adult with a daughter of my own, I see how hurtful those comments really were and vow to never make my daughter feel the way my siblings and I did. The latest struggle came weeks ago on my birthday. (most of the big fights happen around holidays or my birthday, my sisters birthday etc.) My mother has effectively cut many people out of her life, her own siblings one by one, her father for a time immediately after my grandmothers death, all close ffriends that she and my dad had, her business partners and coworkers. You name it, after a while there was always something unjust done or cruelly said by the other party, a huge altercation with nasty emails, late night conversations with anyone who will listen to how wrong the other person was, etc. She has always been the victim and us kids, loyal that we were, severed ties with almost all of our family, on both sides. We even cut contact with our friends whose parents had “wronged” my mother. The current friends she has live 13 hours away but she talks to them NON STOP. I mean for 4-10 hours every day. When us kids call, she ignores the call waiting (with our names on the caller ID) at least 75% of the time. My oldest sister was in the hospital several weeks ago and it took 4 calls back to back to get her to answer the call waiting. She had been talking to one of her friends and didn’t want to interrupt. I finally got fed up when she put me off to finish a conversation with another friend. Thats when it hit the fan. In frustration I raised my voice to her, she proceeded to laugh as if it were a joke then interrupt me endlessly. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. She however made nasty comments about how I remind her of my grandmother (her mother whom she couldn’t stand and still talks about 3 years after her death) and how I am just like my dad’s sisters (whom she hated and hasn’t spoken to since I was a baby). When I told her those were very hurtful comments, she said I was taking it the wrong way. She proceeded to say”no wonder the people you work with have difficulty speaking with you” After this low blow (she didn’t think so, just an “observation”) I told her I wasn’t getting anywhere with this conversation. Other comments were “if I am so bad, why do you kids have anything to do with me?” and “this isn’t good for my health” . Before ending the argument, she did have one more question for me…..”are you going to be around to house sit this weekend while Im out of town?” I was shocked speechless, called my dad told him how hurt I was and he totally stood up for her. In his eyes she can do no wrong and its sick. She then proceeded get on the phone line with my dad and said “your father’s not perfect, maybe now’s the time to have him tell you his secret and what he has done.” No idea what this “secret” is and to have her push my buttons like that and use my dad to hurt me is really unforgivable.
    She has since told my siblings and probably anyone else who’ll listen just how terrible I was to her during the argument, lied about what she said and omitted the”secret”comment. There has been no contact as my mother is very irrational in her arguments and I will not make her see how hurt I am. Is this it? Do I have a narcissistic mother and an enabling father? Do I have no contact with them to save myself the hurt and rejection I feel? Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Given the way you describe her current behavior, I have a hard time believing that your childhood was as good and wholesome as you say. Your mother is a classic narcissist. The inability to tolerate any kind of criticism, the turning on people who cross her, the inability to maintain relationships, the vicious assaults on your character, the attempt to turn family members and friends against one another, the drive to enlist sympathy on her side against her enemies, the misrepresentation of the truth — it’s all so familiar to me. I don’t know if you need to break off contact, but you definitely need to set some very firm limits and protect yourself from her cruelty.

      • Cycler1976 says:

        I have been struggling for the past 14 months with what you described above. But instead over the course of 7 years affected my husband and I. My mother disrespected my husband role in our family and consistently denied comments made over the years about him. He tried talking to her and my step dad about it but they would deny they said something then turned it on my husband as he had anger issues. 14 months later they are still making up stories about him and supposed things he said about others in my family. My entire family hates him because my mom got others involved and never told them both sides of the story. It’s absolutly gross.

      • S'more says:

        Yes you just described my life!

  62. Bluefairy says:

    I’m not sure how to classify my mother. She is 68, widowed (19 yrs ago) and my only sibling (sister) died (12 yrs ago). With it just being her and me, I always felt a tremendous burden to help my mom. I never left the house and have supported her. I am 30 yrs old and my husband and I now live with her. It has been so difficult. She is borderline hoarder and refuses to move on and let go of the past. My sister’s furniture is still in her old room, while my husband hardly has room for his things. Ever since I separated myself financially from my mother (we shared an account) she’s been griping about her finances, my husband’s income, that I can’t do anything with my money, that I should have left my account with her, etc. She also is always saying something negative about my husband. What’s worse is that my husband and I have to move out of state, across the country, to be near his 8 yr old son. This has brought on a tremendous battle. She will not leave her house and all her memories to come with us. I’m
    trying to learn to “leave and cleave”. I’m also stressing the financial situation, as she cannot sustain the house and is somewhat financially dependent on me. I’m trying to figure out boundaries with her, how to break free from her control, while dealing with guilt for leaving her alone. My mother also refuses help and does not go to doctors of any kind. She has no friends or social life apart from me. Hardly leaves the house…

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You can only do so much. As some point, she has to step up and take responsibility; if she doesn’t, try not to succumb to the dynamics of your relationship, where you feel you have to rescue her. I’m glad to hear that you’re moving because it sounds to me like your mother can have a destructive impact on your marriage. If you’re going to cleave, cleave unto him.

  63. Zoe says:

    I’ve been looking for an explanation about my mother for years but I feel this blog has finally put things in perspective for me so thank you!

    I’m currently expecting my first baby and as well as going through lots of emotional upheavals myself, my mother seems to have ramped up her antics. My husband and I live interstate from my mother and I try to call her at least once a week. She is flying down in a few months and again after the bub is born. She doesn’t have any money (refuses to work etc) so we have to pay for all her flights and expenses when she comes to visit. Last night she criticised me for only bringing her to visit us three times this year. My husband and I work very hard but do not earn lots so it is a big ask for us to pay for her in the first place. We sacrifice going on holidays/personal treats just so we can fly her down to us. In all the years she has never once thanked us for any flights/allowances and believes it is ‘the way it should be’. She frequently compares us against other peoples treatment of their parents and says how much better off those parents are (financially/emotionally etc) because of the care they receive from their children.

    When we were talking about the baby, my mother said “when will I get to spend time with you when the baby arrives? It’s going to be selfish and demand all of your time”. I don’t know about anyone else but this statement just infuriated me. Naturally, the baby will be my first priority and my mother/family will need to take a back seat. A baby cannot feed or care for itself and it is my duty to look after this beautiful baby as best as I can. I want to be the best mother I can be for my children and I hope by putting them first I am attempting to achieve this. When I talk to her on the phone I am emotionally drained for a few days afterwards. If she upsets me, she’ll deny any responsibility and if I stand up to her she says i’m “highly emotionally” and my pregnancy hormones are in over-drive. I love her because she’s my mum but would never put up with this behaviour if my friend was treating me like this…funny isn’t it!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It sounds like your mother sees herself as the child of you and your husband and is feeling competitive and jealous of the coming baby who will take you away from her.

    • S'more says:

      I can relate. Your mother sounds stress inducing. Be thankful she doesn’tlive closeby. Reading these posts really helped me tosee there are so many others suffering with crazy narc parents too! When my son was born my mother wanted to be over every day or so she said before he was born. Then when I told her I needed some space at first learning to breast feed and bond and could she come over just a couple times that week? She got so angry and screamed “You just want to rub it in that this baby is yours not mine!” of course after she visited once and saw it was mainly her helping me out and I was mainly breast feeding. She never came over again not until he was walking and then only once a week for the rest of his life. And she acted like it was a favor even though I ended up running around getting her dinner and drinks and such. And she would tell everyone she was coming to help out. And if I ever visited her home with him which I only did twice, she would put a towel on her floor and his baby toys on top and say “try to keep him on the towel”. Yes, she did that. And when we needed a home to stay because we bought a home that had major problems and was unlivable for a month she would not let us stay. As she couldn’t handle the mess so we had to bounce from home of friend to home of friend. The last two weeks a friend let us stay in her empty apartment and it was in a really bad neighborhood and it was empty with just a mattress on the floor and I’ll never forget my parents visited up there with her sister and niece who were staying with them from abroad. And I think she was happy and had zero guilt. Her expression read “you think you have it alk with your nice husband and house but now you can suffer a little”. This is so cathartic getting this stuff out.

  64. Stephanie says:

    First of all, thank you so much to everyone on this blog! I am literally crying bc I don’t feel so paranoid anymore! I grew up thinking I was just thinking crazy thoughts! “No mother would act/think this way on purpose! Obviously there is something wrong with me!”

    My story is a little different. I was adopted when I was 16 months old. From a very early age my mother always made me feel like I owed her for adopting me…telling me at one point (I was 11) that if I wouldn’t have been adopted and stayed in Korea, that I would have been a prostitute by then. She always made me feel like she had basically saved my life by taking me into her home. My father pasted away when i was only 7. it seemed like from then on it was us against the world! After my dad died, i had to step up and do everything around the house. it became my responsiblity to cook and clean. i had. To get up an extra 30mins early before school to clean at least 1 room before i left. She says i always wanted her to hang out with me and my friends. but as i remember it SHE would lay a guilt trip on me about how i could go spend the night/shopping/hang out with my friends, but she would be home all by herself. sigh. so of course i would invite her. i felt like i was abandoning her. Then when I was 12 I was raped by a boy I had a crush on and her first instinct was to blame me. I did sneak out of the house to hang out with him in my treehouse, by it took me years of therapy to realize that that didn’t mean I deserved to be raped. She was crying at one point to the police during my interview about the assault, asking them where she had gone wrong with me.
    We would get into the most horrific fights. We would scream at each other and she would eventually end up hitting me. In one argument she was sitting on my tummy, her hands grabbing the hair on either side of my head, slamming it into the floor. But after the fight was over she would act like literally nothing was wrong, or had happened. She left me crying on the floor after the head banging incident and walked out of the room. About 15mins later she strolled back into my room, asked me if I was going to over react all day or if I wanted to go and get some ice cream. She was smiling and talking in a normal voice as if she didn’t just attack me! Even to this day she will never acknowledge the fight or apologize. She just simply moves on from it.
    All of the stress of our relationship ended up with me suffering from anxiety and an eating disorder. Instead of taking me to therapy, she would tell me that she was soooo jealous of how thin and pretty I was. But her compliments eventually turned to bitter comments about how I should eat a hamburger once in a while, how I was a whore bc only guys cared about my appearance so I must be losing weight for their attention, or how it must be easy to be so thin when weight is the only thing I have to think about. The thinner I got the more aggressive she got. My therapist now says she was just projecting bc of her own weight problem at the time.
    To this day she calls me names and puts me down. I feel like she only wants me in her life as long as she can control it. I did get pregnant very young (19) and the baby’s father and I did eventually get married. She refused to help plan the wedding bc she said that my husband was taking us(my son and I) away from her. The weird thing is she doesn’t act this way at all with my son! She is everything she should have been with me. But my husband worries that things will change when our. Son is old enough to defy her, he is only 9 right now.
    It has gotten to the point where I try not to talk to her unless it has to do with my son. This is difficult though bc she has helped out financially here and there. I won’t bad mouth her about that, bc she didn’t have to help us. But I do feel like she gets giddy when we have to borrow money…like haha they have to pay attention to me. At the first of criticism or opposition, the first thing she does is bring up the money. She also has her own personal history. She will completely lie about things that she said or did. Example. When my husband and I got pregnant I was 19 and he was 22. She belittled him and demanded he drop out of school and get a job on a assembly line. He and I talked and we decided it was best for him to stay in school. She he did and he is now an attorney. Ask my mom about the conversation now and it’s all, ” I knew he could do it. I told them both that education was a better long term solution. I can’t believe he wanted to drop out and go for quick money. Can you imagine what would have happened to them if I hadn’t spoken to them?”
    Anyway when confronted she just lies or gets angry. I don’t know what to do, but my son has such an awesome relationship with her…so I can’t cut her out completely.
    Thanks for letting me vent! ;)

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You’re welcome to vent! I think your husband is right — her relationship with your son will deteriorate the moment he’s old enough to defy her or gets more deeply involved in his peer group and “neglects” her. Narcissists can often appear to be quite giving, as long as they don’t feel that you lead a truly separate life apart from them. Once you do, they will often feel intense envy for what you have that they do not — the way your mother was envious of your figure and wanted to belittle you. Ugh. I’d be cautious about accepting money and try to keep yourself at a safe distance.

    • Melissa says:

      Sounds like Stephanie’s mom and mine have some traits in common: physically abusive, manipulative with money & gifts, and has grandkids. She probably will try to use money/gifts to manipulate grandkids. The ones who rebel or don’t play along probably won’t be “rewarded”. I’ll give you some examples of my mom. (BTW-For the past year I’ve been exploring the possibility that my mom may have NPD. I’m 45 yrs old. As far back as I can remember she has consistently shown 6 of the 9 traits listed in the DVM. I might post my own personal summary later tonight or tomorrow. But to get back to replying to you specifically…) Physical abuse: My mother used objects including belts and switches to pummel me with, and at times left scratch marks on me from her long fingernails. She also abused and neglected my terminally ill sister in 2009. That was my turning point and is a whole other story in itself. …Example of using money and gifts to manipulate: Several years ago, after my 2nd step-dad died, mom used some of the life insurance money to buy a house in nearby town. She wanted me to put my name on it with hers. She presented the idea as if she was giving me some grand “gift”, but I knew it was just to create strings like she has a history of doing. (The “your name is on the house, be grateful it will be yours someday, now you come take care of xyz” routine; She has ways of getting others to take care of her although she is physically capable of working). I refused her “gift”, which sent her into a sort of temper-tantrum but I stood my ground. …Now for the grandkids: I have 3 sons, all adults. When they were kids, I never “badmouthed” her and would bring them to visit her. (We would make the hours long trip to see her, she never made the trip to come see us.) As they grew into their teens they never saw her “bad side” fully come out. However, they still figured out for themselves that grandma is “not normal”. After they were adults, things that came out during my sister’s illness were an eye-opener to them about what their grandma could *really* be like. My oldest 2 are polite but have little contact with her. My youngest is more apt to humor her. However he has pulled away too because of behaviors he has noticed, in addition to the 2009 incidents with his aunt. (For example, when he was extra busy with work plus studying for college finals he didn’t reply to grandma’s messages. So she accused him of being on drugs – probably to manipulate/upset him into giving her the attention she wanted. She has also subtly put down his girlfriend with those sweet-yet-double-meaning covert jabs that he has learned to pick up on.) Anyway… The last time I talked to her, her weird twisty conversation included my kids. She started talking about how she is going to be when she is “rich”. She said she had set up a savings account for my youngest, and she would give money and presents to him (as well as to other people who have been nice to her). Since she was talking about giving out money, I mentioned my oldest son. He is struggling to pay back his student loans. She folded her hands and cocked her head smugly, and said, “I think its good for him to struggle.” Then she went back to talking about how she was going to reward people who have been nice to her. (Like I wrote, I haven’t talked to her since.) ….So, that’s the attitude toward the grandkids. But you know… even that youngest son has told me that he would never take grandma in under his roof after the things she has done. And that’s the one grandchild she thinks is so “nice” to her that she would reward him. Sad but true. [In my case, using money to "reward" is her grandiose fantasy. She essentially has no money (she has over-spent the life insurance money from my 2nd step-dad and is currently living off of my 3rd step-dad). She has no job skills, no real income of her own, and has a long history of "investing" in various flops in her fantasy of "being rich". One of the times she was upset with me she "threatened" to not leave me an inheritance. Whatever. I mentioned that to my aunt (her sister, who has told me she knows my mother is "sick"). Aunt told me that mom probably won't have any money to leave me anyway. My sons know it too, they've done the math. Its just one of her fantasies that makes her feel bigger than what she really is.]

      • Anonymous says:

        Are grandiose feelings part of being narcissistic? Bc your mom certainly has that! My mom does that too. She says it is good for me to struggle bc it teaches RESPONSIBLITY, and it does. But she has already set up a college fund/car fund/general savings for my 9yr old. I know it is using money to manipulate…but there were times i couldn’t make it with a loan from my mom…and trust that she never let’s me forget it.

  65. Ginger says:

    My mother was diagnosed as a narcissist in my early 30s. She came to visit me and left a belt and pair of pants at my house. She became obsessed over them and wanted me to send them back to her by UPS. At the time, my boyfriend and I were breaking up and my business partnership was dissolving. With all that going on, I kept forgetting to get the belt and pants to UPS and really didn’t think it was a big deal. But she began harassing me. Leaving me angry, screaming vmail messages calling me a “fucking selfish bitch” over and over again. She also sent me long emails telling me that the belt was a gift from her friend and by not returning it, I was destroying her relationship with that friend — long, angry, manipulative emails. At the advice of a friend, I packed up her belt and pants and had them overnighted immediately. I then began to delete her phone messages and emails without reading them. I had nothing to do with her for a year but then she sent a friend to tell me that my mother is getting old and that she had knee surgery (???) and she needed me in her life. I told her friend everything about my mother — the way we grew up, her verbal abuse, erratic behavior, ner neglect and abandonment, her manipulation. Her friend recommended we go to family counseling to see if we could work on the relationship. I agreed and drove 2.5 hours each week to go for about six weeks. My mother told the therapist that we were there because I had manipulated her, him and everyone around us. If the therapist suggested anything about her behavior, she went into a rage and threatened to leave by backing closer and closer to the door. Eventually she told me that she didn’t think the therapy was helping and she quit going. I went on my own a couple more times and the therapist diagnosed her with narcissitic personality disorder and explained what that means. It was nice having a professional opinion and professional advice but the issues related to growing up with a narcissistic mother have stayed with me and weighed on me my whole life. I had to cut her out of my life again with no contact because she’s not good for me. She never has been and she never will be. And she’s really mean. My feelings about her make me feel selfish, guilty and childish — like I realy am a “fucking selfish bitch,” I guess. It feels terrible to have no connection with living parents. I go to Alanon meetings these days to deal with my own issues from being raised by a narc-mother and alcoholic, detached father. I shared one story here among so many. I know that a mother is not supposed to call her daughter horrible names over a pair of pants and a belt. I can see the absurdity of these situations clearly but her behavior still makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me or I did something wrong or if I was better somehow, she wouldn’t be this way.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You might want to take a look at my most recent post. It doesn’t describe you exactly but it deals with the issue of how children who grow up with narcissistic parents often end up feeling that they must have no self, devoting themselves to the needs of their parents, in order to get what they need.

    • Anonymous says:

      Isn’t it funny how the absurdity is easy to see now, but growing up we internalize, as if we caused it. Good luck!

  66. Kelly Burns says:

    I was raised by a mother who put me on the street when I was 16 after I had an altercation with her husband. Now she is very sick, and I try to release and forgive what happened and be there for her. However my sister told me the last time we talked that they may need financial support as my mother chose not to get medicare/caid and now we have to pay for her surgery and tests. I felt so angry…when she began this illness I tried really hard to help but there was so much denial that part of the healing on my part was to detach more and stop trying to help. I guess I am asking, am I a horrible person if I don’t help out financially with the situation? I feel so strongly I don’t want to help out…there are others who can so it’s not like I am leaving her high and dry yet again I feel I must take care of her, as I did all through my childhood until she made the choice of the male attention over her child…any insight would be wonderful Thanks much.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      One of the more insidious effects the narcissistic mother can have is to make you feel guilty for having a self. Because you exist for her only to serve her own needs, any attempt to separate and have a sense of self is a betrayal. Guilt is a most effective tool to use against the child who dares to think about herself and what she may need. Don’t fall into that trap. Take care of yourself … no one else did.

    • patty burke says:

      That was so horrible that your mother put you on the street at 16. It sounds like you are trying to get past that and be there for her. One of the ways I think you can do that is getting her on medicaid/medicare now. lThis keeps you out of the situation and not tied to her financially. They will take care of at least the hospitalization.

  67. Lyndal says:

    I found your site this morning as I was sitting here with the realisation that I am trapped in my mothers existance. I also had the realisation that my mother was narcisstic some months ago. Upon that realisation I spiralled into a panic attack as to what I was going to do to ever be free. I have tried to seperate myself from this horrific nightmare, always to no avail… I cant escape this. In the past when I have tried, she has had me taken into custody, yes, the police arrived on my doorstep, straight jacket etc, and I was taken into custody and had to endure mental health assessments, this has happened twice to me in the past…. the humiliation and fear I felt was indescribable. Mind you every time, I was released with the team assigned to do this assessment confused as to why this had even been ordered upon me. Another instance was when my daughter fell pregnant with her first child, i supported her to keep this news hidden from my mother… she didnt want to be the target of the negativity that always came from my family… it was hard, but we pulled it off, my family had no knowledge of the pregnancy or the birth of the child, the baby was almost 3 months old before my daughter felt strong enough to inform them of the arrival…. Well, thats when hell broke lose again… my mother was furious that she had not been involved in all of this, accused me of robbing her of her priveledge as a great grandmother, she even took it further and had me charged with covering up a pregnancy…. she created this drama and story to the police, to cut a long story short, I served three months in jail….
    My life has been painful, due to her manipulation…. I turned to God about seven years ago… I was going to commit suicide, because I honestly could see no way out of this impossible situation, I received a revelation at that point, and through my faith, I have been slowly overcoming all of this. Like I said, I found this site as I received the revelation that I have been trapped in my mothers existance all my life…. a frightening thought. I know I will receive help and guidance from above, and eventually I will overcome this nightmare completely.
    After going through this, I really dont know how anyone can possibly be truly free from this stronghold without the power of God… just coping with the sheer panic of the situation, without faith, I know for certain, I would not be here today.
    This is an insidious abuse, that we are so alone in, to other people, these mothers are the picture of sweetness, and we, the child, are the source of grief to the parent… the object of shame…. that is what makes this abuse so difficult to break free from…. no one believes us when we tell them the treatment we have suffered…. I have felt so alone in this battle for life, that was until I received faith.

  68. Reshma says:

    I made the mistake in confiding in my ” enabler ” father about my NM. I didn’t say much, other than the fact that I thought she has NPD, with a few very recent examples. For example, I have vitiligo on my elbows. I wore a short-sleeved top to the family home recently, when her nephew and his family were visitting. He (my cousin) never said anything to me, but, he asked her what happened to my elbows. Tactful. If he had asked me, I would have just told him what it was. Anyway, the next morning I received a phone call from her asking me to wear a long-sleeved top, the next time I go over there. She had told him I had some sort of rash. I was really angry and I flatly refused. She got offended as she ” thought ” she was looking out for me. Another recent example that I shared with my dad is how, recently, some family friends brought their son to meet me, as he was interested in taking an exam that I had sat for and wanted to get some information about it etc. etc. Taking this exam allows me to work in Australia (I have applied for jobs and I’m currently waiting for replies to my job applications). My NM has never asked me a thing about my job hunt, the exam (she didn’t even congratulate me when I passed), she even asked me, ” Oh, are you really upset by that? “, when an interview I was supposed to have didn’t work out (no empathy)… BUT… the day that these family friends were visitting, she asked me, ” So, how’s the job hunt coming along? “. It sounded so hollow and fake and showed her obvious lack of interest in me or what I am doing. She is very result oriented though, so, if I do get the job, she would be talking about it and show more interest then.

    I am Asian, but my family is non-conventional in the sense that my mother is the primary breadwinner. This has made her into a veritable ” tyrant “. ” He or in our case, she, who has the money, calls the shots “, right? My father, earns much less than her and while in a normal marriage/partnership, your finances are something that you share, along with other parenting duties, we (the children) have been made very well aware of how much she has done for us all, over the years, as opposed to my father’s zero contribution. It has come to a point that her sons all have a fear of turning out like our father and I have had moments in my life when I had intense anger towards him for ” failing ” to do his fatherly duties (a typical example of the type of scapegoating she does). My father has made his share of financial mistakes, so it is all too easy to point out his failings. If I had a word to summarize his life, it would be ” trying “. Always. He’ll never be good enough for her though and whatever he does is discounted as, ” Oh, if I did that, I’d make it work. ” OR, ” Well, if he didn’t help me with that, than what would he do? ” OR ” I’d do that, if I had the time. ” My dad usually laughs it off as, ” Oh, she just can’t lose! Haha. ” Well-trained.

    I decided to consciously step back from all those messages and appreciate my father for what he has done for me/us. Nurture and encourage me. I feel that I should have done that, BUT, just not told him what I thought about her. He’s so deeply enmeshed with her that all though there was a glimmer of hope and understanding for a little while, she raised her whip (when she realized that I have changed in my attitude towards her), and he just completely betrayed my trust. I told him that this is who she is and what she’s done, that I accept it and I don’t plan to confront her about it and that I didn’t want him to say anything to her. At first, he seemed understanding, as he’s been treated badly by her as well. However, he went ahead and told her what I thought and she is so ” distraught ” as her daughter thinks she has some sort of disorder. I received a phone call from my younger brother, advising me to talk things through with her. The ironic thing is, he (my brother) told me that he called me out of his own free will. No coercion. Right. I’m sure she didn’t say anything but she manipulated the whole situation into being one of the ” darkest days ” of her life and my father and brother fell for it. My father is being aloof with me. Punishing me for how I’m treating my mother (who has done so much for me/us), until ” I see the light “, I suppose. Sigh. I called and spoke to her. I did not take anything back or apologize. I just did it to keep the peace. I did not talk much, I pretty much just listened to her go on about how she cannot function properly, because I think of her in such a way (nothing about why I feel the way I feel or what she can do to make it better) and denial of any fault on her part. Basically, she wants me to admit that I am the one who is wrong/dysfunctional (as usual) and I need my mother (the omniscient) to make everything ok again. Everything she says or does screams narcissist!

    I am 36 years old and I have had three episodes of clinical depression in my life (two were treated). I realized only recently that the chronic feelings of anxiety/depression/emptiness were just a symptom of my authentic self being suppressed. It’s easy to blame the child and say, ” Oh, well, nobody forced you into making your choices. You had your freedom to choose. We supported you no matter what you chose. ” All the while your implicit message being, ” You’re not good enough unless you be who I want you to be. ”

    There are so many examples of these interactions that I’ve had with her, while growing up, including the ones that I thought were because she was being strict or because of cultural/generational differences. Now that I have awareness I realize what it is/was and have a name for it. It wasn’t me being rebellious/unreasonable/oversensitive/ emotionally labile. I used to argue with her so often for not listening to me or for being an ” emotional robot “. I never stopped fighting, even when depressed. I did not go through physical/sexual abuse but she just never saw me as different from her, yet special in my own way. In fact, my differences were seen as a negative. We were given food, shelter, clothes, education, what more is there, right? She always told me, ” With you, it’s never enough. ” That’s not true. I wanted something very basic and I did not get it from her. I’m starting to wonder if I ever really got it from my father. His own sense of ” not being good enough ” colours all his perceptions and is the legacy he passed on to his children. On the surface, we are a high-achieving, looks-good-on-paper family but what about what lies beneath? My father always said, ” Whatever you do, be the best. ” That may sound like great advice, but, it isn’t. I’m not talking about being complacent, but at some point, you should be able to look at yourself realistically and say, ” Hey, this is me and I am happy with it. ”

    There’s no way to function in our family unless we all dance to her tune. She is perfect. She can do no wrong. All the while projecting all her flaws and imperfections onto others. A part of me thinks that my father probably has some hidden narcissism too. He is finally being given the importance he’s been craving all these years (first by me, by acknowledging his contribution and then by my mother who is puzzled by her daughter’s sudden change in attitude and is seeking answers from him). I think it is a little different in Asian families as the culture itself lends to narcissism being hidden. We’re always ” saving face ” and keeping up appearances. I want my son to have a relationship with his grandparents but there’s no way I can go back to how things were before, now that I see so much more clearly. I told a friend of mine that it’s like seeing everyone in their undies and she said, ” It’s an ugly world. “

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You obviously have a lot of anger you need to get off your chest. Whether or not your mother is NPD, she clearly has some strong narcissistic features, reinforced by some cultural factors, I gather. I guess what I’d say to you is to look for your grief, about the mother you didn’t have, and get in touch with the ways she has damaged you personally. I expect there must be some shame there. Especially in the wake of such a major realization, it’s natural to get angry; just be careful not to stay there too long because the sadder, “softer” places are the ones from which you’ll grow.

      • Reshma says:

        Thank you very much for your reply. The truth is, I’ve been sad and empty for a very long time. You are right. I have a lot of anger now, especially after I had my realization. I vascillate between rage and the grief you were talking about. There is also the difference in how she treated me (an extension of herself) and how she treats my brothers (golden children, although there is a competitive dynamic between them too). This might be also culturally driven (boys are given more importance than girls). In my family, it was subtle, as she always told me to aim high (just don’t get above myself). Mixed messages. At times I feel the anger helps as it prevents me from feeling sad.

        I am aware of the ways she has damaged me (only now) and I am taking back my power. I did talk to her about it. She didn’t understand. She probably thinks that this is a phase I’m going through. She turned the tables on me and said, “If this is what it takes for you to be happy, so be it.” I told her that she could agree/disagree and that’s ok with me. She’ll always be my mother and I love her.

        At the moment, I feel free to be myself as I don’t need her approval. However, I find it challenging to deal with her as this different persona (her vulnerable, take care of me side) as she has always projected herself as infallible. This side of her makes me want to cave in and make it all ok again but I know if I go there, I will never come out again.

        • S Nia says:

          Reshma, know that you aren’t alone, & that you’ve come a long way by acknowledging this to yourself and by sharing this with the world. Keep walking sister. The path isn’t easy for us because no one walked these paths before us. We are the creators of these trails in our cultural context & that in itself takes a lot of strength and courage. I am creating this path for myself and when I sometimes feel down, I remind myself I am doing this for my inner child aspects & also so my children and my children’s children can walk easier.
          Peace & love,
          Nia

  69. Renee says:

    I’m certain that my mother is a narcissist and believe that my father and brother are as well. I have a second brother who has not really talked to any of us for decades and I have few memories of him from childhood. My mother is a particular brand of narcissist that I don’t see mentioned in many articles on the subject. She does not seem concerned with her appearance or with money or success. But she does want to get into Heaven. I believe that, toward this end, she had children to fulfill her duty as a Catholic woman. I have few memories of her ever enjoying any of us.

    I in particular was targeted for Mother’s relentless criticism and looks of disapproval. I have certainly never known the mother’s loving gaze that I have read about and seen on the faces of friends while they looked at their own children. My oldest brother wavered between cruel taunting and seeking the attention and admiration from me that he could not get from Mother. My father also sought my attention and pouted whenever he felt slighted by me, even when he only imagined it. I was often puzzled, not knowing what I had done.

    Once I was an adult, my mother, who undermined my confidence all my life, also went to me for solace and approval. She would sporadically call to complain and cry about something my brother said. Still, no conversation was more than ten minutes. She lamented that she raised all three of us to be Catholic yet not one of us is even religious. This is the only regret she ever expressed about her own performance as a mother. She said, “There must have been something I didn’t do.” I knew there was no point in telling her what that was.

    Finally I became overwhelmed by their emotional dependence on me and cut off contact with the entire family. It has been seven years. Before this, I moved to the other side of the country, but it was not enough. Still, because my parents are very old, I feel haunted with guilt as well as with the fear that they will hunt me down and force me back into the fold to take care of them. I even imagine my brother coming to kill me. I don’t really believe this — it is more a sensation than an articulated fear. But this is the only way to describe it.

    One legacy of this kind of parenting I believe is the constant questioning that each of us must go through in many various situations — Did I give enough? Do I expect too much? Are my feelings overwhelming to others, inappropriate, annoying? Did I talk too much about myself? I have a good therapist and have made a lot of gains. But I don’t think I will ever be rid of these questions.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Don’t be so sure. I eventually made peace with these questions, and so have other people I’ve known. It just takes time and a lot of self-awareness; since you have a good therapist, there’s every reason to feel hopeful.

    • nta says:

      Renee, I’ve been reading dozens of these posts here tonight, but yours just stuck out to me. I had no intention to reply to any of these…I was more trying to draw support from all these stories (thank you!!) but I was compelled to reply to you!

      The thing you said about “never having known your mother’s loving gaze.” This feels like it was ripped from my own brain cells! I have been repeating that phrase in my head since I was a child. How bizarre to look back and know how aware I was of this loss even then. I’m 29 years old now and it still is there. I have never told anyone that, believing that somehow that was not something I should feel sad about. The other half of me believes it is a terrible loss though. I am back & forth sometimes about even asking myself “did I just FORGET the gaze?? Was I not paying attention and I somehow MISSED it? Am I a narcissist who doesn’t know when someone is paying attention to me or needing my help?” Oh, such is the inner dialogue of the daughter of [what I am now coming to know as] a narcissistic mother. What a long and painful road this has been. I hate that you had to go through it too. It is good to know that there is hope of recovering what I have lost, or what I’ve not gained…but the road feels long & it feels like it ends with having no relationship with my Mom. That feeling is killer.

      You mentioned your Mom killed all your confidence in life. Me too. I’m only beginning to recognize this as a series of examples of her narcissism…in the past I’ve characterized them as… I don’t know…those garden variety painful memories I assumed everyone had. But when I step back and I look at them from outside my life…like when I sort of spilled all the guts I had to spill in hour one, day one of therapy…the therapist was kinda like, “really??” And then I realized … this isn’t normal. Not everyone lives this way. And as much as I’ve tried to tell myself all the things to make it better with her: I’m overly sensitive, I need a thicker skin, your childhood wasn’t so bad was it?, I need to get over it, it’s in the past, it’s easier if we just let it go, maybe my memory is faulty about that time, maybe I’m not as smart or good as I think I am, maybe I’m being selfish, maybe it’s my relationship with my husband or my job that’s making me so emotional, maybe xanax will help, when you “grow up”/get older you’ll think differently, why don’t you just let it go and have a simpler life, who has time for this, it is her house so she’s allowed to do what she wants when I’m in it, why don’t we just try to not ever get involved in discussion over any perilous topic ever for the next 40 years or so, I made her this way by not helping out with the house enough, maybe she does deserve to be happy and my feelings about her decision to divorce my Dad just needs to be put aside to let her finally be happy, hey, at least all my freaking pain & suffering have made ME funny and darkly humorous and I can make anyone laugh and that’s worth it, right?… all these things I’m telling myself aren’t things people in healthy relationships think about.

      When we fight, everything comes back to me. I have outright demanded she take responsibility for one, ONE!!, small thing she has done and acknowledge that I have the RIGHT to feel hurt by that. She basically says, “Well I guess I’m sorry for being the worst mother ever!! But you need to get over it!!” So, yeah, nothing. I’m facing the fact that I can have zero expectations. But like your mother, mine also comes to me when she’s having issues with her husband or job. Then I get to feel like she loves me. I’m helping, she trusts me, I’m a real daughter, yay!! But her problems are real. And mine are not. So she deserves sympathy & comfort. While I do not.

      Again, your last paragraph might as well be ripped right from my head. I am faced with the same questions. I am constantly stopping myself in mid sentence with my closest friends and saying things like, “You don’t have to answer.” “Am I talking too much?” “I don’t mean to burden you with this. You don’t have to do anything.” “It’s probably just PMS.” And on & on. And my friends are like…”no…?” LOL Oh my god. It’s funny until I realize my constant anxiety has become so intense. I am constantly apologizing to the point of people being annoyed and a little weirded out because they have no idea why I’m doing it. My husband thinks I am insane because I have a compulsive habit of asking the questions, “Are you OK?” and “Are you mad at me?” The answer is now, “I’m going to be mad if you ask that question again.” And then I inevitably say something like, “I am so sorry for being such a miserable failure of a wife and for being insane. God, I’m sure I’ve now committed an unforgivable wrong. I won’t ask for any of your money if you want a divorce.” Keep in mind this escalates to this point during a completely average moment where my normally very quiet husband is just extra quiet for awhile. He’s just a quiet dude. He was probably thinking about something he wanted to fix, like a faulty switch in the house. In MY head, however, he was probably silently rehashing all of my various failures in the last hour. Oy.

      My brother is also my Mom’s golden child too. It’s an open joke in our family. She says, “oh here he is!! My favorite!! Kiss kiss!!” And she “jokingly” gives me this big stare. Hahaha. My brother is a lovely human, and my Mom’s weird adoration of him hasn’t been without its own permanent structural damage, but it.still.hurts.like.hell. But I laugh to keep the peace.

      Just to be cleat, my Mom never beat me, and her narcissism takes the form of more of a casual dismissal of my emotional “overreactions” rather than outright displays of emotion herself. But as I am rather hard-headed myself and have a hard time shutting my mouth when I feel I’ve been wronged, I can usually raise her temper to the point where she screams terrible names at me. But if there’s anyone else out there who suffers with a more passive-aggressive NM, please know you’re not alone.

      My mother’s most extreme passive-aggressive move IMO: divorcing my father during my senior year of high school after four years of his grueling lung cancer treatments (WHICH HE SURVIVED against all odds) and then not even waiting until the divorce was final to hook up with my HIGH SCHOOL BAND DIRECTOR (yes, my bro & I were both in band. At least I was a senior—my bro had to endure two more painful years with that under his cap) and marrying him not 5 months after the paperwork was done. And forcing my Dad to go along with it. She dragged my Dad to bars & restaurants with him, all the while claiming my Dad was totally cool with it. I know now he was NOT. And he wanted to stay married to my Mom. I thought at least my Mom might have remarried someone in her age group (she & my dad are 17 years apart) but then I found out my Mom’s husband is actually a year OLDER than my Dad. And for god sakes I didn’t even like him when he was my band director. He’s weird, jealous and controlling. This is his third marriage and none of his sons speak to him. Yay for getting it “right” the second time around, Mom. And now my Dad’s had 4 more bouts of cancer and all the symptoms left over from all the treatment has left him a shadow of his former self & in need of constant care from me. My bro helps but he’s kind of an artist type. No money to travel to my Dad, no knowledge of the system. All throughout my college years and the first three years of my marriage I have been the only 20-something I know who has to take care of her 60-something year old Dad through some of the most nightmarish experiences with little to no help. My Mom congratulates me on being there & doing so well with my Dad’s care. But I can’t help but feel like she is glad it isn’t her.

      This is probably getting really long. I think the most perverse thing that I seem to be noticing from these messages is that there is a tendency for narcissistic moms to have really nice and decent and empathetic children. And for people like us, the hurt is just so unfairly acute. Thank you to everyone for sharing here. It’s truly started me down a road that I needed to be on. I do it with the knowledge that there is hope. I needed a reason to hope tonight. I have recently had to move in with my Mom & her husband since my husband has been transferred to another state for work. I have been trying to find work there with no luck. And living with her has been like a nightmare. I have spent more hours in this house crying than I dare admit to anyone I know. It’s embarrassing enough to be 29 & living at home. I need so much therapy.

  70. Anna says:

    I am not sure if my mother is a narcissist but I believe she has some narcissistic traits. I have come to realize this in the last several months. She is 76 years old and wants to control everyone around her especially me. She lives with my husband and I. My father passed away when she was 62. My mother has helped us out financially over the years and she is very, very generous and will give you the shirt off her back but this is where it ends. She hates it when I have to go out and after I come home she is in a bad mood and does not even care to ask me about my day. If I take her out with me that is a different story. Then she is happy, but I do not want to be taking her where ever I go.

    When my daughter was getting married she tried to tell us who we should or should not invite and when I told her to mind her own business she threatened to not come to the wedding. Of course she did not mean it and backed off when I got very angry with her.

    This time my son got married and she was better but during the reception she found things to be critical about and when I told her not to make hurtful comments she turned and said who would get hurt by her comments and I looked at her and said me who else and walked away.

    She is constantly talking about the past and everyone that wronged her. I keep telling her not to dwell on these things and that I do not constantly want to hear about it but to no avail. She is a very bitter woman.

    When I talk about pain I am going through or someone else in our family she always turns and say well what about the pain I went through during so and so. I keep telling her it is not about you but about the person I am talking about but she just does not understand.

    She gets upset with her sisters because they “don’t treat her right”. Not sure what she expects them to do for her. They live in another country and when she last visited she felt they didn’t give her proper treatment.

    She likes to be the center of attention and is constantly critical of my brother and myself. She ridicules my brother in front of others and because people tell her they like her “tell it like it is attitude” she interprets this as a good thing and continues with her tirade not realizing the hurt she inflicts. I have told her many times not to say certain things and her response is that God gave her a mouth and she will use it.

    I have a cousin visiting here from Greece and my mother does not want me to take her around because this relative didn’t take my mother anywhere when my mother visited Greece last year. I tried to tell my mother that it has nothing to do with me but she thinks I should be supporting her. She is constantly upset when she knows I will be taking her shopping and keeps saying “where did she take me”. I have tried talking and reasoning with my mother but she does not want to understand.

    I have a lot of anger towards her and I am always yelling at her and she starts crying and tells me that I have hurt her deeply. I told her she does know the first thing about being deeply hurt as there are worse things a child can do to hurt a parent and yelling is not one of them. I also confront her about all the screaming she does towards me and all I get is that she screams because I make her scream and she has no other choice.

    I have found that the older she gets the worse she is. It seems like this monster was born overnight. I cannot or do not want to go out because I cannot enjoy myself knowing she is miserable at home and then when I come home I have to hear about it. I don’t know how I am going to overcome this problem. My husband tells me I should ignore her and just do what I want to do. Easier said then done!!! Thanks for letting me vent.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      She doesn’t sound like a full-out narcissist but she definitely has some narcissistic traits, as you say: lack of empathy for others, easily injured, can’t take responsibility for her actions, etc. It’s too bad she has to live with you. I imagine it would be a lot better for you if she had a place of her own, though that might just make her feel more left out and angrier.

      • Anna says:

        Thanks for your response but asking her to leave would be out of the question. Firstly, I would feel an enormous amount of guilt and secondly, you are right, this would make her very angry and hurt and then she would lay the biggest guilt trip on me. I just have to find a way to deal with her without upsetting myself. Maybe some therapy might help.

  71. Connie says:

    After 22 years of marriage, I recently had a run-in with my mother-in-law, who I have since learned is a textbook narcissist. We took a family vacation with my in-laws, my daughter and her boyfriend, staying in a beachside condo. Afterwards, while she was waiting with my husband for the ferry back to the mainland, she exploded to him about what a horrible person I am, how I deliberately try to humiliate her, how I walk out of the room whenever she walks in, how I try to separate her from her grandaughter, how I don’t love her and had never loved her, etc, etc. The topper was that she wouldn’t blame my husband if he had an affair. All this, after I went out of my way to spend time with her, buy her thoughtful birthday gifts, have a little party for her, give her the best bedroom, and so on. My husband is the “golden child”, and his brother is the scapegoat, and now me, too, I guess. What makes this even worse is that I have Stage IV cancer, and a very poor prognosis. If there were ever a time I needed some empathy, this would be it, despite the fact that I “don’t know how to use a fork”. I mean, really, how much more about her could she make this?
    I have since learned that narcissists have no empathy, that everything is about them, and that they seldom change. This describes her to a “N”. She is relentlessly negative about other people: they are too fat, retail workers are too rude, etc. The worst part is that my husband won’t defend me- he just keeps trying to “smooth it over”, because he wants his inheritance (which is some land from his father, not his mother, but I guess they are dangling it over his head anyway). When she says I am mentally ill, he says, “She’s seeing a therapist!” instaed of “Stop saying negative things about my wife.” Of course I am seeing a therapist- she’s driving me crazy!
    I feel like I have landed in Bizarro World, where everything is the opposite of what it should be: I am supposed to apologize to HER. SHE forgives ME. She loves me to death, but…I just don’t love HER. And yet…she wants to know when she can start emailing me again (they live 3000 miles away). Right now I am going with no contact. My husband, who has some narcissistic tendencies himself, is so scared of her. ‘Please be nice to my mother”, he said the other night at a DINNER PARTY, “I need..I want my farm!” Let’s keep in mind I have Stage IV cancer. Now that I know the signs, I can see the narcissism all through our marriage: she still buys my husband all his clothes (he’s 51), she calls him EVERY DAY at work, she sends him two or three packages a week, she bought us all our Christmas ornaments, she sends us her paintings that are all over the house, she is already starting to send him his pre-Christmas presents-it goes on and on. Thank God I have a normal mother that I call once a week, who just gives me a birthday check and a Christmas check, who accepts me for who I am, and who never emails my husband or tries to guilt-trip him in any way about him not loving her enough. I cannot imagine my mother acting like this. maybe that’s why I am so appaled at my mother-in-law’s behavior. And yet I am the rude one! Go figure.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Given your medical condition, I think you have every right to consider your own needs and feelings first, regardless of what your husband wants and needs. My heart goes out to you. He ought to be on your side, rather than undermining you.

      • Connie says:

        I am getting more and more convinced that my husband is not only the son of a narcissist , but also one himself. Yesterday he came with me to my cancer treatment (for the first time in months), but he left after a few minutes because my doctor was “glowering at him”. My doctor knows I am having problems at home (since the mother-in-law incident), so he told my husband he needs to be positive towards me and be part of my support team. After that, my husband started sulking, and finally left and went back to work (we came in separate cars). When he got home, the first thing he said to me was not “How are you?” but “I want you to tell the doctor how wonderful I am. I really want his respect.” I was aghast. Does he honestly expect me to get in touch with this very busy doctor to tell him that my husband really is a good person? Of course, my husband managed to turn the day of MY cancer treatment into a drama about HIS feelings. Sigh. It is very hard to be married to a narcissist.

    • Lisa P says:

      Wow – I have read through a lot of your entries this evening, and am so sorry and sad about things people have had to endure. How much pain has been handed down for so long. It seems that humans overall can be very weak, is that an unwelcome observation? So many people frustrated this’s or that’s, never got to be what they wanted or do what they wanted… and it manifests in awful ways.
      But Connie, how should you have to put up with feeling like these (you don’t). I wanted to pitch in – I’m reading Dance of Anger for the first time, and in there a husband in the couple is taking crazy behavior from his parents but the wife gets upset about it, as the handler of those emotions for the couple, a function of the ‘we.’ When she stopped getting angry ‘for him,’ he could finally feel his own anger… just want to throw that out as a possible theme to look into (of course I can’t know if you have before).
      My mother is borderline with some narcissistic, I guess, my counselor sent me this link and I’m glad. I am the only, female, child of a woman who’s been single since I was 6, she’s 80 now, I’m 47. Growing up alone, unmonitored in the house (she keeps people away) with someone emotionally unstable was hard, but I made it. Now the adult part is hard – why didn’t I see that one coming?! I’m on my third month not contacting her, after another inane fight that only showed me they’ll never stop coming. Trying to process what I’m going to do… To Fix It. :) This is where reading here has been so helpful, it’s difficult grasping the ‘can’t fix’ part and I’m working on it, have done some counseling for several years now.
      Bless all of you, and those who’ve done the hurting too – so much pain no one needed or deserved. thank you, Lisa

  72. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never really talked about this to anyone, but as I get older i’m really starting to notice and realize my mom may be narcissistic. Growing up I was never deprived of anything, except never feeling loved by my mom. My dad was very loving and supporting, but was always working, so he was never there when I needed him. It never made sense to me at the time, but at a young age I felt like I was constantly being physically and emotionally abused out of anger. My mom worked full-time even though she didn’t need to she wanted to work, but would come home and complain how tired she was, and how her job is very draining. (she is a social worker) Whenever my parents got in a fight, she would call off work and lock herself in her room and sob so everyone can hear her. when she threatened to leave my father, she would take us in the car and drive around in the middle of the night until my dad would finally let her have it her way. I had an eating disorder for 2 years and am recovered. To this day my mom will use it against me and say “your anorexic anyways” , “I think you like to look sick.” I got married at a very young age to get out, and unsurprisingly got divorced shortly after with my moms full support. My biggest regret is getting married and trying to make them responsible to “fill the big gap.” I now realize it wasn’t there job to do so. I’ve come to this blog, because it has gotten real bad. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, or trying to make my mom look like the bad guy, I just want to be able to cope and adapt to her, without it effecting me as it does. There is so much I left out, i shared some stuff here and there. But I just wanted to get an outside opinion. thanks.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It sounds to be as if you need to talk to someone, more than just posting a comment here. My advice would be to get some decent therapy. In the meantime, as I’ve said to many other site visitors, you need to put some distance between you and your mom and protect yourself. She will always affect you and it’s unreasonable to expect that you’ll find a way to be around her without being hurt.

  73. Nic says:

    Recently, I decided to have no contact with my parents. Growing up, I was a scapegoat child who excelled in sports and school, yet nothing I did was ever good enough for my mom. I remember being 8 years of age and my mom threatening to have me put into a back brace since I walked with my shoulders hunched (which was embaressing to her). When I became a teenager, she would delight in telling me that she NEVER had acne like I did and my knees were really knobby, etc. My dad simply allowed her to act cruelly towards me, and enabled the behavior. He would take me aside and tell me “you know your mom loves you” and expect me to simply ignore the pain she would inflict. As an adult, she hates when I succeed at something (yet takes credit for it – “because of my genes”), and is actually much nicer to me when I struggle or experience some setback. In fact, before a triathlon, she actually told me that I should quit from the event as she was concerned that I would get hurt. Another event my parents were to attend did not happen because it was raining and she “didn’t want her hair to get wet”?! My husband is extremely supportive and tells me how strong I am for dealing with the family dysfunction. He comes from a very loving family and tells me that he feels that my mom is extremely jealous of me. My own 8 year old son says he prefers going to my in-laws, rather than my parent’s house because my husband’s parents play with him and don’t ignore him. Last month, I read on Facebook that my own grandmother had passed away 2 days prior and that my mom had told my brother not to tell me. Since then, I have been very firm with my decision to have no contact. It is difficult as she keeps trying to email me, buying gifts for me that she wants to drop off, etc. However, I feel a sense of relief that I don’t have to live a lie any longer. My brother and I are working at our relationship and he is starting to see my mom’s pattern of behavior and how abusive she is towards me. I know that I cannot change her, or my enabling dad. I can only change myself and ensure that the precious lessons that I learned about unconditional love, forgiveness, honesty and empathy are shared with my son so that he will grow up with a healthy sense of self. It has not been easy, and there has been a lot of shame that I have had to overcome in telling people that I don’t have an ideal relationship with my parents, but I think that I am working through this, and learning that living a lie is far more destructive than setting boundaries with a NM.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Yes, you’re right that you can’t ever change her. It sounds like you’ve made some very healthy if painful choices. Good for you.

    • S'more says:

      Wow I think you are very brave. I wish I could be as strong as you. Your mother sounds so much like mine but I am scared to do that. I tried it once a long time ago and she got all these relatives from all over the world to tell me how horrible I was and how much she was suffering…There are so many similarities here to my life. My mom never came to any event of mine. I sang and acted in school but my mom discouraged it telling me actors and singers don’t make money. For the longest time I thought she was looking out for me until I went to university and graduated and started a career. My mom tried to talk me out of it to become a secretary like her instead. So all those years she refused to come to events because she was afraid I wouldn’t make money and then when I was about to, she tries to talk me out of it. Told me to marry rich instead. Also my son is ten and told me too he doesn’t like her because all she does is ignore him too and give him advice. I wish I could hug so many of you! This site is healing though…

  74. Melissa says:

    Reading through this page, I’m reminded that others have had similar experiences. It helps me feel better (not so “alone”). Maybe someone would have an answer to this question topic: Can someone have NPD plus another issue that causes them to hear voices? I’m asking because for as long as I can remember, mom has shown 6 of the 9 narcisstic traits listed in the DSM. However, for decades she has claimed to hear voices from Heaven/God. The voices give her “missions” to do, etc. I’m wondering if she could really be schizophrenic along with everything else.

    Here are some examples of how my mom fits with the DSM list, and the context of the voices she claims to hear… [1] She exaggerates achievements and expects to be recognized as superior without the achievements to back them. (Example: She likes to talk about how she knows business and wants to be admired for her “business sense”. Reality is she has tried several business ideas and all of them flopped. In some cases, people who could have helped her succeed actually walked away when they saw how she mishandled things.) [2] She is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, beauty, etc. (Example: She likes to talk about getting and having money, and how she will give money/gifts to people who have been nice to her. Reality is she has no money, has never held a job for any length of time, always looks for ways to manipulate others into providing for her, etc. She is vain to the point that she uses a type of tape on the edges of her face to pull up and “lift” her facial skin. She hides the tape around her face with her big fluffy wig. Last time I saw her, over a year ago, the corners of her eyes slanted upwards because the tape pulled the skin up so much. She also lives off of Rice Krispies and milk which she eats from a measuring cup so she can be “skinny”.) [3] She believes that she is special, smarter, cleverer, and wiser than everyone else. Over the years she has claimed to hear voices from Heaven that guide her, that instruct her to read or do certain things, that give her special “missions” from God. (None of her missions have worked out, which she blames on Satan.) When I was a child, she often told me she was so special she was never going to die – God was going to “translate” her like He did Moses in the Bible. She also gets quite emotionally wrapped up in spiritual “experiences” that she has – feelings and sensations that she claims are “revelations” or some other spiritual phenomenon. [4] She has a sense of entitlement when it comes to the people who are closest to her – money, favors, errands, their obedience, their agreement with whatever she wants, etc. If there is a disagreement its always the other person’s fault, they are the problem. Nothing is ever her fault, she takes no responsibility. She is extremely sensitive to criticism and can fly into a rage if she is offended. [5] She is manipulative and plays a variety of “games” to maneuver people so she can use them. She told me that she knows how to get people to do what she wants. She thinks its quite clever of her. She siphoned money from an elderly relative’s bank account to pay for one of her business ideas – because “God gave it to her”. (It flopped like all the others.) [6] She lacks empathy and is unable to indentify with the feelings or needs of others. In 2009 my sister was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and went to Chicago for a while to get the treatments she wanted. She reluctantly let mom come with her to “help”. It ended up becoming an abuse and neglect situation. My sister’s boyfriend and I rushed out to Chicago to send mom home, for my sister’s physical safety and mental well-being. Then family took turns staying with her until she returned home. Later, mom blamed it all on my sister – she said my sister cried too much, was mean to her, etc. It was all about her. There was no empathy for the fear and pain that her terminally ill daughter was going through. …When my husband died in June 2011 (suicide), mom called me a week later. When I saw her number on the Caller ID I almost didn’t answer, but I did at the last second hoping maybe she’d be nice. She told me, “Don’t worry, you’ll find another one. I had three husbands by the time I was your age.” …Less than 8 weeks after my sister died (2010), mom posted an ad on the Internet looking for a new daughter. She picked a woman from Los Vegas, claiming God told her to chose that woman and she obeyed. She said she felt water flowing over her. Then she heard “voices from Heaven” telling her my sister sent the woman to be her new daughter. Afterward, on rare occasions she was able to have contact with me, she always pushed the “you have a new sister” thing at me. I told her that she was making my grieving process harder. She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language, said she wasn’t doing anything, that I just had a chip on my shoulder, and tried to chide me for hurting her “new daughter’s” feelings. Wow, yep, that’s my mom. In public, she presents herself as a sweet, demure Christian lady. In private, the mask comes off.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      This is the problem with the DSM diagnoses: they make people believe that those labels actually correspond to discrete disorders when they really don’t. All of the features exist along a spectrum, with many unique combinations. Your mom sounds as if she has some psychotic features of a grandiose and narcissistic nature. Do we really need a label to know that she’s deeply troubled?

      • Melissa says:

        Thanks for replying. What you typed makes sense. I’ve been exploring possibilities while reluctant to say “my mom is x-y-z” because its not a cut & dry situation (and I’m not an expert in the field). I read and explore to try to make some sense out of it all, to some degree at least. In the spring of 2010, I told her that she needs counseling. She reacted by becoming offended, upset, saying she doesn’t need counseling. Family members have told me that she will never get counseling because she is “too old” (mom is 65). So since she won’t get help for herself (and I’m at a place in my life where I need to heal and recover from some upheavals/major life changes), I’ve withdrawn from her while still trying to make sense of things to some extent. [Events during the past few years have caused me to examine my life and myself. I can't change the past. I can't change others. But I can work on myself, and maybe come to terms with some things, while I work on moving forward with life.] I know she was abused her whole childhood, so I spent decades covering for her and smoothing things over – until the stuff with my sister in 2009. She also seems to live with a lot of fear, some of it quite exaggerated. (Example: Shortly after she married my 3rd step-dad he used a lotion on her which gave her a rash. She started talking about how he was a widower, and how sometimes people kill their spouses, and how people can put poisons into lotions, etc – like her mind was connecting all those things to turn an allergic reaction into “my new husband is purposely trying to hurt me”.) When my sister’s boyfriend and I were packing up her apartment after her death, we saw a TV commercial where a woman was freaking out. He commented that mom was like that, that she had a lot of fear. My aunt (mom’s sister) describes my mom as being like a frightened 12-year-old girl. I work with kids, and I’ve often thought that my mom sometimes mentally/emotionally seems like a child. I’ve seen times when she seemed worried about something or when she thought she was being very clever, and her voice became child-like (both the tone and the way she worded things). The way her voice changes creeps me out a bit when it happens. …Anyway, thanks for listening while I’m trying to figure out some of the things in my life.

        • Melissa says:

          Oh – and no, I don’t really need to label her. Maybe more like figuring out where she might fit in my life (with her troubles/issues that she won’t get counseling for), if she fits, as I try to build a healthier life for myself while I’m in the process of picking up the pieces.

  75. Trash2 says:

    My mother sounds like all 3 she has said things that are way out of line, and has replied how her life was “almost” but more so as bad, never concerned what has happen to me and never identifying how she made things worse or how to come to an understanding.
    Always relating everything is my fault, and then uses any instance as poor her to her friends and before she retired to her co workers, ( police ).
    She would always say things to me and keep pounding to break my defense or self esteem and then stomp on it, going to the next step of embarrassing me in life or in front of my or her friends.
    She would be sneakier doing this to my friends, that left them thinking what a poor good mother she was and how ungrateful I was, not fun.
    She would always treat me like I was a small child, that knew nothing including what went on in my own life.
    It got so bad that she would never shut up, she was constantly telling me things over and over and……again no matter what it was and if it related to me or not.
    This was the only form of communication I got from her, other than put downs or beatings.
    She would also call me someone she didn’t like, my father or her sister usually.
    When I would bring these things up she would say that I was exaggerating, or start hitting me.
    She deals better with my younger brother, but pushes him to his limit at times.
    The last 2 times I talked to her she told me that my brother and I need to die when she does, the last time she told me I need to die on the side of the road.
    Also any relation I had she new about, they were not good enough then I wasn’t, she would decide someone for me at times, I did not know or could show no interest, also making another victim to her game and leaving me feeling sick and ashamed.
    And it seems people with these weird and worse attitudes, that aren’t related are drawn to me for damage.
    I love life if able to live mine in peace and what I like harmonizing with ( more particular in my older age, but still being let known I’m not allowed), there are cockaroaches out there that think you owe them something, for their lives not being perfect or just their type of fun, and they find plenty of people to back them up for whatever they might also be wanting or looking for.
    Sometimes I feel that violence may be the only way of demagnetizing these idiots, normally I’m not a violent person. ( There is little dealing left).
    Anyone have ideas to demagnetize these life sucking leaches, while still being able to communicate and be yourself to the outside world?
    I like and appreciate my time alone, but I do not like being controlled for that is always what I am only allowed, with less consequences.
    I was not born with it’s all my fault, stamped on my forehead!
    I’m in my 50′s now and punks of all ages, think they have entitlement over another.
    I am dangerously getting close to a foot in the grave, and not caring what looks but is not another human being!
    Maybe some of these so called people had mothers like this, and sucked up to being the baby forever and mommy dearest combined, whatever but I don’t see it as my responsibility.
    I really do miss adults.

  76. Hayley says:

    Hello Dr Burgo and everyone.

    I’m a 27 year old female with the emotional status of an 8 year old little girl…kinda. I’ve been following your site now (after originally discovering you on you tube) for about a month or so..I think. (Time is losing track of me these days.) When I watched your videos on you tube… I cried for a long time. It was the first sign I had..in a long time that I wasn’t alone.. but more than that… there was hope for me..maybe. So, thank you.

    So I have decided to post something, about me. I’m not as articulate as any of you so I apologise for my spelling and grammar etc. I’m just a normal but NOT normal girl. I live in a small boring “normal” town. I have a… normal”ish” family. (But shhh not really).

    My mother. My memories. My hears quickens at the thought of both. Why is that? Well.. to even be able to get to explaining my mother, I need to explain my Grandmother. The heart quickens a little..a lot more. My Gran… A child minder believe it or not, mostly for african and chinese children. She treated them sub human. At the youngest age..I remember knowing she was….a “baddy”.. like the wicked witch from the wizard of oz. From the youngest age I complained about her.. to my mother to my father to my sister and even to HER. A “little madam” with a big mouth who didn’t know her place. “Just like her dad” they would say. “I’d rather be like my dad that be anything like you!!!!” a wild eyed, defensive 5 year me (whoever I am) would spit out in rage. My mothers face would burn red a little from anger at my outburst but mostly at embarrassment. I knew my mother loved me. I always did. So WHY! WWHHYY?? I would wreck my mind trying to figure out why she would protect me from everything except THEM.

    I feel like some horrible genetic “crazyfemalesickosyndrome” is being passed down my family on my mothers side. I always remember my Gran talking about what a horrible “hard” woman her mother was. I would probably have scoffed at the thought that ANYONE could possibly be more horrible than my own Gran. Then my mum. Well, my mum is a very complicated woman and I certainly do not have her all figured out.

    My mother married young, had children young. I think there was a lot of resentment there but I can’t be sure as I would never dare bring this up to my mother. When my mum married my dad she already had a daughter fathered by her domestically violent ex husband. This was…. is my big sister. :) My lifeline during childhood, and I hers. My sister informs me that she remembers being thrown against walls as young as 4 years old… it makes me cry to even think of this… SWUNG around by her hair! She remembers having to stay off school because her face was so badly bruised from beatings dealt by my mother. :.(

    Sure.. I got hit…but not like my sister did. My sister says I had it worse as a kid because of the “mental abuse” but I say any day of the week she had it worse than I did. My sister was such a frail meek creature as a child. I always felt like her older sister and acted as such most of the time. We joke and laugh about it now. But inside i’m not laughing. Inside I am losing myself as I watch ,my unbelievibly terribly abused sister get on with life …fully functioning. She really is…..OK. How can she be? I’m not. I’m not ok. I don’t think I have EVER been ok. I remember my mother saying things like..”one of these days you will wake up and ill be lying there dead from a heart attack with all this stress”. She would throw anything handy at my Dad during arguments. His solution… to NEVER be around. Fishing.. hunting.. photography..cookery.. you name it he did it. Smart guy. I remember being woken up at 3am on school nights..my mother would SWIPE all of our perfectly placed toys which were NOT toys.. they were ornaments..but anyway she would SWIPE them off the table and make me and my sister sit for hours placing each one back perfectly. I got very very very sick of watching my sister get beaten very very very quickly. I threatened to call childline 0800111111 or tell my teacher once. This was because my mother found a love letter from my a boy to my sister and subsequently put her hands between my sisters legs as punishment. This was NEW.. and I just lost it. The beatings got much less. I would like to say again that these beatings were almost always on my sister and not me. I believe because my mother may have thought my father would have intervened if it were me she were beating. Which makes me ……so… disappointed.

    This is hard for me.
    I also had my first ever psychotic episode a few days ago. I would appreciate any feedback. I feel lost.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Hayley, this goes way beyond “narcissism.” Your mother seems to be on the psychotic end of the spectrum, with some definite sadistic features. It’s no wonder you came through feeling “not okay”. What a brutal world to grow up in.

      I’m not sure what else to tell you, except that you need some professional help. This is the kind of pain and trauma you can’t process alone.

    • Trash2 says:

      I feel for you Hayley, my younger brother would always be the one crying for my mother to stop, and it seems she just feed off that, and would beat me harder and longer, your sister probably had a mechanism built in, of she knew your mother was disrespecting her and she wouldn’t let her have the pleasure.
      When I was a lot younger I would stare at mine and sometimes even smile, when my brother wasn’t around hoping she would break her arm, well the arm didn’t break but she was tired.
      Anyway back to my brother he would crumble in the floor, from the strength taken out of him, but he turned out alright, he actually can deal better with my mom than I and be hardcore serious and mean if called for, while still maintaining humor.
      Me on the other hand everything was a battle, and still today I’m winning slowly at the battles, but others do tend to step in with their BS, many years my mom played the poor me, then turning on me for any of her problems as others will do also.
      Don’t let what happened to you and your sister weaken your defenses, sometimes knowing something is wrong is all you need to know, not mentally examining it.
      I’m almost 55 and age doesn’t help, I also lost my home had to walk away from my job and lost just about everything else, almost including sanity due to a sociopath at work and special little narcissists.
      Don’t let anyone take away your right and wrong, life can be very hard and draining, there are people that look for the soft spot in your back.
      In other words don’t make excuses for others, to yourself or anyone else.
      Best of wishes.

  77. Hi there, I came across this today while I am desperately trying to find a way to help my daughter, she is 10, although it was an informal custody arrangement she lived with me until she was 5, at which time she was going to go to school from moms house until the third grade and then return to my home, the reason for this was I bought a home and then realized kindergarten was only 2 1/2 hours a day,well right away I began noticing changes in my daughter, sexual statements, and very poor self esteem
    (which had never been a concern before) I took my concerns directly to the school teacher and counselor within a short time I was notified by the mother that my daughter had an intake meeting at the local child partial hospitalization, I was confused but attended the meeting and was shocked to hear the mother say my daughter was attacking her, the mother and I spoke everyday and this was never brought to my attention, anyway they admitted my daughter and during her 2 week partial stay at the hospital the mother would come in every single morning stating that my daughter threatened to stab her the night before, none of this was ever witnessed at that time but the doctors recommended that my daughter come stay with me, thats when the nightmare got horrible, the mother had an in home therapist visiting her home (which I was also unaware of) anyway the inhome therapist said they didnt travel to my location (25 minutes away) so therfore they would not be able to treat my daughter in my home they needed her back at moms, so the recommendation turned into a 2 week cooling off period, I did not agree given the life threatening statements being made, and as soon as I disagreed I was labled arguemenative, since then my daughter has been psychiatrically placed 8 more times which 2 of the 8 were back at this partial hospital, disturbing facts that I now have in my possesion, the admitting factors in 4 of these hospitals were for my daughter assaulting school staff and threatening other students ( the school denied the allegations) inhome therapy report “mother reports client went for neuro psych exam today 5/25/10 results were ADHD BiPolar ODD depressive disorder and sensorary processing disorder, However I met with the Doctor that did the test and it turns out the test was not complete 9/12/10 and the Doctor did not add any diagnosis, there are other hospitalizations that says the previous hospital did extensive testing for ADHD and test was equivocal for ADHD, when infact it says ADHD was not dertimened during this hospitalization, the lies go on and on, my daughter is now up to her 6th medication, there have been trials of zoloft seroquell medidate risperidol tennex and 1 other, the mother puts me in positions to be arguemenative and has gotten everyone to alleinate me as a father, the things I am arguing over is my daughter has never displayed any of this behavior around me, the school counselor called the med provider and told her my daughter didnt need this medicine it was making her worse, so the mom had the school counselor removed and my daughter has not been entitled to a counselor at school for 2 years, the mother let my daughter from the age of six until recently have sleep overs with a boy down the street, one occasion the boy hit my 7 year old daughter in the face with a baseball bat leaving a large bruise, mom said “it didnt bleed or anything” I reported it to DCF, nothing happened, this past July my daughter came home at 9 with a large bruise on her arm, she said that during a sleep over with the same boy he hit her in the arm with a pipe, I reported it to DCF, nothing happened, I adressed it with the mom through email, her response was “dont try to dictate who my daughter hangs out with at her house and about the bruise, it didnt bleed or need stitches or any medical treatment it was just a bruise” I could go on and on of disturbing facts, but up to this point , we had a trial 4/11 the mom had a therapist a DCF worker and an inhome therapist all testify at trial I should have supervised visits with my daughter ( which was denied) but the fact is not 1 of these people ever sat down with me and gave me a chance to present any evidence to them, not 1 of them ever looked at the relationship I have with my daughter and DCF would not even come to my house for over 3 years because they said it was a safety concern???? They let my daughter come to my home every Thursday night and every other weekend to fend for herself, If their safety concerns were legitamate, not only would they not come to my home, I was not even given a meeting at there office for over 2 years, until I wrote the Governor, in return DCF had me and the mother take psych evals, I was shocked when I got the results and the Doctor diagnosed me with a peranoid personality disorder, said that I all but abanded my roll as an ordinary father and replaced it with that of a super hero, now this letter might bounce around a bit but not only is there evidence of all the hospitalizations and med trials and lies to have her institutionalized and reports of the mom restraining my daughter for up to an hour at home, and mom considering residential placementto now the point where the mom and my daughter are assaulting each other, and on a regular basis, my daughter now has a need to assault her mom in front of therapist, dcf workers GAL, and Doctor doing moms eval that observed the 2 of them for 1 hour and my daughter having to be removed, to recently my coming coming to my house and saying her mom beat her up the night before by hitting her in the head breaking a deoderant stick on her foot and leaving a bruise on her back “about 4 inches long” I took her to DCF she told the supervisor her mom did this and he came out in the hallway and said to me (right in front of my 10 year old daughter) there are differnt levels of abuse and different degrees of bruising and its not as if she got hit in the back with a led pipe. There have been other letters written by my daughter stating her mom has hit her, also letters saying “hi I am Rebecca I was diagnosed with BiPolar when I was 7″ no she was not the mom lied. I have been saying munchausens but everybody says its too hard to prove, now we do have a GAL and are waiting for her report to be complete but now I am terrified Of the Evauluation of me , also though after writing to the Governor my daughter did get a new DCF worker and new therapist, the DCF worker has been to my house 6 months in a row and is documenting a loving and violent free relationship with my daughter as is her therapist, her therapist has made statements to me that she caught the mom laughing at my daughter when she was escalating, there was a recent attack on the mom during a therapy session where crisis had to be called, it was recommended my daughter live with me, mom said no its her house or the hospital, I have certainly exausted all my savings in legal fees and oh yeah I was ordered to go to therapy “for my anger” my therapist is treating me for chronic anxiety depression and parental allienation, he has been very supportive and attentive to what is going on, but nobody is willing to contact him either, last thing is DCF worker came over and said she couldnt go into detail but my evaluation was nothing in comparrison to the moms, but they are not taking action to remove her, instead they are threatening that if me and the mom dont come on the same page then my daughter might have to live else where, I am shocked, devistated and in a suspended state of fear, I dont what else to do if the GAL report does not help??? Terrified father

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I feel for you but this is way beyond my ability to advise you. I have no idea what to say because there are legal and social welfare issues I’m not competent to address.

  78. Sorry to add on but a few more facts: although my daughter is 10 years old and me and the mother only live 30 minutes apart, the mother has never spent 1 holiday with my daughter, not 1 Christmas 1 Easter 1 Thanksgiving or even Mothers Day, she reported to doctors and told my daughter that she didnt have any freinds in school and that nobody would sit next to her, so she signed my daughter up for a program afterschool for kids with social skill problems, its a lie my daughter has lots of freinds, but my daughter would go to this camp for 2 years, every Mon Wed Fri and Sat, she would be picked up from school and not return home until 8 pm, my daughter was with me Every Thursday and every Tues was inhome AND outpatient therapy so there was 2 consecutive years that with the mom having physical custody there was NEVER an opportunity for the 2 of them to have dinner NEVER. I put my daughter in 2 beauty pagents when she was smaller, got 1rst place out of 74 and 2nd place out of 250 kids, mom was bowling on first 1 and on a date on 2nd. She never does anything with my daughter UNLESS its therapy, this is so sad, all 9 hospitals say they witnessed no disturbances in her mood or behavior, thats what I say too, in 1990 I had a son , he was born with only the brain stem, he lived to be 3 but when he was 2 we tried again, our 2nd son only lived 2 hours, after the devistation I thought I would never get the opportunity to be a father again, but God blessed me with this beautiful lil girl, and in a big way that opportunity is being blocked, its terible not knowing if my daughter is safe every night :( nobody could could help my sons, but they could help my daughter and it seems like everyone got in to deep now that it has to go into a cover up, at a 10 year olds expense, also my daughter has reported to every hospital every therapist every anybody that would listen to her that she wants to live with me, and she beggs me, I have been very powerless

  79. Hayley says:

    Yes. I do need professional help. I was writing letters to myself about dying at 6/7 years old. Apparently i was taken to see a doctor. No further action was taken it would appear. At 15 I took myself to the doctors. They put me on 25mg Fluoxetine which i remained on until I tried to kill myself when I was 21. They then put me on 25mg citalopram which I remained on until a few months ago. Also I was referred to a cognitive therapist who I spoke with about 4 times until he decided i was “ok”. This christmas I went to see my gp after a good 3 months of solid torturous depression. I was told it was probably the “january blues” . About a week later I lost it..throwing things, holding a knife to my throat telling my husband I couldn’t take anymore and the only option I could see was to die. My husband phoned an ambulance which took me to hospital where i sat alone climbing the walls (not literally) for a few hours until a nurse came and gave me a breathalyzer test to see if i had been drinking. I then saw a psychiatric nurse who referred me to psychological services and then sent me home.

    The last two or three months since then have been a bit of a blur for me to be honest but I started seeing a general psychiatric doctor who I found really easy to speak with. He put me on 75mg of Venlafaxine during the day and 100mg of Trazodone Hydrochloride at night. My medications since have changed ALOT. However, I am now on 225mg Venlafaxine in the morning 20mg of Buspirone (anxiety tabs i believe) throughout the day (when needed.. HA!) and 30mg of Mirtazapine at night to help me sleep. They don’t help. I feel worse. He also referred me to an occupational therapist who I saw for the first time two days ago. She told me I had too much time on my hands. I have to get up at 8am every day and shower immediately. Great a few more extra hours of hell to endure every day. I was awaiting an appointment letter from my psychiatric doctor for longer (than usual) so I phoned the office. They told me my doctor had left and I would need to wait a little longer to see someone. So a few weeks ago I got my appointment and went to see another one of these doctors, a nice lady who unfortunatly hadn’t had time to read my file. So I (AGAIN) try to verbalize the things which i find almost impossible to verbalize. She told me to take two extra anxiety tablets during the day and an extra sleeping tablet at night. She is also pregnant and going on leave in a few months so I will be passed on to someone else soon.

    I have two beautiful children. My husband has left his job. I spend my days alone in my room reading.. learning.. anything I can about the brain and how to “fix” it. I don’t want to “rub off” on the ones I love any more than I have. I’m at the end of my rope, so to speak.

    ps.

    I think it’s amazing that you reply to everyone who writes to you here Dr Burgo. I really really do. You have given so many people hope when they would have otherwise had none. You may have even saved lives by putting your videos on you tube. I don’t doubt it. However, I don’t have extra money to buy socks at the end of the week never mind pay for the psychiatric treatment that I need. It has become clear to me that the NHS are not going to help me. I refuse to end up like my mother and her mother before her. My children deserve better. I know there are many others in this sinking boat with me. Maybe if one of us jump out there will be more hope… more time…for the rest.

    HayleyDoesn’tHeal
    x

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It’s really great that you’re trying so hard, despite the financial hardship and the lack of services available. Good for you!

  80. Michael Sager says:

    I only know that living with narcissistic parents has been a torment. Then emotional part of life was either ignored or attacked. The only appropriate response was to be ok with everything. I left my childhood confused, scared, defensive, rigid and traumatized. Sadly the anger is still there. I still visit my parents but can only handle one for awhile and then the other. I dont feel safe having either of them in my life much less both at the same time.

    I used to feel that both of my parents where evil. I really did feel this way. It disturbed me to feel this way. The confusion at banging my head against brick walls for the simplest things such as understanding, comfort, kindness, a sense of belonging, respect, good direction and love was infuriating. I left my childhood believing both my parents where evil or that I was evil. I am laughing now as I write this because its twilight zone stuff. There was no need for all these intense negative emotions. I can see now that both my parents are miserable and confused. It helps to see them as they are and not the demigods I once felt they where. Unfortunately it does not erase the pain. I still react strongly to them at times. Making accusations and desperately trying to get there love. I still feel the guilt of society for not being there and continue going back for more disappointment because of it. I keep trying to change the past. A past I am still horribly confused by.

    This year I am 41. Over the last few years I have come to learn that the healing ultimately needs to come from inside me. The fact is I don’t know what my parents true problems are but If I look inside I may find mine. Right now I know that I am very scared, confused, angry, HURT and negative towards myself also that I have a loving heart that wants to grow. I am sensitive and good and have the courage to stop this pain cycle. Now I need to find the best tools. So far therapy. Learning to stop thinking about the past and re-feeling those old ugly emotions of hurt and rage, while reaching out to all my friends and sharing my pain is helping immensely. I was locked in the box of self pity and reactionary anger for most of my life. I have this sense that I have a lot of catching up to do with my emotions. They where largely shut of for most of my adult life. I also sense that if I find a place of balance and a solid foundation inside that I will find I have many gifts from my experiences. Already I have a deep empathy for others and a genuine desire to help them feel good about themselves. I am sensitive to abuse and I am learning to stay away from it.

    I am writing this to alleviate some of my pain. To give a little hope and to be apart of. Best wishes to all of us suffering and hopefully healing from this very sad experience.

  81. Courtney says:

    WOW! I think I just started the first step to understanding why I have such a problem with my mom. She drives me INSANE! I don’t want to label my mom and I can come up with many examples as to how she fits into the narc category (not completely, but very much s0).

    Growing up with her was mostly okay, but I stopped feeling close to her at all when I was about 12 or 13. She was critical of me growing up. I was too fat, then too skinny. She didn’t like the music I listened to. She wanted me to stop trying to look “punk” (which made me want to do it more so I did it when she wasn’t around). She always seemed worried about how things made her look. One Mother’s Day, I was 14 and I had dressed up for church, thinking I looked really cute. I went out on a fashion limb and tried something a little bold. I felt pretty and pleased with myself until my mother told me that she was “embarrassed by my appearance”. That crushed me and I cried the rest of the morning and afternoon.

    When my husband and I announced our engagement, she came across as wanting to help us plan. It quickly escalated into her taking over as coordinator and hounding me to make the wedding bigger than me or my husband wanted. Even though it was a nice wedding, I still, one year later, regret allowing her so much control and not sticking to my guns and having the small, lunch-time BBQ wedding we had really wanted. The real icing on the cake (and I don’t mean our wedding cake!) was when she called me to ask if I wanted teryaki chicken or lemon pepper. My husband and I both love us some teryaki so I, of course, opted for that. My mom then went on about how gross it was and were we sure? She even had my dad call me to convince me to choose lemon pepper (my dad hates Asian food so she knew he would agree with her). I was still adamant that I wanted teryaki. I thought that was that. After the ceremony, my husband and I sat down to eat and gave each other THAT look when we realized that was lemon pepper on our plate. It was really good, but that wasn’t the point! We brushed it off because we were married now and that was all we wanted.

    I grew up in a suburban home, too with a pool. I got a used car when I turned 16. I had what looked like the ideal upbringing. Most people don’t believe that my mom was manipulative (and still is) and at times quite abusive. I was closer to my dad growing up, who I now realize is also toxic to me. My dad thinks an ideal woman wears a size 0. He comments loudly on women’s bodies so growing up, I felt inadequate when I gained a few pounds (I was NOT anywhere NEAR a fat kid!). I have struggled with my weight and my self-image most of my adult life. I’m now a mom to a 5 month old and am now, once again, overweight. Even though I know HE’S the one with the disordered thinking, I still feel like I’m in the wrong around my parents. Even though I’m in a happy, loving marriage. ONE week after my c-section, my parents brought my husband and myself dinner and I was wearing a new sundress, proud of myself for NOT looking pregnant after ONE week! I was carrying my pizza and salad into the living room when my dad commented that I needed to “get on an exercise program, girl!”. I got halfway through my salad, when I just couldn’t handle it. I went to the bathroom to bawl my eyes out, my husband ready to deck my father. I had just had a very difficult birth that ended in an unwanted cesarean and my dad is telling me after one week of being cut open that I’m too fat?! Is nothing enough for these people?!

    So, they wonder why I don’t call often or want to hang out…really. My husband commented yesterday that every time I talk to my parents, it takes him hours to calm me down. He’s right. I thought I was losing it until I read this. I thought maybe I am ungrateful, after all, no family is perfect. I could go on, but I think it would take months of weekly, one-hour therapy sessions! LOL.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It might takes “months of weekly, one-hour therapy sessions,” but doesn’t it feel good to get it off your chest here and to find yourself in the company of so many people with similar backgrounds?

      • Courtney says:

        It does. So many things are making so much sense and I’m feeling better already. I know now that it was never me but her. Now I can go on with my life, despite having plenty to sort through emotionally, and know that it’s NOT me!

        • S'more says:

          Yes that is the best thing to learn. I also think our parents are not happy people to need to put others down all the time to feel good. If I gained a pound my mom was gleeful but then she would insult my weight for all it’s worth. I’m glad you broke away from them and are getting strong!

          • Courtney says:

            Thank you! I do still talk to them and visit, but I have made it clear that I’m not catering to them. I have my own life and they can deal or not. I’m so glad I have my husband to lean on about these things! He is a blessing!

  82. Anna says:

    I loved the article and particularly its comments. Even though I’ve been in therapy for 5 years, these comments from real people provide the solace and new insights! Writing in itself is therapeutic and thus I decided to add a couple of examples from my life with my N mother (I think she is N, but with a generous sprinkling of other traits such as borderline, sociopath, sadist or maybe psychopath too). English is not my native language so please excuse any mistakes.

    I will start by saying that my mother is a surgeon. In itself a noble job but I think for her it is a way of exercising the ultimate control over who is going to live and who is going to die. Many a time when I was little she told me that she would find a way of annihilating me if I was a ‘retard’ (I am the opposite hence I am still here I guess ;-). Other helpful comments included ‘if my child had bone cancer i would not hesitate to cut her hand or leg off’. To this day I am afraid of my mother (despite therapy).

    She has also made me keenly aware how dangerous life and the process of living are in general. For example did you know that a woman may die simply by having her period? (yes! You can get a blood clot/embolism). Did you know that pregnancy is life-threatening? etc. Did you know that taking your tonsils out is a major risk? Do you know what sounds people make trying to get air when they have embolism while sleeping etc etc? Needless to say that I struggled with secondary infertility for 7 years, and when I finally conceived I did not dare to tell my mom for fear that she might kill the baby with just her thought. I joked about it to my therapist but it really wasn’t funny. I actually believed it. This pregnancy unfortunately did not ‘work out’ and we lost a perfect baby girl in the 6th month of pregnancy. I never told her until the baby was dead. My mother never aknowledged this loss except by saying: “Never ever not call me again for 6 weeks! You know how this makes me feel?’ Never mind that I was grieving over my dead child. Not once did she acknowledge this baby or made any comments about her. When confronted by me she said: ‘What for? I can’t help you anyway and it will not bring the baby back. What am I supposed to tell you? I love you? Like in these crappy american movies? (we are in Europe). The only thing she wanted to see were the photos of the baby (which of course I will not share with her – they are too precious), in order to find out I guess if the baby was ‘a retard’ or not and what the ‘real’ reason for her demise might have been.

    My mother has many unresolved issues from her childhood (this is an understatement) and one of her favourite themes is maternity. She basically gets disgusted over anything to do with child bearing or child care. I swing the other way so he hates me for this. Since our baby girl died we had a baby boy who is now a beautiful 8 months old (we have 2 children in total). During my pregnancy she made a lot of comments such as: ‘So and so spread her legs for the 4th time!’Meaning, my old friend had her 4th baby. Women who have more than 2 children are whores and they obviously like this sport’. etc

    Why do I think she is a psychopath? She basically has no feelings. In public she is adaptable and pretends to have feelings but at home she is just her empty self. I call her Dementor (Harry Potter). While pregnant I fell on the street which was a source of great stress (taking into account 7 years of infertility and a dead baby). Her comment was ‘ha ha ha I fell when I was pregnant with you, really hard, I didn’t know if you were to be alive or dead’. No ‘I am sorry’. No ‘You must have been frightened’. No ‘how are you? No ‘how is the baby’.You get a picture. No emotions basically.

    Her only questions about the baby now is if he is meeting milestones. Eg she is fixated over the baby not stretching out his hands yet at 8 months while being picked up. These are the kind of mechanical, textbook things she is interested in. Whenever I try to say that she seeks no contact with her grandchildren she flatly denies it. My other son is 10 and I can honestly say that she DID NOT SPEND ONE DAY taking care of any of our boys. She becomes incredibly uncomfortable, cannot hold her nerves, goes into rages etc. No childcare for this lady. How the hell did I survive?

    Recently my stepfather died of complications from cancer. He was a doctor too. My mother having been an oncological surgeon for 30 years had her first realization of what people go through now that her codependent partner was sick. I am sorry for her patients but she said thinks like: ‘You know, I never knew that people REALLY can’t walk after a surgery. I would always kick them out of bed and I never allowed them to bring their crap from home like a favorite pillow or a blanket. And you know what your father wanted all this and I brought it from home for him’ Or, you know after chemo your father really didn’t feel good and lost his hair’. And this is from a doctor who was confronted with death and dying every single day. It is really as if she not only turned off her emotions but her brain too.

    I could regal you with many more stories of how she feels everybody is against her, how the world is stupid and mean, how everybody is abandoning her etc. I will just let you know that her Christmas wishes for me and my brother were: ‘… and that you always love me!’. She is a brat and now getting old and not having energy to keep old pretences and thus getting more bratty by the minute. She can’t manage any insecurity or fear herself and thus has been regularly unloading on me since I remember. I was 40 at 5 basically. My therapist has described it as ‘raw unprocessed sewage’ spilling from her mouth. She never tried to spare me anything. On the contrary. She relishes the gruesome aspects of dying and when she for example described a friend’s child who got killed in a car accident it was all about broken body, flying limbs, liters of blood on the tarmac and NOTHING about any feelings.

    I will stop here. You get the picture.

    I am writing all this in the past as I have been (still am) in therapy and I try to set borders the best I can. As a jesuit nun once told me: your mother is like the fukushima nuclear plant. If you come to her without your nuclear outfit you will die a painful radiation death. Yep. But how extraordinarily difficult it is to let go of the idea of a mother even with all the insights and support and the loving family I have. I wish myself and everybody a lot of healing and a lot of self-awareness. Do not isolate. I am part of the ‘adult children of alcoholics and dysfunctional families’ which has been solid help (besides therapy). My best wishes to everybody – from the heart.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Thanks for sharing that story. Your mother sounds (sorry for the cliché) like a piece of work. It can be crazy-making when you have such a high-performing mother who knows how to behave appropriately in public but is a nightmare in private. Sounds like you’ve made peace with the issue, as painful as it might be.

      • Anna says:

        Thank you for your response. Baby steps, baby steps and more baby steps towards ‘un-merging’ and ‘un-meshing’… Every so often I suffer a relapse and try to extract love where there is none. Every so often i try to ‘fix’ my mom. It is almost some sort of ur-need to right the wrongs, to get some justice. It’s an illusion really because it is not my job to ensure justice in this world. The worst thing is not the past but that it continues today and the culprit will never acknowledge the inflicted torture and never apologize… It is as if you survived a concentration camp and the war is over and now you are supposed to be friendly with the head nazi dressed as a super worthy member of the local elite.

        My mom blames people like you . Therapists have messed my head. I have changed beyond any recognition. Or perhaps I joined a sect. Thank you for your website and for your work. A.

  83. Harper says:

    I’ve been reading these comments for hours – last night for hours and again this morning. I’m astounded at reading my story again and again from different people. I’m 47 and ending my third marriage. This divorce has just about done me in, and at some point in the last year of separation I realized how I was feeling about him was the tip of the iceberg; what I am really suffering over has to do with my parents. My mother is a classic narcissist, apparently. Younger brother is the golden child; I have been the scapegoat since age four, when little brother was born.

    My dad willingly and eagerly sacrificed me and my physical safety to that raging lunatic so that he himself would be spared. She was sneaky and furtive, as well, which leads me to believe she knew exactly then and knows exactly now what she did and still does. She stopped physically abusing me after one incident when I was 13 that caused blood to flow over my body. That belt buckle really can tear chunks out of a person’s skin. I think she only stopped because she was afraid she would get caught.

    I hate both of them sometimes, combined with an intense feeling of pity and hurt for them. I was diagnosed with MS seven years ago, and my brother insisted that I must tell our mom. One week after diagnosis, I called her. I spent the next two and a half hours consoling her as she wailed and screeched about how “all is lost” and “it’s the worst thing ever” and so on. I consoled her. I think you get the picture, right?

    Here is all I want: I want to be free of these emotions. I’ve limited my contact with these two people for the past ten years, but I can’t seem to free myself of the nasty feelings I have, no matter what I do. Forgiveness? Of course, but what do I do with the damage that is left inside of me? I pick the wrong mates; I sabotage everything good in my life; I’m always aware and watching myself with my children, terrified that I’ll see any of these nasty behaviors in myself towards them. I had them later in life, so they’re young, ages 12 and 10.

    Dr., how can I fix this? What book do you recommend? I’ll need to go about it on my own at first because of finances. Surely and surely there is something I can do. I’ve read vast amounts of information, and done what I can, and things are improving, but I don’t want to continue with the “hit or miss” approach. What do you recommend? Many thanks, Harper

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Harper, I don’t know of any particular books you might read, other than Karyl McBride’s book — that might be a good place to start. If you want something that’s a general approach to psychological defenses and unconscious pain, pick up a copy of my book and join our online discussion forum. We’ve only just begun a week-by-week read-along, and this week we’re covering chapter two. You could easily catch up.

    • S'more says:

      I relate to the consoling part. I too always have to console my mom if something bad happens to me. She’ll complain about how she couldn’t sleep worrying. When I divorced my first husband she kept saying “how could you do this to me” and she still talks about how she suffered from that. I think you sound like you are on the right path. Think it just takes time to heal…

  84. sara says:

    wow! what a great read! I have just recently determined that I am 100% sure that my mother is a narcissist. She drives me INSANE! She has 4 kids, I am her only daughter, I have 3 other brothers. I was the golden child, my youngest brother…the scapegoat. BUT…now that I am happily married with 3 kids of my own and wanting to make my own choices without getting her opinion…I am now the scapegoat….I mean aren’t we all supposed to call our moms and ask them if it’s okay if we go to our mother in laws for christmas…and if we tell her we are going to our mother in laws for christmas, they will call the mother in law at 3:00 in the morning demanding, “how could you do this to me”.
    A little back ground…My mom blames all our our problems on my dad, they divorced when I was 20 and both are remarried, my mom has remarried twice. My step mom is AWESOME! thank the lord that I have a mother figure to help me about how I should respond to my own children. My mom grew up a mainly an only child, she has a sister who is 9 year older. Apparently her sister was beat up a lot by her dad, he was an alcoholic and tried to commit suicide 2 or 3 times. He died when my mom was 23, in his sleep…I think from liver failure, due to his alcohol abuse, but I can’t ever get the real reason. My mom only talks about him like he was so smart, he had his PHD. I just recently read his biography that my grandmother wrote about him and just found out about how he never had a job and tried to commit suicide so many times. I’m not sure if having a traumatic childhood has made my mom the way she is.
    So, some of her narcisstic behaviors. When I had my first baby, she came to visit, “to help with the baby” and spent 90% of her time on my computer looking up men to date and 10% of her time holding the baby and taking pictures of him. If he did anything gross like holy macral how dare he would poop…she quickly hands him over. Since having subsequent children she is NEVER helpful. She lays around on the couch about how tired she is, plays a lot on my computer checking her email, plays my piano really loudly and very annoyingly whenever there is work that needs done (like lunch needs to be made or dishes need to be done…she’s busy…playing the piano, or wants to go out and do something fun…um, I just had a baby 2 days ago, can you please take your other two grandchildren that are 3 and 5 to the park or something so I can get some rest. um, no, that’s not fun for her. The ONE time she took my 3 year old to the park while I took the new baby to a doctors appointment, after a 1/2 hour she called me 2 or 3 times about “how long do I have to stay here…”
    And…heaven forbid we decide what we want to do with our family for holidays and don’t include her…like earlier when we decided to visit my husbands family for christmas one year. Just this year we are going to my dad’s for thanksgiving and to my mother and father in laws for christmas. She is LIVID! She sent me a page after page email about how I am now “dead to her”, she has replaced me with a girl at her church to be her new daughter, and she will replace me with many new daughters, she has gone out of her way to come and visit us for halloween and had to cancel some of the piano lessons she teaches, so I owe her $100.
    She was our realtor when we bought our first home and didn’t make us pay her…which I thought was really nice…but then again, what mother would make her daughter pay her… but has brought that up in the email as well, “I help you buy your first home and you can’t even give me one holiday, how dare you speak to me that way, I cause her to be depressed, she stays up at night and has to take sleeping pills because of me…her is her last paragraph of her email…”Say goodbye to your mother for the holidays. You my dear are not worthy of my presence. Take care have a great life. I just do not want to be a part of it anymore. Here I tell my friends about my problem with my daughter and they are also shocked. It is not worth the hurt and pain over the years you have caused me. For sure I will plan from now on not to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with you. Meanwhile please read EX. 20:12. Remember this commandment? Your self-righteous attitude has obviously made you forget about it. Your Mother, who gave birth to you.” nice huh?:)
    so what have I done about it? nothing, absolutely nothing. well, I did text her after she had called crying and left me 2 emails and 3 text messages that “I am not ready to talk to you right now, I will let you know when I am.” the response email I got the next day was
    “Hi Sara honey,
    I am trying to understand you Sara. I think you are angry because I got a divorce from your father and perhaps you have had suppressed anger. Wouldn’t it be better to tell me how angry you were and disappointed you were. These attacks for punishing me may make you feel better, but it is not healthy and the hurt of anger will be passed on to your children. I hope in time you can forgive me. I just hope it is not until I am dead and gone that you will understand.
    Love, Mother.”
    more manipulation for me to talk to her…
    All of her long time friendships from when I was growing up are not there anymore. and “it’s all the other person’s fault” never my moms…but it does seem like a pattern that she doesn’t have any friends last longer than a few years and she has lived in the same house for almost 25. The friendships I ask her about that have ended, it was usually because “the other person is jealous of her.”
    She takes advantage of my husband who is a doctor and is constantly calling our home asking for “dr. hyde” and asking him health questions in totally inappropriate times like while our son is opening his presents on his birthday. And then gets offended when he says he will talk about it later.
    She also ALWAYS has to be the center of attention. I just know that if I plan a birthday party for one of my kids, she has to be a part of it in a HUGE way, and usually in a way that I don’t want her to be, and I am left with taking care of my 1 year old baby, or last time my 8 month pregnant friend held my baby so I could help with the party, while my mom just had the time of her life…of course not helping at all…because my 4 year old daughter’s party was for her…wait…
    She makes plans without asking us and is angry if we don’t do what she wants.
    She makes fun of the fact that I don’t swear and don’t like to hear swearing, so she swears a lot when she is around me, and tells that that I will change to be like her when I am older. Also, if I don’t approve of a movie that she wants us to go see, because it is to violent or pornographic, then I am taking the fun out everything.
    She says very rude things in public like we were at a craft fair last week and there was an all black male choir singing and she kept telling everyone around her, “it’s the Obama choir”. I felt like an idiot being with her and kept mouthing apologies to the people around us.
    What’s difficult is that I do feel awful, completely and terribly awful. She is my mom, I am supposed to love her, but I really was actually relieved when I got the email from her about how she didn’t want anything to do with me anymore. Then I finally wouldn’t feel bad that I don’t want her to come over and “help” me after I have my next kid. I have a wise friend who has gone through a lot of therapy about her narcissistic mother and told me that I need a few months away from my mom…um, all of those emails, texts and calls, happened in only 6 days. I don’t know how I am going to do it. Especially during the holidays.
    I have started to write out some boundaries, but am afraid of breaking them.
    1. I will not argue with her
    2. I will not spend vacations with her
    3. I will not talk about her with other people (except the few that I want to confide in, I have 2 other ladies from church that help me a lot…but I don’t want everyone of my relationships to be about her drama).
    4. This one I feel really bad about…I will not spend major holidays with her (christmas, thanksgiving, halloween, valentines, new years, easter)
    5. and I feel bad about this one….I will not allow her to babysit my kids (I am honestly a little bit afraid when I leave my kids with her that she will neglect them because she cares so much about herself)
    6. I will always send joint gifts for holidays and birthdays (everything I give always had to be a certain way or it’s not good enough (and every gift I get and tell her about, she always wants one), so from now on I am going to “go in” on a gift with my brother’s so she can’t be just mad at me)
    7. I will not talk to her about my feelings or confide in her about my hopes and dreams. (she always compares them to herself or tries to sabotage them when she is mad at me).

    So, sorry for the HUGE life story…there’s like 1000 more stories to add to that…I was kidnapped by her when I was 15, she left our family for 3 months and didn’t talk to us, and stole our cars, blah blah blah…so, I am going to go and get some therapy so that I can be a healthy person. I am also going to read the following books, “will I ever be good enough, healing the daughter’s of narcissistic mothers.” and “The Peacegiver: How Christ Offers to Heal Our Hearts and Homes” because I know she may never change, but at least I can use the atonement of Jesus Christ so that even when she still acts the same way she always has, it won’t bother me anymore. I will let you know how it goes after I read them and get some therapy. I also do a lot of service to others, serve in my church, read my scriptures every day alone and as a family, pray every day alone and as a family, and have a wonderful husband that have helped me so far.

    • Edith says:

      I just wanted to say that your mother sounds very much like my own, and it’s so good to read these boundaries that you have created for yourself. It gives me courage to set up similar boundaries with my mother. Thank you.

  85. Amy says:

    I think my mother is a narcissist.

    As a child I remember always wanting to get away from her. I always felt happier when I was with my friends in their homes..with their mothers. Of course, I was always in a bad mood when I arrived back home. My mother always responded in the same way. She would say, “If you’re going to be like this whenever you come back from X’s house you won’t be allowed to go over there again.” Those were the first threats I remember.

    Later, when I hit puberty the threats of involuntary hospitalization in a psychiatric ward started. “If you’re going to continue to act like that I will have you committed.” I can’t remember what specifically triggered this threat. I think it was simply the fact that I was responding to something in her and she didn’t like it. As I said, I just felt awful being around her and this was reflected in my behavior.

    When I hit 15 years of age she abandoned me and for a year or so I was pretty much living on the streets. I managed to stay out of serious trouble but did end up living with a 20 year old guy and getting pregnant. I had an abortion and continued on with my direction-less life. Mom was around but didn’t seem that bothered by what was going on. In fact, she actually encouraged me by helping me move personal belongings into his apartment. When I think back on this now I’m stunned at her behavior.

    By the time I was 30 I had a university degree but my life was still chaotic. I then met a man who took my unhappy life and ran it through a meat grinder. I got pregnant and he ran out on me. When I told my mother what had happened she said, “I finally had my life to myself and now you come back with ANOTHER problem.” I remember walking into a Catholic church, sitting down in a pew and crying my eyes out. I eventually had a miscarriage. Later, the guy came back and – wait for it – I married him. That, of course, didn’t go anywhere and we eventually divorced. What was wrong with me that I married him?

    At this point, closing in on 35, I entered into a marriage of convenience with an older man I didn’t love after my mother lied to my brother about me and then threw me out of her house. He isn’t in love with me either so there isn’t a lot of drama to it. He has some money and if anything happens to him I will be ‘set’. Yes, I’m miserable and I often ask myself why I did it. I think I did it because I grew weary and stopped dreaming. It also feels safe and that feeling of safety is something that I rarely felt around my mother. Every single time I think of leaving I think back to the day my mother threw me out.

    I have very little contact with my mother at this point and my closest friends tell me that they believe she has always been envious of me. If you ask me she ruined my life.

    • anon says:

      He has some money and if anything happens to him I will be ‘set’.

      this is what English people call “from frying pan and into the fire”. a single wishful thought of someone you pretend to love dying is the total foundation of your existence!
      pathetic and total lunacy.

      but strangely i know a few more people like this including my ex- who at this moment is banned from even calling me on phone though we parent a child together!

      unfortunately we are not dying that quickly and even if we died you simply have no access to anything that we have worked for hard. and we know your type and keep you starved leaving only enough energy for you to what t is we require you to do for us.
      don’t play the game if you don’t know the rules.

  86. Alastair says:

    I have been in psychotherapy, and pleased to find a site that is helping people after they leave therapy.
    It’s not easy, right?

    I entered therapy seven years ago, seeking help because I was depressed. It has helped me. But it’s very hard to continue the work of self-compassion and soothing.
    I remember being asked by Dr T, at my initial assessment, “What did you feel about mum?” and “What words would I use to describe her?”
    I had never experienced concern like this about my feelings. (It still makes me sad).

    It hurt when I recounted things about mum.
    “She was like iron”, I said. “Efficient.”
    It made me unhappy to know that she knew that I was unhappy.
    She didn’t hug or hold. Reaching to touch her is my earliest memory (about 5), and her batting me off.
    I went to hug her when I was 10, thinking I ought to be able to celebrate with her my passing of a school exam.
    Already I knew that it was wrong. She did not hug me back. She stood there, arms at her side, unresponsive.

    I was hugging her.

    She is now 74 and the circumstances of her life are such that the rigid fantasy idea of herself as special (secretly special) is coming up against reality.
    Her thinking is now more obviously fantastic and unhinged. Non-sequiturs everywhere. Irrelevant details. It is distressing.
    My brothers don’t seem to notice.
    My dad is impervious. How else could he have lived with it.

    She was someone for whom her children were kinds of attributes, “perfect” things she could put in front of her mum (who was similarly brutally un-empathic towards my mum, and never missed opportunities to humiliate her) to prove that she was someone worthwhile. She was a mum who could not offer support to her children when they wanted to assert themselves. She had nothing to give, because she was given nothing in her turn.

    Mum could not allow a bond, then or now. To have a bond with someone would be to share herself, and for someone who relies on a self-idealisation (to maintain self-esteem), intimacy is impossible. It would mean being known to be not that ideal.
    Subtle denigration of others was everywhere.
    All her precious childhood objects were kept round the house, polished, dusted, pristine. Our home was not for living in.
    Woe betide you if you broke something. And you couldn’t handle the objects, or even be curious about them without first asking and inevitably getting the curatorial exposition of her entire life.
    Yet I was curious and wanted closeness. For years I gave her the attention. But it never got anywhere.
    I was left, just like her, with the burden of having to be special. Because one simply was not noticed, not worth noticing.
    Lack of self-esteem is the same thing as lack of self.

    Recently – once again her captive audience – she was revealing to me photographs of “her” special family, which I had never seen before.
    She physically flinched when I described the woman in the photograph (who was her father’s mother) as my great-grandmother.
    Then she went on to say that my brother is drawing up a family tree, but added that it was only of my father’s side, i.e. not her side.
    She has had to preserve a connection with her special family for herself. It is as if her children are not her own. She denies them. They are not special enough.

  87. Anonymous says:

    Is there an “all of the above” choice? lol. I can laugh now…but it has been a tough time getting here!! My mother seems to definitely have traits of all of the three types you listed at the end of your post…albeit, they were in stages. She has been married 3 times…and of the two marriages before she married my father..she had 4 children total..a daughter from her first marriage and 3 boys from her second—ALL of whom she totally abandoned when the marriage inevitably fell apart. She left and NEVER went back…not even for visitation with HER children. She just bounced from man to man and in every marriage, she was SURE to have children to cement her “IN” with them. I was the “lucky” one who got to spend 18 LONG and painful years with her. So there is type 2…right outta the gate. The feeding and exploitation was carried on as she paraded me around with her to the bars, as she and my father sat there drinking for hours, and sometimes, we bar-hopped…(good times!!)–not. I remember people coming up to me and saying how LUCKY I was to have a mother like her…that she was so funny and so nice, and such a good person…and at the tender age of 8 or so, I already saw that division between what people “outside” saw and what I KNEW. I remember thinking…are we talking about the same person here? When I wasn’t invited to go on their drinking binges, I was shoved into anyone’s home who would “watch” me…where I was sexually, mentally, emotionally, and physically abused..yeah, so she even made sure I had “good” care when she wasn’t there to “care” for me. I wasn’t ever permitted to have friends to the house to play EVER…and if I tried, we would be met at the door with a full-out, enraged, red-faced, temper-tantrum that inevitably ended with her saying to my friend “what the hell are you doing here? GO HOME!.” THEN…there was the fake affection (that makes my skin crawl as I recollect how it felt), where someone would compliment me and my mother would scoop me up in her arms and talk of how much she loved me and what a good little girl I was…and I wanted to just PUKE. I hated her even touching me in that manner…it felt VERY uncomfortable and violating. So really, in a sense, I was there to SHOW everyone that she was actually a “mother.”

    Now onto the separation thing…I remember my father saying to me “Ya know, your mom was a good mother to you until you turned about 5 or 6 years old, and then, I don’t know what happened.” Well, I’ll tell ya…I started school, I made friends, I began developing my OWN interests…but she would put the cabosh on that when I would decide that I would like to take Flute lessons and she bought me an organ for Christmas…that’s it…JUST an organ!! Yeah…Merry Christmas to me!! And then, made me practice, practice, practice…ALL THE TIME on an instrument that she THOUGHT I SHOULD want to play. Yeah, it was like that. She made it completely clear that anything I chose to do..she would never support. She never came to any parent-teacher conferences, never helped me with homework, never came to any of my baseball games, swim meets, school plays or concerts but also let me know that whatever it was that I chose myself to do…I had BETTER make her look good by doing my best at it…even if she didn’t care enough to support and/or be there to watch me.

    I could go on and on about my childhood…I really could. But that was yesterday and it is now and now…her only wish I believe is to see me fail. Her envy of my life and the choices I have made (which were in SHARP contrast to hers) is making her literally insane. When she crosses the line…I stop talking to her for a few months. That’s all..no drama…so she believes she has to CREATE it. It’s things like giving a long-cherished piece of her jewelry to my daughters (even though she KNOWS I’d been loving it all of my life)…and giving my son $100 after a break-up with his girlfriend when he could “only afford to go out and socialize once a week now” while I lost my job 3 weeks before Christmas, was applying for food stamps, scared to death I was going to lose my home, and unable to get ANYTHING for any of my kids for Christmas and she offered me “They are old enough now, they will understand…maybe you should sell that house or just let the bank take it back.” Or when I left a VERY toxic marriage with my 3 children…she says to me “Maybe you should leave those kids with their father…he will be better able to provide for them than you.”

    AND now…I hear things like this ‘There is something wrong with you”…”I’ve done nothing, nor said anything to offend you.” “You just think your perfect. No one is as perfect as you…no one can even get through a conversation with you without you going ON AND ON about how wonderful you are”…blah, blah, blah. THE PROJECTION. Yes…this is one of her more desperate attempts at control…though it makes me laugh now. It is right up there with guilting, manipulating, maneuvering, and pity–I almost wanted to say…”hey, wait…are you looking at yourself in the mirror right now?”

    But all in all…I have always known something wasn’t right—but I tended to separate it from the rest of my life…but have recently discovered that subconsciously, I have always gotten myself into this kind of toxic relationship with men. I have successfully GIVEN myself away to the only 3 long-term relationships I’ve ever had in my life (and I am 48)…to find myself feeling defeated, beaten down, and worthless. I am a very good giver…but have a very hard time receiving…so I find myself in relationships where that plays out all by itself. I give, they take..end of story.

    Great quote that I live by: “The difference between a cheerful giver and a rescuer is the cost.”

    The last contact I had with my mother was to invite her for Thanksgiving dinner after a 4-month no contact period. It really wasn’t that I wanted her here…it was more because I didn’t want her to be alone. Though, she made sure that my attempt was unsuccessful. I have decided that I will no longer speak with her…as it takes me days of mental preparation to just talk to her….and every time I get off of the phone with her, I want to smash something, so….I’m thinking I’ve made the right choice. There is nothing there for me to attach myself to and I would much rather invest in those things that enhance my life.

  88. chris says:

    Recently I’ve come to realise that my mom is highly narcissistic, and I think she is a mix of the Type (1) and Type (3) moms. When I was a little kid, I gained alot of academic acheivements and praise from my teachers, and my mom treated me like a golden boy because my accomplishments reflected well on her. She would brag to friends and relatives (pretty much anyone with ears) about what I was doing, and she would take out ads in the town newspaper, advertising my accomplishments. This might sound all well and good, but my mom’s bragging was excessive and downright embarrasing for me. Also, my mom developed a little bit of a reputation as that crazy lady who is obsessed with her son. At the same time, she was genuinely supportive of my academic efforts throughout middle school and highschool; however, things really began to change during my senior year.

    When I was applying to colleges, I let my parents know that I wanted to be a journalist and to apply to journalism schools (makes sense, right?). At that point, my mom pretty much hijacked my college search. We never visited the schools that interested me. We only visited colleges that my mom had personally vetted and researched. More often than not, those schools did not offer journalism as a major. Ultimately, I applied to alot of schools that my mom selected and only 2 schools that I chose. I ended up getting accepted to Northwestern, which was a pretty big deal because its journalism school is one of the best in the nation. The same day that I received the acceptance letter (what should have been the happiest moment of my senior year), my mom informed me that she was not going to let me attend. I asked her why I could not go. Also, and more importantly, I asked her why she had not informed me of this before I applied; why did she let me get my hopes up? Her response was that my father couldn’t afford to send me to the school. She never ended up answering my second question.

    Her explanation didn’t make sense for several reasons. My family is upper middle class, and the tuitions at the other schools that I applied to were on par with the $ amount at NWU. Also, up until my mom’s revelation, my father was sympathetic to my desire to go to that school. Later on–I’m talking years later–my mom let slip her real reasons: she didn’t want me to be so far from home, and she didn’t approve of journalism.

    Long story short, I ended up at a college that didn’t have a journalism program, and at the end of college, I joined a teaching organization, which required me to move from my home on the east coast to Texas. For 2 months after I was accepted–this was before I actually moved to Texas–my mom continuously tried guilt tripping me about my decision to join, treating me as though I was abandoning her because I was moving so far from home. “Do you not love us anymore?” was the line she used the most. At no point in this process did she congradulate, encourage, or even remotely support my decision. Had she begrudgingly accepted my choice, I would’ve been happy. But no, she just poured on the derision, the blaming, and the guilt.

    In the end, I decided to do the program, regardless of my mom’s disapproval, because the last time that I caved to my mom’s demands about a major life changing decision, I lost access to something that I really wanted to do and to a huge opportunity. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

    What I don’t understand is why she supported me early on in my academic career only to completely undermine my goals later on? I know that when my mom was in high school, she received a really prestigous scholarship that enabled her to go to any college in New York tuition free (I don’t know if this is true, but it is what she claimed). At the time, she couldn’t take full adavantage of the scholarship because she had to take care of her senile grandmother, and she ended up living at home while attending a local school. Maybe she is jealous of my opportunities? Or maybe she just doesn’t want to let me go? I have no idea. It just makes me sick because she continuously tries to put herself in positions to make really big life decisions for me. She doesn’t care about the consequences that her actions have upon me. She just wants what she wants, and for me to uphold the picture of our “perfect family.” Sometimes, I think she would be happier with me if I were just to quit what I’m doing to move back home and live in the basement. I’m just tired, and it sucks not having parents who really support me (my dad always ends up supporting my mom’s opinons/decisions). I don’t know.

  89. Anonymous says:

    Could you please describe then the “good” or non-narcissistic mother? Does one exist? Or do you not like the realities of women coping with motherhood? Is the real problem that this is the age of the narcissistic child?

  90. Connie says:

    My problem is with my narcissistic mother-in-law, but I actually have a normal mother, so they do exist. Unlike my mother-in-law, my mother has a sense of humor. I can tease her about being from the Midwest, and she will laugh and even make her own jokes, unlike my mother-in-law, who takes great personal offense at any comments at all about the South. My mother doesn’t criticize people about their weight, whereas my mother-in-law is obsessed with weight. The worst thing you can do in her eyes is get fat. My own mother got fed up with us at times when we were growing up, but she never, ever left the home- my MIL used to leave her husband, my husband and his brother for weeks at a time when she got “mad”. My mother treats all her five daughters equally and loves us all equally; in contrast, my MIL has a “golden child” and a “scapegoat”, and plays them off against each other. My mother is social and has many dear friends whom she speaks of positively, while my MIL only speaks negatively about others.

    • Michael Sager says:

      Connie your contrast was spot on. I could write my own experience but it would only be the same but with different words. In a nutshell I have a wonderful step mother that sounds like your mother. My own mother is identical to the mother-in-law you wrote about minus leaving the house. I was amazed that you wrote about the issue with weight. I thought it was my mothers own peculiar dislike but apparently not.

  91. annie says:

    i was on your site reading about projection after a long day of work with… my narcissistic mother! i’ve been in therapy/recovery for about four years now, i’m almost 24. i’ve “come to consciousness” (via a really kick ass 70 year old jungian analyst) about a lot of my personal crap and it’s been hard. but nice. went a little out of control/control freaky (i still do this!) after this and ended up in a couple treatment centers, last one did the trick and i’ve been sober 2 years. my parents are generally pretty cool,(i’m saying this because they got me sober) we were pretty religious growing up and while i’ve left that behind they still cling to the ideas. anyway, i have a good relationship with my dad, it’s more of a friendship. but my relationship with my mother is kind of troublesome. my old analyst (dont see her anymore cause mom thinks she’s weird, hee hee, makes me like her more) told me, “she won’t let go of you. so how can you get away from her?” i think about this a lot.

    i guess all i can say is i’m working on it. my parents are getting me my own apartment in about a month in an awesome neighborhood. i’m really excited, this will be the first time i’m actually able to spread my wings without the use of drugs or alcohol, with a considerable amount of faith in myself, and the understanding that i have to be responsible in order to be free and not beaten down. that’s all i really want- to be free. my analyst also used to say “Remember, this is TEMPORARY”…

    my parents put me in treatment, i got sober and meant it. i go to A.A. only occasionally now because i’m really not that into it. but i will remain sober and go to A.A. only if i feel like i really need to. i just kind of feel like it squelches individuality and can be a little rigid. i need a spiritual program that is richer. that’s why i’m grateful for Jung. anyhoo, before i get all nutty on psycho-spiritual dynamics, i just wanted to say that my mom sucks. she has tried to make me into her little product for my entire life, and to a certain degree i had to conform. i mean, i felt like i had to in order to survive. she inhibited my personal growth and maturity because she tried to control my hair my dress my room and every aspect of every relationship i’ve ever had. she put me in treatment which i’m grateful for and has done me a lot of good but she has completely neglected herself in the process and doesn’t let me forget it. we have zero emotional connection. i like to believe that she loves me, and she does, in her own way. but we never (and probably will never) have had a real, empathizing loving, mother daughter relationship. and i have a gigantic hole in my heart because of it. i carry the pain with me every day and pray that some day there will be relief. it’s a colossal loss. is it my loss? not really, like i said, she kind of sucks. i love her though and try to understand her as best as i can. i’m probably too understanding. but she will never know me. it is her loss, because I am awesome.

    but you know what? slowly but surely i am evolving out of the mud. i’m in college, making a 4.0, thinking about becoming an analyst myself, i play in a band which i love.

    i have learned to own my battle scars, and so can you. i just want people to know that there is a way out of this, a success story. it absolutely destroys your heart to not have an emotional connection with your mother. it’s heartbreaking. i do realize that a lot of people have it waaaaaaaay worse than i do, after reading a few of your stories i realize that my mom is only “kind of” a really terrible person.

    anyway, lots of love to you all out there struggling with this. it hurts. stay strong!!! you can do it!!!

  92. Sue says:

    As children my Mother nagged my Father so much he would whip us 4 children just to get peace. Not once a month or once a week , no we were whipped every night because we were normal kids. We were always told how bad we were. We were told on a regular basis that we were animals until we were taught how to be human beings. My narcisstic sociopath mother whatever you want to call her stood and peeled the vegetables for dinner while the 4 of us yelped with pain and yelled “sorry daddy, sorry daddy I will be good”. Have no idea to this day what we did wrong. Our family cat left hair on the furniture so my Father slit the poor cats throat in front of us to shut her nagging up. I am 52 and still cant get over the cruelty in our childhood. I think my Father was a weak person not to protect us children but reading about narcisstic mothers they pull on the husband to be their enabler. I LOATHE MY MOTHER. I USED TO THINK SHE WAS MY BEST FRIEND. NOW I SEE OH SO CLEARLY THE WRETCHED BEAST SHE IS AND HATE IS NOT A STRONG ENOUGH WORD TO DESCRIBE HER. I could write a book on the horrific childhood we had.

  93. Misty says:

    It’s hard to convince yourself that it’s your parents, not you. I’m 32, and I’m 4 months into my second year of no-contact with my N mother and my co-dependent father. The one thing that I hold onto and use to keep myself angry so that I don’t fall back into believing that it’s my fault is that my mother sent me to babysit for children who’s father she suspected of child molesting. I was 13, and she KNEW I would be alone with him. Then, at 13, I didn’t realize how wrong that situation was. I thought she was doing right by me to warn me to be careful. At 32 I realize that if I had a 13 year old daughter and suspected some creep of molesting little girls I’d rather die than send her into that situation, forewarned or not.
    For years I thought it was me. Now I know it’s not. I’m angry, and hurt, and sad – but things are getting better little by little. I use the anger I feel to keep them away. When we run into each other accidentally in public places and they try to “shame” me for being “horrible” and “disloyal” I throw the child molester in their faces. It’s gratifying to say the least – taking the power when I never had any. I don’t have to talk to them and there is NOTHING they can do about it. That power makes me feel good. Normal people with normal parents would think that I AM being horrible for enjoying this, but they’ve never lived with a narcissist so they could never “get it”. It’s not about her anymore, it’s about me. I get to make choices for myself and she can’t tell me NO anymore. There’s no better feeling in the world. She can cry to her friends and family all she wants and tell them all how horrible I am, and that’s fine. I’ve paid a steep price for this freedom – my entire family – but in the end, I think it’s worth it. I’ve found a new family who loves me and respects me as I am. Things are definitely getting better. Best of luck to all of the rest of you.

  94. forest23 says:

    oooohhh, My mother always complained about her mother trying to fatten her up and how she never enjoyed her “skinny” years. Of course when I was a gymnast and dancer she kept complaining I was too thin and of course my mom was struggling with her weight! LAME!!!
    She hated when I was thin because I looked like my Dad when they were young. done. flashback lame-o. The resemblence is striking but merely genetic. My father is a psychopath. She (mother) only likes me when I’m fat and sedated on antideprssants. essentially her …mother. Gramma was hospitalized and medicated too. I loved my gramma “off meds” she was totally stable and always drove carefully and took good care of everyone! Everyone else was crazy. so sad.

  95. Awatea says:

    Hi My mother as all three forms an so extreme that i had to realise that no mater how much i worke on my wounds and longed to re unite with her as my adult self, it was very un likely that we would have a healthy mutual relationship. When she found out i was raped and sexually abused by her husband from 7 to 12, her response was ” how hard do you think this is for me and what kind of situation have i put her in”. That it did not matter as she loved him and he was a good man. Apparantly i was making it hard for her and keeping her from her grandchildren and wanted them to have a holiday with them in Australia. That it wasn’t really about him but it was all the anger i had towards her and i was just trying to get back at her…. me, me, me,gee. So thanks for writing this as it helps remin me that i am not really the one at fault here

  96. jl says:

    I ran into this post while looking for help with my relationship with my mother.
    And I can now finally define her as narcissistic and mostly-bad.
    From the point of view of many outsiders (I mean her friends), she really loves me.
    After she divorced my father when I was 15, she paid my college tuition, which has become her point of pride ever since.
    I can recall a lot of bad memories she’s given me, especially when I was in primary school and wasn’t able to say anything for myself. Like one day I was going out with my friends because my school gave us a day off, for whatever reason I forgot. She didn’t believe me and blamed me for lying, in front of all my friends. I was really sad but even when she realized I was not lying, she never apologized. Things are worse during my adolescence. She has no ability to empathize with anyone. The way she sees herself empathizing is when she is simply following her own feelings. That’s not really empathy.
    Now I’m a junior in college, and I realized she feels imbalanced within herself, which she also claims. She feels that the way I treated her is not equivalent to the way she treated and has always been treating, me. She simply loves me more and cares about me so much that i could never match. I feel really burdened by her “countless love.”
    She leaves that impression to all of her friends that she is a heroine. Because she stands strong in divorce, pays for my college and endures the loneliness while I’m away from home for school. This way, I feel like she has all the right to say anything to and asks for anything from me. Her friends have been putting pressure on me verbally, too. like “yea you should give your mom a good life in return, bla bla bla” I’m not resenting this. I just feel so burdened that I don’t want to listen anymore.
    But I guess, from these years I spent with her, she just doesn’t want to regret for not paying for my ed and make me hate her for that. And she’s been always bragging about how smart she is that she thinks all of her friends are boring and slow. And that I am so smart because I got the genes from her, etc.
    Her marriage with my father ended in the most terrible way a marriage could end, the details of which I’d rather not recall. My father is also extremely narcissistic. But my mother is tough to deal with. She wants so much attention and emotional care. I call her everyday from school but she’s not satisfied because I’m not asking enough about her trivia in life (i guess like what she ate that day, etc) And she would cry and saying we are not equivalent treated by each other. As an engineering major, I don’t really have time dealing with all these things.
    Honestly, I have no desire to go “home” now during school holidays. I’m more and more in need of a home on my own (and my mother also threatened my having bad relationship with my future husband’s family if I treat them the same way as I treated her). I don’t know what to do. I think I’m just giving up.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      As I’ve said to many commenters here, sometimes getting distance is the only viable solution. That’s not giving up, that’s taking care of yourself.

  97. D says:

    I always knew there is something seriously wrong with my mother, brother and father and wanted to realy know the answer. i was sugesting my mother might be histrionic or something. today i was just seeing video about NPD and then was reading further on websites. the more i was reading the more it matched together like puzzle!
    my mum gave me horrible childhood. i constantly worried what mood she will have in next minutes and what punishment i will receive. for the slightest mistakes she locked me in house for weeks, months and for teenage years it was bad as i had no friends no life. she beaten me, humiliated,threatened she will send me to bad-behaviour house, or that i better will not comeback home she will kill me if i bring bad marks. my father was scared of her and was doing what she told him.he was her doormat. me and my brother escaped from home when i was 14 and were living on friends sofas, on street, or in shelter when parrents started to searching us or told to police. we were not allowed to see father’s grandparents, if she saw us with them she would punish us. thats why she allowed us to go out just for hour or two so there was not enough time to visit them, and again i couldnt make a friends. when i had some, she sent my brother to stalk us and tell to mum what we were doing, telling and they seemed enjoy it when they pissed me of. one time she took my diary and was reading it in front of others, and then punished me. then my father just told me how stupid iam to have diary and its my fault she found it….she very rarely bought us some clothes ,shoes, everything i got from grandparrents and if mum saw me in it she beaten me and put it to bin.esspecially gifts. everything i got i had to hide. when father wanted to give us money he had to do it secretly.he took us to trip where we got some toys we came home and she was so furious and throwed it in bin. without any reason, i couldnt understand. same with hobbies. i got in to ballet group i was really happy and she throwed me in room and locked me. i remember crying for hours.
    i dont remember single time she said something nice, positive or showed some feelings toward us or others.she was just so cold and and empty.
    she had to be in centre of attention and admiration all the time. we were just shadows.i remember when some boy visited me she gave him that flirtatious look and was thinking she might had a chance lol. not surprisingly i was not interested in college i spent time with bad kids , got kicked out , i was 16, mother said to find work immediatly or she will kick me out. then i runned way to live in friends house and grandparrents.brother stayed while but then moved to grandp. as well.
    brother found out his father is not his biolog. fater, mother confirmed it. brother had a good job, and surprisingly moved back to parrents, he said he can save money and later move to his own house. he stayed with them for some few years, and started to display similar behaviour like mother and NPD.- talked only about money,bussiness and his gf’s. he always chosed weakened, village girls from poor famiies. so he coult manipulate with them, buy them gifts,expensive holidays etc. all of them were somehow long term sick, one constantly in hospital. i said to myself why he just cant go for normal girl, why always searching in village and sick. now i see why..
    i started have first incidnts with him-because i didnt agree with him he became aggresive, beaten me and threaten me with knife! other time driving in his car so fast just to freak me out. he liked the power. he never wished me for bday or send me email,call me when i was in other country, asking how i am.he was interested only about himself. i was occasionaly visiting parrents. it seemed a bit better , mother was 1st day all nice, of course centre of attention, and wanted to be admired,and talked about ‘bestial father’ all the time.
    when father had heart attact after hard working in 2 jobs(she was at home without job),and in hospital , she didnt show any emotions, feelings. she talked only about how scared she is she will end up alone if he will die and couldnt pay rent etc. same when her mother got sick -thromboses in leg and her Dr told her she needs to have her leg cutted or will die, my grandmum said she prefer to die.of course mum agreed with that.
    what surprised me was how quickly mother recovered of her death and never displayed emotions about that.just rationaly sorted memorial things. last time i talked to her was about 4 years ago. we went for drink and her and brother had to get all attention,and if somebody disagreed with them they would argue and humiliate that person.nobody would do that as they liked his money… if i got attention of someone she started to talk with joy embarashing things i did as i child and just to shadow me. that last day i felt sick, all bad memories came up. i left without saying anything.
    she called me last year to come to brother wedding (his wife is narccistic/or NPD as our mother)i couldnt come,i was busy at school here and no money for travel and they both withdrawed;-) just on this christmas she asked if i come over and said no i am still here. i dont think they will ever contact meagain. they r too scared i became independent confident,therefore no interested to play their game, competing with brother to win her admiration. i accepted there is no chance to have normal relationship with them, everything would be false, and i am sick of it.
    i had hard time realy, and feel that just since i turned 30 i am getting on my feet and when others have their families and established carreer, i start to work on it. i just hope i’ll be capable to do it. i will attend psychotherapy and work it out.

  98. bbs says:

    Dr. Burgo
    I was raised by a narcissistic mother. A bulimic ballerina non-the-less (Black Swan was very hard for me to watch). I ran away from home when I was 19 and didn’t tell my mother where I was for a month. This “caused” her to have gall stones. When I did talk to her it was at least a two hour conversation guaranteed. (If only they had caller ID then)! I lived in a different state than her and this was very helpful. I still carried guilt about our relationship because there were parts that I enjoyed.
    I went to college, had friends and met my future husband – all of which made her jealous and possessive of me.
    Our wedding was HER wedding but that was okay because I got the honeymoon. I learned to just agree with her on the surface. “Yes… I understand… I’m sorry… I’m wrong… You are beautiful…” This cut down on our argument phone time in which I could be blamed for things I did 15 years prior.
    She died when I was 40. I felt relief and guilt.
    I still feel fear and guilt. I am fearful of an ‘afterlife’ that would include her.
    I truly think that both leaving the state and dis-associating my real self with her and her death has made it possible for me to live a better life.
    After reading the entire post and comments sections of this topic I feel a bit less guilty. I did the right thing. I can see parts of her seeping into my parenting and vow to acknowledge it and learn about it and dismiss it so it won’t harm my relationships with my children.
    I am glad to have found you and am looking forward to reading your book and following your posts and checking the click backs for help. Thanks for being there. b

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You definitely did the right thing. One of the more pernicious affects of having a NM is the unmerited guilt they can inspire in us for “abandoning” them when we try to take care of ourselves.

  99. I REALLY appreciate this post as it reminds me of my mom and let’s me know I am not alone. Just reading the post and seeing all of the responses was enough to tell me that people have experiences all sorts of Narcissistic injuries. Beyond Narcism, my mom was a Paranoid Schizophrenic. She was a fantastic artist and an amazing therapist with extraordinary clinical insight. I am sure that her MH issues informed her art and the work with her clients, and I am keenly aware how her work with her clients and her art informed her MH issues.

    My mom had a lot of expectations and school was just one of the many ways she was able to live through her children. I started high school and college at 13, and by the time I was 17 I had a HS diploma and a four-year degree in software engineering. I eventually grew tired of slinging code and went back to school. I am happily supporting people to find a way to exit addiction. My mom wouldn’t have approved, but it doesn’t really matter. I suspect I would have found a way to meet her needs (in school and work) if I could have met my needs at the same time. It didn’t happen, and while I was in school working towards my graduate degree, I understood that loving my mother meant that I had to pursue my own passion. In some small way, although she couldn’t understand, she did want me to be happy; I tend to focus on this versus making sure I didn’t cater to her needs. I was able to understand that my mom really did the best she could with what she had to work with – her brain was broken.

    Less than two years ago she passed away. I was glad for a for a few reasons: she was very mean to people when she wasn’t able to get her needs met and people did not reinforce the world as she saw it….I am also glad she is gone as she was in so much psychic pain. I have come to see diffuse mental illness much like a radio. People like you and me have the ability to tune into one radio station – my mom lacked that ability.

    Thanks for the post..

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I think it’s hard for many people to understand the relief you speak of at a parent’s death. I felt that way, at least in part. A lot of grief, too, of course.

  100. J says:

    Your story about the battery of intelligence tests for admission into the gifted education program was eerily familiar to me, down to the language your mom used. I always felt a tremendous burden of expectation., even though my mother claims – sincerely, I believe – that she never meant to make feel I had to live up to any expectations, merely that she knew I was so capable that I could do anything.

  101. Peter says:

    My story kinda goes like this…My mom in her teens were pursued by alot of men, to which she finally gave in to my dad. Even though they were together, she still contacted alot of other men, dated them etc. Which made my dad really pissed off, after she had my brother and I, to exact revenge on her (my dad is extremely possessive), he took us away from my mom and we went overseas. The thing was, he wanted to just hurt my mom and not really give us a better environment, so he just left us with some relatives who also didn’t treat my brother and I well either, but luckily I was ignorant to just pretend to hear and see none of those relative’s critisisms. After staying with them for a few years, my mom rocks up at their house (no phone calls during this period of time) to file a divorce with my dad without even trying to fight for custody for neither my brother nor I. Still young and stupid back then, I didn’t think much. After then a few years later, I moved in with my mom and her boyfriend (a drunkard whose money got cheated by his wife), after a few months me and her bf get into a fight, she sides with him, I leave the house. During this time (before I moved out) all I hear from her is how many men still want her, how great a mother’s love is, how much she missed when we went overseas us but not a single call from her. My brother, being the golden child and me being the scapegoat (as per how a narcissistic parent favoritizes) obviously got all the love and attention, hell I couldn’t care less if they loved me or not but what I couldn’t accept was how much they wanted me to give but not wanting to give any back in return, whereas my brother got EVERYTHING. My dad knows that I don’t love him as much anymore and I just showed my mom how much I don’t respect her either, just today LOL. The truth is, I feel damn good that I don’t have to bear any more of their debts anymore. I’ve read alot of sites regarding signs of narcissistic parents and both my parents relate to those signs perfectly. So, yeah, I would actually advise and encourage to keep them out of your life. Don’t tell me how cold and heartless I am but living in a state of almost commiting suicide on a daily basis doesn’t tell me about how much they love me and neither gives me a proper reason to love them either…If I die, they will mourn and pretend to be sad for a week and then become narcissistic again………..oh gee……how great is a mother’s love…..?

    • Giselle says:

      Egads! We COULD be twins from the description of your childhood. Hang in there! Lately I’ve been remembering what the oldest sister used to say to us growing up, and even after we became adults: “You are loved.” I realized she meant God loves us, maybe even she (sister) loved us…but our mother did not. So even though I’m a stranger to you, I want to say YOU ARE LOVED, YOU ARE LOVED, YOU ARE LOVED.

    • Rene says:

      OMG you too. 10% change and it could be me. Down to the codependent relationship with the next guy.
      What still gets me is how to be ‘normal’ after that.
      I just don’t buy the BS anymore.
      As Rhett said “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn”.

      Go make your own life. Leave them to bathe in their misery

  102. Eric says:

    I’m discovering that my mom was a narcissist.
    I had a similar experience to you. Except instead of having high expectations placed upon me, my mom would get jealous and knock down my achievements. I was good at baseball, and one day after playing a good game, I was feeling good about myself. My mom tucked me into bed and warned me not to gloat. There was a look in her eye that I did something bad. I went to bed feeling hurt. I quit baseball a few years later, even though I had tons of talent. I guess she couldn’t see me outshine her. Another time she said that older brothers usually are more successful than younger brothers (I’m the youngest). Clearly she had the intention of knocking me down. She would humiliate me when guests were over, talking about silly things I did, right in front of me. I even knew at the time that she was in the wrong. What always amazed me is how shallow people are, and they would join in the laughter at me.
    One time when I was about 5, I was singing a song to myself in my room, thinking I was alone. Then I saw her and my older brother looking at me, pointing and laughing. Luckily I was able to avoid her and bonded with my dad more, who is a healthier person.

    Thanks for the article

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Lucky you had your Dad. Many of us had neither one. The mother who envies her child is one of the more difficult realities for us to face — it seems so unnatural — but it’s not uncommon.

      • andrea pilati says:

        Eric,

        I know exactly what you’re talking about. Being diminished and made fun of was my childhood.

        My most favourite day ever? My birthday, at my brother’s wedding reception. One of my oldest, dearest friends was emcee’ing, and after he got the crowd warmed up he said: “well, now we know. There is NOTHING that Ella Jackson will not do to ignore her daughter’s birthday” and led the crowd in Happy Birthday song. She laughed, and thought it was “cute”. I call it karma. I wish you the same type of blessing, Eric.

    • Jen says:

      Eric,
      Your mother’s behavior is eerily similar to my own mother’s. She expected me to be perfect, but when I did something well, she admonished me by saying, “Pride cometh before a fall.” While I realize that pathological envy was behind much of her irrational behavior, to this day, I still have a sense of dread when I accomplish something–that the “fall” is just around the corner. I found it easier to hide my accomplishments and feelings to avoid her criticism, or perhaps, to prevent her from getting any narcissistic gratification from them (to spite her). I will take Dr. Burgo’s comment one step further and say, “Lucky you had your dad and you were not a girl,” since mothers are more prone to viewing their daughters as narcissistic extensions of themselves.

      • Portia says:

        Thank you for the article and shared stories. I realize now that my mom is a narcissistic and I haven’t been imagining this all my life.

        There was a time where I thought this might be the case, but never dared to think more of this possibility. Thinking that it was wrong for me to think like that of my mom. However, many occasions have made it hard for me to think otherwise.

        Growing up, I had the feeling my mom didn’t love me as much as my siblings and somewhat envy me. She tells me over and over what a struggling life she had and how good my life is. I know she wanted to teach me to be grateful, but somehow it didn’t sound like that was the real truth of it. Similar to Eric and Jen’s story, my mum would also give the same reaction whenever I do something good or achieve anything. Everything I do is either inadequate or simply wrong.

        She may have slapped me on the face physically and often slaps me in the face with her words, especially when in front of others, but what hurts the most is when she forgets my birthday. She never forgets my sibling’s birthdays. She even plans them weeks before, but somehow she manages to forget my birthday several times. Her birthday and mine are just a couple of days apart.

        It still happens to this day, on a different level and with managed expectations from my end, often enough she competes with me, discourages or show very little interest, doubtful/ distrust, and belittles me and the things I do. It doesn’t matter that I’m now providing for her and my sister. Nothing much has changed. But I still love her anyway. I chose for us to still live under the same roof. What I do is create and maintain a “peace distance” to avoid any possible stress and embrace any possible happiness I could in my life.

        I don’t know if it’s just me with a second child syndrome or mom is a narcissistic mother, I try not to care or think too much about how my mom treats me. It sure is far from easy and does effect my mind and heart. For me, handling the sadness, anger, disappointment and frustation, mostly the trauma when faced with similar events are the hardest parts to deal with in moving forward.

        Again, thank you for this article Dr. Burgo and others that replied in the comment section. It really helps to know that there is such psychological behavior and a lot out there are experiencing similarly with you.

        • Rae says:

          I feel the same way about questioning my mother’s motives. It’s very painful. She and my biological father divorced shortly after I was born. Mom then married another man who I consider to be my true father, since he was the man who raised me. However I’ve been meaning to meet my biological father who used to have some very prominent connections. We didn’t know anything about his social standing or financial situation, so my mother assumed the best and urged me to meet him, proclaim myself his daughter (thereby forgetting the lifelong commitment my step-dad made to the both of us), and take advantage of the opportunities his prestigious position would provide. She later decided against this once we discovered my biological father wasn’t that well off, she instructed me that I could remain my step-dad’s daughter with an almost dismissive tone. It was incredibly hurtful to realize that all she cares about is advancing her social position. She sees both my dad and my biological father as stepping stones, while I am just a conduit for her dreams and aspirations. It’s a painful, unpleasant reality.

    • Ruth says:

      Eric, sorry to hear of your childhood. Mine was similar. Please don’t listen to anyone who tries to ‘one up’ your suffering. Whether you were treated badly by one parent or two it’s still a causes a lot of pain and suffering. I hope you’ve had a chance to work on your self-esteem. All the best.

      Andrea and Portia – My mother (and brother) couldn’t STAND to see me happy on my birthday. They had to sabotage it or hurt me somehow. It’s weird how similar they all are.

    • L K says:

      Eric, I could have written this! Change the baseball to a cooking competition at school and it’s my life. The singing thing actually happened to me! I was the older sister and my little brother could do no wrong. It is both empowering and devastating to realise that she was a narcissistic mother who was deeply jealous of me (of course she still is but as a 30 year old woman I am now trying to separate myself from her – not so easy). All I ever wanted was to feel loved and accepted by her. I never understood how I could make that happen. I absolutely idolised her as a child, thinking it was me who was to blame. My dad wasn’t able to build a supportive relationship with me as she also bullied him until he left.

      Recently when pressed I tried to explain to my mother that although she would continuously tell me she loved me, I rarely felt it. She said to me that I was the one with the problem and that my brother was easier to love because he gave his love to her so freely. Says it all really.

      Thank you for this article Dr Burgo and your comment Eric.

      L

  103. Joan Martin says:

    My mother decided early on (before I was 6) that I was the clone of her sister who in her mind was not a worthwhile person. She could not compliment or encourage me and found her glory in all of my sister’s accomplishments. As a kid I had no idea what was going on. It took me many years to realize her feelings had nothing to do with me. Of course I abused and hurt myself during that time because I felt such a failure. I have 3 grown children now and that is the only way I learned that it is not normal to torture and judge your children. No teacher, neighbor, close family friend, relative, or stranger ever could see what was going on. I used to dream of the day when some adult would step in and say “stop treating your daughter that way!”. I despair thinking of other kids going through what I went through. If you know a kid in this situation reach out to them and let them now you see their worth. It will mean more that you would imagine.

  104. andrea pilati says:

    your articles have given me an interesting amount of insight, I thank you for that. Full disclosure: I have read Karyl McBride’s book about DOMN’s, but I do not participate in any of the forums online (I think they’re an interesting subject in N by themselves). :)

    About 5 years ago, I finally hit on the realization that my mother had NPD…yes, it took 20 years of missed birthdays, the stories from my father of how she almost died giving birth, and my brother getting married on my birthday – along with all the kit and caboodle of NPD…for me to realize it. And I did.

    And I’m okay. I have a really wonderful therapist who I check in with every so often for a “tune up” (she gave me Drama of a Gifted Child at our 2nd mtg 12 years ago), and I appreciate her listening, and her questions, which always make me try to figure out the why?

    My question was sparked because of your video on Basic Shame…which I totally get, and live with and fight every day. It was about the dreams…I often have those kind of architectural dreams. Fears of my house falling down, having a baby, not knowing and accidentally hurting it – most of my dreams are very violent and visceral. I don’t get much sleep. I often (mostly when I was younger) would kind of hallucinate into myself… There were two figures, polar opposites: the first was like the Pillsbury doughboy, but a woman – big and fat and enveloping (!); the second was a wizened old man carved out of wood, with lots of nooks and hidden dirt. Neither were comforting, but the big one was louder.

    I have no contact with my family – they have decided “i’m dead” to them. Which is actually good for me.

    with all the things you mentioned about basic shame and especially about dreams – architectural falling apart, deformed/unknown babies, apocalyptic scenarios (welcome to my nightlife) – I feel like i’ve taken on my mother’s shame. I know she didn’t have an easy life…her mum was Depression era farm girl, had a child out of wedlock (my mother’s “foster” brother…we kids only put it together 10 years ago), lower class. and my mother talks like she was so hated…and yet she’s in her yearbook on every team, every club, most popular girl.

    what gives? I know something must have happened to her, but I will never know what. She’s NPD, through and through. I put a chink in her armour and I will be an enemy for life.

    I would like very much to stop dreaming her psychodrama, and leave me feeling more rested, if that’s possible.

    thank you so much for all your writing…it’s wonderful, and thought-provoking.

    a

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You’re welcome. Maybe it would help to check in a little more often with the therapist. This kind of shame is a profound issue. Since you seem to be suffering so much, it might help to go a little more intensely into therapy.

    • Chloe says:

      I am 60 years old and feel like I am 7, emotionally. I have raised 2 great children who are doing well, but I feel like such a failure within myself. My Mother got married the day after my 11th birthday, then she got married the day before my daughter’s birthday. 30 years apart, lol. I remember always feeling alone within my family and never hugged or encouraged. I remember being ignored and told I would never amount to anything. I am a singer and she discouraged me from persuing any career. Many people told me I should ignore her. I thought if I did what she advised, she would love me. Now, she is existing at age 95, I am her caregiver because the older sister said her life was more important than mine and could not adjust her life to do it. I am married, work, and am trying to get my college degree. She does nothing. I have felt my desire to live slipping away the last 5 years, feeling jealousy and resentment that I never felt in my life, no hope for my future. Intellectually, I know that is wrong. Life just gets more difficult and disappointing. I feel like I have wasted a lot of time trying to figure it out, but raising children well is worthwhile, so at least they will have a good life.
      I understand what you have experienced. I’m so sorry.

  105. LOL says:

    My mother is both no.(1) merges and exploits, and no.(3) envies her separating child of everything, and a little of (2), since she completely neglected me since I was young.
    When I was young, she is (2). When I grew into teenage, she mixes a (1) and (3), now she is a complete mix of (1) and alot of (3), since teenage and is getting more and more frighteningly abusive.

  106. Carolyn says:

    My whole life, my highly narcissistic mother has tried to compete with/belittle and scapegoat me, as she is very envious of my successes. Normal mothers want their children to do well, not mine. She begged my father to take me out of college because I liked it there and was doing well. He did. She enjoyed rubbing in my face throughout the years that her school (she was a teacher) paid for her to take more college classes for free, ones I wanted to take. She is sadistic and cruel.
    Now, I am middle aged, and my business does well, as I have fought/learned/succeeded despite her constant put-downs, etc. My life is fine, and I deal with the PTSD I ended up having due to her horrible treatment of me. My dad, also a narcissist but more reserved, and her still react with indifference and coolness when I have success. Oh well, life goes on. I use their lack of caring as fuel to do well, work hard and succeed. I’m not the “nobody” they have always made me out to be. It feels good to be able to do well and not need their permission anymore. Thank goodness for therapy (been in it a very long time). They always called me “stubborn, pig-headed, etc. I’m strong, not the negatives that they say. I no longer let them define me. Their lives aren’t so great anymore, they’ve crashed and burned. I just live my life and keep on working hard. Life is good now.

  107. Leo says:

    My mother has bullied me my entire life. Terrible things. The worse was in 2008. I was vacationing in a hotel, shortly before a long time platonic friend tried raping me.

    We were at a hotel and some gentleman would not stop telling me how attractive I was over some beers talking to us. Finally after competing with shameless and disgusting stories of her sex drugs rock n roll youth.. she snapped to me behind his back. He was going to RAPE you, its all your good for. Knowing I had just narrowly escaped a month before. Triggering me on purpose to get back at me for being the center of attention for once.

    • Anonymous says:

      Run from this woman who purports to be your mother. She is very harmful to you. Comments like that from a “mother” are dangerous. Start your own life and leave her behind where she belongs. I can only gasp that a mother would say this to a daughter. I know how it feels though . I had a father just like this. I cut him off and never looked back. Namaste.

  108. MJ says:

    AAAGH, you captured my mother so well! It is all about her! I won’t take up too much time, since we all know what we’re talking about, but my two favorite stories are (1) the time she took me for a hair cut, after going to the salon herself and telling them all what an incredible genius I was – I was apparently not sparklingly brilliant enough for her during my cut, so she drove us home, sobbing, screaming and weaving across the 4 lane road while yelling that I was “a dud, now they all know you’re a dud” and howling that she’d wasted her time and money on a “dud” only child; and (2) the 101 times I had to hear “you are too goddam brilliant to be anything but a lawyer or doctor, and if you want to be some stupid worthless [fill in anything I wanted] I would have spent the money we wasted on you on diamonds, furs, Cadillacs and trips to Europe.” I heard that “diamonds, furs, Cadillacs, etc” thing ALL THE TIME. Apparently you should be able to abandon children in the wilderness if they don’t want to be doctors…

    I have a father. He’s terrified of her (when confronted or defied she screams, hurls dishes, strikes people, and threatens suicide “and I hope you’re happy when you find me dead”) and has some health problems, so he spent my childhood asleep in his chair in a corner, knocked out by multiple cocktails and his meds. They’re in their 70s and I don’t think he’s ever stood up to her.

    Since I’ve started standing up to her, hard, and letting her know that if she doesn’t knock it off we will no longer have a family, she’s turned all of her energy and hatred into working in the Tea Party movement and ranting nonstop about evil minorities/non-Christians/liberals and how this is “her” country and not theirs. I think she’s an absolutely pathetic, repellant human being and will not be sorry when she’s gone. She nearly died a few years ago and I was absolutely elated – until she improved I thought that my greatest tormentor was finally gone. I have a fantasy sometimes that she’s ranting and raving in hatred and I hit her as hard as I can with a bat or an iron bar – she’s actually made of clay and dirt, so when hit she goes “poof” into a big cloud of dust that immediately blows away, and then the world is safe forever.

    Also, her behavior, and her awful father’s behavior (a ridiculing, sexist, humiliating teaser and tormentor who “just wanted to toughen the kids up”) makes me 100% sure that something horrible happened in the family once that is a secret. Mom and grandfather are both very hateful. They are/were intensely creative and desired artistic work, a parent made them give it up (and also give up the people they really wanted to marry) and they tried and failed to do the same to me. Mom and GF are/were both ridiculing and crass and with a penchant to make extremely crude and inappropriate sexual comments and slurs. Great-grandmother, GF’s mother, was very bitter and cruel and seemed to hate her only child, and thought that sex and the human body were vile and evil. So, was someone raped 100+ years ago? Incest 4 generations back? What started the 3-4 generations of self-hatred, cruelty and repulsion or crassness? Why would 3 generations of people take so much pleasure in torturing their children psychologically (thank goodness I always knew something was wrong and got help from sane people!)? Something started this and I would love to know what so I can have an exorcism, or something. No, I do not have children. I cannot expose anything innocent to mom, and want to makes sure that genetic line dies off so no one else gets hurt (which I can do, as a third generation only child – this ends with me).

  109. jfid says:

    MJ i love you

    your mother is exactley like my mother and your horrible familu is a mirror image of my pathetic family

    my mother in her 50s and acts exactly the same way

    i hate hate hate hate hate her

    i dont think i have ever recovered from an early child hood incident when i was 5 when she caught me masturbating and hit me

    i have a twin brother who is equally pathetic and also a narcissist

    because i am blind, and alot of other stuff, i live on disability now, and trust me as soon as it kicks in i am moving away (again) forever

    i feel total empathy with you brother or sister

    i will dance on her grave when she finally dies

    it will be the happiest day of my life

    care to comment?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      No, it will not be the happiest day of your life … or it shouldn’t be. So much mourning to do, for the mother you never had.

      • SIENNAROSE says:

        How can I mourn for my mother when she dies, when I have mourned for a mother that I’ve never had all my life. I have been so deeply hurt and abused all my life from her, and I’ve tried and tried to fix it with my love. It wasn’t until I slowly began to learn about ‘NPD’ after discovering literature, etc, that the pennies finally dropped. I’ve wasted so many years of my life, had so much counseling for the pain and misery that its caused me, and was always told to stay away from her by the counselors because she was dangerous, but given no reason why.. How could I stay away from her when I was desperate to be loved by her, trusted her, wanting to please her and make her proud of me. Its taken me 56years for the message to finally get through. My mother has never loved me, because love is gentle and its kind, and I look at her and I don’t even know who she is, because I don’t think she even knows herself. At the end of the day she couldn’t be the mother I deserved because she was only ever capable of being who she is…….A nasty piece of work!!

      • Jen says:

        Dr Burgo,
        I often think that I will finally be “free” when my mother dies, but I know that what you say is true–the finality will only make the pain worse. What you said reminds me of something one of my uncles said after burying his mother, “We aren’t crying for what we lost, we’re crying for what we never had.”

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          Your uncle was spot on.

        • Nan says:

          I am totally with you that I will be “free” when my mother dies!! Although I have not had contact with her since 2005, til this past December when my grandfather (dad’s dad) passed. All these years, I wondered if cutting ties with her was the right choice. Well at the funeral, she walked in, at first did not even recognize her………..she looked horrible (age 69). Then realized and I said Hi Mom, and went to give her a hug………..she said nothing, and pushed me away. On her facebook page, she says she is the most optimistic person (yeah right) and loves life, and her one daughter (ha she doesn’t even include me………as she has 2 daughters). But then if all that isn’t bad enough to grow up with a mother that is so jealous of everything I do………..she told me for years upon years I would never amount to anything. Compared me to my older sister all the time…………..and how much better she is. Well my sister hops jobs, and doesn’t have a pot to piss in, been in and out of realtionships. Kind of think I proved her wrong. ANd I love it. Have a very good job, my husband and on live on a small little ranchette in Colorado, and we have been married for 27 years. Anyway…….then my hubby and I have an only child, a son. He is married to a girl that is ALOT like my mom. Feels very threathened by me……..has been very verbally abusive to me. Statements like you are the most negative person ever, your son did not come from you because he is caring, loving etc………to wished I were gone. She has isolated our son from us, family and his friends. It is so sad………….now to get another dig into me, even tho I am blocked from dau in law facebook page I still have people that are her friends that share……………I don’t think she knows my mom, but became friends on fb to get to me!! That actually was the last straw for me…………my husband checked otu of all this abuse and manipulative years ago, I kept trying cuz only child, they have a baby together, and I guess that is what moms do. AS of today………I am going to continue to work on healing me from all this past YUCK to become the BEST I can physically, emotinally and spiritually. AM very excited about that.

          • Jen says:

            Nan,

            Ya know what they say, “The best revenge is living well.” Sounds as if you are trying to do just that! My mother also compares me to my older sister; how she is so much more succesful than I am. This is true in some regards (occupationally), but the toll of growing up with such a mother has caused her much emotional difficulties–which she assauges by abusing substances and engaging in casual sexual relationships. It is very difficult not to feel hurt by such comparisons (even if they are true)–just remember that it is more about her than you–her envy, that is. Also, we (children of narcissists) tend to adopt some of our parent’s narcissistic vulnerabilities–hence, intergenerational perpetuation of this unhealthy manner of relating. Having an awareness of possessing these traits endows us with the opportunity to recognize them and alter our behaviors–something our (diagnostically significant) narcissistic parents are simply incapable of.

      • Chloe says:

        yes, mourning as a Mother slowly dies from dementia. I have had 5 years to give her all I could–something she never gave me. I visit her a few times a week and cry every time. Now she says, “I love you”, but I never heard that from her until I was 21, 40 years ago. I said, “I love you”, and she uncomfortably with darting eyes replied, “me too.” I think I admired her beauty, but was afraid of her. She was so angry. I wonder if all narcissists get dementia? It is a perfect segue from bitch to old bitch. LOL trying to use humor to cope here:) I wonder if I will ever know how to accept it?!

  110. Alastair says:

    I would like to contribute something about what James F Masterton called “closet narcissistic” person disorder.

    Being secretly special is the thing. The need to maintian some star-like specialness is still there, but unlike how MJ describes his mum, the grandiosity is hidden and the seeking of admiration and attention is by association with or possessing desirable “special” things and people., never being seen to want the spotlight. Through associations with what one learned mum desires one attains specialness. I struggle to re-remember the feeling when I saw how disgust for oneself is compensated by a fantasy special self, and that is all one is – until reality condfounds it. (Therapy helps us to know we are fragmented and utterly empty). If one is like my mum, one withdraws from the real world to preserve the fantasy. In the orignal Realist novel, Madame Bovary killed herself rather than face her fantasy shattered.

    The killer is that as the child (a son) of such a mum, one is only recognised as an attribute of mum: either desired and desirable for being what she wants, or a repository of all that is disgusting in herself that she puts out of her self. Either way, one is not allowed to be oneself. One is not recognised for being oneself.

    Her self esteem depends on being able to have the admiration of others (any others, but particularly others who she thinks are superior) without “showing off”.

    “Showing off” is not tolerated by this mummy. She in her turn was ignored and humiliated by her mummy. How dare that child demand attention (whether it is glowing “look at me mummy” child, or the upset child, or angry, or distressed, or raging or depressed)?! The only way is to be “good” for mummy: have no needs, and be invisible and give her attention and your ear when she wants to talk about her special life and all the special things about her that happened before one entered the world and – one understands – meant nothing to her. Little child wants some attention? No one looking (mum checks) and then…. left in a cot, or in a pram in the garden, to cry unattended until one is silent!

    One is full of shame and envy for all one is not.

  111. Viv Barker says:

    Oh, it’s hard to admit it. That my mom is a narcissist. Because I do love her. When I was very little, it was just her & me. She divorced my father when I was not yet 2. And we always looked like each other, & had those look-alike dreses for Christmas cards.

    She remarried thank god, so I have 3 sibs w/whom to commiserate.

    During my growing-up years, Mom always had other ‘daughters’ she loved better than me. She started filling our house up with them when I was about 10 (the age she was when her steppfather started molesting her– so it’s hard to hate her for this in retrospect, even tho she didn’t get her memories back til she was 70 & I 50).

    At first, they were like older sisters who loved Mom & loved me too. But they came to dominate. The first one became my godmother (eventually; I was converting to Catholicism). The second one was like a dear aunt, living in our house off & on as she came of age (“because, dear, you see, she was molested by her stepfather & became promiscuous & is just now coming into her own”)

    There were others. I remember one Christmas, I was maybe 17, marred by the intrusion of some stranger she’d found god-knows-where who was part of Christmas morning & got better stocking-gifts than me, never again to be seen.

    By the time I was 21 & about to be married, there was this other horrible clone-daughter, who’d been living in my house for a couple of yrs while I was away at college– she’d been not just abused but ABANDONED by her parents in youth– counseled nightly by my psych-w/o-portfolio mom: Mom had found someone to marry her, & didn’t my Mom arrange & fund her wedding– just 5 wks before mine!– sing at hers, & have it officiated by our favorite priest–(to this day my poor much-younger sis will maintain: “Mom MADE me be the flower girl!”),
    leaving Mom far too depleted to do much more than slap together an afterthought of a wedding for her own daughter (she didn’t sing either).

    My sis is 13yrs younger. In her school days she was dyslexic & so not much of a student, an incredible athlete– the star of her hs hockey team, & womens hockey teams were a new thing. It was yrs later– thank god my sis ended up as a college grad my tenant in a NYC 2-family house, so we finally got to compare notes– I learned that in all those yrs MOM NEVER ATTENDED 1 NOT 1 HOCKEY GAME.

    The men were treated far better. (4 sibs: 2 girls, 2 boys). Dad was sent packing when the boys were aged 14 & 5. Elder son became dad-in-loco, responsible for keeping the younger 2 in tow, maintaining the family cars, & taking over home maintenance (dad was a house-builder & both sons had the skills).

    Daughters were kissed off to careers & families. Sons were cushily maintained in the family home, supporteed financially as they built careers,

    Eldest son got the worst of this. Always bought into Mom’s skewed fantasy of what Dad should have done, he should do. Mom supported him w/$, mortgages, connections for contracting work. He fulfilled a family fantasy by building [hoarder] Mom a barn/loft for all her [antique] ‘stuff’. Ultimately, bought into the ultimate fantasy: built Mom a new home [on property that was always intended for a dream next home for Mom & Dad]– built to Mom’s [blueprinted-- yes she had housing/design skills] plans– complete w/heated basement storage for hoarded stuff & every other environmental frill you can think of, finished off w/his very fine carpenter skills (this guy can make you an 18thc. repro bureau w/dovetail drawers…)

    Youngest bro never bought in, & has escaped. Eldest bro still in thrall at age 58– tho he’s established digs & family far away, still at Mom’s beck & call.

  112. Celeste says:

    I know how many feel. I have all these successful achievements only to realise it was an escape from my mothers abuse.

    • Chloe says:

      yes, I too have accomplished much to outsiders, but it is never enough to me. I didn’t accomplish my passion. I wasted my talent. I go through life, arms always flailing, trying to find my place. I don’t think it is on this planet:(((

  113. Adrienne j Doherty says:

    Great post. Thank you!
    Just as an aside, I offer several other film titles as effective representations of the
    narsissistic mother / female narcissistic personality disorder.
    A PATCH OF BLUE ; LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE; NOW VOYAGER;
    THE RAZER’S EDGE; TERMS OF ENDEARMENT; LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN;
    GEORGI GIRL; MONSTER IN LAW; DARLING; THE GREAT GATSBY; OH, YES..
    CINDERELLA.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Thanks, Adrienne. Funny you should mention Cinderella. I’m currently writing a psychological version of that fairy tale, making use of many things that people have shared here about their narcissistic mothers.

  114. BillM says:

    I recently bought “Why Do I Do That,” having just re-read “Drama of the Gifted Child.” So your mention of Alice Miller’s book caught my attention. How does Miller’s book fit with yours, since she largely rejected Freud, while your work seems to build on his insights? I’m finding your book very clear and helpful, much like your website. Thank you!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It has been along time since I read Alice Miller but I remember being very moved by it. There’s a lot that I reject in classical Freudian thought — such as libido theory — but we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Freud had some amazing insights and was wrong about a lot of things, too.

  115. Annie says:

    “There’s a degree of narcissism inherent in the relationship between most parents and their children: we take pride in their achievements and feel they somehow reflect well upon us when they do succeed.”

    I would like to address this statement at the beinning of your article. I see variations of this statement all over the web, but please consider that this statement has more than a little faulty reasoning.

    I understand that as a mental health professional in order to diagnose a disorder like Narcissism, you must be able to identify a number of traits, and that these traits, taken together then constitute an official diagnosis. I also understand that there must be a minimum number of traits taken from the official diagnostic manual in order for the diagnosis to be complete.

    If you take say just one of these traits, “lack of empathy” for example as a partial diagnosis of narcissism, then you could rightly judge that ‘everyone’ has narcissistic traits. Who hasn’t for example felt a distinct lack of empathy for somebody you consider to be undeserving of it. A mass murderer for instance will not normally engender massive empathy from the general populace. You would not say that this is a narcissistic attitude in this case. It would in fact be a very normal and understandable attitude given the circumstances.

    ‘Lack of empathy’ can also be a trait of Asperger’s syndrome which has nothing to do with Narcissism and is a genetically acquired condition and can therefore not reasonably be used as a judgement of that person’s character. My son for example has Asperger’s, and has displayed some alarming lack of empathy from time to time, but I would never consider this a ‘narcissistic trait’.

    I don’t think you can really say ‘we all have attributes of narcissism’ in a general way. I think the danger with this kind of all encompassing statement is that it minimises the effects of those who actually do have NPD and tends to make them seem more ‘normal’. My mother has NPD and has often done some brutal things which could even pass as psychopathic in character. I would not label her however as a psychopath as I am not qualified to do so. Nor would i suggest that we all have some characteristics of psychopathy. Her diagnosis is as individual as she is.

    I would also like to suggest that taking pride in your child’s achievements because they relect well on you is not a narcissistic trait because to a narcissist, the child is not a human being but an extension of their own consciousness. There is no individuation at all. A normal parent, one without the diagnosis of narcissism, is able to take pride in their child’s achievements because they love them and want the best for them. You also realise as does every rational and emotionally healthy parent, that everything your child does actually does reflect on you. The world bears witness to this unfortunate fact. If a child does something horrific which enrages the community, like shooting somebody or a group of somebodies in a psychotic rage, everyone looks at the parents and asks what went wrong. If a child alternatively does something really spectacularly unnusual, is a genius, or achieves some great recognition in the community, likewise, the community applauds the parents (perhaps not as much as they castigate them for a child’s bad behaviour, but it does happen).

    So, do you see that making these statements is not logically sound? We cannot all have attributes of narcissism. We can sometimes lack empathy, or think too highly of ourselves than we should, or be selfish, but these traits taken on their own merit are not traits of narcissism. Only if you look at the person’s whole personality and recognise that there are a group of traits which then taken together become reflective of a deeper problem can you say that this person has some traits of narcissism.

    You can say that a person has a low level of narcissism because the group of traits are present but they present at a low level of effect, but you can’t take one single trait of narcissism and say that everyone is a little narcissistic.

    I might just end this by saying that I have also read people make the same statements about Asperger’s syndrome. When I first tried to explain Asperger’s to my friends one of them said ‘Oh, well, my son does THAT’. It came across as patronising and dismissive, as though I was making up the diagnosis to make out that my son was somehow special or better than her son. Fortunately, she recognised later that there was indeed a difference between small acts of selfish behaviour or lack of empathy and fitting into an actual and proper diagnosis.

    I hope this does not come across as too critical, but I do believe that it is important not to allow the general public to go about saying that we are all a little narcissistic as it creates a false understanding of this really awful and destructive disorder.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      If you read more on this site, you’ll find that I don’t believe in diagnosis, nor do I believe that people fall into neat little categories. There’s a lot of overlap between the cluster of symptoms the DSM refers to as “Asperger’s” and those for NPD.

  116. Laura (So Ca) says:

    I just spent fuor grueling days working my tail off on some legal stuff for “incubator”.
    Her Attorney and the Courts are preparing for a Gudianship hearing, where my incubator has to account for funds and non-performance of duties. I was the one as usual capable and willing to do the work. I am Cinderella and my sister always goes to the ball. I am so sick of the dynamics.

    She discounts everything I did for her when my late father was dying regarding support meetings. She always say someone else told her about it, or did it, and gives me the quentisential verbal slap in the face. Well today I told the witch off. She’s on her own. She can call her real daughter, who doesn’t work as hard, fast, or prompt like me. This scapegoat is done.

    I loved the funeral comment “We aren’t crying for what we lost, we’re crying for what we never had.” Spot on. I am not attending my incubator’s funeral. It’s about the relationship in this life.

  117. Tom says:

    Dr. Burgo,

    I’ve wondered for years if my mother was/is a narcissist. I go back and forth and I’m not sure enough to confront her or cut off all contact. I could be wrong and then I would just be hurting an old lady. (She’s 92 and in Assisted Living) Maybe I’m the toxic one and my family was fine. I chase my tail about this a lot.

    But I have to try and look at the evidence objectively. When I do I see some of the narcissistic dynamic in my family. My brother committed suicide 15 years ago. Before that, he was the designated “golden child.” He could do no wrong and his accomplishments were exaggerated as bragging points. He committed suicide because he could never live up to the grandiose expectations place on him. My sister is still living and has very little contact with my mother. My mother blames her for everything so she has the role of the scapegoat. My siblings hated each other for most of their lives. My mother also frequently lies and exaggerates and denies responsibility for anything. She blames her father for how my sister turned out. I am the youngest and I think of myself as the “forgotten child.” I’ve been divorced twice and have a lot of trouble with intimacy. I also suffer from anxiety, depression and some paranoia.

    My father died 7 years ago. Before he died he went insane. Part of it was dementia and part was his own grandiosity, sense of unrequited entitlement and paranoia, but now I think that my mother’s lies and denial probably took a toll on his sanity at the end. Also, many of mother’s oldest friends (the ones still living) will not have anything to do with her because of things she has said and done. When I ask her about it she blames it on my father or she blames it on them. She is very polished and poised socially and many people think she is the most beautiful and charming 92 year old they have ever met. But she talks about people behind their backs.

    My mother loves to be doted on and adored by others, but I have almost no memories of her being warm and supportive to me or my siblings. She can manufacture empathy, but I just can’t think of an example where I could say she was truly empathetic to anyone in our family. I mostly think of her as cold. If anything, she would use someone’s misfortune to make herself look good (as a Samaritan) or feel good rather than be supportive or truly sensitive to someone’s. I’ve never seen her break down and cry and she disdains all emotions.

    To me, the evidence points towards narcissism. Possibly both of my parents, but certainly my mother. (My father had issues, but he at least had some empathy and kindness.)

    But what really keeps me up at night is the possibility that I might be just like them.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      She sounds fairly narcissistic to me, but I wouldn’t bother confronting her. She’s not going to respond in any way that will give you satisfaction. As for whether you’re “just like them,” keep exploring. The fact that you’re willing to examine that possibility immediately sets you apart from your parents.

  118. precious petal says:

    I’m currently in therapy and learning to cope with the painful recognition of my mother’s narcissistic personality disorder. I believe she may have other traits or elements of personality disorder as well. As a child, I recall my grandmother putting my mother down to me in a number of ways. As a teenager, I gladly accepted what I perceived to be my grandmother’s love and approval and was united with grandmother in a fight against my mother’s ever confining and overbearing rules. I’m fairly sure my mother’s NPD is a result of emotional abuse she probably suffered from my grandmother and the fact she was abandoned by my grandfather. As my mother ages, her own NPD seems to be crueler, worse or maybe at age 53, I just now recognize the issue. My heart breaks because I love her. It’s hard to come to the realization that she probably will never change and she will never trust me, nor will I ever gain the respect and validation I’ve always wanted from her.

    Sadly, I also now see that my father has always enabled her behavior and has somehow confused his role. He has always felt a responsibility for her happiness and I know from seeing his old diary, he felt he could somehow help her see how brilliant she was and it pained him to see her lack of self confidence. Throughout my life, my father has been the only parent who has ever been fair to call me out on my mistakes of judgement, and the only parent to really ever acknowledge or offer any support or praise to me. My father has serious health issues and now lives with a feeding tube. Over the past four years, my mother has constantly repeated to everyone that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Her categorization or diagnosis has no real basis and is the source of many of my more recent fights with her. She feels she suffers the most. My father has never been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he is a survivor of 2 serious bouts of cancer treatment and is very compromised physically. His various illnesses have been difficult for my mother to cope with, she has little capacity for empathy and feels she is being kept from her pursuit of her own creative goals by her constant job as nurse.

    My mother has recently accused me of being in love with my father. She said this recently and I’m just coming to the realization her comment is just the latest in a long history of devastating and cruel statements that no “normal mother” would consider using on her daughter. This most recent “punishment” failed and I have wound up feeling more sorry for her than anything. I’m thankful to be in therapy and that I have a loving husband and partner who is very supportive. I’m almost at the juncture where I feel only empathy and pity for her. It is like watching a slow train wreck.

    My 50 year old alcoholic brother (and a “father” of 2) now lives with my aging parents and ever since his “professed sobriety” and recent “interest” in their lives, my relationship with them has deteriorated. Brother has been very successful in getting mom to provide for him and is for all purposes, installed in my parents home and their world for good. From all I have learned and read, it is my belief he is probably also a narcissist. He has no real empathy, he abandoned his two sons years ago (something oddly resonant of his grandfather…), he has a succession of women he uses and leaves, nothing is ever his fault and for some reason, he lies about everything for no good reason. My mother believes every golden word that drips from his lips. He is a con-artist and very skilled manipulator. I believe he is a sociopath and my biggest and only concern with his existence really is that he does nothing to harm my parents. As bitter as my relationship has been with my mother, I love her and don’t want anything to ever harm her, I believe her condition to be something of the abuse she suffered.

    I am just now gaining some understanding of the whole dynamic. It’s very sad and frustrating. Calls from my house to my parents often go directly to vm. My ability to maintain any normal channels of communication with my parents, who live several hours away from me, is seemingly hamstrung by a series of mysterious events. My mother often becomes angry with me if I dispute or challenge anything she has repeated which my brother has said, despite the very blatant fantastic nature of the story. After any of these episodes, she often refuses to answer my calls. I am effectively cut off from any communication. It is a punishment of another sort. I know it is not healthy for me to challenge anything and have learned it’s best to just let stories be stories as long as they are not life threatening. The sheer complexities of the family dynamics make it so very difficult and sad for me as I love both my parents. Right now I feel all I can do is to try and maintain some ties and be available to my parents to reiterate they are important to me.

  119. Conflicted Reflections says:

    Perhaps, Dr. Burgo, you or others out there in internet-land can share your perspective on the following scenario:

    My friend, “Ben”, was in a single-car accident – resulting from that accident, he suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for three months. This accident occurred in his early twenties. Ben was working at the time and in school, though he didn’t take school too seriously.

    Ben comes from what you *might* call a dysfunctional family. His parents were divorced – his older sibling was born to teenage parents – Ben came along a few years later when the parents were in their early twenties.

    Ben’s Mom and Dad did not get along. In reality, two people in the world who should never have had children – got together and had children. Mom and Dad would openly use drugs (marijuana, cocaine, alcohol) in front of Ben and his sibling(s) even when the kids were infants. Dad was violent towards the mom – the mom was manipulative and lacked any motivation to improve her situation.

    Mom’s family enabled her behavior – a blind eye was turned to the troubles she caused (and indeed she did cause quite a lot – she’s been a victim and a victimizer – not necessarily in that order).

    Fast forward to Ben’s teen years – every day before he catches the bus to school, Mom (with whom he lives – older sibling lives with grandparents) smokes a joint with freshmen-Ben. She then gives him ‘extra’ of her Rx’s to both use and to sell at school. She’s disabled you see – according to the various ailments she can Google and convince herself, and her doctor(s), that she has (yet – she refuses to accept that she might have a mental health issue…).

    She doesn’t like alcohol because of the effect it can have on people (I can understand that) but a percocet or vicodin for a minor headache is okay. Mom has a live-in ‘fiancee’ but is pretty openly promiscuous – even shows Ben’s older sibling (at this time, legally an adult) a tape of herself having sex with an ex-husband.

    Ben ‘lives’ at home but pretty much works, buys drugs, and stays with his friends. Ben and mom are ‘cool’ – they’re like best buds.

    Fast forward to Ben’s early twenties. One night, mom catches Ben trying to get in to her medicine safe (Yes – medicine SAFE – fiancee had been dipping in to her stash). Normally, she would give Ben meds if he asked but this time, Ben was trying to steal.
    An argument ensures; mom kicks Ben out; Ben drives off to let off some steam – with a mind-blowing amount of Rx’s in his system and a bit of marijuana too. It’s dark and rainy. Ben speeds around a curve, loses control and hits a tree.

    Three months later, Ben awakens from his coma. He can’t walk, can’t talk, and has very little notion of where he is. To her credit, mom has been by Ben’s side day and night. The hospital will only release him to a nursing home. Mom insists that she will bring Ben home and take care of him (patients do better in a supportive, familiar environment). Mom does exactly that and Ben’s recovery is miraculous.

    A few years later, Ben has been a diligent and dedicated PT patient. Everyone is impressed by his progress. Ben’s accident seems to have been a blessing in disguise – he’s disabled but wants to work, drive, and go back to school.

    Mom is his guardian (Ben was declared incompetent after the accident) and his representative payee.

    Ben wants to go to school. Mom says okay – but the paperwork never gets done (Ben is legally incompetent and can’t complete paperwork of this kind with his mom’s signature).

    Ben’s Physical Therapists want him to go to Voc Rehab. Mom says okay – until she thinks there might be an issue with his disability checks – Mom to Ben: “We need your money to survive.”

    Ben wants to drive but doesn’t know that he can’t without restoration of competency (Mom says she’ll let Ben do the driving rehab, he’ll probably fail anyway and realize he can’t do it).

    Ben asks Mom for receipts of his money (he never sees his disability checks) – she rages at him if he persists.

    Ben voices his concern to me about what has been going on; after an explosive argument one night – Ben leaves his mom’s and with the support of some family and friends, starts proceedings to restore his competency *and* goes to the local APS to file a report – primarily because Ben’s mom threatened him: “If you ever try to have me removed as guardian or power-of-attorney, I’ll call Social services, tell them you’re crazy, and have you committed.”

    Ben’s family becomes somewhat divided – there are a select few who believe and support Ben; and the rest, who believe and support Mom the Master Manipulator who has been playing the victim (“I don’t know why he’s doing this to me.” type things).

    It has been a few years since Ben has spoken to his mom – he has a successful job, is driving, and is an A-student at his local community college. Unfortunately, the tension with his family flares up at least a few times a year.

    Moving forward, how does Ben attain an inner peace with his new-found life and the fact that family is family and will always be there, with this divide between what is true and what is purported by Mom?

    (And how do I, as a friend, help support him? I am incensed that a mother would do to a child all that Ben’s mom has done to him).

  120. Deb says:

    I just came across this site yesterday and recognize my mother in many of the posts.

    I am an only child who was raised by my great-aunt from 0 to 5. I am very thankful for her, Aunt Ninnie, because she gave me a loving supporting foundation I would never have known otherwise.

    My father assisted her in raising me and sadly he died when I was 8. From then until 2008 when my mother died, my life or parts of it was hell.

    Growing up I thought she was nuts. It wasn’t until 1999 that I learned she was a narcissist. I suffered a brain tumor that year and Carol, my mother, not only wouldn’t help me out, she launched a campaign against me by telling my close friends lies. My therapist labeled her and I read every book I could get my hands on to learn more.

    The more I read the more I learned she wasn’t going to change. The only change would I could make was my attitude toward her. I felt loss, sadness and skrewed by a situation I had no control over and couldn’t cure. The cure became me: I stopped arguing with her, enabling her and hoping for a happy ending.

    For many years we didn’t speak, write or have any contact. However, it wasn’t until she died that I felt truly freed. At 53, I could finally be me. I let my guard down and viewed the world in a whole new way.

    Because of her and my reaction to her, I never married or had children. However, now I am in a very loving relationship with a good, kind, loving man. It feels great. I wish whoever reads this post the peace I have known during the last 5 years. I wish I could have found it sooner but am happy to be alive now.

  121. Karen says:

    I have recently found out that there are so many people who have suffered as I have. Up until the death of my son, I was the perfectionist. If I could just do everything right life would be ok. But, like you all know good was never good enough. But when he died, there was nothing that that was going to make that ok. One thing I haven’t heard anyone else mention is having to take care of their mother at an early age. I was to fill all her emotional needs. She had depression and would often go into inpatient facilities, she would call me to help her with things from the hospital. I was 8. I would scramble around trying to do whatever she needed, find shoes, cook dinner, anything to make everything ok. I tried so hard to make her happy. I can’t even imagine doing that to a child, yet for me it all seemed normal. I didn’t know any different way of life. Fast forward and a lot of therapy later, at 48, I was in a serious car crash( hit by a semi ) and in a lot of pain for two years and she was still wanting me to take care of her, because it was so terrible for her to hear about my accident . I just couldn’t do it anymore and she used the occasion of my dads heart attack to tell me how I was a terrible daughter for not seeing to her needs. (8 weeks after major back surgery) I have decided to no longer contact her and It is hard to break the pattern but my family has suffered too. Still in therapy and I mourn the mother I didn’t have.

    • Diana says:

      Karen,
      I can relate to your story. It is so sad that some mothers and fathers neglect the emotional needs of their children. The pain of the rejection encompasses your entire life and freezes you in an infantile state of desperately trying to secure their love which is impossible. While I can understand that they too are missing a sense of being loved and cared for, this understanding hardly makes a dent in your own pain.

  122. Andrianne says:

    I am so glad that I have found your site. What interesting articles. Sorry for my english, it is not my mother tongue. I read your above topic and got quite astonished that so many people have such experiences. My mother too was fulfilling her needs and buried my own needs. So much that she always devaluated me in front of strangers so as to show off herself. How unhappy she was to have a child like me…How she struggled to make me wise when I was soooo silly… How rude I was because I spoke when adults spoke…How pervasive I was, as an adolescent, because I dreamed of a relationship and a marriage. How good were all other girls and how bad I was… It took me years away from her to find myself, my path. To keep healthy distances. But she remained handling, possessive, with a hard-core ethics code, until the day she died.

    • Diana says:

      Blessings and light to all of you who have suffered/are suffereing.
      I know this pain you speak of so well. It is a tough road for us and, Joe, thank you for this forum.

  123. Chris says:

    Both of my parents have NPD. I can forgive my dad because I am his little girl (I’m 52) but I see how he mirrors my mothers behaviour onto others, especially his son, grandsons and son-in laws. I guess it is a boy thing.
    It took me till i was in my 30′s when one of my cousins pointed out that they knew that my mother was differant that it finally clicked that I was not a bad person / failure / disappointment / ugly / unintelligent as my mother would keep pointing out. Up to then I had turned myself inside out to get her approval, after all isn’t that the holy grail, that your own mother would acknowledge that there was something about you that was ok.
    The hurt would not go away. I swung between avoiding her, but still tried for approval.
    My husband became seriously ill about 6 years ago and this led to me having a break down at work, they sent me to a psychologist. After settling the anxiety of possibly losing my husband she said we need to discuss your mother to stop you having any more of these episodes. I decompensated the next day, she riped the carpet out from under me, took away all my safety mechanisms that i had built up, I developed major depression that did not go into remission, and 3 years later this developed into bipolar.
    I am not the same person, I can not work any more, I have massive problems with transference and abandonment that are impossible to keep out of the work place. I spent a large part of the day appologising for having a temper-tantum the day before. I hate myself and cant stop it. I have been bullied into resigning twice, and now having problems with referee reports and staying stable in a job. Before this I was highy functional in a high pressure job for 30 years.
    My husband died 6 months ago from cancer. Didnt mum enjoy that. Suddenly after 17 years of not acknowledging him because he was associated with me, she was all over him and me and everything that was going on. She needed to own it. Nothing better then being the mother-in-law of the guy who is dieing from cancer. I just wanted her gone, she was contaminating a very private time of our life. She told him 2 weeks before he died that he was not to worry about me because they would look after me. What the hell would she know about that. She has destroyed my career, ability to socialise, given me bipolar and now she thinks she knows how to be a mum!
    My husbands mother then developed cancer last xmas and died in January. I have not told anyone in my family. I need to build my walls again so she cant keep hurting me. They need to be massive big walls. I have got to stop worrying about upsetting them and purely look after myself from here on in.

    • Chris says:

      Yep, I am reading your Boarderline P.D. page as well.
      Chris

    • Jannat says:

      Chris, you were never a bad person, a failure, a disappointment, ugly or unintelligent really. It was because you *weren’t* those things that your mother felt she had to try to ‘knock you down’.

      She was just threatened by you being normal.

      Narcissistic mothers aren’t normal, and somewhere deep within them, they kind of know that.

      I’m sorry about what you’ve been through, truly.

  124. Amy says:

    Let’s be real, almost everyone I know needs the feeling of significance with their parents so why blame them when they need to feel significant? I think there is a fine line between fulfilling our significance within the idea of contributing to another’s life and just down right selfish. For many years, I was angry with my mother because I felt she did not want me around, but the truth is my model of the world concerning mine and my mother’s relationship was an illusion. In real life, parents are real people with real problems. Now, I accept my mother for the mother she is, and I find that is good enough. If I need to feel significant around her, then I will give her love without expecting anything in return.

    • anon says:

      may be you dont get what the complains are about.
      We were not asking for perfect super moms from television and magazines;
      just one who was not crazy to steal our boyfriends or verbally berate us for their entertainment.
      my mother used to threaten us with African curse, made children into slave labourers for her love of hard ash and essentially refused to pay school fees…..
      now tell me you cannot see any problem with that or i am being un reasonable.

  125. Diana says:

    Chris,
    My heart is heavy for your burden. I have arrived at the point of being hope less. I am without hope that my mother will ever change. I spent my entire life trying to make her happy and she is utterly cruel or indifferent to me most of the time. It is a terrible burden to bear and its implications have threads throughout our lives. Amy, let’s be real, I don’t think you really understand what some of us are talking about. Lucky you.
    Joe, you must be an amazing therapist. If I hadn’t train-wrecked my life, I would love to be working with someone like you who gets it.

  126. Jannat says:

    I find it very interesting that you mention anorexia in your post about narcissistic mothers (even though, in that case, it was a ‘false label’). I’ve always felt my anorexia (from age 12 to 24…very serious, with my weight at 70 pounds for over 10 years of that time) was due to my reaction to my mother’s treatment of me, and my struggle to survive in the same household as her. I was told to ‘hold her secrets’ about her affairs, etc, so that I felt tremendous guilt and shame, which rightfully belonged to her – only she’d dumped it on me to make her feel better about herself. She called *me* a slut, projecting away from herself, for instance.

    Eventually, I got the strength to leave home, and then I put on weight so fast, that after 18 months I had put on 30 pounds (with no medical assistance whatsoever), up to a more respectable weight for my height, which has been stable ever since.

    But no ‘health professional’ has ever seen my anorexia as anything more than ‘mine’. It’s a strange illness – I can’t think of any other illness where the ‘patient’ is blamed so much for what is happening to her, or threatened so much for not ‘allowing’ herself to get better. My mother actively colluded with doctors (lying to them about what I did or didn’t do) to keep me ill, IMO, which gave her more power over me – which I think significantly adds to the paradigm around anorexia that ‘anorexics lie and can’t be trusted’. I don’t think they do lie. I think they tell unpalatable truths. I think, instead, that their mothers lie, and doctors listen to the mothers, as ‘all mothers are caring angels’. Yeah, right.

    It’s part of the narcissist’s way of being to appear ‘perfect’, and to have a ‘perfect family’. I just ‘refused’ to go along with the image, and my mother hated me for that. My sister, on the other hand, became the Golden Child, and has repeated my mother’s life to the letter.

    Not surprisingly, I have broken off all contact with both my mother and sister, which was hard, but very necessary.

    Thanks for this blog – it’s very hard to speak out about imperfect parents, and acknowledge our human-ness.

  127. Susan says:

    My NPD of an X is still at it after 13 years and what do I do to shake him? For years he took me back to court to try and get custody of our son, tired multiple lawyers, various ideas and with a Bachelor Degree, he continued to do poorly in work, while I worked 2 jobs to make up for the lower support. Mommy died 2 years ago and he has no one to tell him how perfect he is. He was the only boy of 4 children = youngest = lived at home until he was 28 and his oldest sister referred to him as the “golden child”. Now in March he filed to get out of support because with both of my 2 jobs, I make slightly more than him and he said he couldn’t do better so with our child, a freshman in H.S., they took it away from me. I have to pay everything and bill him for 1/2. It’s not even been 2 months and already he feels he can continue to control, torment, belittle, judge and push me around. I’m stunned the courts did this as he’s now sitting on a $400K inheritance from mommy, so how do I deal with him? I read everything about narcissists and throw it back in his face. No woman wants him. He’s now on antidepressants, gaining weight, thinning hair, mid 50′s and for me to get money I have to bill him. Yes I know if I don’t send a bill, I don’t get anything and I need that extra money for expenses. I have no financial support and just 3 years left until our son is 18. Our son is now seeing how he is and pulling away and I see it will be more and more before he’s out of H.S. I do see it getting worse, provide any ideas please.

  128. Anonymous says:

    It is painful for me to read these entries, as they are all close to home. Too close. I, too, am hypervigilant, can’t relax around my mother, always bracing for the next put-down. I can recount a lifetime of criticism, enmeshment, accusations and tears, with the result that I, like others in this thread, acutely able to “read” people, introspective, perfectionistic, and still carry guilt as if my mother’s misery is my fault, or as if fixing it is my responsibility. I can’t seem to disengage from these feelings. She has been so determined to make me feel worthless that she has disowned me 11 times, each time for some imagined slight, and has just begun to give away her tiny estate, ostensibly to punish me because of my tone of voice when I talk to her. This has kept me on my toes all my life, but it sure would be nice to take my freedom — if I only knew what that feels like.

  129. Yael says:

    It’s painful to read these entries, especially since I recognize so many symptoms. I, too, am hypervigilant and can “read” people and situations very acutely. The result is that I’m constantly “on,” and can’t relax (or sleep, for that matter). I have misplaced guilt and a misplaced sense of responsibility, although logically, I should have neither. Even psychotherapy has not eased my sense of responsibility, specifically to take care of my narcissistic mother. Now that she is old, her illness is even more exaggerated, and of course, being an only child, I get the brunt of it. She has been very successful in her intrigues over my lifetime – ironic, since such skills could do so much good if appropriately applied. I wish I could relax.

  130. Hannah says:

    Hello there Dr. Burgo,
    Do you have any articles referring at all to narcissistic fathers? I’m writing a letter to my father (I’m 24, and we have been estranged for 4 years now) with the intention of standing up for myself. I wish to tell him in a rational manner how his behaviour has affected me, and point out the contradictions in his own behaviour and basically- call him out on it. I am writing to his sister as well as I strongly suspect he has lied to her a great deal about me (he likes to keep people compartmentalised- in separate boxes away from each other). I kind of know already what is going to happen- he will furiously lie, lie, lie and deny. However, I really think I do need to do this in order to move on. But I’m scared. He has behaved cruelly and manipulatively all my life (and probably most of his) yet it is only in recent years I have actually come to realise it.
    I understand that you probably won’t have the time to look at this or respond but if by chance you do, I would like to thank you in advanced. Hannah

  131. Very interesting point. I also note empathy and sharp intuition as a personal trait, and I relate to your insights. My Narc mother – very hard penning that – is of a skewed Christian perspective. She was abused as a child, and unfortunately, controlled my siblings and I with her no-questioning-me-about-my-decisions, God-approves-of-these-shady-men lifestyle. She evicted me – and I’m thrilled to say I stand on my own 2 feet, but I fear for my tween brothers…what can I do? She emotionally abuses them, and has had them put into mental health facilities. Why is no one tagging her for her abuse? Please…anyone…insight or a suggestion.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I hope some other readers might have a suggestion. Unfortunately, these people are very hard to “tag” because they hide their abuse behind a veneer of Christian goodness.

    • Yael says:

      Regarding those two films, Black Swan and The Fighter, if those were supposed to describe abusive narcissistic mothers, then I’m really in deep trouble: Those two mothers were angels by comparison. In fact, besides being a ridiculously small residence of some rather large human beings in The Fighter, the only impression I got was that the mother was crude and uncouth – not necessarily abusive. Same for Black Swan. So this begs the question: Where the heck have I been? And how did I survive? Those stories are tame!

      • Joseph Burgo says:

        You’re right, they are tame. Hollywood doesn’t have the stomach for a realistic film about the truly awful narcissistic mother. These were films that at least demonstrated the features I wanted to talk about.

  132. anon20012012 says:

    I am reading all of these posts and can relate to each and every one of them in some shape or form. I am an only child. I am 33 years old and nothing I have ever done has ever been good enough for my mother. My father and mother have been married for 34 years and he never once stepped up and made me feel like he cared about how she treated me. He worked away from home so he was gone at least half of the time, but always sided with her when she went on her “rants”. I never did anything to get into trouble, was a straight A student in school, and always followed her rules as best as I could. I would get spankings for accidentally spilling my milk or for dripping water on her floor that she had just cleaned. She always felt the need to have a spotless home despite the fact that nobody ever came to visit to see it. No matter what I did, I could never manage to please her. When I became a teenager and started talking to boys, they were never good enough either. She always worried what other people thought more than anything else. She had to have the best of everything and with my dad’s high income, she could afford to spend money on whatever she wanted. She always bought me things and then threw the fact that she spent the money on me back up into my face, or took whatever she bought away from me. Even going as far as to giving it to someone else or selling it. My dad always stood right there by her side even though she would go on her rants and would scream and be cruel to him also. For many years, I thought this was how things were supposed to be. I knew no other way because they were so controlling and never really let me go places outside of their control. It would sicken me and hurt me to watch my mother put on an act in front of others and be the sweetest woman ever and spend money buying people outlandish gifts and treat these strangers better than she did her own flesh and blood. She has always been on some kind of “depression” medications, but none of them have ever helped or solved her mood issues. It is and has always been her way or no way and my dad is right there by her side. He views her as “taking care of everyone”. I have never been able to understand why he views her this way when she chews him out and threatens him and can be so cruel to him also. She can turn on the tears and everything is smoothed right over. She spends all of the money that he makes and they live from paycheck to paycheck on his extremely large income. Nothing they have is ever paid off because there’s always something newer, better, more expensive that she must have. I have a 12 year old daughter now that my mom and dad have always spoiled since she was a baby. Now that she is getting older, she makes comments about how poorly they treat me. She has even said something to them about it and now they are starting to treat her differently and are holding things that they have bought her “over her head” too. I am starting to see the same pattern repeating itself and am watching this emotionally hurt my daughter. I have come ignore and have become numb to the hurtful things that are done and said to me, but I can’t overlook the fact that the pattern is starting to affect my child. I am considering moving away and completely removing my child from even seeing them. My mother even screamed at her and called her a hateful ungrateful little devil the other day. This brought me back to my childhood when she did the same things to me. She even had me thinking I was crazy when I was growing up and I still suffer from self esteem issues from the ugly things that she would say to me througout my childhood and to this day she still says these type of hurtful things. All the while my dad sits and says nothing or joins in on her side. I am an only child and my daughter is my only child so we really have nobody else so I have tried to make this “family” work, but I am to the point where all I want to do is cry and wonder why we can’t be a normal family. It is so embarassing and I have tried for so long to hide this from my friends and coworkers. My fiance’ refuses to have anything to do with my parents because of how he has witnessed them treating me. I don’t blame him at all. I just feel an obligation to them because they are the only family that my daughter and I have. Any advice? They aren’t going to change because neither one of them feel that they do anything wrong. I have never done anything in my life to disappoint them, other than getting married to the wrong man when I was 20 years old. Then divorced and went back to college and earned 2 degrees and have focused on working and taking care of my daughter. Any advice as to what to do in order to move on with my life and not worry about all of this would be greatly appreciated.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I think you already know what to do. If your fiance doesn’t want anything to do with your parents and you believe they will never change, then build a new and better family of your own and sever ties with your family of origin.

      • Anonymous says:

        My fear is what will happen to them when they get older. I am an only child and I feel obligated to care for them when they can’t care for themselves. I know it might sound crazy to some degree, but they are my parents. I often wonder what is wrong with me because I feel so obligated even though they have treated me so poorly.

        • Joseph Burgo says:

          I suspect they were quite adept at MAKING you feel that way.

          • Anonymous says:

            You are so right. I think they have made me feel that way.
            Since my last post, I have moved about 30 minutes further away from my parents and closer to my job and my fiancé. Since our move, my parents have not communicated with my daughter and the only communication I get from them is very short, one to two-word answers from them. So basically, the silent treatment. It bothers me so much and I know it has to hurt my 12 year old daughter in some ways, but she seems to be much more resilient than I am. It is so hard for me to stop thinking about them. Could this be due to the control they had on me for so long? I think they are so selfish and controlling that they don’t want anything to do with my daughter and me since we have moved to another town. I wish I could stop thinking about why they act the way they do and why I let them make me feel like such a disappointment to them. Any advice or words of wisdom would be much appreciated.

            • Joseph Burgo says:

              Parents like yours do have this awful way of continuing to influence us throughout our lives. I’m sorry. It sounds like some psychotherapy would be more helpful than any “words of wisdom” I might have to offer. These issues take time to work through.

  133. Anonymous says:

    Hi,

    I particularly appreciate your articles on maternal narcissism and want to say thank you , since I can only find a handful of resources on the topic.

    Apart from the narcissists ability to disguise their abuse, and the cultural sanctity of motherhood, why aren’t many resources available for adult children of narcissistic mothers? Or for psychologists at that.

    My personal opinion is that people have a difficult time believing and/or taking seriously narcissistic mother abuse, also can this abuse verge on psychoses?

    My mother has incredibly high narcissistic tendencies, I am a graduate student (this is relevant to the topic) and still financially dependent. Although I will be studying abroad, and not in proximity to her , I am still financially dependent.

    Recently my mother tried to find out via my younger brother if I had a bank account as well other un-necessary details, which I have not nor will disclose to her. Her abusive behavior is outrageous.
    Additionally she rents a place and cover all my brother living costs, while she has never so much as helped, mainly hindered my life , and life choices. Including personal ones.

    I also suspect I have Aspergers Syndrome, although I have yet to meet with a professional , I may in the future if I find I am having difficulties,however my mother limits her topics of conversations to AS and herself, trying to constantly pathologise me.

    My close friends have an inkling of my ‘relationship’ with my mother, or lack thereof but I don’t think they really understand the extent of her abuse,nor does my brother understand. She’s two faced and puts on a show in front of her work colleagues and her new ‘partner’, who I suspect is a covert N, although I’m biased.

    Given that they have incredibly inappropriate relationships with their children.
    I find it problematic and worrying, that there aren’t more resources widely available.

    A second question, I have met many psychology graduates that are not familiar with the concept of maternal narcissism, is this not taken seriously or is it due to lack of research in the area?

    Thanks.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I think the lack of resources is due to the way psychotherapy has been medicalized. The meaning and origins of psychological difficulties don’t matter; it’s a chemical imbalance or a syndrome that can be treated with drugs or cognitive-behavioral therapy. Narcissistic mothers have nothing to do with it.

  134. JT says:

    My own mother is an extreme narcissist -however- my comment here today is that it is my observation over many many years that the friends I have lost at an early age to death by addiction or suicide have all had exploitative narcissistic mothers. The words ‘invalidating childhood’ are bandied around but somehow they don’t seem enough to describe the severity of neglect and the extremity of psychic violation and emotional abuse. In any other context to be guaranteed that your behaviour will send someone to an early grave would be considered murder. These women don’t even bat an eyelid when they bury their own children. I thank the universe for Alice Miller as when there was literally no single person to validate my own experience, her books came to me at the right time.

  135. rosie says:

    I have been reading this thread with interest. I am now 46 and feeling like I have lost, what was once, very sensitive empathy. I just feel angry. I feel disappointed in where I am in life. On reflecion, I know I had a very dysfunctional upbringing. My father was an abusive alcoholic to my mother and my siblings and I. My mother was emotionally distant. She humiliated me on many occasions when I was growing up. One example dunking apples on Halloween and she pushed my head under the water and left me there for some seconds.
    When I got into nursing school she told me I would never make a nurse and on the night before I was married she told me I would be never happy. I was constantly referred to as ” a bloody wee bitch”. This is just the tip of the ice berg but I never did have a label for her. It just that now I seem to be living with the consequences and not making sense of any of it.

    This lack of empathy I now feel is really impacting on my relationships. It’s like I have just shut down from all the hurt. I was divorced last year and a significant subsequent relationship has also recently failed. I know I attract men that want something from me but are not giving anything in return when all I want is to feel like I am loved. I feel like I have given up. Any advice would be appreciated.

  136. marquis - daughter of narc mother (father too) says:

    Hi! That describes my mom a lot except she was never successful in her life always blaming people (especially white people) and never wanting friends because they will “always back stab you and are worthless to have.” My dad isn’t any better, he is worse. My therapist doesn’t think my mom isn’t a narc because she isn’t successful, but I don’t think that should be the main component of their symptoms.

    My parents were never there for me and my siblings and still aren’t. I have no guidance or direction this makes it hard for me to achieve anything at age 27. My parents made it clear they hate us not sure why a lot of people don’t see that and my therapist says they didn’t have a good life. I said let’s be real, they had choices but they didn’t use the right cards. I have seen parents hate their kids and die kicking their way to hell about it too heard the stories.

  137. Maggie says:

    Hello Dr. Burgo,
    I found myself on the other side of this issue. I am a mother of two adult children. My daughter is successful in her professional life , she has a beautiful family and our relationship is great. It wasn’t always like that. We had plenty of fights when she was a teenager. My son on the other hand was loving and caring ever since he was a little kid. After my divorce I bought a house so my kids and I can have a home. My daughter left for college and my son stayed with me until he got married at 32. I was there for him and he was there for me. It hit me like a ton of rock when I found out that he badmouthed me to the point that his wife and in laws accused me of being bad mom, neglecting him, not preparing him for life. They also said that I was selfish and narcissist person. My son stood by and didn’t say anything. My daughter defended me and as a result, he stopped talking to her. I am deeply troubled by this situation, I can’t be around my son because I am so upset with him. Where did I go wrong? I’m still waiting for him to explain why he lived with me for all these years if I was so bad.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Maybe you were TOO good to him. Is it possible he needed to leave home much earlier and “grow up” before getting married?

      • Maggie Caulfield says:

        See that is what I thought until I was accused by his wife and then her mother. I think that he explained his situation to make it look like he was actually helping me . He blamed me for other things that didn’t go well in his life and I am sure he never expected me to find out. But my question is, did he convinced himself that this is what happened to him? I’m afraid that he did to justify his actions. I believe that he is troubled by this as much as I am and my instinct tells me to forgive and go on. But I can’t get over it.
        People on this site are saying that their mothers denied their mistreatment towards them, they lied about them, etc. Is that what he believes? Another thing that I want to mention. I have an older brother. When we were children I believed that Mom liked him much better and I resented that. But when I grew up I realized that we were very different and I was the one who talked back to my Mom. No wonder she liked him more! My point is that most moms are doing what they believe is the best for their children.

  138. sweetem22 says:

    I’ve just recently, at the ripe old age of 55, heard of a narcissistic mother and I think my mother may be one. I’ve never understood how she could say hurtful things without a seconds thought. I was diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago. Although I think my mother was truly upset (she says she said non stop novenas for me), she didn’t seem to show it. She came to see me once in nine months. During that visit she was annoyed because I wasn’t very good company and kept nodding off….so she left. I have fortunately recovered but now she constantly talks about how hard it was on her when I had cancer. When I tell her I’m afraid it will come back, a good chance according to doctors, she said, ” I don’t care as long as I’m not around to see it.” This really hurt. She says I am getting too sensitive. Does this sound like a narcissistic mother? Confused and hurt.

  139. Mo says:

    I grew up in a family with a narcissistic mother and a golden child sister. I also had a mentally handicapped sister and a sister who is very submissive. I was the scapegoat. From an early age I felt feelings of anger and rage towards my family because they seemed unable to behave appropriately. At times of stress their answer was to get aggresive and manufacture some kind of an incident and pick on me. I grew up, married successfully and raised a family. Contact was limited as I lived along way from my mother and realised early on I had to visit rarely in order to maintain contact but I went along with the fiction that they were all bonkers and I was mad. Then my mother died. She had been dead to me as a mother for the whole of my life. Now, I
    thought, I don’t need to pretend my family is normal anymore. Then I have the distinct feeling my golden child sister is trying to position herself as the spider at the centre of the web of my family. Then my handicapped sister died suddenly. Before I always blamed my mother for being the one who ruined our family life but now I can see my golden child sister made an equal contribution to making life hell. Also my mentally handicapped sister might have had a decent life if she had grown up in a decent family. I became very angry with my golden child sister at the funeral and have broken off contact which I am happy about. My problem is I am pretty sure I don’t have NPD but have I acquired their patterns of behaviour and is my rage some kind of narcissistic behaviour pattern?

  140. Mo says:

    Thanks for your prompt reply. I have faith in everything I have done. But I found telling my golden child sister that I looked forward to never seeing her again cathartic. I have had tons of physical energy since then and have more confidence in myself in every way. I am reborn! Actually we can never meet again because I want to put her in a dark place and I am pretty sure I know just how to do that. She was a good teacher! But I am uncomfortable with those feelings. I am relying on my husband to stop me doing something stupid. I still feel I am not NPD but I never had any other example so a bit of me must be LIKE THEM!

  141. Patricia says:

    Recently my Dad died. I have lived away from my FOO for years. Both parents narcissists. Mom the more extreme. Before my Dad’s sudden death I was pretty good at maintaining boundaries to protect myself. But I was so shocked to experience my Mom’s projected rage and hate while dealing with my Dad’s death too. On top of that to also experience my siblings support of my Mom’s rage towards me. I assume this scapegoating was beneficial at the time. At any rate this experience once again made me appreciate how innocent I been. Now three months after my Dad’s death my mother is behaving charming again and seems genuinely caring towards me. I now know I can’t buy into if I visit. I know family members have room to host me and my family. The price is so high tho. If Mom does not like anything I say or do even if it seems benign to me she has potential to fly into a big rage. Even as a 50 + adult his is so damaging to me. I can’t so this to myself knowing this potential is there just barely below the surface ready and able. This is me working towards acceptance. Thanks.

  142. lady in waiting! says:

    Hi All!
    I love this site and all who reply. I am new and dealing with alot so will post a bit later. I do not want to ask the dr. for answers just to be a small part of a great site. Right now I feel like Humpty Dumpty who had a great fall but found some nice posts. Thanks

  143. Deborah says:

    I joke to friends, ” I get along great with kids. I was raised by a 6yr old!” (my mother the narcissist). Growing up my friends either loved the flamboyant style or were hyper-aware of her instability. My dad was immersed in constant maintenance-mode; her level of excitement was at all times – to be Christmas morning and birthday joy all rolled into every minute.
    Like most teens I found this obviously excessive, repulsive; although undeniably aware of the consequences of failure ( to keep her floating on cloud 9). Prom night I came down to meet my date wearing a backless mini in pink satin. Girly, risque it was my Gigi moment! My dad should have been in awe of his little girl, now a woman. What was his comment? LOOK AT THAT!! GORGEOUS. YOUR MOTHER IS AN GENIUS WITH A SEWING MACHINE.
    It didn’t hit me until 40yrs later when I asked in a letter, ”Why didn’t you let me have one moment…THAT moment?” I then realized there may be thousands of little unfair moments in everyone’s lives but some – those milestones so poignant a rock would tear. Sure, I could tell you about not receiving a wedding gift and not even getting a baby present for the birth of my daughter. But for me, the moment of knowing I was becoming a beautiful woman without my mother’s and father’s joy, appreciation and love was the beginning of understanding a selfish world.

  144. CS says:

    I would just like to say that I wish there were a “like” button on here… I would have liked so many of these comments. I really enjoy reading comments from people who had such similar experiences to mine.

  145. John Rumple says:

    Found your site after watching your video, of the same title, on youtube. Watching that video and others and reading about narcissism is convincing me of things I had been thinking but didn’t know what it was. I have been married for almost 28 years to a woman who has displayed many of the characteristics of this type of behavior. Only in the last couple of years have I began to look at it as abuse. I have wondered what was wrong with me. I have discovered that I don’t really matter in this relationship. I will always disappoint, make the wrong decision, or respond in an unacceptable manner. Despite any and all efforts, I will never bring any satisfaction to her. I am looking at the whole body of work of my marriage and I am tired. I have been trying to appease a person who doesn’t know what they want. Trying to find my way forward.

  146. Mo says:

    It is so sad reading these stories. I have only just come to realise ,aged52, from a life time of experience that narcissists do not operate on the basis of the situation, the facts or reality in any way shape or form. They can only react in a way their personality disorder dictates which is totally out of touch with reality. So whatever happens, whatever you do, you will just get the same responses. So why did I bother for so long thinking that they had the potential to respond the way a normal human being does. Do non-narcissistic people get sucked into a world where they lose track of reality themselves? Is it like a cult where you end up being brainwashed? I now see my narcissistic family as being trapped in a fantasy world of their own making which I can do nothing about.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Yes –non-narcissistic people do get sucked into the the narcissist’s world and lose track of themselves. It is crazy-making and no surprise that it takes us so long to see the truth.

  147. Yael says:

    Wow! How appropriate! I was just going through a funk these last couple of days, feeling that my mother might be right in her assessment of me – that I twist everything she says, that I’m rude, that I’m this or that. I DO get sucked into her descriptions of me, and doubt myself deeply. When I stay away from her belittling, criticizing and calling me names (“Liar! Liar! Liar!”), I feel guilty. Here it is Jewish New Year, and I haven’t called to wish her happy new year. When I try to explain that I’m protecting myself, she calls me her “poor little victim.” She mocks me, and sees everything from her side. She is now in an ALF, and screams at me, You just wait until you’re old – I hope your old age is much better than mine.

  148. lady in waiting! says:

    Don’t think you were the only one clueless! I am 55 and justrealizing both my adoptive parents were and 87 year old mother (out of state thank god) has led me to the decision to just be estranged. So Mo and others at least it was time for our lightbulb moment?
    Some time when I get ready I will fill you all in on some fine points of a well honed elderly narcissistic mom. Take care !

  149. Carolyn S. says:

    ” Lady in waiting,” I’m 52, & also just learned about the Narcissistic Mother! You can never get them to admit to ant wrong doings, they just can’t. And nothing will ever change, unless miraculously, they decide to. My mother is 75, I know shes not going to change now, especially finding, luckily, and reading this. I now know I’m not alone anymore. I feel sane for once. Be at peace, Carolyn

  150. Em says:

    I’m a narcissitic Mother and you can not get a life more sad, isolated and lonelier than my own. I am without doubt damaged to the core and I don’t think there is any help out there for folk like me. Nevertheless, those who hate the narcissist, the scales are 95% to five and your on the winning team. Rest assured, they die lonely and ashamed and are internally in darkness. Life is a devils masquerade party and we his marketing dream.
    More needs to be done to protect our children, to not just educate them but to love them externally so that internally they will always feel that they are valued and worthy. Love God’s children one and all this narcissistic mothers message here.

    xx

  151. Greetings from Finland says:

    Hi Joseph!

    I haven’t read your blog through yet so I don’t know if you have talked about this before but what about people surrounding the narcissistic mother?

    I don’t know if my mother has NPD or BPD but there is definitely something wrong with her. I am the scapegoat of my family. What bothers me is that even though my father and I used to be very close, he seems to have teamed up with my mother against me. If I do something wrong he is very angry at me but if somebody does the same thing to me, he doesn’t bat an eye. I don’t know what to do. On the other hand, I can’t stand people who turn blind eye to (emotional ) violence and therefore I have been considering stop seeing him. But then again…maybe he is a victim, maybe he is scared of my mother, maybe he doesn’t dare to rise against her, maybe he is just doing his best to cope in a horrible marriage.

    I don’t know what to do. I could just flee and save myself but I feel guilty about even thinking about it. And I am also very angry at him because he is not taking responsibility of his own life. I mean, if he could just say that “Yes, I love your mother, I agree with her in everything, I don’t like you, you can go to hell ” then everything would be clear and I didn’t had to ponder endlessly what to do.

    By the way, also my other relatives behave the same way as my father. How many times I have heard ” Oh don’t be so harsh on your mother. I am sure she is trying her best. She is having difficult times, you must understand her “. But it is not my mother that really disturbs me (I can deal with her, that’s not the problem) but the silent acceptance of her violence, neglect and unfairness. Why don’t they judge my mothers actions? Have they lost their minds? Are they covertly similar to my mother or are they just terrible scared? By the way, I have tried to talk with them. It was pointless. They don’t want to talk. Stockholm syndrome or a family full of narcissists?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I don’t know about your family, but it sounds familiar to me — how the narcissistic person can form alliances with other family members and turn them against you. You seem to have a good handle on your father’s relationship with your mother — that the terms of their marriage means he has to provide unquestioning support of everything she does. My advice would be not to challenge the system — you’ve found that it doesn’t work — and get some emotional distance.

  152. Louise says:

    My sympathy goes out to all of you. Thank you for taking the time to write your stories, most of which are the same as mine. Thank you Dr. Burgo for this website and your insight. You have all helped me so much. Sometimes I still mourn all those lost years while I was so slow to realize things and change, but this website has validated for me the reasons why.

    But, if for years you have been referring to your mother as “Nurse Ratchet” (from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), “The War Department” (from Angela’s Ashes), or Mommie Dearest”, these are signs!

    To those who waver because their mother is/was very devout in a strict religion, I have found religion is the perfect hiding place for these people. So aren’t placement in a large family, and strong identification to an ethnic group (even when part of the 2nd generation born in the U.S.A.). These are great excuses for certain behaviors, sources of narcissistic supply, and ways for the narcissist to believe she can keep close relationships.

    My own child’s welfare, and watching how poorly my mother treats her other children and grandchildren (not just the scapegoats), motivated me to change. You may or may not have similar motivations, but you still need to get free of those with NPD! Its wonderful how much your outlook changes, even on a rainy day, even during times of crisis. I’m not completely distant – for example, if my mother is ever truly in physical need, I will gladly help the state agency spend down her assets and place her in a nursing home.

    I am despairing a lot lately about how poorly I behaved when I was younger. The strange thing about this is even though my mother couldn’t stand me, she never had anything to say one way or another about the bad behavior that really needed correcting – she even seemed to encourage it. Is this a “cop out”? Do I really have the disorder and am disillusioned into thinking I was just an angry by-product of all of this? I have sought out professional help twice, but didn’t have the resources to follow through. The first time, I was in my early 20′s and the therapist concluded that I was extremely immature for my age.

    I made positive changes while keeping up a lot with my mother and family, but I was still so unhappy. After a miscarriage and my husband’s and sister’s cancer diagnoses, I realized there was something really strange about my mother. I sought therapy again and stuck with it for a while. The conclusion then was that I was a bit depressed and co-dependent to my husband, my mother has NPD, and my father also has some narcissist traits. At the time, I knew deep down inside that this therapist was right, but because of my own bad behavior and mistakes, I didn’t totally grasp it then. I was conditioned to never blame my parents for anything. Years later, after things really became weird, I’ve finally realized how much time I wasted while wavering. All those relationships I tried to keep up with in the extended family are pretty much distant, mostly because my mother was the center of it all, and everyone is pretty much disgusted. After I realized this, I must have emitted a completely different “vibe”, and am now establishing much better relationships in my life. Progress is slow, but it still feels right.

    Good luck to all, I wish you the best.

  153. BF says:

    It took me years to see that my mother’s relentless sharp criticism and disapproval had everything to do with her and not me. My childhood was painful as I felt unwanted and unloved by both of my parents. My mother’s narcissistic inability to deal with reality made me constantly confused, angry, and full of anxiety growing up because nothing followed logic, and everything was my fault. On the other hand, mother loved to praise me for high achievements, telling me how “proud” she was; and liked to lecture my brother and I about how to be street smart. What was lacking in our relationship, however, was real emotional exchange–real intimacy where each party genuinely enjoys the other. Mother either lectured, yelled, maliciously teased, or condescendingly scolded us. Because of this, I never felt free to approach her with any issues, not even during my teenage years, for fear of being ridiculed and treated harshly. For the longest time, I was unable to face the truth that my mother had no genuine care for me but only what little would make her look good in front of others. She has both parents and 5 sisters for whom to keep up appearances. It was very painful coming to terms with this sad fact. Everything revolves around her and she can do no wrong. She can always find something that is unacceptable, not up to standard, or lacking with me; something that I think satisfies her need to feel superior and validated by making me feel unapproved, and inferior. Most of her sisters can’t stand her because of her narcissism. Mother likes to accuse my brother and I of not caring for her and dad because we don’t call, or visit often; and likes to go into her oft repeated rant of how she is our mother and how much she has done for us. The manipulation and guilt-tripping never stops with her. I find myself struggling to control my anger more than half of the time that I am with mother. In fact, I almost attacked her physically when she started teasing me by treating me like I was a little baby in the middle of a heated argument where I was being accused, and berated by her. During this argument, like every other, mother never hears one word of reason, cuts me off, and continues blaming and fault-finding. I had to leave that day. From that incident ( I surprised myself), I learned to just leave when she would start attacking me verbally in order to keep from doing something I would regret later in my anger. Now, instead of internalizing everything like I had to do as a child, I speak up and stand up to mother and I notice that it diffuses the anger. I recognize that part of the reason that I was so angry growing up was that I felt like I had no voice. No one listened, no one cared. I just got the narcissistic bullcrap jammed down my throat whether I liked it or not. I could go on and on about the negative mental and emotional effects that mother has had on me but that would defeat my purpose. I want to understand my father more: why is it that he never came to my aid and just drowned himself in work at the office? how does he put up with her unbearable narcissism? could her narcissism have pushed him into the life of an asocial workaholic with no friends? He used to travel and have friends before he met her. How did she affect him and why does he stay married to her if she only cares about herself? Do most men married to narcissistic monsters stay married to them and, if so, why?

  154. marquis - daughter of narcissistic parents says:

    I agree with Em. My therapist seems to believe my parents did my siblings and I are favor by putting a roof over our heads, isn’t a parent suppose to do that?! This therapist is a mother herself and provides poor examples of life she looks like she is a few years older than me, I am almost 30. I know more than her and she was trying to convince to “love my parents forget that they are narcs, but forgive them.”

    She got huffy with me because I didn’t “see it her way.” I get so tired of being the bad guy here, when I have done nothing wrong. People say all I wanna do is make up lies about my parents yet I call them out saying oh, but you wanna hang the murderer who kills kids! They shut up so fast. I asked my therapist how come my sister and brother don’t have to have feelings for them but I do? She said because I am still there at home and said that is a load of bull whether I am there or not, I shouldn’t have to do all the work because I am the youngest!

    Most people don’t care and they don’t wanna believe how families could do this to us. I told my therapist what is the most immense hurt by someone close to you? She looked at me puzzled as always. I told her we get hurt by friends, lovers, strangers, coworkers, etc but nothing comes close to family hurting you – that is where the most immense hurt is and that is my immense hurt. All of my life, I grew up fighting/defending myself against people about my parents. They think if they spend money on me, that they must be “doing something right,” not true because there is always “strings attached” for when they buy me something; other than that, they don’t care if I eat!

    I asked my therapist, so what favor? What part(s) were you not listening to this entire year of my story? I told her this isn’t your life nor do you live it. I knew from a very young age that my parents were horrible, but didn’t know the word narcissism at the time. I told my therapist actions will always speak louder than words don’t care if they are family or not – a narcissist is still a narcissist period end of story!

    No one never helped me in the past always used ‘how come you wanna break up the family? Just deal with it! They can’t be all that bad’, how would anyone know? Who puts a rating to someone else’s issues?! So much guilt they put on me. I am still looking for information on getting away, I’ve been wanting to escape since I was 18 years old, but didn’t have life skills to take care of myself because I was taught to be codependent by my mother and dad mostly mother. I have been calling agencies to help me again, they want you to be in a shelter for 30 days then you may get transitional housing.

    I don’t want to be in a shelter and freedom is more important to me than a shelter. I still got some more calling to do until I get the info that I need. I have a degree, no money, and still looking for work – it is not getting any easier for me and barely have a work history! I feel like I am being punished for the kind of parents I have and nobody out there seems to care about how they treat me. I have no place to go either, there are relatives whom I don’t know nor do I care to know. I am still pissed that I am fighting this battle alone….

    Hey Dr. Burgo, do you have any information as how to get away from a narcissist? Where to go and how to leave? What is still keeping me there is money and without, I wouldn’t have a phone (use it a lot for employers to contact me), my mom paying for my car insurance and roadside help, and my dad giving me a little bit of money to pay for my cell phone bill. My money from my checking is gone 3 years ago when we had a fire incident in my house.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      It sounds as if you already know the answer: you need to take responsibility for yourself, develop the skills that will make you employable and then get out of your parents’ home as soon as you possibly can.

      • marquis - daughter of narc parents says:

        Kinda not the answer I was expecting. Well, my options are extremely limited. My therapist said the same thing and told her ‘please explain to me where to find a job that will hire me with a lack of experience?’ I never got an answer. I know the answer is a job, but the main question is where?

        I told my therapist ‘I get all of this ideas yet nobody can’t point the direction of where to find other information.’ I have contacted some agencies and only two transitional housing I liked, but again you gotta jump through hoops and loops to get help. You get more help if you have a family. So, I mean with all of us with narc parents or whatever; who said it is easy to leave? Especially when you were taught no kind of independent living skills as a child.

        Oh, these agencies told me about shelters and said that isn’t an option for me and told them why. I really don’t have any answers if I was taught anything about finding out answers for yourself, I would have left a long time ago.

  155. Niharikaa says:

    Dear Joseph,

    My mother-in-law is a hardcore narcissist and is never satisfied, as is the case with NPD. She has converted my father-in-law into a near-vegetable state and he has become a hypochondriac. He is an echo of her. She has also victimised my husband in a major way. She has moulded his personality with absolute lack of confidence and with an ever-readiness to serve her, even lick her feet, at the expense of his own conjugal life and his own happiness. I am unable to identify to which category his mother belongs (acc to the types you mentioned). She has made her children established solely with the purpose that she will be appreciated among her kins. When my husband wanted to shift fields as the previous one was not suiting him, she was completely against it as he then had an established job for her to flaunt and changing filed entailed uncertainty. I feel my husband is an extended self of her whom she projects as her achievement and becomes furious when she sees independence on his part. Since I possess the threat to her SUPPLY, I feel and fear that she can be dangerous. She has already tried different things going to the extent of pouring loads of water under the microwave, may a time. Luckily, each time it was discovered.

    My problem is my husband, though realises a bit about her uncanny attitude, yet refuses to stop pleasing her. He is still ga ga over her and is ready to let go of his respect and ego to make her feel good. I have tried and succeeded to lift his self-esteem to a considerable extent but this attitude of him poses a serious concern. How do I convice him to do away with it? Also, how do I identify her category?

    His elder sister has also turned out to be narcissistic with her daughter as she is treating her like a little child and is vehemently against the thought of her growing up. In fact, she too is obsessed with her daughter which cant be out of love but for a need to control, as you have pointed. She is also completely self-engrossed and have no empathy for us. My husband refuses to recognise these truths and is throwing himself to such situations which is making our lives vulnerable. Please suggest something

    • Niharikaa says:

      Also, my mother-in-law is extremely manipulative, feigns concern always, fooling my husband by this, whereas in actuality NONE of her ACTIONS show any concern. She can be extremely dramatic and playful, denied every truth vehemently and dramatically when I charged her, liar to the power of infinity. She always makes him feel guilty and keeps him on his toes to serve her. Even after all these if I try to show the truth to my husband he reads it as I am unable to accept his family, his ego is so much robbed by his mother.

      She even utilises her husband, does something to make him sick, so as to draw attention

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      It sounds to me as if there’s not much you can do to help me. My suggestion would be to ask yourself why you stay. It sounds like a difficult marriage in which you don’t get much of anything that you need.

  156. Niharikaa says:

    My husband seems to always suspect people he first meets yet when it comes to his mother, his allegiance is unbelievable despite all fat proofs of her maliciousness

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      It’s probably too painful for him to admit the truth to himself.

      • Niharikaa says:

        True, it is painful for him. But when there is so much evidence then he should realise. My relation with my husband is otherwise fine, only problem comes when dealing with his narc mother. Their family dynamics is only to exploit this son. That is why I think always of helping him out of this situation

  157. Laurie says:

    I find this website very Educating & Useful, and I thank you for that. My Story is very long & detailed. But will try to make it short(er)..In the past 10 years, my 2 sisters/ 1 older/ 1 younger have died. They both committed suicide. I am F52 yrs old. I blame my mother..I feel guilty for doing that, but I truly believe my mother drove them to their death. I believe my Mother to be narcissistic. I also believe that she wouldn’t be happier if I also died. I can’t believe that I am even writing this…..In the past year, I did something stupid which landed me in jail for 30 days..(the ONLY time i’ve ever been in jail.) Anyway when I got out, My Mother, had cleaned out my apartment and took everything, I mean everything I owned. She couldn’t take my Car because I have title to it.. Any way, after working 30yrs I have nothing left, I borrowed a coat, Glad I live in PHX, AZ . My Mother moved to Chicago with my belongings. Here it is Christmas, and I don’t have a Frickin Ornament to put on the tree! I’ve thought about Suicide as my Sisters have done, but I’m a wimp!! And I refuse to let HER win…

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Laurie, that is so incredibly awful. Most people don’t understand that there truly are people like your mother entirely lacking in maternal feelings. She sounds far along on the sociopathic scale. Definitely do not let her win!

    • marquis - daughter of narc parents says:

      Hi Laurie. I live in the Phx metro area as well. Narcs will do that drive someone to their deaths and laugh about it. Long ago, my dad had this ex coworker who had a mistress on the side and she killed herself. It was not proven if his ex coworker drove her to suicide or not, but my dad raved at how the other woman killed herself and celebrated.

      When someone dies or goes crazy, he laughs about it like it is nothing. He shouldn’t laugh, he is one of those nut jobs too. A half sister who I don’t know went missing one time and nobody in the “family” bothered to go looking for her and she isn’t of sound mind at almost 50. My 2nd oldest sister argued with an aunt of ours about that and she said then you must be glad she is dead.

      My parents would be tickled pink if we were drove to our deaths or become insane….

  158. Dont Remember says:

    Are you grieving your sisters, blaming your mother, feeling sorry for yourself, all of the above? Here is what I’ve learned after being pretty much your place: life is messy. If one’s mother is not a narc, one’s husband’s looses the legs in the war; one’s child dies in a DWI accident or a sinkhole swallows all your possessions (in this case, the sinkhole would be your mother.) There is a place and time, perhaps decades, where complaining and retelling, ruminating, drinking, drugs is the only comfort we have left. We have to make a decision: do I want to live the years ahead, which may be very few, like I was in the past, or do I look for help and adhere ONLY to the positive sources I may fine? Narcissism, I am sure, occurs in starving Africa and stinking Thailand. Is not exclusive to AZ or Chicago or Houston. We are a wealthy society; we have means to improve, if we really are committed to. Granted, to be able to commit to one’s betterment we need to have help, and even then, our own mental condition and /or mental illness may impede personal progress. Your family, you included, are an entangled ball of disease and ignorance, not your fault. But the same thing that happened to you and your sisters, surely happened to your mother. Narcissism doesn’t come from the sky like a Christmas comet. Your mother is not even able to comprehend, to understand your complains or her role in the whole mess. She only sees things her way; she is incapable of feeling; incapable, as not been physically able, as if she were blind, she wouldn’t be able to see, that kind of incapable. Find your values. I don’t give a hoot about ornaments, make them yourself. I can give you a lot of information, but don’t know if this blog would allow it. I am barely recovering from my mother’s discarding me after I discovered her dirty tricks with our bank account, after 6 decades of treating her like a queen, a crazy queen who shot the wall many times faking she was killing me for fighting with my brother. She is alive, almost 90. I forgave her because I recall some stories of her childhood when she attempted to scare me with bullets. They are sick. Anything that is not normal is “sick,” “unwell.” It was unfair, the planet is suffering for lack of fairness and you were a victim. Now get up and go for a walk. Go to the Grand Canyon and see the beauty. It’s still there, and you are part of it. It’s your time now.

  159. Barbara says:

    I was raised by a full blown NM with a few extra traits to top that off. I was a mess by the time I was entering my teens. I ran away twice and tried suicide once. My mother married me off at seventeen to a 28 yr old man that beat and raped me until my kid brother came after me. I got my own place and was at moms doing laundry alone one day. My husband walked in the door and ran at me dragging me out of my mothers house. He then took me to the woods where he again beat me, raped me and then took me into a cabin and locked me in a room. From there he fired off a rifle someplace in the cabin. His roommate came home and spent an hour or more talking him into to taking me to my mothers. When she found out what had happened it was all my fault. I have been a useless pain since birth. She dropped me off at the end of my long driveway. I lost the baby a few days later. It was always as if she had no heart and hated me. My first memory is of her screaming she never wanted kids and she wished I was gone. I was two and the rest was not any better. By the time I was 14 I didn’t care anymore if she loved or liked me. I ended up at my mothers while I got a divorce but once I left I never looked back on any of it. It was over it, I was okay and life moved on. Until I remarried and ended up with my mother all over again for seventeen years. By the time I was out of there I was having anxiety attacks several times a day. It felt like I had just found out I was buried alive. I had to see my therapist twice a day sometimes just to make it through the day. I did not know at this time that my childhood was connected to any of this. When I was 55 my mother fell ill. I ended up care giving her and taking care of her place for eight years. Nothing was any different. I was having problems again and when looking for help I needed found out what the problem was all the time I was growing up. My mother is a narcissist with psychopath tendencies. All this time I thought it was just me she treated the way she did. I was an adult this go around, had already raised two daughters and knew that what she was doing was very inappropriate behavior. The more I tried to just live and run my life the more she lied, scammed and manipulated me to get what she wanted. To make a long story short she cost me my retirement money before I figured out what she was up to. No real loss it’s just money and no I can’t replace it but that was a real eye opener which ended up saving me in the long run. I finally know the why of it all. The constant confusion and feeling of living in the twilight zone is gone. She was trying to drag me into her reality and live though me never letting go. How sad she must be inside herself to have to do that.

  160. withheld says:

    Please help me know how to respond. My NM will ask me a question. I answer. Then she says, “That’s not my question” and will ask another similar to the first. I feel tricked. Please tell me how to respond to her habitual “that’s not my question” communication.

  161. Barbara says:

    Some comments are saying that we as daughters of NM are passing it on. My mother moved us away from family by the time I was nine and she kept me isolated living way out in the country. She married a man that was chasing me around until by age ten I was having migraines. She knew and did nothing to help me because she wanted him more than me safe. I had no influence but my NM and yes I had and have some problems but they are subtle. Like being drawn to help others without them asking. I seem to know what someone needs before they ask for it and a strong feeling comes over me to do it. That is the one hard to fight and has got me in trouble before helping the wrong kind of person. Common in daughters with NM. I lived on instincts all the time I was young and because of it my instincts are higher than most. Another common thing for daughters of NM. I didn’t pass this on so it does not have to happen if we get help for ourselves. I am an advocate against child abuse and in doing this I found that there are much worse out there than how I turned out. My girls are emotionally healthy and moved on to college and a stable family life. I always had a voice in my head that told me it was my mother not me and that helped but not as much as some may think. Being raised by a NM is a physiological nightmare ride no one understands unless they have been there. Some don’t even see a problem at all but that is because NM’s are so good at presenting an image to the rest of the world that is not real. My mother is not only a NM she is a sociopath with no guilt or remorse. She is an emotional vampire and will lie and manipulate to get whatever she wants. She managed to steal thousands from me and her husband before we found out what was going on. Long story but it was my retirement money and now that I am retired I don’t have enough to live on and she does not care. No guilt at all. The best thing to do with a NM is stay away from them they can’t and won’t change. The head is wired to take not give. They would rather manipulate you to get what they want than just ask. Its part of the disorder. But as far as passing it on that won’t happen if you take care of your problems from the NM rather than worry about what she wants and thinks. I always looked at me rather than her for the changes needed to help me and in doing so saw I needed to change something or I would be like her in that area of life. Even as a little girl I knew the damage had to stop with me. It was my main purpose in life to raise emotionally healthy children so it would not be passed on. Taking care of ourselves is something we have to learn once away because they won’t let us grow. Were not individuals to them were tools to use for their means and nothing more. I still love my mother and try to help her as she is now 84 but she has not changed unless you count getting worse with age. They suck the life out of everything for us, every accomplishment anything we do is of no value unless it is done for them. They are miserable people inside and they project on the daughters for the most part. Words can carry life or death and my mothers words/actions have always carried death.
    Good luck to all that have a NM.

  162. Karen says:

    I was once told by a psychiatrist that I have frustrated dependency needs. It took a very short time before I realized and acknowledged the anger I have towards my mother.
    Is she a narcissist? I think she is…
    She’s always been the voice in my ear telling me not to aim too high because she’s worried I’d fail and it would crush her. Everything has to revolve around her. She expends a lot effort making people believe she is the victim and that she’s helpless.
    She refuses to sit with any discomfort and is self pampered and self indulgent beyond belief.
    My grandmother had to rent us a place for $100 a month because my mother was so bad with money.
    She refused to get a job, refused to do housework because she didn’t want to. I was ashamed of the home I lived and grew up in.
    She refused to come to me when I begged her to sit with my while I was alone, in labour and scared, even though she lived 3 blocks from the hospital.
    She has lied to me in order to get money out of me. Once she said she lost her wallet and it turns out she was gambling all night at the casino.
    She has always put herself first.
    Buys junk to give as gifts but has no qualms about giving me a list of expensive and specific items she wants.
    When my dad left he said “promise me you’ll take of your mother.”
    Has a sense of entitlement and feels that she is to be taken care of, that the world owes her. She refuses to do anything for herself.
    When I found out my ex husband was cheating, I was crushed. My pain became all about her bad marriage. She’s said things to me like “if it weren’t for you I would have killed myself.” A not so subtle message that I’m to take care of her or else….
    She has a distorted sense of entitlement and will not do anything to help herself. She will not budget her money, she will not clean her apartment and has honestly said she should be taken care of by her adult children.
    I’ve called her with wonderful news regarding my career. I was happy and excited to share my accomplishments with her. She was watching TV while I was on the phone and wasn’t really listening. within 2 minutes she cut me off and said “my supper is ready I have to go.” As I’m typing this I see that every time I talk and the conversation isn’t one where she talks I listen, this same thing happens. It has to be about her or she does not engage.
    I decided to not answer my phone when she calls me. I’m the last of her children that really has anything to do with her. I am ready to end our relationship. Part of the problem is I keep going. I keep expecting her to change, I keep expecting an apple to be an orange.
    I have two questions. Is my mother a narcissist? And am I a rotten person if I never speak to her again?