Is my mother narcissistic?

Introduction

Our mothers are often one of our greatest influencers. Our earliest emotional bonds and feelings of belonging and security are usually linked to the nurture and care from our mothers. As we grow older, our mothers' influence our feelings about ourselves and the world around us. Our personality traits, stability, choice of profession, world view, capacity for love and affection can be affected by our feelings towards and relationship with our mothers. What happens, however, when our mothers are arrogant and only interested in themselves? When they do not seem to be concerned about us except when we are doing something to please them? Or they seem unable to show empathy for others including their own children? For some of us, the time comes when we ask ourselves, “Is my mother narcissistic?”, "What do I do if she is?"

Is my mother borderline or narcissistic?/ Is my mother codependent or narcissistic?

There are overlapping symptoms with narcissism, Borderline Personality Disorder (BDP) and codependency. It's not uncommon for two illnesses to coexist, making it extremely difficult to diagnose and treat these disorders.

People with (BPD):

  • are prone to reckless and impulsive behaviour;
  • mood swings; and
  • instability in their relationships.

Those who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) have:

  • Trouble controlling their emotions;
  • Have an elevated sense of self-importance; and
  • They feel they are better than others.

Finally, codependent people commonly display characteristics that include:

  • A high level of self-sacrifice;
  • They focus on others' needs;
  • Suppress their emotions; and
  • Attempt to control others.

Differences

It can be challenging to distinguish between narcissism and BPD [1] since the symptoms have apparent similarities. To help you further differentiate between the different disorders, we will look at their characteristics. This differentiation will allow you to compare the disorders with those characteristics demonstrated by your mother and help you better answer the question, “Is my mother narcissistic?”.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

People with NPD [2] are irrationally resistant to criticism, pathologically grandiose, overly critical of others and easily angered. They manipulate others to meet their own needs and assign blame to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Often described as arrogant, pompous, manipulative, and demanding, narcissists tend to be self-centred, lacking empathy and respect for others.

When a mother is narcissistic:

Emotional -

  1. She uses emotions as a weapon to control and manipulate her children. Her affection is given and withheld as a reward or punishment;
  2. Displays erratic emotions and is prone to rages when she does not get her way; and
  3. Has many misunderstandings and disagreements in her relationships, including with her co-parent.

Self-Perception -

  1. She will happily highlight the flaws of others, including her children's. She will not acknowledge her own failings and never accepts blame;
  2. Needs to be the most admired person at all times [5]. Even her children should not 'steal' her spotlight; and
  3. Thinks of her children as an extension of herself and sees their successes and failures as her own.

Relational -

  1. She does not prioritize her children’s needs above her own. Her selfishness can lead to neglect of her children;
  2. Tries to isolate her children from others so she can control them and be the main focus of their attention;
  3. Somehow turns discussions about her childrens' concerns around to focus on her; and
  4. May be physically aggressive.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BDP)

People with borderline personality disorder have problems with interpersonal relationships, impulse control, how they react in difficult situations, and how they perceive themselves. Emotional dysregulation, impulsive aggression, repeated self-injury, and chronic suicidal tendencies are also symptoms.

When a mother has BDP:

Emotional -

  1. She fears being abandoned by, separated from, or rejected by her children;
  2. Has severe mood swings. In a matter of hours, she may go from euphoria to rage, guilt, anxiety, and panic;
  3. May also become physically or verbally aggressive as she sometimes experiences feelings of intense anger; and
  4. May threaten to harm herself or to commit suicide.

Self-Perception -

  1. She has low self-esteem issues and is prone to feelings of paranoia, especially when her stress levels are high;
  2. Engages in behaviour that puts her at risk, e.g. shopping sprees that she cannot afford or promiscuity; and
  3. May feel threatened by a healthy relationship between her co-parent and her children.

Relational -

  1. She may neglect her children because she is in the grips of her own pain and is unable to prioritize her children’s needs;
  2. Attempts to control her children’s behaviour and emotions. This control can stunt her childrens’ individuality; and
  3. Either idealize her children if they please her, or despise them if they have wronged her;

Codependency

In a codependent relationship [9], one person assumes the role of "the giver," putting their own needs and well-being on the back burner to satisfy the needs of the other, "the taker." In healthy relationships, both parties benefit because there is mutual affection and support. In codependent relationships [11], the burden of caregiving is placed solely on one person.

When a mother is codependent:

Emotional -

  1. She expects unnaturally high levels of devotion and love from her children;
  2. Will stop at nothing to control her children and becomes very upset if she is not successful. This failure can result in drastic mood swings; and
  3. Makes a habit of playing the victim or uses her emotions as a weapon to manipulate her children. E.g. screaming, crying, bullying etc.

Relational

  1. She repeats her children’s concerned words and phrases back to them as her concerns;
  2. will not engage deeply on any subject she does not wish to discuss and will not accept responsibility for any wrongdoing; and
  3. Uses underhanded tactics to manipulate her children, e.g. passive-aggressive behaviour and silent treatment.

Effects of narcissism on children

Having a narcissistic mother presents a very challenging parent-child relationship. If you have a narcissistic mother, you may have psychological challenges [10] due to her behaviour. These may include feelings of guilt and shame, being a people-pleaser and repeating her narcissistic behaviours. Children live what they learn, after all.

Check this video out to find out more:

Are narcissistic parents dangerous?

Narcissistic parents can be physically and mentally abusive and neglectful [4]. Their children’s sense of self and ability to maintain healthy relationships are often devastated. The narcissistic parent can create rifts between the children and her co-parent through manipulation. She may even deny her co-parent access to information about their children or threaten to keep the children from seeing the co-parent.

Does my narcissistic mother love me?

Most people want to have a normal relationship with their mothers, narcissistic or not. This desire causes them to ask, “Does my narcissistic mother love me?” Psychotherapist Ross Rosenberg, the author of The Human Magnet Syndrome [3], proposes that some categories of narcissists can show love and empathy. Those who are not empathetic or cannot experience love are either Sociopaths or malignant narcissists.

How narcissists show love

In Rosenberg's words;

"...“garden variety narcissists,” or those with NPD are capable of love and empathy, as long as it makes them feel good or they get something in return." This statement suggests that narcissistic mothers can love their children. However, the love is conditional, predicated on the children meeting the mother's needs. Only where codependency develops are the children's needs met.

Do narcissistic parents ever change?

You may be wondering, do narcissistic parents ever change?. The truth is that a narcissist will only change if they want to. In her article, The Real Effect Of Narcissistic Parenting On Children [6], Dr Karyl McBride states, "It’s a difficult disorder to treat; many believe it is untreatable."

How to deal with a toxic narcissistic mother

When dealing with any toxic relationship, it is essential to remember that you only have control over yourself. With this in mind, here are some ideas of what to do if your mom is a narcissistic:

Accept the situation -

  1. Recognize and accept that your narcissistic parent will never be there for you the way other parents are for their children.
  2. Acknowledge what is happening. If your mother is violent or abusive, it may be best to avoid her altogether.

Be kind to yourself -

  1. Understand your worth. You'll feel more confident if you engage in activities that help you develop new talents and abilities.
  2. Identify and abide by healthy boundaries. Make it crystal clear what is and isn't appropriate behaviour.
  3. Resist the temptation to be the ideal child to satisfy your mother.

Learn from previous interactions -

  1. Try to approach interactions as calmly as possible. Do not react negatively to aggressive behaviour.
  2. Have strategies for how you will extricate yourself from undesirable situations with your mom.

Get help -

  1. Get information about narcissism and how to deal with it [8].
  2. Consult a therapist [7] if you're having trouble coping. They can help you understand how your mother's narcissism affects you and what you can do to break the cycle of abuse.

Conclusion

It is important to identify disorders like narcissism, BDP and codependency. The damaging effects of having a narcissistic parent are far-reaching. Ïn answering the question, “Is my mother narcissistic?” you are taking a crucial step towards handling a difficult relationship. A relationship that affects children's self-perception, ability to develop, and ability to maintain healthy interpersonal connections. The good news is that resources are available to help you survive and deal with your narcissistic mother.

Links

[1] Difference between Borderline and Narcissistic | Borderline vs Narcissistic

[2] 9Duffy2017poster.pdf (forensicpsychology.org)

[3] Ross Rosenberg | The Human Magnet Syndrome Book | Codependency | narcissism

[4] Narcissistic parent: dealing with a narcissistic parent yourself. (barendspsychology.com)

[5] Are Narcissist Insecure? | Yum Yum Mama (yumyum-mama.com)

[6] The Real Effect of Narcissistic Parenting on Children - Narcissist Abuse Support

[7] 17 Signs of a Narcissistic Parent & How to Deal With Them (choosingtherapy.com)

[8] https://amzn.to/3FYHPDX

[9] 8 Signs You May Have a Codependent Parent - WeHaveKids

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lt56nGmGG-0

[11] Codependency | Psychology Today

1 comment

  • Great article. I know some narcissistic people and now I know what was the issue.

    Del Jackson

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