Narcissism vs. Narcissistic re Mother Daughter Relationship Problems


Narcissism vs. Narcissistic in dysfunctional mother daughterNarcissism vs. Narcissistic in Mother Daughter Relationship Problems

Someone on the EFB facebook page wrote (in a comment to someone else) that I say that my mother is a narcissist and that she was mentally ill. I have never actually said that. I have said that my mother has narcissistic tendencies. I don’t actually think that my mother is a narcissist OR that she is mentally ill. (I don’t give much weight to the way the ‘mentally ill’ diagnosis is used in our society. I recovered by realizing that my depressions were a result of ‘what happened to me’ and that they had become an ineffective coping method for me.) Having said that, my mother suffers from depressions and she has for years and for the most part she has behaved towards me in a way that communicated that she thinks that she is more important than I am. She is disrespectful when it comes to me and she reacts to me in narcissistic ways communicating that my needs are not as valid as hers.

Her actions towards me are very discounting but that doesn’t make her a narcissist. Those things don’t make my mother a narcissist simply because she isn’t the same way with everyone. If my mother is a narcissist, there is a lot of evidence that she is able to control it. At best I might say that when it comes to the way my mother regards ME, she leans toward narcissistic tendencies.

A true mental health disorder is not controllable. People who have a true disorder can’t turn it on and turn it off. They can’t convince other people that they are wonderful and then in the privacy of home treat their own children like dirt. It doesn’t work that way. True narcissists are not well liked in society because they are narcissistic with everyone. They truly believe that they are more important than everyone else and it really shows.  

The reason that I bring this up is because for me a huge part of my healing came by understanding how the abusive parent, teacher, partner or friend, can actually choose how they behave. Just like I can choose how I treat other people, my mother, my family, my friends and co-workers can too.  And if I have a choice, then so does everyone else, unless I excuse their choice by labeling them with a serious disorder like Narcissism or Narcissistic personality disorder.  When their behaviour is within their control, the truth is that they don’t bother to try.

For so long I wanted to believe that my mother could not love me because she was sick. I wanted to believe her incapability because the alternative truth was way too painful to face. When I believed that she was sick and unable to love me and see me for who I am, I felt sorry for her. I believed that if I was the perfect child that she would finally love me so I kept trying harder. I believed that if I walked on egg shells that I would finally be good enough. But the truth is that I WAS always good enough and that she didn’t exercise her CHOICE in how she treated me. She wanted to garner sympathy for herself but it was manipulative and for her own gain, NOT because she had a narcissism problem.  Treating me the way she did “worked for her” ~ it got her what she wanted. She wanted her way. And yes ~ behaving in controlling and manipulative things to get her way is narcissistic, but it isn’t always “narcissism”.  

I don’t doubt that my mother’s depressions were real. I had enough depressions myself to know there is nothing fake about them so I am not saying my mother faked her problems. What I am saying is that she burdened ME with them. And because of her manipulative and controlling ways, I believed that her problems and depressions had something to do with me. I believed that I could help her and of course I couldn’t help her. I have written extensively about the way my belief system formed through the messages communicated to me because of the ways that I was treated and how it became a huge part of my survival mode to keep trying harder to convince the adults and caregivers in my life that I WAS worthy of being loved.

It has been helpful for me as it may be for you to read about narcissistic mothers and narcissistic personality disorder; my mother fits that description so well in so many of the ways she treated me in our dysfunctional mother daughter relationship but the bottom line is that my mother is not a true narcissist and it has been far more helpful towards my freedom, wholeness and recovery to face that truth.  As painful as it is, realizing that my mother excused her behaviour, sometimes even illegal behaviour because she was selfish and put herself first when it came to me, has been far more helpful than when I believed that she could not help the ways she acted and was not really accountable for the danger she put me in because she was ‘sick’ and that she didn’t actually have any choice about the way she behaved when it came to me.

In my early work I wrote a lot about how I came to understand that the ways I behaved and the difficulties that I had were ‘not my fault’ and that my inability to function as an emotionally healthy adult was a result of my dysfunctional and traumatic childhood.

But when it comes to my kids, I can’t use those things as an excuse to my kids. I can see how my abusive childhood ill prepared me to be a loving, healthy and emotionally balanced parent, but that doesn’t change the fact that my kids did not have the best mother I could have been and they have a right to be hurt by some of that stuff.

So although today I still feel sorry for my mother, I have to be honest with myself about the damage that she caused me with her disregard for my emotional health without looking at the dysfunctional and traumatic childhood that SHE herself had. I had to stop trying to diagnose my mother in order to ‘understand her’ because trying to understand her was part of my old survival mode that I was trying so hard to break out of.  

And the truth is that the damage caused to me wasn’t “less” because the person may have been ‘sick’.

I am not attempting to clarify this difference between narcissism and narcissistic behaviour today because of what was said on facebook; I am trying to clarify this because for 20 years I tried to recover from dissociative identity disorder, trauma and serious, continuous depressions without facing the truth about the way I had been raised as “less than” and the way that it affected me because I either believed that I really was ‘less than” or I excused the people who did the damage in the first place because of whatever ‘happened to them’ or ‘was wrong with them’. 

My old survival mode, the one that I developed in childhood, taught me to always blame myself and that ‘the problem’ always had its roots in me and that meant that if my parents actually had something ‘wrong with them’ that my defect was that I was not understanding enough.  I practiced patience and tolerance when I was being abused and mistreated. Freedom came when I learned to call a spade a spade and validate the damage that was caused to me. I threw patience and tolerance for abuse out the window along with diagnosis used to excuse perpetrators of abuse, neglect and trauma, so that I could stop this cycle of abuse and take my life back from the abusers and controllers.  My childhood survival mode no longer serves me as it did when I was a child without a choice so I needed to find a way to go forward with a new view of the real truth.

Narcissism is not my mother’s issue although as I said she has narcissistic tendencies when it comes to me, but it is not my concern anymore what her problem is. All I know is that when I put into words that all I really wanted was mutual respect, she choose not to grant me that and I love myself enough today to decide NOT to tolerate the disrespectful way that she regarded and disregarded me with anymore.  My mother believes that ‘entitlement’ when it comes to me, is her right as a parent and there is nothing that I can do about that when it comes to her. But I DO have a choice when it comes to me.

For the sake of further clarity, I am not saying that some of the readers here don’t have genuinely narcissistic parents.  I am not asking anyone to stop calling their parents narcissists; please feel free to call either or both of your parents a “Narcissist” here in EFB. (I am just saying that through my own investigation about narcissistic parents and narcissism, that diagnosis doesn’t actually apply to my mother.) I know that these people exist and how difficult it is to draw the necessary boundaries. Keep in mind however that the bottom line is still the same; nothing excuses the damage they caused and the damage must be validated (at least by you yourself) before healing takes place.

There are very few people who have genuine narcissism and there is a big difference between narcissism and narcissistic. Please share your thoughts about this subject and please keep in mind what I have said about the bottom line here. It was so easy to go down the rabbit trail leading no-where when I was stuck trying to figure out what was wrong with “them” instead of sticking to what happened to me in order to validate the damage.

Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time;

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken bookThe Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing” is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

For related posts see highlighted links throughout the  body of the post.

More Related Posts: Survival Mode and an Alternate View of Narcissism  and Shifting my Thinking On the Journey to Overcoming Emotional Damage


181 response to "Narcissism vs. Narcissistic re Mother Daughter Relationship Problems"

  1. By: Elisa Posted: 15th April

    “Having said that, my mother suffers from depressions and she has for years and for the most part she has behaved towards me in a way that communicated that she thinks that she is more important than I am. She is disrespectful when it comes to me and she reacts to me in narcissistic ways communicating that my needs are not as valid as hers.

    Her actions towards me are very discounting but that doesn’t make her a narcissist. Those things don’t make my mother a narcissist simply because she isn’t the same way with everyone.”

    This sums up a lot of my own experience. My mother passed away almost six months ago, but I can’t begin to count how many times I was told she was an angel while she was still alive. She was always putting other people first and giving of herself — except when it came to me. And I’ve been really struggling with what to make of this. Honestly, I’ve been struggling with this for years. I’ve been seeing a therapist and following your page/website, Darlene, and have made some headway in the last few years.

    I think my mother was acting this way without even realizing it. I say this because when I started to enforce firm boundaries, well at first she reacted poorly, but after the first shock of it she did try to respect them. She gave me more space. I don’t mean to make excuses for her, but her health was so poor and her life was so stressful for a lot of reasons, she didn’t have lot of time to reflect on things. When I was able to find the right words to say exactly what I meant and talk to her, we made progress. But it took so long to find those words…we ran out of time. I’ll never know for sure if that relationship could have been fully healed or not. So I am chosing to believe it could have been, at least for now, beacuse that is helping me with my grief at this time.

    As you say, honesty about what the causes are is important for self healing. I hope if there’s more to find, I’ll be brave enough someday to find it. My mother died suddenly from a hospital acquired infection. It was antibiotic resistant. I talked to her on the phone one night and the next day a family member called to say she was on life support. She died less than a week later. I got to tell her many things during that time, but as she was in a coma, we couldn’t have the discussions I hoped to have. I didn’t tell her some of the deeper things I wanted to talk about for fear it would only hurt her as she was lying on what could be (and was) her death bed. I am at peace with that choice. But now I have to sort out the rest on my own. Before the hope of healing, or at least really understanding my family, helped sustain me. Neither my dad or my brother have good memories or seem interested in digging up old memories. Mom at least would talk to me about the past. She seemed to respond to the changes I was making, even if it was slow. Those little things gave me hope.

    The trauma of losing her so suddenly is too fresh, it overshadowing the rest. But I still run into the rest while trying to process my grief. It’s all a tangle and hard to unravel.

    Reading posts like this help me process some of my thoughts and understand some of what I’m trying to understand. When reading about narcissistic behaviors, I’ve recognized them when it comes to my relationship with my mother. But I knew she wasn’t a narcissist. That had left me confused. This has helped make sense of those thoughts. Thank you for helping another piece fall into place. I value it even more when that happens now.

  2. By: Kris Posted: 16th April

    Hi Lynn,

    You wrote “But none of it matters…because now I know, she could change the way she treated me. Maybe not back then, but now.”

    That’s how I feel too. When I told my mother that the reason why I was having so many difficulties in my adulthood was due to my childhood, her response to me was “if you only would’ve listened to your father and I, then you wouldn’t be having all of these problems right now” and in that moment, I knew that nothing was going to change.

    I have four years NC with my FOO and holidays are still hard for me. Each year I say “I’m not going to let anything get in the way of me having a nice holiday” and each year, something did! That’s how recovery goes. The misery ends when it ends and when that is nobody knows! In other words, it takes time to heal.

    Also, I wanted to reach out to all the people who are crying out in pain on this site. I want you to know that I hear you. I want you to know that I was you and most importantly I want you to know that there is hope. For the better part of 50 years I looked for ways to die. I don’t do that anymore. Nothing is perfect but I don’t want to die every day of my life anymore either. For the first two years of my recovery process I told myself “if you die, they win”. It kept me alive because I didn’t want the people who hurt me so badly to be the ones who got off scott free while I was the one still sitting there in so much pain and it kept me alive. Hopefully those words can help somebody else.

    Holidays can be a bummer. No doubt about it but it doesn’t have to be that way forever. At least that’s what I keep on telling my self anyway because I still haven’t managed to achieve it… but I will!!!

    Hope you do too. Hang in there.

  3. By: Lynn Posted: 9th April

    I can see the difference in the two – still makes me wonder about my ‘mom’…I saw how she acted with people, and it was always in her benefit. And if not, she acted sweet to their face and then went on horrible rants to anyone listening behind their backs trying to get people to side with her. In other words, she had to be right. But yet she was not full of her self like most narcissists…she was the opposite, has 0 self esteem and wants to do what ever to get people to like her-including manipulating them. I spent so many years taking pych classes in college to try to figure her out and help myself. I also used to excuse her behavior knowing she had a horrible childhood.
    But none of it matters…because now I know, she could change the way she treated me. Maybe not back then, but now. The fact that I pointed out how bad she treats me and she just continued to do it told me everything and I finally went NC. But I’m not feeling any better about it. Trying to deal with guilt and stress – esp around holidays. Mother’s day next month is going to be tough…

  4. By: Julia Posted: 15th January

    I’ve been consumed the past few days trying to figure this out. I’ve always known my mother was a controlling, self-absorbed, nothing is ever good enough, super critical, negative, always right, addict, but I don’t think I ever put it all together with narcissism until now. I asked my sister-in-law, my sister and my father if they thought she was narcissistic and without hesitation, the responses were; yes, absolutely and of course. My mom’s little sister, said she’s always known my mom has narcissistic tendencies.

    I’m the chosen one. I assumed adult responsibilities at age 11, was driving to the liquor store at age 14 to purchase her vodka and at age 18 checked her into a rehab hospital by myself. Dad couldn’t do it. When I was 23, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Since her teens, she has had one major illness/accident after another. Most recently, at age 76, she fell and broke her hip. Too vain to use a cane and on Monday, she came to town without her walker because it would get in the way. I told her when she falls again not to contact me. I haven’t spoken to her since. When she was 70 and had her spine rebuilt, I catered to her, as I have done most of my life. I realized I was tired of being her pet, apologized to my husband and kids and began to set boundaries. Until this week. Now, I’m wondering if I need to sever all ties with her because when the next accident or illness happens, I will get sucked in all over again. She’s very smart and has been “working” me for 52 years. My brother has his wife to protect him from her, my sister is very sick and my father left after 42 years of trying to please her. Feels great to get some of this out.

  5. By: Laila Posted: 10th April

    Narcissistic tendencies are still on the narcissism spectrum in my opinion. Mother may have just had tendencies, but it doesn’t take much no or low empathy to damage a child. It doesn’t take much parental entitlement tendencies to harm a child. Maybe the silent treatment or a little gaslighting is not full-blown narcissism, but it still erodes a child’s identity.

  6. By: DragonflyGinger Posted: 10th April

    Thank you so much for this blog! I am so wow’d at our similarities which tells me…I’M NOT ALONE! There ARE people who understand the insane dynamics. I don’t wonder if Empaths are created by overcoming these things. I’ve never heard of Empath until recently and I’m grateful to have come across that too. I’ve had to work really hard to learn how to love and care for myself the way I would as a parent. When I stop and take in my surroundings they look so very different than before. In a bitter-sweet way.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 10th April

      Hi DragonflyGinger
      You are certainly NOT alone! Welcome to EFB!
      Thanks for your comment!
      hugs, Darlene

  7. By: Raven Posted: 10th April

    I’m not really sure if I agree or disagree with whether or not someone is mentally ill or decides when they want to be. I do know that I have PTSD and depression. And I know that these things, I was NOT born with, they are things that have developed due to the circumstances of growing up in a household of mentally unstable parents. I definitely agree with what Dawna-Llyn has written.. concerning her father. My stepdad sent an email to his (bio) daughter, my half sister, and it was basically the same ‘eff off’ kind of email. He had said that I am someone he once knew. This was in 1992. I understand what you are feeling Dawna-Llyn. It hurts no matter what. What parents do to their kids, I’m not really sure whether they know they are doing it or not, (deliberate assholes, or mentally ill) it hurts and it’s wrong. And, it’s NOT the truth or a reflection on you, it is them, plain and simple.

    • By: Sharon Eifler Littlesparrow Posted: 8th March

      I agree with your thinking. I was a victim of sexual and domestic and mental abuse. My life in one day was my mother being beat nearly to death, and in the same day I was tied to a bed, hands and feet to the posts. Clothes being ripped off by my two older brothers. Me trying not to scream because my little sister and toddler little brother watching. I always assumed it was me. My fault. But then one day I took my power back, I was a beautiful young girl, curves and all. My brother caught me going to take a bath, he slammed me down on the floor. Something came up inside of me. Suppose it was all those years of being molested, and my mother still being beat by my step father. I rode up off the floor and beat the crap out of my molesting older brother. He was at the bathroom door being crazy, asking me to let him in. I told him loudly to get away from the door. It got quite, I was yelling at him. Then I heard my mother’s voice telling me to leave him alone. While blood came seeping in my bath water. I always thought that this was my fault. But now I have been cut off completely by my mother. She blocked my phone call. She did that today, I am 58 years old. I had to realize my whole family is the problem. This brother lives with her now. They are the problem, not me. I figured out a long time ago, that they are evil bible thumping Christians. The whole family is crazy. I wrote a book called A Souls Nightmare. My daughter was molested by her father, I have him in jail for 32 years. But now she has seased to talk to me since 2008. I have blamed myself for this. But last year I figured out that she needs serious help. I got her help when she told me at age 6. She told me that I never let her get to know him. I will never regret what I did, he will stay there as long as I have breath in my body. I am TERMINALLY I’ll. Little Sparrow.

  8. By: Dawna-Llyn Posted: 19th August

    Today while out with a friend I confided in him a little about my childhood in the simplest way by summing it all up in one sentence: I have never and will never ‘matter’ to anyone on either sides of my parents’ families … ever. That started with my mom and dad who are divorced and haven’t spoken to each other in over 30yrs and i haven’t spoken with my dad in ten yrs, since he told me to cross to the other side of the street if I ever see him coming. Suddenly today my mom phones me up to say that she called my dad to ‘chat’. I’m like, “YOU WHAT?!?!?!?!”. Yeah, she said she talked to him for about ten minutes. I asked if my name was brought up in the conversation to which my mom replied, “No.” Kinda sad considering I’m their only child!

    I guess I find it very curious why today of all days, when I shared my ‘not mattering’ to my family, with my friend and suddenly my mom and dad speak for the first time in 3 decades! The bottom line is this really: Today my mom called me to remind me that I still don’t matter to her or my dad. Nice eh!

    Here is the ‘eff off’ email my dad sent to me:

    Maybe you should go by memory! Yesterday you told Gina you heard I was in
    Toronto so E-mail me there.
    Next time you see Gina at Sears, do her and her friends a favour and just
    keep walking.
    Have a good life and enjoy whatever it is you are on!!!!

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