Narcissism 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;
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