“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” (Michelangelo) One of the greatest sculptors who ever lived created unsurpassed masterpieces—The Pieta, David, Moses among many others. He was the master at taking a block of inanimate material and bringing it to life.
I was thinking about this great work and something popped into my mind about the narcissistic mother who endeavors with all of her force and perseverance to create the perfect child—her golden one. I have personally watched this happen and have had many of you comment about the golden child in their family. Some were chosen to play this role. Others were not. But many a narcissistic parent has become obsessed with molding a tiny baby into a perfect living breathing vision. This works beautifully with art using clay, marble, alabaster and gold but it is a disaster with little children.
Were you the chosen one, the one who was ignored, the golden child dethroned, the child who was hidden in the bunch, the child who got into a lot of trouble with mom because you insisted on being yourself? There are innumerable patterns in these narcissistic highly dysfunctional families.
Some children respond positively to the prodding of their highly ambitious narcissistic mothers. These mothers are restless creatures. Just the right child has been chosen. The mother is relentlessly at her work. Day and night she is plotting and thinking about the magnificence of the end product when the curtain will part and her living creation is at center stage. She sacrifices everything including any real marriage to focus on the pathways this child will have to take to reach the very top. This means professionally, socially, financially, etc. If the girl doesn’t look perfect she makes sure there are braces at just the right time. Even some plastic surgery at adolescence to mold the nose or remove tiny shadow under the eyes into a Botticelli beauty. She is constantly after her daughter about her figure. Making sure that she looks perfect at all times, mother is always watching. Every day mother’s wings are flapping around her emerging masterpiece. Of course her daughter must go to the right schools, meet the A list people and become part of their special group. Narcissistic mothers of this variety will mortgage their homes to the hilt to remodel their daughters to suit their delusional grandiosity.
If one daughter does not go along with the transformation project, she will discard her and pick another child. The discarded daughter usually has a hard time because she has lost her mother’s attention and is no longer in a psychological state of her mother’s grace. But those who tough it out can be blessed because they bucked the force of their narcissistic mother’s brainwashing to be forced to be someone else–her mother’s disturbed contorted vision—a series of living masks, not a real person.
When the mission is complete mother engineers a mate for her darling. The right guy must be chosen. This man is the entree for her and her daughter to swim in the precious waters of the elite, to be fully accepted at the highest social levels that hold all of the golden connections. Narcissistic mother is often successful in achieving this. She steers ND in just the right directions. NM goes to the very top—Who is the one who will give mom and daughter a free glorious ride for the rest of their lives? The narcissistic daughter automatically knows how to pursue the partner in waiting and puts him under her control with her womanly powers, her study of this man and his family, her ability to laser focus on him only and her extraordinary guile that have become a finely tuned instrument which she can play anyway she wants. All might appear to be glorious but this is the exterior–a series of highly believable beautiful masks. Beneath them is the highly damaged, psychologically empty real self that has neither voice nor life. This self is unknown to the ND but the projections of rage, extreme entitlement, grandiosity, cruelty, coldness, lack of empathy are always there to psychologically injure others, especially those who dare or are duped into getting close to them.
Narcissistic mothers will always be with us as will narcissistic daughters. Our work is to learn to recognize them in our families, to mourn for the mother we didn’t have, to work through the process of realizing who we really are and to embrace our uniqueness, authenticity, our creative gifts and our capacity for compassion and love.
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.
Freeing Yourself From the Narcissist in Your Lifewill be published in a paperback edition on August 15, 2013.