There is a specific kind of narcissistic mother who appears to be devoted to her daughter. She pays attention to her when others are watching. She makes sure that her daughter is dressed beautifully and has a perfect room. The narcissistic mother puts her daughter on display for everyone to see. She talks endlessly about how special her little darling is to her friends and relatives. There are many photographs of mother and daughter displayed. Anyone who didn’t know the secrets of this mother/daughter relationship would never guess what is going on. These narcissistic mothers use their daughters to burnish their own images of themselves. Playing the role of loving mother means that they can be professionally successful and an extraordinary mother at the same time. From the beginning mother decides what her daughter wants and needs. She is incapable of attuning to the nonverbal and verbal messages that her daughter is communicating.This daughter is like her perfect experiment. She is in complete charge despite the many signs that indicate that this little one is in distress, feels uncomfortable, frightened, etc.
These narcissistic mothers are highly controlling and invasive. As the daughter grows, mother doesn’t allow her to have any privacy. She is always intruding on her child’s private times to be alone, think her own thoughts and express her feelings. This is not allowed, especially since narcissistic mothers don’t have access to their own interior world. They are incapable of empathy–the capacity of understanding how the other person is feeling from her point of view not yours. The mother decides how her daughter should react and is highly critical when she doesn’t behave or respond according to mother’s expectations.
Narcissistic mothers are invasive to the point of reading their child’s dairies and journals, listening in on their private conversations and trying to control their thinking. If the daughter of the narcissist tends is an an independent, creative thinker, she is ridiculed and sharply criticized. She is often called stupid and naive when she makes attempts to share her original ideas. Mother mocks her, even laughs at her child.
The core issue is that daughters of narcissistic mothers are not allowed to be their authentic selves. These mothers are often envious of their daughters who in many cases are more intellectually curious, creative and lively than their tightly wound mothers.
As the daughter grows, the narcissistic mother does not change. Some daughters live in the home only as long as they must and then find ways to leave this psychological prison created by their narcissistic non-mothers. Other daughters wear themselves out trying to please their narcissistic mothers, wanting the love that this mother is incapable of giving.
Those who recognize that their mothers are narcissists and cannot change, often make the leap forward to separate from the cruel unbending yoke to which they have been attached for so long. They step out on their own, find ways to support themselves and finish their schooling. If they are fortunate, they find female mentors who act as surrogate mothers to them. This is part of their healing process. Having separated psychologically and physically from the controlling and invasive narcissistic mother is an enormous achievement. This is a process of many steps forward and at times, movements backwards but the goal seen ahead is one of ever-deepening belief in one’s original self, an independence of mind, the full use of one’s creative gifts and the knowing that you are a loving human being,: unique and wonderful.
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.