The narcissistic mother is a special breed. Each narcissistic mother is unique as an individual but their characterlogical traits are commonly identifiable. Outstanding traits include emotional coldness and distance, a complete lack of empathy, extreme sense of entitlement, faulty psychological boundaries which mean a disrespect for the individuality of their children, highly controlling and manipulative. Some narcissistic mothers remind me of military field commanders—shouting out orders, making constant demands, humiliating those who don’t jump to the sound of their voice.
The infant and small child thrives in an environment of affection, warmth, tolerance and acceptance. The essential beginnings are what is called a holding environment in which the baby is physically and psychological held. Mother is attuned to his needs on every level. She is preoccupied with her infant. Psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott,coined the term “maternal preoccupation” to describe the necessary attention and ministration that a “good enough” mother (or mother surrogate) must pay to the infant in order for this person to thrive physically, emotionally, neurologically and psychologically.
With a narcissistic mother there is neither maternal preoccupation nor an adequate holding environment. The narcissistic mother is incapable of these roles. She may go through the motions but her attention is elsewhere (on herself and her needs and desires). She is bored, restless, distracted, annoyed, emotionally distant, aggravated with a helpless creature that is constantly making demands on her attention. In some cases there is a nanny, aunt, or other family member who sufficiently fulfills this role for the baby. I have heard from children of narcissistic mothers who have told me that their real mother was a nanny or babysitter. In some cases an older brother or sister with a compassionate heart will play the mother role sufficiently to fulfill the infant’s needs. In other instances the father steps into the void to “mother” his baby.
Children of narcissistic mothers grieve for the mother they never had. The mother wound is cuts deep and painfully. Some adult children numb out their feelings of loss and deprivation. There is a place inside of them that cannot feel, that is anesthetized because the original mother wound was so devastating.
Some adult children of narcissistic mothers seek to know the truth of their pain and follow it to the source. They grieve their loss of the mother they could have had and mourn the mother they got. Some of these children work through these maternal deprivations through psychotherapy, the development of a meditation practice, use of their creativity and other healing modalities.
There are adult children who continue to struggle with the fact that they cannot believe that they had a mother who was missing a psychological heart. Others learn to mother themselves and to appreciate their true natures and gifts. There are adult children who help to heal the psychological wounds of others—to give them back their lives.
We were born from the parents we got but we are molded and refined out of the crucible we made with our minds, hearts, guts, and souls to work through the past to become open, receptive and fully present every moment.Visit my website: thenarcissistinyourlife.com
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.
Telephone Consultation: United States and International
Book: Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life
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