Beginning with the first moments of life the baby begins to bond with his mother. This is essential to his psychological and physical survival. Mother and baby attach in a loving fusion. The good enough mother ( a term introduced by psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott ) spends many months in a state of maternal preoccupation with her baby. The baby that has left the womb must have this constant care, comfort, feeling of safety in order to thrive. Besides nutritional nourishment, the baby internalizes the caress, smell, gentle sounds, soft soothing touch of mother. Through the long nights when the baby’s hunger cries signal the need to be fed the mother leaves her sleep to feed her tiny infant. These sounds are compelling and the good mother knows instinctively to recognize the different cries of her baby. As the months pass, the bond between the two of them strengthens and the baby begins to recognize that mother is a separate person. The baby has begun to internalize mother into his psyche. This is not the case with the narcissistic mother. Many narcissistic mothers leave the delivery room, go home and are in there office’s within two or three weeks. They may even have a surrogate mother feed the baby after the birth and calm him when he is crying. Not all mothers who return to week early in a baby’s life are narcissistic. However, this kind of behavior is not optimum for the baby’s psychological well being.
The most significant deprivations is a complete lack of psychological and emotional bonding that the child experiences with the narcissistic mother. She is cold, unavailable and preoccupied with herself. You ask yourself: Why did she have children? Maybe she accidentally got pregnant and is going through the motions.
Some narcissistic mothers purposely have children they can show off and put on display as narcissistic supplies and living puppets.
Having a narcissistic mother and not being attached to her is a very difficult psychological legacy for the child. In some cases there are substitutes like an aunt, older sister, grandmother or a nanny. This can make all the difference for the child. In some cases the father becomes the mothering figure and that is fortunate. Some children have no one. They are fed, dressed, sent to bed, given breakfast and sent to school in a mechanical manner. The narcissistic mother is critical, cold, disengaged, unaffectionate and basically has nothing to give her child. The focus of life is herself, not her child. Children who grow up under these circumstances often feel empty inside and find it hard to form warm, secure, trusting relationships with others.
There have always been narcissistic mothers; we now are able to recognize them more specifically. However, there is a serious trend in our society today of the grow of more narcissists and narcissistic mothers. These mothers are not scorned ; they are praised for being able to DO IT ALL. No one can do it all. That is impossible and untrue. What looks lovely on the outside can be a complete nightmare to a child on the inside.
There are adult children of narcissistic mothers who find ways to heal from this deep psychological wound. I have been in contact with many of them. They are strong, caring and often very empathic individuals. They have my deepest respect. To learn about the narcissistic personality in-depth, 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