From the time we are born narcissistic mothers pick away at us bit by bit. Some take the direct primitive route and slap us across the face and hit us whenever they feel the mood strike them. Others are more subtle and insidious, making small digs about our weaknesses and imperfections. This is especially painful if there is a golden boy or golden girl sibling in the household who is adored for simply existing.
The drip, drip drip of criticisms, humiliations and embarrassments is overwhelming. A young child subjected to this kind of abuse by a narcissistic mother has too much to bear. This child is filled with fear and apprehension–always in a state of suspended fright. “What is going to happen to me next?” “When is mother going to start screaming at me again and saying I am stupid and worthless?” “Will she shove and hit me again?” These questions thunder through the child’s nervous system and set up a pattern of fight or flight and resonates throughout the entire body. There is nowhere inside or outside to feel safe. Sometimes the other parent can be a source of comfort but often the narcissistic mother marries a man who thinks little of himself and whom she can completely control. Some siblings get very close and make an effort to protect themselves against mother’s constant rages.
Those who have grown up in these highly chaotic and stressful family’s often suffer from a variety of psychological and physical symptoms: headaches, stomach aches, free floating anxiety, anxiety attacks, emotional numbing, various depressive states, etc.
Recognizing that you mother is a narcissist and that she has the psychopathology—not you– is the beginning of severing a relationship with someone who has made your life miserable and frightening. She has worn you down and eclipsed your opportunities to grown as an individual with many unique gifts and to experience feelings of calmness, protection and emotional security.
As a child you were her prisoner. As an adult you now can make the decision to be free of her now. Don’t wait for her to change. That is never going to happen. When you leave this psychological gulag you will discover that your physical, mental and emotional energy increases and your creativity flourishes. The real self is always moving toward healing. We have to learn to be receptive to this process throughout our lives as we become whole and eventually feel our spontaneity grow, our humor blossom and our loving heart grow in warmth and compassion.
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.