Psychologically Controlling and Invasive Narcissistic Mothers

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.

7 thoughts on “Psychologically Controlling and Invasive Narcissistic Mothers”

  1. Comment:From Sooty
    (Oh lordie, another one about me… and I’m a son, not a daughter.)

    ‘Devoted’ to me… yes… as long as she figured she’d get what she wanted out of me – which she seldom did, because I was far from submissive at any age.
    ‘On display’… yes… difficult – because I would usually end up being an embarrassment to her 😀 – but that didn’t stop her trying. Not to mention of course, the one she and her mother decided to do to ‘make me perfect’…they managed to persuade an eye surgeon to ‘correct’ a non-existent ‘problem’ with my eyes – when I was just 18 months old(!). He screwed up – and I now have a real eye problem for life.
    But hey, she still looked on the bright side! I was then even more of an exhibition piece as she would “put me on display” as the damaged goods to which she was -so- devoted!

    She was ‘incapable of attuning to the nonverbal and verbal messages… my wants and needs…’
    As a child… “Mom, I’m bored… what can I doooo? What can we talk about?”
    “You can – wash the dishes…!”
    OMG…! “Hey, I am a BOY!!! I want to talk and dream about – flying Airplanes! – being a Cowboy! – Climbing Trees! – and Mountains! – Racing cars! – going into Space!” And in my teens, “Bruce Lee!”
    ‘Mother mocks… even laughs at her child…’ Oh yeah… I remember the sickly, soppy, dismissals of me to her ‘friends’… “Oh he’s such a -silly- child! His -silly- talk about… airplanes and things!”
    And on… and on…
    And the love I never got… yeah. The ’empty pit’…
    Well… my ‘difficult’, fiery temperament got me through. Later on, Horses! I Raced Cars!… And climbed a few Mountains! Flew Airplanes… (never got into space, but hey!) Martial Arts!… and eventually I discovered -being Human-!
    The ’empty pit’ still needs some work but…

  2. Comment:From Rosie

    You nailed it! The core issue is that we (daughters) are not allowed to be ourselves…how suffocating and poisonous is that. Created to be myself, but for too long imprisoned and controlled by a so called mother. When i finally was able to leave her side, I could not believe that the world had so much to offer….I was very weak and afraid, but never to the point of going back to that misery. She expected me to fail and to go back and beg her for mercy, because in her mind, as she used to tell me, I was her servant, and she was the master. Eventhough I never had a female mentor, i found a loving husband who was patient enough to help me through the healing process.

  3. Comment:From Tanya
    Wow! Now things are starting to all make sense… I’ve been married to my husband for 6 years now, and I have 4 step children (3 girls and 1 boy) and my husbands ex-wife… Well she IS exactly what you’re describing! I knew that she may have some form mental illness, but never this bad. My step son has moved in with us because he just couldn’t take the wrath of his narcissistic mother any longer. His sisters told that they can’t speak to him because he has betrayed her by moving in with his “loser” father. The things that he has told us, thus far about his mother all make sense now. It really breaks my heart. And now I fear.. I fear from the last two daughters that live there with her. One of them is graduating this June, and will hopefully be off to University. But the youngest still has a few years left. It makes sense that the girls behave the way they do, towards my husband and I now. They are rude, they lie… To protect their mother, but also they just lie in general. They are very cold towards us. They are manipulative and they treat us very poorly, especially my husband. They say that he abandoned them, and they say that he doesn’t support them financially a which is all a big fat lie. I can’t believe all this time, that I didn’t figure out that she was narcissistic woman… She has been VERY rude to me, when I’ve tried helping the kids in any way. I’ve tried to make peace with her and apologize when I did nothing wrong, all for the sake of my step kids and nothings has worked! I’m assuming she will never change right? It has been SO hard dealing with these 4 kids, (especially when i don’t have children myself) and has really tested our marriage in more ways than one. As much as I’ve tried and still try to have a relationship with these kids, I see that they are broken and not normal, however They still protect her… Even when they know she has done wrong and still doing wrong. How do I approach them? How do I try to reach out to them? After all it’s not their fault that this is happening to th!
    em. But I don’t see how I can really begin to help. If you have any advice for me please…

  4. Isn’t this seriously all mothers? Yes, my Mom is annoying as hell, but I’ll probably miss her when she’s gone.

    Stuff she’s done – want to take control over my wedding planning, guilt me throughout the process, change the date multiple times, guilt trip me when at the last minute I finally took things into my hands and planned it myself in 3 months. Express bitterness over being “left out” in the process even though she clearly had no plans or motivation to actually carry the planning through to the end, irrespective the damage that might do.

    Offer childcare and then pull back on it immediately after I got pregnant. Halfway through my pregnancy she decided, after encouraging me to get pregnant, she was too young to retire. Put me in a really bad situation. Later, bemoan how she never gets enough time with the grandkids.

    Criticize every house we looked at. Imply I was a bad mother to consider any of these. Take control of our building process, insisting that we just “buy” the house she builds “if we like it.” Get us to commit to her house. Hire my husband’s father (who is a builder), bitch him and my husband out, finally threaten to sue (and not pay him) over “building flaws.” Blame everyone but herself when it goes over budget. Resist any advice and actually fall through the 2nd floor and break her leg.

    At the hospital – bitch about the care I gave her. Resist all help with rehabilitation. Insist that everything be done at her house. Ultimately rebuff my efforts to keep her safe winding up in a nursing home for a week. Piss off the workers so badly they would not let her go. Express little gratitude to the war I had to wage to get her out of there.

    Resist all requests that she take a break from the house and go spend time with Grandpa with us on vacation. Grandpa died this December. Resist all requests that he get morphine and be left to die in peace rather than be tortured to death with pnemonia.

    Resist all opportunity to be with the rest of the family. When visiting, criticize me for having a “why SO LARGE?” painting of Grandpa put up in my house. Insist on bringing over her own food (again). Leave tons of salt free sugar free tasteless food in my house.

    And so many other things. Call me a broken horse 10 years ago when I struggled in college.

    So many other things. Locking the fridge up when I was a teenager to “control my eating.”

    I’m just tired of it.

    But I know I will probably miss her when she’s gone. She’s just mentally ill. I miss the Mom I had when I was 8. But we don’t choose.

    Reflecting on all of this doesn’t help really. We have to accept our family as they are. Annoying as hell is sometimes how they are. But better to have them than to not.

    Grandpa was great and graceful. But even if he weren’t we’d miss them. Cutting someone off entirely is like killing them to yourself. It’s never great.

    We just limit exposure to once or twice a week. Enforce rules and talk back in our house. I find she cows down if I assert myself. Sucks to have to do this at the age of 30 when she is turning 60 but, oh well.

    One day she will be full blown senile. That’s just life.

  5. Some people don’t really understand narcissism, as seen in many posts on npd websites. Some think their parents are narcs because they didn’t get their way. Some people defend narcs, usually ones who have ingrates for kids or have been accused of having NPD. It’s beyond “annoying”. It’s toxic and damaging. And with the severity in some folks, the kids end up so damaged that they try to kill themselves. Some kids are stronger than others, but many just suffer.

    This definitely doesn’t apply to all mothers (as one commenter asked). And when they die, you may miss the good times…if you ever had them. But when the bad outweighs the good, their victims should NOT feel guilty for feeling relief. That feeling is natural. Yes, it may come with sadness that the relationship was damaging instead of nurturing. It’s the very definition of bittersweet for some. A lot of adult kids will look back on their lives and realize they never lived it. Their parents lived it for them. They lived in guilty devotion to their narc, but never blossomed, never found healthy relationships, and never felt their purpose or fulfillment.

    The best thing a kid can do is take care of their own mental health so they can avoid ending up the same way (or attracting a long line of narc mates). And take on whatever skilled trade or degree you can get (community college is great for avoiding the lure of Unis and the resulting debt) so you can move away asap, and see the world!

  6. I think you have nailed it! I am turning 59 this year and my 91 year old mother is still at it! I had a not so easy life, feeling guilty all the time! She always discouraged me whenever I was interested in something and made me feel worthless! Don’t know if I will ever get through this but it takes a lot of energy just trying to keep my head above the water!

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