Understanding Today's Narcissist
Understanding Today's Narcissist

Episode 70 · 5 years ago

E03: Narcissistic Mothers and Their Daughters

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Narcissistic mothers are often portrayed in popular culture and Disney movies. Discover the hallmark traits of narcissistic mothers and their daughters, and a case study that illustrates the dynamic between them. 

For more information, visit www.growwithchristine.com 

Welcome to understanding today's narcissists, where we will explore how you can better relate and manage the narcissist in your life. I am your host, psychotherapist and author, Christine Hammond. The other day I had a counseling session with one of the most difficult relationships to navigate through, and that is the narcissistic mother and her daughter. There are a lot of reasons why this is true and, ironically enough, we can see some of those reasons even within Disney movies, who constantly portrayed the narcissistic mother and their child. If you think about it for a second, we have Cinderella's stepmother, who is a humiliating type of a narcissist who is neglectful and even snubs her own stepchild after the trauma of having lost her father. Then you can move from Cinderella to Snow White,...

...where Snow White's mother is a cutthroat narcissist, where she just goes after anybody she wants to and is especially obsessed with anybody who might be more beautiful than her. This case it winds up being Snow White, and she actually tries to kill Snow White because because she's more beautiful than her. And finally, we turn to Rapunzel, whose mother is actually not her mother. As you see in the scene, her mother, the mother that she grows up with, is actually the person who kidnapped her away from her biological mother, and this form of adopted mother is a helicopter parent who completely isolates Rapunzel from the rest of the world, even lying about her daughter's birth, demands constant loyalty and insists that she's always right, as made famous by that Song, mother knows best. So, having seen that even in the Disney movies, we know that if something plays out really well in fiction, it also plays...

...out especially well in real life. So, because art imitates life, we can look at actual life stories of people who have this and the other day I had such an incident where I had a narcissistic mother with her daughter coming in for session and to Protect People's privacy, we were going to call the daughter Amy. That will make it a lot easier for us. And so when these two came in for the session, the purpose of the session was because the daughter wanted to wanted to reconcile in some sort of way with her mother. She wanted to try to get to some kind of terms where they could be speaking on a normal basis and being able to go out and do things. So we came in, we started having conversation. Everything seemed to be fine. The mother was doing her typical charm with me and was very pleasant to be wished. She looked amazing, she looked great as always, and and as we started to proceed with the conversation, I started noticing that the mother started throwing little bombs towards her daughter about, you know, her...

...daughter being too thin and how she wasn't really responsive to the mother. And the next thing I know, my daughter just says a couple of grant and they were pretty snarky comments towards her mother, and the mother then explodes and goes on a rant that was just unbelievable, saying some of the most horrific things that a mother should never say to a child and acting in a way that was totally inappropriate. Well, as a counselor, I have some pretty strong protective instincts and I can tell you that all, every last one of them kicked in in that moment and I wanted to saved my client from her mother. But then when I looked over at a me, I noticed that amy had a smug look on her face, like she was happy that her mother was doing this and kind of satisfied about it. So I let it go for a while just to kind of see how it would all play out. And later, after the mother left, amy and I had a chance to talk and she confessed to me that she had done that on purpose and the reason she had caused her mother to escalate was because she wanted somebody to...

...see, not that she she always knew that, I believed her, but she wanted somebody to actually see what her mother was capable of, because everybody believed this facade that the mother walked in the door with and nobody really saw her for who she was and the way that she actually treated her daughter, and she wanted somebody that not only could see it, but somebody that would believe her daughter, that was totally on her side and that a person that she felt safe with. So so at the end it wound up being a productive session, although I don't normally like to have verbal abuse going on in sessions, that's definitely what it was from the narcissistic mother she to her daughter. It was massive quantities of verbal abuse. So today I want to kind of talk about this mother daughter relationship, in the dynamics of it and why it goes so crazy and why the narcissistic mother escalates to the point of either cutting off their child entirely or finding nitpicking about all kinds of little things over their kid. And how in the world do we get here from from the...

...very beginning until the end? So let's look at what happens when a woman is pregnant and she's a narcissist. So a pregnant narcissist. There is just a ton of attention that is given by family and friends and even strangers to a pregnant mom. Think about it. People walk up to you, they ask you how long, how far along you are? They they want to know, they're curious. There's a sense of hopefulness, anticipation, Shin and positivity that comes along with just the sight of a pregnant woman. This, of course, feeds a narcissistic ego because they're getting lots of attention and they're getting from all kinds of people, from everywhere. But here's here's the key. While they're getting the narcissistic attention, they are very, very aware and selfconscious of the fact that their body is changing and they are hypersensitive to the changes that are happening to their physical appearance. So once the baby actually is born, the attention now shifts to the child, to the new born,...

...as opposed to the mother. This is like a shock to the narcissistic mom's reality, because she was getting all of the attention for almost nine months and now she gets nothing and all the child gets everything. So almost immediately the mother becomes envious of their newborn and so one of two things actually occur at that moment. The mother will either pull away from the child and not attached at all to the child, or they will bring them closer so as they get attention by default for holding the child, and then nobody else is allowed to hold the child, come close to the child, have any contact with the child. The narcissistic mother is in complete control. So that is a pregnant narcissistic mother. So let's move to the very first stage of development. The very first stage of development of psychosocial development, as defined by Eric Ericsson, is trust versus mistrust. This is just a foundational stage and without it people don't ever develop a sense of trusting other people or they develop a sense...

...of mistrusting. This was proven over and over again in studies that were done through orphanages, where children didn't have anybody that they were actually attaching to as an infant and and so they developed the sense of mistrust and the consequences of it at in adulthood were oppositional defined behavior, conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, amongst just a few, paranoid personality disorder. Those are just a few of the consequences of a mistrustful first couple of years. So trust foster's hope and faith in an infant that their caretaker is going to take care of them, while mistrust does the opposite. It cultivates an environment of suspicion and constant fear. So at the hands of a narcissistic mother, this stage promotes two very extreme versions of both trust and mistrust. So instead of trust being normal...

...where you trust not only the caretaker but then their trust is extended to other people, trust is translated into a fixation for the mother. So it's a total, complete fixation that the child has for the mother, where they do not trust anybody else but the mother, while mistrust is actually converted into parent paranoia and even panic. So the mistrust is even worse extreme of that, because the narcissistic mother is completely detached, totally rejected the child, which results in just this constant fear of panic all the time. Both both. Make sure you hear me on this. Both the mistrust and the trust that comes out of a narcissistic mother fosters the development of anxiety in a child, and that anxiety is quite severe, especially because that child will have a lifetime of trying at an unconscious level to either maintain if they have earned the trust of their mother, or earn the trust of their mother if they have not earned...

...the trust of their mother and they mistrust her. So it's an unconscious thing that the child is constantly trying to resolve. That goes way into adulthood. The next thing that happens after that is we have two radical forms of mothering. So one is the helicopter mom and the other is the helicopter mom. That helicopter mom is is the one that fosters trust in the child. So in front of others, this mom seems to be just unbelievably perfect in every aspect of the kid's life, but in reality the child is not allowed to make even the slightest of decisions and the mom completely hijacks the development of autonomy and initiative, which are essential to healthy adulthood. The child becomes a physical extension of the mother's identity which is unable to be separated at any point in time. In exchange for the mother's total commitment and loyalty to the child, that mother is going to expect the child to worshhip her, at her feet,...

...and so there's this constant feeding of the narcissistic ego and the need for admiration, so others will see this perfect child and then and then they revere the mother for her excellent parenting skills, which again feeds the narcissistic ego. The other type of mother is the neglectful mother, and this mother cultivates mistrust and a child. There's an obvious emotional disconnect, because the mother uses every opportunity to hand off the child to others to parent, so other people become the parent of the child. Love is withheld from the child in this strange, abusive game where it is only dolled out in little, small quantities and it is extraordinarily performance driven. It is very conditional love. It is not unconditional. So the mother literally dangles her love on a string, demanding this performance from her child, everything from good grades to great athleticism to looking perfect all the time. When the child actually catches the Bait, the mother actually...

...raises the stakes even higher. This is the key. It's not like the child actually gets to obtain the love. It's this constant okay, you met that Bar, now it goes even higher than that and next time you have to jump higher, and so it says, constant game where they are even shaming the child into some type of level of perfectionism. The child eventually learns to ignore the mother's luring, which causes the mom to become even more irritated and patient with the child. Sensing this disinterest, because narcissist cannot stand to be ignored at any level, the mother uses the opportunity to become the victim in front of others, citing the child's behaviors evidence, and that's kind of what I saw in my session, where the mother was literally trying to become the victim and citing the child's behavior, even though the child has really not done anything wrong, but she was nitpicking the child to death in front of me. She did this in order to try to gain sympathy for herself and not for the child, which results in the child feeling even more disconnected and...

...more abandoned, and that was obviously seen by by my client, amy, who feels very abandoned by her mother, and that is going to be an unresolved conflict for her and one of the many reasons why she's in therapy right now. In the end, narcissistic mothers produced two types of children, one who becomes an adult well advanced in years, because they have to learn how to deal with things and cope with things much more so than their peers at a very young age, or the other one who is constantly dependent and feels entitled and that others should just give them things all the time and they shouldn't really have to work for anything. Sadly, both of these types are going to require counseling, because a narcissistic mother is truly one of the scariest of all personalities. Thank you for listening to understanding today's narcissist if you've enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast on Itunes to make sure that you don't...

...miss another one. If you'd like to learn more, you can visit us at grow with christinecom thanks so much for listening and we'll be back next time with a new episode.

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