The legacy of narcissistic mothering – part II

I am most of the way through the book, Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers right now.

I can tell you one thing I have thought about as I’m raising my daughters and “recovering” from the effects of a narcissistic mother. It is helpful to me to realize that my narcissistic mother who, at first blush, appeared to cause me pain on purpose was simply living out scripts from her own experiences from her own family dynamics.

It is helpful to think that my mother is incapable of re-writing her internal scripts. She did not have the wealth of information at her fingertips like I do now. If, perhaps in her 20s and 30s, she had access to the information like I do, she would have turned out differently and stopped the narcissistic cycle. My mother now is 65. She is in no way going to read a book (or see a therapist) telling her what is wrong with the way she did things and how she caused me and my siblings so much damage. But that’s okay. My recovery doesn’t depend on it. It depends solely on my taking responsibility for my own growth and healing. I’m doing this on one level for my daughters, but ultimately, I’m doing this for myself.

We don’t have to feel empathy for our mothers (I mean, if you can’t feel it, you can’t force it), but we DO need to mourn what we lost as children. We do need to mourn those losses, and we do need to change the focus on external validation (validation we get from our friends and lovers, our teachers, our jobs, or our mothers) to internal validation (the validation we get from listening to our intuitions tell us that we ARE capable of making good decisions and ARE capable of letting go of the past and moving forward). This shift helps us to gain confidence in our inner wisdom. Most often, we do know what’s good for us, only we stop listening to our inner wisdom and instead choose to go against it.

I started the process of listening to my inner wisdom a long time ago and stopped at a certain point (when I was safely out of my mothers influence). But I didn’t realize I wasn’t finished until I had my three beautiful daughters, one of whom that has had a social anxiety so bad she had selective mutism.

In helping her, I got a whole bunch of books, but discarded many of them after a while. Not because they were bad, but because it was too much to take in (though I did take away some things from them). What I had to do was trust in myself that I could figure out what she needed. Turns out she needed exactly what I needed from my mother 39 years ago – safe haven to express my anxieties and someone to help me manage my intense emotions.

But…this didn’t come naturally to me. What I didn’t know at the time was I lacked empathy for my own daughter because my mother didn’t have empathy for me. We had a major setback for a while, until I realized something was very, very wrong. And even when I realized it, and worked hard to change how I responded to her, I still felt resentful that I had to be the one to change.

Why was that? I believe it’s because my mother’s impact on my ability to be truly empathetic was bigger than I ever imagined. This book helped me to realize not only did I need empathy for my daughter, but empathy for myself. I was a very sensitive child and I went into battle after battle with my mother and it left my soul in tatters.

I can’t change what my mother did to me, but I can change how much longer it affects my life and my empathy and my relationship with others, including my daughters. I’m the one who decides when I want it to stop, and it is now.

This entry was posted in abuse, Attachment Parenting, emotion coaching, highly sensitive child, highly sensitive mom, loss of parental love, motherhood, personal growth, personal issues, perspective. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The legacy of narcissistic mothering – part II

  1. Mom Gail says:

    Oh Honey,
    We are so proud of you for realizing that it’s not all you. Your mother was and I assume still is a hard person, just like her dad. She was told often enough that she needed to take better care of you, and that money wasn’t enough. that you girls needed to be hugged often and made to feel loved, but it went in one ear & out the other. What did we know? Well, we knew enough to hug you all and let you know that we loved you despite her. We wish that we could take all of the hurt, and self-doubt and insecurity away from you, But we can only love and encourage you in anything that you do

    Just like the alcoholic, you decide to choose a better way of living and learn to love yourself for who you are. You have come such a long way already, now you’re in the final stretch.

    You may see some of your mother’s tendencies in yourself, but, this we know, you will never inflict that kind of pain on your own children. Learn to be patient with yourself, then it comes easier with others. We don’t have all the answers, maybe not even enough for you to use, but we have an unconditional love and respect for you.
    Dad, & Mom Gail

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    My mother isn’t as hard to me as she once was. Some of her spite died when grandpa died. But she still has her issues, and it still revolves around money/control.

    She does have some redeeming qualities, and occasionally when I really need help, she does offer some assistance. And she is a heck of a lot better to my kids than she ever was too me. But it took me a very long time before I even trusted her to watch my kids (still I only have done that once or twice in the last 7 years).

    As to whether or not I’d inflict that kind of pain…well…I did have trouble with that.

    For some time, I had anger issues that were so hard to contain. Unfortunately, I had expressed some of it, and for a time I went on Zoloft to temper my reactions to the stress I felt when the youngest was just over a year. I had to beg my doctor for the prescription, without telling her the real reasons WHY I needed them.

    Even now, every once in a while…I just reach my limit and I explode. It’s because I haven’t learned how to cope with those intense feelings. And the more tired/worn out I am, the less likely I am to stop and think.

    After those moments, I am immediately ashamed. Sometimes I feel I have no control over them. And immediately I think I am a monster just like my mother.

    It’s a horrible thing to happen. But I know it’s because of how I was treated. And I know it’s because I have a lot to work through yet.

    Thank you for supporting me and being here now. It does mean a lot to me.

    I’m going to write another post about the hugging – or rather the lack of it.

  3. J-viere says:

    I was going to make a long comment here, but I think I will do it over on my blog. Thanks for posting this. I have traveled this way, too, my friend. ♥

    I will tell you more later (gotta fit in some studying and then I can come back to play!)

  4. raisingsmartgirls says:

    J – viere. I do think you need to make the post on your blog. Because it’s part of your story, and your journey. You don’t want it lost on mine. I will be looking forward to reading it.

    Peace my friend…

    And get those studies done so you can play!

  5. Pingback: Ending the Legacy « Raising Smart Girls

  6. Yvonne says:

    I think my recovery has been helped with a huge amount of issues that I was trying to control and hold on to for a very long time, just fell apart.

    I then thought, I have had enough of struggling and trying to control things I cannot control, and with the letting go of all of these issues I began to feel an inner spiritual strength take over. I feel so blessed for going through all of this, cause I have got me in the end. There was so many times I tried to bail, but for some reason I just kept going and never gave up. I accept that I am a work in progress, and have now found the ability to laugh when I f*&$ up. That is why we are all here isnt it? My heart goes out to everyone with a mother like mine. I am the typical scapegoat though and have chosen nearly fifteen years ago to move nearly five hundered miles away from my mother, which includes a hundered miles of sea. She is not a very good swimmer! Seriously though, it is like trying to start my life over from a child in order to establish social boundries. I am so proud of me and love me. This is coming from a person that hated each and every cell of my body, and each thought in my head. Its a hard and difficult road, but it will all be worth it in the end. For anyone stuck in the forest and still in great emotional pain; what worked for me on this journey was to do inner child healing. There are absolutely loads of websites on inner child healing. I managed to do this off my own bat, however I am not recommending that as it may be best if you can find a counsellor that specialises in “inner child healing”. This should be someone that you trust implicidly and if they dont work for you, move on to another one. I think in my own experience, you have to understand the past to build strong foundations for YOUR future. Finally what I recognise now is that I have the responsibility for the emotions that I choose to take on from others. My reaction is my responsibility. However it is very easy for me to say this now. I well know where I was which was suicidal, depressed, angry, sad, confused, hopeless and a totally emotional wreck. I used to be able to taste the poision in my mouth and feel the anger of her in my heart. Anyway, I dont want to go on and on. All I will say that each and every one of you have been told a bunch of lies about who you are. Its a scary place when the only identity you have is one of shame and recrimination. But that is not who you are! Tomorrow is a new day on your new life which will be a journey of discovery. You need to be focused and if your mother is still in your life, a period of separation may be necessary for you to do this work. You are not who you have been told you are. There is much more to you than you think. There is going to be a beautiful and wonderful albeit a very scared little girl inside, so you need to find her, cherish her and love her. It does not matter if you are eight or eighty. Lots of love and courage to you all xx

  7. raisingsmartgirls says:


    Thank you so much for your very heartfelt and wise reply. I appreciate your words so very much and I hope that it inspires others to heal their inner child too.

    I accept that I am a work in progress, and have now found the ability to laugh when I f*&$ up.

    Yes – that is so true. I am a work in progress too. I still haven’t found a way to laugh when I mess up, because I still feel incredible guilt. Especially when it hurts my husband or my kids.

    But…every day is a new chance to get it right, don’t you think?

    Fortunately, even though we are 20 minutes from each other, my mother doesn’t make it over here much.

    The thing that is most troublesome to me is the idea that some of the things I know my mother would say/do, I’ve caught myself doing and I can’t stand it. I’m embarrassed and ashamed I have problems with my negative emotions. I tend to erupt like our family was prone to do. My parents and siblings would blow up, say things we felt but really didn’t mean, and then hurt each other. Then nobody would apologize.

    I apologize a LOT around here, because I know I still struggle in that area.

    It’s tough to deal with the triggers that make me erupt (even when I don’t really want to). I wish I could change that completely, but I need some extra help in that area.

  8. Yvonne says:

    Hi again,

    I hope you dont mind me replying to you again. But empirically feel that the guilt you have is not your guilt to feel. There is a saying that I read years and years ago, and I have just remembered it. “To err is human, to forgive is sublime”. I understand that I am no where near perfect and thats ok. However I do try my hardest to self reflect on where I have gone wrong, and where I can improve for the future. But I do laugh, and think most of the time…..”opps I did it again”.

    Perhaps the guilt you feel is underpinned still by the fear of making mistakes and the fear of recrimination based on your own upbringing?

    To reflect on what you have written and reading between the lines of what you have written I can see a lot struggle still going on inside of you. For example: – “I feel incrediable guilt especially when it hurts my husband or my kids”

    That statement says an awful lot. How do you know what hurts your husband and your children? Is this guilt justified? Are they allowed to make mistakes? Do they have the feelings of guilt when they mess up? If your children don’t now, they will. Children tend to learn from not what we tell them, but how we take care of ourselves.

    Are we not on this earth to make mistakes…………that is how we learn about ourselves, learn about relationships and learn to love ourselves first and we seldom can accept anyone until we accept ourselves.

    I think one goal for you to do, is the next time you fret about something negative that has happened and you feel that you have hurt your husband and children, you will need to self reflect on the situation and it could be good to write it down. Such as what happened. Why it happened. What they did, what you did. Call yourself a different name in the story, as you will probably be able to then look at the situation objectively. For instance thinking about the waltons you could call yourself Mary Ellen. You will then be in a situation where you can see why Mary Ellen acted in the way that she did with the information that she had available to her at that time.

    You may be able to see real strengths in Mary Ellen as she showed many talents. You perhaps can then see situations where Mary Ellen could have said something different or learned something new about the situation.

    You will need to look at it analytically. When this is completed and if you use pencil, you can then get an eraser and rub out Mary Ellen, and in big bright red pen put your name in where hers was, and perhaps you will begin to see the beautiful and divine person you wrote about is actually you. However this story will be true as it will not include your negative patterns of behaviour or misgivings you believe about yourself. That story could be chapter one perhaps?

    When we are little, we from a very young age learn values and beliefs.

    The apologising all of the time is because the beliefs and values that you learned as a little girl was from people that didnt understand how to love themselves and thus how to love you.

    Finally about your eruptions. God, I know exactly how you feel and I felt exactly the same. But something happened about nine months ago which I will explain to you. I have a little girl that is going to be ten tomorrow, however in February this year, she was on school holidays and I was painting upstairs. Before she got up I had cleaned the sitting room, dining room and kitchen. After she got up and had something to eat, I left her downstairs whilst I worked away upstairs. I came downstairs at one point and realised she had filled the whole downstairs of the house with polystyrene balls. I threw the paint brush across the room in a temper and roared at her to go up to her room. Immediately I realised I am MY mother. Of and on this was the pattern of my behaviour. However whilst reflecting on this. It was then that I realised that I do and can control my eruptions as I dont go out to total strangers and throw paintbrushes and begin shouting at them in a temper. Why was I acting this way in front of my own child? It was simple really, BECAUSE I COULD. Therefore I then understood that I CAN CONTROL MY ANGER. Again in my reflection period, I thought what am I doing? or more importantly what am I actually achieving?What does this behaviour really do for me? What does this behaviour do for my daughter. However I also realised that when I got upset that buttons were pushing old emotional wounds. If we dont get healing from those wounds, a similiar situation can be like reliving the event again and again and again. Apparently when we have a scary situation to deal with, there is a chemical reaction in the brain which causes an emotional response. So everytime we think about the situation, or a similar situation, the chemical reaction has already been established, and the emotional response takes place. We might never have to go through that scary situation again, but just even thinking about it, sets of that emotional response. I dont want to overload you with information here. So I will say goodnight to you, and be strong. This life for everyone is a journey and not the destination, so take some time to look at the rainbow and smell the flowers along the way. xxxx

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Yvonne – oh, wow.

      I’m just floored by your honesty. I mean, yes, I could see me doing the same thing. And, in fact, I had today. First time in a LOOONNNNGGGG time I had this much struggle with it.

      My children came home from 2 days at Grandma’s. It’s been a long time since they had a sleepover, and I forget how it takes 2 days for them to re-adjust to being home. They end up so wound up but exhausted at the same time, and they come home cranky (especially my middle child).

      Things have been running so smoothly here for a while, that I forgot how edgy I get when they are over-tired and overloaded from “Camp Grandma”.

      Yesterday it was melt-down city for middle daughter – something she hasn’t done for months. She came home whiny and miserable later in the evening. They probably should have come home sooner so that we didn’t have to rush through the nighttime routine and we could have gotten ready more slowly.

      This morning, middle daughter didn’t want to get out of bed for school. At all. Didn’t want to eat breakfast, didn’t want to get dressed, didn’t want to do anything.
      This hasn’t happened at all since school began 1.5 months ago. It’s been smooth sailing this year, though it happened often enough last year.

      After her school was over, I tried taking the two younger girls to do something “fun” – to the local farm stand to pick out some Indian corn, miniature squash, and a few small decorations for our home. They helped pick out a few things, then complained it was cold and boring.

      Then I took them to somewhere else to collect some acorns that fell off an oak tree and they whined before we got out of the car – and even though they seemed to have fun helping me pick out some good ones, they whined that it was no fun.

      And of course, I’m getting a little grouchy because they are complaining. By the time my husband was home, I felt incredibly jumpy and tense. It wasn’t supposed to be like that.

      When you said,

      Why was I acting this way in front of my own child? It was simple really, BECAUSE I COULD. Therefore I then understood that I CAN CONTROL MY ANGER.

      I know I can too at times. It’s just that a day like today after a night like last night makes it awfully hard to do that. It literally just feels like mental torture to hear her screechy whining and crying.

      Sigh. Fortunately, we don’t have daily occurrences (more like multiple times a day) like that anymore and it’s only rarely. I literally was barely hanging on in those days.

      Things are much better, but I still have a ways to go. I still can’t figure out how to stop getting irritated by those high-pitched meltdowns.

      Thanks for the suggestion about the Waltons/Mary Ellen (I grew up on that show and Little House on the Prairie when I was a girl) and trying to script something different to say.

      I need something ready for the next time. And plan to build in more transition time between Grandma’s house and home, I think. Coming home at 6 pm on a Sunday night isn’t nearly enough time to recoup and get some downtime before bed.

      Thanks for the suggestions. I appreciate you and your thoughtful responses so much.



  9. Yvonne says:

    Google dysfunctional families and the roles that we are made to adopt as children because of this dysfunction.

    Ie. The hero, lost child, mascot and scapegoat.

    You already hold many gifts as you have an awareness and can identify and see your behaviour and the cause and effect.

    You are doing great

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Again I have to say wow!

      I guess for all the googling I’ve done, I never thought to look up dysfunctional families.

      I don’t fit into those 4 roles, but in looking at Wikipedia, I see one that seems to fit me:

      “”The Problem Child” – the child who is blamed for most problems and can also be responsible for the family’s dysfunction, in spite of often being the only emotionally stable one in the family.”

      Thank you so much for providing me with more information. I really need to learn more about this.

      If I could, I’d hug you


  10. Yvonne says:

    Hi Casey,

    Have a look at this website. Also have you read up in co-dependancy?

    If you have not heard of co-dependancy, google a guy called Robert Burney. Hang on, I will also get the link for you.

    I dont for one minute think you are or every were a problem child. You seem to me more a scapegoat. The scapgoat is the child that thinks to themselves, that there is something not right within this family, they are normally of higher emotional intelligence and recognise the dysfunction within the family, but through the eyes of a child. They are also the ones that help the whole family into recovery. Where all psychiatrists and psychologists tend to agree that narcissistic personality disorder is hard to treat, and seldom cureable. However you will need to build a foundation of knowledge of why things happen the way they did, cause and effect. If you have not cried for the child that you were, this will be some work that you may need to do. I cried for three days solid. But it was more of an emotional release to recognise the issues I had within my own family, and learn ultimately to begin to have a relationship with Yvonne and respect who I am. Then all the relationships that I had on the outside changed for ever, as there was now emotional boundaries in place. I changed my job, I got divorced, and lots of other stuff, but that was my journey. I am not recommending you need to do that (ha ha) Robert Burney has done brilliant work on this. I will find the link for you now. xx
    I will have a proper look at your email later on this evening. It seems to me that Grandma has a very low energy based on negativity which is the nature of the illness. Perhaps your children need to sit down at a time where you can engage with them effectively do some game playing with them. I dont know how old they are, but you could get them to draw a picture of her? It will probably resemble a witch. As for the waltons…..what about carrie from sex and the city?????

    The joy 2 me link is excellent. It may be easier to print it all off rather than trying to go forward and back on your computer. Then you can read it at ease. Also the first time you read it, you will probably need to read it again, as there is so much to take in. Unfortunately growing up with a narcissistic parent, when you move out of home, you tend a fair amount of emotional luggage with you, and now is your time to pack those bags, and drop them back at her doorstep. They were never yours to take in the first place. Let me know how you get on

  11. Yvonne says:

    This is something that I thought would help you. I found it on the internet years ago and I thought it was beautiful. Anyway, I have bombarded you with so much information. You have a lot to get on with and much to learn about you and an exciting and beautiful journey to embark on. Ps if you asked me to get out and look at trees today I think I would have been moaning lol it rained all daaaaaaaaaaaay today. Perhaps the next time you all could agree that each of you picks one special acorn for the xmas tree? You could each select the perfect acorn and wrap a small santa letter around it and then some silverfoil for when you all get home. You could take them every week until xmas to pick out one special acorn for one special present. The presents do not have to be expensive, it more of the time together as a family and having a joint achievement. HOWEVER YOU MUST NOT FORGET TO PICK YOUR OWN ACORNS FOR THE XMAS TREE. Rather than presents you could get daddy and children to make up gift vouchers from your children. A back massage or dusting or even a bit of hoovering?
    I am not endorsing child labour lol. Take care x

    I AM – Your Inner Self
    Who I AM is the innocent, the You that you forgot, the moment you were born. What I AM is your Self, the Spirit of your Spirituality the You that your parents, society, teachers and peer groups have taken so much trouble to make you forget.
    Spirit, Spirituality and Expression
    I AM that inner self of you that you cannot see (or don’t want to acknowledge) because of your boundaries, the barriers placed to the concept of your infinity and innocence, the pre-conceived ideas of who you think you are, the illusion you think you are that has been built up by your pre-conditioning, your genetic heritage and with everything that has happened to you since the time of your conception in your mother’s womb.
    In your mind, you judged yourself unworthy. You found yourself guilty of being unworthy and thus, needy. Everything you think you need to learn, on some level You already know.

    You forgot that and in the forgetting have handed your power away to the gurus, masters, teachers, priests of what is sold as Religion and Spirituality.
    The endless search for fulfillment, for happiness, for material possessions, for partners, that you have embarked on is because of that judgment. You had that feeling and now that feeling has all of you.
    Judgment arose from your need to make a choice, whereas, in reality, there isn’t a choice to be made. I, the real You, in the infinity of innocence, your Inner Self have no free will.
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    Free will is an invention you made in order to justify your need to choose. From that need stemmed Your judgment of You.
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    Your judgment of yourself is the root of all of the dis-ease, all of the dis-harmony, all of the doubts, all of the uneasiness you now feel in your body and your mind. You judge yourself. You are the only judge, jury and executioner of you.
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    You forgot that ..
    I AM you .. I dwell .. inside you .. as you .. not somewhere “out there”
    You keep repeating your patterns because you, in your mind, judged yourself that you have not learned the lesson well enough, that you did not achieve Wholeness within your Self. You created that separation and with the separation, all of the choices that you are faced with, all the decisions that you ‘have to make’.
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    Fear is your Lack of Love of your Inner Self,
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    I AM always here. I HAVE always been here. I WILL always be here.
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    each individual living in harmony with the other,
    so it is perfect for each of You to be different.
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    Re-member, accept My existence and allow help to happen. You, in your body are an expression of the innocence of the One Fire – Wholeness.
    Do You dare to be the True Expression of the Inner Self You truly are? Do You dare to allow each and every living thing to be the True expression of who they truly are?

    That is the true definition of Love. Do You dare to be the Lover, the Beloved and the Act of Loving, combined, One?
    Who I AM .. is the innocent – the One Fire expressed in all Being.
    What I AM .. is your Inner Self

  12. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Yvonne –

    Thank you again for your replies. I’m going to have to take some time to absorb all of this. I do appreciate you and the time you are taking to help me out. And yes, there is a lot to read here, so I do want to take some time to read it before I come back and add commentary.

    It’s interesting that you talk about picking acorns, since me and the girls just picked a few the other day for our nature table.

    I’ll email you in a bit to give you my email address so you don’t have to dig it up.

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