The thing with flashbacks is that you never know what will trigger one, but it can be healing to stay open to the secrets they hold. I have only recently begun experiencing flashbacks. I didn’t know what they were at first, but as I became comfortable sitting with my feelings, I became curious about them and wanted to understand the lessons they had to teach me.
We invest so much into our relationships. Even toxic ones. We give and give of ourselves, we sacrifice our wants and needs for another person. We give them the shirts off our backs, and then we realize they are only taking our love and giving us poison in return. This is what makes the relationship toxic.
It then becomes a choice between our own sanity or maintaining the insanity of the relationship. The home we live in and having to sleep on someone’s couch. Staying put or moving cross-country. Familiarity or the Great Unknown. Financial security or scraping by. Waiting around to be acknowledged for all we are and all we’ve done or acknowledging ourselves and expecting nothing in return but our own freedom.
Whether it’s a narcissistic mother, father, spouse, sibling, in-law, or long-time friend, there will come a time when it is necessary to wash our hands of them and walk away from our investments. The toxic dynamic isn’t just hurting ourselves, it’s permeating throughout all other areas and affecting every aspect. It is stealing from the world around us by sucking the life-force out of us and keeping us from fulfilling our purpose. Once we make the choice to let go of a toxic relationship, it becomes easier to make that choice every time we are called on to do so.
An Evolution of Walking Away from Narcissists
The first time I made a decision to walk away from a toxic relationship was when I went no contact with my mother. My very first human connection was also my very first conscious disconnection. It was a big one, a painful one, and a controversial one but it was the one in which I had the most intimate and intricate knowledge of how deep and real the toxicity was. It had poisoned my life for thirty-three years. It had nearly destroyed my health, self-worth, and my sanity.
I was in therapy and self-educating about the full spectrum of narcissistic personality disorders when I realized my mother was a malignant narcissist and would never be capable of self-awareness or change. She confirmed it when in our last conversation ever, I said I would be willing to work out our differences in the presence of a counselor and she screamed, “THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN!” At which point, I had to make a change for myself, my sanity, and my health. I left behind the story of my life. The story that had defined who I was and where I belonged in the world. I left behind the codependent dynamic that would have been a kind of safety net for me in bad times and way of sharing life in the good times. I walked away from any legacy, inheritance, or sense of belonging. I left behind my father and my sister. I walked away from my future children’s grandparents and any hope of being unconditionally loved by a mother and father. It was the best decision I ever made. It caused me to have the space in my head to focus on my marriage which had been tumultuous, to say the least, for all of its three years.
About a year later, I walked away from my marriage. With my therapist, I was able to connect all the ways in which I was drawn to my ex-husband because of his similarities to my mother and father who are both narcissists. I started to understand that my ex-husband’s behavior was triggering my Complex-PTSD symptoms. With every panic attack that caused me to feel like I was losing my mind, I sought answers to what was wrong with me.
By separating from my husband and physically getting away from the toxicity, I realized that, indeed, I was not going insane, my relationship was a crazy-making one, and that my husband was emotionally and psychologically abusive. I made a choice for my own good, for his good, and for the good of his two children to not be a part of the abusive crazy-making any longer. Rather than dragging my husband to therapy and trying to get him to change, I decided to change myself, my location, and my marital status.
As empaths, we can become so focused on reading the other person, that we don’t have any space to be present in our own bodies. When I was able to look inward and sense what I needed, a plan of action became much more clear. I left behind my home, career, a joint bank account, and my life partner with the clothes on my back, the debt I had incurred while supporting him, and my rusted out Chevy Malibu. I borrowed money from a friend to put a deposit down on a rental, and took nothing of my ex-husband’s except his name.
I spent some time out of town, visiting family, and traveling. I started to engage situations in which I felt used or manipulated with a better sense of self. Rather than acquiescing without question or flying off the handle, I started to think, “What is my boundary here? What are my choices as an autonomous human being?” I began to feel less pulled around by my nose, as I had my entire life, and more in control of my feelings, my life, and my choices. It wasn’t my job to tell someone they were overstepping their bounds, it was my job to maintain my own boundaries.
With this newfound sense of self, I came home to file for divorce and move back in with my former roommate. I had been living with her when I got engaged to my ex-husband. I walked back into her house five years later a completely different person than the one who had left. Since I had gotten married, emancipated from my parents, and divorced, I had a stronger sense of myself and a very low tolerance for toxic people. I had become a badass (only in the sense that I wasn’t a complete pushover any longer).
I had been living there about a week, and, in that time, my former roommate tried to gaslight and control me by using manipulation, lying, nitpicking and threats. It quickly dawned on me that our entire relationship had been built on this toxic dynamic. I hadn’t noticed it before, not like this. I knew she was bossy and demanding and left nitpicky post-it notes everywhere, but I didn’t realize that our relationship had only worked because I would jump when she said, “Jump.”
I had become impervious to her narcissism, and this agitated her. By simply maintaining my personal boundaries for a week, she suddenly flew into a narcissistic rage, threw all of my belongings outside and changed the locks while I was away from home. She sent a text telling me what she had done without any explanation as to why. The cops who escorted me into her house stated that I had several grounds on which to sue. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “She isn’t worth it,” and walked out.
Toxic people are not worth the energy and resources it would take to get back what they take from us. Whether it’s physical, emotional, or financial, the less contact with a narcissist, the better. Leaving behind the things and emotions that tied us to the narcissist makes room for things of great value; a sense of self-worth, the capacity for real love, and the room to pursue our true passions. Life without a toxic person or the things we left in the past with them is so much more enriching than anything we could have retained.
It’s All About Boundaries
As Adult Children of Narcissists, we never had a chance to develop personal boundaries. I used to tell my therapist, “It’s like I have a sign on my forehead that says, ‘Walk all over me.’” In a way, I did. The fences around my lawn had been removed years before, leaving holes where fence posts should have been, and the muddy footprints from the trampled sod were an open invitation to any and all narcissistic personalities I came in contact with. It isn’t that we are asking to be abused, our lack of boundaries just lets anyone who doesn’t believe in boundaries wander in where other people have deterrents that aren’t worth the narcissist’s trouble.
When we first start placing our boundaries, we’re having to work hard to figure out who’s been trampling our lawns and how to shoo them away when they nonchalantly start climbing the fence to come back in. It may be difficult to fully recognize emotional and psychological abuse as abuse. Once we start making connections and being present in our feelings, it’s like finding clues to whose footprints have done the most damage in our lives. We can then recognize who to enforce those boundaries we are building with, and understand how much energy will need to go into maintaining them Many times, with a narcissist, it will mean packing up and moving to a new homestead altogether.
Hope of Healing
I hope we all find a peaceful place to land in order to heal from our pain. Healing is within our grasp, we only need to take action. Leave the lions, join the empathic herd, and run, gazelle, run to a bigger, brighter future full of love, peace, and happiness.
How have you set boundaries with the narcissist in your life?
Mothers who are malignant narcissists are the worst kind of narcissists. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The malignant narcissist latches onto to her victims like a cancerous tumor and has a deadly effect. Her narcissism is not only spiteful, malicious, and malevolent, it is dangerous, deadly and incurable. Like a malignant tumor, she is best cut out of one’s life altogether. However, it may be difficult to ascertain if her actions and behavior are abuse. A malignant narcissist mother will couch all of it inside the appearance of being a lovely, caring, and emotionally intelligent human being.
People are easily fooled by her.
Malignant Narcissists are described by Carrie Barron, M.D. as:
“Intelligent, high functioning, soft-spoken, charming, tearful/seemingly emotional, gracious, well mannered, kind and have the ability to form relationships.”
Living with the toxicity of a malignant narcissist mother is like being slowly poisoned to death. Her daughter will not notice the effects of the poison, because she was nursed on the poison, raised on the poison, sustained by the poison. To her, the poison is Life. She is being slowly killed by the poison. The poison that the malignant narcissist mother feeds her child is the message that the she is unseen, unheard, and unimportant. It is traumatizing to any human being, let alone a child.
Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., author of The Body Keeps the Score says that,
“Trauma almost invariably involves not being seen, not being mirrored, and not being taken into account.”
Where a nurturing mother responds to her child as a unique individual, helping her learn who she is in the world, a malignant narcissistic mother projects her own fragile, over-inflated ego and self-image onto her child until she elicits the behavior and responses that echo back the things she wants to see and hear about herself . Her child is not an autonomous human being. Her child is an object, born to serve her and her needs. If the mother’s needs are not met by her daughter she can easily cast her aside. She may even neglect or punish her child for trying to express her own needs or desires. Anything about the child that does not serve the mother is obliterated through any means necessary. From the beginning, the child’s Self is denied. Aborted. Her soul is murdered and her brain and body adapt to living as a puppet in order to survive life with the malignant narcissist. This is all done with the appearance of being a good mother.
The Appearance of Good
The malignant narcissist appears to be a loving and devoted mother to her daughter. She will smother the child with physical affection and flattery to give the appearance of love and trust. Her children will cling to her as though their lives depended on it. This behavior can linger well into teenage years and adulthood. This kind of public display is often so pronounced that people cannot help but comment on what a loving family they seem to be. The mother will use this as proof she is an exceptional mother to her children, and her children will believe it is imperative to keep up the act. This makes the daughter an active participant in the mother’s deception and creates a warped sense of reality.
A malignant narcissist mother can be very religious, having every appearance of being spiritual and pious. The malignant narcissist skillfully uses Christianity as a tool in her abuse. She becomes a kind of god to her own children in the dispensing of arbitrary judgment, punishment, and rules. Scriptures are used as a way of manipulating innocent souls into believing that the whims at which they suffer are decreed by an almighty God and they are powerless to protect themselves. In this way, the malignant narcissist may divert the blame for her daughter’s unhappiness and simultaneously condemn her for being so rebellious against the Lord, the Church, and her parental authority. The mother will subject her children to lengthy and circular monologues that serve as a way of striking fear into her victims. The fear this induces in her daughter is very effective spiritual abuse designed to manipulate her daughter into compliance.
The malignant narcissist can appear to be best friends with her daughter, especially as she enters her teen years. This is a way the mother can have access to controlling her daughter’s relationships and influencing her life choices at a time when she ought to be learning to be independent. The mother and daughter will be enmeshed and codependent under the guise of having a loving mother/daughter relationship and the daughter will struggle with her own identity at a very crucial developmental stage.
Behind the Mask
The malignant narcissist mother utilizes mind games, control, isolation, spying, shaming, name-calling, rage, even the infamous “look”, something she uses with great skill and stealth, to keep her children in line. She keeps her offspring so uncertain of her approval and their own reality that they cannot help but cling to the belief that they are on this earth to make Mama happy. The children who fear abandonment and ridicule quickly learn to fall in line with the erratic behavior and demands of the malignant narcissist.
Any daughter who threatens to tarnish the malignant narcissist mother’s public image by asserting herself, speaking her truth, or trying to escape the abuse is treated as an outcast and her name is smeared to family and friends. Her mother will use triangulation to threaten and bully her into submission. She will start a smear campaign and claim the daughter is victimizing her. Her daughter will feel that there is no area in her life that her mother cannot reach into and destroy, and she will feel there is no escape.
Any spouse of the narcissist who does not enable the malignant narcissist mother in her abuse of his children is smeared to her children and/or banished from her life. This also serves to cut her daughter off from any moral support system that may help her become independent in life. Whether she is psychologically bullied into despising her own father or physically removed from his presence, it is effective enough to prevent any real bond with a parent who can be of help to her. Whether a malignant narcissist mother remains married to her children’s father or not, she will use triangulation and smear campaigns to create distrust between her children and their father.
When a malignant narcissist mother gets divorced it adds another layer of separation, confusion and stress into the family dynamic. Experienced Arizona divorce attorney Chris Hildebrand notes:
“Kids are not only stressed by the family breakup, they are actively solicited to take the narcissist’s side and manipulated by them in ways that will tear them apart.”
The courtroom is just another stage on which the malignant narcissist can perform her martyrdom act, and judges are just as susceptible to being fooled as anyone else. She will be ruthless in her pursuit of her own interests. Her children will simply be pawns used to further her own agenda. Divorce attorney Chris Hildebrand explains she does this because,
“In order to maintain the grandiose and inflated personality he or she has created, your narcissist spouse will go into the divorce court intending to win all issues at all costs.”
This can mean winning full custody, child support, and other financial benefit while maintaining control of the narrative to her friends, family, and offspring to appear as the innocent martyr and savior. This control over the narrative allows for further manipulation of the children and their father for as long as she has influence over them. This can last for as long as she has custody, or well into her daughter’s adult years. Many adult daughters of malignant narcissists are horrified to discover they had believed lies about their estranged fathers for decades, only to find that he too had been lied to and manipulated into staying away.
The malignant narcissist mother is paranoid and wary of anyone who might see through her act. She will only keep friends and lovers who are not capable of seeing her for who she really is. She will prey on those who seem weaker than her. Her relationships will be shallow with an obvious imbalance of power in her favor. The malignant narcissist will surround herself with compliant and naive individuals who will worship the ground she walks on and never set boundaries with her. She will easily write people off as “bad” for seemingly unknown reasons if they do try to set personal boundaries. Because the malignant narcissist is constantly changing alliances, judging others harshly, and presenting herself as superior to all her peers, her daughter can become wary of trusting anyone. The daughter is solely focused on ascertaining the moods and erratic desires of her mother.
The malignant narcissist will see her daughter as competition as she grows older and she will unleash a fresh, unholy hell that involves living vicariously through her and stealing her identity. Her mother will isolate her from friends, control her relationships, and flirt with her romantic interests. She will compete for the attention and affection of her daughter’s peers and think nothing of sabotaging her relationships. She will try to prove her attractiveness and sexual prowess to her daughter so there is no mistaking that she is superior to her daughter. She will act jealous as she faces the reality that her daughter is growing in attractiveness and maturity and will soon surpass her in desirability due to her youth. She will oversexualize her daughter while shaming her about sex and relationships. The daughter will struggle with body image and her own budding sexuality. She may even suppress her own desires and development in order to protect herself from her mother’s scorn.
A daughter may be used as a source of income as she nears adulthood. A malignant narcissist will go so far as taking her daughter’s savings, stealing her daughter’s social security number to start a new line of credit and abuse it, or guilting her into staying close to home to help support her financially and emotionally. The daughter can feel helpless to support herself financially or emotionally and remove herself from her mother’s grip. Her mother has taken credit for her accomplishments so that she feels impotent to achieve anything on her own. Her mother will readily use sabotage to prevent her from following her own life path.
The Physical Symptoms of Psychological Abuse By a Malignant Narcissist
The children of a malignant narcissist feel trapped in a world that is frightening to them while having to act as though all is well. Protecting the malignant narcissist by keeping secrets becomes a way of life. Living a lie in order to survive can cause a child to split from her own Self, and can lead to feeling dissociated, disconnected, alienated, and ashamed for a lifetime. We feel uncertain of ourselves, even in a world of self-deprecating vulnerability. Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D., author of The Body Keeps the Score states:
“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”
The emotional and psychological abuse by a malignant narcissist can have lasting and devastating physical effects on her daughter as well. Dr. van der Kolk has done extensive research and study on trauma-related health issues and explains what happens with trauma victims:
“Ideally our stress hormone system should provide a lightning-fast response to threat, but then quickly return us to equilibrium. In PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) patients, however, the stress hormone system fails at this balancing act. Flight/fight/freeze signals continue after the danger is over. . . . Instead, the continued secretion of stress hormones is expressed as agitation and panic and, in the long term, wreaks havoc with their health.”
The psychological war-zone a malignant narcissist mother creates will make her daughter hypervigilant and hyper-alert, causing her to live in a state of continuous elevated cortisol levels. This will manifest itself physically and cause the daughter to develop autoimmune disorders, chronic widespread pain, back pain, stomach problems and signs of post-traumatic stress, such as panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, and migraines. She will struggle with depression and anxiety to the point of wondering if her life is worth living. Those of us raised by malignant narcissists will struggle with Complex-PTSD, a term coined for people exposed to prolonged periods of trauma. Many of these symptoms and conditions will last throughout the daughter’s life if unaddressed psychologically, as well as medically.
The daughter of a malignant narcissist mother may also act out in ways she cannot understand or explain with risk-taking behaviors that give her a shot of dopamine to ease the effects of her high anxiety. She may develop an eating disorder or an addiction. She may turn to shoplifting or sexual promiscuity. These things give her a temporary sense of control, a means of escape; a feeling of relief in the moment that will only serve to further erode her sense of self worth and affect her well-being.
Narcissistic abuse can become the legacy of a daughter of a malignant narcissist. She may desperately look for a rescuer and fall into the arms of a narcissistic partner. She may be subjected to further abuse and feed the idea that the world is out to get her. Through learned behavior and her own narcissistic injury, she may not have psychologically developed past fourteen years of age and could become narcissistically abusive as well. The cycle of narcissistic abuse will then continue from generation to generation.
Narcissist Abuse Awareness
The malignant narcissist mother is able to thrive because of society’s view that motherhood is equal to sainthood and that loyalty to family is King. These widely peddled beliefs serve to further victimize innocent souls who are being forced to live a tortured existence with no hope of escape. A mother does not deserve respect simply by virtue of giving birth. She deserves respect when she has earned respect by valuing human life and nurturing her offspring, as nature intended, so that they have all they need to thrive in this life.
When a mother abuses her power for her own gain and leaves her child psychologically, emotionally, and physically maimed. She is no better than a child molester or rapist. Her children who are her victims do not owe her their loyalty. They owe themselves a chance to heal. Any daughter courageous enough to become self-aware, emancipate from her abusive mother, and do the work to heal from her abuse should be applauded by society. Narcissistic abuse stops with US. We can overcome as we become self aware, take responsibility for our healing, and speak our TRUTH to lead the way for other abuse survivors.
Run, gazelle, run
There is hope for us as the daughters of a malignant narcissist mothers. The legacy of narcissistic abuse can end with US and we can HEAL from the past. There are thousands who have suffered this type of abuse and there are so many resources available to help in the process of healing from malignant narcissistic abuse. The feelings of hopelessness and helplessness are normal, but we are neither hopeless or helpless. We are survivors who deserve to thrive in this life. We can find a therapist or counselor who specializes in working with daughters of narcissistic mothers. Reach out to other survivors. Join an online support group for daughters of narcissistic mothers. Ask someone for advice on where to start. Find the courage to break free of our malignant narcissist mothers and begin the path of healing in a toxic-free environment.
We regain our power as we start to own and speak our truth.
You were born for a purpose and you are worth fighting for. Be encouraged to run, gazelle, run to the hope of a better future.
Feel free to comment on this post if you have a story to share with others about your narcissistic mother. Email me for questions or suggestions on the topic of narcissistic abuse, or to share your story, privately. If you would like to share your story with the world, anonymously, please inquire in the Contact section of this site. I would love to hear from you and I’m so glad you stopped by, today!