Yesterday, I had a dream in which my daughter was dangerously ill and had to be hospitalized. All of my daughter’s family rolled in to see her: my husband, my step-daughter, my ex-husband, my ex-husband’s mother and sisters and brother and all of their spouses and children, and last but not least, my own mother, whom I’ve had no contact with since December 2018 but is still in contact with my ex-husband.
In the dream, I considered how to deal with my mother. The most obvious course of action to me was to spit on her and get her kicked out of the hospital. Yes, you read that right. Spitting on my own mother seemed like the best course of action.
I shouldn’t be telling you that. I should pretend my mother was all roses and kaleidoscopic butterflies, but then I’d be lying to you. My mother was a narcissist, and being raised by a narcissist is awful, which is one of the reasons why I have no contact with her today.
Throughout my life, my mother was egotistical with little to no empathy. She was cruel and mean, manipulative and controlling, and very violent. She could not let a day go by without twisting it to somehow focus on her. I hated my own birthday for years because I knew it would actually be a day on which I should celebrate her for giving birth to me, and if I didn’t “celebrate” her appropriately, she would throw a tantrum and make the day miserable for everyone. Everything, including the birth of my own children, needed to be about her.
The Mayo Clinic defines the disorder this way: “Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
Karyl McBride, author of Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, gives the following characteristics of narcissists:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance, e.g. exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements.
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love.
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high status people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
- Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e. takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
- Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of her.
- Shows arrogance, haughty behaviors, or attitudes.
Spending our developmental years trying to take care of the needs of someone whose needs were insatiable has extremely damaging effects.
I grew up:
- Never feeling good enough or valuable enough
- Deeply afraid to speak up confidently or challenge others
- Hyper-aware and hyper-sensitive to the feelings of others
- Chronically unsure of myself and overly-worried about what others think of me
- Used and beaten up by all of the relationships in my life, including work and friendships
As an adult who no longer wants to live with those kinds of deeply ingrained negative messages, I work today a lot with affirmations. I try to tell myself constantly:
“I am lovable and deserving of love and respect.”
“I trust myself.”
“I deserve all of the good that happens to me today.”
“I deserve to be happy and successful.”
I work on saying no today. I make taking care of myself a priority. I limit my interactions with anyone who might be exactly like my mother. I am getting better. Slowly.
There’s no way to “get over” being raised by a narcissist. It takes a lot of therapy work to look at those deep wounds and begin to heal them. It takes a lot of courage to look at exactly what you experienced, how it has impacted you and your own reactions, and then learn new behaviors to counteract them to become the adult you long to be, but you can do it!
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