I have just read an article which has really, really helped me understand how this whole healing from a narcissistic mother thing works – how therapy works etc. I found it so helpful that I want to share it with you in case it helps anyone else. Here is a link: http://www.howtokillanarcissist.com/narcissistic-mother
The article explains that the attachment we feel is not with the narcissist mother but the archetype, the IDEA of the mother. It goes on to explain the Good Mother and the Bad Mother and explains that in a healthy relationship, the child experiences the good mother on their terms. Their needs and wants are catered for by the mother. A narcissist mother only becomes the good mother when the child behaves in the way she expects. The child learns if they want the good mother, they need to behave in a certain, acceptable way. Towards the end of the article, it explains that eventually the adult child realises that their mother will never be what they want them to be. The adult child comes to realise they have to either deal with what they have and be silent or deal with the consequences of deep and overwhelming shame and guilt.
It ends by saying that the only way of escape is to embrace the idea of the good mother and surrender to it but through someone else – the therapist. It explains that the adult child must allow themselves to be infantilised by the therapist and says that they will begin to re-experience the trauma in a safe environment and begin their healing. The adult child will truly experience the good mother and grieve the fact they will never find her in their own narcissistic mother. Eventually the adult child will grieve the good mother and see their own narcissistic mother clearly. The article ends by saying that the child inside will, in the end, “come to life and the adult will experience peace and joy they did not know existed“.
Amazing. It has really helped me right now as I am struggling to understand all the many conflicting and scary feelings I am experiencing with regards to my own mother. As I’ve said many times before, I know some of this stuff but sometimes it just sinks in a little deeper or I understand it in a different way. I guess this was one of those times.
This is where I am at right now regarding my own mother.
After the children left last night and I finished writing my blog, my fiance returned home. He walked straight to the sofa I was sat on and said in a very serious voice “Thank you. Thank you so, so much”. He went on to say how well I had dealt with the children and this awful time and just kept saying how lucky he was and then he hugged me really tight. I cried. I cried sooooooooooooo much. Proper snotty crying you know the stuff. Obviously he wasn’t expecting me to break down like that and so he asked what I was crying for. I told him that I wasn’t really sure, it was a real mixture of things. There were tears just for the children’s pain. There were tears because the children had gone home and I didn’t want them to – I wanted to keep them here and safe with us and there were many tears for the grief I guess I got in touch with over the fact that I love those kids so deeply and I want more than anything to make them feel, even a tiny bit, better. I want to try my hardest to make them feel loved, safe and secure. All of a sudden the grief that I never had a parent do that for hit me and boy did it hurt.
I felt angry that I can feel so deeply for the kids and offer them so much love and care when they aren’t even my own children and yet my very own parents couldn’t do that for me – their actual child. Something about that just made me feel so upset and so angry. Why didn’t I get that?? WHY?? Its bloody natural isn’t it?? The things I’ve done and felt for the kids don’t make me some sort of superwoman, it’s just human instinct surely? Young, helpless, defenceless, scared children come to you and you just naturally want to wrap them in love and make sure that they know, no matter what else is going on in their world, that they have people – their parents and me, here for them and that they will ALWAYS, always be loved and be safe.
Once I had sobbed my eyeballs out for a few minutes, I felt better and I’ve felt fine since, but obviously my own mother has been on my mind all week following our argument and our text exchanges last week. I have been hoping that the decision I have to make will suddenly become clear and easy but that hasn’t happened. I still feel very caught in a no-win situation.
Whilst reading the article, I could identify what stage I am at. Clearly I have truly realised that my narcissistic mother will NEVER be able to be what I need her to. I have been able to allow myself to be infantalised by my T and to attach to her as the good mother. I am EXPERIENCING the good mother that I’ve spent my life craving, with her, which is what has caused me so much joy and pain simultaneously recently. Feeling that motherly love and attunement from T and then feeling the grief of what I didn’t get from the person I should have got it from. I am clearly grieving the stuff my own mother did not give me. I guess last night’s tears evidence that.
I wondered to myself after reading that, perhaps the reason it all kicked off with my mother last weekend is exactly because of this. Because I have finally given up the hope that she will be what I want and need. It’s like now that there is no need to make/keep my mother “The Good Mother”, I am projecting all of my anger and rage and hatred at her instead. As if, she can’t possibly hurt me anymore than she already has……. so take it all back – have it.
Perhaps now that T is giving me the good stuff that I’ve always wanted and needed and I’ve given up on my mother, my mother has become solely “The Bad Mother” and so I just found it intolerable to feel these painful things, to be grieving so hard AND sit there acting happy and being “the good girl”. It was like I just couldn’t do it anymore.
But what now?
I understand that therapy will help me to experience that Good Mother without “sudden disruption of the Bad Mother” and that eventually I will learn to view my T as a normal, imperfect person and let her go… I get that bit… but where does that leave me with my actual narcissistic mother?
Right now it feels there are two very shit options for me and I know I’ve already written this but I am going to write it again in the hope that something suddenly clicks. Okay, Option 1) Continue seeing my mother in the same way I have been for the last 3 years which is basically me being emotionally detached, seeing her once a month or so and keeping the peace. Seeing her only at her house where there is alcohol involved and usually feeling pretty shit the following day.. but surviving the evening (thanks to the alcohol). Option 2) Not seeing her anymore.
Now, I had a long chat with my fiance about this today and obviously I could “tweak” my contact with her. I could decide only to have what he calls “safe contact” with her, meaning not going to her house on the rare Saturday evening and drinking with her, but seeing her in the daytime for lunch or for shopping or something where there is less likely to be any drama. I appreciate that this is a viable option BUT.. but the problem with this is, that I find seeing her without any alcohol, pretty excruciating. I know that isn’t a good thing to write.
When I see her and we aren’t drinking, there is no hiding the fact that our relationship is hollow. I feel awkward, I struggle for conversation, I feel awkward.. I have nothing to say to her and I feel like her eyes see into my soul somehow. Its pretty awful. Last time this happened, I cried A LOT when I got home.
My fiance pointed out today that drinking is not the answer to this and that just because it hurts and it feels horrific, doesn’t mean I should avoid it. In fact he says I should purposely do this again and again and feel that pain until its gone. He also pointed out that when we drink with them, I only delay the painful feelings anyway. I know that. Then he said something I wasn’t expecting. He said that he doesn’t really like the person I become when I am there. WHAAATTTT? He said that when I am there, I become aggressive and argumentative and that he is on egg-shells waiting to see what is going to happen. I was really shocked at this. He said that he loves me and that he loves the person I actually am 99% of the time but when I am there, I am not the real me. Eugh, that hurt to hear!
I asked him why he thought I changed like that? I said I guess it’s because I am trying to project some image that I am not going to be hurt, that I am ready to protect myself or something? He said he thinks it’s because I adapt to what she is and what she would want and expect me to be.
The sad thing is, the mother that I want to pop in to my house at weekends now and again, the mother I want to have over for Sunday roasts occasionally, to go shopping with, get a manicure with, involve in my stepkids’ lives etc ISN’T my mum. As the article says, it’s the image – the idea – the archetype. So I don’t see the point in laying down the law and saying my new terms are x, y and z because, frankly, that won’t make me feel any better anyway.
So if I don’t want that, and I can’t/don’t want to continue as we were visiting her at her house and drinking alcohol…. it doesn’t actually leave much, if anything.
I think about the relationship that I have and have had with my dad. In short, we’ve had a rather on/off relationship. There has been periods of years where we haven’t had ANY contact at all. We now have a rather limited and non-emotional relationship where we check in with each other via text every month or so and we visit him (always) when I ask if we can (always). In that respect my mother and father are EXACTLY the same – not that they would see it that way. Over the years I have battled many times with whether its worth it and whether it’s actually better to have nothing at all than a little bit of something. When we’ve had nothing at all, I’ve still found myself in tears occasionally. Hence the situation is what it is.
It feels that perhaps a very similar relationship will have to commence with my mother from now on if I can’t completely cut contact. It feels different imagining that with her because I guess I’ve had my entire life to adjust to limited and irregular contact with him – with her it’s still relatively new. Until 3 years ago when I started therapy, I had no idea at all this would happen. I thought she was wonderful! I guess the mother wound is deeper than the father wound.
In fact I think perhaps my upset with my father was less about him as a person and more a bit of a scapegoat for the rejection, anger and sadness of the pair of them – collectively. I guess he was just the safer option.
Anyway, I’m rambling again. If anyone has the perfect answer for me, please let me know!
Answers on a postcard!!