This week I had a client who asked me whether it was possible to meet people in our lives who seem ‘great’ at first sight but who turn into the most toxic creatures we ever met after a short while. I spontaneously smiled and felt compassion – I not only knew it was possible as I also had had countless relationships based on that type of human interaction.
Today I don’t want to talk about people we meet throughout our life though. Today I want to talk about an issue that many women (and men) are still little aware of. Today I want to talk about narcissistic mothers and how it feels like to have one.
The thought that some people shouldn’t have kids is a bit harsh but sometimes I see myself agreeing with it. If a law or test existed to evaluate people’s parenting potential, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here breathing and typing these words though. Neither my mom nor dad would pass the test. Their parenting used to be a discussion my ex and I would have many times: if we had kids, we were on the same page about limiting my parents’ interaction with them.
I know, it sounds dramatic, ugly, and horrible. My parents, however, are pretty much the opposite example of the kind of parent I would like to become one day. They are emotionally negligent, passive-aggressive, and their lifestyle is far from healthy. My mom has narcissistic traits and behaviours, while my dad is the codependent – I guess I take that from him.
Now that I’m back in Lisbon and staying with my parents I can see the patterns more clearly. Being aware of my own issues with narcissistic men allowed me to conclude that my mom fits indeed with the narc profile: their affection is a direct reflection of the extent to which we please and keep them happy. I didn’t understand how dysfunctional this was when I was a kid, but today I can make sense of the feeling of constantly walk on eggshells – a slight misalignment and everyone suffers. Then, when she goes back to normal it’s like nothing happened.
This very same ugly pattern surfaced this morning. The difference now is that I’m almost 30, I have lived abroad and I don’t have the same tolerance as I used to have. My dad still has it. Whenever my mom ‘goes to the other side’, he does anything he can to fix it and win her affection back. This morning I felt, however, that I can go without it. I won’t push her away, but I no longer want to beg for unconditional love, and I certainly no longer want to be emotionally beaten by her.
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