Tag Archives: gaslight
What others think of the narcissist is the most important thing in the world to them, so they will do anything to protect it. That can include acting like they are the real victim when you confront them on their abusive ways.
If you tell a narcissist something they do hurts you, you open the door for a world of gaslighting/crazy making behaviors. They may rage, scream, cry, use guilt or calmly state why you are the abusive one.
When my parents & I had our last fight in May, 2016, as I’ve mentioned before, it was because my parents were supposedly upset I hadn’t told them that my mother in-law passed away. They saw her obituary in the local paper after the funeral was done. My parents claimed they wanted to attend, but didn’t learn of the funeral in time, which is the only reason they didn’t go. This hurt me because I’d told them how cruel she had been to me over the years, yet they wanted to “pay their respects” to her?! I told them I felt betrayed, yet neither understood my feelings. In fact, when I told them “she treated me like dirt for years!”, both of my parents had the same reaction: “But that’s Eric’s mother!” My response was, “But I’m your daughter!” Silence for a few seconds then, “But that’s Eric’s mother!” was the response. It became crystal clear to me that the fact that was his mother & my parents want to impress my husband mattered much more than the fact they were hurting their own daughter. Looking like the caring in-laws to the man they want to impress, my husband, was more important than anything else.
This is very typical of narcissists. If taking responsibility for something they have done puts them at risk of looking “less than,”they can’t deal with that. Shaming you or making you look like the bad guy is worth it, so long as their mask doesn’t slip off. There is nothing they won’t do to save face.
If you confront the narcissist in your life, please be well aware that this can happen to you too. If it does, remember this isn’t about you! This is about them protecting their fragile self esteem. The truth isn’t important, neither is not hurting you. Maintaining their reputation is all that matters.
A very common tactic of narcissistic parents is to make the child & everyone else believe that the child is the problem behind the family’s dysfunction. This tactic of discrediting & blaming the child serves a twofold purpose.
Purpose #1 is to be sure that all attention is focused on the child so the narcissistic parent can abuse her child unnoticed. People are so busy looking at the child’s bad behavior, they don’t notice what the parent does to the child to make the child act out. They also won’t believe the child if she says anything about what the parent does to her. After all, the narcissistic mother has everyone convinced the child is a liar, disobedient, rebellious, etc. so why would anyone believe what that child has to say?
Purpose #2 is to create so much doubt in the child, that she doesn’t have time to focus on what is being done to her. She spends so much time thinking about what her narcissistic mother says she is doing wrong, how she can change, what she can do to please her narcissistic mother & more, that she doesn’t question the abuse that is being done to her.
I went through this with my mother as a teenager. Her friends who once liked me suddenly wouldn’t even make eye contact with me anymore. One so-called friend of my mother’s even gave me a lecture one day on how lucky I was to have a mother who loved me so much. I needed to start behaving myself for a change & stop making her life so hard. (Interestingly, just before that call, my mother had been screaming at me, accusing me of terrible things that I didn’t do. I sure didn’t feel so lucky!) I knew I couldn’t say anything to any of them about what my mother was doing to me, because they believed her.
At the time, it hurt me badly. I liked some of my mother’s friends, & was hurt when they no longer liked me. In time though, I realized that although it hurt, it wasn’t a bad thing to lose such people. Normal, intelligent people wouldn’t blindly have believed my mother. I’d always been a well-behaved, quiet child, so why didn’t anyone question my mother when she said I was doing such outrageous things as taking drugs or having sex with the entire high school football team? Such things were completely out of character for me- you would think someone would have said so to her, or maybe questioned me. Neither happened however. Losing people who so readily believed the worst of me really wasn’t a big loss.
If this has happened to you, please think about what I said in the previous paragraph. I know it can hurt when people assume you are the problem, but truly, losing people like that isn’t always a bad thing. You need & deserve people in your life who love you, not people who blindly believe something bad about you then judge & criticize you. In a way, your narcissistic mother did you a favor. She helped you to weed out the unsafe people in your life. Looking at the situation that way can help to take a great deal of the hurt out of the situation.
Since I’m female as are the majority of my readers, I’ll write this directed mostly at the ladies, but the information is important for you gentlemen as well.
Narcissistic mothers love to destroy everything they can about their children, right down to destroying their femininity or masculinity.
I’ve always liked so many of the stereotypical girly things along with some more masculine things (like cars) & while growing up, my mother criticized me for them. I wasn’t feminine enough because I preferred cars to baby dolls, but I was too girly for liking soft, feminine clothing. I wasn’t really allowed to wear anything too feminine either, & my mother had to approve all my clothes until I moved out.
The result was stifled femininity. It’s only been the last few years I’ve been letting my feminine side come out, & I feel so much more comfortable!
Can you relate? Did your narcissistic mother try to destroy your femininity too?
If so, Dear Reader, I’d like to encourage you to take back your femininity! You won’t regret it!
While I realize some women are naturally less “girly” than others, & there is nothing wrong with that, I’d like to encourage you to take back your femininity as well. Whatever your level of femininity, it’s yours, & you need to be in control of it, not your abusive narcissistic mother!
So how do you take it back?
For me, I started paying attention to how I felt about feminine things. I realized some things were more attractive to me when I ignored my mother’s views on femininity. As an example, my mother only thinks clear, soft pink or mauve nail polish is appropriate. I started experimenting with other colors. I now wear almost every color except yellow, red or orange & only because they aren’t good colors for me. Wearing so many different colors is something I enjoy.
I also realized the stereotypical masculine things I like don’t detract from my femininity. I love classic cars & drag racing. I also have no trouble fixing my own car when need be. I don’t think this affects my femininity at all. There is nothing wrong with being diverse in your interests! (Besides, knowing how to fix my car means if I have car trouble, I can make it home, which isn’t a bad thing at all.)
Lastly, I thought about what being a woman, especially a feminine woman, means to me which is what I strive to be. I think a woman is:
- Has integrity
- Open minded
- Doesn’t compromise her principles
- Willing to work hard when needed
- Has the wisdom to know when she needs to help others & when to step back
- Appreciates softness
- Appreciates beauty in all forms
- Takes care of herself & her appearance
- Maintains a clean, inviting, cozy home
- Is always there for her husband, children & others in her life that she loves
- Is self-sufficient but not too proud to ask for help when needed
Now it’s your turn- what does being a woman (or man) mean to you?
I hope this helps you to let the wonderful man or woman inside you come out! God made you the way you are for a reason, so why shouldn’t you enjoy every aspect of yourself?
Narcissists rarely apologize for anything, but when they do, you can be certain it isn’t a genuine apology.
A genuine apology doesn’t include excuses. Someone who is genuinely sorry for their actions won’t say you made them act that way. That person also will try to change their ways as they don’t want to hurt you like that again.
All of these are foreign concepts to the narcissist.
Narcissists hate to admit they are wrong, & will go to great lengths to avoid it. They will offer excuses as to why what they did was not their fault, or even blame you for making them do what they did. They love to offer the passive/aggressive type of apology- “I’m sorry you feel that way.” “I’m sorry you think what I did was wrong/unfair/hurtful.” All of these actions show that the narcissist is not genuinely sorry for what she did. Most likely, she doesn’t care that she hurt you & only cares that she accomplished whatever it was she wanted to accomplish.
I also realized recently another trick of the narcissistic apology. My father has done this one many times & it wasn’t until recently I caught onto it. He recently apologized to me for not being there enough for me in my life. I was touched- there was no blame or excuses so I assumed it was a genuine apology. He apologized for missing my fifth birthday because he had to travel for work. I told him it’s fine- not a big deal, it was just a birthday. He went on to say how terrible it was of him, he shouldn’t have gone on that trip. Again I said it was no big deal. I pointed out how many other birthdays he was there for. It was only one birthday. Plus he did other things for me. By the end of the conversation, he was happy.
While there are times I am more than willing to reassure someone who hurt me, this was not one of those times that was a good option. If someone accidentally hurt me once, fine. Bad things happen sometimes. But this was different. My reassurance would have been providing narcissistic supply. Unfortunately, I realized this after the conversation, & then I felt conned into telling him he was a good father.
Whenever you hear a narcissist apologize to you, remember- it is NOT a genuine apology! Don’t get your hopes up thinking they might finally see the error of their ways & change. The narcissist’s apology is like every other thing they do- it’s only about narcissistic supply.
Being a victim of narcissistic abuse is not an easy thing. You go through the abuse & somehow survive, only to be victimized further by people who invalidate what you have gone through.
I have heard comments such as…
- “That doesn’t sound so bad…”(from my high school guidance counselor, referring to my mother screaming at me for hours in my teen years)
- “You just need to understand her better.”
- “Nobody’s perfect!”
- “You need to fix things with your parents. Get into counseling!”
- “You need to work things out with your parents. They won’t be around forever yanno!”
- (from a different counselor after meeting my mother) “I can’t see you anymore- you’re a terrible daughter!”
- “You need to find things you have in common with your parents!”
- “You’re too negative!”
- “I can’t believe they are that bad!”
- “Are you even sure that happened? That’s a pretty serious accusation.”
- Various excuses as to why my narcissistic parents or mother in-law treated me so poorly such as she isn’t intelligent (she isn’t educated- big difference), her mother in-law didn’t like her, etc.
- Laughing at my story of being abused.
After hearing such things, I felt victimized all over again.
Victim blaming is very common in today’s society, so it’s not surprising these cruel words & more are said to victims of narcissistic abuse daily.
Unfortunately I don’t believe there is any way to avoid them entirely. All you can do is use wisdom on who you share your story with. Even when you do this, sometimes people may hurt you by invalidating your pain.
The fact is though that you can validate yourself. You can heal from narcissistic abuse even if there is no one to support you but God.
To do this, you need to lean on God. Talk to Him about how you feel. He can handle it all & wants to be there for you! Let Him be!
As for you.. you need to trust that what happened was bad. Admit it to yourself. No more excuses, no more telling yourself you’re oversensitive or weak. Narcissistic abuse permeates every part of a person’s being. It can destroy one’s self-esteem, perception of reality or even sanity. It is nothing to take lightly! If you’re having trouble with this, write your story out. When I wrote my autobiography “Emerging from the Chrysalis” a few years ago, it was hard. Very hard. For the first time, I realized just how bad the abuse I have survived really was. Yet, as hard as it was to see things in black & white, it was very freeing too. It gave me a new perspective. I realized I’m a very strong person. I also realized God must love me a great deal to have gotten me through all of that. It also helped me to see my parents as they truly are, instead of making excuses for their behavior or thinking I was the one with the problems- I really wasn’t oversensitive, overreacting, reading too much into things, etc. They have some serious problems & one of those problems is NOT me!
Once you are able to accept the truth about what you have gone through, healing will come. You will grieve, you will be angry, but these are necessary steps to freedom from narcissistic abuse. And, the more you validate yourself & heal, the less other people’s invalidation will bother you. I’m not saying it won’t hurt sometimes- it’s only human to be hurt when your pain is trivialized- but it won’t devastate you as it once did.
Narcissists love to accuse their victims of awful things. Crazy, stupid, selfish & more- there is no end to the hateful things a narcissist will call you. And, like everything else they do, there is a motive behind doing this.
Calling you these awful names doesn’t mean they actually believe you are crazy, stupid or selfish- instead, it gives them power & control.
How, you ask? Because if you are told you are selfish, for example, you are going to work hard to prove that you are not selfish. This gives the narcissist power over you because by saying what she did, she made you work harder for her. She feels better about herself at this point because you working hard to please her shows she has power. Plus, when she sees that she is able to make you do things, that makes her feel better about herself.
When someone tells you awful things about yourself, you need to think about it. Constructive criticism is said gently & to help you. Narcissists however, don’t say things nicely or to help. They say things cruelly or they imply things rather than say them outright, so if you confront them, they can say something like “I never said you were *fill in the blank*” “You read too much into things!” “You have such a vivid imagination!”
The person saying these things.. do they often criticize you? Do they often try to control you?
If you are having trouble determining what is really happening, ask God for discernment on the matter.
You do not deserve to be mistreated! If someone is telling you terrible things about yourself that you know are untrue, always remember that it says more about her than you. Normal people don’t tear down other people, but encourage & empower them instead.
Have you ever heard the phrase “my truth”? I heard it again recently. That phrase is said to describe what you believe. Whether it is really true or not, however, is inconsequential.
This phrase is perfect for describing what narcissists believe. Their truth rarely resembles the real truth.
I think it is used when someone is trying to convince themselves of something that they know is not true, which narcissists love to do frequently. If they say something is their truth, it implies the thing is true, so it’s OK to believe. As an example, my mother believes she was a good, loving, caring mother to me. That is her truth. She has convinced herself of it. It’s how she copes with her guilty conscious. She knows what she did to me was wrong & rather than accept responsibility for it, she reinvents the past & creates her own truth. She has convinced others of her truth as well.
I know just how frustrating this is when you know the real truth & others insist that lies are the truth. Never forget- their truth is just that, theirs. It isn’t yours. So long as you know what the real truth is, that is what matters. Don’t let anyone sway you from what you know to be true. If you have any doubts, ask God to help you to see what the truth really is. He will do so!
There are so many people who think growing up abused by a narcissistic parent isn’t a big deal, we need to get over it, stop wallowing in the past & feeling sorry for ourselves. Today’s post is for them.
And, Dear Reader, if this post doesn’t describe you, feel free to show this to those in your life it describes if you think it will help them to understand just how destructive & evil it is.
Below are some of the problems that narcissistic abuse can cause. If you have not been the victim of narcissistic abuse, I hope you thank God at the end of this list that you don’t have to live with these problems. I live with every single one, & it is extremely hard.
— Constant self doubt. Narcissists are experts at gaslighting (distorting reality) which leads victims to doubt themselves constantly. Narcissists state what they say as if it was the gospel truth, & when a person hears something, especially something said so confidently, over & over, they tend to believe it. Even if it is something they can see clearly & plenty of evidence points to what they see is right, they learn to doubt their perception of reality & believe the narcissist. Even once away from the narcissist, they tend to believe other people over themselves due to not trusting their own perceptions & feelings.
— Low self-esteem. Since insecurity is at the root of narcissism, narcissists love to make others feel as badly about themselves as they do. No matter how beautiful, talented, compassionate or intelligent you are, by the time a narcissist is done with you, you’ll be convinced you are the ugliest, most selfish, useless & stupid person ever to live. Any shred of self-esteem is destroyed, & done so in such as way as not to be obvious. Narcissists rarely tell you outright you’re stupid, for example. Instead they prefer to imply it. ( “A smart person would’ve known that!”) That way, if you confront them, they can reply with something like, “I never said you were stupid!”
“I don’t know where you get these ideas of yours.” ” You’re reading into things!” or something similar. Gaslighting at its finest…
— Anger. It’s only natural that after living through narcissistic abuse, you’ll be angry. It’s unfair, destructive & hurtful. Then those who you tell often invalidate your pain or don’t believe you, because they are fooled by the narcissist’s “good guy” act. Anger is very normal under the circumstances.
— Self destructive or self harming behaviors. Many people who survive abuse do things that are self-destructive. They can make poor choices such as choosing abusive romantic partners, or they can engage in binge eating or cutting.
— Dissociation. Dissociation is a survival skill that many people use to get through traumatic events. Women who were raped often describe it as feeling as if they left their body while the attack was happening. When you are abused, you often dissociate. I thought I was just day dreaming all my life, but I later learned I’ve been dissociating all this time. Sometimes I just get lost in my own mind & emotionally pull away from those around me. It often happens during traumatic situations, but sometimes it does not. It just happens out of the blue.
— Depression. Depression is very common as well. It’s hard to be happy when you feel like an utter failure, when you are certain everything you do/feel/think is wrong & when all you hear about is your faults. Sometimes, the depression can lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts. Yes, it really can be that bad. I spent much of my life suicidal as a result of narcissistic abuse.
— Guilt. Even knowing a lot about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, there are still times that I feel guilty for disappointing my narcissistic mother. She is obviously disappointed I’m an author, she hates my house, car & that I haven’t “given her grandchildren”, & is even embarrassed by the fact I don’t speak to my in-laws (narcissistic mother in-law- I can’t deal with her verbal abuse). In spite of the fact I know these things are all right for me, occasionally, I feel guilty for disappointing my mother. This is typical. Children raised by narcissists feel responsible for everything, & that includes the happiness of their narcissistic mother. If they disappoint her, not only do they face her rage, but also the guilt for “failing”. Unfortunately this means they carry the guilt into their adult lives, so even when they know better, sometimes they still can feel guilty when they shouldn’t.
— Attracting abusive people. Once you have been abused, it seems like other abusers seek you out. Being beaten down so badly by a narcissist is no exception. Other narcissists will see you as a potential victim. Thankfully, the more you heal, the less this happens, but it still happens periodically even when you have been focused on your healing for a long time. You end up being on your guard when meeting new people or else you fall back into old, dysfunctional habits.
— Aches, pains & illnesses. Have you ever noticed that most narcissists are quite healthy, yet their victims are often sick? I believe this is because of stress. Narcissists rarely feel stressed, as they put everything unpleasant on others. Their victims, however, are under constant stress because they must appease the narcissist & anticipate her needs 24/7 at any personal cost or else face her volatile rage. Ongoing extreme stress causes a multitude of health problems such as high blood pressure, heart or kidney disease or even diabetes. And, depression can cause aches & pains with no physical cause.
— C-PTSD. Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is very common among victims of narcissistic abuse. The ongoing, constant trauma of gaslighting, verbal abuse & the rest of the evil that is narcissistic abuse can cause physical changes in the brain which results in C-PTSD. Basically, this means your body is in a constant state of fear. Pete Walker, author of “Complex PTSD: From Surviving To Thriving” states that we have a fear reflex of fight, flight, freeze or faun. Living in a constant state of fear means you will have one of those responses, like it or not, when fear is triggered. For example, when my mother tries to control me as she did when I was a child, my natural reaction is faun- I do as she says & ignore my own anger at this unfair treatment. It takes conscious effort on my part not to behave this way. Plus, C-PTSD includes extreme anxiety, depression, flashbacks, damaged short term memory, sleep problems, nightmares & hyper-vigilance (an extreme awareness of your surroundings & potential danger). I have had C-PTSD since 2012, & frankly, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Living with the symptoms every day is sheer torture.
I would hope after reading this that your eyes are now opened to the truth about narcissistic abuse. It *is* a big deal. It *does* change your life. It has nothing to do with not getting over things or self-pity. The symptoms are a normal result to very abnormal circumstances.
I realized something interesting during a recent visit with my parents that I thought I should share with you, Dear Readers.
My mother has become increasingly controlling lately. My father wanted to visit me alone recently, & she told him & I both that “his days of doing that are over.” She comes along, period. My father has some serious health problems & was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so you might think this is a caring gesture on her part, not to let him drive or be out alone. However- he goes to his doctor appointments alone, because she claims he won’t let her go with him. So obviously, this is about control, not concern for his well being.
As she has seen her tactics working with him, she is attempting to be more controlling of me as well. They day my parents came by my home, she started showing this before they left their house. She called on their way out to tell me I needed to be waiting outside for her so we could go to lunch. I needed to watch for her car to drive past then go outside (from their place, you have to drive past my house, go to the next traffic light & make a U turn then drive about 1/4 of a mile to get to me). I listened to her give me my orders & promptly ignored them. I’m 44 years old- too old to be bossed around by my mother! While they were at my house later, she tried little things to let me know she was in charge. For example, I always sit on my love seat, usually alone or with a couple of cats around me. She insisted on sitting beside me, crowding me a bit. She is very fond of stealing my seat- I think it gives her a feeling of power, like if she sits there, it means she’s now in charge in my home.
By the time they left, I was livid. Livid how she treats my father then complains to me how she doesn’t understand why he thinks she’s “bossy” (Seriously?!). Livid she thought it was acceptable to treat me more like the hired help than her daughter. And to be honest, still angry that I can’t tell her about my own health problems I’ve had for six months & expect any empathy or understanding.
Later when speaking with my husband about the visit, I had a thought. Since my father is now even more under her control, I think it has given her a tremendous amount of confidence, & she thinks she can control me as well. She fails to realize just because he is weaker now doesn’t mean I am as well. Looking back over my life, it seems like when she increased her control over one of us, the other one had to suffer with more control as well. I wish I’d realized this sooner! I would have been more prepared for her control games on her last visit if I had. Instead, I was taken by surprise.
I don’t know for sure if other overt narcissists are this way or not, but I would guess some are since so many narcissists use very similar means of abuse.
Pay attention to your narcissistic mother, Dear Reader! If she is able to control your father (or a sibling or a friend or anyone) more lately, you may be next in line. Remember to keep & strictly enforce your boundaries! Don’t give her an inch no matter what, or she’ll take a mile (or ten…). Protect yourself & never let her control anything about you. You do not need to be controlled by anyone!
When you are subjected to narcissistic abuse, you learn quickly that narcissists are murderers. Maybe not in the typical sense of the word as in they don’t try to shoot you, stab you or run you over with their cars but they are murderers nonetheless. They try to kill the person you are & recreate you into the person they want you to be- blindly obedient, enabling, having no needs, wants or feelings of your own. Basically, a robot here only to do their twisted will.
Once you escape the abuse, a part of your healing should be discovering the person God has created you to be. After all, He made you the way He did for a specific reason which is infinitely more valuable & important than the narcissist’s reasons for trying to turn you into a robot.
God made you to have a special place in this world, blessing others & enjoying being who you are. The narcissist’s only reason for trying to destroy that & remold you into what she wants is selfish- to enable her dysfunctional & abusive behavior. Isn’t it worth shedding the narcissist’s image of you & embracing the person God made you to be?
Rediscovering yourself, or discovering yourself for the first time, is not easy when you are accustomed to being the narcissist’s robot, but it is worth the effort. It also is fun, learning about yourself. Just start paying more attention to your feelings on things- do you like that or not? Are you drawn to things you never were allowed to pay attention to before? Then why not explore those things now? What do you have to lose?
Last February when I got very sick, it really caused me to re-evaluate my life. In my thirties, I tried to discover myself. I made some progress, but I abandoned the effort many times though, slipping back into old, dysfunctional habits. While recovering though, I realized I didn’t want to die knowing I had wasted my life being the person the narcissists in my life had tried to make me into. I didn’t like that person at all. So, I started exploring things that sounded appealing to me. I bought some clay & tried making various items. I tried felting. I also got back into drawing- something I loved to do as a child, but got away from. I feel much more peaceful & more confident doing things just for myself for the first time. I have become more self-confident, even when dealing with my narcissistic parents- I speak up to them more often now when I didn’t used to do so at all. (Using wisdom of course, as many times speaking back to narcissists only causes more problems since they can’t handle criticism or confrontation). I have also begun to take better care of myself & be more understanding & forgiving with myself.
Unfortunately, I also have been slipping back into the old, dysfunctional habits! It’s so frustrating! Like all emotional healing, it’s not a straight uphill path, but a windy one with a few big potholes. One thing helped me a lot, & that was a video I saw on facebook. It’s of Trace Adkins in the movie “Moms Night Out” talking to a lady about her feelings of not being good enough. Watching this brief video was eye opening to me, & I will be watching it over & over again to help keep me on track. I hope it blesses & helps you as it did me, Dear Reader. xoxo
The phrase, “They did the best they could” used to make me feel so guilty. I felt shame for being hurt or angry about the abuse I went through at the hands of my parents & ex husband. After all, my mother had a terrible childhood, abused by her narcissistic, evil mother & no contact with her father- how could she know how to be a good mother? My father was in a near fatal car wreck at 15, & has had problems stemming from the brain damage since, so that must be why he never felt able to intervene with my mother abusing me. As for the ex? Not like his parents modeled a healthy marriage- no wonder he didn’t know how to be a husband.
I’m sure if you’ve been the victim of abuse, you have heard the same tired phrase, & had the same kind of thoughts that I had. I think it’s only natural to think things like that under the circumstances. Today though I want to challenge that phrase regarding how it relates to your situation.
If someone is really doing the best they can, naturally they are going to make mistakes just like anyone does. They will apologize & try to make the wrongs right somehow if possible. They won’t repeat that mistake over & over again, make excuses or blame you for making them do what they did.
Someone who is truly doing their best won’t hide their actions or demand someone not to tell anyone what they are doing.
They also won’t be one way behind closed doors & totally different when in public situations.
They won’t criticize your every word, thought or deed.
People who truly are doing their best don’t try to gaslight others, making people doubt their own sanity.
They will try to build you up, encouraging you to be your own person who exercises whatever talents you have, rather than deliberately tear you down, discouraging you to be the person God made you to be.
They will care about others, not only themselves, & especially their children & spouse.
Now, think about the narcissist in your life. Does this sound like her? If not, then you need to keep in mind that she really didn’t do the best she could! Even if she had been abused or through hard times, that does NOT give an excuse to abuse! If being abused made the victim become an abuser, you would be abusive. If you think she does not know what she’s doing, then think about this- does she hide the abuse from other people, only raging at you in private? That is a sign she knows what she is doing is wrong.
Rather than feel guilty because your narcissistic mother “did the best she could”, instead, I encourage you to have a more realistic view of her situation. In mine for example, with my mother- yes she was abused terribly as a child. Her mother continued abusing her as an adult. She’s been miserable married to my father for 46 years. I do feel sorry for her for those reasons. However, those reasons were NOT my fault or a reason to take her frustrations, anger & hurt out on me, to expect to be able to live the life she actually wanted through me. As her daughter, it was never my job to make her happy, although she expected that. She also knew then & still knows how she treats me is wrong. I know this because she always worked hard to hide her actions from everyone, including my father.
Looking at my situation logically like this has helped me to no longer feel guilty when someone says that she did the best she could. It will help you as well. There is no good reason for you to feel bad when some insensitive, naive person says that obnoxious phrase to you! Don’t accept their delusion as your reality!
One of the most intriguing things I’ve noticed about narcissists is watching one lie in order to convince herself as well as others that something is the truth.
There was a show on TV a few years ago called, “Lie To Me” that I just loved. It was about a deception expert- basically a human lie detector. He would work with the police or military or whoever to help solve mysteries, because he was more able to detect lies than an actual lie detector. The show was fascinating not only because the stories were interesting, but also because it was really educational. It taught me about micro expressions- the fleeting expressions people make without being aware of them. It also would show examples of various faces of people expressing various emotions. Cool stuff if you’re interested in psychology like I am. This show taught me a lot about how to detect the truth about people. Body language & facial expressions are much more reliable than the words they speak.
A few years ago, after watching a marathon of “Lie To Me” on netflix, my husband & I went to dinner with my parents. While my father was away from the table, my mother was telling my husband & I that my father had just recently gotten rid of his cell phone- gave it to a neighbor lady. She said she had no idea why he did that, what was wrong with him? She even paused for a moment after she said that, as if allowing it to sink in. I quickly realized what was going on…
I’d given my father a cheap cell phone a few months prior, because he complained that my mother spent so much time on the phone, he couldn’t use it often. She has a cell, but keeps it in her purse. I thought a simple, cheap cell phone might work for him- it’d eliminate the conflict & it was only about $15/month to maintain. From day one, my mother was mad he had this phone. She griped at him & I both about how he didn’t need a cell phone, how it’s a waste of money, he’s ALWAYS buying minutes for it (yea, once a month..), he spends too much time on the phone & other nonsense. He finally was so tired of her complaints, he gave it away to get her off his back. My mother was glad he got rid of the cell phone, but did not want to be to blame for him doing so. Her solution was to lie & try to convince herself, my father, my husband & I she had no idea why he got rid of it. To admit she nagged him into doing so would make her look bad, & no narcissist can handle looking bad in any way. Lying this way was the best way to handle it, in her mind. Eventually it worked- she is currently convinced she has no idea why he got rid of his cell phone.
My mother isn’t the only person I’ve seen do this. (Her display was only the most obvious one.) In fact, I think it’s a pretty common thing among narcissists. After all, they’ll do anything to prevent them from looking bad. My mother also will talk about what a great, loving mother she was to me. She also has bragged about how upon meeting her, my one parakeet loved her very much (that didn’t happen) & how much my furkids love her (they don’t even like her). She has even said that she can’t keep rescuing me because if she does, I’ll never learn (my mother has not one time “rescued” me in my entire life). She is again trying to convince herself that her lies are the truth.
Unfortunately, I think this phenomenon is a coping skill that narcissists use when the truth is too ugly for them to bear. They simply cannot bear to look anything less than perfect. They especially can’t handle admitting the truth that they were horrible & abusive to their own child. I wonder if the reality of how much damage they have caused would cause them to emotionally & mentally collapse. I find narcissists to be rather weak people, & believe that is a very distinct possibility.
When these situations happen, I know they can be frustrating & hurtful. It especially hurts when your narcissistic mother brags about how much she’s done for you. When this happens though, please do your best to remember, this is how she chooses to cope. Yes, it’s hurtful to you & yes it’s dysfunctional, but it’s her choice. Unfortunately, she has the right to exercise this ridiculous behavior. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to condone it.
When my mother brags about how good she’s been to me, I refuse to give her the validation she is seeking. I won’t say a lie is the truth just to support her dysfunctional coping skills. However, I also don’t tell her she is wrong. She can have her delusions if she wants to, just don’t expect me to agree with them. I get around validating her by saying things like:
- “I don’t remember that.”
- “Uh huh” (shows I’m listening but it’s non-committal)
- changing the subject
Unfortunately this coping mechanism of hers still hurts sometimes, but I have noticed that it hurts much less than it once did. Once I realized that my mother’s bragging about her fantastic mothering skills is all about how she copes with abusing me, it took much of the sting out of what she said. I think this is because I realized although she is refusing to invalidating me & refusing to accept responsibility for it, she knows what she has done. What she did bothers her enough that she feels the need to deal with it, & this just happens to be her way to cope, dysfunctional as it is.
Recently I realized an effective way to put an end to narcissistic games: ask logical questions. I realize that sounds silly, but I’m telling you, it works!
When the narcissist in your life starts their games, whether it is gaslighting or simply being hateful, immediately start asking logical questions, & watch the narcissist become confused & stop what they are doing.
Some good questions you can ask are:
- “How is that supposed to help?”
- “What exactly do you mean?”
- “I don’t understand..explain that?”
- “What are you trying to say?”
Once you ask your question, wait for an answer. The narcissist won’t know what to do! They may ignore your question totally, but you can be sure of two things: 1- she heard what you said, & 2- she will stop what she was doing.
I have done this recently, & have found it to be not only effective, but funny as well. It’s funny watching someone who is usually so confident in their talents in manipulation & cruelty suddenly become flustered. They are so shocked when someone doesn’t just blindly let them get away with what usually works, especially when it’s the person who usually does let them get away with things.
Doing this also helps you to take back some power, while taking away some from the narcissist. When she realizes her games or cruelty aren’t working, that takes power from her. The bonus is at the same time, it gives you power & confidence.
The next time you’re dealing with a narcissist, I would encourage you to try asking questions. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Have you ever heard the term projection regarding to how it relates to narcissists? Projection means that whatever they are doing, they project onto another person, accusing them of doing. For example, narcissists are know liars. Often they accuse others of lying to them while defending how honest & trustworthy they are.
Narcissistic mothers are no exception. They love to project, especially onto their children. The child of a narcissist isn’t viewed as the child of a normal, healthy person is. Most people view their children as separate human beings, with their own wants, emotions, personality & more. Narcissists, however, view their children as tools to be used in any way they see fit, not allowed to have their own wants, emotions or personality. Their children are not allowed to have boundaries. A narcissistic mother has no problem reading her child’s diary or snooping through her personal belongings. Nothing is off limits to the narcissistic mother, so why would projecting her flaws be?
I think another part of projection is also when a narcissist criticizes something about you that she wishes she had or could do. My mother is quick to criticize long hair on women, no matter how beautiful it is, yet has always complained that she can wear her thin, fine hair in only one, short style. She also has ruthlessly criticized my furkids, I think because they don’t like her & are very devoted to me.
Projection doesn’t stop just because a child of a narcissistic mother reaches adulthood. I haven’t heard of one narcissistic mother yet who has given up projection just because she is older or her child has grown up. My mother still gets on me about my weight, as she has my entire life, even though she is a lot heavier than I’ve ever been.
So how do you deal with this frustrating thing called projection?
The best way I’ve found is to remember what projection really is- a dysfunctional coping tool for a narcissist to use to deal with her own shortcomings. Remembering this helps to take some of the sting out of her cruel words, because you know it isn’t a personal attack- it is simply her own dysfunction. It still will hurt or anger you though, as it should, because it is unfair of her to use you in such a way.
Once I learned about projection & realized it was about her dysfunction rather than me, I’ve felt pity several times for my mother when I have caught her doing her projecting. She does it so often, she must truly feel awful about herself. It’s sad when you think of it. However, feeling pity doesn’t mean that I should try to make her feel better about herself. With a narcissist, attempting that puts you in the position of being responsible for her self-esteem, iffy as it may be, & she will use you up in order to gain the coveted narcissistic supply that improves her self-esteem. Please remember that if you too feel any pity.
One of the favorite tools of a narcissistic mother is to groom her child to believe the child is the problem. If the child wasn’t so difficult, the narcissistic mother wouldn’t have to “discipline her” (translation- abuse). The child is rebellious, ungrateful, or has mental problems. Communicating this message to the child ensures that she won’t question her narcissistic mother’s cruelty. She believes the abuse is all her fault. She also may try to please her narcissistic mother endlessly to make it up to her for being such a bad child.
Not only does the narcissistic mother communicate this message to her child, but to anyone else as well. This serves the narcissistic mother well, as people believe her, without question. The child is not believed by people who know her narcissistic mother, even as an adult, even by people who have known her for a long time.
Grooming her child & spreading her vile message to anyone who will listen, along with manipulating people pretty much guarantees the adult child of the narcissistic mother won’t be believed if she ever opts to reveal the dysfunction of her family.
This has happened to me. Most people I have discussed my relationship with my parents with who also know my parents don’t believe me. They think I’m exaggerating, things weren’t so bad, I’m oversensitive or I’m the problem with the relationship. I need to forgive & forget, just let it go- it’s in the past.
When this type of situation happens, it hurts & frustrates you badly. I have had moments where I wondered if the other person was right- was I really the problem? Were things as bad as I thought they were? These people were so adamant about what they believed, maybe they had a point, I thought. It took praying & remembering the horrible events of my past to realize that no, they weren’t right. I was not the problem, & I really was abused.
When evidence of your narcissistic mother’s grooming appears, you will know it immediately, as you will be invalidated & blamed while she is praised. Unfortunately, this will happen at some point. Who does it may surprise you, too. It won’t be only those friends & relatives of your narcissistic mother, but those who aren’t particularly close to her. Those you would think would be more objective. In my case, I have had two people who my mother hates & who hate her rush to my mother’s defense. One told me I was the one who needed to fix the relationship, & the other trivialized what I have been through, telling me I needed to get over it (never admitting “it” was abuse). Imagine my surprise when these two treated me this way!
You need to be very careful who you discuss your situation with. Even then though, sometimes this type of thing may happen anyway. When it does, all you can do is deal with the hurt & anger you feel & cling to the truth. Also, refuse to discuss this topic with that person again, even if they are the ones who bring it up.
Know that this may damage your relationship irreparably with that person. In my case, the love I had once felt for the two people I mentioned above died abruptly. Not that I wish them harm, of course. I just suddenly no longer felt warmly towards them. I’m quite sure that they feel the same towards me as well. One stopped speaking to me for several months after our discussion & was very cold the few times we’ve spoken since. The other became critical of anything & everything about me since. It’s amazing how devoted people can be to narcissists, even when they despise them!
If you have C-PTSD like I do, this can be an especially painful & frustrating experience. It triggers all kinds of awful feelings that you really don’t want to feel. Personally, I felt like I did as a teenager going through the worst of my mother’s abuse- alone, hopeless & like no one cared. It is vital to be especially good to yourself during times like this.
Have you ever tried to confront your narcissistic parent on their abuse? If so, you know the frustration. Nothing changes & you walk away feeling completely confused. You even may have ended up apologizing too, when the fact is you didn’t do anything that warranted an apology!
Confronting narcissists is never an easy thing. They employ so many tactics to avoid the attention being on their bad behaviors. It often gets so frustrating, you prefer just to let the offense go rather than deal with the games & gaslighting.
Some narcissists will accuse their chilld/adult child of various things to deflect the attention off of them. They may say their child is ungrateful, a smart mouth, mean, cold, spoiled, a brat, or other awful things. They also may claim to be doing things for the child’s benefit. My mother used to claim since I was such an awful child, she had to use tough love on me.
My mother in-law likes to pretend to be the victim when she is confronted. My father too. This is a very common tool of the covert narcissist, since they so love the “poor me” or martyr role. When my father was due to come by my home a few weeks ago, alone, my mother came with him. He made it to the door first. Without even saying “hi,” he immediately went into explaining how he had no control over her coming along- it wasn’t his fault. Really? She was driving- he voluntarily got into her car!
Overt narcissists may not play the victim so quietly, but they will play the victim. They will accuse you of being SOOO mean to them! “After all I do for you, this is the thanks I get?” “You don’t appreciate all I do for you!”
Some more overt narcissists will meet your confrontation with rage. When I was a kid, my mother would meet my confrontations with screams &/or accusations &/or trying to hurt me. When I was probably about 12, she & I were coming home from her mother’s home. She was mad at her mother & yelling as she was talking about other things in the car so loud, there was a slight echo. It made my ears ring. I asked her if she could talk a little quieter, & she screamed even louder & mocked me for complaining about my ringing ears until I was in tears.
Many narcissists refuse to apologize at all, but the ones who do often employ the passive/aggressive type of apology. “I’m sorry you got upset.” “I’m sorry if your feelings got hurt.” “I’m sorry you feel that way.” While the words “I’m sorry” are said, the fact they believe you’re at fault is clearly implied. If you mention that, you will be on the receiving end of either tears or rage, because they did say they were sorry after all! Nothing they do is good enough for you!
Still other narcissists will talk non stop, making excuses for their outlandish behavior or talking in circles until you are completely confused. They also may use gaslighting at this point- “That isn’t how that happened!” “That never happened!” “I never said that!”
Until you are very accustomed to these tactics, chances are you’ll be confused, angry & unsure exactly why or even apologetic to the narcissist for their bad behavior. Being aware of such tactics will help you when you have to confront your narcissist. You will be aware of what they are doing, & can deal with it accordingly.
The best way I know to deal with these things is to avoid them as much as possible. Not always a good solution because narcissists are already allowed to get away with too much. Most people instinctively placate them rather than deal with these kinds of situations.
Unfortunately though, there will be times when avoiding a confrontation isn’t wise. Before confronting her, pray. Pray a lot, asking God for wisdom & the right words to say. During those times, remember these tactics. When the narcissist begins to talk in circles, bring the focus back to the original topic. Same for if she plays the victim or gets angry. You can say things like “I understand, but the fact is, I won’t put up with that behavior. If you do it again….” Keep firm boundaries in place, primarily staying on topic. Stay calm- any sign of you being upset will only serve to fuel the narcissist. She’ll see she can upset you & push to do it more.
Most importantly though, besides prayer of course, is to work on your own emotional healing. The healthier you are, the stronger you are & the more self-confident you are. When you are self-confident, narcissists know they don’t have much of a chance at winning with you & either give up easily or fight so hard, they look ridiculous, realize it & then give up.
Dealing with a narcissist is never easy. It’s impossible to have a simple conversation with one, because there is always some ulterior motive. Usually, that motive is to hurt or embarrass you, especially while they appear innocent. They love to say indirect things so if you confront them on their nastiness, they can honestly say, “I never said that!” And it’s true- they didn’t say that. Instead they implied it. The difference is you end up hurt & wondering if they’re right, you are too sensitive, you read into things, you’re crazy, etc. At least if someone out right criticizes you, there is no doubt they are out to hurt you.
If you’re wondering if you’re being oversensitive or if the narcissist in your life really is trying to hurt you, there are some giveaways.
If someone complements you in front of your narcissist, you will have to pay. You can’t get any positive attention, because she deserves it all! At least she thinks so. Either she will say something to negate the complement, or treat you even worse than usual until her anger is done. Many years ago, I recently started dating a man who thought we should meet each other’s parents in spite of my protests & wanted to invite my parents to dinner one night. Just after dinner when my parents went to leave the room, my boyfriend said, “Mrs. Bailey, I just want to say, you raised a really wonderful daughter.” My mother looked Mike in the eye, snorted & said, “Well, at least I tried to” & left the room. Does this type of comment sound familiar to you? If so, no, you aren’t being oversensitive- this type of snarky comment hurts!
If you seem too happy for the narcissist’s liking, you can count on the narcissist saying something designed to destroy that. They are happy squishers, doing anything they can to squish your happiness! Once, I had lost a few pounds. I didn’t need to lose much, but was glad that I lost probably ten pounds or so. I told my mother, who said, “You probably lost weight because you have cancer & are going to die.” No way was that said to benefit me or said out of concern. Comments like that are said to squish any joy you may be feeling, period.
Have you ever heard the comment, “I would NEVER” come from your narcissist? That one is designed to make you feel not good enough because you would stoop so low as to doing whatever she would never do. My mother once told me she would NEVER even ride in a car, let alone own one, with over 100,000 miles on it. It was obviously said because my husband & I both love & own old cars while hers is much newer than anything we own. (At least I had the pleasure of telling her that when we took my parents to Annapolis the previous weekend in hubby’s car, his car had almost 250,000 miles on it at that point. She was speechless. It was a fun moment for me! lol)
Whatever thing you have accomplished or purchased or done that thrills you is fodder for a narcissist making sure you know it isn’t impressing her. So you just got a promotion at work & will be making twice your old salary? She isn’t impressed- you still don’t own the company, do you? Anyone could do that job- it’s nothing special. You just bought your first brand new car? So what? It’s not a “good” car like hers. My mother no longer blatantly criticizes things of mine she finds not good enough. Instead, she gives a blank look like she is bored to tears. The look hurts just as badly as the criticisms because the message is the same- she thinks I’m not good enough. (Thankfully, the more I’ve healed, I’ve learned not to care about what she thinks of me).
So Dear Reader, when you experience these things, please remember- the narcissist is gaslighting you! You aren’t oversensitive or reading into things or crazy! Instead, you are on the receiving end of narcissistic abuse. You are fine! It’s the narcissist who has issues.
I’ve found to deal with these abusive behaviors, you need to learn as much as possible about narcissism & gaslighting. You also need to learn what tactics your narcissist uses so when they happen, you can remind yourself this is simply her weapon of choice- there is nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you do. Also, focus on your own emotional healing. The healthier you get, the harder you are for narcissists to manipulate or control. Their criticisms no longer traumatize you, but simply annoy you that they are so anxious to hurt you. Their games no longer work, which frustrates them to no end. It actually can get funny sometimes when you reach a point in your healing where you understand what is happening & refuse to be abused, but the narcissist is convinced all the old tactics still work on you. Their outrageous behavior can be downright funny sometimes when you understand it, as can the lengths they go to in an attempt to get their way.
Growing up with a narcissistic mother, you believe that you are the problem in the toxic relationship. She blames you for everything & takes no responsibility for anything she has done to you. On the off chance she admits to doing something bad to you, she blames you for making her do it.
As an adult, you are told, by her or others, that you are the one who needs to make amends with her, find a way to get along with her, or even that you have “a victim mentality,” which only further embeds the belief in you that the problems with your mother are all your fault. (Isn’t it interesting how no one tells your narcissistic mother she needs to behave herself, work things out with you or that she is abusive?)
I would like to challenge you today to look at this situation differently. As a child, your mother was the adult. This means she was supposedly the more mature & wiser of the two of you. She should have known better than to treat you so poorly. Also, she knew then & still knows that her actions are wrong, otherwise she would behave the same way in public as she does in private.
Keeping those things in mind, please answer this for me- how is it your responsibility to improve the relationship with your mother? In fact, how is it even possible to improve a relationship with a narcissist? And, how is it your fault that your mother has abused you?
I know it is painful when people so thoughtlessly tell you to fix things with your mother instead of offering support & understanding. I’ve been in that position more times than I can count. So when they say something like this, I want you to remember that you aren’t the problem in the relationship, your mother is. Any person who can abuse her own child for that child’s entire life is the problem. Any person who constantly puts her own needs & wants, no matter how trivial, above the welfare of others but especially her own child is the problem. Any person who chooses to treat others as if they aren’t allowed to have their own feelings, needs, opinions, wants is the problem. Any person who refuses to accept responsibility for her hurtful actions & blames others for them is the problem.
Dear Reader, just try to remember these things when someone insensitively tells you that you are the problem or that you need to work things out with your mother. You are not the problem- she is!
A pretty common phenomenon I’ve noticed about adult children of narcissistic parents is this belief of others that we are always supposed to allow other people to mistreat or even abuse us without complaint. Also, if something is wrong in a relationship, it’s supposed to be our job to fix everything while the other person does nothing.
My mother in-law treated me like dirt for the first eight years of my husband’s & my relationship, until I finally severed ties with her. My husband told me constantly that I “needed to understand her better,” I should “be the bigger person & let things go.” He didn’t believe me when I told him what she had done, or (worst of all) blamed me for her abuse.
My ex husband & I lived with his parents for about a year. During that time, he & I had a big fight on our third wedding anniversary. I left the house to cool off for a while. When I came back, his mother jumped me, blaming me for the fight (which he started, not that she knew this), for making him angry & for him punching a wall in his anger. She told me I needed to talk to him & smooth things over.
During a very bad time in my marriage, I talked to a good friend of mine about something extremely painful my husband had done. He tried to make excuses for my husband’s behavior & suggested things I can do to help fix our marriage rather than comfort me or help me.
Do scenarios like this sound familiar to you as well?
If they do, I want to tell you today that it’s not your job, nor your purpose in life, to be used or to do all of the work in your relationships! Relationships are NOT one sided, at least healthy ones are not. A healthy relationship has two people working together. Relationships where only one person does all of the work are extremely dysfunctional & miserable.
It also is not your place to tolerate abuse or make excuses for the abuser! No one deserves abuse- NO ONE! There is no excuse to abuse, there is nothing you can do to make someone abuse you & abusive people are sick. None of this has anything to do with you.
I believe this warped behavior happens because of being raised by narcissistic parents. You’re raised to be nothing more than a tool to be used as needed, much like say, a screwdriver. You’re kept in a drawer until needed, pulled out, used, then put away until the next time you can serve some purpose. While you’re “in that drawer,” you need to be completely invisible- you have to stay out of the narcissist’s way! Don’t “bother” her with your trivial needs. Hers are so very much more important than yours, after all. As a result, you grow up continuing to act as if other people’s needs are more important, yours mean nothing, & being a people pleaser. People naturally read other people, & abusers in particular are extremely good at it. Abusers look for people like this to abuse, since they’re easy targets who won’t complain about how they’re treated. Then there are other people don’t deliberately seek out people they can abuse. Instead, they see you believe you are: invisible, you deserve to be treated poorly, etc. & they treat you that way.
To help fix this problem in your life, work on your healing. You will learn to spot the abusers quickly, & avoid them. You’ll develop & enforce stronger boundaries. Your self-esteem will improve, making you less willing to tolerate nonsense, including being the only one to work on your relationships. You also need to really grasp the fact that you are NOT what your narcissistic mother says you are. You are someone with great worth & value. God loves you, no matter if your parents don’t. If you have trouble believing that, ask Him to show you how much He loves you. Read the Bible- there are countless times in it where God states His love for you!
Triangulation is a commonly known tactic of narcissists. It involves the narcissist having a third party try to talk to you about what is bothering her. For example, if you have set limits on the time you are willing to spend with your narcissistic mother, she may have your father talk to you about how you should spend more time with your parents.
I realized recently that there is another kind of triangulation that is often used with covert narcissists. It is where the covert narcissist tells you about the terrible things someone else has said about you, & tells them terrible things you have said about them. The things they share aren’t necessarily true.
If you have two narcissistic parents- one overt, one covert- then chances are you are aware of this, even if you haven’t thought about it before. I have experienced this firsthand. My father, a covert narcissist, tells me anything bad that my overtly narcissistic mother says about me (I’m not sure how much is true of what he has said). He also has told my mother I’ve said bad things about her when I hadn’t. For example, he has told me many times my mother has said someone should report me for having too many pets (I have a legal amount of pets & I own my home rather than rent, so no one would do anything if I was reported, by the way). He also has told my mother that I said she isn’t allowed in my home when I said no such thing. The truth is I told him I was sick of her insulting my furkids & if she couldn’t be civil to them, she doesn’t need to come into my home ever again.
I’ve heard of other covertly narcissistic parents doing similar things, & I’ve wondered why. After praying about it, I think I understand.
Telling their child such things, be they true or false, means the child will pull away from the overtly narcissistic parent & be closer to the covertly narcissistic parent. This means more narcissistic supply for the covert narcissist.
This dysfunctional behavior also causes the child to think poorly of the overt narcissist, & it makes the covert narcissist look good by comparison. After all, the covert narcissist comes across as concerned for the child (“I thought you should know what your mother said about you..”), unlike the overt narcissist who has said such hurtful things. And, the covert narcissist isn’t the one who said the hurtful things- he only relayed what he has heard, supposedly because you need to know these things.
This form of triangulation is also a type of deflection, because it takes attention off of the covert narcissist & his bad behaviors. You become angry with the overt narcissist for saying such terrible things, & automatically don’t pay as much attention to the covert narcissist’s bad behaviors since your focus is elsewhere.
Covert narcissists love looking like a martyr, & this type of triangulation helps them to do that as well. See what terrible things he has to put up with? He has to listen to his mean wife talk trash about his child! How horrible for him! He is often so focused on making whatever was said (or he wants you to believe was said) that it stirs you up so much, you fail to realize at first that he didn’t defend you. In fact, if you aren’t aware of this tactic, you may even feel sorry for him that he had to be exposed to this.
So how do you deal with this type of hurtful, dysfunctional behavior?
Obviously, setting boundaries in a normal way with any narcissist is futile. Do not admit that it hurts you to hear these things, or the covert narcissist will realize the effectiveness of this weapon to hurt you, using it constantly.
Instead, show no reaction. Pretend whatever is said doesn’t affect you in the least. He may keep pushing the issue trying to get a reaction. If he does & gets flustered at your calmness, & says something like “Aren’t you upset?” use logic in your response. I’ve said things like, “Why would I be? I know she hates everything about me. This is hardly a surprise. Besides, I just don’t care what she thinks about me anymore.” Then I changed the subject as that information sank in.
Change the subject. Repeatedly. As often as needed. Without saying anything along the lines of “On another matter..” or “Let’s talk about something different”, just bluntly change the subject. Narcissists, overt or covert, don’t like subject changes- they want to be in charge of the conversation. It will annoy him, but at least he’ll be off the topic.
Many people are quick to judge anyone who either is suicidal, has attempted it or has followed through on committing suicide. It’s such a shame people can be so heartless!
Many people who have survived narcissistic abuse live with depression, & as a result are suicidal. In fact, many also have developed C-PTSD or PTSD as a result of the abuse, & depression & suicidal ideation are symptoms of both dreadful disorders. The judgmental attitudes of others make this awful situation even more painful. People readily accuse suicidal people of being selfish, weak, wanting to take the easy way out or seeking attention. Others say it’s a sin that God won’t forgive, so if they do it, they’ll go to Hell.
This is horrible & it shouldn’t be, but sadly not a lot of people have much compassion or are able to see things from another’s perspective. Feeling suicidal isn’t exactly the walk in the park many people think it is. It’s a dismal, depressing place where you believe the only means of escape is death. It doesn’t sound like a bad choice- your pain will be over, you’ll have no more misery of this life & it’s not like anyone would care if you’re gone anyway. (At least that is how you feel. That doesn’t mean it’s the truth however!)
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, the last thing that person needs is to be lectured or judged. The person instead needs a great deal of compassion, empathy & love. They need to know that their presence makes a difference, & they would be greatly missed if they died. They also need to know that you are willing to help them through this dark patch. Make sure this person knows that you love her, are willing to pray with & for her, listen to her without judgment & are willing to do whatever you can do to help.
If you are the one who is suicidal, please know that you are here on this Earth at this time for a reason. If you don’t know what that purpose is, ask God to show you. Also follow your passion- that is where your calling(s) lie. Although it probably doesn’t feel like it at this time, there are people who love you & would be devastated if you were no longer around. You make a difference to many people. Please remember that losing you would hurt them terribly, & you don’t want to do that.
There is a way out. God. Pour your heart out to Him- He loves you & wants to help you. Let Him pour His love out on you & comfort you. Spend time alone in His presence sharing your most intimate feelings- He will help you come out of that dark place! Remember Psalm 23:4 “Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.” (AMP) God is with you, even in this dark place, taking care of you! I know this may sound trite to you, but please believe me- it is very true. I’ve been suicidal many, many times in my life, so I have plenty of experience on this subject. God has been the only thing that has helped me during the darkest of times. If He helped me, He will help you too. All you need to do is ask..
I read something recently about how narcissists dump their inner pain & torment on others in order to attempt to relieve some of the pain they feel inside. This makes a great deal of sense when you think about it. For example, my narcissistic mother has very low self-esteem, & she has done her best to make sure I also have low self-esteem. She obviously feels a great deal of shame, so she has put that on me as well. My narcissistic mother in-law never felt good enough for her mother in-law, & from day one, she made sure I knew I was never good enough to be a part of her family.
There are so many (often very subtle) ways a person can try to put their pain on another. Did your narcissistic mother accuse you of being fat although your weight was normal & hers above average? Did your narcissistic spouse accuse you of cheating, shaming you greatly, when in fact you were faithful & he was the one sleeping around?
This trying to transfer their pain to another seems to be a pretty normal thing for narcissists to do, but that doesn’t make it right. Rather than excusing their actions, I wanted to discuss this with you today so that you know when this type of thing happens, it’s not your fault! Like many narcissistic behaviors, it isn’t even personal even though it feels like a personal attack- it’s simply the narcissist hurting & wanting to make herself feel better. You getting hurt in the process isn’t important to her, of course, so long as she feels better.
If you can keep the perspective that some abusive behaviors aren’t personal, but about the narcissist, it makes coping a bit easier. It still hurts of course, & is painful to accept it happened, but it does help some at least. Any help is better than none, right? Really grasping that what was done to you was the narcissist’s fault & not yours will help you to avoid the always painful thinking that what happened was your fault, that you made her do that terrible thing, or if you would have only done or not don *fill in the blank* then she wouldn’t have hurt you.
I urge you today to keep this post in mind when your narcissistic mother says something hurtful to you. Remember, she is trying to make you feel bad so she doesn’t have to feel bad. That is why she’s accusing you of whatever awful thing it is she’s accusing you of! You’re fine, she isn’t.
When dealing with a narcissistic parent, often there are no right answers, only “less wrong” ones. This is because narcissists are masters of creating a situation where you can’t win no matter what you do, but they will win. One example in my life that comes to mind is if I don’t answer the phone when my parents call, they will either call back repeatedly until I do answer, attempt to make me feel guilty for not answering the next time we speak or manipulatively demand to know where I was that I couldn’t answer the phone. I am left with some poor choices here: answer the phone & deal with whatever games they are playing at the time, or don’t answer the phone & later deal with guilt trips (which don’t work, but really tick me off!) or their anger & especially nasty treatment because I didn’t bend to their wishes by not answering when they called the first time. Not nice choices! So, often times I answer the phone, even when I don’t want to, because it’s the lesser of the evils. While the phone is ringing though, I am weighing my choices & deciding what I can & can’t handle before I pick it up.
It’s frustrating, but this is often the position you are forced into. And, equally frustrating is others who don’t understand the situation, tell you what you’re doing is wrong & firmly believe you need to hear their opinions on the matter. I don’t think most people are aware of how incredibly frustrating it is to be forced into these no win situations with a narcissistic parent. They just see that you are doing something wrong, & that you should do something else, without realizing that their solution would have even more disastrous results than yours does. They don’t grasp that you are doing what you are doing because it is going to create slightly less disastrous results than what they think you should do. Or, if they know about narcissism, they may say you’re giving the narcissist that narcissistic supply they crave so desperately, which is why what you’re doing is wrong. They aren’t seeing that while yes, sometimes you do give that supply, it’s better to give only a small amount of it than a ton of it. The times when I do take my parents’ calls? It seems to give them less supply than when they treat me poorly for not answering the phone right away. Those times after they’ve given me sufficient grief, they seem happier & lighter by the time they hang up the phone. I feel like I have chosen the lesser of the two evils when I take their calls immediately.
However you choose to handle situations with your narcissistic parents, choose wisely. Sometimes your best answer isn’t going to be good or even right, but only less wrong. Unfortunately that is normal. Don’t listen blindly to the advice of others- listen to what they say & see if it would make sense in your situation. Hopefully others will give you a new & helpful solution, but sometimes they don’t, which is why you must consider carefully what they said. After all, no one knows your specific situation better than you do. Just make sure you pray about what to do & weigh your options. Do what you feel is right (well, less wrong) in your heart, & you will be doing the best thing you can do in your particular situation. And, don’t forget to take care of yourself too. If you end up frustrated, hurt or angry, vent your feelings in a healthy way. Be good to yourself, too- dealing with a narcissist, especially a narcissistic parent, is very trying. You need plenty of self-compassion & self-care after having dealt with a narcissistic parent.
I thought I would let you know what’s happening on the book front with me..
I now have two books I’m working on as I can. Unfortunately I’m still recovering from the carbon monoxide poisoning & the concussion that came with it, so writing is a challenge for me at the moment. (as if writing with C-PTSD isn’t enough of a challenge sometimes..lol) But, I’m trying to do a little as often as I can.
My one book is a fictional story I started over a year ago. I had it about halfway done when the external hard drive it was on crashed, taking my book with it. (Tears were shed, let me tell ya!) I decided to start working on it again, trying to recreate what was lost. It was inspired by the movie “Gaslight”- the movie from which the term gaslighting was coined. It takes place here in Maryland in the late 1800’s. It’s about a young widow who, after her mourning period, is caught up in a whirlwind romance with a man who in truth is only after her money. In order to have full access to it, he decides to drive his pretty young wife insane. He enlists the help of the young maid he’s having an affair with by telling her that his wife is really his sister, & he’s trying to help her show symptoms of her “illness” since she usually hides them from the doctor. She reluctantly agrees. As they are in the process of driving this woman insane, the wife & maid end up learning the truth, & decide to turn the tables on him, driving him insane instead.
My other book is going to be about recovering from narcissistic abuse. I’ve read so much about it, but there are plenty of things I haven’t read- I had to experience them & learn about them firsthand instead. For example, if you read about C-PTSD (very common with survivors or narcissistic abuse), it says many people experience nightmares. It’s often implied that the nightmares are about re-experiencing the traumatic events. I have learned that although that happens, it’s more rare, & nightmares are often things that are very upsetting yet symbolic of past trauma instead.
So anyway, these two are my current projects. I’m not sure when they’ll be released. Honestly, I don’t even feel comfortable setting a goal on that right now, not until I recover more. I’ll be sure to share when they will be released as the day comes closer though.
I happened to think of the strangest thing recently…
All my life, I’ve known I never wanted to have kids. Also all my life, this has bothered my mother tremendously. She used to tell me I’d change my mind when I grew up, I wasn’t normal, etc. When I was I think about 16 or 17, it really bothered her I felt this way apparently. She was obviously disgusted with me, & said, “I should’ve made you babysit when you were younger. Then you would want kids.” Does this make any sense to you? It sure doesn’t to me.
My mother tried other things to make me want children. She gave me baby dolls as a child & a toy stroller (which I promptly used to push around my favorite sock monkey..) when I preferred stuffed animals & toy cars. She constantly pointed out pretty little girls or cute little boys when we were in public places, expecting me to agree with her. This only made me jealous, hurt & angry because she never praised my looks (or anything about me), then to add insult to injury, she ridiculed me for my feelings. Her control tactics never had the desired effect on me, although I did try briefly in my late teens to convince myself I wanted a baby. When I started dating a man who said he wanted children immediately, I realized I really couldn’t feel the same way at all.
There have been other ways my mother has tried to change me too. To this day, she likes to give me clothing that is her taste, not mine. She also offers to lend me CD’s from her music collection, even though she knows our tastes in music are vastly different. Even in restaurants sometimes she will strongly suggest I get something to eat when that something doesn’t appeal to me at all.
Do these behaviors sound familiar to you? Did your narcissistic mother try to change you as a child, or does she still now that you’re an adult? Please know that you are NOT alone!! I truly understand your pain & frustration! Not only is it maddening when she tries to change you, it is also yet one more way to let you know she believes you aren’t good enough as you are. The message she sends is that you need to change something about yourself to be acceptable to your narcissistic mother. The sad truth of the matter is that even if you changed into what she wanted, there would be something else she would want you to change next. Then something else. It wouldn’t end, because she never will be satisfied.
I have learned the only successful way to deal with this frustrating situation when it arises is to be calm, cool & collected while firmly sticking to my boundaries. I show no emotions (even if I want to scream), while saying something like “Thank you, but I don’t need any new clothes”. Better yet is offering no explanation at all, because, as we all have experienced, any information you give a narcissist can & will be used against you. For example, the music my mother wants me to listen to? When she offers to let me take a CD home, I just politely say “No thank you.” Then change the subject.
The especially important part of this is to show no emotion, because showing your frustration & hurt feeds the narcissist. If your narcissistic mother sees she has hurt you, she will continue to pick at you until you’re in tears. If she sees she has made you angry, then she will push you until you are raging at her, while she sits back quietly, acting like the innocent victim. By refusing to show emotions, you take away her opportunities to do such things.
Another important part of showing your mother no emotions is to hold them in only until you are away from her & can safely express them! Holding in emotions is so unhealthy, but unfortunately, doing so temporarily a necessary survival skill when dealing with a narcissist.
I read a very interesting quote, & it really hit home with me:
“There is a theme that runs through responses I receive from children of a narcissistic parent(s). The child is subjected to unbearable levels of ongoing abuse- scalding criticisms, withering humiliations in front of other family members & alone, routine secret physical beatings & other horrendous acts of brutality including psychological & literal abandonment. When the child lets family members know what is happening to him, this person is not believed. When the victim of a narcissist tells the truth about his dreadful pathological parent, he is not treated with kindness or understanding. The family is shocked; the victim is treated with disdain & often told he/she is the sick one or that this is all lies to get attention.” Linda Martinez-Lewi, PHD
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been treated this way, not only by those close to me (well, not close to me anymore obviously!), but even by therapists. When I told my high school guidance counselor about my mother spending so much time daily screaming at me, she said, “That doesn’t sound so bad..” I’ve also been told to let it go, get over it, work things out with my mother- it’s my responsibility, I need therapy, I use C-PTSD to get attention & more.
If you too are the adult child of a narcissist, I’m sure you can relate.
Hearing such cruel, invalidating statements is extremely painful. You feel abused all over again. It can be devastating to you & to the relationship you share with that person. One person I had loved dearly & was once close to said a few comments along the lines of I needed to just get over things. Her last comment actually destroyed the love I felt for her. I suddenly no longer cared for her. Not that I wished her bad- I simply felt nothing at all for her.
So how do you deal with these painful situations? Avoiding them would be best, but unfortunately, that isn’t always possible. Sometimes you can, because if you know a person well, you know that this person isn’t safe to discuss certain topics with. As a result, you avoid discussing those topics with that person. Then there are other times when you mention your narcissistic mother to someone who you expect to be supportive, yet they surprise you by invalidating your pain. Those times are the most painful, because you didn’t expect that response- you expected support & empathy.
When you are told to “get over it”, “you’re only making these things up to get attention,” etc., the first thing to do is to end this conversation before it goes further (hurting you more) however you deem appropriate. You can simply change the subject, walk away or hang up the phone. However you set this boundary, you’ll run the risk of angering the other person, so you need to be prepared for that unfair anger. (The person I mentioned whose comments destroyed my love for her? When we’d discussed the topic via email the last time, I told her I didn’t mean to be disrespectful, but I wasn’t asking for her opinion on my life. After that, she didn’t speak to me for several months.) Hopefully the other person you’re having the problem with will simply respect your boundary instead, as many people do.
Once the conversation is done, as soon as you can, get alone with God. Tell Him how it made you feel, & let Him comfort you. Get your feelings out so they don’t end up pushed down inside of you, festering. That only hurts you! If you don’t feel comfortable telling God how you feel, journal about them. Or, write the person a letter that you never send, telling her off if that helps you feel better.
If you’re suddenly doubting yourself (am I really making too much out of things? That type of thought) because of what was said to you, ask God to tell you if you are. He will reassure you that you aren’t, which helps tremendously to give you a healthy perspective on what was said.
You also need to evaluate your relationship with this person. is she someone you’re close to? Do you have a good relationship other than her lack of understanding about your abusive mother? Then it is probably worth saving- just accept that your narcissistic mother isn’t a topic you two can discuss. Or, does this person criticize or invalidate you in other ways? (I don’t mean the healthy, constructive criticism we all need sometimes) Then this relationship may need to end. You’ve been treated badly enough in your life thanks to your narcissistic mother- why continue to tolerate being treated badly?
As I mentioned in this post, I recently realized that when the C-PTSD flares up, it seems like every single nasty, invalidating comment I’ve ever heard comes to mind. Those times are so painful! I tried to wait on it to pass when it happens, but that doesn’t always work so well. Sometimes it seems like the comments play over & over, like an old cassette tape stuck on repeat. So, what I do during those times is think of a specific comment said to me, for example, “that doesn’t sound so bad.” Then I think about the event that led the person to make the comment, & remember, it really WAS bad! It was horrible! Having someone tell you that you’re a horrible person hurts, but add in the fact that was my mother, & she was screaming it in my face? Yea, it was pretty bad.. if someone thinks it wasn’t, that person obviously has the problem!
I believe that some people simple aren’t able to grasp the hell that is living with narcissistic abuse. Maybe they come from loving families, & never had to face any type of abuse. As a result, they just can’t wrap their minds around the fact not all families are as good as theirs. Or, maybe they too came from a narcissistic parent, yet haven’t had the strength to face that, & continue living in the dysfunction instead. Or, in all honesty, narcissistic abuse sounds so far fetched! Sometimes the things narcissists do sound completely made up, they just are that “out there.” If I wouldn’t have seen the things my mother did to me, I’m not sure I would believe anyone was capable of such acts either! Maybe some people can’t believe another human being is capable of doing such things, especially to her own child. Whatever the reason, that does not give them the right to invalidate your pain! Narcissistic abuse is a horrible thing to endure. Its damage can be lifelong & extremely painful. Don’t let anyone convince you that it was “no big deal” or that there’s something wrong with you for how you feel after surviving such torture!