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Is my mum narcissistic?

(33 Posts)
mildredm Tue 13-Nov-12 13:19:34

In the last few weeks, as a result of some things I’ve read on Mumsnet I’ve come to the conclusion that my mother could well be narcissistic. I’ve struggled with my “relationship” with her my whole life and as an adult have struggled to understand what is going on with her. The thing is, the links I have read about narcissism all talk about someone being seriously emotionally abusive, but that is not what my mother is like. So I’m wondering if anyone here has any insight into what might be going on..

Sorry this is long, just trying to get it all clear in my head....
General attributes:
Can’t hold a two-way conversation - eg does not ask questions (has never asked me how I am, or how work is going, how the children are); talks “at” not with people, constantly talks in anecdotes ; focuses on minutiae of life eg curtains etc, never talks about emotions; will talk to complete strangers about people they have never met without explaining who they are so the person will be looking at her in a baffled way wondering what she’s going on about.

Displays a lack of empathy – eg my db and sil fostered a child who had been abandoned and moved from foster home to foster home, mum was incensed that the council gave her a new bed – making her think she was special. I had a miscarriage - only reaction was to comment that in her day I wouldn’t have known I was pg as they didn’t have pg tests (I was 3months so not actually true that I wouldn’t have known anyway). Earlier this year I injured my leg badly – showed no sympathy towards me, when she came round and I was crawling about and asked her to make her own cup of tea she said she was too tired and waited for someone else to make it (no phone calls to check up on me.) Similar attitude when children are ill.

Everything is about her. As a child I knew I couldn’t complain about anything or make a fuss because she would get upset and cry. Eg buying school shoes, I always hated it because I never liked the shoes so this was probably the only time I ever actually made a fuss about anything – i was terrible because I made it difficult for her, never any understanding about why I was making a fuss. When my brother was born he would not breastfeed – she describes him as having been “bone idle” because he would not feed (no sense from her that a newborn baby cannot be idle – he was lazy and making life difficult for her because he would not feed.)

When I was pg with ds2 she said she would come and look after ds1 when I went to hospital. Ds2 was a week late, she kept going on about how stressful it was for her that she didn’t know when he would be born and she couldn’t sleep properly, moaned that they could not book their holiday as they didn’t know when they could go. Would ring me up in the evening and ask if I was having him that night so my dad could know if he could have a drink or not.

Never praised me or said anything positive to me as either child or adult – i was high-achiever got all As and one B in GCSEs, only comment was why did I get a B. Only time she says anything positive is when other people are there so I am wondering if this is because she feels good that other people think she is good for having raised me?

But, as I said above, she was not obviously abusive, she actively avoids direct confrontation, anything horrible towards me has always been passive-aggressive – eg trying to give my 5mo chocolate because she knew I wouldn’t like it. Talking to other people in a critical way about my parenting but without directly saying she is talking about me.

As a child she used to cuddle me and smile at me etc, she wasn’t openly horrible to me. I would describe it as emotional neglect – I wasn’t allowed to express any emotion and wasn’t supported in anything. I only ever once remember confiding in her about one thing that was bothering me – when I was 12 I got facial hair which was embarrassing and I was teased at school. Eventually I asked her if she could get me some removing cream – she didn’t do anything about it but told my best friends mum who told my best friend and her older brother.... So I was mortified about that and she didn’t do anything about what I told her.

Anyway, I will probably add some more as I think of it, I’ve got a breast-feeding 2yrold attached to me at the moment!!!

I would really appreciate anyone’s thoughts on this as I have spent my whole adult life trying to work her and my relationship with her out. The things I have read about narcissism do seem to fit, except as I say she is not openly horrible to me.

mildredm Fri 16-Nov-12 09:57:51

Hi agaion,
So I was talking this through with my friend yesterday, she's really knowledgeable about personality profiling and types and how they develop etc so was quite illuminating.
Some background on my mum, she was a scrawny, sickly baby/young child who didn't sleep. My grandparents completely babied her, eg my nanny said she used to go into school every day to feed my mum her lunch... So parents smothering and overprotective. Then at age 6 my mum needed her tonsils out, my grandmother took her to hospital without telling her about it, then left her there alone for 3 weeks!!!! Unbelievable now but apparently that was wht the doctors made my nanny do... My nanny was lovely and loving and kind, but she lived in a perfect, happy world and didn't allow any arguments or negativity so eg my mum and her brother were not allowed to argue (or my nanny would cry) and my mum was never allowed to express any negative emotions.
Then fast forward to age 20, she meets my dad, is married at 21, kids at 25 and 28. My dad is emotionally vacant, he is kindly enough but doesn't give or receive emotional connections. He is also very sarcastic. He has an eating disorder which he projected on my mother, so constant criticism of her for being overweight. They had a very traditional relationship where he was the breadwinner and made all decisions and she was the housewife/carer.

Basically my assessment is she stayed a child her whole life - her parents babied her, then she married someone who allowed her to remain a child because he never required her to be an adult. She can't take responsibility for anything and just simply will not deal with anything she doesn't want to. She will either ignore it or cry....
So, she is not vicious like a lot of narcissists and is not openly manipulative (though used tears to control when I was a child - ie we did't want tomake her cry) but is that because she was brought up in an environment where conflict was absolutely not allowed???? Ie, would she be like that if she felt able to be? Certainly the older she has got the more vicious she is getting - eg she can be really nasty to my dad now, that would've been unthinkable when I was a child. It feels as if she feels the power balance has changed now he is retired and not the breadwinner any more?

So, is she narcissistic?? I guess I have always thought she could be different if she tried, that she just can't be bothered... But then I just keep stumbling over the seemingly complete lack of empathy - that is just not normal.... My dad is extremely selfish and emotionally distant but he seems to me to be on an extreme end of normal - my mum just seems off the scale...

But, I just can't quite believe it..

Anyway - got to get the bus now!!! Thank you to anyone who can bothered to read this, or reply to it!!!

Eurostar Fri 16-Nov-12 21:38:59

The essence of narcissists is they are deeply ashamed of who they are and they deal with it by putting others down, associating with people whose qualities they would want to have themselves, yet at the same time can't bear that and try to put them down, have grandiose fantasies of who they are etc.

Finding a label for your Mum is not going to change the fact that none of this is your fault and there is nothing you can do to make her act like a balanced, empathic adult. There could be any number of things going on with her increased "viciousness", lack of social inhibition is often a sign of early onset of dementia for instance, no way of knowing if this has anything to do with her changes, she would have to seek medical advice and opinion herself.

mildredm Sat 17-Nov-12 07:45:16

Hi Eurostar, thanks for your comment.
So from what you've said it would seem she's not narcissistic. I guess what I have struggled with is whether it is in some part my fault (she describes me as an aloof, distant child and as an adult other people describe me as self-contained and aloof) so I wonder whether she just finds me too difficult to relate to.
But I suppose even writing that down looks ridiculous - ie, is it chicken or egg? Plus how does that explain her basic lack of interest and care for me. My middle dc is quite like I think I was as a child, he is not that demonstrative and is not very talkative, but I try really hard with him and we have ways of communicating and showing affection.

I also wonder if, as adults, I am very distant from her and so she doesn't feel I need her... But then, that does not explain how she could reject my children and refuse to provide any kind of support when an idiot could see I need some. Ie, she must know I need support but doesn't want to give it.

I suppose I feel that if I decide she must be narcissistic then I know she can;t help being this way and she can't change. If I think she isn't narcissistic then there's a chance she could change and i have some responsibility to try with her. But I don't want to try because I quite honestly hate her and wish her dead and gone.... I feel too bitter about a childhood and young adulthood where I felt completely alone...

Anyway, I'm quite obviously using this board as a substitute for therapy!!! So I don't expect anyone to reply but if anyone does have any insight they want to give that would be great and I hope my ramblings help anyone else in similar situs

My mum has some similarities with yours. I cant work her out, she can be very difficult.

Her problems were always bigger than mine. I was in hospital as a child and was crying on the phone to her and she just started going on about how awful it was for her too , i just didnt understand and she had had to have tablets from the doctor so she could sleep.

My dad enables her a lot i think. If i call her on anything she gets upset and cries claiming she always did everything she could for me and i am so ungrateful. And then my dad leaps in to defend her.

She also has complained about me as a baby , apparently i hurt her too much to breastfeed and i was very awkward and never finished my bottles. As though somehow this could be a babys fault.

She often asks intrusive questions , sometimes inappropriate ones about my sex life and then becomes offended if i dont want to tell her and either accuses me of being secretive or says she cant understand why i want to hide things from her , guilt trip type things.

She also has a habit of making things up , usually small unimportant things if she doesnt understand whats been said/happened and then relates them as fact or that i said so and so when i know damn well i didnt.

But then she does show affection and love in her way. She is generous with money and gifts and has helped me out financially a few times.

I cant understand it but i am pretty sure she has MH problems (as do i) and/or a personality disorder even if mildly. (Is that even possible ?) Dont know if any of this rings a bell at all with any of you ?

Eurostar Sun 18-Nov-12 21:44:10

mildredm - you seem to have decided that only narcissism gives you a get out clause, I'm not sure why. There's other conditions that can make her how she is. Sounds like it would help you to stop having any expectations of her, and most importantly of all, stop taking blame. It's like taking blame for the fact that your mother could never write well with her right hand if she is left handed.

mildredm Tue 20-Nov-12 13:23:16

Hi somebodysomewhere, sorry it's taken me so long to get back online.

Your mum sounds very very selfish and like she makes up her own version of reality and doesn't like you confronting her with what actually happens.

She does sound as if she actually cares about you in her own way but can't show it in a healthy way that is useful to you. I say that because it sounds as if she does want to know about your life and and does want to try to help you, it just isn't always (or ever?!) in a way that you actually want her to...

My mum is just much more detached than yours sounds. She doesn't want to know about my life at all. She never asks me about my life, she isn't interested in my children, it is all completely surface to her. She is happy so long as it vaguely looks on the surface like she is a mother and grandmother... So she often gets obsessed with Christmas - eg she likes to take the kids to see Santa - this is the only time in the year that she ever volunteers to do anything with them....

It is hard to know where to go when your mum is as damaged as yours sounds and as mine clearly is... I think you just have to try to understand it the best you can and try to make peace with it and only have a relationship with her which you are happy with and is on your terms. They aren't people we can ever really confront with their failings and they are never likely to see or accept just how much they have failed us as mothers...

Hi Eurostar. Thank you for taking the time to write again, I appreciate your insights... I think I just want an explanation for how she is... There is some security in having a label to place on it.... I guess it would also help me to make peace with my relationship with her if I could think that she just can't help being that way.
There is a part of me that is just so angry with her and I guess I feel as if that would go away if I felt she just has some kind of disability. As it is I just feel as if she hasn't tried hard enough.

I am so grateful for everyones' posts though as I do think I have got my head round it not being my fault. If feel more as if I can just live my life and only have a relationship with her on my own terms.

NewKateMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 20-Nov-12 17:43:15

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Glad to have helped.

I think my mum does love me , but i think she has problems of her own and they get in the way a lot. It is much better now i am an adult and can understand her as well as myself and can lead my own life to an extent.

Its more that she cant comprehend anything other than her way of doing things almost and cant understand why i might not like the way she goes about things.

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