What’s it like growing up Narcissist parents? Oh, where do we start?
“Insufficiently elaborated narcissistic needs may be recalled and renewed when individuals become parents, bringing their children to adapt themselves to this projective parental scenario. If these projective identifications are severe and inflexible, parents may become unable to empathize with the real needs of their children, and this may result in distressing familiar conditions that prepare the ground for the development of different forms of psychopathology in the offspring.”
That’s a quote from an article out of Spain titled, Relationship between Parental Narcissism and Children’s Mental Vulnerability: Mediation Role of Rearing Style. Open source. Link in full blog post.
SO. Today, we’re talking about Covert Narcissists moonlighting as parents. What does that look like, how does it impact a childhood, and what are some of the common templates for humans developed under the pressures of a suffocating VulNarc?
Hint: if you missed the last episode, I recommend you catch up on Defining Vulnerable Narcissists so this all makes sense.
In doing my research on them, myself, I found a lot of information about Covert Narcissist Parents… generally in the form of Mothers. Specifically, regarding their common behaviors and patterning with their daughters.
I had to wonder - what was up with the gender divide? And my best guess is - well, that’s what I was kindof looking for, for my own purposes.
But also, I think that moms are more likely to be Covert than Overt Narcs. Again, largely due to the outdated gender norms of men being more commonly accepted as loud, arrogant, and non-fuck-giving - while women are more quiet, sweet, and caring.
The best option for a woman abuser, in a way, is to go the mental route. Using words and mind games instead of physical force. Which, they are biologically programmed to do better than men, anyways. It all pans out.
So, mother manipulator is born. Proclaiming her victimhood and undying, unappreciated, martyrdom for her children who she loves and despises, depending on the exact moment in time. Are you the good or bad kid today? Depends on what’s happening in Mom’s little world.
So, CAN the Mother Narc impact both her sons AND daughters? Youfuckingknow-alutely. But, is there something special about the mother-daughter relationship that needs to be addressed? It sure seems so.
Like, a lot of creepy, projected competition.
The daughter is often seen as an extension of the mother, rather than an autonomous being. This means she’s worthy of praise and attention for all of her amazingness that runs parallel to mom, it’s proof that MOM is great - not her.
BUT she’s also going to get a lot of criticism, demeaning statements, shame, and guilt for everything that counters or challenges mom’s ego in any way. Don’t stand up to her. Don’t live like your own human being. Don’t try to improve your relationship. Don’t get interested in things that mom finds frivolous. Or you’re going to get it.
Or, just existing at the wrong place and wrong time. That’s another big “no-no” when you have a social contact with no emotional control.
Competitive, belittling, and accusatory behaviors are very common. These devaluing and humiliation trends run solidly through all of their interactions.
As a result of the mother’s mental illness, the daughter will never be heard, appreciated, or allowed to be her own person. She will be interrupted, dismissed, and forced into the box that her mom has been dreaming of wrapping for herself - but never got around to taking the steps, herself.
The daughter will have an emotionally distant experience - potentially with her basic needs being fulfilled to some extent, but with no emotional or experiential acknowledgement, and no real connection with the mother.
Mommie Dearest will also regularly divert attention away from her, criticize her for every move - appearance definitely included, and work to invalidate the daughter with insiders and outsiders that she drafts into the situation through triangulation.
There will often be direct attempts at humiliation and sabotaging the daughter to keep her under control and entangled in the abuse mindset.
Nothing the daughter does will ever be good enough. She will never have boundaries or privacy. And she will only come to know what conditional love feels like when she correctly predicts and satisfies mom’s needs.
Consider that this begins at birth, and it’s clear that the child is going to be stuck in this dynamic long term, generally with no idea of what a healthy parental relationship would look like.
She won’t have a chance to develop positive self-regard or to explore her own identity - hell, she probably won’t even have many chances to explore her environment - because she’ll be kept tightly under mom’s wing as her perfect little source of admiration and validation.
And this also means she’ll be easy to control so she can be perfectly molded into the ideal form desired by Mama Narc.
According to a really helpful YouTube channel I found by Dr. Todd Grande - over time, the mother-daughter narcissistic relationship follows certain common patterns. These are essentially templates for a childhood conducted under the thumb of someone too insecure to let up on the pressure.
He lays out the patterns as:
The Incompetent, Isolated, and Denied childhoods.
The Incompetent childhood is built on nullicication, demonstration of power, and shame. The child is stunted in their personal development as a means to keep them close to mom for even basic needs. Her source of personal supply never leaves and never considers that it’s even an option.
Isolated is formed by dependence, blaming, and a super shiny facade. The kiddo is kept away from outsiders, including peers and family members. They learn to rely entirely on mom and never learn that the things she does are not up to par with the rest of the population. They can’t get outside help or perspective, so they can’t reject mom.
Denied is marked by violence, threatening, and rejection. The child is scared into submission. They are controlled like a pawn of mom’s blatant willpower. They don’t feel loved or wanted, but realize that they have no other option for safety and survival except to be completely obedient.
Overall, the effect of a CovNarc mother on her child is crippling. She will come out of it with few life skills, low self-esteem, no separate identity, sense of self, high anxiety and depression, chronic nervousness, and a penchant for falling into similarly abusive relationships down the line.
No matter which patterns are present, it’s a degrading and deleterious existence for the daughter… created by the very person who insists she’s a loving, caring, and sacrificing mom for the past 31 years or so.
The issue being, Mother Narcissists are very, very unlikely to be able to acknowledge that they have any personality flaws. They’re incapable of seeing their own abuse - literally, because their mental illness necessitates that they protect themselves from it. Delusion is the name of the game.
With a narcissistic party who’s unwilling to cooperate or admit any responsibility - the best possible option is for the daughter to cut all contact and leave as early as she can. The worst possible option is to submit to the escalating behaviors and continue recreating her puppeted childhood with mom.
Unfortunately, with the Narcissist also being her mother - the master manipulator - there’s a high likelihood of family exile if she chooses to stand up to her abuser.
Hey - it might be directly threatened, if your Narc Abuser is as unskilled at remaining Covert when she’s riled up as mine is. “The family situation is about to get a lot harder for you.”
So. Making the choice to cut ties and heal herself is a heavy option for the daughter. It will likely need to include her own targeted therapy to rehabilitate the brain from the lifelong abuse experience.
And, unfortunately, the only way to ever re-institute a safe relationship with the Covert Narcissist mother… is for her to have the insight and personal accountability to do the same thing. Short of the Mother Narc making large personal changes, the relationship has to be ended or extremely distant if the daughter wants to live a functional life that isn’t defined by anxiety, hypervigilance, and feeling “wrong” without reason.
Leaving the mentally sick mother behind is the only option for the child’s brain to remain healthy. Which runs counter to all of our instincts.
But when our abusers have the option to see themselves clearly, to see the effect they have on others and make changes... and still choose to cover their eyes while acting increasingly aggressive… well… gotta save yourself, Fucker.
There’s no point in fighting it. They’re really fighting with themself. And when we can’t win, we just say “fuck it.” There’s no reasoning with unreason.
And, yep, that’s a depressing place to end here… but we’ll pick it back up and talk about this contactless resolution issue again very soon. Very, very soon.
Know that you’re not on your own, even if you decide to set off on your own.
Until we talk about this again, you got this, Fucker.
You’re coming out of a lifetime of abuse and everything might feel horrible. But it’s only because you haven’t built the neurological framework to house this realization yet.
Don’t feel bad for setting boundaries and caring for yourself. Just be kind. Be respectable. Be steadfast. Be sure of what you’re doing - breaking the abuse cycle. Be confident that you’re finally seeing things clearly. Be you.
Be the Motherfucker who finally changes the diseased family tree.
And I’ll talk to you guys about this whole fucking forest of Narcissists next time.