How to deal and cope with, heal and recover from a narcissistic motherQ I have a narcissistic mother and I’ve been in different types of therapy on and off for years. We touch on some things and I learn a new technique or ways of ‘re-framing’ something, but it doesn’t really help me in the longer term. Nothing seems to go deeper than an awareness of the problem and to suggest coping mechanisms to protect myself from my mother whenever I have contact with her. Why doesn’t all this therapy help me to really get over her and the way she still treats me?


A I suspect that it’s a case both of ‘one-size’ not fitting all (one way of therapy can’t work for everyone), as well as the therapists you have worked with lacking the professional (and perhaps personal) skills to enable them to work at a much deeper level with you.

For a psychotherapist to be fully empathic and effective it really helps if they’ve ‘been there’ themselves and come through it.

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Toxic narcissistic motherQ I feel rubbish. I’m lonely and deep down I feel really sad. I wish my mother would treat me better. She ignores anything that I do well, it doesn’t matter to her.

She cuts me short when I try to have a proper conversation, and talks over me and changes the subject. It’s like I’m a nuisance and an irritating burden to her.

If I try to tell her what she’s doing, she just says I’m over sensitive, or imagining things, or she laughs it off and makes fun of me. She uses this stupid baby voice to me as if I’m an idiot. She puts me down and is sarcastic to me in front of other people.

I’m 20 years old now and have never had a boyfriend. Who would want someone as pathetic as me anyway. I’ve also got into debt from buying stuff to make me feel better – it doesn’t last for long though.

Is this all my life is? I feel suffocated by her. Will it ever get better and when will she stop messing things up for me?

A I very much doubt that she will ever stop doing this. It would take a massive dose of self-awareness… the very thing she doesn’t have or seem to want.

You are describing a toxic mother, someone with a personality and character that are disordered and dysfunctional. She may have more severe mental heath issues too (but I don’t know enough about her to comment further on this).

She is transferring her pain onto you. Making you feel perhaps like she did herself as a child…you are being cast as her victim and she is the bully.

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Grown up son still at his mother's back and call, toxic mother, demanding and controlling motherA My boyfriend has his own business, employs staff and has lots of friends. What I don’t understand is how someone who seems to have their life sorted, can be under the thumb when it comes to his mother.

I’ve met her and she was offhand and rude to me. He says it’s just her way and not to let it bother me – but it does.

He’s at her beck and call. Even though she’s in good health she rings him a few times a day, and expects him to drop everything and do errands for her. He’s 43!

When he introduced me to her she said to him (in front of me) ‘you’ll always be mine’ – how weird is that, but he can’t see it.

He’s an only child so I can understand her dependence on him since her husband died 40 years ago (she never re-married) – but this feels more than that.

It’s as if she’s jealous of him having another woman in his life.

She treats him like her property and ‘as the man of the house’ (he still lives with her). She expects him to be more like a husband than a son.

He has told me that she was very controlling when he was a kid and would give him the ‘silent treatment’ if he didn’t jump when she said jump.

I don’t mind him helping her now and then, but she’s really got her claws into him and I worry that she will convince him to break up with me. Why can’t she let him go and have a life of his own?

A I’m pleased that you are aware of what it is about this set up that bothers you the most – being rejected by him on her say so.

He clearly has a strong loyalty to his mother and is willing to be at her back and call – perhaps putting her needs ahead of his own.

I wonder too if this whole scenario has any old links and associations with you and your past?

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emotional childhood abuse, lack of friends, hard to find or make friends, toxic parentsQ Growing up I was always a loner at school. My mum drank heavily and I now realise that she took drugs too. My dad was a long distance lorry driver who was away a lot.

When he was at home they argued and I kept out of the way. I was so embarrassed and ashamed at the state of our house which was always smelly and very messy. I wouldn’t have wanted to invite any friends round to play, even if I’d been allowed to. My mum would have made a show of herself anyway and then everyone would know what my so called family was like. She kept me away from people so that I could be there for her to listen to her moaning about my dad, or to clean her up when she’d been sick, or to do the shopping or washing.

The trouble is I’m still a loner. I’ve never had any close friends and I feel jealous when I see people who have. I don’t know how to make friends now, even though my mum and dad are both dead. I live alone in a one-bed flat, and work in a call centre. I wish I could have some friends to share things with. Everyone else seems to have lots of friends. How do I make friends now I’m in my early forties?

A I can really sense your deep loneliness and sadness, and the overwhelming shame your mother inflicted upon you. 

She was a toxic parent because of her emotional neglect of your needs – and the affects upon your social development.

You’ve had to sacrifice your childhood to meet her needs – because she didn’t take care of them for herself.

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toxic family's smear campaign to damage a start up businessQ I had a big fall out with my family a few years ago and don’t have anything to do with them now, even though I still live in the same town. I’ve recently started up my own business and have a salon in the town centre.

I’ve been told by a few friends that members of my family have been bad mouthing me and trying to put customers off from coming to see me. ‘Someone’ has also sprayed personal graffiti across my shop front window, and put rubbish through the letter box. They’ve always been nasty and that’s one of the main reasons I needed to distance myself from them…but I don’t get why they are trying to ruin my business. I have a child of my own and they’re affecting our income and livelihood.

A My first guess is envy…followed closely by ‘smearing’.

Envy that you are the one trying to make a better life for yourself and setting up your business (which takes strength of character).

Smearing refers to their attempt to destroy your credibility… whilst trying to appear that they’re telling people these lies for their own good – as if doing them a favour.

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feeling excluded, not good enough as a motherQ I had a bad upbringing and horrible school years, and I never made any good friends at school. And now my 6 year old son is also being excluded from his school social groups and get-togethers. I hear the other mums talking about what they’re all arranging but they never invite me or my son. It’s as if we’re not good enough for them and don’t belong in their posh little club. I imagine them laughing about me and my son and that makes my blood boil. I’d hate him to feel as isolated and lonely as I felt as a child.

My husband has built up a good business and we can now afford to send our boy to a good private school since we moved into a much bigger house in a nicer area. I never expected the snobbery though. I feel so angry towards these stuck-up mums. Is it just me, or them?

A Either they are snobs (and behaving like egotistical children), or you are projecting your own dislike of yourself (and what you experienced in school) onto them and believing it’s them who dislike and reject you now.

Or perhaps your childhood conditioning means that you behave in ways they find uncomfortable or even strange. Not to say that you are strange… maybe just a bit different to them. It might be that your body language is giving out a message that you’re not aware of.

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sibling rivalry, favourite child, golden childQ My sister has always been my mum and dad’s ‘Golden Child’ – as I’ve recently heard it called. This title fits her to a tee. She’s prettier and smarter than me and she’s definitely their favourite. No doubt about that. But why? It’s not my fault that I don’t look better, or that I wasn’t that good at school. They paid for her to have extra classes after school, and they made sure she went to college and university. I left school at 16 and had to get a job in the local supermarket, where I still work.

What makes things worse is that she takes credit for my stuff and says it’s hers. I created a recipe and she made it and then said it was her own recipe. When I said she was lying they all turned on me and made out I was some kind of nut case who makes things up. She’s also stolen things of mine and said that I’d given them to her. I’m always seen as the bad one.

They put me down about my body, my personality, my job, my friends – there’s not one good thing they comment on. They talk to me as if I’m beneath them and they’re ashamed of me. Why is she their favourite and what can I do to make them like me too?

A You can’t make them like you. You have to like yourself in opposition to them. It’s their loss. In fact everyone loses.

Your sister is being given an inflated view of herself. She has become toxic in her own way. Life may well change that for her, but it will be a hard lesson.

Your parents have ‘split’ good from bad and projected one onto each of you. That’s something only they can stop doing, and first they’d need to acknowledge that they are doing this, and then figure out why.

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Advice for foster carers, foster care system, child in foster care and affects on the familyQ I’ve been a foster carer for about a year now and I’m feeling more and more concerned about the affect this is having in my own young child.

I don’t want to stop fostering and if I speak with the social worker I’m afraid this might go against me. The ten year old boy in my care comes from a background of neglect and abuse, and more than that he often makes racist and homophobic comments (to people in the street, or he shouts things out to the television set). To make matters worse he lies and steals and deliberately damages or destroys things. He then manipulates the truth to get himself off the hook and to make my son look like things were his fault and to take the blame.

I do try and explain things to both of them together but it seems to fall on deaf ears with the foster child. The social worker says that he’ll grow out of it in time and with ‘corrective experiences’. I fear for the affect of all this negative behaviour on my own son.

Do you think this foster child will grow out of it or shall I just give up now?

A Having been a foster carer myself for eight years I do understand your doubts and fears.

This boy has grown up with certain conditioning – and so his present behaviour may be his way of keeping the bond with his birth family.

This is his ‘fantasy bond’ of attachment. The family system may be ‘dysfunctional’ and unhealthy, but it’s what he knows and feels to be the ‘norm’.

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Sexual abuse flying monkeys in the family blame the victim Q I’ve never got on with either of my parents and left home as soon as I started work, and I don’t have any contact with them now. Fortunately my best friend’s mum took me in and I’ve been living with them for over a year.

What’s bothering me is the snide comments on Facebook and by texts from my older sister, aunt and uncle. They don’t know the half of what went on and how nasty my mum was to me, and how much my dad touched me where he shouldn’t have done. I haven’t told anyone about that but it makes me sick that these people make out it’s me that has the problem, and that I’m the one causing bad feeling and telling lies in the family. I just wish they’d mind their own business and leave me alone! Sometimes I start to doubt myself and what I know to be true about what happened to me. I think maybe I should forgive and forget, but that would be more of a lie! Why don’t they just leave me alone to get on with my life?

A You are describing what’s called ‘Flying Monkeys’…people that swing around blaming, criticising and trying to shame others into compliance with their wishes to keep the family secrets in the dark.

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Toxic family dynamicsQ My step-grandmother keeps setting up battles between members of the family – and then somehow turns it round as if she’s the victim! She’s just lately told lies to my aunt about what I’m supposed to have said about her relationship with my uncle. My aunt questioned me about it and when I asked my gran about what she’d said and why, she denied it to my face and said my aunt must be lying – and she added the usual ‘why does everybody in this family keep telling lies about me’? Yet SHE is the one setting it all up! She creates conflicts and fall outs, and pitches people against one another. There is so much bad feeling and lack of trust now. I don’t know who to believe any more. Why does she keep doing this, and why do the rest of us seem to keep falling for it?

A Let’s think about what the desired outcome might be for your grandmother – because we all do what we do for a reason (not to say that it’s a good or bad reason).

It may well be that she is somehow replaying her own early family drama – and recreating ‘triangular relationships’.

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