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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Having to explain about my toxic motherQ I made the mistake of speaking honestly about my horrible and ‘toxic’ mother to a new friend at work, but she totally didn’t get it. Instead of understanding what I was telling her she gave me a lecture. She says that I should see things from my mother’s point of view, that she’s been doing the best she can, that I’ll regret it if I cut all ties with my mother…and the worst bit…that I probably love my mother deep down! She couldn’t be more wrong!

I walked away from that conversation, but it shows me again that some people just can’t seem to understand what it’s like to have bad parents.

I shouldn’t have to explain and give examples for them to judge. I’ll have to keep it to myself in future as it’s too awkward to share with someone who has no idea what it’s like to feel unloved and be treated like rubbish by your own mother.

A You’re right. People can only respond from their own ‘frame of reference’ and what they know.

If they’ve had no experience of toxic parents – either personally or from hearing about the experiences of others – then you might as well be speaking a different language.

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Compulsive liar damages relationship, in childrens home, in foster care, in careQ My soon-to-be-ex partner keeps making false promises and telling me lies. Then he never explains himself to me when he’s been found out. He just laughs it off, blames someone else – including me – or he disappears for a few days.

He’d promise that we’d do something or go somewhere… and then make sure that we didn’t go – for one reason or another. It took me a few months to cotton on to what he kept doing because he’s so believable.

I don’t understand why he bothered to offer me things like holidays and shopping trips and then never follow through with anything.

He lies about what he’s said and done – even when I know the truth. He will argue that black is white that he’s in the right and other people are wrong. He even has me confused and believing him – although I know the truth!

He used to be in a children’s home as a child, and had several foster homes, so maybe this has something to do with it.

I’ve decided to break up with him and I’ve stopped believing any of his pie-in-the-sky offers, false promises, and frequent lies. But I’m still curious about why he keeps doing this and setting me up for disappointment – and making himself look bad too.

A I do sympathise and empathise with you. It is impossible to build a solid relationship on shifting sand. Without trust and safety there’s nothing for you (and your inner child) to attach to. That lack of attachment is also significant in another way … for him.

When he’s making his offers and promises he probably feels that he’s being seen by you as generous and kind – and he’s liked for that.

Then he can’t, or won’t, deliver on his promises and so he then gets the familiar pay off of being seen as a disappointment – and disliked (and ultimately rejected) because of that.

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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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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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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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chronic fatigue syndrome, adverse childhood experiences, emotional abuse, emotional exhaustion, parentification, abusive childhoodQ I have very low energy levels and feel exhausted almost all of the time. My doctor says there’s no physical cause that she can find, and that I should see if there’s a psychological reason. I’ve felt like this for as long as I can remember. As a kid I had to look after my younger brother and sister since I was about 9 years old because my mum was often depressed and she was a drinker too. I was more like her parent! Everything was so serious and tiring, there was no time for playing with friends. All this put me off having kids of my own – I just couldn’t cope. I feel old before my time, and wish someone would just take care of me for a change. Do you think my childhood could be linked to my low energy levels nowadays?

A Yes, it certainly could be. What you describe from your childhood is called ‘parentification’ when a child has to take on the role and responsibilities of being like the parent. This deprives the child of their own childhood, and some natural developmental stages can be weakened or even missed.

The consequences may be that as an adult that person then continues to take on the role of looking after everyone else – at the expense of their own well being. They can seem ‘old for their years’ as they wipe themselves out in the service of others.

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