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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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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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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How to deal with an abusive toxic motheQ Whenever I do or say something that my mum doesn’t like she gets upset and finds a way to punish me. I’m an only child, she was divorced when I was a baby, and I’ve never seen my dad. When I was little she hurt me by hitting and kicking me, and not letting me eat. Now I’m older she ignores me instead, and acts as if I don’t exist. I don’t set out to upset her (as far as I know) and I want to know why she does this and how to stop her from doing it to me. It seems so childish and cruel.

A Yes, it it cruel and childish behaviour – which gives a clear indication of how she protects her fragile ego from any perceived challenges, rejections or attacks.

She is trying to punish you by her refusal to speak with you, or acknowledge your existence. It is a cruel attempt to make you feel worthless, flawed and unwanted. That may be her distorted perception of you (and more likely of herself), but that doesn’t make it the truth!

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Protection from a narcissistic mother parent Q I’ve chosen to be estranged from mother for the last 10 years, since my dad died. My mother is really mean and nasty, and from reading the literature I can see now that she has what’s called a narcissistic personality disorder. The only way I could cope was to ‘divorce’ her years ago.

I’ve now heard from an elderly aunt (her sister) that my mother wants to have contact with my two kids (aged 8 and 6), because she’s ill and wants to have a relationship with her only grandchildren before she dies.

I don’t know whether to believe this or not. My fear is that if we let her into our lives she’ll take over, play the victim and manipulate everyone into giving in to her demands.

My husband and kids have no idea how toxic she really is and when I mentioned my aunt’s ‘phone call my husband sided with her, and thinks I should give my mum one last chance.

I’m feeling emotionally manipulated – again! All I want to do is protect my kids from her nastiness, tricks, lies and games. I know it sounds mean but I wish she already was dead. Should I let her back in to my life?

A Only you can make that decision. It must have been a dig decision for you to have no contact with her years ago and your reasons must have been right for you at that time.

Let’s focus on what is of most benefit to your children. If they haven’t had a relationship with her so far they may not see any point in starting one now. They will also be picking up your feelings about it and this will confuse them too.

What do you fear most from having contact with her again? Are you better able to hold your boundaries with her now, than you were in the past?

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