Just the phrase “Narcissistic Mother” sound like an oxymoron. Sadly, it is not and is a very real thing which can impact a child’s beliefs, behaviors, and self-esteem well into adulthood.
Part of being a child means being able to rely on our parents for love, support, and encouragement. In order for children to develop healthy relationships with themselves, others, and the world around them, they need to be seen and heard by their loved ones as they grow up. When children are denied this, it can be a painful experience that creates lasting affects on almost every aspect of their life.
This is often what happens to children who grew up with Narcissistic Mothers.
The description of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) includes nine possible symptoms. Each of the symptoms is in direct opposition of traits that a good mother possess.
Here are 9 traits associated with Narcissistic Mothers:
Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder exaggerates his or her achievements and talents and expects to be recognized as superior to others. A narcissistic mother may be unable to put her own child’s needs first because of this false belief about herself.
Fantasies about self
These fantasies can be related to unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love. A mother who attempts to pursue domains related to these fantasies may forsake her children in this futile pursuit.
Sees self as special
This includes beliefs that someone can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high status people. A mother who exhibits this trait may refuse to associate with her children or others in their children’s lives (i.e. other parents, teachers, etc.).
Requires excessive admiration
Motherhood can be a thankless job, and mothers who require admiration from the children may be sorely disappointed when this admiration doesn’t come. The reaction to this can be as minor as resentment, but it may also lead to more serious reactions such as abuse or neglect, as these mothers eventually refuse to perform motherly duties.
Sense of entitlement
The symptom includes unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations. The trait can be passed onto children, who may also believe they are entitled to similar favorable treatment.
A person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder often takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends. A mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder may be driven to use her own child to achieve her own needs, despite the threat it may pose to the child.
Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is unable to recognize or identify with the feelings or needs of others. This is especially concerning for mothers, as the identification of their children’s feelings is necessary to help them learn to understand them and emotionally mature.
Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder often envy others or believe that others are envious of them. This is another trait that is likely to be passed onto children, which can lead to future relational deficits.
Arrogance is another trait that may be modeled by narcissistic mothers. Children who observe an arrogant mother may believe this characteristic is normal and may themselves display it – which will of course cause a multitude of problems in many aspects of life.
In isolation, these symptoms may not present a clear danger to the child of a narcissistic mother, but when these traits are combined the potential disastrous effects become clear.
If you feel like you went through a lot growing up with a Narcissistic Mother, you may want to explore any issues left behind as a result. A well-trained therapist knowledgeable about narcissistic parents can help you process any unresolved emotions and any effects of trauma and help you to move forward.
Life is short and knowledge is power. Increasing your awareness of the shortcomings of your narcissistic mother can increase your sense of freedom and power and allow you to free yourself from negative core beliefs. Find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you do it!
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.