To see your mother as ‘narcissistic’ is a terribly difficult thing to do, for reasons that go way back and which cut deep into our social structure as well.
The idea of mother is that she is a source of security, warmth, acceptance and regeneration. We’re supposed to go to her to make things ‘ok’ again when life gets difficult or painful. She’s the first figure in our lives at a time when we were the most vulnerable and in need.
The Necessity Of Needing Your Mother To Be ‘Good’
In short, our survival depended on her. And we knew it. We felt it in our bones. This need was all-consuming. She was the one figure who stood between a Utopian calm and warmth or falling into a dystopian state of pure terror. This might sound exaggerated, but for a child, fear is always at the gate, and mummy is the one who is supposed to make it go away.
The fact that your mother could be a wounded person with a destructive ego construct never entered your consciousness. All you were concerned about was having a ‘good’ mother to look after you.
Children are magical in their thinking, and this ‘good mother’ is a very real part of your psyche. In a child’s mind, this figure is absolutely real, and you seek to connect with it through your own mother. As a survival mechanism, it makes total sense.
As you grow older, this longing doesn’t just disappear. It only disappears if your mother was sufficiently able to play the part. If she was able to nurture your needs and fears and lead you to maturity, the day would come when you realised she was a human being with faults.
How Your Mother’s Narcissism Muddies Your View
With a narcissistic mother, you never reach that stage. Her narcissistic behaviour keeps you embroiled in a state of anxiety and insecurity. The worse it gets, the more in need of reassurance you become, and the tighter you cling to the ‘idea’ of mother. It’s a horrible situation to be in, where the person who is causing you to feel shameful and insecure is the one figure in your mind who can make those feelings go away. It’s crazy making.
This construct is so deeply ingrained, it doesn’t even go away if you become aware of it. It continues to pull at you and blind you. It keeps you longing for the day when you can experience a mother who is loving and accepting while giving you the support and space to thrive and grow.
Another factor is that in society we are supposed to love and respect the person who gave life to us unconditionally. That’s why we have mother’s day. The guilt and shame of feeling otherwise about your mother is a heavy load to carry. To see her in any negative light is to tread into dark, forbidden territory. It’s easier to imagine her as the wonderful ‘good mother’ who you met when you took your first breath. This attitude is more agreeable in general, socially speaking.
You didn’t see your mother’s narcissism because like every sane human being, you had a deep longing for the complete opposite. To go against that longing is a deeply painful experience which cuts into the deepest part of your being. The ‘truth’ was a terrifying phantom too powerful for you to face up to in the past.
For whatever reason, you’ve now matured sufficiently and are capable of seeing this truth and facing up to it. Now you can begin to see your mother in a more nuanced, realistic way, and start your healing process.
You can set boundaries and separate your emotions from her. You can carve out your own space; physical, mental and emotional. There are real ways to connect with the ‘mother’ archetype in our lives, such as through loving female friends, therapists and other mentors.
While seeing your mother with all of her flaw, trauma and dsyfunction can be terribly distressing, it can also free from chasing a phantom, and embracing self-mothering as a way of life. Above all, it can free you to grieve the love, nurture and mothering you never had, and with that move infinitely closer to mental health and peace.