Narcissistic Mother: No Contact or Low Contact
© by Gail Meyers
Deciding to go low contact or no contact with your narcissistic personality disordered mother is a huge decision. Depending on where you are in your recovery process, it can feel anywhere from impossible or overwhelming, to mandatory and long overdue.
As you are considering what level of contact is best for you, look at the options. Yes, you have options. The choice is yours. We can not change anyone else, least of all a narcissistic mother. That leaves us to work on us. Some of the options are:
- Maintain the same or reduced level of contact, but learn to handle your narcissistic mother differently. Put some new steps in an old dance.
- Reduce your contact to low contact with narcissistic mom, such as two hours a month for dinner.
- Temporarily separate from narcissistic mother to focus on your recovery.
- Decide to go no contact.
Changing the Narcissistic Dance
This seems to work best when the daughter has emotionally separated from the mother and has a stronger sense of self. The son or daughter may have accepted that her narcissistic mother will never change and given up the hope that she ever will. The daughter has accepted the narcissistic mother for who she is instead of what she wishes her to be. She has accepted that her mother is incapable of mothering. So the daughter does not have expectations that her mother will change or meet her emotional needs. Therefore, the daughter is not continuously disappointed by her mother's behavior.
The daughter continues to maintain contact with her narcissistic mother, but she keeps the conversation light and polite. Another possible option is to speak for a brief time every couple of weeks. The daughter makes no attempt to establish emotional closeness with her narcissistic mother, but does not remove her mother completely from her life.
The real keys here seem to be autonomy and strong boundaries. Otherwise, the daughter risks being sucked back into the dysfunctional family dynamics. It may take practice and restraint not to respond in a hostile manner, but you can set your boundaries in a peaceful manner. Simply state your boundary and stick to it. If she does not respect it, state it again or remove yourself from the situation.
Low Contact with Narcissistic MotherAnother option is low contact. The point here is to limit your exposure to a toxic person and set clear boundaries. Do not give the narcissist anything to work with by pouring your heart out to them. Do not keep the narcissist up to date on the happenings in your life. This can also be a gradual process leading to no contact. The narcissist will likely notice the change, so be prepared.
When I did this I was accused of being "so secretive." That was because I was no longer giving her the details of my life that she could twist beyond recognition in her seemingly endless smear campaign. Like the above option of maintaining contact but giving different responses, during low contact you can work on changing the dance between you and your narcissistic mother. It takes two to dance some of narcissist's routines, but that is certainly not true of all of their maneuvers based on my experience. Refuse to stay locked into your assigned steps. You learn new steps or you choose to leave the dance floor.
Temporary Separation from Narcissistic MotherDaughters and sons can choose to temporarily separate from their narcissistic mothers. As we all know, she will assume it has to do with her instead of you since you are merely an extension of her in her mind. In my opinion, this can be extremely beneficial especially during early recovery work. We need to feel physically and emotionally safe in order to protect ourselves from further wounds while we focus on addressing the ones we have been carrying.
Narcissistic mothers may not like this and may even throw a fit or have an emergency. You are not responsible for your mother's feelings, emotions or reactions. You can tell her politely but firmly. Then simply do what you said you were going to do. However, there are also those who do not announce this to their narcissistic mothers. They simply pull back and begin to focus on their lives and recovery.
No Contact with Narcissistic MotherOnce you are certain you are dealing with a narcissistic personality disordered mother, the only advice often given is to go no contact. While I realize this solution is not for every adult son or daughter of every narcissist, I think this is by far the healthiest option. At 50, I want to shout it from the rooftops to the next generation of sons and daughters to go no contact!
When I look back over the nearly 30 years now since the diagnosis was originally given, I can unequivocally say going no contact and staying that way would have been the best option. I endured years of unnecessary pain and broken relationships as a result of my own mother's abuse and slander, plus the impact on future generations when I was working so hard to break the cycles.
I have spoken to several other women ages 50 and over who all say the same thing. They feel as if they lost decades of their lives. They are exhausted with nothing to show for it. It is exhausting dealing with a narcissist, especially if you continue believing they will change someday. It was my experience that when you attempt to set a new boundary in a dysfunctional family, the whole family system bucks up against you to put your back in your place. That is especially true if you are the scapegoat.
Healthy families where everyone takes responsibility for their emotions and actions do not require scapegoats. Scapegoats exist in dysfunctional families where someone chronically refuses to take responsibility for themselves, such as a narcissistic personality disordered mother. The scapegoat taking all of the blame allows the rest of the family to appear normal. As we all know, appearance is everything to a narcissist. So prepare yourself for that possibility.
Narcissistic Mother's Flying MonkeysAlso prepare yourself for the flying monkeys. My mother used my siblings, aunts, nieces, nephews and grandparents as flying monkeys at different times. So you may also need to make low contact or no contact decisions with other members of the family too. Many times I had the experience of being estranged from my narcissistic personality disordered mother when she sent a flying monkey to find out what was going on in my life. It was usually in the form of fake concern or a flipped martyr tale my mother told so she could play the victim while vilifying the true victim, e.g., in order to summons the flying monkeys and conceal the true reason for the estrangement.
An enmeshed or engulfing narcissistic mother might stalk you on the telephone or in person when you attempt to go no contact. If so, you will need to set the necessary boundaries. At the other extreme is the ignoring narcissistic mother. She will likely let you go, very easily. She will let you go too easily, if not happily, as if to say you do not matter much anyway. My mother pulled both of these routines at different times. It is a head game, but also may be a huge blessing in disguise. It may not last when you do not cave in, so enjoy it while it does!
As you begin healing and are taking better care of yourself, your new boundaries start to feel more natural. It also helped me to improve my self care by thinking of myself as my own best friend, then decide what I would do for a friend in this situation. Then that was what I would do for myself. We have been taught our needs do not count, so that may be helpful when trying to re-parent yourself, determine appropriate boundaries, etc.
You are in control of your life no matter how much a narcissist would love for you to believe otherwise. Make a plan and head in that direction as you are safely physically and emotionally able to do so. Narcissistic mothers demand perfection, but you do not have to do it perfectly. Just head in that direction the best you are safely able to at this time.
Deciding to go no contact with your narcissistic personality disordered mother is a life changing and uniquely personal decision. The decision an adult son or daughter makes to go no contact can have profound, far-reaching consequences for yourself, spouse and children. There comes a time in recovery when each of us must determine whether maintaining contact in healthy. Sometimes, as sad as it is, a narcissistic personality disordered mother is too toxic.
Narcissistic GrandmotherAt this point in my life I am a mother and grandmother, so I am speaking from experience in this regard. Please always keep your children in mind when deciding the level of contact you will have with your mother. You may think your mother would never harm your children. Think again, a grandchild is further removed than her own child was. Narcissistic mothers become narcissistic grandmothers.
Also, as my mother did, it can be done in very subtle, deceitful ways. Your children can pick up the negative behavior while Grandma is turning them against you. Be it by word or deed Grandma's toxic attitudes are conveyed to the children. Grandma will groom an impressionable child as narcissistic supply, to take care of her, feel sorry for her, etc., and your little darling may soon be a flying monkey who is treating you much the same way your narcissistic mother taught your siblings to treat you.
If you have been told by a licensed professional that your parent is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, please do not underestimate the narcissist even though she is your mother. Underestimating my narcissistic mother was a mistake I made for many years that cost me greatly. A high toxicity narcissist will strip you of all you hold dear and suck the life out of you. Some have coined this "soul murder." She will then convince everyone she is the victim and you are a monster! Truly, it can feel like you are living in a horror movie, except that it is not a movie. It is your life!
Is Going No Contact Harsh?During my 20's and 30's I heard this over and over from friends, family, neighbors, church members, pastors, etc. What it accomplishes is reinforcing the narcissist's abuse, invalidating and further alienating the son or daughter. My narcissist mother loved to manipulate with guilt and pity anyway, so it fit right in with her tactics. It caused me much confusion, guilt and indecision at times, but at other times I simply dismissed their advice.
As a result, there is never any validation for the adult child's feelings. It can seem as if all of society is approving of the narcissistic mother's abuse. This is very often the predicament the son or daughter of a narcissistic personality disordered mother finds himself or herself in.
Often times people added to the damage by giving me their opinions of my feelings of anger or hurt resulting mother's carefully crafted, concealed abuse. What many of these people are actually giving is their opinion of your emotions. Emotions are not right or wrong, they just are. You are entitled to the normal human response to abuse.
The average person can not even grasp the reality of a narcissistic personality disordered mother. So if you were blessed with a healthy, nurturing mother please be considerate of those who were not. If you are facing the situation, be very careful who you listen to. The sacred role of mother fights against a child of a narcissist mother. It is so unnatural that the average person assumes a mother does what is best for her children.
Someone stating going no contact is harsh is a ridiculous statement. If there was physical evidence of the destruction caused psychologically, to relationships and reputation, others would not rush to such a conclusion. If that were the case, stating no contact is harsh would be roughly the same as telling a rape victim having no contact with her rapist is harsh. A narcissist high on the narcissism spectrum is a predator and you have every right to protect yourself and your children as you would from any other predator.
Also, remember you are under no obligation to explain yourself to anyone. It is especially true that you are not obligated to explain yourself to people who are committed to misunderstanding you, disrespecting your boundaries and undermining your choices.
No Contact Recovery WorkThis is one of the most important things I learned from going no contact with my narcissistic personality disordered mother. The physical separation ended the constant flow of venom. So it was a definite improvement in that regard. However, the emotional pain does not stop simply because an adult son or daughter decides to go no contact. Continuing in your recovery work is vitally important. You have to leave home psychologically, emotionally separate from your mother.
It can be helpful to keep these points in mind:
- You can not fix your narcissist mother.
- Narcissists high on the spectrum do not change. Ever.
- You are not helping your mother by allowing her to continue abusing you.
- Besides you getting sucked back into the dysfunction, children can quickly learn the unhealthy attitudes and behaviors of a narcissistic grandmother.
- Be extremely careful not to become the narcissist's flying monkey.
- Do not underestimate a narcissist high on the narcissism spectrum.
- Going no contact is not harsh.
- Enduring abuse without protecting yourself is harsh - to you!
- Be careful who you listen to.
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Photo: Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun -The_Daughter's Portrait, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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