Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tactics of a Narcissistic Personality Disordered Mother

Photo used with written permission from Artist Sherit Ra via Deviant Art

© by Gail Meyers
This insight into narcissistic personality disorder is offered from the perspective of more than 40 years as the daughter of a late narcissistic personality disordered mother, as well as years of recovery. Reading a list of diagnostic traits of narcissistic personality disorder may be a helpful guide, but this is how some of those traits play out in everyday life. Narcissistic personality disorder is a serious condition that can be especially damaging to the children. It is not just a shallow or self-centered person. It can take decades for the children of a narcissistic personality disordered mother to recognize what the real issue is, many never do.
Gaslighting, forgive and forget, gossiping smear campaigns, and playing the victim while vilifying the true victim, are prevalent maneuvers of the narcissistic mother that will be discussed. These tactics were nearly always effective tools used to manipulate the "flying monkeys," too. Flying monkeys is a term taken from The Wizard of Oz and used to describe the often times willfully ignorant, easily deceived or intentionally abusive friends and family the narcissistic personality disordered mother manipulates into also harming the true victim.  It is abuse by proxy that results from ignorance of the truth, lack of character to stand up for the truth or intentionally targeting a family member. Whether it is directly or indirectly,  physically or emotionally, etc., narcissists use flying monkeys to do  their dirty work.

Even though my narcissistic mother is  deceased, the flying monkeys continue to carry out her pretend world. They do not appreciate when the scapegoat refuses to play along. However, the pretend world of the narcissist, the rabbit hole, is intolerable. It is about like standing on the lawn with someone who has their sunglasses on at high noon on a sunny day. They not only insist it is dark outside and those are not sunglasses, but that you agree with them that it is dark outside and those are not sunglasses. If you refuse to play pretend or state the obvious, then you are accused of being a troublemaker or crazy. Now imagine growing up in the rabbit hole as the narcissistic personality disordered mother's scapegoat.

Gaslighting definition by Dr. Martha Stout
Gaslighting definition by Dr. Martha Stout

What is Gaslighting? 

Gaslighting is a favorite for the narcissistic abusers. What is gaslighting? It is a little known, but insidious form of abuse. The term was taken from the 1944 movie Gas Light, in which a psychopath intentionally tries to drive his wife to insanity. Unbeknownst to his wife, he had previously murdered her aunt, but did not get away with the jewels he wanted. Years later he romances the wife, they marry and he talks her into moving back into the house where he knows the jewels are hidden, and immediately begins isolating her.

While searching for the jewels in the attic, where he believes the jewels are hidden, he uses a gas light. When he uses that gas light it causes the other gas lights to dim. When his wife notices the dimming, he tells her she is imagining things. He moves things and when she can not find them he gives responses designed to cause her to doubt her perception of reality. Then, if that was not enough, he gets the housemaid to join in. So no one validates his wife's perceptions, which are 100% accurate by the way. I do not want to ruin the movie for you, but you get the point. 

Gaslighting can take many forms, but can have the same result. It often causes the target to doubt their own sense of reality. It's what many abusers do when they abuse you, then the next day deny it happened. This can happen to the extent that we question our own perceptions and memories on an increasingly grander scale.

It can become like wearing down a rock over time, especially coupled with the exhaustion that often goes along with dealing with a narcissist. It's psychological abuse. It can dismantle our self-confidence as we begin to question ourselves instead of the abuser. It is especially damaging in severely dysfunctional families where the rest of the family pretends along with the abuser. What is wrong with me? Am I losing my mind? Or, are you being abused with an insidious form of abuse called gaslighting.

In the  movie, he intentionally moved her brooch then pretended he had not when she was looking for it. We would likely say something like, "I could swear I put that in my purse!" Soon you begin to doubt your memory. This is also a variation of the gaslighting the Manson family used breaking into a home, not stealing anything, just rearranging a few things enough  to cause distress. It is the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Think about that for a minute. It would be  very upsetting to come home and find your home had been burglarized, but  you could at least tell yourself they were thieves looking for fast cash. You come home to find your things moved around, but nothing  stolen, there are only a couple of possible conclusions.

You can not comfort yourself with the idea that perhaps it was just a petty thief who violated your home because nothing is actually missing. Your personal belongings have just been moved. Do you doubt your own recollection of how you left things? Do you conclude it is something more sinister and directed personally at you, than thieves just wanting fast cash? It would be very disturbing. In dealing with a gaslighting narcissist, just realizing what is going on, that it is not you and being able to put a name on it can help you keep your sanity!


The Narcissist's Forgive and Forget

In my experience some sick people love to try to beat you half to death with the Bible. Of course, it's usually redefined terms and biblical text taken out of context being used as a pretext. That's what cults do and in my opinion a family led by a narcissistic personality disordered parent is a little cult family. So, I guess it should not be any big surprise.  Forgive and forget must be one of the all time favorites for abusive family members and those who enable them, so I would like to address it.

I  think the Bible is pretty clear that God wants us to forgive, but that does not necessarily mean what you may have been taught. It can easily become the "forgive and forget" that has been handed down in my family for generations, but only to certain members, of course. You are required to "forgive and forget," period. This is usually followed by the implication or suggestion that you return for more abuse in order to "prove" you "forgive and forget." Otherwise, YOU are the one accused of being "mean," "unforgiving," or  "unChristian-like" by the narcissist and her flying monkeys. 

Narcissistic abusers of all kinds, as well as those who enable them, would love for you to believe this is what forgiveness means. Among other things, this confuses the fundamental difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness takes one, you. Reconciliation takes two. However, in some situations such as relationships involving ongoing abuse, reconciliation is not desirable, in which case you can forgive without forgetting or reconciling.     

The Bible provides instructions on forgiveness, reconciliation or, in some cases, parting ways in different situations, such as when there is repentance on the part of the offending fellow believer or when there is not repentance. In  Luke 17:3 it says, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." This is to honestly, frankly, politely speak as you tell a person how you feel that he has wronged you. It does not say a thing about stuffing your normal human response of anger, pretending you  forgave, "forgetting" and returning for more abuse.

"Forget" does nothing but play into the denial and the rest of the pretend world of the manipulative narcissist. Abusers often gaslight, (see Gaslighting)  and those who do especially like to reinforce this belief because it fits right in with them pretending the abuse did not happen. There is no  mention of repentance on the narcissist's part, but the focus is on your requirement to "forgive and forget." This is a deadly trap in my opinion and one my narcissistic mother had me in for several years as a very young adult. Besides allowing abuse God never intended for us to endure, it can also lead to enormous anger toward God.

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him  his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have  won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two  or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a tax collector." (Matt. 18:15-17) (Tax collectors were hated and  ostracized because they had turned against their own people to collect  the taxes. Secondly, they were despised because they were allowed to add  their own "fees" to the amount collected, but many would demand a much  greater amount. So they were considered traitors and thieves.) 

That certainly does not sound like the "forgive and forget" I was raised to believe God required! It's actually the "forgive and forget" abusers and their enablers promote to knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate the cycle of abuse. While this is an instruction addressing an issue between two believers, even then you are not required to just "forgive and forget" ongoing abuse if you are a Christian and go back for more. Reconciliation without repentance can be dangerous. God  does not want us to continue to be abused! 

"Forgive and forget" also  removes an opportunity for the abuser to be confronted with their actions and repent. Of course, that will never happen with a true  narcissist! Some people never repent, nor are they truly remorseful. However, there are actually certain people the Bible tells us to avoid altogether, which includes a narcissist who masquerades as a "selfless saint." 

Of course, the narcissist never forgives the slightest  infraction - be it real, imagined or completely fabricated. No, "forgive  and forget" is for the victim. If you hurt her feelings or even if she  hurt your feelings viciously, but told everyone you attacked her, she has what any normal person would believe to be a long forgotten small disagreement filed away just waiting for an opportunity to use it against you. Bet on it. She has either actively sought revenge or it is seething just under the surface waiting for the right opportunity. God forbid there was anything more substantial.

On a related note, it can be difficult to grasp that someone in your life is this far gone, let alone the fact that someone is your parent. For years I told myself, "All things are possible with God!" Well, all things are possible with God, but God gave us free will. She did not want to change. It worked for her and it worked well. 

She paraded as a "martyred, selfless saint," and was terminally ill for two years prior to her death. Even as her professed beliefs told her she was getting ready to meet her Maker, there was no making amends. There was no confession of the truth, remorse or apology for the lifetime of  jealous fits, abuse, gaslighting, slander, smear campaigns, broken relationships, damaged reputation, etc.  There were more accusations, lies and manipulation resulting in a dog pile by the flying monkeys as the puppet master's final carefully orchestrated earthly gesture before stepping into eternity.  

Do not  make the mistake of believing there is empathy or remorse in there  somewhere, there is not. See the following on my lessons learned if you  are waiting for an apology or dealing with a terminally ill narcissistic  personality disordered parent:

The Dangers of Expecting a Death-Bed Apology from Your Narcissistic Personality Disordered Mother

The Terminal Illness and Death of a Narcissistic Personality Disordered Mother

If there happens to be some expression presented as an apology to someone, listen to it carefully. Listen for a subtle shifting of blame away from the narcissist, which I like to call a "non-apology." It will never happen spontaneously as you or I would apologize to someone because we are truly sorry. For example, you accidentally step on someone's foot and almost as a reflex  you apologize. It is never like that with a narcissist because not only are they not sorry, but they have been plotting, seething and scheming  to do whatever they did. They are also seething that anyone could think they did anything deserving of an apology.  

If it gives the appearance of an apology, there is an ulterior motive in there if you look for it. For example, the narcissist gives the "apology" not for the benefit of the person on the receiving end, but for the benefit of an audience who happens to be the narcissistic supply and flying monkeys.  Again, they are not truly sorry, but if they do not pretend to be it could cost them in the eyes of their all important narcissistic supply and flying monkeys.

Do you "forgive and forget?" Poll
12% Yes, I forgive and go back for more
31% Yes, I forgive but then I protect myself next time
29% No, I forgive but I never forget.
29% No, I do not forgive or forget
370 people have voted in this poll.  Poll closed.

The Narcissistic Mother's Smear Campaigns

Ideally, if someone has a problem with another person, they go directly to that person to discuss it. However, that's just often not the case in a dysfunctional family. Some people do this without bad  intentions because they have not recognized the habit or if they believe  the person will become angry or violent if they communicate directly.  However, this can be a favorite of manipulative narcissistic mother that can get  you in deep before you even realize what is happening.

Let's use  Daughter, Mother and Aunt as an example. Daughter has done something  Mother does not like, but instead of going to Daughter about it, Mother  tells Aunt about it. Aunt listens to the gossip, then involves herself in the situation, creating the triangulation. The Mother's intentions may or may not be bad. It could be an old habit and she may not realize the damage she is doing unless it is pointed out to her. Daughter then does not have the opportunity to address the issue with Mother, as well  as potentially having her reputation harmed with Aunt.

The Narcissist Plays the Innocent Victim While Vilifying the True Victims 

On the  other hand, Narcissistic Mother does this with evil intent and  it goes something like this. Narcissistic Mother just verbally assaulted Daughter because Daughter confronted Narcissistic Mother about her lying about Daughter. However, when Narcissistic Mother calls Aunt, she tells Aunt that Daughter just verbally assaulted her because she confronted Daughter about her  lying (notice the flip, the projection of the bad behavior onto the  true victim).

Tactics of a Narcissistic Mother Accusations Quote by Gail Meyers

It appears to strip Narcissistic Mother of her wrong and true victim Daughter of her virtue, killing two birds with one stone. Narcissistic personality disordered Mother then appears innocent of the abuse, damages Daughter's reputation with Aunt and an alliance is formed against the true victim. Aunt may very well believe she is doing the right thing and standing up for the innocent person even though she may be unknowingly being deceived, used and manipulated. 

However, there are also family members who are willfully ignorant along the lines of being silent partners. Aunt becomes Narcissistic  Mother's flying monkey to do her dirty work and heap more abuse on  Daughter for daring to confront Narcissistic Mother about her lying. If you  choose to confront a narcissist, be prepared for the rage and  revenge.

Narcissistic Mother Playing Concerned Parent While Destroying Relationships

The gossip may also be thinly veiled as fake "concern"  for Daughter, whom the Narcissistic Mother just attacked after Daughter confronted Mother about her lying. In this scenario, the Narcissistic Mother may lie by saying something (usually  dripping with martyrdom), followed by fake concern. "I tried to be a  good mother, but I am so worried about her irrational emotional state."

To  the undiscerning, this sounds like a caring mother expressing concern  about her daughter. It is gossip just the same, directed toward casting  doubt on Daughter's stability. If we stand back and look at it, it is  classic narcissistic behavior. The Narcissistic Mother held herself out as the innocent victim who must endure this  irrational child (who is not being irrational at all, but responding  normally to the verbal attack and abuse) and tarnished the reputation of  true victim Daughter in the mind of Flying Monkey Aunt.

Narcissistic Mother has also "explained" any upset Daughter might display, so that Aunt will automatically attribute it to "irrational behavior" should she see Daughter. If Aunt is a well trained Flying Monkey Aunt, she will often turn around and give true victim Daughter a talk about treating her mother better! (Remember, the reality of what actually happened was Daughter confronted NPD Mother about lying about  her in the first place!)

Flying Monkey with Narcissistic Mother Recruiting Flying Monkeys by Playing the Victim Quote by Gail Meyers
Do Not Become a Narcissist's Flying Monkey Video

Do not underestimate the cumulative damage this can cause to your reputation and other relationships when a slanderous narcissistic mother repeats this stunt over a span of years. A lying, manipulative narcissist can completely destroy your relationships before you even realize what is going on.

Narcissistic Mother May Lie to Both Parties During Triangulation

Another version of this scenario often used by a narcissistic mother  is to lie to BOTH parties about the other one. They use this to divide and conquer, even, or perhaps especially, among their own children. So they lie to Daughter about Son, then to Son about Daughter. If Daughter and Son are not wise to the tactics of Narcissistic Mother, they will each be angry with or dislike the other based on the lie. When Narcissistic Mother does this for months, years or decades it can end up severing the relationship between Daughter and Son.

This is  exactly what Narcissistic Mother wants. She wants to be the hub in the middle, the one each child goes to and she certainly does not want them comparing notes. This also allows her to further punish a scapegoat child by manipulating and deceiving the other child or children. Remember dysfunctional families have scapegoats, but a scapegoat is not required unless someone is chronically refusing to take responsibility for their behavior as narcissists are notoriously known for doing.

In my experience as the oldest of five children, with the two oldest children being wise to the tactics to  some degree, a narcissistic mother will go to extraordinary lengths to divide the knowing from the deceived children. Make no mistake about it, all of the children are being used and manipulated.

While it may appear the narcissistic personality disordered mother loves one child more than the other, in reality it is just that in their current deceived state they are more useful to the narcissist. A narcissist greatly fears being exposed for one  thing and the deceived children serve as narcissistic supply as well as  flying monkeys - as long as they are deceived, easily manipulated or willing to continue playing the narcissist's let's pretend games.

In  my experience, the narcissist was a prolific gossip (spending hours a day on the telephone gossiping), who triangulated to divide and conquer, manipulate and punish. Watch your  back! The same narcissist who tries to guilt trip you to death  with twisted Scripture will completely overlook what the Good Book has to say about gossip!

Healing from a Narcissistic Personality Disordered Mother
After all of the hurt, anger, pain, frustration, trying, forgiving, trying again, praying, walking away and going back, it did not change anything about my narcissistic mother. It cost me time, money, enormous energy, broken  relationships, trauma, devastation, anger, and nearly my life. She was  my mother and I loved her, but I can honestly say had I fully grasped  what the therapist was telling me decades ago - the true depth - I would have walked away and never looked back.

No contact would have been the healthiest option for me by far. Oh, I did walk away, more than once, but I would have stayed far away and never returned. I do not issue that opinion lightly. True narcissists do not change, they destroy other people, including their own children. The biggest mistake you can make in my opinion is to underestimate a narcissistic personality disordered individual.  

It is important to me to be as transparent as I am able to be in my articles on this topic simply because I know there are many others out there who have dealt with or are dealing with the same situation. The simple fact that you are not alone can aid the healing process.  I was in my 40's before I found so much as one other human being on the planet who had experienced my situation.  It was a very healing experience just to have  someone who truly understood because they have been there!

If this sounds like your mother or father, know you are not alone. Healing is possible after a narcissist, even if the narcissist was or is your mother. Join us at:

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Mother Facebook by Gail Meyers 

Narcissistic Abuse: Echo Recovery is a community page on Google+ by Gail Meyers. 

The Scapegoats of a Narcissistic Mother by Gail Meyer

Also, being around a narcissist was once explained to me in a way I think is good to keep in mind.  Allowing a narcissistic personality disordered or malignant narcissist to stay in your life is like being injected with a steady stream of venom, then wondering why you don't feel so good.  You wonder because you might not be able to put your finger on exactly what  is wrong. It's not you. 

Get the viper out of your life, cut off the flow  of venom, find some healthy support and start the journey toward  healing and wholeness. Healing from a Narcissistic Mother provides some ideas and tips I have learned along the way.

*This article was originally published by Gail Meyers on 
October 15, 2011 under the title of When Your Mother Has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  It was moved to this blog due to being copied from top to bottom, then the original being targeted in order to remove it from the search results and gain priority over the original.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Healing from a Narcissistic Mother

narcissistic abuse echo recovery by gail meyers quote
Echo by Alexandre Cabanel,
Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
© by Gail Meyers 
It really helped me to map out the recovery process.  I want to know where I am going.  What's the plan?  Volumes have been written about each one of these areas, but in a very general sense there are at least three steps in therapy.  Understanding this helped me understand why the things adult sons and daughters of narcissists are told over and over by professionals are important.

Understanding the Problem

This is the part where you go to therapy without the slightest idea there is a name for the lifetime of abuse and trauma you have endured.  You are convinced at this point that it is all our fault or you are going crazy, or both.  Then the therapist tells you she believes you are a daughter or son of a narcissistic personality disordered mother.  It might also be from reading articles and thinking this sounds hauntingly familiar, then talking to the therapist about it or joining a group or both. 

No matter the way in which we begin to discover the problem, we need to understand it.  We need to understand the disorder, the manipulation tactics, and the effects it has had and is having on us. 

I had already spent three years in sexual abuse therapy, made a lot of changes, done a lot of recovery work and learned a lot about alcoholism, sexual abuse, dysfunctional family roles, etc.  So this is the part where I read every webpage and book I could find on the topic of narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder, as so many other adult sons and daughters of narcissists have told me they have done.  So much of narcissistic abuse involves invalidation.  Thus, finally finding validation is a big part of the healing process. 

When I found Dr. McBride's book I had the rare opportunity to spend some time alone at the lake.  So, it was just me, my journal, and the book on CD while being surrounded by the comforting beauty of nature.  It was a cleansing, healing experience.  Being able to listen to the validating words being spoken was even more healing than reading.
I also looked at my family history and put a lot of pieces together.  As I continued learning about the problem, more and more denial crumbled.  This is a time when you have to really be gentle with yourself.  Do not beat yourself up about the denial or not seeing something that appears to have been right in front of your face for years.  The denial protected our minds so we could survive the abuse. 

Dealing with Feelings and Healing Emotionally

This is the hard part that can feel endless and overwhelming at times.  It is processing trauma, anger and feelings.  This is where you come to accept the reality as you are able to and grieve the losses.  It is the hard part, but there is such a release.  Just as someone grieving the death of a loved one bounces around in the five stages of grief articulated in the book, On Death and Dying, we may also bounce around between denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

That is normal, but some professionals like Dr. Karyl McBride instruct us that acceptance must come first in our recovery process.  We need to accept the reality of the situation and the fact that our narcissistic mothers who are high on the spectrum are never going to change.  I spent years nursing that toxic hope. 

The process I experienced is dealing first with the narcissist - anger, grief, acceptance, anger, anger, anger, grief, sadness, and rage, deeper acceptance, then becoming better able to look at my own life and behavior.  For me, as my denial shattered, the anger really kicked in.  The anger so consuming for a season of time that it felt as if it would never end, but it finally did subside. 

There is a huge distinction that must be made at this point.  There is a difference between intellectually processing and feeling the feelings.  I was told I needed to feel the feelings, not just emotionally detach and intellectually process - which is what I much preferred to do!  I was amazed by the fact that when I actually let myself feel the pain associated with the memories how much it began to take the sting out!

As adult children of narcissists many of us have been conditioned our entire lives to pretend and stuff our feelings.  So, this might be the last thing in the world you feel like doing, but it made all the difference for me.  While it is also important to process the anger, it is equally as important to process it in healthy, non-destructive ways.


Many parts of the healing process are empowering, but after all of the hard work of dealing with our feelings, we can then look at our experiences in a healthier more realistic manner - in light of reality.  In other words, you reconsider your experiences in light of the new information you learn.   

You start to get to know yourself and take better care of yourself.  You shed the false image of yourself projected onto you.  You are important, too.

How a personality disordered parent treated you was not your fault, but it is now your responsibility to make choices for yourself.  These are usually totally and completely self-centered personalities who have probably accused you of being the selfish one if you so much as protested the abuse. 

You are not being selfish by taking care of yourself and protecting yourself from further abuse.  If it helps, consider what you would do for a close friend in the same situation.  Then, do that for yourself.  You would not think your friend was selfish, and you are not being selfish either.  
Among other things, recovery results in finding ourselves, setting healthier boundaries, asserting ourselves in healthy ways, finding balance, and engaging in two-way, reciprocal relationships.

Finding the Right Therapist and Support

There are resources across the United States that can be found at, including sliding scale counseling.  There are also online therapists, such as Dr. Linda Martinez-Lewi, who give telephone consultations.  

Some larger churches provide Christian therapists if you attend the church.  It is very important to find a good fit with a therapist.  The last thing you need is a therapist who does not get it adding more invalidation.  So, find someone who understands this disorder.  Listen to your instincts!  

There are groups and forums online for adult sons and daughters of narcissists, but be sure to do a search of reviews on the group first.  This validation can greatly enhanced the healing process.

Will My Narcissistic Mother Ever Change?

In many ways your healing can be delayed and unnecessary abuse suffered by hanging on to the hope that the narcissist will change. I do not say that lightly, but from more than 40 years of trying at different times myself. Even following a two year terminal illness, with plenty of time to contemplate things, she did not change for the better prior to death.

There is necessary and unnecessary pain.  Feeling the feelings associated with the recovery process is necessary pain in order to recover.  Hanging onto a hope that someone will change who has no desire to change can bring years of unnecessary pain.   

Setting Boundaries with Narcissistic Mother:  No Contact or Low Contact

As you begin to make your way out of the rabbit hole determined to believe you own eyes, ears and gut instead of the lies of a narcissist, you will soon face the decision as to whether to maintain contact with your narcissistic personality disordered mother.

No Contact or Low Contact?  The goal here is to prevent further abuse while working on healing from past abuse. This is a personal choice each adult child son or daughter of a narcissistic personality disordered mother must make for herself or himself. However, the goal is no longer trying to change another person who has no intention of changing and start taking better care of yourself.

This sounds so simple, but it was extremely beneficial to me.  When you think of the behavior of the narcissist, name it. Whatever the tactic, put a name on it. Is it lying, gaslighting, playing the victim while vilifying the true victim, triangulation, forgive and forget? This helps clear the fog, as well as preparing you to recognize the maneuvers in the future.

You can make better choices for yourself. You can heal. You can enjoy life. You can even be happy and healthy. 

List of Tips for Healing from a Narcissist Mother

These are ideas and tips that have helped me along during the healing process:

  • Learn everything you can about narcissism.  As you continue reading it becomes clearer that it was not your fault.  You also learn to recognize the common manipulation tactics.  This helps you be able to understand and put a name on what happened, as well as making them less effective on you in the future.

  • Begin setting healthy boundaries. It is a process, not an event but contemplate and implement healthy boundaries.  Boundary work needs to be done even if you decide to go no contact with your mother, as they are important in every relationship.  It is a process that gets easier as you practice. There is something about putting goals in writing that adds focus and energy. Put your first few new healthy boundaries in writing, ponder them knowing you have decided what is best. Then, when you have a weak or challenging moment, you can look at your paper and tell yourself you thought this out. This process seems to help when you are trying to change. That does not mean you can never change your boundaries or goals or that establishing healthier boundaries is going to happen overnight, but it will be helpful in the beginning. Once the boundaries are better established then it will be easier to see where you can become more flexible. Look at it like trying to learn to ride a bike. When you fall, get back up and try again. Boundaries are important in all relationships, so it is well worth the effort to learn and set healthy boundaries. If someone, anyone, does not respect your boundaries that should send up a red flag of caution to you about that person or relationship. Dr. Henry Cloud's book on boundaries is excellent, as well as widely recommended by therapists.

  • Find some support. You may have been trained by the narcissist to suffer in silence, but begin learning to reach out. Just take baby steps at first. This can be difficult, especially since many adult children of narcissistic personality disordered parents learn to distrust and always be on guard. Begin slowly if you need to so you do not overwhelm yourself. Trust is to be earned, not granted.  Slowly build trust in relationships, instead of jumping in with both feet.  Whether with a therapist or online group or both, find validation.  If you join an online group or forum, check the reviews first.

  • Take your focus off trying to change the narcissist and put it on your recovery. You can not change the narcissist, but you can waste years of your life suffering unnecessary pain hoping and trying. Your focus now is healing and taking care of yourself. You have been through a lifetime of abuse and neglect, but you survived. You have what it takes to heal. If it helps at first, try doing for yourself what you would do for a good friend in the same situation. Pretty soon it will begin to feel more natural until you have developed a new habit of taking better care of yourself.

  • Anger. It is reported by Dr. Paul Meier that up to ninety percent of depression is repressed anger. So do not keep stuffing it. Repressed anger is like trying to hold a beach ball under water. The anger may explode in unexpected places, behaviors or even physical illness. One thing is for sure, it will come out somewhere at some time. In the case of healing from a malignant narcissist, the truth may set you free, but it is going to cause you to be mad as hell first. Anger is a normal human response to hurt and abuse. So the anger is not wrong, it's what you do with it that can make anger healthy or destructive. It may feel like you are going to be angry or even enraged for the rest of your life, but you do not have to be. Once you process the anger in healthy ways, you can be free of it. 

  • Exercise. Once you get in touch with the anger it can feel overwhelming and even frightening. However, it is a necessary part of the healing process. Exercise is a great way to release some of the anger, as well as release pheromones to help fight depression. 

  • A chair for the narcissist. Another way to process anger in a healthy manner is to put two chairs face to face. Now sit in one chair and imagine your narcissistic personality disordered mother sitting in the other chair. Tell her everything you need to say just as if she was actually sitting in the chair. Be prepared because this can really get you in touch with your anger. It may sound silly, but it can really provide a huge release. This is for you, not her.

  • Taking B12 supplement. Taking B12 supplements is the fastest, easiest thing I did for myself and with great results. My doctor told me the years of stress had depleted my B12. Methylcobalamin is the neurologically active form of B12 that exists in nature. The Cyanocobalamin form is not found in nature. B12 is a water soluble vitamin, not fat soluble. Water soluble means you can not overdose on B12, it will be flushed out of your body. (Natural News) Talk to your doctor first.

  • Start a recovery journal. I have been keeping a journal for as long as I can remember.  It is very helpful in processing and validating your thoughts and feelings.

  • If you have repressed memories, that was your mind protecting you. I was instructed not force or prevent memories from coming up. They often come to the surface when you are ready to deal with them. I found a journal to be particularly helpful during that time.

  • Get plenty of sleep. Recovery is hard work. It can be exhausting. Dealing with a narcissist is totally exhausting.  No one can function well without proper sleep.  Remember, this is about taking care of you now. Also, your mind is just as active in REM sleep as it is when you are awake. Keeping your journal and a pen next to your bed can be helpful if you wake up in the night or in the morning with something heavy on your mind, a solution you had not considered before, another incident you are remembering, etc. 

  • Take time to get to know yourself. You have likely spent so much time and energy focused on the narcissist that you may not even know who you are or what you enjoy. Try new things. Find hobbies you enjoy. You are going to be your new best friend.

  • Pay attention to your self-talk. Whether it is out loud or in our mind, we all talk to ourselves. Have you internalized negative messages from your mother? Start paying attention to the things you tell yourself, then start telling yourself encouraging things. Your malignant narcissist mother may have recorded the tapes in your mind, but you can record over them with some time, consistency and effort.  Start telling yourself the truth about yourself and your situation.

  • Discover and develop hobbies, skills and other activities to build your confidence.  Narcissistic mother spent years destroying our confidence while convincing us of her false image of us.  Most things in life require confidence, so discover your natural talents and things you enjoy to restore your confidence.  

  • Healthier Relationships.  Refuse to have any more one-way relationships.  Build reciprocal relationships.  

  • Develop a spiritual relationship with God. It is normal for a child to grow up attributing the characteristics of their parents to God. A hallmark characteristic of a narcissist is an unwillingness to submit their will to a higher being or ideal. An important part of healing and emotional health is to develop a spiritual life. Separate your image of God as being like your parents. Submitting yourself to God, your higher power or a greater good is a hallmark of mental health. (Peck)

  • Eating right is also an important part of taking care of yourself. Give your body what it needs to stay healthy during this stressful time. Learn about proper nutrition and try new things. Learn How to Use Food to Maintain Mental Health.

  • Panic Attacks. Panic attacks seem to be very common in children of narcissistic personality disordered parents. It makes sense due to the conditioning that occurs as a result of growing up in such an environment. I have read many articles from various sources that explain panic attacks as 100% stinking thinking, but I am not so sure I agree with that. I am not a medical doctor, but I do know my own vitamin B12 level was depleted, which was a physical factor. Actually, it was so depleted that the doctor commented to me something to the effect that I would have had to have been under severe stress for 10 years for it to have gotten so low.  Being a narcissist's scapegoat is stressful!  Your nervous system requires B12 to function properly. I had increasingly severe panic attacks for more than a decade, but I have not had one for nearly a decade now. I have also not been on any medication at all. My panic attacks completely stopped after my mother's death, at which time I also started taking B12 and went to therapy for a year.  So if you suffer with panic attacks, there is hope. 

  • Movies Featuring Narcissists. It really helped me in the beginning to watch movies with similar characters. I had gone more than 40 years of my life without anyone in my life who had ever dealt with the same situation or truly understood. Unfortunately, that is not rare for scapegoat daughter or son of a narcissist.  Sometimes these movies can be instrumental in helping you explain your situation or past abuse to loved ones too.

  • Examine your responses. Once you have done some of the other work, begin to take notice of your responses. Are you highly reactive? Ms. Fix It? Look for magical thinking, denial and minimizing unacceptable behavior. You want to address these so you will not turn around and become an inviting Echo for any other narcissistic personality disordered person.

  • Learn to have fun. We adult children of malignant narcissists have been carrying more than our fair share of burdens and may have to learn to have fun. Make a point every weekend, for example, of spending some amount of time just doing something you enjoy. If you do not know what you enjoy, try some new things until you discover things you enjoy. It will give your mind a rest and help rejuvenate you.

In my experience, this is an accurate description of the beginning stages of the recovery process. When I first started setting boundaries all hell broke loose.  However, for me personally, it has been well worth the effort!

*This article was originally published on February 26, 2013.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Movies about Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Movies Starring Narcissists

© by Gail Meyers
Dealing with a narcissist is more than most adults can handle, let alone dealing with one growing up!  I know the feeling.  After the ordeal that was the first 40 years of my life, I began learning everything I could about narcissistic personality disorder.

I learned about the tactics, such as forgive and forget, gaslighting, playing the victim, triangulation, the silent treatment and more.  I developed an insatiable appetite to learn about the disorder and dysfunction.  Then one day I realized narcissists are in movies, too.

Some of these movies were very helpful during the time when the denial was shattering and reality began staring me in the face.  I hope you will find some of them helpful, too.  There is just something about seeing the behavior displayed in a character we are not deeply emotionally invested it.  It becomes clear, easier to see.

Then there is the issue of validation.  Narcissists perfect the art of gaslighting.  Gaslighting invalidates your feelings, emotions and experiences.  It can leave you feeling crazy, like you put your head in a washing machine.  Some of these movies also provide some much need validation to someone who may have been gaslighted for years or even a lifetime.  

If you are not sure what gaslighting is, keep reading or for a more in depth discussion, see this article on gaslighting.

If you have dealt with or are dealing with a narcissist or narcissistic personality disordered person, it is likely an experience you will not soon forget.  Even more so, if you are an adult son or daughter raised in the chaos and abuse.

I thought if I felt that way during my recovery, that others might too.  These movies can also be helpful for friends or loved ones who are trying to understand, but have not been able to.

So I put together this list of favorite movie picks.  If you have a movie that you think is a great choice, please mention it in the comments.  There everyone can enjoy it or I can add it to the list.


This movie is an absolute must see for anyone dealing with or recovering from a narcissist.  Gaslight is an award winning psychological thriller that so clearly demonstrates gaslighting techniques and the devastating results it can have on a person.

More and more people are coming forward and speaking out about narcissistic parents, siblings, spouses, neighbors and bosses.  Thus, I deem this one a must see for everyone!  This movie is where the term gaslighting originated.

The original version was released in the United Kingdom, prior to a Broadway show of it under the name of Angel Street.  Then, this version was released in the United States in 1944, starring the legendary Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Joseph Cotten.  Angela Lansbury, of Murder She Wrote fame, makes her movie debut as the mischievous young maid.

The movie is set in Victorian London with Ingrid Bergman playing Paula, the gaslight victim.  Charles Boyer plays her sinister gaslighting husband, Gregory Anton.  Many classify him as a psychopath or antisocial personality disordered. Years after the murder of her aunt, Gregory and Paula fall in love and marry.

Shortly thereafter, Gregory convinces Paula to move back into her childhood home, the house where her aunt was murdered.  Paula agrees, but as soon as she does the trouble begins.  She notices the gas lights dimming, but when she mentions it to her husband he tells her she is imagining things.

Little does Paula know her husband has a secret he will do anything to protect.  He is the one who murdered Paula's aunt years before, but did not get away with the jewels he was after.  So when the lights are dimming, it is because Gregory is in the attic when he believes the jewels are hidden.

When he uses the attic gas light, it causes all of the other lights to dim, just as Paula remarked.  Gregory continues to gaslight Paula, but soon steps over the line into physical gaslighting.   He moves her broach, but when she cannot find it he tells her she has been forgetful lately.

Gregory continues to gaslight and isolate Paula as the emotional tole becomes more obvious.  Notice in the movie, there was no physical abuse, nor did Gregory ever raise his hand to Paula.  Yet, she is on the verge of losing her mind. Will Gregory get away with it?  Will he find the jewels?  I can not spoil the ending!

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is often discussed as the classic tale symbolizing narcissism.  The entire movie can be analyzed within the framework of narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder.

Actually, it has been in the book, The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists:  Coping with the One Way Relationship at Work, Love and Family.  However, the reason I have mention it here, is for the reference to the flying monkeys.

Flying monkeys is a term you will often see used when reading and learning about narcissists and narcissistic personality disorder.  Sometimes writes have used the term so often or for so long, they forget to define what it means for those who do not know.

The flying monkeys do the Wicked Witch's dirty work in the movie.   The Wicked Witch sends the flying monkeys after Dorothy.  Among other things, the Wicked Witch wants Dorothy's red slippers.  Notice in the clip the Wicked Witch is actually green, and that Dorothy has done nothing wrong. She just has things the Wicked Witch wants.  Thus, the people a narcissist manipulates and uses to abuse by proxy are often referred to as the flying monkeys.

The Sopranos

David Chase created this HBO TV series that ran from 1997 to 2007. He was inspired to create a storyline about a mobster seeing a therapist because of problems with his mother. David relied heavily on his relationship with his own allegedly narcissistic personality disordered mother when creating the roles for the series.

This is a great source for sons of narcissistic mothers.   Livia Soprano displays endless narcissistic behavior, including sucking the life out of her children. True to narcissistic form, on her son Tony's wedding day she tells her soon-to-be daughter-in-law that Tony will eventually get bored with her.

Later she manipulates a family member into putting out a hit on Tony because he tried to put her in a nursing home. Tony plots his revenge, intending to suffocate his mother, but she suffers a stroke. When she is released from the hospital Tony goes no contact with his narcissistic mother.

Livia displays classic behaviors of a narcissistic personality disordered mother before her character dies during the course of the series.

Mommie Dearest

This is another must see for daughters of narcissistic mothers.  Mommie Dearest is a movie adult sons and daughters of narcissistic personality disordered mothers often relate well to.  It is often spoken of as a chillingly accurate account of what it is like growing up in such an environment.

Mommie Dearest is based on the real life story of Christine Crawford, adopted daughter of the late Joan Crawford. Christine reveals the secret hell of her childhood, inflicted on her by her mother. 

It is most widely known for the "no wire hangers" scene.  Be warned, the clip is rather intense as Christine's mother flies into a rage because Christine's clothes are on wire hangers instead of nicer hangers.

As an adult, Christine claimed even their adoption was a publicity stunt.  Being overly concerned about the way things look, rather than how they feel, is classic narcissist behavior.

Some confirmed the validity of Christine's claims, while other disputed it.  Some believe Joan was bipolar, others have alleged she was borderline personality disordered, and still other claim it was OCD.

Regardless of the diagnosis, this movie clearly displays familiar maternal narcissistic traits.  In an interesting side note, Christine and her brother were written out of Joan's will after her death in 1977.  The will states the reason for being disinherited as "reasons which are well known to them."      

White Oleander

White Oleander stars Michelle Pfieffer, Renee Wellzeger and Robin Wright Penn, with Michelle Pfieffer doing an amazing job of playing the narcissistic mother, Ingrid.  In this movie the story is told from the daughter's point of view, which makes it even better for adult children of narcissists.  The mother's narcissism shines through brightly.

After several unsuccessful attempts to reconcile, Ingrid discovers her love interest has been seeing a younger woman.  Ingrid continues to obsess about this man until she ends up breaking into his house and poisoning him with white oleander in a fit of jealousy.

Ingrid often seems to forget she even has a child as she vacillates between ignoring and engulfing behavior.  Astrid is the more mature of the two.  Ingrid is then sentenced to life in prison for the murder, leaving young Astrid to be cared for by the state.  The story follows her through a series of abusive foster homes while also keeping the focus on her mother's narcissistic behavior toward her.

A Woman Scorned:  The Betty Broderick Story

This movie chronicles a real life high profile murder case that divided public opinion and ended in a hung jury after the first trial.  Meredith Baxter received an Emmy for her top notch portrayal of Betty.  There are so many videos about it on YouTube, I had a difficult time choosing just one, but here it is.  It is a video by American Justice highlighting the facts and circumstances surrounding the case.

Dan and Betty Broderick were married for nearly two decades.  Dan had an affair with his much younger assistant prior to divorcing Betty to marry her.  The movie highlights Betty's increasingly provocative behavior leading up to the murders of Dan and his new wife.  It was alleged that Dan gaslighted Betty and narcissistic personality disorder was alleged against Betty during the trial. 

The movie demonstrates the way a narcissistic mother manipulates her children, as well as other features of the behavior.  Even after murdering her husband and his new wife, Betty had a field day manipulating the media with the classic narcissist maneuver of playing the victim while vilifying the true victim. 

Also demonstrated in the movie is the way a narcissistic mother manipulates her children, using them as pawns. Besides A Woman Scorned, there is a second movie, as well as books written about the case.      

Terms of Endearment

Terms of Endearment is a 1983 movie starring narcissistic Shirley McClain and Debra Winger as mother and daughter.   Shirley McClain won an Oscar for her performance portraying this narcissistic mother.

The movie opens with the often referred to scene of Shirley McClain being anxious her sleeping infant daughter has suffered crib death. She walks into the room, nearly climbs into the crib, pinches the baby until it cries, then leaves the room while baby is crying stating how much better it is that the baby is crying.

The concern she conveys is focused on her own anxieties rather than her infant daughter.  Years later when her daughter shares the news that she is pregnant, her mother flies into a rage as if it is a narcissistic injury for her to become a grandmother. Again, the narcissistic mother views this event in her daughter's life as how it affects her.


This movie was remade in 2007, but Sally Field is amazing in her performance as Sybil in the 1976 film. Sybil is a shy, unassuming school teacher who suffers a breakdown. This leads her to see a psychiatrist, Wilbur. As the movie progresses, various other personalities of Sybil's introduce themselves to Wilbur.

Wilbur traces the multiple personalities to childhood abuse Sybil suffered at the hands of her mother. Wilbur locates Sybil's father who confirms Hattie, Sybil's mother, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. However, he denies Sybil was ever abused.  Such gaslighting is typical behavior in toxic, dysfunctional families. It displays how Sybil's abuse, perceptions and memories are invalidated.

Eventually, Wilbur drives Sybil back to her childhood home where horrific abuse took place. Then the movie beautifully demonstrates Sybil and Wilbur working through the healing process as Sybil recovers her repressed memories and gets in touch with her anger.

Moreover, the reintegration of repressed memories and the healing process is so beautifully brought to life in this film that it is included in this list.  The movie Sybil shows the part amnesia plays in dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder). She goes on to lead a full and happy life. If you decide to buy or rent this movie, be sure to get the full unedited edition. One version apparently has more than an hour of footage from the original film edited out of it.

Perhaps of interest to some, is this video on Sybil Exposed. Debbie Nathan's examination of the story and claim it was an elaborate fraud.

If you have a movie you think should be included on this list, please let me know in the comments.  All of these movies and many more can be found in the bookstore.

Who is the narcissist in your life?
47% Mother
8% Father
29% Spouse/Significant Other
4% Sibling
1% Grandparent
1% Child
1% Boss
6% Other
2% I do not have any narcissists in my life.
275 people have voted in this poll. Poll closed. 

*This article was previously published on November 21, 2011 on HubPages prior to being moved to this blog.