A few months ago I would not have read this book. I wouldn’t think it applied to me or my mom, but now I see how it could apply to the relationship of many mothers and daughters. The main factor being any daughter who feels she is not good enough and any mother who lacks empathy for her daughter’s childhood pain.
According to the author psychologist Karyl McBride, narcissism has a spectrum and not all narcissists have a show off, self-centered personality. Many mothers might be borderline narcissistic because they hold their children to a standard of their expectations and religious beliefs while not allowing them to be themselves. This is where many of my readers might find this book relevant.
McBride talks about how even questioning the motives of our mother is taboo in most cultures. This causes a lot of dysfunction to continue because no one dares to go against mother’s wishes even if she is self-centered or mentally ill. Because she is put on a pedestal, even when our mothers are wrong, we have a tendency to go along with their plans. We should honor our mothers for bringing us into this world and the things they have done for us, but we won’t honor God if we allow our mothers to run our lives or tell us how to worship.
Many mothers think more of themselves than their children. It is the combination their self-righteousness and self-protection along with their inability to have empathy for their children that destroys relationships. The saddest part of the dilemma is most narcissistic mothers will never realize what they are doing, nor will they care. For the narcissistic mother, life is more often a game about being right than building a relationship with their children.
And before we get too hard on mothers like this, it’s important to note most narcissistic mothers were raised by a narcissistic mother themselves. This pattern often repeats for several generations. I can see how this happened in my own family tree and how my own mother was light years ahead of her mother and grandmother both who manifested some very narcissistic tendencies. I can even see how I might have done this myself if I were a mother.
The author is very clear that we should not blame our mothers or ourselves but seek ways to build better relationships where we can. Sadly, there will be people who need to do this without their mothers because their mothers have no ability to see how they might be part of the problem. After all they believe their grown children should do as they say and meet their needs and they have nothing to offer but judgment and criticism.
This book outlines three parts to recovery. The first is to acknowledge the ways your mother did not meet your needs both as a child and as an adult. The second part deals with understanding your mother’s patterns and grieving over what you may never have with your mother–a wholehearted relationship where she respects you as an adult who make your own choices. The third section is about empowering women to not be a victim, but take responsibility for their own lives and how to do so joyfully.
The truth is most people with narcissistic mothers will never experience the relationship they wish to have–not because they won’t try, but because their mother is not capable of seeing outside herself to meet their needs. Even in this situation there is hope. We can become our own nurturers. We can take better care of ourselves and we can find healthy people to bring into our lives. By doing this we might find we are healing and no longer in need of our mother’s approval.
The author has been a counselor for over 30 years and has survived a narcissistic mother herself so she is well qualified to aid in your recovery. If you have ever felt not good enough and are often criticized or sent on guilt trips by your mother, you really need to read this book. It will set you free from the mother censor in your head, allow you to have a better relationship with your actual mother today and if that is not possible, it will help you reframe and build your life.