Many people of narcissistic mothers meet and share a similar anxiety and shame, yet when they compare notes, they are surprised to discover their mothers are so different. This is because they don’t realize there is more than one type of narcissistic mother. In his book, “The People of the Lie,” M. Scott Peck talks about parents who lack empathy. it seems both engulfing and subversive narc mothers belong in this category and it is often evidenced either by their lies or the lies they expect you to tell.
Probably the biggest issue with an engulfing narc mother is she suffocates you and overtakes your boundaries through her demanding and confrontational personality. An engulfing narc mother has zero respect for your boundaries. She will call you at eleven o’clock at night to ask if you’re having sex. She will gift you with a red sweater even though she knows you hate red, then demand you wear it to the next family dinner. An engulfing narc mother will snoop through your diary or emails and take a sandwich right out of your mouth while telling you that you are too fat. She might even wear black to your wedding and threaten to kill the groom.
An engulfing narc mom feels the need to control you by her very presence and she will do that by threatening, manipulation and lying. Think of that eighties show Roseanne. Roseanne made people laugh because she was on TV, but no one wants a mom like that in real life. If your mother acts like Roseanne you will have to provide the distance between you because she won’t. You might want to move to another continent ASAP and save yourself the time to read the rest of this article.
A subversive narc mother on the other hand might never do any of these obvious things, but the silent rules are there and you might be expected to lie for her and to her to keep her happy. The subversive narc mom rarely tells you what she wants—she prefers to communicate through hints or go through a third party-AKA triangulating.
The main difference between a subversive narc mother and the engulfing narc mother is that when the subversive narc mother is upset with you, she will act in a passive aggressive manner, while the engulfing narc is very confrontational. An engulfing narc mom will keep texting and calling and stalking you while the subversive narc mom will ignore you completely like you no longer exist.
The subversive narc mother is not any more satisfied with your choices than the engulfing one, but she is more reserved and will rarely yell as loud, but make no mistake and assume she is not watching because she might be quiet, but she is always keeping score. She is just more subtle about it. The subversive narc mom can still wallop you with shame and knock yourself-worth to Mars with her stink-eye glare and shunning silence.
Of course, the ultimate evil of any narcissistic mother is that she expects you to behave exactly like she would. Your free will and conscience are of little value to her, because she’s all about control, narcissistic feed and appearances. Did you get hurt? She will say, “Keep a smile on your face and don’t act sad or Jesus will be disappointed in your witness.” Were you raped? She will caution you to “Keep that yucky talk to yourself or you’ll never find a husband.” These comments are about saving the family’s reputation, but offer little empathy to your wounded heart.
Much of what a narc mother is worried about is what other people think, while you are grasping for identity and authenticity and just struggling to survive in what seems like an undertow–often in the tsunami of her own making. You can see how this is not a healthy environment. If you follow her advice you might even drown.
With both of these types of narc mothers, it’s hard to know where you begin and she ends because each type of mother has tried to imprint you to be her mirror. She might think telling you what to do is love, but it’s not, and love can’t grow where it’s either forced or stifled.
Many narcissistic mothers–engulfing and subversive, view their children as a mirror and an extension of themselves and look for ways to belittle you and tear out your heart whenever you fail to meet their expectations. Don’t allow them to do this. You were not created to live out their dreams–God gave you your own. No one ever mourns on their deathbed regretting they hadn’t pleased their mother more–most say the complete opposite. They wish they had taken control of their own lives.
What’s missing in a relationship with a narc mother is your own sense of self. Until you can find out who you are, being around such a mother will constantly strip you of self-worth until you know yourself and find your boundaries. The best thing you can do is separate from your mother adn let go of any trauma bonds long enough to discover who you are and find out what makes you happy. In order to do this, you might benefit from taking the Myers-Briggs and Enneagram personality profiles. it might take some studying and experimenting to really discover yourself, but these tests can help you recognize the differences between you and your mother.
If your mother can accept your differences and demonstrate honesty and respect, you might be able to restore the relationship, but if she only likes you when you act as an extension of her values and likes and dislikes then you are probably dealing with a hard core narc.
So when it comes to spending time with your mom at family gatherings, it’s good to remember these three things:
- You are NOT your mother and cannot be her–even to please her. Get to know yourself so you can stand strong in her presence.
- To hang out safely with your mother, you need to know yourself and protect your boundaries. Until this can happen, you might need to stay away and communicate to her that you intend to be yourself and only yourself.
- If your mother cannot accept you for who you are and chooses to dismiss your feelings and refuses to be honest and shows a lack of respect, you will need to take a break from her. Remember no contact or low contact does not have to last forever, but respectful boundaries do need to be set so you can continue in a healthy relationship with her.