More from "Will I Ever Be Good Enough" by Karyl McBride.
"Self-trust, self-love, and self-knowledge can be taught to a daughter only by a mother who possesses those qualities herself. Furthermore, to pass them on successfully, a mother needs to have created an engaged and balanced relationship with her daughter. One of the problems with narcissism is that it does not allow for balance. Daughters of narcissistic mothers live in family environments that are extreme. True to their legacy of distorted love, which has been carried over from generation to generation, most narcissistic mothers either severely over-parent (the engulfing mother) or severely under-parent (the ignoring mother). Although these two parenting styles are seemingly opposite, to a child raised with either narcissistic style, the impact of the opposite is the same. Your self-image becomes distorted and feelings of insecurity seem impossible to shake.
The engulfing mother smothers, seemingly unaware of her daughter’s unique needs or desires. Perhaps you were raised like this. If so, it is likely that the natural talents you had, the dreams you wanted to pursue, and maybe even the relationships most important to you were rarely nurtured. Your mother constantly sent messages to you about who she needed you to be, instead of validating who you really were. Desperate to merit her love and approval, you conformed, and in the process, lost yourself.
If you were raised by an ignoring mother, the message she gave you over and over was that you were invisible. She simply did not have enough room in her heart for you. As a result, you were dismissed and discounted. Children with severe ignoring mothers do not receive even the most basic requirements of food, shelter, clothing or protection, let alone guidance and emotional support. Lack of a consistent home environment may have made you feel insecure, unhealthy, or unsuccessful at school. Emotional and physical neglect sends you the message that you don’t matter.
Having a narcissistic mother, whether she is engulfing or ignoring, makes individuation— a separate sense of self— difficult for a daughter to accomplish. Daughters with unmet emotional needs keep going back to their mothers, hoping to gain their love and respect at a later date. Daughters who have a full emotional “tank” have the confidence to separate in a healthy fashion, and move on into adulthood. Later, in the recovery chapter, we will address this in greater depth. For now, let’s look at the different faces of engulfing and ignoring mothers and their effects on daughters. Karyl
Here is what was puzzling even to me. I was a narcissistic mother and did not know it.
The devastating moment in my life when my world fell apart, was when I found a very small self that I followed. This self is the self that was hidden far beneath the layers of narcissism.
The self that the church didn't want.
The self that my mother didn't see.
The self that I never even knew existed.
I was self-less, worthless and never enough. And, when I mothered from there, I gave distorted love. I didn't see my children as themselves; but an extension of me.
On the spectrum I was; perhaps not the worst, but I was clearly there.
I had to be.
Coming from whence I came.
While I have written about my waking up from denial or that denial is my mental illness. I didn't know that it had a more clinical name. Narcissism.
I can clearly remember how I would mother from the far poles of extremes.
I can also remember being mothered that way.
Where it was either all controlling or nothing at all.
The silence of disapproval deafening.
The widest hole or biggest gap in the dialogue between me and my estranged family IS the middle.
Its option isn't available to us.
They don't even know they are wearing a spectrum of narcissism.
I find this wildly exciting and completely horrifying to be a recovering narcissistic.
But my life and world makes more sense.
I had such issues with my mother, that did seem to go beyond her religious zealous, but I couldn't define it, until this book.
I knew she played a bigger part in my own dysfunction...that was equal to or greater than my father's sexual abuse.
I marvel at the hurdles I have had to overcome to be at peace and love myself.
In the recovery part of the book, we are supposed to come up with "gifts" from our narcissistic parents. That no one is all bad. We did receive good from them too.
I don't know what my list would hold.
What good has come from them?
Perhaps I will need more distance to see this.
My recovery may be too new.
The wound barely healed.
My sights have been on what I have denied, the bad destructive behaviors that I called normal had to be uncovered, felt, and re-worked.
I will let the list be for now.
What I know for sure, is how grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to live a life the opposite from being a narcissistic. To be free and self-loving. To live from the middle.
I also know, that when I find myself in the land of extremes, it is another aspect of narcissism I have to heal.
What also came to me today, as I pondered the book, was that my estranged family too are on the spectrum. They also have experienced maternal narcissism as their nurturing.
As we are separated physically, we are completely attached via the legacy of distorted love that we were given.
The reason we can't communicate and understand each other is they are still speaking the language of distorted love and I don't love like that no more.
How grateful am I that I was able to finally see myself. Even if the self was so small it was barely discernible.
This little spark is what I mothered, while I simultaneously mothered my children.
Each sense of self and love, and self trust that grew, so did my ability to nurture.
It is wildly incredible that a raging narcissist was in charge of healing me.
Of recovering the little innocent girl and allowing that little girl to overcome the narcissistic.
I knew that there was a mental lady in charge of me finding myself.
and, loving myself.
Trusting that the small little self could lead me towards love, peace and joy!
And, she did!
Perhaps that is the gift I am most grateful for.
The mental lady allowed me to take the lead.
And, my soul danced!