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Emotional torment from Narcissistic Mother

Community Member

Long story, sorry! Am in such torment.  I'm 50 and my mother (now 79) is a narcissist and emotionally abusive my entire life. My Dad left so it was just her and I. As a child, I had to pretty much parent myself, her behaviour was childish and neglectful. 


As a result of her neglect,  I ended up experiencing trauma at other's hands, several times which only adds to my PTSD. She provided shelter, meals, clothing, and even gifts for Xmas/birthdays But couldn't provide love or interest in me. She used emotional manipulation and a lot of guilting - eg: telling me "Maybe she should just kill herself" if I disagreed with her.  If I were upset, she'd call me a baby and tell me she had it worse her whole life. 


I became a perfectionist, trying to be perfect in every way.  I became overly caring with everyone to the point of neglecting myself and my own needs. 


Still, due to crushing guilt,  I kept her in my life and my children's lives. She continued to rage at me, in front of them for silly issues (always when my husband wasn't present). She snooped in my passwords book and read all my emails in my account, logged into my FB account from her computer and had access for a year before I realised. She told me she hadn't felt love for me since I was a child, she mocked me mercilessly when I cried, mimicking my voice and tears even in front of my kids. There is so, so much more but too much to write here. 


Every now and then she will act nice and send a gift or a card, but whenever I ask her to acknowledge the hurt she's caused me, she goes silent and she has never uttered the word sorry in her life, she tells me I am the disturbed, crazy one and I need help, not her. 


In 2012 I moved with my husband and children to Australia (I am from the US) - for a better life and to be away from her. I have tried to extend olive branches at times, photos and updates of the kids, trying to visit when back in the US. It has always ended badly and with me in tears. Nothing I do is ever enough for her. A visit is "bad" because if I don't give her all of my time on a visit I am horrible. 


I'm going home for a visit soon. She has had other email me and bash me for not giving her enough time when I get home. They don't believe she's abusive and told me I am selfish. 


Now I am not seeing her but the guilt is crushing me...to death. She just wrote that she's 79 and might die soon and I'll be sorry when she is on her deathbed (she's currently very healthy). But I feel crushing guilt. Help. 



33 Replies 33

Community Member

Sounds like she has some unresolved issues from her own past. My mum sometimes guilts me into taking her own life. But I know it's about depression and to get a reaction because she is so down. I get panic attacks and my mum has mocked me for them. She doesn't understand that I often can't help them. It comes out of frustration towards not being able to "fix" me.

I don't really have any solutions, except to say it's not you.

Community Member

Thanks David. My mother definitely had a difficult childhood. But then I think - so did I but I’ve sought help to become a better person while she’s never acknowledged her abusiveness or apologised. So sorry your Mum has put so much on you. The guilt & the pain is overwhelming. 

Thank you!


white knight
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Hi suzie


When I read your post I could not help but feel just a portion of the overwhelming torment you must have felt for years. I feel so deeply for you as you face the challenges that come from someone who does not question a lot of their thoughts, words and actions.


Over the years I've found there are typically 2 camps of people, 1) Those who question themselves in constructive ways that lead them to become more conscious and open minded and 2) those who often refuse to question themselves for one reason or another. Greater self understanding takes a heck of a lot of hard work which is just one of the reasons people in the 2nd camp prefer not to do it. It's much easier for them to believe their way is the right way.


I like to think of self questioning as a quest to better know our self, to gradually find the best in our self, to understand why we think and behave the way we do, what and who has led us to think and behave the way we do, what destructive beliefs we need to let go of, how to feel in more constructive and intuitive ways etc. Of course there are a heck of a lot of questions involved in all that. Such is the nature of any significant quest.


Can recall questioning 'guilt' some time ago. What is it? What purpose does it serve? Why do we suffer so much through it? The questions just kept on coming until I came to redefine guilt to serve me in constructive ways. It's typical to meet with guilt at a 'fork in the road' moment, a moment that leads us to ask 'Who do I want/need to be in this moment or from this moment onward?'. Guilt announces a moment of choice. It asks us to consciously choose who we're going to be (the person who continues to do this or changes to do that). It can also announce the need to let go of a self destructive mental program. Letting go of some of the people pleasing programs is going to feel incredibly uncomfortable at times. 'Self serving people are horrible people' would be one of them. 'Self service can be a form of self loving' is a much healthier program to follow. If it wasn't for guilt and our ability to sense that fork in the road, we may continue to choose the wrong path with the wrong mental programs along that path. Sounds weird but I thank guilt after making my choice and then it leaves me to return the next time I need to become more conscious. Btw, one of the things that gets in the way of a really good choice is self doubt. Some people are well practiced at placing self doubt in our head. They rely on this practice. Nothing wrong with maintaining an open mind when it comes to modifying the choices we make. Just gotta make sure that when our mind is open, we don't have people putting all the wrong stuff in there. How to consciously open and close the mind at will is definitely a skill worth mastering 🙂

Community Member

Sure is. I try to forgive my own mum by thinking she does it out of hurt and frustration. Sometimes people try to get rid of their own emotional pain by hurting others. And the closest ones get hurt the most. But it never works. It's only temporary and only serves to isolate them further. Still, there's only so much you can take. It's hard to forgive someone who is constantly insulting or abusing you.

Community Member

Ohhhhh I’m so sorry you have to navigate this.


Cutting ties is the hardest things you can do. And especially when they pull the victim card and are so hurtful and horrible.


When you have a parent like this, they have conditioned you through emotional abuse to feel guilt and the one in the wrong.


Then triangulate and use others to have a go at you.


Reframing this - parents aren’t entitled to your time, effort and happiness.


This is going to sound harsh… but if you cut her off an ignore her - forever - there’s no consequences in the sense that, no one can continue to spread shame and guilt from so far away when all lines of communication are cut off.


and that includes the people she ropes in


There is not going to be a plaque on a building that speaks about how you didn’t indulge your mother endlessly at the expense of your own life and happiness and you are bad person


i think you need to be reminded of that 


her behavior is her choice.


If your family and husband support this, cut her off and don’t look back.


she wasn’t thinking about your well-being when you were a vulnerable child - so why does she expect something she didn’t do?


send her a birthday and Christmas card once a year with no return address. That balances your needs with your genuine loving nature.



it’s that you are loving and have family values that make this so hard


but you are all those things - even if you cut her off and keep your boundaries. you’re no less the great person you are… just because you protect your happiness and health 

Community Member

Just chiming in - when you do what she does… to a small child, they have self doubt about their own personal boundaries because this adult is constantly conditioning and teaching them that they aren’t entitled to any 


that it’s a bad thing to have boundaries and limits 


thats how the guilt cycle continues… she has been constantly priming you to meet her every need… black and white thinking 


She kept reinforcing a narrative that you’re no good if you don’t let her walk all over you… you’re the problem… you’re mistaken… and they rope in people and it confused the heck out of a kid


so they become adults who get stuck in this self doubt and guilt cycle


cut her off for 2 years - without a word. say nothing.


anyone contacts you say you’re taking a break for your mental health and appreciate their concern for your mother and she’s lucky to have someone in her life to spend time with her and you really appreciate it being so far away


and then just go silent on them. Anytime they start doing her bidding.


you’ve said it once and that’s it. 


Honestly it’s the best thing ever - changed my life. Absolutely cut contact. It’ll help you heal. Over time you just find yourself - it’s all about being ready to do it. That can take time. You’ll get there. When you’re ready you’ll know 

Hi rufina,


Firstly a warm welcome to the forum. It's articulate answers like yours that is valued highly by the Beyond Blue team.


I support 90% of the thrust of your post. The following isn't what I would do however-

"send her a birthday and Christmas card once a year with no return address. That balances your needs with your genuine loving nature"


To do that will show that the parent knows the adult child is tormented by the estrangement and can be seen as cruel.


I've been estranged from my mother for 12 years, zero contact. For me that's the best way but we all differ.


I hope you enjoy being here