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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

Hello Orangeicy, thank you sooooooooo much for the info about the In Sight podcast and FB group. I have listened to 5 minutes of an episode and I can soooooooo relate!! This is going to be immensely helpful to me I am sure! 



Hello Suzie2, 

I cut off contact from my mother at the age of 25, with the support of a counsellor. It was absolutely necessary to do this for my own mental health and wellbeing. It was very difficult at first because she kept trying to cross that boundary and make contact with me, for years. This was incredibly distressing and made me doubt myself and my decision.

It's been over 20 years now since that initial boundary of no contact. I have experienced immense grief, guilt, shame, loneliness and emptiness etc over the years. But, I have also experienced tremendous freedom, self confidence, healing, growth, empowerment etc. It has been up and down, up and down, up and down. It's a lifelong journey of healing, that's for sure!

I am ever so gradually moving towards a place of inner peace, acceptance and self-love. 

Ultimately, I have to keep reminding myself that I am responsible for my own health and wellbeing, and if that means cutting off from a family member, then that is what I need to do and keep doing. 

I hope that helps  🙂 

Hi white knight, 

I agree, sending cards is not such a great idea. If you have set a boundary for no contact but then you make contact, you are actually breaking your own boundary and it could be very confusing for both parties.


Maybe writing a card/journal/letter but NOT sending it could be 'therapeutic' but keeps the boundary clear. 


Again, I agree, everyone is different and it's important to work out what is right for you.  


I hope that helps suzie2, take care. 

Narcissism is very common. Dominating parents that try to interfere is like they never accept you are now an adult. Although I broke off contact with my mother now 12 years ago (she is 92 this year) I wont be reuniting with her but it is still hard and I know why- its the nurturing side of her that bonded me to her when young. If you have a good side or a bonded side to the parent it is actually much harder to keep on with no contact. You always yearn for that bond.


So, in my case I have two older women in my life that I see as and treat as mother figures. One still has contact with my mother and she cant understand why my mother has been so destructive towards a son that has been so kind to her. Even though I painted her house, planted her garden and done all those things sons do I was never good enough. Therein lies how I found out that she had the problem not me. Once that is realised things take a turn because if you approach that parent/sibling that they have a problem and you are willing to sort it out with her/him seeking professional help, most often you are now a villain. This is common in people with BPD as denial is strong and if they seek help they dont endure it for long. 


So we deal with stubbornness and/or denial, but is often a mental illness that causes it.


The level of hurt by being estranged is huge but lower than if we had to tolerate them tearing our lives apart.



Community Member

So very sorry to hear about what you are going through. It made me cry, because this has been my life experience also, and it is almost unbearable thinking so many folk have to bear this sorrow.

Going no contact with my family after decades of trying to make things work broke my heart but logically I realise that the loving, fair and respectful family I always craved never existed, and was never realistically on offer. It is so sad.

The perfectionism is also related to the unattainable. That's how I was raised also, and it takes the joy out of things and denies you the confidence boost from being satisfied with a job done well enough.

The constant negativity (maybe it's the generation they are from?... my mum would declare her devotion to 'negative psychology'; and her mum was some sort of narcissist bully) meant that any interaction seemed to cause them to criticise, get annoyed or angry and just be plain rude... it was clear they did not enjoy anything about me, and yet they would threaten me to make sure I paid them attention. Whenever they interacted with me it brought out the worst in them, so, I removed myself from the equation. Hopefully without me, the family scapegoat!, they will be nicer people. I won't be bothering them again.

It's taken several years for me to come through the other side of the grieving process, and it is still a struggle. But it has probably saved my life and things are becoming clearer that I have escaped a dangerous gaslighting millstone of a situation. 

There are some excellent comments on these fora that have helped me in not feeling so alone in this. You are not alone!

Take care and thanks

Suzie2, I think you have just hit upon a very important point. Children who have been abused and then spent their entire lives trying to solve their parents' problems, when the parents do nothing to take responsibility for their own actions is just so awful and unjust.

Remember all the hard yards you have put in to try to make things better? Remember all the help you have sought to improve your own self or your own health? Remember the pain of being a disappointment in their minds and desperately tying to make your family happy? Remember all the apologies you have made? Were these efforts appreciated or reciprocated?

It can be shocking when you stop giving them the benefit of doubt and see their behaviour objectively, comparable to standards you would apply to non-family or strangers. Personally, now I can't believe the shit I put up with and regarded as normal...

Would you treat people the way they treated you?

I bet you are a much much better human than that! Have the same compassion for yourself as you have for your family.


Wow TonyWK you cld be writing about my own mother. I’m only just learning about malignant narcissism and the damage it’s done. I have had no contact with her for several decades but she lives in my head still. Thanks for the book and Google link-I’ll look into them. Anything to live ouf my remaining life with some clarity if not peace. I’m trying hard not to escape this life this time as I DO have things to live for,  all the best to you ❤️‍🩹

Hi LT,


Narcissism is a fond topic of mine. Growing up with a mother that had high expectations but the real issue was also that she was a nurturing mother until I was about 18yo when I developed a mind of my own which conflicted with her need to keep the apron strings attached. 


There is many facets of narcissism. Emotional blackmail is one, triangulation, guilt feed, etc. Im 67yo and when 21yo commenced a job at a major jail as a warder. I used to remind my mother that I'm on the correct side of the bars, such is how she destroyed some of my personality. My sister 5 years younger didnt rebel like me until she was 26yo with a child, all her life she was a parrot to our mother, an echo at gatherings, so when she rebelled she did in a huge way, she left the family, all of us, anyone associated with our mother was cut off. She remained aloof for 7 years interstate when she returned it was because she became separated so she had no one to turn to. Now, last xmas she also did an act of triangulation and that was the end of us. She took away my adult neices in the same manner our mother used to do. Feed them with stories, lies and use their love for me and my love for them as a tool to advance her fight, it didnt work, you cant manipulate a 67yo man that has been manipulated all his life by his mother. 


So, that means through narcissism I've lost nearly all my family. But I've survived because years ago I decided that family isnt just blood relatives, its those friends that stick by you and have the same values. 



Hi Tony WK. I’m pleased you saw her as nurturing until you became 18. Hopefully that afforded you some sense of self-identity.  I lost all my family through my mothers narcissism-totally destroyed-no contact for past 30+ years.  I’m unsure what’s”triangulation “ is with respect to relationships (hello again mr Google 🤣). I have very few close friends but do make pleasant acquaintances which is enough for me as I also have an avoidant attachment style.  Just learning about all this now and I’m 70! Found myself a lovely therapist so hopefully there will be light 😁.  Enjoy your friendships they are invaluable at this stage of our lives . Peace ✌️ 

Narcissistic triangulation is when you have a major fallout with a Narcissist. Then they, in order to hurt you , call on your loved ones with an inflated inaccurate version of events usually eith crocodile tears. Their drama is so powerful that the receiver takes on the fight on the Narcissists behalf. Effectively you end up losing those loved ones.