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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

Ah yes the crocodile tears and the “I’ve always done my best by you” rhetoric! No introspection there I’m afraid. Her rule was “divide & conquer” and she was very good at it.  The damage she’s done to me as a submissive child has lasted a lifetime even without contact for past few decades. I’ve just about given up hope of ever finding real happiness & lasting connection with others. I think minding really care anymore now im older. 

As a child we dont see the evil in a narc parent. We think it is all our fault. 


A classic example of this is when at around 10yo I forgot to make my bed. My mother screamed and I made it with some fearful tears. All good till the evening when dad came home, we hear his car arriving. By the time she was at the front door she was crying "Oh dear I've had such a bad day with Tony can you deal with it,Im I'm going out of my mind". Then the slap came from dad. Very sad.


Later dad was proven to be the very best father except for his willingness to disown some of his family if she convinced him. He passed on at 64yo in 1992 and then mother didnt ever have a supporter. She's living with her granddaughter now and she is 92yo, the only person that will have her. A long term friend informed me she said "my evil children have left me to fend for myself". Meaning we should be taking her in and tolerating her antics. Nope.



Over the last 14 years since going no contact with mother I've swayed. Had desires to contact then realised no. As my daughter says "dad, she is waiting around the corner in the dark, waiting for you ...".. also, she has never contacted me, this raises a few questions  is it because-


  • She has a continuous supply of support fron some relatives over the pain I've inflicted with my desertion?
  • She's cowardice
  • She knows I'm hurting I.e using motherhood as a weapon?
  • Arrogance?


Dear Tony,


I think it can be very hard to understand the motivations of someone who is a narcissist or has narcissistic traits, especially when it is not how you operate. It is like a foreign language.

I really feel for you in relation to your mother and I understand the feelings at times of considering contact then pulling back. I’ve gradually learned to trust the intuitive feelings in my body. I can try to override those feelings by rationalising the situation but that has never really worked well. I heard someone say “the body never lies”. I think that if a person or situation feels uneasy that is probably a communication from the deepest part of ourselves letting us know to tread carefully with that person or situation.


It’s also possible that all of the reasons you’ve considered there for your mother not contacting you may be valid. My own mother had some narcissistic behaviours at times but was really more BPD-like than NPD, but even the BPD profile doesn’t fully match how she presented. So she was a very confusing mix of things and I don’t think her motivations were straightforward. I think there was a lot of complexity in there.


At the moment I am maintaining no contact with an aunty and an in-law. It’s created conflict, especially with my sibling in the latter case where aspects of our relationship that were once open and trusting have been significantly damaged by the manipulations of the in-law. My aunty presents as a covert narcissist and the in-law as a malignant narcissist. I know that self-preservation is necessary which involves me keeping a distance in both cases.


I guess for you it is considering what is self-preserving for you. I think whatever you do it helps to reach for what is life giving and letting go of what is draining or damaging. But I know that is especially hard with someone such as a mother where you want to be able to orient for a sense of safety and connection. Probably the most healing thing to do is to keep the connections going with the people who are most definitely safe and grounded. That gives the most secure vantage point from which to the view the situation and you have that place to return to as a validating and normalising influence. 

So I can’t know or understand your mother’s motivations, but I do understand the feelings of loss and confusion around the behaviours you’ve had to deal with. The best thing I can think to do is trust your instincts and care for yourself with kindness. It is what I’m trying to do for myself. I’m experiencing a kind of grieving but also a coming to terms with reality. I hope you can find those places of peace Tony within yourself and with the good people in your life who have your back and are a caring and loving influence.


Kind regards,