Let me share an incident with you. A couple of months back, I did something I’m really ashamed of. Something I will not be able to forgive myself for a very long time. I lashed out with rage at my five-year-old boy for something which was not that big a deal.
I was eating my dinner, and my boy was irritating my girl (8 years old). All of a sudden, they started fighting, and he hit her lightly with a stick, and that made her cry.
But instead of handling the situation maturely, I got up in a rage, snatched the stick from my boy, and threw it violently on the ground. Seeing my reaction he got so traumatized that he peed in his pants and ran crying towards his mom. He was in shock.
At that very instant, it hit me – what I’d done. It felt like a sharp arrow pierced my heart. I realized my mistake that very instant, but it was too late. My boy was so scared that he wouldn’t come to me. Fortunately, his mom was around to took care of the whole situation.
I locked myself in the room, I felt ashamed, and I sobbed that whole night, inconsolably. I kept hitting my face until it turned blue. A voice in my head kept repeating that “You’re a monster,” “You’re a horrible father,” “You don’t deserve to live.”
Even right now, writing about this incident, I have tears in my eyes. There’s no excuse for what I did. I used to have my outbursts on people occasionally, but I had never behaved like this with my children. I don’t know what came over me that I acted in such a horrible manner.
Just imagine a 39-year-old, fully grown man, terrorizing his own little innocent child. I will never be able to forget that fearful expression on his face, and no matter what I do, I cannot undo this mistake.
When I regained calm, I went up to him, hugged him, kissed him, and apologized profusely. I made a promise to myself that no matter what, I’ll never behave like that with anybody ever again.
I’m going to be a good father and shower my family with lots of love, affection, and care.
My outburst resulted from C-PTSD (Complex post-traumatic stress disorder) that I acquired due to undergoing narcissistic abuse from my mother for over 30 years. This is the kind of trauma narcissistic abuse creates.
Please note that I’m not trying to play the victim here and use my childhood abuse as an excuse to justify the way I behaved with my child.
Narcissism is a psychological condition that causes people to have an exaggerated sense of self, where everything revolves around them and their needs, with complete disregard for the needs of others.
A narcissist is a broken individual that is incapable is feeling any compassion or empathy for other people.
In order to satisfy their agendas, they engage in emotional manipulation, gaslighting, and other vicious tactics, without feeling any shame or guilt whatsoever.
An overt narcissist openly shows grandiose behaviors that are easy to spot. For example, they will openly brag about their achievements, speak loudly to be the center of attraction, will publicly show a sense of entitlement, will show uncontrollable rage when others fail to meet their demands and expectations, and much more.
On the other hand, covert narcissists are more dangerous because they do not openly show signs of narcissism but have the same traits as the overt ones.
In public, they will always appear to be very calm, subdued, and introverted. But in private, they show their true colors and are equally abusive.
To outsiders, they will always come across as loving and caring, but on the inside, you can hear the devil’s laugh.
They are capable of inflicting considerable physical and psychological damage, the effects of which manifest in the later years in life.
If you have undergone abuse at the hands of a covert narcissist for a prolonged period, you likely have some negative psychological impact. Some of the symptoms of narcissistic abuse are as follows:
- You get bouts of anger, anxiety, and even depression, every now and then (and you can’t figure out why).
- You are confused about your relationship and experience cognitive dissonance (You feel stuck).
- You’re overly dependent on your narcissist for emotional and financial needs.
- You suffer from low self-esteem.
- You are a people-pleaser, and you have a hard time saying ‘No’ to people.
- You are scared of confrontations.
- You don’t feel like going out and meeting people (social anxiety).
- You like to be aloof, and your mind continually generates negative chatter.
- You have a weak immune system and frequently face physical health-related problems.
- You have a hard time trusting others.
- You blame yourself for everything.
- You come up with excuses to justify the behavior of your abuser.
Sorry To Interrupt! A Quick Note Before We Proceed Further
Narcissists can sense your empathic tendencies, and that is when they create a plan to unearth your weaknesses and trap you with lies, deceit, and gaslighting.
If you’re looking for healing and trauma recovery, check out The Understanding Narcissism Summit from SoundsTrue, where 20 leading experts in psychology and spirituality share practices, self-assessment tools, and empowering insights that will help you understand, heal, and protect yourself in the future.
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Being raised by a narcissistic mother can be very crippling for your self-esteem and give rise to a host of psychological issues later on in life. To safeguard yourself (either as a son or as a daughter) from abuse, you must understand the behaviors of a covert narcissist mother.
Here’s some of the signs that your mother is a covert narcissist.
She only Pretends to Care
She pretends to be very caring and is often perceived as a very dedicated mother by others on the outside.
She will often tell you that she wants to turn you into a good human being (based on her idea of what good human beings are like).
She will pretend to be understanding, loving, and caring, but in reality, that’s just an excuse to continue the abusive behavior.
I still remember my mother saying, “children are like diamonds that need constant polishing and dusting. If the dust settles on them, the world will not be able to see them shine”. Sounds psychopathic, doesn’t it?
She’s always overemphasizing that she’s a well wisher and she’s someone you can trust and share your problems with.
But in reality, she’ll always use the information you give her against you as and when the opportunity arises. By putting down others, she compensates for her low self-esteem.
Narcissists sadistically enjoy tormenting others. Emotional manipulation is their primary choice of weapon. The strategy is to keep you confused all the time so that the cycle of abuse continues.
The problem is that, through repeatedly acting in a particular way, they have wired their brain to react like that.
Some narcissists are aware of their toxic behaviors. They are fully aware of the fact that they create pain for others, but they don’t care. All they care about is getting an emotional reaction (good or bad) from their victim, also known as the narcissistic supply.
Many times in the past, my mother would vent out her frustration and apologize afterward for saying mean things. Everything would be okay for a couple of days, until she would start craving her supply, and would repeat the behavior.
You Exists only To Make Her Look Good
She’s very loving and affectionate when you play along with her ideas of perfection. She will shower compliments when you wear clothes of her choice.
When going out for family functions, she will ask you to wear appropriate (air quotes) clothes. If you don’t do that, be prepared to be humiliated in front of your relatives. Either she will ridicule your sense of dressing style or randomly point out a character flaw.
The reason she does this is that she suffers from low self-esteem. She considers you an extension of herself, and according to her, anything that makes you look bad is a direct attack on her, the false image of herself she has created.
I still remember that my parents used to make us (me and my brother) wear formal suits even for attending informal occasions like birthday parties.
Even now, as a grown-up man, she often asks me if I have the appropriate clothes to wear for an occasion. She doesn’t care about your likes or comfort. All she’s concerned is about how she looks.
She Lacks the Ability to Take Criticism
Covert narcissists have a very heightened (yet fragile) ego. They will be very nice to you as long as you conform to their way of thinking. The moment you try to stray, rebel, or even slightly critique them, they will unleash the unimaginable fury.
In my particular case, one of two things used to happen whenever I confronted my mother. Either she would become aggressive and lash out at me, or she would cry and play the victim (more on that later). The idea was to emotionally manipulate me into feeling blame and guilt for her faults.
Because of their super fragile ego, narcissists are unable to take any criticism. For them, it’s an all-out attack on their self-esteem. They will show agitation, anger, and rage, and will fight you to death to defend themselves.
It’s all about winning. They lack conscience and are ready to play any dirty game to win. They see everything as either winning or losing. Unfortunately, you are that opponent in their game who can never win.
And if by any chance, you do win, they are sure to take revenge and come back and attack you with more vengeance. The narrative that goes on in their mind will be something like, “How dare you? I’ll teach you a lesson”.
However, this is all covert. They very well know your weaknesses and will strike you when you least expect and not in a position to defend yourself.
She Will Make You Feel like “You’re Losing it”
Whenever you try to talk about something mean that she did in the past, she will either feign ignorance, blame it on you, or gaslight you. It’s all lies. It results in cognitive dissonance, and you start doubting your memory and senses.
She will use phrases like “Oh ! I didn’t mean it that way. You’re thinking too much”, “You have become too sensitive, honey,” “I think you are undergoing too much stress,” and so forth. It is known as gaslighting. The idea is to lie and make the other person feel like they’re losing it.
By gaslighting, she’s trying to break your confidence, thereby increasing your dependence on her. All she wants to hear from you is, “Oh, mom! What would I do without you? Thanks for being there for me”.
Make no mistake, but this is a well-planned strategy by the narcissist to exercise control. By keeping you dependent on her, she continues to exercise control and keep up the abuse.
Playing the “Victim” Card and Emotional Manipulation
She will always play the victim card to gain sympathy. And that works most of the time. She will tell you stories of how she was one to sacrifice everything to keep the family united. How horrible your father was and how she took abuse from him for so many years.
It will be a never-ending one-sided rant (like what I’m doing right now 😉), and she will keep going on and on till you’re exhausted from listening. You will notice that she keeps repeating the same things over and over again. It’s as if she’s stuck in a loop.
She will often tell you how she sacrificed her career to take out time to raise you. How she could have achieved so much greatness, but she sacrificed if all for you. She will also tell you how everybody misunderstands her and doesn’t appreciate her enough.
How her parents, siblings, and other relatives were mean to her when she was growing up and how she had to cut-off ties with them. She will cry, sob, and shed crocodile tears – anything that puts the highlight on her.
She will portray herself as the main lead of a movie character who undergoes so much trouble and hardships in life, only to emerge victorious in the end. And for that, the reward she expects is that she should be allowed to decide for others. In other words – she wants complete control.
While playing the victim, she will also emphasize how monumental her role is in the family. And that it’s because of her values and upbringing that you turned out so well.
She’s the Captain in the Game, Rest of You Have to Follow Her Lead
As I mentioned earlier, the whole world revolves around her. She believes that she is always right and considers others secondary to her. She’s the captain of the game, and she alone calls the shots.
She writes the rulebook of this game, and she changes the rules at will. Anybody who disagrees or questions her motives will be out of the game.
She is the ultimate authority in the family, and nobody can go against her. Father, in such cases, emotionally isolates himself from all of her dramas. He has understood the game and doesn’t want to participate anymore. So it’s the children who have to bear the brunt of her wrath.
If you try to talk to your elder sibling or your father about her, the only response you’ll get is, “Honey! Don’t make your mom mad again”, “You know she hates that – don’t you,” or “Why do you have to upset her every time”.
In such cases, the father is generally perceived as weak by the children. As a result, the children develop resentment towards the father for enabling the mother and failing to protect them from emotional abuse.
She believes herself to be the ‘know it all’ person in the family. And she always reminds you about how much you will benefit if you follow her advice as opposed to that of others in the family.
It’s Always Someone Else’s Fault (Blame Game)
Whenever something goes wrong, she’ll find someone else to place blame. She will never accept her mistake, and she doesn’t give a damn about hurting emotions. Narcissists tend to self-sabotage their relationships.
On the contrary, she will become aggressive because admitting a mistake is like a crack in her fragile ego-shell. She will fight and argue until someone comes up and takes the blame. Generally, it’s one of the children (the scapegoat) who take responsibility to end the unpleasantness.
After accepting the fault, the child will now receive punishment in the form of stone-walling or silent treatment. She will not speak to you or even look at you to express her displeasure.
This kind of silent treatment by the narcissist is emotional abuse.
She Never Respects Your Boundaries
Her intrusive nature is no mystery to you. Here are some examples of how narcissistic mothers will violate your boundaries.
- She will barge into your room without asking and then go through your stuff.
- She will secretly check messages on your phone (or even text your friends) in your absence.
- She will use subtle insults to hurt you in front of others. She may say something like, “I have the best daughter in the world. The only thing she needs to work on is her dressing style”.
- She will wear your clothes without asking you.
- If you’re married, she will not shy away from giving marriage advice to your husband, boasting about her achievements.
- She will deliberately do things that irritate you just to get a reaction from you.
- She will always take credit for your achievements.
The list above is by no means exhaustive, and I could go on and on, but I think I’ve conveyed the key points here. A narcissistic mother is all about control, and she is incapable of any empathy or motherly love that you expect as a son or daughter. Narc parents are not trustworthy.
The next question that comes to mind is whether there is a cure for narcissism. From what I have seen, narcissists, especially the covert ones, are incredibly clever, and they will not go to therapy in the first place because they do not see any problem with themselves.
Even if you try to give them a hint to go to a therapist, they will lash out at you and tell you that it’s you who needs therapy. And somehow, even if you do convince them to take treatment, they will be dishonest and make you look bad in the eyes of the therapist.
People who undergo abuse from their parents develop complex psychological disorders later in life. However, there’s no need to despair as there are several ways to recover and heal yourself fully.
What I’m trying to tell you here is that the abuse you’ve gone through for so many years is not your fault. So never blame yourself for anything. It was never you; it was your mother’s inability to deal with her emotions. And as an escape, she projected her insecurities onto you to make herself feel better.
It’s imperative to set firm boundaries with such people so that they don’t get a chance to play their dirty games. Even though she’s your mother, you should maintain distance to ensure your physical and psychological wellbeing.