The Oxford Dictionary defines a narcissistic person as someone who admires herself or himself too much. As a personality trait, narcissism is seen as cruel and self-centered.
Anyone with a narcissistic mother knows the pain of having a relationship with someone who is supposed to be kind, nurturing, and loving, where it feels anything but those things.
As someone who has dealt with people who revealed their narcissistic tendencies in an argument (and even otherwise), there are important ways to deal when faced with such unkindness.
Walking away from this relationship was hard because I was gaslighted, meaning I fell into the trap of thinking I was to blame for everything that went wrong.
That’s what a narcissistic person does best- is play the victim because of their own guilt of their own actions. They will never own up to a mistake and as a result, makes you feel misunderstood and uncared for.
This article will reveal tips on how to cope with such behavior, especially from a mother.
It will include strategies from experts to not only deal with an argument with a narcissist but to help manage narcissism behavior for a better relationship.
Ways to Deal with a Narcissistic Mother
Below is a list of the most effective ways to deal with a mother’s unkind behavior and turn the relationship around to make it more bearable.
1. Understand Narcissism fully
2. Use assertive communication (in CBT)
3. Assert boundaries
1. Understand Narcissism fully
Narcissism is a personality disorder. It also can be perceived as a mild character flaw (if she doesn’t have a narcissistic personality type) that can push people away through selfishness and having a lot of pride.
Although you may not agree with her behavior, it’s important to consider that awareness is the first step in solving any problem.
You can’t solve narcissistic behavior, nor change them completely. But with a better understanding of where they’re coming from, you can alter the negative view you have of it. Better yet, it can help you work towards resolving relationship problems by tackling the major issues a narcissist obtains.
Narcissism is related to callousness, grandiosity, entitlement, and demeaning attitudes towards others that likely partially explain narcissism’s links to maladaptive outcomes.
The results of this research show that narcissism and NPD are associated with a substantial degree of distress (vulnerable narcissism) and functional impairment (both vulnerable and grandiose narcissism).
Knowing that your mother is experiencing so much distress that she acts out, can allow you to be the “bigger person” and have sympathy towards her instead of animosity.
Types of Narcissism
Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism represent distinct patterns of behaviors intended to deal with unmet needs of recognition. Maybe your mother’s emotional needs were never met as a child. Thus, influencing mean behavior because she’s hurting deep down inside and never felt worthy of love.
Understanding how grandiosity and vulnerability each contributes to dysfunction will help inform the conceptualization, prognosis, and treatment recommendations, alike, for narcissism.
Narcissistic grandiosity is associated with specific deficits in interpersonal functioning, whereas vulnerability is associated with all forms of dysfunction.
There are two subtypes of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD): the oblivious narcissist and the hypervigilant narcissist.
These subtypes specifically refer to the person’s predominant style of interacting, both in transference relationships with a therapist and in social relationships in general.
In oblivious NPD, the person is unaware of their impact on others, whereas, in hypervigilant NPD, the person is highly aware of others’ reactions and doesn’t care.
If your mother is hypervigilant, she may lack empathy. Unfortunately, research shows that lacking empathy is a common character trait in autism or in sociopaths.
Amazon carries a book all about Narcissistic Personality Disorders to further your knowledge of what your mother may be suffering. Includes ways on how to specifically deal with a narcissist mother, and covert emotional abuse.
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2. Use assertive communication (in CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is useful for those in need of more direct, short-term treatment.
I have taken a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) course that includes effective ways to increase assertive communication with anyone, and especially to those who may treat you wrong.
The next time you’re arguing with your mother, or wanting to reconcile, try using the 3 f’s: facts, feelings, and a fair request.
Talk about facts about the situation, then say how it makes you feel. “when you do this, I feel…” Ensure the feelings are more focused on your needs, then make a fair request.
When you talk about vulnerable feelings or needs no one can argue that.
Don’t say you shouldn’t, or that’s wrong validate their feelings, but rather “I need you to do this or that for me.” Focus on what that person does and how it impacts you. Practice this with someone you trust a few times before approaching a fight.
Assert your needs, don’t sidetrack on events – stick with your feeling. “This will help me if you talk in a nice way.” Better yet, they might do something similar to you after to get their needs met.
Try to understand the other feelings of the other person, as it can be helpful in conflict resolution. Set a boundary if they don’t reciprocate. A tip: set softer boundaries, by connecting less with her if it takes a toll on your mental health.
When you look at that relationship as a whole, you can’t expect your needs will always be met
Maybe your mother doesn’t know how to meet your need – take a step back if you’re willing to.
Relationships are complicated there’s a spectrum – so try to find a middle ground or attempt reconciliation by using these assertiveness skills during or after an argument.
Amazon carries an Assertiveness Training Book for increasing your assertiveness and confidence in tackling conflict with difficult people.
3. Assert boundaries
A study showed that there were three themes related to relational boundary issues:
- accessibility and availability (being reliably and flexibly available to families)
- breadth of responsibility (going beyond the strict interpretation of their family member role)
- dual relationships (fostering friendships, mutual support, or other roles in addition to a strict parent-professional relationship).
Maintaining quality relationships between family members is important but can be extremely difficult with a narcissistic mother. The development of appropriate guidelines to set boundaries requires a thorough understanding of the preferences of family members about the boundaries of their relationships.
If you’re always available to try to make amends but she is not, remember it takes two people to make a relationship work, especially familial. People may tend to treat others worse if they are more comfortable with them because they know they will never leave or are related by blood.
Not to say you should threaten to cut her off, because that is testing to see if she cares, or worse, emotional manipulation.
However, setting a boundary, as mentioned above can look like distancing yourself to cool off from her behavior.
She will expect you to come running back if you have always been assessable for her to lash out at you and you may not have known how to set a boundary with her before. This is very common as a mother and child-adult relationship can get abusive if that’s all one has ever experienced before.
Here is a video explaining how and why you should set boundaries with a narcissistic mother from a counselor.
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Accepting that your mother may not change is crucial in coping with her mean behavior.
Accept that some mothers may be unable to truly love their child because they don’t love themselves.
The sad reality is that If your mother can’t see the worth in herself, she won’t see it in her own children either. This goes for any relationship- whether it platonic, romantic, or in the family. This is where emotional abuse is usually rooted.
Self-hatred will bleed onto others because they don’t know how to be kind to themselves, as they cannot accept themselves. Therefore, will act out aggressively out of insecurity.
Therefore, a narcissistic mother will see her children as objects to meet her needs. If they don’t succumb to her needs, she can be emotionally abusive.
Healing from a narcissistic relationship can involve grief or (ambiguous grief, a term meaning an expected feeling that one hasn’t received, or an unclear loss of love) and repairing your own dignity.
You may feel you’re unlovable because a mother is expected to love their children but somehow cannot, and you may question yourself. This is only natural because children are wired to seek approval and validation from their parents, or else they will never feel good enough.
By accepting it’s not about you, it’s about your mother’s own hurt, it can detach you from unrealistic expectations of love that she may not be equipped to feel.
Studies show narcissists lack of psychological awareness and empathy.
This research indicates that both vulnerable and grandiose narcissism has the tendency to make unethical decisions, and they are more likely to enact in unethical behavior. Knowing this fact can help you accept her condition and know it’s not to be taken personally, no matter how much it hurts.
This video shows you how to fix a relationship with a narcissistic mother, coming from a specialist on healing from childhood narcissistic abuse.
Self-compassion can be described as being kind and understanding towards oneself regarding negative life experiences. Pain and failure are some of the most common feelings when dealing with a narcissistic elderly mother. You may feel like you failed as a son or daughter all these years and blame yourself.
Or, just feel emotional pain from how badly she treats her own child.
Rather than being your worst critic, you can use self-compassion to perceive your feelings as part of the larger human experience rather than seeing them as isolating.
Results of a study showed that self-compassion is drastically correlated to having greater mental health such as less depression, and anxiety, and higher life satisfaction. There has been evidence of having higher self-esteem through practicing self-compassion.
There is a self-compassion scale to determine how much of it you are practicing. But don’t worry, if you haven’t practiced before – it’s perfectly fine to start at any stage in life to reap the mental health benefits while dealing with a toxic mother. Comparing where you are at on the scale will just increase the anxiety that will do no good.
Self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness fall into self-compassion. Self-judgement, isolation, and over-identification with thoughts fall into self-criticism.
Average self-compassion scores tend to be around a 3.0 on the 1-5 scale. 1 being scored as having very harsh self-criticism, and 5 being scored having high self-compassion with the corresponding features above.
Self-score by rating your feelings with how high or low you treat yourself with kindness.
Studies showed that self-compassion training increases scores on the positive SCS subscales and decreases scores on the negative subscales, supporting the idea that self-compassion represents more compassionate and fewer uncompassionate responses to suffering.
Here is a video explaining how to increase your levels of self-compassion through an exercise that everyone needs to be less hard on themselves.
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Dealing with a narcissistic mother can be managed better using these tips mentioned in this article. You may not be able to completely cut off your relationship with your mother, but you can accept who she is while striving to better the relationship.
As I dealt with losing a friendship over their narcissistic behavior, I learned I couldn’t change them to make it work. I also learned it’s them who’s hurting and inflicting pain onto others because of their own shame.
I accepted who they were and did my best to reconcile because they meant something to me. If you’re fortunate enough to savor your elderly mother’s relationship with you, you’re one step ahead in the healing process.
To strive towards having a more loving relationship you deserve, follow these steps and let us know in the comments if these tips have helped you. Share this article if you found value in these tips.