Since this will be my last blog on the topic on being a daughter of a mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I thought I’d go back to the once a month blog, especially since it’s an uplifting ending to the series.
I’ve discussed several of the struggles from being a daughter of a narcissistic mother, but it’s time to focus on the healing process, which is something I’m currently going through myself. And, I want to point out that these healing steps work not only if you have a parent with NPD, but they also work well when dealing with outside people, too. Though–as my therapist told me–once you deal with the underlying issues that stemmed from your relationship with your parent(s), it will be easier to work through the issues you face with others.
Anyway . . . the first step in my opinion is realizing you were a child of a parent with NPD. This one was the longest step for me, because my mom wasn’t/isn’t a horrible person. I have some very fond memories of her from my childhood, and in many ways she was there for me. But the more I read up on it, the more I realized that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all mask for people with NPD, which made it easier for me to see my mother in this light.
This article found on Goop (I think it’s by Dr. Robin Berman), says that one of the major steps is to:
“. . . grieve the loss of the parent you never had. Really grieve the fact that you didn’t get the parent you needed, the one who put you and your needs first.”
I had several cries over that knowledge and understanding, but with each one, I began to feel better, because I finally accepted it wasn’t my fault. There was nothing I’d done wrong or could’ve done differently to make her put my needs first, like any child deserves. That led to anger, which is another step in the healing process. Several articles I found talk about allowing yourself that anger. This article recommends that you:
“Release some of that anger. Smash some plates. Scream. Hit a pillow. Anything to let the anger of being an Adult Child of Narcissistic Parent out.”
The next big step is to realize that a person with NPD won’t change . . . no matter what you say or do. I used to do mock conversations with my mother ALL the time, to try to find the perfect way to say how I felt so that 1) she wouldn’t get hurt or offended by it; and 2) she would be able to understand my side of the story (why her actions hurt me). But no matter how calmly I said it, or how many nice words I used, she usually took offense and turned it around so that she was still the victim. The moment I stopped caring about how she would react to something I might say, the calmer things became in my head.
One of the other steps I found very useful was to cut off contact with her. Several articles that I found on the subject suggested that either partial or full estrangement might help with the healing process . . . and it’s certainly helped me. Yes, I felt guilty for doing so for the first couple of months, but the longer the separation went on, the clearer my mind became. I was no longer feeling like I was going crazy because I was worrying whether or not I was talking with my mother enough, or if she was going to get upset at something I might say (or not say). All of that crazy-making inner dialogue eventually dissipated, and it felt WONDERFUL! I don’t know how long I’ll keep the separation, but any time I even think of talking with her again, I start to get angry, so it’s best for all involved to maintain the distance for now.
Another big step that is discussed in the article on Goop is to learn to set boundaries. Until I started reading up about this disorder, I didn’t even realize that was a big part of my problem. I’d been taught to be so available to my mother and her wants or needs, that it never occurred to me that setting boundaries was a necessary and healthy thing to do to maintain my own sanity. So this one is HUGE for me. I’m still working through it, but each time I set a boundary, I feel calmer inside of myself. And I’ve begun to see the instances where I need to set boundaries quicker than I had before. YAY!
There’s a great book by Dr. Karyl McBride (who wrote the survey Do You Have a Narcissistic Mother?, that I based this blog series on) called Will I Ever Be Good Enough? that I’ve been reading through, and it’s not only helped me identify other key pains I’d felt through my childhood, but there’s an entire section on healing these wounds (I’m currently working through that section now).
Here are some other articles on how to heal:
Check out the “I’m the Adult Child of a Narcissistic Parent . . . What Now?” section of this article (about 3/4 of the way down the site)
This great site for Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers
And this good site by Bethany Webster about healing the mother wound (which I’m starting to look into)
So if you (or someone you know) was raised by a narcissist, or are/is currently in a relationship with a narcissist, I hope this series–and especially this particular blog–will help you to see that there is hope. It’s a long and sometimes painful road, but on the other side of the journey is a much stronger sense of self-worth, and a much better relationship with yourself.