[There are two basic types of narcissistic mothers, the ignoring type and the engulfing type. These may—and often do—overlap but most NMs have a basic style and will be primarily one or the other. Some of the following points may not apply to your NM simply because they describe an engulfing characteristic when your NM is an ignoring type—or vice versa. But our mothers are not the only narcissists we will encounter in our lives. In fact, being raised by a narcissistic parent actually sets us up to be prey for more of the self-centred emotional vampires as we go out into the world, from girlfriends who are anything but friends to lovers who love themselves best to husbands who are the mirror image of dear old mom. So, whether something looks like it applies to your NM or not, read and consider it carefully—it may give you the awareness necessary to avoid the predator lurking around the next bend. As ever, my comments are shown in violet. -V]
It's about secret things. The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self. It's about body language. It's about disapproving glances. It's about vocal tone. It's very intimate. And it's very powerful. It's part of who the child is. ~ Chris
Part 22. She blames
She'll blame you for everything that isn't right in her life or for what other people do or for whatever has happened.
From “True Confessions”:
“This is all your fault, you know,” Mother said…“If you hadn’t been born, none of this would be happening, my life would be different…better. But no, you had to come along and ruin everything!”… “You know, I had it all figured out. Your grandfather, that rigid, old-fashioned old fart, wouldn’t let me go out or do anything. Oh, Pete and Gary could come and go as they pleased…they were boys, and even though Pete was two years younger than me, Grandpa let him do whatever he wanted while I had to ask permission to do just about anything other than take a pee.
“And then one night I was at a high school football game and there was this cute sailor in the stands, home from the war. And I flirted with him and when the game was over we went off on his motorcycle for some ice cream and he took me home.”
“I had to sneak out after everyone had gone to bed to see him, Grandpa wouldn’t let me go out with him because he was Hill People…you know, poor dirt farmers who lived in houses with no plumbing or electricity. But I knew he was my ticket to freedom.
“So one night, just after school was out for the summer we sneaked away and got married. He was 21 and I was almost 17. His leave from the Navy was almost up and he was going to be shipped out to China…the Navy was going to send me money every month as his wife for living expenses…and as a married woman I wouldn’t have to answer to Grandpa anymore. I could take that money, move out of the Godforsaken little gossip-ridden hick town, and live my own life, no father…and no husband, either…to tell me what I could or could not do…At least that was the plan…
“But things didn’t work out that way…Gramma Janssen wrote to the War Department and told them that he was their only son and they needed him to help out on the farm and the War Department discharged him. There went my freedom…he wasn’t going to go to China and there wasn’t going to be a monthly check from the Navy and before my father could put together an annulment…guess what happened?
“I found out I was pregnant. With you. And then it was all over for me…I swelled up like a poisoned pup. I got stretch marks all over my belly, my boobs, I got so fat I would barely waddle. Then, when I went into labour, you wouldn’t come out. I was in labour for 36 goddamned hours before they finally decided to do a caesarean section…your head was pointed from being crammed against my pelvic bones for so long! And then I almost died. I had to have a live transfusion from Grandpa because that tiny little shit-assed town didn’t have a decent blood bank. I got milk fever. You lost weight because I didn’t have any milk and those blockheaded nurses wouldn’t give you formula.
“And once I got you home, all you did was cry. All day, all night, you cried. Then you got the goddamned eczema and had raw, open sores all over you and I had to keep your diapers and your bedding and your clothes sterilized…but we were living in that drafty old shack next to Gramma Janssen’s house with no electricity or running water. And I couldn’t drive, so I was stuck out there living like a goddamned heathen, only ten miles from town, but I might as well have been in the goddamned middle of nowhere! So there I was, stuck out in the sticks with a screaming baby…it wasn’t at all what I expected, you know. You can’t put a baby back in the closet and close the door when you are tired of playing with it. I was stuck in that horrible little shack with Gramma Janssen always looking over my shoulder and telling me what to do and no way out!”
“And all because of you. If you hadn’t come along, I’d have had that annulment and found another way to get away from Grandpa. But you ruined it all.”
Always, she'll blame you for her abuse. You made her do it. If only you weren't so difficult. You upset her so much that she can't think straight. Things were hard for her and your backtalk pushed her over the brink.
My NM used to call it “backsass” and any word I said that was not in full agreement with her could be so interpreted. In fact, even agreeing with her could be dangerous if I wasn’t very careful with my tone of voice and facial expressions. I was once backhanded and knocked half way across the kitchen after she said “don’t you look at me in that tone of voice” and I, not comprehending, didn’t make the appropriate change in expression in time.
And I quite clearly remember being cautioned against “making” her abuse me. “Don’t make me hit you,” or “You can only blame yourself for this,” as she beat me with The Strap (a thin leather dog leash with the metal snap removed—it left welts that looked like whip marks) or whatever else was handy. Or, heaven forefend she should smack me with her hand and break a blood vessel! “Look what you did, you little bitch! Look what you did!! I ought to beat you within an inch of your life!”
This can cause some serious issues with children abused in this manner. Whether the abuse was physical or emotional, the child grows up with the idea that all the bad things in his life and in the life of those around him are his fault. Unless the child is unusually aware and can see the absurdity in this…or at least question (in his own mind—questioning the NM is off the table) how he came to be at fault for things over which he had no control, a child can grow up feeling guilty about things that have, in truth, nothing at all to do with him! It can also cause a kind of free-floating anxiety, a kind of living under the Sword of Damocles, forever waiting for it to drop…you never know when you are going to be blamed for something you had no part in but you know you will and eventually you just come to expect it.
This blaming is often so subtle that all you know is that you thought you were wronged and now you feel guilty. Your brother beats you and her response is to bemoan how uncivilized children are.
Of course there is always “what did you do to provoke him?” or “boys will be boys and you shouldn’t have been playing with him,” or “can’t you just stay out of his way?”
Your boyfriend dumped you, but she can understand - after all, she herself has seen how difficult you are to love.
Or, of course, you have terrible taste in boyfriends, she could have told you this would happen, or you should have expected it, a boy like that wouldn’t stay with a girl like you for long, or what did you to run him off? Or a host of other remarks that are less than comforting.
She'll do something egregiously exploitative to you, and when confronted will screech at you that she can't believe you were so selfish as to upset her over such a trivial thing. She'll also blame you for your reaction to her selfish, cruel and exploitative behavior. She can't believe you are so petty, so small, and so childish as to object to her giving your favorite dress to her friend. She thought you would be happy to let her do something nice for someone else.
Or you will have to cancel your own plans because she has committed you to watch her boyfriend’s children—and she laughs uproariously when you ask what you will get paid. Or she will borrow and ruin something of yours and you won’t dare show how upset you are about it lest she find a way to blame and then punish you. She will take anything of yours anytime she wants it and dispose of it in any way she sees fit and if you dare object, it will somehow be made your fault (you didn’t brush the dog so she gave it away, you didn’t clean your room so she gave your toys away) and if you don’t drop the subject when ordered, you run the risk of punishment.
Narcissists are masters of multitasking as this example [giving away your dress] shows. Simultaneously your narcissistic mother is 1) Lying. She knows what she did was wrong and she knows your reaction is reasonable. 2) Manipulating. She's making you look like the bad guy for objecting to her cruelties. 3) Being selfish. She doesn't mind making you feel horrible as long as she gets her own way. 4) Blaming. She did something wrong, but it's all your fault. 5) Projecting. Her petty, small and childish behavior has become yours. 6) Putting on a self-pitying drama. She's a martyr who believed the best of you, and you've let her down. 7) Parentifying. You're responsible for her feelings, she has no responsibility for yours.
This is so true of the narcissist’s ability to get lots of mileage out of a single predation. It also explains why so many people are taken in by the narcissist. When she tells them, “Can you imagine? I gave an old dress of Susan’s, one she hasn’t worn in ages, to a friend of mine for her daughter—they don’t have much money since she lost her job, you know—and I could not believe how selfish Susan was, how upset she got, when she realized it was gone! You would think she’d welcome the room in her closet, she has so much stuff crammed in there already!” She doesn’t bother to tell them that the dress is seasonal and right now it is out of season—or that maybe it is a party dress and you haven’t been to a party lately—only that you hadn’t worn it recently, which is strictly true but not the whole truth. She doesn’t bother to tell them that her friend was fired from her job for cause and they are hurting for money because she’s content to live off her unemployment even if it means depriving her child of something. She doesn’t let on that she’s getting a million self-administered strokes for “saving” her friend, for doing Susan the favour of thinning out her stuffed closet, for putting up with her daughter’s selfish, hoarding ways. So she manages not only to get seven hits on you with her altercation over taking your dress, she gets lots of sympathy and pats the back from her friends when she relates the incident, all for stealing your dress!
I sometimes wonder how the conversation went when NM gave away the dog. If was my fault for not brushing him regularly, she told me—did she use this as a reason she was getting rid of him? “My daughter wanted the dog but she just won’t take care of him…you will see how knotted his coat is…and I have to work full time, so I can’t do it. She agreed that his care would be her responsibility, but I should have known better than to believe her again…” Of course she would never mention that we didn’t get him as a puppy but as a fully grown dog whose coat was already a mess, and certainly she would never mention that her daughter was a scrawny 7-year-old with a match stick arms who was literally incapable of pulling a brush or comb through an adult Collie’s coat. No, she would never have mentioned those things because they might exonerate me and even put some of the blame onto her, being an adult who was unwilling to do the work a child was unable to do.
Narcissists blame…it is what they do…and the reason every narcissistic mother has a scapegoat child: if you blame, you must have someone to put the blame onto.
Next: Part 23. She destroys your relationships