[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 19. She projects.
She projects. This sounds a little like psycho-babble, but it is something that narcissists all do.
In projection “... a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people. Thus, projection involves imagining or projecting the belief that others originate those feelings.”
Projection means that she will put her own bad behavior, character and traits on you so she can deny them in herself and punish you.
“My MNM was a master at projection. When I learned to set a proper table in my Home Ec class and tried to replicate it at home, my mother’s immediate reaction was to assume I wanted something from her. When I later asked for a ride to my Girl Scout meeting, she assumed that I was “buttering her up” so she would be inclined to give me that ride, the fact that I needed a ride every week somehow forgotten. When I did something unexpected, her response was often to think I was “buttering her up” or the contrary—“are you trying to make me mad?” There was some kind of calculating motive behind virtually everything she did and, in true projection mode, she believed others operated just as calculatedly as she did…and often she ascribed to others the feelings or reasons that would have been her own motivations.”
When I was older and spending more time out of the house, NM began accusing me of behaviours that, in all truth, had never occurred to me. Years later she resurrected some of those accusations by telling me that she never could trust me, that she knew I was “running around with men,” and other only slightly veiled accusations. I didn’t understand it when it was happening…I mean, where on earth did she get those ideas??...but thanks to my father I understood it the second time around. It was my father who explained “projection” to me and told me that the things she was accusing me of were the very things she had actually done when she was my age. Decades later, one of her brothers confirmed that her behaviour during her teens was anything but circumspect, so I ended up getting punished for things she did as a teenager, because she was projecting her behaviour onto me.
This can be very difficult to see if you have traits that she can project on to. An eating-disordered woman who obsesses over her daughter's weight is projecting. The daughter may not realize it because she has probably internalized an absurdly thin vision of women's weight and so accepts her mother's projection. When the narcissist tells the daughter that she eats too much, needs to exercise more, or has to wear extra-large size clothes, the daughter believes it, even if it isn't true.
I am really not sure if this applies to my NM or not—I didn’t see many similarities between us although I suppose her obsession with my romantic life could apply. She was quite convinced I was trying to attract the attention of her boyfriends and later, her husband. She gave me a bad time about “modesty”—sorry, but this was beachside Southern California during the height of the surfing craze—we girls lived in bikinis and shorts and tube tops. Also, my bedroom was actually one end of the kitchen—no door, no curtain, no nothing to separate it from the rest of the apartment. And, to top it off, I was not allowed to lock the bathroom door so Frank could (and did) walk in on me whenever he felt like it. But her eyes saw seduction on my part probably because that is what she would have been doing in my place.
However, she will sometimes project even though it makes no sense at all. This happens when she feels shamed and needs to put it on her scapegoat child and the projection therefore comes across as being an attack out of the blue. For example: She makes an outrageous request, and you casually refuse to let her have her way. She's enraged by your refusal and snarls at you that you'll talk about it when you've calmed down and are no longer hysterical.
It is important to realize that our NParents are not the only Ns in our lives. Having been raised by Ns, we are conditioned to respond to them in a way that attracts them. We end up with narcissistic romantic partners, narcissistic spouses, and even narcissists we call friends. And they can hurt us just as badly as our NParents—sometimes worse, since we don’t expect the kind of treatment from them that we come to expect from our NParents. As our eyes are opened to narcissism, we begin to see it everywhere, which can make us doubt the validity of our perceptions: all of these people can’t narcissists, can they? It is most of my friends and a large part of my family! Sadly, yes they can: once trained and primed by our NParents to provide NSupply on demand, we attract them like bees to honey. Over time we begin to realize some of our friends and family members are also Ns and start dropping them from our social calendars. But sometimes we have difficulty, not willing to dump someone simply because we think they might be narcissists. And then they do something, like my friend Mandy* experienced, that removes all doubt.
Mandy was going through a divorce and decided to skip her 20th reunion in favour of some decompression time with her kids and her family. A long-time friend, Allison*, was angry with Mandy for skipping the reunion and “punished” her by refusing to communicate with her for a month. When Mandy sent her a message about her lack of communication, Allison ignored the message. When she was finally over her snit Allison tried to ease her way back into communication with Mandy by “liking” some of her FaceBook posts, but Mandy confronted her about not replying to her message. Allison claimed never to have received the message, which Mandy knew was not true. Allison became very angry and told Mandy she would talk with her about it later, after she (Mandy) had “calmed down.” Since Mandy had been perfectly calm up to this point, Allison’s projecting, gaslighting and lack of empathy suddenly struck her that it was like trying to communicate with her NM. The light went off in Mandy’s head and her friendship with Allison bit the dust.
You aren't hysterical at all; she is, but your refusal has made her feel the shame that should have stopped her from making shameless demands in the first place. That's intolerable. She can transfer that shame to you and rationalize away your response: you only refused her because you're so unreasonable.
Allison was essentially demanding that Mandy put her and her wants above what Mandy and her kids needed. When Mandy refused and Allison made an issue of it, surely some part of her knew that Mandy and her children needed some time away , some restorative time with family, but she continued to put herself first…a shameless demand in anyone’s book.
Having done that she can reassert her shamelessness and indulge her childish willfulness by turning an unequivocal refusal into a subject for further discussion. You'll talk about it again “later” - probably when she's worn you down with histrionics, pouting and the silent treatment so you're more inclined to do what she wants.
While Allison actually told Mandy that she would discuss the matter with her later, completely ignoring and invalidating Mandy, some Ns take a different tactic: my ex would table a discussion as soon as it got close to resolution and the resolution might involve him accepting responsibility for something or changing a behaviour pattern or attitude. I would make a clear demand: no racist remarks in front of the children—you can be a racist if you want, but don’t teach it to my kids—and he would simply say “I don’t want to talk about this now.” When pressed for a time when we could discuss his racism and unashamed displays of it, it was always some vague future time. If I brought up again, before he made another blatant racist remark that would re-open the discussion, I was nagging him and if I didn’t shut up, he would say he would never discuss it with me. He knew that harbouring and expressing racist sentiments wrong and that he should be shamed by them, but by projecting incorrect behaviour (nagging, telling him what to do, expecting him to change) onto me, he could reassert his shamelessness and continue on with his behaviour, unabated.
Projection is actually a form of denial. The narcissist denies or minimizes her unseemly behaviour or beliefs or desires or feelings by projecting them onto you, then takes you to task for it, leaving her blameless as a newborn babe. It’s just one more of their ways of keeping their fantasy worlds intact and the rest of us off balance and compliant.
*Not their real names
Next: Part 20. She is never wrong about anything.