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Narcissist Mother? Ten Steps To Moving On

Narcissist Mother? Ten Steps To Moving On

Barbara Coleman

Everybody’s problems are always easier to resolve than our own. Especially when you’re dealing with a Narcissistic Mother…Am I Right?

As I was talking (well, actually texting) with a friend about some issues she was having within her own narcissistic mother,  I was trying to edit what I was thinking into a short “text speak” kind of way.  My “Aha Moment” was, “Wow, this seems so clear to me now, I wish someone had talked to me about this journey years ago”. The answers to my friends frustration and anger seemed so easy for me now…like a road map laid out in front of me.

Of course, looking back the answers always seem relatively easy.  I’ve already walked that journey, it just took me 56 years to get here.  I would have preferred finding peace with my Mother when I was younger rather than waiting out our relationship to resolve itself in her death, but some lessons come harder than others.

I compare this need for a road map to an Al- Anon meeting I went to.  It was a therapists suggestion to find empathy and understanding for an alcoholic ex husband.  She thought I would better understand my EX- husband’s alcoholism and behavior if I attended heard some of the stories told at the meeting.  While I was there I heard a lot of “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”  kind of language.  In my mind, I feel like life should go more like “God give me the strength to change the things that I don’t have the strength to change myself”.  I walked away from both the Al-Anon meeting AND my EX- husband because I hate, hate, hate waiting and expecting things or someone else to change, when it is really me who has to do the changing.  It wasn’t until my Mother died when I realized I treated the damaged relationship with my mother like the people in that meeting treated life.  I was waiting for change and doing nothing to make it myself.  My lifetime resolution was just to survive, (oh yes, it started the minute I was born), at first, just to survive until I grew up and got out of the house, then it changed to just survive until I could move far enough away, and then it became survive until my mother died. It took me the better part of a year to get to a healthy place in my head with my my mother, that’s after she died of course.  Before that, just a boat load of tears, anger and resentment and 55 years of waiting for my mother, the biggest bully in my life to change or die.  My Mother was a Narcissistic Personality.

MourningNow, I’m not a therapist but I have had enough therapy to hang out my own shingle.  This top 10 list is derived from my “text speak” conversation with my friend.  It’s a map to your journey of being free.  How long you stay in each location is up to you, you may have more work to do in one area or another, but if you get to a step and you still don’t feel right about it you may need to go back to your last step, and if you do, it will be worth your while.  You’re going to have to dig for information along the way, but trust me it’ll be worth it.

10.  Everybody’s behavior comes from his or her own baggage and/or issues – even your Mother.  Usually from something in your past, and most of the time none of us are not even conscious about it.  It’s important to understand that your mother’s behavior comes from something, FIND IT.  My Mother’s behavior came from a tragedy and her upbringing.  Dig for this information it will help you a lot.

9.  Understand her baggage and issues have nothing to do with you.  Even though she directs her “barbs” in your direction, it has nothing to do with you.  You have done nothing wrong.  Until you can understand this you can’t move on.

8.  Believe in the power of positive intent!  She THINKS she is helping you.  Even though you don’t feel it, she does love you, just not in the way you need her to.  Stop playing the “my Mother doesn’t love me” tape in your head. She doesn’t know how, it’s like a 12 year old trying to figure out a tax form.

7.  Understand YOUR issues.  This isn’t as easy as you think.  Try to connect the dots with your issues and the relationship you have/had with your mother.  I was stunned when I finally faced some of mine.  I didn’t realized the deep roots some of my issues had.

6.  Learn to identify what you really want.  Why are you doing whatever it is your doing.  Do you think you have to do this out of obligation to your Mother?  Do you really want to go and visit with her for a whole week?  Write it down – What do you want, be selfish.

5.  Know that even though you keep performing task after task, jumping through each hoop she provides, you will not win her over.  Nancy Friday said in her book “My Mother, Myself “I could spend the rest of my life trying to make my mother happy, but that’s just how long it would take.  You know the definition of insanity right?  Performing the same task over and over again and expecting different results.  Come to terms with this.

4.  Trust that you are strong enough to stand without her.  You may need advice from time to time that would normally come from a Mother, you can probably get that from another source.  You still need the confirmation and love people get (generally speaking) from their Mothers, trust that you have resources all around you….Use them!  Love feels just as good when it comes from somebody other than your mother.  Remember, we can’t force people to love us the way we feel they should love us, but we sure as hell can resolve they don’t hurt us any way they want to.  Build your resources!

3.  Draw your boundaries!   Most women (and some Men I know, too), who have been raised by emotional abusers keep moving their boundaries when it comes to acceptable behavior.  Before long you look back and realize you’ve moved your lines of acceptable behavior so many times, you’ve pretty much given everyone permission to treat you anyway they like and with behavior that is totally UNACCEPTABLE!  You teach people how to treat you and now you must start the retraining.

2.  Learn the tools to effectively keep people on their side of the boundary line and keep you safe within your boundary without putting up walls.  You will feel empowered, strong and less and less like a door mat.  Learn how to do this without hurting people and you will be the winner and not the repeater.

1.  Forgive.  I didn’t say forget and I didn’t say condone.  I said Forgive!  This isn’t for your mother it’s for YOU.  You want to live a well lived life, Right?  Then you can’t carry this baggage around with you, it’s not yours to carry – it’s hers.  There’s a saying that goes “To not forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die”.  Let go and forgive her for not knowing what she was doing.  People have been forgiven for much higher crimes than not knowing how to love.

I’ve set my own baggage down for now.  Take the first step on your own journey.  You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose.


  1. […] Related Post:  Narcissist Mother?  Ten Step Guide to Moving On […]

    • Dolores Marconi

      4 September

      Thank you for advise about being raised by a narcissistic mother. Mine was that and more, and, of course, proud of it! Your ten step program is perfect. I retired several years ago and it made my mother so furious she went after me like a cyclone from hell. I lost everything I had and everything I believed in. When I was younger I tried suicide only to find myself in a hospital and having GLUE pumped out of my stomach! The last think I remembered was pasting angels onto a door. I am going to print out your ten steps. God bless.

  2. Cassandra

    22 September

    “Learn the tools to effectively keep people on their side of the boundary line and keep you safe within your boundary without putting up walls.”

    Have you got any suggestions on where to find/learn these tools?

    • Barbara Coleman

      25 September

      Cassandra, if you haven’t read the book “Will I Ever Be Good Enough” by Dr. Karyl McBride, I would suggest getting a copy (either the library, iTunes or Amazon has it) that book was a life changer for me. Also Brene Brown’s Book “Daring Greatly” is amazing – it’s not about Narcissistic Mother’s but it’s about you and talking about developing the courage to take the next step. One way I’ve come to think about Boundary setting is…I compare it to the schpeel you hear the stewardess say before every flight – in the event of an emergency the oxygen masks will drop – if you have children put the oxygen mask on yourself BEFORE you put it on your child. To me that’s what setting boundaries is all about – if you don’t take care of yourself first you can’t help anyone else. Setting boundaries is important, but believing you’re entitled to that kind of treatment is even more important.
      The first thing I did was to sit quietly (and often) and think about what makes a good friend – how would I want them to treat me and how do I treat them. I decided that’s how I deserved to be treated and anything less than that would be outside my boundaries. I developed a list of things (my mother did) and compared it to my other list. When I made the list of things my mother did, I was a little shocked to see in writing a clear pattern. The reason it was helpful to make the list of things my mother did, was I was always taken off guard at her creative ways to put me down and negate anything I was doing….now it was my fault if I was taken off guard…there was a clear pattern. I developed a mantra “She’s sick and doesn’t know any better – it has nothing to do with me”. I practiced a response to her nastiness….I had two: “I’m not going to come see you if you speak to me in that manner” and “I don’t want my children to learn to speak to me in such a negative way, so I’m going to have to leave them at home if you’re going to say things like that”.
      Now, since my mother’s gone, I practice responses that keep the anger out of my voice for all the other people that seem to want to cross the line…. It’s become a game – the big result is just being happier about who I am and knowing I DESERVE to be treated as I would treat a good friend. Accepting anything less than that is like not putting on your own oxygen mask.

  3. Pamela

    8 October

    I look forward to reading your book. I like how you concisely put together the steps involved in being able to heal, move on, and hopefully not make the same mistakes. Each one of them are necessary. I am part of another program and have been having trouble dealing with issues. It is because I haven’t been dealing with my past baggage with my mother. Mostly because it is painful and something I have tried to put behind me. In private therapy, my kind counselor has shown me that my mother has a mental disorder. Though she has manifested herself in ways which are more of jealousy and determined destruction of my life, I now have some tools to deal with her (mostly silence and distance under all circumstances) and am trying not to let my fear of her interference cripple my life and decision making processes. Thank you again for this information. I ordered the book online and can’t wait to get it. My therapist recommended it.

    • Barbara Coleman

      8 October

      Pamela, it’s comments like yours that keep me searching for the “the way out” and writing to connect with people. Thanks for your kind comments and keep reading! You’ll get there!

  4. Anita

    23 November

    Hi Barbara, thank you for writing this. It is very helpful. When you wrote: “I practiced a response to her nastiness…I had two” you included not going to see your mother. I live 1000 miles from my mother since 2008 but the abuse is still the same over the phone for me – mainly being put-downs, yelling at me, dictating what she wants me to do or not do and generally making me feel like I am a loser who will never do anything worthwhile in life. Would you be willing to help me with ideas of what I could practice to say to her over the phone in the same manner as you did when my mother becomes nasty? I don’t go see her so the ultimatum of not visiting her wouldn’t apply to me. I don’t have children so that couldn’t apply either. I don’t think telling her that I won’t call her again would work very well because she would just be like evil laughing. She is extremely independent and acts like she doesn’t need anyone (except her golden child my sister Clare) (she has 4 kids – Clare is her fav). I haven’t given her her regular weekly call going on three weeks now because the last time I spoke to her she yelled at me telling me not to do something that annoyed her and she told me that I “really missed the boat on that one” referring to my not becoming a lawyer. I just can’t take it anymore and am at the point in my life where I feel like I am about to give up on work, school, anything I ever wanted to do because of her. I guess I’m giving her too much power there and I recognize that and I’ve got to stop that. I probably also need to come to terms with the fact that any achievements I have been pursuing in recent years toward a career change/higher education/better job is ultimately so that I can prove to her that I am worthy, good, deserving of her praise. But I shouldn’t have to prove to her that I am worthy. Right? …Ugh, sorry I’ve written too much and taken up alot of your time. Thanks again and God bless you.

  5. Beverly Graham

    31 August

    These are things I really need to work on. My Mom passed away 4 years ago, and while she may not have been the classic narcissist, I realize I blamed her for inaction regarding dad’s incestual abuse of 4 daughters. They both set up us daughters to fail in relationships.

    • Barbara Coleman

      1 September

      Beverly, I know exactly what you mean. I subconsciously blamed my dad for years. I didn’t realize it until he died – My first night home in my own bed, I had a dream I shot him….my words just before I pulled the trigger were “you could have stopped her”. I didn’t realize I had carried so much animosity towards him as well. It wasn’t until I reached a certain point in my recovery when I could put them in a vulnerable position themselves, instead of the superior position they had always held over me, and realize they were troubled, damaged and miserable people themselves and I had to forgive them in order to move on with my life. Keep in mind when I use the word forgive I don’t mean condone or accept….I just mean let go. I wish you peace my friend.

  6. Catherine

    10 August

    Thanks for your sharing. My mother died this week. 4 days after my birthday. But going nc for a year and a half helped me separate from her. 7 years I endured her hatred because I wouldn’t allow her to live with me and my family. She was a covert hidden narcissist and I guess it made her feel powerful. But she would have destroyed my family if she ever lived with me. So I placed her in an assisted living facility due to her parkinsons disease and wheelchair bound life now.
    But your 10 steps to move ahead are correct.
    10. I found out she was sexually abused by an uncle and cousins.
    9. I always knew it never had anything to do with me because my grandparents who lived downstairs loved me unconditionally and showed it up to their deaths. i was 30 when they died.
    8,7,6,5,4,3,2…I did go for counseling when she was alive , my dad had just died and my mother reverted to what she had been towards me; mean,hateful,guilt inducing,lying,and talking about me to others in a negative way. Because I didn’t know at that time she was abused as a child.. and found out also that she had my brother as a result of her lifetime hidden affair with the cousin who abused her, that she was a borderline, narcissist and possibly psychopathic person…I had to release some of my rage and sorrow for not being perfect. I was helped to understand that her shame, her guilt, was projected onto me, her scapegoat because she just couldn’t accept that she was so abused and hurt riddled with shame and guilt too powerful for her to ever come to grips with. However realizing all this was not all that helpful because I couldn’t get angry with her because I pitied her and at the same time I couldn’t help her and now I knew it was just hopeless to consider it. Very very difficult for me now to really break away. But break away I did and at that point I let my brother take over her care at a.nursing home. I never saw her again due to her abusive behavior toward me which was now making me physically ill. I had to save myself. Which I did. But still pitied her and was angry with her for her choices as an adult.
    Eventually I wasn’t angry anymore just filled with deep sorrow.
    I have a husband and son who do love me…I have boundaries up with people to protect myself.
    1…I forgave her when I went nc. I didn’t go to her funeral or grave. I don’t feel guilty about it.
    I did pray for her soul and that she finds peace and happiness in her spiritual state. I hope her parents and my dad met her and helped her to feel happy because they really did love her so much.
    I pay charity in her name every month…and when I feel it’s time..possibly a year or so from her death…I will visit her grave to establish a relationship with a mom who will become the person she never could have been in a physical body.

    • Anonymous

      22 August

      This made me cry. We are the same as mine was very similar and I know when she dies I won’t be able to mourn her death really. This woman who put all of her needs first, kicked me when I was down and never let me have feelings or thought s as a child. The final straw was the last trip I took with her she let loose and told me what I did wrong with my daughter and how sorry I was as a person. Then I tried to cut my wrist in her car to stop the pain. She started in and watched me cut myself enjoyed it. Then because I poked her with a pen she said ” you won’t beat up on me” your going to jail. She called police and saod I had assaulted her. Never will I see the crazy bitch again. No more ! Enough is enough!

  7. Tee

    11 August

    Im 19 and my mother guilt trips me all tge time about my 8 and 6 year old sisters saying “you never play with them or you never home” I work a dull time job as an apprentice hairdresser I try to hang out with them watch cartoons or movies. My mum has had a hard life and shes only 36 and I try to understand that but she constantly calls me a liar and that I don’t care about the family im about to move out with my partner of 4 years and she has been so cured about it calling and abusing him and myself. Cause I didn’t know how to tell her and tried to do what I thought was right but it obviously wasn’t. I try desperately to gain her approval but it never comes shes done some shittt things to me but I’ve forgiven as I’ve don’t some crops things when I was younger being caught in the wrong crowed but I pulled myself out and fix the situation. I belive I have done well for me age I pay my way and have brought a new car for myself with mt hard work and it hasn’t been easy with her in my back about not being good enough. I feel like it’s because I’m not like her at all completely different but the same im emotional but strong and shes emotionless and too strong and we clash so much it’s hard to have a relationship with her she also drinks alot and that makes things worse and im struggling to forgive myself thinking it’s all my fault but reading this made me see its not but I don’t know how to move on at all with out hurting her or the family and not losing my sisters they mean everything to me and I want a relationship with them but I have been made to feel I won’t if I’m not home 24/7, of you have any suggestions I’d be all ears.

  8. Natalie

    23 December

    My mother’s behavior fits every last point in this article. I was SHOCKED. She also makes fun of me and when my sister and I were children, she tied us together and made us stay in the linen closet for about 3 hours. We were supposed to go to her house for xmas eve because my sister is her favorite but I’m thinking we’re not going.

    • Barbara Coleman

      23 December

      Natalie, I’m hoping you decide to spend the holidays the way that makes you the happiest! Spending time with people who treat you poorly is worse than being alone.

  9. Meaningful music video

    25 January

    enjoyed the page


    • Amber

      30 April

      I read your potsnig and was jealous

  10. c

    6 June

    Thank you for this, really helpful stuff here. I like 8, 4, 2 and 1. On my way to healing.

    • Barbara Coleman

      6 June

      I’m glad you liked it! Better yet, I’m glad you found it helpful. God’s speed on your journey to healing!

  11. WorkInProgress

    28 April

    This is very helpful, thank you. As a Christian, I have always felt obliged to forgive my mother very quickly and instigate contact and reconciliation and have felt guilty about having bad feelings towards her at all. I’m now realising forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t stand up to her and set some boundaries. I know she will probably have a fit as in her eyes she is never at fault and I am always to blame for her nasty outbursts and attacks against my character. I have never cut her off before. I have actually blocked her mobile number off my phone, which I said I would do if she sent me one more nasty texts. By God’s grace, I will begin to stand up to her and be able to have some kind of a relationship with her, and be able to let go of the hurt she has caused me…

  12. Nighat Noor

    21 January

    I just have found that my Ex’s mother is narcissist and I wanna share it with her. Thanks for sharing this informative article.
    Nighat Noor recently posted…Mental Disorders || Definition, and Four Characteristics of Mental disordersMy Profile

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