Escaping Your Narcissistic Mother Part II: How a Japanese Folktale can Help You Leave


©Mikhail Belikov http://www.focusonwild.com

In Part I of Escaping Your Mother, I addressed the impetus behind this terrible untangling, the cutting of ties from your narcissistic mother. This is not another “cleanse your life of toxic people” post. Those posts promote selfish disregard for, and lack of patience with, hurting people, the mentally ill and the overwhelmed.

People are broken. Life dispenses the unimaginable. Women lose children and never stop grieving. Years ago a friend’s mother, father and brother died within three months of one another—monumental, destabilizing pain.  It is a sign of humanity that we accompany those who suffer with mercy, as long as it takes. The Beatitudes require it.

Audrey Hepburn said it just as well as any prophet or theologian:

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.

Peter Kreeft teaches, “Love is the highest accuracy,” and my advice here falls short of that. Perfect love would be to remain in relationship with your narcissistic mother practicing the beatitudes while maintaining a teflon resistance to her efforts to hurt you and an indifference to non-stop deception. I can’t love that well.

This series is not an ultimatum to use against flawed mothers. Mothers sometimes impose their will, advocate too stridently for a particular choice, needle you about your hair. Flawed mothers do these things. I do these things.

In contrast, the narcissistic mother habitually diminishes her children, criticizes or competes with their accomplishments, and demeans them. In a grotesque parody of motherhood, she unearths her children’s vulnerabilities in order to exploit them for the sole purpose of inflicting pain and wielding power.

The narcissistic mother tells lies for sport, eviscerates her children in secret to avoid witnesses and social consequences. If you dare stand up to her, she gaslights you, challenging your perception of reality. “You have a very vivid imagination” is her mantra.

Mine is a Christian perspective. As Christians, adult children of narcissists are often wracked with guilt, and stay in abusive situations far too long because of a misapplication of the commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother.”

I go into detail on the religious implications of the fourth commandment for Catholics (fifth for Protestants) here.

For religious people, a psychologically abusive parent is a conundrum of epic proportions. A narcissistic mother does nothing better than convince you of your unworthiness.  Any threat to her authority is equated with breaking commandments. The guilt is unimaginable.

Heal, from the inside out.

For me, healing to the point of leaving involved ten years of counseling and six years of spiritual direction. Growing older, and the magical self-acceptance bestowed by turning 40, also helped.

Children of narcissists have been raised in a school of self-doubt and self-hatred. Counseling can teach us what is healthy and what isn’t, what a boundary is, and the fair and appropriate boundaries to set with an abusive parent.

Daughters of narcissistic mothers are notoriously bad at self-care. We are taught our perceptions are mistaken and our needs unreasonable. Make a habit of mothering yourself by listening to your body’s cues: take a nap when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, keep your water glass full.

Seek healthy, nurturing women to add to your life, but remember they will always have their own obligations, relationships and priorities. It is a temptation to have unrealistic expectations of others, to grasp too tightly to friendship, trying to fill the vacuum.

Witnessing the myriad ways female friends love their daughters may remind  you of what you never had. Prayer and mindfulness will allow you to acknowledge that pain and sit with the discomfort. Be grateful for insights into motherhood and loving kindness other women can teach you, that previously were beyond your frame of reference.

The following is a Japanese folktale told by Lafcadio Hearn, a meditation on belonging. Once we feel we belong, are part of the whole, a valuable part of life and being, we are better able to sever ties with someone intent on our emotional destruction. Someone who dismisses our experiences and perceptions with, “You have a very vivid imagination,” whose every word and gesture is meant to eradicate our sense of self.

A Drop of Dew by Lafcadio Hearn

To the bamboo lattice on my study window a single dewdrop hangs quivering.

Its tiny sphere repeats the colors of the morning,—colors of sky and field and far-off trees. Inverted images of these can be discerned in it, —also the microscopic picture of a cottage, upside down, with children at play before the door. . .

So that tiny globe of light, with all its fairy tints and topsy-turvy picturings, will have vanished away. Even so, within another little while you and I must likewise dissolve and disappear. . .

But ask yourself what becomes of the dewdrop? By the great sun its atoms are separated and lifted and scattered. . . they will creep in opalescent mists; they will whiten in frost and hail and snow; they will reflect again the forms and colors of the macrocosm. . .

Even so with the particles of that composite which you term your very Self. Before the hosts of heaven the atoms of You were—and thrilled and quickened and reflected the appearances of things. And when all the stars of the visible night have burned themselves out, those atoms . . . will tremble again in thoughts, emotions and memories—in all the joys and pains of lives still to be lived. . .

Your personality signifies, in the eternal order, just as much as the motion of molecules in the shivering in any single drop. . . the dews will continue to gather and to fall, there will always be quivering pictures.

Once you reach the place where you accept yourself as being as integral to the natural world as a drop of dew,  as multifaceted and inseparable from life as the hushed beauty of snowy days and magnificence of ancient trees, it will be easier to walk away from the woman whom God entrusted with your care, and who repaid that trust by trying to extinguish you.

This article first appeared at my day job at EmpowHer.com. If you like listicles, read there.

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32 thoughts on “Escaping Your Narcissistic Mother Part II: How a Japanese Folktale can Help You Leave

  1. fa1ths

    I just want to say, thank you. That hit right to my core. It sounds just like me. I married my first husband whom abused me because of I thought that’s my life should be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. candyo48

      I did too. I married 2 of them back to back. They always sweep in like they are your savior and promise you everything you always wanted. They find out exactly what you need and want and then proceed to exploit that information. I used to pray that they would change and be saved, however, I do not believe that they can be saved. I now believe they have turned their backs on God and their conscious and made a choice to be evil and to do evil.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Tish

      After leaving the home of my narcissistic mother, I got into an abusive relationship with an older man. Now, I understand why I made the decisions that I made. The environment was familiar to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Joan Hine

    I learned a lot from reading this article. Mothering is very complicated. I think we all try to do better than our own mothers. As I get older I realize that sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don’t. I can see my own daughter struggling to give my grandchildren the consistency and continuity of a loving family and home that she feels was missing in her life. My comfort is in knowing I am not alone in this very human struggle.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. candyo48

    I am 48 and have been abused and controlled all my life. First by my parents, especially my mother and then by 2 back to back marriages to abusive men with a very physically abusive man in between marriages. I have been raped a number of times. I just came to realize all of this recently, due to I think, brain-washing and a form of interrogation where I was ‘broken’ by my parents and forced to submit even my mind, my thoughts and feelings. I am now in a position of poverty. I want to go to school and view that, getting my degree, as my only way out of the ‘system’, which is designed to keep people down and dependent and allows people in a position of authority to abuse those under their ‘care’. I feel this is my last chance and have signed up for classes starting tomorrow and I can’t find any transportation. I am going to the nearest college but it is too far to bike to. We don’t have buses in my city. Can anyone suggest a solution to this dilemma? If I work I will not make any more than I have now because I am on SSI and benefits are cut proportionately according to how much one earns. Therefore, I feel school is my only way out and if I can’t get there, I feel like I am going to go down into despair. It has been 2 years of living on the system and it is disheartening to live this way surrounded by people of the system who are messed up. They won’t even hold the door for you. They exploit and use whoever is an empathetic person and I am new to this and not like that, so I can’t make any friends or get support. My church and especially my pastor seems to be a narc. He has gone back on his promise to help me with a ride and with a car, through my church’s assistance fund. I have been patiently waiting for 2 years and before Christmas he came with an elder and said they were ready to finally help me with a used car. Now yesterday he says I never put your request before the committee and I don’t know who is on the committee and that it is a secret group and I can’t contact them myself. It has to go through him and he keeps saying he is going to do it and then excuses, excuses, while I waste my time and misplace my trust. Can anyone suggest a good therapist who is trained in narcissistic abuse from parents? I feel I can’t trust anyone. If I can’t trust my parents, I can’t trust my husbands (and the vows they took and broke like it was nothing), I can’t trust my church and pastor, my brothers and family- who can I trust? I can’t go on like this anymore. I feel like I have been discarded. And I sit in my apartment wasting my life and my God-given talents. I also have never lived alone and I hate it! I don’t feel o.k. I can’t sleep, neck always hurting, stomache sick. I need a good therapist, but I am on Medicaid. Does anyone know of any therapists in Canton, Michigan? And any suggestions for a strategy to get a car and get to school. I tried Uber and another one and ride-post with no luck. Uber needs to be activated by phone and I don’t have a phone like that. I would really appreciate any advice and support anyone can offer! I have a PC. and I have a government phone with no internet on it. I am very creative and I have some writing ability. I thought I could get scholarships to help with a car. I thought about trying to sell craft items online. I can make jewelry, wreaths, pillows, DIY furniture, and home décor. I could clean houses or organize or shovel snow, but it has to be under the table. I am getting desperate and thought about hitch-hiking to school but I do not trust men and I don’t think that’s a great idea. I never comment because as you can see I tend to go on and on. I don’t like to write for therapy because I fill a notebook and can’t stop!

    Like

    1. I would start with prayer. If you don’t trust your pastor, find a pastor and a church you do trust. Most church’s have counseling, offered on a sliding scale. Work on the inside…it takes YEARS…be patient, baby steps. It gets better.

      Like

  4. Hello Misty, I originally found you through the “Honor thy Narcissistic Mother” article on Thought Catalog. You so perfectly nailed my own “wobbly, abandoned, motherless feeling.” I probably read it 10 times over the course of a week. As I continue to read your story of being a narcissist’s child, certain phrases jump out and crystallize in my mind. They so perfectly embody my own feelings and experience, or give me the strength to keep walking away from my family of origin – one step at a time. Here are a few:

    “It is the apex of self-care to remove yourself from the presence of a person actively opposed to your happiness”

    “In a grotesque parody of motherhood, she unearths her children’s vulnerabilities in order to exploit them for the sole purpose of inflicting pain and wielding power”

    “Once you reach the place where you accept yourself…..it will be easier to walk away from the woman whom God entrusted with your care, and who repaid that trust by trying to extinguish you.”

    Anyway, I know others have said it, but I wanted to add my thanks for using your talent to address this topic. Narcissistic mothers tend to isolate their children – to make them feel like they have no other ally, no champion of their own. When we share our experiences and build each other up – we prove them wrong. It THAT is healing and empowering. ~April

    Liked by 1 person

    1. April,

      Thank you so much. I’m just a broken person who likes to write. I started the blog to build a platform for my as yet unpublished book (on a not unrelated topic) never ever dreaming the feedback I would get from other children of narcissists. I didn’t even know there was a community.

      Thank you for reading and for your kind words, and for being part of building one another up.

      -Misty

      Liked by 1 person

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  6. Dan

    Your blogs have opened up my eyes to a great deal of things. My mother is a narcissist to an extreme extent and her connection to all those close to her has never been quite right. My father died of suicide when I was 12, my brother closest to me in age is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and mother is also a functioning alcoholic. Despite all those things, the day I turned 18 I was abandoned, so she could start a new relationship. The type of things I’ve witnessed I could go on and on about. My step brother, who is older than me by 14 years, confirmed all the crazy stuff that happened with him which is when I really realized. Narcicissm can cause some very, very, extreme damage and I think more attention should be paid to it.

    Like

    1. Thanks for reading, Dan. It is estimated 1 in 25 people are born without a conscience. Some of these become mothers. I’m sorry for your pain, and hope you have found some healing with the types of friends you deserve. It’s an ongoing process.

      Liked by 1 person

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  13. Thank you, for opening up about your pain and personal experience. It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to not only walk away from a toxic, narcissistic mother, but to speak openly about it.
    I spent the entirety of my life until the birth of my son four years ago, believing that something was incredibly wrong with me. If I could just figure it out and correct it, I could be accepted, loved…
    I would have value.
    In the middle of the search, I attracted numerous other narcissists and abusers that I believed I could ‘save,’ ‘redeem.’ It has only been recently that I have been able to cost of distracting myself with these relationships from the original pain of not being loved and accepted by my mother.
    I have been extremely fortunate to have a support system of women who believed in the real me and what you wrote about placing unrealistic expectations on them, rang so true to me and is one of the aspects of being a daughter of a narcissist that we fail to recognize. I was fortunate in not losing many of these friendships due to my inherient lack of trust and rubber band snap of defensive pushing away-others, I was not so fortunate…
    When my son was born, it was like a light bulb suddenly switched on and all I could find myself thinking was, “how could she…??” But, even with the switch flicked on, it has taken over two years of intensive therapy, two years of intense pain and struggle, to realize that I have value. True, individual value, that requires no ‘action’ or ‘doing’ on my part.
    I especially appreciate your opening up about how the Christian perspective can trap us into their toxicity, the belief that forgiveness should be more powerful than our pain, boundaries. This perspective kept alive in me a disproportionate hope for my mother to be ‘redeemed’, and it has only been in the last six months that I have accepted that it is perfectly ok for me to no longer hope, believe. It is ok for me to value myself above her possibility of changing.
    So, thank you for your powerful words evoking powerful change. Thank you, for turning personal horror into empowerment for others, for yourself.

    Like

    1. Being Happy

      Hello everysinglemomday,

      I really loved reading your reply. Similar to yourself, I spent my entire life thinking that I was not good enough, especially for a romantic relationship. Both my brother and I and in our 40s and neither of us are married and have children. My mother was very intrusive in our social lives; no one was brave enough to stay around. When ever there was an romantic interest in me, my mother would play the victim role and act like I was doing something to intentionally harm her. In my 20s, I introduced one boyfriend to her and she called me names and told me that God is mad at me. She has several crying tantrums and bad mouthed me to the rest of the family. If I marry, who will take care of her? I got that idea in my head that having a boyfriend and even getting married would make my mother sick. I loss out on so much of my social life with this type of thinking. Reading everyone’s comments helped me to realize that I am an adult who has a right to be loved and give love.

      Take Care,

      Like

      1. I am so sorry for what you have gone through in life, for what your mother has put you and your brother through. You absolutely have a right to love, and to give love. You absolutely have a right to have boundaries on your love and boundaries on who to choose to love. And, you are not responsible for your mother. For her words, actions, or how she chooses to live life. You are responsible for you.
        My mother likewise, has bashed every relationship I have been in and was very intrusive. No one could meet her standards, especially me. It took me years to realize that I would never meet her standards, that her standards do not define me, and that I only need to meet my standards, which I have authority to set.
        I wish you the best and an overdose of strength in your journey to freedom, your journey to you. It’s never too late and we are never too old to begin. It is never too late to shake off the binds that hold us captive and walk in pure freedom, joy, and fulfillment.
        I bet a year from now, you’ll reread this and be absolutely amazed at who you have become, what you have been through, and how utterly excited you are for life, to live, to love…
        All the best…

        Like

    2. Thank you for writing. “the belief that forgiveness should be more powerful than our pain, boundaries” is so perfectly phrased. I had never thought of it that way, but I do still beat myself up for not being forgiving enough, not being able to tolerate constant emotional attacks. So, I’ll probably be quoting you.

      Thanks for your insight!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Please! Quote away! Nothing is more empowering than knowing our words, experiences, can bring healing to others as well…
        The issue of forgiveness is what I always found myself looping back around too time and time again… How could I just walk away, shut the door, and yet claim to have forgiven..? How could I consider myself a believer if I did not forgive?… Forgiveness, has literally been the last clinging straw.
        Until, I stumbled upon another extremely helpful website which I will include below… The home page talks about forgiveness and the narcissist and what they say provided me with more clarity and freedom than three therapists have been able to explain:
        “The Bible tells us to forgive as God forgave us (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13).God forgives us when we come to him, confess our sin, ask for forgiveness (apologize) and repent (turn from our sinful ways).( Ezekiel 33:10-19, Isaiah 55:6, Jeremiah 6:16 & 26:3, Luke 13:3 & 5, Acts 3:19). He does not forgive those who are ‘stiff-necked’, continue doing evil, or refuse to repent. The Lord does not expect more of us than he himself is willing to do! Do we imagine ourselves to be holier than God? God requires repentance, and so must we.”-http://luke173ministries.org
        Repentance is required for forgiveness and for us to freely give forgiveness without repentance, is not only an incredible injustice to us as daughters/sons, but it is a true injustice to the narcissist as well; it condones their behavior, draws no boundaries, and enables them to continue to attack and eviscerate.
        Jesus was all Love, but He also knew His place in the Father and He wielded His Love like a machete at times-look at Him in the Temple… Likewise, when we know who we are, value ourselves and our place in the Father, we are given our own machete to take down ties that bind. Nothing pretty about it in action, but wounds cannot heal until they have been surgically closed and gauzed to heal. And perpetrators cannot stop inflicting until they have paid a consequence.
        It is up to us to no longer be the consequence and become the healer.

        Like

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