So my son is across the country visiting old friends and, unfortunately, my narcissistic mother. She paid for his ticket, and despite my warnings that the strings attached to that gift would be sticky and Kafkaesque, he accepted the gift.
Come into my parlor said the Spider to the Fly. A much anticipated trip to the Grand Canyon—she even reserved a room at a lodge—was cancelled before my son left New York.
His best friend from high school whom he hasn’t seen since we left Arizona last summer, was anxious to see him.
“My friend is picking me up from the airport,” my son told his grandmother.
“You don’t tell me what you are doing. You ask me if it’s okay!”
My son bought his first car for $500 with money he earned before he was old enough to drive. He had the car towed home and then he fixed it. By himself. He sold it for $1200 a year later. He worked full-time this summer building trails in New York State Parks. He has never gotten so much as a parking ticket in the three years he’s had a driver’s license. He is now nineteen, in college. My point is, this young man is a responsible adult.
“Can we go out and do something?” he asked his narcissistic grandmother yesterday.
“We will do things,” she promised enthusiastically. “We will get an antenna for the t.v. and then watch shows.” Not quite a road trip through Flagstaff to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, a night at the lodge watching the snow fall.
These are the lessons one’s adult children have to learn about broken promises, disappointment and unreliable people. But none of this is why I am writing today.
Today my mother, with whom I have zero contact, began telling my son personal things about me from my youth.
My son texted me, telling me as much.
I have previously described narcissistic mothers’ grotesque parody of motherhood thus:
She unearths her children’s vulnerabilities in order to exploit them for the sole purpose of inflicting pain and wielding power.
I texted my son, confirming the tale’s validity and gave the gossip some context. Then I added something else, a little wisdom provided by the safe and healing distance of having gone No-Contact nearly two years ago.
Notice how she likes to disclose private things to try to embarrass me. She will do the same to you. I don’t recommend sharing anything personal with her.
In an attempt to nurture a false closeness with my son, she shared intimate details about me he wouldn’t otherwise know. She wanted to wield the power of secrets. Narcissists thrive on secret shame. But now I’m free.
Going No-Contact has freed me from the persistent expectation that she will behave kindly and nobly—like a mother— and from the deep sense of loss when she doesn’t.
Going No-Contact has freed me from the shock and powerlessness of her “little surprises.”
Going No-Contact has given me the presence of mind to handle my son’s revelation with aplomb, to live in truth with a dose of metacognition, i.e., Here’s what’s really going on in Crazy Town.
Why am I sharing this? Well, despite the feigned authority with which I write, I am just a broken person trying to get well. And today I saw some progress. And I write to offer hope to those adult children of narcissists who fear they might never heal.
A reader, April, wrote in the comments only a few days ago, “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. THAT is healing and empowering.”
May we all be well. I am your ally.