Narcissistic Abuse in Real Time: The Almost Perfect Freedom of No-Contact


spiderandtheflySo 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Narcissistic Abuse in Real Time: The Almost Perfect Freedom of No-Contact

  1. Beth

    I am reading your stories today on a day when I am so sad and broken. It’s been 18 months since I found out my mother is a narcissist and 18 months of low contact (automatic short responses to her emails only). It would be another 6 months before that since I last physically saw her. So I guess two years all told. I’m missing the false self today, those times when she was a comedian and life of the party with the idea that I was loved. But the reality is that 70 percent of the time she was in full flight as the true self and that monster within was always lurking in the shadows. Just knowing the extent of her cruelties meant that, looking back now, I was always hypervigilent and waiting for her pot to boil over. And so I’v never known a moments peace with her and at the moment, flashbacks have started for me with the most recent one a memory of the intense fear I felt when she was at the height of her silent rages. I woke up having dreamed of nothing feeling completely disorientated and with a fear so intense I was sweating with shallow breathing. To think I was 10 years old when I was feeling that fear, with nowhere to go. My psychologist tells me it’s safe to remember now and that’s why the flashbacks are occuring now. It’s difficult to believe that your mind can surpress such extreme emotions. It’s amazing what we’ve pulled off to survive.

    So thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Know that you are making a difference. Don’t let anyone drown out your voice. It’s important for us all to keep sharing.

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  2. Thank you for that. It was very helpful for me. I am going through a similar situation. I have always been financially dependent on Narcs. First parents, then two husbands. I always have to go back to NC parents when a divorce happens. I have a hard time with Self- efficacy.
    I never earned a living and find it difficult to believe I can actually do it. I never had anyone say they thought I could do it. 4.0 grades in college, a degree, it doesn’t matter. Nothing is ever enough or valued or acknowledged.
    I NEED to have one person say it to me. That I can get and hold a job, that I am capable, etc.

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    1. Thanks for reading. The self-doubt is paralyzing. I’m still learning how to live correctly. Do one small step a day towards empowering yourself…write a resume, make an appointment with a life coach or counselor, do a job search, put together an interview outfit. Just one thing. Be well.

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  3. Ann

    I’ve been struggling with this reality in my life, my narcissistic mother and her two other daughters, my sisters, once again in full force for the last year of my beloved father’s final sickness and death. It is unbelievable what I’ve experienced having contact with them again. Realization: they will never change no matter how hard I try. They want only one thing to defeat me. Thank God for my dear husband who was there with me amidst the demeaning family dynamics, the scapegoating. I’m not going there again and I’m determined to break free and be whole, the person God intended for me to be. Thanks for the encouragement. We will heal. We will forgive and we will love. We will be whole. God loves us.

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  4. el

    Thank you for sharing. I can relate to everything. My biggest concern is that of my son. He is now 18. I did not realize what the NM was until a few months ago…Being a single mom w 2 kids I was told by everyone how lucky I was to have wonderful parents “helping me out” I became sick w severe anxiety, depression, ended up on disability I became everything she wanted me to become without “getting” it. She enjoys that there is no one to protect me. No husband or friends….I tolerated alot in fear my kids would have to go without…I have been in counseling for my depression through disability so I cant “pick” a better counselor I brought it up a few months ago that Im probably ill due to Narc mother. My son hasn’t had his Dad in his life( not surprisingly i chose a narc) and I allowed this atrocious woman to financially help us….She is extremely wealthy and what I collect is considered below poverty. My son at 18 is struggling and I do blame myself for not knowing any better….Other than putting him in the mental health system where they just drug people and give them the incompetent counselors…are there any other alternatives so I can help my son lead a more productive and happier life…I am trying my best to become independent however Im in my mid 40s the depression has spiraled to such a severity that I am no longer a functioning person. I hope to save my kids from getting affected by their narc grandmother….

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    1. Hi El,

      Thanks for reading. The only advice I ever offer is what helped me…counseling and or spiritual direction. It took me years and years to sort out healthy from unhealthy, and to realize I didn’t have to subject myself to abuse.

      Keep your counselor, keep going, and perhaps find spiritual counseling, which is often free, at a church or synagogue. Living your best, healthiest life is the best thing you can do for your children. Be well and keep in touch.

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  5. Dear Misty,

    Thank you for your brave lucidity. It’s very calming this morning. I, too, started coming out of the fog at 40. I am now 52 and can encourage all those who are new to the path of healing that it is worth every effort, you and your happiness are worth every deeply painful effort, that is required along the way.

    There might be long stretches where you are the only one you can trust, especially if you’ve drawn narcissistic partners and friends, and are healing on multiple fronts at once. I advise great caution in choosing a therapist. I have seen ten over the course of my adult life, starting long before I date the beginning of my true healing, and most of those I saw were themselves dangerously unhealed — and turned my vulnerabilities against me when I began gaining strength. Devastating. And laying on yet another layer of required healing. This is not to say there aren’t good therapists out there, but move with extraordinary caution.

    I have a degree in psychology, ‘almost a masters’ in counseling, as well as a lifelong interest in cultural anthropology and philosophy; I’ve studied and practiced within multiple spiritual traditions. I say this to give background for what I say next: In the end, in these most recent years where I’ve done my deepest and most powerful healing, I turned fully to God and His angels.

    I put my faith in His love, and leaned in, hard. I would meditate on His love pouring over me, on His angels with me, their hands on my shoulders, holding me up. On days when I couldn’t get out of bed and face this painful world, I curled up at His feet, and rested, feeling His protection and His healing strength quietly fill me. I spent time under the blue sky, with trees and birds, and felt myself one of His children in His glorious creation, and practiced trusting that, no matter what, He and His angels would never abandon me. I prayed that I would gain strength and wisdom from the trials and challenges of my life, and that I would one day be healed enough to begin offering healing to others.

    That day has come. Two of my dearest friends, lovely and giving souls, have been suffering for years in abusive relationships with narcissists or borderlines. It has been agonizing to watch, and I’ve been unable to offer the strength and clarity they’ve needed to make different choices for themselves. But just this last week, something has shifted. They’ve watched me heal and grow these last years, but I must have passed some invisible threshold — because now they are both beginning to ask the painful questions, begin the agonizing work. They say I have given them confidence about what might be possible for them.

    I’m directing them to the Source of my confidence.

    So, too, any who read this. Have faith in Him and His love. We are hurting because this world is not as He would have it. When we heal ourselves, love ourselves, which will take some time, we can begin, at last, His true work. This world is meant to be a joyful and loving place, Heaven on Earth. Loving ourselves, truly loving one another, we realize and become instruments of His will.

    Thank you again, Misty. For your bravery, and for creating this space, where I might share my hope.

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