I read a lot of blogs written by ACONs (Adult Children of Narcissists) and without exception, all these survivors yearned (or still yearn) for the parental love they were entitled to but never received.
Narcissists can’t feel love. Sure, they might pretend they love you when others are present (they’re great at wearing masks and keeping up appearances), but their true nature doesn’t even know the meaning of the word love.
For many years into adulthood, I wanted nothing more than for my narcissistic mother to approve of me. Like most narcissists, she was all about appearance and image. When I was young, she was obsessed with my weight and physical appearance, and always insisted on making me into her own image. She herself was vain, and seemed incapable of discussing deep topics or ideas. Narcissists have an uncanny ability to never show any vulnerable side of themselves, and this includes sharing any dreams with you. I’m not talking about the kind you have when you sleep, but the kind of dreams that give us hope for happiness in this life. I can’t remember one time when my mother ever shared a dream with me. She was already perfect–she didn’t need to have a dream. She also never, not once, ever shared a true emotion with me. She was incapable of being vulnerable or showing anyone (especially me) any vulnerability. And in keeping with that, she was incapable of empathy. She could never understand my feelings or hurts, and was usually more than happy to add to my hurts. I remember once, she made fun of me after she said a particularly hurtful thing, and then mocked the sad expression on my face–you know, pouting in an exaggerated way and drawing fake tears down her cheeks.
She was part of the positive thinking tyranny. (For more on how some people misuse the positive thinking movement, see this article.) Many narcissists use the positive thinking movement as a way to shame others for having feelings or to avoid taking responsibility. They’re big fans of positive thinking slogans, such as “your feelings are your own responsibility, not mine” or “you have chosen to be poor because of your negative attitude.” I remember once when I was being treated unfairly at my job (by a narcissistic boss, of course) instead of showing support and offering words of comfort, my N mother made my boss the victim, essentially telling me I probably caused him and my coworkers to dislike me because of my “negative attitude.” This is the sort of “love” you’ll get from a narcissist.
Narcissists also have an odd way of dismissing sentimentality. My mother never kept family photos around the house (because they were too “tacky”) and all the family photos were stashed into albums and boxes and packed away in the attic. A few years ago, I told my mother I would like to have some of the family photos, but she avoided the issue and changed the subject. About a year later, annoyed at being asked about them for the umpteenth time, she told me she had thrown them away. Who throws away family photos?! I was gobsmacked, but at the same time, I thought how typical that was of her. She could have sent them to me if she didn’t want them, but no, that would have made me happy, so throwing them away was better.
Back in those days, I hadn’t gone No Contact yet, and whenever in my mother’s presence, I felt small and belittled. Even when she didn’t actually say anything mean, there was always that condescending, withering look. I always felt nervous before having to see her or talk to her, without quite knowing why.
Now I know why (even though she always told me I was the crazy one who was being paranoid), and I’ve been No Contact now for almost three years. She sends me a birthday card every year, with phony mass produced Hallmark messages of love. When I get these cards, I just toss them in the trash. Coming from her, they mean nothing. She won’t ever change, because narcissists can’t. Trying to please a narcissist won’t work, so don’t waste your time. It will only wind up causing you frustration and hurt. They only want you on their side so they can use you. If they’re nice to you, it means they probably sense you pulling away from them. They can’t have that.
Of course I regret not having a loving parent or extended family. I regret not being able to see my mother (and her various flying monkeys, most of whom are also relatives) on big holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. I regret not ever having had the experience of a real heart to heart talk with my own mother. I can’t help feeling sad when others ask me where I’m going for holidays and have to tell them, “nowhere.” Because you see, my mother turned just about everyone in her extended family against me. Most of them barely know me, but narcissists are usually persuasive people who could sell ice to an Eskimo, and my mother’s “sold” me as a horrible, ungrateful, unsuccessful loser who doesn’t deserve happiness.
In my family, only visible evidence of success and physical attractiveness is acceptable. If you’re fat, unattractive, poor or disabled, you’re a “nothing” or a “nobody,” even if you’re a great person. My mother has actually used those words to discuss a cousin of mine, who is morbidly obese. “Laura’s a nothing.” She overlooks the fact that Laura is an accomplished artist who has won awards in several art shows, and also volunteers at her local food pantry. As for me, I am not rich or successful (because I was never given the tools and the self esteem to become successful as an adult), and so I’m a “nothing” too. She looks down on my poverty, and blames me for it.
I don’t need narcissistic people in my life, and one by one I have been weeding them out. And as I do so, I am growing, finding out what Lucky Otter is really all about. I’m finding out that I’m a pretty great person who is just blooming late in life.
Too bad my N mother won’t ever know the real me. Not that she’d care.
If you have a narcissistic parent, the most loving thing you can do for yourself is to make it impossible for them to hurt you anymore. They aren’t going to change. In fact, they get worse with age. As their looks and health begin to go, they feel extremely threatened by the reality of becoming vulnerable or needy, and rage takes over. They will no longer even pretend to be “nice.” You have to go No Contact, no matter how much it hurts. Rest assured though, you are not hurting them by doing this. They are incapable of feeling hurt. You’ll only hurt yourself if you remain in their thrall.