I’m feeling a little conflicted.

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

A few days ago I received a birthday card from my mother. The message inside was warmer and more loving than most of the cards she has sent me in recent years. Inside the card was a check.

I’ll be perfectly honest. I wasn’t expecting to get anything at all from her this year, because I know she found this blog and the things I’ve written about her haven’t been all that nice.

I haven’t actually spoken to my mother in three years. Though I never officially went “No Contact” with her, I just stopped calling her (or accepting her calls) because talking to her is very triggering for me. I always feel like a stupid little child in her presence–even on the phone (and I hate phones anyway). I always hang up feeling diminished as a human being. Her verbal abuse of me has always been somewhat subtle but it’s definitely there. I do still have contact with her via email and mail though. We send each other birthday and Christmas cards, but that’s about it. I don’t see any reason to stop doing those things.

I started this blog primarily to come to terms with and deal with my feelings about my psychopathic malignant narcissist ex after I finally got the courage to make him leave. But I couldn’t write about narcissism without thinking of the patterns in my life–especially my pattern of always being drawn to narcissists (and having them drawn to me) due to having been raised by a narcissistic mother and an enabling dad.

I haven’t posted much about my mother lately, partly because I know she probably reads this blog, but also because I’m having doubts about how malignant she actually was. She certainly was nowhere near as bad as my ex. A malignant narcissist or psychopath likes to see others suffer and deliberately hurts others for their own pleasure. My mother isn’t like that. There’s no doubt she’s very narcissistic and self involved–but she isn’t vindictive and doesn’t necessarily punish or deliberately hurt people who have crossed her. She usually just ignores them and acts like they no longer exist. I suppose that in itself could be a form of punishment though.

You may think she sent me the birthday card and gift as a form of Hoovering me back into the family or as a last ditch attempt to get narcissistic supply from me. I don’t think either is the case. I actually think my mother wants little to do with me at all. Of course that hurts, but I’ve grown used to it. I think things were like that long before I started this blog.

A few years ago, she might have tried to coerce me into providing her with more narcissistic supply through love bombing, because I would actually provide it. But I haven’t given her any supply in three years, and she has other resources now (other family members). So I doubt she is actually trying to get anything from me.

It could be a way of keeping me off balance too, but something tells me that isn’t it. It just doesn’t seem like something she would do. She isn’t that smart or cunning.

So here is what I think. I think that she does have some rudimentary maternal love for me. Garden variety NPDs aren’t entirely incapable of love. It’s also possible she may have had her eyes opened in reading this blog, and knows she is narcissistic. She may realize she wasn’t a good parent, but as a narc, she isn’t going to be caught dead admitting it, especially to me. Maybe her gift to me and its warm birthday message was a sort of indirect admission of culpability. If so, she will most likely take that knowledge to the grave with her and I will never know.

40 thoughts on “I’m feeling a little conflicted.

  1. Just be careful, my ottery friend. She may well be love bombing you in a more subtle way now that she knows the previous way didn’t work. She may well love you in her own strange way, but it did hurt and damage you when you were younger. Stay safe x

    Liked by 3 people

  2. First of all, Happy birthday!
    Sorry you’re feeling confused and all those other things on the sign. I chuckled when I saw the pic though. because I really relate.

    I’ve been, for the most part, NC with my mom too but she’s sent birthday cards with checks enclosed the last two birthdays. Plus a loving message in the card.

    It sucked because I didn’t feel right cashing the check. It was confusing to read the words she wrote too because, hm, well, I figured my lack of contact would piss her off for one thing. But it’s not congruent with other things she’s said and done.

    It’s also confusing because I read a lot of stories and posts about people with narcissistic mothers and I have the thought “she wasn’t THAT bad,” a lot. I would not label her a narcissist.

    She was pretty neglectful though and failed to protect me from my father, so there’s that, who I think was severe (undiagnosed) borderline leaning toward narcissist.

    I don’t initiate contact anymore and didn’t thank her for those cards. So I keep thinking with my non-acknowledgement she will probably stop, which I’m expecting to happen this year. I’m sitting here trying to remember if she sent a Christmas card. I don’t think she did. But much to my surprise, my sister, sent me the annual Christmas pic of the kids with Santa. I was a bit mixed on that one too. I miss those kids.

    Every now and then a forwarded email from my mom will show up, like a cute animal email. But I don’t respond to those either. I want a much more meaningful convo than that, and to me those emails are just avoiding the “elephant in the room.”

    I think this kind of thing is so personal because each of our experiences and situations are different, despite all the talk and sometimes evidence that narcs are living by the same play book.

    Again, happy birthday. I hope the confusion doesn’t/didn’t spoil it and you have/had a great day.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I really like what you said here. Very well said. And I relate to everything you said, except the part about thinking your mother “wasn’t THAT bad.” Mine really was!

      However….of all the truly horrendous traumas and abuses I have lived through, the one thing that has caused me the most pain by far was simply this: Not Being Accepted, Not Being LOVED and Appreciated and Cherished by my own family, especially by my mother.

      If this has been your experience then yes, in my opinion, it really was THAT bad.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Realizing your own family never really loved you is one of the most painful things ever. You feel defective, like something MUST be horribly wrong with you. But it isn’t you, it’s them.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks Alaina. I so appreciate the validation. I think you’re right. It was bad. It was just different, as I stated in my original comment. I guess I still have some denial issues(?) I know intellectually that I was abused and neglected. It just hasn’t hit me emotionally yet. At least not completely. I guess I still feel that I need their love to survive. Subconsciously though.

        So I’d have to agree, the most painful thing is realizing that the people who brought me into the world don’t love me.

        Liked by 2 people

        • And the problem really truly was THEM, not YOU.

          My therapist suggested that it might be helpful to look at pictures of myself when I was a tiny child and ask myself what I could have possibly done wrong, or what could have been wrong with me, that would make it okay for my parents to treat me the way they did. It was eye opening.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Ikr? It all goes back to that doesn’t it? I think about my younger self at times, at different ages, and feel so sad for her/me.

            It’s a good idea to look back like that. I’ve been thinking about doing that actually. And the answer is “NOTHING!” Btw.

            Lately I’ve been re-reading some Alice Miller books from the library. Her work is enlightening. Trying to decide where to go from here. The healing is in the feeling. (LOL…I just made that up, although I may have heard it somewhere else) and AM doesn’t tell you HOW to do that. Feeling the pain is a difficult thing for me. I got a wall up that makes me numb.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Feeling the pain is the hardest for me, too. I would far rather deal with physical pain than emotional pain. Truly. I just went for a one mile walk with our dog. I try to do that every day. Today my heel pain, plantar fasciitis, was pretty bad. Especially in the left heel where every step feels like I’m stepping on the pointy end of a nail. Ow! But I didn’t let that stop me because my mood is always greatly uplifted by my walks — it definitely outweighs the physical pain! And I find that with many (though not all) types of physical pain, it gets better much faster when I push my way through it instead of giving in to it.

              This was definitely the case with my degenerative disc disease, which I was diagnosed with 15 years ago. A neurosurgeon ordered an MRI, then told me that all but two discs in my neck were either herniated or completely gone, plus a couple in my low sciatic area were herniated, and I had bone spurs all down the entire length of my spine, on both sides. It was suggested that I would probably be in a wheelchair before long. Surgery was recommended to fuse… my entire neck! Hello, I don’t think so! I had a friend who’d had a similar, though less extensive fusion, who strongly advised against it. So I started doing gentle yoga, and my long daily walks. Soon my nearly unbearable constanr pain was barely noticeable most of the time! And I am still walking!

              When it comes to emotional pain though, I would rather crawl through sewers to escape it, as C. S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain. But… you know what I just now realized as I was writing this comment, Safire? Maybe if I face and force myself to push through the emotional pain…. maybe the result will be the same as my great results of forcing myself to keep going through physical pain. Maybe I will go from “crippled a.d hurting” to strong and healthy… or at least, stronger and healthier? I think it’s worth a try. (Yikes!)

              I love your saying “the healing is in the feeling.” I’ve read a library’s worth of psychological and self-help therapeutic books and I don’t recall seeing that anywhere, so I think you can probably claim that. Wait… try googling it and see what you get from the great Google Oracle. 🙂

              Okay, I need to get off of here and get some work done. Speaking of which, my dislike for emotional pain is what has kept me from finishing the Going Crazy memoir I first tried to write in 1975!

              Liked by 2 people

            • Luckyotter,

              I believe that acknowledging, feeling, and walking through the pain is SO crucial for our healing!

              I very much recommend Kaleah La Roche’s work and healing tools for narc victims, especially her radio shows on blogtalkradio. There is one particular show called Walking Through The Pain, it has helped me so much:

              [audio src="http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/7/194/show_7194599.mp3" /]

              http://www.kaleahlaroche.com (Path Back To Self)

              There is another great one somewhere in the archives entitled ‘Running From Pain’ which lays out the negative effects when we try to rationalize, self-medicate and numb out the pain.

              Her work helps me everyday.

              Liked by 2 people

            • Alice, thanks so much for this information. I’ll definitely check out the links you provided.
              I am also trying to reparent myself, and have had some results from that too. It does help me get more in touch with my emotions, at least during my “therapy sessions.” I know it’s an unconventional way to go about things, but since I cannot afford a good trauma therapist (or any therapist), at least it’s something.


            • I have a wall too. It’s very hard for me sometimes to know what I’m really feeling, and sometimes my emotions seem blunted or something, like I should feel more but I can’t access it. I know this happens a lot with people with C-PTSD and it’s a self protective measure. But it really bothers me. As a child and teenager i was *too* emotional, now it seems sometimes I can’t access those emotions when I want to.

              Liked by 1 person

            • YES! To so much of what you said here. …”it’s like I can’t access it.” Exactly.

              I cried a LOT when I was a kid. In kindergarten some of the kids called me cry baby.

              I’m starting now to talk a lot more about my childhood in therapy. When I talk about certain things, I feel anger and rage and sometimes I feel like the tears want to come.

              I’m hoping now that I’m consciously working on stuff and want to work through it that I can finally get past the anger and rage and feel the hurt and pain and just cry…and cry and cry. But that remains to be seen.

              Liked by 1 person

            • I just received one of the books I ordered: “The Search for the Real Self” by James Masterson, a psychiatrist who works with people who have NPD and BPD. He has had successful results for both PDs.
              So I was reading the chapter about the childhood abandonment issues that lead to BPD (and yes, apparently we DO have a kind of “false self” too) and the way the borderline repeatedly acts out the original abandonemnt scenario on others all through life. It’s funny–I never connected my childhood issues with my mother and my personality disorder. I KNEW they were connected, but never thought about it before. Whenever I had therapists in the past, they always addressed the immediate issues, behavioral issues, anxiety and depression, that kind of thing. We never got so far as analyzing how early childhood attachment problems led to my having BPD. So when I read this, I guess I was ready, because I suddenly burst into tears reading it, and couldn’t even see the page, I was crying so hard. I felt grief at all the wasted years, anger at my parents causing me to not feel securely attached (though I can’t remember the precipating incident) and more than anything else, RELIEF because it all made so much sense, and how could I have never made this connection before? I thought of my past behaviors and the way I always sabotaged my relationships, my career goals, EVERYTHING in order to protect myself from being abandoned ever again. It was like being kicked right in the heart–it HURTS but the hurt is mixed with freedom and relief…so many mixed emotons….it’s so weird.
              I think I will write a post about this….

              Liked by 1 person

          • This is good advice. It really isn’t about us, it’s about them. I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t my fault. Because I still have dismally low self esteem and beat myself up all the time and struggle with guilt and shame. It’s getting better though.

            Liked by 1 person

    • My mother stopped sending those little memes. With her, it wasn’t cute animal photos, it was inspirational sayings and other memes. I get a lot of those from my dad too, but they’re usually some sort of right wing propaganda. He keeps sending them. I just send them to trash. Sometimes he sends something cute or funny though.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Its definitely harder to access the women of that generation. Life was cut out with a plan. You married, had children and you were usually a homemaker. And if you hit a certain age and you didn’t live the typical cookie cutter lifestyle… You were considered an old maid. Wasnt Bette Davis the star of that movie, “The Old Maid.”

    To a very big extent, and thank you to Christianity… and various religions and governments that brainwashed us into believing there could possibly be virgin births?? Duh?? Women have been living their lives with a fraction of self indulging. We are slowly learning that we do not have to feel guilty for doing what we want in life by realizing we do not have to revolve around what society programs us to be. Hmmm?? I’m Beginning to sound a bit like the Narcissist I knew?? He was not a man to partner with, but he was definitely a great philosopher and a lot of what he said I did agree with. But I do not, and will never believe that a woman is meant to be the right hand extension of a man. That’s the Adam and Eve story.

    Your mother was very confused, and probably abused. I think when you see them that way it paves your road to a better recovery and healing. Think about how difficult it was to be a woman back then. And think about how it still is. Why would a male Narcissist be mysogynist?? Probably because they sense their mother’s resent giving birth to them.

    Remember, back then we didn’t have reproductive choices? Oops I stepped into a subject of Grey matter here…and hope I didn’t offend anyone.

    As women we’ve come far,…but we’ve got a long long way to go when it comes to equality…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “…she sent me the birthday card and gift as a form of Hoovering me back into the family or as a last ditch attempt to get narcissistic supply from me. I don’t think either is the case (….).
    So here is what I think. I think that she does have some rudimentary maternal love for me. Garden variety NPDs aren’t entirely incapable of love. It’s also possible she may have had her eyes opened in reading this blog, and knows she is narcissistic. She may realize she wasn’t a good parent, but as a narc, she isn’t going to be caught dead admitting it, especially to me. Maybe her gift to me and its warm birthday message was a sort of indirect admission of culpability (…).”

    Dear luckyotter, I am afraid to say this but this is wishful thinking. It goes against all that we (victims of narc abuse) learned the very hard way- and against everything you will find on any narc abuse blog and forum, including yours.

    It IS hoovering, no matter the no. of her other supply sources. Remember this one here?

    We’ve ALL fallen trap for that bullsh*t time and time again. Say NO MORE ABUSE!

    Try to resist the temptation of wishful thinking, cognitive dissonance and delusion. Read these resources instead: http://lucyrising.com.

    Stay strong! Remember: dealing with narcs is like being in a war. There is just one way out: no contact or at least zero energy (aka: not even vorherging if she reads your blog or not!), and focusing on healing our childhood wounds.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I am sorry, Lucky, I forgot yesterday was your birthday. Back on the 20th, when you mentioned in a post that your birthday was three days away, I made a mental note to wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY on that day. So now we know that my mental notes aren’t worth the paper they are written on, lol.

    Your conflicted feelings are perfectly understandable, in my opinion. I am not going to presume to tell you what you “should” think or how you “ought” to feel or what you “need” to do — or not do. You are unique, your mother is unique, and although your life experiences with your mother may have a lot in common with other narcissist-scapegoat mother-child dynamics, once again, no two situations are identical.

    As a former agnostic who now believes in God, I think that only God can really know what is in a person’s heart. I also believe that miraculous change can sometimes happen in even the hardest person’s heart…. but this does not typically happen, which is why these events are called miracles.

    In 1969, when I was 16 years old, the psychiatrist I was seeing for my trauma induced breakdown urged me to get as far away from my entire family as I could, as soon as I could, because he had talked to my parents and my grandparents at length and he said there was no doubt in his mind that they had caused my breakdown. My mother was the worst of them all, he said.

    Although I liked and trusted that doctor, I did not take his advice because I loved my family and I wanted and needed their love in return. So for most of my life, I keep reaching out to my family over and over again, trying to win their love, desperately trying to “fix myself” so they could love and accept me.

    But over and over and over again, my heart got caught in the slamming door.

    I finally went completely No Contact a few years ago — more than forty years after my doctor had urged me to get away from my hateful rejecting family. Sadly, he was right, and if only I had followed his wise advice way back in 1969, just think of all the heartache I would have been spared!

    But the need for a family’s love, especially a mother’s love, goes very deep. And the simple truth of the matter is that I could not have followed my doctor’s advice and remained true to ME. I had to try, and keep on trying, until I was thoroughly done with that hopeless quest. Because this is who I am. This is my heart.

    Still, like I said, you and your situation are unique. You are not me and your mother is not my mother. Whatever you choose to do, or not do, I wish you all the best. And Happy Birthday one day late.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Getting away does seem to happen very late in life for most of us. I think a lot of this has to do with (a) narcissism finally being discussed out in the open; and (b) women tend to wait because if they have their own children, they want their children to have grandparents–of don’t want to interfere with that. Just my theory.
      It’s perfectly okay about my birthday. It’s just a regular day to me. Another year older isn’t something to celebrate.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think you’re probably right about the reasons it has taken so long for many of us to let go of our harmful family of origin.

        As for turning a year older, I try to think of it as only turning one day older. Because that’s all it is… even those birthdays ending in zero.

        Yikes my next big-0 birthday will be 70! Thank goodness that is still several years away! …..Today we are: older than we have ever been before and younger than we will ever be again…..

        Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s always a shame when parent and child have a falling out. My daughter hasn’t spoken to me kindly since 1996, and I’ve tried several times to get in touch over the years. The last letter I received from her was also the last time she had contact with my dad. He gave me her address and told me she wanted me to get in touch. She wrote poison letters to us both and said she wanted nothing to do with me as she didn’t need me, didn’t want me in her life and she had enough with her boys, and husband. I’ve found out recently that her marriage has failed, she keeps in touch with her cousin and she tells her mum and dad who tell me. Not the best way to learn what your child is doing. I’m trying to say keep in contact with your mum even if only birthday and holidays as any contact is better than no contact. Even with a parent, or child, showing signs of NPD.


    • Dave,
      “No Contact” (or in my case, very low contact) isn’t an act of hate or spite–it’s an act of self preservation. It’s a tactic that’s widely encouraged in the narcissistic abuse community to help ourselves. I do not hate my mom. I do keep in touch with cards and through the mail. It’s just that I can’t handle being around her. I tried–for years– to get along with her but she is severely NPD and every time I talk to her, I wind up feeling like a piece of dirt on her shoe. I can’t sit her down and have a *talk* because she doesn’t listen/cuts me off/insults me/tries to turn things around and make me the villain. So it’s better that we just don’t talk. She has always looked down and me and scapegoated me. All my life. So although it may be an unconventional way to handle things, it’s just better for my own sanity that we don’t talk. My self esteem is low enough as it is, I don’t need it beaten down even more and she is good at doing that.

      I am sorry your daughter has been so hateful to you and said such horrible things. Do you think she may have NPD or some other disorder?

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is something I would love to know. Unfortunately I doubt I will ever have the chance to find out. I’m just sorry we fell out in the beginning but maybe I shouldn’t have beaten myself up so much. Black moods aren’t the best way to spend your days when you have another child to take care of.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. On a recent birthday or Mother’s Day I enclosed in the card a note to Mom to stop “worrying” about other people and what they might think about herself or her family, and to really take control of her own happiness as a stand-alone issue. I mean, she is 80 years old, after all.
    Her response was to be very offended. I have no idea what this means about her personality but I learned after that to just listen to her talk and complain about everybody else, including their physical woes as well as her own.
    She “worries” a lot about my kids and mostly salves these concerns with $,all the while complaining about how much she is putting out. By this time, the whole family has learned to ignore both the $ and the complaints, though we do accept the former without guilt. We used to say it was her/our family’s way i.e. to “buy” love. We know that’s not a requirement for her to receive our love but we let her do it anyway! The price we pay in return is hearing the kvetching about it. Guess that’s a fair exchange.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry you are having to go through this with your aging mom. I can’t tell what her disorder is but it sounds like it could be BPD or covert NPD–sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference because covert narcissists can act needy and helpless and do all kinds of “good things” for others but it’s still always all about them.

      She is not going to change so if you can’t go No Contact (it doesn’t sound like you can at her age and with her real needs) just accept that she can’t change and try to empathize with her pain. Borderlines and narcissists have enough pain to fill an ocean. But instead of being honest about their feelings of pain, they project it onto others and lash out like a cornered animal. This would be a time I think you could safely empathize with how tragic she is but at the same time not enable her. Good luck with everything.


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