Our mothers are the foundation of our first attachment to the world. As infants, we learn by her example how to bond with others. We derive our initial sense of our self-worth from how she cares for us, nurtures us, protects and shields us from harm.
A mother’s capacity to provide us with a healthy attachment, to tune into our emotions, validate our pain, and meet our basic needs has a fundamental impact on our development, attachment styles, and emotional regulation (Brumariu & Kerns, 2010). When this initial attachment is instead tarnished by psychological violence, it can leave scars that can take a lifetime to heal. Emotional and verbal abuse by a parent can hinder our learning, memory, decision-making and impulse control in adulthood; it can also heighten our risk for anxiety, suicidal ideation, addiction, and depression (Bremner, 2006; Teicher, 2006; Brumariu & Kerns, 2008).
An abusive, narcissistic mother sets up her daughters and sons for inevitable danger due to the nature of her disorder. Her insatiable need for control, excessive sense of entitlement, stunning lack of empathy, tendency towards interpersonal exploitation and constant need for attention overrides the welfare of her children (McBride, 2013).
Not only does the narcissistic mother fail to protect us early on from the terrors of the outside world, she becomes the source of our terror. Rather than affection, we are exposed to unhealthy enmeshment, chronic rage, and egregious boundary-breaking. Narcissistic parenting distorts our self-perception; instead of being given the building blocks of a healthy self-esteem, we internalize a nagging inner critic and a perpetual sense of self-doubt (Walker, 2013).
The narcissistic mother’s erratic shift in emotions, her ever-conditional “love,” her constant shaming tactics and her ruthless comparisons terrorize us, creating a persistent sense of anxiety where safety and security should be.
What toxic parents all have in common is their inability to provide their children with a safe, nurturing, and loving environment. If they are narcissistically abusive, they are without empathy and sometimes even conscience. This type of ruthless behavior has a damaging impact on our early development as well as the way we navigate the world as adults.
The narcissistic mother engages in the following toxic behaviors:
1. She chronically shames her children.
Shaming is a tactic the narcissistic mother uses to ensure that her children never develop a stable sense of identity or self-esteem – to ensure that they never grow independent enough outside of seeking her validation or approval. She shames her children for not accomplishing enough academically, socially, professionally and personally. She shames them for their choice of career, partner, friends, lifestyle, their manner of dress, their personality, their preferences – all of these and more come under the scrutiny of the narcissistic mother. She shames her children for acting with any sense of agency because it threatens hersense of control and power. By doing so, she instills in them a sense of never being good enough, no matter what they achieve.