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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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My mother is a 45-year old personal trainer. She looks very

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My mother is a 45-year old personal trainer. She looks very good for her age and she is single. However, she struggles financially and has pretty bad luck with relationships. She goes out to party almost every night and she is always worried about the way she looks. I was living with her for a while, but she recently has kicked me out because we don't get along at all. She enjoys arguing about everything and has a really bad temper. Her words are usually hurtful and she's never seemed to want to be a mother. She acts and talks more like an "older sister" and is very spiteful. Is there a word for this or a phase ? And what can I tell her to make her realize what she's doing is very hurtful ?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 3 years ago.
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

There are probably a number of ways to construe her behavior. First, when you evaluate how much of her own self-image and esteem are focused on how she looks, you get the impression of someone who has significant inadequacies and fundamentally, doesn't like herself very much, and suffers from low self esteem. She is unable to form and maintain intimate relationships and doesn't quite understand why. So one description of what is happening is that she is Overcompensating for her feelings of inferiority.

I suspect that growing up, you felt she was never really quite able to be a completely altruistic, unselfish person and was not very skilled at being mothering or nurturing. So another word that comes to mind that describes her general emotional and attitudinal status is that she is excessively Narcissistic.

So, your mother may have one or more features of a personality disorder; and such people usually have an admixture of features from several of the disorders. You can Google the following to follow up and perhaps identify meaningful patterns in her interpersonal style: DSM Narcissistic Personality Disorder; DSM Histrionic Personality Disorder; DSM Borderline Personality Disorder.

What you can say is something that will link directly into her narcissism and superficial body image that represents her "self"; thus, it should cause her to pause and think: "Mother, when you say such things [or do this and such...], it doesn't reflect well on your image as a personal trainer. A professional would not say such a thing, even to their own daughter. "What you just did is really quite undignified for a person in your career position because it hurts people rather than helps". "When you act like that mother, it will certainly cause people to wonder what is really beneath that attractive body".

I hope this information is helpful to you. Let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your original question.

Edited by DoctorMichael on 10/1/2010 at 9:23 PM EST
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience: Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
Dr. Michael and 3 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Would this also be the cause of mid-life crisis ? And I also have a 16-year old sister that visits her every other weekend (our father has custody) which looks much older. They don't argue as much as my mother and I, but I do see some similar relationship patterns when I was her age. However, my sister really only goes to visit her to meet her needs of social freedom that she lacks living with my father. Is it healthy for my sister, being at such a crucial age, to be around someone like my mother who obviously has some type of personality disorder ?
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 3 years ago.
Mid-life crisis? May or may not be a mid-life crisis. If you reflect back on her behavior, focus on appearance, ambivalence about mothering, etc., what do you see? Is this a relatively new pattern of behavior for her; is she treating people differently now than she did say, 10 years ago?

Midlife crisis possibilities: Your mom is single, experienced failure in a marriage, working at a career that probably has a time limit to it (e.g., will they be hiring a young 30 year old woman to take her place once she turns say, 52 ish?); she isn't thinking about going back to school to substantially improve her career prospects; she is obviously lonely and longing for a meaningful relationship, but doesn't understand the obstacles aspects of her personality likely create for her. If you think about it, "getting a relationship" is probably her primary motivation at this point in her life. She isn't getting any younger and will increasingly compete with younger and younger women for dating privileges. Guys are notorious for going after women from their 40s to their 20s, and women can't do that as easily as they get older (as men can)---unwritten social rules and culture here. So, I can easily see why your mom may be going through a midlife crisis. She wants a relationship with a man or male attention worse than anything.

You and your sister differ in the degree to which you argue with your mom. I suspect you set more limits with your mother, are more ready to stand up for yourself, and don't fear conflict with her, as your sister does. And, she knows that mom is the 'freedom wagon' for her and she values this aspect of what your mom has to offer immensely. So she will work harder to get along with her. You don't need your mom as much. Your mom is probably not a great female role model for your sister as she is not a terribly well-rounded woman or person. There is probably not much you can do to positively influence your sister or compete with how reinforcing it is to be with your mom, compared to you or your dad. I would suspect that when she turns 18 or 19, they'll party together, if your mom is still single.

What do you think?

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