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I have a beautiful and charming narcissist mother -

thankfully now past menopause. I...
I have a beautiful and charming narcissist mother - thankfully now past menopause. I say thankfully because she no longer sleeps with a zillion men. What she still does do is woo people over lunch casting herself as the put upon heroine, with her children cast in various ways that belittles us, or seriously damages our reputation, to make herself look good. She and my selfish (but sane) father are coming over Christmas. I am happily married with three loving sons. But just thinking of my parents coming to stay distresses me. How can I get over this? Of course I had a very unpleasant childhood, and an even worse early adultlhood, but that, at least is the past.
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Answered in 17 minutes by:
12/1/2011
TherapistMarryAnn
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5,863
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

It is very understandable that you want to stay away from your mother. A misconception by society is that just because it is your mother, you are required to be nice to her and to grant her requests no matter how she treats you. If you had an abusive childhood, this "requirement" causes you to be retraumtized each time you have to be exposed to the abusive parent(s). If your mother were someone you did not know and she had done these things to you, people would think you were crazy to invite her into your home. But the family relationship often makes abused adult children feel obligated.

A person with a narcissistic personality disorder is not easily cured. Personality disorders in general are hard to treat unless the person desires to get better and has enough insight to do so. But more often than not, this is not the case. So your mother continues to react to you and the world as if her behavior is normal. To her, it is everyone else that is at fault. This makes it nearly impossible for you to have any of your needs address or even the basic courtesies addressed. So when your mother is around, you basically give up your rights and your boundaries to accommodate her. It is no wonder you do not want to see her.

Understanding narcissisists is an important step in knowing how to deal with them. Here are links to help you:

http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx36.htm

http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder

As you can tell, there is no way to fix your mother. So the only thing you can do is respond in such as way as to protect yourself as much as possible. This can range from ignoring her all together (you are under no obligation to expose yourself to her behavior) to setting very strict limits to how much you allow her into your life. For example, if she is coming over for Christmas, set a time for how long you want to tolerate her. Let her know that if she comes at 1 pm, she can stay until 3 pm but after that you have somewhere you need to be. If you need to, make a show of leaving at 3. Even if you drive around the block, it helps you set limits with her by showing her you are not allowing her to cross boundaries anymore.

Also, find ways to help you through her visits. Have supportive people around you and limit how much emotion you show. People with personality disorders feed on getting others upset. So find a few responses you are willing to give, and stick to them. Yes, no and that sounds nice are examples. When she asks if something is wrong, say no in a pleasant voice. This will take the wind out of her sails and she may leave on her own.

I hope this has helped you,
Kate

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Customer reply replied 5 years ago
Thank you. I think she is, actually, quite frightened of me. She knows I know.... Is there any way I can keep in proportion the damage she does telling lies about me? I find social events very stressful and will sometimes drink too much at them (especially in anyone mentions they know her). I hate giving talks, going on TV, that kind of thing, which is a bit unhelpful career wise. I like to hide in a way. But I am an opinionated, convivial person at the same time - not at all a shrinking violet. I am limiting the amount of tie she is here over Christmas - but it will be two nights not two hours!! I cant quite bring myself to make the final break. I want to feel she cant seriously damage me, but the truth is I am afraid of her (funny that she is frightened of me!)

It is very difficult to deal with someone spreading lies and misleading information about you. Keeping in perspective is easier though if you keep in mind that most people will know what your mother is like, at least anyone who knows her and is not just a casual acquaintance.

The stress of coping with someone with a personality disorder is high. To help yourself, do some relaxation exercises. Offset the stress with treating yourself with special outings or vacations. Make yourself feel special when you can and ask for help in doing so from your partner or friends.

Also, if anyone mentions your mother or alludes to something she said about you, you can always downplay it by saying mom has some problems or something similar. Don't try to defend yourself or go into long explanations of her problems. The less importance you put on it, the more others will dismiss it.

You can also tell her to stop, but as you know that could go either way with her response. She may use it against you or she may be frightened off. There is no way to tell for sure.

Trying to relax, talking to others and relying on family to help you can also relieve some of the stress. Ask for support from those who know your mother to quell some of the rumors. It is better the denials come from them rather than from you.

You can work on making your mother's visits shorter, one step at a time. Next time you see her, cut off an hour. Slowly backing off is just as good, and maybe better, than cutting her off all together.

And keep in mind, most people take rumors or gossip from others like your mother in stride. If they are good people and caring in nature, they will dismiss her talk until they have proof that it is true. If they do not, they are not worth your time anyway.

This resource may help you communicate with your mother so you feel more in control:

http://www.psytalk.info/articles/narcissist.html

Kate

TherapistMarryAnn
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5,863
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Verified
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Customer reply replied 5 years ago
ps I am only guessing she is a narcissist. Here are some of the things she has done. When I was about 8 (the eldest of three) she said she would leave us to die in a fire to save her lover because you chose your friends not your relations. I asked her about that as an adult. She claimed she had meant my father not the lover (hardly the point I wld think), . When I was 19 she sent me to stay with her lover to stop him going off with another woman. I hated this and tried always to take a friend. I suppose I must have guessed if I was on my own I would be assaulted. And I was. A few years ago she asked me to have this same lover to stay. I refused. She told me she had had to be with him because he helped pay for stuff. I sent her an email saying I was sorry she felt she had to sell her body for money, but I was not her pimp. We never spoke of this email! When I was just married she asked my mother in law to have lover to a party, saying that he had paid for me to spend time in a drink and drugs clinic (I have never been in one or had such treatment). Weirdly she likes to pretend to be religious. Maybe she even believes it!

I am so sorry you had to grow up with a mother who acted like that. Your childhood had to be horrific.

I would say she is narcissistic, but she also shows signs of anti social (also called sociopathic) behavior. Symptoms include:

Lying

Using charm to manipulate others

Impulsive behavior

Lack of understanding of right and wrong

Child abuse or neglect

Lack of remorse about hurting others

These are some of the symptoms that sound like your mother to me. Her symptoms may decrease over time due to age, but for the most part she retains the core of the symptoms.

The only thing you can do is focus on healing yourself and protecting yourself from her. Unless she sees her behavior as a problem, she will never get better. So caring for yourself and those around you is the best way to deal with her. And if that includes slowly phasing her out of your life, then that is fine. Protecting yourself is the main priority.

Kate

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