Friday, November 09, 2007

Treating Childishness as a Crime

All memories are subject to degradation over time. This is an established scientific fact. What science has also discovered is that the memories we have of negative experiences last much longer and degrade much less so than memories not associated with a strong emotional reaction.

My first memory dates back to age two. I know that this event happened before the birth of my sister who was born shortly after I turned three which is why I know I was two years old. I have extremely clear memories of where we lived at the time. I was able to prove that to my uncle recently. He seemed surprised and impressed at all the details I could remember about the area I lived in from age zero to about age three and a half. I can clearly describe the layout of the apartment complex as well as the surrounding properties. Point is, I have clear memories starting from a very young age.

The reason my first memory became my first memory is because it was accompanied by fear and sense of abandonment. It has to do with how a narcissistic mother sees personal affront, defiance, and bad motives when her children disobey her. Childishness is punished as a crime. A child of a narcissist is not allowed to be a child. The strong message is conveyed a thousand ways: if you don't do things perfectly you are a bad person with bad motives and a desire to hurt your mother. Most of us strove to prove to our mothers differently. We over-performed in a desperate attempt to avoid the "bad person" label so easily earned at the slightest offense, the smallest let-down, without even the tiniest bad intention on our part. Over-achieving did not result in banking good will for the future. Oh no, it only allowed you to tread water. Fail in one particular by her subjective and shifting standards and you found your head below water in a moment.

Before I describe my memory I want to ruminate a bit on my mother's extremely consistent view of all children and what it stems from. What I didn't understand at age two, but have much experience and observation on now in my mid-40s, is that my mother's baseline with all children is that they are, each and every one, little criminals. The narcissist mother can never take into account the immature little brains which take many years and much experience to develop. The higher centers of the brain where reasoning and judgment take place are not fully developed until age 25. (This explains a lot of things including car insurance rates!) Yup, science has confirmed this for us. The narcissist mother has no appreciation for the responsibility before her to deal with young and developing minds with wisdom and sensitivity. No, from their earliest moments the children of narcissists are taught that all wisdom and sensitivity are to flow from them to mother dearest. I believe my mother projects onto all children the kind of child she was. Those who study psychopathy have come to recognize that as early as age three the signs of a budding sociopath can be clearly discerned. There are a small percentage of children who seem to be born criminals. My mother assumes the percentage is large...and I now believe it is because she is projecting her own character as a child onto every other child.

My mother told this little story enough times that it stuck. I think it provides a glimpse into how young she was when she was already thinking like a narcissist. The first time I remember hearing it, she was driving with my younger sister and me in the car. She reaches into her purse for a stick of gum. "Oh, look here. I only have one stick of gum. All mine!" And she popped it into her mouth. Then, looking all significant, she proceeds to tell her story. She explains that she could have split that piece of gum into three pieces, but she learned a lesson when she was she recounts a time when she and her five other siblings were traveling with her mother. Her mother reached into her purse and found one stick of gum. Everyone starts clamoring for it. Her mother proceeds to divide that one stick of gum into six pieces and hands out a tiny piece for each of the children...with nothing for herself. My mother could not tell this story without curling her lip in disgust. My mother tells us how she despised her mother's weakness. An actual quote, "I hated my mother for being so weak." Her mother divvied up a piece of gum into so many pieces that it rendered it essentially useless to anyone, she told us. And she deprived herself. For what? So a bunch of whiny kids could be placated? It seemed that the part that most disgusted my mother was the sacrifice her mother was willing to make. Her mother denied her own desire for a piece a gum in an attempt to please her children...and my mother hated her for it. It was perceived by her as weakness. Most would see it as generous. My mother chose to see it as weakness. My mother was still in single digits in age when this happened. This kind of thinking never left her. If resources are limited...mother gets first and best. Period. The criminal mind perceives kindness and generosity as weakness. My mother betrays an aspect of her young criminal mindset. She sets it up before her own children as a virtue. She will never be that weak with us. If she has one piece of gum ... it is all hers. We never dared to complain.

This may not seem like a big deal revelation to you. But it surely was to her. And she made sure it was to my sister and me. Now that I am much older and wiser I see a lot more in this story than she intended to reveal. My mother forever despised her mother's sacrifices...yet that didn't stop my mother from taking advantage of her mother's generosity. She hated her mother's generosity, but depended on it.

Remember those Fisher-Price xylophones? They probably still make them. Here's a pic of the way they looked when I was a kid.

My mother called me to her holding my xylophone in her hands with a look of scary rage bubbling under the surface. I knew I must have really messed up...but what did I do? "Why did you do this??" She is pointing to the side of the xylophone's side label. I was confused at first. She taps her finger on the side impatiently and I can see where I had applied some watercolor paints on the side. "I told you that you are not to paint or draw on anything other than paper. Why did you do this!" I was speechless. It was obvious to me now that I had committed a great sin. I had no excuse for myself. "I didn't know". "I'm sorry". Nothing I could say would save me now. It was assumed that my bit of artwork on the side of my xylophone was an overt sign of defiance by my mother. It was an egregious disregard of her authority and rules that I had dared to veer my watercolors off of approved surfaces. Perhaps I had felt like it was okay to do it since I had restricted my painting to the paper label on the side of the xylophone. I may have understood that by permitting crayons and painting to paper that I was not doing something wrong by using the label for coloring. I don't remember. But I do remember that I had not done it feeling like I was breaking the rules. It was not an act of defiance. It was a childish moment from a childish understanding being given the significance of a criminal act.

My punishment was then dished out. My mother seethed, "I can't stand the sight of you. Go outside and don't come back until I call you." I was thrown out of the apartment door and she threw the lock. What to do now. I cried and sobbed at the door. She told me to go away. I wandered around the apartment premises for what had to have been a long time. I was too young to have a clear concept of time...but it seemed like an eternity. Finally, I thought I had a reason to request entrance again...I had to pee. I knocked on the door. "What do you want" she inquired coldly behind the still closed door. "I have to go potty" I plaintively stated. "I don't care. Go away." I can not describe the vast poverty I felt at that moment. I felt so abandoned and lost. Unloved. All I knew was that I had done something very horrible. So horrible that my mother was throwing me away. I was not sure if I would ever be allowed back into her home. That thought was abjectly terrifying to me. The sense of abandonment and loss was overwhelming. Despair.

I remember wandering around with a painfully full bladder unsure of what to do and how long I could hold it. I held out as long as I could. Finally, because I was not going to wet my pants, I went to the neighboring empty lot in the tall weeds in an attempt to gain a measure of privacy and did the deed.

I know I was let back into the apartment before my dad came home from work. She let me into the apartment but it was obvious I was still in the doghouse. I had to earn my way back into her good graces. I think this story is an example of a disproportionate response.

Did I ever scribble on my toys or any other unapproved surface ever again? Hell, no. I learned that lesson quite early on. I learned to draw within the lines my mother set up very, very well.


Anonymous said...

Sooo, if not drawing on things other than paper was so freakin' important to your mother, why did she leave watercolor paints and a brush where a *2yo* could get at them? To do this, you would have needed a brush, water, and the paints. How did you accomplish all of that at 2yo without her knowledge? It seems to point to a lack of supervision on her part, at the very least.

When my children were small, I had a similar rule. But along with that rule, I kept all such paints/markers out of their reach and had a scheduled "table time" where I brought them out where they could be used legitimately. Along with my rule for the children came commensurate responsibility for *me*--to keep them out of reach and provide an opportunity to use them. In addition, when my children were that small, it was my business to know where they were and what they were doing at all times. It was simply my job!

I'm just trying to highlight how terrible her over-reaction was by pointing how it was so avoidable--she didn't do HER job!

So, she wasn't providing appropriate supervision, she created a rule that was unenforcable, and then she locked you out of the house all afternoon???? Horrible. Just horrible. I'm sorry that happened to you. No wonder you have vivid memories of that house.

God must've cried that day. I know He cares, and I believe that someday He will make sure your mother pays for that day and all of the other terrible things she has done.


P.S. Your post the other day about the portrayal of the evil person from the Bible was spot on. I just didn't have time to comment.

Anna Valerious said...

Any mother who could allow her two year old to wander around outside for hours without supervision is not likely to be closely supervising that child's water-color activities. Being a quiet and introverted child I think she was quite used to the convenience of me being able to quietly entertain myself for hours on end without getting into trouble. I sure do wonder now what she was doing all the many, many hours I was left to my own devices. It could be enlightening to know that now.

I agree with your point of my mother's determination to not take any responsibility for supervising the activities of a kid still young enough to be called a toddler.

Anonymous said...

your story about the gum sent me rummaging around my pantry for a box of Celestial Seasonings tea. Why? because this is printed on the side:

"She broke the bread into fragments and gave them to the children, who ate with avidity."
"She hath kept none for herself," grumbled the Sergeant.
"Because she is not hungry," said a soldier.
"Because she is a mother," said the Sergeant.

-Victor Hugo

Obviously not an N mother.

Looking back I am also amazed at the lack of supervision my N mother gave me and my sister. She either had to have total control of us, or was completely hands off. There was no middle ground. It made for some bizarre, hard to believe situations.

Until very recently I didn't realize how negligent she was. As a child I welcomed her negligence as relief from her times of iron fisted control. I'm having to think carefully about my own parenting, in light of the fact that I internalized negligence as 'good' parenting.


Anna Valerious said...


Wow. Yeah, Hugo was not describing our mothers. Sadly enough for us. As for what else you've said here...I could have written it myself:

"She either had to have total control of us, or was completely hands off. There was no middle ground...As a child I welcomed her negligence as relief from her times of iron fisted control."

You've described my childhood precisely. Total control or total neglect. Nothing to speak of in between.

I also had to watch my parenting. Parenting by passive neglect was a fault of mine until I got a handle on myself and my life. That process began in earnest when my daughter was six years old, but she was close to nine years old before I was a fully engaged parent. Not tight-fisted or controlling...just plugged in, paying attention and learning who my child really was as a person. I'm so grateful I got my shit together before it was too late. I would have hate to have entirely missed out on the wonderful discovery of the great person who is my daughter. As for whether I'd give her the last crumbs...hell, yes. I would give her any part of my body if she needed it.

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. -- Jesus

Cathy said...

Boy, my heart just breaks when I read your account of the innocent act of the child that you were and the inhumane and cruel response of your mother. My heart breaks for you and for me and for all those who grew up and are still growing up with mothers like that.

I think the thing that makes them so evil is not just that they DO these things - but that they completely and wholeheartedly justify their cruel acts and expertly make their innocent child feel completely and utterly "bad" to the very core of their being. We were too young at the time to know that THEY were the sick ones. Plus, we had no other standard by which to judge. This is the only standard we knew. The very sick one of a sick mother. I still reel at the willingness of the N mother to sacrifice her children and make it look "noble" somehow.

With respect to the gum incident, my mother, too, HATED any perceived weakness in others. She spoke with contempt about those whom she thought were weak or vulnerable. Since children are naturally weaker and vulnerable, and since I was a particularly sensitive child, I absorbed much wrath from her for being so.

It is really sad that when living under a N mother one is not allowed to be a "child". It is not safe to explore, experiment, or just simply "be" and have it be OK. From my earliest moments I had to be vigilant at monitoring my mother's responses so as not to draw her wrath by stepping outside of "her" lines. I carried this hypervigilance into adulthood and am just now beginning to break out of the box, draw OUTSIDE the stupid lines, and learn to experiment, explore and take risks. Because of her I have had to lead a very constricted life up until now. Now that I have stepped completely outside of her influence, I feel like I can BREATHE for the first time in my life.

It's as if she reached inside and
destroyed all that was precious about "me". I am now beginning to reclaim what she tried to snuff out. I am amazed at the resiliency of those of us who grew up in homes like this. It has been a very long climb out of a very deep pit for me and your blog has helped tremendously.

Anonymous said...

I can completely relate to Anonymous and the statements about negligence and parenting.

I experienced strange behaviour from my mother over discipline. She groomed me to become extremely sensitive to her reactions so I was TERRIFIED when I had done something wrong, but then sometimes it was completely arbitrary on her part) she would just LAUGH at my fear and tell me I was silly for over-reacting. I learned from that to be even more afraid of her than ever.

Anonymous said...

Oh Anna. How I remember the 'get out of my sight' thing. For me this post is a very good snapshot of NM cruelty. I have experienced that feeling of knowing that nothing you can do in that moment will redeem you, in fact I remember once just flattening my whole body at my NM's feet crying 'please forgive me'. She looked at me with such disgust I can still see it, still feel it.
And now as a mom I have to really struggle to see my high-intensity, active child as exactly that--a child, who will mess things up, create and explore, and test boundaries to apprehend his little world and see where he 'fits' in the scheme of things. Sometimes I have this steely indifference to his child mind, and I always have the presence of mind to see how wrong and twisted this thinking is. But that just goes to show its tenacity--I literally have to divorce myself from it in the moment. Ingrained.

Also: NM always (and still) seemed to revere her her own mother (deceased, I never knew her), and for the longest time I thought she must have been just such a beautiful person for my NM to think so highly of her. I learned as an adult that this woman was a ruthless NM who actively engaged in what would today be described 'recreational' child abuse. Haughty, hateful, cruel and proud. AND HER OCCUPATION WAS CHILD CARE. Pure pedagogical (sp) addiction, pure control. It made perfect sense, why my NM would worship such a person.
Wonderful post. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"--A" of the 'Hugo' comment here again...

This subject has hit a chord with many people it seems. I can relate to most of it, esp. the hypervigilance.

I wanted to add something to my previous comment about hyper-control coupled with complete negligence, and no middle ground. My N mother is a narcissist, I am sure. However, she is different from most N's that are described here. Now that she doesn't have a captive audience of young children or cowering husband, she doesn't cultivate other people as N supply. Other people are not good enough or consistent enough. People have consistently let her down. She has created her own N supply in her mind. She has her own reality of who she is and what the world and other people are about. I know that everyone has their own take on reality... but she takes it to a level that is almost insanity. She can handle surface contact with others. Too much contact with the world conflicts with her version of reality, and she shuts it out by raging and withdrawing. Her contact with the world is the radio, a weekend newspaper (no TV), and weekly shopping. I have a decent phone relationship with her, but hell breaks loose if I actually see her.

I think she's used 'internal N supply' most of her life. She's always been rather a hermit, and had very few, if any, friends.
It's a rather elegant solution to keeping control of her world. She is really a very intelligent women. Too bad she got married and had children. Otherwise her spin on narcissism would have been relatively harmless to everyone but her.


So, what IS in a heart? said...

It's ironic when you think about it. Your mother was quick to point out weakness, but she's the one who's weak, and like most Narcissists, a coward. If her mother kept the gum for herself, you can bet that your own mother wouldn't be admiring it. She'd then just call her mother "selfish". Your mother probably just wanted the gum for herself--PERIOD, and called it "weak" because people like her LIE to themselves.

So, what IS in a heart? said...

"I think she's used 'internal N supply' most of her life. She's always been rather a hermit, and had very few, if any, friends."

Ah, a "schizoid" Narcissist. They're often the least disgusting Narcissists because it just boils down to the fact that if you don't bother them, they don't bother you. They can think what they want and they don't have to "enforce" it in others, so to speak. IOW, they can think they're God, but don't expect or care if others agree or not.

Anonymous said...

"My mother assumes the percentage is large...and I now believe it is because she is projecting her own character as a child onto every other child."

That statement verges on brilliance - if not nailing it on the head. I was taught the world was a bad place. In part because my N thought it was and also it's also a tactic to isolate. If it's a bad place then there is no one to turn to for help.

Also, it would be interesting to hear how other ACONs have stories about not being able to pee or how normal bodily functions were denied. I wet my pants a lot as a child to avoid people hearing me pee in the bowl. As I got older I would coat the water with TP so it wouldn't make any noise. I felt that my bodily functions were an a front to my family. Plus it would cause my brothers to run to the bathroom door and peer in where the hinges wouldn't match up.

How the "h" did we survive this?

Anonymous said...

Ah, a "schizoid" Narcissist. They're often the least disgusting Narcissists because it just boils down to the fact that if you don't bother them, they don't bother you. They can think what they want and they don't have to "enforce" it in others, so to speak. IOW, they can think they're God, but don't expect or care if others agree or not.

Hmm... 'schizoid Narcissist', I haven't heard that label before. Something else to think about!

What you describe is a bit mild to fit my mother though. She's not evangelistic with her ideas, but she believes that anyone who doesn't agree with her is uneducated, self centered, unworldly, unintelligent, an 'animal', (pick your put down)... She has herself elevated on a pedestal and looks down on pretty much everyone, esp. anyone who doesn't agree with her. It's more beneath her to argue her points, rather than that she doesn't care.

I agree that a narcissist like her is much easier for an adult to deal with than the std kind of N. However for her young children, it was another story. As young kids my sister and I were treated pretty much like other kids of N mothers were. Perhaps more negligence at different times, but the 'bad' times were std N kind of situations.

As a middle aged adult I get along okay (from a distance) with my mother. I don't expect anything from her, and she's happy that I call every few weeks so she can talk to someone. I've learned to keep it bland and agreeable...

My problem now is my sister (and her husband). I am thankful that while trying to figure out why dealing with my sis was so bizarre, I finally understood my mother enough to let go of a lot of baggage. But realizing that my sister is as personality disordered as my mother, if not worse in some ways, has been heart breaking. And she's not content to quietly let me go my own way. I know (as much as any outsider can) why she is the way she is. I saw the abuse and the neglect, and how she reacted.

Anyway, that's where I'm coming from... thanks for the insight!

So, what IS in a heart? said...

"Hmm... 'schizoid Narcissist', I haven't heard that label before. Something else to think about!"

Yea, they do exist. Sam Vaknin says that he's one of those, but sadly, they're rare.

"She's not evangelistic with her ideas, but she believes that anyone who doesn't agree with her is uneducated, self centered, unworldly, unintelligent, an 'animal', (pick your put down)..."

That's something a lot of people can be guilty of though, not just N's. Not a good thing, but it's fairly common thing. However If one has nothing to prove and doesn't need anyone's validation, then the insults don't matter much, no matter how much they considered "beneath" someone. Course that's easy to say if the person isn't a family member. Heh.

"But realizing that my sister is as personality disordered as my mother, if not worse in some ways, has been heart breaking. And she's not content to quietly let me go my own way."

Yea, sadly, these sorts of N's are much more common. Indifference kills these people, so I hope you've managed that. It's ironic when you think about it. Once you see N's for what they are, they're very easy to manipulate for the most part. Just my 2c as I'm not a psychologist.

Cathy said...

Margrit said: "It would be interesting to hear how other ACONS have stories about not being able to pee or how normal bodily functions were denied".

Sometimes I am just floored at the common themes we have had to endure. I was an ADULT, in fact it was just last year, that I realized how outrageous my mother was being and called her on it. We were on a 12 hour car trip to visit my sister in another state whose husband (my brother-in-law) was dying with cancer. My dad, my mom, me and one of my brothers daughters.

My mother gets an agenda of how things are supposed to be in her head timewise and BY GOD you'd better not deviate from it. Just because SHE can hold her bladder for X number of hours, EVERYONE else had better be able to. Well, mine don't work that way. Especially as I get "older"!! I found myself, even as an adult, getting more anxious the more full my bladder got and not knowing why I was was so afraid to speak up that I needed to stop. In fact, I was so trained, I thought that a.) there was something wrong with me for having to go, b.) that I was being a real inconvenience if I were to dare ask and c.) that the INCONVENIENCE of having to stop was far more important than my personal discomfort. Mother's agenda ALWAYS supercedes your personal needs - even your bodily functions.

After wrestling with and trying to determine what the heck was going on inside me with all these conflicting emotions, I realized how I was still being held hostage to MY MOTHER, even as an adult. So, I let the chips fall where they may and spoke up and got the anticipated reprisal. I looked her right in the eye and said, "Gosh, mom, you act as if having to stop to go pee is a MORAL FAILING." As SOON as I said it, my dad got a "aha" look of incredulousness on his face because I had just NAMED out loud what he has had to endure for years as well and he blurted out without even thinking or editing his response, "Oh my gosh, YOU'RE RIGHT. (because we ALWAYS edit our responses with respect to her). Well, she was now utterly exposed and she doesn't like looking bad so she immediately went into cover-up mode to make herself look good. She somehow flipped it to make herself look like the gracious one for now allowing us to stop. BROTHER!!! But her eyes gave her away. There were daggers in them that I had dared challenge and expose her.

Same trip. Ten year old neice is cold. My "gracious" mother offers to go around back and get her a jacket. She says No, I'll be OK. A couple of hours later, she decides she indeed wants the jacket now. My breath was taken away at my mother's instant response... " No, you wouldn't take the jacket when I offered it earlier so you can just suffer now". I was appalled.

I could go on and on, but will end with just one more. It took me into adulthood to learn to be able to listen to my body. When we were growing up, sugary breakfasts were the norm. Sugared cereals, donuts, pancakes with syrup, etc. I didn't realize back then that I am VERY sensitive to sugar and don't do well with it especially on an empty stomach. My blood sugar spikes and then plumments and I then don't feel well and am ravenous. So, I would come to my mother and tell her about it and she would have the audacity to state as if it were the truth of the universe: "There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY you can be hungry and you are NOT eating". She says things with such a tone that the skin could melt off your face - as if you are a complete defunct idiot for what you just stated - bodily need or not.

You don't realize what an impact these things have on you until much later when other people don't have an issue stating their needs or taking care of themselves and the world doesn't end because of it. She always approached everything with such an air of disdain and MORAL SUPERIORITY. Even when morality has nothing to do with it. Then I married the same thing. Aaahh, but that's another story. Thank God I'm free from them both now.

Anonymous said...

...Indifference kills these people, so I hope you've managed that. ... Once you see N's for what they are, they're very easy to manipulate for the most part...

Breaking contact with my sister has been heart breaking for me because I care so very, very much about her. I am indifferent because I have to protect myself. Part of me is killed doing it, because I know it hurts her so much. But acting differently doesn't protect me, and though it's what she wants, it's never enough.

I don't want to hurt her or manipulate her. I want a friendship with a healthy mature sister. That's not going to happen no matter what I do. So I'll protect myself, and learn how not to behave from her.

Anonymous said...

You know, freedom is there. So often it's the fear that entraps us and not the person who we think is our captor. It rocks to be strong.

Reading people's experience on this topic really brings to clarity how a common tactic of your garden variety N is to treat a child like and adult, and treat and adult like a child. One of the things that caused me to walk away from my family was finding myself always lumped in with my 12 year old nephew - I'm 43. When I addressed this to my Mom she said "You are not middle aged you can't call yourself that until you are 50. Besides, you will always be our little girl."

She is wrong - I'm not her "little girl" anymore. I'm my own person. Here's to freedom.

Anonymous said...

My mother was (is) a screamer. She had these explosive fits of rage when I was growing up, but I never thought of it as abusive, because she never hit me. She would throw things or control me with tantrums or mockery, but then she would bewilder me with sudden "about-faces" and be nice and even say she was sorry sometimes. I don't know if she did that because she felt guilty, or if it was part of the "molding" process to turn me into a quiet, utterly obedient.

When I was about six, I had one of those little toy record turntables, and I had a few records I played over and over because I loved them. One day Mother came into my room, furious about something I'd done (I don't remember what) and she broke my records in front of me. I was terrified of her and I sat there crying, just petrified because of this volcanic anger.

A little while later, she came in and said she was sorry, and I kept saying, "It's okay, Mommy, I don't mind. It's okay." The next time we went to the grocery store, she bought me a couple of new records, although they were not the ones I had loved, and I never got those back.

This happened over and over and over again in my childhood. She would terrorize me, turn everything upside-down, and there was no getting away from her wrath. And then later, sometimes, she would apologize. Other times she would just ignore what she had done and gone on with life as usual. And I was supposed to put on my happy face, which I did. I think if I were in the middle of a tornado or earthquake, I could put on a happy face about it.

Until I finally ended our relationship last year, I have always been so GRATEFUL for my mother's good moods. The RELIEF I felt during the times when she behaved nicely or said something nice was just indescribable. I've always been sort of like an abused dog . . . I cower at the abuse, and then I wag my tail when I get a pat on the head. And I'm always left with a sense of relief and shame at the same time.


Stormchild said...

Oh, that stick of gum!

It never ceases to amaze me how much unholy joy - and I use that term intentionally - these abusive creatures derive from things like that.

Your mother was using you and your sib as substitute targets to 'get back' at her own absent mother for doing something GOOD, decades before you were even born - my God, that's sick. And to revel in, and gloat about, withholding something nice from you, because you were small, and unable to do anything about it? Evil. Simply evil.

Very much like the business of demanding that everyone pee in synchrony, and refusing to provide a coat that was offered only a few minutes previously. The emphasis on absolute control, and the use of such control to indulge cruelty, is mind blowing.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,
I couldnt believe your story about your mother locking you out of the house when you were 3 years old.

I have been dealing with the fall out of my mothers behavour for years, constantly searching for answers, trying to find a reason, an understanding. Today I found my way to your sight after reading articles about Narcissits. The problem is, I just wasnt sure if that was what my mother was until I read your blog.

I too am 40ish and have very clear memories of my childhood. My earliest memory is also when I was 3 years old. I know this from the house we lived in and the fact that I hadnt started school yet. We lived on an estate and my mother had left me to play outside with the other children on a concrete area that had playing bars on. Before leaving me she had warned me not to take my shoes off and play in my socks like all the other children had.
After she left, I began to play, and eventually ended up taking my shoes off so I could do roll-overs easier. The next thing i remember is my mother coming out of the house, all big and red in the face screaming at me to go to her. I remember being so scared of her at that moment that i turned and ran. My mother ran after me. We ran round the block, passing the house. When i looked behind me she was gone. I walked back round the block to where I lived and a shopping bag was sitting on the door step with all my clothes in it. I was so scared. My mother was telling me to leave home. I was 3 years old. I knew even at that age I could not look after myself. I needed my mum, so I knocked on the door and begged to come in. The door opened, she grabed me by the scruff of my collar and draged me into the kitchen. She layed me out on the kitchen table, pulled my knickers down and proceeded to wack me with a wooden-dowling rod she used for boiling the washing. As she wacked me she was screaming that 7 of the wacks were for disobaying her in the first place and the other 7 wacks were for making her run round the block.

On the outside my family seem quite, settled, happy etc etc. I have always felt lonely, as if I didnt fit in, that I was different to everyone else, in fact from an early age I waited for my parents to tell me I was adopted. (i wasnt and they didnt)
When i was in my teens I used to say things like, ''my mother had a book of my life and every day she turned the page and told me who I was and what I would be doing''.
When I was in my 20's, I used to refer to myself as my mothers ''performing monkey''

My younger sister attached herself to my father at an early age, who was quite and passive, and the both of them enjoyed relative freedom while my mothers focus was on me and my achievments.

It was as I started to pull away in my teens that it became more difficult in some ways.

I now live in a different country, and although still have a relationship with my parents it is changing. So much so that my mother told me last year that I was selfish. I actually took this as a complement, because I realised what she was actually saying was she no longer had control over me. We had a huge arguement and a lot of things from the past came up, one of them being the story above. My mother first tried to tell me it didnt happen, then that I was remembering incorrectly. Eventually she changed tact by crying and saying it wasnt her fault, she always gets the blame, shes a bad mother, etc etc.. My answer was this 'so it was the 3 years old fault was it'. The result was silence.

I guess my biggest problem now is the little girl inside me still wants her mum and dad in her life. The problem is, it costs so much of my adult self. After all these years I'm only starting to realise who I really am, and thank god its not the prefect little replica of my mother that shes always told everyone I was. Unfortuanetly, my mother is very easy to deal with and actually very caring and helpful, if I am doing what she wants, which is always what makes it so hard. If i dont, then there will always be a punishment. It will be suttle and maybe I will even have to wait months for it to come, but it always does.

best wishes
I'm sane today, tomorrows a different story

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate the great post and the comments. Alice Miller points out in her books that statements along the lines of "I can't stand the sight of you" are literally experienced as nothing short of a death threat to a young child when they come from an adult we are dependent on. [ I cannot imagine being an adult and saying such a thing to a little kid, let alone having no interference of conscience, let alone actually feeling satisfied or balanced by the effect it causes]

If saying things like that are experienced as death threats - then actually putting a child out of the home and encouraging the feeling that they are being cast out is acting on a death threat.

Stockholm syndrome comes from being continually threatened with death and reprieved by the same person. It was named for a group of adults who had been held hostage in a holdup in Stockholm, and over time shifted their worldview to that of the criminals in order to avoid psychological disintegration and devastating despair. What is mind boggling here is that we are talking about 2 and 3 year olds here being mentally tortured and lied to. All I can say is that this post and all these comments are a real testimony to the strength of the human spirit.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna
I posted yesterday under anonymous, i was the one that found my clothes on the doorstep when i was 3 years old.
Anyway, this morning I couldnt wait to log on again to read the rest of your blog.

It is a revalation.
I wanted to share some more if thats ok.

A few of my mothers main things was 'the look' (i referred to it as the sucking lemons look), the silent treatments and the full blown paddies.

The paddies, for example would happen on a saturday morning when she discoverd the washing up hadnt been done from the night before. She would go into the kitchen and literally throw a paddy. First of all she would rub the remains of the food all over her body and hair, then she would throw the plates and cutlery around the kitchen smashing everything. Whilst all this was going on my father along with my younger sister would sit in the living room watching tv. This in my mind left me to deal with my mother. ( I was aged 7) I was actually scared a knife would bound of the wall and stab her so I would go into the kitchen to try and placat her. Of course this was the wrong thing for me to do because then her wrath would be directed at me instead, especially as I got older and was probably more lippy about her behaviour. This would then be followed by the silent treatment, with me only. The rest of the family would continue as normal as if nothing had happend. Even now it still feels like weeks before she would speak to me again normally.

She used 'the look' on me upto a few years ago. I now realise she had manipulated a situation so that I would have an arguement with my father. When i turned round my mother was sitting there with the 'look on her face'. At that moment i shifted direction and rounded on her telling her to wipe that look of her face. I think before that she was secretly enjoying the fact that my father was getting the brunt of me. Since then she has been very carefull around me. I do believe she has started to fear me rather than the other way round. Of course there is a price for even that as she has now gone into martyre mode instead.

I also read one of your articles about Nmothers not being able to say thankyou (I would also like to add beinag able to say sorry to that too). As i mentioned in my other blog; i now live in a different country. Before we moved I was tricked into thinking my mum had changed. She was all nice and helpfull etc etc. What she wanted was to move with us. Of course being niave at the time I agreed. Anyway cut a long story short, things turned sour because she was taking over our lives and I said they could no longer move in with us. However what my husband and I have done is bought another little house down the road for them to stay in when they come and visit. I was really happy about it and couldnt wait to tell them and show them pictures. I thought they would be over the moon. They could stay as long as they wanted, months even, we could see them everyday but without the clostaphobia of having them actually living with us. This was nearly a year ago and neither have been to stay and my mother has never mentioned it in any of her emails, apart from her first reply in which she said 'how very nice for you, but of course you'll have to rent it out to pay the bills. (in otherwords dont asks us for money to help out - not that we would) She is using the excuse with everbody that their health is not up to it now. She probably realises she doesnt have the same control over me anymore so she is now going for what i call 'second hand sympathy'. Her emails nearly always consist of how poorly my dad is. (he's not, ive spoken to him and my mother is exagerating whats going on). I never respond to what she has written and just reply telling her how happy we are and what we have been up to, so the game she has been playing now is leaving it longer and longer to reply to my emails until eventually last month I was so worried something had happend and phoned. Game, set and match to her!! She made out I was the one that hadnt replied to her last email and they were so glad to hear from me because they were staring to worry. That night I started to wonder if I had got myself all worked up over something that was my fault, so next morning I went back and checked my emails. I was right, it was her that hadnt replied.

The other point i wanted to make is i also read about how your mother looked after other peoples children. My mother has spent her whole life either working part time in infant schools or being a leader of Brownies and Guide groups.

The thing that is starting to get me now is my father. I used to feel sorry for him, being down trodden and all that, but i realise now, he let it all happen.
While my mothers focus was on me he had a simple life.

Anyhow, thank you again for your site. I will keep visiting and if its ok, maybe post again.
best wishes
sane today aswell.

Anonymous said...

My late Nmother's favorite comment: "you disgust me"

The reasons were multiple and always out of my control.

Your mother needs a steel toed boot in her ***. She would swear now that this NEVER happened. My Nmother at least copped to holding a knife to my neck when I was 21 telling me she "gave me life and was going to take it away" (I told her to go ahead. My grandmother, her mother, pulled her off me) because I dared to have an independent thought & opinion.

BTW - my earliest memory is about age 2 also. hmmmm....

by the way, So, what IS in a heart? - exercise extreme caution with Vaknin. He's not a real doctor, got his diploma from an online diploma mill and puts soooo much of his stuff online you would "think" he was the N expert. Schizoid narcissist sounds like "word salad" to me.

Anonymous said...

Another clear reminder of what narc moms are like. I am still in denial a bit. I remember thinking that she is treating me like an adult and wondering why. Every offense I make is defiance. I want to scream at her and tell her what real defiance is. I point out to her that I have not died my hair, do not take drugs, do not date, do not graffiti the city and have never committed a crime in my life and you act as if I did!

Just looking a certain way can get me into trouble. I don't like your body language boom your grounded. You are disrespecting me. A line my brother and I use often now is you do have to give respect to receive it.


Anonymous said...

Another thing I remember. Having to use the restroom really badly. It would get to the point where I was pleading in the car for her to stop on the side of the road and let me do my business. She would yell at me and say that if I kept on begging she would stop and make m go in the middle of the road.

That shut me up pretty quick. The very idea severely embarrassed me. I was a little kid then. Is this normal? I feel tempted to ask some people that but scared of them looking at me like I am insane for telling such outlandish tales.

Anna Valerious said...

The very idea severely embarrassed me. I was a little kid then. Is this normal?

I'm not sure if you're asking if what your mother did was normal...or if your embarrassment was normal. So I'll answer both.

No! Your mother's indifference to your need and pain is NOT normal. And, yes, your embarrassment was normal. She was attempting to shame you into silence so you wouldn't continue to inconvenience her. Your reaction was the one she was hoping to get from you. You reacted normally to what she did to you. Her lack of empathy for your great discomfort is one of the things that makes her a narcissist.

My heart goes out to you. Nmothers are not mothers at all. Your plan to get out as soon as you turn 18 is an excellent one. Minimal contact after that is also wise. I think you deserve much credit for being such a good young person who has not rebelled and gotten into trouble despite the fact your mother treats you like you are a rebel. (I'm responding to some of the other various comments you've been leaving on the blog.) You've earned my respect for being a very intelligent and precociously wise young person. You can really stick it to your mother by going on to live a good and upright life apart from her. Nothing bugs narcissists like seeing their former victims living very well and independently of them.

Hang in there sweetie!

Anonymous said...

"I sure do wonder now what she was doing all the many, many hours I was left to my own devices. It could be enlightening to know that now."

My mother was working. She completely wrecked my dad's business.

I loved it when she worked I had so much fun with my brother and by myself. Our stuffed animals would come alive as we started stories with them. I generally owned a restaurant or a factory while my brother took care of the monsters and customers. We had a lot of fake karate fights with our stuffed animals. :)

I played with pennies a lot. I would make pyramids with them stacks of four pennies at a time. Pyramid houses with pyramids as the walls. I would spend hours unsupervised (well I think she said I often had babysitters I don't remember them though) at the park trying to make a huge house out of sand. All my work was destroyed by the other kids when I left though. The usual at parks.

I loved making tents on my bunk bed with the hooks in the ceiling. Storing things in the folds of the sheets. I would have to put them down though because of my mom. I remember visiting another kid's house and being shocked at how many toys she had. That kid's room was full of toys.

What I had was a marble run, about 6 stuffed animals. Actually I played with other things such as cups books. Occasionally we had some small toy cars.

One time she gave away one of my stuffed animals to a guy down the street and when I saw it among his I grabbed it and confronted my mom. She said she didn't know it was mine.

Lol funny I literally loved my stuffed animals. I valued them just about as much as I value the dog I own now. She would take them away when I did the slightest offense.

I was so worried about messing up and getting her angry because she took the things I valued the most away from me.

Also the food. The ages 4-10 I was nearly always served food that made me feel like throwing up and would take hours of her yelling, nagging and threats to get me and my brother to eat. The food is called lentil soup overcooked. Other meals often consisted of onions another strong dislike at that age.

Lane_in_PA said...

This post is simply overwhelming. To quote the first commenter: God must've cried that day.

Thank God you survived that woman. Not only is she not human, she is inhumane.

Cat Lady said...

While reading these comments I got so many flash backs to the insanity I grew up with. One of the last comments the person is talking about toys.....I recall coming home from school when I was around 6 yrs. old. I enter the home and hear my mom screaming and my father trying to calm her down. I enter my bedroom and all of my toys and brother's toys were gone? That day she had taken all of our toys and thrown most of them in the garbage. The few toys which she considered valuable she locked up in a storage room.

I broke down and got so mad at her. She screamed at me that we were slobs and didn't deserve toys. Considering that she never asked us to clean our room and that I was 7 and my brother 4, this was completely unjust. I think we got some of the toys back a week later, but they didn't feel like mine.

She was an evil mom. I also recall her picking the names for all of my dolls. What kind of a mother doesn't let her daughter name her own dolls?

I can also relate to the pee and food stories. My sister has an eating disorder today, thanks to my mom. If she went on a diet there wasn't much food in the house. If we didn't finish what was on the plate we got it for our next meal. My brother vomited after having to eat chopped liver for breakfast. She served it to him again for lunch and dinner. Not allowing us to eat was also used as punishment. I recall not eating for a day when I was 7 yrs. old.

I'm starting to see a clearer picture of my childhood. This was pure child abuse. If I knew this were happening to a child around me I would report the parents to child protection services.

the mommy said...

Your mother sounds so similar to my own. I can't tell you how many times my disobedience caused her to say to me "I can't stand the sight of you."

And the story of the gum...

I have a memory of when I was 8 or so and my overweight mother stopped into a McDonald's and in a freakishly nice way asked if my younger sister and I wanted ice cream. We were ecstatic! Ice cream was a very rare treat. She gave me enough money for two ice cream cones & sent me to get them.

When I came back to the car with two cones (one for my sister and one for me), she seethed "Where's mine?" I was confused because she had not given me enough money for two cones, nor had she asked me to get her a cone.

Frightened she would rage, I offered her mine. She happily took it, and pulled out of the parking lot. She did not send me back in for a cone of my own. And on our drive home, she kept smacking her lips over the ice cream, saying " good!" and smiling at my sister, who offered me a little bite of hers.

Seems like a small infraction, but still damn near brings tears to my eyes at the age of 42. It was just so deliberate and cruel. And though she would deny it today, I think she pulled into that McDonald's with the intent of setting me up to hurt me. She seemed always to do things like that and relished in my sad face and broken spirit.

I am just now realizing that my mother is likely a malignant narcissist. And I am just now trying to take the first step towards what all this means and how to heal.

Anna Valerious said...

I don't doubt your hunch that your mother set you up that day for cruel manipulation and disappointment. Isn't it an amazing contrast once you have your own children to try to picture yourself doing the things to your own child that your mother did to you? Isn't your reaction one of revulsion and horror at even the idea of repeating something like that on your own child? That's a taste of the injustice and malignancy of her act toward you. Be just as outraged at what she did to you as you would if she did it to your own child, and let that outrage guide you as you decide what to do going forward.

All the best to you. And I'm so sorry you can relate to this post so well. The biggest part of healing from these monster moms is to have nothing more to do with them. Believe contact brings in more healing than anything else.

the mommy said...


Thank you for your comment & words of support. Even more for your blog. I have spent the last several hours reading through your posts.

Like you, I found my power in becoming an angry teenager, and bullying back. About four years ago I ceased contact with my mother for five years. She underwent profound depression and supposedly has changed.

She will now admit to being a horrible mother, ask for forgiveness, and is overall seemingly supportive, nice, and respectful of me. And yet...

I sense that she relishes still in my misfortunes and loves when I am vulnerable. We recently became too enmeshed (this is easy to do with her), and she overstepped a boundary with my daughter. Concerned about a bump on my child's head, she called my daughter's pediatrician behind my back. I'm not clear about the details, but somehow the implication was that I was neglectful. The irony in this did not escape me - as I feel that perhaps my mother was projecting her own inadequacies from my childhood. Long story short, CPS was contacted. Thankfully the whole thing was dropped, but not without much turmoil and anger on my part.

This was two months ago & I have not spoken to her since. She keeps pressuring my sister but I keep telling her I need more time to sort this out.

The more I read your blog, the more I realize this woman has not changed. She has simply gone from being overt to covert. Her abuse is more passive aggressive now, and yes I worry about her influence on my daughter. She can be so very subtly insidious.

As your blog has pointed out, to implement the NC, I would have to face the criticism of my family. I am still wrestling with the fact that her intentions are never for my benefit, but always for her own. She says she loves me, but I sense it only means that she loves me as her captive audience.

Thank you for this blog. And for the support.

Anna Valerious said...

She will now admit to being a horrible mother, ask for forgiveness, and is overall seemingly supportive, nice, and respectful of me. And yet...

These words describe my own mother to a T. It is not uncommon for a narcissist mother to switch from overt to covert when they figure out they've lost power to control their grown child. But you are very right to assume she is unchanged underneath, and that she only seeks her own good, not yours. She is dangerous. Your experience with her bringing CPS down on your head is simply a taste of what she is capable of. Don't think you've seen the worst of what she can do to you and your family. She will destroy every good thing you have if it lies within her power to do so. For the sake of everything good...keep this woman very far away from you and your baby.

Orwell46 said...

I’m posting this to share something about the after effects of being supervised by a MN maternal figure—in my case a step-mother. In my case, because I was not adjusted to that kind of sickness, when I met the MN and started to interact with her, I knew something was very awry, but could not figure it out. All I knew was that this new “mother” was behaving nothing like my real mother had behaved—but I could not figure out why. Although I often felt terrible after inactions, I was able to tell that I felt terrible and sick. I didn’t know it was her fault, but I knew it “came from” her.

Anyway, long afterwards I struggle with a deep and recurring problem: success feels terrible to me. Success feels like failure, since whenever I succeeded, as a kid, I was repaid by the NM with pain. You know the hot-stove analogy. I learned not to succeed, because success burned. I learned to expect that my pain made her smile, but my successes received faint praise. Whenever I do succeed now, in a job or with a client, it feels like a disaster in the making, and I tend to bring disaster on through my expectation of it.

I have had a terrible life in many ways—all successes being followed by major failures. This is what life feels like to me now; this is how that MN distorted my world. I work against it, but it’s daily work, and I am over 60.

Orwell46 said...

I guess this blog has slowed down, and comments are coming in slower than when it first started.

I am appreciative of the light you shed on this situation, Anna. Your insights and passion for the truth on this topic so clouded with lying...just gives me hope, at the least. The feeling of being caught in a false world, in a set of lies never admitted but forced upon me and my siblings, just made me sick. I escaped into the outside world as much as I could, but when trapped in the house and in the embrace of the sick one, I just felt ill. And as I have said, I still feel ill. The poison I carry around with me still, in some little time-release capsule in my brain. Anyway, you have my thanks, Anna, big time.

When you talk about the need to face the truth even when it convicts you of sin, I feel better. I, an honest little boy, was trapped in the world of a deeply dishonest 39-year-old stepmother. I looked up to her,although she was mean to me in a way I would never be to a smaller child. I just didn't understand that a 9-year-old boy could be more mature, inside, than a 39-year-old woman whose insides were 6. But I was, and that was one of the many things she hated about me.

Cat Lady said...

I'm glad I get emails when people post on here. I've had no contact with my mom for 2 years now. I still haven't gotten around to starting therapy yet but I do go to C.O.D.A meetings. I'm so aware of my self-destructive behaviors and how I'm always blaming myself for how my mom treated me.

@ the Mommy, my mother also got CPS on me 10 years ago. It was hell for a few months but everything was dropped when they realized that what she had told them was a lie. My mother's dream is to see my life in misery; jealousy or what, who knows?

Also, good to read your posts Orwell 46. I wish there were a forum for all of us. If there is one please share the link Anne :-)

girl said...

wow. Victor Hugo quote and the 'get out of my site'. Yip, I totally relate once again, like everyone else here.

My Malignant NM would always tell us how she will never be used by her children like other parents are and how selfish and evil we are.

One year my dad went overseas to work and we had very little money, hardly any. So my mother literally never cooked dinner for that year. Our house was chaos anyway, but no dinner, like no food in the evening at all, ever, was not the best.

She would always tell me how she got lunch at her work so she doesn't need supper in the evening. So, SHE got food, so SHE wasn't hungry in the evening. UM... WHAT ABOUT HER CHILDREN? WHAT ABOUT US? Crazy bitch. fuck her to hell. Thank you for writing this blog. You Rock, Anna ! xxx