Get Out of The Mirror: Maternal Narcissism
BY JEN MAKIN CMHC
If I were prettier.
I wish I was more like my friends, my mom thinks the world of them.
I can’t tell my mom this, she will kill me.
Why is she upset again? What did I say?
She’s in her room again. I better leave her alone.
Why can’t I feel loved?
What will her friends say if they found out?
Narcissistic mirroring means that the mother holds up a mirror to her daughter and has a wish that the daughter reflect her image; the mother’s image. When the daughter attempts to be her authentic self, and goes outside of the mirror to think for herself, she shames you until you get back into the mirror.
If you are tall, she may want to play sports. But you prefer art. She calls you a waste of talent and height.
Let’s say you prefer art, she may want you to not be lazy and be more athletic.
If you explore a new part of yourself, she makes you feel bad about yourself, calling you “dramatic”
At times, you don’t like to go to extended family. Mom says, “Get in the car.”
Thinking for yourself is the enemy. Meeting mom’s needs and orbiting around her is how you stay emotionally safe. If you attempt to speak up and either hold your mom accountable for her behavior, she twists it around back on you, using DARVO, or shames you for attempting to think for youself.
This term was coined by someone who is not me.
It stands for:
With this, your mother, when confronted, becomes defensive, attacks you for confronting her and then reverses things, becoming the victim and you the offender.
DARVO IN ACTION
You call your mom on the phone.
You: Hi mom. There is something I want to talk to you about.
You: You good to talk about something right now?
Mom: Sure. What’s up?
You: The other night when you blamed me when my daughter fell in the pond in your backyard, it really hurt my feelings.
Mom: What do you mean?
You: You asked me right away why I hadn’t been watching her.
Mom: She could have really been injured. Sorry for caring. Next time I won’t say anything.
You: Mom, I am not saying that I don’t want to hear from you it just hurt that you blamed me for falling into the pond. It made me feel like you think I’m a bad mom.
Mom: I didn’t call you a bad mom. Why would you even say that? You are making my head hurt.
You: I don’t mean to make your head hurt.
You: OK mom, I will let you go.
Mom: Good-bye dear.
Reflecting on this from the mom’s perspective, she took no accountability for her conduct toward her daughter when her granddaughter fell into the pool. Her daughter (you) attempts to call her mom to discuss her experience and the mom turns it around on the daughter, becoming the victim herself. She is walking on eggshells, now the victim feeling that she is being accused of calling her daughter a bad mom. Zero accountability. Zilch insight.
From the daughter's perspective, it's a hopeless plight. She wants more than anything to feel connected to her mom. She wants to be able to feel safe to express her inner most feelings and have them land safely. This didn't seem to be that big of a deal. Her daughter fell in the pond and she felt blamed and shamed. Her mother becomes defensive and goes into her natural victim state.
The only want to protect yourself from this is to:
Stay out of shame
Realize that is incapable of accountability.
In this scenario, the mom, “I didn’t call you a bad mom..” attempting to shirk responsibility and twist it back to make her daughter feel responsible for her feelings. Her daughter never said that she called her a bad mom. The mom is drawing attention from her daughter attempting to appropriately hold her accountable. Instead, the mom becomes the victim, accusing the daughter of calling her a bad mom.
There is another article on shame that will explain this concept in further detail.
SHATTERING THE MIRROR
The first step in this process is to recognize the mirror. If you tune into your body, you can feel when you’re in the mirror. You may begin to perform more, get buzzy in your head or shut down. Getting in tune with your body is a very important first step. Recognizing when you go into the mirror is the next step. Sometimes it takes trusted loved ones to help you know when you are going in and out. They learn to recognize it through your behavior or notice when you perform or disassociate.
When you notice the mirror, have a strategy to pull yourself out. It may be a grounding technique, setting a firm boundary or walking away for a bit. Don’t allow yourself to fully go into it and take space until you feel like your mind is your own. With mirroring, it’s mind snatching. You no longer think for yourself and your body has an override. The only way to undo this is to reboot your computer. Breathe deeply, get that oxygen flowing, and clear your mind until it’s yours again.
Work hard to stay out of it. Live life intentionally so that you think for yourself and don’t allow yourself to people please, especially your mother. I once heard that Post Malone got tattoos all over his face to rebel against his mother. I can’t remember where I heard this, and I could be wrong, but this would be a good example of someone trying to live an authentic life. Live your truth, Post, but not everyone has to literally tattoo their face. But whatever you fancy.
DAUGHTER MOTHER BOND
The most natural bond throughout any young girl’s life is with her mother. If that is disconnected, not intact and their is no authentic connection, it is a loss. A grief. Grieving is a very, very important part of this process. Sometimes our mind plays tricks on us, like any narcissistic relationship. We want to give our mom’s the benefit of the doubt and believe that she didn’t mean how she acted. We fail to realize that her apologizing is actually about her comforting herself, not us.
It is a massive trauma to have this realization. Heart breaking. One technique that helps with the grieving process is to begin to call your mom by her first name, at least in your head. It cuts that maternal bond expectation and allows you to see her more clearly, allowing you to have healthy boundaries without guilt.