Dealing with narcissitic mother who was an emotional incest abuser

Clem

Registrant
Guys - just wondering if any of you like me are tormented between hating the woman who abused me - my mother, (Emotional Incest EI, whilst being neglected by my Victorian dad) and feeling honour bound to look out for the woman of 83 who needs an eye kept on?. If so how do you manage it?

I'm 53, in therapy about 2 years, and only realised what happened to me in my childhood once I started this therapy. It has been a rollercoaster, to the point that I cannot stand the sight of her. I haven't visited her since Christmas - I actually have had a physical revulsion being in her presence - in the presence of my abuser(s).

It was a totally screwed up marriage between my parents. He had a pseudo wife - my sister - and I was the pseudo husband to my mother who groomed me from the age of 12. From this point up until I turned 18 and went to University and met my wife in week 1, my sister and I waged war on each other on behalf of our parents. Our house, particularly the dinner table, was full of violence, screaming, arguing, fighting, distrust - I hated my dad, my sister had similar feelings for my mother. I was poisened by my mother about how horrible a man my dad was to her, to the point that I only began to get to know him a year or 2 before he died.

This was the story of my teenage years. The only respite I had was to go and spend time during the school holidays (12-18) with a cousin of my father's who was also a catholic priest... you know what's coming next ... who sexually abused me for the same period of time. I had nowehre to go - so largely lived in my head.

My mother accused my dad of incest with my sister, an accusation she tempered to Emotional Incest when I confronted her at the age of 18. She emasculated my dad and institutionalised him for a short while. He was no saint either - his was one of utter neglect.

So my mother is a narcissist with probable BPD. She has no respect for boundaries. She asked me last September whether I had been abused by my dad's cousin - I said I had, and after an intitial show of distress - on her part, I got a hug and an apology and then in the same breath just returned to her previous conversation as if nothing had happened. It turns out she has known for 23 years and never said anything to me. Having told her the relationship she had with me was unhealthy, it just went over her head. She cannot see in her relationhip with me the very thing she accused her husband of. But then that's narcissim.

So here I am, I pretty much hate her on the one hand and on the other - well I'm just not sure: do I love her because she's my mother? Dunno. Can I forgive her? Not at the moment. My T says that forgiveness is where I need to get to ultimatley, but that may not happen until she dies. Can I stand to spend time with her? No - she's a nasty spiteful ole witch. She lashes out at everybody including my kids. YOu dare not go shopping with her, she will pick a fight over something ridiculous in the shop just to prove a point. She verbally abuses any politician she sees. Execept for 1 of my brothers I don't speak to the other members of my family. That 1 brother suffered the same fate as me at her hands, though it kicked off about 3 years after me. He's been in therapy on and off for 15 years. Now that we have reconnected - it has set him off again. The rest of our birth family are pretty f###ed up. I'm trying to deal with the actual CSA the priest did to me, and yet my mother and what she did to me lies at the heart of all of this.

Have you any suggestions?
 

TJ jeff

Moderator
Hello Clem

I wish I had good advice to give to you - but sadly I"m still struggling through things with my own mother - all I can say is that I understand your situation from first hand experience myself - I will say that you need to take care of yourself 1st and her 2nd - it can't be the other way around or it'll just drag you down more (I am going to make a book recommendation to you - Toxic Parents by Dr. Susan Forward - it is the 1 book that really hit home with me about how messed up things really where from what they should have been)

my details are a bit different from yours and yet very similar (my mother is also narcissistic and was an emotional, physical, and borderline sexual abuser of me pretty much the entire 18 years I was under her care. My escape was joining the military at 18. My parents are still together to this very day (though I truly don't understand why))

I can say that through working with my T and multiple recovery weekends sponsored through this site that I was able to get to a place of forgiveness with my mother - and I will also say that forgiveness had nothing to do with my mother (she refused my forgiveness - as in her mind she has NEVER done anything wrong) - forgiveness was for the child I was - to give him relief

btw - I do have 1 brother - 16 months older than me (he had some of the physical and emotional abuse too) - he pretty much refuses to acknowledge that the first 18 years of his life ever happened

If you ever need someone to talk - I'm just a PM away
 

Clem

Registrant
Hi TJ, thank you for your reply. Similarities I see particularly around the narcissistic bit. I’m interested in the forgiveness you mentioned. Can u tell me more. I’m in a different part of the world to most of you guys so don’t always manage to chat. Thanks for the reading recommendation by the way will look for it.
 
Honestly, I wouldn't worry too much about forgiveness right now Clem. That may come eventually, but the important work is healing yourself. I too suffered at the hands of a mother who was disturbed and that experience led eventually to my seeking comfort elsewhere. That happened to be a neighbor who was also a pedophile. No doubt, the damage at home set the stage. Your home was a hell realm and you tried to get away, right into the hands a predator. Now you have two related traumas you're trying to attend to.

At least for the moment I don't refer to that woman as "my mother." Rather she is Gladyce, a woman who died quite a few years ago, much to my relief. Yes, I understand how it could have happened that this woman would be so damaged that she'd act in ways that would harm her child, but that understanding doesn't help me work with the bewilderment and shame that those experiences created for me. So I believe the work needs to be focused on our own healing. If at the end you come to an understanding of your mother's behavior that allows you to forgive, fine. But that is far from the first thing needing your attention. All the best to you on your journey Clem.
 

Clem

Registrant
Thanks Visitor and Jacob S for your replies too. Breaking this down into bite-sized chunks from the above: My own healing first, then her, separating the mother from the name, forgiveness of self - in my case the 12 years old me who was abused and shamed - really helpful. Seems to me we are in the same place - can we ever forgive her? My brother who is also a therapist disagrees with my own T - that forgiveness of our mother is not that necessary and maybe just not that possible.

Have any of you managed to keep a relationship going with her whilst figuring out your own stuff? Particularly where she has no concept of boundaries?
 
I believe you're answering your own question Clem when you say "she has no concept of boundaries." This means that behavior that is potentially traumatic to you will continue. Honestly, that is not something you need in your healing work. I remember when I was in the midst of some profound healing work, actually before I'd uncovered the early sexual abuse, realizing that contact with my mother was unsettling for me. I wrote to her and said I preferred not to talk on the telephone as I finished this project. She became angry, which didn't surprise me. She didn't call and I continued my effort. Then she had a heart attack. I still didn't call. She had a second episode and my brother called to ask why I wasn't reaching out to her. I always felt she was testing me, like "you think you really can get away from me?" I did eventually call around Christmas time, but more to help my brother who was carrying the burden by himself. After that call there was no contact for the next nine months while I completed my work.

I hear how painful it feels for you to withdraw from you mother but it seems pretty clear that your healing requires you to create healthier boundaries for yourself with your mother. You're the only one ultimately who can determine what those might be. This is the kind of question that would be perfect for a conversation with a therapist since it is loaded with feelings that go back your entire life. I realized along the way that my role in life had ALWAYS been to make certain my mother survived. I gave myself away COMPLETELY to that task. And doing so meant I gave away MY whole life. It was a bad bargain but one made when I was too young to have a choice. I eventually learned that making that choice was the beginning of claiming my own life. That process continues to this day, though my mother died 23 years ago. This is hard fucking work! I wish you well in claiming your life. You can't save your mother from her brokenness.
 

TJ jeff

Moderator
Clem - forgiveness is only one small part of recovery - please don't think that recovery can't happen without forgiveness - it surely can as many here can attest to

every single person here has a unique story - even if the baseline of "what" happened is the same - the "way" in which it happened to us is unique to each of us - I'm saying this because there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to recovery - you need to find what works for you - and sometimes that takes some trial and error (and a few good T's) - recovery is not a race - there is no set time period - only you can decide when it is that you feel recovered (and even after that there will come times when you may feel you need to re-visit issues that pop up - and that's ok)

Forgiveness - for me - was just a small part of recovery - but an important part for me due to the special circumstances of the "how" things happened for me - you see, I grew up hating the person I was due to the emotional abuse from my mother - I didn't think I was even worth being let to live - forgiveness was letting go of that anger and bitterness and shame I held inside for so long - forgiveness was realizing that that child was not all the things (words and actions taken against him) that he grew up hearing that he was - I needed to learn not to hate that child I was and part of that was in a form of self-forgiveness - I had to work through recovery to understand that the child I was did not "cause" the things to happen to him

in the process of my recovery I came to understand how messed up my mother was/is - in the process of understanding that it helped to take away some of the power that had been held over me for so long in feeling like I was somehow to blame for everything that happened

I also wanted to speak to you towards the issues of boundaries/ privacy because I know well how it is to have a narcissistic mother who doesn't understand what boundaries should be - I grew up in a room that had no doors - the stairs going up in the house ended in my room - the bathroom was at one end of my room and there was a hallway with 2 other bedrooms at the other end - so anyone coming upstairs had to pass through my room (ie - no privacy) - it took me until I started working on recovery to understand that boundaries/privacy is an ok thing to ask for

as you work on recovery it will become ever more so important to set boundaries with your mother and enforce them - I have had times when I have just had to walk away from my mother (and that's ok) - you do not have to stand by and put up with her wrong behavior towards you - her wrong behavior is NOT caused by you

Take care of YOU first - everything else will fall into place in time
 

TJ jeff

Moderator
You can't save your mother from her brokenness.
truer words have never been said - a simple statement - but worth repeating to yourself (and myself) 1,000+ times until it really sinks in
 

Clem

Registrant
TJ & Visitor - a big thank you, I have found your words very helpfu. We need to figure this out each at their own pace. Like you I put her before me, to the point I was running over there on a Saturday - listening to total crap (I mean do you really want to discuss the price of chicken in the various supermarkets? Huh?)

But boundaries is the big issue here - you’re right. I lived abroad just after I left my birth home in my 20’s. I couldn’t have been happier. I only had to deal with her on her visits and the one time my dad came over a day before her, my wife and went out to dinner with him and although he was pretty plastered it was a very pleasant and as intimate (in the correct phrase) as I’d ever had with him. I came back to home country 8 years later, avoided her like hell but then as she approached 80, took it upon myself to “mind her”. Just writing this is helping me to put perspective on it. I walked myself right back into pseudohusbandville 20 years after I had managed to get out of it and put a physical sea boundary between us. I did this! Mind you she was drawing me back in all the time. F##k I’m an idiot!

It all came to a head 2 years ago - and she and this toxic relationship was one of the key drivers. I was literally losing my mind - going nuts.
Boundaries Boundaries Boundaries

Thanks. By the way TJ I got that book “Toxic Parents yesterday” very helpful so thank you. I particularly like the way she divides Forgiveness into 2 component parts. I cannot see myself reaching the second part any time soon.

Can I ask u another question?

I’m trying to figure out where my dad fits in all of this. Not sure if you’ve done any work on this aspect. My mother caused the EI, my dad allowed it to happen by neglecting me, and doing the EI with my sister (according to my mother). my T keeps telling me to not forget my Dad in all of this. To be honest - I never knew him that well. I have good recollections of him in my early years, then something happened, there’s a blank for a few years, I’m 12 then all the shit I describe above happened. I’m struggling to feel anything about what he did to me. My feeling when I was 12 was that he was a shitty husband and dad and that he was a total f###er for doing what he did to my mother (of course she was totally poisoning me abt him), neglecting her and putting my sister first. I was very angry and I argued like hell with him.

My recollection of him was that was he always gentle with us as kids bar a couple of times when we got a caning when v small. I remember one night my brother and I were playing in our bedroom loudly when we should have been asleep and he came up and caned us. My other recollections if him are the opposite, very gentle. He was always there physically because he had his (GP) practice in our house - he was just never there for us emotionally. Because his biz was in the house we all lived in a tiny room and nobody could fart in peace because the patients were always there, in our bathroom, in our front room, even coming into my bedroom at times when missing the door for the bathroom. (No CSA just more boundaries not being respected. Gosh this is another boundary issue with my dad!

Sry for rambling l, but I find writing this stuff really helps me. I’m actually as a separate project writing “the story of my life” to try and get this down and feel and look at it. Have either of you done that?

Anyway thanks for your help. I’m sorry for both of your troubles and I really am appreciating sharing this with you and and grateful for your insights.

Clem
 

Clem

Registrant
Clem - forgiveness is only one small part of recovery - please don't think that recovery can't happen without forgiveness - it surely can as many here can attest to

every single person here has a unique story - even if the baseline of "what" happened is the same - the "way" in which it happened to us is unique to each of us - I'm saying this because there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to recovery - you need to find what works for you - and sometimes that takes some trial and error (and a few good T's) - recovery is not a race - there is no set time period - only you can decide when it is that you feel recovered (and even after that there will come times when you may feel you need to re-visit issues that pop up - and that's ok)

Forgiveness - for me - was just a small part of recovery - but an important part for me due to the special circumstances of the "how" things happened for me - you see, I grew up hating the person I was due to the emotional abuse from my mother - I didn't think I was even worth being let to live - forgiveness was letting go of that anger and bitterness and shame I held inside for so long - forgiveness was realizing that that child was not all the things (words and actions taken against him) that he grew up hearing that he was - I needed to learn not to hate that child I was and part of that was in a form of self-forgiveness - I had to work through recovery to understand that the child I was did not "cause" the things to happen to him

in the process of my recovery I came to understand how messed up my mother was/is - in the process of understanding that it helped to take away some of the power that had been held over me for so long in feeling like I was somehow to blame for everything that happened

I also wanted to speak to you towards the issues of boundaries/ privacy because I know well how it is to have a narcissistic mother who doesn't understand what boundaries should be - I grew up in a room that had no doors - the stairs going up in the house ended in my room - the bathroom was at one end of my room and there was a hallway with 2 other bedrooms at the other end - so anyone coming upstairs had to pass through my room (ie - no privacy) - it took me until I started working on recovery to understand that boundaries/privacy is an ok thing to ask for

as you work on recovery it will become ever more so important to set boundaries with your mother and enforce them - I have had times when I have just had to walk away from my mother (and that's ok) - you do not have to stand by and put up with her wrong behavior towards you - her wrong behavior is NOT caused by you

Take care of YOU first - everything else will fall into place in time
TJ
truer words have never been said - a simple statement - but worth repeating to yourself (and myself) 1,000+ times until it really sinks in
THANKS TJ - listening to you describe your room brings me back to mine. It was next door to our family bathroom, which was also the public bathroom for all of my dad’s patients. It just brings me right back - that image you describe. I’ve written a bit below about where my dad fits in all of this - still trying to figure it out. Have u looked at that aspect?
 
My father was pretty absent. He worked six days a week and when I was young he would leave very early in the morning. He was a produce buyer for a small chain of grocery stores and would go to the farmers market to buy produce that would be delivered later to the stores. He'd leave at 3 or 4 in the morning and return at the end of the day. He was also quite reserved emotionally. He was not a bad man but our life left me alone with my mother all day, every day except Sunday and she was a disturbed woman who abused me sexually and physically in addition to pulling on me emotionally my whole life. The abuse happened during the first months and perhaps two years of my life... nothing later, but the first experiences were traumatizing.

What you're doing to unpack all of this is important Clem. And yes, I've written the story of my life... about 65 pages of it at the moment. I've been working at it for decades and if I worked on it with what I've discovered in the last few months there would be much more to add. This really is the work of a lifetime... I'm deeply saddened we all have to face these painful experiences, yet I'm relieved to know there is a way out of the pain if we're willing to do the work. And the work is all about learning to care for ourselves rather than give ourselves away to either the perpetrators/abusers we carry in our memories or to those in our current life who are incapable of treating us with kindness and respect. We all deserve that!
 

TJ jeff

Moderator
Clem - I 1st want to say that you certainly are NOT an idiot for putting yourself back into the situation you are in with your mom - even I fall back into situations I should not at times (we learn and we move forward - that's what we do)(btw - my parents moved to a house about 40 minutes from here - they where 4 hours away before - so those situations seem to be happening more often again)

2nd - I want to say that your dad certainly does play a big part in the picture of your past - Yes, it is an important thing to look at and in examining that it might help you to better understand why some things happened the way in which they did (my own father was a lead maintenance man at a local canning factory and put in an incredible # of hours there - but he was a heavy drinker outside of that - the best memories I have of growing up with him was the very rare fishing trip he would take me on once I was old enough to go - certainly not the amount of good memories a child should have of their dad so of course that plays into a lot of the bad things that happened) - neglect is indeed a deep wound that opens us us to other forms of abuse (my dad certainly could have spent more time with me but he "chose" not to - he chose alcohol over me - never even came to a single football game I played in my 1st year (and then wonders why I didn't play beyond that (heck, he still doesn't understand why I went into the military straight out of school)))

3rd - my bedroom - yes it certainly was not ideal (I understand that it was just the way the house was built - but they could have at least hung up a curtain which would have fairly cheaply afforded some privacy) - I grew up not understanding the privacy that a pre or post pubescent boy should have - the lack of privacy certainly made it easier for others to cross boundaries that they should not have

I do have a small bit of my past wrote down (the TJ's history link in my signature line) but I certainly do need to write a lot more (is just kind of hard to do when working full time and having a young daughter who wants most of my time outside of work)
 

Clem

Registrant
Thanks Visitor & TJ. TJ when you describe your bedroom - I see my own. 40 mins away from what it used to be that’s tough. Are u in regular contact - and how do u manage to sit through that. Thanks for telling me I’m not an idiot, but I guess I had it under control and let it go because the shame and the guilt of neglecting her, even tho I have 4 other siblings, all her hospitalizations and making sure she was ok. Did I tell you I’ve blocked her no on my phone?

Visitor - your story. I’ve started to add pictures into it. I was recalling one of the positive things with my dad - I am a petrol head and he gave me my love of cars - it happened when I was 3/4 and we were on hols, I vividly recall sitting on his knee on the balcony of our family room and him pointing out the names of all the cars in the car park. I’ve been hooked ever since. Was googling the hotel and bingo - it’s still there 50 years on. So put a grab of it in my story. Finding it really powerful.

I’m going through “Toxic Parents” (TP) and it has prompted me about my dad. You know, I’ve been making excuses for him. Yes he was similar to both your dads. Hard working, emotionally not there, but a great provider and of course if any of us ever got sick we got sorted straight away. He was a great Doc.

However his neglect of me, his allowance of what my mother did to me, of what his cousin did to me, and my dad was in a position professionally where he could not but have seen what was going on in the Catholic Church here from the inside - for years. The way he never fought for his family, stood up to his wife, and allowed our family to implode - it’s not acceptable. TP talks about denial & rationalization, I realized as I was writing above about my dad caning me, I was in my head saying - well it only happened once or a couple of times, we were bold, I can excuse that - and that my mother was more than likely Telling him to do it (or was ahe). Well that’s just wrong.

MyT has said to me for a long time Don’t forget your dad, where does he fit in all this? It’s not just about your mum - and there’s the added complication that I keep asking myself - what did he really know abt what went on the seminaries, the institutions and the way the church dealt with its paedoohiles?

I guess and I’m only realizing this now that I actually have him up on a pedestal. In some ways I find that hard to believe because due to the relationship with my mother I thought I had this really low opinion of him, but I’ve also gilded him because I was only beginning to know what humanity he had when he died. So I’m kinda grappling with - everything Mum told me about him, is it true? I’m only trying to figure that out now - and he’s gone. what was he like? I guess that’s why I’m struggling to see him as at least 50\50 accountable with my mother.

Maybe it’s tine I went for a coffee with his uncle.
 
Wonderful work Clem. This is how we do it... thoughtful reflection on everything that is part of our past. Telling the story as honestly as we can we finally put the truth of our history in perspective. I recall my first serious therapist asking about my family and I responded saying "everything was fine." That makes me laugh out loud now. My parents weren't demons, something I can appreciate reading about the horror shows some of our companions on this website experienced. But that doesn't negate what was indeed traumatic in those relationships, especially given where those experiences took me later in life... including into the hands of a pedophile. Those weren't unrelated instances. The fear I felt during the abuse at my mother's hands led to dissociation and to hunger for acceptance that was played on by the predators. And my father didn't protect me, doubtless because he didn't understand his wife's neediness or her anger. So they weren't demons, but they certainly didn't give me what I needed as a boy to feel safe and secure in the world. Their failure to protect me, to give me the foundation of caring needed to build a secure sense of self left me at the mercy of the world which can be a dangerous place.

Keep with it Clem. This is how we reclaim our lives, our aliveness.
 

TJ jeff

Moderator
Clem - I'm not sure how you define "regular contact" - though I don't feel that I am - we hardly ever talk on the phone and sometimes I go for months without visiting - she did have a pretty serious health scare last year (she was dead on the table and the doctors brought her back) so I did see her a bit more last year

I did try talking with my dad about the past a few different times - he says he just can't understand - he can't picture it in his head because he wasn't there to see it (I've never really put much thought into it - but mom did seem to hold the harsh spankings for the times when dad was not home)(I was never caned)(my dad did apologize for spanking me though I have absolutely no problem with his level of punishment against me) - and yet... I know there where times that he was there (maybe not in the room watching) - he knew what she did and how she did it
 

Clem

Registrant
Hi TJ & Visitor, thanks for coming back to me. I'm conscious I'm doing all the asking and giving little back in return - but I want you know that I'm very grateful for your support and wisdom. I'm here for you guys if I can be of any help. Went looking for you both in the chat rooms just now - haven't a clue how to use PM.

TJ - regular contact - good question. I guess I mean frequent - not regular as in normal becuse for me it is far from normal. well put it this way during my mothers last visit here 2 weeks ago (unnanounced) I could barely be civil - she did all the talking and my family (wife and kids) daren't not leave me on my own with her. On the one hand I'm incredibly angry, on the other she just talks shite.. gives out - as in nothing has changed. If you have how have you managed to put the anger aside to be able to be civil to her? I'm just not there yet.

Visitor,thanks - I need to move from rationalise it to feeling it, but bleive me that was a bit of a breakthrough moment for me to call that out.
 
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