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Is your mother a narcissist? Here are the ten questions you should ask her…

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Experts estimate that one in 20 people in Britain have symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder.

Mothers love their children and would do anything for them. That’s what they tell us.

But I don’t think my mother ever loved me. She certainly didn’t seem to care about me (or my three younger siblings) the way other mothers did.

She never hugged us or showed us affection. It wasn’t until I had my son, who is now 28, that I realized what maternal love should be like. Instinctively, I knew I would die for him.

On the other hand, my mother, who died eight years ago, made me feel unworthy of being loved. To her, I was never good enough.

My first memory of her criticizing me was when I was just six years old. As I playfully strutted in front of a mirror, she said, “You’re starting to get fat, you want to see that!” It was the first of many disparaging comments about my body.

Experts estimate that one in 20 people in Britain have symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder.

As the years went by, I realized that my mother was not simply selfish or selfless. After researching the topic, I came to recognize that she most likely suffered from narcissistic personality disorder, although she was never formally diagnosed.

In our family, everything revolved around her. Our job was to reinforce her exaggerated self-image. And my father, an Aer Lingus executive who died three years ago, was always on her side. It took me 20 years to work up the courage to turn my back on my mother and cut off all contact with her. It was the only way to save my sanity.

About a decade ago, when I started sharing my experiences, I got a huge response. Since then, I have spoken to thousands of women who had similar stories to tell and created Daughters Of Narcissistic Mothers to help others like me. Over two million people have visited my website and I have written four books on the topic.

Although she may not be professionally trained as a therapist, what is clear is that there are experiences that are common to all who have had to suffer at the hands of a narcissistic mother.

And experts estimate that one in 20 people in Britain has symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, meaning many of us live with a parent with the disorder.

Here are ten questions you can ask yourself to help identify if you have a narcissistic mother.

Does she celebrate your successes?

It’s normal for moms to take pride in our accomplishments, but narcissists have such an exaggerated idea of ​​themselves that they can’t stand being second best.

Women have told me that even at their graduations their mothers outdid them in every way, bragging about how their degree was better.

Narcissistic mothers have such an inflated self-image that they can't stand being second best, writes Danu Morrigan

Narcissistic mothers have such an inflated self-image that they can’t stand being second best, writes Danu Morrigan

When I told my mother I had won a prize for one of my novels, she smiled smugly: “Well, you’re related to James Joyce, so it’s not surprising.”

In those few words, she managed to dismiss all my effort and determination. It was not only cruel, but nonsense: a fantasy born from the fact that her Irish grandfather bore a physical resemblance to the writer.

Does she support you in difficult times?

If your mother is a narcissist, she has so little empathy that she has no idea what you need. One woman told me that after she had a miscarriage, she started crying on the phone and spoke to her mother. Instead of listening with understanding, her mother said, “You have to stop crying. It’s hard for me. I’ve lost my grandson and you’re making me even sadder.”

Do you feel confused after being with her?

Narcissists sincerely believe that they always know what is best and can never bear to be wrong. Being raised by them is like living in a hall of mirrors. Nothing is as it seems. It is a form of psychological manipulation: they will swear that black is white and, if we dare to object, they will accuse us of having a “vivid imagination” or that the problem is with us.

I had terrible fights with my mother, and the next time I saw her, she would deny that they had ever happened. “You’re being too sensitive,” she would say irritably.

They make you question your own sense of reality and spending time with them is exhausting.

When Danu told her mother that she had won a prize for one of her novels, her mother said:

When Danu told her mother that she had won a prize for one of her novels, her mother said: “Well, you’re related to James Joyce (pictured) on my side, so it’s not surprising.”

Do you have any favorites?

Narcissistic mothers fall into two categories: ignorant mothers, like mine, who are so self-absorbed that they ignore their children, or engulfing mothers, who see their children as extensions of themselves. Engulfing mothers may have a golden child who can do no wrong, along with a scapegoat whom they blame for everything. That is usually the child who dares to question her.

Does she respect your personal space?

Did your mother read your teenage diary? Did she come into your bedroom without knocking? We all know that teenagers can be tricky. But narcissists have an excessive need to control the people around them. I’ve even heard of mothers removing the doors from their children’s bedrooms.

How did she behave at your wedding?

If there’s one thing narcissists can’t resist, it’s the opportunity to outshine their daughters. That’s why weddings are so appealing to them. When I got married, my mother didn’t care that the red dress she chose clashed with my purple and cream color scheme.

I wouldn’t have known, since she and my father said they would save my mother’s outfit as a “surprise” for me that day.

Luckily, I discovered the plan in time to challenge her. She only reluctantly agreed to change clothes when my father, somewhat unusually, insisted. But she never forgot it. A few years later, when Princess Diana wore a purple and red dress, she made sure to point it out.

Princess Diana attends an event in London wearing a red and purple chiffon evening dress in June 1988.

Princess Diana attends an event in London wearing a red and purple chiffon evening dress in June 1988.

Does he blame you if things go wrong?

Narcissists expect recognition for their brilliance even if they don’t have the accomplishments to prove it. Daughters can end up being blamed for everything that went wrong in their mothers’ lives. “I could have been a world-class opera singer if I hadn’t had you,” was what one guilt-ridden girl said her mother told her.

My mother smoked a lot and tried to quit regularly, but she never succeeded. But she didn’t blame her lack of willpower, but rather us, her children, and told us that we made her life so difficult that she needed cigarettes to get by.

Does she build you up and then tear you down?

Because everything is important only to the extent that it impacts them, narcissistic mothers often oscillate between exalting their daughters and belittling them when they begin to feel jealous.

In their minds, if someone else is being admired, then they are being ignored, so as we grow and threaten to overshadow them, all hell can break loose.

One daughter has told how, when she turned 14 and began attracting admiring glances for her long blonde hair, her mother took her to the hairdresser to have it all cut off.

Does she kidnap your children?

I have lost count of the number of women who have told me about the insidious ways their mothers worm their way into the affections of their grandchildren.

It’s natural to spoil grandchildren, but narcissists go further and push their daughters aside so they can gain first place in their grandchildren’s lives. It’s common for narcissistic grandmothers to talk about “my baby.”

It can be especially destructive as children grow older. I know grandmothers who belittle their daughters to gain their favor, either by allowing them to drink in their homes or by buying their love with generous gifts.

Is she a fan of the fake apology?

Fake apologies are a favorite trick of narcissists.

Here, what she says sounds like an apology, but she does not take responsibility for her behavior.

So a narcissistic mother might say, “I’m sorry you’re upset,” “I’m sorry you think I wasn’t a good mother,” or “I’m sorry you can’t take a joke.”

In each of these examples, she doesn’t recognize her own faults. The problem is your anger, your thoughts, or your lack of humor, never her actions.

How to Have No Contact with Your Narcissistic Mother by Danu Morrigan (£10.99) is published by DLT Books (daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com)

As told to Tessa Cunningham.

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