Women Recovering from a Narcissistic Mother

By Julie Spokane, LCSW

Many adults enter treatment in hopes of resolving an unresolved notion of “not being good enough” --- not being good enough at work, relationships, parenting or within oneself. In therapy we frequently discover that this self-deprecating notion evolves from an unresolved relationship with one’s mother, especially mothers who possess narcissistic attributes. At Arbor Counseling Center we have formulated groups based on the recovery process of separating and individuating from narcissistic mothers. We utilize the techniques of identification, acceptance, grief, and recovery taught in Karyl McBride, Ph.D.’s book Will I Ever Be Good Enough.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) identifies narcissism as a personality disorder with the following nine traits listed below:

  1. Having a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or associate with, other special or high status people
  4. Requires excessive admiration
  5. Has a sense of entitlement (e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations)
  6. Is interpersonally exploitive (e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends)
  7. Lacks empathy; is unwilling to recognize or identify the feelings or needs of others
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them
  9. Shows arrogance, haughty behaviors, or attitudes

In essence, what these traits equate to is that, “it’s all about me”. When a daughter is raised by a woman who places her needs before everyone else, this can leave the daughter feeling unloved. Unloved daughters grow up with a tremendous need to please others, especially their unavailable mother. Daughters can grow into women with a chronic need to please at the expense of never achieving this goal. As a result, they develop various unhealthy behaviors such as addictions, overachieving, underachieving, and becoming involved in co-dependent relationships and developing a negative perception of self. Treatment for adult women of narcissistic mothers is essential in order to repair the traumas of childhood to establish a healthier and content adulthood.