Is Mom a helicopter, overly involved mother…or does she suffer from covert narcissism?
Mom knows best! Mom to the rescue! Mom is always right! Right? Humm.. the culture stands back and cheers, loudly! But where does good intention end and overreach begin? A closer look at the covert narcissistic mother would show you this mother micromanages her daughter’s every move. She pushes for perfection in her relentless pursuit to orchestrate her daughter’s successes and her parenting glory.
What’s wrong with that you might ask? Doesn’t every mother want what’s best for her daughter? The problem is…this level of involvement isn’t necessarily best for her daughter. While the culture sees her as a saint, the perfect mom, the psychological truth is … this Mom is appropriating her daughter. Mom is living through her daughter rather than letting her daughter live.
Unlike the braggadocious narcissistic male counterpart, the covert narcissistic mother gathers up her narcissistic supplies in more underground, covert ways. Attuned to social expectations, she uses her position as a doting mother & super mom as cover.
These mothers involve themselves in their daughter’s every decision—so involved, in fact, that their daughters are not allowed to make decisions on their own. This level of intimacy between mother and daughter may be seen by many as, “all good.”
“Look, they are so close. She tells her mother everything. They are just alike. “
However, a more careful look reveals a destructive dynamic. Mom’s needs for relevance is met at the expense of her daughter’s need for independence and self-sufficiency. The apparent closeness of the mother-daughter relationship can obscure the reality of the situation—Mom is relying on her daughter in ways that are unhealthy.
Does the covertly narcissistic mother know what she is doing? I would say, rarely, if ever. It depends on the level of narcissism. On the extreme end, (enough to qualify for NPD) Mom feels compelled, driven in fact, to pour herself into her daughter’s life without possessing the reflective capacity to see the negative effects of doing so.
The narcissistic defense renders her emotionally blind to what she is doing to her daughter. In this case, the needs of the mother, not the daughter, are the central driving force in the relationship.
If, on the other hand, she only has traits of covert narcissism (and what mother doesn’t, hand raised) mom can step back and consider if her involvement benefits her daughter. She enjoys her daughter’s successes and her part in them, but she doesn’t need it for emotional survival.
One thing is for certain. The daughter feels it, especially the daughter trapped in the role of the “good” daughter.T he daughter feels the difference between having a mother who is a bit over involved and a mother who is a covert narcissist. She can feel it on a gut level.
If you are the daughter, try this exercise-
Imagine telling your mother “No”.
“No, it isn’t a good time to talk.”
“No, I don’t like the dress you picked out for me. It isn’t my style.”
No, I won’t be spending Thanksgiving day with you. We will be at my in-laws. “
Does this feel mildly awkward or do you respond with, “OMG I could never say that”? Why? What makes the difference in how you respond? The daughter of the covert narcissist bumps up against an unconscious taboo she didn’t know was there. The taboo has such force; she will do anything to avoid it-including sabotaging her own happiness.
And, what is this taboo? She can’t, mustn’t, shouldn’t… reject Mom. Why? Mom’s psyche can’t handle it.
What’s going on here-
Mom’s insecurity is the central reason for her narcissism. The narcissistic defense is standing guard at the edge of a bottomless pit of mom’s need and feelings of worthlessness. That’s why mom can’t withstand rejection. Rejection threatens to push her over the psychological edge. Any hint of rejection is met with a steely look, tone of voice, or a stony silence that can last for days.
The attuned empathetic daughter in the role of the “good daughter” carries this burdensome knowledge around in her psyche and her body. She can’t unknow what she knows.
Her attunement to mom locks her into an impossible dilemma. She is faced with the choice, take care of mom or take care of herself. In this way, what’s good for mom can be very bad for her daughter. Many mothers today feel enormous pressure to over-involve themselves in their daughters’ lives. This involvement doesn’t have to end in dysfunction. However, the mothers who can’t let go when the time comes are at risk for hurting their daughters. The daughters most attuned to mom and her needs are at risk of getting stuck in the “good” daughter role and suffering from what I call the Good daughter Syndrome.
Find out if you are suffering from the “Good” daughter Syndrome here.
There is a way out and a way home to yourself.
But first, you need to know what you are dealing with. Awareness is power. Get yours.