Mothers Who Can’t Love
by Dr Susan Forward PhD
The Hallmark of a Narcissistic Mother –
The hallmark of all these mothers is a lack of empathy, and their intense self-centeredness blinds them to the suffering they create. They rarely step out of themselves to see things from your point of view. All they know is that they want what they want, and need what they need, and they find it difficult, if not impossible, to make the connection between their demons and the hurtful actions that come to define their relationship with you.
Five Recognizable Types of Narcissistic Mothers
• THE SEVERELY NARCISSISTIC MOTHER . Powerfully insecure and self-absorbed, she has an insatiable need for admiration and a grandiose sense of her own importance. She must be the center of attention and lunges for the spotlight anytime she feels it moving from herself to you. She may treat her daughter as a rival, undercutting her sense of confidence, attractiveness, and power as a woman. Criticism and competition flare anytime this mother feels threatened— particularly when her adult daughter begins to thrive.
• THE OVERLY ENMESHED MOTHER smothers her daughter with demands for time and attention, erasing the boundaries between them and insisting on being the most important person in her daughter’s life — no matter what the cost. Because she relies on her role as a mother to fill all her emotional needs, she can’t foster her daughter’s healthy independence. She commonly describes her daughter as her “best friend,” though she rarely empathizes when her daughter’s needs and preferences don’t line up with her own.
• THE CONTROL FREAK feels powerless in many parts of her life and uses her daughter to fill that void, seeing her as a person whose role in life is to make her mother happy and do her bidding. These mothers make their needs, wants, and demands clearly known, and threaten severe consequences anytime their daughters try to honor a different agenda. They justify their actions by insisting that only they know the best course of action their daughters can take, and their constant criticism makes daughters believe it.
• MOTHERS WHO NEED MOTHERING are overwhelmed. Often caught in the undertow of depression or addiction, they leave their daughters in the position of having to care for them, and often the rest of the family as well. Classic patterns of role reversal take hold as the daughter is thrust out of her own childhood to parent her childlike mother, all the while starved for the guidance and protection her mother is unable to give her.
• MOTHERS WHO NEGLECT, BETRAY, AND BATTER. These mothers occupy the darkest end of the spectrum, icily unable to summon any warmth at all, leaving their daughters unprotected from abuse at the hands of other family members— or even physically abusing their daughters themselves. The damage they inflict is poisonous, and the scars their daughters bear are deep.
We will see how all of these mothers chip away at the foundation of their daughters’ lives, and through these examples, you will begin to understand how living with your own unloving mother taught you ways of being in the world that have impaired your ability to love, trust, and thrive.