Narcissistic Mothers Can't Teach You to Love Yourself & The Consequences of Emotional Neglect Part 2
by Lisa A. Romano
We all have this need to feel like we belong and when our parents aren't able to attune themselves to us, we feel disconnected and then shame sets in because we think it’s our fault.
In part 2 of this blog, I’ll be covering the further consequences of growing up in a toxic family environment with a narcissistic parent and the importance of seeing and understanding the holes in the wall in front of you so that you are able to fix it.
We Think It’s Our Fault
We think it's our fault that we're not able to make our parents happy. Then, if you add a personality disorder or parental gaslighting on top of that where parents are gaslighting their children by telling them that they're the reason that they drink, the reason they're getting a divorce or the reason gained weight; this is horrible this is psychological abuse. That little boy that little girl that was you didn't know that mom was dysfunctional. To you, mom and dad are gods that's what we think our parents are – how could they be wrong? There's no concept that mom and dad could be wrong. If they thought that their parents were dysfunctional that would freak a child out for them to consider the idea that their parents aren't in control, that it's an illusion.
I lived my life thinking that my mother and father knew everything, and it wasn't until I was well into my 30s that I began to realize that no, they don't know how to be happy. They are unrecovered, they have so much trauma in their background, they are controlling and emotionally oppressive; they're highly critical and they don't know how to have fun. They don't know how to let go, they can even be mean spirited and condescending. If you don't agree with them, you're out. It was terrible growing up in that type of environment but my parents would tell you that they didn't think they were doing anything wrong.
They Were Unaware That They Were Unaware
When my parents gave me advice, I thought that they were giving me the right advice, I had no clue or any concept that my mother and father had no idea how to direct me, that they were just flying by the seat of their pants. They were offering me advice based on the information that they had gathered throughout their life, but I didn't know that their experiences were so limited. So when my mom and dad offered me advice I thought it was the best advice that I could ever be given, I had no clue. It took me many years to be able to see my family clearly to take the rose-colored glasses off and say, “Wait a minute this is toxic, this is dysfunctional, this isn't healthy.”
Even though they'll tell me that I'm the one who's crazy, I need to really see this very critically and logically. I have to see the big picture here even though they're telling me that I'm crazy, that I'm too deep and I make a big deal out of nothing. I had to learn to come out of denial because my parents were in denial they couldn't see it. You know, if you have parents who are banging holes in the wall, but they don't think that they are – the house can be falling apart, you could see that, your parents are creating this havoc but if they can't see it then it can't stop; you are powerless to that situation.
When you were a child, when you were longing to connect with a family that doesn't think there's anything wrong with drinking excessively, being stoned in front of the children or acting immaturely or being emotionally abusive, critical, oppressive, gaslighting, etc. When you have parents who believe that there's nothing wrong with behaving this way you are powerless, but that doesn't mean you know what's going on and you're able to recognize that this is dysfunctional.
Coming Out Of Denial
Unfortunately, in most cases, children who grow up in those homes walk around in denial too. We don't know that our family is toxic and then we have this added layer of family loyalty; we feel like we are going against the family if we tell the truth or we feel as if our family wasn't that bad. We have all of this anxiety inside of us, depression, rumination, dissociation, and the inability to make a decision or to set a boundary. We keep making the same mistakes and ending up in toxic relationships, but we keep telling ourselves, “Oh my childhood wasn't that bad,” and when we sugarcoat it. We're not able to see things clearly.
Coming out of denial for the adult child of an alcoholic is a heroic act, you've got to be able to look at your past and, in spite of what your parents think, say, “I know this happened to me.” I know this is not correct and here we are.
We develop codependency as a result of these childhood experiences seeking validation, looking for permission to feel, and looking for other people to tell us it's okay that we feel what we feel. Now we're coming out of that cocoon and we're saying, “No, this is how I feel even if all of you tell me that I'm crazy this in fact is how I feel.” That is absolutely courageous and it's lonely and now you're sticking your finger in the eye of your issues and you’re seeing exactly why you are codependent in the first place. You are wiggling the wound that is activated, you're pouring salt and vinegar into the wounds that have created the codependency in the first place.
These wounds of feeling like you don't belong, having this longing to feel seen by these parents, feel like you matter, to feel like someone cares; this doesn't go away. What does happen is we end up burying it and then we become codependent or highly agreeable, we become people-pleasers. We become the first person to show up in the office with coffee for everybody and we're we are the last person to leave. We've got the key and we lock up after everyone's gone home right? We don't even realize we're looking to belong, we're looking to make sure that other people find value in us. Maybe they'll think that we're worthy and maybe in trying to be worthy, someone will care about us or maybe if we care about other people then they'll care about us in return. We don't even realize we're operating that way and if you don't know that you're doing this you can't fix it. If you don't know you're doing this then you can't fill up that hole that gaping hole in the middle of your chest.
However, you are the secret. You can fill yourself up you can heal this longing but it's going to take everything that you've got so you have to have courage, you have to have integrity and you have to be willing to take those codependent glasses off. You've got to be able to take those pollyanna glasses off and accept how you feel even though your family that's in denial might be telling you you're crazy.
“You've got to stop comparing how you feel to how other people feel.”
Adult children of alcoholics and narcissistic parents do this all the time. I see it in my 12-week group every time we launch a 12-week group someone says, “I don't think that I have a right to be here because I didn't experience that level of trauma,” yet everything that I talk about resonates with them and so to me, that's so sad because this is someone who is doubting what they feel. They're missing the signals, if you feel this way there's a reason, so if you feel like you're empty, if you feel like you don't know who you are, there's a reason.
You're not crazy there's a reason your family may have done a very good job at convincing you that you don't have a right to feel and that you're crazy. Narcissistic moms triangulate their children against one another, and now the siblings take on the role of mom in some situations and they actually start harassing the scapegoat child so now the triangulated golden child is saying many of the same things that the narcissistic mom would say to the sibling corrupting the ability for siblings to actually have a loving relationship. It's just so sad, it's just destruction all the way around.
But if you were understanding that you have a longing that you have a desire to be loved; I think this aching comes from the fact that we never felt loved. You know, if I am hungry that's because I haven't been fed; if I'm thirsty that's because I haven't drank water. If I have a hunger for love that's because my love tank has not been filled up; I don't know what it feels like to be loved. If I've never experienced love on the outside, I don't know how to love myself.
So this gaping hole in our chest comes from learning to love the self, if you're interested in taking this journey I have a four-part e-course, called Loving The Self Video and Meditation and Journaling Program that is a great place to start.
Until next time, Namaste.