Dear Therapist, I’m having trouble accepting that my mother is a narcissist. It has been pointed out to my a counselor before. Every time I have a conflict with her I see the traits more and more, but always still try to get emotional support from her. Throughout adulthood even and going through getting married I think she will change and be there for me and treat me like a daughter. That didn’t happen. Now I am pregnant and feeling sad and angry because she doesn’t offer to be there for me unless I come to her and she makes her problems worse and worse and her health issue a central point in her life. She says I’m not being there for her when I don’t want to baby her about her issues, but honestly I spent most of my life worrying about and tending to my mom’s feelings and health. Sometimes I think she exaggerates health issues to be the center of attention. Last month she had me convinced that she had osteoporosis, then when I felt something was fishy about it this month and asked her a bunch of questions she said “oh no it’s just osteoarthritis.” I know in the mind my mom will never really approve of me or respect me or be there for me, but my heart wont accept it. I still try time after time to be close to her and end up infuriated, super sad or crazed. Also my husband has deal with our weekly fights. How can I learn to accept that she has a mental illness?
You believe that she’s a narcissist and that may or may not be true. Her diagnosis, if available, would be somewhat irrelevant because it wouldn’t change how you should be interacting with or responding to her. Your saying that your heart won’t let you accept it is the same as saying that you are refusing to believe in reality.
Abraham Maslow, who studied the characteristics of psychologically healthy people, noticed that they accept reality for what it is, not how they wish it would be, hope it would be or fear it would be. You simply have to accept her for who she is. That is the mindset that would help you the most when dealing with your mother and the world in general. People are who they are. What is most helpful is learning new ways of responding to them.
You want her support, and she can’t or won’t give it to you. You want your mother to be different, but that is not going to happen. The sooner you can accept the truth, the less frustration and disappointment you will feel.
If you need emotional support, then you are likely going to have to look elsewhere; to other friends, family, your husband, or your counselor. Try working with your counselor to adjust your expectations of your mother and learning more appropriate and less frustrating ways of interacting with her. The latter might include spending less time with her. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle