Respond with kindness, but not with blindness, or the sort of “kindness” that is mistaken for weakness, is key.
Defend yourself, without attacking your narcissistic mother. Make sure in the responses that you are firm, yet not invalidating, of your narcissistic mother. Don’t blame and shame. Make statements that bring clarity, and establish appropriate boundaries.
Narcissistic mothers are unable to see their children as separate, unique individuals, with their own set of needs. Instead, they regard their children as extensions of themselves.
As an example, narcissistic mothers may feel the need to project a certain image to others with whom they interact. Perhaps they want others to see them as strong and always in control of their emotions. Let’s say your narcissistic mother invites guests over. You are observed crying in the presence of her friends, and so she pulls you aside and reprimands or scolds you. Maybe she does so openly, adding humiliation and insult to injury. Maybe she has enough self-discipline to wait until her guests leave to rake you over the coals.
In any case, you are left feeling powerless and alone, along with a sense that no matter how you respond, she will not change, and you will be left feeling invalidated and possibly worthless.
An appropriate response could be, “Mother, I do not believe, as you seem to believe, that I have to be strong at all times and never express vulnerability. I feel ashamed and invalidated when you berate me for simply being human. How would you feel if you were treated in such a way? Please refrain from attacking me for being vulnerable in the future.”
You might say, “Easier said than done. You don’t know my mother.” There is nothing easy about knowing how to respond to narcissistic mothers.
Even after fully educating yourself on the subject matter of narcissistic mothers; getting to know yourself better; and experimenting with different ways of responding, you may feel at a loss.
It’s a long arduous journey. Don’t go at it alone. Continuously reach out to friends, and professionals, if that’s what it takes. Narcissistic mothering must end. You can begin to break the generational cycle, but, admittedly, it may be the mother of all challenges.