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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

When Your Mother is a Narcissist

Be the subject of your own life, not the object of someone else’s.

aloneOnly children of narcissists know the insidiousness of growing up with the crazy emotional mind games and conditioning they were raised with.  Children of narcissists do not realize that they are being abused and conditioned in dysfunctional ways, until years into their adulthood and often years after entering therapy.  Because a child’s vantage point is so limited, he has no idea that his upbringing is not “normal” and may even be harmful.  Even if a child does realize that something is just not right with Mom, he still doesn’t understand how it has affected him or what to do about it.

Following are a list of the types of abuse experienced by those being raised with a narcissistic mother:

  • She gives silent treatments when angry.  This causes her children to feel guilty, responsible, and invisible.
  • She flies into a rage over what appear to be innocuous events, causing her children to feel like they are navigating landmines.
  • While getting angry over minutia, she often under-reacts over other things of monumental importance in her children’s lives, or by things that other parents would find very upsetting.  Her priorities make no common sense.
  • She is more concerned with what strangers think about her than what her children think or how they feel.
  • She controls the entire family, including Dad, by her outlandish and unpredictable behaviors.
  • Her children serve as actors in her screenplay; as subjects in her kingdom; as roles in her script; they are not valued for their individuality or uniqueness.
  • Only one person’s emotions matter in the household – Mom’s.
  • Only one person is allowed to express her emotions in the family – Mom.
  • She is emotionally abusive, resulting in children struggling with self-loathing, confusion, and chronic anxiety.
  • She creates cognitive dissonance in her children, which results in an inability to trust one’s own reality.
  • She constantly implies to her children that they have somehow done something terrible to cause her to feel unhappy.
  • Some narcissistic mothers pit siblings against each other, eroding one of life’s most important relationships – the one between siblings.

Children growing up in homes with narcissistic mothers learn to dissociate emotionally and try as they might to detach.  They become emotionally disengaged and learn to intellectualize their problems.  They have a type of attachment-trauma because their mother is incapable of providing healthy “attunement,” which psychologists have found is necessary for emotional health.

It is hard for children of narcissists to realize that they have been abandoned because in their minds they have had “too much” of their mother.  While it may be true that they had too much of something from their mother, it wasn’t enough of emotional nurturing, connecting, valuing, empathizing with, or role modeling that was needed.

Children of narcissists have been emotionally abandoned and neglected in important developmental ways. They grow up mainly feeling bad about themselves because they have been conditioned to believe they are internally flawed.  This is the result of their mother’s brainwashing and conditioning, which was effective in manipulating their little forming self-identities.  And since children really haven’t developed sufficient analytical capabilities nor have they had other families to grow up in to use as a standard, they don’t realize the impact of what they’ve been through.  They are stuck figuring things out themselves, and the conclusion they come up with is that it is somehow their fault.

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When Your Mother is a Narcissist

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


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APA Reference
Stines, S. (2017). When Your Mother is a Narcissist. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 25, 2020, from