Dealing with a narcissistic mother during the holidays or birthdays, or any family event is never a good time. It’s always difficult and stressful.
I didn’t understand all this cheer and wonderful time of the year crap or why people would continue to do this to themselves year after year with no end in sight.
The holidays were just more work and no thanks for it.
In a narcissistic family, holidays are like going into battle.
The problem with holidays and special occasions is they keep you on your toes trying to meet these obligations and prove your love. If you fail to live up to these manufactured expectations, then you’re considered less than and not as good as other people.
If you have siblings, you always feel like it’s a competition, but nobody knows what they’re fighting for, and there’s no prize. Everyone is miserable, and nobody knows why or how to make it stop. Everyone’s anxiety is through the roof. Nothing you do is good enough or fast enough, and you’re so busy trying to get through the day there’s no chance you get any joy out of it at all.
You hear all the fairytales of how wonderful the holidays are, but I have yet to experience any of that magic.
Dealing with a narcissistic mother during the holidays is exhausting.
This is not how it’s supposed to be. Instead of being a relaxed and fun time, you’re being insulted, snubbed, dismissed, glared at, yelled at, and I could go on. Then you feel weird and uncomfortable because of how strangely your mother is acting; she’s a completely different person when other people are around.
The holidays are a perfect way for a narcissistic mother to pit everyone against you. Suddenly, you’re being attacked by flying monkeys out of nowhere, and you know she’s the one that sent them because everyone will start parroting exactly what they were told to say and think.
These happy holidays are not happy as a child or as an adult.
There’re seven paid holidays, and in my family, you were required to show up for every single one:
- New Year’s Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Memorial Day
You’re obligated to be at each and every one of these without fail, and a narcissistic parent will use every single one of these days to suck the life-force out of your body.
Be prepared for any and all forms of manipulation.
I would come away from these events like I’d been hit by a bus, but trying to back out of one of these events was even worse. There’s no forgiveness from her, and your mistakes are always used against you for as long as she can remember them.
There was no way out, and the crazy didn’t stop, no matter what I did.
- The Never-Ending Guilt Trip– If you miss an occasion, it will be held against you for as long as they can remember it.
- The Outright Temper Tantrums– “I do all of this for you, and now you’re not even going to be here for me.”
- The Alienation– “Oh, well, we didn’t think you were going to be here this year since you weren’t last year, so we didn’t plan for you.”
- The Accidental Exclusion– Repeatedly failing to give a time or date, and when you ask, they throw a huge fit about how you were told and that this had been planned for months. When, in fact, it was never mentioned to you even once.
- The Cancelation Threat– “I can’t possibly do this on my own, so we’ll cancel our celebrations.” The idea is to punish not just you but to punish the entire family, who will then also blame you for “ruining everything.”
The list goes on, but I think you get my point.
Every new holiday season, you have high hopes of family and fun.
Do you ever feel super positive and ready to make the best of it, but you instantly go into survival mode?
You’re expected to fake it and “be reasonable” even though you were attacked as soon as you walked in the door. A narcissist doesn’t want you actually to be happy, oh no. Narcissists are funny like that. They want you to be miserable, but at the same time, they also want you to pretend to be happy. Talk about conflicting beliefs.
A narcissist has no interest in making people happy, but they like to appear happy to others in the outside world. They are so miserable inside that they can’t stand to see anyone feeling better than them, so they work overtime to bring each family member down to their level.
For a “normal person,” this is a monumental task; the effort and the drive to destroy another human being is no small feat. It takes massive amounts of energy. There wasn’t a holiday that went by; my mother didn’t throw some embarrassing temper tantrum in front of everyone.
After I married, I caught her screaming demands at my husband and my sister’s husband. She also has her own new husband, so I don’t know why she felt the need to go after my husband, whom she barely knew. He was a guest. We drove four hours one way for these visits, and when she attacked my husband, it was the beginning of the end for me.
A narcissistic mother doesn’t just cross a line; she bulldozes it on a regular basis. If you’re not ready to go no contact and leave them to fight among themselves, then here are a few things you can try.
Dealing with a narcissistic mother when you don’t have a choice.
This is a list of highly manipulative tactics you can use. You won’t like many of them, and the other ones will make you uncomfortable, but these can work if you do it right. I’ve tried them all, and although they won’t make you feel any less miserable, at least you have something to do.
- Be agreeable. Agree with everything, no matter what it is or how ridiculous it seems.
- Never show your cards because everything you think and feel is wrong, and you’ll be publicly humiliated in front of everyone if she gets the chance.
- Give compliments as often as possible. When I compliment her, she says nothing and completely leaves me alone. If someone throws a dig at you and you return with a compliment, it confuses them. Then if anyone’s around, she can’t be a jerk without making herself look bad.
- People love two things: talking about themselves and being told they are right. Please don’t take the bait when she insults you; she’s trying to get a reaction out of you, and when you react, you give her what she wants. Try to say something funny or give another compliment. A good phrase that always gets you off the hook is, “you might be right.”
- Use one-word responses like interesting or okay. Don’t elaborate or try to defend yourself; the idea is to create the illusion she has the upper hand. Become uninteresting like a cold grey rock (Grey Rock Method).
- Limit your time- You’ll have to become too busy and think up an excuse ahead of time. This is self-care, self-love, and self-preservation. She’s the toxic one, and that’s not on you. You can fulfill your obligation to show up and then leave. She might get upset, but she’s going to find something to be upset about anyway. You being there longer doesn’t affect the outcome.
- If she starts yelling at you over the phone, here’s a psychological trick- stop talking, don’t say anything, or make any sounds like “hmm” or “huh.” Respond when spoken to, but don’t give her any subconscious feedback to encourage her. Most people notice somethings up, and it throws them off, and then they change their tone.
There is nothing you can do to change the behavior of a narcissist during these events.
The only thing you can change is how you deal with it. You’re not a defenseless child, and you’re aware of what’s going on now, so it’s not like you’re going in blind.
These suggestions will only help buffer the attacks. None of these suggestions will work for long, but they can help get you through the day if you have no other choice.
Dr. Ramani talks about dealing with a narcissistic mother. She is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in narcissism; check out more of her videos on YouTube. It’s some of the best information on narcissism I’ve seen.
Dealing with a narcissistic mother during the holidays is not the same for us.
Can you even imagine enjoying the holidays?
You should know you’re allowed to make your own rules regarding spending time with your narcissistic family. You’re allowed to limit your time and protect yourself from any more harm.
I stopped trying to meet everyone’s expectations and started doing what I wanted on the holidays. I’m so grateful I was able to create new memories of real and good times. I never once enjoyed a single holiday or vacation with my family. I don’t why my siblings keep doing it when I know it makes them miserable too.
My wish is that you will find a way to have happy holidays outside of your family obligations because you deserve better than this, and you deserve more than this.
It’s tough trying to recover from this and straighten it out on your own. That’s the hard way.
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Post like this and narcissistic support groups are no substitute for therapy.