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Let’s talk first stage of recovery. Before we can get anywhere with recovery stages we have to deal with acceptance. To realize that your own mother may not be capable of real love or empathy is shocking. If you ever allowed yourself to think this before, you might have been unwilling to accept it. Mothers are supposed to be the most reliable source of love, comfort, and empathy, and if your mother did not provide that for you, you most likely denied your feelings about it. Daughters often blame themselves for their mother’s inability to love them. A client of mine puts it like this, “ If my own mother can’t love me, who can?” Accepting mother’s limitations is difficult for all daughters.
Think of it like this: A teacher trying to teach a three-year-old to read at college level might feel disappointment, anger, even shame at his failure to accomplish this goal, until he realizes of course, that the student is not really capable of the task. Most narcissists lack the capacity to give significant, authentic love and empathy and you have no choice but to deal with this reality. Acceptance that your own mother has this limited capacity is the first step in recovery. We have to let go of the expectation that it will ever be different.
Most daughters I have known and treated have gone through long periods in their lives not understanding this, always wishing and hoping that the next encounter with their mother will be different. This sets up not only unrealistic expectations for the daughter, but encourages her to keep going back to try again, for which the reward is additional sadness, disappointment, pain, anger, and exasperation. After all, we are talking about your mother- the person who was the center of your world and whom you loved and needed more than anyone else. I want to acknowledge again how difficult this is to do, but you must do it so you can move on toward your own recovery. Don’t let those who do not understand, those who do have loving mothers, tell you that you need to “get over it already.” It does not work this way. We are only able to move on after acceptance and grief, and many do not understand this.
We must also remember that narcissism is a spectrum disorder so there are some moms who are more capable of learning and recovering if they are motivated to do so, but if mom has a full blown narcissistic personality disorder, she will not likely be going to therapy with you to resolve your childhood issues.
Acceptance comes before all else in the recovery model. Other daughters have described it like this: “ It is like she has the bike, but she doesn’t know how to ride it.” Or “ She knows there is a rainbow and talks about it, but she is colorblind and can’t really see it.”
Worst of all, she may not see you. In the film, The Other Sister, the developmentally delayed daughter says to the narcissistic mother, “ Mom, you don’t look at me, you don’t see me, not the real me. I don’t want to play tennis or chess, or be an artist. I want to be me. I can’t do those things, but I can love,” What a powerful message.
Although, I will discuss more in later posts, I want to say that forgiveness and compassion is more likely and obtainable when we truly understand what we are dealing with. I remind you that I am not about disliking or hating our mothers. My passion is helping daughters understand and heal so that forgiveness and kindness is more available in the mother-daughter connection.
We will continue to discuss recovery here, on the book website and radio. Come join us in this important discussion. 2010 is the year for recovery! Being Good Enough Rocks! You are worth it.