We Attract What We Know: More Insights About My Mother

March 11, 2012 11:31pm

The other night I had a kind of epiphany about why I, and so many other women, attracted Narcissists for far too long. I’m reminded of that old saying, “when you grow up with an alcoholic father, you attract that in a mate and put up with it.” Women who attract alcoholics will usually do so over and over again.

The same holds true for those who had a N for a mother, or father or both. It’s what we knew and what we know. We must unlearn it. That’s no easy feat. It happens in stages, and we fall back and fall down many times. It’s like the Wheel of Fortune (the archetype, not the TV game show). An upward spiral with all its upswings and downturns, but continual progress.

Many times it’s difficult to perceive our progress because we’re in too much pain or anger and despair. By the same token, many times we are aware of the progress we’ve made after a particularly unexpected quantum leap in our consciousness and circumstances.

So the epiphany I had was about the incidents when my mother took me aside and told me that I was too bossy with my friends and that I shouldn’t be like that. I was about 9 or 10 years old at the time. Now what child is NOT bossy at some point in their various stages of childhood development?! And my mother was the Queen of Bossy! She was one of the bossiest, most controlling people I ever knew. Oh, but that was OK because it was HER being bossy! That was acceptable. People better get with the program and accept it!

Interestingly, my mother’s scapegoating of me started around the time I was 9 or 10.

I learned that “bossy” was bad. Especially, being assertive in a healthy way was bad. Simply unacceptable. So I stopped doing it. I started letting my friends walk all over me and take advantage of me. I never protested. I just sat and took it.

And there the lifelong pattern began. Tolerating controlling selfish people and getting mom’s approval as the “reward.” She derived a lot of narcissistic supply from watching me suffer. Narcissists really are addicted to the harm they directly or indirectly cause others — doesn’t matter if it’s their own flesh and blood.

My mother just couldn’t allow me to find my voice and become actualized. That would have been too threatening, too inconvenient. Easier to just keep the kid/teenager/young adult/full adult under her thumb.

What a load of horse pucky! my dad always used to say. (He doesn’t say it much anymore, interestingly enough, now that he is truly very happily married.)

5 thoughts on “We Attract What We Know: More Insights About My Mother

  1. Well, that certainly describes my mother. The second I tried to assert myself, gain confidence or had an opinion different than hers it was immediately crushed. By breaking me, she could keep me under her control. I had no self-esteem, no confidence, and lost all initiative. Much easier to control someone like this. If only I would have understood this sooner, but didn’t have the confidence to believe my perceptions. She made sure of that.

    • Thanks for explaining the dynamic so clearly! It helped me realize even more that that’s what happened to me and so many of us… too many! Initiative has been a problem for me, not the beginnings but sustaining initiative. It’s something I work on constantly in a few ways. Often there is such an overwhelming urge to give up, and we must fight that with everything we’ve got and use whatever tools we have to conquer it. Thanks again.

  2. I connected the dots on my parents’ (but maybe more my mother’s) control issues recently, too. The control started quite a bit younger, however, I would say about age four, and was ever present as I matured. My mother also worked with children for almost thirty-five years, as an elementary school teacher (a friend remarked recently that teachers, by nature, are usually very controlling!). My maternal grandmother, even at almost one hundred years of age, is also a very controlling person.

    I don’t believe my mother is a true narcissist, but I think it is likely that my grandmother is, and that my mother’s controlling nature and lack of self-esteem (and projection of her insecurities onto me, her eldest daughter) stems from her own upbringing. My father is quite the alpha-male type, so in a way I can see why my parents got together; though my father is not as controlling as my mother is, he does have a presence that in some ways parallels my grandmother’s domineering nature.

    I definitely have chosen mates like my mother; I used to think they were more like my father, but when I realize how my relationshits devolved and looked at how the people I was with turned out to be in reality (versus their early impressions), they treated me with the same disdain, criticism, and judgements that my mother did. My mother does not show that caustic side of herself to me much anymore, but occasionally my father lets comments out of the bag that suggest he is the main target of her toxicity these days. From about age fourteen I could not wait to move out of their house; it has taken nearly twenty-five years to wrap my brain around why.

    Thanks so much for this post; it is incredibly comforting to know that while I thought I was alone, maybe even a bit of a freak, that there were other people out there dealing with demeaning and crazy-making mothers and lovers.

    • Thanks for sharing part of your story. It is truly wonderful that so many of us have found support online, and I hope that many more with our circumstances and experiences will continue to do the same!

  3. As a young kid, I did various chores for older people in the neighborhood who would give me change. My mother had begun very early telling my little friends that I wasn’t a good friend. They would take me out for ice cream, intending on having me pay. The first time I balked. They told my mother on me. She told me I was selfish and then she let her husband deal with me (which was violent). So…when my “friends” came to take me out for ice cream, I paid. Without complaint. Although I was angry. I also have a number of food allergies so I couldn’t share in an ice cream. I got to watch them eat my money up. And…when I tried to enter their conversations, I was told to shut up. I was just there to buy them…and this has been my entire adult relationships as well. People come to me for help. I’m just waiting. Just waiting for their request. Sometimes I come close to saying…”how can I help you?”

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