The narcissist (or not)

Can someone have a habit of gaslighting you without being a narcissist? I actually think this might be possible—but it doesn’t make it any better or less damaging that they’re not doing it on purpose.

I read this article about unintentional gaslighting and I think it’s what my mom does to me. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt that it’s unintentional but I really don’t think that matters anyway. As the article says, unintentional gaslighting is still gaslighting, and it’s still really damaging to be on the receiving end of it.

My mom has this long history of denying that she has ever said certain things. And the thing is that I think she really believes that she hasn’t done anything. I used to believe her and thought my perceptions just couldn’t be trusted.

It messed me up for literal decades of my life until I realized that parents didn’t have to interact with their children that way. I unfortunately think I may have done it myself when the kids were younger.

Only Amy is old enough to remember it and I have tried really hard for at least the last 15 years not to do so. And I’ve apologized to her and she knows that I’ve been on a long journey to get better and have healthier communication patterns.

But the fact remains that I still don’t know what to do about my mom. I can’t talk to her about this at all because she’s firmly stuck in denial mode.

I’m sure it’s a trauma response on her part, which gives me some empathy toward her.

At the same time, I wonder how much I should let my empathy excuse being mistreated. Sooner or later, it seems like people should have to take responsibility for themselves. But of course, that never happens and I am pretty resigned to the fact that it’s not gonna.

If she seemed to like me and be interested in me, it might be a different matter. But she’s never seemed interested in me (or my kids, for that matter.) The only one she’s interested in is J and she’s made a lot of comments that suggest the rest of us don’t deserve him.

Yes, we did get very, very lucky to have him, no doubt. But I also believe that the kids and I DO deserve him. We are good enough people to merit having an loving and attentive husband and father.

I get it that J’s exceptional and he deserves lots of props for that. But I don’t really believe anymore that the kids and I just got really lucky. I mean, we did, but there’s always this impression given off that we’re not good enough ourselves to deserve him treating us so well. She doesn’t seem to acknowledge that as a family we all take care of each other. He’s not the only one of us who’s a good person. We all are.

To be honest, I sometimes still feel torn about whether or not I should just end contact with my mom altogether. The reason that I don’t is…well, I don’t really know the answer to that. I guess because I know I’m going to lose my husband and don’t want to lose anyone else, too.

And I guess it’s because I give her the credit of not really knowing what she’s doing and knowing that she has a lot of trauma of her own that she’s still refusing to confront. I’m too empathetic for my own damn good.

I just wish she hadn’t spent a whole lifetime convincing herself that she was broken and trying to pass on the same brokenness to me. I wish she seemed to genuinely like me and wanted to get to know me and my kids.

My kids know she’s not a normal grandma. They have friends with healthy grandparent relationships and know what it should look like.

I feel like we’re all missing out because she won’t get help.

1 Comment

  1. You know in my culture there’s stigma about getting therapy and a rather widespread unhealthy “parents are gods and can do no wrong. Or if they did, you still must absolve them” message. That’s why my parents won’t seek help. My dad is in his 70s now, mum 60s. Guess what C and I tell our attendees in our abuse survivor group?

    “They could have chosen to not have children if they didn’t want to learn to do better.”

    ….and so … say one can argue they didn’t know any better because they grew up abused and there wasn’t therapy back then after WW2… well that’s not true. Plenty of parents in their generation with similar or less education did do better. They remembered their suffering and wanted their children to have it better. They didn’t think to themselves “well I suffered and I want my kids to suffer too”.

    Liked by 1 person

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