The child of an emotionally unavailable mother with narcissistic traits feels the pressure to achieve success and attention, that is the way she has to earn her mother’s love.
The daughter of a controlling mother, on the other hand, is constantly pushed to do what the mother wants and molded to the mother’s will. The controlled daughter has no room to act, think, feel and be herself.
The combative mother teaches her child to arm herself defensively, to avoid confrontation at all costs and to stay out of the limelight. This is the opposite strategy of the emotionally unavailable mother.
All of these mothers do not love in a healthy way. Their daughters develop inappropriate coping behaviors, have different emotional responses, and are hurt in specific ways.
Commonalities of Controlling and Narcissistic Mothers
Narcissistic and controlling mothers see their children as extensions of themselves, not as independent people who should develop their own personalities. The degree to which they are supported, cared for – I am purposely not using the verb love here – depends entirely on how good they are at meeting their mothers’ expectations.
These mothers project their own needs onto their daughters and do not realize that their daughters have needs of their own. Both narcissistic and controlling mothers appear, at least outwardly, to be very competent, and very self-confident, although in reality most of both types are actually insecure and afraid of being “unmasked” or being seen to be lacking. They tend to be perfectionists about absolutely everything, including their daughters.
Differences Between Controlling and Narcissistic Mothers
While the two may seem the same and even interchangeable – narcissistic mothers may be controlling and controlling mothers may be narcissistic – they have different motivations, as well as different ways of justifying their behaviors.
The treatment of a child by a Narcissistic Mother is motivated by the mother’s need to be the center of attention at all times. The way she treats her children is not thought through at all and the truth is that she is not aware of what motivates her behavior. She sees her children as either a perfect reflection of herself or the opposite of herself, with no middle ground or gray areas. Her children will either please her or they will not, and in the latter case, that child will become the scapegoat of their mother and, by extension, of the whole family. This mother uses a lot of games and manipulation to keep all eyes on her. That is her goal
The Controlling Mother is also concerned with appearances, just like the narcissist, but the controlling mother is driven by her own fears and insecurities, so she leaves nothing to chance. She needs to be needed, flattered and valued and does not trust the whims of fate or chance when it comes to raising her children. The controlling mother believes that without her intervention, her children would fail at everything. She is motivated by fear, but masks her control as strength. She is authoritarian, it’s a 24/7 “either we do it my way or nothing” – but she really believes it’s necessary. The message she communicates to her children stresses the fact that without her help, the son would not know how to get ahead on his own.
What the Daughters of Narcissistic and Controlling Mothers have in common
- Problems in Managing FeelingsThis, along with a lack of emotional intelligence, is typical of daughters whose emotional needs were not met in childhood, regardless of maternal style. Girls learn how to manage their emotions and feelings through their interactions with an adult connected to their emotions, usually their mother.As explained in attachment theory, when this process does not take place in infancy, children:
- either they disregard their feelings to avoid stress, they have a partner but are not really sincere and do not show their vulnerability (known as avoidant attachment)
- or they sometimes feel connected to their partners and sometimes reject them for fear of being rejected themselves (disorganized attachment)
- or they feel overwhelmed by their own emotions and become very demanding towards their partners to the point of self-sabotage of the relationship in an idealized search for perfect fusion with the other (anxious attachment). (anxious attachment)
- Inability to see themselves clearly since both types of mothering styles are externally focused – the daughter is defined by what she does, not who she is – it is easy for the daughter to lose track of her own thoughts, feelings, needs, desires and ambitions. Many of these daughters reach adulthood knowing very little about themselves, confusing what their mothers want from them with who they really are.
- A Distorted Notion of LoveThese mothers teach their children that love always comes with a quid pro quo or is conditional, and that idea can damage their child for a lifetime. They are likely to be attracted to people who treat them in a way that reminds them of their mother – we are all attracted to the familiar, even when it makes us unhappy – and to call the same thing they did to them in childhood “love.”
The Impact of the Narcissistic Mother
Since this mother is an experienced player and a manipulator who strives to always be the center of attention, the effect she has on her daughter depends on that child’s acquiescence. A “golden boy” daughter conforms to the mother’s “program,” losing track of who she is herself while doing so. This daughter is more than likely to exhibit narcissistic traits herself. A daughter to whom the narcissistic mother assigns the role of “scapegoat” does not submit to the mother’s will because, although often unconsciously, she recognizes the toxicity of the dynamics. She does not bend to the dictatorship of the narcissistic mother but ends up paying for it by suffering more abusive treatment than her sister(s)/sister(s).
- Habit of Self-criticism and Self-questioning The abuse to which the child of a narcissistic mother is subjected, either by gaslighting or by constant harping on what he/she does wrong, leaves after-effects. Even if he is very successful in life, he still carries a lot of self-doubt. The one who was assigned the role of the scapegoat, no matter what he/she achieves, until he/she starts therapy to heal, will feel that he/she is a failure.
- Normalization of Narcissistic BehaviorAllgirls believe that what happens in their families, since they have no other referent to compare it to, is what happens in all families. They believe that what happens in their homes is “normal”. The daughter of a narcissistic mother will grow up thinking that being looked down upon or not valued or having to go through all sorts of maneuvers to get a little attention is simply how the world works. She will have a tendency to join narcissistic friends and partners with whom the dynamics are similar to those of her childhood.
- Problems with Intimacy and ConnectionAlthough the daughter may want to have close connections, her lack of ability to manage her fears and insecurities and her attraction to people who treat her as her mother does (or did) makes this intimate connection difficult to achieve.
The Impact of the Controlling Mother
Children of a controlling mother have the perfect formula for feeling inadequate with a message that is not direct but screams “You are nothing without me.”
You are nothing without me
Growing up this way creates a number of problems (that can be dealt with):
- Confusing Control with ForceBeing under the magnifying glass of someone who always wants you to do things a certain way causes children of controlling mothers to become controlling and hypervigilant themselves, thinking that “if I have everything under control, everything will be fine” when in reality this is just an illusion that does not correspond to reality. Furthermore, this child will feel more comfortable with people who are bossy, who tell him what to do, even if this results in him being unhappy and his needs and thoughts being ignored.If I have everything under control, everything will be fine
- Lack of ResilienceThehabit of self-criticism is so deep and ingrained that many daughters of controlling mothers avoid failure at all costs. We all suffer setbacks and make mistakes in life, but daughters of controlling mothers see these particular moments as revealing that she is flawed and worthless. She has a hard time recovering from moments like these because she believes they are the ones that deeply define her as a person. Aiming low is often a pattern of life. “Don’t aim high and you won’t be disappointed. “Don’t aim high and you won’t be disappointed
- Trapped by InactionA controlling mother denies her child space to make her own choices and to trust her instincts and thoughts. This causes these children to be fearful as adults and they often feel unable to act on their own behalf and end up doing what someone else thinks they should do. This makes them much more likely to stay in situations – both in their work and personal lives – that make them deeply unhappy.