Narcissistic Mothers and Flying Monkeys
I’m 53 years old and have had to play the game all of us must play when you have a narcissistic parent. As its all you have ever known, it is normal to you. But gradually as you get older you realise how crazy it is, and you get more tired of playing the games. Once you have realised what it is, have given it a name — NARCISSIST — researched and double checked the diagnosis and read about outcomes, you really don't want to be playing that game for the rest of your life. Because it isn't ever going to change. Any hope I had that she might change as she got older, be less vitriolic, learn some manners, stop shit-stirring as her hobby, stop manipulating, its all gone once I knew what I was dealing with.
So last year when I moved house and rang her to give her my new address and landline, and her partner told me she didn't want to speak to me, I had upset her (I had jokingly said something to my sister and she had thrown me under the bus, again, by reporting it to mother) and not to get in contact until she contacts me. a light went on in my head and I thought “great! this is my opportunity to escape at last!”
I suppose I had better explain what I said to my sister in case readers think I might have over-stepped the mark. My sister had rung me, and not seeing mother at the time herself she asked me if I had and how is she? I said she is OK, but very upset because her hair is falling out. Then I laughed and said “of course its all our fault! She is blaming us as usual!” and laughed at the shared joke. My sister laughed too actually, she knows the score.
But then, because she is who she is, she went and told mother that I had said it was funny that her hair was falling out. Thanks. Of course she didn't say she had laughed too, she took it right out of context.
So, here was my opportunity to escape, and have been given permission, in fact ordered to leave her alone! I had got married fairly recently and father had died, and that had altered the family dynamic somewhat. So a new beginning away from the dysfunctional family and start my new life with my husband, without family drama every few months. What could possibly go wrong?
Near where I had moved to is a place we used to live, back before my parents divorced when I was seven. Mother still had one old “friend” who lives in that town, though they hadn't been in contact for a decade. This woman, I will call her Sandra, approached me on Facebook and as she wasn't in contact with mother I allowed it. We met up, had coffee, I explained to her why I am not in contact with mother, she said her mother was a nightmare too, but now dead, so she completely understood, and remembers how awful our childhood was and how mothers behaviour had such a negative impact on us as kids.
But she was friends with mothers partner on FB and soon mother also friended her on FB and of course then mother can see our exchanges. This made me uncomfortable. Sandra warned me about it and we met for coffee and I told her I was going to change my FB settings to block mother and her partner. Too late. I had a friend request from mother. I hit ignore and changed the settings to block. This makes you invisible on FB to the people you block.
Now bear in mind that I have always ported my mobile phone number to any new phone I have. So have had the same mobile phone number since 2001, which mother has. So if she wants to, she can contact me directly anytime. She has the number. But that might require her to have some grace and humility. Qualities she has no supply of. And also, its not much of a game if you are frank and direct, is it?
This situation swanned along for around three months until Sandra announces on FB that mother and her partner are going to visit her, Sandra doesn't drive. I didn't notice it as I don't follow every post that friends write on FB. And clearly as I hadn't noticed it, Sandra rang me to tell me but assured me she would not disclose anything about what I am doing or where I live. She understands, she knows what mother is like, she respects my privacy. Blah blah blah.
I resisted saying to her “don't you think its a bit odd that after a decade of not even ringing you, she wants to come and visit you now? Now you are clearly in touch with me?”
One month later and I have just discovered that mother has asked Sandra to join them for Xmas. Mother is lonely, neither of her daughters see her, her grandchildren don't bother with her (because we are all completely sick of her toxic games) so she needs a bit of ego massage this Xmas. And being as Sandra is likely to be on her own this Xmas, she has accepted!
All this could be put down to ignorance if it weren't for the fact that Sandra told me about the work of Peg Streep*, and how she has a FB page of her work, her writing, about toxic mothering, narcissists and how it damages the children, especially and particularly the mother/daughter relationship. And we are both followers of Pegs writings and have both put comments and personal experiences of our bumps and bruises on Pegs page.
Last night I had quite a long chat with Sandra, feeling like I was drowning. What to do? She is lonely too, one of her kids lives in Australia, the other quite local but facing another Xmas alone.
I told her she could come here. I warned her that staying at mothers at Xmas, when you don't drive and don't have an escape route, well rather her than I. She thought it would be nicer to come here and accepted. Then I felt manipulated, like I had been driven into a corner. I want to have Xmas this year in my new beach chalet I have bought, its miles away! Its tiny and no spare bed, and she doesn't drive so will have to be transported. Give me strength!
In the end I told her perhaps she should go and have Xmas with mother. I hope they all have a jolly time. And unfriended her on FB.
At the moment I feel like a cowering child, wondering where the next blow will come from. It was bound to heat up with Xmas coming. I’ve tried to shut that conduit down. Luckily my beach chalet is south,
and mother lives north.
Wish me luck folks.
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Flying Monkeys is the term used in psychology for the individuals that narcissists engage and manipulate into trying to cajole or drive the victim back to the narcissists game board or field of influence. It derives from the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_monkeys_(psychology)
especially Mean Mothers: Overcoming the Legacy of Hurt (William Morrow, 2009).