The Story of a Narcissistic, and Christian, Mother
by Michael Christian
I thought my family life was normal.
Loftier, I was under the impression that my mother had cornered the market on child rearing. After all, I valued and admired my mother. I would fight for her honor, I went out of my way ease her burdens, and I lamented over any act I did that might cause her worry. Foremost in my mind was my desire to make my mother proud. Likewise, my siblings showed much the same respect and appreciation for her. If she could raise four kids with that kind of reverence, she must have known what she was doing! Not to mention that since my parents’ divorce, when I was nine, she was raising four children on her own.
God was always at the center of our upbringing. We were regulars in Sunday school, morning worship, and the evening service. She would even have four kids in tow at prayer meetings on Wednesday nights! Admirable. The pastor and congregation saw her as a strong Christian woman, prayerfully fighting for the souls of her children.
That was probably around 1980. Fast forward to around the year 2000… Two of the children are alcoholics, with multiple DUI’s (one of those children was me). Two of the children were married; both are now divorced (again, one was me). One of the children is now on depression medication, and one has died in an alcohol related incident.
What went wrong?
It wasn’t until my second marriage that I could answer that. My first marriage was a mistake. I had gotten a girl pregnant (or so I thought! But that’s for another story…), and in an attempt to diminish my mother’s shame, married. It did not work out.
Years later, I married my wife. This was the first woman that I had ever truly loved. I was still drinking at the time, but had done a good job of hiding from her just how serious my problem was. Yet even after she realized it, she remained, and helped me to overcome my alcoholism. That should make any mother happy, right? You would think so.
Problems soon started to arise when mother was no longer the center of my affection. My wife became an unspoken enemy and, in true narcissistic fashion, my mother declared a secret war. She began going behind our backs turning our family and friends against us, all the while keeping her façade of living the perfect Christian life.
A narcissist never thinks they are wrong, a Christian narcissist will convince you that to go against their will is to defy GOD himself.
Down in my heart, I knew that something was amiss within my family. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew that some kind of generational curse was affecting us all. Alcoholism, drug abuse, and mental illness seemed to plague my siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles…and myself. I voiced this to my mother once. Though I didn’t use any names, I opined of all that I felt was wrong with our family. She became irate, and began speaking in tongues! Once her tirade was over, she even gave me the interpretation. To paraphrase; the interpretation was that I had become haughty, and had begun to feel superior to my family. Essentially, I had gotten too big for my britches, and God needed to let me know about it. (I knew that this couldn’t be coming from God. I was considering myself as one of the examples of what was wrong!) This took me back to my childhood. Usually, my mother could guilt my siblings and I into doing what she wanted. That was her weapon of choice. However, if the guilt trip failed, she would unravel and begin speaking in tongues. To a kid, this was terrifying! We thought that we had gone so far as to anger God!
At her wits end, my wife eventually confided in a friend at work about some of the goings on with my mother. The friend also happened to be a counselor, who was familiar with personality disorders. It was she that first said my mother’s behavior sounded like narcissism. I began to read everything I could get my hands on regarding this subject. The scary thing is that the more I read, the more I could see myself in what I was learning! Not only did I discover that my mother was a full blown narcissist, but I could now see that I, too, was mimicking her behavior in my relationships with my wife and kids. Some studies have shown that narcissism can have an environmental, and even genetic component (1). Often, where you discover a narcissist there will be an entire family with the tendencies. I felt that I had unveiled the generational curse.
I broke. No, seriously…I broke! When I started learning about the disorder, I began hiding what I was reading, and deleting my search history from my laptop. I didn’t want my wife to know what I was. Then one night, after we got our kids in the bed, I confessed it all to her. I think what I experienced that night was a psychological breakthrough. I could not control my emotions. All I could do was weep loudly and wail, “I’m so sorry!” I don’t know how I didn’t wake the kids.
I had to break free!
From my reading, I learned that the healthiest thing to do when dealing with a narcissist is to distance yourself from the person. After many heart to heart discussions with my wife, and several attempts to persuade my mother that her actions were harming, and had done harm to our family, we have distanced ourselves. The only communication we have now is an occasional text message, and birthday cards that she will send to my children. More often than not, even in text, she still tries to use her guilt trips. She says things like; “I know you don’t love me anymore, but I still love you, you are my son! Family is everything.” These type of texts are ignored and get no response. Many of the birthday cards that come to my children have drawings of sad faces or a single eyeball with a tear coming out of it. These types of cards never make it into my kids’ hands.
A friend and Pastor told me that this disorder will likely have some small effect on my children but, with God’s help, by the next generation it should be no more. God is breaking this generational curse.
(1) A Behavioral Genetic Study of Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Dimensions of Narcissism. Yu L. L. Luo, Huajian Cai, Hairong Song. PLoS One. 2014; 9(4): e93403. Published online 2014 Apr 2. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093403. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3973692/