Sacrificial Child

 “Love without sacrifice is like theft”

~Nassim Nicholas Taleb

After forty years on this earth, I made a discovery that tied all the insanity of my life together with a big beautiful bow.  It sounds incredible, yet it was always there for me to discover.  I just never took the opportunity to search out the truth:  My mother is a narcissist.  There is no other explanation for her behavior.

From as early as I can remember, I realized that my mother would not allow boundaries to separate us.  In fact, I don’t believe that my mother saw me as a separate person, but rather as an extension of herself.  It was as though with her instruction, I would become whatever it was that she couldn’t but wanted to be.

Early on, my mother used specific tactics to keep me bound to her.  Using tactics such as infantalisation, my mother made me feel as though I would never be able to manage in the real world by telling me how inept I was.  At the same time, she stressed how very lucky I was to have a mother who was highly capable of running my life, so to speak.  She created a co-dependent relationship, and since I was a child at its conception, I had very little to say in the matter.


The boundaries that she voided were sacred to me as I became a teenager.  She read my diary, listened in on my telephone conversations, and gossiped to my friends about intimate tidbits of my life that I would rather they not have known, such as my current menstruation or that I had a crush on a certain boy.  As I grew older and began having long-term relationships, my mother interfered there as well by berating my boyfriend in every conversation we had (“He’s not good enough for you!”)  or inquiring about my sex life with my husband (“Does he want to have sex with you all of the time?”)

The very worst tactic that my mother employed on me as a child, teen, and young adult was “gaslighting.”  She still attempts to use this tactic to this very day, but my awareness of it has kept me from her lengthy reach.  My mother constantly denied my perceptions of reality by brushing them off as being imaginary.  For instance, she would tell me something as a fact, but then insist later that she never said it.  It wasn’t that she merely denied the truth.  It was the implication of my insanity for ever concocting such an elaborate farce when I was simply restating her very words.  A narcissist will never own up to the truth, even when it is staring her in the face.

When she was around other people, she would fabricate stories about past events, then she would look at me and say, “You remember that, don’t you?”   Her insistence bore more than just a grain of forewarning that if I did not agree, she would chide me right there in front of whomever her victim was.  Of course, I wouldn’t have remembered, but I would curiously agree with her nearly every time.  I spent a tremendous amount of time wracking my brain and second guessing myself.  Maybe I should remember?  When I couldn’t, I wondered if I was losing my mind, especially after she repeated the fantasy over and over again to whomever would listen.  It was if she re-wrote history, and I had no choice but to declare it as fact along with her or be the subject of extreme animadversion by her.

The choice was taken from me when I attempted to confront her on many occasions with the truth.  Her retort was usually to comment on my vivid imagination with a brush-off.  Her inference to my “fantasizing a different reality” again sent me to contemplate my own sanity.  She wove a new tapestry of my life that I felt obligated to live.  My “true self” was never going to be able to make it without her.  I was inept, incompetent, and an all around complete failure.  I became the persona she created for me.  When I was successful, that further substantiated her competence and my incapability to be the real me.  The success was attributed to her influence by us both.

During my forty plus years on this earth, there were spans of several years when I had could no longer bear her, so I decided to have no contact with her whatsoever.  When this happened, at first, she called me over and over and over again.  One particular day, I logged fifty-four calls from her until she finally stopped.  When she could, she tried to punish me by bullying.  Some examples of this are leaving threatening messages on my answering machine and telling lies about me to other family members and friends to make her claim of me abusing her appear legitimate.   She would spin fantastical stories about the horrendously negative feelings that other family members and friends have expressed to her regarding my behavior of silence toward her.  Of course, these were all lies I discovered in the end, but when she said them, I believed her.  In fact, I spent a lifetime of believing her lies when time after time the truth was there, dangling in front of me, screaming at me, “Look, you fool!  Here I am!”

When the bullying tactic didn’t work, she stalked me by coming to my house unannounced, relentlessly knocking on my door, and waiting in the parking lot near my car at my place of employment. She began buying me clothes and having them sent to my house.  She would find my weakness and then somehow, rescue me from it.  She does this for two reasons.  One is the ammunition she is gathering to use against me later in life (“After every thing I’ve done for you…”)  She also becomes my savior (“I deprived myself of the things I needed for you.”)  And why?  So all her friends will see how she, my creator, saved my life from my own inabilities… again.

Why, then, did I allow myself to be sucked back in by her vacuum of insanity?  Simple.  I was the chosen one.  In a family with a narcissistic parent, one of the children is usually the chosen one.  This causes for strife and resentment from siblings, and a narcissist (like my mother) feeds off this triangulation.  Pitting siblings against each other so that they each will turn to the narcissist for support, advice, and advocacy is a tactic that keeps each child just where she wants them to be:  looking to her for all the answers so that she can continue to be the center of the universe and the master manipulator of all.

The chosen one’s life seems a bit cushy compared to the treatment his or her siblings endured during childhood (they were basically ignored most of the time), but the chosen one pays the biggest price in the long-run.  This child is the one who sustains the most manipulation and control from the narcissistic parent.  In my family, its plausibility lies in the fact that the brunt of my mother’s master plan was crafted around me.  In my family, being chosen was hardly my choice.  It was as if my mother put all her eggs in my basket, and I was going to be everything she dreamed I would be.  The trouble was I wanted to be everything I dreamed I would be.  Those visions were in direct contrast, but she never seemed to consider that possibility, nor did she bother to inquire.

All the time I suffered through depression, thoughts of suicide, and an eating disorder, I thought that there was something terribly wrong with me.  And there was.  It was my mother.  From this upbringing with a narcissistic parent, I have endured:

  • extreme difficulty setting boundaries
  • being overly fearful of authority figures
  • being overly fearful of angry people
  • being overly concerned about others’ opinions
  • extreme feelings of being unworthy
  • extreme difficulty in establishing healthy relationships
  • being overly fearful of becoming narcissistic
  • an obvious self-care deficit

These are problems that I still encounter on a daily basis, but there is good news.

Even though my mother decided to extend herself through me, I decided to take back my life.  This was not in her plan, and it threw her into a heavy state of confusion.  She scrambled to regain control.  She brought her tactics out in full force.  Once I learned how to take back my life, I became in control of my own thoughts, my own actions, my own history and future.  I no longer lived in self-hatred and shame, but rather learned to look at my accomplishments in their true light.  In the past, my mother had taken credit for everything I had done that was worthy in her eyes.  As for mistakes, quite the opposite occurred;  she had abandoned any responsibility for my failures.  In the end, I claimed both as my own, and learned to grow from my mistakes as well as grow from my accomplishments.

A simple fact was when I did not accept the accolades for a job well done, then I was not able to nurture my self-esteem.  I felt stagnant and dependent on my mother even for that basic need.  Since her compliments were very sparse, I rarely felt the true effects of my talent, intellect, and even graciousness.  For so long, I felt that I needed to be “fixed,” but reprogramming is what has fueled my journey to healing.

Through awareness and understanding, I have rebuilt my life and learned to be my true self, the one I was born to be.  I have also built a different relationship with my mother:  one where I am in the driver’s seat.  It isn’t easy, and I still have a long journey ahead of me, but one day, I will shed all of the effects of a narcissistic upbringing.  Until that day, I am still on my journey of breaking down instead of mending the wall that has closed me in.



  1. All those things listed the she left you with describes me too. In my case the sister was/is the chosen one. I do not envy her position. She’s the one still catering to their every selfish, guilt trip driven whim. She’s upset with me because I’ve escaped and don’t “help” her with them…i’m so glad you escaped your mother and are building a life of your own. xo

    1. I’m sorry that you had to endure this narcissistic abuse. Awareness was the first step for me. After that, I was able to finally have some control.

      One day, I hope that your sister sees the damage that she is doing by remaining in the role of the chosen one. I had (and still have) a great deal of mending to do with regards to my relationship with my younger brother. When she does “escape” you will be more aware of the effects of narcissistic parenting on her and hopefully have compassion for her. It isn’t easy to break free of the role of the chosen one and the costs are great (like her diminished relationship with you.)


      1. i’m so sad she is stuck in it. i spent so much time trying to protect her, she doesn’t see any of the abuse and the things they do to her are horrible. she’s in complete denial of everything. i wish for her sake as well as mine and the boys she would be able to see the truth.
        she is so messed up. (sleeping with a married man that is close to the fathers age and resembles him) ugh. i’ve watched her fall apart i held her while she cried but she doesn’t connect it. just like you said that is exactly what the narcissistic parent wants, they want us divided. now she’s upset with me, for escaping. (she sees it as abandoning)
        i’m sorry you and your brother struggle. does he see the abuse?

      2. Yes, he does. He moved far away from her. We have a good relationship, but he never wants to talk about the past. He married a woman who (in my opinion) acts like she’s his mother. He finally got the mother he wanted, I guess.

        So sad about your sister. One day she will see it.

      3. i’m glad you and your brother have a good relationship, but i bet you would love to be able to talk about things. it’s too bad he can’t see he married a “mother figure” i honestly don’t know if my sister would survive the truth, she idolizes the father…i’ve even heard her call him “her god on earth.” made me cringe…

  2. I resonate so much with this post. I don’t think my mother is a narcissist, but she surely is controlling and codependent and uses lots of guilt and manipulation. I try to keep my distance, but since my father died, I feel I need to be there for her. She’s taking advantage of that. I’m struggling, but will sort it out with time. And the help of my therapist. And blogs like yours.

    1. I’m sorry that you were unfortunate in having a mother with narcissistic tendencies. Guilt and manipulation can eat at your soul. Stand your ground on what it is you are willing to do for your mother, but above all, take care of your needs first and foremost. She will be gone one day and you will need your health!
      Thanks for the encouraging words!

  3. Thanks so much for these stong, accurate words. I am a stepmom to two children. I belive their mother is a narcissist ( and no, this is not, simple “second-wife” issues). I have seen the confusion, pain, uncertainty she constantly places upon her children. Until you see this situation in action, you have NO idea how twisted and manipulative a mother can be with her children. I only hope for my stepchildren that they see enough “normal” examples in their lives that this serves as a ballast for their mothers craziness.

    1. I believe you! It seems as though you have a good understanding of what a narcissist is all about and what she is capable of. Do your best to help these children with kindness and understanding. A narcissist will use any means necessary to get what they want. My mother certainly did!

      What helped me was the escape to my grandparents house every chance I got so that I could experience unconditional love. If this what what you can give these children, coming from experience, this is my best advice!

      Hang in there! Thanks for the words of encouragement as I continue to blog my journey of healing!

  4. I am completely in awe of this post. Your awareness is amazing. Your putting your awareness on (paper) is equally amazing and I am so thankful for it. It is possible… I am still working on it and when I decide to write things down, like you have here, I often hear my mother’s voice, feel the dread and anticipation of her reaction to what I myself see, hear and experience. Then that real past hides so that I can’t continue to tap it out on the keyboard. The truth flees, in fear of my mother…
    My mother is a real… creature too. She will bleed with accolades for me, telling me how perfect and wonderful and beautiful I am…but in the next breath tell me how disrespectful, selfish and cruel I am. I can’t trust a thing she thinks, let alone says.
    But I am beginning to move towards trusting myself.
    Thank you again mymendingwall.

  5. I am curious, how did you realize and gain the strength and knowledge to escape? Do you see a counselor, do meditation, read certain self help books, etc.? My abuse was of a different sort, but many of the same effects are left on me. I have been through therapy and I read self help books incessanlty. I still seem to find myself choosing bad relationships with men. I love your blog, and reading all of your insights and growth. It is a never ending journey for us children of abuse. But reading posts like this gives me renewed hope and strength. So glad you shared! 🙂

    1. When I first left home for college and returned at the first semester, I realize the extent of the insanity that thrived in my family of origin. When I returned to college, I did seek counseling, and had about 8-10 sessions. I ended up cutting off all contact with my mother for nearly three years, but the tools I used to survive the effects of her narcissism did not help me to recover from it. I found, years later, by going to an Al-Anon support group with a friend by mere chance (we were going to have some lunch, but he had the meeting before and asked if I’d like to join, so I said sure!) opened up my eyes to the possibility that my mother had a problem with alcohol as well. Before coming to Al-Anon, I was in denial about her problem with alcohol because I didn’t understand the disease and its effects fully. I’ve been going to Al-Anon for the past three years, and this is where my healing REALLY began.

      The key for me is awareness. If I am not aware of the behaviors that I am displaying that are causing an adverse reaction (either with myself or with someone else) how can I possibly begin to change? I also have a simple guideline: Treat other with loving and kindness, but do not put their needs in front of mine. Does this mean that I won’t ever cancel plans to help a sick friend? Maybe. Maybe not. If it’s a doctor’s appointment, no. If it’s a movie, yes. No one’s needs or wants can supersede my own in terms of taking care of myself mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. (Of course, I don’t have children, but if I did, I would most likely put their needs first!)

      Thanks for your words of encouragement and inspiration!

      1. Ahhhh. Very interesting. I love your words of wisdom. I have a problem with putting others needs above my own. I had a similar path to yours again in that I went to counseling starting in college. I also went to AA for myself. I used alcohol to escape my abuse at home when I was a teen, it turned into a problem. I loved the daily counseling sessions that were provided there. I found that I drank to excess because of the abuse, I did not drink again for 20 years. (I quit when I was 19) I started to try wine with friends again a few years ago, so far with no problems or excessive drinking. I think mine was more a case of trying to get to the point of oblivion when I was younger, not that I could not avoid it. Anyway, one of the things that I miss is the counseling of the group support and therapy that I recieved there. I am now however coming out of a depression brought on by the death of a friend. The scars of my childhood have set me up for recurring bouts of depression. I am now trying meditation, writing, and I may return to counseling if those do not work. It is a struggle to stay away from the abyss of depression, it has been a recurring theme in my adult life. Beginning with the suicide of a partner 14 years ago. It is good to have blogs such as yours to come to for advice and relating, sometimes it feels so isolating to be an adult survivor of childhood abuse. Thanks again for your truth and sharing! You have a beautiful day! 🙂 Janine

  6. It is wonderful that you are understanding the effect your mother has had on your life and I’m glad that you are working hard to overcome your past. Your mother and generations before her probably lived with the same problems and they didn’t know how to change their lives. Bravo to you for breaking the abuse cycle!

    1. Thank you for the inspiring words! They mean a great deal to me as I trudge through this journey.

      I firmly believe that my mother endured quite a bit of abuse, but I doubt that it was from my grandparents. They were extremely docile people. I believe with narcissists that the illness stems from a lack of bonding with their caretaker as a child. I believe that there was definitely a chain of abuse somewhere, though, perhaps an uncle or grandparent of hers.

      Thanks for your insight!

  7. Pingback: Gaslighting…
  8. I am so, so happy that you have taken control of your life. I cannot imagine what you have been going through but your brilliant explicit writing has given me a rare insight into what you experienced. Thank you.

    I am sorry that I have been gone for a while. I went through a blogging/inbox overload. I now have a new system of blogging and the fun has returned.

    Big hug. Ralph x

      1. My system is quite easy. I have reduced my Blogs I Follow from well over 300 to 100 with all 100 at New Posts set to INSTANTLY, Comments OFF. I am keeping only friends, commenters and regular LIKErs as Blogs I Follow.

        In my Microsoft Outlook Inbox. I look through the emails and colour code them using the clear box by each email. Blue for normal emails and other colours for legal etc. Comments and New Posts I leave clear. I answer all normal emails first thing, comments next, deleting as I go through and answering them individually (any comments not applicable to me are deleted). Then I go out visiting new posts deleting each New Post email as I go.

        It’s difficult if you have 500 emails initially in your Inbox but once the system is working for a few days I can keep my inbox to below 10.

        I hope that helps you 😀

  9. How powerful and inspiring writing!
    It makes me cry to read about all the abuse you had to endure and makes me smile to see that you ended up victorious: such a gifted, wonderful and inspiring person.

    I wish the system would allow me to add my Likes as many times I shouted Eureka, and as many hugs I send you from here.

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