Abusive mothers come in many guises. By that I mean there is no stereotype. There is the woman who has little or no interest in her son, referring to him often as 'what's his face'. There is the mother who micromanages every aspect of the child's life, deciding what they wear, what they eat, how they spend their time and even what competitions they should be winning. And there is everything in between.
Many of their children are aware that there is something off about their childhood but they don't realize the true nature of abusive mothers until later in life. A significant aspect here is that such a child cannot do a comparison.
If a person is caught in an abusive relationship when they are, for example, 25 years old, on leaving the relationship and learning about abuse, they have the first 25 years of their lives with normal relationships with which to compare the abusive relationship. They have a before, a during and an after. They know what it feels like to be loved and taken care of. An assessment of the abusive situation can be starkly contrasted with the previous loving environment.
Children who are brought up in manipulative environments by abusive mothers do not have experiences in a healthy environment with which to make such assessments. Some may have had brief experiences in friends homes where they recognized there were differences with their own but as children they don't have the wherewithal to understand what exactly is being done to them.
The abusive environment is 'normal' for such children. That is their reality and they have to deal with it the best way they can. They may experience love from a father and something else from the abusive mothers. If both parents are abusive, they may never experience parental love. Much of their time is spent trying to avoid the wrath of their abusive mothers. Children develop all sorts of coping strategies in such environments. Many of these strategies are based on certain ideas that the children have. It's these ideas that I want to examine here, because many of them are just wrong and they hold the child/adult back from actually fully recovering from their abusive mothers. But first a word about the nature of abusive mothers...
There are many ideas about why people are abusers: they are lonely, insecure, they were abused themselves as kids, they have low self esteem. In this article I will be referring to a particular group of abusive mothers who dominate and control others for the sake of controlling and dominating. These are the psychopaths, sociopath, and narcissists of the world.
If you are looking for information about abusive mothers you may already suspect that yours is in this category. If you haven't thought of this before it may come as a bit of a shock. But hold on...
When people are introduced to the idea initially, it's typical to withdraw and think, "Oh no, mine is not like that." People have an idea in their head of what a psychopath is and their own mother certainly does not fit that profile. However, it takes a bit of study and thinking to begin to see that a family member may, in fact, be a person with a personality disorder.
If you suspect that your mother was abusive, or you know she was, then you really need to investigate whether she may fit the profile of a sociopath, a narcissist or a psychopath. If she does, it's very significant. Dealing with a psychopath is not the same as dealing with someone who has difficulty expressing emotions, or someone who is depressed or has low self esteem. It's a completely different arena. The rules are different. The way of thinking is different. And the path to recovery is different.
Very briefly, these people do not have emotions like normal, healthy feeling people. There is no guilt, fear, shame, remorse, love, compassion, empathy or embarrassment. For most people this is extraordinary, to realize that this is what makes a psychopath. It takes some time to even come to terms with this idea.
The significance is that these types can do anything they like and they never feel bad about it. I will say that again. Psychopaths and narcissists can take advantage of, abuse, torment, torture and even rape and kill others and they do not get upset about it. They have no empathy for others, they do not feel other people's pain and so the suffering of others does not elicit any caring emotion on their part.
Other important things about these types:
With these things in mind, let's look at some ideas and beliefs that are widely held by the victims of abusive mothers that may not be useful, or indeed, may be downright destructive.
This idea basically comes from the thinking that people are fundamentally good, that mothers always love their children along with a failure (or a refusal) to acknowledge that there are evil people in the world. People in general don't want to think badly of others and it's often easier to just not think about what abusive mothers are doing to children. Just think about what happens when many children do try to ask for help. Very often the adults around them don't believe the child. They find it hard to accept that what the child is saying might be true.
Anyway, this belief is very common among the children and adult children of abusive mothers. However, it is actually not helpful at all for the victims in an abusive situation, especially when there are sociopaths or narcissists involved. What happens is that it stops the victim from actually being able to make sense of their situation. Thinking that this basically nice person is doing nasty things to them is bound to cause all sorts of problems and conflicts for the victims.
Just think about the nasty and controlling things that your abusive mother did to you. If a friend of yours told you that her mother did those things to her, would you consider her mother a good person? Of course not.
Nice people don't do such things to others. Nice mothers don’t do such things to their children. Your mother is no exception. She is not a nice person.
She may have done some 'normal' mothering things with you. But these do not excuse the nastiness that was sent your way. They do not excuse the horrible things. They do not make the bad behavior on her part acceptable in any way.
Abusive mothers are capable of doing all sorts of terrible things to their children. No amount of 'friendly' behavior ever negates or 'cancels out' the abuse that the children were subjected to.
As I said, this belief causes conflicts for victims and leads to all sorts of other ideas. Once the victim realizes that this is just a belief, that it is not reality, and that the belief is false, it tends to change everything. It changes the way the victim sees the abuser. It changes how the victim interprets the abusers behaviors. It changes the way the victim thinks about themselves. It changes the way the victim considers the relationship with the abuser. And it allows the victim to begin to regain their independence and move into a very different phase of their lives.
This is typically said to children by the healthy parent or by relatives and neighbors, often because they believe it, too. People like to have reasons and justifications for why things happen. Not understanding what a psychopath is, or how mind control works, people come up with other reasons for the cold, heartless behavior of the abusive mothers. A common one is this idea that the abusive mothers do love people, just in a particular way.
Knowing what you know now about psychopaths, this idea is just not true. Psychopaths are incapable of love. They just do not experience this emotion, no matter how much they may tell you that they love you.
Think of it this way. Imagine if you made a list of the things that your mother said and did to you, both good and bad. Then you go through the list and ask about each one, "Would a mother who actually loved her child do or say this to that child?" I think you would find that you answer many times with a definite No!
Having this belief in place allows people, both children and adults, to tolerate the bad treatment of the abusive mothers. When you realize that this cold-hearted, cruel woman does not actually love you, but rather she was using you and abusing you, it changes your perspective in a very important way.
Another common belief. And another error in thinking.
Psychopaths and narcissists know exactly what they are doing. Their lives revolve around taking advantage of others and deliberately manipulating people to get what they want. As they get older and more experienced, their manipulative skills typically get better with practice.
Again, people do not want to think badly of others and/or they don't want to think that there are actually evil people in the world. This excuse let's the abusers off the hook to some extent. It's really not their fault because they don't know what they are doing.
However, when you look closely at the action of the abusive mothers you can see there are patterns. They can seem to be perfect mothers outside the home because of the act they put on, but they are despots at home. Notice that they never mix up these roles. When in public they don't all of a sudden forget where they are and act like despots. At home with the children they don't unexpectedly act like the ideal mother. This is not random behavior on her part. No, it's all carefully calculated and controlled, which indicates that they know exactly what they are doing.
Along the same lines as the last idea, there is also a common idea that abusive mothers cannot help it because they... were abused as children themselves, had a bad experience with a previous partner, have a head injury, have depression, bipolar disease, Asperger's syndrome, multiple personality disorder etc. etc. etc..
There are a few things to remember here. Psychopaths are professional liars, their sense of superiority means they will not like being told what to do and they never take responsibility for anything 'bad' but always farm out the blame.
Many psychopaths have a past history that is both horrific and sad. The cult leaders have a back story where they supposedly were on the brink of suicide when they discovered a technique that saved them and now they are going to show you how to change your life with it. These stories are typically a large distortion of the truth and, indeed, they change over time. The psychopath in an intimate relationship claims to have been taken advantage of by all sorts of people in the past and now they need help, and so on. The idea of having being abused as a child is also very common, maltreated by the parents, bullied by a brother or whatever. Often the truth is that there was abuse, but it was actually perpetrated by the storyteller on their parents or brother! Therefore there is an element of truth in this story (there was abuse) but they distort it to make themselves out to be the victim.
So imagine a child who won't be told what to do, does not care about being punished and just keeps doing nasty things all the time. What parents are not going to shout at and punish such a child?!? The psychopath later tells everyone that they were abused as a child and elicits pity with their lies. But more than that they use it as an excuse, "I was abused as a child, I can't help it, you have to accept me the way I am."
The thing here is that unless you have third party evidence that what the psychopath is saying, you cannot believe a word out of his or her mouth. The same goes with the various medical diagnoses. Psychopaths will pretend they have a diagnosis as a way to continue their abusive behavior without having to do anything about it and they insist that those around just have to accept them the way they are. It's a particularly insidious but nasty way to excuse their abuse of others.
The 'bad experience with a previous partner' line is another common excuse of the psychopaths and narcissists. But remember, it was actually them doing the abuse but they are great liars and actors and they can be very convincing about all the suffering they went through.
Society has all sorts of rules about how we should interact with each other. These rules help to 'grease the wheels' and allow us to live in harmony so that the society functions for the benefit of all (or most!).
Unfortunately, these rules do not properly consider psychopaths and narcissists. Psychopaths understand perfectly these rules of society and know exactly how to take advantage of them to manipulate and dominate others.
But if you try to deal with psychopaths, including abusive mothers, using these rules of society, then you will lose. You have to use different rules when there are psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists involved.
And one of the rules is that you do not owe your abuser anything. You are not responsible for your abuser. You are under no obligation to have a relationship with anyone who regularly and brutally uses you like an object, destroys your dignity and your independence and even your identity, even if it is the woman who brought you into this world.
The ideas I have been suggesting here about abusive mothers take a while to understand and assimilate. Your whole life has been based on having a particular relationship with that woman. The fact that you are reading this article suggests you are realizing already that the reality you were brought up in is not what you thought it to be.
Coming to term with the lies, deception and abuse is not an easy task by any means, and it takes work and effort to put a new world view in place.
If you want to know more about the manipulation aspect, how abusive mothers give destructive messages to their children, how they affect your thinking, your behavior and even your identity you can read about the effects of controlling mothers here.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...
Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?
Do you think you are being taken advantage of emotionally, physically, sexually or financially in your relationship? Do you want to leave but you can't seem to get away?