May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Transforming False Truths

During a therapy session, my client Rachel, a bright, loving, generous woman, uttered the following two statements:

“I never felt my love was good enough. I somehow always felt it was defective.”

“I always thought that the way to show someone love was to help them solve their problems.”

She had been in the midst of telling me how miserable she was because her boyfriend had just left her; and her mother was upset at her (again) for not being around enough. She couldn’t understand why the people she loved most were so upset with her.

Her words were a telling clue as to what may be going wrong in her relationships. Rachel sounded like she might by the child of a narcissistic parent, and in this case, probably her mother.

Identifying Narcissism

A narcissistic mother is one who is unnaturally preoccupied with herself and her self-image. She is unable to give her children the emotional support they need to become well-adjusted adults. There are two types: engulfing parents who see no boundaries between themselves and their children and ignoring parents who don’t even see their children, and don’t really care.

The child of a narcissist suffers from not being told—in words, by body language or with other actions—that he or she is good enough. When the parent is upset and distracted, which is all too often, the child is left to feel alone and unloved. Desperate for attention and connection, the child devises a false truth in her heart in order to survive.

False Truths Versus Real Truths

For Rachel, the false truth translated to something like this: “Mommy really wants to show me love and affection, but she has problems. If I love Mommy better then she will be happier and will connect with me the way she really wants to connect with me.”

The real truth is that Mommy’s problems cannot be solved by her children. From Rachel’s perspective, when Mommy doesn’t react to her eager attempts at loving her better, she concludes that her own love must be defective. But as a narcissist, Mommy isn’t even thinking about her child’s need to connect. She just doesn’t notice.

When a child grows up in this toxic atmosphere, the false truth is mapped onto every one of her relationships. She believes that if only she could help the people she loves to solve their problems, they would be free to get back to the business of loving her. When it doesn’t work out (which it virtually never does) her feelings of inadequacy grow.

Rachel truly believed that unless she was helping her Mom or her boyfriend solve their problems, they wouldn’t feel her love. Once she faced the painful truth that there was nothing she could have ever done to attain a loving connection with her mother, her life could shift. She accepted that it was the nature of her mother’s disease.

Redefining Truths

Once a child uncovers some of her false truths, she can explore some new terrain such as her real truth about love and connection. Redefining truths such as what love is are key. After Rachel’s session, she wrote in her journal, “To know, and show that you know, the greatness of someone else—that’s love. And loving someone while they solve their own problems—that’s the best help you can give them.”

Notice the difference: “loving someone while they solve their own problems” versus “solving their problems.” Rachel already is healing from the wounds caused by her mother’s narcissism. She has begun to realize how very adequate she is and is allowing her loved ones to get through their own problems, even as she loves them.

Her ex-boyfriend should see her now.

Licensed clinical social worker Esther Moskovitz is a therapist who specializes in helping adult children of self-absorbed parents with their personal life challenges. She can be reached at 659-3888, or visit her at


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