“We internalize the quest for our flaws and watch ourselves in an evaluative and rejecting way.” (Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in Their Struggle for Self, Elan Golamb, PhD.
As a depressed and anxiety-ridden parent, I do watch myself and yes, quite often I am severely critical and rejecting of my performance. I have done what so many of us emotionally abused children do: I have internalized the constant parental criticism I received as a child and supply it for myself despite barely having any contact with the original perpetrators. I don’t need them anymore. For many years I still looked at them through a child’s eyes, searching for a sense of my value or worth, and maybe even some compassion. But I gave up on receiving any of that from them. They were incapable of that kind of love. And now what remains is my inner critic. It is the destroyer within who wants me to give up on myself and my own kids because “she” knows I’m going to fail. And for a long-time I’ve listened closely to that voice in my head. It didn’t help that until very recently when I cut my first family off, the voice was merely an echo of what was said in reality as well. But even with them mostly absent now, the voice remains. And is louder and meaner that either of my parents ever were.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I’ve not given up. I am fighting this with every imaginable tool available. Between various therapeutic techniques I use (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, EMDR), new drug regimes, Yoga and lots of heavy cardio exercise I feel like I am training to fight and kill the inner critic. It is a sneaky opponent though. It preys on me at my most weak. I hear it in my own frustrated voice, especially at the end of a long day, when my kids aren’t listening and on nights when I just don’t have the energy to fight. It sounds eerily like me parroting my Mother. And the moment I realize that, I shut it down. Because no matter what I do, I will never treat my children the way I was treated. I will never parent them with criticism and punishment, withholding affection and even communication. I will never scream at them as if they ruined my life…as if they were the cause of all my earthly problems.
No. As soon as I feel I’m at that level of anxiety, I’ll excuse myself and go take a hot shower or just lie in bed and breathe. I visualize the “good mother” in me that I’ve been practicing with. She gives me a hug and tells me I’m a great kid, and my parent’s couldn’t love me and that it wasn’t my fault. They were sick. She strokes my head and tells me she’ll protect me from that ever happening again. That I am finally safe. She tells me I am a good mother too. And that I can do this…that I can raise these amazing and (Thank God) happy kids. And that she is there for me when I need her. I have the “good mother” I always wanted now. And she’s on my side. And that fact alone is worth more than the world to me.