Projection: It’s not just for movies!

As I mentioned earlier, my family, particularly on my mother’s side, is rife with mental illnesses. It is one of the bigget hurdles I have to deal with on a fairly regular basis, and it isn’t alway my own mental health that’s the problem.

My mother is a narcissist. So much so that the last time I spoke with her, over three years ago, I told her to not contact me until she has sought professional help for her narcissism. Until then, I cannot trust anything she says or does. I haven’t heard from her since, nor do I think I ever will. It hurts, because she has basically said she is more important than having a healthy relationship with me, but it has been her choice. It is what it is.

I went into therapy over 5 years ago. I realized that I needed help getting over things and either getting affirmation that I was on the right track, or if I needed to do something different. I stopped going about 2 years ago. I honestly miss it, but can’t afford it. One of the things I told my therapist was that I never want to become my mother. The thought actually terrifies me. I try to make sure that I am doing things that require myself to listen to other people, acknowledge their situation, try not to talk about myself, or only in the most basic ways, and express my sympathy for their situations, good or bad. It’s important to me to do.

Because narcissism runs in the family, projection is a prominent feature in any family gathering. I get it from my daughter a lot, who seems to be headed down the same mental pathway as my mom and my sister. I worry about her because this path is not the way to happiness, but…if I try to make any effort to express concern, she either walks away, or makes it about a hurt she feels that I somehow created. As much as I don’t want to not communicate with my daughter, she has made it seem like speaking with her, no matter how innocuous, I’m doing some kind of damage. If that’s the case, I will avoid conversation.

It started out with her stating that I am not considerate of other people and how I only think about myself. Honestly, that was rather startling to hear. It has been something that I have consciously worked on, so it seemed weird to hear it from her. Then she followed it up with telling me everything that was wrong about me from her point of view every time we met up. (My daughter is an adult and in university, so we don’t see each other daily.) It actually got to the point where I didn’t want to see her so I didn’t have to hear her opinions of me. Eventually, I did tell her that while I appreciated her perspective, she also needed to recognize that I’m only human and I have some ways that I am fairly set on. That I’m aware not all of them are the healthiest, but I do take action when they get to be too much. That I’m aware which habits are bad and which are good and I’m the one who ultimately has to live with them because I live alone. She got upset and teary, but I don’t think it really had much of an impact.

When covid shut down her university, she moved in. I know that she has no desire to be here. She resents the house because I bought it based off what I wanted and not what she wanted. She was a junior in high school at the time (we moved during the summer before she started her junior year), and to her, the house and everything to do with it was the absolute worst thing that happened to her. I can’t change attitudes, but I do try to make being here a good as I possibly can. Free food, room and board and I try not to ask for too many favors.

Shortly after she moved in, she decided she was going to try and “fix me”. Meaning, she was going to try and figure out what I needed and either find ways to show I didn’t need them, or be what I needed, which was impossible. Eventually, it dwindled down to how I was being abusive, even though she had removed herself from any communication with me since she had moved in, until she decided she was going to fix me.

Needless to say, I was shocked by this, and didn’t know what to do or say. I tried to find out what I had done, but the only information she would give me was that she was afraid of being the third party out, even though she had intentionally excluded herself from the family unit. I spent time asking her to give me examples of where I did wrong, or how I was still doing these things because I thought I had come a long way from when we first moved out here over 12 years ago.

In the end, the only examples she gave were from the time I had fallen into a deep depression where I had gone numb. I had and have always admitted my mistakes during that time and have apologized to her and her brother for that horrible time in my life. I told her that I have worked hard to prevent going back to that state and have done a lot in my life to make sure that I don’t lose myself. But to my daughter, I guess I can’t be forgiven.

So now, I get to deal with her projection. Of how I am not happy or how I am working against myself or how I am creating a negative situation. Truth be told, yes, I’ve become mildly depressed, but it is more because of finances and my work situation, and nothing else. These are fixable things and I’m working to do just that.

In the end, I realize what she is saying is that she isn’t happy, she is working against herself and she is creating negative situations, but the narcissistic thread in her won’t let her admit that the problem is in her, not in myself or others. I try not to take her accusations personally.

Just to be clear though, I do consider all that I do. I do reflect to make sure I’m not being abusive. I do poise things to others that I trust to make sure I’m not doing something that could be considered abusive. I do the work because it is important to me to make sure I’m not hurting others. I don’t like feeling hurt and I don’t want to be responsible for creating it for someone else.

Projection sucks, but it sucks a little less when you know it’s happening. At least I have that perspective.

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