“In my day families stayed together,” so sayeth the character Violet, played by Meryl Streep. Violet is in denial yet at other times she is very ruthless about how horrible her mother was to her growing up. As a result of this, Violet has grown up without being nurtured by her parent, without love and an ability to trust someone. Thus we see the makings of a Narcissistic mother. In order for a child, who has grown up like Violet has, to soothe herself, she must externalize the pain and give it somewhere to go so that she can feel safe as a little girl. Then she grows up to have a family and all hell breaks loose.
In comes Barbara, her eldest daughter played by Julia Roberts. Barbara has lived a life with a woman who has never said she was sorry for anything. Barbara grew up being told she could never do anything right and thus she continued to try to do the right thing over and over again, only to fail in her mother’s eyes. Her father washed himself daily with alcohol, in an attempt to drown in his sorrows. A man can never be “the man,” in a marriage to a Narcissist. He had to defend his wife to the children he loved. A man should not be disrespectful to his wife, even if she is to him. While Barbara desperately needed her father to be there for her, he couldn’t even though he wanted to. She knew this but learned to accept that he could never be the father she craved. Her husband couldn’t play that role either. When women leave the home searching for a partner, without first finding themselves, the man they are led to is their father and those same unmet needs.
Barbara escapes to this new world with a husband. Running away can provide distance and hope. She could make herself believe anything in a world she creates all her own. The truth is there and she wants to believe it is not but over time, not having a father or mother to turn to, in times of need, the pain slowly crawls up inside her. She can’t turn to her husband either, because he doesn’t know what to say to her or how to give her the love and nurturance she so desperately craves. He continues to disappoint her and eventually she tells him, until he is so sick of hearing it that the marriage becomes a wash and the fantasy of her story continues to be passed down to her daughter. A daughter who has no empathy because she just can’t understand the years, the generations of what went wrong in her gene pool.
Barbara has come to realize finally that she is all alone, the bitterness has swelled up inside of her womb, her breath wreaking of the bile that lingers in her throat, she becomes more and more cynical over time, as reality will just not go away.
When her father takes his own life, she is forced to see herself in the mirror for the first time. She wants to believe that she is now in charge yet once again she is reminded that as long as Violet has a breath to breathe, she has no power at all. Her world crashes around her but then she drives off in the end, left to deal with the pain. The result will be that she will go off into her new world, alone with her anger and tears and the madness of living on a daily basis; knowing that she created this mess herself.
“Thank God we can’t tell the future. We’d never get out of bed.” Barbara, the angry daughter who has begun to see that her world will never change.
Unless of course, she enters into psychotherapy. Preferably with a therapist, who empathizes, too much, with the angry daughter.
***7/31/16 A good start to healing for Barbara would be a therapist and now this wonderful new CD The Child of the Narcissist: Guided Meditations for Healing.