7.b. Writing Letters to a Narcissistic Mother
At some point in the recovery process many of us consider writing letters to our narcissistic mother, enabling fathers or various flying monkeys. While it is usually a good idea to write the letters in order to clarify your thoughts and help process your feelings, most of the advice is against actually mailing the letters. The literature from professionals, comments from others, and my personal experience are all consistent with this advice. So, I think this is wise in most instances, but not a nicely packaged answer to be imposed on everyone in every situation.
Reasons Not to Mail LettersThere are valid reasons not to mail the letters:
First of all, a narcissistic mother who has spent decades invalidating her child to the core of their being is not suddenly going to validate the content of your letter. I know you may desperately want or need for her to, but highly narcissistic mothers do not suddenly take responsibility for their actions - ever. There are no magic words or explanations that are going to change that.
On the contrary, sending your narcissistic mother a letter can open you up for more invalidation. She may never open it but leave it on the table in her house for you to see at a later time, just to let you know she never bothered to open it. She may not even acknowledge receipt of the letter at all. She may return the letter to you.
Secondly, it is so easy in the throes of early recovery to believe if you can make the depth of your pain clear you will surely receive an apology. If you send one of these letters articulating the depth of the devastation your narcissistic mother has caused, you may very well get a peek of the depth of this disorder. You may also get a glimpse of the depth of the flying monkey's denial, indifference or silence. What you are highly unlikely to get is validation from those who used you as a scapegoat. Even pouring all of your pain out in a letter does not cause a narcissistic mother to feel true remorse or sincerely apologize.
Lastly, your narcissistic mother may use your letter against you. She may use it to prove your emotional instability. She may present it out of context or with lies to give others a false impression if she tries to play the victim. Flying monkeys may also use your letter against you.
Reasons to Contemplate Mailing LettersThere are only a couple of exceptions I am aware of where adult sons and daughters have shared they mailed letters without regretting it.
First, is if you simply need to get it off of your chest and express yourself regardless. By writing you can say what you want to say without interruption, which was always one of my main attractions to writing letters. While I can see why therapists often advise against it, I can also relate to Anna's quote.
For my family and circumstances letter writing was
the right plan. I am competent with the written word.
There were many things that had never been said
before and I wanted them out there. And I
wanted to be able to say those
things without interruption.
things without interruption.
I wrote letters during my sexual abuse therapy decades ago and mailed the letters against my therapist's advice mostly because I so desperately needed to speak my truth at the time after being silenced as a child.
However, by the time I did more recovery work, I no longer cared what the flying monkeys thought about it. There are good reasons why flying monkeys are flying monkeys in the first place. I lost so much respect for the flying monkeys during recovery that I no longer needed or wanted their validation on the matter.
So, even in this scenario, because there is so much potential for negative repercussions, consider mailing the letter to yourself first. Write it all out, put it in an envelope addressed to yourself marked personal and confidential and mail it to yourself. If by the time you receive the letter back in the mail, read it, and decide you still think you should send it, then perhaps listening to your instincts rather than anyone else is your answer.
Secondly, some therapists recommend writing a letter upon going no contact. There are various reasons for this, including anticipated legal action. If you decide to write a no contact letter make it brief and to the point. If you believe the police or courts are going to be involved before it is all said and done, get competent legal counsel from someone in your area. If you can not afford legal counsel, most law schools have legal aid clinics. Your local bar association may also be able to advise you of resources.