Mental Health

Thoughts: The Toxic Grip of Sibling/Parent Jealousy

Támara Hill, MS, NCC, CCTP, LPC, covers the touchy, somewhat taboo realities of toxic family dynamics. In the video that inspired this post, “The Toxic Grip of Sibling/Parent Jealousy: Beware of This Trap,” she educates viewers about a common yet rarely talked-about feature of some toxic families. This topic intrigued me after I sought counseling for a family issue I have been trying to separate myself from for the past three years. Mental health practitioners, like Ms. Hill, enable many experiencing such issues to recognize things they may have been battling or ignoring for years, how dangerous those dynamics are, and how to free themselves from those dangers and lessen the scars they may have left behind.

 

My Personal Experience

Unfortunately, for decades, my mother has found ways to insert herself into my life. Did she specifically select me? I believe yes and no. She’s an opportunist who lives her life as a sort of succubus. She’s of that generation (or generations, more correctly) of women who believe the way to have security in life is to attach themselves to someone, preferably a man with money. But if that fails, they test other targets, including their children. From this leechlike lifestyle choice, family dynamics like the devouring mother, which typically affects sons, and enmeshment, which can befall any child, come about.

The devouring mother is defined as:

“[A] psychological archetype that describes a mother who is overbearing, controlling, and manipulative towards her children. This personality disorder is often seen in those with borderline personality disorders or narcissism.

A devouring mother doesn’t want her children to spread their wings and fly. They want them dependent, downtrodden, and constantly in need of their mother. She essentially wants to “devour” them whole in order to keep their kids as close as possible with no chance to develop an identity of their own.

“It’s an analytical term referring to kind of this shadow side of the mother archetype. It’s somebody who consumes their children psychologically and emotionally instilling guilt in them for leaving or for becoming an independent autonomous human,” Brillon from scarymommy.com explains.

@jimbrillon What is a devouring mother? #narcissism #psychology #psychiatrist #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealthawareness ♬ original sound – Orange County, CA Therapist

Enmeshment is defined as:

“Emotional incest, also known as covert incest, has nothing to do with incestuous sexual abuse. Rather, it is an unhealthy emotional relationship between a parent and a child that blurs boundaries . . . . The parent looks to the child for emotional support. In some cases, the parent also seeks practical support from the child,” GoodTherapy.com

Should you have the misfortune of being born of one of the above-described women and she has not found a man who is willing to keep her, you might be targeted as a de facto life partner for your mother. Yes, that’s sick, but you already read the above definitions. You might also find yourself writing or reading books like this recent bestseller.

Looking back, I was an easy target: I’ve stayed mostly single because I enjoy personal freedom; I struggled in my early adulthood as a single parent, so my mom put on the guise of the caring rescuer; and I had a soft spot for my mother that I didn’t have for anyone else on this earth. Combining all of that, every time one of her relationships failed, she came back to me. Over and over again, until she managed to live with me for most of my twenties, and she is actively stealing the last years of my thirties. At least now, I recognize all her schemes—since she has finally managed to make herself the center of my universe.

Access the Family Enmeshment Signs and Checklist from Attachment Project

The Jealous Mother

My mom gets upset when I make progress with any of my business endeavors, trying her best to invalidate any of my accomplishments by saying things that suggest I didn’t really graduate college or I didn’t really write my book, for example. She has given me money in the past as if she is supporting me, only for it to be revealed that she gave me the money to claim that without her, I wouldn’t have achieved what I’ve achieved. She tries to get ahead of any of my accomplishments in progress by planting seeds about me to invalidate or minimize the steps I’m taking to make progress. It’s been a lifelong thing that I really didn’t pay attention to until recently.

What makes a perfect target for a narcissist?

Before her most recent scheme to get back in my daily life, I looked back at the years thinking about my boyfriends, jobs, etc., while my mom was constantly in the background planting seeds until she found a way to make herself central in my life. What’s the point? Well, I was someone she believed she could always return to, and she believes I make her look good by labeling me as the ever-in-need child whom she went to rescue—rather than admitting that the decades-long cycle of her living with me started when she was over 40 and ever-lost and seeking a place to live. So, she targeted me, her youngest child, who was gladly living over 1,300 miles away from her at the time.

Since then and many moves later, she has positioned herself as accomplished and above by labeling me as incapable and needy over the years. She believes by putting down her children, she in contrast appears better in the perception of others. The needy one is the woman described above, one who attaches herself to others for a sense of security. As Ms. Hill states, projection is a tool of this type of mother. In my mother’s claims against me and others, she isn’t fooling anyone about what she is; yet people indulge because putting down others is a favorite pastime of many, and schadenfreude is irresistible to some.

I’ll admit, there was a period in my early twenties when I thought my mom knew somethings about navigating life, and I thought she could be of help while I was raising my son. But now I know she has been perpetually lost and always seeking to jump on to something or someone who will finally get her somewhere.

The Jealous/Insecure Sister

Now, my eldest sibling, the beloved, the jealous—as Ms. Hill defines—is very transparent. She attempts to hide her insecurities by accumulating labels through money spent, rather than through personal discipline and achievement, and by constantly seeking faults in others—no one is off limits. She speaks as if she is an authority on things she has no qualifications for and no applied experience in. She believes she is so intelligent and superior to others that she blurts out inaccuracies and believes you’ll believe her because she is so confident and loud with her claims. She has played it safe throughout her life, and that has led her to believe she is successful, but she is pusillanimous and has been unchallenged. The second there’s a whiff of challenge against her, she cracks. Very fragile ego. Then, as a coverup, she projects that on others.

Signs of her jealousy have been a need, an ostensibly animal-like prodding or urge, to find something to put me down about every single time I’m in her presence. In fact, the post, “Things Other Women Say and Do to Fit Women,” was largely inspired by my sister’s treatment of me, her and many other women I’ve encountered at gyms, jobs, etc., throughout my life. The motive behind my sister’s instinctual reactions and antics toward me, again, come from a place in which she’s 1.) insecure, and 2.) believes she’s an authority, superior, and successful. She believes I’ll internalize her putdowns and chip away a bit. A miscalculation on her end.

Their Coalition

“You’re doing too much!” That’s what my sister asserted during a bullying event she and my mother launched on me while trying to pressure me to give up my rights to a home I’m 50% owner of. The motive of the jealous mother/sibling coalition is to chip away at the rival to make them feel small, make them second-guess themselves, and keep them from fully flourishing. In my jealous sibling/mother scenario, my mother attempted to use my insecure sister to attack me—like her ultimate weapon against me, believing I stayed away from my sister for years due to intimidation at how loud, big, and surface-level successful she is. But, really, I have too much life experience with such women and no patience for them. So, when my mom and her tried for days to apply pressure on me to get a reaction that would be detrimental to me, they failed. I knew exactly what they were trying to do. Another miscalculation.

That angry protest from my sister, “You’re doing too much,” might as well have been, “Stand still while we punch you. Stop growing, stop achieving, stop defending yourself. Take our abuse, give into our pressure, and succumb to the ruin and setback that will bring to your life!”

Some people can’t mask their desperation for your demise. And as I wrote above, my sister very easy to read.

 


 

Waking Up

Sometimes, to get out of toxic situations with family, you have to accept people as they are and stop making exceptions for them, seeing them through rose-colored glasses just because they are relatives. If you would not tolerate mistreatment from a non-relative, don’t accept it from family. They don’t have special rights to interfere with your life or mistreat you, and the law agrees.

Now that I’ve finally woken up to what my mother is, I greatly enjoy making my business moves known. When I attend a networking event, I love seeing her seethe. When she tries to knock my choice of business and immediately compares it to what she would do instead, I laugh internally—because she never does anything that requires real work. She always seeks someone to do the work for her, as she sits back and claims credit because it was her idea or because she unwisely threw money here and there. And, every time she tries to mess with my business online, I know I can pursue tortuous interference against her—to add to the other lawsuit I have against her—yes, the toxicity of the situation has gotten that bad, and her embedding in my life is now so enmeshed that I’ve had to go legal, as if I’m divorcing from my mother. Yes, that’s a sick comparison, but reread the definition of enmeshment above.

I don’t have much to say about my sister. She’s a typical insecure female, and as a matter of course, I don’t keep those in my life.

via GIPHY

Final Thoughts

I appreciate Támara Hill for covering this topic, and I hope sharing a bit of my story helps some readers. Keeping with taboo topics, I would like to know Ms. Hills experience and knowledge on the toxicity in matriarchal families and why matriarchal societies tend to be “horizontal.” Research defines horizontal as non-hierarchical and based on matrilineal kinship, but I would argue that the horizontal structure comes from the tendency of females to not support each other. The second one seems to be rising above or away from the herd, they gang up to tear that individual down. This tendency of the group flatlines growth and minimizes dissension, enforcing a “horizontal” system and creating false harmony. The ganging up women do to attack another, often a single individual, is typical. It’s no wonder female relationships have been evergreen, very relatable international entertainment for decades.

Let’s lighten up the mood a bit . . .

via GIPHY – But, seriously, remember what they did to Vanderpump?

Ultimately, the targeted individual woman (or girl) is absorbed into the confines of matriarchal system, enforced by ever-wagging tongues, schemes, and gang-ups. Or the individual leaves, what I call, “wise flight.”

As an athlete for over 22 years and a broke single mom for most of that time, I created brokesinglemomfitness.com, now LLAFIT.com, to aid anyone who believes the road to fitness requires a lot of cash or time. In reality, the way to fitness is paved with knowledge and firm principles; teaching readers how to master both is the goal of this site. LLAFIT - Lifelong Applied Fitness

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