Does Your Mother Exhibit Crazy-Making Behaviors?

Updated on September 29, 2019
letstalkabouteduc profile image

After struggling with depression and anxiety most of my life, I'm now dedicated to becoming a stronger person who lives life to the fullest.

If you've tried to get along with your mother but failed miserably, her crazy making behaviors may be the reason.
If you've tried to get along with your mother but failed miserably, her crazy making behaviors may be the reason. | Source

Recognize the Crazy Making and Get Peace of Mind

For over five decades, I fought to have a good relationship with my mother, naively thinking it would improve if I just tried harder. It wasn't until recently that I finally surrendered, knowing my efforts were in vain and accepting the limitations of our bond. Because of her painful childhood with an alcoholic parent, my mom was emotionally damaged and unable to form deep connections. Her crazy-making behaviors, whether done consciously or unconsciously, were deeply ingrained in her psyche long before I was born. They frustrated me, made me sad and, yes, even drove me nuts. Now I stand back and clearly see her actions prevented us from getting close and there was nothing I could do about it. If you're wanting to connect with your mother (or someone else), it helps to know how these 6 behaviors may make that an impossible feat, thus leading to acceptance and, eventually, peace of mind.

1. Playing the Martyr for All Its Worth

If your mother plays the martyr, give up any hope of having a close, meaningful relationship with her. Your bond will never be healthy and balanced because she needs to feel morally superior—saintly, self-sacrificing, and long-suffering. Her identity is tied up in being the victim who gives and gives without getting anything in return. When you offer even the slightest criticism of her, she'll become incensed because you're threatening her self-image. When you see her flaws, she'll feel resentful. When you joke with her about her foibles, she'll not be amused.

If I ever dared to find fault with my mother, she'd reach back into history and hurl at me everything I'd ever done that hurt her. Therefore, I learned to keep my mouth shut, and we never dealt with our issues. Our problems never got resolved and stockpiled while the relationship deteriorated.

The unexamined life is not worth living.

— Socrates

2. Rewriting History to Appear More Perfect

If your mom plays the martyr, she may feel a need to rewrite history so she appears more saintly and heroic. If she did something in the past that threatens her self-concept, she may deny it ever happened or alter the facts so she comes out looking like a rose. Your shared memories will be in dispute because you remember them accurately and she does not.

I no longer bring up my childhood with my mother because she gets defensive when my recollections aren't all blue skies and palomino ponies. If I mention my dad's verbal abuse, she'll claim it never happened, feeling guilty about not protecting us kids. If I talk about my sister getting married at 18 to leave our dysfunctional home, she'll argue that my sister was in love and that was the only reason she got hitched so young. I now leave the past in the past, but that's a huge chunk of our lives that's left unexamined.

Some mothers get envious when their grown daughters enjoy experiences they didn't. My mom was jealous when I breastfed my son and made disparaging comments.
Some mothers get envious when their grown daughters enjoy experiences they didn't. My mom was jealous when I breastfed my son and made disparaging comments. | Source

3. Craving Validation for All Her Life Choices

Moms who engage in crazy-making behaviors are often insecure, craving validation for their life choices. This was certainly true of mine who struggled with low self-esteem. Her ego was so fragile that she looked for ways to bolster it through her adult children, especially her two daughters. When we followed her example as a mother, she felt great but, when we chose a different path, she felt irrationally threatened.

This deep-seated need for us to follow her lead became especially intense when my sister and I had children of our own. She wanted us to do everything as she had done, even though thirty years had passed and times were different. She hadn't breastfed us, for example, and was upset when we both decided to do so. She disparaged what we were doing, making snide comments such as: “I didn't have the time to sit around and nurse. I had to clean the house. It must be nice to have so much leisure time.” Instead of us becoming closer to her when we had kids, we moved farther apart as we saw her act petty and needy.

4. Pulling Away from Intimacy

Most of us have a goal of developing intimacy in our relationships with partners, parents, kids, and friends. But we must keep in mind that this is not the goal of everyone, even our own mothers. For some of them—especially those who were traumatized during childhood—growing close is scary so they pull away. Protecting themselves from hurt is more important than anything else.

This was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn with my mom. When I wanted to delve into her childhood pain (and mine as well), she would only go so far and then resist. She had little insight into the people and events that shaped her life and zero interest in examining them. Even though her mother was an alcoholic who died from cirrhosis of the liver, she had never read a book about alcoholism and never attended an Al-Anon meeting. Her lack of curiosity prevented my siblings from making the much-needed connections between problems in the past that led to problems in the present such as eating disorders, addictions, depression, and anxiety.

If your mother suffered trauma as a child, she may be incapable of forming an intimate relationship with you.
If your mother suffered trauma as a child, she may be incapable of forming an intimate relationship with you. | Source

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.

— Mother Theresa

5. Sabotaging Us to Gain Control

Most mothers play the role of cheerleaders in their daughters' lives, motivating them from the sidelines to do their very best. They celebrate their daughters' achievements and revel in their happiness. Their primary goal as parents is to rear confident kids who are ready to tackle life when reaching adulthood. Sadly, however, a small portion of us had moms who were conflicted—wanting us to shine but also feeling competitive and jealous when we did. Their crazy-making pattern of both supporting us and sabotaging us defined our childhoods, causing confusion and despair.

One of the ways my mother sabotaged me was with food. Always overweight and struggling with eating issues, she handed those same problems to me on a silver platter. When I was a kid, she made it abundantly clear that I should be thin, but her actions contradicted her words. She plied me with sweets and fattening foods, took me to fast food restaurants, filled our pantry with junk, and turned me into her eating buddy. Going to restaurants was her favorite form of entertainment so it became mine as well. As a result, I've been plagued with eating problems my entire life and developed many obsessive-compulsive behaviors around food.

6. Using Our Weaknesses Against Us

When we choose to let someone in our lives to love, we're taking a huge leap of faith. We're trusting what they learn about us—our weaknesses, quirks, and fears—will be treated with love and respect, not used as weapons against us. Since our mothers know us from birth, they're privy to all our imperfections but, because they love us unconditionally, we don't worry about it. But a small percentage of us have mothers who don't safeguard our flaws but use them to control and manipulate us.

My insecure mother used my imperfections to feel better about herself. I'm an introvert who's uncomfortable in large gatherings and struggles to make small talk. Yet, whenever I see her at family events, she greets me with words that undercut my confidence and make me want to hide. Some of her favorite lines are: “You look so tired” and “You've gained weight.” She'll point out a minuscule stain on my blouse, fuss with my hair to let me know it doesn't look right, and scan me up and down critically and then not say a word.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 McKenna Meyers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        4 months ago

        Noni, when I'm away from my mother, I long to have a better relationship with her. When I'm with her for just a matter of minutes, I immediately remember why it's not possible. She just doesn't know how to be a mom and makes me feel so bad about myself. Have a good cry. Not having warm, loving moms in our lives is worthy of some tears.

      • profile image

        Noni Jackson 

        4 months ago

        I want to cry, this is exactly my mother, I want to help her, I want to be close, but it is realisticly impossible because of her

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        16 months ago

        Thanks for your comments, Sunny. Examining our childhoods and writing about them is a powerful way to gain insight, put them into perspective, and move forward in our lives. It's also extremely helpful so we don't repeat the same destructive habits with our own children. I hear from so many women who have difficult relationships with their moms, and they need to share their stories, feel validated, and know they're not alone. Most, including myself, are not playing the blame game or wallowing in our pain but being pro-active and doing the hard work it takes to heal.

      • profile image

        Sunny Daye 

        16 months ago

        I just wonder where in all these allegations and judgements again your mother ... where are ... accepting her for who she is ... supporting her and being proud of her ... taking self responsibility for your own obvious sense of martyrdom and eating habits ... stop the blame and just accept no one is perfect ... stop playing the victim ...

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        23 months ago

        What a wonderful thing to say about your mother! You were truly blessed to have such a close relationship with her.

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        23 months ago from sunny Florida

        O I wish my Momma were here to make me crazy for just one of these reasons. She died too many years ago and we had an unusually wonderful relationship. How blessed I was/am.

        Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        2 years ago

        Understanding the origins of my mother's crazy making behaviors has helped me accept her and show compassion. I know how to spend time with her and I know when it's time to go. My relationship with my sons is healthy and they're strong and independent. Thanks for reading and commenting, Dora.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        2 years ago from The Caribbean

        Wish I could erase the hurt for all the children who never had a good relationship with their mothers. I'm also aware that said mothers had problems of their own. Life does throw some jabs which make life difficult. Glad that you eventually found peace of mind and praying that you and your children would enjoy your relationships with each other.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)