When we have learned to love ourselves either through, adaptive parenting, great substitutes or surrogate parents, God’s love, loving ourselves or learning self love through some other love from another source, we have the ability to learn the power and priority that loving ourselves should take in our lives and its relationship to loving others.
We have heard the phrase “love yourself first” ad nauseum and many of us can believe that we’re living this precept only to find weeds growing in our lives because the reality is, self love isn’t part of the equation at all.
Self Love has many shades and definitions, but the constant in its measurement can be found in the portrait which is our life – the living breathing canvas of all the decisions we make day to day that result in either a living life of integrity and meaning or having evidence of a life that will live and die by the ego.
Let’s quickly dismiss what loving ourselves isn’t: It isn’t loud, it doesn’t prove or justify, it doesn’t require approval or attention of others, it doesn’t seek to gain advantage, have power over, compete with or harm others. It’s not superficial, it doesn’t shirk responsibility, it doesn’t ask us to lie, hide or pretend.
“Climb the mountain to see the world, Not so the world can see you”
The things I’ve just described are called “loving ourselves” but its clear to see these are just ego stroking, attention seeking behaviors which serve to substitute with ego, what’s lacking in the person’s identity. It’s ego building in absence of true character possession.
When we genuinely love ourselves, it is evident in the fruit we bear, the type of things we’ll say yes and no to, and the type of people we will allow in our lives. We can’t give lip service to being a healthy, self respecting person with self worth, while simultaneously having an extramarital affair with a narcissist who abuses us. The two can’t co-exist. The ACTIONS gain credence while the words are seen as the mute drivel of a hypocrite.
Let’s look at the actions which indicate that we are truly loving ourselves:
1. Self – Honesty
This is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth as it pertains to ourselves inside and out. We all have issues. But we don’t say, we all have issues to AVOID addressing them…we say it…and then we EXPLORE them.
Digging into yourself – really admitting what’s there and then doing something about it takes COURAGE and responsibility.
It takes the vulnerability to say, “I dont think Im as together as I previously thought I was”. “I think I need to admit this about myself, because it’s hurting others / myself”. “I am not always nice. Sometimes, Im downright mean. I mean well, but my intentions don’t matter here, my behavior does.”
One of the main reasons narcissists are incapable of loving themselves and thus others is that they aren’t able to be self honest and do something with it; they can’t suspend their shame, perfectionism and ego drives long enough to give a realistic appraisal of themselves and effect any change.
Not being perfect is NOT a crime, despite having learned that to be less than perfect to a narcissist IS a crime. Reality dictates here – PEOPLE ARE IMPERFECT. Sometimes in BIG WAYS (like narcissists) and sometimes in normal ways – like most people.
Understanding ourselves, knowing who we are and who we aren’t, having a realistic self appraisal and acceptance of ourselves as a blend of good and not so good qualities are key ingredients of healthy self love.
2. Having Appropriate levels of responsibility
This goes back to the serenity prayer precept of, having the “courage to change the things we can” – ourselves.
When we are accurately aware of what is ours to fix and what is NOT ours to fix, we will have the right amount of time to devote our energy to the things we “should”.
When we are busy working on our feelings, our thoughts, our actions and our words, we honestly just don’t have much time left for what everyone else is doing.
It all comes back to how we respond to things anyway. Even learning about narcissism isn’t so that we can “help” the narcissist but rather about learning enough to help ourselves (and other survivors).
When we aren’t trying to fix others, we can get busy with the business of fixing ourselves.
3. Establishing Boundaries that Affirm and Protect Our Worth
Boundaries are so fundamental to our self concept that a whole section alone can be devoted to boundaries as it pertains to self love.
In brief, there are decisions that we make every second that involve our boundaries. When we choose between one thing we like and one we don’t, we are establishing our identity. When we make it a conscious, constant decision to be committed to a life of integrity, we will be diligent about our choices (or boundaries). We make choices about what we wear, what we eat, who we talk to, how we talk, how we let others talk to us, that show us without much in-depth psycho analysis EXACTLY who we are.
Behavior doesnt lie and neither do our choices.
When we love ourselves, our choices and thus behavior will reflect and indicate that we do. If I say I value myself, but my behavior illustrates that Im willing to defile my body, beat up on myself about my flaws, or remain in the company of someone who’s lifestyle and values I don’t respect, then I’ve got some self reflection to perform.
Loving ourselves by setting healthy boundaries would look more like this:
Not talking to someone of the opposite sex who is married, giving myself enough rest when Im tired or stressed, walking away when someone raises their voice at me or verbally abuses me.
Knowing our limits and adhering to them, keeps us in line with our values and sense of integrity. Walking the walk over talking the talk, gives us a life that reflects we know ourselves and value ourselves enough to make healthy choices, despite the temptations.
By tending to our own lives; our Honesty, Responsibility and having appropriate boundaries, we can guarantee that the choices we make will bring into our lives an abundance of life giving friendships, jobs, mates and experiences.
Everyday let’s strive to make the sometimes tough choices, say what we truly mean and want in our lives and say no without explaining why we want what we want. We are the gatekeepers for what enters our life; if someone negative has slipped in, we must take responsibility for giving them the boot, and SWIFTLY!
Hindsight is an amazing tool for survivors.
When you grow up with a narcissistic parent, there are realities about our environment that don’t exist in a non-narcissistic household. These realities are our healing points, our own issues, that as an adult we realize require healing for us to go on to have healthy adult relationships.
The narcissistic parent, incapable of meeting a childs needs because they conflict with their own, becomes the recipient of the child’s care and affection. The npd parent flips the roles and demands that the child be the sacrificial, giving caretaker. Of course in hindsight, its easy to see the error in this behavior, but as a young, impressionable child the modeled behavior has an impact on the things we’ll need to unwind and reparent later in life.
What this does is set us up to be the caretakers, the responsible ones, the fixers, the glue that holds the narcissist together. It sets us up to GIVE caretaking love to a narcissist, while not complaining or making much of a fuss about receiving nothing in return. Because we’re so used to this treatment from the narcissist in our younger years, we don’t put up much resistence at all to this treatment as adults.
Narcissists do NOT possess the ability to respect boundaries. They’re boundary busters. Crossing over mental boundaries to tell you what’s going on in YOUR head or what your motivation is, crossing over physical boundaries to touch and hug us when we don’t wish to be touched or hugged, taking our property without permission, crossing over our emotional boundaries to argue with what we feel, why we feel it or if we “should” feel it, when only we can know those things. Sharing secrets we’ve asked them to keep, talking about you as if you’re not in the room, reading your diary without permission, eavesdropping on private conversations, wearing your clothes without asking, triangulating and talking to others in the family or office about you behind your back, all are examples of violation of boundaries and is a list too lengthy to document. If you feel exhausted reading about the many ways narcissists cross their childrens’ boundaries, imagine LIVING IT.
Children of narcissists grow into adults who are accustomed to having boundaries busted quite frequently; so much so, that this feels “familiar” / “like home”. Adult narcissistic predators looking for the perfect “victim”, senses and spots this ingrained trait and automatically realizes that there will be no consequences for exploiting the target. They’ll bust over our boundaries, without much of a fight and realize that they can ‘get away’ with their bullying and aggressive behavior.
When faced with hopelessness, human beings will resign themselves to a future that resembles the present, same ole same ole, maintenance of the status quo is exactly what happens as a child grows in a narcissistic family. The narcissist never changes, the child learns that their own needs and desires are inferior if not completely non existent to the narcissists needs and wants. What’s the point if your needs are never tended to? So the child adopts the caretaking role of worrying about the narcissists needs, not their own. We resign ourselves to selflessness / needlessness.
It’s a result of both the parentification of the child as well as the sheer inability the narcissist has to think of anyone other than themselves. Even though a narcissist is good to put on a big show to others about what a great parent they are, the kids are the benefactors of this twisted truth:
NARCISSISTS DO NOT CARE ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN REGARDLESS OF THEIR SUPERIOR ACTING SKILLS
We learn that we don’t matter. It’s not that we aren’t worthy of this attention to our needs or care & understanding, but that’s what our translation is. We personalize it. We do think it’s because we’re unworthy. It becomes our self concept. We go about giving and loving the narcissist, trying to please them, or prove ourselves giving / caring enough that the narcissist will finally find us “worthy” of some scraps of genuine affection that never come.
This sets us up to be the perfect adult doormat. With no needs, an adult child will feel comfortable when partners demand that their needs be paramount in the “relationship”. It teaches us not to expect reciprocity. It teaches us that a 100 / 0 relationship is “familiar” and “normal”. It’s not normal at all, but when you’re used to someone riding rough shod to get all the goodies, you simply step aside as opposed to telling them to cut it out.
Apologizing for our existence:
Its a sad state of affairs that a child would feel the need to assert their right to be here or have a childhood drive to PROVE that we’re worth loving, but that’s the reality of a narcissistic family dynamic. The things that narcissists say out of rage for their children, in the presence of no witnesses, is beyond appalling. I recall having thoughts in grade school about being so thankful that abortion wasn’t legal in the 60s. It’s not that 5th graders really care about such lofty matters, its just that the person I depended on and loved most, my mother, let me know repeatedly that I was very lucky abortion wasn’t legal, because I wouldn’t have been alive. Recalling this reality in hindsight, allows me to feel the remorse and empathy for myself that I deserved. What my inner child went through was unfathomable.
What these messages, whether overt as in my above account, or insidious and covert, the message is the same: WE MAY EXIST, BUT WE OUGHT TO FEEL LUCKY WE DO.
When you constantly feel you’re being treated as an inconvenience or interruption to the perfectly supply driven life of a narcissist, you learn that the best way to live in that regime is to step aside and let the narcissist have the limelight.
No, a home is NOT a stage in a play or melodrama for normal people, but in a narcissistic family, the main seat at the table, the one who “earns” our keep, the top dog in our lives….is the narcissist and WE ALL KNOW IT. We’re all there to fill our part in their play. We will behave however the narcissist has decided our role will be and we will NOT deviate from that, unless we want to incur the narcissist’s rage.
Let’s stop down for a moment and pay a brief word to “the narcissist’s rage”. Many people who don’t live within the narc home, don’t have a clue that the narcissist has a two faced personality. They see the “kind” “giving” blah blah image the narcissist presents to strangers and can never fathom that the same narcissist would be a terroristic tyrant at home.
Narcissistic rage isn’t always the typical big, loud mouth event. It’s more cruel than that. Narcissistic rage is more subdued and insidious. They’d much rather punish people by WITHHOLDING AND REFUSING TO GIVE what they know those people need from them. A narc parent will be subtly aggressive (raging) by showing the child, that they can disconnect emotionally from the child as if the child doesn’t exist. They’ll not show up, be on time. or give full attention to the things that are important to the child. They’ll disappear emotionally until the child begs for attention through acting out or acting up.
When children who have learned to feel that they don’t want to rock the boat by “existing” grow up, they will not question or stand up to behaviors that cause us to feel unimportant or invalidated by others. Cheating will be tolerated, invalidation will be turned a blind eye to, a narcissist’s double standard for treatment won’t be questioned.
Since narcissists don’t possess empathy, how do we ever get to relax as children and FEEL that someone else really cares about the things that we do at times. When we’ve lost a pet, or been teased at school, if our parent is incapable of really feeling what we feel in response to these events, we are going to feel really disconnected from intimacy. When we are excited about that boy or girl that we’ve been crushing on, returns our affections – its going to hurt when we can’t get our parent off social media or to stop taking pictures of themselves long enough to listen to us fully.
It hurts to have feelings about our parents behavior that we know we can’t ever be heard on. That we know deep down, this person, our parent, doesn’t care enough about us to really hear us is so isolating and disconnecting. We start to realize on a deep level that, we will ONLY have the narcissists full attention or care when it is convenient for them.
Lack of empathy strikes at the very feeling of being loved and cared about that it’s impossible to feel the love of your parent if they are empathy impaired. The narcissist would argue that “they really care” about the people around them, but those people know that the narcissist only “cares” when it behooves them and that, that is not a genuine love for them in the least.
The key to reparenting ourselves in this area is to recognize the disorder for what it is and not internalize this inability to care/ love on the narcissist’s part as being a defect of our own that makes us “unlovable”.
Trouble with Developing our True Identity:
Much like the narcissist, targets who grew up in a narcissistic regime, don’t get a chance to fully explore who we truly are, until we are no longer under the influence of the narcissist’s boundary busting methods of “telling us who we are”. What the narcissist tells us we are, is skewed anyway. We know that through projection, the narcissist casts off the traits hated in themselves onto those closest to them, so when we’re told we’re SELFISH, it’s nothing more than the narcissist accusing us, of what they are guilty of themselves.
But you can see, as a child, with such impressionable identities, being told again and again that you are something you’re not, is going to make you believe it – whether it’s true or not.
As a young child, I was told repeatedly by my narcissistic mother that I was “selfish”. In fact, I was told I was selfish so frequently that I sometimes wondered if my name wasn’t really “selfish little bitch”. What this did to me, was gave me the message that selfish was bad, and I should never be “that kind of bad”. I went on to consider my own selfishness in every interaction with everyone I had; and still do. I don’t want to hurt others. I empathize with how hurtful it is to be selfishly shut out by someone’s blindingly grand ego.
I didn’t learn the important lesson that there is a certain level of “selfishness” that doesn’t hurt anyone, that is a normal part of self care and isn’t bad at all, I felt that it was my “duty” to never be selfish to others. The result? I couldn’t say no to others and never questioned what that did to myself. In fact, I barely thought of myself at all and was continually frustrated that I gave unselfishly but rarely received that from others. I learned that it was not MY JOB to take care of myself but that through unselfish service to others, someday I’d be loved.
If you are not allowed to be who you really are I think this is the pivotal identity issue that either creates a personality disordered identity vs a strong, resilient surviving type of personality that rises through the ashes and thrives to survive despite all the abuse.
In my own case, I sought outside relationships with neighbors, teachers and clergy who allowed me to be my true identity. My strength of character pushed me to broaden my “frame of reference circle” or my “feedback loop” to encompass those who also lived in reality. My ability to tell the truth despite the terrible consequences of being shamed and shunned by a narcissist who didn’t want to hear the truth, caused me to be the scapegoat in my family – my ability to call a spade a spade, allowed my true identity and authenticity to survive.
Its my thought that this resiliency trait that exists in me, exists in all survivors who have found their way here to the page, telling our truths about this abuse, willing to be honest, and accept responsibility for the things about ourselves that played into this abuse and allow us to make changes that prevent this from ever happening to us again as well as our willingness to be there for others who are hurting the hurts we’ve hurt and seek the same peaceful living that we seek.
As you can see in retrospect, the lessons we learned growing up in a narcissistic family are lessons that we need to unlearn now that we’re adults so that we don’t continue to choose partners who will repeat the abuse of our childhood. We also have a responsibility to protect our children from these patterns and do everything within our power to model HEALTHY parenting roles, boundaries, needs, unconditional love empathy and acceptance of who are children really are.
Besides the #1 go to solution for dealing with a narcissist: LEAVING – let’s explore some tips when we’re forced to deal with this nasty person in the workplace, in our families, with our inlaws, etc.
Managing our own emotions in the face of a disordered person’s roller coaster emotions and moodiness can be quite a challenge. The important point to remember is to engage your boundaries and know what belongs to the narcissist and what responsibility belong to you. They may be a disordered person but we still need to protect ourselves from their behavior having a negative effect on us.
Negative behavior: that of the toxic bully will use his or her mood swings to intimidate and manipulate others. It’s this aspect of moodiness that inflicts enduring abuse and misery. If you observe these people closely, you will notice that their attitude is overly self-referential. Their relationships are prioritized according to how each one can be used to meet their selfish needs. This is the kind of toxic behavior I want to look at.
How can we best manage the fallout from other people’s relentless toxic narcissism?
1. Move on without them.
If you know someone who insists on destructively dictating the emotional atmosphere, then be clear: they are toxic. If you are suffering because of their attitude, and your compassion, patience, advice, and general attentiveness doesn’t seem to help them, and they don’t seem to care one bit, then ask yourself, “Do I really need this person in my life?”
When you delete toxic, narcissistic people from your environment it becomes a lot easier to breathe. If the circumstances warrant it, leave these people behind and move on when you must. Seriously, be strong and know when enough is enough! Letting go of toxic people doesn’t mean you hate them, or that you wish them harm; it simply means you care about your own well-being enough to remove them from bringing down your emotional atmosphere.
A healthy relationship is reciprocal; it should be give and take, but not in the sense that you’re always giving and they’re always taking. If you must keep a truly toxic person in your life for whatever reason, then consider the remaining points…
2. Stop pretending their toxic behavior is OK.
If you’re not careful, narcissistic people can use their moody behavior to get preferential treatment, because it just seems easier to quiet them down than to listen to their grouchy rhetoric. Don’t be fooled. Short-term ease equals long-term pain for you in a situation like this. Toxic people don’t change if they are being rewarded for not changing. Decide this minute not to be influenced by their behavior. Stop tiptoeing around them or making special pardons for their continued belligerence.
Constant drama and negativity is never worth putting up with. If someone over the age 21 can’t be a reasonable, reliable adult on a regular basis, it’s time to…
3. Speak up!
Stand up for yourself. Some people will do anything for their own personal gain at the expense of others – cut in line, take money and property, bully and belittle, pass guilt, etc. Do not accept this behavior. Most of these people know they’re doing the wrong thing and will back down surprisingly quickly when confronted. In most social settings people tend to keep quiet until one person speaks up, so SPEAK UP.
Some narcissistic people may use anger as a way of influencing you, or they may not respond to you when you’re trying to communicate, or interrupt you and suddenly start speaking negatively about something dear to you. If ever you dare to speak up and respond adversely to their moody behavior, they may be surprised, or even outraged, that you’ve trespassed onto their behavioral territory. But you must speak up anyway. You’re doing this to discharge the frustration in your soul that results when you bite your tongue and hold your own truth inside. You are worthy of speaking up on your own behalf.
Not mentioning someone’s toxic behavior can become the principal reason for being sucked into their mind games. Challenging this kind of behavior upfront, on the other hand, will sometimes get them to realize the negative impact of their behavior. For instance, you might say:
- “I’ve noticed you seem angry. Is something upsetting you?”
- “I think you look bored. Do you think what I’m saying is unimportant?”
- “Your attitude is upsetting me right now. Is this what you want?”
Direct statements like these can be disarming if someone truly does use their moody attitude as a means of social manipulation.
Even if they say: “What do you mean?” and deny it, at least you’ve made them aware that their attitude has become a known issue to someone else, rather than just a personal tool they can use to manipulate others whenever they want.
If they persist in denial, it might be time to…
4. Put your foot down.
Your dignity may be attacked, ravaged and disgracefully mocked, but it can never be taken away unless you willingly surrender it. It’s all about finding the strength to defend your boundaries.
Demonstrate that you won’t be insulted or belittled. To be honest, no one has ever had much luck trying to call truly toxic people (the worst of the worst) out when they’ve continuously insulted them. The best response we can hope to receive is a snarky, “I’m sorry you took what I said so personally.” Much more effective has been ending conversations with sickening sweetness or just plain abruptness. The message is clear: There is no reward for subtle digs and no games will be played on your end.
Truly toxic people will pollute everyone around them, including you if you allow them. If you’ve tried reasoning with them and they aren’t budging, don’t hesitate to vacate their space and ignore them until they do.
5. Don’t take their toxic behavior personally.
It’s them, not you. KNOW this.
Narcissistic people will try to imply that somehow you’ve done something wrong. And because the “feeling guilty” button is quite large on many of us, even the implication that we might have done something wrong can hurt our confidence and unsettle our resolve. Don’t let this happen to you.
Remember, there is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. Most toxic people behave negatively not just to you, but to everyone they interact with. Even when the situation seems personal – even if you feel directly insulted – it usually has nothing to do with you. What they say and do, and the opinions they have, are based entirely on their own self-reflection.
6. Practice compassion.
Sometimes it makes sense to be sympathetic with toxic people whom you know are going through a difficult time, or those who are suffering from an illness. There’s no question about it, some toxic people are genuinely distressed, depressed, or even mentally and physically ill, but you still need to separate their legitimate issues from how they behave toward you. If you let people get away with anything because they are distressed, facing a medical condition, or depressed, even, then you are making it too tempting for them to start unconsciously using their unfortunate circumstance as a means to an end.
We can’t “help” someone by making unwarranted pardons for everything they do simply because they have problems. There are plenty of people who are going through extreme hardships who are not toxic to everyone around them. We can only act with genuine compassion when we set boundaries. Making too many pardons and allowances is not healthy or practical for anyone in the long-term.
7. Take time for yourself.
If you are forced to live or work with a narcissistic person, then make sure you get enough alone time to relax, rest, and recuperate. Having to play the role of a “focused, rational adult” in the face of toxic moodiness can be exhausting, and if you’re not careful, the toxicity can infect you. Again, understand that even people with legitimate problems and clinical illnesses can still comprehend that you have needs as well, which means you can politely excuse yourself when you need to.
You deserve this time away. You deserve to think free from external pressure and toxic behavior. No problems to solve, boundaries to uphold, or personalities to please. Sometimes you need to make time for yourself, away from the busy world you live in that doesn’t make time for you.
10 Life Changing Truths to Embrace on the Healing Journey
Originally posted on Self-Care Haven:
The journey to healing from emotional and/or physical abuse requires us to revolutionize our thinking about relationships, self-love, self-respect and self-compassion. Abusive relationships often serve as the catalyst for incredible change and have the potential to motivate us towards empowerment and strength, should we take advantage of our new agency.
Here are ten life-changing truths abuse survivors must embrace along this journey, though it may appear challenging to do so.
1. It was not your fault. Victim-blaming is rampant both in society and even within the mental landscapes of abuse survivors themselves. Recently, the victim-blaming and the mythical “ease” of leaving an abusive relationship has been challenged in the public discourse. Accepting that the pathology of another person and the abuse he or she inflicted upon you is not under your control can be quite challenging when you’ve been told otherwise, by the abuser, the public and even by those close…
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Amazingly Articulated Article!
Originally posted on Self-Care Haven:
Dating an emotional predator, a narcissist, a sociopath or anyone else who has the potential to be an abusive or toxic influence in your life is a devastating emotional roller coaster of highs and lows. Although many abusers tend to unfold and reveal their true selves long after they’ve already reeled their victims in, there are some key signs to look out for when dating someone that can foreshadow their future behavior.
The great thing about dating is that you are not committing to a relationship, so you can use this process as a way to find out more about a potential partner, and if necessary, cut ties should he or she turn out to have abusive traits without investing further in the relationship.
Here are some signs to look out for.
1) A need for control. Abusers want to control and manipulate their victims, so they will find…
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One of the hardest things about narcissistic abuse and going no contact, is getting to that point in time where we cross the line from WANTING the narcissist to love us & being devastated by the feelings that they don’t, along with everything that means to us and ACCEPTING that they are entirely and forever incapable of it.
Whether or not we loved ourselves before we met a narcissist, is irrelevant. The fact is, we were sold on the idea that a narcissist did love us in a grandiose narc fashion, then they went about the business of abusing us. In that abuse, they also relentlessly verbally berated us, insidiously blamed us over and over again, sending us the message that somehow the abuse was our fault and that we were not worthy of anything more.
By the time we wise up and decide to put them behind us, the habit, obsession and addiction takes over and drives us to think, feel and behave in ways that don’t rationally make any sense to us.
Time and time again, I’ve heard survivors say that they “know” they should be happy the narcissist is out of their lives and not have any feelings of missing their abuser, but to their dismay, they DO miss them and have feelings of longing they don’t understand. It’s difficult when your brain gets it, but your heart (and self worth) aren’t on the same page.
Let’s explore what makes NO CONTACT, the thing that’s going to free us, save us and get us clear is so difficult:
YES. IT’S REAL. The narcissist is a very insidious abuser. It took me 3 years to call my situation abusive and I had to be led to that label by 3 mental health professionals and a superior court judge. Their disorder is one that cannot accept ANY accountability – so imagine each 24 hours that you spend in a narcissist’s presence will be full of ways, reasons, and “evidence” of how things are YOUR fault. Targets are responsible, empathic people to begin with. If, day in and out, we are told that happiness would be ours if we could just DO WHAT THE NARC SAYS, or STOP what they tell us to stop. We begin to be so exhausted, we’ll buckle to the blame and try to fix it.
There are many false confessions on record, by innocent people who were so pressured by being told they were responsible and feared their accusers that they acquiesced just to get the pressure to stop. Same principle.
When we get free, we’ve got a brain that needs to decompress and get clear. That’s just not going to happen overnight, even if our brains tell us we “should”.
We need to be patient with ourselves, know that our brainwashed state did not happen overnight and will also not go away that quickly.
2) Our Focus is a Habit that is Dominated by the Narcissist
From Day 1, You are being taught to focus on the narcissist to the exclusion of yourself. You’re robbed of your time, your own thoughts and feelings, spirit, soul and existence in order to cater to a stingy, selfish, entitled, mentally disordered control freak. If you do what is expected of you, you will be rewarded (kind of). If you buck the control system of the narcissist, you will be punished. It’s very easy to see how your attention is conditioned and reinforced to favor the narcissist.
When you’ve decided to go your own way, you are NOT USE to putting yourself first, thinking for yourself, and not having the obsessive focus on the narcissist. Even though the monster is gone, everything else remains. All the free time on our hands is like a vacuum of loneliness and learned helplessness. It’s a well known fact that any behavior you try to quit, is best conquered by REPLACING it with a more positive habit.
A panacea for all this time on our hands is to turn the attention to ourselves. One trick that I used to use was everytime that the abuser came into my thoughts, I’d say “STOP!” inside my head. Then I’d repeat the words “ME ME ME ME ME ME ME” until my focus came back to myself. Once I was aware that I was self focused, I asked myself questions, “What do you need? What do you feel?” Then I’d go about meeting my own needs. Whatever it was, even if I answered “I need a hug”, then I’d put my arms around myself, stroke my back and say “I love you”. While this sounds completely hokey, when you’re clinging to any bit of hope in the aftermath of narcissistic abuse, this doesn’t appear so hokey. Try it. :)
3) We Doubt Our Own Worth
Whether we loved ourselves before we met the narcissist or not, we certainly do NOT feel self loving when it is over, so let’s just focus on that. If the narcissist has discarded us, despite all the loving, giving, and sacrificing for them, this is such a blow to our egos that it’s very hard to accept. We feel rejected, dejected and completely unworthy. Yes, rationally, we KNOW that we shouldn’t give others the power to hurt us this badly, but the fact is, those boundaries were busted the moment we let a narcissist into our hearts. There’s no room for ourselves in our own hearts when a narcissist is in the picture. Now they’ve left us? Without any warning? AND replaced us so quickly!!??
What a blow! In hindsight we can look back and understand why the discard happened knowing full well it says nothing about our worth, but in the moment? This is a devastating blow. These strong emotions of rejection and unworthiness can lead us to do odd things: apologize for things we didn’t do, bargain and promise to change, or run the new supply down in an effort to feel better by comparison.
This is one of those bitter pill realities of narcissistic abuse that we need to swallow yet again. It hurts. It sucks. It ISN’T FAIR. It looks like the narc has moved on (and they have, but they did LONG before they found someone else – they were NEVER invested in you in the first place) and here we are: STRUGGLING.
To make matters worse, we remember who we were when we were accosted by a narcissist, remembering a happy, confident, independent, wise person. The realization of how much damage we’ve suffered and then being tasked with the SOLE ROLE of fixing ourselves alone, is a tough, sad, prospect.
Feel these feelings. The sadness, the injustice, the fear, the anger, the grief. All of those feelings, get them out for as long as you need to, because this cycle of grief is the first wave of grieving.
Work on building your self worth. Read up on the topic and “how to” rebuild your self worth and then use your boundaries to protect your worth from human predators.
Stay away from indulging in self-flagellating and criticizing statements. You are NOT to blame. You are NOT unlovable. and you did NOT deserve this. Instead, take these statements as REMINDERS to tell yourself the truth. You are WORTHY. You are LOVABLE. You have RIGHTS. You are NOT crazy, and you are NOT narcissistic.
4) Our boundaries have been trampled
When you’ve been so trangressed, you don’t know who’s who anymore. The things you were are now being worn like they belong to the narcissist, and you are bearing the burden of all the shameful behaviors a narcissist espouses: Cheating, lying, using and abusing. They skate off looking like a good person, while you are left behind (even if you left them) being the person they smear campaigned and brainwashed into believing are the worthless, horrible, unlovable person they’ve said you are.
When you finally get free, sorting back out all this boundary stuff is a HUGE TASK!
Using the serenity prayer or any form of separating yourself from the narcissist is a good strategic tool at this point to rebuild your boundaries. Imagine two buckets before you. All the things the narc accused you of, (projected onto you) can be tossed in the NARC bucket. The traits or identity that YOU decide really DO belong to you, can be placed in YOUR bucket. If you repeat this exercise over and over again, especially as you learn about the disorder and the defense mechanisms and schemas the narcissist uses, you begin to get clearer and clearer about what belongs to whom. It’s the reason we post so much about what narcissists do on the page; it’s not that we’re just hate bashing, but rather that the more you learn about the disorder, the more able you are to separate yourself from it and understand why all the boundary transgressions were happening.
5) We feel the need to be validated and it is not forthcoming from the narcissist
With all the confusion, crossed boundaries and self doubt, a target is so beaten down, having looked to the narcissist for such a long period of time, we haven’t yet learned that narcissists purposefully withhold closure, and of course will never validate our feelings because to do so would involve taking responsibility and being accountable.
We’re full of emotion, want answers and don’t yet understand that a narcissist’s lack of empathy is the driving force behind their lack of validation. It’s on full display when we’re hurting and they’re refusing to validate our pain, our suspicions, and our feelings. It’s an awful place to be in, because we don’t yet realize that the only validation we really need is our own. Each time we seek validation from the narcissist, we only validate THEM; that they’re special and desired, while we kick ourselves for wanting something from them that we once again didn’t get. This is a horrible cycle of defeat but it can be broken with the help of other survivors.
It is an enormous help to receive the validation of other survivors, therapists, friends and family so that we can begin to rely on and validate ourselves once again. We get to the point where we accept the validation and apologies we’ll never get. We realize how self defeating it is to want something from someone who we come to understand, isn’t capable of giving it, so we let go of our desire to have it and in doing so, free ourselves from the vicious web of narc abuse.
6) We Romanticize the relationship
And why wouldn’t we? In the first 90 days after leaving, we haven’t yet learned that narcissists faked the whole relationship. We remember the beginning, the idealization period, the proclamations of soul mate love, the promises, the declarations of being the only, the first, the best, the most, the narcissist perfectly mirroring our ideal love, our soul’s mate. We try to reconcile that with all the abuse. We don’t yet know this is the abuse cycle of idealization and devaluation, so we assume it was a love that we can’t quite comprehend why it went horribly wrong. The only answers we can come up with is that we were so bad that we couldn’t do anything right to hold it together.
While we’re busy hating ourselves for being so flawed and losing this great partner, we have a hard time remembering all the soul wrenching pain they put us through and without names and labels for their disordered behavior, we keep assigning ourselves the blame and the narcissist gets all the benefit of our doubt.
If we catch wind or get a glimpse of the narcissist in the valuation stage of a new target, we’ll convince ourselves even more that the prince charming we lost, is so capable of sweeping declarations of love for the new target and “looks” so happy and free in their new life with the new person that the only answer could be that We suck and they don’t.
This is NOTHING but a product of smoke and mirrors, brainwashing, poor boundaries, low self worth and witnessing the disorder for the first time from the OUTSIDE.
Whenever you start to romanticize the relationship as anything other than the abuse that happened to you, it’s a sign to STOP and remember the abuse that really did take place. The arguments that were never resolved, all the discounting of your emotions, the name calling, the cheating, the hitting, the threats, the stalking, the harassment, the lies, the smear campaign, the blame, the toxicity, the hurt, the tears and the lack of empathy. NOTHING the narcissist could EVER do or say will be greater than the fact that they have an incurable, permanent personality DISORDER and the only thing that can come from them is ABUSE.
By the time you cycle through this first wave of grief, you’ll have alleviated the brainwashing, you’ll have begun focusing on yourself again, you’ll be building your self worth, redeveloping and asserting your boundaries, validating yourself and will have accepted the realities of this abusive relationship. Then you’ll be ready when the second wave of grief comes and you have to mourn a relationship that was never real in the first place.
For the most part, NO Contact is only a struggle for the first 90 days. Looking at it from this vantage point, you can see that these are formidable tasks and it’s no wonder the amount of time it takes. We don’t use this word often, but let’s face it: we were victims of domestic abuse. We aren’t going to just walk away unscathed, like we do from other non abusive relationships.
Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself the emotions and luxury of time to be your WHOLE self again. Accept rather than judge your emotions. Let them have their day. We don’t want to hold these things in because the outcome is not good for us when we do, as this results in depression and disease. Get your feelings OUT where they won’t hurt you anymore. Give yourself the gift of No Contact.
First of all, let me say that this post is not meant to tell you what to believe, sit in judgment of your beliefs or make myself out to have loftier spiritual beliefs than you if you don’t happen to have the beliefs I do. If you are still interested in reading on, please exchange my spiritual vernacular for your own.
This is a tough subject for alot of us. Before I even get into the principle of forgiveness let’s talk about the injustice narcissist’s dish out to their targets / victims indiscriminately.
Here are just a few injustices that narcissists inflict:
Infidelity Cheating partners out of finances Defamation, False Prosecution
Lying Smear campaigning Rumor spreading
Triangulation Backbiting Manipulating
Tricking Getting targets fired from jobs Turning children against you
Controlling Using others Verbal, Mental, Emotional & Physical Abuse
Threatening Soul Rape Identity thieving
Breaking someone Ruining relationships Abandoning / Discarding
Gaslighting Refusing to apologize Finger pointing and blaming
I’m sure I’ve missed a number of them, as narcissists are so lethal to other human beings, there are a plethora of transgressions not covered in this short list.
From the time we start interacting with a narcissist, our feelings are required to be suppressed in order to keep the narcissist comfortable with their view of reality. We were forced to play it small, stuff our thoughts, feelings, needs and wants, because a narcissist is not capable of sharing mutually within a relationship. When we have complaints or have boundaries that are crossed, our attempts to communicate those have the narcissist chastising and verbally berating us with put downs that discourage us from sharing again. The narcissist shows us that our honest expression will be met with abuse. With healthy communication squelched, our emotions become a pressure cooker waiting to blow. Sometimes the containment of our anger lasts for years.
When we’ve finally escaped the prison of the narcissistic relationship, we not only have the emotions we’ve long put a lid on, but with each new discovery about how ruthless and inhumane the narcissist really is, we process emotions that we weren’t prepared for: shock, disbelief, denial, hurt, abandonment, injustice, fear, and the most intense anger I believe a human being can feel. If you’ve ever experienced being betrayed, soul raped, identity thieved, robbed and then lied about and blamed by a person you called a close friend, this is the closest I can get to describing what narcissistic abuse feels like to those who haven’t experienced it.
We pass through many stages of grief and healing as we recover from this type of abuse. Although each stage feels like an eternity, we finally arrive at a place where we feel that we’ve gotten over most of the feelings, only to arrive at a place that requires we do something that feels like the impossible: Forgive the narcissist for their injustices.
I grapple even writing those words because honestly, in my anger and disgust over the things that narcissists get away with, they should be punished criminally and spiritually. I’d much rather put these soul sucking psychopaths away in prison or cordoned off to a penal colony / island with others like them so that they can experience the hell they put others through.
However, It all comes down to being people with integrity, people who take the high road, who don’t want to be attached through hatred or bitterness for the rest of our lives to the likes of a narcissist. It becomes another choice we make, another step we take, another classy thing we do in response to this abuse.
I’ve got to be honest. It is VERY VERY VERY difficult to let go of this anger. It seems that if I let go of the anger, that I will be enabling and allowing narcissists to get away these atrocities against people I care for and want to protect; myself included. If my anger has been channeled in order to advocate for all victims of narcissistic abuse, what happens when I let this go?
I am, willing to let go of any bitterness and unforgiveness that I have that could be harming myself and others. I want to face this injustice and anger. In the coming weeks, I will be exploring many techniques, tips, writings, as well as spiritual counseling to overcome the soul tie and trauma bond I have with the abuser and sharing my findings and research with all of you who are at this stage of recovery.
Below is a great article I found to get us started:
10 Keys to Forgiveness… A Christian Perspective
Emmett I. Aldrich
1) Let Go Of The Anger – Holding on to the anger that may be associated with an incident or experience that causes us hurt, can lead to hate, and perhaps a lingering desire for retaliation or revenge. This is destructive and causes an emotional drain on us even if we don’t realize it.
Dr. Michael Obsatz, in his book, Healing Our Anger: Seven Ways to Make Peace in a Hostile World indicates that there are eight types of anger (page 12). These include:
- Chronic anger is an ongoing feeling of resentment toward others.
- Volatile anger is explosive but comes and goes.
- Judgmental anger comes across in hypercritical statements.
- Passive anger is suppressed anger that is expressed indirectly.
- Overwhelmed anger arises when people believe they cannot handle the complexity of their circumstances.
- Retaliatory anger is specifically directed at another person or persons.
- Self-inflicted anger is directed at ourselves.
- Constructive anger is anger we put to positive uses.
With exception of this last type, most of these angers are destructive. Continuing to be angry over something that happened in the past, can be all consuming and distorts our ability to focus on happiness. Consequently, letting go of the anger is in our own best interest. We must let go of the anger for our mental and emotional well-being. In the language of today’s common phrases – “Get Over It.” Forgiveness gives you peace of mind and helps to let go of the anger.
2) Don’t Be Stubborn – For some reason, it seems to be a lot easier to hold on to the anger and hurt feelings associated with an injustice, and we can become comfortable with the feeling of retribution because we somehow want to punish the person that hurt us. After all, why should we be willing to forgive someone when what that person did or said was not our fault? We feel justified in our anger with the other person, so we feel that we have every right to be stubborn and locked into the position we are taking.
Don’t get stuck on your position for the mere sake of maintaining a position. Be willing to compromise in order to move forward. Stubbornness, like anger keeps us from moving beyond hurt feelings, and it also perpetuates a strained relationship.
3) Stop Thinking Of Yourself As A Victim – Generally, if we are angry with someone, it is because we feel that they have committed a serious wrong against us. Whether this feeling is real or perceived, we still feel that an injustice has been done, and that we have been treated unfairly. We can’t help but feel sorry for ourselves to some degree, and we expect others to feel sorry for us as well. This is perhaps the classic “victim mentality” which is easy to fall into when we feel an injustice has been done.
While this mentality may be soothing for a short period of time, unfortunately it keeps us from moving beyond the hurt that we feel. We remain caught-up in a state-of-mind that makes us hostile, cranky, untrusting and keeps us “looking over our shoulder” for fear that someone else may come along to hurt us.
Bishop Desmond Tutu, in his book titled, There Is No Future Without Forgiveness (page 272) [By the way, I highly recommend this book if you want to do more reading on Forgiveness] – Bishop Tutu tells a classic story of forgiveness about former soldiers visiting the Vietnam War Memorial, when one veteran asks another, “Have you forgiven those who held you as a prisoner of war? He replied, “I will never forgive them!” The other veteran responded, “Then it seems they still have you in prison, don’t they?” Years later he was still holding deep-seated resentment for what his captors had put him through.
Perhaps his friend’s comment helped him to start to think of his POW experience differently and to take responsibility for his own feelings. If we cannot get beyond the “victim mentality” we cannot expect to think about forgiving others.
4) Focus On The Future – Usually what has been done cannot be undone and dwelling on the past only perpetuates the hurt feelings that resulted from what caused the problem in the first place. Continually bringing up sore points or issues of the past will only make the rift larger.
Some time ago, I received one of those many email messages from someone who had too much time on their hands and sends email to everyone they know, usually all of their family and friends. Most of the time, I will just delete them after glancing at it just enough to get the gist of what it is about. One of the ones that I received had the title of, “Sand and Stone.”
The story tells of two friends who were walking through the desert. At some point during the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who was slapped was hurt but without saying a word, he wrote in the sand: “Today my best friend slapped me in the face.” They kept walking until they found an oasis where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire of the water and started drowning, but his friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: “Today my best friend saved my life.” The friend who had slapped, and then saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now you write on a stone, why?” The other friend replied: “When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”
5) Re-Learn to Trust OTHERS and ourselves
Additionally, re-learning to trust involves Trusting ourselves and TRUSTING OTHERS.
6) Be Reasonable in Your Expectations of Others – In the midst of anger, our emotions are high and frequently our judgment of fairness is clouded. We expect others to recognize the injustice they have done, and apologize immediately and profusely. We want the person to atone to us in some elaborate or excessive manner. The mind-set is that this is our way of ensuring that an apology is genuine if one is offered.
7) Expect That It Will Take Time To Forgive – At this point in time in human evolution, we have grown accustom to, and expect “quick fixes” and “instant gratification” for solutions to almost every problem. Healing from a hurt may generally come with the passage of time, but you must allow yourself time to reach the level of forgiveness appropriate for the circumstances. Deeply emotional circumstances or extremely sensitive hurts (such as the loss of a child or spouse to crime or spousal infidelity) will take time to move beyond the hurt before a person can even begin to consider forgiving those who caused the hurt.
Lesser transgressions on the other hand, such as hurtful words, comments or some actions are likely to be forgotten in a shorter period of time. Have you ever had another driver cut you off in traffic, and for an instant you are very angry because you felt that the person jeopardized your safety. But after a few blocks (or maybe even sooner) you have forgotten about it and refocused your attention on your driving. Generally, by the time you get where you are going, you have completely forgotten about the incident and may not even remember what kind of car the other person was driving.
Have you ever forgotten why you were angry with someone? You know that at the time, the person did something to make you angry, but months later you can’t remember what it was that made you so angry at the time. You may even feel that you should still be angry with the person now because whatever they did must have been so horrendous because you were really upset with them before. You remember that you are angry, but can’t remember why. If you can’t remember what it was about, perhaps you have already forgiven that person at least subconsciously in your mind – and perhaps in your heart you also let go of the anger without really acknowledging or realizing it.
8) Examine Your Heart – [This is one of the hardest] – Look within yourself to see if you are contributing to situations that you may later regret and will need to seek forgiveness. Is your behavior or off-handed comments contributing to a strained relationship? Think before you speak. While we have a constitutional right to the freedom of speech, we do not have an “inalienable right” to say what ever we want, any time we want, particularly if it may be hurtful. Would you be willing to forgive someone for the same offense you committed against someone else? – And would you expect the person offended to forgive you? The concept here is to be honest with yourself in considering your own behavior and whether it contributes to strained or hurtful relationships.
There are a number of every day values that we can follow to examine our hearts and take this inward look. These are not new to us, but we can use occasional reminders. While there are many more, here are 10 of those values to consider:
- Be tolerant of others
- Treat others like you want to be treated
- Be polite with your interactions
- Treat others with respect at all times
- Avoid criticizing others
- Don’t jump to conclusions
- Give others the benefit of the doubt as a matter of routine
- Be willing to overlook minor offenses
- Have a positive attitude
- Be willing to apologize
9) Let Forgiveness Become An Everyday Practice – What a transforming experience it would be in our lives if we were able to forgive someone immediately upon them committing the offense – without hanging on to the anger for a much longer period of time. This might be possible if we let forgiveness become an integral part of our lives and a guiding value to live by.
It takes a lot of energy to maintain resentment, anger or distrust. Instead of holding on to those negative feelings, why not refocus and redirect that energy into making a contribution of time and effort to a special cause or ministry? Why not use the energy to serve God? Let the focus become what you can do for others, rather than dwelling on the hurt and anger you feel because of an injustice. Count your blessings. Remember the good things about your life and don’t dwell on hurt feelings. Let forgiveness become an essential part of your life.
10) Ask God For Guidance – Being able to forgive or seek forgiveness is not just an intellectual decision, but there is also a spiritual dimension involved. In the parable of the unmerciful servant in the book of Matthew in the Bible, we find some guidance on how we should deal with forgiveness.
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
This tends to suggest that forgiveness is limitless, and that we must be willing to forgive someone for a transgression time and time again without seeking retribution. This is a powerful message. For most of us, this standard may seem impossible to meet. Nonetheless, it sets-forth the objectives we should attempt to achieve in our lives. In order to achieve this level of forgiveness, we must pray for strength, patience and perseverance in our relationships that may require forgiveness.
In Mark 11:25, Christ tells us,
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
In Luke 6:36-37, Christ admonishes us,
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
In the Book of Psalm we find this passage,
“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.”
If God kept an account of our sins, we would all be in trouble. But God both forgives and forgets our sins by not keeping a record of them. In turn, we receive power from God through Jesus Christ to forgive others, and to forget the hurts they might have caused.
In 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 Paul writes about the Ministry of Reconciliation. From this we learn that “God reconciled the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” The passage continues: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God was making his appeal through us.” This calls for us to be Christ-like in our behavior, and requires us to forgive others for the offenses they may commit against us.
In her book, Do it Yourself Conflict Resolution for Couples, Dr. Florence Bienenfeld points out that, “Forgiveness is a great healer. This involves forgiving ourselves, forgiving others, and seeking forgiveness from others.” (Page 157).
While this article does not address self-forgiveness in any detail, we are called by God to forgive others and to seek forgiveness from others as noted in Matthew chapter 18 earlier. Furthermore, we cannot overlook the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer – “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12).
Even if direct communications are difficult with a person we would like to forgive, we can forgive them in our heart without ever talking to them. When we realize that we have committed a wrong, we are compelled to express sincere regret and ask the person to, “please forgive me.”
On July 23, 2002, NBC News reported on the sexual abuse scandals that have shaken the foundations of the Catholic Church. The reporter noted that a sign in front of a Church displayed this phrase: “Its not about forgiveness, it’s about justice.” While the child abuses that have occurred are despicable, I don’t believe this is the posture God would have us take on forgiveness.
In Ephesians chapter 4:31-32, Paul tells us,
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgaveyou.”
Paul repeats this requirement in Colossians Chapter 3:12-14, where we find Rules for Holy Living. Paul writes,
“Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. ”
These passages from the Apostle Paul call for us to use the example of God’s forgiveness and love for us, as the model for our own behavior in forgiving others. Above all, while God has already forgiven us for our sins, we must continually ask for his forgiveness in order for us to model his love.
Forgiveness ensures the presence of God in our lives. As Christ died on the cross for our sins, we receive divine forgiveness from him.
Isn’t this obvious as the light of day? They have no clue who they really are. There’s no deep spiritual well from which they can express themselves. They’re as flat as a carboard cut out. My guess is that a narcissist would opt to be one if they could, because of the relief they’d feel over not having anyone expect anything from them. Just so long as everyone thought the cardboard cut out was attention worthy.
Identity is about SUBSTANCE and FABRIC; essence and spirit.
When is the last time you’ve heard a narcissist described with such depth? Their depth is a framework of abnormal constructs & structures.
Their “identity” although permanently FIXED in disorder, is a fragile, mobile, versatile little creature. Like taking off one mask, in order to wear another, they can quickly morph into what they think is cool and appealing about others. Hunters have a way to categorize their prey, knowing that certain targets will bring handsome rewards and with it a potential source of “identity” or supply.
Empathetic, loving – naturally confident targets who have been conditioned to see asking for things as “selfish” are the #1 reward to the human hunting prey.
It’s not that we like the role of “sitting duck” or “fish in a barrel” it’s just that we were raised that way, we learned to acquiesce, be pleasing, go along, keep the peace, nurture and care for others.
Anymore, I like to keep what’s special about us, kind of quiet. It’s probably one part defense of being concerned with boasting, but also, don’t want to advertise that we’d make good narc bait. I digress…
Identity Crisis’ in narcissists stem from their very primal question, “Who am I?” and their very narcissistically rigid answer, “I dont know! But WHOEVER I AM, I am the greatest!!! Right?” And then goes about the world seeking to make mirrors out of every other human being they come in contact with.
Ask any narcissist a simple introspective probing question, such as: “How are you feeling?” and watch the person avert the question, unable to probe any depths (because it isn’t there) and babble out something about “thinking or behaving”. They don’t feel things….Like self worth.
To compensate, narcissists develop what’s called a “false self.”
The severity and intensity of NPD comes from the desperate pursuit of a sense of self. Npds delusionally believe all the lies they tell themselves about who they are: as a famous quote says, if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the “truth.” If a narcissist tells themselves and boasts frequently enough that they are ________________, then maybe just maybe they’ll be that.
Most people just find hobbies and enjoy them. Narcissists BECOME them. Most people find other people or relationships satisfying and enjoyable, narcissists BECOME the other person. I suppose it stands to reason that when someone feels they lack something (a true identity) they’re always seeking it; always on the look out for it outside of themselves.
The opposite of the “false self” is the authentic self. The authentic self is the core of who you really are, not what people tell you you should be or the “you” defined by people who do not really know you: the doubters, critics, and others who see the part of you that you choose to show. It’s the you that you talk about to the people and know you best and whom you trust to be careful with your vulnerabilities.
Narcissists can’t afford to be vulnerable at all–especially not to themselves.
Remember, they need to believe the lie. So they make up a fictitious false self who is everything the narcissist is not: the entitled, superior, inflated, and grandiose self fed by the narcissist’s fantasies and what they can squeeze out of sources of narcissistic supply.
This mask, which the narcissist thinks is real, hides the insecure and damaged part of the narcissist and chases way feelings of depression, abandonment, and shame. It protects them from painful feelings. Affirmations of the false self keep the mask in good repair. If they’re not forthcoming, they’ll demand them in one way or another in the ways that make the relationship a wild ride on a rollercoaster (which no one understands besides other people who have a loved one with NPD).
The Narcissists success in maintaining this illusion makes you continually doubt yourself since you rarely receive validation of what you are going through. Even mental health professionals miss the boat. (Remember, you didn’t want to believe it either.)
It takes a lot of work to keep the fragile, superficial mask in good enough shape to protect against what Narcissists see as “attacks” from the outside world, e.g., complaints about their self-absorbed ways–especially those from formerly premium sources of supply like spouses and children. This destroys the illusion and might force the Narcissist to take a closer, more humble look at themselves. That’s why they protect the mask so aggressively in ways that make you continually doubt yourself. It’s extremely painful to have your feelings rebuffed by someone whom you feel/felt so much love for.
Also, life is dominated by doing, achievement, and performance rather than on intimate connections with others. This is one reason why you see so many narcissists at high levels in organizations or in careers in which they get a lot of attention such as politics, entertainment, and the ministry. The job perk of being important and lauded is too irresistible to avoid.
How the Narcissist’s Identity Shifts Affect Their Partner:
* What self-image they have is often low and dependent on the roles they play or whether or not they feel liked or loved at any moment in time
*It’s hard to have a relationship with someone who is constantly changing their identities
*It contributes to no-win situations, blame and criticism
*It feels as if the narcissist is stealing your good qualities, interesting mannerisms, likes, preferences, friends, hobbies and very identity
*As the narcissist changes identity, their need for supply from different sources creates the need to engage in affairs, which betrays the relationship and breaks all trust bonds
*You never get to know or love a REAL person even though you’ve loved genuinely
It creates the feeling that we loved a “fantasy” an “illusion” or shadow of a person, which creates a looming sense of self-doubt and embarrassment
*Not only will they steal your identity, they’ll leaving you with your own identity crisis that you’ll have to repair in a prolonged recovery
Dear Reputation Taker
Dear Defamation Maker
I’m still here!
Dear Soul Sucker
Dear Other Woman Fucker
Dear Responsibility Ducker
Dear Pretend to be good Dad
Dear Soul you never had
Dear Everyone knows your Bad
I’m still here!
Dear Woman User
Dear Legal System Abuser
Dear Romantic Loser
I’m still here!
Dear Pathological Liar
Dear Relationship Denier
Dear Sit in church with me Crocodile Crier
I’m still here!
Dear Identity Stealer
Dear Mind Game Dealer
Dear No Empathy feeler
I’m still here!
Dear multiple affair cheater
Dear Master of Illusion
Dear Reality is Delusion
I’m still here!
Dear REAL Stalker
Dear big shit talker
Dear fat body chalker
I’m still here!
and it’s important you know that Im not going to stop telling the truth about you
Until you stop telling your lies about me.
There have been many times in my life that the serenity prayer has helped me with emotions that I found difficult to process; times of grief and loss where I felt helpless and hurting. It wasn’t until the abusive relationship with a narcissist that I fully understood what the serenity prayer meant and how applicable it is to coping with and overcoming the abusive, narcissistic relationship. By clearly defining what the dividing lines are between what we can control and what we can’t, we know better what to focus on as we empower ourselves and move forward in life.
Whether your beliefs are in the God I believe in, there is still the element of humility, in releasing our attempt to control a situation to someone who is greater than ourselves. I believe that in the act of reaching out to our higher power or source, we are humbly recognizing that we aren’t the largest being in our own lives and universe, we don’t have all the answers, and sometimes, we need help from others to get where we need to be.
The beginning of the serenity prayer states, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”....
Think about this for a moment; really ask yourself that question.
What is it that YOU, cannot change?
No matter how bad you want to, how much you’ve kidded yourself in the past that you could, no matter the act of your sheer will or utter desire will make what you’re longing for come true (the easy way).
As it pertains to the narcissistic relationship, asking for serenity to accept things we cant change, means:
The lack of love, empathy, compassion, understanding, desire to fix the relationship
The name calling
The silent treatment
The mind games
The gas lighting
The way they treat the kids
The way they turn family members against you or cause drama in general
The smear campaign
All the lies they feed everyone to make you look crazy
I can go on and on and on with the various abuses they dole out, but the point here is…
WE CANNOT DO ONE THING IN OUR POWER TO CHANGE THEM or the things they do and say.
It was present LONG before we came into the picture, and despite what they say….NO. You are NOT the first one that’s brought this behavior out of them. If you don’t believe that, just ask the previous victim. Or the one before that. Or so on and so forth.
We had NOTHING to do with their developing psyches or their stunted growth. Their insecurity, envy, spite and rage may get triggered by things that other people say or do, but ultimately the narcissist is the only person responsible for how they feel and how they choose to act on those feelings.
Wouldn’t we already have changed a narcissist, if it WERE within our power?
How much have we honestly tried to do, to settle things down? How much did we give the narcissist a feeling of safety with us? Let them know, they could really count on us and trust us, because we REALLY loved them?
It DOES take a serene frame of mind to accept this truth. It’s when we finally calm down and realize that we did try everything and NOTHING worked to make things better. Acceptance of this fact, is a release. With this release comes peace and allowing ourselves to take a breather from doing the impossible: fixing a narcissist.
This first part of the prayer discusses the personal boundaries that exist around others and the responsibilities that arise as a result of two individuals having separate and distinct identities with demarcation lines around each of us, letting us know who’s stuff belongs to whom and who can fix what.
Each person has a separation line around themselves – a way to tell what is “me” and what is “you”. This other person, who we are asking God to accept as someone we cannot change – is the only person who can feel what they feel, think what they think, behave how they behave and say what they say. No one or anything outside of those boundaries, cause this person to feel a certain way or act or say certain things. It is always a personal choice of the person at the center of the boundary.
If you think the boundaries only deal with those that exist around the OTHER person (the narcissist); not so fast…..The next part of the Serenity Prayer focuses on ourselves.
“The courage to change the things we can” is drawing the attention back to ourselves.
The serenity prayer is a balanced equation of equanimity of two key elements: What we can’t control and what we can. While we cannot control a narcissist, we can muster up the courage to take control of ourselves.
Boy it does take courage to look at ourselves, doesn’t it? Looking honestly at our own deficiencies isn’t easy for most of us, but I can tell you, with practice, it really does get easier. No pretense, no mask is an easy way to live – and when we’re not in the presence of a narcissistic person who makes us pay emotionally for our imperfections (because they don’t have this boundary the serenity prayer calls for at all, they THINK our imperfections are a reflection of them and they think their imperfections belong to us).
We can only change ourselves. That’s the ONLY only thing in this universe that we have power over. Us. Our corporation. Our entity. Our body. Ourselves. Our circus, our monkies. Like the narcissist, who we can’t change and don’t have any power over, we are responsible for 4 things: Our feelings, our thoughts, our actions and our words.
I’d always heard the serenity prayer when I was younger and never understood it in terms of how its really teaching the concept of boundaries and responsibility. Then I heard a story that made sense to me:
A woman was about to embark on a very romantic vacation with her husband. She’d been planning it for months, imagined the amazing time they’d have together laughing and falling in love again. When they got to their beach destination, all her husband did was complain. He bitched about the weather, the sun, the heat, the critters on the beach. In the wife’s mind, this was NOTHING like she’d imagined and went on to have a “horrible” time, feeling neglected, angry, not relaxed and ready for divorce.
The wife had a horrible time, because of her thoughts. It wasn’t that the husband was horribly abusive, it was that he just didn’t enjoy the beach as a romantic getaway. He had his own work troubles on his mind and felt stressed out because he couldn’t be at home solving them.
Had the wife realized the second part of the serenity prayer during that week’s vacation, she could have had the courage to change the thing she could: HER ATTITUDE. She could have gotten up every morning, went for a nice, long walk on the beach, then spent the rest of the day lounging in the sun, splashing in the pool, getting some R&R and reading a book she hadn’t been able to read at home. Had she allowed herself the well deserved break, she’d have accumulated her own good feelings and self respect & possibly may have handled her complaining husband with a more playful, flirtacious manner or invited him to romance, but whether he agreed or declined, still would have had a great time on vacation. Same vacation; different feelings.
The courage to change the things we can requires that we put our big girl /boy panties on and assume responsibility for how we feel, how our life is going is up to us. Admitting we’ve placed all our eggs in the narcissist’s basket and hoping that their being better would make us happier is a failing prospect.
We DONT need the narcissist to change for us to be happy. WE need to change the way we think and feel about things, ourselves included, and then to decide how we’re going to live a happy life away from the narcissist.
Let me clarify that this does NOT mean we need to stay & learn how to live with an abusive, narcissistic person. My thought on this is unequivocally, that the abusive relationship has to be terminated. Abusive relationships (those that contain a narcissist) are out of the realm of normalcy. There is too much toxicity and crossing of boundaries (abuse) that there’s no possible way for one person to be healthy and committed in one, while the narcissist is incapable of doing so.
So we’ve covered the yin and the yang of the serenity prayer; the narcissist, who we’ve left, and ourselves and we wind up with the last piece:
“THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE”
This one sentence puts it all in perspective. It’s about knowing the difference between ourselves. Where the lines are drawn in the sand. Who’s stuff belongs to who (even if the other person doesn’t want to ‘take’ their stuff) They don’t have to. This natural law of responsibility does it for them.
When we learn about this disorder, we start to learn that alot of things we were accused of were in actuality, behaviors or thoughts or feelings that belonged to the narcissist. The cheating wasn’t ours, the lying, the planned attack, the mental health problem, the paranoia, the envy, the triangulation, or selfishness – that was NOT our stuff to take responsibility for. The narcissist crossed those boundaries many times by accusing us of them, but in hindsight, we know that was just another thing that was messed about them. They can’t handle the serenity prayer because they think there is no second part and everything belongs to everyone else.
As we take good looks at ourselves, our vulnerabilities, issues and flaws, we can say, ok this one belongs to me, or I did ignore red flags I saw in the beginning. By acknowledging the things we did that we know we need to work on, we’re giving ourselves some possible tasks and achievable goals. It’s stuff we do need to fix. And! It’s stuff we CAN fix.
One of the biggest sadnesses I see in newly free, no contact targets, is this horrific self blame and feeling that we’re worthless. The narcissist is off pretending to be happily hooked up with someone new so soon, while the target remains grief stricken and hurting. So much of the targets self worth is boundary blended with the narcissist (even though distanced from the narcissist in physical proximity). Targets thoughts have long been been trampled over and brainwashed to constantly play the negative message that we are NO GOOD because we couldn’t make the narcissist happy.
The target has not yet had the chance to clear out all those old, untrue messages of the person that planted them there. And YES. Narcissists plant those seeds. Day in and day out, being told that you are worthless, selfish and an awful human being definitely begins to make you think those things about yourself and will resultantly cause you to feel bad about yourself; lowering your self esteem. We are still responsible for what we think, however, the constant aggression conditions a target to acquiesce to these negative thoughts in an act of survival.
With taking in alot of new messages and understanding how the narcissist methodically administers abuse to us, we begin to push negative, critical put downs and behaviors, past our boundary and out of us because it isn’t ours.
We firmly draw a boundary around our own identity, thoughts and issues and we plant our feet firmly in trusting ourselves that we are clear and healthy enough in our thinking to know the difference between these two very different identities; a narcissist and ourselves.
This wisdom also allows us to draw certain clear lines in the sand as it relates to domestic abuse by a narcissist. At NO TIME, is the target of a narcissist’s abuse RESPONSIBLE for the choices that narcissist makes to cheat on, demean, lie to, smear campaign, financially abuse, alienate children from, cause harm to and otherwise destroy. This is solely the choice of the abuser. This boundary is NOT up for debate about what the target did to deserve this. That argument only illustrates that the person holding that opinion does not clearly understand the concept of boundaries and personal responsibility.