The all or nothing advice we give about avoiding a narcissist altogether, isn’t because we’re unhealthily encouraging black and white or either / or type of thinking or advocating that healthy boundaries can’t be used with general run of the mill people who “irritate” you.
This advice is given because the bottom line is that a narcissist ISNT run of the mill and with a narcissist there is NO HALF WAY. The common “get along” tactics that are useful and helpful with healthier people will not only not work with a narcissist, but will likely BACKFIRE; ALWAYS leaving you in a position that if you make the decision to have any interaction whatsoever with a narcissist, the entire interaction will blow up in your face and cause emotional distress.
The narcissistic personality disordered psychopath is the first “throw away” person I’ve encountered in my life. By throw away, I mean, the only person that I would not consider salvaging, giving an inch to, or letting remain in my life. I entirely throw them away, lock the door, and block their re entry in all ways possible.
Let’s consider why we must be so absolute when it comes to setting such a permanent boundary with a narcissist:
1. They lack empathy
Without having experienced what it’s like to deal with someone without the capacity to empathize, we take for granted that we possess this much needed human trait and we’re somewhat naive that other human beings could possibly be void of this sign of being “human”. We underestimate the danger of a sociopath and/or psychopath, we extend benefit of doubt when it isn’t deserved, we employ fairness when that’s not reciprocated, due to decreasingly poor boundaries we get our wires crossed. We take too on much responsibility (forced codependency of narcissism) and repeatedly doubt and blame ourselves when these empathy problems show themselves, instead of realizing the problem exists in the other person and will try to fix it; not knowing we’re dealing with a lack of empathy and are inexperienced as to how to handle ourselves when confronted with this information.
Empathy problems present themselves in a number of ways:
a. We dont feel listened to or more importantly “heard”
b. Lack of feeling heard or seen creates “intimacy” issues
c. Intimacy issues along with the realization emotionally that the narcissist refuses or can’t empathize with us, causes us to feel insecure in the relationship
d. The insecurity in the relationships drive conversations regarding trust that are again not listened to, heard or responded to (thus there is no resolution)
e. Lack of resolution leads to frustration and expression of feelings and acting out on the part of the target that allows the narcissist to use and shift the focus and blame (deflection) back on us which causes….
f. An anxious feedback loop. This cycle of lacking empathy is at the core of EVERY argument with the narcissist because the arguments themselves exist due to the narcissist’s lack of empathy.
Sound confusing? Imagine LIVING it. We chase our tails in these relationships. No wonder we end up feeling crazy and confused. It is crazy and it is confusing. It’s just the narcissist who introduces this and continues this throughout the entire relationship which includes the time period FOLLOWING the actual cessation of the relationship.
If people dont respect us or are not willing to show us respect, then there’s just not much more we can do.
2. Their negativity will bring us down instead of our positivity lifting them up
They say, “Misery loves Company” well I say, “Narcissists love to bring happy people down.” What BETTER type of power trip to a narcissist’s ego than to take a naturally happy person and by their own “amazing abilities” turn them into a shell of their former selves while walking off “wearing their skin”? You know that they WANT to see you laying on the sidewalk, crying out in pain because you’re “nothing” without them; just as they told you (or insinuated many times).
Once your boundaries are eliminated, you become a narcissists free for all playground. Whatever good things they want to pick out about you to use, enjoy, toy with, show off, and just as rapidly and intensely abhor us for them is just another HUGE reason to not have to deal with these shenangigans on an ongoing basis.
They’ll take what the like about us and discard the rest, treating us as a cafeteria plan of THEIR choosing instead of a person with a whole and complete identity.
They’re always complaining about something. They’re always at odds with someone whether a family member, co worker or someone in the general public. So many opportunities for the narcissist to whine and stir the pot with never ending chaos. These people would be unhappy at Disneyland! The happiest place on earth!
Their personalities are dark clouds of accumulated shame, addictions and perversions. They feed their thoughts of power, sex, worldly success, vanity, who’s who, delusional dreams of unlimited popularity and/or beauty or money. Blech! They actually are the people among us who boast about how their life would be a GREAT REALITY SHOW! Uhm…Says WHO? Oh yes, the narcissist. The one person self hype machine.
Narcissists are vapid and one dimensional. They lack emotional depth and context. They aren’t fun conversationalists. They’re draining, negativity will feel like a smudge left on your world when they walk away. I personally think, smudge itself is easier to clean away than a narcissist.
LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO LET A NARCISSIST SUCK THE JOY OUT OF YOU WHILE DUMPING ALL THEIR TOXIC NEGATIVITY INTO YOUR SOUL
3. ITS FUTILE TO CONSTANTLY DEFEND YOUR BOUNDARIES AGAINST SOMEONE WHO CANT RESPECT THEM
Narcissists are the ONLY ones allowed to have rules in limits in the relationship. They dictate. They speak for “US” whether we agree or not. They bulldoze. They refuse to respect the demarcation lines between ourselves and them. They view us as possessions owned, not wonderous additions to their lives. They can’t be truly grateful because they feel entitlted to it all. Yek!
Our boundaries are the ones that even if existed upon meeting a narcissist, surely will NOT once we’ve spent enough time in their company.
Personally, I was able to tell many romantic parnters no, or express my desires and opinions in prior relationships. The narcissist however, just beats us down. Exhausts us. The constant drama, arguments, disrespect, demands, ego games, silence……I can easily see why just acquiescing (waiving the white flag of surrendering your boundaries) seems like a “peacekeeping” decision.
Even if you learn to establish healthy boundaries and that’s a Sign of Health but you are engaged in constant battle with a person who whole heartedly believes it is their right to not only challenge those boundaries but to destroy them if they want, It’s a sign of health to recognize futility, know when to throw in the towel, and refuse to participate in any relationship that isn’t reciprocal and/or enriching to your well being.
There’s a certain emotional intelligence in being able to recognize when things are a losing battle. Our responsibility is not to teach another adult how to respect our boundaries. That’s up to the narcissist. Since the narcissist is heavily invested, in fact lives to blame others, this is a no win situation. We will constantly have to repeat ourselves about what we can’t tolerate and theyll continue to ignore us.
This is the same premise as “fool me once, shame on You, foo me twice, shame on me”. The first time they ignored our saying, “Please don’t speak down to me.” or “Please don’t call us names” was their one chance to show us they respected our need to not be called names. The second time, they do it is an indication that they will continue to do this, and if they do, we are ALLOWING it.
Establish just ONE BOUNDARY and walk away for good!
Just say, ‘NO!’
Because that means:
NO MORE MANIPULATION
NO MORE DRAMA
NO MORE GAMES
NO MORE ARGUMENTS
NO MORE PUT DOWNS
NO MORE NARCS
We live many years of our life with certain expectations about the integrity and intention of others. I don’t think any normal person regardless of their level of self esteem, expects to be so blindsided by and at odds metaphysically with the narcissistic person. Sure, self esteem issues may lead us to stay far longer putting up with a person who treats us poorly or is the root of our not asserting boundaries to protect ourselves, but narcissistic abuse goes far behind an assault on our self esteem. It attacks the fiber of who we ARE; our identities.
Think about this. Prior to meeting a narcissist, did you have any trouble whatsoever with YOUR identity? Did you know who you were? Did you know your strengths and weaknesses? Did you know what scared you or what you longed for? I can nearly guarantee that you had your identity quite together prior to a narcissist entering your life. One of the reasons narcissists target those they do, is to rob us of the good qualities that make us so “attractive”; not just our vulnerabilities or weak points. Our solid identities are their lifeblood.
Most targets are likeable people; reliable, dependable, lovable, stable and trustworthy. If we weren’t, we would not be so shocked and stunned to find how opposite a narcissist is to us and how the only way they could have possibly gotten close to us is by weasling their way into our heads and hearts via lies and manipulation.
Instead of returning to our previous selves in tact after the relationship ends, our identity is in a state of limbo; in flux and malleable which is very scary. While our core characteristics have remained the same, we’re suddenly needing to assimilate the new lessons and awareness into our selves going forward but we don’t find the experience a smooth, straight line or quick journey towards integration.
One is the Loneliest Number
Being on the receiving end of a person who lacks empathy shows a reality to the human condition that we didn’t want to believe existed. Watching people side with your abuser, disbelieve you and even worse, bully or smear you along with the narcissist is highly traumatic and isolating. It’s within our human nature or socialization to side with the crowd. The abuser gains momentum by getting to the crowd earlier and then playing up to them which is their perverse talent.
Targets have always connected with people based on truth and integrity. It’s shocking and defeating to have so many turn against you, even the one who said they “loved” you, for such an obvious lie, while you’re forced to stand alone and come to terms with the reality that “as long as you know the truth, nothing else matters.” That’s not an easy place to be in. We may find that we doubt ourselves due to the mob mentality because it’s so hard to stand on our own. When we’re escaping an abuser, we need validation and desperately want to return to “normal” but we find that our old normal is NOWHERE to be found.
We’re Damned If We Do, Damned If We Don’t
We know we need people, we know we shouldn’t isolate, but that’s all we feel the urge to do. Extending ourselves, risking, trying, trusting, analyzing, putting energy into others seems like an overwhelming feat, even after we’ve done a lot of work on ourselves to return to emotional health. It’s not always that another narcissist comes along, but they were so damaging to us and our interpersonal relationships that new ones seem formidable to participate in. The risks we’re willing to take with our hearts, minds, souls, and identity after the life sucking narcissist rips through our lives is far less than ever before. We can get stuck in a juxtaposition between wanting and not wanting people close to us. We risk pushing away people who can really be there for us because of the exhaustion and anxiety from our prior abusive experiences.
We Suffer Our Own Identity Crisis
We knew who we were before, why is it that we are having such a hard time successfully being ourselves now?
A person with an identity crisis targets someone who doesn’t and the target ends up experiencing one themselves. How does this happen? Lack of boundaries while in the relationship certainly explain why we give up who we are in order to try to keep the narcissist happy. (Yes, this is called codependency and yes, it is a requirement of a narcissistic relationship)
But why do we have identity issues once we are free?
We were defined and controlled while with the narcissist. We were further defined by others as the smear campaign was in full effect. We began to notice that the stress, abuse & mistrust and the toll it takes in every area of our lives. We feel weakened, less than, less capable, and more damaged. Which only reaffirms that who we formerly thought we were, is no longer showing up to handle things we used to be able to handle. Where we used to have stability, we now experience flux; sometimes severe and sometimes rapid.
Who are we NOW, then? Why can’t we be the same as before? Why did we have to change when we weren’t the person with the personality disorder?
It Feels as if Our Baseline Never Returns
Every new action or decision we take as a reflection of who we are is like starting all over again; relearning to Live. Be. Breath. Each new decision opens a can of worms and turns into a major overhaul of who we are. When your world views have been changed so drastically by trauma, it begins to feel like our “baseline” is a moving target or that we’re chasing the foxes tail. Just when it seems we’ve reached our place of stability, something comes along and shakes it up causing us to make changes when that’s the last thing we want to do is change something else about ourselves or our lives. It feels as if its a wound whose bleeding never stops. If it’s not some new way were dealing with our coworkers treatment of us at work, it’s the question of how much responsibility to take in a situation with inlaws, or other family members.
The identity and boundary work required after narcissistic abuse is daunting and exhausting. We feel the urge to sift through all the rubble just in case we miss something crucial to our never going through this again. We HAVE to show up to boundary challenges – or we may begin to notice how many people we’ve been tossing away, for valid reasons, but suddenly realize no one is there. We can get paralysis by analysis wondering if we did the right thing.
If before our lives were driven to meet goals in areas like finances, career aspirations or fitness and nutrition, NOW our goals focus on never being victimized again. The struggle to have power over our situation after such a random act of abuse consumes us, takes all our energy, all our focus and throws our lives out of balance.
We Have a Hard Time Seeing Results and Staying Positive
How long do we have to practice doing the “right thing” or making the right choices to live a healthy life before we start reaping the rewards and seeing the positive results of our continued efforts? Our newfound knowledge of narcissistic people carries over into our everyday lives. We suddenly notice how narcissistic the office gossip is, or that annoying supervisor that throws everyone under the bus. We want to run, escape, avoid them, yet the financial difficulties of making decisions to leave unhealthy environments catches up with us and causes anxiety. Or we worry about being seen as unstable when all we want is that every elusive, “healthy environment” or peaceful atmosphere.
While we feel that we’re drowning in our own ineffective efforts to regain our life and identity that we know realistically we’ll never have again, we’ll catch wind of the narcissist having the time of their lives, seemingly unaffected by the same abusive relationship that left us feeling crippled. (albeit they claim THEY were the abused ones) The constant realization of the injustice of the situation is enough to make us want to throw up our hands in despair and “give up”; whatever that means. We didn’t ask for this struggle, we didn’t want it and we certainly didn’t deserve it, yet here we are, asked to manage it and thrive.
Don’t let anyone tell you, you aren’t trying hard enough. If you have survived a narcissistic relationship with your thoughts in tact…YOU ARE TRYING HARD ENOUGH! Telling someone whose life was placed in a blender and pureed for an extended period of time that they aren’t trying hard enough to be positive or “get over it” is like restarting the blender. Yet again, it falls on our shoulders to take responsibility and set a boundary between ourselves and the person who stunts our growth by judging or pushing where we need listening and affirming, to say, “Ill do the healthy thing and cut off my only source of support”. While it’s smart and good for us, its just another difficult choice to deliver ourselves defeat and loss at a difficult time in our lives.
Recognizing the level of damage we’re still experiencing after narcissistic abuse isn’t heartening news. It’s quite easily, depressing and hopeless. But once you identify and feel the feelings in the aftermath of this abuse, it paves the way to overcome the damage and build the bridge back to a hopeful future, freeing ourselves of the affects of this abuse once and for all.
A “Safe Place” is a metaphoric imagery state of consciousness that is calm and peaceful. An imaginery place that we can imagine going to in our minds in order to calm ourselves and bring about the de-escalation of emotional arousal.
By creating and going to a safe place when triggered, we bypass the fight or flight responses by our sympathetic nervous system. Our inner dialogue while going to our safe place contains content and perspective that supports low arousal and a feeling of being centered. Our nervous system needs to be able to relax in order to facilitate healing.
A feeling of internal security can be felt regardless of what is going on outside of us; ie: the tirade or emotional outburst of an angry, narcissistic coworker, family member, ex-spouse or boss or any other event that triggers us.
All that’s needed to create this “safe zone” is to develop imagery that we can associate with feeling safe.
What images bring you into a state of relaxation?
When are you feeling most peaceful and safe? Where are you? What sounds do you hear? What temperature is it around you? How do you feel?
Is this somewhere you’ve been before?
Create such an image of this safe place that you engage all of your senses: touch, smell, hearing, taste, etc.
An image that I use is swinging in my hammock overlooking the Caribbean, with the sun shining and the waves gently rolling in below me. This makes me feel very peaceful and safe. I feel the sway of the hammock, hear the waves and feel the sun on my skin as I look at the gorgeous blue sky.
When I am triggered by a memory, I remind myself that I can handle it, that I am able to handle the conflict or stress, keep my cool, and deal with the situation in a good way. I keep telling myself this, and imagining myself doing it while feeling the safety of my Caribbean getaway. It helps me to handle the situation effectively.
In times of stress, trauma, being triggered or having to deal with narcissistic people, ground yourself in your safe place. Go to that place in your mind and immerse yourself in the safety and protection of this place.
This tool allows us to stay present (not disassociate) from an experience while maintaining a relatively calm emotional state. It teaches us that we have within us, the resources that maintain boundaries around our calm emotional state despite the presence of narcissistic or other toxic stimuli.
A central feature of PTSD is the struggle we have to regulate our “affect” or regulate & modulate our emotions when encountering a stimulus or “trigger”.
When triggered, we find it difficult to regulate the intensity of our feelings and connect with the problem solving area of our brains. This results in the feelings of anxiety or arousal intensifying over time rather than diminishing and resolving themselves. Additionally, if we choose negative coping techniques such as over spending, over eating or withdrawing socially, among other things, we develop new maladaptive, trauma seeking behaviors that compile themselves on the original trauma: the narcissistic abuse.
The inability to stabilize our emotions and decrease our arousal in times of triggered anxiety is metaphorically comparable to having poor shock absorbers on our car. When we hit a bump in the road, we bounce all over the place. Likewise, when a survivor of narcissistic abuse encounters a similar event or person that triggers traumatic memories of the abuse, our nervous system remains more highly aroused and our emotions can be all over the place. Moreso, than by those who haven’t experienced this abuse.
To compound issues, most of us who suffer from PTSD tend to get upset and angry with ourselves for being symptomatic at all. If it were someone else who was hurting and struggling we’d show much more compassion and empathy, yet we think that we should be stronger, handle things better, not ask for help or not be affected by the trauma at all. This thinking or lack of compassion for ourselves tends to intensify the symptoms and make the recovery period more lengthy.
One of the most important ego-strengthening tools in recovery from the trauma of narcissistic abuse is to help targets increase our ability to modulate our affect. We need to develop coping skills that allow us to regulate the intensity of our emotions. We need to increase our resources, impact our state of consciousness and contain the negative affect, sensation and imagery and stay connected to our resourceful state of mind while under the duress of triggers.
One way to modulate our affect is through Self-Soothing and Self-Care. Many targets of narcissists were never properly taught how to reduce negative affect without resorting to some other problematic behavior, such as numbing, avoiding, using drugs, alcohol, over eating, over spending, etc. It’s not that we’re masochistic, we just picked up negative coping skills and didn’t ever have any formal instruction on how to self sooth, how to put words into feelings, how to be comforted sufficiently, or how to be protected; so we are always in a state of constant arousal and vigilance.
Healthy self soothing activities are a source of decreased arousal, pleasant sensations and a calming affect. Self soothing activities should have all of the following characteristics:
- Rhythmical in speed or movement
- Soft in texture, tone or hue
- Quiet in volume
- Image driven meditative practice
- Having a safe place
- Using breathing to calm down
- Calming self talk
- Calming, positive sensations
Examples of types of activities include:
- Warm baths and showers
- Appropriate use of food such as a warm cup of tea
- Listening to gentle, calming sounds or music
- Holding gently or touching oneself (stroking, hugging, arm rubbing)
- Gentle rocking
- Taking a walk
- Attending a class or religious service
- Exercise or sports
- Dancing, gardening, painting, playing music
- Spending time getting massage or going to a spa
The more traumatized the target, the less likely we’ll feel resourceful and capable of responding in self soothing ways.
Many times when we’re agitated or having flashbacks our breathing becomes short, shallow and even at times, we hold our breath. None of these patterns of breathing leads to decreased arousal.
It’s important that we start the process of self care let’s get ourselves in a good breathing state. Let’s take slow, methodic, deep, easy breaths to break the pattern of arousal.
Right now, exhale so deeply that you feel all of the air being blown out of your lungs. Imagine the negative feelings or images of the triggering event being blown out from inside you. Blow slowly until you feel your lungs empty entirely; almost to the point of discomfort. Exhale all the tension, stress and upset; the drama, the negativity and the traumatic memories.
Next, take a very deep inhale (which will come almost naturally in reaction to having all the air blown out of your lungs). Inhale peacefulness, relaxation, unconditional love, acceptance and centeredness.
It should take you approximately 10 seconds to exhale and 5 seconds to inhale.
Come up with a list of self-soothing techniques that you can use the next time you experience triggers, flashbacks or encounters with narcissistic people that will help you lessen the intensity of your emotions and transform your feelings of arousal into a state of calm. Remember to consider all the characteristics the technique should possess in order to qualify as “calming”.
The trauma of this abuse by a narcissist doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us. We just lost the connection with ourselves and our resources along the way.
What would it Be?
Narcissistic abuse is a traumatic experience that can leave us feeling discombobulated from our sense of normalcy. Often, even though we feel that we can’t wrap our minds around what we need to do next to recover, we intuitively have those answers inside of us, they just need a little help coming to the surface.
By asking yourself this very simple question, you will learn alot about what is you really need to feel better and begin focusing your energy there.
Once we receive all the answers, we’re going to compile the data and implement some resources that will focus specifically on what we need to do as a group to heal.
Let’s not beat around the bush, Narcissists ARE addicts. Primarily empty vessels but full of shame and envy who make up for their feelings of emptiness through their addiction. What are narcissists addicted to? Supply.
Supply is anything or anyone that gives the narcissist positive affirmation and confirmation of their false identity.
False Identity is “the thing” that narcissists create to give themselves feelings of worthiness and importance. It’s a substitute for true identity, which is based upon realistic positive and negative characteristics that define a person intrinsically and determine the quality of our interactions with others over time.
From there, you can see why its difficult to pin down all the various forms of supply a narcissist can garner to prop up their shanty false image of themselves into one clear cut definition of what narcissists are addicted to.
Where one narcissist might be addicted to fame and fanfare for all their glory, another narcissist will be heavily introverted in the corner watching antisocially as they judge others for being so “flamboyant”. The particular type of supply the narcissist is addicted to is less important than defining firstly that the narcissistic person is in fact, behaving as an addict.
Narcissistic Addicts are repetitive, lazy, creatures of habit.Narcissists will stick to their drug of choice, but will gladly substitute a new one if they find that the payoffs offer them a path of lesser resistance.
For example, take the female narcissist who is accustomed to getting attention (supply) for their body; receiving many years of attention for being in shape and wearing revealing clothing. After seeing the tides of time take over, they’re now aging and gaining weight, they will feel a great deal of anxiety and depression. There’s an overwhelming grief and sense of loss from the morphing of their body into an image that they won’t be able to use for supply.
The one thing they know for sure is that they need the attention to feel ok, so they begin seeking out new ways to get attention for their body that doesn’t have to involve them being a particular “shape”. They could begin seeking to become the “expert” a guru or provide other forms of “consulting” that will allow them to get the same amount of ego strokes for their physical appearance without having to have the 24/7 workout routine that got them attention in the past.
The key is to look for the motivation; the underlying need for attention. The narcissist’s need for outside approval hasn’t changed, it’s just how they go about getting it that has changed.
Spending time with a narcissistic addict may help you recognize certain traits and behaviors that accompany addiction, such as the following:
Making impulsive choices
Constantly seeking excitement and new sensations
Feeling alienated from mainstream society
Valuing deviant or nonconformist behavior (anti-social)
Lacking patience such as having trouble waiting for delayed gratification
Fear of abandonment
Let’s take a closer look at the Personality Traits of a Narcissist as an addict:
Self Medication—Narcissists use supply to fix situations and feel better. Mistakenly, they believe (deny / justify) that they are only using it for “good” reasons but in reality it is “helping” them cope with life and the reality that their inner world is empty.
Numbing-Avoidance of Feeling— Emotions make a narcissist feel vulnerable and out of control. Most likely their family growing up didn’t allow for feelings and so they have no real practice on what to do when they feel a certain way. It was as if the family “feeling thermostat” was set to 55▫ and everyone called it “warm.” When supply comes along, it makes them feel better and comforts them against any unpleasant emotion.
Shame—The term really refers to “toxic shame” which is different from “healthy shame” which helps us realize that we are human and “not God.” “Toxic shame” goes further and dehumanizes us and isolates us from the rest of humanity. We are less than others and instead of making a mistake, we feel we are “a mistake.”
Due to toxic shame, narcissists either admit no problems, where they act shameless, or they walk around full of shame. This manifests itself mainly in relationships where they either act “better than” or “less than.” Shame is responsible for a lot of the arguments in narcissistic, addictive relationships. We’re just trying to talk to the narcissist about their behavior, but they personalize it, hear the message they are “bad” and defend themselves staunchly often using verbal abuse and word salad to deflect and turn the shame back onto us for trying to speak openly about our feelings.
Denial—is the coping mechanism of unawareness. It is really not about lying, but about a total unawareness that there is a problem. Oftentimes, the more severe the problem, the more denial there is.
Minimizing—is the coping mechanism of acknowledging something, but making it “not that big of a thing.” They often feel that people are making “a mountain out of a molehill.” or that others concerns are from a place of “envy” “jealousy” or “being a hater”.
Normalizing—This occurs when the narcissist wants to feel normal, because of the shame they feel. They surround themselves with other narcissists or “addicts” who do the same level of lying, manipulating, cheating, sexing, avoiding, etc. so that they feel normal. They assert that “If so many people are a narcissist/psychopath, it must not be that bad”.
Blaming—The narcissist subconsciously feels that “they might be at fault, but they convince themselves that other people are more to blame” for whatever is happening in their lives. Even when there’s a legitimate complaint, the blame gets them stuck, causing them to not take responsibility and find a solution. The problem is that they don’t look as to how they contribute to the problem and, additionally, this gives them a sense of entitlement to continue to behave in the ways they always have; consequence free and “perfectly” blameless. (In their perfect narcissistic image bubble)
Emotional Avoidance—Narcissists are not good at all at staying emotionally present. One telltale question to determine if you’re dealing with a narcissist is to ask them a direct question about feelings: “How did you feel about your bosses treatment of you in the meeting this morning?” Notice immediately how they will speak to their THOUGHTS or details of what was going on in the room. Anything at all but how they felt. If you press them again for discussion of feelings…You’ll almost get a blank stare or sudden desire to change or divert the subject. Feelings cause narcissists to dig into their emotional depth. They can’t draw on any “emotional reservoire” because it’s just not there.
This avoidance typically creates an “emotional chase scene” where one is emotionally trying to connect while the other runs away and avoids.
The only time they express emotion is when they spontaneously burst into emotion roused by the loss of supply, ie; shame, jealousy, envy, rage, etc. They’ll express those in covert ways. The “addiction” becomes the “trusted source of comfort” rather than anything outside themselves worthy, genuine, or Godly.
Grandiosity—Due to lack of self esteem, shame and the momentary awareness that “they aren’t like other people,” narcissists become grandiose. They inflate their sense of self to help push people away to escape vulnerability. Sometimes their grandiosity is from achievements they have accomplished due to their “needing to be perfect.” Addicts have an uncanny sense of being able to have low self esteem and being the best of everything all at the same time.
Low Self Esteem—This is slightly different than shame in that the person REVEALS their low self esteem to others. This usually can lead to depression, “victim mentality” and a lack of change in behavior.
Controlling—Really, it is about “attempting to control.” Control is somewhat of an illusion. They try to control what people think of them, their environments, spouses, and children. They are like the writer, director, producer and star who wants to run the whole show. If everyone would do as they wish and play the parts they’ve been assigned, the show would be great.
But what happens is the world doesn’t always cooperate. Other people exist in their own right with separate feelings, thoughts and needs. So we exert ourselves more by using kindness or meanness to get them to change. We are a victim of the delusion that we can get what we want out of life if only we manage well.
Codependency—This is an addiction in itself. Codependency is trying to numb ones feelings by fixing, thinking for, reminding, and acting as the conscience of those around us. We can be more in touch with their life than our own. We learn this survival skill usually by growing up in a family that has addiction or is dysfunctional. We had to predict what was going to happen next and be responsible for the feelings of others. Narcissists command that those around them become very codependent in order to “keep the hell down”.
Black & White Thinking--Rigid Thinking—Narcissistic Addiction is not about moderation. Narcissists have trouble being moderate in most things. It’s like their modus operandi kills all the “reasonable brain cells” leaving only the black or the white, the all or the nothing.
Anger and Rage—If there is a feeling that is expressed, it is usually anger. Not having supply makes them irritable and angry. Telling a narcissist no, makes them rageful. Accusing them of being anything less than perfect will result in a sudden burst of anger followed by a long, cold silence. The final parting shot of the narcissist’s rage is the “dead to me” zone. That’s where you will forever be punished by their anger by NOT being able to be graced with their royal presence.
Quick Fix Mentality—Narcissists are used to “fixing” their uncomfortable feelings with their addiction. As a result, they expect change to happen fast and have difficulty waiting for things or progress over time. That is one of the reasons they can’t change is because they are incapable of withstanding the painful/ uncomfortable feelings that occur with withdrawal.
Ego Boundaries—Narcissists don’t have ego boundaries. They have an inflated sense of self. They feel they control whatever is going on around them. They behave as if they have an inordinate sense of influence and power over other people. They think that all they have to do is “talk with someone” (manipulate, lay, shift blame, coerce) to make everything right.
Irresponsible and Unmanageable—Narcissists have difficulty managing their lives. The have trouble with procrastination, following through, and avoiding. They’re lazy and believe the devil is in the details so better leave those to someone else to take care of. They will often continue to maintain a codependent marital relationship as their “primary” relationship because that person serves as supply that serves the narcissist’s daily needs and dirty work.
What areas of your life have been affected by the abusive experiences with a narcissist:
Were you dependent upon your abuser for financial assistance? Did the stress or depression of abuse affect your ability to take care of yourself financially? Did a court battle use up your resources? Did a court battle result in the narcissist bilching you out of resources? Has their refusal to pay their responsibilities for marital debt or child support caused you to fall behind and suffer financially?
Be very honest and realistic about where you stand financially. Ultimately, all we need to survive and be happy is to cover our ability to take care of ourselves and our children. If you find that you have stress in this area, consider all your options and develop a plan that will allow you to feel stable and peaceful. If once you’ve put your plan on paper and you realize that you’re lacking, follow through with steps to improve your situation in the meantime and include in that plan, your coping skills for dealing with the stress and pressure of financial strain.
Narcissistic abuse is a traumatic event. Most of us who are targeted by this human predator were not prepared to deal with such a departure from normal behavior that we’re left with a feeling of generalized feelings of not being safe, not knowing who to trust, looking over our shoulders and waiting for the other shoe to drop, realizing that narcissists are capable of the most dangerous behavior imaginable: stalking, harassment, death threats, electronic surveillance, theft, turning children against us, smear campaigning, ruining your professional reputation and credibility, lying and perjuring themselves to simply make their targets “pay”. They seeth with envy and retaliation to the worst degree is not beneath them, but in fact they’re rather capable of committing those atrocities with no remorse. The bottom line is, narcissists will steal your soul and identity from you for themselves, and will think nothing of leaving your empty carcass on the side of the road as they speed away towards their next victim.
Here’s a great piece on the emotional and psychological effects of trauma:
Our bodies feel the real effects of abuse. Many of us have PTSD, anxiety, depression and adrenal fatigue. We’re exhausted from fighting with someone who is energized by battle. Our bodies are in a hyper vigilant state, prepared for the next round – not knowing where it’s coming from or when, but sure that it WILL.
Two types of therapies that have received a lot of positive feedback in helping with recovery from NA are:
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation. These back-and-forth eye movements are thought to work by “unfreezing” traumatic memories, allowing you to resolve them.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you process and evaluate your thoughts and feelings about a trauma. While cognitive-behavioral therapy doesn’t treat the physiological effects of trauma, it can be helpful when used in addition to a body-based therapy such as somatic experiencing or EMDR.
One of the ways I’ve managed the physical symptoms of this abuse is to take part in DAILY exercise. A good aerobic workout helps you get all of your pent up energy of emotions like anger, anxiety and fear, out of your body. The commitment to your physical health and well being will pay off in spades for your emotions, mental well being and self esteem. The beauty of an exercise routine is that you can take control of your own body, you can do it at home and you don’t need an expensive gym membership or trainer to begin right away.
Here’s a link to awesome HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts that I build into my daily routine – they can be done right from the comfort of your own home. What’s even better is that this form of workout requires less time to burn fat than more traditional cardio workouts. HIIT Workouts from Fitness Blender
PTSD or Complex PTSD is an all too familiar by product of narcissistic abuse. While we don’t provide specific support for this symptom, we by no means are saying that it doesn’t exist or isnt an important element in healing, we simply rely on the support of friends of the page to tackle this issue head on and specifically focus their resources on this aspect of healing.
Please consider visiting this page for an indepth focus:
Many of our relationships are impacted by narcissism. Those relationships can be familial with our own families of origin, our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins, uncles, etc. or they can be relationships with our own children or inlaws. The important factor here is to determine which relationship is causing YOU the most stress? Why is that stress present? Does the person possess a level of malignant narcissism (diagnosed or not) that poses a true level of frustration or uneasiness in your life?
It’s long been understood that when your boundaries are CROSSED, you will feel an immediate sense of anger. Your gut instinct will kick in and you will feel it – typically in your solar plexus, it will feel like a kick, a slight, a put down, a knee jerk response of angst to a behavior that is typically boundary busting.
You’ll have a chance to consider your boundaries under the “personal development” area, but there’s no better indicator of relationship areas that need improved upon than by using your boundaries as an indicator to what’s wrong.
Knowledge is power in this scenerio – for the more you learn about spotting not only narcissists, but other toxic people, your ability to spot them and act on your intuition will build your self trust and self esteem.
Continue to read and learn EVERYTHING you can about narcissistic personality disorder, understand the manipulative techniques they use to exploit your vulnerabilities to step over your boundaries and enter your life.
If you haven’t made the decision to go NO CONTACT – Please consider taking the power back and implementing this life changing decision! We have a special area of our page dedicated to No Contact goals and frequently post about the benefits of this technique for getting free from the narcissist that abused you.
It’s also important to note for those of us who have been nurtured / socialized to make relationships a priority, please consider your relationship with yourself FIRST and learn to bring discernment, moderation, balance and reciprocity to your relationships. Narcissists are very good at spotting people who make others and relationships a priority and will exploit this vulnerability which will result in your feeling abused by them.
To determine your attachment style in relationships consider this article:
After narcissistic abuse is the PERFECT TIME to focus on developing YOURSELF!
Being honest with and knowing yourself – the good, the bad, and the ugly is incredibly freeing. Use your courage to explore what drives you. What are your values? What motivates you? Ask yourself the tough questions:
How can you build back your self-confidence? How do you set boundaries? Do you know what your vulnerabilities are? What allowed a narcissist to take advantage of you? Was it Lack of self worth / esteem? Naivete? Did you give the benefit of doubt to someone who didn’t earn it through actions because you were focused on and flattered by words? What is it about your own ego that needed to be puffed up by words? This isn’t the area to delude yourself or live in denial. I assure you, self honesty won’t kill you – but it WILL give you the opportunity to improve yourself and areas of your mental and emotional functioning that hold you back from your best life.
Much of my recovery after narcissistic abuse was focused on my own deficiencies. From my upbringing with a narcissistic parent, I was able to identify a number of irrational thoughts that I had about “fairness, justice, honesty and love”. By identifying where my thinking set me up for disappointment and upset, I was able to catch those thoughts and redirect my emotions and behavior into healthier, more realistic responses.
Identify Your Own Irrational Thoughts
What things do you value in life? Are they tangible things like a job, a career, education, a home? Or is what you value less tangible like relationships, humanity, animal treatment, world hunger, etc.?
Many of us who are recovering from being the target of a narcissist, have long lived our lives for OTHERS. If we were raised by a narcissist or spent many years in the company of one who controlled us, we have learned how to put ourselves dead last. Telling targets to spend more time focusing outwardly goes against the spirit of what recovery from being a victim really means. I’d rather modify the advice to say, consider bringing FAIRNESS AND BALANCE into your sense of community. Your relationship with the world at large is one that you will realize narcissistic abuse has affected in that, your levels of trust for strangers and your worldview of the basic nature of others. Where we may have previously believed that “All people are good”, after narcissistic abuse, we’ll realize this no longer holds true. There are very BAD people in this world (narcissists and other psychopaths) and we will need to be prepared for an attack and how to deflect it with no harm to us.
One beautiful way to incorporate your new found beliefs into the community at large is to speak out about narcissistic abuse, tell your story, inform others and help them gain the knowledge that you’ve gained from having gone through this experience. Be there to validate and support other survivors. Your story could be the one told in such a way, with just the right details to impact and save another person from this trauma. Please remember to empathize with the pain and confusion of new survivors who upon first leaving a narcissist,are so engulfed in self hatred, possibly suicidal and lost. Reaching out and helping even if it is just to listen to another as they share their hurt is tremendously cathartic for you as well. This choice will allow you to realize that connecting with others can still feel good, can still be trusted. Sharing your time and resources with safe people enriches both of you. It takes a village to heal a target of narcissistic abuse.
If you haven’t had a chance to visit our community on Facebook, please check it out!
You don’t have to believe in God or a higher power to be spiritual.
You just have to want to get to know yourself and the powers that be a little better.
Personally, narcissistic abuse brought me closer to God. How? In my utter despair, I couldn’t came to terms with the reality that I could NOT do this by myself. My capacity to handle what I believe to be dark supernatural forces that the narcissist brings with them (evil) was not enough. I felt weak, unsure and so confused that only God was able to transform my faith into true hope and action. My reliance on God’s omniscience allowed me to suspend my own thinking and control (my own ego) allowed God to step into my life and take control of the steering wheel that finally steered me away from someone that was detrimental to my well being; my very life.
I’d never faced any addictions in my life, as I don’t think I have what psychologists would consider “an addictive” personality; HOWEVER, the relationship with a narcissist had very much engaged my “addictive tendency” to fixing the problem, my addiction to “righting the wrong” and ultimately my own repetition compulsion; my desire to fix my childhood wounds when presented with someone with similar mental disturbances to my original abuser.
There was NO WAY I could break the addiction without God’s intervention. For me, it is God who I believe in, but for you, it may be another higher power – just please if you don’t have one – FIND ONE. Im not advocating victimization, self blame or reinforcing the idea of unworthiness that you can’t do this alone, but rather, Im advocating realizing where your human capabilities sometimes are lacking in life and reaching out to a higher power helps to cement and patch up those limitations.
What area causes you the most stress and upset?
Write down 5-10 goals in each area and begin looking for ways to combine them together.
STAY TUNED! Next we’ll explore pulling this list together, once you’ve had some time to consider what areas need work.
Thank you for taking this most important journey back from the darkness of narcissistic abuse and stepping into the light with us!!!! We hope that as we build more light, life, love and laughter back into ourselves, our relationships, and our community that we will light the way for others to walk the same path to safety and freedom from narcissistic abuse permanently!
There’s no time like the new year to create a NEW YOU after narcissistic abuse.
With all the confusion and depression a thing of the past, we’ve got so much time and bandwidth available to us, we can have trouble knowing where to start setting goals or to decide what it is we truly want. Finally, many of us haven’t believed ourselves worthy of focus and have thus always put our desires last to everyone else in our lives; especially narcissists.
Let’s take a look at the areas of our lives we can explore when considering goals pertinent to our abusive experiences with a narcissist:
What areas above have suffered?
What areas have you neglected in order to take care of others but need to focus on now?
What area causes you the most stress and upset?
Write down 5-10 goals in each area and begin looking for ways to combine them together.
Take a deep look at yourself and make goals based on how you need to improve yourself so you can improve your relationships and the world around you.
- What things do I value in life? Are they tangible things like a job, a career, education, a home? Or is what I value less tangible – relationships, humanity, animal treatment, world hunger, etc.?
- What would I like to see changed about the things I value?
- What are your values? Take a 5 minute assessment:
- How can you build back your self-confidence?
- How do you set boundaries?
- Do you know what your vulnerabilities are?
Answer the following simple open ended questions.
What do you want to do?
What don’t you want?
Brainstorm. Try answering these questions to inspire your creativity.
Here are 28 questions to ask yourself after narcissistic abuse:
1. We learn from our mistakes, yet we’re always so afraid to make them. Where is this true for you? Have you worried that you’ll meet another narcissist and not know how to get out before you get hurt?
2. What risk would you take if you knew you could not fail?
3. What is your greatest strength? Have any of your recent actions demonstrated this strength? You learned alot about how strong you had to be to survive a narcissist. Think about the strength you’ve shown picking yourself up after this horrific abuse.
4. What are the top five things you cherish in your life? Remember how the narcissist tried to destroy them? How can you protect these in the future so no one ruins this for you?
5. How can you improve your boundaries? What areas do you need to be more protective of? What makes you mad?
6. In what ways have you learned to trust yourself since having your trust broken by a narcissist?
7. At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
8. What and who do you most connect with? Why?
10. What are your feelings about honesty? Do you have the ability to spot people that are lying? How will you use your knowledge to live an honest lifestyle and protect yourself from frauds?
11. What bad habits do you do that you dislike?
12. What are you avoiding?
13. What is the one job/cause/activity that could get you out of bed happily for the rest of your life? Are you doing it now?
14. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
15. What are you most grateful for?
16. What would you say is one thing you’d like to change in the world?
17. Do you find yourself influencing your world, or is it influencing you?
18. Are you doing what you believe in or settling for what you’re doing?
19. What are you committed to?
20. Which worries you more – doing things right or doing the right things?
21. If joy became the national currency, what kind of work would make you wealthy?
22. Have you been the kind of friend you wish you had?
23. Do any of the things that used to upset you a few years ago matter at all today? What’s changed?
24. Would you rather have less work to do or more work you enjoy doing?
25. What permission do you need/want to move forward?
26. Really, what do you have to lose if you go for it?
27. How different would your life be if there weren’t any criticism in the world?
28. We’re always making choices. Are you choosing your story for you or for someone else?
STAYING ON TRACK:
To help you stay on track with your goals set them using the acronym, “SMART”
A useful way of making goals more powerful is to use the SMART mnemonic. While there are plenty of variants (some of which we’ve included in parenthesis), SMART usually stands for:
S – Specific (or Significant).
M – Measurable (or Meaningful).
A – Attainable (or Action-Oriented).
R – Relevant (or Rewarding).
T – Time-bound (or Trackable).
Anyone who teaches people how to set goals will tell you to write your goals down, put them in every place you can think of – on your refrigerator, in your car, at your desk, etc. There is a valid reason for this; by putting them in front of you every day, they stay in the forefront of your mind – conscious thought, if you will.
When you feel yourself pulling back from your goals or procrastinating, question why. Do some problem solving to see if you can get back on track. Ask yourself the hard questions and, even if there aren’t any real answers, find a way to move forward.
Keep checking back as new information is added!
The end of the year and beginning of the New Year is an opportune time to reflect on our progress in recovering from narcissistic abuse.
What have we learned so far?
1. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is tremendously cookie cutter and predictable
If it weren’t so, we would not relate to the stories of others who have had narcissists in their lives. Their stories would be foreign to us. Instead, when we discuss the traits of a person who possesses a malignant level of narcissism, we sit, nodding our head in unison. Recalling events from our own lives that resonate entirely with the words of others as they describe a text book case of narcissism. We’ve been lied to, cheated on, used, manipulated, verbally chastised and name called, threatened, and blamed for everything that goes wrong in a narcissistic relationship. We’ve been smear campaigned, falsely prosecuted, legally abused, abandoned and conned out of fortune, family and our very identity. This abuse is hideous and its perpetrated by text book predators, who possess no conscience, no sense of remorse, and no care or concern for who they damage. For people who pride themselves for being so “special, unique and irresistible” they sure are unoriginal and predictably boring when it comes to their persona.
2. Support from our loved ones is hard to come by
Those we expect to support us in the aftermath of this abuse are not as available to us in our shock and pain as we would “assume” they would be. What’s worse, is that not only were we isolated by our abuser, we learn afterwards that many of the people we’ve surrounded ourselves with have the same type of “selfish” behaviors that we witnessed with our abuser. Some of our previous friends or supporters now support our abuser or won’t validate our abuse because of their own denial about the narcissist’s true personality. Instead of having our ready made support system there to help us step up and away from our abuse, we find ourselves back in the mire of abuse and needing to do additional housekeeping because of the narcissist’s ability to dupe others. We have to entirely disassociate with anyone who continues to believe the mask of the narcissist.
3. The need for validation is real and can be found in other survivors
We’re not fully aware how much we need to be validated as a result of this abuse. Many of us were previously self-validating and esteemed and find it hard to believe how “needy” we feel for requiring so much validation from others after we leave. The reason for this is clear however; the narcissist is entirely INVALIDATING. As a byproduct of brainwashing and control, targets are left blaming ourselves for the breakdown of an important relationship where in the past, we had no trouble sustaining them.
Boundaries are non-existent in narc relationships because the narcissist doesn’t believe that you exist as a separate person. They think nothing of telling you who YOU are: “selfish, unlovable, pathetic, ugly, slut, insensitive” all the things narcs themselves are, but their abuse doesn’t mind that reality as long as they’ve got someone close to them that is willing to accept the blame and shame.
Finding other survivors who are also committed to telling the truth, sharing the details of our abuse and moving forward towards healing are those we find to be cathartic and validating of our own experiences.
4. Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries are our friends
As a product of my upbringing with a narc mom, its no surprise I struggled having boundaries my entire adult life. (Not blaming, just stating a fact) I was a perfect sitting duck to a boundary buster and so are many of you.
After the abuse is all said and done, it is highly apparent that our need for boundaries and being a tough gate keeper in our own lives is one of our primary responsibilities for being a healthy adult.
I never understood a good working definition of boundaries. I heard of them, I thought I knew what they were, but not until mine were entirely obliterated by a skilled predator, would I come to understand how boundaries function in my day to day life.
My lay person definition of boundaries can be described in two ways.
1. Boundaries are defining lines that show us what we are responsible for. They are invisible fences that separate 4 areas of your life from others: Feelings, thoughts, words and actions. What we think, feel, say, and behave like is OUR business; the only things we have any control over. Subsequently, the feelings, thoughts, words and actions of others are THEIR responsibility (not ours). When our boundaries are clear to us, it’s easier for us NOT to accept the blame (responsibility) that a narcissist uses to project their feelings, thoughts, words and actions onto us.
2. Boundaries are rules of conduct that we expect in order to allow a person to occupy our life in any capacity.
For example, if you decide that cussing during arguments (verbal abuse) is a behavior that you won’t tolerate because of the way it makes you feel, this is your boundary. When someone crosses that boundary, you will feel anger. How you handle your anger and the boundary violation is your responsibility. You may put the person on alert in the event you hadn’t clearly communicated in the past that you won’t tolerate this behavior. Once you have communicated clearly, and that person chooses to violate your boundary again, it is your job in protecting your values and how you believe you deserve to be treated, to hold the person accountable for crossing the line. You may tell them that you will no longer be in a relationship with them. You may decide to immediately distance yourself emotionally from a relationship that involves any intimacy with them.
The important aspect of boundaries to understand is that as you begin to enforce your boundaries, the quality of your life WILL improve. Not only will you have people who can respect your rules of engagement, you will also have a new found respect and trust for yourself for taking good care of yourself.
5. Our clarity and perspective returns but our radar for narcissists and other sociopaths remains on high
We SURVIVED! Now, we are very aware of the underhanded, manipulative techniques of abusers. We can see it from a mile away. When we get the opportunity to get a birds eye view of the narcissist that abused us, we will see with such clarity, all the signs of narcissism that are there just as when they abused us. Only now, without the duping and love bombing by our abusers, we’re able to see them without rose colored glasses as they go through the motions and stages of abusing others: The charm and romanticizing during the “valuation” stage, the abuse of course is hidden (devaluation) and specialized for the targets themselves alone with the narcissist as they project and tear them down, while on the surface the narcissist pretends to be a “caring, sensitive, “good” person”, and finally when the discard comes, we witness the confusion and self blame of the target as they struggle to escape, and how quick and easily the narcissist moves on to romanticizing new supply. Just as the narcissist’s personality is text book and cookie cutter, so is their abuse.
Our alarm bells are louder and we are responding to them. We notice that now we have an instant and natural aversion to people that are overly self involved, self promoting, non reciprocal and/or unempathetic.
It is evidence of our growth, self respect and self trust when we are able to respond to our gut instincts about the danger that exists in a narcissist and other sociopathic creatures.
6. Our triggers are becoming fewer and far between
And thank God for that! It’s not that they no longer exist, it’s just that we are not responding to them in such a heightened sense. It’s my belief that the time, distance, clarity and forgiveness have something to do with that, but our confidence and mastery does as well. It seems that not many have gotten one past me in recent days and I imagine that’s the same for you. It’s a nice feeling when we “catch” them, isn’t it? We realize that being prepared short circuits the auto response to a would be attacker. If we don’t fear a narcissist, it seems we also don’t get triggered by them or worse, hooked in.
Going for days, weeks or months without being triggered by something the narcissist did to abuse us is an amazing milestone. It signifies that we’ve assimilated the experience into our areas of mastery and are prepared for future and well managed encounters with this destructive kind.
It’s important to note that at this point in my own recovery, I am not aware that the triggers ever completely fade. It’s a hopeful thought to imagine that’s true. But I don’t need that to be happy now. My narc mother has been deceased for 27 years and there are still triggers for me at times for things I’ve long forgotten. I handle those moments by letting them pass through me. I accept the reality that my abuse was not my fault, it impacted me and from time to time for the rest of my life, I may experience an “after shock” so to speak and that’s ok; I know I can handle these emotions with relative ease.
7. Our lives, identities and ability to feel, trust and experience life returns
I don’t know about you…but one of my biggest fears during the recovery of this abuse was that it was always going to eclipse my identity. No matter how many times I tried to scrub myself of the smudge that I felt he left on my soul, I felt that I wasn’t able to completely remove it.
For me, forgiveness (and meaning it) helped me get past that “stuck” state and wipe the emotional slate clean.
It was a personal decision I made, that I had to make a hundred times. Every time I’d remember with anger or think something I was uncomfortable with towards my abuser, I asked God to help me forgive them again. And again. And again. But once I got to that place where I felt the hatred gone from my heart, and where I prayed in sincerity for my abusers healing, I realized that I no longer felt “tied” to him or his abuse in any form or fashion.
Then, is when I realized all the color came back to my life. Im not saying forgiveness is necessary for YOU to achieve that, but I am saying it was personal to my own journey that I work through that step to my own freedom to love my life again. In my own identity, forgiveness was something that I needed to incorporate.
How do you know you’re healed?
When you stop comparing every new person and or situation to your abuser, you know that you’re willing to see the world through new eyes. When you stop talking about “it” as much. Or if you’ve gone on to pay it forward and talk about it with others, you rarely talk about your own story. When you’re able to feel and regulate your emotions and experience a very stable level of feelings without much interruption or variation of moods. (baseline) When you risk putting yourself in the position to trust others, you know you’re relying on and trust yourself. When you validate your own thoughts and feelings or mildly check them with others if it’s a big enough decision, when you speak up, assert your needs and boundaries and are willing to risk having to boot someone out, you know you’re pretty healed. When you feel your own esteem and strength. When you can laugh at the situation, see the utter pathetic humor in it, there’s something comforting about that level of acceptance.
This journey has been a long one; it was the hardest lesson I’ve ever faced.
But I can say this: it’s gotten easier. Its a lesson I wish I hadn’t learned, but it’s one I’m thankful that I was able to find my sails and navigate; Thank you God and thank you to the support of our ANA family!
The effects of emotional or psychological abuse falls under the category of ‘traumatic shock’ a well-known and accepted theory. The definition defines it as this; any event that destroys our internalized set of assumptions patterns and understandings that we all use to operate in the world every day. It is saying that we become traumatized by one extreme action or a set of actions that come into our lives. These actions are usually associated with something we have never experienced before personally and very negative that has impacted and jolted our reality.
This could be the trauma that combat veterans experience, hostages being held at gunpoint, earthquake victims, prisoners of war, AND YES ABUSE VICTIMS. What this is saying is that a horrendous event has entered into our conscious world and we are not equipped with the proper experience or tools to work through the situation. Being traumatized is the outcome of this abuse and we are frozen in the situation with seemingly no way out. We were so seamlessly tricked and betrayed into a belief for such a long period of time that many levels of our life grew right alongside of this huge lie. It keeps replaying in our head and we TRY over and over again to search for the answer as well as some sort of relief to stop the pain associated with this HUGE loss and horrendous betrayal, but it is inconceivable. Without the correct help or answers we are stuck in that scenario especially as it concerns abuse targets/victims.
I love you! As simple as those words are they are three of the most complex and most emotional words that a person can say to another. They are meant to convey a real message, one that entails a bond that is so special that two people will grow together, trust one another with their lives, build dreams on, and perhaps even produce a family based on this connection AND MANY DO. These are words that we grew up with and understood so clearly. These are the very words that a Narcissist hangs their hat on and opens the door up to manipulate, objectify, betray, weaken, damage, disable and extort everything they can from a target/victim. These are the very words that are pathological in nature as it concerns the empty soul of a Narcissist and their real agenda to harvest us for supply. They are uttered with such a complete and seamless reality that they unlock the very souls and mind of the person that gets trapped in the Narcissist’s big lie and con job! These words are heard every day throughout the world, and are such an amazing part of the human connection – what better choice of words could a thief of hearts, minds and life use to break into our world? A psychological rapist and terrorist! Did anybody here grow up with an understanding that a creature could convey a complete and loving relationship to con you out of your life? I never realized the magnitude of this abuse or just how completely disordered and hateful a Narcissist is. I still can’t wrap my head around it completely enough to make any sense out of this and instead I defer to this as purely evil. I don’t even want to define it because the truth of the matter is all the definition I need.
This is what so many of victims of Narcissistic abuse experience. They look for answers to insurmountable and complex questions AND trying to get help from the people in their immediate surrounding and unfortunately they don’t have the answers or even a concept of how deep this abuse has entangled so many levels of the victim’s life. The target/victim only ends up feeling more isolated with all of these thoughts and unanswered questions still replaying in their heads. They may not even know that what they are experiencing is trauma and many don’t even realize that they were a target/victim of psychological abuse as well. Trauma requires a great deal of time, energy and therapy to allow the victim/target to reacquaint themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin as well as what they believed about life before their abuse. Basically it is deprograming the psychological terrorism that the Narcissist has administered.
Even when the target/victim associates their situation with abuse from a Narcissist there are still so many other components to deal with that it becomes too conflicting – so everything stays in one huge multileveled blur. A target/victim can’t look at any one aspect without the rest of the abuse tugging at them and pulling them into to many negative directions – and thus the TRAUMA.
So I am going to add a clinical definition to this process that confounds the target/victim even more, and that is ‘cognitive dissonance.” In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. Plug this definition into the ‘love bombing’ aspect where the victim is manipulated into the horrendous belief that the Narcissist is/was in love with them. Then add that the victim DOES fall into what they believe is/was real love AND the length of time they spent in this ‘condition’ as well as being managed down, devalued and then discarded.
Basically the theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. When inconsistency (or the dissonance) is experienced, individuals tend to become psychologically disabled or destabilized and they are more motivated or forced to attempt to fix or correct this dissonance, through many different thought processes be it justification, denial, avoidance or ANY information which will only compound the confounding situation. It is refiguring the reality to create or make SENSE of it where there is none! The mind tries to create it through some sort of imaging. It is like looking at a cloud in the sky and we see a bunny. That is our mind trying put a perspective to something that is what it is, a cloud. But that bunny cloud floats away and doesn’t drop down on us from above in an effort to destroy us for believing it was a bunny cloud.
AGAIN think about this as far as a target/victim having to justify their entire reality with this abuse surrounding them! Remember that cognitive dissonance is so much a part of recovery where a target/victim is traveling through their perceived reality thinking that what they had WAS real (love) and then having to accept that what they had WASN’T love or EVEN real! I tried to write that as simply as the two opposite colors of black and white – but there is nothing simple when your mind tries to rationalize this. Seriously there is no gray or in between (or interpretation or validation) between that black and white, so the target/victim is left to figure this out and that is an insurmountable feat to say the least.
Normal people rationalize situations and there just is no rationalization to this UNLESS the target/victim can immediately actualize that this is abuse and erase every thought, action, memories, all the time spent together, the love, the hate, the hurt, their marriage, biological children, dreams, goals, etc., etc. That is a great deal to process especially when you are vulnerable, and left with the destruction from this abuse and at so many levels. Also add to the equation that this managing down or conditioning has been a part of the target/victim’s everyday life for a very long time. SO it is has become a normal aspect of this abuse for the target/victim to travel down so many avenues or side streets to adjust and bend their emotions in an effort to ALWAYS try to rationalize it and FIX it EXPECIALLY during the devaluation phase. With discard the target/victim is hyper vigilant in their search for rationalization and answers. But there was NEVER any basis of reality so whatever rationalization the target/victim formed was just built on all of the lies and manipulation from the Narcissist. The mind just can’t untangle this quickly so it creates overwhelming confusion and trauma!
There are people out there that will offer simple support or a pat on the back, but in reality without tried and true validation the target/victim simply assumes they are to blame somehow because nobody truly understands the reality of the psychological rape the target/victim has experienced. This is not a person wanting to BE or remain a victim forever, it is a plea for help because they are lost in the abuse and feeling as if something is terribly wrong with them and reaching out. Nobody would want to feel the effects of this abuse just so they can say they are a victim. It is so mentally debilitating that the normal reality of everyday life is so distorted that it basically halts for the target/victim. That is very scary or better yet a horrifying place to be in.
Targets/victims of psychological abuse have to tear down their entire understanding of the world, people and love, and rebuild the whole system from the ground up to feel comfortable in THEIR OWN SKIN again. Information and support from the people closest to the victim is crucial – BUT unfortunately with this type of abuse the variable that prohibits this is that most people truly have no viable understanding of just what a Narcissist is or that this abuse is so damaging. So the lack of support from those closest to the victim (for whatever reason it may be) can actually be the most damaging and dangerous. Again the target/victim will internalize a bad message one in which they will blame themselves for allowing this to happen and feel very isolated and invalidated.
When a person tells a target/victim to just move for instance, what message does that send? It says that this isn’t that important for you to be here and going on and on with all of your words and describing the details, etc. It is a total invalidation of the abuse and It makes the target/victim believe that they are over-reacting and in turn makes them feel as if they are inferior or damaged and ‘BAM’ the target/victim puts the blame back onto themselves and may even believe they are crazy. This is a traumatized victim not a person that had an argument with someone they were in a relationship with. Add to this just where the target/victim will go for help and WHEN they can’t get immediate support for the abuse. Most will go BACK TO THE SOURCE OF THEIR PROBLEM – their abuser. Traumatization requires viable solutions and answers that validates the reality that their situation was really out of the normal circumstances of day to day life and NOT something that the person experiencing this trauma can reason away (cognitive dissonance.) Unfortunately some target/victims go on for years without validation and develop coping skills that are not even viable as far as moving forward and back into a welcoming world.
The problem with anyone telling a target/victim to move forward and leave everything behind is that it works directly against the best interests of anyone suffering from trauma or better yet Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that occurs after being abused. Unfortunately this can even occur when the victim of this abuse is in therapy. There comes a time AFTER everything has been sorted out that we have to go through some deep introspection as it concerns ourselves being COMPLETELY healthy and releasing from the abuse and creating new boundaries by looking inward to find anything that connects us to reoccurring abuse. BUT when you are traumatized you are not feeling healthy to find healthy solutions. So AGAIN recovery is a process that requires specific steps.
There are many amazing and wonderful self-help programs, etc. out there and in time they are very helpful in repurposing yourself. BUT again when a target/victim is past the trauma stage and able to see the REAL light of day again. Just what the word self (as in self-help) DEPICTS or directs as the main message is that the source of the problem is in the victim’s perception of their own self, and not anything from the external world. It also suggests that it can be fixed or addressed by applying personal change. For a person to become a survivor that has had their world view profoundly manipulated and altered by psychological abuse, this only forces them to assess themselves AS IN BEING THE WHOLE SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM. Self-help has its place with a mentally healthy individual that may want to quit smoking because they are able to reason clearly, but it is only a temporary fix for someone that has had their whole world psychologically altered over a long period of time. Targets/victims of this abuse have become disabled by this abuse and the destruction of everything that was their real life. If we could fix this ourselves we would be right there with that theory, but unfortunately that is not how it works. Would you tell a physically or sexually abused target/victim to initiate self-help directly after the realization of the truth of their situation? No that would be inhumane to offer them a quick fix like a pat on the back and telling them to work on it.
To go a little further with this point. Self-help urges several things that make sense individually but WHEN THE TARGET/VICTIM is mentally healthy again and able to return to the reality they once had. Suggestions to ‘move on at once’ and not to ‘repeat patterns’ OR to ‘learn from the experience’ but not to ‘blame others’ OR to ‘empower yourself’ so as to avoid further abuse and at the same time to ‘accept responsibility’ for your part in it, and to ‘examine what happened’ but not to ‘dwell’ because you seem obsessed or scorned is just senseless to the target/victim when they are right there in the trauma – it is even dizzying to read in that one big run on sentence. Directives like these make no sense to a person that can’t make sense of what has happened to them, AGAIN it only makes them feel the blame is right there with them! In time with a healthy perspective there are viable ‘help’ programs to set up new boundaries, etc. – but that comes later and not right now.
Trauma and shock is an outcome of this abuse and the reality or need to rebuild ourselves is reasonable, but where is the reality basis for a traumatized person to build off of these suggestions when they are traumatized and can’t seem to function normally enough to take care of themselves. There is no personal experience to build off of until they understand the complete picture. What seems reasonable by just moving on, will only add up to greater confusion when the target/victim is still left confounded, angry, depressed, anxious and wanting closure where there is none. Why would a target/victim confront themselves with what was missing from their life or reality BEFORE the abuse when they are working through the here and now or the trauma to just be able to function WITH clarity and understand this whole mess. Then there are the messages that the abuse target/victim is not allowed to be ‘overly negative’ or ‘play the victim’ by blaming anyone else, SO the only person the target/victim can end up blaming or assigning responsibility to, or getting angry with is themselves.
Empowering ourselves has its place, but that is to empower ourselves FIRST with the truth and education to back it up and guide us CORRECTLY to recovery or basically one of many steps. We have to understand that our reality did come from the outside world in the form of abuse from a Narcissist – then and only then can we put together the other components that GOT us there and KEPT us there dancing with this destructive Narcissist. It will be different for every person. But WE CAN NOT force the issue and bury the abuse and trauma by just moving on. Do we want to ALWAYS blame ourselves and forever feel we were responsible because we were not powerful enough and if it happens again we are definitely the problem here? Probably we would end up believing so and that is just defeating the purpose of healing by saying we are just that weak that we always allow ourselves to be abused. No again this is debilitating psychological rape. No abuse is ever our fault so proper perspective has to be a part of the process so that it triggers the correct response when red flags are waving at us and if we should happen to fail, we will work through it with better perspective. This perspective must give us a clear understanding of the abuse we experienced so we can assimilate that into our future thoughts.
Empowerment is PART of the process of reassigning your belief system to include that abuse and even evil does exist out in the real world. A healthy mind will put this into perspective – BUT once that mind is at a place to do so AND with proper steps and education to back it up. We must purge the abuse out in a logical process that includes embracing our grief through anger and every other thought process that appears. We have to DEAL with our thoughts and not just repress them. It may seem viable but anything that is unresolved and buried within us will resurface eventually and that is why so many targets/victims get stuck in this abuse and keep returning to it day after day to find some sort of logic. If we do not get healthy through the many steps of grieving, anger, talking about it to viable listeners, seeking reality through education, finding support through other survivors, taking a mental health break, then we will fail miserably.
It seems to me that many solutions lack one major component and that is the Narcissist that abuses us and their role in this. The Narcissist deserves the grand accolade of the person that gets the blame here because they are a predator that is pre-disposed to abuse and they are adept at doing it pure and simple. We can’t stay STUCK in blaming the Narcissist, but let’s put it where it belongs to start the process of recovery. Educating ourselves gives us the ‘ah ha’ moment to move one step further into our recovery. Let’s also NEVER forget children of Narcissistic parents that have lived their total life being devalued and groomed to accept abuse from every relationship. They have been traumatized their whole life and need to have these messages purged out of their head and reprogramed to see the reality of the goodness that does exist.
Finally, it is more realistic and makes more sense to allow the target/victim to speak clearly about the abuse and the abuser – this is essential to seeking answers and purging out all of the negative messages that were internalized. There are many questions that need to be answered like what we believed was love that was just a con job, or what the abusive Narcissist appeared to be, OR the reality of what this Narcissist is now. Questions involving what actions, issues and behaviors from the abusive Narcissist that account for what the target/victim is feeling traumatized about, rather than only turning our eyes back inward and towards our own self.
Furthermore,it makes more sense to allow a traumatized target/victim of this abuse to make REAL associations that caused the difference to what they previously believed (belief system before abuse) to be true, and then to expand that knowledge to incorporate and include the pathological actions of psychological abuse and the emotional battering that is their reality now from the Narcissist. This seems to be more reasonable than just insisting that the target/victim just change the view of themselves. It would make more sense to allow a target/victim to develop and dispel the anger in a viable manner instead of repressing it in favor of ‘just moving on.’ Clarity is first and foremost to integrate reality POST abuse, lessons will be learned instead of forcing a new reality without the necessary homework to get there. We can’t blame the target/victim of WANTING to be a victim if they seem stuck, and urging self-imposed rules and regulations because without the proper perspective about this abuse the target/victim WILL stay stuck in the negative pattern!
The reality is that if we don’t put it into a context that includes a viable understanding (education) first, we will miss the mark or our ‘ah ha’ moment, and we won’t be successful because we will continue searching for the answers. We don’t want to be eternal victims but can end up that way. Instead we are human beings that are inquisitive by nature and need to learn with every situation good or bad. The real component and the reality is that responsibility does also belong elsewhere rather than making the victim solely accountable. Even though that Narcissist isn’t there to accept the responsibility or provide closure the experience from survivors through sharing and education will validate the abused target/victim and that is so necessary. Reliable and real education from the abuse experience does inevitably involve anger and increased negativity BUT it also raises it into a higher plane by re-directing these negative emotions out of us or they WILL resurface. These are the realistic tools that will allow targets/victims to rise again with increased strength, and not actually hamper them.
Many targets/victims are afraid to speak out about what they are going through because they are afraid they will be looked down upon and considered obsessed, angry or just plain CRAZY. Again this is just a result of feeling they must be faulty to be in the position they are in, so they try to appear as if they are doing good when it is the furthest thing from their reality. NO speak out about it and tell the truth of the days you are unable to function, or if you cried for an hour, or you are so mad, feeling isolated and depressed or whatever. You have to validate your experience and not repress it. If it goes on too long than it requires more steps with some professional help from a therapist that has experience with this type of abuse. Self-reflection and introspection are very important when we are feeling clear and healthy enough to look inward again and create boundaries. AGAIN – this is all the outcome of the abuse and being managed down and manipulated. Embracing the reality is a hard pill to swallow, but it will allow you to live again and that is essential. PLEASE – no/minimal contact to start you on your journey to recovery.