How The Trauma of Narcissistic Abuse Changes Our World Views
The word “Trauma” is derived from the Greek term meaning “wound.” When targets encounter relationships with narcissists, what takes place is a human wound & trauma. When a person is wounded, there requires a time of healing; however scarring is often a result.
During times of psychic trauma, our belief that we are invulnerable to harm becomes shattered. Our defense mechanisms break down and we suddenly can’t function the way we used to. We begin to feel inadequate for not having the ability to process the trauma in a short time. Subsequent emotional arousal can reawaken the narc abuse experience that we feel the emotions all over again and realize that there’s an ongoing attack on those defense mechanisms; we’re attacked both within and without. The trauma of narcissistic abuse collapses our worldview and assumptions about life in one full blow.
Our assumptions about how we think life should operate act as boundaries around our reality. Inside these boundaries, we place all our deepest hopes, expectations, fears, dreams, ideals, thoughts and definitions of what makes life safe and meaningful. We can easily see ourselves in this wonderful, serene portrait, known as our life. Narcissistic Abuse breaks that picture. Like a beautiful portrait falling to the floor, suddenly the frame surrounding our beautiful portrait of reality, is laying before us shattered in pieces.
If we have the belief that honesty is a virtue, justice is fair, and people are basically good, then our world view would be if not naive, a world view that we are safe and protected from the opposite of those virtues: Evil, unfairness, lies, betrayal and injustice. That is until we meet a narcissist. The tragedy is, that we will come to know firsthand, all the things we didn’t want to believe existed. Tragedy challenges and shatters our long held beliefs. That’s what makes the narc abuser so damaging. When something so far outside the range of our experiences happens to us, it throws us for a loop.
The Assumptions that are shattered from Narcissistic Abuse are:
We live a life possibly over estimating the likelihood that we won’t meet with devastation or peril especially at the hands of someone who says they Love us. Most of us believe that humans are basically good, honest and not going to purposefully cause us harm. When the narcissist acts out against us, either by lying, cheating on us, using us, causing financial ruin, criminal harm, physically abusing us, or other forms of their abuse, they are sending the message to us that the world as we know it, no longer feels safe. We now know that evil, unsafe people exist in the world we live. Invulnerability says, “That won’t happen to me.” We watch TV shows such as “Who The Bleep Did I Marry” and think, how could that person not know they were marrying a fraud. We feel safe in our living rooms, sitting back in our arm chairs exclaiming that we are somehow immune from the interpersonal dangers that harm others. The narcissist comes along, pulls the wool over our eyes, loots our minds and bodies while we “aren’t looking” and leaves us without resources, scrambling to make sense of what happened. When we’re wounded this way, we feel victimized. That victimization leaves us feeling vulnerable. Our close relationships become a place we no longer feel safe in. We aren’t prepared for the effect that narc abuse has on all our relationships. We suddenly realize we don’t trust ANYONE.
Television shows depict crime shows that wrap up in an hour, with a beginning, middle and end that allow us as the viewer to carry the belief that trauma and tragedy come wrapped in a package that looks time limited and easily healed. When vulnerability follows us around everyday after narc abuse, it’s somewhat difficult to face the reality that our world view has been permanently altered and our lives are lived with a heightened sense of vulnerability.
This assumption is visible in our belief that things that happen in life have a rhyme and reason to them. Life makes sense to us, has meaning and is logical. The idea that we believe that people who say they love us, behave in a predictable, loving manner towards us that is evidenced in their actions toward us. When narcissists and their behavior have a traumatic impact on our lives, they become a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit.
The more we try to make sense of the trauma the more incomprehensible and monstrous the event becomes. Narcissists defy our logic. They act in ways we can’t. They lack things that we believe all human beings possess; like a conscience. The assumption that all things make sense and are understandable is deeply rooted in the human psyche. We are rational beings who reason, analyze and need order; its what differentiates us from animals. When the trauma of narcissistic abuse hits us, our rationality becomes a curse.
Homosapien is latin for “Thinking man”. Normal human beings cannot fathom the animal like approach that narcissists show towards their own kind. They’re a cold, detached, calculated predator of their fellow man. This is not something we rationally believe is true. The meaninglessness of narcissistic abuse drives us into despair. We know what the narcissist did to us was not necessary, it was pure overkill, they exacted a plan against us with such hatred towards us that we can’t comprehend.
We are rational beings. When we seek to find the reason to explain why narcissists abuse us, no meaning is found; the traumatic blow is heightened which can cause us to seek unhealthy forms of coping through various types of escapism (Alcohol, Drugs, shopping, eating, sex, etc.). How many of these activities we choose is evidence of the degree that our assumption of Rationality was shattered.
We must find ways to pull ourselves together to reintegrate our shattered world view of rationality. I think that this is why it’s so important to educate ourselves about narcissistic personality disorder. Once we know the reason that the narcissist behaved towards us why they did, it goes a LONG WAY towards rebuilding our sense of order, predictability and safety in our lives.
Just as we expect our world to be orderly and make sense, we also have the expectation that the world is just and fair. We expect good guys to be rewarded and bad guys to go to jail. Our expectation that life is fair towards us is the primary assumption that frames our reality. It makes no sense to us when we face unwarranted, irrational and undeserved mental /emotional torture by a narcissist. Narcissistic abuse is an unjust intrusion into our happy, loving lives. As we suffer, our human spirit rages in torment over the abuse. This event can cause many of faith, to challenge their belief about God’s presence amidst the tragedy, questioning why God has seemingly left us alone.
For many of us, the trauma produces a second crisis: a crisis of our own faith. If our assumptions haven’t been challenged to this degree formerly, it can be a rather catastrophic event to be exposed to the inhumane treatment of a narcissist.
4. SELF – IDENTITY
When the bombs of life hit us, our worldview is shattered. Our assumption of a fair world run by a benevolent deity is brought into direct conflict with the hell of our pain. Experiencing extreme pain affects how we view ourselves. The picture of the beautiful, happy loving world we used to live in, involved our own part of that picture. We all carry pictures of ourselves in our heads. Most of us have the belief that we are capable to wake up in the morning, shower, get ourselves dressed and proceed throughout our day making our living. The trauma of victimization changes all this. We seriously question ourselves after a narcissist victimizes us. Are we weak? Are we needy? How did we not see them for who they were? Weren’t we intelligent? How did we not pick up on the lies? Are we out of control? It makes no sense to us when we face unwarranted, irrational and undeserved mental /emotional torture by a narcissist.
The victimization of us was neither expected nor intended to be our choice. We did not want to be lied to, cheated, cheated on, stolen from, lied about, sold down the river and thrown away. We did NOT see this coming. We perceive ourselves as helpless and powerless. Our self perceptions change. Will we now always be victimized in relationships? Will we be singled out again? These new self perceptions can cause us to act out again, from this perception; becoming another victim to a narcissist.
Psychic trauma is the collapse of the structure of self resulting from a catastrophic human experience and a resultant chaotic response. We must be careful to deal with the issue of self perception after narcissistic abuse in order to prevent this. We were victimized, we are NOT a victim. We have choices. We are responsible. That is why we are learning two important fundamentals of identity after narcissistic abuse: Who the narcissist is, and who we are. Two very distinct people capable of two very distinct types of behavior towards others. Pathologically hateful vs mutually loving. (We fear we’ve become like the narcissist as we grapple with our own feelings of intense hate towards our abuser)
After narcissistic abuse, our sense of wholeness and integration has been lost. We no longer see how our life fits into the larger world with significance, meaning and purpose. Who we were in the world was lost. Not only was the frame around the picture broken, but the picture itself has been destroyed. We look into the frame and see nothing. We’ve lost our bearings, our boundaries, our sense of who we are. This loss is devastating. Not to know who we are, when our lives are collapsing around us is almost as painful as the abuse itself.
The coup de gras of narcissistic abuse is that final horrible realization that not only have we been cheated on, lied to, abused, and left hung out to dry, but that the rules that defined who we previously were, no longer exist and no longer operate in our lives. It’s what I believe creates the “walking dead” effect of this abuse. The final blow is how we’re left an empty shell, no longer ourselves.
Ultimately each of these worldview assumptions need to be transformed into new operational plans for our future. It takes a tremendous amount of time, reforming our identities. The time spent is worth it when we consider that our new view incorporates the reality that evil people like the narcissist really do exist in life, that they are a human predator who is a danger in relationships and should be avoided at all costs. It doesn’t mean all people will be harmful to us in our future, but it does allow us to quickly assess the presence of sociopathic traits in those around us and to avoid them like the plague.