Hope After Narcissistic Abuse
One of our family members recently asked a question that was a good cause for pause. The member innocently (and likely fervently seeking answers) asked, “Where is the message of HOPE in all this talk about narcissism and narcissistic abuse”?
I couldn’t provide an answer right away, but as I thought about it, I realized that the hope in encountering this abuse is the kind that we all have to dig for.
Hope is defined as an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation”.
Let’s discuss the opposite of hope first:
The very nature of narcissism is one of hopelessness, because there is NO CURE. It’s no wonder this hopelessness and despair rubs off on everyone the narcissist comes in contact with. We must come to terms with and face the fact that someone we genuinely felt love for is entirely incapable of ever loving us in return. When we’ve no other choice but to turn away from someone we loved and walk away from dreams that we had, there’s no hope in that. If we have any hope in us, it’s running to a future free from abuse; one that can only be achieved by removing a toxic person from our lives. We must summon the hope and courage within us that says we deserve a better future for ourselves and our children. The kind of hope that motivates us to do the difficult tasks required to separate ourselves from the hopelessness of narcissism.
Once we run for our lives, there’s a prolonged grieving process that a recovering target goes through, whereby we are completely depressed and devoid of any hope. Certainly we’ve left and now have the opportunity to experience peace and health, but the weight of our emotions cycle through us, demanding they be felt. It’s not surprising how difficult it is to feel any hope, while it feels that we’re literally dying from emotional pain. Our lives are upended, we’re being harassed, smeared and targeted by the narcissist and are often times waging some sort of financial, familial, or judicial battle as a result of our having been involved with someone who thrives on power and destruction.
As we pass through the stages of no contact, gaining knowledge of narcissism, embracing the shock that comes with our newfound understanding of sociopathy and the evil that truly exists in this world, we are not in any position to feel “hopeful”.
As we were running at our lowest emotional capacity, we had to come face to face with realities that are downright terrifying. Ugly realities like how unsafe the world feels with narcissism in it or realizing how very little the narcissist cared for us or how aggressively they meant to harm us contains no message of hope; not in the slightest. We are discovering that someone we trusted to keep us safe and have our best interests at heart, were actually putting us at risk and purposefully harming us. We realize that words were purposefully spoken or withheld to manipulate and control us. We find out about the many affairs, the lies, the games, their motives and just how deeply their lack of empathy challenged our frames of reference for what is “right” and “fair” in this world. We witnessed the lowest form of humanity; we not only ‘witnessed’ it, we LIVED with it, we slept with it, we were close to it.
The only hope that I’ve been able to glean during this initial phase of recovery, which lasts anywhere from 1 to 3 years by my account, is that we have the hope that we will return to our former selves; the person we were before the predator found their way into and destroyed our lives. However, this hope is simultaneously peppered with doubt and worry that we will NEVER get there again. Many times throughout this initial phase, we have to take things as they come, day by day – just making it to the next morning. This slow, tip-toeing hope is enough to push us through to the next day; it may be slow as molasses, but it is hope nonetheless.
Once we’ve processed the phenomena and concept of narcissism and narcissistic abuse, there’s a newfound hope in our ability to change ourselves and share the information that will help ourselves and others avoid narcissists in our future. That’s the real hope that springs forward from all this darkness! We emerge with an optimistic attitude that we WILL have a brighter future and we WILL help eachother get there.
There is so much hope in facing down our fears. When we don’t know much about narcissists, they’re really rather scary. They’re so out of the realm of normal, that we can’t imagine facing them. It’s comparable to staring down the boogey man under the bed. Once we arm ourselves with knowledge, while they certainly remain to be very dangerous people, they lose their ability to have power over us and they become frankly rather laughable and pathetic. Narcissists seem to only scare and obtain power over young and impressionable children and those vulnerable adults who have no clue that their brand of evil exists in the world, what to look for and the damage they can cause.
Our hope is found in our ability to allow ourselves to be changed for the positive by this experience. What other option do we have? To fold? To give up? To cave to the abuse? To decide to not learn and simply give ourselves over to the whims of someone who doesn’t and can’t care about us? Our hope is our belief that not only do we deserve better but that we can transform and change anything within ourselves that will help protect us and serve us in the future. Our hope is not in a new relationship, not in a new hair do or look, not in a new body, or not in a new place to live. Our hope is in the renewal of our minds. Everyday that we wake up and are able to experience the beauty of life and breath and be thankful for our freedom, peace of mind and ability to choose happiness, is a day of hope.
The narcissist may have been toxic and damaging to our lives for the time they were in it, and for a period of grieving afterward, but there does come a time in every targets mind, where we decide that we will no longer allow ourselves to be affected negatively by the narcissist and their abuse. We will take the negative hand we were dealt and play it like a champion for our betterment. As our hope returns, the narcissist loses the power they once had over us, their former target, forever free; forever hopeful.