Narcissistic Abuse Leaves Us Feeling Damaged

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.


Posted on March 9, 2015, in Narcissism. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I have taken some comfort from these words, from the entire blog, actually. As I type, it is now 8 months since I finished with the narc. In fact, I was carefully steered into doing so because he was already into his new supply and had been since the start of my 9 month ‘relationship’ (for want of a better word) with him. I didn’t know this at the time of ending the relationship. I didn’t even know about malignant, psychopathic narcissism at the start of this year, despite having been raised by a narcissistic Mother. Her narcissism took a slightly different form, although it dictated the course of my life, in terms of the needy, abandonment fearing person I grew up to be. A violent, sadistic stepfather also had his part to play in shaping the damaged people pleaser that I became.

    I thought I knew myself. I have had 20 years of being in therapy to try and overcome the feelings of not being good enough that have always been there. I thought I had, at least, gotten a good enough mask of my own put together, the positive, ‘no issues here’ one.

    Then I met evil in all its charming glory. By the time I baled out, I knew I was not in love with this man. Actually, I don’t think I ever was really. He was such a disappointment on so many levels; intellectually and otherwise. But he made his move after months of stalking me as a ‘friend’ on facebook (the first and last time I will EVER go down THAT road, relationship wise).
    He chose his moment to ‘strike’, which was 2 weeks after my mother suffered a near fatal brain haemorrhage and I was beside myself with worry. The whole of the summer was taken up with my mother, and I suppose he was a nice distraction – someone to chat online to when I got home at night from being with her at the hospital. As Barbara says, in her March 9th comment, “if only”.

    When the first slip of the mask happened, it was only 6 weeks into the relationship and was so utterly at odds with everything this person had been that it really shocked and upset me. Two weeks later, it happened again and I dumped him. I dumped him a total of 4 times in 9 months, but got lured back in, every time. Of course, the ‘niceness’ lasted for shorter and shorter periods and the punishments for these offenses to him quickly became more protracted, more wounding and more vicious….well, you all know how it goes.

    I emerged, just as described here, a shattered, violated and deeply hurt individual with no sense of identity. I have self isolated for months and can’t be in groups for fear of ‘losing it’. Our mutual social circle have all sided with him, despite the new woman appearing on his profile within days of my baling (all my pics gone overnight, replaced with ones of her in same locations as me, sometimes even the same poses!) – all designed to wound, which they did.

    My therapist keeps admonishing me, with some impatience now, to “LET GO”. Her recent email to me shouted it, in capitals, as typed here.

    I thought I had lost my mind at first, the overwhelming trauma and grief was at a level that I have never previously experienced. I have only just managed to go No Contact in the past few weeks. At first, he would occasionally ‘like’ my comments on friends’ posts, or make a reply. Despite hating him, I still wanted his attention. I hoped the new woman would see our interactions and get jealous (which will be why he did it – to keep her ‘in line’). I stalked them on fb for months, loathing myself for it, but unable to stop. I finally blocked them just a couple of weeks ago.

    I just want to die all the time because I am exhausted from pain, the injustice at not having had ‘my say’ – to ANYONE – about it and from my hatred of him. I cannot ever see a day when this will go. These pages tell me it will, but I don’t really believe that. I was 7 years single before he inveigled his way into my life, so the impact hit me hard.

    Know what his words to me on our first date were? “I don’t play games”. My gut reacted to that, but did I listen…?

    IF ONLY……


  2. Thank you for this article. It explains everything I have been feeling and trying to express to everyone for years. All i get back, dont let him upset you, get on with your life, making me feel even more mad. I am physically sick from it all. Even my therapist sided with him which has fucked me up for the past week. He sent a text regarfing contact which totally disregards the court order and she said its non threatening. I came home and had a panic attack because Im tired of people reinforcing I could be the problem or my perception is wrong just because my ex narc has clever wordplay and speaks up first. Right now my son has not been returned, the police will not help and i cant afford legal costs. I Raised these concerns before the incident happened and its overlooked. I wish there were more professionals experienced or knowledgable in this area to assist people who are fighting suicidal thoughts to end this nightmare.


  3. It seems very sensible what you have said and familiar. Yet, I feel like I am in a twilight zone – of both existing to some sense of a me, and to others something completely different. I came so far from childhood abuse and abandonment. I never thought I would ever return to such a state of worthlessness again. I got so separated from any meaningful relationships or friendships for quite some time, which in itself was a traumatic loss – like finding yourself and then losing yourself. I feel the field has been cleared and there is just me running for my life, and there are these sinister evil inhuman perverts who have a professional game of destroying a human beings life – just terrorizing and tormenting one to death and a madness; eventually they know they will just hand you the gun and you will gladly take your own life. It does feel so alien, there are no laws of society or of life that seem to function. It’s just as if my life is their matell toy, instead of the plastic barbie and ken dolls – they have become some how real and their re-configuring this me into their lie – I have become the bend me shape me break me and pull me apart any way you want to is what there is to know. They have nothing to do ever,share in taking turns pursuing me and mocking anything I do as if they were the puppet master – when I know they are not human being but someones privileged monster that society adores, covers up for, hides behind and will even lie for. I know what was done to me – was also done to others as I witnessed many times. I saw what was being done to a whole family and to individuals. A game of endless pursuit of devouring the lives of what their obscenity criminality decides is inferior and unworthy of residing within the smearing castle walls of comfort and leisure. It was a shared secret and shameful that we would never discuss with each other or support each other. We stood alone and it was and still is a shameful disgrace; a society hides its eyes and leaves shame, guilt and blame for an innocent individual, and then lay psalms and other like anointment as gifts to the pervert of such fit fine millinery; cowardice, dishonesty and ugliness- that these were lofty attributes of character in twisted meaning; honor, bravery, attractiveness, creativity, and wit performed and blessed sacraments now to bless those faithful adoring minded-nothing, for not speaking truth and accusing and demanding the injustice to be arrested, refrained and treated. How truly bizarre society’s insecurity to not speak truth but to deny it lest they become the next target. It makes more clear why Jesus was betrayed, to save oneself from a similar fate. It seems maybe the greater tragedy is not the victims, but those who bequeath affections to cruelty and betrayal rather than protect friendship, and the humanity in others. The illusion is honor and respect for the crime and criminal fiend; I see weakness and cowardice to scorn and assist the perpetrator to know the blessing of shame in disgracing human being whether the individual is friend or stranger. The individual/s could be educated to develop a consciousness and if not at least understand they are the ones lacking companionship for their behavior unfit. Instead another individual and generation is nurtured in inhumanity and let loose on the world to destroy what they like. I would scream and cry wretchedly to God all the time, Why? Why was this being done to me, I could not find the answer in me but that I knew it had been done to others; it is not just some aberration or apparition but a tradition of betrayal, cowardice and abandonment that is blindly accepted and truth dropped like falling-out of the atmosphere, redefining the laws of gravity in that special moment. Each of us stood alone surviving this as best we could – we never joined any rank of allied support for each other. It is undoubtedly quite a test of strength and endurance no matter the punishment of disgrace. We are never expected to prevail in this sport of inhumane theater, there never is acknowledgement and acclaim of crossing over a finish line; all glory has long been showered upon weakness, dishonesty and perversion. The whole unholy day tradition is a judgement upon the society, though it does not see it. It’s glaring ghouls of normality and attire can and do burst out in shocking revelations that sometime make the International news; torturing individuals, school shootings, bombing civilians, and all manner of debauchery that are ever more shocking and obscene or muddled up – assassinations are tucked away neatly, the whole structure of society shows chipping paint, weakened infrastructure, abused children, addictions, the plastered walls inside and out weaken and flake off, abandonment, inhabitable. People freeze in streets while dozens of houses are empty waiting for buyers at the right price. The whole place is a ghost town; the workers of today do not break for lunch at the noon time whistle – their far away in some other lands and they eat after the sounds of explosions have been run, morning or afternoon. The blessing in this cruelty is bringing out a social restructuring we those of us who can survive will have a greater need to continue to flourish in a loving community and clearly recognize and not excuse anything that attacks it and clearly define or at least intelligently educate and advise others of the illness of it and or denounce the individual perpetrating it. It has been the cruelest experience but it has also been a profound opportunity to assist in administering the necessary medicine for a viable society that will not fray and crumble but be connected through truth, love and caring. It is a vast difference and is a truly meaningful way to live, to teach one another and to offer a future generation a true future. I may not live to see the fullest hour of its beautiful reality, but I will have peace of mind that no one will ever be abandoned into a lie, and wasted life of endless suffering. It has been helpful to write so that I can now turn it in a different perspective: For those who emerge or are emerging from the cruel cocoon, they are and will be the lovely butterfly of many tomorrows where the sun shines and joy fills day after day; it is the truth of living human being who is fulfilling their dreams. We are no longer victims of anything, but the real discoverers and explorers who bring from within ourselves the reality of living, loving human being safely through delusions of ancient dark so that humanity has a true world to be born into and to live in happiness. Blessed are the many who travel through these difficulties known – they are the bearers of the divinity of soulful joyousness that will bear much beauty and health that will not vanish but last and have strength to hold a world in grace. I fear not to be born or returned to such a wonder that was here all along, but became obscenely clouded and translucent, blur and blindness. Remembrance is: everywhere what an excitement and happiness there is to be born and the brilliance of magnificence shown as we met the dream to live.

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  4. This is the absolute best thing I have read about this and was so reassuring for me at this point on my journey of recovery from a narcissist.. well several.. Thank you so much. It was like readings words from my own heart. I almost can’t believe I came across this right now. Crazy. Thank you. I can’t wait to read the rest of the blog.

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  5. This is going to kill me , I’m destroyed , and I’ve been through a lot – I never heard of this prior to about a year ago – which stopped me from going crazy or hurting myself , but when they bring you so low , especially when they sorta know you know, your done. The smear , the silent shit , and your done

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  6. Great post! Self Esteem is so important, as well as feeling needed and loved. May your Monday be marvelous!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Very well written…and very sad. I saw an old movie last night (This Property is Condemned) with Natalie Wood, who played a very tragic role. In Natalie’s life, her mother most certainly had NPD. A typical ‘stage mother’. Using her daughter as a commodity. Natalie was cast in several of these types of roles. The movie got to me so badly I had trouble sleeping last night.
    If told myself…”If only the character Natalie played (Alva) had told her lover (Robert Redford) the truth, he would have forgiven her and they could have married…” and she would have been able to leave her mother behind.
    If only in the novel, “Tess of the D’Ubervilles”, if Tess had been honest with Angel Clare before she married him, all would have been well.
    Those two words, “if only”, are the hardest to live with for the rest of your life. I know…it happened to me.

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