Boundaries and Narcissistic Abuse
Just how the walls, framing and structure of our homes can come crashing to the ground when hit by a bulldozer, our boundaries, which separate us from others, (the walls that hold ourselves inside us and keeps others at a safe & healthy distance) are completely demolished in a narcissistically abusive relationship.
Here’s an example:
Whenever we try to talk to the narcissist about something they did that resulted in us feeling a certain way, regardless of how nice we are or how much responsibility we take when we try to talk about it, the narcissist whose identity renders them incapable of taking any responsibility and see all feelings as criticism and thus a narcissistic injury, will deflect our concerns and throw a red herring, not see them as valid, won’t listen to us, will twist it and turn it back on us, etc. ANYTHING that will prevent them from having to acknowledge that our feelings are valid, important or exist or that they in any way have any responsibility for behaving in a manner that impacts our feelings or having to take them into account.
We want to talk about something they did and how we feel about it, but they deflect with well YOU do this…avoiding taking any responsibility for what they did and switching the issue from what we felt to how THEY feel. As a result, we don’t feel heard, which diminishes trust and goodwill…we are frustrated, dont feel listened to or more importantly heard. Our concerns go unresolved. They mount. Our emotions are nearly completely shut down just as the narcissist is. We explode which gives them justification in their eyes to abuse us further saying “see! YOU really have a problem with anger!” (projecting their emotions onto us because WE CAN FEEL them). It’s an exhausting mind screw. No other way to put it. And why over complicate it by using some textbook term to describe it?! It’s a Mind Screw! It’s exhausting, burns us out and makes most of us never want to argue like this with another person again in our lives.
How boundaries are at play in the above example is this (think in terms of separation and responsibility): by playing into the twist of focus, shame and blame we’re allowing our boundaries to be crossed and taking responsibility for the narcissist’s disordered behavior. (being overresponsible) By chasing the red herrings (narcissists irresponsibility), we allowed a narcissist to drive our thinking all over the place, (think for us) we allowed them to assign their flaws to us (define us) and battled them to hear us (rather than listening to ourselves) without realizing that it is a lost cause (acceptance) because we didn’t understand how very different they are (irresponsible/disordered) from us (identity boundary), we allowed our emotions to be neglected (rather than tending to our feelings) and played with and allowed our rights to be violated by not standing up, (protecting ourselves) walking away (holding the narcissist accountable) and refusing to remain (respecting our own worth) in the company of someone who doesn’t respect us.
[Please note: by “allow” we are discussing responsibility; NOT blame. Targets of narcissists are in an abusive relationship where there is an extreme power imbalance, punishment & reward system, stockholm syndrome and brainwashing, as all victims of abuse we “allow” things to happen due to the abusive schema]
Let’s face it, some of us didn’t have very strong boundaries when we first encountered a narcissist; nevertheless, the trauma of this abuse wears us down over time and causes us to resign easily to repeated boundary violations from a narcissist. They’re determined to get their way and we are sick of fighting. Plus, we’re used to putting ourselves last to please others and we constantly acquiesce. This is the “boundarylessness” of narcissistic abuse and what we call “forced codependence”. It’s the lowest point in the narcissistic “relationship”; having none of our own needs met, having the narcissist demand that theirs are or else they punish us with rage or silence, having hatred, blame and shame projected upon us with no defense (no boundaries) and accepting all of it while feeling hopelessly worthless, loveless, lonely and stuck in a cycle of learned helplessness.
When the foundation of ANY structure or being is destroyed, the whole house will eventually fall down. Eventually, if the narcissist doesn’t discard us first, we are utterly so worn down, we must exit this abusive, boundaryless existence to save our souls, our lives and our sanity.
Once we leave these relationships, we can finally assess the true damage of the trauma. As we would had our home been rammed with a bulldozer, we stand staring at the remains, the rubble and a few valuables that can be salvaged, we realize that our home is no longer our home. We begin picking up the pieces we can salvage, experiencing tremendous sadness, grief and a feeling of disbelief of the reality before us. Overwhelmed, we look at it all, our identities, our love, our beliefs, our views, our trust, our hopes, dreams, good names, reputation, sanity and souls….and in utter shock & grief decide to just raze the rest of the structure and start over.
We build our new homes with the foundation, structure and “walls” of boundaries. Boundaries save us. They are the demarcation lines between ourselves and others that define who we are, who we aren’t, what we are responsible for and not responsible for and what we will allow to happen or not happen in our lives in order to live in harmony. It is our strong foundation. They hold us together and protect us from the outside world, elements, and people who mean to do us harm. Our boundaries keep our worth “inside of us” so to speak. We decide who comes and goes based on what we want going on “inside our homes”.
By having strong boundaries we are making a statement about what we believe we’re worth. If we feel valuable, we are going to want to protect ourselves with good boundaries. Just as we don’t leave diamond earrings laying on the front porch of our new home, we don’t allow our valuable selves to be in the company of an exploitative, abusive, narcoholic. We protect what we value with boundaries.
What lessons have you learned about boundaries as a result of having them destroyed by a narcissist?
What examples can you give of boundary violations that occurred during the relationship with the narcissist?
How did you build your boundaries back?