I remember when I was kid there was an old guy (probably he wasn’t that old, I was just really young and he was, well……… shell-shocked. he would wander through town yelling at people to “get down!!”, swear a lot and in general scare the crap out of anyone in his vicinity. I know he sure scared the crap out of me but I also felt sorry for him and he gave me a very real fear of war, to the point of having nightmares about my father and brothers being taken off to fight.
My dad told me he was “shell-shocked”, saw too many horrible things during the war and his mind just snapped and left him in his own hell, for the rest of his life fighting a war with the demons in his head that wouldn’t let him forget. People staring at him, pointing, laughing. Who knows the horrors he saw, what he was still seeing when he was running through the streets crying to get down. i often wondered what was he like before he went off to fight? Had he been a handsome young man full of confidence with plans for the future, did he have a wife, children? What was it that eventually made his mind snap? Was it a slow process? or did it happen instantly?
Like i said, I ended up with an irrational fear of war and still can not watch war movies, I don’t find pain and suffering entertaining in the least and I think most wars are fought for the wrong reasons and it somehow gives people the right to treat other people like animals, worse than animals. All of a sudden the “enemy” is deserving of totally inhumane treatment and people who would never hurt anyone as a civilian find humor in humiliating a prisoner of war or torturing some enemy soldier who is only trying to stay alive like the rest of them. I can’t stand on my soup box about war because I have never been there, I just know what I read and see on the news, the atrocities our own soldiers commit, we the civilized world.
Life with a narcissist is not that much unlike fighting in a war, on uncharted territory, never knowing what to expect, if the enemy is going to appear and kill you or torture you. They compare living with a narcissist to being a prisoner of war, where all your rights are taken away, you are punished for thinking the “wrong” thoughts, where food is rationed out and you are never sure who the enemy is. Where you are “reprogrammed” and beliefs you have held your whole life are wrong, the other person is right and until you accept that your beliefs are wrong you will be punished. It is much easier on you if you abandon your belief system and adopt theirs, even if you don’t believe it, if you just pretend, they may be less cruel to you.
Where they pit one against the other, try to get the prisoners to rat on their fellow prisoners, just like the narcissist pits two women against each other. What an evil trick and so clever, get the victims arguing among themselves and they won’t be able to stage a revolt, they will be so busy spying on each other, distrusting each other they will leave the abuser alone. It has been a common tactic for centuries; but I suppose there have been narcissists for centuries also.
If the narcissist can keep the people who could bring him down fighting among themselves he is safe.
The narcissist is the exaggeration of everything a regular human being is, he is the same as you and I but with no filters, no boundaries, no conscience to keep him in line and he knows that it is human nature to want to believe the worst in people. For whatever reason, it seems people generally love gossip, and if it is reputation destroying gossip, all the better; it makes millions of dollars for the Inquirer and other Gossip mags every day.
It is hard to believe that all narcissists are smart enough to do it on purpose but they all seem to follow the same MO so who knows.
The scenario goes something like this;
They treat the victim like crap BUT don’t dump them, they keep them trying to fix the relationship and keep sending mixed signals so the victim is so busy trying to save the relationship they don’t have time for anything else.
Behind the victim’s back the narcissist is paving the way for when he leaves; telling people that the victim is being unfaithful, treats them like shit, doesn’t do anything around the house, is demanding and generally a bitch. The narcissist is gathering his army around him, collecting his “team” and winning the sympathies of everyone who will listen, careful to always be the victim and to act like he really hates to say bad things about the victim and to make people think he really loves the victim and has tried everything he can think of to keep the victim happy.
(I remember a few months before we split I was picking James up from work and his buddy who worked with him, gave me a CD of love songs and told me to listen to them. I forget who it was now but at that time the singer had a really touching love song out. I sat waiting for James to get off work listening to this CD and crying my eyes out. I was not the one who should have been listening to the tape, I knew James must have been complaining about me to him. I knew I was on my way out the door, I didn’t try to defend myself to the guy. I thought I will just carry on being myself and the people who matter won’t believe him.)
What I didn’t realize and most victim’s don’t realize is you are in a war with the narcissist, you have always been the enemy and he is carefully and strategically plotting to destroy you. It sounds melodramatic, like something out of the movies and all victims are still clinging to the hope he will “snap out of it” and most definitely they can not fathom him ever lying about them or trying to destroy them; after all you have stood by them through thick and thin. You two have a special bond and love that would never allow him to hurt you like that. You know him, better than he knows himself and you know he could never slander you or try to destroy your reputation.
You have broken up before and you know he will eventually come back, begging you to forgive him, you two always get back together somehow. he always misses you as much as you miss him, you really do love each other, if only you could get through to him, make him understand why you are suspicious, prove to him how much you love him; if he would stop trying to sabotage the relationship, the two of you could get on with loving each other. But the relationship has become one break up after another, it is just the way you are now. You don’t even really believe him anymore when he tells you it’s over, because he always gets in touch somehow.
And then it happens, or it doesn’t happen; he doesn’t call, he doesn’t want to come back, he has met someone new and you are nothing more than garbage to him. You are shell-shocked, you walk around like a zombie, you hear the horrible things he is saying about you, telling everyone that you did to him all the horrible things he did to you. You can’t even defend yourself because everyone believes him and you were so loyal and never told a soul. You can’t believe all the stuff you tolerated and forgave, how you loved him unconditionally and he is in love with someone else and is calling you the psycho bitch; just like he used to call his ex to you, and say you were nothing like his ex. NOW, you are the ex.
All the things you tolerated in the name of love suddenly take on a whole new meaning, they become abuse, not misunderstandings, you realize he never really loved you, he was using you, you are hit full in the face with reality and it knocks the wind out of you, you are reeling, you wander around, the walking wounded amazed that the world is still revolving when you want to die. People expect you to work, talk, function and you can’t form a sentence, can’t think a coherent thought, your mind is flooded with pictures of him and her, all the times you thought he was cheating and he denied it and called you crazy. The birthdays he ruined, the things you lost in the name of love, and no one understands and you can’t find the words to explain what you are feeling. You are broken and feel you will never be able to put the pieces together again, you don’t even know where the pieces are or what they were, who you even were before you gave away everything you stood for. You are shell-shocked.
Like that old guy from my childhood, your mind turns against you, you dream about the narcissist, he invades your thoughts every day all day, you feel you are losing your mind, that you have no control over your own thoughts.
As with the war vets of the First World War, the victims of a narcissist have many of the same symptoms, staring blankly into space for hours, unable to form sentences, some victims are literally unable to move, shake, cry uncontrollably, have erratic mood swings from depressed to anger, physical ailments appear, headaches, insomnia, eating disorders, problems with memory and even physical movement can be impaired. If you look at a War vet, a shell shock victim their eyes speak volumes about the evil they witnessed. There are not a lot of pictures of me from the time i was with James, but the ones I have seen, my eyes are dead, no sparkle. My mom mentioned also about a year after I had left; that there was life in my eyes again.
And, as with the war vets, PTSD, another name for Shell Shocked; is not fully recognized or understood. It is seen as the sign of a coward , even as a play for sympathy, and a weakness of character.
It has been 100 years since Shell Shock was first diagnosed in the troops fighting on the front line, the military is finally accepting PTSD as a serious consequence of trauma and is treating and trying to compensate their vets. Society is still a long way from recognizing it as a very real injury and disability victims of domestic abuse suffer and to expect a victim of abuse to “just get over it” or “put it behind you and move on’ is unrealistic and actually causes more harm than good. Well meaning people will say things without thinking, in a genuine attempt to help the victim and can send the victim into a relapse or add to the abuse person has already suffered.
Not only does there need to be more awareness about domestic abuse, there needs to be more awareness about the lasting repercussions of prolonged abuse and continual trauma, walking on egg shells and fearing for your life; living day-to-day never knowing when the other shoe will drop, never allowed your; feelings, freedom, thoughts.