I received a comment on the Support Forum of the blog today and couldn’t wait to make it into a stand-alone post. It is so profound and critical to the long term healing for the victim of narcissistic abuse. Although I have done posts on it before, it needs repeating and hopefully our combined effort will help people stugging to heal.
This is the comment.
I remember thinking of myself as a hero of sorts for putting up with the abuse, for keeping the relationship alive and the family whole. I endured the insults and the pain and was grateful for crumbs. I was such a good person! I forgave, I overlooked, I accepted, and doled out second chances until they numbered in the thousands. Come to find out I was just as disordered as he was in my own saintly way.
Ugh it’s hard to admit even now and even harder to understand some of his slurs were actually true. Too sensitive? Actually yes. Too emotional? Yup. Passive aggressive, I could check that box too. I was a hot mess dancing with a cold one, he pitched and I swung and I played my part like a champ until I finally got tired of losing to his unfair rules.
Looking back I guess that’s when I became pretty crappy supply. The raging got really bad and I without realizing it caused him some hefty narcissistic injuries. We went from crazy to outright bedlam and the worst part is the kids went there with us.
That’s when I had to stop playing saint, that was the true breaking point. But even when you finally get to your breaking point it’s not enough you have to start fixing what was wrong with yourself to get into such a place in the first place. No contact with the abuser but major in depth contact with yourself which should be your one and only focus, not the abuser. All of the thoughts you continue to give the abuser are energy that should belong to you and must belong to you and alone if you’re ever going to heal.
At first each and every time you start thinking about him (or her) you will have to very deliberately refocus your thoughts to yourself and that’s hard work. You might not want to. Your brain might not cooperate. But until you master this you will continue to suffer at the abusers hand whether you’re near or far.
* No truer words have every been spoken.
I can remember feeling extremely offended and being very defensive the first time it was suggested to me that I had anything to do with my own abuse.
It was when I was once again lamenting “why does he keep hurting me?”
Someone said, “Because you keep letting him.”
First you have to get the victim away from the narcissist before you suggest they need to look at themselves because to suggest it too soon will only give them an excuse to stay or go back. You can not live true to your core self while you are with a narcissist, its impossible.
As long as the victim of abuse thinks there is something they can do to save the relationship they will continue to go back. It is only when they have tried everything that they admit defeat and leave. That is why the victim stays, the narcissist keeps saying things like, “If you would stop doing that….I would stop hurting you.” “If you did this…..I would be happy and we could go back to the way we were.”
When the victim leaves or gets dumped (in the end the victim always is the one to leave the narcissist because the narcissist never truly leaves completely) and (I think every victim has said the same thing) “How can I ever trust again? How can I make sure I am never hurt again?” And they think the answer lies in studying the narcissist so they know everything there is to know. Malignant, Covert, Sociopath, Psychopath, they become experts on every trait and study done.
The problem with that is; the narcissist changes his personality like he changes his clothes. He morphs into whatever personality suits his agenda at any given time. We have all seen him change right before our eyes.
The only constant and the only thing within our power to change, is ourselves.
MyLife spoke of what I call “doing the dance”, we all did it. He swings, we sidestep, we move, he moves, we anticipate what he will do next and he KNOWS what we will do next, he plays us like a violin.
We become martyrs, martyrs are not attractive people. We lament that we are “just that way. I can’t say no. I love him and I am sensitive, I can’t say no when he begs me to take him back. He lied. It wasn’t my fault. I am just a victim.”
I listened to myself and thought, “Wow! If I insist on not taking any responsibility for my own situation I am always going to be a victim, helpless to ever protect myself.” How could anyone heal and find happiness if they have no control over what happens to them?
What the narcissist wanted changed hourly, you twisted yourself into what you thought he wanted and it was never good enough, you were never enough. Now you don’t have a clue who you are any more, he was the only one who ever loved you just the way you were; no wait……only while he was love bombing you, once he had you things changed.
I started by taking every single criticism he had of me and looking at it honestly. Was I too sensitive? I had been told my whole life I was, by my whole family. I did a personality test. Yep, I was a sensitive person, probably an empath, I was not a freak, 4% of the population had the same score I did. That was reassuring.
I didn’t want to stop being a sensitive person but I knew I didn’t always handle it in a positive way. What could I do to change it, why did I get SO hurt when others didn’t, why did I panic when someone rejected me?
Intellectually I know I can’t control what happens to me but I have full control over how I react.
From that point on, every time I felt that anxiety building, the anger growing when someone hurt me, I stopped. Stepped back, took a deep breath and did nothing.
It seems to me sensitive people tend to make rash decisions, they feel they must do something immediately. It caused me so much heart ache in my past.
I make lousy decisions when I am emotional. I say and do things I regret and I have to back peddle and then I feel guilty, giving the narcissist the power position to twist things to be my fault, lay guilt trips and sweep what he did under the carpet. I was forever giving my power away and then wondering how things always got turned back on me.
The biggest thing I learned was to not make any decisions and sleep on it. Oh sure, I would want to rage, give the person a piece of my mind, demand I be treated with respect etc etc. Or if the other person rejected me I would fight the urge to grovel and beg their forgiveness. I would sit down and write out my thoughts, with pen on paper because it seems to connect me more to my true feelings.
I would try to be an observer of my own mind. Why was I feeling this way? I know anger is always based in some other emotion, fear, jealousy, sadness, hurt….. you are never just angry. I would identify why I was angry. Once I could identify why I would ask myself was that feeling justified or was I being too sensitive. (You must come to this conclusion on your own. You can not rely on someone else to tell you that you are too sensitive).
This is another epiphany I had. Being sensitive is often times your ego messing with your head. A lot of times if someone seemed to reject me it really had nothing to do with me at all!! Another ouch! Excuse me! It’s not always about you! Maybe they had a bad day, maybe they don’t feel well, maybe they had other plans.
One Christmas I was looking forward to my son and grand daughter spending Christmas with me. I envisioned them spending Xmas eve, opening gifts Xmas morning, going to my mom’s for Xmas dinner. My son had not been home on Christmas day in 8 years and I had it all planned.
Then we were talking on the phone and he told me how Christmas was going to go. He was picking up his daughter after work, driving to his dad’s and spending Xmas eve there. Then they would go to my mom’s from there and coming to my place on Boxing Day. I was so angry I could barely be civilized enough to say I would have to call him back. I know he must have wondered what the hell happened, all of a sudden I had gone silent. I was furious!! No, my feelings were hurt, my ego was hurt. “How dare he put me at the bottom of his list. His father had never been there for him, I had earned Xmas day (entitlement). I am always the one who has to compromise.” (Martyrdom) I cried, I wrote pages and pages of angry hurt feelings until I was able to calmly express myself without lashing out.
I contemplated just being a martyr and not saying anything but I knew my son would feel something was wrong, that old passive aggressive thing MyLife touched on would rear its ugly head OR I could be honest.
I called him, asked if he had time to talk, he said, “Sure momma, what’s up?”
I said, “I have to tell you that I am having hurt feelings because I am being put last on your list this Christmas. I was really hoping you would be spending Christmas with me.”
He said, “oh mom! You are never last on my list. I was just thinking I am picking Kaela up after work, it’s a 4 hour drive to my dad’s and 5+ hours to your place. Four hours in the truck is going to be about max for a 4 year old. If we stay at my dad’s I can get her into bed at a decent time. My dad has a spare bedroom so Kaela can go to bed whereas at your place you only have one bedroom and you insist on sleeping on the couch. Dad lives 10 minutes from Grandma’s house. If we drove to your house Xmas Eve we would be driving right past my dad’s and grandma’s and then have to turn around and go back the next day. I was just thinking of logistics.”
He went on to explain he had to move his stuff out of his apartment and into storage while he was on the coast and thought he would do that Boxing Day and him and I could have turkey when he was done.
By the time he finished I felt nothing but love and understanding for him. I suggested that I help him move his stuff on Boxing Day and we could just grab a burger or something. He sounded so relieved. It was one of the best Christmases I have ever had and Boxing Day I had him all to myself, reminiscing, laughing, crying, and I felt so close to him. I treasure the day to this day.
It could have gone in a totally different direction. And with a narcissist, it would have. I hear you saying, “So how does this new approach protect me from the narcissist?”
It protects you because you are coming from an honest, healthy place and a healthy person will respect that, a narcissist won’t. If you find yourself being pulled into an argument and being told you are wrong to feel the way you do you are a lot less likely to get sucked into the toxicity of the narcissist if you are calm rational and confident. If you lose your temper, cry, accuse him of disrespecting you, even a healthy person will be defensive. If you ever did get to the truth there would be hard feelings, you would feel guilty and hurtful things would have been said.
If you act responsibly, if you are confident that your feelings are justified, if you don’t blame and own your feelings, no one can make you feel “less than” again.
The same thing applies to saying yes and no. As simple as it may seem, victims of a narcissist have a problem with saying “No”. It was hard to admit but I often said “Yes” and then resented it. I would say yes so people would like me, so people wouldn’t get angry with me, because I felt obligated, guilty, or because I was a martyr and liked to look good and charitable. I didn’t want to appear selfish, I wanted people to talk about what a nice person I was. Very rarely did I say yes or do things, for the right reason;…… because I really wanted to do it.
Many times in my life I said yes I would do something and then grumble about having to do it.
Once again I stopped making a rash decision and would say, “I will have to get back to you.”
I would analyze how I felt about it in my gut. I only did things for the right reason. It does not make you selfishould to say no and you can say no and not provide an explanation for saying no.
* No, can be a complete answer.
There is so much more to it; it is a lot of work. You have to be diligent and brutally honest with yourself and not validate yourself through other people. No canvassing others to see what they think you should do. No taking a survey to find out if they think you are right. You have a right to your feelings and you have the power to express them in a healthy productive way.
It does not happen over night, it takes retraining your brain how it thinks about you (your mind only knows what you allow to be put in it), it takes learning to trust your gut, getting control of your ego, giving up your need to be right, giving up your need to be liked by everyone (you don’t like everyone, not everyone is going to like you. It doesn’t make anyone right or wrong), and it takes a commitment to living an authentic honest life to the best of your ability. And when you “fail” which we all do; we slide back into our old ways. You start again, keep trying to be the best you that you can be, every day is a new day, we can and should always strive to be better.
We know instinctively when we are not living true to our core self. When we feel like a failure, when we need others approval and to tell us we are right, we are not living true to our core self.
We are not bad people. If there is something about yourself you don’t like, you have the power to change it, alter it, or throw it away. It is a totally personal journey. My faults will not be the exact same as yours, what I consider a flaw will not be the same as what you consider to be a flaw.
Most people never get the chance to totally rebuild themselves from the ground up. We come into this world a clean slate with nature abilities, talents and personality and then our parents start trying to form us into who they think we should be. Some parents encourage a child to be an individual and find their passion but many try to force the child to conform to their interests and dreams for the child and inflict their hang ups on the kids. We grow into adults not even aware that we are not living true to our core self only feeling we are impostors and a failure somehow.
I am not saying we were all abused as children, our parents wanted what was best for us. Embrace this opportunity to discover who you were born to be.
One thing is for certain; when you concentrate on your feelings, your reaction, your values and live true to your core self, life becomes much easier and no matter what happens in your life you have inner peace and no one can make you feel “less than”.
It is when we allow others to tell us who we “should” be that we give them the power to make us feel “less than”.
And it is when we feel “less than” that we are our weakest and most vulnerable.