The relationship with a narcissist or emotional abuser is guaranteed to take you to rock bottom. By the time you decide you can’t take any more, your self-belief has been shattered into tiny pieces. Before you can rebuild, you need someone to believe in. But where do you find that someone to believe in? And what is the best way of putting yourself back together.
A humdinger of a horrible week
A fair few years back now, that wonderful British institution, The Queen, had what she termed her “annus horribilis” – her horrible year. I know that I can never hope to be anything like as grand as our wonderful monarch. So, I’ll just stick with the fact that, over the last week, I’ve had my very own septimana horribilis – my horrible week. A week that reminds me of the devastating misery of being around my abusive – and, yes, narcissistic – ex.
One week will be quite enough for me. I have no wish to extend – or fixate on – it. Suffice it to say, it has been a humdinger of a septimana horribilis.
Since I consigned the wasband to the trash can of failed relationships, there has been a lot less “horribilis” in my life. (Funny that!!) However, when it happens, “horribilis” still feels “horribilis”. I have no wish to experience that “horribilis” for any longer than I can possibly help.
Along the journey of negotiating my own “septimana horribilis” I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with two wonderful clients who are, themselves, no strangers to weeks, months, and even years of “horribilis”.
Beautiful, blond A. is one of the smartest women I have ever met – and I’ve met a fair few humongously intelligent emotional abuse survivors. For many years, her life was steeped in “horribilis”. As we have worked through very deep layers of abuse, she has enjoyed the new experience of happiness “fizzing up” inside her. Recently, however, the “horribilis” has attempted a comeback.
This week, the “horribilis” was really getting A. down. In despair at herself, she said to me something along the lines of, “I know I should be more positive.” That led me to a “momentum desperationis” – a moment of despair. Was that what she thought I had been telling her?
As I said to her – before my own “horribilis” really kicked in, sometimes you just have to bow your head and accept where you are. There are times when the “horribilis” totally overwhelms a person. When that happens, there is no earthly point in trying to fight it, or giving yourself a hard time.
The power of acceptance
Sometimes, you just have to treat that “horribilis” as you would a spectacular thunder storm. You take cover and wait for it to pass. Even I (who always had a spectacular gift for giving myself a hard time) have never punished myself for sitting out a thunder storm in safety.
Bowing to the “horribilis” when it is at its height, is actually very different to punishing yourself for being caught up in it. It is also very different from abandoning all hope of a better future, just because you are up to your eyes in “horribilis” right now.
The lovely A. believed – as we have all been trained to do – that because that internal storm had been going on for years and years it would go on forever. That made her a dreadful person. Allegedly. Do you notice a slight flaw in the logic, here? Having been through a lot of hard times (at the hands of other people) somehow made her a bad person.
Still, A. is a very bright woman. Even when she is most embattled, she is still listening. At a certain point, she realized what she was doing, and just stopped. To her amazement, she found herself accepting that she was up to her neck in “horribilis” at the moment.
Acceptance, quite literally, stole the thunder of all that “horribilis”. Suddenly, she felt much more peaceful.
Over the next few days, the “horribilis” lifted, leaving her in a very different place. She found herself feeling at peace with herself, her present, and her future.
When my “horribilis” reached its peak this week, I staggered around like the walking wounded, feeling as if I were heavily sedated. I can’t say I was too happy about that. However, I accepted that my feelings – and my state – were an appropriate response to the situations (not one, but 2 – 2 ½ supersized stressors). I gave myself permission to roll with the punches. And, within a couple of days, (I bounced back. At which point the next stressor kicked in and I went through the whole process again. Only less dramatically.)
The first thing to go
When a serious “horribilis” scenario kicks in, what do you suppose is the first thing to go?
Actually, it is your sense of yourself as a worthwhile human being. (All the more so, if that sense of self was a bit “wobbly” in the first place.)
That brings me on to the second lovely client story from this week. C. is a client I worked with a while back when she was up to her eyeballs in “horribilis”, stuck between a rock and a hard place.
C. had married young and had several children, which meant curtailing her education. When her abusive marriage broke up, she was stuck every which way – children to care for, a husband out to create trouble between her and the children, a judgmental community, money worries, a difficult, co-dependent family of origin, judgmental friends, uncertainty over what to do about the roof over her children’s heads, a shortage of money and the skills to create money.
With so much “horribilis” going on, C. could not think straight, let alone decide which problem to address first. Instead, she kept ricocheting from one problem to the next without solving any of them.
Just like A., C. is an extraordinary woman. Unfortunately, when I met C., she was an extraordinary woman who was short on education, skills… and self-belief. That led her to doubt whether she would ever be bright enough to acquire any worthwhile skills, or whether she should accept that some low-paid, dead-end job would be the best she could hope for.
What C. (like A) didn’t know, upfront, was that she possessed massive native intelligence, plus enormous – untapped – resilience.
It’s all about where you start
C. wanted life solutions, and she wanted them NOW. All the “horribilis” in her life had just hit the fan and she didn’t know where best to start to clean it up. Much as I wanted instant solutions for her, I knew that we needed to start from prioritizing the one place that she did not really believe worth looking at – healing her past and present wounds.
Like all my clients, C. struggled to accept that it pays to start at the very beginning. In the end, the only place you really can begin to turn your life around is yourself.
C. and I worked together on her wounds and her lack of a sense of her own worth. During the time that we worked together, she made massive steps forward in feeling good about herself, dealing with her difficult community, managing her spiteful and obstructive husband, and improving her relationship with both her children and her own difficult mother. Once she was armed with those new life skills, we stopped working together.
I heard nothing from her for a while – a pity because I always love to hear how past clients move forward with their lives. Then, last week, in the midst of my “septimana horribilis”, we spoke. Here’s what she told me about how her life is moving forward,
“The more I focused on myself, the better people around me became.”
“I’ve just trained as a life coach because of the difference the work with you made to me. I want to help other women, too. I was nervous about ever getting back into the dating scene. But the more I focused on myself, the better the people around me became. Now. I have a wonderful partner. So wonderful that I sometimes cry – for joy. I have healthy boundaries with my family. I love where I work. I have changed my friends. I’ve been able to meet the needs of my kids in an amazing and beautiful way – even when working 30 hours per week and studying. It’s night and day. I feel like I am alive. My life. It was a divinely guided thing finding you.”
What makes C. and A. such extraordinary, brilliant and, I believe, inspirational woman is this: they had reached an emotional dead end in their lives. Yet they were not “broken” – only immobilized. Each, in her own way, had spent her whole life looking for someone other than herself to believe in. It hadn’t worked.
The thing that transformed their lives, and will transform yours, also, is learning to believe in yourself. There is an old, circular argument that all emotionally abused women buy into. They say,
“I will believe in myself when I get enough positive messages back from the people in my who don’t give me positive messages.” That, as you already know, hasn’t worked for you so far. Nor will it ever work for you.
You do have to believe in someone. You have to believe in you. The more you learn to do that, the more your life will transform – from the inside out – and the happier and more successful you will become.
If you struggle to do that alone then, chances are you some guidance and support could turn things around for you. A powerful place to start is by silencing the hurtful criticism inside your own head. Creating an immunity to hurtful people will enable you to beat the “demons’ that continue to haunt you.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
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