Have you ever felt broken as a result of narcissistic and emotional abuse? If you have, that feeling is a perfectly normal response to the kind of deeply damaging relationship that you have been through. However, it is a huge drain on the energy and motivation that you can bring to bear on all areas of your life. It is also an indication that you have – unwittingly – been played, yet again, by an abusive loved one.
Feeling broken is an acutely damaging and limiting belief to carry forward with you from the relationship. It makes it so much harder to get your life back on track – at a time when you most need to get it back on track. That is why we need to look at why you feel so broken, how that belief serves the abuser, what is really going on and how you get beyond it.
Broken by a Narcissist’s abuse
Most days, I speak with someone who believes that they have been broken by a narcissist’s abuse. Our conversations follow a certain pattern. As they share the broad outline of their ordeal with me, they are listening to see if there can be any hope or validation for them. I, on the other hand, am …
listening for what lies behind the feeling of brokenness.
But let’s start at the beginning of this with the feeling of brokenness. You have likely seen the meme that says,
“You are not fat.
You have fat.
You also have fingernails.
But you are not fingernails.”
Distinctions are important
Distinctions are important.
By the time you leave an abusive relationship, you certainly have very strong feelings of being broken.
Why do you have those strong feelings?
Because of the way that the narcissist set up the relationship.
The leitmotif of all abusive relationships is, approximately, that the abuser – who, alone in all the world, holds the key to the Happily Ever After – cannot love or value you. The alleged “reason” for this is that your love and your best efforts are never good enough.
That is pretty heart-breaking.
Why they scale up the abuse
Unfortunately, when you gear up to leave an abusive relationship, the narcissist scales up the abuse.
Because it is in their interest to practise the scorched earth tactics of Attila the Hun. They want to make the breakup as devastating as possible for you and as low cost as possible for them. A break-up that implicates you as the Official Head-Case is very much in their interest.
Plus, they want to know that they always have the option of returning to do more damage if they so desire. Their pride would take a BIG hit if you got over them any time soon.
Making you believe that you are broken ticks all of their boxes. Your brokenness is a badge of honor for your abuser.
The interesting thing to focus on, here, is that, as ever, the abuser is very good at getting you to swallow whatever story they project onto you. Part of you may recognise the abuser’s lies and projections. But another part feels that the line they are pushing is so consistent with your own feelings of self-loathing that it must be true.
Do you see where all of this is heading?
Deep into the murky waters of manipulation, projection and lies.
You are drowning in the Narcissist’s lies about you.
It pays to step back
And this is where it pays to step right back from your feelings.
Whenever I first talk with an abuse survivor, I am listening for the person who lies behind the brokenness.
Of course, I hear the same kind of story of devastation, rejection and humiliation that I could once have told myself. That story is a roadmap of how that person feels about her or himself.
But, behind that story is a whole other person.
About a week ago, I did a breakthrough session with Clare, a woman who was a veritable picture of quiet despair. She wanted a way forward but all she could see was a series of locked doors in every area of her life.
She held them up for me to see how hopeless they were, one after another.
She was unemployed. But not only could she not get a job, she wasn’t even getting any response to her applications.
I questioned her about what she was doing. Then I told her the story of how, with a little help from her mother’s mind-set, my daughter got her first job in real estate.
When Clare stepped out of the despair mind-set
The point of the story was to open up a different kind of space for Clare. It worked. She stepped out of her despair mind-set and into her natural resourcefulness.
Over the next 5 minutes, Clare and I hatched the outline of a plan to get her into a job interview and a job.
In practical terms, it worked better than either of us could have hoped.
The next day, I got this message from her.
I just wanted to tell you after our conversation today, I felt a sense of confidence and worked hard at my job application and sent everything off. After all of that, I received an email from a place I applied at and I GOT THE JOB. I have not felt so happy in so long. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU so much for offering Breakthrough Sessions.”
Needless to say, I spent the day walking on air.
Still, the most important takeaway from this story is not the outcome but the shift. Clare had been stuck in the paralysed, humiliated, hopeless place in herself. Her toxic partner had worked long and hard to confine her to that place.
With just a little bit of input from me, she had shifted into a resourceful, empowered, creative – even unstoppable – part of herself.
That was a part of her that I was listening for.
You are not broken but blinded
Sure, her abusive husband had told her that she was a hopeless waste of space who could never survive on her own and the part of her that believed she was broken bought into that narrative. But that broken narrative was never the entirety of who she was.
Her husband had simply blinded her, with lies and projection, to her true self.
That is what happens in an abusive relationship. The abuser attacks, destabilizes and wrong-foots you, until you end up confusing how you feel with who you are. Until you cannot see the real, resourceful, engaging, able person.
An abusive relationship leaves you blinded but not broken, in so many areas of your life. Still, that blindness is reversible. All that it requires is for you to find the path back to the resourceful self that you may have completely lost sight of.
Don’t ever fall for that lie of brokenness again. If Clare can do it, you can, too. If you don’t think you can do it alone, get in touch. Coaching survivors into overcoming the sticking points in their journey to wholeness and happiness is what I do best.
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.
The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse. Starting with the basics.