Victims of narcissistic abuse are not quick to recognise what has happened to them. That is something that those of us who have been through abuse all eventually learn. We struggle to see that someone we love is actually abusive.
Abuse makes us cautious. We doubt ourselves. We need to know for sure that things really are as bad as we think they might be before we can screw up our resolve to leave. We worry about what we will lose. We become so brainwashed and bamboozled by our abuser that we don’t feel we can make sense of what is really happening.
This week, I want to offer you one fail-safe warning sign by which to spot abuse.
The brain fog that happens around a Narcissist
This week, what I have been hearing from my 1 on 1 clients points , unsurprisingly, to the brain fog that inevitably happens when you are around a narcissist.
Brain fog comes about because the narcissist who enjoys a monopoly on truth and reality does not accept your view – which means that your view is wrong.
In fact, narcissists love to prove themselves smarter than you are by letting you know how much more complicated things are than your little head could ever understand.
In my family of origin, the preferred put-down was, “What do you know?” – the insinuation being, of course, that they enjoyed vastly superior knowledge.
I would have to admit that there was a clear causal link between that put-down and my ending up with a PhD. In a weird way, they actually taught me that genuine, evidence-based knowledge is important.
My narcissistic husband, a slightly more sophisticated soul, preferred a subtler put-down: “It’s complicated.”
Whenever I was stupid enough to venture a considered opinion, he would look at me, with his superior face on, and sigh,
On that point, he certainly wasn’t wrong. Everything in the relationship as well as everything that remotely affected it was “complicated”.
“Complicated” is, I believe, a very worrying word when it comes to our emotions.
The longer I stayed with my then husband, the more complicated things became – in reality because he managed to dredge up more and more “reasons” to justify his increasingly erratic behavior.
How do you make sense of an abuser’s increasingly erratic behaviour?
In any abusive relationship, the abusive partner’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic as they dispense with their “Mr/Ms Wonderful” persona.
After all, they don’t go through the process of lovebombing a person into a committed relationship so that they can waste effort continuing to play Mr/Ms Wonderful .
That leaves the abuser’s victim trying to make sense of what happened.
But how do you make sense of what happened when an abuser is constantly feeding you a series of shifting “alternative facts and truths”?
No wonder you end up believing their lies about how “complicated” things really are.
The blocks to understanding an abusive loved one’s behavior
Most of the time narcissists support their alternative facts by introducing some kind of conspiracy theory: the world may be against them/jealous of them because they are too good for it. Or else, you could be a key enemy conspiring against them because you do not support them 100% in whatever dubious demand they make of you.
Then there are their emotional issues, past history and even the opinion of their (tame) mental health professionals – all of which may or may not be true.
However, these are all factors that you need to understand and take into account before you can arrive at any clear judgement about them.
An example that should be crystal clear
To give you an example, one woman I spoke to recently was struggling to make sense of what had happened in her marriage. Her husband had hit her and then, after she returned home to her parents for a few days R & R, decided he wanted nothing further to do with her.
That sounds clear enough, right.
- the husband in question is a psychiatrist,
- he has repeatedly told her and her parents that she has mental health problems,
- he has been “under a lot of stress at work”,
- he has told her, many times, that nobody in his family would ever hit a woman,
- she could have provoked him by objecting to something that he was doing,
- he did tell her how much he loved her after the incident – which “wasn’t really hitting her”.
As a seasoned onlooker you know exactly what all of this means. But, equally, I’m guessing, as someone who has been through an abusive relationship yourself, you know how confusing it can all feel when you are in it.
When it makes sense to work backwards
You know, from the inside, just how “complicated” it feels when you are meant to evaluate all the factors carefully before you can hope to arrive at a valid conclusions.
You also know that abusers brainwash you into believing that the only valid conclusion that there ever can be is the one that the abuser endorses.
Abusive relationships really are incredibly complicated from the point of view of the victim who tries – and fails – to reconcile all the problematic data with the worthwhile relationship that they hope they are having, or else can still one day have.
How complicated is that?
So, in order to make sense of relationships and issues that are either incredibly hard to make sense of or else make no sense at all, I would urge you to work backwards.
Facts may sometimes be complicated but emotional issues really should not be.
Healthy relationships are not complicated
Emotionally healthy people and relationships really are not complicated. However difficult the issues they face in the world, the needs of emotionally healthy people are pretty simple. They essentially need to be
- validated and
- made to feel that they matter.
Brief as that list may sounds, it covers all the key points.
When you are with the people who really love and appreciate you, the complicated stuff just disappears, leaving you fully alive – and happy – in the moment.
So, when you are around people who insist on holding you hostage to the complications of their emotional making, be very, very wary.
When someone imposes their “complicated” emotional worldview on you, you are likely dealing with an abuser who is setting out to subvert your reality for their own purpose – power and control over you.
I accept that your own world and feelings may have come to feel very “complicated” as you spenttime around an abuser. But if you stop to think what you really want, none of it is complicated. It is only your path to it that becomes complicated thanks to the presence of that narcissistic person in your life.
Remember that “complicated” is a synonym
So, if you ever find yourself struggling and disappearing down the rabbit hole of a complicated reality, do yourself a favour: instead of wasting still more time and energy searching for the proof of abusive behaviour – which you could well be in too much of a brain fog to find – just pick up on how “complicated” it is, remember that “complicated” is actually a synonym for WRONG. A complicated relationship is a WRONG relationship because the other party is abusing your love and your good faith. That gives you every right to walk away from it.
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.