What do you do when you have been taught to feel that your feelings are not important? You turn all your hurt, wounded, disappointed feelings back on yourself. You blame yourself for the Narcissist’s bad treatment of you.
The self-recriminations that all survivors of narcissistic relationships are left with can prove the biggest obstacles to healing and happiness.
You cannot move on while you are still emotionally nailed to the Narcissist’s characterisation of you.
Sadly, most survivors take “their” Narcissist’s words as gospel truth – even when they know that that person only ever had a decidedly casual relationship with the truth.
That means that a big part of reclaiming your own power – and working on your own healing – requires you to take control of the story that you tell yourself about your alleged personal and relationship failings.
So, today, I want to share with you five things you need to remember to help you make the shift away from the Narcissist’s toxic narrative and into a healthier perspective about yourself.
1) You were never taught to matter or keep yourself safe emotionally.
If, like most survivors of partner abuse, you grew up in a home where you were NOT taught to feel precious and loved, you likely got the opposite message. You likely learned that you were not precious or loved.
You probably lived, at some level, with a degree of emotional abandonment and therefore learned that you were expendable.
That leaves you with a fair bit of unlearning to do for sure.
But since you have to start from somewhere, you might as well start from the premise that you are no less important or valuable than a lot of other people – simply by dint of being human.
Plus, you likely have people who care about and possibly depend on you. SO, you really need to start keeping yourself safe emotionally.
Do it for them, if necessary, until you can do it for yourself.
2) You were looking for Love. Not abuse.
Accountability is, in essence, a good thing. But that doesn’t mean that everything that is stated in the name of Accountability – or the Law of Attraction – should be accepted uncritically.
The argument that you attracted the abuser and hence the abuse riles me deeply.
You did no such thing.
You went looking for love and met someone who manipulated you into believing that that was on offer. You would never have committed to the relationship if you had known for a fact that what lay ahead was actually,
- The law of rapidly diminishing returns
- A load of ill-treatment
- The horror of waking up one day to realise that you had married someone rather like a cruel and abusive parent
- Massive emotional – and quite possibly financial – distress.
- The heavy burden of regret that you were not able to give your children the happy, loving, two-parent home you wanted desperately for them and yourself…
But you couldn’t know all that, not least because
3) You didn’t know that their abuse was not your fault
Think about it for a moment. Abusers are good at what they do. They always draw a straight causal line back from their behaviour to What You Did Wrong.
Mostly, these lines are laughable. No behaviour of theirs is too vile to pin on you. That straight causal line somehow goes back – allegedly – from their
- Emotional abuse
- Lies and manipulation
- Physical abuse
- Substance abuse
- Appalling behaviour in the workplace
- Abuse of children
- Poor financial behaviour and more..
Because it was always your job to pre-empt their base instincts and urges – whether or not you had the slightest idea of what was going on in their heads.
Even if something that you said or did really did upset them at any given time, you did not make them react – and overreact – in the way that they did.
That was all down to them.
They could know that just as well as you can.
They were not brought up in a jungle a million miles from civilisation and only catapulted into the (relatively) civilised world five minutes before meeting you.
They could have known that. They just didn’t want to learn it.
4) You were taught that abuse was normal.
Abusive environments, especially abusive families, normalise abuse. They normalise abuse so that you will accept it unquestioningly.
Let me share a brief story from my own family to illustrate that.
When my mother was old and sick, my elder brother suddenly launched into quite a character assassination on me – to third parties. He knew perfectly well that it would get straight back to me.
That was not the first time he had behaved deplorably but I decided that it certainly would be the last – a least where I was concerned.
Subsequently, my middle brother was despatched as some kind of “peace-maker”. I told him that I had decided to have no further contact with my older brother.
Middle brother, a grandfather said to me, of elder brother – also a grandfather, “You know what he’s like. He says these things and forgets about them. You should, too.”
Elder brother’s abuse had been normalised. Therefore nothing that he said, no matter how vile and damaging could possibly give offensive. No apology could possibly be required.The two grandfathers had managed to learn nothing about how to break the cycle of abuse in the course of their lifetime.
My refusal to let it go, on the other hand, was abnormal and offensive.
Possibly even abusive. Allegedly.
In reality, you do not owe it to anyone to normalise their abuse.
When you normalise abuse, you help perpetuate a system that causes us nothing but harm. Plus you settle for their belittling view of who we you and what you deserve because…
5) You didn’t think that you could be any more than abusive people told you that you were.
A family, or any other abusive, narcissistic unit, often abuses the brightest and best of the bunch. If you are not 100% behind them, the thinking goes, you are against them and therefore deserve to be attacked and silenced.
Or possibly, they just need a scapegoat.
The designated scapegoat is, actually, slotted into a pre-existing narrative about worthlessness, fecklessness, laziness and stupidity. The prison existed, in the abuser’s head, long before the scapegoat appeared.
The scapegoat is confined to that pre-existing glass prison.
That prison can sit neatly enough within the family unit for everyone to take is as normal.
The scapegoat can see out but cannot get out. He or she can see the rest of the family getting on with their lives, outside the prison. Yet the scapegoat cannot use their voice to have any useful effect on their jailers.
How can that not teach you an enduring lesson about how much less important and valuable you are than the other members of the family?
That is how you end up, quite literally, unable to find a way to be seen as more than they choose to see you as.
Their judgement of you becomes your prison.
Until you accept that you can have your freedom by breaking down the walls of that prison – and leaving your jailers to their enduring resentments. If you struggle to break free because you are still stuck in old patterns of feeling and responding, I invite you to check out my Breaking Old Patterns Toolkit. It can teach you to feel like someone whose feelings and life actually matter.
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.