One big, confusing paradox of narcissistic abuse recovery
Have you ever felt confused – or even discouraged – about what it takes to heal from narcissistic abuse? If so, you are definitely not alone. Often times, it can feel like you need to be some kind of emotional octopus to juggle all the “balls” of recovery, without dropping a few. Not least because not so helpful people with a short compassion span expect you to get on with your daily life, more or less without skipping a beat, revise your assessment of your relationship to coincide with theirs, pull yourself together, get over your ex, and find a new partner within a matter of weeks.
Do you notice that nowhere in that little list of what you should do is any reference to
- making sense of what happened
- processing it or
A lot of people seem to think that you should just take the advice of Winston Churchill, that great British war time leader and “Keep on buggering on.”
“Shoulds” are such a source of satisfaction for those who foist them onto you. Because they don’t have to worry their self-satisfied little heads about how, when you are in deep trauma, you are meant to reconcile the impossible demands you face.
Today, I don’t want to add to the challenges any survivor faces when they are in emotional octopus mode. Rather, I want to uncover one paradox that trips up most people.
That paradox is who you talk to about what you have been through.
Mostly commonly, the question that I get asked is:
“How do I tell people about what I have been through?”
While it’s a logical question, it is not a hugely helpful one. The fact is, the “How” is not always the issue.
It’s not always about the “How”
You see, it doesn’t really matter how you talk to some people about it, if they are not going to give you an empathetic hearing.
Admittedly, most of us don’t really know who will and who won’t take the time and trouble to empathise, at the start of our healing journey. We don’t know because we come to our relationships with one or other of these two beliefs:
- It is entirely down to me to make people – even unsympathetic people – believe what I am saying.
- I know that they will give me a sympathetic hearing because we have spent such a long time together and we get on really well …. because I have always been hugely supportive of them and they must be just like me.
Not everyone who enjoys the benefits of being around your good heart shares your values. Some appreciate that you give so much not because they, too, are givers but because they are takers.
Plus, they may well be used to having the senior role in the relationship and, accordingly, expecting to fall in line, deferentially, with their views. In their world, you cannot possibly assume that they will ever acquiesce to falling in line with yours.
Unfortunately, your assumptions are based on your values and desired outcomes. Other people’s assumptions may be based on different – and incompatible – values and goals.
Not everybody goes into relationships for the same reasons that you do.
When a narcissistic relationship ends, most people want to hear the story from you, the horse’s mouth – and possibly from the other horse’s mouth, also. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to believe or support you – or your ex. They could just be nosy.
That leaves you with the challenge of attempting to get everyone to buy into something that they simply don’t care – and don’t want to care – about. Unsurprisingly, that can lead to you getting a fair few knock-backs, that you could well do without.
Wanting to know doesn’t mean they want to care
As a survivor of narcissistic abuse, you soon learn that not everybody who wants to know what happened will choose to care. For a brief but excruciatingly painful moment, you simply become the hottest soap opera in town.
What do you need to learn from that bruising experience?
Not everybody deserves to be taken into your confidence.
If there is one lesson that you need to learn from what you have been through it is this:
Nobody is entitled to a privileged, ringside seat in your life. People need to earn the right to get close to you.
Let go of your own double standards
You have always committed to showing other people that you are worthy of their time and trust. Why should you continue to hold other people to a standard that is so much lower than your own?
Isn’t it about time that you insisted on the same standards that you adhere to from other people, also?
Just in case you struggle with that concept, let me answer that question for you: yes, it is time.In fact, insisting on the same standards of behaviour that you hold yourself to with other people is long overdue.
Inasmuch as there are two people in any relationship, you need to realise that both have rights and duties.
You’ve already spent too long living by the abusive relationship rules whereby, the abuser has all the rights and you have all the duties.
Those days are over.
It’s time for you to start living on a two-way street.
Start living on a two-way street
From now on, every relationship that you have needs to be a two-way street. You cannot continue to stay in relationships where people simply take from you.
And that brings me back to the big, confusing paradox of abuse recovery – about talking to people about what you have been through.
You really do have to stop relying on other people’s convenient broad-brush pontifications on how you should live your life.
Would they welcome that kind of intervention from you?
I’m betting that they wouldn’t. You need to take that as all the evidence you need to discount their interventions.
Plus, you need to learn the bigger lesson:
There are some people with whom you simply cannot communicate effectively about the things that are really important to you. That is not a failure on your part. It is a failure on their part.
There are two vital parts to communication: speaking and being heard. You simply cannot have the authentic exchange that is good communication with someone who is not listening.
Instead, you have a very real limit to what you can effectively communicate.
Let go of casting pearls before swine
When you are working on healing from narcissistic abuse, the last thing you need is to incur more wounds from insensitive and/or wounding people. That means that you need to refrain from your old pattern of casting pearls before swine and then becoming upset when the porkers in question cannot digest them.
Healing from narcissistic abuse does require you to speak your truth – not least because there is a magic in finally labelling what you have been through out loud.
However, for that magic to work you need an intelligent, empathetic listener. As a Narcissistic partner or parent has doubtless illustrated, over and over again, trying to communicate with a wrong person only deepens your existing wounds.
Survivors of narcissistic abuse need to be deeply, authentically heard as much as they need to give voice to their feelings and experiences.
If you need a space where you can voice your feelings, be heard deeply and empathically and gather the insights, blueprint and techniques you need to guide you along your healing journey, check out my Break Free Membership.
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.