I read a very interesting quote, & it really hit home with me:
“There is a theme that runs through responses I receive from children of a narcissistic parent(s). The child is subjected to unbearable levels of ongoing abuse- scalding criticisms, withering humiliations in front of other family members & alone, routine secret physical beatings & other horrendous acts of brutality including psychological & literal abandonment. When the child lets family members know what is happening to him, this person is not believed. When the victim of a narcissist tells the truth about his dreadful pathological parent, he is not treated with kindness or understanding. The family is shocked; the victim is treated with disdain & often told he/she is the sick one or that this is all lies to get attention.” Linda Martinez-Lewi, PHD
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been treated this way, not only by those close to me (well, not close to me anymore obviously!), but even by therapists. When I told my high school guidance counselor about my mother spending so much time daily screaming at me, she said, “That doesn’t sound so bad..” I’ve also been told to let it go, get over it, work things out with my mother- it’s my responsibility, I need therapy, I use C-PTSD to get attention & more.
If you too are the adult child of a narcissist, I’m sure you can relate.
Hearing such cruel, invalidating statements is extremely painful. You feel abused all over again. It can be devastating to you & to the relationship you share with that person. One person I had loved dearly & was once close to said a few comments along the lines of I needed to just get over things. Her last comment actually destroyed the love I felt for her. I suddenly no longer cared for her. Not that I wished her bad- I simply felt nothing at all for her.
So how do you deal with these painful situations? Avoiding them would be best, but unfortunately, that isn’t always possible. Sometimes you can, because if you know a person well, you know that this person isn’t safe to discuss certain topics with. As a result, you avoid discussing those topics with that person. Then there are other times when you mention your narcissistic mother to someone who you expect to be supportive, yet they surprise you by invalidating your pain. Those times are the most painful, because you didn’t expect that response- you expected support & empathy.
When you are told to “get over it”, “you’re only making these things up to get attention,” etc., the first thing to do is to end this conversation before it goes further (hurting you more) however you deem appropriate. You can simply change the subject, walk away or hang up the phone. However you set this boundary, you’ll run the risk of angering the other person, so you need to be prepared for that unfair anger. (The person I mentioned whose comments destroyed my love for her? When we’d discussed the topic via email the last time, I told her I didn’t mean to be disrespectful, but I wasn’t asking for her opinion on my life. After that, she didn’t speak to me for several months.) Hopefully the other person you’re having the problem with will simply respect your boundary instead, as many people do.
Once the conversation is done, as soon as you can, get alone with God. Tell Him how it made you feel, & let Him comfort you. Get your feelings out so they don’t end up pushed down inside of you, festering. That only hurts you! If you don’t feel comfortable telling God how you feel, journal about them. Or, write the person a letter that you never send, telling her off if that helps you feel better.
If you’re suddenly doubting yourself (am I really making too much out of things? That type of thought) because of what was said to you, ask God to tell you if you are. He will reassure you that you aren’t, which helps tremendously to give you a healthy perspective on what was said.
You also need to evaluate your relationship with this person. is she someone you’re close to? Do you have a good relationship other than her lack of understanding about your abusive mother? Then it is probably worth saving- just accept that your narcissistic mother isn’t a topic you two can discuss. Or, does this person criticize or invalidate you in other ways? (I don’t mean the healthy, constructive criticism we all need sometimes) Then this relationship may need to end. You’ve been treated badly enough in your life thanks to your narcissistic mother- why continue to tolerate being treated badly?
As I mentioned in this post, I recently realized that when the C-PTSD flares up, it seems like every single nasty, invalidating comment I’ve ever heard comes to mind. Those times are so painful! I tried to wait on it to pass when it happens, but that doesn’t always work so well. Sometimes it seems like the comments play over & over, like an old cassette tape stuck on repeat. So, what I do during those times is think of a specific comment said to me, for example, “that doesn’t sound so bad.” Then I think about the event that led the person to make the comment, & remember, it really WAS bad! It was horrible! Having someone tell you that you’re a horrible person hurts, but add in the fact that was my mother, & she was screaming it in my face? Yea, it was pretty bad.. if someone thinks it wasn’t, that person obviously has the problem!
I believe that some people simple aren’t able to grasp the hell that is living with narcissistic abuse. Maybe they come from loving families, & never had to face any type of abuse. As a result, they just can’t wrap their minds around the fact not all families are as good as theirs. Or, maybe they too came from a narcissistic parent, yet haven’t had the strength to face that, & continue living in the dysfunction instead. Or, in all honesty, narcissistic abuse sounds so far fetched! Sometimes the things narcissists do sound completely made up, they just are that “out there.” If I wouldn’t have seen the things my mother did to me, I’m not sure I would believe anyone was capable of such acts either! Maybe some people can’t believe another human being is capable of doing such things, especially to her own child. Whatever the reason, that does not give them the right to invalidate your pain! Narcissistic abuse is a horrible thing to endure. Its damage can be lifelong & extremely painful. Don’t let anyone convince you that it was “no big deal” or that there’s something wrong with you for how you feel after surviving such torture!