Category Archives: Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
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Gaslighting is an especially insidious form of abuse that makes a victim doubt their memories, perceptions, reality & sometimes even their sanity. Narcissists love to use it due to the fact that people who live with frequent gaslighting are easy to control. After all, if a person doesn’t trust themselves, they will look elsewhere for whatever information they need, even to an abusive person who is the reason they no longer trust themselves.
Gaslighting can be very subtle, which means it can be difficult to identify. Below are some commonly used phrases narcissists use to gaslight their victims.
“You’re crazy.” Either said outright or implied with phrases like, “You need help.” This phrase can make a person doubt their sanity when repeated often enough & with certainty.
“You’re over sensitive or overreacting.” Another common gaslighting phrase. This is said to make a victim feel shame for being upset at what the abuser has said or done. Few things will shut a person down faster than shame, & when they are shut down, they won’t complain about the abuse.
“I was just kidding!” This phrase is closely related to “You’re oversensitive.” It is designed to create doubt. The victim is supposed to think they overreacted or are too sensitive or stupid to realize the comment was just a joke. The truth is however that it was nothing of the sort.
“You need to get over it!” This phrase basically tells a victim that they are wrong for still being upset about whatever the abuser did that upset them. Narcissists want their victims to tolerate abuse indefinitely & without complaint. If they can make their victim feel badly about themselves or even ashamed for being upset, then they have an excellent chance of getting the victim to continue to tolerate abuse.
“It didn’t happen that way!” This phrase can be used in a couple of ways. The first & most obvious of course is to make a victim doubt their perception & believe the narcissists’s version of events. The other use may be the narcissist’s lack of coping skills coming into play. The narcissist may be ashamed of something they said or did, not because it hurt the victim, but because it may make the narcissist look bad if the victim tells others about what happened. In order to avoid that, the narcissist may try to convince themselves & the victim that it didn’t happen that way, it happened this very different way instead. This way will involve the narcissist not acting badly or the victim doing something to provoke the narcissist to do what they did.
“That never happened!” Denial is a very commonly used tool with narcissists. If they can get their victim to believe that something never happened, that person won’t tell others what the narcissist has done.
“No one else would feel that way./ You’re the only person in the world who would feel that way.” This phrase is another way for narcissists to shame victims by making them feel they are weird, wrong, broken. If they can shame a victim enough, the victim will stop complaining about the abuse & tolerate it quietly.
“I’m only doing this because I love you.” My mother used to justify abusing me by telling me it was “tough love” she was using on me & I deserved it because of my terrible behavior. That is all this phrase is – a way for a narcissist to justify being abusive.
“No one will ever love you like I do.” My ex husband told me this once, & I thank God he was right about that! The phrase is said to make a victim feel that they are lucky to have the narcissist’s love, because no one else ever could or would care about them.
When the narcissist in your life says such things to gaslight you, keep in mind that is exactly what these phrases are, gaslighting. That means there isn’t an ounce of truth in them at all. If you have doubts, ask yourself why do you think the narcissist is right. Or better yet, ask God to tell you the truth in this situation.
Keep a journal. If you haven’t done this before, do it now. Write down what the narcissist says. Seeing things in writing can bring about a great deal of clarity. Often, it makes things clearer than simply talking or thinking about them.
Always remember, the narcissist says these things to manipulate you & to keep you down. Don’t give the narcissist that satisfaction!
In spite of how it may seem, in spite of the many similarities most narcissists share, when it comes to ending a relationship with a narcissist, each situation is unique.
This is what makes the common advice, “Just go no contact” very bad advice, in my opinion. While it’s true that ending the relationship is often the only solution for a victim, that process shouldn’t be done so glibly, with no real thought put into it.
Ending any relationship creates a narcissistic injury in a person. In other words, it’s a blow to the self esteem when someone tells you they don’t want you in their life any longer. While functional people are hurt & angry, they get through. Narcissists, however, aren’t like functional people. They rage. They often spread vicious lies about their victim in a smear campaign designed to do the most possible damage to their reputation. They also are known for harassing their victims so badly, they sometimes wear the victim down to the point of returning to the relationship. Anything to make the constant influx of phone calls, texts, emails, etc. stop. Other narcissists have no problem stalking their victim or even physically hurting or killing them.
These reasons are why although no contact is usually the best solution when it comes to a realtionship with a narcissist, how you get to that point must be done with great wisdom & planning.
As always, I recommend prayer as the best place to start. God can help you like no one can simply because He knows things no other human knows.
From what I have seen, in these situations, God gives one of three answers:
- “End it now. Just walk away.”
- “Not yet… I will tell you when & how.”
- “Don’t end it.”
“End it now” is the easiest. You simply block the narcissist’s access to you at every turn. Usually, they walk away & find a new victim, not caring they lost you. This solution usually is best for narcissists who are lower on the spectrum or who have a lot of people in their life.
“Not yet” is what happened with my parents. That was tough because I really wanted the relationship over, yet also knew I had to wait on God’s timing. I also wasn’t sure how to end it, but He showed me. Although waiting in these situations is really hard, it also is well worth it. If you follow God’s lead, you will have peace not only about ending the relationship but how you choose to end it. That peace is so important! And, by following God’s lead, you will receive the minimal amount of abuse from the narcissist once you end that relationship.
“Don’t end it” may be the most challenging answer of all but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid answer. I’ve known a few people who received this answer. Rather than ending the relationship with the narcissist in their life, they made themselves as unappealing as possible to that narcissist & eventually that person ended the relationship with them. This seems to be a good option for the most toxic of narcissists. If a person can become so unappealing to their narcissist that the narcissist rejects them instead, they stand very little chance of retaliation from that narcissist. The narcissist feels they have the power because they ended the relationship rather than the victim did. In cases of malignant narcissists, this is a very good option because it will help a victim avoid the potential fallout of an especially vicious & even dangerous narcissistic rage.
Whatever you do when it comes to ending the relationship with the narcissist in your life, please be careful, be wise & most of all, follow God’s promptings. You will get through this time with your safety & sanity in tact if you do those things.
Both of my parents died not terribly long after going no contact with them. My father within a few months in October, 2017 & my mother almost exactly 18 months later in April, 2019. I have done a LOT of thinking since then because, well, that’s what I do, I overthink things. lol One thing I thought about though made a lot of sense & I wanted to share it with you.
When someone goes no contact with their narcissistic parent, it seems most people assume that person hates their parent. They hate them so much, they can’t tolerate that person in their life any longer. I find that is rarely the case. Every person I’ve spoken with about this topic has said they loved their narcissistic parent deeply. It was the abuse they hated, which is why they felt they had no other choice but to go no contact.
I felt the same way. I hated how my parents treated me so badly, I felt I had no other choice but to go no contact. I prayed a lot, I tried a lot of things, & nothing I did or said helped the relationship. In fact, it kept getting worse.
Eventually I felt no contact was my only option & I prayed a LOT about that. I felt God wanted me to wait, so I did even though it was incredibly difficult. When the time felt right, I eliminated my parents from my life. It was the hardest, most painful thing I’ve ever had to do. Later, I learned it was also the right thing to do.
Just before my father died, he accepted Jesus as his Savior. His miraculous story is on my website at www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com if you’d like to read it. Anyway part of the reason he turned to God was because I wouldn’t go say goodbye to him as he was dying, in spite of knowing he wanted me to & the constant harassment & bullying by people trying to force me to. Nothing else in his almost 80 years of life worked to make him turn to God, not even his own near death experience when he was a teenager.
After my mother died, I learned that she too accepted Jesus as her Savior. Apparently she had as a young child, but stepped away from her new faith probably because of the abuse she received at home. Me not having a relationship with her, I believe, helped to turn her towards God as it did my father. During our almost three years of no contact at the time of her passing, I prayed for her daily. During that time, God told me a few times that she was praying, asking God to make me contact her. He said that her motivations were purely selfish, so He didn’t want me to.
I think my story isn’t terribly unique. Many narcissistic parents end up alone in their final years, abandoned by the children they abused for their entire lives. I also can’t help but think many would turn to God in their desperation for help as my parents did. Hopefully they also would accept Jesus into their hearts as my parents did.
Dear Reader, as hard as it can be, please pray for your narcissistic parents. God hears those prayers, even when we pray from an attitude of “I’m only doing this because I know You want me to.” That was my attitude for a long time, yet in spite of it, both of my parents went to Heaven when they passed away. So please, keep praying for your narcissistic parents. Even if prayer is the only thing you can do for them, it is a very powerful & wonderful thing!
Anyone who has been subjected to narcissistic abuse knows that unless it affects a narcissist, a narcissist isn’t going to care about it. Period. As if that isn’t bad enough, they train victims to feel the same way. No matter what happens to a victim, it isn’t important. You could be lying in a pool of blood after someone hacked off your leg while the narcissist with you has a cold, & that narcissist will do their best to convince you that your freshly severed leg is no big deal. Their sniffles though, now that is a crisis, so you need to stop whining about your leg!
Narcissists manage to convince victims of the lack of importance of their problems subtly. They’re so subtle, most of us don’t even pay attention to what they are doing until years later when we realize it.
My overtly narcissistic mother simply ignored my problems. I might as well have said nothing, because she would act as if I didn’t say anything or talk over me to change the subject. There were other times if she did listen, she would blame me for the problem, even when I wasn’t at fault.
My father & ex husband, both covert narcissists, used a different tactic. They would let me talk, listening to every word I said. It seemed like they cared, but they didn’t. They wouldn’t respond like a normal person & say “I’m sorry that happened to you” or “Are you ok? Can I do anything to help?” Instead, they would tell me how upset they were or how hard my problem was for them.
For example, the night in 1990 when I was 19 & my mother threw me into a wall, both my father & ex husband turned that into their crisis. My ex said how upset he was that my mother did this, he was furious with her for hurting my back, etc. etc. Not once that evening or in the years following did he offer me any comfort.
My father brought up that night periodically until he died. Mostly about how awful it was that when he walked out, my mother locked him out of the house. His keys were in his pocket & he could’ve come back inside at any time. He also mentioned how bad the damage was where my mother threw me into. It took him time to patch it up. A couple of years before he died, my father literally said to me, “It’s ok.. you don’t have to apologize for busting up that wall. I fixed it & it’s all over.” I was blown away! Why would I apologize? Yes, it was me that broke a wall but not due to my own carelessness! It was because my mother, who was much stronger than me, threw me into the thing! And for the record, I told him this.
Although narcissists are clearly very good at training their victims to think their problems don’t matter, that doesn’t mean they are correct. Not by a long shot, in fact. For some reason, I never saw it until a few months after my mother died. That is when I suddenly realized how it happened & how terrible it is! I repeatedly have told myself that it wasn’t so bad, how my parents & ex treated me. I’ve even doubted having C-PTSD in spite of flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, depression & more.
Please learn from my experiences! Don’t buy the narcissist’s lies! What happens to you *is* important! It does matter! Acknowledge your experiences for whatever they were. Admit to yourself that you did great sometimes in spite of what the narcissist tells you. Also admit that the traumatic ones were bad. There is nothing wrong with that! In fact, it’s a good thing to do because once you realize that, you can start to heal.
When experiencing narcissistic abuse, it feels like the narcissist is attacking you like a hungry lion attacks prey. They do their level best to destroy everything about you. That feels incredibly personal, doesn’t it? The fact is though that it isn’t.
Narcissists are incredibly selfish & self serving. Every single thing they do is motivated by how it will serve or benefit them.
If a narcissist calls you ugly or stupid, it isn’t because he or she thinks you are. It’s because it makes the narcissist feel powerful when they see you hurting because of that insult.
If your narcissistic spouse destroys your financial status, that isn’t about you either. Destroying your finances makes him or her feel powerful. You can’t leave him or her without money. You can’t rent a place to live with a bad credit rating. You are forced to maintain the relationship with this narcissist, & they love having that control.
If the narcissist in your life is your parent who refuses to treat you like an adult, again, that isn’t about you. It doesn’t mean the narcissist believes you aren’t a capable adult. Treating you as a child well past childhood gives that parent the control they want over you by making you feel incapable.
At the core of narcissistic behavior is the drive for narcissistic supply. Narcissistic supply is anything that feeds the ego. Everyone appreciates narcissistic supply to some degree. A sincere complement makes you feel good, doesn’t it? Most people appreciate complements. Some may even fish for them once in a while, asking questions like, “Does this dress look ok on me?” in the hopes of hearing, “You look beautiful in that dress!” That is narcissistic supply on a normal scale. Narcissists, however, take this to an extreme.
Narcissists will do anything to gain their narcissistic supply & gain it often. They have no problem tearing another person’s self esteem apart or manipulating & controlling others to get it. The fact others are hurt in this process isn’t important to narcissists, due to their complete lack of empathy. All that matters is they accomplish or obtain whatever it is that they want at that moment. And, once that moment is done, they are looking for their next moment.
Narcissists are much like hard core drug addicts, always looking for their next high, & they will do anything to get that high. The only difference is their drug of choice is narcissistic supply.
Always remember that what narcissists do is about them, not you. Even hurting, even destroying, you isn’t about you. Every single solitary thing narcissists do is always about them & procuring their precious narcissistic supply, period. The more you remember this, the less devastated you will be when the narcissist in your life says & does the terrible things they do to you.
One word of warning: this realization shows just what a damaged person the narcissist is. It’s sad when you realize that someone’s thinking could be so warped as to not care about the tremendous amount of damage they do to others, including those they say they love. While yes, this is sad, please don’t let yourself feel too much pity for the narcissist, because that can lead you down the path of tolerating their abuse. Remember, they have chosen over & over to do the abusive things they have done. This has shut down their empathy, & made it easier for them to continue to abuse. While it’s sad they are as they are, narcissism is ultimately a result of their bad choices.
When you’re the family scapegoat, not only do your narcissistic parents abuse you, but other relatives as well. It seems that people think if your own parents abuse you, doing so much be acceptable behavior. It’s a miserable life! It doesn’t have to stay that way though! You can break out of the scapegoat role!
To start, you’re going to need to get to know yourself so you know what you will & won’t tolerate. Pay attention to how you really feel about everything. Question yourself. Do you like or dislike things because that is genuinely your taste or because your parent told you to? Writing things down may be a big help to you.
Look at yourself objectively, & recognize the truth about yourself. The more you do this, the more you’ll learn to reject the terrible things your abusers have told you about yourself & the healthier your self esteem will become. If it helps, write things down. Maybe write down what they have said about you, & what you observed about yourself.
Learn to stop explaining yourself. Your abusers don’t deserve to know why you do or don’t do things. It isn’t their business. If you feel you must offer an explanation, keep the explanation to a minimum, such as comments like, “I already have plans.” The less information narcissists have, the less they can use to hurt or control you.
Learn about boundaries. When you grow up with narcissistic parents, you have absolutely no concept of boundaries. Narcissistic parents & their children often blur together. Their children are merely extensions of their parents. That is terribly unhealthy! Make healthy changes & learn about boundaries. Learn where you end & other’s begin, & what is & is not your responsibility. Narcissists hate boundaries because they make a person much harder to control, so at first the narcissist in your life may fight your new boundaries. Keep learning & growing though! Your mental health will appreciate it!
Learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You can’t possibly fully understand it, I don’t think anyone can. You can get a decent grasp as to what motivates narcissists & what they do, however, which will help you to cope with them. You will learn what to expect from them which will help you to figure out ways to deal with the behavior when it happens. And, when you get a revelation on the fact that they have some serious problems, you won’t take their abusive behavior as personally. You will recognize that they act as they do because they have issues. This makes their behavior hurt less, & makes you less easily manipulated.
As a bonus, learning about Narcissistic Personality Disorder also helps you when it comes to the narcissist’s flying monkeys. I firmly believe many flying monkeys are narcissists since they display so many narcissistic behaviors. Plus, whether or not they are, when you realize that people are blindly supporting someone as wicked as a narcissist, that also gives you a new perspective on them. You realize their opinions on your life are worthless because anyone who would want you to maintain such a horrible, destructive & dysfunctional relationship clearly doesn’t care about you.
Breaking free of the family scapegoat role can be intimidating at first, but I promise you, it is well worth the effort you put into it! You can’t help abusive people live their lives in a healthy way, but at least you can prevent them from putting their dysfunction & abuse on you!
I’ve done something for so long, I didn’t even realize I did it until recently. When I drive past a building with big glass windows or some sort of reflective surface, I look at myself driving.
Recently I caught myself doing this & thought, ok, I’m weird. I’ve known this for years & accepted my weirdness. This looking at myself driving thing though.. wow. I don’t even like looking at myself in a mirror when I put on makeup or looking at pictures of myself. Making my YouTubes is a big struggle for me, so why am I doing this?!
Suddenly it hit me… because when I was a teenager, I had to fight my mother terribly to get a driver’s license. My friends were driving at 16, & their parents often bought them their first car. Their parents put everything in their name to keep insurance costs down. Meanwhile I had to fight my mother badly to get a license. She wouldn’t even let me see my birth certificate. She showed it to the employee at the Motor Vehicles Administration after shielding me from seeing it. When I failed the first test, she told me she knew I would because I wasn’t ready to drive. When I got my permit & wanted to get myself a car, she told me she’d take me shopping one day so I could see how stupid I was for thinking I could afford a car. She picked a car out for me that I absolutely HATED. It was ugly & over priced.
A month or so later, I picked out my first car & got my license.. here is a picture that my mother took of me with that special & I still think absolutely adorable little car..
This is me in 1989 with Baby, my 1978 Buick Skyhawk that I hope to restore one day.
I realized something recently…
The reason I still ogle myself driving when I can isn’t just because I like my pretty cars. It’s because I never take driving for granted. I had to fight hard to get my license. I paid for my first car, insurance, maintenance & everything by myself. I worked hard & accomplished what I wanted to. No one can take that away from me. My first car in particular is a symbol of that which is why she’s special to me & I hope to restore her. Driving any car reminds me of what I managed to accomplish on my own though, no thanks to my parents. I’m proud of that, & seeing myself behind the wheel of a car, in particular my own, is a reminder of that.
I mentioned this to my husband recently & was rather nervous about admitting it. He shocked me by understanding completely & said “You should be proud of that! Celebrate it! Enjoy driving! Take pictures of yourself behind the wheel!” That helped me to see that maybe I’m not as weird as I thought I was..
Is there anything “strange” you do that is like what I do? If so, I want to encourage you to embrace that. Don’t think of it as weird like I have done with looking at myself when driving. Instead, celebrate it! Be proud of whatever it is you have accomplished in spite of your narcissistic parent. You did something on your own without the help of a narcissistic parent. That isn’t an easy feat when you consider you have had a narcissistic parent or two trying to keep you down your whole life. Be proud that you overcame that & still did whatever it is that you did. It’s ok to be proud of yourself! You deserve to feel that way! xoxo
Ending a romantic relationship with a narcissist is tough. Months or years of the constant gaslighting & abuse destroy a person’s self esteem while somehow leaving victims to feel as if they should appreciate the narcissist settling for loving them. By the time a person ends such a relationship, their thinking is damaged, but they do realize that the narcissist was abusive. At the same time, there is often a lot of guilt & doubt involved for ending the relationship. I experienced it myself for quite some time after divorcing my ex husband.
After the relationship has ended though, you will feel so much better. Time & distance from a narcissist give a person clarity & make room for healing to take place. You may be wondering what signs you can look for that you have moved on from your narcissistic ex, & this post will explain some of them.
If your narcissistic ex tries to contact you, you have no desire to respond. Narcissists are known for attempting to “hoover” their victims, in other words, lure them back into the dysfunctional relationship. If you cringe when you see your ex’s phone number or email address rather than get excited, this is a big sign you have moved on. And, if your ex reaches out to you constantly to the point of harassment, be sure you document everything. Harassment & stalking laws are changing, & you may need that documentation if you have to get the law involved.
Having no desire to know what is happening in your ex’s life is another sign you’ve moved on. It can be common when a couple first breaks up for at least one person in the relationship to want to know what the other is up to. They may discreetly check out their social media or ask mutual friends about them. Losing the desire to do these things shows you’re over that ex.
Another sign of moving on is when you no longer compare yourself to anyone that person is dating or has dated. Narcissists love to compare their victims to others they deem more attractive, smarter, etc. Being romantically involved with someone who does this, it can make you feel as if you have to not only measure up to their other romantic partners, but be much better than them. Losing that baggage is incredibly freeing!
Their opinion of you means nothing to you anymore. While it’s normal to some degree to want an ex to think you’re doing well without them, it can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting your narcissistic ex to think you’re doing a thousand times better without them. When you stop thinking that way & couldn’t care less what he or she thinks of you, you have moved on.
Severing ties with toxic people is another sign you’ve moved on from a narcissistic ex. After dealing with someone so toxic in such a close relationship, it’s easy to become tolerant of toxic people. Deleting them from your life is a very healthy move in any case, but if it’s done after breaking up with a narcissist, it’s also a sign that you have moved on.
Gaining self confidence is another sign of moving on. Narcissists do their best to obliterate their victim’s self esteem. They even destroy their victims’ ability to trust their instincts, feelings & perceptions through gaslighting. Learning to trust such things takes time, & is a big sign you have moved on.
When you end a relationship with a narcissist, you may feel like you’ll never get better, but you absolutely will! Be patient with yourself & don’t try to rush your healing. As time passes, you’ll notices these things happening, & they can reassure you that you are going to be just fine.
Narcissists & their flying monkey enablers have a very skewed view of what is ok & what isn’t ok, what’s abusive & what isn’t abusive. Narcissists are an extremely entitled bunch & they lack empathy, so in their minds, whatever they want is all that matters. Hurting others isn’t important. And, their flying monkeys agree wholeheartedly. So what if someone gets hurt? The narcissist is the important one, after all.
These people act like certain abusive behaviors are completely normal. In time, this can make victims think the narcissist is right, that they are wrong for being upset about something that is supposed to be so normal. More subdued abusive behaviors often fall into this category.
Also, many abuse victims develop a very thick skin when it comes to abuse. This comes from being abused repeatedly. If an abuser isn’t screaming at them or physically assaulting them, they sometimes don’t think they are being abused. Unfortunately abuse isn’t always so easy to spot. It can be subtle, but equally abusive. This post will describe some of the subtle ways a person can abuse.
Taking or relocating your property. When you live with someone, chances are excellent you will move each other’s property at some point. My husband moves my purse if it’s in his way, for example. But when someone hides or even gets rid of something that belongs to you, that is abnormal! It is also abusive if the person blames you for forgetting that you moved or got rid of the item when they are the one who did it. That is gaslighting!
Controlling behavior. Telling you what to say, how to act, how to look, what to wear, hiding your car keys so you can’t go anywhere are all abusive, even if there are no physical threats to go along with the control. No one has the right to control another person.
Sexual violations. Someone who uses guilt & shame to force you to perform a sexual act that is something you really don’t want to do or causes you pain is just as guilty as the masked man who rapes you at knife point. Just because a weapon wasn’t used doesn’t make this ok. It’s not ok if you’re married either. Being married doesn’t give anyone the right to be sexually abusive.
The silent treatment. While the silent treatment isn’t usually considered abusive, it actually is. If you don’t know what the person’s up to, the silent treatment can make you do almost anything to win the favor back of the person not speaking to you. It sets you up to be controlled & manipulated while damaging your self-esteem. Once you understand what the silent treatment is about though, it can be a pleasant respite from the abuse.
Being confusing & unreasonable during a disagreement. Most people try to work together to a solution when involved in a disagreement, even if things are heated. An abusive behavior is instead of working on a solution, talking in circles, trying to focus on something other than the issue at hand, projecting their flaws onto you, bringing up past arguments, & gaslighting.
Please remember not to normalize or excuse abuse. Behavior like this is NOT normal & there is no excuse for anyone to act this way. Even if it happened “only once”, there is still no excuse for it. Instead, admit the truth, that such actions are abusive & terrible. You also need to accept that you have done nothing wrong, & you did nothing to deserve such treatment. You have every right to be upset about what was done to you. You also have every right to protect yourself from further abuse so set those boundaries & take good care of yourself!
Have you ever noticed there are socially acceptable & socially unacceptable responses to trauma? There are. The especially interesting part is the socially acceptable ones are the most unhealthy trauma responses & encouraged.
Some socially acceptable trauma responses are:
- being a workaholic.
- focusing on career over family.
- never taking breaks.
- being over scheduled or too busy.
- sleeping too little.
- excessive exercising.
- under eating.
Some socially unacceptable trauma responses are:
- taking time off to relax.
- crying or being angry about the trauma.
- admitting that it still upsets you, even years after the trauma.
- taking anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.
- seeing a counselor.
- severing ties with an abuser.
- discussing the abuse.
When you live with PTSD or C-PTSD, trying to heal is tough enough. It’s not easy, even under the best of circumstances. It’s much worse though when you have people telling you that your healthy coping skills aren’t healthy, & insisting you instead use unhealthy coping skills.
Having been through narcissistic abuse, I can vouch for the insecurity that comes from it. It takes a conscious focus on my part not to assume someone’s criticism of me is right & to consider what is said before assuming I’m wrong, & frankly I’m not always good at this. When someone tells me I should use one of the unhealthy trauma responses instead of my healthy ones, naturally I figure they’re right & feel shame. No doubt many of you reading this experience the same type of response.
You can learn to deal with the dysfunctional response in these types of situations.
Remember, the world thinks quite skewed in the area of mental health. No one bats an eye at someone who goes to a doctor with a broken leg, yet many of those same people claim someone is weak for seeing a counselor for their mental health problems. That is just one example of this skewed thinking. Anyway just because so many people think this way doesn’t mean they are right. What others think about how you heal isn’t important. What is important is that it works for you.
Use logical thinking. When someone criticizes you for how you approach your emotional healing, ask yourself if what they say makes sense & why. For example, if someone says you’re being lazy, you need to keep busy instead of taking time off, think about this statement for a moment. How would keeping busy benefit you? Sure, you might be busy enough not to think about your problems for a bit, but that won’t last forever. Besides, ignoring emotions means they will come out in unhealthy ways later. So many addicts became addicts because they tried to avoid facing their own traumas. Considering all of this, do you really think this person gave you good advice?
Another thing to consider is people view things through the lens of their own experiences. Many people who are the quickest to judge others’ healing journeys are ones who also have been abused, but refuse to deal with that. Rather than be inspired by someone else facing their pain, they get upset by it. They often think because they aren’t facing their past trauma, they are over it. They’re functioning just fine while someone else is suffering with C-PTSD. In their mind, clearly that person is weak & could learn a thing or two from the person without C-PTSD. They honestly think they’re helping by telling the other person what they do, which involves their socially acceptable trauma responses.
Remember, just because some people think your approach to healing is wrong doesn’t mean that is true. You have to do whatever works best for you. What others think shouldn’t matter. All that should matter to you is that what you’re doing helps you to heal.
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or C-PTSD, is a rather new mental health diagnosis. It is common among those who have survived repeated traumas, such as those who endured child abuse or domestic violence.
C-PTSD shares many of the same symptoms of PTSD. It also includes other symptoms that make C-PTSD more, well, complex than PTSD.
Moodiness to the extreme. Moods can be difficult to control for anyone at times. A person with C-PTSD has a much more difficult time controlling them on a regular basis, & sometimes is unable to control them.
Difficulty trusting people. A person with C-PTSD has seen the worst of people, & only naturally has a great deal of difficulty trusting people. It takes a lot for someone with C-PTSD to learn to trust anyone. It also doesn’t take a lot for someone with C-PTSD to lose trust in people.
Flashbacks. There are three types of flashbacks. The typical flashbacks where a person feels as if they are reliving a traumatic event. There also is emotional flashbacks. They don’t feel as if the event is being relieved per se, but the emotions of a traumatic event are being relieved. Emotional flashbacks are extremely common with C-PTSD. Lastly there are somatic flashbacks. They are similar to emotional flashbacks, but rather than dealing with the emotions connected to trauma, they deal with the physical pain connected to trauma.
Toxic shame. Toxic shame is extremely common among those who have survived abuse, in particular those who survived child abuse. Their parents told them the abuse inflicted on them was their fault, which instilled a root of toxic shame in them for supposedly making their parents do the terrible things they did.
Dissociation. A survival tactic, dissociation emotionally removes a person from a traumatic or abusive episode. Many survivors of sexual assault in particular describe it as feeling as if they are not in their body as the assault happened. It also can lead to extensive day dreaming when not in a traumatic situation or even Dissociative Identity Disorder in some extreme cases. DID is especially common among child abuse survivors.
Hyper-vigilance. Hyper-vigilance can take two forms. One is when a person is extremely aware of their surroundings. Even in a crowded place, those with C-PTSD are aware of a person heading to the restroom or leaving the building. Another form of hyper-vigilance is when the body is constantly in a state of preparedness for attack or trauma. This often leads to constant pain.
Suicidal thoughts. The most serious & potentially life threatening aspect of C-PTSD is suicidal thoughts. Those who have C-PTSD frequently battle with severe depression, even to the point of suicidal thoughts. Sadly, suicide seems like the only escape from the pain in the mind of many people with C-PTSD.
While these symptoms are very common with C-PTSD, their seriousness shouldn’t be underestimated. All are life altering, & suicidal thoughts obviously can be life ending. They can be managed, however. I find prayer to be my most effective help when these symptoms flare up. Journaling about them is also very useful. It can help you to see what causes the symptoms to flare & figure out ways to cope with them. Another helpful tip I have found is to remind myself of what is happening. I remind myself that whatever is happening is merely a symptom of the disorder, nothing more. I’m safe, nothing can hurt me. Grounding can be very useful during flashbacks, & it needs to be something that is very extreme to the senses. Smelling a strong scent like lavender or touching a scratchy blanket help by distracting your mind away from the flashback.
Lastly, when your symptoms flare, they’re showing you where you need healing. They actually do have a purpose, so use them to help you.
When someone mentions the black sheep of their family, the common mental image people get is someone who is very different from the rest of the family. Maybe the black sheep is the one person in the family who is in trouble with the law or is a surly type.
More often than you would think, this isn’t the case though. Instead, the black sheep is nothing like their bad reputation. The only thing they are guilty of is not being like the rest of their family, aka the White Sheep. In these cases, this is usually a very good thing!
As I’ve mentioned before, I think of dysfunctional families much like the Borg from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The Borg were all alike & only focused on what was best for the Collective. Individuality was not tolerated. This is exactly like a dysfunctional family. Individuality is discouraged & all that matters is the Collective, aka the family.
Dysfunctional families are the same way, so when a member is different, they aren’t pleased. They are even less pleased if there is abuse in the family & someone discusses the abuse openly. It is a guarantee that person will be labeled the Black Sheep, referred to as mentally unstable, oversensitive & more. Their traumatic experiences will be invalidated or even denied.
This has been my experience as a black sheep in my family & my in-law family. The good part though is although it hurt at first, it taught me a lot.
People who treat someone who has been abused this way are cowardly. They have no integrity either, because they would rather do nothing than stand up for what is right. I’m glad not to be like them! I’d rather be a person of integrity who is willing to help others than be a coward! If being labeled the black sheep means I’m someone with integrity, I’m absolutely fine with the label!
When you consider your situation, chances are good you’ll realize that the opinions of the White Sheep really aren’t important as I did. Why should you care what they think of you? Just because they’re family? That isn’t a good reason! The only people whose opinions should matter to you are those who genuinely love you & want what is best for you, whether or not those people are related to you. People who want you to fit inside their little box of what they think you should be, like the Borg, don’t love you God’s way, nor do they want what is best for you. Why should their opinion of you matter? Being weighed down by the opinions of other people is exhausting, especially when their opinions of you are so restrictive! It’s truly a blessing & freeing not to have to worry about such things.
White Sheep family members often think the Black Sheep of their family has nothing in common with them. They often are right about that! That being said though, it doesn’t mean they’re right & you’re wrong. You’re simply different from them. Different does NOT equal bad! That is a very important thing to realize! Different can be a wonderful thing. People who think differently invented all kinds of great things, heal others mentally & physically & more. Besides, the world would be incredibly dull if we all thought the same!
The things that make you unique also could be something that makes the White Sheep envy you. Did you ever think of that? They could be labeling you out of simple envy. Many people do this rather than try to improve themselves.
Or, they could be too afraid to face their own issues & are trying to shut you down because you facing yours makes them feel badly. This is something God told me that my own family has done to me. It’s better in their mind to shut me down than to face their demons.
Whatever the case, I want to encourage you to embrace your Black Sheep label. Being a Black Sheep requires courage & strength. Be proud of yourself for possessing such wonderful qualities, & don’t try to please the White Sheep. You get this one life to live.. you should live it in a way that pleases you, not others.
Just a friendly reminder that all of my ebooks are still 25% off until July 31, 2020. They can be found at this link:
Growing up with narcissistic parents is a horrific experience. Neglect & abuse abound, resulting in a child who grows up with little or even no self-esteem, doubts about their sanity, no real identity beyond what their parents told them they were & other horrible traumas that often result in Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or C-PTSD.
In addition to this trauma, many of these children are met with disbelief & even blame for the way their parents treated them. Sadly, this treatment comes mostly from family members. Even as adults, this invalidation often continues & can be even more heartless & painful.
You may find some of these phrases I mention in this post sound familiar to you. If you do, & if you think they will help the person who said them to you see the error of their ways, feel free to show this to them. However, know many people who invalidate victims of narcissistic abuse are also narcissists, which means they only will use the information to hurt you further. You need to use your best judgment on this.
“Why not just talk to your parents. Tell them how you feel.” Normally, this isn’t bad advice. Two functional people often can create solutions to problems by discussing them. This is impossible with narcissists, however. They lack empathy & feel entitled to do or say anything they want. The way people feel about their words & actions, in particular their children, mean nothing to them. Unless they feel they can gain something by impressing someone by caring about their feelings, no one’s emotions mean anything to them. Narcissistic parents often view their children’s feelings as selfish, unreasonable, stupid, or trivial.. that is if they even notice their feelings at all. Many narcissistic parents don’t even notice their children’s feelings no matter how upset they are. They also are highly likely to use their children’s emotions against them to humiliate, shame or manipulate them.
“You need to find a way to fix this relationship!” My aunt once told me how I needed to get into therapy to find a way to fix things with my parents, & “don’t dare tell her it won’t work!” I thank God I was far along in my healing journey at the time she said this, because such words could’ve been devastating if I wasn’t! I tried to do as she said when I was 17, & even saw a few therapists. No matter how much therapy I got, no matter what I did, I couldn’t fix the relationship with my parents. While one person can destroy a relationship, one person can never fix a relationship. It takes two to make a relationship work. Putting the burden of fixing it on a victim is simply cruel & stupid.
“How do you think your behavior makes your parent feel?” After setting boundaries or going no contact, the flying monkeys love to slither out of the wood work & tell victims how wrong, evil, selfish, & stupid they are along with them being terrible sons or daughters for acting the way they are. They make these adult children sound like spoiled rotten little brats who are throwing a hissy fit because they don’t want to eat their vegetables at dinner. People who say this fail to realize that child of a narcissistic parent or two spend their entire lives are spent considering their parents’ feelings! Every single little thing is about the parent & nothing has to do with them. No wonder the parent is upset about that child setting a boundary or even going no contact. The parent probably never expected this to happen. That doesn’t mean boundaries or no contact are wrong, however!
“Have you ever thought about how you make your parents feel by talking about this?” They may add 1 Peter 4:8 that in part says “love covers a multitude of sins” to make it sound as if God Himself is ashamed of the victim for discussing the abuse. This is incredibly shaming & cruel! Narcissistic parents instill in their children a very large dose of fear about discussing the abuse. Being open about it is incredibly difficult & brave. If those parents wanted their child to discuss them in a positive light, they shouldn’t have been abusive.
“Parents always love their children.. it’s a shame children don’t always love their parents.” This is an utter LIE. There are plenty of parents who lack the ability to love their children. Narcissists may love the narcissistic supply their children provide but truly loving their children in a healthy, Godly way is beyond their abilities. Not to mention, there are plenty of children of narcissistic parents who love them. In fact, almost every adult child of narcissistic parents I have spoken with loved their parent a great deal. It’s the parent’s behavior they hated. I’m the same way. I love my parents, I just couldn’t tolerate the abuse, which is why I went no contact. It wasn’t done out of hatred for them.
“You kids always blame your mother & don’t take any responsibility for yourself.” The fact is children naturally deny bad parts about their parents or find a way why their parent’s bad behavior is their fault. It’s probably a survival skill. If the child can deny the parent doesn’t love them or is abusive, they stand greater chances of receiving care from their parents. These children work harder & harder to please their abusive parents, so the parent will give them some care at least.
“You need to get over it. That’s in the past.” When you have C-PTSD as a result of being raised by a narcissistic parent or two, the past is always a part of your present. Flashbacks, nightmares & intrusive thoughts are triggered very easily & they don’t go away simply because we want them to. If only it was that easy! Even medication can’t stop such things. It takes time & dealing with each event as it comes up to get any semblance of control over it interfering with the present, & even then, it may not go away entirely. I still have flashbacks & nightmares once in a while about events I have dealt with to the best of my ability. It’s rare, but it still happens.
“Your parents have always been so nice to me!” Narcissists work hard to create an image of perfection to those who aren’t their victims. It’s not uncommon for narcissists to have a friendly & pleasant conversation with someone, then once the person is out of their presence or they hang up the phone, they attack their victim. People who haven’t seen behind the narcissist’s mask often have a hard time believing that the person you claim was an abusive parent is anything but the good person they see.
To help those who suffered at the hand of a narcissistic parent or two, if you don’t know about narcissistic abuse, you will need to learn about it. You also will need to remember not everyone has a functional family, & accept that some families are extremely complex & dysfunctional.
If you’re a victim of narcissistic parents & someone says comments like this to you, please remember what they say is wrong. It comes from their own dysfunctional beliefs, not reality. Try your best not to take their words to heart.
Severing ties with a narcissist is a very difficult thing to do. Not only telling the person you are done with the relationship, but the aftermath. It can come with a plethora of challenges. One of them for many people is extreme anxiety.
Many people who have left a narcissistic relationship have discovered that once they are safely away from the narcissist, their anxiety gets much worse for a while.
On the surface, this doesn’t make sense. They’re safe, the narcissist hasn’t tried to contact them in ages. They haven’t even seen the narcissist in passing at the grocery store or on the road. Why would anxiety be bad when it should be so much lower? I think this happens for a few reasons.
When in a relationship with a narcissist, you learn to function in survival mode out of necessity. Your entire universe consists of thoughts like what can I do to please the narcissist, what can I do to make sure the narcissist doesn’t get angry with me, what needs does the narcissist have that I can anticipate in the hopes of gaining some favor from this person. When you think this way, it’s as if there is simply no room in your mind for anxiety. All the space in your brain is taken up with those thoughts, & there is no room for anything else. I really believe narcissists do their best to keep their victims busy in this way so they don’t have the opportunity to see the abuse is wrong or plan their means of escape.
If you were romantically involved with a narcissist then begin to get involved with someone who isn’t a narcissist, that can create a lot of anxiety at first. It feels so foreign to be with someone who is healthy when you are so accustomed to abuse & dysfunction. You also naturally can feel like you did with the narcissist, waiting for the next bad thing to happen. When it doesn’t, that can be unnerving simply because of what you were accustomed to in a relationship.
If the narcissist in your life was a parent, then you grew up in an extremely abnormal environment, which means you grew up to be a bit abnormal. You couldn’t see life as a normal child does when growing up. You have a skewed view of the world. When you escape your narcissistic parent, you suddenly have to function in a very different environment. Even though it’s healthier, it’s still different than what you are used to. This can create anxiety, even though it’s a good thing.
You also grew up with this way of thinking like, “I’m supposed to do this thing, so I’ll do it.” No further thought happened. As an adult free of that abuse, now you see things as you should have seen them as a child but did not have that opportunity. It can create anxiety, & sometimes even shame for the things you did simply because you were told to do them.
The best way I know to deal with anxiety like this is with reassurance. Ask God to reassure you & to help you with the anxiety for starters. Also, talk to yourself. Remind yourself that the danger has passed. Those terrible things that once happened to you are no longer going to happen. That abusive person is out of your life, & you’re safe now. If you’re dating someone, remind yourself that this person isn’t the narcissist, but an entirely different person. You can’t expect the same behavior from this person that you got from the narcissist, because healthy people do NOT act like narcissists. And thank God for that!