Tag Archives: childhood

How Trauma Can Stunt Emotional Growth

Years ago, prior to learning about narcissism, I had a friend who counseled people at her church.  She told me how she believed many people were stuck emotionally at the age they were when they experienced deep trauma.  This makes a great deal of sense to me, especially knowing what I do now about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Looking at some of the narcissists I’ve known in my life, they were abused, neglected or both in their childhood, or faced something very traumatic such as a life threatening injury.  My father, for example, nearly died at only fifteen from a traumatic brain injury, thanks to some drunk driver hitting his car head on.  Although he was a mature adult in ways such as keeping a full time job, maintaining & repairing his own car & home, in some ways, his behavior was very immature.  He seemed to think he should have whatever he wanted, just because he wanted it.  That is entitlement but it’s also a very immature behavior.

My late mother in-law grew up in an extremely dysfunctional environment.  At 15, she got pregnant & married my father in-law.  By all accounts, their marriage was not a happy one for many years.  Her behavior was quite immature, & often reminded me of a teenager.   Like my father, she seemed to think she should have what she wanted simply because she wanted it.

Obviously, not everyone who has experienced trauma, abuse or neglect in their childhood is like this.  However it seems to me that many narcissists are.  So many act very immature, & if you look at their lives, many also had some sort of trauma in their childhood.

I’m not telling you this to excuse the abusive behavior of narcissists, of course.  There is no valid excuse for abuse!  However, understanding them can help you a great deal.  It can help you not to be as hurt or angered by their abuse because you see it’s something wrong with them.  (This information is always a good reminder since they love gaslighting so much.)  It enables you to predict their behavior so you can protect yourself.  It also can help you to remember that basically, you’re dealing with a bratty child in an adult’s body & deal with them accordingly.

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Mental Health, Narcissism

Unconventional Grief

Most people assume there is only one type of grief, the grief that happens when someone you love dies, but there are other types as well.

People also can grieve when they move, get a divorce or lose a job.  There is also something known as anticipatory grief, which happens when you know someone is dying.  This is especially common in families where someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s due to how this terrible disease destroys a person’s personality before it destroys their body.

Unconventional grief is different.  It is grief that is triggered by unique circumstances.  I experienced it when learning about the many new limitations because of how damaged my brain was after surviving Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.  It also can happen when someone is diagnosed with mental illness or when a loved one has a substance abuse problem.  Unconventional grief also can happen as a result of trauma & abuse.

When you grow up with a narcissistic parent or two, & you finally learn about narcissism, although it is a great thing, it can trigger grief.  Suddenly you realize that you aren’t the problem, which is certainly good news of course, but realizing what your parent was is difficult  & painful to accept.  It hurts that the one person who was supposed to love you unconditionally didn’t, & lacks the ability to do so.  You also realize how much your parent took from you, such as your childhood & self-esteem.  And, it suddenly hits you that there is no hope for your relationship.  Prior to learning about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, most people have some hope that one day their parent will realize what she did, apologize & change for the better.  Learning about NPD squelches that hope completely.  That is a tough pill to swallow!

Facing these ugly truths absolutely can cause a person to grieve, & it’s extremely painful.  It’s also difficult to understand because of the limited view of grief that most people have.  How can you grieve when the person in question is still alive?!  Well, it’s surprisingly easy to do actually.

When my father died in October, 2017, I didn’t cry.  I cry easily especially when losing someone I love, but I didn’t cry.   I barely have felt sad at all since he’s been gone.  No doubt any of my family that may be reading this thinks it’s because I’m a cold, evil person, but that isn’t the case.  It’s because I grieved him enough when he was alive that his death didn’t have a very profound effect on me.  And you know something?  Many other adult children of narcissistic parents I’ve spoken with have said that they felt the same exact thing when their parent died.

Unconventional grief can be incredibly difficult, but you can get through it.

Pray & pray often.  You will need the wisdom, guidance & comfort of God to get through this.

Don’t judge your emotions.  Accept them.  Examine them without judgement or criticism.  Feel them.  Pray, talk or write about them to cope with them.

Anger is an especially common part of this sort of grief.  If you feel a lot of anger, it’s normal!  I know, you probably grew up like most of us with narcissistic parents did, believing you aren’t allowed to be angry.  Stop that now!  Why are you angry?  Face it head on & deal with your feelings.  The pain will lose its power over you if you face it.

You also may start to remember only the good times.  They are good to remember, but don’t forget the bad as well.  Embrace the good & heal from the bad.

Write in a journal.  Writing is very cathartic, plus it will help you to have documentation.  You may even decide that you enjoy writing, & opt to start a blog or write a book.

Find online support groups & websites.  Learning that others are experiencing similar things to you is very helpful.

Don’t expect this grief to end entirely.  It will get better, but it may never end entirely. It’s like losing a loved one- you grieve most right after the person died, but even many years later, the pain is still there, just not as intense as it was at first.

If you’re experiencing unconventional grief, Dear Reader, know you aren’t alone.  You can survive this!  It will take hard work & won’t be easy, but you can do it!

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

Ways Trauma In Childhood Affects People Throughout Their Lives

Most people who were abused as children face lifelong problems as a result of that abuse.  The problems can be debilitating at worst, or they can at best be really annoying, but they are there nonetheless.  This post is about some of those problems.

Many people who experienced abuse in their childhood develop PTSD or C-PTSD.  It makes a lot of sense this happens considering that abused children are exposed to at least a couple of life altering traumas in their life, usually many more.  In case you don’t know this, PTSD & C-PTSD happen when trauma is severe enough to “break” the brain.  Physical changes actually happen in the brain that cause PTSD & C-PTSD.  Neither are mood disorders or the result of thinking negatively like many people seem to think.  Medication &/or therapy can help you to manage the life disrupting symptoms.

Even if an adult survivor of child abuse doesn’t develop PTSD or C-PTSD, chances are good that person will suffer anxiety &/or panic attacks &/or fears, even phobias.  When you’re raised by someone whose behavior is violent & unpredictable, you naturally become anxious.  That anxiety can stay even long after the abuse has ended.  Ending the relationship with an abusive parent is naturally a smart thing to do, but that doesn’t mean all problems are solved.  While it removes further abuse from happening, it doesn’t stop the anxiety that the abuse created.  It takes a lot of time for that to diminish. It may never stop entirely.  Learning ways to calm yourself such as through deep breathing can help calm you when anxiety gets bad.  Prayer is also very helpful.  Medication can help as well.  Also, learn to push yourself beyond your comfort zone.  Take tiny steps at first, then once you’re comfortable with the small steps, push yourself a bit further.  It’ll help you to be more confident in yourself & less anxious when you see what you can handle.

Lacking good coping skills is common as well.  When you’re subjected to daily abuse, you simply don’t have time to process one trauma when another happens.  It’s overwhelming!  It also leads to a pattern of not knowing how to cope because you haven’t been able to do so.  You will need to learn coping skills, such as how to slow down & look at the situation objectively so you can find ways to cope.

Many adult survivors of child abuse also are willing to settle.  They don’t want to be in the same or a similar situation to what they’ve been through, so rather than take a risk, they settle.  Pushing yourself out of that comfort zone can be scary, but it needs to be done.  Start with small things.  As you get more comfortable, push yourself to do bigger things.

Talk to people you feel safe with, & let them help you as you heal.  It can be super easy to become a total recluse, because it feels like no one else has been through the things you have.  As you open up to safe people, you may realize that others have been through similar situations.  Sharing these experiences can help you to become closer & also to help each other heal.

Many victims also hold in their anger.  As a child of an abusive parent, it’s a useful survival skill.  Abusive parents can’t & won’t deal with their child’s anger, so it’s safer for the child to hold it in.  As an adult though, it’s no longer a good skill.  Instead it becomes unhealthy both physically & mentally.  You have to learn how to release your anger in healthy ways, such as in prayer, writing in a journal or talking things out with a safe person.

Almost all victims of child abuse avoid confrontation as adults.  Growing up with abusive parents, we learned early in life that confrontation involves rage, name calling, possibly even physical violence.  The truth though is that isn’t always the case anymore!  Not everyone is like our parents.  You need to learn that it’s ok, even loving (believe it or not) to confront someone who is mistreating you.

Adult victims of abusive parents also have issues with boundaries.  Abusive parents don’t let their children have boundaries, & perhaps out of simple habit, those children grow into adults with no boundaries.  You will need to realize that you have every right to have & enforce healthy boundaries, as well as learn ways to develop those boundaries.  I highly recommend reading “Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How To Say No To Take Control Of Your Life” by Dr.s Henry Cloud & John Townsend.  The book changed my life!  I even created a free online class based on the book.  It’s available at my website at this link:  http://cynthiabaileyrug.com/Boundaries-Book-Study.php

Lastly, most adults abused as children also end up in unhealthy relationships.  They replay the abuse they experienced as children in friendships & romantic relationships because it’s familiar.  While this is normal, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  You need to recognize unhealthy people & avoid them as much as you can.  You can do this by learning about people like your abusive parent.  For example, if your parent is a narcissist, learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder so you can recognize the signs easily.

Surviving consequences of abuse is never easy, but it can be managed.  You can & learn to enjoy your life & thrive in spite of your traumatic experiences.

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism