Tag Archives: cope
I’m sure we’ve all been there. We try to discuss some about our traumatic situations with a narcissist only to be met with someone trying to shut us down. They clearly don’t want to hear about it & say things to invalidate your pain such as “Just get over it already,” “Lots of people were abused by their parents but you don’t hear them talking about it,” or (possibly the stupidest one yet) “But that’s your MOTHER/FATHER!!”
When this happens, it can make you feel bad in many ways. It can make you ashamed of “whining”, it can make you feel like you’re petty or overreacting to things that weren’t a big deal, or it can make you feel like a bad son/daughter or even Christian for being upset about your parents abusing you.
Dear Reader, I want to tell you today, please do NOT feel bad when someone treats you this way! The truth is, their wanting to shut you down is about them, NOT you! These people have their reasons for wanting to shut you down, They aren’t good reasons, but they also have nothing to do with you.
The person may be gaining something from supporting/enabling your narcissistic parent or partner. What that is can be anything- maybe they get money, things or even just the narcissist’s praise. If this person is also a narcissist as many flying monkeys are, that praise is extremely important to them after all. This person obviously is not willing to jeopardize losing whatever it is he or she is gaining, so it is more beneficial for them to shut you down than to listen to what you have to say.
The person also may have their own issues, & you facing yours reminds them of theirs. That can make them want to shut you down quickly, because you make them feel uncomfortable by reminding them of their similar situations.
What if a person has codependency issues? If that person is raised in an emotionally incestuous/parentalizing environment, that person is going to believe it is a child’s job to take care of & cater to their parent forever. At least until such time as they learn how unhealthy this situation is. But, if a person doesn’t realize how unhealthy it is, they think everyone should do as they do, & cater to & care for their parents no matter what. They may even think it’s loving & “Godly” to tolerate whatever abuse their parents dish out. If you’re standing up for yourself, setting boundaries or even *gasp* saying your parents are less than perfect, to this person, you are committing a terrible sin in this person’s eyes. They want to shut you down so they don’t have to hear about it. They think everyone should do as they do. That is their reality & it makes them uncomfortable if you threaten it in any way.
There are two other possibilities that God spoke to me when my father was dying in October, 2017. As I wrote about before, at the time, people continually harassed & tried to bully me into visiting my father. I mean, not only daily but often multiple times in a day. I eventually asked God why were they so cruel to me? He told me two things…
They were in denial about my father. They wanted to believe he was a good guy, & me refusing to speak to him threatened that denial. They wanted me to go to him so they could remain in denial. After all, if I went, it would be proof to them that all was fine. People in denial will do about anything to protect their delusions.
God also said to me that they don’t know me now. They remembered me as that scared of everything little kid I once was, that was also blindly obedient to my parents. By that person being strong enough to face her own issues, it makes them feel weak for not facing theirs. They wanted to push me back into being like I used to be so they didn’t have to feel weak. If the person in your situation knew you when you were being abused, they knew a different version of you. They knew the beat down victim that we all have been at some point. It’s very possible that they may want you to stay that way so they don’t have to feel badly for not dealing with their own issues.
Just remember, Dear Reader, when people invalidate you or try to shut you down, it’s not your fault. It’s not about you. It’s about them & their own issues.
Recently, seemingly out of nowhere, I suddenly felt as if a ton of bricks landed on me. I have had one very hard, painful year & currently have quite a bit going on. The intensity of it all hit at once. I really felt overwhelmed for a while & couldn’t stop crying.
Eventually I did though, & realized what was happening. I hadn’t really dealt with things very well. In fact, I avoided thinking about some things, stuffing my emotions like I always used to do. Old habits die hard, & apparently that one resurrected briefly without me realizing it. I think my old habit returned because I had so much happening at once. I didn’t have time to cope with one thing when three more bad things happened.
Upon realizing all of this, I have formed a plan. I will take things one issue at a time. When I first realized I had problems stemming from my childhood, I thought I could deal with everything at once. Forgive my parents, accept the fact they were abusive, face being depressed & anxious, think positive, & all would be fine. Naive? Oh yes.. but truthfully, I didn’t realize how deep my issues went or have any grip on this emotional healing stuff. Now I know better, & I have learned that a lot of times, it’s best to face one issue at a time, as it arises.
What I mean is this…
As an example from my life, part of my issue is the fact that when my father was dying, so called “family” came out of the woodwork to tell me what I needed to do regarding my parents,what a horrible person I was for not obeying them or “forgiving & forgetting” & not “honoring” my parents. Mind you, this is on top of the death of my father. Instead of lumping this all into one thing to deal with, I’m dissecting it, & dealing with each issue as I am able. Here are the issues:
- My father died.
- I was attacked by many people at that time over a few months, but in particular my father’s final month of life.
- Some people were strangers, so dealing with their nonsense isn’t too hard. I don’t know them so they don’t mean anything to me.
- Others were family & those relatives fall into 2 categories:
- Family I once had been close to & felt betrayed they treated me this way.
- Other family I never was close to so the fact they attacked me was a big shock in addition to the pain of the things they said & did.
I think it’s healthier to deal with things this way because the events of that time are very distinct & complex, not to mention overwhelming to face all at once. Even just the one part with family is difficult because there were two very different dynamics at play. My relationships with these people were very different, so naturally that means I must deal with the situations differently. Plus, doing this also gives me smaller things to cope with rather than trying to tackle one huge issue. Smaller bits will be easier to cope with, which is especially important since I have C-PTSD. Having the disorder means my brain is broken. I have to treat myself gentler than a person without C-PTSD treats themselves.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed too, Dear Reader, I’m sorry. It happens sometimes & it’s rough, I know. Just try to remember to approach the situation in small doses, especially if you too have C-PTSD. Break it down into manageable parts, & deal with those however works best for you rather than tackling the big picture all at once. The little things will add up to form the big picture. Also remember, Psalm 23:4 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (KJV) Sometimes when you’re facing your pain, it feels like you are all alone. People don’t understand, & may avoid or even abandon you during your darkest hours. God isn’t that way though. He loves you & is with you no matter how bad things may be. xoxo
As anyone with experience with narcissists knows, you can’t avoid them entirely. Try as you might, they are everywhere. Because this is a sad fact of life, everyone needs to have some effective weapons in their arsenal.
Below is a list of things that can help stop narcissists in their tracks. While I always recommend prayer as the best place to start, these are some useful tactics I have found that can be helpful as well.
- Show no emotions when in the presence of a narcissist. Narcissists feed off the emotions of their victims. If you act happy, they will do their best to make you unhappy. If you’re sad, they’ll try to make you sadder. Angry? They will push your buttons to attempt to make you even angrier. In the presence of a narcissist, show NO emotions. You aren’t happy, sad, angry or anything. You simply are. This gives them nothing to work with.
- Ask the narcissist, “How does that make sense?” It is best to ask this question logically, minus any signs of emotion aside from confusion. Narcissists are highly illogical beings, so when you ask them to explain their actions, it can stop them in their tracks. It also can cause a narcissistic injury, but not one they usually react to with narcissistic rage. They know if they do, they’ll end up looking ridiculous, & that fact stops them in their tracks.
- “No.” Simply, no. No explanation, no excuses. If they continue to try to pressure you for more information, simply continue saying no. Narcissists don’t know what to do with this, especially when you refuse to explain your no. They may try to intimidate you with their anger or make you feel guilty for your no, but if you stay dedicated to your no while showing no emotions, they will give up fairly quickly.
- Make eye contact. People who have nothing to hide or are honest have no problems making eye contact. Narcissists have plenty to hide & are very dishonest. Eye contact will freak them out. They don’t know what to do with a person who meets their gaze.
- Let them know that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Narcissists expect the world to center on them. If you let them know this isn’t the case where you are concerned, it will fluster them. To do this, you can refuse to do something for or with them because you have other plans at that time. “I can’t.. I have plans that day” without any explanation is a perfectly acceptable response. “Oh” when they cry to you about how mean someone was to them also works.
- Let them know they don’t scare you. Overt narcissists in particular love to intimidate their victims. Intimidation means a victim will do whatever you want, & overt narcissists rely on that fact. But think about it- what can this person do to you? Chances are, not much. If that person belittles or criticizes you, remember that narcissists project their flaws onto their victims & do their best to tear a person down. That doesn’t mean what they say is true! If you remember that & show no fear or even act a bit bored, you aren’t showing fear.
- Let them know their guilt trips don’t work on you. If the narcissist is a covert narcissist, rather than try to intimidate you, chances are very good they will use guilt. Guilt can be difficult to fight. Instead of accepting their guilt trips, ask yourself if what they say makes sense. Should you feel guilty for what they say you should? Was that truly your responsibility?
- Show your self-confidence. I adopted a chow chow mix dog in 2002 for my husband for his birthday. What I didn’t know about Bear at that time was that chows are known for having a very dominant nature. Combine that with the fact he obviously had been abused, & it was a recipe for disaster. It took a lot of work to turn him into the wonderful, loving, kind dog he turned into. The main thing that helped was to let Bear know he was NOT in charge. Dominant dogs need a very strong leader or they will take over, & Bear was no exception. Narcissists are much the same way. If you show any sign of weakness, narcissists will take over. If you refuse to believe the awful criticisms they say or be manipulated, & make your feelings know, narcissists will back down. Bullies are at their heart cowards, & since narcissists are usually bullies, this applies to them as well.
Nothing is guaranteed to stop any narcissist from abusing you for good, but using these comments can stop them at least temporarily. They may even stop the narcissist for good on specific topics. I wish you the best with the narcissists you face, & hope these tactics help you!
Sometimes avoiding narcissists is impossible no matter how hard you try & how much knowledge you have about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. When that happens, there are some ways that you can fluster them enough to where they will want to leave you alone.
If you have & enforce good boundaries, narcissists won’t like you. A good victim has weak or non existent boundaries. If you have & enforce your boundaries, a narcissist won’t know what to do with you. They may try to make you feel stupid or wrong for having them, but when you are secure in the knowledge what you are doing is right, their gaslighting won’t work.
Having healthy self esteem is a huge turn off to narcissists. The lower a person’s self esteem, the easier that person is to control. Similarly, the healthier a person’s self esteem, the harder that person is to control. While narcissists often enjoy the challenge of controlling a person with healthy self esteem, they will give up when they see that person isn’t going to tolerate their abuse.
Knowing about NPD is also a huge turn off to narcissists. Even if you don’t explain the ugly details of narcissism to them or call them out, so long as you know what these people are like & what they are capable of, it will be a problem for them. Narcissists don’t want anyone to figure out what they are doing, because a person who understands their games cannot be controlled or manipulated, & won’t create any narcissistic supply.
Self validation is a powerful weapon against narcissists. They want their victims to look only to them for validation. A person who doesn’t need the narcissist for validation won’t provide any narcissistic supply or be controlled by a narcissist.
Understanding that no contact is a very viable option gives you strength when dealing with a narcissist, & they can’t handle that. Narcissists want to be the ones in charge at all times. If you know that you have options, & don’t have to let the narcissist make all decisions in the relationship, you will become a problem to a narcissist.
If a narcissist knows you don’t need him or her, you become a threat. Narcissistic parents & spouses in particular like to make a victim completely dependent on them, preferably financially or emotionally. If they see you are well aware you don’t need the narcissist, can leave the relationship anytime & still survive just fine, you won’t be a good victim to the narcissist.
Avoiding all narcissists seems to be impossible, unfortunately. However, if you can implement some of these tools, you will be able to handle yourself very well when you must deal with them.
Triggers are things that remind us of things in our life. Good triggers are wonderful, such as the sound of that whipped cream in a can being sprayed always reminds me of my late kitty, Delta, who would do a little happy kitty dance for a dollop of that whipped cream. Her cuteness always made me smile.
Unfortunately there are also bad triggers, such as something that triggers a bad memory or even a flashback to abuse or trauma. Although I live not far from the town my parents have lived in since the year before I was born, I avoid going there as much as possible. So many things in that town trigger bad memories & even flashbacks there. On my way to the vet’s office once, as I passed the library where I worked in my late teens, I had a flashback behind the wheel! Thankfully it happened at a red light. Also thankfully, Sabrina, the cat that had the appointment, knew something was wrong & helped to bring me out of it by gently scratching my hand. (Interestingly that was the only time she has scratched me in her entire life)
When you have PTSD or C-PTSD, you naturally try to avoid the bad triggers as much as possible. Even so, triggers still happen. No matter how careful you are, at some point, someone will say something, you’ll hear a sound, or you’ll smell an old & familiar scent that can mentally transport you back in time to a place you try never to think about. It’s simply impossible to avoid triggers entirely no matter how careful you are.
Since you can’t avoid triggers, the only other thing you can do is manage them when they do happen. The best ways to manage bad triggers that I have found are to stop what I’m doing, breathe deeply a few times, ask God for help, & focus on something to help keep me grounded. Good triggers can help in this situation. I have some perfume that my grandmom gave me when I was a kid. Smelling it helps to keep me grounded because not only is the scent fairly strong, it automatically reminds me of someone very special to me when I smell it. Like flashbacks, it takes something rather strong to the senses to help keep your focus- a very soft or rough fabric, a strong scent, or something very cold (like an ice cube).
I have a small flashback “kit” that contains two small sample size perfume vials- one of that perfume from my grandmom in one & the other lavender scented oil (lavender is known for its relaxation properties) & a very smooth, pretty pink quartz rock to hold. I’ve found these things help to keep me grounded during a flashback or trigger. If you find things that work for you, I would suggest creating your own flashback kit, & keep it with you in case you are subjected to a trigger or have a flashback.
When victims of abuse first tell their story, people often ask why they didn’t tell someone when it was happening. They figure it couldn’t have been so bad if they didn’t even tell anyone.
This thinking is incredibly faulty! Nothing could be further from the truth!
Abusers of all types have some things in common. One of those things is they love secrecy. They don’t want people to know what they are doing to their victim, so they threaten & scare their victims into silence.
Some abusers tell their victims things like, “If you tell anyone, I’ll kill your child/parents/sibling.” Others beat their victims upon finding out the victim told someone what the abuser has done. Narcissistic abusers usually aren’t so obvious with their intimidation, but they value secrecy nonetheless. When I was growing up, my mother used to scream at me when she thought I was “airing our dirty laundry” as she called talking about her abuse. She would shame me for needing to talk about things, like there was something incredibly wrong with me- everything she did was completely normal, I had no right to think otherwise or talk about her behind her back. I stopped talking. It wasn’t worth the screaming & berating.
Then sometimes if we tell, people either don’t believe us anyway or they think we’re exaggerating. When I was a teen & told some people about my mother, no one believed me. One school guidance counselor said “it didn’t sound so bad.” When my mother threw me into a wall, I went to my friend’s parents’ home to see if I could stay with them. Her father laughed at me. 26+ years later & I still don’t get the joke.
Reasons like this are why victims don’t tell someone when the abuse is happening. We’re terrified the abuser will follow through on their threats or hurt us in some way, or afraid no one will believe us. As painful as staying quiet about what’s happening is, it’s easier than facing the wrath of the abuser or apathy of someone we turn to for help.
So many people I talk to that have survived narcissistic abuse tell the same story about how people in their lives responded to them discussing the abuse. They were met with invalidation (“It couldn’t have been that bad!” “Other people had it way worse than you did.”), scolding (“How can you say those things about your own mother?!”), disbelief or being accused of being unforgiving or needing to “get over it”.
Especially in the early days of awareness of narcissism & learning what you went through really is abuse- you aren’t crazy or to blame like you were told- this sort of behavior is devastating. The more you heal, the better you can handle it, but I don’t think it ever stops hurting at least some to be met with such indifference to your pain. It can leave you bitter & angry if you allow it to.
In all fairness, you certainly have a right to be angry at people who say such things! It’s heartless & hurtful! So get angry! Get it out of you so you can forgive. You don’t deserve to live with that anger inside of you, stealing your joy! Whether the other person deserves your forgiveness or asks for it is irrelevant. You deserve better than carrying around anger inside of you!
That being said, there are other ways to cope.
Journalling is a wonderful thing. It is a completely safe way to get your feelings out, especially if you use a password protected journalling website. This will help you to let go of all the negative feelings.
Focus on the positive. Just because one person mistreated you doesn’t mean everyone will. Appreciate your good friends & let them know you appreciate them! What other good things are in your life? Maybe start a gratitude journal- daily, write down at least 2 things you’re grateful for.
Accept the fact that not everyone will understand what you’ve been through. In all honesty, narcissistic abuse can be hard to wrap your mind around, especially if you’ve never been exposed to it. (Even if you’ve been through it, it’s hard to grasp!) And sadly, some people have no desire to even try. With people like this, it’s just smart not to discuss the topic of narcissism. They won’t be convinced of anything you say because they lack the desire to understand. When that wall is up, it stays up, & nothing you say can make a difference. Stick to more neutral topics with this person, & if you need to discuss something you’ve been through, then seek out someone who understands.
On Mother’s Day, I came across a very good article called “A Mother’s Day Card For The Disposable Child.” One sentence in particular hit home with me.. “She walked away from me and shamed me for asking for a healthier way of relating. If I wanted to go back to the old way, I suspect she’d accept me as her daughter again.” Reading this sentence, I thought about my parents & that is exactly our situation.
As usual when reminded of something so dysfunctional about my parents, it really made me sad. I knew I needed to deal with this rather than bury it, but I just wanted to finish the article first. As I scrolled down I read the letter the author wrote to her mother, but never sent. Upon reading this, what I needed to do clicked in my mind. I needed to write a letter to each of my parents, but never send them.
Have you ever done this, Dear Reader? Have you ever written out what you would love to say to your parents if it was completely safe to do so? If not, I urge you to do this.
Writing things out can be a very therapeutic experience. There is something validating about seeing things in writing rather than simply remembering them. It makes experiences seem more real.
Also, by writing things out, you are in charge of who sees what you write. You can hide it so no one but you & God know about it (I like an online, password protected diary), or you can add to it & turn it into a book. You are totally in control. When speaking things out, there can be interruptions, or others can hear what you don’t want them to hear.
By writing things out, you’re safe. If you confront your narcissistic parents, you are far from safe. Narcissists don’t do confrontation. They refuse to accept responsibility for things they’ve done since that might make them look or feel bad. They will do or say anything to avoid accepting responsibility. Denial, projection, gaslighting are all distinct possible scenarios. Why subject yourself to them if it’s not necessary? Yet, you still may need to purge the awful emotions you’re experiencing. That is where writing letters you don’t send come into play.
Writing letters like this helps you to get out your feelings in a completely safe manner. You can say anything you like, in any way you like, without fear of judgment or narcissistic mind games. When I write these letters, I don’t worry about bad language or using “I” statements or anything- I let it all out, no matter how ugly it is.
Once the letter is done, I’ve noticed I feel very tired & a bit raw emotionally. It doesn’t last long, thankfully. This seems to be a typical phenomenon after doing heavy emotional work on healing. When it happens to you, just remember to be especially gentle with yourself. Do whatever self-care things make you feel loved & nurtured.
One tool narcissists love to use is calling their victim abusive. Whether overt or covert, this tactic is a favorite of the more extreme narcissists.
My overtly narcissistic mother & I were having an argument once when I was 17. As usual for that time, she had been screaming at me, literally in my face. Finally she backed off. She then balled up her fist & pulled back like she was going to hit me. I immediately closed my eyes & threw the first punch. Even as dysfunctional as I was then, I was NOT going to let anyone hit me. When I felt that I’d hit her, I opened my eyes. She was shocked I hit her, obviously since I’d never really stood up to her before. Immediately she said, “You hit me in the breast! Now I’m going to get breast cancer & die & it’ll be all your fault!!” When my father entered the room a moment later, he asked what was happening. My mother started to cry (she can turn her tears on & off like a faucet) & said I hit her, failing to mention what she did leading up to that.
My late mother in-law was a covert narcissist & extremely good at the covert part, having everyone close to her convinced she was a great person. She used to go through my purse every time I left it out of my sight when it was at her house. One time when my husband & I were at her home doing some laundry, she snooped through my dirty laundry, coat pockets & purse. She left $40 in my purse. I got my husband alone & absolutely flipped. I told him I was sick of her crap- there is NO reason for her to snoop through my things & I don’t want her $%^& hush money. YOU talk to her- she doesn’t listen to me & right now she doesn’t want me talking to her anyway. He did. The little bit I heard of the conversation, she was whining about having “allllll this cash just lying around the house” & she didn’t know what to do with it, so she wanted to do something nice for me. She claimed she had no idea why I was upset.
See what I mean? Narcissists can turn themselves into victims in pretty much any situation, no matter what craziness they have done to you. The worst part is while you are yelling or crying, they maintain complete calm. This makes you look & feel absolutely insane. Or, they pull out the tears, which makes you feel incredibly guilty.
When this kind of thing happens, remember, narcissists gain narcissistic supply from this sort of thing. They feel powerful when they can make a normally calm person act crazy. Strong emotions, whether positive or negative, make them feel powerful too because they know they have an effect on someone.
This is also good for them because if they can prove to you that you’re crazy, over reacting, etc., you will be willing to change your behavior. You’ll be ashamed of how you acted, so you’ll be more likely to listen to the narcissist’s advice on how you should act. This tactic makes a victim more pliable.
When you confront a narcissist, be as calm as humanly possible, asking God for help. The more emotion they see in you, the more they will push your buttons & the more likely their victim side will come out.
And, before confronting a narcissist, think & pray. You really need to pick your battles wisely. It’s not a good situation- narcissists need confrontation to know they can’t get away with the things they’re doing, yet confronting them often is incredibly frustrating. Sometimes, they behave worse after the confrontation because they know how to provoke a reaction from you.
From the narcissists’ flying monkeys to even the most well meaning of people, people like to tell victims of narcissistic abuse how to feel.
- “You’re too negative. You need to be more positive.”
- “You need to let that go/get over it.”
- “Aren’t you over that yet?”
- “You need to forgive & forget.”
- “You shouldn’t have let them abuse you.”
- “You need to stop thinking about it.”
- “You haven’t prayed enough.”
Early in healing, such statements add to the toxic shame you already feel stemming from the abuse. You feel ashamed of yourself for not being over it, not forgiving your abuser & forgetting their awful deeds or being so “negative.”
Later in your healing, after you’ve gained some wisdom & experience, such comments really just get under your skin. You know that there is no way to “just get over” the horrible things that have been done to you. It takes a great deal of prayer & work to heal, & even then, you may never be “over” the abuse you endured. If you live with PTSD/C-PTSD, you live with flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, depression & more every single day because of the abuse. As long as you have the disorder, you are forced to live with the abuse every day, like it or not. And forgive & forget?? HA. Even if you are able to forgive your abuser, you don’t forget abusive things done to you. It also makes you angry people tell you how to heal, as if they know what you need better than you do. So presumptuous & arrogant!
No one has the right to tell you how to feel or how you need to work on your healing. You know what you need more than anyone else. Besides, what may have worked for them doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you too. Different things work for different people.
No one has the right to blame you for being abused, saying things like “you allowed the abuse.” No, you didn’t. Abusers abuse, period. No matter what you did or didn’t do, the abuser planned to abuse you & did so, all of his or her own free will.
No matter what happened to your abuser, that does NOT give him or her the right to abuse you. Many people who grew up in a toxic environment became good, caring people as adults. Anyone that tries to excuse their abusive behavior because they had a bad childhood or other lame excuses is toxic. Avoid these people as much as possible! If you can’t avoid them entirely, at the very least have strong boundaries when you’re with them & refuse to discuss the abuse you endured.
You have the right to protect & care for your physical & mental health however works best for you.
You have the right to have & enforce healthy boundaries by whatever means work for you.
You have the right to limit or end contact with people who are detrimental to your healing, no matter if those people are friends or even family.
You have the right (& obligation) to take care of yourself, to rest on bad days, to cry when you’re sad, etc.
You have the right to feel whatever you feel. If you’re angry, you have the right to that anger. If you’re sad, you have the right to those tears. Feel the emotions so you can process them & heal, no matter who says you’re wrong for feeling such things.
You have the right to decide with who to share details of the abuse. You don’t have to share your story with everyone. Even if someone asks you what happened, you don’t have to tell them if you don’t feel comfortable with it. Besides, sharing with just anyone isn’t wise, since some people will use the information to hurt you.
I realized something this morning. When I know I’m going to have some sort of interaction with at least one of my parents, the same thing happens almost every time. I have either a nightmare about my childhood or a repressed memory come back to the forefront of my mind.
For the longest time, I assumed this was simply because I was thinking & worrying about what was coming. I believe this is wrong though. I believe God allows these things to happen as a way of enabling me to deal with my parents.
As I mentioned before, I want to go no contact with my parents, but God isn’t allowing me to tell them this. Instead, He wants them to be the ones to pull away. He has told me that by me getting healthier & tolerating less of their abuse, this will happen naturally. So far, it really has. Keeping that in mind..
My father plans to visit me on Friday (I’m writing this post on Thursday to publish Friday), & last night I had a horrible nightmare that reminded me of exactly how miserable I was growing up. I was utterly depressed, even suicidal, yet had to pretend to be happy to appease my mother. She would get mad at me if I looked depressed, so I had to hide it rather than have her yell at me & shame me. Remembering this has made me angry. Angry that my mother would shame me for my feelings, angry that my father never even noticed anything was wrong with me, angry that there was absolutely no concern that I was suicidal.
This anger I feel will help to strengthen me around my father during his visit tomorrow. As hard as I try, sometimes I still tend to fall into bad, old habits around my parents. But, when I am angry with them, the chances of that are much slimmer. I have a better focus on just how dysfunctional & abusive they really are, which helps me not to fall into their traps or for their manipulations. Once the visit is done, I will deal with my anger about the situation & heal a bit more.
Remembering traumatic things isn’t easy, I know. But, God isn’t into waste. He doesn’t allow things like this to happen for no reason. There is always a purpose. I have learned to use such things not only to help me heal by coping with the trauma I remember, but also to help me when I must deal with my parents. It’s turned out to be a good thing, albeit not an easy one.
Does this happen to you too, Dear Reader? Does something happen to make you angry before you deal with the narcissist in your life? If so, you’re not alone! It actually can be a good thing, although it doesn’t feel that way at the time. It certainly has been for me, & if it can be for me, it can be for you as well. Use that anger to help strengthen you against her manipulations. Use it as a reminder of exactly how dysfunctional the narcissist is.
No one knowingly encourages people to use or abuse them. However, some people, in particular those who have been abused before, unwittingly do so.
To prevent this from happening, you need to “…be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16, NKJV). You need to be observant & exercise wisdom.
Narcissists are particularly observant of their victims, & are very good at understanding body language. They can pick up on your mood, your strengths, your weaknesses & anything else by watching you. This enables them to know the most efficient ways to get what they want from you. If you must deal with a narcissist, you need to do the same- observe them. You will be able to pick up on their mood, etc. & this will enable you to figure out the best way to deal with them at that particular time. Unfortunately, dealing with narcissists is much like playing a chess game that you don’t want to play. You have to be two steps ahead of them if you are to deal with them successfully.
You also need to have & enforce good, healthy boundaries. Be very aware of what you are willing & not willing to tolerate. Be creative in enforcing those boundaries. Pray for God to help you if you need creative udeas. Simply saying, “It hurts me when you do…” won’t work with a narcissist. They will realize they can hurt you & continue to do the behavior. Change the subject if they’re being critical. If they are trying to control you or bully you into doing something, refuse to do it. If it’s something you want or need to do, tell them, “Of course I’ll do it since you asked so nicely!” I’ve done this with my mother, while wearing a smile, & she stopped bossing me around. Instead, she started asking me to do things.
Always maintain your calm demeanor in their presence, especially when setting boundaries. Any show of emotion will help narcissists understand what to do to hurt or use you in the most powerful, effective way. If you can avoid showing them that you’re angry or hurt, their task will be much harder. Once you’re away from them, though, you need to get your anger & hurt out of you. It’s never healthy to hold it in, but it’s necessary to do so temporarily when around narcissists.
Lastly, keep all conversations superficial. Don’t share anything important or personal with a narcissist, ever! If they ask how you’re doing, reply “fine.” What have you been up to lately? “Nothing much.” The less information they have, the less ammunition they have to hurt you with later. This is easier to do when the narcissist isn’t a parent. Keeping things from a parent feels like you’re going against nature at first. But, the more you do it, the easier it becomes, especially when you realize your narcissistic mother has less & less to criticize about you.
Narcissists have incredibly dysfunctional coping skills. Unfortunately this means that their pain can overflow onto those around them.
When my mother was still speaking to me, for about 2 years or so, she kept telling me what a great mother she was to me. She bragged about forcing me to stand up to a bully in seventh grade (she didn’t), taking me to the doctor when I sprained my foot in ninth grade (as she should have) & other ridiculous things. She also wanted me to validate her delusions, agreeing with how great a mother she was to me.
In talking with others who have a narcissistic parent or two, I have learned this behavior is very common. It’s also very painful.
For me, this used to make me so incredibly angry. How dare she want me to enforce her delusions & pretend I was never abused! I felt invalidated, as if she was pretending the abuse she put me through never happened.
God showed me something though. My mother doesn’t have any healthy coping skills, so this is what she does. She knows what she did to me is wrong, but rather than admit that, she goes into denial. She wants to convince herself she was a great mother, even going as far as to try to force me to agree with her.
As ridiculous & dysfunctional as this is, it is her choice & her right. There is no law against having dysfunctional coping skills. That being said, that choice can be respected while not reinforced.
There is no good reason to reinforce such delusions. It only allows the person to continue in their dysfunction while invalidating your own painful experiences. When approached by a narcissistic parent in this situation, I have found it best to remain as neutral & quiet as possible or to change the subject.
Also never forget- this is the narcissist’s coping skill. It has nothing to do with you even though it feels like it does. It just shows how dysfunctional she is. Remembering that helps you not to take the comments so personally & to put the responsibility right back onto the narcissist. This is all about her dysfunction & lack of coping skills- all the responsibility & baggage belongs squarely on her shoulders, period, so leave it there! Don’t take it on yourself- you deserve so much better than to carry her issues & shame.
So many of us who have suffered narcissistic abuse are simply tired. Tired after years of walking on eggshells & trying to please the unpleasable. Tired because the experience gave us C-PTSD or PTSD, which are both exhausting disorders for many reasons. Tired of working so hard, trying to heal & feel normal for once. It’d be so nice if we could just forget what has happened. Put it away like an unloved Christmas present from the mother in-law somewhere in the back of a closet where it wouldn’t see the light of day again.
Unfortunately though, that is completely unrealistic.
If you want to heal from any traumatic situation, you have to deal with it completely. This means to heal, you have to feel. Feel what, you ask? Feel the anger or the hurt. Get angry. Cry. Scream. Cuss.
Sounds wrong, doesn’t it? That is partly because narcissistic mothers shame their children for having any emotions, society shames victims for not “getting over it” immediately & the church often shames people for not “forgiving & forgetting.”
Dear Reader, I’ve been working on healing from narcissistic abuse since 2000. I bought into those lies for too long. I ignored the gentle promptings in my heart from God saying it’s OK to feel my emotions. I tried forgiving & forgetting. I tried getting angry & just couldn’t do it- I was afraid of getting angry & losing control. I also could hear my mother’s voice in my head scolding me for having “that Bailey temper.” I couldn’t even cry or grieve because I thought I was feeling sorry for myself & needed to pick myself up by my bootstraps & get over it. And, I was miserable.
I ignored God’s promptings for years until early last year. After nearly dying from carbon monoxide poisoning & suffering a concussion when I passed out from the CMP, I changed. Both of these things can change one’s personality, so it’s not a surprise that happened to me. I was surprised how I changed though. I suddenly was less able to control my emotions. I had no choice but to feel angry or sad or happy or whatever. And you know what? It’s been a blessing!!
I have been able to heal more since that happened than in the many years prior. Feeling things has enabled me to release those emotions. It’s enabled me to purge myself of the yukky emotions buried inside of me & heal. It’s much like healing an infected wound. You can slap a bandage on it, but that won’t heal it. The wound has to bleed to get the germs & infection out first, then it can heal.
Another bonus of feeling my emotions has been I’ve learned how to make anger work in my favor. My mother couldn’t stand me to be angry, even simple frustration was a problem for her, so she would shame me if I displayed even mild irritation. As a result, I learned early to stuff anger deep down inside, & carried this dysfunctional behavior into my adulthood. Now, I no longer do that. I feel the anger, & when it is a righteous anger (such as when she is hateful to me), I let it give me the strength to set boundaries, walk away or even call her out on her bad behavior. Righteous anger truly is a good thing for giving you strength & motivation to make changes!
Dear Reader, don’t wait until something life altering happens- decide today that you are going to feel your feelings so you can heal. Give yourself permission to do so. Talk to someone safe & trusted about how you feel. Also, you can try the chair technique, where you place an empty chair in front of you, pretend your abuser is in it, & yell, scream, cry or whatever you want to do to vent your feelings. If you don’t feel comfortable verbalizing them, then write them down somewhere safe from prying eyes. You can pray silently too- God certainly will listen!
And, when you’re feeling your feelings, get it all out! Don’t worry if your language is bad. Do you think God’s never heard those words before?! He gets that you are that hurt, angry or frustrated! It’s much better to get that ugliness out of you than let it fester inside of you.
Please remember, to heal it, you have to feel it. You can do this! I know it’s scary at first, but do it anyway. Ask God to give you the strength & courage to face those ugly, scary, traumatic things head on so you can heal from them. Once you do this, those awful memories will feel more like a bad dream than something you’ve actually lived through. That is how you know that event has lost its hold over you.
Growing up, I really had no knowledge about God. My mother said if you’re good you go to Heaven, bad you go to Hell. No explanation of what was good or bad, & I had no idea how Jesus fit into the equation.
As things got worse with my mother as I got older, I decided I had absolutely no use for God. Obviously He didn’t care about me since I was going through so much at home. In fact, I believed He couldn’t even exist. How could a loving God exist & let me go through the things I did?
It wasn’t until I was in my twenties I realized how faulty this thinking was. I finally realized God did indeed exist & cared deeply about the pain I went through. That is when my healing began
If you are being or have been abused, I understand it can be very tempting to give up on God, or at least to think He doesn’t care about your pain. The truth though, Dear Reader, is that God hurts when you hurt. He is angry about what has been done to you, too. He knows all too well the unfairness of it all.
That may be hard to believe when you’re hurting, but it’s very true. Please don’t give up on God for not saving you from bad situations. The truth is He doesn’t force people to do anything, even when it’s in their best interest. God is a gentleman, never forcing people to do anything. He may suggest things, show evidence that certain things are a good idea & others bad ideas, but He never forces anything. He leaves the final decision on what to do up to each person & unfortunately many people make bad decisions. They ignore God’s promptings & do whatever they feel like. That is NOT God’s fault- the blame lies squarely on their shoulders. Why get mad at God for people making bad choices since it’s not His fault?
Dear Reader, God is in your corner. He always has been & always will be. If you wonder where He was when you were being abused, He was there, crying over your suffering. He was angry for you. He was distraught that your abuser didn’t pay attention to His promptings not to do these things.
Now that it’s over? God is there by your side, wanting to hug you & make it all better. He wants to help you through your pain. Let Him. Don’t get mad at God & shut Him out. Let Him help you instead. He will show you how to heal & how to make your pain count for something good. I know that sounds impossible, but it’s very true. He has done this for me & will do the same for you, too.
Most people who have learned at least a little about NPD & narcissistic abuse have heard of different types of children of narcissists: the golden child, the scapegoat & the forgotten child. Their roles are:
- Golden child: The extension of a narcissistic parent, this child can do no wrong. Praise & gifts are heaped upon him even into adulthood. The golden child is the one most likely to become a narcissist.
- Scapegoat: The exact opposite of the golden child, the scapegoat is the reason for everything that is wrong in the family, according to the narcissistic parent. Scapegoats are the children most likely to seek out the truth of the situation & escape.
- Forgotten Child: This child gets lost in the shuffle. Not good enough to be the golden child or bad enough to be the scapegoat, the forgotten child barely gets noticed. They try hard for their parents’ attention, even well into adulthood.
There is another child that I’ve never read about, but have seen. The family screw up.
The family screw up isn’t the same as the scapegoat, but there are some similarities. The screw up isn’t to blame for all of the problems in the family like the scapegoat is, but like the scapegoat, he can do nothing right. Growing up, he takes courses in school or college his parents disapprove of. He doesn’t participate in the right activities either. As an adult, he marries the wrong person, works the wrong career & does nothing worthy of his narcissistic parents’ approval. He is a constant disappointment to his parents.
When my husband & I first started dating, he told me he was the family screw up. It didn’t take long to see what exactly he meant, even though at the time I knew nothing of narcissism. I seemed to be his biggest mistake, at least according to his mother, but it also seemed very clear he could do nothing right according to his parents unless he was doing something for them. He was met with constant looks of disapproval from his parents, sometimes even followed by a grunt or sigh of disapproval. He was very accustomed to it, but it still hurt him deeply.
I have seen him find some ways to cope that have helped him greatly. If you too are the family screw up, I think this information may help you as well.
Giving up the hope of having parental approval. It’s hard to do at first, but any child of a narcissistic parent (or two) needs to accept the fact they will NOT get approval from their parent(s). The golden child may get it briefly sometimes, but even that is fleeting. No child of a narcissistic parent ever can have their parent’s approval for more than a brief moment, & even that is very rare. If you can accept that, & release the need for it, you will be much happier.
Decide to live in a way that pleases God & not your parents, or any person. 1 Thessalonians 4:1 states, “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.” (KJV) People, especially narcissists are very hard to please. They often change what they want, so what may please them today won’t please them next week. God isn’t like that! He is constant, & He is not self-serving like people. Live to please Him instead of mankind- you will be much happier!
Choose what contact works best for you, & know it may be subject to change at anytime. Many people go from constantly talking with their narcissistic parents to lower & lower contact until they go no contact. They find as they get healthier, they can tolerate their narcissistic parents less & less. Some are able to maintain low contact. Every person & every situation is different- you need to pray & pray often about your individual situation & let God lead you to make the decision that will be best for you.
Narcissists know how to push every button you have & many you weren’t even aware of having. They do this in order to provoke an emotional reaction from you. Whether you’re angry or hurting, your reaction makes them feel powerful, which in turn provides narcissistic supply, & makes them feel good. That is why they often act much like a machine gun with their cruelty- quickly pumping out verbally abusive comments one right after another. The more they can hurt or anger you, the better they feel. When you have pretty much fallen apart, they are deliriously happy.
If you want to put a stop to this behavior, join the club! We all do. There isn’t any way I know of to stop it entirely. But, there are some ways to slow this down. One very effective way is to learn to respond, not react.
Reaction is done immediately, often without thinking. If a doctor uses that little hammer & taps your knee is a certain spot, your reaction is for your leg to kick. That is the type of response narcissists want from you- immediate anger or hurt without thinking as soon as they have said or done something hateful.
Responding however is different. It’s slower & more deliberate. You take time to think, possibly even putting your emotions aside before you give any sort of response. This is not what narcissists want, & that, Dear Reader is a good thing!
The more you react emotionally to a narcissist, the more buttons they will push to get you to react more. It’s a vicious cycle. However, the less reaction you give them, the less interest they will have in hurting you.
Responding can seem impossible to do at first, but it really does get easier & easier with practice. The best way I personally learned to do this is a technique common to caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. When something is said or done, stop for a second. Take a deep breath in & out, then speak. That brief moment of the deep breath helps you to think, & also to remind yourself why you must stay calm & focused. Plus the deep breath relaxes you. This technique enables you to stay calm & focused in the face of sheer madness.
I urge you to give this a try the next time you must deal with the narcissist in your life. It really does help you. I have done this when speaking with my narcissistic father. Now that he has Alzheimer’s, the narcissism has gotten worse than ever. I don’t feel right about being too harsh with him since it’s the Alzheimer’s making it worse rather than him deliberately trying harder to get attention or hurt me. (Dementia & Alzheimer’s can make someone with NPD act worse) But, at the same time, I need to protect myself. Stopping long enough to take in & release that deep breath helps me to maintain my composure & give a decent response rather than an angry reaction. It may help you as well! Try it- what do you have to lose?
All narcissists, whether covert or overt, whether high or low on the spectrum, are all about gaining that coveted narcissistic supply to make them feel good. Educating yourself on how they get that supply is important so you understand why they are behaving the way they are & protect yourself accordingly.
Covert narcissists are much different & more difficult to deal with (at least in my opinion) than overt narcissists. At least overt narcissists are open about their abuse. Coverts? They are much sneakier & more devious in the ways they abuse their victims. In fact, it takes most victims a lot longer to realize they are being abused by a narcissist when their abuser is a covert narcissist.
Overt narcissists are easy to spot. They are the ones bragging about their accomplishments, talking non stop about themselves, showing no empathy to anyone (& sometimes even bragging about that fact), & having no interest in other people beyond what those people can do for them.
Covert narcissists however are much harder to recognize. They like to give the impression of being kind & giving, even to the point of martyrdom. They’re often married to overt narcissists, & look like the innocent victim of that person’s bad behavior. They rarely, often never, stand up to the overt narcissist, saying there’s nothing they can do. Even if the overt narcissist abuses their child, the covert claims there’s nothing he can do to stop his wife. It’s so hard for him watching his wife abuse their child. He portrays himself as the real victim, not the child, even to the point of expecting the child to console him. (My father has done this as has my mother in-law). Covert narcissists can fake empathy & concern for others, although if you look closely, you’ll see it’s simply an act on their part. They also often mirror others, attempting to act like their victim to make the victim feel closer to them.
These differences in overt & covert narcissists also mean they get their narcissistic supply differently as well.
Overt narcissists want lots of praise & admiration. If they are the center of attention, that makes them incredibly happy. They are quite happy if you don’t talk, allowing them to control the conversation. In fact, openly controlling you, not only the conversation, will make them gloriously happy.
Covert narcissists are much more subtle. As I mentioned above, they get narcissistic supply by looking like a martyr. Being married to an overt narcissist is ideal for them, because they get pity for what they put up with & being unable to get out of the situation. They also appear modest when getting a complement, I think because this often makes people fuss more over them. Coverts are also very controlling, but not so obviously as their overt counterparts. For example, I’ve told my parents I don’t like calls after 9 p.m. My covertly narcissistic father has ignored this repeatedly. I decided I was going to drive the point home, & ignore him when he called at 9:15 once. From 9:15 until 10, he called 15 times. I let the phone ring… until my cousin called at 10:15. He lives 450 miles away & never calls me so late, so I was worried about him. It turns out my father called my cousin to tell my cousin to tell me to call my father! And, my cousin said my father had called my in-laws who he knows I haven’t spoken to in years. He told my cousin & father in-law he was worried sick about me since I didn’t answer his call. He looked like a caring father when in fact, he just wanted to control me- he wanted me to answer his call no matter what I wanted or felt. I didn’t call my father back that night. Instead, he called me early the next morning, & was obviously upset that I didn’t call him that night. If I had called, he would’ve gotten his narcissistic supply by being able to control me- it would’ve made him feel powerful. Instead, I told him exactly why I didn’t take his call, & after that he never called me after 9 again.
I recently realized narcissists also get narcissistic supply by rescuing you. I asked God once why does my father want to tell me how to fix any problems in my life or seem disappointed when I don’t need his help. God showed me that rescuing me provides narcissistic supply. It would make him feel like he’s doing something good by helping me, & not in the normal way helping people makes most people feel good. It goes deeper than that. Covert narcissists feel that helping others proves that they are good people. They hope the person they helped will tell others about what was done for them. They also bring it up periodically, hinting for praise. “Did that money I gave you help you get your car fixed?” “This room sure looks better since I helped you to paint it!” The goal of such comments is for you to say something about how grateful you are for their help, or maybe you couldn’t have done it without them.
Overt narcissists aren’t so subtle when they help you. They may bring it up often, remind you that you owe them or that you wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what you did without them. I’m not sure about other overt narcissists, but I noticed with my mother, she doesn’t usually mention something she helped me with to my face. Instead, she tells my father & I’m not sure who else how she’s always bailed me out of trouble (which she only did once- when my dog had to go to the emergency vet). She also seems to get a thrill out of giving me money even when I don’t need it. I wondered about this for a while & asked God. It made no sense to me- I don’t ask her for help nor do I expect it from her, yet a few years ago, she started giving me money. Immediately God showed me why she does this. My parents are quite financially comfortable. Moreso than my husband & I. She enjoys reminding me that she has more money than me & can give me money without worrying about not being able to pay bills.
I pray you learn all you can about narcissistic supply, so if you must deal with a narcissist, you learn what not to do. The less supply you provide, the less interested the narcissist will be in you.
Since writing my newest book, I have been feeling more of a pull to help those who don’t know why certain people in their lives treat them so badly.
I used to wonder why my mother treated me so poorly. I felt as if I was a bother & huge disappointment to her, & like I should stay invisible until she needed me for something. My ex husband said she treated me badly, but once we were married he treated me the same way. Both wanted to control me- how I looked, what work I did, who I spent time with, even what kind of car I owned.
I never thought of this as abusive. Not right, sure, but abuse left bruises. If they didn’t leave bruises or broken bones, it couldn’t be abuse, right? Wrong.
Abuse comes in many forms. Most everyone knows about physical abuse- when someone causes physical harm to another person. But, did you know physical abuse doesn’t have to cause injuries? It is also physical abuse to be threatening (such as punching walls), refusing to allow someone to leave, or driving recklessly.
There is also sexual abuse. Forcing intercourse while threatening with a weapon isn’t the only way a person can be raped or sexually abused. Saying things like, “If you loved me, you would do this for me” is sexual abuse. Disregard for a partner’s physical or emotional pain & forcing want you want on them through physical means or guilt is sexual abuse. These are very common examples of sexual abuse that most people do not consider abusive, yet they are. Behaviors like these leave victims very anxious or depressed, feeling ashamed, guilty & often thinking things like they are being silly since this request isn’t so bad, they should just do what their partner wants & ignore their own needs/feelings/wants or even that there is something deeply wrong with them for not wanting to go along with their partner’s request. Others who have not experienced this type of abuse don’t understand the damage it can do. Many people don’t think a husband can rape his wife, so when she tells people that he did, she is treated as if she is crazy. Sexual abuse is extremely damaging in so many ways.
If you have read much of my work, you know I discuss narcissistic abuse a great deal. That is because it is extremely common. Many psychologically abusive people are narcissists. (psychological abuse includes mental/verbal/emotional abuse). People who manipulate others, put their needs/wants/feelings/etc. above those of others, who are extremely critical either overtly or more subtly, tell others how to feel, or invalidate you are often narcissistic. You can read more about narcissistic abuse on my website, http://www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com
Because these kinds of abuse leave no bruises, many victims are told get over it, that it’s no big deal or even doubt that what the victim claims is true. This leaves victims alone, depressed, & often feeling as if they’re going crazy. Abuse also can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
If you are in one of these situations, please know you’re not alone! You also aren’t crazy! If you feel something is wrong, then it is wrong. Trust your instincts! Also, pray. God will show you the truth. He will show you what is wrong in the situation as well as what you need to do to escape it & to heal.
If you are looking for safe people to talk to, I have a Facebook group. The members are kind, caring, supportive & wise. You’re very welcome to join us if you like. 🙂
As anyone subjected to a narcissist for any length of time knows, narcissists love to control other people. It gives them a sense of power, which gives them narcissistic supply, in other words, feeds their ego.
One tool they use that seems innocuous is interrupting others.
Interrupting seems like simple bad manners, but with narcissists, it is much more.
Narcissists only care about themselves & procuring narcissistic supply, & interrupting gives them a couple of ways to gain that supply.
For one thing, interrupting is often done if the other person in the conversation is not discussing the narcissist or anything about the narcissist’s life. The narcissist will interrupt & turn the conversation back to what she wants to talk about- herself, her accomplishments, how talented she is, etc. Most people who have been interrupted allow the conversation to take the new turn, seldom returning to the original topic.
Another reason narcissists interrupt is that taking over a conversation gives them a sense of power. They were able to redirect the conversation, which makes them feel powerful, & provides narcissistic supply.
Interrupting may seem not worth fighting over, but anything that provides a narcissist supply can make them want to use you more & more. That is why it is vital if you’re in any relationship with a narcissist to provide as little supply as possible. The more supply you provide, the more they will use & abuse you.
Interrupting is pretty simple to deal with. My narcissistic mother uses this tactic constantly, & I have learned from her the best way to deal with it is not to deal with it. I ignore her as much as possible & show no reaction to her. If I’m talking with someone else & she interrupts, I ignore whatever she is talking about, then when she is finished talking, resume the conversation she interrupted.
Sometimes, she uses more unusual methods of interrupting. Once in a restaurant, my father & I were talking about a topic she wasn’t interested in. As we spoke, she picked up a napkin, held it to her nose & acted like she was blowing her nose, making loud, gross noises with her mouth. My father & I stopped talking, & she took the napkin away, & began laughing a very creepy, unsettling laugh. It was painfully obvious she did this to get attention, & it worked. Not only were my father & I looking at her, several others in the restaurant were as well. Thank God, He showed me immediately she just wanted attention, so I quickly resumed the conversation with my father, as if nothing happened. When ridiculous antics are her interruption tool of choice, I ignore them too.
The same goes for nasty comments to interrupt. When she says something hateful, it’s obvious it’s just to gain attention/supply. Another example was during dinner with my parents & grandmother once many years ago. My mother told my father what to order. He said he wanted a change, & asked what I was going to get. I said the taco salad, & he decided to try one. When dinner arrived, he & I were talking. My mother looked at our plates & loudly said, “It looks like someone threw up on your plates.” I acted as if she hadn’t said a thing, & continued talking to my father. It annoyed her- my father reacted to her by giving her a shocked expression, but I ignored her. I’m sure the goal was to get an equal reaction out of me.
Ignoring is pretty easy, but sometimes having no reaction can be difficult. If you remember exactly why this is happening, & how you do NOT want to provide narcissistic supply, that helps you to stay calm.
Prayer also helps. Ask God to help you before you answer that phone or visit your narcissistic mother. He truly will not disappoint you!
Once your visit is done, you’re going to be angry &/or hurt. Don’t hold it in! Get it out by praying, talking with a safe person, or journalling. Maybe a combination of all of them. Whatever works for you.
By staying calm & ignoring your narcissistic mother’s petty interruptions, you are taking back control. It also will frustrate her, & she will use this tactic less & less frequently.
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Double bind situations are another common weapon of narcissists. This means they create a no win situation for you.
The most frustrating example I can think of from my own life happened when I was 17 years old. I recently started my first job at the local library, which is where my now ex husband was working. We struck up a fast friendship, much to my narcissistic mother’s dismay. She absolutely hated him upon first sight.
We often worked the same shift, closing the library. One night after work, we left the building together. My mother had come to pick me up (as I was not allowed to have a license or car), and told me never to leave work with him again because she hated him. The next time we worked together, he volunteered to hang back so I could leave first. Upon getting in the car, my mother said, “So the coward is hiding! He can’t even face me!” The next time, he left first and I hung back. Her response that time was to yell at me for him being so “cocky”, leaving work like that.
It was a completely, damned if I do, damned if I don’t situation. And, when trying to talk to her about it, she screamed at me. I should have known what to do, according to her. What was wrong with me for not being able to figure it out?
My mother created the perfect double bind situation. And it was miserable!
Double binds are all about control. Because you did something wrong (at least according to the narcissist), you will try something else in order to please her. When that is wrong, you will try something else. These situations may not seem controlling at first, because you are not being openly controlled. My mother never told me what she wanted- she simply expected me to know what she wanted, then screamed at me for not giving it to her. Other times when she has created these situations, she refused to speak to me in order to “punish” me for disobeying her orders that she never gave.
So how does one deal with the double bind situation? It is not easy. There is no way to deal with them completely successfully. With the situation with my ex husband at our work? I told him leave before or after me, or walk out with me. Nothing would please my mother, so why bother trying? Any time we worked together, my mother would either scream at me or more quietly tell me what a horrible person he was, and how stupid I was for spending time with someone so horrible. I figured since I was going to be screamed at anyway, I might as well do what I was comfortable with.
It also helps to remember that it is a double bind situation. There is nothing wrong with you- there is, however, something very wrong with a person who puts another person in such a situation!
Protect yourself with firm boundaries that you enforce however you need to.
Refuse to engage this person. When you are told what you are doing or have done is wrong in spite of there being no other solution, you can respond with, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” (Admittedly, that is a passive/aggressive sounding response, but it is suitable in this situation.) Change the subject. Do not apologize for your actions if you believe you were right.
Never show emotion. Emotion, good or bad, feeds narcissists their supply. Do not give them supply!!! The more supply you provide, the more they will take from you however they can get it.
Narcissists are obsessed with procuring narcissistic supply, which is anything that makes them feel good about themselves. Even negative attention can provide that precious supply, because to be angry at or even hate someone, you have to feel something for that person. (If you feel nothing for a person, they cannot anger or upset you because you simply do not care about them.) As I have said before, love them or hate them, it is not important to a narcissist. They can handle either love or hate, but never apathy.
One way narcissists obtain their coveted narcissistic supply is by baiting their victims. Baiting is anything done or said to achieve a negative or emotional response from someone. If they can make you angry, they have power over you. It makes them feel powerful and important. It proves to them that they matter.
As an example from my life, my mother loves to pick on my car. (Many of you know the story of my car. It was my Granddad’s, who gave it to my father in 1976. My father sold it to a junkyard rather than repair it in 1979. I stumbled across it in 2005, thinking it was simply a twin to their car. Shortly after getting the car, my father showed me the VIN he had written down in the 70’s from what had been his car. It matched mine- I have the same car that Granddad gave to my father!) My mother knows I was very close to Granddad & I love this car, so when she runs out of other ammunition, she tells me things like, “I wonder how many junk cars like yours are still on the road,” or, “I would NEVER own a car your granddad owned!” (Even though she did for 3 years). The first couple of times she said such things, I admit, I got angry. Livid even. Until I realized that was the goal. She wanted me upset so she could show herself & any other witnesses how horrible & crazy I really am. I realized it when I started to yell at her then she got a glimmer in her eye. Here we were, in a restaurant where one of my former teachers worked, and I was yelling at my innocent looking elderly mother. I stopped immediately. I refused to give her that supply!
If you too have been baited by a narcissist, know you are not alone. I think it is one of their favorite tactics, especially as they get older.
There are several ways a narcissist can bait a victim. Some examples are:
• You are accused of doing something outrageous and out of character, such as cheating on your spouse, doing drugs, or abusing your children.
• Insulting something or someone you love.
• They damage a piece of your property, usually claiming it to be accidental.
Baiting triggers your body’s fight or flight response, usually fight. Your adrenaline kicks in and heart rate increases in preparation for a fight. As a result, you do not have as much control over your responses. You do not think of good ways to respond until much later. Your body is using its resources for physical fighting rather than mental, which is why this happens.
There are some successful ways to deal with baiting. To start with, always remember that this behavior is baiting. It is designed to elicit a negative reaction from you to provide the baiter with narcissistic supply. It really is not personal against you- it is to make a sick person feel better about themselves by having so much control over you, you get very angry or burst into tears.
Do not fall into the trap! Stop for a moment to take a deep breath, then respond. DO NOT REACT!! Immediate reactions are never good- a response works much better because it means you have put some thought into what you say or do. Reactions happen without any thought. I wrote a blog post about it. You can see it at this link: https://cynthiabaileyrug.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/responding-vs-reacting/
Leave this person’s company or hang up the phone. Why be stuck in this position if you do not have to?
Most importantly, show no emotion at all. Act is if this person said she was going to pick up a loaf of bread at the grocery store later rather than something so cruel, it cut you to the quick. The less reaction you have, the less likely it is for the narcissist to use this to hurt you again or continuing trying to bait you in this area.
Once you are out of this person’s presence, vent. Get your anger and hurt out. Pray. Cry. Journal. Talk to a supportive friend or relative, maybe even a counselor or pastor. Honestly, what is said when someone baits you is hurtful, otherwise it would not be bait! While you should not let the person baiting you see it, that does not mean you need to carry around that hurt and anger. Get it out of you- you deserve so much better than carrying it around!
God gave me yet another experience last night on just how badly He wants to help His children. I realized I needed to write it out but rather than simply write it all in my journal, I thought I would share here in the hopes of blessing you, Dear Reader. I apologize in advance- this probably will be long.
A few weeks back, I developed psoriasis on my face, surrounding my mouth. Never had it before-I’ve always had clear, healthy skin- so it’s been rather upsetting feeling like I resemble Freddy Krueger. Immediately I looked up what causes this awful skin condition & how to treat it. For some odd reason, I never thought to ask God about it (not proud of this!). I chalked it up to stress since it started not long after I lost one of my precious cats plus a few days later had the big fight with my parents, & hormone imbalances. But, my husband kept saying how odd the location was. Most people get psoriasis on their arms or backs or chests, but not me. I agreed, it was odd, but had no answers & for whatever reason, didn’t think to ask God about it.
Last night, I went into the bathroom to put cream on my face. I looked in the mirror & was glad to see the psoriasis is improving, slowly but surely. I began to wonder why it was where it was, & suddenly, God spoke to my heart, & I knew the answer!
When I had that fight with my parents, I broke their rules- I yelled at them & even used some bad language. I had been so caught up in feeling the pain of my loss plus the anger & hurt at my parents, I didn’t even realize I felt guilty for breaking the rules. I also felt guilty for feeling nothing for my parents. Any emotions died for them during that argument- it was my final straw with them. So while yes, stress & hormones played a part in why I got the psoriasis in the first place, my own guilt was why it’s around my mouth- because my mouth was the “problem.” Kind of punishing myself for what I did. The body is a strange yet interesting thing. It can take out its own feelings on itself in very unusual ways, which is what happened to me.
Once I put the cream on, I returned to the other room, & got into prayer. Years ago, I read Craig Hill’s book “Ancient Paths” about emotional healing. I used one of his techniques that I’ve found extremely helpful. I asked God if I should feel guilty for how I spoke to my parents. Was I wrong? Was I overreacting? Before I could even finish what I was asking Him, immediately, He said I absolutely was NOT wrong- this was exactly what they needed. They may disagree with me, but they needed to know that they really hurt me with their selfish ways. They also wouldn’t have listened to me if I had spoken in a reasonable way about the topic- they wouldn’t have realized how devastated I was by their behavior. They needed to see their reasonable, normally calm daughter so upset, that she acted totally out of character to understand the depths of how badly they hurt me. Basically, they don’t understand or empathize with my feelings, but they know they hurt me. Apparently that is something God wanted them to know.
As I was thinking about this after praying, I had a flashback..thankfully, it was the “mildest” one I’ve ever had. I remembered back to 10th grade. The boyfriend of one of my friends was hit by a car while riding his bike. The day after the accident, everyone in school was talking about it.. in all the gory details. Although I didn’t know this boy well, it was still horrific hearing about what happened. I lost my appetite so I just took my lunch back home after the school day. Later, my mother asked why I didn’t eat my lunch, so I told her. Her response was awful. Rather than show concern for this boy who happened to be the son of one of her friends, or show concern for me being obviously upset, she attacked me. In an extremely shaming tone, she said things like, “You must really like him to be so affected by this.” She shamed me for being romantically interested in this boy when the truth was I was simply upset someone I knew might die from a horrific accident. The flashback reminded me of all the shame I felt that day. Shame for doing nothing wrong!
After that, I remembered a similar incident. Also in 10th grade, I took driver’s ed. They showed what were known as “blood & gut” films- footage of the aftermath of car accidents. The premise was to scare us enough to be careful drivers. The films gave me nightmares. One of which involved a fellow student from my economics class dead on the hood my grandfather’s Oldsmobile. I still remember the nightmare- it was very vivid & terrible. Strange too- I barely knew him, so I have no idea why he was even in my dream. When I told my mother of this, her only concern was whether or not I thought this boy was “cute.” Again, I was shamed for being interested in a boy that I had no interest in as my feelings were ignored.
As I pondered these awful memories, I asked God what this was all about. He showed me why my mother has acted so outrageously in these instances. She doesn’t genuinely care about other people, she hasn’t the ability to, & is jealous that I do. Also, when I skipped lunch that day, it was proof I don’t have her issues with food (she’s an emotional eater), which was another reason for her to be angry with me. Basically I reminded her of a flaw she has. And lastly, my mother didn’t want me to be interested in boys because that would mean she was losing control of me. If she could shame me for being interested in them, that would prevent me from being interested, & I would remain under her control.
Interestingly, by the way, as difficult as this all should have been remembering such nasty things, it wasn’t too bad. I’m a bit tired today & have some mild body aches, but not bad compared to when other flashbacks have happened. God strengthened me & enabled me to handle these things. It was as if He was somehow holding my hand as I faced things. I’m not sure how else to explain it, but I’m truly grateful He enabled me to do this!
The reason God reminded me of these instances was to show me that I have no reason to feel guilty. There is no reasoning with my mother. In her eyes, I am nothing but a tool to be used. I mean absolutely nothing to her beyond what I can do for her. Why should I feel any guilt or shame for not being willing to tolerate being treated as such? And, in both of those instances, she was completely unreasonable & she put the weight of her issues on me. This is not a safe person, nor is this someone I should feel bad for standing up to, mother or not.
As for my father, he did nothing to defend me to my mother after those instances. He didn’t speak one word to her about her ridiculous behavior. This was typical of him. In fact, he even told me how hard it was for him watching me go through what I did with her when her abuse hit its peak in my late teens. I ended up comforting him when he said that, when should have been comforting & protecting me.
All of this really got to the root of some problems, which is awesome. Admittedly, it’s not fun, but to deal properly with problems, you need to get to the root of them. As hard as remembering such things was, I am truly grateful God showed me such things because now I can heal & ditch the guilt & shame I have felt the past two months. Hopefully the psoriasis will heal quicker now too.
If God did this for me, He certainly will do the same for you, Dear Reader. He wants you to be healed & enjoy your life! If you allow Him, He will gently guide you on the right road for your healing & strengthen you to face whatever you need to face! And, once you face those demons, you can be set free!
Not everyone realizes the differences between flashbacks & repressed memories returning, so I thought today I would explain them.
Repressed memories are memories of events so traumatic, you were unable to deal with them at the time they happened. To cope, almost immediately, you unconsciously pushed it to the dark recesses of your mind, & forgot about it. Then some time later (could be months, could be years later), something triggered a reminder of the event. The trigger could be anything- a facial expression, a scent, the sight of something that resembles an item that was there when the event happened or a sound. When the trigger forces the memory back to your conscious mind, suddenly you remember what happened. It feels the same as remembering anything else you forgot in the sense that you are well aware it is simply a memory.
Flashbacks are quite different. Flashbacks aren’t necessarily something you forgot. You may or may not remember the event before the flashback. The main difference between repressed memories & flashbacks is flashbacks feel like you’re reliving the event. For me, this is what makes flashbacks so much worse than repressed memories- the feeling of reliving a traumatic event while trying to stay in reality. Flashbacks can be triggered by something, such as the soldier who has flashbacks when he hears fireworks, but sometimes they simply happen without an obvious trigger. Also different than repressed memories are the physical symptoms that can accompany flashbacks, such as elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, sweating or chills, & trembling. My husband has seen me have flashbacks many times, & even so, he can’t always tell when it happens. I tend to get very quiet & still. Sometimes I cry, sometimes not. Flashbacks aren’t always obvious to those witnessing someone have them. Not everyone having a flashback is vocal or shows obvious physical signs when they happen.
If you’re having a flashback, it is vital for you to know how to ground yourself so you stay in reality rather than get lost in the awful memory, which obviously is different than having a repressed memory return to the forefront of your mind. Grounding techniques basically assault your senses, which forces your mind to focus on them instead of the flashback. Touching something with an extreme texture such as a soft fuzzy blanket, silk or even burlap can help. Some people swear by holding ice cubes or stomping their feet hard on the ground. Smelling something with a strong scent can help too. Lavender is good because not only is it strong, it has anti-anxiety properties. A strongly scented cologne, perfume or soap can help.
I’ve found that pets can be very helpful while having a flashback, even if they aren’t specifically trained to be service animals. While taking my cat, Sabrina, to the vet when she was a baby, I drove us past a place I used to work when I was a teenager. Looking at the building, I immediately had a flashback to a time when my mother screamed at & berated me in the parking lot. (Thankfully, I was stopping at a red light when it began- I can’t imagine having to deal with a flashback while driving!) As I sat there & tried to ground myself, Sabrina reached over & scratched my hand. Not bad, but it was enough to jolt me out of the flashback. She’s never scratched me before or since, but I’m grateful she did that day. Her brother, Zippy, will get in my face & head bonk me to get my attention. Neither are trained service animals, but they instinctively know what their mommy needs.