Tag Archives: dysfunction
Growing up a scapegoat is a nightmare. You can do absolutely nothing right. Any & all family problems are blamed on you, whether or not you actually had any responsibility in them. Doing this allows the abusive family members to maintain their illusion of normalcy because in their eyes, clearly you are the problem. Your family lies to & about you constantly, causing you to have no decent relationships, especially within your own family. You’re on the receiving end of all of your family’s scorn & abuse, yet if you say anything about this, it only gets worse for you.
You hope that once you turn 18 or move out, things will get better. You aren’t living under the same roof as your dysfunctional family or at least you’re able to escape home which is helpful in minimizing exposure to these awful people. That is all it does though, minimize exposure. They still abuse you.
Being a scapegoat can feel like you are in the worst position in the world with no hope of ever experiencing freedom, but believe it or not, there is some good that comes with a scapegoat.
Scapegoats are known for being the black sheep of their family. They’re different in that they want to learn & grow. They don’t want to continue the pattern of dysfunction that runs in their family. Standing out from this crowd is a good thing!
Scapegoats are also known as truth tellers. They are usually the only ones in dysfunctional families who aren’t concerned with their family’s reputation. They are more concerned with the truth. They are incredibly brave, because telling the truth about your dysfunctional family is so hard. Dysfunctional families can’t handle people knowing the truth about them, so if one of them divulges it, that one must be punished. They will attack this person & smear their good name. They will treat the person as if they’re crazy, & none of what they claim happened actually happened. They will abandon the truth teller when they need love & support the most. They do all of this because protecting their family’s reputation & their delusions of having a big, happy family are more important than the scapegoat’s mental health.
Interestingly, the rejection of the scapegoat by his or her family can make the scapegoat intensely appreciative of good relationships. They highly value their friends & romantic partners who aren’t abusive, & don’t hesitate to let them know how loved & appreciated they are. This makes them fantastic friends & spouses.
Due to their experiences, scapegoats also have great empathy. Having known intense suffering, they truly understand what it’s like to suffer, & don’t want others to feel as they have. They want to help others too because they know what it’s like not to have help when in need. They are often some of the kindest people you can meet.
Also due to their experiences, scapegoats often think differently than most people. Their different perspective can be very helpful for them as well as other people. They give unique & often very helpful advice or simply offer a perspective that someone never considered.
As adults, scapegoats also often become advocates for victims of all kinds of abuse. They help to raise awareness, to educate & even offer comfort to other victims.
In telling you these things, I’m not saying that if you were the scapegoat in your family, you should be grateful. I really am not sure such a perspective is healthy. That being said, I do hope that you recognize yourself in these good qualities. You should be proud of the person you’ve become! All of that abuse was meant to destroy you, yet it did nothing of the sort. Instead, you became the wonderful person you are today. Be proud of your strength, courage & wonderfulness!
Probably no one wants to create the appearance of a big happy family more than the most dysfunctional families. Holidays give them the opportunity to pretend that is what they have by inviting everyone to some big hoopla & pretending everyone gets along. These families ignore the fact that someone in this family has abused someone else, & they invite both people to their get together.
This big happy family charade forces many people to make an awful choice – be face to face with their abuser or spend holidays alone. Neither is a good solution for the victim. I know, because this was my life for many years.
My in-laws always had huge get togethers on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s day, Father’s day… you name it. I ideally wanted to spend holidays with my husband rather than his family who clearly hated me, maybe at best spending some time with them on another day near the holiday. This wasn’t acceptable, however. Holidays were to be celebrated on the exact day, no exceptions & no excuses for not being there. Until my husband’s parents died, you probably could count on one hand how many holidays we spent together because I quit going. Sadly, spending holidays alone was a better option to me than spending it with the people who treated me like dirt, even though it ultimately resulted in me detesting holidays.
I believe many other people are in this same boat or at least a similar one. You want to spend the holidays with someone but they want invite your abuser to the same gathering, or they refuse to stop attending the gathering that your abuser attends.
You need to know today that your feelings are valid. In essence, this person is choosing your abuser over you, & you have every right to be angry & hurt about that. Accept that your anger & hurt are valid emotions! Cope with them however works for you.
Maybe this person feels it’d be rude not to invite the abusive person or for them not to attend the same gathering. In dysfunctional families, in particular narcissistic ones, it’s all about appearances. No one wants to shun someone even if they are abusive.
Most people also don’t want to face the fact that someone they care about is an abusive monster. For them, it’s easier not to acknowledge your claims of abuse. Out of sight, out of mind, basically.
There also is the possibility that you’re the safe one to make angry & the other person isn’t. Abusive people often get their way because others know that making them angry means they are going to suffer badly. Some people don’t have the inner strength to stand up to people like this. It’s easier for them to give the abuser their way. Sure, you’ll be angry, but your anger isn’t as painful for them as the abuser’s anger. Your anger may be unpleasant but at least it’s not the sheer torture of the abuser’s anger.
By saying these things, I’m not making excuses for those who choose abusers over victims in this manner. I’m just offering some explanations as to why people behave this way. Maybe it will help you not to be as hurt & angry when you see that it’s nothing to do with you. A person who does this is the one with some issues!
As for you, if you opt to avoid these gatherings, try to enjoy your day somehow. Take it as a day off for doing whatever you like. Indulge in a favorite hobby, watch movies, or even clean out the closet. Or, spend it with close friends. Do whatever will help you to enjoy your day in a healthy way, & leave the dysfunction to those who are comfortable with it. xoxo
As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge true crime buff. Pretty sure my poor husband is sick of it since when I turn the TV on, that’s usually what I end up watching.
I’ve also never been a big fan of stories with happy endings. If it suits the story, that’s fine but if it seems forced, I’m not a fan of that. I prefer real endings, even if they aren’t happy ones.
Growing up, my mother always said how negative & pessimistic I was. She made me feel abnormal for liking such “negative” things instead light, fluffy things like she did. I assumed she was right & something was wrong with me. Yet, nothing changed even into adulthood. I still dislike fluffy stories.
I finally came to a realization about my so called negativity, & I think it may help some of you as well.
So many people I’ve spoken to who were raised by narcissistic parents also dislike light, fluffy stories. They prefer something real even if it is sad. Many also share my interest in true crime.
Many who were abused by narcissistic parents also share some similarities. We often are introverts, very down to earth & interested in the deeper things in life over the superficial, in particular what makes people tick. Knowing these traits, it only makes sense that we prefer what we do.
Another thing I realized is these things allow us to feel the emotions we never were allowed to feel growing up. Narcissistic parents deny their children the right to have emotions, in particular anger or hurt over the abuse. This often carries into adulthood. We grow up not comfortable showing or sharing certain emotions, & aren’t sure how to deal with them. Feeling anything about the abuse perpetrated on us by our own parents is especially not OK, so those emotions are ignored. Since those emotions aren’t felt, they need an outlet. Watching sad movies or true crime, reading sad or unjust stories or even listening to sad songs provides that outlet. They enable you to feel the sadness or anger without feeling it as it relates to the abuse.
Something else narcissistic parents can’t tolerate is their child feeling sorry for themselves. This, too, carries into adulthood, & many struggle with feeling compassion for ourselves because of that dysfunctional teaching. Being able to feel the emotions because of songs, stories or whatever also help you to feel them while not feeling sorry for yourself. If you watch a story of a young woman who was abused & murdered by her parents, as an adult woman who was abused by her parents, you’re going to be able to relate to her story. Your heart will go out to her, & you’ll feel pity, sadness, anger at the injustice. You should be feeling such emotions for yourself, but can’t. Instead it’s redirected.
If you realize that you too behave in this manner, all hope isn’t lost! At least you’re feeling the emotions you need to. That is good. Emotions demand to be felt, so if you don’t feel them in a healthy way, they will find another outlet. This outlet isn’t as destructive as it could be, so that is a definite plus.
Some people think about themselves as a child.. if that child was in front of you, what would you tell him or her now? Wouldn’t you want that child to be open about their feelings & heal? If it helps, talk to that child. Write letters to him or her. It may help you tremendously.
Most of all, never ever forget to talk to God. He truly understands even when we don’t. He wants to help & comfort you, so why not let Him?
Enmeshment is a term used to describe when boundaries are either very weak or non existent in a relationship, most commonly within a family. Enmeshed families aren’t simply close. Closeness is healthy, but enmeshment is not. It can cause a myriad of problems for the children.
Enmeshed families share very similar traits. The children are expected to think & act like their parents, to work in the line of work their parents want them to & basically live the life their parents want them to live rather than what they want to. Children are also usually the only close “friends” of sorts that the parents have. The parents demand or guilt trip their children spend plenty of time with them rather than create an environment that would make their children want to spend time with them. Children, no matter their age, aren’t supposed to do things they want, such as spending time with people other than their parents. In fact, enmeshed parents don’t want their children to leave home. Many adult children from these families didn’t leave home at an appropriate age. Instead they lived with their parents well into their 20’s, 30’s or maybe never even moved out. These children also feel responsible for their parents, starting at a very young age. This can cause them to put their parents’ needs & wants over their own, & later also over their spouse’s needs & wants. It creates a tremendous amount of stress in a marriage.
Children in enmeshed families frequently grow up feeling out of place when they aren’t with their families. They also lack a real identity beyond who their parents tell them they are. Their self esteem is usually quite low as well. Other common problems include a lack of relationship skills & lack of understanding of healthy boundaries. They also tend to be very distrustful of people who aren’t related to them, yet tolerate any abuse their family members heap on them. Many of these adult children seek out romantic partners who need caring for, which is a pattern they learned in childhood from their needy parents.
In order to end this dysfunctional behavior, the child of enmeshed parents needs first to recognize just how dysfunctional & harmful enmeshment is. It can be very hard to do this after a lifetime of believing the lie that the enmeshment means their family is closer & healthier t han others, but it still must be done.
Next, some distance must be set between parent & child. This is also very hard, I know, especially since most likely the parent will shame the child for wanting some space, but it can be done. Start small, such as not answering their call sometimes. If your parent complains, just say you were busy (which you were.. taking care of yourself) & couldn’t get to the phone. Also don’t spend as much time with your parent as you have. Pull away a bit. Don’t be so readily available to your parent. If they need your help, unless it’s a true emergency, tell them you can’t do what they need now but you can in a few days. These small ways to start setting boundaries will strengthen you & enable you to set bigger & better boundaries in the future.
Learn who you are, too. Pay attention to what you truly want, like, think, feel… you may discover you are much different than what your parents always said you were. Or, you may have some similarities. Either way, get to know the real you & enjoy who you are.
Recognize the false guilt. If your parent does their best to make you feel guilty for not taking their call one day or not visiting them, that is ridiculous. You’re an adult with your own life! Don’t accept that false guilt!
If you have close friends who understand your situation, discuss it with them. Let them support you. And if you don’t, check online for support forums. No doubt you can find one that helps you.
Mostly, turn to God. Pray about your situation & let Him help you to heal. He loves you & will be glad to do that for you!
Narcissists seem to have a “gift” for making their victims feel that they are the problem in the relationship, that they are the ones who are dysfunctional, not the narcissist. Often, they are so talented at doing this, a victim is completely baffled as to how it happened. This post will explain some ways narcissists accomplish this.
Narcissists love gaslighting. Gaslighting is the systematic tearing down of a person’s sanity. Narcissists will deny having done something, deny the incident happened as it did, find a way to blame the victim for the problem & more. Constant gaslighting tears down a person’s ability to trust their own memories, feelings, perceptions & yes, even sanity.
Narcissists either imply or say outright that their victims are crazy. My mother used to tell me often, “You need help.” It was accompanied by a pitying expression. She was implying I was in dire need of psychological help, yet, never got it for me. Why? Because she knew I was sane. I, however, had doubts for most of my life about my sanity. After all, no one would say such a thing to their own child if it wasn’t true, I thought.
Narcissists project their faults onto their victims. Narcissists view others through a very distorted lens. Titus 1:15 says, “To the pure, all things are pure; but to the corrupt and unbelieving, nothing is pure; both their mind and their conscience are corrupted.” (AMP) One aspect of this is accusing their victims of the very things that they themselves do, even when there is no evidence of the victim doing anything of the sort. They often accuse their victims with such certainty, the victim may believe the accusations are true. There is one good thing about projection. It can be useful in learning what the narcissist is really up to. The narcissistic husband who claims his wife is unfaithful is most likely having an affair. The narcissistic mother who accuses her child of lying is a lair. Listening to what the narcissist accuses you of can give you a great deal of insight into what they are truly like.
Narcissists love the silent treatment as a weapon. In my late teens, my mother & I argued constantly. One of her favorite ways to hurt me was to give me the silent treatment. I would beg her to tell me what was wrong, & she either refused to answer or would say, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you!” At the time, either scenario was devastating. Saying nothing showed me I wasn’t worth her time or energy to speak to. Saying she wouldn’t tell me if I didn’t know what was wrong made me feel crazy, stupid & ashamed for not knowing what egregious sin I had committed.
Narcissists lack self awareness. Rather than question that maybe, just maybe, they might be the problem in their relationships, they blame all relationship woes on other people. If you aren’t aware of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it can be quite easy to believe that the narcissist is right, & you are at fault for their problems or the problems in your relationship.
Narcissists are provokers. In other words, narcissists will do whatever it takes to push their victims to the point of rage so they can use that rage to prove to the victim that the victim is crazy, abusive, irrational or anything else. Since the narcissist stays calm while the victim is clearly upset, it’s easy for the victim to believe what the narcissist says at this point.
Narcissists will say that they forgive you, even when you have done nothing wrong. By saying this, they are implying that you are the problem in this situation, & they are very good & kind people to forgive you for the awful things you have done.
Learning about these tactics can help you to protect your mental health, & not fall for the narcissist’s lies that you & you alone are the dysfunctional one in the relationship.
When a person grows up surrounded by chaos, that person often ends up comfortable with chaos. Knowing nothing else such as peace & calm, those things feel foreign & even scary. There can be comfort in the midst of chaos simply because it is what you know, it is what is familiar.
Some people who have grown up abused even create their own chaos & drama without realizing it simply because they can’t stand peace & quiet. Even if they hate such stressful situations, the familiarity of them provides a degree of comfort.
Most people gravitate to the familiar, even when it is painful or dysfunctional. This is why a woman who grew up beaten by her drunken father later marries a man who gets drunk & beats her. She doesn’t like being beaten- it’s simply familiar to her & she naturally gravitated to it.
Other people grew up being the “fixers” in their family. They were the ones who calmed down their parents when they were fighting or denied the fact their parents were abusive if anyone questioned them. They kept their dysfunctional parents happy at all personal costs. Being the family fixer means these people feel they have no real purpose unless they are able to fix things. They are comfortable with chaos because it means they have a job to do, & it’s a job they know how to do well.
As dysfunctional as this behavior is, there is hope. The healthier you get & the more you heal from the abuse, the less comfortable you will feel with chaos. It will happen naturally. I’m not sure there is a way to address this issue specifically. I’ve just noticed that it seems to diminish on its own as a person gets healthier. So take care of yourself. Address whatever issues you have as they come up. Pray, ask God to help you to get to the root of the problem so you can deal with it the most effectively. In time, you’ll notice you become more uncomfortable with chaos & much more comfortable with the peace that you deserve.
Families that have at least one narcissist in them have some very serious problems. It may not be evident at first glance. Everyone may act like they get along just fine. They may celebrate holidays together every year. Yet, serious problems still exist in this family.
People raised by narcissistic parents have mental health issues. There is no avoiding that. Many struggle with C-PTSD or PTSD at worst, anxiety &/or depression at best. Some even turn out like their narcissistic parent, emulating the awful & abusive behaviors they grew up seeing daily. All have relationship problems to varying degrees.
The problems don’t stop at the children of narcissists, however. If those children grow up to have children, they too will be abused by their narcissistic grandparents.
Other relatives will be drawn into the fray as well. Narcissists love to tell other people how wonderful they are while also telling them just awful their victim is. That way, if the victim ever tells anyone about the abuse, no one will believe the victim. Instead, they will label the victim as crazy, mentally unstable, addicted, selfish, etc. while assuming the narcissist has done nothing wrong.
When this happens in a family situation, it seems that most people are exceptionally willing to blindly believe the narcissist & attack the victim. That’s how my family is. No one wants to believe someone they are related to is abusive & cruel. That is very understandable, of course. However, in families with a narcissist, they often take this to the extreme.
Not only do narcissistic families not want to accept the fact their relative is an abusive narcissist, they will do anything to shut down the person making the accusation. They will ignore the victim, accuse the person of lying, being angry, spoiled, immature or unforgiving, or even personally attack the victim. The particularly aggressive ones may stalk & harass the victim, or inundate the victim with hateful texts, emails or social media messages. If the victim blocks their phone number, email address, etc, they will find other ways to contact the victim- get a new phone number or email, create a fake social media profile or hack someone else’s profile. If the victim is a Christian, you can guarantee their faith will become the subject of attack. The “family” will twist Scripture around to support their warped beliefs &/or claim the victim can’t be a Christian & behave in this manner.
It is a terrible thing finally to summon the courage to open up about the abuse you endured, & when you tell people you think will support you, to be met with disbelief & even cruelty. It is one of the most horrible things a victim can endure- being mocked or shamed for divulging the most painful experiences in their life while watching those they thought would be on their side comfort & support the very person who abused them.
I know there is nothing I can say to make this experience hurt any less. I’m very sorry if you’re going through this. There are some ways you can cope though.
Always, ALWAYS maintain a close relationship to God. He knows the truth & understands your situation. He will give you comfort & strength. He will show you the best way to handle the situation, too.
Remember, you do NOT need anyone’s validation but your own. Yes, it’s a good thing having people in your life support you & even say things like, “That was awful.. I’m sorry you went through that.” However, you don’t *need* it.
That brings me to my next point- learn to validate yourself. To do this, accept your feelings without judgment. You’re allowed to be hurt & angry your family treats you badly. Be proud of the good person you are & the direction towards healing you’re taking. You have overcome a great deal. If you recently learned about narcissism & began speaking about it, that is a huge step- be proud of yourself for that!
And lastly, never, ever forget that these people who have hurt you so badly have serious problems. Functional people defend victims, not attack them while coddling an abuser. These people may get something from the narcissist, so they won’t go against her & risk losing it. Maybe the narcissist is someone they idolize, so they refuse to listen to anything bad about them. Maybe they’re simply cowardly, & think it’s easier to go along with the narcissist than to stand up for what’s right. In any case, this person’s behavior says nothing about you but plenty about them.
Although I know it probably doesn’t feel like it, you will survive this awful situation, & you will be much stronger for having done so!
I read a really good article the other day. It gave me another reminder that it’s ok to cut toxic people out of my life, even if they’re so called “family.” I thought I’d pass this excellent reminder along to you, Dear Reader.
Although family is supposed to be a safe haven, that isn’t always the case, as no doubt you are well aware. Many families are downright cruel & abusive to their own family members. When their victims defend themselves, they often are shunned by other relatives (even ones who know how the abusers are), friends & society in general. Why people seem to think you should tolerate abuse from someone because you share some genes & maybe a name is beyond me!
Being related to someone by blood or by marriage does NOT give a person the right to be abusive. In fact, there is NOTHING that gives any person the right to be abusive.
As the victim of an abusive person, you have rights…
- You have every right to protect yourself from all abuse- spiritual, mental, emotional, verbal, financial, physical & sexual.
- You have the right to expect people to treat you with basic respect- be polite, not try to cause you harm or pain, etc.
- You have the right to be upset when you are mistreated or abused.
- You have the right to say no & to have healthy boundaries & to expect them to be respected.
- You have the right not to tolerate guilt trips, manipulation & attempts to control you.
- You have the right to be in a relationship without losing yourself, to maintain your own identity & independence that is pleasing to you.
- You have the right to live your life in a way that is good & healthy for you, even if others disapprove.
- You have the right to end a relationship with an abusive person, even if that person is “family.”
Remember these rights, Dear Reader. If someone in your family is abusive, you absolutely have every right to eliminate that person from your life if you have to do so to protect yourself.
Many people think that understanding your abuser is unimportant to the healing process. They say the reasons they did what they did doesn’t matter- only the fact that they hurt you matters. I disagree with this type of thinking.
When you understand what makes your abuser tick, it helps you a great deal by seeing that that person is the one with the problem, not you. You finally can see that you aren’t responsible for what they did to you. You did nothing to make that person hurt you. Nothing you did or didn’t do forced them to hurt you. Ultimately, it’s the choice of the abuser how they treat people & once you understand that your abuser made some very bad choices, it sets you free of any false guilt you carried for what you endured.
Understanding your abuser also helps you if you are still in a relationship with that person. (As I’ve said many times, not everyone is able or willing to go no contact with the narcissist in their life, & I am trying to help those people.) When you know how they think, you understand why they’re saying & doing the hurtful things they are. This means their words or actions don’t hurt as badly as they could, because you know that they aren’t personal, exactly- they are the result of the dysfunction of the abuser. It also helps you because you’ll be able to anticipate their next move. When you know them well enough to predict their actions, you can anticipate the best ways to protect yourself & set boundaries.
If you’re being abused, please consider what I’ve said. If your abuser is a narcissist, they are especially devious, so learning about narcissism is especially important. Learn what you can. Read books & websites. Most of all though, pray. Ask God to show you whatever you need to know. Also, ask Him to show you ways to cope. If you’re able to go no contact & considering it, ask Him if you should, & if so, how to go about it. God will provide you with great, helpful insight.
This post is for those of you in the position of being unwilling or unable to go no contact with a narcissist.
Almost every bit of information available for those in a relationship with a narcissist basically say the same thing- “just go no contact.” The tone of some articles & even some fellow survivors who say the same thing can be downright shaming, as if being unable or unwilling to go no contact means something is very wrong with you or you’re weak.
While it’s certainly true that no contact is almost always the best way to deal with a narcissist, that doesn’t make it an easy solution. Whoever the narcissist is in your life & no matter how badly that person treats you, it still hurts to end a relationship. The closer the relationship the more it hurts, too, such as ending a relationship with your parent hurts a thousand times more than ending it with someone with whom you have gone on only a couple of dates. Due to the nature of narcissists, they usually abuse those closest to them. This is probably why the most abusive relationships with a narcissist are the closest relationships, such as parents & spouses, & those relationships are very hard to end.
Abusive or not, it still hurts to end a relationship with someone so close to you. Not wanting to end that relationship doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or you’re weak. It means you’re normal!
Even if you want to go no contact, it often takes time to work up the inner strength to be able to do it. Narcissists beat their victims down so badly, they can obliterate their self esteem. Once you learn what is happening, it takes time to repair your self esteem & to build up enough strength to go no contact. Or, maybe you know somehow that the timing isn’t right somehow for no contact.. that happened to me with my parents. I wanted to go no contact with them for well over a year before I felt God was saying it was time. There is also the common situation of a victim who lives with a narcissist being financially dependent on that narcissist. It takes time to be able to save enough money to move out, to find a job & a place to live. None of these situations make a person weak or flawed. It simply means they’re in difficult situations.
There are also some folks whose narcissist is pretty low on the spectrum. Yes, that person causes problems but they aren’t over the top in their behavior. Some people would prefer to learn ways to deal with them than end those relationships. That is their right to make that choice
For those of you in those situations, I want to encourage you today.
I know it’s terribly hard being in a relationship with a narcissist in any capacity. Until such time as you are ready & willing to go no contact, there are some things you can do to make your life a little easier.
As always, I recommend praying. Ask God to show you creative & effective ways to cope with the narcissist as well as to help you to go no contact if that is your desired result.
Always remember- narcissists are all about gaining narcissistic supply to prop up their egos. It’s their primary motivation for everything they do. Any attention or reaction you give them, good or bad, provides that supply. Be as boring to the narcissist as possible. Show them no anger, sadness or even joy. Be calm & cool in the presence of the narcissist. Offer simple answers without explanations. Provide no personal information. This is known as the Gray Rock method. Basically, you become as boring to the narcissist as a plain gray rock.
Don’t forget to question things the narcissist says. They are masters of gaslighting & manipulation, so basically almost everything they say can be a lie. Ask yourself if what is being said is true or not. You also can question the narcissist, but if you do so, do it calmly in your gray rock way. “Oh? Why do you think that?” “Explain to me how that makes sense.. I don’t follow you.” Logical, calmly asked questions like that can throw a narcissist off kilter. It lets her know that you’re onto her games & won’t be manipulated.
Keep & enforce healthy boundaries. You have the right to tell the narcissist no & to expect to be treated with respect. You also don’t need to explain your boundaries. Or, if you feel you absolutely must, remember to stay gray rock U keep explanations minimal.
Also remember that whatever they are doing isn’t about you. It’s about them. Yes, that person is hurting & abusing you, but it’s because it makes her feel better. You have done nothing to deserve it & nothing that person says about you is true. Narcissists project their own flaws onto their victims. It doesn’t mean you actually are whatever the narcissist says you are.
If you are hoping to go no contact in the future, low contact may be an excellent option for you. It’s as the name describes- you are in low contact with the narcissist. You don’t take phone calls or visit as often, but only when you feel able. Low contact can be a really good stepping stone to no contact.
While there are no easy solutions for dealing with narcissists, these tactics can help you. And, don’t forget- there isn’t anything wrong with you for being unable or unwilling to go no contact. It’s a big decision, & every person has to do it only when they feel equipped to do so.
Being raised by a narcissistic parent or two causes a person to act differently than people raised by healthy, functional parents. Aside from the most obvious common problem, C-PTSD, being raised by narcissists creates certain unique behaviors that almost every victim exhibits. This post addresses those behaviors.
Being afraid to say no. Narcissists don’t allow their children to have boundaries. “No” can be met with abuse- name calling, scathing criticisms, guilt trips & even physical violence. Children use “yes” as a survival skill as a result. They learn early in life that it’s easier to do whatever their narcissistic parent wants than to say “no” & face the consequences. This behavior becomes such a habit that it is often carried into adulthood. While it served a good purpose as a child, it no longer does as an adult. Being a healthy adult means having healthy boundaries. You need to start asking yourself why are you saying yes? Are you saying yes because you want to or because you’re afraid of disappointing someone if you say no? Start saying no when you’re saying yes when you don’t want to. Some people won’t like it, but one thing to keep in mind- healthy, good, caring people respect boundaries. Users & abusers don’t. If someone gets upset with you for having a healthy boundary, that isn’t the kind of person you need in your life.
Apologizing too much. Narcissistic parents blame their children for every single thing, so their children learn to apologize for everything, whether or not it’s their fault. This dysfunctional survival skill also carries into adulthood, & needs to stop. When you feel the urge to apologize, pray. Ask God is this truly your fault? Should you apologize or are you only doing so out of habit?
Being unable to express emotions in a healthy way. Narcissists can’t handle the emotions of other people, including their children. They force their children to stifle their emotions, often by shaming them for having them. This tells children their emotions are bad. To cope, may continue to repress their emotions while others express them in inappropriate ways such as getting angrier than is appropriate for the situation. It can be hard, I know, but you need to learn to get in touch with your emotions & give them a healthy outlet. Ask God to help you to do this, because it will get scary, especially showing anger after a lifetime of stifling it. Journaling can be helpful, too- seeing things in writing brings clarity.
Not trusting your intuition & perception. Constant gaslighting is possibly the most cruel form of abuse there is, & also a favorite of narcissists. Gaslighting makes a person second guess everything about themselves- their instincts, perception, feelings, thoughts- because it makes a victim feel that they are wrong about everything or even crazy. The fact is though that you aren’t wrong or crazy- you are FINE! The gaslighting made you doubt these things but it doesn’t mean that they are actually wrong or flawed somehow. Your instincts, perceptions, feelings & thoughts are just fine. They are trustworthy! Ask God to help you to learn to trust yourself. Pay attention, too. You’ll see that the more you you’re right about little things, the more you learn to trust yourself.
Over explaining yourself. Narcissistic parents demand their children behave in certain ways that are acceptable to them, no matter how their child feels about it. When the child fails to meet the impossibly high expectations, the parent demands an explanation for the failure. One more dysfunctional survival skill children of narcissists learn is to explain anything & everything, & again, this often continues into adulthood. It feels strange at first to stop over explaining yourself, but if you stick with it, it gets more comfortable as time goes on. Always remember, not everyone needs an explanation for what you do.
These behaviors, although dysfunctional, don’t have to be permanent. With prayer & work, you can make healthy changes.
Something I’ve noticed about survivors of narcissistic abuse is many become very sensitive. The smallest thing can hurt or devastate them. It’s quite understandable, really. After being verbally abused so much, they probably have reached their limit, & just can’t tolerate any more insults, invalidation, etc.
Unfortunately, they are often also very sad people, feeling abused or mistreated when no such thing was intended.
Does this describe you? If so, then I urge you to consider making a change!
Try to remember to respond rather than react. What I mean is stop for a moment before feeling or saying anything. Think- did this person say something hurtful to you just after losing a loved one? Being fired? Stubbing their toe on the coffee table? Then they aren’t trying to hurt you out of maliciousness- they’re in a bad mood. It’s nothing personal! Remind yourself it’s nothing personal- the person is just in a bad mood & you just happened to be there. If you aren’t sure, then ask God to tell you the truth. Is it you or is the other person having a bad day?
On the other hand, if the person is deliberately trying to hurt you & you know this, then you know what? It’s also not personal. This person has issues & for whatever reason, finds you a good victim. You haven’t done anything to deserve this- the other person simply has problems. I’ve reminded myself of this with my narcissistic mother repeatedly. She got mad at me when a friend of hers complemented me once, & spent the rest of our time together making me miserable. It hurt, but I reminded myself this is how she is! She is so insecure, she can’t handle anyone in her presence getting any positive attention from anyone, so she will do her best to ruin the positive attention by being demeaning & hateful.
I know this can be hard to do with narcissists, but it does get easier in time. The more you learn about NPD, the more you understand that they have big problems, & you are NOT one of them! I’m speaking from experience- this really is true! I feel like thanks to realizing my mother has problems, I’m a narcissistic abuse navy seal by now. It takes quite a bit to phase me anymore. After my mother spending hours & hours screaming at me, telling me what a horrible person I am, really, what else is there?! A stranger flipping me off in traffic isn’t going to upset me for more than a moment. Someone obviously hating me & trying to bully me? Yea, whatever…. I’ve dealt with bigger & badder & survived.
Most of all, keep a good relationship with God as your top priority. Know you can go to Him anytime, asking for help. In fact, ask Him other ways to help you not to take things so personally.
If you’re over sensitive, then there isn’t something wrong with you. It’s just proof you’ve been through way too much pain. But, you deserve better than going through life hurt all of the time just because someone acted insensitively to you! Please, for your own sake, Dear Reader, try to put into practice what I’ve mentioned here. Your life can be much happier for it!
There are conflicting messages for victims of abuse. Some people encourage victims to speak out. Help raise awareness! Confronting your abuser will be good for you! Others encourage victims to keep quiet. Stop dredging up the past. Forgive & forget.
Rather than stating what I think victims should do, I would like to encourage you to decide what is right for yourself. After all, being vocal about being abused can be very challenging. Being vocal about it means you’re reliving some of the most painful experiences of your life. It also means some will criticize you harshly. You may lose friends & family who side with your abuser. Is this something you can deal with?
There are pros & cons for speaking out as well as staying quiet. You need to consider them seriously before making any decisions.
Silence isn’t always good, as it can encourage an abuser to continue abusing. Knowing the victim won’t tell anyone what is happening gives the abuser free reign to do as she/he pleases without fear of consequences. It also means things can stay pretty much the same for the victim in that her friends & family will continue treating her as they always have. Silence allows the victim to continue in the familiar place that she is accustomed to. This can be a good thing, to a degree, especially if she does not feel strong enough to confront her abuser or even discuss what has happened, & if this is only a temporary place.
Telling her story can empower the victim. She takes back the power that her abuser stole by forcing her to stay silent. She realizes it’s her story & she can do as she sees fit with it. She can help & inspire others who have been through similar circumstances if she opts to go public with her story (such as blogging about it, for example). By speaking openly about what happened, she also can give her family the opportunity to grow & to heal. However, telling also means that she can be setting herself up for criticism, even from those closest to her. Those she believed were on her side may turn against her. They may refuse to believe her, tell others she’s lying, or invalidate her pain if she speaks to them about the situation. And, if she opts to confront her abuser, that can open up a new world of pain. Abusers hate confrontation, especially narcissistic abusers. The abuser may turn the entire situation around, blaming the victim for what happened or denying they did anything wrong. Often, the one telling the truth is demonized by abusers as well as those who may have known about the abuse but did nothing. Many people can’t live with what they have done, so they vilify the victim.
What do you think is your answer, Dear Reader?
Before you answer that question, I urge you to pray. Let God give you advice on which way to go, & how to go about it. Also, allow Him to give you the strength you need, because either way is very challenging. You will need His strength. And remember, 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me.” (GNT) God will empower you to do anything you need to do!
A little while ago, I was listening to some music from the 80’s. Being a teen in the 80’s, it’s often my go to genre. I was really enjoying the songs & a thought crossed my mind. Most people who listen to their childhood music are transported back to happy days of their youth. I’m not. My childhood wasn’t happy. Even so, I still love the music of the era. As I wondered why, & didn’t even have a chance to ask God why, He gave me the answer. My taste in music was the first thing that was just mine, that my narcissistic mother couldn’t ruin for me.
My mother likes 50’s music & country music by the Statler Brothers, Oak Ridge Boys & similar sounding artists. My father is mostly into outlaw type country- Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Travis Tritt. Neither likes 80’s music. When I first got into it, my mother harshly criticized it, yet she didn’t spoil my love of it in spite of her valiant efforts.
She tried to squelch my love of other things over the years too- my taste in cars, other types of music I like (such as Southern rock & metal/hard rock), my love of feminine clothing & perfumes, knitting, scary movies & books. I’m positive her motivation was to make me dislike these things & replace them with things she likes or approves of. (Narcissists love to change people into what they think they should be, rather than allowing people to be individuals.) It hasn’t worked, however, & these things all bring me a great deal of joy, even when she insults them or me for liking them.
When you’ve experienced narcissistic abuse, holding onto something that the narcissist couldn’t ruin for you or take away from you is precious! It makes you feel strong. In spite of every hateful thing she tried, she couldn’t take this from me! There was one thing she couldn’t destroy about me! YAY ME!!
Do you have something that is just yours, that your narcissistic mother couldn’t take from you? What is it? Whatever it is, I urge you to celebrate it! Enjoy it to the max! Relish in the fact she couldn’t take it from you no matter what. Be proud of yourself for having the fortitude to hang onto that thing!
If you can’t think of anything, that is ok too! Find something! Try something new- a new hobby, a new type of tea, listen to a different genre of music. You’ll find something that is so special to you, that even the meanest narcissistic mother can’t take away, & you will thoroughly enjoy it.
I recently was talking recently with a lady about this very topic- can someone be completely healed of the effects of narcissistic abuse? We both shared the same opinion. With God, of course, all things are possible. However, to be completely healed isn’t necessarily the norm.
For one thing, narcissistic abuse infects every area of your being. The stress of it can affect you physically, such as developing high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease. The negativity & crazy making affect you mentally. So many victims feel like they’re crazy. Many lose their self esteem or live with depression & anxiety. A lot of victims live with PTSD or C-PTSD after leaving the relationship with a narcissist. Many people in a relationship with narcissists are affected financially. Narcissists see people as nothing more than tools to be used in whatever way benefits the narcissist, so many victims lose a great deal of money to their narcissist. Many victims are also affected spiritually because of the narcissist’s weird religious beliefs or being overly “religious”, using God to make the victim feel like a bad person, God is punishing them or the like.
For another thing, if you had a narcissistic parent (or two), the abuse is even worse simply due to the nature of the relationship. It goes so deeply against nature for a parent to abuse a child instead of loving & caring for her, that it’s virtually impossible to accept. That can deeply affect a child no matter that child’s age. Many are in denial, saying their narcissistic mother was just quirky or over protective rather than narcissistic. Some believe their covertly narcissistic parent was naive, & didn’t know any better. Or, they believe the covertly narcissistic parent was incapable of stopping the overtly narcissistic parent from abusing them for various reasons.
Also, childhood forms who you are as an adult. Whether you had a good or bad upbringing, you are a product of your childhood. I think childhood is much like the foundation of a home. If a home’s foundation is damaged, the home won’t be safe. If you had a bad childhood, your adulthood won’t be healthy until you fix the damage done to you in childhood.
You may never fully heal from the abuse. It’s quite normal. If you get to the place the abuse doesn’t consume you, you’re doing great. If you can think or talk about certain events without feeling devastated, but instead feeling more like you’re remembering an unpleasant dream, you’re doing great. It’s quite possible you may not be healed more than that. In my personal experience plus observations of the many other victims of narcissistic abuse I’ve spoken with, complete healing isn’t common. In fact, I haven’t seen it myself.
If you are like most of us & still struggling even many years after the abuse happened, please know you’re not alone! Not by a long shot! You also aren’t weak or a failure. God hasn’t abandoned you either. In fact, He is with you during the worst times, whether you feel His presence or not. I’ll close this post with a beautiful reminder of that fact..
1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 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.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
You know it’s best to be as emotionally neutral as possible around narcissists because they use your emotions against you. As hard as you try though, there still may be times when you can’t keep your emotions in check around a narcissist. You try your best, but no one is perfect. You may be having a bad day or their cruelty hits you especially hard because you’re fed up. So what can you expect during those times?
Narcissists have various reactions to their victims being upset in their presence, but all of their reactions are designed to let victims know their problem isn’t important. They may mock you by saying things like, “Awww… the poor baby is upset! WAHH!”
Or, they may be invalidating, saying you have nothing to be upset about, get over it, or they don’t see what the big deal is.
They may be blatantly insulting, telling you how stupid you are for being upset. They may even go from insulting to downright shaming, telling you something is wrong with you for feeling the way you do. If you’re upset at the narcissist, chances are good they not only don’t want to hear what you have to say, but will be very shaming to you for feeling that way. You have no right to feel that way, they may say. After all, you made them do whatever it is they did.
Another reaction they have is to be ice cold, clearly showing you they don’t care you’re upset. They may even act bored as you cry. I once watched my narcissistic maternal grandmother act completely bored as one of my cousins cried to her, hurt over things she had done. My own narcissistic mother has done the same with me- act completely bored with me when I’m clearly suffering.
Some narcissists also try to say what they think they should say when you’re upset. For example, many years ago I was upset with my mother in my narcissistic mother in-law’s presence. Since my husband was with me, I’m sure she wanted to give him a good impression, so she hugged me tightly & said, “Don’t be upset! I’m your mother now!!” Maybe that sounds nice, but truthfully, it didn’t feel nice. It felt creepy! She always seemed to want me to pretend I had no family & morph into hers. Remember the Borg from “Star Trek”? That’s how it came across to me- I was to Borg into her family & this gave her an excuse to verbalize her wishes. Resistance was futile- I would be assimilated. lol
These scenes are incredibly frustrating. Normally, you might want to scream or cry louder, trying to get the narcissist to understand you. That isn’t a good move though. If you can remember it, try to remember to simply disengage. Walk away. Hang up the phone. The more you try to convince the narcissist you have a right to feel as you do, the more they will try to hurt you or even make you look like you’re crazy. This only hurts you more. When you feel things starting to elevate, try your best to stop for a second & take a deep breath. Ask God for help during that moment. Ask Him to help you to remember to disengage before you get to this point.
I saw an interesting special on TV recently about Andrea Yates, the mother of five who drowned her children in the bathtub. I always wonder what makes people do what they do, especially when what they do is so unbelievable, such as in the case of Ms. Yates, so this show intrigued me.
Apparently she developed post partum psychosis that became worse after the birth of each child. She had hallucinations & heard voices that told her that her children needed to die now so they could go to heaven or else they would grow into evil adults & go to hell. Thankfully, this is quite rare! But one of the most amazing parts of the story to me was that when Ms. Yates & her then husband sought treatment, she received very little treatment. One doctor told her she just needed to “think happy thoughts.”
Think happy thoughts?! Gee, I bet she never thought of that! *facepalm*
Guessing this doctor never heard of “intrusive thoughts.”
Intrusive thoughts come with some mental illness. They are thoughts that come to mind that you can’t distract yourself from. Having C-PTSD, I have experienced them myself. Sometimes, they’ve been in the form of a memory of abuse, other times they are anxiety laden thoughts (what if this doesn’t go right? Then what do I do? What if that doesn’t work either?!) or they are depression related (things aren’t going to get any better, I’m a horrible person, etc). Since getting a concussion last February, mine are much harder to deal with than they used to be.
When intrusive thoughts happen, I’ve found the best way to deal with them is to talk to God. Ask for His help. 1 Corinthians 2:16 states that as children of God, we have the mind of Christ. Although it doesn’t feel like it during painful & frustrating intrusive thoughts, it is still true. What did Jesus do doing His most difficult & painful times? He talked with His Father, & received answers & peace in return. Following Jesus’ example truly helps.
Try to slow down, & deliberately focus on your thoughts. Question them, tell them they are unwelcome, ask God to tell you the truth about what the thoughts are saying- do you have a real reason to be so anxious? Why is this awful memory back in my mind- is it something I need to deal with?
Understand intrusive thoughts. Everyone has them, but to varying degrees. If you’re fortunate, you don’t have them often, & can distract yourself from them. If not, they may be a sign of a mental health issue that needs addressing. It may be a good idea to discuss them with your doctor or a therapist if you find yourself having them often & unable to distract yourself. Intrusive thoughts don’t mean you are crazy or broken beyond repair! Often they are a symptom of anxiety, depression or having experienced trauma.
One of the hardest things to understand about narcissists & their awful actions is why they care more about what strangers think about them than the opinions of those closest to them. I believe there are several reasons for this.
Narcissists can’t bond. Most people automatically form bonds with those they love, but narcissists don’t even love in a normal, healthy way. Everything they do is about getting their coveted narcissistic supply (what makes them feel good about themselves), so they may love what you do if you provide it, but that doesn’t mean they love you.
Narcissists don’t do deep, meaningful relationships. They want superficial relationships, where there is no real responsibility. They simply want to be adored.
Strangers providing narcissistic supply thrill narcissists. It’s easy to show strangers what the narcissist wants them to see, & hide the bad parts. Strangers can provide instant supply. This is very gratifying to narcissists. Strangers are much easier & more fulfilling to get supply from than those close to them.
Narcissists don’t get their narcissistic supply from their own actions. Most people feel good about themselves when they do something well, but narcissists aren’t that way. They only feel good about themselves when another person provides their narcissistic supply. It’s relatively easy to get supply from strangers.
I hope this helps you to understand a little about why narcissists care more about strangers than those closest to them, Dear Reader. It truly isn’t about you or something you’ve done wrong- it’s all about them & their dysfunction!
As I’ve mentioned before, my parents have stopped speaking to me recently. Since, I’ve been experiencing a plethora of emotions, & I’m going to hazard a guess they’re pretty normal under the circumstances. I also realized when a narcissistic parent goes no contact with you, it feels a lot different than when you are the one to go no contact. In 2001, I went no contact with my mother (she initiated contact with me in 2007, & I allowed her back into my life at that point). Seeing both types of going no contact has been eye opening to me. I’m hoping sharing this with you will help you if your parents have gone no contact with you.
When I went no contact with my mother, it’d been after a great deal of prayer & consideration on the subject. I knew in my heart it was the best thing I could do, & I was as prepared as I could be to sever ties with my mother. And, I only went no contact with my mother. At the time, I had no knowledge at all of narcissism. Naturally I didn’t realize my father was a covert narcissist & abusive in his own way that was different than hers, so I kept in touch with him. Anyway, I was able to grieve losing my mother, then face some of my own issues stemming from her abuse. The time apart was just what I needed at that time. It was a good thing for me.
Fast forward to this year. I answered my parents’ phone call not expecting the huge fight that followed. It was a complete surprise. I’d expected a bit of a disagreement, but not in the really big fight that actually took place with both of my parents.
I wasn’t surprised my mother stopped speaking to me afterwards. She is the queen of the silent treatment, & I’m sure me defending myself to her was a huge narcissistic injury worthy of the silent treatment. What did surprise me was my father. Since he always wants to look like the good guy, I never expected him to stop speaking to me.
Another big surprise is when praying about the entire situation some time later, God told me He wants them out of my life. I’m not sure if He means forever or a season just yet, but either way- that was a big surprise too. He’s showed me repeatedly that I need distance from their toxicity.
The element of surprise can be pretty intense in such a situation. For one thing, since narcissists are so obsessed with appearances, they seldom want to end contact with their own child because it might make them look bad. Can’t have that now can we?! So when they do sever ties, it can come as a complete shock. Even though some time has passed, I still feel quite shocked at the turn our relationship took.
Also, any loss can trigger grief, even when the loss is your own dysfunctional & abusive parents. When I first felt this grief, I wondered what was wrong with me. These people have made my life a living hell ever since I can remember. I should be glad they’re gone! Why wasn’t I reveling in them being gone, I wondered. God showed me that abusive or not, they’re still my parents. Losing your parents, whether they’re loving or abusive, is a hard thing to handle for anyone.
No contact has triggered a lot of anger in me, too. I’m angry my parents had the unadulterated gall to get mad at me when they were the ones clearly in the wrong in our argument. It’s glaringly obvious to anyone who knows the story that they were wrong, yet they would prefer being wrong & pretending to be right than have me, their own daughter, in their life.
I’ve found too, that triggers are everywhere, & in strange places. When I hear or read about a parent showing concern for their child, no matter the child’s age, it upsets me easily now. It makes me sad since that’s something I’ve never had & never will have. It also makes me angry because the reason for our fight, my late mother in-law, was never a source of concern for my parents when it clearly should have been. I told them for years how cruel she was to me, & they truly did not care. I know my mother didn’t even believe me when I said she choked me when my husband & I told her we had eloped. (As if I’d make something like that up!) You’d think a physical assault might warrant some concern from my parents, but it never did. Anyone else I told that story to was shocked. My parents? Bored.
Intrusive thoughts have been a constant as well. Things I’d really just as soon not think about pop into my mind constantly, against my will. I can’t even escape at night because I have nightmares every single night. I may not remember details of them, but I remember my parents were in them & I wake up feeling the anger, fear or depression I felt in the dreams.
There is sadness & depression too. I think my parents’ going no contact with me has really made it sink in how little they have been there for me in my life. This is just one more of those times. Sure, growing up, they provided for some of my needs- I always had food, clothing & shelter- but there was no emotional nurturing or genuine love. In fact, there was more abuse than anything else.
I also think these things were magnified because of the fact I was going through a particularly hard time at the time of our argument. When you’re already stressed or upset, any little thing can feel even worse. So when you experience something very painful, it really hurts, even worse than it would under better circumstances.
In spite of all of these negatives, something absolutely wonderful has come out of it all, & makes it all worthwhile. Freedom!
Without my parents in my life, I have found a new freedom. For the first time, I’m finally free to be the person God made me to be. No longer do I need to be “on” so much. After all, when dealing with narcissists, that’s how it is- you’re on your guard the entire time you’re with them. You also have to mentally prepare when you know you need to interact with them in the near future. Finally, I’m able to relax.
I’ve also been able to get to know myself for the first time in my life. Growing up, I was told who to be. My ex husband tried to mold me into what he wanted me to be. Later when I married my current husband, I tried to be what he wanted me to be & even what his mother wanted me to be in the hopes of making her hate me less. In the last few years, I’ve tried off & on to be me, the person God wants me to be, & while I had some success with that, it’s been much more successful without my parents in my life. The constant disapproval of everything about me I think made me feel like who I am is a bad person, wrong, etc. Without that disapproval, I’m free to be me.
I’ve realized something else good that came with this freedom. Because I stood up to my parents during that argument in May, it’s given me a new confidence. If I could stand up to them at that time when I felt weak & was caught off guard, I can stand up to anyone about anything now. In fact, that confidence even stirred a new fire in me to speak out more against narcissistic abuse. I think that’s pretty cool!
God has been using this time apart in a great way for me. As hard as it’s been, He has been carrying me through. He had reasons for removing my parents from my life. Allowing me to heal, enabling me to be more the person He created me to be & less who they want me to be & giving me more confidence to speak against narcissistic abuse have all been a huge blessing for me.
If your narcissistic parents have opted to go no contact with you, then please know it can be a blessing in disguise. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it’s mind boggling that they treated you so badly & had the gall to act like you’re such a bad person, they had to go no contact with you. Yes, it makes you angry. But, one thing about God is He can make good things come from bad situations. Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (KJV) If you’re not seeing anything good, ask Him to make good come from this situation & to show you the good you need to see.
I believe picking your battles with a narcissist is among the most challenging thing a person can do when in a relationship with a narcissist. They need to know their behavior is unacceptable, yet when confronted, the person doing the confronting often ends up frustrated & even more hurt than they were after the original event that made them think they should confront the narcissist.
Second only to deciding when to confront a narcissist is how to confront them once you decided to do it. Narcissists love to play the victim & also to twist a situation around so you’re the bad guy. It can feel impossible to know the best way to go about this incredibly difficult situation.
I firmly believe in staying calm & sticking to the facts. Force the conversation to stay on topic, otherwise the narcissist will steer you completely off topic, & most likely onto what they think is wrong with you. They may provoke you into getting so caught up in defending yourself, you forget what the original topic of the conversation was supposed to be.
There is one thing that I have found to be even more important though, & that is prayer. Before talking to a narcissist, pray. If they are calling, quickly ask God should you take the call or let it ring. If you feel you should take the call, ask Him to help you through the conversation. He truly will not let you down!! And, it may be in a different way than you expect, but it will be the best way possible.
Last May just after my mother in-law died, I didn’t tell my parents. I realized they’d see her obituary in the local newspaper. I expected them to call me, & say how sad it was, she was a great woman, blah blah… things I did NOT want to hear about the woman who hated me & treated me like dirt for the first 8 years of my husband’s & my relationship. When my parents called a few days after she died, I knew the call wasn’t going to be pleasant. I also knew I might as well take the call because if I didn’t, they’d call back constantly until I answered since that’s what they do & they’d think this was an important topic. I also asked God to help me have the right words to say. My parents shocked me by saying they wanted to attend the funeral, & were upset they didn’t even know she passed until they saw her obituary. Wasn’t expecting that! It immediately angered me, especially when my parents acted like something was wrong with me for being angry. I ended up yelling at both of my parents, even using some bad language which are all not my normal behaviors with them.
Once I hung up the phone, I told God how sorry I was- I don’t even know what happened to me, why I reacted that way. It’s not like this was the first time my folks cared more about someone who has hurt me than me. God spoke to my heart & said this is exactly what they needed. They needed to know that they hurt me so badly, that I would act that way, so out of character. He answered my prayer- He gave me the right words for the situation at hand- just not in the way I expected.
In the months that have passed, I realized God wanted my parents out of my life, & this was a way to do it. They have cut ties with me, so I can’t be accused of going no contact with them. Anyone who hears about this situation has to see the ridiculousness of it. My parents cared more about someone they saw twice in the 22 years my husband & I have been together, than me, their own daughter. It’s only logical I’d have been upset by that. Not even the most devoted flying monkeys can justify their incredibly hurtful behavior, which is probably why I haven’t heard from any of them.
My point (finally) is that praying before confronting a narcissist is absolutely vital to dealing with them. If I wouldn’t have prayed before talking to my parents last May, I have no doubt our relationship would be as it always was. Extremely painful for me. As it is though, I’m much happier than I’ve been in a long time, in spite of grieving the loss (dysfunctional or not, losing your parents is still a loss that needs to be grieved). It’s amazing the power of prayer. James 5:16 states in the last half of the verse, “The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. ” (MSG) That is so true! Utilize that power & God will help you in ways you never imagined, even when it comes to something so complicated as dealing with a narcissistic parent!
I’ve always had a knack for remembering dates. Even after the TBI I got in 2015, I still remember many dates that have been important to me at some time in my life. For example, I got my first car on July 6, 1989. I moved out of my parents’ home on June 9, 1990. I met my husband on March 14, 1992 & our first date was November 4, 1994.
Don’t get me started on my furbabies- I remember who I adopted when or when who was born, & when who passed away.
Remembering dates can be convenient sometimes, but it also can trigger some very unpleasant memories. For years, I beat myself up from August 23 until November 24 because that was the short time I was involved with a man who I thought was a good guy, but I was unhappy dating. When I told him I wanted to break up, he did his best to make me feel stupid & like a failure, which sunk in with me. I believed I ruined his life & was a terrible person for it. Many years later, I read that he shot & killed his boyfriend & then himself in their home. It finally clicked that maybe he wasn’t the good guy he portrayed himself as. I started remembering our short time together & realized that he was a very disturbed man. I didn’t have clues then to just how disturbed, though.
In a way, learning this information was a good thing. I finally was set free from the guilt of leaving this man. It was as if I finally had permission to accept that leaving him was for my own safety. It also helped me to think about something…
I have spent my life beating myself up for way too many things!
The disturbed man I mentioned? I was only 19, he was 28 when we dated. He was very controlling & I was so accustomed to being controlled, although it bothered me, I didn’t realize it was wrong. It was so bad, in fact, that I didn’t want to date him. I only did because he was pushy & my friend at the time said I should. After growing up with narcissistic parents, this behavior of allowing others to control me is pretty normal. I see that now, but for years, I told myself how stupid I was for this. I should’ve known better. HOW?! How could I have known better?!
I’ve also beat myself up for not standing up to my parents more often, for tolerating way more than I should have. This also doesn’t make sense- they’re my parents! Aside from the dysfunctional teaching I grew up with that said I deserve whatever is done to me, being parents puts them in a unique position in my life no one else shares. Most people are like me in that they are more willing to tolerate things from their parents than other people.
Does this describe you as well? Have you spent way too much time chastising yourself for things that really aren’t your fault? If so, please stop it right now!
Everyone makes mistakes! Those of us raised in abusive, dysfunctional environments tend to make even more than most people because we simply do not know any better. Frankly, it sucks, but it happens!
Have you learned from your mistakes? Good! That shows you don’t want to continue being dysfunctional! That is something to be proud of!!
Do you realize that sharing stories of things you did & what you learned can encourage other people? It really can! I’m hardly proud of sharing the things I have in this blog, but the good part is they encourage other people. I have the emails & comments to prove it. In a way, my mess has become my ministry. Not only the mess of my dysfunctional upbringing, but the mess of the dumb things I did as a result. That encourages me too, because I know it means my pain has a purpose. It wasn’t for nothing!
Your pain has a purpose too, Dear Reader! If you don’t feel that way, then talk to God about it. He will reveal the purpose to you, & comfort you!
I’ve been reading lately about discussing abusive & traumatic experiences. It seems many people have very definite opinions on the matter. Some think it is the duty of the victim to talk about it, to raise awareness & help other victims. Others think talking puts unfair pressure on the victim, & they’ve been through enough.
It seems to me that in a way, they’re both right.
Proverbs 31:8-9 says,
“8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (KJV)
I believe this clearly states that it is right to speak up against abuse. But, if you notice, it says to “speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” That could be those who are still being abused & unable to escape, but it also could be those who are recently traumatized or even those who only recently realized they were abused (as abusers love to convince victims they are helping, the victim made them hurt them, it isn’t abuse, etc). It can be hard or even impossible to talk about your trauma when you’ve only recently escaped your abuser or learned what was done to you was abuse.
So how do you know what is right for you to do? Pray. Ask God to show you what He would have you to do.
If you feel speaking about your experiences is the answer for you at this time, it can be scary, I know. Lean on God to enable you to do it. Not everyone who discusses their abusive experiences is in the public eye. God may not want you to write a book or blog. He may instead send people across your path periodically who need to hear your story. That calling is no less important than those who are in the public eye. Helping people cope with their pain is an extremely important calling, no matter how it is done.
If you don’t feel the need to discuss your experiences, probably this means you have some healing to do first. Talking about things really isn’t easy. Abusers always make victims afraid to talk. When you first escape the abusive situation or first realize what was done was actually abuse, you may need to think & pray a lot to come to terms with things. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that! Do what you need to do! Prayer, writing in a journal & even writing letters you never show to the abuser are excellent places to start. Never feel bad if you’re in this place! Everyone starts their recovery somewhere, & often it’s alone. Besides, if you hope to be one who can help other victims, you have to be able to do so. Self-care is vital! You have to take care of yourself if you want to be of any help to others.
Not many people have a good grasp on how to treat people with mental illness. Depression, anxiety, PTSD & C-PTSD in particular seem to be targets for those with little to no compassion.
Following are some examples of bad things people often say to people suffering with mental illness. One thing that seems to diffuse people from further insensitive, invalidating comments is a calm, logical response. Some examples of ways to use that logic follow the examples.
“It’s all in your mind.” This one tells me the person saying it thinks you’re crazy & has no patience for you. Not exactly something to make you feel all warm & fuzzy, is it? A good response could be, “Well, yes it is. It’s a mental illness after all. Where else would it be?”
“Think happy thoughts.” Well, gee, why didn’t I think of that?! *facepalm* Depression, anxiety, PTSD & C-PTSD can come with intrusive thoughts that may be impossible to control. Depression steals your hope, anxiety fills you with often irrational fears, PTSD & C-PTSD steal your hope, fill you with fear in addition to reminding you of all of the horrible, traumatic things you’ve been through. A possible response could be, “You seem to forget- my brain doesn’t work like yours. It’s physically broken. It’s not that easy for me to just think happy thoughts.”
“You should just…” Unasked for advice is never fun. It’s even worse when the person giving it has absolutely no idea what they are talking about. This one really gets under my skin, especially when it’s wrapped in fake concern. “I mean this in love, but you need to get over that…” for example. I’ve responded with, “Thank you but I didn’t ask for your advice on this subject.” The person who did this with me stopped speaking to me for months after saying that, but I don’t know if that is a typical response or not. She’s the only one I said that to so far.
“I know how you feel.” No. No you don’t. You aren’t me. You don’t live with the mental illness that I do. We are two very different people. So no, you don’t know how I feel. <– I believe that is a good response. I admit, I get snarky when told this. My responses aren’t usually this nice. Mine have been “You spent most of your life suicidal too? You have C-PTSD too? Aren’t those flashbacks terrible? Oh, you don’t have them.. then I guess you really don’t know how I feel.” Not nice, but it tends to get people’s attention when nicer comments don’t.
“That doesn’t sound so bad.” I think people forget that we are all different. What doesn’t sound so bad to one person can devastate another. My high school guidance counselor told me this phrase after telling her my mother would scream at me & tell me how horrible I was. It made me feel wrong for being traumatized. I was young & didn’t know about narcissism then, so I didn’t respond. Now? I think I would say something like, “Maybe it doesn’t sound so bad to you, but you weren’t there. You weren’t the one going through the trauma.”
“You can’t have PTSD. You weren’t in the military.” Unfortunately, because there has been attention on PTSD in soldiers, the rest of us with it resulting from non-military trauma have been disregarded. It reminds me of when AIDS was first coming into the public eye in the 80’s, & people thought it was a “gay disease.” AIDS isn’t a “gay disease” & PTSD isn’t a “military problem”. It’s a trauma problem. And, reminding someone who says you can’t have it because you weren’t in the military is a very good response.
The other night out of the blue, I thought about the fight with my parents in May. As if that didn’t anger me quite enough, then I thought about when a year or two ago, when my mother called me & said my father told her my ex husband hit me. She asked if that really happened & said if she would’ve known, she would’ve called a lawyer. (a lawyer, not the cops?! Trying to profit off it?) Both my parents saw me all bruised & battered right after it happened, & didn’t give a damn. My mother blamed me, in fact, for “making” him do that.
So many other times my parents haven’t cared about me popped into my head. (gotta love intrusive thoughts..gggrrr!) The hateful comments when I’ve lost a furkid, such as, “they’re better off dead than with me as their mom.” Or, “Oh, you still upset that cat died?” a week after losing a furbaby. Snide comments when my back was injured, thanks to my mother, about being lazy. Or, criticizing my writing- it’s trash, a waste of time, no one wants to read it, etc.
This morning I’m still very angry. It sickens me how anyone can be so cold & cruel to another human being, but especially their child that they are supposed to love. I can’t fathom treating anyone that way.
I felt embarrassed about being so angry. After all, part of being a Christian is forgiving others easily. Preachers speak about it constantly. “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger!” “Forgive so your Father may forgive you!” It’s embarrassing to be an angry Christian, no matter how valid the reasons for your anger. I tend to feel guilty & ashamed if I’m angry partly because there isn’t good, Biblical preaching out there on anger (at least that I have found).
Also, I honestly thought I’d forgiven my parents for everything, other than the fight in May. I’m seeing now that I have a lot of anger for how selfish they are. They can’t see beyond their own noses. If it doesn’t directly affect them, it doesn’t matter (typical narcissists), which makes me angry.
However, I’m seeing this anger isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This anger is helping me to maintain my healthy boundaries & distance. It’s giving me courage that I may not have otherwise to keep a distance from my parents.
The anger also helps me to focus on the truth that they are dysfunctional, cruel & abusive, & I have every right to protect myself & my little family from that.
It also isn’t bad in the sense that I’m not planning to hurt my parents or get them back somehow. I truly wish no bad on them, I just know I need to keep my distance. Hardly a bad thing.
Another good thing is the anger is giving me the courage to speak out against narcissistic abuse more openly than ever.
God’s also showed me this anger is normal in my situation. I’ve had too many years of stuffing my anger. It has to come out! Let it out & deal with it appropriately. He has not told me my anger is wrong, & after 20 years in a relationship with Him, I’m quite in tune with His voice.
I do know that in time, I truly will forgive my parents. But, I doubt I’ll ever lose the righteous anger about narcissistic abuse & the devastation it causes. There is nothing wrong with that either- even God gets angry about injustice & when people are mistreated.
Hoping this maybe helps some of you that read my work, which is why I’m sharing. I can’t be the only one who has experienced this. If you are too, you’re not alone! Please don’t be ashamed for how you feel or beat yourself up for it. xoxo
Most people have heard of flashbacks, where you feel as if you are reliving a traumatic event. It can be so difficult to tell reality from the awful memory during a flashback. They are horrible, & I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.
But, this isn’t the only type of flashback. Emotional flashbacks happen too. They are when something triggers an overwhelming feeling in you. For example- being late makes me feel tremendous anxiety & shame. My mother would get me to high school at the last possible moment to show me she was in charge, telling me how lucky I was she would do this or anything at all for me, considering how awful I treated her. It’s been almost 30 years since she did this yet anxiety & shame still kick into overdrive if I’m running late.
Other examples of emotional flashbacks are things like believing if you make a mistake it makes you bad or feeling shame if someone disagrees with you, or doesn’t like something you like.
There is also such a thing as a sensory flashback. Sensory flashbacks are brought on by something that affects the senses. For example, smelling a certain perfume or seeing a style of clothing like your narcissistic mother wore creates terrible anxiety in you.
Emotional & sensory flashbacks can be managed with the same methods used to manage regular flashbacks. Grounding techniques can help you to get through it. Use something to stimulate the senses, such as smelling something with a very strong scent, or touch something with a very coarse texture or even hold an ice cube. Something that strongly stimulates at least one of your senses will force your mind to take notice, & help to loosen the flashback’s hold on you, keeping you in reality. And, once it’s done, don’t forget to take care of yourself while you recover. Flashbacks, even mild ones, can take a lot out of you. You need to rest & pamper yourself to recover afterwards.
Although flashbacks can be extremely painful to experience, they also can be beneficial. They show you what areas you need healing in. I encourage you to try to use that awful flashback to help you in this way. As you feel strong enough, face whatever issue came up & cope with it the best you can. Pray- ask God to help you to heal. Learn about ways to forgive your abuser, because you deserve to be happy, without carrying around anger or bitterness. Learn ways to take care of yourself, to be the nurturer you never had.
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When you begin to heal from the narcissistic abuse you experienced, you begin to talk about it. This can mean your narcissist learns about it, & that is never pretty. All narcissists seem to think their victims should stay quiet, never telling anyone of the pain they inflict. Victims should simply take any & all abuse with a smile, never questioning or challenging the narcissist. After all, this scenario is best for the narcissist, & that is all the narcissist cares about.
Talking about your experiences can be very difficult- friends & family may invalidate or abandon you, & it just feels so strange to discuss something that was supposed to be just between you & your abuser since you can feel as if you’re betraying her. As difficult as it can be though, it’s especially when the narcissist gets angry with you for daring to talk, but do it anyway! The narcissist gave you no choice when she abused you, so why should you give her the power to take away your voice? This is your story & you have the right to share it if you want to do so. Don’t let anyone silence you, not even your narcissistic mother.
Other Christians may point you towards Scripture such as Proverbs 17:9 “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” (KJV), 1 Peter 4:8 “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (KJV) or even Exodus 20:12 “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (KJV) While these Scriptures are certainly valuable, they don’t really apply in this type of situation.
If you are discussing what happened to you in order to heal, there is nothing wrong with that. How could there be?! You just want to heal! Seems perfectly normal to me!
If you’re discussing your experiences to help raise awareness of narcissistic abuse, you’re trying to help others. Again, how could there be anything wrong with that?!
Even if you confront your narcissistic parent in the hopes of changing their abusive ways, this isn’t dishonorable when it is done in a respectful way. Cussing the parent out, not good of course, but saying, “It hurts me when you ..” is perfectly respectful. Love, God’s kind of love, wants what is best for people, & improving bad behavior of a narcissist is a loving thing.
If you feel you need to talk about your experiences, then never let anyone silence you. Yes, use wisdom regarding who you talk with- avoid those flying monkeys who are close to the narcissist or those who are naturally invalidating. But, if you feel you need to discuss your situation, do it! Whether it’s only with a close friend or therapist, or even being so bold as to write your autobiography, do it! God will show you what to do & how to do it. You won’t be sorry!
Most people who know anything about Narcissistic Personality Disorder say the only way to deal with a narcissist is not to deal with a narcissist. Cut ties with them & never look back.
Sometimes, though, that isn’t a possible solution, & other times, it isn’t a desired one for various reasons. I understand this- I have opted to go limited contact with my narcissistic mother. This comes with challenges, but even so, in my heart I believe it is the right solution for me.
Limited contact has forced me to get creative with ways to deal with her. Today I thought I would share some of them for those of you who are also still in a relationship with your narcissistic mothers.
- Distance. It’s really our friend. Limit your contact with your narcissistic mother as much as possible. When you visit her or are on the phone with her, limit your time with her to what you’re comfortable with.
- Keep focused. Narcissists love to gaslight & confuse their victims. Don’t let her distract you. Keep the conversation on the topic at hand, not how much more successful your sister is, what a good daughter her friend has or how badly you’ve disappointed your mother by not doing what she thinks you should do with your life.
- Always respond, never react. Reacting happens out of emotion where responding happens after a moment of contemplation. When your narcissistic mother angers you, stop for a second. Take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, then speak.
- Keep your sense of humor. It’ll help you keep your sanity when you realize just how over the top ridiculous some of her antics really are. It also helps her nastiness hurt you less when you can laugh.
- Be emotionless. While stuffing your emotions is not a good thing in general, in the presence of narcissists, it is a necessary survival tactic. If you show your hurt or anger to a narcissist, they see they have power over you & get even more abusive. Showing no emotions while in their presence minimizes the verbal abuse. Then, once you leave them, find a safe outlet for your anger & frustration. Journalling, talking to a safe & supportive friend, etc.
- Use logic. Want to frazzle your narcissistic mother? Use logic. For example, if you lose your job & your narcissistic mother responds by reminding you that you have rent & a car payment, you can respond by asking (in a very matter of fact tone of voice) how is this supposed to help you? Did she really think this hadn’t crossed your mind? She won’t know how to respond to you.
- Live your life on your terms. Nothing will drive a narcissistic mother crazier than you living your life, your way. It will bother her that she can’t make you do whatever it is she thinks you need to do with your life. And the best part is you will enjoy your life!