When you have been subjected to abuse at the hands of a narcissist, whether that person was a parent or romantic partner, obviously it does a lot of damage. Most everyone knows about the depression, anxiety, C-PTSD, low or non existent self esteem, inability to make decisions & difficulty trusting other people. One thing that is almost never mentioned though is how greatly your perspective about your problems is damaged.
What I mean is this. I mentioned a problem in passing to a friend recently & didn’t really think anything of it. Her reaction was shock that this had happened. I had offered no clues anything was wrong, let alone I was going through something so difficult.
Later I thought about this & realized I’m pretty messed up!! First, the problem was serious & I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. I brushed off my feelings about it as not important, & me overreacting rather than recognizing there is a problem that needs attention. Second, in coping with said problem, talking about it never crossed my mind. I’ve always been the one to talk to, not one who talks about my problems. Not to mention the bad experiences I’ve had when I finally do open up. Often when you aren’t one to talk about problems, people assume you’re stronger than you are. When you finally do open up, some people invalidate & minimize because they think you should just handle things & leave them out of it. That is a topic for another post though.
In contemplating all of this, I realized that the reason I am messed up in this area is due to narcissistic abuse.
Narcissists constantly make sure their victims feel unimportant & are all too aware that the narcissist is the only person in the relationship that matters at all. Naturally, if they are the only important person, then their problems are important too. By default, this means their “unimportant” victim’s problems are also unimportant. After being exposed to this treatment, over time, it affects a person. Eventually, you too believe that your problems are unimportant.
Narcissists also convince their victims that they are oversensitive or overreacting, which also gets inside a person over time. I haven’t been around a narcissist in years, but my automatic reaction was still to assume I was overreacting to my problem.
Narcissists also value secrecy. They forbid their victims to discuss the abuse. If they do, the victim will pay dearly. This secrecy becomes a way of life in time. Discussing things like personal problems isn’t something a victim may consider an option. For me, it’s such a deeply ingrained habit not to discuss them, it seldom crosses my mind that I have people in my life I can talk to.
If you are like me in this area, I would like to let you know what I am telling myself. It is perfectly OK to question things. If something bad is happening, don’t automatically minimize your feelings. They are valid! Consider the situation & ask yourself why do you feel this way? Maybe you are being overly sensitive, but that is fine! That simply shows an area where you need more healing. Or, maybe you aren’t. Maybe you have been wronged & are upset for a very good reason. If you need to deal with this challenging situation, your emotions can help motivate you to do that.
If you are unsure, then one thing that can help is stepping out of your comfort zone & talking to someone. You are allowed to do that! No one can tell you what you can & can’t discuss. Talk to someone safe & non judgmental. That person’s reaction will tell you plenty. Remember my friend being shocked at my situation? I honestly didn’t realize my circumstances were so bad until she reacted that way. That was very eye opening to not only that particular situation but my incredibly dysfunctional way of handling problems.
While God created people to rely first on Him, there is nothing bad about looking to friends for help sometimes. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 in the Amplified Bible has this to say about friends, “Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor; 10 for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, then they keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? 12 And though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”