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A few years before my mother died, she frequently told me what a great mother she was. It was truly painful for me, listening to her brag about all the wonderful things she supposedly did for me. Not only because either the things didn’t happen the way she said or she hadn’t done those things at all, but also because I felt she was disregarding the trauma she inflicted on me. It was very painful. I finally asked God to help me out with this. I was tired of hurting & frankly, I was also livid that she thought this was ok. He showed me some things.
My mother’s stories weren’t true, & she knew that. She was trying to convince herself & I both that she hadn’t done the terrible things she actually had done to me. While she didn’t care about the damage she caused me, she did care about anyone thinking badly of her. If other people knew what she had done, she would look bad, so it was best to convince me those things didn’t happen so I wouldn’t share stories of those terrible things. Her actions towards me caused her shame because of how they made her look, & this was how she chose to cope with what she did.
If she could convince herself those things hadn’t happened but the good things did, she also could convince herself that she was a good mother. A big added bonus for her.
A lot of people are like my mother was in this situation. They have no clue how to cope with problems. Rather than try to find a healthy way, they engage in very dysfunctional coping skills like reinventing the past as my mother did. She could have come to me, said she realized how badly she hurt me & was sorry. She tried to be a good mother but had no idea how to accomplish that. That would’ve been the happy ending to this problem I wanted, but it also wasn’t possible. She couldn’t have done that because, in typical narcissist fashion, she couldn’t face the bad things she had done.
When you are on the outside looking in at someone who behaves this way, it is hard not to be upset. Often, the knee jerk reaction will be you want to set that person straight. It’s so unfair that they invalidate your pain just to make themselves comfortable, especially for such trivial reasons as reputation or appearance. If the situation isn’t like that, but is someone you love working hard to ignore something they should face, your knee jerk reaction can be much the same, you want to set that person straight because you want better for them than this dysfunction. Eirher way, this is such a frustrating place to be!
Today though I feel that you need to know that you need not to act on your reaction. Yes, it would be wonderful to tell that person they are wrong & guide them in the right direction only to have them see the error of their ways. That is sadly unrealistic though. A person who employs such dysfunctional coping skills is rarely going to be open to the truth.
Please remember though that no matter how dysfunctional a person’s coping skills are, they have the right to use those coping skills. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you will be at peace. I know this is a very tough pill to swallow. It was for me with my mother. But, once I did that, I realized peace like I hadn’t felt before.
By accepting their coping skill, please know I don’t mean allowing them to draw you into their dysfunction. I do mean accepting that they are in a different place than you. They feel this is all they can handle right now. You also do not need to validate their delusions. If they demand you agree with whatever they say, you can change the subject or give a non committal type answer such as simply saying, “I know that’s what you believe.” Also by accepting their coping skill, that doesn’t mean you need to believe what they say. Always remember the truth, not the tales woven by someone using such a dysfunctional coping skill.
As a survivor of narcissistic abuse, I know firsthand the toll it can take on one’s emotional well-being. Growing up, I was constantly told that my emotions were wrong & shamed for my feelings, especially when they were different than my mother’s. As a result, I naturally learned to keep my feelings hidden & appear calm, cool & collected at all times. While this was a useful survival skill back then, it’s a habit that is hard to break as an adult. Today I hope to help victims of narcissistic parents learn how narcissistic abuse affects victims’ emotional lives & why it’s important to acknowledge & validate their feelings.
Narcissistic abuse is a form of psychological trauma that can leave lasting scars on survivors. Its pattern of manipulation, gaslighting, & control leaves victims feeling powerless & confused. For children of narcissistic parents, this usually means growing up in a constant state of anxiety & fear. They never know when their parent will lash out or criticize them, so they learn to be hyper-vigilant, in other words always on guard. This chronic stress can lead to a range of emotional & physical symptoms, including depression, anxiety, & C-PTSD.
One of the ways that narcissistic abuse affects victims’ emotions is by making them hypersensitive to criticism & rejection. They learned early on that their parent’s love & approval were conditional on their behavior & achievements. As a result, they may feel like they’re never good enough & constantly seek validation from others. At the same time, they fear rejection & avoid conflict at all costs. This makes it hard for them to form healthy relationships & speak up for themselves.
Another way that narcissistic abuse affects victims’ emotions is by making them feel guilty for their own feelings. Children of narcissistic parents are often told that their emotions are wrong or that they’re being “too sensitive.” This usually leads to a pattern of self-doubt & self-criticism, where they blame themselves for their parent’s behavior & try to change themselves to avoid further abuse. They also struggle with expressing their emotions in a healthy way, as they’ve learned early in life that vulnerability is dangerous.
For all victims of narcissistic abuse, one of the most important steps in healing is learning to validate their own emotions. This means acknowledging that their feelings are real & valid, even if they don’t always make sense or seem logical at the moment. It also means learning to express their emotions in a healthy way & developing healthy boundaries with people who don’t respect them.
To accomplish this, I’ve learned prayer to be invaluable. God has provided me with wisdom & strength to do as I need. One helpful thing He showed me was to look at my emotions from purely logical perspective. I ask myself questions like is this emotion reasonable in this situation? If I struggle to figure that out, I ask myself if a close friend came to me feeling as I do after experiencing what I have, would I think that friend is overreacting or reasonable? Sometimes looking at situations as if they were happening to someone else can give you a much clearer perspective. And, if you still are struggling, try writing down the situation & your emotions. Writing is a phenomenal tool for helping to bring clarity so use it freely! I keep a journal & have found it tremendously helpful in many ways, including learning to validate myself & my emotions.
Practice expressing your emotions with safe, honest, non judgmental people, too. As hard as it can be at first, tell safe people how you feel & ask them for feedback. This can help you to get better at expressing your emotions.
Learning to recognize & express your emotions is tough, but worth it. You may never get completely comfortable with it, but at the very least, you can heal to the point of being able to recognize & express your emotions in healthy ways. Although those are useful survival skills around narcissists, stifling them long term is so unhealthy & miserable, & you don’t deserve to live that way!
Some people are known as Dark Empaths. They are often described as someone who uses their ability to recognize what others are going through & use it for their benefit. They have only one of the three types of empathy, what is known as cognitive empathy. According to researchers Paul Ekman & Daniel Goldman, this means someone can identify with what someone is experiencing & feeling, yet their own emotions aren’t affected. There is no desire to help or support someone struggling.
Dark Empaths also can be prone to gossiping, bullying, manipulating or intimidating others & being vindictive. They also can be prolific with gaslighting, love bombing & portraying themselves as the victim. If you’re thinking their behavior sounds narcissistic, you would be absolutely correct. The difference between them & narcissists is that they have some empathy, as damaged as it may be, unlike narcissists who have none.
I learned some time back about a variation on the Dark Empath that is quite different than this standard definition. In fact, it’s very empowering to people like me!
This alternative definition says that Dark Empaths are champions for humanity. They want to protect & educate people. Often, they are victims of narcissistic abuse, & learned from their experiences. They can spot a narcissist & recognize their manipulations easily. They also can outwit narcissists easily. Narcissists hate these Dark Empaths because they see behind the mask, recognize exactly what they are, won’t hesitate to call them out on their behavior & warn others about them.
While I’m less than thrilled with the original, recognized definition of a Dark Empath, I do identify well with this alternative definition. I just wish it was the original definition, because it fits what I thought when I first read the term Dark Empath so much better than the original definition. When I first began reading about empaths, everything seemed to portray them as almost mystical, sometimes with psychic powers & cheering up people who were sad. It seemed to me empaths were all “unicorns & rainbows”. I found something silly for quite some time, so I stopped reading about them. Over time, I learned I have a great deal of empathy, but I’m far from the unicorns & rainbows type. I’m too realistic for that. If something is bad, I will admit that just as quickly as I’ll admit something is good. So for me, I thought of myself as a Dark Empath. Later reading what psychologists refer to as a Dark Empath was rather shocking. Finding the alternative definition felt so much more accurate. And, realizing what I was reading described me well was pretty empowering!
Today I thought sharing this with you might be as beneficial for you as it was for me. So many people I’ve spoken to who follow my work also fit this alternative description of a Dark Empath. If it describes you, then I hope you find this as empowering as I have. Don’t let society’s desire for only light, happy things dissuade you from what you feel you must do. It’s ok & even necessary to talk about more serious, deep things like narcissism. Narcissists are out there & hurting people every single day. Everyone needs to be aware of what they’re capable of & how to protect themselves from these monsters.
Not everyone is capable of speaking openly about narcissism & narcissistic abuse because of the backlash, but if you feel called to do this, you have the ability to handle that backlash with dignity. I can promise you that. I’ve been attacked more times than I can count from people I know & strangers alike for discussing it so openly & you know something? It no longer upsets me, because I know people like this only want to shut people like me down because of their own selfish desires, & usually are narcissists themselves. Dark Empaths are realistic & understand people enough to know this, which means the insults of such people don’t affect them or deter them from their path.
If you too are a Dark Empath in the alternative definition of the phrase, be encouraged! What you’re doing is helping people, even changing their lives. Keep on your path! God has given you a very unique calling & equipped you to handle it!
Being strong has some very dysfunctional connotations that are often admired. Showing no emotion, not defending yourself to someone abusive & moving on quickly after losing a loved ones are some good examples I can think of that many people think are being strong but are actually very dysfunctional. Today I thought I’d share things that are real signs of strength & are very healthy as well.
Being vulnerable enough to show & honor your emotions is truly strong. It is incredibly hard to show vulnerabilities in a world where people can be so judgmental, critical, minimizing & invalidating. Displaying & also honoring your emotions without apology in spite of the judgment & potential cruelty of other people takes a great deal of strength.
Refusing to tolerate things & people that cause you pain & suffering is another sign of real strength. Doing so can cause you to lose people in your life that you thought loved & supported you, so doing it in spite of knowing that it may mean people you love will abandon you takes a lot of strength. I’m specifically thinking of those of us who have ended relationships with our abusive parents with this one. No matter how they may treat you, many people put all parents on a pedestal, thinking they are all wonderful & loving. These people clearly think that means you never abandon them because they are your wonderful parents, so if you do, they will have plenty of cruel things to say to you. Doing what you need to in order to protect yourself takes a lot of strength.
Standing up for what is right takes a great deal of strength. Doing this means you most likely will face a lot of opposition & judgment. Doing what is right in the face of that isn’t easy or for the faint of heart, in particular when it is something that can attract a lot of attention.
Refusing to compromise your morals also takes a lot of strength, especially when doing so could benefit you somehow. Society as a whole seems to think having good morals are outdated & foolish. People should just do whatever they want without thoughts to consequences. Not living that way takes dedication & strength.
Going against what is considered normal takes a lot of strength. People rarely admire people that are considered abnormal in any way. Those with a strong faith in God are mocked for being so religious. People with children claim childless people are selfish. People who work in the arts are told they don’t have a real job by those who work traditional 9-5 type jobs. The list goes on & on. Going against the norm sets you up for lots of criticism from people who lack the courage & strength to do it themselves, so it takes a lot of strength to do what works for you when it goes against the norm.
Facing the ugly truth rather than living in denial by believing comfortable lies also is a sign of great strength. Honestly, truth isn’t always easy. Sometimes it seems like it would be so much easier just to deny & ignore painful truth. Taking the right path by facing truth instead of ignoring it takes a lot of strength & courage.
Being real & genuine instead of fake takes a lot of strength. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to pretend to be whatever other people want you to be since you wouldn’t face the judgment & criticism of other people. But that is no way to live. The world is full of fake & desperately needs some authenticity. Authentic people are what makes the world a better place, not the fake ones. It takes strength to be real in a fake world.
Asking for help absolutely takes a lot of strength. It is a very humbling experience to ask someone for help of any type, whether it is a physical need, financial or even emotional. Asking for help knowing you may be rejected takes strength.
If you think about your life & you have done these things, then you are strong! Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Be proud of yourself for your strength!
Does someone you know make you feel ashamed for expressing how you feel? Have people told you that you are trying to start trouble, being “too much” or “over the top”, oversensitive or overreacting? This is a form of gaslighting that is designed to make you feel wrong for complaining about the abuse. The truth is, you have the right to express your feelings, & no one should make you feel ashamed for doing so.
Narcissists often use shame to control their victims. One way they do this is by making their victims feel wrong for complaining about the abuse. They do this to make sure that their victims don’t speak up again. This type of behavior is a way for narcissists to control their victims, & ensure they can continue to do as they please without any repercussions.
It is important to note that narcissists are not the only ones who use this tactic. People who are dysfunctional & don’t want to change also use it as a way to remain in their dysfunction. If they can make someone feel wrong & ashamed for expressing their feelings, chances are that person won’t speak up again if the dysfunctional person repeats that behavior or does something else hurtful. This means that the dysfunctional person won’t have to face their own bad behavior or make any changes.
No matter who treats you this way & their reasoning behind it, remember that you have the right to express your feelings. Your feelings are valid, & no one should make you feel ashamed for expressing them, especially if someone has treated you badly.
The best way to protect yourself when faced with this sort of toxic behavior in your average dysfunctional person is to stand your ground, & not let them make you feel ashamed of your feelings. Speak up & refuse to be silenced. Your feelings are valid, & you should never let anyone make you feel wrong for expressing them.
When faced with a narcissist, speaking up & talking things out reasonably almost never works. In those cases, you need to exercise wisdom & lean on God to show you how you can best handle the situation. Be forewarned, sometimes He may guide you into doing something difficult that you would rather not do. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to stay quiet & remind yourself what the narcissist is doing to you so you don’t believe their lies. Other times, He may guide you to let it all out. Since narcissists often use emotional outbursts against their victims, that is rarely wise, but I have experienced some times when God has told me that the other person needed to see me behave that way because of something they have done. If God truly guides you to do that, you can trust it is for very valid reasons, even if you don’t know just what they are.
It is never okay for someone to make you feel wrong for expressing your feelings. You have the right to speak up & express how you feel. If someone is trying to shame you, it is likely because they don’t want to face their own behavior or they want to abuse you. Remember that you are not alone, & there is support available if you need it. You have people who love you & will support you. There are plenty of online forums out there available, too. My Facebook group is a safe place for people from all walks of life to find comfort & support. Feel fee to check it out.
My life has not had a lot of positive constants to say the least. This is typical for any victim of narcissistic abuse. One of the few positive constant things has been music, & I thought it would be a good idea to discuss that today.
Growing up with narcissistic parents, I learned early on that my job was to take care of & please them no matter any personal cost. I also learned that any needs, wants, feelings, thoughts I had were unimportant. While experiencing this, books became a wonderful escape for me. When reading, I could be transported somewhere that this sort of abuse wasn’t happening. Eventually though I had to put the book down & rejoin reality. Thankfully, I discovered music when I was in the sixth grade.
Music didn’t offer quite the same escape as books did, but possibly it was even more helpful & powerful. Reading, as wonderful as it can be, forces you to focus on it a lot so you don’t miss the details or lose your place. Music is different. You can listen to music while you do pretty much anything, & still reap its benefits. It also was the one thing that my narcissistic mother couldn’t ruin or take away from me, although she certainly tried to. I simply listened to other artists or genres until I found something that spoke to me.
As I got older, I clung to music, & still do. I have certain genres & artists whose music is especially powerful & even healing to me. My hope in sharing this with you is that you will discover the same for yourself.
Everyone’s taste in music is different, so please understand that whatever music helps you, that is ok! There is no right or wrong. What I am sharing today is just some information for you to consider when choosing your own music preferences.
As a new Christian in my mid 20’s, I thought the only acceptable music for Christians was gospel or worship music. For some reason, these aren’t my favorite genres. However, “Testify To Love” by Wynonna Judd & Bob Carlisle’s “Shades Of Grace” album never fail to touch my heart, & make me feel closer to God than usual.
As time went on, I got back into music I had loved prior to becoming a Christian. Being a teenager in the 1980’s, I have a fondness for 80’s music. Back then, I listened to anything from pop to heavy metal. Even now, I still listen to it often. This music takes me back to a time when although my life was very difficult, I still had one thing that was all mine, & it was something no one could ruin for me. It feels good to remember that feeling.
I also like some country music. My father was a big fan of outlaw country, like Waylon Jennings & Johnny Cash, & I remember him playing it when I was a little girl riding in his car. That was fun, & now that car is mine. Listening to it in that car reminds me of some good memories I have. As an adult, I also discovered some country artists I love whose music reminds me to be proud of my roots, as my granddad instilled in me. Loving the sound of their music is just a bonus.
There are other certain songs of random genres that I adore which also remind me of my roots. Celtic & Native American Indian music often speak to me on a deep level, thanks to my Irish & Native American Indian heritage. They make me feel a connection to ancestors I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet, & considering how interesting many of them were, this is a very good thing. I also periodically enjoy some opera, classical, & instrumental nature music. A song I enjoy from such genres isn’t common for me, but it always will create a sensation of peace & serenity.
Lastly, I am a huge fan of a lot of heavy metal music. I know, this is hardly everyone’s preferred genre, but it still inspires me. It empowers me too. There is so much passion that goes into songs of this genre & it seems to pass along to me when I listen to it. I can’t not enjoy that especially considering how much time in my life has been spent feeling powerless.
I realize my taste in music could best be described as “don’t judge me”, & isn’t for everyone. I hope in spite of that, you will consider what I have said & find what music has a powerful affect on you as my choices do on me.
Have you ever heard of the emotions wheel? If not, it is pretty much as it’s described- a wheel labeled with emotions. The emotions wheel was developed to help people to articulate their feelings clearly, & this wheel helps people to do just that. It looks much like an old spoked wheel. The center of the wheel has basic feelings labeled such as anger, afraid & happy. Going towards the outer edge are some more specific feelings that relate to each emotion & the last round at the edge has even more specific feelings. For example, the center may say “anger”, the next round above it will say things like “hostile, hateful, hurt, angry” then the next round above that could say “jealous, irritated, frustrated, critical”. There are variations on this wheel, but all share the same basic format.
Emotions wheels are a very useful tool, I believe. Sometimes it can be hard to put feelings into words. If you already struggle with words maybe due to aphasia from a brain injury or simply aren’t good with words, emotions wheels can be very helpful in finding a way to describe your emotions.
Or, maybe you are someone who isn’t really in touch with their emotions. You know you feel things but are unsure of what those emotions are. That can happen after narcissistic abuse because of the gaslighting. When you’re told over & over that what you feel is wrong or you don’t feel that way but this way instead, it can be hard to recognize your emotions. My mother always criticized my “Bailey temper”, making me sound like I had a serious anger problem. Eventually I learned that my supposed terrible temper was sometimes just frustration, not anger. In the midst of the situation though, I had no idea of that. I thought I was an angry person.
There are also times it can be very hard to pinpoint exactly why you feel the way you do about something. For example, I sometimes feel extremely angry when people get mad at me for something that isn’t my fault. The sillier the issue, the more angry I’m likely to get. Like, if I was outside without my phone & missed an unexpected call, & the caller was mad I didn’t answer, that would infuriate me. Thanks to the emotions wheel, I have learned feeling shame & humiliation are at the root of it. Those feelings are there because growing up, I felt such intense pressure to do everything right, & when I didn’t, I was harshly criticized. Recognizing that has helped me to deal with my old wounds so I don’t immediately get angry if that type of situation arises.
Whether you are in therapy or not, no matter how far along on your healing journey you are, or even if you haven’t been abused, I highly recommend getting an emotions wheel. You can search for them online- there are many free variations out there. When you’re struggling with your emotions, look at the wheel & figure out what you’re feeling. You may be surprised what you learn.
Make sure you don’t forget to pray, too. Let God show you whatever it is you need to learn. He will show you things that help you tremendously. The wheel will help you but not nearly as much as God will!
Although I’m an only child, I’ve talked to many people who have siblings & narcissistic parents. Their stories are often quite similar. Following is some of what I have seen in these situations.
There is that one child who is the “good” one who can do no wrong, also known as the golden child. There is also a scapegoat who receives all the blame for the problems in the family. There are also some other possible roles for children in this family. The lost child is the one whose parents mostly ignore them. The family screw up is similar to the scapegoat in that he or she can do nothing right but they also aren’t necessarily to blame for all problems. Lastly is the family joker who constantly tries to lighten the mood of the dysfunction with humor.
Whatever the child’s role, they are all simply trying to survive their environment however works best for them. The golden child tries to please their narcissistic parents, often by making them look good or even imitating them. The scapegoat tries to please them until they realize they can’t no matter what they do, & then they usually begin to rebel. The lost child fades quietly into the background. The family screw up tries pleasing their parents, even if it means failing to prove the parents are right about how awful they are. The joker says or does anything, even inappropriate things, when things get too tense in an attempt to diffuse bad situations. Sometimes, children follow in their narcissistic parents’ footsteps, & become narcissists themselves. At the very least, they often display some narcissistic tendencies until they realize they dislike that behavior in themselves & make healthy changes.
These children continue their roles into adulthood, unless they understand the truth of their situation. Usually the first one to recognize the dysfunction is the scapegoat. Often, they try to get their siblings to see the truth, but are met with shaming, mocking &/or denial. Scapegoats are also usually the first ones who sever ties with their family members because once they have seen the truth, they can’t return to the toxicity. The other children bond even closer to their abusive parents & talk badly about the scapegoat when this happens.
The remaining children, even as adults often with their own children & even grandchildren, remain blindly loyal to their parents. They won’t hesitate to hurt their spouse, children or grandchildren by keeping their narcissistic parents as their top priority. Of course, they don’t think they are doing anything wrong. After all, they’re just helping out their parents & that certainly can’t be wrong, according to them. They often are sanctimonious about how much they do for their parents, & judge other siblings for not doing enough. In their minds, this relationship with their parents proves they are good people & part of a loving, close family.
Once the narcissistic parents are gone & only their adult children remain, things can get interesting. Sometimes, they simply go their own ways, losing contact with each other. Other times, they continue their dysfunctional relationships with each other. In some ways, it’s almost as if their parents are still alive. They still see each other as their parents saw them. Even after their parents have died, they still treat each other as their parents taught them to, basically carrying out their parents’ tradition of abuse.
If this is your situation, please know you’re not alone! There are so many people with similar stories. Find some support. There are online forums that can help. My Facebook group is full of caring, kind, supportive people with all kinds of experience with narcissistic abuse. Talking with others with similar stories will help you so much. Learn all you can about Narcissistic Personality Disorder & healing from narcissistic abuse, too. Read books & blogs, watch YouTube videos, listen to podcasts. There is a great deal of information out there. Most of all, never forget to pray. God wants to help you! Tell him whatever you’re experiencing & ask for His help to heal & cope. He will be more than happy to help you!
I have just finished publishing my newest book! It’s called, “How Close is Too Close: When Close Families are Dysfunctional” The topic is about enmeshed families/emotional incest. At this moment, the ebook only is available, but the print version will be available very soon too.
I hope you’ll check it out at the link below. It’s a universal link, & will show you all the places the book can be purchased so you can purchase it from your favorite ebook retailer. If you don’t see your favorite retailer, feel free to email me (CynthiaBaileyRug@aol.com). I can sell it to you directly after I convert the book into your desired format.
A very common tactic of narcissists is to make their victim look mentally or emotionally damaged somehow. Doing this works out very well for narcissists, & equally badly for their victims.
If a narcissist can make the victim believe that they are damaged, the victim naturally will look elsewhere for information like what they should feel in situations, what they should do, & even just how to live. Naturally they look to the person closest to them, which usually is the narcissist. A victim who believes they are inferior to the narcissist will trust that narcissist to help them navigate life, & become a very well controlled victim.
A victim who has been humiliated in this manner & doesn’t understand what is happening also will be anxious to do anything to prove this isn’t true, which also gives the narcissist control over him or her. Since the narcissist is the one who started this lie, the victim may think they can get the narcissist to change his or her mind. The victim may try to get the narcissist to see they aren’t crazy or whatever the narcissist claims they are by behaving however the narcissist wants them to behave as an attempt to regain their favor. I felt this way growing up when my mother told me that I “needed help” as she often did. I failed to realize at the time if she was so convinced I was mentally ill, she should have taken me to a doctor.
Convincing victims that they are seriously flawed damages their self-esteem at best, & destroys it at worst. Either way works for the narcissist, because he or she will feel superior to their horribly flawed victim. Feeling superior adds to the illusion that the narcissist is a wonderful person, which is tremendous narcissistic supply.
If a narcissist can get other people to see the victim as clearly inferior, those people won’t believe the victim if the victim speaks up about the narcissist’s abusive behavior. They will chalk these stories up to the victim being unstable, over sensitive, neurotic, crazy or whatever the narcissist has said the victim is. This means people won’t help the victim escape the narcissist. In fact, they may even encourage that victim to change their behavior & listen to the narcissist, & maintain the relationship. Victims in this situation are left without support, & may resign to maintaining this abusive relationship.
If a victim does escape the narcissist, their reputation that the narcissist created will do them plenty of harm. People who believe the narcissist’s lies will flock to the narcissist’s side to offer comfort & support, while (often very cruelly) rejecting the victim. They assume the victim really is as bad as the narcissist has said because he or she left the narcissist. Victims in this situation are often left with little or even no support at the time they need it most.
There is another reason narcissists behave this way. Doing so convinces them that their victim is the problem, not them or their abusive ways. Claiming the victim is mentally or emotionally unbalanced makes that victim the narcissist’s scapegoat. Having a scapegoat opens the door for narcissists to blame the scapegoat for anything & everything they want. This means they can justify their abusive ways in their mind. Narcissists with scapegoats can function without worry that there is anything wrong with them, because they have convinced themselves that the scapegoats are to blame for every single problem they have.
If you are faced with a narcissist claiming that you are deeply flawed mentally or emotionally, remember, this isn’t about your mental health. This is about the narcissist having an ulterior motive, & that motive is going to hurt you! Protect yourself & don’t believe the lies! Remember, narcissists attack what they feel threatened by. They tell beautiful people they’re ugly, they tell smart people they’re stupid, & they tell sane people they’re crazy.
Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Mental Health, Narcissism
I have lost track of how many people I have spoken with who have been faced with cruel people minimizing & invalidating their trauma. Like these people, I’ve faced it myself. Mostly from family but also from total strangers who have commented on my work. This behavior absolutely infuriates me whether it’s aimed at me or someone else, because it is so far beyond WRONG!
People who behave this way have no idea that although the trauma may have happened in the past, it still affects the present. When you have C-PTSD or PTSD, the past is constantly a part of the present, whether or not you want it to be. Even if you have tried hard to heal & cope, some things are simply too odious to heal from in a lifetime. That doesn’t make you flawed or broken. It makes you human.
Also, what makes anyone think they have the right to judge another person for how they have handled trauma? Do they honestly think they could have handled the situation better? Or maybe to them, your trauma doesn’t sound so bad. So what? They aren’t you. Things that devastate you may not affect them & things that devastate them may not affect you. People are different. That doesn’t make one person right & the other wrong in these situations. It makes them different. Contrary to what many people seem to think, different isn’t a bad thing!
Even people with good intentions can be invalidating. Comments like, “I’m sure it wasn’t all that bad”, “You’ll be ok!” are just as invalidating & damaging as when someone’s intentions are deliberate & malicious. When I was in high school, I spoke to my guidance counselor about the abuse at home. One thing I told her was how my mother would scream at me every day, telling me how horrible I was. She actually told me, “That doesn’t sound so bad.” That was in 1989 & thinking about that still makes me angry! It really was bad, I can assure you of that.
When this sort of thing happens to you, there are some things you can do. Rather than accept the invalidation as fact, question it. Ask God to tell you the truth about the situation & listen to what He has to say. And, question the person saying what they did. You can ask them why would they say that about something that clearly traumatized you, or why do they think it’s ok to be so heartless. Questions like that can stop a person in their tracks. Someone who didn’t intend to hurt you will be upset you said that but realize why you did. They will apologize & be more sensitive to you. Someone who did intend to hurt you will make excuses for what they said or blame you for being over sensitive or overreacting.
Another tactic that can help is repeating what the person said back to them. As an example, let’s say you were robbed at knife point, & someone says that happened last year, so you shouldn’t be upset about it anymore. You could respond with, “You know what? You’re absolutely right! I don’t know what I was thinking! I shouldn’t be so sensitive. I should just forget that someone robbed me & easily could have killed me. That makes perfect sense doesn’t it?!”
You also need to have good boundaries. If someone repeatedly invalidates you, you don’t have to tolerate it. Let them know this isn’t something you will tolerate, & if they continue, you will have to hang up the phone or leave, then follow through if they continue.
If this person continues to treat you this way in spite of knowing how much they are hurting you, you may need to end the relationship. Naturally, that is your decision of course, but it should be a possibility in your mind, because you don’t deserve this sort of cruel treatment.
I hope you feel better equipped to deal with invalidating people now, because you deserve to be treated so much better than that!
Those who survive trauma suffer a great deal beyond the traumatic events they endured. They also struggle with anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & more. Experiencing trauma changes how your brain works & how you think. Because of this, today I want to remind those of you who survived trauma of some important things.
You are strong. I know, you don’t feel that way but you are. Even if you have some serious struggles with your mental health, you’re strong. You survived what easily could have killed another person. Yes, you have some damage from that but you still survived. That is proof that you are strong!
You are valuable. Abusers do love to convince their victims that they are useless wastes of space don’t they? The fact is though that they only say this because it keeps their victims down & easier to control, not because they believe it. In fact, if they work hard to convince you that you have no value, it only goes to show that they know you are valuable. If they believed you truly to be worthless, why would they work so hard to convince you that you are worthless?
You are not to blame for the abuse. I don’t care what your abuser said, you are not to blame for anything they did. You never made that person hurt you. Nothing anyone says or does can force another person to abuse them. Get mad, sure. Maybe even hit someone in extreme cases. But, ongoing abuse is the result of the decision to abuse someone over & over again. That decision is the sole responsibility of abusers.
You didn’t deserve the abuse. Again, I don’t care what your abuser said. Nothing you did means you deserved whatever your abuser did to you. They chose to abuse because of something very fundamentally wrong with them, not because of anything you did.
If your abuser was someone you fell in love with, that isn’t a reason for you to feel stupid or be ashamed of yourself. Abusers aren’t horrible all of the time. If they were, they’d be easy to spot & avoid. Abusers often portray themselves as just what their victim wants in a mate, which is why good people fall in love with them every day.
You are allowed to talk about what he or she did to you. Abusers love their victims to stay quiet & will not hesitate to use anything in their power to make that happen. They don’t want anyone to know what they have done or are doing because that might mean someone would think badly of them, give them consequences for their behavior or even stop them from abusing their victims. The truth though is that this isn’t just their story. It’s yours too, which means you have every right to discuss it as much or as little as you want. If they want you to talk about them in a good way, they shouldn’t have abused you! Don’t forget too that discussing it isn’t trying to ruin their reputation. It’s simply telling what happened to you.
Your wants & needs are valid. Your desire to be treated with basic common decency is valid. Normal, even. Your wants & needs don’t mean you’re “high maintenance”, needy or impossible to please.
Your emotions are also valid. Just because your abuser said you are over sensitive, overreacting or can’t take a joke doesn’t mean these things are true. Your anger & hurt over their behavior are valid, & perfectly normal under the circumstances.
It’s perfectly ok to take days off. So many abusers convince their victims that they’re lazy, & that often sticks around long after the abuse is over. I struggle with this myself, so I want to tell you what I tell myself. There is nothing wrong with taking days off. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It means you’re human & need some rest. Healing from abuse & living with the mental & emotional struggles are a lot of work! Rest is essential anyway but especially when you’re trying to heal.
I hope this post helps you to remember these important points. I wish you the best!
Growing up with abusive parents is a truly horrific experience. The abuse takes a deep root inside of you & does a tremendous amount of damage. One common way that damage manifests is the need for validation from other people. If you think this doesn’t describe you, then please read on anyway. You just might learn something about yourself.
External validation is great. It’s always nice when other people praise you or say that something that was done to you was wrong. However, adult children of abusive parents often take the desire for such things to an extreme. It is quite clear that is what is happening when a person displays certain behaviors.
Someone who drops hints about something good they have done or a good quality they have may be seeking external validation. The praise that other people give them in such situations is very welcomed since it tells this person that they really are OK, good, smart, attractive, valuable, etc.
Similarly, exaggerating a person’s good deeds or qualities is another cry for external validation. As the saying goes, you don’t see commercials for Rolls Royce cars because they know their worth & value. They don’t need to convince others they are great. Anyone who feels they must magnify their good qualities is doing so in the hopes of gaining praise & external validation.
Excessive posting on social media can be a sign of someone looking for external validation. Someone who shares a lot about their life on social media may be seeking “likes” & positive comments as a way to gain some external validation.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying a person who mentions something positive they have done, a positive quality they have or who shares on social media is completely dysfunctional. Not at all! I’m simply saying these things when done in excess can be a sign of someone who is seeking external validation & that is unhealthy.
External validation is great, but it truly shouldn’t be extremely, over the top important to anyone. If it is, this is a sign of something wrong, such as low self esteem or envy. It also can be a sign of a personality disorder. Narcissists clearly take this to an extreme since they demand approval & praise from others, but those with Borderline Personality Disorder may also seek external validation frequently.
Being hyper-focused on external validation can be truly disruptive to a person’s life. It can damage or ruin relationships with its neediness. Even the most patient people get tired of feeling as if they constantly must reassure someone at some point.
If you feel a strong need for external validation, you can fix this problem! I know, because I once felt that need but no longer do. I hope what I did helps you too!
The first step for me was to turn to God. I asked Him for help, to show me what I needed to do to be healthier & to help me understand who He says I am. I also studied what the Bible says about believers. There are a lot of Scriptures about what God thinks of His children! It’s very eye opening!
I watched my behavior, too. If I realized I was starting to seek validation from other people, I stopped myself. I asked myself why I felt this was necessary. I also asked myself why I felt I needed the approval of this particular person. If that person was dysfunctional, I realized that their approval truly wasn’t important. They naturally would only praise dysfunctional behaviors so why would I want their validation?! I also realized that those who are functional won’t make me feel I have to beg for validation. They offer it freely.
Rather than turning to people for validation, I turned inward. I acknowledged my feelings & thoughts. If I felt that I did something well, I praised myself. If I recognized something I’ve been through was wrong or bad, I told myself that. My validation became good enough for me. That took some time but it did happen & was well worth the wait!
I hope if you are seeking external validation in excess, you can change your ways. People are fallible human beings, which means they will fail you sometimes. Constantly looking to them for validation is setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, turning to God for it & learning to validate yourself will be much more fulfilling for you!
Once someone has been abused, often they quietly & obliviously develop the misguided belief that they are unworthy of compassion & kindness.
Most likely this comes from their abusers constantly telling them that they are a burden, they’re stupid, do nothing but cause problems & other things that instill a deep root of toxic shame in victims. That toxic shame tells people that their feelings, needs, wants, pains & every other thing about them aren’t valid.
Add into this the phrase “victim mentality” & the shame society often inflicts on anyone who says they were a victim. Clueless & often heartless people say victims should’ve just walked away, pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, they should stop living in the past & being so negative. It makes people feel that they deserved the abuse, & are weak for being abused or even having PTSD or C-PTSD as a result of the abuse, which only adds to the toxic shame.
Even worse than the toxic shame is the fact that being on the receiving end of such treatment makes people doubt the validity of their pain over their experiences. They may think they weren’t abused so badly since their parent didn’t beat them, or their abusive husband “only” forced her to have sex a few times. Other people have it so much worse, so their experiences couldn’t be all that bad, right? WRONG! They were bad! In fact, they were worse than bad. They were atrocious! Being abused is horrible, no matter how frequently one is abused or whether it was verbal, physical, sexual, spiritual or financial.
After being on the receiving end of such treatment, is it common for people to think they’re awful people, whining about trivial matters, so they don’t deserve any compassion or kindness. Today, I want to tell anyone who feels this way that they are ABSOLUTELY WRONG! I don’t care what your abusers said you were or that other people maybe had it “worse” than you. Your pain is valid. Your experiences were terrible. You did NOT deserve any of it. And, you deserve compassion and kindness!
Whether you are comfortable admitting this or not, the truth is you have been through some pretty horrific things. Those things weren’t your fault. You did nothing whatsoever to deserve them. You aren’t a bad person because others said you were & treated you terribly. Their behavior speaks much more about them than it does you. And, it doesn’t mean you are undeserving of compassion & kindness. You are as worthy of compassion & kindness just as much as any other person. In fact, you are just as worthy as any other person in every possible way, period.
If you haven’t begun to focus on your healing, maybe today is the day to start. It will benefit you so much to do so! Admitting the abuse was wrong & painful is an excellent place to start. Also recognizing that the way your abuser treated you truly had nothing to do with you but with your abusers is powerful for healing. Get angry about the unfairness & cruelty of what was done to you! That will help you to see that you didn’t deserve it, & you deserve to be treated so much better. Pray, write in a journal, seek a counselor that specializes in trauma or whatever helps you to heal. The more you heal, the more you’ll recognize that you are valuable. The more you recognize your own value, the less poor treatment from other people you will tolerate. You also will recognize what you deserve, & that includes to be loved, respected & treated compassionately & kindly.
Life isn’t easy for adults who were abused by their parents. The judgment of other people, often those who don’t know much if anything about the situation can be particularly painful.
Society as a whole says things like blood is thicker than water, forgive & forget, you only get one mother or father, they tried their best, & other such drivel. Basically, this makes victims feel like holding their abusive parents accountable for their behavior is unfairly blaming them. This is so wrong!
Blaming someone & holding them accountable are very different things!
Blame assigns responsibility for something done. It is very critical & basically, the exact opposite of praise. Blame is accusatory, & unwilling to listen to or consider anything other than the perception of the person doing the blaming. It also implies shame, saying someone who did something is intrinsically bad. Consider how narcissists speak as an example. They blame others for making them act badly, for upsetting them & pretty much anything. It also puts the person doing the blaming in a superior position, even if only in their mind. Suddenly they become “good” & the other person becomes “bad.”
Holding someone accountable is different. It states responsibility without the shame factor that is implied in blame. It also means that you are responsible for your actions & you also are liable for them. The person being held accountable is responsible for their actions, & can give satisfactory reasons for them. Both people in this equation are equal, no one is “good or bad,” “superior or inferior”, unlike when blame is present.
I have spoken with a LOT of victims of child abuse as well as being one myself, which has taught me a tremendous amount about how adult victims of child abuse think. One constant I have noticed is the lack of blame most victims have for their parents. They don’t hate them, or feel superior to them somehow. They would like to know why their parents treated them as they did.
They also grew up believing that they were responsible for their parents somehow. Abusive parents, in particular narcissistic ones, often engage in parentalizing behaviors, expecting their children to care for their needs instead of them caring for their children’s needs. Or, the abusive parents looked to their children to fix some problems in their lives, such as their failing marriage. These abusive behaviors led these children to feel as if they were betraying their parents if they blamed them for anything. They excused the abuse or assumed responsibility for it themselves.
Once these children grew up & recognized their parents were abusive, they often still have trouble blaming their parents. Instead, they hold their parents accountable, which is much more rational than blame anyway.
Holding one’s abusive parents accountable for the abuse is perfectly reasonable. It allows someone to have empathy for the struggles the abusive parent had that fueled their abusive ways while also allows this person to realize that setting boundaries or even removing such a parent from their life is sensible & reasonable. This is what I did with my parents. I recognized their dysfunction & why they were as they were. My heart went out to them but since they weren’t willing to change their toxic ways, I had to set boundaries to protect my mental health.
Narcissists clearly don’t handle blame or even holding them accountable well, in particular when this comes from their child, but their response isn’t your responsibility. By holding them accountable in a reasonable way rather than angrily blaming them, any emotional reaction they have is their responsibility, not yours.
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My Facebook group is full of some really wonderful people. Godly, kind, caring, & very intelligent. I’ve made some great friends through this group. One of which & I were talking not long ago about where we have found the most help in understanding narcissists. She told me that I can quote her, so this is what she said. She has been to 14 counselors including psychologists, a psychiatrist, pastors, church counselors & an EDMR specialist but none of them gave her the kind of help that I have. Me, with no formal education in the mental health field, no LCSW or PHD or anything behind my name!
I’m not saying this to brag. I’m saying this because what my friend said next made a very good point. She said I have helped her more than those counselors because I’ve been through so much with narcissists. I have no formal training, but I have plenty of experience, & sometimes that is just what you need to help you in certain situations. Narcissistic abuse recovery is one of those situations.
While I mean no disrespect to mental health professionals, they usually don’t know much about Narcissistic Personality Disorder or any of the Cluster B disorders. I have two counselor friends who told me something very interesting. They don’t know each other, so naturally they never have spoken. They are about 15-20 years apart in age & studied at different colleges in different parts of the country. Yet, both said the exact same thing, that they had only one afternoon’s study about all of the Cluster B personality disorders. That’s it for FOUR very complex personality disorders! If both of the counselors I have spoken to have the exact same experience in this area of their education, I would guess it’s common if not the norm.
Don’t take this as seeing a professional to heal from narcissistic abuse is a waste of time. It isn’t, so long as you choose the right counselor. You can’t pick just any counselor to help you with abuse recovery. You will need to find a counselor that specializes in abuse recovery or trauma focused therapy.
If you can’t find a counselor with these specialties or can’t or would prefer not to see a counselor, the good thing is healing is still possible! The friend who inspired me to discuss this topic has made leaps & bounds in her healing journey because she found knowledge & help from others who also have been through a lot at the hands of narcissists. Their knowledge & experiences have helped her tremendously, & their understanding & compassion validated her, which has enabled her to help other victims as she was helped. She likened it to a relationship between a recovering alcoholic & an active alcoholic. No one can understand the struggles of the active one like someone who has been in the same situation. Would you expect a person who has never drank so much as one beer to understand the struggles of someone who can’t go a day without drinking a fifth of whiskey? Absolutely not! So why would narcissistic abuse recovery be any different?
If you are looking for help in your healing journey, & won’t see a counselor for whatever reason, you can heal! I haven’t seen a counselor in many years either due to my lack of trust after seeing some less than caring ones. Like my friend though, have learned a great deal from others who have experiences similar to mine as well as studying narcissism. Consider looking for help elsewhere as she & I have. Connecting with people who share similar experiences is invaluable! Many online forums are available. As I mentioned, I have a wonderful group on Facebook, but there are many others too on Facebook or other websites. A quick internet search will point you to many of these forums.
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