Narcissists love using shame as a weapon. Not only does it make them feel superior, but it takes attention off of their bad behavior while simultaneously discrediting their victim. It also makes a victim easy to control. Shame is a very effective weapon.
There are various ways narcissists use shame.
Narcissists reinvent the past. They tell stories differently than they actually happened. They either claim to be the reason someone succeeded or twist the story so the other person looks stupid, like a failure, etc. Since narcissists speak with such certainty, this can make a victim doubt their own memories & feel ashamed for something they didn’t even do.
They tell embarrassing stories about their victim. Narcissistic parents in particular seem to love this one. They tell stories that the victim would rather people don’t know about. My mother used this one with me, telling stories (usually in front of other people) of when I was a child & did stupid things. When I said I didn’t want her discussing these stories, she would shame me for how I felt, saying I was wrong & shouldn’t feel the way I did. It took a long time to realize that I wasn’t wrong- my feelings were just & this was nothing but an attempt on her part to make me feel shame.
Playing the role of victim. No matter what a narcissist does to a victim, they have the amazing ability to spin the situation in their favor, so they look like the victim, & the real victim is abusive. This can create shame in a victim very easily unless the victim is well aware of this game.
Religion can become a weapon. No true narcissist can be a Christian at the same time. Narcissism is diametrically opposed to the beliefs of Christianity. However, that doesn’t mean a narcissist won’t use Christianity to shame victims. Growing up, my mother told me I was going to hell for how badly I treated her. Later in life, a flying monkey said I was a bad Christian for treating my parents as I do & claiming to be a Christian. Thankfully, I also have a good enough relationship with God to know what they said was utter nonsense. If I didn’t, that comment would have caused a great deal of hurt & doubting my salvation!
“I was only joking!” “You’re too sensitive!” Nasty comments said to a victim followed by, “I was just kidding!” “Can’t you take a joke?” “You’re so sensitive!” & the like are also designed to make a victim feel ashamed for being righteously angry that they were offended by the narcissist’s cruel words. The goal is to make you feel ashamed of yourself for not realizing the narcissist was only kidding (which they weren’t) or being so sensitive you were offended by their “joke.” Don’t fall for it. You aren’t wrong!
Comparisons. If you & the narcissist have done similar things, you can guarantee the narcissist has done it better, at least if you listen to her side of the story. Everything with narcissists is a pissing contest (sorry to be crude- that’s the best term I know of to describe this situation). If you found a cure for cancer, they found it first, but didn’t want to brag like you’re doing! See what I mean? If they can make you feel badly for not being as good or as talented as them, that sows a seed for shame in you.
Talking down to others. Even a narcissist that isn’t overly intelligent can make a very intelligent victim feel stupid, & ashamed of being so stupid. Narcissists love to talk in circles & use big words (often that they don’t know the proper definition of & not in context). If you leave a conversation with a narcissist & your head is swimming, it’s not because you’re stupid. It’s because narcissists are masters of talking in circles, which is also known as word salad.
Acting as if the narcissist is the adult, the victim the child. This is very common among narcissistic parents. They’re all about keeping their children, children, no matter their child’s age. A person who thinks they’re immature & not wise like the narcissist is very easy to control. Narcissistic parents may continue using a tone of voice that intimidated their children when they were growing up well into that child’s adulthood. They may call victims immature or mock them with phrases like, “You’re such a baby/child!” “You’re so immature!” “You need to grow up!”
Remember this post if you’re faced with these behaviors. You do NOT need to feel shame! No one should put that on you, but narcissists will try to. If they do, never accept it. Ask God to tell you the truth. Also, look at your situation objectively & you will realize the truth. Write about it in a journal, too, since writing often gives a great deal of clarity that speaking can’t. You can deal with this unhealthy behavior in a healthy way!
Silence is one of any narcissist’s best weapons. They do NOT want their victims to talk to anyone about what the narcissist is doing, nor do they want their victim to feel safe enough to confront them on their abusive behavior. To prevent those things from happening, they use various ways to silence victims.
An extremely common tactic narcissists use is gaslighting. If a narcissist can convince a victim that something happened differently than they remember or it didn’t even happen in the first place, the victim won’t discuss the event. Why would they? Convincing victims that they don’t remember things right or are making up some wild stories will keep them quiet. They feel crazy enough- why should they say things that would make them look crazy too?
Shaming is an effective weapon to create silence as well. If a narcissist can convince a victim that the victim is a terrible person, that victim will be quiet. That person feels as if she or he is stupid or crazy or even unworthy to “burden” other people. A person who carries shame is a quiet person. I know- I have been there. Granted, I’m quiet by nature but prior to learning about shame, it was much worse. For example, I felt there was something deeply wrong with me for being upset about the terrible things my ex did to me, so I kept most things to myself. As a result, when we separated, no one cared to hear my side- everyone took his side with only a couple of exceptions. They never heard me complain before, so they figured everything must have been OK between us.
Another facet of shaming is when a narcissist is confronted about their behavior & states that behavior wouldn’t upset her. She has no idea why you’re upset. My mother did this one to me regarding her nastiness about one of my cats. Chester is a big cat, but he’s very muscular My mother called him fat more times than I can count. I’d told her to stop being so mean repeatedly with no results. Eventually I complained about it to my father, who told her what I said. She called me & said she had no idea why I’d be upset. She actually said, “If someone called me fat, I’d just tell them they were right. I certainly wouldn’t be angry about it!” I knew immediately that statement was supposed to make me feel shame for being angry with her. It didn’t work. It just made me angry she would try such a ridiculous tactic.
Projection is also effective for silencing a victim. When a narcissist accuses a victim of some terrible behavior, it usually stuns a person. Most people will assume the narcissist is right, examine their behavior & try to make improvements, at least until they learn about projection & understand what is being done to them.
Triangulation is another effective way narcissists silence victims. If a narcissist can convince their victim that other people would think, feel or respond as the narcissist, that makes the victim feel isolated. The victim may think he or she is crazy, stupid, oversensitive & a host of other awful things. Who would want to talk when they feel that way?
Invalidation is another excellent way to silence a victim. Invalidation basically says that every single thing about you is wrong, flawed & even crazy. It makes a person feel as if they cannot trust their own thoughts, feelings or perceptions. No one who feels that messed up is going to feel able to confront a narcissist or tell others that they are being abused. In fact, invalidation makes people feel as if they are NOT being abused, & they are completely wrong & crazy for thinking such a thing in the first place.
Creating anxiety & fear in a victim also makes the person quiet. If a victim is afraid of another, that victim isn’t going to want to do anything that may provoke that person’s anger. In fact, they will do anything to avoid that anger. That often includes refusing to confront their abuser or tell anyone about the abuse. After all, what if the person they tell confronts the abuser? It’s much safer to keep the abuse a secret.
Narcissists also love to wear a person down to make them easier to force into silence. They can do this by sleep deprivation if they live with a victim or by harassment if not. They constantly call, email or text. The sheer volume of calls, emails & texts can wear a person down. It takes a great deal of strength to ignore your phone’s constant ringing or alerts to receiving new emails & texts. It probably doesn’t sound so bad, but I can tell you, being on the receiving end of it, it really is stressful & exhausting!
No one can forget a narcissistic rage. These happen when a narcissist receives a narcissistic injury of some sort, which basically is a blow to their self-esteem. Talking to others about the narcissist’s abusive ways or confronting a narcissist about them is definitely a narcissistic injury & will result in a rage. The rage of an overt narcissist is usually loud & vicious. Name calling & cursing aren’t above them. The rage of a covert narcissist is much quieter, & it involves the silent treatment & scathing criticisms to make you feel intense guilt. A person would do about anything to avoid this rage, & that includes suffering in silence, not telling anyone about the abuse they endure or confronting the narcissist about it.
Diversion is another excellent way to silence victims. Anyone who has confronted a narcissist has no doubt seen this in action. The conversation starts out with a victim stating that they have a problem with the narcissist’s behavior, & it ends up discussing something entirely different. Often, it ends up with the narcissist accusing the victim of some awful or even abusive behavior, & the victim apologizing. The original topic was abandoned, & no resolution was made. Sometimes diversion isn’t so obvious though. Sometimes, the narcissist simply changes the subject & continues to ramble on & on, leaving the victim so frustrated that they give up.
Lastly smear campaigns are very commonly used. If a narcissist can’t stop you from confronting them or telling others what they have done to you, they will not hesitate to tell everyone they meet what a terrible person you are. They’ll have plenty of evidence to prove their point, too, even if they have to lie about it. If they can discredit you, they know others won’t believe what you say. It also is revenge. You made them look bad, so they are returning the favor.
When these things happen, remember that these are simply tactics that are supposed to silence you. Don’t give in! You have every right to talk to whoever about whatever you want. It’s your life, the narcissist is only a part of it. If that person wanted you to speak kinder about or to her, she should behave better.
Narcissists love to put their issues on other people rather than face them. Shame is a big one- any shame a narcissistic parent feels is going to be thrust upon their child, for example.
After a lifetime of not even realizing I was carrying around my mother’s shame, it finally hit me in 2015. As I was recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning, I felt horrible for asking my husband to help me in any way. I’d nearly died for pity’s sake! Carbon monoxide poisoning has a high fatality rate & also has a very long recovery time (you do the bulk of your healing 9-12 months after poisoning) during which chances are very good you won’t heal completely. Yet in spite of all of this, I felt horrible for asking my husband for any help. After praying about it, God showed me this was all about shame. It’s very common for those abused as children to experience toxic shame, & I was no exception.
One way God showed me to deal with this shame is to imagine myself holding a big box containing shame, handing it off to my mother while telling her “I refuse to carry this for you a moment longer”, then walking away.
It sounds silly, but this was very helpful for me. Even though I can’t physically give my mother back her shame that she’s put on me, by imagining returning it to her, at least I was able to stop carrying it somehow. It’d be the same as a real scenario if she wouldn’t hold the box. If I placed it at her feet, I wouldn’t be carrying it any longer. What she would do at that point would have no effect on that fact.
I can’t say I am 100% cured of this toxic shame, but it drastically improved my problem. I no longer feel incredibly guilty about writing about my experiences or asking my husband for things (either stuff or help), & these used to be very big issues for me. I still fight the guilt with my husband sometimes, but that’s better than every single time.
Have you ever tried something like this, Dear Reader? It doesn’t have to be shame.. it can be anything your narcissistic parent put on you- self-hatred, eating disorders, believing you’re ugly or stupid. Obviously I can’t guarantee it’ll cure you immediately, but I do believe it’d help you as it helped me. It’s worth a try, right?
Many adult children of narcissistic parents battle with shame. These awful parents raise their children to be full of shame about everything about themselves. Unfortunately this carries well into adulthood.
One area many adult children of narcissistic parents feel tremendous shame in is their younger days, when they may have done unwise things such as marry a narcissist. I understand, as when I look back, I have a hard time believing I did such stupid things once.
The thing that we all need to remember though is the things we did that we aren’t proud of were done by someone who didn’t know any better. Someone who was still in the fog of narcissistic abuse, & therefore unable to make good, healthy decisions. How could anyone make good, healthy decisions when they firmly believe they are stupid, unlovable, worthless & more? It’s impossible!
I look back at when I met then later married my ex husband & am amazed at myself. He was nothing like the kind of man I find attractive at all. He was narcissistic even at age 16 when we first met. Yet, I stood up to my mother for him repeatedly, even as terrified of her as I was, & took repeated emotional beatings from her because of him. Why?? He wasn’t worth it! He wasn’t good to me. But, at first he told me the things I was starved to hear, such as I was smart & beautiful. It’s embarrassing how desperate I was for such things, & what I did to get them. However, I know now my awful behavior wasn’t because I was a bad person or stupid or any of the other things my mother said I was. It was because I had no self-esteem because of being subjected to daily narcissistic abuse.
When you look back over your life & feel ashamed of the things you have done, Dear Reader, please remember that you too have nothing to be ashamed of! Narcissistic abuse does terrible things to people, especially when they are children & the narcissist in question is a parent. It causes those children to make bad choices & do foolish things. That is NOT the fault of the children. Forgive yourself for the things you did. It’s OK that you made some mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when raised by narcissistic parents. The important thing is now you know better.
From the narcissists’ flying monkeys to even the most well meaning of people, people like to tell victims of narcissistic abuse how to feel.
Early in healing, such statements add to the toxic shame you already feel stemming from the abuse. You feel ashamed of yourself for not being over it, not forgiving your abuser & forgetting their awful deeds or being so “negative.”
Later in your healing, after you’ve gained some wisdom & experience, such comments really just get under your skin. You know that there is no way to “just get over” the horrible things that have been done to you. It takes a great deal of prayer & work to heal, & even then, you may never be “over” the abuse you endured. If you live with PTSD/C-PTSD, you live with flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, depression & more every single day because of the abuse. As long as you have the disorder, you are forced to live with the abuse every day, like it or not. And forgive & forget?? HA. Even if you are able to forgive your abuser, you don’t forget abusive things done to you. It also makes you angry people tell you how to heal, as if they know what you need better than you do. So presumptuous & arrogant!
No one has the right to tell you how to feel or how you need to work on your healing. You know what you need more than anyone else. Besides, what may have worked for them doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you too. Different things work for different people.
No one has the right to blame you for being abused, saying things like “you allowed the abuse.” No, you didn’t. Abusers abuse, period. No matter what you did or didn’t do, the abuser planned to abuse you & did so, all of his or her own free will.
No matter what happened to your abuser, that does NOT give him or her the right to abuse you. Many people who grew up in a toxic environment became good, caring people as adults. Anyone that tries to excuse their abusive behavior because they had a bad childhood or other lame excuses is toxic. Avoid these people as much as possible! If you can’t avoid them entirely, at the very least have strong boundaries when you’re with them & refuse to discuss the abuse you endured.
You have the right to protect & care for your physical & mental health however works best for you.
You have the right to have & enforce healthy boundaries by whatever means work for you.
You have the right to limit or end contact with people who are detrimental to your healing, no matter if those people are friends or even family.
You have the right (& obligation) to take care of yourself, to rest on bad days, to cry when you’re sad, etc.
You have the right to feel whatever you feel. If you’re angry, you have the right to that anger. If you’re sad, you have the right to those tears. Feel the emotions so you can process them & heal, no matter who says you’re wrong for feeling such things.
You have the right to decide with who to share details of the abuse. You don’t have to share your story with everyone. Even if someone asks you what happened, you don’t have to tell them if you don’t feel comfortable with it. Besides, sharing with just anyone isn’t wise, since some people will use the information to hurt you.
Narcissists have incredibly dysfunctional coping skills. Unfortunately this means that their pain can overflow onto those around them.
When my mother was still speaking to me, for about 2 years or so, she kept telling me what a great mother she was to me. She bragged about forcing me to stand up to a bully in seventh grade (she didn’t), taking me to the doctor when I sprained my foot in ninth grade (as she should have) & other ridiculous things. She also wanted me to validate her delusions, agreeing with how great a mother she was to me.
In talking with others who have a narcissistic parent or two, I have learned this behavior is very common. It’s also very painful.
For me, this used to make me so incredibly angry. How dare she want me to enforce her delusions & pretend I was never abused! I felt invalidated, as if she was pretending the abuse she put me through never happened.
God showed me something though. My mother doesn’t have any healthy coping skills, so this is what she does. She knows what she did to me is wrong, but rather than admit that, she goes into denial. She wants to convince herself she was a great mother, even going as far as to try to force me to agree with her.
As ridiculous & dysfunctional as this is, it is her choice & her right. There is no law against having dysfunctional coping skills. That being said, that choice can be respected while not reinforced.
There is no good reason to reinforce such delusions. It only allows the person to continue in their dysfunction while invalidating your own painful experiences. When approached by a narcissistic parent in this situation, I have found it best to remain as neutral & quiet as possible or to change the subject.
Also never forget- this is the narcissist’s coping skill. It has nothing to do with you even though it feels like it does. It just shows how dysfunctional she is. Remembering that helps you not to take the comments so personally & to put the responsibility right back onto the narcissist. This is all about her dysfunction & lack of coping skills- all the responsibility & baggage belongs squarely on her shoulders, period, so leave it there! Don’t take it on yourself- you deserve so much better than to carry her issues & shame.
Growing up with at least one narcissistic parents almost always means there was an emotionally incestuous or parentalizing relationship between the narcissistic parent & her child. Since narcissists are so self-absorbed, they often have children to take care of them or to fill some need in their life. This is where emotional incest, aka parentalizing, comes into play.
Parentalizing, parentification, covert incest & emotional incest all describe the same thing. (To simply, we’ll use “parentalizing” in this post.) It is when a parent & child’s roles are reversed, when the parent makes the child responsible for her emotional well being. A parent who talks to a child about adult matters such as her sex life or failing marriage is indulging in parentalizing. Although this behavior may not sound so bad, it is devastating to a child. Her feelings & issues can be made worse when people tell her how lucky her parent is to have her to count on or other misguided comments such as, “She needs you!” “You have to be strong for her!” “I don’t know what she’d do without you!” On the outside, this parentalized relationship may appear loving & good. The parent & child are close- what a wonderful thing! When people see the relationship, they encourage it or make those misguided comments, often without realizing the harm this is doing to the child.
Children who have survived a parentalizing relationship with their parent or parents often grow up full of guilt, angry, depressed, possess poor relationship skills, are in co-dependent relationships, have a very overdeveloped sense of responsibility (feeling responsible for everyone in their life) or have addictions. Another side effect you rarely see mentioned though is the feeling of needing to be invisible, to blend into the background.
Parentalizing parents seem to take up all the space in the relationship with their child. Be they overt or covert narcissists, they share one common thing- the fact that they come first in that relationship, period. Through fear or guilt, they give their child the message that they are more important, & their child isn’t important at all. Children often internalize the message, & as a result feel they must stay invisible so as not to disturb their narcissistic parent. Never upset that parent! Either comply with anything & everything the parent wants or stay strong for her.. All of these ideas are to please the narcissistic parent & avoid the rage that comes from not pleasing her. These thoughts even continue into adult relationships, such as “If I’m good enough to him & give him what he wants, he’ll stop hitting me.”
Parentalizing parents also communicate the message that they aren’t able to handle things, they are weak, & need the child to clean up their mess. This message tells the child that her needs are just too much. Just existing is a burden to the parent. Her needs aren’t important, including the need for validation. In fact, often the only validation the child gets is when she is her parent’s “savior” by fixing her parent’s problem. If she dares to express any need, chances are good it will be met with anger, even rage, so the child learns to fade into the background until she is needed.
Feeling invisible, I think, is rooted in shame. We are ashamed of having needs, wants, feelings because we were made to feel ashamed of them. Our parentalizing parent also gave us the message that we aren’t important. Both of these things, I believe, work together to create a root of toxic shame. Toxic shame can cause you to feel so ashamed of who you are, that you don’t feel worthy of anything. You assume people won’t want to help you or even talk to you. Simple things most people don’t think twice about can be a challenge for you, such as leaving your home. You may feel so ashamed of who you are that you don’t think you should bother people with your presence. Even expecting help from salespeople, service people, or staff in a hospital may seem impossible because of that deep root of shame. It’s surprising just how deep shame can go.
So what do you do to get rid of toxic shame?
First, pray. Ask God to help you to heal. Obey any instructions He gives you.
Next, push yourself outside of your comfort zone sometimes. The more you see you can do things successfully, the more confident you will become & the less hold shame will have on you. Sharing things with trustworthy people, you will see that other people actually do care about you which helps as well.
Also, question the shaming beliefs when they come up. Why do you feel so ashamed of yourself for wanting something? Why do you feel to blame for a situation where you had no control? Things like this. Ask God for the answers if you don’t know them. And, ask Him to help you to release those beliefs.
I have learned these things help a great deal. I have slipped up, unfortunately, & when I have stopped doing these three things, I fell right back into old, dysfunctional & miserable patterns. For them to work, you have to keep doing them, even when it gets uncomfortable. Remind yourself of these things often. You’ll be glad you did!
Toxic shame is often caused by abusive, parentalizing parents. They ignore their child’s needs, feelings & wants to make their child believe she is only alive to take care of her parents’ emotional needs or provide that precious narcissistic supply. She believes she has no right to wants, needs or emotions, & because she does have them, she often grows up with toxic shame that affects all areas of her life.
However, this is not the only way a person can have a root of toxic shame. One way is when a dysfunctional person puts their shame on you.
This happens by projection. Projection is when someone knows they are a certain way, yet blame you for being exactly that way while denying they are that way. Narcissists are notorious projectionists. They love to put their insecurities & flaws onto others, so they can get angry about them without accepting any personal responsibility. As an example, one of my sisters in-law once told my husband I look down on their family. She screamed at my husband about that during a phone call one day in I think it was 2002. He was baffled as was I, since the thought of being better than them never occurred to me. In fact, my husband & I agreed that it was the other way around- they look down on me. That is projection.
Shame can be projected as well. Narcissists are full of shame. (Although they act extremely confident, it is just a show. They are extremely insecure inside, which is why they act so confident. They are trying to convince themselves & other people that they are as good, talented, beautiful, etc. as they claim to be.) Projection is among their favorite coping skills. To deal with this shame they feel, they will do their best to put it on their victim, so they don’t have to deal with it.
My mother did this a great deal. When her abuse was at its peak when I was 17-19, she would scream at me, & tell me I made her act that way. If I would just act right, she wouldn’t have to practice “tough love” on me. All my life, if I was angry or even simply frustrated, she would accuse me of having “that Bailey temper” & shame me for having such a bad temper when the truth is she was the one with the wicked temper, not me. Sometimes to this day, she still tries to shame me, even things beyond my control, such as if I get sick or injured.
Actions like that were her trying to put the shame she felt inside on me.
Can you relate, Dear Reader? Did you experience your narcissistic mother trying to make you carry her shame?
If so, refuse to carry her shame any longer! It’s not your place to carry her shame, to feel ashamed because of things that were beyond your control.
Make a decision that you will NOT carry her shame a moment longer. If it helps, imagine taking a sack of some sort to your mother & laying it at her feet then walking away. Sometimes visuals like that can help.
Ask God to show you ways you’re carrying her shame & how to stop it. With me, I noticed that when I discussed things with my mother, I always phrased things from my perspective. “I felt she was abusive when she…” “I got thrown into a wall by my mother.” God showed me that I was carrying the blame & all of the responsibility for her actions, including her shame when it all belonged squarely on her shoulders.
I hope this helps you to be free of carrying around that toxic shame that isn’t yours to carry! You deserve so much better than that!
Growing up with a narcissistic parent or two builds a very dysfunctional foundation in a child. One of those dysfunctional beliefs created is that you are always the problem in a failed relationship.
I knew the day I met my now mother in-law, she didn’t like me. For the first eight years of our relationship, I tried with her. No matter what I did though, I was wrong & never good enough. My mother in-law even told me shortly after our marriage how disappointed she was my husband married me instead of an ex girlfriend. For most of those eight years, I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong. How could I improve the difficult relationships with her? What could I do to make her see I’m not such a bad person, or that I’m better suited for my husband than his ex? Nothing I did worked, & in fact, things only got worse. My sisters in-law weren’t exactly my best friends to start with, but those relationships also got worse. It seemed like the more time passed & the harder I tried, the worse things got & the more frustrated I got.
Then one evening in the spring of 2002, my mother in-law called about 8:15. She asked to speak to my husband, who was either still at work or on his way home. I told her this, & she screamed at me because she didn’t think he should work so late. She mentioned she thought he was working too much. He looks tired & I said his allergies were flaring up, & she resumed screaming at me because he has allergies. It was a wake up call for me- I realized I can’t be in a relationship with this person. She was mad at me for things I had absolutely no control over. Nothing I can do will make things better between us. I gave up.
A few months later, my husband called one of his sisters for her birthday. He was flustered by the call, because he said she was screaming at him about me- how I keep him from his family & treat them all like “poor white trash.” I used to think she & I were friends, but realized that wasn’t the case. No friend would think such a ridiculous & untrue thing about me.
I haven’t spoken to my in-laws since 2002 & it’s been very freeing! They blame me & even my husband did for a while for being unreasonable. Due to my bad foundation, I blamed me too!
I’d been through this same scenario with every failed relationship in my life. Everything was all my fault. If only I would’ve been smart enough to figure out the solution to make things better. If only I had been nicer, more understanding, etc., this wouldn’t have happened.
It took me a long time to realize, not everything is my fault! Bizarre, huh? Looking at the situations, it seems painfully obvious it wasn’t, yet it took me years to realize I wasn’t a bad person because I couldn’t make these relationships ok.
My point (finally..lol) is I am sure you have similar feelings, Dear Reader. I have yet to meet an adult child of at least one narcissistic parent who doesn’t blame herself for the failed relationships in her life. Are you thinking that this probably doesn’t apply to you? Well let’s look at a couple of things..
First, your bad relationship with your narcissistic mother. How can this be your fault? She’s a narcissist! No one is good enough for a narcissist. Even those she idolizes will show a flaw at some point, & the narcissist won’t be impressed with him any longer. Plus, as a child of a narcissist, you were born with a job- to please your narcissistic mother at all times. This is IMPOSSIBLE! Narcissists deliberately set up others to fail, especially their own children. It amuses them & makes them feel powerful.
Second, as the survivor of narcissistic abuse, other abusers will be attracted to you. This is especially true before you understand narcissism & work on your healing. Chances are good you were abused by others in your life simply because you learned early in life how to be a “good victim”- you learned to keep secrets, have no boundaries & never talk back. That isn’t your fault! That fault lies squarely on your first abuser.
Lastly, no doubt you have made mistakes in your relationships. Being human, that is inevitable. However, what are the chances that you are the sole problem in every single relationship you’ve been in that has gone badly? I would have to say the chances are slim. Very slim. The odds of you winning the lottery are probably better! Relationships are a two way street. Both people have to work on it. One person cannot carry the entire relationship!
Today, Dear Reader, I just want you to think about this. You honestly cannot be the problem 100% of the time. If you believe you are, then it’s time to look at things objectively. If you can’t, try pretending a close friend is telling you about her failed relationships that are exactly like yours. Would you blame her for their failures? What would you tell her? Write it out if it helps- seeing things in writing somehow often makes things clearer. You also can ask God to tell you the truth about what happened. Were you always the problem? What went wrong? He will gently let you know the truth, & chances are, you are going to be surprised to learn that you aren’t the awful problem you think you are.
I truly hope you do this. Living with the undeserved guilt of failed relationships is a miserable way to live. You don’t deserve to carry around false guilt & shame! You deserve to be happy!
Those of us who have been through abuse tend to feel that we are doing something wrong by telling our story. We may even wonder if we are making things up because so few people truly believe what we’re saying. (Having your feelings invalidated or told you’re exaggerating truly can make you doubt the reality of what happened to you.) Things like this tend to keep us quiet.
However, the fact is that we have every right to tell our stories, & by the way, no, we didn’t make it up. So why do we feel this way?
Victims are groomed by their abusers to keep the abuse a secret. To tell anyone about it would incur a terrible wrath. We learned early on that it is better to stay quiet than to talk about it. When my mother suspected me of telling someone what she was doing once, I was shamed deeply for “airing our dirty laundry.” When I got myself into therapy to figure out how to deal with her, she demanded to know everything that I talked about with my counselor. It became much easier not to talk about it than to deal with her wrath!
Abusers also groom their victims to doubt themselves, while only believing the abuser. It’s called gaslighting or crazy making. Abusers do their best to determine their victim’s reality. This makes it easier for the victim to accept abuse, because although a part of them realizes it is wrong, they are told it is acceptable so much that eventually that false belief overrides their belief it is wrong.
Being too afraid to tell your story when you feel it’s time to share it also means you are carrying your abuser’s shame. It’s not your shame! You have done nothing wrong by being abused! The one who abused you is the one who should be ashamed! It is not your job to feel the shame for her even if she refuses to feel it herself. Remind yourself of that often, & the shame will lift.
You have every right to tell your story if you want to do so. It is your life & your story.
We live in a culture where victim blaming is the norm. People wonder what the woman did to provoke her husband for beating her, & offer her no sympathy because she stays with him. Rape victims are blamed for being attacked. If she wasn’t wearing that short skirt or wasn’t drunk, it wouldn’t have happened, they say. Even many adults who were abused as children are not often believed, & sometimes even blamed. “If it was really so bad, why didn’t you tell someone?” “I really can’t see your mother (or father) doing that.” “I had it worse than you & I’m just fine.”
This leads to a tremendous amount of shame in victims. They can feel ashamed for being so “weak” as to be affected by what happened, or ashamed it happened at all. They blame themselves for being abused. They may feel terribly about themselves because so many others have had it worse than they did. They even may wonder if it really happened. (Not being believed really can lead to that much doubt!)
I’ve been through this myself, & still battle it sometimes (although thank God those times are fewer than they once were). I especially have trouble with beating myself up for being so weak as to be so damaged from the abuse I endured growing up. Not healthy & really not wise!
If this describes you too, Dear Reader, please know that you have no reason to be ashamed! Abusers are the ones who should be ashamed, not their victims! Just because you were abused doesn’t mean you have done something wrong. What it means is there is something very wrong with the person who hurt you!
When you feel this way, I’ve found praying to be very helpful. Telling God just how I feel helps a lot. Keeping things secret, I think, gives them power. but bringing things into the open releases their hold on you. Talking about them helps you in that way, especially talking about them with God, who loves you so much & can comfort you like no one else can.
Also, remembering some of the worst events helps too, believe it or not. It puts the abuse in perspective & reminds you that yes, it really was bad! It also reminds you that you didn’t, couldn’t, do anything to deserve what you went through. Write them out if you like- that way you can look back over them the next time you feel that shame creeping in. The anger over what happened can be helpful. While I have forgiven my mother for abusing me, I am still angry over the unfairness of it all, & the damage caused by it. That anger helps me when the shame starts to act up.
Always remind yourself- the blame & shame for you being abused belongs square on the abuser, not on you. Remind yourself that it is not yours to carry. If visuals help you, imagine yourself carrying this large, ugly sack. Then, see yourself handing it over to the person who abused you & walking away, leaving them to hold this sack.
Psalm 132:18 says, “His enemies will I clothe with shame: but upon himself shall his crown flourish.” (KJV)
I noticed something about this Scripture. See how it says “will I CLOTHE with shame”?? That really is how it is when you live with shame- it’s like a garment you just can’t take off. The only way to remove that garment of shame is with God’s help & the truth.
When you’re a victim of narcissistic abuse, you know shame all too well. You have been made to feel ashamed of everything about you- your thoughts, feelings, likes/dislikes are all wrong, according to the narcissist. Even things beyond your control are wrong, such as your eye color or weight. You know that you are a terrible person, wasting space on this planet, & the world would be better off if you hadn’t been born.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It surely does with me.
Dear Reader, today I want to encourage you to tear off that garment of shame! You deserve so much better than to feel this way!
It’s not your shame that you are carrying anyway! You are carrying the shame that the narcissist who abuses you feels inside. Remember, narcissists are extremely insecure people, ashamed of themselves. That is why they act so confident, constantly trying to impress others- to convince others (& themselves) that they are in fact good, talented & beautiful/handsome. They don’t want to feel the shame that they feel, so they try to get rid of it in any way possible. They try to convince everyone of their awesomeness or they project it onto a target, usually someone that they admire or feel is a good person. This means they try to make someone else feel as bad about themselves as the narcissist feels about herself.
Putting their shame on someone else means that the narcissist doesn’t have to feel it. The other person feels that shame, carrying it with them constantly. This also gives the narcissist a feeling of power since she can have such an effect on another person.
Why would you carry that narcissist’s shame for another moment? You don’t need to! The shame is NOT yours to carry, so refuse to do it a moment longer!
How do you go about doing this? One thing that has helped me tremendously is constantly asking God questions. “Am I bad for liking *fill in the blank*?” “Am I ugly because of *fill in the blank*?” “Please tell me the truth, Father- my mother said I am *fill in the blank*. Is that true? Am I really so bad?” Then, I listen for the answer. Usually it comes as a knowing feeling inside. Doing this taught me that I’m really not the awful person I was always ashamed of myself for being. Instead, I was carrying my narcissistic mother’s shame.
I also talked to other daughters of narcissistic mothers & wives of those married to narcissistic men (usually ex wives, by the way). I learned their experiences were often quite similar to mine with my mother & my ex husband. It was very eye opening! So many narcissists use similar tactics! That helped me to see that it’s abusive people who say such things, not normal people.
Once you realize the truth of what has happened, that you are carrying around your narcissistic mother’s shame, it is very freeing! You begin to accept yourself & even love yourself. You also stop taking her cruel words to heart, because you know that is how she feels about herself- it doesn’t mean that it’s true for you. In fact, it can be educational too, because you learn just what she feels about herself deep down. This can benefit you by helping you to learn how to deal with your narcissistic mother.
So please, Dear Reader, make a decision today to throw off that garment of shame & never put it back on again! It’s not yours to wear, so refuse to wear it a moment longer! xoxo
As many of you know, I got very sick in February. My fireplace’s flue wasn’t functioning right, which resulted in me getting carbon monoxide poisoning. At its height, I passed out, hitting my head on the log holder beside the fireplace, passing out for around 25 minutes & getting a concussion. It’s been a long six months living with all the symptoms, & I’m still getting used to them.
A few days ago, I felt really bad because of it. Everything on my body ached, especially my head, I was exhausted even though I hadn’t done anything tiring, my moods were all over the place & I kept forgetting things. Yet in spite of the obvious & annoying symptoms, I wondered if I was faking them!
This baffled me. I don’t know how to convince myself of the body aches or make myself moody. Besides, I was home alone- no one knew how I felt. What would be the point of faking it with no witnesses besides my cats & dog?! They weren’t going to tell anyone anything. So why would I think this? I didn’t even get to ask God before He started showing me some things. I believe what I learned may help you as well.
God reminded me of many things that I experienced that invalidated any suffering I felt when sick or injured. There are many more but here are a few examples:
Incidents like these instilled some false beliefs in me:
Growing up with a narcissistic mother, I believe, set the stage for me to believe these ridiculous ideas easier than if I’d had a healthy upbringing & had normal self-esteem.
I never realized any of this until a few days ago. These false beliefs were so deeply ingrained in me that it took me until age 44 & healing from a life threatening situation to understand why I handle things so poorly when I’m sick or injured. Aside from wondering if I’m faking whatever the problem is, I try to cover it up so nobody knows I have the problem. I also trivialize it. For example, when I broke a toe last year, I said, “It’s just a broken toe. No big deal” even though it was my big toe (which I learned sees a surprising amount of activity) & a year later, still hurts often. I also never used crutches or sought medical care.
Dear Reader, please learn from my mistakes. If you too have a hard time admitting you’re sick or hurt when you really are, ask God to show you why. Chances are, you have stories similar to mine. If so, it’s time to reject those false beliefs that cruel people instilled in you. You are allowed to have problems, you are allowed to ask people for help in your time of need. You aren’t weak or looking for attention if you’re sick or injured- you are simply sick or injured! Your pain is just as bad as other people’s & just as valid as other people’s. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you get sick or hurt. It happens to everyone at some point in their lives.
As of yesterday, it’s been one month since I got sick with carbon monoxide poisoning & a concussion. It’s been quite an interesting month, too.
My recovery is a slow one, but at least it is giving me a much needed break from life. It’s also given me more time to think & pray.
Shortly after returning home from the hospital, God showed me that I had a big problem with toxic shame, which stems from emotional neglect & criticisms in childhood. (it’s why I felt I didn’t deserve any help from the ER staff, even though that is their job, & my husband shouldn’t help me recover- I should do it all on my own. That’s pretty bad, especially considering the severity of my illnesses!) I believe this is a very common problem for adult children of narcissistic parents, so I thought I would share a bit about this past month’s journey with you.
When God first revealed this to me, I was happy & sad. Happy because I finally understood what was wrong, why I felt I deserved nothing. Also sad because, well, let’s face it- this is pretty depressing realizing I was made to feel so poorly about myself. I also had no idea how to cope with this problem, & had to ask God to show me. He gave me some really good ideas, which I shared in the post I originally wrote on this topic. Please read that post at this link. I’ve been trying to do the things I mentioned in that post. I also have been doing other things, such as paying more attention to my dreams, which have been revealing a great deal to me about how much I need to take care of myself. (Almost nightly, I’m having dreams that show me that, so obviously God thinks it’s important!)
I also told God I want to change this problem- I want to be rid of this toxic shame once & for all, & I want to learn to take care of myself too instead of only everyone else. Was that a powerful prayer! He has been helping me tremendously!!
About a week after I got sick, I got an email from a jewelry company. They had a lovely ring on sale that reminded me of one my paternal grandmother had when I was a kid. This wasn’t a real diamond like hers, but it was still beautiful. I felt that instead of thinking it’s pretty & ignoring it, I should ask hubby if we could get it. That took a lot of guts for me- I hate asking him for anything, let alone something frivolous. He said sure, go ahead & get it. When I got on the website to order it, I saw they had an identical ring with a much larger stone that I liked even more. I ordered it, even though it cost a bit more. For once, probably the first time in my life, I realized I deserved something special & felt no guilt about it. Getting myself that prize was a big step towards shedding the “I don’t deserve…” mindset of toxic shame. Now the company has failed to fulfill my order, but I’m not giving up- I will just get that ring from another company . 🙂
Also, I’ve had trouble with my recovery. I need to relax, avoid any strenuous physical activity & stress until I am healthy again. This means hubby gets to do the bulk of housework. It’s been hard just laying around while he works, then comes home & does laundry & cleans. Every time the guilt comes up, God reminds me to relax. I need to recover- I’ve been poisoned by carbon monoxide & have a nasty head injury. Anyone in that situation would need to relax & recover so stop beating myself up! Besides, hubby has never really had to take care of anyone before, so this is good for him, having to prioritize another person’s needs.
Although I haven’t told my parents about my illnesses, I’ve spoken with them a few times during my recovery. Instead of the usual feelings of guilt, hurt or anger when they play their head games, God has reminded that they have problems. For example, my father recently said I should call if I need anything or just want to talk. I felt guilty for not calling more often, like a bad daughter, but only for a second. Almost immediately, I realized he only wants more contact with me to receive his narcissistic supply, not to spend time with me. The guilt was alleviated immediately. I realized I’m not a bad daughter, but instead am someone who doesn’t wish to be used. Life is too short to be someone’s narcissistic supply!
Something else interesting just happened that made me realize what progress I’m making. I just had a good, long cry. You see, when some of my pets have died, God has comforted me by telling me shortly after their death that a certain song reminds my recently departed of me- the song then becomes our song. Aerosmith’s 1988 hit “Angel” just came on. That’s my lovely snowshoe Siamese cat Jasmine’s & my song. When I heard the song, I started to cry. I miss Jasmine so badly, & maybe because I’m very sensitive due to my illnesses, the magnitude of missing her hit me very hard. As the tears finally came to a stop, I realized something- I felt no shame for them! As much as I love my animals, because my grief at losing them has been so severely invalidated repeatedly, I’ve often felt shame for crying because of them & did my best to ignore my pain. Especially years later, when I “should be over it”, according to many people. Today was different. It was the first time I can say I honestly felt no shame, & was able to cry without holding back. It was actually a very good feeling. Jasmine was a very brave, amazing & special cat. She survived 4 strokes before she passed away in 2011 & fought hard to come back from each one. She deserved the love & respect of being grieved properly, yanno?
I’m sharing these things with you today in the hopes of encouraging you. If you too suffer with toxic shame, God can help you to heal as He is helping me. He is breaking the hold of toxic shame in my life & will do the same thing for you! Living with toxic shame is no way to live! You deserve so much better than that, as do I. God wants us to be happy & healthy- two things no one living with toxic shame can be.
Lately, I’ve been reading some about emotional neglect & criticism, & their detrimental effects, especially on children. They can cause anxiety & toxic shame, both of which are absolutely horrible to live with.
I’ve been seeing lately how much anxiety & shame I carry, & as I mentioned in this post, now I understand why I have them. When a parent doesn’t care about their child’s feelings, acts as if the child is a bother &/or is overly critical, seeds get sown in the child. The child becomes fearful. She learns early that people will hurt her with their words or actions (or both), & no one will protect her, not even her parents. She also internalizes the fact no one cares enough to protect her, & becomes deeply ashamed of who she is. After all, if her own parents don’t love her enough to care about & for her, she must be deeply flawed, unlovable, a terrible person. Or so she believes.
These dysfunctional beliefs carry into adulthood. It means she settles for dysfunctional or abusive relationships (friendships or romantic relationships), lives with extreme anxiety especially when dealing with other people, has a hard time asking for assistance, & doesn’t believe she is worthy. Worthy of what? Pretty much anything! Anything from setting healthy boundaries to taking care of her health to getting new clothes because her old ones are worn out & more.
It is a miserable way to live, & no one should have to live like this! If you recognize yourself in this post, then please read my other post I mentioned above. In it, I offer some ways I think can help you overcome toxic shame. As it diminishes, the anxiety should follow. It has for me.
I’m praying for you, Dear Reader. May God bless you, & help you to overcome the pain of toxic shame & anxiety! xoxo
Good morning, Dear Readers!
I thought I’d share some things with you today…
I am gaining a new appreciation & respect for dreams as of late. All of my dreams seem to have some valuable message in them these days. I seldom understand them immediately, so I look up various symbols on my favorite dream interpretation site, http://www.dreammoods.com, jot notes down, ask God what it all means & wait for His answer. It comes fairly quickly & is always eye opening. God truly speaks to us via our dreams! You would be wise to start paying attention to yours as well.
I also learned something valuable Sunday while at my parents’ house. In typical narcissistic mother fashion, my mother tried to shame me for liking a couple of things she doesn’t like. Obviously, something is wrong with me because I’m different than her yanno! lol As she was making absolutely certain I knew this, a joke I absolutely love popped into my mind…
These 2 proper Southern belles were sitting on a veranda, drinking mint juleps & talking. The one said to the other,
“You see this diamond necklace? My husband gave that to me when we got married.”
The second said, “Well ain’t that nice?”
“You see this pearl bracelet? My husband gave that to me when our son was born.”
“Well ain’t that nice?”
“You see that Jaguar in the driveway? My husband gave that to me for our anniversary last week.”
“Well, ain’t that nice?”
“Speaking of anniversaries, you & your husband had one recently. What did he get you?”
“He paid for me to go to charm school.”
“Charm school? What on earth did you learn there?”
“I learned how to say well ain’t that nice instead of who gives a ****?”
As my mother was finishing up her shaming me because I said I kind of like mincemeat pie & she doesn’t, I simply said, “Well, ain’t that nice?” My mother is from PA- a northern woman through & through- so she just looked at me funny when I said that, & changed the subject immediately. My father, however, is from VA, & thoroughly Southern. He knew what that meant even though I’ve never told him that joke, so he snickered a bit. I realized saying that joke’s punchline worked very well for me. I was able to tell my mother her opinion means nothing to me in a respectful way, & she stopped that shaming thing that irritates me so badly. I’m thinking “well, ain’t that nice” is going to be said a LOT in my near future. You may want to try this one with your narcissistic mother too. 😉
Speaking of my parents, I’ve had several people ask me lately why I’m helping my parents out. Considering how poorly my mother has treated me as I’ve been helping her plus my own health issues, why even try? I thought I would answer this question here. I guess it’s because I’m my parents’ only child. They don’t have any other family they can rely on besides me. Yes, they can hire help (which I’m working on getting that going- I can do some, but more help would be very nice), but I want to at least try to help out. This has been a learning experience for me, too. I’ve come to realize I was thinking more like their child instead of their daughter, & am changing that. I’ve gotten stronger with setting/enforcing boundaries. I’m learning new ways to cope with nastiness & gaslighting (such as the “well ain’t that nice” comment). I’m also getting better at self-care out of sheer necessity. I’ve found local resources that may prove to be valuable to them as well, so while they are not in dire need of a lot of help at the moment, if, God forbid, that happens, we will know where to turn. So, as difficult as things are, at least I’m getting some good from it while providing them with the help they need.
Many people who have survived abuse, especially childhood abuse, don’t realize there is a vast difference between healthy, normal guilt & toxic shame. We are taught from day one to feel shame- ashamed of who we are, what we think/feel/do/like/don’t like & more. This is absolutely deadly to one’s self-esteem. When you are ashamed of who you are, you want to hide from the world- you don’t want to expose anyone to the terrible person you believe you are. You would love to be invisible.
Guilt, however, is a very useful, healthy tool in life. Guilt doesn’t make you feel ashamed of yourself- guilt makes you feel ashamed of something you did that was wrong instead. Guilt speaks of the action, while shame speaks of who you are. For example, if you come home after a very trying day, & snap at your husband, you should feel guilt. Enough guilt for acting that way to make you say, “I’m sorry, Baby.. I’ve had an awful day. It’s not fair of me to take it out on you though.” Once your apology is accepted, you let it go.
Shame however, would make you tell yourself that you are a terrible person. You shouldn’t have acted that way- only a bad person acts like that! You may or may not apologize- shame may make you feel too embarrassed to apologize- but you will beat yourself up for being such a bad person.
Do you see the difference? Guilt says, “I did something wrong,” where shame says, “I am wrong & bad.”
Do you have a healthy sense of guilt, or do you feel shame? If you are in doubt, ask yourself how you feel after doing something that hurts another person’s feelings. (And yes, you will- we ALL do hurtful things sometimes, no matter how careful we are to avoid it). If you quickly do what you can to make amends & let it go, then you are feeling healthy guilt. If you beat yourself up for being a terrible person, you feel shame.
It can be hard to overcome shame, especially after a lifetime of experience with it, but it can be done. As you work on your healing, your self-esteem naturally improves. You also see things in a much healthier perspective- you begin to realize that you are NOT at fault for everything, as you heard you were when you were a child. You realize that things were done to you that you didn’t deserve, & nothing you could have done would have made you deserve to be abused. These things help you to feel less & less shame as time passes.
Today is a sad day.. 3 years ago today I lost a dear friend who was like a mother to me. She always offered unconditional love, comfort on bad days, laughs on good days & wisdom well beyond her years. She was the best.
Also going through some hard times. The Complex PTSD has been really difficult. The other day I had a lot of flashbacks, anxiety & depression. It can be so maddening, feeling like I’m living in the past. But, each time a flashback would happen, I looked at it objectively, like it was happening to someone else. It helped me to see that I definitely was not the one with the problem. It helps me to release the shame attached to being abused, & the shame attached to the effects I suffer because of it.
I’m really hopeful that all of these experiences that have been happening lately will help me in my latest book project. It will be a fictional story based on my life. Many of the abusive episodes I have experienced will be included, as well as ways I’ve found to deal with them. As incredibly difficult as this book is to write, my prayer is it will help other adult survivors of child abuse.
On a more positive note, the furkids are doing wonderfully. Although a bit late, spring fever seems to have kicked in around here- the kitties are getting into everything…lol They are chasing each other & having a good old time lately. Such a blessing, each & every one of them! 🙂
Until next time, Dear Reader, I’m praying for God’s love & blessings to overflow in your life. Take care!