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My publisher is offering a sale on all of my print books. Use code ORDER15 at checkout.
My books can be found at the link below:
Toxic shame is a serious problem among those who have survived narcissistic abuse. This type of shame goes far beyond thinking things like, “I shouldn’t have done that”. Toxic shame thinking things like, “I’m a terrible person because I did that.” In other words, toxic shame judges the person rather than the act.
The reason toxic shame is so common in those who have survived narcissistic abuse is because of the way narcissists abuse their victims. Overt & covert narcissists may be quite different in many ways, but both types will not hesitate to use shame as a weapon. They harshly judge & criticize their victims about everything. Nothing is off limits! The victim’s religious beliefs, morals, hobbies, likes, dislikes, taste in clothing, taste in cars, career choice, significant other, children, extended family, friends…. You name it. Anything can be used. They criticize the victim for caring about what they care about & not caring about the things they don’t care about incredibly harshly. They imply or even say outright that something is very wrong with their victim for feeling as they do. They must be stupid or even crazy. My mother gave me a very good example of this a few years before she died. I don’t like donuts, & apparently she was unaware of that. One day she mentioned liking them & asked which kind I liked. I said none. She said, “You don’t like donuts? What’s wrong with you? You can’t be my daughter!” At the time I was thinking, “I wish!” but I also realized what was happening. I didn’t feel the same way she did, & rather than simply accepting we felt differently about something, she tried to shame me for being different.
The underlying message that narcissists give when shaming their victim is this: “You must not make mistakes, have your own feelings, thoughts, needs or interests because that makes you unacceptable, unlovable, intolerable, stupid &/or crazy.”
Toxic shame is a very effective weapon for narcissists, especially when their victims are unaware of what exactly is happening. Over time, the shame takes a deep root in a person. At that point, it annihilates one’s self esteem because they believe they are seriously broken, flawed & unlovable. It also destroys a person’s identity because the shaming made this person think they shouldn’t feel or believe as they do. It can make them doubt that they really feel or believe that way. Or, more commonly, they may purposely try to change because it seems better than dealing with the narcissist’s cruel shaming.
This toxic shame also can create false beliefs in a person, such as the person isn’t entitled to have any needs, wants or feelings. When married to my ex husband, I repeatedly told myself I needed to ignore my needs, wants & feelings & focus on him. I truly felt that I wasn’t entitled to have such things, only he was.
An overdeveloped sense of responsibility can come from toxic shame as well. A person can come to believe that they are responsible for others, including their emotional state. This is especially true of the narcissist in their life. If someone they know is sad, they should cheer that person up. They should fix all of the problems in that person’s life. They come to believe that their own life isn’t as important as this other person’s is.
There are ways to heal from toxic shame. Prayer is always the best place to start, in my opinion. Ask God to speak his truth to you & to heal you.
Study about who you are as a child of God. There is plenty in the Bible that proves you are worthy & wonderful. I created a pretty long list of these Scriptures. It’s available on my website at www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com on the Positive Affirmation link at the top of the page.
If you do these things, you won’t be set free of the bonds of toxic shame overnight but it will happen. Don’t give up! You deserve to be set free!
Many people have very definite opinions on no contact but especially when it comes to parents. There are so many who claim no contact is the only option & there is no excuse not to sever ties with toxic parents. There are probably just as many who claim it’s not God’s will, no contact is dishonorable & there is absolutely no excuse to sever ties with your parents no matter what they have done to you.
If you are in the position of wondering if no contact is your best solution, no doubt you have read information on both sides of this argument. It can be truly overwhelming & confusing!
My purpose in this post is to help you decide whether or not no contact is necessary in your particular situation. Following are some questions you need to consider. When you answer them, the more honestly you answer, the more clarity you should have about whether or not you need to go no contact with your parent.
Is your parent willing to discuss your relationship? Narcissistic parents have no desire to discuss the relationship or work towards solutions. They don’t want to hear their victim’s complaints, & can shut down as soon as the conversation turns to their behavior. Functional people are open to discussion & are willing to listen, not only talk.
Does your parent deny any responsibility for problems in the relationship? Functional people admit when they are wrong. They apologize & try to make appropriate changes. Dysfunctional people, narcissists in particular, refuse to admit they have made mistakes. Instead, they refuse to admit any wrong doing, shift all blame to the victim or make lame excuses for their behavior.
When discussing the relationship, does your parent turn the situation around to where you are the abuser, them the victim? Covert narcissists in particular love to do this. No matter how valid your complaint about their behavior, they can spin the situation around to make you look abusive, while simultaneously making them look like the innocent victim of your abusive ways. Functional people do nothing like this.
Is your parent completely inflexible? For any relationship to work, both parties have to be rather flexible. One person can’t do all of the compromising & expect the relationship to be a healthy one. Yet, narcissists aren’t concerned with what is healthy. They’re only concerned with what they want, & what they want is a one sided relationship where their victim caters to their every whim. Functional people are willing to bend & compromise if it means the relationship will be better.
Is your parent very entitled? Functional parents accept that their children are grown with their own life, family & responsibilities. They don’t expect to be their adult child’s top priority. Entitled parents are much different. They think their adult children need to have them as top priority even over their spouse &/or children & are impossible. No matter how much their adult child does for them, it never will be enough nor will it please this parent. Even if their adult child does so much for them that their spouse divorces them, it still won’t be enough. It may please the parent, however, to have that spouse out of the picture so the adult child can focus on them even more.
Have you tried your best to fix this relationship yet it either didn’t change or got worse? One person can’t fix a relationship, but by altering their behavior, some change should come naturally to the relationship. If the relationship stayed the same or got worse, that is not a good sign. Narcissists don’t like their victims to change unless that change means the victim is more subservient. If your parent is like the dysfunctional ones I discussed, chances are excellent that no contact is your best solution. I don’t like to say anyone definitely should go no contact, because each person & each situation is unique. However, the dysfunctional behaviors I’ve discussed are big signs that there is no working things out with anyone who behaves that way. From here, I highly recommend lots of prayer & consideration of your unique situation. And, if you realize no contact is necessary for you, then you can have peace of mind knowing you did all you could & gave it a lot of serious consideration before implementing no contact.
Toxic shame can be one of the most damaging aspects of narcissistic abuse. It tells a victim that something is deeply wrong with them, unlike guilt which tells a person that they did something wrong. This shame obliterates self esteem & makes a victim easier to control. This is why shame is such a common weapon of narcissists. It’s extremely effective.
Narcissists instill toxic shame in their victims in various ways. They let their victim know that their feelings, thoughts, & beliefs are wrong. The victims likes & dislikes are also harshly judged & criticized. In fact, everything about the victim is harshly judged & criticized. His or her looks, actions, hopes, dreams & more. Even if a victim tries to be what the narcissist wants, the narcissist will let the victim know it isn’t good enough. In fact, nothing the victim does is good enough. Instead of the victim seeing this as the narcissist is impossible to please, most victims take it as them being a failure for not pleasing their narcissist, which adds to their toxic shame.
Shame also forces victims to keep the abuse secret. The victim is too embarrassed to admit that they tolerate such cruelty in some cases. In others, the victim is ashamed of feeling angry or hurt by the abuse because the narcissist has convinced the victim that the victim is the reason for the abusive behavior or that it really isn’t abuse, the victim is being oversensitive. Either way, the abuse being kept a secret is another benefit for the narcissist. They can continue the abuse without fear of the victim exposing their heinous acts.
Even once a victim ends the relationship with a narcissist, toxic shame is still a part of that victim’s life until he or she realizes it & works on healing. Adults with toxic shame end up in abusive relationships, whether they be romantic, friendships or coworkers. They are depressed & seldom realize why. They often have tremendous anxiety as well. They live to please other people, & feel as though they fail even when told they have done a great job. They have no self esteem. They’re simply miserable!
One of the best ways to start to combat toxic shame is by talking about the abuse. Being open about your experiences is a very effective way to release the power they have over you. I’ve thought of it like this… if you remember anything about the old legends of vampires, when they were in the dark, they were incredibly powerful. Nothing could stop them. Yet, in the sunlight, they were powerless in the short time before they were destroyed. Talking about the effects of the abuse is the same. Being open about it releases the power it has over you. In fact, it enables you to take back your power! By talking about it, you’re basically telling your abuser, “This is my story too & I have every right to talk about it. You can’t stop me anymore!”
By talking about the abuse, I’m not saying you need to talk about it non stop to everyone, write books or have a blog like mine. You have to do whatever feels right to you. It’s usually best to start out by praying about it. Also, you can write in a journal. From there, you can talk to a safe person such as a close friend or counselor. Take baby steps, since talking about it can be pretty scary at first. As you get more comfortable discussing it, maybe one day you will feel like creating a blog or writing a book about your story. Only God knows what the best plan for you is. Until such time as that plan is revealed though, start talking. It will help you destroy that toxic shame & live a happier life!
Living through narcissistic abuse is a horrific experience that no one should have to endure. As if that isn’t bad enough, many victims open up to their family about their experiences & are met with unbelief, blame, shaming comments, denial & more. Their family members say that they should forgive & forget, get over it, & other invalidating comments. It’s so shocking when you expect support & love & are met with these terrible reactions. As if this wasn’t enough, many families offer unconditional love & support to the abuser while shunning the victim.
The vast majority of my family never cared that my parents were abusive to me. They ignored signs when I was a child. As an adult, they told me things like I needed to get over my childhood hurts, I only get one set of parents & I needed to fix the relationship with my parents. No doubt many of you can relate.
Victims often wonder why their family acts this way. I have some ideas why. By explaining the behavior, I am certainly NOT excusing it. There is no valid reason to treat a victim this way. I am simply trying to show victims that the people who say such comments are incredibly dysfunctional & should be ignored not believed.
Denial is the main reason families reject victims & support abusers. Who wants to accept the fact that someone they love in their own family is capable of horrible acts?! No one. Many people do it anyway. Many other people lack the courage to face that ugly truth. Also, by denying the abuse, they can have a clear conscience when it comes to failing to help or protect the victim. If the abuse didn’t happen, even only in their mind, then they did nothing wrong. Lastly, many of these people care a great deal about the abuser. Narcissists can be quite charming & likeable. These people believe this act is the real person & become so enchanted with that false persona, they will reject anything that threatens it which includes someone claiming that person isn’t the perfect person they present themselves as.
Many of these abuse defenders have abuse in their own past. For every victim of abuse who confronts their pain & works on healing, there are other victims who don’t have the courage to do the same. They pretend they weren’t abused, pushing all memories as far away from them as they can so as to avoid their pain. When you face your pain, those people are reminded of theirs, especially if the abuse had similarities. Facing your pain makes them feel badly for not facing theirs as well as reminds them of their own pain. Since they don’t want to be reminded of their own pain, they will do their best to shut you down quickly.
Some abuse defenders are also abusive narcissists. Abusers don’t want to admit any behavior is abusive. It means admitting to themselves that they too are abusers, & what they are doing is wrong. While narcissists lack the empathy to care about the pain & suffering they cause their victims, they do care about what others think of them. To be known as an abuser tarnishes their reputation, which is something they wish to avoid at all costs.
Many abuse defenders benefit from befriending the narcissist. Immediately after my mother died, I learned she sent one of my aunts money monthly. I was stunned! They never got along & my mother often had complained of my aunt’s lack of money management skills as well as her expectations of others to bail her out every time she got herself into trouble. I can only assume her benefiting from my mother is why she was such a staunch defender of my parents. There are many others in similar situations who like my aunt, refuse to chance losing their benefits from the narcissist & prefer to throw their victims under the bus.
When you are in such a situation, I hope you keep this information in mind. When your family dismisses your valid claims of abuse, the problem definitely isn’t you. It’s them!
I came across this really interesting article about what a mother in-law wants in her daughter in-law. My curiosity was piqued, so I read it. It got me to thinking just how different a narcissistic mother in-law is from a functional one. I thought I’d do a side by side comparison of the two based on the article in case anyone reading this is wondering if their mother in-law is a narcissist.
As you can see, there are many differences between healthy, functional mothers in-law & narcissistic ones. I hope you aren’t dealing with the narcissistic variety because they are incredibly difficult to deal with at best!
My latest book, “Regrettably Related: A Guide to Toxic In-laws” is now available in both print & ebook versions.
The print version is available here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/cynthia-bailey-rug/regrettably-related-a-guide-to-toxic-in-laws/paperback/product-24225183.html
The ebook version is available here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/955631
Shame is a powerful weapon in the hands of an abuser. It can cause a person to rely on their abuser for pretty much any information & make them easy to control by causing them to think they need someone smarter to tell them what to do. Narcissists know this, & they have fine tuned many very effective ways to use shame to abuse their victims.
Narcissists will destroy a person’s self esteem in order to create toxic shame in a victim. They point out a person’s flaws (real or imagined) constantly & tell embarrassing stories about them. This keeps a victim on their toes, trying to be better, to please the narcissist, & to avoid doing embarrassing things that the narcissist will use to embarrass the victim with at any given time.
Narcissists also will invalidate a victim. If they tell an embarrassing story, for example, & the victim becomes rightly upset, the narcissist will say things like, “I was just joking.” “You can’t even take a joke!” My narcissistic mother did this one constantly, & when I got upset, would tell me, “There’s something wrong with you. You shouldn’t feel that way! That was funny!”
Narcissists also love to reinvent the past. They claim to be responsible for their victim’s successes, claim the successes weren’t all that great or even deny they happened. Regarding their abuse, they will claim the abuse never happened or if it did, it wasn’t as bad as the victim claims or the victim made the narcissist do it.
Narcissists will twist a situation around to make themselves look like the victim rather than the abuser. They do this in two ways. They will tell others about how angry their victim is, how he or she yells at them, while leaving out the things they did that got the victim to that state. They also will use a victim’s own valid reactions to their abuse to prove to the victim that the victim is abusive &/or is mentally unstable.
Narcissists never speak to their victims as if the victim is their equal. Sometimes they will talk down to their victim, in particular if the victim in question is their child. They want to maintain that adult/child relationship in order to make their child feel inferior to them, therefore making them easier to control.
Other narcissists will talk in circles, use big words, speak with authority & basically try to talk above their victim, which makes even the most intelligent victim feel stupid. They may change their body language or physical position so they literally can look down at their victim.
If the narcissist’s victim has any sort of religious faith, the narcissist will not hesitate to use their beliefs to shame the victim. Many tell their victims things like they are going to hell because of how they treat the narcissist, or they aren’t honoring their parent. They let their victims know they are a total failure in every way, including their religious beliefs.
Narcissists view everything as a competition, & they will use comparisons to shame their victims. If a narcissist & their victim have something in common, you can guarantee the narcissist will make sure the victim knows the narcissist does it better or has a better one or is more successful at it. Whatever “it” is, the narcissist is the master, the victim the failure, according to the narcissist.
When a narcissist behaves in these ways towards you, keep in mind what is really happening! You have no reason to be ashamed of yourself, no matter what the narcissist is saying. He or she is only trying to make you feel that way in order to abuse & manipulate you. Like everything when it comes to narcissists, it’s all about the narcissist, & has nothing to do with you. Never forget that!
Finding the courage to set boundaries on being abused & even to end a toxic relationship isn’t easy. It takes a tremendous amount of courage & strength to do such things. One of the few things that is even more difficult is to tell other people your story. Part of the reason for this is the victim blaming & shaming that is so common in society.
Many people simply don’t want to hear anything negative. They are so obscenely positive it’s just ridiculous. If something is less than positive, they don’t want to hear it, & will shut that person down quickly when they can.
Even more common is those who have been abused themselves, yet refuse to face their pain. When they see someone facing their pain & conquering it, it makes them feel uncomfortable for two reasons. First, it reminds them of what they are trying so hard to forget. Second, it makes them feel inferior for not doing the same thing.
There are also those who enable abusers. For whatever bizarre reasons, they pity abusers & hate victims instead of the other way around. They have no tolerance for anyone who dares to speak out against abuse. They label these people troublemakers, liars, attention seekers, drama queens & more.
Often, people like this are easy to spot. They are the loud ones who call victims names, harass them & even send them vicious hate emails, texts & voicemails. The one plus about these people is you can have no doubt about what kind of awful person you’re dealing with when they act this way. The problem is when people are much more subtle in the way they try to shame & shut down victims. Below are some warning signs that someone is not safe to tell your story to.
If someone refers to your relationship as one where both you & your abuser are at fault for its demise, this person isn’t safe. We all know that no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. However, when a person is abusive, it’s not an innocent mistake. It’s a deliberate choice to harm another person. Any functional person should recognize that!
All victims need understanding & empathy. Even if a person hasn’t been in an abusive relationship, anyone should be able to grasp that it’s not a pleasant experience & feel badly that anyone experienced that. Someone who can’t clearly lacks empathy & is a toxic person.
Avoid anyone who trivializes the abuse. One of my aunts once referred to the abuse I experienced as, “childhood hurts.” That truly hurt me & it destroyed our relationship. Luckily, it happened well into my healing journey. If it happens to someone new to their healing, an invalidating comment like this can be devastating!
Those who make excuses for abusers should be avoided. People who do this are as toxic as the abuser! They invalidate the victim’s pain & suffering, & even make the victim feel ashamed for not being understanding, or being too sensitive & such. The truth is there is NO good reason to abuse, period.
People who judge a person’s healing are toxic. Everyone heals differently & at a different pace. Many toxic people try to rush a victim along with comments like, “You need to let this go.” “It’s been how many months since you left him?” “You told me this already.” This does no good! To process & heal from abuse, it takes a lot of time, energy & sometimes even telling the same story over & over in an attempt to make some sense of it. A person who doesn’t understand that is toxic.
Anyone who uses a person’s faith as a reason they should tolerate abuse is incredibly toxic & should be avoided at all costs. While God didn’t promise this life would be easy, He never said anywhere in the Bible that tolerating abuse is good & holy. Yet, there are many who think it is the “good Christian” thing to do, tolerating abuse. I’m no theologian, but I do recognize that tolerating & enabling abuse is not only wrong, it’s not God’s will.
If you come across these kinds of people, remember, not everyone needs to know your story. Refuse to discuss it with them. You don’t need to be abused even more than you already have been!
When you have survived narcissistic abuse, escaped it & began to heal, you will think a LOT. You’ll think about the things you endured, & wonder how you survived. You’ll also think about things you did while in the midst of the abuse or even after you first escaped it. This can be extremely difficult, because chances are, you’ve done many things you aren’t proud of.
That is certainly something I’ve experienced. When I look back at my young adult life, it’s just embarrassing. I met my ex husband just before I turned 17. He was very pushy about getting me to date him, & proposed 3 months after we met. I went along with whatever he wanted, against my mother’s demands, because I didn’t think any other guy would ever want me. This desperation is so embarrassing now. I didn’t even find him physically attractive- I just figured I should grab him since no one else would want me. I sneaked around to be with him even knowing my mother most likely would find out & scream at me about it as she always did. I later married him even though everything in me was saying it was a huge mistake & I shouldn’t marry him.
Looking back at that situation is embarrassing. Humiliating, really. I have a hard time believing now that I’m that same person.
Do you have a situation like that in your life, Dear Reader? I’m guessing you do. I think we all do. I want to tell you today that you have nothing to be ashamed of!
Growing up with a narcissistic parent (or two), you learn a lot of terribly dysfunctional beliefs. Those beliefs will play a part in the things you do until you learn that they are bad, & you replace them with healthy beliefs. This means you’re going to do some things you aren’t necessarily proud of, like me getting involved with my ex husband.
When you remember those times, rather than shaming yourself, think about who you were at that time. You were a dysfunctional, abused person. Naturally you’d make bad choices. How could you not if you didn’t know better?
It’s OK that you made mistakes. We all do, especially when given such a horrible, dysfunctional start in life. Forgive yourself! Stop beating yourself up! How could you expect to make wiser choices when you simply didn’t know any better?
I’ve been working on a book for a while now about toxic/narcissistic in-laws. I’m struggling to write it for a few reasons. I’ve been really distracted by things going on in my life since I started this book 2 years ago. I also felt that I needed to put it on the back burner to write other books. The topic is such a hard one for me to write about too, because I honestly have been through hell because of some of my husband’s family, & I’m still healing. And, in spite of taking frequent breaks, I’m pretty burned out on all things narcissism. These issues make this one tough book to write. That being said, I believe the topic is an important one so I will finish it. It just may take some time.
Since my book is delayed, here is a post to help identify whether or not your in-laws are toxic. I will write from the perspective of a daughter in-law with a toxic mother in-law, since that is the bulk of my experience as well as the bulk of the experiences of people I’ve spoken with. The information is good for toxic sisters in-law, fathers in-law, etc. though.
Does your mother in-law ignore you? The purpose of this behavior is to show you that you mean nothing to her.
Does she refuse to accept responsibility for treating you badly? Rather than say something like, “I shouldn’t have said that.. I’m sorry,” does she make excuses for her words or actions or deny them completely? This is a big red flag. Functional people accept responsibility for what they say & do.
Does your mother in-law have a different personality depending on whether or not you are alone with her or others are around? Another big red flag! Any abuser will behave differently to their victim depending on whether or not there are witnesses. They want to hide their abuse from other people.
Does she expect you to be blindly devoted to her family, even to the point of rejecting your own family & friends? Many toxic mothers in-law remind me of the Borg from the tv show “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” They expect their son’s or daughter’s new spouse to become completely enmeshed in their new in-law family.
Like the Borg, toxic mothers in-law expect their new sons or daughters in-law to adapt to their opinions, religion, way of life, etc. Individuality is highly discouraged by toxic mothers in-law. I once told my late mother in-law I hate to cook. I do it, but hate it. For Christmas a few months later, she & her 2 daughters gave me nothing but cookbooks, utensils, food & other cooking paraphernalia.
Toxic in-laws show no respect. Toxic in-laws show no respect for personal space, choices, likes/dislikes, parenting, & even boundaries.
And speaking of a lack of respect, your mother in-law makes it clear to you that she doesn’t like you. Unless you abuse your mother in-law’s adult child or your children, if your mother in-law had any respect whatsoever for her child, she would be civil to you no matter how much she disliked you. The inability to be civil even only for the sake of her adult child proves she is toxic.
Is she manipulative & controlling? Toxic people, in particular narcissists, must be in charge. Chances are, your mother in-law controls her spouse & children. Since you married one of her children, she expects you to be as control-able & easily manipulated as everyone else. When you say no, she is NOT happy.
If your toxic mother in-law is nice to you, it’s short lived & in front of others only. Very few people are cruel 100% of the time. Toxic people bring out their nice side when it can be advantageous to them. Being nice sometimes will make their victim want to see it more, so they work harder to please the toxic person. Also, being nice to a victim in front of others helps the toxic person prove to others that if you complain about the relationship, you are obviously the problem.
Mothers in-law like this care nothing of their adult child beyond what he can do for her. They clearly have no respect for him either, since they treat the person he chose to spend his life with so badly. His marriage is nothing more to this kind of mother than an embarrassment, & she would like it simply to go away. Since she can’t file for divorce on his behalf, she becomes extremely destructive to the adult child’s marriage with her abusive ways.
Your spouse no doubt suffers greatly from his mother’s abusive behavior, yet tolerates it anyway. This is because he is accustomed to how his mother behaves. This is his norm & many adults in this situation have accepted this as their permanent reality. By complaining about his mother’s behavior or even confronting her, this threatens his norm. Facing the truth can be incredibly painful for many in this position, which is why many refuse to face the truth. This feeling is known as cognitive dissonance. Rather than face this miserable feeling, many people in this situation will do their best to shut down their spouse. They don’t want to hear about the bad things their mother is doing, so they will tell their wife they don’t believe her, she is over sensitive, she just doesn’t understand Mom, that’s her problem so she needs to leave him out of it & more. They refuse to confront their mother on behalf of their wife.
Naturally, the wife in this position feels rejected, unloved & hurt. She wants to fight for her marriage, but it seems whatever she does is wrong, & whatever his mother does is right. Her trying to save her marriage only causes more problems. The reason for this is she doesn’t know that when you’re dealing with a narcissist, normal ways to cope don’t work.
For anyone in this position, you need to think of this situation more like a game of strategy than a relationship.
As always pray. Ask God to help you to know what to do & to give you whatever you need to enable you to do it. Pray for your husband to see the truth & for God to enable him to be able to cope with it, too.
Cope with your emotions as best you can by journaling, talking to a safe friend, pray.. whatever works for you. Whatever you do, don’t hold in your emotions!
Don’t focus on your mother in-law’s bad behavior when it can be avoided. Instead, focus on being the loving wife that you are. Don’t neglect to remind your husband how much you love him. If he complains about his mother to you for any reason, don’t join in. Listen quietly to him & give him objective advice if he asks for it. The reason being, the mindset of many people in this situation is they can complain about Mom, but if anyone else does, they jump to her defense. This would only cause more problems in your marriage.
Along those lines, if you discuss his mother’s behavior with him, stay calm. State your issues in a matter of fact way, lacking emotion. If you rant & rave, that too will make him feel he must defend his mother, which only will hurt you & possibly your marriage.
Limit your exposure to your mother in-law as much as possible, but especially alone. No narcissist wants to abuse their victim in front of the person they want to think well of them, so stay glued to your husband’s side as much as possible.
Keep your emotions in check around your mother in-law. Narcissists love to twist a victim’s normal reaction around to prove how mentally unstable or even abusive the victim is to other people. In her presence, stay calm. Vent later when you’re away from her as needed though, so you don’t hold in all the bad emotions.
Having to deal with toxic, narcissistic in-laws is tough. I know, I’ve been there. But, with prayer, love, patience & wisdom, you can survive it with your marriage in tact.
Since my last post was about red flags in those who write about narcissism, I thought I’d make today’s post about fellow survivors.
Most people who have survived narcissistic abuse are good people who are trying hard to recover. Naturally they have issues, but at least they’re working on them & working on getting healthier. They also are willing to share what they learn to help others in similar situations, & do so without any arrogance. They’re also open to input from other people, because they realize they don’t know it all- there is always more to learn on this topic.
Not every victim is this way, however. Some turn abusive.
I don’t know why some victims try to heal & why some become abusive but it does happen sometimes. If you’re going to interact with other victims through online support groups, reading blogs or on social media, you need to be aware of some red flags.
The biggest red flag to watch out for is narcissism. Many of you know the signs already so I won’t repeat them here. I’ll just share a link to the page on my website where I wrote about it if you care to check it out: http://cynthiabaileyrug.com/Narcissistic-Personality-Disorder.php
There are other red flags, too. If a person gives advice too freely, for example. While most victims want to help others, they also realize how rude it is to give unasked for advice. They also realize sometimes a person just needs to speak things out loud to help them work through a situation, & that doesn’t mean they’re looking for advice.
If a person is bossy or demanding with their advice, that’s another red flag. Most people realize that all people are individuals. What worked for them may not work for another. They realize it’s not a good idea to try to force someone to follow their advice & let the other person decide for themselves whether or not to follow it.
Your average victim of narcissistic abuse also isn’t judgmental or critical. They know all too well what it feels like to be judged & criticized so harshly, so they don’t inflict that on anyone else. Some victims turned abusers, however, can be extremely judgmental & critical.
Some victims also become very arrogant. They seem to think because they found success in doing something that helped them, that everyone should follow in their footsteps & if they don’t, they’re foolish.
These same people are also usually the first ones to shame people who, “don’t just go no contact.” They make it clear they don’t believe there is any reason not to go no contact, & they offer no compassion to anyone who wants to but it unable to or is trying to find another option.
Abusive victims also make excuses. If they are short with someone, it’s always for a reason like they’re having a bad da, as one example. They don’t apologize or accept responsibility for the hurtful things they do.
And, if you call a person like this out on their actions, they WILL be furious. They may offer a non apology. They may offer lame excuses for their behavior. They also may get mad at you. That in particular is a big red flag, because most victims of narcissistic abuse apologize easily & often. They don’t get mad when called out on their bad behavior. They usually get mad only when someone is accusing them of something they didn’t do.
One other red flag is a smear campaign. This is very common on social media. If someone feels the online support group they participated in wasn’t a good environment for example, social media is an easy way to let the world know how you feel about it. That is pretty normal behavior, I think, but if a person posts about that group in a way that really trashes it, that is a red flag.
The last red flag is stalking or harassing another person online. With your average victim of narcissistic abuse, they may have a dispute with someone then either stop speaking with them or even block them entirely. A victim who is also abusive however, may harass or stalk someone who disagreed with them. They may leave nasty comments on their page or join groups the other person is in & harass them in the group. This nonsense can go on for a very long time, especially with narcissists.
The best advice I can give in these situations is the Gray Rock method. Don’t react to their outrageous behavior or show them that what they do bothers you. Remain calm & ignore their behavior. Don’t defend yourself to their smear campaigns. Instead, simply block them wherever you can. Most people like this will get bored easily & leave you alone at this point. Narcissists may not be so simple to get rid of however. They may bother you for a long time. Never, ever respond to them- instead keep blocking them & their flying monkeys.
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!
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?
Children need to believe that their parents love them. Normally, this is a very good thing, since most parents do love their children. When the child’s parent is a narcissist, however, this is NOT a good thing!
Because of this need, abused children will make excuses for their parent abusing them. I did – I told myself my mother loved me which is why she was “overprotective” rather than admitting she controlled my every move.
Children also will come up with reasons why the abuse was their fault, not the parent’s, taking all the blame while the parent gets away with abusing the child. The child will think that she needs to get better grades in school, be better behaved, etc. to please the parent, so the parent doesn’t have to abuse her anymore. Children don’t realize that narcissists are impossible to please, & will abuse their child even if the child is 100% perfect.
Some parents are actively abusive – they mentally, physically &/or sexually abuse their child – while others are more passive in their abuse, standing by quietly while the other parent obviously abuses the child. Passive abusers also do not care about the child’s pain, & often will turn the active abuser onto the child if that person is mad at the passive abuser, simply to distract them. If a child has one actively abusive parent & one passively abusive one, the need to believe that her parents love her will cloud her discernment greatly. Even if she comes to realize that the actively abusive parent is abusive, it will take much longer to realize the passively abusive one is equally abusive. The desperation to believe that at least one parent loves her will make the child think that the passive abusive parent loves her because at least that parent isn’t verbally, physically or sexually abusing her. The child also may make excuses for that parent, saying that parent just didn’t know what to do or had no power to stop the abuse. In fact, the child may feel pity for that parent, offering comfort after the child has been abused. This happened with my father. My mother would abuse me, & my father would tell me how he couldn’t do anything to stop it, & how hard it was for him knowing how mean she was to me. I would comfort him rather than him comforting & protecting me.
This need to believe parents love their children can cause many problems for adult children of narcissists, as you can see. So I urge you today, Dear Reader, to look at your situation. Are you harboring any beliefs that stem from that need? Are you making excuses for your parent(s) because you think it’s easier than admitting your narcissistic parent never loved you? If so, you’re only hurting yourself.
John 8:32 says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (NIV) This Scripture is absolutely true! As difficult as facing the truth about your parents is, it is worth it. Clinging to the childish belief that your parent loves you only hurts you. It’s a domino effect of dysfunction, really. You make more & more excuses for your parent’s abuse because you want to believe she loves you. This only serves to keep you tolerating more & more abuse. Facing the truth is the only thing that will set you free.
Admitting that your narcissistic parent doesn’t love you & never has is painful. I understand this all too well. It causes you to grieve your loss of not having a loving parent. However, doing so will enable you to see things much more clearly & objectively, which helps you to find ways to become healthier. You’ll be able to think more about ways to set & enforce healthy boundaries instead of tolerating abuse so you don’t hurt your parent’s feelings. You may limit your contact with your parent or go full no contact with that parent because you realize that your parent only wants you in her life to provide her with narcissistic supply, & you deserve better than that.
I know admitting your parent doesn’t love you is painful, but I can promise you that it is well worth the pain. And, it’s much less painful than clinging to that false belief!
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.
The most dreaded day for adult children of narcissistic mothers, Mother’s Day, is upon us.
What are you doing today, Dear Reader?
I hope you are taking some time to celebrate yourself. Whether you are a mom or not, you should be congratulating yourself.
If you’ve gone no contact with your mother, I know, today is especially hard. You should be proud of yourself though- you made possibly the most difficult decision a person can make. It’s incredibly hard to sever ties with your own mother, even when she is incredibly toxic, but you did it. That takes a lot of guts!
If you haven’t gone no contact, but instead maintain a relationship with your narcissistic mother, you too should be proud of yourself. It’s not an easy task finding a way to maintain your sanity with a narcissist, but you found a way that works. That is something to be proud of!
If you’re hurting too much to celebrate yourself, I understand that. Take time to grieve. Cry, pray, write in your journal. Having a toxic relationship with your mother is incredibly painful, & grieving it is totally normal. Maybe you need to take a day to grieve. The more you face your pain, the more you heal & the less painful it becomes.
I know this day is a very difficult, painful one, it is for me too, but you can make it through! xoxo
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.
Another control tactic narcissists use is by ignoring their victim. Whether it is pretending the person didn’t say anything or the narcissist didn’t hear the person (when they obviously did) or the silent treatment, ignoring a victim is about control.
Being ignored may not sound very effective, but it can be surprisingly so. It communicates the message that the person being ignored is so awful, they don’t even deserve to be acknowledged. This message can be absolutely devastating, especially when done repeatedly.
It also makes the person being ignored work harder, trying to get the ignoring person’s attention. The person feels they must make it up to the ignoring person. Make what up? They rarely know, but they know they have done something so horrible, it made the ignoring person not want to speak to them.
If the narcissist in question has hearing problems, she may use it to help her ignore you. She may have what I refer to as selective hearing. If you say something she doesn’t like, she may act like she doesn’t hear you.
My narcissistic mother has ignored me more times than I can count. She has hearing problems, & uses it to play innocent claiming she didn’t hear me say something. Yet, I’ve tested her hearing. If we’re discussing something & she isn’t happy with what I’m saying, she without fail says, “What’s that Honey? I can’t hear you..” until I’m practically screaming. If the conversation is normal, I can practically whisper & she hears me fine. She also gives me the silent treatment on a regular basis.
Thanks to her ridiculous behavior, I have had to learn healthy ways to cope.
My mother started using the silent treatment with me sometime in my childhood. I don’t remember when exactly, but I remember her using it most often when her abuse was at its peak in my late teens. It used to upset me terribly! I would beg her to tell me what I did that was so bad, & she would respond with, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you!” *sigh* I finally had a revelation. If she wouldn’t talk to me like the grown up she was, then whatever I supposedly did couldn’t be so bad. Or, if she wouldn’t tell me, then chances are it was because she didn’t have a leg to stand on- I probably didn’t do anything bad at all. Instead, she was trying to get me to work hard to earn her love back. This knowledge was very helpful for me. I no longer felt the need to work hard to earn her love. I have come to appreciate the silent treatment. I now think of it as a break from the drama & head games my narcissistic mother loves to play.
When she ignores me or uses her selective hearing, I involve my father or whoever else is there. As typical with narcissists, my mother does NOT want to look bad in front of others, so this works to my advantage. If she ignores me, I give my father a look of frustration or ask him to get her attention since she’s ignoring me. Then, he will call my mother by her name & mention me saying something, which forces her to acknowledge me. Once I have her full attention, I can repeat what I was saying. Of course, this works well when someone else is there only, which is another argument for not being alone with a narcissist. Having witnesses can be a very helpful thing, plus the narcissist usually behaves better when there are people around to impress.
I also remind myself whether she is simply ignoring me or giving me the full blown silent treatment that she isn’t doing this because of me. She is doing it because there is something wrong with her. Mature, normal, healthy people don’t treat other people this way. They discuss issues & work things out.
I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me, Dear Reader!
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!
Yesterday, my narcissistic mother called me. Always interesting to say the least, but most especially when she ends her silent treatment to call me. I think I managed to get in about 10 words during the entire 45 minutes we were on the phone…
Yesterday’s motive for the call was, among other things, to tell me about the great things her cousin’s son does for her. What a good & generous son he is! The underlying message was clear as day, especially since she tells me the same things about him nearly every time we talk- I need to be more like her cousin’s wonderful son. I need to do more for my mother. However, as anyone with a narcissistic parent knows, nothing is ever enough.
For a long time, I felt guilty because I’m not good enough, according to my mother. I know I’m a huge disappointment to her in a great many ways. I don’t call my parents or suggest we get together. My mother doesn’t approve of my home, career, pets, tattoos or even my car. It’s been very hurtful knowing my mother feels this way about me.
I am very happy to say though, that God has set me free from that pain. When praying one day, God showed me that I do my best regarding my parents, & that is all He asks of anyone. He is proud of me for doing my best even when it isn’t easy. And as for my life choices that my mother disapproves of? So what? I have to live my life the way I believe God wants me to, not how anyone else does.
This is what I believe God wants me to tell you too, today. God loves you, & is so proud of you. If you are reading this, & you too have abusive parents who don’t approve of you or make you feel not good enough, know that God says you ARE good enough! He is so proud of you! If you are trying to have a relationship with those parents, God is proud of you for that too! It’s so painful dealing with abusive parents, no matter your age. Or, if you have ended the relationship with them, He is still proud of you! You tried hard- people never get to that place of severing ties easily.
So please, don’t think about the disapproval of your parents- instead focus on God’s love for you, & how proud He is of you. Psalm 27:10 says that when your parents forsake you, God will take you in as His own child. The more you focus on that, the happier & more peaceful you feel.
Good news! My newest book, “You Are Not Alone!” for daughters of abusive mothers is almost ready for publishing! I have about half of it left to edit, then I will publish it!! I am hoping to get it done tomorrow. 🙂