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For Victims Of Narcissistic Abuse & Their Spouses

After years of being in all kinds of relationships with narcissists (family, friendship & romantic), I realize I’m different than your average woman.  This happens to victims of narcissists.  Even once we realize what has happened to us, we’re different because of the experience.  Trauma has a way of changing a person.

Those changes can be for the better, such as when we are able to recognize abusive people quickly & set boundaries with them.  The changes also can be for the worse.  Sometimes dealing with those closest to us, especially our spouses, can be difficult even when it shouldn’t be simply because of our past experiences.  I am hoping this post will help victims & their partners to understand what is happening so they can work through the problems together.

Victims are taught not to have needs & feelings & if they express any, narcissists shame them for having them.  This can make it incredibly difficult to open up to anyone, even someone we love who isn’t a narcissist.  First, a victim feels wrong & ashamed for feeling or needing whatever they do.  Then that person is terrified of being shamed or invalidated for having them.  Even if someone has been nothing but kind to a victim, the victim still can fear that person’s disapproval or rejection.  If your partner is that way, please don’t take it personally.  It isn’t your fault!  It’s a side effect of narcissistic abuse.  Please just be patient.  Listen without offering advice unless you are asked for it.  If you don’t understand something, ask questions without sounding judgmental.

Being overly negative happens sometimes too.  Partner, it’s not your fault!  Healing from narcissistic abuse is a long, arduous, painful journey.  Sometimes it gets to be too much.  It feels like everything is bad, even when it truly isn’t.  It can be very easy for a victim to get mired down in negativity.  Please do NOT tell this person to cheer up, others have it worse or get mad.  That will only add to the negative mindset.  Maybe suggest going out to dinner or to the park- some small gesture to distract the victim could be helpful.  Make your loved one feel loved & safe.  Let her know she can talk to you if she wants to, but doesn’t need to if she doesn’t want to.

Along the lines of being very negative is making small things a big deal.  When you feel overwhelmed in trying to heal, or if you have C-PTSD or PTSD like so many victims of narcissistic abuse, sometimes you feel you can’t handle one more thing.  Then when that one more thing comes along, it’s too much & you blow up.  Even something as simple as misplacing a pen can push you over the edge & you snap at your spouse who had nothing to do with the missing pen.  If this is happening, try suggesting some down time to your spouse.  Suggest lunch out with a good friend, or you both go somewhere you enjoy like the movies.  Even a brief reprieve can be helpful in regaining a better perspective.

Many victims project the image of not needing their partner.  People who grew up with narcissistic parents had to be very self reliant.  It became a way of life.  Even if a victim has shed that behavior, if there is any issue in the victim’s marriage, self preservation kicks in & this behavior comes to the surface.  As the person who sees this behavior, let it be a sign to you that something is wrong in your marriage.  Try to figure it out.  Ask your spouse if everything is OK & be reassuring of your love.

Emotional withdraw is common too.  Suddenly, those little nice things your mate did for you stop or seem to be a burden to do.  Maybe your mate is too tired for sex when that was never an issue before.  This is a sign something is wrong.  Try doing nice gestures like bringing home your partner’s favorite coffee or a new book, CD or DVD.  Little gestures like that can be reassuring & may make your spouse feel more willing to open up to you.

Being married to someone who has survived narcissistic abuse can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.  A little love, compassion & understanding can go a long way.

 

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The Pain Of Having A Covert Narcissist Parent

Last night, I had two extremely vivid nightmares about my parents.  I woke up anxious & afraid from both, but especially the second one.

 

I got to thinking & praying about the dreams, I realized they showed me something.  It is incredibly hard to accept a covert narcissist parent as the evil, abuser that they are!

 

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a LOT of dreams about my father & when I prayed, God would tell me to pay attention to them- they are showing what he is really like, as He did when I asked about last night’s nightmares.  Yet in spite of the many warnings, I was still shocked when he did certain things like calling the police twice on me for “welfare checks” after I stopped speaking to him, accused my husband of keeping me from him or sending several flying monkeys after me.

 

When you’ve been raised with an overt narcissist & a covert narcissist, it is hard to accept the covert narcissist is bad.  After all, compared to the overt, the covert doesn’t seem so bad.  The covert doesn’t scream at you or hit you or shred your self-esteem.  Plus, it’s incredibly hard to accept that both of your parents didn’t love you.  One is hard enough, but two?  Incredibly painful.  So, many people tell themselves that their covertly narcissistic parent isn’t so bad.   Sure, that parent has flaws, but it could be worse, right?

 

Wrong!!

 

I firmly believe covert narcissists are way worse than overts.  At least with overt narcissists, you know where you stand & what they’re capable of.  Not so with covert narcissists.  Due to their subtlety, they can abuse so discreetly, a person doesn’t even realize it’s happening.  They also give such a good appearance as a victim that on the off chance you recognize they’re behavior is abusive, you don’t have the heart to upset them by confronting them.  They also love to appear naive & innocent.  This makes you doubt they know what they’re doing is wrong.  It also means if you tell people you both know, you won’t be believed.  Covert narcissists also make you feel sorry for them, which is another guarantee that you will let them get away with anything they want to do.

 

If anyone meets my father, they get the impression he’s a simple country boy- laid back, good sense of humor & a pleasant person.  And, now that he’s pushing 80 & has Alzheimer’s & other health problems, they also feel bad for him.  They don’t realize the incredibly evil, twisted things he is capable of because they only see the way he presents himself.  They don’t believe that when my mother abused me, he not only failed to protect me, he also turned the situation around so I would comfort him because he said he was upset she hurt me.  They wouldn’t believe he expected me to apologize to him for breaking a wall when my mother threw me into it when I was 19.  Yet, these things are absolutely true.

 

Dear Reader, if you have a covertly narcissistic parent, please pray about your situation.  If you’re maintaining that relationship thinking that parent isn’t as bad as your overtly narcissistic one, you’re probably wrong.  I thought that myself & I certainly was.  It’s taken me a lot of painful events, & long time to see my father for the wicked narcissist he is.  It took many nightmares & painful events to realize it.  I would love to spare you the kind of pain that I have had to experience because I didn’t want to accept the truth, so please, please pray about your situation.  Ask God to show you the truth about your parent, to enable you to handle it & what you should do about it.

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Are You Setting Yourself Up?

I recently read an article in “Psychology Today” that I found very interesting.  It was about the effects of invalidation in families.

 

A part of the article really hit home with me, & I would bet also with many victims of narcissistic abuse.  It explains that many people who were constantly invalidated as children invite people to invalidate them.  When parents do something so compulsively, children assume it needs to be done, & will give their parents opportunity to do so.  I realize I’ve done this myself.  One example is my mother has always been hyper critical of my weight.  There have been times I lost some weight & told her, & was nearly crushed by her comments.  The worst happened many years ago, when I told her I lost some weight without really trying lately.  I wasn’t hungry so I wasn’t eating as much.  I was much younger & more naive then, & thought since she’s always battled her weight, she’d be happy for me.  How wrong I was!  Her response was, “You probably have cancer & are going to die soon, that’s why you lost weight.”  Then, she changed the subject.

 

I don’t think this refers to only invalidation, however, although that was the topic of the article.  From what I’ve seen, people can do the same with other things.  For example, adult children of very critical parents can do stupid things often to give their parents something to criticize without a clue about what they’re doing.  They’ll shoot themselves in the foot, so to speak, then tell the parents who then criticize their poor choices.  They think they’re the family screw up because of what the parents have always said, & they constantly try to live up to the parents’ expectations (well, it’s more like living down to those expectations, really..).

 

Do scenarios like this describe your behavior?  Ask God to give you show you what you’re doing, if you’re setting the stage for your narcissistic mother to abuse you.  And, if you are doing so, then ask Him to help you make the appropriate changes.

 

You’re going to need to modify your words as well as behavior.  I stopped discussing things with my mother that she is very critical of, which has left us very little to discuss.  It’s sad, but it’s easier than feeling stupid for basically giving her ammunition to use for hurting me.  And stupid is exactly how I felt every time it happened.

 

Also, as always, it’s just a good practice never to show a narcissist you’re upset.  If you slip up & she gets vicious, stay calm & collected.  Do NOT show her that you are angry or hurt- it only provides her the coveted narcissistic supply, which will make her do these things more, so you will become more upset & provide more supply.  Never do this!!!  Instead, stay calm, even cold & unemotional.  If she can’t get a rise out of you, she will give up.  She may try a few things first to be sure she can’t upset you, but she will give up in this area.  That is a victory for you!

 

When you do slip up, as you will at first, don’t beat yourself up about it.  Unfortunately, it happens sometimes.  We all do it.  I still do sometimes, even though I’ve been doing this for years & have gotten much better at showing my narcissistic mother no reaction.  It frustrates her sometimes- I can see it.  lol  But, better her being frustrated than me being devastated!

 

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How Accepting The Narcissist “As Is” Can Benefit You

One thing I have found to be very helpful when dealing with narcissists is to accept them as they are.  Accept that they are immature, competitive, envious, jealous, vindictive with no desire to change & will not hesitate to hurt you if it accomplishes their goal.

 

Accepting them as they are does NOT mean you have to tolerate their abuse, however.  You always have absolutely every right to protect yourself from any & all abuse!!

 

Accepting them does means you understand that the narcissist is this way, & you can’t change them.  You can’t even inspire them to want to change with good, healthy actions on your part.  The only hope you have of genuine change from a narcissist is God being able to get through to them somehow.

 

So why accept the narcissist as they are?  Because it can help you.

 

It seems to be a normal reaction for the victims of a narcissist to hope next time will be different.  Next time, she’ll actually care about me.  Next time, maybe she won’t be so critical.  This overly optimistic thought process only sets the victim up for disappointment.  Narcissists rarely change for the better, & when they do, usually it’s only temporarily to benefit them in some way.  (I believe with God, all things are possible, even a narcissist seeing the error of their ways & changing their abusive behavior.  However, from what I have seen, it seems to be a very, very rare occurrence.)  If you can accept that truth & accept the narcissist as she is, you won’t subject yourself for being disappointed when she doesn’t change, doesn’t apologize for hurting you, etc. You know what is coming, so you aren’t disappointed that this time wasn’t different.

 

Also, accepting the narcissist means you won’t be hurt so often.  You know they are a certain way, & you know what to expect.  Knowing such things means that their usual actions can’t devastate you like they do when they catch you off guard.  You know what is coming, & can prepare for it.  This is a good thing!

 

Dealing with narcissists is never easy, but there are ways to make it less painful & frustrating for you.  Accepting the narcissist is one of those ways.

 

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Encouraging Others To Abuse You

No one knowingly encourages people to use or abuse them.  However, some people, in particular those who have been abused before, unwittingly do so.

 

To prevent this from happening, you need to “…be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”  (Matthew 10:16, NKJV).  You need to be observant & exercise wisdom.

 

Narcissists are particularly observant of their victims, & are very good at understanding body language.  They can pick up on your mood, your strengths, your weaknesses & anything else by watching you.  This enables them to know the most efficient ways to get what they want from you.  If you must deal with a narcissist, you need to do the same- observe them.  You will be able to pick up on their mood,  etc. & this will enable you to figure out the best way to deal with them at that particular time.  Unfortunately, dealing with narcissists is much like playing a chess game that you don’t want to play.  You have to be two steps ahead of them if you are to deal with them successfully.

 

You also need to have & enforce good, healthy boundaries.  Be very aware of what you are willing & not willing to tolerate.  Be creative in enforcing those boundaries.  Pray for God to help you if you need creative udeas.  Simply saying, “It hurts me when you do…” won’t work with a narcissist.  They will realize they can hurt you & continue to do the behavior.  Change the subject if they’re being critical.  If they are trying to control you or bully you into doing something, refuse to do it.  If it’s something you want or need to do, tell them, “Of course I’ll do it since you asked so nicely!”  I’ve done this with my mother, while wearing a smile, & she stopped bossing me around.  Instead, she started asking me to do things.

 

Always maintain your calm demeanor in their presence, especially when setting boundaries.  Any show of emotion will help narcissists understand what to do to hurt or use you in the most powerful, effective way.  If you can avoid showing them that you’re angry or hurt, their task will be much harder.  Once you’re away from them, though, you need to get your anger & hurt out of you.  It’s never healthy to hold it in, but it’s necessary to do so temporarily when around narcissists.

 

Lastly, keep all conversations superficial.  Don’t share anything important or personal with a narcissist, ever!  If they ask how you’re doing, reply “fine.”  What have you been up to lately?  “Nothing much.”  The less information they have, the less ammunition they have to hurt you with later.  This is easier to do when the narcissist isn’t a parent.  Keeping things from a parent feels like you’re going against nature at first.  But, the more you do it, the easier it becomes, especially when you realize your narcissistic mother has less & less to criticize about you.

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Narcissists & The Double Bind/No Win Situation

Double bind situations are another common weapon of narcissists. This means they create a no win situation for you.

 

The most frustrating example I can think of from my own life happened when I was 17 years old. I recently started my first job at the local library, which is where my now ex husband was working. We struck up a fast friendship, much to my narcissistic mother’s dismay. She absolutely hated him upon first sight.

 

We often worked the same shift, closing the library. One night after work, we left the building together. My mother had come to pick me up (as I was not allowed to have a license or car), and told me never to leave work with him again because she hated him. The next time we worked together, he volunteered to hang back so I could leave first. Upon getting in the car, my mother said, “So the coward is hiding! He can’t even face me!” The next time, he left first and I hung back. Her response that time was to yell at me for him being so “cocky”, leaving work like that.

 

It was a completely, damned if I do, damned if I don’t situation. And, when trying to talk to her about it, she screamed at me. I should have known what to do, according to her. What was wrong with me for not being able to figure it out?

 

My mother created the perfect double bind situation. And it was miserable!

 

Double binds are all about control. Because you did something wrong (at least according to the narcissist), you will try something else in order to please her. When that is wrong, you will try something else. These situations may not seem controlling at first, because you are not being openly controlled. My mother never told me what she wanted- she simply expected me to know what she wanted, then screamed at me for not giving it to her. Other times when she has created these situations, she refused to speak to me in order to “punish” me for disobeying her orders that she never gave.

 

So how does one deal with the double bind situation? It is not easy. There is no way to deal with them completely successfully. With the situation with my ex husband at our work? I told him leave before or after me, or walk out with me. Nothing would please my mother, so why bother trying? Any time we worked together, my mother would either scream at me or more quietly tell me what a horrible person he was, and how stupid I was for spending time with someone so horrible. I figured since I was going to be screamed at anyway, I might as well do what I was comfortable with.

 

It also helps to remember that it is a double bind situation. There is nothing wrong with you- there is, however, something very wrong with a person who puts another person in such a situation!

 

Protect yourself with firm boundaries that you enforce however you need to.

 

Refuse to engage this person. When you are told what you are doing or have done is wrong in spite of there being no other solution, you can respond with, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” (Admittedly, that is a passive/aggressive sounding response, but it is suitable in this situation.) Change the subject. Do not apologize for your actions if you believe you were right.

 

Never show emotion. Emotion, good or bad, feeds narcissists their supply. Do not give them supply!!! The more supply you provide, the more they will take from you however they can get it.

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Narcissists & Baiting

Narcissists are obsessed with procuring narcissistic supply, which is anything that makes them feel good about themselves. Even negative attention can provide that precious supply, because to be angry at or even hate someone, you have to feel something for that person. (If you feel nothing for a person, they cannot anger or upset you because you simply do not care about them.) As I have said before, love them or hate them, it is not important to a narcissist. They can handle either love or hate, but never apathy.

 

One way narcissists obtain their coveted narcissistic supply is by baiting their victims. Baiting is anything done or said to achieve a negative or emotional response from someone. If they can make you angry, they have power over you. It makes them feel powerful and important. It proves to them that they matter.

 

As an example from my life, my mother loves to pick on my car. (Many of you know the story of my car. It was my Granddad’s, who gave it to my father in 1976. My father sold it to a junkyard rather than repair it in 1979. I stumbled across it in 2005, thinking it was simply a twin to their car. Shortly after getting the car, my father showed me the VIN he had written down in the 70’s from what had been his car. It matched mine- I have the same car that Granddad gave to my father!) My mother knows I was very close to Granddad & I love this car, so when she runs out of other ammunition, she tells me things like, “I wonder how many junk cars like yours are still on the road,” or, “I would NEVER own a car your granddad owned!” (Even though she did for 3 years). The first couple of times she said such things, I admit, I got angry. Livid even. Until I realized that was the goal. She wanted me upset so she could show herself & any other witnesses how horrible & crazy I really am. I realized it when I started to yell at her then she got a glimmer in her eye. Here we were, in a restaurant where one of my former teachers worked, and I was yelling at my innocent looking elderly mother. I stopped immediately. I refused to give her that supply!

 

If you too have been baited by a narcissist, know you are not alone. I think it is one of their favorite tactics, especially as they get older.

 

There are several ways a narcissist can bait a victim. Some examples are:

 

• You are accused of doing something outrageous and out of character, such as cheating on your spouse, doing drugs, or abusing your children.
• Insulting something or someone you love.
• They damage a piece of your property, usually claiming it to be accidental.

 

Baiting triggers your body’s fight or flight response, usually fight. Your adrenaline kicks in and heart rate increases in preparation for a fight. As a result, you do not have as much control over your responses. You do not think of good ways to respond until much later. Your body is using its resources for physical fighting rather than mental, which is why this happens.

 

There are some successful ways to deal with baiting. To start with, always remember that this behavior is baiting. It is designed to elicit a negative reaction from you to provide the baiter with narcissistic supply. It really is not personal against you- it is to make a sick person feel better about themselves by having so much control over you, you get very angry or burst into tears.

Do not fall into the trap! Stop for a moment to take a deep breath, then respond. DO NOT REACT!! Immediate reactions are never good- a response works much better because it means you have put some thought into what you say or do. Reactions happen without any thought. I wrote a blog post about it. You can see it at this link: https://cynthiabaileyrug.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/responding-vs-reacting/

 

Leave this person’s company or hang up the phone. Why be stuck in this position if you do not have to?

 

Most importantly, show no emotion at all. Act is if this person said she was going to pick up a loaf of bread at the grocery store later rather than something so cruel, it cut you to the quick. The less reaction you have, the less likely it is for the narcissist to use this to hurt you again or continuing trying to bait you in this area.

 

Once you are out of this person’s presence, vent. Get your anger and hurt out. Pray. Cry. Journal. Talk to a supportive friend or relative, maybe even a counselor or pastor. Honestly, what is said when someone baits you is hurtful, otherwise it would not be bait! While you should not let the person baiting you see it, that does not mean you need to carry around that hurt and anger. Get it out of you- you deserve so much better than carrying it around!

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Narcissists & Consequences

So many victims of narcissistic abuse wonder why the narcissist seems to stroll happily through life without consequences for their actions while their victims are left to suffer alone or are even blamed for what was done to them.  It’s so unfair!

 

This came to mind recently.  I had a flashback.  When thinking about it later, my mind wandered to when I was 19, my mother threw me into a wall & hurt my back.  She has not had any consequences for her actions in the 26 years since that happened.  My father said he tried talking to her about it not long after it happened, & she just said “Are you ever going to let that go?”  He dropped the subject.  I never said anything to her- I was too afraid of it happening again, or her doing something worse. Also why I never called the police, even though now I wish I would have.  My ex husband (who I was with at the time) also never did anything aside from tell me how hard it was on him, what she had done.

 

In fact, I think my father blames me for what happened that night.  A year or two ago, for whatever odd reason, he mentioned that incident & told me I didn’t need to apologize for busting up the wall- he was able to repair it.  Excuse me?  The wall was busted up because my mother threw me into it, so no, I have no plans on apologizing for that.

 

Sadly, I think this is pretty typical.  I can’t think of one victim I’ve spoken with who doesn’t have a similar story.  And like me, they are baffled that the narcissist who abused them received no consequences for their actions.  They’re also angry, which is certainly understandable.  It’s extremely unfair!  We’re the ones who suffered because of them, & they don’t get so much as a scolding for what they’ve done!

 

I really am not sure why this happens.  Maybe it’s because people are afraid of the narcissists.  If you don’t know much about NPD or have limited experience with a narcissist, the overt narcissist can be very intimidating.  Their rages can be terrifying.  Or, if the narcissist in question is a covert narcissist, maybe people are afraid of hurting them.  Covert narcissists love to play the innocent victim.  (They can make their victim apologize to them- they are that convincing).  They make the person confronting them feel guilty, even ashamed, & certainly no one wants to feel that way!

 

Some who know a little about narcissism believe that NPD is something beyond control.  They believe the term “disorder” means that the narcissist cannot control her actions at all, when the rest of us know absolutely she can & does on a regular basis.

 

Or, maybe it’s because victims are the sane, rational ones, & other people think the sane, rational one should “be the bigger person” in the relationship, the one to forgive & forget, & the one to ignore the narcissist’s “flaws”.

 

Whatever the reason, I know it’s incredibly frustrating that people don’t allow the narcissist any consequences for the abuse she dishes out.  Just once, wouldn’t it be amazing to see her get told off for how horribly she treats other people?   Maybe not the most good Christian attitude, but in all honesty, what victim of a narcissist hasn’t felt that way at some point?  I sure have!

 

So instead of waiting on others, why not give the narcissist consequences yourself?  I’m not saying go cuss her out.  If you’re a Christian, act like it!  But, there are ways to give a narcissist the deserved consequences without being vengeful.

 

Boundaries.  Have & be willing to enforce good, healthy boundaries.  You have every right to tell her no, you won’t tolerate that or do that.  Let her figure out how to do something herself or have something done if it’s something you don’t feel you should do or if it goes against your morals.  Or, for example, if you’re with your narcissistic mother & have had enough, tell her you’re going home (or need to hang up the phone).  If your narcissistic mother is like mine, she expects you to deal with her until she’s tired of you & dismisses you.  It will irk her to no end if you end the visit or call first, but it is entirely your right to do so!  She doesn’t need to get her way all the time & you need to take care of your physical & mental health.

 

Don’t allow her to order you around.  My mother is a big one for barking out orders, rather than saying something like “Would you please get that for me?”  Instead, it’s “Hand me that.”  A few months ago, I noticed this.  (Sadly, it took my entire life to notice it..)  I decided to change how I reacted to her orders.  Rather than blindly obeying, I do a couple of things.  Sometimes I tell her “In a minute” or “Ok, later” instead of interrupting what I was doing.  Other times, I do as she wanted & say “Since you asked so nicely, here is the item you wanted.  You’re welcome.”  This annoys my mother, but she has started to say “please” sometimes.  It’s a little thing, but it means a lot to me to be treated with simple respect rather than being treated like the hired help.

 

My mother also employs a very common coping skill, especially with narcissists.  She reinvents the past.  According to her, she was quite the impressive mother.  Many other victims I’ve spoken with go through this with their narcissistic mother, too.  Rather than validating her delusions, you have the right to tell her that isn’t what happened & tell her the truth.  In all honesty, I don’t do this with my mother because I see a tremendous amount of guilt in her for how she’s treated me.  I don’t think she could handle me telling her the facts & shattering her delusion.  Even so, I refuse to validate her stories.  “I don’t remember it that way” or “I don’t remember that happening at all” work for me.  She then changes the subject before I can say what the truth was.  It’s not a perfect solution but it works for us.  She can still use that coping mechanism (as dysfunctional as it is) without me validating it.  It’s her right to use it, after all.  It’s also my right to refuse to condone it.

 

Narcissists may not always get the consequences they deserve, but they do need some nonetheless.  Consequences teach us how to treat other people, & frankly, who needs to learn how to treat people if not a narcissist?  Consequences may not make them treat you like a non-narcissist would, but they most likely will improve the way they treat you in some ways.  They also will gain a little respect for you for not allowing them to push you around so much anymore.  Not that they’ll admit that, of course, but it still happens.

 

 

 

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Another Tool To Help When You Must Deal With Narcissists

Years ago, I stumbled across an interesting way to help me maintain calm when dealing with narcissists- props.  A prop can be anything that comforts you or even makes you smile.  They are a wonderfully simple way to keep you grounded & keep your perspective about the difficult situation. I tend to dissociate pretty easily, & having something to physically touch helps me to stay in the moment.

 

When I had to deal with my mother in-law, I used things that made me laugh.  My personal favorite was a tiny vial for holy water a Catholic charity once sent me.  Remember the movie “The Exorcist”?  When the possessed girl was sprayed with holy water, she screamed “it burns!!”  I imagined my mother in-law doing the same thing if I sprayed her with holy water.  (I know – I have a warped sense of humor)  When she got nasty with me, I’d reach into my pocket & touch the vial.  She never knew why sometimes I’d smile when she was so wicked..

 

A friend of mine also had a mother in-law who disliked her.  We started joking saying, “pass the flask- I have to see the mother in-law today.”  One day, a flask arrived in the mail!  She bought her & I matching flasks!  The flask became a prop too, making me smile when I thought of my friend’s & my inside joke.

 

On a less silly note, I was very close to my granddad.  Butterflies are something we share (see the story in this post), & because of that, I have a small butterfly tattoo on my right ankle.  I also have a pretty yellow butterfly key chain, butterfly earrings & other various butterfly things.  Often when I’m around my mother, I look at or touch my butterfly items for comfort.

 

When you have to deal with the narcissist in your life, what prop can you keep handy to help you get through?  The item you carry doesn’t have to be anything fancy- just something that inspires you or makes you smile.  Preferably something small that can fit in your pocket, so you can touch it easily.

 

Most importantly though, never forget to pray before you must deal with the narcissist.  God will give you whatever you need- strength, courage, wisdom, etc.

 

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About Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia can be a crippling phobia.  It is a part of anxiety, & is common among those with PTSD & C-PTSD.  Agoraphobia is a fear of public places.  In fact, some people are even afraid to step outside the door of their own home.

 

I developed it in 1996 when my paternal grandmom died.  When my husband told his mother then later his sister of my loss, both completely ignored the news, changing the subject back to themselves.  Something in their reactions made me think that I do not matter.  Nothing about me is worth acknowledging, & I shouldn’t bother anyone with my problems or even my presence.  Granted, this wasn’t new- growing up with a narcissistic mother certainly made me feel that way.  However, God showed me that their lack of acknowledging my loss cemented such awful, dysfunctional beliefs in me, & made me believe I shouldn’t even bother people with my presence.  Then, developing C-PTSD in 2012 made the agoraphobia even worse.

 

Not everyone develops it in a way like I did.  Some people develop this nasty phobia along with C-PTSD or PTSD.  No matter how it starts, anyone with agoraphobia knows it is extremely challenging to live with.  It strips you of your independence.  It devastates your self-esteem since you feel crazy or useless by not being able to go out as you once did.  You feel like a burden because you need people to go with you or do your grocery shopping for you.

 

If this describes you, please know that you are not alone, Dear Reader.  Many people, especially those who have been subjected to narcissistic abuse, suffer with agoraphobia.  It doesn’t mean you’re crazy or useless or even a burden.  It means you have been through some bad things that made you sick.  I’m sure you don’t feel that is the case, but truly it is!  You are fine- you simply have a problem resulting from trauma.

 

Tomorrow’s post will offer some suggestions I have found for coping with agoraphobia when you simply must leave home.

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Retroactive Justification & Other Dysfunctional Coping Skills Of Narcissists.

My mother recently ended her silent treatment.  She barely spoke to me for several months, & as usual, I don’t know why.

It was an interesting conversation to say the least.  Among things she said, she asked me if my ex husband ever hit me & I said he did, once.  She never asked how badly I was hurt, just said if she would’ve known she would’ve called a lawyer.  (*sigh*  She did know- she saw me all bruised immediately after it happened & made sure I knew she didn’t care in the least.)  Then she said, “His family was really religious though, weren’t they?”  I said no, his mother was.  “So it was his father that was abusive!”  Not really- more neglectful than anything & wasn’t there much since he was an over the road  trucker.  She went on to say no one should be abused, it’s not fair to abuse people, abusers are bad people & other drivel.

Later that night, I’d been thinking of this part of the conversation & wondering why she was trying to justify my ex’s actions.  I couldn’t come up with an answer for that one.  But, I do believe that she was saying he was a bad person to justify why she abused me so badly when I wanted to date him when we were teens.  In her mind, if he was a bad person, she was right in doing the horrible things she did to me in an attempt to keep me away from him.  She used to tell me back then that she was saving me from myself, & probably this could reassure her that it was true.  I thought of this as a sort of retroactive justification for her crazy, abusive behavior

As my narcissistic parents have gotten older, I believe they are trying to cope with their abusive actions.  Normal people would see the error of their ways, & apologize. They may even do something to try to make it up to their victim.  Narcissists however, do nothing of the sort.  They find alternate coping skills, because they refuse to accept the fact that they made mistakes or did cruel, hurtful things.  While you hear plenty about their most common coping skills like projection, there are others you rarely, if ever, hear anything about.

Some of those lesser known dysfunctional coping skills are:

  • Retroactive justification- like my mother just did regarding my ex husband’s abuse.  Finding a reason why they were right to be abusive after the damage is done.
  • Reinventing the past into something nice- things didn’t happen the way you remember, according to the narcissist.  They happened in a much happier, more pleasant way.  My mother loves to talk about what a great mother she has been to me.
  • Denial-  “That never happened!”
  • Selective memories- Only remembering the pleasant things, never the bad.  “I don’t remember that at all…”
  • Creating excuses- “you made me do that!”  “If you wouldn’t have done ____, then I wouldn’t have had to _____”  “You were a very difficult child.”
  • Making themselves the victim-  “I tried to stop your mother from hurting you, but she wouldn’t stop.”  “He’s so much stronger than me.. there was nothing I could do to stop him.”  “It was so hard on me, what she did to you”
  • Feigning incompetence-  “I just didn’t know what to do.”
  • Feigning ignorance when they knew what was happening- “I had no idea she was doing those things to you!”
  • Constant chatter- Both of my parents are  very talkative, but especially with me.  They actually listen to others, but with me, it is pretty much non stop chatter & ignoring anything I say, especially my mother.  I believe having an audience not only provides them with the coveted narcissistic supply, but also means I won’t have a chance to ask questions about why they did the things they did.
  • Looking for comfort from you, the victim- my father is especially good at this one.  When he finds out I’m experiencing a crisis, he wants me to reassure him that I’m ok & all will be fine.  If anything comes up in conversation about abusive things my mother has done to me, it’s the same thing- he wants reassurance that I got through it ok.  Twice I tried to tell him about me having C-PTSD, & twice he changed the subject.
  • Money- my parents never were overly generous with money with me, but in the last few years, they have been very generous.  I’ve never asked my parents for help, but they have volunteered it several times during tight times for me.  I believe it’s to appease their guilt.

So how do you handle these incredibly frustrating coping skills? (And yes, you are going to have to figure this out, because narcissistic parents WILL force you to deal with them at some point.)

In my experience, I decided to let them have their coping skills rather than try to get them to face the truth.  Nothing you can say or do will give them a “light bulb” moment.  They’ll never say “You’re right!  I never should’ve done that to you!  It was wrong & I’m sorry.”  So why try?  It’ll only frustrate & hurt you.  Instead, I’ve found it’s best for me to allow them to have their dysfunction.  Besides, I know in my parents’ case, they aren’t very strong emotionally- I don’t know if they could handle facing the ugly truth about the awful things they’ve done.

While allowing them to use these coping skills, at the same time, I refuse to validate them.  My parents have often wanted me to confirm their false beliefs, & I refuse to do so.  I also refuse to acknowledge that they were incompetent, innocent, ignorant, had to do what they did, or the real victims.  I may allow them to have those false beliefs, but I refuse to validate them & participate in the dysfunction.

When my parents want comfort from me about my problems, I flatly refuse to give it.  I ignore them, or change the subject.  If it gets too bad, I’ll say, “I’m the one with the problem.  I can’t comfort you when I’m the one who’s got the problem & am trying to figure out what to do about it.”  (notice I neglect to admit I’m hurting or any feelings- this is because if I said I felt badly, it’d feed their narcissism.  They’d end up hurting me even more.  Never ever admit your feelings to a narcissist!)

As far as the incessant chatter, I’m not very talkative anyway, so it works for me not to have to create conversation.  Besides, sometimes they do have very interesting things to say.  Like most narcissists, my parents are very intelligent.  Their conversations at time can be quite interesting.  My father knows a great deal about WWII & the War Between The States.  He also was a drag racer in the 50’s-60’s.  My mother knows quite a bit about varied topics, & enjoys crafts.  I enjoy crafts too, so we can have some good chats about crafts we like.  It can be a good thing when you can just sit back & let them do the talking, because you don’t have to try to come up with topics that won’t start an argument.

Even knowing how to handle these dysfunctional behaviors, I still come away hurt or angry sometimes.  My mother discussing the time my ex hit me made me physically ill for that entire day & the next, plus triggered a flashback.  But, the good thing is this sort of thing is a rarity.  Understanding their coping skills & finding ways to cope with them means this sort of thing isn’t the norm anymore.  I no longer leave every conversation with my parents feeling devastated.  In fact, understanding these things mean I usually only feel a bit frustrated or sad that things aren’t better.  That is a thousand times better than feeling devastated or physically ill each time!

This really is about the best you can hope for when dealing with narcissistic parents.  Probably this is partly why so many people think no contact is the only answer.  While it is in many cases, sometimes no contact is impossible or not the desired result.  My prayer is information like this will help those of you still in relationship with your narcissistic parents.

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Writing About Narcissistic Abuse

A while back, an obituary made rounds online.  It was written for an incredibly cruel, abusive mother.  I saw this article about said obituary, explaining why the obit was written:

 

http://jezebel.com/why-i-wrote-the-infamously-scathing-obituary-for-my-mot-1526324856

The story is heartbreaking, & although I’m unsure I could do the same thing, I applaud the daughter for doing what was right for her as well as her siblings, in spite of the harsh judgments & criticisms they have received as a result of doing this.

It also made me think – if my narcissistic, abusive mother dies before me, what would I say in her obituary?  Would I tell the truth about the abusive monster she has been, or would I simply stick to the basic facts such as date of birth & death, details of the viewing & funeral arrangements?

I think I would stick to the basic facts.  Not that I condemn the actions of anyone who would do otherwise, of course, it’s just that I have been working on my healing for a long time.  I don’t see how this would help me to heal any more than anything else I have done.  Plus, most people don’t believe that my mother is capable of monstrous acts, so when they read her obituary, I would simply be invalidated & judged further for “speaking so badly” of my mother (even though I would speak only the truth).  I also have experienced the death of my mother’s narcissistic mother, which I believe gave me a glance into what I can expect to feel when my mother dies.  Chances are, I’ll be sad things weren’t good between us, & relieved it’s all over, just as I was when my grandmother died.  It’s doubtful feelings such as those would leave me feeling the need to expose her abusive ways.

What would you do if you had to write your narcissistic mother’s obituary?  Maybe the thought is rather morbid, but it’s still an interesting question, don’t you think?

Being an author, obviously I’m a fan of writing for many reasons.  Writing anything.  One of those reasons is that writing can be therapeutic.  I have an online journal, plus I have written many letters to my mother that I’ve never sent her.  Something about getting out my feelings & seeing them in writing has been extremely helpful to me.  It purges a lot of the anger.  I think it is also partly why I won’t be writing such an obituary for my mother.  I don’t harbor anger at her any longer.  I get angry when she acts up, but I also let it go pretty quickly.

Have you tried writing about your feelings & experiences during healing from the narcissistic abuse you have experienced?  If not, I strongly encourage you to do so!  Let it all out when you write to experience the full benefits.  If you are concerned someone may find out what you’ve written, then once you’ve written things out, burn the letter or diary.  That act in itself can be quite cathartic, watching what you wrote going up in smoke.  For me, it’s as if the smoke dissipating into the air takes some of my anger with it.

A couple of years ago, I wrote my autobiography, “Emerging From The Chrysalis.”  It was a very difficult task, but also a very rewarding one.  Seeing many of the horrific events in my life in black & white made things even more real to me.  It showed me  how strong I really am – I have survived some rough, terrible things!

Writing your own autobiography or creating a blog about your experiences may do the same thing for you.  If you prefer privacy, nothing says you have to publish your writing – just keep it for yourself.  But, if you decide to speak publicly via a blog or publishing your autobiography, your story will help & inspire many people!  That can help you to heal as well, because others will validate your pain & your strength to survive such things.

If you do decide to write publicly, I strongly recommend that you pray long & hard before doing so.  Having survived narcissistic abuse, you are all too aware of the importance of secrecy.  Narcissists love secrecy, & demand it from their victims in order to protect their abusive ways.  When this happens to a child, the child grows into an adult who still feels that fear from  childhood at the thought of exposing the abuse.  As a result, talking publically about the abuse can be very hard to do.  It may be so hard in fact that you refuse to speak out, even when you know in your heart it will help you or it’s what God wants you to do.

I understand this fear all too well!  As much as I’ve written in the last couple of years about my own experiences, sometimes it still scares me a little.  I wonder what will happen if & when my mother finds out what I write about.  Thankfully she doesn’t have a computer, which works in my favor.  She also never asks how my writing is going or what I write about, as she thinks it’s all a “waste of time” & “trash no one wants to read.”  Yet even so, there is still a chance she could find out.  She has friends & relatives who have computers, & would be glad to look up my work to tell her what I write.  I often feel like I’m waiting for that call when she tells me I am spewing lies or whatever else she would say about my writing.

To give me the courage to write about what I know God wants me to write about, I remember a few things.  These can help you as well.

First, I know in my heart that it is God’s will I write about these topics.  He won’t give me a task that I can’t handle.  He loves me & He protects me, just as He loves & protects you!

Second, I ask myself what can my mother really do that can hurt me anymore?  She is 75 years old, & physically no longer a threat.  She still can scream & rage if she is so inclined, & call me terrible names.  However, I’m so used to that, nothing she says can phase me anymore.  She also once threatened to call my landlord & report me for having more cats than the landlord allowed.  Now I am a homeowner & have no landlord to answer to.  Plus, I have a legal amount of pets in this county.  She really can’t harm me anymore!  So what is the worst that can happen to you for telling your story?

Third, there is a very good quote that strengthened me enough to get through writing my autobiography.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember who wrote it, but the quote says something similar to this, “Tell your story.  If others wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have treated you better!”

And lastly, I always tell the truth.  I try to avoid telling only what happened to me- if I did something wrong, I admit it.  I also try to tell stories objectively, minus any name calling or accusations.  I stick to the facts only, so no one can accuse me of exaggerating or embellishing my story.  Do the same if you talk about your story.

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Do Narcissists Really Know What They Are Doing?

The answer is a resounding YES!!!

 

Narcisissts are absolutely aware of what they are doing & the damage they cause.  And, they are well able to control their actions.

 

Anyone who has spent time around a narcissist knows that they act entirely differently around people they want to impress versus people they don’t care about impressing.  That is painfull obvious.  The fact is though that they also are very aware when they have gone too far over the top in their actions.

 

Recently, I posted about my narcissistic mother’s fake concern, get well card & cookies for my (also narcissistic) mother in-law, even though she knows perfectly well that I haven’t spoken to the woman since 2002 due to her abusive ways.  (I posted about that here).  This betrayal by my mother & her flaunting it in my face hurt me more than it usually does when she feigns concern for my mother in-law’s failing health.  It made me physically sick for over a week.  I also ignored the phone several times since then when my mother called, which I normally don’t do. (periodically yes, but not several in a row).  Apparently, she noticed, & this made an impression…

 

I finally took my mother’s call yesterday.  She tried to be pleasant. Even attempted to give me a complement.  She also mentioned something hurtful her mother told her once.  The call was quite odd to say the least.  I was thinking about it & I think it was to “apologize” to me for her behavior regarding my mother in-law.  She is very aware of when her behavior is too over the top, like most narcissists.  Besides, I realized I’ve seen this kind of thing before with my father.  At one point, when I didn’t answer his call, he called my cousin who lives 450 miles away & my father in-law looking for me.  I was livid & let him know that.  After, he began being gentler & kinder with me, & even mirroring me in an attempt to regain my trust.

 

This is very typical of narcissistic behavior.  They know when they have gone just too far, & rather than take responsibility for their behavior & apologize (like normal people), they engage in various behaviors.

 

  • Mirroring: People naturally feel most comfortable with those who share many similiarities. Narcissists will mirror your behavior & likes/dislikes in order to regain your trust.  (“See how much alike we are?  How can you be mad at me??”)
  • Minimizing or temporarily foregoing the criticisms:  In order to get you to forgive & forget their bad behavior, they will stifle their nastiness temporarily until they believe you have forgiven them.  (“See what I nice person I am?  You can’t be mad at me- I’m too nice!”)
  • Feigning thoughtfulness:  The narcissist will call you to let you know a movie you like is coming on TV shortly, for example.  They will perform small acts of showing they were thinking of you to prove how nice they are.
  • Giving you distance, respecting your space: For the narcissist who insists on constant attention such as an engulfing narcissistic mother, this is the hardest thing for her to do.  However, she will do it if it will get her back in your good graces.  If she calls you daily or near daily, she will skip calling for a few days after the incident, then call you, acting much meeker than usual.  She will employ one of the above tactics during that conversation.  If she believes that you have forgiven/forgotten her, this is the last pleasant conversation you will have with the narcissist.  If she believes you’re still upset, the routine will happen repeatedly until she believes you are over what she has done to you.

 

Always remember- the narcissist in your life upsets you, remember- do NOT tell her!  Explaining your hurt feelings to a narcissist only gives them ammunition to hurt you further.  However, if you become angry & the narcissist picks up on your feelings, be aware- the games will begin!  Remember these things & you can be prepared for what to expect.

 

 

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Narcissistic Games- How I Cope

As I’m getting older, I have much less patience with head games.  They infuriate me.  The good part, however, is I’m much better at getting under the skin of the player when they attempt their games, which really upsets narcissists. *evil laughs*  lol

For those of you who also have a narcissistic mother like me, be encouraged!  This can happen to you too, & it is a good thing!

I have been asked many times why I speak to my mother. Why not cut ties? It’d be easier! Well, yes it would, but I don’t believe that is what God wants of me. Plus, I’m any only child, & my folks are getting older, in their 70’s. They need my help sometimes. And, in learning better ways to deal with them, I can share my knowledge with other adult children of narcissistic parents. So, get ready to learn from my experience…

I’m not saying be mean or sink to their level.  I’m saying get creative in how you respond & how you set boundaries. Ask God to give you creative, effective ways to cope.  I asked God for help in these areas, & wow, have I gotten it.  I hadn’t realized just how much until today..

My mother called this morning.  Recently, my folks ran into my fourth grade teacher at the restaurant where he now works.  My mother gave him my phone number.  When she called today, she asked if he called me, repeating how when she saw him, she told him I don’t work.  (My mother doesn’t acknowledge me as an author, & insults my writing if she overhears me discussing it.)   Since he hasn’t called, she suggested we meet at the restaurant next Wednesday for breakfast so I can see him (more likely, so she can show him how close we are.  Yes, I know- ridiculous, but it’s all about appearances yanno!).  I thought quickly, & had an idea.  I said yes, that’s fine, & we hung up shortly after.  I then put my plan into action…

I made myself new business cards today.  I decided that when I see my former teacher, I’ll hand him one in front of my mother.  This will serve two purposes- I can let this nice man know the truth about what I really do for a living, & let my mother know I won’t tolerate her attempt to make me look lazy or bad any longer.  Yet, since I won’t be confronting her, she will know she can’t respond to me without looking bad.  She will be forced to either stew quietly in her anger, or speak up, & look foolish.

Evil genius, no?  lol

The only potential problem I foresee is my mother either having a narcissistic rage (it has been a while- she’s due for one), acting even crueler with me, or maybe even giving me the silent treatment, because on the card, I mention that I write about surviving abuse.  She demanded secrecy from me growing up, not wanting me talking about her actions to anyone.  I’m not sure how she will handle me being open now that I’m an adult.  I guess I’ll find out in the near future.  Either way is fine with me.  She can’t hurt me any longer.  And, it feels so good to set boundaries with my mother!  So good, it negates a lot of things she says & does to hurt me in retaliation.

In case you’re interested, here is a picture of my new business card…  🙂

image

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December 14, 2013

Good morning, Dear Readers!  I hope this post finds everyone well today!  🙂

I was just thinking.. is it me or is it hard to believe that Christmas will be here in only 11 short days?!  TIme sure flies.. wow!  I know like me, many of you can’t wait for it to be a thing of the past.  I was talking to a friend a few days ago who shares this sentiment.  It’s amazing how many of us there are, & how many of us feel this way for similar reasons- family or in-laws have made the holidays so stressful rather than relaxing & enjoyable.  It’s sad.

Have you created some “stay well” strategies to get you through the holidays?  If not, here are some suggestions..

  • Be gentle with yourself.  If you don’t feel up to going to a party or doing something holiday related, then don’t do it.  It’s ok!  The Earth will continue to spin..
  • If you have pushy relatives or in-laws who demand you spend the day with them, you need to do what you are comfortable with, whether they like it or not.  How would it benefit anyone for you to allow others to dictate how you spend the day?  You’ll be miserable, & controlling people get their way.  This just is NOT good for anyone involved!
  • Why not suggest getting together with others on a day near the holidays, not on the day itself?  Would it really be so terrible to get together with Mom & Dad on Christmas eve or the day after Christmas instead of Christmas day? 
  • Do nice little things for yourself. 
  • Don’t over-extend yourself.  If you don’t want to send out Christmas cards, then don’t.  If you can’t afford to get everyone gifts, don’t.  Or, if you feel you must give something, try making special gifts- many people (like me) prefer something home made to store bought anyway.  Try baking cookies for everyone.  Or making special decorations.  Or, make a cake for each family. 
  • Find ways to relax.
  • Talk to understanding friends or relatives about why you feel the way you do about the holidays.  Maybe they can help you change your perspective.  (Even if you don’t end up loving the holidays, you may be able to change how you look at them- instead of them being a day of negativity for you, maybe you can begin to look at them as a day to spend relaxing, either by yourself or with your significant other)
  • Pray.  God loves you & understands you.  He won’t judge you for how you feel.
  • If you have a significant other, see how he/she would feel about creating new holiday traditions for just the two of you.  If you two have kids, why not get the kids in on it too?
  • Speaking of significant others, if he/she wants to spend the day with the parents rather than you, like many adult children of dysfunctional &/or controlling parents do, try looking at the day not as a lonely day for you, but as a day to yourself where you can do whatever you like.  Watch old movies, order Chinese food, read that book you’ve been wanting to read, paint your bedroom, turn up your favorite old music & dance around your house like crazy!  Have fun!   

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June 29, 2013

Happy Saturday, Dear Readers!  🙂

I just thought I’d let you know that I have finally finished redoing my website.  Not a lot of changes, but a few.  Go check it out:

www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com

I still can’t believe the external hard drive crashed & I lost the site *sighs* but at least it’s online & fully functional again.  Now to get back to the latest book, “You Are Not Alone!”  There isn’t much left to do on the book.. more editing, then designing the covers & off to the publisher it goes before promotion.  As soon as the publisher has the book, it will be available for purchase in ebook form as well as print on my website.  I’ll announce it here, & it should be happening in the next few weeks, barring any further setbacks.

Thank you everyone for your patience & understanding!

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