Can a SURVIVOR of narcissistic abuse be toxic?
If you follow me at all, you might be familiar with a thing I keep saying: there’s no such thing as a supreme victim. There’s also no such thing as a perfect scapegoat. People come in shades of grey, but IN PRACTICE this is difficult to admit.
I said “in practice”, because in theory that’s easy to say. You can say anything you want, the problem is proving it, aye? The world is full of oblivious people who love pointing out this victim complex in others, but won’t see it in themselves. Some will even go as far as saying “oh, I still have a lot to learn; I’m not perfect; I fuck up here and there, etc” but won’t EVER say “maybe I am not entirely a GOOD PERSON”. Not even if their lives depended on it.
This is a matter of framing, more than just terminology: there’s a difference between making a mistake because you didn’t know better VS making a mistake on purpose because you have a character flaw. Which one would you like to be? The former, right? Nobody wants to be the latter. And yet, nonetheless, a lot of people ARE the latter one. They KEEP BEING the latter, because they’re unwilling to acknowledge it, let alone heal it.
That’s where delusion helps us cope. “Oh yes, I did it like that, but wait, no, I didn’t do it like that actually”. Delusion, magical thinking, whatever your name for it.
When we speak of being gentler on ourselves because making mistakes is human, what kind of mistakes are we talking about, realistically speaking? Come on, I’m pretty sure you can figure that out. They’re almost like accidents, aren’t they? So the blame is not ENTIRELY on you, you’re just willing to take some of it; A comfortable bit of blame; The bit you can process and deal with more easily. All else is… Somebody else’s fault, I suppose; Fate; Bad luck; Whatever takes the focus off of you, and onto something you couldn’t possibly control. Poor you. Such a victim.
And sometimes it is! Sometimes you’re not completely to blame for a choice you made. Sure. I’m not talking extremes. I never do. What I’m trying to expose is the fact a lot of people never EVER consider the possibility that sometimes, every now and then, even if once in a blue moon, they’re entirely to blame for something. And that’s a fact. It happens. Why are we forgetting that? Re-read the stuff I linked above. Abramovic’s performance. The Milgram experiment. I DARE YOU to keep denying what I say here after seeing those.
I count on my fingers, on one motherfucking hand only, the amount of people I know who are truly willing to see the evil in themselves. Evil is a human thing too. We CAN be good, but we aren’t always good. Not all the pain and sorrow in the world comes from unfortunate circumstances. Some of it is a matter of conscious, informed, sober CHOICE. Aye, even if you suffered in the hands of an abuser (or more than one). Me too, by the way. The world is so fucked up, perhaps everyone has some sort of trauma these days. Does that excuse anyone from responsibility? Truly? I mean, if it does, we’ll just have to forgive every bully, criminal and offender there is. Are you sure you’ll pick that option just to cover your arse?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Keep reading and you’ll find a list of “survivors of narcissists” who won’t admit to having narcissistic traits themselves:
1. The bully.
The realisation that I used to be a bully was… Not easy to come to terms with. Who wants to admit that? I sure didn’t. However, if I’m being honest with myself, I bullied more people than I was ever bullied by. Could I excuse it on a bad childhood? Absolutely! Mine was horrid. I don’t wish it even on my enemies and haters. But if I kept just blaming it on my past, no matter how justified it would be… Would I ever get anywhere?
Would I start to heal? Would I learn anything? Would I even be here writing this very blog post? You tell me.
I bullied my ex, a perfectly normal guy. A bit immature, sure… But he never harmed me. I harmed him. I’m terribly sorry now, but WHEN I did it, I couldn’t even realise I was doing it — let alone feel sorry. I bullied my readers in other places of the internet, back when I didn’t know better. You can still see it if you know where to look. I was oblivious to it, but not accidentally so. I CHOSE not to see it. I was too comfortable in my high horse, getting off it would be a bit too much vulnerability for my liking. It isn’t that something out of my control blinded me — can you see my point?
But this article isn’t just an exposé. I intend it to be helpful — hopefully. So… What would a healthy bully look like? Care to imagine?
Well, first of all, let’s not call it “bully” any longer. If you come from a background of bullying others, but decide to heal, perhaps you deserve a more flattering label: leader and/or protector.
The bully’s genuine hidden talent is seeing through people. How else would they get under your skin? Thing is, a lot of bullies get stuck in a vicious cycle of 1) regretting they hurt others… 2) trying not to hurt others… 3) failing at that… 4) hurting others on purpose because of frustration with others’ “lack of courage”… And back to 1 again.
But they do see through people. You can confirm that with any oracle, go ahead. This is so ridiculous (in the sense of “ironic”) that these people will see you, but not themselves sometimes. And the learning can totally be backwards for them: introspection can be underdeveloped, but that’s NO detriment to how far they see externally. Otherwise, I repeat, they wouldn’t be good at hurting.
My saving grace was to find a really warm and really optimistic mentor who showed me that I, too, was acting out a trauma response — just like “the others”. Now I’m no longer giving up on guiding others, even if they retaliate, even if they make smear campaigns against me, even if they stab me in the back. That’s because I know it’s my nature to hold the torch like this. I don’t need to have power for that. I don’t need to be liked. I don’t need to explain myself to anyone. I’m just holding the torch. I feel like it, so I do it. If you feel like following, do.
And love me or hate me, one thing is for sure: nobody gets in a direct confrontation with me. They know I have teeth. I’ll protect my own even to my detriment.
2. The martyr.
Martyrs are a very interesting group of people. On the surface, there is a saint immaculate facade… Underneath it, you’ll find a lot of complexity.
Aye, that’s the word: complexity. It’s not shame, it’s not guilt, it’s not mischief. Nothing like that. Martyrs aren’t hiding, either — they just want you to believe that. They deceive you into thinking they hide and stay backstage, when in fact… Hmm, no. No, they don’t. Quite on the contrary. These people are remarkably unafraid of being “found out”, because there’s nothing substantial to hide in the first place.
So… Why are they laying low? Why are they so willing to get vulnerable and make a spectacle out of how much they suffer?
Here is what I see: martyrs are all about staying out of trouble. Their facade isn’t for the public to fear, or approve, or “marry”, or be entertained by. No, it’s none of these things. In fact, if you call them out, they’ll agree with you and start with the “woe is me, woe is me, I’m such a horrible person, look what I did. Oh god, oh life, how unfortunate my suffering…” It gets predictable after a while. The first impression is that they have no honour at all to defend. They’re super willing to let you have the moral high ground, regardless of how hard they try to be saints. This mindfuckery makes them sound genuine in the attempt, if I may say so, but please don’t be fooled.
Let me ask you a question, real quick: would you DARE hurting a martyr on purpose? If you’re mentally healthy (to a reasonable extent), you probably wouldn’t. If you’re a psychopath, you wouldn’t either, because it’ll get to a point where they’ll make it look kinky, and the joke will be on you. They enjoy suffering. They’re always looking for reasons to say they suffer.
Here is what’s up: a martyr values pity so much, because they want to get their penalty diminished. In case they fuck up in life (and that’s not a rule; some of them usually don’t, and try to be good people), their strategy to get out of trouble is to cry so loud and hurt so badly that people will take compassion on them. Even if they deserve punishment for having fucked up.
I sort of admire them for that, but I’m not buying it entirely either. This is not healthy just because it looks like it’s healthy — in a “oh, they’re just built different, Adams Family style” sort of way. No. Martyrs aren’t normal like the neurodivergent are normal. Actually, they’re very abnormal and very unhealthy. They’re dealing with some hardcore trauma and need help. The reason is simple: they’re afraid of punishment and/or injustice to an obsessive extent. That doesn’t look healthy to me… what do you think?
If a martyr is willing to confront the root cause of their behaviour, they’ll end up realising they have a hidden talent too: resilience. Martyrs can become good healers because they KNOW endurance better than anyone else. But that’s only if they’re willing to get honest with themselves.
3. The neutral party.
This kind of person is something I also like to call a “cyborg”. They behave as though they have transcended the human experience… When in fact, deep down, they’re afraid of getting involved in the human experience. They’re like the woman above, super shy, trying not to do or say the wrong thing in hopes that one day they’ll finally please everyone.
Reality can be difficult to face for these people, because even if we stay inside this robot-like fantasy, here’s the thing: people rage against machines too. There’s a band with that name, lol I myself was angry at a printer yesterday. “Why do you malfunction like that?!” — as if it could hear me.
But jokes aside, neutral people understand the above. They know machines malfunction. They know it so well, that they’ll place all the blame for their own mishaps on… you guessed it! A malfunction. Oops, my bad. Here’s the error report. Wanna read it? “Yes”; “Cancel”.
That’s not technically wrong. People “malfunction”, in a way. We’re far from perfect. But the thing is, nobody is [genuinely] looking for perfection. Sometimes all we want is accountability and a genuine effort to improve. Machines don’t do that. Not without some external help, like installing an update or… Eh, sometimes a kick will do. All in all, you get the point: neutral people aren’t exactly willing to look inwards. They might go as far as pretending to do that, but not genuinely. If they ever do, they’ll have to face the realisation that all this time, they’ve been feeling a huge amount of despair. And that’s no fun.
Neutrals are neither submissive or dominant; Instead, aloof. Or that’s what their facade comes down to. They’re the false oracles (in fact, I dealt with an astrologer like that a while back… Exhausting). They want everyone to believe they’re able to get in that super impartial headspace, where they can advise you with the external input they gathered. In reality, however, they’re not doing that. They’re just pretending to. I mean, how could a people pleaser ever even BE completely neutral, if they aren’t willing to risk getting ostracised? It’s a front — and a bad one at that.
If, and only if (pun intended!) a neutral is willing to get close and personal with themselves, and the emotions they have thrown into a .zip file called “never open” somewhere deep inside… They’ll eventually realise that they, too, have a hidden talent.
They’re good at staying calm and unphased. Otherwise, they wouldn’t exist in the first place. How else can anyone put their emotions aside without losing sight of them? That’s how the best strategists are born: out of the ability to “keep calm and carry on” no matter what. Strategists, not advisors, let me get that clear. They have to stop pretending to be neutral for that to happen. But their talent is essential in the world nonetheless.
4. The overzealous caretaker.
“Oh, don’t look at me, how could I possibly do any harm? I’m too insecure, too afraid of making decisions for that. Look how unsure I am. Look how much I care for others and see their dilemmas. Look how small and fragile I am.” Whiney whiney. This is what this damsel in distress archetype would say if they were honest; But they aren’t. The last thing they’ll do is admit to wearing this mask for manipulative purposes. No. They’d rather people believe it’s for real.
This reminds me of when a wild cat mimics a domestic one for a second, because it’s so very cute and harmless, look how it’s purring… Then proceeds to attack.
In before damsels in distress come raging at me in the comments: there’s a good and noble side to that. Think of your average spy who marries a Nazi in movies only to attack him during his sleep. Those characters are all overzealous caretakers. They wear that mask so well, even a Nazi soldier who isn’t easily fooled falls for it. And no, it’s not the seduction. It’s really not. Seducing is super easy… But completely surrendering and drawing attention to the cute and harmless side is on a whole different level. I have mad respect for that skill. It’s my polar opposite. I wanna learn some of that.
This is the kind of person I would consider super submissive; but it’s not genuine. More like a temporary headspace. They don’t genuinely lack the confidence to walk alone… They would just rather somebody else saves them because why go through the trouble? Why waste energy “surviving”, if you can outsource that to a protector, THEN decide if this protector is someone you want to keep or not? And don’t get me wrong, damsels in distress aren’t deprived of a moral compass. Not at all. They can, and often do, choose protectors they’re morally aligned with; Maybe they’ll even live the double life, also luring a protector they would like out of their way at the same time. And in some cases, they’re not alone in the plan. And again, in some cases, I wouldn’t even discourage that. It’s a great skill to have, I said that without sarcasm. The problem is having it as a default; As a surviving mechanism you won’t allow yourself to get out of.
Their genuine hidden talent is taking on identities and social masks, like a chameleon. As I already mentioned (or hinted at), these people make for good spies IF they decide to heal. I don’t just mean it in a battle sense, but also in the sense of “reading the room” before committing to anything. (You see war metaphors all over this article, I’m sure. That’s not just because I come from a warrior background. It’s also because when you survive narcissistic abuse, you have PTSD. Just like a war veteran).
5. The shameless trickster.
“Shameless” in this context was not an insult. If you fit in here, and you wish to take it as an insult nonetheless, feel free. I’m simply stating my intention. You do you, though.
I used this word, firstly because I KNOW trickster people are smart and care a lot about word choice, so they won’t forget to take note of it like most other people would, and secondly… Because as far as my observations go, I can tell that most jesters have trauma with guilt and shame. They run away from these things, even healthy iterations of them. That’s why jesters have the hardest time with self-awareness (it’s the good side of “shame”, if you will). Some are super brave, and end up accepting and internalising the message that they need to learn to see themselves or whatever, coming from a genuinely wise source that comes into their lives; But then, they end up mistaking that for a general truth about humanity, not the targeted message it really IS.
I mean, sure, everyone can do with self-awareness. But does everyone need to be reminded? Does everyone have the same difficulty? To the same extreme degree?
*Insert Bugs Bunny meme: “…NO”*
Think about it:
- the bully KNOWS they’re acting (and not simply being) tough. Maybe a bully won’t always admit it to your face, but it’s because they’re on a high horse. It’s not because internally they’re hiding from that truth.
- the martyr KNOWS they’re giving in a bit too much, they know it’s on purpose, they’re aware of why (to avoid conflict at all costs), and, like the bully, they might not be inclined to get into any of these things with you. But deep down, they’re not blindfolded.
- the neutral party KNOWS they’ve lost faith in humanity. Trust me, they’re not searching for their feelings, “oh oopsie daisy, where did I hide my sadness and my excitement again? I’ll need them at 5pm”. That’s something they’d never think. They’re 100% aware of where to find the emotional sentience they’re suppressing. They need motivation, not a guiding light.
- the overzealous caretaker KNOWS the extremely cute and harmless facade hides their true intention of navigating safely undercover in a world they deem too cruel and unfair. It’s not like they forgot where that comes from.
The trickster person, on the other hand, will take MORE offense at me for unmasking them. It’s the act of unmasking, itself, that they think makes me a hater; It’s not even the pain of confronting that source, or the outrage at my [perceived] lack of authority for such. No. They just didn’t see it before. Genuinely. They believe their own lies. This is a very human thing, the good old fear of the unknown — and totally understandable, in my view. I’m not saying they shouldn’t retaliate at me. They’re welcome to. Who am I to expect the nigh impossible? I’m taking a calculated risk here.
I’m not singling out this type in vain. I did it because my mother fits into it too. She was just a lot worse than any other one I’ve encountered — but the trickster people are all in the same category in my mind nonetheless. Namely, “people I’m tired of”.
“You said X, I can make it seem like Y”; “you did A, I can frame it as B”. Tricksters take no responsibility ever, sure it’s all just a message they’re passing on. And everyone follows because everyone (or the masses, I mean) is a coward. The other way contains the naked truth; Nobody wants the naked truth; Ah sure, look, we’ll pretend to agree with the jester then. Let’s not take life so seriously. Yadda yadda, more running away from themselves, more delusion, more desperation. More vicious cycles, no healing, no learning, History repeating itself over and over.
And a trickster, of course, will take full advantage of that basic truth about human nature: they’ll bend and twist things to their own benefit. They’ll see an article like mine, see I’m admitting to past wrongs, point their finger at me and say “see? She regrets it. She’s a bad person. Don’t listen to her, listen to me” without the slightest hint of shame. But if I’d spoken with a more authoritarian tone, that’s no problem either, the trickster will go like — “See? She’s full of herself. How pathetic. Listen to me instead”. It’s bound to happen, but as I said, a calculated risk. I mean… we cancel people because of their pasts. It’s a thing. Imagine how much worse it would be if I mentioned stuff I am working to heal and learn from IN THE PRESENT, here, out in the open.
A trickster’s genuine hidden talent is that of seeing things from a different perspective faster than normal. I used to wonder why, but recently, while observing some of them in action, I think I made a discovery: they’re not very in touch with their inner selves. If there’s any substance to this educated guess I’m taking here, then it’s no rocket science at all. It’s not that a trickster is somehow more mutable than others. They’re just not standing on firm ground in the first place. They must learn from the earth. A solid foundation.
Maybe, after healing, they won’t lose that talent. I can picture jesters becoming excellent teachers. After all, a teacher doesn’t just feed people information on demand (like an advisor/oracle would do), they go beyond that to offer things nobody ever even thought of asking; But there is an undercurrent of impartiality anyway — in the sense that they can accurately imagine even situations they haven’t and won’t ever experience.
I’m not concluding anything today, actually.
If you were waiting for the “big takeaway” section, sorry to disappoint. This post is open-ended. I never said my list was exhaustive.
I remain curiouser and curiouser…