The main narcissistic trait all victims of narcissists acquire (and should heal)
Let’s have a very inconvenient, but necessary, conversation?
And no, I’m not saying you’re abusive against others. If anything, this trait is abusive against yourself.
It’s called “delusion”.
I’m a victim of narcissists, in case you don’t know me. Don’t assume I’m on a high horse — I’ve been addressing this narcissistic trait within me for a long time already, and I still have a long way to go. It is anything but easy. You’re not alone and there is no need for shame.
Another thing you should know before we start is that it’s foolish to think of narcissists as “100% evil” or victims as “100% good”. This is not a Disney fairytale. This is real life. People are complex. When you suffer narcissistic abuse, often times you become a bit like the narcissist, especially if the abuse is long-term. This can happen either as a defense mechanism or as a self-defeating [subconscious] strategy to keep to what feels familiar — a thing psychologists call “repetition compulsion”. There is no shame in either. I’m simply stating these less-than-flattering traits exist in victims of narcissists. If we don’t acknowledge their existence, how are we supposed to ever heal them? I know our egos don’t like it when we’re “called out” for a flaw, but in order to make any progress in life, we have to bite the bullet.
That being said, if you felt too uncomfortable reading the above, it’s okay. I’m not forcing anyone to be ready for what I’m about to share. If you aren’t, don’t worry and don’t force it — someday you will be, and the message will be here waiting for you. Nobody’s keeping tabs on whether or not you keep reading this post. It’s safe to exit. Have I made myself clear?
On to the real talk:
Dissociation leads to fantasies. Fantasies lead to a detachment from reality. A detachment from reality leads to delusions that can make you even more lonely. Trust me: you don’t wanna end up there.
This probably sounds logical, even obvious to you: when you’re “living inside your head”, you can’t relate to anyone external. It’s obvious you can’t! Only YOU can know what happens inside your head. Nobody else knows it to the same extent.
Aye, it’s obvious. But you probably don’t suppose YOU are doing it (ie, ignoring the external world and just reimagining it according to your wishes). And chances are, if you read this far, yes you do it.
The problem is a lot of victims of narcissists (and ESPECIALLY survivors of narcissists who are now too scared to go to therapy) normalise that. They think it’s normal to feel like an alien in the world, “ah sure everyone feels empty inside like that, everyone feels like they can’t relate to other people”. WRONG! Stop right there. This is peak self-sabotage. You deserve better.
I’m not shaming people, though. This is a mistake we make without even noticing, so I’m simply calling attention to it — I’m trying to help you see it. And once you see it, you’re free to address it or not. Up to you. I’m just the messenger.
The hard to swallow pill is: narcissists love criticising their victims. They make it a habit, they do it all the time, way more frequently than healthy people do. It traumatises you… And as a result, you end up trying to shield yourself from everything and anything that could potentially be less-than-flattering. You start denying your shortcomings, denying your discomfort, and wishing for a “happy place” where you wouldn’t have to deal with any of that anymore.
I’m not judging it. I’m acknowledging it. Maybe I should remind you again: I AM a survivor of narcissistic abuse. I DO the things I mentioned above. I’m no superior to you, not at all.
Do you see where I’m going with this? I’m not saying “you’re weak”. What I’m in fact saying is “you’re exhausted”. I am exhausted. We’re all exhausted. That’s what trauma does to you. It’s logical to feel that way.
Repeat with me: it is okay to feel exhausted from dealing with the narcissist’s criticism. Even if the narcissist is no longer in my life.
Not only is it ok, but it’s HUMAN.
So it isn’t that it’s “wrong” to dissociate, when responding to something as traumatic and vile as narcissistic abuse. It’s perfectly reasonable in fact. It’s even quite clever as a survival strategy, since it allows you to stop listening, stop taking the hits. The only problem is when it continues after you leave the narcissist and start to heal. That’s because, let me repeat, it’s a SURVIVAL strategy. It allows you to SURVIVE. Not to truly LIVE.
I want you to see the responsibility you have for being where you are now. Not “blame”, not “shame”. Responsibility. It’s not a scary thing, it’s neutral. It’s quite boring as a concept, and even empowering if we’re being honest. After all, when you have responsibility, you also have power. Fear not.
There’s no need for guilt. If you aren’t yet ready to take this next step, if surviving is all you can do for now, that’s great. Nothing in life is fixed or permanent. One day, you’ll be able to start living. It’s a fact. Look how far you’ve come. Why rush it? There is no rush. Relax. This post is not going anywhere, it will stay here for you.
But if you ALREADY ARE ready, keep reading.
Let’s not forget that NOTHING is as horrible as the lies you’ve been told by the narcissist. Nothing. Reality can’t be as horrible as that — and in fact, it isn’t.
I don’t know about you, but the reason why I and a lot of other survivors I know choose to lie to themselves is fear. Chances are you will agree: we’re afraid of facing the naked truth (about us, about life, about situations we’re in… etc), just in case the narcissist “might have been right”. Aye?
Well, I know for a fact I’ve had that thought many times. I still do, just not as often.
The thing about fear, though, is that it often exaggerates. If you don’t believe me, just think of situations in the past when you overcame fears, no matter how small. Try to redo your steps. What happened? Well, what usually happens is the following:
- first, you’re super afraid of something. Let’s suppose you’re afraid of drowning in water. You wouldn’t even dare dipping your toes in a pool, because somehow you believe you’ll go from that to… completely drowning. Instantly.
- Second, something happened that made you decide to learn to swim. Idk, let’s suppose you were feeling brave. The reason isn’t too important, you were just feeling brave and went for it.
- Third, you initially wouldn’t even fully trust the instructor, but once you went past that initial rush of adrenaline, you started noticing something: hey, I’m in the water. I did not drown just yet. So there is this threshold between “not being in the water” and “drowning” where I’m IN the water, and yet I can’t drown. It feels… nice. Should you go a bit further? Maybe, or maybe not. Let’s suppose you did, and actually started learning. Time goes by, and…
- You learn to swim. You realise that there are specific ways to move about in water that don’t let you go down even if you try. This is the point where a person overcomes a [excessive] fear of drowning.
Okay, but what happens in your head during this process? Well, it is my view that the overcoming of fears involves going from black-or-white thinking to nuanced thinking. Let’s face it: fear will always exist to some extent. It just shouldn’t paralyse you, stop you from trying the things you feel in your heart you should be trying. So it’s not a matter of “ending” fear completely. It’s a matter of seeing the nuance; seeing the grey area that exists between “firm ground” and “drowning”.
If your fear paralyses you, it’s based on a lie.
…And often, it’s a lie you told yourself. Reality is never black-or-white. If it seems too simple to be true, it is.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming victims here. I KNOW for a fact that if it weren’t for the narcissist, you wouldn’t have unhealthy coping strategies at all. It’s not your FAULT. But perhaps it’s still your RESPONSIBILITY to decide where to go from here. I’m not saying it’s fair, I’m just saying it as it is.
The mind of a survivor of narcissistic abuse is very often like this: “okay, so, my day has been uneventful. This person is asking me how it went. I think I should embellish reality a bit and claim something exciting happened. If I don’t, they’ll think I’m boring, and they’ll stop talking to me, and everyone will abandon me, and I’ll die alone”. Deep breath, perhaps? Just kidding, I’ve been there. I know how awful it feels, although in fact it’s not very logical.
But if I were to suggest an alternative, something to perhaps try if you can, I’d say “look for the nuance”.
“Oh, but I’m afraid”. It doesn’t matter, look for the nuance. “Can’t see it”, that’s okay, look for it anyway. “Still can’t see it”, that’s okay, keep looking. The goal is to LOOK for it. Whether you find it or not at first, it’s not as important. What matters is you’re making an effort towards breaking free from a toxic pattern. That, in itself, is something to celebrate.