The depth of pain, caused by narcissistic abuse, comes as a surprise to those who have the misfortune of feeling it. I think part of it’s power is that we are so incredibly unprepared for it, which causes a state of shock, and fear is heightened when we wonder if the pain will get worse, and if we can ever possibly heal from such injury.
The callousness and indifference of the narcissist himself, to witnessing the effect his behavior has on us, is doubly disturbing. He is absolutely unmoved by our suffering. In fact, he seems motivated by it. The harder we insist tat we are in pain, the more the narcissist repeats the behavior.
We are suddenly thrust from being “the beloved wife” (yes, even though we are not treated that way- it is supposed to be understood that that’s what we are), to being…nothing. To not even BEING. We are less than nothing.
I know, from personal experience, that may people don’t seem to understand how this kind of abuse is so traumatic. What is it that makes narcissistic abuse so much more pernicious then other forms of abuse? I’ve wondered the same thing, for a long time, but I think I’ve finally come up with the answer- or, at least, a pretty good answer.
See, with “regular” abuse, the victim must come to terms with the fact that their abuser- someone they believed to have loved so deeply, and whom they believed also loved them back in the same way (but just didn’t know how to show it, because they were so damaged)- never actually loved them at all. In order to heal, the victim must come to understand that the abuser is self-loathing, and therefore, never had the ability to love them. That- in, and of, itself- is traumatic.
With narcissistic abuse, the realization is much more horrific. Sure, there is coming to terms, consciously, that we were never loved by the narcissist. Though, truth be told, we’ve had the sinking feeling that we were hated, for a long time now, haven’t we? We just couldn’t bring ourselves to admit it. The trauma, I think, comes in two parts: The first, from being forced to try to accept the unacceptable…the unthinkable…
That, to the narcissist, we were never even human at all, but just an object for their selfish gratification.
How does someone even begin to attempt to process something like that consciously?! That the man we made a life with- a home with…the man we loved and made a FAMILY with…never saw us as a valuable human being, with a soul, but merely a thing that would provide for his needs; lessen the stings to his ego (at times), give him feelings of worth that he could not produce for himself, and provide relief from his deep and repressed feelings of shame, rage, and worthlessness (through projective identification).
The second part of the traumatizing comes when we realize just how much of the narcissist we’ve taken into ourselves…how much their poison has seeped into our personality. Even though, in most cases, it is only ever directed at him, we still harbor immense shame over the ways in which we’ve been provoked into behaving, at times. We look at ourselves in the mirror, and we wonder who that person is looking back at us.
This is how so many victims come to wonder if the problem is really them. This is why so many wonder, deep down inside, and fear that perhaps they are the narcissist. After all, the disorder is unconscious, right? So how could they know?
For someone in the throes of misery and despair, from the effect of narcissistic abuse, the thought that they could be the one causing the depth of pain that they are experiencing, for someone they love, is terrifying.
And, if by some chance, that happens to be you- feeling terrified that maybe YOU are really the narcissist- then let me lay this to rest, once and for all…
If you care enough about hurting other people, that you are genuinely afraid that YOU could be the narcissist and not know it…then YOU ARE DEFINITELY NOT THE NARCISSIST!
If you can identify behavior that makes you feel ashamed, and you’ve acknowledged it, and tried to find ways to cope so that you don’t act that way again…then you are DEFINITELY NOT the narcissist.
Narcissists DO NOT question themselves. They are perfect, or worthless- and nothing in-between.
To your empathy, beautiful sister-the pain doesn’t last forever. I promise.
~The Narcissist’s Wife