Do your thing and don’t care if they like it. Tina Fey
I have a confession to make…
I didn’t blog this week.
I know – I kind of said last week I’d be back another time, but I can’t help myself.
So it’s now after midnight on Sunday and I’m starting to write.
I had a break through this week. In fact, I had many break throughs. I’ve come to so many realisations all at once, it’s like a series of fireworks going off in my mind.
First of all, I’ve been living in the past … if you hadn’t noticed!
Even my parents text me this week and said “We hope Happiness Weekly will be happy again soon”. So my first realisation was this: I have become so good at letting go, that I was starting to let go of things that really mattered to me. Happiness Weekly has been going for two years and although my new business Relationship Free is already better known and more popular – Happiness Weekly was my pilot blog, and it served me well. While I do have many things I could do with my time other than blog for Happiness Weekly, this remains my passion. For those who don’t know, Relationship Free is my company that encourages clients to find the freedom within to be their best self. It has a strong focus on developing a relationship with yourself to combat addiction, loneliness, toxic and abusive relationships etc. Something we are never taught is how to love ourselves – and if anything, from a young age we are taught to play it down and betray ourselves. Don’t stand out. Stick with jobs we don’t love. Be kind even when someone is nasty to us… Relationship Free is a safe haven of its own – the website is currently in design phase (exciting!!).
My next realisation was this: I’ve been depressed, frustrated, angry, bitter and extremely fearful over the past year. I’ve dragged my feet everywhere I’ve gone. I’ve found it really hard to meet new people recently and trust. But I have. And the people I am now letting into my life are different to anyone I’ve met before. They adore me. Not like narcissistic kind of adoration where they’ll just annihilate me later – but they’re genuinely beautiful souls, who inspire my dreams. Big shout out to Russ and Kev, my two American men. Russ is a coach and Kev is into the whole coaching thing, he wrote this awesome blog about the World Domination Summit. He’s an exceptionally talented writer, which pleases me greatly. I can’t wait to attend this with him next year, it’s a new thing on the bucket list and I’m SO excited.
I thought I’d never meet anyone again, and I really didn’t care, but these men not only met me where I was at, but patiently listened to my story and somehow shifted me well outside of where I’ve been. I am forever grateful to both of them and all my patient friends who have stood by me. These two helped me get my smile back. So yeah – be gone that horrible Sarah that was taking over the woman I am! There’s no way I’m going numb for ten months only to finally feel again and not to feel anything good – I have some level of control here and I’m going to choose that with my head held high.
I had another realisation: going through domestic violence, surviving quite extreme narcissistic abuse (which I still think I’m lucky to actually be alive among all his coded threats and riddles, manipulation, deceit and lies), means you can actually spot narcissists really quickly. A big reason I haven’t dated since is I’m so terrified of meeting anyone even slightly resembling my ex boyfriend – and even just the thought of that actually gets bile in my throat. But you can slay that dragon. If you recognise one, live authentically – for some reason it’s kryptonite to these people and be mindful of their lies, manipulation and deceit.
And finally, I really learned the importance of self care … mainly because I haven’t been doing much of that this year compared to other years. Did I not deserve it? Do you have to deserve it? And if you do, then what do you have to do to deserve it?
Maybe you don’t know what a self care plan is – I was talking to a girlfriend the other day who was saying her family didn’t accept her self care activities and self soothing choices. It wasn’t hurting anyone – have your nails done, get your hair done, take a bath, go for a walk, drink a glass of tea, walk by water, sit in the sun … whatever it is, I can’t highlight enough how important it is that you take care of yourself – regardless of anything else.
Today, I’m just very quickly going to help you put together a self care plan – and I apologise this is in writing – I wanted to make a video, but unfortunately I ran out of time. This is different to your typical Self Care Plan – but hopefully it works for you, because this is my secret medicine for getting back on track.
Happiness Weekly’s Self Care Plan
Step one: Take a blank piece of paper and a pen.
Step two: Write down five to ten things you really love to do at the moment. Ie. go to the markets, walk on the beach, go camping, get your nails done, listen to music, have a massage etc.
Step three: Go back in time to when you were a child – somewhere between 3 and 11 years old. Write down five things you really loved to do. Ie. jump rope, drink a milkshake, play sport, build a cubby house, play computer games, blow bubbles etc.
Step four: Now we’re going to set those lists aside. On another piece of paper write:
And under each heading start populating various things you can do to fulfil those things, sooth yourself and show yourself some care – or even just things you enjoy doing that are associated to these headings. Now you can move the list from step two under the best headline for that item, and step three. Next to the step three items I want you to write (IC) next to each item in brackets – this stands for inner child. What you’re doing there is nurturing your inner child by doing these activities and be particularly mindful of your inner child as you complete these activities. For example, when I take myself for my skim strawberry milkshake, I think to myself: “Here you go, you’ve been a good girl, little Sarah – I love you!” So I really acknowledge my inner child as I complete that task or any task on the list associated with my Inner Child. Ensure you always tell your inner child that you love them. “I love you, little –” and say your name. And once you say that, feel what comes up for you. It’s really important that you connect with yourself and learn to love yourself in a holistic way.
Ensure each of the headings has quite a few activities under it.
Step five: Plan your week and add in between one and three self soothing activities or activities from your Self Care plan a day. This is particularly useful for people who are looking to reconnect with themselves or busy people on the go who don’t often have time to reward themselves.
This week I am taking some time off work to attend the Festival of Change
Next month I’m graduating from my course and I have five positive certificates to go with it :) (I am also attending two more courses next month)
For New Years Eve, I’m celebrating with Kev – and yes it’s booked! I can’t wait! (I don’t usually do anything for New Years Eve)
Relationship Free opens in January, although I am receiving quite a few inquiries now and will assist where I can.
Next year (in June/July/August) I’m going to New York City, Los Angeles, California, Chicago, Boston, Las Vegas … pretty much everywhere I can! Oh and Kentucky to see my survival buddy, Susie, who reached out to me when I swear my soul was charcoal and helped get me where I am today.
And between all that, I will get some sunshine, some walking by the water, play some air hockey (GAME ON!), and have a couple of skim strawberry milkshakes and maybe a rainbow paddle pop. Another thing I learned this year was to hug myself (as demonstrated in this picture). It’s the ultimate in self soothing, make time to hug yourself each day.
And so the title of my blog post today … because I found my way back.
I swear by keeping a self-care plan and action it when ever you can. This is not only the first step for understanding yourself, but it’s also the first step for loving yourself completely. This plan helps build self esteem and self worth and it can also assist with self forgiveness and self trust.
What is your favourite self care activity? List it in the comments.
Self soothing tip #1: have fun!
Self soothing tip #2: hug yourself
The time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Douglas Coupland
Everyone seems to have one day in their life where life just … stops. It could be the day your partner tells you they want a divorce. The day you find out you have cancer. The day someone really close to you dies. How we respond to the day life stops is up to us – the difficulty is sometimes we just don’t have the steps to move us out of there, so we get stuck.
I’m going to talk about the day my life stopped. Anyone who knows me right now knows how I feel about police, our systems surrounding domestic violence and most of my story – which I don’t cover up anymore and I’m certainly not protecting my abuser anymore. Anyone who knows me, would tell you I’m respectful of everyone I meet – but believe me, if you work for NSW Police Force right now – you don’t want to meet me because you get a different side to that story and here’s why:
It was 31 December 2013.
I was getting ready to go out with friends to celebrate New Years Eve.
I didn’t have a care in the world. My music was playing.
For the first time all year, I felt happy.
Four weeks before I had left an abusive relationship. During that next four weeks there was torment and more abuse and push and pull like you wouldn’t believe. I was involved with a narcissist but because of the constant lies, deception and manipulation – I couldn’t see it. And I didn’t realise how dangerous that was to me … until this day. The day my life stopped. So here’s what happened…
I’m sitting there naked in front of my full length mirror getting ready.
I’ve just put some foundation on – no other make up.
My intercom buzzes.
There’s two police waiting to talk to me with some “paper work”.
And I look back at that moment and I think wow! How’s that for desperation? He stopped me going out with friends all year. He ruined every happy event to the point of exhaustion. And now this? Well I knew I couldn’t be dreaming – because it was right in line with everything else he’d done, including filing for divorce on his wife’s birthday. What I still have difficulty accepting is that the police supported his abuse! The AVO was “non-urgent” so why wouldn’t they stop for just one moment and go “It’s New Years Eve, this is non-urgent … she’s complained about him three times already, it’s an ongoing dispute … really, it can probably wait – I’m sure he’ll survive another day if she lifts his wiper blades again.”
Clearly the fact an abusive partner WOULD target New Years Eve in a bid to crush my plans and stop me going out, just didn’t come into the equation at all.
Well … to my stalker (yup, still subscribed twice there, I see, still have your fake Facebook profile … good on you, you loser!) and you were the ultimate kill-joy: I just want you to know it didn’t stop me. I still went out.
And I had fun!
In fact, in one night, I had more fun than I’d had all year.
I had more fun than I EVER had with him!
And then at midnight, I declared the year of Awesome.
So if you think the day life stopped, and the day my soul shattered into a billion pieces that I changed from the life-loving person I am, you’re wrong.
So here lies my frustration with the day my life stopped:
The “paperwork” called him a “defacto”.
But he never lived with me – and I never lived with him.
And I wouldn’t call it a relationship when I thought we were in it and he deceived me and his wife so badly for an entire year. That’s not a relationship.
So … where was the evidence?
The paperwork said I asked about his “ex wife”.
But they never divorced.
In fact, they never even separated which is what I was questioning about!
And the police then ask me on the phone if he’s back with her… what the fuck? Is this a test??
Where was the evidence at the time that he WASN’T with her?
So I complained – because the majority of their reasons for serving me were fictionalised beyond recognition. And they said:
“You left nine voicemail messages for him”.
But here’s the thing…
He didn’t have a voicemail. He had a moment of white noise and right to the beep.
Plus, I knew, after a year of being with him that he never listened to his voicemail messages – so why would I leave a message?
And so I asked: “Did you listen to the content of just ONE of those messages?”
Well then WHERE was the evidence?
In the constable’s protest and determination that his manipulated evidence was fact, he continued reading out the alleged times – this is the same man trying to manage my complaint, I suggest he keeps his day job because customer service certainly isn’t a strong point – because as I cried out: “I couldn’t have done that because I was in the basement at that time, I can’t get reception there!”
WHERE WAS THE GOD DAMN EVIDENCE?
We were getting nowhere so I asked why the police didn’t call me before serving me on his behalf.
Back pedal: “The constable thinks he did, but he can’t remember”
Even from his tone I could hear the doubt. He was LYING and he knew it!
At that point I realised I was discussing this with police defending police. I will NEVER trust police for my protection or the protection of others again. EVER!
And don’t get me started on their ridiculous times – I wasn’t even home at the times they alleged: I was out with my parents! Ha! And I have a text exchange verifying all that. But alas, pretty sure the next claim would be that I have a hidden time machine!
I laugh – but my belief that police were there to protect people was shattered.
I can’t begin to express my disappointment in knowing I’m entirely unprotected: by police and our systems.
And now I realise the ugly dangerous world as it really is. This is happening in Australia, what I thought was a safe country. And it’s the scary truth. Particularly for those in domestic violence situations. Now I empathise on a level that not many people can – because not only is it unsafe, but our systems aren’t working to protect anyone.
The constable then moved the conversation to directly accuse me of deliberately being misleading in my complaint:
He told me I lied to the ombudsman and I tried to deny all the allegations made.
I looked back at my complaint today – that is INCORRECT. It clearly states my awareness of what I did. There’s not even a slight attempt to cover it up.
I DON’T LIE! But my abuser does. Police do. People do. People lie…
And there is nothing you can do about it.
So at the end of the day: what does evidence matter?
People can happily stop your life even without evidence, without reason, without you “deserving” the pain you are set to experience. That’s how life goes.
What’s weird, in reflection on that final conversation, is that that accusation itself didn’t bother me. People make mistakes. People judge. People are just people.
It was the fact that constable made me doubt myself – just like my abuser did – that bothered me most.
It was like being abused all over again.
I look at the evidence I gathered and it’s so clear to me.
The abuse I didn’t see before is SO clear. The control. The harassment. The threats. THE WHOLE ENTIRE CYCLE IS RIGHT THERE! And it is a cycle.
The being served with an AVO, the intimidation displayed in the court house, the “act normal” for my birthday – just three days later, the smear campaign when I didn’t respond, the attempt to bring me down publicly via my blog. It’s all there in the evidence collected and it’s certainly evident!
It was there all along. Blind Freddy and his blind fucking cousin could see it!
I can’t look over the evidence anymore because I just get angry (clearly). Mostly at myself for being so naive. And beating myself up … that gets me nowhere, because I am the only one who gets it. I was there!
And if they can’t see it – just on the evidence before them, then why are they working on domestic violence cases?
And if they do see it, because it’s so obvious, and they really are just covering it up … then why are they working with victims of domestic violence?
All you see in the media is RESPONSE. People dying from domestic violence.
I haven’t heard one “Thankfully they had an AVO against that person and so they left them alone and they lived happily ever after?” Why not? Because that’s not how it works. Abuse is soul-destroying.
How much counselling has my abuser got – who claims I abused him. I bet none. He got nothing for his mental health and wellbeing. I put my life on it. He’s just a super-victim, right? And that’s how I can clearly see narcissism. Counselling for both people involved should be a mandatory condition of an AVO – sorry taxpayers but it’s true! Because I can promise you – it would’ve stopped him. He hates counselling as narcissists do because it doesn’t bode well for their perfect image.
One thing the constable admitted was it didn’t sound right. Things I was saying were things a victim would say. Of course that in the end was inferred that I’d just done my research to intentionally sound like that, because I want to help people in my situation. I couldn’t possibly have been the victim, despite the evidence in front of them. No words. No words on how this was managed at all.
I hate police now. I’ve never been like this before. I very rarely tar people with the same brush because they resemble something that hurt me. I’ve never said “I hate men” after a break up. But I hate police. Yup, all of them. There: I said it.
Being served with an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order for lifting windscreen wiper blades, is kind of the new form of getting your hands chopped off for stealing a loaf of bread. I can’t imagine this happening to anyone else: how did I get so lucky? :)
And my self talk got dragged down to this:
“No one gets it. No one understands. No one can help me.”
But you know what? That’s how it is when life stops!
THAT doesn’t just happen to me. When life stops – no matter how it stops – that’s what self talk does.
NO ONE does get it!
NO ONE does understand!
Only you because you were there – the whole time.
So my story isolated me just like my abuser planned, targeted and wanted. I can’t believe someone could be so cruel and evil. Let alone someone I loved. Someone I chose to love.
It still shocks me every morning I wake up and my first thoughts are still: “Wow, I’m here, that really happened!” And that overwhelming feeling of betrayal. That’ll fade in time. I can sit with that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my new place – but the move wasn’t under ideal circumstances.
And no, I wasn’t asked to move, but the day life stopped: I made the decision I should’ve made a long time ago, without waiting for my friends or family’s permission this time. But if I moved a month before, I wouldn’t be in the Safe Haven where I am now… everything happens for a reason.
So lots of people have come to me recently and asked how I got back up.
What was my “secret” – what could they do?
That’s the weird thing. You definitely know the day life stops.
You experience this soul-shattering crunch.
And it’s impossible to prepare for.
But it’s so difficult to know what to do next.
It’s the broken plate, no matter what you do, it’ll never be the same.
Life will never be the same.
So here’s what I did…
The day my life stopped – I stopped.
I stopped dating.
After 14 years of toxic and abusive relationships – I hopped off the dating treadmill with no interest or inclination for getting back on.
I stopped going out.
I go to work, I come home. Repeat.
Once the door closes at either end, that’s where I stay. I won’t even go to the grocery store.
I stopped communicating with people.
I closed Facebook. I stopped blogging. Kept conversations short. I think people find it hard to know what to say to me too. I’m not the same person. I’m broken now. You can see it. I can recognise a shattered soul anywhere now.
I stopped blogging like I’m invincible and I started sharing the reality of what I live.
Surprisingly my blogs have become more popular, maybe because they’re real now? That’s great and welcome to every one of my new supporters, I’m so happy to have you here … but it’s also not the world I want to live in … it’s not the reality I once knew. I kind of liked my cocoon. But it’s alright, I’m strong, and I’m happy to share my lessons.
I stopped feeling safe.
Now I watch my back – everywhere I go. For him. For his wife. For his kids. For the police (like a fugitive). For whoever he sends to watch me.
I stopped eating – overnight.
I dropped from size 10 to size 6. I don’t have much of an appetite still to this day. I never regained my weight.
It’s been like a broken bone … I’d say a broken arm but it’s more significant … more like a broken back – without medication to numb the pain.
It’s taken a long time to adjust to the break.
To overcome the trauma. To sleep without nightmares.
To just get on with life.
It’s been hard.
I don’t think I’ve lived a single day since when I haven’t gone over it again and again.
My life stopped completely for six solid months.
I even pushed my family away who offer unconditional love and support.
I’m probably the luckiest person in the world to have my family. They’re not perfect, but they’re perfect when it comes to offering that.
They’ve got no fucking idea how hard this has been for me and how hard it still is. No idea. No one does.
And reconnecting has been really hard. Not just with them and other people, but also with myself.
I don’t trust anyone like I used to. I don’t love like I used to. I’m not attached to anything anymore.
Take everything you want.
Do whatever you want to me.
I’ve numbed out to that now.
Like naturally numbed out.
I went from caring about every little thing, little miss life perfectionist straight to: I DON’T CARE!
It’s like since the day life stopped, a glass force field came down and surrounded me.
I know it’s meant to protect me but it also isolates me. Depends how you look at it, I guess.
The day life stops isn’t necessarily bad though!
And you’re not alone.
As I said, there’s lots of situations that make lots of people’s lives stop.
You’ll find your own way to celebrate it and when you do, you start to thrive.
That day your soul shatters, you start to see what you haven’t seen before, and you can make decisions.
And you’ll take a stand like never before, because somewhere deep in side you have something that triggers and screams: “THIS IS MY LIFE!” No matter how introverted you are.
Since the day life stopped I’ve:
- Cut the addiction to my abusive partner completely (and no one really gets the addiction to the abuser until you’re in it and have experienced it … that was the WORST THING I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED IN MY LIFE. Even beyond the trauma. Because he is a disgusting man in every aspect and logically I knew it but I was so trapped under this spell. I can’t even begin to explain. And my self worth and self esteem were non-existent – that’s why I want to work with people in domestic violence now: because I GET IT! I get that isolation, I get that addiction, I get that pain… I GET IT! And I’m going to use it!)
- Learned to love myself completely
- Forgiven myself and learned to trust myself again (that was the hardest part!)
- Started spending time on my own – because I actually enjoy my own company
- Started studying despite resistance to the field
- Come up with new life goals and a completely new direction
- Made decisions I would’ve been too scared to make
- Started a business – Relationship Free: facebook.com/relationshipfreepage
- I wrote to the magistrate who reluctantly handed down my six month AVO
- Lived for me and only me.
So if your life has stopped right now.
If you’re in that pit of despair where life just dumped you off and forgot about you.
My suggestion to you is: STOP!
- Stop judging yourself
- Stop doubting yourself
- Stop everything you need to
- Forgiving yourself
- Trusting yourself
- Being honest with yourself
Many of you may remember Rihanna got THUGLIFE tattooed on her knuckles at some point.
I never understood that. What a stupid thing to do, right?
And I judged. Just like people judged me when I put it on my Facebook. Testing, testing…
But you see: now I get it.
Now I understand what she means and why she did it – and I have a new respect for Rihanna because she exposed narcissistic abuse in the celebrity limelight in a way that’s never been done before.
The day life stopped: THUGLIFE began.
It means: The Hate You Gave Lives Inside For Ever. Anyone, even the most peaceful of people would understand after surviving this level of abuse.
So go do it!
Get a stupid tattoo that everyone judges you by – you only live once!
If the day life stopped impacts you to make you want to do something impulsive (so long as you’re not hurting anyone or yourself), trust it! Do it! Because it was that urge that lead me to study and respect the life I lost for a year to the man who subjected me to a torture known as narcissistic abuse until I was driven to breaking point.
And finally I want to finish with this. Three things to focus on from the day life stops:
- Reconnecting with yourself
- Figure out what you love, what you’re passionate about, what your purpose really is and do it
- Set new goals and go about achieving them.
On that note – I’m a couple of months off some big changes coming to fruition. I apologise if I miss a blog during this time, but I will be back! I want to thank everyone for following Happiness Weekly and particularly to my supporters (new and old) because it has been a tremendously difficult journey and I couldn’t have got this far without all of you.
Love, respect and acceptance,
There are two questions a man must ask himself: The first is ‘Where am I going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me? Sam Keen
Think about it. If your television stopped functioning, or three or four months in to purchasing it, it started playing up – would you take it to a repairer? How about your fridge – would you get it looked at? Your oven? Your car?? So what is different about your relationship?! Don’t laugh – but is the reason that you won’t invest in your relationship because it’s not covered by warranty?
Many people sit in unhealthy and toxic relationships not moving in the hope it will fix itself, or because some days it’s better than others, so they’re happy to wait for those better days. Thankfully I did a survey recently of potential Relationship Free clients and 50% of respondents said they would attempt to fix their relationship if it became unhealthy. But at what point? How bad does it have to be, before you seek help? How much denial do you need to process, before you step forward?
Every day, I have people reading my most popular blog post of all time: All about toxic relationships and how to let go and they have come to me for help with their toxic relationship. “Sarah, what would you do?” or “What did you do?” Upon further reflection many have picked up the buzz word “narcissistic abuse” and decided their relationship isn’t toxic but their partner is narcissistic. There’s a big gap there. Toxic is overtly dysfunctional, putting down, emotionally and mentally painful and exhausting. It makes you act out in ways you don’t normally. Narcissistic abuse is manipulative, deceptive, under-handed abuse that it almost invisible, but extremely dangerous and painful. It also generally involves a personality disorder: Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
But blame is a fantastic thing, isn’t it?
If we can blame all our relationship woes on the behaviour of our partners then we never have to take action or responsibility. We can just go fourth in our unhealthy relationship, blaming the problems and causes on our partner, rather than stepping out and finding the courage to enter into a new life with the possibility of a healthy relationship.
I am in the process of developing a workshop called “Is your relationship abusive?” which helps people to identify what kind of relationship they are in, and can then make the decision if they want to fix their relationship or not. If you know you’re being abused right now, step out of yourself and ask … do you deserve to be abused? Is there more for you than what you have now? Just because you don’t know better, does this mean that you can’t have better or don’t deserve better than what you have? Rebuild yourself and make a step and keep rebuilding until you’re feeling human again. As many of you know, this year I have been healing from an abusive relationship and the journey to recovery is long and it is challenging. If I stayed longer, it would have been further detrimental, but there comes a point that you have to be your own hero – because as I showed in my story, no one else can or will save you. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make that call if you’re going to stay or go. And no, it’s not an easy call to make, particularly where there is abuse because there will be threats if you go. Let me tell you from someone who got to the other side … not without consequence, but I got there, let me tell you that making that call, stepping out of that abusive relationship was the best thing I’ve ever done. It was the best move I’ve ever made. And it gave me a story which I take fourth today. It broadened my goals. It gave me a message worth sharing … and here I am today.
Recently the NSW government released this checklist for an abusive relationship. Is this a checklist that should be for public consumption? I don’t think so and I feel really strongly about it. In fact, the systems we have infuriate me – it’s not about protecting people at all. Just because you check all these boxes, is that as extremely bad as it could be? What if just one or two of these was really bad, and they didn’t check any of the other boxes – would that then mean it’s not that bad, perhaps the person is overreacting and therefore they should remain in an abusive relationship? In my case, where I was set up, I think this is just a checklist for more abusers and there will be more victims like me as a result of this. I just helped one woman boldly step through what I went through, just because I boldly shared my story … how many more will come to me for support through this as a result of this checklist going online? There is not psychological input to any of this. Abusers don’t necessarily go to anger management classes, and victims don’t necessarily go to counselling. So what is the point of this checklist online and the AVO process? Because right now, it’s going from bad to worse.
And it’s not just the government at fault, but there are often questionnaires released in domestic violence groups. This makes my blood boil. What’s that? So victims can compare notes on “how bad” this piece of paper says your abuse was? Are you more a survivor and thriver if you lived through every checked box? What if you did check every box but it happens you’re a hypochondriac and it actually wasn’t as bad as you say? From my experience, people who come to do domestic violence questionnaires are doing it to confirm “how bad” their abuse is … even once they know they are being abused, even once they know “how bad” it is, they still need to make their choice, will they stay or will they go? So why bother finding out how bad? Why not discover if you are in an abusive relationship, skip the “how bad” step and make your decision. Do you really want to be in an abusive relationship? Do you deserve to be there? What our systems and our groups and a lot of people overlook is that there is a lot of addiction in abuse. I’ve spoken about this before but there’s cycles and there’s trauma bonding, and the longer you stay, the worse it gets.
If you think I’m saying these diagnostic tests are unhelpful for people in domestic violence situations, you are absolutely correct. The temptation for a victim and even a past victim, to decide “how bad” their abuse was based on these tests, is not going to help them. Many people in the domestic violence group I was associated with continued to hinge whether their abuse was bad or not, based on if police take action. If police take action – therefore, the abuse must be really bad. And it’s funny how many people believe this. I think the shattered evidence of a person in trauma speaks louder than a narcissist’s carefully manipulated evidence and lies.
Whether your relationship is toxic or abusive, it’s up to you whether you want to stay and fix it or leave something that is dysfunctional. No one can make that decision for you. So what’s it going to be … will you stay or will you go?
The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering. Ben Okri.
While working full time in my current role at work, between my friends and I we have slowly but surely noticed that just through word-of-mouth my coaching business is already starting to thrive as I’m full time coaching out of hours.
There appears to be a common theme in the clients I am receiving – aside from they’re all awesome people who have had some amazing adventures, each of them are exceptionally motivated to move forward from their current circumstances and thrive (which is a coach’s dream!) and they are all extremely intelligent and resourceful.
However, the theme in their issues appears to be that their values aren’t aligning with the current situation which is causing them enormous grief. I’ve noticed myself asking three very powerful questions throughout these sessions and I want to share them with everyone today so you can take them away and coach yourself.
When we’re honest with ourselves, we can call our own bullshit – right? I mean, let’s be real. Yet I see people hurting over things they can’t have (which more often than not, isn’t something they need), tears over emotionally unavailable people offering ongoing mixed signals and frustration because it appears to be the never ending issue – and it’s always the same.
Does this sound like you? Be honest. Sometimes it can be hard to admit it to ourselves when we’re chasing our own tail over something that won’t benefit us. I have my hand up, this used to be me all over! This is why I highly recommend coaching – because it cuts through the bullshit, empowers you to draw your own conclusions and helps you take steps in your chosen direction. Coaching made it so I can gratefully leave my hand down.
This blog will be particularly powerful for my friends and followers in toxic relationships – the area I specialise in. I enjoy working in this area because it’s a step up from a failed relationship, which I help with as well but it’s a step down from narcissistic abuse and domestic violence – which is, as I describe, a toxic relationship on steroids. The longer you stay, the more steroids in that relationship’s system, and the more difficult and complex the journey to recovery.
So take a look at your current situation – exactly as it is. Don’t sugar coat it, don’t leave anything out, don’t distort the information in any way – be completely honest. Make it so you can see the situation with you and the other person involved – you’re a spirit looking down. You can see all behaviours, responses, reactions and hear all the words. Now shine a spotlight on yourself – the other person freezes, they’re silenced, they stand in darkness. Watch yourself continue to act and respond for a moment as though the other person is still in full action.
At this point you may come to the realisation that you don’t like what you see. This could be why you have found your way to the blog, you acknowledge there’s a problem but you don’t know how to fix it. The thing is, you probably never suspected the issue was with you. Here’s the thing: a toxic relationship can cause us to act out in ways we don’t usually, and that is because whatever we are trying to achieve is out of our value system and we don’t know how to get it. Meanwhile for those who can identify that they are being narcissistically abused (generally there’s a lot of deception and manipulation, so it’s very difficult to spot), it’s likely that you’re a shadow of your former self, you’re so far removed from the person you were before the relationship began that you struggle to recognise yourself – both physically and emotionally.
This leads us to our first powerful and empowering question: How does this serve you?
This is no longer about the other person – they stand in the dark – so we’re completely focusing on you. There’s no excuses because it’s right there, right in front of you, light up with this spotlight. Think for a moment and then ask yourself again – how does this scenario, that is playing in your mind right now, serve you?
It is likely that you will quickly see you’re not gaining anything from the scenario. You’re probably fighting for the satisfaction of being right, getting revenge or possibly as a defence to how the other person is behaving. Is this how you want to live your life? Honestly? Consider an overall goal – for most of us the ultimate is to be happy and content. How does this scenario playing out under the spotlight right now, lead you to that ultimate goal?
Hopefully a few people reading have had a “shit – she’s right!” shift and you could be starting to think “I knew it – that’s it, I’m leaving!”
One of my favourite movies of all time is A Walk to Remember starring Mandy Moore and Shane West, and there’s a scene where Landon (Shane’s character) and Jamie (Mandy’s character) are dancing and it goes like this:
Landon: Number 1 on my list is getting out of Beaufort.
Jamie: Um… I don’t think getting out is gonna be your problem. It’s more like figuring out what you’re going to do when you get somewhere.
Landon: What do you mean?
Jamie: I mean you can do anything.
For some reason, this scene and these words imprinted in my mind the moment I saw them because it was perfect! We can do anything! We can have our bags packed within the day and be setting sail into the sunset for our new life, far from this dramatic scene … but what’s to say we’re not going to find ourselves in a new relationship, standing under this exact same spotlight in a month or two’s time. And how can we be sure that we can’t save the relationship? What’s bad to one person may not be bad to the other. And it’s possible that you only think it’s bad because we’ve put the spotlight on it, but in reality, it may not be that bad.
So we’re drawn to our next powerful and empowering question: What lessons did you learn from it?
I can promise you, in every situation there is a lesson to be learned – but it’s up to you to establish what it is. If you’re resistant to learning and seeing the lesson, then refer back to question one, because I can already assure you: that is not going to serve you. In fact, in not being open to the lessons from the scenario, you’re holding yourself back and:
Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. Pema Chodron
If you think you can get out of it easily by going to a counsellor or psychologist and having them tell you the answer and therefore you’ll change: you’re wrong and you’re going to be bitterly disappointed if you try this (and if you have tried it … you’re probably going – wow, she gets it! And the reason I get it is because I’ve been there! I was one of those lazy people that just wanted the answer thinking it would change me … no – you have to put the effort in and change yourself.) The other day a friend of mine said something in general conversation which really highlighted this point. She said: “You can tell a person a solution to their problem, but if it doesn’t fit with their values and beliefs and their experiences, it won’t be acted on”. How can anyone know exactly what someone’s values, beliefs and exact experiences are better than the person themselves? And this is another reason why I believe in the power of coaching – because coaches guide but they don’t advise. And the direction you take with the coach is entirely up to you.
Which leads us to our final powerful and empowering question: What are you going to do now?
The million dollar question, the hardest one to nut out of all of them is this. What are you going to do now? Now that you’ve established that whatever you do must be aligned with your values, beliefs and experiences to motivation action, it will also make you feel better if it’s aligned with your values and now that you’re equipped with the lessons from the past scenario you’re in a better space to move light years ahead from where you area now…
It’s important to note that this doesn’t just apply to relationships – these three questions can apply to all areas of your life! They are very, very powerful and very empowering – and you can do it all on your own. So, keep your overall objective in mind – whatever it is, in our scenario it was to be happy and content.
Now I want you to do a brainstorming session – without censoring anything – and write between 10 – 20 ideas that you could do, to move you just one step towards being happier and content in your current circumstance. Don’t stop writing until you have about ten to twenty ideas in front of you.
Now pick one – and remember, whatever you pick needs to align with your values and beliefs and it has to serve you, it must take current lessons into account and it must be moving you forward in a way that is peaceful and keep it relatively simple.
Once you’ve chosen one of your options, list all the steps you need to take in order to achieve this one tiny step – even the most obvious things.
And there we have it – three powerful questions and one step and your life is already changing! During this blog you were actually able to create your own pathway to resolving your current issue.
Now you’re probably asking: can it really be that easy when the situation feels so complicated?
Taking a single step outside of the usual pattern or cycle, will change the direction and the outcome. You can move in any direction you choose – your options have become limitless.
Now you can do anything – go anywhere, be anywhere – in fact, this is your opportunity to be anyone you want to be!
Today we start a complete fresh slate.
Now turn your spotlight off.
Turn both spotlights back on. Press play.
What are you going to do? Tell me in the comments.
Part 5: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse – laughing through the tears
People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer. Dan Pearce
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have one sole mission: to evaporate the fun from their victim’s lives. I wanted to wrap up the series with some fun memes I came across about narcissism. Although these memes shed light on a very series issue, it’s important for victims in recovery to laugh at their situation or they will have difficulty moving forward.
Over the past five days I released a mini post series about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Abuse – to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You can find it here:
So today we look at the things that kept me smiling through my tears. This is some fun for those recovering from narcissistic abuse and I hope you have all enjoyed my narcissism mini post series. No one wants a narcissist. So I believe the only thing worse than having a record on file for the rest of your life detailing things you never did, is having an incurable personality disorder. I was the only one to see behind his mask and the stripes on his shoulders … and what was revealed made me understand why he is so determined to hide it behind lies, deception and manipulation. My relationship with a narcissist will never be worth the trauma I suffer from it today, but I will continue to smile through the tears and lead my best life.
Thank you for tuning in!
Part 4: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse – life through the narcissist’s eyes
Narcissistic personality disorder: one of the few conditions where the patient is left alone and everyone and everyone else is treated.
The following explanation is attributed to Dr Sam Vaknin’s notes.
Now that we know what a narcissist is and we can see how they operate as they slowly torture those around them through their deceptive and intentionally destructive ways, you probably hate them. Victims of narcissistic abuse have difficulty comprehending a. How the narcissist could play a victim when he so clearly wasn’t and b. How they could have loved such an evil person, when the truth was they only felt sorry for them. This questioning is key, because had the narcissist not played the victim so well in the first place, the supply likely wouldn’t have elected to date that person. Narcissists remove choice and victims are left feeling duped. Recovery is similar to that of a rape victim, because by the end the victim feels so violated, they don’t know who they were really sleeping with in the first place – the person they thought was their partner is a complete stranger! In essence, they were raped.
Dr Sam Vaknin described how a narcissist experiences their own life to provide insight into how they play the victim so well. Ironically, I must warn you, you may feel sorry for them when reading this post. It’s easy to step back and slander someone, but when you see this personality disorder as it really is, it’s not too dissimilar from experiencing a serious mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, anorexia, or bipolar.
“This is a result of the functional dichotomy – fostered by the narcissist himself – between his False Self and his True Self. The latter – the fossilised ashes of the original, immature, personality – is the one that does the experiencing,” said Dr Vaknin.
The False Self – the mask displayed to victims – is a reflection in the narcissist’s hall of mirrors. It is incapable of feeling, or experiencing, yet it is the master of the psychodynamic processes which rage within the narcissist’s psyche. Essentially the false self knows how to exist from observation, but is a figment of the narcissist’s disorder which is how they trap victims and live among us as normal people.
This inner battle is so fierce that the True Self experiences it as a diffuse, though imminent and eminently ominous, threat. Anxiety ensues and the narcissist finds himself constantly ready for the next blow. He does things without knowing why or where it comes from. Almost living on a platform of self-destruction, the narcissist says things and behaves in ways, which, he knows, endanger him and put him in line for punishment.
The narcissist hurts people around him, or breaks the law, or violates accepted morality. He knows that he is in the wrong and feels ill at ease on the rare moments that he does feel. He wants to stop but doesn’t know how. Gradually, he is estranged from himself, possessed by some kind of demon, a puppet on invisible, mental strings. He resents this feeling, he wants to rebel, he is repelled by this part in him with which he is not acquainted. In his efforts to exorcise this devil from his soul, he dissociates.
An eerie sensation sets in and pervades the psyche of the narcissist. At times of crisis, of danger, of depression, of failure, and of narcissistic injury – the narcissist feels that he is watching himself from the outside. This is just that he assumes, involuntarily, the position of a spectator, a polite observer mildly interested in the whereabouts of one, Mr. Narcissist.
The illusion is not complete or precise, and the detachment continues for as long as the narcissist’s ego-dystonic behaviour persists, for as long as the crisis goes on, for as long as the narcissist cannot face who he is, what he is doing and the consequences of his actions.
Since this is the case most of the time, the narcissist gets used to seeing himself in the role of the protagonist (usually the hero) of a movie. “He describes his life, its events, ups and downs, pains, elation and disappointments in the most remote, ‘professional’ and coldly analytical voice, as though describing the life of some exotic insect,” Dr Vaknin said. Consider the level of detail my narcissist shared about his traumatic and dysfunctional childhood experiences in yesterday’s post for a moment – can you see the alignment here?
The crux of the problem is that the narcissist really feels this way. He actually experiences his life as belonging to someone else, his body as dead weight (or as an instrument in the service of some entity), his deeds as a-moral and not immoral (he cannot be judged for something he didn’t do now, can he?).
As time passes, the narcissist accumulates a mountain of mishaps, conflicts unresolved, pains well hidden, abrupt separations and bitter disappointments. He is subjected to a constant barrage of social criticism and condemnation. He is ashamed and fearful. He knows that something is wrong but there is no correlation between his cognition and his emotions.
He prefers to run away and hide, as he did when he was a child. Only this time he hides behind another self, a false one. People reflect to him this mask of his creation, until even he believes its very existence and acknowledges its dominance, until he forgets the truth and knows no better. The narcissist is only dimly aware of the decisive battle, which rages inside him.
This dissonance, these negative emotions, these nagging anxieties, transform the narcissist’s “motion picture” solution into a permanent one. It becomes a feature of the narcissist’s life. Whenever confronted by an emotional threat or by an existential one – he retreats into this haven, this mode of coping.
He relegates responsibility, submissively assuming a passive role. He who is not responsible cannot be punished – runs the tape in their mind. The narcissist is thus conditioned to annihilate himself –in order to avoid (emotional) pain and to bask in the glow of his impossibly grandiose fantasies.
This he does with fanatic zeal and with efficacy. Prospectively, he assigns his very life (decisions to be made, judgements to be passed, agreements to be reached) to the False Self. Retroactively, he re-interprets his past life in a manner consistent with the current needs of the False Self.
No wonder there is no connection between what the narcissist did feel in a given period in his life, or in relation to a specific event – and the way he sees or remembers these later on. He may describe certain occurrences or phases in his life as “tedious, painful, sad, burdening” – even though he experienced them entirely differently at the time. The same retroactive colouring occurs with regards to people. The narcissist completely distorts the way he regarded certain people and felt about them. This re-writing of his personal history is aimed to directly and fully accommodate the requirements of his False Self. It is true that because of this a narcissist will never be happy.
In sum, the narcissist does not occupy his own soul, nor does he inhabit his own body. He is the servant of a reflection of an Ego function. To please and appease his Master, the narcissist sacrifices to it his very life. From that moment onwards, the narcissist lives vicariously, through his False Self – also known as the mask.
Throughout life the narcissist feels detached, alienated and estranged from his False Self. He constantly harbours the sensation that he is watching a movie with a plot over which he has little control. It is with a certain interest – even fascination – that he does the watching. Still, it is mere, passive observation. This is where much of their obsession for gaining control over people stems from.
Thus, not only does the narcissist relinquish control of his future life (the movie) – he gradually loses ground to the False Self in the battle to preserve the integrity and genuineness of his past experiences. Eroded by these two processes, the narcissist gradually disappears and is replaced by his disorder to the fullest extent.
Kim Saeed believes the narcissist may be attracted to a particular personality type that is revealed through Myers Briggs Personality testing. INFJ – Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judge – the empathetic, caretaker, protector, nurturer, sensitive and highly sensitive types who offer the love that they didn’t receive as a child, are at the greatest risk. This is my personality type.
“The narcissist and the co-dependent are attracted to each other because of a deep-rooted need to resolve childhood issues,” Kim said.
According to Jesse Blayne, INFJ’s are also the easiest personality type to control. They will jump through every hoop to ensure they are liked leaving them vulnerable to the narcissist’s overpowering spell. “INFJs invest everything in their relationships – sometimes even at the cost of their own health,” Jesse said.
Psychopath free just released this chart supporting these claims. It kind of makes you wonder what an INFJ is to do in order to stay safe!
Empaths also tend to attract narcissists. Cristal Broederlow wrote the article 30 traits of an empath where she describes an empath as someone “affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods. Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions. Empaths can perceive physical sensitivities and spiritual urges, as well as just knowing the motivations and intentions of other people. You either are an empath or you aren’t. It’s not a trait that is learned. You are always open, so to speak, to process other people’s feelings and energy, which means that you really feel, and in many cases take on the emotions of others. Many empaths experience things like chronic fatigue, environmental sensitivities, or unexplained aches and pains daily. These are all things that are more likely to be contributed to outside influences.”
Essentially an empathy walks the earth with all of the accumulated karma, emotions, and energy from others. Empaths feel a tremendous sense of empathy – which is great really because this simply fact instantly rules us out from being a psychopath, a sociopath or someone who suffers from NPD.
“Empaths have a tendency to openly feel what is outside of them more so than what is inside of them. This can cause empaths to ignore their own needs. In general an empath is non-violent, non-aggressive and leans more towards being the peacemaker. Any area filled with disharmony creates an uncomfortable feeling in an empath. If they find themselves in the middle of a confrontation, they will endeavor to settle the situation as quickly as possible, if not avoid it all together. If any harsh words are expressed in defending themselves, they will likely resent their lack of self-control, and have a preference to peacefully resolve the problem quickly,” Cristal said.
“Empaths are more inclined to pick up another’s feelings and project it back without realizing its origin in the first place. Talking things out is a major factor in releasing emotions in the learning empath,” she said.
Elaine La Joie wrote a post called The Empath and the Narcissist which goes into more detail about the relationship between the two. “Empaths are confused by this relationship because the narcissist tends to mimic an Empath, and before the Empath knows it, the Empath is ensnared in a relationship she thought was real and equal and now cannot find a way out,” she said.
FAQ 39 – How does a narcissist experience his own life? By Dr Sam Vaknin
Overcoming the narcissist – recovering self-care and moving into a life of confidence, options and fulfilment by Beyond Fate
Coping with your abuser by Dr Sam Vaknin
I do not exist to build your ego with my pain. My tears are not there to cleanse your soul. I now know that without you I am complete and whole! Roy McWilliams
Welcome to the third part of my blog post series addressing Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse. Yesterday I shared parts of my story – stay tuned for my eBook which details the typical rise and fall in a narcissistic abusive relationship. Today Happiness Weekly looks into narcissistic abuse and how you can recover from it.
Warning: I am including an image from my experience, that some people may find upsetting.
No one wins from narcissistic abuse
Narcissistic abuse is widely recognised as one of the few conditions where the patient is left alone and everyone else is treated. Anonymous
Andrea Schneider says “people with narcissistic characteristics may be prone to causing harm by invading personal boundaries, lying about future possibilities in relationships, engaging in abuse, and exhibiting no empathy or remorse for any emotional harm they have done.” This is why it’s really important to have boundaries in order not to attract narcissists in the first place – check out my post Personal boundaries: why we need them and how to set them. It’s important to note that once a narcissist has been let in, it’s not only difficult to get them back out but you will find they push over your boundaries, crawl under them, jump over them, go through them – whatever it takes to stay in the relationship with you – your boundaries will always appear useless. Setting boundaries isn’t about being controlling or cruel towards other people, it’s about self-preservation and when it comes to a narcissist – whose personality disorder closely resembles a psychopath and sociopath, your boundaries are absolutely critical, which is why I wrote this blog post to teach you how to set them.
Christine says their “dysfunctional behaviour involves such callous exploitation of their victims that it has given birth to a new condition known as Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (or Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome)” because it causes a set of signs or symptoms that tend to run together as a cluster that can be recognised after someone has been physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually abuse by a narcissist.
If you’re wondering if you’re being abused or if it’s just a toxic relationship, keep in mind the The Duluth Model – Power and Control wheel published by the National Domestic Violence Hotline – I didn’t know about this while I was being abused but I which I had, because seeing this changed everything for me – because I realised if it’s a pattern people could use enough to form the “power and control wheel”, then this doesn’t just happen to me. And it’s very real.
Signs and symptoms of narcissistic abuse
A complete description of the cycle of abuse someone will experience while in a relationship with a narcissist is available here. This diagram shows the tension building, the incident, the reconciliation and the calm. And it begins again and again until the victim gains enough strength to end the relationship or the narcissist discards their victim in favour of another source of supply.
Symptoms following narcissistic abuse (or linked to Narcissistic Victim Syndrome) include a cluster of the following:
– Torn and unable to comprehend what has happened
– Suicidal thoughts
– Feeling an overwhelming sense of loneliness – friendships slip away as narcissist’s isolate their victims
– Self mutilation: Self harm/Self injury
– Emotionally exhausted
– Panic (and often suffer panic attacks)
– Highly strung/nervous
– Extreme anxiety
– Feeling obligated
– Completely trapped
– Low self-esteem
– May present with obsessive compulsive behaviours and/or phobias
– Overwhelming sense of guilt
– Significant weight loss (generally they will be underweight as a means of gaining some control)
– Or overweight (as a result of comfort eating)
– Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: flashbacks, hallucinations and nightmares; avoiding (people, places, thoughts, loss of interest etc); increased arousal (excessive emotions, problems relating, difficulty sleeping, poor concentration, outbursts of anger, anxiousness, panic attacks etc.)
– Emotions include: shock, anger, fear and guilt
– Dissociate (the victim may compartmentalise their experience and appear detached from their emotions, body or immediate surroundings)
– Chronic pain
– Somatizations/psychosomatic illnesses
– Nausea/vomiting caused by distress
– Avoidance behaviour, feeling detached, sense of a limited future etc.
– Sleeping or eating difficulties
– Easily startled
– Stockholm Syndrome/Trauma bonding (continue to defend their abuser)
– Cognitive Dissonance
– Very uncertain of themselves/constantly second guessing themselves
– Difficulty making decisions
– Not trusting their own memory, perception or judgement
The After Narcissistic Abuse website is a fantastic resource of information as well. Despite encountering a lot of these signs during the relationship, there was nothing anyone could do to change my mind about my abuser – I loved him and I thought he needed my help. Looking back, I trusted him – even though I knew he was lying – I couldn’t prove it so I continued to doubt myself because of the ongoing abuse and the way he abused me … I just kept trusting him over my own instincts.
Understanding trauma bonding
Narcissist’s use something known as trauma bonding to hold their victim’s hostage.
Patrick Carnes coined the term – it’s when fear, excitement, sexual feelings and sexual physiology are used to entangle another person. Unlike love, trust or attraction, bonding is not something that can be lost. It is cumulative and only gets greater as you spend time with the narcissist which is what makes it so difficult to leave the relationship – even when it becomes abusive.
According to Michael Samsel these intense relationships that use trauma bonding to manipulate victims so they’re firmly stuck in place, tend to hijack all of a survivor’s relating capacity and leaves them in a state similar to burning out. The narcissist literally starts sucking the life out of their target.
In a practical sense, here’s how it works: trauma bonding is an easy way for narcissists to trap their victims into cognitive dissonance. When a narcissist abuses their victims, they then quickly play the hero. The victim quickly associates their abuser as the hero whenever they feel pain from any situation and that is why the narcissist becomes the person they want to turn to during times of abuse – no matter how bad the abuse gets. And it becomes like an addiction for the target, which is what makes it a very cruel form of abuse because the narcissist knows exactly what they’re doing to the person as they very deliberately inflict as much pain on them as they can.
“First, while it is very easy to become attached to a very chaotic and inconsistent person, it is simply not possible to form a consistent internal object representation (feeling memory) about them. When separated from the intense partner, the urge to make contact is usually so intense because it is a stable feeling memory (or internal object) that makes separation from an important other person tolerable in any circumstance,” Samsel says.
“Second, the survivor can come to find that it can be almost impossible to relate to anyone, even family or old friends, except superficially. There is a biological craving for intensity that no normal relationship will satisfy. This provides a feeling of being totally alone, and totally empty. At first, only going back to the primary aggressor can overcome it. It would be normal in this state to believe that something is horribly wrong with leaving (even if it seems equally true that something is horribly wrong with staying. If it can be understood that abstinence from unnatural intensity will eventually restore normal relating capacity, the period of distress can be better endured,” says Samsel.
Andrea Schneider says that people who have been involved in a relationship with a narcissist tend to display symptoms closely resembling post traumatic stress disorder.
“Not only are they grieving the loss of the relationship, but they are also processing the unreality of a ‘fake relationship’,” Andrea says.
By the time someone realises they are with someone who has NPD, abuse (psychological, physical and/or sexual) have generally already saturated the relationship and the person is finding it difficult to cope. In order to heal grief and trauma recovery are essential throughout any program or in working with a life coach or mental health professional to move forward. In addition to understanding the elements of the toxic relationship, so that patterns are not repeated in the future.
After narcissistic abuse
It’s important to define victim, because often people may experience narcissistic abuse and not realise they are a victim. Narcissism expert Christine Louis de Canonville says: “‘a victim is a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action’. So I think we can say (using this definition), that any person who has experienced narcissistic abuse has been harmed, injured, and in some cases, even killed as result of the narcissists behaviour – they are indeed victims.”
Despite continued physical and emotional abuse, I still showed empathy for the narcissist, encouraging him to eat when I noted dramatic weight loss and letting him know that I was there and thinking of him so he wouldn’t feel alone, even though at this stage I was seeing someone else. Only to be served with a “non-urgent” AVO and three days following the court hearing for the narcissist to wish me happy birthday. Say it with me: “What the fuck?!” Welcome to the bizarre world of narcissistic abuse. His contact was a good indication that the abuse cycle was set to continue, in fact, he had no intention of losing me as a source of supply. Was he that disensitised to life and empathy that he honestly didn’t think I’d care that for the rest of my life, I will be tied to him somewhere on my record saying I abused him? What he underestimated was my strength and willpower, because even in the court room he didn’t get a glimpse of me looking in his direction or a moment in hearing my voice. I hired a lawyer to talk for me and accept his terms, thinking that would be the end. Yesterday’s post tells you the outcome of what he did next.
Interestingly, Dr Sam Vaknin says when a narcissist is low on their narcissistic supply they go into a narcissistic deficiency dysphoria – they appear depressed, their movements slow down, sleeping patterns are disordered (he sleeps too much or becomes an insomniac), his eating patterns change (he’ll gorge food or avoid it altogether). “They withdraw from their painful existence, where others fail to appreciate their greatness,” he said.
If you have experienced narcissistic abuse, or suspect you have, Happiness Weekly urges you to consult a life coach, psychotherapist or mental health professional who is specialises in narcissistic abuse recovery (and there aren’t many because it is triggering – I won’t be working in this field), in addition to locating a support group. Whoever you choose, the support they will offer will assist you in reclaiming your self-esteem, self worth and the hardest part of the journey: regaining your self trust, to forgive yourself and enable yourself to move forward.
“Victims are more likely to present themselves in counselling or psychotherapy, not because they know that they may be suffering from Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, but because they are not coping with their lives,” Christine said.
According to Dr Sam Vaknin, when a narcissist is low on their narcissistic supply they go into a narcissistic deficiency dysphoria – they appear depressed, their movements slow down, sleeping patterns are disordered (he sleeps too much or becomes an insomniac), his eating patterns change (he’ll gorge food or avoid it altogether). They withdraw from their painful existence, where others fail to appreciate their greatness. As an empathy witnessing him go through this, I felt like my soul was being annihilated. The entire experience, including his grand finale, has changed my life. I still cry almost every day, I still have nightmares, I still watch my back in public … all for one big mistake: the simple fact that I fell in love with someone who had Narcissistic Personality Disorder and I didn’t realise what that meant.
“This constant sad state leads to the narcissist not being able to find pleasure in anything including former pursuits, hobbies and interests. He is subjected to violent mood swings (mainly rage attacks) and all his visible and painful efforts at self-control fail. His whole behaviour seems constrained, artificial and effortful as he gradually turns more and more mechanical and detached,” Dr Vaknin said.
While I thought I was leaving the narcissist – to the extent that I was actually seeing someone else – he was actually discarding me which was demonstrated through his rage attacks and can be seen by the image of my bruised arm here from him grabbing me, taken only days before I received the AVO on New Years Eve. I took this photo (a less confronting piece of evidence from the abuse) thinking my evidence would hold up in court, because then they could see he was abusing me and it wasn’t the other way around, right? Many people in abusive relationships make this mistake. That’s not how it works, but the evidence doesn’t have to be useless, I used it after as part of my argument to have our laws changed:
By the time I would have got to revealing my evidence in court, I would have paid over $3000 and seen him another three times. It wasn’t worth it. So as I said in Owning It – why I’m not ashamed I got served with an AVO, I gave him the AVO and for months this photo just sat there dormant. At the time, I felt weak and afraid. Even though he had what I thought he wanted, he continued to harass me and my torture while I stayed silent continued with it.
Once my strength returned, months later, I followed up, piecing everything together and sent it everywhere. My evidence, with his name to most of it because of his emails and blog comments, went all the way up the chain beyond the Attorney General as I fight to have our laws changed and ensure my story isn’t repeated. My evidence and suggestions are being taken into consideration with the new law changes.
Although it had felt like the narcissist I encountered raped everything I had, he didn’t get away with me, my heart, my dignity or my soul. I’m still alive – and I have tried hard throughout my recovery to remain the same girl. I’m still helping others to fight adversity as I always did – ironically something he used to “love” about me. And it’d appear the only one on the outside of my new success … is him. And he was the one that forcefully wanted me to change (obviously). He wanted to pollute me, my world and my life with his evil but he didn’t succeed. That’s my greatest achievement in all of this: he tried his hardest, he STILL didn’t win. And he never will. I can’t say I’m completely unchanged and I’m not saying I’m 100% recovered from the trauma caused by the abuse, but I’m getting stronger all the time.
So as he was setting me up to get the AVO he withdrew. When he saw me he was disturbingly upset, he kept telling me he was “hurting” from the relationship break up. You just break up with someone you truly love, it’s four weeks on … of course you’re going to be kind to them! And that’s why I’m fighting so hard now, because my story could’ve happened to ANYONE. So I was doing what I could to say “It’s over but it’ll be ok” and maintain that boundary. Not once did I say I wanted him back, I missed him or I loved him. All my communication supports this! I’m not sure what he showed as “evidence” because I’m not sure how anything I said could be manipulated… but I am 100% certain and confident that his lies led to his loss. The next part of this blog gave me the understanding I needed to comprehend what happened to me and how:
“The narcissist goes into a schizoid mode: he isolates himself, a hermit in the kingdom of his hurt. He minimises his social interactions and uses “messengers” to communicate with the outside. Devoid of energy, the narcissist can no longer pretend to succumb to social conventions. His former compliance gives way to open withdrawal (a rebellion of sorts). Smiles are transformed to frowns, courtesy becomes rudeness, emphasised etiquette used as a weapon, an outlet of aggression, an act of violence.”
The narcissist soon seeks to restore his balance and turns to and upon those nearest to him.
“His real attitude emerges: for him, his nearest and dearest are nothing but tools, one-dimensional instruments of gratification, sources of supply, catering to his narcissistic lusts,” he said. There are several examples of supply in my story: the narcissist’s wife, the narcissist’s children, the police, the narcissist’s colleague and of course me at the time. Whatever the outcome, I’m so thankful that I’m still here today to be able to share my experience to assist educate other people to intervene and leave early.
“Having failed to procure for him his “drug’ (Narcissistic Supply), the narcissist regards friends, colleagues, and even family members as dysfunctional, frustrating objects. In his wrath, he tries to mend them by forcing them to perform again, to function … This is coupled with merciless self-flagellation, a deservedly self-inflicted punishment, the narcissist feels. In extreme cases of deprivation, the narcissist entertains suicidal thoughts, this is how deeply he loathes his self and his dependence,” Dr Vaknin said.
This was highlighted in the fact the narcissist I encountered was having an affair with me but refused to let either person go. How you became the other woman by Kim Saeed also demonstrates how this situation comes about really well. She touches on it again in her post The ex and the new girlfriend – the art of triangulation. These posts are so true to their detail that I almost feel like Kim must’ve been watching over me throughout my situation.
“The narcissist then – frightened, in pain, and in despair – embarks upon an orgy of self-destruction intended to generate “alternative Supply Sources” (attention) at any cost. The narcissist is poised to commit the ultimate narcissistic act: self-destruction in the service of self-aggrandisement,” Dr Vaknin said. An example of this was when the narcissist sent my parents a 21-page text message to my parents in a clear attempt to provoke me. I responded by trying to confront him in a public place – thinking I would be protected from further abuse – only for the narcissist to manipulate the situation further and say I was “harassing” him – and now he had witnesses. Moral: you can’t win with a narcissist – don’t try.
“When deprived of Narcissistic Supply – both primary and secondary – the narcissist feels annulled, hollowed out, or mentally disembowelled. Without Narcissistic Supply the narcissist crumbles, like the zombies or the vampires one sees in horror movies. The narcissist will do anything to avoid it,” Dr Vaknin said. It’s because of this and their severe withdrawal symptoms (which present similar to a drug addict) that a narcissist will first attempt to return to a previous source of supply – because it’s easier to apologise and go back than to start again completely. This is also what makes it so terrifying being the discarded source of supply and educating yourself about it – because you know it may only be a matter of time before they return to apologise, or wish you happy birthday, or attempt something else to suck you back into their controlling grip.
“A narcissist’s psychotic episodes may be closely allied to ‘magical thinking’. Narcissists are like children in this sense. Many, for instance, fully believe in two things: that whatever happens – they will prevail and that good things will always happen to them. It is more than mere belief, really. Narcissists just know it, the same way one “knows” about gravity – directly, immediately and assuredly,” Dr Vaknin said.
This is especially highlighted in my story in the narcissist’s threats over the lovelock. I did everything I could to protect myself but because the threats were so crazy and not directly violent, coupled with the little education about narcissistic abuse in our justice system, I was left vulnerable and at risk of further abuse, which evidently happened physically, emotionally, spiritually and through continued harassment.
“The narcissist believes that, no matter what he does, he will always be forgiven, always prevail and triumph, and always come out on top. The narcissist is, therefore, fearless in a manner perceived by others to be both admirable and insane,” Dr Vaknin said.
Are you at risk of narcissistic abuse?
Find out if you are at risk of narcissistic abuse through the checklist provided here by Light, Life, Love and Laughter After NPD abuse page.
Recovering from narcissistic abuse
Recovering from narcissistic abuse is frustrating and painful, but it can also be very rewarding if that’s what you make it. Narcissistic abuse can be looked at as the universe forcefully pushing to take a look at yourself, spend time with yourself and really get to know what you want before letting another person back into your life. While you recover, you will probably experience symptoms similar to patients who suffer complex post traumatic stress disorder including nightmares or disturbed sleeps, flashbacks, find yourself hyper vigilant outside, fear for your safety, you can even experience physical reactions as a result from the trauma for example, a significant drop in weight, panic attacks, chest pains, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting etc.
Here are some tips to start you on a journey to recovery after narcissistic abuse:
- Cease contact with the narcissist
It’s essential to break all contact permanently with this person or the abuse will continue – kind of like that quote: what doesn’t kill you will try again. Narcissist’s are persistent. According to Kaleah LaRoche it’s important that you give the person the message loud and clear that you want no contact – the police may contact the person on your behalf in serious cases. Kaleah says, “when you say “NO” you are giving the narcissist a clear message that his or her behaviour is no longer acceptable to you and you will not allow it any longer”. The tricky part is maintaining no contact, take it day by day and rely on your support network.
- Let it go
Make the decision to let it go. This is tough but you need to be determined not to let the narcissist continue to rule your life. If you are having difficulty, with this, I highly recommend Kim Saeed’s coaching services, she works internationally and you can find out more here. Also, be careful what you write because narcissist’s are like arsonists – not only in how they leave their victims completely burnt out – but they want the recognition for the damage they caused. They feed off your pain, like a vulture on a carcass. As long as it’s about them or the damage they caused, inferred or otherwise, they will read it. Why? Because they want to know they’re still impacting your life. Make the determined decision not to give them that satisfaction and to move forward in healthier ways.
- Accept that they never loved you
The sooner you accept that this person never loved you, the sooner you will be able to release that chapter from your life. “What one must always remember is that narcissists do not love. They do not form normal, healthy, attachment bonds to anyone. To a narcissist, their partners are objects, a source of supply, nothing more. And coming to terms with the fact, that you meant nothing, to someone who meant so much to you, is incredibly painful,” Savannah Gray said. Instead of continually going over the trauma and trying to find evidence that they did in fact love you, spend time moving forward and look at how you can in fact love yourself – even better than they could ever love you. Accept the lies as lies, you can’t change them. Instead focus on how you can better protect yourself from the same abuse going forward. Be grateful you escaped, as difficult as this may be some days, pity those that remain or anyone who may get sucked in and duped – remember always, they work in cycles – if it’s not you, it’ll be someone else and they will suffer the same treatment they put you through.
- Focus on yourself
Know that you deserve to be loved for being you, not just for what you have to offer. Know that not having been loved for who you are or not having been loved period, does not mean you are unlovable. You are lovable and you are lovable exactly as you are. In fact, anyone who knew me over the past few years, everyone agreed that I’m a lot more loveable without the narcissist in my life. A lot of this stemmed from him isolating me. Get to know yourself, get to know what you need, stop protecting the narcissist, be honest with yourself and start protecting yourself by no contact (it’s the only way), be your own best friend, decide what you want out of life. Respect your emotions, trust your intuition and allow yourself to be informed by them.
- Get set to date again
Be aware of seduction, know that seduction is inevitably bound up with deception, do not take words for reality, take your cue from actions. Take a step back from enmeshment and enticement and observe how you get hooked in. Understand that not everyone thinks and operates like you. Understand that the pathological narcissist tends to view care, goodwill and empathy as weakness – and they will exploit it. A great book to read before you get back out into the dating scene is “But he said he loves me” by Dina L McMillan Ph.D.
Moving on after narcissistic abuse
Victims of narcissistic abuse feel a lot of doubt and fear moving forward from their experience. It is difficult to reassure someone who has been through something so painful, but they can protect themselves going forward. Motivate yourself, or someone you suspect is being narcissistically abused, or if you know someone who has experienced this abuse, to get educated about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Recognise the signs of a narcissist – if you have trouble doing this, then try to recognise patterns from your previous experience with a narcissist early. Even those who have experienced it will be traumatised and looking for answers well after the relationship has ended.
Tips from Andrea Schneider include:
- Be conscious of the pace of dating and how fast they move things – if you’re using a dating website, only meet in public for the first few dates
- If the partner tries to rush the relationship it’s a red flag – people who respect your boundaries will work with you to slowly progress the relationship at a pace that is mutually agreed upon. Let the connection unfold slowly and observe to see actions and words are matching up
- Narcissists want to know about you but then fake being your soul mate by rushing you into consenting to a relationship or marriage – a healthy person will want to get to know your personality, dreams and interests and slowly evolve the relationship
- Dr Cara Barker wrote an article for Huffington Post which shares seven ways you can protect yourself from narcissistic abuse going forward.
How can you protect yourself going forward?
The more you educate yourself about narcissistic abuse and the signs and symptoms of this abuse and people with NPD, the less likely you will be to end up in a similar relationship going forward.
Out of the Fog talks about the common traits and characteristics of a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I want to point out a few that my story touched on: bullying, baiting, cheating, emotional blackmail, sense of entitlement, false accusations, gaslighting, grooming, harassment, intimidation, lack of conscience, narcissism, neglect, no-win scenarios, pathological lying, proxy recruitment, shaming, stalking, threats and here’s a big one in my story – the use of: “triangulation” which was demonstrated several times as the narcissist tried to make his wife out to be the perceived threat, before turning to my parents in an attempt to cause conflict between us. After Narcissistic Abuse shares another glossary called ‘Top 100 traits of the disordered’.
Dr Craig Malkin also shares great insight into narcissistic traits including projected feelings of insecurity, emotion-phobia, a fragmented family story, idol worship and a high need to control. Make sure you check out the article for more!
More common symptoms of the behaviours of a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are shared on Facebook. The more of these traits you remember, the better you will be able to protect yourself going into your next relationship.
After Narcissistic Abuse also shared a blog post highlighting the characteristics of the narcissist.
And finally, I want to share this YouTube video with you called: The Narcissist Relationship – It’s not you. This is a very raw and revealing explanation of what it’s like to go through narcissistic abuse and how it leaves you feeling, put together by Psychopath Free. The responding comments below the video clip shows how many victims – or survivors – have educated themselves for their journeys going forward.
Tomorrow we look at life through a narcissist’s eyes and why you may attract narcissists.
More recommended reading:
Narcissistic abuse – how it occurs and how to overcome it by Melanie Tonia Evans
Narcissist Victim Syndrome: what the heck is that? By Christine Louis de Canonville