Surviving Narcissism

Why Victims Stay in Narcissistic Relationships

www.maryhumphreycoaching.com victims stay in toxic relationships

As an advocate for victims who are in or have been in narcissistic relationships, I all too often see blame placed on the victim for either not leaving the relationship, or for not breaking it off sooner.

If you have never been in an abusive relationship, you may wonder, “Why don’t they just leave?”

Why Victims of Narcissism Stick It Out

The list of reasons why people stay in toxic relationships is lengthy and endless. Every abusive relationship holds a unique story of its own.

Here are the common reasons people remain in narcissistic relationships (in no order of importance):

Lacks an Understanding of Narcissism – More often than not, people get involved with narcissists before they identify what they are dealing with. People that do not understand, or have never heard of narcissism (and yes, this is still common today), frequently get deep into relationships (i.e, marriage and children) before they put two and two together and realize that they are in a whirlpool of emotional abuse.

When victims do not understand narcissism, they can fall into the trap of believing that if they say or do the right thing, the abuser will change. Victims can fall prey to trauma bonding, meaning, they become hooked on the back and forth (good times in the relationship, love bombing, combined with emotionally abusive times). Years upon years, lifetimes, can be entangled in a narcissist’s web—sadly, while the victim remains in place and staunchly believies that the relationship is foundationally good and that someday the abuse will go away.

Note: True narcissists, those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), either refuse to change (refuse to accept that their behavior is not appropriate and/or shifts the blame to others), and treatment typically does not help.

Protect the Children – Divorce rates are at an all-time high, yet, victims in toxic relationships commonly keep the marriage intact because they do not want their still-at-home children to experience divorce.

It is not uncommon for a parent victim to fear losing custody of their children, especially when the spouse, or extended family, are strongly rooted in narcissism. This is like a two-prong fork, staying hurts the victim (and can emotionally scar the children) in the relationship, leading the victim parent to weigh out, “Is it bad enough for me to simply leave, and hope that I can remove my children from this pain?” Or, “Do my children seem happy and safe? If I stay, my children will not suffer from the effects of a broken home. Which is worse? Which is better?”

Fear – Fear of the unknown may keep a person deeply rooted in an unhealthy relationship.

Fear frequently sounds like: Where will I live? Will I lose my children? He/she has threatened me so many times, how will he/she react if I leave? After all these years, how can I make it in the world alone?

Shame – Victims often feel ashamed that they are involved in a difficult relationship.

Part of this sense of shame can come from Gaslighting, which is the narcissist’s manipulative attempts to take control of the victim. It can also feel embarrassing to a victim to admit that they are being abused. They may also worry that their support system (family and friends) will judge them.

Love – Narcissists are super good at love-bombing. This often happens early in the relationship, leading a partner to feel they have found Mr. or Mrs. Right, falling ‘madly in love’, and unaware that they are being manipulated and groomed by the narcissist.

In truth, narcissists often lack self-esteem and the response that they receive from their partner due to their love-bombing gives them reassurance and feeds their self-enhancement supply needs. The victim, however, can simply feel immense love, and later in the relationship, even if emotional abuse sets in, they long for the partner they “once knew.”

Financial Control – Finances in a narcissistic relationship can go in several directions, and can also involve financial abuse (preventing the victim from having the ability to leave).

The victim may be manipulated into being the sole breadwinner, with the narcissist contributing very little and reaping the benefits of a roof over their head and food on their table (i.e., a sense of entitlement). In these situations, the narcissist often feels entitled to a financial stipend, which can be costly for the victim if they feel this is their only way to get out of the relationship.

In other abusive relationships, the narcissist may have complete control of the household finances, from bringing home the paycheck to operating the bank account, to hovering over the victim to ensure they have no way to earn an income. This leaves the victim in a pickle (feeling unable to leave with no financial means). If this is your situation, know that you are not alone. Call emergency services if you are in danger of physical abuse. Otherwise, seek help through a shelter or advocacy organization. Advocacy organizations can walk you through your options.

Low Self-Esteem – Some victims enter narcissistic relationships with low self-esteem, leaving them vulnerable to manipulative abuse. Some victims lose self-esteem after being in a narcissistic relationship for a while. This can happen after months and years of verbal manipulative abuse (see Gaslighting).

Some victims are codependents. They enter toxic relationships knowing nothing better than emotional or physical abuse (raised as children in an abusive or neglectful home). At the root, codependents believe that their needs are not worth being met. Codependents become enablers, as they do nothing to stop the abuse. If this is your situation, please seek help from a therapist or counselor. You deserve much better in life.

Faith – People stick it out in abusive relationships, marriage especially, when they find no backing in their faith that supports their reason to leave or divorce.

Even after the narcissist cheats, the partner may still believe they can turn the relationship around. Manipulative narcissists are commonly chronic cheaters. It can take an enormous length of time for victims to realize that it does not matter how “good” of a partner they are…the narcissist will only blame the victim for their infidelity and they typically refuse to accept responsibility for their behavior.

There is hope. Scripture for the Christian faith, read Matthew 19:9 and Matthew 5:32.

Avoid Blaming or Shaming the Victim

Not only are victims often blamed for the abuse, but they are also shamed, which can add to a victim’s feelings of confusion, bewilderment, and abandonment. The more they are blamed and shamed, the less chance they will stand up for their own rights in life. Truthfully, shaming the victim is abusive in itself. I hope you are not experiencing this in your life!

Instead of blaming or shaming the victim, ask yourself “What can I do?” “How can I help?” You can listen. Check out these two sections Don’t Say These Things to the Victim and What You Can Do to Help in my blog Don’t Blame the Victim (of Narcissistic Abuse).

Practice Compassion

As common as narcissistic abuse is, and it is growing more common as time goes on, people in our world need to develop compassion, and I believe that can only happen through education. Education = an understanding of narcissism and narcissistic relationships.

If you are a victim of narcissistic abuse, I want you to thrive! You deserve nothing less. Have self-compassion and take care of yourself! Remember one key thing…the abuse is not your fault, and abuse is never okay.

Believe & Invest In You · Goal Setting and Prioritizing · Managing Stress

Journaling is a Form of Self-Care

www.maryhumphreycoaching.com journaling self-care

We all need self-care, right?! We are human and we are worth it!

Journaling is a form of self-care. It is holistic and mentally therapeutic.

Amongst the (way too many) positives to mention, journaling can help us control our moods, and to identify both negative and positive thoughts. Journal-keeping can also help us prioritize, work out fears, frustrations, and challenges.

“Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.” – Mina Murray

Five Types of Journaling

There are no set rules for journal writing. Here are five basic types of journaling:

Personal Journal – Journal as if you are having a conversation with yourself. Period.

Pick up your pen and write about your day, and don’t leave out your thoughts and feelings. Write freely and do not hinder yourself with grammar or spelling perfection. Do not be surprised if you end up with a 6-page entry for one day. It happens…and it is a good thing! Remember, this is self-talk and you will learn MUCH about YOU!

Personal journaling can be a great relationship tool. You may describe how you are irritated at a loved one or confused about a co-worker, for example, and suddenly in the midst of writing, you gain a fresh perspective of the relationship. Writing is a quiet deep-thinking way to sort out what can feel impossible.

A personal journal is also a wonderful meditation tool. As you empty out your random (or otherwise) thoughts onto paper, you may unlock things from your mind as the words flow. Scary? Not so much. Think of the peace and resolve you can experience.

Prayer Journal – Write your journal in prayer to God. Consider writing your entries as praise, followed by prayer for others, and then write your personal concerns and prayer requests. If you are a writer, you may find it easier to write out a prayer than to speak it. It is normal!

Gratitude Journal  – End or start your day with a short gratitude post. What are you grateful for today? Write your items of gratitude out as a list, or as several sentences (or more) a day.

Health Journal – You can record a myriad of things in a health journal. What did you eat? What form and amount of exercise did you complete? What was your trigger food? When did you feel a boost of vitality (or fatigue)? Later, when you are happy with your results (or not) your journal can be a method for determining what worked and what did not.

Entrepreneur Journal – Record your observations after you meet with a client, after your day ends, or whenever your thoughts are rich with fresh ideas. Journaling is a great tool to help you analyze where you are at and where you want to go. Don’t forget to log your next action steps. This works, trust me, it does work.

Powerful Throughout the Day Journaling

Journaling is typically done once a day, but micro-journaling throughout the day adds a powerful punch to the results.

Imagine journaling prayer/gratitude/and celebration (of your accomplishments) into one short paragraph-length entry ‘as it happens,’ in real-time. It only takes a moment to jot the words onto paper, or on a virtual notepad on your phone.

Here is what it looks like (using Jane in this example):

12/9/20 He (God) has helped me to get the content for my new business published. I prayed for days because I did not know how to get this part of the business started, yet, I now realize that I accomplished what I thought was impossible, and I did it in His grace. It flowed out from me! I did all of this today…in just ONE morning!

So, in this example, Jane attributed her accomplishments to God. She noted that God had answered her prayers. She also gave herself a pat on the back for her achievements.

The sheer act of writing our achievements down is powerful, especially for someone that has trouble identifying these areas of celebration and accomplishment…which are important factors in awareness and self-worth!

Take away: Write it down before you forget it, write it down so you have words to celebrate your accomplishments by!

Sometimes, our accomplishments come to us as revelations, meaning, we learn something surprising about ourselves, or all at once we see what is on the horizon and feel empowered to take the next step. These are perfect moments to jot it down (journal throughout the day). It keeps us accountable and true to ourselves!

Journaling is Not Expensive

Even though there are many beautiful journals available in today’s marketplace, journal-keeping does not need to be expensive. Spiral notebooks are great for journaling. Imagine buying notebooks during back-to-school sales (I’ve paid as low as 10 cents a piece for spiral notebooks).

Do you journal?

Do you journal, or do you have plans to start journaling?

My New Year’s intentions are to continue micro-journaling throughout the day. It has grown to be a powerful tool in my life and business. We are busy people, which means we often forget our achievements, our fresh ideas, etc., and journaling is a way to keep it going.

Surviving Narcissism

I Am Not the Problem | Triggers from Gaslighting | Boundary Setting

www.hispasturepress.com Gaslighting TriggersHave you ever felt the sting of a past experience jump out at you—and it triggered memories of abusive gaslighting, which led you to question, “Where did that come from? I thought I had buried all of that!” It happens to most, if not all of us, that have experienced gaslighting.

When these memories arise, we often wonder, “What can I do to make this go away?” There are steps that we can take, but it does not involve changing the gaslighter or hitting the delete button on the memory.

From the mouth of a non-brain specialist (me), I believe that we have no control over the elaborate encoding and storage process that takes place in our brain, but, I do believe that we can change the impact and guard the trajectory of specific memories (because memories are a product of a physical change within our brain).

“Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking. When we hope, it is an activity of the mind that changes the structure of our brain in a positive and normal direction.” – Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist, author of the book Switch on Your Brain.

Are boundaries a part of mental real estate? Yes! When we set boundaries, we change the “structure of (y)our brain through (y)our thinking.” We create a mindset of hope (a feeling of expectation and desire for certain thing(s) to happen) vs. allowing the undesirable memory to grow larger and to mentally beat us up. When we have no boundaries in place, we allow the past to become the present and the future, and we add to the unpleasant memory with the lies that we unconsciously accept (i.e., gaslighting—”You are crazy.” “You are too sensitive.” “You made this up.” “If it weren’t for you…I wouldn’t be like I am.”).

So, let’s go back to the first two paragraphs of this blog. Something triggered you to remember the narcissistic words said to you via gaslighting, and now you are wondering why. You thought you had buried “all of that.” You in-turn blame yourself for being sensitive (remember, you aren’t being sensitive…these memories have unconsciously been hard-wired into your brain), and you chastise yourself for remembering the episode(s) to begin with! Ugh! What do you do? Set a boundary.

The abuser/narcissistic person may or may not be in your life today, but by setting a boundary in place, you develop a mindset. You change your brain and subsequent memories which affects how you react when the memories pop back in. The boundary must be strategically set on realistic expectations, the foundation of: I am not the problem.

Let’s dig into the boundary I call I AM NOT THE PROBLEM: The narcissist typically blames you because they do not take responsibility for their own behavior. They blame you when they do not get what they want. They blame you because they lack empathy (and refuse to see the situation as it truthfully is). The narcissist attempts to gaslight you as a means to alter your reality and to gain control of you. But, you are not the problem!

When you gain the mindset of I AM NOT THE PROBLEM, you set a mental boundary that bolsters you from the abuse of gaslighting and any memories surrounding it. Your (long) mission statement is (and repeat after me), “Regardless of what I do, I cannot change (insert name of gaslighter). I accept this, and my role in life does NOT involve taking responsibility for the repair of (him/her). I am rooted in the truth that despite any emotionally abusive words, I am the owner of my values, my beliefs, and my thoughts. I trust my instincts. I trust myself. Nobody can, nor will, remove that TRUTH from me.

So, the next time a gaslighting memory pops up, or, when you find yourself in a gaslighting situation, visualize and declare the boundary I am not the problem. 1) You are not over-sensitive. 2) You cannot change this person. To change, they must admit that change is needed, and they must accept professional help (and, by the way, therapy for Narcissistic Personality Disorder typically does not work). 3) Do not react. 4) Do not wonder why you cannot forget the gaslighting.

You cannot permanently bury your memories, but when they do make an appearance you can be the master alterer before your brain puts them back into storage.

Disclaimer: As a life coach, I do not “treat” mental or brain issues. I coach. I guide through a series of listening and asking questions. I help clients reach their goals—everyday life goals that people can achieve without therapy. Clients who need treatment for trauma, disorders, or any mental issues or illness, are referred to therapists and counselors.

Surviving Narcissism

Gaslighting | Narcissistic Manipulation

www.hispasturepress.com gaslighting

One of the top tactics narcissists (and those with narcissistic tendencies) use on their victims is called gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a manipulative attempt to take control of someone by making the person feel as if they are losing their sanity.

Narcissists typically attempt to shift responsibility for their own behavior through gaslighting.

Gaslighters often use what is near and dear to the victim’s heart to evoke shame. An example of this is, “See how your child is acting? You should never have had children. Look at how your sensitivity is rubbing off. That child is a mess, just like you!” 

The most common statements that narcissists make when gaslighting are: “You are crazy!” “You made that up!” “You are a fake!” “You are sick!” “That didn’t happen!” “You are too sensitive!” 

How is any of this possible? Why would anyone accept or allow gaslighting? The examples of gaslighting that I can give are unlimited, but let’s work with one. (Note: A narcissist can be male or female. I chose to use a female in this example for simplicity.) The young wife (Naomi) fell “head over heels” in love with her husband (David) when they were dating. He initially showered her with a dramatic grandeur type of love.

Naomi came into the relationship with a heart of respect and dedication—with a mindset of determination that the marriage would be solid regardless of what it might take. She did not foresee emotional abuse.

David swiftly picked up on Naomi’s soft-hearted and devoted values, but this did not “feed” David’s ego. What Naomi did not realize is that David had grandiose ideas of what his sex and love life should look like. He soon began to stray outside of the marriage. 

David began to arrive home from work later and later, and then one night, he did not come home at all. The next morning, he made up a convincing story, and he backed it up with gaslighting. His arsenal included the statements, “You are over-sensitive!” and “You are fabricating!” When Naomi cried in disbelief and frustration, David replied, “Quit acting like a fool! You need to grow up! You need help!” Shame washed over Naomi, and she wondered if she was overreacting. 

Naomi is an example of a victim that is deeply emphatic and one that believes in sheer dedication to a marriage. Like many other empaths (a person with the ability to understand the experiences and feelings of others outside of their own perspective…one that may automatically sense, and feel, the emotions of others), Naomi knows that she is indeed sensitive in that respect, but that she is not overly sensitive to the point that she loses a sense of reality. But, this is where the narcissist is often able to wear a person down, leaving them doubting their self-logic.  After months and years of gaslighting, weariness and confusion can set in—victims will often begin to question their own perception. 

An emphatic person, especially one who feels heartbroken after being emotionally abused by their loved one, may cling to the thought that they can make a difference in their marriage or relationship. They believe that if they do or say the right thing that their partner will love them as they once did and that their relationship will heal. They then adopt the heavy role of repair-person, not realizing that the narcissistic behavior may/can/most likely will continue despite their efforts. 

Victims commonly do not know that they need to work self-preservation boundaries into their lives. The bottom line is that the victim of narcissistic behavior does have a problem (i.e., partnering in a toxic relationship), but typically they ARE NOT THE PROBLEM

In our next blog, we talk about triggers related to gaslighting, and prevention through boundary setting. 

Have you been a victim of gaslighting? What tactics have you used to preserve your well-being? 

Surviving Narcissism

Does Treatment Help a Person With NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)?/Can They Improve Without Therapy?

Does treatment help a person with NPD (Narcissist Personality Disorder)? Typically, no. Check out the attached video from Dr. Todd Grande for a deeper explanation. Skip to 6:37 if you wish to get straight to the point where he answers this question.

I believe people with NPD do not seek treatment because they (like many of us intinctively believe) do not “fix something that isn’t broken.” Narcissists believe that their behaviors are normal. Why would you seek therapy for something that you deem correct?

If a person with NPD never seeks treatment, they can appear to improve. You may have witnessed this yourself and it may have led you to think, Do they love this person in their new relationship more (or is the new partner better at dealing with NPD)? Did the person with NPD improve because they are more mature (older) or sick? Did the person with NPD finally wake up? 

These are all valid thoughts! The answer is, per Dr. Grande, a person with NPD can adapt and get better at avoiding classic narcissistic behavior, but, they will still believe their behavior, options, and values are normal and correct.

What has been your experience? Have you known someone with NPD that has (1) sought treatment and did/did not improve, (2) appeared to improve without therapy?

Aromatherapy

Scent Pleasure into Your Life

As I gently massaged my favorite blend of essential oils (and absolutes) with almond oil www.maryhumphreycoaching.com aromatherapyinto my arms and legs this morning, I felt the nudging to blog about this pleasure point in my life.

I received a foundation level aromatherapy certification in the year 2010. I enjoyed including essential oil blends in my soap and lotions (via my business that I closed in 2012, Annie’s Goat Hill Handcrafted Soaps). I have since continued to investigate blends that both ground me and serve therapeutic purposes on a regular basis.

My “perfect” bespoke (personal) fragrance is a combination of patchouli essential oil (Pogostemon cablin), vanilla absolute oil, and jasmine (Jasminum officinale/grandiflorum). This blend brings me to a warm and comforting “home-spot” no matter what I experience in life that day. I hardly go without it. The patchouli has an earthiness to it, the vanilla adds a touch of sweetness, and the jasmine is exotic, calming, and euphoric. I don’t ingest these oils orally, but my olfactory system says Yum!!!

Natural fragrance blends are a huge part of my daily life—as they create an ambiance that I start my day by. I do, however, shift from blend to blend to ensure I do not acclimate to one oil (dear, dear, patchouli), to the point I am unable to smell it. That would be a sad day for me.

Do you have a bespoke or signature fragrance? Why did you choose it (what benefits does it create in you)?

I did just recently clear out my “old” supply of essential oils, resins, and absolutes. I have studied aromatherapy for over a decade, so I’ve paid close attention to safety (responsible usage guidelines i.e. dilution rates and no internal ingestion of oils), but the one thing that I ignored was the age of my supply. So, even though my oldest of base note oils smelled better than ever, they no longer held any therapeutic value. Sadly, I departed with the (over 150) bottles that I stockpiled—nobody needs that many! I then started fresh, which actually brought new enjoyment into the mix.

Note: If you do keep essential oils on hand remember to apply a date to the bottle, so you replace them when they no longer are viable for aromatherapy use. I’ll cover that suggested timeline in a future post. Also do not forget to refrigerate your citrus, or citrus-based, oils and blends.

Do you partake in aromatherapy? What oils do you keep in your kit?

I believe in a powerful boost from nature (through concentrated plant oils) when our bodies signal that we are in need (pain, stress, discomfort, or simply feeling off-balance). Do you?

Surviving Narcissism

What is a Narcissist?

www.maryhumphreycoaching.com what is a narceissistWhen I started dating my former husband, I had never heard of the term narcissist. In fact, I stumbled across the term approximately 38 years later.

In today’s society, the title narcissist is frequently and loosely applied to self-centered people who show some traits of narcissism. People who are “ate up with themselves,” however, do not always display all of the prominent markers of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). People who are arrogant and boisterous, for example, are not necessarily narcissists—yet, they may have a few narcissistic traits in their personality.

Traits of a Narcissist

People embodied with NPD have traits that typically include manipulative tactics and forms of abuse.

They lack empathy and they go to extremes to take advantage of people. An example of this: The narcissist says, “I am so concerned for you,” as they wrap their arms around you and ask you in a coyly, “tell me what is wrong.” Later, the narcissist will use what you share with them against you, like a bullet. The narcissist picks up their gun and shoots you when you are least expecting it. You are then stunned and dead in your tracks! They use the information that they gathered from you when you were open and vulnerable to their best advantage, and at a great disadvantage to you.

Special treatment and entitlement go hand in hand in a narcissist’s mind. Regardless of how they treat you or others, a narcissist expects to be treated like a queen or a king. If they feel inconvenienced or uncomfortable in any way, they lift their own self up by striking out in a manner that belittles others, “You’re stupid,” “You do not have a heart,” “Those dumb … (fill in the blanks),” “That is for losers, and it is not for me!”

They possess grandiose ideas about themselves. Narcissists believe they are more intelligent, more successful, are better lovers, have better looks, and are more important than others. They are masters at disguise and they feel a sense of power over others.

They are insecure, envious, sensitive, and thin-skinned. Narcissists lash out at the smallest degree of criticism or personal challenge. A narcissist, for example, will verbally strike out at people that have obtained something in life that he/she has not been able to achieve. It looks like this: “Well, they have their degree. They think their *** does not stink.” “They can have ***, I think it is ugly as ***.” “They may have ***, but they aren’t cool like I am.” “I hope their house burns down,” might be their envious words when someone they know buys a new home.

My prior husband/narcissist would often say (about his own mother), “I hope she dies and rots in hell.” This was said at the spur of the moment, seemingly for no reason—but particularly when his mother experienced something good in life. When the day came that he realized I was moving on, that he no longer had control over me, she was the first person that he called. He ran me into the ground with intense exaggeration, and then she asked no questions. I then realized that she (and other family members) had joined together as a narcissist troupe well before that phone call. That was an eye-opening 5 minutes of my life!

They get what they want through interpersonally exploitive behavior. What does that mean? It means taking advantage of others to achieve what they want in life.

A narcissist uses family members, friends, and even their children to execute their plans. Narcissists are often masters at constructing their own army of supporters, and these “helpers” have a name, “flying monkeys.” Victims of narcissistic relationships can be left with confusing feelings of, “Who can I trust?”

Narcissists typically use a manipulative tactic on their victims termed “gaslighting.” In my experience, gaslighting occurs alongside all of the above traits. Gaslighting is a tool used in an attempt to convince the victim to doubt their own perception. Common gaslighting statements: “You are crazy,” “You are way too sensitive,” “If you were more loving, I wouldn’t seek out others,””You are lying,” “I didn’t say that,” “You are imagining things,” “You are sick,” “You are a fake,” and “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Narcissists’ Difficulties in Life

Even though the narcissist can smoothly pull in their own army of flying monkeys, they often fail in certain “normal” areas of life because some people see the truth.

Employment difficulties are common with narcissists. Employers detect and don’t buy into the lies, and they also see the manipulation of others.

Failure with relationships (friends and family members) is also common with narcissists. The narcissist is excellent at pulling in their army of flying monkeys, yet, there are people that see the tactics early on in the relationship and they never allow the manipulation. In other words, they keep their distance.

Can Narcissism be Diagnosed and Treated?

There is no specific test for NPD. It is not a disease and there are no physical markers of the disorder. If the narcissist admits that they have these problems, therapy may help, but the problem is that most narcissists see the world through their own lenses—and they believe the world is the problem and that they are the victim.

Talk with Supporters

If you are a victim in a toxic relationship, I encourage you to face the truth and reach out to others for support.

I typically coach survivors of toxic narcissistic relationships. Sometimes it is difficult to later put our best foot forward and stretch ourselves to accomplish our goals in life.

But, if you need a trusting person to hear what you have to say, whether you are the victim in the relationship today, or if the victim is your loved one, or if you are a survivor … I encourage you to reach out to me.

Upcoming Posts:

Gaslighting, Flying Monkeys, Self-Centered vs. Narcissist, Empaths and Narcissism, Forgiveness vs. Boundaries

Surviving Narcissism

Don’t Blame the Victim (of Narcissistic Abuse)

www.maryhumphreycaoching.com don't blame the victimVictims in narcissistic relationships often do not realize that they are under the thumb of a person who has NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), or they may be aware of the abuse and choose to live with it for various reasons.

Narcissistic Charmer

Narcissists pull in their victims through a slinky way of charming early in the relationship and often fool anyone that they meet through their persona of perfection (i.e. loving, gift-giving, protecting, fun-loving, devoted, and more).

Victim is Hooked

Victims often fall deeply in love before they notice the narcissist’s tactics.

As love is poured upon a person, especially someone who is an empath (sensitive, sympathetic, feels the feelings of others), a to-be victim becomes perfectly blinded and molded by the narcissist and then once they are brainwashed, the victim frequently sticks with their abuser and defends their reason(s) to remain in the relationship.

Reasons the Victim Remains in the Relationship

As time goes on after the honeymoon stage of the relationship, the narcissist begins to manipulate the victim. The early abuse often emerges in subtle ways. Victims are classically unaware that they are vulnerable prey. Victims typically don’t know how to stop the early tactics, and they characteristically fear that they’ll drive a wedge into what they believe is a rock-solid relationship.

If the victim is married to the narcissist, they often are determined to stick it out. Children may have already come into the relationship, and parents may want to save their marriage for the sake of the kid’s well-being. Commitment to the relationship is a classic reason why victims continue living with an abuser.

The most common reasons victims remain in toxic relationships:

  • They don’t want to hurt the person that previously showered them with love. Their eyes remain focused on the person that they fell in love with and they want to get them back. “If I give this some more time, if I remain strong, they (i.e. the narcissist) will see that I am determined and committed, and they will change their ways.”
  • They do not want to accept that they are being abused. They make excuses for the narcissist’s behavior, and they begin to blame themselves. “If only I was more patient.” “Perhaps I am not seeing what I think I am seeing.” “He/she doesn’t feel well, so that makes the behavior okay.” “This doesn’t happen very often. I can live with it.”
  • Fear entices victims to hang onto an abusive relationship. They often fear several things, especially the loss of children, family, friends, church, finances, or their home. Victims frequently go into an avoidance mode, “If I lay low, I won’t lose anything. I can do this!”

What You Can Do to Help

Educate yourself on what a narcissist is and how they manipulate their victims. Learn how boundaries can be set that will help the victim identify and get away from their abuser. Share what you have learned with the victim, especially the red flags that indicate a narcissistic personality disorder. The sooner the victim understands that there is a name for what they are experiencing, the sooner they will seek help.

Do not be surprised if the victim does not want to hear what you have to say. Remember, they may be ashamed of the relationship, or that it isn’t working well, and they may be living in a state of denial that their relationship isn’t healthy. They have had a false reality dictated to them by the person that they loved for many months or years.

Be prepared. Research local assistance that can help the victim remain safe. Some narcissists never turn to physical abuse, and others slip into dangerous rages. Some narcissists only threaten physical abuse. To be threatened is valid enough warning to get away from the abuser and to seek shelter.

Assistance can also be given in the form of money. Victims are commonly leery that their plans will be exposed if they dig into a shared bank account and draining a joint account may lead to legal ramifications.

Don’t Blame the Victim

If you suspect someone is a victim of narcissistic abuse, don’t blame the victim.

To validate themselves and their behavior, the narcissist is already blaming the victim. Don’t add to the victim’s unfortunate dilemma by agreeing that they are the cause of the problem.

Victims are often blamed by the narcissist and his/her flying monkeys. Flying monkeys is the narcissist’s army, consisting of people that he/she has convinced that the victim is the root of his or her behavior. Imagine a church pastor, family member, or best friend, turning against you, refusing to help you, blaming you for the narcissist’s tactics, or accusing you of lying, or prompting the abuse. Yes, this happens—a lot!

Don’t Say These Things to the Victim

Don’t negatively label the narcissist in front of the victim. I’ll share my example with you:

My sister had taken me out to lunch, and she gave me money to begin my divorce process. I had bible-based authority (adultery) to divorce my narcissist husband years before. He was verbally abusive and threatened me with physical abuse if I stood up for myself. He was tricky, and I cowered to his tactics. All that I understood was that he had a temper and that he had verbal tactics that were nasty. I didn’t know there was a name for it—narcissism. As my sister handed the cash to me that day, she said, “He is such a jerk!” I felt offended and I was hurt, and I later asked her to not say those types of things about him. I couldn’t imagine why or how I protected him considering the abuse, but I did. I still wanted the husband that I first loved to return. I was dedicated, but I also feared. I feared losing my job, my home, and my children. I had a vision that I would be put out on the streets, or behind bars. I had no reason to be locked up, but I had lost my sense of self-worth.

Don’t tell your friend or loved one what you feel they must do. People need to come to a place where they realize what they need to do for themselves before they choose to act. Have patience with your loved one, as this process often takes time.

The most important thing that you can do is listen. Don’t interject your own words unless the victim asks for your advice or opinion. If the victim knows that you are listening and that you believe they are in an abusive situation, you encourage, heal and strengthen the victim’s self-worth and sense of reality.

Talk with Supporters

If you are a victim in a toxic relationship, I encourage you to face the truth and reach out to others for support.

I typically coach survivors of toxic narcissistic relationships. Sometimes it is difficult to later put our best foot forward and stretch ourselves to accomplish our goals in life.

But, if you need a trusting person to hear what you have to say, whether you are the victim in the relationship today, or if the victim is your loved one, or if you are a survivor … I encourage you to reach out to me.

Believe & Invest In You · Life's Challenges & Choices

We Don’t Know Our Age, Continue Growing!

age and learning www.maryhumphreycoaching.comA friend spoke sage words today, “Age is only a number. We’re never too old to learn.”

These words practically mirrored the thoughts that I had yesterday, we can always find energy when we allow ourselves to absorb something new in our lives. By something new, I was thinking about learning some additional processes to grow my small business and to create new sources of residual income.

As humans, we drive hopes of learning into the mud when we entertain negative thoughts, such as I’ve done this before, why should it work now?, or, I am tired, I don’t want to start new again, or, will this ever stop, this finding something to work on, to improve? Why give up on the inquisitive and fulfilling journey of living a full life as long as we are breathing and able? Who is counting our (many) attempts to grow? Nobody. Besides that, we are all too busy to pin a number on the attempts others have made. More importantly, it does n.o.t. matter.

My life motto (share, encourage, and grow) does not reflect these negative thoughts. I believe we are always growing, whether we realize it or not. We are always morphing, pivoting, and improving. If we aren’t, we’re dead. Do I ever fall off of the positive and encouraging thought-filled bandwagon? Yes. I derail. What helps me get back on track and glide my engine back to working order? Two things—God and friends.

By sharing, by being open and raw with our stories and endeavors, we encourage others, and this is one of those beautiful ripple effect things—encouragement grows encouragement.

This makes me think of Dr. Tony Evans’ words, who recently said in one of his sermons of hope (as he reflected on the passing of his wife, Dr. Lois Evans), “We don’t know our age.” His words are an encouragement to live in the now, to not stop working towards our end goal, to never stop encouraging, to never stop learning. To remain passionate as if there is no end to face. We don’t know our age, continue growing!

Today, I encourage you to look at life through the eyes of a child. A child that is curious. A child that does not reflect on how many years I have already lived, or, how many times I believe I have failed. I encourage you to ignore those lies.

“Oh, the joy of young ideas painted on the mind, in the warm, glowing colors fancy spreads on objects not yet known, when all is new and all is lovely!” – Hannah More

Believe & Invest In You · Goal Setting and Prioritizing · Life's Challenges & Choices · Managing Stress · Women in Transition

Words for the New Year: In the Present

Living in the Present www.maryhumphreycoaching.comI started the new year with no “words” for the year, meaning, no specific words to guide me in any particular direction.

As I look up at my white and bulletin board, I see a collage of many words, sayings, and scripture that I cannot say are “from the past,” as these endeavors are virtuous attempts that I do not assign completed-by dates to. After all, we are always a work-in-progress.

A week or so ago, the words “In the Present” lifted me up and nudged at my heart.

So, what does in the present mean to me? These three words tell me to live fully in the present moment, and this is a list of what I pledge to ensure it happens (in no order of importance):

  • I will pick up books and frequently read. I will read the books that I already own and I will purchase new books as the year progresses.
  • I will not overthink tomorrow. There is a difference between planning and worry.
  • I will breathe (relax) and just be where I am planted right now. Have you ever focused on your breathing and noticed that your heart rate goes down? I do this frequently on my FitBit.
  • I will work in God’s grace, meaning, I will not work at my own pace and with God’s strength—not mine.
  • I will enjoy every color, scent, or design in my environment as if I am looking at life through the eyes of a child.
  • I will laugh often. We forget to laugh, and laughter is an incredible and healing blessing. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22 ESV)
  • I will not look back at the past (except to be joyous in what I have learned).
  • I will continue to rid my home of unneeded items (purge, live simply, declutter).
  • I will forgive (immediately) and hold no past grudges.
  • I will place no idols above God.

I am sure I have missed some promises-to-self in this short list, but that is okay because I am very much aware of my assignment, to live fully IN the present.

The last pledge, “I will place no idols above God,” deserves some explanation. When I think about idols my mind quickly forms images of statues and other material things that are a part of particular religions or spiritual practices. Idols can indeed be material things, but I describe idols as anything that we worship. This includes whatever frequently takes me away from my walk or time with God.  For example, I caught myself watching a plethora of YouTube videos on a particular Christian-based topic, but this went beyond worship or celebration (of God). I became nearly obsessive with learning about a group that is considered false teachers. I spent enough time researching the group that it became obvious to me that it was dragging me away from my bible study and prayer time. It definitely did not come from God. My interest became an idol. I repented and moved on.

I think about the Scripture, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatevever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:34 MSG)

There is a reason we’ve been told to not worry. I believe part is the reason is to protect our own mental and physical well-being. What good are we if we wear ourselves out into a state of illness? As I say after I don’t get a full restful night of sleep, “I don’t function well.” We must function well. Our lives, and how we serve others, depends on it.

Have you made any pledges for the new year? Did you start the year with “word(s) for the year”?