Surviving Narcissism

Elements of Healing (From Narcissistic Abuse) Part 2

www.maryhumphreycoaching.com elements of healing from narcissismHealing from narcissistic abuse is a process, and it looks different for everyone because every relationship is unique, and the same goes for emotionally abusive relationships.

You may be wondering where am I with my healing?

It is impossible to determine the number of steps or elements involved with healing from emotionally abusive relationships, but I am covering 8 main components. I discussed the first 3 of these pieces in Elements of Healing (From Narcissistic Abuse) Part 1 (here).

4. Reclaim Identity

You may not be the same person you were prior to entering a relationship with a narcissist, and then, you may not want to be that same person.

When you reclaim your identity you know who you are. You know your beliefs, core values, and which direction you want and need your life to take to maintain your mental well-being. You also know how you want, and should, be treated in a relationship.

You may not want to be the same person you were prior to the emotionally draining relationship because you are now stronger, more aware of what a narcissist looks like (their tactics and behavior), and you know what you might have lacked when you locked elbows with the narcissist. As you reclaim your identity, you are either working on regaining what you (then) missed, or you solidly have it under your belt today.

5. Self-Compassion and Celebrate You

As you heal, you have compassion for yourself. You no longer blame yourself for the narcissist’s behavior. You no longer believe that if you do the right thing, or say the right thing your relationship will upright itself and the narcissist will get better. You stop laying a guilt trip on yourself for getting into the relationship.

You learn to celebrate yourself.

You do even the smallest of things for yourself. You get out and do what you love. Sometimes, when we are in the healing process, it is accompanied by financial difficulties. Go out and spend little. Go to a bargain movie, the library, a thrift store, or, buy yourself something within a small budget. Start a journal (so very therapeutic)! The point is, celebrate YOU, celebrate your accomplishments…celebrate your life!

(Celebrate Your Accomplishments. Read more here.)

(Does therapy help a person diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Read more here.)

6. Feelings May Stick Around

Know that the feelings and emotions that you have—hurt, pain, frustration, confusion, grief, shock, etc., may stick with you for a while.

Think of it as what it is, a grieving process. You have lost yourself to a relationship that you thought was ideal. You have lost the relationship with the partner that you thought was the love of your life.

When we grieve, it takes time to heal. Today, we may feel the hand of healing upon us, and then tomorrow something may trigger us to feel emotions that we thought were buried and long gone. Allow yourself to feel what you feel at the moment.

Allow yourself to acknowledge the where and the why of your feelings, but, I want you to pat yourself on the back at the same time. You are in the healing process and what you feel today is not permanent. You own your good feelings, and you own your uncomfortable feelings (they come and they go).

7. Seeking New Love Relationships

While you are healing, one of the last things that you should do is seek a new love relationship.

Give yourself time to heal. Give yourself time to recognize the milestones that you have reached in your healing. Give yourself time to understand who you are. You do not want to take the hurt, pain, or doubts, with you into a new relationship.

You may feel starved for love after any period of time with a narcissist, but love comes in many forms. The best form for you until you have healed is a friendship and not a romance.

When you give yourself time to heal, you will learn to expect what you need in life. You will expect respect in a mutually give and take relationship. You will know what is healthy for you.

8. Your Support System

You may have been in a narcissistic relationship, or in one, where you were led into isolation and for a time, you didn’t recognize it. It may have separated you from any sort of support system, leaving you to feel alone, as if you were on an island with your enormous struggles.

Especially when you are in the healing process, and this is always a human ‘need’ in life, ensure you have a support system that is made up of at least several people that you can trust and rely on.

Your support system can be friends, loved ones, or professionals that have your back. They listen with a non-judging ear. Your well-being is a priority to the people in your support system, and you are confident in your trust in them.

With a support system, you should find an honest mirroring back to you when you either thrive or slide back.

9. Speak as a Survivor

What you verbalize in life speaks volumes of how you view yourself. Are you a victim? Remember, you own who you are internally, and nobody can claim your thoughts, actions, beliefs, or core values. Are you a survivor? You may be a survivor. I hope you are! But, are you a thriver? Do you emanate a strong person that has the ability to, and/or, made your way beyond the hurdles of narcissistic abuse?

My own story (about being a victim): I was in a session with my life coach. I mentioned how angry and downgraded my boss led me to feel. He made me feel belittled, frustrated, and hurt. My life coach didn’t go easy on me, she let me know that I had adopted a victim mentality.

Victim mentality is defined by Merriam-Webster as the belief that one is always a victimthe idea that bad things will always happen to one.

I compared this definition to my (what felt like abusive) boss and how I related to his behavior. I then asked myself some questions, and these are the questions that you can ask yourself (in relation to how you feel about the emotional abuse that you have/are experiencing):

  • Am I always a victim?
  • Will bad things always happen to me?
  • Am I allowing his/her thoughts to victimize me, or am I setting mental boundaries and not claiming his/her thoughts/ideas/abusive words as the truth?
  • Am I living my life (mentally and physically) based on my own beliefs, thoughts, and core values? Or, am I mirroring a victim mentality?

My wake-up call/answer: I am NOT a victim! I have this!

Summing the Healing Process Up

The healing process is like a three-part book.

  • Part 1, the first section, you will not either understand or know what you need to heal from.
  • Part 2, page by page, your needs, wants, and well-being, as well as how to heal, arrives (gradually) from each page that you turn.
  • Part 3, you recognize your healing milestones. You recognize that you have closed one door and you have opened another. You recognize that you are breathing (an image of) fresh, clean, non-abusive air. You now feel free to enjoy your life. You trust yourself with renewed compassion. You stand on solid ground.

I hope you enjoyed this two-part series. We would love for you to share your own healing experience(s) in the comment section below.

Surviving Narcissism

Elements of Healing (From Narcissistic Abuse) Part 1

elements of healing from narcissistic abuse www.maryhumphreycoaching.comHealing from narcissistic abuse is a process, and it looks different for everyone because every relationship is unique, and the same goes for emotionally abusive relationships.

You may be wondering where am I with my healing?

It is impossible to determine the number of steps or elements involved with healing from emotionally abusive relationships, it may be limitless, but in this blog, I have identified 8 main components.

1. Acknowledgement and Acceptance

To acknowledge abuse, you give it a name. You call it what it is. It is not “it might be abuse.” It is not “abuse, but he/she is good to me.” It is not “Abuse, but he/she does not mean it.” It is abuse, emotional abuse. Period.

Acceptance mirrors acknowledgment. You do not make excuses for the narcissist. You do not deny that you have been abused. You accept, and you do not fight the fact that you have been abused. Abuse is never okay.

2. Set Boundaries

Boundary setting is also limitless, but when healing from narcissistic abuse, there are three main constituents important to the process.

Physical boundary. You go no contact. You put physical distance between you and the narcissist. You change your phone number. You change your social media profiles or accounts. Or, you may block the narcissist from finding you, calling you, or commenting on your social media accounts and online platforms.

Not everyone must take measures to go no contact (some narcissists will walk away without any further contact).

You may not be able to go no contact. You may be a parent with under-age children. You may share custody of your children with a narcissist. It is impossible to manage joint custody of younger children without some form of communication.

Conversational boundary. This boundary includes communicating with the narcissist, but this can be a tool to keep abusive behavior out of it. This involves making a statement to the narcissist, such as, “When you can talk in a calm and non-abusive manner, we can have a conversation about this.” Then, stick to it.

Mental boundary. There isn’t a soul on this earth that can change how you feel/think/believe. You know your own core values. You guide your life based on your beliefs and values. When/if you are being emotionally abused (and I hope never), or perhaps when something has triggered a memory of emotional abuse, let your mind go to the truth of who you are. You are not who or what the abuser says you are (see Gaslighting Narcissistic Manipulation). You are also not your thoughts. You are your beliefs and values…this is your TRUTH. You own this, and nobody can touch it!

It can be challenging to mentally put yourself in your place of truth, especially when you are in the midst of turmoil with a narcissist. It will become a habit once you practice it a number of times. It can be difficult to remain calm and to maintain a stoic facial expression, but the less emotion you display, the less you will tangle with the narcissist. The worst thing you can do is to fight back with your own defensive words. When you are defensive, it feeds the narcissistic. It validates, in the narcissist’s mind, that you are the problem and that their behavior/words/abuse is okay. Remember this, you will continue to heal as you practice this mental boundary. There will be a day in your life when you obtain and recognize healing milestones!

3. Myriad of Emotions

When healing from narcissistic emotional abuse, you feel a myriad of “normal” emotions.

Confusion sets in early in the healing process, and typically it occurs before a victim understands what they are dealing with (narcissism). Confusion sounds like, “What is going on with my relationship?”, “Why is he/she so mean and uncaring?”, “Is he/she mentally sick or unstable?”, “How did my relationship go from being a perfect love match (i.e. love bombing) to what it is today?”, “What is this? I do not understand what is going on!”

Once you work your way through the muck of confusion, the wheels of healing begin to move.

Grief (sadness, depression) is an early part of the healing process. Even though some levels of depression can be dangerous (please seek professional help if you are thinking of harming yourself, or if depression stops you from functioning in your day-to-day life), know that sporadic and brief periods of grief and sadness are normal to the healing process.

Grief comes and it goes. When it comes early in the process, it hurts because it is a loss, and it hurts ‘big.’

A client shared her story of healing and grief: She was out with her husband (a narcissist) at a shopping mall. She knew that her marriage was deeply troubled (mental abuse and adultery that the narcissist felt no shame for). The reality that her marriage might be unfixable had begun to hit her. She was walking along in the mall, in the middle of a non-stressful conversation with her husband, when a round of grief took her by surprise. She dashed into a store where she saw shelving that she could hide behind and she cried…she bent over in sheer emotional pain. When she was able to gather herself together, she returned to where the narcissist was waiting. His words were, “What is wrong with you? People are going to think you are an idiot.” Did she feel a sting from that comment? Yes, but it also validated that even though he knew that she was grieving, and why, he still chastised her for her behavior. This became one of many turning points for her to do something to regain control of her life. Devastation eventually transformed into a sense of surety.

Shock appears early in the healing process, and this where acknowledgment and acceptance are important. Shock diminishes once the abuse is called what it is. A victim may feel a sense of shock before they feel confusion, but just as often, the sense of shock, to a lesser degree, can return throughout the many stages of healing.

(As a life coach, this is my main goal, to educate others so that they recognize what they are dealing with—narcissistic emotional abuse. A person doesn’t know what they don’t know!)

Shock can take on different looks, depending upon circumstances. In the very beginning, when the victim starts to recognize the narcissist’s behavior, it can sound like this, “I am shocked. He/she acts like they do not care about my feelings. What happened?!” Later in the healing process, the victim might feel momentary shock, “How did I spend 20 years of my life with this person?”, and then the healing continues on from there.

Anger is healthy when it doesn’t get in the way of our healing. With healing, anger must be turned into forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean that we believe the abuse is okay. Forgiveness means that we have released feelings of vengeance, hate, and hurt towards a person that we feel has harmed us. If we harbor these feelings it becomes toxic. We create anxiety and pain within ourselves, and this can lead to mental and physical unwellness.

Fear is healthy as long as it is a momentary feeling. Fear is a mechanism that can keep us from physical harm. Fear alerts us that something is wrong, that we are facing ‘real’ danger! Fear is not healthy when prolonged.

You may trust the narcissist, but you may find yourself suddenly fearing them or their behavior. This is a healthy ‘warning signal’ of proposed danger. Fear speaks to us, it tells us to take action to ensure our safety.

Anxiety is never healthy. It can lead to mental and physical health problems when prolonged. Anxiety is similar to fear, except anxiety can become chronic. Anxiety is often a manifestation of perceived fear, or fear of a poorly defined threat.

Anxiety might keep a victim awake at night. Anxiety might become a barrier in the healing process. An example of how our fear-related anxious thoughts can become a barrier to healing, “I just might not ever get out of this situation with (the narcissist), what if they turn the tables on me?” These words speak of fear, doubt, and anxiety.

Paranoia is common, especially for victims that have been involved with a covert narcissist.

Covert narcissists lack self-esteem, which makes it difficult for victims to live their lives. The covert narcissist often believes that people have hidden agendas. This can manifest into stalking the victim, and it can lead to the victim developing paranoia for some time to come. The victim may continue to feel the narcissist is watching their every step, even though it might no longer ring true. Paranoia, especially when it includes distrust, can eventually dissolve as the victim heals.

(Fear, anxiety, and paranoia are OKAY for temporary periods of time. Seek professional help if you chronically experience either/or, and if it interferes with normal functioning in your daily life.)

Shame is one of the more painful aspects of healing from emotional abuse.

Shame can prevent you from opening up to others about the abuse.

Shame can prevent victims from leaving the abuser, or from acknowledging that they are a victim of abuse.

Shame keeps people in abusive relationships for years, sometimes lifetimes. Shame can lead the victim to feel that they somehow deserve the abuse, or that if they were ‘better’ the abuse would not happen.

Always remember this: You cannot change or heal the narcissist by being better…by saying the right thing, or by doing the right thing. Clinical therapeutic treatment typically does not help a person diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD (read more here). You did not cause narcissism in the abuser. Do not validate the narcissist’s behavior through your sense of shame!

I will discuss co-dependency and enabling the narcissist in future blog posts. Both of these personality types (victims) fail to recognize that abuse is wrong, and that abuse is never deserved, and each can type can blame themselves for the abuse.

Continued reading, part 2 of this blog series will be published soon. In part 2, I discuss reclaiming identity, self-compassion, celebrating you, length of healing (it may take time, and give yourself time), talk with people in your support system, and speak as a survivor, scratch that, a thriver, and NOT a victim.

Surviving Narcissism

Self-Absorbed People Are Not Necessarily Narcissists

www.maryhumphreycoaching.com self-absorbed people

Self-absorbed people typically have similar markers to those of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), however, people who are ‘ate up with themselves’ are not necessarily narcissists. Each of these parallel personality traits has the potential to pull you down mentally and damage your self-esteem, however, narcissists typically thrive through a string of manipulative tactics—emotionally abusive tactics that someone who is simply self-centered may not be ingrained with.

Self-centered people are rooted in seeing life through their own eyes and they often fail or don’t want to make the effort to see life through your eyes. Their actions are often filled with defensive dominance.

What are the top characteristics of a self-absorbed person?

On the defensive (insecure and vulnerable) – They do not accept that they have flaws. They compare themselves to others and typically find ways to hold themselves to a level above. They fiercely fight for their own identity (we all should protect our own identity with a humble attitude), even if they are flawed or have made mistakes. When they make mistakes, they uphold themselves with gusto to preserve their image and claim innocence. They protect their point of view and often do not stop to consider yours. It feels frightening to the overt self-centered person to open up and be vulnerable, even when you genuinely want to help, for their fear is that you will see their weaknesses and shortcomings.

Dominate relationships – They love using the words “should” or “must.” Telling others what they should or must do is done in an attempt to place themselves in a seat of authority. They verbalize commands of correction to get what they want.

Opinionated – They can talk incessantly about other people. They are over-consumed with their own self-image, point of view, preferences, and desires, which leads them to perpetually talk about their opinions, and to lack consideration for the opinions of others.

Lack of empathy – They do not want to understand the opinion of others and they are not sensitive to what others experience or feel. They refuse to consider what it feels like to be in another’s shoes.

Devalue others – Rather than having a healthy criticism of others, they use it as a tool to devalue others. They believe they are superior to others. People with this trait take more than they give, and when they don’t get what they want, they take on an attitude of contempt.

Set many rules – Self-absorbed people often set high expectations of people close to them. This leads them to judge, issue corrections, and set rules. “I expect my wife/husband to (act like this, raise our children like this, or dress like this, etc.)”

Interruptions (verbal and otherwise) – The best communication skill is to listen. Self-absorbed people feel driven to interject their own opinions and they habitually do not let people finish sentences. Self-centered people love the sound of their own voice and will talk over others in an effort to get their point across.

Self-centered people have a tendency to barge into your space, with little to no regard for your time or availability. As they propel into your space, they may say, “I know you are very busy, but …” These words are often not heart-felt, and are typically a ploy to continue interrupting.

Expect you to be available – In addition to interrupting you, self-absorbed people may feel put-off or angry if you’re not available for a talk, call, or visit. They often feel like you have an agenda that isn’t about them, “They didn’t answer my call. I know they are there. They are avoiding me.”

Two Key Differences Between Self-Absorbed Person and a Narcissist

Empathy – Most self-centered people feel and can show empathy, to a lesser degree (as compared to a non-self-centered person), however, they are good at turning it off and on. When they are looking inwards and refusing to look outwards (i.e., they are in a mood, or are arguing a point), they go blind to the feelings and thoughts of others. The most common identifier of a narcissist, however, is a complete lack of empathy.

Emotional abuse – Self-absorbed people may try to manipulate others, yet, this is not ingrained in their nature as it is with a narcissist. A self-centered person may say things that resemble gaslighting, such as, “You are so wrong…I am not even sure where you got that from,” or, “How can you believe that? Are you okay?” The self-absorbed person’s intention is not to gain control of your mind, nor to make you feel you have lost yours. Instead, their mindset is rooted in proving that they are right.

How to Deal with a Self-Absorbed Person

We all want to retain a state of calm, especially when we are dealing with a toxic self-absorbed person. One of the best ways to buffer stress is through mental and physical boundary setting.

In The Moment Boundary: How do you want to feel mentally and physically? Pay attention to your breathing, your heart rate, and your thoughts at the moment. Despite any negative emotional wrangling that you may be encountering, develop a mindset that helps you remain in a calm and peaceful place. Are you breathing normally? Slow your breathing down. Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing not only helps your body and mind live in a state of calm, but it also lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.

There is one major thing that a self-centered person cannot do to you, and that is to get inside of your head and change your thoughts. You have this.

Mental boundaries include refusing to argue. Mental boundaries can lead to physical boundaries, (i.e., exiting to another room, or leaving the premises entirely). When you leave the premises, or even when you remain in the same space, say, “When you are calmer, we can talk,” or, “When the time is more appropriate, we can talk.”

Your preferences and mental self-preservation are your boundaries, and you must stick with them. Be clear with your preferences. You cannot give someone your full attention when you are not in a space conducive to doing so. You cannot communicate in a productive manner with a person who is in an unwilling empathy-lacking mental state.

Our lives are unique, so our boundaries are limitless!

I hope this blog helped you identify with self-absorbed people. We will talk in-depth about boundaries in an upcoming blog or vlog.

Be sure to share your thoughts and experiences that you’ve had with self-absorbed people in the comments below…the more we share, the more we help others!

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.

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?

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.

Surviving Narcissism

I am a Survivor (of Narcissistic Abuse)

survivior narcissismI am a survivor.

As of this month, September 2019, I am in the process of shifting the focus of my coaching to include what God taught me through personal life experience.

I had no idea what a NARCISSIST was even though I was married to one for 18 years. That relationship ended about 20 years ago. 38 years is a long time to not realize what I dealt with and to not recognize how far I had come.

I now realize that I am more than an encourager to women, which is one of my gifts, but also an encourager to survivors.

So, what brought on this shift? I give thanks to today’s technology—I read an article and watched a video which led me to realize that what I had experienced had a name—narcissism. My story is classic, so I’ve purposely kept it short and without precise detail. I am not writing this to hurt or lash out at anyone, quite the opposite. I want to encourage other women through sharing my story.

Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

I missed the outright and typical narcissistic signs while dating my (ex) husband as he strategized and hid them well:

  • He had grandiose ideas about himself.
  • He was preoccupied with fantasies of success.
  • He had a deep need for attention and admiration.
  • He lacked empathy for others.
  • His relationships were troubled.
  • He had a sense of entitlement.
  • He envied others.

Narcissistic Signs Gradually Emerge

Each of these signs of narcissism came out gradually. They pushed through the surface in a subtle nature and snowballed in intensity as time went on.

Narcissism Victim’s State of Denial

After 18 years of marriage, I had experienced much. But, the most confusing part of it for me was my state of denial. I refused to tell anyone about the situation. I supported him and wanted my marriage to remain in-tact.

I was embarrassed, and I stopped believing in myself.

I didn’t want anyone outside of the walls of our home to know who my husband was, and nobody did. I lived one life inside my home, another life when I went to work, and another with my children present. It was a small and tightly wrapped world. I constantly looked for ways to not let the truth of narcissistic abuse show.

To this day, I do not want to go into the exact details of the mental abuse, which began to border on physical abuse. To this day, I do not want to talk about the times he got on a bus or a plane to look for “love connections,” or whatever his fantasy was that day/week/month/year. To this day, even though he is deceased, and because I refuse to live in the past, I refuse to tell the intricate details of my story. What I will tell others, as I am doing today, is that I am no longer that woman. Fooled me once. Didn’t, and won’t, fool me twice.

My Story & Why I Do What I Do

Articles such as this one posted in Healthline cover my own story to a “T”.

Am I bitter? Absolutely not. Relieved? Yes. I learned how to become the girl that I used to know, and now I’m much better. Better in the sense that I know who I am, and I know both my weaknesses and my strengths. I know what love is about. I know what love should not be.

Who helped me? God. I sought him with a vengeance, and even though I didn’t know it at first, he led me through. He has been with me all my life, of course, but I was forced into believing that I could not worship him while I was married to the narcissist. It did, indeed, take some work to feel connected in a relationship with God. Layers of evil lies had to be swept away in that effort.

I also “dated myself,” meaning, I learned who I was, and I lived with intention. I nurtured my passions and I dropped the suppressive narcissistic-applied dome of guilt and blame. I breathed.

Fast forward to today, I am remarried (to my best friend).

I own several businesses.

I have written several books and have contributed personal stories in other author’s books. I continue to write as a freelancer, and for my pleasure as well. Journaling is therapeutic, but now I don’t keep it all to myself. Sharing is caring.

I have investigated my own personality type. Per Myers & Briggs, I am an INFJ, one of the rarest of personality types (1-3% of the world’s population).

I am an introvert and an empath. Empaths frequently and unknowingly find themselves in narcissistic relationships. Once we learn the classic signs of a narcissist, we don’t get fooled again.

I also now know my God-given gifts, talents, strengths, and passions, and I focus on “why” I’ve been given these gifts, as well as the “why” of my past. All of this culminates into the “why” behind what I do today—coaching women, writing (for business, for the encouragement of others, and personal pleasure).

Final Words

So, there’s my story. Without a ton of detail…the story behind why I have shifted from coaching women going through a transition in life to women that are survivors of toxic narcissistic relationships. I am repeating what I’ve said before: If I can do this (survive and thrive), you can do this as well!