Individuals Stuck in Abusive Relationships: Comments from Survivors of Post Traumatic Narcissism Syndrome

narcissism???

narcissism??? (Photo credit: kk+)

Individuals stuck in abusive narcissistic relationships typically have a long history of tolerating partner abuse.  No matter what abuse is inflicted, they stay in the relationship.  They feel sorry for their partners and believe they can fix them.  Excuses are made for the abusive behavior while blaming themselves.  Survivors must learn how to set boundaries for what they will accept and what they won’t accept or they will never get the love they need and deserve.  Symptoms of PostTraumatic Narcissism Syndrome (PTNS) are common reactions to the intense fear and the emotional battering experienced by survivors of narcissistic personality disordered partners.  PTNS IS AN EXPERIENCE, NOT A DIAGNOSIS.  Symptom indicators are listed below.   Further down are blog comments and my responses to survivors learning to heal from people who won’t or can’t love them.

Symptoms of Post Traumatic Narcissism Syndrome

● Flashbacks of the cruel behavior and trauma

Hyperarousal (i.e., extreme fear for personal safety)

Hypervigilance (i.e., scanning environs for constant threats, stalking, violence)

● Irritability

● Depression & Guilt

● Multiple physical complaints

● Numbing

● Impaired concentration and memory

● Disturbed sleep & distressing dreams

Comments, Questions, and Answers from Survivors of Posttraumatic Narcissism Syndrome

Roberta,

I am a man who has been sucked dry by a woman narcissist. It is just as torturous for men as for woman, if not more so, since you are raised in a society where you are expected to be a caregiver and supporter to the “weaker sex”.

Finally, when you accept the horrible truth that you gave all your heart, mind, body, spirit  and soul to a mere confabulation of a cruel deranged mind; one unable to and that never had any intention of giving in return, and all you were led to believing in doesn’t even exist, you stop. You have escaped, barley, with nothing but your life. No less than a prisoner liberated from the Nazi concentration camps. Frail, exhausted, and traumatized but finally free you stop. Stop living in fear. Stop allowing yourself to be screamed at, spit on, lied to , stolen from, smacked, ignored, degraded… flat-out abused in all ways. You thank God for spots like this on the internet so the truth of your experience hits home that it was real and you do survive and you STOP.

It was a point long ago when I stopped being a victim and became a volunteer. Now, since I have the testimonies of others and the truth is self-evident, I stop. I am no longer a volunteer; I breathe that sigh of relief and STOP.

Thanks for your support

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Thank you for sharing the wreckage of living in purgatory with a narcissist.  My hope is that you use your intellect and the emotional pain to banish the trauma memories from your mind.  As I’ve said in other posts, “Renting space” in your head to the narcissist allows them to punish you conceivably for forever.  Recovering from the psychic damage is a process and it sounds like you are showing up for yourself.  More power to you!  Sending positive vibes for the immense relief that comes from taking your soul back.

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Roberta,

As a child I was an older sibling to a younger child with a disability.  The family focus was on helping this other child.  As a young adult I dated guys who were unreliable, emotionally unavailable or needy. I was married to a narcissist for over 30 years.  I did not know that he was having affairs from the time our children were preschoolers.  I found out after our children were about grown up and decided to divorce him. I had the papers served without discussion.    We are divorced now for about a year or two.  We still have a house to sell and recently he left town without telling me or our realtor.  This leaves me with the homeowner chores of selling the house: mowing grass, paying utilities, freshening interior, sweeping porches etc.  When he is in town I am miserable.  When he leaves town I am miserable.  I don’t know what to do with myself.  I spent my life waiting to see what he wanted and doing that.   I don’t know what I want or what to do with the rest of my life.  I feel anxiety and for a long time low level depression.  My young adult sons do not respect me.  I feel very alone and in a lot of pain.  The adult sons will be with their Dad over the holidays & I will be alone at the holidays for the first time in my life.

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My heart goes out to you.  The emotional and psychic repair from a narcissistic relationship is a process.  Learning about what happen to you and the dynamics of the narcissistic personality will give you a language that will help you heal.  Emotional self-care needs to be your priority and planning ahead of time for the upcoming holiday season is important. Please think about participating in activities or being with people that nurture you.   I believe there are times in our lives when we are challenged with change and fear we can’t take care of ourselves.  Listening to the voices in our head that tell us we don’t deserve to love or be loved keeps us stuck in familiar pain.   So does renting space in our heads to abusive people by replaying thoughts of their cruelty.  The narcissistic personality feeds on this emotional vulnerability to keep his victim trapped (forever).  You have the strength to change and love yourself or you wouldn’t have written to me.   I am wishing you the best.

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Roberta,

I am struggling with a mother who is a passive aggressive narcissist in denial. My father is an alcoholic and a puppet that she controls (which most likely stimulates his drinking).   I am the age of 33 and have had unhealthy relationships my whole life, unknowingly attracted to narcissists. I have been through years of therapy and realized my role as a codependent in both my dysfunctional family and love relationships.  My awareness and perspective broadened and I found a man who compliments me, we married last year.

However, I still struggle with my mother as now that I am married feels neglected, as my time and attention to catering, pleasing and validating her self-worth has diminished. She plays the guilt trip with me, “I never want to bother you because you are always with your husband”, “I haven’t heard from you, and I would like to see my daughter once in a while.”

Also, she is always helping others, care taking and yet isn’t available to immediate family members that are in need. She enjoys feeling needed and being admired in the eyes of others. Everyone praising her how wonderful she is.

What do I do? How can I have a healthy daughter-mother relationship? How do I communicate myself so that she realizes the strain she has put on the relationship?

Any guidance is greatly appreciated!

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Thank you for writing to me. I feel for you in your life situation.  Giving ourselves permission to say “no” to what feels bad when it’s a parent is a sad situation to face.  Profound sadness begins early in children of alcoholics and narcissistic mothers.  Unresolved sadness from childhood can keep us stuck emotionally as adults.  Children of alcoholics/narcissist’s learn quickly to deny this sadness in order to survive.  This is how a high tolerance for emotional pain and inappropriate behavior begins to develop.  In adulthood the unresolved sadness can get expressed as clinical depression, compulsivity, or even physical violence. 

The rules in the alcoholic-narcissistic family systems typically are:  “Don’t talk,” “Don’t trust” and “Don’t feel” (John Bradshaw, 1988).   Don’t talk about the fact that you are scared, lonely, sad, angry, hurt and emotionally impoverished.  Don’t talk about dad’s alcoholism or mom’s cruelty.  Quite often these children grow up alone with the family secret while carrying the family pain.   Children learn early not to trust because the parent’s behavior is unpredictable and often combined with many broken promises.  To feel the profound sadness of abandonment is too much for a child to process.  The challenge as an adult is giving us permission to have our feelings, express them, and set boundaries.  The often unconscious buried fear of abandonment runs deep.  This is not a life sentence, you can learn new behaviors.  The healing from childhood wounds is a process and sometimes we need to take a break from our family of origin while we re-parent ourselves and learn entitlement to our feelings. 

It sounds like to be with your mom and dad you have to accept victimization.  You are probably the only one who can change and you deserve to be loved in a healthy way.  It starts with a commitment to be disciplined in your self-care.  Invest in yourself.  Learn a new language (read about alcoholic families and parents who try to get their unmet childhood dependency needs healed through their children) for what has happen to you, so you are clear on who is responsible for what and clear on what you are letting go.   This will allow you to release your resentments and be done with them.  Give yourself permission to learn what is right for you and develop endurance for sitting with the bad feelings that come up when you are breaking the family rules.   You might want to consider finding a mantra (i.e., “It’s not okay to hurt myself”) to repeat when the feelings of shame appear from setting a boundary.  Feelings of shame (Who I am is bad) for taking care of yourself are likely when you say “no more” to your mother or say, “Dad I will not be around you when you drink.”  I really believe that coming out of the family system you described requires mentors and people to support your courage to experience the love and life you deserve.  You will probably have to accept that your parents are incapable of loving you in a healthy way.  We are really not made to solve our life’s challenges alone.  As the saying goes, “It takes a village.”  Please leave yourself open to finding positive parent role models.  I am wishing you an abundance of love.

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Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to put an end to relationship abuse.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta

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2 thoughts on “Individuals Stuck in Abusive Relationships: Comments from Survivors of Post Traumatic Narcissism Syndrome

  1. I am a 56 year old happily married woman with two healthy daughters, age 19 and 24. I have struggled emotionally all my years to set boundaries with my Undiagnosed narcissistic/ borderline personality disordered refusing to go for therapy, sister. She has been verbally abusive and I was her punching bag. She is always much more pleasant when she has a man in her life. The same is exactly true of my father. He is a text book case of NPD. He was a very challenging child , as was my sister. I felt somewhat protected from my father’s wrath when my mother was alive as the buffer. She would always tell me “be the good one, you are smarter. She is sick” therefore to please her, although my gut was fighting me, I appeased and swallowed my self worth. She passed away 17 years ago. My sister fought with my dad incessantly, not talking to him, blaming him ever since I can remember, since a child. I would be the mediator, just like my mom. After my mom died, my father showed his ugly side to me so much more. I have felt like his emotionally responsible for his parent. I have never looked up to him as a mentor because it has always been about him, emotionally. When he has a girlfriend he is sealable because his ego is constantly being stroked. Now, he is 84 in assisted living with mild dimentia, girlfriend left him, and his narcisstic anger at full swing for last 2 years. I took charge along with my husband to get the best care possible, researching endlessly, paying for help in his then apt , drivers, me cooking meals, doing his bills, dr visits. Nothing was good enough. 25 phone calls daily scream, cursing, horrible daughter, etc for year. In addition to that, I had my sister who never stops talking of her problems and how I have fairy tale life. My husband saw me determination gall the years but now I was seeking therapy, medicine, stomach issues , and crying miserably. I realized I just didn’t matter, what I felt, what I did, etc.
    My husband with my permission and therapist and his dr suggested to block their phone numbers because nothing else worked to relieve my collapsing every time those rants would happen from them. We did. Anger was intensified. Name calling, intense abuse, accusations. I had not seen him for 6 months. They do not see anything they do as hurtful. They feed upon each other’s miserable outlook. BUT I feel guilty always that he is my father and in assisted living because of dimentia, of which I found the place and moved him, without help from my sister but never pushed my expectations on her. I have seen him twice recently, once a month and although he is not screaming, he obsessively says that I’m breaking up the family, call your sister, do it for me, you are not being nice or fair, she is mad t you( when is she NOT mad) etc. I told him I have done it for him and I choose me now. Jeez he is lucky I see him. He just doesn’t get it all. I am so broken, but feel so wonderful not seeing or speaking to them….that is when I’m not feeling guily for not seeing ailing father. ” who does this sort of thing….not help your ailing father?” I would love to never feel what I felt when I was basically feeling sick all the time but it comes back every time I feel that hatred and judging from him when I’m there. I definitely have post traumatic narcissistic survival syndrome. What do I do?
    Thank you for reading this……Patti

    • Patti,
      Thank you for writing to me. I have been off my blog site for self-care and a break. More power to you for saying “no more” to the family craziness. Unfortunately, “no contact” is often the only way to deal with people suffering from NPD and BPD. I am hoping you have continued seeing your therapist and are benefitting. The family system you describe and your role is understandable. A good therapist can help you with entitlement to your feelings and resolving family dysfunction. PTSD is a manageable physical and psychological syndrome and there are many effective therapeutic techniques available. You have a right to a life that works. Don’t give up on yourself and ask for help from safe people.
      Regards,
      Roberta

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