If you have recently been discarded from a narcissist, you know how all-encompassing the emotional pain feels. A lucky few see the red flags early. The experience can be fleeting if you have a solid inner foundation with no past obstacles that you have had to overcome, whether it be in childhood, or in adulthood. However, for others it lingers far longer than you ever anticipated. Sometimes, it becomes unbearable, which can lead to seeking therapy for severe PTSD symptoms.
I am not a doctor, nor am I a therapist, but I am a survivor of abuse through the hands of a man who I loved with all my heart. This man was an emotionally destructive covert narcissist. It is very unlikely that Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be successfully treated as it is a “personality disorder”, and not a “mental disorder”. NPD is part of who they are. Additionally, in order to seek treatment, these people need to acknowledge that they have a problem. However, for a narcissist this means that the individual will need to go against the very nature of what makes them a narcissist — they need to admit to themselves that they are to blame for their behaviour. The majority of narcissists simply will not do this.
Unfortunately, for many of us, it is very common to experience emotionally crippling after effects even long after the narcissist has left the picture. Here are 3 emotional traumas you will undertake.
The Inability To Trust
When you first met the narcissist, you thought you met your soul mate. All the things that you hated about yourself, they praised you for. Chances are, when you met this individual, you may have just experienced the death of a family member, death of a relationship that may have resulted in divorce, or maybe a financial setback that left you completely vulnerable to someone who seemed to embody all the qualities you needed at that time. Narcissists have the uncanny ability to manipulate empaths and in turn, we let our guard down. They share with us stories of childhood abuse, past relationships that failed (cue the violin, because 100% of the time it was never their fault — red flag), and they may even share with you an aspect of their past that they “never told anyone before” — maybe something embarrassing. Looking back, you now know that most of these stories were a ploy; completely fabricated to get you to open up about your past. After all, they must be trustworthy to share such a traumatizing story with you, right? Wrong! They do this to not only gain your trust, but to use the secrets that you have shared with them against you later in the devaluation stage — just another egg to throw your way when they see you are already breaking.
Fast forward to after the discard. You are left to not only pick up the pieces of your broken heart, but you try to gather enough strength to move on. This doesn’t matter if it is romantically or in friendships. You will mistrust everyone. You finally got over the narcissist, but now you are left with the internal damage. You cannot simply heal the heart itself without healing the aortic and pulmonary valve that surround it. This is the same with abuse. You will think that you are healed because you no longer love the narcissist, but then enters your next relationship. Unfortunately, while we can wipe out past love, we cannot wipe out the memory. You will remember all those times that your texts went unanswered as you experienced the favourite go-to manipulation tactic of virtually all the narcissists, the “silent treatment“. While you were getting blasted with this insidious form of abuse, they were using this opportunity to be love-bombing their new victim. It is important to note that the narcissist will use vile tactics such as these in order to keep you emotionally invested in them. The narcissist will choose to discard you at a time of celebration such as a birthday, a much-anticipated vacation (like mine did), or even after you discovered that you or a loved one is chronically ill, or someone who you are close to passed away. This is not done by chance. This is the hallmark of abuse, and this is just another element in the narcissistic wheel of abuse. The reason that they do this is to mentally control your thoughts. Everytime that you think back on that birthday or that vacation that you were forced to go on alone, you will remember them. To remember them is to validate their existence, and this is the glue in which the narcissist requires to affix the false mask to their face.
Now, in a potentially “normal” relationship, you will attribute these unanswered texts to cheating. You will jump to conclusions. You will check dating sites to see if your new love interest has a secret account; after all, you found out the narcissist did by your friends. As for your other friends, you felt betrayed when you opened to them about the abuse that you were suffering, crying on their shoulders, and you were met with blank stares and the “but he seems so sweet” comments. To make matters worse, they continued to be his/her “friend” on Facebook, and invited them to social engagements. That’s what makes the covert narcissist so dangerous — they wear a mask and create such a “pillar of society” to the outside world. So much so, that very few will believe your story, and suddenly you’re just another one of their “crazy exes” in a long line of their failed relationships. Of course, not because of their own doing (cue the violin again). They may even manipulate your friends into thinking that your the abusive one. “Poor me” syndrome is in full effect then, and now they have taken on your friends as their “flying monkeys“. This term is used to describe when a manipulative personality uses people to do their own bidding — just like in the “Wizard of Oz” when the Wicked Witch of the West sent out her flying monkeys to capture Dorothy for her.
Now, any genuine friend in your life will be met with uncertainty after this, and anyone showing concern for your well-being, you will question to be one of the narcissist’s flying monkeys; fair-weather friends who’s only motive is to serve the narcissist. You will choose to stay isolated and retreat into yourself because after all, you are the only one that you can trust.
This is a very unfortunate emotional trauma after narcissistic abuse, and one that may carry over into you actually going back to the narcissist for another round of abuse in the narcissist’s funhouse. Why? Because you may actually begin to believe the narcissist’s words — that you are unworthy, and that “no one will ever love you as much as he/she did”, so you leave the current good and well-meaning partner for the abuser again. After narcissistic abuse many people go back mistaking trauma-bonding for real love. Then along comes another round of idealization, devaluation, and the inevitable discard. The trademark of someone with NPD.
For many survivors of narcissistic abuse, you will isolate yourself. You are embarrassed by what you went through; you feel shame, remorse, and regret. You trust absolutely nobody. You live in fear of meeting another narcissist, so you avoid any social interaction completely. You also don’t want to admit that you have a problem. At this stage, you are walking around life as a shadow of your former self. You feel emotionally violated and feel like you are wearing the scars of your hurt and pain on the outside. You are just getting by now; you are a shell wearing many cracks and just one “are you okay?”, or one hug from a stranger will send you into a complete and utter breakdown of epic proportions. You keep telling the outside world that you are alright; but you are not okay, and you damn well know it. You drive to work and your heart is pounding so bad that you have to pull over to stop from passing out. You hear a song on the radio that reminds you of the narcissist and you go into complete panic mode. Cognitive dissonance sets in and psychologically you try to convince yourself that it wasn’t really abuse. You think back to the love-bombing stage; those fake moments of false adulation from the narcissist, and you think “what if I tried a little harder”. This is your mind playing tricks on you. In order for you to psychologically make sense of the extreme high and extreme low of your relationship with the narcissist, your mind can only comprehend between two components: black and white. This is what cognitive dissonance in abuse is. Any emotional stress in abuse is like an “attack” in our brain. Human beings become psychologically uncomfortable when we experience internal inconsistencies. Our brain must then do a “cleanse”, much like when you computer needs to defragment itself. In order to lessen his/her mental stress, what happens is that you will try to lessen down the magnitude of abuse that you suffered. Cognitive dissonance is a method your brain uses in order to control its discomfort by using a pattern of denial or diversion.
You will also isolate yourself because chances are your family or friends warned you about getting back with the narcissist, and you chose to defend the narcissist rather than listen to your own loved ones. You are so ashamed and deeply embarrassed. You feel in a way like you abused your own family. You looked them dead in their eyes, saw the worry and felt their fear, and as they begged you to stay away, you left them with that emotional baggage as you entered back into the abuse. Now, you feel unworthy of turning back to them for comfort with your tail between your legs. So, you choose to isolate yourself. You clam up and downplay the abuse. You don’t call your friends for support because you don’t want to be confronted with the “I told you so” conversations. And combined with the fact that you feel that you could crack at any moment, you don’t want to lash out in anger perpetuated by narcissistic abuse.
Are You the Narcissist?
Narcissists are like vampires, but instead of blood, they feed off of emotion. They are dead inside. They create a “false self” in order to cover up the shame they feel from their “true self”. They lack the ability to love you, because they don’t even love themselves. They killed off their true selves in childhood and created a false image in order to seek acceptance and to feel “important”. They only feel like they exist when they have “narcissistic supply“. Supply is anyone or even any thing that feeds their ego with admiration, sex, shelter, or money — any kind of attention. However, it can also be through feeding off of the negative emotion from their victims. When they devalue you, your pain and tears solidifies their existence and that they matter. It is a very cruel way they use in order to feel special and worthy.
Narcissists are drawn to empaths. We are the people who are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel the pain and suffering of others. A narcissist who has the inability to experience love and compassion themselves, will literally feed off of the energy of the empath. That is why after the discard you feel emotionally drained, and the narcissist is skipping off into the sunset with the new victim. Suddenly, it feels like the roles have been reversed. They give off this aura of positive energy; their false mask firmly in place as they flaunt their new love interest all over social media for you to see, which is purposely done. They get narcissistic supply from their new primary source, and supply from knowing that you will be reeling in pain from their obvious infidelity. After all, no normal human being jumps from relationship to relationship without the probability of their cheating as you were being devalued. Normal and healthy human beings take time to grieve a relationship before jumping into a new one.
Suddenly, you are left wondering if you are the narcissist because even mutual friends seem to be happy for the narcissist, while you seem to be the only one thinking “What the f—?? He was just with me, and all of you are supporting this new relationship?!?” Remember, when I was talking about the “flying monkeys”? This is why. While you were believing that everything was going well in your relationship with the narcissist, he/she was beginning the “smear campaign” behind your back. This is an intentional method in which a manipulative personality takes aim at discrediting your reputation through blatant lies that you have no idea are being said behind your back. The narcissist has a goal of slandering your name in order to make themselves play the victim. Mutual friends will suddenly start believing their stories of abuse at the hands of you!! So, when the narcissist finds a new companion, people seem genuinely happy for them because they are away from the horrible creature that is yourself. Of course, you know nothing about this, so your head is spinning as you are being gaslighted by people who don’t even know that they are being manipulated themselves. This is a very sneaky way in which the narcissist can hold the puppet strings of probably well-intentioned people who don’t even know that they are conducting emotional abuse all in the name of the narcissist. They are being conditioned to be flying monkeys without even knowing it!
All of this will create self-doubt. Unaware of the smear campaign, all you know is what you are experiencing. The narcissist told you that you were the crazy one, that you were the selfish one. Now, with all these people siding with the narcissist you start to believe the untruths.
As the narcissist drained your energy, he/she replaced it with anger and self-loathing. You will snap at people at the drop of a hat, you will mistrust your next love and may accuse them of cheating — a common accusation that the narcissist would frequently accuse you of (when in fact, they were the ones being unfaithful — a defensive mechanism used so that they can escape accountability called “projection“). After a string of short-lived failed relationships because of your own unhealed wounds and insecurities, you will begin to question your ability to sustain healthy relationships. Thus, you may ask yourself “am I the narcissist?” Of course, the answer is no.
Narcissists will degrade their victims and erode their self-esteem. The after-effects of narcissistic abuse can be just as damaging as being in the middle of it. Over time, the verbal and emotional attacks will completely weaken you to the point in which self-worth vanishes, and you are left in a heap on the floor to pick up the pieces. If you suspect that you are being narcissistically abused, get out now. The abuse will only escalate. If you return to the abuser, the idealization stage will become much shorter than previously before, and the abuse will become much harsher. Verbal attacks may soon become physical. Remember, no one should ever make you feel less than you are. Name calling is not okay, and it is not the sign of a healthy and happy relationship.