How do you know when you are being abused by narcissistic parents, siblings or close ones? You may have thought the abuse was normal because that was all you ever knew. And then as life progresses you go on to attract narcissistic adult relationships.
There is a horrific consequence that happens when abuse is all we have known. That is, we can find ourselves going towards our abusers rather than away from them. We have learnt to associate abuse with love. We have clung to the crumbs of “love” they have given us, and we crave it so deeply and we often do anything to get it at the detriment of our needs, our sanity and our self-respect.
We haven’t developed a sense of self and a solidity within our own selves. As children we were completely dependent on our abusers, unable to protect ourselves. We were in mere survival and we have carried this survival thinking into our relationships, unable to be a source of survival, protection, love and acceptance to ourselves.
When I was a child, as my “caregivers” physically abused me, they told me they were doing this because they “loved” me. And as I progressed into puberty and adulthood, I had no idea at all how to engage or respond to men. The basics of boundaries and expressing my needs were a foreign language to me.
So much of my own behavior and patterns was deeply unconscious as I continued the cycle of co-dependence taught by my mother, dismissing my own needs, being overly responsible for others and having zero boundaries. Added to that I was unknowingly looking to men for the love and approval I didn’t receive from my partners, entering my relationships with the eyes of a child, desperate for love and acceptance. Naturally, I continued to attract unhealthy men because I was unhealthy myself.
I really had no idea what love really was. The only examples of “love” I had were from unhealthy people who had no capacity to love.
During my healing I woke up. I stopped being asleep or in a trance. I realized that none of what I had known as “love” was real love. It was their version of love – likely the type of “love” that was shown to them and they were repeating it. I know when I realized this phenomena and could see it clearly, I felt deeply ashamed, humiliated and worthless.
We can live for a very long time in denial, I know I did. But the truth sets us free and opens a pathway to healing and a new way.
How do we heal from this? How do we begin to become free from the horrific patterns when abuse is all we have known?
The first step is to start to acknowledge where you are now.
Acknowledge your feelings.
Truly be honest about what has happened. Nobody teaches us to acknowledge and allow ourselves to feel our feelings. In fact, our culture encourages us to distract from them, leading to all manner of addictions, from drugs, drink and food to social media, TV, work or adrenaline sports – indeed anything can be used to self-avoid and distract from the pain and void we feel.
But, our freedom comes when we start to turn towards this pain and void. In that place of pain is deeply held trauma that has become stored up in the body.
When we are full of trauma it is almost impossible to see the wood for the trees. This is why at the beginning stages of realizing we have suffered narcissistic abuse, we can barely function and may be feel full of despair, hopelessness, powerlessness and confusion.
As we release trauma out of the body, we open up space inside for clarity and insight to begin to enter. Along with this, we begin to meet, embrace and heal the “little girl” inside us. We start to give her all of the love, support, cherishing and acceptance that we have been trying to get from another person, from something or someone outside of us.
By combining releasing the trauma with developing a new loving relationship with ourselves, we bring ourselves home. We become a source of love, security, safety and approval to ourselves. We become solid within ourselves and come back to our true selves – the selves we always were before the trauma.
From this place within us, we start to show up as healthy adults, able to love, respect and trust ourselves. We show up authentically. We’re able to set and maintain boundaries. No longer are we looking for something or someone outside to fulfil us. Instead, we maintain a healthy and beautiful desire for love, which is our birthright.
Miraculously, we start to draw in more healthy people who are capable of loving and supporting us in the way we deserve. We keep healing and we achieve our dreams and soar high. We have woken up, have a whole new consciousness and know that abuse is not real love because love is always kind.