Why Does It Still Hurt?


It’s Narcissist Friday!

Some time ago I answered a comment in which the commenter noted that the feelings surrounding the narcissistic injury still hurt after a considerable period of time.  That has had me thinking about why these injuries hurt us so deeply.  There are many kinds of hurt in our lives and people do mean things almost regularly.  Why do these seem to last longer than others?

So here are my thoughts so far:

  • Narcissistic injury is usually betrayal within a relationship.  That means it hurts.  Almost everyone who has suffered from narcissistic abuse has deep feelings of betrayal.  Not all betrayal happens because of a narcissist, of course, but it may be fair to suggest that narcissistic abuse almost always involves betrayal.  The narcissist hurts those around him, those who are closest.  It is from them he draws energy and life.  It is their work he takes as his own, their love he uses to manipulate, their attention he feeds on.   He can receive little from people who are far away.
  • Narcissists have an unusual ability to make you trust them.  They make you believe they love you and they care.  They gather very personal information and, because you trust them and want them to like you, you share more with them than you would with others.  You don’t realize that they will use that information to hurt you.  When they do turn on you, you have both a deeper feeling of betrayal and a fear that they will expose your secrets to others.  Once they show that they are ruthless and uncaring, you feel extremely vulnerable.  That fear remains even when you are out of the situation.  Someone cruel knows how to hurt you.
  • Empathy is part of restoration and narcissists have no empathy.  A real apology shows that the offender understands the pain he or she has caused.  Since a narcissist has no real ability to feel what others feel or even to accept that others have valid feelings, there is no sense of empathy in his apology.  Yes, a narcissist will apologize, but it will be unsatisfying to the victim because it will have a ring of insincerity. 
  • Reconciliation may be dangerous.  Because it is in the nature of narcissists to use others, reconciliation may simply be an opportunity for them to hurt you again.  Like other abusers, narcissists almost always repeat their cruelties.  Since they already know your secrets and your vulnerabilities, it is easier for them to use you again. 
  • Justice requires exposure.  You are not the only one the narcissist has hurt or is hurting, but you may be the first to realize the truth.  It is not enough for most of us to simply move on from the pain, we want to expose the offender, to show others the truth.  However, the narcissist has most others convinced that he or she is a wonderful and kind person.  How can you get them to believe you? 

So, you see, there are several reasons why the pain continues.  Like a sore that never quite heals, narcissistic injury can last a long time. 

But how do you move on then?  Again some thoughts:

  • Embrace the pain and realize that, while it still hurts, it no longer defines you.  You have a right to hurt.  Denying it won’t help.  Let the hurt work its way outward until it can finally be released. 
  • Accept the fact that you can never trust that person again.  The old “fool me once” adage certainly fits here.  The narcissist is responsible for the cruelty, but you would be somehow responsible for returning to it.  Even if you have to maintain some kind of relationship with the narcissist, you don’t have to open yourself in the same way again.
  • Remember that the narcissist “super-power” is manipulating what people think of them.  Don’t be surprised that others don’t see what you see.  They might, in the future, but they might not.  You are not responsible for their decisions.  Warn them, tell them, but don’t expect anything from them.   It’s understandable if they don’t believe you.

You can move on with your life, even though the memory of the offense still brings pain.



Filed under Narcissism

15 responses to “Why Does It Still Hurt?

  1. Kelly

    Excellent post and so very true to my own experienc.

  2. Kelly

    I was thinking about how other people do not view the narcissist the way the person involved with them does. One of the hardest things for me to get past was that people “couldn’t believe” we were divorcing and many said “oh that doesn’t sound like the so-and-so I know” Well, yeah….you didn’t and don’t know him the way I do. That can make you feel SO alone and even question if you view things correctly. My ex is also a first responder so he has a great narcissitic supply going ALL THE TIME -as a “hero” . By the grace of God I was really able to remember that apart from Christ WE are nothing, but as I watch these fires rage in the foothills, I know he is filling up on his hero points as his supply …but God knows the truth…always.

    • I have tried to call this ability to determine what others think of them the narcissist “super-power” because most people don’t really understand how good these folks are. It is what they have trained for their whole lives. It is their greatest personal investment.
      And, sadly, you are right on to note that narcissists are attracted to positions and vocations that are seen as helpful, authoritative, and important. First responders, like preachers and politicians and doctors, are seen by narcissists as holding a position that will allow admiration and control. The other sad part of this is that narcissists are often incompetent in their jobs. They just have the ability to appear to be heros.

    • Kara shearer

      Kelly – I relate to what you said soooooooooo well… It’s almost scary.. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone yet I would never want anyone to feel this way either ;(

  3. Kelly

    I want to make sure that I state that first responders are generally the most giving and selfless people around…….my ex just happened to go into that field because it made him feel like he was “untouchable” -the word he used. a God complex. I appreciate all our responders and pray for them…its just sometimes hard that I associate that line of work with my ex.

    • Yes, we wouldn’t want people thinking that all first responders (or the other professions I mentioned) are narcissistic. The narcissists are the “bad apples” we often talk about. They represent a small minority, but sometimes give a bad name to all. (Can you say “Sandusky”?)

  4. Cat

    The biggest problem is moving on especially when they make you dependent on them and then treat you badly because you are. you never do the right thing while walking on egg shell and felling sufficatted…

  5. Jesse Berriff

    My mother is a malignanat narcissist, and I got involved in a church cult which was run by another MN. These people have a preternatural ability to present many faces. One author calls it the ‘mast of sanity’. Except in my experience it is many faces. One face for relatives, one for co-workers, another for church friends, another for you. Even the victims or targets get presented with different faces.

    The other thing which keeps you on the back foot is that these people are also extremely good at messing with your head. They will say or do things which make no sense, they will do them randomly and for no logical reason.Often they are backwards reactions to things, being hysterically angry over something which should make them happy, or completely unmoved by something which shocks others. These sorts of things throw you out, make you think you are the one who must be seeing things, or have misread the situation. The narcissist gets away with it because the act was so randomly strange and unbelievable that others kind of wipe away the memory of it. That suits the narcissist just fine because they can pretend it didn’t happen and so does everyone else. For the victim of a narcissist, the child or partner for example, these events are not so random. They happen quite frequently, and have the habit of causing what the experts call cognitive dissonance. It is very uncomfortable, makes you think you are going nuts, and makes it very difficult to try and explain why you don’t like the narcissist. The casual acquaintance however will tend to pass over the behaviour as ‘quirkiness’, or ‘eccentricity’. You are left with your brain handed to you on a plate, and then you are the one who looks like a lunatic because you are being driven to distraction.

    • Excellent comment! What you call the “randomness” is what makes understanding the narcissist so difficult for people. Their thinking simply is not normal and does not fit into normal or predictable patterns for most people. That alone gives them power. Combine that with a ruthless ability to depersonalize and use others and you have dangerous people.

  6. annonymous

    I completely identify with this article. I know the pain at times has brought me closer to the Lord. I don’t like feeling bitter. The quicker I forgive the better I feel about myself. Sometimes though I fall into hopelessness and it takes me a long time to get my eyes back on the Lord. It helps to know that lowering expectations of being loved and cared for by this man keeps me in a safer place.

    Interestingly enough, when we were first married I had a dream of a little boy. The boy was dressed like an adult. He had a suit, tie and black dress shoes on. There was a really angry man in the dream. He got down in the little boys face, grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him hard and with a really mean voice said, “Your going to do this aren’t you”. The little boy was terrified and was afraid to say no so he just nodded yes. The man picked him up and placed him on a platform. There was an audience of people sitting below. The angry man completely changed his countenance to a very friendly loving demeanor. He said to the audience, “Ladies and gentlemen, this young man has agreed to do this”. Not sure what he agreed to do but the crowd began to applaud, each clap in unison. As they clapped the angry man, from behind (so no one else could see) spanked the little boy on his bottom. He hit him hard but he hit him at the same time everyone clapped in unison so no one heard or saw what was going on.

    I believe that is a picture of what happened to my husband as a child. He is very performance oriented and looks and appearances are very important…yet there is so much pain and rage there.

    I spend most of my life trying to dodge that rage. He isn’t physically abusive but very emotionally and verbally abusive (in private). To the rest of the world he is a charming, caring helpful man.

    • Mercy

      Wow. what an amazing dream. I saw my ex in a dream when we were married, he was as a little boy high up in a tree crying, he had been beaten by his father and had no one to comfort him. I saw he had made a resolution not to feel and that he was utterly alone, that he would try to occupy himself by playing alone but was miserable. His little child face hardened to the cruel mask he wears now, tragic. Thanks for your post, it helped jog that memory and helps me to remember the human behind the evil that is in him now.
      My ex is not charming but he is an aloof, convincing, incredibly controlled and austere man. He seems to be no nonsense but inside he is a seething pit of torment and madness. Any emotion one shows is punished and labelled as ‘abusive behaviour’, any refusal to do his bidding or stand up for oneself (and our child) is seen as a declaration of war, yet he never raised his voice – he would raise his hand calmly and quietly and strike me and explain in a quiet voice, why it was necessary. He was clever enough to ‘only’ do this a few times when I was pregnant and when I screamed in distress at his coldness – and needed ‘restraining’. He is truly wicked. But knowing there was a beautiful little boy once who was neglected into miserable isolation and NEVER developed a healthy sense of security, being loved and acknowledged helps me not to feel so afraid – that there is a reason, that he is fundamentally incredibly weak. To realise I am dealing with a shadow man, a person that never was allowed to be but the body and ego grew up and kept going any way…means I, as a whole person, and good, protective mother can keep my child safe to grow healthily and defeat him where I can, manage him where I cant. God give me grace.

      • Pam

        So sorry to hear of your situation. I have found that even though I still have some understanding of what is behind his behavior it still hurts. I’ve also had to learn to keep this marriage in it’s proper place. My Lord and
        Savior comes first. At times I have found that out of order in my own life. I wanted the marriage to work so badly that it took precedence over the Lord in my heart. The marriage had become an idol. I had to relinquish the marriage into His hands.

        Sort of ironic but once I was able to relinquish the marriage into the Lord’s hands I very calmly told my husband that I loved him but that I wasn’t able to trust him because of his ongoing lies. I told him that God called me to respect him but that I had no natural respect for him because of his abusive words and actions. He is now filing for divorce. I spoke the truth in love. He is also starting a new series in our church on Godly men related to marriage, family, work ect. Baffling but the Lord sees it all.

        Leslie Vernick has a book called “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”. She also has a website that has been a life link for me. It is scripture based and I’ve found it helpful in staying calm, keeping my sanity and my eyes on the Lord.

  7. It took me a very long time, but I finally did forgive my ex narcissist. It felt freeing. Before my forgiveness I was full of anger, self doubt and bitterness. I could not believe someone that I loved so much could hurt me in the ways he did me. Nobody should have to endure what I did and those who have suffered at their hands. let me just say how sorry I am.

    What was so perplexing for me was my thoughts that everything was my fault. After an argument I would always apologize trying to explain myself. He would never accept the apologies and go on a rant even more. All I ever wanted was his understanding. He really wanted to drive in the fact that he was right and I was wrong and that he never did anything wrong on purpose. His actions were always a direct result of what I did. I felt like such a bad, mean, ugly horrible person. Why? Why would anyone do this? All I wanted was for him to just love me.

    I wish I could erase my experience from my brain. I am slowly healing and the memories of the abuse dont grab hold of me anymore. I have forgiven, yet I cannot forget and even though the relationship is over, I still feel different degress of the painful moments I endured. Random thoughts just pop into my head, the memories are still trapped in there and sometimes they come back and haunt me. My life was so much better prior to meeting this narcissist. Im still waiting for my life to be normal again. It is slowly getting there but I hate that I now have to deal with the painful emotions of having loved someone who treated me like I was the enemy.

  8. Pingback: Trudging Through Five and a Half Years of Hell…..Do I See Light Up Ahead? (Surviving Depression After Abuse) | Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

  9. Tammy sue peters

    So true and so painful and so right…leaving a narcissistic relationship that is unhealthy is timed and meticulously plotted so you or your children don’t get injured in the aftermath.

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