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.