People Need People

It’s Narcissist Friday!     


One of the marks of a true victim (rather than a person who uses the designation of victim to manipulate) is great difficulty in connecting with others. As has been mentioned here many times in the comments, it is challenging to trust after you have been abused. This is even more true when the abuser was someone trusted. You see this as a wall or thick skin around the person. They have difficulty initiating conversation, accepting praise or thanks, and believing that anyone could be genuinely (and kindly) interested in them. So they maintain a shell of protection.

At the same time, I have come to understand that we were made to need people. Relationship, no matter how risky, is vital for our health in almost every respect. We were not made to be alone. Victims of narcissistic abuse often find themselves to be alone no matter how many people are around them. Part of that is the direct result of the abuse. Narcissists often make their victims feel unacceptable, unworthy. Their opinions and desires are meaningless, even offensive, to the people around them, the narcissist says. That way the victims learn to keep to themselves, to “shut-up.” And, of course, part of it is an indirect result, the feeling of being unacceptable that comes almost naturally from being manipulated and used. The need for people is pushed aside because of the fear of people.

But healthy people need other people. It is not unhealthy to feel lonely. Loneliness is the soul’s push toward relationship. It is unhealthy, however, to push everyone away because of fear.

So a move toward health is also a move toward others. Many who have lived in relationships with narcissists have found themselves separated from those who would be supportive or affirming. That isolation is part of the control narcissists exert. Apart from normal support relationships, narcissistic victims become weakened and malleable. If there is only the narcissist’s voice, the psychological and emotional manipulation becomes easier.

What does this move toward health look like? It looks like a smile or a friendly nod. It sounds like a simple conversation with an acquaintance. It may be the discovery of a common activity or the pleasure of a common interest. In other words, it doesn’t have to start big. Perhaps it shouldn’t start big. Few people welcome those who lay their needs out in front of them in the beginning of a relationship. Victims often wonder if others would be accepting “if they knew,” but others don’t need to know all about your struggle. Instead, allowing the simple relationship of friendly acquaintance is a wonderful step toward health.

Yes, there is risk. Always. But the risk is lessened if a gentle and shallow relationship is allowed. There are many others who need someone and are afraid. The old story of the two people who sit alone at a party and pass the time talking with each other is a great lesson in simple relationships. Don’t expect a great deal. Be willing to enjoy an acquaintance.

Narcissists push fast and hard into a relationship. Users and abusers attach themselves with velcro-like strength. But walking away from an acquaintance who smiles and is kind, without expectation of more, is a powerful statement of health. If more comes later, that’s great. If not, there will be someone else. Many people long for the kind word or simple affirmation.

Support structures that have been broken may be repaired. A phone call just to say that you have missed the relationship and see how the person is doing can open a door. Those who may have felt betrayed or left behind when you slipped into your cave might just welcome the contact. If they do not, that’s okay. It may not be rejection, but surprise. They might not know how to respond.

Healthy people understand that others are real people. Most of them can barely handle their own burdens, let alone yours. Instead, they might need to lean on you as you lean on them. They can’t carry your load, but they might be able to help you stand. Friends come with weaknesses and struggles of their own.

The book of Proverbs says that two are better than one. That is not a reference to marriage, although that is one example of what should be a supportive relationship. A friend, a familiar face, a helping hand: these are also examples of that great truth.

Let me summarize this by saying that you don’t need a champion, you need a companion. Get your counseling from a professional and your security from the Lord. You need a friend, or many friends. Smile, be kind, help someone in a little way. Friends are out there. They need you as much as you need them.


Filed under Narcissism

16 responses to “People Need People

  1. I love this, especially what you wrote in the last paragraph:
    “Let me summarize this by saying that you don’t need a champion, you need a companion. Get your counseling from a professional and your security from the Lord.” Amen!

  2. Diana

    That’s such great encouragement to enjoy someone else’s brief conversation and smiles, but be able to walk away knowing the encounter may lead to deeper conversations or not. My friendships have definitely taken a hit during a 33 year marriage with an N. I keep my friends separate now, because he inevitably works his way into my relationships and takes over. Good to know that loneliness is natural too, and leads to a push toward relationships…healthy relationships. I appreciate that awareness you have presented to take small steps toward meaningful friendships. I’ve been feeling like something is wrong with me because I’m afraid to commit on a broader level. There is assurance and freedom knowing it is okay to take the intimacy of friendship slowly and not expect so much. My N has so many people who think he is marvelous, but it’s easy to flit in and out of people’s lives with no emotional connections. I want to develop long lasting friendships with people who are there for me when the going gets rough. I just need to overcome that fear of letting others in. Thank you, Dave, for the motivation.

  3. Robert

    Well said. Yes, my highly dysfunctional family of origin instilled an emotional fear in me that lasted decades. I got away from them geographically with only a vague sense of something being wrong. Through limited contact over the years I finally realized they would never change. I feel grateful for the life I have been able to make for myself though their fear lasted in me a long time.

  4. Thank you, Pastor Dave. I really needed this. This is very helpful.

  5. karebrad

    I honestly don’t think I know what a healthy relationship looks like.
    Everyone I know in the relationships they have, there is one dominate person that pretty much controls in the relationship.

  6. I love this post. We are healthy and we heal in community with good-hearted, kind people speaking truth and affirmation into our lives, and seeing us as God sees us, through loving and encouraging eyes. They help us get over the lies, criticism and projection of their own evil that Narcissists inflict on us. They are God’s hands and feet here on earth. However, friends are not counselors and most do not understand narcissism. They will eventually tire of being put in that position for an extended period of time. We are wise to get professionals (as Dave points out) to sort out the craziness that comes with Narcissists and other toxic people, and love our friends enough not to continuously dump on them.

    Of course, when leaving a Narcissist, you discover the true nature of people and find that people you thought were “friends” do not deserve the title of that office. In these cases, our hearts are hurt yet again by those who side with the Narcissist or don’t care enough to even call. You can be sure that those who side with the Narcissist fall into one of three camps: (1) they are deceived (2) they are intimidated and cling because they are afraid of being discarded like you were or (3) they share the same values as the Narcissist. In any case, it is time to “cull the herd” of untrue friends who side with the Narcissist or stand silent on the sidelines. They have revealed their true selves. Choose to be with good-hearted, kind souls who will be a blessing to you, as you are a blessing to them

    • karebrad

      How do you find a good counselor that understands narcissism?

      • You can check with a local domestic violence shelter. They will have a list of counselors. Narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths make up the universe of abusers. Also, asking the counselor how much experience they have had with narcissists is a good way.

      • karebrad

        Thank you!!

    • Postbellum

      You have so much insight and wisdom. You nailed the motivations of people that side with the narcissist. I have endured this on a grand scale, I can hardly wrap my mind around this. My former church discarded me when I came forward and then filed for divorce. The hardest part is that after I left the church 1 1/2 years ago (they embraced him) , no one even calls to check on my four children. I wear the scarlet “D”, but they are innocent victims of first their covert N father and subsequently, the divorce. I see dustrust for “Church people” growing in them all. True, I had to cull the flock, a painful but necessary task. I am sorry for you, it seems you must have been through a lot in order to have the insight that you possess. Thank you for sharing it 🙂

      • Postbellum,
        It is true that most people don’t “get it” about Narcissists. Much like only people who have gone through cancer treatment can only really appreciate what others go through, only those who have gone through the fire with a Narcissist (or sociopath or psychopath) truly understand. However, you will find that your local domestic violence shelter understands, and I encourage you to get involved in a support group and/or individual counseling with them. Narcissists and their brothers sociopaths and psychopaths make up what is called Cluster B Personality Disorders. They are characterized by no empathy, no conscience, no remorse, and no repentance. Many have multiple personality disorders (i.e. a Narcissist and a Sociopath). All of these Cluster B personality disorders make up the universe of domestic abusers. While most people think of domestic abuse as the Ray Rice video punching out his girlfriend in the elevator ( a classic example of physical abuse), domestic abuse consists of emotional and verbal abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and even spiritual abuse. Emotional abuse is by far the most common, and what Narcissists specialize in. Having said that, anyone living with a Narcissist for very long will likely experience all forms of abuse. You will find understanding and healing at a place that treats victims of domestic abuse. I counsel all who come to me, whether for legal counsel (I changed my practice from corporate law to helping women get out of abusive relationships after I went through it myself) or to one of our support groups (I co-facilitate a support group and speak publicly against domestic abuse) that their number one priority is to heal, draw closer to God, and become the person God designed you to be (which one cannot while being with an abuser.)

        As for trusting yourself, many of us question our judgment after a long term relationship with a Narcissist. I suggest enlisting trusted and wise friends and family to weigh in on potential suitors. They can often see things that we cannot. (One girlfriend reminded me that she had told me not to marry my former husband, but I was not listening. So we also need to listen to them, especially if they have the gift of discernment and wisdom.) When I started dating again, I told the person interested in me that he would have to undergo a vetting process with friends and family. You will want to spend time with his friends and family to see what kind of people they are. I made sure that I had met and was completely comfortable with his friends and family. And if you really want to be sure before a long term commitment is made, ask to speak to his former spouse to get her side of the story. I also had a conversation with his former wife to understand what had happened to their relationship. (I had a few conversations with my Narcissist’s first wife, only to discover that he had misrepresented a number of things, but by the time I spoke to her, I was already married.) A good person who is serious and interested will understand (especially given your background) and not be scared away. In normal relationships, trust must be earned, and healthy people understand that and are not afraid of someone who they are considering marrying examining their lives.

        A Narcissist will absolutely not want you to talk to a former spouse or significant other because he is hiding too many lies. In normal relationships, even if a couple breaks up, they still wish the best for each other. This is never the case with a Narcissist, who will do everything possible to destroy his former significant other/spouse and he will engage in a smear campaign of lies about her.

  7. Postbellum

    Thank you Pastor, I need this affirmation. Although I have 22 years with my abuser, divorced for 1 1/2 years, I am terrified that I will repeat history and choose another destructive N. I realize that the person I don’t trust is myself. So, I’m here wishing that I was more distrustful (healthy distrust) than I am in order to protect myself. I have not started dating yet but am afraid that because I am a warm and open person, wanting connection, that I would get involved too deeply, too soon with the wrong person . I realize it’s not healthy to reclude and build a wall, but some of us need to make sure we have a fence in place.
    The thing that isolates me the most is that very few people “get it” about the narcissist or effects of narcissistic abuse. Even people that are close to me and care about me don’t really understand. It’s like I’ve been exposed to some rare disease that I can’t explain in common language to others. It makes me very appreciative of this safe place (Grace for my Heart) created where I can learn, grow and relate to others about this difficult topic.

  8. Georgette

    Postbellum: I understand your heart regarding the church not calling to check on your children or you for that matter. You are correct; the jezebel spirit that is in your N has deceived them. My N devalued me to the church leaders. He is a leader in a recovery ministry. One of the leaders that I spoke with regarding his dark side stated: I would appreciate it if this conversation did not get outside this office. If it did it would hurt the ministry and we do not want that. Needless to say a year later I received a call from a member of the church asking what happened because the N had two violent out bursts. I told him my conversation with this leader and other leaders including the minister. He was the only one that believed me but has not called since then. It has been over a year. There is only one other person who is trying to get me to join one of their bible studies they have but I refuse to go because I honestly don’t trust anyone other than her and the guy that called me. I tired three different churches and I just can’t go back to going to church. The betrayal is too deep and painful to trust walking into another church. I did find a healing ministry that I attend and found quite a few folks that have been hurt by the church and has no desire to go back to the church. This isn’t saying much to the church except that demonic activity is growing in the church. Leaders and pastors are to scared to approach the jezebel spirit and they don’t know what to do, so they hide the evilness under a rug and look the other way in the hopes it will go away. The bible does state that Satan comes dressed in sheep’s clothes to destroy the church. I believe the N I dated is doing that, considering I seen two demons go into him. I only told the leaders of the second instance because it happened in the church and nothing was done about it.

    You are correct very few people understand narcissistic abuse because they never experienced it. The ones that have I have realized they don’t know that it is called narcissistic abuse. They call it “just a bad marriage”. They think you should be over it and moving on. They don’t understand that it takes time to heal from the deceit, lies, manipulation and betrayal not just from the N but from the people you thought were your friends. I feel for the ones in this blog that have been married for over four years and lost all those years of sanity and financial losses. I dated an N for four years and that was hell! He married his fourth wife not because he loved her but because he had to protect his self-image with the church. His sister called me shortly before he decided to marry his fourth wife to see if I would take the N back, she said: if you don’t marry him, he said he will marry her because she is better than nothing since he has been married three times. He told me that she would be a good one to marry because since she didn’t have much he would not have to work as hard to provide for her. She married him for a better life. After all he paid for her divorce, bought her a newer car and got her out of a run down trailer. But the leaders at the church say I just refuse to see how hard he has worked on changing and that he is growing by leaps and bounds. He doesn’t need counseling; the recovery ministry is enough for him.

  9. Janet

    This is so comforting! Its exactly true!
    It is said that you don’t remember what people said, you remember how they made you FEEL.
    Yes, my N made me FEEL worthless, worth LESS than her, tgan others. I felt I never could do anything right. And I POURED myself into her life. My spirit was crushed. All my confidence gone. I was so easily manipulated by her. Others weren’t. Why was I? I was Codependent.

    My relationships now are all acquaintances, not deep. I have an absolutely wonderful prayer partner who knew my N very well, for she had ministered to her for years, saw her Narcissistic behaviour, knew her abusive and manipulative behavior and what I went through. She was the one who advised me to cut off all ties and get all soul ties purged by the Holy Spirit. She knows well enough to let me keep my distance. Its a very healing relationship and her wisdom is manifold.

    Its so true, I cannot do another close relationship. (at least for now) I am indeed terrified of anyone who tries to get close. They learn quick that the door is locked. Unthinkable. (I pray for each one that they WILL find a special relationship that will fulfill their need! ) That said, I HAVE put ALL my trust in the One who has never ever abused me! Him I trust absolutely!

    What you said, “Narcissists push fast and hard into a relationship. Users and abusers attach themselves with velcro-like strength.” A PERFECT description of the first week of meeting my N, and the last 7 years. I could not get myself free of this woman. Suffocating!!! I still really liked her, yet, it was the friendship from hell. God finally sent her home from being in ministry in our country. I sought Him and begged Him for a year to not renew her visa. He answered my prayer!!!! She has since been feverishly trying to KEEP me via emails. I went along for a while but she would again become abusive. I would back away, then get the predictable email of ” why are you making such a big deal of it?” Then the profuse obligatory apologies I knew too well that had no real depth. I realized, I no longer liked her. I didn’t want to know anything about her life anymore. I was finally free of her in my heart. About a month ago, she wrote this email that made it sound like our friendship had been so wonderful and grand. It would be “a shame to throw it all away”. No acknowledgement of the years of the numerous, constant, excruciatingly painful and unpleasant scenes, the horrible turmoil, the viscious friction, all the horror that went on. I finally said very briefly that I was no longer going to pursue our relationship any further. I blessed her a wrote good bye. At first she responded graciously. Said she totally understood. She hoped God would heal me of all the bad memories so that I would remember only our good times together. But, I knew her all too well!!! I knew that after stewing about my response, 2 hours later, right on time, the expected poison pen email would come, and sure enough…completely nullifying the gracious words, and the viscious, vengeful, vitriolic, character assasination-parting shot came. (Remember, this woman is a BELIEVER!!!) She said she also she has deleted all my contact details and I won’t hear from her ever again.
    Oh Lord, I HOPE SO!!!!!! But, I expect another viscious attack some time with in the next few months.

  10. joy

    I used to be trusting…but after 30 years with a narcissist and having many of our church friends supporting him when I left, I became very insulated. I went to work, and home, and to my parents. That’s it. I’d been very involved at church for decades, but it became too hard to go when he was running his PR campaign as the poor sad husband whose wife left him for no reason. It really hurt because I was the one they really knew all that time (on the board, teaching, etc.) …he’d been a charming figure they saw occasionally. It hurt that they they’d think I’d leave and not realize I must have had a very good reason. Anyway…it’s been several years now. I have my best friend, and now a boyfriend, and now I a couple more shallow relationships like you write about….people who I can talk with or do things with. I don’t open up to very many people though. Luckily, I am the sort who has always enjoyed my own company.

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