Here be Dragons

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Suddenly, you are walking a new path. Life isn’t the same as it was recently. It sure isn’t the same as it was a long time ago. The path you are on now is different, new, and exciting. With that excitement comes a little anxiety, but that’s okay. You know that others have taken this path, but every step is new to you. Thinking back over some of the wrong decisions and the betrayals you have suffered, a certain amount of anxiety is understandable. In fact, it might help keep you safe.

Apparently only one or a very few ancient maps actually used the words: “hic sunt dracones.” “Here be dragons,” or “there be dragons here.” It’s a phrase that became popular to describe dangers on the way, whether in a project or a relationship or a journey. Consider it a little stronger than “Watch Your Step.”

Every new path has pitfalls. Every old path had pitfalls, but you learned to navigate them. It may have been from watching others or it may have been from your own experience, but you could walk the old path in your sleep. It was easier because it was familiar. This new path is different.

When the new path is navigating through relationships and life without the narcissist or the narcissistic system, many things will be different. You see relationships differently. Who do you trust? You see options differently. What will be good for you, and what will hurt you? And you see yourself differently. Have you healed enough or learned enough to be safe on this new path? Much is uncertain.

The only thing that is certain is that you are on that new path. You don’t want to go back. You know you have to move forward. Whatever that means—new job, new friends, new home, new attitude—you have to keep going. Risk is part of the process, and you are ready. You hope.

It would be nice if someone helped a little, though. Maybe some red flags. Maybe some kind warnings. Maybe a note that says, “There be Dragons Here.” It would be nice to know about the dragons.

I have seen too many people get lost on the new path. By the time they realize they have stumbled or wandered, they have hurt themselves and others. They have become something they never wanted to be. They have done things they have never wanted to do. And they have connected with even more people who have used and misled them.

As an example, it is not uncommon for those who leave an abusive relationship to stumble into another. Some become promiscuous, allowing themselves to be used or even using others in the hopes of finding salve for their hearts. And, afterward, they feel even worse.

We probably don’t talk enough about PTSD as a normal consequence of narcissistic relationships. I don’t consider myself a psychological professional, so I try not to get into the more complicated after-effects of this very real trauma. Instead, I can only offer whatever perspectives I have gathered as I have walked this path with so many over the years. I also want to offer a word or two of encouragement along the way. The long term abuse of a narcissistic relationship can open the door to unforeseen dangers on the new path. I want to talk about a few of these dangers I have seen.

But, in this post, I simply want to say that mistakes are part of the journey. The path is new. The stumbling blocks do surprise you. There is no shame in having fallen a time or two. I have had the opportunity to correspond with several people who have been in multiple narcissistic relationships. These people have doubted themselves and any hope for happiness in the future. Listen: it happens, and it happens a lot. But there is always hope.

Narcissistic people and systems are both charming and deceptive. Falling into another after getting out of one is common, no matter how much it hurts. Don’t beat yourself up! Don’t listen to others who are trying to beat you up. Your goal is to get back on the path to health and a new life. And keep your eyes open.

If you have fallen into any of these holes on the new path, if you have wandered because of the distractions, if you have found yourself becoming someone unfamiliar and undesirable, don’t despair. Again, it happens. Probably to everyone. You can make changes.

Nothing I will say in the coming weeks should bring shame or guilt to any reader. One of the blessings of this kind of communication is that I only know a handful of people who read here. There is no way for me to be referencing you or your situation. You remain anonymous no matter how much it sounds like I am telling your story. And I welcome you to disagree with me, shout at me, call me names, or whatever you need to do. You may also see pitfalls I have missed. No two paths are the same. I have collected a lot of stories, but probably not yours. And your cautions might help someone else. So please feel free to comment.

Next week: Scorching the Earth – avoiding the dragons by burning it all


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15 responses to “Here be Dragons

  1. Didi

    Thank you. After finally discovering 2 years ago that the parent I care for is highly narcissistic, I have just started my own new path. One of the things I’ve let go of is perfectionism. I’ve learned to receive mistakes not as signs of being ignorant, but as opportunities to grow and learn. That in turn, has changed my outlook on other’s mistakes on their paths as well. This has brought about a great deal of relief to my mind and soul. I am so grateful for the peace I now feel. While it’s still difficult to deal w my parent it is no longer with angst and dread. We are both only responsible for our own paths and how they end. I found your posts in the beginning of my search. I was very scared, confused, hurt and anxious looking for answers. Your posts brought so much to light for me. Thank you.

  2. Dear Pastor Dave — I read this post and was moved to share my story of having PTSD as a result of growing up with two abusive narcissistic parents, and then leaving my childhood home and going straight into one abusive marriage after another. I have been writing for almost two hours. I checked the word count of that comment and it is 1,134 words long! Way too long to be a comment.

    The bottom line of my overly long comment is this: I hit rock bottom the year I turned 50, got the help of a wonderful Christian psychiatrist, and became a committed, believing Christian myself, which has made all the difference in my life.

    You know the story of the outcast Samaritan woman that Jesus went out of his way to meet at the well? The woman with five failed marriages, who currently had a man who wasn’t her husband? The woman whom Jesus spoke gently to, the woman He did not shun or condemn, the woman He offered forgiveness, love, and eternal life to? I am that woman. And my loving, Christian, non-narcissistic husband of 16+ years is a male version of the Samaritan woman.

    God’s grace is truly amazing!

    I have saved my long comment in my notepad, with the intention of rewriting it and turning it into a post on my blog. It’s scary to be so honest on my blog!!! But I believe the Lord is leading me to do this, to help and encourage other ‘Samaritan’ women and men.

    Please pray for me to be strong and courageous as I write my hard truths. And thank you, Dave, for writing this! (This comment is 286 words. Still long, but better!)

    • Yes! God’s grace is amazing! I remember some of your story from our communication in the past. While the bad is horrific, the good is terrific! God reaches into the darkest situations with His amazing love. When you have your long comment in the shape you want, let me know so I can either post it or link to it here. I know it will be an encouragement to others. The pain is so great, but the rest of the story is wonderful. God bless you!

      • You just gave me happy tears. Thank you, and yes, I will do as you ask. I am praying right now for our Lord to bless you mightily, at least 100 fold for all the blessings you have given to others, including me.

    • Z

      Dear Linda Lee/Lady Quixote,
      Your briefly summarized story mirrors mine in many ways. The most impactful way is that you were born innocently into an environment of abuse by both parents. It isn’t that common to have BOTH parents abuse their child. Nor is it that common for violent child abusers to claim to be “born again Christians”. (That messed me up badly, by the way, regarding my views on Christianity. It was total hypocrisy to me for many years because of what I witnessed and experienced from my abusers and all the many family and friends who were child abuse enablers and who also claimed to be Christians.)
      My parents abused me in every way. But witnessing the brutally violent beatings of my siblings affected me even more than their beatings of me. And the violent DV between both parents terrorized me too.
      That environment “normalized” violence, and, like you, it led me to try to “escape” them by marrying>a violent abuser! THAT is a common occurrence. I fled Jesus for many years because of the hypocrisy I grew up in. And like you, I met the REAL JESUS (my Samaritan well moment) later in life. I prayed for God to either choose His choice of the right mate for me for life or to let me know if I was to remain unmarried. I am now long remarried to a beautiful Christian man. God gave me BETTER than I could have imagined or prayed for! He is always GOOD and RIGHT!
      (There’s alot of chaos and further violence from my former family of origin-No Contact with them for years now. Thank God He set me free from any ties I wrongly thought I had to maintain with poisonous, dangerous, criminally violent people. They tried to destroy my happiness and my walk with Jesus. So I still am dealing with the more recent CPTSD from their extremely violent attack on us, on top of my CPTSD from my childhood that has now resurfaced after being suppressed for many decades.
      But God is right there with me. He will finish what He started-setting me FREE 100% from that bondage.)
      I look forward to your link on this blog when you write it! It WILL help set others free! God bless you sister.

      • Dear ‘Z’, thank you so much for sharing what you did. Your testimony has strengthened my resolve to share my story. I’m having some trouble writing it, but I am not going to give up.

        I’m so sorry that you can relate to the bitter parts of my past. But isn’t it wonderful how our Lord Jesus can take our worst experiences, and bring something beautiful into our lives!

      • Z

        Amen, Linda Lee! Jesus has already given me beauty for ashes in His gift of my wonderful husband to “do this life with”. And my eternal salvation! God didn’t allow the hypocrisy of the lifelong counterfeit “christians” I grew up around to KEEP me from later choosing to truly repent and accept His true salvation. I wish life were easier on earth-my upbringing, the later family violence against us, the resulting CPTSD/anxiety disorder and chronic pain are no picnic. But Jesus is with me every step. And I am heaven-bound! No matter what this world throws at me!
        🙏🏽 for you to write your story when God tells you it’s the right time.

      • I’m thinking you need to write a book, too. But only if you feel so led by the Lord, I don’t want to put a burden on you.

        Thank you much for your prayer. Please say a prayer for my youngest son. He went to an urgent care today, because he wasn’t feeling well. His oxygen level was only 94, and the doctor told him their policy is to send anyone with an oxygen level below 94 to the hospital. He was given a covid-19 test and told to quarantine at home while waiting for the result, which should be by Friday.

      • Z

        🙏🏽Prayers going up for your son, Linda Lee. Please let us know how things go.
        (And thanks for the encouragement for me to write a book. I could write an anthology! Maybe when my CPTSD symptoms calm down a bit more-it’s too triggering to think of right now. I’m just trying to get through each day without the 24/7 anxiety overwhelming me. As you said, if it’s God’s will, He’ll make a way.)

      • Thank you. And amen to God making a way.

  3. Karen

    I’m back! Can’t wait to refresh my memory on all the NPD recovery advice. I was on your site back in 2014 and ended up going back to my Ex. Well, I’m in the breakup stage again but this time I’m strong, confident and prepared. All decisions are my own and only doing what’s good for me. I guess practice makes perfect. Hahaha. Glad your site is still here. ❤️

  4. beautiful swan

    Thank you Pastor Dave and all that have commented. My advice would be to open awareness of the world around you. Including the daily happenings that allow you to “feel” and understand how pleasant life can be without the Narcissist in your life. It is the true reality. Try to get to know, or get back to knowing your true self because that is the part that the Narcissist works so hard to alter into control. Pastor Dave, your post parallels my current reading by JH Simon, “How to kill a Narcissist: Debunking the myth of Narcissism. Simon does a great job of explaining the shame, empathy continuum. This is a great book to get on the path and continue through the recovery so that, hopefully, we slay the dragons from ever hurting us again. Ironically, in Chinese birthday order, my Narcissist is considered a dragon. I look foward to your next post in this series Pastor Dave. Blessings and comfort to all…

    Beautiful Swan

  5. beautiful swan

    And if you feel old patterns rise in thoughts or wanting to reach out to the Narcissist due to old pattern behaviors (What you thought was friendship, felling sorry for the Narc, etc.) FILL that SPACE and TIME with the CHOICE of a new healthy behavior in order to get back to your true Godly designed identity. When the new healthy pattern is repeated the vantage point of the Narc’s unstable, dangerous behaviors becomes clear and you just don’t want to go back to that hurtful, cruel place again.

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