Healing From Generational Narcissistic Abuse
This is Dawn Boiani again from FemTechOnline.com, and I run a women’s wellness blog. I write about, basically my personal experience, being a survivor of generational narcissistic abuse, and then, organizational narcissism from recreating those same root family patterns by joining an unhealthy spiritual community that was led by someone that recreated that same family dynamic that I grew up with. So, I wanted to write to you tonight about, narcissistic abuse because, it just happened to me and I’m in a great amount of pain. Anyone that has been in relationship with a narcissist, be it a lover, a parent, a close friend, an employer, it’s one of the most violent types of abuse because oftentimes it’s psychological. And in other types of abuse where someone is physically assaulting you or sexually assaulting you, it’s very easy to demarcate yourself from the perpetrator because there’s an actual crime that occurred that’s empirically proven. But with narcissistic abuse, the kind of back and forth and the sort of, wooing you in for narcissist’s supply to build up their self-esteem and self-worth at your expense; it acts like love. And oftentimes, if you’ve been in relationship with the disordered person like that, they’ve hurt you so much that you’re the walking wounded as far as that relationship is concerned.
The moment that the person would come back to you and resolve this, it actually feels like such a relief. So even though you’ve been abused by this person, be it a family member, coworker, lover, spouse, you’re hurting and it feels unresolved. It feels like a raw, open wound. So when the person comes back against all that is intuitive and sane, you will re-engender the relationship and hope that this time it will be different. Now they’ve “finally seen the light” and they’re going to be accountable, culpable for how much they hurt you, and they’re going to apologize and everything’s going to be okay. So we keep on going back to these people with the hope that they have conscience and that they care and they want to resolve what was hurtful. So that’s, that’s actually called a trauma bond. These bonds are really intense, biochemically, it’s like Pavlov’s dog, you’re always hoping that you’re going to have the pellet.
It’s like you wait around for that and it can become obsessive. It can become debilitating to try to seek resolve from someone who’s emotionally abusive. This type of abuse is truly insidious because, the narcissist or disordered person will intentionally use things against you to devalue you. It can be very subtle sometimes. It’s not always yelling and screaming, [throwing] pots and pans, or sexual or physical assault. It’s just this insidious indication that: I’ve hurt you, you’re there to build me up if you don’t agree to the unspoken rule that you never confront a narcissist. You have to walk on eggshells and cajole this person, then if you break the unspoken rule, it causes narcissistic injury, narcissistic rage, and the person can become really intensely cruel and then…discard you.
Devalue, Discard and Hovering
And then it cycles around once they’ve settled down and they miss you or something, then they come back around just to do it again. So it is this really unhealthy, toxic thing, but it is so heart wrenching. I love the quote: “no scar on my heart ever came from anyone I hated.” I was just the recipient of narcissistic abuse for about an hour and a half yesterday from a parent. And we’re in that situation where we have a family member and there’s an inheritance and there’s end of life. My family are, just a piranha pool of dysfunction and hatred and vitriol, swearing and chain smoking and just is really like atrocious toxic energy. Just no love, no kindness, backstabbing, triangulating, dyads, triads, looking for fault, abusing, yelling, swearing, physical assaults. Then after you’ve assaulted someone, then the person who is a perpetrator goes and says, “well, you deserved it.”
So that’s my family and my own husband had said, “we really can’t have contact with them.” But me, being a good Pollyanna codependent, always hoping for the best, and being eternally wounded, always will, with tears and with an open heart and with hope, kind of like a Saint Bernard, always hopes maybe that person will someday come around and appreciate me and say, “I really loved you.” You were a great daughter, you were a great sister, you were a great niece. We value you. But my family has chosen me as the scapegoat for the whole family shadow. As far as I can see back, these patterns, these unhealthy, toxic, dysfunctional patterns have gone on for generations. I have a 16 year old daughter, and I’ve tried really hard to not impart that toxicity to her.
I think she’s gotten some of it because I was raised with this, but I feel like she’s fundamentally healthy. And, the buck sort of stops here. I didn’t do to her the same things that my family did to me. I hope that she’s the new generation of healing, that’s the best that we can do. We can’t go back and we can’t fix our our families of origin, but we can stop the bleeding and stop recreating those patterns into the next generation. I think I’ve done that, but right now, I just am writing to you because, I’m shaking and my heart rate is resting pulse of about a hundred. I have a trip planned for tomorrow with my family. We were going to go to the beach and hang out and be underneath palm trees. Now, I have to cancel that because of narcissistic abuse from my mom.
The abuse went on for about an hour and a half. I was yelled at, I was counter projected, I was blamed, I was insulted. I was told things like, well, the family wants to see your daughter, but not you. It was really vicious. You can’t imagine that a mother would ever speak to a child that way, but that’s my experience. It’s gone on for 53 years and I’ve become a Buddhist and got into meditation and learned forgiveness, meditated, cried, rebirthing, done heavy breathing, yogic stuff, upwards of $50,000 of therapy, and one phone call reopens the scar, and it is just like I’m four years old again, being abused by a parent.
When you’re abused, I was abused actually in the crib, neglected, part of the damage is pre-concept. So when the perpetrator comes back, you, it reopens something that’s often you don’t even have access to it in your conceptual mind. So all of my amazing techniques, I have 84,000 techniques to remedy pain, ALL go out the window. They’re useless in the in the midst of abuse. It’s like, energetically, narcissists, when they are abusive, it’s actually a form of emotional rape. They hover you in by believing that they’re safe and that they care about you. They forge intimacy, you open to them and then they try to have power over you. So they say things that make you feel like you have no merit, no value. It’s devaluing, insulting, condescending, using things to trump you intellectually or financially, like my mother used to say, “no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be as beautiful as I am.”
Whatever they can say to put you down, that makes them feel that they can build themselves up and actually gives them sort of a ego bump. Narcissists are predicated on a deep chasm of self-loathing, self hatred, inner disdain. They overcompensate by being self consumed, using others to build them up in a predatory way and discarding them when that supply is no longer feeding their vacuum, bottomless pit. So once you get hip, they get bored of you, you confront, or you’re not giving them the kudos that they live on, they are predatory, they are parasitic, you get cut out, you get usually a narcissistic rage, sworn at, attacked, and then ultimately blocked. So, I was raised by someone like this, a primary relationship. So that’s kind of the m.o. of my life.
I encounter these people, from time to time. It’s like an unspoken magnet. It’s like, I think they call it trauma reenactment. There’s this unspoken thing where it just kind of lights up. I meet this person who’s an abuser, who is a narcissist, who is the vacuum, who is a predator. And it’s like heroin, it’s compulsive. I can’t not, get into a codependent rapport with them where they hurt me, they break me, and then I try really hard to fix it. (fawn) So this dynamic has happened time and time again in my life. And relationships, romantic relationships, even friendships, it’s a constant theme, with my family. A lot of them are still alive, and disordered people. So, I’ve worked very hard to try to do things like block people, tell them to please stay out of my life.
But it is so hard. it’s much easier said than done to block a family member. I guess you have very deep karma. Other people, like my husband, will look at the outside and say, your mother’s sworn at you, she’s assaulted you, and you were 36 years old! She has used the F word in front of your child, she’s run around the house screaming. Why would you engender a relationship with someone who is disordered or deranged or tempered tantrums and emotionally violent? Walk away!” [He suggests]. Then I start crying, like as if I’m a baby, I’m 53 and I could start crying. And I say, “because I love her.” And no one no person, even disordered people are all evil. It becomes almost like an existential question. Like, if I give up, then it’s almost a testament to human beings being evil.
The Birth of Codependency
I don’t want to let go of the hope that the person would have a conscience, heal what they did that was wrong, and we could have a relationship. So, the hope never goes away in my heart, to be able to heal these narcissistic relationships. It really is the heart, the architecture of codependency. Like, codependency is defined as, you have an unhealthy attachment with someone and they hurt you, and yet you continue to engender the relationship. They call it fight, flight, [freeze] or fawn. Those are three different types of trauma responses. You get into high conflict or you try to block or run away, or you try to care take on it on and fix everything. You take on the karma and you try to process it. So those are three different unhealthy trauma responses.
So I admit being a child abuse survivor, and a physical assault survivor, from a number of sources in this life, I do the fight flight or fawn, and the people who normally, normal people who weren’t raised this way, you meet a toxic person and you recognize that and you’re like, “wow, this person is dangerous!” This person has a criminal past. This person has sworn at me, this person has devalued me, you walk away, you’re like, wow, I’m outta here… but not me! I actually like, kind of fall in love or I chase after I pursue, a parent or family member or friendship of someone that has been hurtful because I’m so like, chomping at the bit, longing to resolve it, believing that I’m lovable, believing that they must have a conscience, believing that we can all “work it out.”
And that’s how codependents work. So why it’s unhealthy and why it’s addictive is it’s almost like, with codependency as if, people become your drug of choice and alcoholic, would, even if their health is in danger, continue to drink until their liver fails, or heroin until someone OD’s. You do the same thing energetically with a person. You engender a toxic relationship of something that could actually destroy you, people can die from narcissistic abuse. They can get heart attacks, clinical depression, fibromyalgia, nervous breakdowns, because the psychological violence with narcissistic abuse is so incredibly cruel. It usually results in a, discard, devaluation and discard like a complete cut. The [narcissistic] person will usually say, “you mean absolutely nothing to me, stay the hell out of my life, I want no contact with you.”
This is, I’ve heard this, half a dozen times from these people. And, that type of icy cold violence, it looks good. Like, oh, we’re setting boundaries, but it’s actually a form of the most violent way of being cruel that you can possibly imagine. Because it’s saying that, you mean so little to me mean nothing, you’re insignificant. It doesn’t matter what I did, doesn’t matter what you feel, you mean nothing. Stay the hell out of my life. You don’t even merit one sentence. So, I mean, if someone’s raping you or if someone’s hurting you and physically assaulting you, at least you matter, at least, at least you sort of are engaged and the person cares enough to be hurting you. I mean, you’re still actually in relationship with the person. Your being means something, even if you’re being physically abused and then being physically abused either through assault or through rape, it is so clear to, to parse out that because it is a physical, concrete thing.
Narcissistic abuse or abuse from people who are cluster B disordered is so insidious and sometimes it is so long term and it can be abuse by silence, and it can actually kill somebody. It is very, very powerful, being blocked, being discarded. Because if someone is codependent and you’re into relational resolution, conversation, working stuff out, your mind actually short circuits, you don’t know where to go. No therapist can fix it. No other lover, no friend. It’s like, that’s why I’m talking to you guys. It’s like, your mind’s sort of short circuit because you can’t go back to the perpetrator to resolve the pain.
No Closure After Discard
It stays as this sort of like, like a record skipping. It stays in your mind-stream. It never, it’s like you can’t even get on with your life. It just skips, skip, skip, skip, skip, skip skips, because it’s like you’re constantly being told by the silence that you are the wrong one. That you’re not even worth resolving it with. And this cold, icy, silent violence is, murderous. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but many people have lost their lives from being the recipients of narcissistic abuse because it is so in intensely conscienceless and cruel. I believe that some of these people that I’ve been in contact with, including my family members now around this inheritance, they actually intend to hurt. Like, what can I do to hurt her? What can I do? It sounds paranoid, and if people haven’t, I really commend anyone that has never been the recipient of a disordered person’s abuse because it is really heartbreaking.
How to Heal?
So how to heal? I mean, it is funny because I’ve studied this. I have a degree in psychology. I have a certificate as a wellness coach. I have as, as I said, $50,000 of therapy, processing, meditating…seeing rainbows. I mean, I’ve done like everything that I can possibly think of to heal. One conversation with my perpetrator, boom, I’m just devastated again for an untold amount of time. Then I heal and I feel strong again. Pick myself up by the bootstraps, dusted off, gotten back into yoga, meditation, wellness. I’m radiant and doing well, and then I feel strong. Then another, narcissist in different form, it’s usually the same one in my life. My, my mom, will come back into the life and things will be okay for a short period of time.
I open again, I hope things are well. And then BAM, another instance of abuse. There’s no, it’s been 53 years and it’s only gotten worse. And I’ve only been patient forgiven, cried, confronted, blocked. I’ve tried every single trick in the bag: silence, walking away, pre-grieving their death. I mean, you name it, I have tried, I have forged this mountain like, I’m like an expert narcissistic abuse,a nd I’m just sitting here now on November 17th. It’s 6:33 PM in Boulder, Colorado, shaking and crying intermittently for about eight hours.
It causes a complete cognitive dissonance because if I give up the hope that I can resolve things with a narcissist, then the world feels like you’re letting evil win. You’re letting the darkest part of our human-ness have power. You’re letting them define a loveless conscienceless world where we hate each other and we use each other. We spit each other out. So to give up the hope to me, it is so weird. It just feels like, you’ve given into the basest part of our being. So, like, the hope for me is the most equivalent to like something existential, I hope that humans care for each other. I hope they regret when they hurt each other. I hope that someone who I cared about would see me as being lovable and good.
These are very, very deep things. That’s the fuel with which we stay engaged with toxic people because being the recipient of emotional, psychological abuse, which is, like I said, it’s a form of emotional rape. It’s like you become the walking wounded and you can have a mirror resonance with these people and recreate that pattern again and again and be hurt again and again. Sometimes it can take years or a lifetime or never to heal. So, I don’t actually know the resolve. I feel that like to just walk away and say, block everything and have no contact.
Yeah, I mean, that’s the m.o. that’s what they say. There’s only, that’s the only method of being able to try to have a semblance of a healthy life after emotional rape. But, at the same time, allowing the perpetrator to get away with it, charm everyone by their charisma, triangulate people against their victim. It just feels also wrong too. It’s like if I can quote former President Bush, he said, “silence is not peace, non-action is not peace.” So at the same note, I almost have this kind of veracity or compulsion to hold abusers accountable in every way, in my personal relationships and in politics and in my religion. I found out a few years ago that, there’s a lot of alcoholism and pedophilia and, I can’t really sign up for a religion and keep perpetuating it while there’s a bunch of perpetrators there.
I can’t put pictures up of pedophiles, all day and worship them and work for them. That doesn’t sound like really great job. There’s got to be, better things to do than put up pictures of “Catholic priest” pedophiles all day long. And people who’ve, run monasteries where kids are physically and sexually assaulted, it doesn’t seem like a really holy thing, I’ve got to find a better religion. So I, I call these things out and yeah, definitely the quintessential wounded healer, social justice warrior, that was predicated on being an abuse survivor in this life. If you know what it feels like to hurt, to hurt a child, you have a whole lot of energy in your heart to fight.
And, hopefully I’ve done some good work in this life. I’ve worked in politics and I worked to prevent child abuse, worked with seniors. I’ve worked as a mental health counselor. I don’t think there’s any way to completely ever become so Teflon coated, so iron-clad that you’re not hurt by someone who you love. Even if they are a narcissist, even if they’re disordered, it still hurts. You know? And I guess somehow even being a child abuse survivor, an adult abuse survivor, there’s the kind of grace that I have to know that I can still cry.
I can still love, I can still somehow have hope, in the goodness of humans and our ethics and our ability to change, grow, be accountable for our mistakes, for our abuse, care for each other, become tender. And, heal as species in families, friendships, communities. To give up that hope to me is like life and death, I could never give it up. So will I ever become super boundary filled, hopeless, give up on all my narcissistic friends, community, family members? No, I’m not physically capable of giving up. I will always hold a candle of hope and love and appreciation because it actually has to do with my own self worth. Like, I believe that I’m lovable. Ipso facto, I believe that these people who’ve hurt me will once, the, once the fog clears, will see that I’m a good person and that I’m worthy of love.
Boundaries of Emotional Intimacy
So hope prevails. I learned something recently when I was in counseling, and the counselor talked to me about, compassion and boundaries. Codependents don’t like the word boundaries, we’re like boundaries, schmoundaries? We love everyone! Everyone’s welcome in my heart. Everyone’s welcome in my life. I love everyone. I’ll fight to the mat for love, for relationships, for friendships, you know? She said that every single person, said the counselor, is worthy of your compassion. Even people who’ve done heinous crimes, Pol Pot and Hitler, sociopaths you can understand. It is not a justification. I mean, crimes are crimes, crimes against humanity are egregious, it’s the worst of what we are, but you can have compassion. I can understand the how’s and whys of how someone would rise to power and do these horrible things.
“Everyone is worthy of your compassion, your understanding of karma, your understanding of how they came to be, but not everyone is worthy of your emotional intimacy.”
So everyone is worthy of your compassion, your understanding of karma, your understanding of how they came to be, but not everyone is worthy of your emotional intimacy. Your heart should not be just a doormat of openness that you wear on your sleeve that anyone can break. She said that, who you allow into your inner circle of intimacy are people that have earned a place to be there through trust and through proving to you that they’re emotionally safe, that they have your best interest in mind. That they will not, idealize, devalue, discard, the narcissistic pattern of psychological abuse or, minimizing you not caring about your feelings, using you for their own gains, egoic or financial or sexual or whatever. But that, and then maybe there aren’t very many people in that inner circle, maybe there is only a cat, who knows?
The people who you allow yourself to be emotionally vulnerable to, you allow people into your inner circle to become very close to you so they can hurt you, they’ve earned that place into your inner circle by proving that they love you. And that, there’s equity, equity in the relationship, equalness and reciprocity. That’s where codependents could learn boundaries. Like, hey, we do the opposite. We, we actually sometimes, it’s like the bad boy syndrome or the wounded healer, or like, we do the opposite. We kind of keep the people that would love us on the outside of the circle. We, because of the trauma reenactment and the resonance, we actually bring all the unwell people in.
We’re like, “hey, come on in, let’s duke this out, let’s fix this karmic stuff together.” So you actually bring the sick people in and keep the other ones in the outside. So it’s like a healing would be to reverse that. You have enough self love, self value, and you’ve healed to enough of a degree where you say, to the best of of what you can, family member, lover, child, pet, anyone, “you can only be in my circle of intimacy if you’ve earned a place there by proving that you are a person of, integrity, person of love, and that you, have my best interest in mind. You don’t want to hurt me. You don’t want to destroy me, you don’t want to use me. You’re not trying to game me for some nefarious purpose, but that it’s pure and it’s wholesome.”
Your Tears Are Your Love
So those are the people, even if it’s a very small circle, it’s better to have a really small circle of intimacy of people that have your best interest in mind more than a cesspool of toxic people that only destroy your life force. So that’s not compassion. Being destroyed is not compassion, you know? So anyway, I offer this to you tonight about boundaries. But, crying all day for eight hours, having been abused by a parent at 53, kind of big Baby Huey that hasn’t grown up yet. But, someone once said to me that, “your tears are your love.”
Love from a Distance
So, sometimes if people are disordered, they don’t value you or they’re unkind or cruel, it doesn’t mean that the love inside of us has to stop, but sometimes all we can do in this life is let them go and love from a distance. That’s actually compassion. And more like Ken Wilber’s Integral Way of seeing the world. Like we all have a right to manifest, all of our strengths and weaknesses and all of our neurosis and, there’s a place for it all and God’s grace kind of thing. So if a person chooses to be abusive and not value me, to use people to chew up and spit them out, to take vengeance, those are choices that they make, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love the person or see beauty in them, or have fond memories of them, but, they can’t really be in my space of intimacy if they’re going to be cruel.
And I’m glad I can still cry. I’m glad I can still love, I’m glad I can still get hurt. I think that would be worse, to have a heart that has gotten so jaded that it doesn’t feel anymore. So I’d rather go through bouts of paper thin snowflake grief, than to become hardened and to not care. I’d rather care too much than care not at all, or not enough. So, as Popeye said, “I yam what I yam.” And, tonight I’m grieving. Today I’m grieving. I have a narcissist that has no accountability and no conscience. There’s nothing I can do about it. So these are my words. This is my heart. I believe in the goodness of us all and all of my love and well wishes to everyone, always.
Sadly, many of us will experience encountering a predatory narcissist at least once in our lives, especially if we were raised by a narcissistic parent. If we are vulnerable, the damage to our heart, mind and soul can be irreparable if it goes untreated. It can be so very hard to heal or leave an abuser, and sometimes the abuse is emotional, not physical. Idealize, devaluing and then discarding a human being is one of the most poisonous, cruelest, core-soul levels of abuse that we can experience. And sadly, the perpetrators blame their victims and walk away with impunity when they find no more use for you in terms of “narcissistic supply.”
This people have a grandiose sense of self-importance, are often times “high conflict personalities” and are hallmarked by never having a sense of conscience, empathy, regret, any ability to change or sincere apology. When they get discovered or have extracted your power completely, you are replaced with no closure and they go right on to find multitudes of other prey in the wake of your decimated heart. They even feel a sense of semi-sadistic power and control, knowing that they hurt you and were successfully able to exploit your perceived weakness… love.
According to Wikipedia rape is:
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or below the legal age of consent. The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault.
Emotional rape is when a person is emotionally assaulted, where another person has intentionally emotionally perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent. No one, unless they have experienced it or have studied this type of abuse can realize how severely traumatized the victim will be. It is an attack on their personality/spirit/soul rather than their body, it is a very misunderstood trauma and often inflicted by primary care givers. Emotional rape is far more complex than verbal abuse and it is only when we can discuss it openly and candidly that we can help people recover from this sort of despicable abuse.
The narcissist will employ a number of tactics to do this which include:
- Smear campaign
- Constant criticism to your face
- Silent treatment
- Narcissistic rage
- Direct verbal abuse
- Physical abuse
- Stealing money or possessions
- A multitude of non-verbal signals to let you know that they view you with utter disdain and contempt.
I published this as got an immediate call from a close college friend, an ex-monk from Gampo Abbey from my Buddhist tradition, a close confidant of Pema Chodron. He is a psychiatric nurse in a hospital in New York. We had a long heartfelt talk and he said that this was “another one of my sutras”, well expressed and poignant, and he said that these are the types of issues he counsels with daily, primarily women.
He gently suggested that I had done a lot of work, but to think soberly and carefully about… the hope. That could be both a strength and an Achilles heel, and he is wholly correct. Thank you for the feedback, onward and inward~