Retraumatization – what happens when you’re triggered.

The greatest gift you are ever going to give someone – the permission to feel safe in their own skin. To feel worthy. To feel like they are enough.

Hannah Brencher

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.com/Chrisroll

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.com/Chrisroll

Of the hundreds of people with whom I’ve interacted via this blog and on facebook, not one who has been on the receiving end of relentless emotional abuse feels ‘safe’ – not in their own skin, not in the company of others nor in contact with their outer or inner worlds.

I have been there. Sometimes I still am. One word, one look, one innuendo can jettison me back through time so fast that I become that child, that spouse; you know, the one who will never be good enough, all over again. In less than a heartbeat I am metaphorically tossed onto the cold hard tiles I was once brutally thrown on in a physical sense. The emotional pain though, runs deeper, right to the arteries, until I feel I’ll surely bleed to death without the slightest scratch to evidence my injury. I find myself fighting the urge to curl into the tiniest, tiniest ball – like some deformed foetus – and crawl into the farthest corner of the darkest cupboard – until the end of time. It is an agony to just ‘be’.

When I am ‘triggered’ like this, I am fighting the urge to ‘not be’ … that is, to not exist. I want desperately to flee to the arms of the Great I Am. There is no solace on this earth. But I stay. I breathe through it. I think of my children and my grandchildren … and I resist the compulsion to run into the night and take the path to the cliff edge a short walk from here. Once there, I know I would fall … because I would want to fall.

This woundedness is something I will probably never completely recover from. Such things are embedded too deep in the psyche and surrounded by a dense network of pain, and nightmarish fears that have been reinforced over and over again.

A  Jungian psychologist would refer to this phenomenon, I believe, as a complex. The existence of complexes is almost universally agreed upon in the field of depth psychology. The underlying assumption is that the most important influences on your personality are deep in the unconscious (Dewey, 2007). Because they are buried so deep they are often unavailable to our consciousness, making mediation of the intense emotions evoked by activation of a complex extraordinarily difficult. Many psychologists hold that, indeed, complexes are impossible to cure and can, at best, be managed.

Unlike the other aspects of consciousness, complexes are peculiarly autonomous. They either force themselves on our awareness, breaking through the inhibitory processes of consciousness, or will hide from us, refusing to be brought to awareness at will. They can be both obsessive and possessive. When they break through, believe me, they are in charge of you. That makes them both scary and destructive.

So there I was … recently. Triggered. Wanting to die. Wanting to disappear. And having no idea how to handle the situation.

This story has a happy ending, however … and I believe such happy endings are rare. There is one ingredient … one unique and rare ingredient … that brings about healing. I have found it. I have been gifted with it. My next post will elaborate. Love and light to all who read this.

 

 

 

 

Do Emotional Abusers Know What They’re Doing?

 

Vampire girl

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The short answer is, it depends. A true narcissistic personality is utterly conscious of the ways in which they are manipulating and hurting you. And they simply don’t care. More than that, it gives them pleasure, a sense of superiority and control. It is a big part of their psychopathology. Other abusers, who don’t score highly enough on narcissistic traits to be labelled with full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder, may simply be repeating patterns they learned in childhood and in subsequent relationships. I say ‘simply’, but the process via which it happens is far from simple, nor is it simple to unravel and to heal.

Mostly though, people don’t fit neatly into two separate categories – pathological abuser and ‘ordinary’ abuser, for instance. Personality traits aren’t ‘either/or’, but exist on a bipolar continuum, meaning they range from mild to severe, depending on the person, and also on the circumstances or environment in which that person acts. So…looking again at whether or not abusers do what they do purposefully…I can’t make that assessment for you, but may be able to help you fathom the answer as it relates to your personal situation.

On blogs and discussion groups you’ll find professionals and lay-people alike debating this question and coming out in favour of one side or the other. So how do you tell the difference?

  1. Look for the lies

If your partner consistently lies, chances are they are fully aware of what they’re doing. There is one school of thought that suggests narcissistic personalities are so adept at deceiving themselves, they actually believe their own lies. I have rarely witnessed this to be the case. There’s a reliable way of finding out, however.

If you catch them in a lie, bring it to their attention in a non-accusatory way. Simply state the truth and that you are aware you’ve been lied to. Then wait for the reaction.

The abuser who is aware she is lying will immediately go for the jugular – yours! It will be swift and brutal. (If you don’t keep your wits about you, you’ll be the one who ends up apologizing.) The response you get will likely have absolutely nothing to do with the point you’ve just made but will be something pulled out of thin air to deflect from their own guilt. They will, instead, hark back to the past and throw some perceived, and entirely irrelevant misdemeanor of yours in your face. And because you care about how they feel, you will likely take the bait. It’s a trip to hell.

2. Their body language and facial expression will reveal the truth.

Image from Springbrook - showing an ancient beech tree with twisted roots.

The cold, soulless eyes tell you all you need to know

There’s a phenomenon I have come across countless times during my discussions with targets of emotional abuse. There is something soulless about the eyes and expression of an abuser who clearly has sadistic tendencies. Their eyes will go black. Their facial expressions will be incredibly cold. There is something ‘frozen’ and reptilian about the face that looks back at you. You’ll feel chilled to the bone and very frightened, even if he/she has never laid a hand on you. Trust this instinct.

 

3. Your tears and genuine emotional pain will not move them.

This hardly needs explanation. If you find yourself genuinely in pain and trying to reason with your abuser, tears in your eyes, your heart breaking … and it fails to move them … they are very aware of what they’re doing. In the words of my own abuser, ‘I knew what I was saying and doing was wrong, and it wasn’t true … but I just wanted to stick it to you.’ He felt that was a perfectly reasonable explanation. I’ll go out on a limb here and disagree with numerous ‘experts’, many of whom have never experienced this first hand, and say it’s utterly inappropriate to excuse these people on the grounds that the poor things don’t have the capacity for empathy. Oh dear, isn’t it sad? They don’t have the capacity for intimacy. They’ll never really experience real love. While that may be true, abusers in this category don’t value things like intimacy – so they aren’t suffering at all. You are. And they don’t give a hoot.

 

The Bottom Line

Does it really matter if they’re aware of their effect on you, or not? You can’t change them. In fact, from the point of view of ‘tough love’, leaving them to it may give them the only chance they have of facing their demons and becoming better people. It’s not your job. Not your circus. Not your monkeys. The harder you try, the more you will fail. Narcissists already think you are in their lives for one reason only, and that is to make them the centre of your universe. The harder you try, the more you are feeding them what they want – the popular terminology for what you are to them is ‘narcissistic supply’. You are being sucked dry by an emotional vampire and therapists and researchers agree that the chances of positive change are very, very small.

Do you want to waste years of your life hoping for the unattainable?

Image

Nanowrimo participation

Well, life is what happens when you’re making other plans, right? After only one week of participating in the NaNoWriMo writing challenge, my mother was carted – unexpectedly – off to hospital. After a five and a half hour drive to be with her, I found out the news was anything but good.

Fast forward to today, and we see my lovely mum ensconced in a nursing home; a very sad day for the whole family, especially my mother. Naturally, I’ve had little else on my mind and have been lurching from day to day, just surviving the demands and the worry of the past few weeks, while saddled with chronic and disabling health issues.

Nano – I bid you adieu until next year.

 

 

Silence Has A Sound

There is no better method of letting someone know they mean nothing to you, than to ignore their existence. The silent treatment is both cruel and cowardly. My fellow blogger and abuse survivor, The Narcissist’s Wife, describes the turmoil and pain so eloquently, I need to put a trigger warning here. I thank her for her courageous effort.

The Narcissist's Wife

It’s been almost a full 24 hours since I last saw, or heard from, my husband.

Where is he?

I couldn’t tell you. He doesn’t call, and all the friends that he could be with, don’t respond to my texts inquiring as to his whereabouts. Super awesome.

I guess we’re in full blown Silent Treatment, now.

View original post 888 more words

Don’t you dare! (criticize your abuser)

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Voltaire

Image of man covering his ears

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As soon as I came across the above quote by Voltaire, notable French enlightenment writer and philosopher, I knew it would form the basis of my next post. With his own experiences of imprisonment for his outspoken stance against the Church, he ought to know a little about who rules whom, and the consequences of overstepping the mark.

As do you and I, fellow abuse survivors. Remember what happened the last time you leveled a rational and well-deserved criticism at your tormentor?

I’ll bet the whole of Hades came crashing in upon your head, raining verbal pitchforks at your heart and your sanity. No matter how constructively or how mildly you phrased your complaint; no matter how reasonable your request for change; no matter how you sugared the pill to prepare him, your punishment was assured; served swiftly and with devastating cruelty. Am I right?

Abusers perceive as an attack, virtually everything you say that doesn’t line up with their world view, or their view of themselves. As we have already discussed in previous posts, an abuser’s view of him or herself is way off beam. Abusers can’t face what they see in the metaphorical mirror, and they certainly can’t tolerate you pointing out the truth, even when it should be clear that your aim is conflict resolution and family harmony. I made the ‘mistake’ of taking my marriage vows too seriously. Included in our ceremony were a number of special vows in which we promised to support each other in becoming everything the Creator meant us to be. To me, it seemed obvious that to uphold that vow, we needed to confront each other, albeit gently, about actions and words that were not moving us in a positive direction.

But it’s the ‘truth’ that unhinges them and sends them into defensive mode. You get to sit back and listen to them trot out all the Freudian defense mechanisms in an attempt to make you into the bad guy, and reassert themselves as the righteous and perfect one. Or, in the words of my particular abuser, ‘the well-calibrated one.’ (While I, of course, was the ‘nutjob.’)

In fact, you don’t even need to criticize. All you need to do is hold a differing opinion or express an emotion they don’t understand or agree with. Such is their disordered thinking and sense of entitlement.

This process is explained in detail in Patricia Evans series of books:
‘The Verbally Abusive Man’, ‘The Verbally Abusive Relationship’, and ‘Controlling People’.

(Please bear with me while I work on fixing the links to these books. In the meantime they can be found at the bottom of this page … An Abuser Hides His True Self.

I devoured her writing, turning page after page, while uncovering an increasingly vivid picture of my abuser. I can’t recommend her work enough.

An abuser doesn’t see you for the unique individual you are. You are simply an extension of him or herself, and are therefore expected to conform to the needs and expectations of that fragile, unrealistic self. If you don’t, you are instantly perceived as a threat … a very real threat to the meticulously constructed false self your abuser so desperately clings to. Every time you open your mouth and express your individuality, your abuser loses his cool. In his eyes, he is protecting himself from an attack … an attack that is not actually happening.

Most of us, when confronted by our loved ones with complaints about our behaviour, look within ourselves, consider the feelings of the complainant, and seek to address the issues. Naturally, the complaints will sting, but beyond an initial discomfort, we are still capable of acting and reacting in ‘adult mode’. On the other hand, an abuser is ever a child; prone to tantrums, lies, denials, projection and blame … in fact, anything that works to keep them at the top of the power struggle. Their sole purpose is to win. Too bad if you are crushed or your children suffer from the collateral damage. They don’t care.

So think carefully. Are you afraid to speak your mind? Have you read all the articles advising you to use ‘I messages’ and to time your criticisms wisely, yet when you do, you still find yourself on the receiving end of an abusive tirade? Do you spend hours rehearsing in your mind, the best way to approach even the slightest grievance? Do you find yourself feeling physically sick and full of anxiety at the very thought of bringing up an issue?

If you can answer yes to any of the above, my heart goes out to you. It will take nothing short of a miracle to effect change. I wish it were otherwise.

In truth, you are in an emotional straight-jacket. The person who is responsible for putting you there is the person you cannot, under any circumstances, criticize.

The Differences Between A Sociopath And A Narcissist

For a long time I’ve considered my abuser to be a narcissist but not a sociopath. This insightful article has me asking myself whether he could, in fact, be a sociopath with high level narcissistic traits, largely because he is completely dishonest about who he really is. His motivation is definitely narcissistic supply but not necessarily the adulation a true narcissist seeks. As this blog post points out…all sociopaths are narcissists but not all narcissists are sociopaths. It’s a subtle but important (and fascinating) distinction.

Learus Ohnine - "Walls Were Made To Be Broken"

When we try to analyze the people we cross paths with in society, it is possible to misinterpret our analysis for lack of a better understanding. For those who have crossed paths with a sociopath and a narcissist on separate occasions, it may seem like there is little to no difference between the two when in fact one can be mistaken for the other. Both are considered to be social terrorists, however, there are distinguishing characteristics that would imply neither of them are one in the same. Therefore, I would like to explain briefly the differences in character between these two personality disorders…

Narcissist will let you know up front what they are about. They will tell you grandiose stories of themselves of either their accomplishments (real or fake) or of their associations with important people (real or fake). They generally do not tell these stories for any other…

View original post 426 more words

A Reply to Lauren Southern’s “Why I’m Not a Feminist”

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

This post by Jenna Christian addresses what many women perceive as an anti-feminist backlash that seems to have broken out in full force just as men’s violence against women was finally taken seriously. While I acknowledge that women can and do perpetrate domestic violence and will always be an advocate for those who are silenced by their abusers, regardless of gender, I also disagree with the underlying assumption of the One in Three Men campaign – ie that males and females are equally responsible for domestic violence against an intimate partner. Jenna Christian’s post is both articulate and backed by research and statistics.

Everyday Geopolitics Houston

Dear Lauren,

In the last couple days, I have seen your video “Why I’m Not a Feminist” pop up a few times. In the video, you describe why you are not a feminist. At the heart of your message is the assertion, “I am not a feminist because I believe both genders should be treated equally.” Setting aside for a moment the problems with your assumption that gender can be reduced to a binary of male/female (here’s a decent introduction to that if you want), I want to talk about the misinformation you offer in your video: misinformation about feminist activism and scholarship, and misinformation about domestic violence and rape. I don’t often find engaging in these types debates online to be the most fruitful use of my energies, since people that produce anti-feminist content generally are not very open to meaningful engagement with feminist thought, however I’ve been stewing over your…

View original post 4,409 more words

‘Once a Victim, Now a Survivor’ Award.

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recently, I was lucky enough to encounter the beautiful Leah Griffith, author of the blog, ‘Knowing When Enough is Enough’. If you’re curious about someone with true grit, who has survived events most of us never even have nightmares about, please pop over to her page and read her story. She is a tower of strength and is the catalyst for my own ‘taking off the mask’. That is, I decided to put my photograph on my blog, after two years of anonymity, despite the possibility of being recognized by people I’d rather not deal with. We shall not be silenced!

https://godlovesbrokenthings.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/once-a-victim-now-a-survivor-award.jpg?w=529

Leah has nominated me for the ‘Once a Victim, Now a Survivor’ award!

Thank you, Leah, for the nomination, but also, most importantly, for your inspiration and encouragement.

For my part, I would like to nominate the following bloggers:

Anna Waldherr – A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse

betternotbroken

Army of Angels

Takingthemaskoff

Secret Angel – The Abuse Expose

Ravencanvas – Painting A Life After Narcissistic Abuse

Kim Saeed – Let Me Reach

Image of fairy blowing butterflies into the air

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles

If your name isn’t here, it’s not because you’re not worthy. For each of us, certain personalities and circumstances simply ‘resonate’. Every blog I follow, and every blogger who follows me, has given me an irreplaceable gift.

Continue reading

An abuser hides his true ‘self’.

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Disclaimer: I have used the masculine gender to describe an abuser in the title of this post for ease of writing. Throughout this post I have referred to both sexes by using the plural personal pronouns, ‘they’ ‘them’ or ‘their’ in recognition of the reality that women are also capable of abusing their loved ones.

One of the most common questions I hear is, ‘How can someone hide an abusive personality?

An abuser's mask

-1360 Schreiberfigur anagoria” by AnagoriaOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.personality?’ In other words, how do we not see it coming? If these people are truly as ugly and cruel as we describe, why wasn’t that obvious from the beginning?

The truth is, abusers are highly skilled at hiding their pathological personalities. If they weren’t, they’d never secure employment, gain friends or even negotiate the grocery store without risking a punch up. Normal people would never put up with an abuser’s ‘real self’.

Psychologists use the terms ‘real self’ and ‘ideal self’ when discussing the development of personality. The real self is easy to understand – it is comprised of our actual, manifest personality traits as well as all the aspects that make up our character. The ideal self is that to which we aspire. It’s our inner concept of who we really want to be; what we want to become as we mature. If the real self is too far removed from the ideal self, we experience discomfort within our psyches. We become disappointed in who we are, and how we behave towards others and the environment. If the gap between the real self and the ideal self is too wide, it can result in significant psychopathology.

Most of us are aware when we’re not being honest with ourselves, and subsequently take action to address the imbalance. For those with high levels of narcissistic traits however, the ego is too fragile to accept the disappointing image in the mirror, so they turn away from it in order to create a false self to present to the world. In turning away from their inner reality, they deny its’ existence. In brief, they detest what they see; don’t have the courage to face and overcome it; and so construct a false self that is not only different from their real self, but also extreme in its virtue, cleverness, and sense of importance. They overcompensate for self-hate by constructing this superior facade. The mask they wear is painted with virtues like understanding, compassion, intelligence, responsibility, reliability, humour, kindness and worldly achievements. They often (though not always) walk among us as the pillars of society and our most socially responsible high achievers. Frequently, they are known as generous, benevolent souls outside their intimate circle.

When we meet them, they come highly recommended. Their bosses, coworkers and friends sing their praises. What we don’t know is that they are mentally scanning the room for their latest target, desperate for a source of narcissistic supply. After all, they can’t feel good about themselves until they can make someone else look and feel bad. That someone needs to be empathetic, compassionate, responsible and reliable – all the traits the abuser lacks. Abusers resent their victims, who are everything the abuser wants to be. That resentment quickly escalates to intense hatred.

Man flirting with woman

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the beginning, however, to hook the perfect target abusers need to be extremely careful not to let their masks slip. With an uncanny ‘nose’ for sniffing out potential sources of narcissistic supply, they can smell vulnerability the way a bloodhound tracks a scent. Through years of practice, they’ve become experts at discovering what makes you tick, what your hopes and dreams are, what you love and what you hate – the essence of who you are. They then have all the ammunition they need to hunt you down.

Where would you most like to travel to?’ ‘Really, the Netherlands? I can’t believe it – the Netherlands is next on my bucket list!

In this respect, abusers are chameleons. If you’re the unwitting victim, all you know is that suddenly you have met the one person in the world who understands you completely, who shares your hopes and dreams, and is aligned with your values. You can’t know that this person who is pursuing you so ardently is simply pretending to mirror your innermost thoughts, support your passions, love the same things you do and envision exactly the same ‘perfect’ future together. We don’t know we’ve been studied for a specific purpose and that our beloved is an expert at what he does. Dr Jekyll doesn’t have to think about becoming Mr Hyde. It happens as naturally as breathing.

During the wooing phase you’ll be ‘love-bombed’. That is, you’ll be pursued so passionately that before you know it, you’re addicted to this ‘love’. This phase is achieved by using the basic psychological principles of conditioning. You are relentlessly ‘rewarded’ at a rate that is not ‘normal’ in a normal population; and this creates an addictive emotional response within you. I will explain this process further in a subsequent post. For now, suffice to say that, once you’re successfully ‘addicted’ to abusers, then…and only then…will they drop their guard and reveal their real selves.

And you are in deep, deep water.

For an excellent and in-depth explanation of the complicated dynamics of abusive relationships, I highly recommend three books by Patrica Evans. I keep these books on my kindle and refer to them regularly. They have been extremely instrumental in my understanding and overcoming the effects of abuse. The book by Lundy Bancroft is often quoted as an extremely useful resource on numerous blogs on the topic of abuse. Click the images to take you to the Amazon store.

Vulnerability after verbal, emotional and psycholical abuse

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

After my devastating experience with verbal, emotional and psychological abuse, I was absolutely convinced that no human being could ever touch my heart again. I was DONE. Over it. Had better things to do with what remained of my life. Intimacy was suddenly an alien phenomenon for me…me, who, at the age of 54, had always been so relationship-oriented. I found myself utterly repulsed by the mere thought of connecting in an intimate and sexual way with another human being. And yet…one day it happened.

If the video fails to load, please follow this link to my YouTube page:

Vulnerability After Abuse

Disclaimer:   This video is based on my phenomenological experience. That is, it is subjective, told from my unique world view and the authentic expression of my feelings. As any decent therapist will assert, feelings are neither right nor wrong, good nor bad. Feelings just are. Negative emotions tell us something needs to be addressed and healed in our lives. They can be examined for rationality and adjusted if found to be unreasonable; and they can be used to change our outer circumstances, should those feelings prove to be trustworthy.

At times during this video, I speak of my very real distress and emotional pain, which also impacted on my neurological condition, as stress invariably does. I have drawn my own conclusions as to its cause. We are each our own experts when it comes to what we feel, how we react and what we need to do to improve our lives.

In brief, the intent of this video is not to point the finger of blame or seek revenge, but rather to enlighten those who are struggling with similar issues and offer a ray of hope. I am ever grateful to each and every human being who has shared part of my life’s journey. Each one, no matter how painful the experience, has been my teacher and I have faith and hope that their own journeys, though we have parted, may continue to expand their horizons. Each is a precious soul with the potential for greatness, and to this day, I believe each and every one of them to be good people at their core, doing their best to learn and grow as life leads.

D