Have you heard the phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind”? When you’ve had ongoing connections with narcissists (or a narcissistic system), that phrase is probably not accurate. You may have decided to either eliminate contact altogether or perhaps you’ve pulled back significantly…and sure enough, it helps. Yet, a history of sustained contact with highly controlling, selfish, manipulative people can leave its mark.
Over time, due to that person’s force of character and relentless efforts to superimpose dominance, it’s quite possible to find yourself reacting toward others as if the narcissist still has residence inside your mind. Being physically removed (out of sight) can help, but the narcissistic messages of invalidation can linger for a long time (meaning: not out of mind).
Ideally in our closest relationships we share a healthy interdependence, offering encouragement, mutual regard and respect, while evoking good from each other.
But narcissists inevitably use gaslighting, projection, displacement, and intimidation to diminish and force you into subordination.
So, as you determine to find your independence, focusing on a self-affirming and emotionally steady way of life, it will be essential to identify the debilitating patterns the narcissist set into motion. Remember, narcissists themselves are filled with turmoil, so that’s what they had to offer. Breaking free from the ongoing bonds of trauma will require you to be specific about those patterns…with an eye on the much healthier alternatives.
With that in mind, let’s identify eight of the most common patterns the narcissist has steered you into:
- Even with well-intended individuals, you can easily engage in unnecessary arguments. Narcissists can be so pushy and overbearing that you generalize the need to justify yourself too strongly. So, when others wish to discuss differences, you can assume that, like the narcissist, it will become ugly, prompting you to reflexively argue. Your better alternative would be speaking with calm steadiness, no insistence.
- You may have difficulty cleanly articulating your own feelings and needs. After many invalidations with narcissists, anxiety can settle in. You can wonder if you make sense or if you will be heard at all. Inwardly, you can second-guess who you are and how you articulate thoughts. That anxiety can recur later with healthy people who are truly interested in hearing from you. Your better alternative would be self-trust.
- You might remain coy and evasive in routine conversations. Due to the narcissist’s penchant toward manipulations, you probably developed an overly cautious pattern of self-revelation. Perhaps you became too secretive or measured your words too carefully. This would have set into motion an automatic defensive posture. Your better alternative would be honest self-presentation.
- You might collapse when confronted or insulted. Exposure to a narcissist’s persistent criticism can leave you feeling defeated and deflated. Subsequently, you might question your value or you may harbor unnecessary guilt. When someone else also becomes derogatory, you can think: “Oh no, it’s happening again,” and you can shrink emotionally. The better alternative would be objective reasoning.
- With others, you may become overly annoyed by routine differences. Life with a narcissist can train you to think competitively. Who’s better? Who makes more sense? Who is going to gain the upper hand? Later, with normal people, you will notice that they too differ from you, and that lingering competitiveness can still reverberate within your mind, triggering feelings of discomfort. The better alternative would be simple acceptance of differences.
- You could become prone to grousing and complaining with others. After being mistreated by narcissists, it’s only natural to seek allies who can know and understand your plight. Telling your story to a safe person can be very appealing. But it’s quite possible that you have so many frustrating stories to unload that you can go overboard, offering more than the other person can manage. The alternative would be judicious self-disclosure.
- You might gravitate toward one extreme or another regarding your willingness to appease. In your experiences with the narcissist, you learned that they seek your subordination. In their minds, you should constantly defer. This can set up the tendency to become either too subordinate with others or overly determined to be no one’s doormat. The alternative would be balanced harmonizing.
- You could feel stuck in futility. Simply put, ongoing connections with narcissists can drain you of your joy. They can be so persistent in reminding you that you are of little value that you can wonder if anyone would ever hold you in positive esteem. This thinking can remain even when you are in the presence of those who actually will esteem you. The alternative would be the enjoyment of goodness.
As you move forward, determined to break the trauma bonds with narcissists, it’s essential to know that narcissists projected into you the many tensions they cannot resolve within themselves. They wanted you to think you were the cause of their misery, when in fact you were just a player on their stage. They would have had the same traits if someone else occupied the position as you.
Remember, you are not required to filter your manner of life through another person’s grid. And you are not being judgmental when you conclude that the narcissist was wrong and an undesirable person.
Narcissists do not represent what is good about humanity, so be careful not to generalize and assume that all people will be as the narcissist is.
Good still remains in your world…starting with you. Claim what is right about your preferences, emotions, perceptions, and needs. Connect with people who are also seeking psychological growth. Find joy and peace with children, animals, nature, music, the arts, good books, satisfying projects, and social activities.
Narcissists are parasites, wishing to suck the life out of you in their own pursuit of power and significance. But you are not on this earth to be a participant such impropriety. You are a person of dignity who is meant to be treated with respect and civility. Keep that at the forefront of your mind and connect only with people of a similar persuasion.
~Les Carter, Ph.D.
To watch the video on this topic, click here.