This week we are going to look at narcissistic injury. A few weeks ago, I shared with you how my mother looked at me and said, “I wish you had never born.” At first, her comment validated what I knew to be true: she is a narcissist. Then, the pain of what she said crept in, and I found myself believing her caustic words. It sent me back to my childhood when I would ask myself, “If my mother can’t love me, who can?”
After a few days of pain and tears, I decided that I didn’t want to feel this way going into 2021. It wasn’t easy, but I stepped out of my situation and analyzed myself. What she was doing was martyrdom with another narcissistic injury.
In 2018, I finally reached my breaking point and wrote my best-selling book, Ugly Love. There are 16 chapters in the manuscript, and only one is about my mother. But guess what? She focused on that chapter about my childhood and how difficult it was to please a narcissistic mother. I spoke about emotional damage and ramifications that can carry over into adulthood. It was 100% my truth. Yet, forget the pain I survived didn’t matter. My mother was injured more and disowned me from the family.
Two years later, after therapy, she wanted to reconcile. I welcomed a reconciliation because my greatest fear was that I wouldn’t see my parents until I buried them. My father is my rock, and I missed him much during those two years of no contact.
Once we established communication and connection, I thought I had learned to navigate the relationships by keeping everything surface and unemotional. However, when my father had triple-pass surgery, my brother and I realized that mom wasn’t capable of the amount of care my father would need the first week during his recovery. We hired nurses to come in and check on Dad daily.
Our choice to hire help didn’t go over well. Mother was furious that no one checked in with her about the care. (We knew she would say no, and it was glaringly obvious Dad needed baths, proper dosing of medication, among other things she didn’t have the time or patience to do.)
That’s when Mom told me she wished she had never given birth to me. First the book, now the nurses, she said. She was disgusted with her daughter.
If you’ve felt rejection from a narcissist, it may be the result of a narcissistic injury. The term narcissistic injury, according to psychecentral.com, is when narcissists react negatively to perceived or real criticism or judgment, boundaries placed on them, or attempts to hold them accountable for harmful behavior. This behavior can present as verbal, emotional, physical, or psychological abuse. Some narcissists yell while others may quietly go about hurting you for injuring their fragile egos.
A narcissistic injury can manifest like this:
Passive-aggressive behavior – The narcissist may give you the silent treatment or embarrass you in front of your friends, family, or peers. The silent treatment is a way of the narcissist telling you that you don’t matter enough to be spoken to. When the narcissist embarrasses you in front of others, the narcissist wants to solidify that you are the perpetrator. When you call them out on it, they may say something like, “You’re too sensitive,” and “What you did to me was way worse.”
Gaslighting – The narcissist may try to alter your sense of reality about the narcissistic injury, making you think that you did injure them deeply and irreparably.
Rage – The narcissist can become extremely angry, lashing out verbally, throwing things and harming those in their path. The words they say can cut deep and stick with the alleged perpetrator for years or decades.
Threaten – The narcissist may do nothing but threaten punishment. Sometimes the anticipation of punishment can wreak more havoc than an actual reprimand or consequence.
There are some things you can do to protect yourself from a narcissistic injury:
- Go to therapy. A counselor or therapist who understands narcissistic abuse can help you determine the best approach to handling the narcissist when there is a narcissistic injury. It’s good to have a sounding board if things get out of hand and you need to make an exit plan.
- Make an exit plan. It is a smart, safe move to have an exit plan, even if you hope you never need to use it. Narcissists can become violent if pushed far enough, and you need to protect yourself and your kids.
- Remember that the injury is mostly projection. The fragile self at the core of the narcissist has been injured. Then the narcissist transitions to the grandiose, egotistical, and entitled self and lashes out because they think that’s what you deserve. Inside, the narcissistic is covering up for the shame that was put inside that person, for whatever reason, years ago.
- Don’t personalize it. It would help if you remembered not to personalize the narcissistic injury. You likely did nothing to hurt that person. But we do hurt the most when we receive rejection from people closest to us. It may seem like s slap in the face, but the narcissist is rejecting themselves.
Finally, do your best to see the situation for what it is. When you see the truth that you deserve more, that truth can set you free. That freedom can be establishing more boundaries with this toxic person or leaving the relationship altogether. For me, that is taking a break from visiting my parents for a bit. I need that scab to heal. Then, with boundaries in place, my visit will be short and, hopefully, drama-free.
Don’t forget to sign up for our webinar on managing the malignant narcissist coming up on February 10th! You can sign up here: