The impact of chronic daily stressors and triggers that occur over the duration of the relationship with an abusive narcissist coupled with the trauma may make the prospect of stepping into new relationships seem insurmountable. It could feel like embarking on an arduous hike up a very steep mountain.
Perhaps there is apathy. The excuses that pile up and pile on that drain us of our very core. The slow slide into boredom, listlessness, that leads us down a path of “not caring” about anything.
The impact of apathy cannot be ignored or shoved under a rug. Do not underestimate its impact. It is important to be conscious and aware of the obstacles and barriers that exist within us and prevent us from living our lives with vitality and renewed sense of hope.
It is critical that we know when it is called for us to begin to step into ourselves and who we really are. We can learn to “take up space” and be seen.
Most of the victims and survivors in our community reference a hole that remains where a “life” once existed after the devastation of the narcissistic abuse.
The process of slowly rebuilding healthy connections and a new circle of friends may be necessary. We may be considering tentatively exploring new relationships and/or dating.
Many friends may have disappeared. Members of our family may have sided with the abuser. We may find ourselves more isolated.
The wreckage after the storm of the narcissistic abuse can scatter friends.
Consider the ones who told us during the most difficult time of our life:
- “Let’s reconnect when the dust settles” or
- “Are you sure that is the way it was? Then why did you stay so long? No one was holding you prisoner in that house. You guys seemed so happy. You didn’t seem scared on those trips you took. You never seemed scared to me.”
- Friends/neighbors who believed the lies, the manipulations, and the outrageous stories of the narcissist. “Are you going through menopause or have you moved in with someone else?”
- who out and out deserted us when we needed them most. “We can’t get involved. You guys need to work this out. This is just too upsetting to deal with.”
- Worse yet: family who sides with the narcissistic abuser. “Honey, you expect too much. Can’t you just work it out for the children? This is just too much for the family. It is embarrassing. Do we need to keep discussing this? Do you have to keep telling people about this? It isn’t abuse. He was just venting. You are exaggerating. Well you have let yourself go. I mean look in the mirror. It is no wonder he turned to other woman.”
We may have begun to set some preliminary boundaries and make decisions to leave some folks behind who are draining us time and again with selfishness, self-centeredness, or relentless judging of others that now seems unkind and reminds us of the ex.
We must consider the impact of chronic trauma on the foundation of the victim who has been repeatedly exposed to the intentional punishing actions of the narcissistic abuser during the duration of the intimate relationship.
Examining these actions allows us to bring some perspective to our beliefs and actions. These toxic patterns that were endured include but are not limited to:
- An environment that is unpredictable and triggering with blame-shifting projected onto the victim
- Lying that appears like the truth. The victim questions reality.
- Manipulation. Even the gift-giving adoration phase is manipulation.
- Control. Everything. All of it.
- Reactivity/anger/fury that is completely blown out of proportion
- No concern for the feelings or perspective of others
- No compromise
- Winning at all costs
- Put-downs insults, and unwavering disgust directed at others. The victim being the preferred target.
- Lack of personal responsibility even for the slightest action that may be considered “wrong”
- A temper that can flip like a light switch in reaction to the slightest perceived “slight”
These repeated abuses directed at us by someone we think we can trust and who we think we love creates an unstable foundation and shatters an individual’s sense of safety, security, and sense of trust. Self-esteem shattered.
Years of hyper-awareness of potential threats and abuse leave victims with high levels of anxiety, worry, negative thinking/spiraling and fear in the mind and in the body.
This creates isolation. We may doubt ourselves and our decisions at every turn. This may cause apathy, detachment, clinginess, a sense of desperation, depression, and/or unending fear and anxiety.
Victims may feel alone. Victims may feel isolated. No one could possibly understand right? No one can be trusted.
Victims and survivors feel a need to control and predict the environment because of this difficulty in trusting and the years of abuse.
There is this need to be guarded. You are looking for any signs or evidence that will support your feeling that “no one can be trusted.”
The body and the mind may continue to constantly scan for threat and look for clues and signals that support and confirm these feelings of distrust.
There is a difference between being cautious and knowing one’s boundaries in balance and being taken over by fear and anxiety.
This may keep us in our own prison preventing us from moving into the fullness of life even after we are no longer held frozen in fear by the narcissistic abuser.
This would include an inability to truly connect and trust others because of these feelings of instability and insecurity.
This could make it difficult to make new friends after repeated exposure to abuse by a narcissistic abuser.
What does it require to make new friends or to begin dating?
- emotional risk-taking beyond slight pangs of fear
- energy and focus
- sense of trust in our own boundaries
- pushing one’s self out of the comfort zone
- sense of self/some confidence
- self-regulation that allows for setbacks and disappointments
- discernment between real kindness and masquerading phonies
- an ability not to get swept away by sparkly objects (people who appear to be the life of the party but lack a substantive core)
- responding versus habitual reactivity or pushing away and isolating
What is the most important requirement?
An ability to begin, to try, and to accept some failures.
An ability to learn from these lessons and to start again. Making new friends and/or entertaining the prospect of dating requires courage, a first step, and a resolve to stay on the path.