You know how it feels when you are in a room full of people, and yet you feel completely alone? This is exactly what many survivors of narcissistic abuse say they experience – and it’s a pattern I found in myself after finally realizing what I’d been dealing with for so long.
Because of the shame, fear, guilt and/or embarrassment of being tortured by a narcissist, a lot of victims won’t even talk about it with the people they’re closest to in their lives – and even when they appear to be totally fine and are capable of a friendly conversation (and have good social skills), there can be an underlying feeling of isolation for a survivor – one that feels sort of like a dull ache.
So often, I hear this from my clients – they feel like they don’t even know how to be vulnerable anymore – and they find themselves feeling very gunshy, constantly on alert.
See, emotional abuse (not to mention physical and even deeper forms psychological abuse such as gaslighting) can really teach us to shut up – to stop talking about ourselves – and this leads to our becoming paralyzed in certain ways – one of which is developing the need to be alone!
Let’s talk about that for a minute: WHY do survivors of narcissistic abuse have so much trouble feeling really connected to people? Why do we so often find the need to be alone after any sort of social interaction? Why do we find the idea of certain kinds of interaction overwhelming to the point that we just become paralyzed and hide inside the little cocoons we’ve created for ourselves?
Well, let’s start answering those questions by looking at our situations from an intellectual standpoint, shall we?
Taking away all emotional aspects, we are in a very uncomfortable position when we’re dealing with a narcissist in our daily lives, and in some ways, we’re taught that everything we think and believe is incorrect – or, at the very least, no one validates us and we begin to believe the lies the narcissist tells us about ourselves.
And, in most cases, these situations are created without our consent, whether we’ve been fooled into becoming enmeshed with them or we were born into the shit.
You’re going to feel abandoned. You’re going to feel lonely sometimes. And at the same time, you’re going to want to BE alone all the time.
To say it’s overwhelming is an understatement – but if we’re being honest with ourselves, we are in an almost suspended state, whether we’re still stuck in the toxic relationship or we’ve moved on and are going through narcissistic abuse recovery.
As we desperately seek closure, we must accept the truth of what we’ve experienced – and that is so much more complicated than it sounds.
You’re obviously on the right path – you’re here now, consuming this information.
For example, let’s say the narcissist in your life is your spouse or partner. And if you’re being honest, you were likely seduced with promises of having someone “on your side,” of a “soulmate” or whatever your version of that was – but ultimately, you were brought in thinking you were getting Prince (or Princess) Charming.
If your narcissist was your parent or parental figure, it looked more like “I’m the only person who REALLY loves you so you better do exactly what I want or you risk being completely abandoned in the world.”
And in either case, it looks like “if you don’t do what I want, you will be alone” – and the narcissist KNOWS instinctively that everyone’s secretly afraid, at least on some level, of ending up completely alone and unloved in the world – whether we admit it or not. Interestingly, the narcissist him or herself is also incredibly afraid of that – and it’s why you won’t often see a narcissist who is single for too long. They inevitably tend to grab hold of one branch before they let go of the last one – and to avoid confusion here, I mean that most narcissists will secure a new form of supply before letting you go – and honestly they will often run parallel relationships in order to avoid being alone.
That’s part of the reason you might be dealing with jealousy in a relationship with one – even if you don’t realize it.
In the case of a romantic situation, your narcissist may exhibit extreme jealousy when other potential suitors are near or involved in your life – whether you’d really “go there” or not isn’t an issue for the narcissist – if he or she feels threatened by someone, the jealousy will flair. But often, this is actually just projection of their own indiscretions on to you – as in, the narcissist is cheating on you or considering it, so of course they become hyper-vigilant.
Now, on the flip side of this, the narcissist will scream at you, tell you you’re insane or otherwise invalidate you if you even ask a single question about their dealings with potential suitors for them – so, you end up dealing with the sickening feelings of betrayal alone – and you secretly wonder if maybe he or she is right and you’re really a nutjob. Hint: you probably aren’t. They will call you jealous, crazy, etc. Say you’re making things up in your head – you know the drill. Just remember that listening to your gut means tuning into your intuition, your divine self and your divine connection to your higher power, or the universe. So don’t ignore it – and trust yourself when you feel something strongly.
So, why does this make you wanna be alone all the time?
Well, it starts with the fact that you’re likely an empath – most of the time, when you tend to attract narcissists, you have the ability to really “feel” what everyone around you feels, and this is especially true with someone you love and/or spend a lot of time with.
So, when the narcissist is overwhelming you with the pressure of being responsible for his or her emotions, you are forever spinning, trying to fix them. And it’s freaking exhausting!
But then, while you’re still in it, you probably find yourself sort of saving up your energy. You don’t want to talk to people about anything serious because you literally can’t handle one more straw on your proverbial camel’s back. So you begin to isolate yourself in order to recharge between abuse sessions with the narc.
And once you’re out of there, you might continue to isolate, either out of habit or out of a need to try and protect yourself from more narcissists in the world – or both – and even though you feel lonely sometimes, you may choose to remain alone just for the peace of it.
And who could blame you?
But you’ll eventually get to the point where you want to change the situation and you realize you’ve forgotten how to even be in a relationship – you might find that you prefer to avoid any intimate connections in order to protect your heart. And this can even be the case if your narcissist was your parent.
Being with a narcissist tends to not only cause you to distrust yourself – but also the whole world around you. And when you do try to change the situation, you might feel paralyzed and overwhelmed – see what I mean?
You have to admit to yourself that you are or were in a codependent relationship with a toxic narcissist. You have to acknowledge that you were mentally and emotionally abused and manipulated, and then you have to begin to understand why it happened.
And, eventually, while you did play a role in the relationship and need to take responsibility for that, you are going to have to realize that it really IS NOT your fault – you really did get pulled into this stuff under false pretenses, and that you have the option and the right to change this whole deal – and yes, this EVEN APPLIES WHEN FAMILY IS INVOLVED.
You have the right to feel peace. You have the right to feel loved. You have the right to DETERMINE who you are, the opportunity to decide what happens from here on out – and the responsibility to change your life for the better – not just for yourself, but also for the people you love.
You feel me?
Now, it’s time to challenge yourself – grab a pen, or open up a text document real quick (or hey – why not just leave it in a comment below?).
Anyway, I want you to ask yourself a few questions and I want you to be brutally honest with yourself when you answer.
- First, are you ready to admit what you’re dealing with?
- Can you figure out what unconscious motives might have led you to choose this person, and what can you do to do better for yourself next time?
- Could your parent or other significant people in your childhood have had narcissistic tendencies?
- Do you base your self-worth on being connected to someone who has some status or power? Do you prefer to be passive and let someone else make the decisions?
- Do you feel like you’re not good enough? Do you think that your negative self-image could be a direct result of what others have told you about yourself, and not actually the truth? (Hint: literally all of the survivors I’ve met are actually amazing people – attractive, talented and well-spoken – but they’ve been beaten down so much by the narcissist in their lives that they have forgotten this stuff – maybe you just need to take another look without the mask of what everyone else thinks over your eyes?).
Look, here’s the deal – narcissists might seem all tough and whatnot, but the truth is that they are all secretly quite fragile in their self-confidence – their egos are being held up with pure bullshit in most cases- and when challenged, they’ll do everything in their power to step on your head and keep you down…whether you were the challenger or not – remember, in a lot of cases, the people outside of the home or the situation aren’t aware of this side of the narc – they just see the happy, fun and easy to be around guy or gal they see at work or around town.
They’d be shocked if they knew the truth, wouldn’t they?
But that means that the narc must unload his or her venom on you and/or their other primary sources of narcissistic supply in order to maintain the guise – haven’t you ever noticed how, just after completely decimating you in a gaslighting episode or a narcissistic rage rant, your narc seems relaxed, happy – even jovial? Meanwhile, you’re in pieces, torn apart, dissociating and probably incapable of normal function as you have to work through the pain on your own.
You probably don’t even talk to many people about it anymore, because it’s too exhausting, and because there’s really no point – most people just don’t get it.
So, you learn to function this way – you handle your shit by yourself, and you start to prefer it. You learn to go it alone – and your first instinct when any issue occurs is to hole up by yourself and figure it out.
It’s not your fault the narcissist is so toxic and it’s not anything you can change – so as always, I’m going to tell you to focus on what you CAN control – not what you can’t.
So, even if you’re still stuck in the relationship, you can control your own perception – so start seeing this as an intellectual issue. Study your narc as though he or she is a scientific experiment. Learn to label the specific behaviors and move forward.
Start working on your own personal development – start figuring out what you really believe, and what you really want in your life. Practice self-love, or at the very least, self-compassion – and get involved with a support system. You can start with joining my SPAN group – it’s private, free and totally confidential – visit QueenBeeing.com/SPAN to join or learn more.
A few more quick tips:
- Skip the sappy songs for awhile and only listen to happy music. Obvious reasons – your vibe being the primary one. I literally organize my playlists by mood/emotion. It works for me – I can choose based on my energy at the moment.
- Watch inspiring movies. I like to watch girl power-type movies, which for me often include stuff that shows women who are both “girly” and crazy smart – because, as you might imagine, it’s one of those things I’ve struggled with in life. Often, people assume that because I like to doll myself up and that I’m an out-and-proud girly-girl that I must also be a dumb blonde. Oh yeah. Gotta love that stuff – but that’s a whole other topic for a whole other day – in any case, movies like Legally Blonde are more empowering than you might think. Find your version of that and give it a go — see how it works for you!
- If you need to mourn, just do it! This is what you need to do sometimes. Just limit the amount of time you let yourself wallow, and then decide to keep moving forward into your new, better life. I like to use anywhere from a few hours to a week or two, depending on the severity of it. (A few hours for a particularly painful argument, for example – up to a week or two for a death in the family or a divorce kind of situation).
- Find something to do. I don’t care if you start knitting or you take swimming lessons – or if you have an amazing singing and guitar playing talent, you can start a little music career (or a big one!!) on the side. You’ve got to accept and maintain a new, forward-looking focus if you’re ever going to heal. PLUS: this gives you the opportunity to meet people who might be interested in some of the same things you are!
Okay, now it’s your turn – have you experienced narcissistic abuse? Are you still “in it” or have you moved on, whether or not you actually chose to end it yourself? Have you struggled with this stuff, and if so, how are you dealing?
Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below – you never know who you might help.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.