“Bullies want to abuse you. Instead of allowing that, you can use them as your personal motivators. Power up and let the bully eat your dust.” ~Nick Vujicic
More often than you’d expect, I get comments, messages, and emails from people who tell me that they had no idea they were being abused. You might wonder how someone could be so blind, right? After all, isn’t ABUSE pretty hard to miss?
Yes, and no. See, there are different kinds of abuse. Most people understand what physical abuse looks like, and while there are way too many people actively dealing with that, there’s another, more subtle kind of abuse that goes on in all kinds of relationships all over the world. It’s called emotional abuse.
What is emotional abuse?
In a nutshell, emotional abuse is also referred to as psychological abuse. It’s a form of abuse in which a toxic person (often a malignant narcissist) subjects or exposes you to repeated behavior that often results in long-term psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or a form of post-traumatic stress disorder called complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD).
How do you know if you’re dealing with emotional abuse?
Are you being emotionally abused by a narcissist? How can you tell? Ask yourself some questions.
- Do you hide your relationship problems from people in your life?
- Would anyone in your life be shocked if they knew what you were really dealing with behind closed doors?
- Do you deal with regular episodes of your significant other raging against you, expressing extreme anger, frustration, or outrage — and have a significant amount of seemingly unnecessary drama in your relationship?
- Ever feel like you live with, work with or love your own personal bully?
- How do you feel after spending time with this person? Do you feel happy, relaxed, loved? Or do you feel stressed, angry, fearful, or sick?
If you are embarrassed to share details about your relationship with friends, there is a reason. Examine it and ask yourself why. Be honest with yourself. It’s just you and me here. Try this free narcissistic abuse self-assessment if you’re not sure.
What are the effects of emotional abuse?
Emotional abuse can completely destroy you over time. It’s insidious and can cause you to sort of lose your identity. And, if you’re dealing with a narcissist, chances are that spending time with them is very bad for you in several ways.
Episodes of gaslighting (and other kinds of narcissistic manipulation) are used against you. As always, a narcissist’s goal is often to not only mess with your confidence but ultimately to gain control over you. Often, these episodes involve narcissistic rages in which it can feel like the world will end. These can result in hours, days, weeks, or even months of verbal and emotional abuse for even the smallest incident.
A narcissist will mess with your head in order to get control of you. When these attacks happen, your whole world will feel like it just stops, and you won’t be able to function until it’s over. Even then, your ability to feel normal may be gone for a long time. And speaking of gaslighting, let’s define it.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a pervasive and highly effective tactic meant to manipulate you into questioning your own sanity, to put it mildly. Often, narcissists use this tactic in toxic relationships as a way to confuse you and cause you to feel helpless. This allows them to feel more in control of you and to gain “narcissistic supply.”
How does it feel for a ‘narcissistic supply’ after a gaslighting attack?
As you sit in the cold, numb aftermath of yet another attack on your personal character, your thoughts are dulled and foggy. You can’t seem to form a complete thought as the sharp, cutting insults replay over and over again in your head.
This torturous soundtrack is accompanied by a small voice in the back of your head, the part of you that remains indignant about the abuse, the part that still knows it’s not normal and that you deserve better.
That part of you quietly counters the insults, reminds you that they’re all a part of the manipulation tactics the narcissist uses to gain control.
That’s the same part of you that truly knows that you’re not in a “healthy” relationship and that there’s little chance you’ll successfully change this person.
That part of your mind races, struggling to form a plan to fix things, to make your escape or to at least find “normal” again.
And it’s that part that will ultimately help you to not just exist and survive, but also to really thrive and become the fully realized person you deserve to be.
The longer you remain in a toxic relationship, the more you deny your truths in order to avoid the wrath of this narcissist, the quieter this voice becomes.
When you deny your feelings – when you allow yourself to be told that you’re not a real person and that you don’t matter – you begin to act as if that is true.
And this leads you to draw more of that “I don’t matter” energy to yourself. That’s because you begin to vibrate that sense of “I’m not good enough.” And you become inferior because you believe that you’re inferior. You feel me?
Being in a relationship with a narcissist is like snuggling up to your personal bully. No matter what a narcissist says – you are a real person and you do matter.
So, how do you resolve this? How do you stop feeling inferior and start feeling like you matter? How do you stop allowing other people’s opinions of you to define you?
How do you learn to trust your intuition after narcissistic abuse?
Everyone always says you’ve got to trust your intuition, but what does that really mean?
You’ve got to listen to that voice, or you may lose the ability to hear it. And don’t just listen. Take action and do what you need to do until your life feels good.
Can you remember how it felt to have a life that made you feel good? Can you imagine a life that is good?
If you have a few minutes, imagine what would happen if you woke up tomorrow morning and found that a miracle had happened overnight and all of your problems are gone. What do you see? What does your ideal life look like?
When you can begin to imagine what you consider your perfect life, you can begin to claim it for yourself.
When something doesn’t feel right in your gut, trust that feeling and act accordingly. That’s your intuition kicking in and it’s almost always to your benefit to listen and act accordingly.
When we stop listening to our true selves, we start losing our identities. We become a shell of ourselves and begin to conform to the expectations of people who, if we’re being honest with ourselves, really don’t love anyone, not even themselves.
As a narcissist’s supply, we conform to his expectations to the best of our ability, which of course is never quite good enough. We do this, in part, because it is our nature to want to keep the peace and also to please others.
In case you weren’t aware, narcissists are almost always attracted to empaths because we are especially aware of others’ emotions and naturally concern ourselves with them.
Narcissists are drawn to empaths because they are easily triggered into action by the emotions and emotional outbreaks that are so common. While some people would recoil and be repulsed initially by their behavior, empaths are wired to want to help emotionally struggling people.
And so we spend our lives trying to fill an unfillable hole, to reach an unreachable standard.
But what we fail to realize is that it doesn’t matter how hard we try – the narcissist will never be satisfied, at least not for long. Still, we convince ourselves that we just need to do a little better, try a little harder – change a little more, and everything will be okay.
We see ourselves becoming a “not good enough” version of someone else’s ideals, rather than a beautiful, vibrant, and fully realized version of ourselves. And if we keep this up for long, our true selves are left for dead, quietly whispering our truths in the back of our minds as we desperately seek to quiet them, to shut them up and out.
All of this, so that we don’t have to risk the pain of the emotions that we will inevitably face when we fully realize (and admit to ourselves) the disservice we are doing to ourselves by allowing this abuse to continue.
How do you stop the gaslighting?
So what do you do now? Once you’ve admitted the problem, you’ve taken the first step toward resolving it. Start by watching this video on how to stop gaslighting.
How do you start healing after gaslighting in a toxic relationship?
As uncomfortable as it feels, the truth is that personal change must start within. We already know that there’s no changing someone else – it’s not your place or your right. So, you start with detaching yourself from the source of your problems.
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery & Confidence Resources
Here are some links to get you started on making the first move toward finding the happiness, peace, and general human rights you really deserve.
- Try this free 30-day sleep meditation for narcissistic abuse survivors.
- Free 30-day Confidence Booster eCourse
- Check out my free narcissistic abuse recovery workshop, right here.
- Watch this narcissistic abuse recovery healing playlist, right here.
Want more? See my books at BooksAngieWrote.com. There are several on narcissism and recovering from narcissistic abuse in relationships, as well as several that will help you to boost your confidence and create the life you really want.
Your Turn: Tell Me What You Think! Now, I want to hear your side of it. Have you been affected by a narcissist’s gaslighting attacks? Do you see yourself in any of the above ideas? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below this video.
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Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor 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 personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, 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.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at QueenBeeing.com and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.