How victims shame themselves
Almost every time I start with a new client, we wade through their litany of self-blame and shame. How did I let this happen? How could I have been so stupid, naïve, blind, immature? Few escape the self-flagellation of victimhood.
I tell them that they were programmed to be attracted to and even tolerate narcissists because they were probably raised by one or more of them. To adult victims, narcissists look familiar. They have been love bombed and then abandoned by their parents, siblings, teachers or clergy. The shiny objects that narcissists wave about are still dazzling and familiar and hold the hope of different outcomes. Perhaps this time it will be different; perhaps this time the shiny object has substance and is real. If only I can do it differently this time, I will be loved forever and never abandoned again. In psychology, we call this “the compulsion to repeat”. It’s a real thing and happens all too often. The victim seeks to repeat the narcissistic experience (usually subconsciously) so that THEY can do it right this time. I’ll be a better friend, a better lover, wife. My love will change things. It is this way of thinking that causes the victim to gaslight herself, thinking things will be OK if only you… (fill in the blank) when you KNOW, down in your deep consciousness, that nothing you can do will make it OK.
I have tremendous compassion for those who hold this to be possible. After all, aren’t we taught by our religions and morals, stories and myths that love conquers all? The confusing thing is that this dictum is often true. Love IS a very powerful force, perhaps the most powerful in the world. Unfortunately, when someone is mentally ill, such as an extreme narcissist, love alone won’t change things. There are several reasons for this but the simplest one is that the narcissist doesn’t see the need to change. There is nothing, in his mind, that is wrong or harmful in his actions or words.
It is in the mind of the victim that liberation can be found. The mind is the cause of our bondage and the cause of our freedom. If the abused continues to abuse themselves with guilt, shame and regret, they will never be free.
After someone has disentangled from the narcissist in their life physically, they can still be held in bondage mentally. Many feel that they are incapable of making good relationship choices ever again. Some feel that they are so deeply wounded by the experience that they never want to be vulnerable again. Divorced victims are ashamed of or embarrassed about coming out of a failed marriage and feel that the failure was at least in part, their own. A narcissist can drive us to a state where we have never been before. The gaslighting, lying, neediness, egotism, emotional abandonment can cause the victim to act in ways that surprise her. She may rage, go into sullen depressions, exhibit emotional volatility of all sorts, spy on her partner, look through his phone in search of hints about where he “really” was all weekend. In this way, the victim looks at her own behavior as part of the problem. Of course, the narcissist will take advantage of this to make his point that she IS the problem.
This confusing abyss is best negotiated with the help of a professional. It’s very difficult to untangle these webs on your own. And there is no shame in seeking help. Stop calling yourself names and call a therapist instead.