Narcissistic abuse is a somewhat new topic to me. I was fully aware I had been in an abusive relationship, but also completely oblivious to the specifics of narcissistic abuse. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I stumbled upon the term and, all of a sudden, all the pieces of my puzzle came together, to finally give me a picture I could fully comprehend. Relationships with narcissists don’t give us a sense of closure. The complete puzzle, however, can. And it certainly did for me. The truth, as they say, will set you free.
But it’s a process. Becoming aware that narcissism was the root cause of our problems gives us the necessary insight, the direction in which we need to look. But in order to make sense of the experience as a whole, a good amount of research needs to occur. Listening to other survivor’s stories, watching videos that explain the narcissistic functioning, understanding the terminology, reading books… Each new piece of information counts – but it does take time.
I’m no stranger to research. In fact, it’s in my nature to dig deep into anything that, for one reason or another, is of importance to me. Like many victims and survivors, once pointed in the right direction, I went on a search for knowledge binge. Void of a sense of closure and validation, victims become thirsty for understanding. This is still in process for me, but I know enough by now, that I have a solid foundation to work upon and new pieces of information are simply a matter of how much more detailed I want my understanding to be.
Additionally, you’ll hear people talk about the understanding of narcissistic abuse as being something layered. It’s a fact. If you’ve ever experienced lucid dreaming (especially the multi layered type), or even, if you’ve watched the movie Inception, this will help you grasp this concept.
I’ll give you an example: two nights ago I had the odd experience of becoming lucid inside a regular, non lucid dream. Confusing? I’ll explain: I became aware about the fact that I was dreaming. Woke up from that lucid dream and thought I was awake in reality. But I was actually inside another dream, while being unaware of that fact. I felt really relieved when I woke up from that second layer (this time into real life), because it was a bit of a nightmare. At the same time, I experienced some confusion in my half awoken state, when the real world and the dreamworld were still a bit entangled.
The point is, each layer you move on to, gives you a better perspective of the previous – and so on and so forth. When you reach the final layer, you have a full picture. It wasn’t until I was fully awake in real life that I was able to comprehend the fact that I had a lucid dream inside a regular dream.
This is symbolic of how we tend to experience waking up from the narcissistic abuse nightmare. This is how I am, personally, experiencing it.
I’ve been in therapy for the past 3 years – and still going strong. This therapist held my hand when I was nothing but dust in the shape of a human being. She witnessed and diagnosed my CPTSD, witnessed my constant shakiness, the overall physical state that nearly sent me to the hospital at the brink of organ failure, the extreme anxiety making me feel incapacitated, the soft spoken words I struggled to speak and she struggled to hear. The confusion, still trying to justify events in my gas lit mind. She helped me see and accept the reality of the abuse. Helped me back on my own two feet, gave me tools for healing and preventing further abuse.
But never, in the 3 years I’ve been with her, has she mentioned the word “narcissist”. Interestingly, it wasn’t that she was unaware of it, but rather, that the specific terminology was completely secondary to the general understanding of the abuse dynamics, the development of coping skills and the healing process itself. Additionally, it is her opinion, that pure classic forms of each of the cluster B personalities may not always be the case, there can be a lot of overlapping in traits and behaviors, and disorders vary in degree. So, proper diagnosis is difficult, even for the extremely rare ones who may, for one reason or another, end up in therapy.
However, when I found this information all on my own, she wasn’t at all surprised. She can’t diagnose someone she’s never met, but it seemed clear to her that I had certainly dealt with a cluster B. And she added: “to me, it actually doesn’t even seem to be pure narcissism. From your account, I can also clearly see traces of sociopathy.”
Of course, this isn’t a proper diagnosis – in fact, this may have been one of the reasons why, prior to this day, this had never been openly discussed. But since I had made that discovery all on my own, and now she was presenting me with yet an amplified perspective, I questioned her about what those traces were. She proceeded to recall some examples, among the experiences I’d shared with her over the years, that were indicative of the mind of a sociopath. She had been taking note. I was stunned. The natural result of this conversation was, well, more research. It triggered the peeling of one more layer in my search for answers, one I wasn’t even looking at.
At first, I came across the explanation that, as opposed to psychopaths, sociopaths are made. Then, I found some controversy in that distinction, so I’m not quite sure, at this point, what the reality is. However, since the most accepted theory seems to be that sociopaths are created through upbringing, environment, trauma, abuse, neglect, or brain injury, my focus was shifted to the family structure of the narcissist I was married to.
It became a bigger puzzle, but the pieces started coming together fast!!
I have a lot to say about the dynamics of a cluster B/narcissistic family. Examples coming out of my ears to illustrate them. If this is relevant in your situation or interests you at all, stay tuned for the upcoming posts on this subject. This is the layer I’m currently peeling off, so I may need a bit more research to get the full picture. But this is important to address, to make people aware of the extended abuse by proxy that can happen on top of the abuse happening behind doors. As well as how we can end up being ganged up on by entire cluster B families.
Wishing every victim and survivor superior guidance on your quest for knowledge, understanding and validation. Be patient as you peel off layers. Take time to process each of them. Be kind to yourself, stay safe, nurture your mind, body and soul. There’s help out there and there are thousands of us walking this path in different stages. You are not alone.