Inherent to being in any type of abusive relationship, is the illusion. The illusion is the false reality which the abuser feeds to the victim. The victim accepts this reality for a few reasons, mainly in an attempt to protect their own sanity.
The reality was fed to the victim through the use of brainwashing tactics. At first the controlling party gave the subordinate the feeling that they had control and that they were making their own choices. The abuser gave them a false sense of confidence and safety in the relationship.
This false confidence came in the form of praise and the appearance of concern for the victim. The abuser put the victim on a pedestal and made them feel that they were needed. The abuser may have acted as though they were actually the one that was in the position of submission to the victim.
The abuser sets up the victim by making them feel powerful in the relationship. The abuser listens to the feelings and the thoughts of the victim to make them feel like they are cared about. The victim is told that they are the best thing that has ever happened to their partner and that they are special and treasured.
The victim loves this attention and readily believes the lies of the abuser. This is the phase where the abuser is setting up their victim for a big crashing fall later on. This is the idealization phase.
So, the victim is living in a world of illusion which is carefully constructed by the narcissist. They learn what the victim wants in a partner and they become the perfect partner for them. It is almost like a dream.
My father once said to me, “If it seems too good to be true…it probably is.” These are words of wisdom. No one is perfect. There cannot be a person that has every single thing we are looking for and that agrees with us about everything. This is a red flag.
Over time, the abuser seems to change their personality, and their feelings for the victim turn from admiration to contempt. This is the devaluation phase.
Rather than being praised for their qualities and skills, the victim is now nit-picked and criticized for the very same things that the abuser once claimed to admire.
This is very confusing to the victim who thought that their partner loved these qualities about them. They may have originally been praised for being compassionate and now the abuser complains that they are spending too much time caring for people and not paying enough attention to them.
The abuser may have originally praised the victim for being independent and strong and not suddenly the abuser despised the independence of the victim. They tell them that they should be checking with them before they make decisions or plans.
They are now being told to be more dependent on the abuser, and that their independence and strength are damaging the relationship. When the victim does something on their own, they are made to feel that they have disrespected the abuser.
Things that the abuse once admired, like the personality of the victim, are now being criticized. The dreams and goals of the victim were originally admired and praised by the abuser. The abuser does not want the victim spending time on these things. They want all of the victim energy and time for themselves.
Why does the victim still stay with the abuser, even when their independence and self esteem are being stripped away?
The victim still believes the early lies of the abuser. They believe that they are special to the abuser and that they are needed. They are also fed lies about their own ability to make decisions. Little by little the victim is stripped of their self confidence to make their own decisions.
The abuser leads them to believe that in order to protect them from other people. the abuser must be in control of all of the decisions. They often convince the victim that they are mentally ill or somehow naive about dealing with other people.
Over time the victim loses their independence and hands it over to the abuser. They spend less and less time on their own goals and dreams, and instead make the wants and needs of the abuser their own. The thoughts that the victim would normally think are replaced by the thoughts that the abuser wants them to think.
The decreased ability to think for yourself and to trust your own perceptions, makes it difficult to asses of you are really being abused. You may suspect that you are being abused, but then you do not trust your own judgement anymore. The abuser has deliberately shaken your trust in your own perceptions of reality.
The victim, who once felt needed by the abuser, is now feeling that they need the abuser in order to survive. They allow the abuser to make decisions for them, that they once would have made for themselves. These decisions can be job decisions, choices about dress and make-up, choices of friends and who and when to spend to spend time with.
It is difficult at this point to get someone out of the relationship, or to show them that they are being abused. They have already been convinced that the abuser is the only one that they can listen to. The abuser had convinced them that they should not trust their friends and family because all of these people are just out to damage the relationship or they are out to harm the victim.
This is isolation. The abuser isolates the victim little by little from the people that care about them. They cause them to fear that these people are untrustworthy. If the victim still wants to interact with family and friends, then the abuser will pose a threat. The victim will fear retaliation of the abuser, if they have interaction with people that is not permitted by the abuser.
The more isolated the victim becomes, the more control the abuser has. They are now the only person feeding reality to the victim. The reality that they are being fed, is the only reality they know. It is an illusion that is not being countered by anyone else’s reality.
In order for the victim to be able to leave, they would have to give up their false reality. This is painful and earth shattering. To understand that the reality that you believe to be true has been a lie all along, is like a bomb going off in your brain. It means that the entire time you have spent with the person has been false. This is shattering to the very core of your being.
They still want to believe that the abuser truly loves them. If they can just make the abuser happy, by being a better partner, then the love that was shown them in the beginning of the relationship will come back. The victim clings to the original dream and lies of the beginning of the relationship.
It is a terrible thing to have know that someone that you loved, lied to you from the very first day of the relationship. To know that all the intimate conversations and heartfelt interactions were false, is mentally tormenting. This is why victims will choose to live in the reality that is false.
As the abuse becomes worse, the victim may realize that something is wrong. But they are blamed by the abuser for everything. Any behavior of the abuser is the fault of the victim. This is the reality that the victim knows.
In order for the victim to want to escape, they have to come to realize that the abuser has been deceiving them. They have to come to realize that the abuser does not love them and that they never loved them. If there is any hope of getting that “perfect partner” back again, then they will stay and keep trying to please the abuser.
This is the reason that the damage to the victim of narcissistic abuse is so severe. Their entire reality has been a lie. The love was a lie. They have to realize that they poured out their heart and soul to someone who was just pretending to care. They told intimate secrets and shared their dreams with a complete stranger.
They never knew who the abuser was inside. They never knew what they were thinking. All the times that they felt loved, they were just being toyed with. Their love was taken from them like emotional rape. It was under genuine interaction.
Healing from this type of abuse involves many levels of healing. The victims are traumatized at their very core and their entire reality is now in question. The ability to trust their own perceptions is now in doubt. Their ability to trust their feelings about other people has been damaged.
They doubt their own ability to perceive reality. They have, in fact, been driven crazy be the abuser. They have a mental dysfunction about being able to tell reality from non reality. They are frightened and question their own ability to ever be sane again.
How could you believe a reality which never existed for such an extended period of time, and then just shake it off? How can you begin to trust your own personal judgement about people again? How can you ever know if love exists, or if people are just monsters that want to steal your affection and turn it against you?
It takes a long time to heal. It is a process of regaining a perspective on reality again. It is a process of learning to read the red flags of an abuser. You have to learn the tactics of a narcissist and learn how to protect yourself.
You then have to slowly begin to trust yourself again about trusting other people. It take time, learning, support and personal soul searching.
It can be healed. People can recover from narcissistic abuse, but the damage is very deep in the core of the person’s soul. There is a dark reality which settles over them, before the healing process can begin. The sooner the dark reality begins to life the better.
The world feels like a place of evil and everyone is a potential enemy. It takes time to realize that everyone is not cruel and that there are caring people in the world. It takes even more time before the victim will trust themselves to be able to tell the difference between genuine people and lying predators.
If you are friends with a victim of narcissistic abuse, give them time to come out of it. Be there for them when they want to talk, but do not think that you can fully understand the pain of having your entire reality shattered. Just be there for them. They will come to you in their own time.
If you have been the victim of narcissistic abuse, then you will not find people that truly understand the damage to your reality base, unless they have been broken by a narcissist themselves. Your friends can be supportive and you should reach out to them.
But also try to talk to people who have been victims of narcissistic abuse themselves. You need people to validate that sick feeling inside of you about having had to realize that you were living in a reality that did not exist. It is really damaging to your sense of safety in the world.
Eventually you can learn to tell red flags of a narcissist when they are in front of you. You will be prepared for the next one who tries to get in. You will not let any abusive person back in again, of you study and learn. This is your way of protecting yourself.
Do not rush into another relationship, in order to escape the pain. During the healing process, you are vulnerable to another attack. Please be strong and trust that you are okay on your own. Gather support from friends and other victims of narcissistic abuse.
Become strong and independent again, before looking for a new partner. Once you can stand on your own two feet. and have learned all the lessons, then you can know how identify genuine communication as opposed to manipulative behaviors.
Blessings to you on your healing,