Being Kind to Yourself to Counteract the Negative Effects of Narcissistic Abuse

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is extremely harmful to our well-being – both physically and mentally. We are readily exposing ourselves to high levels of stress and drama in a misguided belief that our self-sacrificing efforts will one day be rewarded. We are, thus, not treating ourselves very considerately. We neglect our own wishes, needs and desires; we are bending our morals and modes of behavior, because we are so focused on the narcissists and are more than willing to do whatever it takes to keep things going. Even though it is often a futile endeavor to try to make things work, we are neverthess prepared to neglect and sacrifice our emotional balance, and end up feeling exhausted, frustrated and drained of all joy and energy. Generally speaking, one could therefore say that being with a narcissist makes us treat ourselves neglectfully and accept a high dose of stress and drama.

However, paradoxically, we also feel the need to treat ourselves with increased kindness when finding ourselves in a relationship with someone who is emotionally abusing us. It is true that I was neglecting my own needs and lost touch with myself while I was dating the narcissist. I allowed him to overstep my nearly non-existent boundaries thousands of times and I changed my morals and modes of behavior to make things work. Yet, at the same time, I also felt the need to be extremely kind to myself. One could say that I tried to counteract the narcissist’s neglect and cold indifference by giving myself the comforting and kind words and treatment that he was unable to give to me.

Being constantly confronted with disappointments and heartbreak you really need a survival strategy in order to not go completely insane. During the entire time I was in a relationship with the narcissist I was investing so much, giving all I had to give, dedicating myself a 100% to someone who never had a real use for my affection and commitment. I got almost nothing in return – just empty promises and words that were never followed by actions. I was repeatedly pushed aside, disrespected, ignored, lied to and turned into a secondary option, and this treatment was clearly taking its toll on me. I somehow learned that I had to give to myself what he was so unwilling and unable to give to me. So in order to be able to deal with all the frustration and heartbreak, I turned into the one person extending kindness to myself. I realized that if I wasn’t kind to myself then no one would be, and that, as a result, I would surely turn insane.

The kindness and compassion I extended towards myself became evident in my strategy to use positive affirmations. I talked to myself in a very comforting and affectionate way, saying kind things to myself as a way of encouragement. It may sound ridiculous, but at times I stood in front of the mirror, looked myself in the face and told myself that I deserved so much more than what I was given at the moment; that I was deserving of love and respect. I had to remind myself of these simple facts because the narcissist had me continually doubt them. He treated me with such distance and neglect that I, at times, was convinced that I was completely undeserving of love and consideration. To counteract the feeling of emptiness and frustration stemming from his distance and detachment, I had to cheer myself up by being kind to myself.

I not only talked to myself, but I also started writing a journal with some of the entries being composed as letters to myself. In those letters I complimented myself for my stength and tried to comfort me as good as I could. I sometimes talked to myself as if I were a vulnerable child needing comfort and positive affirmations. I felt the need to do so, because the narcissist often left me feeling vulnerable, empty and unwanted. To fill the inner emptiness and lessen the negative impact of his emotional abuse, I had to be the one being kind to myself. Whenever the situation became absolutely unbearable, and I was suffering from extreme depression, I would fall asleep in a fetal position, hugging myself to give myself the strength and comfort that I needed. As I said before, it sounds sad – almost pathetic – but narcissists can hurt you to such an extreme extent that we need to take such measures in order to prevent being swallowed by darkness and hopelessness.

I not only started writing a journal because it enabled me to strenghten and be kind to myself. It also counteracted the feeling that I was losing touch with myself. Through writing down my feelings, I was somehow reconnecting with myself, giving a voice to my wishes, my disappointment and the frustration that came with being a victim of emotional abuse. In my journal entries I was brutally honest and I could vent my anger and say nasty things about the narcissist. I never would have dared to say these things to his face, because I was still too afraid of losing him. In some of my entries I would directly address him and thereby I had the opportunity to let go of all the pent-up anger and frustration. In our interactions I kept swallowing my pain and disappointment – in my journal entries I could finally express what I so desperately needed to express and it felt like an enormous relief. If I hadn’t written those entries, I’m sure I would have lost control far more often and said nasty and hateful things to his face that I would have regretted later on.

During the time I interacted with the narcissist, I not only felt the need to be kind to myself, but also to others. In my everyday encounters with others, I was all the more friendly because their positive reactions gave me the affirmation that the narcissist couldn’t give to me. As others were responding to my kindness by being equally kind and friendly I got the positive reactions that I needed and that I was denied by the narcissist. I could put all my energy into being compassionate, kind and loving to the narcissist and I almost never got any feedback at all. It was extremely frustrating to give to the point of self-sacrifice and to never get any kind of validation in return. I therefore started to search for validation in my interactions with others. I needed it in order to see that I was not completely without value and that my efforts were indeed appreciated and could lead to positive feedback. I desperately wanted to feel appreciated, because the narcissist constantly made me feel small, pushed aside and unworty of any kind of positive affirmation.

I never felt truly loved or cared for by the narcissist. Not even in the most intimate moments that we shared did I feel carefree, satisfied and happy. I could lie next to him, caressing his face, looking deep into his eyes, and still feel empty and sad. Normally, in such moments, everything should be engulfed by an enormous feeling of bliss, gratitude and carelessness. That one moment of intimacy should be so strong and magnificient to erase all worries and doubts. In my relationship with the narcissist, I was never even allowed to feel true bliss. There were always dark feelings lurking underneath the surface and it was eating me up alive. So in order to not completely lose touch with myself and be swallowed by darkness I had to be the one being kind to and comforting myself. He constantly made me feel so damn small by lying to me and treating me like a secondary option that it really took its toll on me. I had to be kind to myself to stay strong and to not be drawn into an abyss.

It was a relatively new experience for me. I had never before felt so low and so down that I had felt the constant need to encourage myself. Never before had I felt the need to be so considerate and kind to myself. However, if you are constantly being faced with ambiguity, insecurity and distance, you really have to come up with a survival strategy in order not to completely lose your mind – and my strategy consisted of giving myself the loving words and signs of affection that I was denied by the narcissist.

Considering all the aspects mentioned above it really is a paradox situation: On the one hand, while being with a narcissist you are inflicting enormous damage on yourself by allowing the narcissist to repeatedly hurt you and by coming back for more long after the situation has proven to be hopeless. We tend to sacrifice everything for the narcissists; we bend our morals and modes of behavior and we put all of our energy and dedication into a relationship with someone who has no use for our affection and commitment. Consequently, one could well say that we are treating ourselves with neglect, pushing aside our own needs to keep the narcissist satisfied. However, on the other hand, time spent in a relationship with a narcissist can also turn out to be a time of increased self-awareness and self love. As we try to counteract the cruelties and damage inflicted upon us by the narcissist, we often extend an enormous amount of kindness to ourselves. We are so in need of positive affirmations that we need to give them to ourselves in order not to go insane. As a result, we end up talking to ourselves, writing journal entries in which we pour our hearts out and are therefore able to reconnect with ourselves. The narcissists make us lose touch with ourselves through their detachment, drama and manipulation, and we feel the need to counteract that development by taking those different measures pointed out above.

Whenever I look back at my relationship with the narcissist, I see a lot of darkness and despair. However, there is always also a glimmer of light, and it stems from the fact that I was able to stay strong through my willingness to give myself the comfort and kindness I needed to counteract narcissistic abuse. This willingness to treat myself with kindness and consideration has stayed with me long after the end of my interactions with the narcissist: I still try to be good to myself, I still am very keen to treat others with kindness and respect, I try to enjoy my own company and to keep myself busy with meaningful activities in order not to be swallowed by feelings of regret and emptiness. In a certain way, being with the narcissist has taught me to reconnect with myself and to pay careful attention to my own needs and wishes. I will never go so far and be thankful for the abuse and all the pain and heartbreak. But I try to see the light…I try to point to those little islands of positivity in order not to be swallowed by darkness.

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Inflating Your Emotional Airbag for the Narcissist

During the entire time I was interacting with the narcissist he was feeding me with a seemingly endless supply of his sob stories, lies and excuses. Every single time he presented me with one of his countless tales of woe, I inflated my emotional airbag for him. I felt deeply for him, and his sorrows became my own sorrows. Even after he had already disappointed me hundreds of times, I still felt sorry for him and his supposedly tragic life. This compassion made it nearly impossible for me to be angry with him, to show resistance against his inconsiderate and uncommitted way of treating me, and his fondness for creating drama and a feeling of insecurity. I was always too busy trying to ease his pain, showing compassion and feeling miserable for the “complicated situation” he was in that I never really paid attention to the pain he inflicted upon me through his inconsistency, triangulation and ambiguity.

Narcissists are particularly talented at presenting us with sob stories. After having listened to some of them, we are convinced that their life is indeed very tragic, that they have become victims of unlucky circumstances and that they have been dealt some really harsh blows. We also start to believe in their conviction that none of the drama they find themselves in is a result of their faults or flaws. Everything bad that happens to them always seems to be beyond their responsibility. As we are usually very compassionate beings that are deeply affected by the pain of others, we genuinely feel for them. Their pain becomes our pain and we begin to suffer from having to listen to their endless supplies of sob stories. The narcissists can’t seem to lead happy and unburdened lives – and we feel deeply for the bad luck they supposedly have to deal with. As we are so busy trying to absorb their pain, we often forget to be compassionate towards ourselves. We feel so sorry for their pain, that we neglect looking after ourselves, and therefore allow them to emotionally abuse us without showing resistance. More often than not, their sob stories are exaggerated fabrications – something they present us with to create drama, to make themselves seem interesting, to makes us feel compassion towards them and to get us hooked. They know that our hearts go out to those in pain, and they coldly make use of that knowledge. Some of their tales of woe might indeed be true, and they never get tired of wallowing in their pain, pointing out over and over again how miserable their lives are – and they are drawing us down with them.

While I was interacting with the narcissist, I was constantly faced with his pain and unhappiness. It was affecting me to such an enormous extent that I was getting more and more exhausted and completely lost touch with myself. I was so busy racking my brain over his “miserable life situation” that there was no more energy left to think about my own wishes, desires and ambitions. I kept feeling sorry for him, and forgot to look after myself in the process. Whenever we spent time together, he fed me with his never-ending sob stories, and I never stopped feeling compassionate. My heart went out to him when he told me he had always been a loner, spending most of the time alone playing guitar in college. He told me he didn’t have a girlfriend until he reached the age of 23 because he was not attractive back then and because of his strict religious upbringing. He repeatedly told me how messed up his childhood was and that his parents were absolutely unavailable – which had the effect that he was the one who had to bring up his little sister. He complained about the fact that he had always been too worried about other people’s feelings, that he was tired of being the good guy because it often led him to having to do damage control on women hurt from previous relationships with assholes. Listening to his tragic tales I immediately inflated my emotional airbag. I felt deeply for him, I was sorry for his tragic fate, and I was convinced he was a blameless victim. It never would have occured to me that he was one of the assholes he tried to distance himself from.

On a daily basis I was informed how unhappy he was in Germany, how unstimulating his job was, how powerless he felt because he didn’t know any German, how he couldn’t take it any longer. His unhappiness deeply affected me and I tried to show up possibilities for him. I gave him advice on how to get ahead, on how to improve his situation. He never really took my advice seriously. He enjoyed being the miserable victim too much to try to improve his situation. However, even though he never took action to improve his “miserable living situation”, I still felt sorry for him. It never crossed my mind that it was his responsibility to bring about change, and that there were indeed plenty of opportunities to do so. I still thought of him as a blameless victim of very unlucky circumstances and my emotional airbag stayed inflated.

My willingness to show compassion took on such self-sacrificing proportions that I still felt sorry for him after I had become a victim of his manipulation and triangulation. He repeatedly pushed me aside and cancelled on me to keep his exgirlfriend satisfied. He kept telling me about her – he basically shoved her presence in my face. His changing attitude towards her was driving me insane and the fact that she always seemed to have priority over me was breaking my heart. However, even though I was deeply hurt and confused, I still felt sorry for him whenever he complained about how she was turning his life into a mess, and how living with her had become unbearable due to the fact that she was mentally imbalanced. When he finally told her about me, she threatened to throw him out of her apartment. By then I had been turned into a secret for weeks and it was about time that he put an end to all the secrecy. However, I still felt so bad about myself for supposedly putting him in such a difficult situation that I apologized a hundred times for it.

When his exgirlfriend tried to call me for the very first time, I answered the phone because I didn’t know it was her. I talked to her for about an hour and was made very much aware of the fact that the narcissist was feeding both of us with an endless supply of lies. However, instead of being angry because of all the lies and deceit, I was far more worried that I had said things to her on the phone that would get him into trouble. It sounds absolutely insane, but at that time my emotional airbag was so fully inflated that instead of standing up for myself, I was too busy worrying about him. My compassion for him was so endless, that I failed to realize that he was disrespecting me, using me, and manipulating me with his lies, drama and triangulation. I had been repeatedly humiliated and played like a puppet on a string – and still my only concern was for his well-being.

Once he sent me a long email, telling me how he much he suffered due to his exgilfriend. He pointed out that she was harrassing him with tons of hateful text messages and that he couldn’t take it much longer. Only a few days earlier he had again blown me off because of her, and now he was complaining about her hatefulness and malignity. Instead of standing up for myself and telling him that it was his own responsibilty to solve the problem and that he could have moved out of her apartment ages ago, I felt sorry for him. I even offered that he could stay at my place if he liked to. A short time later I again had to realize that he was making a fool of me. Only one day after presenting me with his complaints and after calling her “mentally imbalanced”, he posted very intimate looking pictures of the two of them on Google Plus. When I confronted him about it, he told me he was just trying to make a nice gesture. But why did he have to make nice gestures towards a person who was supposedly turning his life into a mess through her hatefulness and totalitarian wishes? I had answered his complaints with nothing but compassion, and in the end I felt like a fool. Just as it had been the case numerous times before, his sob stories about his exgirlfriend were only meant to secure him of my compassion and to play the role of the blameless victim. I inflated my emotional airbag for him and got slapped in the face for it once more. He played both of us like puppets on a string, and I refused to see it because I was too busy feeling sorry for his “unbearable living situation” and for the fact that his exgirlfriend treated him with nothing but contempt.

It took me a very long time to realize that through my absolute focus on his supposed misery and unhappiness, I was neglecting myself and allowed him to turn me into a fool. I had been let down and disappointed countless times, and I still felt more sorry for him than for me. My unconditional compassion for him led me to take every single one of his sob stories to heart and to believe that he was indeed a blameless victim of unlucky circumstances. I was deeply affected by his somber mood and constant depression and genuinely wanted to make him feel better. However, he was obviously never interested in improving his living situation or his mood. He enjoyed dishing up his tragic sob stories and being the victim too much to take positive action. I can’t find another explanation for the fact that he never even tried to get ahead in Germany, or to move out of his exgirlfriend’s apartment. For each and every single one of their problems there is often a relatively easy solution available and it drives you crazy that they don’t seem to be interested in taking the opportunity. We measure them by our own standards, and therefore we can’t really grasp the idea that they are not interested in solving their problems. They want to continue rubbing them in our faces. In the end I nearly lost my mind because of it.

During the entire time I was in a relationship with him I blindly believed that his life was indeed miserable and felt genuinely sorry for him. This absolute compassion makes it nearly impossible to see behind the facade and to realize that he is not the blameless victim, but an emotional abuser – using his sob stories and tragic tales of woe to keep you hooked. The people he claims are turning his life into a mess are more often than not victims of his emotional abuse, ambiguity and inconsistency. They are “hysteric” and “mentally imbalanced” because he made them this way through his shameful behavior. I wish I could have seen all of this while I was still being with him. It is heartbreaking to offer so much genuine compassion to someone who is just playing with your feelings and manipulating you. He never had any use for my affection and consideration and, as a result, all of the energy, dedication and affection invested in him was just wasted. I believed I could have a positive influence on his life and help him get out of his misery. I was gravely mistaken: His sob stories were just one of the tools of his narcissistic manipulation and her never was interested in finding salvation. Being a loving and compassionate person I was an easy prey for him, and had to pay dearly for my naivety and blind self-sacrifice.