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How Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Are Unitentionally Shamed

by | December 13, 2017

How Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Are Unintentionally Shamed

I’m a believer in the popular “we attract what we are” philosophy, but so often it is used in a way that often becomes unintentionally shaming, and in my opinion- false. For instance, think of how people have told you that if you’ve attracted a negative event or person, like a narcissist into your life, then you must also possess some parallel negative quality or vibration, or the universe is teaching you some important lesson.
 
Beware, rant ahead…
 
I do agree with the sayings that caution us about the content of our thoughts and the direction of our energy such as: ”What we focus on expands” and “Watch your thoughts because they become things.”
 
However, sometimes the most well-intentioned mental health professionals, gurus or even family members can unwittingly use the power of positivity mantra or the law of attraction principle in a way that can be experienced by many as minimizing, shaming and invalidating, often silencing the expression of legitimate frustrations or disappointment.

 
Wielded as an absolute, the saying, “we attract what we are” insinuates if someone attracts a manipulator into their life, they too must be manipulative or possess some parallel quality that is defective.
 
This is where I find the danger lies when painting with an absolute brush of positivity or law of attraction. This is also where we may need to consider other popular principles and idioms such as: “Opposites attract” or my favorite, “Shit happens.” But still, the “opposites attract” way of thinking doesn’t completely redirect the finger of shame and fault.
 
Maybe, there isn’t always a lesson you need to learn disguised in every bad experience. Maybe, there isn’t always a personal defect that is unearthed in every misfortune or disappointment.
 
Sure, when you have a resilient and introspective spirit you’ll instinctively always look for the silver lining or the lesson in every negative circumstance. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, quite the opposite.
 
In fact, studies indicate that the trait of resilience is the number one predictor of how quickly a person will recover from a tragedy, failure or some disappointment in their life.
 
What I am saying is that maybe we are fine just the way we are. When bad things happen it doesn’t always have to be our fault. Sometimes there’s no explanation, no lesson, no defect to correct. Perhaps, maybe life is just unfair. Maybe, bad things happen to good people. Maybe, some people, through no credit of their own, are just luckier than others. Maybe, things are just sucky at times. Maybe, we’re human and when we fall on hard times or things don’t go our way, it’s okay and even healthy to sit and bitch about the injustice of it all for a minute or two.
 
There’s nothing wrong with complaining and expressing frustration, sadness or disappointment. These emotions are natural. We have the capacity to express frustration and complain about our present circumstances while simultaneously moving beyond them. We don’t have to choose between the two. We can honor our truth and vent our frustrations, moan, groan, cry, whine and even get mad while we also dig ourselves out of the hole because at least we’re still digging, right?
 
Complaining about our unwanted and undeserved circumstances doesn’t invite more of them into our lives like the attraction and positivity mantras suggest. Although wallowing in our troubles is a different story because when we wallow we’re singularly focused and stagnant. And when we’re singularly focused and stagnant there’s little possibility of change. And even if something were to change, our singular focus might blind us to even noticing it.
 
So, maybe then when life throws us lemons or rains on our parade, we need to not rush into the pursuit of positivity or immediately clutch onto the law of attraction for explanations. Instead, we should embrace a more accepting, empathetic and non-judgmental view of ourselves and others. One that doesn’t automatically assume we are always somehow responsible or in control of inviting or expelling our own misfortune. And perhaps, even more importantly, we need to accept that sometimes our only control in life is to let go of thinking we have so much control.
 
My rant was inspired by a post I read on Facebook suggesting that people who are experiencing a negative situation should quit complaining and they might learn something. While it’s true we can usually learn more from tough times than easy ones, it got me thinking about why it is that every struggle or disappointment always needs to point to a personal defect?
 
Why can’t an individual who is struggling with a problem complain about the real challenges they’re facing without being invalidated, defective or in need of some personal growth?
 
Thoughts?

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Bree Bonchay, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist with over 18 years of experience working in the field of mental health and trauma recovery. She specializes in helping people recover from toxic relationships. Her articles have been featured in major online magazines and she has appeared on radio as a guest expert.
She is a dedicated advocate, educator and facilitates survivor support groups and workshops.

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How Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Are Unintentionally Shamed

I’m a believer in the popular “we attract what we are” philosophy, but so often it is used in a way that often becomes unintentionally shaming, and in my opinion- false. For instance, think of how people have told you that if you’ve attracted a negative event or person, like a narcissist into your life, then you must also possess some parallel negative quality or vibration, or the universe is teaching you some important lesson.
 
Beware, rant ahead…
 
I do agree with the sayings that caution us about the content of our thoughts and the direction of our energy such as: ”What we focus on expands” and “Watch your thoughts because they become things.”
 
However, sometimes the most well-intentioned mental health professionals, gurus or even family members can unwittingly use the power of positivity mantra or the law of attraction principle in a way that can be experienced by many as minimizing, shaming and invalidating, often silencing the expression of legitimate frustrations or disappointment.

 
Wielded as an absolute, the saying, “we attract what we are” insinuates if someone attracts a manipulator into their life, they too must be manipulative or possess some parallel quality that is defective.
 
This is where I find the danger lies when painting with an absolute brush of positivity or law of attraction. This is also where we may need to consider other popular principles and idioms such as: “Opposites attract” or my favorite, “Shit happens.” But still, the “opposites attract” way of thinking doesn’t completely redirect the finger of shame and fault.
 
Maybe, there isn’t always a lesson you need to learn disguised in every bad experience. Maybe, there isn’t always a personal defect that is unearthed in every misfortune or disappointment.
 
Sure, when you have a resilient and introspective spirit you’ll instinctively always look for the silver lining or the lesson in every negative circumstance. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, quite the opposite.
 
In fact, studies indicate that the trait of resilience is the number one predictor of how quickly a person will recover from a tragedy, failure or some disappointment in their life.
 
What I am saying is that maybe we are fine just the way we are. When bad things happen it doesn’t always have to be our fault. Sometimes there’s no explanation, no lesson, no defect to correct. Perhaps, maybe life is just unfair. Maybe, bad things happen to good people. Maybe, some people, through no credit of their own, are just luckier than others. Maybe, things are just sucky at times. Maybe, we’re human and when we fall on hard times or things don’t go our way, it’s okay and even healthy to sit and bitch about the injustice of it all for a minute or two.
 
There’s nothing wrong with complaining and expressing frustration, sadness or disappointment. These emotions are natural. We have the capacity to express frustration and complain about our present circumstances while simultaneously moving beyond them. We don’t have to choose between the two. We can honor our truth and vent our frustrations, moan, groan, cry, whine and even get mad while we also dig ourselves out of the hole because at least we’re still digging, right?
 
Complaining about our unwanted and undeserved circumstances doesn’t invite more of them into our lives like the attraction and positivity mantras suggest. Although wallowing in our troubles is a different story because when we wallow we’re singularly focused and stagnant. And when we’re singularly focused and stagnant there’s little possibility of change. And even if something were to change, our singular focus might blind us to even noticing it.
 
So, maybe then when life throws us lemons or rains on our parade, we need to not rush into the pursuit of positivity or immediately clutch onto the law of attraction for explanations. Instead, we should embrace a more accepting, empathetic and non-judgmental view of ourselves and others. One that doesn’t automatically assume we are always somehow responsible or in control of inviting or expelling our own misfortune. And perhaps, even more importantly, we need to accept that sometimes our only control in life is to let go of thinking we have so much control.
 
My rant was inspired by a post I read on Facebook suggesting that people who are experiencing a negative situation should quit complaining and they might learn something. While it’s true we can usually learn more from tough times than easy ones, it got me thinking about why it is that every struggle or disappointment always needs to point to a personal defect?
 
Why can’t an individual who is struggling with a problem complain about the real challenges they’re facing without being invalidated, defective or in need of some personal growth?
 
Thoughts?

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Get the book

‘I Am Free” is both a cautionary warning and illuminating light. It empowers readers dealing with the aftermath of a toxic relationship and serves as a wake-up call to those who are in-or think they may be in- an abusive relationship with a narcissists or sociopath.

Get the book

‘I Am Free” is both a cautionary warning and illuminating light. It empowers readers dealing with the aftermath of a toxic relationship and serves as a wake-up call to those who are in-or think they may be in- an abusive relationship with a narcissists or sociopath.

About me

Bree Bonchay, MSW, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist with two decades of experience working in the field of mental health and trauma recovery. She specializes in helping people recover from toxic relationships and shares her insights about narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathy in her blog, FreeFromToxic. She is the author of the book, “I Am Free” and has appeared on radio as a guest expert. She is also a board member of the Association for NPD/Psychopathy Educators & Survivor Treatment, a member of the International Association of Trauma Specialists, and is also the founder of WNAAD.

About me

Bree Bonchay, MSW, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist with two decades of experience working in the field of mental health and trauma recovery. She specializes in helping people recover from toxic relationships and shares her insights about narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathy in her blog, FreeFromToxic. She is the author of the book, “I Am Free” and has appeared on radio as a guest expert. She is also a board member of the Association for NPD/Psychopathy Educators & Survivor Treatment, a member of the International Association of Trauma Specialists, and is also the founder of WNAAD.

17 Comments

  1. Susan

    Thanks Bree ““ I needed to hear that! Susan

    Reply
  2. Rebecca

    I totally agree! I was in a narcissistic relationship and have been constantly told to learn my lesson and life is showing me my damaged parts. I know I am empathetic and over trusting but I certainly didn’t deserve that. I felt like I was the failure and defective one until I got fed up and decided I like who I am. It’s ok to be empathetic and giving. My pain and grief is a normal human reaction to what happened. Yes, I need to create better boundaries and learn when to walk away but his behavior is his. Shame on him. Not me.
    Thanks Bree!

    Reply
  3. Judy Sporton

    The problem is some of these complaints go on for years and years with no recognition of ‘reality sucks’ but I’m out of it with no resolution! Not only does it drag down friends who would like to see you happy, but it prevents healing of the person involved! I often wonder if the people tormenting them are sociopaths, and not narcissists after all! Coming from a theatrical background, and looking at the markers for Narcissistic people, it appears to my eye at least that most of us in theatre, have some of these traits! We are I’m afraid in denial, if we emphatically say that we don’t! The only way back is to educate yourself against the extreme end of the spectrum, and if someone is too good to be true, they usually are! Eventually their truth, their humanity, will surface, and by then you will desperate!y seek to return to the old days, Is it something you’ve done? No , of course not! You are in too deep! These types in the extreme NEVER change, they cannot, as they do not see themselves as ever doing anything wrong! Once you GET this, you have to go– you will get over it- let them move to their next target, and try to refocus your goals and your life! It’s not about victim blami ing, it’s just plain common sense- just like any love affair- it’s over- get yourself out of there, anyway you can – through friends, jobs etc.,just go and be glad you dodged further bullets!

    Reply
    • Nevaeh

      This is so true. Healing involves being sad, angry and complaining. But at some point you need to get past this stage because otherwise you will become a very bitter human being…not a great way to live.

      Reply
  4. Tammy

    I think the more appropriate response is to say: “that is where you were at that time and you have grown.” I think that there is a personal lesson or take away from every situation, but that not every situation was meant for you to go through. In learning about Narcissist I have come to understand that they need an individual to feed off of or to get a fix. You cannot get that from another Narcissist…so truly opposites attract in the dynamic of that type of relationship. There was a time in the beginning maybe the Narc mirrored some qualities we all need to address in ourselves, some selfish tendencies, but we, Survivors, didn’t get stuck in the mirror and trapped in self, unlike the Narc. We should be able to be a light to other survivors and let them know they are not alone. I can say the only person who shamed me, was myself, until I understood what an emotional/mental mess I was at the time I met the Narc. Then I was free to pick myself up and say I am stronger and won’t be duped like that again.

    Reply
  5. eugene

    thank you for the shower of your Grace in your work and the Blessing you give to all of us who have experienced such trauma . May Grace continue to shower this planet with your Love and Blessings

    Reply
  6. Annette

    I remember telling some friends “I’m a psycho magnet” to which one friend replied “You’re just too nice” and the other said, “Hey, I enjoy your company”. And I realized there that my biggest fault was that I was “too nice” – too nice… so sue me. And that I did in fact attract many wonderful people and should not let the assholes colour my reality – which was, in fact, full of beautiful people.

    Reply
  7. Rory

    This has been how I have lived for a few years now. And all the well-meaning advice I had received has invalidated and shamed me into silence. I even had a year long relationship end because I was told I’m negative, or rather he was sorry to be selfish but he didn’t like how it made him feel to watch me trying so hard to be positive and loving yet bad things just seem to happen to me by no fault of my own. And even while here things are happening, I find the strength to be kind and giving to others. All I ever did in that relationship was bet on occasion about a bad day. A close friend told me a similar story about how all I do is talk about me even though when I asked about her, she deflected and asked about me instead. Those two people weee the last I could handle and now I’m closed off. I don’t talk about myself. I hide. I go to work and I come home and do little else. I suffer form panic attacks if asked how I’m doing, or if I need to be in public. I’m terrified of running into people I know or mutual
    friends of the man who ended our year long relationship. Even my siblings are less than supportive and say to “think myself well.” All this comes two years after I left a toxic 20 year marriage to a narcissist. And I believe my mother is one as well.
    So those are my thoughts. It is terrible to feel dismissed, abandoned and discarded by everyone around me because I’m sad and depsressed and recovering from a lifetime of abuse. I’m hiding in plain sight and plan to stay this way for a long time because it’s safer for me.

    Reply
    • Judy Sporton

      Dear rory, I really do understand how you feel! I can only suggest you keep a diary, and start on some sort of regime, such as exercise et ., You must recover, activity is your best way to divert your mind! REMEMBER there are a o lot of people out there, who feel the way you do! Make sure you keep your job up, and remenber, there are those who really do care about you. Perhaps, see your doctor, and get him/her to refer you on to a psychologist, who can give you guidelines to help you cope! We only have one life, and we are .not meant to spend it unhappily! I PROMISE to say some prayers for your recovery Feel free to co ntact me online, if you think i can help!

      Reply
    • Martens Deb

      There will be better moments. The painful ones never really leave you, and you are allowed to comfort yourself, to grieve that aspect of your life. I too have been disenfranchised by siblings and my parent and I thought I would die from that pain. It is disconnecting which is almost unfathomable, because they are family. Find people who “knew” you as the innocent heart, and revisit that part of yourself. Any part – the laughing child, the goofy teen, the serious nerd – whatever identity that separates you from these unfair unjustified opinions, which have nothing to do with YOU.

      Reply
  8. Cindy Patterson

    Excellent!! Thank you!!

    Reply
  9. Perogie

    So true. If you were involved with a toxic person, they play victim. Then they pretend to look at positive and move on easily. To me it’s because they don’t feel. So they don’t feel the pain the same way. So to me, if you don’t feel shitty and just move on, you haven’t healed or felt enough to have pain to overcome. If you hold it in, it leaves skeletons in your closet for future harming since you haven’t tried to heal. Bang on with this article.

    Reply
  10. DoneWithNarcs

    Wish I had learned the first time. Wish I had never gone back to that and yet I did. Three times. Dumb, dumb, dumb. That’s my fault. The rest of it isn’t about me. It’s about the other person. Yet that person will never accept any responsibility for anything.

    Reply
  11. debover60reads

    “Why?”, is the reaction to experiences we do not understand, and since earliest times mankind has searched for those plausible reasons to help us make sense, feel safe or believe that we might be able to predict how to prepare for the inexplicable. CONTROL. Bree, you have told it like it is. Narc survivors share resilience. They broadcast common sense. They understand irony, share compassion and deliver a communal message that bad guys and crappy stuff happen- like bad weather. Those who cannot accept this message haven’t met “bad weather”, or are so afraid to believe there is no real control that they cannot nor will validate otherwise. I guess that positive validation of complaining is the true positivity message! Life is hard! We struggle! We teach one another how to carry on by telling each other about our troubles! Yes, us!

    Reply
  12. Dianna

    I agree wholeheartedly with you. I have found this scenario to be the response more prevalent in a certain segment of ‘healers’ and ‘teachers’ and it is why I have decided to be more selective from where I receive my encouragement, teaching and healing.

    I do not desire to offend anyone if this is your belief system then it works for you and I am truly happy for you. However for myself, I found that within those certain circles NO ONE is ever wrong for doing something to you because some how or another the idea is that each individual is SO powerful that they have called everything good or bad to themselves. [Law of atttaction]

    For me it does not explain the narcissist, the sociopath, the abuser, the thief, the rapist, the murderer. I did NOT call this in to myself I simply LOVED someone, trusted them, gave them the benefit of the doubt and HONORED my own words. Could I have had better boundaries? Better self-love? Better judgement? Absolutely! But does that say that I needed or deserved to be lied to mercilessly and soul destroyed in order to learn to do better?

    This way of thinking (where each individual is deemed to be all powerful in directing their llife and future) excludes the impact that the next person (who by the way would also be ALL powerful in directing their life) has on your life and future. We do not live in a vacuum, we interact and affect one another and if that is the case and their choice is for my demise who then gets to choose who is the ultimate powerful director of the next moment? Either way wouldn’t that mean that someone technically ‘loses’?

    There has to be a clear indicator of what is good and what is bad and inside we know it. Are lies good? Is thievery good? Is rape good? Is murder good? Over and over we come to state and identify the narcissist knows exactly what they are doing. They turn their abuse/control on with you, hold it back with others. That is deception, period. My trust, naivete, ignorance, loyalty or poor boundaries should not be an indictment against me nor be so callously understood to be a lesson I sought or needed to ‘heal’ myself. With that logic the abused or neglected child needed and/or deserved it, every person who has not solved the mysteries of life should be prey, and every infant should be left to fend for itself as they bring to themselves what they desire for themselves.

    I desire peace, love and trust amongst all. I thought I found it, but he LIED!

    Reply
    • Bree Bonchay, LCSW

      Dianna,
      Exactly! 100%! I appreciate your comment. What you expressed so articulately is exactly the message I was sharing in my article.

      Reply
      • Dianna

        Bree, it is you I am thankful for in bringing it up. In the early part of the journey unfortunately many run into these types (I know I did) and if you weren’t nearly suicidal already this can just about take you over the edge.

        My world turned completely upside down within 5 minutes and the wave of disbelief, shame, guilt, pain, despair, and fear hit so hard I could barely breathe or move. I had been abused physically, sexually, emotionally, financially and spiritually all in the name of a redeeming love. Then to hear someone tell me that in some way I brought this to myself to heal myself was like reliving the nightmare of gas-lighting, deflection and ridicule all over again.

        As we all know they leave in such a fashion to make it seem like the abuse, the problems of the relationship and the end of the relationship were a reflection of you not giving enough and/or not being enough and then to have someone ‘counsel’ you by telling you virtually the same thing (you brought this to yourself) well in my eyes is a continuation of the abuse, another pushing of the goalpost.

        I am just truly thankful to have found other resources (and a great therapist) to help me process what happened, why it happened and how to better prepare myself to identify these types of people and shield myself from their intentional harm.

        Thank you for being one of those resources! 💜

        Reply

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