Timely Advice from A Survivor of Narcissistic Abuse
When I was married to a narcissist, some friends would question my judge of character. Some mocked and chastised me in my own home. “You married too young,” one said. “We told you so,” another whispered. Two others gathered in the kitchen late at night, making plans, while I lingered in the dark hallway. I was too foolish, too tied down, too backwards for their wild travels ahead.
This story is not to demand justice or apologies. This story is just to say, I know what it’s like to be fooled. I know what it’s like to wait and want for a love that will never come. And I know the treasures unearthed after that messy divorce.
I am free now. I finally saw through the emotional abuse, the isolation, the control, the lies, the economic manipulation. The gaslighting. The dismissal of my opinions. Him telling me the problems in our marriage were all my fault and that everything he did was for my own good. As a trauma survivor, I want better for myself today and moving forward. I welcome myself, and anyone who is willing, to survive and thrive.
It’s hard to watch this abuse play out on the political stage, as it’s hard to watch your friend, your daughter, or your son be abused in a relationship. The pain is so wide. The love is so wide. The pain is inexplicable for a mother of any sort to sit idly by and watch, or worse, to not even know the abuse is happening to your most precious person and be helpless to help. Silence, in this case, is not quite violence. Though it is watching the abuse happen.
So today, I cannot sit back and relax as much of America is fooled into believing we are a nation of one abuser and many victims.
I cannot withdraw my pen from this conversation, not now. Too much is at stake.
The truth is: We are a nation of many abusers and many victims. This needs to change. Depending on the time and place, one person can morph from a victim to an abuser, just as one person, as I do daily, morphs into a survivor and reaches for thrivehood.
One perspective on our tragic state of affairs is that Donald Trump is the one and only narcissist. He is the biggest narcissist on the planet, I’ve heard. He is the bad guy and we are all the victims. Or perhaps it is his supporters who are the abusers and the left and their unorthodox fringe groups who are the victims.
This is almost all a lie.
He is a narcissist. I imagine, if polled, most Americans would agree. But I also imagine, if polled, most Americans do not know the signs of abuse and how to break free from those shackles.
Narcissists are the messenger of wounds, abuse recovery expert Melanie Tonia Evans calls us to see. They carry the wounds within and without, and cast their shadow onto others. Where there is shadow, there is light. Narcissists are gifts to this world, I hesitate to admit, because they are the mirror to the empath. They are the mirror to the self.
In my own healing, I have found it helpful to switch my emphasis from the label “narcissist” to an exploration of “narcissism.” Here, in this inner dialogue, considering “empathy” rather than the label “empath” brings to light narcissism and empathy as energies. These are energies that any and all of us can experience at any given moment. So, in the larger sense, narcissism is a mirror to empathy.
We have been given a gift in the form of Donald Trump. Even the great writer Garrison Keillor has written, “Maybe a Trump presidency is what God intended.” I agree in my own way. I believe God intended for many, like me, to be abused and to recover so that now we can help. And maybe my thinking that in itself is a little narcissistic.
If it is true that Trump supporters are victims of narcissistic abuse, then silencing them and isolating them is only furthering the abuse. This action is extending the trauma. It is delaying the healing of our country. This philosophy of silencing dissent, when such dissent to the ears of empathy is actually a cry for help and a call to healing, is toxic.
To simply call conservatives victims does not do them justice. My friends who voted red are some of the most empathetic, empowered people I know, and I am grateful for the grace they have shown me. In their reality, they are not victims and I am not one to force anybody into victimhood. Perhaps some who are leaning right having been unearthing treasures that have too long been ignored. They know themselves to be victims of an abusive system. They are right. This is the reality we all share and create. We are all worthy discoverers of solutions.
Yes, we are dangerously divided. But be careful not to lose humanity while fighting for humanity itself.
Do not let your good heart lead you to the living room to whisper and gossip. We are still in the narcissist’s house and his partners need your support. It is not your place to tell them that they were wrong for what perhaps God intended they experience. It is not your place to compare your experiences to theirs. Do not shame them, blame them, and guilt them into any more oblivion.
All I can fathom is that it is your place to radically love them. I wonder if insisting that somehow your reality is better than theirs is the best path forward. I know this might be hard to hear, but it comes from the heart. Please heed these words.
Or else, they will climb your walls. They will crack through the digital fabric of your lives. They will come for you because they are destined to. They will bring the wounds one way or another. It can be bad. It can be beautiful. The choice is before us.
So I implore you today: Cherish the alternate reality of one who survives narcissistic abuse. Please. Seek the wisdom of the messengers of wounds. Ask them questions. Forgive. Wonder. Heal. Behold the beauty that comes from the storied shadows of recovery. Let the realities merge. It is the only way we come together. It is the only way, I see, we break free.
The truth is made of all of us. Without welcoming the whole truth, America might divorce itself completely. I think we can all agree: Every human being deserves a roof over their head. The real home is to be able to walk outside those four walls, into the rising sunlight, respected, safe, and heard.
When I left my ex-husband, I was welcomed into circles where I felt loved, and as I learned to trust again, I felt safe to speak again, to write again. To travel again. To live again. I want to extend the same kindness to my fellow Americans, and I hope, if you’re still reading, you are too.
Now, in 2021, I feel as though I am living in an alternate reality because I see so much through the lens of abuse recovery. I am grateful for this reality. In the toxic cycle in which our country is caught, there are tensions, incidents, reconciliations, and calm. And there is hope. Collective wounds are becoming visible.
Truly, I do sense a nuanced unity. This is one collective protest, one collective rising, one outburst of love if we are willing to follow such guiding light. Love is the best defense. United We Feel. Together We Rise.
Maybe that’s easier said than done. But it’s worth the extra push. America, we deserve better. We deserve for our nation to beat with a full heart.