“#Narcissistic Abuse is truly a form of soul defilement” , writes Christine Louis de Canonville, in her book, The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse. If you’ve ever been the victim of narcissistic abuse, then that statement will resonate deeply with you. Why? Because it is absolutely, positively, and 100% without the slightest exaggeration, TRUE.
“When a victim is enmeshed with a narcissist, especially if this began in childhood, the individual learns to give their attention, affection or emotional support to their abuser above all else; in time they begin to lose [their] sense of self. It appears that the victim puts the needs of the narcissist (and then others) before their own needs. This is true to a point, but actually, and more importantly, the victim’s first daily need is to remain safe in the environment with the narcissist. Becoming a “pleaser” is a way to stay safe, [and] it works by way of “changing the mood” of the abuser, thus avoiding their rages, which usually meant punishment, guilt, shame, and abandonment for the victim.”
Now here, I want to point at two words in that paragraph that had me fucked up for a long, hot minute, and I know it has messed with the heads of a lot of other women, too. The words I want to talk about here are, #1– “pleaser”, and #2– “rage”.
“Pleaser” really had me thinking, because I never saw myself as a “pleaser”. I was a ‘strong woman’. I didn’t take any shit from anyone. I was an independent thinker. Confident. And anyway, when my husband would be nasty, I wouldn’t just “take it”. I would yell at him, and tell him he was being an ass, and that he could go to hell because I wasn’t going to be treated like garbage. So there! (Doesn’t really have the ring of “pleaser” to it, does it?) Of course, I still stayed…
The word “rage” also had me stuck because my husband rarely “raged”. I mean, I maybe saw it 2, or 3, times in over 8 years. I think most people probably get mad enough to throw something, or scream, at least once every other year, or so. That’s not anything too far from normal. So… if I wasn’t a “pleaser”, and he didn’t “rage”…. then what the hell? (This is the point where I would go into a panic, wondering if I was maybe, really the narcissist, and couldn’t see it because, well…I was the narcissist!)
And then, one day, I had a run-in with a person, who I had dared to say ‘No’ to…and stick to it… and, as a result, suffered their violent rage. It wasn’t that I had never said ‘No’ before, because I had. It was about being what this person needed me to be, in order to uphold their version of reality. And, like lightning, it hit me. “Pleasing” isn’t about ‘”people pleasing’” behavior that we would normally think of when we hear that word. It’s about doing what the narcissist wants you to do, in order to provide him with the type of supply he needs. And therefore, “rage” isn’t always in reference to an angry, or physically violent, outburst. It’s about the narcissist losing control of their carefully constructed, though pathetically vulnerable, facade and, the feeling of powerlessness they get from it.
So, by being a “pleaser”, you’re “people pleasing”, or being self-effacing, or subservient. This type of “pleasing” is about doing whatever it is the narcissist wants you to do…or better yet, being the person the narcissist wants you to be in order to complete his inner-wounding drama. And, that last sentence is vital to really get, because this is what ultimately causes, what the shamans call ‘soul loss’. Western psychologists call it ‘dissociation’.
When the narcissist gets into a relationship, it’s because he has found someone who he intuitively can sense has deep empathy, compassion, and also, unfortunately, deep wounding that he can exploit. The narcissist’s goal, over time, is for the partner to be molded into the image of the narcissist’s original abuser, in order to continuously act out that drama/script. Of course, this is all highly unconscious. But, nonetheless, there you have it.
I believe that this is why so many victims with Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (yes, this fucked up kind of abuse even has it’s own category now!) report feeling as though they “don’t recognize themselves”, or ” don’t know who they are anymore”, or “don’t feel whole”. Not only is this a common sign that soul loss has occurred, but also a sign that the narcissist’s subconscious plot to morph the victim into the original abuser, has worked….at least partially.
Let me give you an example. If a narcissist’s original abuser was hyper-critical, physically abusive, and controlling, then the narcissist will basically, arrange situations, events, and circumstances that almost force the victim to act in those same ways. He will poke, prod, negate, devalue, ignore, dismiss, disregard, instigate…and relentlessly dig at the victim, until she finally snaps, and gives him what he wants- the violent outburst. And this can be forced out of a woman, who was once a positive, happy-go-lucky sort of person, who rarely got angry before the relationship with a narcissist.
He will act out defiantly, refusing to cooperate on the smallest, most insignificant tasks, so that the victim would be forced into constantly vocalizing her displeasure with the fact that he refused to do anything she asked of him, or wanted from him, or even NEEDED from him. Every request is defiantly met, until she relents and becomes the hyper-critical nag he needs her to be.