I have learned so much about the victim, perpetrator cycle through my private facebook group which now has over five thousand members. The group is for recovery of narcissistic abuse and everybody who joins comes believing they are victims of abuse but on the forum some people seem to be the perpetrator. It raises the question “were these people the perpetrator in their relationships also?”
It is such a delicate balance between the victim and the perpetrator. It is a dance of power and control. The perpetrator wants to feel in control and so he or she uses abusive tactics such as manipulation, lying, and other power plays. The victim in his or her attempt to regain power and control will often use the same type of tactics. The victim may lie to prevent further abuse and manipulate in order to try and control his/her reality.
People who come out of narcissistic relationships are often very angry, hypersensitive and emotionally reactive. They may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety and a host of other issues, including feelings of utter powerlessness. So in the forum I hear things like “I will not be treated like this again!” “I will not allow anyone to talk to me like that!” “I will not have my voice suppressed; I have a right to say how I feel!”
Typically the narcissist also feels as if he/she has been victimized. This is due to projection. The narcissist will accuse his nearest and dearest of doing what he/she is doing or capable of doing. A narcissist without moral values will accuse the victim of having no moral values or accuse the victim of lying, cheating and manipulating, when he/she is the one doing this. It is crazy making to say the least.
That “crazy” finds its way to support forums such as the one I launched a little over a year ago. Kicking people out of the forum for inappropriate behavior is a near daily occurrence. The forum may not be the safest place in the world for recovery but it is FREE and people flock to it. Forums such as this one give people the opportunity to confront abusive situations, to recognize “unacceptable” behavior and make choices for their own well being. People will often be offended by something someone says and send me a private message asking me to jump in and take care of the offender. If I don’t act right away or don’t act as they feel I should they send me another private message letting me know how unsupportive the forum is and announce their departure. It is a type of devaluing and discarding that happens when someone‘s expectations are not met.
Both victims and perpetrators suffer. We are often under the impression that narcissists and other crazy makers don’t suffer. As long as we are caught up in the cycle of abuse whether we are the victim or the perpetrator we suffer! I’ve had clients tell me “Oh he never suffered! He lives a charmed life!” But I tell them I beg to differ! What one shows you on the outside doesn’t indicate the internal hell one might be living in.
I’ve had both sides of a relationship contact me declaring their ex was a narcissist. Both were equally convinced they had been involved with a narcissist and their stories were convincing. I didn’t work with either one of them long enough to make a determination. But this experience did raise the question. Who is the narcissist? Are both of them narcissistic? Neither? Is one a narcissist and the other a borderline? This is a typical combination.
I have broken free from several relationships with men who were narcissists or had strong narcissistic tendencies. The one who was the most narcissistic didn’t look as his past relationships from the perspective of the victim. He was very easy going and still had a friendship with his ex wife. He was of the belief that women who were dissatisfied with him should move on, but before they completely moved on he was justified in slipping another women into her place and didn’t seem to skip a beat. However I have known this man for a very long time and he is not a happy camper. He may have seemed to live a charmed life back when I was suffering the pain of the fallout. But now I feel his life is quite empty and desolate. I wouldn’t trade places with him for anything in the world.
Other men I have been with who have had narcissistic behavior definitely felt they were the victim of their ex’s. I was shocked to see these men exhibit the same behavior they accused their ex’s of having. Ironic! These men didn’t have the ability to reflect on their own behavior or be accountable for it.
One man I was intimately involved with spent years complaining about how his ex wife took up with another man on the sly. Our relationship ended when he took up with another woman on the sly; well it really wasn’t that sly. It really happened in front of my face but he didn’t bother ending his relationship with me before taking up with the other woman. He was entitled! He talked about his ex wife using the same words used to describe a narcissist. She was entitled. She lacked accountability. She was irresponsible. But in the end he was all those things.
At some point in my journey I realized that although I may feel victimized by certain people’s behavior I would not be a victim. Once we refuse to be a victim we stop the victim/perpetrator cycle in our lives. We take responsibility for what happened to us and change ourselves. Change can be a long process and we may be kicked in the teeth or stabbed in the back a few times before we break free. But if we continue to take responsibility for our own reactions and our own emotions we can eventually break free and have much healthier relationships.
We don’t need to be convinced that the person we feel victimized by is a narcissist to break off contact. We break contact in order to create a safe place for our own healing and restoration. We break contact so that we can stop absorbing that person’s emotions and opinions. It is our right to break off contact with anyone we feel is unhealthy for us or even with someone whom you clearly have a dysfunctional relationship with. It doesn’t have to be about who is to blame. It can simply be about taking care of yourself.
It is said that we are both victims and perpetrators. A child who grows up being abused may become the abuser. The woman who was abused in one relationship may become the abuser in the next one. Someone can be both victim and perpetrator in one relationship as the roles switch back and forth. The only way out of the cycle of abuse is to take full responsibility for yourself and refuse to be a victim or a perpetrator. Instead you make a conscious decision to become liberated!
We cannot become liberated; however, if we are unwilling to completely self examine and confront our own fear and pain. Fear and pain is at the core of all cycles of abuse. We fear rejection, abandonment and betrayal, but most of all we fear our own pain. Most of us suffer the pain of feeling inadequate and from that pain we succumb to our ego’s to give us a false sense of power and control in our lives. Our need to feel powerful often leads us to feeling entitled. Someone who feels insecure about their relationship may pursue another one without first ending the one they are in because they fear being alone or missing out on the opportunity to be with this other person. This is entitlement! “I am entitled to do what is best for me in the moment without concern for how you will be affected
Our inability to “self reflect” is self destructive! If we cannot see what motivates us and our behavior we are doomed to repeat the patterns. Your husband or wife might cheat on you leading you to cheat on the next person you are involved with. If you are not able to delve deeply into your own behavior you can’t stop the cycle.
You might be a woman who is constantly getting involved in unsatisfactory relationships that end in betrayal. This was me! It was a very painful realty that led me to diving deeper into my own pain. My pain held the key to my enlightenment. I was able to trace it all the way back to infancy. My Dad died when I was only five months old and although I knew I was affected by this I didn’t understand the full extent until recently. Infants are open and receptive. They are taking it all in, absorbing what is in their environment. I absorbed my Mother’s grief and her broken heart. I was doomed to repeat having my heart broken because the pain I was carrying was the pain of a broken heart. I unconsciously walked around with this internal message that said “my heart is broken” and I continued to attract men into my life who would break my heart. I can spend all my energy blaming the men in my life for breaking my heart or I can understand the root of my heartbreak and begin to truly heal it. I heal it by fully allowing myself to experience the pain of my original heartbreak. It was horrific! It was too much for any infant to bear! It was so horrific I had to separate from it. And when I separated from it I attracted mirrors to reflect it back to me. Until one day I was able to say “this heartbreak is mine! It belongs to me! I must own it so that I can finally release it!”
A romantic partner can do some pretty horrific things to you and you will feel the pain of it, but the more you focus on what was done to you the more you entrench yourself in the victim pattern. The focus for your healing needs to be on feeling your own pain and taking full responsibility for it. I talk about this process in my book “Rebirth; Traversing the Dark Night of the Soul” and “Healing Narcissistic Abuse and Finding the True Self.”
Feeling our pain is not fun. We are conditioned by society to avoid it. But our healing comes in embracing our pain and finding the strength and the courage to walk through it. This is how we are liberated from repeating the cycle of abuse that results in our pain being constantly triggered. We stop being the victim. We stop being the perpetrator. Instead we learn to value ourselves and others and choose partners we can have a truly healthy relationship with.