I was recently betrayed by family members, when an “in law” spread gossip and rumors about me to another family member who told another family member and they all chose to believe the lies, without checking in with me to confirm the validity of the story. I was judged, condemned and ex-communicated from the group. When I tried to defend myself, I was not believed.
The family members who chose to believe the lies they were being fed, had already decided who I was, and not only was I found “guilty,” but I was found unworthy of inclusion into the family. I was the scapegoat, with the sins of the family members cast upon my back, I was sent into the wilderness alone, to deal with these burdens, while my family celebrated without me.
To say this was painful, would be an understatement. It was shocking! It was “Unbelievable!” In fact had I not been living it I might not have believed it. We have to ask the question “how can people who are supposed to love you and care about you be so cruel?”
At first, when I learned of my supposed crimes, I had to ask myself “is what they are saying about me true? Am I so separated from reality that I don’t even know what I am saying or doing?” Am I delusional? Is this really all my fault?” Fortunately, I work in the field of narcissistic abuse and I know the dynamic inside out and backward. I could see from my “intellectual eye” what was happening, but my emotional self was suffering the pain of my family’s cruel rejection.
I was cast into the Scapegoat role at an early age. When I was a teenager, I had anorexia and bulimia and was considered to be “the one with the problem.” Some family members still chose to see me as “the one with the problem,” so whenever something went wrong within the family structure, it had to be my fault.
At the age of nineteen, I remember my psychologist telling me that I was actually the healthiest one in my family. I didn’t understand this because I was “the one with the problem.” I had the anorexia and bulimia and everyone else in my family seemed to be just fine. My psychologist went on to explain that the reason I was sick was that I had difficulty living in an environment where emotions where not allowed. This environment was forcing me to suppress my own painful emotions and the more I suppressed my feelings, the sicker I became.
My therapy involved getting back in touch with the pain I didn’t have permission to feel. The therapists’ office was my “safe place” where I had full permission to express any feeling I had. It still took me a good year and a half to connect with my emotional Self again. But as I began to connect with my “true self” the eating disorder naturally began to take a back seat, until there were no longer any signs of it.
My entire adult life has been committed to an emotional and spiritual healing path, which began in that counseling office and continued through many layers and levels of experience that brought me to where I am today. I have become more emotionally and spiritually liberated as the years passed by but I also became acutely aware of everything happening around me. My sensitivity, the part of me my therapist told me would not fit into the “emotional suppression box,” was the part of me that could sense and feel the environment around me. It was both a blessing and a curse.
I became a specialist in narcissistic abuse after experiencing several relationships with narcissistic men that were emotionally devastating to me. I ended up with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which stemmed from the shock and trauma of having someone I loved and trusted project their repressed inner demons upon me, devalue me and then discard me, leaving me once again, wondering alone in the wilderness with the disowned pain of those I believed cared about me.
I sought counseling whenever I felt unclear within myself and I needed someone to mirror my true self back to me. In one such session, a female therapist, who had been working with women for thirty years, told me in all her years working with thousands of women, she had only met one woman who she believed had the level of awareness I had, and that woman was in her seventies. I kept getting messages from my therapists that they saw me as “acutely aware.” That word “aware” kept coming up in my world until finally I learned to accept that my level of “awareness” was a gift but also the source of many of my issues with others because I could sense and feel what others were disowning.
People who are hiding in a “false self” do not want to be seen. They do not want to be exposed. Narcissists are lost in the false self, lacking in any true sense of identity. They borrow the identities of those whom they draw into their circles, however if the person or persons whom they are identifying with does or says something that doesn’t fit with their rigid belief system, that person can be immediately demonized. Narcissists target and set out to destroy those they demonize. Sometimes this process is conscious and sometimes it is unconscious, meaning they have no awareness of what they are doing.
This explains how some of us can be going along in a relationship doing just fine and suddenly the narcissistic person in our life, whom we don’t know is narcissistic, flips a switch and begins to treat us with cruelty and passive aggressive behavior including the silent treatment. We are left wondering what we did to cause that person to be upset with us. We can sense the sheer hostility in that person but are powerless to do anything about it.
The narcissistic person will be kind, charming, and wonderful with others in your family or social circle, but you are being singled out as the one to be punished. It is very confusing and painful. When you try and talk to that person about why they are treating you like this they can’t give you a solid answer; because the truth is they are often very unconscious about why they feel the way they do towards you. Although they may spit out something that you said or did that may or may not be true, it really has nothing to do with what is really going on inside of them. The deeper truth is that they are feeling threatened and “acting out” from that fear.
We feel very powerless around narcissistic people because there is nothing we can do to make it better. We can’t fix it. The relationship is over when the narcissist decides it’s over and once it is over they believe you no longer deserve kindness or respect.
Normally we can just walk away from such a dynamic, but when family is involved, walking away usually means walking away from loved family members who are blind to the narcissism. We are powerless to convince other family members of the injustice being committed. The narcissist is masterful at his or her manipulations and manages to orchestrate every situation to where he or she looks like the victim and you look like the perpetrator.
In my situation, I was armed with information from working in this field for seventeen years. But information doesn’t take the pain away. It only helps me to know how best to act/react to the abuse and injustice. I realize I can’t defend myself or convince other family members what is going on. The only option that is self-loving and respectful to me is to bow out. To walk away. I could continue to subject myself to the cruelty; to the abuse; to the passive aggressive behavior and the masterful attempts to keep me on the outside, but this doesn’t feel respectful of myself. I choose to surround myself with people who truly love and care about me.
Of course this choice represents a great loss for me. But if I am to be honest with myself, that loss was enforced upon me and I didn’t have a whole lot of power and control in the matter. The passive aggressive message I am receiving is “you don’t belong here! We don’t want you! And if you keep coming back, you will have to deal with my cunning, manipulative efforts to keep you out. Most likely I will win and you will lose. You may drive a thousand miles across Country to see us and I will orchestrate everything with optimal precision to be sure you don’t get to see the family for more than 90 minutes. I will make myself look like the victim; I will paint you out to be the “bad guy” and I am so good at what I do that everybody will believe me. So you lose!”
Sometimes we have to admit that we have lost the battle, but perhaps we have not lost the war. Because once the scapegoat exits the scene, they can no longer be the target for the narcissists disowned pain. At least not for long. They have to find another target.
In family systems, sometimes the narcissist will be able to maintain his/her position indefinitely. But in situations where the narcissist is an “in law,” there may be a divorce or other circumstance that brings the narcissism to light. Family members that have “wronged” you may reach out at some point down the road with a new level of awareness. You may be offered a sincere apology; not from the narcissist but from those who have fallen under the narcissists spell.
Those who fall under the narcissists spell are victims too. That is what I have to remember when I find myself angry at those who have betrayed me. They are being used to further the narcissistic agenda. Narcissists love to abuse by proxy, pulling in others to do their dirty work for them. This way they get to look like the victim and the “good guy.”
Still, the truth has a way of coming out in the end. Those of us wronged by a narcissist must be willing to be patient and get on with our lives. Eventually we may be vindicated, or it just won’t matter anymore because we are too busy living a rich, fulfilling life, free of the narcissists abusive games.
What we do need to focus on is “knowing our SELF.” When you really know yourself, nobody else has the power to tell you who you are! People will try to make you doubt yourself and you may feel like you are going crazy, but if you know yourself, those attempts will backfire. When you get to this point you can no longer be a target for narcissistic abuse, because you no longer try and convince others that you are not a bad person. You allow them to think and believe whatever they want to believe and you free yourself to live your life, as the amazing person that you really are.