Forgiving the Narcissist vs. Abuse Amnesia

By Kim Saeed | Contemplating No Contact

Feb 23

depressed-woman

Forgiveness.  It’s all over the media.  If we want to live a stress-free life, clear our energy channels, and obtain forgiveness from our Creator, we must learn to forgive.  In the words of the Buddha, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”  The Bible tells us in Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”.

By all accounts, forgiveness is the path to true harmony.

However, there is a big difference between forgiving someone and allowing them to continue their wrong-doing without any consequences or repercussions.  Forgiveness does not imply that we should step aside while a rabid dog repeatedly tears up the neighborhood and move in quietly afterwards to clean up the chaos.

True forgiveness is indeed a loving, healthy act that assumes both parties will learn and grow.  Abuse amnesia is unhealthy in that it’s not really an act of forgiveness, but an act of enabling.  Below is a side-by-side comparison of forgiveness and abuse amnesia.

Forgiveness

Abuse Amnesia

The person who made a mistake typically tries not to repeat the offense. The abuser who made the mistake doesn’t intend to change because they keep getting away with it.
The person who made a mistake generally feels remorse when they realize they’ve hurt another person. The abuser couldn’t care less about how their actions affect other people, including their parents and children.
Changes made by extending forgiveness often lead to a more stable environment in the home. Practicing abuse amnesia doesn’t produce any positive changes and in fact, creates MORE instability, especially for any children that may be present.
Extending forgiveness often leads to a happier future for all involved. Practicing abuse amnesia leads to worsening behaviors which sometimes lead to physical assault.

Next, let’s look at some examples of forgiveness vs. abuse amnesia:

1) Forgiveness:  A partner or spouse has an affair.  It only happens once and they are truly remorseful.  They promise to stop the affair and go to counseling.

Abuse amnesia:  A partner or spouse has several extra-marital affairs, including prostitutes.  They’ve been confronted but don’t plan to change.  These behaviors continue as their partner normalizes the infidelity.

2) Forgiveness:  A partner or spouse is going through stressful times and loses their cool, shouting and raging for several minutes.  This isn’t normal behavior.  They come back later and apologize, admitting they were wrong.

Abuse amnesia:  The shouting episodes are a common occurrence.  Their partner never knows when it might happen and lives in a state of high anxiety, as do the kids if there are any in the home.

3) Forgiveness:  A partner or spouse makes an insensitive remark during a disagreement.  They immediately regret it and attempt to make amends.

Abuse Amnesia:  A partner engages in frequent character attacks.  If anything is said to them about it, they leave for a few days to teach their partner a lesson.  Later, the victim lets their abuser back in as though nothing happened.

In short, forgiveness is forgiveness, whereas abuse amnesia is denial.  There are many factors at play in abuse amnesia, but it perpetuates the abuse because the abuser never suffers any consequences for their actions.  There’s no motivation to change, and further they don’t care to change because there will always be someone else they can run to after a good stint of love-bombing.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you are doing a good deed by “forgiving” your Narcissistic partner.  Once you start overlooking abusive behaviors, it becomes a pattern…a toxic pattern that will lead to your downfall, and that of your children.

Bored Young Woman Stirring Coffee

While there shouldn’t be an expectation to receive anything in return for a genuine extension of forgiveness, it usually leads to a sense of personal fulfillment once the other party begins to makes amends.   Abuse amnesia will never be acknowledged or appreciated.  In fact, in some cases it leads to long-lasting damage, such as when an adult witnesses their spouse abusing their children, but does nothing to stop it, nor report it.

Forgiveness is a chance to correct past mistakes.  Abuse amnesia is unhealthy, inappropriate, and only leads to more of the offending behaviors.  If you’ve been practicing abuse amnesia, you may be suffering from Learned Helplessness.  According to Wikipedia, Learned Helplessness is “a mental state in which an organism forced to endure stimuli that are painful or otherwise unpleasant, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are escapable, presumably because it has learned that it cannot control the situation”.

If you are familiar with the “Seligman Dog” experiments, the dogs were shocked repeatedly both when they completed a task correctly and also when they did not.  The “dogs were so confused that they layed down depressed and GAVE UP and even whined–and this was Learned Helplessness that the dogs were experiencing”. The Narcissist instills this in his or her victim through behaviors including systematic brainwashing, inconsistent actions and words, blame-shifting, gas lighting, and more which also result in Trauma Bonding.

Or, you may simply be in a state of denial because you want the relationship to continue and you’re still holding out hope that things might eventually improve.

What to Do

  • If you practice abuse amnesia because you want to continue the relationship, please visit loveisrespect.org.  They have lots of cool resources, including live chat under the “Get Help” tab.

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