Why Narcissistic Abuse is so Damaging

By Kim Saeed | Initiating No Contact

Aug 11
Why Narcissistic Abuse is so damaging

Why does narcissistic abuse often affect us so differently than other traumatic events?

It goes without saying that all traumatic events are deeply impactful and life-altering.  They knock us into an emotional tailspin, threatening our sense of security about life, and they often force us to make serious changes in the way we live. 

Consider muggings, car accidents, and earthquakes.  A mugging happens because someone needs money and they think you have it.   Car accidents (where you are not at fault), like natural disasters, are random, outwardly meaningless events that can be just as devastating as muggings, if not more so, because they may result in permanent physical injuries or the destruction of your most cherished property. 

Any of these three events, obviously, can cause permanent emotional scarring, but they are all in a different category than narcissistic abuse.  Narcissistic abuse FEELS different.  It has its damaging effects on a different psychological level.  It is not just an emotional injury, it is a spiritual injury.

The main reasons for this are that narcissistic abuse is deliberately inflicted by someone you love and it targets you for who you are, the very ESSENCE of you.  It is a long-term, calculated campaign to make you feel unworthy and despise yourself, and to have you believe other people view you in the same light.

A mugging is based on any person who walks by who has a purse or wallet. Car crashes happen because someone wasn’t paying attention, a tire blows out, or because of inclement weather.  And earthquakes are just random natural events.  Muggings, car crashes, and earthquakes can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime…but they have nothing to do with the sort of person you are.

Narcissistic abuse, on the other hand, is calculated to focus like a laser beam on just this dimension of your psyche.  The narcissistic abuser wants you to believe that no one cares about you, and that no one should care about you, because you, as a person, are not loveable, have no redeeming qualities, and are a waste of space and time.  The abuser learns your hopes, dreams, fears, painful memories…and turns them all against you in order to weaken your spirit and make it more compliant with the abuser’s wishes.  The narcissistic abuser takes advantage of your forgiving personality and repeatedly exploits your fear of abandonment in order to make you more dependent on them and more likely to stay attached to them—despite (or rather, paradoxically, because of) the misery you find yourself in.

Traumatic events and natural disasters may change our physical capacities, our way of life, and our outlook for the foreseeable future, but in many cases, they can also instill a renewed motivation for life, love, and healthy relationships.  They can create challenges and hardships for us, but, because they do not devastate our feelings of self-worth, they do not crush our spirit. Narcissistic abuse, in contrast, is soul-crushing.  That is why the trauma feels so different and also why it is so much more difficult to overcome.  We are left feeling so utterly helpless and hopeless in our spirit.  We feel we lack the spiritual strength to stand up for ourselves and escape our misery, so we instead keep digging ourselves into a deeper spiritual hole.

The Bigger Picture

That is how narcissistic abuse works, why it is so debilitating, and why it feels different than other forms of emotional trauma.  And these are the reasons why I don’t believe people should try to make things work with a narcissist, regardless of whether they’re a lover, spouse, sibling, parent, co-worker, or friend.  The only hope for a victim of narcissistic abuse is to make a clean split from the source of the spiritual injury.

And this why I become outraged every time I see a licensed counselor or psychology PhD touting the possibility of a repaired relationship with a narcissist.  Such empty promises serve only to exacerbate the narcissism epidemic we’re experiencing right now, as well as the emotional suffering experienced by targets of this kind of abuse—to say nothing of the tragic indirect effects narcissistic abuse has on the victims’ families and the wider community.

And these are also the reasons why I do not encourage sympathizing with narcissists, or viewing them more like helpless, wounded individuals rather than the cruel and sadistic tormentors they really are.  They may have been wounded as children and that’s unfortunate, for sure.  But those children are long gone, leaving only an adult with an underdeveloped level of emotional maturity, non-existent emotional intelligence, and deficient attachment capabilities.   What’s left in that child’s place is merely a scheming manipulator who doesn’t give a care about anyone except themselves. 

Instead of feeling sorry for a lost child who has grown into an adult who’s hell-bent on destruction and chaos at all costs, we should instead focus on the children we have in our families, our schools, and our societies.  We should focus on removing our own children from toxic environments, when possible, so they have a chance at healing and developing a healthy sense of self.  We should focus on the children we have now so we can heal generational dysfunction instead of perpetuating it.

We shouldn’t forget about the past, because it’s often the past that keeps us from repeating mistakes and helps us stay motivated to keep moving forward…but we should stop counting on the “maybes” the “what ifs”, and the vain hope that narcissists might change.  Instead, we must try to work on healing the damage they’ve done to our spirits and ending the chaos that they’ve brought into our lives so that future generations won’t have to learn, as we have had to learn, why narcissistic abuse feels so different than other forms of emotional trauma. 

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…  Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” — Shel Silverstein

Copyright 2017 Kim Saeed and Let Me Reach

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(33) comments

Anonymous August 14, 2017

Thanks so much for this….I am 6 months NC. Trying to stay strong! Being involved with the NARC was an absolute NIGHTMARE!!! The mind games were the worse. Thanking God I am healing….I WILL NEVER EVER ALLOW THIS TYPE OF PERSON IN MY LIFE AGAIN!

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Andy August 14, 2017

Kim I don’t post too often but I’m here on your mailing list and I read all your post. Thanks so much for the info.only people who have gone through the experience with the wolf in sheeps clothing can understand.

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Anonymous August 13, 2017

thanks, I have been healing now for over a year from a 9 year relationship with a narcissistic abuser.It is hard because he destroyed the inner core of me, but I am much happier now he is not in my life, and I am slowly starting to believe in myself, but I know it will take time and I am taking one day at a time.but your words and writings are a life line for me as it took me years and years to realise what he was. thank you

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Susan Jervis August 12, 2017

Thank you for sharing this, I don’t feel I will ever recover from what my ex has done to me and continues to do to me, my family and my friends. He’s the most horrible person on earth. He continues to defame my character and lie about me. I have a restraining order on him that he continuously violates. He’s the biggest PIG on earth

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Anonymous August 12, 2017

Wow wow wow. So much wow I forwarded to my mom because this is everything I have said over the last year. It has been difficult to articulate what I have gone through to my family and friends. They think I should be skipping in the opposite direction and proud of myself that I figured it out so quickly but I never experienced that. They all just thought he was a jerk. One year since I left and I am moving ahead (new apt too 😉 but there is still so much I need to come to peace with. Thank you for being there for us. Epidemic? Maybe that can be your next article. Thx!

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    Kim Saeed August 12, 2017

    Glad to know my article resonated with you, Anon. Sending light and healing vibes your way.

    Kim XoXo

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Andrea August 12, 2017

I’m stuck in the Why. I don’t even know how I got here. For years I’ve hated him & battled him to leave me alone. When I found out he got married, I was devastated. I found myself wanting him back? He came running to me April of this year, crying about the worst mistake he’s ever made, begging for his family back. Foolishly, I allowed it. And the games began. He’s so disgusting. There’s no end to how low he will go. Painting me out to be the problem to her & vise versa. I’m currently on day 6 of no contact. Again. I’m so full of anger & hate. I don’t go looking for him but both him & his crazy wife show up at my house when they have drama. From April til 6 days ago, all this chaos has been going on. I’ve gotten to the point of calling police. I want it all to end for good. I’m tired of being angry & consumed by why. I just want myself back…

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    Kim Saeed August 12, 2017

    Hi Andrea,

    Sorry for what you’re going through. I don’t know anything about your living arrangements, but you might consider putting up No Trespassing signs and continue to call the police. If that isn’t working, try getting an attorney to write a cease and desist letter. You’re not the ‘Grand Central Station’ of their problems. Build that fortress around your home and your life.

    The ‘Why’ is hard to let go of, for sure. If it would help, I have a section on Acceptance and Letting go of the ‘Why’ in my course. Here’s the link if you’d like to check it out: http://courses.letmereach.com/p/the-essential-no-contact-accelerator-course

    Wishing you all the best.

    Kim XoXo

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Dawn August 12, 2017

Thanks ya I tried to take my kids out of the toxic environment but he has twisted everything thr past 4 years since I left him that I’m th abuser and lost the kids . My life is nothing my children now are trapped org their dad and nothing I can do. I really want to talk to you I need support I need help in my life. No one believes me this Is painful nowing he’s slowly hurting our kids brain. I can’t take it. I am suffering cry all the time. How do I get my kids back with me. ??????

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Nan Williams August 12, 2017

Kim,

I agree with no contact up to a point, but I attract one after another of these types.

Instead of run away run away, you have to sit down and figure out what to do.

I am living with a roommate right now who is a narcissist. I am using Catherine Pratt’s approach and I feel so much better. She calls them Blamers. My term for them is not nearly as polite.

Will I go no contact at the end of November? You bet! But for now I have to survive and learn how to deal. Learn not to be empathic with these sorts, only sympathetic and don’t get dragged into their dramas. Will people believe their lies about you? Of course. You get to see who hangs in their for you.

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    Kim Saeed August 12, 2017

    Hi Nan,

    Thanks for stopping by! I don’t know anything about Catherine or her work, but there are times, for sure, when you have to plan an escape when not able to leave immediately. Her approach sounds like it would work in that case…however, I believe if we have the ability, we should never keep ourselves in toxic environments. I believe we should do what we can to create a safe space for ourselves and work on boundaries so that we don’t keep people like that in our lives. There’s too much joy to be found in life in place of staying in toxic relationships, romantic or otherwise.

    Wishing you all the best and thanks for your comment!

    Kim XoXo

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Shirley August 11, 2017

Thanks again for sharing this insightful article on why narc abuse hurts so bad and it is really your worst nightmare. Unless you have experienced it, you will never get it. It is soul crushing and a spiritual knockout!

Going NC is the best thing to do when the FOG has finally lifted and you can see this swine for what it is.

To new beginning and new life, laughter, dancing and real, true love.

I won’t give up until love finds me.

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    Kim Saeed August 12, 2017

    Hi Shirley!

    It’s great to see you here! I have found that when you learn to love yourself, you then automatically attract the best relationships, romantic and otherwise. I could hardly believe it when it happened for me like that. Wishing the same for you 🙂

    Kim XoXo

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Phyllis August 11, 2017

I am coming to the end of year 3, post divorce and barely surviving after 24 years of insanity, chaos, gaslighting, love bombing, blame, shame, crazymaking. I am lost, sad and emotionally exhausted. I have absolutely no interest in dating, sex, intimacy of any kind. I trust no one. Not even girlfriends. Ive cut myself off from the whole world. Its actually a miracle that I get up in the morning and go to work. I often feel that there is no point to continue breathing. What for? My children are grown. My youngest is starting college in the fall. Everything i lived for, the meaning of my life, has been stripped away. I am no longer a wife, their are no children to take care of, and Im old. I didnt even know time was passing by. I saw myself through His eyes. Now, there is no reflection in the mirror. Please Kim, this is not meant to offend, but I’m not interested in spending the little money i have on bootcamp. Frankly, im not interested in anything. My main focus is to get my son prepared for his first year of college. Then i want to sleep for the rest of my life.

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    Kim Saeed August 12, 2017

    Hi Phyllis,

    I am sorry for what you’re experiencing. All of us fill many roles in life, for sure. Mother, Father, Partner, Sibling, Friend, Colleague, etc. However, the most important relationship of all is the one we have with ourselves. Our identity should not rest on the roles I just mentioned, even though most of them are very important. I hope you make that a mission now that you will have the free time to do so.

    Sending light and healing thoughts your way…

    Kim XoXo

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    Nicole August 13, 2017

    Hi Phyllis,

    You are getting yourself out of bed every day and going to work. You survived 24 years with a man who tried to destroy you. You are still here Phyllis 😉 There is a strength within you that wants the best for you. You are a Mum and this is something to be proud of, no matter what stage of adulthood your children are at.
    This is hard there is no doubting about it- but you CAN survive this, you can define yourself away from shame and negativity. I have also largely self isolated after narcissistic abuse. Its okay to want time to yourself to heal. Yesterday I saw a man on a train who was at a (hideously cliquey and cheap) school reunion where I drank too much and said (didn’t do fortunately!) some cheeky things. It was 17 years ago and the toxic shame almost overwhelmed me, even though he was nonplussed about it.
    I got home and thought that I couldn’t go on.
    Reality check, yes I can go on and yes so can you. Our lives don’t have to be defined by the unkindness of others. Be kind to yourself, you were a person before the relationship with this man and before you had children and your character is still inside you.
    I am surely no expert but Phyllis you are a trooper and remember ‘Thoughts DO NOT equal feelings’ They are two different things. Just because you think something bad/negative doesn’t make it true.
    One more thing, forget about age defining beauty. The most gorgeous lady I ever saw was in her 90’s and she glowed from inner peace. You can too X Nicole

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    Anonymous August 15, 2017

    29 years of what sounds like my life. One getting married and one off at college. Home alone seems good but old and feel like my life has passed me by. I could easily get

    depressed if i didn’t keep my mind busy. 29 years of mind games. I’m tired and have no clue where I’m heading or what I’m suppose to do next. Thanks for your post, don’t feel so a lone.

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Catherine Miller August 11, 2017

It has been eight years since I finally left my long-term relationship with a narcissist. I am just beginning to discover who I am and gain self-confidence. I spent way too long in the relationship and wasted so many years believing the lies he told me about myself. I find your articles so helpful. Things get better, it takes time!

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    Kim Saeed August 12, 2017

    Thank you, Catherine. I am so glad to know my work is helping you in your healing journey 🙂

    Hugs, Kim XoXo

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    Anonymous August 12, 2017

    Its a higher calling to find yourself and love yourself more- its an arduous journey but that was the purpose…

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Kyle August 11, 2017

I am working on healing and get why this hurts so badly. Doing yoga, meditation, no contact. All of these things are helping. Need advice on what to do during those times I can’t get off the couch. As you state stop researching Narcissist abuse, move forward. Looking for positive advice, understand the past. K

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Hoe Wozniak August 11, 2017

How I so identify with all you are saying. How it all seems so hopeless at times but Spirituality has kept me going as I realize that God loves me and will help me through all this pain and the damage my X has done and IS doing to me. He destroyed me also financially to keep me dependent on him so I am dealing with how I can be financially independent when 76 and have limited mobility due to heath issues. I desperately need help right now. But my soul is still intact and I am trying to figure out ways to be dependent from him or what to do from keeping off the street if he does not support me next month since I refused to talk to him or see him.

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Issy August 11, 2017

Its gonna be 2 years now , but I still fear to meet him and we live in the same village , I still asking myself why ? He left me for someone else , they together over 2 Years now, so perhaps he Have changed for her …….

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    Kim Saeed August 12, 2017

    Hi Issy,

    Don’t know anything about your situation, so can’t say for sure…but if you believe your Ex to be a narcissist, then no…he hasn’t changed for her. If your Ex is a narcissist, then everything you see is an illusion.

    Wishing you all the best!

    Kim XoXo

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Michele August 11, 2017

Brilliant article! Thank you so much! I’ve completed my bootcamp and cannot thank you enough. This article….wow. WOW on so many levels. Thank you for being you and for telling it like it is and sharing so much of you! Some of us would have never had the strength without you. 🙂

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Carl August 11, 2017

Well stated. I am four months out and the fog is starting to clear, but now I am discovering health issues that were brought on by all the stress and anxiety. And the insomnia and depression continue, as well as the constant fear of running into this person and having the scabs picked off. This hell never ends, it seems.

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    Kim Saeed August 11, 2017

    Carl,

    It feels that way for sure, in the beginning. It does take a while to heal, but only the human spirit can consciously change itself; it is the only thing in all creation that is not entirely at the mercy of forces outside of itself, and it is, therefore, the most powerful and valuable form of energy in the world.

    Kim XoXo

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      Isabwl August 11, 2017

      It is in the believing and the buying into their gaslighting manipulation attempts that damages the self and of course, if there is physical abuse. I never bought into mine but was able to see from afar.. it was about him. No bearing on my self worth- still it was painful and all his attempts to re- contact andcteconnevt ober the next 2-1/2 years . I did not always hold my ground and guess
      Gave in to seeing him when i agoukd have initiated No contactcftom the start. Still a valuable lessonnin self love❤️

      Reply
Anonymous August 11, 2017

My ex husband was one of those, I went through it for 20 yrs, I’ve been divorced now for 10 yrs and sometimes it’s still painful, but now I’m free I’m free to be the person God created me to be thank you for letting me share 😇

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    Kim Saeed August 11, 2017

    Hi Anon,

    I’m sorry to learn you’re still experiencing emotional pain after so long. Have you experimented with any healing methods or programs?

    Glad you have found your freedom, however.

    Kim <3

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Jena August 11, 2017

Thank you Kim for understanding what I’m going through. I’m sorry that you had to go through it. But, the tools that I am learning from you are making me a stronger person rather than an empty soul. I am continuing to work on regaining myself worth and strength not only for myself but my daughter as well. So thank you. 😃

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    Kim Saeed August 11, 2017

    What a sweet comment, Jena. Thank you for your kind praise. Wishing you and your daughter all the best as you continue healing.

    Kim XoXo

    Reply
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