Vulnerable. Manipulated. Empowered. That’s what the before, during, and after looks like for an emotional abuse victim. It’s unexpected because the victim is usually such a kind, caring, strong, all-around decent human being with a future in front of her/him when it begins. Unsuspecting, trusting, perhaps even a bit naïve and empathic—the exact opposite of what a narcissist it.
But that is exactly the kind of person the narc seeks out; a sweet, innocent, vulnerable individual who can be molded into a source of narcissistic supply.
The vulnerability perhaps comes from a number of wounds the victim already has experienced. Perhaps it started back in childhood with a narc parent, and not knowing that healthy relationships looked any different than how they grew up. It seems normal to them. Perhaps it comes from a neglect or starving for affection that they fall for the fantastically alluring love-bombing. Or perhaps the victim believes they have the power to “save” someone from themselves, because they see the good in them.
No matter what the reason for vulnerability to emotional abuse, it is NOT deserved. It is not a reason to accept the abuse or excuse it or take the blame. A victim is never to blame. (Sure, we all must take responsibility for our given situations, but that is a much different perspective than blame.)
Once this vulnerability is detected, the narc moves in—and quickly. Manipulation begins from the very first second, full of charm and the aforementioned love-bombing to make you feel like you are the most special person in the world. Or, in the case of non-romantic emotional abuse (more on that later), it’s a sense of someone to control from the moment you are born; from the moment you reveal your dreams to an authority figure; from the moment you step into an elderly care facility; and so on.
Love-bombing is more than what it sounds; it is the building up of your specialness in the eyes of the narc so that you feel like no one else has ever truly seen who you are except them.
And then the downward spiral begins. Once you know how special you are—and of course, how incredible they are—the victim is now primed to miss any and all red flags, believe anything that is said to them (good or bad), and ready to defend their abuser to the ends of the earth.
Enter gaslighting, the verbally manipulative means of breaking down another human being’s psychological state by making them think they are wrong, crazy, sick, and even abusive themselves. Words are twisted, lies are told, and games are played. Money games. Sex games. Friendship and isolation games. Mind games. You name it, it’s used as a weapon to tear down the individual as much as possible until they feel, ironically, that they can only trust and rely on their abuser.
But then one day, enough becomes enough and the victim can see a little clearer. Can realize that they deserve better. That they are stuck in a toxic situation and need to get out. Some have endless support and can get out immediately and safely. Others struggle for years, but even in dire situations, like loneliness and homelessness, that becomes a better option than remaining with an abuser. And in both scenarios, the victim is now ready to become a survivor.
Survivors aren’t just free of their abuser; they eventually become free of the words that destroyed them and can find themselves once again.
There is an empowerment that takes over when you leave an abuser. No doubt it takes a while before major changes, healing, and recovery happens, but there is this surge of confidence once again. Those who seek refuge in support groups and healing and loved ones can find their way out of the dark. Those who don’t, or who find themselves truly alone, need to remember that there are resources out there for them to lead them to safety (for example, https://www.thehotline.org/). Once you find people to help, the road back to who you are, narc-free and abuse-free, the strong and more resilient you will become.
It’s not an easy road or transition, and you may be tempted or manipulate back, but there is always a way out. I pray that everyone stuck in an emotionally abusive situation finds their way out <3
Interested in learning more? I’m releasing a 7-Part Series: Emotional Abuse is Not Just for Romance, featuring weekly emotional abuse topics and guest bloggers. I’ll get into other types of emotionally abusive relationship sources, including: Parental, School, Sports, Workplace, Friendships, Elderly, and Cultural. It’s time to bring abuse awareness into the light.
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