7 minute read
Part of the devastating impact of narcissistic abuse is that when you are in the thick of it, you’re not necessarily aware of what the hell is going on. This is all about the very nature of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and the abuse sustained.
During the relationship, you experience two key phases. The first is idealisation. The narc worships you, ‘love bombing’ you into submitting to their whims, and hypnotising you into believing that you are made for one another.
The mutual adoration creates an addictive quality in the relationship, which is entirely intentional and necessary for the narcissist as a form of supply which is the fuel they need to function.
Securing this spellbound state is also essential to keep you hooked in the second unavoidable phase of the relationship: devaluation. The narc expects perfection from those they surround themselves with. When inevitably your gorgeous flawed humanity peeps out, or you begin to detect the narc’s shortcomings, the cycle of punishment kicks in.
In devaluing you, the narc brandishes their weapons of manipulation. Denial, projection, invalidation, gaslighting, smear campaigns, triangulation, alienating you from support systems, possibly physical and/or sexual violence and many other tactics are applied.
All of this is employed to retain dominance over you. And all of this is abuse.
When considering the sum of these strategies, they reflect the definition of gaslighting which is the manipulation information and/or the environment to confuse you into questioning your perception of reality and make you feel crazy.
Do not underestimate how very potent gaslighting is.
Let me ask you.
Are you feeling lost and confused? Do you know who to trust? Do you even question whether you can trust yourself? Do you doubt the truth of your reality? Are you possibly questioning your sanity? Maybe, you can’t even answer these questions, and have no idea what you think and feel?
These are symptoms of abuse. This state is a direct result of the strategies used by the narc who has been steadily chipping away at your self-belief, confidence, and trust in yourself. Your abuser needs this to occur to keep you tethered as a form of supply.
This state of feeling unsure about yourself and your reality, is not ok. I know you know this deep down inside. Underneath the fog caused by the narc, your inner voice is screaming out THIS ISN’T RIGHT! You may be temporarily deaf to your inner voice because the abuse is working.
You must reclaim your voice and truth, and find a way out.
The almighty power of your own words as testament to your truth
So, here’s the thing, you CAN reconnect to that inner voice, and retrieve self-trust to break free even while still in the relationship*. Expressing your truth and your reality by journaling is a powerful way to give yourself the impetus to sever the cycle of abuse.
Journaling is about expressing your thoughts, feelings, observations, and stories down on paper or screen (or whatever method works for you!). It is a ritual that allows innermost truths to be externalised in a safe way.
The art of expressing our inner world is super positive in many ways. It promotes productivity and higher level cognitive functioning by fostering goal setting, creativity, critical thinking, observation and recall skills. It also benefits health with studies showing it reduces anxiety and depression, whilst improving immunity and sleep quality. Pretty impressive practice right?
Journaling has additional value for narcissistic abuse recovery. Many (arguably most) victims have sustained either Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). A symptom of these disorders is seeking to avoid events, thoughts, and emotions associated with the trauma.
Tricky thing is that healing necessitates working through the pain. Hence finding ways of releasing in safe ways the experiences, thoughts, and emotions that are keeping you stuck is critical to recovery. Writing out your inner landscape supports this process and is often used as a therapy tool to retrospectively work through trauma.
Thing is, journaling can also be your ‘right now’ saviour and help you break free from the abusive cycle you’re in.
The gaslighting has you asking what is real and what isn’t? What is the truth and what isn’t? Who can I trust? Can I even trust myself?
Yes, you can. Journaling combats gaslighting by recording your truth and your reality about what is happening. Read up on the different forms of manipulation and observe when the narc is using these on you (for information on this process please read Emotionally unhook yourself & starve the narcissist of supply: Here’s how).
- the details of what happened during different events
- what was said by the narc
- when the event happened (this will help you notice patterns of behavior)
- what you think and feel about the event
No more excuses
By doing this you are creating your own testament to the reality you are experiencing. This keeps you clear on what is and isn’t happening. It shines the light on the real face behind the narc’s mask. When the narc continues with the games and the doubts start eating you up, you now have a point of reference to return to for confirmation of what is what.
Diligent recording, and fact checking will gradually dissolve the power the narc has when telling you ‘that never happened’, ‘you’re confused about what happened in reality’, or maybe even ‘you’re crazy’. The discrepancies between what you are being fed and what you have recorded as truth become glaringly obvious.
Your recorded facts become your antidote to gaslighting. It’s hard to argue with what is before you in black and white. The more you write your truth out, the less you are able to minimise your distress.
Re-reading the evidence offers a level of objectivity in coming to terms with what is completely unacceptable. Equally, making excuses for the narc becomes increasingly difficult. You come to realise that by doing this you are letting yourself down and accepting continued harm.
Creating your narrative about a situation which is largely out of your control also enables a level of sense-making, in that you are forced to confront the senselessness (madness!) of it. This encourages acceptance that the narc will never change, no matter how much logic is used to communicate your position. It also reinforces that it IS NOT YOU!!!
So, the first lifesaving gift of journaling in this way is to awaken you to the truth of the narc and that you must free yourself from the entanglement.
The second gift is that the act of journaling itself reconnects you to internal resources needed to get you out. By scribing your truth and the reality of the situation you naturally begin replenishing your depleted stores of confidence, self-belief, and trust in yourself. Reclaiming your power and freedom is now something you KNOW you can and must do. And do NOW.
The third gift is that in recording how you think and feel in response to the abuse, you are actively engaging in mindfulness. This practice contributes to healing your eroded sense of identity by linking you back into your thoughts and feelings. The ritual of journaling reintroduces reflection into your daily life. ‘How do I feel?’ is reinstated as a necessary question for both survival and pursuing the path to your best life.
I mentioned the addictive quality of the relationship. Let me tell you, withdrawals are a very real thing when leaving the narc thanks to the ploys used to keep you hooked through idealisation and trauma bonding.
You can anticipate moments when you might romanticise the relationship, or question whether things were really as bad you thought. When this comes up, grab your story. Your testament will conquer these moments of temptation and remind you of what was what. You own words will save you from the trap of getting hooked back in and enduring more abuse.
An unmasked narc is at best not nice, and at worst dangerous. You know this. Making sure you are keeping this information in a secure location will be important to your feeling of safety if you happen to be living with the narc. You might want to try password protecting anything kept on a computer or locking away a paper-based journal.
So my courageous friends, grab yourself a lovely journal, or your friendly device and get started now. You will start to notice the positive effects of starting this practice almost immediately.
Retrieve your inner voice and give yourself the proof you need about the unjustifiable reality you’re living in. Unlock your truth and strength. Take this step towards freedom now!
Please leave your comments below on your experiences with this approach, and any advice to others on your own insights on gaslighting and breaking free. Sharing and encouraging others is so very necessary to help all of us in recovery!
*NOTE – This approach works for any toxic relationship, whether with partners, family members, friends, colleagues, or any entanglement where your gut is telling you something isn’t right.
- Jirek, S.L. (2016). Narrative reconstruction and post-traumatic growth among trauma survivors: The importance of narrative in social work research and practice. Qualitative Social Work, 16(2), 166-188.
- Tarocchi, A., Aschieri, F., Fantini, F., & Smith, J.D. (2013). Therapeutic assessment of complex trauma: A single-case time-series study. Clinical Case Studies, 12(3), 228-245.
- Ullrich, P.M., & Lutgendorf, S.K. (2002). Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24(3), 244-250.
- Wallerstein, R.S. (1973). Psychoanalytic perspectives on the problem of reality. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 21(1), 5-33.