6 minute read
Hope is a wonderful thing. It inspires strength and courage to persevere in adverse circumstances. It is the anchor that helps us endure and overcome the seemingly unbearable. But is it possible that hope has a dark side? If clinging to hope the narcissist will change, the answer is yes. When it comes to narcissistic abuse, hope can be a killer.
In this piece we check out why this is the case, and how letting go of the hope that the good in the narcissist will win the day, is the key to reclaiming your life, freedom & joy.
A heart full of hope
Often those in relationships with narcissists are either codependent and/or deeply compassionate, intuitive, sensitive, and generous individuals – a.k.a. empaths.
The magnetism between codependents/empaths and pathological narcissists makes sense when you break it down. At its most basic level the attraction works like this: one is a giver, and one is a taker.
Seemingly the perfect match.
However, if you’re reading this for insight into whether hope the narcissist will change is realistic, chances are that you are awakening to the disastrous reality of the match.
It is also highly likely that you are at the very least an empath, possibly also codependent.
Why this background on codependency and empaths? Because of how relevant traits and qualities work with hope within a narcissistic abusive relationship.
Hope springs eternal in the compassionate heart
Let’s check out first how hope interacts with the empath’s heart.
For you, caring for others is hard wired into your DNA. Your emotional sensitivity enables instinctive understanding and concern for the suffering of others. It is as though a gravitational pull exists for those who are pain.
Your compassionate heart urges you to nurture whoever. Whenever.
Complementing your caring nature, you steer through life guided by certain values that are inextricably linked to the generosity of your spirit.
You believe in:
- the goodness of others (and continue fighting for this, irrespective of how much ugliness a person may show you),
- helping others to also come to see their innate goodness,
- committing to others through thick and thin, and
- loving unconditionally.
These traits, qualities and values combined are the core ingredients of the eternally hopeful heart.
If these ring true for you, your faith that the goodness in others will prevail is nigh unshakeable.
The world could do with more hearts such as yours, and in most instances, the gifts within you have the power to move mountains.
The fixing heart of the codependent
Whilst not all empaths are codependent, most codependents are also empaths. For this reason, your compassionate heart may be complicated by also having a touch of the ‘fixing heart’.
Codependents display a pattern of enabling and controlling behaviours, arising from self-esteem being dependent on the behaviours and needs of others. The behaviours develop through dysfunctional relationships where the other party has compulsive and/or addictive behaviours or is otherwise ill (including Narcissistic Personality Disorder – NPD).
The fixing heart of the codependent possesses the desire, perhaps indeed the need, to ‘fix others’ for validation and self-worth.
This drive is a coping strategy developed in reaction to the partner’s compulsion, where a pathological need exists to satisfy their craving (e.g.: with NPD this would be supply in the form of attention).
Satisfying the ‘need’ overcomes not only the dependent, but also you as a party to the relationship. This happens because when their hunger is unsatisfied, you pay the price through their abuse.
Consequently, over time, you learn to suppress your needs in favour of those of the dependent to avoid or minimise the abuse. This alienation from your true self causes the psychological wounds of codependency.
If you are codependent, in addition to the compassionate heart’s ideology, you also believe that:
- you are responsible for the behaviours and actions of others, and
- therefore, if you could just be good enough, through the sheer power of your efforts they will:
- not need to satisfy their dependency urges, and
- not be abusive towards you
A bit problematic isn’t it? It’s quite a burden to carry, as well as being logically flawed.
For the ‘compassionate heart’, hope is borne that the goodness in others will win the day, for their own sake.
For the fixing heart, sure, hope also exists for the sake of the other. But it is also for your own sake. By holding onto the hopes above, it is also about proving to yourself the goodness within you.
To the mind of the codependent, making the good of the narcissist prevail equates to being good enough.
The error in logic results from tying your worth to the dysfunctional actions and behaviours of another. Which, gorgeous one, in reality, you are not responsible for and cannot control.
There is no winner in this scenario. The fixing heart cannot triumph in this circumstance.
When the hopeful meet the broken
Things go awry when the eternally hopeful & fixing heart collides with the black one of the narcissist.
All your buttons are pushed and raison d’etre is activated full force. You see their need, and brokenness, and you yearn to help them. To fix them.
And the narcissist sees this in you. They know it and they play to it. This is why they have targeted you.
Their survival depends on protecting themselves from confronting the truth of what lies beyond their false-self (the belief system hinging on their superiority, entitlement, power, control etc.). Hence their compulsive need to secure reinforcement that the false-self is real. Attention that fulfils this purpose, is the narcissist’s supply.
You are targeted because what motivates you (to care for, give to, and help others) is what fuels their existence when focused exclusively on them. This is their addiction.
What they see when you rock up isn’t your innate value, rather what your qualities represent to them and their addiction.
What they see because of your hope, is endless supply.
And so, when the hopeful meet the broken, hope is the stuff that feeds the wounds of both the codependent and the narcissist, creating that formidable bond of the narcissistic abusive relationship.
When hope becomes a killer
Undeniably, hope is a beautiful and mighty force capable of making the impossible, possible.
I’m a massive advocate for its awesome power…except when holding out for change causes damage, and the possibility of transformation happening is non-existent.
The harm happens from continuing to suffer abuse while the mechanics of hope inside you keep you from leaving the relationship.
Because of your compassionate heart, the idea of turning away from those you care for, let alone those who are broken in some way, is an abomination to the values that underpin your existence.
Causing others pain, causes you pain.
For the fixing heart, in a way, you are addicted to evidencing that your hope in the good of the narcissist and the relationship, is worth investing in because your self-worth is tied to making it so.
Throw in the love you feel for the narcissist, and it’s a tricky situation indeed.
Add in the addiction you have to the relationship and the narcissist and hope the narcissist will change, and hope becomes a killer (for more on mutual addiction, trauma bonding and codependency check out Why is it so hard to leave an abusive relationship with a narcissist? and Why narcissistic abuse and trauma bonding is so powerful for codependents).
In short, you endlessly cling to the idea of the person you first fell for to return, eradicating the abusive person you’ve come to know.
The initial show of ‘goodness’, and intermittent reappearance of this tactic, serves to reinforce that your hope is not without grounding.
Meanwhile the abuse you sustain continues, and exacerbates, amplifying the reasons why getting back to the ‘good’ version of the narcissist is so critical.
You may even have experienced being discarded. Maybe once, twice, possibly several times, only to begin all over again… all because of hope.
This right here is the cycle of narcissistic abuse with idealisation, devaluation, and discard.
It doesn’t deviate. The pattern repeats itself ad infinitum in the life of the narcissist. The significance of this is that they will never change. The abuse will never cease (for more on this read Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change).
The shift you are pinning your hopes on will never come to fruition.
And this is how hope becomes a killer.
Letting go of the hope the narcissist will change
The time to awaken has come.
The abusive narcissist has a way of twisting pretty much anything into something it is inherently not. Including hope, and all the gifts within you that make you a gorgeous one. The care, compassion, generosity, and kindness. In the hands of the narcissist, these become your jailers.
But just as hope tethers you to the narcissist, and the narcissist to you, it is also they key to setting yourself free.
When hope their goodness will prevail is let go, there is nothing left preventing you from accepting reality and setting yourself free.
Equally, when you set hope aside, your purpose for the narcissist is defunct and without your offering of constant supply, you are redundant to them.
The only thing that will win the day while you hold onto the hope the narcissist will change, is their destruction of you.
Deep down you know this.
Use this knowledge.
Stop pouring your hope futilely into the narcissist. Start investing it instead where change can happen: in you.
Take every ounce of your priceless care, compassion, generosity, and kindness for your own sweet self. Use it to heal. And to find your way to the truth that you are indeed good enough. All on your own.
Your existence and all the gorgeousness that goes into a hopeful heart, is sufficient proof of your boundless worth.
For tools on setting yourself free, read:
- Emotionally unhook yourself & starve the narcissist of supply: Here’s how
- Blueprint for recovery from narcissistic abuse
- 5 ways to counteract the narcissist’s gaslighting
- How No Contact supports narcissistic abuse recovery
Please share your experiences below in overcoming the issues in this piece. The more we share, the more we teach one another and help those in need to take their step towards freedom.
- Beattie, M. (1992). Codependent no more. Minnesota, US: Hazelden.
- Beattie, M. (2009). The new codependency: Help and guidance for today’s generation. New York, US: Simon & Schuster.
- McBryde, K. (2008). Will I ever be good enough? Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers. New York, US: Atria.
- Pollack, D. L. (1992). A study of developmental precursors to codependency and cross-generational correlations of psychological functioning in mothers and adult daughters (Doctoral dissertation). California School of Professional Psychology – San Diego. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order no. 9224773)
I read 2 of your articles and as many others “is literally my life”. I have been a victim of narc abuse for over 10 years and I never saw it coming. Honestly I’m trying to figure out when it started and I have to stop b/c that’s what is intended to do “Gaslighting 101”. That’s also why is so painful because is being betrayed by those you never though would ever do such. We all make mistakes and I made plenty of them but that’s what makes us humans. A good remorseful person is genuin about their mistakes but these evil people are not AND you will never see it but they sure will tell you otherwise. Is not only a “mask” but if you listen to them is like a “script”! I kept saying to myself I see and hear your mouth moving but I don’t see what you are saying; “Actions Speak Louder than Words” and in Spanish “Las Palabras Se Las Lleva El Viento” (Your Words Go with the Wind) I never never realized it and now I don’t want to admit it, I want to think they (especially my father) will change so I keep watching therapy videos, searching for articles looking for that “Hope”. The sad part is that if you keep “hoping” you will never get out of the “hamster wheel”.
Everything makes sense now and that’s why is so painful. I was passionate about work, music, sports and little by little they will destroy everything I was passionate about. They will INTENTIONALLY sabotage all you love to do, triangulate people against you and shut down your confidence down. Literally, you can show them “here you go, the proof you are lying on a silver platter” and they will “look the other way”, pretend “they are deaf” and the extreme ones will “snap” at you but then say you are the unstable one! I been living with notepads and recorders for the past 5 years b/c nothing made sense and they will literally tell you “no I didn’t say that” “that didn’t happen” or “you did this” etc; no more, enough is enoug. Then the “flying monkeys” come in pretending to have your best interest, you lower your guard and all you are doing they will undo. They will study you and know all you are doing and use it against you. They provoke you time and time after until you “snap” and then with their angel face say “you see he’s unstable”. Why? To discredit you because that’s the whole purpose, not to get caught and make you look like the bad guy.
I’m alone, like alone alone with no where to go b/c every support which a normal person can depend on as “family and friends” have been used against me. The “love bombing” whipe me out, and I NEVER saw it coming. And yes they do groom the “flying monkeys” one after another. If one doesn’t work they try a different way b/c they know your vulnerabilities. Even my finances have been whipe, my car vandalized and total, my very home puts the movie “gaslighting” to shame. Items moved, keys changed, I call it a “tornado”. And is done to drive you insane, to make you look “crazy” and society is not fully educated in these types of abuse since it leaves no scares but is real and there something should be done about it. Sad part even people with “authority” so this evil work. I don’t get it, why would someone intentionally and that’s they key word go way out of their way to sabotaging someone’s else life. Like I get it; envy, unhappy with themselves but really ruining others life on purpose, really!
I don’t want to keep writing as you can imagine 10 years of this takes so much to let it out. I can write a BOOK!
I will remain annonous as im afraid of further retaliation.
Thank you soooo much for your writing and validation. KEEP writing, it truly does help!! I’m a male btw and even us can get hurt.
Those of us being abuse just want one person, one to validate us and stand up for us. We can’t take justice upon ourselves and our legal system is simply behind these types of abuse, so all we can do is be there for each other. Is sad but true, they will never hold themselves accountable. Remeber that’s the entire purpose, NOT to get caught and turn it around as if it was you.
Remember you were never crazy;
you know what you said, you know what you heard and you know what you saw!
I don’t “HOPE” they change, I accepted they will never change. I do “HOPE” I can survive…a day at a time that’s all I can do!
Dear Buddy. You have been through so very much (including, may I say, criminal behaviour). I can feel the anguish and hurt in every letter you have typed. It does indeed sound like you have lived a tornado of abuse, from all sides, for way too long. I am so very sorry for it all.
You are right, there is no holding pathological narcissists, or those with Anti-social Personality Disorder to account. Simply because, their inability to either accept possibility of erring (in the case of narcissists) or be interested in the slightest in having caused harm (in the case of APD or as sometimes referred to as malignant narcissists, narcopaths etc.) are symptoms of the disorders. Accountability does not happen, otherwise they would not be disordered.
For the emotionally healthy, accountability is something we prize as it goes hand in hand with integrity, care & compassion, & forgiveness. Which for the emotionally healthy are necessary foundations for genuine relationships with others. Consequently, when hurt, we naturally turn to accountability to resolve and work through harm done to us.
When this is withheld, our pain magnifies because we chase closure we will never get from the other person. The only closure we can get in this terrible scenario, is by deciding to give ourselves resolution by accepting all the above, letting go, and setting ourselves free. This is where peace lies alongside other significant life choices to give you space to heal where constant agitation is removed from your daily life.
I know you know all of this. You have in fact stated the same. You also say you are all alone. Gorgeous one, may I say, that those you describe as having surrounded you are best kept away. Were you ever not alone with them? Is there a time with them you long for when you felt connected, understood, cherished? I bet you have constantly felt lonely in their presence (amongst a million other yuck emotions).
So, my next question is, how much time & energy have you had left over on any given day once you’ve waded through the toxicity heaped your way? Seriously, how much? Time for you…time for self-care…time to explore…time to be happy?
How much time & energy is left once the soul suckers have left you in peace for the day to seek YOUR tribe, your people, the ones who set your soul on fire?
These are very serious questions Buddy. Your answers are the key to no longer feeling alone. Not just in finding your tribe but finding your way back to being there for you. This has been hijacked for far too long.
It’s time to back yourself Buddy.
Finding peace is hard work at the outset, there is a lot of freeing to be done on every single level (physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, financially etc.). But gorgeous one, what choice do you have? Maintain the status quo or set yourself free?
There is no choice. YOU are the ONLY choice.
Dear Buddy, I’m sending you light, love, strength and a smidge of the belief I have in you right now, that you’ve got this. Tu importas. Maggie x
OMG! Your words speak as thought they are being said by me for 50 yrs. of the exact kind of abuse this is only the second time Ive written anything since Ive lost my big word vocabulary trying for the major part of my life to explain its my mother who is the sadistic, vile, evil, manipulative and the list goes on only to be explained away as the rantings of a “CRAZY LUNATIC” so fondly referred to by my oldest son, sad i’snt it am like you alone totally and complety alone a crazy fool admist a world of people who think they have their S@#T together and turn a deaf ear to anything that might stir the pot so to speak,. who ever you are anonymous Good Luck and thank you and to the creators of the space im forever striving for validation before i die( i just hope there it is,) im not first.
I find your blog to be very insightful, calming and loving. Thank you.
I keep rereading this one particular entry on hope. My father is 80 years old and married to a narcissist. She is my step mother but has been in my life since I was 6.
I have gone extremely low contact with her starting about 3 years ago. Suffice to say-I finally woke up and realized how she has been purposefully harming me, my children and my husband. The toll on my self-esteem has been great but I am healing.
The issue is my dad. He has been the enabler all of these years. However, he is also, as you talk about above, a real empath. He and I have been hashing it out since I told him that I was done with my step-mother in September of 2016. I give him a tremendous amount of credit for listening to me and trying to face what has happened. He resisted for a long time and kept trying to get me back into my old roll of step-mom’s best friend-because, as he says, I could handle it. Ha! It served him and the rest of the family well to have me be the one who was stomped on all of the time. But he keeps at it and has taken responsibility for a lot of his garbage.
Anyway-my dad keeps trying to fix things for and with my step-mom. I keep telling him that the best we can do is talk as a family about the best ways to help her as she ages and to protect ourselves and each other. He is holding out for some fantasy of a perfect family.
I really feel for my dad. What do you do when you are 80 years old? He and my step mom have been married for 40+ years. He doesn’t want to abandon her. I can’t suggest that he should.. it would be cruel to him and to her. (she is 77).
One of my brothers is finally telling our dad that he is too hopeful when it comes to my step-mom. That is coming from a guy who works hard at being positive and hopeful. He is the Golden Child in many ways but has a huge heart that hasn’t been ruined by his mom (my step mom). My other brother bailed on my step mom when he was 16 or 17. He is pretty distant and has a lot of issues with women. Neither brother knows the extent of what has happened to me. They know her rages, neediness and strange behaviors but they have not seen the more covert aspects of her personality..the ones that she seems to save for me and my family.
Luckily-our children are now 18 and 14. I feel like they are safe. They have been reasonably inoculated against her games. Until recently, my step-mom was working hard to make our 14 year old her pet. We have put an end to that.. it helps that we live very far away.
I want to show my dad your article but am waiting for the right time. I love my dad but also find myself more and more willing to keep him at a distance too. When he defends her or tries to get me to do certain things to help “fix” the family, I find myself getting really mad. I am more and more clear in laying boundaries with my dad. I have made it clear that his attempt s to drag me back into the drama and be part of their circus is not acceptable.
How on earth do we help our dad? My step-mom told me 2 years ago that she did not want to take care of him should he get really sick. I believe her. Yet-I can’t get my dad to make me or one of my brothers the health proxy. That is scary.
I am sorry the above is so rambly.. I am up late!