Why narcissistic abuse is so hard to admit to yourself

7 minute read

Admitting to narcissistic abuse can be monumentally difficult. Particularly if you are at the beginning of your healing journey.

Many may have pointed out their concerns you are suffering abuse, yet for you, labelling it “abuse”, is so very hard. And it bothers you that this is the case, you ask yourself: ‘Why can’t I just call it abuse? What’s wrong with me?’

Getting to the point where you can call it by its name, is essential to begin recovering from the devastation of the narcissist who has hijacked your life, heart, mind, and soul.

The struggle to reach this point, can be painful. This article helps you get there by understanding why it’s so impossibly hard in the first place.

We look at the cycle of shame from narcissistic abuse, and how to break it to move through your journey of recovery.

Why admission matters

The power of acceptance

The thing about admitting any truth to yourself, is that it’s necessary for acceptance, which in turn is a prerequisite to letting go.

To recover from narcissistic abuse, moving through each of these stages is integral. Detachment from the narcissist naturally grows within you throughout this process, gifting you with the clarity needed to truly heal by seeing the narc for what they really are.

admitting to narcissistic abuse is hard

Admitting to yourself that the narcissist is indeed abusive, is the first major step on this journey. This stands to reason as what remains unacknowledged, cannot be addressed nor, obviously, healed.

Conversely, refusing to admit to abuse exacerbates internal mechanisms that desperately need you to come to the point of acceptance.

Frequently, avoidance of emotions, thoughts and memories attached to traumatic experiences such as abuse, result in the development of symptoms of PTSD and C-PTSD. Hence, the importance of admitting to what has happened to you, is the way forward for healing*.

Self-validation

The fact that you are wrestling with why you can’t admit to having suffered abuse is actually a really positive sign.

It indicates that the truth is winning the battle inside you. It is in the process of being surfaced…you are almost there!

Wanting to answer the question of why you can’t admit it, also implies that intellectually and objectively, when you look at the evidence, there is no way around it. It is/was abuse.

When able to remove yourself sufficiently from the narcissist’s manipulations, you unequivocally know the truth.

Yet this realisation only agitates you further when the doubts from the narcissist’s gaslighting kick in again, only to lead you back full circle to where you started. You know the facts, but you are programmed to not to trust them, nor yourself.

It is a maddening cycle. You question yourself. Question them. And because you can’t label it abuse you want to know ‘what’s wrong with me that I can’t just call it what it is?!’

But rest assured gorgeous one. You are almost there. The truth is setting you free. And when you get there, by saying ‘yes, this is what has happened to me’, you give yourself what you’ve been starved of for so long: self-validation.

The power of this cannot be underestimated.

You are verifying the truth of your reality. And that you matter.

So, why is admitting to narcissistic abuse so hard?

Denial

Whilst there is ongoing enmeshment with the narcissist, attachment subsists, and the power of their games continue to poison your mind.

Whether you are still in a relationship with them or not.

You know the entanglement is still alive & well for you, as long as the answer is yes to the question ‘am I hoping that they will change, and the abuse will stop?’.

The answer to this whilst still in a relationship is readily recognisable.

When no longer in a relationship, it’s a bit trickier. You know that it is still thriving within you when you secretly hold onto thoughts like ‘I just know they will wake up to what they’ve done, and they will change because we are meant to be together’.

The survival of hope is directly relevant to avoiding admitting to the abuse.

To sustain hope, denial is working hard to turn you away from reality by minimising or outright negating your truth.

As long as you cling to hope, you remain emotionally hooked, indeed addicted to the narcissist (for more on detaching read Emotionally unhook yourself & starve the narcissist of supply: Here’s how and When hope is killing you: Narcissistic abuse for the mechanics of hope within the narcissistic abusive relationship).

by admitting to narcissistic abuse you begin disentangling from the narcissist

Sense making

Let’s be categorically clear: there is nothing with you.

Your internal struggle, and the denial, is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.

ALL those who have suffered narcissistic abuse, at some point, go through this internal battle.

Repeat after me: ‘there is nothing wrong with me’.

It is the result of the trauma sustained at the hands of the pathological narcissist. The very thing you are fighting to deny: the abuse.

All the trauma bonding, effect of Stockholm syndrome, addiction to the relationship and gaslighting etc. is precipitating your struggle. (For more on how these reactions work within the context of the narcissistic abusive relationship read, 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).

You are on a sense making journey seeking some purpose and logic where none can be found. Rationalising the chaos of the narcissist’s game is proving futile which invites in cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance

To maintain hope, you are trying to reconcile the irreconcilable.

You are aware of your suffering, and do know it’s because of the narcissist’s harm. Simultaneously you want to believe in their good and that they will change. Because you need this to be the case.

Deep down, you DO know it is abuse.

But, owning this terrible truth and labelling their behaviour as such, signifies the following:

  1. All along, irrespective of the label, all the actions, the behaviours, the decisions, the betrayals, during ALL of this, none of it has been OK with you. Not really.

Not even when you have told yourself it doesn’t really matter…or maybe you don’t remember things properly…or that they were just having a bad day…or that you deserved it…or…whatever.

At no point, during any of these attempts to squash your truth, has any of the abuse been OK with you.

2. You know that by remaining in the relationship or re-entering it, having accepted their treatment of you as abuse (in addition to accepting that the abuse will never stop – read Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change for more on this) you would be making an informed choice as to what you accept as being OK for you from now on. And this isn’t OK with you.

Points 1 & 2 are cognitive dissonance in action in the absence of admission of reality and not letting go.

You are struggling with two mutually exclusive concepts. You know you cannot concurrently be abused & be OK.

Equally, you know the promise of an emotionally healthy and loving relationship isn’t going to happen.

Internalised shame

All of this causes you to feel shame (which of course should NEVER sit with the victim and rightfully sits with the abuser). You know it isn’t OK, and yet you stay, because you:

  1. want to believe the promises of change and that the abuse will stop;
  2. desperately NEED this to happen – like any drug, the thought of living without that person you first met when being love bombed, is too much to bear; and
  3. believe you love them.

The shame resulting from trying to make the ‘not OK, OK’, is one more state the pathological narcissist intends for you to feel as a result of their abuse.

By internalising shame, the negative self-beliefs the narcissist programmes you to own are strengthened.

The greater your sense of shame, the more self-worth plummets and the less likely you are to sever ties and remove yourself as a source of their supply.

The effect of all this combined is the root cause of why admitting to narcissistic abuse is so hard.

It is a self-sustaining vicious cycle that reinforces & perpetuates narcissistic abuse.

Time to break the cycle!

Breaking the cycle by admitting to narcissistic abuse

To recap gorgeous ones…you already DO know it is abuse. AND, you already know this is not OK with you.

This means you at a crossroads on your journey where you are ready to confront the truth.

You know you must make a choice to either: a) carry on knowingly aware of the abuse, or b) cut things off.

Both are hugely painful and difficult options. Neither of these appeal in any way.

Resistance is huge, and understandably so.

The differences between the options are…

In a) the shame will cripple you slowly eating away at your sweet self. And who knows to what extent the abuse will continue to escalate & what damage ensue. In option a) your suffering will not end. It will undoubtedly increase.

In option b) the withdrawal will also feel crippling for a time. BUT, gorgeous one, you will heal. You will get through it. Your suffering WILL end.

In option a) there is no hope you will be OK.

In option b) hope you will be OK is a valid belief to sustain. This is where freedom & joy is waiting for you.

Is there really a choice?

by admitting to narcissistic abuse you choose you

Please. Please, choose you.

With gratitude,

Maggie x

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*Note – Confronting your truth to reach acceptance can be overwhelming. Securing support through a therapist you connect with, who specialises in narcissistic abuse, PTSD and C-PTSD is strongly recommended.

Please share your thoughts, experiences, and insights on the issues in this article in the comments below. The more we share, the more we teach one another and help those in need to take their step towards freedom.

For more tools on setting yourself free beyond those recommended it the article, read:

Bibliography

  • Moon, J.M. (2003). Women and domestic violence: The presence of internalized shame in women residing in a crisis shelter (Doctoral Dissertation). George Fox University Graduate School of Clinical Psychology. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order No. 3126418)
  • Orsillo, S.M., & Batten, S. V. (2005). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Behavior Modification, 29(1), 95-129.
  • Othman, S., Goddard, C., & Piterman, L. (2014). Victims’ barriers to discussing domestic violence in clinical consultations: a qualitative enquiry. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(8), 1497-1513.
  • Ross, J.R. (2012). Battered women of interpersonal violence: Psychological issues of shame, guilt and self-blame (Doctoral Dissertation). Capella University, Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order No. 3507579)
  • Thompson, R.W., Arnkoff, D.B., & Glass, C.R. (2011). Conceptualizing mindfulness and acceptance as components of psychological resilience to trauma. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 12(4), 220-235.
  • Wallerstein, R.S. (1973). Psychoanalytic perspectives on the problem of reality. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 21(1), 5-33.

9 thoughts

  1. Realizing the abuse is far harder than it seems. Once I recognized it as abuse, I wanted to know why. Why would he do this to me? We are soulmates [because he said so]. Once I fled the relationship I still thought he would again find me worthy and I couldn’t bear to make him out to be the ‘bad guy’. It’s been over a year since I fled and I still have his voice in my head at times. I’m working through it but 11 years of manipulation doesn’t go away in a year’s time. There are times I still feel shame. There are times I still feel like it was my fault. BUT my logical side comes in and reassures me I’m not to blame. Many times I find myself reading new NacWise articles and or re-reading the ones I’ve already read. Your articles truly help. Thank you so much for them!

    1. Dear Corky Marie, I feel you. Every bit of what you describe. The ‘why, why, why???’ only to be countered by the voice they program within us is so very exhausting. In every possible way. The work in recovery is hard, but how wonderful it is to know that you and all others who undertake it, can reclaim a sense of self that stands strong in their truth. Thank you for sharing your story, you inspire me and others by doing so. Big humble thanks also for your kind words Corky Marie, I am grateful. Light & love to you, Maggie x

  2. Thank you very much for this article. This is something I have been struggling with for almost a year. I thought I had made good progress over the last month but shared time (on my daughter’s birthday recently) has brought me back into the “why doesn’t he want to change and be with me” thoughts.
    I’ve never been able to label his actions as abuse and internally I am a master at justifying his actions. While my friends and family says it’s abuse I have been unable to call it that (even to the police and lawyers).
    So thank you very much. This makes me feel less crazy and like something is wrong with me. I think this will he one of your articles I need to read many times.
    I have read many of your articles and I find them very helpful especially when feeling upset about how everything has turned out (unfortunately a phase I’m in right now where all I want is the idea of the person I married to come back). But your articles stay in my head and help to not slip hack into the cycle where I’m begging him to want to be with me.

    1. Dear Erin, gorgeous one, there is nothing wrong with you. And you are not crazy. You are in the process of undoing all the poison which has led you to think & feel this way. Kudos. Know that you have made progress. The deprogramming process of narcissistic abuse is never linear, never clear cut, and certainly never easy. Eventually, as you move through your recovery journey, you will be able to release the desire for this person to come back. You will be able to name abusive behaviour for what it is. And most importantly, you will come to a place of peace in the full knowledge of your worth. You are well on your way. Be gentle with yourself dear Erin. And take a moment every now & then to reflect on the immense progress you ARE making. You’ve go this. Sending you big light & love. Maggie x

  3. I’m so happy to have found your page! I found out I was with a narcissist only after he ended up losing it and choking me. It came out of nowhere and we had only been dating for 3 months.
    The hardest part is not being able to ask why. Why me. Why did you do this to me? What did I do that provoked this? So on. Your articles have helped me so much! I can find the answers within the study of the disorder, as well as within myself. So thank you!!

    1. Dear Littlelady, welcome to the Narc Wise community gorgeous one. Firstly, I’m hoping you are now safe. This must always be the very first priority. I’m sensing in your words that you are now. I am so very sorry for what you have experienced. Secondly, I’m hoping that in your research you are building a resounding IT WASN’T ME! I DID NOTHING TO PROVOKE SQUAT! It definitely is excruciatingly difficult to never be able to get answers from the person directly. It is wonderful to know that you have recognised this and are giving yourself the answers in the absence of what you rightly deserve. Dear Littelady, speedy healing to you. Light & love, Maggie x

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