People who are victims of narcissism continue to suffer from PTSD after narcissistic abuse, no matter how many years go by.
Narcissistic abuse is a form of abuse that leaves very little evidence but leaves the victim shattered.
A narcissist never loves himself/herself. It is actually the idealized image that they convince themselves to admire. There always remains a huge gap between the façade they create to paint the deflated self-esteem and their actual self.
They work hard to avoid the shame they live in. Many of the coping strategies, in other words, their defense mechanisms are abusive in nature – hence the term narcissistic abuse. They will use innumerable abusive techniques like emotional withholding, lying, belittling, bullying, accusing, blaming, shaming, gaslighting, sabotaging, invading privacy, and lots more to keep control over you.
Psychological abuse leaves behind long-lasting feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy, a sense of being separate from love. After such a damaging phase it is natural to develop PTSD, as the survivor replays every memory over and over in their mind. It deeply scars the psyche of the person.
The feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy are so unbearable that the mind is desperately trying to figure out what happened, to ensure it never happens again. The mind slowly develops an illusion of control, by analyzing everything and being curious about every little detail.
From here, the victim of such an abuse starts taking shelter under a defensive wall: anger, resentment, fear, and blame. While these are all completely understandable after abuse, they can also block us from discovering the real self that one is.
Once the victim starts to suppress these scars, avoid the conflict and introject the pain within, slowly the person’s personality starts to modify: one might become withdrawn, initiate people-pleasing behavior, loving excessive solitude, over accomplishing, perfectionism, constant inner battles—and ultimately leading to depression, anxiety, insomnia, even paranoia.
In order to unravel this puzzle, we must get back to the root cause: those unbearable feelings.
Working with a professional psychotherapist is recommended to smoothly work through this process of healing. Remember, these feelings were so intense that your body has taken a defensive stance to the feelings and now you do not feel them anymore. But they’re still stored in your body, and that is the nature of PTSD.
This journey starts when we become aware of what’s really going on in our body and mind. Instead of living in our protective mechanisms, we start to notice them.
At first, you may be inclined to judge or dislike these parts of yourself, but that’s not the purpose of this work. Instead, we begin to develop a curious awareness of what we are feeling inside, our conflicts, the discrepancies in our thoughts and actions. So it is acceptable if we become judgmental or angry with ourselves during this process.
When we work through trauma, it’s important to pay attention to our bodies (heart, muscles, gut), which has a language of its own. It’s frustrating to communicate with body sensations like “numbness” or “tension”, but we can start with the knowledge that our bodies put up those defenses to protect us from some really overwhelming emotions.
By acknowledging this noble effort, we can begin put a holistic effort into working through the issues.