Life is a river, not a mountain. Sam Vaknin (pictured above with me!)
Yesterday, Saturday 17th June, I attended the Overcoming Narcissistic Abuse 1 Day Seminar in Birmingham. The three keynotes speakers were Rozmin Mukhi, Sam Vaknin and Rob Kelly. It was a very fascinating day and it has changed my perspective on how to deal with the aftermath of Narcissistic Abuse and how I can use my experience to develop more self-esteem and thrive.
There were about a hundred women present and some had come from as far as New Zealand and the USA. I was amazed to see how damaged some of the women looked and after hearing some of their stories I understood why. Narcissistic Abuse is very destructive and victims can take a lifetime to recover from it.
Here are some notes I made of the speech delivered by Sam Vaknin (a self-confessed narcissist and author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited). I hope you will find them interesting and useful. Sam Vaknin was the first to describe narcissistic Abuse (a phrase he coined in 1997) and to discuss Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He also invented most of the language used today to talk about narcissism and abuse.
- There is no common denominator between the victims.
- It happened because we were there. It’s not personal. We were willing to provide the narcissist with narcissistic supply. We accepted the invitation because it was tempting and irresistible.
- Narcissistic abuse is not premeditated. Narcissists abuse offhandedly, they don’t think and plan the abuse. They breathe, they abuse.
- Narcissistic abuse is a cult. The narcissist was the leader. The cult provided us with meaning, goals, a sense of direction, hopes…
- Narcissists are junkies addicted to narcissistic supply (attention, admiration, adulation, notoriety, fame…). Like heroin addicts, they would do absolutely anything – even sell their own mother – to acquire their supply. They are ruthless and callous. They are mercenaries.
- Narcissists are not adults. The Narcissist is a toddler (4 to 5 years old). He is a child who never grew up. Children are very afraid to lose people in their lives. They are dependent. They have separation anxiety. They don’t have fully developed empathy. They have alloplastic tendencies. They believe they are hopeless and blame others for their actions. Narcissism is a regressive state and we end up assuming the role of mother rather than lover or partner. That is why it is so hard to break up with a narcissist. How can a mother abandon her child?
- Narcissists are formed by abuse. They are traumatised people who haven’t overcome trauma – Childhood Emotional Neglect, Physical and Emotional Abuse. They create a false self to shield themselves from their own pain and emotions. Without the shield, they would be highly psychotic people.
- Narcissists are happy with who they are. Deep inside they have strong insecurities but they are happy-go-lucky people. Narcissism is a successful adaptation as it gives favourable outcomes.
- Narcissists are not evil. They are a blank slate on which we project our needs, our dreams, our hopes… They are what we want them to be. We are in love with ourselves. That is why narcissistic abuse is so destructive because it is hard to fall out of love with ourselves.
- Narcissists are a very attractive package. They provide excitement, thrills and adrenaline rushes. That is why they are so hard to resist. Other men can appear boring in comparison.
Healing from narcissistic abuse:
- We must accept that we have been abused. We must own the abuse. We mustn’t discard our pain. Pain is defence.
- We must face reality. We must accept our mistakes and take responsibility. We made the wrong choice and our decisions were catastrophic.
- We must discard our malignant optimism. WE CANNOT FIX A NARCISSIST.
- We must establish a support network. Without it we cannot heal. But we mustn’t overdo it otherwise we end up in another virtual reality where we define ourselves as victims of abuse. Use it and lose it! We mustn’t become enmeshed. Survivorship is not a full-time job. We are not victims. We are women, mothers, sisters…
- We must fight back and establish new boundaries. But again we mustn’t overdo it or we will end up becoming narcissists ourselves. People putting raging posts are at a danger of losing track.
- We must allow ourselves to mourn and grieve but if we only grieve the narcissist we will get stuck. We have to mourn the idealised image, our ability to trust and love, our ability to be vulnerable, our loss of innocence and the damage that was done to us.
- It is important to re-establish a sense of reality. Being with a narcissist was not real. However, we must avoid despair when facing reality and not exclude hope.
- We must learn and research but not become obsessed by it.
- We must resist going back to the narcissist. All we need to do is remember the abuse.
I found this information very helpful and it really helped me to move on. There were also many testimonies from members of “Surviving the Narcissistic Ex-Partner” closed Facebook group. The stories were uncannily similar and all included lying, cheating, dysfunctional sex lives as well as physical violence. It was extremely emotional. Some women were visibly still traumatised by their experience even years after the events.
I am determined not to let Narcissistic Abuse dictate the rest of my life. It is possible to overcome traumatic events if we challenge our limiting beliefs, develop better psychological foundations and manage our negative thinking style better, according to Rob Kelly, founder of The Thrive Programme. I will write about this at a later date as I want to read the Thrive manual before I talk about it in more detail.
I feel more hopeful after this seminar. I know that I am not alone and I know that I will come out the other side stronger and thriving.