Often when I work with clients, we work on re-establishing their sense of self-trust which is often destroyed in abusive relationships.
In a narcissistic abusive relationship, the narcissist will do all he/she can do to exert control. How they obtain that control is by slowly disconnecting you from your power. There are many different forms of psychological and emotional manipulation tactics that they may use to accomplish this. Here are the top four that will destroy your self-trust:
This is a tactic where you are made to feel as though you’ve lost your mind and the abuser may try to convince you to accept a distortion of reality that serves their needs getting met. You may feel that something is off but the abuser lies and twists things around to create confusion, so that you begin to doubt yourself. You may begin to stop trusting yourself and accept this distorted reality, thinking you must’ve remembered things incorrectly. The purpose of gaslighting is to cause you to start doubting your thoughts, emotions and sense of reality.
Advice: Start writing things down in as much detail as you can remember so that you can go back and reference it in the future. Gaslighting is often used slowly with little things first and will grow in significance over time.
This is a tactic that involves driving a wedge between you and your loved ones/friends in an attempt to isolate you where the abuser becomes the “go between” and hence, controls all communication between the two parties. This may also look like the abuser constantly comparing you to someone else either directly or indirectly to make you feel insecure or jealous. When an abuser isolates you, they have more control over you because then no one else can tell you that what you are experiencing is unhealthy. You may begin to question whether or not you really knew “the other person” and believe you are a bad judge of character or you may find your self-esteem slowly diminishing if you’re insecurities are being manipulated.
Advice: This is a hard one to avoid since it may happen slowly over time. It would be easy to suggest that you never let someone in the middle of your friendships or relationships with loved ones. That being said, as soon as something feels off and you notice your partner interfering with your personal relationships, set boundaries and keep open communication with those who matter to you.
This tactic may be used in many different scenarios – after a fight, out of the blue or just because they are seeking reassurance that you care. However it is used, the underlying motivation is still all about control and may cause you to question yourself. The narcissist is trying to see either how much you care (to feed their ego) or they are trying to get you to feel guilty and apologize by playing on your empathy and your fear of being rejected or abandoned. This could also be used as a tactic to deflect blame and project it onto you. It may cause you to become hyper-vigilant and walk on eggshells.
Advice: If this behavior has become a pattern, then begin to take notice of what has happened right before the abuser goes silent and check in with yourself to see if you automatically always think things are your fault. Do you tend to over-apologize or make excuses for their bad behavior? This is something else you will want to track.
Playing the Victim
This tactic is used to first, play on your empathy which the narcissist needs in order to get their supply and second, to shift blame and accountability to everyone else. A narcissist will never take accountability for their actions, although they may be quite skilled at faking it if they feel they may lose you, their supply. This tactic may end up causing you to take the blame when it’s not yours to accept, OR you may find yourself making excuses for their bad behavior. You may slowly begin to become the scapegoat, and as a result, your partner no longer has to accept accountability for their actions. When the narcissist plays the victim, you may feel responsible for making him/her feel better which could cause you to self-abandon your needs to meet theirs first. As a result, you erode your self-trust in your ability to meet your own needs.
Advice: Pay attention as to whether or not you are making excuses often for your partner’s behavior and/or if they are constantly blaming everyone else for why things aren’t going their way. Also notice if you find yourself apologizing and accepting blame that isn’t yours. Be sure to hold your partner accountable when they do something wrong and to not sacrifice yourself to make them “happy” because then you prove to yourself that you are not trustworthy of meeting your own needs first.
BOTTOM LINE: Start tracking everything as evidence to become aware of the patterns and discern the truth of what is going on in your relationship, especially if you suspect your partner may be a narcissist.
How Do You Begin Trusting Yourself Again and Take Back Your Power?
It’s not going to happen overnight but tracking the behaviors above and seeing the evidence for yourself will help you see that you can begin to trust yourself and your discernment. It will also help you trust the signs, cues, and clues that your intuition is sending you when something feels off because you will have evidence to prove that you were right.
It’s also important to be mindful of the little ways in which you may break promises to yourself throughout the day. For example, if you tell yourself that you are going to work out today, even if it’s only for 15 minutes, and you skip it, well, then you’ve just broken a promise to yourself which provides evidence to your mind that you are not trustworthy. This gets reinforced if you consistently break the promises you make to yourself, so be sure to love yourself enough to hold the promises that you make to keep yourself healthy, happy, and safe!
Another way in which you can begin to build trust in yourself is by setting and maintaining your boundaries. Boundaries are the way in which we keep ourselves safe and how we avoid settling for less than what we deserve. Be sure to honor your boundaries and don’t let people walk all over them.
Learning to trust yourself is a practice and it takes time, just like it takes time to trust someone new. Remain consistent with writing down the evidence, keeping your promises to yourself, and holding your boundaries. Soon you will create an unshakeable sense of trust in yourself and reclaim your power to make a different choice!
I'm so happy you're here! This Blog was created as a way to share content with anyone who is interested in personal healing and self-discovery in order to create a life that allows them to stand in their Truth, live out their Purpose and reconnect to their Joy. Happy reading!