Narcissistic abuse.  Am I to blame for it?  

I’ve talked a lot about the fact that when you leave a relationship which involves narcissistic abuse, you have to take a long, hard look at yourself.

To understand why the type of person who can be abusive and hurt you was attractive to you in the first place.

The reason I do that is because someone who is likely to excuse their narcissistic abuse, to take the blame for their behaviour is more attractive to a narcissist or abusive person.  They are easier for them to manipulate and control.

By default, that means somebody who is low in self-esteem.

When a narcissist starts to reveal who they really are.  Show those first signs of narcissistic abuse, raise those red flags that they are not as nice as they first appeared.

A person who has very high self-esteem and self-worth is more likely to think: that crosses my boundaries.  I’ve got strong boundaries, that behaviour is unacceptable, they’ve crossed a line and walk away.

Somebody like me, who was very low in self-esteem.  When I saw those red flags, I ignored them. Because here was this person who was wonderful and charismatic and told me everything my insecurities were wanting to hear.

That ‘I was the only one for him’. That ‘I’m not like anyone he dated before’. And he promised me marriage and babies and a happily ever after. So, I ignored all those warning signs and he was able to manipulate me.

So, I say that we have to look at why we’re more likely to be in that relationship than somebody else.  And we then have to understand that we are low in self-esteem and where that low self-esteem comes from.

We’re not to blame for that. The seeds of that were embedded very early in our childhood.

When our parents didn’t fully meet our emotional needs.   So, the result is we have this inner void of feeling not good enough.  That we don’t deserve better. We’re not good enough. We don’t fit in.

Therefore, when someone comes along and sweeps us off our feet, then we’re easy prey for them to manipulate and start to control us.

So, one of my students wrote to me and said: ‘Okay.  So, if a narcissistic type was attractive to me.  If I allowed him subliminally, to manipulate me.  Then, I can’t shift the feeling that I’m to blame for it’.

That’s a really good question.

She says: ‘how can I not blame myself for the abuse?’ 

Yes, there is something about us that was attractive to them.  Yet, I do not mean for one second that we’re to blame for it.

When I was going through an abusive relationship – almost murdered by my ex – I felt helpless.  I felt powerless. My self-esteem had been whittled to the point where I couldn’t leave if I tried.  I didn’t know what to do, I felt trapped.

That feeling of powerlessness, of helplessness was awful. 

And when I took that hard look at myself and asked: ‘Why am I in this relationship when other women (or men) would have left? Why do I keep going back to someone whom I know hurts me and has been violent towards me, when other women (or men) wouldn’t have? What is it about me?’

I found the answer, which was I was very low in self-esteem.

My emotional needs weren’t met as a child, enough to leave me feeling not good enough.  Feeling like I didn’t deserve better.  So, when I was in a violent relationship, I thought I was to blame because I didn’t deserve better.

But that knowledge wasn’t something I then used to blame myself. I actually found it really liberating.

If there was something about me that in some way had something to do with why I was in this relationship, then that freed me.  Because, it was something I could change.

I knew by now that I couldn’t change him. I already tried everything in my power. Changing my behaviour.  If I did this, then maybe he’d be happy.  If I did that, then maybe I could fix the relationship and we’d be alright again.  I knew that none of that had worked.

That leads to a level of powerlessness.

I knew I couldn’t change him, save him, fix the relationship.  So, that knowledge that there was something amiss with me, that I could work on to change, was the key to my freedom.   And that’s what I did.

I took my focus away from trying to fix him, because I was trying to control the uncontrollable.   I turned that focus back onto me. The one thing I could change – I could work on me.

I urge you to try to separate the two.  This is not about blaming you.

You are not responsible for his (or her) actions. Everyone is accountable for their own behaviour.  Nobody is responsible for another person being violent towards them or abusing them.

You are not to blame for abuse. But you can change your life. Click To Tweet

You can turn it around, if you say: ‘Okay, this is why I was in that relationship. This is what I need to learn about myself. And this is how I can change it, so that I’m never, ever in another abusive relationship again’.

The way to do that is to understand your self-esteem was low and now you’ve been in that abusive relationship and that cycle of abuse, it’s probably even lower.  To the point where you’ve got barely any sense of self-worth left.

Now is the time to work on that one thing you can change.  Building your self-esteem.  Building that self-worth.

Only when you have a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-worth can you set strong boundaries and say no to bad behaviour and abuse.  Say: ‘that is not good enough and I will not accept it. I will walk away from that’.

Only then will you find somebody who will also see you as someone worthy and who will treat you with love and respect.

If I feel I’m worthy, then someone else will treat me as such. If I am low in self-esteem and I don’t think I have any worth at all, then somebody else will treat me as worthless as well.

People treat you the way you treat yourself. You attract what you think you deserve. Click To Tweet

It’s not about blame.  Knowledge is power.   

It gives you the understanding that there is something you can change. You’re not trapped, powerless or helpless. You can change you.

So, start with you. Work on that self-esteem and that sense of self-worth. Forget about blame. Forget about focussing on that past toxic, negative relationship.  All that does is suck your energy.  The emotional energy you need to focus on healing you.

Now is the time for you to move forward, taking one step towards being a survivor and away from being a victim.

Are you still struggling with this and blaming yourself?  Let me know in the comments below. 

Find out more About me here. 

Are your relationships – past or present – good enough for you?  Do you deserve better?  Try my FREE QUIZ to find out!

Written by Vivian McGrath

Vivian McGrath is a TV Executive Producer who makes documentaries for major US, UK and Australian broadcasters.  She is also a survivor of domestic violence.  Her book ‘Unbeatable (How I Left a Violent Man)’ – her story of surviving abuse to finding success in love and life – will be published soon.  She hopes this blog will help others to become strong, fearless and successful too.  Find out more about Vivian Here.

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