When I first learned about narcissism, a couple things stuck out to me. First of all, I realized that gaslighting as a child set me up to fall for gaslighting as an adult. After someone would act abusively towards me as a child and I would finally break down, they would ask, “Why are you crying?” and be even angrier than before because I was showing emotions. The message I received from this was that there is nothing wrong with my behaviour but rather the problem is that I was too sensitive. As a result I got into a relationship with someone with a lot of anger. When someone was abusive or treated me disrespectfully I just thought I was too sensitive to take it. I needed to actually set boundaries around the unhealthy behaviour.
The second thing that stuck out to me about narcissism was grieving the image of the narcissist portrayed. I coped with childhood pain by becoming the invisible child at home and the hero outside the home, which made me an excellent conarcissist. Unfortunately I couldn’t see it, because I only saw the issues in the people who hurt me. After being in a relationship for a long time I wanted that charming, sensitive, person back and had to accept that they weren’t real. You never get the ‘good’ side of the narcissist back, only a void of intimacy and unmet expectations. As a hero I tried to work harder to get the love I wanted, I was doing everything and getting resentful. As the invisible child I hid or denied my real desires, because I didn’t think they mattered.
The other trap is to blame or hate the narcissist and complain about them to everyone. I had to come to a place where I could say “This issue is hurting me and I need you to address it, whether or not you see it as a problem. If you don’t, I will have to step back from this relationship regardless of how you feel about the issue.”
How do you heal? I had to start with my own baggage. What was I afraid to lose? Why don’t I value myself? How do I let go of my fantasy of someone? These are all things that we need to face! I find that if people don’t do any inner work they don’t stick to boundaries. Indeed a little bit of narcissism can rest in all of us. I have had times where I felt like I couldn’t apologize even though I knew I was wrong. Pride is the root of narcissism and it’s a trap we all need to be aware of! Otherwise we can easily become the thing that wounded us in the first place.