The Layers of Surviving Narcissist Abuse
Updated: Feb 28
When I was a child, I walked around with a dictionary in my hands on a daily basis. While my brother and sister teased me about it over the years, I never found it to be as strange as they did. It helped set a foundation for a future as a published creative writer and gifted me with a passion I couldn’t deny. I never questioned what any of the words in that dictionary meant, but as I woke up to the realities of survival, I experienced a new meaning for the word layer. I didn’t set out to create this concept, but this concept created me, in a sense.
The first layer my mind pulled away was the abuse itself. No matter how much my partner hurt me, it was impossible for me to see he was abusing me. I wanted to protect our relationship at all costs, but I didn’t realize it might have cost me my life. While I was in that abusive relationship, the invisible layer both protected me and hurt me at the same time. This layer emerged within days of our separation, which is when my world turned itself on its side.
Have you ever experienced an intense moment of clarity when an answer to a problem suddenly hits you? Yeah, that’s what it’s like. You’re driving down the road, maybe on your way home from work, and suddenly a thought screams inside your mind as if you are about to die in a five-car pileup. It’s intense and freeing all at the same time.
Something powerful is communicated at this moment; you will not go back from here because you are forever changed.
Each time this happened, it felt like I stopped existing for one brief moment in time. These thoughts came from nowhere, inspired by nothing, but there they were before me. I didn’t feel peace or pain, I just felt something real and meaningful.
The last layer I felt, I think it happened two weeks ago, was particularly memorable. It not only gave me some insight into the abusive relationship with my ex-partner, but it also showed me a snapshot of how toxic I’d been for myself up until that point. The thought hit me–part of the reason why I was so affected by his abuse was because I had not yet woken up to how abusive I was to myself. And, that’s all it took. One giant leap forward in my journey to become myself again forced me deeper into reality.
This thought made me realize that while I didn’t choose or deserve the emotional abuse, there were things about me (NOT HIM) that were forcing me to stand still. My abandonment issues. My insecurities. My lack of confidence. My inability to commit to a healthy relationship or a rewarding career. My tendency to isolate. All of these things had turned me into a gigantic victim statue. I stood up right then and decided to destroy that image.
Beyond the first and the last layer I experienced, I don’t remember what layers were exposed in between. I wish I had documented them at the time, because I feel like it would not have only allowed me to see how far I’ve come in my own journey, but maybe it could have contributed to the personal development of another survivor. This is exactly what my upcoming book, Red Flag Conversations, is all about. I wanted to use my own pain to contribute to the world.
I don’t talk about these layers in my book because I feel as though it’s something unique to my own journey that can’t exactly be taught or forced. My point in writing this is to show you not necessarily the exact way you will move forward, but just that you will move forward. You might not interpret them as layers, but it’s important to pay attention to these bounding moments of clarity when you stumble across them.
Even if it is painful, stand up and acknowledge them. Write them down. Tell a friend. Yell about it. Scream about it. Hell, you can even tweet about it if the mood strikes you. Release these important milestones out into the world in whatever way is meaningful for you. It can be quiet or loud, it just has to be something. Crave to move beyond just finding happiness for yourself. That’s one of the things that sets us apart from our narcissist abusers–we can love others and pull them up when they feel they’re falling down. We can be real. Don’t ever forget that.