For some reason, we all too often gaslight those who have faced abuse. Don’t get me wrong there are some people who know how to support their friends and family properly in times of healing but not everyone does.
When someone close to us goes through some kind of narcissistic relationship or something else we need to be there for them properly. We can’t just pretend what they went through didn’t happen or that it wasn’t as bad as it truly was. Their situation was so much more than just a ‘bad break-up’ and they need to be aware of that. The more you downplay what they faced the more likely it becomes for them to go back or to even find a similar situation because through this they’re being gaslighted into thinking the way they feel is an overreaction.
Invalidation in itself is a form of abuse and gaslighting is a psychological tactic used by those who bring others down and whether you realize you’re doing it or not you need to consider your actions and words so that you can make sure you’re not.
Regarding this Psych Central wrote as follows on their website:
What we need to understand as a society is that malignant narcissism is not an “everyday” problem. While narcissism does exist on a spectrum, many of the survivors who are reeling from the trauma of emotional abuse have encountered individuals on the extreme end of the spectrum. They have met predatory individuals who have systematically stripped them of their self-worth and confidence. Victims of malignant narcissists often undergo emotional, psychological, spiritual, financial and sometimes even sexual or physical abuse.
Someone who is a malignant narcissist has characteristics that go beyond selfishness, self-centeredness or vanity. They have antisocial traits such as a lack of remorse, a failure to conform to social norms, impulsivity, aggression, and a lack of conscience. This is someone who can engage in inhumane cruelty and acts of both psychological and physical violence just to get their needs met.
Dr. Ramani Durvasula (2018), an expert on relationship abuse, notes, “I’ve done research and work in that area of domestic violence or what’s also called intimate partner violence, and most people who perpetrate domestic violence are either narcissistic or psychopathic. So there is danger there, in other words, they will dispose of you if you get in their way.”
The narcissistic or sociopathic abuser is not “just” a cheater, a player, or a “difficult” individual – and you cannot approach them as such. They tend to be chronically abusive, manipulative, deceptive and ruthless in their mind games. They can even escalate into horrific acts of violence.
As someone who cares you should be making sure the person who has recently gotten out of a toxic situation with a narcissist or something else of the sorts knows the extent of what they’ve faced. They might downplay things in their own minds but you need to reassure them that they are not overreacting and that their feelings are warranted.
We should also not be so quick to become frustrated because it’s taking time for this person to heal. Healing is something we all do at our own pace and you don’t know the extent of the damage that’s been done. Be patient with this person and make sure they know you are going to be there for them no matter how long healing takes. At the end of the day, these people are going to go through a lot even after they’ve cut ties with their narcissists, and they have to do a lot of work within to get back to normal and find themselves again.
By telling them to simply move on or blaming them for the things they went through because they didn’t leave soon enough won’t do any good. It will only make things worse. They weren’t just ‘dating someone’ they were being manipulated psychologically and abused emotionally or possibly even physically. Leaving isn’t as easy as you think it is and things are not always the way you think they are.
For more information on how to properly support someone who has gone through this kind of thing please check out the videos below. We, too, need to be sure we’re taking the steps we need in order to help them heal and grow. Survivors are not to blame, they through it all finally got out and in time they will be back to normal – don’t give up.