How Victims of Narcissistic Abuse Lose Their Minds.. Literally!Feb 20, 2021
How is it that people high on the scale of narcissism can turn a regular, mostly normal (who is fully right?) person, into someone strongly appears to have severe psychological problems??
There are many ways to answer that questions and they would all be right, but for the sake of this article lets just hone in on the brain. Our brains have a built in alarm system called the limbic network and we need that alarm system since it's what alerts us and prepares us for possible danger.
Let's compare the limbic network to our homes smoke detector. We want and need them in our homes, but we sure wouldn't want them blaring 24/7. However, if they were.... and it created emotional distress in your life - those around you would understand because, after all - who wouldn't go a bit crazy with that noise screeching every single second of the day??
But - when the limbic system is screeching in the mind of a victim of narcissistic abuse, or blaring 24/7 as a result of emotional trauma, no one else can hear it. The emotional distress that victims of narcissistic abuse often face can be seen as depression, anxiety, withdrawal, change in personality - change in affect, sudden fears to things that were never of any concern before, emotional dysregulation, highly triggered, withdrawal from family and/or friends, to list a few.
The sad thing is that these symptoms are blamed on the victim. The narcissist convinces everyone that their victim spontaneously combusted into someone that their former friends would not even recognize. S/he has no idea why or how this happened but everyone can rest assured.... s/he is determined to stand by their side and help them through this challenging time. Family members and friends beam at the narcissist - what a great guy/girl for being willing to help this person that is seriously falling apart at the seams, after all most people would bail, they reason within themselves.
What makes matters worse is that the victim can't deny that s/he is changing, is losing executive functioning of the brain, and is acting in ways that don't make any sense, with seemingly no control on how to get back to his/her core persona. This confusion is used to further convince the victim that it really is their fault - after all the narcissist seems 'so together'. And it's true, at that moment they are so together... so long as you stay a mess. (Let's leave that topic for another discussion.)
The narcissist is able to continue on this charade of you being 'mentally unstable' and them being the amazing caregiver and savior, by constantly keeping your internal alarm system, you limbic network blaring.
When your limbic network never shuts off - the emotional and physical side effects are disastrous. Your amygdala is so on high alert that it sabotages you and causes you to react in fight/flight to things that don't require that reaction. Your anxiety is so high that one small thing can set you off like a spewing volcano because your system just can't take anymore. Your hypervigilance is causing panic attacks and phobias since your alarm system is now faulty and is screaming danger at things that are not dangerous. And of course, the narcissist every ready to use this against you - always setting you up. One small example of this is how they will provoke you behind closed doors then present you to the public, disheveled, depressed or highly triggered, so that other people will buy into their savior story.
It's crazy making.... literally.
If this resonates with you, the answer is not to try to prove your sanity, your innocence or even your reality to anyone else. The answer is in getting back your brain regulation. I know - this doesn't seem like where you should start on your healing journey, but it is.
The problem is that the narcissist, and now your brain wants you to focus the above mentioned topics. That too is part of the dysregulation. Trauma keeps you focused on details of the story so that you do not have to look within as looking within is scary and overwhelming.
But while it's true that the suffering is caused by the narcissist, having others validate your truth will feel good in the moment - but it will not remove the side effects that are now keeping you in the suffering.
Narcissistic abuse creates negative neuroplasticity. Your brain has changed, it has rewired as a result of the trauma - and healing begins with re-gaining brain regulation.
If someone were hit by a car and suffered being in a coma and were suddenly unable to walk, the accident caused the suffering - but no act of justice would remove the suffering. It might validate the person, calm their sense of justice - but they would still need to do the work to rehabilitate their mind and body.
After narcissistic abuse, each individual needs to rehabilitate their brain and body because it is the only way to truly heal and remove the suffering. It is also what will prevent you from ever entering another relationship like that again.
You do not have to deal with the side effects of emotional trauma for the rest of your life. You CAN heal the trauma and begin living an autonomous and authentic life - trust me I say this from experience. If you doubt this because you have been struggling for years, and have been unable to move ahead no matter how many videos you have watched, it's possible that having a structured, weekly program of trauma informed assistance may be just what you need to live free of the damage caused by narcissistic abuse. The Thrivers School of Transformation was created to help individuals come together with other thrivers and transform their lives so that the trauma truly is becomes a thing of the past.