I do believe that the reason that so many people get pulled into narcissistic relationships, get stuck in them, and struggle after they get out, relates to narratives. Narratives are the stories we tell ourselves about a situation, perhaps to make sense of it, or feel better about it. This month is about taking back your story, but it’s about more than that. It’s about understanding the narratives you have been indoctrinated into, by family, community, and society at large. But it’s not just us who have narratives, other people have them, and they may have them for us. We may feel we know who we are, what we are about, but if someone maintains a very different narrative for us, that can change how we view ourselves, and also how we shape our own stories, our identities and our lives. Narcissistic relationships are often about giving up on our stories, and taking on the stories that work for the narcissists. Yes, we all hold different narratives, but healthy people can maintain flexible narratives and integrate new information, while antagonistic and narcissistic people hold very rigid ones, and often refuse to yield on them, even if that means gaslighting or dominating other people.
Why is this so important to survivors of narcissistic abuse?
Because these relationships not only harm us, they steal our sense of self. Narcissistic abuse can turn us from people who are empathic and compassionate and who feel connected to our narratives, and shift those narratives to the point where we feel like unskilled, incompetent, foolish, and become isolated. This happens because our narratives are not only stolen, but replaced with the narcissist’s narrative for us and for themselves. We also face down legacy narratives – the stories our families tell, the narratives we are told to uphold.
Finally, there are the stories we tell about ourselves. Narratives keep us stuck in these relationships. Narratives can be spun into justifications (the struggles of our relationships are worth it because it will get better someday), trauma bonds may leave us crafting the narrative that we are in a magical and complicated love story, we may tell a story about a perfect wedding day, the pictures on the wall, the story we wanted our lives to be.
And perhaps the most dangerous part of narratives, is that when we tell stories, we sometimes forget to be present in our lives.
This month is about understanding our narratives, other people’s narratives, how all of this got us pulled in, fortified the trauma bonds, and kept us stuck. And about not only dismantling our narratives and allowing ourselves to revise them, but also to stop living in stories, and learning to be present.