When you embark on a journey in your life and break out of status quo, people will take note, and it’s not always in a positive, supportive way. Sometimes, people will outright criticize any efforts you make to expand or self-actualize. Sadly,this is a part of being human.
Disapproval can feel upsetting and even threatening to our sense of self. But what if, today you decide that their approval no longer matters to you? Imagine how freeing this would feel!
A wise person once said, “Other people’s opinions of you are none of your business.” It’s true. You do you. I’ll do me. I’m living my life on my terms. And the only person I need approval from, is me.
Do you neglect your own needs to avoid feeling “selfish” or “lazy”?
Do you feel guilty for taking care of yourself or doing things for yourself? Do you feel uncomfortable when you have “me” time? Do you only have a sense of worth if you are being productive or doing things?
It could be that you have been trained from an early age, probably by parents, caregivers, or educators, that taking care of yourself or having leisure time and allowing yourself to rest is lazy, self-centered, and must be absolutely 100 percent avoided at all cost.
Related: How We Fool Ourselves Into Thinking We Need To Stay With Toxic Partners
5. Are you a people pleaser?
Does it bother you when other people think poorly of you? Some people believe that it is a requirement to have people like them and they are willing to do almost anything to gain approval from others.
Some people are overly concerned about offending or hurting people’s feelings and as a result, become “people pleasers” who overlook their own needs in favor of someone else’s.
When you are a people-pleaser, you’re more likely to put up with inappropriate, hurtful, and toxic behavior from a partner. You don’t want your special guy to feel too guilty about his bad behavior toward you, so you say, “It’s okay. I’m fine. Don’t worry. We’re fine.”
6. Have you experienced rejection, abandonment, shame, betrayal, and/or unfairness?
Have you been a victim of some form of abuse in your past? Did you feel invalidated by a parent, like you weren’t entitled to your feelings, or your feelings were wrong or selfish? Some caregivers raise children with an incredible dose of shame as a way to control their behavior.
They may use guilt trips to make you feel guilty for having feelings because they were hurt that you expressed them. Perhaps you were criticized as a child and felt as though you couldn’t do anything right? Maybe they gave you the message that you could never achieve their approval and that their love and acceptance were conditional on being a “good girl”.
When a parent uses shame or guilt, it’s actually a form of manipulation. Since this is what you are raised with, it will lead you to be susceptible to being manipulated as an adult, especially in an intimate relationship.
7. Do you feel worthless and fear being alone?
Do you beat yourself up and criticize yourself for your failures? Do you fear being single? Do you berate your weaknesses and hate yourself for them? Perhaps you feel as though you are unlovable, unworthy, and flawed, and don’t feel worthy of love?
It’s perfectly normal for you to want security in your life, but some people’s internal shame and sense of unworthiness leads them to a willingness to do everything in their power to ensure their own security. Even if it means they have to make excuses for others, fix their errors, or protect them.
If you are afraid of being alone, it is far more likely you will willingly overlook a problem in order to maintain security and protect yourself from being lonely.
Related : 7 Science-Backed Reasons Why Spending Time Alone Makes You More Successful
8. Are you goal-oriented and persevere, no matter what?
Do you set goals and know you will always achieve them? Do you feel your value in life is based on what goals you achieve? Do you feel unworthy if you fail to meet your goals?
Some people are so committed to their “never give up or give in,” attitude that they end up overlooking terrible behavior by a partner, with the misguided idea that they can’t give up on the relationship because it will be seen as a failure.
Sometimes people are so perseverant that they end up over-functioning and doing everything for everyone, resulting in them getting completely walked on. You might even hate relying on other people for help and choose to do everything yourself. If you do, it’s time to reconsider the consequences of being so focused on avoiding failure.
Related: 5 Red Flags That Signal Your Relationship is Toxic
You can go through this experience of taking responsibility for your healing, knowing that it is going to be difficult and take time but that you will emerge on the other side so strong and healthy you will absolutely exude empowerment.
You will never again accept substandard behavior. You will repel toxic, abusive, and parasitic men with narcissistic personality traits and only attract high-quality individuals into your life.
Trust me, and trust yourself. You can unquestionably do this and live the life of truth, respect, and dignity you deserve.
The more you learn about people with narcissistic personality traits, the easier it is to see why so many of us fall in love with the charming and magnetic, yet highly toxic people who possess them, especially when they've aimed their razor-focused attention directly at ensnaring you into their trap.
Sadly, by the time you figure out just how toxic the narcissist you're dating is, it's highly likely they've manipulated you into having intense feelings for them, as well as into feeling emotionally stuck, as though you simply cannot break free.
That feeling isn't your fault. It's the direct result of a process known as trauma bonding, and understanding this is a crucial step toward setting yourself free.
What is trauma bonding?
Trauma bonding is the phenomenon that "occurs as the result of ongoing cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward and punishment creates powerful emotional bonds that are resistant to change."
It is characterized by strong emotional ties that develop between two people when one of them is intermittently cruel, threatening or intimidating, while at other times treating their partner like 24 karat gold.
Trauma bonding develops over the course of this two-step process:
Step 1: Love Bombing
"Love bombing" is the practice of attempting to accelerate feelings of romantic love by using a number of behavioral tactics to overwhelm the target with displays of intense adoration and attraction.
At this stage, you'll hear them saying things like:
Narcissists and social predators are always on the lookout for someone to manipulate, and these flattering compliments, excessive praise, gifts, and loving and doting texts are all part of their love bombing strategy. These techniques increase in frequency and fervor in order to create that highly addictive feeling of infatuation, which can result in disturbing levels of devotion and adoration to the narcissist.
What makes it even more unsettling is that as you spend more time with the narcissist, you spend less time with others, which serves to keep you isolated, enhancing their ability to indoctrinate you into their version of reality.
Step 2: Cruelty
This step is where the narcissist gets downright mean.
You're likely to hear them say thing like:
Combined with the intermittent reinforcement of love-bombing behaviors, this up and down rhythm causes a psychological "addiction" to the unpredictable cycle of abuse.
While it may seem obvious to an outsider that these behaviors are relationship deal-breakers, but it's rarely that straightforward. Due to the cunning and highly manipulative nature of narcissistic abuse, they are able to spin the truth so that you feel confused and unsure of yourself.
It's critical to understand that trauma bonding affects the neurochemistry of your brain.The powerful hormones adrenaline, oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and cortisol all get involved, creating a powerful biochemical reaction in the brain, which continues fluctuating wildly through each phase of abuse.
The initial high you experience when falling in love creates a dizzying, euphoric state in the brain, setting the bar in the relationship. Afterward, you may feel a constant need to reach those same levels of intense exhilaration — over and over again.
Harsh, insensitive behavior is followed by "hearts and flowers" to keep you unsettled, confused and off-balance. Your toxic partner attempts to make up for their poor behavior by sucking up, pleading forgiveness and showering you with affection, fancy meals and gifts as a way to prove how truly sorry they are.
However, this is usually short-lived, as toxic personalities can rarely maintain this behavior for very long. Soon, you come to realize that it is an emotionally abusive cycle, and you are spinning right in the middle of it.
Helplessness and hopelessness often follow, and you feel unable to escape this unsafe and emotionally abusive relationship.
You Might Also Like: Things You Need To Know About Becoming Sober As A Trauma Survivor
This results in feelings of cognitive dissonance, where you have contradictory thoughts and feelings about the abusive person, i.e., who you want to believe they are versus who they truly are. Your version of reality and the actual truth stand in total opposition to one another, leading you to feel disoriented, as though you are looking at the world through a veil to protect yourself from the reality.You may then become increasingly ashamed of your situation and choose to further isolate yourself from others, no longer able to receive their support, as it only deepens your shame.
Oddly, you may also find yourself identifying with your abusive partner.
The human mind has powerful survival instincts and, by identifying with an abuser, the ego protects itself. When a victim holds the same beliefs and values as the abuser, the abuser feels like less of a threat.
What a scary thought!
All of these things play a part in preventing you from finding the internal and external resources necessary to leave the relationship. You may also be tethered to your abuser by money, children or fear of being subjected to a smear campaign, all of which are valid and understandable concerns.
If you want to free yourself from an emotionally abusive relationship, there are two things you must do in order to break the manipulative trance of trauma bonding.
1. Disengage. It's imperative to detach from the toxic person for a period of time in order to fully see the destruction they have caused in your life.
The cycle of trauma bonding has to be halted through a period of “detox”, during which you have no contact with your narcissistic partner.
2. Forgive yourself. You must forgive yourself in order to move forward in your healing journey.
This means letting go of self-critical thoughts about why you didn't leave or see the truth sooner, and why you didn't do a better job of protecting yourself.
You will undoubtedly struggle with these thoughts, but please know it is critical for you to come to the point of self-forgiveness and self-compassion.
You didn’t know then what you know now. You did the best you could with the knowledge you had at the time. You’ve been told you were nuts, losing your mind, and behaving ridiculously. You’ve been told your version of events is untrue and that your reality is false. You’ve been told you have a mental disorder and that your emotional reactions were overblown.
You’re not crazy; this is psychological abuse.
The truth is that you are reacting normally to an abnormal situation.
Anybody who is mistreated, demeaned and abused will lose patience, have emotional reactions, and stand up for themselves.
Abusers will use anything and everything they can against you, including using your perfectly normal reactions as evidence that you are the problem, not them.
The moment they realize you see them for what they are, they feel threatened. To combat this, they up the ante with all of their manipulation techniques and abuse in an effort to keep you under their thumb.
The toxic person needs to hurt others in order to feel significant — to control, demean, humiliate, and hurt you, when all you wanted was to be loving and caring, and to receive the same in return.
But you are healthy and normal.
The more you are aware of the process of trauma bonding, the more quickly you can identify it in your own relationship and avoid falling into another narcissist's trap.