Women and men I've worked with have gone back time and time again to their Narcissistic Abuser, before they finally said 'Enough is enough!' and reached out to me. Previous to that, even though they knew that going back would just keep on breaking their hearts, the compulsion to go back was irresistible. Even even when they knew that, within as little as a couple of days, the agony and abuse would start all over again - they still went back. They, the get a lot of flak from family and friends because they just don't understand it.
So, how do you handle judgemental people when you go back to a narcissist?
This is a question that I hear often!
So many people go back to their narcissistic abusers several times before they finally know that they MUST leave for good, and they go no contact. In fact, research has shown that most people go back SEVEN times before they finally make the break. But every time they do go back, before they reach that pivotal point, they are subjected to more aggravation from family and friends who tell them how stupid they are, how they’re to blame, and that they’re asking for it, or worse, ‘enjoying’ all the drama!
Often though, your family and friends are supportive to start with, and they offer sympathy but they get totally fed up with you when you go back, and you end up, as one of my clients put it, 'totally burning your bridges'. Unfortunately, people are very quick to judge you when this happens. What they fail to understand is you can’t measure other people’s lives with your own yardstick.
If someone is judging you harshly, clearly they have no idea what you’ve been through, or are going through, and they are no friend to you, so decide that their opinion of you is totally irrelevant to you and your reality. Or to be fair to them, if you think back to when you first encountered narcissism, how hard did you find it to believe yourself? You were shocked and horrified that such awful abuse could have a name, weren’t you?
But now, only you know the pain you’ve suffered, and even you are probably only just beginning to understand it yourself. Narcissistic abuse is a very complex from of emotional, psychological (and often physical) abuse, and unless you are directly involved and suffering the consequence, or you’re involved as a therapist, as I am, you really have no idea how much damage a narcissist can inflict. So, most people out there just don’t get it.
Whenever I discuss what I do with people who don’t know about narcissism, I promise you they cannot believe what I’m saying, and usually pump me, in fascination, to learn more about this reprehensible form of abuse. Narcissists destroy their targets emotionally, psychologically, financially, and often even physically. They rip families apart, turn their children against their other parent, lie convincingly to police, lawyers, judges and therapists, and successfully in most cases, fool them with their fake charisma and charm.
They don’t care how much they hurt their victim. They’re like a runaway train that’s going to annihilate everything in its path. And in spite of all this hurt and pain, something very complex happens that keeps the victim trapped, and going back... and that something is, of course…
Trauma bonding is now a recognized condition, one that keeps the victim going back to their abuser. There is a raft of scientific research into what is going on in the brain when trauma bonding occurs; IT’S REAL! And the person suffering can’t usually break it alone. They need professional help, as the ‘addiction’ to their abuser is akin to alcohol or drug addiction.
So people who judge you for ‘going back’ just don’t understand. Most people who are involved with narcissists are successfully ‘hoovered’ back into the relationship, as I’ve mentioned earlier, up to seven times - I know some who have even married the same narcissist twice - before they finally break free, but this goes to show that the narcissist’s manipulative skills are superlative and that the trauma bond is incredibly powerful – not that their victim is stupid or weak.
Just like the alcoholic falling off the wagon, or the drug addict leaving rehab and heading straight for his/her dealer, unless – and until - the addiction is truly broken, shattered, conquered, the victim will keep going back. But, with the right help, the kind I offer my clients, trauma bonding can be broken in one session. How is this possible, you might be wondering? It’s possible because you can change the way your mind has been programmed. When you think of the ex, with longing and desire to have them back, you are responding to a set of previously encoded images and experiences that you keep reliving, over and over again. Even though one part of you knows how damaging the ex is for you, the other part just craves them back.
But regarding judgemental people - when someone judges you, accept that they just don’t understand. If they’re a true friend, they will be open to learning more about this form of abuse, and be willing to support you by their growing understanding.
But if they are not, give them a wide berth, avoid them or keep your contact with them brief.
The only judgement that matters is your own, and you will break free when you are ready. Then, you can reach out for help.