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Come Fly Away Somewhere

At heart of narcissistic abuse – My five internalised thoughts as a victim

“I’ve learnt that silence to a narcissist is the most powerful equaliser” 08/07/20

A lot of us are entertaining narcissists, giving them the pedestal and ploughing our energy into these people who want to control the agenda, and want to live rent-free in our heads, hearts and timelines. Having lived with, worked with, grew up with, been friends with and interacted with narcissists. These people implicitly or explicitly are wolves and victims can be considered as their sheep. This is not to remove autonomy from victims but rather shed light on these wolves. This is all due respect to our furry canine friends. Perhaps even writing this blog implies these people are able to dictate the commentary and discourse. With my self-worth constantly being questioned, this could not carry on. This dialogue is more necessary now than ever. Narcissistic abuse needs to be recognised, its scars need to be healed and its victims and perpetrators deserve some form of closure. Clarity or closure, one enables the other.

In December 2019 I was forced to accept a stark reality, one that I faced for over decade. That I was a victim of narcissistic abuse. Some moments in life we will always remember. The smell of the air, the direction of the wind, the taste of the rain, almost like a photograph. I was listening to Maverick Sabre’s – Come Fly Away these lyrics really spoke to my very tired heart.

“Come fly away somewhere, Been here for days wanting, And nothing has changed for you, You’re tired and you don’t want to live like this”

I didn’t want to live like this anymore. All art forms are so beautiful and once their creator releases them, the audience are empowered to place their own subjective interpretations upon them. This song, alongside a Banksy piece which I most definitely over-analysed, began the momentum to detach myself physically and emotionally from a person and situation that was the source of such awful distress. This Banksy piece was of a heart-shaped balloon covered in plasters. For me this symbolised the bandage I was placing over my own heart whilst it was continuing to be punctured by my narcissistic abuser. I placed the lyrics ‘come fly away’ with this Banksy piece and yes, to be free, my heart needed to heal and find its own destination.

This Banksy piece was so overwhelming. At a time of desperation, small artistic expressions really can make such a huge difference. Image: Street Art News

I am not a Psychologist or someone who works in the field of emotional management. As Malcolm X once said, “I do not pretend to be a divine man, but I do believe in divine guidance, divine power, and in the fulfilment of divine prophecy. I am not educated, nor am I an expert in any particular field but I am sincere, and my sincerity is my credentials”. Let sincerity be our credentials and our platform to hold a hold conversation that matters. What am I looking to achieve from this piece of writing? Self-pity and sympathy are values aligned with my narcissist abuser. Their fear was always that I would gather the strength and confidence to challenge their control, break free of their noose and speak up about my experiences. That is all I am seeking. I am not bitter, I am recovering. I am not angry, I am reflecting. I am not a snowflake; I am a survivor. I am not willing to be complicit to the behaviours that ruin lives, leave bruises that no one can see. Just because these bruises are hidden doesn’t mean they don’t exist and behind each of them is a story.

This is my story and I want to provide an account for our thoughts and raise awareness of such behaviours. Also, I hope this can give readers clarity or closure, one will enable the other. I promise. I can smile without feeling guilty, talk to people without fear and be myself without validation. I hope everyone reading this will feel the same empowerment.

What is narcissistic abuse?

Narcissistic people do not come with a lapel pin nor can we neatly place them into tightly sealed boxes. Everyones own experience with a narcissist varies greatly but for the purpose of this piece, some form of definition is required. Narcissistic abuse is also very diverse, insidious and one blog cannot do it justice. Again, we still require a working definition to categorise these situations. Kirsten Milstead provides such incredible depth.

Narcissistic abuse is the intentional construction of a false perception of someone else’s reality by an abuser for the purposes of controlling them. It has the following features:

  1. The false reality is constructed through elaborate, covert deception and psychological manipulation over a long period of time.

  2. The false perceptions created are of the abuser as someone who has the survivor’s best interests at heart and of the relationship as a beneficial one for the survivor.

  3. The goal of the abuse is to allow the narcissist to extract whatever he or she perceives is of value from the partner, including attention, admiration, status, love, sex, money, a place to stay or other resources.

  4. The abuser takes advantage of societal norms that assume everyone participates in social relationships with a basic level of empathy, which makes it easy for the abuser to convince the survivor (and everyone else) that no abuse is taking place.

  5. Because the abuse is “hidden” using deception, it is difficult for survivors to recognize, understand, and escape it.

Notions of ‘false reality’, ‘attention’ and even sentiments of gaslighting really do underpin the experiences of narcissistic people I have come across. A narcissist will seek attention, sympathy and claim injustices and then hound at those who see through their façade. As one Tweeter eloquently put it, “narcissists are broken people that want everyone to feel their pain”. The number of close friends who would say “Shuaib, why are you allowing this to continue?” during my own experiences was astounded. I was conditioned to accept that this manipulation was the only reality. That the irrational behaviour of others, I would have to ‘rationalise’. This irrational behaviour included all forms of abuse, distress, anxiety and completed under the false guise of ‘friendship’ and ‘love’. In hindsight, this was not friendship and it certainly was not love, it was a sham. Yet, what we allow will continue.

The trivialisation of my emotions, as I was a puppet and my ‘master’ could do as they would please. I was losing my capacity to think for myself, my civil liberties and I was seeking validation. At one stage I became desensitised from the verbal and physical violence, it became a part of my identity. It was only when I relayed these concerns to a friend, I began to understand how detached my perceptions of life, love and reality which were engrained into me by someone who I placed on the highest pedestal. A pedestal I build for them, one I maintained but one that now needs shattering. This has taken years to accept but I know so many others feel this way to. It is that time. Let’s have an uncomfortable conversation somewhat comfortably together.

I would just like to hold a conversation about narcissistic abuse and the five internalised thoughts it creates for victims. This form of abuse I have personally suffered from and due to a campaign of gaslighting which enforced a toxic form of selective amnesia, my silence is complicit in allowing others to suffer. This is narrative that was stolen from victims, and now one we must reclaim, reframe and reflect on to gain some form of clarity or closure. Albeit not an all-exhaustive list, this is a working article which may open up further dialogue on the topic.

My five internalised thoughts after suffering from narcissistic abuse

  1. I am not good enough – A consistent theme in my experience was the feeling of inferiority. I had such little self-worth during and after this time of my life. My personal achievements and accolades were never good enough. Even collecting my First-Class Honours degree was labelled as ‘luck’ and ‘may be the grade boundaries were low this year’. Everything I did was in no comparison to them and I was paralysed by fear around them. I did not want ‘show them up’ or ‘upset’ them with my achievements but we had to celebrate theirs. The manipulative behaviour became so perverse that I would lose my train of thought around them, my confidence was shattered, and I was a shell of myself. I would do everything in my capacity to support them, validate their feelings and please them but it was never deemed good enough. This level of abuse and gaslighting would leave me perpetually anxious talking about myself as all conversations had to be centred around them and their feelings. Nothing I could do was good enough and when you love someone, that sentiment of being unable to make them happy will always sit on your heart.

  2. This is how relationships are meant to be – During the shouting matches, many of which I remained silent in, I was being told by them, albeit subtly, that their behaviour was acceptable or even normal. It was normal for them to cheat, to lie, to question my intelligence, to go through my phone and to continuously tell me I was ‘being too emotional’. All I wanted was this relationship to work which meant I was willing to compromise everything, including my integrity, morals and principles. This ‘normality’ created by narcissists is validated when we are either passively or actively accepting their projections of ‘normal’ onto us. This consistent reaffirming of boundaries does internalise their behaviours. It isn’t ‘normal’ to berate, abuse, swear, shout, gaslight and manipulate but with the insecurities of a narcissist, they will stabilise control by any means necessary. A healthy relationship has its arguments and tears, but they are handled through conversation and compromise rather than abuse and manipulation. I was petrified to leave as it was internalised in my psyche that “it could be worse elsewhere”. It was only when I began to reframe the narrative and considered the idea “it could be better elsewhere” did I make a move. Narcissists have their own projections and ideologies on how they see the world and their rose-tinted glasses aim to govern the behaviours of those they wish to control. All relationships are not like this but realising this can take years to understand and conceptualise. Again, I can assure you, this is NOT how relationships are meant to be.

  3. How did I allow myself to be a victim? I built walls around my resilience and standards. These walls were sky-high, impregnable and I would not allow anyone to lurk, sit on the fence and abuse them. The idea of ‘victimhood’ was massively damaging to my persona as I am a male and really grew up in this phase of toxic masculinity. I felt uncomfortable telling others and being vulnerable in front of them with my story. In fact, I didn’t want to be the sob story, I wasn’t seeking sympathy and honestly, my manhood felt attacked. It was only when I held a conversation with another survivor of narcissistic abuse did I realise how closely it resonated with my own experience. I was a victim but how? I pride myself on being strong and my emotional intelligence. How did I allow anyone to make me lose sight of myself and my values? This happened without me even realising. The manipulation started with subtle comments which in hindsight, I realised were actually very perverse. I cannot exactly recall the exact comments as it was very banal and trivial, but I was unable to take control of the narrative. In its infancy, it was taken from me and thus, over time, it perpetually became toxic. I never ‘allowed’ myself to become a victim, that would suggest I had the autonomy and in honesty, it implies that this was my fault. I have had time to reflect and till this day the term ‘victim’ is not a flaw, it is empowering. Yes, I was a victim, but I want to reframe this experience and learn from it. I will not be defeated.

  4. You are always making it about you? – This question was repeatedly put my way. I was ‘selfish’ and ‘inconsiderate’ of their feelings. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. There were times where I would have to suppress my own emotions for them and before every interaction, as insignificant as they may be, like replying to a Tweet, I would consider their feelings. This constant struggle for validation marred my every step. I did not realise this was a form of gaslighting because for me saying ‘sorry’ even if I did nothing wrong was ‘expected’. I remember times where they were aggressive and abusive, they would say ‘sorry you feel that way’ rather than apologising for making me feel that way. The more I was absorbed with their life, the more self-absorbed and controlling they had become. I was feeding into their narcissism by apologising for their own mistakes. The silliest things like leaving shoes on inside the house would result in such perverse punishments, sustained periods of silencing and emotional abuse. How was I making it about me when all I was doing was trying to make you happy? The manipulation and ability these people have to set the agenda, place their own emotions and needs ahead of others and then beat down any ‘disloyalty’ is frightening. These people are living in a fantasy world and a fantasy that we fuel and an ego we elevate. ‘You always made it about YOU” should be the question to such folks.

  5. Am I crazy? I want to touch up on gaslighting here. The conditioned behaviour as a result of narcissistic abuse is like no other. There is an acceptance of fate, that this person is ‘normally’ this way and that of you question it, you are the one that is crazy. Gaslighting is the questioning of emotional intelligence and the manipulation of how other feel. During my own experience I was called ‘too sensitive’ or ‘a cry baby’. I was unable to embrace my emotions which is not a sign of a healthy loving relationship. If this is love, then love is a sham! However, this is what I accepted because it was all I knew. My narcissistic abuser was able to, and within a number of weeks, change my emotional outlook on life. I went from being an eccentric and outspoken person to a reserved and quiet soul. I lost my ability to empathise, I surrendered by compassion and I was no longer Shuaib. I was the Shuaib they wanted me to be. When I was told ‘get over it’ at a family funeral, I did just that. I blocked out my natural inclination to grieve. I lost my sense of humour and I was a shamed to feel anything but what they made me feel. This out of body experience was continuously ramped up with comments about my emotional wellbeing. When someone is vulnerable and you have control over them and these vulnerabilities, this is a responsibility and a position of trust. Out of goodwill we hope those who care will place our feelings at the heart of interactions. A narcissistic will question your feelings, alter those feelings and then project their feelings of emptiness, insecurity, anger and anything in between onto you. Gaslighting is key and controlling emotions opens up the door to further abuse. The strength to walk away and say ‘this is how I feel, you cannot change that’ is a moment where I got my clarity and closure.

Maverick Sabre really is a generational talent.

In Summary

It is the season for difficult conversations and I really do hope those of you reading can gain closure if you have experienced such behaviour. Please remember, you are good enough; all relationships need a healthy dose of compromise and clarity. You may have been a victim but now you must reclaim the narrative, it is also now to make it about you, and you are not crazy. I truly hope these narcissistic abusers who I have referred to as ‘wolves’ do read this and realise the impacts they are having on others. The pedestal that was built for you was founded on the broken backs, sacrifices and love of those who idolised you. You have a position of empowerment which comes with such great responsibility. Your ability to selectively detach yourself from the emotions of others is truly frightening. It is time you stop reflecting your own emptiness on others and start to realign yourself with the principles of compassion and empathy.

With time I have learnt to spot narcissistic behaviours and that silence or refusing to feed the ‘wolf’ causes them more pain. We live and learn and I hope my experience can shed light on similar experiences you have have had. Do not suffer alone. Narcissistic abuse thrives off silence, breeds off contempt and this is a conversation we must have to support one another. It is that time.

Finally, I hope we can wrestle back the narrative, we can regrow our wings, reclaim our self-worth and yes, fly away somewhere. Somewhere beautiful.

‘Come fly away somewhere, Been here for days wanting, But nothing has changed for you, You’re tired and you don’t want to live like this’

Thank you for reading,

Shuaib Khan

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