The Devastating Long-Term Fallout of Narcissistic Abuse

The topic of abuse from malignant narcissists has been addressed repeatedly on this blog in the last few years. The posts are still up, and a simple search on the home page of this blog will bring them up. I heard again today from someone who was greatly helped by reading basic info on how these abusive people operate and what they do to their targets. Understanding what is going on is crucial to survival.

The spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical fall-out of living in an environment where you are either targeted and/or are the scapegoat in a family or ministry  setting is so devastating, it is difficult to write about at all.

Today, however, a friend posted an article that summarizes the destruction left by these people—people who are shells of human beings. They look whole, normal and even admirable on the outside, but they poison the lives of those they target to such a degree that recovery can seem almost impossible even years later. A quote from the article:

Victims of Narcissistic abuse often appear uncertain of themselves, constantly seeking clarification that they haven’t made a mistake or misheard something. Their confidence becomes so low that they have trouble making simple decisions, questioning and re-questioning things. This is a direct result of the emotional and psychological abuse used by the Narcissist to erode their self-esteem as well as instill confusion and anxiety into the victim to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. This is skillfully guided by the Narcissist and it clouds reality with leading statements like “I never said that”, “You are crazy”, or “you are imagining things.” The Narcissist will even step up the game by reinforcing what they say by backing it up with statements from friends, co-workers, or relatives that supposedly agree and ARE very concerned about the target/victim (and probably just more lies). (See full article here, A Narcissist’s Damage)

I will never forget the night I received a call from a pastor I had worked with for many years in Christian radio. He had first been introduced to listeners for his work in our city with troubled youth.   He had moved out of state, and I hadn’t heard from him in some time.  I was in bed and reached for the phone on the nightstand,  bleary-eyed.

I sat up suddenly in shock at what he was telling me, a blatant lie so slanderous that it took my breath away had been disseminated by the narcissist who was trying to destroy me. I had lost my mind, the pastor had been told. I was nuts. That was a polite way to put it.  He had inquired about me, and the response by the narc was a complete, vicious  lie to cover up my departure from the station.

This had followed the crafting of a false letter that the narc had shown around, claiming similar things. It was a desperate attempt to cover up sin and ugliness on the part of the narc, to protect his own reputation at the expense of the one he had grotesquely harmed.

Hate mail sent to our home, false posts about my mental health on a friend’s blog, lies to whomever would listen, some of them half truths without the other half that explained fully the situation, manipulation of others willing to be used, all of it was just the start of something that went on for years.  Appeals for help went unanswered.

Worst of all was the turning of minds, once respectful, loving, to mistrust and blame.  If the narc  cannot succeed in controlling  you, they will control  how others see you. They will take everything you have or thought you had.

So you learn to question yourself. The strongest of minds are infected with self-doubt. You walk on unstable ground. Ground that you once thought was firm under your feet now cracks in places with every step. Those who once respected you now turn away. You’re too toxic to handle. Not worth it. Probably some truth in what was said, others think. Such a shame.

The poison then drips into your spiritual life. A good God who values truth and goodness and righteousness allows a monster to do this for years? God builds his Kingdom on the whited bones of sincere people crushed in the gears? He allows other professing Christians to kick others (that they’ve known for decades and worked with successfully) under the bus because the narcissist said they were bad all of a sudden? (Decades of personal honor flushed overnight based on false testimony of one?)

The simple faith in God that you had is undermined. You are shaken to the core. There is no reconciliation with anybody. Total silence. Years of it. You were trash and you didn’t realize it. The sense that you were serving Christ faithfully with other Christians is demolished. You feel used and foolish for having been so naive that you could have believed in those around you  or thought they respected you.

Your body takes the hit of years of stress. You can’t handle the slightest stress anymore. The massive adrenaline that helped you function has done great damage.  You blame yourself for anything that has gone wrong. You can’t go forward, because your body won’t let you. People think it is way past time you got over it. Except you’re locked in a cycle of grief. You valued people. You valued your family. You loved people. But they didn’t love you. They didn’t believe in you. The narcissist destroyed their belief in you and your character.

I write these things to give others a sense of how pervasive and hellish the abuse of these demons with skin on really is. Those claiming to be Christians need to be much smarter about how narcs operate, especially those in leadership.

Covert narcs are the most damaging kind. A braggart, a chest-beating malignant narcissist isn’t hard to spot. The ones who slither rather than strut are the ones to watch for. They present a flawless, righteous image to the public, while, undetected, their fangs and poison sink deep into the skin of their target.

If you are discerning, if you ask God to show you what is going on in these situations, you are wise. For blind enabling of these soul-murderers is to participate in their evil.  Those who looked the other way, who were cowards and who discarded innocent people are complicit.  Years and years and years can go by, and it doesn’t change that reality.

So, all of this is true. What now? Ultimately, rejecting God is not the answer, friends. Why such violence to souls is allowed in this life by those supposedly “serving” Him, we will never know. But if there is any antivenin to the poison, if there is any healing possible, it won’t come from repentant enablers, graciously seeking forgiveness for their help of an evil person and the harm done to you. (I dream of this all the time.)  It has to come from God alone. Some damage is too deep, too all-encompassing, to have any human cure.   And waiting for someone with a conscience to step forward and do the right thing is a waste of your life on this earth. Given the state of “Christians” today, they can run over you with their tanks while fighting the culture wars and “winning souls” and never look back.  There is no love.

I’ve watched as those harmed by the church or Christian families have turned into fountainheads of blasphemy, non-stop sources of hatred for God and all that is good. That’s no answer to anything. You just end up adding to the darkness, and what is the point of that? We believe in love. We believe in kindness, Tom and I both. We’ve seen pure evil put on quite a show for years now. We’re walking in love anyway, because without God, there is no love. The times are bad everywhere. But the fact that we can discern good and evil at all takes us back to God’s existence. Out of the depths, those injured must continue to cry to the Lord for his mercy in all areas of life. I still believe what Scripture says. Weeping endures for a time, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Snakes have an extremely effective venom delivery system.

18 thoughts on “The Devastating Long-Term Fallout of Narcissistic Abuse

  1. Ingrid says:

    The “just get past it already” thinking should be jettisoned if someone you love has been harmed. Every person moves forward at their own pace. One may sprint past the damage, because they can. Others do not own the tools in their toolbox to do so, spiritually, mentally, physically. It takes longer and there are setbacks. The way out is not a straight line. Pressing forward, always trying, not giving in to the darkness. That’s the work of those who love God anyway and in spite of Satan’s work through abusers.

    My post today is to point out that the abuse here is not just a mean person who is unkind to you so hurt feelings ensue. Narcissistic abuse occurs over an extended time, and their direct targets are targeted for more than hurt feelings. It is a comprehensive attempt to dehumanize you, to destroy you at the deepest level through multiple techniques. It is diabolical because the techniques employed are always the same 8-10. As though they had read a manual. When it is a family member—a parent—it is an attack on the substance of who you are in a deeper way than even a spouse can target. Important to remember when people throw out, “just forgive and move on” advice. This is no time for trite advice or worse, slap-you-in-the face-so-you-snap-out of-it counsel Christians are so good at. Stay away from that at all costs. Those people don’t get it and never will.

  2. ruthieallan says:

    Our Lord and Saviour endured a sustained attack on Him throughout His ministry, such that family and friends thought Him mad and rejected Him. Those who loved and served Him as you have, Ingrid, get the same treatment. I have only brushed against such cruelty, but I do have a friend who came near to being destroyed by it, so I know that you are not exaggerating. Continuing to love is the best revenge in this life. And our God is in charge of the rest and we know that He is taking notes.

  3. Denise says:

    It’s almost impossible to explain this thing to someone who’s never experienced it. The few narcissists I’ve known have all been professing Christians. One of them is now deceased, but the damage remains, as the enablers are still at work. It puzzles me when people blame God for this. These narcs do not represent God. No contact is the only way to go. Give them to God.

  4. Kim Nash says:

    This song is for you, Ing. Known you since high school and am inspired by the fact that you are still standing with the garbage you’ve had to put up with. Love you.

  5. Ruth Blum says:

    I appreciate your candidness in sharing your story. There’s so much to learn from someone that’s been in the trenches. God is using your pain for His glory. Thanks Ingrid!

  6. healinginhim says:

    … alone as I read this post …. whispering this with many tears, “Thank you, Ingrid. You understand. Praying for you and your loved ones.”

  7. Diane Wallace says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. This is so completely me. I was married to my narc for 26 years. Literally every aspect of my life is infected with self doubt. My feelings are gone, any hope of a normal life or healthy relationship is highly doubtful. Why did this happen to any of us? We didn’t deserve it.

  8. Danny Murphy says:

    This was an excellent, informative, and gut-wrenching post. I think that one of the top characteristics of Narcissistic Abuse Disorder has to be that whatever the narcissist does is justifiable and reasonable in his or her own eyes, just as Judas was probably able to rationalize his betrayal of Jesus. Short of a miracle, there’s not much chance of being cured of that.

  9. lynettedavis says:

    Thank you for sharing this post. It is so on-point. As you said, it’s not about someone hurting someone’s feeling. It’s systematic abuse, over a long period of time, for the sole purpose of killing the victim’s soul. Yes it is diabolical which is why it can be so soul-crushing. It’s not something we just get over like a cold, as some would suggest.

  10. Ingrid says:

    Thanks to all the commenters on here. I got up this morning and was stunned at how much readership and how many shares this particular post has gotten. It is sad that a topic like this resonates so deeply with so many. A couple of things I’d like to add. Diane’s comment is the focus. These people that so hurt us find their targets, not because of our own dysfunction, but because of the opposite. We are usually caring and empathetic people. We are sensitive, and we carry emotional burdens when things are not “right” in relationships. We desire to fix that with all our hearts. This is why we are so vulnerable to manipulation and hurt. You can’t hurt someone badly if they do not have a tender soul that desires love. There begins the macabre dance that often takes so many years to end, and end at great personal cost.

    Diane mentioned that her feelings were gone, and she doubts a future healthy relationship or normal life. Just a thought, Diane, of encouragement. When a body is exposed to low temperature, the limbs and extremities lose circulation, as the body’s blood supply gets reserved for vital organs in an attempt to survive. I think that there is an analogy here. When a person is exposed to extreme emotional damage, you feel so much, that can stop feeling anything, or feelings are reserved for a select few that love you. It’s an emotional survival mode. When you feel too much, numbness sets in. For survival. In situations where you have experienced emotional pain for so long, you may doubt you can feel anything.

    While we are damaged, it speaks of our own self-knowledge and continued sensitivity that we can even note this fact. A narcissist is blind and deaf and incapable of self-analysis in any honest way. We know our damage and we know our short-comings, because we are sensitive and honest people. In the right setting, with the warmth of love from God and through others, that feeling can still return to our souls. I really believe that. It may not be the same as it was, but it can come back.

    God blessed me with a husband 22 years ago in June. His love and perpetual kindness has said, verbally and non-verbally, “You’re not what the narc said about you. Those are lies. You are kind, loving, and someone I respect and love, having lived with your for many years and having seen you raise our children. Without that counter message, I don’t know where I would be. If you have nobody else in your life to tell you those things, let me tell you. You are not what the narc said you are. You are made in God’s image, a human being deserving of respect and dignity. You didn’t deserve what was done to you. The enemy of souls comes, as the Bible says, to kill, steal and destroy. But Jesus came that we could have LIFE and have it more abundantly. He didn’t make you for destruction. Look to him with all of your heart and soul, and pray, as I do, that his peace will enter where so much pain is. That is why I have hope.

  11. steveandanitabrady says:

    My husband and I were both raised by narcissists. Then lived in a controlling abusive Christian cult for 15 years. When we left everybody we knew was in that cult and to a man they all rejected us.

    At the same time both sides of our families decided to join the fun. We ended up having to go no contact literally with our whole family.

    It has taken us 12 years. We are still getting aftershocks from the original exit. But we have moved on. We were not able to open our bibles for two years. Now we preach from them. God has healed and saved us and shown us the painful truths we had to learn.

  12. Ingrid says:

    Steve and Anita, two words. Praise God! Only God could heal a situation like that. 12 years. Not surprised by that at all. I’m thankful and hopeful in hearing your story. I appreciate you sharing it with us!

  13. lisaadams211 says:

    This all sounds painfully familiar. Three decades here–of dealing with my own mother & my husband’s mother (and others, too, throughout the years). Recently we found and have breathed some fresh, liberating air. Things we’d discovered on our own, through the painful processes you wrote about, are now much more widely-disseminated via social media and blogs like yours…the internet community has helped expose these evil-doers for what they really are, and vindicate the survivors. May God sustain and heal His sheep who’ve suffered so deeply. Thank you for writing. Your voice is needed and appreciated.

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