The following is an excerpt from an email sent to me from a survivor. I am sharing with permission but will not use their name.
It’s ok to feel what you feel at any given moment. Feelings are not wrong or right. They are our truth at the time.
My emotions still vacillate between the powerful feelings that had me euphoric and feeling he was my “soul mate” alternating with “f**k you!” or “f**ker!” It caused massive confusion.
Love has no confusion. It’s taken me a long time to realize any niceness displayed was all a part of the abuser’s tactics. In other words he is either nice manifesting wounded parts or an abuser who isn’t nice at all because it was false and a facade used to groom and manipulate!
Now when I think of him I feel an aversion. I focused too much on what he projected that I needed so much of in me. Now I focus on the truth; he was a manipulative con man who exploited everyone even the church for his end.
Asshole is how I feel today. That’s healing. But I can still have compassion to override my feelings. Again, it’s the nurse in me who could overlook the behaviors of suffering people who could act in ways they might not ordinarily out of fear and pain.
So you are right where you need to be. Give the compassion first to yourself. That is what I am doing. It is better balanced that way!
Feelings are so tough when you have been taught that it’s not polite to feel them or to show them. I was given a book when I was around ten years old that stated it was a sin even to think anything if it was not considered “holy”.
I mentioned before the confusion of my teen years when it came to sex. There was drinking involved and making out….but very little in the way of expressing feelings or limit setting….or the knowledge of how to do that. And it was not just teen years. I still to this day struggle with the same things.
Recently I told someone that my love life has been a series of disasters And that made me sad. Until I realized that I had walked away from those disasters. They were now in my past. But what happened with my boss….the priest….was like disaster on steroids. It set me back. Back to not acknowledging anything sinful. Back to difficulty in communication. Back to losing my limits. Back to handing over my control to someone else.
It was a pinnacle that stands out in my head as the abuse that puts the icing on the cake of all other abuses suffered. The priest showed me my vulnerabilities. He became a reflection of myself. He saw what I needed and he became that until he had me where I felt that we were soul mates of sorts. I can’t say that I felt that I really loved him, but I felt responsible for his feelings for me. I felt guilty for enjoying his kindness and for feeling safe and special. I felt our relationship was God’s will. I had made a priest have feelings for me. I was responsible. And then if I made him angry, I felt responsible for that as well.
Whatever had been learned in prior relationships was gone. I had no walls and I was confused and my emotions went from tenderness to disgust….from a feeling of being on a pedestal to being crushed under his foot. I felt many of the feelings my letter writer above felt.
I read recently that Narcissistic abusers look for people who are weak in some way. Most often, they will look for someone suffering from, or recovering from trauma or mental illness or past abuse. That is disgusting. It really is. For a person posing as someone who is a safe harbor, a comforter, or a spiritual guide, to listen as someone lays out everything before them with deep trust and devotion, and to see that as an opportunity to use that knowledge and trust to destroy a person….
To be abused is emotionally horrific. It is emotionally horrific because you are betrayed by someone you trusted. Sometimes you are abused after the abuse by people who don’t understand or who try to cover up the abuse. You feel that you have betrayed yourself. You feel stupid and like you can’t trust yourself and your judgement.
I described this to someone recently as peeling the onion. Not original but we were discussing how long it would take to “get back to normal”. I don’t think that “normal” meant resetting time and going back to how things were. Because there are things you just can’t unsee. And because you have changed inside.
It took me over six months. Six months. Before I realized that my abuser didn’t have feelings for me. You know why? Well, he told me that I had a difficult time seeing the bad in other people. He liked that about me. You see, we tend to project our own feelings unto others. Because I would not see a vulnerable person and think of using their pain to my benefit….I could not understand why someone else would. I’m not just talking about me….most survivors have this trait. We don’t see the wolf under the sheep’s clothing. We simply cannot understand the wolf and his/her nature.
That was a huge revelation for me. To actually understand that he was not a nice person. That there were no excuses for his behavior. That the truth was he saw me as someone he could toy with for his amusement and he didn’t care what the outcome would do to me personally.
A survivor I know once said that if only an abuser could attend one of our meetings. If only they could sit there and listen to what happens to people after the fact. The pain and the destruction they have caused people. Maybe then they would understand what they have done.
Those are the words of a good caring person who doesn’t understand the true nature of the wolf. The wolf does not care. Never did. Never will. The wolf never was a good person and will never be a good person.
Okay are there exceptions? One survivor said that they actually sat down with their abuser years later after their abuser had quit drinking. They found the person to be quite different when they were sober. Not knowing myself what triggers an abuser to want to abuse, I don’t know what would motivate them to stop abusing. I know that alcohol can open the gates of rage and distort personalities so stopping drinking can surely stop some behaviors. But I am no expert at judging that. The meeting did help this particular survivor with their healing so I am happy for them.
But for me, as much as it hurt to know that this priest was not looking for a soul mate or that he did not care about me a bit, it has also shown a light onto other areas of my life.
Abusers prey on vulnerabilities. Even some you may not know you have or that you may consider vulnerabilities. We ask ourselves…how can we trust our judgement and our feelings? How do we know when someone truly loves us? Because the perpetrator knows so well how to mimic love. And they are so good at mimicking what we perceive as love. They seem to know exactly what we are looking for and they become that.
Are you consciously or unconsciously looking for someone who will save you? Are you afraid to be alone? Do you need other people’s approval? Do you feel that you have to have a romantic partner in your life? Are you afraid of rejection? Are you shy? Are you agoraphobic? Do you have difficulty expressing yourself with other people? Do you lack boundaries? Do you have low self-esteem? Do you feel socially awkward? Do you need love from others?
The unfortunate truth is…people can feel that. And people who are looking to use, bully, and destroy other people, will be attracted to those qualities. Sucks, doesn’t it?
The survivor I quoted above states that they were focusing too much on what the abuser was projecting….that which they needed so much from themselves.
Healing is both confusing and painful. It’s scary to think you are alone in this world and that nobody is going to come and save you. And that if you look for a savior, you may find someone who wants to control your life in return. And if you look for love, you may end up being used by someone who knows how to mimic love to get what they want from you.
Knowledge can be painful and confusing. But it can also be the beginning of freedom.
Our survivor has found the truth. He was a manipulative con man. She now calls him “asshole” when she thinks of him. And that is healing, she says.
I believe that to be true. Anger is one of the stages of grief. You need to go through anger in order to heal. Funny how the church wants us to gloss over that and just be forgiving. Anger is a feeling. It’s a righteous feeling when you realize you have been deceived.
If anger is not felt and directed outward, it gets repressed and goes inward, causing depression and anxiety and illness.
This doesn’t mean that you have to be in a state of perpetual anger. That isn’t healthy either. But anger is important. I don’t know that you can develop any kind of boundaries without it. At some point, even with people you love, you have to know what behavior may be toxic or unacceptable and refuse to be a punching bag for someone else.
Our survivor ends her statement with wise advice. Give the compassion first to yourself.
Have a good week. Stay well. Be good to yourself.