Evelyn Ryan, Yourlifelifter
“Forgiveness is part of healing. It is not a prerequisite to healing. It is a point we reach when we understand and accept the truth about what happened to us from a position of emotional neutrality without the pain, blame and shame that our abusers shadowed on us.”
I’d like to share some information on forgiveness, justice and victimization that may not be so obvious to survivors of narcissistic abuse but is critical to their healing.
Survivors of narcissistic or for that matter any abuse were victims, no different than a victim of a crime, a brutal illegal attack or violation of our boundaries, rights, authorities, or freedoms. What is the difference between a brutal attack of one’s body or possessions and one’s psyche and one’s heart and betrayal of intimate trust? Not many. But there are a few fundamental ones.
One attack, you may think, takes place in the conscious physical world – the other, in the metaphysical, the metacognitive world where we feel and think. However, the pain and shame and anger and fear and trauma we experience from a brutal physical or emotional brutal attack are the same. They inflict the same wounds and frequently open old ones. In addition, there are major differences to how we heal from the wounds. This is why.
We can achieve justice and emotional relief when our attackers are found, charged, found guilty, and punished for their evil deeds. Our victimization is then validated, our egos are soothed, and we can achieve some sense of safety, security, and closure. But what happens when a criminal “gets away with murder” and is free to roam and victimize whomever he or she chooses to target?
Isn’t this what serial thieves do?
Isn’t this what serial murderers and rapists do?
Isn’t this what serial narcissists do?
The answers are an unequivocal “yes” and pose huge healing challenges to their victims. Let’s explore these challenges closer.
Healing and Achieving Justice
Healing and justice are not acquired through resentment and revenge that serve no other purpose than feeding our egos, keeping us bonded to our abusers, misdirecting our compassion, and continuing to give up our power to them. These are reactive defenses that cause us unjustifiably to take on additional pain and blame and continue to suppress our pain and also keep us trapped and hunkered down in shame and inaction that will do nothing more than hamper our healing and recovery.
Equally, healing and justice are not acquired through excusing the evil or pain or betrayal that was inflicted on us by our attackers or by showing compassion for them. Our need to forgive can also be guilt-driven by our moral, ethical or religious beliefs and convictions. I agree with renowned author and therapist Dr. Alice Miller and others that we do not have to forgive and that forgiving our abusers is a personal choice. We can add a huge amount of emotional burden to an already painful situation by being told if we do not forgive, we punish ourselves twice..blah blah blah. This can leave us conflicted and feeling added guilt and even shame when we really do not want to forgive.
We also while dealing with forgiveness have to deal with other daunting and unique challenges faced while grieving our losses. Effectively grieving after narcissistic abuse requires a reconciliation and a recalibration of our conflicting beliefs as they not only relate to forgiveness but also to loss, unrequited love, our lovability, and our pain and suffering.
How, then, do innocent victims “get justice” when their attackers get off free of charge? How then do they achieve emotional relief and a sense of security? Victims of emotional abuse do not even have the option of becoming vigilantes because the narcissists like the mutants on X-men and space creatures on Men in Black look normal on the outside, do their dirty deeds, and remain unscathed. In essence, not only are we the victim, but we also become the police, judge and jury.
Healing is All about the Victims, Not the Abusers
Healing, folks, has nothing to do with our abusers. Healing is, however, all about the victims. We are left to heal invisible wounds that were caused by our active but unaware participation in a very harming situation. Abuse survivors must work to turn their compassion and care inward and release the pain, trauma, shame, anger and fear that were projected onto them and inflicted on them by the emotional and conscienceless criminals, vampires, and thieves who also stole their identities. We, to heal, must not only release the pain and anger from the attack but also the shame from betrayal and of our unconscious complicity in the crime and our perceived foolery. This is why self-forgiveness and self-compassion are so important in healing. As Emily R., a community member at Yourlifelifter so eloquently stated, “forgiving a conscienceless person has absolutely zero meaning, thus, the real issue is learning to forgive oneself for not trusting oneself over their manipulative ploys of false promises and fake emoting.”
Forgiveness is part of healing. It is not a prerequisite to healing.
It is a point we reach when we understand and accept the truth about what happened
to us from a position of emotional neutrality without the pain, blame and shame that our abusers shadowed on us. Releasing the pain and anger with self-compassion will allow us to heal emotionally. Accepting our powerlessness to the pain stops the internal struggle in its tracks and emotionally “permits” us to direct our energy to healing. Self-compassion allows us to address our pain with kindness and not critical judgment.
But to fully heal we must forgive ourselves for the part we played. This is why understanding why we were targeted is critical to healing. We are then emotionally free to see things truthfully and accept what happened to us, accept our powerlessness to the pain with kindness, incrementally take back our personal power and redirect it to change our faulty thinking, rescue our own selves, and stop being vulnerable to emotional criminals.
Healing is a process of self-discovery, self-analysis into the root causes of why we were victimized, addressing how our beliefs contributed to that, correcting our skewed beliefs, mourning our losses, building our self-worth as well as healing our trauma wounds. I personally believe, it is close to impossible to fully accept what happened to us and forgive ourselves for the part we played unless we first heal and recover from the trauma and then stop our faulty victim thinking. This requires fully understanding why we love people who inflict pain on us and why we are attracted to power imbalanced relationships.
“Forgiving a conscienceless person has absolutely zero meaning, thus, the real issue is learning to forgive oneself for not trusting oneself over their manipulative ploys of false promises and fake emoting.” ~ Emily R., a community member at Yourlifelifter
As a survivor, I can say that I do not excuse the despicable acts of the abusers in my life or absolve them of their “sins” (e.g. outside my pay grade) but I can say that I am clear on what happened and why it happened in my childhood, why I was targeted and why I let it happen into my adulthood. I am also very clear that the abuse no longer continues because I do not think like a victim so I am no longer victimized. I am not powerless to pain and I do not deserve to suffer. I choose not to participate in the dysfunction so they are defused and go away. They continue to target me because that is just what abusers do and but I am not emotionally vested. I no longer fear them. I no longer believe I have to suffer or self-sacrifice to be good or lovable. I do, however, accept them and readily identify them as the abusers and broken people they are.
We cannot expect things from people who are not capable of giving them. I accept that life is not fair and I was born into a herd of narcissists that I had no choice over. But I do have choices now based on my new found personal truth and not others’ lies. I choose a life I know I deserve, a life of peace, harmony, happiness, emotionally healthy love and mutual respect! I also accept that they cannot. I also accept that truly evil people do exist and that I do not possess the divine power, right, and authority to absolve them of their depravity.
I do, however, have the divinely provided right and authority first and foremost to forgive myself, heal, and to live a joy-filled life I am deserving and worthy of. The best revenge is healing, happiness, and success!
And in the process we achieve the justice we seek.