Betrayal trauma




If you are involved or have been involved with a narcissist the probability is that you have or will have betray trauma at some stage.  This betrayal can range from stealing ideas in the work place, making snide remarks behind your back to friends and family, being suddenly dumped by a partner that you loved and trusted someone who goes from being warm, caring and engaged to being a cold sadistic stranger or realising that you were the scapegoat in your family and that is why other family members are so hostile for no apparent reason, annoyed with yourself because you trusted them for so long, when there was no evidence at all of the “love” they claimed to have for you.

The intensity of the trauma will be related to the intensity of the relationship.  Some acts of betrayal are just very annoying and can make us angry because it violates our sense of justice.  Others however can have an impact that has both a psychological and physiological impact.  Even the strongest of people are left feeling shattered after they have been betrayed and it takes time to heal from this trauma much more time than pop culture would have us think, you can’t just “move on”, you have to do some work first.

Here are some of the signs that you might have betrayal trauma:

  • Confusion and disbelief
  • Anxiety hyper reactive to stimuli
  • Churning the relationship over in your head day in day out trying to make sense of it all
  • Feeling worthless and empty inside
  • Loss of self-confidence/socially very anxious
  • Complete shift in your perception of the world at large
  • Feeling of having been cut loose or unearthed
  • Long periods of crying uncontrollably
  • Insomnia even though you are exhausted
  • Hyper sensitive to noise
  • Rapid weight gain, or loss
  • Nausea, headaches, dizziness and feeling weak
  • Flu like symptoms, when every part of your body hurts
  • Oscillate between crying and wanting to vomit
  • Vivid dreams when you can sleep
  • Grieving the loss of a relationship that was never really there or genuine
  • You feel very isolated
  • Life loses its meaning

Slowly you will rebuild a sense of self and your confidence will return again.  When you have been betrayed by a narcissist there is a lot of self-criticism for having been so naive and gullible.  It is important to show yourself compassion at this time, it is not your fault that a narcissist abused your trust as it is very hard to conceive that anyone could behave like that towards someone they said that they loved.

Recovery after having been betrayed does not happen in a straight line.  There will be good days and bad days and sometimes it will feel like you have gone back to square one, but all the time your energy levels are rising and you might not notice your daily progress but your mind and body are working night and day to understand what just happened and then make the necessary repairs to make you feel whole again.

Emotional Rape

According to Wikipedia rape is:


Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or below the legal age of consent.[1][2][3] The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault.[4]

Emotional rape is when a person is emotionally assaulted, where another person has intentionally emotionally perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent.  No one, unless they have experienced it or have studied this type of abuse can realise how severely traumatised the victim will be.   It is an attack on their personality/spirit/soul rather than their body, it is a very misunderstood trauma and often inflicted by primary care givers.  Emotional rape is far more complex than verbal abuse and it is only when we can discuss it openly and candidly that we can help people recover from this sort of despicable abuse.

The narcissist will employ a number of tactics to do this which include:

  • Lying
  • Gaslighting
  • Smear campaign
  • Constant criticism to your face
  • Scapegoating
  • Silent treatment
  • Narcissistic rage
  • Direct verbal abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Stealing money or possessions
  • A multitude of non-verbal signals to let you know that they view you with utter distain and contempt

All of these deceitful bullying actions are done deliberately to destroy the self-esteem and confidence of the other person, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually or physically.  Emotional rape is, in short, an attempt at the systematic destruction of someone’s personality.  To control and dominate for their own personal gain, they enjoy hurting the other person because it makes them feel better about themselves and there may well be financial or some other sort gain in it for the rapist.  The fall out of emotional rape is absolutely savage and the trauma is so severe it can leave you feeling suicidal, feeling completely helpless and that you do not have enough self-esteem or energy to find a way out.

If you feel confused by the behaviour of another person, the likelihood is that you are being abused.  Direct and clear communication does not create confusion or leave you scratching your head wondering about what was just said or why the narcissist reacted so violently to such a benign situation.  Emotional rape’s purpose is to eradicate the self-respect and self-image of another person to leave that person vulnerable to abuse.

Emotional rape sounds very melodramatic, but the reality is that it is every bit as traumatic (if not more so) than sexual assault as it can frequently happen several times a day, day in and day out, year in year out.  The narcissist will literally suck the life out of the person they are abusing.

This is especially traumatic if you come from a narcissist family of origin because you look to your parent(s) for a sense of who you are.  Children are automatically hard wired to trust and to think that their parent(s) have their best interests at heart.  So if they say something bad about you either to you or behind your back you will automatically assume that you need to modify your behaviour to be accepted.  If your parent(s) give out mixed messages that are changed according to who is around, it is very confusing for the child because it is impossible to please the parent(s) as the script keeps changing.

Other tactics that parents use to emotionally rape their child are:

  • Lying
  • Constantly breaking promises
  • Telling the child that they are horrible/bad/unlovable
  • Refusing to take care of health and well-being of child
  • Ignoring or neglecting the child
  • Refusing to acknowledge any achievements
  • Expecting the child to parent their parent(s)
  • Refusing to let child participate in community or school activities
  • Blaming the child for being a child and having needs
  • Constantly soliciting gratitude from the child for all the sacrifices that they made for the child.
  • Humiliating in public
  • Putting child in physical danger
  • Subjecting child to constant bouts of narcissist rage
  • Being jealous/envious or in constant competition with child
  • Letting/encouraging siblings to bully one another
  • Shaming their child to control them

When you consider that you normally stay with your family of origin for at least 16 formative years, that is ample time to brainwash and do considerable emotional damage to a vulnerable child who is dependent on their parent(s) for their survival.

If you have been abused like this in childhood, the likelihood is that you will have very limited boundaries, the result of which is that you might easily be prey to another narcissist in adult life.    Being educated on the subject and listening to your body when it is screaming “NO” about someone, even though they are smothering you with compliments is a way to avoid this potential trap.

It is difficult to get support for having experienced emotional rape because others do not understand the concept.  The predominant question that I have asked throughout my research on narcissism is “Why would anyone even want to do that?” if you discuss the subject with people who have not had the experience of emotional rape they will find it very difficult or simply don’t want to believe you.

So, some of the side effects of emotional rape can be social anxiety, this is when a person experiences overwhelming anxiety in a social setting, especially where there is a large group such as a party.  It can mean that they dread social occasions that most people would consider fun.  They know that they “should” go, but there is no joy or excitement in anticipation of the event.

There are physical symptoms that go with social anxiety too such as blushing, sweating, going weak at the knees, wanting to vomit or just having a knot in your stomach.  There is also a high probability that you will suffer from insomnia, this can go on for days the result of which you are constantly tired and so your judgement is impaired, you tend to over react to stimuli, you cannot concentrate or stay focused and your short term memory becomes really bad.  The physical symptoms just increase the level of social anxiety such as having sweating arm pits and feeling unattractive to others and forgetting social engagements.

Social anxiety, which isn’t the only side effect of emotional rape can also cause low self-esteem and depression.  Frequently to try to reduce the effects of social anxiety people will often take anti-depressants, alcohol and or drugs.  Which begs the question: Aren’t we missing the point when dealing with addiction?  Surely we are (not very effectively) trying to treat the symptom and not the cause, by definition it has to be ineffective.

Emotional rape is a deliberate and systematic attack on another person to undermine and control that person.  The attack is on their personality and not their body.  The attack is on their love of life, self-respect and confidence.  Emotional rape for narcissists takes a lot less energy than sexual rape.  For a narcissist it doesn’t take much energy to fire of diminutive comments day in and day out, it is a relatively “light” way to destroy the other person.

Education is the way forward, but it is also very important to develop a support system, what you think happened to you, probably has happened to you.  Don’t try to explain to people who just don’t understand.  It will frustrate you and they might label you as a bit crazy, you are not, they just haven’t experienced what you have and find it hard to believe (or don’t want to).


Non Love

It is amazing that we have so many words for different types of rain such as pouring down, bucketing, deluge, lashing, shower, drizzle, spitting,  soft rain etc.  Yet we only have one word for love, there is no spectrum or a love scale and love is a very simple word for a very complex weave of emotions in most cases but not with narcissists.

Narcissists by definition, cannot love other people but that does not stop them from using the word liberally and inappropriately, it is used as a hook rather than from any genuine sentiment, to make you feel obliged to take care of their feelings simply because they said “I love you”, not because they have behaved in a loving or intimate way.  Everyone wants to be loved, so it can seem flattering when someone endlessly tells you they love you,  but it is a trap that they use to ensnare you into not rejecting them and treading softly around them.  If there were a love spectrum, narcissists would register on a below zero value because they do not respect other human beings and are so cut off from their own feelings that they do not recognise or feel empathy for them when they see them in others, in general they find emotionality in others annoying and they may well get angry or rage at someone for showing emotion and try to “correct” their behaviour by telling that person “why you shouldn’t feel that way” they also do not consider it inappropriate to tell people “how they are allowed to feel”.

If you come from a narcissist family of origin you will probably be asked by your narcissist parent if you love them on a regular basis, very few children would dare to say they do not for fear of the punitive consequences.  They will also use the love word as a leverage “if you really loved me you wouldn’t do/not do that” or “if you really loved me you wouldn’t ask me to do that”.

Often the literature on narcissism refers to their “love”, but love doesn’t hurt or enjoy seeing someone in pain, afraid or in difficulty.  Love doesn’t try to destroy the reputation of others, tell lies, cheat and steal.  Love doesn’t make someone feel constantly anxious and unsafe and have them retreat further and further inside themselves so that the grandiosity of the narcissist can sparkle.

What a narcissist feels towards the feels about others is the opposite to love, it is indifference.  Most  people think that the opposite to love is hate, this is not so because if you hate someone you are very invested in that person (albeit negatively), a narcissist couldn’t care less about the other person as an individual and are only and exclusively interested in what that person can do for them.

If a narcissistic parent tells their opposite sex golden child that they love them what they really mean is that they want the child who they have put on a pedestal to admire them back.  To get the admiration of this favourite child they will flirt and enter into a bizarre psychosexual “dance”, for example they might let their 18 year old sit on their knee and or touch them inappropriately for their age such as kissing their teenager on the lips or patting their backside, a father may grope his pubescent daughters tits “to see how much they have grown”.  All of the above behaviour is said to be done out of love but it is only about control, dominance and their perpetual desire to seek attention.


Grief after a narcissist

Whether the narcissist in your life is a parent, an ex-partner, a family member or a friend, when you realise that you have been dealing with a narcissist there will be a grieving period.   The reason for this is that the relationship that you believed in and committed to, was completely false.  The narcissist, although they might have claimed to have loved you, they did not.

If you are the child of a narcissistic parent it will feel “normal” to put the needs of others before your own.  It will feel “normal” to be constantly criticised for just being you, everything about you will be on the agenda for criticism from looks, friends, relationships, grades at school, clothes etc. Anything that you have achieved will be dismissed as insignificant, unimportant or up-staged by something that they say they have achieved (which is very probably a lie).

If you grew up with narcissistic parents, you will have learnt not to share your achievements with them (or others) and to be self-deprecating as it feels “safer” because at least you are in control when you are attacking yourself where as a narcissist’s rage knows no limits and feels like a much more dangerous assault.

When you come to realise that your parent(s) or ex-partner didn’t see you as a human being or individual at all, but as an object to manipulate, use and control for their own needs, the entire relationship falls to pieces and it feels like you were living a complete lie.  You might well beat yourself up for being so “stupid”, not seeing it.  However, narcissists are absolute masters in the art of manipulation, deceit and lying.  It is really hard for “non narcissists” to even conceive the level of betrayal and dishonesty that exists in the minds of narcissists.  It is even harder when the narcissist is someone who society extols as being virtuous such as a parent and in particular a mother.  People who haven’t experienced this dynamic or who are currently involved with a narcissist in some way, will deny your assessment of the situation, so it is better for you if you do not look for reassurance from people other than those who know about and accept what you are talking about, because if they don’t have a good knowledge of narcissism they will treat you like you have gone crazy, are feeling sorry for yourself and are looking to blame someone else, which will only make you feel further isolated and misunderstood.

To acknowledge that a person is a narcissist takes a) the ability to observe and assess others, b) will bring in to question the ability of the other person’s judgement of character.  Some might see the narcissist as someone of power and influence such as a parent, boss or church leader and therefore it would not be in their interest to see that person as a narcissist because they want to ingratiate themselves.

When you realise that you have been reared by or have been in a relationship with a narcissist, the first thing that you will feel is confusion loneliness and isolation while you try to work the whole thing out.

A psychiatrist called Elisabeth Kubler-Ross came up with five stages of grief (which were based on her studies of patients with terminal illness) which also fit the stages of realising that you have been duped by a narcissist.  Obviously everyone experiences loss in a different way.  These stages are not sequential, they all inevitably over lap and not all of them happen for everyone.  The stages below are merely a suggestion as to what might happen.  The only thing that will occur after you realise that you have been in a relationship with a narcissist is that you will feel grief and as the cliché says “two steps forward and one step back”.

The five stages are:

  • DENIAL This is what I call “wilful naivety” and it can go on for a very long time. It is when you say to yourself “no one would do that to someone else”, “This can’t be happening to me”, “This sort of thing happens in novels, history and far off places, not in my home”.  It can go on for a long time because you as an empath make excuses for the narcissist “okay they may be selfish but…”, you will project “good intention” on to the narcissist where there is none and you will be confused because all of the nasty things that a narcissist does and says to you which will be embedded in a language of false concern designed to make them look good, keep you confused and in a vulnerable place so that they can continue in their abuse.
  • ANGER After denial comes anger “How could they do that to me”, “I was a child”, “They said they loved me”, “Why do they think that it is okay to behave like this”. This is a stage where your anger is pretty much universal.  You will be grappling with the realisation of narcissism, you will be angry with the narcissist for not playing fair, angry with yourself for not copping on sooner, for dedicating so much time and resources to someone who doesn’t even see you as another human being and with everyone else for helping the narcissist to prop up their false persona/lies and enabling their abuse.
  • ACCEPTANCE PART 1 The first part of acceptance is knowing that your narcissist cannot love and this is a vital part of recovery. A mental disorder, is like any disorder, would you be angry with your parents if for example they had a physical disease?  You have to recognise their limitations and work with what you (and they) have got.  It is not perfect or ideal, but it is what you have.
  • BARGAINING “If I could just do something good or nice I could return to the comfort of the illusion and make the whole thing go away”, “Surely they can’t be that malevolent, I must have got it wrong”. You don’t want to believe that it is how it is and that there must be something that you can do to make it all right again.  You might even employ a few strategies to try to push your new found realisation away.
  • DEPRESSION This is when you realise that you cannot make it go away, you are angry with yourself and your narcissist(s) and feel a sense of despair. You question your own judgement, you resent the narcissist and your ability to trust yourself ebbs considerably.  It is at this point that you might well have suicidal thoughts and the prospect of life is a lot scarier than death.
  • ACCEPTANCE PART 2 This is when you realise that your relationship with the narcissist is dead and it never existed in the way that you thought it did. However, if you cannot go no contact you will still have to deal with their dysfunction on a regular basis.  This is difficult because a narcissist is not nasty all of the time, only when they are feeling threatened they can go straight into narcissistic rage.  They also use being nice as a ploy to keep you engaged with them, however, if you have a crisis or are upset about something, they will use it as an opportunity to be abusive.  When you accept that you are dealing with a narcissist you will learn how to protect yourself and will recognise the signs in the future so that you don’t ever get involved with a narcissist again (of your own volition – but it could be a co-worker or boss).   If it is a family member, from now on you will be able to manage them better, you will not seek their approval and you will not put their needs in front of your own as you did in the past.  The resentment bit is that you now know and accept that you are dealing with a person with whom you constantly have to be on guard.  You have to accept that they will say nasty things and put you down where and when they can and that there is nothing that you can do about that, but the type of people who believe them are not they type of person that you want in your life.  You might have to do a major cull of “friends” but it is a healthy thing to remove toxic people from your life, they are not making any valuable contribution to your well-being.

When you are going through the process of grieving after narcissistic abuse you may very well feel empty, despair, loneliness and isolation.  What you are experiencing is the death of a relationship not the death of a person (although it pretty much amounts to the same thing) so you will not get the sympathy or concern that you might garner if someone had physically died, rather than your belief in a false perception.  You may well be told that you are emotionally unstable and volatile and the thing is, you probably are, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.  To grow and develop we have to go through periods of discomfort and confusion, it is a necessary part of making changes for the better in our lives and many find this part of growth too painful and uncomfortable so they just don’t do it. When you make seismic shifts in your perception of the world and of those around you it is destabilising.  It would be like if the earth moved even a fraction of a degree on its axis, everything would change, climate, flora and fauna etc., what you perceived to be there is no longer and that is what grief is all about.

There is another thing to notice in yourself when you go through grief and that is the potential physical symptoms.  This might include feeling excessively tired or having insomnia (protracted insomnia does make you a little crazy, so it is important to get in to a good daily routine paying attention to what you eat and drink before bed and having a regular exercise schedule).  You might gain or lose weight.  You may oscillate between wanting to cry and wanting to vomit, your whole body may well hurt.  You may drink too much or take prescription drugs.  This is just part of the process.  However, if you do not show any of the above symptoms, it does not mean that you are not going through the process “properly”, it just means that you are doing it another way.

The final thing is that we can only move forward because we have a better awareness of ourselves and those around us, there is no evolvement without self-knowledge and enlightenment is not synonymous with happiness, it is merely the disregarding of false held truths, the real work starts after that realisation and the attempt to realign your perception of the world with that awakening.  It can be very lonely and solitary work, but at this stage you will have realised that there is really only one person that you can totally depend on (you) and perhaps it is time to give that person a lot more of your love, care and attention than you did in the past.