One of the most common tactics of a narcissistic abuser is that of playing the victim. It's a highly-effective tactic that evokes the empathetic emotions of potential targets -- and it works. Sadly, most victims of intimate partner violence are loving, trusting, generous with themselves, and are high on the empath scale. These are all traits to be admired, traits that should be emulated far and wide. Yet, sadly, they can also be exploited.
When a target first meets an individual who seems honest and trustworthy, it’s comforting and feels natural to believe stories of his victimhood. Even though an abuser’s tales are typically riddled with stories that amount to slandering those who supposedly mistreated him, his resentful negativity and harsh tone tends to be lost on the enraptured target, who longs to comfort her poor, mistreated new partner. She feels she can be the partner he always dreamed of. After all, they're a match made in heaven!
But wait a minute! Step back, and assess.
What's really going on? Is this authentic (it may be), or is it a tactic (it may be)?
"The contemptuous person intends to shame the person he derides." (St. Thomas Aquinas)
What is contempt, and why is it such a traumatic theme in toxic relationships? Why do abusive personalities cling to contempt as if it’s a treasure, rather than a deadly vice that wounds the soul? Why do people who use abuse as a means of control cling to their resentment as if it's something owed to them?
The answer rests in an individual’s choices and motivations. What do they desire, what’s their goal?
“Allow yourself to be loved! This is crucial, because the soul cannot live without love. The soul always wants to love something, because love is the stuff she’s made of, and through love God has created her.”
(St. Elizabeth of the Trinity and St. Catherine of Siena)
There are many challenges to authentic love, but in this post I want to focus on just one—and the one that’s often the most difficult.
Self-Love. (But not in a narcissistic way.)
Love of self can be a unique challenge, particularly if you're experiencing trauma from intimate partner violence. When your sense of self has been covered by insults and demeaning comments, how can you begin to love -- and trust -- yourself again?
I'm Jenny duBay, a domestic abuse survivor and now advocate. My degree is in Christian theology with a concentration on spiritual direction, and my vocational emphasis is on helping those who have suffered from domestic abuse to heal and reclaim their true selves.