By: Gina Valencia
"What do you do, when there are 1000 paper cuts to your psyche; to your soul? How do you prove the abuse? How do you convince people? The most horrendous, egregious types of abuse are silent. They’re silent,” Sam Vaknin, the professor who coined the term Narcissistic Abuse in 1995, said in a recent interview.
Thirty years later, most people have never heard of this type of abuse. Many are still unclear as to what actually defines a narcissist. Is it someone who is a vain, conceited, serial 'ghosting,' ego-maniac? A bossy friend who gets upset when they don't get their way? A colleague who takes credit for your work?
Yes. And no.
It's much more complicated, and it's very serious.
Narcissism is a survival mechanism. A healthy level is necessary, but a true narcissist operates at the high end of the narcissism spectrum, either as a covert or malignant narcissist, and with zero empathy. The abuse these highly dysfunctional and disturbed beings inflict causes psychological damage which is identical to that found in the victims of sexual abuse.
Whether it was by a family member, friend/partner/spouse, or colleague, recognizing you were a victim of narcissistic abuse leaves one feeling confused, betrayed, in shock, isolated, and angry. It leads to severe depression and anxiety, and often, suicide.
Narcissistic abuse, a form of mental abuse, is so subtle, the victim doesn't even know it is happening. It starts with an overwhelm of love and attention, then sneakily slides into hurtful words, overly critical nit-picking, and baseless mistrust, before moving into the dangerous area of mental manipulation using tactics such as gaslighting and triangulation. Due to the mental/emotional/psychological intricacies of this abuse, the unseen wounds prevent a victim from asking for help. After all, if no one can see those degrading words 'hitting' your heart and brain, is it that big a deal? As Vaknin said, “If you have a purple eye or a black eye, many of your colleagues, your friends, your neighbors, will come to your help."
Unless they leave or are "discarded" by their abuser, a victim endures quiet torture, or the abuse turns physical. Otherwise, it is a prolong and pervasive grate on the victim's memory, body, heart, and self-worth, and soul.
The tidal wave of mental abuse awareness must flood society, and the urgency of understanding narcissistic abuse and narcissism couldn't be higher. From millions of narcissistic abuse survivors, a "members only" (those whom have experienced it first degree) bond has formed, propelling droves of online communities to form. As more and more survivors come forward, others are encouraged to step out of the shadows and share their stories.
An event that aims to bring attention to narcissistic abuse is the annual World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day on June 1. The event is an online summit with over a dozen experts ranging in psychology, neuroscience, law, and more; all gathering for interviews, panels, advice, education, resources, and encouragement. The goal is to not only to serve as a safe and valuable resource for narcissistic abuse victims, but to educate the world at large about a violence so invisible, that even the physical, chronic damages to the body won't be noticed for years to come.