Complex Trauma and the Dynamics Between a Narcissist and a Pleaser

Complex Trauma and the Dynamics Between a Narcissist and a Pleaser

A resolved emotion is an emotion that has been able to run its full course without the interference of thought, regardless of the outcome of the circumstances.

In other words; it means that you can endure a potentially traumatic situation and go through it unscathed.

Those that do are often people who have sufficient resilience, containment, a healthy emotional foundation and a support system that has given them an advantage, and hence can rebound quicker.

Starting with a Disadvantage: Childhood Trauma

When life’s adversities begin when young, this can turn the tables on you drastically.

If your emotional foundation is shaky to start with because there never was any support or nurturing, it becomes tougher to face new challenges, and this often leads to retraumatization through recurring experiences.

What happens is that there will be emotional responses that are unfinished and that have become patterns.

It is with these emotional patterns that we deal with life, circumstances, and people, and thereby recreate some of our old situations that relate to our history.

Narcissism and Complex Trauma: When Things Don’t Go as Planned

Projection and Reenactment go hand in hand. It is a process that happens simultaneously, and there may be various layers of it at play.

Let us explore this through an example to clarify:

Anna grows up with a narcissistic mother who is more concerned about her ambitions than taking care of her children. Anna copes with her by “pleasing,” as a means of getting some form of approval and a sense of identity. Her mother, however, has turned this against her, through using guilt, and oversteps Anna’s boundaries on a regular basis.

Both identities, the ‘pleasing’ type, which is Anna, and the overbearing, narcissistic mother, who uses control to cover her wounds and insecurity, keep each other in their place.

Seeking any confrontation, for Anna, regarding setting healthy boundaries for having her needs met is overshadowed by crippling anxiety. Her mother plays on that by using guilt.

The Wound of Wanting to be Loved, and How that Relates to a Lack of Boundaries

Partly, that anxiety relates to her still wanting to be validated and the looming fear of rejection; not being good enough, and being a failure.

Anxiety, depression and an inability to move forward in life, are some of her symptomatic expressions.

From the above example, you can see that Anna has difficulty with setting boundaries, and that relates directly to wanting to avoid rejection and failure, which rests on her fundamental need of wanting to be loved, nourished and validated.

Reenactment and Addressing the Complexity of Trauma to Heal Post-Traumatic Stress

Besides a complicated relationship with her mother, Anna has difficulties in other areas of her life.

At work, or in her relationships, she often gives too much of herself because of a need to feel validated. In turn, people either abuse or shun her because there is that undercurrent of wanting emotional compensation.

Anna moves between giving too much of herself, followed by feeling hurt and frustrated as a result of being used, or through not feeling validated, isolating and withdrawing into herself.

Facing What Is and Acting on it Through Therapeutic Guidance

What Anna needs to address, is to learn to openly express her needs, boundaries, and possibly, even anger.

While learning to express her boundaries, anxiety, and guilt will present themselves, which relate directly to her more profound emotional hurt of wanting to be loved and validated, and the lack of which she has experienced.

Once she can allow herself to feel the hurt from childhood neglect, and total lack of love; to not descend further into her usual default position of pleasing, and steps up to assert her boundaries, and feeling empowered by it, she will start to move in the right direction and heal her childhood complex trauma.

In which way does this article speak to you? Leave your comment below.

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Comments

  1. Caymin Lategan  January 14, 2018

    To be honest, I read a lot of articles online, mainly psychology ones, most of which relate to childhood trauma and anxiety. However, what you’ve mentioned here has really encapsulated my story and my journey thus far. You’ve put things that I’ve always felt and thought into words, and have actually provides practical and logical advice on how to create new, healthier patterns, ones that aren’t rooted in insecurity. Thank you very, very much for this. I’ll be sure to be purchasing all of your books.

    reply
  2. Gina  January 14, 2018

    Goodness, this is me – and my childhood. I was the pleaser and I never spoke up. The few times that I did, I basically got shut down by my entire family, My trauma was my mother – I grew up with her narcissism (and goodness knows what else). I did have sort of a mental breakdown at age 21 – and I was a full-blown addict by 18. There were so many issues involved, abandonment, betrayal, emotional blackmail, etc. There was so much that most of it is blocked out. I still to this day – struggle with boundaries. I have had to work exceedingly hard to find my voice, and believe what I had to say was of any inherent value. I am so much better now than I have ever been – but there is still residue left on other issues that hinder me. However, I do not live in fear any longer like I did. This is huge considering where I came from.

    reply
    • Roland  January 14, 2018

      Hi Gina. That’s great to hear you are seeing some positive results.

      reply
  3. Benine  January 14, 2018

    Its like reading my life story through your messages. I am not doing too good. Your insights help me identify the problems, but I still feel trapped and like every decision I make just leads to more pain. The only thing that keeps me fighting is my son. But I feel like he slipping out of my grasp as I struggle to gain control. I can’t give up, but feel like Im trying to swim up the Niagra falls and Im drowning. I have never felt more alone in my life. To make things worse, I have no job, no money and I am miles away from my son. I am tired. I can’t remember the last time I felt even slightly ok. But somehow I keep trying, keep fighting and keep hoping that all this pain and suffering will lead to something amazing, to some semblance of peace and where I can heal. I don’t want to fail myself nor my son, but I feel like I am. Im planning on making tomorrow a better day. Wish me luck.

    reply
    • Roland  January 14, 2018

      Thanks for being here and keep going!

      reply
  4. Sherry  January 14, 2018

    Wow, this was a great revelation for what I’ve been navigating through the past few weeks! And recognizing my anxiety and guilt that were present by my asserting better boundaries.
    As I’ve pulled back from the pleasing, and let myself do what is best for me, I feel less anxiety, anger, and physical symptoms of Cptsd. I am more at peace.
    The way you word this and explain it is easy to understand and internalize and remember in the future as I progress in healing. There is hope.

    reply
    • Roland  January 14, 2018

      Hi Sherry. Great to hear!

      reply
      • Terry Wall  February 11, 2018

        I had to play the adult and rescuer to my addicted mother. I have become aware now of how I get attracted to and attract people who are a bit of a mess to put it bluntly. So I can re enact the rescuer role. Such people are very energy draining when I have so little for my self. I am learning about how to let go of such relationships and now I am aware I will be able to see it coming in future

        reply
  5. Cd  January 14, 2018

    Wow! Makes sense. I know that I am supposed to grieve my childhood but wow! I see the patterns I have been reenacting. Now to figure out how to stop it. 🙁 But I have DID too, so easier said then done.

    reply
  6. JOHN  January 14, 2018

    Interesting! But NEVER any support or nurturing? Surely everybody gets SOME of both, however little?

    reply
    • Roland  January 15, 2018

      There are some that don’t, or at least in their experience.

      reply
  7. Chantelle  January 15, 2018

    Thank you very much for this article. I have been suffering from severe anxiety for the past few years and I think this hit the nail on the head. I definitely am a pleaser and I still search for validation from the people that hurt me in the past. Good luck to everyone on their journey to healing.

    reply
    • Roland  January 15, 2018

      Welcome. Let’s keep moving.

      reply
  8. Karin  January 15, 2018

    A narcissistic mother leaves one totally disempowered. What has helped me a lot in bad times is to ask the question ‘how do I empower myself now?’ In that way one feels more empowered even if it is something simple like making yourself a cup of coffee or sitting in the garden for a minute. It is about taking back control over yourself.

    reply
  9. j  January 15, 2018

    Wow, I have this lump in my throat. Sounds like me, and my long history. I just don’t know what to do. No matter what I do, I’m still at zero. Two steps forward, two steps backward. Sometimes three steps backward, sometimes one. Very difficult. Of course with money and housing too. First chakra issues. Survival, tribe, parents.

    reply
    • Roland  January 15, 2018

      It can be a tough going when your foundation isn’t stable to start with.

      reply
  10. Tania  January 15, 2018

    I wish people who weren’t raised in bad environments would read what you write. Perhaps they’d understand us better

    reply
  11. Petra  January 15, 2018

    I never before thought much about these things ..
    Your meditations help me .. just starting to see .. thank you

    reply
  12. Maria  January 16, 2018

    Strange and difficult for me to admit but seeing some of myself in the mother role here but have also been Anna in my past. I feel my own childhood has caused me so much damage and affects all my relationships. I do get controlling at times and feel my daughter tries to please me so much as she knows I’ve had a difficult time, but as a child she was neglected so maybe could be needing validation. I want to be a better mother and allow her to grow and spread her wings, what help should I get to deal with my own trauma, I’ve also been in a relationship with a narcissistic man that has caused me a lot of pain.

    reply
  13. Kathleen  January 16, 2018

    Not only do I relate very, very much to each hypothetical woman in the article, but also to each of the comments offered so far! What a brilliant and clear ‘deconstruction of the constructs’ happening. Helpful too (as someone else mentioned) insofar as helping one challenge and move through such very painful patterned responses by taking concrete action in the world …. I might also recommend soothing anxiety with unconditional compassion for one’s frailties, along the way. Learn to recognize and honour YOUR own voice. Not tired old bullshit that keeps a gal down (or dude).

    reply
  14. Munna  January 16, 2018

    Reading your bespoke style of writing is therapy itself. Keep up the good work Roland.

    reply
  15. Sally  January 16, 2018

    Thanks for this interesting article. It has taken me 55 years to learn how to create boundaries! Like you say, as a child, boundaries can be very difficult to instigate without feeling guilty. Without them, we become overwhelmed and enmeshed in the personalities of our caregivers. I was a parentified child and, even as an adult, struggled for many years to overcome developmental trauma.

    reply
  16. Tessa  January 17, 2018

    Yes it did speak to me having been married to a narcissist man. And recognising that I have always been a pleaser altho never knew it. My not being able to set boundaries led to my children and I being victim to parental alienation. Not Learning this leasson sooner in life has cost me dearly. a tough but necessary lesson to learn later in life. thank you

    reply
  17. Lisa-Marie  January 17, 2018

    It’s my birthday today and usually my mom calls and sings me happy birthday. She’s mad at me because of circumstances out of my control and me honoring myself by putting up healthy boundaries. She doesn’t like it and well she hasn’t called me yet. I was going to call her but I don’t want her to think she still has the upper hand of me. Love this read. Thank you

    reply
  18. jaymez  January 19, 2018

    I’ve just recently gone & faced my mother about the love I never got from her & dad. How much of a bastard he was. It was very hard on me. I broke down before we got somewhere we could speak. But I let it all out. She got both barrels. When I walked out I was shaking. But now she doesn’t have a hold on me. When she dies I won’t go to the funeral & I don’t have to sit in the church and listen to the dribbly nice stuff people will say about her. One counselor told me years ago ” the child always knows “. From jaymez

    reply
  19. Jane  January 20, 2018

    I only wish this article was a little better written, as I would like to curate some information like this to send to my Dad to explain about my mother’s narcissism, plus the scape goating and gaslighting that went on (from both of them).

    By the way, the predominate emotion used to control in our family was shame, not guilt and I think you’ll find that that to be more true than being guilted into behaving the way the narc wants you to. Shame is much more powerful as it’s so personal.

    reply
  20. Angela  February 20, 2018

    Thank you. This has been helpful. I have always had and still continue to have issues with knowing and managing my boundaries. Neglect is one of the big four abuses which most people don’t realize can cause a lot of issues. I think there is a lot of debate to be had on neglect, ignorance, and healthy alone time for the different individuals that make a complex world. I don’t really like debating but i enjoy a deeper understanding that gives me peace and steps me away from trauma to a better quality of life. Thank you again.

    reply

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