Narcissism, Rejection, Betrayal, and How They Can Contribute to CPTSD or PTSD

Narcissism, Rejection, Betrayal, and How They Can Contribute to CPTSD or PTSD

When you are a kid and are growing up, you need sufficient validation from your parents or a prime caregiver to develop a healthy sense of self and build emotional resilience.

When sufficient love and validation– as in not too little and also not excessively– is provided in childhood, you are less likely to be constantly on the lookout for validation when you are an adult.

Child Abuse and How Your Sense of Self Gets Compromised

When you have been subjected to psychological, physical, or sexual abuse as a child, that sense of belonging, feeling loved, feeling safe, and validated goes out of the window. Even more so when the abuse happened at home or within the family, which is very often the case.

Being abused and having your sense of belonging compromised will either make you guard your emotional space very tightly, through a fight response, or you might channel your actions into a please response.

The please response makes you overly invest your energy in others, in order to get a sense of validation either from them or through your actions.

Both the fight and please response are a set of compensatory reactions that attempt to make up for a lack of belonging, feeling loved, and validated.

Survival Patterns of Anger-Fight, or Anxious-Please

That hurt of rejection, lack of validation and not belonging, compounded by the abuse you endured, sets in motion a set of reactive survival patterns of either fight, flight, or please that will become habitual and to which you will default over time.

Our minds move in opposites. When on a core level you feel unloved or not validated, you will instinctively seek for its opposite, which is validation, to compensate for that lack of validation.

You might go about that in different ways. You might make yourself submissive or subservient to others, and through pleasing attempt to make up for that lack of belonging.

On the other hand, you might become hyper-ambitious, controlling, and perhaps have narcissistic traits, in order to prove to yourself and to others that you are worthy; this as an attempt to compensate for feeling unworthy, on a core and often unconscious level.

The Core Level Emotion of Sadness

On that core level, the emotion related to the hurt of being unloved, lack of belonging, and lack validation is sadness. How you further react to that core level pain shapes your character.

So far, we have laid out the anxious-please response and the anger-fight response.

Let’s go a bit deeper into what the possible consequences are:

The Anxious-Please Response in CPTSD and PTSD

The anxious-please response, as a coping reaction to a breach of your boundaries, acts out by being too invested in other’s opinions about you. As a result, you burn yourself out by giving too much of yourself, and in doing so, you set yourself up for being hurt once again.

That giving too much comes with an emotional expectation, which is to want validation for your efforts; and when the expectation isn’t met, you will feel rejected or even betrayed.

Also, you more easily fall prey to a charmer or a narcissist who plays on your need for validation for the sake of his or her own seeking of validation through control and manipulation.

It gets messy!

→ Read more about the pathology of a narcissist here.

When love, attention, and bonding is taken away from you, either through natural circumstances or deceitful intent, you are left hurt and feeling betrayed.

This re-experiencing of the hurt of disconnection, lack of validation, and lack of belonging further compounds your core-wound, and will possibly keep cycling you through the extremes of reaction: from depression, isolation, lack of self-esteem, and fatigue, back into people-pleasing, being overly expectant, and taking on too much that isn’t yours.

The Anger-Fight Response in Complex Trauma

The second type of coping reaction and character forming is the anger-fight response. You might act that out through having very tight boundaries and keeping others away from yourself, or you act that out through wanting to control and dominate the environment, circumstances, and people around you.

The latter turns out to be the more destructive response, and many of those in power and business, unfortunately, act out of that compensatory emotional pattern.

The anger-fight response is prime material for becoming a psychopath and/or narcissist when taken to further extremes.

The anger-fight response similarly rests on compensation. It differs in that you “choose” an anger-fight response in order to cope and survive with feeling overwhelmed, as opposed to choosing an anxious-please response.

The compensation is that you seek validation through either isolation or success, prestige, control, and domination to make up for lack of validation, not belonging, feeling unworthy or unloved.

What is your go-to default reaction? Anxious-please or anger-fight? Leave your comment below.

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  • Sue says:

    Can it be possible to swing between the two types of over compensation?

  • Donnie Weeks says:

    I seem to do both at times.

  • vikki says:

    anger/fight and anxious/please…why is this???

  • John B Boyd says:

    YES! Finally someone described me. No love, or even praise or attention as a child; then US Army and a tour of Vietnam. Then married to a narcissistic woman.
    Only felt love after I hit 50 years old. Now 68 and have been rated 100 %, Permanent and Totally disabled due to PTSD for >15 years.
    Thank you. John

  • Julie says:

    Very incisive and clear. Yes. Thank you. Some of us flee *or* please. It’s very difficult to crack, as it’s difficult to even be aware of this cycle, even after five decades of it. I’m going to click on your links in the article and see what you offer about this. I’m still holding out hope that someday I can have a decent relationship.

  • Kimberley says:

    This perfectly explained how I feel with being a “pleaser.” The cycles, the hurt, the expectations, seeking validation through other’s approval. I have CPTSD and this was helpful to read.

  • Cheryl says:

    Fawn or people-pleasing makes us magnets for further abuse. From an abusive home. I jumped into a relationship with a charmer who lied and emotionally abused and used me. I don’t know what was worse the original abuse or the abuse in the hands of this man. It nearly destroyed me.

  • Zaiga says:

    All that feels very clear and truth about me – pleasing and then disappointment… I work hard with myself (meditation, coaching, art, dancing…), my awareness has grown a lot but still I feel often sad, not worth a love. I am already 63. What to do more?

  • Leanne says:

    A great read and spot on however tips and tools of how to deal or talk yourself down in certain situations would be very helpful.

  • Jennifer says:

    I have taken on the pleasing coping skill and am a prime example of that horrid cycle of pleasing, becoming too involved and getting hurt in the end as well as the cycle of falling for the narcissistic person for that love and validation. This relationship was the one that woke me up and turned me toward an anger and determination that I will never be that person again.

  • Zoe says:

    Anxious pleaser.

    It’s lead to more and more abuse. Finally I’m aware it’s a thing. Now to learn to not do it… How? Help!

  • Jeff says:

    My wife has decided that I am a narcissist personality. My therapist disagrees. I have had times when I act out angrily, but mostly I wear myself down trying to meet all of the needs and wants of my wife and kids? What is your opinion of this type of behavior?

  • Martha says:

    I’m the “pleaser.” I’ve been hurt badly by the narcissist! It’s a cycle of unfortunate abuse; both were abused during childhood-I react by pleasing and giving-he reacts with anger/power-I give more to please-he takes more without caring or empathy. I get PTSD-he does not care or help. Married 35 years-he leaves for “something better.” I hurt and live alone without the love I’ve desired my whole life; he goes to retirement home where people do everything for him without expecting any feeling from him. That’s my life in a nutshell!