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

Keywords: Narcissism

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.

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.

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!

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.

The New Course 'Healing from Narcissistic Abuse'  is now available.

This course gives you the know how and tools to work towards more independence, away from the codependency attachment to a narcissist. As a byproduct of the above, you will, in time, be able to be more financially and emotionally independent.

This course will help you give you the insights of why you please-appease, how that ties in with the need for belonging and how that creates symptoms of attachment, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, you will be guided through the somatic meditations and techniques to rewire those survival responses and bring them to more healthy balanced-out levels.

This course will go into how to gradually set boundaries, through accessing anger constructively, and how that will help you to reduce anxiety and dependence and how thereby you will give more validation to yourself.   

  • 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.

    • E says:

      Me too 🙁 I’ll send you some positive light, sister. I hope someday we will find the unconditional love and acceptance we want and deserve.

  • 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?

  • Beryl Nortje says:

    I go into the ANXIOUS PLEASE MODE and it’s so fustrating cos I’m 58 years old a grandmother of 3 and I become the scared little 9 year old girl who is standing in front of her evil stepmother 😢💔 I am seeing my therapist on Thursday and believe it or not the cause of my problem is YET AGAIN our son. I cannot seem to do anything right in his eyes. I have distanced myself from him but needed to see him again on Tuesday and I am still in the processing mode. My abuse as a child was mental abuse growimg up an orphan within a family group. My therapist says that The Cinderella Story was based on my life… I have done the SHIP counselling but we never dealt with my son. It is frightening how it has thrown me for a loop but I know help is near. Thanks Roland I really find your articles VERY VERY helpful. Beryl

  • Robyn says:

    Hello. I’ve been reading your blog with interest and I have a question. Is there any age limit that you would put on dealing with trauma in an individual? I’m talking about children and youth. Or, maybe better than an age limit, do you have a criteria you use to determine if a person is ready to begin dealing with a traumatic history?
    Thank you in advance.

  • 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!

  • Kristin says:

    I defaulted to an anxious-please response. Ironically, I was involved in a long-term relationship with a narcissist (at least I believe he was). Not even sure which adjectives could best describe that insanity! Thank God I woke up and got out, but only after years of substance abuse. (I’m sober today!)

  • Gabrielle Collins says:

    im independent so dont know where that falls

  • Shelley says:

    I no longer respond from a need to please, however, when triggered I can respond from a place of anger. Both responses are from a place of self love and are tempered. The pain I feel remains, is very real, still.

  • Shelley says:

    Today I sat down and approached family differences from another perspective. Wrote down what I saw as differences in personality, view point, education, personality and so forth. Then I kept coming to the realization we were polar opposites. Yes, we had the same “good” role models even if the parenting was lacking and family dynamics were dysfunctional. We were a rather large family and parents had personal issues complicated by life’s challenges.
    I sought common ground. We all believe in family whether that meant being seriously self serving or thinking of the greater family cohesiveness. Some are extroverts, I am introverted and highly sensitive. Very different from my siblings. I must accept and accommodate their different upbringing. ( as eldest mine was very different). Yet as eldest I was pawned off to the extended family, father never in the home. My brother and I cannot relate to the younger.
    We were essentially 2 families. Furthermore my mother was emotionally distant (due her family issues of 2 very ill parents who died young) My brother and I probably had a different foundation from the rest. Can’t fault our mother or siblings for this. Father was out of the home until I was in my teens. I sensed he cared but we never did establish a relationship. Mother became alcoholic after dad moved us away from family. I left the home and never turned back. I was never supported or given validation. Not an abusive and appearing good family yet I was never connected with emotionally and since I left thing just went downhill. Mother became alcoholic, dad had relationships out of wedlock. I have half siblings who I truly connected with but my sister betrayed me badly. She did not accept him, turned her back on me (don’t shoot the messenger) then befriended him and turned her back on me yet again. So now I am alone still with no family connection. Add to this I became seriously ill with Lupus, left nursing, divourced and lived alone and family ignored me. I did everything to show I cared, for mother and dad, for family , had my parents for Christmas dinner her family also whenever she asked and yet never once was I invited into her home. Family to me is toxic and to avoid being triggered I must no longer involve myself. I am in pain for lack of caring.

  • Shelley says:

    Forgive me my continued rant or need to process. I grew up without emotional support or validation. I was a very introverted and timid child. I was abused by other children. I did not learn how to make sense of things. I was not properly introduced to social things. When I became seriously depressed in my teens I became suicidal and yet was still not seen. My mother called me her “do nothing child”. I never felt love. She one day said she ” loved” me and yet that never meant a thing to me. She said she guessed “love was not enough” So sad she never knew how to love and nothing she ever did or said showed any love. So sad.

  • Roseen says:

    I relate to the anxious/pleasing. I’m preyed on by charmers. I have what I need for stability, physically. The chargers disrupt my stability when I invite them into my home and they snoop in my stuff.

  • Shelley says:

    Please tolerate me for a bit. I was rejected from the home when I became pregnant, I told my mother I did not want to marry this man. She gave me no choice. I was rejected. I had 3 sons by him, a physicians son who had also been abused both physically and emotionally. He I discovered after the fact, was heavily into drugs (we were late teens) I was not given a choice. I married an abusive and childish man who eventually died of suicide. I coped with his death, remarried and put myself through college, worked in nursing until I became seriously ill. My husband a needy man a narcissist who only cared for himself. A manipulative and controlling man. I was misdiagnosed by medical and due my previous husbands suicide, a surgeon (friend of my ex father in law DR. ) took it upon himself to abuse through a vagotomy. I was not a substance abuser and as soon as this became apparent I became subject to abuse by the medical profession, by gov’t dictate. I had some in medical tell me so, some in religious also and others in nursing also. Since this happened I have not been able to access fair health care (in Canada). That happened 25 yrs ago and still I am abused regularly. So I turn to family for support and am told WTF is wrong with you now? Now traumatized and alone and isolated from family how am I to cope? I have done my best, I divourced and took nothing with me. I grew a life buy my friends have died, from various causes, friends I loved. Why is this happening? I took up breeding chinchillas at first, now ragdoll cats. I am respected as a breeder and this is a way of supplementing my income ( I don’t charge a whole lot and my kittens are known to be very well adjusted. I sell most by word of mouth, by reference) I am in a city far north so no a big market for pure bred cats. Yet my family call me “the crazy cat lady” They are ignorant, granted. Yet still I am rejected.

  • Shelley says:

    I am so very tired of people. I do not want an intimate relationship do not wish it. I need be free of depending on people and yet as I do need community and have not found this yet am feeling very lost.

  • Kim Wallace says:

    Wow that was very interesting post Roland,for along time my default was anxious/please now my self esteem an confidence has grown its switched to anger/fight im very controlling with my environment,as it overwhelms and over stimulates me alot,my tolerance for to much going on is very low,i dont cope well at all,my boundries also have become very tight with people keeping their distance,its out of fear i do this…

  • MB says:

    Roland, no words capture my gratitude for the crisp insight that has come through you – clarity I have been seeking for 3 decades, sometimes just almost seeming to ‘get’. An anxious-please response to love-challenged childhood – rendering me prey for the validation-craved, manipulative, controlling, addiction-prone narcissist I married. We have both suffered mightily. Thanks to your huge compassion and these empowering insights, I now SEE the picture clearly . . . and KNOW as never before I can trust my instincts about pathology here and also KNOW what I do from here is well-grounded and in the best interests of both of us. Thank you, thank you . . . and may you yourself be gifted beyond measure for ALL you do . . .

  • Natalie says:

    Brilliant perspective thank you for this. I believe I resonate more towards the anger-fight response after years of ‘band aid’ damage, but I have finally reached a place where I am ready to complete my therapy and work towards helping others.

  • Erica says:

    Great article! I am definitely the Anxious/please type. Husband is the Anger/fight. It is a constant cycle😥

  • Jane says:

    This is an incredible description of me and my sister, and our lives since childhood. It’s healing in itself to learn that there are explanations as to why my family and myself exhibit certain behavior patterns, because you’re right, it does get messy. Helps me to understand and forgive and to move forward. Thank you.

  • Linda Murray says:

    Anger fight.

  • Kleo says:

    Thanks Ronald.
    Not only do I see myself having both responses but also acting as a narcissist/charmer towards my partner who also sufferers from PTSD and CPTSD.
    Is that event possible? To be both the victim and the perpetrator?

  • Gretchen says:

    I see patterns of fluxing through both over time.

  • I tend to be anxious-please at first. However, when enough becomes enough for me anger-fight kicks in. It’s kind of like a sleeping bear that has been awakened and pushed to the limits.

  • Lauren says:

    Anxious-please mostly. I sometimes will isolate. Not sure if that is an anger-fight response. My mom is a narcissist. I am the youngest of 9 kids. The sister just above me is a sociopath who took her anger at my mom out on me. I finally cut my sister out after she verbally attacked me in front of people (but behind closed doors she was sweet as pie to me). I cut my mom out last year. I just can’t with her anymore. Defending monsters and acting like my sister is the most wonderful person in the world. I feel guilt ridden over my decision, especially since my mom is elderly, but I have to protect myself.

  • Susan says:

    I usually do the anxious/ please but if I’m pushed too far the anger/fight comes out.

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