It’s hard enough to navigate the tricky waters of knowing your child has one parent who has decided that the person they made children with is somehow their enemy. It’s difficult for a child to understand the psychological concepts or disorders behind enemy-making. This kind of “divide and conquer” mindset by a parent can be awful for a child to experience, and is “normal” in a system of abuse.
It is undeniable that a woman finally being able to flee her abusive situation is of benefit. However, if narcissism is involved, she is faced not just with the fact that her children understandably lack the capacity to assess their disordered parent’s character and ability to model psychological health. She is faced with a group of people who side against her and support her abuser.
It feels surreal. Didn’t she just leave her therapist’s office where they spent a whole hour healing from narcissistic abuse? Didn’t her therapist and other professionals she consulted educate her about NPD, coercive control, passive-aggression, gaslighting, and emotional blackmail? Wasn’t she armed with solid research and finally being able to validate her own perception? Yet here she was, facing a group of people who blamed her for his emotional abuse, for the stonewalling, for the manipulation, for his lies. This group treats her as if she is a liar, too stupid to see the “truth”, and as an inherently flawed human being who deserves oppression and abuse.
She had been successfully scapegoated.
“Scapegoating” is too mild a word for what it really is: hatred. It’s a mindset of hatred and a lifestyle of hatred; a modeling of other-ism. It doesn’t matter if someone is not a racist, if they scapegoat a woman who’s been abused, they are filled with hatred and become accessories to abuse. They actually enjoy seeing a contrived enemy suffer and refuse to dig deeper to see the base, primitive motivations for their behavior.
Why? I ask myself constantly, why would people who profess love, live hatred? On social media, I watch as Trump supporters defend his lies and dysfunction. I watch as they take the good things he might do and inflate those to overshadow the distorted thinking that underscores what he does, and his inability to accept the opinions of others, or see himself as anything less than perfect and epic.
It could be that people grow up with a certain mythology. Story is powerful. Story could also be called confirmation bias. If you are given a certain mythology growing up, you are likely to seek identical mythologies in adulthood that contextualize your life the same way. Unless you adopt a stance of critical thinking, you are going to be unable to leave your myth.
Abusers create powerful mythologies that certain people seem to really lob on to and wholeheartedly swallow as truth. In an abuser’s mythologies, certain themes are stable. He is a victim. He is always the right one. It has to be his way because any other way is unfair. He has done nothing wrong, or even human. He has never made a mistake. He should never be questioned, brought to account, or be required to do the work of relationship. He is the hero who conquers the enemy without doing the deep journeying required to be a hero, and lacking the courage to tackle a real enemy of humanity. The truth is, an abuser is relatively mediocre in life. He might be irretrievably enmeshed in family. His whole existence is reactive. He has nothing to bring to the table and runs away when something real is required of him, and becomes abusive when you dare to bring up his mistakes or hurtful behavior. His enemy is fictional. He lies, manipulates, and gaslights. He is completely unaware of himself and so constructs himself in the moment. He has no clue that living life as a victim who must control limits his choices and keeps him powerless in his own life.
He gets off on your pain and he will do everything he can to make sure you suffer, no matter how low and disregarding how it affects family, friends, or his own children.
Again, this is hatred. Hatred you did not ask for. Hatred you do not deserve. Hatred that works through very successful shaming strategies.
When you lose a family, a friend group, a church, or children to someone dedicated to seeing you suffer, that makes you question your whole life. You can then relate to anyone who has been scapegoated because of their race, sex, accent, clothing,house, etc. We are told to believe the good in people, yet here are these people who are using their religion, their money, their social connections, and their time, to ensure your suffering. We are talking people who, when walking down the street, seem like good people. But they aren’t, really. They have chosen selective hatred to cause suffering in their fellow humans.
Nothing can sway them. They are literally unfeeling walls.
So what can you do when you are hated?
1. Consider the source.
People are hateful because you represent something to them. It could be truth, emotional expression, success, etc. We don’t know. People trigger each other all the time. So if you are representing something to them that they are unwilling to see or work through within themselves, that already makes them very different from you. They may just be assholes and who cares if an asshole hates you. That’s actually a compliment. The more they hate you and come after you, the more of an asshole that makes them. It means you care about truth and morality and they don’t. Haters gonna hate. You aren’t a hater.
2. Let them stay in their GroupThink.
Part of the reason it hurts to be rejected and attacked by a group of haters that support abuse is that you are still in abuser mindset and haven’t shaken off the shame. Once you’ve gone through a lot of re-educating your perceptions and validating your perspective, you aren’t as affected by the hate and realize they are harmful people who won’t leave their dysfunction and you have to find healthful people.
You still have to grieve. Even though they are hateful and want to hurt you, you still loved them and have a history of real, good human moments. Those moments do not excuse their hatred in any way, which means you have lost something that was important to you and you have to grieve it. There is no shame in grieving people who are hateful. You held a lot of hope for them and for you.
4. Rebuild your perspective
When you’ve lived in a system of shame, you have this unshakable feeling that something really is wrong with you. It is a valid struggle to come to terms with the value of your own perceptions and perspective. Where before, your personhood was negated through unmitigated shame and blame, your personhood can be validated through love and grace for yourself. This is going to take a lot of therapy with a therapist who deeply understands personality disorders, trauma, and systems of abuse.
5. Get all the help you can
Unfortunately, there are many different types of abuse, but only one type gets street cred in our culture and that is physical abuse. But an abuser can wreck your finances, your relationships, your career, your spirituality, your sexual health, etc. etc. They want to see you be very small and meaningless in life, which is a reflection of how they see themselves and their own self-hatred. Hating another person is an act of self-hatred, because you cannot build any integrity to respect yourself when you hate another human being. Even if your moral code gives permission to do this, or takes pleasure in seeing the pain of others, it is not in our human nature. We are built to cooperate, to empower each other.
So you have to get all the help you can get. Build your community of people who see your certain gifts and who will show you true love.
6. Take care of yourself
Life as the hated one is taxing because it is so untruthful. There are going to be lots of triggers to work through…lots and lots of anger at the utter bullshit and injustice of it all, lots and lots of sadness and crying over what is lost, lots of disappointment, mounds of fear about finances and safety, and plenty of uncertainty. Abuse and scapegoating are designed to cause instability in their targets. It’s like a hurricane keeps coming through your life. So you have to find a way to be an anchor while there is a war being waged against you. This involves keeping your life on track, even as someone and his supporters try to ram your life-engine off the tracks. Set your goals and live your life as a person of value. This situation caused you to question that, and now you are stronger and have a bigger heart for healing the world from the effects of racism and sexism. You know what it feels like to be ostracized for some made-up flaw. Narcissistic scapegoating is not as cut-and-dried as targeting your skin color or your sex, although narcissists are huge misogynists. Narcissists take something you revealed to them in a vulnerable moment and target you for that. Or they intuit a weakness in you and target that. They find things to criticize and create their mythology around it to get others on board. They will always paint you in a negative light. None of that is your fault, and you have to walk out of that story to be the epic heroine of your own myth, a myth based on truth.
7. Resist the urge to reason with them, or even have contact with them.
I’ve learned over the years that fact, education, and critical thinking are not tools one can use to influence others about abuse, ESPECIALLY when they are actively abusing and wholeheartedly supporting abuse. Either they have a moral compass that allows them to be aware of power-over dynamics or they don’t. Either they are people who engage in hatred or they aren’t. They are too locked in to their superiority they aren’t going to hear what you say. You could be a doctor and they’d tell you and everyone else that you don’t know about medicine. They’d draw upon examples of doctors who are fake or “quacks” to gain support for their case. They’ll manipulate the perceptions of others and suddenly a doctor with a respected, thriving practice is suddenly an uneducated hack. Confirmation bias is catching and a huge tool abusers use, for themselves and with others. Survivors could use a bit of confirmation bias each time they are tempted to try and reason with unreasonable people. Why would you want to speak to a group of people who hate you and who unapologetically help a man be unproductive, hateful, and immoral in his life?
Speaking of apologies, that is something you will never get from an abuser. It’s so hard to hear that over and over and acknowledge that, but it’s true. Apologizing would mean he and his group have to accept you as a human being, and it means they would have to admit their flaws, which would cause THEM to suffer greatly. They avoid the suffering of their own humanity to the point of diminishing yours.
8. Find grace
Abusers live under the letter of the law. Grace comes when shame and blame are removed. Growth and healing happen in grace. Harm and hurt happen with law. You can never be wrong when you are under grace.