Emotional abuse is insidious. It leaves no physical evidence, but it creates scars in the heart and soul. When the abuser is a parental figure, you might struggle with basic trust, loneliness and self-esteem issues. Some survivors become high-achieving, people-pleasers, while others descend into self-sabotage. A narcissistic, emotionally abusive stepmother can leave you worried about your father, missing your own mother and feeling isolated and alone.
Learning About Narcissism
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental health condition hallmarked by a lack of empathy and inflated beliefs about the person’s own self-worth. In an article for HealthyPlace.com, Dr. Sam Vaknin, an admitted narcissist, explains that narcissists are addicted to what he calls Narcissistic Supply. They require a constant flow of adoration, have no tolerance for others’ needs or desires and are unable to empathize enough to understand or concern themselves with the damage they inflict on others. Learning as much as you can about narcissism can help you accept that the abuse you suffered was not your fault. You did not cause it and you could not prevent it from happening.
Types of Emotional Abuse
According to the Counseling Center at the University of Illinois, emotional abuse falls into three different categories. Some people experience all three types, while others experience one or two. Aggressing may be direct or indirect. Direct forms of aggressing include name-calling, blaming and giving orders. Indirect aggressing includes criticizing, analyzing and belittling. Denying takes the form of invalidating the sufferer’s viewpoint. Countering every argument, claiming that conversations never occurred and refusing to communicate are common forms of denying. Minimizing is a more subtle form of denying which involves trivializing the sufferer’s reactions and claiming that the victim is overreacting.
Healing Old Wounds
In an interview for PsychologyToday.com, psychologist and narcissism expert Karyl McBride explains that healing cannot occur until you fully accept that your stepmother was incapable of loving you. You must separate from her and focus on your own life. Therapy is often an essential part of the journey, especially if your stepmom was an important part of your life from a young age. You need to explore your feelings, work through any residual damage such as depression or substance abuse, and learn the healthy relationship skills that your stepmom could not teach you.
It is not necessarily realistic to cut your stepmother out of your life, especially if you intend to maintain a relationship with your father. After you go through your own healing process, however, you can begin to accept your stepmom as the person she is. Keeping emotional distance is important, as is setting healthy boundaries. Some narcissists change with a great deal of therapy, but this is never guaranteed. Focus on your own life, keep your stepmom at arm’s length and deal with her in a loving but guarded way.
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Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer specializing in disabled adventure travel. She spent 15 years working for Central Florida theme parks and frequently travels with her disabled father. Fritscher's work can be found in both print and online mediums, including VisualTravelTours.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Florida.