Family and Friends: Your Loved One Isn’t Crazy

From reading the title, you might be wondering what this post is going to be about.  I am writing this for the family and friends of survivors of psychological abuse. Why? Because I hear from many survivors who say that it is incredibly hard for them to describe the insidiousness of the abuse they experienced and many family and friends just don’t know how to support their loved one through the steps of recovery. There is so much to be said on this topic but I am going to try and just hit the highlights.

For those who aren’t familiar with me, I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Supervisor and I am the owner/lead therapist of a private practice. One area of my counseling work includes specializing in recovery from psychological abuse from a narcissist, sociopath or psychopath (aka toxic person). These relationships can either be romantic, family members, friends or in a work environment. For the purposes of today, I am going to focus on recovery from abuse within a romantic relationship.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and if your loved one was romantically connected with a toxic person, he or she was the victim of abuse. I know that may be hard to comprehend because the type of abuse your loved one experienced didn’t leave visible bruises or broken bones. It did, however, leave your loved one very harmed and much different from when they began the relationship with the abuser. You may even have witnessed behaviors from your loved one that you never thought he or should would do. Their reactions to the psychological abuse may have even left you questioning if your loved one might actually be losing their grip on life or might be “crazy.” For some reason, toxic people love to accuse their victims of being crazy. I hear it again and again. Not sure why that particular word but it is a favorite go-to for narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths.

I hope to shed some light on why your loved one is or has been struggling with finding stability post-breakup with a toxic person. Let’s start with the basics of why this breakup is not like any other relationship your loved one has been in previously or maybe you have experienced:

It Was All A Lie:

Your loved one met someone who they had fully and truly fallen in love with and wanted to spend the rest of their life loving. Your loved one was authentic in his or her feelings towards the other person.

However, your loved one met a con-artist. The other person only pretended to have feelings for your loved one and strategically set up the entire “relationship” in order to meet his or her own abusive needs.

Toxic people derive great entertainment out of taking a healthy and happy person (your loved one) and completely ruining their life. Hard to imagine right? As a therapist, I can tell you it is 100% true. Your loved one may have tried to share this information with you but it was hard for you to believe. You may have even liked the toxic person. Guess what? You were scammed too. Luring in the family and friends is all part of the staged affection the toxic person exhibited and it is done to gain your trust that they are a good honest person. How does this work to their advantage? When your loved one comes and tells you all the nasty and horrible things that happened to them, you question them and their perspective. Maybe you even unknowingly sided with the toxic person against your loved one. Nice move by the abuser, right? It’s all part of the calculated attempt to destroy your loved one and even their relationship with you. Pretty scary if you ask me.

Not A Normal Break-Up

Telling your loved one to go date again or even better, to go hook up with someone new isn’t going to help the situation at all. So, please don’t tell your loved one anything close to that advice. The reason that your loved one isn’t ready to get out there is because they are a shell of human being right now. Their grief is so complex during the stages of a breakup and recovery that a survivor has no idea which way is the ocean floor and which way is the surface. They are literally drowning in their emotions. Why? Is it because they are weak and need to just get a grip on life? No. Their entire personhood was systematically stripped down and replaced with abuse. The exact traits that your loved one exhibited that the toxic person found appealing, then became the target for destruction.

Your loved one’s self-worth and identity have been scrambled by a master manipulator.

For example, if your computer got a virus, would you just expect the computer to keep functioning like normal? Why can’t the darn thing just work like it did before?! No you wouldn’t. You would realize that your computer had been infected by malware that took over its operating system. This is what has happened to your loved one. They have been poisoned by the exact individual who they thought was their special person in the world. Their rock, their go-to person, their happily-ever-after. It is going to take time for your loved one to deprogram from the abuse; like when someone leaves a cult. Their entire way of seeing themselves and the world around them must be torn down and correctly rebuilt. Just getting out there and dating isn’t going to help your loved one at all. It actually can stunt their recovery in many ways.

It Takes As Long As It Takes:

I know you want your old loved one back. The one you remember pre-toxic relationship. I know you can see glimmers of her or him at times and then get your hopes up that this nightmare is finally behind you all. In reality, many survivors of psychological abuse develop post traumatic stress. There are triggers that bring on intense anxiety and certain times of the year that are harder than others for your loved one. This is normal. Sad, but normal. Why does the abuse cause trauma and a long recovery? Your loved one experienced systematic and repeated covert abuse. The toxic person set out to destroy your loved one. No matter how nice she or he presented to you, listen to what your loved one tells you about the true character of this person. Really listen. Educate yourself on terms like Gaslighting, Smear Campaigns, Triangulation, Flying Monkeys, Idealize/Devalue/Discard Stage and Love Bombing. Do yourself and your loved one a huge favor and read the book “Psychopath Free” by Jackson MacKenzie. It is from a survivor’s perspective and really truly excellent.

Above all, believe your loved one when they confide in you that they were abused. Forgive yourself for not noticing the abuse and come together with your loved one to move forward. The toxic person wanted to destroy your loved one and all of her or his relationships. Please do not let that plan succeed.

I wish you all the best as you support your loved one in their recovery. I truly believe better days are ahead for you both.

Keep Dreaming Big!

Shannon

 

67 comments on “Family and Friends: Your Loved One Isn’t Crazy

  • This is the best article I’ve ever seen. I wish more like this were put out there do it can help at least the abused come to understanding what they’ve been through. It seems an awful lot blame the victims and can’t or won’t understand how they stayed in the relationship so long. They don’t understand that it is a slow process the abused goes through & when they realize what they’re living isn’t what they thought. Hopefully family & friends will realize their loved one doesn’t see how boxed in they’ve become until it’s too late. They’re used to being told they’re crazy especially when they start trying to get out of the toxic relationship. It’s a good feeling once the abused starts realizing it’s not them, they’re not crazy and they start the process of getting out & get themselves safe again. Judgement by others really doesn’t help. I wish all courage, luck & hopefully nonjudgmental people they can seek help from.

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  • Marie Hooke says:

    Thank you for this — very right on point. As a survivor and ultimately a crisis counselor for other women this is something I will direct my clients to read. I believe it will help them as well we as their loved ones to validate what they have been through and the road they are traveling now. Again, thank you. Marie

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    • Thank you Marie! I am thrilled to hear that you were able to take your experience and turn it into a gift to other survivors. Many blessings to you, Shannon

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  • I have read this over and over and over , for this last time, I actually got through it without crying. I sent this to several of my close friends & family. Thank you for this. I am 7 months separated going through a very rough divorce with a psychological abusive man. I’ve been in abusive relationships before, but none have affected me like this one. It comes in waves of emotions. And it’s very crippling.

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    • Lisa, Hugs to you! I divorced a hardcore psychopath and he did a great deal of damage to the entire family. My hardest part was just getting up the self-esteem to leave. I have never been able to tell anyone what went on. My family is a bunch of narcs and enablers so talking to them would be like beating my head against a wall.

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  • Thank you for this article. This is exactly how I feel after being emotionally abused for a year and a half and after another year I’m still recovering. All you said is exactly what I need. Thank you

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  • Thank you for the writing and it’s all exactly what you say as I have been through this for over 20 years to the extent of being taken away from my family and kept in isolation and my kids used as.black mail and threatened with to hurt them if I didn’t do as he said

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  • This is so absolutely spot on and true. I wish I could post this on my fb page…don’t think many of my “friends” will believe it or read it. They would probably share it with the NSPATH that ruined me.

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  • Thank you for writing and posting this article. Great read. I am “the loved one” and trying my hardest to ingest smart literature about the “toxic person.” I get it. I know who he is. He is Mr. Charming, very convincing, very manipulative and persuasive. “You’re crazy” is one of his favorites, along with “stupid, birdbrain” and other hurtful things. I’m in Houston Texas and looking for a therapist with your insight, can you recommend anyone. Please. Thank you.

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  • So true. They will not understand at all unless they’ve been through it. But there are friends and family who understand enough to not judge, have patience and just be there letting us know they love us. I was fortunate to have that kind of support – It certainly isn’t in the main stream support service realm such as police, legal system, etc., or with most therapists even. That tide must change. It’s great to have someone “official” to refer them to to let them know we’re going through something real, serious, unique and we’re not “crazy”. Thanks for the great article.

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  • Margaret Anne says:

    UNBELIEVABLY DIVINE ARTICLE.
    Thank you for validating us Dear Shannon!
    I feel that the reason that the abusers call their victims “crazy” is because it takes away all accountability of the victim’s words and actions —
    in taking away the victim’s accountability —
    the abuser is able to hide – THE TRUTH!
    That what the abuser’s are doing and the awful things they have done and said are absolutely true.
    You are a channel of love and grace dear Shannon and I am sure you have helped many survivors and families with this well written and validating article.
    I wish you the best in your career and always!!! <3

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  • This is really helpful. Do you have articles on children who grew up with a toxic parent(s)? I’m trying to heal from what I grew up with and I’m trying to understand it in as many perspectives as I can. Thanks

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    • Savannah: I like “Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me” by Dr. Les Carter and “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” by Leslie Vernick. I am also big fan of Dr. Susan Forward and she has several great books, including “Toxic Parents.” Thanks, Shannon

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  • This is spot on, alot of people cannot understand what some go through. Thank you for high lighting a really destructive situation.

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  • Great article! The hardest part is realizing that they NEVER really loved you. Only what you can do for them. 🙁 19 years of thinking he would come around and finally understand what I was trying to explain to him; you are hurting me. Never happened. Every conversation was like a merry go round and I couldn’t get off of it. Sad it took so long, but I wouldn’t trade my four beautiful children. Narcissists are SO good at making it seem like they are so generous and giving to you (esp w/others around) but really it’s ALL about them and how they are managing everyone’s opinion of them. I always thought a narcissist was someone who just loved to look in the mirror and they wouldn’t be generous to anyone else really. But, they (or at least my soon to be ex) was VERY generous and helpful to others so that they would think he was such a great guy and not imagine how he was behind closed doors. Ugh. And it just played mind games between me and my family.

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  • To Shannon and all readers, God is still in control, never forget that everything that is done to bring harm to your body and mind and family… We are still are Alive…and know in what and who you believe in…take refuge in the words that speaks truth to your heart and always be ready to help one another and encourage one another to do good and love to you all… In Christ… Thanking God for you Shannon and for bringing such a heart to heart read for us all and for bringing strong and true words to all us wonderful ladies….

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    • Thank you Suzanna for your word of encouragement to survivors and I will add to the wonderful men too! Some great gentlemen are out there recovering as well. Thanks, Shannon

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      • Thank you Sharon for not forgetting about male victims. I have to say, i knew very bad people existed in this world. But i had no idea that these evil monsters existed. The horriffic experiences that i am now & probably will for the rest of my life be recovering from, is not human. Its sedistic & cruel. Like other types of abuse, emotional & pyhcological abuse should be punished. These monsters are ruining peoples lives for pleasure.. Its evil & sick!

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  • Thanks for this! I just found you on Fb. Had 15 years of psychological abuse from husband who then accused me of being the narcissist, which I totally accepted for quite a while until it dawned on me he was describing himself! Manipulated me tried to get me to commit suicide. Then turned two of my kids against me ( tried but failed with my daughter) I had a similarly abusive childhood so I guess that set me up. 10 years away from the toxic people now happily married, but still bearing the scars. Had help & relief with Reiki. Looking forward these days!

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      • I have got to say that I am so happy when I hear wonderful stories like this. There needs to be more about these toxic individuals out there.

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        • all the information we have gathered in reading and prayer from one another, all the great books and articles of how toxic people have taken from us and caused us torment and terror and so much more…the time has come for us to get back to living and hoping for a future… One single way I have been able to do this, as a two time survivor is to forgive and continue to live a day in peace and joy in Christ… Guard your hearts with love and kindness and never forget to forgive those who have wronged you. Joy does come again and you will find a peace that will take you into a future full of love. Be strong and be blessed. Suzanne

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          • I have lived with this toxic abuse since day one and it is amazing what cold-hearted parents can do. I survived this massive dysfunction so my family has set out to destroy the grandkids. Unfortunately my daughter fell victim to them and became narcissistic supply. She is no longer with us and I look forward to seeing her in heaven. My older son had to learn the hard way since he dealt with the tremendous amount of grooming from a small age. My younger son is getting a new life lesson everyday. He was also struggling but is getting quite an education from me as we go along. I can also understand the importance of getting the overwhelming abuse eradicated. It is very important to forgive so you can enjoy your life but never forget the lesson you learned.

  • Michelle Henze says:

    Do you recommend the book “Phychopath Free” for the victim and their families to read? Or any other reading or materials DVD to help?

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    • Absolutely! I am a huge fan of Psychopath Free! I also like “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” and “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” both by Leslie Vernick. I recommend “Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me” by Dr. Les Carter. Thanks for asking 🙂 Shannon

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  • Being a survivor of this type of abuse has led me to now. There is not anymore abuse in my life now and my days are filled again with the joy and peace that once was taken… I’m 62 years old now and love to live each day in ways that truly matter most… For God and family… I thanked God daily then and now I praise Him not just for what He’s done but for who He is…my prayers are with you all always and I believe He can set you free…. Knowing we have life ahead is worth living to the fullest… Shannon, your a welcomed entity in writing these articles and I believe Gods got your back!!! Thank you for all you do in helping others and me to stay and get off a path of the abusive kind… Suzanne

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  • Wow, your blog and FB page are amazing. Thank you! Have you written any posts about how to recover from the memories and scars of emotional/psychological abuse? I’ve been more than a year NC and the memories of the abuse and crazy-making still torment me.

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    • That is a great idea and I will definitely put something together about the steps of recovery. Knowing what it is is one thing but then walking it out and healing is something different. Thanks for the suggestion! Shannon

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  • You have nailed exactly what my daughter is experiencing. I was so blessed to finally read exactly what I had been thinking. I have shared this with others involved. It’s so easy to get sucked into the lies of the abuser. Please pray for my daughters full recovery.

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    • Earth Angel says:

      Lots of prayers for your daughter. I know that this is a horrible thing to have to go through. She will have her best chance for a full recovery if she keeps her chin up and looks for spiritual guidance.

      About a year ago I lost my daughter to narcissistic abuse. I am not sure about everything but she was very sweet and innocent and fell victim to my dysfunctional family. She was working on the east coast and I am on the west so I did not have any contact with her since my malignant mommy narc, my psycho sister, and my toxic father convinced her that I was no good. It is so sad how a narcissist will destroy anyone who stands in their way.

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    • Dear Dottie, I’m in prayer for your daughter and want you to know…. I know where you are when you see the suffering your daughter is going through. God is still in control and no matter what others may believe, He will not let the suffering continue…. God said ; He will be our Advenger, today is the day for you to give it all to Him, and truly believe. He can when and where we can not… May His peace be with you…. Thinking of how I was once there as well… But I’ve found That God , does what He says , You and your daughter will be free… In His Care, Suzanna

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  • Some days are long, some days are short…. When the day is long I truly get other things done that I needed to do, that I’m grateful for…. On the days that seem short, I’ve realized that My Lord moved me through those days for reasons I find as I look back… The short days were so I did not have to suffer so long… The long days were for me to be able to have rest… During these days of suffering…and rest… God was working things out for me so I could see the way through…. I did just that…. I came through it all…. Because someone cared enough to speak out… Cared enough to listen…. Cared enough to to open there eyes toward me and help…. ME…. Thank you Thank you!!…. Be strong and believe you are not alone anymore….

    Suzanna. NC

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  • Understanding what you do, you already know what a tremendously cogent and loving gift this article is to survivors. Thank you so much.

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      • Earth Angel says:

        I really wish when I was trying to make heads or tails out of my abuse there had been such a wonderful place as this to help me understand. I still learn great things and often I benefit from the wonderful words you use to explain things.

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  • Thank you so much for this. I have ordered the book you recommend and have also read (twice, so it would sink in a bit), the book ‘stalking the soul’ by Marie-France Hirogoyen.
    I have a male friend who is in an abusive relationship with his girlfriend. He told me somewhat about it -mainly psychological as far as I can tell. Though he still drops hints he denies it when I try to bring it up, so I mostly don’t now. I wish I could do more to help, but mostly just try to keep in touch and be a listening ear if he chooses to use it.
    I do feel frustratingly inadequate though.

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  • I would love to hear some of the same applied to other family members. I had this happen with my sister. And it opened my eyes to the dysfunctional patterns and abuse in my family. When I refused to allow her to abuse me, it hit the fan. I’m still trying to understand it all. And every so often I have another epiphany regarding family expectations and the crazy way I was raised. This was a very good article. But so many of them are written towards only significant other relationship.

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  • Thank you for the very informative article! This is the life I lead now and most don’t get it. Is there a counselor in my area who specializes in this type of abuse. I see myself in so many of these stories.

    Reply

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