It was the very witching time of night when the answer came. Answers always come at 3 a.m. The answer to a burning question that has haunted me, and you, for decades.
“What did I do that was so bad? Why did my abuser despise me?
What did I ever do to win their anger and animosity? Am I really ‘that bad’?”
The answer came from the unlikeliest of places: a scifi time-travel show called Torchwood. Let me set the stage.
In Torchwood: Miracle Day, Oswald Danes, who raped and murdered 12-year-old Susie because “she should have run faster,” is wired with a suicide vest and determined to blow himself sky-high. As his thumb closes on the button, he screams…
DANES: Better run, Torchwood! I’m taking this thing with me. The whole thing!
WOMAN: You won’t see anybody. You’re going to hell, Danes.
DANES: But that’s where they go! All the bad little girls,
they run straight to hell, and I’m following.
Susie, keep running! I’m coming to get you. Run! Faster! Faster!
Did you catch it!?! “Bad little girls.” Did he call himself “bad”? No. Did he see himself as evil? No. He called his victims “bad little girls” who went to Hell.
Insight Into the Mind of an Abuser
Suddenly, in the most unlikely of places, we have a blinding insight into how simon-pure abusers really think.
The reason we believe we are evil
is because they believed we are evil and
communicated this belief to us, either directly or indirectly.
We “made” them abuse us. We “deserved” it. We “asked for it.” We triggered it. We facilitated it. We needed it. It’s not their fault! They were merely responding to us. We’re the evil ones. Not them!
You might call it Projection-At-Its-Finest.
Think this is far-fetched? Think again!
Back in the 1970’s, social workers regularly blamed children for the abuses they were suffering. On the reality show Starting Over House, one housemate related how, as a little girl, a social worker told her, “You’re trying to seduce your father.” Puzzled, she looked up “seduce” in the dictionary and was horrified by what she read. This set her up for a lifetime of intimacy issues.
Another 1970s social worker, blamed the victim of rape and incest (and their much younger sibling!) for the abuse while the rapist walked away scot-free. The victim was removed from her home while the rapist remained in the bosom of his family and went blithely on with his happy little life.
On A Smaller Scale
While those examples are extreme, every victim of narcissistic abuse knows exactly what it feels like to be despised and wonder what exactly is so bad about us, so evil that we “deserved” to be abused. Were we really “that bad”!?
Even after going No Contact, the question still haunts us. We’re never bored because our mind is always obsessing, “What did I do? Am I that bad? Why do they hate me? Why do they despise me? What did I ever do to deserve their ire?”
And the answer is…NOTHING!!
But a simon-pure narcissist will succeed in convincing himself that it’s all our fault. I like to think this proves they do indeed have a conscience because they warp truth to assuage their consciences. In a bassackwards way, by blaming us, they’re proving that they know what they’re doing to us is wrong.
The worst abuse is when they can convince us that we are the bad ones. We deserve to be abused. We asked for it. And, that good ol’ standby, “I’m just doing it for your own good.”
A Personal Example
If you’ve ever watched religious television, you know that you can always count on two things. One, televangelists will get busted for extramarital sexual hanky-panky. And two, when they do they will say, “I’m under demonic attack because I do so much for the Lord.” Very classy stuff! In fact, I wrote a whole article about this dynamic!
This dynamic played out in my own life. One day, I came home from school and asked how a Ouija board worked. No one knew but they told me it was “evil.” Unfortunately, my unsatiated curiosity happened consecutively with great upheaval at home. With things went wrong in my narcissist’s life, when they faced questions they didn’t want to answer, when they were being called out, they projected it all onto me saying, “You’re bringing me under demonic attack” and “I have to break you of your obsession with evil.” They were so disappointed and disgusted with me as they set to work to cure me of my supposed connection with dark forces. They had to. I caused it. I needed it. I asked for it. I was the problem. I was going to Hell.
And I believed them. I owned it. Owned the shame. Owned the disappointment and disgust. I became disgusted and disappointed in myself. For twenty years, I despised myself, turning away from mirrors, unable to look myself in the eye.
The solution to stop despising and blaming ourselves as as difficult as it is simple.
Just tell yourself the truth.
Look into the depths of your soul and ask, “Am I bad? Did I really do those things? Believe those things? Did I deserve to be punished, blamed and projected upon? What did I really think, say and do? Not what the narcissists clairvoyantly told me I thought, said and did. What did I really think, say and do? Am I truly bad?”
You know who the real “problem” was. The person projecting onto you. That narcissist in your life. All their wrong, their evil, the way they despised themselves, their guilt…all of it was projected onto you.
They say that time is the great healer, the balm for all wounds. But that’s not exactly true. You have to work at it.
Healing begins when you dare to call out the lies and embrace the truth. It’s terrifying to believe you’re a good person. To risk not despising yourself any more. It’s downright scary. There’s a weird safety in self-loathing. No one can hurt you, destroy you or knock you down because you’re at the lowest point already. There’s a certain safety in that.
But healing will happen when you’re not even looking. The other day, I was reading a book about cults and found myself in a section on Satanism. After a few pages, I suddenly realized this was the first time in two decades that I hadn’t been terrified at the word “demons,” obsessively praying to God to protect me from being possessed by them. That’s when I realized my abusers had lied. I wasn’t enmeshed with evil and I never had been! That’s when I knew healing wasn’t just possible, but it had happened when I wasn’t even looking!