Living In Denial About Narcissistic Abuse
A Cautionary Tale
Written by Randi Fine
Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine
It may seem as living in denial about narcissistic abuse, closing off the part of yourself that allows you to face the truth, is the easiest way to deal with the painful trauma of it. Logic may argue that if something is not accepted as reality, it can’t hurt you. Or can it?
When used in the short-term, denial is a healthy, adaptive mechanism that gives us time to adjust to distressing situations. Denial is unhealthy and maladaptive when used over long periods of time to avoid responsibility, disregard the truth, deny a reality, or hide from feelings.
Refusing to acknowledge or accept the truth about narcissistic abuse only allows it to perpetuate. Unless the problem is acknowledged, processed, and healed, no amount of denial or positive thinking can banish it from our being. Though it is blocked from our conscious mind, our physiological body continues to “keep score“.
This theory is supported in the peer reviewed journal of Jainish Patel and Pritesh Patel entitled Consequences of Repression of Emotion: Physical Health, Mental Health and General Well Being: “Effective regulation of emotion enables the individual to adaptively cope with a broad range of environmental eventualities. However, when it goes uneven or lopsided, it becomes increasingly recognized and its negative consequences may pose danger to emotional and cognitive health. It may thus become a potential development or maintenance factor in mental or physical disease conditions.”
I believe, though I have no proof, that this is precisely what happened to my precious sister who passed away from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a severe progressive neurodegenerative disease, on May 11, 2021 at the age of 68. It is estimated that 5 to 10 percent of ALS is genetic. As far as I can tell, there is no record of anyone in our family history developing ALS.
My sister was as health conscious as one could possibly be. She ate organic fruits and vegetables, was gluten free and dairy free, and consumed only free-range chickens and grass-fed beef. She filtered the air that she breathed, the water she bathed in, and the water she drank. She ingested nothing from plastic containers. She was active, energetic and loved to exercise.
While she diligently nurtured her physical health, her mental health was neglected and denied. The angst of her tortured inner child remained hidden for years around the innumerable friends she developed in her community. She was embraced by many as a loving, true friend; devoted, upbeat, lively, generous and helpful to all. She gave of herself to the point of exhaustion. Her deep pain was only unleashed occasionally, with various levels provocation, and mostly with her family.
As I have stated many times before, I am the youngest of three daughters and (was) the golden child of a narcissistic mother. My beloved sister was the middle child who at age 5 became the invisible child. Her role assignment at 5 years old is significant in that I was born that year. Once my mother had me, in my mother’s eyes my sister all but disappeared. My mother stopped looking at her and touching her.
Throughout childhood and early adulthood, even though she could have harbored some level of resentment toward me, my sister adored me–and I adored her. We were each other’s best friend and confidante.
Everything changed when I healed from my childhood narcissistic abuse and started helping others heal theirs. I tried to help her overcome her pain, to no avail. She clung to the hope that my mother would someday see the errors of her ways and love her. She set herself up again and again hoping that would happen. When I asked her why she continued to do that, she would say “I only want to be a daughter to my mother.” That never happened. My mother was nothing but cruel to her.
Looking back, I can only surmise that I represented the stark truth she refused to see. She couldn’t have a relationship we me and remain in denial. Denial ultimately won out and I was cast aside. Every attempt I made to reconcile with her was met with contempt.
Our relationship was nearly non-existent as my sister continued to decline. I tried to see her in the end stages of her life but her husband, who claimed to be representing her wishes, denied me. I texted him and asked him to keep me up to date as one system in her body after another failed and she was put into hospice. I offered to be a support system for him. He didn’t respond to either text. When she died he didn’t tell me. He planned a beautiful funeral for her but shared no details about it with me. Nothing but silence. I was shunned. Fortunately the funeral was taped and I was able to watch it that way.
According to reports of those who talked with my mother in the aftermath of my sister’s death, she seemed untouched by it. That did not surprise me in any way. It was par for the course.
After years of study, experience and work in the field of narcissistic abuse, none of those travesties surprise me. Though they are difficult to deal with, they never surprise me.
I share this cautionary tale for two reasons I want you to understand how dire it is to heal from the abuse you have suffered; to be aware of the body, mind, and soul destruction is causes – to not for one second believe that living in denial about narcissistic abuse is the answer. And I want you to know that I not only understand your pain but that I continue to walk in your shoes.
My sister’s tragic life and death must stand for something. My commitment to all of you has never been stronger. Never forget – if you need me, I am here.
Randi Fine is the author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing, the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. In addition to helping survivors recognize their abuse and heal from it, this book teaches mental health professionals how to recognize and properly treat the associated abuse syndrome. She is also the author of Cliffedge Road: A Memoir, the first and only book to characterize the life-long progression of complications caused by narcissistic child abuse.