How controlling people and narcissists seek to define us

One of the lovely things about the blog world is that in reading someone’s comments you get inspiration for a post.

There was a conversation on anupturnedsoul over the past week written by someone whose partner would not accept her as she was.  I could really identify, it can be painful and highly frustrating to be around people who just don’t get us, or actively block or invalidate us.  To these people, parts of us may be valid and acceptable, but other parts they would like to erase.  This can lead to a form of abuse of which it may be hard to become conscious.

Certainly we are all entitled to our opinion, however people also have the right to express themselves and their truth and feelings in the way they need to.  When it comes to controlling people and narcissists, freedom of self expression can be actively discouraged or we can find ourselves subjected to judgements that make little sense.

I was involved in a relationship with a narcissist, who was extremely controlling, for nearly four years. It was a very painful experience but one that has ended up teaching me a lot. I had known something had not been right about the way my mother treated me when growing up. I did not however realise, until the relationship with my narcissistic partner had triggered my wounds how much my reality had been invalidated by my mother.

Its not uncommon for those who attract a narcissist to have unresolved issues, if we didn’t then perhaps we may not have attracted them in the first place. For me, my emotional needs had never been met, there was a history of emotional abandonment and subtle emotional abuse which was hard to pin point at the time. When I met my ex partner I had been going through and extremely lonely and painful time in my life and the pain, frustration and loneliness only increased in the relationship. My ex had absolutely no interest in hearing about, let alone my needs. At all times his own took precedence. I now know this was a lesson for me. Someone with more of a self would not have accepted a situation in which their emotions were mocked or disparaged, nor a relationship where they were only fed crumbs. I had some waking up to do.

The confusion and pain that I was suffering led me to books on narcissism as well as information on the web about emotional abuse and invalidation abuse. I needed help to try to make some kind of sense of the painful and difficult experiences I was going through.

During this time I was lucky to come upon a book entitled Controlling People by a woman called Patricia Evans.  Some of you may be familiar with her as she has written several books on verbal abuse.   

This book is an amazing insight into the mind of the narcissist or controlling person and I would highly recommend it.  My interest in it has been re-sparked due to a recent conflict which involved issues of self definition and expression.

The following quote spoke to me when I read it.

If someone defines you, even in subtle ways, they are pretending to know the unknowable.  There is a quality of fantasy to their words and sometimes to their actions.  Even so, they are usually unaware of the fact that they are playing “let’s pretend.”  They fool themselves and sometimes others into thinking that what they are saying is true or that what they are doing is right.

When people “make up” your reality — as if they were you — they are trying to control you, even when they don’t realize it.

When people attempt to control you they begin by pretending.  When they define you they are acting in a senseless way.  They are pretending.  When people act as if you do not exist or are not a real person with a reality of your own…they are pretending.  In this subtle and often unconscious way, they are attempting to exert control over you — your space, time, resources, or even your life.

We know that they are pretending because in actual fact, no one can tell you what you want, believe, should do, or why you have done what you have done.  No one can know your inner reality, your intentions, your motives, what you think, believe, feel, dislike, what you know, how do what you do or who you are.  If someone does pretend to know your inner reality: “You’re trying to start a fight,” they have it backwards.  People can only know themselves.  It doesn’t work the other way around.

Since only you can define yourself, your self definition is yours.  It isn’t necessarily that you prove or explain it.  It is, after all, your own.

Despite the evidence, it is difficult for many people to realise that the person who defines them is not being rational.  They feel inclined to defend themselves as if the person defining them were rational.  But by trying to defend themselves against someone’s definitions, they are acknowledging those definitions as valid, that they make sense, when they are, in fact, complete nonsense.”

I’m sure anyone reading this who has been a victim of narcissistic abuse will be familiar with this struggle.  For myself I was told by people in the know, not to become embroiled or entangled in the narcissists definitions or accusations of me.  The problem was that due to self doubt and low self esteem and lack of validation in childhood, I did not have a strong enough self to do this.

A relationship with a narcissist can decimate us.  It can and often does lead us to a complete emotional breakdown.  The sad thing is the narcissist is not rational, what they say has no basis in truth and stems from their own deeply unconscious fears, some of which Patricia sheds light on in this book.

A large part of reclaiming ourselves, lies in reclaiming our own reality, as well as our right to be and express ourselves and our truth fully.  In truth we present a threat to the narcissist or controlling person and what most threatens them is our individuality, our expression of separateness.   It is to this which we must hold on, at any price, for once we loose it, or allow the narcissist or controlling person to undermine it we are at risk of soul murder,  Inwardly we will suffer the price of anxiety or depression, until we break free and have the courage to become self defining. 

In my own case it took nearly one year of therapy to try to silence the voices of admonishment which the narcissist had planted in my head.  They would join in with all the other attacking voices at times that existed in me from my childhood.  Over the past year a more loving inner voice has taken their place.

Last year I was able to stand up to my mother and refuse to take on one of her definitions of me.  She had taken an opportunity to point out to me how much better my sister was and the ways in which I fell short as a human being.  It was hurtful but as I examined it and worked it through I saw that what she was doing was an attempt to define me in comparison to an ideal that had no basis in reality and, at the same time, showed no empathy or awareness for what I was going through.  In the end it was just her definition. 

Many of you may not understand what a huge achievement this was for me.  Today I have a choice as to what I listen to and take on board.  I am growing stronger and more self reliant.

I’m not really into advising others as to how they should live, but one thing I will say.  Be an individual, don’t allow other’s to define you.  Listen to your heart and gut when you can.  There is a quiet voice within that is affirming and loving, as you open you ears to it, so you will be able to recognise those in life who speak from this place.  Those who truly see you and love you, leave you feeling lighter and stronger.  Not sucked dry,invalidated and weakened.   Your particular life energy is a precious gift, it is your personal power.  Never allow anyone to steal it from you.  

Published by: emergingfromthedarknight

"The religious naturalist is provisioned with tales of natural emergence that are, to my mind, far more magical than traditional miracles. Emergence is inherent in everything that is alive, allowing our yearning for supernatural miracles to be subsumed by our joy in the countless miracles that surround us." Ursula Goodenough How to describe oneself? People are a mystery and there is so much more to us than just our particular experiences or occupations. I could write down a list of attributes and they still might not paint a complete picture pf Deborah Louise and in any case it would not be the full truth of me. I would say that my purpose here on Wordpress is to express some of my random experiences, thoughts and feelings, to share about my particular journey and explore some subjects dear to my heart, such as emotional recovery, healing and astrology while posting up some of the prose/poems which are an outgrowth of my labours with life, love and relationships. If anything I write touches you I would be so pleased to hear for the purpose of reaching out and expressung ourselves is hopefully to connect with each other and find where our souls meet.

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21 thoughts on “How controlling people and narcissists seek to define us”

  1. You are truly emerging from the dark, and so much of what you’ve said here. I find valuable. Sharing your life and head with someone this manipulative is like playing with a monster.

    Finding a way to abstract them from your head is a feat. It truly is, for most of us, depending on who the person is, it can be hurtful. But they suck so much of your vitality dry with the head games/manipulation one must retreat.

    Great post. Valuable.


  2. Beautiful post. “Over the past year a more loving inner voice has taken their place.” I hope to get to this place soon. I’ve known for years what my oppressors were doing but we tend to slip in and out of their grip. We often don’t know that it’s their voice and not ours, so slippery are their views.

    I noticed in myself that I translated certain invalidation so that it came out in a new way through my own eyes. It’s hard to explain. But when applying logic to their behavior didn’t work, I internalized their invalidation but in a way that became my view of myself. It was now no longer connected to them (how convenient). But the good thing about owning that own tendency to betray our own selves is that we can also turn it around.


  3. Yes, that was always a tactic my father used all my life. Pretending he was so wise and I was a fool. When I was 17, shortly after my first suicide attempt (he refused to let me see a therapist though I begged them to allow it, he didn’t want me letting the real cat out of the bag or for me to experience a morsel of kindness and support which would have undermined his abuse) I asked him one night with tears rolling down my face, “What’s wrong with me?”. He responded, “I could tell you but I think it’s more valuable if you figure it out for yourself.”

    Just one incident in a lifetime of being the daughter of a narcissist and psychopath. Have gone ‘no contact’ with them years ago but still working on healing the wounds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes how to be with the terrible wounds that this kind of treatment leaves us with? I would be so interested to know how you do that Flora? I am really struggling with mine at the moment. Of course they always deflect back on us responsibility for what resulted from their abuse or neglect. That is so clearly shown in how he responded to you. We also make ourselves the sacrificial lamb by asking things such as you did, taking on the scapegoat role they set you up for. Clearly you were just grieving so deeply and so enraged at not being truly loved, affirmed and nurtured and driven to the deepest despair and all those feelings had nowhere to go. You have obviously come through and made the strong choice to go no contact. I wish I had limited contact with my mother many years ago. Then I may not have developed breast cancer. Thank you so much for sharing your experience here. Love to you.


      1. I was deeply moved by your kind response last night. Tears came to my eyes and I said out loud, “she gets it”. I wrapped your lovely response up in a beautiful imaginary linen handkerchief and, holding its preciousness right against my heart, went up to bed with my sweet dog. As you obviously know, the authentic, unfiltered love she shows me is precious beyond words. I am so glad you also have a dear dog friend. I hope he can be with you again very soon. That’s important.

        How to be with the wounds… That is truly the essential question. Sometimes during an especially dark time I need to remind myself of the words of the late Terrence McKenna who said, “Not one of us knows jack about what’s really going on and we don’t know enough to justify worry.” Not Mother Theresa, not the Dalai Lama, not Stephen Hawking nor even Eckhart Tolle. No one truly knows why we’re here, why this and not that. Religion, philosophy, science….it’s all speculation from within a given paradigm. Something sure feels real but what ‘this’ is is certainly a mystery wrapped in an enigma. I think of our tiny blue planet circling our star, a relatively small star here in what appears to be a fringe corner of a very small galaxy in a seemingly endless sea of other galaxies and I’m comforted knowing I can’t even know for sure whether I actually have free will or not. I think of deep space and I can sometimes almost giggle when that makes me realize my arrogance in judging what should be and what should never have been.

        I’m enjoying your blog posts very much. And I’m incredibly grateful for this miracle called the internet. Remember the ‘olden days’ when we thought we were completely alone? We had no idea that the behavior of some of our parents as well as our own wounding almost seems to fit a template.

        Sending you warm wishes and healing hugs.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Such a beautiful deep heartfelt and soulful reply, Flora. It is so true that no one has absolute answers. I question all the time what others write although at times it strikes a cord. There is something very expansive in accepting the mystery of things, something unpindownable that we cannot full know.

        You obviously have a really awakened heart. I think sometimes when we go through this kind of abuse it deepens our soul in some way. Holding things tenderly like you did with the imaginary handkerchief. Curling up on your bed with the dog. Finding comfort inside the tender sweet circumference of your self and heart.

        Thank you so much for connecting and commenting and sharing yourself with me here online. I do agree that this internet is such a powerful force for good in that it can connect us to other souls we may never met but who are linked to us in deep ways.

        Big warm hugs and tenderness back to you, sweetheart.


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