How Can I Love? You Caused Such Pain?
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Stress and abuse are very difficult conditions to endure when they stem from someone you love. When we are intimately connected with someone who is harsh, callous, and motivated to ‘spin’ reality to blame problems and difficult circumstances on you, the natural consequences is that the brain will struggle.
This ‘change’ presents itself in different ways for different people. Some will find it harder to focus or think clearly to get anything done. Many will have a preoccupation with the abusive partner and from morning to night they are driven to resolve the problems in the relationship. This is worsened by the fact that many survivors will take the ‘bait’ regarding the reasons for the problems. They will try hard not to defend that they are a good person, because the disordered partner will often send overt or covert messages that she or he is damaged. “If only you weren’t so ____” (fill in the blank).
One of the most important facts that many are not aware of when in these relationships is that there is no end to the games, blame shifting, manipulation, projection, and gas lighting. If there are no interventions and the person is not on board to get involved in long term treatment of their identified personality disorder, with a specialist — the socially violating and possibly dangerous behaviors will not stop.
When your partner is someone with psychopathy or narcissistic personality disorder, more than likely harmony and cooperation is not their goal. Equality is unacceptable to them. You are not perceived as their equal and attempts to impose those standards upon them is threatening. They will fight to keep that imbalance. Quite often, they are in competition with their partner. Their belief is that no one is more special, important, or knowledgeable in the relationship than they are.
I Thought You Loved Me
For individuals who become involved with abusive partners, it is not uncommon for that person to experience frequent frustration, pain, anxiety and perhaps even fear.
Under such conditions, it is easy for an individual to feel
- Emotionally Dysregulated
- Cognitively Compromised (reduced ability to think)
- A Change in Personality (e.g., withdrawn/ submissive)
The brain is a unique organ because it can have an immediate reaction to what is taking place in our environment. It reacts to people, smells, sights, information, sounds, threats, etc.
It is all processed in many ways, including through our emotional and stress systems.
A severe stressor, such as that experienced from victimization within an abusive relationship (physical or psychological), can set off a myriad of neurological processes.
Therefore, if someone in the environment is a threat of any type, the brain tends to activate specific systems. Such involuntary reactions are healthy neural responses, because they serve to alert and protect us from potential harm and danger.
So what happens in the brain?
Often in response to a stressor or dangerous situation, such as an abusive or dangerous partner, the limbic system (associated with emotions), can shift into a self-protective mode and function with a heightened alertness to minimize and avoid pain.
While other areas of the brain that usually help to calm and regulate us can become less efficient (i.e., portions of the prefrontal cortex).
The neuroendocrine system (e.g., hormones) is a vital contributing loop in the overall stress response and associated with the mind-body connection (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis). This system also becomes dysregulated (out of balance) under conditions of abuse.
With such activity taking place within the nervous system, this can lead to feeling heightened sensitivity and hypervigilance.
Individuals living under these circumstances can feel on edge, emotional, desperate, and confused about how to proceed and problem solve.
Many may even find they change their behavior and begin to cater to or anticipate the needs and preferences of the abusive partner in an attempt to create an environment of harmony and safety.
A Combination of Stress, Abuse, and Love? The Impossible Relationship
You love him (her) but they abuse you, which creates stress and pain – this powerful mixture of emotions can wreak havoc on a person’s life. This is not the way relationships are supposed to feel. Where is the safety, comfort, predictability, accountability? They will be absent in relationships with people who have strong traits of narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathy.
Through the experience of abuse, the victims’ self-esteem, confidence, and reliance on their perspective tends to erode. The focus often shifts from a fun, happy relationship to one that is merely focused on keeping the peace, avoidance of pain (emotional or physical) and attempts at managing the pathology of another (e.g., “Please stop criticizing me, it hurts my feelings.”)
But is that a healthy life, attempting to lessen pain and manage or cope with the pathology of another?
Was this partner (abusive individual) brought into the target’s life to give her a burden and diminish her mental, perhaps even physical health?
Romantic partners are invited into our lives for love, caring support, and companionship. Harmony is tough to reach with an abusive partner (if not impossible).
In a healthy relationship, your partner is your teammate, not your competition or critical coach.
(Adapted from 2013 article – Neuroinstincts)