Imagine a dog that has been neglected. It lives in a home with an owner. The potential for love and care is there, but yet it doesn’t exist. The dog is ignored most of the time. When it does manage to grab the attention of the owner, the owner is mean and harsh. He yells at the dog, threatening it, and leaving it cowering in the corner. This dog has learned over the years to not hope for much. It lays in the corner of the room, sad and distant, while the owner sits happily watching tv or chatting with a friend. The owner has absolutely no recognition of the feelings of this poor dog.
However, one morning, the owner wakes up in a good mood. He comes over to the dog and pets him, talking sweetly. The dog explodes with enthusiasm. “Finally! My master cares about me!” The over-excited dog is bouncy, and his tail won’t stop wagging. It seems as though the world is a totally different place now, and everything will be okay.
But it is short-lived. After a few minutes, the meanness is back. The owner yells at the dog, clearly frustrated by all the excited energy. The dog cowers and returns once again to his place in the corner.
This dog will spend all of its life waiting for those tiny moments of kindness. He will greet each one with the same level of enthusiasm. It is as though that tiny moment erases days, weeks, months and years of negativity. This dog lives for those happy moments with his owner. This is called trauma bond. This dog will put up with years of abuse and disregard for those tiny breadcrumbs of attention.
Life with a narcissist is no different. Experiencing trauma bond is very real. As with any relationship, the potential for love and care exist. Everything is in place for it, and it seems like it should be there. Yet it is not! You are emotionally neglected and emotionally starved. You are ignored most of the time. When you do get their attention, the narcissist is mean and harsh, yelling at you and leaving you beaten down internally. While you internally cower in the corner, the narcissist goes happily on with their life. They have absolutely no recognition of your feelings.
But occasionally, they do give you a breadcrumb of love. They might take you out to dinner or buy you a nice gift. They might compliment you or have an enjoyable 10-minute conversation with you. Inside, you explode with enthusiasm at finally having some positive attention from them. “Finally! He/She actually cares about me!” This tiny breadcrumb of attention can rekindle your hope in the relationship and your love for them. It can cause you to adamantly convince yourself that everything is okay and even that all the issues you have been seeing were in your own mind.
Days, weeks, months, and years of bad treatment get dismissed by one simple evening. But with a narcissist, this is very short-lived. Reality returns. Negativity and blame return. Harshness and meanness return. And you return to your corner, cowering in fear and hungrily waiting for that next breadcrumb.
This is such an easy trap to fall into. It can steal years from your life. But you cannot live on breadcrumbs alone. Eventually you will realize how starved you truly are. Starved for kindness and genuineness. Starved for peace and compassion. Starved for companionship and openness.
Quit living off the breadcrumbs. You are worth so much more than that! No one has the right to treat you with such disregard. You would fight for that puppy. Now you must fight for you. It is time to stand up and say, “No more! My feelings do matter!” You can do this. You are stronger than you think!