I recently had a good friend of mine recommend the book, Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. I haven’t even finished it, yet I HAVE to post my insights on the book from the point of view of a survivor of narcissistic abuse. What parts of our minds truly knew what was happening to us while we were in these toxic relationships? Did my mind ever unconsciously sense that this relationship was going to be a bad one the first time we met our abusers? Can our unconscious sense the evil within the sweet, loving facade of narcissists even when our conscious mind could not? If so, at what point did our conscious mind finally pick up on what our unconscious mind could always see?
First off, this book is incredible! Gladwell is able to help everyone comprehend how our unconscious mind works through multiple examples that clearly prove his thesis that our unconscious mind can pick up on things a LOT faster than our conscious mind. My favorite parts of the book were his examples of relationships, dating, and marriage. Whenever we meet someone, we usually have some sort of snap judgment about the person, or what Gladwell calls, thin-slicing. It is our immediate unconscious impression of a person.
When I first spent time with my narcissist, Alex, I immediately wasn’t sure about him. He seemed fine, funny, and nice, but there was something about him that I couldn’t figure out. After speaking to every person in my life that met Alex while we were dating said that they had the same immediate impression. There was something about him that just felt…off. The difficult part about our unconscious thin-slicing is that you can’t describe the impressions that you get. Gladwell says that it’s better to not try to explain it because once you do, it becomes confusing and your first impression is skewed. In other words, follow your instincts and the instincts of others.
You would think that after having the first impression that I did of Alex, I would run the other direction. Unfortunately, narcissists have a way of drawing you in with curiosity to try to figure them out because they seem so mysterious or different from most people. By doing this, they make you ignore your instincts and unconscious mind.
All throughout the relationship, I could sense my unconscious mind trying to break through and yell at me at all the many thin-slicing moments I had with my impressions of things that were unfolding throughout my time with Alex. The more I would learn about him, if the stories were even true, and the worse he would treat me, my conscious mind would even try to break through and tell me to run. However, the person Alex created in my head that had an extreme attachment to him refused to listen to my red flags any longer.
When the sexual abuse began and continued, my conscious mind was silenced enough by the persona Alex created that I couldn’t see what he was doing. However, he couldn’t silence my unconscious mind. I remember always feeling terrible and always feeling a way that I can’t quite put into words. Things no longer felt the way they used to in the relationship. My unconscious was trying so hard to try to get my conscious mind to put two and two together. I remember telling the one or two friends I had left at that point that I didn’t like the way I felt anymore. I felt off, depressed, and slowly sinking into darkness, yet I honestly had no idea why I felt that way.
Narcissists have a way of silencing your conscious mind and sense of conscious judgment of right and wrong. But they CAN’T control your unconscious mind! You HAVE to listen to your mind as it thin-slices situations or people who come into your life. My unconscious always knew that I was in a bad situation and tried to somehow get me to see that by making me feel the way I did during the relationship. Sadly it wasn’t strong enough for me to get out sooner than I did.
Now that we have gone through what we have, we are more sensitive to situations and people in our lives. Don’t let yourself become the old you again. Embrace this new you that you have become who is sensitive and high maintenance. It is a good thing to be this way! You will now be able to thin-slice moments and people in your life better than before. You’ll be able to run from bad situations immediately and avoid anything like this happening to you again. If you ever have the impressions or feelings that you have had before with your abuser, you now know to run the other way or even be able to help others in your life avoid these situations as well.
For those who may be in a relationship with someone and may have those strange feelings that I described, I encourage you to pay attention to them. Your conscious mind may not have connected the dots as to why you feel the way you do. It took my mind about three months from the time the sexual abuse began to about a month and a half after I broke up with my narcissist to connect my unconscious to my conscious mind. Talk to others around you and ask them to honestly tell you what they think of your relationship or the person you are with. If they do have a weird or bad feeling about them, remember to not ask them to explain. You can’t explain your thin-slicing impressions of people.
The unconscious or subconscious mind is incredibly intuitive. We must try to listen to the thin-slicing it automatically does for us. It will be able to protect us from the scary people out there that somehow want to do the bad things that have been done to us. Remember, it is terrific to be sensitive and high maintenance! These are the ways our unconscious mind is protecting us!