Learning to tune into your gut feelings is crucial to decrease vulnerability to abuse.
If you have been narcissistically abused it is likely that you do not trust your gut instinct about people and situations.
You may have been trained from childhood to tolerate states of cognitive dissonance relating to the people you form emotional attachments with. Commonly this is he/she is good and loves me while at the same time suspecting he/she is bad and means me harm. Usually what is happening is that on an intuitive level you are correctly perceiving that something is off even if you do not have direct proof of your hunch. Your gut feeling tells you that this person is treating you with disrespect, is lying to you, may be dangerous, or does not love you. Your gut feeling is trying to alert you that you may be in danger. However, the fact that your partner’s behaviour is not consistently bad 100 % of the time keeps you confused and you may worry about whether you are justified in your intuition rather than just accepting the signals that you are receiving.
Even after a lifetime of abuse training your gut feeling will not lie to you. The mental contortions you go through trying to rationalise away your gut feelings is the behaviour that you need to let go of. People who have been used to being treated with respect from a young age tend not to do this. They trust their gut. In their family of origin they did not have to continuously tolerate feeling bad to maintain an emotional attachment to their caregivers. They were used to feeling at ease. These people quickly distance themselves from someone who gives them a bad feeling because they prioritise protecting their own peace above giving someone the benefit of the doubt. Staying in a situation which requires them to maintain a feeling of being ill at ease is alien to them. Trusting your gut feeling is an important first step in getting out of the abuse paradigm.
The first step is to identify the uncomfortable gut feelings. These are usually bodily sensations. I’ve found that in a relationship the key ones for me are the following:
An icky sensation – this is disgust. You want this person to get away from you. You are likely being used, lied to or treated with disrespect in some way.
Your stomach drops – fear. Danger. Something is up.
Other ones sometimes come up for me are
Sudden heavy tiredness when interacting with someone – usually indicates the interaction lacks reciprocity. Perhaps they are talking way too much and not considering you for example.
You might not know at the time what the gut feeling indicates. You don’t need to know. Your intuition picks up very subtle cues including signs that are out of your conscious awareness and is informed by every situation you have ever been in. It guides you towards safety. Later on you will probably find that your intuition is validated.
I found Meredith Miller’s videos really useful on this and she lists many other sensations you may experience e.g.,
When tuning into your intuition mindfulness is a useful tool. If you are interacting with someone and you have a bad gut feeling practice observing the sensations. Try to get used to sitting with the gut feelings that arise, accept them and begin to honour them as messengers from your unconscious that are trying to guide you. This is an act of faith when you are steeped in your abuse training, but try to go with it.
The temptation is to run away from these unpleasant sensations. You may rationalise them away and live in a state of delusion disconnected from the reality in front of you to bring relief from the cognitive dissonance or else let it harden into resentment. Resentment gives away your power to the other person and is difficult to work with. Try not to collapse down into either of these states. See if you can sit with your gut feeling and honour it as much as you possibly can. The Buddhist nun and teacher Pema Chodron calls this “being comfortable with groundlessness”. This starts you on the path of really tuning into your gut feeling rather than reflexively trying to escape.
Try also not to spin off into thoughts and into a narrative about what happened. Keep the focus on you. For example, you feel angry and you are reeling in some way because of an interaction. It could be over something quite subtle that the other person did. Instead of trying to analyse or going into “ah I feel this because he/she did that”. Make the self-talk into something more like “Oh hello there anger. I see you. Thanks for stopping by” and really go into it and feel its presence. Doing this will gradually increase your self-trust. Stopping the feedback effect with your thoughts also prevents any unpleasant emotions or sensations from becoming amplified even further. You are welcoming whatever arises as an important messenger from your subconscious. By refraining from externalising it into a he/she did this, might have had this motivation and so on, it brings the power back to you. The act of observing and accepting the sensations opens the way to start believing in your gut feelings and eventually you will start to feel more empowered, less reactive and your situation and the action you need to take will become clearer. You are moving away from doer and done to and taking back your personal power and self-belief. Eventually if you keep practising this it becomes more and more likely that the empowered action will present itself to you and you will believe in yourself.