Don’t Let the Narcissist Accuse You of Living in the Past

Arianne has been accused of living in the past
because she can’t reconcile with her family of origin.

Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash
Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash

It all started when she began to remember why she has extreme anxiety and panic attacks. She had to face her past because there was a time when she was forced by her mother to ignore the past. One of these things was her molestation by her step-father. When she told her mother about it at the time, she was told to be quiet and keep it a secret until her mom could leave him. Her mother said she wanted to find a better situation for them and her two younger brothers, but her mother never did leave Arianne’s abuser and they are still married today.

Arianne made it through high school on drugs, with dark music and time in the hospital on suicide watch. When she finally broke her mother’s rule and told a counselor what happened, it was years after the incident. She began a journey of recovery and told her mother why she could no longer hang out with the family. Her mother was devastated and angry. She claims Arianne is stuck in the past and needs to grow up.

I’ve never met Arianne’s mother so I don’t know if she is a flying monkey enabler or a narcissist herself, but her lack of empathy for her only daughter is a warning sign that something is not healthy in their relationship.

William Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” There is a lot of truth to this. The things that happened to us early in our lives formed us. We can’t escape the past entirely because we are who we are because of the past. At the same time, we have the ability to heal from our past wounds, but only if we face them. Burying them in the family tree and hiding our heads in the sand will never cure what ails us. It’s up to each of us to understand our past so we can heal and move on and not abuse the next generation.

It’s the brave-hearted who face and deal with their childhood wounds. These survivors are NOT stuck in the past like their abusers would tell us. How do we know this? Because many of them have moved across the country to put distance between themselves and their abusers. They are doing what they couldn’t do as a child but are protecting themselves today. If there is any sign that someone is NOT living in the past, it’s finding a counselor and finding a way to heal from the past.

Here is the litmus test: a person living in the past is not concerned about setting things right, while someone who chooses to move on won’t allow things to remain the same. Moving on from the past requires attention to the past rather than ignoring it.

The truth is it’s the narcissist and all enablers who live in the past because they want everything to stay the same—

No remembering the past, because the past reveals the patterns of abuse.

No truth-telling because that would wake other people up to the abuse.

No apologies because the narcissist would have to admit the abuse.

No boundaries because boundaries protect the survivor from current abuse.

Can you see a pattern here? Can you see where all this leads—to a survivor being gaslighted for remembering, attacked for telling her story, left without an apology and expected to give up her rights to please the narcissist?

Arianne’s problems are NOT in the past and they are what many other survivors are dealing with right now. This is the result of apathy on the part of flying monkeys and enablers. It is cruel to ignore the wounds of the hurting and tell them to forget about it. All of this talk about living in the past is to protect the narcissist who is the real person living in the past. The narc wants to live in the past so he can pretend it was okay to use his power to harm little girls and steal their virginity, money or self-worth.

So the next time someone asks “When are you going to move on from the past?” Tell them you’ve already acknowledged the past and moved on.

You’ve moved on by remembering the events that formed who you are.

You’ve moved on by remembering what the narcissist told you to forget.

You’ve moved on by telling your stories.

You’ve moved on by setting boundaries to keep an abuser out of your life.

The past is a zero threat for people who want to be free. This is because the worst is over. The very thing we were most afraid of has often already happened. The only way to heal from the past is to recognize and acknowledge the abuses of yesterday. The present allows us to peer into the past from the easy chair of today and realize our abusers can no longer harm us unless we ignore the past and let it happen again.

The only way the past can hurt us today is through people who refuse to acknowledge our stories with empathy and honesty. If family members still demand that we ignore the past and keep the secrets, then they are the ones stuck in the past. The past is never dead, it continues to affect all of us for the rest of our lives, so why not face it and learn what we can so we can make a better future?

Be strong! Carry on warriors!