When We Leave: Loss Of Identity, Changes of Identity And Social Status

A seldom mentioned loss that one suffers from any kind of Narcissistic abuse can be hard for anyone to embrace or even admit, and that is the loss of the security of social status that relationships (including and especially family) bring. We are humans, and we do live in "society", whether we really believe and go along with the societal rituals and shows of "status" or not. Our identity, our feeling of who we are, takes a serious hit when we sever or lose a relationship.

When we sever a tie, we are suffering a loss, not only of the person, but of our feeling of identity that went with that relationship. We are not just "Me", but we are "John Anderson's daughter", or "Mary Johnson's brother", or "One of the Sanderson clan". We belong to a group, or a partnership, when we are in any kind of relationship. We are a member of that group.
Of course people who feel that they are "lone wolves" will dispute that all day long, but it won't change the fact that they are actually human beings who's identity IS connected to the people in their family and relationships.

Only severe Narcissists and other seriously mentally ill people don't connect their identity with their family, their relationships,  where they grew up, where they live, the people in their community, their school, and their workplace (even if it's crappy). It's part and parcel to our psyche, it's supposed to be like that, it's not being some kind of "sheep", and it's not the same as following the herd. Some people and things we identify ourselves deeply with, and some not as much, but it's a normal human process.

Narcissistic abuse causes this natural identity feeling to become jumbled, confused, and backward. We're supposed to feel proud and happy to identify as belonging to our group or partnership, but when we're abused or rejected, how does that work? It doesn't. But we still need and want our identity to stay intact, like any healthy normal human. So we may end up turning our relationship identity upside down and inside out, trying to hold on to it while defending ourselves from it at the same time. We now belong to, are a part of, a member of, an abusive "group" of humans (whether it's just one other person or several), and we see ourselves as being ONE OF THEM. So in order to heal, we need to heal that identity issue, which can be really confusing.

Along with that, we know instinctively that other people DO group other people together and identify them together. So if we talk about how our group is abusive, then the odds are high that we'll be lumped together with them. We also probably don't WANT others to see our entire group in a negative light, so then we have to figure out a way to talk about what we've been through and get support without turning a negative light on everyone.

Further, even if we really don't care about how people see them, we're still aware that people will see US in a different light, whether we tell them what happened or not. People tend to treat others with higher respect and acceptance when they're a member of a couple, a family, or another group. Everyone instinctively knows this, that's why clubs exist, everything from religious groups to gangs; if you're a "member" of something, people tend to treat you more like you're a "real" person. 

When we sever a romantic relationship or marriage, we are actually changing our "identity", not only to others, but to ourselves as well. And when our social identity changes, we feel different, and others tend to treat us differently. We're not "Kim and Steve" anymore, we're just "Kim". Or we're just "Steve".

Even when we let go of platonic friends, we're not part of the "pack" or "like sisters" or "like brothers" anymore, we're changing that part of ourselves and our lives.

When we are ostracized due to abuse from our families, or when we purposely cut cords, we are again changing our identity, and changing our social status.

When we leave our marriage and we have children, that might be one of the biggest blows of all to our identity, because we know it will change our children's identity as well. Even if we know we HAVE TO do it, it still can feel like a serious loss, and can be akin to the loss we feel due to the death of someone in our lives.

The mental somersaults we go through can be traumatizing all by themselves, and so we may try desperately to avoid dealing with this kind of loss, after all, we're probably already trying to deal with all the other things we've been through. However realizing this can speed up recovery and help us get over some obstacles and hurtles that we didn't know we were stuck on, or why.