How Resilience Plays a Factor in the Trauma Repetition Cycle
That is why daughters of narcissists who have been ‘primed’ for abuse may find themselves encountering one predator after another without understanding why. They blame themselves for staying or getting into these relationships, not realizing that two of their greatest strengths – the ability to be resilient and their empathy for others – are being unfairly exploited in a dangerous power play.
Daughters of narcissistic fathers can fall prey to exploitation in adulthood because they learned early on how to be caretakers, adept problem-solvers and multi-taskers: they learned how to juggle detecting threats in their environment while responding to them in a way that mitigated danger. They are extremely competent at performing emotional labor for others as well as picking up on nonverbal cues that signal potential threat or abandonment.
In an abusive relationship, this gets translated into people-pleasing, walking perpetually on eggshells and an entrenched sense of powerlessness. In a healthy relationship, with healthier boundaries and an expectation of emotional reciprocity, daughters of narcissists have much to offer their partners. Their maturity, emotional generosity and attentiveness to their partner’s needs can be assets in a healthy relationship, after they have developed a healthy sense of self. In an abusive one with a malignant narcissist, however, her willingness to see her partner’s perspective and meet his needs gets taken advantage of and used against her.
What may be surprising for others to learn is that it is not just her vulnerability that makes her a target; it is also her resilience. The more resilient the daughter of a narcissist is from the violations of her childhood, the more likely she will ‘bounce back’ after incidents of abuse, and continue to try to ‘fix’ or solve the problems of the abusive relationship, much like she did in her early childhood.
She will avoid the threats of confrontation and conflict, leaving her open to the far greater danger of being in a long-term toxic relationship that depletes and drains her. This is especially pertinent to consider since abusive types will test the boundaries of their victims continually throughout the relationship to ensure that the victim grows accustomed to the abuse over time.