Why would someone play small in the first place?
When we are involved with a narcissist, we are conditioned to play small. The narcissist needs to feel powerful and superior in order to assure his or her false self that their grandiose self image is correct. The narcissist is likely to fly into a rage or to punish us if we say or do the slightest thing that could threaten this false self image. As a result, we end up living our lives as though we are treading on eggshells.
Playing small comes from an underlying, subconscious need to keep ourselves safe. This is a very strong and powerful instinctive human need. When the narcissist had power over us, we had to play small in order to be safe.
If we dared to ever feel good about ourselves or do something for our own good, it is likely that the narcissist would have lashed out and punished or hurt us in some way. As a result, we become conditioned to play small to prevent this from happening. This process is mainly playing out in the subconscious.
Breaking Away From the Abuser’s Conditioning
Playing small may serve us when we are involved with an abuser. However upon leaving the relationship, we may discover that this conditioning is hindering us, rather than helping. The steps below and the accompanying video, explain how we can learn how to feel safe to take up space in the world and to be our authentic selves.
How do we Overcome the Conditioning to Play Small?
1. The first step to overcoming this conditioning is to be aware that we are playing small.
2. I would then encourage you to take small steps or risks that involve breaking the pattern of playing small, however that may look to you. When you do this, some inevitable blocks and fears (possibly even terror) will arise inside you.
3 I would encourage you to really focus on how your body feels when this happens and to notice the sensations in your body. Take a moment to acknowledge and honour how you are feeling. I normally journal about it, as I find this helps to bring the emotions and feelings to the surface and to be expressed in a safe way.
4. The sensations and feelings are crying out to be heard. They will be stuck in our bodies and will keep coming up until we really feel them and listen to the message that they have for us.
The change comes from the inside. When we can compassionately and lovingly come home to ourselves then we can heal the blocks that are stopping us from living full lives. Then we will find that we are increasingly free to gain traction in our lives, without having to constantly battle against the conditioning that the abuser has instilled into us.
It is an ongoing and gradual process that takes time. We need to train our bodies to realise that it is safe to take up space in the world.
I would love to hear your comments. Please feel free to get in touch and let me know of any topics that you would like me to cover or any questions you may have.