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20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths Use To Silence You

20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths Use To Silence You By Shahida Arabi

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By Shahida Arabi

The following article is copyrighted and may not be posted anywhere without permission from the author.

Toxic people such as malignant narcissists, psychopaths and those with antisocial traits engage in maladaptive behaviors in relationships that ultimately exploit, demean and hurt their intimate partners, family members and friends. They use a plethora of diversionary tactics that distort the reality of their victims and deflect responsibility. Although those who are not narcissistic can employ these tactics as well, abusive narcissists use these to an excessive extent in an effort to escape accountability for their actions.

Here are the 20 diversionary tactics toxic people use to silence and degrade you.

1. Gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that can be described in different variations of three words: “That didn’t happen,” “You imagined it,” and “Are you crazy?” Gaslighting is perhaps one of the most insidious manipulative tactics out there because it works to distort and erode your sense of reality; it eats away at your ability to trust yourself and inevitably disables you from feeling justified in calling out abuse and mistreatment.

When a narcissist, sociopath or psychopath gaslights you, you may be prone to gaslighting yourself as a way to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that might arise. Two conflicting beliefs battle it out: is this person right or can I trust what I experienced? A manipulative person will convince you that the former is an inevitable truth while the latter is a sign of dysfunction on your end.

In order to resist gaslighting, it’s important to ground yourself in your own reality – sometimes writing things down as they happened, telling a friend or reiterating your experience to a support network can help to counteract the gaslighting effect. The power of having a validating community is that it can redirect you from the distorted reality of a malignant person and back to your own inner guidance.

2. Projection.

One sure sign of toxicity is when a person is chronically unwilling to see his or her own shortcomings and uses everything in their power to avoid being held accountable for them. This is known as projection. Projection is a defense mechanism used to displace responsibility of one’s negative behavior and traits by attributing them to someone else. It ultimately acts as a digression that avoids ownership and accountability.

While we all engage in projection to some extent, according to Narcissistic Personality clinical expert Dr. Martinez-Lewi, the projections of a narcissist are often psychologically abusive. Rather than acknowledge their own flaws, imperfections and wrongdoings, malignant narcissists and sociopaths opt to dump their own traits on their unsuspecting suspects in a way that is painful and excessively cruel. Instead of admitting that self-improvement may be in order, they would prefer that their victims take responsibility for their behavior and feel ashamed of themselves. This is a way for a narcissist to project any toxic shame they have about themselves onto another.

For example, a person who engages in pathological lying may accuse their partner of fibbing; a needy spouse may call their husband “clingy” in an attempt to depict them as the one who is dependent; a rude employee may call their boss ineffective in an effort to escape the truth about their own productivity.

Narcissistic abusers love to play the “blameshifting game.” Objectives of the game: they win, you lose, and you or the world at large is blamed for everything that’s wrong with them. This way, you get to babysit their fragile ego while you’re thrust into a sea of self-doubt. Fun, right?

Solution? Don’t “project” your own sense of compassion or empathy onto a toxic person and don’t own any of the toxic person’s projections either. As manipulation expert and author Dr. George Simon (2010) notes in his book In Sheep’s Clothing, projecting our own conscience and value system onto others has the potential consequence of being met with further exploitation.

Narcissists on the extreme end of the spectrum usually have no interest in self-insight or change. It’s important to cut ties and end interactions with toxic people as soon as possible so you can get centered in your own reality and validate your own identity. You don’t have to live in someone else’s cesspool of dysfunction.

3. Nonsensical conversations from hell.

If you think you’re going to have a thoughtful discussion with someone who is toxic, be prepared for epic mindfuckery rather than conversational mindfulness.

Malignant narcissists and sociopaths use word salad, circular conversations, ad hominem arguments, projection and gaslighting to disorient you and get you off track should you ever disagree with them or challenge them in any way. They do this in order to discredit, confuse and frustrate you, distract you from the main problem and make you feel guilty for being a human being with actual thoughts and feelings that might differ from their own. In their eyes, you are the problem if you happen to exist.

Spend even ten minutes arguing with a toxic narcissist and you’ll find yourself wondering how the argument even began at all. You simply disagreed with them about their absurd claim that the sky is red and now your entire childhood, family, friends, career and lifestyle choices have come under attack. That is because your disagreement picked at their false belief that they are omnipotent and omniscient, resulting in a narcissistic injury.

Remember: toxic people don’t argue with you, they essentially argue with themselves and you become privy to their long, draining monologues. They thrive off the drama and they live for it. Each and every time you attempt to provide a point that counters their ridiculous assertions, you feed them supply. Don’t feed the narcissists supply – rather, supply yourself with the confirmation that their abusive behavior is the problem, not you. Cut the interaction short as soon as you anticipate it escalating and use your energy on some decadent self-care instead.

4. Blanket statements and generalizations.

Malignant narcissists aren’t always intellectual masterminds – many of them are intellectually lazy. Rather than taking the time to carefully consider a different perspective, they generalize anything and everything you say, making blanket statements that don’t acknowledge the nuances in your argument or take into account the multiple perspectives you’ve paid homage to. Better yet, why not put a label on you that dismisses your perspective altogether?

On a larger scale, generalizations and blanket statements invalidate experiences that don’t fit in the unsupported assumptions, schemas and stereotypes of society; they are also used to maintain the status quo. This form of digression exaggerates one perspective to the point where a social justice issue can become completely obscured. For example, rape accusations against well-liked figures are often met with the reminder that there are false reports of rape that occur. While those do occur, they are rare, and in this case, the actions of one become labeled the behavior of the majority while the specific report itself remains unaddressed.

These everyday microaggressions also happen in toxic relationships. If you bring up to a narcissistic abuser that their behavior is unacceptable for example, they will often make blanket generalizations about your hypersensitivity or make a generalization such as, “You are never satisfied,” or “You’re always too sensitive” rather than addressing the real issues at hand. It’s possible that you are oversensitive at times, but it is also possible that the abuser is also insensitive and cruel the majority of the time.

Hold onto your truth and resist generalizing statements by realizing that they are in fact forms of black and white illogical thinking. Toxic people wielding blanket statements do not represent the full richness of experience – they represent the limited one of their singular experience and overinflated sense of self.

5. Deliberately misrepresenting your thoughts and feelings to the point of absurdity.

In the hands of a malignant narcissist or sociopath, your differing opinions, legitimate emotions and lived experiences get translated into character flaws and evidence of your irrationality.

Narcissists weave tall tales to reframe what you’re actually saying as a way to make your opinions look absurd or heinous. Let’s say you bring up the fact that you’re unhappy with the way a toxic friend is speaking to you. In response, he or she may put words in your mouth, saying, “Oh, so now you’re perfect?” or “So I am a bad person, huh?” when you’ve done nothing but express your feelings. This enables them to invalidate your right to have thoughts and emotions about their inappropriate behavior and instills in you a sense of guilt when you attempt to establish boundaries.

This is also a popular form of diversion and cognitive distortion that is known as “mind reading.” Toxic people often presume they know what you’re thinking and feeling. They chronically jump to conclusions based on their own triggers rather than stepping back to evaluate the situation mindfully. They act accordingly based on their own delusions and fallacies and make no apologies for the harm they cause as a result. Notorious for putting words in your mouth, they depict you as having an intention or outlandish viewpoint you didn’t possess. They accuse you of thinking of them as toxic – even before you’ve gotten the chance to call them out on their behavior – and this also serves as a form of preemptive defense.

Simply stating, “I never said that,” and walking away should the person continue to accuse you of doing or saying something you didn’t can help to set a firm boundary in this type of interaction. So long as the toxic person can blameshift and digress from their own behavior, they have succeeded in convincing you that you should be “shamed” for giving them any sort of realistic feedback.

6. Nitpicking and moving the goal posts.

The difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism is the presence of a personal attack and impossible standards. These so-called “critics” often don’t want to help you improve, they just want to nitpick, pull you down and scapegoat you in any way they can. Abusive narcissists and sociopaths employ a logical fallacy known as “moving the goalposts” in order to ensure that they have every reason to be perpetually dissatisfied with you. This is when, even after you’ve provided all the evidence in the world to validate your argument or taken an action to meet their request, they set up another expectation of you or demand more proof.

Do you have a successful career? The narcissist will then start to pick on why you aren’t a multi-millionaire yet. Did you already fulfill their need to be excessively catered to? Now it’s time to prove that you can also remain “independent.” The goal posts will perpetually change and may not even be related to each other; they don’t have any other point besides making you vie for the narcissist’s approval and validation.

By raising the expectations higher and higher each time or switching them completely, highly manipulative and toxic people are able to instill in you a pervasive sense of unworthiness and of never feeling quite “enough.” By pointing out one irrelevant fact or one thing you did wrong and developing a hyperfocus on it, narcissists get to divert from your strengths and pull you into obsessing over any flaws or weaknesses instead. They get you thinking about the next expectation of theirs you’re going to have to meet – until eventually you’ve bent over backwards trying to fulfill their every need – only to realize it didn’t change the horrific way they treated you.

Don’t get sucked into nitpicking and changing goal posts – if someone chooses to rehash an irrelevant point over and over again to the point where they aren’t acknowledging the work you’ve done to validate your point or satisfy them, their motive isn’t to better understand. It’s to further provoke you into feeling as if you have to constantly prove yourself. Validate and approve of yourself. Know that you are enough and you don’t have to be made to feel constantly deficient or unworthy in some way.

7. Changing the subject to evade accountability.

This type of tactic is what I like to call the “What about me?” syndrome. It is a literal digression from the actual topic that works to redirect attention to a different issue altogether. Narcissists don’t want you to be on the topic of holding them accountable for anything, so they will reroute discussions to benefit them. Complaining about their neglectful parenting? They’ll point out a mistake you committed seven years ago. This type of diversion has no limits in terms of time or subject content, and often begins with a sentence like “What about the time when…”

On a macrolevel, these diversions work to derail discussions that challenge the status quo. A discussion about gay rights, for example, may be derailed quickly by someone who brings in another social justice issue just to distract people from the main argument.

As Tara Moss, author of Speaking Out: A 21st Century Handbook for Women and Girls, notes, specificity is needed in order to resolve and address issues appropriately – that doesn’t mean that the issues that are being brought up don’t matter, it just means that the specific time and place may not be the best context to discuss them.

Don’t be derailed – if someone pulls a switcheroo on you, you can exercise what I call the “broken record” method and continue stating the facts without giving in to their distractions. Redirect their redirection by saying, “That’s not what I am talking about. Let’s stay focused on the real issue.” If they’re not interested, disengage and spend your energy on something more constructive – like not having a debate with someone who has the mental age of a toddler.

8. Covert and overt threats.

Narcissistic abusers and otherwise toxic people feel very threatened when their excessive sense of entitlement, false sense of superiority and grandiose sense of self are challenged in any way. They are prone to making unreasonable demands on others – while punishing you for not living up to their impossible to reach expectations.

Rather than tackle disagreements or compromises maturely, they set out to divert you from your right to have your own identity and perspective by attempting to instill fear in you about the consequences of disagreeing or complying with their demands. To them, any challenge results in an ultimatum and “do this or I’ll do that” becomes their daily mantra.

If someone’s reaction to you setting boundaries or having a differing opinion from your own is to threaten you into submission, whether it’s a thinly veiled threat or an overt admission of what they plan to do, this is a red flag of someone who has a high degree of entitlement and has no plans of compromising. Take threats seriously and show the narcissist you mean business; document threats and report them whenever possible and legally feasible.

9. Name-calling.

Narcissists preemptively blow anything they perceive as a threat to their superiority out of proportion. In their world, only they can ever be right and anyone who dares to say otherwise creates a narcissistic injury that results in narcissistic rage. As Mark Goulston, M.D. asserts, narcissistic rage does not result from low self-esteem but rather a high sense of entitlement and false sense of superiority.

The lowest of the low resort to narcissistic rage in the form of name-calling when they can’t think of a better way to manipulate your opinion or micromanage your emotions. Name-calling is a quick and easy way to put you down, degrade you and insult your intelligence, appearance or behavior while invalidating your right to be a separate person with a right to his or her perspective.

Name-calling can also be used to criticize your beliefs, opinions and insights. A well-researched perspective or informed opinion suddenly becomes “silly” or “idiotic” in the hands of a malignant narcissist or sociopath who feels threatened by it and cannot make a respectful, convincing rebuttal. Rather than target your argument, they target you as a person and seek to undermine your credibility and intelligence in any way they possibly can. It’s important to end any interaction that consists of name-calling and communicate that you won’t tolerate it. Don’t internalize it: realize that they are resorting to name-calling because they are deficient in higher level methods.

10. Destructive conditioning.

Toxic people condition you to associate your strengths, talents, and happy memories with abuse, frustration and disrespect. They do this by sneaking in covert and overt put-downs about the qualities and traits they once idealized as well as sabotaging your goals, ruining celebrations, vacations and holidays. They may even isolate you from your friends and family and make you financially dependent upon them. Like Pavlov’s dogs, you’re essentially “trained” over time to become afraid of doing the very things that once made your life fulfilling.

Narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths and otherwise toxic people do this because they wish to divert attention back to themselves and how you’re going to please them. If there is anything outside of them that may threaten their control over your life, they seek to destroy it. They need to be the center of attention at all times. In the idealization phase, you were once the center of a narcissist’s world – now the narcissist becomes the center of yours.

Narcissists are also naturally pathologically envious and don’t want anything to come in between them and their influence over you. Your happiness represents everything they feel they cannot have in their emotionally shallow lives. After all, if you learn that you can get validation, respect and love from other sources besides the toxic person, what’s to keep you from leaving them? To toxic people, a little conditioning can go a long way to keep you walking on eggshells and falling just short of your big dreams.

11. Smear campaigns and stalking.

When toxic types can’t control the way you see yourself, they start to control how others see you; they play the martyr while you’re labeled the toxic one. A smear campaign is a preemptive strike to sabotage your reputation and slander your name so that you won’t have a support network to fall back on lest you decide to detach and cut ties with this toxic person. They may even stalk and harass you or the people you know as a way to supposedly “expose” the truth about you; this exposure acts as a way to hide their own abusive behavior while projecting it onto you.

Some smear campaigns can even work to pit two people or two groups against each other. A victim in an abusive relationship with a narcissist often doesn’t know what’s being said about them during the relationship, but they eventually find out the falsehoods shortly after they’ve been discarded.

Toxic people will gossip behind your back (and in front of your face), slander you to your loved ones or their loved ones, create stories that depict you as the aggressor while they play the victim, and claim that you engaged in the same behaviors that they are afraid you will accuse them of engaging in. They will also methodically, covertly and deliberately abuse you so they can use your reactions as a way to prove that they are the so-called “victims” of your abuse.

The best way to handle a smear campaign is to stay mindful of your reactions and stick to the facts. This is especially pertinent for high-conflict divorces with narcissists who may use your reactions to their provocations against you. Document any form of harassment, cyberbullying or stalking incidents and always speak to your narcissist through a lawyer whenever possible. You may wish to take legal action if you feel the stalking and harassment is getting out of control; finding a lawyer who is well-versed in Narcissistic Personality Disorder is crucial if that’s the case. Your character and integrity will speak for itself when the narcissist’s false mask begins to slip.

12. Love-bombing and devaluation.

Toxic people put you through an idealization phase until you’re sufficiently hooked and invested in beginning a friendship or relationship with you. Then, they begin to devalue you while insulting the very things they admired in the first place. Another variation of this is when a toxic individual puts you on a pedestal while aggressively devaluing and attacking someone else who threatens their sense of superiority.

Narcissistic abusers do this all the time – they devalue their exes to their new partners, and eventually the new partner starts to receive the same sort of mistreatment as the narcissist’s ex-partner. Ultimately what will happen is that you will also be on the receiving end of the same abuse. You will one day be the ex-partner they degrade to their new source of supply. You just don’t know it yet. That’s why it’s important to stay mindful of the love-bombing technique whenever you witness behavior that doesn’t align with the saccharine sweetness a narcissist subjects you to.

As life coach Wendy Powell suggests, slowing things down with people you suspect may be toxic is an important way of combating the love-bombing technique. Be wary of the fact that how a person treats or speaks about someone else could potentially translate into the way they will treat you in the future.

13. Preemptive defense.

When someone stresses the fact that they are a “nice guy” or girl, that you should “trust them” right away or emphasizes their credibility without any provocation from you whatsoever, be wary.

Toxic and abusive people overstate their ability to be kind and compassionate. They often tell you that you should “trust” them without first building a solid foundation of trust. They may “perform” a high level of sympathy and empathy at the beginning of your relationship to dupe you, only to unveil their false mask later on. When you see their false mask begins to slip periodically during the devaluation phase of the abuse cycle, the true self is revealed to be terrifyingly cold, callous and contemptuous.

Genuinely nice people rarely have to persistently show off their positive qualities – they exude their warmth more than they talk about it and they know that actions speak volumes more than mere words. They know that trust and respect is a two-way street that requires reciprocity, not repetition.

To counter a preemptive defense, reevaluate why a person may be emphasizing their good qualities. Is it because they think you don’t trust them, or because they know you shouldn’t? Trust actions more than empty words and see how someone’s actions communicate who they are, not who they say they are.

14. Triangulation.

Bringing in the opinion, perspective or suggested threat of another person into the dynamic of an interaction is known as “triangulation.” Often used to validate the toxic person’s abuse while invalidating the victim’s reactions to abuse, triangulation can also work to manufacture love triangles that leave you feeling unhinged and insecure.

Malignant narcissists love to triangulate their significant other with strangers, co-workers, ex-partners, friends and even family members in order to evoke jealousy and uncertainty in you. They also use the opinions of others to validate their point of view.

This is a diversionary tactic meant to pull your attention away from their abusive behavior and into a false image of them as a desirable, sought after person. It also leaves you questioning yourself – if Mary did agree with Tom, doesn’t that mean that you must be wrong? The truth is, narcissists love to “report back” falsehoods about others say about you, when in fact, they are the ones smearing you.

To resist triangulation tactics, realize that whoever the narcissist is triangulating with is also being triangulated by your relationship with the narcissist as well. Everyone is essentially being played by this one person. Reverse “triangulate” the narcissist by gaining support from a third party that is not under the narcissist’s influence – and also by seeking your own validation.

15. Bait and feign innocence.

Toxic individuals lure you into a false sense of security simply to have a platform to showcase their cruelty. Baiting you into a mindless, chaotic argument can escalate into a showdown rather quickly with someone who doesn’t know the meaning of respect. A simple disagreement may bait you into responding politely initially, until it becomes clear that the person has a malicious motive of tearing you down.

By “baiting” you with a seemingly innocuous comment disguised as a rational one, they can then begin to play with you. Remember: narcissistic abusers have learned about your insecurities, the unsettling catchphrases that interrupt your confidence, and the disturbing topics that reenact your wounds – and they use this knowledge maliciously to provoke you. After you’ve fallen for it, hook line and sinker, they’ll stand back and innocently ask whether you’re “okay” and talk about how they didn’t “mean” to agitate you. This faux innocence works to catch you off guard and make you believe that they truly didn’t intend to hurt you, until it happens so often you can’t deny the reality of their malice any longer.

It helps to realize when you’re being baited so you can avoid engaging altogether. Provocative statements, name-calling, hurtful accusations or unsupported generalizations, for example, are common baiting tactics. Your gut instinct can also tell you when you’re being baited – if you feel “off” about a certain comment and continue to feel this way even after it has been expanded on, that’s a sign you may need to take some space to reevaluate the situation before choosing to respond.

16. Boundary testing and hoovering.

Narcissists, sociopaths and otherwise toxic people continually try and test your boundaries to see which ones they can trespass. The more violations they’re able to commit without consequences, the more they’ll push the envelope.
That’s why survivors of emotional as well as physical abuse often experience even more severe incidents of abuse each and every time they go back to their abusers.

Abusers tend to “hoover” their victims back in with sweet promises, fake remorse and empty words of how they are going to change, only to abuse their victims even more horrifically. In the abuser’s sick mind, this boundary testing serves as a punishment for standing up to the abuse and also for being going back to it. When narcissists try to press the emotional reset button, reinforce your boundaries even more strongly rather than backtracking on them.

Remember – highly manipulative people don’t respond to empathy or compassion. They respond to consequences.

17. Aggressive jabs disguised as jokes.

Covert narcissists enjoy making malicious remarks at your expense. These are usually dressed up as “just jokes” so that they can get away with saying appalling things while still maintaining an innocent, cool demeanor. Yet any time you are outraged at an insensitive, harsh remark, you are accused of having no sense of humor. This is a tactic frequently used in verbal abuse.

The contemptuous smirk and sadistic gleam in their eyes gives it away, however – like a predator that plays with its food, a toxic person gains pleasure from hurting you and being able to get away with it. After all, it’s just a joke, right? Wrong. It’s a way to gaslight you into thinking their abuse is a joke – a way to divert from their cruelty and onto your perceived sensitivity. It is important that when this happens, you stand up for yourself and make it clear that you won’t tolerate this type of behavior.

Calling out manipulative people on their covert put-downs may result in further gaslighting from the abuser but maintain your stance that their behavior is not okay and end the interaction immediately if you have to.

18. Condescending sarcasm and patronizing tone.

Belittling and degrading a person is a toxic person’s forte and their tone of voice is only one tool in their toolbox. Sarcasm can be a fun mode of communication when both parties are engaged, but narcissists use it chronically as a way to manipulate you and degrade you. If you in any way react to it, you must be “too sensitive.”

Forget that the toxic person constantly has temper tantrums every time their big bad ego is faced with realistic feedback – the victim is the hypersensitive one, apparently. So long as you’re treated like a child and constantly challenged for expressing yourself, you’ll start to develop a sense of hypervigilance about voicing your thoughts and opinions without reprimand. This self-censorship enables the abuser to put in less work in silencing you, because you begin to silence yourself.

Whenever you are met with a condescending demeanor or tone, call it out firmly and assertively. You don’t deserve to be spoken down to like a child – nor should you ever silence yourself to meet the expectation of someone else’s superiority complex.

19. Shaming.

“You should be ashamed of yourself” is a favorite saying of toxic people. Though it can be used by someone who is non-toxic, in the realm of the narcissist or sociopath, shaming is an effective method that targets any behavior or belief that might challenge a toxic person’s power. It can also be used to destroy and whittle away at a victim’s self-esteem: if a victim dares to be proud of something, shaming the victim for that specific trait, quality or accomplishment can serve to diminish their sense of self and stifle any pride they may have.

Malignant narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths enjoy using your own wounds against you – so they will even shame you about any abuse or injustice you’ve suffered in your lifetime as a way to retraumatize you. Were you a childhood abuse survivor? A malignant narcissist or sociopath will claim that you must’ve done something to deserve it, or brag about their own happy childhood as a way to make you feel deficient and unworthy. What better way to injure you, after all, than to pick at the original wound? As surgeons of madness, they seek to exacerbate wounds, not help heal them.

If you suspect you’re dealing with a toxic person, avoid revealing any of your vulnerabilities or past traumas. Until they’ve proven their character to you, there is no point disclosing information that could be potentially used against you.

20. Control.

Most importantly, toxic abusers love to maintain control in whatever way they can. They isolate you, maintain control over your finances and social networks, and micromanage every facet of your life. Yet the most powerful mechanism they have for control is toying with your emotions.

That’s why abusive narcissists and sociopaths manufacture situations of conflict out of thin air to keep you feeling off center and off balanced. That’s why they chronically engage in disagreements about irrelevant things and rage over perceived slights. That’s why they emotionally withdraw, only to re-idealize you once they start to lose control. That’s why they vacillate between their false self and their true self, so you never get a sense of psychological safety or certainty about who your partner truly is.

The more power they have over your emotions, the less likely you’ll trust your own reality and the truth about the abuse you’re enduring. Knowing the manipulative tactics and how they work to erode your sense of self can arm you with the knowledge of what you’re facing and at the very least, develop a plan to regain control over your own life and away from toxic people.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THOUGHT CATALOG on June 30, 2016.

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

All rights reserved.  No part of this entry may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. This includes adaptations in all forms of media.


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You can also order my new book, POWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse.

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Should We ‘Forgive’ Our Abusers?

DANIEL ROCAL VIA FLICKR. Creative Commons License.

“Forgiveness” is a bit of a controversial issue in the abuse survivor community. Some survivors feel that forgiveness is a necessary part of the healing journey, while others adamantly feel that forgiveness should remain a personal choice, not a necessity. By no means am I underplaying the potential benefits of forgiveness, which include health benefits. I am not minimizing or invalidating the fact that forgiveness may serve as a healing balm for some survivors.

What I am countering is this idea that forgiveness is the one and only route of healing for all survivors, in all circumstances. 

The traditional definition of forgiveness is “to give up resentment of,” to “cease to feel resentment against an offender,” or to “grant relief for a debt.” While it may not be healthy to hold onto resentment for long periods of time, it is just as, if not more unhealthy to repress feelings of anger, resentment and outrage – all emotions that arise naturally due to trauma – simply to please other people.

Trauma therapist Pete Walker says that acknowledging and confronting our feelings of anger is actually essential to the healing and grieving process. What complicates this scenario is that the survivor is often asked to “let it go” and “forgive and forget” prematurely – much earlier than they are ready or willing to do either.

Forgiveness – when it genuinely arises, not as a forced, premature act – can provide lovely, healing relief on one’s recovery journey. However, the type of forgiveness that benefits the survivor is usually granted by the survivor’s own free will and usually after processing much trauma. And we cannot deny the fact that some survivors are more empowered by their choice to not forgive, yet move forward regardless. Each journey is unique and different.

FOR SURVIVORS, FORGIVENESS IS OFTEN USED AS A WEAPON AGAINST THEM.

Spiritual philosophies often encourage forgiveness as an act of grace that promotes harmony, yet disregard that for some survivors, it can provide the abuser more relief than the abuse victim. While reconciliation is not a necessary part of forgiveness, there are survivors who do reconcile with their abusers after forgiving them in the abuse cycle. Yet a common refrain from those who push others to forgive prematurely is the idea that, “Forgiveness is not about the other person, it is about you.” If that is the case, survivors should be able to choose whether or not they want to forgive. After all, if it really is about the survivor, why police their journey or assume you know what is the best for them?

What those who preach “forgive and forget” often dismiss is how the concept of forgiveness has been used against abuse victims  throughout the abuse cycle as a weapon to manipulate them into staying in the abusive relationship. They have already been guilted into forgiving the abuser against their will time and time again as they became increasingly traumatized by their abuser. They are then retraumatized by a society that urges them to show “compassion” for their abusers with no acknowledgement of the damaging effects of abuse.

We have to remember that resentment that arises from being mistreated is a legitimate emotion and that emotional flashbacks can retrigger the victim back into the same sense of powerlessness and helplessness they felt from so long ago. Many survivors struggling with PTSD or Complex PTSD are not afforded the choice to simply “let go” of their trauma or genuinely forgive their abusers. For many survivors, “forgiving” their abuser feels wrong and ultimately retraumatizing.

Forgiveness towards a perpetrator who is not remorseful in any way for his or her actions, sometimes even sadistically happy because of them, can also be retraumatizing. People disregard the fact that for some survivors, forgiveness cannot be granted without the other person genuinely expressing remorse for their transgressions and taking actions to actively repair what has occurred, to ensure that this behavior does not occur again. Most abusers, especially those on the malignant end of the spectrum, are not capable of or unwilling to commit to such long-term change.

Some survivors of sexual abuse, for example, benefit from being permitted not to forgive. Forgiveness is the survivor’s choice and should be on their timeline – if and when the survivor chooses to forgive.

FORGIVENESS AND SPIRITUAL FRAMEWORKS

Abusers may use religion and spiritual frameworks against their victims to gaslight them into believing that the abuse needs to be forgiven and that not forgiving the abuser is evidence of the victim’s lack of compassion. Nothing could be further from the truth – in the words of domestic violence survivor Brooke Axtell, if your compassion does not include self-compassion, it is ultimately incomplete. Spiritual abuse can warp our ideas of forgiveness, and get us stuck in FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) about holding our abusers accountable or leaving them for the sake of our own self-care. Abusers learn quickly that if we do believe in forgiveness, we may be more susceptible to allowing them back into our lives after abusive incidents.

Although people may say forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that we condone the abuser’s actions, that is how abusers will twist forgiveness to fit their agenda, so they will continue to perpetuate the falsehood that forgiving and forgetting is a sign of our character or morality to ensure that the victim is ensnared into the traumatic cycle of abuse once more.

Even if the forgiveness is simply for ourselves, not our abusers, it should still be the survivor’s choice – because that is the point of it, right? To make the journey more liberating for the survivor – yet this form of release and relief cannot come without processing the trauma and it certainly will feel like a prison if it is seen as an obligation, rather than an act of free will. There are some survivors who benefit from forgiving authentically after doing much needed healing work, while other survivors heal without the need to forgive their abusers. Every survivor’s journey is different and should be respected, not policed.

Ultimately what many survivors find is that processing the trauma, with all of its authentic emotions, is far more healing than a fabricated forgiveness that only serves to sweep the trauma under the rug. If a survivor does choose to forgive, it must be by his or her own choice – a choice that is made not due to the scrutiny of a society that prefers abuse victims to remain silent and dissociate from their trauma, but through their own free will, with an understanding of how to actively validate the pain suffered and its effects. 

OUR CHOICES SHOULD BE RESPECTED, NOT JUDGED.

Forgiveness can be a natural part of the healing process for a survivor after they’ve processed their emotions. But, it also doesn’t have to be, as each survivor is different, with different circumstances. And, it doesn’t make one a narcissist or lacking in compassion to not grant forgiveness – even those with great empathy, in horrific circumstances, may choose instead to not forgive, yet move forward peacefully with their lives. Constructive healing does not always have to include forgiveness.

IF WE DO CHOOSE TO FORGIVE, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

If you do choose to forgive, make sure your self-care is still a priority. Although the abuse cycle may have conditioned you to feel otherwise, forgiveness does not require reconciliation with our abusers. In fact, reconciliation along with forgiveness only serves to make survivors feel more powerless and anxious.

Forgiving someone also does not mean we cannot be proactive about gaining justice: it does not mean we cannot take legal action, stand up to our abusers or hold them accountable for their actions. We can’t allow perpetrators to get away with injustice because of a limited perspective of what forgiveness means or entails, as this limited point of view only serves to enable abusers and protect them from the legal consequences of their actions.

FORGIVENESS AND THERAPY

I have heard amazing stories from survivors who’ve had validating, trauma-informed therapists who informed them that forgiveness was their personal choice, not a necessity in the healing journey. However, you may have encountered a few professionals or so-called experts who think forgiveness is the only way to healing and may urge you to “let” your trauma go.

I think therapists who say these things verge on being unprofessional and unethical, as well as ill-informed on the effects of trauma. I find that there are unfortunately some therapists who simply do not get it and unintentionally retraumatize trauma victims in the process. There are even professionals who are narcissistic themselves or identify with the abuser in some way, so they will intentionally invalidate the victim to have more power and control over their clients. They may be projecting their own unprocessed trauma onto other victims, as a way to resolve their own internal chaos.

There are, however, thankfully many validating, trauma-informed professionals out there who do know not to ever compare one person’s journey to another and who know not to force forgiveness onto their clients…and every survivor deserves support such as this.

The bottom line? What is healing for one survivor may not be healing for another. It is everyone’s own journey to take and we should not micromanage another person’s journey. If forgiveness has helped you to move forward, all the more power to you. If forgiveness is not part of your healing journey, that is perfectly okay too. If you’re uncertain, embrace the uncertainty and know that what is important is learning to do what is best for you, while still validating your emotions and the trauma that you endured.

During the abuse cycle, your choices were taken away from you. This time, you get to make the choice – don’t let society, your abuser, or myths about what forgiveness means – take that away from you.


Learn how to empower yourself after narcissistic abuse. Get my #1 Amazon bestselling book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare. Available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, NOOK, iBooks and other major online retailers. It is available in paperback, as an e-book and as an Audible book.

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5 Ways We Rationalize Abuse and Why We Need to Stop

Read the rest on Thought Catalog.

Five Ways We Rationalize Abuse and Why We Need to Stop by Shahida Arabi:

A common abusive tactic is gaslighting the victim into thinking the abuse they are suffering isn’t real. By casting doubt onto the victim’s sanity and perceptions of the abuse, the abuser is then able to distort and manipulate the victim into thinking that the abuse didn’t exist or that it wasn’t abuse at all.

Another painful aspect of this gaslighting effect as well as the effects of trauma is that we begin to rationalize, deny and minimize the impact of the abuse in an effort to survive a hostile, toxic environment. We essentially begin ‘gaslighting’ ourselves and blaming ourselves for the abuse, though certainly not with the same intent or awareness as our abusers.

I want to emphasize that this is not your fault, but rather a common reaction to enduring and having to survive severe trauma. Here are five ways we rationalize abusive behavior that we can all be more mindful of, moving forward. These are not only relevant to survivors of abuse, but also society as a whole to remember, in order to combat victim-blaming.

1. “Well, I am not perfect either.” A popular misconception is that one has to be perfect in order to gain respect and decency. There is no excuse for any form of abuse, period. If you are a non-abusive person who is capable of empathy, there is especially no excuse for a person to verbally, emotionally, or physically violate you in any way, regardless of your flaws. Many survivors of abuse have been accused of being too sensitive, too clingy, too much of everything – this has caused them to excessively look inward for someone to blame rather than seeing the true culprit. The abuser works very hard to implant false insecurities as well as exaggerate existing ones; they continually blameshift to make everything the victim’s fault. There are plenty of imperfect people in the world who have loving partners, friends and family members. These people don’t have to meet some fictitious criteria for perfection to be worthy of respect and decency. Neither should you.”

Read the rest of the article here.

POWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse

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Pathological mind games. Covert and overt put-downs. Triangulation. Gaslighting. Projection. These are the manipulative tactics survivors of malignant narcissists are unfortunately all too familiar with. As victims of silent crimes where the perpetrators are rarely held accountable, survivors of narcissistic abuse have lived in a war zone of epic proportions, enduring an abuse cycle of love-bombing and devaluation—psychological violence on steroids.

From how to heal our addiction to the narcissist to how to recognize a covert narcissist, Shahida Arabi’s articles on narcissistic abuse have gained renown as some of the most accurate and in-depth depictions of this terrifying trauma, resonating with millions of survivors all over the world and receiving endorsement from numerous mental health professionals.

In this essay compilation, readers can enjoy some of her most popular articles as well as new thought pieces on narcissistic abuse, including what actual therapists have to say about malignant narcissists and how children of narcissistic parents can become trapped in the trauma repetition cycle. Survivors are offered new insights on what it means to be both a survivor and a thriver of covert manipulation and trauma.

POWER teaches us that it is important to not only understand the tactics of toxic personalities but also to recognize and combat the effects of narcissistic abuse; it guides the survivor to learning, growing, healing and most importantly of all—owning their agency to rebuild their lives, and transform their powerlessness into victory.

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FOR A LIMITED TIME, RESERVE YOUR SIGNED COPY OF POWER HERE.

 

About the Author

Shahida Arabi is a graduate of Columbia University graduate school where she studied the effects of bullying across the life-course trajectory. She is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue, and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself, featured as a #1 Amazon Bestseller in three categories and in personality disorders for six consecutive months after its release. She studied Psychology and English Literature as an undergraduate at NYU, where she graduated summa cum laude. Her interests include psychology, sociology, education, gender studies and mental health advocacy. Her writing has been featured on The Huffington Post, MOGUL, Thought Catalog, and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website. Her blog, Self-Care Haven, has had millions of views from all over the world and her work has been shared by numerous mental health professionals, award-winning bloggers and bestselling authors.

 

EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK

Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare is in the News!

BECOMING THE NARCISSIST’S NIGHTMARE: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself

FEATURED ON NBC, ABC, CBS AND FOX!

Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare

                  Was Recently Featured on ABC, NBC, CBS AND FOX!

“People suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder manipulate and devalue their partners on a chronic basis, leading to an oppressive form of emotional and psychological abuse that society is just beginning to learn more about. Unfortunately, no diagnostic manual or psychology class right now offers a comprehensive discussion about the facets of narcissistic abuse which continue to affect millions around the world. The worst part? Malignant narcissists – those on the far end of the narcissistic with antisocial traits – are usually unwilling to attend the necessary treatment. There isn’t enough information out there in domestic violence discourses about the manipulative tactics abusive narcissists use or how to heal from them. The partners of narcissists are often forced to suffer in alienation while the narcissist continues the abuse cycle. ‘Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare’ is here to change that conversation and start a revolution – in this book I want to offer survivors a rare blend of survivor insights and expert opinions that will enable them to heal from the mayhem of emotional violence – a violence that is rarely spoken about,” stated Shahida Arabi while discussing her book.

READ THE REST ON NBC

ALSO AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE ON:

 

Remember That Time You Emotionally Abused Me?

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Remember That Time You Emotionally Abused Me?

Remember that time you gave me a black heart instead of black eyes
Warped words instead of scraped knees
Yet it still hurt, just the same?
Remember that time you used your silence
to bruise my broken soul,
which could’ve just as easily been broken bones
Because sometimes contempt hurts even more deeply
than sticks and stones?

 

Read the rest on Thought Catalog.


To learn more about recovering from emotional trauma and staging your victory from abuse, order my #1 Amazon bestselling book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself.

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You can also pre-order my new book, POWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse.

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She Who Destroys the Light: A Poetry Collection for Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse, Now Available for Pre-Order

I am excited and honored to announce that my debut poetry collection for survivors of abuse and trauma,  She Who Destroys the Light: Fairy Tales Gone Wrong is now available for pre-order! This is one of the two books being published by Thought Catalog this year and I am SO thrilled to be able to share this collection with you all.

There are currently a limited number of signed copies available for pre-order. Be sure to get your copy today!

The book is available in all three formats (print, PDF, and e-book) here: http://thoughtcatalog.com/book/she-who-destroys-the-light/ 

Get your signed paperback copy here: https://gumroad.com/l/ziZMS

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Pre-order the signed paperback here: https://gumroad.com/l/ziZMS

The PDF version here: https://gumroad.com/l/bKLbg

iBooks version: Thought Catalog Book Site

SHE WHO DESTROYS THE LIGHT: FAIRY TALES GONE WRONG

The best fairy tales are the untold stories, the ones where the powerless take back their power and emerge as the victors, but not before enduring a long, arduous battle with the self and the world. In her debut poetry collection, ‘She Who Destroys The Light: Fairy Tales Gone Wrong,’ Shahida Arabi candidly explores the themes of destruction and resurrection, unraveling the dark realities of abuse, trauma, heartbreak and the survivor’s convoluted journey to freedom, healing, creativity and self-love. This collection provides an uncensored and raw exploration into the complexities of adversity and agency, offering a rare glimpse of what it truly means to survive and rise again from the impact of emotional and psychological violence.

 EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK

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ALSO FROM THE BOOK: Read This During the Worst Moments of Your Life.

About the Author

Shahida Arabi is a graduate of Columbia University graduate school and the bestselling author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care and Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare, a #1 Amazon bestseller. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, The National Domestic Violence Hotline, MOGUL and Thought Catalog. Her blog, Self-Care Haven, has reached millions of survivors all over the world and her articles have been endorsed by numerous bestselling authors, mental health professionals and award-winning bloggers.

20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists Use to Silence You

20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths Use to Silence You by Shahida Arabi via Thought Catalog

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“The difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism is the presence of a personal attack and impossible standards. These so-called “critics” often don’t want to help you improve, they just want to nitpick, pull you down and scapegoat you in any way they can. Abusive narcissists and sociopaths employ a logical fallacy known as “moving the goalposts” in order to ensure that they have every reason to be perpetually dissatisfied with you. This is when, even after you’ve provided all the evidence in the world to validate your argument or taken an action to meet their request, they set up another expectation of you or demand more proof.” Read the rest of the article here.

(1) Gaslighting

(2) Projection

(3) Nonsensical Conversations from Hell

(4) Blanket Statements and Generalizations

(5) Deliberate Misrepresentation

(6) Nitpicking and Moving Goal Posts

(7) Changing the Subject to Escape Accountability

(8) Covert and Overt Threats

(9) Name-Calling

(10) Destructive Conditioning

(11) Smear Campaigns and Stalking

(12) Lovebombing and Devaluation

(13) Preemptive Defense

(14) Triangulation

(15) Bait and Feign Innocence

(16) Boundary Testing and Hoovering

(17) Aggressive Jabs Disguised as Jokes

(18) Condescending Sarcasm and Patronizing Tone

(19) Shaming

(20) Control

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

All rights reserved. No part of this entry may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. This includes adaptations in all forms of media.

This blog and all of its entries are owned by Shahida Arabi and protected under DMCA against copyright infringement.  DMCA.com Protection Status


To learn more about recovering from emotional trauma and staging your victory from abuse, order my #1 Amazon bestselling book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself.

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You can also pre-order my new book, POWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse.

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The Real Reason We Love Bad Boys, Toxic Partners and Emotionally Unavailable Men

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                                      Photo Credit: Found on Piccsy

“Our brains can become masochists, seeking the very people that hurt them. The unpredictability of when we’ll get our next “fix” of this elusive person creates stronger reward circuits, which leaves us wanting more and more. Unfortunately, the higher the emotional unavailability of a partner, the more exciting he appears to us – at least, to the reward center of our brains.” -Shahida Arabi

Read the rest on Thought Catalog

The Love Story of a Narcissist and His Victim

The Love Story of a Narcissist and His Victim by Shahida Arabi

“Once upon a time, his tenderness wrapped around you and his fingers traced the outline of your tattoo as his lips brushed against your ear. Most love stories begin with a kiss; this one begins with a well-constructed mask and premeditated murder. A first meeting where the conversation is sex itself; language becomes a weapon and a medicine, a healing balm for your wounds and a sick game of Russian roulette.
He ties his words around you like a corset, fashioning you into his soulmate. Fast-forwarding intimacy on all levels, he plays the victim, weaving a sad story about betrayal by his previous partner who you will later come to learn is also a victim.”

Read more at Thought Catalog.

Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare is a #1 Amazon Bestseller

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Becoming the Narcissist's Nightmare

Due to the volume of pre-orders, the book has risen to #1 Amazon Best Seller status!

Update, 3/30: The fact that it’s been a #1 Bestseller this whole week has been amazing! Thank you!

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I am speechless and honored to be on this list with my some of my favorite authors. This is my first #1 Amazon Bestselling book and a dream literally come true. Thank you for your encouragement and  support!

5 Powerful Self-Care Tips for Abuse and Trauma Survivors

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5 Powerful Self-Care Tips for Abuse and Trauma Survivors by Shahida Arabi

I am honored to announce that this article has been featured on the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.

Being a trauma survivor is a challenging journey, but it is also an empowering one. Trauma acts as the catalyst for us to learn how to better engage in self-care and introduces us to endless modalities for healing and expressing ourselves, enabling us to channel our crisis into our transformation. Most importantly, it gives us access to connect with other survivors who have been where we are. It is in these validating communities that we tend to find the most healing, even outside of the therapy space. Here are some tips that I’ve lived by that can benefit the healing journey of those who have been through trauma and abuse.

1. Positive affirmations. In order to reprogram our subconscious mind, which has undoubtedly been affected by the abusive words and actions we’ve undergone, we have to literally reprogram our brain and minimize the negative, destructive automatic thoughts that may arise in our day-to-day life.

These thoughts stir self-sabotage and hold us back from embracing all the power and agency we have to rebuild our lives. Many of these thoughts are not even our own, but rather, the voices of our abusers and bullies who continue to taunt us far long after the abuse has ended. When we’ve been abused or bullied in any way, we continue to abuse ourselves with what trauma therapist Pete Walker calls the voice of the “inner critic.”

The most powerful way I’ve reprogrammed my own inner critical voice is through a system of positive affirmations that I engage in on a daily basis. These are positive affirmations that should be tailored to your particular wounds and insecurities. For example, if you have an insecurity about your appearance that your abuser has attempted to instill in you, a positive affirmation can gently interrupt the pattern of ruminating over such harsh comments by replacing the toxic thought with a loving one. A self-sabotaging thought about your appearance suddenly becomes, “I am beautiful, inside and out” whenever the harmful thought or emotion associated with the thought comes up.

One of the most effective techniques in engaging in these positive affirmations aside from saying them aloud is a technique from my larger method of “reverse discourse” which I discuss in my first book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care. Record all of your positive affirmations on a tape recover or a voice recording application and listen to them daily. Hearing your own voice repeating these affirmations daily – “I love myself,” “I am valuable,” “I am worthy,” “I am beautiful” – is a potent way to rewrite the narrative abusers have written for you and banish that browbeating bully inside of your own head.

2. Heal the mind through the body. According to trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score, trauma lives in our bodies as well as our minds. It’s important that we find at least one form of physical outlet for the intense emotions of grief, rage, and hurt we’re bound to feel in the aftermath of abuse and trauma, in order to combat the paralysis that accompanies trauma, leaving us feeling numb and frozen.

I personally love kickboxing, yoga, dance cardio and running while listening to empowering music or listening to positive affirmations. Do something that you’re passionate about and love to do. Don’t force your body into activities that you’re not comfortable with or exhaust yourself. Using physical exercise as an outlet should be an act of self-care, not self-destruction.

 3. Breathe. For abuse survivors who struggle with symptoms of PTSD or complex PTSD, mindful breathing exercises and meditation are especially helpful in managing  what therapist Pete Walker calls our fight, flight, freeze or fawn responses to flashbacks and ruminating thoughts.

Taking time to observe our breath, whether it be for five minutes or an hour, can be immensely helpful to managing our emotions and nonjudgmentally addressing our painful triggers. In addition, meditation literally rewires our brain so that we are able to mindfully approach any maladaptive responses that may keep us locked into the traumatic event. If you have never meditated before and would like to try it, I would highly recommend an app known as Stop, Breathe and Think, recommended for people of all ages.

4. Channel your pain into creativity. Art therapy is especially helpful to survivors of PTSD because it enables survivors to find modes of expression that allows them to create and integrate rather than self-destruct. According to van der Kolk, trauma can affect the Broca’s area of the brain which deals with language. It can shut this area of the brain down, disabling us from expressing what is occurring.

Allowing ourselves to express the trauma in a somatic way is important because trauma and the dissociation that comes with it, can be difficult to process into words. When we are dissociated from the trauma, our brain protects itself from the traumatic event by giving us an outsider perspective to the trauma, disconnecting us from our identity, thoughts, feelings, and memories related to the trauma.

The brain tends to “split” a traumatic event to make it easier to digest. Since trauma can disconnect us from both our minds and bodies through processes of depersonalization, derealization, and even amensia, art can help us reintegrate the trauma where we were previously disconnected from the experience. As Andrea Schneider, LCSW, puts it, expressive arts can be a way of “mastering the trauma” that we’ve experienced.

Whether it’s writing, painting, drawing, making music, doing arts and crafts – it’s important to release the trauma in alternative ways that engage both our mind and body.

When we create something, we can also have the option of sharing our art with the world – whether it’s a beautiful painting or a book, harnessing our pain into creativity can be a life-changing experience – both for ourselves and for others.

5) Asking for help. Contrary to popular opinion, asking for help does not make you helpless or powerless. It is in fact, a strong recognition of your own power to be able to seek help and be open to receiving it. Sharing your story with other survivors can be incredibly healing and cathartic. If you are struggling with the effects of trauma, I highly recommend finding a validating mental health professional who specializes in trauma and understands its symptoms in addition to finding a support group of fellow survivors.

Having the support of a mental health professional throughout the process can ensure that you are able to address your trauma triggers in a safe space. It is important to choose a validating, trauma-informed counselor who can meet your needs and gently guide you with the appropriate therapy that addresses the symptoms and triggers. Some survivors benefit from EMDR therapy, which is a therapy that enables them to process their trauma without being retraumatized in the process. However, a therapy that works for one survivor may not work for another depending on their specific symptoms, the severity of the trauma and the length of time a person has been traumatized. Be sure to discuss with your mental health professional what the right type of therapy is for you.

As a supplement to therapy, you may wish to also consult the resources on this excellent list, which includes free or low-cost mental health resources.

Throughout this journey of healing from trauma and abuse, make sure that you are being self-compassionate towards yourself. A great deal of trauma survivors suffer from toxic shame and self-blame. It’s important that we are gentle towards ourselves during this journey, that we acknowledge that we are doing our very best, and that we ask ourselves every day, “What would be the most loving thing I can do for myself in this moment?” in any circumstance. There is no time limit to learning and healing, there is only the power of transforming our adversity into victory, one small step at a time.

This article has also been published on MOGUL and TheMindsJournal.

If you liked this entry, please consider supporting Self-Care Haven and its associated platforms by making a donation. Your support will help survivors continue to connect with resources that empower them!

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

All rights reserved.  No part of this entry may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. This includes adaptations in all forms of media.

Inspired by the post? Instead of reiterating ideas from this post or posting it in its entirety it without permission – please consider doing a WordPress Reblog which condenses the post and links back to the original source.

Interested in learning more about narcissistic abuse? Pre-order my new book on narcissistic abuse, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself. Also be sure to check out my first book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care.

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UntitledShahida Arabi is a graduate of Columbia University graduate school and the author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care, a bestselling Kindle book also available in print. She is also the author of Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself, which became a #2 Amazon Bestseller upon its pre-order release. She studied Psychology and English Literature as an undergraduate at NYU, where she graduated summa cum laude. Her interests include psychology, sociology, education, gender studies and mental health advocacy. You can check out her new blog, Self-Care Haven, for topics related to mindfulness, mental health, narcissistic abuse and recovery from emotional trauma, like her page on Facebook, and subscribe to her YouTube Channel.

The Secret Language of Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths: How Abusers Manipulate Their Victims

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Learning the Secret Language of Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths: How Abusers Manipulate Their Victims by Shahida Arabi

Society assumes that everyone has a conscience and the ability to empathize. In fact, 1 in 25 people in the United States are estimated to be sociopaths, according to Harvard psychologist Martha Stout. Narcissists (those who meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and their like-minded cousins,sociopaths and psychopaths, speak in the language of crazymaking, of projection, of word salad, of gaslighting and of pathological envy. While I will be focusing on narcissistic abusers in this post, keep in mind that all three are unable to empathize with others and frequently exploit others for their own agenda. If you encounter someone with narcissistic traits, they could very well fall towards the extreme end of the spectrum and be a sociopath or psychopath.

These pathological individuals walk among us every day in their false masks, often unseen and noticed because of how eerily normal they are. They can be of any gender, background, and socioeconomic status. Often times, they are charming, charismatic, the life of the party, able to hook their victims in and dupe the public effortlessly. It’s very possible you’ve dated, worked with, had a family member or friend with Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder in your lifetime – even if you didn’t know it then.

Learning their emotional language means acknowledging that their cruelty is not only explicit but implicit, deeply ingrained in nuances in their facial expressions, gestures, tones, and most importantly, the contradictory mismatch between their words and actions. Most importantly, their cruelty is deliberate and designed to control and ultimately destroy their victims.

Their manipulation is psychological and emotionally devastating – and very dangerous, especially considering the brain circuitry for emotional and physical pain are one and the same. What a victim feels when they are punched in the stomach can be similar to the pain a victim feels when they are verbally and emotionally abused, and the effects of narcissistic abuse can be crippling and long-lasting, even resulting in symptoms of PTSD or Complex PTSD.

These types of abusers are fluent in manipulation, well-versed in sadism, in control and in rage – their deliberate cutting down of you, which can be best described as “death by a thousand cuts,” can be just as slow and insidious as it is swift and vicious. It is akin to psychological and emotional rape – a sordid violation of boundaries and of the trust the victim has given his or her abuser.

Narcissistic abusers can attack at any given moment, using their choice weapons of sarcasm, condescending remarks, namecalling, and blameshifting whenever they perceive you as a threat or whenever they need entertainment in the form of an emotional reaction. They can  also use their nonverbal language in the form of a sadistic smirk, the cold deadness in their eyes while professing to love you, their bored, sulky looks or their cruel laughter to bully you into believing that you are inferior to them.

There are three key pieces of information that narcissists frequently collect in the idealization phase of the relationship that they later wield against you in the devaluation and discard phases using their language of cruelty.

1) The flaws, shortcomings, insecurities and secrets you’ve confided in the narcissist about. The narcissistic abuser rejoices when you share your wounds, your struggles, and your triggers early on. It is then that much easier for them to get underneath your skin and inside of your mind. During lovebombing, you are likely to feel so trusting and open with a narcissist that you share everything with them: your past, your heartbreaks, what you perceive to be your flaws.

You may see this as a way of establishing rapport, a connection with your partner, a way of being vulnerable and intimate.  A narcissistic abuser sees it as dinner laying itself on the table. They will pretend to support you and empathize with you when you reveal these to them initially, but will later use these to provoke you, belittle you and demean you during the devaluation phase.

Remember: the narcissist has no limits as to what he or she will use. If you tell your narcissist you’re insecure about your weight, be prepared for covert and overt put-downs about your body in the devaluation phase. If you reveal to a narcissist that you’ve been through a past trauma, such as being sexually assaulted, it won’t be long before they are using degrading lingo in the bedroom to make you feel like a used object. They thrive on the fact that you are being retraumatized. Their ability to make you regress right back into the original trauma with just one turn of phrase makes them feel powerful. And they live for that power, because it is the only power they have in their pathetic, empty lives.

To a narcissist, any open wound  is an invitation to cut deeper and the narcissist can and always will cut a wound even deeper than the first.

2) Your strengths and accomplishments, especially the ones they are pathologically envious of. Initially when you were on the pedestal, the narcissist couldn’t get enough of your strengths and accomplishments. They couldn’t stop raving about you to family and friends, showing you off, treating you like a trophy, an essential part of them. Their association with you inevitably made them feel superior and important. It bolstered their false image of being a normal human being who could get a “prize” like you.

In the devaluation phase, a narcissist will literally translate your strengths into perceived flaws. Once you were “confident and sexy,” – but now you’re “cocky and vain” (a clear projection of themselves, of course). Before, you were “intelligent and driven,” and now you’re just a “know-it-all” or a “smartass.”

They gaslight you into believing that your value and worth is not real, all while projecting their own sense of inferiority onto you. They will degrade, minimize, and ignore what you accomplish, now acting as if it means nothing to them and as if it is of little importance or value to the world. They will feed you falsehoods about your lack of competence and ability. They will claim to be better at you, all the while stealing your ideas. They will taunt you into believing that you’re not capable of the smallest of tasks, even if you are out of their league professionally and personally. They will threaten to ruin your reputation and they will often sabotage major events as well as support networks you may have, attempting to turn everyone against you. They will trample upon your dreams, your aspirations, your beliefs, your personality, your goals, your profession, your talents, your appearance, your lifestyle – all the while extolling their own.

Their sudden turn of language takes a toll; it is traumatizing, shocking and unexpectedly vicious. Everything they once praised will inevitably be turned and twisted into a weakness. This is because they cannot stand you “winning” and being better than them at something. To them, everything is a competition and a game that they must win at all costs. They seek to destroy you in every way possible so that you, in turn, destroy and sabotage yourself – all the while they sit back, relax and watch the unraveling of everything you’ve worked hard for.

3) Your need to please them and their need to be perpetually dissatisfied. The narcissist cultivated your need for his or her validation and approval early on in the idealization phase. By making you dependent on his or her praise, they conditioned you to seek the excessive admiration that only they could dole out. Now, as they devalue you, they use your need for validation to their advantage by withdrawing frequently, appearing sullen at every opportunity, and converting every generous thing you do for them as a failure on your part that falls short of their ludicrous expectations. Nothing can meet their high standards and everything wrong will be pointed out. In fact, even the things they do wrong shall be pinned on you.

Their blameshifting language, passive-aggressive sulky behavior and narcissistic rage at the slightest injury becomes all-consuming for the victim, as the victim attempts to strengthen his or her efforts to meet the standards of the narcissist – standards which inevitably set the victim up for failure. For this, the victim is met with verbal assault, accusations and unfair comparisons which instill in him or her a pervasive sense of worthlessness and never being “enough.”

If the victim ever attempts to make the narcissistic abuser accountable for being a decent human being, they will lash out in rage, blaming them for the abuse and stonewalling the victim into silence. They love to have the last word, especially for the language they’ve created.

Taking back our control and power from a narcissistic abuser means going to war with the language they use against us. We must create in its place what I call a “reverse discourse” – a new language and a rewriting of the narrative that instead lifts us, motivates us, inspires us and revives us by replacing the narcissist’s cutting words with our own powerful truth.

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

All rights reserved. No part of this entry, which is an excerpt from my upcoming book, may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. This includes adaptations in all forms of media.

This blog and all of its entries are owned by Shahida Arabi and protected under DMCA against copyright infringement.  DMCA.com Protection Status

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Interested in learning more about narcissistic abuse? Pre-order my new book on narcissistic abuse, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself. Also be sure to check out my first book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care.

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About the Author

UntitledShahida Arabi is a graduate of Columbia University graduate school and is the author of two #1 Amazon bestselling books. She studied Psychology and English Literature as an undergraduate at NYU, where she graduated summa cum laude. Her interests include psychology, sociology, education, gender studies and mental health advocacy. You can check out her new blog, Self-Care Haven, for topics related to mindfulness, mental health, narcissistic abuse and recovery from emotional trauma, like her page on Facebook, and subscribe to her YouTube Channel.

Simultaneous Wounding and Complex PTSD: How Our Past Wounds Can Make us Susceptible to Toxic Narcissists

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Simultaneous Wounding and Complex PTSD: How Our Past Wounds Can Make us Susceptible to Toxic Narcissists and Why We Need to Stop Victim-Blaming by Shahida Arabi

The idea that narcissists only bring up our own wounds falls short of explaining how they also manufacture new ones. This is what I’ve dubbed “simultaneous wounding” – a term that encompasses the complex nature of how narcissists can bring up past wounds, reinforce them and also manufacture new wounds simultaneously.

The oversimplification that toxic partners only bring up what already exists for us internally ignores a great deal of the complexity involved in how toxic partners can weave a manipulative web that connects both past and present experiences. Narcissists and sociopaths not only bring up past wounds – they compound them and add onto them, creating a chronic chain of stressors that can even result in Complex PTSD, the symptoms of which can include the regular symptoms of PTSD as well as toxic shame, emotional flashbacks, and a never-ending inner critic that diminishes us and demeans us.

On my YouTube channel and blog, I discuss how our childhood experiences of not feeling heard, seen, loved and validated can condition us to accept less – while also asking for more. Although anyone can be a victim of lovebombing, the excessive attention a narcissist uses to manipulate us in the idealization phase of a relationship can hook survivors even more strongly when they are being retraumatized. This enables the trauma repetition cycle to become strengthened, so that we are encountering what I call “trauma upon trauma,” making it difficult for survivors of chronic abuse to break the cycle. There are also biochemical and trauma bonds involved that feed the addictive cycle we have to disrupt in order to regain our sense of agency, power and control (see my interview with Mental Health News: Healing Our Addiction to the Narcissist, to learn more).

Due to past experiences of trauma, we can be extra susceptible to the love-bombing and idealization of a narcissist because we have more reason to seek that validation we did not gain in our past experiences. When a toxic person love-bombs us and later devalues us, it results in the reinforcing of those wounds as well as new emotional injuries that maim us. Yet that does not make the abuse our fault – it simply means we have more to heal than survivors who are encountering a narcissistic abuser for the first time.

In addition to the severe pain that survivors experience as a result, toxic shame and self-blame are symptoms of the trauma we’ve experienced. Victims have been led to blame themselves for the abuse and the current victim-blaming stance in society does not help that. This leaves them feeling defective and worthless, and further entrenches the trauma bond, making it difficult to extricate themselves from the very perpetrators who have convinced them it’s their fault. The fact of the matter is, while narcissists prey on the wounds of individuals, they are also very attracted to the strengths of those individuals. They enjoy surrounding themselves with people who are unique and special (in fact, their need to associate with other “special and unique” people can be part of their diagnostic criteria!)

Survivors are not necessarily the meek, codependent personalities society assumes they must be – rather, they can be incredibly driven, independent, and have high compassion and empathy which enables them to stay within these toxic relationships far past the expiration date. It is also necessary to note that their strength or intelligence does not make them immune to trauma bonding or the effects of traumatic childhood programming, which research has shown to have an impact on the early developing brain.

Regardless of what our vulnerabilities and wounds are, we do not deserve to be abused or mistreated. Being a trauma survivor does not mean we deserve extra wounding or that we ask for it – quite the contrary. It makes the person who is attempting to wound us by using our past wounds all the more sick for doing so. Blaming an abuse survivor would be similar to blaming a rape victim for being raped – and due to the nature of the biochemical and trauma bonds that form in an abusive relationship, there are actual changes in the brain and in the body that tether victims to their abusers in an abusive relationship. We do not fall for the narcissist – we fall for the person they pretended to be. There are many survivors who are able to run quickly in the other direction when they interact with overt narcissists, but the problem is that there are many covert narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths who manipulate and deceive individuals very well, deceiving and confusing even the most intelligent and competent mental health professionals and experts.

Another common victim-blaming assertion in the survivor community is the idea that victims must be like narcissists in some way in order to have these toxic people in their lives. What many people forget is that a narcissist could never be with someone like them – they would eventually find it just as despicable and frustrating as we find them. They do not wish to be with someone who displays no emotion or has no empathy like them – that would be no fun for them. They need someone with empathy, with compassion, with insight (so they can manipulate the insight to cater to them – ex. convincing a very introspective individual that the abuse is their fault) and the willingness to see good in others – they are attracted to talent, to strength, to “special and unique” – and simultaneously they are pathologically envious of our amazing qualities – because these are the very qualities they will attempt to destroy throughout the course of an intimate relationship. You cannot seek to destroy what was never there and narcissists seek to destroy these qualities because they do in fact exist.

While I do believe childhood abuse can make us extra susceptible to gravitating towards abusive partners in adulthood, that does not mean victims deserve this abuse or are in any way asking for it. Truly, anyone with empathy can be a victim of narcissistic abuse, especially if they have something special in them which narcissists tend to target. Do not let any ignorant person convince you that you are at fault for abuse. It is the abuser’s fault alone. Even if you have been traumatized in the past and find yourself gravitating towards that type of individual that does NOT make it okay for you to be abused. Instead of focusing on the victim, it’s time to focus on the perpetrator who would actually prey on these types of traumatic wounding to manipulate victims who are already hurting. These are the people who are truly sick, not the person who is seeking to form a loving relationship.

We can own our agency in exploring our relationship patterns without resorting to victim-blaming.  Healing from narcissistic abuse or a lifetime of trauma requires that we unravel and heal both types of wounds layered upon one another – both past and present.

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

All rights reserved. This article is a copyrighted excerpt from Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying YourselfNo part of this entry may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. This includes adaptations in all forms of media.

Inspired by the post? Instead of reiterating ideas from this post or posting it in its entirety it without permission – please consider doing a WordPress Reblog which condenses the post and links back to the original source.

Interested in learning more about narcissistic abuse? Order my new book on narcissistic abuse, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself.

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If you enjoyed this blog post, please be sure to hit the WordPress “Follow” button located on top on the right-hand sidebar.

No Contact Monthly Online Coaching For Abuse Survivors

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Sign up for my monthly online No Contact coaching!

Are you struggling in the aftermath of a toxic relationship with a narcissistic or emotionally unavailable partner? Are you looking for a way to maintain No Contact or Low Contact during this time? What about healing strategies that will enable you to move forward from the gaslighting, the covert and overt put-downs, the cognitive dissonance and the low self-esteem you may have suffered during and after this type of relationship?

You will receive:

*Support and motivational e-mails regarding No Contact and self-care.
*Personalized support available via e-mail and supplemental videos regarding your personal situation.
*Free customized meditation and positive affirmation mp3s to aid you in your healing journey. These will be personally made for you and your unique goals and needs.
*Tailored resources that help you build strategies to tackle your specific weaknesses and strengths.
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Why a coaching program? I am very grateful that my blog has been able to help millions of people learn more about narcissistic abuse and toxic relationships. My bestselling Kindle book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care, has also helped abuse survivors on their journey to healing by providing them with a self-care toolkit.

However, I receive e-mails and requests from all over the world from people who are struggling to heal after this type of abuse – people who need tools and positive reinforcement tailored specifically to them to actively tackle the journey ahead and conquer their addiction to the toxic relationship on all levels – psychologically, spiritually and physically.

Is this program like therapy? This program is not a substitute for therapy – it is meant to be a supplement to your healing regimen. I highly recommend that survivors of abuse consult a mental health professional trained in both emotional and physical abuse during their recovery process. Unfortunately, due to the lack of attention given to narcissistic abuse among mental health professionals, not all professionals are able to provide a sensitive and validating approach to victims of this type of covert psychological abuse. There may be a few professionals who unintentionally re-victimize their clients when they invalidate their experiences and ask them to look at their part in the abuse.

While it’s certainly admirable to look within for self-improvement, this type of invalidation can also make victims feel as if the covert abuse they are experiencing is not legitimate – which actually further gaslights them into staying within the relationship to make things work. Many survivors can benefit from sharing their story with another survivor who has been through similar experiences in addition to seeking therapy.

My approach is different.  I want to provide my coaching clients a balance of introspection as well as validation for their experiences. I want to both teach and learn from other survivors about their particular needs, goals and desires so that this remains a coaching partnership rather than a one-sided teaching relationship. I want to use my educational coursework in psychology and sociology, my personal research into this topic, my numerous life experiences as an abuse survivor as well as the challenges thousands of readers have reached out to me with to guide you on the journey to healing – in a way that is deeply personal and specific to your current situation.

If you’ve ever read my blog comments or responses on my YouTube channel, you know that I try my very best to give extensive replies to my readers which include both resources and encouragement. Due to time constraints, however, I’ve never been able to coach them individually throughout their healing journey. I would now love the opportunity to make this possible.

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Read more testimonials about my work here.

For this coaching program, I value quality over quantity. This means I will work with a small number of people every month who I feel are in sync with my coaching mission rather than a large number where the quality of my services may become diminished. The reason I do this is simple: I want to provide you with the most quality service and personalized attention possible. 

UPDATE: Individual consultation and coaching e-mails – Due to increased demand for online coaching, I have recently modified and moved my e-mail consultation and online coaching services to Fiverr. Please sign up for one of my packages here. 

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I look forward to working with you!

 

“As I look back I would say being in a relationship with a narcissistic abuser was like being shackled to a lunatic in the darkest corner of Bedlam. Of course you don’t even realise its happening until it’s too late and you are lost in their empty, evil world. I left so confused and unsure of what had happened to me, with the support of my mother and then finding Shahida online I could educate myself, empower myself and heal. Shahida taught me so much and I am so thankful to have found her.

My relationship with him was textbook; I read Five Powerful Ways Abusive Narcissists Get Inside Your Head. It was as if Shahida had been writing about my life in the last two years. He was everything she wrote about and it all clicked into place.

After being in such a muddled headspace, Shahida sorted my head out and I am stronger than ever, she taught me everything I needed to know and with this knowledge I got my life back. These people are very dangerous, they are never happier until you are confused and at the mercy their control. I would never allow someone to take away my happiness. You should never allow anyone to take away your peace of mind. I am so grateful for my family and Shahida for getting me over such an awful experience. Shahida is an incredible woman and is inspiring so many women all over the world. It is my aim to educate and help other sufferers, empower them and give them back their peace of mind something that narcissistic abusers will never have.” Zayn Clyre, Advocate, Actress, Model, Coaching Client.

 “I knew I was in a bad relationship, my friends and family knew I was in a bad relationship, but neither I nor they were aware of the real trouble that was going on.  I was so completely handicapped by the shameful gaslit thoughts that I played a major role in the dysfunction, that I had not been honest with anyone about the degree of abuse that was going on.
Discovering Shahida’s article, “5 Ways Narcissistic Abusers Get Inside You Head” opened my eyes to the psychological trap I had been lured into. Her wisdom on the subject of narcissistic abuse has been an emotional north star to guide me in a direction precisely inverse to the power and control of my ex. Walking away from him felt much like walking away from a cult where he was the leader and I was the disobedient member, never knowing my role and forever provoking him. While it was the right thing to leave, it felt very much like the wrong thing initially. Her insights on the impacts narcissistic abuse can ensue on the victim have been nothing short of enlightening. They have sturdied my spine in the many moments of doubt, arched back my shoulders when I’ve huddled in a ball resistant to cope, and widened my inner aperture when I struggled to let the light in.
Through online coaching and her tailored meditations she has been a key ally in my journey to healing while also affirming the importance of being a key ally to myself. I feel that Shahida has brought a unique and crucial perspective to my life during a very difficult time. I needed that educated voice that saw through all the manipulative tactics, that could forecast the very predictable behavior of a narcissist once you have left them, that gently nudged me to maintain no contact while understanding the addictive urges to reach out or respond to my ex, and that reassured me that by maintaining no contact I was not being cruel or immature or vengeful (as my ex had suggested)…[Shahida] is a giving soul, an astute writer and in fight to free yourself of a narcissist’s ploys, she is an invaluable resource in have in your corner.”Tara, Coaching Client

More testimonials regarding Self-Care Haven can be found on the main website here.

Interested in learning more about narcissistic abuse? Order my #1 Bestselling book on narcissistic abuse, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself.

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 Also be sure to check out my first book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care.