Tag Archives: narcissistic abuse

Love-Bombing Is Crack Cocaine: The Addictive Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse

This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

By Shahida Arabi

IDEALIZATION AND LOVE-BOMBING

Highly skilled manipulators know how to seduce their prey – even without ever touching them. They are skilled wordsmiths and psychological puppeteers, pulling the strings each step of the way. They learn your love language and they know how to appeal to what you want to hear. They open doors, they take you out on extravagant dates, they take their time with foreplay – both verbal and physical. Their initial chivalry masks their cruelty.  Their tenderness is a very convincing façade for their chilly interior.

The idealization phase can only be described as pure, unadulterated ecstasy – both for the victim and the predator. Love-bombing – the excessive praise and flattery the predator showers on the prey – might as well be crack cocaine. It is a common manipulation used by cults to control their members – and in a relationship with a narcissist, you become a one-man cult. Your devotion to them becomes servile, disturbingly teetering on the edge of worship. And it’s usually because you’re following their lead.

The target is groomed to become addicted to the narcissist’s loving words and caring actions – not knowing they are hollow. We begin to invest in the predator as they seem to invest in us. They mirror our deepest needs and desires; they even mirror our interests, hobbies, and viewpoints. They tantalize us with the promise of a brighter future, a relationship where we are deeply validated and taken care of. We get used to the daily praise and laser-focused attention. Sex with the narcissist during the idealization phase is explosive – filled with just the right amount of tenderness and aggression – the narcissist knows exactly how to bring us to greater heights. It’s because they’ve studied what we like and have learned to mimic it. Little do we know, sex will later be used as ammunition.

During idealization and love-bombing, our place on the pedestal is secure and complete. We become the center of the narcissist’s world – or so we think. Really, they become the center of ours as we strive to measure up to the ideal image they have of us. They make us feel like God, only to cater to their own God complex.

Along the way, we deepen our investment because the bond feels so special and unique. We feel we’ve met our soulmate, our other half, our “twin flame.” What we’ve really met is someone who would burn us to ashes without a second glance if it meant getting what they wanted. This connection is heightened in a way that demands our attention on a physical, spiritual and even biochemical level – and before we know it, we begin to rely on this new person for survival. And that is when the danger begins.

Within even the most perfect period of idealization, there are tiny moments of recognition and fleeting red flags. Predators will always ‘test’ the boundaries of their victims early on – with provocative comments designed to make the victim doubt their perceptions. There will always be slippings of the mask where we get a terrifying view of the true self.

Yet these are so scarce during this phase that we are led to doubt whether we’ve seen anything at all. During love-bombing, the luckiest of survivors pick up on the cracks in the narcissist’s mask and see the empty shell beneath – and they do not attempt to rationalize or fix the fractured pieces. They are able to depart with their savings and sanity intact – they are able to leave, still whole. The rest move onto the devaluation phase, to be tattered and broken.

DEVALUATION

An adept emotional predator knows how to exploit a target’s strengths as well as his or her weaknesses. From the very beginning of the relationship, they’re taking an inventory of the qualities you possess that would enable them to exploit you. That means that they’re not only zooming in on your vulnerability, they’re also preying on your resilience and empathy – your ability to bounce back and your capacity to sympathize with their excuses for bad behavior.

When devaluation begins, it’s not always sudden. In fact, it can be like a gunshot in the dark or a quiet murmur in the corner. You just ‘feel’ that something has shifted, but you’re not sure why, how, where, or when. Your lover stops taking your calls. They withdraw without an explanation. You see them interacting with others in a playful, flirtatious way – in the same way they used to act with you. They praise others the way they used to praise you. The once coveted partnership you two used to share seems to have been displaced onto another replacement target (or multiple targets) – someone who is now on the receiving end of the flattery and attention you once cherished.

Meanwhile, you seem to be on the receiving end of their criticism, their harsh insults, their never-ending rage attacks.  The number of disappearances, discrepancies and marked evidence of infidelity start to climb. When they pull away, they pull away with full force – and they enjoy seeing your humiliation when you pine for them. They enjoy actively provoking you to respond, making you out to be the crazy one. And they love bringing in others into the dynamic of the relationship – whether they be friend, foe, ex, or stranger.

Then there is the stone-cold silence after stonewalling you during arguments. The narcissist’s silent treatment is deafening – and it hurts, literally. You feel an invisible, solid wall placed between you two – it’s an inexplicable feeling of being trapped yet tethered. You ache for the person you had constructed in your mind – a person he or she was all too happy to portray for a short period of time.

But the man or woman you love does not exist. And this is a painful reality for anyone – let alone someone who has a high level of investment in the relationship – to swallow.

Targets who are devalued are torn to shreds by the verbal and emotional battery inflicted by their narcissistic partners. Their psyche is infiltrated with disempowering belief systems and messages about their worthiness. They live day-to-day in a perpetual battle – a power struggle that never seems to end. They try not to internalize the criticism and blame, but they feel ashamed about being treated so viciously. This is not a shame that is theirs to carry – it belongs to their perpetrators. Yet they feel it deep down to their bones. It burdens them on sleepless nights and through countless weary days. Throughout the vicious cycle, pain is periodically mixed with pleasure. Victims are overjoyed at receiving crumbs of attention from their abusers – only to be devastated by blow after blow.

Those who are able to survive the devaluation phase unfortunately move onto the final phase (although, to be fair, there is no such thing as a ‘final’ phase to a narcissist, who never seems to let his or her victims go).

THE DISCARD

Those who are able to escape and ‘discard’ the perpetrator first do not really escape, as they tend to be stalked and harassed even years later by the vindictive narcissist.

Those who are discarded suffer a horrific trauma as well – they are pummeled by the narcissist’s cruel and callous indifference as they are seemingly rejected and disposed of by someone who they thought loved them. After having their body, mind and soul violated, used, destroyed, they are then subjected to the ultimate betrayal. They are left in a way that leaves no closure. The discard is staged in a way that is excessively painful and humiliating for the victim. Perhaps it occurs in public, or happens shortly after the narcissist has galivanted off with their new victim. Maybe it is accompanied by a sickening twist of events, an unraveling of shocking truths about the extent of the narcissist’s betrayals or an especially violent rage attack. However it happens, it is merciless and calculated to destroy.

Victims of narcissistic abuse are often brought to their knees and left blindsided by the narcissist’s departure. They are depleted, drained, belittled, diminished. They are left with more questions than answers, more doubt than certainty. Many fall into depression, spells of anxiety, and suffer the symptoms of trauma. In extreme cases, some even commit suicide or get close to the precipice of death. If they are not familiar with or well-versed about the cycle of abuse, they have a tendency to blame themselves for being abused, not realizing that this malignant predator has just sucked them dry.

If the victim survives the discard, the only path left is the long road to healing. That is, unless they become entangled in the narcissist’s games once more and sucked back into the traumatic vortex of the relationship. If so, the cycle just begins again.

Get my #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare.how-to-devalue-and-discard-the-narcissist-r2-ebook-cover-3

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude 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 three books, including 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 as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

She is the founder of the popular blog for abuse survivors, Self-Care Haven, which has millions of views from all over the world. Her work has been shared and endorsed by numerous clinicians, mental health advocates, mental health professionals and bestselling authors.

For her undergraduate education, Shahida graduated summa cum laude from NYU where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She is passionate about using her knowledge base in psychology, sociology, gender studies and mental health to help survivors empower themselves after emotional abuse and trauma. Her writing has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline,  Salon, The Huffington Post, MOGUL, The Meadows, Thought Catalog and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website.

Advertisements

9 Things People Don’t Realize You’re Doing Because You’ve Been Abused By A Narcissist

There are nine things you’re prone to doing when you’ve been abused by a narcissist.

Read: 9 Things People Don’t Realize You’re Doing Because You’ve Been Abused By A Narcissist

For The Girls Who Are Not Afraid Of Wolves

When Little Red Riding Hood
Defeats the wolf –
When the lamb becomes the lion –
And the prey becomes the huntress –
Everyone acts surprised.

As if they did not see her coming.
As if they did not place the salt on her wounds.
As if they did not cut her open, open her wide –
Expect her to swallow her defeat.

Read the full poem: For The Girls Who Do Not Fear Wolves

Like this poem? Check out more poems like this in She Who Destroys the Light: Fairy Tales Gone Wrong.

The Narcissistic Conspiracy: Scapegoating, Smear Campaigns And Black Sheep – How Narcissistic Groups Bully Their Targets

When we speak about narcissism, we often focus on the individual. He or she is narcissistic. He or she is a victim of a narcissist. Yet what about those victims who are bullied and targeted by groups filled with narcissistic individuals or in a group where the narcissistic pack leader has toxic enablers? What happens when there is a conspiracy led by an entire group against one individual?

Contrary to popular belief, narcissism can and does run in group dynamics too – it just plays out on an even more massive and destructive scale. Rather than one partner abusing another, there is an entire group working to undermine and plot against a chosen target – whether in the family, the workplace, communities, or friendship circles.

Here’s how it happens and what to know if you’ve ever been persecuted, scapegoated and bullied by a group:

READ: The Narcissistic Conspiracy: Scapegoating, Smear Campaigns And Black Sheep – How Narcissistic Groups Bully Their Chosen Victims


🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

“You must believe that your quest can be successful, even if no one else does. You can deal with setbacks, misadventures, and even disasters as long as you still believe you can overcome the hardships and see your way to the end.” — Chris Guillebeau

Check out more inspirational quotes to brighten your day!

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

“She’s a pure narcissist, so helping her victims is only about gaining their appreciation and dependence.” — Randy Huggins

Like this quote? Check out more quotes from Criminal Minds.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: The One Thing That Gives Covert Narcissists Away

There is one thing that gives away a covert narcissist – the wolf in sheep’s clothing – even early on. Can you guess what it is?

READ: The Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing: How To Spot A Covert Narcissist And The One Thing That Always Gives Them Away

11 Signs You’re The Narcissist’s Worst Nightmare

Image by Tyler Nix. This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

By Shahida Arabi

1. You used the pain they gave you as fuel to create your greatest victories. Whatever adversity you went through due to this person, you’ve used it as a platform to rise higher and become more bold than you’ve ever been. Time and time again, you’ve channeled the toxicity of their actions into your success. Everything you learned from this relationship has been used to rebuild your life, redesign yourself and come into your full power.

2. You know how to self-validate. Narcissists love making their victims dependent on them for validation and approval. When a victim is able to self-validate and knows deep within how beautiful, successful, talented and worthy they are, it’s deeply unnerving to them. They are drawn to our confidence because they want to squash it and establish their so-called superiority. Fortunately for you, your ability to self-validate allows you to move on from a narcissist’s mind games without so much as a second glance. You don’t need their approval, because you already approve of yourself.

3. You don’t wait for answers – you give yourself closure. Rather than waiting around, pining for the narcissist to acknowledge everything you had together, you were able to give yourself closure and leave your toxic partner, friend or family member in the dust. This means no matter what they put you through, you’ve been able to walk away with your head held high in dignity. Despite any lingering self-doubt, you know deep down that you are better off without this sick and toxic person in your life.

4. You have support and you know how to support yourself. You have a healthy, thriving support network of people who love and care about you. You know when to reach out for help when you need it, but you also know how to self-soothe and take care of yourself. Your coping skills are top-notch. If you need to meditate, you do so. When you need a good runner’s high, you’re the first one on the treadmill. Whether you need to engage in self-care by taking a yoga class, attending a counseling session or taking a digital detox – you know exactly where to go to better care for yourself.

5. You’re independent – whether it be financially, emotionally, mentally, or socially – or all of the above. Narcissists rely on any void we have in our lives so they can temporarily ‘fill’ that gap before terrorizing us. However, your independence makes you a terrifying target not to be messed with, because they know you can survive on your own and can leave at any time. Whether it’s because you make your own money, have a thriving career, live on your own, have a good group of friends or don’t rely on anyone to define you (or all of the above), you’ve got it going on, all by yourself and on your own terms.

6. You pick up on manipulative and exploitative intent – and you make it clear you won’t tolerate it. When you pick up on the conniving, selfish motives of toxic people, you’re immediately turned off. You can’t even fathom wasting more time and energy on these people. Rather than working hard to cater to their needs or bend over backwards to catch up to their moving goal posts and expectations, you remove yourself from the equation altogether. Silence is your best friend and you cut off contact with people who seek to deplete you more than they support you. When you’re done, you’re done, and there’s no looking back.

7. You’re resilient as hell. You’ve come a long way on your journey to freedom and that means you’re not willing to give up, no matter what happens. You didn’t come this far just to come this far. Whatever’s in your way better watch the fuck out, because to you it’s just another obstacle to overcome on your way to freedom and success.

8. You can manifest amazing things in your life. Whether it be meeting your professional goals or finding the love of your life, there is no limit for you. You have gone through so much adversity that you are determined to reap the rewards of your hard-earned wisdom. And time and time again, you do.

9. You know your worth, so you’re always receptive to something better. You know you deserve better and you know you have options. As a result, you close yourself off to the toxicity of the old and become receptive to a future that’s bigger, better and brighter. You don’t push good things away – you welcome them with open arms, because you know you are worthy of it all and more.

10. You speak your mind and you’re a badass about following through with your boundaries. Narcissists and similar-minded toxic people try to rob us of our core values and erode our identity. Because you stand so firmly in your truth, you make no compromises when it comes to what’s important to you. If something doesn’t sit well with your integrity or beliefs, you’ll cut the ties with it fairly quickly because your personal character is of more value to you than a superficial relationship that would require you to sacrifice it.

11. You can reframe just about anything into your highest good and the greater good. The wisdom you gain can help others and you know it. You’re well aware that the obstacles you face can lead to personal development. Whether it be narcissistic abuse or another form of adversity, you’re willing to see what can be learned from each and every experience you have because you know it can be channeled into something greater. You know the best is yet to come.

Get my #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare.how-to-devalue-and-discard-the-narcissist-r2-ebook-cover-3

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude 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 three books, including 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 as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

She is the founder of the popular blog for abuse survivors, Self-Care Haven, which has millions of views from all over the world. Her work has been shared and endorsed by numerous clinicians, mental health advocates, mental health professionals and bestselling authors. For her undergraduate education, Shahida graduated summa cum laude from NYU where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She is passionate about using her knowledge base in psychology, sociology, gender studies and mental health to help survivors empower themselves after emotional abuse and trauma. Her writing has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline,  Salon, The Huffington Post, MOGUL, The Meadows, Thought Catalog and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website.

Dating and Being Single After Narcissistic Abuse

I am always asked about dating after narcissistic abuse. How long should one remain single? How can one protect oneself in the modern dating world, where narcissists and sociopaths are likely lurking? Healing is a process that should be honored and it’s important to be single for a period of time after abuse. Here are some articles of mine that may help:

temptingnarrative

READ: The Powerful Truth About Dating After Narcissistic Abuse Every Survivor Needs To Know

ALSO READ Online Dating Is A Hunting Ground For Narcissists And Sociopaths: Protecting Yourself In The Modern Dating Age

AND Single Women Are Happier Than Society Thinks They Are – According To Research

 

12 Things Narcissists Say And What They REALLY Mean

shutterstock_551961445

This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

If you’ve read my book Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare, you know I have a whole section in it dedicated to translating commonly used phrases that are essentially used as weapons in the hands of an emotional predator.

I’ve created a list of these to give you the shorter version. Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty. But it is useful to decoding the language of a manipulator – and hopefully learning to trust their actions more than their words.

12 Things Narcissists Say And What They REALLY Mean


Anyone who has ever been in a relationship with a malignant narcissist or otherwise manipulative, toxic person is well acquainted with how they use language differently.

The phrases that most people use in everyday conversations bear a far different meaning in the context of an abusive relationship with a narcissist.  As Carrie Barron M.D. notes, “Current thought challenges the notion that narcissists secretly suffer from low self-esteem or insecurity.  Or that they suffer as much as we thought in the ways that we thought. Recent findings indicate they take pleasure in successful manipulations. Putting down unsuspecting, soft-hearted souls in their midst is a sport. They truly believe in their superiority even if objective evidence does not back it up.”

When you’re dealing with an empathy-deficient individual with a high sense of entitlement and a sadistic need to bring others down, conversations become crazymaking minefields meant to psychologically terrorize and divert you. In fact, to decode a narcissist’s language requires listening more to their actions than their words.

When a narcissist’s words are translated into their actual meaning, the results are frankly disturbing. Here are twelve common phrases narcissists use and what they actually mean:

1. I love you. 

Translation: I love owning you. I love controlling you. I love using you. It feels so good to love-bomb you, to sweet-talk you, to pull you in and to discard you whenever I please. When I flatter you, I can have anything I want. You trust me. You open up so easily, even after you’ve already been mistreated. Once you’re hooked and invested, I’ll pull the rug beneath your feet just to watch you fall.

2. I am sorry you feel that way.

Translation: Sorry, not sorry. Let’s get this argument over with already so I can continue my abusive behavior in peace. I am not sorry that I did what I did, I am sorry I got caught. I am sorry you’re calling me out. I am sorry that I am being held accountable. I am sorry you have the emotions that you do. To me, they’re not valid because I am entitled to have everything I want – regardless of how you feel about it.

3. You’re oversensitive/overreacting.

Translation: You’re having a perfectly normal reaction to an immense amount of bullshit, but all I see is that you’re catching on. Let me gaslight you some more so you second-guess yourself. Emotionally invalidating you is the key to keeping you compliant. So long as you don’t trust yourself, you’ll work that much harder to rationalize, minimize and deny my abuse. While you’re working so hard to please me, I am reaping all the benefits without any consequences for my behavior.

4. You’re crazy.

Translation: I am a master of creating chaos to provoke you. I love it when you react. That way, I can point the finger and say you’re the crazy one. After all, no one would listen to what you say about me if they thought you were just bitter or unstable. Forget the fact that I am the one who’s truly rageful and irrational, lashing out anything that threatens my sense of superiority.

5. My exes are crazy.

Translation: I made my exes crazy. It was so fun! All I had to do was provoke, poke and prod until I got a reaction. Finally when I did, I used those reactions against them to show everyone how unhinged they are. Soon, you’ll be the “crazy ex” too.

6. She/he is just a friend.

Translation: I keep this person as a backup for whenever I get bored. They may replace you if you leave. In fact, they may already be acting as a valuable side piece. If you complain about my shady behavior with this person, I’ll make sure you seem like the controlling one.

7. You’re so jealous and insecure.

Translation: God, this love triangle is fun. I love the way you compete for my attention. Makes me feel so desirable and powerful when I flirt with others in front of you. Gets you riled up. It’s especially entertaining to manufacture insecurities in you by pointing out flaws that don’t exist or to pick at the wounds that already do. The more diminished you feel, the less likely you’ll try to escape my grasp. The truth is, everything you suspect about my flirtations and affairs is grounded in reality. But let me remind you: I am entitled to everything. That includes the attention of other romantic prospects.

8. You have trust issues.

Translation: I am an untrustworthy person, which I’ve shown time and time again by betraying you. Your gut is right, but it’ll be a cold day in hell if I ever admit it. The best thing you could probably do is trust yourself and run in the other direction – but of course, that would be far less fun for me.

9. It’s not all about you.

Translation: It’s really all about me, me, me. If you ever turn the attention back to your own needs, I’ll make sure to project my own self-centeredness onto you. I’ll make you feel guilty and ashamed of having these needs in the first place, because I’ll never be able to fulfill them. I just don’t have the emotional equipment to do so – nor do I want to, because it takes the focus away from the person who’s really important. Me!

10. Why can’t we remain friends?

Translation: I really don’t like losing members of my personal harem. I’d prefer to keep you on the back burner in case I need to use you in the future. Plus, collecting exes is a hobby of mine. It’s so convenient to be able to reach out to one whenever I am feeling especially bored. Who knew being friends could be such a great way to prevent losing valuable sources of supply so easily?

11. No one would believe you.

Translation: I’ve isolated you to the point where you feel you have no support. I’ve smeared your name to others ahead of time so people already suspect the lies I’ve told about you. So yes, some people may not believe you – especially the ones who still think I am an amazing person. Especially the people who continue to enable me.

There are still others who might believe you, though, and I can’t risk being caught. Making you feel alienated and alone is the best way for me to protect my image. It’s the best way to convince you to remain silent and never speak the truth about who I really am.

12. You’ll never find someone else like me.

Translation: If you never find someone else like me, that’s a good thing. There are empathic people out there who will treat you far better than I ever did. But I’d never want you to find them or discover your true worth. I’d prefer you to keep pining after me.

Get my #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare.how-to-devalue-and-discard-the-narcissist-r2-ebook-cover-3

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude 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 three books, including 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 as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

She is the founder of the popular blog for abuse survivors, Self-Care Haven, which has millions of views from all over the world. Her work has been shared and endorsed by numerous clinicians, mental health advocates, mental health professionals and bestselling authors. For her undergraduate education, Shahida graduated summa cum laude from NYU where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She is passionate about using her knowledge base in psychology, sociology, gender studies and mental health to help survivors empower themselves after emotional abuse and trauma. Her writing has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline,  Salon, The Huffington Post, MOGUL, The Meadows, Thought Catalog and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website.

6 Secrets The Narcissist Hopes You Never Learn

 

6secrets
Image by Caleb Betts. This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

By Shahida Arabi

We all know that that malignant narcissists (narcissists who also have antisocial traits) are manipulative and can even fool experts, psychiatrists and the most experienced of law enforcement officials. Yet there are six crucial truths about these types of manipulators that can come in handy when it comes to resisting their tactics. Use this information wisely and you can find yourself cutting the cord to a toxic relationship with one that much more safely:

1. They will unmask themselves much more quickly when they think you’re not aware of who they truly are.

Direct confrontation of their narcissism will result in further manipulation and narcissistic rage, which can cause you to remain entrenched in the cycle of abuse.

If you suspect you’re with a narcissist, the better route might be to prepare mentally on how to leave while collecting more information about their characterWatch out for the red flags and when you see them, self-validate without relying on the narcissist’s counter-explanation (which is likely to be filled with a whole lot of gaslighting, projection and half-truths). Their actions and pattern of behavior will tell you far more than their words ever will.

Pretend to be the naïve lamb rather than the wise lion and you’ll get yourself a manipulator who won’t work as hard to conceal their contempt, their malice and their joy at bringing others down. Their mask will slip all the more frequently because they don’t feel as invested in managing their image around you. They will assume you’re gullible enough to believe in their façade, which satisfies their need to feel grandiose and superior to you.

This will also give you the ability to observe their behavior more carefully because it will be less filtered by their attempts to charm you. By the time your abuser has realized that you’ve caught on, you’ll be well on your way out the door. That is why I always recommend that when victims recognize that they are dealing with a narcissistic partner, to never confront them using the term “narcissist.” It will only cause narcissistic rage and backlash that can convince you to retreat.

“Hell hath no fury or contempt as a narcissist you dare to disagree with, tell they’re wrong, or embarrass… What is really at the core of narcissists is an instability in their ability to feel and sustain feeling bigger, larger, smarter and more successful than everyone else which they need to feel stable.  Narcissistic rage occurs when that core instability is threatened and furthermore threatened to destabilize them even further.” – Mark Goulston, M.D., Rage – Coming Soon From A Narcissist Near You

Rage isn’t the only response narcissists have to your awakening of the truth. In response to your public acknowledgement of their narcissism, some narcissists will work that much harder to groom you and re-idealize you, thus making you more confused about the nature of their true character.

They will do everything possible to punish you or coerce you into staying – including love-bombing you again to make you remember the good times. During the same time they’re throwing in crumbs of affection, they’re also plotting on how to best covet what resources of yours they can get before the relationship is over.

As you prepare your exit as quietly as possible (preferably with the help of a good lawyer and a safety plan) – you have a better chance of departing safely with your sanity and your finances still intact. Sure, they may think you’re a fool for the time being, but once they realize you secretly had the upper hand all along, they’ll be outraged for completely different reasons – namely, due to the loss of control.

2. One of their biggest fears is being caught and held accountable – so always document their abuse whenever possible.

Recently we’ve had a string of predators being exposed for sexual assault and harassment. It is no coincidence that many of these predators finally ‘fessed up because of being held accountable on a much larger scale this time around. Perhaps the cultural climate protected them decades ago, but when an NYTimes exposé shares the stories of numerous victims stepping forward, it’s a lot more difficult to gaslight everyone you’ve victimized into thinking they’re “crazy” or “oversensitive.” Not only do victims have more evidence, they also realize they’re not alone.

You can use this knowledge of a covert predator’s fear of exposure to your advantage. Document all incidents of abuse so that you have it on hand should you ever need to go to court, take legal action, or for the purpose of getting a restraining order.

Narcissists care deeply about their status and reputation, so if they feel they may be exposed as culpable for their crimes, they’ll scurry quickly because they will consider you a “high-risk” victim. They’re paranoid about being caught – so even just dropping a subtle hint that you mean business (for example, noting that you’ve been speaking to someone else about what’s been happening – preferably someone they can’t manipulate) can cause them to flee quicker than you can say “gaslighting.”

On documenting abuse that is not physical, Heather Debreceni, former sheriff and professional divorce coach advises:

“The best way to protect yourself: writing or journaling as much as you possibly can…download your text messages and keep them in a file. Keep your messages brief and factual, and avoid emotion, whatever you do. Emotion can’t be proved in court, but facts can. Some states also allow you to record phone conversations, so you can record threats from your abuser.”

As Debreceni notes, it is important to stay calm yourself whenever reacting to a narcissist’s provocations through text, phone calls or e-mails because the narcissist is also trying to ensure that they also have you on the record – whether they’re trying to depict you as an unfit parent or a crazy ex (while they’re the ones stalking you), remember to always appear stoic and stick to the facts when communicating with them.

Whether it be photographing injuries or stalking behavior, taking screenshots of online messages, recording phone conversations (if permitted by law in your state), saving text messages, and voicemails and/or keeping a journal of abusive incidents, it can all serve you in the future should you ever want to take legal action or even if you just want to reconnect to the reality of what you experienced.

3. Your indifference is their kryptonite.

Forget any type of petty revenge you may be plotting; malignant narcissists see all of your emotional responses to them (whether positive or negative) as attention, and they live for that shit. Instead, refocus on yourself and on rebuilding a better life (not for the narcissist, but for you). It won’t be long until you’re moving forward, kicking some serious ass and thinking less and less of the person who once terrorized you.

If you do you choose to grant them access to your emotional responses, rest assured they will use it to bolster themselves and feed off of your energy. As narcissism expert and author Dr. Martinez-Lewi puts it:

“When we live with a narcissist – mother, father, spouse, sibling or are involved with them, our psychological energy is continually sapped. Some victims of narcissists describe this process as trying to destroy and annihilate them, taking what is most precious inside away with their cruelties, chronic deceptions, hidden agendas, humiliations, threats and ambushes.”

That’s why it’s so important to go No Contact (or Low Contact if co-parenting) to prevent their parasitic ways of feasting on your empathy. By that time, you simply won’t care what they’re up to or who they’re with because you’ll know for a fact that they’re repeating a similar abuse cycle with their newest victim. And ironically, it is in that state of utter indifference that the narcissist becomes most powerless, because they know they are no longer able to control you.

4. They’re not hoping you’ll come back to them so they can give you the good relationship you truly deserve. They hope you’ll come back to them just so they can have the final say and re-traumatize you further.

Narcissists hate being “discarded” first because it represents a loss of power and a threat to their perceived superiority. After all, if you were the one who initiated the breakup, it means they didn’t get to have the complete emotional control they feel entitled to in their relationships. They need to have the last word; they need to feel like they’ve terrorized you to such an extent that you would be unable to move forward after being in a relationship with them.

So that’s why they really come crawling back and ask for a second, third and fiftieth chance. It’s not because they miss you. It’s because they miss feeling like they own you.

“When the narcissist senses that you are leaving the relationship, they will try to suck you back in…  This is a common pattern in abusive relationships.  There’s an abusive episode, then a reconciliation phase, then a buildup of tension, then another abusive episode.  The cycle doesn’t end.  With a narcissist, the blowup gets worse each time you reconcile.  And that blowup is coming.” –  Dr. Stephanie Sarkis, So You’re In A Relationship With A Narcissist, Now What?

 5. You’re not inferior in any way to their other victims or new targets.

Remember that narcissists don’t see their relationship partners as people – they see them as objects, as sources of what psychologists call “narcissistic supply.”

However, they’d like you to believe that the reason they’re picking on you is because you’re more disposable, less than or somehow defective. That’s why they’ll compare you to their exes or their new targets. In order to resist this form of crazymaking triangulation, remember how the narcissist talked about their ex in the beginning of your relationship, in the early stages of idealizing you.

Chances are, they called their ex-partner “crazy” along with a whole other plethora of disparaging narratives – which is what they’re probably now doing to you as they relay their distortions to their latest target.

Narcissistic supply is the form of exchange that a narcissist will accept from those he is in a relationship with to gratify his insatiable needs; but this supply is not love, because narcissists are rarely capable of receiving love.  – Shari Stines, Psy.D, Love and the Narcissist

They always repeat the cycle with others.  To them, you are no different, even if they’d like you to think otherwise.

6. They’re not really that humble or remorseful – and pity is one of their greatest ploys.

Narcissists project an image of themselves as very charitable and humble human beings in the beginning of every relationship. It’s what makes them so compelling and charismatic to society. It’s what disarms law enforcement and their harem, allowing them to skirt the law with a slap on the wrist and no more than a dent in their reputations.

Even the most hardened police officers can witness an impressive performance of faux remorse from a narcissist they’re meeting for the first time and find themselves thinking, “Aww, how noble.” You look at the same performance after years of being with them and see a snake attempting to put on a furry dog costume.  

Don’t get me wrong: some people truly are modest and humble, which can be wonderful traits. Narcissists, on the other hand, use the image of modesty to mask their true haughty interiors. A narcissist who is truly arrogant and contemptuous may hide it well during the first few months of a relationship (though there may be tiny tells through their facial expressions, covert put-downs and so on) but their belief that they are inherently superior will eventually reveal itself.

Another tactic narcissists bank on when manipulating you involves the art of the pity ploy. Narcissists will try to latch onto your sympathy when they see no other recourse or even as a primary tool to sweep you off of your feet.

That’s why they give you half-assed “apologies” without a concrete change in their behaviors or a true acknowledgement of the harm you must have suffered. That’s also why they present you with sob stories from the onset of the relationship so you’re inclined to see them as victims rather than the true perpetrators.

It’s why they these types of manipulators can even be self-deprecating as a way to pull off their “little boy” or “little girl” act. Seemingly defenseless people are always more appealing to our natural compassion, after all – and so their crocodile tears and pity ploys work – and they work really, really well.

Dr. Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, notes that an appeal to your sympathy is actually one of the most powerful ways a manipulator with antisocial traits gets away with his or her abusive behavior. As she writes:

“If, instead, you find yourself often pitying someone who consistently hurts you or other people, and who actively campaigns for your sympathy, the chances are close to 100 percent that you are dealing with a sociopath… I am sure that if the devil existed, he would want us to feel very sorry for him.”

In order to be a strategic survivor, you have to be able to recognize a manipulator’s pity ploys immediately and resist, especially when there is no actual change in their harmful behavior when they’re called out.

When you start to see how fake their so-called remorse truly is, you’ll find you have much less sympathy for their excuses for horrendous behavior. This will bring you farther away from your idealized notions of their fabricated conscience and that much closer to forging your freedom from the narcissist.

Works Cited


Barron, C. (2014, August 24). If You Are the Target of Narcissistic Abuse. Retrieved November 20, 2017.


DomesticShelters.org. (2015, October 5). How to Prove Nonphysical Abuse in Court. Retrieved November 20, 2017.

Goulston, M. (2012, February 09). Rage-Coming Soon From a Narcissist Near You. Psychology Today. Retrieved November 20, 2017.

Martinez-Lewi, L. (2014, March 12). Narcissists Psychologically Feed Off of Your Life – Protect Yourself! Retrieved November 20, 2017.

Sarkis, S. (2015, December 29). So You’re In a Relationship with a Narcissist, Now What? Retrieved November 20, 2017.

Stines, S. (2017, March 12). Love and the Narcissist. Psych Central. Retrieved November 20, 2017.

Stout, M. (2006). The sociopath next door: The ruthless versus the rest of us. New York: Broadway Books.

Get my #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare.how-to-devalue-and-discard-the-narcissist-r2-ebook-cover-3

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude 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 three books, including 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 as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

She is the founder of the popular blog for abuse survivors, Self-Care Haven, which has millions of views from all over the world. Her work has been shared and endorsed by numerous clinicians, mental health advocates, mental health professionals and bestselling authors. For her undergraduate education, Shahida graduated summa cum laude from NYU where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She is passionate about using her knowledge base in psychology, sociology, gender studies and mental health to help survivors empower themselves after emotional abuse and trauma. Her writing has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline,  Salon, The Huffington Post, MOGUL, The Meadows, Thought Catalog and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website.

The Power of Intermittent Reinforcement: Why Trauma Bonding Makes It Difficult To Leave A Toxic Relationship

This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

By Shahida Arabi

Flowers after days of the silent treatment. Crocodile tears after weeks of brutal insults. An unexpected extravagant gift after a rage attack. A sudden moment of tenderness after hours of critical remarks. What do these all have in common? In the context of an abusive relationship, they are all demonstrations of intermittent reinforcement – a dangerous manipulation tactic used to keep you bonded to your abuser.

Psychologist B.F. Skinner (1956) discovered that while behavior is often influenced by rewards or punishment, there is a specific way rewards are doled out that can cause that behavior to persist over long periods of time, causing that behavior to become less vulnerable to extinction. Consistent rewards  for a certain behavior actually produce less of that behavior over time than an inconsistent schedule of rewards. He discovered that rats pressed a lever for food more steadily when they did not know when the next food pellet was coming than when they always received the pellet after pressing (known as continuous reinforcement).

In laymen’s terms, when we know to expect the reward after taking a certain action, we tend to work less for it. Yet when the timing of the reward or the certainty that we’ll get it at all is unpredictable, we tend to repeat that behavior with even more enthusiasm, in hope for the end result. We relish the joy of a “hard-earned” reward that much more.

Abuse and Intermittent Reinforcement

There is almost always intermittent reinforcement at work in a relationship with a malignant narcissist or manipulator because abuse is usually mixed in with periodic affection at unpredictable moments. Intermittent reinforcement works precisely because our “rewards” (which could be anything from the fleeting normalcy of affection to a display of the abuser’s remorse) are given to us sporadically throughout the abuse cycle. This causes us to work harder to sustain the toxic relationship because we desperately want to go back to the “honeymoon phase” of the abuse cycle.

Intermittent reinforcement along with the effects of trauma ensure that we become “addicted” to the hope of reaping our “reward” despite evidence that we’re risking our own safety and well-being.

The instability of the abuser ironically drives their victims to become a source of constant stability to them.

This same phenomenon (albeit much more simplistically) is displayed in the behavior of gamblers at slot machines. Despite the low chance of winning, gamblers become “addicted” to investing their hard-earned money just for the chance of a pay-off.

It bears repeating that while this behavior may seem nonsensical on the surface, it’s because humans feel far less incentive to perform a certain behavior when they know it will always yield a reward. An inconsistent, unpredictable cycle of rewards, however, causes them to invest more in the hope for that ever elusive “win.”

Intermittent Reinforcement Literally Causes An Addiction to the Unpredictability of the Abuse Cycle

This effect even works on a biochemical level; when pleasurable moments are few and far in between, merged with cruelty, the reward circuits associated with a toxic relationship actually become strengthened. When pleasure is predictable, our reward circuits become accustomed to it and our brain actually releases lessdopamine over time when with a consistently good partner. It could be argued that in many cases, rejection and chaos by a toxic partner creates an addiction that is far more long-lasting than the predictable quality of “stable” love.

“Most relevant to our story, activity in several of these brain regions has been correlated with the craving of cocaine addicts and other drugs. In short, as our brain scanning data show, these discarded lovers are still madly in love with and deeply attached to their rejecting partner. They are in physical and mental pain. Like a mouse on a treadmill, they are obsessively ruminating on what they’ve lost. And they are craving reunion with their rejecting beloved—addiction.” – Dr. Helen Fisher, Love is Like Cocaine

Dopamine is a powerful “messenger” that tells us what feels pleasurable but also alerts us to what is important for survival; it is the same neurotransmitter that causes the brains of those in love (especially in adversity-ridden relationships) to resemble the brains of cocaine addicts (Smithstein 2010, Fisher, 2016). As Dr. Susan Carnell, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, writes in her article, “Bad Boys, Bad Brains”:

“What’s more, if the reward always follows the conditioned cue, then the cue can also become less dopamine—inducing—what’s the point of wasting all that precious motivation potion telling you to pursue a reward when, likely as not, it/he will show up anyway? Dopamine actually flows much more readily when the rewards are intermittent, e.g. you don’t get to eat a cookie every time you see one; or when you see Edward he’s nice to you sometimes…but not always… their sheer unreliability sets off your dopamine neurons.”

The Small Kindness Perception and Why We Stay

We literally become “addicted” to the unpredictability of the abuse cycle (or even just a toxic relationship in general), as well as the severe highs and lows. What’s more, the abuser’s sporadic acts of kindness cause us to mistrust our own gut instincts about their true character and compel us to give more weight to their sob stories after abusive incidents or surprise displays of gentleness. Clinical psychologist Dr. Joe Carver calls this phenomenon “the small kindness perception.”

“When an abuser/controller shows the victim some small kindness, even though it is to the abusers benefit as well, the victim interprets that small kindness as a positive trait of the captor…Abusers and controllers are often given positive credit for not abusing their partner, when the partner would have normally been subjected to verbal or physical abuse in a certain situation…Sympathy may develop toward the abuser and we often hear the victim of Stockholm Syndrome defending their abuser with ‘I know he fractured my jaw and ribs…but he’s troubled. He had a rough childhood!’ Losers and abusers may admit they need psychiatric help or acknowledge they are mentally disturbed, however, it’s almost always after they have already abused or intimidated the victim.” – Dr. Joe Carver, Love and Stockholm Syndrome

As Dr. Joe Carver reminds us, abusers are able to use periodic affection or small acts of kindness to their advantage. By employing pity ploys or giving their victims some affection, a gift, or just the absence of their abuse from time to time, their positive behavior becomes amplified in the eyes of their victims.

Their victims hang onto the hope that these small acts of kindness are evidence of the abuser’s ability to change or at the very least, justification for their malicious behavior. However, Carver is clear that these are excuses and diversions, not signs of redemption. These intermittent periods of kindness rarely last. They are embedded in the abuse cycle as a way to further exploit abuse victims and to manipulate them into staying.

Severing the Trauma Bond

Whether the abuse is primarily physical or psychological, the power of intermittent reinforcement lies in the power of uncertainty. The abuse victim is thrown into self-doubt about the abuse because there are usually periodic moments of affection, apologies and faux remorse involved.

Abusers can deliberately harm you just to seemingly come to your rescue. They act as both the predator and the hero because it causes their victims to become dependent on them after horrific incidents of cruelty. Intermittent reinforcement is used to strengthen the trauma bond – a bond created by the intense emotional experience of the victim fighting for survival and seeking validation from the abuser (Carnes, 2015).

Trauma bonds keep victims attached to their abusers through even the most horrendous acts of psychological or physical violence, because the victim is diminished, isolated and programmed to rely on the abuser for their sense of self-worth.

Victims are then conditioned to seek their abusers for comfort – a form of medicine that is simultaneously the source of the poison.

In order to sever the trauma bond, it is essential that the victim of abuse seek support and get space away from the abuser, whether that come in the form of No Contact or Low Contact in the cases of co-parenting.

The most powerful way to heal from the uncertainty created from intermittent reinforcement is to meet it with the certainty that you’re dealing with a manipulator.

Survivors can benefit from working with a trauma-informed professional to safely get in touch with their authentic anger and outrage at being abused, which will enable them to remain detached from their abuser and grounded in the reality of the abuse they’re experiencing. Learning to identify and “track” the pattern can help to disrupt the vicious cycle before it begins again.

Only when survivors allow themselves the complexity of their emotions towards the abusers can they fully recognize that their investment in their toxic partners has little to no positive return – it is, in fact, a gamble that is far too risky to take in the long run.

Works Cited

 

Carnes, P. (2015). Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. Health Communications, Incorporated.

 

Carnell, S. (2012, May 14). Bad Boys, Bad Brains. Psychology Today. Retrieved November 16, 2017.

 

Carver, J. (2006, March 6). Love and Stockholm Syndrome. Retrieved November 16, 2017.

 

Fisher, H. (2016, February 04). Love Is Like Cocaine – Issue 33: Attraction. Retrieved November 16, 2017.

 

Skinner, B. F. (1956). A case history in scientific method. American Psychologist, 11(5), 221-233. Retrieved here.

 

Smithstein, S. (2010, August 20). Dopamine: Why It’s So Hard to “Just Say No”. Psychology Today. Retrieved November 16, 2017.

Get my #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare.how-to-devalue-and-discard-the-narcissist-r2-ebook-cover-3

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude 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 three books, including 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 as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

She is the founder of the popular blog for abuse survivors, Self-Care Haven, which has millions of views from all over the world. Her work has been shared and endorsed by numerous clinicians, mental health advocates, mental health professionals and bestselling authors. For her undergraduate education, Shahida graduated summa cum laude from NYU where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She is passionate about using her knowledge base in psychology, sociology, gender studies and mental health to help survivors empower themselves after emotional abuse and trauma. Her writing has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline,  Salon, The Huffington Post, MOGUL, The Meadows, Thought Catalog and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website.

50 Shades of Gaslighting: Disturbing Signs A Narcissist Is Distorting Your Reality

This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

Written by Shahida Arabi

How do you convince someone that something they know to be true isn’t? In psychology, what is known as the “illusory truth effect” is a phenomenon in which a listener comes to believe something primarily because it has been repeated so often. When an abuser continually tells you that you are oversensitive or that what you are experiencing is in no way abuse, you begin believing it, even if you know deep down it isn’t true.

In other words, a lie that is repeated long enough eventually can be seen as the truth. Researchers Hasher, Goldstein and Toppino (1997) discovered that when a statement (even when it is false and readers know it to be false) is repeated multiple times, it was more likely to be rated as true simply due to the effects of repetition. This is because when we’re assessing a claim, we rely on either the credibility of the source from which the claim is derived or familiarity with that claim. Surprisingly, familiarity often trumps credibility or rationality when assessing the perceived validity of a statement (Begg, Anas, and Farinacci, 1992; Geraci, L., & Rajaram, 2016).

The illusory truth effect can cause us to become susceptible to the effects of another dangerous form of reality erosion known as gaslighting. Deliberate manipulators who gaslight with the intention of eroding your reality and rewriting history tend to use the “illusory truth effect” to their advantage. They will repeat falsehoods so often that they become ingrained in the victim’s mind as unshakeable truths.

When this is done repeatedly to override what was truly experienced, it can leave an immense dent in the fabric of someone’s perceptions and ability to trust themselves. When used chronically to control a victim, it becomes a damaging aspect of psychological abuse, placing the survivor at risk for depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal ideation and even what is called by some therapists as “Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome” (Van der Kolk, 2016; Walker, 2013; WolfFord-Clevinger, 2017; Staik, 2017).

What is Gaslighting?

The term “gaslighting” first originated in Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play, Gas Light, in which a manipulative husband drives his wife to the brink of insanity by causing her to question her own reality. It was also popularized in the 1944 film adaptation, Gaslight, a psychological thriller about a man named Gregory Anton (played by Charles Boyer) who murders a famous opera singer and later marries her niece, Paula (played by Ingrid Bergman) to gain access to the rest of her family jewels.

Gregory erodes his new wife’s sense of reality by making her believe that her aunt’s house is haunted in the hope that she will be institutionalized. He does everything from rearranging items in the house, flickering gas lights on and off to making noises in the attic so she feels as if she’s becoming unhinged. He isolates her so that she is unable to seek support for the terror she is experiencing. The real kicker? After manufacturing these crazymaking scenarios, he then convinces her that these events are all a figment of her imagination.

Gaslighting has become a well-known term in the abuse survivor community, particularly for the survivors of malignant narcissists. Unlike more vulnerable narcissists who may possess more of a capacity for remorse, malignant narcissists truly believe in their superiority, are grandiose and lie on the higher end of the narcissistic spectrum. They have antisocial traits, demonstrate paranoia, bear an excessive sense of entitlement, show a callous lack of empathy and display an egregious liking for interpersonal exploitation.

Gaslighting provides malignant narcissists with a portal to erase the reality of their victims without a trace. It is a method that enables them to commit covert psychological murder with clean hands.

Read the rest of the article and more about gaslighting here.

Get my #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare.how-to-devalue-and-discard-the-narcissist-r2-ebook-cover-3

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude 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 three books, including 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 as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

She is the founder of the popular blog for abuse survivors, Self-Care Haven, which has millions of views from all over the world. Her work has been shared and endorsed by numerous clinicians, mental health advocates, mental health professionals and bestselling authors. For her undergraduate education, Shahida graduated summa cum laude from NYU where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She is passionate about using her knowledge base in psychology, sociology, gender studies and mental health to help survivors empower themselves after emotional abuse and trauma. Her writing has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline, The Huffington Post, MOGUL, The Meadows, Thought Catalog and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website.

30 Badass Affirmations for Going No Contact With An Abusive Narcissist

shutterstock_696099586

By Shahida Arabi

Previously titled “30 Kickass Affirmations for Going No Contact with an Abusive Narcissist”

No Contact from a narcissistic or otherwise abusive, toxic ex-partner can be a rewarding and challenging time. Survivors of emotional and/or physical abuse are not only paving a new path to freedom and rebirth, they may also be struggling with the effects of cognitive dissonance, fear, obligation and guilt (FOG), as well as the traumatic effects of the abuse on their minds, bodies and spirits. They may also encounter stalking or harassment from their abusive partners in their attempts to detach from them, especially if they ‘dared’ to leave those partners first.

Due to biochemical and trauma bonding with their abusers, survivors may also struggle to not contact their ex-partner or check up on them due to being conditioned to rely upon their abuser’s approval and validation during the abuse cycle as a survival mechanism.

Considering the fact that detoxing from an abusive relationship is very much like recovering from an addiction, ‘rehab’ from this type of toxicity needs to be addressed in a way that is both compassionate and empowering.

These positive affirmations can help you reconnect back to your sense of reality when you may be plagued by emotional flashbacks, triggers or cravings to reconnect with an abusive partner. I’ve also included brief explanations of each affirmation, in case any of them need further clarification in order to better appreciate the underlying meaning for each.

For those who may have implemented Low Contact due to co-parenting with an abuser, you can feel free to customize these various phrases to best suit your situation. You may also want to brainstorm your own affirmations that are best tailored to your unique needs and desires.

1. Every act of silence is a protection against psychological violence.

Every time you choose not to check up on, respond or reach out to an abusive ex-partner, you demonstrate that you value yourself, you value your time, your new life and your right not to be subjected to abuse or mistreatment. You protect yourself from traumatizing information or emotional violence that could further retraumatize you and ensnare you back into an abuse cycle. A cycle that can only expose you to more pain, heartache and a pervasive sense of hopelessness. You have escaped from the abuse – don’t let yourself reenter the cycle right back into a seemingly inescapable situation again. It can get more and more difficult to leave each time you do.

2. I have a right to be free from abuse. Every human being has that right and I do, too.

We have to remember that we are just like any other human being – including those who have never been in an abusive relationship or those who have never tolerated any form of abuse if they encountered it. They had the right not to be abused and we do too. This is not to blame or shame anyone who has stayed in an abusive relationship; there are many reasons why abuse survivors stay well beyond the first incident of abuse, including the trauma repetition cycle that arises due to subconscious wounding from childhood. This is simply a reminder that there are many people who are in healthy relationships – and as a human being, you are so worthy of the same.

3. No one can take away the power I have within me.

It may come as a surprise to you, but narcissistic abusers don’t actually hold any authentic inner power – they take away power from others because they have none within themselves. They have no sense of core identity – they need us more than we need them (even if it feels otherwise). They leech off of our light – we are their life source, their narcissistic supply and they are the energetic vampires who live off our resources, our talents, and our empathy and compassion.

4. My will is stronger than an abuser’s attempts to bully me.

If you’re suffering from PTSD or Complex PTSD and you’re hearing your abuser’s voice and/or are being met with hoovering attempts to shame you back into the abuse cycle, you’re not alone. Many survivors of abuse are left reeling from the bullying behavior of their ex-partner. They cannot understand why their abusive ex-partner refuses to leave them alone, stalks or harasses them, or even goes so far as to flaunt their new source of supply to them as a way to provoke them.

Remember: the abuser’s tactics cannot work on you as effectively if you are willing to prioritize your freedom over their attempts to bully you. The bullying may hurt and you will have to address it as you process the trauma, but where there is a strong will, there is an even stronger survivor who can meet any challenge along the way.

5. I am stronger than empty threats.

Abusive ex-partners may smear you, slander you or even threaten to release personal information about you, especially if you ‘discard’ them first due to narcissistic rage and injury. They want to regain power and control to put you through an even worse discard and essentially ‘win’ the break-up or save face after the ending of the relationship. Much of these are empty threats.

It’s true that more dangerous narcissists may follow through with their threats, but the point is that you can choose how you respond to their threats. You have choices and options to protect yourself and document those threats in case you need to ever take legal action. You can go to law enforcement if you have to (and feel safe doing so). You can also seek support from a lawyer and/or counselor who can offer you insights into your particular situation. What you don’t have to do is give into the threats of emotional blackmail and go back into an abusive relationship only to be terrorized in an even worse fashion than before. Who wants to be in a relationship where you are coerced back in?

6. I will defend and protect myself, no matter what.

Whether that means getting a restraining order, changing your number or blocking them from all social media platforms, do whatever you need to do to protect yourself from the narcissist’s manipulation and abuse on your journey to No Contact (or Low Contact if co-parenting). You don’t deserve to be retraumatized, in any shape, way or form. Seek support from your local domestic violence shelter (yes, emotional abuse is still violence), find a trauma-informed therapist, research local support groups, Meetups or group therapy focused on trauma recovery and support.

Find any and all support you can to help build and reinforce the fortress of protection around you. The more quality support you have, the more confident you’ll be in moving forward without your toxic ex-partner.

7. I never give up; I keep going.

No matter how difficult it becomes, you never give up. Even if you make a mistake, all is not lost. How do you beat an addiction? You don’t let imperfection impede you from progressing on your path. You keep going. If you fell off the wagon and broke No Contact (whether by checking up on the narcissist or responding to them), don’t judge yourself too harshly. Self-judgment leads to the same sense of unworthiness that leads you back into looking for validation from toxic people. Instead, get back on the wagon and commit yourself to the journey even more fully.

Practice mindfulness and radical acceptance of any urges you might have without acting upon them and participating in more self-sabotage. Know that every setback is simply bringing up the core wounds you need to heal in order to move forward with even more strength and determination than before. Understand the triggers that led to your decision to break No Contact to mitigate them in the future and grieve for the illusion the narcissistic abuser presented to you (the ‘false mask’ they presented). Know that this person never truly existed and that the promise of a relationship that was fabricated in the idealization phase led you to an investment that ultimately led to more loss than gain.

8. My life is worth more than empty promises.

When a narcissistic abuser is hoovering you, they are re-idealizing you and making the same promises they made in the beginning of the relationship. They promised to change, to love and care for you, to always support you and be there for you. Yet they invalidated, belittled and degraded you instead. These empty promises are just another way to control and coerce you back into the abuse cycle. Don’t feed into the illusion of what the relationship could have been. Instead, acknowledge it for what it was: moments of terror merged with false promises that were never carried out. You deserve more than empty promises: you deserve the real thing. The true promise of a new and healthier life awaits you: make a promise to yourself that you will pursue that new reality instead.

9. This is life or death and I choose life. Every time.

Many abuse survivors have a high level of resilience as well as a pain threshold that could rival a sumo wrestler or someone walking on hot coals without so much as a grimace. Even if you feel like you can ‘deal with’ further abuse even after the break-up, consider that this is truly a life or death situation. If you are escaping from a physical abuser, this affirmation hits home. Yet even if you’re coming out of an emotionally abusive relationship, it also holds weight.

I know many might not think of emotional violence as a life or death situation, but considering the suicides that occur from bullying and domestic violence and the fact that domestic violence survivors are actually at a higher risk of committing suicide, it is truer than we think. Each time we sacrifice our peace of mind for one more ‘hit’ of the abuse rather than detoxing from the relationship, we also belittle, demean and abuse ourselves.

These incidents build up collectively to reenact the same sense of hopelessness we had during the abusive relationship and can pose severe harm to our psyche over time due to the cumulative impact of traumatic and retraumatizing experiences. By breaking No Contact, we convince ourselves that we are unworthy of something more than being with a toxic person. In the case of life or death, be sure to choose your new life without your abuser…each and every time.

10. Loneliness is infinitely better than any form of abuse.

After an abusive relationship, we may begin to romanticize our ex-partner in times of loneliness. We might even wonder if it was ‘worth’ leaving the abuse since we now feel so alone. We may have mixed emotions about our abuser as the “good times” come flooding back in the absence of our abuser.

Remember: you were the only one truly invested in the good times. For your abuser, those good times were simply a form of periodic love-bombing, a form of intermittent reinforcement that kept you under their control while feeding you crumbs.

The ‘good memories’ we had with our abuser never justify the abuse or make up for them. Loneliness can be a sign that you are working through and processing the trauma. It’s a sign that you may need to be more present with yourself and surround yourself with better support networks. It’s also a sign that you are in dire need of learning to enjoy your own company. Acknowledge and validate the loneliness, but don’t resist it by pursuing more toxic people or going back to the same toxic relationship.

Survivors often need a period of self-isolation to reflect and recover from the trauma before they date or pursue new friendships. Take this time to heal and don’t rush the process: it’s very much needed in order for you to be in an optimal state of mental health. The more healed you are, the better the quality of your future relationships will be, whether with new friends and/or partners.

11. I deserve so much more than to be an emotional punching bag.

When you’re in an abusive relationship, you are not in a healthy, reciprocal relationship. You are an emotional punching bag for an immature and unstable person. They get to take all of their flaws, their insecurities, their internal garbage and spew it onto you. Throughout the relationship, you were trained by your abuser to ‘take it’ as a natural part of being in a relationship with them. No more. You deserve more than to be someone’s emotional punching bag. You deserve a mutually respectful relationship where love and compassion are the default.

12. I can communicate my feelings to people who deserve to hear my voice.

We don’t have to use our voice with people who are committed to misunderstanding, invalidating and mistreating us. We can reserve our energy and time for people who are willing to see our beautiful qualities and celebrate them. We can use our voice for people who truly want to help us, who appreciate our help and reciprocate our efforts. Instead of wasting your precious voice on people who will always be intent on silencing you, why not use it to help those who really need it, to comfort someone who is just as empathic and compassionate as you are, to receive insights from a trusted professional or to share your story and change the world? I guarantee you that helping people who are actually able to evolve (and this includes yourself!) is a much better use of your voice than trying to convince a person without empathy to treat you well. It’s more likely to be effective, too!

13. My mental health is my number one priority.

Make sure you’re engaging in extreme self-care during the No Contact journey. This means checking with yourself every moment of the day to ensure that you are thinking healthy thoughts, taking advantage of the diverse healing modalities available to you, and addressing any symptoms of trauma that may be interfering with your ability to function in day-to-day life. If your mental health is suffering, all other aspects of your life will also feel the impact. So take care of yourself – and don’t be afraid to seek professional support if you need it. No one should have to go through this turmoil alone.

14. Staying sane is more important than being validated by an abuser.

Often when we have been devalued by an abuser, we become controlled by the need to be validated by them as ‘worthy.’ This need becomes especially amplified when we see that the abuser seems to have moved on with a new victim. This is because the abuser was the source of our pervasive sense of unworthiness throughout the abuse cycle and we now feel as if we need confirmation that we were not the problem.

Unfortunately, the reality is that narcissistic abuse will inevitably leave us without any closure from the toxic ex-partner. Narcissists are masters of impression management and they rarely expose what is actually happening behind closed doors – so all you are likely to see is them idealizing their victims for the public, just like they did with you. That’s why you must prioritize your own sanity by accepting that while you may never get closure or confirmation of your worth from the narcissist, you can find ways of cultivating your own belief in your self-worth. This means stepping away from the narcissist’s public façade and investing in living your own best life.

15, 16, and 17. I trust my own reality. I know and trust what I experienced and felt. I validate myself.

These are a set of affirmations that can help you to resist the gaslighting attempts of your ex-partner or their harem.

I don’t care how many harem members love the narcissistic abuser. I don’t care if the narcissist is on the cover of Time Magazine for Person of the Year. Their popularity with others or public façade doesn’t make them immune to being abusive. In fact, many malignant narcissists disguise themselves as charitable, loving people. That is the nature of their false mask: they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

This affirmation is here to remind you that despite the amount of people your abuser may have fooled, no one has the right to take away the reality of the abuse that you endured. You know what you experienced – you know how valid it was and the impact that it left upon you.

It doesn’t matter how charming the narcissistic abuser is or who chooses to believe them; let their harem members learn at their own pace who the narcissist is. You’re not here to convince anyone. You’re here to validate yourself and resist the gaslighting attempts to distort your reality and that of the abuse. Don’t feel obligated to protect your abuser, minimize, rationalize or deny the abuse you endured. Honor and acknowledge your authentic emotions as well as depth of trauma you experienced.

18. I am worthy, I am beautiful (or handsome), I am brave, I am strong, I am fearless.

These are another set of positive affirmations that can help remind you of how worthy and courageous you truly are, with or without a partner. It conditions you into believing good things about yourself, especially if you’re used to hearing harsh words from your abuser. I recommend recording these into a tape recorder or voice recording application on your phone and listening to them on a daily basis just to get yourself used to hearing them. Repetition is essential to deprogramming the harmful messages your abuser instilled in you and reprogramming your mind for future success.

19. Each second, each minute, each hour, each day, each month, each year, I am getting stronger.

While you may have moments of powerlessness and hopelessness from time to time, rest assured that as you move forward with No Contact, you will gain more and more strength and resilience than you ever knew was possible. As more time passes and as more trauma is processed and addressed, the more space you’ll carve out to become the person you were meant to be. You’ll eventually reach a point in your healing journey where the strong attachment to the abusive person has ‘dulled’ in its emotional potency.

20. Leaving (or being left) was the best thing that ever happened to me. I made that happen.

It was your agency and your powerful light that got you through the worst moments of your life so never underestimate your ability to survive after the abuse. There are so many victims still in abusive relationships – including the new source of supply. You’ve awakened and you’ve taken back control over your life. This is a blessing that should not be taken for granted. Instead of focusing on the ways you still feel trapped, validate your grief while allowing yourself to celebrate the ways you’ve been freed.

21. I am a motherf*cking badass. I can survive anything. And I will thrive.

For those who need that extra punch (and dose of profanity along with their reality check), this affirmation can charge you with the determination and badassery needed to rise above the pain and channel it into something greater. Remember: for every crucifixion, there is an even greater possibility for resurrection. Transform all the grief and outrage you feel into your greater good: use it to fuel you to reach greater heights, achieve your goals and kick some serious butt in all facets of your life.

22. Do no harm; take no shit.                                                                                                                          

We don’t have to be vindictive or retaliate against our ex-partners in order to take care of ourselves, set boundaries or to lead victorious lives. At the same time, we don’t have to internalize anyone else’s garbage. You can empower yourself by establishing what your boundaries are and following through with them – each and every time. Whether it be with your abusive ex-partner or a new acquaintance, the healing journey is all about learning how to implement healthier boundaries and becoming more assertive in our authentic truth.

23. My success is their karma. Karma can answer him or her – I am too busy.

Live your life and try to minimize your focus on what the narcissist is doing, who he or she is seeing or what they are getting away with. Let the narcissist learn at his or her own pace what life is all about; you don’t need to educate a grown ass human being on how to be a decent person. You don’t need to give karma a ‘push’ either – let it unravel and unfold organically, if at all.

The best karma a narcissist can receive is actually the weight of your indifference and success after you leave them.

24. I am the life source. I am the Light. Without me, there is nothing to feed on.

These are emotional vampires we’re dealing with; it’s up to you to make sure that they don’t leave nourished on your supply while you’re left malnourished, drained and underfed after an interaction with them. Without their sources of supply, narcissists live in the darkness of their own emotional void. Don’t let your mind, your body and your soul be part of their feeding queue. Remove yourself completely from the equation altogether. If they don’t get to feast upon your emotions, your commitment or your investment, you get to nourish yourself with a healthy mind and life.

25. They don’t miss me as a person – they miss controlling and mistreating me.

Narcissistic ex-partners only try to play the ‘let’s be friends’ card because they miss what you provide for them. They miss putting you down. They don’t miss you or any other victim as a person because they truly cannot even wrap their heads around people as individual human beings. To them, supply is supply and they rarely ‘know’ their sources of supply beyond a shallow impression of them as objects to control and misuse for their own gain. Remember that when a narcissistic abuser tries to hoover you, saying they miss you, what they’re reallysaying is that they miss the power and control they felt when they were able to provoke your emotions.

26. They don’t love or care about me – they care about fulfilling their own needs.

Normal partners would leave their ex-partners alone and move forward especially after they realized that their ex-partners were not the one for them. Narcissists don’t care what is best for their ex-partners; they don’t care if they’re potentially retraumatizing them by reaching out to them or flaunting new supply. They want to fulfill their own needs and it doesn’t matter who they hurt in the process. Give yourself this reality check each and every time you find yourself romanticizing the abuser: they do not love or care about you, at all. If they did, they would have made the effort to treat you better. Love is expressed in actions, not empty words.

27. Each time I don’t respond or set a boundary, I remind myself of what I am worth.

You are truly worthy, warrior, and you don’t need anybody else to validate your worth to you. You are precious, valuable and enough. Know it and own it; don’t let anyone take away your divine self-worth from you. Each time that you permit yourself to stick to No Contact, you communicate to yourself that you are worthy of a better life. Continue to tell yourself that you are whole just as you are and so very deserving of the best life possible. Treat yourself as if you were already whole and one day you will realize you’ve internalized this belief. Feeling and knowing that you are enough goes beyond just an affirmation; it can lead to success beyond your wildest dreams. You just have to be willing to be receptive to this belief. Gently invite it into your life and find ways to cultivate it every day until it is so fully rooted in your psyche that it has no choice other than to blossom.

28. I care about and love myself.

Be gentle with yourself during this time. Treat yourself as you would a dear friend or a wounded baby bird. How would you take care of yourself? What would you tell someone you love who is hurting? How would you treat someone who you wanted the best for? Treat yourself that exact way – you deserve all the care, compassion and validation that you tried to give to the narcissist.

29. I am my own best friend. I am my own best advocate.

You can have a nourishing support network, but at the end of the day, you are the only one who can advocate for yourself and your healing. You are the only person who can act on your own behalf and make the right choices for your recovery process. Nobody can do it for you. So advocate for yourself, each and every day: turn off the phone, the computer and any form of communication with the narcissistic abuser and walk away from temptation. You are worth so much more than this toxic person could ever give you.

30. I love myself. Truly and always, I love myself. And for the first time in a long time, I am putting myself first.

The journey to healing is about you. Not your ex-partner, your friends, your family, or society. You may have placed your mental health and basic needs on the back burner for a long time when you were in this abusive relationship. Now it’s finally time to prioritize you, your needs, your dreams, your desires and what you personally want to manifest in your life. Take this valuable time to really get to know yourself and honor your goals. You deserve to make all your dreams come to life. It’s time for you to shine – and no one is ever going to get to dim your light ever again.

This article was first published on Thought Catalog on May 1st, 2017.

Image by By El Nariz. Standard License via Shutterstock.

Copyright © 2017 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.

Get my #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare.how-to-devalue-and-discard-the-narcissist-r2-ebook-cover-3

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude 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 three books, including 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 as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

She is the founder of the popular blog for abuse survivors, Self-Care Haven, which has millions of views from all over the world. Her work has been shared and endorsed by numerous clinicians, mental health advocates, mental health professionals and bestselling authors. For her undergraduate education, Shahida graduated summa cum laude from NYU where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She is passionate about using her knowledge base in psychology, sociology, gender studies and mental health to help survivors empower themselves after emotional abuse and trauma. Her writing has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline, The Huffington Post, MOGUL, The Meadows, Thought Catalog and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website.

This is What Happens When You ‘Discard’ an Abusive Narcissist First

Untitled design (1)

By Shahida Arabi

This article was first posted on Thought Catalog on March 28th, 2017.

Many books, articles and online platforms for abuse survivors often focus on what happens when a narcissistic abuser ‘devalues’ and ‘discards’ their victims.  Yet what happens when survivors are lucky enough to identify the abuse that is occurring to them and with the right support and resources, are able to leave their abusers first?

Unfortunately, what would otherwise be a path to freedom can be complicated by the predatory nature of malignant narcissists, whose severe sense of entitlement combined with an unnerving lack of empathy are intrinsic to their disorder. This is a dangerous combination that can result in the abuser sustaining what is known as a narcissistic injury (a threat to the narcissist’s sense of power and control) and subsequently, narcissistic rage.

This type of injury and rage manifests in different ways. According to Dr. Sarkis, narcissistic abusers are likely to do everything possible to win back their victims if they suspect they are on the verge of leaving. Yet this also applies to after their victims leave, as well. To explore what can happen when a survivor leaves his or her narcissistic abuser first and how survivors of narcissistic abuse can protect themselves in this vulnerable stage of their healing journey, I’ve listed the four main ways in which narcissists can act out their “injury” and pose potential harm to their victims, as well as some ways you can empower yourself during this precarious time.

1. Stalking and harassment.

Unless the narcissistic abuser had other sources of narcissistic supply (people who provided them a steady stream of attention, praise, admiration, resources, etc.) they were already grooming by the time you left, chances are that he or she was left blindsided by your departure – especially if you planned your departure quietly and safely. A normal partner may be understandably hurt by a break-up that was sudden and not mutual, but eventually, that partner would understand if you needed to end a relationship because it was causing you much more pain than happiness. At the very least, that partner would find some way to move forward with his or her life, knowing that you were not the one for them.

An abusive narcissist? He or she will fly off the handle when they realize that you’ve ‘one-upped’ them somehow and “beaten them” to the discard. Despite the fact that you were obviously in severe emotional and/or physical danger, the narcissist will perceive your escape as an abandonment, rather than a way to secure your safety and sanity from their psychological violence.

See, abusive relationships with a narcissist rely on an idealization-devaluation-discard cycle which enables the narcissist to degrade their victims and discard their victims without any accountability whatsoever. This cycle confirms the narcissist’s distorted sense of being superior to their victims. If the victim ‘discards’ the narcissist first, he or she upsets the power dynamic that bolsters the abuser’s desire for power and validation.

Remember: even if you left the relationship for legitimate reasons – such as for your own emotional and physical safety, your abuser still views the relationship as a competition. For you, the seemingly helpless and powerless victim, to leave first, sends them into a tailspin of fury and devastation. After all, how dare their victims forge the path to freedom, when they essentially ‘belong’ to the narcissist? That is how the narcissist thinks and believes: they truly see their victims as objects to be owned, controlled, mistreated and used as emotional punching bags, not as independent agents with free will.

Make no mistake: you deserve to live a life free of abuse. You have rights. You have boundaries. You have limits. The narcissistic abuser works to erode those boundaries and rights throughout the abusive relationship and sustain a parasitic connection with their victims; they leech off their victim’s resources, empathy, compassion and compliance. By leaving the narcissist first, you threaten their sense of ownership over you and their excessive need to control and gain from you what they cannot find in themselves.

That is why the devastation they feel at the loss of supply is not due to the loss of the survivor, but rather, the loss of power they once held over the survivor. Narcissists rely on narcissistic supply (anything in the form of praise, money, gifts, sex, attention, etc.) to survive their daily experience. They are “addicts” that zoom in on vulnerable targets – anyone they perceive to have high degrees of empathy and compassion – and exploit those targets for all they’re worth, sucking them dry emotionally, physically, and spiritually. They use their victims as trophies to give themselves access to the victim’s resources – status, wealth, the reputation of being with someone attractive and/or successful, as well as social proof of their normalcy.

When their victims are able to escape their grasp without all of their resources being fully exhausted, or right around the time when the narcissist is depending on another devaluation phase to feed himself or herself that daily high – they become inexplicably enraged.

It is no wonder, then, that narcissistic abusers are known to stalk their former victims months, sometimes even years, after the ending of the relationship, especially if their victims discarded them first. They might harass and stalk you in person, through e-mail, texting, phone calls, voicemails, or third-party contact. They may stalk you on your social media platforms and even engage in cyberbullying or threats. Their messages can range from threatening to love-bombing, and may vacillate between rage and tenderness, causing a confusing cocktail of emotions for their victims who simultaneously may want to be left alone but may also be concerned about whether the narcissist’s performances of remorse, pity ploys, or apologies are in any way authentic attempts at accountability.

The usual advice given to the survivor is to go No Contact with his or her abuser – but the sneakiest of narcissists will find their way around the barriers you place. It is actually very common for an abusive ex to linger far beyond the expiration date of the relationship, because abuse is all about power and control. In more extreme scenarios, an abusive partner may hack into your computer or phone and install spyware; they may obtain a plethora of fake IP addresses or fake accounts to cyberbully you on different social media platforms without it being traced; they may threaten you “anonymously” through different e-mail addresses or texts with messages that are meaningful to you but confusing to outsiders, in order to evade suspicion from law enforcement.

Narcissists can even use various phone apps to mask their numbers and use multiple numbers to harass you all day long or bombard you with an excessive amount of messages per day. This leaves you with the rather dreary choices of blocking each and every number while a new one pops up, or changing your number altogether.

When stalking and harassment takes a severe emotional toll and you feel you are being retraumatized, unable to move forward in your journey to healing, it may be time to consider taking legal action (if, and only if, you feel safe doing so) whether by reporting the harassment to the police and/or filing for an order of protection or restraining order.

Some survivors may not feel comfortable with this, as it has the potential of making their abusers even more vindictive and it may be even more traumatizing should the case proceed to court. Others may feel empowered by receiving legal documentation that will often make more cowardly narcissists back out of their schemes as soon as they realize they may face legal consequences for their actions.

Research the laws in your state about how to best protect yourself, understand which laws support you in documenting and recording the various forms of abuse and remember to also consult the National Domestic Violence Hotline if you have any questions about how to proceed in your specific situation.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you’re taking some steps to document the harassment and stalking in case you ever need proof of it. Let those you trust know about what is occurring as well as your whereabouts. At this time, for your own safety, you need to be able to seek support and ‘check in’ with those who can help you – whether it be with a trusted friend, family member, therapist or all of the above.

Never forget: the time when an abuse victim is leaving an abusive relationship can be one of the most dangerous points in the abuse cycle. Please take care of yourself and do what you feel is most emotionally and physically safe as well as practical for you.  Don’t discount your intuition, either – it can save your life.

2. Devaluation and Jekyll and Hyde hoovering. 

After the breakup, the character of the narcissistic abuser can become disturbingly clear – and dangerous. Malignant narcissists will usually attempt to sweet-talk you back into the relationship with promises of change, faux remorse for their misdeeds, and feigned accountability for their actions. They may romanticize the relationship and re-idealize you, taking back all their hurtful words and actions in one fell swoop (or cleverly constructed text message). This is known as hoovering, and it is when, like a Hoover vacuum, the abuser attempts to “suck” their victim back into the abuse cycle.

Yet when you fail to comply with their demands to meet up, reconcile, remain friends or you resist the idealization in any way, abusive narcissists revert back to their true, vindictive selves. Pulling the signature Jekyll and Hyde moves they subjected you to during the relationship, they devalue you all over again, engaging in name-calling, cruel insults and demeaning remarks about your personality, your lifestyle, appearance, talents, career – anything and everything they can pull in to make you feel small, undesirable and unworthy.

For you to say “no” (even politely) and set boundaries is akin to setting off an atomic bomb in the narcissist’s eyes. It sends them into a frightening rage as they realize they can no longer control you and that you are actively resisting their hoovering attempts. Even if you are not verbally expressing anything, you are essentially saying “no” firmly through your actions, your silence and by refusing to get ensnared once more into the traumatic vortex of the relationship.

Your abuser had, after all, hoped that you would react just as you had all the other times you had reconciled with them after incidents of abuse – denying, minimizing or rationalizing the abuse while accepting the crumbs of their love-bombing efforts. Instead, they are left with a void in which they must try to secure other supply, lest they have to confront any need for possible self-evaluation.

Even if they are securing other supply after the break-up, it doesn’t mean they are done with you yet – they may still continue to harass and stalk you, taunting you and debasing you in order to regain a sense of power and control. They may text or call you while they’re with their new partners, to further minimize, provoke and compare you. They may swoop periodically in and out of your life through these hoovering tactics, so they can gain supply in the form of your emotional reactions.

3. Post-breakup triangulation. 

Once the narcissist has secured new supply, they’ll want you to know about it. That is why, on the No Contact journey, I always recommend that survivors block their narcissistic abusers as well as their harem members on all social media platforms, because even just one accidental look into their Facebook or Instagram can send you back into a downward spiral of self-doubt and self-blame if a new victim pops up shortly after the breakup.

Survivors who “discarded” the narcissist first may have an emotional advantage, in that they may be more fully connected to the reality of who the abuser is. These survivors may have resolved some of the cognitive dissonance that arose during the relationship, and successfully battled the fear, obligation and guilt (FOG) that occurs due to the traumatic nature of this form of relationship. They know why no new victim should ever be envied, as these new victims too will also go through the same horrific cycle.

Still, any survivor is still vulnerable to post-breakup triangulation (the deliberate manufacturing of love triangles to control and devalue you) whether online or in real life because survivors are still in the process of healing from their “addiction” and trauma bond to the narcissist. This leaves them susceptible to further emotional manipulation, unnecessary comparisons and excessive gloating from their abusive ex-partner. To avoid this, be gentle with yourself and very firm with your boundaries so that you can remove temptation or the risk of encountering the abuser altogether.

Ensure that you are avoiding places that you know the narcissistic abuser frequents; remove any form of contact with their harem members; be mindful of any urges to ever reach out to or reestablish contact with a narcissistic partner, as they may be prone to using those instances to brag about their new supply.

4. Smear campaigns and threats.

If you discarded the narcissist first without warning, they are sure to be desperate to reframe the narrative about you as soon as possible. This is because in breaking up with them first, you unintentionally ‘exposed’ who they truly were as well as the hidden nature of the abusive relationship – and exposure is one of the narcissist’s greatest fears. Breaking up with a narcissist threatens their very sense of security because it could potentially rip off their false mask and reveal the true self to their harem members.

Many narcissists begin the smear campaign even before any devaluation begins by sneaking in hints to their family members or friends about your shortcomings or projected abusive traits (which are in fact their own) and provoking you publicly throughout your relationship. Smear campaigns are often staged successfully when the narcissistic abuser has access to both his or her harem group as well as your social network. However, if you never introduced the narcissist to your friends or your family, and if you are able to gain validation from within after the break-up, the smear campaign might be less effective.

The narcissist may still find other ways of slandering you – shortly after you leave them, they may threaten to release your personal information, such as private photos, text messages, videos or otherwise confidential discussions; they may stalk and harass you online; they may contact others who know you as a way to gain information about you. The means in which they can desperately try to regain a sense of control over your life are endless – but the portal to inner peace is not as impossible to reach as you may think.

Remember: all smear campaigns rely on the idea that the abuse victim is unable to self-validate and cope without the approval of others. The truth is, there may be legal ways to protect yourself against slander or the release of private information depending on the state you live in; you can still report the narcissist for harassment if they try to reach you via a third party; you can get professional support that helps to validate your experiences of the abuse and regain a sense of emotional freedom and security within yourself. As survivors, we still have choices, even if those choices primarily lie within doing what we can to seek out resources and help.

Undoubtedly, this can be a difficult time, but all we can control is how we approach the situation and empower ourselves. Research what you can do legally to protect yourself. Build support networks that help to validate your experiences and strengthen your resolve to detach from the toxicity and focus on your own inner peace.

Explore alternative and traditional healing modalities that can reconnect you with a healthier mind, body and spirit. Find assistance anywhere and everywhere – through domestic violence hotlines, lawyers, support groups, therapists, life coaches, books, articles – you name it, it can all be used to propel yourself towards healing and a brighter future.

Envision yourself being in a better place than the situation you’re currently in. Know your own worth and celebrate being finally free at last from your abuser. In knowing your inner power and trusting in your ability to survive seemingly insurmountable odds, you’ll realize that you are much more powerful than you might think. You were powerful enough to leave your abuser and survive the abuse – don’t underestimate how powerful you can be in thriving after it.

Copyright © 2017 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.

Image by InnervisionArt. License via Shutterstock.

Get my #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare.how-to-devalue-and-discard-the-narcissist-r2-ebook-cover-3

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude 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 three books, including 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 as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

She is the founder of the popular blog for abuse survivors, Self-Care Haven, which has millions of views from all over the world. Her work has been shared and endorsed by numerous clinicians, mental health advocates, mental health professionals and bestselling authors. For her undergraduate education, Shahida graduated summa cum laude from NYU where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She is passionate about using her knowledge base in psychology, sociology, gender studies and mental health to help survivors empower themselves after emotional abuse and trauma. Her writing has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline, The Huffington Post, MOGUL, The Meadows, Thought Catalog and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website.

3 Sneaky Techniques Covert Narcissists Use to Disarm and Demean You

shutterstock_142162183

We’re all familiar with loud, bold, and overly confident overt narcissists. These types of narcissists are visibly grandiose, aggressively posturing their superiority for all to see. They may be vain and somatic, overly focused on their appearance, or they may be on the more cerebral end, contemptuously putting down anyone and everyone who threatens their so-called intellectual superiority.

Fortunately, overt narcissists are usually easy to spot and hopefully easier to avoid investing in. Covert narcissists, on the other hand, present new challenges; they can appear meek, innocent, charitable, even humble at first glance. They can be disarmingly seductive, even loving, personable and gracious.

Yet beneath their quieter nature and seemingly sensitive façade lurks a contempt and sense of entitlement that is ultimately even more harmful simply because it is so startling and traumatizing to the victims who bear witness to it. Their tactics work to diminish, demean and sabotage their victims behind the scenes – which is why their manipulation and exploitation can leave their loved ones blindsided and reeling from the unexpected psychological violence they subject them to. Here are three manipulation techniques that covert narcissists use and tips on how to stay grounded if you encounter one:

1. Mixed put-downs, double meanings and coded language.

A mixed put-down occurs when a covert narcissist is threatened by someone else’s intelligence, accomplishments, status, appearance or any other resources he or she may covet. It involves throwing the victim off the pedestal while also offering potential for getting back on it. In order to put their victims down while still evading accountability, the covert narcissist will first provide a sweet compliment, followed by a backhanded “slap” of sorts (ex. “Wow Mary, you’ve really lost weight! Too bad about the sagging skin, huh?”).

This can also occur vice versa – the narcissist may first attack with an overly critical stance, only to seemingly ‘soften’ the blow with a crumb of a compliment to create confusion in the victim (ex. “You do know you’re completely wrong about that, right? Well, you’re hardworking, at least, I’ll give you that.”). This will allow their put-down to appear more like a legitimate critique rather than an excuse to tear you down unnecessarily. It “trains” and conditions the victim over time to seek the narcissist’s approval and validation.

Covert narcissists can even get creative and send a mixed message by contradicting their seemingly innocuous words with a devious undercurrent. For example, this may include giving you a compliment with a condescending tone of voice, relaying a humorous “joke” at your expense with a contemptuous look, using a startling gesture or provocative facial expression or saying something that can easily have two meanings (one innocent, and the other, abusive). Of course, they will do everything possible to convince you that they never “meant” to communicate the more malicious meaning, but the underlying undercurrent of something deeper is always present in such an interaction.

They may also engage in what I like to call “coded” language. This can involve putting you down in front of others by poking fun at something they know you’re sensitive about, but others may not realize is a vulnerability of yours. Much like an inside joke, the knowledge of how this comment affects you is shared between you both, but unlike an inside joke, it is meant to undermine you rather than build rapport. It also serves to evoke reactions in you that may seem excessive to any outsider looking in. This is a way for them to get away with their abusive behavior and provoke the victim to react in public. They then use their victim’s reactions to prove the victim’s “instability” while casting themselves as the innocent party.

To understand why covert narcissists employ these methods, remember that their ability to prey upon a victim’s uncertainty allows them to create a sophisticated “Gaslighting Effect.” In her article, “Effects of Gaslighting in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome,”psychotherapist Christine Louis de Canonville describes how this effect is amplified over time:

“The gaslighting, as a harassment technique, starts with a series of subtle mind games that intentionally preys on the gaslightee’s limited ability to tolerate ambiguity or uncertainty. This is done in order to undercut the victim’s trust in their own reality and sense of self. Even when the victim is bewildered and left wondering, “What just happened there?”, there is reluctance to see the gaslighter for what they are…it is this denial that is the cornerstone of the gaslighting relationship.”

Essentially, the victim reduces his or her own cognitive dissonance and confusion by choosing to “believe” in the abuser’s version of events. Slowly but surely, these covert put-downs, coded messages and ambiguous comments become integrated into a warped reality that the covert manipulator creates for his or her victim. 

Tip: When encountering a put-down like this, avoid reacting to the narcissist’s hypercriticism as much as possible. Instead, validate your own accomplishments and leave the conversation as soon as possible. The more emotionally reactive you are to a put-down, the more likely the covert narcissist will store that information and use the same exact tactic again in order to provoke you. If you react to their hurtful tactics and coded language in public, rest assured they will use your reactions as “proof” that you are somehow unstable. Keep your cool in public whenever possible and if possible, address it to them in private (though, it is likely they will never own up to it) if you have to.

If you are feeling baffled as to whether or not you’ve experienced a covert put-down, compare the way the narcissist has reacted to your success to the way other, healthier people in your life have. Chances are, the healthy people in your life congratulated and celebrated you in whatever arena the narcissist is currently putting you down in. This is a sign that the narcissist’s criticism stems not from helpfulness, but rather from their pathological envy.

2. The great diversion.

The covert narcissist does whatever is possible to distract you from the fact that they are putting you down in the first place. That means that they will create all sorts of diversions to get you from staying grounded in your own sense of what has just happened. This serves to disguise their malicious intent to gain control and power over you by keeping you in a state of perpetually walking on eggshells. Instead of focusing on holding them accountable for their behavior, they get you to refocus on your own behavior, personality, or fabricated flaws.

One second, they may be making a harsh, cruel comment about your body, and the next second, they’re being disarmingly sweet and complimentary about how slender you are, as well as how you “read too deeply into things” when you express your confusion about the sudden “switch.” Another minute, they’re planning a romantic evening out with you, and the next, they’re blaming you for expecting that of them in the first place – even if it was their idea to treat you in the first place. By intermittently switching from pain to pleasure, from dissatisfaction to loving admiration, they are able to hide the fact that they’re constantly shifting blame onto you.

This is how they “divert” from the fact that they’re putting you down and setting you up for failure by constantly shifting the goal posts. It is also how they change the subject rapidly when they are confronted on their shady behavior. Phrases such as, “I am not going to argue with you,” or “This isn’t worth pursuing” is common when they are called out on their insidious tactics.  No matter what you do or don’t do, the narcissist will rarely be satisfied and you will never be satisfied by their inability to ever take responsibility.

Tip: Stay true to what you experienced and observe the long-term patterns of behavior rather than what the narcissist claims to be doing or not doing. A narcissist’s longer-term predatory behavior will tell you far more than their contradictory words ever will. When a narcissist tries to “divert” you from the main topic by pointing out something irrelevant you did or said, or tries to stonewall you by ending the conversation even before it’s had a chance to begin, repeat the facts, stay focused on the issue and end the interaction without giving into their gaslighting attempts.

3. Tunnel vision minimization.

This is when the narcissist develops “tunnel vision” by hyperfocusing on something irrelevant or unrelated to minimize something you’ve accomplished, are proud of or something they know is considered an asset of yours. If you’ve graduated with a Master’s, the covert narcissist might start demanding to know when you plan to get your Ph.D; if you recently signed the lease on your dream apartment, they might change the subject to something in your neighborhood that seems unsavory or mundane. To a narcissist, there is always a way to get under your skin and inside of your head.

The presence of minimization can usually help you identify who the narcissist is in a group setting; while others are congratulating you on a job well done, the narcissist is often lurking in the corner, sulking and ready to burst your bubble like a needle to a balloon with a backhanded compliment, excessive critique or a “helpful” obnoxious reminder of something they perceive you’re lacking.

Remember: when a covert narcissist causes you to feel insecure, uncertain and unbalanced, it is often because they don’t want to deal with their own emotional issues and the fact that they may not be as special or unique as they desperately want to believe. This is what narcissism expert Dr. Craig Malkin (2015) calls playing “emotional hot potato,” where the narcissist continually passes off any unwanted feelings onto their victims. Minimization and projection act as self-serving tactics for the narcissist to avoid the discrepancy between the grandiose, false self and the true self.

Tip: Resist the minimization and maximize your self-validation. Instead of focusing on the narcissist’s envious attempts to minimize you, refocus on the people who are celebrating you. Realize that in the narcissist’s minimization is a secret confession of their own sense of ineptitude and entitlement; they want to be exactly where you are and have what you have but they know they never will. You really are that threatening to their false sense of superiority.

Most importantly, celebrate yourself. Self-validation and self-love are two of the most powerful tools you can have when conquering the sabotage of a covert narcissist.

References

De Canonville, C. L. (2016, October). The effects of gaslighting in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome. Retrieved July 16, 2017, from http://www.narcissisticbehavior.net/the-effects-of-gaslighting-in-narcissistic-victim-syndrome/

De Canonville, C. L. (2016, September). Revealing the two faces of narcissism: Overt and covert narcissism. Retrieved July 16, 2017, from http://www.narcissisticbehavior.net/revealing-the-two-faces-of-narcissism-overt-and-covert-narcissism/

Hammond, C. (2016, September 06). How to Identify a Covert Narcissist. Retrieved July 16, 2017, from http://www.pro.psychcentral.com/exhausted-woman/2016/09/how-to-identify-a-covert-narcissist/

Malkin, C. (2015, November). Rethinking Narcissism (Episode 4) [Audio blog post]. Retrieved July 16, 2017, from http://www.drcraigmalkin.com/podcast/DCM-Podcast-Episode-4.pdf

Photograph by Sergey Nivens. Standard License via Shutterstock.

This article originally appeared on Psych Central as 3 Sneaky Techniques Covert Narcissists Use to Disarm and Demean You on July 17, 2017.

Copyright © 2017 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.

Get my #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare.how-to-devalue-and-discard-the-narcissist-r2-ebook-cover-3

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude 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 three books, including 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 as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

She is the founder of the popular blog for abuse survivors, Self-Care Haven, which has millions of views from all over the world. Her work has been shared and endorsed by numerous clinicians, mental health advocates, mental health professionals and bestselling authors. For her undergraduate education, Shahida graduated summa cum laude from NYU where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She is passionate about using her knowledge base in psychology, sociology, gender studies and mental health to help survivors empower themselves after emotional abuse and trauma. Her writing has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline, The Huffington Post, MOGUL, The Meadows, Thought Catalog and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website.

11 Signs You’re the Victim of Narcissistic Abuse

shutterstock_261878717

By Shahida Arabi

Imagine this: your entire reality has been warped and distorted. You have been mercilessly violated, manipulated, lied to, ridiculed, demeaned and gaslighted into believing that you are imagining things.  The person you thought you knew and the life you built together have been shattered into a million little fragments.

Your sense of self has been eroded, diminished. You were idealized, devalued, then shoved off the pedestal. Perhaps you were even replaced and discarded multiple times, only to be ‘hoovered’ and lured back into an abuse cycle even more torturous than before. Maybe you were relentlessly stalked, harassed and bullied to stay with your abuser.

This was no normal break-up or relationship: this was a set-up for covert and insidious murder of your psyche and sense of safety in the world. Yet there may not be visible scars to tell the tale; all you have are broken pieces, fractured memories and internal battle wounds.

This is what narcissistic abuse looks like.

Psychological violence by malignant narcissists can include verbal and emotional abuse, toxic projection, stonewalling, sabotage, smear campaigns, triangulation along with a plethora of other forms of coercion and control. This is imposed by someone who lacks empathy, demonstrates an excessive sense of entitlement and engages in interpersonal exploitation to meet their own needs at the expense of the rights of others.

As a result of chronic abuse, victims may struggle with symptoms of PTSDComplex PTSD if they had additional traumas like being abused by narcissistic parents or even what is known as “Narcissistic Victim Syndrome” (Cannonville, 2015; Staggs 2016). The aftermath of narcissistic abuse can include depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, a pervasive sense of  toxic shame, emotional flashbacks that regress the victim back to the abusive incidents, and overwhelming feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.

When we are in the midst of an ongoing abuse cycle, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what we are experiencing because abusers are able to twist and turn reality to suit their own needs, engage in intense love-bombing after abusive incidents and convince their victims that they are the ones who are abusers.

If you find yourself experiencing the eleven symptoms below and you are or have been in a toxic relationship with a partner that disrespects, invalidates and mistreats you, you may just have been terrorized by an emotional predator:

1. You experience dissociation as a survival mechanism.

You feel emotionally or even physically detached from your environment, experiencing disruptions in your memory, perceptions, consciousness and sense of self. As Dr. Van der Kolk (2015) writes in his book, The Body Keeps the Score, “Dissociation is the essence of trauma. The overwhelming experience is split off and fragmented, so that the emotions, sounds, images, thoughts and physical sensations take on a life of their own.”

Dissociation can lead to emotional numbing in the face of horrific circumstances. Mind-numbing activities, obsessions, addictions and repression may become a way of life because they give you an escape from your current reality. Your brain finds ways to emotionally block out the impact of your pain so you do not have to deal with the full terror of your circumstances.

You may also develop traumatized ‘inner parts’ that become disjointed from the personality you inhabit with your abuser or loved ones (Johnston, 2017). These inner parts can include the inner child parts that were never nurtured, the true anger and disgust you feel towards your abuser or parts of yourselves you feel you cannot express around them.

According to therapist Rev. Sheri Heller (2015), “Integrating and reclaiming dissociated and disowned aspects of the personality is largely dependent on constructing a cohesive narrative, which allows for the assimilation of emotional, cognitive, and physiological realities.” This inner integration is best done with the help of a trauma-informed therapist.

2. You walk on eggshells.

A common symptom of trauma is avoiding anything that represents reliving the trauma – whether it be people, places or activities that pose that threat. Whether it be your friend, your partner, your family member, co-worker or boss, you find yourself constantly watching what you say or do around this person lest you incur their wrath, punishment or become the object of their envy.

However, you find that this does not work and you still become the abuser’s target whenever he or she feels entitled to use you as an emotional punching bag. You become perpetually anxious about ‘provoking’ your abuser in any way and may avoid confrontation or setting boundaries as a result. You may also extend your people-pleasing behavior outside of the abusive relationship, losing your ability to be spontaneous or assertive while navigating the outside world, especially with people who resemble or are associated with your abuser and the abuse.

3. You put aside your basic needs and desires, sacrificing your emotional and even your physical safety to please the abuser.

You may have once been full of life, goal-driven and dream-oriented. Now you feel as if you are living just to fulfill the needs and agendas of another person. Once, the narcissist’s entire life seemed to revolve around you; now your entire life revolves around them. You may have placed your goals, hobbies, friendships and personal safety on the back burner just to ensure that your abuser feels ‘satisfied’ in the relationship. Of course, you soon realize that he or she will never truly be satisfied regardless of what you do or don’t do.

4. You are struggling with health issues and somatic symptoms that represent your psychological turmoil.

You may have gained or lost a significant amount of weight, developed serious health issues that did not exist prior and experienced physical symptoms of premature aging. The stress of chronic abuse has sent your cortisol levels into overdrive and your immune system has taken a severe hit, leaving you vulnerable to physical ailments and disease (Bergland, 2013). You find yourself unable to sleep or experiencing terrifying nightmares when you do, reliving the trauma through emotional or visual flashbacks that bring you back to the site of the original wounds (Walker, 2013).

5. You develop a pervasive sense of mistrust.

Every person now represents a threat and you find yourself becoming anxious about the intentions of others, especially having experienced the malicious actions of someone you once trusted. Your usual caution becomes hypervigilance. Since the narcissistic abuser has worked hard to gaslight you into believing that your experiences are invalid, you have a hard time trusting anyone, including yourself.

6. You experience suicidal ideation or self-harming tendencies.

Along with depression and anxiety may come an increased sense of hopelessness. Your circumstances feel unbearable, as if you cannot escape, even if you wanted to. You develop a sense of learned helplessness that makes you feel as if you don’t wish to survive another day. You may even engage in self-harm as a way to cope. As Dr. McKeon (2014), chief of the suicide prevention branch at SAMHSA notes, victims of intimate partner violence are twice as likely to attempt suicide multiple times. This is the way abusers essentially commit murder without a trace.

7. You self-isolate.

Many abusers isolate their victims, but victims also isolate themselves because they feel ashamed about the abuse they’re experiencing. Given the victim-blaming and misconceptions about emotional and psychological violence in society, victims may even be retraumatized by law enforcement, family members, friends and the harem members of the narcissist who might invalidate their perceptions of the abuse. They fear no one will understand or believe them, so instead of reaching out for help, they decide to withdraw from others as a way to avoid judgment and retaliation from their abuser.

8. You find yourself comparing yourself to others, often to the extent of blaming yourself for the abuse.

A narcissistic abuser is highly skilled at manufacturing love triangles or bringing another person into the dynamic of the relationship to further terrorize the victim. As a result, victims of narcissistic abuse internalize the fear that they are not enough and may constantly strive to ‘compete’ for the abuser’s attention and approval.

Victims may also compare themselves to others in happier, healthier relationships or find themselves wondering why their abuser appears to treat complete strangers with more respect. This can send them down the trapdoor of wondering, “why me?” and stuck in an abyss of self-blame. The truth is, the abuser is the person who should be blamed – you are in no way responsible for being abused.

9. You self-sabotage and self-destruct.

Victims often find themselves ruminating over the abuse and hearing the abuser’s voice in their minds, amplifying their negative self-talk and tendency towards self-sabotage. Malignant narcissists ‘program’ and condition their victims to self-destruct – sometimes even to the point of driving them to suicide.

Due to the narcissist’s covert and overt put-downs, verbal abuse and hypercriticism, victims develop a tendency to punish themselves because they carry such toxic shame. They may sabotage their goals, dreams and academic pursuits. The abuser has instilled in them a sense of worthlessness and they begin to believe that they are undeserving of good things.

10. You fear doing what you love and achieving success.

Since many pathological predators are envious of their victims, they punish them for succeeding. This conditions their victims to associate their joys, interests, talents and areas of success with cruel and callous treatment. This conditioning gets their victims to fear success lest they be met with reprisal and reprimand.

As a result, victims become depressed, anxious, lack confidence and they may hide from the spotlight and allow their abusers to ‘steal’ the show again and again. Realize that your abuser is not undercutting your gifts because they truly believe you are inferior; it is because those gifts threaten their control over you.

11. You protect your abuser and even ‘gaslight’ yourself.

Rationalizing, minimizing and denying the abuse are often survival mechanisms for victims in an abusive relationship. In order to reduce the cognitive dissonance that erupts when the person who claims to love you mistreats you, victims of abuse convince themselves that the abuser is really not ‘all that bad’ or that they must have done something to ‘provoke’ the abuse.

It is important to reduce this cognitive dissonance in the other direction by reading up on the narcissistic personality and abuse tactics; this way, you are able to reconcile your current reality with the narcissist’s false self by recognizing that the abusive personality, not the charming facade, is their true self.

Remember that an intense trauma bond is often formed between victim and abuser because the victim is ‘trained’ to rely on the abuser for his or her survival (Carnes, 2015). Victims may protect their abusers from legal consequences, portray a happy image of the relationship on social media or overcompensate by ‘sharing the blame’ of the abuse.

I’ve been narcissistically abused. Now what?

If you are currently in an abusive relationship of any kind, know that you are not alone even if you feel like you are. There are millions of survivors all over the world who have experienced what you have.  This form of psychological torment is not exclusive to any gender, culture, social class or religion. The first step is becoming aware of the reality of your situation and validating it – even if your abuser attempts to gaslight you into believing otherwise.

If you can, journal about the experiences you have been going through to begin acknowledging the realities of the abuse. Share the truth with a trusted mental health professional, domestic violence advocates, family members, friends or fellow survivors. Begin to ‘heal’ your body through modalities like trauma-focused yoga and mindfulness meditation, two practices that target the same parts of the brain often affected by trauma (van der Kolk, 2015).

Reach out for help if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially suicidal ideation. Consult a trauma-informed counselor who understands and can help guide you through the symptoms of trauma. Make a safety plan if you have concerns about your abuser getting violent.

It is not easy to leave an abusive relationship due to the intense trauma bonds that can develop, the effects of trauma and the pervasive sense of helplessness and hopelessness that can form as a result of the abuse. Yet you have to know that it is in fact possible to leave and to begin the journey to No Contact or Low Contact in the cases of co-parenting. Recovery from this form of abuse is challenging, but it is well worth paving the path back to freedom and putting the pieces back together.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, be sure to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at  1−800−799−7233.

References

Bergland, C. (2013, January 22). Cortisol: Why “The Stress Hormone” is public enemy no. 1. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1

Clay, R. A. (2014). Suicide and intimate partner violence. Monitor on Psychology, 45(10), 30. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/11/suicide-violence.aspx

Canonville, C. L. (2015). Narcissistic Victim Syndrome: What the heck is that? Retrieved August 18, 2017, from http://narcissisticbehavior.net/the-effects-of-gaslighting-in-narcissistic-victim-syndrome/

Carnes, P. (2015). Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. Health Communications, Incorporated.

Heller, S. (2015, February 18). Complex PTSD and the realm of dissociation. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/complex-ptsd-and-the-realm-of-dissociation/006907.html

Johnston, M. (2017, April 05). Working with our inner Parts. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://majohnston.wordpress.com/working-with-our-inner-parts/

Staggs, S. (2016). Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/complex-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/

Staggs, S. (2016). Symptoms & Diagnosis of PTSD. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/symptoms-and-diagnosis-of-ptsd/

Van der Kolk, B. (2015). The body keeps the score: Mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma. London: Penguin Books.

Walker, P. (2013). Complex PTSD: From surviving to thriving. Lafayette, CA: Azure Coyote.

Image by lpedan. Licensed via Shutterstock.

This article originally appeared on Psych Central as 11 Signs You’re the Victim of Narcissistic Abuse on August 21, 2017.

Copyright © 2017 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.

Get my #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare.how-to-devalue-and-discard-the-narcissist-r2-ebook-cover-3

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude 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 three books, including 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 as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

She is the founder of the popular blog for abuse survivors, Self-Care Haven, which has millions of views from all over the world. Her work has been shared and endorsed by numerous clinicians, mental health advocates, mental health professionals and bestselling authors. For her undergraduate education, Shahida graduated summa cum laude from NYU where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She is passionate about using her knowledge base in psychology, sociology, gender studies and mental health to help survivors empower themselves after emotional abuse and trauma. Her writing has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline, The Huffington Post, MOGUL, The Meadows, Thought Catalog and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website.