Tag Archives: npd

20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists Use to Silence You

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

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

(1) Gaslighting

(2) Projection

(3) Nonsensical Conversations from Hell

(4) Blanket Statements and Generalizations

(5) Deliberate Misrepresentation

(6) Nitpicking and Moving Goal Posts

(7) Changing the Subject to Escape Accountability

(8) Covert and Overt Threats

(9) Name-Calling

(10) Destructive Conditioning

(11) Smear Campaigns and Stalking

(12) Lovebombing and Devaluation

(13) Preemptive Defense

(14) Triangulation

(15) Bait and Feign Innocence

(16) Boundary Testing and Hoovering

(17) Aggressive Jabs Disguised as Jokes

(18) Condescending Sarcasm and Patronizing Tone

(19) Shaming

(20) Control

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

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

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


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

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

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Healing Our Addiction to the Narcissist: My Interview on Mental Health News Radio

 LISTEN TO THE SHOW!

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 READ THE INTERVIEW!

I want to thank Mental Health News radio show host Kristin Sunanta Walker and therapist Melanie Vann for having me on their recent show to talk about my new book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself.

Mental Health News radio is an amazing platform that has reached so many people and has connected intriguing, diverse perspectives on important topics in the mental health community, including narcissistic abuse. It was an honor to be able to contribute to the dialogue on narcissism and narcissistic abuse and join their incredible line-up of speakers, psychologists, authors, survivors and advocates.

You can listen to the show here and read the entire associated blog entry of the interview on their website here.

“We’ve enjoyed reading the Kindle Best Seller, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care by author and advocate Shahida Arabi. Her social media presence and blogs are an informative tribute empowering women of all ages and stages of recovery. Join us for an in-depth conversation about healing our addiction to narcissists. ”

QUESTIONS COVERED IN THE INTERVIEW:

What is your second book on narcissistic abuse about? How will it help victims recognize the signs of narcissistic abuse and heal?

How does a person become narcissistic?

Why do we gravitate towards narcissists? Is there such a thing as chronic victimization – a person who can have relationships with multiple narcissists and be primed to get into yet another one? How do we prevent that pattern?

Why do people stay so long in abusive relationships with narcissistic or antisocial personalities? Are victims to blame for narcissistic abuse?

Is there a difference between Narcissistic Personality Disorder and another cluster B disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder?

What tools can I use to detach and heal from a narcissist?

Why do Narcissists come back and try to contact you even after the relationship has ended?

What if the narcissist is the one who is “addicted” to something – is there a difference between a substance abuser who is emotionally abusive when using and a narcissistic abuser?

What should survivors do with their experiences of narcissistic abuse?


Questions and answers written by our guest Shahida Arabi:

What is your second book on narcissistic abuse about? How will it help victims recognize the signs of narcissistic abuse and heal?

I am currently working on a second book called Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying YourselfThis book will cover the red flags of narcissistic behavior which can very covert and underhanded, our addiction to the narcissist as well as how to detach and heal from narcissistic abuse, especially if you’ve been involved with more than one narcissist or were raised by a narcissistic parent, which means you were primed for this type of abuse. Narcissistic abuse can be very difficult for people who have never been through it to understand, which is why it’s important to talk about the actual behaviors involved in this type of abuse as well as its effects on the victim.

Full-fledged narcissists, those who meet the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, display arrogant, haughty behaviors and a depraved sense of entitlement. They are highly inter-personally exploitative and manipulative, prone to using people for their own personal gain or agenda. Most importantly, they lack the ability to empathize with others – which make them toxic relationship partners in the long-run.
SelfCareHavenNarcissism-768x432While the DSM-5 has helpful information on the characteristics of a narcissist, it does not explore the actual behaviors that narcissists display within relationships – abusive behaviors such as: being overly critical towards their partners, covertly and overtly putting them down with different forms of verbal abuse, controlling every aspect of their partner’s life, stonewalling their victims into silence, triangulating them with other love interests, gas-lighting them into believing the abuse isn’t real, subjecting their victim to smear campaigns, projecting their malignant traits onto their partners and using a false charismatic self to make their victims look like the “crazy” ones.

This is what narcissistic abuse looks like – and unfortunately, the full extent of narcissistic abuse is not taught in any psychology class or diagnostic manual. I was actually taking a graduate-level Adult Personality and Psychopathology class when I first learned the DSM definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder – yet I still had no idea I was at the time with a narcissistic abuser. It was only by reading more about narcissistic abuse, the literature on it as well as accounts from survivors themselves, that I learned about the complex dynamics involved between abuser and victim.

It is truly a narcissist’s malignant behaviors and how they affect us that are the key to understanding if your partner is a narcissist. The narcissistic abuser can lead survivors to feel depressed, suicidal, anxious, constantly on edge and worthless. If your partner displays these types of toxic behaviors, at the very least, they are emotionally, verbally and psychologically abusive. While malignant narcissists are certainly very dangerous, partners who display even some of these behaviors and refuse to change do not need the diagnosis of NPD in order for victims to recognize they have a toxic relationship partner.

Currently, the best sources of rich information on narcissistic abuse are the voices of survivors as well as mental health professionals who have either experienced narcissistic abuse themselves or who have worked extensively with abuse victims or abusers as clients – these are the people who are on the front line and can better articulate the complex dynamics of this type of relationship as well as the motives of these disordered personalities.

This is why I am currently working on a second book that is specifically about the dynamics of narcissistic abuse that is not taught in classrooms – including the psychological trauma and biochemical bonds we develop with narcissistic abusers and the trauma reenactment that is involved if we grow up with a narcissistic abuser as a parent or family member, conditioned to accept this type of covert abuse.

This book will provide survivors an extensive look into narcissistic abuse, including our addiction to the narcissist and why it is so difficult to extricate yourself from an abusive partner whose methods are often covert and underhanded. It will offer tools to begin to detach and heal from the narcissist or the narcissists we’ve encountered throughout our lifetime, especially if we have a pattern of being with more than one narcissistic partner.

I wanted to write this book to bridge the gap between the scientific research on this disorder and survivor accounts by incorporating the work of psychologists, popular bloggers and authors on the topic of narcissism, my personal experiences as well as thousands of survivor accounts and feedback I’ve gotten from my coaching program, surveys, as well as on my blog and social media platforms. It is my hope that this book will help survivors transcend the abuse they’ve experienced, channel their experiences into the greater good and become advocates for their own self-care.

How does a person become narcissistic?

There are many different theories as to how a person develops this disorder. Some psychologists theorize that the narcissist suffered a severe trauma in childhood – what they call a “narcissistic wound.” This may have been caused by a cold, unempathic parent which caused the narcissist to associate his or her identity with an area of success his or her parents valued such as looks, intellectual ability or another talent, in place of healthy self-esteem and self-acceptance.

Other theories posit that a pattern of overvaluation by a parent leads to arrested emotional development, causing a child to develop a sense of grandiosity that vacillates between feelings of worthlessness and a hyperinflated ego – in other words, narcissism. This is because the narcissistic child is overvalued as “perfect” and this type of feedback is not balanced with realistic feedback.

There is also a biological and neurological standpoint that focuses mainly on how a narcissist’s brain has structural abnormalities related to compassion (Schulze et. al, 2013). Narcissists may have suffered something traumatic when they were a child – perhaps an over-idealization by an adult that made them want to remain like a child forever without any consequences, or devaluation and neglect. They may have even been raised by someone who was narcissistic. Or, they may be born with the disorder.

While each theory is compelling, clinicians are not absolutely certain as to what causes NPD. In my opinion, psychopathology is often caused by an interaction between biological predisposition and environment. There are also multicultural components which can make certain disorders more likely than others in certain countries or manifest differently across various contexts. The interactions between environment and biological predisposition can act as a protective factor orrisk factor to prevent or exacerbate certain disorders in individuals who do have a biological predisposition. Factors such as a strong support network, access to therapy/medication, upbringing, religious beliefs, media, as well as other exacerbating experiences outside of the family unit like bullying, sexual assault, witnessing violence, or other traumas can all interfere or strengthen that predisposition towards pathology.

What survivors can be certain of is that being with a partner with NPD can be extremely dangerous due to their lack of empathy and tendency to be exploitive. If you enter a relationship with a narcissist, beware: the false self is often so charming and so different from the true self that you may fall prey to a vicious cycle of narcissistic abuse that can be very difficult to extricate yourself from. A relationship with a narcissist often contains some degree of psychological, emotional and in some cases, physical and sexual violence depending on where the narcissistic person falls on the spectrum.


Becoming the Narcissist's NightmareWhy do we gravitate towards narcissists? Is there such a thing as chronic victimization – a person who can have relationships with multiple narcissists and be primed to get into yet another one? How do we prevent that pattern?

We are drawn to narcissists because they tend to be charismatic and charming. Their false self is usually constructed of the very traits and characteristics we’ve been longing for – the love, validation and respect we may have longed for in our childhood but never received. A recent study by Haslam and Montrose (2015) showed that women who are looking for a marital partner, even if they had previous experience with narcissistic types, actually preferred narcissistic partners over non-narcissistic ones. Narcissists deliberately mirror and mimic our deepest desires and values, which makes them incredibly convincing and tempting to us. Narcissists also have a devil-may-care attitude that draws us in because they seem unfazed by anything – that’s because they aren’t.

It’s important to remember that their false self is often the self we fall for – the true self of a narcissist does not unravel until they have hooked us into the relationship, so it is very difficult to ascertain that there may be any pathology present until we’ve invested in the relationship. By that time, their hot and cold tactics (also known as intermittent reinforcement) begin to take hold of us, creating psychological and biochemical bonds that inevitably keep us attached.

Unfortunately, many of us can be “primed” for narcissistic abuse due to the subconscious programming instilled in us from childhood – this can cause victimization by multiple narcissists throughout our lifetime, starting with experiencing narcissistic abuse in childhood. Research shows that those who witness domestic violence are more likely to become victims or perpetrators themselves. Dr. Bruce Lipton talks about subconscious programming in his book The Biology of Belief (2007), in which he discusses an incredible study where a fetus on a sonogram began visibly responding to a fight between father and mother. Yes, programming can start as early as in the mother’s womb! Imagine how traumatizing it must be for a child, if the only models of love they receive in their childhood, are models based on codependency (or as Ross Rosenberg calls it, Self-Love Deficit Disorder), abuse and disrespect. Trauma can have a significant impact on early brain development, interpersonal effectiveness and emotional regulation.

A large majority of our behavior is subconsciously driven – which means we ourselves may not even know the reasons for why we’re addicted to the narcissist until we dig deeper into trauma from adolescence, childhood or even adulthood – trauma can happen at any time but most especially, it can rewire our brain significantly in childhood. If we’ve witnessed domestic violence or experienced any type of abuse or bullying that traumatized us, we are more susceptible to becoming attached to narcissistic partners in the attempt to resolve the trauma – this is what Dr. Gary Reece calls “trauma repetition” or “trauma reenactment.”
For those of us who have a pattern of being with multiple narcissistic partners throughout our lifetime, it’s important for us to look at the root of the original trauma – whether it was in childhood, adolescence or even young adulthood. There is something within us that needs to be healed in order to break this reenactment. Being with multiple narcissists is what I call “trauma upon trauma.” We hide one trauma with another – we go from one narcissist straight into the arms of another – which makes it very difficult to step back and break the pattern, because we don’t cease the pattern long enough to reevaluate and disrupt it.

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Why do people stay so long in abusive relationships with narcissistic or antisocial personalities? Are victims to blame for narcissistic abuse?

I talk about this topic at length in my upcoming book on narcissism. Victims are not to blame for staying in abusive relationships. There are many reasons why they stay longer than they should and each victim has his or her own unique circumstances. Contrary to the victim-blaming discourse that dominates our society, recovery from an abusive relationship can be very similar to withdrawal from drug addiction due to the biochemical and psychological bonds we develop with our abusers.

What many people don’t understand is that our own brain chemistry can lock us into this addiction to the narcissistic or sociopathic partner. Dopamine, cortisol, adrenaline and oxytocin are all implicated in what I like to call the “biochemical bond from hell.”

This biochemical bond is even stronger because of the traumatic highs and lows of the relationship. The same neurotransmitter that is responsible for cocaine addiction – dopamine – is the same one responsible for our addiction to dangerous romantic partners.

Imagine this: the intense pleasurable moments of the honeymoon period of a relationship release dopamine and create reward circuits in the brain, essentially telling us to go back to our toxic partners and relive the pleasurable memories. Intermittent reinforcement of positive behaviors dispersed throughout the abuse cycle (e.g. gifts, flowers, compliments, sex) only strengthens this bond. In fact, in “Bad Boys, Bad Brains,” Dr. Susan Carnell notes that intermittent reinforcement of rewards actually enables dopamine to flow more readily, which strengthens the reward circuit associated with this toxic relationship in our brain.

Then we have our sexual relationship with the narcissistic partner, often described by survivors as one of the most intense and sexually charged experiences of their lives. Narcissists mirror our deepest sexual and emotional desires, which makes for an electrifying sexual chemistry with them. Oxytocin is released whenever we physically interact with our abuser, promoting attachment and trust. This is the same “love” hormone that bonds mother and child at birth, ensuring that we “bond” with the abuser even after experiencing incidents of abuse. In fact, narcissistic abusers tend to merge abusive incidents with displays of affection and seduction precisely to create this sort of chaos in our bodies and minds.

At this time, the cortisol levels in our body are going haywire due to the stress from the abuse, trapping chronic stress within our bodies. Yet they are lowered once we are comforted and soothed by our narcissistic partner’s apologies and sweet-talking – which conditions us to go back to our narcissistic partners as a source of healing, even if they are simultaneously the source of the abuse.

Then there’s the adrenaline rush we get from the unpredictability of the narcissist’s intermittent reinforcement and reckless behavior – the positive reinforcement they sneak in periodically throughout the abuse cycle to make us long for the nice, caring person they pretended to be during the idealization phase of the relationship.

In addition, being with any type of abuser creates what Dr. Patrick Carnes (2010) calls “trauma bonds,” a form of Stockholm syndrome in which intense, shared experiences with the predator compel us to bond with them in order to survive. Trauma bonding is a psychological defense mechanism that allows us to withstand severe abuse and reconcile our cognitive dissonance about who the abuser pretended to be in the beginning of the relationship versus who he or she really is.

Furthermore, there are also practical reasons why victims do not leave abusive relationships. Some victims may have a fear of retaliation or harm depending on how malignant and physically or sexually abusive their abuser is; they may be financially dependent on their partners; they may have children or share a business with the narcissist; they may be isolated from their support network by their abuser.

They may also have a poor support network that does not validate the abuse they’ve suffered, including an invalidating psychologist who may not have been trained in treating clients suffering from this type of covert abuse. Insensitive friends and family members may shame abuse victims, asking them why they didn’t leave sooner and inquiring what they did to provoke the abuse.

Those closest to abuse survivors may question the abuse victim’s accounts of the abuse because they only see the false, charming self of the abuser, not realizing that abuse often takes place behind closed doors so that the abuser can escape accountability. This type of emotional invalidation leads the victim to doubt his or her perceptions of the abuse and stay within the relationship to try to make it work. Victims feel so alienated from those who supposedly love and care for them that their sense of learned helplessness is reinforced – they feel as if they are unable to escape the abusive relationship and rebuild a better life because there is no one who understand their situation. This sense of powerlessness and learned helplessness is at the core of all abusive relationships and the way abusers make us feel.

Understanding why we are addicted permits us recognize that our addiction is not about the merits of the narcissist, but rather the nature and severity of the trauma we’ve experienced, as well as the lack of invalidation and support victims are likely to encounter from society, and even those closest to them.

This challenges the victim-blaming discourse in society that prevents many abuse survivors from gaining support and validation for the traumas they’ve experienced – validation that would actually help, not hinder, these survivors from leaving their abusive relationships. That’s why it’s my mission to challenge this victim-blaming discourse in society so we can continue to dismantle the stereotypes and myths about abuse survivors and support them in their journey to healing.

You can listen to the show here and read the entire associated blog entry of the interview on their website here.

Continue reading Healing Our Addiction to the Narcissist: My Interview on Mental Health News Radio

Take the Narcissistic Abuse Survey for an Upcoming Book on Narcissism

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As many of you know, I’ve been hard at work writing my second book on narcissism. I am excited to announce that this new book will feature wisdom from mental health practitioners, popular writers on the topic as well as my own research.

Here’s where you come in: I am also planning to incorporate quotes from my fellow self-care warriors regarding the insights they’ve gained on their journey of narcissistic abuse.

Survivor accounts are an underrated and underutilized source of information on narcissistic abuse that the world needs in order to better understand covert and underhanded forms of manipulation, control and abuse in toxic relationships.

Many survivors can speak to the intricacies of the emotional, psychological, spiritual, sexual and/or financial abuse they’ve suffered at the hands of narcissistic abusers in a way others can’t.

If you are a survivor of narcissistic abuse, whether it be by a romantic partner, friend, parent, and/or co-worker or boss, please take the time to share your experiences.

Your contribution will help readers all around the world learn more about healing from abuse and trauma. Please click the link below to begin the survey!

Take The Narcissistic Abuse Survey

Mantras for No Contact: Why Silence Can Be the Most Powerful Voice

I shared this on my Facebook page today and thought it might provide encouragement to survivors struggling with No Contact if I provided an extended version. For those who feel stifled by silence or feel oppressed in a situation where silence is the best course of action, hear this: your voice matters and it will resound in the spaces and places where it is most important and most needed. Not with your abuser, but with other survivors and the world you were meant to leave an impact upon.

Traumas and conflicts are likely to feel threatening to our psyche. On harder days, we can make the choice to meditate, reflect and look at ourselves compassionately. Rather than continue to invest or waste energy on the people and situations that are draining us, we can channel some of that energy into our own self-care, self-love and self-compassion.

Mantras and positive affirmations allow us to redirect our attention from ruminations and refocus on our inner power, strength and motivation. They help to reprogram distorted ways of thinking and perform important inner work that enable us to achieve our desires, goals and dreams.

The text of the mantras/positive affirmations (or manifesto for No Contact, if you will!) follow the image.

Read them aloud whenever you feel the urge to break No Contact or whenever you need strength during a time of distress. You may also choose to watch the audio version provided at the end of the blog entry.Silence

Mantras/Manifesto/Positive Affirmations for No Contact: Why Silence Can Be the Most Powerful Voice by Shahida Arabi

My silence does not mean my endorsement of your cruelty nor my defeat. My silence often speaks more volumes than my wasted energy. Instead of attempting to argue with a fool, I will regroup, I will channel my hardship into fuel, I will refocus productively and as always, when least expected, I will make an even bigger comeback than the last, because that is what I do best and I will continue to do it. I will continue to speak my voice where it is counted, not discounted. I will continue to change the world with my voice. And yes, my voice will resound in the places it deserves to be heard.

I choose, every day, what I put my energy into. I can choose to waste time on the people who bring me down or the beautiful ones that raise me up. I can choose to meditate and reflect rather than absorb the choices of others. Their actions do not take away the good I have left to give to the world. Every day, I make my choices as if I truly, unconditionally loved myself. In times of darkness, uncertainty, and struggle, I return to that self-love. In times of psychological warfare, I will fight for my right to peace of mind and happiness. I will win. And in doing so, I will inspire in others the courage to do the same.

Only I can define myself and I choose to define myself with power, strength and resilience. What I crave is only my addiction and my mind’s mirage, but who I really am is who I choose to be. I choose to listen to myself, my intuition and what my inner guidance tells me. Despite the dark voices of others, I choose to remember who I really am. I am a force of great light, power and my divine inheritance is love. I am a survivor, I am a warrior, and I have made myself greater by the struggles that have shaped me.

I choose to rechannel my strife into my success, my crucifixion to my resurrection, my chaos into catharsis. Each obstacle is a portal to a wound that can find healing. Adversity is an opportunity for transformation and every crisis offers new knowledge for an awakening.  I fought hard to live, thrive and transcend. I fought hard to establish myself and to achieve my dreams.

No one can take away from me what I have worked hard to build. No one can take away who I really am or the love I have within me. I choose to pursue all my dreams and the life of joy I truly deserve. I no longer hide myself in the shadows. I use my silence towards my abuser as a powerful key to freedom, and I use my voice with the world because I am now truly free.

I am worthy. I am valuable. I am loved. I am precious. I am brilliant. I am beautiful. I am powerful. I am seen. I am heard.

I have created an audio version of these affirmations. Please watch it below if you think it will be helpful to you.

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Copyright © 2015 by Shahida Arabi. 

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

This blog post is protected under DMCA against copyright infringement.

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

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Introducing the Fifty Shades of Narcissism Mini E-Book Series

Looking for a lighter read? I’ve got just the thing for you. Here are two mini e-guides that tell you everything you need to know about narcissistic abuse! All proceeds from the Fifty Shades of Narcissism series are used to support this website and go towards supportive services for survivors.

SUDDENLY   Your Brain on Love, Sex and the Narcissist

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I will be writing an upcoming book on narcissism. To get an update when this book is released and to keep up with future blog entries, join our mailing list by filling out the information below:


About the Author

UntitledShahida Arabi is a graduate student at Columbia University and the author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care, a bestselling Kindle book also available in print. She graduated summa cum laude from NYU, where she studied Psychology and English Literature. Her interests include psychology, sociology, education, gender studies and mental health advocacy. You can check out her new blog, Self-Care Haven, for topics related to mindfulness, mental health, narcissistic abuse and recovery from emotional trauma, like her page on Facebook, and subscribe to her YouTube Channel.

To learn more about recovering from emotional trauma and staging your victory from abuse, please see my book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care available in Kindle and in Print.

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Your Brain on Love, Sex and the Narcissist: The Addiction to Bonding with Our Abusers

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Your Brain on Love, Sex and the Narcissist: The Addiction to Bonding with our Abusers  

by Shahida Arabi 

*If you enjoy this post, please consider supporting Self-Care Haven by purchasing the e-book version of this article, which is an extended and more in-depth look into these biochemical bonds. All proceeds will go towards services for survivors. If you were inspired by this article and would like to write about about this perspective, please be sure to link back to the article. Thank you!

 April 27, 2015 

Many survivors of narcissistic abuse are confounded by the addiction they feel to the narcissist, long after the abusive relationship took a toll on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Make no mistake: recovery from an abusive relationship can be very similar to withdrawal from drug addiction due to the biochemical bonds we may develop with our toxic ex-partners.

Understanding why we are addicted permits us recognize that our addiction is not about the merits of the narcissist, but rather the nature and severity of the trauma we’ve experienced. It enables us to detach and move forward with powerful knowledge that can propel us towards greater agency and healthier relationships than the ones we’ve experienced in the past. In addition, it challenges the victim-blaming discourse in society that prevents many abuse survivors from gaining support and validation for the traumas they’ve experienced – validation that would actually help, not hinder, these survivors in leaving their abusive relationships.

Survivors struggle with No Contact and may suffer many relapses on the road to recovery from the psychological trauma of the relationship. Aside from the reasons I’ve proposed in this blog post on why abuse survivors stay in abusive relationships, I thought I’d explore how our own brain chemistry can lock us into this addiction to the narcissist or sociopathic partner.  Some of these same biochemical bonds also make it difficult for us to detach from non-narcissistic partners as well.

1) Oxytocin. This hormone, known famously as the “cuddle” or “love hormone,” is released during touching, orgasm and sexual intercourse; it promotes attachment and trust. It is the same hormone released by the hypothalamus that enables bonding between mother and child. During “lovebombing” and mirroring in the idealization phases with our abusive partners, it’s likely that our bond to them is quite strong as a result of this hormone. Intermittent reinforcement of positive behaviors dispersed throughout the abuse cycle (e.g. gifts, flowers, compliments, sex) ensures that we still release oxytocin even after experiencing incidents of abuse.

I’ve heard from many survivors who reminisce about the great sexual relationship they had with the narcissist, containing an electrifying sexual chemistry they feel unable to achieve with future partners. This is because charming emotional predators such as narcissists are able to mirror our deepest sexual and emotional desires, which leads to a strong sexual bond, which then, of course, releases oxytocin, and promotes even more trust and attachment. Meanwhile, the narcissist, who is usually devoid of empathy and does not form these types of close attachments, is able to move onto his or her next source of supply without much thought or remorse.

The addictive nature of oxytocin is also gendered according to Susan Kuchinskas, author of the book, The Chemistry of Connection: How the Oxytocin Response Can Help You Find Trust, Intimacy and Love. The unfortunate fact is that estrogen promotes the effects of oxytocin bonding whereas testosterone discourages it. This makes it more difficult for females in any type of relationship to detach from the bond as quickly as men.

2) Dopamine. The same neurotransmitter that is responsible for cocaine addiction is the same one responsible for addiction to dangerous romantic partners. According to Harvard Health, both drugs and intense, pleasurable memories trigger dopamine and create reward circuits in the brain, essentially telling the brain to “do it again.”

Do you remember recalling the pleasurable, beautiful first moments with your narcissistic partner? The romantic dates, the sweet compliments and praise, the incredible sex – long after you two had broken up? Yeah – it’s releasing the dopamine in your brain that’s telling you to “do it again.”

The salience theory of dopamine suggests that our brain releases dopamine not just for pleasurable events but to important ones that are linked to survival. As Samantha Smithstein, Psy.d, puts it, “Dopamine is not just a messenger that dictates what feels good; it is also tells the brain what is important and what to pay attention to in order to survive. And the more powerful the experience is, the stronger the message is to the brain to repeat the activity for survival.”

Abuse survivors are unfortunately hijacked by dopamine. Abusive tactics like intermittent reinforcement works well with our dopamine system, because studies show that dopamine flows more readily when the rewards are given out on unpredictable schedule rather than predictably after conditioned cues.

So the random sweet nothings whispered to us after an incident of emotional abuse, the apologies, the pity ploys, the rare displays of tenderness during the devaluation phase, right before another incident of abuse – actually help cement this type of reward circuit rather than deter it. Combine this with powerful experiences of abuse which alert our brain to “pay attention” as well as pleasurable memories we recollect over and over again – and we’ve got ourselves a biochemical bond from hell.

3) Cortisol, Adrenaline and Norepinephrine. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and boy, does it get released during the traumatic highs and lows of an abusive relationship. It is released by the adrenal glands in response to fear as part of the “fight or flight” mechanism. Since we are unlikely to have a physical outlet of release when cortisol is triggered during cycles of emotional abuse, this often traps the stress within our bodies instead. As we ruminate over incidents of abuse, increased levels of cortisol lead to more and more health problems.  Christopher Bergland suggests numerous ways to counteract the effects of this hormone, which include physical activity, mindfulness, meditation, laughter, music and social connectivity.

Adrenaline and norepinephrine also prepare our body for the flight or fight response, and are also culprits in biochemical reactions to our abusers. Adrenaline promotes an antidepressant effect, triggering fear and anxiety which then releases dopamine – this can cause us to become “adrenaline junkies,” addicted to the rush of vacillating between bonding and betrayal. During No Contact, withdrawal from that “rush” can be incredibly painful.

4) Trauma bonding. All of these jolts of fear and anxiety in the face of danger can reenact past traumas and create trauma bonding. Trauma bonding occurs after intense, emotional experiences with our abusers and tethers us to them, creating subconscious patterns of attachment that are very difficult to detach from. It is part of the phenomenon known as Stockholm Syndrome, in which victims of hostage become attached to their perpetrators and even defend their captors.

Although survivors of narcissistic abuse come from many different backgrounds and anyone can be a victim of narcissistic abuse, trauma bonding is even more significant for those who grow up in violent or emotionally abusive homes, and/or have had a narcissistic parent in addition to their most recent experiences with trauma and abuse. Survivors of multiple incidents of abuse by various narcissistic individuals can further reinforce subconscious wounds they experienced in childhood in the trauma bond with their current abusers. If there has been victimization in the past, such as the experience of having to survive in an abusive household, this can lead to trauma repetition or reenactment, the root of which Gary Reece, Ph.D in his article, “The Trauma Bond,” calls “relational trauma”:

“The key to understanding behavior found in abusive relationships is to look at the very early years of childhood.  Relational trauma is at the root….There are several features these kinds of relationships have in common.   The first is, they are deeply ambivalent, reflective of the Trauma Bond:  fear, dependency, need, fear of abandonment, despair, the realization of helplessness, and rage.  This is an amalgam of very powerful emotions which drive and make the relationship so unstable…The second feature of this kind of relationship is that it is a compulsive reenactment. Allan Schore, an attachment expert put it this way.  “A further complication of unresolved trauma is narrative reenactment of the trauma wherein the victim unconsciously recreates the original traumatic event over and over.”  (Handbook for Treatment of Attachment Trauma, pg. 35)

For more information on trauma bonding, please see The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitative Relationships by Patrick Carnes.

It is important to understand the various types of biochemical and psychological bonds that often create attachments between abusers and their victims. Better understanding these bonds enables us to move past victim-blaming and move forward into greater understanding, compassion and support for survivors who struggle with leaving abusive relationships. We must not judge but continue to empower ourselves and others with this newfound knowledge.

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


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About the Author

UntitledShahida Arabi is a graduate student at Columbia University, the author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care, a bestselling Kindle book also available in print. She studied Psychology and English Literature as an undergraduate at NYU, where she graduated summa cum laude. Her interests include psychology, sociology, education, gender studies and mental health advocacy. You can check out her new blog, Self-Care Haven, for topics related to mindfulness, mental health, narcissistic abuse and recovery from emotional trauma, like her page on Facebook, and subscribe to her YouTube Channel.

A Culture of Narcissism, Part II: Cyberbullying and Trolling

I am very grateful for all of the feedback I received on my blog post, Five Powerful Ways Abusive Narcissists Get Inside Your Head. As you all know, narcissism and recovery from abuse are topics that are near and dear to my heart, and there is absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling that you’ve helped someone in their healing, even in the smallest of ways. That’s why I’ve decided to continue the series on this blog called A Culture of Narcissism. In this series, I will explore how narcissism is becoming ingrained and reinforced by new technologies and  sociocultural norms.

The reason I am exploring narcissism from this approach is simple: psychopathology often needs a “breeding” environment to thrive and disorders often manifest themselves due to an interaction between biological predisposition and the environment. I believe our culture is providing an environment that is conducive for disorders such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder to thrive.

There are many theories about how narcissism arises in the individual – from a “narcissistic wound” in childhood, to a pattern of idealization and devaluation by the parent or even a neurological standpoint that focuses mainly on how a narcissist’s brain has structural abnormalities related to compassion. I am not claiming that our culture is the primary source of narcissism, but rather, that it does encourage it in those who already have the biological predisposition. That’s why I believe it’s so important to explore this culture and how it’s affecting the way narcissism and narcissistic individuals operate in society.

My first post in this series can be found here: The Narcissism of Elliot Rodger – #YesAllWomen, Misogyny and Rape Culture

Now onto Part II!

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A Culture of Narcissism, Part II: Cyberbullying and Trolling

For this post in the series, I’ll be exploring how technologies like the internet provide narcissists and those who have antisocial traits with easy access to victims and minimal effort. Cyberbullying and trolling are strategic ways for narcissists who lack adequate narcissistic supply or who are experiencing boredom to get a quick “fix” without being held accountable for their abuse. 

In the context of intimate relationships, survivors of narcissistic abuse may be stalked, harassed and cyberbullied for years even after the ending of the relationship, especially if they were the ones to discard the narcissist first. When a narcissist suffers from a narcissistic injury, this can lead to narcissistic rage. This rage is a result of  an injury to their ego when something or someone threatens their delusions of grandeur and “false self.” Since survivors often implement No Contact with their abusers, narcissistic abusers feel a loss of power and attempt to regain that power through tactics like provocation, hoovering and post-breakup triangulation techniques.

On a larger scale, narcissists and those who have antisocial traits employ similar manipulation tactics in cyberspace to provoke and harm complete strangers. A recent study showed that online trolls demonstrated high degrees of sadism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. This should come to no surprise to anyone who has encountered trolls or cyberbullies – they are notorious for attempting to provoke people in order to derive sick feelings of satisfaction that they apparently can’t get anywhere else.

Bullying in any form, especially anonymous bullying, can lead to devastating results. Research indicates that cyberbullying in schools leads to a higher rate of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in victims of cyberbullying. There have been a number of suicides that were triggered by the words of anonymous sadists – the suicides of many teenagers, for example, were a direct result of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying and trolling leave such a terrible psychological impact that there is even a movement against anonymous comments sections on media outlets. Since there is little accountability for cyberbullies and the laws against it in each state may not protect victims entirely from emotional abuse, it often goes unchecked and unpunished. If cyberbullies are ever reprimanded, it is usually after the fact of a tragic suicide or in the event of publicity.

In the case of the recent death of Robin Williams, for example, people became outraged when they heard that trolls on social media outlets were harassing Robin Williams’ daughter and had caused her distress during a time of intense grief and loss. Usually, however, the sadism of these bullies goes unnoticed except for the people who have to endure the harassment.

THREE WAYS TO DISTINGUISH A SADISTIC CYBERBULLY FROM A PERSON WHO’S PROVIDING CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM

1. Rather than engaging in healthy debate and respectful disagreement, cyberbullies and trolls distinguish themselves from normal people who disagree by staging personal attacks on character instead of providing evidence against the argument that they claim to have problems with. Instead of saying, “Research proves you wrong, here’s the source,” they’re more prone to verbal diarrhea which consists of insults, name-calling, word salad, circular logic and provocative overgeneralizations deliberately aimed to get a rise out of you. They may even bring up personal details or assume things about you that have nothing at all to do with the matter at hand. They are, like many narcissists in intimate relationships, perpetual boundary-breakers.

2. They persist. Some cyberbullies give up eventually if they don’t get the response they were looking for, but others will keep hunting for more of a reaction and provoking you, even on multiple accounts. Like narcissists in intimate relationships, they use the anonymity feature of cyberspace to employ triangulation techniques with their “fake” accounts to show “support” for – who else -themselves.

3.  Stalking. When you do respond in a way they’re not accustomed to, they suffer a kind of narcissistic injury and resort to low blows and attacks. Some cyberbullies are satisfied when you give them a quick ego stroke, like a “You’re right” to their insult and go away. Others are much more malicious. When you give them radio silence or choose to report their harassing behavior, they come after you.

I’ve had cyberbullies follow me all the way onto personal social media accounts in an attempt to silence my voice on important issues or because they suffered a narcissistic injury when I didn’t respond. They weren’t persisting to try to respectfully get me to see their point of view, either – they were outright insulting me and making assumptions about me that had little to do with the topic at hand.

THREE WAYS TO HANDLE CYBERBULLIES AND TROLLS

1. Don’t engage or feed the trolls. Depending on the forum or website that you’re being harassed on, there may be an option for you to report harassment or block the person. This is especially useful for cyberbullies who are attacking you personally and taking a toll on your mental health. This is sort of like going No Contact – except, instead of someone you were in an intimate relationship with, you’re going NC on a stranger out to harm you. Find a way to remove them from your presence with the least amount of effort. They’re simply not worth the time and energy that it takes to stage a rebuttal. Remember: narcissists always need an audience and a source of supply. By removing yourself as a narcissistic source of supply, you refuse to give them the attention they’re looking for. By default, you win.

2. Be strategic about your privacy. Different forums and websites have different policies, so be strategic depending on what platform you’re using. Most social media platforms allow you to block or report anyone who’s harassing you, so take advantage of whatever you can do. Next, explore the privacy settings on whatever platform you’re using. If you feel comfortable and it’s available, take on the option that will enable you to share the least amount of information with the public. This will prevent cyberbullies and trolls on the hunt from finding out the personal details of your life. If you find it feasible, consider limiting the number of social media accounts you have so that you only use the ones you absolutely need for your professional and social life.

If you’re a blogger and are being trolled or cyberbullied, websites like WordPress take it one step further and allow you to see the IP address of the person commenting. This enables you to watch out for multiple “fake” accounts cyberbullies may be using to troll your blog or website and you can block one specific IP address from commenting on your blog altogether and just be done with it.

Should cyberbullies ever threaten you with physical harm, you can use this IP address to find out where the troll or cyberbully resides,  so you can report them with more accurate information. Simply copy/paste the IP address into a geolocation website like this one. This will yield identifying information that you can have in case the cyberbully or troll ever threatens you.

3. Refocus your energies on productive outlets. Trolls and cyberbullies will never have the final say on your self-worth or your abilities. Why? Because they’re literally spending their time trying to tear people down. Don’t you think that if they were fulfilled in their own lives, they’d find better things to do? Thankfully, you do have better things to do than to ruminate over the narcissists and sociopaths in cyberspace. You have a blog to run, a website to manage, a Twitter feed to update, a Facebook page to update, and a story to share.

Continue to use your voice and make it heard. Only engage with respectful people and save the debate for people who can disagree with you in a manner that’s not pathological. Let the cyberbullies motivate you to make waves for social change and to continue to speak out on behalf of the underdogs.

If you’re at any point feeling overwhelmed by these bullies, shut down the computer, unplug the devices, and tell someone, especially if you’re an adolescent reading this post. Stand up for yourself and do not let this go unchecked. Also help others who may be going through similar struggles. The more you spread awareness about this important issue, the more likely change can happen.

Important Note: If the cyberbully is someone you know, like a friend or former romantic partner, make sure you go No Contact with the person immediately, document any text messages or incriminating phone calls and report them to online service providers or law enforcement agencies if they violate your state’s anti-bullying laws. In that scenario, their anonymity no longer protects them from the consequences of their harassment.

Remember: bullies can be adolescents or adults. Though they all share the same mental age of five, they can be dangerous to us at any age group. Let’s take a stand against bullying and harassment in all forms – from text messages to forums, from social media to blogs. We do not deserve to be violated or disrespected – even online.

Stay safe and take care. Here are some additional resources for cyberbullying which may prove helpful to you:

Top Ten Tips for Adults Who Are Being Harassed Online

Top Ten Tips for Teens Who Are Being Harassed Online

Reporting Cyberbullying from StopBullying.gov

How to Spot Blog Trolls and What to Do by Kristen Lamb

How to Stop Caring About Trolls and Get On With Your Life

Do you have any tips on how to handle cyberbullying or a story to share? Comment below and help other victims of abuse. 

For more tips on recovering from emotional trauma and self-care, please subscribe to the blog (follow button located on the right sidebar) and join our mailing list by filling out the information below:

To learn more about recovering from emotional trauma and staging your victory from abuse, please see my book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care available in Kindle and in Print.

The ideas in this blog entry have been adapted from a chapter of this book and are copyrighted by law.

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Self-Care Haven: Home of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self Care by Shahida Arabi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. In other words, you must ask permission if you intend to share this blog entry somewhere, and always provide proper credit in the form of a link back to this blog as well as my name.

Healing from Emotional Trauma: Do You Have Enough Time to Fulfill Your Destiny?

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I recently watched the movie Lucy (2014) and the theme of time resonated with me deeply and powerfully. In this movie, the protagonist is able to access the maximum amount of her cerebral capacity and has only a limited period of time to tell the world the crucial information she has learned. The end of the movie raised a poignant question: what do we do with the finite time we have on this earth? Are we spending it wisely? And if not, what changes can we make to do so?

Time is traditionally used to inform us of appointments, allocate hours to work, and track our progress. We use time to remember to go to the doctor, to go to the office at a certain hour, to track our progress at work or school. We can use time for reflection as well as daily tasks: time motivates us meet an important deadline, but it also tells us that we’ve spent several years in a certain relationship, helps us to celebrate one-year anniversaries with significant others, and acts as a marker of investment and energy. If we feel we haven’t spent our time in a productive way, we feel our investment and energy had little return. We feel overwhelmed with regret and a sense of learned helplessness that threatens to disable us from making necessary changes in our lives.

Survivors of abuse and emotional trauma have a special and significant relationship with time. I’ve heard numerous stories that end with, “I can’t believe I wasted this amount of time on this person,” or, “These years of my life have been wasted!” It is a painful realization when we recognize that we’ve given our precious time and energy into something that deeply wounded us.

Sometimes it takes a horrifying diagnosis or the ending of a relationship to force us to reflect on the time we have left, but we can be mindful of the present right now, at this very instant.  Although we cannot go back in time to change the way we’ve spent it, it’s important that we stay mindful of the time that we still possess, in the here and now.

In order to spend our time more constructively, we must do the following:

Allocate more time for healing rather than ruminating. Excessive rumination may be the initial response to the  ending of an abusive relationship or after a significant trauma. Survivors of trauma may suffer from symptoms related to PTSD or acute stress disorder, like numbing, dissociative symptoms, recurrent nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance and intrusive thoughts. While it’s extremely important to be patient with ourselves and not rush the healing process, it’s also necessary to make active changes in our lives in order to make progress.

For the sake of our mental health,  addressing our painful emotions and assessing what happened is necessary to moving forward, and we eventually come to the stage where we have to set aside time for what is necessary to heal ourselves. That means being proactive by seeking out professional help, setting boundaries such as low or No Contact with an abusive ex-partner, maintaining a strong support network and engaging in self-care that nourishes our body, spirit and mind.

CHALLENGE: Set a “time limit” for excessive ruminations. If you find yourself ruminating for three hours a day over a particular situation for example, set the time limit to one hour and then spend the rest of the time doing something else like exercising, working on a project, watching a favorite television show, meeting with a friend to do something fun, or writing a poem.

You may still have distracting thoughts during that time, but at least you will be spending more time doing an activity that benefits you rather than spending more time than is necessary reevaluating scenarios that you’ve revisited too many times. Whenever these intrusive thoughts come up, try not to feed them. Step back, observe, and radically accept them, just as they are. Engage in pleasurable distractions or cross another thing off your to-do list. Allow yourself the right to feel all of your emotions, but do not get stuck and permit them to hold you back from enjoying your life.

It’s inevitable that we will think about the trauma and that we will have strong feelings about it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that – it’s a normal response to trauma. I make this suggestion to end excessive ruminations not to invalidate the legitimate feelings and thoughts about trauma that may surface, but to acknowledge that your time here on earth is precious and finite, and you want to spend it in a balanced way.

If you want to move forward, spending excess time overanalyzing situations rather than actively engaging with your life will only deter you from living your life the way it was meant to be led. You must spend some time assessing your trauma, but don’t forget to spend time healing from it as well. Take breaks to relax, work on your goals and live life. This goes back to maintaining that delicate balance between owning both our status as survivor as well as our agency.

Take the time to pursue your unique destiny. In The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra speaks about the “law of dharma,” which is the unique destiny we’re meant to fulfill. Chopra argues that our “dharma,” our “purpose in life,” manifests best when tied to serving humanity and the larger world around us. We have to ask ourselves, how much time am I spending on cultivating this destiny? What do I do every day to serve humanity? Is my current job fulfilling me? Is there volunteer work or another line of work I can pursue to make better use of my talents? Is there a talent that I am wasting rather than sharing with my current efforts?

CHALLENGE: Write down two or three talents or skills that you feel you haven’t used in a while, or haven’t used at all in public. Next to each one, write at least five things you can do to cultivate that talent. If possible, pay special attention to how that talent may serve others. These things can be big or small in the way they help others.

For example, if one of my hidden talents was photography, I could volunteer as a wedding photographer to capture the meaningful moments in my friends’ wedding or start a project that involves taking photographs for a social cause I care about. If my hidden talent was nutrition and fitness, I could volunteer to teach fitness classes at a local community center or start a YouTube channel to help people to change their diets and lifestyles. If I had a great sense of humor, I might use it to regularly brighten someone’s day or I might join an improv comedy group and participate in shows that entertain hundreds of people in need of their daily escape. If I had a passion for mental health and loved to write, I could start a self-help blog or write a self-help book (sound familiar?)

You get the picture. There are so many creative ways to use our talents and put them into use to serve humanity. In the midst of this exercise, you might even come across what you were meant to do all along. This is a better use of our time and it permits us to change the world rather than to focus on what we can’t change – the past.

Enjoy and be mindful of the present moment. Be grateful for what you still have now in the present moment. From basic things like food, shelter, our vision, our ability to walk, to good friends, a stable job and access to health care and education. Cultivating this habit of lifelong gratitude brings us to a place of mindfulness that is beneficial to our health and appreciation of life. Remember: time spent on remorse detracts from time spent savoring what we still have. Nothing lasts forever, so focus on what is still here.

CHALLENGE: Start to replace unhelpful thoughts and cognitive distortions about the past with positive statements about the present. Whenever judgmental statements like, “I shouldn’t have done this” or “I regret what happened,” arise, replace it with, “I am grateful to have survived and learned from this experience.”

If this is too difficult because of the extent of trauma you’ve endured, try to remind yourself of something you still have despite the trauma, like “I still have my health and that’s what’s most important” or “Now I have the freedom to pursue my dreams without interference.” Not all “alternative thoughts” will work to diffuse ruminations over the past, but making a significant effort towards a more positive attitude about your life experience will help you  become more resilient to obstacles in the long-run.

It is also helpful to keep a gratitude journal to remind yourself of all you have to be thankful for in this life. The more time you spend being grateful, the less time you spend being resentful and the more likely you’ll have an increased sense of perceived agency in your life. You’ll be more likely to see challenges as opportunities for growth rather than as dead ends, and more likely to constructively channel your life circumstances into life-changing awareness.

Put an end to toxic interactions and relationships.  These are the unreciprocral, unfulfilling interactions or relationships that leave you emotionally drained and exhausted. They include:  relationships that are past their expiration date, friendships that leave you feeling terribly about yourself, and other interactions with people who mistreat or disrespect you. This helps us to refocus our time on healthier, fulfilling relationships that will make us happier in the long-run.

Minimize the people-pleasing and cut ties with the people who don’t accept you for who you are and who don’t appreciate what you have to offer. This is necessary in order to make the most of our time and use it wisely.  Should you need to maintain contact for whatever reason (for example, this could be a family member who you’re forced to interact with on a weekly basis) it’s important to at least significantly reduce the time and energy you spend interacting with this person or ruminating over your interactions with them.

CHALLENGE: Think of a person in your life who you’ve spent unnecessary time with and energy on recently. What can you do to reduce or end the interaction? Is there a way you can set a boundary so they don’t contact you as often? Do you need to stand up to them and make it clear that you no longer want them in your life? Whatever you must do, do it now. Save yourself future pain and heartache of having to endure a relationship or friendship that isn’t serving you by ending it now or detaching from it. These unfulfilling interactions only hold us back from the destiny we’re meant to fulfill.

As survivors of trauma, our best bet is to keep moving forward and focus on our self-care and self-love. Only by doing so can we fulfill that destiny. As we learn to make better use of our time, we have to remember that healing is a lifelong journey. We may encounter several traumas on this journey, but recovery can be a productive process in that it makes us mindful of the time we’ve spent and the time we have left.

Every single one of us has something we can do to change the world while changing ourselves for the better. Whatever you may call it – destiny, dharma, mission or fate, start asking yourself today: what’s yours?

For more tips on recovering from emotional trauma and self-care, please subscribe to the blog (follow button located on the right sidebar) and join our mailing list by filling out the information below:

To learn more about recovering from emotional trauma and staging your victory from abuse, please see my book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care available in Kindle and in Print.

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Copyright © 2015 by Shahida Arabi. 

All rights reserved. No part of this entry, which is an excerpt from the copyrighted book,The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care, 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, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

This blog post is protected under DMCA against copyright infringement.

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Five Powerful Ways Abusive Narcissists Get Inside Your Head

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Five Powerful Ways Abusive Narcissists Get Inside Your Head by Shahida Arabi

In popular culture, the term “narcissistic” is thrown about quite loosely, usually referring to vanity and self-absorption. This reduces narcissism to a common quality that everyone possesses and downplays the symptoms demonstrated by people with the actual disorder. While narcissism does exist on a spectrum, narcissism as a full-fledged personality disorder is quite different.

People who meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder or those who have traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder  can operate in extremely manipulative ways within the context of intimate relationships due to their deceitfulness, lack of empathy and their tendency to be interpersonally exploitative. Although I will be focusing on narcissistic abusers in this post, due to the overlap of symptoms in these two disorders, this post can potentially apply to interactions with those who have ASPD to an extent.

It’s important in any kind of relationship that we learn to identify the red flags when interacting with people who display malignant narcissism and/or antisocial traits, so we can better protect ourselves from exploitation and abuse, set boundaries, and make informed decisions about who we keep in our lives. Understanding the nature of these toxic interactions and how they affect us has an enormous impact on our ability to engage in self-care.

Watch out for the following covert manipulation tactics when you’re dating someone or in a relationship.

1. The Idealization-Devaluation-Discard Phase

Narcissists and those with antisocial traits tend to subject romantic partners through three phases within a relationship. The idealization phase (which often happens most strongly during the early stages of dating or a relationship) consists of putting you on a pedestal, making you the center of his/her world, being in contact with you frequently, and showering you with flattery and praise. You are convinced that the narcissist can’t live without you and that you’ve met your soulmate. Be wary of: constant texting, shallow flattery and wanting to be around you at all times. This is a technique known as “lovebombing” and it is how most victims get sucked in: they are tired of the “games” people play with each other in communication and are flattered by the constant attention they get from the narcissist. You may be fooled into thinking that this means a narcissist is truly interested in you, when in fact, he or she is interested in making you dependent on their constant praise and attention.

The devaluation phase is subsequent to this idealization phase, and this is when you’re left wondering why you were so abruptly thrust off the pedestal. The narcissist will suddenly start to blow hot and cold, criticizing you, covertly and overtly putting you down, comparing you to others, emotionally withdrawing from you and giving you the silent treatment when you’ve failed to meet their “standards.” Since the “hot” aspect of this phase relies on intermittent reinforcement in which the narcissist gives you inconsistent spurts of the idealization phase throughout, you become convinced that perhaps you are at fault and you can “control” the narcissist’s reactions.

Even though the narcissist can be quite possessive and jealous over you, since he or she views you as an object and a source of narcissistic supply, the narcissist is prone to projecting this same behavior onto you. The narcissist makes you seem like the needy one as you react to his or her withdrawal and withholding patterns even though the expectations of frequent contact were established early on in the relationship by the narcissist himself.

You are mislead into thinking that if you just learn not to be so “needy,” “clingy,” or “jealous,”  the narcissist will reward you with the loving behavior he or she demonstrated in the beginning. The narcissist may use these and other similar words to gaslight victims when they react normally to being provoked. It’s a way to maintain control over your legitimate emotional reactions to their stonewalling, emotional withdrawal and inconsistency.

Unfortunately, it is during the devaluation phase that a narcissist’s true self shows itself. You have to understand that the man or woman in the beginning of the relationship never truly existed. The true colors are only now beginning to show, so it will be a struggle as you attempt to reconcile the image that the narcissist presented to you with his or her current behavior.

During the discard phase, the narcissist abandons his or her victim in the most horrific, demeaning way possible to convince the victim that he or she is worthless. This could range from: leaving the victim for another lover, humiliating the victim in public, being physically aggressive and a whole range of other demeaning behaviors to communicate to the victim that he or she is no longer important.

2. Gaslighting.

Most abusive relationships contain a certain amount of gaslighting, a technique narcissists use to convince you that your perception of the abuse is inaccurate. During the devaluation and discard phases, the narcissist will often remark upon your emotional instability, your “issues,” and displace blame of his/her abuse as your fault. Frequent use of phrases such as “You provoked me,” “You’re too sensitive,” “I never said that,” or “You’re taking things too seriously” after the narcissists’ abusive outbursts are common and are used to gaslight you into thinking that the abuse is indeed your fault or that it never even took place.

Narcissists are masters of making you doubt yourself and the abuse. This is why victims so often suffer from ruminations after the ending of a relationship with a narcissist, because the emotional invalidation they received from the narcissist made them feel powerless in their agency and perceptions. This self-doubt enables them to stay within abusive relationships even when it’s clear that the relationship is a toxic one, because they are led to mistrust their own instincts and interpretations of events.

3. Smear campaigns.

Narcissists keep harems because they love to have their egos stroked and they need constant validation from the outside world to feed their need for excessive admiration and confirm their grandiose sense of self-importance. They are clever chameleons who are also people-pleasers, morphing into whatever personality suits them in situations with different types of people. It is no surprise, then, that the narcissist begins a smear campaign against you not too long after the discard phase, in order to paint you as the unstable one, and that this is usually successful with the narcissist’s support network which also tends to consist of other narcissists, people-pleasers, empaths, as well as people who are easily charmed.

This smear campaign accomplishes three things: 1) it depicts you as the abuser or unstable person and deflects your accusations of abuse, 2) it provokes you, thus proving your instability to others when trying to argue his or her depiction of you, and 3) serves as a hoovering technique in which the narcissist seeks to pull you back into the trauma of the relationship as you struggle to reconcile the rumors about you with who you actually are by speaking out against the accusations. The only way to not get pulled into this tactic is by going full No Contact with both the narcissist and his or her harem.

4. Triangulation.

Healthy relationships thrive on security; unhealthy ones are filled with provocation, uncertainty and infidelity. Narcissists like to manufacture love triangles and bring in the opinions of others to validate their point of view. They do this to an excessive extent in order to play puppeteer to your emotions. In the book Psychopath Free by Peace, the method of triangulation is discussed as a popular way the narcissist maintains control over your emotions. Triangulation consists of bringing the presence of another person into the dynamic of the relationship, whether it be an ex-lover, a current mistress, a relative, or a complete stranger.

This triangulation can take place over social media, in person, or even through the narcissist’s own verbal accounts of the other woman or man. The narcissist relies on jealousy as a powerful emotion that can cause you to compete for his or her affections, so provocative statements like “I wish you’d be more like her,” or “He wants me back into his life, I don’t know what to do” are designed to trigger the abuse victim into competing and feeling insecure about his or her position in the narcissist’s life.

Unlike healthy relationships where jealousy is communicated and dealt with in a productive manner, the narcissist will belittle your feelings and continue inappropriate flirtations and affairs without a second thought. Triangulation is the way the narcissist maintains control and keeps you in check – you’re so busy competing for his or her attention that you’re less likely to be focusing on the red flags within the relationship or looking for ways to get out of the relationship.

5. The false self and the true self.

The narcissist hides behind the armor of a “false self,” a construct of qualities and traits that he or she usually presents to the outside world. Due to this armor, you are unlikely to comprehend the full extent of a narcissist’s inhumanity and lack of empathy until you are in the discard phase. This can make it difficult to pinpoint who the narcissistic abuser truly is – the sweet, charming and seemingly remorseful person that appears shortly after the abuse, or the abusive partner who ridicules, invalidates and belittles you on a daily basis? You suffer a great deal of cognitive dissonance trying to reconcile the illusion the narcissist first presented to you with the tormenting behaviors he or she subjects you to. In order to cope with this cognitive dissonance, you might blame yourself for his or her abusive behavior and attempt to “improve” yourself when you have done nothing wrong, just to uphold your belief in the narcissist’s false self during the devaluation phase.

During the discard phase, the narcissist reveals the true self – the genuinely abusive and abrasive personality beneath the shallow veneer rears its ugly head and you get a glimpse of the cruelty that was lurking within all along. You bear witness to his or her cold, callous indifference as you are discarded. You might think this is only a momentary lapse into inhumanity, but actually, it is as close you will ever get to seeing the narcissist’s true self.

The manipulative, conniving charm that existed in the beginning is no more – instead, it is replaced by the genuine contempt that the narcissist felt for you all along. See, narcissists don’t truly feel empathy or love for others – so during the discard phase, they feel absolutely nothing for you except the excitement of having exhausted another source of supply. You were just another source of supply, so do not fool yourself into thinking that the magical connection that existed in the beginning was in any way real. It was an illusion, much like the identity of the narcissist was an illusion.

It is time to pick up the pieces, go No Contact, heal, and move forward. You were not only a victim of narcissistic abuse, but a survivor.  Owning this dual status as both victim and survivor permits you to own your agency after the abuse and to live the life you were meant to lead – one filled with self-care, self-love, respect, and compassion.


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

Available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, NOOK, iBooks and other major online retailers. It is available in paperback, as an e-book and as an Audible book.

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About the Author

UntitledShahida Arabi is a graduate of Columbia University graduate school and the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself, which became a #1 Amazon Bestseller upon its pre-order release. She is also the bestselling author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care. She studied Psychology and English Literature as an undergraduate at NYU, where she graduated summa cum laude. Her interests include psychology, sociology, education, gender studies and mental health advocacy. You can check out her blog, Self-Care Haven, for topics related to mindfulness, mental health, narcissistic abuse and recovery from emotional trauma, like her page on Facebook, and subscribe to her YouTube Channel.

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To learn more about recovering from emotional trauma and staging your victory from abuse, please see my book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care available in Kindle and in Print.

This blog entry is an excerpt from a chapter of this book and is copyrighted by law. Please ask permission before using any part of this entry on another website and always provide proper credit in the form of my name and a link back to this blog.