Tag Archives: trauma bonding

30 Badass Affirmations for Going No Contact With An Abusive Narcissist

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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.

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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.

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Five Ways We Rationalize Abuse And Why We Need To Stop

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By Shahida Arabi

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

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

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

1. “Well, I am not perfect either.” A popular misconception is that one has to be perfect in order to gain respect and decency. There is no excuse for any form of abuse, period. If you are a non-abusive person who is capable of empathy, there is especially no excuse for a person to verbally, emotionally, or physically violate you in any way, regardless of your flaws.

Many survivors of abuse have been accused of being too sensitive, too clingy, too much of everything – this has caused them to excessively look inward for someone to blame rather than seeing the true culprit. The abuser works very hard to implant false insecurities as well as exaggerate existing ones; they continually blameshift to make everything the victim’s fault. There are plenty of imperfect people in the world who have loving partners, friends and family members. These people don’t have to meet some fictitious criteria for perfection to be worthy of respect and decency. Neither should you.

If you don’t quite believe this yet, think about the most caring, empathic person you know who has ended up in a toxic relationship with an abuser. Didn’t that same abuser still reap the benefits of having such a wonderful partner? Why is it that an abuser gets to be with such a warm, loving person and you, a nonabusive, albeit imperfect person, has to settle for abuse? The truth is, you don’t. No one is perfect – and considering your abuser is probably condescending, filled with rage, contempt and a lack of empathy, he or she is especially not one to talk about imperfection.

2. “Now he/she is being sweet. They’re back to normal.” Don’t mistake saccharine sweetness for authentic change. There is a difference between a non-abusive person taking responsibility and an abusive one who lacks empathy; the latter often takes responsibility without making any concrete changes. If a loved one who has otherwise been respectful has done something wrong that is out of character, has taken responsibility and worked to repair the relationship, this is different than the abuse cycle with an abuser who is unwilling to change.

A person who has empathy and can take accountability for their actions is not normally unpredictable; they are fairly consistent in their behavior. They don’t go out of their way to manipulate, berate and demean you at every and any opportunity. They can place themselves in your shoes and understand the rules of basic decency and respect. Abusers undermine these very rules by acting as if ‘respect’ is a relative term that can be reframed to suit their own agenda.

Consider that the abuser’s ‘normal’ is not the kind, charming person they presented in the beginning of the relationship – the ‘normal’ in an abusive relationship is the unpredictable, hurtful person who leaves you walking on eggshells, has no problem prioritizing their comfort over your pain, and regularly gains pleasure from controlling and demeaning you.

The abuse cycle relies on hot and cold, mean and sweet behavior, which means nice actions after an abusive incident cannot be taken at face value, but rather as embedded in a chronic pattern of behavior. According to domestic violence specialist, Dr. Clare Murphy, ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ abusers deliberately switch masks at the drop of a hat to simultaneously punish and comfort you. This cycle of intermittent emotional battery and resolution keeps us traumatically and biochemically bonded to them.

The abuser knows you will use this rationalization to excuse his or her abusive behavior, so they ensure that their apologies, pity ploys, or their ability to revert back to the false self make you second-guess your perceptions so they can win you over once again. It’s all a ploy to get you back into the abuse cycle so they can mistreat you all over again.  Remember to keep in mind all of the abuser’s actions up until this point, before you begin feeding into false hopes. Documenting and writing down accounts of the abuse can be helpful in keeping you grounded about what has occurred.

3. “They reached out to me after I set boundaries, so that must mean they miss me.” A recent study revealed that narcissistic exes are likely to reconnect with their past partners for convenience and pleasure, not because they miss them or truly want them back in their lives. When an abuser reaches out to a survivor after the relationship has already ended, this is known as “hoovering,” where, like a Hoover vacuum, the abuser attempts to suck the victim back into the traumatic vortex of the relationship. In “The Hoover Maneuver: The Dirty Secret of Emotional Abuse,” therapist Andrea Schneider, LCSW notes that for abusers, hoovering enables the abuser to regain control over the status quo of the relationship.

For malignant narcissists, hoovering is not about the fact that they miss their former victims who they once devalued – it’s about re-idealizing past flames so they can continue to keep them as permanent members of their harem for whenever they’re lacking in narcissistic supply. When you’re being hoovered, you’re essentially being manipulated, not missed or pined for.

4. “They’re just under a lot of stress.” Think about a time when your abuser was very stressed – whether at work or due to other extenuating circumstances. Did they lash out at people like their boss, their harem members or at complete strangers? Did they make a scene in public and humiliate themselves? Did they risk losing their jobs, their public reputation or the shallow friendships with people who believed in their facade due to their seemingly ‘uncontrollable’ rage?

Or did they come home to you and use you as an emotional (or even physical) punching bag behind closed doors? If you were involved with a covert narcissistic abuser, it’s likely that you experienced the latter. See, abusers ‘select’ who they feel safe revealing their abusive behavior to. They know that their loved ones, who are  heavily invested in them and emotionally bonded to them, will be more likely to protect and defend them, even if they are the victims of the abuse, because victims tend to be traumatically bonded to their abusers. They feel a great deal of power and control being able to unleash their fury onto their victims – without as many repercussions.

Keep in mind that survivors of some of the worst traumas, such as domestic violence, undergo a great deal of stress and the traumatic impact of the abuse has a direct impact on their mind, body and spirit. Yet many of them, with the right tools and resources, as well as professional support, manage to not use their trauma as an excuse to abuse others. In fact, their experiences often ensure that they become extra vigilant about their behavior, in an effort to avoid hurting anyone in the way they’ve been hurt.

The bottom line? We all have stress in our lives. Many of us have undergone trauma that is unimaginable, including being children of narcissistic parents. Some of us may act out or lash out occasionally, or still have trouble managing our triggers from time to time. It doesn’t make us abusive, especially if we take accountability and have taken steps to improve our behavior. However, chronic abusers will use their trauma background as an excuse to be abusive, rather than using that energy to improve their behavior. This differentiates the manipulative abuser from the traumatized survivor. At the end of the day, unless we’re experiencing severe psychosis, the choice to abuse is still always a choice and we are still accountable for it.

Abusers who are aware enough to switch from their abusive behavior to their false mask quickly when there is a witness can choose to change their behavior – as evidenced by their false, charming behavior in the early stages of relationships – they simply choose not to.

5. “I found myself reacting to the abuse, so I must have asked for it.” The myth of mutual abuse is one that even the National Domestic Violence Hotline dispels. It is, for the most part, still a myth. There is often a clear power imbalance between victim and abuser. The abuser is the one who erodes the victim’s identity, beliefs, goals, and dreams, while the survivor becomes increasingly diminished and demeaned. Survivors may exhibit maladaptive reactions to the abuse over time, but there are also plenty of ‘normal’ reactions to abuse that are simply symptoms of trauma. Many survivors may feel confused about talking back to their abuser or feeling bouts of rage, but the truth is that when a victim has been chronically traumatized, it is irrational not to assume that this will have an impact on their behavior or emotional well-being.

Know this: if you are being abused, it’s normal to feel angry and hurt. These are normal, human emotions that arise due to being mistreated – and as many have noted, normal reactions to heinously abnormal and dysfunctional behavior. These emotions are signals that tell you that something is very wrong. It’s important that if you are being abused, you release some of the self-blame and refocus on how you can emotionally detach and safely leave your abuser. The abuse was not and never will be your fault. 

This article was first posted on Thought Catalog on December 16, 2016.

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

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

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

5 Ways We Rationalize Abuse and Why We Need to Stop

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of the article here.

Breaking the Codependency Myth: The Power of the Trauma Bond

Breaking the Codependency Myth: The Power of The Trauma Bond by Shahida Arabi

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“Free” by Alice Popkorn via Flickr. Creative Commons License.
Ever had a victim-blamer claim you were “codependent”? That you in some way deserved the abuse, or that it was your fault? Let them know: codependency was a term historically used to describe interactions between addicts and their loved ones, not victims and abusers. Dr. Clare Murphy asserts that abuse victims can actually exhibit codependent traits as a result of trauma, not because they are codependent.
Contrary to popular myth, anyone can be victimized by an abuser – even one with strong boundaries initially, because covert abuse is insidious and unbelievably traumatic, resulting in symptoms of PTSD, Complex PTSD or, if they were abused by a malignant narcissist, what is known as Narcissistic Victim Syndrome. Remember that abuse involves a slow erosion of boundaries over time. The abuser first idealizes the victim, then begins to test and push the boundaries of the victim once he or she has already been conned into the sham of a relationship. Meanwhile, the survivor of abuse is like a frog in slowly boiling water, gaslit into believing that it is all their fault, not knowing the danger they’re in until it’s too late.

In some contexts, it may be helpful to pinpoint codependent traits and behaviors, but when the label codependent is used to shame, stigmatize or blame abuse survivors, it becomes very problematic and harmful. We need to be able to take into account the idea that emotional and psychological abuse, much like assault or any other form of physical violence, is not our fault. We can own our agency and heal without having to blame ourselves in the process. The fault lies with the perpetrator, not with the victim.

It is not the victim’s fault for ‘choosing’ the abuser either, because victims rarely consciously choose an abuser.  They choose someone who appears rather kind, caring and compassionate at the onset. The victim falls in love and invests in the false mask an abuser portrays, and rarely the true self. It is only when they are invested in the relationship that the mask begins to slip and the terror begins.

Once someone has been traumatized, again and again by someone who claimed to love them, once an abuser has warped the victim’s reality and caused him or to mistrust their perceptions through gaslighting, once a victim has been made to believe he or she is worthless, they are already traumatically bonded to their abusers. It takes a great deal of professional support, validation and resources in order for victims to detach from their abusers and begin to heal.

There is only one person who can “control” the abuse, and that is the abuser alone. There is a great deal of variety within the survivor group and we have to acknowledge that there are many survivors who come into the abusive relationship very independent, strong-willed, and empathic, but their strengths are exploited, manipulated and slowly broken down by the abuser over time. It doesn’t matter how codependent or how independent we are, because abusers will abuse their victims regardless – that is their nature. In fact, they would probably enjoy the challenge if a victim was independent, as sick as they are.

When it comes to living in a perpetual war zone of intermittent kindness and chronic cruelty, there is no ‘enabling’ of the abuse, merely a need to survive in a hostile environment. There is a clear power imbalance between abuser and victim as the abuser ‘manages down’ the victim’s expectations, threatens, controls, coerces, blameshifts and projects onto the victim his or her own vile attributes. As the victim is verbally abused, psychologically terrorized and emotionally assaulted, he or she has to find ways to minimize, rationalize, deny and ‘bond’ with the abuser in an effort to survive.

This is a survival mechanism known as ‘trauma bonding,’ and victim-blamers ought to educate themselves on it, because anyone can be made to ‘act’ or ‘appear’ codependent simply by being traumatized in the first place. As you learned in my article, Your Brain on Love, Sex and the Narcissist as well as my book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare, abuse has traumatic effects on the brain, tying us psychologically, biochemically and psychologically with our abusers.  This bond has very little to do with codependency, and everything to do with the traumatic effects of abuse. Even a highly independent victim who is strong-willed at the beginning of the relationship can begin to demonstrate symptoms of the trauma bond, PTSD or Complex PTSD – because it doesn’t have anything to do with the traits of the victim when it comes to trauma. No one is immune to the effects of severe, life-changing trauma and chronic abuse – no one.

Even if you feel you have codependent traits or were ‘primed’ by childhood abuse, the abuse you’ve experienced in any stage of your life is still not your fault.  You are not an “enabler” of the abuser. You are a victim who has been traumatically bonded to an abuser as an effort to survive. Understand the trauma bond, and you will understand how it is different from your actual feelings of disgust, anger and pain towards your abuser. Your authentic feelings about your abuser are buried beneath the apparently inextricable bond. In order to extricate yourself, you must develop a separation between the bond and your actual reality of the abuse. Write about the abuse when you feel safe to do so; consult a trauma-informed, validating mental health professional; speak with other survivors to validate the manipulation and mistreatment you’ve endured.

Holding onto the reality of the abuse, as well as your true feelings about it, is one of the most important things you can do in order to resist the gaslighting effect, release self-blame and begin to break the chains of the trauma bond. The bond may keep you attached to your abuser, but it is possible to sever it and regain your power.

CROSS-POSTED AT THE HUFFINGTON POST.

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

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


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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NEW BOOK – POWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse

Learn more about trauma bonding and narcissistic abuse in my #1 Amazon bestselling book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare, and be sure to reserve a signed copy of my new book, POWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse.

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About the Author

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

Remember That Time You Emotionally Abused Me?

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Remember That Time You Emotionally Abused Me?

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

 

Read the rest on Thought Catalog.


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

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

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

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                                      Photo Credit: Found on Piccsy

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

Read the rest on Thought Catalog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

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

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

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

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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

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 

 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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Copyright © 2015 by Shahida Arabi. 

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

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About the Author

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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.