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

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By Shahida Arabi

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

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

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

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

1. Stalking and harassment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Devaluation and Jekyll and Hyde hoovering. 

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

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

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

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

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

3. Post-breakup triangulation. 

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

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

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

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

4. Smear campaigns and threats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2017 by Shahida Arabi. 

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

Image by InnervisionArt. License via Shutterstock.

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

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude graduate of Columbia University graduate school, where she studied the effects of bullying across the life-course trajectory. She is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of three books, including Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself, featured as a #1 Amazon Bestseller in three categories and as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

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

3 Sneaky Techniques Covert Narcissists Use to Disarm and Demean You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The great diversion.

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

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

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

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

3. Tunnel vision minimization.

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

Photograph by Sergey Nivens. Standard License via Shutterstock.

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

Copyright © 2017 by Shahida Arabi. 

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

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

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude graduate of Columbia University graduate school, where she studied the effects of bullying across the life-course trajectory. She is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of three books, including Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself, featured as a #1 Amazon Bestseller in three categories and as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

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

11 Signs You’re the Victim of Narcissistic Abuse

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By Shahida Arabi

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

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

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

This is what narcissistic abuse looks like.

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

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

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

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

1. You experience dissociation as a survival mechanism.

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

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

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

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

2. You walk on eggshells.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. You develop a pervasive sense of mistrust.

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

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

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

7. You self-isolate.

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

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

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

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

9. You self-sabotage and self-destruct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve been narcissistically abused. Now what?

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by lpedan. Licensed via Shutterstock.

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

Copyright © 2017 by Shahida Arabi. 

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

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

About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude graduate of Columbia University graduate school, where she studied the effects of bullying across the life-course trajectory. She is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of three books, including Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself, featured as a #1 Amazon Bestseller in three categories and as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

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

5 Powerful Reality Checks for Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse

Read on Thought Catalog: 5 Powerful Reality Checks for Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse

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Photo Credit: Hammonton Photography. Creative Commons License via Flickr.

In my new article, I tackle five myths that survivors of narcissistic abuse are likely to encounter on their healing journey. These include:

1. The idea that malignant narcissists can change and that couples therapy can help them.
2.  The illusion of the narcissist ‘changing’ with the new victim.
3. The myth that all narcissists suffer from low self-esteem and do not know what they’re doing.
4. The harmful advice to prematurely forgive before one is ready or willing.
5. The myth that we can spiritually bypass our emotions on the road to healing.

You can read the full article on Thought Catalog. 

I hope you find these five reality checks helpful and validating. Remember to trust yourself during this process and extend your compassion to yourselves.

Copyright © 2017 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

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

Read the rest on Thought Catalog.

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of the article here.

The Narcissist’s Pathological Envy Represents How Powerful You Really Are

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Credit: mysticlight via Shutterstock

Abusers manipulate victims because they enjoy the feelings
of power and control, not because victims themselves lack
merits. In fact, narcissistic abusers feel particular joy at bringing
down anyone whose accomplishments and traits they
envy to reinforce their false sense of superiority.

Shahida Arabi, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare

By Shahida Arabi

Out of all of the manipulative tactics and forms of coercion and control a malignant narcissistic abuser subjects us to, the pathological envy of a narcissist is one of the most baffling and devastating experiences of the narcissistic abuse experience. We often cannot fathom that a loved one, whether a friend, a family member or significant other, would ever want to sabotage our success, undermine our joy or belittle our accomplishments. Yet this horrifying aspect of a narcissist’s diagnostic criteria is even noted in the DSM-5, which states that not only are narcissists envious of others, they believe others to be envious of them.

A narcissist’s pathological envy arises from their need to be the best, their excessive sense of entitlement to being the center of attention at all times, with the most fame, wealth, and status. Any threat to their grandiose delusions of grandeur will result in a narcissistic injury, and inevitably, narcissistic rage. This is why narcissists tend to be pompous critics, usually incapable of the same efforts they criticize in others. The success of others evokes their pathological envy, reminding them of what they lack and could never achieve themselves. As a result, they will do anything and everything possible to minimize the accomplishments of those who threaten their false sense of grandiosity and superiority.

Initially, narcissists and otherwise toxic people may claim to be very happy for your success; during the idealization and love-bombing phases of the relationship, they may even excessively congratulate, praise and flatter you. They may use you as a “trophy” to show off to others, gaining status and prestige from simply being associated with you. They have no problem in benefiting from your wealth, your reputation and your various assets. As the relationship moves forward, however, their need to devalue their victims kicks in and their pathological envy and competitiveness becomes more and more apparent. What was once a subtle look of contempt at the sight of your success soon becomes hour-long arguments bashing every aspect of your identity, your dreams, your goals, and any source of joy outside of the realm of the narcissist’s control.

What many people don’t realize is that narcissists don’t just gravitate towards us because of our vulnerabilities; they are also attracted to our assets – and  not only because they can exploit those assets for narcissistic supply. Anything you achieve or gain joy from stirs this envy within them and in inexplicable need to win or one-up you at all costs. It also represents a threat to their control over you – after all, if you are gaining happiness and validation from somewhere outside of the narcissist, this means you don’t need them. This strengthens their desire to destroy us and our success in every way possible – so that they can isolate us from other sources of validation while demeaning the very core of who we are.

The starry-eyed admiration followed by anger and envy is a classic case of the type of crazymaking you’re likely to encounter in a narcissist once in the devaluation and discard phases of the relationships. Whatever happiness they seem to project in the idealization stage is merely a facade for the deep contempt they feel for anyone they feel threatened by.

Signs of Pathological Envy in a Malignant Narcissist Include:

  • Praises you highly for your accomplishments initially; uses your accomplishments as a way to associate themselves with you and look good. Likes feeling as if they have the “successful girlfriend” or boyfriend – while simultaneously resenting you for it.
  • Competes with you often; if you bring up what you achieved, they have to bring up something bigger or downgrade what you’ve achieved to make you feel small. Nothing you do is truly special or “impressive” – or, it’s really, really special until the narcissist gets tired of praising you and wants to cut you down a thousand pegs or so.
  • Highly competitive in recreational games, sports and other activities; they will be a sore loser and resort to immature actions to “win” or insult your ability.
  • Will accuse you of being arrogant should you happen to share your happiness or present a healthy confidence in your abilities. They are in fact projecting their own sense of arrogance onto you.
  • Isolates you from friends or family members who are likely to support you, by turning them against you or by smearing your name to them. They will emphasize the idea that people are against you (projecting the fact that it’s them that is against you).
  • Behind closed doors (or sometimes even out in the open), devalues and minimizes the things they once praised, making them seem unimportant and lacking because they know they would’ve never been able to accomplish those things themselves. They will suggest that your contribution to the world isn’t valuable or degrade/ignore accomplishments that are in fact a big deal, all with an innocent or smug look on their face.
  • Sabotages important events in your life such as big interviews, projects, deadlines using methods like put-downs, crazymaking arguments that lead to sleep deprivation, pressuring you to spend time with them right beforehand, insulting you, covertly casting doubt onto your abilities and talents, one-upping you and making themselves seem more important, accomplished and talented to stroke their sense of superiority.
  • Treats your goals, dreams and interests with contempt or a condescending attitude, all while bringing the conversation back to them.

It is also helpful to keep in mind that a narcissist will often deny they are envious, though their actions clearly say otherwise. They strive very hard to hide their own envy not just from their victims but from themselves, to the point of delusion. Their false sense of superiority and haughty contempt often accompanies their put-downs, subtle digs, minimizing statements and demeaning insults – all of which serve to belittle the victim and make the victim ashamed of succeeding, of feeling joy, of creating new connections, of flourishing – of thriving and owning their power to create a beautiful life.

To resist internalizing the verbal garbage a narcissist may spew at you out of their envy, remember the following: if someone expresses rage and contempt towards you for daring to be proud of yourself (with a healthy level of pride, of course) or loving yourself, your life, and your accomplishments, the problem is not you. It is them.

HOW TO COPE WITH THE ATTACKS OF A GREEN-EYED NARCISSIST

Survivors may struggle with self-sabotage after experiencing a narcissist’s abusive bouts of envy, rage and verbal attacks. They may begin to fear speaking about their accomplishments or their happiness, lest they evoke their narcissist’s wrath. The cutting words of the narcissistic abuser may reverberate in their minds long after the relationship has ended, instilling in them a sense of pervasive self-doubt and worthlessness. Walking on eggshells and disowning your power, however, is no way to live. Survivors have to regain the certainty that the reason they experienced such a pathological reaction was because they were so powerful in the first place.

As I describe in my new book, POWER, it is essential that survivors develop a “toxic people phrases filter” – one in which anything a toxic person says is “translated into what it actually means. For example, a narcissist’s degradation of the victim’s goals and dreams can be translated and seen for what it truly is: a sign that the narcissist is attempting to sabotage them, because they recognize what the victim has (whether it be financial assets, talent, a support network, etc.) is valuable. This is how survivors can begin to turn put-downs into power.

Remember: normal, healthy people do not sustain a narcissistic injury or lash out in narcissistic rage when they see other people succeeding and doing well for themselves. Healthy people have enough security and empathy to feel happiness for others, and to witness someone else beaming with authentic pride and self-love – without wanting to destroy it or sabotage it in some way.

You deserve to succeed. You deserve to flourish. You deserve to be abundant. You deserve the support of others who are happy for you and share in your joy. Do not let any green-eyed narcissist rain on your parade, trample over your boundaries and make you feel less than because they sense you are rising above and beyond what they ever could. You owe it to yourself to be powerful and victorious.

See the narcissist’s pathological envy for what it really is: a measure of how powerful you really are and have the potential to become.

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

All rights reserved. This article is derived from copyrighted excerpts 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.


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.

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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.

20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists Use to Silence You

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

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

(1) Gaslighting

(2) Projection

(3) Nonsensical Conversations from Hell

(4) Blanket Statements and Generalizations

(5) Deliberate Misrepresentation

(6) Nitpicking and Moving Goal Posts

(7) Changing the Subject to Escape Accountability

(8) Covert and Overt Threats

(9) Name-Calling

(10) Destructive Conditioning

(11) Smear Campaigns and Stalking

(12) Lovebombing and Devaluation

(13) Preemptive Defense

(14) Triangulation

(15) Bait and Feign Innocence

(16) Boundary Testing and Hoovering

(17) Aggressive Jabs Disguised as Jokes

(18) Condescending Sarcasm and Patronizing Tone

(19) Shaming

(20) Control

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

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

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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.

 

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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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.

*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. Thank you!

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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.


Why Do We Stay? Dismantling Stereotypes about Abuse Survivors

Why Do We Stay? Dismantling Stereotypes About Abuse Survivors by Shahida Arabi

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To the outside world, abuse survivors appear to face an easy decision: leave or stay in the abusive relationship as soon as they endure an emotionally or physically abusive incident. Internally, however, they struggle with cognitive dissonance, damaging conditioning from intermittent reinforcement, PTSD-like symptoms, trauma bonds,  any previous trauma from past abusive relationships or experiencing abuse in their childhood, Stockholm syndrome, feelings of worthlessness and learned helplessness just to name a few.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, leaving a long-term abusive relationship can actually be even harder than leaving a nourishing, supportive and positive one. This is because narcissistic or antisocial abusers are masters of playing mind games and covert manipulation, are able to deny the abuse through gaslighting and present a false image to the world which supports their denial. Survivors are then subjected to a battle within their own minds about whether the reality they experience is truly abuse – a type of cognitive dissonance that society seems to encourage by engaging in victim-blaming.

Remember that abusers present a false, charming self to the world and their true self is exposed primarily to their victims. In the initial stages of dating or the relationship, abusers are likely to present their best image. It is only after they’ve “hooked” the victim with their covert manipulation tactics such as mirroring and lovebombing, that they begin devaluing, demeaning and hurting the victim. The victim then has to find ways to psychologically process  the trauma of this sudden “turn” in personality – a process that can take months to years depending on the duration of the relationship, the availability of the victim’s own coping resources, as well as the severity and nature of the abuse.

I am a passionate advocate of ending abusive relationships, going No Contact and owning our agency after abuse. However, at the same time that I want to encourage survivors to empower themselves after the abuse, I also want people to understand that the act of leaving such a relationship is rarely as easy as it seems.  Not leaving sooner is not an indication or a measure of a victim’s strength or intelligence. It has more to do with the severity of trauma they have experienced. This false narrative of how easy it is to end an abusive relationship is actually holding us back from creating safer spaces for survivors to feel validated, supported, and being able to speak out about their experiences – this support is essential to any victim in an abusive relationship. This is why I want to dismantle the harmful stereotypes of why abuse survivors stay by offering some insights on why they really do. If you’re not an abuse survivor, the reasons might surprise you.

The reasons survivors stay are complex and tied to the effects of trauma, the ways in which abuse survivors start to see themselves after the abuse, and the ways in which society makes it more difficult for them to speak out about their abuse.

1. In a nourishing, positive relationship, we can love the person enough to let go with a sense of closure. In an abusive one, ending the relationship is a decision filled with fear of retaliation and anxiety. In healthy relationships, there is mutual respect and compassion, something that has existed throughout the course of the relationship despite any obstacles. Even if it is difficult, we trust that the person we are letting go will respect us enough to take time to heal before jumping into another relationship the day after the breakup, will not threaten or stalk us because we left them (only they are allowed to discard us in a narcissist’s mind), will not violently assault us and will not stage a smear campaign against us due to the fact that we discarded them first. Partners who are not narcissists or sociopaths will most likely leave us alone after a breakup and not bother to “hoover” simply because they need supply. They are understanding about boundaries and the need for space after the ending of a relationship.

Due to the potential infidelity, manipulation, put-downs, gaslighting and deception abuse survivors endured throughout their relationships, cognitive dissonance about who the abuser is, as well as a sense of incessant doubt, survivors may lack a sense of closure and certainty about ending an abusive relationship.  Understandably, many abuse victims don’t wish to let their abusers move onto the next victim after terrorizing them, because they fear that the next person might be treated better, thereby confirming their own sense of worthlessness that was instilled by the abuser in the first place. They may also have an unending sense of needing a real “apology”  or seeing karma at work before they feel they can truly let go.

Of course, abuse survivors eventually learn that they can only gain closure from within – after they’ve ended the relationship and begun the work of healing and recovery.  They also realize that the next victim will most likely be subjected to the same abuse, even if it appears otherwise when their abuser treats the next victim to the idealization phase. Apologies from the abuser won’t suffice, as they are recognized for what they truly are: pity ploys or hoovering tactics designed to pull us back into the toxic dynamic rather than signs of genuine remorse. Self-forgiveness, instead, becomes paramount.

2. Abuse survivors start to view themselves through the eyes of their abuser. The belittling, condescending remarks and the physical violence abusers subject their victims to leads to a sense of learned helplessness and self-doubt which make survivors fearful that they really aren’t as worthy as they think they are. Abuse survivors could be the most confident, successful and beautiful people to the outside world, but they are subjected to an internal world of fear, self-doubt and a shaky self-esteem as a result of the traumatic conditioning their abusers have put them through. They have been taught to live on a diet of crumbs (the occasional compliment, some shallow show of attention, perhaps even a showering of gifts and flattery before the abuse cycle begins again) which serves to remind them that they must “work” for a love that will never be unconditional, a love that will never contain real respect or compassion.

As a result, they may compare themselves to people in happier relationships or even to the seemingly idealized way their abusers treated their exes (as narcissists are likely to either place their exes on a pedestal or demean them as crazy) and wonder, why not me? What’s wrong with me? Of course, the problem is not them – it is the abusive relationship which is the source of toxicity in their lives.

The abuser is likely to subject the victim to many comparisons to drive the point home that it is somehow the victim’s fault that he or she is being abused (also known as triangulation). Due to this, survivors have a difficult time accepting the fact that even if they were the most confident, successful, beautiful and charismatic people on earth, they would still be abused by the abuser because that is what abusers do in intimate relationships. They abuse victims because they enjoy the feelings of power and control, not because victims themselves lack merits. In fact, narcissistic abusers feel particular joy at bringing down anyone whose accomplishments and traits they envy to reinforce their false sense of superiority.

Due to the skewed belief system which develops after the abuse, survivors feel that ending it would paradoxically confirm the narcissist’s view of them. They associate the ending of the relationship to a failure on their own part, the inability to win the affections of someone who has made themselves look like a prize by constantly idealizing them then subsequently withdrawing from them. Narcissistic abusers blow hot and cold throughout the course of an intimate relationship to make it seem like you’re the problem and not them. Survivors struggle to win the game of gaining an abuser’s affection, especially if they’re prone to people-pleasing habits and fears of rejection as well as abandonment. The terrible things the abuser has done to us somehow doesn’t compare to the pain of also being abandoned after being abused: it’s almost as if the abandonment would prove our so-called “unworthiness” which has been manufactured by the abuser to make us feel unable to leave.

On the healing journey, survivors rediscover their authentic selves and learn how to depart from toxic people-pleasing habits instilled in them by their abuser as well as in childhood. They begin to reclaim their worth, separate from their social interactions and romantic relationships. It is one of the most freeing, empowering experiences to finally leave an abuser and stick with No Contact. Rebuilding your life after abuse is not easy, but it is an unbelievably transformative experience.

3. Ending the relationship would mean that the survivor has to face the reality of all the traumas they’ve experienced, on their own.

Although this is not always a conscious choice, abuse survivors may feel more comfortable rationalizing the abuse and avoiding the pain of the harsh reality they’re experiencing, which can be quite easy given that the tend to experience abuse amnesia during the good times. They may also experience the defense mechanism of disassociation  which enables them to survive during moments of horrific abuse. Staying in the abusive relationship allows survivors to still engage with the good parts of the relationship while psychologically protecting themselves from having to face the trauma of it.

As narcissists and sociopaths tend to be excellent masters of gaslighting, flattery and even sex, creating certain pleasurable bonds that appear to surpass the pain we experience during the abuse, abuse amnesia becomes a tempting form of psychological protection from their own demons. Abuse amnesia is aided by the abuser’s performances of being apologetic, kind, caring and compassionate during the positive highs of the abuse cycle.  Dissociation, on the other hand, is often not intentional on the survivor’s part – the mechanism of dissociation occurs quite naturally in response to traumatic events.  Of course, the reality is that those bonds we have with our abusers are trauma-based bonds that have little to do with actual fulfillment, love or respect, and everything to do with the illusion of who we believe narcissists are.

Ending the relationship is made even more difficult if trauma from previous relationships or childhood exists. It’s a fact: children who grow up witnessing domestic violence within their own families have been reported to more likely to be victims of abusive relationships themselves.  It may almost seem normalized because of the behaviors we’re unconsciously modelling from our childhood. We might identify with the victimized parent, or may even have promised ourselves we would never be like them, only to have unconsciously chosen a partner that has enabled us to attempt to “fix” our past by attempting to fix our abusive partner. Knowing what we know about the effects of trauma on early adolescent brain development, the idea that someone who grew up witnessing such violence and abuse would not be psychologically affected is dubious. Thinking that someone would not be affected by the same type of trauma in adulthood (especially if they’ve already experienced it in childhood) is even more unlikely.

After the ending of an abusive relationship, survivors have the great privilege of uncovering their past traumas and the trauma they’ve just experienced and begin to work through them. The ending of this relationship is actually a golden opportunity to heal from the wounds that were never healed in the first place. The fear of being left alone with the pain has been overcome – the survivor now has the space and time to independently act, think and feel outside of the toxic dynamics of the previous relationship.

4. Society shames abuse survivors into thinking it’s their fault and this can create barriers to a strong, validating support network. As a result of the stigmas associated with being and staying in an abusive relationship past the first signs of blatant disrespect, many people who have not undergone abusive relationships themselves are prone to pass judgment upon survivors. How could he/she stay? they ask. Why didn’t you leave the first time they hurt you? Are you sure it’s really “abuse”? The victim-blaming, shaming and doubting leaves abuse survivors feeling incredibly isolated in their situation and alienated from their own support networks. This question of “why didn’t you leave?” can further persuade survivors to seek the false comfort of the abusive relationship because they would rather stay than speak out and risk being shamed, stigmatized, judged, questioned by the very people who are supposed to care about them – friends, family, and even the criminal justice system.

Here’s a thought: if society stopped viewing abuse survivors in such a negative, judgmental light, they might actually be more likely to report domestic violence. If friends of abuse survivors adopted a mindset of compassion and understanding, rather than ignorant judgment, they may actually get the support they need to feel like they wouldn’t be alone after the end of the relationship.

The fact of the matter is, if you haven’t been in an abusive relationship, you don’t really know what the experience is like. Furthermore, it’s quite hard to predict what you would do in the same situation. I find that the people most vocal about what they would’ve done in the same situation often have no clue what they are talking about – they have never been in the same situation themselves.

By invalidating the survivor’s experience, these people  are defending an image of themselves that they identify with strength, not realizing that abuse survivors are often the most strongest individuals out there. They’ve been belittled, criticized, demeaned, devalued, and yet they’ve still survived. The judgmental ones often have little to no life experience regarding these situations, yet they feel quite comfortable silencing the voices of people who’ve actually been there.

While being a survivor can sometimes alienate us from society, it can also give us an intense connection with other survivors, in interactions filled with understanding and compassion. We have the ability to offer empathy and insight to others on a level other individuals aren’t capable of. Survivors on the healing journey learn how to use their voices, connect with alternative communities and reach out to those who have been there.

5. They aren’t psychologically ready to leave.  Tony Robbins makes an astute observation in his book, Awaken the Giant Within: we only stop a bad habit or behavior when the pain of it far surpasses any pleasure or reward. While this might be a bit too simplistic of a theory to apply to the complex dynamics of abusive relationships, it often plays true for the moment the survivors finally leave. Considering there are many psychological factors that may be holding abuse survivors back (learned helplessness, Stockholm Syndrome) as well as external barriers such as financial dependence, having children with our abuser, the threat of physical violence or a combination of the reasons above, our readiness to leave just yet is hindered. We may plan when to leave and how to leave, fantasize about that moment, but there are usually a couple of factors that postpone the time of escape.

None of the best advice in the world can convince us until we feel that inner transformation and until we reach that turning point where we say to ourselves, “I’ve had enough. I am enough. And so much better than this.” That moment often comes after an experience of extreme pain – a turning point when we’ve reached our pain threshold, whatever that threshold may be. Unfortunately,  until we’ve made this decision from our own internal compass, there is not much others can do to intervene apart from offering their support. The decision must come from the survivor – and because he or she has been in the abusive relationship for so long, robbed of his or her choices, it may be the first powerful choice they have made in years.

Once the decision has been made and actions have been taken to maintain No Contact, leaving becomes the ultimate victory. The turning point, whatever it was, has made them psychologically ready. Survivors have truly owned their agency and power when they can leave an abuser and never look back. They have learned all they can from being in the relationship and are ready to begin their healing.

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Copyright © 2015 by Shahida Arabi. 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication 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.


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Watch the video on why abuse survivors stay here.

Since writing this post in 2014, I’ve started a new monthly online coaching program for survivors and have a new book available for pre-order.

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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I want to hear from you. What made you stay in the relationship with your abuser? What made you finally leave (or if you were discarded, implement No Contact)? Even if you’re still in a relationship with your abuser and in the early stages of developing a plan to leave, feel free to share your story. We need every voice that’s been silenced on this topic. We all have the power to break through and leave our abusers, but we need support in doing so. Let’s break the silence. Let’s fight the stigma. Let’s create a safe space for all survivors on this journey.

This blog post is protected under DMCA against copyright infringement.This entry has been adapted from a chapter of a book and are copyrighted by law.

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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. 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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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.

A Letter to All the Abusers Out There

This post differs greatly from the formats of my other posts on abuse recovery. I was inspired to write a letter to the abusers I’ve encountered and all the ones I know out there in the world who are still hurting others.

Writing can be an incredibly powerful tool for healing and empowerment. It serves as a portal for us to create a reverse discourse to the abuse we may have experienced over the course of our lives from various sources. I hope I can speak on behalf of many victims of abuse in this post. I also invite you to also write your own “Dear Abuser” letter in the comments section below. You can share this post or your own on your social media networks using #SurvivorLetter.

Please note that all letters should omit names of the person/people being addressed. The purpose of this exercise is simply to empower you with a creative outlet for your emotions. 

Nobody deserves to be abused, harassed or bullied. The more we speak up for ourselves, the more we speak up for others.

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A Letter to All the Abusers Out There by Shahida Arabi

Dear Abusers:

You may not know me, but I know you. I’ve been involved with you, and though you come in many different appearances, shapes, sizes and backgrounds, you are all more similar than you think.

You feed upon the insecurities of others. You make cutting sarcastic remarks to belittle others, because you will never know the joy of elevating others or respecting them the way they deserve to be respected. You are condescending in tone, manner and attitude, because you want so desperately to believe you are the powerful one in every interaction. You are physically aggressive, emotionally depraved, sadistic, destructive and poisonous.

Here’s news for you: you are powerless. You are powerless without supply. Powerless without a victim to believe in your lies. You derive your sense of superiority from another’s subjugation. Your power is dependent upon a victim’s psychological investment in your false image, not your true self.

Each victim you come across, each victim you use as an emotional or physical punching bag, will eventually leave or be left by you when you realize you can no longer control him or her. The victim that stays will be the unlucky one, forever enslaved to your mind games. Even so, little by little, you will have to up the ante on the power ploys in order to maintain power and control.

How exhausting it must be to try to play puppeteer to someone whose strings you’ve entirely manufactured; you will never have the pleasure of receiving love and affection from a pure source of willingness, but rather from a place of fear, a place of trauma, of enslavement, of necessity. Your audience or harem does not count, as no one besides your victims know the real you. Even if they have caught glimpses of who you are, they do not love who you really are. How difficult it must be to realize that you will never be truly loved, and that you will never truly love another person.

You so desperately want to believe that within every relationship, you are a “catch,” more intelligent, more attractive, more desirable and more accomplished than the victim whose energy you drain every day like the emotional vampire you are.

The truth is, you are none of these things. Every victim you target is inherently morally, spiritually, and intellectually superior to YOU. That is because victims of abuse do not have to abuse others to gain a sense of self-worth or importance. They already feel whole just as they are. They derive fulfillment not from harming others, but from helping others. They feel joy in showing compassion, respect and empathy for their fellow human beings. They give love without hate. They know that we are all interconnected, and that hurting another hurts themselves.  They have genuine, authentic accomplishments and success that they don’t need to defend or boast about in order to feel good about. They have a conscience you can only imitate.

You, on the other hand, live in a world of brokenness, of false pride and fragile egotism. You realize you are truly alone, on the inside, regardless of how much power and pull you think you have over others. Surrounded by adoring fans who know nothing about your true intentions or your malice, you start to recognize that they, too, only care about your prestige and your appearances.

One day, your false image will shatter and the world will see you for who you truly are, and not who you pretend to be. One day, your victim will walk out the door. One day, you will look at yourself and realize that had you spent more time healing and loving, rather than fighting and hurting, you would be one with this world and not a destructive force within it.

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, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.


I also invite you to also write your own “Dear Abuser” letter in the comments section below or as your own blog post (with the hashtag #SurvivorLetter and a link back to this post). Please note that you should not include names or identifying information of the person/people being addressed. The purpose of this exercise is simply to empower you with a creative outlet for your emotions. Although I addressed this letter to abusers, I truly wrote it to empower and validate victims themselves – to motivate them to express themselves through other outlets and gain their own closure through exercises like writing the “unsent” letter.

Please share this post and stand up against emotional and physical abuse.

A Love Letter to Abuse Survivors by selfcarehaven.wordpress.com                         Image: A Love Letter to Survivors by selfcarehaven.wordpress.com


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 post is protected under DMCA against copyright infringement.

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

Creative Commons License
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.

What Abuse Survivors Don’t Know: Ten Life-Changing Truths to Embrace on the Healing Journey

 

Photograph by Anna Gearhart via Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 License.
The journey to healing from emotional and/or physical abuse requires us to revolutionize our thinking about relationships, self-love, self-respect and self-compassion. Abusive relationships often serve as the catalyst for incredible change and have the potential to motivate us towards empowerment and strength, should we take advantage of our new agency. Here are ten life-changing truths abuse survivors can embrace to empower themselves along this journey, though it may appear challenging to do so.

1. It was not your fault.

Victim-blaming is rampant both in society and even within the mental landscapes of abuse survivors themselves. Recently, the victim-blaming and the mythical “ease” of leaving an abusive relationship has been challenged in the public discourse. Accepting  that the pathology of another person and the abuse he or she inflicted upon you is not under your control can be quite challenging when you’ve been told otherwise,  by the abuser, the public and even by those close to you who don’t know any better.

Abuse survivors are used to being blamed for not being good enough and the mistreatment they’ve suffered convinces them they are not enough. The truth is, the abuser is the person who is not enough. Only a dysfunctional person would deliberately harm another. You, on the other hand, are enough. Unlike your abuser, you don’t have to abuse anyone else to feel superior or complete. You are already whole, and perfect, in your own imperfect ways.

2. Your love cannot inspire the abuser to change.

There was nothing you could have done differently to change the abuser. Repeat this to yourself. Nothing. Abusers have a distorted perspective of the world and their interactions with people are intrinsically disordered. Giving more love and subjugating yourself to the abuser out of fear and out of the hope that he or she would change would’ve only enabled the abuser’s power. You did the right thing (or you will) by stepping away and no longer allowing someone to treat you in such an inhumane manner.

3. Healthy relationships are your birthright and you can achieve them.

It is your right to have a healthy, safe, and respectful relationship. It is your right to be free from bodily harm and psychological abuse. It is your right to pursue people who are worthy of your time and energy. Never settle for less than someone who respects you and is considerate towards you. Every human being has this right and you do too. If you are someone who has the ability to respect others and are capable of empathy, you are not any less deserving than anyone else of a relationship that makes you happy.

4. You are not forever damaged by this, even if you feel like you are.

Healing and recovery is a challenging process, but it is not an impossible one. You may suffer for a long time from intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and other symptoms as a result of the abuse. You may even enter other unhealthy relationships or reenter the same one. Still, you are not “damaged goods.” You are not forever scarred, although there are scars that may still remain. You are a healer, a warrior, a survivor. You do have choices and agency. You can apply No Contact with your ex-partner, seek counseling, create a stronger support network,  engage in better self-care, and you can have better relationships in the future. All hope is not lost.

5.  You don’t have to justify to anyone the reasons you didn’t leave right away.

The fear, isolation and manipulation that the abuser imposed upon us is legitimate and valid. Studies have proven that trauma can produce changes the brain and can also manifest in PTSD or acute stress disorder. Stockholm syndrome is a syndrome that tethers survivors of trauma and abuse to their abusers in order to survive. Trauma bonds, which are bonds that are formed with another person during intense emotional experiences, can leave us paradoxically seeking support from the source of the abuse.

The connection we have to the abuser is like an addiction to the vicious cycle of hot and cold, of sweet talk and apologies, of wounds and harsh words. Our sense of learned helplessness, a feeling that we are unable to escape the situation, is potent in an abusive situation. So is our cognitive dissonance about who the abuser truly is. Due to the shame we feel about the abuse, we may withdraw from our support network altogether or be forced by our abuser to not interact with others.

This can all interfere with our motivation and means to leave the relationship. Therefore, you never have to justify to anyone why you did not leave right away or blame yourself for not doing so. Someone else’s invalidation should not take away your experience of fear, confusion, shame, numbing and hypervigilance that occurred when and after the abuse took place.

6. Forgiveness of the abuser is a personal choice, not a necessity.

Some may tell you that you have to forgive the abuser to move on. Truly, that is a personal choice and not a necessity. Trauma therapists such as Antastasia Pollock warn against pressuring a survivor to forgive, especially prematurely, because it can feel like being re-violated. In, “Why I Don’t Use the Word ‘Forgiveness’ in Trauma Therapy,” Pollock suggests using the word ‘unburdening,’ instead, to accurately describe the gradual letting go of feelings of resentment without forcing her clients to feel anything other than what they truly feel.

As trauma therapist and author of the book, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, Pete Walker, also notes:

“There has been a lot of shaming, dangerous and inaccurate “guidance” put out about forgiveness in the last few years, in both the recovery community and in transpersonal circles. Many survivors of dysfunctional families have been injured by the simplistic, black and white advice that decrees that they must embrace a position of being totally and permanently forgiving in order to recover. Unfortunately, those who have taken the advice to forgive abuses that they have not fully grieved, abuses that are still occurring, and/or abuses so heinous they should and could never be forgiven, often find themselves getting nowhere in their recovery process. In fact, the possibility of attaining real feelings of forgiveness is usually lost when there is a premature, cognitive decision to forgive. This is because premature forgiving intentions mimic the defenses of denial and repression. They keep unprocessed feelings of anger and hurt about childhood unfairnesses out of awareness.” – Trauma Therapist Pete Walker, Forgiveness: Begins With The Self

It is not that forgiveness is not healing – some survivors will indeed find it healing – but only if they come to that path out of their own free will rather than pressures from society. Prematurely forcing yourself to forgive before you are willing or ready can actually lead to increased stress and trauma because you have not done the inner work of grieving and honoring the authentic outrage that can come up after the abuse.

In addition, the word ‘forgiveness’ can in itself have many traumatizing connotations for the abuse survivor, whose abuser may have conflated forgiveness with reconciliation or spiritually abused them by saying that they had to forgive their transgressions in order to be a “good person.” While forgiveness never has to require reconciliation, there is no doubt that these traumatic associations for survivors can remain. Some survivors may feel more empowered using a different word to describe their feelings of letting go, and others may move onto a sense of indifference towards their abusers while still moving forward with their lives.

You might feel forgiveness of the abuser is necessary in order to move forward, but that does not mean you have to. Survivors may have also experienced physical and sexual abuse in addition to the psychological manipulation. You may have gone through so much trauma that it feels impossible to forgive, and that’s okay. Honor wherever you are right now, and don’t force yourself to feel anything for your abuser that you don’t authentically feel. It’s important to acknowledge, validate and honor all of the complex emotions that are sure to arise.

It is not our job to cater to the abuser’s needs or wants or society’s expectations. It’s not our duty to forgive someone who has deliberately and maliciously harmed us. Our duty lies in taking care of ourselves on the road to healing.

7. Compassion towards yourself is necessary to move forward.

Self-compassion is a different matter. Although you did nothing wrong (anyone can be the victim of abuse), many survivors struggle with self-blame after the ending of an abusive relationship. Even though you don’t have anything technically to ‘forgive’ yourself for (the abuse was the abuser’s fault, not yours), survivors may judge themselves for not leaving sooner or looking out for their best interests during the relationship. It is encouraged to show compassion towards yourself and be gentle with yourself during times of negative self-talk and self-judgment. These are all things survivors tend to struggle with in the aftermath of an abusive relationship and it can take a while to get to this point.

Remember: You didn’t know what you know now about how the abuser would never change. Even if you had, you were in a situation where many psychological factors made it difficult to leave.

8. You are not the crazy one.

During the abusive relationship, you were gaslighted and told that you were the pathological one, that your version of events was untrue, that your feelings were invalid, that you were too sensitive when you reacted to his or her mistreatment of you. You may have even endured a vicious smear campaign in which the charming abuser told everyone else you were “losing it.”

Losing it actually meant that you were tired of being kicked around, tired of being cursed at and debased. Losing it actually meant that you were finally starting to stand up for yourself. The abuser saw that you were recognizing the abuse and wanted to keep you in your place by treating you to cold silence, harsh words, and condescending rumor mongering.

It’s time to get back to reality: you were not the unstable one. The unstable one was the person who was constantly belittling you, controlling your every move, subjecting you to angry outbursts, and using you as an emotional (and even physical) punching bag.

Who are you? You were the person who wanted a good relationship. The one who strove to please your abuser, even at the cost of your mental and physical health. You were the one whose boundaries were broken, whose values were ridiculed, whose strengths were made to look like weaknesses. You attempted to teach a grown person how to behave with respect – often fruitlessly. You were the one who deserved so much better.

9. You do deserve better.

No matter what the abuser told you about yourself, there are people out there in healthy relationships. These people are cherished, respected and appreciated on a consistent basis. There is trust in the relationship, not toxic triangulation. There are genuine apologies for mistakes, not hoovering for attention or quick reconciliation.

Consider this: aside from the experience of trauma, these people in healthier relationships are not drastically different from you. In many ways, they are just like you – flawed, imperfect, but worthy of love and respect. There are billions of people in this world, and yes, you can bet there are plenty out there who will treat you better than the way you’ve been treated before. There are people out there who will see your wonderful strengths, talents, and who will love your quirks. These people wouldn’t dream of intentionally hurting you or provoking you. You will find these people – in friendships and in future relationships. Perhaps you already have.

10. It may have seemed this relationship was like a “waste of time” but in changing your perspective, it can also be an incredible learning experience.

You now have the agency to create stronger boundaries and learn more about your values as a result of this experience. As a survivor, you’ve seen the dark side of humanity and what people are capable of. You’ve recognized the value of using your time wisely after you’ve exhausted it with someone unworthy. With this newfound knowledge, you are no longer naive to the fact that there are emotional predators out there. Most importantly, you can share your story to help and empower other survivors. I know I did, and you can too.

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, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

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Are you a survivor of abuse? Share your story or comment on this post below.

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


About the Author

UntitledShahida Arabi is a graduate of Columbia University graduate school, where she studied the effects of bullying on the life-course trajectory. She also graduated summa cum laude from NYU, where she studied Psychology and English Literature as an undergraduate student. She is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of four books, including Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare, which has been s a #1 Amazon Bestseller in personality disorders for 12 consecutive months. Her interests include psychology, sociology, education, gender studies and mental health advocacy.

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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