I want to address something that I believe so many women and men are suffering from in silence as I have myself in the past. This is a vital message.
That is Narcissistic Abuse.
Many people do not know they are or have been in a relationship with a narcissist until it is way too late and an untold amount of damage has been done.
Firstly, it’s important to understand that Narcissism carries a whole spectrum of behaviors. There is the extreme end; people diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Sociopaths and Psychopaths. However, there is a whole range and varying degrees of narcissistic traits and behaviors within the spectrum.
Narcissistic Traits and Behaviors:
- Highly charismatic, outgoing, charming and likeable
- No ability to show vulnerability or humility
- Seeks constant attention and adoration
- Inability to extend compassion or empathy
- Unreasonable demands and a sense of entitlement – has to be done “my way”
- Immature and insecure behavior around boundaries
- Inability to show vulnerability or humility
- Inability to self-reflect
- Highly controlling and manipulative
- Flies into rages and then is so “sorry”
- Can have multiple personas, Jekel and Hyde
- Extreme sensitivity and ultra-defensive to criticism
- No capacity to feel or show remorse
- Will often set themselves up and present themselves in a position of power for example “guru” or “spiritual teacher”
- Failure to take responsibility or be accountable for behavior
- High level needs to impress and present a likeable, intelligent, helpful, spiritual, successful or affluent persona
- Superior and judgmental with continual subtle or blatant put-downs
These are just a few of the traits and behaviors. There are many more and just because a person does not display every single trait of a narcissist, it does not mean they are not narcissistic. Just as if a person only displays a couple of these traits every now and then, they are not automatically a narcissist. We all have the ability to display some of these traits when we are desperately insecure, highly triggered or during the darkest times of our lives, however there is huge difference between that and someone who purposefully and consistently takes on these behaviors as way of being and life.
What is a narcissist? The Narcissist/Co-dependent dance
A narcissist is someone who has taken on a “false self.” They have usually been so traumatized in childhood that they have totally abandoned themselves and have put on a concrete mask.
They are usually highly intuitive, are often charismatic, charming, intelligent and can appear to be the perfect partner. But they are masters at reading their prey, seeing and “filling in” the gaps. In other words, they will hone in on a person’s weaknesses and tell them everything they want to hear. They will pretend to be “the one” that the person has been looking for all their life and fulfil all their needs and deepest desires.
They are particularly drawn to highly empathetic people who are likely to be co-dependent. The co-dependent has likely had severe struggles with attracting and maintaining healthy relationships.
The co-dependent is completely smitten. They can hardly believe they have found this kind of love at last. They are convinced they have found their soul mate and allow this person deeply into their lives, heart and personal space very quickly. They also tend to enter into a sexual relationship very quickly and without taking time to get to know the person beyond the initial rush of attraction, thus taking the emeshment deeper.
They confide in the narcissist all of their deepest longings and insecurities. They tell them about their childhood traumas and previous relationships where they felt unloved and unsafe. Meanwhile the narcissist gathers all of the information and uses it to “become” the opposite and pretend to be everything the co-dependent wants him to be.
You see, the co-dependent has also likely been deeply traumatized in childhood but unlike the co-dependent the narcissist has not developed a conscience. While the co-dependent has a mostly over-developed conscience and will forfeit their own needs to please others, the narcissist has not developed a conscience and gets his needs met by lying, controlling, charming and manipulating others to give them what they want.
The narcissist survives on Narcissistic Supply. In fact, their very existence depends on it. Narcissistic supply is the attention, adoration and control the narcissist gains by hooking people in.
Once the narcissist has hooked in their supply, the games begin. As the “relationship” moves along, you start to feel uneasy. You start to feel something is “off.” That’s because the narcissist’s mask will start to slip as they are incapable of keeping it on 24/7. You may notice they seem to have different personas; incredibly loving and kind one day and condescending and insulting the next. You start to feel scared. You start walking on eggshells as you never know which persona they will present from one day, one hour or even one minute to the next.
You are shocked and dumb-founded by the lack of empathy that is given to you. You begin feeling starved of empathy and long for someone to understand. You feel completely alone.
You notice you cannot seem to contribute to or enter feel close to the narcissist as there is no vulnerability or humility present.
They fly into unexpected rages and then is “deeply sorry” and telling you how beautiful you are and how much they love you.
Of course, you are desperate to hold on to the person you met – the love of your life. You will do anything to hold your relationship together.
You may have become isolated from your friends and family as the narcissistic has gained more and more control. They are likely in control of the finances and you may have handed over money or assets to them.
You start to express your concerns and are met with rage. You realize that if you even hint that you are not happy with their behavior you are likely to be put down and blamed. Your best attempts at having a reasonable, adult discussion are scorned. You feel as though you are going insane and around and around in circles as the narcissist expertly manipulates every conversation, making you feel it is all your fault.
You start to question yourself and blame yourself. You feel constantly confused. You tip-toe around becoming smaller and smaller in the “relationship” until you feel invisible and as though you don’t exist. Your whole life seems to be organized around what they want and who they are. You brace yourself for the put-downs, sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle.
You wonder how it got to this. What happened to your amazing soul mate love? You go into denial and you hold onto the “loving” side of them that emerges every now and then or at will when they choose. You constantly try to pacify them, molding yourself to their every whim.
You live with the constant feeling in your gut that things are very wrong. Yet you feel addicted to them. You worry constantly that you can’t live with them, yet you can’t live without them.
Sooner or later the inevitable discard happens as you become too broken to give them the constant supply.
This is where perhaps they will take up with a younger model and in many cases, affairs have been an ongoing theme.
Emotional blackmail, torment, pathological lying, undercover operations, game-playing, constant blaming and projecting, name-smearing can all be part of the dance.
Whether or not the discard happens, in whatever way it happens or in whatever way the break-up occurs, the separation and aftermath of narcissistic abuse is excruciating.
You may have no idea what has happened to you, you just know you have been through the most devastating, confusing and tormenting time of your life.
You may be left crippled and broken emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially.
You feel hopelessly addicted to your abuser which has to do with the peptides racing around in your body and the trauma-bonding that has occurred. This is serious addiction which has been proven to be stronger than an addiction to heroin or any other drug.
Cognitive Dissonance is fully at play. This is where on the one hand we remember the “loving” person who would do anything for us, yet on the other hand we remember the abuser. Our mind cannot make sense of these two polar opposites and we feel a constant urge and pull to contact him and then feel bad about ourselves for our own urges, feeling as though we are abusing ourselves.
The truth is Narcissistic Abuse brings us to our knees. The pain is so huge that we can no longer ignore it.
It is indeed an invitation of the highest order to go within, heal and seal up our gaps and co-dependency. The traumatized child within is screaming so loudly for our attention that continuing to live the way we have been and hoping that someone or something on the outside will come and rescue us is no longer an option.
I believe it is the biggest spiritual wake-up call ever. Ultimately, I know there is a huge gift within narcissistic abuse. In the higher perspective the narcissistic is simply the messenger to wake us up to the unhealed, wounded parts of ourselves in such a way that we are forced to meet ourselves and our trauma so that we never again need to attract such an experience and instead only attract healthy, nurturing and REAL love.
To do this we need to release our trauma from our bodies, nurture our “little one” within and be-come healthy, whole and a source of love and fulfillment to ourselves. It is actually about coming home to our true selves at last.
While it is very helpful in the beginning stages of healing to understand narcissism to help make sense of what we have been through, we don’t want to become fixated on this. Ultimately, knowing everything there is to know about a narcissist does not heal us. It is by going within, addressing the trauma, building a relationship with our inner selves and healing the co-dependency, the sets us free.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether the person you are or were with is a true narcissist or not, what matters is how you feel about the situation you are in, that you resonate with this article and that you feel abused in some way. That is enough to go within and heal.
Please know that there is hope and there is life after narcissistic abuse. You CAN heal and you can indeed thrive.
If you have been or are being narcissistically abused and would like support, please feel free to reach out to set a time to talk about how I can hold your hand as someone who has been there myself.
Sending so much love,