Narcissistic abuse: Three steps towards recovery
Narcissistic abuse is on the rise. Possibly due to the increase in numbers of adverse childhood experiences, due to divorce and dysfunctional family dynamics that are known to contribute towards this personality disorder in later life.
While teenagers may typically go through an adolescent phase of entitlement and lacking in empathy, the majority grow out of it. The adult narcissist, however, grows into it.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders suggests that five or more of the following traits should be identified in order to diagnose narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
- a grandiose sense of self-importance
- a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
- a belief that he or she is 'special' and unique
- a need for excessive admiration
- interpersonal exploitation
- a lack of empathy
- envy of others or the belief that others are envious of him/her
- arrogant, haughty behaviour or attitudes
The first "how-to" is education. Understand what narcissism is and what makes the narcissist think, act and behave in a certain way. Often in the beginning you may sense that something is just 'off' with your relationship or connection. The narcissist will often come out with odd statements, embellish stories about themselves and other people, backtrack on what they have said. etc. Many become pathological liars and they will typically take advantage of people, devalue them and then eventually discard them.
There are many excellent online resources, videos and books on this subject to help you to to understand that this personality disorder is most often than not a disorder for life. It is not something that you can change about this person. Narcissist Abuse Support is a good place to start.
Being a narcissist is often described as like being a toddler in an adult body as their brain has not developed fully to see things from someone else' point of view, this is often described as an inability to show empathy, they typically believe that what they think is the correct way and a dispute or discussion will only end in the narcissist either going into a rage or stonewalling you with silence. They find it particularly difficult to self-regulate their emotions as their fight-flight response is very easily activated due to their heightened sensitivity.
A narcissist will typically be attracted to an empath. A kind compassionate person, who often ends up become co-dependent on the narcissist thinking that they will be the one to finally get the narcissist to behave like a caring responsible adult. Unfortunately, this will not happen although the narcissist may play the game of offering glimmers of hope, moments of love and satisfaction to the partner, just enough to keep the partner hooked. This is known as hoovering.
In the beginning, the narcissist will often shower the partner with compliments and tell them how perfect they are etc. This is known as love-bombing. Slowly though, once they suspect you are hooked, this behaviour will change towards picking up on negatives that the partner does. This stage is called devaluing. Causing an argument particularly during what should be pleasant occasions, such as a holiday, a day out, a special occasion is typical. They may threaten to cancel events at the last minute etc. This is all about control.
The narcissist's thoughts feelings and behaviour are all to make you feel disempowered, confused and often feel as if you are going mad. They may even pick up on the way that you say and do things suggesting you should do it their way.
Gaslighting is a typical terminology that is used to describe this when a narcissist tells a story that you blatantly know is not the truth, to try to get a reaction out of you. Spreading smear campaigns of untruths about you is also a typical behaviour. They may well enlist the support of what is known as "flying monkeys", people that aid and abet the narcissist.
The second "how-to" is to decide how you are going to handle this relationship.
If you have children with this person, or they are a family member, typically a mother, father, sibling, son or daughter, you have to weigh up whether you can remain in this person's life, or "Grey Rock" which means to keep the contact between yourselves limited, not giving the narcissist fuel to press your buttons, so to speak. This also means learning to be less reactive to their attempts to spark an emotional response in you.
This is particularly harrowing if there are grandchildren involved, and the narcissistic son or daughter uses the grandchildren as pawns to prevent you from seeing them unless you behave in a certain way. It is all about control.
As the empath, you may continue to take abuse or being controlled/ignored by the narcissist because you feel they will eventually realise what they are doing. Sadly, they won't. The narcissist is not capable of love as we know it. If they have children, the children are more likely to be seen as trophies that they can show off, then discarding them if the child does something that is not to their liking.
Statistically, the victim will often only walk away after having been disrespected for a long period of time. There is typically a period of what is known as trauma bonding, where the victim will go back to the narcissist who may claim that they will change. This is to do with the tiny amounts of dopamine that we receive when the narcissist does something nice that we hang onto, trying to make this compensate for all of the other times that they behave in an unloving, uncaring way.
A narcissist can be very charming and this the case with both overt and covert narcissists. The difference is the covert narcissist in public comes across as very nice and humble, but behind closed doors, they are something else entirely.
The third "how-to" is recovery. Narcissistic abuse can often cause PTSD (or CPTSD). This is where a specialist therapist can offer the most support. Look out for these signs in yourself or someone that is experiencing narcissistic abuse:
An experienced NPD therapist can help with:
- generalised fear, anxiety, agitation
- night terrors
- self-destructive behaviour e.g. overeating, over-drinking, over-spending etc.
Developing physical symptoms of pain or dis-ease in your body as an emotional manifestation e.g. muscular pain, shortness of breath, bladder sensitivity, dizziness, chronic fatigue, panic attacks.
There may be an ancestral trauma of origin which also needs to be worked through, whereby the empath or co-dependent grew up in a narcissistic household and then married a narcissist because this is what they know as "normal". They may then go on to have narcissistic children together, particularly if the children adopt or models the narcissistic parent's behaviour towards the victim. This pattern is very common.
Your call to action if this resonates with you: Seek support with a professional hypnotherapist that understands the trauma of narcissistic abuse and can take you through this three-step process towards recovery.
You will come through it but it is going to take some soul searching and brave decisions on your part. Trauma bonding, as the term is known, is when you have become addicted to the narcissist's behaviour, often failing to see the height of their manipulation. You may leave or assert yourself with them for a short while, but then return or try again with this person. It typically takes 7-8 attempts at leaving or asserting yourself before you see the light.
The good news is that with an experienced therapist, you don't have to go through this alone. They will help you to set healthy boundaries, feel more confident with dealing with the narcissist, and ultimately, help you develop self-care to have the life you deserve.