Thing about narcissistic abuse is it you don’t see it coming

They can be absolutely lovely. Sweep you off your feet. Be everything you want them to be. 

The abuse is so diluted at first that you don’t notice it. 

Maybe your loved ones do But if they say anything. 

Then you push them away. Because you think they’re being unfair. 

When the truth is they can see the change. They can see those subtle differences in you and also in the relationship. 

They might start to separate you from the people you love. And if it’s brought up by the people that you love again, you defend your partner. 

Because you can’t see it.  co parenting with a narcissist

And often their own families are abusive and they too lure you in with promises and do nice things, sometimes over-the-top nice things so that you almost feel on a subconscious level that you owe them in some way. 

And then it’s used against you. So if ever you were to question that person your partner would say, how can you say that after everything they’ve done for us. They also forget what your family have done for them quite easily. Your family may have made the exact same gesture, but it’s not even mentioned or even belittled. 

Their family are put on a pedestal and become everything. Everything you do starts to revolve around their friends and their family. 

While your own friends and family get gradually shut out. It’s so small that you don’t notice it but it starts with spending less time with them. Prioritizing their family and spending less and less time with your family or friends. 

Rushing to get away from your family. 

Making excuses why you can’t see your family. Lying to your family 

They will ask you to lie to your own family and friends and you’ll do it because they’ll justify it. 

But deep down there’s a part of you that doesn’t like doing it and that shame pushes you away from your family. Because your family know that they’re being lied to and you don’t want to have that conversation with them because you know that it means lying more and so you stay away. And end up spending more and more time with their family and friends until all you know, is that their world and then it’s easy to distort your reality. Easy for them to control you, easy for them to say what is happening and what isn’t happening. 

Before you know it you don’t know who you are anymore. You don’t have your own support. You’re on your own and so you stay because you’ve got no one. You worried that your family don’t want to speak to you anymore that you’ve rejected them and there’s no going back. I want to say to you that your family will always be there for you , to go back to them if you need to. They will always forgive you. They know and they see what is happening. And they love you. And they will support you. So don’t ever be afraid to go back to them. 

Your friends are the same. They probably have seen the change in you. But haven’t been able to say anything or if they have said anything you have fallen out with them. They’ll take you back. They’ll still be your friend. If you go to them and tell them the difficult situation you’re in they’ll support you. You are not alone. Don’t ever feel that you are alone because it gives the narcissist more power. You being isolated is everything that they need to control your whole life.

What is a narcissist?

  • Cluster B personality disorder
  • 1 in 100 people have the traits
  • Only 1% of population diagnosed
  • 1 narcissist affects 60 people

The DSM V uses the following criteria to diagnose NPD (patient must have 5 or more):

(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements) 

(2) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love 

(3) believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions) 

(4) requires excessive admiration 

(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations 

(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends 

(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others 

(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her 

(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Narcissistic Abuse Tactics

They Create Anxiety in Their Victims: A Narcissists moods can be very volatile. They can rage at the slightest provocation and take out their wrath on their nearest and dearest. As a result a codependent, who is already accustomed to ignoring their feelings, learns to tip toe around the precarious moods of their partner. They walk around on egg shells, never knowing when the next proverbial shoe will drop. If this anxiety continues for a prolonged period of time and goes untreated physical ailments have been know to occur.

They Wear Down Your Self-Esteem: Either overtly or covertly they take aim at those parts of you that you are most ashamed of. They criticize everything you do, how you look, how you behave, even your very existence. The assault can be so pervasive that you become like a shell of a human being, believing that you can’t do anything right and little by little the Narcissist takes over every aspect of your life. You get to a point where you leave everything to them, believing that they know better. You lose yourself in the relationship and let go of your autonomy.

They Condition Their Partners to Behave Using Negative Reinforcement: When a Narcissist’s partner stands up for themselves, acts independently or in a manner they disapprove of, a Narcissist will use negative reinforcement to keep them in line.  It’s a form of operant conditioning coined and identified by F.B Skinner. It’s the removal of a stimulus the subject wants or requires. Like taking a cell phone away from a misbehaving teenager, a Narcissist will remove themselves by disappearing or giving you the silent treatment. We learn through both positive and negative reinforcement. Conditioning is just another tool a Narcissist uses to subjugate their victims.

Gas Lighting: Gas lighting is the most recent buzz word surrounding Narcissists. It’s a manipulation tactic used by Narcissist to get their victims to question their memory, perception and sanity. They plant seeds of doubt and confusion to further weaken your grasp on reality.

They Display a Complete Lack of Empathy: They fail to celebrate or acknowledge anything that is important to, or about their partners. They don’t buy gifts, or recognize their partner’s achievements. They may pick fights right before a birthday, or the holidays to give themselves justification for their behavior. They don’t want their partners to get too confident. A confident partner is a partner who might decide they’ve had enough of their abuse and leave. A Narcissist fears abandonment and will guard against that at all costs. Making their partners feel small and insignificant is a great way to do that.

They Isolate You From Everyone You Love and Trust: There is always a big fuss anytime you want to spend time with people you care about. They berate and rant about how awful your friends or family are and anytime you talk about them or want to see them a confrontation ensues. They do this because they have spent so much effort into making you doubt your reality and they don’t want that messed up by people that have the ability to make you see the truth. The problem is that you have likely already bought into the Narcissist’s game plan. Your friends and family will tell you to get the hell out of there, like any sane person would, but they don’t understand the dynamic you’re stuck in. When you continue to stay, after revealing horrific details of the abuse, they get frustrated with your behavior to the point where you don’t want to tell them anything anymore, because you can’t deal with their criticism and disappointment,  you stop talking and continue to hide your feelings.

They Play Mind Games: A Narcissist is always playing a game of one-upmanship. If you think you’ve caught them in something they will lie and make up a story. If you accuse them of bad behavior they will profect that behavior back on you and accuse you of the same thing. They are always trying to outsmart their partners and stay one step ahead of them, everything is a game and keeping you in the dark in regards to their behavior, true feelings and motivations feeds their ego. It makes them feel superior and reinforces their belief that you are lacking intelligence and are in fact inferior.

They are Vengeful: Fear of punishment and retribution are powerful motivators. If you know that you will be yelled at, physically harmed, humiliated, insulted, have your children harmed, your property destroyed or have anything that holds meaning to you taken away, you can be trained to be obedient. In Narcissistic/Codependent relationships there is always a power differential and they use that power as a means of control. They will teach you that everything is their way or the highway and when you do not comply you will be punished, in one way or another, until you comprehend that everything is always all about them. This constant erosion of boundaries, expectations, and the irrelevance they put on your needs and want is another hit to an already fragile sense of self.

Signs of Narcissistic Abuse

  • Regular bouts of illness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Withdrawn
  • Lack of identity
  • Low self esteem
  • Socially isolated
  • PTSD

Recovery From Narcissistic Abuse

It takes time and support.  You will feel like you are going backwards sometimes but every step is a step away from the abuse.  Through our work we have identified 9 stages of recovery you will go through:

  1. grief  
  2. acceptance
  3. self doubt and questioning
  4. taking back control
  5. rebuilding you
  6. dealing with triggers
  7. surviving
  8. emerging
  9. winning

We explain more about each stage in our blog post 9 Stages Of Recovery.  We also have our Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Workbook to help you with each stage.

If you are struggling with recovering from narcissitic abuse, either from a narcissistic parent or narcissistic ex and would benefit from one:one support, book in for a free consultation with Rachel (adult children of narcissists expert) or Janine (narcissistic abuse recovery expert).