Narcissists suffer from what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines as narcissistic injury:
“… vulnerability in self-esteem which makes narcissistic people very sensitive to ‘injury’ from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack.”
To a narcissist, separation or divorce is both criticism and defeat. Even if they are the ones who chose to end the relationship. They will view you as the one who abandoned them by not being the “saviour” they needed you to be, which they interpret as rejection and defeat.
It can make leaving a narcissistic relationship incredibly difficult.
You stay and continue to be demeaned, controlled and diminished.
You leave and be attacked.
They will use a range of tactics to exact their revenge with the most powerful being turning the children against you and using Family Court to punish you.
This hits you financially, emotionally, energetically and spiritually.
Narcissist do not easily recover from narcissistic injury. They aren’t the “forgive and forget” type. They will hold this grudge for eternity and drag you back and forth through Family Court despite the expense.
They may not always be the ones turning to court though, they could completely abandon the system and take their own form of justice – what they say is true (another narcissistic classic). This results in victims having to continually return to court for access to children, to enforce orders and even to make basic decisions.
In court, narcissistic injury presents as cleverly executed counterattacks – you hit them, they raise the bar with a fresh allegation. Every effort you make to be treated equally is met with retaliation. All designed to get you to submit.
So how do you overcome this relentless pursuit of “justice” (a very distorted “eye for an eye” philosophy)?
My top tips for handling narcissistic injury in the court process are:
- Stay focused on your goal – don’t get drawn into their game. They want you to be tied up in the sheer volume of allegations and threats so that you can’t prove the truth
- Keep your emotions in check – this behaviour is an attempt by the narcissist to self soothe by putting all their anxiety onto you. This is all in an attempt to bait you into reacting so that they can stand back and go “there, see, I told you so”
- Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries – their energy is intense and it can feel like your own. Putting boundaries in place regarding when/how to contact, your own responses and recognising your own triggers will protect you from being gaslighted by them and their flying monkeys.
If you are heading to court against a narcissistic ex and want support, check out our online course https://thenurturingcoach.co.uk/get-court-ready