Narcissist and Emotional Abuse
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The Narcissist and Emotional Abuse
Written by Alexander Burgemeester on August 8, 2013 · 3 Comments
Narcissists employ a variety of techniques to abuse their victims in order to control them. For that is the purpose of abuse- to control the other person. A narcissist may use emotional abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, or physical abuse. Verbal and physical abuses are straightforward-they are verbal and physical aggression directed at another person. Mental and emotional abuse is discussed as one and the same (often lumped together as “psychological abuse”) in many articles, but mental abuse is different from emotional abuse.
Mental abuse refers to the abuse of mental processes. Mental abuse is sometimes called “crazy making”. For example, when a narcissist tries to make their partner feel they are ‘crazy’ to cover their own guilt about something they want to hide. If they succeed in making their partner feel irrational and over-emotional, they may also lead other people in the family or community to believe their partner is unbalanced or ‘crazy’ too. The narcissist may do this to gain sympathy while hiding his or her own bad behavior. Instead of admitting responsibility for his or her failings, the mental abuser will attempt to put the blame on someone else.
What is emotional abuse?
Emotional abuse is a form of abuse that affects the victim’s emotions; it is characterized by a person subjecting another to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, poor self-esteem or post-traumatic stress disorder. Such abuse is often associated with situations of power imbalance such as in abusive relationships, bullying, and abuse in the workplace. Dominating behaviors are emotionally abusive (e.g., preventing someone from having contact with their family or jealous behaviors such as accusing a partner of maintaining other parallel relations). Another emotionally abusive trait includes causing fear by: intimidation, threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner’s family or friends, destruction of pets and property, forcing isolation from family, friends, or school or work. Rejecting, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting/exploiting and ignoring/silent treatment are also characteristics of emotional abuse.
A narcissist responds to their partner’s emotions in inappropriate ways. They may get grouchy when their partner is happy or they may act happy (or ignore them) when their partner feels angry, depressed or upset. They may even become aggressive and nasty when their significant other feels vulnerable, hurt or sad.
Another form of emotional abuse occurs when narcissists use their emotions to try and force their will on another person, e.g., insisting their partner obey them because they are angry, or expecting them to drop everything and ‘cheer them up’ if they are depressed, angry, sad or upset.
Emotionally Abusive Behaviors
The following are all behaviors a partner may experience from an emotionally abusive partner:
Withholding - Withholding love, affection, empathy, and intimacy
Countering – This is when the partner expresses a thought and the abuser immediately counters that view with his/her own without really listening to or considering it.
Discounting - When the abuser discounts the partner’s views or thoughts, tells the partner those ideas are insignificant, incorrect, or stupid. The abuser may even discount the partner’s memory about the abuse itself.
Blocking and diverting - When the partner wants to discuss a concern, the abuser changes the subject and prevents any discussion and resolution.
Accusing and blaming - The abuser will accuse the partner of some offense. The abuser may well know the partner is innocent of the supposed offense, but this tactic serves the purpose of putting the partner on the defensive rather than seeing clearly the behavior of the abuser.
Judging and criticizing - This serves to weaken the partner’s self-esteem and increases their looking to the abuser for validation.
Trivializing – This is when the abuser minimizes something that is important to the partner, such as a concern about something the abuser has done.
Undermining – When the partner wants to do something positive in her/his life, the abuser becomes threatened and tries to stop the partner. It may be an overt command, or it may be trying to subtly convince the partner why it’s a bad idea.
Threatening - This can include threats of divorce, of leaving, of abuse, or other threats of actions that would hurt (not necessarily physically) the partner or someone the partner cares about.
Forgetting - This includes the abuser ‘forgetting’ about incidents of abuse, which undermines the partner’s reality. The abuser may also ‘forget’ about things that they know are very important to their partner.
Ordering - Treating the partner as a child or a slave; denying the independence of the partner.
Denial – Similar to discounting, although here the abuser outright denies his/her actions. This discounts the reality of a partner.
Abusive Anger - When the abuser becomes enraged to the point of frightening the partner. This rage often is caused by incidents that a non-abuser would consider insignificant.
No matter which of the forms the narcissist uses, they are all abusive. Whether one labels what a narcissist does as verbal abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or economic abuse- some or all of these tactics are used to diminish their partner in order to keep them under his or her control.
Indeed, sometimes it is difficult to delineate what specific behaviors should be labeled what. How do you differentiate verbal abuse from emotional abuse when the abusive partner uses words to create the emotional pain? Labels don’t matter –not when you get right down to it. When you’re dealing with a narcissist, and you know his or her behavior has resulted in an abusive relationship, labeling each behavior he or she engages in isn’t important. What is important is that the narcissist is an abusive man or woman and that abuse is harming their partner.
*Emotional abuse can be just as (if not more) damaging as physical abuse.*
Thirteen Traits that Make You a Target for Abusers
In my counseling and coaching work I’ve observed 13 traits people possess that make them more vulnerable to being abused. Having any one of these traits or all of them does not make the abuse you experience your fault, but in your naiveté and/or unhealthiness, you do become a magnet that attracts abusive people.
These traits are not in any specific order nor do you have to have all of them to make you more vulnerable. Just having one of them can make you an abuse magnet and put you in an unhealthy or dangerous place in your relationships.
1. When you are initially attracted to someone you don’t look for good character qualities (such as honesty, faithfulness, diligence, and responsibility) but easily get swept away by charm (such as a great smile, a lot of money, the way he kisses you, his flattering words).
2. You frequently ignore your early gut instincts that something isn’t right. Instead you rationalize, minimize, or tell yourself you are imagining things or overreacting.
3. You believe you don’t deserve a better relationship, therefore, you settle for what you can get and what he gives you, even if it’s hurtful and abusive. You believe that having someone is better having than having no one.
4. You fall for smooth words and fast-talk over looking at the hard facts and his past behaviors.
5. You feel empty without a man (or woman) in your life.
6. You have a hard time sticking up for yourself in assertive ways. Sometimes you try but it’s usually in an aggressive over-the-top manner, which you later regret. In your guilt you revert back to your passive accommodating ways.
7. You typically over-function and/or under-function in your relationships. You feel all the responsibility to repair what is wrong and take all the blame. You tend to not think for yourself or make your own decisions. You allow yourself to be controlled.
8. You perpetually avoid conflict and feel bad or guilty for saying no to people
9. You cling to fantasy story lines and love myths such as if you love someone enough he/she will change, and God will make everything work out in the end.
10. You have few or no boundaries or you allow others to violate your boundaries with no consequences
11. You accept unacceptable behavior from others and blame yourself.
12. You do things for the other person that is against your own values and better judgment (like co-sign a loan, let him sleep over when you barely know him, lie for him).
13. You make excuses for abusive behavior or minimize and rationalize it. (He’s tired, he had an abusive father, he’s depressed, he’s had a hard day, he has poor self-esteem).
If you recognize yourself as having any of these thirteen traits and are tired of being an abuse magnet, NOW IS THE TIME to make some changes.
If you need help making those changes, check out my two upcoming classes: Moving Beyond People Pleasing and Building CORE Strength.
Are You a Magnet for Narcissists?
July 20, 2013
Please Note: You can skip whatever part you are not interested in – I’m assuming you’re interested in a part of this as you’re reading it – and go straight to whichever part you are looking for. PART ONE indulges my need to understand NPD due to my being the only child of two Narcissists. PART TWO is my experience of what attracts Narcissists. PART THREE is my experience of what having a relationships with a Narcissist means for the person who is a magnet for Narcissists like I am. PART FOUR is a bit of a rant about Narcissists and what I’ve learned about myself and self-expression due to repeatedly attracting them and learning shit from them.
I read a blog post the other day written by a woman who became alarmed that her propensity to attract Narcissists was a sign that she herself could be one. She had applied the relationship rule that we attract others who express who we are subconsciously, our shadow self, our unclaimed parts. That we project ourselves onto those with whom we have relationships and they reflect us back at ourselves.
I understand her alarm at the possibility that attracting Narcissists means she may be one. If you do a search for information on Narcissistic Personality Disorder the results are ugly. Whether the information comes from a mental health professional or a victim of a Narcissist, the picture portrayed of the disorder is The Picture of Dorian Gray. If in a moment of clarity, and they do have them, a Narcissist were to suspect that they had NPD, what they would read would be too awful to accept and they would retreat back into their disorder to protect themselves from the very wound they became a Narcissist to escape.
It doesn’t help that many people confuse Sociopathy with Narcissism. The two conditions have similarities, but they are not the same. Narcissists are mostly unaware of what they are doing. Sociopaths always know exactly what they are doing. Narcissists manipulate others because they need to control their reality, and others are part of their constructed reality, it is partly conscious, they do think that they are very clever, but it is largely subconscious. A Sociopath is always conscious. Narcissists do have feelings, much of their behavior stems from a need to not feel what they are feeling because their emotions are those of a young child, frightening, huge, uncontrollable, and they never learned how to process and deal with their emotions because the Narcissistic wound occurs during the phase when children learn to do so. Sociopaths do not feel, their wound occurred before the emotional nature developed.
Sociopathy occurs before the Narcissistic phase of development, and is usually the result of an infant undergoing abuse the likes of which most of us do not want to imagine. It has also been linked to early brain damage. The trauma which creates a Narcissist is very different from the trauma which creates a Sociopath.
A large percentage of Narcissists are created by one or both parents invading the fragile boundaries of a young child and pushing the emerging identity out of the body and replacing it with their own. They project themselves into the child and the child becomes them, losing touch with themselves and their real identity, which is why a Narcissist can change their identity easily, discarding one for another, because they have no fixed identity of their own. This kind of abuse is often unseen by others, as to the outside world the parent or parents of a Narcissist appear to be very loving, perhaps too loving, over-protective, sacrificing everything for the child. Parents who think that their very young child is a genius and who do everything in their power to nurture that genius, pushing the child to fulfill its potential often at the expense of the child having a childhood, run the risk of creating a Narcissist.
In some ways you could equate the Narcissistic wound to a country which has been invaded, the original inhabitants, the natives, are rounded up by the invaders and exterminated or exiled to an inhospitable, uninhabitable, part of the country. The invaders call themselves settlers and proceed to build a home in this new land, yet without any visceral connection to it all they see is the potential therein, the fertile fields which can be farmed until every nutrient is removed from the ground, the abundant wildlife which is hunted to extinction, the resources, the ore, the gold, the oil, removed from the earth, every inch exploited without thought for the consequences of the exploitation, because it doesn’t matter, once this country is empty of value, the settlers will unsettle themselves and move to new territory, repeat the cycle, because they have no real roots in this land. They have a homeland, but they choose for whatever reason not to live there, perhaps because they are unwelcome there and don’t feel a sense of belonging anywhere. The Earth is a temporary home.
Those who inflict the Narcissistic wound which creates a Narcissist never claim responsibility for what they have done. They did their very best, obviously the child was a bad seed and a bad egg. Either that or they never see the bad side of the Narcissist and tell their child that the world just isn’t prepared to accept such a superhuman being.
They do what they do to their child because they can and because they think it is good for them, and they tell themselves that they do it for the good of the Narcissist. They know better. Because those who create Narcissists are always in a position of power over the person, the child, who is made into a Narcissist, and they abuse that power, consciously sometimes, but often unconsciously. They often believe they are doing what is best for the child, and for themselves, but they often think they are sacrificing their good for the future of the child. They are noble in their quest. They often feel that they are harnessing the potential of the child, which the child will spend years wasting while being a child, while having a childhood, and which the child might waste as an adult too.
The Narcissist creator wants control of another’s life because they could live it better than the person to whom it belongs, because they feel that they have wasted their own life in some way and are angry about it. They need redemption, a second chance… and they take it, because they believe that you can make your own dreams come true by seizing whatever opportunity is available, even if it means kicking someone else, a child, out of their own body, and taking that body and mind over. The sacrifice will be worth it.
If you’re going to hate a Narcissist, spare some hate for those who created the Narcissist. Those who wounded a child so deeply that the child grew up to spread that wound around, and inflict the pain of the wound onto others. They did not do this to themselves. They did not wound themselves. Why would anyone do that to themselves, especially not a child. Human beings are designed by nature to avoid pain. We only hurt ourselves and others when we are already hurting.
There are a lot of Narcissists in our world, psychologists have come to the conclusion that we are living in a Narcissistic society. So the chances are that all of us will attract a Narcissist, maybe more, at some point and have a relationship with someone with NPD. This could be a boss, a colleague, a friend, a lover or a partner.
There are some traits which are particularly attractive to Narcissists, and if you display these traits you will be more prone to being a magnet for Narcissists. Many of the traits which Narcissists find attractive are the same ones we are encouraged to develop to be socially acceptable. They vary slightly with gender.
There is a myth that those with NPD are predominantly male. In my personal experience I have met more female Narcissists than male ones. I think the reason that there seems to be fewer female Narcissists than male ones can be explained by society’s behavioral excuse system – stereotypes. All women are crazy. Thus a female Narcissist is less likely to be seen as having NPD and more likely to be labeled as a woman being stereotypically crazy, prone to irrational emotional outbursts, and emotionally manipulative, in other words, hormonally challenged. Female Narcissists also tend to be very sexually aware, often displaying what is known as sexually inappropriate behavior, and will do things which will turn a man’s brain to mush. Thus men are less likely to realize that a woman has NPD. Other women will label such a woman with names which will be put down to envy and jealousy. A female Narcissist will often have few if any female friends, and she will be rather proud of this often stating boldly that she prefers men to women. A female Narcissist also makes very little distinction between seducing a male and seducing a female. Seduction is a very useful tool, people who are no longer thinking with their minds are easier to manipulate, and less likely to notice what you are doing. If they come to their senses, their embarrassment will protect the Narcissist. They will blame their own weakness, be ashamed of their own desire, and not blame and shame the Narcissist. The Narcissist will be gone before that penny drops, if it ever does.
So what does a Narcissist find attractive in others:
1.Niceness. A willingness to compliment others and a reticence to criticize. A tendency to promote the positive traits of others and to overlook anything which might be negative. A desire to put the pleasure of others before your own. You make the needs of others your priority over your own needs. To please. To do what others want to do. A need to be liked and a horror of being disliked.
This is attractive because Narcissists need an endless supply of reassurance that they are wonderful, intelligent, talented, gifted, beautiful, and the most amazing person you have ever met. Their self-image is a balloon which is constantly deflating and they can’t blow it up themselves, they need others to fill it with air for them. This is what is primarily known as Narcissistic supply. If compliments are withheld a Narcissist will have a tantrum because they are panicking due to the deflating balloon. Thus Narcissists will surround themselves with Yes men and women who are too afraid of them to ever say No. If you ever say No you will be discarded and bad mouthed to the other Yes men and women. An example will be made of you to discourage mutiny in others.
2.Self Control. The tendency not to want to bother others with your problems. To handle your own shit privately on your own. To not burden others with your issues, your feelings, your needs, your emotions. Self-reliance and self-sufficiency. Not only do you handle your own shit, but you’re very good at handling the shit which belongs to others. A parental figure. A hero or heroine.
This is attractive to Narcissists for several key reasons. They are often looking for a parental figure. Their true self was replaced by one or both of their parents, and this relationship in their formative years created the template for their relationships in their adult years. They also seek to be in control, they are control freaks, but they never feel that they are in control even when they appear to be. They live in fear of losing what control they believe that they have. So someone who appears to them to be a master of self-control is someone they want to absorb into themselves. They want to become you, and they will often do a Single White Female (even if male) identity theft on those they want to become. To them this is how an identity is created. Through shape-shifting mimicry. This trait is also attractive because they feel safe in the knowledge that someone who is in complete control of themselves will not make any demands on them. That you will not ask them to shoulder any of your problems. They admire this. Anything they admire, they want. They also feel that your shoulders are big enough to take on all their problems and that you will solve them for them, take care of them, and, most importantly, that you will take their wound out of them into yourself and heal it for them. This is an identity swap contract of sorts, you take everything from them that they don’t want and deal with it, and they take everything from you that they want and thus they can create the perfect identity for themselves.
3.Empathy. The ability to know what others are feeling without others telling you. To meet the needs of others before others know they have those needs. To pick up subtle hints and to cater to them.
Many Narcissists believe that they are very empathic. This is because they have huge unexpressed emotions which they experience as being outside of themselves, thus belonging to others. An empathy has fragile boundaries. Narcissists have no boundaries. There is no difference between them and others. Others are an extension of themselves. Because the Narcissistic wound occurs at the stage when a child is still in a symbiotic relationship with mother, with father, with the world around them and they have not yet learned to differentiate between self and other. Thus their emotions in their eyes are the emotions of others. The main reason Narcissists find empathic people attractive is because those with a high level of empathy absorb the emotions of others easily and are often open to taking them on and into themselves. Empaths are also reluctant to give their emotions to others because they are aware of the inner pain and confusion this can cause and so they are very considerate to the point of self-sacrifice. Narcissists have a god complex, so someone willing to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the Narcissist’s self-image is very desirable and pleasing. They can give you their rage, their pain, their hurt, their wounding, their darkness, and any other emotions they are too afraid to feel, which they can’t deal with, process or release, and thus they are free to not feel a thing and thus proclaim themselves a god or goddess.
So now that you have an idea of why you attracted a Narcissist, what they seek from the relationship, and what they get from being with you. The gifts you give them. And since all relationships are a two-way street. The question is, what does a Narcissist give to you?
What do you really get from having a relationship with a Narcissist? Why were you attracted to them? Not the conscious reasons, such as the fact that most Narcissists are very charming, larger than life, and usually swoop into your life on a chariot of fire, sweep you off your feet and carry you off into a wonderful fantasyland for a while. Stop blaming yourself for falling for them, they are irresistible. Stop raging at them for having ruined your life, abused you, and made you feel worthless, and thank them for it. Sound weird? Wrong? Let me explain…
1. You’re too nice. Your niceness is a lovely trait which many people find wonderful and attractive. You enjoy being nice. It has many perks. BUT. It is not all of you. You have a fierce side too. We all do. The Narcissist abusing your niceness is there to inspire you to claim your darker side. The side which you may be being too nice to express and thus you’re not tapping into all the power within you.
A really good book to read, which I highly recommend and which helped me enormously is – The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. In it he outlines why being too nice can cost you your safety, your life and your sanity. And how balancing out your niceness with fierceness, doesn’t take away from the joy of being nice, but adds to it. Be nice, but learn to protect your right to be nice with a fierce dragon who burns those who want to take advantage of your niceness. Learn to say NO with the same enthusiasm with which you say YES.
2. You’re too controlled. Your self-control is admirable, but if you’re overdoing it, then you’re a prisoner of it. Learn to let go and let loose. One of the things which really annoys me about some of the advice given about How Not to Attract a Narcissist is that it mostly relates to controlling who you are. Stopping you from being you, because being who you are is dangerous to yourself. Rubbish. There are a lot of Narcissists in this world, you’re going to bump into them, and if you have to live in fear of who you attract, and the solution is to be less of yourself, to control self-expression more than usual… that sucks as a solution. In fact being more of yourself is the real solution. Because then, even if you do attract a Narcissist, you will scare the crap out of them and they’ll run away in awe, or stick around and not mess with you.
3. You’re too empathic. Your empathy shows you your connectedness with others. Empathy is a very valuable trait. However you need to strengthen your fragile boundaries between you and others.
Empathy should not make you weak, but stronger. If it is making you vulnerable to others, then shut it down for a while, focus on yourself, find your emotions, and learn to recognize them so that you can differentiate between yours and those of others. Your emotions have a very personal marker. Listen, focus, and get to know that marker. Then, once you know it, open yourself up again, but remember you can shut your open boundaries any time you need to. You are not responsible for the emotions of others. Personal responsibility and accountability is key, and very healthy. If you allow the emotions of others in to you, to your awareness, that is your responsibility and you are accountable for that. What you do with your sensory knowledge is your responsibility. You can learn to control your empathy without becoming heartless and losing the joy of having such a beautiful gift. It takes time, practice, making mistakes, and having empathy for yourself too. That is compassion. If your empathy excludes you, it is incomplete. Start with yourself, then work your way outwards.
Narcissists absolutely hate authenticity. They do not know how to be authentic, and they long to be authentic, burn and yearn for it, but they can’t be it, so they hate it. It is kryptonite to their superman/woman self/non-self.
Their main tools of controlling others are blame, shame, criticism, censorship, and anything else which makes another person adapt their self-expression to suit others. They encourage political correctness, politeness, social niceties, and compromise in others to suit them. They use emotional blackmail to get you to willingly do what they want you to do. The prize for your subordination is that they may use you again.
So. Speak your mind. Express your emotions. Smile when you’re happy, frown when you’re angry, and cry when you’re sad. Don’t say you’re fine if you’re not, say exactly what you are really feeling. Ignore their attempts to shut you up. If they have a tantrum, scream louder if you want to, or walk out and leave them to it, but don’t let their display of grandiose and overwhelming emotions stop you from expressing yourself.
They are not a child, don’t treat them like one, and don’t become their parent.
Don’t be sensitive to their needs if it means being insensitive to your own. They are not, no matter what they tell you, sensitive to your needs in any other way than to use your needs against you to manipulate you.
Put yourself first, because what they want is for you to put them first, and to put yourself last or even better forget about yourself completely.
You being you, all of you, uncensored, is a frightening and horrifying monster to a Narcissist. Because you are being real, and real people scare the shit out of Narcissists. They are not being real, they know that they are not being real, even if most of that knowledge is buried in their subconscious and they think that they are very real. They think everyone else is as fake as they are, in fact they think others are more fake than they are. They are their reference point for the world. They can’t express genuine emotions, or voice their real thoughts, and they apply this to others. They don’t actually know how to be real, and the very thought of it scares them. So when you are real and genuine, it stirs up the real person buried deep within them, and they live in fear of their real self because they don’t know who their real self is, it is unknown, and the fear of the unknown chills them to the marrow. This fear of their real self is the spur which governs their entire life, and all of their subsequent behavior is an attempt to escape and kill this real self-off, and replace it with an idealized self of their own creation.
The ultimate lesson and gift that a relationship with a Narcissist gives you is this… Be yourself, all of you.
What is a Narcissist – someone who doesn’t know who their real self is. What attracts a Narcissist to you – they think you know who you are and they want you to teach them how to know who their real self is. What do you get from a relationship ship with a Narcissist – the ability to see what not being yourself can do to you and to others.
The ultimate goal of a Narcissist is to be superhuman. To escape being human. The purpose of life is to be human. If we were not meant to be human, we would not be having a being human experience. The purpose of death is to be super human. As in we cast off the mortal, human being, coil and that’s that… the bit afterwards depends on your beliefs.
Be yourself. All of yourself, the good and the bad, the light and the dark, the positive and the negative. Embrace it all into one. Only you know who that is and how to be you. That’s your gift. That is what makes life worth living. And don’t forget you’re a human being… mistakes are a part of that, make them, learn from them, regret them, and be kind to yourself, even when you’re not.