Have you ever felt like everything you say is wrong? No matter how hard you try, nothing you do is ever good enough? You can never seem to accomplish what you set out to do the way you had intended?
Do you feel this way because your partner is telling you so?
All too often, women enter into relationships with charming, charismatic, intriguing men who seem to fit the bill of the ‘perfect Prince Charming’, only to quickly realize they’ve fallen for an imposter. As if a switch is suddenly flipped, one day they wake up and everything they believed to be true was nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Welcome to the world of narcissistic abuse. Pathological narcissism, also termed subclinical narcissism or Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD) is a variant of psychopathy and is a very real and very serious condition. The disorder is characterized by a false grandiose sense of self which masks deep-seated shame associated with trauma. That’s a fancy way of saying the narcissists are great actors. Their exterior self doesn’t match the interior.
Narcissists initially present as very charming, sociable, well-liked and well-off. This, naturally, draws potential partners to them. However, victims unlucky enough to be sucked into the sadistic game quickly begin to feel as if something is wrong in their relationship—although many find they can’t put a finger on just what. Slowly and surely the narcissist’s mask is removed, and little by little cracks begin to surface, until the deranged monster that was always hidden underneath becomes visible.
Relationships with narcissists typically follow a path defined by three stages – idealize, devalue, discard. In the beginning, everything seems perfect. Victims are swept off their feet. They feel extremely lucky to have found their ideal mate. In devalue, however, the narcissist begins to poke and prod, making derogatory comments here and there about the victim, making her begin to doubt herself and feel as if she cannot live without her mate. This goes on for a substantial amount of time—long enough for the victim to feel entirely trapped if she so allows.
Victims begin to feel highly anxious and may experience panic attacks in devalue, or slip into a deep depression. They feel as if everything they’ve ever believed is a lie, everyone they’ve ever trusted is untrustworthy. Nothing seems to matter anymore. And, this is very, very purposeful. The narcissist has paved the path to total dependency and reliance on him. He has ensured his victim is physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially dependent and cannot easily leave.
The final stage is every woman’s worst nightmare. Suddenly, they’ve entered into an episode of Investigation Discovery’s Who The (Bleep) Did I Marry? as the narcissist chooses to totally discard them once and for all.
Devalue usually transitions to discard once the victim begins to retaliate, outs the narcissist, and, in doing so, inflicts narcissistic injury. This is a term used to describe the reaction a narcissist has to a victim who challenges him. He not only is hurt and feels slighted, but becomes completely determined to destroy his opponent. He’s worked so hard to take everything valuable away, so the victim is nothing more than a pawn. How dare she challenge this! How dare she doubt the process! He will stop at nothing to seek revenge and ensure she is punished.
Narcissists are skilled liars and manipulators. They use and abuse, and their false facades are no more than robotic shells programmed to destroy. Underneath, they are almost inhuman. Exposing them will unleash narcissistic fury. And if a victim is lucky enough to escape relatively unscathed, she can expect to experience indefinite hoovering—consistent lingering. Narcissists never go away.
Victims who have been burned (and continue to be) by narcissists are hyper-aware of narcissistic traits, paranoid perhaps. They tend to carry the trauma into future relationships. However, this doesn’t necessarily need to be so.
The key to healing from narcissistic abuse is to spend a sufficient amount of time alone. That’s right—completely alone. We cannot be afraid of time spent only with ourself. After all, we need to truly understand what we are attracted to and what makes us tick, so to speak, so the cycle isn’t repeated and future partners aren’t bruised and beaten by emotional baggage.
We also need to go no contact with our abusers as much as possible. Even if there are child custody issues. Even if we have mutual friends. Above all, we must learn to love ourselves again.