People often stay in abusive relationships because of something called ‘trauma bonding’ — here are the signs it’s happening to you

People often don’t even realise they are in an abusive relationship.

It can be hard for others to understand why someone stays with an abusive partner.

It’s often because of something called “trauma bonding,” where you become addicted to the hormonal rollercoaster an abuser sends you on.

Those who have never been in an abusive relationship struggle to understand how people remain in one for so long. If somebody was mistreating you, “why did you stick around?” they ask.

For survivors, this can be a really tough question to answer. The lucky ones escape, and stumble upon articles or books that give them the terms to be able to understand what happened to them, and thus describe their experience. Other times, though, this doesn’t happen, and people might not even be aware they were in a relationship that could be classed as “abusive.”

This is because we are conditioned to believe abuse is always physical. On TV and in films, we see characters who are obviously evil. They are violent to their partners, shout at them aggressively, or even murder them in a fit of rage. While this does happen, it’s not a true representation of the abuse many others experience.

According to therapist Shannon Thomas, author of “Healing from Hidden Abuse,” psychological abuse is insidious, and it occurs a over time like an IV drip of poison entering your veins.

It starts with an off-hand comment here, or an insult there, but often victims brush these moments off. This is because abusive people are great at pretending to be everything you’re looking for in a partner, and they love bomb you with affection. Victims tend to believe this is the abuser’s real self, and when the mask starts to slip more and more, they believe its “out of character” and it must be their own fault for making their partner angry.

People stay in these relationships partly because they are trying to win back the abuser’s affection. However, Thomas told Business Insider that victims also become biologically attached to their abusers through something called “trauma bonding.”

It’s like an addictive drug.

It’s a bit like becoming addicted to a drug. A psychologically abusive relationship is a rollercoaster, with punishment and then intermittent reinforcement of kindness when you “behave.” This means the body is going through its own turmoil, with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, paired with dopamine when given affection as a reward.

“You have this back and forth, and the body becomes addicted,” Thomas said. “When we’re looking for something that we want, that we once had, which is a connection with somebody, and they are playing cat and mouse where they are pulling it back and forth, then the body really does become dependent on having that approval.”

This hormonal rollercoaster really takes its toll on someone’s body. Victims might find they break out in acne, even though they’ve always had good skin. They might have chest pains. Thomas has said that in her practise she has even seen her clients develop autoimmune disorders.

“Their bodies start to shut down, and they start really struggling with chronic pain, migraines, and some arthritic type pains and conditions, and they just can’t fight infections as well,” she said. “The body really can only take so much stress.”

Victims stay in these relationships despite of the stress on their bodies, because often it isn’t clear to them what the problems really are. Through gaslighting, control, and intermittent love, the abuser has their partner backed into a corner of self-blame and desperation of trying to win back the affection of the person they love.

Unfortunately, for many people, when they try to leave these relationships they are so bonded to their abuser that they return. Others don’t try to leave at all, and are only freed from the clutches of the abuse when they are discarded.

An abusive relationship with a narcissist or psychopath tends to follow the same pattern: idealisation, devaluation, and discarding. At some point, the victim will be so broken, the abuser will no longer get any benefit from using them. They may have totally bankrupted them, or destroyed their confidence, or worse, and they move on to their next target.

However, once they are gone, the victim – or survivor as Thomas calls them at this point – can finally start coming round to the idea they were abused. They can grieve, and finally see the damage that was being done, and realise it wasn’t their fault.

That’s when the healing can really begin, Thomas says, and the survivor can realise that they were targeted not because they were weak, but because they had so much to give.

These are the signs you might be in a trauma bond with someone,according to Psych Central:

  • A constant pattern of nonperformance – your partner promises you things, but keeps behaving to the contrary.
  • Others are disturbed by something that is said or done to you in your relationship, but you brush it off.
  • You feel stuck in the relationship because you see no way out.
  • You keep having the same fights with your partner that go round in circles with no real winner.
  • You’re punished or given the silent treatment by your partner when you say or do something “wrong.”
  • You feel unable to detach from your relationship even though you don’t truly trust or even like the person you’re in it with.
  • When you try and leave, you are plagued by such longing to get back with your partner you feel it might destroy you.

Full article: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/trauma-bonding-explains-why-people-often-stay-in-abusive-relationships-2017-8

How Society Gaslights Survivors of Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths (A Guide for Therapists, Law Enforcement and Loved Ones)

“There is a class of individuals who have been around forever and who are found in every race, culture, society and walk of life. Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought. These often charming—but always deadly—individuals have a clinical name: psychopaths. Their hallmark is a stunning lack of conscience; their game is self-gratification at the other person’s expense. Many spend time in prison, but many do not. All take far more than they give.” – Dr. Robert Hare, The Charming Psychopath

As an author who writes for abuse survivors, I’ve communicated with thousands of people who have been affected by malignant narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths as partners, friends, family members, co-workers or even bosses. Throughout the course of my work, I’ve noticed a common theme: the societal invalidation and gaslighting of survivors.

This form of secondary gaslighting and invalidation is incredibly painful, especially when it comes from the very professionals, friends and family members who are meant to help support the survivor on their healing journey. Not only does secondary gaslighting from other people further isolate the survivor, it actually hinders the healing process. I can’t tell you the number of times a survivor has reached out to me to tell me the painful effects of being invalidated by a friend, a family member, a spiritual leader or even a therapist who dispensed ill-informed, sometimes even victim-blaming ideas.

This also contributes to a global Gaslighting Effect in which speaking out about abuse by covert manipulators is met with some form of backlash, victim-blaming, and victim-shaming by enablers of abusers and abusers themselves. Survivor Ariel Leve explains that this form of secondary gaslighting in incredibly traumatic to the survivor. As she says, “It wasn’t just that my reality was canceled, but that my perception of reality was overwritten…it wasn’t the loudest and scariest explosions that caused the most damage. It wasn’t the physical violence or the verbal abuse or the lack of boundaries and inappropriate behavior. What did the real damage was the denial that these incidents ever occurred…the erasure of the abuse was worse than the abuse.”

How Have We Harmed Survivors? How Do We Help Them?

I want to preface this by saying that there are many excellent therapists, life coaches, writers and advocates who are well-informed about the effects of being with a highly manipulative, narcissistic individual. Unfortunately, there are also professionals and laypersons out there who inadvertently retraumatize survivors because of a lack of knowledge about how covert manipulation tactics work – as well as the effects of this type of trauma. Some survivors are even misdiagnosed by therapists when they are in fact suffering from PTSD or Complex PTSD from years of chronic abuse.

It’s important to learn the appropriate ways of communicating with survivors of malignant narcissists – those who lack empathy, who exploit others for their own gain, who abuse others chronically, and who lack remorse and conscience for their actions.

Here are common mistakes people make when communicating with survivors of this type of insidious violence:

1) Treating the abuse as a “compatibility” issue, a “bad break-up” or minimizing the pathological behavior of the abuser by equating it to that of the garden-variety jerk.

What we need to understand as a society is that malignant narcissism is not an “everyday” problem. While narcissism does exist on a spectrum, many of the survivors who are reeling from the trauma of emotional abuse have encountered individuals on the extreme end of the spectrum. They have met predatory individuals who have systematically stripped them of their self-worth and confidence. Victims of malignant narcissists often undergo emotional, psychological, spiritual, financial and sometimes even sexual or physical abuse.

Someone who is a malignant narcissist has characteristics that go beyond selfishness, self-centeredness or vanity. They have antisocial traits such as a lack of remorse, a failure to conform to social norms, impulsivity, aggression, and a lack of conscience. This is someone who can engage in inhumane cruelty and acts of both psychological and physical violence just to get their needs met.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula (2018), an expert on relationship abuse, notes, “I’ve done research and work in that area of domestic violence or what’s also called intimate partner violence, and most people who perpetrate domestic violence are either narcissistic or psychopathic. So there is danger there, in other words, they will dispose of you if you get in their way.” 

The narcissistic or sociopathic abuser is not “just” a cheater, a player, or a “difficult” individual – and you cannot approach them as such. They tend to be chronically abusive, manipulative, deceptive and ruthless in their mind games. They can even escalate into horrific acts of violence.

When unwilling to receive or unresponsive to treatment, the malignant narcissist is someone with hardwired behavioral patterns which cause irreparable harm to others.

Whether you’re a therapist, an advocate, part of law enforcement, a family member or a friend of a survivor, be wary of giving out advice or counsel that would apply to garden-variety toxic people. For example, sometimes “direct communication” or assertiveness can actually enrage an abuser or give them information these manipulators can use as ammunition. Survivors would need strategies which are tailored to the dangerous aspects of exiting a relationship like this.

The same advice you give to someone dealing with an empathic person does not apply to someone who is empathy-impaired and intentionally and sadistically posing harm.

2) Interrupting key features of the healing process by trying to get the survivor to “heal” quickly.

While every healing journey is unique, the journeys of narcissistic abuse survivors have many similarities across the board because the same manipulation tactics are being used. A survivor of habitual gaslighting by an abuser is suffering from the extreme effects of cognitive dissonance. They are trying to reconcile their abuser’s false image which “hooked” them initially with the abuser’s true callous and cold self.

As a result of this, survivors tend to ruminate over incidents of abuse as well as the initial love-bombingthey received from their abusers. Baffled onlookers (counselors, friends, family members) may assume that the survivor is “stuck” or “can’t move forward” because they ruminate over the incidents of abuse.

What they fail to understand is that rumination and over-analysis are effects of the trauma they experienced.

Survivors of any form of abuse are always attempting to sift through the thoughts, feelings, and memories which have caused them this cognitive dissonance. That’s why they tend to tell their stories again and again – because they are attempting to provide a coherent narrative to the trauma they just experienced.

This narrative allows them to overcome the cognitive dissonance and dissociation (including the disconnect among thoughts, memories, emotions) they experienced as a result of the abuse. As Andrea Schneider, LCSW (2014), writes, “Cognitive dissonance is diffused and reduced when the survivor of narcissistic abuse is able to receive validation and confirmation of the reality of his or her circumstances.” 

To interrupt the process of rumination in a way that is judgmental and invalidating is especially harmful to a survivor who is just trying to figure out what happened to them. While you can certainly provide tips on healthier alternatives to excessive rumination, do not judge the rumination as a “defect” or “flaw” on the part of the survivor. It is a normal part of the journey to healing. A healthy way to interrupt rumination might be to ask what the survivor can do to better reconnect with the reality of the abuse they experienced and guide them to reconcile their cognitive dissonance by acknowledging the abuser’s disordered nature or tactics. This will help to decrease the gaslighting effect.

3) Making the victim responsible for the actions of the abuser and failing to recognize the impact of the trauma bond.

I understand that mental health professionals may only be treating the victim, so some feel they cannot “speak” to the actions of the abuser. Some law enforcement officials may be confused as to why the victim does not “press charges” or even defends the abuser. Friends and family members may also hesitate to “judge” a situation they themselves are not intimately involved in. However, aside from guiding the survivor to leaving the abuser safely, placing a hyper-focus on what the victim must do in the early stages of healing can be detrimental.

Asking the victim to continually “look within” in the very first weeks of recovery can even cross over the line to victim-blaming. Therapists, law enforcement officials, and loved ones must acknowledge the effects of the trauma bond that survivors developed with their abuser throughout the course of the relationship. This is a bond created by the intense, emotional experiences in the abuse cycle. Giving survivors tips and tools to gradually break what Dr. Patrick Carnes calls “the betrayal bond” is essential to their recovery journey.

Victims of malignant narcissists have heard many variations of victim-shaming statements such as the following even in the very beginning of their healing journey:

“You have to let it go.”

“You need to move forward.”

“You might be codependent.”

“Let’s talk about you, not him/her.”

“Why did you stay so long? Let’s explore that.”

These statements may come from a place of wanting the survivor to own their agency. However, when said in the early stages of recovery, they can retraumatize the survivor. A survivor at this stage is usually heavily trauma-bonded to their abusers. This means that regardless of any codependent traits (which may not even apply to them at all), they have bonded to the abuser in the abuse cycle in an effort to survive the abuse.

Dr. Joe Carver (2006) notes the dual impact of this bond and cognitive dissonance in his article, “The Small Kindness Perception”:

“The combination of “Stockholm Syndrome” and “cognitive dissonance” produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival. The victim feels they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended. In long-term relationships, the victims have invested everything and placed “all their eggs in one basket”. The relationship now decides their level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health.

Importantly, both Stockholm Syndrome and cognitive dissonance develop on an involuntary basis. The victim does not purposely invent this attitude. Both develop as an attempt to exist and survive in a threatening and controlling environment and relationship…They are trying to survive. Their personality is developing the feelings and thoughts needed to survive the situation and lower their emotional and physical risks…The victim is engaged in an attempt to survive and make a relationship work. Once they decide it doesn’t work and can’t be fixed, they will need our support as we patiently await their decision to return to a healthy and positive lifestyle.”

This trauma bond is strong and demands attention. This was not a normal breakup. The survivor at this point has gone through a great deal of gaslighting and needs to work through what the abuser has done to them before they move onto actions which actively support their healing. They need to connect to a vocabulary of the abuse they experienced.  That is why they need to talk about their abuser first – to establish the tactics used and the effects of these tactics – before even attempting to move forward in any tangible way.

4) Mistaking the abuser as well-intentioned and communicating this to the survivor. 

Narcissistic or sociopathic abusers tend to be very charming and can hook, dupe and manipulate even the most skilled of professionals. Just ask Dr. Robert Hare, creator of the Psychopathy Checklist, who admits to still being duped despite his expertise!

I have heard many horror stories of what occurred when survivors of narcissists entered into couples therapy with their abusers. The National Domestic Violence Hotline actually advises against couples therapy because an abusive relationship has a severe power imbalance. To be in a therapy room with an abuser is to give the abuser access to manipulate the therapist and further gaslight the victim.

As The National Domestic Violence Hotline asserts:

“The primary reason we don’t recommend couples counseling is that abuse is not a “relationship problem.” Couples counseling may imply that both partners contribute to the abusive behavior, when the choice to be abusive lies solely with the abusive partner. Focusing on communication or other relationship issues distracts from the abusive behavior, and may actually reinforce it in some cases. Additionally, a therapist may not be aware that abuse is present and inadvertently encourage the abuse to continue or escalate.”

This is something to keep in mind when speaking about the “intentions” of an abusive individual, even if you are providing only one-on-one counseling. Attempting to divert from or detract the focus on the abusive behavior or misreading the abuser’s “intentions” can have the inadvertent effect of making the victim feel as if their reality is not worth acknowledging. For any friend or family members of survivors, communicating the idea that, “I don’t think this person meant to hurt you,” is not only harmful, but this also tends to be false.

An abuser always has an agenda of controlling the victim. Their intentions are clear in that respect. A normal “jerk” or garden-variety toxic person who is unaware may be different. However, when it’s clear that the survivor has been emotionally terrorized, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to “doubt” that the intentions of an abuser were meant to harm.

A healthier alternative to this claim could be, “This person seems to have harmed you tremendously and has not made any efforts at stopping, even when you call him or her out. Let’s explore how you can take care of yourself and detach from this toxic person.”

The Big Picture

Some abusers are more sadistic than others. Some lack empathy, while others also lack a conscience. If you want to help any survivor of psychological abuse by a malignant narcissist, you have to help them acknowledge the mindset of what it means to be a predator – not further gaslight them into believing that they are dealing with someone who possesses empathy or remorse. You have to extend empathy, compassion, and nonjudgment to the victim – not the abuser.

At the end of the day, all abusers have issues with their sense of entitlement, their need for control and their stunning lack of empathy. Rather than focusing on the victim, it’s time for society to wake up to the abusive nature of their perpetrators.

By Shahida Arabi, M.A.

Article link: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/recovering-narcissist/2018/10/gaslighting-survivors-of-narcissists-and-narcissistic-abuse/

Spring Forward: How I Learned You Should ALWAYS Talk to Their Ex(es)

When thinking of spring we think of newness, renewal, growth, transformation, the passing of the cold winter and the shedding of it’s dead branches and dried leaves, and the beginning of a rebirth of sorts…something that is new, young, growing, healthy and blooming into new beauty. We think of changing clocks. We think of springing forward.

As I once heard a famous former college football coach say; Much like a tree, we are only doing one of two things with this life we’ve been given. We are either growing or we’re dying. There is no in between. We are either in the act of growing or in the act of dying. We, like the tree, are never just doing nothing.

Spring forward, to avoid falling back.

Someone recently said something to me that has stayed with me for several weeks. It resonated with me in a way everyday conversations very rarely do. Her thoughts were so profound, so introspective, and so deeply thought provoking. She said to me some people go through life as if it is just one big never ending party, and anything that reminds them of the reality of their own real authentic life, their hidden pain, their regret, their fear, their guilt, their shame, is to be avoided at all costs. She said many people don’t want to feel their own pain or look deeply inside of themselves which ultimately as a result, stunts their growth. Often they’re afraid of what they’ll see if they do take a close look inside. They will quickly avoid anyone who brings reality into view for them, even if it’s not their own pain but someone else’s. Even to the point where they become toxic and cruel, and discouraging of the growth and self-awareness of others. It makes them think of their own pain. They will avoid it like the plague. In order to grow we have to feel pain. Pain of disappointment. Pain of loss, disloyalty, tragedy or betrayal. Pain of shock and sometimes pain of failure whether it be in a personal relationship or a professional one, or maybe a combination of both. It’s how we learn. We learn much more from our mistakes than from our triumphs. We all go through it but some do their best to avoid acknowledging and feeling their pain by (temporarily) convincing themselves with substance addictions and abuse that they are so very “happy.” Anything less makes most people uncomfortable. So much so no one really cares whether their happiness is genuine or fabricated, just so long as the message is there. Real or not. The life of the never ending party. Life is so good. So positive to be around. So much fun, no matter what. These types are happy alright, until they sober up. Once that party ends and the morning sunshine of reality begins to rise, it’s time to do it all over again quickly…before they actually allow themselves to truly feel anything real at all. They are as shallow as a dinner plate. A waterless pond. The depth of a straight line. You cannot feel anything real around these kinds of people, unless you too are a never ending party, feeling the same nothingness yourself. An empty, dried up well. These are the people who will continue making the same miserable mistakes in their lives over and over again, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. They never sober up long enough to be authentic with themselves, much less anyone else for that matter. Life itself, life as a whole is completely inauthentic for these kinds of people. Authenticity is far too uncomfortable and threatening. Some may even coldly watch another who may be visibly wasting away–gaunt, with a new emaciated frailty–only to absently pose for pictures with them wearing a profoundly empty, cold, disingenuous smile. For most it’s merely a morbid curiosity, as if they’re rubbernecking a tragic traffic accident so they can gossip afterwards and tell others what horrors and hilarity they witnessed. It’s sickening. Perhaps that’s the sentence, the penalty for long living an empty life and running off all the good people, leaving them with what’s left over–the users, the addicts, and the cheaters, the ones who are just like them. The disingenuous. Sometimes karma is who you end up with. This conversation has stayed with me long enough that I decided to build my April blog entry around this great and powerful conversation.

That conversation led me back into reflecting upon another powerful conversation I’d had months back with another group of people who said they believe everyone should always talk to the exes of someone new they’re seeing. In a normal relationship there are always two sides to a story. In a normal break up the same is true. In an unhealthy relationship where there is any form of domestic abuse for instance, there’s only the truth and the lie. There aren’t two sides to the story whenever abuse is present. Abuse is never okay. If they’re telling the truth, there should be nothing for them to fear and they should encourage you to speak to their ex(es) and if so, they’ll likely share in the blame of their relationships’ failures. They likely won’t be poisoning the well against their ex if it was a normal, amicable split between two people who tried their best. If they speak ill of someone they’ve been with for a very long time, that’s a huge red flag. Narcissists especially love to play the victim and accuse the other of doing to them what they did to the other. It’s textbook behavior. Projection. One that I can personally say I too have missed. His exes were all “narcissists” and “adulterous” even verbally abusive to in-laws only to learn afterwards, it was actually the other way around. After meeting them personally over time, it didn’t add up. Lovely, classy, well-educated, hard-working, attractive, graciously charming ladies (up until now). Nothing like they were described and there were more of them than most people knew. Another missed flag. Having now been on both sides of the fence as the new “narcissistic supply” and the ex, one learns the hard way if they will speak ill of their exes, that’s a big, huge, red flag–and one day they’ll do the same to you if given the chance. They continued suggesting that if people would talk to the exes of someone they had recently begun seeing, ask them (if they’re willing to discuss it) what happened in their relationship that brought it to an end and listen to the answers, listen for their authenticity, think of all the enormous mistakes one could avoid making by discovering things themselves through conversation instead of going through the same experiences and/or sadly believing things just because they were said, or because they shift into a higher gear of love-bombing overdrive–to distract and counteract any doubt. At the very least you’d notice the flags sooner than later with a verbal warning planted in the back of your mind. Why would an ex lie? What could they possibly have to gain from lying? They wouldn’t. There would be no point. Especially when multiple exes share the same or similar tales. How could they ALL have the same (or similar) experiences if it was not all true? After all, I think most people believe (the majority of people) are good, honest, forthright people. Lying never works long term anyway. The truth always comes out eventually, so why would anyone bother to lie? Odds are, they wouldn’t. Having learned firsthand (unfortunately much too late), that they hadn’t lied is certainly not a pleasant discovery when it’s learned in hindsight.

Supporting that theory once again was another woman going through a very sudden, unexpected break up due to infidelity. There was a parallel incident that played out on social media where a woman was discussing her ex and how she lived with years of narcissistic abuse that developed over the course of their marriage, but true to form it was not seen until after the end. She said (in hindsight), they never change. They may hide it for a while but it’s always there waiting to re-emerge. Upon looking at the last name she recognized this was the ex-wife of the man another woman had just caught cheating. Leopards truly do not change their spots she said, but can camouflage themselves successfully for years. He had done the same to three women (probably more) who all ended up talking and realizing they too had the same tales and experiences of love bombing, then to ambient abuse (also known as gaslighting), then to sudden discard years later. She began thinking, if only I had spoken to her years before and she had been candid about what she experienced, imagine how much precious time could’ve been saved. She’d likely have recognized the red flags and not shaken them off as meaningless bad days.

I believe with all my heart from then until now the ones who contacted me after my own break up had the kindest intentions. They offered me candid sharing, telling their own experiences with that same person and offered a relatable sounding board they had once needed too, but did not have for themselves. Absolute kindness. Learning that their stories were almost identical to my own experiences with that same person was numbing and shocking to hear at first. Like having a sorority sister in a sorority you didn’t realize you had pledged and where you were now a member. I had fondly (at the time) nicknamed an ex “the most interesting man in the world” which swiftly caught on with several others and became a commonly used moniker. Many jokingly referred to him as the fifth Beatle because of the self-reported vast and varied accomplishments for which he (oddly) never seemed to get much credit for, only to later learn directly from his former bosses, none of what he’d ever told me was true. Even the circumstances of his “departures” I was also later told were untrue. My “sorority sisters” shared in these experiences and others. I learned I was not the only one to experience it, not even close. Having kept my relationship’s secrets and never having shared most of my experiences with anyone (not even my closest friends), it would’ve been impossible for them to have known the things that were so specific, they had also happened to me exactly as they described them happening to themselves. It’s because they were telling me the truth. Their experiences and mine were the same. A first life lesson of its kind and assuredly, the last.

I think of my friend talking about that never ending party that some people try to perpetuate. The fear that if the party ends, reality will creep in and unwontedly look them dead in the eye if they allow themselves to sober up long enough to feel anything. It makes you wonder… are they running to something with that never ending party, or running away from something else? Perhaps the answer is a little of both. It gets to the point where they don’t even notice the damage they’ve done to so many (including themselves) and the damage they’ve recklessly caused in their lives and in their families. Interestingly, that fear is what prevents so many from facing their pain. Eventually though the never ending party will come to an end, whether we want it to or not. We mere mortal humans don’t have enough power to keep it going indefinitely. That’s why honesty and purpose is crucial to avoiding regret. One of the things I’ve learned through my experiences in palliative medicine is that so many people will die with unfulfilled wishes and unactualized dreams and much, so much sad regret. It’s heartbreaking. There won’t be time to apologize, to make amends, to perhaps tell a loved one, a child, or a friend how they really felt about them and not how they pretended to feel perhaps due of selfish pride. It sadly happens everyday to someone. Someone who was cowardly, braveless and too afraid to let their never ending party of self-denial end and authentically face their fears, face their pain, then be able let it go in order to grow. We are meant to grow through the things we go through.

If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that life is very unpredictable. I hope you will strongly consider talking to their exes early on before you take their words as truth with blind faith to later potentially find yourself buried deep inside their facade of years of tightly woven fabrications. As the saying goes, what tangled webs we weave when we weave to deceive. I do wish those calls I received afterwards had come much sooner for me. Time is a valuable commodity that cannot be bought or sold. But as one couple later said to me, you wouldn’t have believed us back then and it likely would’ve ended our friendship. Admittedly, I wouldn’t have likely believed them, (he was just that good at lying), but at least I’d have had a warning to be aware and perhaps would’ve recognized the flags I’d missed much sooner. But it had been very awkward for them, and I understand their previous silence. This couple was wrong however about it ending our friendship though, it certainly wouldn’t have impacted that. We not only continue to share a close friendship and deep respect, but also a kinship from the disappointment of betrayal we received from that very same source. (I was fortunate, mine wasn’t nearly as lengthy as theirs). I am grateful, thankful and blessed to have had the truth finally revealed to me. That kind of genuineness and support is priceless. Just like time, authenticity and genuineness cannot be bought.

Avoiding that authenticity and self-reflection is literally and figuratively a dead end road. No one is getting out of here alive so truth should be the only thing that guides us and that matters, even when it’s painful. See people as they truly are and not who they tell you they are, even if their true identity is deeply disappointing. Conduct your own discovery, first. Searching for truth in our lives and in the people around us shouldn’t be avoided. Surround yourself with grounded, supportive, authentic people who live in the light of truth and honesty, who aren’t afraid to cry when they’re sad and celebrate joy when they’re happy. Otherwise one will spend each beautiful new season of their life indefinitely, continuously falling back and never ever springing forward into that glorious new season of blooming beauty. 🍂🍃

Single White Female

Well, not exactly. It is the internet, you know.

Many of us remember the disturbing hit movies “Single White Female,” “Fatal Attraction,” and more recently “Gone Girl.” I think back to a line in the movie “Sleepless in Seattle,” where Tom Hanks’ character “Sam” references the movie “Fatal Attraction” and comically says how, “…It scared the %*!# out of every man in America!”

And rightfully so, because it should. As humorous as the line was in that movie, untreated personality disorders are certainly no joke.

The shared theme in common within all of these movies is a main character with severe and untreated Borderline Personality Disorder https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/borderline-personality-disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/histrionic-personality-disorder whose behavior turns sociopathic (Antisocial Personality Disorder). https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder

So grab the popcorn, get comfortable and put your feet up. Ladies and gentlemen please sit back and enjoy the show. Our featured presentation is about to begin. Roll film.

When I began this blog and research journey it was to share, educate, and to identify patterns to some very sudden, bizarre, seemingly out of character, and unexplained mysteries that had (at the time) rendered me instantly shocked and bemused without explanation, and to help anyone else on that same rollercoaster ride of confusion or worse, anyone that is still experiencing manipulation and covert domestic abuse disguised and presented as love. I wanted to provide a place where understanding, education, awareness and outside validation were available to abuse victims. I have received many deeply touching shared stories, messages and thanks from my followers, fellow researchers, and readers and my heart is full hearing I am making a positive difference in others’ lives. It has been a bizarre journey of discovery into the very unfamiliar. Even graduate school and post-graduate trainings did not and could not have prepared me for encountering what was yet to come with these types of severe hidden addictions and disorders. This blog has since become a part-time passion project, a supportive, compassionate crusade for any and all victims of domestic, physically invisible, mental, psychological and emotional abuse. It is ultimately to help create a relatable place for victims and survivors—for Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and education.

There are indeed people who are completely immune to recognizing and acknowledging their own egregious manipulations, their haughty arrogance, and cruel use and treatment of others through their own untreated mental health disorders and ever increasing addictions. Until you experience it first-hand, it’s unimaginable to think of a human being in this way. They cannot see their behaviors accurately beyond their own deep seated feelings of inadequacy and self-entitlement. There will never be any time in between relationships with these individuals. No time for normal, healthy questioning and processing of why they’re never happy long term. There’s no time given to internalizing thoughts of one’s own accountability, consequences, and fault. There is no normal, healthy act of healing or growth after a relationship ending for these individuals. They end each one suddenly without explanation, unless of course someone who has been abused before begins to recognize, begins to catch on and leaves them first, which certainly doesn’t go over well with a Narcissist who must always be in complete control at all times. Each relationship failure after all is a loss no matter how bad or good it was when referencing normal people and normal relationships. With personality disorders such as these, there is no sense of normal feelings of loss regardless of the unique specifics of each one. That’s because there is no object constancy or normal, healthy human attachment for these types of people with these types of personality disorders.

That is why they work so very fast, so very quickly, it’s what they’re desperately trying to avoid. Accountability. A new partner is a (temporary) distraction from these thoughts and eventual (inevitable) consequences of their actions. They cannot be alone–they especially cannot be alone with their own thoughts. It all catches up to everyone eventually. One cannot simply run from themselves to a brand new Narcissistic supply indefinitely and forever in repetition without it one day catching up to them.

You see, their brains simply do not work like normal, healthy brains because well, these are not normal, healthy people. There are hidden infidelities, addictions, perversions, self-inflicted inadequacies disguised as (false) over-confidence, professional fabrications, and years of outright lies and deceit from those who are sadly, shockingly, anything but the man (or less often, the woman) you knew them to be. There is often no warning. An overnight 180. That is how it happens. This is the true nature of these abnormal individuals. That is the pathology of how they work.

Through my in-depth clinical research and professional interviews with other clinicians, as well as other exploration I have uncovered and discovered some of the darkest, most devious situations, individuals and abhorrent lifestyles I had ever heard of in existence. The stuff of prime time drama and televised unsolved mysteries. The kind of stuff that is so twisted, you just can’t make it up. Truth is sometimes more shocking than fiction. Through that clinical research, and through the many loving, wonderful souls who reached out with their continued friendship and offered support during the puzzle piecing discovery efforts, those who also shared their own personal experiences and stories of things I was completely unaware of–long-time mutual acquaintances and friends, exes with incredibly similar/familiar stories of witnessing substance addiction, (one had sadly been undergoing cancer treatment at the time, and is thankfully healthy now. It also left an innocent child to go through years of therapy and counseling. I literally broke down in tears upon hearing that story for the very first time, although it explained much) the patterned infidelity, and 180 degree sudden personality changes, business associates, colleagues, former employers, college associates, neighbors and even family, —some of whom have been witness to repetitious behavior pattern for many years, they helped teach what they all already knew. I will be discussing this and more in greater detail in my book.

Pure poetic justice is a rare and unusual turn of events. That’s what makes it poetic. You see, the con can eventually become the conned. When karma, if you will takes over “she” can position the con on the receiving end of being conned, of being played. This is the beginning of our featured film.

What happens when you take a life-long, deeply troubled individual who single-handedly destroys his reputation and long-term friendships through revelations of his own poor choices and fabrications, years of coat-tail riding and use of others, and deep deceptions who unknowingly connects online with an also deeply troubled couple who is closing in on seven figures of deep indebtedness who have long lived above their means with homes, cars, substance and pornographic addictions, routine occurrences of 911 calls for unconscious face-plantings, recreational and cosmetic drugs and injectables, mental illness, revolving doors of polyamory/homosexuality/bisexuality, multiple foreclosures, liens, bankruptcies, spurious “foundations and charities,” domestic violence, assault, battery, restraining orders, injunctions (all things of public record), countless expensive plastic surgeries, multiple facial and body implants appearing to result from untreated Body Dismorphic Disorder and years of sudden repeated drastic weight gain and weight loss? A big problem in need of a solution. The solution? Enter online-internet dating.

Grab your popcorn…

It’s perfect. Look online for someone vulnerable and foolish with money to make their financial troubles disappear, or at the very least make a dent in them. Get divorced (but quietly remain pseudo-together as always), then marry and take all you can for as long as it lasts, for as long as one can hold up their BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) mask before it inevitably falls, and it always falls in time. When both parties have happily long engaged in an anything goes open marriage arrangement, what’s the difference? What’s adding one more troubled soul into the collective mix as they’re depleting the final, fixed, finite funds in one’s trust because well, it isn’t a replenishing resource. Especially if one has money to bring to the table that they do not. Especially if he too is running, trying to escape from himself and his misdeeds to so many in his close circle. Shared commonalities bring birds of a feather to flock together. An impending Hollywood style disaster awaits.

Imagine, he had secretly found his new Narcissistic supply (on internet dating apps this time not through personal introductions like before because he wasn’t single at the time), as he was well seasoned and patterned to do, but this time he had unknowingly become someone else’s internet prey in the process. By now most everyone knows the dangers of the internet, it is frequently filled with hidden criminals looking to scam people for financial gain. (This makes me think of another one of my favorite Hollywood movie lines, “Normal people don’t go trolling for dates online.”) Something he likely hadn’t considered or counted on happening, happened. Something he is likely unaware of and in the dark about. Or is he? Either way, even Shakespeare himself couldn’t have penned better irony.

When there’s a complete absence of the acknowledgment of deep, hidden shame and complete lack of humility and common sense, it leaves one dangerously vulnerable to becoming the victim themselves. The kind of scamming, desperate, devious intentioned people that even Narcissists were previously not used to associating with, even in their manipulative lifelong pattern of behavior. Recklessly allowing unauthorized use and blatant misuse by giving access to one’s work email account for use by an unauthorized user to threaten another– would have previously been out of character. A lowered level of lifestyles and deceitful deviousness quickly instills. The rural methods of conning begin, giving way to transitions from firmly positioned (somewhat arrogant) standards of Michelin 5 Stars to Waffle Houses and all-inclusive resorts, from hotels to motels, from penthouses to parking garages.

These are individuals with untreated Cluster B dependent personalities: Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder.* As if all the before mentioned things weren’t enough, imagine a whole additional set of afflictions as well–with pedophiliacs and registered sex offenders. The sheer candor and matter-of-fact tone of an individual’s tales can truly leave one at a loss for words. It had become so routine they were completely unaware of and unphased by this lifestyle’s abnormality. The attempted explanation one would offer for the pedophilia/registered sex offender status was said to be a “misunderstanding” with authorities that resulted from public urination and indecent exposure near an elementary school. Another fabrication. That is not how that happens. Frighteningly scary, unimaginable stuff. Things difficult to hear and read, and more difficult to write. More than most of us could ever think of and who knows how much more there is that hasn’t been shared and uncovered. These are the kind of people most consciously avoid coming face-to-face with in real-life and hope only to fictionally see on-screen (if that), inside of a theater. A darkness most of us hope to never have to encounter in our lives. While not all are online to scam another, they are out there—lurking and looking for victims to use in some manner in the world of online internet dating. It is however, earned poetic justice at its finest for any abuser. The predator becomes the prey.

This blog has certainly created tremendous waves with those both inside and outside of abuse. Some much prefer to hide out away from reality, to try to camouflage truth, to avoid the forest for the trees, to take the rural dirt road of denial and switch zip codes for a more simple minded populous that’s more easily confounded. To finally feel like the bigger fish is much easier in a new and much smaller pond. One that would require less effort to deceive, to brush things under a rug and pretend reality and truth doesn’t exist by starting over in a newer, simpler “pond.” (There’s a reason all these common expressions and sayings exist). To outwardly pretend to go through the motions, to try to appear to (once again) move forward while rapidly spiraling downward into yet another fabricated, dark abyss. Rose-colored glasses. Fake it til you make it. They don’t wish to have truth in from of them or to be reminded of their misdoings and ever growing illnesses. It makes it much more difficult to ignore it that way. It makes their roles that much more challenging to play. It also makes them vulnerable to becoming victimized themselves.

When plaguing mental illness eventually gives birth to individuals completely void of any authentic conscience, more often than not people are uncomfortable with it and feel more at ease to ignore its existence. Truth can often be a threat to a ulterior plan. Uncovering and exposing honest truth makes pathological liars very uncomfortable and uneasy within themselves and their environment. What had been uncovered went far beyond any expectations, it is the epitome of poetic justice. The kind of justice a healthy person couldn’t dream up, the kind of truth that’s more shocking than fiction, the kind that finds its deserving individuals and serves itself to them voluntarily, right upon a proverbial silver platter.

However, it is all deeply tragic and very sad. One simply cannot be without some amount of pity even for abusers, because it will very likely not end well once the masks do fall. We have all seen the before mentioned movies. Those characters were all based on real clinical pathology and BPD and sociopathic behavior patterns and turned into edge of your seat Hollywood drama. Even as cruelly and unconscionable as one may have been treated, a healthy person could not treat another person in these same ways, even after experiencing ongoing abuse. I am a deeply compassionate professional and a woman of tremendous faith. I believe in following the laws of God and the laws of our great land. God promises us, He sees all and He has the final word. There is great difference between justice and revenge, and neither of them is ever ours. Sometimes though if He sees fit and we’re very lucky, we get to see that promise fulfilled and hopefully with a ring-side seat.

I think the take away from this, or the moral of the story and impending final lesson of this “festering featured film” will be that this world is sadly full of many lost, misguided, and deeply afflicted and addicted people who are not now and never will be happy long-term. They can even masterfully blend unnoticed for years into society. It is important to finely tune your intuition and discernment of others to avoid becoming their prey. (You might also want to consider avoiding online dating apps for safety and security). These types will inflict their own inner pain and problems onto their victims and there’ll be new, even more future victims yet to come. Untreated they do not change, but become worse with time and with age. Adult children who become cognizant of the enormity of the increasing dysfunction, the existing addictions and illnesses, and the patterns of destruction that plague their parent will eventually no longer care and keep themselves and their families safely, far away from their mentally ill parent and their ever rebounding new partners.

Our society fuels the misconception of looking for one’s happiness through another person which can exacerbate an already existing skewed view of reality in the addicted and mentally ill. We do not find our happiness through another person, we find it within ourselves and through the kind of life we choose to live–whether it is kind, honest and lived with purpose, or of false personas, greed, envy, sin, abuse, deception, and ulterior motives of using another without their conscious knowledge. If that life is indulgent and greedy and lived only to serve one’s self, one will never be satisfied or happy long term. Everything will always be temporary. A ticking clock, awaiting inevitable expiration. They will constantly be looking for new happiness in another, then another and another, ad nauseam, ad infinitum. It is in giving that we receive. In constant using and taking, one is never satisfied, never truly satiated. Take these types of individuals as cases in point. People with a half dozen “marriages” and they still believe the problem is everyone else. It is the nature of their disorders as authentic love is not in their wheel house or their vernacular. Like every time before, they’ll convince each other through misrepresentation, mirroring and projection that this time it is different. Or, have they really? Angered, exposed Narcissists will blindly stop at nothing in an attempt to hurt their exposer, even at their own expense. It’s as if they’re intentionally poisoning themselves but expecting another person to be the one who suffers. It just doesn’t work that way. It is they who will suffer their self-inflicted pain and toxicity. Desperate times call for desperate measures on each and every side of shared dysfunctional triangles. It will be different all right, but certainly there is no happily ever after ahead for these cons. In all likelihood one is actually playing them both, and others. Two (through a sense of competition and mirroring) are reportedly beginning to dress alike and even physically resemble one another in a newfound disheveled, unkempt appearance. Ladies and gentleman, please enjoy the film…and as we all know, the inevitable sequels to come.

Learn, study, keep your eyes open, be discerning, identify and steer clear of any individual whom you suspect may have these untreated Cluster B personality disorders with co-occurring substance addictions. What you ignore you empower. In the end most abusers will change zip codes. They rarely stay in the same place once they’ve been exposed or for those at the tail end of their careers where their reputation is lost and is no longer of importance to them. To them it just no longer matters like before. They’re now free to openly live the kind of lifestyle they’d previously kept well hidden from view for years.

Once you are safely away from the abuse, that is when you truly will begin to live your best life. Get away quickly if you suspect any of these issues in your life and if they refuse to discuss it with you or refuse to get any help. Go no contact. They can and most certainly will take you right down with them if you don’t.

Enjoy the film and it’s sequels, and be grateful when you’re safe. Safe and free to now sit in the audience to watch the show and no longer have a roll in the film. Oh…and of course, most importantly, don’t forget the popcorn. 💜🦋

* https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/cluster-b

The Lying, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Closet)

Many know through experience there are few worse things than suddenly discovering and uncovering, in the cases of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a lifetime of personal (and often professional) lies, deceit, fabrications, secrets, patterned infidelity and betrayal. Yes, there are few worse feelings then suddenly and unexpectedly learning you’ve been lied to about most everything you were ever told throughout the course of a long relationship by a well seasoned deceiver. There’s also nothing quite like the wrath and fury of a covert Narcissist whose disorder has finally been exposed.

Accepting that realization that you were just one of many, many victims, many “beards” over many, many years is a most dreadful experience and unfortunately not as uncommon as one might think. Learning that everything was manufactured, everything was well calculated, well strategized and planned as they spent years creating a false persona to reel you in, to then eventually move from person to person throughout their lives as the truth begins to unravel again over time with each new person. And it unravels over time, every time. So many out there have hidden secrets that still have yet to be discovered. One wonders if some ever will.

In this era, it’s hard to imagine that latent homosexuality of the past (subconsciously suppressed) still exists even at a time when so many have authentically, safely emerged from the closet even well into and beyond middle age after decades of hiding behind countless unknowing, unsuspecting (mostly) female victims, some of whom still to this day may not know what happened so suddenly in their relationship facade, and why, because they hid it so well.

The ones who emerge can go on to live their true, authentic life outside their “dark shadow” as postulated by Carl Jung and make peace within themselves. Sadly, some Narcissistic abuse victims may innocently blame themselves as they were systematically brainwashed, programmed and conditioned to do as unknowing pawns to keep so many of the narcissist’s secrets hidden from public view.

Many latent homosexuals have covert Narcissistic Personality Disorder and substance addictions are also common. The years of their self-hatred can be contradictory and confusing while remaining buried indefinitely, but likely will become clear and evident when they reach a crisis point in their life and cannot maintain the facade and continue holding up their mask. Sadly, some of their countless victims never get those answers, but will likely heal in time regardless of their understanding of their abuser’s deep-seated issues.

Once it does comes to light, one may wonder how they ever missed it as the pieces of the puzzle suddenly fall smoothly, logically together and in place, fitting like a glove. The isolation strategies and tactics, the control they placed on your schedule, who your friends and associations were– even to the point of forbidding friendships with certain people that didn’t meet their approval. (In hindsight it was always the ones who could see them in their true form and who could reveal them to their victim).

The love of certain designers preferred by a very specific population demographic, the uncharacteristic music preferences, the obsession with custom made clothing, the extremely tight fitting pants, and the “flagging” of the long sleeve shirts all methodically grouped by color, shade, fabric, and sleeve length. The unexplained mood shifts and sudden anger directed at themselves and others. The chronic OCD. The familial pattern of several out of the closet homosexuals (while some are still hidden) in their DNA pool. The narcissistic obsession with money. The childhood through adulthood gay friend who died of AIDS who they claim they never knew was gay. The skipping, the crossed legs, the pinkie finger that never touches the glass, the anger and fury with themselves upon the slightest bit of weight gain, the hunger strike until the weight gain is gone, the obsession with everyone else’s weight around them from neighbors, relatives, friends and coworkers. The constant belittling, put-downs and criticisms of everyone around them. The ability to mimic and mirror whatever new lifestyle and new zip code they are once again attempting to hide behind. The jealousy and envy of anyone they know whom they feel is authentic, more socially, professionally and financially successful than themselves. The Alcoholism. The pattern over the years of countless sudden splits, divorces, and the consequential repeated pattern of very fast moving new relationships, hidden infidelities, re-coupling and remarrying with no time in between. In their minds, that chaos and confusion will create the questioning of others, but only when it’s been used a few times, after that it no longer works and their true identity becomes clearly seen and visible.

The misogyny, the vehement despising of all and any women with feminine values and glorification of (only) women with masculine values, masculine tendencies and masculine features they admire such as an appearance of athletic prowess and perceived financial success they can camouflage their identity behind. The desperation to move quickly from one person to another in an attempt to appear normal and regain lost credibility from their bizarre behavior. The unexplained obsession and hatred of homosexuals. The last ditch attempt to keep the closet door shut. The desperation within the downward spiral and choice of new beards. The chronicled behavior pattern and prediction of sudden resorting to overtly masculine females, ones with dark, disturbing lifestyles with sketchy, shady backgrounds, reputation and history. Ones with similar patterns and disorders of their own such as substance abuse and addiction, Histrionic with Borderline Personality Disorders, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Narcissistic features. What a pending disastrous implosion when two people with the same or very similar patterns and personality disorders join forces to deceive and use the other for their own hidden agendas.

Eventually, time catches up to all abusers and karma if you will, begins to step in. The taker gets taken in a seemingly altruistic display of the universe’s idea of poetic justice for all their long lines of unknowing, previous victims. The abuser now becomes the victim in a strange twist of fate.

People with Cluster B personality disorders must work very quickly because they cannot hold their masks up indefinitely. It doesn’t take much pressure for the sociopathy and psychopathy to reveal itself so they must lock in their next victim very quickly. These are notoriously addicted, unstable, impulsive, unpredictable, highly promiscuous, attention seekers, who are frequently flamboyant, socially inappropriate, and extremely hyper-sexual and even pansexual. They often believe laws and societal rules do not apply to them. This is often an outwardly desperate attempt by the latent homosexual narcissist to find any arousal by the opposite sex and stay hidden in the closet.

Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is a personality disorder that tends to co-occur with other personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder(BPD), narcissistic, and dependent personality disorders. There is a great deal of overlap between BPD and HPD features, so much so that some experts believe that HPD may not actually be distinguishable from BPD. Patients with histrionic personality disorder use their physical appearance, acting in inappropriately seductive or provocative ways, to gain the attention of others. They lack a sense of self-direction and are highly suggestible, often acting submissively to retain the attention of others. Estimated prevalence is < 2% of the general population. It is diagnosed more often in women, but this finding may reflect only a greater prevalence among women in clinical settings, where the data were obtained. In some studies, prevalence in women and men was similar. Comorbidities are common, particularly other personality disorders (antisocial, borderline, narcissistic), suggesting that these disorders share a biologic vulnerability or casting doubt on whether histrionic personality disorder is a separate disorder. Some patients also have somatic symptom disorder, which may be the reason they present for evaluation. Major depressive disorder, dysthymia, and conversion disorder may also coexist. *

As previously mentioned in my past articles, “The Shadow Knows, The Troubled and the Toxic, and The Closet Eviction” these Cluster B personality disorders are becoming more common and prevalent in our society as we inadvertently and unknowingly encourage and enable them to metastasize. As previously stated, when what is hidden inside one’s dark shadow isn’t addressed and treated, they will leave a path of destruction for their unknowing victims, their friends, and even their children. Sometimes when they become desperate they may unknowingly reel in another Cluster B just like themselves who is also wearing a mask. Ironically and quite poetically, their new victim will become their abuser. There’s nothing else like the wrath and fury of a Narcissist whose mask is down and whose identity is exposed.

It is important to research your concerns and not to dismiss the red flags along the way by finding and making excuses for their unusual behavior. It will not change, it will not go away, it simply continues and grows as they age. The coping mechanisms they’ve developed over the years such as substance abuse and addiction will also increase in depth, complexity and severity, even when it’s quickly breaking down and is no longer working as well for them as it used to.

Empower yourself, learn and become familiar with the signs and the red flags you may have missed so you know what to look for in the future and be cognizant of these behaviors. Do not make excuses for them. Most importantly once you’ve identified it in anyone, partner or friend, go no contact for your own safety and quality of life. This includes any family members or enablers of the Narcissistic abuser who may have indeed acknowledged, recognized, and admitted to being aware of the abuse you endured, but will then choose to ignore, enable and look the other way pretending it does not exist in front of the abuser and their next victim. Just as they likely did while you were being abused.

One simply cannot save someone from themselves, but you can save yourself from being a part of their eventual self-destruction. You can and you will become whole again after Trauma Bonding and Narcissistic Abuse. Forgive yourself for not knowing the signs and identifying your abuser before it was too late. Remember this is not normal behavior and it is not your fault for not knowing the signs. Grow, heal, create safe boundaries, and begin to put yourself first again.

💜🦋

* https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/personality-disorders/histrionic-personality-disorder-hpd

My Heartfelt Wish for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

I have a birthday wish this year. It’s a first, a new one for sure. It is for all survivors of Narcissistic/Psychological/Emotional Abuse Survivors. And yes I do mean survivors.

My wish is that one day this type of domestic abuse will be more commonly recognized and visible. Physical abuse has tangible proof. Narcissistic abuse is hidden, covert, long-term, subtle, and unseen. It is worse than physical because of its traumatic depth as physical abuse heals much faster.

The abuser slowly, systematically chips away at your soul destroying your sense of self and sense of independence. They don’t go after weak people, they target the strong and independent. They do this in order to control you and to take from you. A narcissistic abuser uses people as objects to further their own agenda and goals and there are few to no warning signs until they begin to see you are on the verge of uncovering it all and exposing them, their lies, and their abuse.

We all know the rath of an exposed Narcissist is nothing to joke about. They will project, lie, and make enemies from lifelong friends faster than one can blink once the truth is exposed. Normal relationships do not come to a sudden, unexplained end overnight, but a Narcissist has a pattern of such endings, even if you’re unaware of it at the time.

A narcissist will plant negative seeds in the minds of their remaining supporters around them unbeknownst to the victim while they are quietly preparing for the sudden discard. The narcissist will begin laying the path for the discard quietly once they have their sights on a new victim who they can easily manipulate. They will begin saying subtle negative things about their partner unbeknownst to the partner whom they regularly shower with love and affection making up with them every time after subtle abuse, until they have found a replacement target and new victim. The ego of a Narcissist will stop at nothing and will always protect itself from the truth being exposed. Trauma Bonding/Stockholm Syndrome Brainwashing is the stuff of horror films and nightmares. It is paralyzing, numbing and completely sinister.

The past months of my life have been the most profound months of my life. I have learned so much about Cluster B personalities and about people in general beyond the scope of my formal education. As an empath, as a counselor, coach and therapist my deep compassion and empathy for those who have experienced this type of sinister abuse has grown from empathetic to I literally now get it and understand and feel your pain. I am seeing more and more of it too as time goes by.

Sometimes the worst part of it is the after effects of a few (very few fortunately) people that you quickly learn have no compassion or empathy for another’s pain. Whether it is an intentional lack of compassion by some who use the abuser for their own personal gain (flying monkeys as they’re commonly called or tongue biters and enablers) or intentional, the pain is still the same.

Imagine asking a burn victim and survivor of a horrific fire if they would like to go to a fireworks display or a bonfire. Imagine asking a plane crash survivor who can still smell the smoke in their hair if they would like to fly out this coming weekend somewhere fun. While these events may sound wonderful to you to a traumatized person it is invalidating and re-traumatizing. It is much the same when you ask a victim and survivor of this type of narcissistic abuse if they are dating again. The last thing any healthy person who has experienced this type of deep trauma and betrayal wants to do is to be re-traumatized. This trauma has been subtly ongoing, like the subtle chipping away of an ice sculpture. The reaction to imagining dating is felt physically.

NAS (Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome) is a form of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). It is usually never seen or recognized by the victim while it is happening to them. It isn’t discovered, recognized or uncovered until the relationship has ended and they are safely away from the ongoing daily abuse. A Narcissist is a master craftsman at making Narcissistic Abuse appear as love.

My wish is for more awareness of this very common type of domestic abuse. Emotional/Psychological/Narcissistic/Mental Abuse is severely traumatic for the victim and survivor. The years of ongoing gaslighting, love bombing, then stonewalling then repeating the cycle until inevitable discard is unimaginably traumatizing and destructive for the victim.

If anyone you know and care about has experienced it, give them your love, patience, support and empathy. No one expects anyone who hasn’t personally experienced it to truly understand what they’ve been through, but compassion, support and empathy doesn’t require understanding.

My wish is for more compassion for survivors as they begin to recover and heal from the horrific abuse of brainwashing and control in these types of domestic abuse.

Once the burns begin to heal and the smoke begins to clear out of your hair one day, when you feel whole again perhaps re-coupling will be something you choose to do once you’re trained in recognizing the subtle unseen signs of a Covert Narcissist. The trauma does not go away. One can heal from trauma but it takes a lot of time and patience for yourself and from those around you. It will likely be necessary to remove certain people out of your life who re-traumatize you and have no compassion or understanding for what you have been through. No one can truly understand or imagine the devastation that is experienced by another’s attempt to destroy them until they’ve experienced it first-hand themselves.

My wish, in closing, is that all survivors of all types of domestic abuse are treated with love and compassion as they begin their journey of healing and trusting others and their own judgment of people again. It does get better as you learn and yes, you will heal. As a survivor of this type of sinister, subtle abuse for many years, that is my birthday wish.

Cheers to health, to healing, and to the infinite possibilities.

Love, light and an abundance of blessings to you in the New Year.

❤️

4 Behaviors That Unmask Narcissists

If you’d asked me a few years ago whether the person I was involved with was a narcissist, I would have answered “absolutely not.” He had none of the hallmarks that make it relatively easy for a layperson to spot a narcissist—the grandiosity, the need to be the center of attention, the haughty or overbearing remarks and competitiveness. He didn’t display the preening, the need to manipulate, or, of course, the lack of empathy. He didn’t appear to fit any of those definitions; in fact, if anything, he was quiet and not that into socializing, intent on not drawing attention to himself. He was insouciant about his appearance except in professional situations, and relatively laid-back. He was a thoughtful giver of gifts, willing to accommodate to my needs and—for me, at least—perhaps a bit too happy being by himself and away from the company of others. Does that sound like a narcissist to you? It didn’t to me.

He had other flaws I didn’t know about and discovered, none of which flashed a neon billboard that said NARCISSIST.

What I didn’t understand at the time and do now is that the narcissist shows his true colors in conflict. That point is brought out with clarity by two new books on the subject, Re-thinking Narcissism by Dr. Craig Malkin and The Narcissist You Know by Dr. Joseph Burgo (both are also bloggers on this site), and borne out by my own personal experience. Both of these authors take the position that the narcissist is, in fact, emotionally wounded. The behaviors he or she evinces are efforts to disguise or assuage the pain of that wounded self.

It’s in conflict—when even the healthiest among us becomes defensive and self-protective—that the narcissist reveals him or herself in fullness. They fully expose their lack of empathy—the cornerstone of the narcissist—because when the narcissist feels threatened, winning or succeeding to protect him or herself is all that matters, not consequences. A narcissist’s focus and determination to win at any cost underscore the shallow nature of their emotional connections—to you and to all others.

What kind of conflict shows the narcissist’s true stripes? The answer is all and any, ranging from the petty tiff to divorce court. If it’s the latter, abandon all hope of a reasonable negotiation or mediation; the true narcissist does neither. To borrow a term from the military, the narcissist’s policy is scorched earth, destroying everything and leaving nothing behind as he or she advances or withdraws—not a shred of connection or memory, respect for past connections, relationships, or the welfare of others involved in the conflict. The narcissist’s willingness to lie is nothing short of extraordinary and he or she will be completely unconcerned whether someone finds those lies out or not. It’s lack of empathy on steroids or, to put it better, aggrandized and entitled. The motto of the narcissist? “What you think of me is none of my business,” and he or she really means it.

If lack of empathy is one of the narcissist’s key characteristics, I think we often misunderstand it. Some of the difficulty may have to do with distinguishing fully between sympathy and empathy. When we are sympathetic, we connect largely through intellectual understanding and feel badly about the situation in which a person finds him or herself. Empathy is an emotional response in which we literally feel another’s pain as opposed to understanding his or her pain in the abstract. The truth is that most of us are not consistently empathic, nor are we equally skilled at this most important trait.

So what, precisely, makes the narcissist different?

The answer is his or her utter separateness. It’s not simply that he or she doesn’t feel for others and their pain; it’s that the level of connection, of attunement, is utterly foreign. Since you can be sympathetic on a very superficial level (writing a check and contributing to charity; being helpful by dropping off your neighbor’s dry cleaning; recommending your attorney to the guy who needs one), many narcissists appear quite sympathetic because they like looking good in the eyes of others. More important, they like reassuring themselves that they’re nice guys or gals. Empathy is another matter entirely.

Here are four behaviors that might tip you off to the real personality you’re dealing with:

1. Plays emotional “hot potato”

Kudos to Craig Malkin for giving this a name and for singling it out as one of the narcissist’s behaviors. Malkin identifies “hot potato” as a form of projection, as in the following scenario: You try talking to your partner about his dismissiveness and lack of connection and he responds by saying that he’s not dismissive but he’s just not willing to respond to your anger and constant complaints. The reality is that what you are saying is irritating the daylights of him—his jaw muscles are working and he’s on his way to being really frosted—but rather than own those feelings, he assigns them to you. (This explanation aligns with Malkin’s view that keeping the inner wound hidden is one of the narcissist’s primary motivations.) It’s entirely possible, of course, that if this continues, you will feel angry even if you didn’t start out feeling that way. Playing hot potato permits the narcissist to gain the upper hand.

Since the narcissist isn’t actually interested in what you feel or think—or making things better between you, for that matter—the game of hot potato will work to your disadvantage, especially if you care about him or her. You will probably feel guilty—“He wasn’t wrong, I was angry—until the moment in time when you have an epiphany and finally get it.

I’d like to add a personal observation about the game of emotional hot potato: They can play consciously to manipulate you but it can also be unconscious behavior on the narcissist’s part. In any case, what emerges from hot potato is the narcissist’s vision of what really happened and it will all boil down to one basic theme: It’s always your fault and never his or hers. The inability and unwillingness to take responsibility for actions and words under any circumstances are also narcissistic hallmarks.

2. Withdraws and then attacks if a demand is made

Some have described demand/withdraw as the most toxic of relationship patterns for good reason: It’s part of a downward spiral that often ends in the failure of the relationship. You don’t need a narcissist in the dyad, by the way, to have the pattern take over. Essentially, what happens is that one person (usually the woman, but not always) makes a demand for some issue to be fixed or addressed and the other partner withdraws physically and emotionally—stonewalling, folding his arms, etc. The pattern is particularly toxic because escalation is built into it—needs unanswered, the person demanding will become increasingly frustrated and usually louder. Of course, this simply means the person withdrawing will increase his efforts. Both parties feel aggrieved and put upon.

The narcissist’s habit of playing hot potato means that, put in the withdraw position, he or she will either withdraw or become incredibly aggressive—essentially blaming his or her partner for making the demand in the first place, casting it as sign of his or her flawed nature, etc. That’s hot potato combined with a classic toxic pattern. It not only throws the partner off, but, again, makes her more open to being manipulated into thinking that it’s all her fault. (Again, feel free to change up the genders in the description; female narcissists act the same way.)

3. Vindictive to the max

According to Joseph Burgo, this is actually a narcissistic type. To be honest, it was his description that clued me into the fact that the person I’d married was a narcissist after all. Forget meeting in the middle, settling your differences or, if you’re unlucky enough to be in a situation where you need an attorney, mediating; the vindictive narcissist will do none of the above. Lies are the arrows in the narcissist’s quiver, and it often doesn’t matter how outrageous they are. Perhaps most tellingly, the narcissist seeks to portray him or herself as a victim of injustice—not as a seeker of revenge or someone motivated to win—regardless of the circumstances. As Burgo writes:

“Because of his distorted, defensive relationship to reality, the Extreme Narcissist often believes the lies he tells, both to himself and other people. He doesn’t see himself as a liar but rather as an embittered defender of the ‘truth’ as he has come to see it.”

As Burgo points out (and as I can personally attest), the vindictive narcissist may proceed sounding reasonable, despite the fact that everything he or she says is a lie. This person will do what he or she can to impugn you, spread rumors about you, attack your reputation, or whatever else comes to hand. It doesn’t matter that none of it is true. That makes it hard fighting her or him—in an office, a community, in a family, or especially in a court of law. The usual rules of decent behavior simply do not exist.

The vindictive narcissist’s hustle often takes in otherwise capable and intelligent people, including attorneys and judges. Most of us are hesitant to believe that every word an individual utters is an outright lie, especially if it is easily discovered. But that only works in the narcissist’s favor: It’s his words against yours, after all, and he doesn’t mind grandstanding.

4. Indifferent to emotional outcomes

In my experience—as a person who has lived more than six decades but isn’t a psychologist or a therapist—most people want to come out of combative situations losing as few of their personal connections and relationships as possible. They want to feel that they have behaved reasonably well and fairly under the circumstances. That’s one reason mediation works but that’s not true of the vindictive narcissist, who could care less. If he (or she) ends up with scorched earth, that’s no big deal. He will see destroyed relationships as a necessary cost of getting what he deserves.

Of course, discovering that the person you’re dealing with may be a narcissist after all doesn’t help other than to arm you with knowledge as you think about and analyze his or her behavior. Knowing how the person responds in conflict will not only help you prepare and strategize, but help prepare you for the sorry truth. There’s probably no reasonable way to stop the merry-go-round because exhausting you (and your resources, for that matter) is part of the narcissist’s scorched earth policy.

It’s no wonder that recovering from conflict with a narcissist is so hard, frustrating, and sometimes embittering.

Peg Streep

Full article: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201601/4-behaviors-unmask-narcissists%3famp