The Last Chardonnay

Happy Tuesday,

I hope everyone is well and paying heed to the COVID-19 warnings. I pray for this to all be over soon and that everyone stays safe and healthy.

I am inviting you to join my group on Facebook that will accompany this blog and my book once released. The Last Chardonnay on Facebook is a place for productive discussion, education, peer support, and resources related to NPD, trauma bonding, C-PTSD, Narcissistic Abuse and more to help identify, prevent future abuse, and of course, for healing. I have included a link below. I look forward to interacting with you in the group.

Be safe, be kind, and be well.

Debbie 🦋💜

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone has had a great holiday and is ready for a fabulous 2020! 🌻

I am working on several big projects that have had me busy this month- including a book I hope to have completed in the near future, and have hit the ground running in the new year.

Stay tuned for new blogs and more articles coming very soon on identifying covert personality disorders and high functioning substance addiction, trauma bonding, and healing from domestic abuse.

Until then, all the very best to you,

Debbie 🦋

Seven Ways Narcissists Ruin Holidays

Narcissists ruin holidays in more ways than one. It isn’t just that they ruin the holidays though.

The holidays can be a painful time of year for people who are in relationships with narcissists because it feels like no matter what situation you’re in with them or how you feel about the holidays, narcissists can find a way to use this time of year to cause additional pain.

By taking advantage of the cultural norms and expectations surrounding holidays or the disruption to normal routines, they can find creative ways to hurt and control you regardless of what holiday or holidays you’re celebrating or even if you’re celebrating at all. 

It’s not just the holiday season–they also have a tendency to ruin other special days, such as anniversaries, birthdays, and Valentine’s Day, as well as vacations.

This time of year, however, provides an especially prolonged period of time and many different opportunities for narcissists to hurt others.

Below are seven ways that narcissists can either interfere with holiday conventions or use the holidays to cause chaos. Each one has its own motivations and outcomes for the narcissist.

How Narcissists Ruin Holidays

Although the holiday season tends to be stressful, most of us can probably agree that holidays should be a time when appreciation for those you love is elevated and prioritized. 

Narcissists, however, have no interest in true harmony. Depending on the type of narcissist, they thrive in chaos for many reasons.

Even when there is no chaos to engineer, they can still use the holidays to manufacture emotions. This can happen in several ways.

1. Using the holiday season to gain sympathy.  

Some narcissists use every opportunity to get others to feel sorry for them. They told us their sob stories when we first met them about how their past partners mistreated them or about how down on their luck they were.

Holidays with narcissists, however, can take on a whole new significance. They spin tales about how they never got any presents when they were children, or about how their ex always ruined the holidays for them.

Keep in mind that sympathy is a weapon that narcissists use to get away with the things they do. If they’re mistreating you in other ways around the holidays, they can blame it on the fact that they have bad holiday memories.

It’s a good idea to keep in mind that what they tell you about the holiday mistreatment they have endured, at least as an adult, is most likely projection. Don’t buy it, because it’s more likely they caused the chaos. 

2. Starting arguments or breaking up with you on or just before a big event or big day.  

Narcissists don’t like it when your attention is on anything else other than them. They also get jealous when anything but them has the power to bring you joy.

When they see you happy, they may start an argument. To them, this guarantees a spot in your brain space that is at least equally as important as your anticipation of that holiday event.

If what they do to you is bad enough, they can also attach themselves traumatically to your holiday memories. They would rather be the cause of your unhappiness and misery than not be the center of your attention at all. 

If they try to cause an argument during the holiday season, don’t take the bait. Understand what their goal is and that you can’t change the outcome, and go to the event without them.

3. Using the sentimental value of the holiday season to hoover. 

You may have gone no-contact with the narcissist in your life. Now you’re trying to heal from the relationship.

Holidays, however, provide the perfect cover to get a surprise hoover. The narcissist may reach out with a call, email or text to wish you happy holidays.

They are trying to use the harmonious spirit to their advantage, hoping you’ll think it’s rude not to respond.

They may also try to evoke happy memories in you that overcome your instincts not to interact with them.

Be prepared for random messages and be aware of what those messages are designed to do. Imagine yourself getting one and how you will react.

This may take some of the emotional power out of it. Have a plan so you aren’t tempted to break no contact and respond.   

4. Setting up your expectations and then disappointing you.  

Narcissists may make plans with you to go to to your parents’ home for a family celebration but cancel last-minute. This leaves you to make all of the explanations to everyone.

They may also ask you what gift you would like, making elaborate promises. Then, they will give you something totally different, something very impersonal and cheap. Or they may give you nothing at all.

In the end, it’s not about the gift.

As with canceling plans, it’s about the lack of care they seem to show for both your feelings and about what they told you they would do.

If you ask them about any of these things, they turn it around on you to make you seem petty or argumentative.

Take everything they say with a grain of salt. If they don’t follow through, don’t give them the satisfaction of having a negative reaction in front of them.  

5. Giving elaborate gifts to hold against you later.  

Sometimes the opposite of #4 will happen when it comes to gifts.

If you are being love-bombed, they may load you up with elaborate presents, but be warned that they are keeping track. You will hear about those gifts for the rest of the relationship.

During arguments, you will hear about how much they cost. In the devaluation stage, they will act as if they were not gifts at all. They may treat them as favors to avoid paying for things for which they are responsible.

Just be aware of narcissists gift-giving strategy as a way to get something in return. Even if they seem heart-felt in the moment, you are likely to pay in some way for those gifts later.

Don’t get too attached to them or put much stock in what it means for your future.

6. Excluding you from holiday events. 

Narcissists are good at playing innocent when they want to. Holiday events give narcissists excuses to stay late at work for holiday parties or spend time with friends outside of regular routines.

Even if they’re don’t celebrate or you don’t, both of you may get many invitations, and attending may be social.

If they are in the middle of juggling several people at once, they may attend a holiday event and “conveniently” forget to invite you or they may use an invitation as an excuse to be somewhere else.

They may also use holiday routine disruptions as an excuse to triangulate you with others or give you a silent treatment. 

Be ready for narcissists to have an irregular calendar routine and thin justifications for it.  If you try to ask them about it, get ready for #2. It’s better to just ignore it. 

7. Using threats and promises about how smoothly the holidays will go.  

Narcissists may know certain events are important to you because they hold tremendous sentimental value.  They may combine all or more of the items on this list to hold this over your head.

This can give them a lot of power over us because we just want to keep the peace, especially if we have children with them.

We feel like we have to walk on eggshells and we can’t speak up or be ourselves just to have a somewhat normal holiday season. 

This is the ultimate goal of why narcissists ruin holidays. They want to hold the holiday season over our heads so that they can get their way.

Narcissists try to ruin the holiday season by holding our desire for joy and harmony over our heads so that they can get their way.

Knowing narcissists try to ruin holidays and you can’t control it can help you detach from how they behave.

This can help you have peace in your life this holiday season.

If you enjoyed the holiday season before you knew the narcissist, by arming yourself with the knowledge about what to expect, you can continue to enjoy them now. 

Full Article:

Gratitude. If the Shoe Fits, They Will All Wear it.

Gratitude…at great length.

I’ve always been intrigued, fascinated that art often imitates real life…or is it that real life often imitates art? It seems it’s true both ways at times.

Ignorance truly is bliss. That is until you learn you didn’t know what you didn’t know. You will likely feel regretful you didn’t pursue the flags, read every book, know every sign, but give yourself a break–that’s impossible when you don’t know what you don’t know. Education is absolutely, by far the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life, without it one can never reach that self-actualized place that everyone tries so hard to find throughout their lifetime–and without it one is also destined to make the same mistakes repeatedly, throughout their lifetime. If we are not learning, we are most assuredly making the same mistakes over and over. We’re either growing or dying, remember?

Like the lines of another familiar song by Carly Simon, “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you…” And written so descriptively accurate with “that one eye on the mirror.” However, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and simply being vain are very different. People commonly confuse the two and use them incorrectly and interchangeably. Both do frequently stare at themselves in mirrors, and they do watch themselves go by but with a stand out difference. Being vain doesn’t create victims and survivors of abuse.

When the shoe fits, an individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will most certainly put it on, lace it up, and wear it proudly for all to see. They rarely see the implications made through their own narcissism because it controls them. The funny thing is the experiences and behavior patterns are all the same because they accurately describe them all. What drives them. What fuels and feeds them. I have heard from numerous friends and several others whose combined and shared experiences with individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and co-occurring high-functioning alcoholism were so incredibly similar and predictable as their stories were being told that one briefly pauses to ponder if they’re the same person. Most Narcissists are (practically) indistinguishable from one another. They are extremely dependent and cannot be alone. Some are more overt while the rarer, more toxic, masterful ones are covert narcissists. These are the most dangerous of them all because you cannot detect them, especially without any previous education into the different types (or styles if you prefer) of narcissism. Their lives and traits are all so similar that these behaviors and patterns can be indistinguishable from another but keep in mind the covert ones are far more subtle. That’s why mental health professionals have the DSM-IV to follow and to connect the patterns to personality disorders and more but a non-professional must educate themselves. Just like a checklist that’s referenced for any physical disease–as a therapist you read, you learn and you match up the symptoms by required criteria, or in these cases the criteria of behavior pattens.

And that’s why they probably think this blog is about them…but it’s not. It’s about the disorders and it’s here for their victims to provide that education and much needed support. You aren’t alone, you’re not the first, and sadly you won’t be the last.

I’ve daydreamed at times that perhaps all Narcissists have a secret stamp. A semi-permanent, invisible stamp known only to them—a Narcissist only Skull and Bones if you will that they mark their victims with that cannot be seen. When they’ve moved onto the next Narcissistic supply source, it allows other Narcissists to quickly find you, like their secret code, to spot you from miles away. A stamp that stays hey, I’ve been manipulated once before by another with NPD so here I am, an unknowing target who will believe all the love bombing as real, as authentic in the idealization phase. I will inadvertently tell you all you need to know to reel me in. While I realize an invisible stamp is not real, there’s a small element of some truth to it (bare, and bear with me). Like it is said about stereotypes, they’d never stick around for very long if there wasn’t at least SOME element of truth to it.

We are most vulnerable to repeated attack from another Narcissist after getting away from one. They know this, they prey on it, and it usually works, unless you take the much needed time for yourself after getting away from an abuser. You will begin to see so much as you step away from it and begin to open your eyes and look around. They target independent (or anyone who appears to be) individuals and slowly break them, abuse them into someone who cannot and will not make their own decisions without their abuser’s approval. This is trauma bonding. The process is like the slow drip of a faucet, a slowly chiseled sculpting– like an ice sculpture–so slow it isn’t detected or seen. That’s why after leaving an abusive relationship it is crucially important to stop, reflect, distance yourself far from all unhealthy, toxic individuals. You will realize much, you will see a lot. The solutions to your questions, the answers you seek will appear, as well as the answers to all the things you never saw before as deeply running issues. As if anyone would ever dedicate that level of passion and time to learning and sharing (or as narcissists see it—time obsessed and focused on them) to those so undeserving of even the smallest drop of attentive water for their abusiveness and their self-set fire—without having a real, a higher, an important, positive purpose. It isn’t about them. The purpose is to foster empathy and much needed compassion for victims and survivors of the worst kind of insidious abuse, the abuse that is often dismissed and therefore re-traumatized by the compassionless, the abuse that leaves invisible wounds and a narcissist altered thinking process that must be undone back to the original state (but better) before the abuse. Emotional/mental/psychological abuse is legitimate trauma.

We have long seen the sad trends of tolerance and indifference to abuse, manipulation and to evil. When it hits you firsthand, it’s an absolute game changer. Women especially (and occasionally men too) are often labeled by abusers as crazy, oversensitive, they can’t take a joke, they’re thin skinned, they’re users (self-projection), they need to just let it go (of course they should since someone might actually believe the truth), you’re overreacting, you’re too sensitive, I’m just kidding, I’m just teasing, it was a joke, I never said that, etc., for reacting in a very normal way to abnormal emotional abuse. Most anyone who has been abused when asked which is worse, the physical or emotional abuse, will tell you unequivocally the emotional abuse is far worse and leaves a longer lasting impact. Studies have shown that long term emotional abuse actually re-wires your brain to think very much like your abuser and how they have conditioned you to think and to believe. It takes a long while to heal from long term C-PTSD from exposure to abuse, manipulation, and trauma. Much like presbyopia, we must step back, pull away from being too close to it to properly see things clearly as they are. Not to intentionally use another cliched ocular reference, but once you’re away and no longer being abused and it’s in your hindsight view, that’s when your wounds begin to heal. You will develop 20/20 vision and begin to see things, see them as they truly were and how it always will be–abusive and manipulative and masterfully disguised and presented as love.

Here we go again with the life and art connection…I’m reminded now of the Neil Diamond/Barbra Streisand duet from years ago with the line, “You don’t bring me flowers, you don’t sing me love songs…” In the beginning, for a long while they (Narcissists in Phase 1 of the abuse cycle) do bring you flowers, they sing you love songs, are extremely clingy and physically affectionate, purchase expensive jewelry, purchase properties and other land to build a home on one day, they take you on the same trips they’ve taken all the other ones before, they will take you on the same business trips that they can expense, the same restaurants, you name it. Why? Because it always worked before. Why change or complicate things? And heck, they know me here after all and it makes me look important and impressive that they call me by name. Meanwhile, in reality staff of such places walk away shaking their heads, (much like their old friends do) at the flurry of the numerous ins and the outs and repeated patterns of behavior. Many are horribly indifferent to these patterns of abuse, and it’s tolerated. The warnings will not come to you from their supporters who may appear to be your friends. You will not hear about their past behavior and treatment of others before you. Tolerance and indifference surrounds you by their enablers. Many who do care simply keep quiet for fear that you won’t believe them. It can be quite unbelievable, without that education.

When one obtains freedom from the immense control of an abusive, emotionally needy, demanding, manipulating individual to again begin pursuing their endeavors and goals, it’s not a simple, easy road. Just getting away from an abuser does not undo the traumatic effects of abuse. Afterwards, you may begin to be contacted by those you knew (and some you probably didn’t) with stories and tales from many who’d known your abuser for many years longer than you (some whose silence was likely due to fearing you wouldn’t have believed them, and sadly then you wouldn’t have). He may once again strategically choose his new targeted supply (or paramour this time as some will call it), one perhaps with a brand new zip code and such low scruples (and even less sense) –so that he can easily shape and mold this individual into his vicious attack dog where he can feed her fabrications while cowardly crouching down and hiding behind her–allowing his hands to stay squeaky clean while she fights his perceived battles of defending him and his abusive past. (Love? right…) Inner battles he will likely be too much of a coward to address or approach himself because the truth is likely far too black and white for him to do so. It’s much safer, smarter to get someone easily manipulated and mailable who knows nothing to fight his battles for him. It keeps him out of trouble and the new supply can take the fall. After all, what would–what could he himself say in response to the truth? It likely won’t be until after experiencing many long months of vile threats and bullying, late night under the influence call attempts, bizarre incoherent rants of inaccurate nonsense from a person who you’d never seen or met that you will finally have no choice but to file an injunction. The entire experience will be awful and terrifying, because you will know she is capable of just about anything from the stories you’ve been told from many describing her long standing pattern of lack of self-control, impulsiveness, substance abuse, instability, unpredictable and unstable behaviors and previous injunctions. Frightening stories of a lifestyle you could not imagine. You will have no choice. It will have to stop. Injunctions will hopefully permanently stop the obsessive stalking and threats of violence–but most assuredly if it does not, do not hesitate again to take further action for any additional protection you may need, as anyone should. No one should ever have to put up with months and months of relentless threats of violence, trashy language, bizarre harassment and stalking from anyone, known or unknown. Laws are there to protect law abiding citizens and to keep them from harm and further victimization.

I began this blog to share many eerily similar stories with the hope that something good could come from something bad, and as an outlet for healing from abuse to anyone who has experienced it. I hope these compiled stories in The Last Chardonnay will help others connect their dots. The good that you’ll receive once you’re free is being able to finally put yourself first once again, and your now keen discernment of others that has been and continues to become more finely tuned every day that you’re safely away from abuse. You will never again have to hang up the phone when he walks in for fear of a jealous reaction. You’ll be so deeply grateful to God for giving you the unknowing protection, the good sense and inner strength to what was at the time a temporary postponement of a destination wedding before making an even bigger mistake than you’ve already made. You’d have easily gone through with it–until seeing some red flags, (fabricated stories of his past trauma) if your motives and intentions were not true, and he’d certainly have too, had you not hit the brakes back then to give him time to heal from “his abuse”–and your life would’ve been an even bigger hell than it was. One woman before you might call and kindly laugh and say she thought you were the smartest one of all because he never got any money out of you like he had gotten from others. You always paid your own expenses and bills, but thankfully never got roped into picking up his as well, like she said she and the others had done over the years. Several friends may later confirm this story, and tell you they knew him well enough that if you’d had a regular, steady income right after your degree that you have now, he’d not have been as easy to agree to postponing marriage. You’ll be grateful beyond words that marriage never happened, and for so much more. You were lead to believe that he was the one with the deep trauma from his countless failed relationships with awful, cheating, lying, deceitful, abusive women. In actuality (projection again) he’d been the one causing trauma to others for years, and eventually to you.

It’s amazing how many of these stories parallel. Knowledge, others shared experiences and clinical research has changed me as a person, a therapist, and as a woman. I’m no longer one who overlooks the faults and flaws of another to focus on what appears to be their good qualities instead because it’s the right thing to do–one who no longer believes everything she’s told without VERY deeply checking into it beyond just the surface and what appears to be proof and evidence from supporters that will confirm the tall tales. You will have likely never heard of the tongue biters and enablers who openly support known abusers while silently riding the coattails of them, if they can. When you look back at photos of yourself, you can now see the stress on your face, in your eyes–the consuming, unending exhaustion that you unknowingly carried with you daily that no amount of catch-up sleep could correct. You somehow managed to put a smile on your face each day and no one, not even your closest friends really knew any different—or did they? You didn’t see what you now see. You are now unapologetically judgmental as to who you allow into your close inner circle, even though you have many casual/social acquaintances and friends. You are blessed to not be tolerant or indifferent to what is blatantly wrong and to have quickly removed a few small invasive weeds whose intentions and purpose in your life that you did not see, were not honest and good ones. Those weeds were ever-present and supportive until they were exposed as tolerant to known abuse. Narcissists will always keep a small group of supporters who are most likely aware, tolerant and indifferent to their abuse. They may change their supporters at times, but they will always have some by nature of their ability to manipulate others. Fortunately these types of occurrences either bring forth people’s exceptional character, or quickly show their absence of it. That’s one of the greatest goods that comes from the bad.

I tell my college students that being self-aware and finding self-actualization is a constant, daily, lifelong journey–as is the discernment of others and their real, true intentions. While I do realize a covert Narcissist cannot typically be spotted for many years no matter how much education you have on it, I’m now aware and well-seasoned to hidden purposes, agendas, and what those passive-aggressive, gaslighting phrases are meant to accomplish. They’re meant to control and destroy all sense of self in their targeted victims (Narcissistic supply) for their own complete control and manipulation toward their secretly hidden/disguised agendas. Sadly, there are many cowards and sheeple who are tolerant and indifferent to many forms of abuse, evil, and manipulation of others. These sheeple are as I have repeatedly said, tolerant of it and indifferent to it. They move forward with the abuser onto the next supply target without ever batting an eye and will continue to keep the abusers secrets from the next one to come.

I hope this blog helps instill courage and renew any lost faith to anyone reading it who has been emotionally or physically abused long term. Take much time for yourself. You need it. Time and reflection truly does give life-changing clarity and the manipulative, subtle thought process re-wiring that was done begins to slowly unravel and reform itself back to its original state–you, prior to the abuse, only educated and wiser to their ways.

I hope too that I’m able to help loved ones of abuse victims grow their compassion and patience, and help as many people as possible who’ve been through similar experiences. If it does, then my blog’s purpose is well served and my terrible experience was not—as Ms. Simon sang, so (in) VAIN.

…Gratitude, at length.

For T, P, K, L, S, D, N, M. Thank you for your trust, faith, inspiration, strength and candor. You are beautiful inside and out, and truly amazing. ❤️

An Addict First? Or a Narcissist First?

The 5 questions you have to ask yourself if someone close to you lives with both

If you are in a relationship with someone who struggles with addiction, and is a narcissist, you may find it difficult or impossible to figure out what, precisely, you should be doing, thinking, or feeling.

Let’s address the addiction first: It’s likely that your understanding of this individual’s addiction evolved over time because many addicts are very good at hiding their behavior. Once discovered, close friends may make an effort to see such addictive behaviors through the lens of the disease model, which requires empathy and understanding. It also calls on you, as a close partner, to be as supportive as possible to help a partner in his or her struggle to recover.

But what if you’ve come to realize that your partner is also a narcissist? Dealing with that recognition in a healthy way requires a different response than the one prompted by the disease model. In fact, empathy and support are actually not helpful in dealing with a narcissist.

Deep down, is every addict also a narcissist? And is every narcissist actually an addict? These are the difficult questions that the partner of a narcissist and addict has to explore and answer for him or herself.

The Link Between Addiction and Narcissism

In a provocative study, “Narcissism as Addiction to Esteem,” Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs argued that narcissism is, in fact, more like an addiction than a life-long personality trait. They applied the cycle of addiction—cravings, increasing tolerance, and withdrawal—to narcissism and found that, indeed, “craving to feel superior and the indulgence of those cravings may be the defining feature of narcissism,” and narcissists appear to be “constantly on the lookout for new and greater triumphs that bring them greater glory.” Finally, the authors address withdrawal: “When narcissists receive something other than the admiration they crave—indifference, criticism, disrespect—they exhibit considerable distress.”

Seeing narcissism as having the hallmarks of addiction also explains the instability of the narcissist’s relationships, which, they note, may be a function of depleting the supply of admiration he or she is getting from the source: They “tire of their partners when self-esteem benefits are no longer forthcoming.”

In his book, The Narcissist You Know, Joseph Burgo includes the “Addicted Narcissist” as one type of Extreme Narcissism. He notes that while all addicts aren’t narcissists, “addictive and narcissistic personalities have many features in common,” including a “pronounced lack of empathy for the people around them,” which is a function of the stronger relationship the addict has to his or her drug of choice, as well as relying “on their drugs to boost self-esteem at the expense of the people around them.” According to Burgo, a deep-rooted sense of shame is at the core of both narcissistic and addictive behaviors.

What should your stance be if your partner is both an addict and a narcissist? How do you balance empathy and understanding for the guy with the hidden bottles of alcohol he can’t stop drinking with your understanding of your partner’s impaired empathy, essential emotional disconnectedness, and basic disregard for your feelings?

This is where the terrain gets rocky and unstable. Burgo is careful to state that “If you’re emotionally involved with an Addicted Narcissist, you need first of all to recognize that you can’t possibly ‘save’ him on your own.” He points out the possible dangers of this dynamic:

These are tough words to read if you’ve been ensnared in the painful, horrible mess of a relationship with someone who is both an addict and narcissist. But I believe Burgo is right to underscore that you must examine your own motivations and ask yourself the tough questions: “Why am I here?” and, “Why do I continue stay?”

Impulsivity: Another Link?

There’s no question about the role impulsivity plays in addiction, although there’s disagreement about whether it’s a failure in self-regulatory processes, or a function of the drug or substance producing both a lowered sense of consequences and a heightened sense of pleasure. One thing that has intrigued researchers about narcissists is that they are ultimately playing a losing game, and prone to self-defeating behaviors.

I realize that if you are struggling with your feelings for a narcissist, you’re not seeing him or her as losing or, more directly, caring about potentially losing you, but bear with me: While it’s true that initially, narcissists make a good impression on people, it’s also true that their relationships almost always fail in time, and that the initial high regard with which they’re held will eventually turn to disdain. They win what they need—adulation, a sense of superiority, a feeling of power—but only in short bursts. Then they have to start over. Needless to say, psychologists want to know why narcissists engage in the activities that keep them from getting what they want.

Simine Vazire and David Funder decided to look into what caused these self-defeating behaviors, asking was it a function of conscious cognitive and affective processes or something else. They honed in on impulsivity and conducted a meta-analysis of the existing literature. They posited that impulsivity was the cause. If so, that seems to make the kinship ties of narcissism and addiction even more evident. But their assertion about impulsivity was taken on by another team of researchers led by Joshua Miller, W. Keith Campbell, and others whose take was different, positing that it wasn’t impulsivity per se but the fact that narcissists only pay attention to the possibility of reward, not the potential downside, aided and abetted by their antagonistic interpersonal qualities.

As a layperson who has had the misfortune of being connected to an addicted narcissist, the takeaway here isn’t pinpointing whether it’s impulsivity or something else; it’s realizing that while the addict may be able to curb their impulse to grab their drug of choice, the narcissist will remain with his or her lack of attention to consequences and impaired empathy.

What’s Possible—and What’s Unlikely

I turned to Craig Malkin, a therapist and author of Rethinking Narcissism (and a Psychology Today blogger) for answers to the question of how to deal with someone who has addiction and narcissism issues. “When someone has narcissistic personality disorder and a substance abuse problem,” he said, “it’s not enough for them to beat their drug addiction; they also have to beat their addiction to feeling special.”

That change, Malkin says, is about learning to open up to and depend on loved ones and friends in healthy ways. “To the extent that you can’t depend on people, you’ll depend on other sources to soothe yourself, like feeling special (narcissism) or watching pornography or getting drunk. But addiction makes us all more narcissistic—willing to lie, steal, cheat, and even exploit others to get our high.”

If you really want to know if your partner can change after substance-abuse treatment, Malkin says, you need to ask yourself these five questions:

As your partner overcomes his or her addiction, are the two of you still feeling distant?

Does your partner announce that they’ve made “the most progress of anyone at AA” instead of sharing with you their vulnerable feelings, like sadness, or loneliness, or fear?

Does your partner show a pattern of exploitation, entitlement, and empathy impairment (triple E), the hallmark of pathological narcissism, even after they stop using?

Does their emotional sharing feel empty or shallow, fueled largely by 12-step jargon instead of genuine remorse or sadness for the pain they’ve caused?

Are they secretive about their treatment experience, as though “you couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like unless you’ve been there?”

“If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,’ then it’s likely your partner’s narcissism is a core problem and they’re using 12-step programs to feel special in a new way instead of turning to you for mutual care and comfort,” Malkin explained. In that case, he says, “Recovery is merely another way the narcissist self-soothes—one of many—instead enjoying true emotional intimacy.

“You should view their narcissism as you would any severe addiction,” he says. “It takes a lot of work to break an extreme addiction to feeling special, and you have to decide if you’re willing to stick around while your partner does it. In this case, ‘slips’ mean a return to arrogance, self-involvement—perhaps even emotional abuse.“

But being armed with the knowledge that your partner faces two addictions—not just one—is empowering, Malkin says. “It makes the decision about when to leave that much easier. If your partner is only getting help for their drug addiction, and not their narcissism, there’s no hope of change.”

The decision to leave an important relationship is never easy. When you learn that someone you love and care for is addicted, your first impulse may be one of empathy and support. But it’s important that you look carefully at what, precisely, your partner is addicted to: Is it a substance or activity, or feeling special, or both?

Peg Streep

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Narcissistic heterosexual men target their hostility primarily at heterosexual women, the objects of their desires, study finds

Dr. Keiller’s findings are published online in Springer’s journal Sex Roles.

Research to date has shown that narcissists’ low empathy, feelings of entitlement, and perceptions of being deprived of ‘deserved’ admiration and gratification can make them prone to aggression and vengeance.

Dr. Keiller’s study looks at whether narcissists’ hostility is targeted at heterosexual women and men, gay men and lesbian women in the same way and with the same intensity. Each group represents a different combination of perceived conformity to traditional gender roles on the one hand, and potential for gratifying a heterosexual man on the other.A total of 104 male undergraduates, aged 21 years on average, from a large university in the Midwest US took part in the study survey. Keiller looked at measures of narcissism, sexist attitudes toward women and traditional female stereotypes, sexist attitudes toward men and heterosexual male stereotypes, and attitudes toward gay men and lesbian women.

He found that men’s narcissism was linked most strongly to hostility toward heterosexual women, more so than toward any other group including heterosexual men, gay men and lesbian women. In fact, men’s narcissism was linked to favorable attitudes toward lesbians and was unrelated to attitudes toward gay men. Narcissism was not, however, associated with greater acceptance of homosexuality in general.According to the author, these results suggest that narcissistic men believe that heterosexual relationships should be patriarchal rather than egalitarian.

Dr. Keiller concludes: “The present study suggests that heterosexual men’s narcissism is linked to an adversarial and angry stance toward heterosexual women more than toward other groups. Although narcissists may want to maintain feelings of superiority and power over all people, narcissistic heterosexual men are particularly invested in subordinating heterosexual women. The results suggest that narcissistic hostility is associated with a group’s potential to provide or withhold gratification rather than ideology about a group’s sexual orientation or conformity to heterosexual gender roles.”

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Are Male Narcissists Also Misogynists?

Are male narcissists more likely to be misogynistic? A study suggests that heterosexual narcissistic men tended to lash out more often at heterosexual women than any other group (including homosexual men and women). Dr. Keiller (2010), lead author of the study, writes:

The present study suggests that heterosexual men’s narcissism is linked to an adversarial and angry stance toward heterosexual women more than toward other groups. Although narcissists may want to maintain feelings of superiority and power over all people, narcissistic heterosexual men are particularly invested in subordinating heterosexual women.

While narcissists and their victims can be of any gender and sexual orientation and women can certainly be misogynistic as well (internalized misogyny is still well and alive), this study does seem to align with the accounts of many female victims of malignant narcissists, who have noted that their abusers tended to demonstrate patriarchal attitudes.

This link between misogyny and narcissism becomes even clearer when we consider that:

  • Misogynistic trolls who target women online are also part of the larger group of narcissists who have been shown to have high levels of psychopathy, sadism and Machiavellianism (Buckels, et. al 2014). This will not come as shocking news to any woman who has been trolled online and been subjected to violent threats, put-downs about her appearance and intelligence if she dares to speak out or basically exist on any online platform. For example, feminist writers and advocates such as Jessica Valenti and Anita Sarkeesian have been subjected to numerous threats over the course of their careers (Goldberg, 2015; Ryan, 2014). As Tory Shepherd writes, “We’re not talking about teen bullies here. We’re talking about grown men getting deviant pleasure from trying to hurt women.”
  • There is an established connection between misogynistic attitudes towards women and homicide against women (Campbell, 1981).
  • Many male mass murderers have also been shown to have a history of domestic violence against women. As Hadley Freeman (2017) writes in The Guardian:

“Paul Gill, a UCL lecturer who studies so-called lone wolf terrorists, told the New York Times last year: “Having a history of violence might help neutralize the natural barriers to committing violence.” In other words, wives and girlfriends make good target practice.”

Elliot Rodger is a prime example of what can happen when malignant narcissism and misogynistic beliefs merge in heinous acts of violence (Broogard, 2014). The 22-year-old created many disturbing videos and an entire manifesto about his entitlement to women’s bodies prior to his murderous rampage.

Are you dating a misogynistic narcissist? What to look out for:

Given the overlap between misogyny and narcissism, there are red flags that can point to the fact that you may be dating someone on the narcissistic spectrum. Common signs include:

An unwavering sense of sexual entitlement. Since male narcissists have been shown by Keiller’s study to have hostility towards women due to them being “sexual gatekeepers,” it is unsurprising that many male narcissists also display a sense of sexual entitlement as well. They feel entitled to women’s bodies and these are often the types to pressure, coerce or covertly manipulate women into fast-forwarding the physical aspects of the relationship early on and showing resentment, cold withdrawal or even forceful attempts when their advances are rejected.

TIP: Be wary of any dating partners who pressure you to get intimate with them early on. While this sense of entitlement may be more common than ever in today’s modern hookup culture, a refusal to respect your boundaries when you’ve communicated them is a sure red flag you’re dealing with someone toxic.

Stalking and harassment, especially in the face of rejection. All narcissists, regardless of gender, are capable of stalking and harassing their victims. This is because any form of rejection, even if it’s simply due to incompatibility, causes what is called a “narcissistic injury” which results in rage. You will find that male narcissists especially like to insult the women who reject them by degrading their physical attributes and sexual desirability.

Websites like Tinder Nightmares and Stop Street Harassment catalog what happens when women reject men and it seems that women disproportionately face certain types of harassment on social media, such as cyberbullying and revenge porn (Angus Reid Institute, 2016).  If a woman “dares” to refuse a second date with a narcissistic man, she will be on the receiving end of his rage or multiple attempts to change her mind.

TIP: When dating someone new, never reveal your address and avoid using your real phone number if you can. Use a Google voice number instead or message primarily through another text messaging app until you’ve met. It’s important to get a sense of who a person is before you give them full access to where you are and how you can be reached. Many stalkers take advantage of any personal information you give them to harass their victims after they’ve been rejected.

Deep-seated and harmful patriarchal beliefs that remain unquestioned. While it’s normal that both men and women have internalized gender roles to some extent in a patriarchal society, be on the lookout for harmful beliefs that any dating partners seem all too invested in defending and reinforcing. This can be overt, like a dating partner who believes women shouldn’t work or becomes enraged if you assert yourself. However, it can also be covert. Some abusive males mask themselves as feminists and “nice guys” when they are in reality simply looking to convince you of their credibility.

TIP: Rely on actions more than words. How does your dating partner react when you assert your boundaries and differing beliefs? Does he validate you or does he become contemptuous? How does he handle rejection? Does he often brag about what a “nice guy” he is and rant or rave about women who rejected him in the past or does he seem to take it in stride?

How does he respond to your accomplishments?Pathologically envious narcissists are often jealous of their partner’s achievements because it threatens their sense of superiority and their sense of control over you. Misogynistic male narcissists take it one step further: they feel deeply emasculated when they see their female partners accomplishing goals because it disrupts their stereotype of the “submissive woman.”

Such an attitude is not limited to narcissists alone: it has been shown as sadly common, even among highly educated men who may not be aware of these subconscious attitudes (Fisman et. al, 2006; Park et. al, 2015).

Another thing to note is how your dating partner approaches social justice issues. Does he dismiss or minimize the plight of women by claiming that men suffer equally or even worse horrendous treatment? It’s one thing to address the issues in society that affect men (such as expectations of toxic masculinity) but a whole other affair to continue to invalidate the systemic inequalities and realities that women worldwide face every day (everything from street harassment to honor killings). A man (or even woman) who refuses to acknowledge the unequal treatment of women in society is probably not one you will be compatible with in the long run regardless.

Narcissism isn’t exclusive to any gender, but it’s important to note that misogyny can be a trait of narcissism. It would be interesting for future research to also explore whether female narcissists possess misogynistic attitudes as well.

Shahida Arabi, M.A.

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What happens when the narcissist knows you’ve figured them out

Are you at the beginning of your recovery journey from narcissistic abuse? Are you learning all about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and coming to grips with the abuse you’ve suffered? If so, chances are you’re waking up to the ugly truth of it: what the pathological narcissist is, and what they are capable of. And the question ‘what happens when the narcissist knows you’ve figured them out’ is front of mind.

Understandably (and very necessarily…), with these realisations, the urge to free yourself is rising within you. Equally reasonably because of the nature of the disorder, you may be stressed, anxious and possibly also fearful about what will happen when they know you’re onto them.

Pathological narcissism exists on a spectrum, with a variety of differing profiles covering the continuum including overt, covert, malignant, and sociopathic narcissists.

Specifically how each one reacts when they know you’ve figured them out therefore varies. There are however commonalities.

In preparing to set yourself free, this article sets out for you likely responses from the narc.

The mind of the bully

Understanding what fuels the pathological narcissist is the closest a non-disordered individual can get to following the irrational thought processes that drive their behaviour.

Let’s set the scene and attempt to sketch this out with respect to what happens when they are sprung.

Where your relationships are based on connection and genuine care for those you choose to surround yourself with, this is not so for the Narcissistic Personality Disordered (NPD) person.

People to the narc, are tools that serve a distinct purpose which is to feed their beliefs about the fantasy land they have created where they rein as supreme, omnipotent, special, and perfect beings.

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This need is such that they are effectively addicted to securing corroboration that supports these beliefs, hence the term ‘supply’.

The narc’s addiction is the dependence on this external reinforcement that their false self-beliefs are based in fact, in order to keep knowledge of their true selves, at bay.

As with any addiction, withdrawal has significant repercussions for the afflicted. It is centred on the belief that without satisfying ‘supply’ needs, survival is jeopardised.

It’s therefore no surprise that faced with being unable to score their hit, your supply, the very darkest aspects of the narc take over.

The narc’s tipping point

Most of the time, their denial is (almost) bullet proof and successfully shields them from their awful truth. It is (almost) inconceivable to them that they could be flawed. This is evidenced in all the blaming you cop for their actions & behaviours, the projection, the denying irrefutable facts etc.

The construct of the disorder is such that conscious awareness of feeling threatened is infrequent. The tipping point of vulnerability for the narc, is generally a culmination of circumstances occurring when:

1 You are still useful to them as supply, and they therefore haven’t as yet, planned to discard you. In other words, feeding their addiction is at risk.

2 They are unaware that despite their relentless efforts to gaslight you into full submission, you have retained some of your autonomy, clarity of thought, self-belief, ability to question the reality they create for you, and will to be happy. This fracturing of their control over you, deeply challenges their self-concept.

3 AND, you have done something that penetrates their shield sufficiently to threaten their false perceptions of grandiosity, superiority, entitlement, and/or power (a.k.a. a narcissistic injury). This would be anything that communicates to them that they are not in control, for example, discovering you have raised your concerns about them with someone else; not complying with their directives and doing your own thing; calling them out on their disordered behaviour in an exposing way, etc.

So, what happens when the narc knows you’ve figured them out?

Power and control

The only way the pathological narcissist knows how to regain their inner equilibrium and get back to feeling safe in their make-believe world, is to re-establish control and power over you.

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And this they will do in a frenzied, manic, their ‘life depends on it kinda way’.

Control and power for the narcissist invariably involves proving you wrong. To their way of thinking, if they establish this for themselves, they also nullify the threat you pose to their false selves. (For more on the importance of invalidating you read Invalidation and Narcissism: Why they slowly erase you).

Remember that for the narc, flaws/mistakes/being wrong cannot be integrated into their view of one being due to splitting (see the Narc Wise Glossary for any term refreshers). You can be either all good, or all bad. All right, or all wrong.

To confirm your ‘wrongness’ in any department, is sufficient to cover all bases, including your suspicions about them.

And by invalidating you, and your views, they reinstate their control over you.  And ultimately, control over themselves. The threat you presented, has been eradicated.

Amplification of their ‘go to’ methods

As stated, flavours of narcissism vary. As do preferred modus operandi.

Some are fans of aggressive physical/verbal violence & bullying; some the ‘poor victim’ approach; some are gaslighters extraordinaire stealthily and steadily breaking the trust you have in yourself; some the illusion that they are, above all else, the world’s greatest giver and lover.

Whatever their primary go-to is, expect this to be amplified. They will use whatever their ‘forte’ is, full throttle.

Predictable narc mechanisms when they feel threatened

1.       Narcissistic rage

This is fury and vitriol like you’ve never witnessed before. It is the external manifestation of the narcissist’s internal short-circuiting. Their complete inability to cope with the truth of who they are.

It is the rage sparked by being unmasked as weak, out of control, and false. Their glimpse of what lies beneath their denial and their momentary understanding of being flawed to the point of being disordered. It is a snapshot of comprehension of what they spend a lifetime obsessively hiding from.

In the moment of narcissistic rage, they are completely out of control. This does not mean ‘out of control’ with respect to intentionality, awareness of actions & behaviours, nor consequently of responsibility. It means ‘out of control’ in terms of consequences be damned.

The expression of their rage will vary, however the greater the narcissistic injury, the greater the reaction, which may be verbal through to physical aggression.

2.       Cruelty

Following narcissistic rage, is the shift back to calculated manipulation and abuse. It is the return from being out of control, to fully in control and mindful of all actions and behaviours.

The malignancy the pathological narcissist is capable of, and that you experience in some forms regularly throughout devaluation, is at this point fully unleashed.

Not only to teach you a lesson about who has power and control over you, but to punish. To cause harm. Because in their minds a) they are entitled to do so, and b) you deserve it.

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So, what does this cruelty look like? Again, this will depend on the flavour & ‘go to’s’ of the narcissist.

Common strategies that leverage the knowledge they have of you based on vulnerabilities you have shared with them are:

• Baiting – deliberately provoking and antagonising you to react negatively by jabbing at your deepest wounds.

• Gaslighting – ramping up efforts to have you question your sense of reality and mental health (for more on this strategy read 5 ways to counteract the narcissist’s gaslighting).

• Withholding/Stonewalling – removing your access to information, emotional or physical resources you either depend on or value the most. Denying access to children for no valid reason, isolating you from emotional/social support, and financial abuse, are all examples.

• Smear campaigns – spreading false information and gossip, to discredit, undermine, control and isolate you further (for more on smear campaigns & how to tackle them, read Narcissists and smear campaigns: Why they do it and What can be done to stop the narcissist’s smear campaign).

3.       Hoovering

If the narcissist believes that there is still a possibility of brainwashing you back into their make-believe world, and you retain some usefulness as supply, hoovering will hit hard. These are all the strategies used to suck you back in.

Once more employing all the knowledge they have of you, and activating the triggers they have programmed in you through their abuse, you can expect:

• Love-bombing – bombarding you with professions of love, promises of the future emotionally healthy relationship that lies before you and their forthcoming changes.

• The fauxpology – often accompanying the love-bombing, if the narcissist deems it necessary for the purpose of the hoover, is the ‘sorry not sorry’. An apology devoid of sincerity, accountability or empathy, yet rolled out much like love bombing messages to give you what you want to hear (for more on the fauxpology read The narcissist’s apology: Sorry, not sorry ).

• Using fear, guilt and obligation – tailoring pleas and demands to stimluate your deepest wounds, and elicit pre-determined reactions to pull you back in. These ones may sound like ‘how could you do this to me, after all I’ve done for you’, or ‘no one will ever love you like I do’ etc.


These ones are arguably the most difficult to withstand because they target what you want most and fear most. This is precisely why they are used on you.

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You are not a puppet. Cut those strings now.

(For more on these tactics read How the narcissist hooks you: Hoovering & baiting).

4.       Discard

On the other hand, if the narc figures their game is up and you no longer represent usefulness as supply, the final phase of the cycle of narcissistic abuse will be instigated: discard.

This is the follow through of all threats implicit throughout devaluation coming to fruition. It is your callous rejection and abandonment, devoid of any closure.

In most instances, the narcissist will already have alternative supplies lined up. These will often be intensified prior to your discard to ensure your awareness of replaceability as added punishment.

For more on the phases of the cycle of narcissistic abuse, read From ‘soul mate’ to worthless: What’s behind the narcissist’s 180? & The narcissist’s ‘soul mate’ effect: How & why they do it.

What to do about what happens when the narc knows you’ve figured them out

Many of the abusive tactics cited, as you know, are present throughout a relationship with an abusive narcissist.

When applied once the narc knows you’ve figured them out however, the difference is they no longer have anything to lose. Specifically, your supply. Which brings on the ‘no holds barred’, Satan rises, kinda situation.

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This may strike the fear of God into you. Clearly this isn’t without basis.

Gorgeous one, please don’t take the possibilities of what may occur and likely fear, as rationale to stay in the situation you are in.

Remember that the fear, and myriad other negative outcomes on your wellbeing and whole-of-life outcomes, that you sustain from the abuse of the narcissist, ARE the reasons you must break free.

You are not alone. There is help.

If you need support in preparing to leave your abusive situation, reach out to your local domestic violence service providers or call your national domestic violence hotline for referrals and to develop a safety plan.

For support with self-harm or suicidality, please contact your local suicide prevention service. For services near you please refer to the resources provided by the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

If at any point you fear that you or anyone else is in imminent danger, contact emergency services immediately.

Gorgeous one, you’ve got this. A thousand times over. You’ve got this.

Wake up from this nightmare. Prepare. Plan. And set yourself free.

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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.

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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.

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