The Secret Language of Narcissists: How Abusers Manipulate their Victims.

Via Shahida Arabi
on Mar 9, 2016
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Stephanie Overton/Flickr
Society assumes that everyone has a conscience and the ability to empathize.

In fact, 1 in 25 people in the United States are estimated to be sociopaths, according to Harvard psychologist Martha Stout. Narcissists (those who meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder), sociopaths and psychopaths, speak in the language of crazy-making, of projection, of word salad, of gaslighting and of pathological envy.

While I will be focusing on narcissistic abusers in this post, keep in mind that all three are unable to empathize with others and frequently exploit others for their own agenda. If you encounter someone with narcissistic traits, they could very well fall towards the extreme end of the psychopathy spectrum and be a sociopath or psychopath.

Narcissistic and partners with Antisocial Personality Disorder engage in chronic manipulation and devaluation of their victims, leaving victims feeling worthless, anxious and even suicidal. This type of continual manipulation, which includes an idealization-devaluation-discard abuse cycle where they “lovebomb” their partners, devalue them through stonewalling, gaslighting, smear campaigns, verbal and emotional abuse, then discard them until the trauma begins again, also known as narcissistic abuse—abuse by a partner with NPD or on the far end of the narcissistic spectrum.

Their manipulation is psychological and emotionally devastating and very dangerous, especially considering the brain circuitry for emotional and physical pain are one and the same. What a victim feels when they are punched in the stomach can be similar to the pain a victim feels when they are verbally and emotionally abused, and the effects of narcissistic abuse can be crippling and long-lasting, even resulting in symptoms of PTSD or Complex PTSD. Needless to say, this type of abuse can leave psychological and emotional scars that can last a lifetime.

Yet what makes narcissistic abuse so dangerous is that it is often not recognized as abuse.

Mental health professionals are only now beginning to research and understand what Narcissist Victim Syndrome is, although survivors have been speaking about it for years. Narcissistic abuse is primarily psychological and emotional (though victims can suffer physical abuse as well) and since these abusers employ very covert and insidious methods to abuse their partners, they are able to escape accountability for the abuse because of the false persona they present to the outside world which is usually a charming mask that hides their cruelty.

Survivors often blame themselves for the abuse, not being able to put into words what they’ve experienced. Once they learn the vocabulary of narcissistic abuse, they are armed with the tools, the insights, and the resources to heal. Learning the language and techniques of these predators means that we are better prepared to identify the red flags when interacting with people who display malignant narcissism or antisocial traits and that we can better protect ourselves from exploitation and abuse. It means we can set appropriate boundaries with others, and make informed decisions about who we keep in our lives.

Understanding the nature of these toxic interactions and how they affect us has an enormous impact on our ability to engage in self-care. I personally know how devastating this type of abuse can be, especially when survivors are not able to speak of their experiences in the traditional discourse about what abuse entails and are often alienated and invalidated by friends, family members, and even mental health professionals who are not trained in this type of abuse. As a survivor, author, coach and a researcher, I’ve made it my mission to continue educating the public about the effects of narcissistic abuse, the techniques of narcissistic abusers, and the fact that healing from this type of abuse is possible.

These pathological individuals walk among us every day in their false masks, often unseen and unnoticed because of how eerily normal they are. They can be of any gender, background, and socioeconomic status. Often times, they are charming, charismatic, the life of the party, able to hook their victims in and dupe the public effortlessly. It’s very possible you’ve dated, worked with, had a family member or friend with Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder in your lifetime.

Learning their emotional language means acknowledging that their cruelty is not only explicit but implicit, deeply ingrained in nuances in their facial expressions, gestures, tones, and most importantly, the contradictory mismatch between their words and actions. Their cruelty is deliberate and designed to control and ultimately destroy their victims.

These types of abusers are fluent in manipulation, well-versed in sadism, in control and in rage. It is akin to psychological and emotional rape—a sordid violation of boundaries and of the trust the victim has given his or her abuser.

Narcissistic abusers can attack at any given moment, using their choice weapons of sarcasm, condescending remarks, name-calling, and blame-shifting whenever they perceive you as a threat or whenever they need entertainment in the form of an emotional reaction. They can also use their nonverbal language in the form of a sadistic smirk, the cold deadness in their eyes while professing their to love you, their bored, sulky looks or their cruel laughter to bully you into believing that you are inferior to them.

Survivors spend much of the devaluation phase of an abusive cycle (the phase where they are thrust off the pedestal, only to be demeaned and degraded) constantly on their toes, careful not to make a sound lest they incur the wrath of their narcissist. Yet walking on eggshells doesn’t help, as the narcissist can and will use anything and everything you’ve said or done against you.

There are three key pieces of information that narcissists frequently collect in the idealization phase of the relationship where they are first lovebombing and grooming you with excessive attention, that they later wield against you in the devaluation and discard phases in their special language of depravity:

1. The flaws, shortcomings, insecurities and secrets you’ve confided in the narcissist about.

The narcissistic abuser rejoices when you share your wounds, your struggles, and your triggers early on. It is then that much easier for them to get underneath your skin and inside of your mind. During the early stages of the relationship, you are likely to feel so trusting and open with a narcissist that you share everything with them: your past, your heartbreaks and what you perceive to be your flaws.

You may see this as a way of establishing rapport, a connection with your partner, a way of being vulnerable and intimate.  A narcissistic abuser sees it as dinner laying itself on the table. They will pretend to support you and empathize with you when you reveal these to them initially, but will later use these to provoke you, belittle you and demean you during the devaluation phase.

Remember: The narcissist has no limits as to what he or she will use, they thrive on the fact that you are being retraumatized. Their ability to make you regress right back into the original trauma with just one turn of phrase makes them feel powerful. And they live for that power, because it is the only power they have. To a narcissist, any open wound is an invitation to cut deeper and the narcissist can and always will cut a wound even deeper than the first.

2. Your strengths and accomplishments, especially the ones they are pathologically envious of.

Initially when you were on the pedestal, the narcissist couldn’t get enough of your strengths and accomplishments. They couldn’t stop raving about you to family and friends, showing you off, treating you like a trophy, an essential part of them. Their association with you inevitably made them feel superior and important. It bolstered their false image of being a normal human being who could get a “prize” like you.

In the devaluation phase, a narcissist will literally translate your strengths into perceived flaws. Once you were “confident and sexy,” but now you’re “cocky and vain.” Before, you were “intelligent and driven,” and now you’re just a “know-it-all” or a “a smartass.”

They gaslight you into believing that your value and worth are not real, all while projecting their own sense of inferiority onto you. They will degrade, minimize, and ignore what you accomplish, now acting as if it means nothing to them and as if it is of little importance or value to the world. They will feed you falsehoods about your lack of competence and ability. They will claim to be better at you, all the while stealing your ideas. They will taunt you into believing that you’re not capable of the smallest of tasks, even if you are out of their league professionally and personally. They will threaten to ruin your reputation and they will often sabotage major events as well as support networks you may have, attempting to turn everyone against you. They will trample upon your dreams, your aspirations, your beliefs, your personality, your goals, your profession, your talents, your appearance, your lifestyle – all the while extolling their own.

Their sudden turn of language takes a toll; it is traumatizing, shocking and unexpectedly vicious. Everything they once praised will inevitably be turned and twisted into a weakness. This is because they cannot stand you “winning” and being better than them at something. To them, everything is a competition and a game that they must win at all costs. They seek to destroy you in every way possible so that you, in turn, destroy and sabotage yourself—all the while they sit back, relax and watch the unraveling of everything you’ve worked hard for.

3. Your need to please them and their need to be perpetually dissatisfied.

The narcissist cultivated your need for his or her validation and approval early on in the idealization phase. By making you dependent on his or her praise, they conditioned you to seek the excessive admiration that only they could dole out. Now, as they devalue you, they use your need for validation to their advantage by withdrawing frequently, appearing sullen at every opportunity, and converting every generous thing you do for them as a failure on your part that falls short of their ludicrous expectations. Nothing can meet their high standards and everything wrong will be pointed out. In fact, even the things they do wrong shall be pinned on you.

Their blame-shifting language, passive-aggressive sulky behavior and narcissistic rage at the slightest injury becomes all-consuming for the victim, as the victim attempts to strengthen his or her efforts to meet the standards of the narcissist —standards which inevitably set the victim up for failure. For this, the victim is met with verbal assault, accusations and unfair comparisons which instil in him or her a pervasive sense of worthlessness and never being “enough.”

If the victim ever attempts to make the narcissistic abuser accountable for being a decent human being, they will lash out in rage, blaming them for the abuse and stonewalling the victim into silence. They love to have the last word, especially for the language they’ve created.

Taking back our control and power from a narcissistic abuser means going to war with the language they use against us. This means seeking validating, professional help for the abuse we’ve suffered, detaching from these people in our lives, learning more about the techniques of abusers, finding support networks, sharing our story to raise awareness and finding the appropriate healing modalities that can enable us to transcend and thrive after their abuse.

We can channel this experience of abuse for our highest good and for the greater good. We just have to be willing create in its place what I call a “reverse discourse”—a new language and a rewriting of the narrative that instead lifts us, motivates us, inspires us and revives us by replacing the narcissist’s cutting words with our own powerful truth.

~

Relephant:

Love Bombing: A Seductive & Manipulative Technique.

Why the World Needs Narcissists.

~

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Author: Shahida Arabi

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Stephanie Overton/Flickr

1,912,437 views

About Shahida Arabi

Shahida Arabi is a graduate of Columbia University graduate school and the author of #1 Amazon Bestseller, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself as well as another bestselling book, The Smart Girl's Guide to Self-Care. She studied Psychology and English Literature as an undergraduate at NYU, where she graduated summa cum laude. Her interests include psychology, sociology, education, gender studies and mental health advocacy. Her blog, Self-Care Haven, has over 1.8 million views and has been endorsed by numerous mental health professionals, bestselling authors and award-winning bloggers. You can check out her blog, Self-Care Haven, for topics related to mindfulness, mental health, narcissistic abuse and recovery from emotional trauma, like her page on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Comments

87 Responses to “The Secret Language of Narcissists: How Abusers Manipulate their Victims.”

  1. Karo says:

    Thanks for the article. I have had some experience of the behaviour you have described, but I am not sure the man I am thinking of was a narcissist or not. He did put me on a pedestal and he did have a way of cutting me down sometimes, but we never got close beyond that and I cannot say that he changed his opinion about me. He simply put me on a pedestal and when he wasn’t interested anymore he just disappeared without any consideration for my feelings. It hurt a lot and I suffered a trauma, but I am not sure he would classify as a narcissist. I am still trying to work out what happened to me. Since my opinions were often devalued I am struggling to make sense of it all. Any feedback would be helpful.

  2. Kalonia says:

    This took all the thoughts I couldn’t shape and put them into perfect form. Having a vocabulary to use, in order to address the inner pain, helps a great deal. I’m starting to see how this is not just happening on an individual level, but a societal level as well. With those who have control over survival resources being the macro example of this type of abuse. And unlike asking the victim why they aren’t leaving, we ask ourselves, as victims of a social mindset, how we can help each other heal and grow from the trauma.

  3. Morten says:

    It may be hard and unpleasant to recognize, but the so called abuser is exactly as much a victim as the so called victim.

  4. Ellen says:

    This is the most comprehensive article, related to my life, that I have read. The need to be constantly dissatisfied is huge. The periods of extreme kindness until the rug gets pulled out from under your feet (again and again), the eggshells you try so hard to be gentle with as you tiptoe over them, the need they have to sabotage or take full credit for any accomplishment you have made, and the explosive and irrational anger as a tool to keep you in check. The passive aggressive isolation from any support network you may try to form…..

    Thank you for pointing out that not only is it possible to heal from this relationship, it is possible to create a new “reverse discourse” and begin to develop a new paradigm of wholeness.

  5. selfcarehaven says:

    Hi Karo, thank you for sharing your story. If you have experienced the deliberate cruelty (as in, they fed off your pain and would make sure to provoke you where it hurt) combined with a lack of empathy as described in the article, it is very possible your partner had narcissistic traits. On the other hand, if you feel this partner had the ability to empathize but simply did not want a close relationship, it could be emotional unavailability. Whether this partner had the full-fledged personality disorder is difficult to say without knowing too much about your full story and without learning the partner's full spectrum of behavior, which is often observed throughout the course of a very intimate, long-term relationship, although it can surface sooner. Many outsiders do not know who a narcissistic partner is behind the mask because they never get close enough to them for them to uncover the mask through devaluation and discard. What you experienced seems to be a brief portrait of this person, which means there can be something much deeper beneath the surface – the ways in which narcissists act in long-term, romantic relationships can be different from short-term ones, as the long-term relationship partner is often subject to a horrific cycle of abuse, while the short-term one can also have horrific abuse but the cycle is cut thankfully short. I am not sure if your relationship with the narcissist is a long-term or short-term one, but if you did not get too close to them, it's very possible you did not get the full picture of what he was really like – there could've been so much more trauma had he not disappeared. I often find that the way narcissists react to our emotions (callous indifference, especially when we are vulnerable or showing our emotions) is a telling sign of whether or not they lack empathy. It can take some time for that lack of empathy to be unmasked, as narcissists often wear a charming mask until their partner is sufficiently hooked. Narcissistic partners also engage in stonewalling, gaslighting, projection, triangulation and smear campaigns. You can read more about these techniques and narcissistic abuse in my other article, Five Powerful Ways Abusive Narcissists Get Inside Your Head: http://selfcarehaven.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/fiv… I hope this helps!

  6. Guest says:

    It's understandable you don't know if he was or not. I often don't know if I am or not but all the characteristics are there. It's like a game I play with myself that I never signed up to play and most of the time don't know I am playing it until after the fact. People assume we want to be this way because the outcome is typically getting what we want or making someone do something they don't want to do. Some look at the intelligence behind it as a gift. It does take a lot of intelligence among other things and not all good. It's far from a gift. How do you use this for good when the tendency for self gain is bred into us so deep. I call it an unwanted power and it truly is a power. A very powerful one and at the end of the day I just want to be normal.

    I think this was a great article and you do have a great understanding of it for the most part. There are two sides to every story and maybe my story is different then others. I can only speak for myself. I don't claim to be a victim of this power. I can't claim anything. I just know if I had a choice I would not be this way. Call me weak or just stupid. I can't argue for or against that. I don't have all the answers. Just know I could make you believe you have them and it's not something i'm proud of. I just want to wrap my head around around it.

  7. G says:

    Great Article, I notice this topic is popping up around a lot lately. I have encountered a few narcissists. I even had an encounter with a narcissist that started calling other’s narcissist and gaining sympathy for a narcissist she encountered I think narcissism is going on a very big scale and getting a little ugly and people are starting to wake up and not want to walk on egg shells around each anymore each. I think narcissism slide’s through many relationships and friendships on daily. The upside to narcissism it help other’s build person strength, love and self awareness. I think another issue with narcissism is that people have been trapped in vanity for to long.

  8. Brett says:

    Is it possible for someone that is a victim of Narcissistic abuse to become narcissistic as a result and is there anything that can be done to bring them back to the way they were? Thanks.

  9. Lilly says:

    Incredible article. I’ve read so much on this subject and it wasn’t until after I left the relationship and started learning about it, that I realized what horrible mess I was in. I am still now feeling the traumatic effects after a year of leaving his grasp. I thank you for putting into the words to explain my pain. Where can I read/learn more with literature you recommend.

  10. Brett says:

    Is it possible for a victim of narcissistic abuse to become narcissistic as a result and if so is there anyway to help them return to their former self?

  11. Janice says:

    How does this apply to the way siblings/children treat each other when growing up? I have two older sisters, who treated me like an emotional punching bag when we were children. And if I got upset about it and went to my parents, I got no sympathy at all. One reason was because my oldest sister, being the first born, was my mother's favorite child (even though she didn't obviously demonstrate it), and she would never scold that sister for anything she did (no matter how mean). The other sister would get in trouble because she was often do things none of us were supposed to do. And when she got in trouble, she took it out on me.

    I'm finally realizing after all these years that the way I was treated by my sisters is the reason I am so insecure and unsure of myself and have actually never been able to have a successful relationship with men. I also told my oldest sister several years ago that when we were growing up, I thought she hated me. She was horrified, and completely denied it. But it didn't cancel out all the harsh behavior she threw at me.

    So I'm very curious how your article may apply to what I've described … if it even does.

  12. selfcarehaven says:

    Hi Janice, thanks for your comment! Narcissistic abuse can happen in any context, whether it's family, friendship, a relationship or the workplace. In family situations where one or both parents are narcissistic, their children are seen as objects/trophies and are subject to narcissistic rage if the children dare to live independent lives outside of the control of their parents. One child can be made to be the scapegoat or the black sheep of the family while the other sibling is the "Golden Child." Family members who are the scapegoat are devalued and endure smear campaigns while the golden child is placed on a pedestal and idealized. In the case of siblings, if a sibling is narcissistic, they will do everything in their power to devalue and sabotage the sibling that threatens them. While this post was focused on romantic relationships, it can happen throughout various contexts and scenarios.

  13. Aly says:

    Hello Shahida,

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I finally feel like someone understands what I went through. Reading this has brought a lot of old hurt up particularly how I isolated and misunderstood I felt. I experienced everything you mentioned from step 1 to 3 and by the time he was finished with me I was suicidal, isolated from my family and friends, and I didn’t know who I was because I couldn’t understand my own erratic behavior. He is a doctor and therefore felt he had the right to diagnose me with every psychological disorder available because initially I had shared some childhood traumas with him. I normally never did but something about him compelled me to, as if it was wrong not to share. Later he used this information to tell me I was crazy, troubled, severely emotionally stunted, ect. When I told him I was having suicidal thought I saw excitement in his eyes. He ran out of the room to make a call. He used my pain to get his doctor friends to prescribe heavily controlled prescriptions to feed his own addictions. It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. He paraded my suffering and blamed it on homesickness. I’m a deeply private person so this was particularly difficult for me to be so exposed. He was charming and social and appeared to be very happy but the moment the curtains were down his face would turn dead, indifferent. Even in my state it was fascinating to watch that severe transformation. When I confronted him about his behavior he would proudly say things like “It’s not like I hit you”. When we would go to events, just before we would arrive, he would pick a fight with about something silly and tell me how I make other people feel uncomfortable and how it’s very embarrassing for him. The event would be ruined because I would be upset and paranoid about what people were saying about me so I would isolate myself further. I was a very outgoing and social before I met him but slowly I developed severe social anxieties and a speech impediment. When he looked at me with these cold, dead, disapproving eyes everything inside of me shut down. He used money in particular to control me but a month after I got a job making almost as much as him he cheated on me and broke up with me. He tried to control me after that as well but once I was out of his grips I slowly started to piece myself together. I’ve never experienced that level of cruelty, it was difficult to realize what was happening to me. I just want to thank you so much for writing this and making me feel a little bit saner as to what happened to me.

  14. RB says:

    I am married for 17 miserable yes with 2 young girls & trying to leave. He is cruel, a compulsive liar, gaslighting, manipulative, non communicative ( he single mindedly talks only about what he wants) & has been abusive in every possible way in private but I don’t know how to control my reactions & am guilty of screaming in rage & have been violent. He has always used this to show others that he is the victim & has successfully explained away atleast 6 yrs of neglect, abandonment etc. by doing this. My life seems hopeless & I just try to do my best one day at a time but am constantly afraid. How do I expose him & is it at all possible to explain my reactions to the people he has turned against me ?

  15. Eva says:

    Coming from someone who’s mother is a NPD, this was an insightful article. I always knew something was wrong ( was not brought to my attention through counseling) that how she treated me was wrong- but of course, nobody else saw what I saw! It’s very tough when having a parent, especially a mother as one- due to it being such a taboo in society that it totally shreds to pieces what normal society constitutes as a “mom.” It’s only fitting that I came across this ironically on my birthday today. Thank you for the work you’re doing- but please don’t forget to be especially emphatic that even mothers can be real live monsters, because sadly so many people excuse this behavior and justify it in their lives because it’s their mom. I feel as though people look down on me and find it hard to comprehend why i wouldn’t or don’t have her In my life.

  16. selfcarehaven says:

    I do not agree with this. The victims of narcissistic abuse do not go out of their way to smear a narcissist's name, devalue them or harm them for a thrill; the narcissist does and often succeeds in destroying many facets of a victim's life without any empathy and very little remorse. Survivors collectively suffer a great deal more from the projections of the narcissist than the narcissist ever has in his or her original "narcissistic wound," if such a wound even exists. Additionally, while there are clinical theories about why NPD arises in an individual, there is actually still no definitive answer for the cause of this disorder – whether it be trauma or overvaluation by a parent of the child. We still do not know for certain what causes this disorder, so we cannot assume that every narcissist is a child of trauma (there may be narcissists who are taught a sense of entitlement by having everything handed to them in childhood, which is another plausible theory). If a narcissist is a victim of any form of childhood abuse, they should be actively seeking professional help, which a large majority of them do not because their behavior rewards their sense of entitlement and superiority. Victims of narcissistic abuse do not use their traumatic experiences as excuses to abuse others; many of them are the ones who end up getting professional help precisely because they wish to heal their wounds and not take out these wounds on others. I applaud anyone who has NPD and has enough self-awareness to seek help and treatment, but many of them do not, and continue to hurt others to gain supply. Their lack of willingness to seek treatment is intrinsic to their disorder, which is why I wrote this article because victims should be on the lookout for these types of abusive behaviors – more often than not, the abuser is unlikely to change.

  17. selfcarehaven says:

    Hi Kalonia, you're absolutely right. Narcissistic abuse is a societal problem, especially with society invalidating this type of abuse and placing the focus entirely on the victim rather than the symptoms of trauma which makes it very difficult to heal from this type of abuse. It's important that we continue to raise awareness in the mental health professional community about this type of abuse so that survivors can connect to appropriate resources that enable them to identify what they've experienced, process it and heal from it. Many blessings to you!

  18. selfcarehaven says:

    Thank you Ellen. You described the dynamic of walking on eggshells and waiting for the next hit perfectly. Survivors spend a lifetime waiting – waiting for their abusers to change, waiting for the kindness to turn into cruelty, waiting for the next blow or hit in an attempt to avoid it or escape it, waiting for the right time to end the relationship. It is only when they stop waiting and start walking away that they begin to process what they've escaped and begin a journey back to wholeness. It is challenging to walk away, even more difficult to heal, but more than possible. Many blessings to you!

  19. selfcarehaven says:

    Aly, I am so sorry to hear you went through this. Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story. Unfortunately what society doesn't realize is that many narcissists and sociopaths can hide themselves in helping professions to extract narcissistic supply. The narcissist's false mask gaslights and dupes the public as well as the victim initially. Narcissists use our past wounds against us, compounding those wounds with new ones they manufacture to retraumatize us and destabilize us. It is sick and cruel – no human being deserves to be treated this way. Anyone can be a narcissist or a sociopath. I am happy to hear you gained validation from this article. Many blessings to you and your journey to healing…sending virtual hugs your way.

  20. selfcarehaven says:

    Hi RB, the most challenging part of the smear campaign from a narcissist and the narcissist's ability to depict the victim as the abuser is that we cannot control the extent to which people believe it. We gain the most power when we seek our own validation, as difficult as it may be. Attempting to expose the narcissist can worsen the situation, as the narcissist will use any means to ensure that your reputation is ruined. That being said, in terms of legal matters, it may be appropriate for you to document the abuse if in the future you should ever need this documentation in court. Here are some articles that may be helpful to you: 1) https://www.domesticshelters.org/domestic-violenc… 2) http://www.loveisrespect.org/legal-help/documenti… 3) http://www.thehotline.org/2014/05/building-your-c… . Hope these help! Blessings to you <3

  21. Matin says:

    Finally!!! Someone has put into words something I couldn’t…… Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

    I sufferred at the hands of a Narcissist for over 10 years and still do to this day but thankfully from a distance. Unfortunatley for me she now has her claws into our two children manipulating them anyway she sees fit. Its like watching a Tiger play with its food before going in for the final kill! The worst part is I can do nothing about it. Thank you for a wonderful article its nice to know I’m not alone.

  22. CJ Harris says:

    Hey this is a very informative and eye opening article, however it doesn’t not state whethe or not people suffering with NPD can be helped or where such help can be found. Can you give me some guidance ? I think the reason why there are so many victims is because of the lack of awareness and the fact that victims accept the treatment and adapt. I will share this with as many as I can. Thanks

  23. @fuseboo says:

    Thank you , Thank you, Thank you!!!! Finally someone has put into words something that I could not. Having been on the recieving end of a narcissist for the best part of ten years it makes a nice change to see that my experience is recognised by so many people. Unfortunatley my ex now has her claws into my two children manipulating them at will. It is like watching a tiger play with her food waiting for the final blow to finish them off and leaving them with no choice but to break off all contact from me. It is sustained abuse no more, no less and until this is recognised by the authorities here in the UK it leaves victims powerless to do anything about it. Thank you again and #stayawesome

  24. Rich says:

    Shahida,
    Thank you for so eloquently writing this! I didn’t want to believe it, but I am now 100% convinced that one of my roommates is NPD. After walking on eggshells for months, the abuse has slowly escalated, and I recently suffered my first anxiety attack, which was horrible and extremely foreign to me. If my apartment and the rest of the roommates weren’t so amazing I would simply move out, but I have worked extremely hard to get where I am, and that isn’t an option. I have given up hope of rehabilitating her (she always perceives it as an attack and uses it against me), so the ideal situation would be to get HER to move out. What do you believe is the best way to make this happen? Or do you think it’s just something I need to learn to live with, and simply keep my distance? Any and all feedback is super appreciated.

  25. Linda says:

    my daughter married a guy like that, she will not have anything to with her family or friends, since she has married him. He has brain washed and degraded her and pribabably still does. I pray for her every day to come back to reality .. no connection at all . No phone, no car, no facebook communication at all. She even puts down her own family that ever loved her and still does abd misses her terribly. Please , beware of these people . Thank you for sharing this interesting article.

  26. Luis Ismael Arenaza Cruz says:

    I went away for a year and went I got released, I ran head on unto a brickwall, everything in me life that was going wrong was me fault, everything described in the article fits HER to a tee ,I have gotten so angry that all o could do rationally was just to turn around and walk away, I didn’t know who this woman was or why I was allowing this person to talk to me this way, but the truth was that I was under her spell because of the inside and private information she knew about I that I thought why is she so vicious and cruel, while seeing her face glowing with the pleasure she gotten by watching I being abused, I am not happy I’m not the only one going thru this but I’m happy that we recognized our problem and their is data backing up our ordeal and that the symptoms are there to be able to do something about it

    Now I finally cut the shackles that held me mind for so many years and the way I see it it’s their problems from now on NOT MINE! !!!!

    IS THEIR PROBLEM NOT OURS, don’t ever change who you are. …..

  27. Jenny Hannah says:

    I do see the value of considering the causes and conditions of what creates a narcissus. This article is definitely supportive of the victims of abuse and its intention to support this population appears to be very successful–it is thoroughly researched and holds a strong view in this arena. However, there IS a time and place (perhaps not within the forum of the victims), to raise the question of how narcissistic personalities are fostered and how many of those diagnosed with NPD have been given a diagnosis because they sought help. Can we really blame anyone for failing to have the awareness to seek help? Comparatively, that is like telling someone with with schizophrenia that they “should get a grip” on the consensus reality, which is unreasonable to expect considering they are literally incapable of doing so.

    If we expect others (i.e. narcissists) to be aware of their own projections, I feel we can take a look at our own–not to internalize another’s dysfunction or blame ourselves, but to examine the nature of how our projections may easily want to hold someone accountable. We often want the tidiness placing fault. However, both victims and abusers co-create a relationship of dis-ease, retriggering of trauma, and constant turmoil. One can make great progress in drawing boundaries with a narcissus, and that first step of knowing who owns which neurosis is profoundly empowering. Yet at the same time, we also need to be willing to look at the causes and conditions of both the victim and abuser in order to fully heal the issue. Examining one side of the relationship is of value only to that side, and it dismisses the systemic conditions from which the issue arises. As a society, with consideration to how we can develop awareness of NPD in mental health, I believe we can continue to consider the narcissist’s own issues, which may in part be choice, yet are largely due to early developmental conditions and attachment (as it pertains to primary relationships within the field of Psychology).

  28. Sara says:

    Thanks for writing about this, it seems that more people are starting to understand this phenomenon . . . but not fast enough, especially when children our involved in a divorce situation.

  29. selfcarehaven says:

    I believe it is counterproductive to compare NPD to schizophrenia, as many self-professed narcissists and sociopaths do admit to enjoying the damage they do to others and feeling a sense of control/power when they do inflict that damage. These are two different conditions that should not be compared. Narcissistic abuse is often calculating, deliberate and designed to harm victims. An excellent book I recommend for survivors is Dr. Simon's In Sheep's Clothing, which dismantles this harmful stereotype that we should feel sympathy for our abusers – it is that sympathy that in fact allows them to manipulate and harm us further. In addition, a victim who recognizes and identifies the abusive tactics he or she is seeing is not "projecting" anything – they are calling out the abuse as they should. Perhaps "self-awareness" was not the right word to use, as many narcissists are deliberately calculating and they are unwilling to seek treatment precisely because their behavior does reward them. They are aware of their actions, but they do not have any sense of empathy towards their victims to care. I agree that the origin of NPD is a discussion for another article and that narcissism in society needs to be researched on a larger scale.

    This article was meant to provide support, validation and empowerment for abuse survivors. It's been all about narcissists for a long time for victims – I think it's their time and space to share their stories. I don't believe that an abuser and victim are equally at fault for abuse, nor will I ever subscribe to that idea. This idea of "co-creating" abuse is dangerous and verges on victim-blaming. You cannot "co-create" in a dysfunctional power imbalance of a relationship where the narcissist controls, brainwashes and abuses the survivor. There is a distinction between victim-blaming and owning our agency. A victim does not get involved with an abuser because she or he knows that person is a narcissist – he or she falls for the false mask, which is only uncovered once the victim has developed an emotional and psychological investment in the relationship. This creates trauma and biochemical bonds that keep the victim tethered to the abuser. What society still fails to understand is that an abusive relationship like this literally reshapes and rewires the brain, making it difficult to heal from the narcissistic abuse cycle. A survivor of this type of trauma needs a great deal of support, validation, knowledge and resources to move forward. An abuser is fully responsible for his or her actions and should be held fully accountable. Victims should own their agency by arming themselves with the knowledge of these abusive tactics, professional support and the appropriate self-care to heal from the abuse, but they are not responsible for the pathology of another person.

  30. selfcarehaven says:

    Thank you Sara. I agree, this type of abuse is not as well-known as it should be and the effects of emotional and psychological trauma are deeply underestimated in our society, which makes it difficult for those who are co-parenting or divorcing a narcissist. As survivors and mental health professionals trained in narcissistic abuse begin to speak out more to raise awareness, a revolution is slowly stirring. By continuing to raise our voices, we can collectively make a change. Thank you for your comment!

  31. selfcarehaven says:

    When living with a narcissist/forced to interact with one, it is best to minimize the number of interactions you have as much as possible and implement the Gray Rock Method whenever you do have to interact. This means you become boring supply for the narcissist. Any emotional reaction he or she attempts to stir up in you, you simply do not react. You become like a rock, indifferent. Over time, this lack of reaction tends to force the narcissist to seek more interesting supply (see more info here: http://www.lovefraud.com/2012/02/10/the-gray-rock…. Note: This is not an ideal method to use in romantic relationships unless you're co-parenting with a narcissist because Gray Rock is only meant for situations where interacting with the narcissist is unavoidable and is not meant to prolong a relationship with a narcissist/sociopath. Full No Contact should be the aim for anyone wishing to sever ties with their narcissistic partner/friend/family member.

  32. selfcarehaven says:

    Hi Eva, thank you for sharing your story. I agree there can be societal taboo in detaching from narcissistic parents, but it must be done. Whether parent, friend, lover, partner, sibling – a toxic person is still a toxic person. While it is not the focus of this particular article, I speak a great deal in my videos and books regarding the impact of narcissistic parenting and I understand your pain. Sending much love, light and many blessings your way <3.

  33. selfcarehaven says:

    Thank you Matin. You're definitely not alone. There are survivors all over the world just like you. I am glad you have distanced yourself from your narcissist, although I know it must be painful to witness the manipulation of your children even from afar. The most you can do in that situation is be the best parent you can be and be the role model of love and unconditional positive regard that they deserve to have. Many blessings to you and your children <3.

  34. selfcarehaven says:

    I know it must be painful to witness the manipulation of your children even from afar. The most you can do in that situation is be the best parent you can be and be the role model of love and unconditional positive regard that they deserve to have. Continue to raise awareness about this important issue – survivor voices are beginning to be heard and recognized all around the globe. The mental health professional community is also waking up to this type of insidious abuse. Many blessings to you and your children <3.

  35. selfcarehaven says:

    I am so sorry to hear that Linda. Unfortunately, many survivors of abuse can be socially isolated by their partners and even further isolate themselves out of shame, cognitive dissonance and trauma bonding (akin to what happens in Stockholm syndrome) due to the abuse. It can take time before there is an awakening. I hope with all my heart that your daughter is able to escape this situation and seek the help she needs to heal. Many blessings to you and your family <3.

  36. Hannah says:

    I feel it's important to state that the narcissist is typically not aware of the extent of what they are doing; they've obviously suffered trauma in their life and do this as a way to maintain a sense of control because their inner life is so out of control. It's by no means okay to do this, but the article seems to read as if the narcissist has complete knowledge of his/her actions and what he/she is doing. I feel fortunate that after spending four years with someone with this label, I've been able to understand more of the effects of childhood trauma and have gained more of an understanding of the potential whys behind the action.

  37. selfcarehaven says:

    Hi Lilly, thank you so much for reading and commenting. I have a book list of recommended books for survivors here: http://astore.amazon.com/selcarhav-20?node=1&amp;… and you can also check out my blog at http://www.selfcarehaven.wordpress.com for more information about narcissistic abuse. Many blessings to you, warrior.<3

  38. nicole says:

    I feel like my boyfriend is a sociopath. He does not have empathy, he doesn’t feel as if his actions affect others in any way, he is emotionless in times that most people would be emotional, he has no sympathy and no consideration. Most of the time. Then there are times where it SEEMS like he cares and understands or wants to understand. I don’t think he sees any issues with the above mentioned things. He gets upset when I am hurt or sad but his lack of emotions. We’ve been together for just over 3 Years but I am to the point I need emotional connection, he doesn’t get why I need it. I think he may need some help but I doubt he will.

  39. Nicole says:

    I am dating someone who I think is a sociopath. He has no empathy or sympathy. He doesn't think his actions affect anyone. He hardly shows caring or consideration. I think he need some help but I doubt he'll get it. He seems to get upset if I am hurt or sad over something. Then he just stares at me blankly if I am overwhelmed or distraught ot having a break down. I don't think he understands emotional comnections. It hurts.

  40. reader says:

    I, too, have a narcissistic mother. Maybe sociopath, too. She has never been nice or caring to me, but yes does brag about me to others as a way of reflecting glory onto herself. Often if I tell her news about my life, it is met with silence. Never has she bought me a birthday or Christmas gift that was chosen with care, for example, usually she gives me something she no longer has use for. Of course, I have learned to tell her very little. I am 65 and she is 94. I have had minimal contact with her most of my life but now I find myself assuming (large) financial responsibility for her, paying for her to live in Assisted Living, taking her to doctor appointments, etc. I should have walked away decades ago. I kept a connection because I didn’t want to deprive her of her grandchildren. That was a mistake. She never forged good relationships with them either. I have no feelings for her and don’t fall for her manipulative tricks, but I can’t in good conscience walk away now because there is no one else, and I am trapped in a terrible situation. I want to say to others: WALK AWAY WHILE YOU CAN AND DON’T LOOK BACK.

  41. Albert Sigman says:

    I understand the crux of the argument here but I think this article overly victimizes / blames two people in a relationship. Relationships are messy, it sounds like alot of these descriptions are just people acting with human nature, being immature or stubborn or envious. These are human traits that can be worked out. Instantly jumping to a conclusion that “you are a narcissist!” is not only dangerous but is counterproductive in the human effort to get along.

  42. selfcarehaven says:

    Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse will never be, and should never be, considered part of the messy equation of a normal relationship. As both mental health professionals and survivors can attest to, the traumatic highs and lows of being with a narcissist, a sociopath or a psychopath are not the normal highs and lows of regular relationships. That suggestion is quite damaging to society. The abuse described here is not a matter of everyday envy, it is a matter of a person with a real-life personality disorder subjecting a victim to chronic devaluation, control, sabotage and disrespect. It is also not a matter that can be "worked" out, as narcissists rarely ever change because their manipulative behavior rewards them. If you do not understand this predatory personality and seek to sympathize with them rather than detach, rest assured that there will be harm done. The manipulation is cruel, deliberate and the trauma lasts a lifetime. Please read the article carefully and read the links provided as they grant the insight to anyone who does not understand narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse.

    For survivors and anyone questioning how deliberate their manipulation is, I also recommend reading the following books about these predators: In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George Simon, Jr. Ph.D; The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout; Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare, Ph.D; Women Who Love Psychopaths by Sandra Brown, M.A; The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us by Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed; Narcissistic Lovers: How to Cope, Recover, and Move On by Cynthia Zayn and M.S. Kevin Dribble; Malignant Self-Love by Sam Vankin; Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas; Psychopath Free by Peace, It's All About Him by Lisa E. Scott; Help! I'm in Love with a Narcissist by Steven Carter and Julia Sokol.

  43. Wendi says:

    I am so grateful for this information… you all go ahead and try and correct each other and disagree… but keep talking… it just brings more to light for me. 25+ years… my life in wreckage.. so big … I could never quite put a name to any of it… other than abuse… but there were cycles… predictable, regular cycles.. gaslighting… oh God. I allowed myself to be a human crutch for a horribly cruel and heartless person. My tormenter was (and is ) a Pro. Triangulation, narcissistic psychopath…. exactly. Thank you for writing and talking about this… how the hell did I give my life to this… I need council ing. Are there support groups? I got here through Facebook … and thank you ONE AND ALL

  44. selfcarehaven says:

    Thank you for sharing your story Nicole. A lack of empathy and an inability to sympathize with your feelings is a clear sign of narcissism. Narcissists rarely seek out treatment, because their behavior rewards them and they do not wish to change. It is very painful to be with someone like that and I highly recommend detaching before getting even more invested. Their actions are damaging and the trauma can last a lifetime. Hugs and blessings to you, warrior <3

  45. Janssen Kuhn says:

    You left out a key term – borderline. Borderline Personality Disorder, as I’m sure you know, is very close to NPD. The key difference is the BPD lacks the strong false identity. I wish their were a term that encapsulated both; maybe APD. Anyway, I mention this because many survivors of BPD may overlook this vital article.

  46. Ina says:

    I'm wondering, why does the behavior of the narcissist have to "deliberate"? It seems to me that that individuals who behave abusively often are convinced they are the ones being hurt. I work with many clients who come in with histories of being narcissistic abuse victims and then unwittingly spend their therapy treating me (the therapist) exactly the way they were treated. Isn't this the source of the behavior—that someone had been treated this way by others?

    This is unfortunately what makes this topic so difficult. To truly end the behavior, the victim has to acknowledge the narcissistic abuser inside of themselves. A narcissistic abuser also has the potential to play the role of a victim, depending on the context of who they're with; these two poles–victim and victimizer– are flip sides of the very same types of beliefs about the self. This is uncomfortable and many of my clients would rather spend therapy only speaking about how horrific the abuser was. The elephant in the room is the looming question–what beliefs about yourself attracted you to such a person? The same kind of blindspot seems to be reflected in the media on the topic—t's always about the cruel narcissist and never about those parts of ourselves that feel too "ugly" to speak about. And yet, not every person would fall in with a narcissistic abuser. These ugly parts need to be named if they are to be worked through.

  47. Nancy says:

    I spent 15 long miserable years being tormented, married to a narcissist. My children and I suffered greatly. It took great strength & family support to leave my sitiatuon. It took 2 years to realize I wasn't crazy. The emotional & psychological abuse was so scarey every day. I was so glad to read this article and have a clear understanding of the abuse we endured. By the end, I didn't leave the house, I cried everyday, I wasn't allowed to talk to my friends or family if he was home, and really became very introverted as a result of the abuse. I've been divorced 12 yrs now, the scars remain & he still attempts to degrade me through social media & friends, but he is remarried & his wife is equally as cruel as he is. He is blocked from my phone & my social media ,as is his wife. My now husband of 3 yrs has all the same signs that I started noticing about 2 yrs ago. The abuse has become more psychologically damaging this past year. 2 of my children were killed in 2 different states,one by a hit and run, and one was murdered in his home…all in the past 4 months. I'm a wreck to say the least, but what's been equally devastating is the lack of empathy from my husband. I actually think he's jealous of the "attention" I've recieved because my children were killed. After reading this article I realize that I must do what's best for myself and leave this volatile situation before it destroys me. Thank you so much for giving me the words to describe this abuse. Knowing this will help me find the way to recovery on so many levels.

  48. Sam says:

    This rings so true to my situation. It has become a more and more intense cycle over the last couple of months. The overwhelming and amazing hours of bliss, then the devaluation – whatever I do and no matter how careful I am, I always manage to do something wrong…then a big fight, the cold shoulder, the name-calling, the rage come… I cry but there is no emphaty…which enrages and hurts me all at once. Why do I allow myself to be treated like this? Then I need to wait for forgiveness though I still believe I haven't done anything wrong. And when we make up, it's so amazing! I find myself giving up my hobbies and losing friends….I am inlove and live for those moment of bliss…I cannot walk away. Even if rationally I realize there is a way out, I am emotionally and thus physically unable to break away because despite the pain, I don't want this to end!
    I am even scared of writing this, this is all part of the "walking on eggshells" I suppose!
    I know it's my choice… I just can't come to terms with this reality. I have never felt so strongly about someone… it's like two different people – the kindest, most loving person in the world; and the cruel one that sometimes scares me. 🙁
    I just always hope for the better…

  49. MIchael says:

    Great article. I have been living almost exactly what you described. My partner is a psychologist and has self-diagnosed as not having a problem – I bought into the diagnosis that I had psychological problems. I left the relationship about 3 months ago and have started the recovery process. I had no idea how deep a hole I was in – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

    Really important to get the word out. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t think anyone would believe. Outside our relationship she presented as perfectly normal. If I had told her family how she behaved with me they would have called me a liar, because they never saw any of it. I was embarrassed to tell my family. I was so beaten down, I couldn’t even think about leaving – I didn’t have the mental/emotional resources to even make a plan to leave. Thankfully, after repeated threats from my partner, I finally told my sister, who is a mental health worker, and she was able to support me in leaving the situation.

    Until I read this article, I thought my parter had BPD, but now reading this, I think she has traits of both. What are the key difference between BPD and NPD?

  50. selfcarehaven says:

    I am so sorry to hear you are going through this Sam. Many victims of abuse are not only trauma bonded but also biochemically bonded to their abusers due to the intermittent reinforcement of positive behaviors within the abuse cycle. Please see my entry here for more information: https://selfcarehaven.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/yo