It was during counsel that I first understood the word NARCISSISM â a term I had only ever heard before while watching the Criminal Minds television series. I was told then that the feelings of confusion and doubt that existed in my mind as I related my experiences were also classic signs portrayed by narcissistic abuse victims. Unfortunately, it took me a number of years before I had come to the point of enough is enough, and to finally seek a divorce. My wake-up calls? (I say calls, because sadly, it took a few soundings of the alarm that I often snoozed, for me to finally respond) â (1) when I almost died at my own hands, with a young child waiting at home for his momma; (2) being abandoned during labour. In both cases I was left wondering at the person I had become.
Narcissism and Narcissistic Abuse
Narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. People with the disorder often come across as arrogant, callous and envious and tend to be exploitative in their interpersonal relationships. The primary driving force behind all narcissist actions against others is a fundamental lack of self-esteem (Wikipedia 2016).
Narcissistic abuse can happen to anyone. As one writer states, no one knows what it is like to be manipulated by a narcissist, unless they have been there. Narcissists often seek out and target those who are most empathetic, nurturing, and sympathetic. Narcissistic men are attracted to strong, competent, self-sufficient women, with a strong sense of responsibility and moral fibre. The last thing a narcissist wants is someone needy or someone anyone could have; she has to be a “trophyâ. Plus the more self-sufficient and confident she is, the more determined the narcissist will be to “breakâ her and mould her into exactly what he wants her to become.
He eventually tries to denude her of these “assetsâ by rendering her submissive and codependent (https://ladywithatruck.com/how/).
Unfortunately, once a Narcissist is victorious and secures your love, the idealization phase of the relationship passes and his true colours emerge. You begin to see the pathology of his personality and realize he merely puts on an act in the beginning of the relationship to win and secure your love. He becomes demanding and angry, unaware that you have needs or a separate self at all. He simply finds it impossible to see you as an independent entity (see Lisa E Scott â http://www.lisaescott.com/2011/03/17/why-narcissist-inevitably-devalues-discards-dd-you).
Traits of a narcissist
According to Tina Swithin of FamilyShare.com, “Dealing with a narcissist isnât for the weak. While charming and charismatic in the beginning, crossing a narcissist brings forth a fury that few people are equipped to deal with. This interaction will leave the sanest person questioning their own reality.â It is thus important to know these common traits:
Lack of empathy is one of the most striking features of people with narcissistic personality disorder
Narcissists lie! They lie even when the truth will save them. Narcissists lie for a variety of reasons, which include seeking admiration and attention, getting something they want or to hide their flaws or mistakes, or cause a person to question his/her own sense of reality.
Narcissists are Master Manipulators. Shahida Arabi (http://www.elephantjournal.com
A Narcissistâs Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse used by the narcissists in order to instill in their victim an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. It is brainwashing at its best. The intention is to, in a systematic way, target the victimâs mental equilibrium, self-confidence, and self-esteem, so that they are no longer able to function in an independent way, and become totally dependent on the abuser (Christine Louis de Canonville – narcissisticbehavior.net)
Narcissists constantly blame and have outbursts of rage if challenged, or are made to be held accountable. “The narcissist will blame you for everything that isnât right in their life â for what other people do, and for whatever has happened. They will always blame you â even for their abuse toward you. The narcissist is excessively critical and demanding of his spouse. He frequently explodes at his mate (“narcissistic rageâ) for what appears to be no reason at all.
Narcissists are obsessed with money. Money is their substitution for love, warmth, and affection. Having an abundance of money makes them feel more entitled and superior to others.
What does a victim of narcissism look like?
These are the words of one victim of narcissistic abuse, “Things that once excited me now donât, I feel like I am slowly dying from the inside out. I feel empty inside, itâs like I am going down into a hole, which I can never climb out of. I do my best but it just doesnât work. I have talked to my doctor about it and he says nothing is wrong with me. Every night before I fall asleep I hope I donât wake up the next morning. I am sorry but I just feel like I am dying, mentally dying.â (emotional-intelligence-training.weebly.com).
Persons who suffer from narcissistic abuse often speak of feeling empty, drained and powerless. It is through self-denial that they survive. They deny their wishes, hopes, dreams, aspirations, sexual, psychological and material needs, choices, preferences, values, and much else besides. They perceive their needs as threatening because they might engender the wrath of the narcissistâs God-like supreme figure (Dr Sam Vaknin).
Why do victims stay?
Narcissistic abuse often leaves victims too weak or unmotivated to fight. Other practical reasons include fear of retaliation or harm, financial dependence on the abuser, presence of young children or shared investments. They may be isolated from support network or fear the ridicule of family and friends, who are too trusting of the abuserâs charm. Religious beliefs about marriage and family life also play a part.
Leaving or divorcing a narcissist
A narcissistic husband often uses religion as a powerful manipulative tool to keep a wife in the destructive relationship. It takes nothing short of the strength of Samson to leave him! Even after you have made the decision, the verbal abuse, smear campaign, and threats to your security may cause you to second-guess your decision. Narcissists lose validation and become enraged when you decide to leave. How dare you? He may want to punish you and escalate the methods of control and abuse. He has a fierce need to regain power and control. According to author Christine Hammond (pro.psychÂcentral.com), “If a spouse returns during this phase, they unknowingly have given up every remaining ounce of self-respect. A narcissist knows this and as soon as they return, the abuse returns even worse than before.â
Smear campaigns are a weapon of choice for narcissists. They are designed to 1) depict YOU as the abuser or unstable person and deflect your accusations of abuse; 2) provoke you to instability; and 3) pull you back into the trauma of the relationship as you struggle against the rumours about you. “Narcissistic people will even go so far as to make up rumours and stories about the condition of their mate or targetâs mental health in order to undermine their credibility should they ever try to break the silence as a victim (refer to https://selfcarehaven.wordpress.com). They will target friends and family; making themselves look like the victim, and conning others into joining in their abuse of you.
Narcissists will never forget that you left them, and will continue to make life difficult for you and the children. They do things such as excessively disparage you as a parent, and do not want to financially support the children because that somehow means that they are supporting their ex-spouse. Their entitlement needs get in the way of fairly dividing property and money and in the end they do not think of what is best for the children (see www.psychologytoday.com).
This article merely grazes the surface of narcissism. A world of supporting information can be sourced on the Internet. The work of Dr Sam Vaknin, a professed narcissist, is particularly informative, while that of Melanie Tonya Evans (http://www.melanietoniaevans.com/
Blessed and Thriving