Narcissistic abuse is the emotional, physical, and financial abuse inflicted by a narcissist.
Narcissistic abuse is hard to spot because
The Narcissist often starts as the most charming person you have ever meet.
They seem to be the perfect fit, and the relationship is intense very fast.
You form a perception of who the narcissist is, which is a false image they portrait.
Once the abuse starts, your mind can’t reconsolidate the two contradictive ideas of the kind, loving, charming person you initially met and the horrible abusive person.
We tend to hold onto our first impression and so disregard the abuse or make excuses for the behavior, so it can fit with our initial image of them being charming, kind, and loving.
Our mind will not accept that it was an illusion, and the narcissist is a toxic person. This is how narcissistic abuse
Narcissists might: belittle, bully, accuse, blame, shame, threaten, criticize, rage, undermine, blocking, silent treatment, or other abusive behaviors.
While ordinary people might do some of these sometimes, when triggered, the intensity and frequency of these are far higher in narcissistic abuse.
In narcissistic abuse, it’s a pattern that repeats itself, and there is no acknowledgment of their wrong-doing or change in behavior to avoid harming you in the future.
In a healthy relationship, it might happen once, and they then apologies and change their behavior to ensure it does not happen again.
Narcissistic abuse is a cycle called the abuse cycle where they might give a fake apology and then love-bomb you to hook you back in, and then the abuse starts again.
A healthy relationship is not up and down, push-pull. It’s stable and consistent, while with the narcissistic abuse, you will get intense love-bombing and then sudden and extreme turns to abuse, hostility, and abuse.
Narcissistic abuse is often categorized by compulsory lying.
They lie because they must uphold their false vision of being superior and better than others.
Because they can’t admit mistakes or be seen as less than they will lie to infatuate achievements and avoid looking stupid.
They also lack empathy and lie to get what they want.
They lie to move ahead in life and will happily take credit for other people’s work.
They lie because they need to cover up their self-absorbed and entitled behavior.
The question is, how can you spot this?
You look for consistency between what they say and what they do.
You look for evidence of their claimed achievements.
You see how they treat others and if they lie or cover things from other people.
Narcissists are excellent manipulators. That’s how they get away with narcissistic abuse.
They use many strategies to do this, and they are all covered in my online course, and I help people spot these in my one-to-one coaching.
Here are some of their favorite manipulation strategies.
This is that early intensity where you felt swept off your feet.
They shine a spotlight of attention on you.
Glorify and compliment everything about you and send you overly affectionate messages too early.
It makes you feel great to be so appreciated and creates a spike in dopamine, which will make you feel hooked to them and come back once the narcissistic abuse starts.
There is a reason they ask you so many questions and are hyper-focused and interested in you.
It feels great in the moment to get that kind of attention and interest; however, they are a chameleon learning how to adapt their identity to get you hooked.
They disclose intimate information about themselves very fast to make you feel comfortable doing the same, and they ask a lot of questions about you.
It gives them so much information about what you like, desires, goals, values, and insecurities so they can now create a tailor-made personality just for you, so they appear to share your interests, values, goals.
They seem to be your perfect partner or soulmate.
Later you will likely find they show little or no interest in what you have to say as they just care about themselves, and it was just a show to hook you in.
They quickly start talking about a future together and significant commitments like marriage, children, or moving in together.
It’s all a fantasy that will never happen but get you emotionally invested in the imaginary future as you imagine yourself with this person who, at this early stage, is glorifying and appreciate everything about you.
These 3 strategies are the main ones used in the first stage of the narcissistic abuse cycle.
It gets you hooked, and when they later abuse you and crash your dopamine levels, you will crave them so badly as you associate them with your dopamine high, which is how the trauma-bond of addiction is formed.
Triangulation is how they make you feel insecure and therefore mere eager to please.
They accomplish this by bringing in a third person.
It might be an ex, friend, or college that they hook or pretend is interested in them.
They might “accidentally” pull up a slip with a phone number on it or talk about this person who was hitting on them and wants them to come and stay, or they flirt with someone in front of you.
They might also purposefully create conflict between you and another person.
This can get you invested by defending them, or it can get you unsettled by making you feel attacked by someone.
They sit back and enjoy the show because they are in control which is what they want.
The hot/cold or push/pull dynamic creates emotional ups and downs like a drug addiction.
You get positive reinforcement at random to keep you hooked, and the rest is abuse, neglect, and punishment.
This creates addiction and obsession and a trauma bond that is very hard to break.
You become willing to endure almost anything to get the positive reinforcement fix.
They will withdraw, threaten you, blame, belittle or attack you, and then at random give you a little validation to keep you coming back.
They create fear of loss, and once we are fearful, logic is offline, and we become willing to do almost anything to relieve the fear.
They purposefully push your triggers, and when you respond, they attack and blame you by saying things such as “You always get angry,” “You have an anger problem,” “You are crazy,” “You are not trustworthy.”
Or you bring up a concern like their sudden unresponsiveness, anger, or cheating.
They redirect your focus away from your concern by dismissing it, pretend shock you would suggest this, and then turn it into blame towards you and attack your character.
They will always turn their shortcomings and abuse into being about your shortcomings.
Direct aggression would make them appear abusive, so they often wear you down by putting you down while pretending to help you.
They might say they like you to do x as it would make you more y.
“I think it would be good if you read some books about social skills, so you don’t embarrass me in public” or
“I think it would be good if you work out more so you don’t get so skinny.”
Can you see how this is a put-down meant to make you feel bad about yourself but covered up as an attempt to help?
They will often, in a subtle way, belittle you with laughter, eye-rolling, mocking, and sarcastic tone of voice to make you feel silly, little, or dismiss your experience or view.
They might belittle you in front of others to lower your self-esteem.d
Guilt is a powerful tool they use to get you to do what they want.
It’s a very effective tool with their favorite targets; the empathetic people with a lack of boundaries also called people-pleasers.
They play on your desire to be viewed as a good person to manipulate you.
They will make you feel guilty about having boundaries by attacking your character or simply giving you the silent treatment.
They will tell you that what they did is not so bad, and you are overreacting. If they do this, you can be sure they will do it again.
Only someone that acknowledges your experience shows remorse and changes their behavior is trustworthy.
This strategy is also used as part of gaslighting.
Be very careful if someone does not acknowledge your experience and show they care about not hurting you again.
They use emotional and physical withdrawal as a form of punishment to get compliance.
It’s normal in healthy relationships that a partner might need some space.
The big difference is that there would be communication of the need for space in a healthy relationship, and it’s not used to punish or get compliance.
It creates confusion, uncertainty, and anxiety, hoping that you will comply with what they want to alleviate these uncomfortable sensations.
It’s a way to make you feel uncertain and insecure.
Invalidation has become so normal that we hardly notice it.
Many people do it not because they are abusive but because they lack empathy or can’t manage the discomfort they feel and sense when listening to you. To make their pain go away, they invalidate your experience.
This is very toxic; it communicates we are not important and our experience is not valid, creating a lack of safety and disconnect.
That’s some of the manipulation strategies use in narcissistic abuse.
Let’s move on to the next sign.
They feel entitled to skip the queue, get the best seat, be served before others, grab women by the….. (Trump’s words, not mine).
They feel they deserve special treatment because they are superior and exceptional in their fantasy land.
They feel everyone should comply with their demands no matter how unreasonable or unrealistic they are, and they get very upset or angry if you don’t comply.
Imagine an insecure, emotionally unregulated, spoiled child. That’s the narcissist.
They will often be rude to service staff or anyone who does not give them special treatment.
It’s all about their needs, and there is a total lack of mutuality in your relationship.
They show little interest in your needs and when you are stressed.
The narcissist also gets angry when you have boundaries.
How dare you not comply with the wishes of the remarkable king or queen that they are in their distorted minds?
If you talk about your stressful day, they will find a way to make it about them.
Narcissistic abuse is often full of episodes of rage.
This can show up externally in them getting angry, hostile, or abusive towards you or by them punishing you with the silent treatment and perhaps cancel some events or create drama.
The narcissist does not respect other boundaries, and they completely lack empathy, so don’t expect any remorse afterward they will likely find a way to blame you for what happened.
All relationships have their ups and downs, but they have an underlying safety and stability.
Narcissistic abuse is categorized by the abuse cycle of high intensity at the extreme spectrum. Hence, the love” feels so intense, and they idolize you and charm you. Then they split and turn abusive and horrible until they change again to suck you back in, and the abuse cycle continues. You get more addicted to the tiny crumbs of positive validation that they provide through intermittent reinforcement.
Healthy relationships don’t have these intense extremes of glorifying each other and sudden hostility and continue this cycle.
A clear sign that you are exposed to a toxic person and narcissistic abuse is how you feel.
Do you feel more anxious than usual?
Are you fearful of losing the relationship?
Are you afraid to express your needs and boundaries?
Are you giving up essential parts of yourself to avoid triggering your partner?
Are you being made to feel guilty about spending time with friends and family?
You are trying to avoid triggering their rage, and you can’t express your needs or boundaries freely anymore?
If you can answer yes to any of these, it’s a big warning sign, and you are likely stuck in a toxic dynamic.
It’s also called the trauma bond.
You feel you can’t be without this person and keep going back after the abuse.
You can’t stop thinking about them even though they treat you horribly.
The initial idolization and dopamine rush combined with the narcissistic abuse has made you
This is what pulls us back into the toxic dynamic, and to break it, we must treat it as an addiction.
It’s the same brain parts and neurochemical imbalance as seen in addiction.
This means cutting all contact with the drug (narcissist), getting a support person, and using alternative ways to raise dopamine and oxytocin levels that have crashed and decrease adrenalin and cortisol.
That’s enough for today.
If you are in the middle of this confusing and painful place, check out the comprehensive course I did on how to heal and flourish after dating a borderline, narcissist, or socio/psychopath.
Never forget. You are worthy of love, safety, kindness & mutuality.