The narcissist abuse cycle has a predictable cycle, but it’s most often described in 3 stages when it should have 4.
The idolization stage is when they hook you in.
It is categorized by speed and intensity. Everything is moving very fast, and it feels great.
This is the first stage of setting you up for the trauma bond as you get hooked to the dopamine (reward hormone), and when they later crash you, you want to get this feeling back, so you become hooked and addicted.
Let’s look at the strategies they use to hook you in during the idolization stage
They will be very charming, fun, and stimulating.
A narcissist, borderline, histrionic, or socio/psychopath gets easily bored, so they seek out stimulation frequently and like to do new things.
They are often very spontaneous and stimulating. This also makes dopamine flow and create a faster and stronger bond.
They will show a highly focused interest in you and ask you many questions to get to know you.
It feels great to get this spotlight on you as it makes you feel unique, valued, and seen.
Then do this for a reason.
They now have a lot of information about what you like, value, and want as well as your insecurities.
Now they start to shape their identity to look like what you want.
They might pretend to want the same goals as you, like what you like, and it will seem like you found your “soulmate” even if you did not believe in soulmates before.
This is not always the case but often so.
The love-bombing is what hooks you in.
They will shower you with compliments and praise, and it will make you feel fantastic and like someone is finally able to see you and appreciate your magnificent.
It’s a lot of praise and very quickly.
It’s superficial because they don’t know you yet.
But it creates a positive association with them that will later make you addicted to them when the abuse starts as you desperately want to get the love-bombing back.
And because you form such a positive impression of them in the beginning, cognitive dissonance will make it hard for you to accept that they are abusive later, as your mind can’t hold two contradictive ideas of the same person, you will be convinced you are over-reacting, and they are still this nice person they pretended to be in the beginning.
The over the top “I love you” or “You are my soulmate” is very common to hear very soon in the relationship.
They will talk about the future very soon.
This includes holidays you will have together and anything that makes you start emotionally imagining and investing in the future together.
They will talk about marriage, kids, or moving in together very soon.
It often moves forward quickly, and talking about significant commitments very soon is common.
Now the narcissist hooked you in.
You don’t give them the attention they want or can’t fulfill one of their unreasonable demands, and so the next stage begins.
Devaluation is when they no longer see you as beneficial because they realize you can’t or won’t fulfill their never-ending demands and will not constantly and continuously prioritize them over yourself, others, and your well-being.
Now their anger or narcissistic rage will turn towards you and be expressed in a sudden and dramatic change in the dynamic, which will shock your system.
Because of cognitive dissonance, which means that your brain struggles to hold two opposite views of the same person, you will likely minimize and forget the abuse as it starts.
Your first impression of the narcissist was that they were this fantastic person. So once you get to see the horror and abuse, your brain can’t accept these two opposite characters, so you ignore the abuse and even forget about it at times as they go back to the love bombing.
I will talk more about the abuse and manipulation in other videos and cover this in great depth in my online course that you can find in the description below.
Some of the things you will be exposed to can be rage, attacks, or silent treatment, breakups, or threats of breakups where they suddenly withdraw affection and stop communicating.
More covertly, they use blame, guilt, or create jealousy and accuse you of the things they are doing.
This is part of their gaslighting to make you doubt your reality.
This stage serves a few points for the narcissist.
By creating anxiety and fear, your logical brain goes offline, and we tend to become willing to do almost anything to relieve fear, and the only one that can do that is the narcissist by giving us back their affection.
By creating fear, you get conditioned to do what they want and not set boundaries as you associate your boundaries with pain.
Secondly, now your logical brain is offline, you can easier be manipulated.
Thirdly, the push-pull and hot-cold is called intermittent reinforcement. It creates an addiction and trauma bond, making it very difficult to leave the abusive narcissist.
As a result, they can control you and get what they want from you as you become more compliant.
They will often use triangulation and tell false stories to make you get into conflict with friends and family so they can isolate you more.
The less support you have, the easier a prey you become.
They are hyenas with highly developed brains.
At some point, you will have no use to the narcissist.
Or they find a better supply that gives them more status or validation.
Or, you set a boundary, and they realize they can’t manipulate you.
The result is the same.
You will be discarded, and it will happen quickly and coldly and leave you completely in shock.
They will often ensure it’s as painful as possible, and they will play the victim and either disappear suddenly out of your life or display how happy they are now with their new supply.
You can also expect a smear campaign, where they use lies to slander your name to friends, family, work.
If they fail to get a new supply, they think to provide more status and attention; then they might go to stage 4
The hoover is when they try to suck you back in with what I termed love-bombing 2.0
They will come back and pretend nothing happened, that it was no big deal by minimizing or blame it on you and then shower you with affection or sex to suck you back in.
They have not changed. They never do.
They just saw potential to get more supply out of you, so they might shower you with compliments, how special you are, and plenty of sex.
They spike your dopamine and oxytocin.
Physical contact such as sex creates plenty of oxytocin, the trust hormone, so you trust them more and attach more.
Dopamine is the reward hormone and also what makes us addicted.
The most potent addiction is high dopamine from the sex and intense glorification and compliments mixed with moments of fear and anxiety.
The ups and downs create the same chemical imbalance and brain activity as a drug or alcohol addiction, which is why they are so difficult to leave even when you know they are toxic.
This is the typical narcissistic abuse cycle.
It can replay itself many times until the final discard in mini-cycles until you have enough and leave, which is the preferred result, or if you are trauma bonded and can’t leave, then at some point when they sucked you dry.
There is nothing more for them to get from you. The narcissist will leave permanently.
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.