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Surviving Narcissistic Abuse

Updated on May 6, 2016

Finding the path to freedom, love and yourself

Have you been the victim narcissistic abuse? Being in a relationship with a narcissist can take a toll on a person’s self esteem and mental health. The narcissist could be a romantic partner, a spouse, a parent, a friend or even a boss. Over time, these relationships erode our self identity, and can have us questioning our own sanity. Whether your relationship with a narcissist lasts for a few months or goes on for years, you are likely to be negatively affected. True narcissism goes beyond selfishness and self centeredness. Some therapists suggest there are few true narcissists, and often dismiss clients who come to them for help. This likely happens because narcissists are rarely seen in treatment because they don’t’ believe anything is their fault or that they need fixing, and when they are seen by a therapists (usually in couples or family therapy) they may be difficult to detect because they are good at masking their negative attributes to get what the want.

Narcissists should not be confused with selfish and self centered people who are capable of caring for others, and displaying empathy. The characteristics of a true narcissist are embedded in their personality, and are ingrained in the way they interact with the world. Typically, narcissists appear to have an overly inflated sense of self and may criticize others to make themselves look good. They need constant admiration and attention, from others - - all others. They lack empathy, and are insensitive to the feelings of others. They feel entitled to what they want, whether it’s attention, time, sex, money, or a more attractive partner. They will expect you to take care of them, you to take the blame, and you to change. You get the picture. Here are some examples that might feel familiar.

The Romantic Partner or Spouse: At first he is charming, and showers you with affection, compliments, gifts and adoration. The relationship is intense, and you feel like you’re madly, deeply in love. You have been lured in and hooked. Unfortunately, you discover too late that all of this was a superficial ruse to help him to get his needs met, without any consideration of what you need. He understands at a primal level how to catch a partner who will do almost anything for him. In his reality, everything is about him. This person requires constant worship and admiration from you and everyone else. He likely brags constantly about past romantic conquests, his job, his money, his athleticism, his intelligence, you name it. He needs his partner and everyone around him to support his ego and goes to great lengths to make this happen. If you are the partner of such a person, you will be an extension of him. You will be expected to look perfect at all times, and be who he wants you to be. This person is emotionally unavailable to you, is insensitive to your feelings, and is always right. Prepare for an adult sized tantrum, lying and manipulating if you dare to hold him accountable for anything or suggest he’s wrong. It will always be your fault. If you pull away, he may chase after you and turn on the charm until you are hooked again. Then expect to be manipulated, criticized and devalued until you feel too guilty, foolish and crazy to ever leave again. Narcissists are masters of discovering the vulnerabilities of others and exploiting those vulnerabilities to their advantage.

The Parent: The narcissistic parent also needs constant admiration and acknowledgement from others, and is overly concerned about appearances and how their children will make them look as a parent and a person. They will have high expectations that can never be met. Nothing is ever good enough for this parent. This parent will be not be supportive of their child’s interests they do not share, and take over those interests they do. They will blame their children for their own shortcomings or missed opportunities in life, and will take credit for anything the child does right. They will resort to using; anger; shame; punishment; guilt, degradation, attention, affection, approval, scapegoating and favoritism to get what they feel entitled to, which is everything. They feel entitled to all of your time, attention and money; and want favors, control, and status. It is common for such parents to create competition and conflict between their children to gain more attention and control. Sadly, these parent’s needs are always put before the child’s at any age, and nothing the child does will ever be good enough. This parent is insatiable. Watch out if this person happens to be your mother or father in law.

The Friend: At first she is charming, and is great at making you feel special and included. Typically everyone likes her because she seems incredibly accepting, kind and generous. She is a master at being liked. Like the narcissistic lover, it is all subterfuge to win friends who will admire her, and feed her constant need for adoration from everyone. In private you will see a different side of this woman. She will gossip and spread vicious rumors, while criticizing almost everyone she knows in your confidence. Of course, when you are not around she does the same thing with everyone else. She feels entitled to your time, your things, and maybe even your partner and other friends. She has no empathy, and doesn’t care about your feelings. If you dare to call her out on her behavior, she will deny it, throw a fit, and somehow it will end up being your fault. She will likely be dismissive of you and your feelings, and will punish you by excluding you from parties, and other events. She will try to make you feel jealous and worthless my boasting about other people, and criticizing you.

The Boss: Like the others the narcissistic boss thinks only of himself and what he wants. He will likely use you to make himself look good, feel good and to have someone to blame if something goes wrong. He will expect you to be devoted to him, there at his beck and call, to adore him, and may sexually harass or assault you. He will use his charm, and intuitive knowledge of your weaknesses to manipulate you into doing whatever he wants, and will not have your back when you need him to.

The treatment described in all of these relationships equates to emotional abuse. Victims of narcissists are often left feeling confused, having constant self doubt, consumed with guilt, feeling not good enough, anxious, depressed, hopeless, worthless, lacking control over their lives, feeling responsible for the other person, empty, desperate, unable to trust others or themselves, and foolish. While it can be difficult to leave and recover from such a relationship, it is possible. It is possible to heal, find yourself again, and connect with others in healthy supportive relationships. If any of this sounds familiar to you, and you believe you are a survivor of narcissistic abuse, please reach out for help. I understand the kind destruction these relationships have in people’s lives, and I have witnessed the bravery and strength of people who have lived through the abuse, taken their lives back, and healed their wounds. There is hope, and support in your journey of recovery.

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    • ChristyGeorgeMFT profile image
      Author

      Christy George 17 months ago from San Diego

      Thank you for your insights. I work as a therapist, and help people to recognize unhealthy patterns in relationships, establishing appropriate boundaries, and hopefully avoiding such relationships in the future, or navigating those that are completely unavoidable, say with a parent or boss.

      To your point, you definitely can't change others. That is for sure. We can work on ourselves though, and sometimes that work includes recognizing and leaving bad situations. And sometimes, when we change, our relationships and who we choose to interact with changes too.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 17 months ago

      I understand where you are coming from.

      Maybe those who find themselves with a narcissistic person would benefit from "looking out for #1" themselves.

      Too often there are people who feel the need to "earn" someone's love and attention or they believe they can "change" the people they love. Instead of moving on when they're being mistreated they "try harder" to win over these people. Eventually years of their life pass by and they walk away only looking back at the other person's behavior.

      If I go to the grocery store to purchase an apple but buy an onion instead whose fought is that? Do I curse the onion for not being an apple? No!

      I learn to become a "better shopper"!

      There should be a label for people who are drawn to narcissistic people. Maybe on some level they admire some traits of these people.

      One thing is for certain if someone finds them self in a relationship where their happiness is depended upon their mate "changing" they probably would be better off to change mates!

      The goal is to find someone who (already is) the kind of person we want to be with. I wrote about this in my book;

      My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany)

      There are only two ways to experience joy and peace of mind in relationships: We either get what we want or we learn to be happy with what we have. Accept them (as is) or move on. The choice is up to us!

      One man's opinion!:)

      Thanks for posting such a topical hub!

      Welcome to HP!

    • ChristyGeorgeMFT profile image
      Author

      Christy George 17 months ago from San Diego

      Dashingscorpio, your comments are interesting to me, and tell me I need to add some clarification. You are right, we all have a degree of narcissism, especially as children. This is not a disorder. It is developmentally appropriate for children and babies to only be concerned with their own needs. It is part of the survival and developmental process. We each have a degree of self centeredness as well, which is healthy in protecting us from harm, and getting our needs met. This is not what I'm talking about in the article.

      Narcissistic personality disorder is something else completely. People with NPD have specific characteristics ingrained in their personality, which affect how they view the world and interact with others. It isn't something you take a pill for. Their sense of entitlement and lack of empathy go beyond being self centered and selfish to feeling so entitled and unaware/uncaring of the feelings of others they manipulate and abuse others to get their needs met. NPD is also considered "a spectrum disorder", meaning there are degrees of severity of the disorder. People who truly have this disorder, often suffered abuse and/or neglect as a very small child or infant which contributed to the way their personalities were formed, the narcissistic wound. If you know someone who has the disorder, you may notice they almost interact with the world in a way a small child would, not necessarily with obvious immaturity, but extremely low awareness of others, tantrums when the are confronted, and desperation in getting needs met. This is the place they are coming from psychologically speaking. Not everyone who was neglected or abused as a child develops a personality disorder, but some do and it is a problem for them and others around them. They could benefit from therapeutic support, if they are open to it.

      People who typically become involved with people who have NPD do so innocently, and may have certain things about them which attract them to this type of person, or make them blind to the warning signs, which go beyond a lack of check list. Perhaps they had a narcissistic parent, or trauma which affects how they view the world and who they choose. If the person is self aware, and knows they are attracted to narcissists, the narcissistic qualities are certainly something to had to the list of things to avoid.

      The purpose of my article is not to cast blame or make excuses. It is to provide information to people who may be in a bad situation, feel alone, and need support to help them recognize abuse for what it is, and encourage them to get help, as point out warning signs to look for because it isn't obvious to everyone.

      Thank you for your input.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 17 months ago

      "They feel entitled to what they want, whether it’s attention, time, sex, money, or a more attractive partner. They will expect you to take care of them, you to take the blame, and you to change." (Is this really an illness?)

      I suspect one of the reasons it's difficult to detect this as being (true) narcissism is because most of us have worn these shoes before especially during our youthful years!

      It actually starts at infancy. In just about every household the "baby" is the center of the universe. Whenever a baby cries he/she gets attention!

      Some people never stopped crying!

      It's during our childhood years we're taught to "wait our turn", "stand in line", and "you don't always get what you want."

      Some folks never conformed or accepted this as a way of life.

      Narcissism has it's roots in immaturity and arrogance.

      Having said that "narcissism" isn't a problem for the individual accused of being so it's the people who are (attracted) to narcissistic people that have an issue. Each of us (chooses) our own friends, lovers, and spouse.

      No one is "stuck" with anyone.

      Loving oneself and having a healthy self-esteem is something the individual should already have before pursing relationships.

      Anyone who plays the "blame game" for their circumstances postpones learning lessons that could help them turn things around.

      Our lives are the end result of the choices/decisions (we) made.

      People often say: "Why do I attract such and such types...etc"

      It's not about (them). You can't help who finds you attractive!

      What gets you into trouble is who (you) find attractive!

      Most people don't have a "mate selection process". They allow impulsive connections and happenstance to dictate their relationship choices.

      It's the equivalent of going shopping without a list!

      Never separate your mind from your heart when making relationship decisions. The purpose of the mind is to protect the heart.

      "Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary.'

      - Oscar Wilde

      The world may not owe you anything but (you) owe yourself the world!