History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. Maya Angelou
This post refers to the relationship between celebrity couple Rihanna and Chris Brown. I am exposing some of their reported behaviours published across the internet to highlight and define narcissistic abuse and explain why a target of this form of abuse may return to their abuser and have difficulty forgetting them.
Before I begin, I want to put a disclaimer that I am not infering Rihanna is necessarily a target or that Chris Brown is necessarily narcissisitic, I am simply referring to the reported behaviours and highlighting what could be perceived as narcissistic warning signs. My only personal experience with either celebrity is detailed from Rihanna’s 2008 concert at Acer Arena in Sydney.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is an extremely painful and isolating condition and generally people who have this disorder target people to suffer from their narcissistic abuse. These targets are also known as a “source of supply”.
It’s important to first explain that a relationship with someone who has NPD is not a love story, it’s abuse generally demonstrated through the target’s attachment, love addiction and confusion, combined with the abuser’s control…
Unfortunately, people who aren’t tied up in the abuse themselves, are often so busy trying to find out about the “latest” in the saga that they’re missing what actually may be being exposed in the story. I’m not just referring to celebrities, I’m also talking about friends and families of everyday targets.
Who is Rihanna – really? Oprah introduces us behind the scenes, and we meet someone who is naturally talented, down-to-earth and highly empathetic. At least that’s how she is portrayed.
Do you remember Rihanna’s relationship with Chris Brown? OK, who could forget!
At the end of the day, the public got as sucked in by his charm as Rihanna, the target, did. This is why I want to talk about a high profile case, because no one seems to have gone there yet. Having said that, so many judged Rihanna when she returned to him. Lucky for all the public judgers that they were removed enough from the situation to see what was happening and escape. If you are or have been a target of narcissistic abuse you’ll know that horrible feeling of being trapped and addicted at the same time. If you get sucked back in, you’ll understand the fear and that “sinking feeling” that comes with it, when you realise that you did just get manipulated and sucked back in to suffer from more abuse, lies, projection and manipulation.
For Rihanna much of the pain and suffering would have happened behind closed doors, however, if you look at what has been leaked and released through the media, we can actually piece together quite a common scenario between target and abuser.
Let’s take a look…
How it began: the grooming phase
It began with extravagant dinners and parties and quickly escalated to matching tattoos, public displays of affection, all mixed with the fame game… Rihanna and Chris Brown “understood each other on a level no one could comprehend,” I remember one source saying in an interview about the pair.
In February 2008 Chris serenaded Rihanna at her birthday party, grabbing her and kissing her when the song was done. Their relationship escalated in May 2008 as Rihanna started talking publicly that they were becoming close.
In November 2008 I attended a Rihanna concert at Acer Arena in Sydney with work. Psychopaths take their time with the grooming phase, it can be like a honeymoon period that goes for six months to a year, until their really sure their target is hooked. So according to this timeframe, this could well have still been within this grooming period for the couple.
Chris Brown was her opening act.
Following the concert, a colleague approached me after and said “Wow, did you see Chris during Rihanna’s set?”
“No?” I asked.
“He danced non-stop on the side of the stage her entire set! I mean, right after he’d just done his own set – now that’s a supportive partner,” my colleague had said.
At the time I had shrugged it off. That’s nice for Rihanna…
However, was Chris’s behaviour entirely in support, or was he depending on people to see it?
The fact my colleague witnessed it makes me think it wasn’t coincidence. For example, in a relationship where narcissistic abuse is an issue, the narcissist would’ve depended on some fans seeing that. He was dancing in a way to publicly show his support to his new girlfriend, even though she wouldn’t have seen herself, yet he was exposed for people – like my colleague – to see and form judgement. This grew him a fan, because of his clear support and love for Rihanna.
However, what we didn’t see is important to. So what would’ve happened in the grooming phase of narcissistic abuse is the abuser would return backstage, charged after the set and said “You blew them away, baby! I was back there, dancing the whole entire set – didn’t miss a beat – did you see me dancing?”
The target would’ve felt special, even though what he said was actually all about him.
Their love grew before our eyes
As with any relationship, their love had ups and downs and fluctuations. But mainly, these two were the golden couple. They loved each other on a level that no other celebrity couple has demonstrated. They were exceptionally close and it was a connection and attachment that not many could identify with – which even reporters noted at the time. It became clear that Rihanna felt that no one understood her like Chris, because he was had similar struggles that came with having such great success at a young age.
Despite their international fame and their commitment to touring, they were never far from each other, and as with any normal relationship, they were there for each other and appeared to share in each others highs and lows.
But by July 2008 the sweetness of the relationship started to sour as it was reported that Chris demanded Rihanna stop wearing revealing clothing. People who are inclined to be abusive towards their targets will often start testing them by controlling small things, and then it very rapidly escalates from there. The fact he chose clothes, a visual item that is very much about identity could be linked to narcissistic behaviour. Now, for the target at the time, that may not have appeared that bad – they will generally brush off the comment, maybe adjust slightly and put it down to their partner watching out for them and showing their love. They’re just being protective, right?
By December 2008 things were not only continuing to unravel, but escalating, as the couple had a public fight in a nightclub. Despite the argument it was reported that they headed to Barbados for holidays in January where Rihanna introduced Chris to her family. Narcissistic abuse is very deceptive. Almost as quickly as an incident occurs, the narcissist will often respond as though nothing has happened and the reason they’re able to do this is because they don’t have an identity or a conscience. They mirror their target. Meanwhile, their target finds it easier to forgive them because the self doubt and cognitive dissonance has kicked in. “Maybe it wasn’t that bad”, “Maybe I got it wrong”, “He’s not normally like this” “If it happens again I’ll leave” etc. Unfortunately in the case of narcissistic abuse – not only will it happen again but generally it will happen a lot worse than the previous time and they continue to step up their abuse as their controlling grip grows on their target.
In February 2009 it was suspected that Chris Brown was getting close to a woman in Europe while Rihanna was nowhere to be seen. Narcissistic abuse often involves the controlling partner cheating on their target, which leaves the target feeling shame, guilt (for not being there, for example) and depressed from the disappointment of being cheated on. One of the most common tools used in narcissistic abuse is triangulation and the perpetrator will use this to appear more desirable than what they actually are and also to affect their target’s self esteem and self doubt more and further assert their control and dominance over the situation. The narcissist will quickly start playing each of their sources of supply off each other, to enhance their ego and purely for their sick entertainment pleasure. The more pain they cause, the more powerful they feel.
On 8 February 2009 this police photo of Rihanna’s badly beaten face (released by TMZ) was leaked following the Grammy Awards. This is the same award ceremony where the photo above was taken, where they are all cuddled up at the table. It’s hard to believe and accept that this became the outcome of that same evening, where they appeared so in love.
The world stopped. Horrified.
Nothing appeared to be kept secret as the full police report was leaked shortly after, including the full details of the dispute. The world knew the intimate details of what and how it had occurred. In the case of a narcissist, again, because they don’t have a conscience, they don’t mind these details being leaked and the only reason they would is realising it affects their reputation.
Often narcissistic abuse moves quickly from emotional abuse (control, threats and cheating) into something physical as the target starts to question what is really happening and grows more consciously aware of the abuse.
More frequently than not, the police are used as pawns in the narcissist’s game. Nothing is coincidence in a narcissist’s world. It’s almost as though they have it mapped out from the start, and they will use whatever is released, said or done to their full advantage and are great at manipulating and twisting the facts. They’re certainly not afraid of being in a court room because they love the attention.
In an interview with Rihanna later she revealed that just looking at this photo makes her feel completely humiliated. This comment may be difficult for the healthy mind to comprehend, however the feelings it would raise for a target of this kind of abuse include the same: guilt (for their role in it, even if they didn’t actually have one), denial and self doubt that has already been playing through their mind (it could even be as extreme as: “I didn’t mean for this photo to get out”, “I’ve hurt his reputation”, “It was my fault – I shouldn’t have let them take it”), shame (because the world has seen this), fear (what will the abuser do next) etc. So actually the release of this image would impact the target a lot more than the person who abused them because the person who caused this kind of damage doesn’t feel empathy or have a conscience. If they did, they would at some point have gained some self control.
Before we know it, on 21 July 2009 Chris made a very public apology for the incident, despite his legal representation urging him not to, but as he says in the tape: he was “really sorry”. Laws, police, rules and regulations … nothing applies to a narcissist who has an extraordinary sense of grandiosity beyond the healthy mind’s comprehension.
This timeframe and the fact Chris displayed it so publicly, raises suspicion about whether he realised within himself that his actions were wrong, or if he simply picked up on the vibrations of public outcry and felt he had to do something about it as his reputation shattered. You can watch Chris Brown’s full apology here.
The issue here is that a healthy mind would’ve felt genuine empathy and remorse, they also would be overwhelmed with shame and guilt, and while they may have privately apologised, it is likely they would’ve avoided the media attention as much as possible to try to deflect from the situation and give it time to cool down.
Instead, Chris chose to strike while the iron was hot and released a public clip apologising to Rihanna for the world to see – and he returned his Grammy. While a healthy mind would take other measures to apologise, a narcissist will generally ride the publicity associated with their act. They have the inability to feel genuine remorse because of their lack of empathy and find it difficult to take responsibility for their actions because of their sense of grandiosity.
This sense of grandiosity is a real giveaway. A narcissist makes note of things that appear unnecessary or that make them look like a “superhero”, they’re always a little above everything, including the law and everyone governed by it. For example, throughout the apology, there’s a very deliberate mention that he was apologising against legal advice. To the healthy mind this mention appears fairly innocent: they are so sincerely sorry they would take any chance and any risk to try to make everything ok – they’re so desperately sorry, they will sacrifice their own reputation by talking about it again.
The next notable thing is that a lot of his apology includes Chris talking about his pride in himself, the things he has done, and his ability to exercise self-control. The healthy mind would question if this positive focus is simply PR slant, however for an apology that’s meant to be for Rihanna and her fans – not a lot was said about Rihanna, the incident (possibly for legal reasons) and there was no mention or genuine demonstration that he was sorry. At the end of the day the best way you can tell the difference between a narcissist and a healthy mind is through their actions, because a narcissist can’t maintain the act long-term.
“I’m not going to sit here and make excuses,” Chris said.
A narcissist will generally glaze over anything that requires explanation because they depend on the theory that in time, people will forget. Other reasons a narcissist won’t explain include that they can’t explain: because they don’t know what is wrong and their mind automatically plays down the events that have happened; and the final reason they won’t explain is that it doesn’t align with the ideal of who they are – according to their grandiosity, they never need to explain.
Chris spoke about his upbringing and that he’s seen what abuse can do – an interesting revelation. Generally narcissists who abuse their targets are raised in a dysfunctional family, and have suffered or witnessed violence in their upbringing. The reason they may choose to share this kind of information is to gain sympathy, empathy and understanding from other people. Although they can’t feel it themselves, their the masters in knowing about it and how to evoke it in people. If the target is a highly sensitive person, an empath or co-dependent in any way, they will be drawn to this kind information and try to help the suffering person, which puts them at greater risk of the abuse. The target thought process goes something like this: “They can’t help it, they’re just a product of their upbringing – they’re just a target like me”, “They didn’t mean it, they’re sorry”, “How can I judge them when I also grew up in a dysfunctional family?”
As with any abuser, a narcissist will make promises that it won’t happen again. Narcissistic abuse is the most silent form of domestic abuse because of the initial grooming phase. Targets will very rarely expose their abuser, because often they don’t realise they’re being abused (mostly because of their own denial) and also because of overwhelming fear their abuser instills in them. Targets are often so confused from all their emotions combined with the various tools of abuse used against them such as gas lighting, projection and trauma bonding, that they’re not sure to complain about the abuse or not. If they do try to leave or take action, often the narcissist will threaten their target and at this point their targets realise the narcissist has no concerns about creating great destruction, which keeps them stuck.
Targets of narcissistic abuse often don’t have anything to show for it because it’s so manipulative and under-handed. When it does show, in Rihanna’s case where photos were taken, the ultimate damage control is put in place and abusers will often try to get their target’s back in a bid to deflect what happened was as bad as it actually was. Because if their source of supply would take them back, then to the abusive person it is evidence that the abuse wasn’t as bad as they made it appear.
Unfortunately often targets get so blindsided by the new grooming act – known as hoovering, and what they believe is the return of the lover they first knew, that they do return to the abuser. Generally this is when police, magistrates and other people with healthy minds outside of the abuse, start to form judgement, give up on supporting the target and can’t comprehend why they made their decision.
The nightmare hasn’t even began for the target who returns. It’s never long until the abuse begins again and they quickly realise they were duped and the cycle continues. What also works in the narcissist’s favour is that by this stage they realise their source of supply is hooked and likely brainwashed – or available to be brainwashed by them, because they really want to believe the fantasy. It’s because of the brainwashing that it isn’t uncommon for a target, particularly of narcissistic abuse, will stand to defend the person who abused them rather than stand against them in court. Unfortunately, this final stage is where the target is in the greatest amount of danger, and usually they are so isolated by their decision to return to the abusive person and feeling so much more shame and guilt for their decision, and vigorously defending someone who wasn’t who they thought, that they don’t know where to start to get the help they need.
Above everything else in this clip, it’s important to acknowledge that this isn’t an apology to Rihanna (because he’d already apologised to her “countless times”), this is an apology to the public for his own reputation as he is starting to feel the consequences and he is, by this point, being slandered as a result of the images and the story coming to light. Despite the evidence and facts, a narcissist would still genuinely fear a smear campaign that would injure their reputation (even though in this case, Chris Brown’s reputation was already damaged as a result of the leaked image). The reason they fear their target will set up a smear campaign against them is because that is what they are capable of doing to their targets, even if they claimed to have loved them once upon a time.
The target’s response to narcissistic abuse actually reveals a lot more than the abuser’s actions and stories. However, the target and everyone around them will often be looking at the abusive person for clues even though they know the person will continuously lie and manipulate, which makes it hard for the target – or a healthy mind – to see the truth. Whereas a target’s response is always an honest interpretation to what’s happened.
Rihanna’s response showed great empathy for Chris and his situation as a consequence to the leaked photos. A target of narcissistic abuse would have a very similar response because of the guilt, shame and self blame. They’ll have days where they reflect on the early love bombing phase and often be over-ruled with obsessive thoughts about the person who inflicted great pain on them. Targets can go months and even years discussing their narcissistic ex who appears to have moved on and well forgotten the source of supply – although this isn’t the case.
This interview with the ABC details Rihanna’s response to what happened and how she flew to be with him just three weeks after the photos were released. In an interview with Oprah, Rihanna immediately puts blame on herself: “I fell in love with that person, that’s embarrassing! So far in love, so unconditional that I went back.” This is consistent with a target of narcissistic abuse who has been manipulated, they will then manipulate events to make it their problem or fault and try to take the blame for what has happened as a way of regaining some form of control. That self-blame generally comes across as someone being extremely hard on themselves or someone who is not healthy and likely suffering from depression as they continually reflect on past events.
Rihanna talks about the humiliation of seeing the image of her beaten face and she starts telling the story of what really happened. She saw a text message on his phone from an ex-girlfriend and she confronted him – again, this is triangulation at its best: a narcissist makes cheating the world’s worst kept secret. While cheating is generally something people hide because they feel ashamed, a narcissist will find ways to leak it so both sources of supply are aware of each other and will fight for him.
“He wouldn’t tell the truth, so I wouldn’t drop it!” she goes on to say: “I wouldn’t take that he kept lying to me and he wouldn’t take that I wouldn’t drop it”. This story is the epitome of narcissistic abuse. A narcissist will always get uncontrollably angry if they are questioned, but particularly when it involves one source of supply questioning the narcissist over another source of supply – because they realise how close they are to being found out and then it’s game over, because one or other of the sources of supply will leave if the narcissist runs out of lies and excuses.
Again this comes down to their sense of grandiosity, because people who use narcissistic abuse are actually disgusted by their targets. You know when you step in dog poo and you feel disgusted? That’s how a narcissist feels about their target – particularly when they’re near them and this is what makes it easy for them to discard them at this stage. Because targets are so easy for a narcissist to discard, things can very quickly escalate into physical abuse and even result in homicide.
“He had no soul in his eyes. Just blank,” Rihanna described, almost as though she couldn’t comprehend it. “There was no person when I looked at him.” Someone suffering at the hands of narcissistic abuse will often use this extremely common description of their abusers, that’s because this description is fact. Narcissist’s have been referred to as “a soul without footprints”, “footprints without a soul” or a “psychological parasite”. All the target knows is the person they once knew has vanished and the person attacking them is just a hole. The narcissistic mask has been removed and the real monster revealed and there’s nothing in them. They’re empty. What’s scarier still is the target often thinks this side is the false self and the other side – the side that wooed them – is the true self, when in fact it’s very much the other way around.
“Domestic violence isn’t the sort of thing you want people to know,” Rihanna says before talking about her denial. “The minute those physical wounds go away, you start lying to yourself and you just want it to go away. You just want it to go away – it’s a memory you don’t want to have ever again,” she said.
Rihanna also talks about how she didn’t talk about it to anyone. Not friends, not family. A target of narcissistic abuse will rarely discuss what is happening to them openly (particularly when it becomes physical) as denial and emotions of guilt, shame, and fear, mixed with the genuine concern for their abuser and “what will happen to them”, will often override the desire to protect themselves from further abuse by talking about it. Furthermore, to talk about it means to admit it and acknowledge it to themselves. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge, according to Dr Phil, and a target often doesn’t want to lose the person abusing them because they can’t believe the abusive person is really the person they fell in love with.
It is imperative that targets of all abuse start talking about it and are encouraged to tell their stories, not to shame their abusers, but to start saying “This is what happens and this is how it happens” to open the doors on abuse and educate people. Release the toxic shame and attachment and help the healthy mind understand.
“If I feel this depressed, then what is he going through?” Rihanna said. She then explains that she felt she had to protect him because the whole world hated him for what he did to her, and she says: “I just want him to know: don’t do anything stupid”. A narcissist will often threaten suicide in order to drive sympathy from their target and gain more control over them.
The interviewer made note that Chris was exuberant to have her back. A narcissist would have this response because in their mind, they “win” every time they suck a source of supply back in. Pushing and pulling their sources of supply and having them respond exactly as they predict is a game to them. A narcissist may also respond this way from relief that they no longer need to find a new source of supply.
For a target of narcissistic abuse to find themselves in this situation, it’s very confusing and conflicting because she hadn’t told him that he was forgiven, yet a narcissist will always assume and act as though they are, again to play down what happened and to deflect responsibility from the event. Targets will start to mirror this behaviour and generally return to their abuser because they also want everything to be ok and forgotten, they just want to be back with the person they originally fell in love with.
A target of narcissistic abuse will generally suffer a huge amount of attachment and love addiction towards their abuser. It can be very difficult to break away and it’s extremely difficult for the healthy mind to comprehend.
“Obviously he didn’t want us to be apart,” she said.
After all the destruction caused by the abuse, a narcissist will never want their targets far from them as they try to suck them back in and regain their control again. Generally at this point, they will pull out all stops and use whatever power they have to prevent their supply from leaving them. The more time a target spends with their abuser, the more likely it is that they will get sucked back in and return to them and this is because people who use narcissistic abuse are also known to use neuro-linguistic programming techniques to literally hypnotise and brainwash their targets.
Fortunately, despite the power of hypnosis, once a target has been hurt enough, they won’t want to hear the apology from the person abusing them and they’ll start to want to seek assistance to break apart from the person. The attachment they had, quickly becomes a distant memory as they put the pieces of the puzzle together themselves and although it still hurts, they no longer crave for them back. Once they realise they have suffered narcissistic abuse, it’s easier to accept the closure. Rihanna said she didn’t listen to the song Chris wrote for her, and this may have been because she wasn’t leaving any opportunity for him to get back in at the time. The only way to recover from narcissistic abuse is to have NO CONTACT with the abusive person.
Rihanna talks to Oprah in a little more detail about her experience: how quickly they fell in love with each other and that he understood her on a level that no one else did. A red flag of narcissistic abuse is the relationship will escalate very quickly and the love with always be euphoric, putting the target on a high – it is literally addictive. She spoke about how they “forgot about themselves as individuals”. A narcissist will always try to make his targets feel like they’re the same person, which forces the bond and attachment – before long the target doesn’t know where they end and the narcissist begins. Cutting them off literally feels like cutting a part of themselves off.
Rihanna also says she’s not at peace if he’s unhappy or still lonely. A target of narcissistic abuse will also experience these thoughts and emotions for their abuser.
Although angry after the attack, Rihanna still defended Chris, which can be seen here. This clip reveals how difficult she is finding it to comprehend the situation. A target of narcissistic abuse will often refer to their abuser as their “best friend” and suffer similar feelings of disbelief and denial over the events that happened. A highly sensitive person or empath who has been the target of narcissistic abuse will always put the abuse down to a loud cry for help, and subconsciously, they feel they’re the ones to provide that support to help the abusive person because they have that deep understanding of them that no one else does – another illusion created by the narcissist.
On 30 January 2013, Rihanna revealed her reason for returning to Chris to Rolling Stone:
“I decided it was more important for me to be happy, and I wasn’t going to let anybody’s opinion get in the way of that. Even if it’s a mistake, it’s my mistake. After being tormented for so many years, being angry and dark, I’d rather just live my truth and take the backlash. I can handle it.”
A target of narcissistic abuse will often be self-sacrificing as they return to their abuser, they realise what is on the line for them because they have spent time healing first, however they’re willing to risk it in the hope the person they first fell in love with may truly exist. This is why narcissists may return to sources of supply months or even years down the track.
A target of narcissistic abuse is always a source of supply to their abuser, which is why they need to take control as quickly as they can, in a healthy way. When a target returns back into the relationship with low self-esteem (they know what they’re setting themselves up for) and have this self-sacrificing mentality because they want to believe it will work and it will be different this time, so they literally look for evidence of the changes. The target will be extremely vigilant to ensure they don’t go through the same abuse again, however, a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will find another way to hurt their target and it will happen subtly and catch them completely off-guard despite the original abuse:
“When you add up the pieces from the outside, it’s not the cutest puzzle in the world. You see us walking somewhere, driving somewhere, in the studio, in the club, and you think you know. But it’s different now. We don’t have those types of arguments anymore. We talk about (stuff) … We value each other. We know exactly what we have now, and we don’t want to lose that,” Rihanna said.
A target of narcissistic abuse will often shelter their abuser from blame, vigorously defending them, and this is because their abuser has groomed them again and also because if they believed the excuses and reasons, they want you to believe it too. Although the target is blind to see it, someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder ensures they are always in control. Here Rihanna talks authentically about who Chris is to her:
“For a long time he was really angry, and he felt like he couldn’t get away from it, no matter what he did. But there’s so many reasons why I ever reconsidered having him in my life. He’s not the monster everybody thinks. He’s a good person. He has a fantastic heart. He’s giving and loving. And he’s fun to be around. That’s what I love about him — he always makes me laugh. All I want to do is laugh, really, and I do that with him.”
When a target of narcissistic abuse returns to their abuser they promise themselves it will be for the last time and if they get hurt again, it will be for the last time. That promise is rarely the target’s choice because a narcissist is always in control.
Very rarely are targets able to leave this kind of relationship unscathed. Here’s what Rihanna said about returning to Chris:
“Listen, I’ll tell you right now: I don’t have to take it. If he gives me that again, here’s what I give him: nothing. I just walk away. He doesn’t have that luxury of fuck up again. That’s just not an option. I can’t say that nothing else will go wrong. But I’m pretty solid in knowing that he’s disgusted by that. And I wouldn’t have gone this far if I ever thought that was a possibility.”
While many people shun Rihanna for returning to Chris and people added to her guilt by forcefully noting the message she was sending others: I disagree.
I think in speaking publicly about her relationship with Chris, in doing everything exactly as she has – including returning to him and publicly admitting it, Rihanna has revealed who she is and what her experience has been and in doing it she has exposed narcissistic abuse and domestic violence for the healthy mind.
Narcissistic abuse is something a target will struggle to comprehend for quite some time, but they can feel it. It leaves anyone who hasn’t experienced it in judgement of the target and their response to the abuse, whether they return to the abuser or not.
A target of narcissistic abuse will always turn to their passions during recovery and they won’t stop talking about what they experienced … and that’s partly because they can’t fully comprehend it, but it’s also because of the overwhelming fear that if they forget – even for a second – the perpetrator will return and suck them back in.
Don’t stop a target from talking about the abuse, by letting them go over the details, you are helping them to process their experience.
Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will choose to use a target’s passion to display their feelings as a way of making their target hear what they have to say – for example, Chris tried to apologise by writing a song for Rihanna. Meanwhile, a target recovering from narcissistic abuse will use their passion to relieve the pressure caused by the pain from their abuse – for example, Rihanna continues publicly sharing her feelings through the songs she’s releasing such as her duets, which have held the most powerful messages: “Love the way you lie” with Eminem and “Can’t remember to forget you” with Shakira – both these songs centre around two issues targets of narcissistic abuse grapple with: lies/manipulation and addiction/attachment.
Tough-love and threats to cease offering support will rarely work for targets of narcissistic abuse, it often just pushes them straight back to their abuser. The only way to help a target of narcissistic abuse is to offer continual, ongoing support with zero judgement. Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know: you don’t know what an abuser has told their target or the lengths they will go to, you don’t know what behaviours are being demonstrated and promises are being made, you don’t know exactly how it was and how it is now for the target. It is essential that instead of judging someone in this situation that you concentrate on what you can do to support the person without enabling the abuse.
For more information about how you can assist someone in a relationship with narcissistic abuse, where there is a strong bond, without enabling the abuse, look at our resource Is someone you love being abused? under Tips for Freedom.
More reading related to the Rihanna/Chris Brown saga:
Domestic Violence is everyone’s business by Michelle Bernard
Chris Brown on how he won back Rihanna after viciously beating her by Jade Watkins
Rihanna breaks down as she opens up to Oprah about Chris Brown assault by Emily Sheridan and Iona Kirby
Timeline of Rihanna and Chris Brown’s relationship by Annika Harris
Looking for support? Visit my new website: www.relationshipfree.com
Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change. Bob Kerrey (1943)
The kindness of strangers has the power to improve our wellbeing and increase our feelings of happiness more than our normal friendship circle. How do I figure this? Imagine you have been hurt or let down by someone you trusted and thought you knew. You’re just looking to vent and for someone to listen to your story.
First you talk to a friend, they listen, and offer you their opinion and give advice in an attempt to try to lift you back up. You can sense their empathy and genuine care in their response which makes you feel somewhat better and your day continues as normal.
Now imagine the same scenario, but this time you’re talking to a complete stranger. You tell them your story and they listen. They then respond in a way that shows they identify or can relate to your situation, they offer you their opinion based on what they have heard and understood, and advise you accordingly. All of a sudden you feel less alone and your faith in humanity is restored and it’s like the sun has started shining through a grey sky – your day almost feels better, more fulfilled, than when you spoke to your friend. The happiness you feel as a result of the correspondence with the stranger barely compares to how you felt after communicating with your friend about the same issue.
This week Happinesss Weekly looks at why strangers can have a greater impact on your happiness than your friends.
Why strangers do it better
There are several reasons why strangers have the power to make us feel happier than our usual circle of friends – this could be why internet dating is becoming more popular and a more acceptable way of meeting someone and finding love. Here are some of the reasons why strangers can appeal to us more than our friends:
- Our expectations
The fact is we expect our friends to care about our wellbeing and therefore subconsciously depend on them to listen to us, side with us and support us unconditionally through all turbulence. It’s a part of friendship that almost all of us take for granted.
In the case of a complete stranger, we have no expectations. When a stranger is entirely removed from a situation and shows us kindness, we appreciate the time they take to actively listen to our story more than when our friends show us the same courtesy. Then if the stranger passes judgement that validates our feelings or actions, we start to feel better understood and less alone.
Although a stranger may have responded the same way as our friends, they exceed our expectations because we didn’t have any to begin with.
- The “stranger danger” belief
Strangers may also have an advantage over our friends because as children we were made acutely aware of “stranger danger”. These messages shaped our beliefs that strangers are a threat and potential danger.
Even now, despite statistics showing that someone we know who is a greater threat to us than a stranger, the media often highlight stories that demonstrate the opposite. When a stranger offers us kindness, our receptors instantly flick on warning us to be wary and we begin to question their motives and what could be in it for us.
It is when the kindness of a stranger is proven to be genuine and consequence-free, despite what we were programmed to understand, we often find ourselves pleasantly surprised.
As adults, neglecting or rejecting the kindness of strangers can force us to be confined and limited, so if we challenge this “stranger danger” belief, it enables us to work together to make a positive difference in each other’s lives.
- The selfish world we live in
Society often finds people first looking for the “what’s in it for me” before taking action in any situation. We all do it, whether it’s because we’re all time-poor in this fast-paced world or we’re simply becoming more selfish by the generation.
You may even notice that marketing campaigns are starting to lean towards commercial bribery as they become more aware that if they can’t convince the consumers that there’s something in it for them, it’s nearly impossible to motivate anyone to take action, let alone convince people to try a new product.
We are starting to value time more than ever before which is why when a stranger takes a moment to act selflessly towards us it leaves us feeling good because they have given up time to be thoughtful.
- About the kindness movement
This theory that strangers can have a greater impact on us than our friends isn’t new. Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward published in 2000, which was adapted into the film starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment in the same year, may have inspired the movement that encourages random acts of kindness towards strangers.
Whenever it began, adults are now being actively encouraged to be more mindful of each other and to demonstrate random acts of kindness where they can. The stigma associated with strangers being dangerous is deteriorating as more people embrace the “Pay it Forward” movement.
How you can make a positive difference to a stranger
The purpose of the following activities is to do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return – It doesn’t have to be expensive and there’s no need to go above and beyond when you choose to demonstrate a random act of kindness for a stranger.
– Buy someone’s coffee in the coffee shop
– Help a student with their tuition
– Teach someone something new
– Volunteer for a charity
– Let someone in front of you in the grocery store line
– Hand-write a letter to someone telling them how important they are to you
– Speak up for someone – sign a petition, write a letter, be a referee for a job
– Work pro bono where your skills are needed
– Compliment a stranger
– Give up your seat when taking crowded public transport
– Listen to someone without interruption
– Greet someone in the elevator
– Hold the door open for someone
– Explain the Pay it Forward concept to someone
– Take part in Pay it Forward Day on 22 April. Find more information here.
For more ideas on how you can show kindness to others, follow the free Thrive Happiness Challenge application.