Tag Archive | inspiring

Will you fix your relationship?

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There are two questions a man must ask himself: The first is ‘Where am I going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me? Sam Keen

Think about it. If your television stopped functioning, or three or four months in to purchasing it, it started playing up – would you take it to a repairer? How about your fridge – would you get it looked at? Your oven? Your car?? So what is different about your relationship?! Don’t laugh – but is the reason that you won’t invest in your relationship because it’s not covered by warranty?

Many people sit in unhealthy and toxic relationships not moving in the hope it will fix itself, or because some days it’s better than others, so they’re happy to wait for those better days. Thankfully I did a survey recently of potential Relationship Free clients and 50% of respondents said they would attempt to fix their relationship if it became unhealthy. But at what point? How bad does it have to be, before you seek help? How much denial do you need to process, before you step forward?

Every day, I have people reading my most popular blog post of all time: All about toxic relationships and how to let go and they have come to me for help with their toxic relationship. “Sarah, what would you do?” or “What did you do?” Upon further reflection many have picked up the buzz word “narcissistic abuse” and decided their relationship isn’t toxic but their partner is narcissistic. There’s a big gap there. Toxic is overtly dysfunctional, putting down, emotionally and mentally painful and exhausting. It makes you act out in ways you don’t normally. Narcissistic abuse is manipulative, deceptive, under-handed abuse that it almost invisible, but extremely dangerous and painful. It also generally involves a personality disorder: Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

But blame is a fantastic thing, isn’t it?

If we can blame all our relationship woes on the behaviour of our partners then we never have to take action or responsibility. We can just go fourth in our unhealthy relationship, blaming the problems and causes on our partner, rather than stepping out and finding the courage to enter into a new life with the possibility of a healthy relationship.

I am in the process of developing a workshop called “Is your relationship abusive?” which helps people to identify what kind of relationship they are in, and can then make the decision if they want to fix their relationship or not. If you know you’re being abused right now, step out of yourself and ask … do you deserve to be abused? Is there more for you than what you have now? Just because you don’t know better, does this mean that you can’t have better or don’t deserve better than what you have? Rebuild yourself and make a step and keep rebuilding until you’re feeling human again. As many of you know, this year I have been healing from an abusive relationship and the journey to recovery is long and it is challenging. If I stayed longer, it would have been further detrimental, but there comes a point that you have to be your own hero – because as I showed in my story, no one else can or will save you. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make that call if you’re going to stay or go. And no, it’s not an easy call to make, particularly where there is abuse because there will be threats if you go. Let me tell you from someone who got to the other side … not without consequence, but I got there, let me tell you that making that call, stepping out of that abusive relationship was the best thing I’ve ever done. It was the best move I’ve ever made. And it gave me a story which I take fourth today. It broadened my goals. It gave me a message worth sharing … and here I am today.

Recently the NSW government released this checklist for an abusive relationship. Is this a checklist that should be for public consumption? I don’t think so and I feel really strongly about it. In fact, the systems we have infuriate me – it’s not about protecting people at all. Just because you check all these boxes, is that as extremely bad as it could be? What if just one or two of these was really bad, and they didn’t check any of the other boxes – would that then mean it’s not that bad, perhaps the person is overreacting and therefore they should remain in an abusive relationship? In my case, where I was set up, I think this is just a checklist for more abusers and there will be more victims like me as a result of this. I just helped one woman boldly step through what I went through, just because I boldly shared my story … how many more will come to me for support through this as a result of this checklist going online? There is not psychological input to any of this. Abusers don’t necessarily go to anger management classes, and victims don’t necessarily go to counselling. So what is the point of this checklist online and the AVO process? Because right now, it’s going from bad to worse.

And it’s not just the government at fault, but there are often questionnaires released in domestic violence groups. This makes my blood boil. What’s that? So victims can compare notes on “how bad” this piece of paper says your abuse was? Are you more a survivor and thriver if you lived through every checked box? What if you did check every box but it happens you’re a hypochondriac and it actually wasn’t as bad as you say? From my experience, people who come to do domestic violence questionnaires are doing it to confirm “how bad” their abuse is … even once they know they are being abused, even once they know “how bad” it is, they still need to make their choice, will they stay or will they go? So why bother finding out how bad? Why not discover if you are in an abusive relationship, skip the “how bad” step and make your decision. Do you really want to be in an abusive relationship? Do you deserve to be there? What our systems and our groups and a lot of people overlook is that there is a lot of addiction in abuse. I’ve spoken about this before but there’s cycles and there’s trauma bonding, and the longer you stay, the worse it gets.

If you think I’m saying these diagnostic tests are unhelpful for people in domestic violence situations, you are absolutely correct. The temptation for a victim and even a past victim, to decide “how bad” their abuse was based on these tests, is not going to help them. Many people in the domestic violence group I was associated with continued to hinge whether their abuse was bad or not, based on if police take action. If police take action – therefore, the abuse must be really bad. And it’s funny how many people believe this. I think the shattered evidence of a person in trauma speaks louder than a narcissist’s carefully manipulated evidence and lies.

Whether your relationship is toxic or abusive, it’s up to you whether you want to stay and fix it or leave something that is dysfunctional. No one can make that decision for you. So what’s it going to be … will you stay or will you go?

Three powerful questions that will change your life

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The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering. Ben Okri.

While working full time in my current role at work, between my friends and I we have slowly but surely noticed that just through word-of-mouth my coaching business is already starting to thrive as I’m full time coaching out of hours.

There appears to be a common theme in the clients I am receiving – aside from they’re all awesome people who have had some amazing adventures, each of them are exceptionally motivated to move forward from their current circumstances and thrive (which is a coach’s dream!) and they are all extremely intelligent and resourceful.

However, the theme in their issues appears to be that their values aren’t aligning with the current situation which is causing them enormous grief. I’ve noticed myself asking three very powerful questions throughout these sessions and I want to share them with everyone today so you can take them away and coach yourself.

When we’re honest with ourselves, we can call our own bullshit – right? I mean, let’s be real. Yet I see people hurting over things they can’t have (which more often than not, isn’t something they need), tears over emotionally unavailable people offering ongoing mixed signals and frustration because it appears to be the never ending issue – and it’s always the same.

Does this sound like you? Be honest. Sometimes it can be hard to admit it to ourselves when we’re chasing our own tail over something that won’t benefit us. I have my hand up, this used to be me all over! This is why I highly recommend coaching – because it cuts through the bullshit, empowers you to draw your own conclusions and helps you take steps in your chosen direction. Coaching made it so I can gratefully leave my hand down.

This blog will be particularly powerful for my friends and followers in toxic relationships – the area I specialise in. I enjoy working in this area because it’s a step up from a failed relationship, which I help with as well but it’s a step down from narcissistic abuse and domestic violence – which is, as I describe, a toxic relationship on steroids. The longer you stay, the more steroids in that relationship’s system, and the more difficult and complex the journey to recovery.

So take a look at your current situation – exactly as it is. Don’t sugar coat it, don’t leave anything out, don’t distort the information in any way – be completely honest. Make it so you can see the situation with you and the other person involved – you’re a spirit looking down. You can see all behaviours, responses, reactions and hear all the words. Now shine a spotlight on yourself – the other person freezes, they’re silenced, they stand in darkness. Watch yourself continue to act and respond for a moment as though the other person is still in full action.

At this point you may come to the realisation that you don’t like what you see. This could be why you have found your way to the blog, you acknowledge there’s a problem but you don’t know how to fix it. The thing is, you probably never suspected the issue was with you. Here’s the thing: a toxic relationship can cause us to act out in ways we don’t usually, and that is because whatever we are trying to achieve is out of our value system and we don’t know how to get it. Meanwhile for those who can identify that they are being narcissistically abused (generally there’s a lot of deception and manipulation, so it’s very difficult to spot), it’s likely that you’re a shadow of your former self, you’re so far removed from the person you were before the relationship began that you struggle to recognise yourself – both physically and emotionally.

This leads us to our first powerful and empowering question: How does this serve you?

This is no longer about the other person – they stand in the dark – so we’re completely focusing on you. There’s no excuses because it’s right there, right in front of you, light up with this spotlight. Think for a moment and then ask yourself again – how does this scenario, that is playing in your mind right now, serve you?

It is likely that you will quickly see you’re not gaining anything from the scenario. You’re probably fighting for the satisfaction of being right, getting revenge or possibly as a defence to how the other person is behaving. Is this how you want to live your life? Honestly? Consider an overall goal – for most of us the ultimate is to be happy and content. How does this scenario playing out under the spotlight right now, lead you to that ultimate goal?

Hopefully a few people reading have had a “shit – she’s right!” shift and you could be starting to think “I knew it – that’s it, I’m leaving!”

One of my favourite movies of all time is A Walk to Remember starring Mandy Moore and Shane West, and there’s a scene where Landon (Shane’s character) and Jamie (Mandy’s character) are dancing and it goes like this:

Landon: Number 1 on my list is getting out of Beaufort.
Jamie: Um… I don’t think getting out is gonna be your problem. It’s more like figuring out what you’re going to do when you get somewhere. 
Landon: What do you mean? 
Jamie: I mean you can do anything.

For some reason, this scene and these words imprinted in my mind the moment I saw them because it was perfect! We can do anything! We can have our bags packed within the day and be setting sail into the sunset for our new life, far from this dramatic scene … but what’s to say we’re not going to find ourselves in a new relationship, standing under this exact same spotlight in a month or two’s time. And how can we be sure that we can’t save the relationship? What’s bad to one person may not be bad to the other. And it’s possible that you only think it’s bad because we’ve put the spotlight on it, but in reality, it may not be that bad.

So we’re drawn to our next powerful and empowering question: What lessons did you learn from it?

I can promise you, in every situation there is a lesson to be learned – but it’s up to you to establish what it is. If you’re resistant to learning and seeing the lesson, then refer back to question one, because I can already assure you: that is not going to serve you. In fact, in not being open to the lessons from the scenario, you’re holding yourself back and:

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. Pema Chodron

If you think you can get out of it easily by going to a counsellor or psychologist and having them tell you the answer and therefore you’ll change: you’re wrong and you’re going to be bitterly disappointed if you try this (and if you have tried it … you’re probably going – wow, she gets it! And the reason I get it is because I’ve been there! I was one of those lazy people that just wanted the answer thinking it would change me … no – you have to put the effort in and change yourself.) The other day a friend of mine said something in general conversation which really highlighted this point. She said: “You can tell a person a solution to their problem, but if it doesn’t fit with their values and beliefs and their experiences, it won’t be acted on”. How can anyone know exactly what someone’s values, beliefs and exact experiences are better than the person themselves? And this is another reason why I believe in the power of coaching – because coaches guide but they don’t advise. And the direction you take with the coach is entirely up to you.

Which leads us to our final powerful and empowering question: What are you going to do now?

The million dollar question, the hardest one to nut out of all of them is this. What are you going to do now? Now that you’ve established that whatever you do must be aligned with your values, beliefs and experiences to motivation action, it will also make you feel better if it’s aligned with your values and now that you’re equipped with the lessons from the past scenario you’re in a better space to move light years ahead from where you area now…

It’s important to note that this doesn’t just apply to relationships – these three questions can apply to all areas of your life! They are very, very powerful and very empowering – and you can do it all on your own. So, keep your overall objective in mind – whatever it is, in our scenario it was to be happy and content.

Now I want you to do a brainstorming session – without censoring anything – and write between 10 – 20 ideas that you could do, to move you just one step towards being happier and content in your current circumstance. Don’t stop writing until you have about ten to twenty ideas in front of you.

Now pick one – and remember, whatever you pick needs to align with your values and beliefs and it has to serve you, it must take current lessons into account and it must be moving you forward in a way that is peaceful and keep it relatively simple.

Once you’ve chosen one of your options, list all the steps you need to take in order to achieve this one tiny step – even the most obvious things.

And there we have it – three powerful questions and one step and your life is already changing! During this blog you were actually able to create your own pathway to resolving your current issue.

Now you’re probably asking: can it really be that easy when the situation feels so complicated?

Taking a single step outside of the usual pattern or cycle, will change the direction and the outcome. You can move in any direction you choose – your options have become limitless.

Now you can do anything – go anywhere, be anywhere – in fact, this is your opportunity to be anyone you want to be!

Today we start a complete fresh slate.

Now turn your spotlight off.

Turn both spotlights back on. Press play.

What are you going to do? Tell me in the comments.

Part 5: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse – laughing through the tears

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People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer. Dan Pearce

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have one sole mission: to evaporate the fun from their victim’s lives. I wanted to wrap up the series with some fun memes I came across about narcissism. Although these memes shed light on a very series issue, it’s important for victims in recovery to laugh at their situation or they will have difficulty moving forward.

Over the past five days I released a mini post series about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Abuse – to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You can find it here:

Part 1: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse

Part 2: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse – my experience

Part 3: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse – recovery

Part 4: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse – life through the narcissist’s eyes

So today we look at the things that kept me smiling through my tears. This is some fun for those recovering from narcissistic abuse and I hope you have all enjoyed my narcissism mini post series. No one wants a narcissist. So I believe the only thing worse than having a record on file for the rest of your life detailing things you never did, is having an incurable personality disorder. I was the only one to see behind his mask and the stripes on his shoulders … and what was revealed made me understand why he is so determined to hide it behind lies, deception and manipulation. My relationship with a narcissist will never be worth the trauma I suffer from it today, but I will continue to smile through the tears and lead my best life.

Thank you for tuning in!

 

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Part 4: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse – life through the narcissist’s eyes

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Narcissistic personality disorder: one of the few conditions where the patient is left alone and everyone and everyone else is treated.

The following explanation is attributed to Dr Sam Vaknin’s notes.

Now that we know what a narcissist is and we can see how they operate as they slowly torture those around them through their deceptive and intentionally destructive ways, you probably hate them. Victims of narcissistic abuse have difficulty comprehending a. How the narcissist could play a victim when he so clearly wasn’t and b. How they could have loved such an evil person, when the truth was they only felt sorry for them. This questioning is key, because had the narcissist not played the victim so well in the first place, the supply likely wouldn’t have elected to date that person. Narcissists remove choice and victims are left feeling duped. Recovery is similar to that of a rape victim, because by the end the victim feels so violated, they don’t know who they were really sleeping with in the first place – the person they thought was their partner is a complete stranger! In essence, they were raped.

Dr Sam Vaknin described how a narcissist experiences their own life to provide insight into how they play the victim so well. Ironically, I must warn you, you may feel sorry for them when reading this post. It’s easy to step back and slander someone, but when you see this personality disorder as it really is, it’s not too dissimilar from experiencing a serious mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, anorexia, or bipolar.

“This is a result of the functional dichotomy – fostered by the narcissist himself – between his False Self and his True Self. The latter – the fossilised ashes of the original, immature, personality – is the one that does the experiencing,” said Dr Vaknin.

The False Self – the mask displayed to victims – is a reflection in the narcissist’s hall of mirrors. It is incapable of feeling, or experiencing, yet it is the master of the psychodynamic processes which rage within the narcissist’s psyche. Essentially the false self knows how to exist from observation, but is a figment of the narcissist’s disorder which is how they trap victims and live among us as normal people.

This inner battle is so fierce that the True Self experiences it as a diffuse, though imminent and eminently ominous, threat. Anxiety ensues and the narcissist finds himself constantly ready for the next blow. He does things without knowing why or where it comes from. Almost living on a platform of self-destruction, the narcissist says things and behaves in ways, which, he knows, endanger him and put him in line for punishment.

The narcissist hurts people around him, or breaks the law, or violates accepted morality. He knows that he is in the wrong and feels ill at ease on the rare moments that he does feel. He wants to stop but doesn’t know how. Gradually, he is estranged from himself, possessed by some kind of demon, a puppet on invisible, mental strings. He resents this feeling, he wants to rebel, he is repelled by this part in him with which he is not acquainted. In his efforts to exorcise this devil from his soul, he dissociates.

An eerie sensation sets in and pervades the psyche of the narcissist. At times of crisis, of danger, of depression, of failure, and of narcissistic injury – the narcissist feels that he is watching himself from the outside. This is just that he assumes, involuntarily, the position of a spectator, a polite observer mildly interested in the whereabouts of one, Mr. Narcissist.

The illusion is not complete or precise, and the detachment continues for as long as the narcissist’s ego-dystonic behaviour persists, for as long as the crisis goes on, for as long as the narcissist cannot face who he is, what he is doing and the consequences of his actions.

Since this is the case most of the time, the narcissist gets used to seeing himself in the role of the protagonist (usually the hero) of a movie. “He describes his life, its events, ups and downs, pains, elation and disappointments in the most remote, ‘professional’ and coldly analytical voice, as though describing the life of some exotic insect,” Dr Vaknin said. Consider the level of detail my narcissist shared about his traumatic and dysfunctional childhood experiences in yesterday’s post for a moment – can you see the alignment here?

The crux of the problem is that the narcissist really feels this way. He actually experiences his life as belonging to someone else, his body as dead weight (or as an instrument in the service of some entity), his deeds as a-moral and not immoral (he cannot be judged for something he didn’t do now, can he?).

As time passes, the narcissist accumulates a mountain of mishaps, conflicts unresolved, pains well hidden, abrupt separations and bitter disappointments. He is subjected to a constant barrage of social criticism and condemnation. He is ashamed and fearful. He knows that something is wrong but there is no correlation between his cognition and his emotions.

He prefers to run away and hide, as he did when he was a child. Only this time he hides behind another self, a false one. People reflect to him this mask of his creation, until even he believes its very existence and acknowledges its dominance, until he forgets the truth and knows no better. The narcissist is only dimly aware of the decisive battle, which rages inside him.

This dissonance, these negative emotions, these nagging anxieties, transform the narcissist’s “motion picture” solution into a permanent one. It becomes a feature of the narcissist’s life. Whenever confronted by an emotional threat or by an existential one – he retreats into this haven, this mode of coping.

He relegates responsibility, submissively assuming a passive role. He who is not responsible cannot be punished – runs the tape in their mind. The narcissist is thus conditioned to annihilate himself –in order to avoid (emotional) pain and to bask in the glow of his impossibly grandiose fantasies.

This he does with fanatic zeal and with efficacy. Prospectively, he assigns his very life (decisions to be made, judgements to be passed, agreements to be reached) to the False Self. Retroactively, he re-interprets his past life in a manner consistent with the current needs of the False Self.

No wonder there is no connection between what the narcissist did feel in a given period in his life, or in relation to a specific event – and the way he sees or remembers these later on. He may describe certain occurrences or phases in his life as “tedious, painful, sad, burdening” – even though he experienced them entirely differently at the time. The same retroactive colouring occurs with regards to people. The narcissist completely distorts the way he regarded certain people and felt about them. This re-writing of his personal history is aimed to directly and fully accommodate the requirements of his False Self. It is true that because of this a narcissist will never be happy.

In sum, the narcissist does not occupy his own soul, nor does he inhabit his own body. He is the servant of a reflection of an Ego function. To please and appease his Master, the narcissist sacrifices to it his very life. From that moment onwards, the narcissist lives vicariously, through his False Self – also known as the mask.

Throughout life the narcissist feels detached, alienated and estranged from his False Self. He constantly harbours the sensation that he is watching a movie with a plot over which he has little control. It is with a certain interest – even fascination – that he does the watching. Still, it is mere, passive observation. This is where much of their obsession for gaining control over people stems from.

Thus, not only does the narcissist relinquish control of his future life (the movie) – he gradually loses ground to the False Self in the battle to preserve the integrity and genuineness of his past experiences. Eroded by these two processes, the narcissist gradually disappears and is replaced by his disorder to the fullest extent.

Much of this information is attributed to narcissism expert Dr Sam Vaknin.

 

10155604_10154041937225103_7744872071122922372_nWhy you attract Narcissists

Kim Saeed believes the narcissist may be attracted to a particular personality type that is revealed through Myers Briggs Personality testing. INFJ – Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judge – the empathetic, caretaker, protector, nurturer, sensitive and highly sensitive types who offer the love that they didn’t receive as a child, are at the greatest risk. This is my personality type.

“The narcissist and the co-dependent are attracted to each other because of a deep-rooted need to resolve childhood issues,” Kim said.

According to Jesse Blayne, INFJ’s are also the easiest personality type to control. They will jump through every hoop to ensure they are liked leaving them vulnerable to the narcissist’s overpowering spell. “INFJs invest everything in their relationships – sometimes even at the cost of their own health,” Jesse said.

Psychopath free just released this chart supporting these claims. It kind of makes you wonder what an INFJ is to do in order to stay safe!

Empaths also tend to attract narcissists. Cristal Broederlow wrote the article 30 traits of an empath where she describes an empath as someone “affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods. Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions. Empaths can perceive physical sensitivities and spiritual urges, as well as just knowing the motivations and intentions of other people. You either are an empath or you aren’t. It’s not a trait that is learned. You are always open, so to speak, to process other people’s feelings and energy, which means that you really feel, and in many cases take on the emotions of others. Many empaths experience things like chronic fatigue, environmental sensitivities, or unexplained aches and pains daily. These are all things that are more likely to be contributed to outside influences.”

Essentially an empathy walks the earth with all of the accumulated karma, emotions, and energy from others. Empaths feel a tremendous sense of empathy – which is great really because this simply fact instantly rules us out from being a psychopath, a sociopath or someone who suffers from NPD.

“Empaths have a tendency to openly feel what is outside of them more so than what is inside of them. This can cause empaths to ignore their own needs. In general an empath is non-violent, non-aggressive and leans more towards being the peacemaker. Any area filled with disharmony creates an uncomfortable feeling in an empath. If they find themselves in the middle of a confrontation, they will endeavor to settle the situation as quickly as possible, if not avoid it all together. If any harsh words are expressed in defending themselves, they will likely resent their lack of self-control, and have a preference to peacefully resolve the problem quickly,” Cristal said.

“Empaths are more inclined to pick up another’s feelings and project it back without realizing its origin in the first place. Talking things out is a major factor in releasing emotions in the learning empath,” she said.

Elaine La Joie wrote a post called The Empath and the Narcissist which goes into more detail about the relationship between the two. “Empaths are confused by this relationship because the narcissist tends to mimic an Empath, and before the Empath knows it, the Empath is ensnared in a relationship she thought was real and equal and now cannot find a way out,” she said.

 

Further reading

Moving on from narcissistic abuse due to narcissistic personality disorder by Jeni Mawter

FAQ 39 – How does a narcissist experience his own life? By Dr Sam Vaknin

Overcoming the narcissist – recovering self-care and moving into a life of confidence, options and fulfilment by Beyond Fate

Coping with your abuser by Dr Sam Vaknin

Lifetime movie: No one would tell (1996)

Why You Attract Narcissists!

Red Flags of Psychopaths, Sociopaths, and Narcissistic Abuse

Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed

Part 3: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse

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I do not exist to build your ego with my pain. My tears are not there to cleanse your soul. I now know that without you I am complete and whole! Roy McWilliams

Welcome to the third part of my blog post series addressing Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse. Yesterday I shared parts of my story – stay tuned for my eBook which details the typical rise and fall in a narcissistic abusive relationship. Today Happiness Weekly looks into narcissistic abuse and how you can recover from it.

Warning: I am including an image from my experience, that some people may find upsetting.

No one wins from narcissistic abuse

Narcissistic abuse is widely recognised as one of the few conditions where the patient is left alone and everyone else is treated. Anonymous

Andrea Schneider says “people with narcissistic characteristics may be prone to causing harm by invading personal boundaries, lying about future possibilities in relationships, engaging in abuse, and exhibiting no empathy or remorse for any emotional harm they have done.” This is why it’s really important to have boundaries in order not to attract narcissists in the first place – check out my post Personal boundaries: why we need them and how to set them. It’s important to note that once a narcissist has been let in, it’s not only difficult to get them back out but you will find they push over your boundaries, crawl under them, jump over them, go through them – whatever it takes to stay in the relationship with you – your boundaries will always appear useless. Setting boundaries isn’t about being controlling or cruel towards other people, it’s about self-preservation and when it comes to a narcissist – whose personality disorder closely resembles a psychopath and sociopath, your boundaries are absolutely critical, which is why I wrote this blog post to teach you how to set them.

Christine says their “dysfunctional behaviour involves such callous exploitation of their victims that it has given birth to a new condition known as Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (or Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome)” because it causes a set of signs or symptoms that tend to run together as a cluster that can be recognised after someone has been physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually abuse by a narcissist.

If you’re wondering if you’re being abused or if it’s just a toxic relationship, keep in mind the The Duluth Model – Power and Control wheel published by the National Domestic Violence Hotline – I didn’t know about this while I was being abused but I which I had, because seeing this changed everything for me – because I realised if it’s a pattern people could use enough to form the “power and control wheel”, then this doesn’t just happen to me. And it’s very real.

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Signs and symptoms of narcissistic abuse

A complete description of the cycle of abuse someone will experience while in a relationship with a narcissist is available here. This diagram shows the tension building, the incident, the reconciliation and the calm. And it begins again and again until the victim gains enough strength to end the relationship or the narcissist discards their victim in favour of another source of supply.

Symptoms following narcissistic abuse (or linked to Narcissistic Victim Syndrome) include a cluster of the following:
– Torn and unable to comprehend what has happened
– Violated
– Depressed
– Suicidal thoughts
– Feeling an overwhelming sense of loneliness – friendships slip away as narcissist’s isolate their victims
– Self mutilation: Self harm/Self injury
– Emotionally exhausted
– Panic (and often suffer panic attacks)
– Hopelessness
– Highly strung/nervous
– Extreme anxiety
– Fearful
– Feeling obligated
– Completely trapped
– Low self-esteem
– May present with obsessive compulsive behaviours and/or phobias
– Insomnia
– Overwhelming sense of guilt
– Significant weight loss (generally they will be underweight as a means of gaining some control)
– Or overweight (as a result of comfort eating)
– Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: flashbacks, hallucinations and nightmares; avoiding (people, places, thoughts, loss of interest etc); increased arousal (excessive emotions, problems relating, difficulty sleeping, poor concentration, outbursts of anger, anxiousness, panic attacks etc.)
– Emotions include: shock, anger, fear and guilt
– Dissociate (the victim may compartmentalise their experience and appear detached from their emotions, body or immediate surroundings)
– Chronic pain
– Somatizations/psychosomatic illnesses
– Nausea/vomiting caused by distress
– Hypervigilance
– Avoidance behaviour, feeling detached, sense of a limited future etc.
– Sleeping or eating difficulties
– Irritability
– Easily startled
– Flashbacks
– Stockholm Syndrome/Trauma bonding (continue to defend their abuser)
– Cognitive Dissonance
– Very uncertain of themselves/constantly second guessing themselves
– Difficulty making decisions
– Not trusting their own memory, perception or judgement
– Irritability
– Humiliation/Shame/Self-blame

The After Narcissistic Abuse website is a fantastic resource of information as well. Despite encountering a lot of these signs during the relationship, there was nothing anyone could do to change my mind about my abuser – I loved him and I thought he needed my help. Looking back, I trusted him – even though I knew he was lying – I couldn’t prove it so I continued to doubt myself because of the ongoing abuse and the way he abused me … I just kept trusting him over my own instincts.

Understanding trauma bonding

Narcissist’s use something known as trauma bonding to hold their victim’s hostage.

Patrick Carnes coined the term – it’s when fear, excitement, sexual feelings and sexual physiology are used to entangle another person. Unlike love, trust or attraction, bonding is not something that can be lost. It is cumulative and only gets greater as you spend time with the narcissist which is what makes it so difficult to leave the relationship – even when it becomes abusive.

According to Michael Samsel these intense relationships that use trauma bonding to manipulate victims so they’re firmly stuck in place, tend to hijack all of a survivor’s relating capacity and leaves them in a state similar to burning out. The narcissist literally starts sucking the life out of their target.

In a practical sense, here’s how it works: trauma bonding is an easy way for narcissists to trap their victims into cognitive dissonance. When a narcissist abuses their victims, they then quickly play the hero. The victim quickly associates their abuser as the hero whenever they feel pain from any situation and that is why the narcissist becomes the person they want to turn to during times of abuse – no matter how bad the abuse gets. And it becomes like an addiction for the target, which is what makes it a very cruel form of abuse because the narcissist knows exactly what they’re doing to the person as they very deliberately inflict as much pain on them as they can.

“First, while it is very easy to become attached to a very chaotic and inconsistent person, it is simply not possible to form a consistent internal object representation (feeling memory) about them. When separated from the intense partner, the urge to make contact is usually so intense because it is a stable feeling memory (or internal object) that makes separation from an important other person tolerable in any circumstance,” Samsel says.

“Second, the survivor can come to find that it can be almost impossible to relate to anyone, even family or old friends, except superficially. There is a biological craving for intensity that no normal relationship will satisfy. This provides a feeling of being totally alone, and totally empty. At first, only going back to the primary aggressor can overcome it. It would be normal in this state to believe that something is horribly wrong with leaving (even if it seems equally true that something is horribly wrong with staying. If it can be understood that abstinence from unnatural intensity will eventually restore normal relating capacity, the period of distress can be better endured,” says Samsel.

Andrea Schneider says that people who have been involved in a relationship with a narcissist tend to display symptoms closely resembling post traumatic stress disorder.

“Not only are they grieving the loss of the relationship, but they are also processing the unreality of a ‘fake relationship’,” Andrea says.

By the time someone realises they are with someone who has NPD, abuse (psychological, physical and/or sexual) have generally already saturated the relationship and the person is finding it difficult to cope. In order to heal grief and trauma recovery are essential throughout any program or in working with a life coach or mental health professional to move forward. In addition to understanding the elements of the toxic relationship, so that patterns are not repeated in the future.

After narcissistic abuse

It’s important to define victim, because often people may experience narcissistic abuse and not realise they are a victim. Narcissism expert Christine Louis de Canonville says: “‘a victim is a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action’.  So I think we can say (using this definition), that any person who has experienced narcissistic abuse has been harmed, injured, and in some cases, even  killed as result of the narcissists behaviour – they are indeed victims.”

Despite continued physical and emotional abuse, I still showed empathy for the narcissist, encouraging him to eat when I noted dramatic weight loss and letting him know that I was there and thinking of him so he wouldn’t feel alone, even though at this stage I was seeing someone else. Only to be served with a “non-urgent” AVO and three days following the court hearing for the narcissist to wish me happy birthday. Say it with me: “What the fuck?!” Welcome to the bizarre world of narcissistic abuse. His contact was a good indication that the abuse cycle was set to continue, in fact, he had no intention of losing me as a source of supply. Was he that disensitised to life and empathy that he honestly didn’t think I’d care that for the rest of my life, I will be tied to him somewhere on my record saying I abused him? What he underestimated was my strength and willpower, because even in the court room he didn’t get a glimpse of me looking in his direction or a moment in hearing my voice. I hired a lawyer to talk for me and accept his terms, thinking that would be the end. Yesterday’s post tells you the outcome of what he did next.

Interestingly, Dr Sam Vaknin says when a narcissist is low on their narcissistic supply they go into a narcissistic deficiency dysphoria – they appear depressed, their movements slow down, sleeping patterns are disordered (he sleeps too much or becomes an insomniac), his eating patterns change (he’ll gorge food or avoid it altogether). “They withdraw from their painful existence, where others fail to appreciate their greatness,” he said.

If you have experienced narcissistic abuse, or suspect you have, Happiness Weekly urges you to consult a life coach, psychotherapist or mental health professional who is specialises in narcissistic abuse recovery (and there aren’t many because it is triggering – I won’t be working in this field), in addition to locating a support group. Whoever you choose, the support they will offer will assist you in reclaiming your self-esteem, self worth and the hardest part of the journey: regaining your self trust, to forgive yourself and enable yourself to move forward.

“Victims are more likely to present themselves in counselling or psychotherapy, not because they know that they may be suffering from Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, but because they are not coping with their lives,” Christine said.

According to Dr Sam Vaknin, when a narcissist is low on their narcissistic supply they go into a narcissistic deficiency dysphoria – they appear depressed, their movements slow down, sleeping patterns are disordered (he sleeps too much or becomes an insomniac), his eating patterns change (he’ll gorge food or avoid it altogether). They withdraw from their painful existence, where others fail to appreciate their greatness. As an empathy witnessing him go through this, I felt like my soul was being annihilated. The entire experience, including his grand finale, has changed my life. I still cry almost every day, I still have nightmares, I still watch my back in public … all for one big mistake: the simple fact that I fell in love with someone who had Narcissistic Personality Disorder and I didn’t realise what that meant.

“This constant sad state leads to the narcissist not being able to find pleasure in anything including former pursuits, hobbies and interests. He is subjected to violent mood swings (mainly rage attacks) and all his visible and painful efforts at self-control fail. His whole behaviour seems constrained, artificial and effortful as he gradually turns more and more mechanical and detached,” Dr Vaknin said.

While I thought I was leaving the narcissist – to the extent that I was actually seeing someone else – he was actually discarding me which was demonstrated through his rage attacks and can be seen by the image of my bruised arm here from him grabbing me, taken only days before I received the AVO on New Years Eve. I took this photo (a less confronting piece of evidence from the abuse) thinking my evidence would hold up in court, because then they could see he was abusing me and it wasn’t the other way around, right? Many people in abusive relationships make this mistake. That’s not how it works, but the evidence doesn’t have to be useless, I used it after as part of my argument to have our laws changed:

Bruise

By the time I would have got to revealing my evidence in court, I would have paid over $3000 and seen him another three times. It wasn’t worth it. So as I said in Owning It – why I’m not ashamed I got served with an AVO, I gave him the AVO and for months this photo just sat there dormant. At the time, I felt weak and afraid. Even though he had what I thought he wanted, he continued to harass me and my torture while I stayed silent continued with it.

Once my strength returned, months later, I followed up, piecing everything together and sent it everywhere. My evidence, with his name to most of it because of his emails and blog comments, went all the way up the chain beyond the Attorney General as I fight to have our laws changed and ensure my story isn’t repeated. My evidence and suggestions are being taken into consideration with the new law changes.

Although it had felt like the narcissist I encountered raped everything I had, he didn’t get away with me, my heart, my dignity or my soul. I’m still alive – and I have tried hard throughout my recovery to remain the same girl. I’m still helping others to fight adversity as I always did – ironically something he used to “love” about me. And it’d appear the only one on the outside of my new success … is him. And he was the one that forcefully wanted me to change (obviously). He wanted to pollute me, my world and my life with his evil but he didn’t succeed. That’s my greatest achievement in all of this: he tried his hardest, he STILL didn’t win. And he never will. I can’t say I’m completely unchanged and I’m not saying I’m 100% recovered from the trauma caused by the abuse, but I’m getting stronger all the time.

So as he was setting me up to get the AVO he withdrew. When he saw me he was disturbingly upset, he kept telling me he was “hurting” from the relationship break up. You just break up with someone you truly love, it’s four weeks on … of course you’re going to be kind to them! And that’s why I’m fighting so hard now, because my story could’ve happened to ANYONE. So I was doing what I could to say “It’s over but it’ll be ok” and maintain that boundary. Not once did I say I wanted him back, I missed him or I loved him. All my communication supports this! I’m not sure what he showed as “evidence” because I’m not sure how anything I said could be manipulated… but I am 100% certain and confident that his lies led to his loss. The next part of this blog gave me the understanding I needed to comprehend what happened to me and how:

“The narcissist goes into a schizoid mode: he isolates himself, a hermit in the kingdom of his hurt. He minimises his social interactions and uses “messengers” to communicate with the outside. Devoid of energy, the narcissist can no longer pretend to succumb to social conventions. His former compliance gives way to open withdrawal (a rebellion of sorts). Smiles are transformed to frowns, courtesy becomes rudeness, emphasised etiquette used as a weapon, an outlet of aggression, an act of violence.”

The narcissist soon seeks to restore his balance and turns to and upon those nearest to him.

“His real attitude emerges: for him, his nearest and dearest are nothing but tools, one-dimensional instruments of gratification, sources of supply, catering to his narcissistic lusts,” he said. There are several examples of supply in my story: the narcissist’s wife, the narcissist’s children, the police, the narcissist’s colleague and of course me at the time. Whatever the outcome, I’m so thankful that I’m still here today to be able to share my experience to assist educate other people to intervene and leave early.

“Having failed to procure for him his “drug’ (Narcissistic Supply), the narcissist regards friends, colleagues, and even family members as dysfunctional, frustrating objects. In his wrath, he tries to mend them by forcing them to perform again, to function … This is coupled with merciless self-flagellation, a deservedly self-inflicted punishment, the narcissist feels. In extreme cases of deprivation, the narcissist entertains suicidal thoughts, this is how deeply he loathes his self and his dependence,” Dr Vaknin said.

This was highlighted in the fact the narcissist I encountered was having an affair with me but refused to let either person go. How you became the other woman by Kim Saeed also demonstrates how this situation comes about really well. She touches on it again in her post The ex and the new girlfriend – the art of triangulation. These posts are so true to their detail that I almost feel like Kim must’ve been watching over me throughout my situation.

“The narcissist then – frightened, in pain, and in despair – embarks upon an orgy of self-destruction intended to generate “alternative Supply Sources” (attention) at any cost. The narcissist is poised to commit the ultimate narcissistic act: self-destruction in the service of self-aggrandisement,” Dr Vaknin said. An example of this was when the narcissist sent my parents a 21-page text message to my parents in a clear attempt to provoke me. I responded by trying to confront him in a public place – thinking I would be protected from further abuse – only for the narcissist to manipulate the situation further and say I was “harassing” him – and now he had witnesses. Moral: you can’t win with a narcissist – don’t try.

“When deprived of Narcissistic Supply – both primary and secondary – the narcissist feels annulled, hollowed out, or mentally disembowelled. Without Narcissistic Supply the narcissist crumbles, like the zombies or the vampires one sees in horror movies. The narcissist will do anything to avoid it,” Dr Vaknin said. It’s because of this and their severe withdrawal symptoms (which present similar to a drug addict) that a narcissist will first attempt to return to a previous source of supply – because it’s easier to apologise and go back than to start again completely. This is also what makes it so terrifying being the discarded source of supply and educating yourself about it – because you know it may only be a matter of time before they return to apologise, or wish you happy birthday, or attempt something else to suck you back into their controlling grip.

“A narcissist’s psychotic episodes may be closely allied to ‘magical thinking’. Narcissists are like children in this sense. Many, for instance, fully believe in two things: that whatever happens – they will prevail and that good things will always happen to them. It is more than mere belief, really. Narcissists just know it, the same way one “knows” about gravity – directly, immediately and assuredly,” Dr Vaknin said.

This is especially highlighted in my story in the narcissist’s threats over the lovelock. I did everything I could to protect myself but because the threats were so crazy and not directly violent, coupled with the little education about narcissistic abuse in our justice system, I was left vulnerable and at risk of further abuse, which evidently happened physically, emotionally, spiritually and through continued harassment.

“The narcissist believes that, no matter what he does, he will always be forgiven, always prevail and triumph, and always come out on top. The narcissist is, therefore, fearless in a manner perceived by others to be both admirable and insane,” Dr Vaknin said.

Are you at risk of narcissistic abuse?

Find out if you are at risk of narcissistic abuse through the checklist provided here by Light, Life, Love and Laughter After NPD abuse page.

Recovering from narcissistic abuse

Recovering from narcissistic abuse is frustrating and painful, but it can also be very rewarding if that’s what you make it. Narcissistic abuse can be looked at as the universe forcefully pushing to take a look at yourself, spend time with yourself and really get to know what you want before letting another person back into your life. While you recover, you will probably experience symptoms similar to patients who suffer complex post traumatic stress disorder including nightmares or disturbed sleeps, flashbacks, find yourself hyper vigilant outside, fear for your safety, you can even experience physical reactions as a result from the trauma for example, a significant drop in weight, panic attacks, chest pains, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting etc.

Here are some tips to start you on a journey to recovery after narcissistic abuse:

  1. Cease contact with the narcissist
    It’s essential to break all contact permanently with this person or the abuse will continue – kind of like that quote: what doesn’t kill you will try again. Narcissist’s are persistent. According to Kaleah LaRoche it’s important that you give the person the message loud and clear that you want no contact – the police may contact the person on your behalf in serious cases. Kaleah says, “when you say “NO” you are giving the narcissist a clear message that his or her behaviour is no longer acceptable to you and you will not allow it any longer”. The tricky part is maintaining no contact, take it day by day and rely on your support network.
  2. Let it go
    Make the decision to let it go. This is tough but you need to be determined not to let the narcissist continue to rule your life. If you are having difficulty, with this, I highly recommend Kim Saeed’s coaching services, she works internationally and you can find out more here. Also, be careful what you write because narcissist’s are like arsonists – not only in how they leave their victims completely burnt out – but they want the recognition for the damage they caused. They feed off your pain, like a vulture on a carcass. As long as it’s about them or the damage they caused, inferred or otherwise, they will read it. Why? Because they want to know they’re still impacting your life. Make the determined decision not to give them that satisfaction and to move forward in healthier ways.
  3. Accept that they never loved you
    The sooner you accept that this person never loved you, the sooner you will be able to release that chapter from your life. “What one must always remember is that narcissists do not love. They do not form normal, healthy, attachment bonds to anyone. To a narcissist, their partners are objects, a source of supply, nothing more. And coming to terms with the fact, that you meant nothing, to someone who meant so much to you, is incredibly painful,” Savannah Gray said. Instead of continually going over the trauma and trying to find evidence that they did in fact love you, spend time moving forward and look at how you can in fact love yourself – even better than they could ever love you. Accept the lies as lies, you can’t change them. Instead focus on how you can better protect yourself from the same abuse going forward. Be grateful you escaped, as difficult as this may be some days, pity those that remain or anyone who may get sucked in and duped – remember always, they work in cycles – if it’s not you, it’ll be someone else and they will suffer the same treatment they put you through.
  4. Focus on yourself
    Know that you deserve to be loved for being you, not just for what you have to offer.  Know that not having been loved for who you are or not having been loved period, does not mean you are unlovable. You are lovable and you are lovable exactly as you are. In fact, anyone who knew me over the past few years, everyone agreed that I’m a lot more loveable without the narcissist in my life. A lot of this stemmed from him isolating me. Get to know yourself, get to know what you need, stop protecting the narcissist, be honest with yourself and start protecting yourself by no contact (it’s the only way), be your own best friend, decide what you want out of life. Respect your emotions, trust your intuition and allow yourself to be informed by them.
  5. Get set to date again
    Be aware of seduction, know that seduction is inevitably bound up with deception, do not take words for reality, take your cue from actions. Take a step back from enmeshment and enticement and observe how you get hooked in. Understand that not everyone thinks and operates like you. Understand that the pathological narcissist tends to view care, goodwill and empathy as weakness – and they will exploit it. A great book to read before you get back out into the dating scene is “But he said he loves me” by Dina L McMillan Ph.D.

Moving on after narcissistic abuse

Victims of narcissistic abuse feel a lot of doubt and fear moving forward from their experience. It is difficult to reassure someone who has been through something so painful, but they can protect themselves going forward. Motivate yourself, or someone you suspect is being narcissistically abused, or if you know someone who has experienced this abuse, to get educated about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Recognise the signs of a narcissist – if you have trouble doing this, then try to recognise patterns from your previous experience with a narcissist early. Even those who have experienced it will be traumatised and looking for answers well after the relationship has ended.

Tips from Andrea Schneider include:

  • Be conscious of the pace of dating and how fast they move things – if you’re using a dating website, only meet in public for the first few dates
  • If the partner tries to rush the relationship it’s a red flag – people who respect your boundaries will work with you to slowly progress the relationship at a pace that is mutually agreed upon. Let the connection unfold slowly and observe to see actions and words are matching up
  • Narcissists want to know about you but then fake being your soul mate by rushing you into consenting to a relationship or marriage – a healthy person will want to get to know your personality, dreams and interests and slowly evolve the relationship
  • Dr Cara Barker wrote an article for Huffington Post which shares seven ways you can protect yourself from narcissistic abuse going forward.

 

How can you protect yourself going forward?

The more you educate yourself about narcissistic abuse and the signs and symptoms of this abuse and people with NPD, the less likely you will be to end up in a similar relationship going forward.

Out of the Fog talks about the common traits and characteristics of a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I want to point out a few that my story touched on: bullying, baiting, cheating, emotional blackmail, sense of entitlement, false accusations, gaslighting, grooming, harassment, intimidation, lack of conscience, narcissism, neglect, no-win scenarios, pathological lying, proxy recruitment, shaming, stalking, threats and here’s a big one in my story – the use of: “triangulation” which was demonstrated several times as the narcissist tried to make his wife out to be the perceived threat, before turning to my parents in an attempt to cause conflict between us. After Narcissistic Abuse shares another glossary called ‘Top 100 traits of the disordered’.

Dr Craig Malkin also shares great insight into narcissistic traits including projected feelings of insecurity, emotion-phobia, a fragmented family story, idol worship and a high need to control. Make sure you check out the article for more!

More common symptoms of the behaviours of a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are shared on Facebook. The more of these traits you remember, the better you will be able to protect yourself going into your next relationship.

After Narcissistic Abuse also shared a blog post highlighting the characteristics of the narcissist.

And finally, I want to share this YouTube video with you called: The Narcissist Relationship – It’s not you. This is a very raw and revealing explanation of what it’s like to go through narcissistic abuse and how it leaves you feeling, put together by Psychopath Free. The responding comments below the video clip shows how many victims – or survivors – have educated themselves for their journeys going forward.

Tomorrow we look at life through a narcissist’s eyes and why you may attract narcissists.

More recommended reading:

http://www.narcissisticabuse.com

http://letmereach.com/surviving-narcissistic-abuse

http://www.slideshare.net/jenimawter/narcissistic-victim-syndrome-a-powerpoint-by-jeni-mawter

Narcissistic abuse – how it occurs and how to overcome it by Melanie Tonia Evans

Narcissist Victim Syndrome: what the heck is that? By Christine Louis de Canonville

Part 1: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse

Handsome narcissistic young man looking in a mirror

Narcissism is an evil that masquerades as good. Like a Pied Piper this master illusionist can lead you to Hell all while making you feel flattered to be chosen to go there. Only when you wake up in Hell do you realize the real evil that existed in his fluted song. By then it’s too late; not only have you fallen victim, but most likely you have paid for the flute, as well. Tigress Luv

October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Month so to mark these occasions Happiness Weekly will release a mini post series about narcissistic abuse, which often leads to domestic violence with physical abuse and also tell you a bit about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) to draw your attention to a condition that can cause you to lose all control and power to someone else and all the while, the person with the disorder struggles to put into words why they’re getting such immense satisfaction from trying to destroy their target.

Throughout this mini post series you will learn:

Day 1 – All about Narcissistic Personality Disorder

  • Where narcissism began
  • What a narcissist is
  • How someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) affects others
  • How to tell if you have NPD
  • How does a narcissist continue their path of destruction
  • Why did they develop NPD?
  • The narcissist as the perfect person
  • Lies and manipulation of a narcissist

Day 2 – I’m re-posting some of my bizarre experience which led to equally bizarre consequences – consequences that could affect me for the rest of my life, but also consequences that inspired my passion for exposing narcissistic abuse, and working in the area I do. I am also in the process of writing an eBook to show how such a painful situation became so impossible to break away from.

  • Owning it – why I’m not ashamed that I was served with an AVO

Day 3 – No one wins from narcissistic abuse

  • Signs and symptoms of narcissistic abuse
  • Understanding trauma bonding
  • After narcissistic abuse
  • Are you at risk of narcissistic abuse
  • Recovering from narcissistic abuse
  • Moving on after narcissistic abuse
  • How you can protect yourself

Day 4 – Understanding someone with NPD

  • Life through a narcissist’s eyes
  • Why you may attract narcissists

Day 5 – Fun memes about narcissism

  • Laughing at narcissistic abuse to aid recovery

 

Through raising awareness of the disorder, I hope more people are able to recognise NPD before getting involved with someone who has it, or can understand how being involved with someone with this condition can be detrimental to their health and their life, and seek help before it gets out of control. While someone with NPD may threaten you will lose out financially, by reputation or in any other way if you leave them and/or don’t do exactly as they say, they may even carry this threat out – as in my case – and ensure you ‘lose’ … but I can guarantee that all you have to gain by staying is a longer and more complicated journey to recovery.

Both men and women can be narcissistic, however 75% of narcissists are male. NPD expert Dr Sam Vaknin says there is little difference between a male and female narcissist. For the purpose of my posts regarding NPD, narcissism and narcissistic abuse I will refer to the narcissist as male to align with my examples and personal experiences with a narcissist.

But first, let’s face it, ‘narcissist’ seems to have become a buzzword at the moment! People are very quick to throw it around and diagnose people who don’t actually have the disorder but merely just acted because they’re a jerk or an arsehole. It is possible to be a jerk or an arsehole without having NPD – people with NPD just happen to be the kings of this behaviour! What we’re talking about today is narcissism in its true form – if everyone who threw diagnosis around was correct, every second person would have NPD! The scary truth is there are no conclusive studies detailing how many people have NPD or how many suffer from narcissistic abuse.

Also, before I begin, as seen in my post Why labels are destructive, I generally find labels unhelpful, however when you’re recovering from narcissistic abuse it can be empowering to see the situation for what it was and helpful when you’re looking for further support. In this case, labels can be helpful where they are correctly diagnosed. I can be confident my case study suffers NPD after having a confirmed diagnosis from a psychologist and a psychiatrist – not just from the story alone, but also from the evidence I presented. They didn’t hesitate in saying this person had NPD. Ironically I came across someone who worked with him and his wife years ago, and I broke down – not expecting to ever be in that situation – before I said anything, she said the words “He’s a narcissist – I can tell, I’ve been with narcissistic men”. #reassured

 

Where it all began

Greek mythology introduced the term and this is where we’ll start:

 

Once upon a time…

In ancient Greece there was a hunter who was renowned for his beauty – called Narcissus. The son of a river god and nymph, he was exceptionally proud of what he did to those who loved him. One day Nemesis – the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to arrogance – lead him to a pool, where he saw his reflection for the first time. Narcissus instantly fell in love with it – not realising it was his image or merely an image itself. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus died.

In the myth, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection – but if we look deeper what he really fell in love with was his reflection – this reflection was not his true self. This is a very key principle to understand when learning about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, because as far-fetched as the myth may appear, this is actually the case with NPD in reality today. We talk a lot more about a narcissist’s true and false self in our fourth post in this series – stay tuned!

“The very fact he fell in love with the illusionary part of himself meant he was not capable of loving his true self,” said Melanie Tonia Evans, who offers the Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program.

 

Defining narcissism

A narcissist put simply is someone who loves themselves – these people are actually entirely fixated on themselves, but the fact is, it’s not their true self they love. Just as in this Greek myth, they are actually in love with the false self which is the version of themselves that they project.

Truth be told, we all have a bit of narcissism in us, but it’s not necessarily unhealthy or be a fully-fledged personality disorder. A healthy narcissist, according to Simon Crompton, is someone who has a self-esteem that can enable them to leave their imprint on the world, but also share in the emotional life of others.

However, when it becomes a personality disorder the individual is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity. Psychology Today says it involves arrogant behaviour, a lack of empathy for others and a need for admiration. It’s this description which compliments Sophia J. Wien’s MA Drs theory that the name Narcissus derives from the Greek word “narce” which means “to be numb”. Someone with NPD is incapable of feeling empathy – they are numb.

Jeni Mawter very aptly describes the narcissist as “a soul without footprints”. If you experience a turbulent ending to a relationship with someone who has NPD, this may be one of the first things you can identify with. They are the original hallow man – and to fill their voice, they literally try to get their lifeblood from destroying the souls of their targets.

 

How does Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) affect others?

Roberta Cone defines a narcissist as “a person who deprives their partners of the ability to feel joy and love as a separate person in relationships. They deliberately attempt to destroy or compromise the separate identity of another. The longer the relationship continues, the narcissist not only becomes less considerate, but more actively cruel.”

Throughout my post series, I will refer to a person with NPD as a narcissist and I want to note here that a relationship with someone who has this personality type is not toxic – it’s abusive – and that’s why it’s called narcissistic abuse. So if you’re questioning why you’re so hurt from it, take peace in knowing this is why and it’s understandable you’re hurting! It’s not you, it’s this person deliberately hurting you.

According to Andrea Schneider a narcissist markets themselves in attractive, deceptive packages presenting with false bravado/charm, intense seduction, swift pacing of the relationship into commitment, intense sexual chemistry, love-bombing (repetitive texting, email, phone calls) and/or romancing excessively with flowers, gifts, fine dining etc. These are the initial warning bells and red flags that a narcissistic is targeting you, when you’re caught up in it, it’s the hardest to accept and let go of. Everyone loves to be loved!

Simply for the challenge, narcissists often target intelligent, self-sufficient, empathetic and generally highly attractive people. The person they are targeting may already be in a relationship and/or express a sense of vulnerability such as relationship troubles, grief, depression or other experiences that the narcissist will pretend to relate to. They set their sights on these people for the challenge to bring them down and they deliberately use their vulnerability to get inside their target’s head, heart and soul.

 

How can I tell if I have NPD?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, says a patient must exhibit five or more of the following traits to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes

- Grandiose sense of self-importance

- Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

- Belief that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

- Need for excessive admiration

- Sense of entitlement

- Takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

- Lacks empathy

- Often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

 

What scares me when I read through that list is the person who left me with nasty scars and trauma that still wakes me in the dead of the night, actually checked every one of these, and it was shown in his texts. I wish I knew sooner. Please be honest with yourself, if this sounds like your partner, and identify this EARLY. Save yourself from the unfathomable outcomes that come with these relationships.

If you think you have NPD, I strongly suggest seeking psychiatric assistance to help delve into why hurting others brings you the satisfaction it does and how you can change your behaviour in order to have healthy relationships. Although Relationship Free assists people in all relationship situations, I will not assist someone who is narcissistic or has NPD – I will immediately refer these clients on. However it is unlikely I will ever have these clients because unfortunately the problem with narcissism and the reason for my mini post series is that a narcissist won’t seek professional help for their condition because it doesn’t fit with their perfect image of themselves. Their perfect image would never need help, and so they continue to destroy people – knowing that’s what they do, but not understanding why. My abuser was very conscious that he hurts people, he even said “I only ever hurt the people I love”, but he was so caught up, he couldn’t see why and too selfish to seek the help he needed before hurting me as well. For the record – it wasn’t love! Thank God!

If you can recognise these NPD traits in someone currently in your life, remove yourself from the person and cease contact where you can. No contact is the only way forward from a narcissist and that includes you checking up on them. I also recommend seeing a mental health professional for more advice and strongly recommend Kim Saeed’s coaching services to assist you in moving forward and the resources on her website to help rebuild your strength following narcissistic abuse. Life coaches and psychotherapists are a highly beneficial resource to keep in mind for narcissistic abuse recovery – I personally found them a lot more useful than a psychologist and a psychiatrist because they concentrate more on soul healing. I was in such a bad place, I didn’t care what qualifications people had, as long as I knew they could help me and bring me the peace I needed. And they did, which is why I’ve also chosen to go into this field!

If you are currently in a relationship with someone who has NPD or have recently left a relationship where someone exhibited these symptoms – you are not alone! I strongly advise seeking assistance, and join a support group or forum online get more advice from others who are experiencing it. I built some of my strongest friendships here and next year, I’m travelling the world to meet them! It’s extremely difficult for people who haven’t experienced it to understand what it’s like and how it feels. Have you ever had a nightmare where you’re being chased – and no matter how fast you go, where you hide or how much strength you use, the person catches you? That’s what narcissistic abuse is like – only you can’t wake up to escape it. I have more information to help you heal will be available in the third part of this post series.

 

Why did they develop NPD?

People aren’t born with NPD – it’s is a psychiatric condition that is developed. Sophia J. Wien MA Drs says NPD is manifested in childhood and fuelled by their dysfunctional upbringing.

“The pathological narcissist grew up with parents who lacked in attunement. The parental figures were not aware of the child’s needs and failed to properly support the child in developmental tasks like weaning, separation, rapprochement (the reunion with the mother after separation and the establishment of harmonious relations) and individuation. Instead they demanded the child fit their ideal, live up to particular expectations or please their needs,” said Sophia.

“Desperate not to disappoint his parents and to keep their love and attention, the child learns to abandon who he is, forfeit his vitality and becomes a master in performing – often playing a role, acting as-if and developing a false persona prescribed by the parental ideal. This means he is not able to emerge from the symbiotic stage, outgrow his legitimate self-absorbedness and become an autonomous and secure individual,” she said.

“Arrested in his development and crippled in his authenticity and independence, the child will continue to see the world as his oyster, into adulthood, and in more than one way,” said Sophia.

Did you know 73% of male abusers in domestic violence situations are known to have been abused as children?

So I want to touch on my experience:

The narcissist I fell in love with had severe NPD, which is why my case is so extreme, and the narcissistic abuse that I endured was almost incomprehensible. One day we were driving from Sydney to Melbourne so I could start training for a new job and during that ten hour road trip in his luxury car he told me about his dysfunctional upbringing. Ironically, it was this story that got me hooked in the first place because I wanted to take the pain from his past by helping him to have a loving and harmonious future. This information is from the description the narcissist gave me of his upbringing only a couple of weeks into our relationship because he “trusted me”:

The narcissist told me how his father would lock him in the laundry for hours as a young child until he stood in darkness. He would be screaming to get out the entire time, banging on the locked door. Scared. His father would eventually return and open the door, drunk, and he would torture him for making so much noise. One time he got whipped with a belt so badly his legs were “completely black from the bruising”. He then wet himself from the fear caused by the abuse to which his father grew further abusive towards him “for making a mess”. The narcissist’s mother wouldn’t intervene because of his father’s alcoholism, and he was known to turn on her as well. Everyone knew about his abusive nature. He said people noticed in his school but he covered it up. According to the narcissist, despite having a twin brother and a younger sister, he was singled out and the only sibling to suffer abuse.

Eventually his father got arrested for abuse following a confrontation which involved the narcissist attempting to defend his mother’s life. He was hero! A very common trait of a narcissist is that they often tell stories that make them out to be the hero, but will always omit any responsibility. As a young adult (about 17 years old), he watched the police take his father away with his girlfriend by his side (now his wife of 25 years who he was “separated” from), and he went to jail for two years. During this time the narcissist cut off contact with him completely – he refused to call or visit. Meanwhile, the narcissist’s mother drained the bank account she shared jointly with her abusive husband in a bid to escape the abuse and move on.

“When his father was released from jail, the narcissist quickly forgave him, but he cut his mother off for her crime – going as far as to go and see the solicitors about it himself, and piece together that she had forged his father’s signature in order to have the money released to her. For seven years he refused to communicate with her at all because of her actions. She would go to his workplace and try to talk to him and he would continue working, ignoring her. She would just stand there and try to be with him, but still he wouldn’t even look at her. It went on like that for years.

In hearing his story that day in the car my immediate thought was: Don’t do anything wrong by him because he will cut you off cold and you’ll never hear from him again. Unfortunately I wasn’t that lucky!

 

How does a narcissist continue their path of destruction?

In order to continue as a narcissist they need a source of “supply” – just like a vampire with blood and a zombie with brains, a narcissist will latch onto things that become their supply until they exhaust them and move onto another source – generally another person. Savannah Grey appropriately describes the narcissist as being similar to a “psychological parasite”.

The narcissistic supply preserves a narcissist’s fragile ego – according to Christine Louis de Canonville narcissistic supply can be “anything that shields the narcissist from feeling a sense of shame or abandonment, and this is an integral part of narcissism”.

Unlike zombies and vampires, there are two sources of supply for narcissists:

Primary: it provides all the attention that the narcissist addict craves which can be public (such as fame, celebrity, notoriety) or private (admiration, flattery, acclaim, fear, repulsion etc);

Secondary: it alludes to those people or things that provide supply on a regular basis (such as children, spouse, friends, colleagues, partners, clients etc.). This form of supply enables the narcissist to lead a more normal existence and provides them with pride, financial safety, social distinction and the alliance they need.

“Narcissistic supply is not confined to people only, it can be applied to any inanimate object that has the ability to attract attention and admiration to the narcissist, (for example, a flash car, property, clothes, being a member of a church, cult, club, or a business).  In short, anything that acts as status symbols for the narcissist is ‘narcissistic supply’,” Christine says.

 

The narcissist as the perfect person

Sophia J Wein says the narcissist wants you to see him as he wants to be seen, not as he truly is, so he stays attached to the prescribed ideal. Generally they are extreme perfectionists and an expert in controlling perception and manipulation. If you come close to lifting the mask and revealing their true self, you will suffer the consequences.

A relationship with a narcissist generally remains superficial because they’re scared you’ll look too closely at them. They see others and the world as a means to an end and they feel they need to make up for everything they missed out on when they were growing up. They generally demand that their partner is unconditionally loving and adoring towards them.

In my experience everything was rituals and routine. The narcissist’s family home was spotless, which he blamed on his wife’s obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) the whole reason he couldn’t stand to be there (note: OCD is a common response to narcissistic abuse, and the inability to take responsibility is typical of NPD). When he moved into his own apartment, it was also always spotless, the bed had to be made to creaseless perfection each morning, he spent exactly forty-five minutes in the bathroom each morning preparing for work – his hair was always gelled, his shirts ironed to perfection, he was always exceptionally punctual. Soon I was making meals for him and I still have photographs of his bowls of cereal so I could get the portion size exactly right, if I got it wrong the abuse would begin. In my post tomorrow I reveal a couple of very telling examples of NPD behaviours: the Crunchy Nut cornflakes and the threat over a “lovelock” – a padlock with our names on it and the date we started seeing each other. When I continued to receive those threats, I started to realise how sick he was.

 

A narcissist’s lies and manipulation

“He re-writes the flow of information, with gusto that often borders on calculated abuse or outright propaganda,” Sophia J Wein said. The lies and manipulation can literally leave you winded.

“The narcissist firmly believes in the reality of his distortions and the truth of his lies, and that is exactly what makes him so certain and convincing in his fraud. He will sacrifice anyone for the sake of the perfect image, just like the addict will sacrifice anyone in the way of getting his fix. The narcissist is fully prepared to give up on human morals and human integrity for the comfort of the masquerade,” Sophia said.

The way they carry pain and rage is concealed and disconnected. According to Sophia, is this state of detachment that makes the narcissist feel desperately alone and they are perpetually fleeing from this sense of emptiness. This is another reason a narcissist will have multiple affairs to try to escape their pain by distracting themselves from it and in the process they will play people off against each other, which keeps them well entertained.

“Completely insatiable and insecure, there is never enough success, money or love to fill the void. Inevitably the narcissist is so busy surviving that life is never truly lived as winning becomes everything, while fairness and justice becomes irrelevant. Diplomacy and negotiation are abandoned for the power struggle, the war, the right to be right and the demand to surrender,” Sophia said.

Tomorrow I’m reposting a couple of posts that rehash fragments from my torture and suffering during my experience with narcissistic abuse. Although I am still traumatised from my experience, and I still suffer complex post traumatic stress disorder, I work every day to help educate others and create an environment where I heal others while healing myself.

 

Recommended reading

For coaching and the best in narcissistic abuse education check out: Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed

Melanie Tonia Evans – Narcissistic Abuse Recovery and Relationship Expert

Overcoming the narcissist by Sophia J. Wien M.A. Drs

Healthy narcissism by Wikipedia

Narcissistic Personality Disorder by Psychology Today

Why do I feel so crazy? Recovering from a narcissistic relationship by Roberta Cone Psy.D

Recovering from Narcissistic abuse by Andrea Schneider, LCSW

Moving on fro narcissistic abuse due to narcissistic personality disorder by Jeni Mawter

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by Wikipedia

Breaking free – why breaking up with a narcissist is not your average break up by Savannah Grey

Narcissistic Victim Syndrome – what the heck is that? By Christine Louis de Canonville

All about toxic relationships and how to let go

Domestic violence: how to stop someone controlling you

Identifying emotional manipulation before it hurts you

Breaking free of love addiction – it’s hard to comprehend but you can actually get addicted to the toxicity in a relationship with a narcissist.

 

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Tips to completely transform yourself

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Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. Lyndon B. Johnson

Over the years I have become a walking Madonna. I’m a chameleon. I’ve been fat, I’ve been skinny, I’ve been pretty, I’ve been ugly, I’ve been blonde, I’ve been brunette, I’ve been kind, I’ve been mean… I’ve been through about a hundred transformations – but at least three of them have been really noticeable to myself and others. This photo on the left is how it looks – yup, that’s all me! As you may have noticed, I kind of held onto the girl-next-door look over the past few years. So this week, Happiness Weekly looks at how YOU can transform yourself.

1. Set the bar

I don’t advise this often, but look at all your wonderful awesome friends around you and consider what it is about each of them that you love. Imagine life has become PhotoShop and what you can do is copy pieces from each person and put them back onto you. Make a strong mental note about what you like about them. Even go onto your Facebook and have a look at who you admire and work out what it is that you admire about them – how do they portray themselves? (Take a look at their Facebook page if you’re not sure.) What do they have in their life that you don’t? More importantly, what don’t they have in their life that you do? Who do they have in their life? How are they treated? How do they treat people?

2. Set the goal

Fantastic! Now we know what we want, we need to set the goal. Just with any goal-setting, look at yourself in the mirror and decide what you want to change about yourself. Do some deep soul searching – is it just an attitude adjustment? Are you unhappy with your hair? Do you have chipped nails? Do you want to lose weight – how much weight? Work out exactly what you want to change. In one positive sentence, state exactly what you want. Write it down. You can make a collage around your goal statement to remind you what you’re aiming for.

  1. Prepare to change

It’s important to emotionally prepare yourself for what’s to come because change isn’t easy – and it can be frustrating! For example, you won’t lose weight overnight like the Hollywood stars, unless you have their kind of money. Change can be a slow process – and when you’re angling for a full transformation you need to keep your eye on the prize and be realistic. Now you have set the bar and you’ve set your ultimate goal, start looking at the steps you’re going to take to achieve your goal for a full transformation.

  1. Transform yourself!

Now put everything into action. While you’re setting the goals (which is the hard part), also set some rewards (manicures, fake tan, new phone etc) that will be given when you achieve your milestones. As you achieve your goal, you will notice you physically and emotionally upgrade as well, because you start surrounding yourself with nicer things and better things than you currently have. It’s important to change your behaviour as well as aiming to change your physical appearance – this will help to maintain your change.

  1. Keep yourself accountable

A complete transformation is easy to give up on, but if you work hard to keep yourself accountable to the transformation, you’ll notice you also stay motivated and on track. Ways to keep yourself accountable may be to do a before and after photo – or select the photo that best represents everything you want to change at the moment (this is why those Facebook tags are so great) and use that as your before photo. This photo should also be used to remind you what you want to change when you feel you are going off track.

  1. Get coaching

If you get stuck, I highly recommend life coaching to help you achieve your transformation. A coach will work with you to work out what you want and help you find ways to achieve it. I am currently offering one pro bono coaching session valued at AUD$110, in exchange for you to provide a testimonial after the session. Claim this by contact me: sarah@relationshipfree.com – it will be held over Skype and we’ll arrange a time via email. Be quick – I only have one to give away!

I’m celebrating!

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The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall. Vince Lombardi

Today I’m celebrating! (And it’s not just because it’s Google’s birthday – although, wishing you a very happy birthday today, Google – you have been a fantastic source of information and a great friend to me!)

So … how’s your year going?

Are you still on track with your new years resolutions?

OK, so you probably forgot them by New Years Day … let me guess, too much alcohol? Great excuse!

Anyone who knows me knows my level of self-motivation and determination and this year I’m achieving everything I set out to achieve. I’m checking each and every one of my New Years Resolutions … it’s been one hell of a busy year, let me tell you!

As of this week Happiness Weekly has reached 100,000 people! I don’t advertise, I just blog and every now and then check in with a Facebook page. So I just wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who is reading Happiness Weekly, or has read Happiness Weekly, and particularly to those of you who stumbled across my page and stayed or the ones who return time and time again without signing up just to see what I’m saying. After almost two years of consistent blogging, this is a fantastic achievement and I couldn’t have done it without YOU! The truth is in the statistics!

Thank you for joining my journey, for accepting me exactly as I am and allowing me to speak my truth. I’m dedicated to Happiness Weekly in a way that you would don’t see – I’m either writing for a blog or I’m thinking what to write next, and it’s one of the best aspects of my life. Happiness Weekly allows me to take every situation that comes at me and turn it into that positive and then enables those sunshine light rays to bounce off me onto the universe and directly onto each of you who are following.

A couple of weeks ago, I did two surveys for Relationship Free, my new venture, as part of a major research assignment. This week I’m opening a survey for you – my dedicated Happiness Weekly readers and followers as I try to get this community a little more active and involved and it’ll help me to deliver more of what you want … and need!

The survey is available here – thank you to everyone who participates: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TR8TKN6

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