“But They Didn’t Hit Me” – Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Abuse
This is a topic that comes up frequently.The target’s lack of ability to recognize that the narcissist’s treatment of us is abusive. October is domestic violence/abuse awareness month. Many lay people believe that domestic violence is only those actions that involve the physical abuse of an intimate partner.
For those of us who have been physically abused by anyone, we can tell you that if you remove the physical abuse from the relationship, what remains, are a number of other abusive behaviors: psychological, emotional, verbal, spiritual, financial, legal and sexual that continue to occur long after the physical abuse has ceased. The general lack of physical lashing out by a narcissist (probably only to protect their own court records or reputation criminally/socially, etc.) does NOT mean that abuse is not happening.
Let’s define abuse to remove any doubt. Domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior which involves the perpetration of power & control, isolation, intimidation, threat, violence or other abuse by one person against another in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can take place in heterosexual or same sex relationships, and sometimes also involves violence against the children in the family. Domestic violence can take a number of forms including physical, verbal emotional, economic, sexual, spiritual, and legal. The severity of behaviors exists on a continuum and can range from mild, subtle, coercive forms to marital rape and violent physical abuse that results in disfigurement or death.
Not only do the types of behaviors exhibited by the perpetrator of the abuse define it, it is just as necessary to look at the feelings expressed by the target; our reaction to the treatment by the narcissistic person.
The reason that we choose to further define the abuse as “Narcissistic Abuse” is because this type of abuse is somewhat different in terms of its insidious nature than overt domestic abuse and is a very specific manifestation of domestic abuse because of the facets of the personality of the disordered perpetrator which dictates the particular abuses used and why. It’s been said that all physical abusers are narcissistic, however not all narcissists are physical abusers.
In order to help others who are suffering this form of domestic abuse recognize and act on their awareness and find their way to freedom, healing and recovery, we’re going to give you some things to look for specific to the narcissist’s special brand of abuse.
Let me begin by saying that at this point in my recovery, I purposefully avoid dredging up the painful details of what it felt like to be back in the throws of narcissistic abuse. The sheer inescapability of it and the enormity of the pain urges me to want to lock it away permanently. In regaining my sense of happiness, peace and self esteem, it’s very painful to feel the opposite of that stability to recall details of my abuse. Id rather lock it away in an impermeable space and wrap it with a big bow marked “Recovered” or “Healed” than I would, pull items out of that vault and re-experience them emotionally. I’m willing to do that however, in order to help others just as stuck as I was, realize that they too can wake up, get out and move on; a narcissists abuse is NOT the end of YOUR journey.
Here are three unique ways that narcissists abuse their partners and the resulting feelings that targets experience:
THE TWO IDENTITIES OF THE NARCISSIST WILL PUT US ON A ROLLER COASTER OF HOPE AND DESPAIR
1. There are 2 sides to your abuser and this confuses you, causes cognitive dissonance, sadness, and leads us to blame ourselves as the narcissist blames us.
Ask any person who knows a narcissist intimately and they will tell you that they are two faced. Narcissistic people possess TWO identities: Their public, “masked” image and their private hidden devil. In the past, this facet of abusive personalities was called “Jekyll and Hyde”.
The cause: Narcissistic personality disordered individuals have a chameleon like identity. Meaning, their identity will change to be whatever earns them the most positive feedback and reward. (supply) Their identity in the initial meeting stage will be geared towards winning you over. This part of the narcissistic abuse cycle is called the “love bombing” or valuation stage. The narcissist will build you up in an effort to stroke their own egos by association, manipulate you and to get you indebted to them so that you prove yourself that you’re worthy of their time once they start devaluing you. The narcissist will be putting in overtime trying to woo you. However, don’t be mistaken: the wooing is NOT to make YOU feel good, it is about mirroring. They will prance, dance, flatter, cajole, impress, charm, and seduce you into liking them; because when you like them, they get to feel like they’re looking in the mirror and seeing themselves smiling back. They feel good about you digging them. Also important to note that in this initial impressing stage, they will pay keen attention to who you are as a person, your strengths, your vulnerabilities, your deepest desires and they will use and gear their efforts to woo you specifically to who you are as a person.
How you will feel: At this stage, you’ll feel honored, doted on, placed on a pedestal, attended to, wanted, loved, admired and probably slightly embarrassed by all the fuss. This type of seduction and pursuit is abnormal but instead of associating it negatively, we sense how rare it is and feel singled out in a “too good to be true” romance where we are seen, known, wanted and adored. The reason it’s called love bombing, is that all our hopes, dreams and desires, are being used against us as a weapon, in the guise of “love” to get us to turn our brains off and ignore the fact that we’re being drawn into an obsessive, toxic relationship with a self serving, self gratifying and insatiably empty & cruel narcissist. We throw caution to the wind, associate this rare love condition as soul mate love. This will be encouraged by the narcissist as well – they individualize their form of manipulation to our greatest hopes and desires and as a result we fall hard and fast.
Once the narcissist feels that they’ve got you where they want you; entrenched and invested in the relationship, they will begin to let the mask slip. This results when they come face to face with your humanity. You may inadvertantly criticize them by asking that your needs be met (remember: your feeling sad or mad is personalized by the narcissist and they will take it as a direct reflection of how great they are so if you feel bad, they see themselves as bad – and will lash out) or some other indication that you are not a perfect reflection back to them that they are magnificent and without flaw. Perfect for perfect is what they want to have in the mirror looking back. This leads to the narcissist devaluing you. Where you once were the awesome, most loving person on the planet, you in your “disobedient” imperfect let down phase will become the most loathesome person on the planet who drives them to despair. Before you know it, youll be an undeserving nothing and the narcissist will be the superior rock star who puts up with your lowly self.
Much like a child, in their narcissistic stage as a toddler, “devalues” its toys when they find them to be either taken away or having to be shared with another toddler, they’ll shout in a tantrum, “Fine! I don’t care! I didn’t like that teddy bear anyway”, an adult narcissist will use devaluation of their once adored partners to lessen the painful emotions associated with rejection through their partners independent thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
How the narcissist lets their mask slip is that when faced with any form of rejection or blows to their ego in or out of the relationship, they will lash out and behave both aggressively and abusively towards their partners. They’ll be both covert and direct, flippant, demanding, ordering, pushy, insulting, snide, sarcastic, cutting, they’ll throw up past transgressions or insecurities you’ve revealed, they’ll threaten telling bosses to get you fired, loved ones that you’re crazy or will speak so loudly so that neighbors can hear the narcissist’s insults and put downs in such a way as to humiliate you, they’ll deny things they’ve said, or tell you you’re going crazy, they’ll disappear and refuse to talk to you, using silence to hurt and punish you, they’ll question friends, read your emails / text messages, they’ll cheat on you, begin grooming new supply, they’ll smear you to your friends and family, get others to fight against you or attack you, they’ll accuse you of atrocious lies, they’ll hide things and tell you you misplaced them (gaslight), and on and on. This list is both extensive and exhaustive.
Here’s the thing about a narcissist’s emotional and verbal abuse: it is so insidious, so humiliating and cutting (without empathy) and covert that you’re entirely confused and are so worn down that you actually believe the horrible things they’re saying about you. You’ve already admitted to them how shameful you felt. They use your greatest insecurities and shames against you. You can’t fight back. You’re crippled. You’re so in agreement with their abusive words towards you that you can’t see straight to stand up for yourself. You don’t think of things to say back or to disagree or to not let the words hurt you, you simply take it all in and absorb the truth and hostility and hate of a person who said that they adored you more than anything.
You can’t see the forest through the trees to call it abuse because you’re so confused you don’t even recognize that the narcissist did something extremely cruel to hurt you or to put you in “your place”.
How you feel: At this stage, You’ll feel demoralized. You so badly want that doting and loving prince charming narcissist back that you’ll do anything to get him to come back. You become destablized. It hurts terribly. You’re falling from a pedestal you didn’t asked to be placed on, all the while you’re blaming yourself for it happening, you feel like you can’t do anything right, you feel worthless, your self esteem slips, you want the love you “had” and you want the kind person who was nice to you to come back and you just can’t seem to fix whatever this very serious problem is that you’re causing. Which results in your confusion and one way ticket to hopelessness and despair.
Which leads to the next facet of this abuse: We Blame Ourselves
THEIR IRRESPONSIBILITY WILL BECOME OUR OVER RESPONSIBILITY AND KEEP US STUCK
The cause: It’s twofold.
- The narcissist by their very deflective nature is a projectionist and blamer. They don’t accept accountability and responsibility; it’s always someone else’s fault because the narcissist’s image of themselves is perfection. Their defense mechanism of projection is in overdrive and they see every flaw they can’t detect in themselves all over you and they go about shaming you for having traits that you don’t even have.
- Targets are raised to be overly responsible. Especially if the target was raised by a narcissist, we grow up with poor boundaries that are not assertive against someone blaming us for things we didn’t do. Narcissistic parents blame their kids for getting in trouble and causing all the families problems (scapegoated) and learn very early on by their primary caregivers that the way to be loved is to be responsible for all the failures, successes, and feelings of the people (irresponsible narcissists) around us.
When the unmasked narcissist responds to an ego insult (narc injury), their verbal abuse crosses our boundaries, sinks deep within our hearts & souls and becomes part of our absorbed identity from the blaming narcissist. We erroneously believe that if we caused it, we can fix it and maybe if we just do whatever the narcissist told us to do or not do that we will be able to stop (regain control of) our future abuse. It’s a response to helplessness that only sinks us further into the abusive cycle.
Narcissists want people to blame and project upon who aren’t going to tell them to take a hike. They know that blaming us & watching us flail as we take responsibility for our own abuse disables us. They don’t want us to escape the cycle until they’re ready to discard us, so shortly after their burst of abuse in whatever form, they’ll bring us back full circle to the love bombing and building us up, behaving in their initial charm & wooing manner to draw us back in. The negative cycle repeats itself and breaks us down over time until we’re desperately hopeless and as empty as they are.
How you feel: Weighted down. Hopeless. Responsible yet inept. Angry. Sad. Inert. Stuck. Unloved. Desiring. At this point, you are so busy trying to figure out what is wrong with yourself that you have no time to focus on or hold the narcissist accountable. We just want them back. They tell us multiple times a day that everything would be PERFECT, harmonious, just as we want it, if ONLY……… we could fix _______________________. And the wild goose chase is on. They are relieved of responsibility while we are too distracted to call them on their crap. As a result of the confusion and amalgamation of pent up emotions, we begin to feel anger. Anger that we have been taught is NOT allowed to be directed at the narcissist. They are the pure person in the relationship and your anger is entirely unwarranted and as they tell us “Makes us appear ______ (crazy, unbalanced, vindictive, etc – projected trait or insecurity used against us) so that our anger turns inward, towards ourselves which defines our depression. We spiral further and further into confusion, depression, self critical (narcissist induced) hopelessness and self hatred eventually.
For me, this was the most difficult part of the abusive relationship and one I cannot stand to recall due to the feelings it brings back. By nature, I am non confrontational. I just don’t like wasting precious life and time, arguing. Especially when the crux of the argument is petty and pointless. Every argument centered around the same exhausting theme: somehow I wasn’t proving / showing / loving him enough to get the goal we both desired: a peaceful, loving relationship (or so he pretended). I wanted that. He said he did too. But so it goes with identity disorders. They’re so chaotic.
Secondly, Im action oriented. It felt like trying to swim through quicksand attempting to solve something I couldn’t solve. He was an insatiable, perfectionistic, impossible to please, narcissist who was invested in winning, not coming to a mutually satisfying compromise. He had a hidden agenda, he had no intention of meeting me halfway or having the relationship I wanted although he told me frequently that he did want that, but I was preventing it. I felt stuck; like a hamster in a wheel. He worked my tenacity against me.
THEIR PROJECTIONS MAKE US FEEL CRAZY AND WE BEGIN TO DOUBT OURSELVES
Here’s the all time crazymaking facet of the narcissistic brand of abuse. They are the ones with a personality disorder. Yet, they get us to think we are crazy.
The cause: Projection. Projection is a defense mechanism whereby the person discharges their unwanted pieces of themselves and their feelings, typically shame are cast off onto an outer object / person who absorbs and takes on the narcissist’s unwanted (rejected) parts of themselves. For instance, if a narcissist is having affairs, they’ll often accuse their partner of cheating and being a ‘horrible person’ when in fact it is something that they cannot admit to and take responsibility for.
When the narcissist projects their flaws and shame onto their partners, at this point the partner is vulnerable, with lowered boundaries and already self blaming because of the narcissists negativity and verbal abuse, the projections are absorbed and the target takes responsibility for the cast off traits.
How you feel: The result is that the extensive and pervasive boundary crossing, blame, acceptance, shaming, etc. begins to make the receptacle target feel inundated, flooded and probably just as chaotic inside as the narcissist feels. We feel like an isolated island, sinking, alone, desperate and pathetic, while the narcissist looks completely fine on the outside, to others, in the community or to your friends and family who they’ve been playing up to for longer periods, because they don’t have sustained contact with these people and they can keep up their mr. / ms. perfect face to the outside world.
Part of the narcissist agenda at this time is to prepare us for the discard. Not in that they warn us or give us any indication we’re going to one day “be dead to them”. But they’re preparing the outside world to get ready to see a “mad woman”. They begin telling everyone we’re crazy. Such a far cry from the adored and loved person we were in the beginning and even are at times during this phase of the abuse. They smear campaign us. The “best defense is a good offense” approach. How cruel. This really shows the depths of a narcissists cruelty to us as human beings, people they’ve feigned loving. To begin to discredit us for being nothing but loving to them. It’s so senseless and so disheartening. We often don’t know this is going on at the time. But we honestly feel crazy. Under the exhaustion of all the intense emotion, the narcissist constantly drumming up drama and turning every conversation into a heated debate, constantly accusing us of things we aren’t doing, or that we don’t really love them, dangling the carrot of their peace and loving kindness yet never delivering. It’s maddening.
We begin to act out, we show our overwhelm, we’re exhausted and we’re confused. We don’t know how to articulate or express what’s happening, we try to, but it comes out in an odd manner, we’re very self blaming, yet we’re starting to blurt out about the narcissist’s behavior and people are starting to look at us, especially if they’ve already heard from the narcissist that we are losing it, and they judge how we come off. We sound bitter, unappreciative, unforgiving, or in the end, “the bad guy”. The narcissist needs to be the good guy / winner at all costs and our craziness ensures that we look like the loser. We personally, don’t care one bit how we look to others (our image) but we become very worried about ourselves, our sanity, our mental state etc. (doubt ourselves) and how we’re coming off, because we can see on people’s faces that they don’t understand, don’t believe us or simply…DONT CARE.
It’s a very scary time to think you’re losing your mind. It’s frightening to think that you’ve always been a very strong, together person with no history of mental issues and now you’re feeling like maybe you should be committed; just like the narcissist said. This is a very dangerous time for target suicide. The narcissist is so abusive and cruel at this point that many narcissists have taunted and actually pushed their partner to suicide. They simply can’t take all the blame and crazy making and in an attempt to gain peace, simply put themselves out of misery. Please if you’re feeling this way (and many many of us did) just give this number a call 1 (800) 273-8255 FREE and talk it through with someone who cares. Many phone counselors are becoming aware of narcissistic abuse and even if they aren’t, they are there to listen, empathize and help you plan your successful recovery from domestic abuse.
Not once, did my narcissist hit me with his fist to hurt me. He didn’t have to. His words, lies, manipulations, threats, put downs, games, and abuse did it for him. Narcissists see themselves as too lofty, crafty, slick and insidious to be brute force abuser. They’d rather destroy you slowly, methodically, insidiously and covertly. They’re the cadillacs of abusers.
Theyll say what they did wasn’t abuse at all and theyll probably then describe how you deserved and are responsible for whatever you’re feeling and that you’re crazy for thinking it was abusive. Well, that’s good that the narcissist put it that way, because that shows their disorder. That’s not an honest, responsible or sane response to a person exposing them for being domestic abusers.
Thank goodness, we don’t let the narcissist define our reality or our identities any longer. We don’t let them push around and tell us what we can think, feel or can say. We are not letting them control and abuse us any longer. We found our freedom. We tell our truth. We feel our feelings. We developed our boundaries. We no longer let a narcissist’s abuse of us define us or twist reality around on us. We don’t accept blame or responsibility for behavior that isn’t ours. We own our own behaviors. Abusing the narcissist or being crazy, isn’t one of those. Their stories are not our stories. Their lies no longer affect us; and if they do we pursue the path of justice and legal action if necessary. We are not abusive. We were targeted. We did not deserve to be treated the way we were by our abusers. We are survivors of domestic abuse; more specifically, narcissistic abuse.
These are just a few of the abusive things narcissists, in particular, do in relationship with others which is defined as abusive. With each symptom of their disorder, they exhibit specific behaviors relative to how they act out and perpetrate on others the shamefulness at the core of each defensive trait they possess. If you recognize any of these dynamics in relationships you’ve experienced, please look a little further into the definition of narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse which is a current epidemic in our culture. There are many survivors who are now thriving and recovering successfully after learning about this form of abuse by a person with narcissistic personality disorder as defined in the DSM – The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.
You deserve better than this.
Break Your Silence, talk to someone you trust. Do not try to reason with the narcissist; they are invested in being blameless and playing the victim. You are the aggressor in their minds.Go no contact, once you’re ready, (the sooner the better). It’s best to just jump, go cold turkey and break the addiction to this cycle of abuse and this destructive person as difficult as it is. You’ll begin to feel clear headed and sure of yourself in short order, and you’re SO WORTH IT!