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What is Narcissism? People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they are not given the favours or admiration they believe they deserve. They find their relationships unfulfilling, and not surprisingly, most people think of narcissists in a primarily negative way. After all, Sigmund Freud named the type after the mythical figure Narcissus who died because of his pathological preoccupation with himself!
NPD quite often goes back to childhood. According to Heinz Kohut (1959) narcissism is a natural feature of a young child who is bound to think of themselves as the centre of the universe. Through the twin processes of mirroring (whereby the parent provides appropriate praise) and idealization (whereby the child effectively internalizes positive parental images) the child successfully navigates this initial sense of grandiosity. However, the failure to transcend these normal narcissistic internalizations of infancy can lead to NPD. Only a professional can diagnose someone with NPD, however some traits of a Narcissist can include a grandiose sense of self-importance an exaggeration of their own achievements combined with a lack of empathy for the feelings and needs of others, exploitation of others, no sense of responsibility and an excessive need for admiration.
Here are a few forms of emotional and mental narcissistic abuse.
Small words hurt the most: Unfortunately use of painful, distressing words does have the power to harm us, especially coming from those close to us, maybe even under the guise of humor. The verbal abuse includes belittling, bullying, accusing, blaming, shaming, demanding, ordering, threatening, criticizing, sarcasm, raging, opposing, undermining, interrupting, and name-calling.
Every Breath you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you: You have the feeling that you are constantly being watched controlled and assessed. Control is usually exerting an indirect influence on someone to behave in a way that furthers the goals of the narcissist. Privacy invasion: Ignoring your boundaries by looking through your things, phone, mail; denying your physical privacy or stalking or following you; ignoring privacy you’ve requested.
Stonewalling: They may use stonewalling - a tactic used to emotionally cut off - and consequently hurt the victim and stay in control by refusing to get into or abruptly ending a conversation . They avoid difficult topics by becoming vague, shouting or diverting the conversation, refusing to speak or even walking out of the room altogether!
Intense Brain FOG: Fear Obligation and Guilt (FOG) is a term for emotional abuse perpetuated by the narcissist. Skilled orators and creative strategists, narcissists have vision and a great ability to attract and inspire followers. However towards their victims they are completely different. They can use threats, warnings, intimidation or punishment .You in turn feel terrorized and ingratiated to them and this inevitably gives rise to guilt , “It is all my fault!”
Mirror, mirror on the wall I am the fairest of them all! With a narcissist you always feel you are unwittingly in competition in all aspects of your life. They are always competing and one-upping to always be on top, sometimes through unethical means. They have to be better at you at everything, from the seemingly minute to major things.... They will always be one up on you!
Sabotage and destruction: They will use disruptive interference with your or relationships with family , friends, colleagues for the purpose of revenge or personal advantage . They will put you and your endeavors down, whether it is work or a hobby.
Love the way you Lie: Narcissists take no responsibility and perceive themselves as the victims in the relationship, with no remorse. They may use projection to transfer their own disowned qualities to you: for example they may be unfaithful themselves but start questioning you. Narcissists love starting new relationships, leaving you high and dry. This is because, in the initial phase of the relationship their idealization needs are met (those not met in childhood) but soon the same pattern begins again .They may character assassinate or slander you by spreading (or threatening to spread) malicious gossip about you to other people. They thrive on lying and there is persistent deception to achieve their own ends.
Other methods of abuse may include gaslighting, neglect, physical violence and financial abuse such as economic domination
Narcissistic abuse can occur in various relationships but may be most powerful in the closest ones: frequently a narcissistic partner or even a parent who is uncooperative, selfish and often abusive. During this period it is particularly important to keep in mind that Narcissists, with no audience to play to, are likely to increase their abusive behaviour. A good relationship, of any kind, requires vulnerability from all participating parties, which the narcissists are unwilling to allow. They crave high amounts of attention and the focus to be on them even during a global health crisis. Now, they have been forced to give up the precious control that they felt they must have to keep their lives in order. This may cause them to focus even more astutely on their victims since they are no longer able to gain sources of narcissistic supply outside of the home. This can cause even more episodes of abuse and distress to victims who are unable to leave their homes. During this time higher levels of what is known as “hoovering” will also take place, where narcissist former partners, family members, or ex-friends reach out in an attempt to entangle you back into a potentially toxic relationships.
Here are some ways to draw emotional boundaries with the narcissists in your life during the Lockdown:
Accept what you can or can’t change, know the difference: You can’t fix, change, rescue, save, make them happy or love them enough to make them love you back. Wrap your brain around the fact that no matter what you do, it will never be good enough. Acknowledge that the more you appease and compromise; the more entitled, demanding and ungrateful they’ll be: you’re throwing your energy and effort to waste.
To be happy you must be your own sunshine: Make yourself solely responsible for your own well-being and happiness: Catch yourself when you utter, “If only he/she could ...” They are not going to! Keeping you in a beaten down and depressive state makes it easier for an abuser to control you. Take back the control you gave them over your feelings, happiness and well-being and start meeting your own needs by making different choices and acting on them!
Break the chains around your heart: A chain or hook is typically an emotional, psychological or physical stake that you have in the other person and the relationship. For example, guilt is a big hook that keeps many men and women in abusive relationships. Examples are “I don’t how they’d take care of themselves. What would they do without me? I’d feel guilty if I left because of the kids.” It is important to remind yourself that the flip side of guilt is the Ego. If you leave an abusive person, they’ll do just fine without you. These people view others as objects to be used. They’ll simply replace you with another object and repeat the same pattern. Guilt is a control device they use to keep you in line. Guilt, shame, loss of status, loss of material assets or access to children, perfectionism and your own need to control others, situations and outcomes are control devices to keep you in line.
Great expectations: Usually, people expect the best from others. However, expecting the best from a narcissistic person will result in you being blind sighted, perpetually disappointed and hurt most of the time, so lowering your expectations is a better option here. For all their apparent sensitivity and crocodile tears, they are bullies; the best you can expect is more of the same behavior. You may achieve some pockets of “peace” (remember, they say they are not responsible for their behavior you are and all the other problems in the universe!) and maintain your boundaries. “Happiness reflects the difference between what you expect versus what you actually get in life-so if you keep expecting good things to happen, but they never do or take a turn for the worse, you will suffer constant unhappiness.” (Sutton, 2007) Hold on to the belief that you will be okay once you stop giving them the power to hurt you and/or are able to remove yourself from the situation.
Do something that removes you from the abuse: Meditate or do whatever your version of meditation is- praying, reading, walking, painting, music-anything that’s restorative. Find pockets of sanity and safety with friends and family (call or reach out online) physical spaces like your garden, or professional help. Find activities that will take you out of the line of fire and minimize your exposure to them and their abuse, even during the quarantine. Maybe an activity (online for now) that makes you feel good about yourself and restores your confidence. Ignore them when they put down these new activities and friendships. They do so because they see them as threats to their control.
Look at the bigger picture: The ultimate goal is to not let their abusive behaviour affect you anymore. Expect them to hit even harder - emotionally and/or physically - when you stop reacting to their button pushing. It seems counter-intuitive, but if they become nastier in response to you setting boundaries and detaching, it means your new behavioural strategies are working because they are fighting harder to retain their control. By detaching, you’re taking back the power that you unwittingly gave them.
Remind yourself that these new behaviours will take time for you to learn and perfect. Take it one step at a time. It takes a while to develop indifference. It runs counter to our fundamental beliefs about love and relationships. However, if you’re in a relationship with someone who verbally and/or physically attacks you, devalues you and who raises themselves up at your expense, you must learn how to make yourself less vulnerable and eventually immune to them. They will destroy your soul if you let them.... It helps to reach out help is always at hand!.