Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissistic abuse is a term that emerged in the late twentieth century, and became more prominent in the early 21st century in large part due to the late Alice Miller, a Polish psychologist and world renowned author. She used “narcissistic abuse” to refer to a specific form of emotional abuse of children by their narcissistic parent(s). These are parents who require the child to give up his or her own wants and feelings in order to serve the parents’ needs for esteem. However, more commonly it has also come to be used to refer to forms of abuse in adult or child relationships on the part of the narcissist.

Narcissistic abuse occurs in adult-to-adult relationships, where one or both partners are very narcissistic- the narcissistic couple. As a general rule, narcissists do not take responsibility for relationship difficulties; their relationships can often be characterized by a period of intense involvement and idealization of the partner, followed by devaluation, and rapid, often explosive, severing of the relationship.

Why Do Narcisists Abuse?

So why do narcissists, in particular, so frequently engage in emotionally abusive behavior? Typically, it is either because they experience “narcissistic injury” or because they feel the need to gain control over others.

Narcissists have an exaggerated, grandiose opinion of themselves and the narcissist expects that the world, and especially their partner, should accept that opinion. When others question or threaten that opinion, the narcissist experiences what is known as narcissistic injury. More specifically, this is when the narcissist perceives a threat to their self view of themselves as perfect, wise, kind, omnipotent, important, deserving of special treatment, etc. Narcissistic injury can happen rather frequently as a narcissist’s view of himself/herself is out of touch with reality.

When a narcissist experiences narcissistic injury, he or she typically becomes defensive, often to the point of being enraged. This is known as “narcissistic rage”. If someone makes a comment that the narcissist perceives as a threat or a slight, the narcissist will devalue the individual who made the comment, via verbal abuse, so that their comment loses credibility in the narcissist’s mind. That allows him or her to continue to hold their unrealistic perceptions of themselves.

It is important to note that narcissistic rage can take the form of emotional OR physical abuse. People with a narcissistic personality disorder can quickly go from verbal abuse to physical abuse. If the victim of verbal and emotional abuse notices increasingly more (or increasingly severe) abuse, they would be wise to leave the situation before it escalates to physical abuse.

Narcissistic abuse can also begin because the abuser needs to gain control over others. He or she may do this by belittling the victims and making them feel emotionally and mentally incompetent. For example, a narcissist might repeatedly tell his or her victims that they are worthless, or humiliate them in public. The narcissist believes that by withdrawing his or her approval, the victim will fall further under his or her power in the hopes of eventually achieving acceptance. Unfortunately, that is often the case.

The narcissistic abuser will use insults, embarrassment and punishment to destroy the victim’s self-esteem, which eventually results in the victim believing that he or she is indeed worthless. The repeated narcissistic abuse acts like brainwashing and exhausts the victim to the point of hopelessness. The narcissist then has his partner or victim under his or her complete control. Furthermore, the narcissist can become violent and will feel little remorse because he or she believes that this type of behavior is warranted. The abuser feels that his or her actions are justified because these are the actions of a superior being, despite whether it is harmful or illegal.

Types of Abuse

Physical abuse is self-explanatory although it is important to note that it might start out as mild (pinching, pushing) but more than likely will escalate if the victim does not leave the narcissistic abuser. Verbal and emotional abuse can be just as, if not more, damaging as physical abuse. The effects of verbal, emotional or physical abuse can be painful and long-term. The following are all behaviors a victim may experience from an emotionally and verbally abusive narcissist:

Withholding – Withholding love, affection, empathy, and intimacy.

Countering – This is when the partner expresses a thought and the abuser immediately counters that view with his/her own without listening to or considering it.

Discounting – When the abuser discounts the partner’s views or thoughts, telling the partner their ideas are insignificant, incorrect, or stupid. The abuser will often discount the partner’s memory about the abuse itself.

Verbal abuse disguised as jokes – These “jokes” can be very hurtful, especially if delivered in public.

Blocking and diverting – When the partner wants to discuss a concern, the abuser changes the subject and prevents any further discussion or resolution.

Accusing and blaming – The abuser will accuse the partner of an offense. The abuser may well know the partner is innocent of the supposed offense, but this tactic serves the purpose of putting the partner on the defensive rather than seeing the behavior of the abuser. Narcissists are known to use “projection”-where they project their own negative behavior or feelings onto the victim by accusing the victim of doing something that the abuser actually had done or felt.

Judging and criticizing – This serves to weaken the partner’s self-esteem and increases the victim’s need to look to the abuser for validation.

Trivializing – This is when the abuser minimizes something that is important to the partner, such as a concern about something the abuser has done.

Undermining – When the partner wants to do something positive in her/his life, the abuser becomes threatened and tries to stop the partner. It may be an overt command, subtly convincing the partner that it is a bad idea, or a covert action that would deter the partner from going.

Threatening – This can include threats of divorce, of leaving, of abuse, or other threats of actions that would hurt (psychologically or physically) the partner or someone the partner cares about.

Name-calling – This de-humanizes the partner and erodes the partner’s self-esteem.

Forgetting – This often includes the abuser ‘forgetting’ about incidents of abuse, which undermines the partner’s reality. The abuser may also ‘forget’ about things that he or she knows are very important to their partner.

Ordering – Treating the partner as a child or a slave; denying the independence of the partner.

Denial – the abuser relentlessly denies his/her actions. This discounts the reality of a partner (this is also known as “crazy making”).

Abusive Anger – When the abuser becomes enraged to the point of frightening the partner. This rage often is caused by incidents that a non-abuser would consider insignificant.

What to Do in an Abusive Relationship?

The emotional or mental deterioration of the victim is a sign that he or she needs help. There is a considerable recovery process available for victims of narcissistic abuse; it begins with self-education. The victim and the abuser should seek treatment separately, because the process is different for each. The partner (or other victim) can begin by becoming well informed about the disorder (Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD) that afflicts the narcissistic abuser, in order to understand that it is not their fault- despite what the abuser has repeatedly told them. They are victims. There are numerous recovery groups for victims of narcissistic abuse as well as individual therapy.

The variety of support and information available on narcissistic abuse is a good starting point because it assists the victim in regaining control over his or her own life. The support groups allow the abused to communicate with others who are undergoing similar trauma and can relieve the stress of feeling hopelessly alone. The sufferers of NPD should also seek counseling in order to better understand their disease and to evaluate the underlying problems that fuel the disorder.

References:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/narcissistic abuse
  2. http://www.ehow.com/how_5508911_heal-narcissistic-abuse.html#ixzz2RxGM1Gym
  3. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-narcissistic-abuse.htm
  4. http://www.squidoo.com/emotional-abuse-narcissism
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About Alexander Burgemeester

3 Responses to “Narcissistic Abuse”

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  1. alice says:

    Married to a narcissistic for 11 years, then i left him in 2001..never to look back, not even in that direction. It’s a life that nobody should have to suffer from. The abuse i suffered from him is unreal. I didn’t know what was wrong with him, until I started researching his behavior..then came narcissism.I now understand things better. I know why he never would “allow’ me to just leave him..even though I had told him I didn’t want to be with him another second. I had also told him it had been “too much damage”, I couldn’t go on living life like he demanded from me. I was truly a prisoner of his, a slave is more like it.I didn’t have any rights about anything at all, especially sex. I could say no but it wouldn’t do any good, he’d rape me. I was beaten on a regular basis, almost daily.yet, i didn’t have the right to say i wanted out of that! He was the ONLY one who could say anything, do anything..I was told what to do, and what to say.In 2001..I left him for good, he still thinks he can just say, or do anything to any woman he is with. He has these terrible public rages “man tantrums”. He doesn’t care who sees or hears his ugly foul mouth. I am in such a better place in my life now. The lifestyle he lives..and had with me is one I never wish to relive. He wouldn’t support his family, wouldn’t work..got us evicted from our places we lived almost every month. There wasn’t one place we moved to, that we didn’t eventually get evicted for his non-payment of rent! We bounced around from motel to motel and the worst poor neigborhoods in the city of Fayetteville, nc. he always blamed me..for his not working. Somehow I was to blame for everything that happened, even though I had no say in nothing..and wasn’t allowed to do anything. “he was the man”, he had “all the say”…that’s what he had drilled into my head anyways.For someone who demanded my show of appreciation, he didn’t do to much for me to be appriciative of. I guess i was supposed to be appreciative of a lazy, no good for nothing, wife beating husband!! I found it very hard to find appreciation into those poor qualities.I became very fed up with all of the bad things in my life..him especially and the bs that came with him..I had to leave. i had to go about it in a way that i wouldn’t get hurt or killed. i knew i was taking a hell of a chance but..it had to be done. i had to try anyways to make a better life. i knew, i would be better off without him than i ever was with him, that’s for sure!! i found out..my life is so much better off without him in it. I will never settle for anyone, or anything ever again. Nor will i allow anyone to treat me in such a horrible way! My now husband is the greatest person ever!! he doesn’t expect all that crazy mess from me, nor is he lazy! This marriage now, is the total opposite of that with a narcissist. He doesn’t have those evil behaviors, that i had to ‘prove” myself, my loyality, my love. No more evictions or going hungry..or having to ask people for help to just make it that day.Life is good and just gets better..knowing i don’t have someone ‘hovering’ over me, demanding things from me that they do not deserve at all. He deserves to be in jail, to suffer from the same things he has put on others..that’s what he deserves!

  2. alice says:

    I’d like to also say that he was..and still is a revenge seeker, especially after a break-up with him. I knew to expect that, the revenge before i ever actually left him, i had seen him in action “getting back’ at the mother of his daughter…who had also ‘escaped’ his abusive wife beating self! Anytime a woman left him, he would call DSS, the police or whom ever he thought he could tell something to that just might cause a problem for the gal.He even included his lil daughter in one of those episodes of revenge.

    “Gaslighting’ was also a technique he used to try to make himself appear to be the best father and husband..he wanted his ‘false self’ to stay hidden..not found out about! He went around telling everyone that i was ‘mental’ and on drugs, that was his excuse for me leaving such a wonderful husband..marriage. How else could he explain to people why i had all of a sudden decided to leave him, when he was the best person to have ever breathed air! He demanded only admiration from me, i could never criticize his behavior. It, whatever happened was always my fault, even when he would hit me..”I made him do it’.”If i hadn’t pissed him off so bad, he wouldn’t have never hit me”! Really?

    I suppose his rage and anger towards women in general had nothing at all to do with him hitting me and all the other women he had ever been with..It was their fault to that they were also hit by him!! He has and never will admit fault or blame on himself..for anything! the worst thing he done was, using our son to get to me. he wanted to appear as the caring father who was the soul parent to our son. in the beginning, after i first left him…he wouldn’t ‘allow’ me to even speak to my son on the phone without him on the other line listening..talking to me about going back to him! he knew i wasn’t ever going back with him, so he wanted to try to make me appear as if i didn’t care about my son. because my son was small, 9..he didn’t understand what was going on, all he knew was..momma had left. my ex did all he could to use our son to hurt me.

    Everywhere my son was, there was his father! now, my son is an adult..and understands things very good now. he knows his father is abusive..and was the reason why i left him.I was on the phone with my son, on Easter..his father was screaming curse words and names at me in the background. That same piece of shit..was telling me that i needed Jesus in my life!The same wife beating piece of shit had advice for me..his rage and anger is still very much there. He knows he can no longer control me..and that I know who he is, his dirty little secrets and he’s ‘thinking’ he’s living a life of someone he’s not.

    He’s not a good man, good father or good companion for a woman.He’s what we have all been warned about, the bad man whom we are to stay away from.thing is, he demands any woman whose with him..to treat him as if he’s the best thing to have ever lived.He always spoke about how good he was at this and that. he told all those lies on me when i left him, knowing i had spilled the beans on who and what he was all about.thing was, everyone already knew it wasn’t nothing to him anyways..a joke was what he was and still is. For him to even believe he’s so “heavenly and great”..you’d have to be mental, living a false life.All the time demanding admiration from me..for a false life. i couldn’t admire the ‘real deal”..he expected me to literally worship him as if he were deserving of admiration.It was that also that made me leave him. I couldn’t allow myself to go on ‘pretending’ to be in love, admire someone who was treating me like he was. The man he thinks he really is, or “wants people to think he is”..is the furtherest thing to the real person that could exist.

    Maybe, if he had just tried to act and behave as the false self he wanted others to think he was..he might have had a better life.You can’t hide who you really are. Your true self will always show, especially if your pretending to be someone your not. A monster cannot pretend to be a prince charming..if he does try..the monster will eventually loose his temper and show his true self! All the time, the narcissist will think he’s done nothing wrong..it’s someone elses fault…and he’ll still think he’s prince charming, expecting their spouse to just except whatever they do to them! They know that you know..who, what they really are. They also want you to keep that quiet, not let it be known who they really are..what they are really about. That was what pissed him off so much, that and he no longer could control me.Their false self is a made up version of what they want the world to think they are, it’s nothing close to their real selves, not in my ex’s case..he wanted admiration from everyone, especially me! He wants so much to be thought of as this wonderful human being, he’s the lowest form of scum a person could ever be..that’s his ‘real self’!It’s like he’s ‘pretending’ to be someone he’s not, or ever could be.

    His real life behavior keeps him from being that ‘pretend’ version of himself..”false self’. trust me, his real self will show its ugly head..even in the case of public rage! How can anyone expect to be thought of, admired for their ‘greatness” when they explode into a violent rage in Walmart..and curse their wife out like a dog in front of everyone? Somehow or another, he thought.. still thinks that everyone will see it his way.That the world will see I… and his now gf and his past women was deserving of whatever treatment he dished out to us..because we had done the ‘perfect’ man” wrong some kind of way..we deserved that humiliation!When you criticize him, for even the smallest of things… he will ‘loose it completely’ and tell you how awful you are, because he’s perfect in everyway! How can anyone, like myself..put down, complain or confront someone like him for anything..that’s the way these people think, that you have no right to do that to them!They have every right to do it to you though..all the time with the false blame, insults and accusations.Nobody deserves to be treated like this, by anyone. Leave and leave quickly..before it’s too late to leave!

  3. alice says:

    Just to let you guys know…he passed away from a serious illness, this past winter.I had found out that he was very sick…and abusing his mother, up until the week he died! She, his mom..had taken his homeless ass in, because he was usually always homeless…and tried to be kind to him. You see, unless you’re giving them their ‘supply”, admiration and praise…even when they know they don’t deserve it, they get very violent if they don’t get it from you. They don’t care that they don’t deserve it,they assume that is their right…to be priased and admired like a God!
    So, he took with him to his grave, or hell..which ever place he is…no sorry, no appologies, no nothing, but bills for his momma to have to pay.he left this world a very angry man, still blaming me for all that went wrong in his life, his rage and anger was all my fault! he never could see himself for who, or what he really was.He died thinking, he was perfect…and made no mistakes.
    I certainly didn’t give him a call, it wasn’t my place to reach out…why, for more of the same? his momma called me one day, after he had laid the law down on her, cursing at her like a dog…she let me know that she finally seen why i had left him.She had always sided with him, on everything…made things easier for her.I suppose she was just wanting to talk with someone, who had experienced some of what she had during his stay.
    I knew better to expect anything other than pain from that man, even on his death bed!i wouldn’t allow myself to feed into his craziness!

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