There seems to be a rise in the number of posts relating to Narcissism, gas lighting, coercive control and marital abuse, and/or childhood traumas. I wrote this post some time ago, but I’ve updated it, expanded on it and am now reposting. I hope it helps someone, anyone, or at the very least goes some way to explaining to those who have never experienced it, what it feels like to live with a narcissist and be lucky enough to come out the other side.
There are many divides in society, I could make a list but you probably would lose interest pretty quickly and switch off, so I’m just going to talk about one that has been very prominent in my life.
My main concern is that when people read the word Narcissist they automatically switch off, sick of hearing about it. It is after all, front and centre in the news quite frequently. It has become a trotted out theme in soap operas. There are countless blog posts and articles on the subject. Memes about it. All are very necessary, they need to shine a light on this personality, but if it doesn’t affect you personally, you won’t relate and it becomes boring, a chore to listen to, watch, read about.
People switch off when they are faced with over kill.
I have many accounts of people saying to me, ‘oh come on, it couldn’t have all been bad, he always seemed so nice when we saw you together, are you sure it wasn’t 6 of one and half a dozen of the other. You must have done something to make him behave that way.’ Or the other set of comments, ‘why don’t you just get over it? Are you still banging on about that stuff? You’re attention seeking, it all happened so long ago, why are you still going on about it. Do you want him back, is that why you can’t let go?’
So, in order to provide answers to all of those comments and questions, I will tell you what I think about Narcissists.
Narcissist v Empath
Do you know a narcissist? Are you living with one? Were you raised by one? How would you know?
A narcissist will mimic empathy, they will mimic love and altruism, they will shower you with love and affection in order to secure their prize, you, and your adoration of them to the exclusion of all else including yourself.
You may feel utterly adored in the early stages of a narcissistic relationship but once the mask falls away you will think you have arrived in the bowels of hell and have absolutely no idea how or when you got there or where the exit door is.
They systematically strip you of your identity, your self-esteem, confidence, self-worth. They turn you into a powerless victim.
Because they can. It really is that simple, there is no grand plan, there is no ultimate goal. They do it because they like it, they do it because it makes them feel powerful and in control. They do it because they believe it is their right, they believe they are more important than you and they believe it is your role in life to serve them and keep them happy. They do it because they like to play the victim and illicit sympathy from everyone around them, the attention validates them, makes them feel important.
How do they get you to do this for them?
First and foremost they begin to withhold their ‘love and affection’ from you. They do this in bite sized pieces, they begin slowly, by telling you how disappointed you’ve made them because of your attitude, or something you promised to do but didn’t, or worse than that, something they have imagined you have done and therefore it is now real to them.
You work harder to earn back the adoration you have become accustomed to, they side step and find more fault with the efforts you have made, eventually when you are an emotional wreck, bereft of the loss of their love, they will begin to double down with the mind games. This is where the game for them is all powerful, make no mistake, you are a game to them. Nothing more. They will isolate you from family, friends. They will strip away respect, love financial support, a home. They will threaten to take your children from you if you have them. They will threaten to tell people you are a bad parent and paint you in the worst possible light. They will manipulate you into losing control and screaming at them so that they can say, ‘See? this is what I’m talking about, you are unreasonable, you are mentally unstable, you are unfit to be a parent, wife, partner, etc. I don’t know why I stay with you.’
You’re Not Good Enough
This makes you feel so terribly guilty that you are such a failure, a weight around their necks and yet they stay, they want to give you back the love you remember from the beginning when it was all good between you. Once again you step on the wheel of believing it is up to you to do better, try harder, be kinder, brighter, more entertaining, more compliant, more, more, more.
So you keep on trying and you keep on failing because they are in control and you are never going to succeed in winning back that which you never had. The narcissist system is designed for you to continually fail. It was all smoke and mirrors to trap you in the nightmare they call life. This is what they get off on. Making you grovel, and declare your undying devotion to them on a minute by minute basis. They will cheat on you and then tell you it was because you just aren’t good enough at sex, at loving them, at understanding their complex needs, if you had been a better wife, husband, partner, they would not need to go elsewhere to have their needs shored up by someone else. They will say you brought it on yourself. It’s never ever their fault because of course they are perfect and they are doing you a huge favour by sticking around with someone who is so flawed.
So, rather than the righteous outrage and feelings of betrayal that you should be feeling, you end up seeing their twisted point of view and accept that you just aren’t good enough for them. In turn, this makes you grateful for the fact they are still around at all and willing to put up with you even though you now think you are essentially a crap excuse for a human being. You wish you knew how to be who they fell in love with once more just so you could go back to the glorious love filled days and nights you shared in the early days.
Narcissists thrive on attention and they don’t care how they get it. They will twist and turn every single thing you say and do and say it isn’t good enough. You haven’t worked hard enough to gain even a tiny crumb of affection from them. You will keep working harder to regain that love you once had because they did love you once…right?
In more extreme cases where gas lighting and physical abuse are present the situation spirals extremely quickly and you learn how to micromanage even the smallest of tasks in order to avoid confrontation. This undermines your ability to fight back. You are already suffering from mental fatigue at this stage, how on earth can you fight them when you think no one would believe you anyway? When you fear losing your children to them, where you fear being made homeless and penniless?
This takes away the avenues that you would normally automatically assume you could go down to gain your freedom. From here it is a downward spiral, you lose all sense of self and second guess every single thought you have, are they right? Is it you? Everyone else believes them to be a wonderful caring human being, this is the face they show to the outside world and woe betide you if they think you are going to tarnish that image.
Liars and Fantasists.
They will habitually lie to you about absolutely everything. You cannot ever, ever believe a single word that comes out of their mouths. They live in their own perfectly designed fantasy world and you are a tool for them to use to facilitate the smooth running of that fantasy. Nothing more. They absolutely believe their own lies and believe them to be the truth because it fits what they require. They are not and never will be swayed by facts and reality. They are never wrong and you’re the liar and the cause of any and all problems they may experience. This then fuels their degrading treatment of you. So you determine to try even harder to prove to them you are worthy of their love and affection. You can change, you can become the person they require, you can fill all their needs if they will just give you the opportunity to put it all right.
Wake up call. It’s never going to happen. When a fisherman baits a hook with a big fat juicy worm to catch that fish, he is not going to keep feeding that fish with more worms once it’s caught, he is going to do one of two things, he will either, throw it back in the water and it may live to catch another worm and mouthful of hook only to be released with yet another scar, or he will kill it and eat it. You are the fish. Once you have been hooked you are in the trap and they will work very quickly to demoralise you and make you entirely dependent on them.
If you are one of the really unlucky ones, they will leave you, flat out, no contact, no reason, they will just walk and you won’t hear from them in a while. Then… they contact you, out of the blue and tell you they miss you, they want to try again but you hurt them with all of your crazy, unreasonable behaviour before. So, if you’re willing to change your ways and see their point of view they will try to get over the hurt you inflicted on them previously and they will come back.
You are so lost at this point that you view this as a lifeline. They really must love you after all! You determine once again to try harder to please them and they come back with all the love they took away from you before. Well, almost.
You are so desperate for their affection at this point you haven’t noticed that the ‘love bombing’ is quite markedly reduced from the first time around. This is simple to explain, you are already hooked so they don’t have to work as hard to break you down and get back in. Not that you would even consider denying them at this point.
You are now trauma bonded to the narcissist and they turn up the heat quickly after that. The mask falls away very swiftly now and you are back in the cycle of abuse with nowhere to turn. They left you alone just long enough that the cravings had become unbearable. The stage after that is recovery. You aren’t allowed to get to that stage.
Why do they hurt you?
Because they can. Your pain is the validation they are looking for that they are adored. An overt narcissist will become visibly excited by your tears, pain and hurt to the point of gleefulness. They have caused this. They are in control, they have all the power and they will trip on it for days! A covert narcissist will rejoice privately, they don’t want you to see who they really are. A covert narcissist will twist everything around and make it about them. What you have done to them, how hurt they are, how broken you have made them feel… they love to play the victim. An overt narcissist doesn’t care if you are hurting because of them, they will tell you ‘if you had just done as you were told, none of this would have happened. It’s your fault.’
How do you get out?
You lift your head up and take stock of what is really important to you and what you can easily afford to live without. You seek counsel, you start planning an escape strategy, you start to believe in yourself and you begin the ‘grey rock’ system with them. Grey rocking is a simple strategy whereby you do not react to your narcissist regardless of the provocation. You make yourself as uninteresting to them as is humanly possible. Become a shadow, don’t fight back, they love it when you verbalise your anger and frustration at them, they can twist your words and fire them back at you. They mirror you. When you are angry, you say, ‘you have hurt me’ they will instantly respond with, ‘you’ve hurt me!’ You say, ‘You said horrible things to me, you called me terrible names. You did terrible things to me.’ They will respond with the same statement. In the end, you have to stop because there is nowhere to go with a mirror conflict. You have to stop because you feel like you’re losing your grip on reality. Nothing is what it seems anymore, everything has become this twisted, grotesque version of reality where you are the ‘wrong’ one and they are the victim of your manipulation, lies, and deceit.
The instant you realise you are in this mindset, get out! Leave. Don’t stop, don’t wait, don’t try to fix it. It was never going to be fixed. The relationship never existed, they just wanted your adulation and devotion. They will suck the life out of you and then discard you without a backward glance. A broken, empty shell of the beautiful, empathetic person you were before.
I have barely skimmed the surface of the narcissist in this piece. They are much more varied and deceitful than I have been able to cover in this blog.
How do I know all this?
I am a survivor of narcissism from early childhood and later via marriage. My ex is an incompetent sociopath and covert narcissist. I was married to him for 20 years. If you spoke to him today, over a decade after our divorce and ask him his current wife’s name he would tell you mine. He has since remarried, but he will always say my name, especially in the presence of his new wife. He will say my name, and then laugh and say slip of the tongue, of course it’s Mary. Mary is sitting there hurting now because she is not his first thought when he thinks wife. She is mistaken, she is his only thought, he wants to twist his invisible knife, what better way to do it than give her an imaginary foe to fight to win his love and affection?
I am the one who got away, he left all the others. Because of this, he still to this day believes I will always be his wife, no piece of paper will ever tell him any different. He considers his life without me in it, to be just a long fishing trip. He thinks he can come home any time he likes. He has told me he fully intends to return home when he hits 70 years of age because he will require me to look after him in his old age.
I am prepared for him if he should ever carry out that threat.
I regained my sense of self, strength of purpose, worth and confidence. I am no longer a victim of gaslighting, narcissism and mental abuse. I am a Survivor. I will remain a Survivor.
If you recognise your relationship in this piece then please, do something now before it really is too late. You will never gain any kind of peace or happiness from within. You can only win if you get away and rebuild yourself and go absolutely no contact with them. They will move on to their next victim without a backward glance. I wish you could advise the next victim in advance, warn them, tell them your story, you can’t. The Mary’s of this world think that you failed and are the bitter one. They will have his love and devotion. They will not listen.
Strength and peace to you. Find yourself and be happy. We only have one life, you have the right to own yours. Do it now. Don’t wait, you may not have a tomorrow if you stay.