6 minute read
This piece gives you the tools to identify the first signs you could be in harm’s way, by equipping you to recognise communication clues you’re with a pathological narcissist whose mask is slipping.
Starting to get a little suss that maybe your ‘soul mate’ ain’t so perfect? Do you feel like maybe something isn’t quite right but you can’t put your finger on it? Well…it could be that the bliss of idealisation is done, and you are being transitioned to devaluation, the second phase in the cycle of narcissistic abuse. Obviously, this would mean that your ‘soul mate’ is really something far more dangerous.
By paying attention to the language used by your ‘soul mate’, you can detect who and what you are dealing with, which is so important in understanding that stepping away from what will only ever be a toxic relationship, is necessary to protect yourself.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is intrinsically difficult to identify by virtue of its effect on victims. Why? At the beginning of the relationship love bombing and idealisation convinces us we are indeed truly blessed in having found our ‘soul mate’. Who would want to walk away from that (for more on this read The narcissist’s ‘soul mate’ effect: How & why they do it)??
Then we slip into the devaluing phase of the cycle of abuse. The mask starts to slip and true intentions surface. Endless manipulative games centred on domination and control start to take over.
The strategies used are extremely effective and cause untold harm, including doubting yourself and your perception of reality.
If you are caught in this trap, you are questioning yourself rather than the narcissist…but does any of the information below ring true? Do you find yourself at the receiving end of any of these mind addling ploys?
If so, this is your confirmation: IT IS NOT YOU. There IS something wrong, it is the narcissist getting busy playing with your mind, heart and soul.
Communication recipe: 90% ugliness with 10% adulation to keep you hooked
The focus of devaluation is to communicate your lack of value and unimportance to the narcissist. You face attacks ranging from outright aggression and verbal abuse, to passive aggressive tactics such as silence.
Throughout all of the strategies below, you find the following communication behaviours in one form or another: insults, expressions of entitlement, blaming/accusations, lying, tailoring injurious comments based on knowledge of your vulnerabilities, denial, justifying, refusal to own any responsibility for anything, avoidance, rage, deflection, pity party statements, and a win/lose attitude where everything is a competition (for more on this read The narcissist’s word salad: Stop biting now, Narc Speak: Words as weapons & Invalidation and narcissism: Why they slowly erase you).
Now, sure, some of these less than flattering attacks may be used every now and then by the best of us.
But if you listen closely to the narcissist, once devaluation has kicked in these will be the norm rather than genuine moments of ‘weakness’ that a healthy person would fall prey to.
A healthy person would also most likely follow their erring with an apology…this would not be the case from a narcissist.
Another tip that things are suss, is that interspersed amongst this abuse will be intermittent incorporation of love-bombing strategies to maintain control over you, and keep you hooked.
‘It’s not me, it’s you’ they say
The narcissist is only capable of maintaining their idealised view of themselves, as perfect, grandiose and omnipotent. This necessarily precludes the acceptance of any negative aspects of themselves.
Unable to cope with being less than entirely perfect, they aggressively project these aspects onto you. This is done both to devalue you, and to reduce anxiety felt by possible dependency on you, which for the narcissist is intolerable (Vitek, 2000; Walker, 2005; Zosky, 2001).
This strategy is fairly easy to recognise.
The narcissist reflects back suspicions you have about their character make-up. Think of those chats when they are sharing with you all your downfalls and ways you should consider improving yourself to be worthy of them…and yet it all sounds so very much like the defining terms one might apply to them!
You might hear things like:
- “It’s all your fault, all you do is blame everyone around you for your issues”
- “You really are very self-involved, everything is always about you, you’re quite narcissistic…let’s focus on me for a while”
- “You’re just projecting, if only you could see what you are really like”
Setting aside the awfulness of it, projection could also be considered somewhat of a gift. The narcissist is handing you on a platter the very things you should be wary of in them.
Heed their warnings!
Sneaky, crazy-making devil tricks
This one is a little harder to recognise.
Gaslighting is the manipulation of information and/or the environment to confuse you into questioning your perception of reality and mental health. It is intentionally malevolent behaviour to make you feel crazy (O’Mairan, 2014; Wallerstein, 1973).
Why? Because disorienting you and keeping you off balance maintains your compliance. If you are constantly second guessing yourself, they are more likely to get away with whatever they want, in addition to reinforcing your reliance on them for ‘reality checking’.
Examples of manipulating the environment could include behaviours such as moving or hiding objects from you. Just to mess with you. Just for fun.
When manipulating information, this is what it can sound like:
- “You’re crazy”
- “I’m worried about you, you seem to be really confused/forgetting a lot lately”
- “That never happened”
- “I never said that”
- “You’re completely overreacting, you need to learn to chill”
- “You’re not making any sense, are you ok”
Clearly, some of these are straight out tactics to make you doubt your mental health, whilst others are little more sneaky.
Denial and invalidation coupled with false concern is a favourite to completely unbalance you – ‘he/she sounds concerned so maybe they are actually caring for me?’, you might think.
Conversely, they will also target your real compassion doing a switcheroo on situations seeking pity for themselves for being so poorly misunderstood/treated. “I was just trying to help you, I went out of my way to do so, it is a shame you can’t see me for who I am and the support I am trying to offer you”.
Sound familiar? Narcissists love a good pity play.
You have no doubt been kind in making allowances for the narcissist and thinking they don’t really mean this or that, they’re a little lost but essentially good… take a look at this strategy. I hope it convinces you this isn’t the case.
There is no excuse to be made for such deliberate and malicious intent. You are in danger.
If you need more reinforcement check out: Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change & Stop feeling sorry for the narcissist now.
The silent killer
Where projection and gaslighting are strategies usually dense with words, stonewalling is mostly about the absence of words. It’s about the withdrawal or withholding of information, emotions, or physical resources.
This strategy is applied to elicit feelings of rejection or abandonment to reinforce your feelings of dependence on the narcissist (Oliver, Perry, & Cade, 2008).
Furthermore, they are underscoring that your worth is so insignificant to them that response and engagement is not necessary from their perspective. They are invaliding you and expressing contempt (Walker, 2005; Keller, Blincoe, Gilbert, Dewall, Haak, & Widiger, 2014). The purpose of this, is to have you scrambling to regain their good graces, thereby handing over supply.
Whilst this strategy isn’t necessarily able to be described in terms of what it sounds like, it is identifiable through the lack of communication or significant reduction of it. Silent treatment is the obvious example.
Less apparent instances of stonewalling are:
- Asking direct questions which are not responded to
- The narcissist simply walking away mid discussion without explanation
- Responses that use as few words as possible
Fence sitting statements can also indicate stonewalling, for example, ‘I don’t know’, ‘whatever’ on topics that should involve emotional investment (…well they would do for an emotionally healthy person…).
Projection, gaslighting and stonewalling are just a small sample of strategies used by the abusive narcissist in their very deliberate efforts to crush your spirit.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking they don’t mean it. They do…or that they will change. They won’t, and most importantly they do not want to.
This is what they live for. Through devaluation they hit the mother load of life sustaining supply for the narc. Because devaluation is the intentional process of making you feel so very small, so that they can feel big. It is their drug. Your pain, is their joy.
Horrifying, right? There is nothing that comes close to love about this.
Whether you are new to this phase in the relationship, or you have cycled through the endless phases of idealise, devalue and discard with the narcissist several times.Now is the time. Get out now.
You are nobody’s drug. It’s time to start feeding your own sweet self and to heal the wounds inflicted by the narcissist.
For more tools & knowledge building pieces on the issues in this article read:
- From ‘soul mate’ to worthless: What’s behind the narcissist’s 180?
- What happens when the narcissist knows you’ve figured them out
- Emotionally unhook yourself & starve the narcissist of supply: Here’s how
- Getting past fear & leaving the narcissist
- How No Contact supports narcissistic abuse recovery
- Blueprint for recovery from narcissistic abuse
- Signs you’re being love bombed by a narcissist
- Narcissists love boundaries: Exposing the fallacy
As always, please share your thoughts, experiences, and insights on the issues in this article in the comments below. The more we share, the more we teach & help one another in reclaiming our freedom.
Hungry for more info?
There are three books I highly recommend that are all very insightful in deconstructing psychopathy/sociopathy/malignant narcissism. These titles also address how we can protect ourselves by identifying them in our midst, and refuse to engage in the mind games. I highly recommend Martha Stout’s The Sociopath Next Door, Jackson Mackenzie’s Psychopath Free, and David Gillespie’s Taming Toxic People: The Science of Identifying and Dealing with Psychopaths at Work & at Home.
(Note – if using link/s provided to purchase, you’ll receive free shipping and title heavily discounted. You’ll also be supporting my work in providing you free resources on this site, by earning a very small commission, at no extra cost to you – thank you 😊)
- Keller, P.S., Blincoe, S., Gilbert, L.R., Dewall, C.N., Haak, E.A., & Widiger, T. (2014). Narcissism in romantic relationships: A dyadic perspective. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 33(1), 25-50.
- Oliver, M., Perry, S., & Cade, R. (2008). Couples therapy with borderline personality disordered individuals. The Family Journal, 16(1), 67-72.
- O’Mairin, P. (2014, July 15). How ‘gaslighting’ inflicts deep but invisible wounds. Irish Times. Retrieved from https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/that-s-men-how-gaslighting-inflicts-deep-but-invisible-wounds-1.1865889
- Vitek, J.A. (2000). Aggression and differentiation of self in narcissistic subtypes (Doctoral dissertation). The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order No. 9970787)
- Walker, S. (2005). Jealousy and Gottman’s Four Horsemen: Addressing the missing link (Doctoral dissertation). The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order No. 3215605)
- Wallerstein, R.S. (1973). Psychoanalytic perspectives on the problem of reality. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 21(1), 5-33.
- Zosky, D. M. (2001). The role of projective identification with domestically violent males (Doctoral dissertation). Loyola University Chicago. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order No. 3001640)