8 minute read
‘Am I the narcissist??’ is the feverish question that haunts many when working through the wounds of narcissistic abuse. In ‘How you know you’re not the narcissist: Your proof’, this question was addressed.
Recently a great question was asked ‘I get all that stuff in the article, but what if it all resonates because I’m completely in denial about who I really am and I’m the narcissist?’
This follow up article gives you more tools to answer this maddening question. It is so important that you do resolve it. Releasing yourself from the looping thought pattern where you question yourself, over and over again, is necessary to move forward in your recovery.
Without acceptance of the reality that you are NOT the abuser, you are the abused, you remain stuck.
Here, we check out the Narc Spin & its effects, offering a self-check for you to put to bed any doubts that may still linger as to who is the narcissist.
Rumination: The curse of the Narc Spin
Rumination is a symptom of many mental health challenges including depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. All of these are prevalent in victims of narcissistic abuse.
Rumination is a form of repetitive thinking, that seeks to resolve a given trauma. This could be caused from loss, injustices, threats and/or any direct or indirect harm.
I dub rumination within the context of narcissistic abuse as the ‘Narc Spin’. This is how it goes. It feels like never-ending cycling through repeating thoughts. You conclude a point, then find yourself unpicking it immediately afterwards, only to work your way back to the original conclusion and so it continues. Ad infinitum through the same loop, over & over again.
The continuous looping focuses on causes and effects, and is a process centred on sensemaking. This latter concept being the integral human need to find meaning in our existence and experiences, especially so when we have been upended by a trauma.
The thing with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), causality and logic as they exist in the non-disordered world, are absent from the abuse you have sustained.
Finding meaning behind the harm you have suffered will never happen.
And so, until you begin accepting the reality of the situation, the Narc Spin continues. Hence why resolving the point of who is the narcissist is so critical.
Genesis of the Narc Spin
Throughout your time with the narcissist, they have been steadily programming you to doubt your sense of reality, the veracity and accuracy of your experiences, and ability to trust your thoughts & emotions.
They do this through narcissistic invalidation and gaslighting to secure your disempowerment (for more on this read Invalidation and narcissism: Why they slowly erase you ).
The more your self-belief, self-worth and power reduces, the greater their control over you becomes. And with this brainwashing, you forfeit your own truths and buy in to their make-believe world, feeding their beliefs about who they are and who they are not. In other words, you hand over supply.
Through your disempowerment, second-guessing yourself and reliance on the narc for ‘reality checking’ becomes the norm.
Once vulnerable to their ‘tweaking’ of reality, the Narc Spin is set in motion through projection.
With this, the narcissist attributes their flaws onto you as their defence mechanism in hiding from their true selves. Throughout the abuse, a steady commentary about your narcissistic traits will have come your way.
These are the ones that sound like this: ’you’re so selfish, all you think about is yourself’, ‘you’re so manipulative’, ‘you’re so abusive, ‘you just take, take, take’…blah, blah, blah. You get the picture.
Through this repetition of messaging about your narcissistic traits, doubts set in and you begin internalising their voice. You start to take on what they want you to believe. You begin self-invalidating (for more on this read Narcissistic Invalidation: How to stop them erasing you).
Is it any wonder that against this backdrop, the Narc’s Spin is one more ordeal you are facing as a legacy of their abuse?
How the Narc Spin rolls
Let’s see if this resonates for you.
You’re in the process of awakening, and the questions you’ve managed to push down for so long are starting to gather in volume. Why is there so much pain? How can the way you are being treated be OK? Is it normal? Are they normal? What the hell is normal???
So you begin researching and you stumble across NPD. Hmmmm. Something strikes a chord within you. You reflect, and so much of it mirrors what you’ve endured. It explains their behaviour and the abuse.
And if this were a ‘normal’ situation, this would be your conclusion.
Done and dusted.
But it’s not. This is what happens next.
Suddenly, you flashback to all those projective statements drilled into you. Except, you don’t consider them as projections.
You entertain that just quite possibly they are objective, factual evidence of who you really are. And just maybe, the narcissist is right. And just maybe, everything you’ve read about NPD is really a portrait of your own disordered mind.
Don’t they say that the true narcissist is so very much in denial that they would never recognise that there is anything disordered about them? Ergo, this could very well be you?
And then another emotional flashback hits you of something they did, that simply cannot be interpreted as anything other than abuse. And once more you are firm. You are not the narcissist, they are. There is no way on God’s green earth you would ever do this same thing to another human being.
And then guess what?
Yep, that’s right, the spin continues….
If they’ve told you, you are all these same terrible things you attribute to them, what makes them wrong and you right? Are you the one projecting?
Are you the one in complete denial about who you really are??
‘Am I the narcissist’?
OK stop. Breathe gorgeous one.
The following assumes you have read ‘How you know you’re not the narcissist: Your proof’. If you haven’t yet, I urge you read it before reading on. Here we extend this work, focusing specifically on the issue of denial.
Denial does not look within
The first thing to note is that what you’re doing right now are not the actions of a pathological narcissist.
Victims of abuse when awakening from the fog, pursue information and seek to raise their understanding of what has happened to them in order to heal.
It is a proactive step taken to address the very real harm they have experienced, to heal and to rebuild their lives.
And it is no lackadaisical, half-hearted thing, is it gorgeous one?
It can in fact become all-consuming for a time.
Why do you think that might be?
It is such a deep-seated need because of the magnitude of the suffering you have borne. Because of the trauma. It is sense-making in action.
You will not find a NPD’d individual on this same journey.
Why? Because that same denial you are fearful of blinding you, blinds them.
This is how it plays out for the pathological narcissist. They are incapable of tolerating anything that challenges their sense of control, power, entitlement, flawlessness, and superiority.
The openness to self-reflection, accountability, empathy and growth you are demonstrating in seeking an answer to whether you are the narcissist, are antithetical to the makeup of a pathological narcissist.
So, rather than hunger for meaning behind what has turned their world upside down, you will find them blaming you for the harm they are in fact responsible for creating. Their denial is in no way accompanied with genuine soul-searching.
The two concepts are diametrically opposed. They are mutually exclusive.
Denial is not the only test
Let’s be real. We are all at some point in denial about elements of ourselves that are less than flattering.
In fact, it is 100% certain that there will be many things you are in denial about from the narcissistic abuse you’ve lived through. This has been necessary for your survival (for more on this Why narcissistic abuse is so hard to admit to yourself, and When Hope is Killing you: Narcissistic abuse).
But this right now, is about whether you are in denial and you are the narcissist.
You are correct. Denial is absolutely integral to the functioning of the disorder that is NPD.
But here’s the thing, there are many other markers as well.
So, I ask you gorgeous one to shine that light of soul-searching on these bad babies:
- Do you believe you are better, more special than all those who surround you?
- Do you believe that you are entitled to anything you desire?
- Do you believe that everyone’s undivided attention & focus should be relentlessly on you?
- Do you need to be in control at all times, in addition to confirming constantly that you hold the upper hand in terms of power in all circumstances?
- Do you need to be right in all circumstances?
- Do you get a kick out of making sure others know they are wrong in all circumstances that disagree with your own view?
- Do you feel enraged at any hint of suggestion that you may be less than perfect?
- When confronted with people who need help & kindness, do you walk away without any emotion refusing to offer them help, unless there is something in it for you?
- Do you get a hit of pleasure when you know you ‘put someone in their place’, or caused them pain?
- If you were diagnosed with NPD, would you consider it an impossibility because you are beyond reproach and dismiss it altogether?
Only you know the answers to these questions. Only you.
Equally, the only person who actually cares about the answers, is you. By this I mean, that a narcissist would not.
This is your answer.
I promise you the spin will slow and eventually stop.
Continue on your journey gorgeous one. You’ve got this.
For more on disentangling from the narc read:
- Emotionally unhook yourself & starve the narcissist of supply
- Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change
- Stop feeling sorry for the narcissist now
- 5 ways to counteract the narcissist’s gaslighting
- How No Contact supports narcissistic abuse recovery
- The narcissist’s word salad: Stop biting now
- Blueprint for recovery from narcissistic abuse
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.
- Bishop, L.S., Ameral, V.E., & Palm Reed, K.M. (2017). The impact of experiental avoidance and event centrality in trauma-related rumination and posttraumatic stress. Behavior Modification, 1-23.
- Kamijo, N., & Yukawa, S. (2014). Meaning making and rumination: The roles of threat evaluation and personality. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 113, 118-123.
- Orsillo, S.M., & Batten, S. V. (2005). Acceptance and commitment therapy in the treatment of posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Behavior Modification, 29(1), 95-129.
- Thompson, R.W., Arnkoff, D.B., & Glass, C.R. (2011). Conceptualizing mindfulness and acceptance as components of psychological resilience to trauma. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 12(4), 220-235.
- Smart, L.M., Peters, J.R., & Baer, R.A. (2015). Development and validation of a measure of self-critical rumination. Assessment, 23(3), 321-332.
- Wallerstein, R.S. (1973). Psychoanalytic perspectives on the problem of reality. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 21(1), 5-33.
I realised I wasn’t the narcissist when I understood that I didn’t lie to other people and invent stories to explain my withdrawal mutual social circles or my depression. I was horrified when my narcissistic rapist actually promised group sex to other people. That was when it really sunk in what I was dealing with.
It’s scary how they learn to mess with our minds the way they do.
Dear Andrea. I’m so sorry for the horror you have experienced. No one should should be exposed to what you have been. I pray you are now no longer in the reach of this person, and therefore safe. Thank you for sharing some of your wisdom in the Narc Wise community, as to what made the penny drop for you. Your words will give another the strength and courage to wake up from their nightmare. Thank you. Take good care of you dear Andrea. Light & love to you. Maggie x
Thank you so much Maggie. The problem which narcissists is they all act in different ways. Some prefer to manipulate the victim, some prefer isolation and some prefer lying to all mutual parties. It’s never easy but by speaking out we can raise awareness and help other victims come out and get away.
Dear Andrea, couldn’t agree more. On all points. Thank you for being one of those who speaks out to help others 🙂 Maggie x
I’m drowning in a nightmare. I’m convincedbi am not the narcissist and that my husband is but I cannot get myself to reconcile it all. I broke at the weekend and after yet another dreadful day of walking on eggshells and trying to appease I called him out and told him I am done. His response, I’ve ruined his life and I could’ve told him earlier in the day as he wouldn’t have spent a $1k. It wasn’t $1k but nevertheless I was incredulous, I’ve ruined your life I exclaimed, how do I asked, you won’t be in my life was his reply. That was it, end of subject. I went to bed numb. But I was also relieved, I’d finally said what was in my heart. How incredible then that the next morning he said absolutely nothing, not one word about it instead he just carried on, and has since carried on as if the conversation never happened. Instead he’s been calling me telling me how he’s been trying to book us a holiday. I’m in an absolute mess. We’ve been married for nearly eight years and I only really started to understand what had been going on last year. I thought I was losing my mind.
Dear Sharon, I am sorry for this awful space you are in. The mess you feel inside. Do not lose sight of your truths that you are in the process of reconnecting with. These are your anchors in wading through the confusion of the cognitive dissonance. If you can, grab yourself a journal so you can record for yourself your truths as they come to you, and you can refer back to your own words when you start to question your thoughts. Gorgeous one, may I share with you a universal truth that comes with seeking to reconcile abuse sustained from Antisocial Personality Disordered and Narcissistic Personality Disordered individuals – there is no reconciling it. None. There is no rationale, no logic, no opportunity to pinpoint what you might have done differently, no emotionally healthy cause and effect for the treatment you have received. None. This is the nature of their disorder, order will not be found.
I know you know this, because you are in the process of battling this now. The closer you can get to accepting this truth, the louder your own truths will become, and the drowning will cease. You’ve got this Sharon. Your mind is not lost. It is very evident that your mind is in fact a logical, rational, self-reflective and emotionally healthy one. You’ve got this. Light & love to you. Maggie x
This is brilliant and much needed validation. Thank you so much.
I am spinning like an idiot for months now, I have managed 9 months of no contact now with my Narc and each and every single person who might provide some link to that thing, eradicated each and every single one of them and, while painful and in some instances sad, it was for the better..
I managed to leave at the first attempt and really start to see that as some superhero, wearing-underwear-on-the-outside kind of feat I am slowly starting to be immensely proud of.
The gaslighting especially brought me to the brink of insanity, the projections and blame eradicated my self-esteem and self-worth. I have researched NPD, abuse, cognitive dissonance and so forth obsessively for months (after having had the first panic attack in my life when I recognized my whole bloody relationship, word by word, in several blog posts about abusive relationships and narcissists), and dear God I do not want that POS back in my life. It took me several months of hard work to get rid of the anxiety and fear about the possibility of that POS returning, despite never having felt that lonely in my life there was no way in hell I was going back.
All that said…
I am still spinning in circles about me possibly overstating things, me blowing things out of proportions, me having been the abuser all along.
E.g. I took a list of 64 signs for emotional abuse and attempted to write down examples for those points. I managed to name specific incidents and actions for 60 (!) of them without even ruminating, from the top of my head, more than half a year after having left. I took lists with 20 signs for healthy relationships attempting the same. Not one single point was present. Not one single f***ing point.
I wrote that stuff down, wrote down that I cannot possibly doubt the abuse or toxicity of that POS…. only to start within hours to ruminate about things like ‘well single incidents of bad behavior are not necessarily patterns of abuse’, ‘maybe I just understood it wrong’, ‘maybe I was oversensitive because I was really angry’, ‘but am I not doing the same?’ and so forth, only to start all that crap ALL OVER, subliminally wishing for some validation from my abuser with my thoughts returning their focus on that POS.
I really started to feel frigging insane.
This post describes my issue to a fascinating degree, gives me some validation that I am not the only one with this issue and, for the first time in quite a while, I am not believing I should be outright hospitalized or am going insane. I might need a therapist to move on but at least I am not losing my mind.
Thank you so much!
Dear justaguy, welcome to Narc Wise you gorgeous soul. I cannot tell you how much I love this: ‘I managed to leave at the first attempt and really start to see that as some superhero, wearing-underwear-on-the-outside kind of feat I am slowly starting to be immensely proud of.’ It is so juicy, full of life and joy. And 100% on the money. You ARE some kind of superhero. The very best kind. There is no explaining how very hard this stuff is and can really only be understood by experiencing it oneself. It is H.A.R.D. Along with your underpants, you are blessed with some serious smarts, and hence smashing that ‘hard’ to pieces. Kudos gorgeous one. When the spinning starts justaguy, set the need for validation aside by hunting for concrete evidence of what you have suffered. The only thing that matters in all this is – did the relationship cause you harm? This is your validation. Breaking things down, simplifying, and lasering in on what brings you joy vs. does not, will help anchor you when the spin sets in. I’ve got another piece on the same topic , it might be helpful. You’ve got this justaguy. Light & love to you. Maggie x
You could be writing about my life. After 25 years with this man, I walked out. I liken it to ripping off a band-aid. Quick. Done. Never putting that back on. Like you, I am beginning to realise how courageous and strong this action was.
But the wound is taking so long to heal. So long that it becomes disheartening at times. Just when I think I’m doing ok, something happens to drag me back in.
I’ve found this post because today I am ANGRY! I left this man 18 months ago and I’m still dealing with manipulation and verbal abuse. And because I’m not an easy target, he now gets to me through the children. Planting seeds of doubt in them about me. This is hurting more than anything he’s done to me.
Thankfully, I have an amazing sister and an amazing friend who are helping me see how damaging his abuse was and helping me find myself anew.
Wow. Thank you so so much!!! So well explained. I have so often felt close to insanity with what has been called my problem of ‘thinking too much’ …..
and all I was doing, was trying to understand what was happening to me.
Over and over, I keep going back to the question if I’m the narcissist?! But the evidence really shows, nothing could be further from the truth.
You explain so well why I’m stuck in this.
That article has put me at ease, I was worried I am the narcissist. I told my ex she that I didn’t want to continue the relationship last week and she took the car (my car) and drove to her sister’s house. Despite supporting her for 18 months financially, emotionally, physically and rearranging my life to suit her needs she now says via text that she wishes she never knew me and that I am a horrible person to abandon her and take her life away by splitting up with her. I have felt relief and have slept so well in the past days since she has been out of the house but now she wants to keep the car for a month or two. I have never had a breakup so painful and dramatic but hopefully this too shall pass.