Narcissists don’t really love themselves. Actually, they’re driven by shame. It’s the idealised image of themselves, which they convince themselves they embody, that they admire.
But deep down, narcissists feel the gap between the façade they show the world and their shame-based self. They work hard to avoid feeling shame. To fill this gap, narcissists use destructive defense mechanisms that destroy relationships and cause pain and damage to their loved ones.
– Danu Morrigan
Many of the narcissist’s coping mechanisms are abusive–hence the term “narcissistic abuse.” However, someone can be abusive, but not be a narcissist. Addicts and people with other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder and antisocial personality disorder similar to the older term, sociopathy and borderline personality disorders can also be abusive, as are many co-dependents without a mental illness. Abuse is abuse, no matter what the abuser’s diagnosis is.
If you’re a victim of abuse, the main challenges for you are:
1. Clearly identifying it.
2. Building a support system.
3. Learning how to strengthen and protect yourself.
Abuse may be emotional, mental, physical, financial, spiritual, or sexual. Here are a few examples of abuse you may not have identified:
– Mateo Sol
Narcissism and the severity of abuse exist on a continuum. It may range from ignoring your feelings to violent aggression. Typically, narcissists don’t take responsibility for their behavior and shift the blame to you or others; however, some do self-reflect and are capable of feeling guilt.
Someone with more narcissistic traits who behaves in a malicious, hostile manner is considered to have “malignant narcissism.” Malignant narcissists aren’t bothered by guilt. They can be sadistic and take pleasure in inflicting pain. They can be so competitive and unprincipled that they engage in anti-social behavior. Paranoia puts them in a defensive-attack mode as a means of self-protection.
Malignant narcissism can resemble sociopathy. Sociopaths have malformed or damaged brains. They display narcissistic traits, but not all narcissists are sociopathic. Their motivations differ. Whereas narcissists prop up an ideal persona to be admired, sociopaths change who they are in order to achieve their self-serving agenda. They need to win at all costs and think nothing of breaking social norms and laws. They don’t attach to people as narcissists do. Narcissists don’t want to be abandoned. They are co-dependent on others’ approval, but sociopaths can easily walk away from relationships that don’t serve them. Although some narcissists will occasionally plot to obtain their objectives, they’re usually more reactive than sociopaths, who coldly calculate their plans.
– Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist and author
The more of the above behaviors and feelings you recognise, the more likely it is that you are in fact experiencing narcissistic abuse.
If you’re in a present or past relationship with a narcissist, I will empathetically listen to you, while supporting you to understand clearly what’s going on and facilitate you to rebuild your self-esteem and confidence, and to learn to effectively set boundaries.
Boundaries are tools for building cooperation in relationships, for letting others know what you want and for letting them know which options are available to them (for getting what they want). Set boundaries when you want behaviours to change and wish to avoid negative, stressful behaviours such as nagging, yelling, threatening or punishing to get what you want. Whether you use boundaries in relationships with children or other adults, the characteristics of boundaries and dynamics of boundary setting are the same.
Understanding what has happened to you and recovering and healing from narcissist abuse is not a linear progression. Healing is a journey. We will explore the root of the subconscious programs and trapped emotional energy which keep your patterns of obsession, addictions, defences, learned helplessness and repeated attractions to abusive relationships and situations in your life. There is an addictive aspect to relationships with narcissists and an aspect of our work together is understanding the brain chemistry that we addict ourselves to, which can keep “trauma-drama” a constant companion in our lives.
– Bree Bonchay