Today, we are going to dig into the emotions and specific kinds of behavior that happen inside of the last and most painful part of the cycle: devaluation and discarding.
What is Devaluation in Narcissistic Abuse?
Devaluation is what is happening when a narcissist tears you down emotionally, insults you (outright or covertly), and makes you doubt yourself and your self-worth. This is done as part of the cycle of abuse and when effective, it can cause you to believe you don’t have a chance of finding someone better, or that you’re not worthy of love or consideration.
The malignant narcissist will often use devaluation (as part of the “devalue” phase) to keep you from leaving by implanting negative and false beliefs and ideas about yourself in your head. Some narcissists (those on the “higher” end of the cluster B spectrum of personality disorders who may also be sociopathic or psychopathic) do this on purpose and with full intent and knowledge of their plan to manipulate you. Those on the “lower-end” of the cluster B spectrum often don’t even recognize they’re doing it since it’s part of the standard cycle of abuse. They’re just behaving in a way that feels natural to them. And sadly, devaluation can happen to a “thing” just as easily as a person when a narcissist is involved.
Devalue and Discard: The Painful Part of the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse
You’ve been walking on eggshells for a while now, but it doesn’t seem to matter to the narcissist. They are no longer even polite to you, much less kind. You often find yourself wondering what happened to the amazing person you first met.
These days, you feel like you can’t do anything right. In fact, literally, nothing you say, do, think, or feel is acceptable to them. And as always, the narcissist makes sure you know it. Everything you do elicits the same kinds of responses: anger, irritation, “justified” rage. At some point, you will have learned the hard way that you need to keep your mouth shut, or that you need to react a certain way to minimize this narcissistic rage.
If you call out the narcissist on this behavior – or, God forbid, you somehow prove them wrong, watch out. That’s when they will go ballistic, pulling no punches, digging deep to find a way to hurt you.
During the devalue and discard phases, the narcissist will painfully insult you, picking at your most profound psychological wounds. They will do everything in the power to make sure you know that not only is it your fault but that you are in fact SO flawed and defective that you obviously DESERVE the treatment they’ve been dishing out.
(For the record, that is completely false.) But either way, the narcissist might even tell you, in no uncertain terms and right to your face, that you are so bad/lazy/fat/whore-like that you deserve the way they’re treating you.
They will make it clear that, as far as they’re concerned, you’re not important, and you’re certainly not worth their time. They will imply and even outright say that they don’t respect you. And in every single case, they will minimize anything that really matters to you.
Can your love help the narcissist change?
Meanwhile, you teeter on a precipice somewhere between emotional numbness, deep-down (actually) righteous anger, and hope. You have by now recognized that this phase might end, at least for a while. You know that there’s a cycle in an abusive relationship, and you know that there are bits and pieces of “good” that come with this person. The unfortunate thing is that you also know that there is far more of the painful stuff than the good stuff (at least sometimes). But maybe the good stuff is SO good that you decide to keep trying. Maybe you think that one day you will help them change – or that “when” something happens (“when” the mortgage is paid off, “when” the kids move out, “when” you finally figure out how to be perfect, etc.), THEN they’ll change.
Maybe you think that if you love them hard enough, they will just choose to change. I wish I could tell you that was true. But unfortunately, the truth is that this is probably not going to happen – because narcissists typically do not change. But either way, this ongoing pattern of intermittent reinforcement keeps you hoping – and it keeps you from moving on, which is exactly what the narcissist wants. You hope that this soul-crushing phase will end soon. But every time you get your hopes up for more than a minute, you’re quickly brought back to reality when he next spits his venom at you.
You Start to Go Numb…
Your mind stops thinking as clearly. You find yourself zoning out when they start winding up to another “episode” of abuse. You’re doing this because, in order to survive without going completely insane (which the narcissist seems to be pushing you toward with all of the gaslighting you’re dealing with), you’re learning to stop being as directly affected by this narcissistic abuse by finding a place to go, in your head at least. You literally zone out and just go numb when they start raging on you. You can’t stand to do anything else.
If the threats and fear tactics don’t work the way they hope, the narcissist may shift to behaving like a victim. That’s when he will stop being actively aggressive and switch to a more passive way to manipulate. This is the narcissistic injury tactic.
At this point, life is going to be very difficult for you. You’re likely on your way to being subjected to even more gaslighting and a bunch of other sneaky forms of manipulation.
This often leads to the silent treatment – one of a narcissist’s go-to tools. They will ignore you, withhold affection and call you crazy for desperately trying to fix whatever it is that they’re saying or implying is wrong – even if you have no idea what you’ve done this time.
In the end, the narcissist may leave you, temporarily or permanently. Or, the cycle may begin again – many narcissists go back to the courtship phase following the discard phase.
If you’re one of the “lucky” ones, the narcissist comes back, or they never actually leave. Even if they do leave you, they might not stop abusing you. In either case, once the devalue and discard phases end, you are left reeling. The first several times you experience this part of the cycle, you’ll come out feeling like you were the one who was wrong. Maybe you WERE expecting too much/overreacting/otherwise wrong. Maybe he DID have a point. Maybe you DO need to become a completely different person.
But over time, as the cycle repeats, again and again, you find yourself doubting everything. You begin to notice that nothing ever changes, you just continue the toxic cycle. The cycle is destroying you, one abuse episode at a time. You feel completely lost and you don’t understand why the narcissist has to hurt you.
When You Realize You’re Dealing With a Malignant Narcissist, You Can’t Unsee It.
Now that you know what you’re dealing with, you’ve got things to consider. And you’ve got a choice to make. Do you stick it out, or not? While a lot of people will instantly tell you that you’ve got to leave, there are things you need to consider first. Maybe leaving isn’t an immediate option for you, or maybe you’re just not ready to consider the idea yet.
When You Recognize You’re Dealing with Narcissistic Abuse
As you go forward, you need to take time to decide if you want to continue the relationship. If you are relatively sure the person you’re dealing with is a toxic, malignant narcissist, then you know they are unlikely to change. So, again, you have to decide for sure if this is something you can live with forever – because this abuse cycle is going to go on for as long as the narcissist remains capable of it.
But please understand this: you are not obligated to keep this person in your life! You have the right to have a life that doesn’t make you miserable. Truly, the most important thing to remember is that you’ve got every right to be happy. I don’t mean just “okay” or “not being hit” – I mean you have the right to feel SAFE and HAPPY in your home and in your day-to-day life. You deserve to have peace in your home, and you deserve to be able to feel entirely comfortable in the place you spend your time.
In other words, if the narcissist cannot allow you to do that, or if they otherwise negatively affect your ability to find your bliss, you need to decide if their happiness is more important than your own. And then comes the hard part. You’ve got to take action.
Being in a good frame of mind helps keep one in the picture of health. ~Unknown
You know all about toxic families and toxic friends, but have you ever considered that your own thoughts can become toxic?
This is especially true if you love a narcissist–and even more especially if you live with the narcissist.
We’ve talked before about why it’s important to keep an eye on your thoughts–because you bring about what you think about. So, if you’re focused on all good things, then more good things will come your way. But, if your thoughts become toxic, they can and will draw negativity and toxicity into your life, and can even cause physical side effects if left unchecked.
But when we’re feeling negatively and thinking toxic thoughts–like feeling and nurturing rage, holding grudges or wallowing in guilt or self-pity–our bodies release damaging chemicals. This makes us more susceptible to illness and disease.
Narcissistic rage can further complicate the situation, especially because narcissists typically aren’t aware that they have the ability to BE wrong–and if they are, forget about it–you’re going to have a cranky person dealing with a severe narcissistic injury.
Dr. Caroline Leaf, author of the book Who Switched Off My Brain, says that “stress and anxiety harm the body in a multitude of ways; patchy memory, severe mental health issues, immune system problems, heart problems and digestive problems.”
You may not even realize how often you complain or lament about the things in life you don’t love. Maybe you are frustrated because you had to wait in line for a half hour at the grocery store, or the traffic on your way home from work was so terrible that you actually got out of your car and sat on the hood to get a little sun. Perhaps you found out that your kid failed Science or you didn’t get into the college of your choice–or your dog ate your knitting project.
If you’re a narcissist, you’re probably not reading this anyway–but those of us who are dealing with you are likely to get the brunt of your toxic thoughts. So hey, if you love us, why not try to get a brighter perspective? We’ll love you for it.
And honestly, does it really help you to rehash and focus on these negative things? Nope, it actually hurts you. So, while you should absolutely feel comfortable telling the people you care about what happened to you during the day, try to focus on the positive side of things, even when there doesn’t seem to be one.
For example, if you waited in line at the grocery store, maybe you talked to someone who really needed a good conversation. If you sat in traffic too long–maybe you needed the solitude or you heard your favorite song. You get the idea–find the silver lining in every cloud.
How to Stop Toxic Thoughts: Use Mind Control (On Yourself)
I can’t stress enough how important it is to recognize and monitor your thoughts. You may not even realize how often you think negative thoughts. For example, if your friend wins an award that you wanted, you may think “she must be better than me” or “I deserved that award, not her!” But if you can bring yourself to genuinely congratulate and feel happy for your friend, you’ll not only do her a favor, but yourself too.
If you find yourself FEELING negatively, take a minute to listen to your thoughts. You might be surprised to find out that you may be subconsciously thinking toxic thoughts.
Take control of your mind, because you can. All you need to do is mentally cancel those toxic thoughts and replace them with positive and healthy thoughts that reflect your true desires. (Because whatever you think about and focus on is what you’re drawing toward yourself–so why not think about and focus on what you really want?)
Change Your Scene
When I feel like my thoughts are getting a little toxic, sometimes it helps me to just change the scene around me. Maybe that means just going into a different room or taking a walk–or maybe I need to get in the car and go somewhere. But inevitably, if I make the effort to change my scene, it changes my mind pretty quickly.
Try going out for coffee with a friend, taking a walk or a bath, working out–or even busting out the Wii for a little karaoke or golf. Whatever works for you–just get away from the spot in which you started thinking toxic thoughts for awhile.
What do you do to control and eliminate toxic thoughts? Tell me in the comments section, below, or hit me up on Facebook.
You’re at a party and you notice your husband getting a bit too close to another woman. After the party, you confront him. He tells you to stop being so insecure and controlling; that he’s his own man and if you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have acted like that in the first place. After arguing all night, you end up begging for forgiveness and apologize for the trouble.
Maybe it’s your mom – she’s picking on you like it’s a sport. She’s worried about what you’re wearing, what you’re eating – who you’re hanging out with – but it’s unhealthy. Instead of fighting back, you just suck it up and take it – maybe you’re too sensitive, or perhaps you really are crazy after all. Who can’t take a bit of criticism, anyway?
Or it’s your boss, who told you you had his support on your latest project, only to backpedal when it’s time to present it to the team. Suddenly, he criticizes you for your poor choices and he’s jumnped ship – but when you talk to him later, he tells you it was wrong from the beginning and you need to be more careful in the future. You find yourself wondering if your judgment might really be flawed, after all.
Maybe this stuff doesn’t happen in your life, but for many people, it’s an everyday reality. If you think it could never be you, think again! Some of the most intelligent and capable people are living in painfully toxic relationships with narcissists, and they’re plagued by regular bouts of gaslighting, an insidious form of emotional abuse and manipulation that can be crueler than more obvious forms of abuse because it sort of sneaks up on you.
Because of its insidious nature, gaslighting is one form of emotional abuse that is hard to recognize and even more challenging to break free from. Part of that is because the narcissist exploits one of our greatest fears – the fear of being alone.
You might think that your feelings and thoughts aren’t genuine or relevant to the world, and you might even feel like a big fake when you do try to follow your dreams, simply because you’ve heard for so long that you’re not worthy, whether directly or indirectly.
When I was in my own toxic family situation, I struggled with feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and more. I felt like nothing I did or said was genuine or worth knowing about, like I had to hide who I was in order to conform to the expectations of my toxic family member.
But I learned some important lessons as I began the healing process, and I want to share them with you. If you’re currently in this situation, you may have never heard these things–and when you first read them, you probably won’t even believe them. But these are truths–and you keep reading them until you get it.
Changing your mind will help you to change your life. I’m living proof it works.
Top 10 Things You Need to Know if You’re in a Toxic Relationship with a Narcissist or Sociopath
You get to choose my own identity every day. You decide who you are and how far you go.
You can compromise for someone you love to a certain point when it’s time to choose your priorities and choose a path. But compromise means that both parties bend and both parties are satisfied with the outcome. It’s not compromising to give up what you truly want in order to make someone else happy or to keep them from getting angry at you.
If you were to walk away from the toxic relationship, the world would not end. But it will be very difficult, and you’ll have a lot of soul-searching to do. Personally, I had to reexamine everything I understood to be true.
About the book: Do you find yourself giving all you’ve got and people still want more? Do you sometimes do without what you want or need in order to keep the people around you happy? Are you afraid to deal with confrontation and do you often find it easier to just go with the flow in order to keep the peace?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be a people pleaser. Many people pleasers are also very empathic people, who are especially attractive to toxic types who love to take advantage every chance they get.
In this book, you’ll learn how to stop feeling the need to make everyone else happy and start figuring out what makes you happy, personally, and really – not someone else’s idea of what’s supposed to make you happy,
“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.” ~Anthony J. D’Angelo
Ever notice how spending time with negative people can be absolutely exhausting? And yet, when you spend time with happy, loving people, you come away feeling refreshed.
Which one do you wanna be? I’ll take happy and loving, any day. How about you?
The Negative Co-Worker: How I Accidentally Lost a Friend In my early 20s, I went through some stuff. Ultimately, I got divorced and ended up being a single mom (though four years later, I remarried and had two more kids – we’ve been together 15 years now).
Anyway, back then, I got an office job and quickly met a co-worker fellow single mom.
We instantly clicked and became fast friends and lunch buddies. At first, I did what I do: as an empath, I tend to be able to talk to anyone by bringing myself to their energy levels and finding things we share in common.
But after awhile, I realized that my new friend was kinda…well, negative. Every day at lunch and on breaks, all she would do is complain about all the things that were wrong with her life.
Oh, and if it wasn’t what was wrong with HER, it was what she didn’t like about everyone else in the office.
At first, I tried to influence her in a positive way without actually mentioning to her that the negativity bothered me. And when that didn’t work, I verbally explained that it made me uncomfortable when she gossiped or indulged in a lot of unnecessary negative stuff.
She ignored it. And yeah.
It made me pretty crazy, I’m not going to lie to you. But soon, I got a clue and started joining a larger group for lunch. My friend didn’t like that – she wanted to be one-on-one, and even though I invited her to join me, she never did, instead preferring to eat alone or with one of the temps, now and then.
This co-worker may have even been a narcissist – and an introverted one at that. But not every negative person is a narcissist.
How to deal with negative people (without becoming one)
Is someone’s negativity bringing you down? Every day, you’re most likely exposed to a variety of situations.
Some, you’ll perceive as positive, others neutral, and others negative. If the unpleasant ones seem to be the majority in your life, just know that it’s all up to you – which means YOU can change that.
Is it really possible to stay positive around negative people?
The short answer is yes, it is possible. Keep reading – I”ll explain how.
Can we completely eliminate negative people from our lives?
Up to a point, you can. Unfortunately, a certain number negative experiences can be a natural part of life.
Maybe your boss got up on the wrong side of the bed today and is a bit cranky. Or maybe your spouse had a rough day at work and is being really vocal about it – or the kids are fighting (again) over something that seems pointless.
These types of situations can set you up for potential negative experiences.
So how do you respond when you’re dealing with someone who is negative?
6 Good-Mood Hacks for Dealing with Negative People
Try the following strategies to help you get centered and try to stay positive around negative people.
1. Step back. Acknowledge that getting involved in negativity is not good for you. The first thing to do is recognize the results of jumping into the stream of negativity. If you truly connect with the idea that you wish to bring only positivity into your life, you’ll be more focused on making efforts to do so.
Commit to yourself that you’ll do whatever is necessary to avoid engaging with negativity. Having the awareness that negativity runs counter to your life goals will motivate you to abstain from participating in it.
2. Listen well; then withhold comment. Others’ negative remarks can feel quite seductive. Many of us allow ourselves to be pulled in to the emotional experience of the situation being discussed. However, if you listen actively, but refrain from commenting, you can avoid making the experience your own.
Plus, those who are bringing negativity your way will avoid doing so in the future since you didn’t sign on with their emotional reactions and did nothing to reinforce them.
3. Change the subject. When you’ve just heard some unsavory words, why not bring up something that’s less stressful and more positive? For example, if your co-worker says she’s annoyed with your supervisor, you could ask her how another project she’s pleased to be working on is progressing.
4. If you’re in a group, simply ignore the negativity. Most likely, if there are two or three others present when an nonconstructive discussion starts up, you can get by with ignoring the negativity or excusing yourself from the room. Sometimes, you can express the most by saying nothing at all.
5. Make an effort to be involved in something else. Involving yourself in something that matters to you is a great method of subliminally refusing to participate in others’ negativity. Look through your handbag for that receipt you couldn’t find last night. Search your briefcase for your schedule book or that file with the information you wanted earlier.
6. Psychologically reinforce your efforts. Say to yourself, “You handled that really well.” or “It was a great idea to leave the table when they all started criticizing how the boss handled something.”
Allow yourself to feel proud of yourself about not joining in with the negativity around you. Avoid letting others’ negativity bring you down.
Instead, recognize that you’d rather not be exposed to such situations and people. When negativity blooms around you, listen and say nothing, change the subject, or ignore it. Reinforce your efforts to avoid habitual negativity every single day, and you can say good-bye to nonconstructive thoughts.
What would you add? What do you consider the best ways to stay positive around negative people? Share your thoughts in the comments, below.