“To be rendered powerless doesn’t destroy your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity. The only people who lose their humanity are those who believe they have the right to render another human being powerless. They are the weak. To yield and not break, that is incredible strength.” ~Hannah Gadsby
Have you lost yourself during an abusive, toxic relationship with a narcissist?
Going through a toxic relationship with a narcissist can tear you apart and make you feel so beaten down that it feels impossible to recover. At a minimum, you are left feeling devastated, frustrated, headachy, jittery, drained, straight-up exhausted…the list goes on. The pain can seem so bad that you feel cursed. And who could blame you?
It’s awful how someone you loved so deeply could walk away from you without so much as a backward glance. And as they rush around scooping up everything they own maybe including the clothes off your back, it’s almost like they are abusing you all over again! But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are techniques, tactics, coping mechanisms that allow you to feel in control again and to help you reclaim your life after narcissistic abuse.
What is narcissistic abuse?
Narcissistic abuse is a pervasive, covert type of abuse that involves the exploitation and psychological abuse of one partner in a toxic relationship. This kind of abuse can affect a personal connection, such as marriage, partnership, friendship, or family relationships. When you’re dealing with a narcissist in the family, they will often abuse everyone in the household and even affect the extended family members. Even professional relationships and acquaintanceships can be affected by narcissistic abuse.
While narcissistic abuse can result in profound emotional and psychological harm, as well as long-term physical effects, the covert nature can make it difficult to spot and even more challenging to manage. Worse, if you find yourself involved in this kind of relationship, your self-confidence and self-worth are often so low by the time you realize it, you can’t or won’t leave.
The Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Process, Explained
You finally understand that these were textbook narcissistic abuse methods! You also learn how to recover from a narcissist because whether or not it’s a conscious and intentional choice or a cluster B personality disorder causing trouble in your life and your relationship, the narcissist is focused on hurting you.
First, take the time to mourn the relationship.
I’ve always felt that the best way to get through narcissistic abuse recovery begins with some time for a mourning period, with an end date in mind. Depending on the length and nature of your relationship, you may need a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months. If possible, take a little time off work to “launch” your period of mourning, and then maybe a few days at the end of your chosen mourning period.
Then, think like a scientist: research and notice the patterns.
I’ve often mentioned that you need to look at a situation logically before you can understand the emotions that go along with it. What I mean is that to really push through the most painful parts, you can sort of look at the details like a scientist. Think about the psychology of the narcissist, just a bit. Look at and notice the pattern in their behavior, and d some research. You’ll find that what they’re doing might look a lot like a playbook. And then you’re going to want to look at yourself and your own psychology in the same way. Figure out what led you to be vulnerable to the narcissist in your life and notice the patterns that allowed you to stick around as long as you did. Chances are that it might have begun in childhood.
Next, identify and name the narcissist’s behaviors.
For me, being able to identify and name the narcissist’s manipulation tactics sort of took the sting out of the situation a bit, on some level. When I was able to understand the psychology of a toxic relationship, and to sort of look at it “like a scientist” – logically, as opposed to emotionally – I could connect my emotions to the facts.
Then, connect your past to your present.
Find the connection between your past trauma to your present circumstances. That was a big part of stopping the pain and the addiction to the narcissist for me, and I’ve found that my clients usually find it most effective to follow a similar path along their healing journies. It also helped me to learn everything I could about my own psychology (and about codependency, C-PTSD, and the related side-effects) and then to uncover and understand exactly which parts of my life were among the most traumatic and life-changing. Then, I needed to understand exactly how those events and circumstances might have led to my current understanding of both myself and my life. This helped me to work on understanding and learning how to have healthier self-esteem and to recognize that I deserve at least basic respect and that I could choose to set boundaries that make me feel comfortable and safe.
How do you get over the narcissist with the least amount of emotional pain?
When you step back and take a look at all of the things you need to do for narcissistic abuse recovery, it can be distressing to think about how long it will take. However, recovering from narcissistic abuse is not impossible! I believe that with the right mindset and the right tools, you can speed up your recovery time.
What’s the most important thing that you have to do AFTER your break up with the narcissist? There is no instant, painless quick-fix for narcissistic abuse. There is no magical undo button that will erase the effects of psychological manipulation and abuse, nor there is such a thing as an “easy way out” or a fast recovery time.
One of the (many) downfalls of relationships with narcissists is that they keep us hooked with intermittent reinforcement, which, combined with long-game gaslighting and manipulation of our realities, makes it extremely difficult to realize the severity of a situation and deny a painful reality.
Even though there is no magic pill to relieve ourselves of the after-effects of narcissistic abuse, and even though we can’t just snap our fingers and get recovery over with right away, it doesn’t mean we can’t make things better in the process.
The narcissist has hurt you deeply, carved out huge chunks of your soul, and left you absolutely spinning. You don’t even know who you are anymore. You want to scream out loud “Why ME?!” You start to feel like you’re cursed. The pain is unbelievable, excruciating…and it lasts for months upon months. It’s like having shards of glass in your heart…
The only thing standing between you and the healthier, happier future you desire is the narcissist. So where do you begin?
Narcissistic abuse is a difficult thing to endure, but you’re not cursed. You’re a strong survivor and it won’t be long before the best parts of yourself emerge from the fog of manipulation and control. The pain will lessen with time…even if it feels like it will never end. But don’t give up – the journey to feeling whole again is more than worth the effort, I promise you. You can get help from a therapist or a coach, or you can join one of many online support groups for narcissistic abuse recovery.
Question of the Day: What have been your biggest hurdles in narcissistic abuse recovery, and how did you overcome them? Or, if you’re currently struggling, what’s slowing you down? Let me know – maybe I can help! Share your thoughts, share your ideas and your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it.
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Why are narcissists and codependents attracted to one another?
There IS a toxic and magnetic attraction between narcissists and codependents – but WHY? Ross Rosenberg, the author of The Human Magnet Syndrome, explains the truth about why narcissists and codependents are so attracted to each other and why, if you don’t take the time to heal before getting into another relationship, you’ll end up with another narcissist.
Plus, we’ll talk about the chemical attraction between SLDs and narcissists and why we are so likely to want to stick around, as well as why the words codependent and empath are not synonymous.
How does attachment theory relate to the Human Magnet Syndrome?
“I rely on attachment theory in order to explain the process,” he said. “(To put it) simply, attachment theory explains that our psychological health or ill health is caused by the manner in which we were loved, respected, and cared for during our critical ages of development, between birth and up to eight years old.”
“And if we endure psychological harm. abuse, neglect, mental manipulation – or we are deprived or neglected or abandoned, we don’t get to attach to a nurturing parent figure,” Rosenberg continued. “Without that attachment, we don’t develop the potential to be healthy high functioning adults. So if you were raised by a narcissist and loved conditionally and had to mold yourself into the type of trophy the narcissist needed in order to get anything, you will not have experienced positive and nurturing attachment.”
That, he said, will impact your psychological health, while your adulthood experiences would also have an impact on your adult relationship choices.
“So attachment theory explains through my Human Magnet Syndrome book why SLDs or codependents always choose narcissists – because they only experience that type of love,” Rosenberg said, adding that SLDs or codependents tend to respond to and are attracted to people that fit what he calls the relationship template that they experience in their childhood.
“That’s how chemistry is,” he said. “If a child who was brought up by the pathological narcissist and who did not attach in a way that would be healthy is going to find the narcissist as familiar and paradoxically safe because they know and have experienced their whole life living with that person and they know what to do.”
Why did Ross Rosenberg create the term human magnet syndrome?
The book cover on Rosenberg’s The Human Magnet Syndrome is symbolic, he told me, as it features hearts coming together and trapped within barbed wire.
“I came up with the term to explain why codependents or SLDs predictably reflexively fall in love with narcissists,” he said. “Talking about attachment, there it is the matching of relationship templates.”
What is the narcissist/codependent relationship template?
Rosenberg explained that most codependents or SLDs would have an intrinsic understanding that to love someone and to be loved, “you have to be silent, acquiescent, constantly vulnerable, and moldable.”
“You also need to be constantly interested in a person who’s not interested in you,” he said. “That’s just the way you understand relationships.”
“And then a narcissist understands relationships (will believe that) that people want to hear what they have to say. (People want) to enjoy their accomplishments; that they want to be told how great a person is – which of course is not true – but that’s what narcissists think.”
“So when the two people meet their opposites, one gives away love, respect, and caring. And (the other) one needs all the love, respect, and caring, these two opposites, through this unconscious process – chemistry – come together almost all the time,” Rosenberg said.
Codependents, Pathological Narcissists and Chemistry
“Codependents, SLDs, will almost always be attracted to through chemistry to a narcissist and narcissist to a codependent,” Rosenberg explained.
“That pull is the attraction process of two people feeling so comfortable,” he said. “Like a dance partnership, the leader needs a follower, the follower needs a leader, and the recognition of that on unconscious levels brings them together like two magnets.”
Rosenberg explained that he chose to reconceptualize and then rename codependency in a way that actually makes sense to people who are suffering from it. He wanted to identify the problem (of codependency) so that people could intuitively connect with and understand and offer them direction on what to do to deal with it.
Are codependents (SLDs) blameless victims of pathological narcissists?
“One of the things that sets me apart from most of my contemporaries talking about the subject is (that) I hold SLDs or codependents responsible,” Rosenberg, a former SLD himself, explained, adding that, “You cannot solve a problem if you share the responsibility, don’t know it or are in denial about it, and want to just blame the perpetrator.”
He said that focusing on being a victim is not helpful in recovery, so taking responsibility for your part in the relationship is key.
Are all codependents empaths?
Rosenberg strongly stated that not all codependents are empaths. And that, in fact, there’s no true connection between the two. So to understand the difference between empaths and codependents; first, we need to define empathy and codependency.
What is empathy?
There are three different types of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate. Emotional and compassionate empathy seem to be intrinsic for most people, and anyone can learn cognitive empathy. So an adult empath would be able to logically understand what a person feels and be emotionally affected by what they feel. That person’s emotions would also move them to take action to help them deal with what they feel.
What is codependency?
Codependency is when you are dependent on another person in unhealthy ways. In most cases, it seems to be affected by some form of trauma that often occurred in childhood; it is considered a behavioral condition as it inhibits your ability to have a healthy and mutually satisfying relationship. A good synonym for codependency might actually be relationship addiction because codependents tend to be perpetually involved in one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive relationships.
Rosenberg on Codependency vs. Empathy
“I completely do not support the term empaths (in relation to codependency) because it’s a candy-coated term that makes the SLD or codependent feel good about themselves, when in fact SLDs have significant psychological problems. Significant!” Rosenberg said. “Without the resolution of that. they will always choose the narcissist – and they will over and over again.”
“They will almost always stay with the narcissist despite the fact that they’re not happy and they’re being hurt,” he said. “And then if they should leave or should be left, they will then choose another narcissist,” he said.
This is why it is so important to understand that self-love deficit disorder or codependency is a psychological disorder that is motivated through volition, he explained, adding that while there’s absolutely no excuse for abuse, as long as people play the victim card and look to books and videos that focus on demonizing narcissists and glorifying “the sacrificing poor SLD or codependent, no one gets better.”
“It holds them accountable in a non-judgmental empathetic, and compassionate way,” he said. “In my book, I explained this is why you are an SLD or codependent. You were hurt badly, and until you saw that trauma that happened when you were a child, you’re going to play out that script for the rest of your life.”
How can you learn more about healing after narcissistic abuse from Ross Rosenberg?
If you’re interested in hearing more about what Ross Rosenberg has to say about healing after narcissistic abuse, please subscribe to this channel and stay tuned for the rest of this series. Of course, you can also visit the Self-Love Institute, get his book, The Human Magnet Syndrome, on Amazon, and attend his upcoming 50 Shades of Pathological Narcissism event.
Get help with narcissistic abuse recovery right now.
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. It offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery and some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
There has been a bit of confusion in the narcissistic abuse recovery community around codependency and dependent personality disorder. A question I received from one of our community members prompted me to clarify the differences and similarities between the two. The confusion seems to be that some people think that codependency and dependent personality disorder are the same or similar, sort of like how someone with toxic, abusive behaviors and narcissistic traits may or may not be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.
However, in the case of codependency and dependent personality disorder, there are only a few similarities, but many differences. If you have wondered this about yourself, here’s what you need to know.
What is Codependency?
Do you struggle with doing anything independently and feeling secure when you’re alone? Do you need to be with others, or do you find yourself feeling overly connected to a partner, friend, or family member (or any one person in particular) because the idea of being alone frightens you? Do you need to be in a relationship? Do you tolerate abuse and other behaviors in your relationship? Have you stuck it out, regardless of the toxicity of it? Do you go out of your way to please others? If so, then you might be struggling with codependency.
Codependency is a toxic emotional and behavioral condition that makes it nearly impossible to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form and stay in relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive. In other words, codependency is an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, most often a toxic one.
What is a Codependent?
We call someone who struggles with codependency a codependent, which means a person in a toxic or dysfunctional “helping” relationship, in which one person supports and/or enables the person’s abuse, addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, and/or under-achievement.
Codependents are often people pleasers.
If you are codependent, you’ll find yourself making significant sacrifices to make your partner happy, no matter how much you suffer. You do this because on some level, you need your partner to need you, and you somehow base your self-worth on whether or not your partner needs you.
When someone is codependent, they have a tendency to stay in the relationship no matter how toxic, at least before they recognize this issue. Sadly, due to their nature, many codependents end up in toxic relationships with narcissists.
If you’re facing narcissistic abuse, your codependency could be the factor that is causing you not to leave. You might even feel guilty if you were to express your wants and needs, so you keep sacrificing them to please your partner.
But does being codependent mean you have DPD? No, there is a difference. Let’s talk about DPD right now.
What Is Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)?
When you first learn about DPD, you might think it’s just a formal diagnosis of codependency. But according to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s an anxious personality disorder, and there’s a lot more to it than that. In short, someone with DPD feels generally helpless, like they can’t take care of themselves at all.
If you have DPD, you would be highly dependent on others, and you will rely on others to make decisions for you. You are afraid to be alone and you worry that you might not be okay if you do find yourself going solo. You also do whatever you can to make the people around you like you, including but not limited to not disagreeing with them, even if you’re not on the same page. As with codependency, you might also have a fear of abandonment.
With DPD, you aren’t likely to speak up for yourself and you might avoid arguments by agreeing with others even if you secretly don’t agree with what someone wants to do. As you would with codependency, you’d be likely to stick with an unhealthy relationship due to the fear of being alone.
What Are The Differences Between DPD And Codependency?
Now, let’s talk about the differences between DPD and codependency. First, DPD is a personality disorder, whereas codependency is a behavior.
If you are codependent, you want to take care of your partner, and you will do whatever you can to keep them around – even if they are going out of their way to hurt you. You’d feel more connected if your partner really needed you, and you would sacrifice your wants and needs to take care of them. While you might need people to need you, you’re also happy to do all of the work involved in whatever that entails. You’re a fixer, a helper. Growing up, your friends might have always come to you for advice and considered you the “mom” or “dad” of your group. You’re the one everyone counts on.
If you have DPD, you need others to take care of you. You wouldn’t know what to do if your partner needed you to do something for them. You wouldn’t be likely to tolerate excessive emotional, psychological, or physical abuse in order to maintain the relationship as someone who is codependent might. People with DPD sometimes act helpless and refuse to handle their adult responsibilities, preferring to have them taken care of by someone else.
How to Get Help with DPD and Codependency
Is there any hope for you if you’re struggling with DPD or codependency? Can you get help for either one? Yes, you can get to the road of independence, but it will take plenty of time, effort, and utilizing the right therapeutic sources. Here are some resources to help you.
Is toxic narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder always caused by bad parenting? Is it possible that a person raised by healthy, loving parents in a good, decent home could become a narcissist? Could someone turn into a narcissist as an adult? I’ll answer all of your questions in this video.
If you are in any way related to or otherwise involved with a narcissist, you’ve probably asked yourself at one time or another how they got that way, right? What made them a narcissist? How did they GET LIKE THIS?
And, if you’re like me, you needed to know in order to heal. So, you did your research and you found out that in most cases, it is related to their parents – and sadly, most often, to their mothers or primary caregivers and their attachment styles. That’s why, when you think of any narcissist, the first thing that likely goes through your mind is how badly their parents messed them up.
Because of the fact that most narcissists seem to stop developing emotionally when they are toddlers or middle schoolers at best, and because most research points to the fact that their parents did not give them the love and attention they needed in order to evolve, which led to their emotional immaturity, it’s easy to blame their mothers or parents in general.
But if you’re the parent or sibling of someone who might be a narcissist, and you know for sure that these issues don’t apply to them, you might doubt this theory and find yourself digging for an alternative possibility. And what about those families that have more than one child, and only one turned out to be a toxic narcissist? Or what about people who had good families and didn’t suffer any trauma in childhood?
You want to know if it’s ALWAYS the fault of the parents, right? Well, let’s talk about it.
Are parents always at fault when someone develops narcissistic traits?
Published research studies tell us that the area of the brain that controls emotional empathy and compassion is thinner in those who have NPD than in those who don’t. So, neurology as well as genetic predisposition will have an effect on how a person’s personality turns out.
And then you have situations where their parents who really did their absolute best to raise their children right, but due to their jobs or other responsibilities, might inadvertently neglect their emotional needs, which leads to their child developing a narcissistic personality. They may be clothed and fed well and taken care of when they are sick, and they may have all of the material things in the world – but the parents may not have given them the love and attention they felt they needed.
In these cases, the parents were clearly not in any way abusive. It may have been due to the fact that they had other kids, or they had a sick parent to take care of, or they had a demanding job that was necessary to support the family.
Of course, there are also times when narcissists end up becoming that way because of parents who were, believe it or not, overly validating (such as praising a child when the child may not have deserved it) and overly permissive. These parents may have not provided enough limits or discipline for their kids. And while some kids will sort of naturally self-limit, others won’t, and in some cases, they may become narcissists themselves as a result.
Research on How People Who Weren’t Abused or Neglected by Parents Can Become Narcissists
A 2015 study points to the fact that some parents might have overly praised their kids when they might not deserve it, or have always focused on how much “better” their kids were than other kids. And in some cases, they might have simply given too much attention and indulgence and not enough discipline.
“Loving your child is healthy and good,” as one of the study authors, Brad Bushman, a psychology professor at Ohio State University points out, “but thinking your child is better than other children can lead to narcissism, and there is nothing healthy about narcissism.”
In these situations, kids will often develop an overblown sense of entitlement, which they carry into adulthood. In many cases, they were also not required to show any empathy, nor were they asked to check their egos at the door.
This can happen in a number of situations, for example, being overly permissive with and over-praising children are often reported with only children. Please note that this isn’t always the case and that in fact, it is relatively rare. In some cases, though definitely not all, it can be a bigger issue when parents have struggled to get pregnant or when they’re adopted after a long struggle with infertility, or when they are born prematurely or with other issues that caused their parents to fear for their lives .among others.
And of course, in both the case of the adopted child who is older than newborn at the time of adoption and in the case of the premature or otherwise sick child who spends weeks or months in the hospital after birth, their attachment styles can be affected. That’s because parents aren’t able to connect on the same level as they would normally, so they develop a less healthy attachment style, which goes back to the original theory of the attachment style predicting narcissism.
Sometimes, people become narcissistic that has nothing to do with the parents at all. For example, if a child was ruthlessly bullied at school, or if someone else in their lives caused trauma in any way for them. In these cases, while their parents could have been loving and caring, the trauma they experienced at the hands of bullies or other outsiders could certainly have also been a risk factor for them becoming narcissistic.
And then there are those who end up with something we call acquired situational narcissism.
What Is Acquired Situational Narcissism?
So, we know that it might be possible that someone who was raised in a relatively healthy home by decent parents, but who had other traumas and issues, to become a narcissist. But what other situations could lead to toxic narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder?
And if so, what other types of situations and factors can play into it? Let’s talk about it.
Research on Acquired Situational Narcissism
Research published back in 1996 points to a condition that is referred to as transient, temporary, or short-term narcissism. And even before 1996, psychologists often recognized something they called “reactive narcissistic regression,” which meant that when someone was dealing with a big life crisis, they might end up going through a sort of temporary narcissistic phase where they’d behave like a toxic narcissist until the crisis was over.
And, according to what I’ve found in this and other published research papers, these types of temporary narcissism can also be triggered by medical conditions and even injuries. For example, traumatic brain injury (TBI) has often been linked to narcissistic behaviors and antisocial traits in people who had not previously displayed them.
How to Identify Acquired Situational Narcissism
So what does acquired situational narcissism (ASN) look like in real life? Well, do you know someone who is normally quite humble, but who ended up getting a high-end job and makes a lot of money, or who suddenly ranks high socially, or who ends up gaining celebrity status out of the blue? In these situations, many people are able to keep their heads on straight, but others will seem to sort of lose their humility.
In fact, according to Robert B. Millman, a professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical School, this is what acquired situational narcissism looks like. He points to known narcissists who are among the billionaires, people who become suddenly famous or who manage to rise to aspirational levels in their careers who develop narcissism in adulthood.
Millman adds that celebrities and other suddenly wealthy people will often have lives that are outside of what we’d consider typical. Plus, they might be surrounded by “yes men,” who will ensure that they are given filtered feedback, excessive admiration and are never told “no” for any reason. Plus, anytime someone is a celebrity or a CEO or otherwise wealthy, they might be sought after in ways that will cause them to feel more important or better than others. All of this is like narcissistic supply on steroids if you think about it.
And, let’s not forget celebrities and other public figures might feel a certain amount of pressure from the public – fans and haters alike – to present a certain image and to live a certain lifestyle.
An Example of Acquired Situational Narcissism
A good example of this is the guy you grew up with who was considered a nerd and who was often picked on, but who grew up and invented some big app, or he created a YouTube channel that somehow got a bazillion subscribers and brought him fame, or he became an actor or singer – or who otherwise found himself a celebrity. In any case, this formerly geeky guy managed to attain success to the point he began to be recognized in public, or he suddenly became a member of the social elite for whatever reason.
As soon as he found himself outgrowing that geeky, quiet image, he suddenly felt like a whole new person. Maybe he went a little overboard and started to focus too much on his self-image, and on his own needs and wants. This, along with the fact that his life is very different from the average person’s (as the lives of all public figures will be), might cause him to lose any sense of compassion and emotional empathy he once had. That might lead to him being unconcerned with the “little people” to the point that he would end up inadvertently or directly abusing the people closest to him without remorse. So, while his transition wouldn’t happen as a child, he still would essentially have developed his narcissism the same way that any other narcissist did – just not in childhood.
But why does this happen to some people and not others?
Well, according to Millman, while it is possible to develop narcissism in adulthood for these reasons, among others, acquired situational narcissism is most likely to happen when there were already some pre-existing factors that would have led to narcissism under the right circumstances. All of this means that, at least in some cases, narcissism can be developed by people who had good, healthy upbringings – and that it isn’t, in fact, always the fault of the parents.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a narcissist or a toxic person of any sort, you might have some experience with seeing the narcissist’s false self – and with being aware that there is a difference between the person the narcissist shows to the world at large and the one that lives at home behind closed doors.
But if you stick around long enough for them to become comfortable with you, a shocking and upsetting thing happens: their mask comes off and you see the true face of the narcissist. And believe me – it’s not pretty!
Today, let’s discuss the narcissist’s false self, how it develops and exactly what you are supposed to do with this information.
The Narcissist’s False Self Begins in Childhood
When you are born, you express yourself through instinct. On so many levels, that is your true self. Your instinct is to live which means you need to be fed, changed, and cuddled every few hours. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but if your parents did the best they could and cared for you properly, then you would be showing your true self or authentic self.
But narcissists never show their true selves. In fact, they are living through what I’d call their false self.
Now don’t get me wrong here – just like you, the narcissist was born expressing themselves through instinct as well. But if they were not nurtured properly and were denied the things they needed, then they’d develop their false self and that is how they show themselves.
That happens because when an infant is not given what they need and are not nurtured the way they need to be nurtured, they are on their way to not being authentic in any way at all.
It is possible that one of their parents was a narcissist and in that case, their needs would not be met. They would be given responses of disapproval over and over again. If the child attempted to show their authenticity, it would be shot down.
On the flip side, maybe they were too indulged and never had proper discipline and balance. That can be damaging as well. Either way, along the way, their authentic self was replaced by an artificial persona. As they grow up, they begin to build a false set of relationships that are all based on a facade they show.
The false self is a protective mechanism that protects narcissists as children from feeling their dependency needs that were unmet. So, the false self blocks feelings of shame that the narcissist had from only having conditional love from their parents. It is also a way to prevent them from remembering any trauma or shock that is associated with being abandoned, neglected, or abused.
What Are The False Self Characteristics?
Those who are living through their false self can appear charming, well-mannered, and polite. Some part of you may see through this as their facade does not reveal who they really are – but it is easy to fall for this facade, even for the most intelligent people. Their false self had stopped them from feeling any type of empathy at all as all they cared about was having their own needs met, which never happened during childhood. And you can see how narcissists show their false self. That is because their authentic self is dead, empty, and there is nothing to offer.
Now you have an understanding of why narcissists have an inflated ego and can be abusive if they don’t get what they want and need – as in if they don’t get narcissistic supply. Now you also can see how the narcissist goes into fits of narcissistic rage when they are threatened with having their supply taken away or are rubbed the wrong way. And now you understand why they are insecure and how they would never allow their true selves to come out because it puts them to shame otherwise.
Why There’s So Much Confusion in Toxic Relationships
Because the narcissist nearly always hides behind this sort of “armor” that is the “false self,” they manage to fool you from very early on.
Your first impression of the narcissist was likely a very good one; that’s because he or she showed you only the best parts of themselves when you met – they constructed a series of qualities and traits that are those they present to the outside world.
This, along with their grandiosity and need for attention, can make it very difficult to see who they truly are – you’re stuck deciding whether you’ve really got the sweet and charming love you signed up for, or whether the wool was pulled over your eyes and the real him or her is actually the toxic, abusive, insulting and manipulative narcissist you’re dealing with in real life.
Of course, this leads you to a serious kind of mental torture that causes you to literally be at odds with yourself – we call that cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive Dissonance in Narcissistic Abuse
Cognitive dissonance is form of psychological stress or discomfort that happens when you simultaneously hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. Often affects narcissists as well as their victims at different times and for very different reasons. So basically, when you’re dealing with cognitive dissonance, you are, for all intents and purposes, actively trying to reconcile the illusion you were initially presented with the person you have now got to deal with.
How Cognitive Dissonance Works Against You in a Toxic Relationship
In a lot of cases, in order to cope with this mess, you start trying to improve your SELF. Instead of recognizing that you’re dealing with a toxic person, you find yourself desperately trying to change yourself into something the narcissist seems to want and need. You blame yourself for their bad behavior – and that’s partly because they tell you it’s your fault. On the other side of the coin is the simple fact that some part of you KNOWS you can’t change the narcissist, but you care about them and you want to make it work. You DO know that you can change yourself, and so you go about the business of doing that.
Here’s the thing. In reality, some part of you must also recognize that you’re not the problem here. In fact, you’ve done nothing wrong and if you did, it was probably simply a reaction to the narcissist’s abuse. All you’re doing is trying to keep your relationship together, and on some level, you’re just subconsciously trying to uphold that initial impression you had of the narcissist – the image of his or her false self that is challenged during the inevitable devaluation phase.
Narcissistic Abuse and the Discard Phase
By the time you get to the discard phase (which, sadly is also inevitable with a narcissistic person – the cycle, like the beat, goes on), you’ll be treated to glimpses of the truly ugly face of the narcissist – the one that spews out the cruel and painful poison that causes you to lose all faith in yourself faster than you can say boo.
You become painfully aware of the coldness, the callous indifference that leads to what feels like absolute torture to you.
While your first reaction is that everyone has a bad moment and this can’t be who they really are, the truth is that this is probably the closest you’ll come to actually seeing the narcissist’s REAL self.
This is about the time you recognize that the amazingly charming or engaging or otherwise awesome person you got involved with in the first place is gone – and suddenly you see this horrible contempt that they seem to have developed for you. And when you realize they felt that way all along, your heart breaks a little more, if that’s possible.
But what you have to realize here is that none of this is your fault. In reality, narcissists are not capable of feeling genuine love or empathy for anyone else – they just use people to meet their own selfish needs. Once they exhaust one source of supply, it’s on to the next.
Don’t let yourself believe in the magical connection you once thought you had – it was just a part of the whole narcissistic abuse cycle – an illusion, just like the narcissist’s identity.
How to Deal with the Narcissist’s False Self
So now that you know all of this, what do you do with it? Well, you start picking up the pieces of yourself, and you begin the healing process.
In this video, you’ll also find a portion of a previous video attached to help you do exactly that. Remember this: You aren’t to blame – you were simply used as a pawn in the narcissist’s game. You are going to go forward, and when or if you can, you might want to go no contact (or low contact, if you’re forced to deal with them – say at work or as a co-parent).
Additional Resources for Understanding the Narcissist and the False Self
Question of the Day: What have your experiences been when it comes to the narcissist in your life and his or her identity? Share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments section below this video. Let’s discuss it.