Intermittent Reinforcement: #1 Way Narcissists Control and Manipulate You

Intermittent Reinforcement: #1 Way Narcissists Control and Manipulate You

If you’re in a toxic relationship with a malignant narcissist, you probably feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster.

Do ever feel like you can’t control your emotions, or are you worried because your feelings have been all over the place for years?

You might be dealing with intermittent reinforcement as a form of manipulation from the narcissist in your life.

What is intermittent reinforcement?

Intermittent reinforcement is a pattern of callous treatment mixed in with random bursts of affection. This behavior may lead you to believe the narcissist loves you, but in reality, it’s just another way they manipulate you.

In other words, the narcissist (whether they’re a grandiose or a covert narcissist) gives you the illusion of being loved and cared for by behaving in a loving way between intermittent bursts of abuse.

Worse, intermittent reinforcement can leave you confused and disoriented since it’s unclear why the narcissist has “rewarded” you. This devastates your self-esteem as you realize that can never do or say enough to please the narcissist.

It’s part of the cycle of trauma bonding and why we get so stuck in toxic relationships. If someone in your life has NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) or at least recognizable traits, you might be used as narcissistic supply.

The narcissist might be generous with gifts, compliments, or praise to get their victims to trust and depend upon them.

Unpredictable and random acts of affection are followed by cruel behavior, but the cycle continues as though nothing has happened.

In this episode, Angie Atkinson will explain how to recognize signs of intermittent reinforcement in a toxic relationship with a narcissist and what you can do to deal with it.

Above all, remember this: We’re all humans. We all make mistakes, and we all hurt each other at times; it’s what makes us human, but that doesn’t excuse how someone treats you.!

If you find yourself in a cycle of abuse, do something about it. You don’t deserve to be treated like this!

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

8 Distinctive Tricks to Immediately Change Your Emotional State

8 Distinctive Tricks to Immediately Change Your Emotional State

When you’re a survivor of narcissistic abuse, you may have trouble managing your emotional state, especially if you’re deep in the throes of grief and anxiety as you transition to life without the narcissist. Issues connected to C-PTSD and other after-effects of the trauma you’ve just experienced will run rampant in your mind and body until you find a way to heal. 

In the meantime, there are so many things you can do to help yourself feel better right now. For example, you could use a pattern interrupt to shift from feeling weak and worthless to feeling empowered and worthy. 

What is a pattern interrupt?

A pattern interrupt is a way to stop one of your habitual reactions. This can be helpful because you can stop yourself from reacting in an unhealthy way and choose a better response. It can also be used to help your brain notice small things that you might otherwise overlook.

This concept is commonly used in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), as well as other self-help practices, to help people change their habits, thoughts, and emotions. In other words, pattern interrupts are deliberate actions that break undesirable habits.

You can use pattern interrupts to redirect the flow of a conversation when it’s going too far off-track, or when you’re ready to move on to talking about something else. They’re also useful for breaking up long monologues by other people.

Most importantly, pattern interrupts can help you get through the difficult moments in your relationships, including the one you might have or have had with the narcissist. This way, you can truly begin to heal yourself and take back your life – one baby step at a time.

How does a pattern interrupt help? 

Pattern interrupts are highly effective for so many different aspects of narcissistic abuse recovery, and this is one more way they can be used. During and after a toxic relationship, your grief, anxiety, and depression can become automatic behaviors – patterns – that you fall into without thought.

So, when you begin to work on letting go of the narcissist and the toxic relationship, you can use mindfulness to pay attention to your thoughts and ideas, and then you can choose to use a pattern-interrupt to change it. 

Try These Simple Pattern Interrupt Ideas

Pattern interrupts are part of NLP (Neurolinguistic programming). Sounds complicated, right? But it’s so simple. Here are some quick and easy-to-implement pattern interrupt ideas for you.

  • Try a simple affirmation you repeat to yourself in the moment.
  • Try standing up and moving into a different room of the house.
  • Try taking a quick shower.
  • You can brush your teeth or hair or wash your hands.
  • Try to count all of the items in a room that are a certain color.

There are so many other options to interrupt these toxic patterns in your own mind. Here’s a quick video where I explain pattern interrupts in more detail.

Pattern Interrupts to Change Your Emotional State Quickly

If you need to change your mood or emotional state in a hurry, you have options available to you. Your emotional state affects your attitude, focus, decisions, and your ability to act.

The ability to manage your emotional state is a powerful skill that must be mastered if you want to be able to get the most out of each day. If you can control your emotional state, you can be happier and more successful.

Surprisingly Effective Pattern Interrupt Strategies for Emotional Control 

1. Move.

Your emotions are actually body feelings created by your thoughts. If you move your body, the way your body feels will change. Moving is one of the most effective ways to change your emotional state. There are many ways to use your body to alter your emotions. Here are just a few options:

● Stand straighter.
● Do jumping jacks.
● Dance.
● Stand up quickly.
● Spin around.
● Walk like a robot.
● Run.
● Skip.

2. Laugh.

Laughing feels really good! Make yourself laugh and you’ll feel differently, and the change is instantaneous.

● Think about something funny.
● Watch your favorite comedian.
● Talk with your funniest friend.
● Read a joke.

3. Give yourself a change of scenery.

It’s amazing how much difference you can feel if you just move to a new location.

● Spend an hour at the coffee shop.
● Go to the library.
● Walk around the park.
● Sit out on your back patio.

4. Do something that frightens you.

If you want to take your mind off your current thoughts, fear is an effective way to do it. Your emotional state will change, guaranteed.

● Strike up a conversation with an attractive stranger.
● Have that conversation you’ve been avoiding.
● Go to the pet shop and ask to hold that scary-looking snake.

5. Drink a large glass of cold water.

A good drink of water can change how you feel. Making sure that it’s cold makes the experience jolting. Pour yourself a tall, cold glass of water, stand outside, and drink it.

6. Use heat or cold.

Anything that impacts your body significantly can impact your emotional state, too. Heat and cold are all-encompassing experiences for your body. Your attention can’t help but notice them. Your brain and body are also taking notice. Your blood vessels expand or contract. You sweat more or less. There’s a lot going on when you expose yourself to significant temperatures.

● Sit outside on a hot or cold day.
● Take a hot shower or bath. Sit in a hot tub or sauna.
● Try a cold shower or bath (this is known to help tone your vagus nerve – which is shockingly effective in helping to heal your trauma).

7. Sing or hum.

Singing is a novel way to change how you feel. If you’re not used to singing, it can feel awkward. If you sing regularly, you do so because it’s enjoyable. Either way, your emotional state will be impacted. (Also good for the vagus nerve!)

8. Do something new or unexpected.

Shock your system by doing something totally out of character.

● Pull out the bike you haven’t ridden in years and go for a ride.
● Take a walk around the neighborhood if you rarely do so.
● Go out to a new restaurant.
● Call an old friend you haven’t spoken to in ages.
● Eat a tablespoon of hot sauce.
● Shake things up.

You have an emotional state of some sort every waking moment of the day. The real question is whether or not it’s a useful emotional state. Even more importantly, is it the optimal emotional state for the current moment? You can change your emotional state with practice. You can even change it quickly!

Get Help With Your Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

How to Identify a Narcissist in Collapse

How to Identify a Narcissist in Collapse

Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by a lack of empathy, combined with extreme self-centeredness and a need for constant attention. It’s a disorder that can have a profoundly negative effect on people, and it can be difficult to deal with someone who has it.

Today, we’ll dig into the collapsed narcissist and identify some of the red flags or signs that you might be dealing with a narcissist who might be what psychologists call a collapsed narcissist. 

What is Narcissistic Collapse?

When someone with NPD (or even toxic narcissist traits) loses the ability to get their unrealistic needs met through their usual methods of manipulation and deceitful behaviors, they will often begin to exhibit signs of collapse as they struggle to maintain control over the situation. A narcissist may also collapse if they’ve been confronted about their behavior and are forced to accept accountability for it.

Collapsing is a painful process for them since it’s often a point of extremely high stress and anxiety in their lives. In so many cases, the narcissist may have developed an entire persona around being superior to everyone else, but when this starts to break down, so does their false self.

While there are many signs to watch for, most are related to how a narcissist experiences a significant event or loss of supply; or in many cases, they just fail to maintain the normal amount of narcissistic supply.

Another form of narcissistic collapse occurs when a person becomes depressed without their narcissistic supply. This happens usually post-discard when the narcissist feels that he/she has lost control over someone’s admiration and adoration. 

This video goes into more detail on what a collapsed narcissist really is and how they got that way. 

What happens during a narcissistic collapse?

When someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or narcissistic traits can no longer uphold their grandiose, confident image, they feel profoundly threatened due to the lack of narcissistic supply – or even the potential of lack.

As a result, they tend to become enraged, resulting in impulsive behavior, intense lashing out, or hurting other people. 

In severe cases, a person with NPD or NPD traits may feel so wounded they become suicidal or homicidal. They may see suicide or murder as the only way to get back at a perceived slight. 

Narcissists who are in collapse also tend to become enraged, resulting in impulsive behavior, intense lashing out, or hurting other people. 

What does a collapsed narcissist look like? 

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this kind of narcissistic rage and have wondered what prompted it, then you’ve probably seen a collapsed narcissist in action.

This is especially true if you’re involved with a narcissist who has been removed from their primary sources of supply: family members who have wised up to their manipulation and gaslighting; former friends who have rejected their lies and abuse, or even employers that have caught on to their toxic ways.

They have become devastated, hollow versions of what they once were. You ALMOST feel sorry for them. Of course, the specific reaction will also depend on the type of narcissist they happen to be.

Two Main Types of Narcissists

There are two main types of narcissists: vulnerable and grandiose.

Vulnerable Narcissists

Vulnerable narcissists tend to be shy and self-effacing. They are also hypersensitive to how others perceive them, which means they are easily hurt and offended by criticism. They tend to be pessimistic, insecure, and fragile. A vulnerable narcissist will respond with shame or anger when their sense of superiority is threatened or injured by criticism or rejection.

Grandiose Narcissists

By contrast, grandiose narcissists are those most people think about when they hear the word “narcissist.” Grandiose narcissists are arrogant, indifferent to others’ feelings and needs, and expect special treatment. When criticized or challenged in any way, they lash out with contempt and rage.

Can a collapsed narcissist recover?

Sometimes we’ll see a narcissist who has “collapsed” or otherwise seems to be going through some kind of emotional upheaval and distress. This begs the question: Can a collapsed narcissist recover? 

Is it possible for a collapsed narcissist to become normal again?

Sadly, the answer is no. A collapsed narcissist is not able to recover and be normal, because they do not understand that they are a narcissist or why they have become a narcissist.

In other words, they almost completely lack self-awareness, at least when you compare them to non-narcissists.

This lack of self-awareness, combined with their natural sense of entitlement and other typical narcissistic traits makes it nearly impossible for a malignant narcissist to recover from collapse. 

In fact, most of them will never realize the truth about themselves, even if their life depended on it. It is difficult for anyone to admit that their entire life has been a lie and a waste of time and energy.

The narcissist, a highly disordered personality, is incapable of having a healthy relationship with anyone. Because of this, their relationships are toxic and riddled with abuse.

Perhaps even more confusing, narcissists can be incredibly charming and enticing when they want to be. They’re also extremely manipulative and adept at grooming you to meet their needs. They do whatever they can to suck you in and hold you tight, to use you up until there’s nothing left.

When they “move on” or the relationship ends, they will often discard you without another thought. This is because they have no empathy or regard for anyone but themselves. In fact, they’re quite pleased with themselves when they can leave you utterly shattered as if it were some kind of game to them.

What triggers narcissistic collapse?

In the end, the collapsed narcissist is someone that has had their self-image severely damaged so much by a particular experience or situation, that they’ve begun to lose all sense of who they are. This often leads them down a path of anxiety, depression, and an inflated sense of oppression when dealing with others.

Narcissistic collapse is often triggered by narcissistic injury – a perceived threat to their self-worth or self-esteem. When this happens, narcissists typically respond with rage and contempt and may engage in destructive or self-destructive behavior such as substance abuse, suicide threats or attempts, violent outbursts, or physical violence directed toward themselves or others.

The Empty Shell Person

The best way to gain a better understanding of what is going on with the collapsed narcissist is to use the term “empty shell.” That’s because the narcissist in collapse very much appears to be a hollow shell of what they once were.

Most people have a solid sense of who they are. An empty shell person has lost their sense of self.

Because they’re so afraid to let their facade down, it’s hard to understand what is really taking place because underneath.

After all, beneath the ego structure of most human beings lies a sensitive and vulnerable narcissistic child. This can be a very painful place to be, and if this child was neglected or abused enough, they may have collapsed into themselves in order to survive.

This means that a lot of the personality structure and defense mechanisms had to go away in order to just cope with life day by day.

This video goes into detail on how to identify a collapsed narcissist. 

Are you dealing with a collapsed narcissist in a toxic relationship? Get help now!

Why do narcissists downplay your worth?

Why do narcissists downplay your worth?

Have you ever wondered why narcissists have a way of minimizing everything you do, say, think, or feel?

Narcissists are never generous with praise unless they’re using it as a way to manipulate you. In general, once they get past the love-bombing phase of the relationship, narcissists have a way of never doing or saying anything to make you feel good about yourself. 

If you feel like you have to work a little harder to earn the praise of a narcissist, it’s not because they’re harder to please or discriminating in their approval. It’s because they have reached the “devalue” phase of the toxic relationship. 

What is the devalue phase of the toxic relationship?

Devaluation is what happens 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 narcissist will often use devaluation to keep you from leaving by implanting such ideas in your head. Alternatively, some narcissists don’t even recognize they’re doing it since it’s part of the standard cycle of abuse. It can happen to a “thing” just as easily as a person when a narcissist is involved.

Why does the narcissist downplay your worth?

Narcissists downplay your worth and highlight their own accomplishments, in part because they want to keep you feeling inferior, but it’s more complicated than this. In fact, narcissists use their “false selves” to mask their deeply profound insecurity and often use this tactic to sort of boost their own ego.

It’s all about making sure they have control over us and keeping us feeling less than them so they can get what they want out of life while using our goodwill as leverage against us when needed.

In other words, they need to feel that they are above you, that they are superior to you in every single way.

What does it mean when the narcissist compliments you?

Do you sometimes feel that when narcissists do compliment you or praise you it is not genuine? Well, you are right. It isn’t. As a matter of fact; narcissists downplay the worth of those with whom they wish to gain favor.

If we are on their good side (during the idealization or love-bombing phase), then we will get compliments from them about how wonderful we are doing at work or school or even in our personal relationships.

Sometimes when narcissists compliment us, it is done so in a way that makes us feel inferior or lesser than them – or it’s about impressing someone else who overhears the compliment. The other reason a narcissist might compliment you outside of the love-bombing phase is to take credit for your work or efforts in some way.

Explaining by Example: The Narcissist at Work

In order to understand this behavior better; let us consider an example of how someone with narcissistic personality disorder might behave in a work environment. The narcissist will often claim credit for various projects even if he or she had nothing to do with their completion or success.

They will brag about their accomplishments and compare them favorably to others’. At the same time, he or she will also put down coworkers and subordinates who may have made similar contributions but not received as much recognition as they did.

Narcissists like to make themselves seem better than everyone else around them, especially if these people have something that the narcissist does not have (money, power, fame).

So, when a narcissist compliments you, it is not because of your worth, beauty, or talents. It is to get you under their authority so that they can use your talents for their own good.

Learn more about narcissists and the devalue phase of the toxic relationship

In this video, I explain the devalue phase in detail and offer tips on how to deal with the narcissist who is actively downplaying your worth. 

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

 

 

8 Powerful Self-Care Tips for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

8 Powerful Self-Care Tips for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

“Loving yourself isn’t vanity. It’s sanity.” ~Katrina Mayer

When you are in the grip of narcissistic abuse, it can be hard to think about your own needs. You may be so preoccupied with what is happening to you that you feel numb, or so angry that you feel like an emotional volcano about to explode. Either way, it can be hard to take care of yourself.

Is Self-Care Selfish?

No matter what the toxic people in your life would have you believe, self-care is not selfish. It is essential in order to maintain your physical and emotional health. And this is even more important for people who have survived narcissistic abuse because, for many of us, our whole lives have been about making other people happy. It’s time to focus on yourself, possibly for the first time in your life.

Have you survived narcissistic abuse?

If you have been in a relationship with a narcissist, you know how frustrating and exhausting it is to repeatedly deal with their crazy-making and mind games. When they aren’t treating you like your feelings don’t matter, they are making you feel crazy for having feelings in the first place! It can be that hard to be in a relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but you probably already know that it is possible to leave such relationships when you learn how to recognize the signs of narcissistic abuse and how to set boundaries.

What you might not realize though is that self-care is a vital part of healing from narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship. If a partner or ex-partner has been abusive toward you, you might have experienced a lot of trauma. It can be hard to get out of bed in the morning, and even to take care of yourself and your needs when you’re in the depths of recovery.

Why is self-care important in narcissistic abuse recovery?

Everyone heals on their own time frame, but by practicing some self-care tips for narcissistic abuse survivors you can improve your quality of life and begin the process of healing from narcissistic abuse. But without proper guidance, healing from narcissistic abuse can be long and arduous.

It’s very common for adult children of narcissistic parents (ACONs) to suffer from Complex PTSD. Worse, many ACONs also end up getting into romantic relationships with narcissists and other toxic people – it feels normal to them. That’s why, without proper support, it is so easy to fall back into old patterns.

Did you lose yourself to narcissistic abuse?

Narcissistic abuse is a particularly vicious form of psychological abuse. It is important to recognize that narcissistic abuse takes a toll on your mind and body.  After experiencing an abusive relationship, it is normal to feel like you have lost yourself. You may also feel like you don’t know how to take care of yourself anymore. These feelings are often due to the way you were treated in your past relationships and can develop into a very unhealthy pattern if not addressed. After abuse, your whole sense of self needs to be rebuilt and nurtured.

Self-Care Tips for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

Self-care is important for all of us, but especially for those in the healing process following narcissistic abuse. You can use these self-care tips as tools to help you heal and recover from the effects of narcissistic abuse and re-establish a sense of inner peace within yourself. Even if you have not left your abuser yet, self-care can help protect your mental health while you decide to leave or work on other aspects of your life that are related to the abuse.

Here are some self-care tips for narcissistic abuse survivors:

1. Remember You Are a Whole Person.

It may sound silly, but if you are still reeling from the abuse of a narcissist, it can be difficult to remember that you’re still a whole, multifaceted person. Narcissistic abuse survivors often find themselves existing in a fog of confusion and pain, and being told repeatedly that they are “crazy” or “imagining things.” It can be hard to muster the motivation or energy for self-care when you feel so beaten down. If you’ve been abused by a narcissist, it’s important to know that what you’re experiencing isn’t your fault. Narcissists are experts at gaslighting their victims into believing that they have no right to their own feelings or opinions. You have every right to grieve the loss of these relationships and experiences, and to take time to work through your feelings. You also have a right to care for yourself in whatever way is best for you. This video explains exactly what happens to you during narcissistic abuse and why you stop feeling like a whole person – this is exactly why it’s so important to take care of yourself now.

2. Assess Your Needs and Make a Self-Care Plan.

Maybe the most important step in self-care after narcissistic abuse is knowing what you need in order to feel cared for and nurtured. You’ve been through the hell of emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of a narcissist. You might just need to start by taking a bit of time for yourself. You can practice setting boundaries. Take a week or a weekend and just turn off the phones, close the door, and relax. If possible, use this time to disengage from the narcissist.  Breathe deeply. Meditate. Stretch out any kinks or tension in your body. Do something creative or spiritual.  Then sit down and write down your self-care plan. Note: Make sure you pencil in time to get enough sleep and relaxation. You can’t think straight or make good decisions when you’re stressed and exhausted. Watch this if you need to remember how important self-care is for survivors of narcissistic abuse!

3. Don’t Discount the Value of Positive Affirmations.

When it comes to reprogramming your mind after narcissistic abuse, you have to take advantage of the power of affirmations. You may think affirmations are lies you are telling yourself in the beginning. But even if that is the case, keep at it! Eventually, your mind will be reprogrammed and your truth can change to one that’s far more desirable. This video offers one simple way you can get in your affirmations while you sleep! Save it to your bookmarks so you can use it anytime you need.

4. Find A Constructive Physical Outlet To Release Negative Emotions.

You, like many narcissistic abuse survivors, may have found a way to cope with the situation in an unhealthy way. For example, you might have started drinking or eating too much to stuff away the pain, anger, and justified rage that you feel on a daily basis. You know those habits are quite destructive – but it feels better than the alternative, right? If this sounds like you, you might consider looking for healthy physical outlets to release those negative emotions. This is why you will want to take up kickboxing, yoga, or dancing such as Zumba classes. Those are great ways to release the painful emotions that you are feeling. Bonus: It also helps you become more physically fit – revenge body, here you come! After all, when you consider how narcissists exploit you, you have to realize that narcissistic abuse recovery is a whole-self healing journey. Get the details on that in this video.

5. Journal Away the Pain.

You’ve spent way too much time worrying about everyone else in your life – and the narcissist has facilitated this by requiring you to make them the center of your world. This means you’ve got a lot of thoughts, feelings, and unspoken words flying around inside you, likely adding to your pain. My suggestion here is to go out and buy a journal or a diary. Or just use a plain notebook if you prefer. Either way, use this to write in every day about how you are feeling, your thoughts, what you have been doing, and any other information that is important to you. The idea is that whatever you put into this journal is just for you. You can tear pages out if they are painful to read later on, or you can keep the book forever as a reminder of how far you have come. Personally, I prefer bullet journaling these days – here’s how I do it.

6. Pay Attention To Your Breathing.

Did you know that if you breathe through your mouth, you are going to feel more anxious?  It’s true! And that will only cause you to think more about the pain you had endured. The best way to stay relaxed is by breathing through your nostrils. In fact, this is something that patients that suffer from insomnia are told to do before they attempt to fall asleep. Breathing through your nostrils will help lower anxiety levels and the more you do it, the more you will rewire your brain into a calmer state. Try the exercises I share here for help.

7. Tap Into Your Creativity

I always say that narcissistic abuse recovery is a great time to start a new project. Maybe you want to redecorate a room in your home, or learn to paint. Perhaps you’d like to write a book or a story. Maybe you’re a songwriter? When you listen to songs like Stronger Than Ever by Christina Aguilera, you know she was inspired by her own healing from abuse. And this is a positive way to deal with pain and trauma. Channeling your pain into creativity is highly therapeutic. Or, if you’re struggling with finding a project because you’re drowning in your own clutter (a common issue for survivors), you might try a decluttering project, as described here.

8. Ask For Help

Possibly the most important step to practicing healthy self-care tips for narcissistic abuse survivors is surrounding yourself with supportive people who understand what you’re going through. I think it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are millions of people who have experienced the pain that comes with being in an abusive relationship, so don’t feel like your situation is unique or uncommon. If you are struggling, be sure to look into finding a therapist and/or a narcissistic abuse recovery coach who understands what you’re going through. They can give you some helpful tips and since they may have been there themselves, they can empathize in ways no one else can. There’s also the option to join a small Zoom coaching group. If therapy or coaching aren’t within your budget, you can also join a free support narcissistic abuse recovery support group. The more support you have, the better! It MATTERS.

Get help with narcissistic abuse recovery right now.

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