Have you ever been in a relationship with a narcissist or someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)? If you have, did you notice that the narcissist treated you as though you were not really “real” or as important as they were? Did they make you feel like you didn’t matter?
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.
Of course, narcissistic abuse has a fairly uniform cycle. It can help to understand it if you’re wondering whether you’re in an abusive relationship – or trying to decide if you should stay or leave one.
What is the cycle of narcissistic abuse?
The cycle of narcissistic abuse is a pattern used by a narcissistic personality disorder, psychopathic, or sociopathic person to entrap their victims. For the most part, victims will experience four main phases, including the idealization phase, also known as love bombing, followed by the devaluation and discard phases. After that, the narcissist will often try to bring you back into the relationship, or at least into their “circle of supply,” through a tactic we call the hoover maneuver. The hoover maneuver can involve several different manipulative behaviors designed to get your attention. This cycle will repeat throughout the relationship, whether or not it’s ever officially ended. In many cases, the “final discard” only happens when you choose to end it yourself. This is because the narcissist will continue to use you for narcissistic supply as long as you allow it in most cases.
What are the effects of narcissistic abuse on the victim?
It’s a common red-flag symptom of NPD abuse, and it’s one that many victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse and gaslighting in relationships report: they feel like they don’t matter. They feel like the narcissist made it clear that they aren’t good enough, or at least that they’re not as good as the narcissist.
If you’re struggling with this kind of abuse now, you probably get what I mean – that feeling of feeling like you are always sort of “faking it” and like you don’t even really believe yourself when you talk. That’s a form of disassociation and it’s a common symptom of PTSD and C-PTSD, which are unfortunate but all-too-often seen side effects of this type of abuse.
What is dissociation?
Dissociation is a disconnection from your physical surroundings. It’s when you feel like you’re sort of watching the world from somewhere deep inside your head, or above it, or somehow disconnected from it. Like you’re “not really there” or like you’re watching life through a movie.
Narcissists treat you like a possession.
The worst part about how narcissists treat people like possessions is that there are no limits to who they will use to get what they want. And there are no limits to how low a narcissist will stoop and who they’re willing to hurt.
The most toxic narcissists are even willing to go as far as hurting their children – using them as pawns in their gaslighting mind games and even wholly ignoring their existence as long as it suits their purposes.
An Example of How Narcissists Treat People as Objects
I present to you a real-life example of a narcissistic father who uses his two daughters and their mother as pawns in his manipulative gaslighting games.
Narcissist Sperm Donor? A Tale of Two Babies
This is the story of two little girls; we’ll call them Sally and Cally. They are half-sisters, these two, and they’re only a month or two apart.
Their father, we’ll call him Jack, cheated on Sally’s mother (let’s call her Sue) with Cally’s mother (we’ll call her Ann), according to Sue.
According to Jack, he and Sue were “on a break” when Cally was conceived. All Ann knows is that she got pregnant thanks to an encounter with Jack and that she gave birth to Cally as a result of it.
Days after Sally was born, Sue catches wind of Ann’s pregnancy and imminent due date. She confronts Jack, who initially denies it but somehow convinces Ann to lie about it if Sally should confront her directly.
Eventually, Cally is born and looks very much like her half-sister Sally, and everyone begins to suspect that Ann’s daughter is really Jack’s “love child.”
When Jack is finally confronted about this in public, he gets angry and loses control – he thinks everyone has turned against him and he watches in horror as his elaborately built house of lies tumbles down around him as the truth about his ridiculous behavior spills forth into his circle of friends and family.
Everyone finds out that Cally exists and is shocked at the resemblance she bears to Sally. Not only that, everyone learns that Jack has never even so much as met his slightly younger daughter and that he has no intention of doing so.
He says its due to stress and negativity in his relationship (or lack thereof) with Ann, but in reality, it’s just because Cally doesn’t serve a need in his life at this moment. He feels completely justified in his discarding of his own flesh and blood because of the negativity in his relationship with her mother – completely disregarding the fact that his daughter is not a possession but an actual human with actual needs and a real live soul.
In the meantime, as his relationship with Sue inevitably erodes in light of this information, Jack cannot help but implode as she understandably recoils and pulls away on an emotional level.
Even as she tries to protect herself from his gaslighting and manipulation, he tries again and again to use their daughter Sally against her.
So, just as he’s completely denying the existence of one daughter, the other is only used as an attempt to manipulate the woman he wants to possess – call his own, who at that moment, happens to be Sue.
As the situation grows in intensity, Jack starts desperately seeking a flying monkey – he calls and texts everyone he knows, trying to figure out who’s on his side – who’s really his friend. And of course, which ones might sleep with him (you know, to take his mind off the stress caused by that “evil Sue” – Sally’s mom).
And speaking of Sue, it’s all he can talk about – how horrible she’s been to him, how she’s “keeping his daughter” from him. Meanwhile, Sue’s looking for a new babysitter because Jack has said he will no longer take care of Sally while Sue’s at work – just another attempt to control her, of course.
All of this, of course, is Jack’s desperate attempt to retain control of what he wants. The women and the children in is life are pawns and nothing more – they are treated more like possessions and less like people.
Does that sound like someone you know?
Are you dealing with this kind of abuse? If so, you might want to download my free Post-Gaslighting Emergency Recovery Kit or visit this free resources page for more help and support with gaslighting and narcissistic abuse in relationships.
Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today
Online help is readily available for survivors of narcissistic abuse. Here are some options to begin healing from narcissistic abuse right away.
- Sign up for our free email newsletter service that includes a free guided recovery experience via your inbox.
- Start your narcissistic abuse recovery here with our free narcissistic abuse recovery support system and program.
- Think you might have C-PTSD, but you’re not sure? Then, take our free C-PTSD Self-Assessment.
- Join one of our free online narcissistic abuse recovery support groups!
- Join one of our private small coaching groups!
- Get private, one-on-one narcissistic abuse recovery coaching or counseling.
- Get a therapist who will work with you online. Check out our guide to finding a therapist or psychologist who understands narcissism and narcissistic abuse.
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- Selfish Altruism: The Gift That Keeps On Taking
- This is the Only Way to Communicate With a Narcissist Effectively
- Twisted Toxic Love: Inside the Distorted Mind of a Narcissist
- Take Back Your Life: How to Control a Narcissist
- The Narcissistic Flip: Why and how it’s always your fault