There are three main phases that people who are in relationships with toxic narcissists can expect to experience.
Often the narcissistic cycle of abuse is repeated over and over again throughout the relationship.
We discussed love bombing recently, and that is also known as the idealization or courtship phase.
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.
Devalue and Discard: The Painful Part of the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse
You’ve been walking on eggshells for awhile now, but it doesn’t seem to matter to your narcissist.
The narc is no longer even polite to you, much less kind. You often wonder what happened to the person you first met.
Nothing you say, do, think or feel is acceptable and he makes sure you know it.
Everything you do elicits the same kinds of responses: anger, irritation, “justified” rage.
If you call him on his bullshit or you prove him wrong, watch out. That’s when he will go ballistic, pulling no punches, digging deep to find a way to hurt you.
He will insult you, pick at your most painful psychological wounds, make sure you know that not only is it your fault, but that you DESERVE the treatment he’s been dishing out.
He may even say it to your face – that you are so bad/lazy/fat/whore-like that you deserve the way he’s treating you.
He’ll make it clear that you’re not important, not worth his time. He will say he doesn’t respect you and he will minimize anything that really matters to you.
Meanwhile, you teeter on a precipice somewhere between emotional numbness, deep-down anger and hope.
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 learn 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 when he starts raging on you.
If the threats and fear tactics don’t work, 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 could involve 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. He will ignore you, withhold affection and call you crazy for trying to fix it.
In the end, he may leave you, temporarily or permanently. Or, the cycle may begin again – many narcissists go back to the courtship phase following the discard phase.
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.
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.
And it’s then when you’ve got a choice to make. Do you stick it out, or not?
In your head, you know a narcissist can change his ways about as surely as a zebra can change his stripes. (Highly unlikely.)
But your heart may be arguing with you. Because your heart finds something deep within the narcissist that is loveable.
The most important thing to remember is that you’ve got every right to be truly happy.
If your narcissist cannot allow you to do that, or if he negatively affects your ability to find your bliss, you need to decide if you can live with it forever.
And then comes the hard part. You’ve got to take action.
Do you recognize yourself or a loved one in the above situations? Share your thoughts and experiences with the QB community in the comments.
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Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.