“I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse.” ~Jekyll, highlighting his lack of control over Hyde
“Why do I still feel like I love him?”
“She is so awful; what makes me think she’s ever gonna change?”
“He abuses me constantly, but I still feel like I want to be with him.”
These statements have all been made to me repeatedly by people who are involved with toxic narcissists in relationships.
So often, I hear my clients lament the loss of their narcissists – not the toxic person they currently know, but the person they thought they’d known – or the person they believed they were involved with.
This has become such a regular thing that I thought it was time to address the issue.
Essentially, because the narcissist hides behind a sort of “armor” that is his or her “false self,” he or she fools you from very early on.
Your first impression of the narcissist may have been 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.
They 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. You’re trying to reconcile the illusion you were initially presented with the person you have now got to deal with.
In a lot of cases, in order to cope with this mess, you start trying to improve your SELF – to change for him/her. But in reality, you’ve done nothing wrong and you’re not the issue at all – 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.
By the time you get to the discard phase (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 cruel and painful poison that causes you to lose all faith in yourself faster than you can say boo.
And you see 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 he or she seems to have 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 cycle – an illusion, just like the narcissist’s identity.
So now that you know all of this, what do you do with it?
You start picking up the pieces of yourself, and you begin the healing process. You go forward, and you go no contact (or low contact, if you’re forced to deal with him/her – say at work or as a co-parent). You aren’t to blame – you were simply used as a pawn in the narcissist’s game.
Okay, that’s all I’ve got for today. 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. Let’s discuss it.
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.