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5 Strategies for Dealing With Narcissistic Abuse

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who spoke to you as if you were worthless, or even no better than an animal? You may have been the victim of narcissistic abuse.

When you experience narcissistic abuse, it can be difficult to know how to deal with it. Dealing with a narcissist is draining. It's not just that they are emotional vampires who feed on other people's emotions. Narcissistic abuse tends to drain both the victim and the people around them.

Understand and Recognize Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissistic abuse is a form of abuse perpetrated by someone with narcissistic personality disorder. It can involve physical, mental, or sexual forms of abuse or verbal and emotional abuse, such as gaslighting, manipulation, and belittlement. Narcissistic abuse is a form of domestic violence, and it can happen in both romantic relationships and friendships. Recognizing that you're a victim of narcissistic abuse is always the first step. Signs include:

  • They tell you that you're crazy.
  • Everything is your fault.
  • You're isolated from friends and family members.
  • You must agree with everything they say.
  • People close to you don't like them.
  • They have no empathy.
  • They need constant praise and validation.
  • They gaslight you.
  • They try to make you feel guilty.
  • They intimidate you.
  • They try to control your actions, emotions, and thoughts by criticizing, blaming, and threatening you.

Narcissistic abuse differs from other forms of emotional abuse in that it is often not as obvious or overt as other types of abuse and usually takes place on a continuum ranging from subtle, covert acts to blatant violence and harassment. Just because a person's actions aren't physical doesn't mean they're okay. Mental abuse can be just as damaging.

Recognize When You're Being Devalued by a Narcissist

Narcissists thrive with a continuous flow of "narcissistic supply." Narcissistic is a term that describes people who provide constant attention, approval, adulation, admiration, and affirmation for the narcissist. A narcissist needs this continuous flow of admiration to feel alive. Therefore, a narcissist often chooses a partner who worships them and feeds their ego at every opportunity. The ideal mate for the narcissist is someone who will make them feel like they're God's gift to humanity, someone who will always make them feel superior.

When you no longer serve a purpose for the narcissist or you no longer feed them a continuous flow of narcissistic supply, the narcissist will devalue you. This often happens suddenly and without warning. The narcissist will "drop" all contact with you as if you never existed.

Examples of how a narcissist can devalue people include:

  • Refusing to accept or acknowledge your contributions or achievements
  • Withholding communication, affection, intimacy, and/or sex
  • Making excuses not to spend time with you
  • Changing their behavior toward you in public, e.g., ignoring you in social situations
  • Exhibiting excessive self-importance (grandiosity)

The cycle of narcissistic abuse runs in three phases:

Idealization. The narcissist makes you feel special, as though you're the most amazing person they've ever met. You might be swept off your feet by their attention and incredible personality (at least at first).

Devaluation. The narcissist starts to put you down, making you feel like less than an equal partner or giving the impression that the relationship is moving too fast or too slow for their liking. They may criticize you regularly or even start to use aggression against you.

Discard phase. Once the narcissist has broken your confidence and made you more isolated from friends and family, they no longer have any use for you and move on to another target, often leaving you confused about what went wrong.

Know That Detachment, Not Forgiveness, Brings You Peace

It's never easy to let go of someone who is abusive and toxic for us, especially if you love them. When you surrender the need to control an abuser's behavior, it gives you more power over your own life. At some point, you have to say goodbye to the notion that an abuser can be committed and faithful to you in a healthy way.

Don't Blame Yourself

The narcissist is to blame for the abuse. If you are being treated badly, it is not because you are not good enough or worthy of respect. It is because the narcissist is unable to give love and respect.

You cannot change a narcissist, so don't try to make them listen to your perspective about how their behaviors hurt you. They will never see things from your point of view. Focus on improving your own personal understanding of what happened and why, so that you can move on with your life.

Get help from a counselor or support group. It can be helpful to get counseling from a therapist who specializes in narcissistic abuse recovery, speak with others going through similar experiences in support groups, and read books about narcissistic abuse recovery so that you can better understand what has happened and how to heal from it.

You might also find comfort in helping others who have been abused. It is only a matter of time before you meet others who have been abused in a narcissistic way. If you share your story with them, it can help them understand what they are going through and give them the strength to escape that abusive situation.

Don't Repeat the Same Mistake

Don't get involved with another narcissist or other abuser. One way to avoid this is by doing a thorough job of healing yourself from the trauma you experienced in the first relationship. This will make it easier for you to recognize traits that indicate danger signs from potential partners.

The Bottom Line

Dealing with narcissists can be one of the most difficult challenges anyone can face but there's life on the other side. The first step is recognition and then understanding the importance of removing yourself from the situation. A counselor or support group can also be helpful. If you have questions about family law in New Jersey, call 201-845-7400 for a free consultation.

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