What would you do if you were being abused (physically, emotionally, psychologically, or sexually) by someone you knew or thought you knew? Let’s say that person is emotionally and psychologically abusive and demands that you meet their every need or expectation. How would you cope with this?
For some individuals struggling with an abusive spouse, parent, sibling, boss, etc., getting away isn’t always as easy as they would like it to be. Trying to work with or get along with a “narcissistic abuser” can feel impossible. The Narcissistic Abuser is not only unable to empathize or show concern for other people, but also may feel compelled to make the abused feel smaller than them in order to gain “self-worth.” It is important to remember that narcissists are sometimes abusers and abusers are sometimes narcissists. When you have these two things together, you get a disaster.
This article will discuss a few ways you can learn to cope or escape from the narcissistic abuser. I must add that this article is for both males and females and only touches the surface of the topic.
Have you ever heard of the term “gas-lighting?” Sadly, a lot of people, especially narcissistic abusers, use this tactic. Gas-lighting is another way of defining an individual who minimizes the obvious, denies their role in the issue, and then attempts to turn things around on you so as to confuse you and cause you to second guess yourself. For example, lets say you and your neighbor are not getting along. You speak to your neighbor each day, always greet them with a smile, offered to watch their dog while they were on vacation, and will sometimes even stop to pick up their newspaper every other week. However, things didn’t last long because you now recognize that you feel tension between you and your neighbor. You approach your neighbor letting them know what you are feeling and wonder if there is anything you could do to make things better. Your neighbor may give you a blank stare, make the statement that things are fine, and give you the feeling that you did something wrong by bringing up your feelings. Because you brought up an internal feeling you had you may begin to feel your neighbor distancing herself from you but you can’t understand why the strong resistance.
I’m sure you have experienced this before and know how hurtful these experiences can be. As a result, I have listed some tips on how to deal with gas-lighting and other abusive tactics.
- Put up boundaries: When someone has abusive behaviors of any kind, it is important to put up boundaries or completely leave them alone. If the person abusing you is unaware of, not concerned about, or able to control their behaviors, you’ve got to make the best decision for yourself. If the person shows they care nothing about you, you should care enough about yourself to say goodbye.
- Be wise, but pleasant in context: There are times you may not be able to quickly get away from a narcissistic personality who exhibits abusive characteristics. Sadly, there are many situations, as you know, where leaving a boss or supervisor, a spouse, an adult child, a family member, a co-worker, a business partner, etc. may be very difficult if not impossible. As a result, I want to encourage you to be wise and pick your battles. If you can’t get away from the person, avoid them, learn how to “maneuver” their personality, learn about their tactics or behavioral patterns, protect your investments (i.e., your income, your reputation, your personal life, etc), and consider alternate routes you can take in your life if you have to detach or separate from the abusive person.There are times, many times, where you may have to be pleasant while in their company to get through the moment.
- Become independent (or maintain) independence: Keep yourself as separated from the abusive person as you possibly can. Remind yourself of what you stand for, your values, your life perspective, your blessings, your talents and skills, your insights about life or relationships, etc. An abusive person operates on the premise that if they take your identity away from you, they win. An abusive person (whether they intend to or not) can have a very cunning way of snatching your identity from you and labeling you in ways that are untrue, derogatory, or completely false. Don’t be surprised if you become the pinata as well. When this begins to happen, looking for a way out and searching for your independence again will be very significant.
- Remind yourself of who you are: As stated above, the abuser “wins” by weakening your defense which is often your idea of who you are within the world and in connection to your relationships. Sadly, I have come in contact with my fair share of abusive friendships, work relationships, etc. and have found that the stronger your constitution, the stronger your defense. The moment you begin to question yourself, allow the abusive person to “get into your head” with their lies about you, or lose touch with who you are, they are winning.
- Confront when appropriate: There are times when you may have to confront the abusive person. Most abusive people lack courage and strength. They look for ways to get you when you are weak, vulnerable, or trusting of them. They don’t have the ability to be fair, to be mature, to be balanced, or even compassionate. Most abusers constantly think about themselves and ways they can get what they want. Their is no consideration of you. Hence the title of this article. Many abusers are narcissistic and cannot be fair or empathetic. When this happens, you will have to stand up for yourself when necessary. There are nice ways to stand up for yourself. Just remember that when you stand up for yourself the abuser is likely to do a few things:
- Deny their contribution to the relational instability
- Minimize your feelings
- Exaggerate the issue to others (primarily those they trust and have bonded with) to gain sympathy or a “clique” of supporters
- Fail to apologize or genuinely strive to fix it
- Open their mind to where they may have created or contributed to how you feel
- Avoid saying “yes” to everything: An abusive person, primarily those who are narcissistic and self-centered, will take you for granted, use you, and/or take everything you have from you. Some abusers take material possessions, while others strive to take your dignity, peace of mind, confidence, self-assurance, achievements, and anything else they can take from you. An Abuser almost always looks for others to do things for them, even if their requests are too much. They also struggle to see how their selfishness is affecting you. The moment you begin to say “yes” to almost everything they ask of you, it will be difficult to change things down the road. It’s like a child who has been given permission to eat candy before dinner. What do you think that child is going to look for everyday before dinner? Avoid “conditioning” the abuser in such a way that you trap yourself.
- Understand envy, gas-lighting, and manipulation: Abusers use “tactics” that are harmful and manipulative to the person they are abusing. My experience has been that the abuser is often unaware of how they treat others and may feel their behaviors and thoughts are normal. In a way, some abusers are conditioned to respond to others in the manner that they do. Abusers lack healthy communication skills and display a range of unhealthy behaviors. As a result, the abused person will have to learn to identify the ways in which the abuser communicates. Manipulators and abusers who envy are dangerous. If you add gaslighting to the mix, things get a whole lot worse.
- Get away: When all else fails and you have tried your best to hold on, let go. You don’t need the stress, the anger, the negative feelings or emotions. You don’t deserve to feel worthless when around the abuser. You also don’t need the chaos they bring to your life.
Are there things you have done to cope with someone who was/is abusing you? Do you know someone who may be going through this?
As always, I wish you well