Narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths can cause long-lasting damage to the lives of their victims. Their emotional and verbal abuse, combined with their cruel, persistent attempts at sabotage, can even drive their victims to self-destruction and suicide. In part two of this series, I asked survivors for examples of the following behaviors from their experiences with malignant narcissists. These experiences include retaliation, discarding victims during the worst possible moments, ruining holidays, birthdays and special occasions, destructive conditioning, hypercriticism, and withholding praise. Here are six ways these covert saboteurs can infiltrate your life and attempt to destroy it.
Warning: Some of these stories contain graphic details and may be triggering for readers. Please put your self-care first when reading.
If you haven’t yet read part one, be sure to do so here.
At the center of a narcissist’s destructive behavior towards others is an excessive sense of entitlement. Narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths believe that the world owes them something. When others fail to comply with their demands or cater to that sense of entitlement, they suffer what is known as a “narcissistic injury.” Any perceived slight or threat to their grandiose ego sends them into “narcissistic rage.” As Mark Goulston, M.D., asserts, “Hell hath no fury or contempt as a narcissist you dare to disagree with, tell they’re wrong or embarrass. There is a saying that when you’re a hammer the world looks like a nail. When you’re a narcissist, the world looks like it should approve, adore, agree and obey you. Anything less than that feels like an assault and because of that a narcissist feels justified in raging back at it.”
One of the most common ways narcissists express their rage at anyone who “dares” to defy them is through retaliation. It’s not uncommon for a narcissist to stalk and harass those who break up with them, to release intimate photos or texts (also known as “revenge porn”) of their former significant others, or to go out of their way to slander the work of someone who does not confirm their grandiose view of themselves as all-knowing.
Retaliation is a way for narcissists to inflict tangible damage on the victim – whether it involves an assault on their privacy, their good name, their work, their future relationships or friendships, the narcissist seeks revenge to punish you and reestablish control over you.
Here is just a sample of the many ways survivors told me their narcissistic partners attempted to retaliate against them:
“He threatened to release intimate photos of me on social media, to my former employer, and to my family members because I was leaving him and would not communicate with him.” —Abbey
“When my brother died, I had to travel back to the Caribbean to give the eulogy at his funeral. While I was there, my narcissistic ex-wife started a smear campaign telling everyone that I left for a trip to the Caribbean and abandoned her and my daughter to go live it up and have fun. When I got back, my phone was ringing non-stop with people calling to verbally attack me for being a horrible father and husband. This was while I was grieving! I started to understand just how much of a toxic, evil entity she was.” — Bryce
“The narcissist has retaliated in so many ways. He released intimate photos only of me and claimed someone must’ve stolen them off of his Dropbox. He blamed a “lost” iPad that was never reported stolen.” — Jessica
“My narcissistic ex shared private photos of me, details of my sex life, and childhood sexual abuse with women he was cheating on me with.” — Heidi
“My ex-wife posted pornographic type pictures to Instagram doing things that she specifically knew I liked for a new boyfriend after we got separated. This was after she knew that I was done with her and the divorce was inevitable. It was also during a time when my father was in a coma for weeks after having a stroke.” — Steve
“My ex took photos of me naked. He grabbed his phone right after being intimate with him and he started taking pictures of me as I begged him to stop. He did not have my permission. He then told me if I deleted them off his phone he would charge me as they were now his property on his phone. Well he used these photos as leverage when I tried to leave. He threatened several times to post them public on his FB wall. He said if I didn’t come home he would have no choice but to post them for all to see.” — Penny
“When he came home and found me gone, my ex-husband went to my employer and told her that I was on drugs and that I was a drug dealer.” — Candice
“My ex threatened to post personal pictures of me on the internet when we were breaking up. Retaliation to whatever he seemed to take offense at could range from anything from a hole punched in a wall to something hurled over the back fence into a paddock. Too many to name.” — Judith
“My narcissistic ex-boyfriend would retaliate by subjecting me to unreasonable and lengthy periods of the silent treatment, usually in response to me trying to express my emotions about something he did or said – or a boundary that he crossed. He went cold on me and disengaged from me when I found out that my father had been diagnosed with lung cancer.”— Lauren
“My ex called my job once and told my boss I was an I.V. drug user in an attempt to get me fired. Thankfully, my boss didn’t believe him and told him that if I was taking drugs, I should keep doing it because I was the hardest worker he had!” —Tracy
TIPS FOR DEALING WITH RETALIATION
If you anticipate that a narcissist will retaliate, take as many precautions as you possibly can. Alert law enforcement of any threats you’ve received about the release of personal information or photos. This will ensure that there is documentation of any threats should there ever be a legal case moving forward. For example, many states have revenge porn laws now. If you anticipate that a narcissist will smear you to your co-workers or bosses, let them know ahead of time what the situation is. Find ways to safely circumvent the potential consequences of retaliation and cushion the blow.
7. DISCARDING OR ABUSING YOU AT THE WORST POSSIBLE MOMENTS.
While empathic humans rush to the aid of those they perceive to be hurting, narcissistic and sociopathic individuals abandon their loved ones in times of great need. Their level of callousness is startling and inhumane. Survivors of narcissists are often discarded by their partners at the worst possible moments – such as at the beginning of a pregnancy, a miscarriage, in the middle of nowhere on vacation, after the loss of a loved one, or even during a life-threatening illness. Being on the receiving end of such cruelty is a trauma in itself. This discard is designed to sabotage you psychologically. When you are reeling from a crisis, being abandoned without support from a loved one is crippling and inevitably damaging. It causes you to lose faith in humanity, in life, and even yourself.
The following are just a sample of the horrifying and harrowing stories survivors told me. Some of the following stories may be triggering.
“I just recently left a relationship of 3 years with someone I am just now realizing is a narcissist. When I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he started a fight that day about whatever he was upset with, wouldn’t speak to me, and basically left me alone to deal with the news because his pride was hurt. For my birthday, he started fights all day because I wouldn’t agree to be home by 12. It was 3 years of walking on eggshells and dimming myself for his pride and ego. And now I am out and feel as if I lost 180 pounds of stress and anxiety.”— Alexis
“In a very vulnerable time, I had suicidal thoughts and asked my partner for help. He then claimed I mistreated him by “threatening suicide.” When we had a miscarriage, he would not visit me and did not call me. He left me right after we did a fertility treatment together. He left me right before Christmas.” — Catherine
“My narcissistic ex left me while I was bleeding and miscarrying our first child, and only came back when I was rushed to the hospital a week later after collapsing due to complications. He left me again a year later when I miscarried twins. He left me the day after their funeral. He tried to kill me last August, police were involved and after the worst 3 years off of my life, I finally went no contact to save my own life. I still suffer really terrible nightmares and haven’t slept a full night since that night. But the peace I feel gets me through the day. I believe I lost my babies due to the sheer trauma and terror he put me through.” — Julie
“In the middle of my treatment for breast cancer after I had lost all my hair and my right breast I had a rare day when I didn’t feel sick from the chemotherapy. I had dressed up to go out for lunch and he looked at me coldly and said, “Is that what you are wearing? You look really lopsided.” All the way through my treatment he was cold and distant because the attention wasn’t on him, but he couldn’t bail because then he would show himself as the asshole he really was and blow his cover as the funny, caring, nice guy. The only comfort I get from remembering his callous indifference to my suffering is the knowledge of how angry and frustrated he would have been being in this bind and powerless. Needless to say, as soon as I finished treatment and a decent time had elapsed, he left – I was no longer the trophy he needed.” — Lisa
“My narcissistic mother discarded me during illness. I remember two episodes in particular. First, when I was 9 years old, I woke up in the morning feeling very ill. I implored my mother not to send me at school. After a long argument because she didn’t believe me, she kept me at home but she left me alone. She went out all day. My father, who didn’t know I was feeling ill, came back home for lunch time as usual and he found me having fainted and immersed in my vomit. I was dying from peritonitis and I had surgery in ER. I spent one week in hospital. My mother came to visit me just two or three times and she never apologized for leaving me alone. The second time, I was 12. I had the chicken pox, I didn’t feel well but my mother prevented me from resting at home. The first day of illness she went in my bedroom yelling like crazy at me: “Out of this house! I don’t want to see you!” I had to spend my days out in the street, with my skin full of itchy scabs. With shame and embarrassment.” — Damiana
“During Christmas time, we were supposed to travel to his family in Brazil, and also attend a wedding there. I was hospitalized for appendicitis and he abandoned me in the hospital while he continued the trip as planned and I canceled from the hospital. He even wanted me to pick him back up from the airport when he arrived back when I had just been discharged from the hospital a week prior. I didn’t.” — Faye
“He discarded me while I was six months pregnant with our first baby. He told me I wasn’t athletic or outdoorsy enough and that I wasn’t his dream girl anymore. He even sent me examples of women he liked better. He also cheated on me numerous times while we were engaged but I didn’t find out until 3 days before our big destination wedding. Our engagement was ruined and so was our wedding. I went through with it anyway because I was embarrassed to cancel. He ruined my first pregnancy as well by leaving me and sending me into pre-term labor. The final discard was last summer when he left me after we had moved to a city I had longed to live in for 10 years. He just couldn’t stand that I was happy so he left me for another woman.” — Avery
“He kicked me out when I was 7 months pregnant with our second child, and he told me if I took the car he would call the cops. Another time, when I was in the ER, the nurse called him to come pick me up because they had given me morphine and wouldn’t let me drive myself, he told the nurse, “She can walk home, I don’t give a f**k.” I apologized to the nurse for his behavior.” — Maleni
“My narcissistic ex-husband discarded me 5 days after my mother died.” — Vanessa
“I found out that the tissue the doctor removed was an aggressive, unpredictable form of cancer, that I needed to have it removed and it could return or migrate to other tissue or organs. I told him later that same night at dinner at a restaurant. His reply? “Are we gonna have to talk about this cancer thing all night?” The morning after my surgery I asked him if he could make me some coffee and he asked me in return, “Why can’t you do it yourself?” — Tracy
“The rape occurred a mere three months into our marriage. I was a new bride, suffering the devastating suicide and death of a sister who I had longed to see recover from an emotional hell she had lived in since childhood, and my husband viewed that as an opportunity to rape me. He very simply saw my vulnerability as an avenue to obtain something he wanted, with no regard to my state of mind or broken heart. It takes a considerable amount of time to name a non-consensual sexual experience with your own husband as actual rape. In my case, it took nine years. Describing how my husband “helped himself” to sex with me while I laid crying in the fetal position on a hotel bed the night before my sister’s funeral was nothing short of excruciating. My therapist named it as rape, but I was reluctant. Only after coming to a deeper acceptance of the sadistic nature of my husband’s arousal at my tears that night, something he verbally expressed to me without a shred of awareness of how unnatural that is, was I able, with her help, to realize that I had most certainly been raped by my own husband. “— Kathryn
“He went ‘cold’ on me and disengaged from me when I found out that my father had been diagnosed with lung cancer.” — Lauren
“When my ex-husband lost his father to cancer, I was there, morning, noon and night. His mother had major neck problems, and I shopped, cooked and cleaned. I did all of this willingly, as I loved his family and still do. I am very close to them. I was losing my grandad and he dropped me off and the hospital and didn’t come in to see him with me knowing it would be the last time I’d see him. About 3 months later, when my mum was taken to the hospital with a collapsed lung, he again made me go to the hospital alone.” — Jo
TIPS FOR DEALING WITH DISCARDS AT THE WORST MOMENTS OF YOUR LIFE
When the narcissist abandons you, resist abandoning yourself. Give yourself time and space to heal. Enlist the support of caring friends, family members, and fellow survivors who understand and can validate your experiences. Consult a trauma-informed therapist who understands this form of covert manipulation. You may want to consider trauma therapies like EMDR to help you recover from some of the immediate effects of such a trauma like flashbacks, nightmares, and ruminations. This form of discard is so traumatic that it can really interfere with your self-esteem, self-perception and the ability to cope. It often requires a great deal of both professional and personal support to heal and to believe in the goodness of humanity again.
8. RUINING SPECIAL OCCASIONS, VACATIONS, AND HOLIDAYS.
Narcissists don’t just abandon you when you most need them – they also ensure that any special occasions or holidays are sabotaged as well. Holidays are another time when the narcissist cannot stand the attention being taken away from them. They also cannot stand the expectation of being cheerful or generous towards others. As Dr. Sharie Stines notes, “Narcissists have a tendency to practice seasonal devalue and discard during the holidays, focusing these abuse tactics on their nearest targets and closest partners. Why do they do this? Because they have no empathy and cannot handle intimate relationships and are compelled to do what it takes to destroy them.”
Withholding gifts, instigating fights, staging a dramatic discard, “forgetting” birthdays and anniversaries are common among narcissistic individuals. Here is what some survivors experienced with their narcissistic loved ones:
“He ruined every single birthday, Christmas, anniversary, Mother’s Day – they were all SO awful and so painful. His birthday, however, was always a great day.” — Erica
“After we got engaged, he became violent with me the night before Thanksgiving and kicked me out of the house during that time and throughout Christmas. He also showed up to my new apartment on Mother’s Day, which was right after a very gruesome miscarriage with his child. He made fun of me for losing the baby.” — Abbey
“My narcissistic ex would forget my birthday and then get pissed off at me for mentioning to him that he forgot. His reasoning was that he doesn’t even celebrate his own birthday, because it’s egotistical and he’d rather do things for others on his special day instead of expecting to be celebrated. Later on, he posted a beautiful long birthday message to his new source of supply.” — Hana
“He told me, “If I don’t make you cry every year on your birthday, I haven’t done my job.” He wasn’t talking about happy tears. I found him in bed with a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding reception at the hotel after party. I opened our hotel room door to find them together, and he asked me, “Do you want to be in the middle, or should I?” — Pauline
“I was with my former partner for 8 years. During that time I came to dread every holiday, major life event (especially birthdays and weddings), and family gatherings. Inevitably at those occasions, he would say something fundamentally damaging to my self-esteem, humiliate me by sharing private conversations, reveal cheating episodes, or pursue other women during the event. I was only able to understand this pattern through reading one of your books.” — Heather
“I was 3 months pregnant and it was Christmas day. My ex actually agreed to go with me to my family for the holiday dinner. On the way there, he changed his mind and began screaming at me. I was crying so hard, I asked him to pull over so I could regain my composure. I stepped out of the car and took a few breaths to calm myself, when lo and behold, he drove off and left me there with no coat and no purse (this was before cell phones) in the freezing cold. He did not come back. Everything was closed, so I had to walk about four miles to my family’s gathering. I had frozen tears on my face when they opened the door and I went into a back room so no one would see me. He came to get me after four hours and all he said to me on the way home was, “I am not mad.
Three weeks later, I had a miscarriage and he would not bring me to the hospital, even though I was bleeding profusely. He did drop me off with my mom, who brought me to the hospital. The doctor told me the baby had died about 3 weeks ago before I miscarried – Christmas day. This is just one of the dozens of my stories being married to this narcissist for 17 years…I could write a book.” —Maggie
“Every single holiday or important day has been ruined by one of his tantrums or nasty comments. Every single one. I was called a horrible name at a Mother’s Day lunch, have had gifts thrown at me at Christmas time for accidentally opening an Amazon package that was addressed to him, been called names for not wanting to hike down a steep cliff to the beach at night with no light on 4th of July – and that is just the beginning.” —Rachael
“I remember my 21st birthday. I was so excited, I spent hours upon hours making a creative crown. Got my hair done, makeup done, we had matching costumes, a friend to meet us at the bar. My ex was supposed to be a designated driver so I could drink. I remember driving to get some food first, and he started the most inane argument. He didn’t really want to go out at all, so he started fighting with me over where we would go to eat. I kept suggesting places, and he just got angrier and angrier until I just gave up, turned around and decided we would make something to eat at home first. Well, we got home, and I am making food. We’re still in the fight, so he goes outside and leaves. I was like whatever, I’m sure he’ll cool off and come back. It’s my 21st, he knows how important this is to me. He comes back drunk, with an 18 pack of beer, 5 beers in. No way he’s driving at all that night. I was so crushed. I gave up on the food and canceled on the friend. Two hours later, he’s still yelling at me that it’s my fault that we didn’t go out.” — Mary
“All vacations, celebrations, special occasions – were tainted by him. One Christmas while driving to my parents’ house for a large Christmas party with extended family and friends, he told me he wanted a divorce out of the blue when we were pulling into the driveway. I cried hysterically in the car for 10 minutes before I could bring myself to join him inside of my parents’ house. The aftermath from an event like this was historically similar to countless other special events/holidays. He would walk in, chipper as can be, life of the party (after just telling his wife he wanted a divorce on Christmas) like nothing happened, nice as can be to me, while I spent the majority of the time in the basement crying in disbelief or being short with everyone, including him, there because I was so upset and he pretended to be clueless in front of everyone else as to what I was so upset about.” — Melanie
“Without a doubt, every time there was a family celebration or birthday, my narcissistic partner would find a way to either cause a scene or make sure we didn’t attend. He ruined our daughter’s first birthday because the attention wasn’t on him. He caused a big argument with me the night before my friend’s birthday party. He continued it on the following day, so we ended up not going – he said I could go on my own.” — Jane
“My narcissistic mother hasn’t called or seen me on my birthday since I was 17. I am 30 now. I did used to call her and send her thoughtful gifts for her birthday though she was always extra toxic during that time. I eventually stopped because it was so painful to deal with every year. She also ruined Christmas after Christmas with her sulking, sullen moods, insulting thoughtful gifts my siblings and I picked out for her, and all other kinds of things that I think I’ve blocked out.
She always used her presence in our lives as a weapon. If we didn’t play according to her rules, she would attack us by withdrawing from our lives. She found joy in the pain she caused by threatening to leave. When I was 10 weeks pregnant, she stopped talking to me, again. It’s been hard but I decided as a new mother I could no longer have her toxicity in my life in my child’s life.” — Renee
“I’ve been married for 18 years and he’s blatantly ruined every single vacation and holiday (I pay for all of them, an added bonus for him). For example, he’s screamed at me in the middle of the airport for losing paperwork that he put in his suitcase. Another trip was ruined when he spent an entire shore day shopping for himself and his family while the kids and I stood in the sun waiting for him to finish. During the same trip, he yelled at our 9-year-old child during the entire trip because she complained about not feeling well. He made her walk the length of the island in the blazing sun because he wouldn’t spend the money on a taxi (alcohol was more important). Two weeks after we returned from that trip, she was diagnosed with stage III cancer and had a tumor the size of a football growing off of what used to be a kidney. ” — Elaine
TIPS FOR HOLIDAYS OR SPECIAL OCCASIONS WITH A NARCISSIST
If you currently live with or have a relationship or ongoing friendship with a narcissistic individual, begin detaching from them as quickly as you can. If possible, do not spend holidays, birthdays, or any other special occasions with them – find supportive friends or family members you can turn to celebrate with you during these times. If you cannot avoid spending the holidays with a narcissist, invite supportive individuals to your special event who can help provide you with moral support. If the narcissist chooses to give you the silent treatment or attempts to sabotage your event in any way, be as emotionally unresponsive to them in public as possible. Refocus on enjoying yourself and practice extreme self-care. Meditate and make use of grounding techniques to remain mindful of your emotions and to act as strategically as possible to take care of yourself during this time.
One of the ways manipulative predators attempt to control us is through hypercriticism. Anything and everything we do comes under their heavy scrutiny. Overly critical remarks about our appearance, our talents, our achievements, our lifestyles, our choices are all fair game in a narcissist’s mind. Shaming us for existing as an independent human being with our own lives, preferences, opinions, and worldviews is the way narcissists program us to self-destruct.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Simon Sherry notes that hypercriticism is a form of the destructive narcissistic perfectionism that is “corrosive” to others. In an interview for CTV News (2016), she said, “The criticism is ceaseless. And if you fall short of their lofty standards, they’re likely to lash out at you in a harsh way.”
Hypercriticism is how narcissists they commit emotional murder with clean hands. Yet narcissists themselves often fall far below the high standards that they set for others. If we are subconsciously trained to view ourselves through the narcissist’s hypercritical lens, we are unable to feel a steady sense of self-worth and we are unable to rejoice in our accomplishments. This gives them the power to shape our self-perception, our self-esteem, and our self-efficacy. Hypercriticism can even lead to suicidal ideation, especially if we endured it at an early age during a vulnerable developmental stage.
SURVIVOR STORY: SERENA
“My narcissistic parents had one personality at home, and a different personality in public. They were extremely critical and authoritarian toward their children, except toward the golden child. I will be 70 years old next month and I still struggle with trust, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. I isolate so I don’t have to deal with people. People take advantage of me and I would rather be with animals than people. I struggle with extreme guilt and weight issues. I have never been married and know that I never will.
My low self-esteem is debilitating. I have been in therapy for most of my adult life, but last year, I was hospitalized for a week for suicidal ideation – thoughts, desires and plans to harm myself. My first suicide attempt was at age 16 and my second attempt was at age 23. I try to detach from my family’s influence, but I haven’t been able to do that even though they are all dead. I struggle with believing God loves me. I know it is in my head, but I haven’t been able to completely embrace it. I don’t believe anyone can love me the way I want to be loved. I believe I am unlovable.”
TIPS FOR TACKLING HYPERCRITICISM
Work with a counselor to reprogram your negative belief systems. Hypnotherapy may help as a supplemental tool to instill new, healthier beliefs. Make an inventory of all of the compliments and kind words you’ve heard throughout your lifetime, especially related to the very things that the narcissist degraded you about. Creating this list will enable you to realize how much support you do have from genuine, empathic people. Also create a list of positive affirmations you can say to yourself on a daily basis – record them on a tape recorder if you wish and listen to them whenever you’re feeling especially low.
10. DESTRUCTIVE CONDITIONING
Malignant narcissists aren’t above resorting to methods not unlike Pavlovian conditioning to get what they want. They use what I like to call “destructive conditioning” to get you to associate your happiest moments, interests, passions, and dreams with their cruel and callous punishment. Destructive conditioning instills in us a sense of learned hopelessness. It teaches us that anything we derive joy from can be minimized, tainted in some fundamental way, or even taken away from us entirely.
One way narcissists destructively condition us is by dampening our enthusiasm and raining on our parade during moments when we should be celebrating – such as during a graduation, the birth of a child, an engagement, or a recent business success. Detracting from any kind of milestone or achievement to divert the focus back to the narcissist’s own needs embodies a pathological need to be the center of attention at all times. It causes us to struggle with a pervasive sense of fear that whenever things in our life are going well, our narcissistic parent, partner, friend, co-worker or boss could come around and attempt to rob us of it.
Here are a few of the tales survivors told me about the ways their narcissistic partners or parents sabotaged what should have been the happiest moments of their lives:
“My father has sabotaged literally every celebration in my life and made it about him. Every graduation from high school, college and even graduate school, my baby shower, my child’s blessing ceremony. I have not married my partner because he’s threatened to cut me out of the family. I would elope but I am scared of what he will do when he finds out. His sabotage and control is next level. When I changed my kid’s last names to match their dad’s, he sabotaged my tax information. I was contacted by the IRS and I had to clear up the confusion. He used his position of power to refuse them ski passes with their new legal names. He’s had me and my partner watched and spied on with his housekeepers and property managers.” — Brooke
“My mother has ruined every single important event in my life as well as in the lives of my sisters. Every holiday, she makes up an excuse to be mad at us so we look like terrible children who leave her alone on the holidays. She didn’t show up at my high school graduation. She told me my baby shower was tacky and I had to beg her to show up. She threw huge fits at both of our weddings and threatened to leave in the middle of them. I mean, the list goes on and on. We are not allowed to be happy or have a moment that is ours.” — Amanda
“My stepmother is a narcissist and there are multiple times that she needed to trump my celebrations by turning around to make it all about her. For example, when I became engaged, a week later she went out and bought a 2-carat diamond ring for herself because I was excited that I had my engagement ring and people were paying attention to me. There was also a time where I had mentioned that my dream car would be a hunter green grand Jeep Cherokee. A week later, she bought my dream car.”— Megan
TIPS FOR COPING WITH DESTRUCTIVE CONDITIONING
Make a list of past successes, accomplishments, happy moments or any other sources of joy which have been tainted in some way by a narcissistic abuser. Then, brainstorm ways in which you can reconnect to that source of joy independently of the narcissist. For example, if your narcissistic friend always degraded your dream of being an artist, think about ways you can celebrate and own that dream. If your toxic parent always rained on your celebrations, start a habit of only inviting friends and relatives who are supportive of you to join you on your special day. Avoid telling narcissistic individuals about upcoming happy events or recent successes. Honor your accomplishments frequently by holding ceremonies and gatherings which do not involve the toxic person. Recondition yourself to associate exhilaration and a sense of healthy pride in the very passions, hobbies, interests, dreams, goals, and achievements the narcissist taught you to feel diminished in. You deserve to feel the joy of what you’ve accomplished. Don’t let the narcissist’s pathological envy steal what is rightfully yours.
11. WITHHOLDING ATTENTION OR HEALTHY PRAISE.
It’s common for an abusive narcissist to belittle the accomplishments of those they envy and feel threatened by. They are prone to withholding healthy praise from these individuals and ignoring what they have achieved. They pretend that even the most extraordinary of people are ordinary and mediocre, treating those who have actually surpassed them with contempt. Placing themselves in the position of judging the person that threatens them enables the narcissist to feel a sense of superiority they cannot otherwise obtain.
SURVIVOR STORY: Maggie – The Effects of A Narcissistic Mother and Husband
“My narcissistic mother competed against me for my father’s attention. I also felt like when my mother and I fought that it was like fighting with a sibling. I never felt heard and nothing I ever did was good enough. Whenever I did well or excelled at something, I remembered often times being surprised at my own success because it was instilled in me that I was average at best or that I had so many things that I had to improve on that any successes paled in comparison. I am currently married to a narcissist and don’t feel I have ever been involved in a healthy intimate relationship. My narcissistic husband has put down every effort of mine to be successful. This is one of the ways my husband has abused me over the past 10 years – telling me that I have contributed nothing to the marriage, that I am awful in sales and that he would never use me as a realtor and he has ridiculed me for not making more money. I have always looked outside of myself for validation and always assumed that everyone else knows better than me. I’ve never trusted my own judgment. I now believe I have lived with anxiety my whole life but did not realize it until the past 3-4 years because that is the only feeling I have ever known. I never really even knew I had intuition or how important it was to listen to or be aware of my own body and how it was reacting to certain situations.”
TIPS FOR DEALING WITH THOSE WHO BELITTLE YOU
Work with a trauma-informed counselor to investigate steps you can take to achieve your goals with more confidence, to dampen the force of your Inner Critic and to create healthier self-talk. Establish healthy boundaries with others. If you find yourself in the presence of someone who habitually criticizes you more than they encourage you, take it as a red flag that they are destructive to your mental health. Tune into your inner voice, validate your discomfort and listen to your visceral reactions – your body will tell you everything you need to know. If someone appears to be putting you down out of jealousy or envy, they likely are trying to sabotage you and you don’t have to stand for it. You don’t need anyone in your life who makes you feel less than. Don’t forget to give yourself healthy praise and self-validation whenever you’ve accomplished something, big or small. Congratulate yourself, and surround yourself with people who lift you up rather than tear you down.
The Big Picture
Malignant narcissists cause severe destruction to our lives and our psyches – what’s more, as you can tell from these horrifying stories, they sadistically take pleasure in causing that destruction. They set you up to look like the perpetrator while they play the victims. They make sure to brandish their blows when you’re especially low, so you are unable to fight back effectively.
If you are involved with a narcissist or were raised by a narcissist, know that it is not your fault and that you have every right to protect yourself. You have every right to cut contact with or limit contact with those who are dangerous to you, even if they share your DNA. No matter what you have been through, you can and you will rise above a narcissist’s sabotage. You can use these experiences as lessons to propel you forward and as powerful reminders to cut toxic people out of your life.
Although it may seem impossible and excruciatingly painful now, you can create a brighter future for yourself, one without toxic people. As you learned from these stories, you are not alone. The effects of this abuse are devastating, but they carry with them opportunities for deeper healing. You’ll know you are getting better at setting boundaries when you no longer wait for people to continue their deplorable behavior for the thousandth time. Instead, you will cut them off at the first few red flags. You won’t even seek an explanation for their problematic behavior or try to overanalyze or rationalize it. You will simply see it for what it is: a fundamental lack of empathy and a character defect you cannot change. And you will walk away – before they pull the rug out from underneath you.
Goulston, M. (2012, February 9). Rage-Coming Soon From a Narcissist Near You. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/just-listen/201202/rage-coming-soon-narcissist-near-you
MacDonald, M. (2016, April 22). N.S. research lays out how to recognize narcissistic perfectionists. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.ctvnews.ca/lifestyle/n-s-research-lays-out-how-to-recognize-narcissistic-perfectionists-1.2870230
Stines, S. (2018, December 26). When the Narcissist (or other Such Emotional Abuser) in Your Life Ruins the Holidays. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2018/12/when-the-narcissist-in-your-life-ruins-the-holidays/
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