“You are a bad person if you respond poorly to me”
When we search for a clinical explanation about the topic of narcissism we find very strong identifiers that we can zero in on. Identifiers like pathological self-absorption, an inflated ego, and a sense of entitlement. False confidence illustrates that these individuals are living behind a false front. But also ‘them’ displaying impaired empathy or a willingness to exploit other people prone to exaggerated emotions both positive (they either love you) and negative (they may hate you). But their manipulative mind games go further than that and are often unnoticed.
As I let it shine through in parts I and II of this trilogy, all narcissists subject their victims to a very severe form of psychological abuse known as ‘reactive abuse’. Reactive abuse happens when you, the victim of the narcissistic abuse, are showing a reaction to the abuse you are exposed to. The narcissist will try to convince you and other people that you are the actual abuser because of your reaction.
They do this to use as proof that you are mentally ill, unstable, or crazy. And, if it is successful, the true abuser is actually able to convince you that the abuse you are subjected to is your fault. Over time you will become more and more dependent on your abuser’s interpretation of reality instead of your perceptions and experiences. It grooms into conditions to you feeling deep levels of guilt and shame about yourself.
7 signs that you are being emotionally abused
- If you don’t do what this person wants or expects you to do there will be some form of punishment.
- They are controlling your time, your obligations, your beliefs, your finances etc.
- They are continually putting you down or are making insulting comments to you and disguising it as ‘cracking a joke.
- They provoke and push and intentionally try over and over again to get under your skin and push your buttons until you finally get angry and then they use your reaction against you.
- They use guilt and pity parties to control you. Or manipulate you into doing something that they want.
- They intend to gaslight you about reality to confuse you.
- They give you the silent treatment as punishment for something you did or did not do that they wanted you to do.
Those who have been or are mentally abused can get angry or frustrated pretty easily. Therefore, it is important to understand that when a trauma shows up and it reveals itself as a reaction, sometimes, those reactions can look pretty intense. Also, people who are being exposed to any abuse for a long period of time, usually for years or decades, are living in a flight-flight survival mode. And when a human being is in this state the brain is exclusively focused on survival. When we are in this state we cannot even access the logical part of the brain. So, our reactions can seem pretty intense or out of proportion. So, please keep that in mind if you have a loved one who has been mentally and(or physically abused.
Off-label patterns that reveal narcissism
Here are 14 different indicators that will give you an idea of how extensive this manipulative and mental abuse can be. With the gaslighting I mentioned in part I in the back of our mind, let’s see if we can understand what some of the off-label identifiers of narcissism are and you be the determiner to see if this is something that you recognize with someone or, can relate to as the receiving end of the equation.
- Narcissists can be very inclined towards criticism which is part of their attitude of superiority over individuals. They have a gift of being able to find out what is ‘wrong’ about you which is one of the narcissist’s favorite games. They like to poke you and set up scenarios where you indeed will give them an ugly response and then they turn right around and say “See, there’s is the proof that I need. You are a defective person.” And they go into the character assassination.
- Narcissists can be laser-focused on you. By that I mean, they can watch you very carefully to determine if you are doing whatever is necessary to make them feel better in the moment. They want to zero in on how you are supposed to look or feel or what kind of opinions you should have. They focus heavily outwardly.
- There is only one opinion in the world that really matters and guess whose opinion that one is.
- There is a pattern that is referred to as splitting. Splitting or binary thinking means that there can be a strong ‘all or nothing’, ‘black or white’ kind of mindset. You and I agree with each other and if not, I hate you! There is no nuance, no middle ground. They don’t know how to deal with complexity or diversity. That is something that is just very uncomfortable for them.
- Simple suggestions create an oddly defensive projection and accusing kinds of reactions. For example, you might say hey you might try this instead of this. And instead of them saying Hum, okay they can go off with this real strong defensiveness like why are you trying to tell me what to do! They can be very thin-skinned in a very odd kind of way over minutia.
- There is the self-delusion that inhibits them to say hey let’s learn from one another’s conversations. Now when I say self-delusions it is like I don’t need to hear from you, I don’t need to hear from anybody. And so when they say Hey let’s just talk and I’ve got some ideas I know you do too the delusion is, you just need to listen to me and I say if I need an opinion from you. Because I am the only one in the room that matters.
- They hijack conversations constantly. Now from time to time when somebody tells you something, you will respond with a ‘me too’ reaction. For instance when someone says I went to an event and you say oh I did something similar last week. But you will notice that narcissists go way beyond that. You may be talking about something that is very important to you and as you are into the conversation, you realize that that person just took whatever you said and start talking about their own favorite topics. And, listening more closely to the narcissist, you realize they do this a lot. They won’t let you have a conversation. They just make it all about themselves and they think it is perfectly normal. They think that this actually is empathizing when in fact it is shoving you aside. I am the only one here that’s important don’t you know?
- They can have a chameleon-like engagement with people or if they are with a certain group. Over here they will be like the people in group A and when approaching group B they will be like them and many times there are gross contradictions. So which one is it? The answer is neither. There is not a real “them” in there. The narcissist lacks any kind of center or real sense of meaning or self and is therefore constantly looking outwards for other people to fill this void inside them. And, by telling exaggerated and false narratives, this void is temporarily filled with the attention people give them. So, metaphorically describing a narcissist as a chameleon simply refers to the fact that they will often adapt and change to mimic their surroundings as a real chameleon does. Narcissists will intensely mirror and copy the traits, hobbies, interests, and values of someone they enter a close(r) relationship with, but will then happily discard them and move on to other people and do exactly the same, mimicking a completely different set of traits and hobbies.
- They are hardly ever curious about you unless they want something from you. They might ask you some questions but they truly are not interested in you because they diminish you, and everyone else who has a strong sense of self, very heavily. They are constantly in a fault-finding mode meaning, the only thing the narcissist is interested in when asking questions, is gathering facts that will be used against you later on.
- They like for you to filter your relationships with others through them. Many times you might hear them say things like why would you want to spend time with that person? You have a loyalty to that individual but do you know how many things that they’ve done that have just been absolutely wrong? You’re going to wreck your life if you’re with that person! They need you to zero in with them and so they are putting down others. Many narcissists will cut you off from your friends or family members. They will speak badly about people who are important to you or ‘take’ certain people inside the family, whether it is kids or adults, and act as if these people belong to them. In that way, they can be the ‘gatekeeper’ of your relationships.
- They can often be very impressed by someone else’s power, accomplishment, prestige, beauty or whatever positive they bring to the equation and want to settle up next to it. This might come across as the narcissist having a healthy way of being impressed by someone’s accomplishments but, it is part of their envy and filling in the void they have inside. It is their way of saying I need to be associated with the highest and the best. I don’t want to just be an average person like you. Telling that the narcissist is an average person is an insult to them which makes them immediately resort to their defense mechanism of projection.
- They offer lots of excuses for their own personal problems and, it is always someone else’s fault. If there is a breakup in a relationship, if there is a project that did not go well, if a mistake was made or just something was forgotten, it is always someone else who is responsible for that. In their mind, they are constantly the victim of other individuals’ inappropriate actions.
- They are not known for being patient. There is a constant undertow of irritability and agitation. And as a result, when you go counter to them, you are going to pick up on their irritability and impatience and that is part of that emotional dysregulation that is so easy in common with them. Unfortunately, when you go too often against this narcissistic trait, physical abuse might be lurking around the corner. Not to enter another fight, you work faster which makes the narcissist say See, you are creating this stress with me because you are always stressed and in a hurry. Or, if people only knew how pushy you are they would understand why I am having burnout.
- They are very willing to betray a friend, family member, or colleague if it means that they get to move ahead. If they have to shove their grandmother, child, or partner, off to the side in order to get ahead they are willing to do that. To them, you are nothing more than an object to make them look better, friendlier, charming, or, the victim.
Based on these backstabbing behaviors, which I had to deal with while living with a narcissist for 22 years, my answer is: that narcissism is not something that just exists strictly in academic textbooks. It is something that happens at a real-time level. It is far-reaching, it is very broad and it impacts many people in a disruptive kind of way.
Staying alert for years takes its toll
It is amazing how many people can be ‘bought off’ by someone who is, for instance, picking up the check after a meal. This false generosity, warmth, and friendliness, is exactly what most people see. And so, they assume that it is you that is the problem.
A narcissist makes their victims small and anxious – almost afraid of the world in some way – which makes others think “Ugh, this ‘person’ is so charming no wonder that they don’t like the relationship. Who wants to be with that anxious person!” Not only does this confuse their victims and test their reality, it also cuts out the amount of support their victims can get and need because other people fall for the false narratives of the narcissist.
So, adding gaslighting to the above list I have given you 15 different indicators that will give you an idea of how extensive this mental abuse is the narcissist is executing in a slithery and malcontent manner. I could actually add more indicators like parental alienation but now you have a head start in recognizing the difference between a narcissist and their victims. As well as it might answer the question of why do we have to educate ourselves so much on this topic of narcissism.
To summarize the territory traveled in this article…it is really important for you to recognize that this behaviour is a pattern. These two masks, these two faces the narcissist is showing and acting upon, are their game and it really does harm to those who are stuck in a relationship as such. This behaviour of someone being able to be so different in public, so different with their friends, so different with other people, and then show you an entirely different face behind closed doors… is a form of gaslighting and it blinds people’s perspective of recognizing where the true problem lies.
People need to understand and recognize the masks these narcissistic individuals wear. Therefore, if your friend comes to and says What you see out here is not what is happening at home, listen! Because, that is not your friend complaining, it is your friend saying that there is an abusive dual life they are stuck in.