It’s usual for victims of narcissistic abuse to be shocked when they realize the Truth.
If you, like many other men, have been dealing with a breakdown of a narcissistic relationship, you were likely subjected to abuse for some time. The full extent of abuse that you might even not realize.
Narcissists don’t look like devils or cartoon villains, they come in various shapes and forms, and they can be your partner, sibling, leader, parent, or long-term friend.
Abuse usually starts slowly, with small put down, and then the volume is turned up little by little — so slowly, in fact, that you don’t even notice it until it’s too late.
A victim of narcissistic abuse can be compared to a frog who kissed the wrong princess and ended up in the pot of hot water, staying as the temperature slowly increased, becoming somewhat tolerant of the heat and becoming paralyzed, unable to jump out, when the water starts to boil.
Why is it so difficult to jump out of the boiling water?
If you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist, you might experience a psychological phenomenon called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is when the brain is trying to hold two opposing beliefs at the same time, for example:
- “My partner loves me, she tells me that every day…”
- “My partner threatens to leave me everyday…”
These two beliefs are competing against each other and the brain finds it very uncomfortable to deal with so it searches for ways how to resolve this psychological discomfort. And it has a few options to choose from.
This happens when the brain simply tunes out from the belief it doesn’t like, by denying that anything bad has happened to the victim of abuse.
In this instance, the brain accepts that the unwanted thing happened, but makes excuse for the narcissistic behavior and abuse. Ultimately, believing that it’s their fault that they are being abused.
Let’s say you have children with a narcissist and you might be thinking: “She cheated on me, and that was my fault, as I wasn’t always present due to my work obligations, but I am unable to leave because of the children — they are young and they need a father”.
Often men and women believe that things will go back to normal.
And hope is a very dangerous thing when it comes to a relationship with a narcissist. If you don’t come to the realization that things will never go back to “how they used to be” in the beginning. Then you will stay, wait for those times of “love-bombing” and adoration to come back, but those times will never come. That’s past.
You will stick to the belief, a comforting belief, that the love was real. You will be trapped by images of the romantic gestures and promises of “better times”.
This hope can prevent you from seeing the relationship clearly. This hope has to be at some point abandoned for you to be able to look in-depth at your relationship with objective eyes and see the patterns of narcissism in your relationship.
You may also experience at these times a so-called “euphoric recall”, which is a tendency to only remember the good times, overlooking the bad times which ultimately leads you to hold onto this unrealistic and dangerous hope that things just might get better in time.
Many people who have been and still are in a relationship with narcissists have found themselves completely isolated from friends and family. This may happen because the narcissist’s humiliating actions have turned your friends and family away from them or because the narcissist has deliberately isolated you from your close ones.
At this point, you might have no one close to turn to and confide in with your issues in your relationships. Isolations leaves you questioning your own sanity and confused about the realities of your relationship.
Trauma Bounding equals Addiction
It is immensely hard to see the situation objectively.
Especially when your brain does an amazing job of convincing itself that there is nothing wrong with your narcissistic partner. Your brain looks for ways to justify the abuse because somehow it just can’t imagine life without the narcissist.
The abusive behavior leads their victims (supplies) to become addicted to the narcissist. They lose their authentic self, hopes, and wishes and become trapped in the relationship.
How Do Narcissists Make You Become Addicted to Them?
Narcissists keep you hooked on this false belief that everything will return back to the honeymoon phase.
Just like an addict receiving its first high, does all in his power to receive that feeling of the “first dose” that left him with memories of happiness, so he keeps on using and using but is unable to get the “satisfaction” — which ultimately leads him to self-destruction and death.
The brain is flooded with certain chemicals during the initial honeymoon phase, flooded with endorphins and serotonin. When you are in a relationship with a narcissist they use techniques such as:
- Love bombing
- Over the top romantic gestures
And this is a crucial stage for your brain chemicals when they start to produce the “happy” chemicals in huge quantities.
But what starts as a “too good to be true” relationship just as Johnny Depp stated in his ongoing trail with Amber Heard, the narcissist turns to subtle and covert abuse. And the victim (supply) absorbs this blame and does all in its power to get back to that initial phase when they were so happy, that his or her brain so craves.
The victims of narcissist abuse find themselves jumping through hoops to establish a small win (perhaps even a selfish win, just like an addict, who is ready to sell his grandma’s jewelry for 0.5 gram of speed).
So what do they do?
- They provide attention to the narcissists
- They express their everlasting love
- They surprise them with lavish meals
- They buy them gifts that they can’t afford
Even when they are confronted by silent treatment or mild humiliation, they still do their best to get back the relationship to the honeymoon phase.
All of this throws the brain into chaos — the brain drained on one occasion, while on the other it’s sky-high. It can be compared to an addictive cycle, similarly to those people who go to slot machines, which are an unpredictable force of nature of wins, and keeps the victim “in the game”, in fog and chemically hooked to it.
Over years the victim becomes grateful for the good behavior and attention from the narcissist. Sometimes even the absence of badmouthing or silent treatment becomes enough for these victims to feel OK.
This “chemical addiction” to the narcissist leads to trauma-bonding.
It leads to the false belief that things can and will get better. It teaches the victims of narcissistic abuse to:
- Try harder
- To do better
- To give more
- To ask for less
- To want less
“To dance to the end of love“, as Leonard Cohen would say.
These are the same tactics that spiritual narcissists, cult leaders, or just leaders impose on people. They entrap people, especially, empaths and vulnerable ones: co-dependents, addicts, orphans and so on.
Addicts of any sort are driven by their addictions and can’t see the relationship objectively. It’s no surprise that victims of narcissistic abuse find it extremely hard to see the narcissist for who they truly are.
Toxic Abusive Relationships have clinically several things in common, where one partner has the following traits:
- Little or no empathy or compassion for others.
- Lack of insight into how so many have been hurt in their “wake.”
- Lack of guilt or remorse in all situations.
- Engages in distraction through raging, projections, and blame-shifting.
- Always trying to win, especially when children are involved.
- Little or no accountability in their own life.
And thankfully there is a way to live better.
All you have to do is look deeply into your own history with your partner and view it objectively. It is very common for victims of narcissistic abuse to be surprised when they realize that they’ve been abused in the first place. It’s humiliating to many of them.
And it takes a long time to come to terms with it and reconcile two different versions of your reality.
Out Of The Fog
For those affected by Toxic Abusive relationships: be it yourself, your spouse, your grandmother, or even a therapist. Partners in Men’s Health have created a unique oasis to heal from any Emotional Challenge.
We offer safe and private concierge-style services that are not available for this highly specialized situation around High Conflict Relationships in all areas of one’s life: family, friends, romantic relationships, and high-conflict situations at work.
For all those stuck in the Toxic Abusive Relationship, consider trying our approach that will help you reclaim your identity, and together we can raise awareness about the “hidden clinical epidemic” of our times.