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Stewart Cook, Advocate for victims of Narcissistic Abuse & NPD
Updated Nov 19
In short, a form of abuse that is subtle and insidious but highly damaging to those victims exposed to it for long periods to time.
The long answer is rather more complicated.
The Mindset of the Narcissist
Before one can understand the abuse, one just needs to understand better the mindset of the narcissist. The reality is that, behind their mask, their charade, lies a very empty and toxic character. They are wracked with self-loathing and chronic lack of self confidence, they are unable to sense authentic feelings such as love, compassion or empathy. They are unable to generate their own self-esteem and are entirely reliant on others for their self-validation – on a daily basis. Very jealous of others who are able to feel joy and genuine emotions, they are convinced that others are envious of them for their grandiosity, success, wealth, popularity and influence and the like.
Parasites: Often termed emotional vampires, they have a parasitic relationship with their host (usually a significant other, but also their own children, and very possibly wider family, friends and co-workers). They target hosts, or victims, who are full of some very positive qualities and virtues – honesty, kindness, generosity, trust, optimism, confidence - as well as some others that are less positive – notably naivety and poor personal boundaries.
Narcissistic Supply: To prop up their very fragile egos, Narcissists derive what is called narcissistic supply. This comes in two flavors, positive and negative. Positive takes the form of adulation, adoration, compliments, applause, recognition, admiration and the like. Narcs will hunt for this in public as well as private.
Negative Narcissistic Supply: Is derived in more ominous and toxic forms. I liken to an umbilical cord that they attach to their host that diverts anything and everything that would feed the self-esteem of the target, from the victim to themselves in order to nourish their own fragile ego. And this is where the narcissistic abuse comes in.
Erosion of Self-worth:That umbilical cord slowly, steadily, subtly and insidiously sucks the host dry of their own self-identity, self-worth, confidence, mojo and very appetite for life. Usually without even knowing that it is happening, the psychological abuse is often mistaken for depression or a mid-life crisis, and sometimes a mystery energy-draining illness.
Forms of Abuse: There are many forms that narcissistic abuse can and do take. They include:
Psychological abuse – threatening behavior designed to make you feel in danger
Emotional abuse – deliberately upsetting your feelings
Physical abuse – resulting in physical harm
Verbal Abuse – shouting, screaming, name calling etc.
Sexual abuse – forced sexual activity against your wishes, as well as unreasonably withholding sex
Word Salad - starting and continuing arguments, for no apparent reason, with no obvious goal or key point being debated - with the intention of confusing you, putting you on the back foot, convincing you of your supposed insanity, angering you, deflecting from their own poor behaviour.
Gaslighting – deliberate psychological abuse whereby, for example, they contradict your understanding of facts, or they hide your car keys (whilst assuring you that you didn’t leave them where you know you did) and then miraculously “find” them for you - all designed that you mistrust your own reality
Baiting and Trapping - deliberately pushing buttons such that you eventually lose your temper - thereby giving them evidence of “crazy and abusive” character that they will use against you in their smear campaign. This can often include false allegations made to law enforcement.
Silent Treatment – ignoring you deliberately for long periods of time
Ghosting – disappearing without explanation
Financial Abuse – using money as a method of abuse, including unreasonably restricting your access to it, running up debts, embezzlement, “borrowing” your money with no intention of returning it etc
Intellectual / mental / spiritual abuse – playing mindgames, pouring scorn on your intellect, beliefs and aspirations, unreasonably demanding perfection, devaluing your intelligence / spirituality / beliefs etc
Legal & Process Abuse – making false allegations to police and law enforcement with the intention of getting you arrested or having a record, launching spurious legal cases against you, getting you in trouble with the authorities etc
Isolation - from friends, family and other forms of support, achieved with any combination of geographical separation, smear, persuasion and “rules”.
Career abuse – trashing your professional reputation or otherwise impairing your ability to work and pursue a career
Property Abuse – stealing your possessions, denying you access to your home or belongings etc
Child abuse – in addition to abuse against the child this also includes using your children against you through parental alienation, brainwashing etc
Coercive Control - some governments are now at last introducing legislation to counter Narcissistic Abuse and “Coercive Control” is the label they adopt. It has been defined as “is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim”.
The End Result: Some victims never survive – committing suicide believing that the problem was and has always been them, and that there is no hope for arresting their decline into hopelessness and futility. This is an absolute tragedy - not least because solutions exist and a recovery into happiness and abundance is entirely possible. Plenty of survivors find a way to escape the abuse and heal, and start to make sense of the abuse in hindsight and from a distance.
Some are able to escape narcissistic abuse intact – financially and/or psychologically, but even then it will often take some considerable time to recover.
Life after narcissistic abuse is never the same - but the difference can be exciting and very fulfilling for those able to turn the corner.
I did ..