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The Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse

A narcissistic personality can be caused by a variety of circumstances.

Fizkes/ Shutterstock
Fizkes/ Shutterstock

Narcissistic abuse is a type of emotional abuse performed by someone who has narcissistic or sociopath tendencies. These people have a tendency to use words and language in manipulative ways to harm, change, or otherwise influence their partners’ behaviour, whether they are aware of it or not. While all narcissistic abuse is classified as ‘thought control’ or ’emotional manipulation,’ narcissists have a variety of methods for doing this. Gaslighting is a manipulative method used by certain narcissists to confuse and disorient their relationships, making them more vulnerable to their demands and abuse.

Idealize, Devalue, and Discard are the three stages of narcissist abuse, 

Idealize

Narcissists pick targets for a variety of reasons, but in order to qualify as a “excellent target,” they hunt for vulnerabilities that will reveal what you have previously allowed. Targets are frequently selected based on their status, occupations, beauty, popularity, success, and riches. The better the quality status you provide, the more valuable you are to them; conquer first, then destroy.

Once they’ve determined that you’re worth a ‘supply’ to them, they’re relentless in their pursuit, lavishing loving attention, praises, and telling you how you’re unlike anybody else they’ve ever met.

Devalue 

Victims of abuse are frequently unaware that this stage has begun; their intuition tells them that something has changed, but it’s difficult to pinpoint what it is.

Narcissists engage in both a public and a private game, making it more difficult to comprehend. When you express your worries, you become the ‘jealous one,’ and you begin to question yourself. When the “mask slips” and you see the actual person, he or she becomes cold and indifferent practically overnight. They offer reasons, and if we don’t accept them, we are labelled as “crazy.” They’re lowering your expectations from frequent communication to crickets, and the verbal and emotional assault is hurtful.

Discard 

Many victims claim that the ‘discard’ happened out of the blue and that everything was good until they receive a cold and nasty phone call, text, or Facebook message rejecting them. The narcissist moved back and forth in the devaluation stage. The victim is the ‘mad X,’ ‘psycho bitch,’ who has their head spinning as a result of these false charges. It’s crucial to understand that the narcissist will pick on your strengths and label them as flaws. This is known as a smear campaign, and the purpose is to damage you, to make you curl up in a ball and not be able to see that it was them, not you, who did this. Many victims are diagnosed with CPTSD and suffer immensely while they attempt to reclaim their lives.

The Idealization stage, often known as love-bombing, is common in narcissistic relationships. Expect to be showered with gifts, favours, “universal” attention, and declarations of love and devotion. Something will happen at some point: the mask will come off for a little moment, revealing a different aspect of this person. You could catch them lying, find inconsistencies in their words and acts, note inconsistency in their availability, or notice them behave differently among other individuals, such as appearing to be pleasant to someone’s face before disparaging them. During the Transition period, you may confront them about their actions or establish a barrier to protect yourself. This is not going to go down well.

The narcissist will subsequently enter the Devaluing stage instead of considering your thoughts or worries. Prepare to be in a lot of pain here. The first line of defence for a narcissist is to flip the script, blaming you for all of the relationship’s issues, insulting and lowering your self-worth, demeaning or shaming you, and frequently utilising triangulation to make you feel insane or disposable. Their objective is to influence you and devalue your thoughts and feelings, regardless of whether their remarks about others are truthful or not. “You’re being much too sensitive/crazy/controlling, etc.” and similar expressions should be avoided. This is when manipulation, sometimes known as gaslighting, takes place in order to cause you to question your reality. Please see my prior blog article for additional information about gaslighting.

The relationship will frequently reach a breaking point, at which point a new Transition stage will begin. You may either set terminal boundaries, such as quitting the relationship and going no-contact, or you can get drawn back into the lunacy by the narcissist’s adept “hoovering” at this period. This stage is marked by honeymooning behaviours such as apologies, pledges to change, and even little measures toward change, such as seeking assistance for a drinking problem or reading a self-help book you’ve recommended in the past. It’s crucial to figure out why the abuser is acting this way: if they’re using “recovery” milestones and activities to impress you and stay in touch with you, they’re probably not actually in recovery. There is a potential that meaningful change will occur if they respect your space and devote sufficient time to personal development. Most people do not change because there is always someone ready to cope with the narcissist’s antics. If you’re lucky, the narcissist will dump you in favour of a new supply during this stage, and you’ll seek help and begin to figure out why you decided to be with a narcissist in the first place.

The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle can be a fertile foundation for trauma symptoms to emerge. However, the mechanics of a narcissistic relationship might be perplexing. It’s difficult to get your mind around a narcissist’s thinking style. After all, the phrase conjures up a picture of someone whose whole existence revolves about themselves.

However, things aren’t always as straightforward as they look. This is especially true when it comes to how narcissists approach relationships, especially romantic ones. Knowing the indications of narcissistic abuse is critical for your happiness and peace of mind.

When a person lives with or spends a substantial period of time with a narcissist, he or she develops narcissistic abuse syndrome. People who suffer from narcissistic abuse syndrome frequently question their own self-worth and sanity. They are frequently preoccupied with their defects, failures, and other problems, regardless of whether or not these concerns are true. They are frequently merely beliefs implanted in their minds by their narcissistic companion.

When someone is suffering from narcissistic abuse syndrome, they may experience a variety of symptoms. Many of these symptoms are similar to those observed in patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a disease that affects people who have experienced terrible events. Some of these signs and symptoms include:

Thoughts that are intrusive, invasive, or otherwise unwelcome

Triggers are physical or emotional reactions to situations that are comparable to or resembling traumatic events.

Flashbacks are reoccurring events in which a person feels as though they are reliving a horrific event.

Avoiding people, places, or situations that are linked with a narcissist.

The narcissist might alternate between destruct and hover. This is when you may exhibit the most self-destructive habits, or you may retreat from loved ones because they may not grasp the complex abuse you are experiencing.

It may be challenging for you to trust your own judgement. It’s also tough to convince people of the need of remaining in this relationship, particularly loved ones who don’t comprehend what you’re going through. After an effort to leave, the narcissist might bounce from discard to idealisation to lure you back. You start to look up to the narcissist. After the narcissist’s cycle is complete, they may progress through several phases depending on their demands.

In narcissistic caretakers, the same cycle of abuse exists. It’s much more difficult to spot because the cycle isn’t linear and repeats in different ways across many years. These victims may not realise they’ve been abused until they’ve grown up and left home. They have a good chance of becoming experts at performing the modelled behaviour.

There is truly just one way to interrupt the cycle of narcissistic abuse and heal from its effects: counselling. However, recuperating from any form of trauma needs more than merely discussing one’s thoughts. Your nervous system has undoubtedly been put through the wringer if you’ve been in a painful relationship with a narcissist. Clients who have survived the narcissistic abuse cycle I’ve dealt with frequently have trauma symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Shame
  • Problems with boundaries
  • Anger

When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, your sympathetic nervous system is constantly engaged. It’s possible that you’re always in “fight, flight, or freeze” mode. When you put some distance between yourself and the narcissist, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and produces a calmer, “rest and digest” reaction. Many gastrointestinal problems go away once the body feels protected.

But what if you’re the narcissist in the relationship? What if you no longer want that half of yourself to control your relationships? Then there’s the question of why you act the way you do. A narcissistic personality can be caused by a variety of circumstances. It’s possible that you acted in ways that are damaging to children. It’s possible that it’s the result of years of trauma and abuse. If this is the case, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy is a sensible therapeutic option (EMDR). This therapy method aids in the resolution of painful memories, which may be the root of narcissistic behaviour.