I’d intended to write a succinct post about the ‘ten indicators you’re in a relationship with a narcissistic abuser’. After some reflection, however, I’ve decided that’s far too trite a way to treat the subject and that each indicator, whether it be number ten, twelve or forty-three, needs to be broken down and discussed in detail. There are enough short, snappy ‘bites’ out there on the internet to whet anyone’s appetite on the subject. When you’re deep in the labyrinth of narcissistic, psychological and emotional abuse, however… you need so much more.
Abuse is not trite. It is not a flippant or easily understood phenomenon. If you’re in its grips, you need detail, time to absorb that detail, and some guideposts out of the darkness. You need to feel ‘heard’ and ‘understood’. You need to know you’re not alone. You need…more than a list.
So, let’s begin slowly and I’ll do my best to walk you through the details and help you find a way forward.
Does someone in your life fly off the handle at the slightest criticism? And is it invariably your fault?
This is a big warning sign you may be in the clutches of an abusive, controlling personality, one that may have, at its core, a huge sense of entitlement. A balanced personality understands we’re not perfect, we all make mistakes and sometimes it’s appropriate for others to point out these faults and request change. We may not like it and sometimes we might bristle and feel hurt, but we won’t lash out with a tirade of abuse or with days of passive aggressive silent treatment, at least not often.
An abusive person with an overabundance of narcissism however, will lash out regularly and brutally, so much so you’ll find yourself constantly walking on eggshells, waiting with a sick, sinking feeling in your gut for the next cruel verbal, or even physical outburst. You are, in fact, hypervigilant. This may be so much a part of your life you believe it’s normal. It’s not. It’s a highly dysfunctional, unhealthy way to live and the stress will likely lead to both physical and psychological/emotional illness, if it hasn’t already. Don’t let this continue to be your normal, as hard as it must be to wrap your head around how things could ever be different. Perhaps it’s been this way for so long, you don’t know any other way to live. I feel your pain acutely. This was once my normal, too.
One of the most baffling aspects of that time in my life is that the majority of the ‘criticism’ for which my abuser rounded on me, were imagined slights. I never knew when a word, a joke, a question or observation, or a mere ‘look on my face’ would trigger an attack out of nowhere. The harder I tried to monitor my every word and movement, the more sudden and frequent the attacks became. He was simply screwing the vice tighter and tighter, not wanting me to wriggle free of its grip. It was as if he truly hated me instead of loving me as much as he avowed he did. It didn’t feel like love. I knew that but assumed it was my fault. If he was so certain everything was my fault, and confidently, loudly told me so time and again, then surely it must be my fault.
Sound familiar? Are you nodding your head and silently saying, ‘Yeah, me too’?
There were many times I literally couldn’t figure out the reason for his sudden rages. He would be happy and joking one minute, wild-eyed and furious the next. What had I done? I’d spend hours, sometimes days wracking my brains to unearth a sane explanation for his latest ambush. The shock tactics were all part of the strategy. If the ‘enemy’ attacks you from behind, you expect it. You don’t expect it from someone you believe loves you. And so it goes, round and round, for months and years and sometimes decades.
If this is happening to you, please stop trying to unravel a rational explanation for your abuser’s actions. The truth is, controlling and abusive people don’t think rationally the way stable people do. Their mindset and world-view are simply not rational. Trying to see the logic in their thinking is a ticket straight to a psych ward where your stay may be protracted. It will literally drive you mad because that’s exactly what it’s intended to do. Your abuser wants you to look like the crazy one because that affirms his/her place as the well-calibrated, long-suffering martyr. It helps preserve their thin veneer of superiority.
I’ll leave you to digest my words for today and tackle the next ‘red flag’ over the coming days. If you are struggling with this issue and would like further information and support, please contact me via the contact form on this website.