Whether a man or a woman, take care not to give your heart too quickly to a narcissist!

If you are to reduce your chances of being re-victimised by yet another narcissist, then you really do need to learn how to recognize narcissistic traits when you see them.  Of course, a narcissist does not have to display all of the known traits in order to be dangerous, however, the rational is, the more traits that are present, then the more potentially harmful the relationship is likely to be.   No matter how you have been involves with a narcissist,  whether it is a parent, a sibling, a lover, a work mate, a friend, etc., you are likely to have experienced emotional and psychological damage to your own being.  You are most likely to have suffered the experience of an escalating abuse; from criticism, to name-calling, humiliation, being shamed, degradation, possibly physical violence, and some unfortunates have even been murdered.

If you are an adult entering into a new relationship, the clues that your charmer is a narcissist is generally there from the start.  Whether they are male or female, they will  shower you with attention that is way over the top.  When they talk to you, you will feel that you are the most important person in the world at that moment.  You will be really flattered with the dangerous seduction that will come your way.  It will seem like no time at all before they want to spend every moment with you.  They will tell you that you are their soul-mate, that you and they are exactly alike, and that you understand them like no other person does.  They will want to commit incredibly fast, whether it is romantically, or some other way, like a partnership of one sort or another.  They will want to shower you with gifts, flattery and all kinds of promises, and they will whip you up in frenzy.   Of course all this behaviour is actually a clue to the shallowness of their emotional attachments, and the fact that you have something that they want (information, skills, knowledge, etc.), you are their next target of Narcissistic Supply for providing them with attention, approval, adoration, admiration etc.  Healthy relationships take time to develop, and they are built on a foundation of respect and appreciation, and an ability to communicate honestly, and to have realistic expectations.  Once you are hooked, the honeymoon period does not last long with a narcissist, and they are likely to detach from you as quickly as they attached, moving on to their next hot pursuit.

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It won’t be long before you will become privy to your narcissists frightening temper.  At first their rage will be indirect, aimed at someone else.  This demonstration of their power functions in such a way that it serves to intimidate and control others, including you.  You are also likely to witness physical outbursts, like demonstratively putting their fists through a solid wall, breaking or throwing things, hurling abuse; and it won’t be too long after that when you will be on the receiving end of the violence.   All of these tactics, along with their scathing criticism of you are designed to erode your self-esteem, your confidence, and give them even more control over you.  The more fearful you become, the more they will rule by fear, it is as if their power is an aphrodisiac to them.  As a result of the fear you will be subjected to, you will find yourself becoming highly vigilant, nervous and overly sensitive to every threat, walking on eggshells around your captor.  The more insecure you become, the more powerful your narcissist becomes.

Bit by bit you will become isolated from all your supports; your family, friends and colleagues.  The isolation is likely to happen without your realizing it; it may be through covert and overt acts of criticism in an attempt to turn you against the people you are closest to.  Truth is that your narcissist can feel threatened by outsiders influencing you to see through the illusion they have created, so they need to isolate you.  Their behaviour will become so demanding that you will withdraw rather than go through this punishing and tortuous interrogation every time you want to meet up with anybody.  Friends and family tend to become tired of all the excuses you make, and they step back from you.  Before you know what has happened, you are isolated, and job done for the narcissist.

Throughout this crazy behaviour, just to confuse things more, your narcissist switches to being a sweetheart.   You see the person you fell in love with suddenly emerge once again.  You’re beautiful Dr. Jekyll returns, and the evil Mr.(s). Hyde disappears out of sight, and your heart begins to sing once again.  Your guards come down; you move close to your beloved once again, this move towards them melts away all the hatred and frustration you were feeling.  You are filled with hope and a renewed optimism for the future, and you cling on with all of your might.  But this phase does not last for long, and very soon you are back to the downward spiral yet again, and along with the fear comes renewed criticism from an even more enraged Mr(s) Hyde.  It is this duality in the human nature of the narcissist (the “pull and push” behaviour) that leads to the Trauma Bonding (Stockholm Syndrome) and co-dependency needs that is so damaging for the victim.  Whatever caused the change to the narcissist’s behaviour, you can be sure it will be your fault, because your narcissist never ever takes responsibility for their behaviour.  Ultimately you are the blame; somehow you provoked whatever “bad” happens.

When this madness eventually gets too much for the victim, and they summon up the courage to leave, the narcissists core wound of abandonment is torn open.  Unless they want out themselves, your act of rejecting will most likely send them into a panic.  They will manipulate everybody into getting you to return to them, they will plead and promise the sun, moon and stars if you will just give them one more chance and you can be sure that for now, the beautiful Dr. Jekyll returns.  However, once you are back their grasp around you will become even tighter, and any further attempt to escape will become even more difficult.

The person you once were seems to be a distant memory, just as Echo became a mere “whisper of herself” in the Myth of Narcissus, you too are becoming a mere shadow of your former self with each day that passes.  Your personality begins to change; the interests and activities you once pursued are cast aside in order for you to focus on your narcissist’s needs and wants.  You start to avoid company, because the price you have to pay each time is too high a price on your moral.  Your narcissist makes sure that they will embarrass you in front of company if you appear to be enjoying yourself too much.  In time you find yourself with nothing to say, you are becoming something you despise, a doormat.   The worst thing is that you know that your narcissist also hates who you have become, and shows that in their total lack of respect for you.  No matter how high you jump, the bar keeps being raised, and you surrender to the fact that you can never be good enough.  Your sense of worth and esteem is so eroded that you begin to believe that nobody else would want you, so you die inside.  You are now at the mercy of the evil Mr.(s) Hyde.  Your only goal in life now is to fulfill your narcissist’s sense of entitlement, to live by their rules and laws, and keep your head down to avoid being punished at a whim.  You have been exposed to the psychological been truly gaslighted.  Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse used by narcissists in order to instill in their victim’s an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment.  In effect, being in a relationship with a narcissist is the equivalent of being in a cult.

 If you finally managed to break free from your prison, then very well done to you, because many victims never manage to do so.  The thing to look out for now is that you don’t allow yourself become re-victimized by another narcissist.  You are conditioned in the narcissist’s convoluted dance, so they will be attracted to you like a “moth to a flame” as a source of new narcissistic supply.  But you are a wiser person for your experience, as they say, “what does not kill you makes you stronger”.  You really do need to learn what it is about you that make you vulnerable to being snared by a narcissist.  Once you work that out you can protect yourself against being hooked again.

When entering a new relationship, take your time to become an anthropologist.  An anthropologist studies the behaviour of the person in their culture in order to understand them.  The job is not to change anything, but just observe.  When you meet people, just observe the person to find out what kind of personality they have, you don’t have to judge them or change them; just know what you are dealing with.  Watch how the person treats others in the course of the time spent with you, because if they act uncaring with others, that is a very good indicator of how they are likely to treat you later on.   The honeymoon period is going to be fabulous, that you can be sure of, but it is what follows that you need to worry about.  Watch how they behave with neutral people, for example, in the restaurant, in the theater, how they talk to people who serve them in shops, etc., these can act as “red flags” of whom this person truly is.  If the person is a narcissist they will be acting out of a False Self, and while they can keep up the pretense for a short time while they win you over, they will not be able to be consistent with the other people around them……. watch for the mask to slip.  If they show superiority over others, speaking down to those people they perceive as inferior, then let me warn you, that once they have you in the palm of their hand, you can expect the same treatment.  Listen to how others speak of your new friend, especially those who are in more intimate contact with them.  What are they saying, do they see them as having integrity, or as being two-faced?  Be cautious if they are showing signs of being a Jekyll and Hyde, and watch to see if the Hyde personality is becoming more prominent as time goes on.  Watch to see if they encourage your independence, and self interests, or do they tend to dampen your ardor.  Do they consider the opinions of others, do they show empathy, do they come across genuine in their exchanges with others.  Watch out for any gaslighting behaviour toward others, how they behave toward “their betters”, so they suck up to them and model their ways, or do they discredit them.  These are signs of their inferiority and envy.  Do they show respect and care for others, or does everything always have to be about them?  Lying is a big part of the narcissist’s behaviour, so my advice to you is to watch out for what they are telling you, then sit back and watch to see if what they said stands up to the test of time.

It is important that you take your time to build any relationship on healthy foundations.  Enjoy being treated royally, but watch for any inconsistency with interactions with others before declaring your love.  If you recognize the red flags, then you need to heed them.  Don’t let your heart rule your gut, let your intuition guide you.  If you think this person is really too good to be true, then your spirit is giving you a warning, it may be wise to move on while you can.

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Christine is a Psychotherapist, Educator, Author and Supervisor of mental health professionals for over 28 years. She was part of a team in the Trauma Unit of St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital, Dublin, and has worked specifically with victims of pathological narcissistic abuse in her private practice for many years.
Her books, “The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse” and “When Shame Begets Shame: How Narcissists hurt and shame their victims” set out to to help those who have been affected by a narcissist and also to address the shortfalls in a therapist’s education, so that they become better equipped to work with survivors of narcissistic abuse.Much of her knowledge has come from her post-grad studies in Criminology and Forensic Psychology, and it is through these disciplines that she has gained her understanding of “The Dark Triad”, (Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy).
These three faces of evil are vital information for understanding the full spectrum of narcissistic abuse and the dire effects on the victims.It is her vision that narcissistic abuse becomes part of the curriculum of all Mental Health clinicians.
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