As part of the recovery process, it is entirely normal and natural for the victim to spend a period of time researching as much as one can on the subject of narcissistic personality disorder. So, if you are a victim who is Googling everything you can find on “narcissism” and are wondering if you are losing your mind, let me assure you that this is totally normal. In effect, doing one’s research is a way of reclaiming one’s mind back after the narcissist’s systematic attempt to drive you out of your mind with their gaslighting techniques of abuse.
Why do victims have a need to do research? The answer is quite simple really. They start researching because they are desperate to try to understand what happened to them while in the relationship with a pathological narcissist. Of course, most victims have little or no knowledge that they were dealing with a someone with a personality disorder, so when they discover that fact they are shocked, and many will go into denial while they adjust to such a discovery.
As a psychotherapist, I believe that “psychoeducation” is a big and vital part of the recovery work with each client. So, I encourage each client to carry out their own research, and then we can discuss what they have discovered, and see how that applies to their story as it unfolds.
Often the research helps the survivor come out of denial, as it validates that they were indeed involved with a narcissist. For example, often it provide them with information in relation to identifying the important criteria (the signs and symptoms) for diagnosing a narcissistic personality and their level of pathology.
The signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder are: –
1. Have a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes.
Information of this type allow the survivor and the clinician to probe even deeper, using Robert Hares Psychopathy checklist, which includes the following 20 behaviours (see below). This gives both the victim and the clinician a better indicator as to what level of narcissist (and the type of abuse) the victim may have been dealing with (i.e. a classical narcissist, a malignant narcissist, or a psychopath). The more boxes that are ticked, the more pathological the narcissist is likely to be, and the more severe the abuse (physically and psychologically).
Hare Psychopathy Checklist: –
· Glib and superficial charm
· Grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
· Need for stimulation
· Pathological lying
· Cunning and manipulativeness
· Lack of remorse or guilt
· Shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
· Callousness and lack of empathy
· Parasitic lifestyle
· Poor behavioural controls
· Sexual promiscuity
· Early behaviour problems
· Lack of realistic long-term goals
· Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
· Many short-term marital relationships
· Juvenile delinquency
· Revocation of conditional release
· Criminal versatility
The Devastating Effects of Gaslighting – the narcissist’s covert aggression: –
It is also important for the victim to get a basic insight into “Gaslighting”, the narcissist’s covert aggression, which amounts to psychological warfare on the victim. Gaslighting is an insidious manipulative behaviour that all narcissists use, and it includes four devastating stages, each has their own set of effects.
The Idealisation Stage: This is the phase when the narcissist is in a highly activated state and looking for reward in the psychopathic bond with their current target. This is the time when the victim is treated like the most precious and newest shiniest toy where they can do nothing wrong. At this point, the narcissist is euphoric and enjoying the psychopathic bond.
Unfortunately, this phase does not usually last very long, and very soon the narcissist begins to feel the threat of losing the relationship and they experience a ‘manipulative shift’ where they feel the need to control the victim, moving them into the next phase; The Devaluing Stage.
The Devaluing Stage: This is the time when the narcissist, fearing that the relationship is changing, returns to their baseline behaviour. The victim has fallen from grace and can now do nothing right in the narcissist’s eyes and is treated with disdain.
The Discarding Phase: The narcissist’s prominent attitude is disdain, it arises from their sense of superiority that allows them to exploit others for self-gain, and then discard them. The discard comes when the victim is perceived as being no longer useful to them, because as narcissistic supply they are not forthcoming enough, so the narcissist looks for a new source of narcissistic supply. Then the whole exciting cycle begins all over again during the Hoovering Phase.
The Hoovering Phase: This is when the narcissist feels the need to suck the victim back into the relationship with them again and again (whenever they feel like it). However, doing one’s research is only one part of the journey, and it is important that the victim does not get stuck at this stage of the recovery work.
One of the tragedies of this form of abuse (narcissistic abuse) is that the victims never get the validation from the narcissist that they so desperately need, or indeed deserve. Therefore, to move on from that “stalemate” position, the victim must find their voice, a voice that was silenced for too long.
This part of the recovery work requires immense inner strength because the victim must rebuild what has been systematically stripped away from them. For many victims, not only did they lose their voice, but they lost their identity (their sense of Self).
It is also important for the victim to understand the defence mechanisms they built up (especially if they were a child trying to survive in their dysfunctional environment), because these same defences could be holding them to ransom in their daily lives as adults. Furthermore, these defences can leave them in the dangerous position of being re-victimised by other narcissists, who will be attracted to them like the moth is to the flame.
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Thank you so much for addressing the heartache of being a Grandparent under the control of a Narcissistic Adult child. This is our story as well. What hurts unbearably is the potential damage he is doing to his daughter (our granddaughter) by denying her visitation with us. Let alone, what may transpire in future years in their relationship. Until we could bear the abuse no more, he was allowed to live in our home so we could see her on visitation days according to custody. But when he began to lose emotional control and treat us (his parents) with hatred while in her presence, we knew the time was drawing close. It was only a matter of time for him to lose control, again, and behave in verbally and physically violent ways toward us. We had to involve the police and he was escorted from our home. After that, we’ve been excluded in every way. He “ghosted” and took her with him. We have only the one grandchild and she has been our one delight in our aging years. Cruel.
I do not discuss this issue with anyone else as I don’t want to perpetrate a “smear campaign” against him the way he does to us. That too is a darkness that is sometimes unbearable. So thank you for the opportunity to share here as anonymously as possible. I cry. A lot. And then I cry some more. I have faith in God’s goodness, but one can have a shattered heart while standing in faith. Maybe a miracle will happen…
There is a name for what you are talking about, it is called “Grandparents Alienation”.
I cannot imagine the pain of such a thing, for both yourselves and the children. He is using the children as weapons against you, and he knows how much it hurts you. As for the children, they are going to be too afraid to go against him, and with time he may find a way to poison their minds against you….. but this is not their fault. Perhaps one day, when they are strong enough, they may want to meet with you themselves. Perhaps you could work towards that day.
I think I would make sure to mark the children’s life events in some way (i.e. birthdays, Christmas, First Communication Day, turning to teenager, Bar Mitzvah, etc.). Perhaps a letter, card, small gift, entry in an Album. Keep everything for each child together. This is a small thing that give you some control that your son cannot take away from you. Should any child find their way to see you, you will have proof that you had never forgotten them, but the situation was out of your control.
I don’t know what legal rights you may have (that can change country to country). The problem with forcing the situation, you have no way of knowing how he may punish the children should they want to visit with you both. The situation reminds me of the story of “The Judgement of Solomon” (to cut the child in two). You may have rights that could force the issue, but the children may be the ones to be hurt in the long run.
You may find it useful if you can find a forum for alienated grandparents, Here are a few websites I came across, you may like to look at them: –
Sorry I cannot give you more comfort, I have never worked with this one personally.
Warmest regards. Christine
Our 37 year old son certainly has many of the characteristics of the narcissist. He has used us, been disrespectful , condescending, demanding, jealous of his brother & niece, intimidating both verbally & physically to myself, his mother. He has now become the “gatekeeper”, his words & will not allow us to see our four GC. We were very close to them & loved them earnestly. We are not allowed to call, text or send gifts. My husband & myself are in a state of despair & depression. His final words to me were “they will quit asking for you & forget all about you.” I have been in counseling, both of us researching & trying to be good to each other. Is there any hope we will be able to see these precious GC? Should we send birthday cards, gifts? So sad in our twilight years .
I have a narcissistic mother and grew up without my needs being important. She demanded attention from her children. As I grew up she partied with my friends and boyfriends. Friends and family thought we were close and had an enviable relationship. It was a relationship without proper boundaries and she did nothing that ‘normal’ mothers did. Starting from not breastfeeding any of her 3 children, to expecting us to be her source of entertainment and gifts, and to have access to our friends, homes, and belongings. She gave approval and ‘love’ when you gave her what she wanted, and threw extreme tantrums when she didn’t get what she wanted.
I only realised what she was when I was well into my forties, I am now in my fifties. I also realised that I am an empath and give too much too quickly, have poor boundaries, and that I am a magnet for other narcissists, not just my mother. I am a strong resourceful person, able to solve problems and weather crisis and trauma, but always susceptible to narcissists taking advantage of me. It is an ongoing learning curve for me (about myself) to see where I fall too quickly, give too much, don’t have proper boundaries. However, I am comfortable with being empathetic, generous and capable – my ongoing lesson is to share these attributes with people who respect and appreciate me, and to weed out those who don’t.
Interestingly I have noticed that narcissist can quickly spot other narcissists and often have negative attitudes to each other – they don’t fall for each other’s seductiveness or charisma. Sometimes I use that as a quick litmus alert test. My last narcissist warned me early in our friendship – he told me that I make friends too easily sometimes. I stayed in the friendship for another 4 years until the disrespect and cracks became obvious.
Yes my boundaries’ issue and my giving (time, affection, gifts) will always be my challenges. That and early detection of narcissistic abuse or disrespect.
There is very little you can do if the victim is not willing to admit that they are being abused.
All you can do is let them know your concerns, perhaps suggest that they take a look at an article
on narcissism that you found useful. But until they are ready, there is little you can do. Perhaps
they need to find out for themselves, and that may mean that they will have to remain in the abusive
relationship and endure more abuse. As long as they are in denial there is nothing you can do. Even
if you find a brilliant therapist who understands narcissistic abuse, that does not mean that the victim
will open up to the therapist. Part of the denial may be to do with the power the narcissist has over
their victim (often the narcissist uses a from of brain washing that makes the victim resist all means to
extract them out of the relationship. Sorry to give you this news. Christine
Christine, How do you help the victims of narcissistic abuse when they are still confused about their spouses behaviour and unaware that they are being abused? Even if we found a therapist who is trained to treat NPD how do you go about getting them into treatment?
Dear R. MacMillan,
Nothing is more devastating than to find ourselves feeling as though we are “reduced to a shell of a woman who could barely function.” Once we do realize how insidious the manipulative maneuvers of the narcissist truly are it is the rage that we must process that leaves us feeling like that shell of a woman. For me, all of my dreams of using my special creative gifts and talents remain dormant and now, at age 60, I still struggle to heal enough to put the pieces of myself back together again, even enough to get through each day. There are moments of absolute despair in which trying to find ways to forgive the narcissistic abuse (which in my case has been by my father who is still amongst the living) often seems futile, if not exhausting. Yet forgiveness, though an important part of our healing process, I have found can not be forced; it sprouts on its own when we find there is no other way but to have absolute pity for our narcissitic abuser.
In isolating ourselves from other relationships, we begin to live a contemplative life and there is tremendous solace in allowing ourselves the space, reason, and freedom to draw close to God. After spending thirty years in therapy at a time when (as someone else here mentioned) gaslighting and narcissism were hardly recognized in the realm of clinical therapy, I at last found that I had no choice but to accept the feeling of emptiness and my shell-like existence. It was then that I also came to terms with the pain I have experienced and that my reward may not be in this lifetime, but in the next, so it was important for me to take my healing from a clinical to a spiritual level. In living a contemplative life of solitude there comes a point of enlightenment that we could not have realized any other way so oddly, we are greatly blessed if we are able to turn all of this into an opportunity to grow spiritually.
It is not easy to embrace suffering, yet without it we can not understand or fully appreciate or even strive for the gift of Heaven. When we come to cherish our peace of mind and the permanent value of our own spirituality, then we come to realize that we can only find that kind of rest by shutting the door for good on the evil of the narcissists in our lives, or at least until such time as we are fully confident and secure in our own divinity and ability to establish strong boundaries.
Whatever you do, take expert good care of yourself and make a commitment to do so.
It is truly a horrific shock to realize that the reason for ‘ walking on egg shells’, for over 40 years, is because I now finally accept, after much research , & much counselling that my spouse is indeed a Narcisstic.
Research , for me , was most important to assist in my making decisions for my future. A very close friend could not understand why I was doing so much research, & asked me to cease looking for a ‘label’ and take care of my self.
As a professional in healthcare I had to find reasons, if possible, for this appalling treatment to which I had been subjected on days when bunches of fresh flowers were not arriving!! Emotional abuse, at its worst .
Adequate research is vital, but not to be overdone, just enough is enough. I searched long & hard for a Counsellor who would understand Narcissism, as , after much research, I believed that I indeed had a Narcisstic spouse..
Only when I met Christine did I know that I had found the Counsellor for whom I had been long time searching. I will be forever grateful to Christine for her expertise & so understanding & caring personality. Thank you, from my heart Christine, for being you.
I now live alone & am doing my best to create my change in life, & enjoy it as much as possible. It is not an easy road, but one must have belief in the decision made, thus the necessity for adequate research. Insist on being positive, we all falter but try again. Avoid thinking of the ‘nightmare ‘ episodes, they are in the past.
Yesterday is gone, today make the most of it, & tomorrow is a new day. I am in my70’s & look forward to spending many years in a positive , enjoyable, manner.
Hi Jan, I am glad that you are now seeing a counsellor. Unfortunately, the healing is a process that you have to move through. While you are going through the courts you are probably not going to be able to concentrate on the real healing. The therapist will probably be holding you through all the dramas you are still experiencing, before you get the divorce….. you will probably need that support to stay strong. Every case is different, but it takes time to move through the trauma. Please do not lose hope, because there is life after narcissistic abuse. Christine
Christine: I am haunted by memories, flashbacks, and nightmares of the abuse, neglect, mocking, yelling, screaming, gaslighting, spitting, hitting, etc. etc. How can I wipe these memories out of my mind! My narcissist is still abusing me in the divorce courts…when does it end? If I find myself in a happy place, it is wiped away by all the abuse he put me through during our 11 year marriage. I was so confused…..until I found your book. I am seeing a counselor, but the memories still haunt me and sabotage my happiness. When does it end?
Dear Judith, Thank you for your courage to admit that even as a psychiatrist you did not know about narcissistic abuse. As a psychotherapist I can say that equally it took me as long to figure out what was happening to me. This is really important for other victims to know, that there was nothing wrong with them that they too took years to figure out the cause of their pain. I am sure, like me, that one day your contribution to the literature will be really useful for combating this form of abuse. Christine
If you can believe it, I didn’t figure it out until after the final, quite devastating end to a 10 year on- again/off-again relationship (which included a marriage that lasted just over a year). So far, pretty par for the course, right?
Here’s the kicker. I’m a psychiatrist!
In my defence I can say it wasn’t until we adopted a child — our first together– that I really saw what I was dealing with. Then I saw him through my mama bear, rather than wife/lover, eyes. Still it took me almost two more years before I got it that repeatedly giving him the benefit of the doubt with regard to a capacity to parent was not in my son’s best interests.I separated from him six weeks after the adoption. I have been co-parenting with him for 11 years! I stopped working, became a stay at home mom and independent researcher of–what else?
I intend to do something contributory with that research some day. Might have to wait until my son (who now lives with me full time) reaches the legal age of an adult so as to avoid another round of a bogus claim of Parental Alienation Syndrome.
In the meantime, I Am assembling great resources like this one, pertinent case law from around the world, and venting my pain through the writing and composing of a musical entitled Narcissist! And the Muses Are Not Amused. 15 songs so far!
p.s.You would be amazed ( or not!)how few psychiatrists knew about gaslighting prior to its recent media exposure thanks to Donald Trump. And even now it’s rarely referred to in the professional trauma literature.
Thank you, Christine, your letters truly come as a blessing especially when they are needed the most.
The more extensive the research of this evil disease of narcissism, the more it becomes apparent that the extent of narcissistic abuse by family members is actually their sinister attempt to annihilate us. The narcissist is out to rob the very soul from their sibling, son, or daughter and will throw them under the bus without compunction. They have no moral compass, they have no heart, but often they are wonderful actors.
I will go so far as to say that the narcissist is, without a doubt, the “scum of the earth.” Yet they very often hold high places throughout the world! How shallow and stupid people are to be duped by people who have a glossy veneer, but that is not to say all narcissists do have glossy veneers — they come in many forms and they hide behind many different guises. They are con-artists.
These people have no Higher Power other than themselves; and this is how they robbed us of our souls at early childhood, by depriving us of the inherent trust that is the precious gift of childhood innocence that enables us to be forever at one with our loving God.
So when we come to the rude awakening that there never, ever will be the kind of “validation” or positive reinforcement that we needed from the family members we loved, we are left finding ways to get through each day, day by day, one day at a time. Yet we are given all of the validation we need when Jesus Christ says, “If anyone causes one of these little ones-those who believe in me-to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” – Matthew 18: 1-9. And this is why we must never forget why Christ comes to us as an innocent child — the lamb. The beauty of that purity is written in our hearts which is why the ghoulish fiend narcissists tried to suck us dry of our inherent divinity — the very gift of our life itself.
But our spirits have been crushed and our hearts broken. One of the biggest challenges is learning to care for ourselves and to integrate all of the pieces of our fragmented lives, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and financially, in ways that we can fill our hearts only with the love of God, which should be our first priority. The more our hearts are filled with the gift of God, the less room we have for the invasive evils of the narcissist vampire fiends who want to possess our souls. Yet we must hate their sins and not the sinners.
Every day I think again with flashbacks of memories. It felt awfull. You feel powerless and have to name it. Not many people are known with this hidden abuse. There is also eldery abuse and government should take action and they have it on their agenda. I is overwhelming and disgusting also when you do this to older people who are familymembers or children of their members who take abuse to take money away from their bankaccount and that can be the reason of no food in the fridge and no money enough on their account to pay the groceries in the supermarket. Older people in depedencyrealtionships and more familymembers are conniving and doing to conspiracy to take money away from a older peson in a powerless position and use violence and doing insults and phisical abuse. Caretakers must recognize the signs of this form of abuse eldery abuse. I hope they will treated with dignity and with grace in stead with disgrace. And that at an old age, what a shame. One against more and that at older age you want rest and honor and want to be treated with respect and especially when you are more vulnerable and less quick then as you was at younger age. .
Some people can hardly believe that their familymember or partner was a narcissist. You don”t know where you are dealing with and in the beginning it is hard to recognize the pattern untill you read about this subject. It keeps you in a fog at the cost of shortmemoryskills and it is as if you can”t bake potatoes and the most simple things you can”t do anymore of that seems to be. hands are shaking trembling hands. You feel caged nailed and jailed but can”t get no way out. You think there is always hope and that it ever will be good but that time never comes. The devaluationstage is very dangerous and can get lost in the dust lost uin the desert. Some can take advantage of that feeling and then again you are abused by the next person that is why you must generate a good insight of defensemechanism and firm boundaries. They know how to stir your emotions and know which buttons they will push on to get any emotion out of others. Better react with indifference without emotion or defense that is what they are looking for. Have never a joined account with the narcissist. Moneyspoiling expensive things clothes and trips and I had nearly nothing to spend. When i asked my key of my house the narcissist did n”t give me an answer at all with its hidden agenda. Some people say that some targets can get stuck in trauma. With some peopleit lasts long to heal from trauma. When pain lingers on after abuse some say that wounds are scars in their soul. I don”t want me to compare with others cause everybody is different and has a different case. If you get used to and your don”t know where you are dealing with then it can be very hard to find the truth untill you read stories of others with the same signs. Get to know your self agai and find your self again after abuse because that uis disapeared but can restore again. I think you “ll never be the same again as it was just as before. Some say and i was too social and with social groups meeting new people but do now on self isolation but i”ve chosen for it. What a crazymaking chaos was that every day and for years long. I hope the government will do something against dangerous people who live free and think they can do everything at the cost of others or pepole their vulnerabilities or vulnerable positions it is like robbing but then it is nearly invisible and underhanded.
This is the very experience I had regarding learning more & more about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. At first as I read the DSM-IV-TR description of the qualities that go with this disorder, it just didn’t quite fit what I had seen in several family & marital folks. I think that’s because it’s psychological terminology & it’s vague so it kind of throws the average Josette off course. It’s not until I discovered other voices that spoke to what narcissists do & say more specifically that I was able to determine that these folks in my life were indeed narcissists. Christine was one voice. Another voice was Danu Morgan (Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers). There were several books beyond that I read. I must have spent 18 months just reading, trying to understand not just the disorder, but also what happened to me. It was a good and necessary investment because it let me know that I wasn’t crazy & that I wasn’t the mess-up, terrible person my narcissists led me to believe that I was. However, I will say this: even though I had gained a lot of knowledge, it didn’t necessarily heal the wounds. I’ve had to delve into other modalities to try to heal those, such as yoga & writing. It seems that dealing with narcissists & what they dish out to their victims is traumatic. It’s even more traumatic when it begins when a victim is a child. Traumatic experiences have a way of not being processed like normal memories & it also has a way of changing a person’s brain. This leads to something called Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). In short these trauma experiences produce a PTSD-type response in the victim as well as making it hard to get over the trauma easily. You can’t just say, “I forgive & let bygones be bygones.” Because the memories aren’t processed normally, it’s as if you’re stuck in the past all the time. You can’t just put the past behind you because you live in a constant past in the now. So it isn’t any easy fix. But mind-body modalities like yoga seem to help a lot.
Hello: Awakening to the abuse and isolation by family members (and a flying monkey) was harder for me than having just left narc abusive husband. I learned so much doing research and it made me stronger with acceptance to go no contact with sibling. I am trying to figure out if I can safely keep in touch with my niece while protecting my privacy from my vindictive sibling. It sucks to have to edit and script my life for now on to keep safe. Courage to everyone.
Good point Kathy. Moderation is the key, and finding good support systems and some self-care. Christine
I’m still not clear if my ex was a narcissist or a psychopath but it’s irrelevant now. I’ve done a lot of research and was an important part of my recovery to learn as much as I can. Only a victim will understand the compulsion to do this, your friends and family will urge you to stop but they are totally unaware of the need you have to learn everything you can. However, as time passes I find I need to spend less time learning and researching which is a good feeling.
I agree that research into this disorder is important, however, I wouldn’t advise studying the material for eight hours a day. Why? That’s exactly what I did — to my own detriment. I was already angry, but by the end of the day, I was OUTRAGED! Too much information, all at one time, is hard on us. I think we need to learn what we can, as we can. Like anything else, it is a process.
I too found this article extremely validating and in some ways, comforting. I was married for almost 28 years to someone that I have come to understand was a classic covert narcissist. He fit almost every single characteristic. I have struggled to recover for over 5 years and even today, I feel compelled to read and try to understand everything I can about narcissistic abuse. The reason is that even today, I just am in disbelief that it happened to me and that I was not aware of what was happening. I am a well educated, professional woman and none of that mattered. I was reduced to a shell of a woman who could barely function and it was so gradual, so insidious, I had no idea what was happening. The subsequent therapy and information I discovered online and in books proved that I had been with a monster who just shredded me to pieces. Being informed and unfortunately, avoiding all relationships, to me that seems to be the only way I can ensure I never feel that helpless and full of pain again. I am much stronger now, in a far better place – but I’m not sure if the disbelief of what happened to me will ever disappear. Thank you so much for your work. It is enormously helpful.
Hi Hallie, I am glad this article was validating for you. Not only were you doing the right thing by researching, but you were taking an active part in your own recovery…. and in a way (no matter how small) you were taking your power back. So well done. Christine
This article about why narcissistic victims research narcissism when they realize they are part of a narcissistic relationship was extremely validating. During the last 2 years I have felt compelled to research all angles of this subject I could think of as well as allowing myself to follow Internet leads for other related areas. At the same time, I wondered if I was becoming obsessed in an unhealthy way but I could not resist the urge to keep researching. After a certain amount of new knowledge I started to feel a little more accepting about my situation as well as resigned. The research and knowledge have also given me strength to decide how to manage this relationship.