Understanding Cognitive Dissonance in relation to narcissistic abuse:
Stockholm syndrome involves the victim paradoxically forming a positive relationship with their oppressor; this is called “Trauma Bonding”. When victims of narcissistic are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, they are often seen by outsiders as somehow having participated in some bizarre way that seems to support their abuse. However, to understand how the trauma bonding occurs, it is especially relevant to understand what is involved in the decision-making and problem-solving process of the victim. This theory is known as Cognitive Dissonance.
If therapists are to understand the behaviour of clients who have been victims of narcissistic abuse, then it is crucial for them to appreciate why the victim combines the two unhealthy conditions of Stockholm Syndrome and Cognitive Dissonance as part of their survival strategy. When these two strategies are in place, the victim firmly believes that their relationship is not only acceptable, but also vital for their survival. They become so enmeshed in the relationship with the abuser, that they feel that their world (mental and emotional) would fall apart if the relationship ended. This explains why they fear those people who attempt to rescue them from their abuser, and how this causes the victim to develop cognitive dissonance and become protective of their abuser.
What is Cognitive Dissonance?
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term which describes the uncomfortable tension that results from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time, or from engaging in behavior that conflicts with one’s beliefs (Rational Wiki). Cognitive Dissonance is a communication theory that was published by Leon Festinger in 1957, a theory that changed the way in which social psychology was to look at human decision-making and behaviour. The concept of cognitive dissonance is almost self-explanatory by its title: ‘Cognitive’ is to do with thinking (or the mind); while ‘dissonance’ is concerned with inconsistencies or conflicts. Simply speaking, cognitive dissonance is the discomfort a person experiences whenever they are holding two conflicting ideas simultaneously (i.e. Shall I wear the red or the blue dress?). Naturally, people do not like the discomfort of conflicting thoughts; this theory proposes that when this happens, people have a motivational drive within them that allows them to rationalize and change their attitudes, beliefs, values and actions, anything that allows them to reduce or dissolve the dissonance they are experiencing (i.e Which makes my bum look smallest?) . When it comes to victims of abuse, there are several behaviours that a victim may use for reducing their cognitive dissonance. For a start they may try to ignore or eliminate it, or they may try to alter its importance, they may even create new cognitions, but most importantly they will try to prevent it from happening in the first place.
What part does Cognitive Dissonance play with victims of narcissistic abuse?
Victims living in a household where there is narcissistic abuse are living in a torturous war zone, where all forms of power and control are used against them (intimidation; emotional, physical and mental abuse; isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion etc.). The threat of abuse is always present, and it usually gets more violent and frequent as time goes on. The controlling narcissistic environment puts the victim in a dependency situation, where they experience an extreme form of helplessness which throws them into panic and chaos. The narcissist creates a perverse form of relationship wherein the victim has no idea of what will happen next (alternating between acts of kindness or aggressive raging). This prolonged torturous situation is likely to trigger old negative scripts of the victim’s childhood internal object relations (attachment, separation and individuation). To survive the internal conflict, the victim will have to call on all their internal resources and defense strategies in order to manage their most primitive anxieties of persecution and annihilation. In order to survive, the victim has to find ways of reducing their cognitive dissonance, the strategies they employ may include; justifying things by lying to themselves if need be, regressing into infantile patterns, and bonding with their narcissistic captor. Most defense mechanisms are fairly unconscious, so the victim is unaware of using them in the moment; all they are intent on is surviving the madness they find themselves in.
As you can imagine, these states of mind throw the victim into any number of inner conflicts where defense mechanisms are called for, cognitive dissonance being one. For example, a woman who is abused by her narcissistic spouse will hate the conditions she is living in. However with the real fear of a violent reprisal from her captor if she tried to leave, she will more likely choose to stay put. The cognitive dissonance shows itself through rationalization: On the one hand: she abhors her unhealthy relationship and all the abuse that goes with it; while on the other hand, she tells herself that he only fights with her because he loves and cares for her. This inner dialogue reduced her anxiety, allowing her to bond (Stockholm Syndrome) with her abuser, to the point that she will even protect him from the outside world if people attempt to rescue her or encourage her to leave. The result is that a massive draining conflict ensues between the person’s emotional self and their rational reasoning self. Their “cognitive dissonance” is a sign of the disharmony the victim is experiencing as a result of two conflicting ideas going on at the same time; i.e. the victim knows that they should get out of the abusive situation, but they also know that to do so will put them (and possibly their children) in great danger. While experiencing cognitive dissonance they may adopt a pattern of denial, diversion and defensiveness to control their discomfort. In the cognitive dissonance theory, the decision that decides which path the victim will take will be likely to be the path that causes the least emotional stress. In order to reduce the dissonance, the victim will choose the path of least resistance, and their motivational drive will support their beliefs and justify any decision that helps them stay safe. As you can imagine, the cognitive dissonance can lead to irrational decision making as the person struggles to reconcile these two conflicting beliefs. Researchers suggest that it is actually the cognitive dissonance that causes the victims to choose to stay put with their abuser. Furthermore, in order to support their seemingly irrational decisions to stay put in the abusive relationship, the victim makes heavy investments that almost cements them into the bad relationship forever. There are six types of investment the victim may get embroiled in that helps to reduce their cognitive dissonance:-
Emotional Investment: Unable to get out of the relationship due to the fear of what will happen to them, the victim decides that they should stay, and see it through to the bitter end. The victim convinces themselves that “things are not that bad”, especially when the narcissistic abuser shows them acts of kindness. Their trauma bonding is interpreted as love. They use that love to feel compassion for their narcissistic abuser; they may even make excuses that their abuser suffered so much hurt and pain in their own childhood, that they cannot help the way they are. They convince themselves that by loving their abuser as much as possible they will heal their wounds, and then everything will be alright. They continue in this way, investing so much emotion in the relationship. They shed so many tears, blame themselves for upsetting their abuser, and become responsible for their abusers feelings and behaviour. They worry for their abuser in case they harm someone and end up in jail. They even end up blaming themselves when there is another eruption (“I caused the upset, I should have known better”). They even go so far as to convince themselves that their abuser is the victim of society, and therefore must be protected from everybody.
Social Investment: The biggest social investment the victim makes is to the person nearest to them, their narcissistic abuser. The narcissist’s superiority will demand that they are the most important one in the relationship, and the victim (in time) will comply with that arrangement. It does not help that society in general has a matter-of-fact attitude toward victims, they do not understand why a victim would stay in such an abusive relationship, let alone protect the abuser. This response can create a further helplessness within the victim, which leaves them feeling isolated and alienated. With a sense of damage to their pride, and deep feelings of shame, the victim begins to avoid further social embarrassment and uncomfortable situations, alienating themselves further with their abuser. Isolated, dependent and dis-spirited, the way is paved for more acceptance of the abuser, and the victim stays in the relationship. They become caught in a cycle with their abuser that involves a sequence of violent episodes, followed by an absence of battering, once again tension building, and finally tension escalating into another violent episode where they get hurt. Around and around it goes, and helplessly the victim loses all hope, so they settle for investing their loyalty there.
Family Investments: For a start, a narcissist is preoccupied in self-investment, therefore they expect everybody to pamper to their false self (sadly their true self is in a state of atrophy). If the narcissist is a spouse, then the partner is going to have to invest heavily in their abuser until they are emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually bankrupt. The narcissist requires perfect mirroring and stroking continuously, when they don’t get it, they withdraw (this withdrawal is likely to lead to danger for the victim). Step by step the supposed closeness is disappearing, and the victim experiences this as a great loss (and fear), seeing this, the narcissist feels a sense of power and control. In their withdrawal state, the narcissist is going to lose their sense of specialness, power and omnipotence, this makes them very susceptible to narcissistic injury. When there is narcissistic injury, the terror monster is released, and all of the family is likely to encounter their rage. All of this is going to evoke anxiety on the victimized partner, not just around their own safety, but also for the safety of the children. The narcissist suffers from a chronic evasive pattern that does not change. Just as the narcissist is demanding of its spouse, as a parent they are also very demanding of their children, (remember that everything is about them). They see the children as extensions of themselves, representing them in every aspect. For that reason they expect their children to be high achievers, the very best in everything that they do. However, the child is faced with a dilemma; If the child comes second best in any task, they will be perceived as being “the first loser” by their narcissistic parent. Silver medals are not seen as a reason to celebrate, they are more likely to be perceived as a disgrace (loser). If they came first, they risk triggering the narcissist’s jealousy and envy; for the narcissist, envy always involves a comparison – they envy that which they lack. When the child shines, its success is always somehow due to the narcissist itself, but when the child fails, the narcissist takes the failure personally (narcissistic wound), and they will punish the child, whether it be by word or deed. Living with a narcissistic parent, so often the child finds it hard to get their own needs meet, which can lead to serious emotional problems for them. Because the narcissist parent is like a child their own self, there will be power struggles for attention between the child and the parent. All these dynamics are going to put strain on the partner of the narcissist, and they are likely to be the butt of all the narcissist frustration and anger, which will manifest itself as rage. Investing everything they have in their narcissistic partner is the only way the victim finds to keep the family going.
Financial Investment: Narcissist typically seeks to control the family finances, money is a love substitute for them. No matter who earns the money in their family, it is they who are entitled to control how the monies get spent. Often the victim finds themselves being put on an allowance to run the house, and the abuser closely monitors how it is spent. If there is a shortage of money, the narcissist will be stingy when it comes to members of their family spending, yet they will spend what it takes to get what they want. Where possible, the narcissist creates a complex financial situation where everybody is dependent on them, this keeps them in control. Without financial means and usually alienated, many victims are unaware of support resources they may be entitled to, they are trapped by the situation, finding themselves waiting and hoping for a better financial situation to develop so that they can make their exit and detachment easier. In the meantime they do what they can to keep their abuser happy.
Lifestyle Investment: When the narcissist is successful, they will use a lifestyle as an investment. Because they need to display their “specialness” to the world, they will want to display all of their wealth trophies (Narcissistic Supply): the big house, car, private school, business etc. All these things contribute to getting them the praise and adulation they feel they deserve. For the victim, sharing in this financial security, they may fear losing their current lifestyle for themselves or their children. So they stay because of their fear of the poverty trap that awaits them if they manage to leave.
Intimacy Investment: Narcissism is a personality trait associated with an inflated, grandiose self-concept and a lack of intimacy in interpersonal relationships. The narcissist perceives themselves as being unique and uncommon. Being intimate requires that two people operate commonly with openness and truth (True Self) so that they relate as “equals”. The narcissist operates from a False Self, and becoming equal with anybody would only negate their notion of uniqueness, so they avoid that entirely. Unknown to them, narcissists are still held ransom to their unresolved conflicts with their primary objects (parents). Like the child, they are still harboring the deep wounds of abandonment they experienced back then. Afraid of their own negative emotions, unconsciously, they promise themselves that they will never put themselves in that position again, and they avoid further narcissistic injury by holding everybody at bay, this includes their partner and children. Unfortunately, they too, like the rest of us, are susceptible to loneliness, which is why they are always on the lookout for “narcissistic supply” for attention. When they have a partner, they separate the sexual from the emotional and treat their partner as a sex object, and the typical cycle of frustration-aggression is set in motion. Unfortunately, in love with their own reflection, they are incapable of loving anybody else. Where the partner thought she had married the nice Dr. Jekyll, she now finds herself facing the raging maniac that is Mr. Hyde. In such an unhealthy relationship, she will experience the destruction of her emotional and sexual self-esteem. He is not a good father, rather than love his children he abhors them (they take the mother’s attention away from him), so they are confined to the role of being another narcissistic supply source. Furthermore, they use a type of blackmail of intimacy against their partner (threatening to tell intimate details about them that would humiliate and destroy their character). The partner finds themselves in a hopeless situation, broken, the only way out is for them to stay. This serves to send the message to the narcissist that they are truly unique and superior.
One would wonder how the victim tolerates living with an abuser who is so intolerant and hostile. For healthy relationships, tolerating intolerance is neither acceptable nor possible, but for the victim of narcissistic abuse it is vital for survival. Finding themselves in such an intolerable situation, the victim must calm the cognitive dissonance that rocks their self-esteem and self-worth. The Dissonance Theory allows the victim to make their choice (even if it means lying to themselves), and gives them a way to justify that they can be happy about not making the opposite choice that would surely put them in danger. Once the choice is made and the cognitive dissonance calmed, the victim has all sorts of tools (unconscious defense mechanisms) at their disposal to bolster their decision to stay in the relationship (i.e. Stockholm Syndrome, Infantilism, Trauma Bonding).
- Narcissistic Female Intimate Partner Violence Against Men Is No Joke - February 28, 2023
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- Why Is It So Blooming Hard Leaving a Narcissist? - December 9, 2022
” I would quit imagining these things if you would quit doing them” This is what I say to my narc mother. The worse her behavior, the more I am guilty. I have had to go “no contact” as I am starting to feel physical damage from over 5 decades of anxiety, guilt, anger, isolation, manipulation, invalidation, triangulation, and horribly scapegoated. The things narcs do to you are bad enough themselves, but the denial and reversal of blame amplify it beyond belief.
You make good points in what you are saying. However, my website is dedicated to giving information to victims of “narcissistic abuse”, so it is appropriate that I mention it in the context that I do.
This is good information, but I wish there wasn’t so much emphasis on “narcissist” abuse nowadays because many of these things apply even if the abuser is not a narcissist per DSM criteria. Now everyone who is abused thinks the abuser is a narcissist and the terms have become synonymous. It seems it would be more practical to explain that many of these dynamics occur with an abuser in general, and then explain what distinguishes a narcissist from other types of abusers. Also, not always does narcissist abuse involve violence…but non-narcissist abuse may.
This current president does bring up PTSD for NPD victims. His mannerisms including but not limited to having the need to always be right, at any cost, hurts humanity. I think that we need to see this as history in the making in that we all need to address the issue of narcissists and how they hurt humanity – their victims.
I’m just curious to ask how u feel 2 yrs after posting this? Did things get better? Did u stay away? Did he leave u alone? I’m currently in the situation but ha e one foot out the door….
I was married to a narcissist for 26 years, now divorced. The last few years of marriage, during the Obama presidency, I finally began to see the pattern of psychological abuse, such as gaslighting, that was taking place in my marriage. I also became very sensitive to seeing this happening in the outside world. I could see that Obama and his administration were using abuse tactics such as gaslighting and triangulation to create cognitive dissonance and division. I see it in Trump as well, during the campaign and now the presidency. I believe our country has been subjected to traumatic psychological manipulation for years.
I recently fled a 31 year marriage to a narc. I lived in a state of chronic cognitive dissonance. I thought I was losing my mind. My self esteem was battered. I suffered from depression and anxiety for decades.
I am away from the narc for about a year (divorced him and fled). I still have residual PTSD symptoms- but the cognitive dissonance, depression and anxiety symptoms have decreased notably.
I gave up a comfortable lifestyle and I am struggling financially. But….I feel much better than I did while I was married to the narc. I have a long way to go to salvage what’s left of my life. Overall, I am feeling much better after I figured out that I was a victim of narcissistic abuse. I blamed myself for everything for decades.
Gemma, These are all great questions, but it would take a book to answer them. I have a new book coming out shortly (New Year 2018), in that book WHEN SHAME BEGETS SHAME: How narcissists hurt and shame their victims – In that book some of those questions are answered. Christine
I’m intrigued to know what happens if someone is removed from a situation in which she/he has cognitive dissonance and Stockholm syndrome. How do they get out of living in this mental state, do they ever get out of living in that state? Do they live in a constant state of cognitive dissonance with themselves and what does that look like? Do they look to fill the space of the abuser with someone who has similar qualities? Can someone continue to have some form of Stockholm syndrome and cognitive dissonance but take the stance that they are aware that the abuse they received was not okay, and was also not their fault and appear as though they are healed from the situation, but those mental states are still playing a part in their decision making in their day to day life, it just looks different?
I read the article and I enjoyed reading more about narcissists and their ways. I enjoyed reading your article. I feel that people need to educate themselves better about narcissistic abuse and all the negative ramifications it causes innocent victims. I could relate to the article about narcissisism in my family. It definitely signified the abuse my dad caused against my mom and me and my brothers and sisters growing up. It also triggered control factors from my 14 year marriage that was abusive from my husbands issues. Control and power seem to portray a distinctive role in narcissistic abuse. Needless to say, I overcame the hell me and my 3 children went through and we divorced. Seven years ago, I have the unfortunantcy to meet my then boyfriend and it took me a long time to realize how deceptive he was. He set things up for me and my children to fail and complicate our lives. He was always waiting fir handouts and not embarrassed to use us. I worked, did the cleaning, housework and cooking. Finances were my responsibility and he did not work or pay for anything. He relied on his parents to pay our rent and I was embarrassed he had no ambition or goals in life. I have learned that having a man in my life always backfires on me and I seem to be like a magnet, attracted to dark, cold deceiving men. ? Lol. Anyhow, I majored in psychology and am at the end of my courses to attain my Bachelors degree. I wanted to know why people did what they did. The mind is fascinating but complex. It’s amazing to analyze it ! It is like the tree with its roots spanning out and multi-dimensional. ?
narcissist victims’ salvation
might in a way be seen as
resisting being conformed to this world
and being of this world
while the narcissist is a pro
at promoting the ways of this world as its oyster
as it is the way of this world to profess an as-if wisdom
that tho is of this world and at odds with the spirit world
in that sense the narcissist is the epitomy of artifcial wisdom but in a feminine form that thinks of itself as being fully wonderful
where tho the psychopath knows itself as skilled
in lying and deception and leading whoever opposes it into destruction and thus the psychopath is as the conscious use of deception and justification of such by way of its sense of its abilities to glorify self bu deception ….
scripturally then the victim might be seen as a believer whom the narcissistic world hates and tries to make out as if it needs its cure to be like the world but the salvation path to being in the world but not of it will come across as a dissonance to those who are of the world. kinda like many therapist might automatically classify someone who sees auras or angels as needing help to escape delusions. and the therapist in so doing tho can so discomfort those with gifts that what might have been true guides from the other side are driven out and indeed then the victim falls prey to demonic spirits such as familiar negative twisted entities that do bring about the desires of the wisdom of this world to deny that which is not of this world and seeks to find the realization of being in the world but not of it
I am going through something similar right now. It is heart wrenching. I am looking to start some counselling for myself, because of the constant stress and worry about her and the grandchildren.
May I ask how things have gone for you and the family over the past 5 months since you’ve posted?
Not a comment but a question? What happens when everything written is done, but the narcissistic is a covert narcissisti? Is so demure, and yet carasmatic , she quietly does everything you describe while smiling and looking so innocent? Everyone thinks there is something wrong with me… no one can see what she does, I have been with this person for over 20 years… and feel so overwhelmed both financially and emotionally to make a change..
This is the clearest definition of cognitive dissonance I have found.
My experience is my narcissist pretended to be blind. Kinda ironic someone with a blind conscience would pose as blind…and he did just that.
Being blind came across to me as a sort of trophy for my narcissist. It bothered him not one bit, the inconvenience did not exist. He texted, he looked at movies. He carried and used a magnifying glass AROUND me, but I KNOW he did not NEED it.
He was and is a con artist and the cognitive dissonance he caused in me ‘being blind,’ was a handy tool.
He would actually post Cognitive Dissonance posters on Facebook–a sort of daring stunt to either show off the fact he could get away with ANYthing or an attempt to reveal the obvious and see who could see through his con game.
I did indeed see through his con game.I see the direct line between blind and blind conscience. I also see how ‘being blind’ provides him with ample narcissistic supply. He taps that damn blind cane around and EVERYONE has to part so he can be first. ALWAYS FIRST.
I KNOW he IS NOT BLIND and I am not mocking the blind in any way whatsoever–but he is.
That bastard is just that–a lying ass lazy bastard.
He is mighty brave to act disabled in this way. It is pure evil.
He is a special brand of narcissist. He is the Brand Name kind.
Never seen this before and I hope like Hell never again.
I am thankful I know what this is, now. It will help me to know this evil exists, has a name, and to know the marks of the beast.
This was very interesting. I was just clicking around the internet for discussions of mental illness when I found this. My brothers and sisters and I struggle with my Mother’s mental illness but we each struggle so differently and I am always curious as to why. This was enlightening.
Thank you for this article. I was the victim of a narcissist about 10 years ago. I was working in a small, private nursing facility and had been there about 12 years. When I started working there, there was a lot of need for improvement. I worked very hard and sacrificed a lot so that the residents of this facility would have what they needed and would be safe. Then, a new employee was hired who was supposed to be helping me out. Pretty quickly, I understood that her competence level was pretty low but she was hired because she was friends with another employee. Things went OK for the first year, then the abuse started just about this time of year 10 years ago. Things that had been set up and were working well all of sudden stopped working, her assignments would go undone but it would be my fault simply because I was doing my job and assigned them to her. Residents were not getting their needs met but nobody seemed to care. Then this employee and another employee started claiming credit for my work. Everyone went along with it despite knowing that it wasn’t true. The worst part was the attacks. My desk faced a wall and there was a time in the afternoon when I would be working at my desk and no one else would be there. This “new” employee would show up at the door behind my back and, with her arms folded in front of her, make an accusation against me. (Stupid, petty things, like I liked to use forms or I didn’t like to cook so she could never get along with me). Of course, I would turn around and say something to the effect of, “lets talk about this.” She would stare at me and shout “NO”. Then she would start a temper tantrum and call me some kind of name, like control freak or micromanager and run off. This happened 5 or 6 six times. I reported it to management but got no real response. In the meantime, I had to take this abuse. But the time the manager got with me, all he did was accuse me of having a dysfunction department and of being a bad manager. He also accused me of all kinds of character flaws and trying to take credit for this employee’s “work”, i.e. the things I had accomplished over 12 years of dedicated hard work. It was mortifying. I found another job quickly, but about 3 months later I started having flashbacks and nightmares. I suffered with PTSD for about 6 years before it really started to ease up.
The problem I am having now is that this recent election has triggered my symptoms. There’s been a tremendous amount of manipulation, gas lighting, and abuse reported on the news. I’m not trying to make a political comment but does it make anyone else uncomfortable that this president-elect is more interested in his supply than in governing? The cognitive dissonance I feel is like two anvils striking each other in my chest. I wonder if you ever get completely past it when you’ve been abused by a narcissist. Anyway, thanks for listening.
Thank you for finally giving me the answers I have longed for. My family has been in the throws of this abuse for years. My daughter met him and proceeded to continue in a relationship that was so clearly dysfunctional. In the last 5 years they have had 4 children. She has been committed to Inpatient Behavioral Health 3 times. ( She is currently a patient) This monster has drugged her with PCP in order to alter her reality. He continues to have access to the children by his family. She continues to communicate with him several times daily and has now cut communication with me. I fear for her life and am sure there have been other abuses within the home. He has successfully turned my 10 yr old grandson against my husband and myself. My grandson has falsely accused me of abuse and also tested positive for drugs. This nightmare I live in never seems to end. She keeps her secrets and continues to tell me “Because I love him”. We are the only family or friend that remains. He has successfully alienated everyone else. My daughter is a shell. Unrecognizable. I feel powerless to stop this. Wonder everyday what will be the “end result”? Have to remind myself everyday to breathe. I am feeling a painful loss of my precious grandchildren and her. Asking myself everyday what did I do to deserve this…just loved them? Some days restraining myself due to this feeling that it will never end. What wouldn’t you do to save this precious family? I cannot walk away. I am committed to protecting them, everyday feeling like I fight a losing battle. Thank you for giving my world some clarity. I do wish someone could guide me. Not sure how my knowledge will help them. Anyone have ideas? He should be prosecuted and rot in jail for what he has done. She keeps her secrets to protect him.
The world us full of mentally disordered individuals who wreak havoc on society…they leave wreckage everywhere they go and most if it goes unnoticed. The worst part is these dysfunctional beings are breeding and more dysfunction is the result.
I strongly believe these “people” are the main cause of this messed up increasingly corrupt society….and no one notices.
People are stupid and want to believe in sugar plums and fairies meanwhile most don’t think for themselves and just follow the pack. As seen in so many areas including driving. Yes driving.
What a relief that professionals are finally speaking about this and not making light of it or blaming the victims for not having the backbone to stand up for themselves.
I was raised by a narcissistic mother and enabling father. The only child at first, so they bullied me together. Then a sibling was born, who was the golden child. This conditioning set me up for a long marriage to another NPD person. Finally got away.
Still have to deal with my parents though and wondering how to protect myself and my children.
It makes it extremely difficult to leave when one is unable to find atty/counselors who understand a covert narcissist. The thought of what they will continue to put us through (now publicly) is enough to keep me put. However I do realize that it is in my best interest to end this 20+years of marriage. I read an article once that said you have to be willing to be seen as the bad one in the relationship to actually be able to escape. I don’t mind being seen as the problem, most of the people he will convince that i am the problem, i dont give a rats ass about anyway. It is the fear of mot getting my fair share of our assestts ( from not being able to find a good atty) that makes me stay, even when i know i should go. I’m willing to be the scapegoat if it would prevent this legacy from continuing to be handed from generation to generation. Unfortunately i worry that my sons will never have healthy relationships due to growing up in our dysfunctional home. I would cut off my right arm and leg if i thought it would save them.
First of all Val you are NOT a schmuck!!! This happened to you, you did not ask for this type of treatment anymore than I or the next victim of abuse asked for it.. I am in the process of leaving ( divorce) I hope to God I do not get involved with another man like my husband. It will be good for me ( as for you) to be free of him and the abuse!
woah I swear i have had this exact same line of thought. Questioning some things that seem to ring a certain bell, but easy for everyone else to ignore and dismiss. Especially today’s music.
I read this article and finally realized what has been done to me. I just figured I was what he said I was, I didn’t know there was such a thing as “gaslighting” and I had no clue what was going on with him – all I knew was that I’d been tortured constantly in the most true definition of the word – and I convinced myself that I liked it. Sure, eventually I did leave, but I kept going back because I desperately missed the beginning and the amazing way he made me feel. It’s both unsurprising and disgusting to read this and fully realize what a schmuck I was for what I allowed him to do to me, for not being able to see that I was being used like a tool for so long.
I know that I should feel relieved, that it’s not just me, that there’s a word for what he put me through, but I just feel so damn humiliated.
If there’s a good ending to all this, I don’t see it yet. Being away from him and the “relationship” isn’t freeing yet. It just feels like a huge failure. I really hope there’s a way to feel better.
Thanks for helping me understand. It’s a start, at least!
I have been with 2 sociopaths and u are absolutely correct. This world is run by sociopaths and we the survivors can see this because we are aware of the evil in these people.
Thank you for the insightful article. It has now been almost two months of being in ‘no contact’ with the sociopath/narc and let me tell you it is painfully difficult. I was in a relationship with my ex boyfriend for 9-10 months. I thought it was love at first sight when I had first met him and I thought he would be the man I would marry. It’s hard to come across that when you’re attracted to the same sex. This article summed everything up for my 10 months of tormenting demonic hell that I endured with the narc. Even after beating me with blood dripping from my face and almost killing my by choking me on a camping trip I STILL stayed with him and loved him. Even when his neighbor called the cops after hearing us fight (which was another night he beat me ruthlessly) I washed the blood from my face and told the officers nothing was happening. I regret so much not turning him in and having him arrested. Exactly a year ago today I was in California visiting family in orange County. I was very confident, socially graceful and was at my zenith as far as working out at the gym. Now looking at my current situation my self esteem is utterly shattered and torn apart. I feel like a drug addict who is starving for his fix. I burst out in tears at the office. He has damaged my inner core so much. And the beatings don’t stop there. The cheating and the triangulation was the most harmful and most horrendously damaging experience I have ever gone through in my 24 years of living. I am looking to the future to move forward with my life and be that sexy outgoing guy I once was. I miss me. I miss my self esteem. I miss my confidence, I MISS MY SENSE OF SELF
I have been iin a relationship with a Narc for almost six years. He had me convinced I was the one with the issues, that I was crazy, that I needed medication. He would tell me to ‘go take a pill’ if I got upset about anything. Long story short, I did try to get out of the relationship, I left him three separate times but he always could suck me back in. I just left him again about a month and a half ago. This time was different because for some reason I started to see how he was manipulating me with his anger and my fear of it. I started researching manipulation and was thus led to narcissism. My whole lrelationship was made clear, there suddenly were explanations as to why things were like they were. It was liberating and made it easier to leave. I just found this sight this morning from Facebook and I have wept as I have read the different articles. This is the first place that has explained things so clearly, I got such validation and understanding as to why I have done so many things, why I stuck it out for so long, why I went back to him so many times. I still do not understand why the bond with him is so strong so I have gone ‘no contact’ so I will be safer from the possibility of being sucked back in yet again. I live in fear of bumping in to him or someone he knows. I do not want him to know anything about where I am living ore at I am doing. I was alienated from my friends and he had started disrespecting my family when they where in town visiting. That was one of the last straws,.
I could go on and on, Thank you so much for this information and the dedication to helping people like me understand what has happened to us.
I was raised by a abusive alcoholic narc. I dated and married a couple of them and just recently left another relationship with one. Thank God that one only lasted a couple of months. I have always been looked at by my immediate and extended family as the “bad” one. I always feel a lot of shame and embarrassment from the treatment of my family towards me and the same kind of relationships that i seem to attract. Ready this article has finally made some sense of why I do what I do over and over. It also helped me feel a little more sane as I was seeing what I was seeing and feeling about this last guy. I am going to print this article, buy the book and find a counsellor that can help me with my issues so that I can stop myself from getting into this kind of relationship again or at least get out as soon as I see “red flags”. I always want to be a nice person often to my own detriment.
I would apologize Melanie. My narc of 19 years took everyone in my family away and all my friends but my mother stayed on his good side thru all the abuse and craziness and I got to have her in my life. I started the cycle with my own children and now kiss the butt of one of the most deadliest narc men I’ve ever met. I pretend to be nice and like him even though they split up, what if she goes back? I need my daughter and granddaughter in my life so I play the game. I just know he is going to come and kill all of us someday. I am the only one that told you to apologize but I have experience in this situation. My narc died last spring so I am safe.
thank you, wonderful article!
I’d like as much feedback as possible…..especially
from other Narcissistic abuse survivors. I am in the process of self healing from my relationship with a covert narcissistic sociopath. In my case the abuse was psychological torture…7years….depression anxiety, gaslighting and gangstalked, that almost
got the best of me.
Anyway….heres my deal….I am a fairly skillef researcher…. (thanks to my ex)….and I’ve analyzed data, and reports from a multitude of sources…Long story short, .I believe that the Ruling elite (Illuminati) are orchestrating events that will lead to chaos and war….they want to depopulate the planet.
To me the evidence and facts are overwhelming, and just yesterday Vladimir Putin…said the Illuminati were using ISLAM as a tool to start WW3. FYI…
I am awake to this, but you wont see it on the main stream media…Six corporations own 85% of all on air programing.
I wanted to get the word out…on facebook, and my family. I wasn’t prepared for the reactions I got. Several friends on.facebook are like minded….but others including family, flat out dont want to hear it, or dismiss it completely without looking at the evidence, and acting like I am crazy.
Why is it that most people do not see it???
Could it be that the mental trauma endured by NPD.abuse survivors have the ability to see what others dont?
The agenda being pushed by the Elite, they display the same characteristics as a single narcissist.
Any feedback is welcome
Thank you for this deep and valuable insight. It has taken my whole life (66 years old now) to understand effects of growing up with narcissistic parents and older sister, and how it led me to toxic, abusive relationship that recently ended. Mind boggling how much damage results. I appreciate the clarity and wisdom you share.
Why do counselors. lawyers and the court system not care to understand this kind of thing? I totally relate to the information shared in this article. I relate in all that I had to deal with in my marriage to a marriage fraudster. I also relate though not to the same degree with my own family. I’ve never felt so frustrated not being able to get out of a situation because I had to fulfill the roles that they wanted me to fulfill. If I didn’t I was to be punished and called crazy……and it goes on and on……
I am a child of a narcissistic/ psychopathic stepfather and enabling codependent mother. I can tell you that she most definitely had Stockholm Syndrome/ Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome. The abuse and torture that she allowed and sometimes participated in- in order to keep our abuser happy- was most definitely an example of Cognitive Dissonance in action. He kept her financially dependent and caused her to grow accustomed to a certain lifestyle- although it came at a high price. This article explains alot of the “why’s” and “how’s” of my childhood. I do want to make a recommendation – it’s for the victims and children of narcissists and abusers. I spent 16 yrs with an abusive stepfather and for the last 15 years, i am actively triggered and slandered by a narcissitic abuser in my husbands family. I have developed a severe case of Complex PTSD. I am in a hunkered down position and for the most part, cannot leave the house. I am seeking help but this book has helped a lot :
Complex PTSD: from surviving to thriving by Pete Walker M.A.
Thank you for this article. It helps a lot.
I’ve been educating myself a lot about narcissistic behavior and personality disorders. I truly believe my Husband meets some of the criteria I’ve found. He refuses to accept anything is “wrong” with him, I keep trying to be the savior for him, and its just a huge roller coaster of issues beyond what I can type. I don’t know what to do..he has me & my children Dependant on him financially..but is laid off now. I feel stuck because J have no money and nowhere to go to. I just want him to want to help himself. I have been on meds & gone through therapy for him & for myself thinking maybe I was the problem. It hasn’t helped at all and GE still continues to lie to me, hide things, try to control me, and always tries to sexually use me when we aren’t getting along. Therefore, I sleep in my children’s beds to avoid him. Please what can I do?
This is a great find! It validates things I have been working through for about a year now. I am seeing that I had a wonderful counselor, who not only got what was going on, but continued to help me see and understand it. Almost a year later I still struggle with the “whys” and the “what ifs” , but articles like this provide the knowledge I need to stay the course moving forward. Thank you.
Oh my god, the last 20 years of my life make sense at last. Myself and my children have been to hell and back with my parasitic narcisistic husband. We have now been apart from him for a year when his latest affair was exposed. I have been subject to every torture and humiliation mentioned above. But he still will not leave me alone or let me go. I need help to survive this and am not sure how to get it
Go with your gut instinct Melanie. You do have a point, they are black and white thinkers…. so they generally see you as being either with them or against them. You know you intention is to protect you daughter and grandchildren, and if he gets you out of the picture is will have more control and power over them. Christine
The narcissist would have to be assessed by someone qualified, i.e a psychiatrist. However, the bad news is that most narcissists do not get diagnosed, why would they, they do not see anything wrong with themselves. Having said that, I had a client who was threatening to leave her partner, and he agreed to go into therapy. The therapist set up an appointment for him to be assessed with a psychiatrist, and it was confirmed that he was on the high spectrum of pathological narcissism. So if you can get your individual to agree, then who knows. But it does not happen easily….. sorry.
Do you have any suggestions to find someone to get a formal diagnosis of this?
And would it be admissible in court to prove emotional abuse?
A little late but, don’t apologize. I am “your daughter”…suffering/recovering with Stockholm Syndrome. I cut my parents off for two years because my mother confronted him. There’s nothing you can do to save her unfortunately….know she will come back. I finally left and after complete isolation, reached out to my parents (and am now sleeping on their couch while I try to get my head back on straight). People don’t understand the magnitude of this bond. My wish for you is that he discards her for another, that is your opening to bring her out of the fog.
Hi Andy, You found the right solution in finding a therapist to work with. Sometimes, no matter how well meaning, family members are too close to give us the space to work through our anxiety, sometimes they find it hard to manage our pain, so they try to “fix” us. That is not what we need. We need to be able to get to the root of the problem, talk it out, work through the feelings and then move on. Your anxiety has a lot to teach you, it brings with it wisdom. These so called “negative patterns” were probably born out of your need to feel safe as a child…… and it becomes a way of being, a habit. Unfortunately the habit only add to the anxiety, sometimes leading to panic attacks. But now that you are an adult you can find better ways that are less anxiety ridden to get you through difficult thoughts. One technique I use when working with clients who present with a generalized anxiety disorder is called ANTS (Stopping Automatic Negative Thoughts). Look it up, and talk to your therapist about it, it really does work. It is not as hard as you think to change your troublesome negative thinking, but you do need to learn a good “pattern interrupt” in order to change your state of mind… this is where your therapist should be able to help you. Yes, of course people can change their patterns, it happens all the time in the therapy room. We all have negative thoughts that worry us, sometimes those worries are necessary flags to get our attention and quick action….. but for you, the difference is that you just worry a little bit too much, that causes the build up of adrenaline, and that creates the panic. Basically what needs changing is that you replace your existing habit that is not working well for you with a habit that does. If your therapist is also an NLP Practitioner, that would be great. Best of luck.
Excellent article, thanks. My Dad was a narcissist obsessed with his specialist, I fear on some level I am following that trend with my wife, and would want to avoid that as much as possible. I’m in a strange/disadvantageous situation at work, and like many men I expect obsess over it and bring it home. Having a 7-year-old, we have limited time for our own stuff, which can lead to aggravation. I definitely get upset, and my wife tries to avoid things that will upset me in a very goal-oriented way.
The question is, for those of us who want to stop this self-reinforcing pattern, what is the suggestion. Suggest my wife move to Alaska? That’s not easy either. How does someone make the best of a difficult situation? I am planning to see a therapist to help me work out my frustrations and not think about my own issues quite so much. Part of my issue is definitely PTSD, but everyone has difficulties, I’d like to handle mine better and be more generous.
I think it is important to remind victims of narcissism (people who think too much about themselves, and un-constructively ) that the situation is unacceptable. My question is, on the other hand, is it possible to make a situation more acceptable, to address this problem? Is it possible? How often do people get out of this kind of negative pattern/tailspin. Regards, Andy
BTW Melanie, never apologise, I was asked several times to apologise for ”stuff’ I didn’t do, even by outsiders just to keep the Peace, I never did, because it PLAINLY WAS NOT RIGHT, following that of course I ”got punished” chewed out in public, in private, but I guess I knew something wasn’t right and I REALLY DIDN’T want to lose her, but still no apologies, when I did nothing wrong, it was always her, with no accountability whatsoever…….
Hard as hell, stick to your gun’s if you can
My ”Partner” of 6 years, with of course a break in the middle of 8 months (her totally out of the blue decision 3 years ago) and yes I took her back, with loads of emotional breaks in-between, I was demented, I took her back with open arms and everything else open, she has left again 10 weeks ago. I’ll never take her back again, my decision before trawling the internet and psychotherapy sessions to try and figure out what I’d done wrong, $2000 later (about £1200) which where not as good as this page, I was taking 2 steps forward, 1 step back and then 2 steps forward and 3 steps back……. this really helps me GET ME. I had sussed her out but couldn’t figure why I was doing what I was doing, WTF was I thinking about cos I still ”missed her”. After reading this I now ”GET ME” and people like me, invested fully emotionally, financially and physically and now I actually get it….. I actually really do feel so much better. I’m 53 years young now, always had a really positive outlook except for the last 3 years because when I took her back that just gave her more power, (and your friends don’t get it ether, mine didn’t, they just thought she was a schemer and over time they all got excluded) they’re back now, that was my apology 2 months ago, Jeez I wish I could’ve known ( just like a previous comment) my kids from a previous 19 year marriage with a severe bi-polar sufferer ( post my 1st child’s birth) who’s now 22, was actually my saviour because my children always came first, something I never denied or shirked from, so when the NARC really pressed, she pressed too far and my self defence kicked in, I just never REALLY knew why until reading this. Thank to the preverbial spirits, I had that strength…… God I feel so much better already….. and BTW, her kid of 24 is a mess, they both behave like 5 year olds……. you have no idea how much this really helps… what a find… thankfully I never signed anything over to her and her name was on nothing, although I did sell a GREAT house and ”we” (I) bought one she wanted a year ago, this new one is now on the market, I’m probably $10k down, in a year BUT it could have been so much worse, the hoovering has started BUT even before reading this I didn’t reply, no bloody chance now…..
WHAT A FIND
Wow. This article explains so clearly what my mother went through with my father, who was a malignant narcissist. He made our whole family’s lives hell and ultimately tried to do the same thing to me that he’d done to my mother.I apparently “ruined his life” because I disclosed his sexual abuse to my mother at age nineteen, and she had no way to leave and no way to support herself after having been out of the workforce for twenty years.
He died still vengeful and vindictive, believing to the very end that he was entitled to do whatever he wanted to me (my mother and brother died more than twenty years ago).
I so wish this website, and other resources on narcissism, had been around in the late 1970s and that my mother was still alive so that I could show this to her.
BTW: Melanie, I would NEVER apologize to a liar (Narc) thereby acquiescing to their LIES. Your daughter will miss you and come around eventually when she wakes up from her nightmare, and your absence will help her to wake up sooner, rather than your going along with a LIE.
And add Alcholism and prescription drug abuse to the list of “tools” that the poor miserable Narc hostage uses to ease his wretched conscience for making the (wrong) choice to stay with this Monster of a “wife” and “mother”> (My parents)
Our daughter is trapped in a partnership with a man who suffers from the diagnose of narcissistic personality disorder. He has successfully trapped her financially and our grandson’s current college enrollment is dependent on him. Recently, I confronted him regarding his demeaning and controlling treatment of our daughter and unfortunately, I had the last word, which is a bad circumstance with a narcissist. I am attempting to explain to my husband that it is necessary for me to apologize to the man in order for the man not to cut us out of her life which will further isolate our daughter. The reason why I found your article is because I suspect our daughter is suffering from Stockholm. Please advise as to whether or not I should apologize to the man in order to prevent additional isolation.
How very true!!!Another great article,I often wondered why I was staying in this relationship,asked myself many times.I just couldn’t get out,it was like a bad addiction.And yes,I was afraid of the povertytrap awaiting me,Thanks to mr.Hyde!!
No,he’s not a good father at all,never has been a good father.He’s buying them exclusive dinners at michelin star-restaurants,but they know now,because I told them.He thinks he can buy their love…he cannot,and they know it too.You can never fool your children,at least I was always there for them,which ofcourse, the N didn’t appreciate at all.I hope I have been able to protect them one way or another,but I know now it was not enough,the damage has been done.All I can do is love them,listen to them if they need me,they know I am always there for them,maybe that’s enough for now,only time will tell.Thanks for your great help!!