HSPs and codependency.

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There’s a lot of discussion on the web about codependency as well as empathy, especially in the narcissistic abuse community. While it’s true people who are codependent to a narcissist also tend to be high in empathy and very sensitive, there seems to be a lot of confusion–people who aren’t too familiar with either term tend to believe empathic people are also always codependent. While codependent people are almost always highly sensitive (which is the quality that attracts their abuser to them and keeps them trapped in a toxic relationship because they believe they can “fix” their narcissist), the reverse is not always the case.

A healthy HSP (highly sensitive person) is simply an emotionally healthy person. They are confident and secure enough with themselves that they can resist the “charms” of an abuser. If a healthy person with high empathy does find themselves being drawn into an abusive relationship with a narcissist, they have the courage and presence of mind to pull themselves out of it and even go No Contact before they fall under the thrall of the abuser and before any damage is done. In fact, having high empathy makes it more likely a person will be able to “see” the red flags before anyone else, giving them a chance to escape and/or avoid the person.

A healthy HSP does not waste time trying to “fix” a narcissist. They know the chance of that happening is about the same as the likelihood they will sprout wings and fly to the moon. If a narcissist is going to change (I’m not one of those people who believes it’s not possible), it must be the desire of the narcissist and they have to work very hard at it, but no one else can “save” them except themselves, and it’s going to be a long, hard road if they decide that’s what they want. A healthy HSP will not allow themselves to fall into a love-bombing trap or be “hoovered” by a narc. Once they realize what they are dealing with, they will cut off any further communication. They know they can’t be nice about it, but must be firm. They may care, but they know they are not going to be the ones doing the fixing, and will be able to move on to a healthier relationship with someone they can actually grow with and who will be able to return their love.

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Our society today is also quick to judge those who have high levels of empathy and want to give back to others as being “enablers.” This happens even in the public realm, with the massive cuts in spending to programs that help the most vulnerable people of society and the blanket dismissal by the Powers That Be of those who want to help as “suckers” who are “enabling” the most vulnerable people. I don’t wish to get on a political soapbox but there’s something very wrong with any society that only values how “powerful” you are or how much money you earn. There’s something sick about a society that dismisses its most vulnerable members as “lazy and stupid” or “deserving” of their sad lot. Empathy is a virtue that has become increasingly dismissed as a weakness, but is actually the one thing–maybe the only thing–that could rescue modern society from completely self-destructing. Empathy isn’t a weakness at all–it’s a strength. If you’re a HSP you have this quality and should be proud of it and use it, not hide it away like a shameful thing. The narcissists who run things in the world would like us all to think it’s a shameful thing, but that’s just another lie they tell. It’s needed now more than ever. So, you are not an “enabler” if you want to help others; just be careful who you are helping!

Unfortunately, HSPs have often been abused themselves or have other disorders such as complex PTSD, and they often find themselves targeted by narcissists for abuse. Narcissists are usually attracted to people with high empathy because they know they can get the “understanding” and love they crave and will proceed to feed on the HSP’s emotions much like a vampire feeds on blood. They know it’s hard for such a person to say “no” because they can’t stand to hurt anyone’s feelings, so an HSP person is more likely to stick around and tolerate abuse than someone who is less sensitive.

If you are such a person; if you are very sensitive, cut your losses now! Staying around a narcissist who is actively abusing you is just not worth it, and there’s also a very real danger of being drawn so far into the narcissist’s web of deception and abuse that you could develop Stockholm Syndrome and begin to identify with your abuser. Once this happens, you could even find yourself taking on traits of narcissism yourself and colluding with your abuser. It’s an insidious process but it can and does happen; and it happened to me. Be careful. Your soul is a precious thing and you should not give it freely to anyone until you know that person can be trusted with it. That doesn’t mean you have to become hypervigilant and start seeing demons around every corner, but if your intuition is throwing up a lot of red flags about a particular individual, don’t dismiss them. They could save your life.

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On people pleasing.

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I think most of us who were exposed to narcissistic abuse for any length of time learn to become people pleasers, always deferring to our “betters” (the narcissists) and becoming human doormats. People pleasing is known by many terms, but “codependent” in particular comes to mind. It’s an extremely unhealthy way to live.

All my life I’ve been a people pleaser. ‘ve always been terrified of saying “no.” I’ve always gone along with things I didn’t like just to keep the peace. The problem with being a people pleaser is that it tends to attract further abuse (they know we’re pushovers so they’ll up the ante); and potential abusers can “smell us out.” People pleasing also never really pleases anyone. Someone is always going to be displeased, even if it’s only ourselves. Chances are, the person you’re trying so hard to win the approval of is going to find something wrong with what you’re doing for them anyway, especially if they’re narcissists.

People who try too hard to please everyone–like politicians who can’t commit fully to either liberal or conservative stances because they’re too afraid of the disapproval of either side, wind up alienating everyone. It comes off as insincere–and it is. You just know they’re hiding something.

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I remember the first time I realized how fake I was being while engaged in people-pleasing. I was about 9 or 10. We were visiting some relatives in another state and my uncle had a collection of decoy ducks he was very proud of. I could have cared less, but because I’d been raised to always be polite, I faked intense interest in his hobby. In fact, my “act” was so extreme he really thought I was interested and kept talking to me about his ducks even though I wanted to scream at him to shut up already. It’s fine to be polite and civil, but I was so afraid he would “discover” my boredom with his hobby that I went above and beyond-and felt absolutely disgusted with myself later. Of course that didn’t stop the people pleasing. No one living in constant terror and shame the way I did would be able to stop.

Freedom from the “people pleasing” game where you always wind up losing doesn’t mean not helping others or being cold and selfish. People pleasing is very disordered and even narcissistic in itself–because you’re trying to please others to get approval or love, not because you really care about their feelings or well-being. You don’t need empathy to be a people-pleaser, just a weak and beaten down ego that makes you grovel like a dog for a treat. People pleasing is actually a central feature of several personality disorders–BPD, Avoidant PD, Dependent PD, and Covert Narcissism.

Unlike people pleasing, true caring and altruistic feelings for others are not about pleasing people–they’re random acts of kindness that come from an authentic and confident person’s heart, and nothing about it is fake. I’m working toward this too. Right now I’m still caught up in the fear of displeasing anyone and the ramifications that has for me. It’s very self-centered.

In summary, people pleasing is about lies–it’s all about trying to boost a shaky self esteem and it’s about as fake and inauthentic as you can get.

Our twisted society.

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There’s already been enough written about the narcissistic society we live in that rewards greed and selfishness (even ruthlessness) and thinks of corporations as people. There’s something deeply wrong with any society where CEOs are making hundreds of times more than the workers at the bottom of the totem pole, who are trying to subsist on minimum wage and sometimes having to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet. There’s something evil about any society where the working poor still may not be able to afford a place to live, and cannot even go to the doctor when they get sick. And then on top of that, they are accused of being lazy, stupid, or shiftless. These victims of the system are blamed for all of society’s ills by–you guessed it–the Tea Partiers in their sterile, gated communities and the ultra wealthy who drive new Lamborghinis and own four vacation homes.

But the insane disparity between the ultra-rich and the poor is an issue that’s well-known and finally beginning to be talked about more in the media, and that’s a good thing. I don’t want to get on a political soapbox though. I actually want to talk about something else that’s related but rarely discussed: the way a few people are rewarded for being leeches on society and sucking the life out of hardworking, deserving people who are left with nothing. Ironically, it’s liberal politics, rather than conservative, that’s responsible for what I’m about to rant about. In my opinion, neither of the major political parties have anyone’s best interests at heart. They’re both funded by mega-corporations who only have their own interests in mind and care nothing about the people who live under their dominion.

I’m referring here to my ex. I know I’ve talked about this lifesucking parasite before, but someone brought it up and I’ve been triggered again, so I’m going to rant. I also realize I’ve had issues with those who hold onto a victim mentality, but sometimes things just get to be too much and there’s no escaping our victimization. Sometimes you just have to rant.

Our sick society is rewarding a man richly for having antisocial personality disorder. This conscienceless jerk used and abused me for 27 years — freeloading off my already strapped circumstances for 7 of those years and refusing to work or lift a finger during the time he stayed glued to my couch while I worked my ass off so that he could qualify for disability (SSI). He was always lazy as f*ck and even though was capable of a limited amount of labor, he always made the excuse that he couldn’t work and still qualify for disability (physically, he has diabetes and knee problems).

He expected me to give him a free place to stay, drive him to his doctors appointments, and never even bothered to clean the house or even clean up after himself. This leech stayed on my couch, leaving a dent in it from his constant hateful presence, left his dirty dishes and cigarette butts all over the coffee table, threw trash on the floor, brought in a dog that almost got me kicked out of my house, and expecting me to buy his cigarettes and lottery tickets. He complained about the inexpensive but healthy food I bought. He thought that because he was diabetic, he was entitled to steak every night. He blasted his horrible music when I was trying to sleep and raged at me whenever I asked him to turn it down. He spent all his time trolling political websites, cruelly bullying people he disagreed with. He insisted I hand him over a third of my tax returns, but now that he has money he won’t give me a dime (not that I would ask because technically I’m NC with him).

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He was rejected 4 times for SSI, and a year after I got a restraining order on him (for threatening my daughter), he finally got his booty–-which included $31K in back disability pay for the years he freeloaded off me. (Yes, I know I was stupid to allow this but whenever I threatened to kick him out, he’d threaten to commit suicide and make it look like a murder, and I was so beaten down I felt like I didn’t have a choice).

That was bad enough, but a few months ago I learned that his SSI income was DOUBLED because his psychiatrist diagnosed him with ASPD because he’s unemployable and “possibly homicidal.” Thats right–he’s being PAID not to work because he’s an antisocial POS. With the $31K (which is already spent–God knows how he accomplished that in just two months) he bought himself a brand new truck, a huge flat screen TV and a collection of new swords, and no doubt enough weed to last him for months. To his credit, he did buy our son (who he bullied and scapegoated throughout his childhood) some expensive camera equipment, but I suspect there was self-interest involved in this–buying my son over to his side so he can gloat about how I’m too poor to ever buy him anything.

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The original $700 a month he was to be getting per month in benefits was increased to $1200 after he was diagnosed with ASPD! He also gets almost $400 a month in food stamps and full medical coverage. He still sits around watching TV and trolling political websites all day and sleeping. Meanwhile I have to keep slaving away at a grueling job that’s slowly killing me and have NOTHING to show for it. I can’t afford cable and don’t even own a TV, have no health insurance, and can’t even get my ancient car fixed. Yes, of course I’m envious. 😡 I get so mad just thinking about it that it can and has ruined my day, so that’s all I’m going to say because it’s unhealthy for me to dwell on it.

I’m trying to let go of this bitterness because there’s nothing I can do about it. I might write an anonymous letter to the paper describing the injustice of this state of affairs, but then again, I might not because I know nothing will be done. I can’t dwell on these bitter feelings even if they’re justified. It’s a very sick society where dangerous and useless people like him get to live high off the hog and honest people who try to play by the rules have to slave away at 2 or 3 jobs just to have food on the table–AND we still have to pay taxes to keep human cancers like him enjoying their creature comforts.

I only have one thing left to say:

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Sensitive Children and the Adult Child in the Abusive Narcissistic Home

Excellent article about the devastating effect narcissistic parents have on the most sensitive children in the family and why they tend to become scapegoats. They grow up into codependent adults prone to repeat the same toxic patterns with others. But this doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Read on.

SITE FOR CREATIVE SOLUTIONS

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In a home affected with an abusive narcissistic parent emotions are repressed and become twisted.  Rules are built on shame, guilt, or fear.  Feelings are often not shared and when they are expressed, it is done in a judgmental manner placing blame on one another.  The narcissistic parent is self-involved and feels no empathy for their children.  They are incapable of mirroring real love and try to get their children to fulfill their unmet dependency needs.  The narcissistic parent’s unresolved drives for attention and caretaking takes center stage as the child’s early developmental needs are ignored and denied.  The self-involved parent shames the child for having desires and makes them feel guilty.  All of the family attention and energy is focused on the demands of the narcissist.

Sensitive children growing up in abusive narcissistic homes build their personalities based on what they have to do to survive.  Many of these children…

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Why narcissists and borderlines are drawn to each other.

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I’t’s uncanny how often people with NPD and BPD seem to find each other. Every one of my boyfriends (except for one, who was severely bipolar) and my ex-husband were narcissists. I know a lot of other borderlines who say they have the same problem–they simply are not attracted to a man or woman who is not a narcissist. There are reasons why this happens.

Both BPD and NPD are included in the category of Cluster B personality disorders in the DSM-V (along with Histrionic and Antisocial personality disorders). Cluster B disorders are all characterized at their root by problems establishing an identity early in childhood and integrity of the Self which causes people with these disorders to act out toward themselves or others in destructive ways and to have problems either accessing or developing prosocial emotions like empathy. All are prone to lie excessively and manipulate others.

All Cluster B’s are easily offended and quick to anger, which can be expressed either covertly or overtly. Here’s a quick description of these personality disorders.

Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD or psychopathy) is the most likely to break the law and violate the rights of others (many are in prison), act impulsively, and have no empathy at all. People with ASPD who aren’t lawbreakers will be ruthless in business or their chosen profession, and feel no compunctions about hurting others to succeed and may even take pleasure from it.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is less likely to break the law (but this is not a given–some narcissists will break the law if they think they can get away with it) due to wanting to present a good image to others, but have little, if any, empathy, and act out toward others and manipulate them to protect the False Self they use in place of their true one which cannot be accessed. They act arrogant, entitled, paranoid and touchy. Think of the most spoiled or brattiest child you know. If you saw that same behavior in an adult, that’s what NPD looks like to others.

Histrionic personality disorder (usually found in women) is a somatic form of narcissism where there is obsession with physical appearance and emotions are expressed dramatically but the emotions themselves are shallow. Histrionics of both sexes are often sexually promiscuous.

Borderline Personality disorder is the most baffling of the four, because it’s a disorder of contradictions. BPD is characterized by black and white thinking, overpowering emotions, impulsivity, self-destructive behavior, and idealization/devaluation of others. People with this disorder oscillate rapidly between opposites–feeling love and hate for others, pushing others away and smothering them, and accepting or rejecting them. They do this because of their fear of abandonment. Unfortunately, borderlines in their desperate attempts to not be abandoned, cause others to abandon them, or are self sabotaging–they may reject others in order to avoid being rejected first. Borderlines, unlike the other Cluster B disorders, are able to feel empathy, but because they can get so overwhelmed by their fear of rejection and their overpowering emotions and drama, they can “forget” others exist. They can feel remorse and guilt when they realize they’ve behaved badly but it sometimes must be pointed out to them.

Borderlines are chameleons who don’t have a False Self per se, but instead adopt whatever “identity” will suit the moment and whatever person they are interacting with–to make the other person accept them. In some borderlines, this rapid switching from one persona to another can appear to others similar to DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). Not only their behavior, but also their emotions (which they have trouble regulating or controlling), opinions, or even their appearance can change from one moment to the next. This differs from bipolar disorder, where dramatic mood changes oscillate much more slowly.

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Of all the Cluster B disorders, people with BPD have a Self that is the most fragmented and least likely to have integrated into something called an identity (even a narc has a False Self so that’s a kind of identity). As a result BPD’s are the most prone to experience dissociative or even psychotic episodes, where the person loses touch with reality. Ironically, although Borderlines are “sicker” than narcissists, they are more likely to seek therapy (because their disorder is ego-dystonic and most are not happy with the way they behave and feel) and they are also more likely to be cured.

Because borderlines are chameleons,* they make perfect supply for a narcissist. They lack an identity of their own, so they “become” whatever others expect them to be. It’s not really a mask in the same sense as a narcissist, but they can wear a sort of temporary mask that can change from one moment to the next or disappear completely, leaving the borderline in a depressed or near-psychotic emotional state. A borderline can be whatever the narcissist wants them to be, and as a result are easily manipulated and can become very codependent.

Borderlines can be very manipulative themselves, but because their personality is less integrated and and the narcissist appears to have an integrated self (even though it’s a false one), they are no match for a narcissist. Unless the narcissist is very low on the spectrum (or is a covert and vulnerable one), they cannot be overpowered by a borderline and will always get their way over the borderline’s needs.

Borderlines (like narcissists) never felt loved or valued, but the borderline hasn’t shut out their need to be loved and craves it more than anything else. A narcissist (in the beginning of a relationship) can appear to be highly passionate and attentive, promising the borderline all the love he or she needs–and be convincing enough they capture the heart of a borderline, who thinks they’ve met the perfect mate.

Relationships between narcissists and borderlines may be stormy and “unhealthy,” but when they work, they work well, with the narcissist giving the borderline a kind of identity as a codependent to the narcissist, and the borderline giving the narcissist the supply they need.

I think there’s often a familial aspect too. Cluster B disorders tend to occur in families, in varying configurations. If one or more parents is a narcissist (or a borderline), they are far more likely to raise narcissistic or borderline children, because both disorders are due to abuse and Cluster B parents tend to put their own needs ahead of their children’s, even if (in the borderline) their selfishness isn’t intentional. Therefore, borderlines and narcissists who were raised in abusive families tend to be attracted to people who unconsciously remind them of other members of their families, especially the parents. This type of connection is called a trauma bond because the connection is due to shared trauma and a conscious or unconscious willingness to to be abused or to abuse a partner. A relationship between a borderline and a narcissist is not what anyone would call functional, and yet in a way it can work for both of them, if they don’t wind up killing each other first. Some of these trauma bonds are examples of Stockholm Syndrome, where the abused identifies with their abuser.

Going No Contact with a narcissist is the best gift an abused borderline can give herself (or himself), but separating may be especially hard for them and they are likely to be drawn to another narcissist, so they need to stay on guard and be especially vigilant of red flags.

* I think their ability to be emotional chameleons is the reason why the entertainment, film and television industries seem to have a plethora of actors who have BPD.

The narcissistic lover’s playbook.

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It looks like today is “Narcissistic Lovers and Spouses Day,” because this is the third article about that subject I’m posting today. But it occurred to me that narcissistic men (and probably women too, even though I have no personal experience with my own gender) follow the same rulebook when pursuing narcissistic supply and use all these ploys in pretty much the order I’m posting here.

I thought it might help those of you still in abusive relationships to be able to identify the telltale pattern of narcissistic abuse–which they ALL seem to follow. It’s a pattern of progressing abuse, and if you pass one “test”, they up the ante for the next “test.” In other words, if you tolerate a low level of abuse (such as verbal insults), the narcissist is empowered to move on to the next level of abuse, which could be triangulating against you or eventually, physical abuse.

They may not even be aware they are following this pattern because it’s such a core part of their personality they truly can’t stop themselves. You can stop them by ending the relationship at the first sign of abuse, but never try to fix a narcissist yourself. You won’t help them and will only hurt yourself.

First, a word about commitment-phobes.
It’s important to remember that this pattern does NOT apply to the commitment phobe type of narcissist, which some narcissists are. (They get their supply from other sources–relationships are too scary to them). A commitment-phobe will never love-bomb you or tell you they love you. Instead, they’ll run like hell if you try to get one to further commit or if you tell them you love them. But this article does not apply to that type of narcissist.

Stages of a relationship with a narcissist.

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1. Lovebombing/idealization.
During this heady phase that follows meeting your narcissist lover (who chose you because they see you as an easy “mark” to get narcissistic supply), you feel swept off your feet by their ardor and the speed at which they seem to want to get to know you and then take things to “the next level.” This phase includes idealization of you, intense, almost constant sex and the most romantic things you could imagine hearing anyone say. You feel beautiful, sexy and your self esteem soars. Life seems perfect. This is how they get you to fall under their spell so they can continue to “work” on you as a primary source of narcissistic supply. It will not last.

2. Declarations of permanency.
Your narcissistic lover will declare their undying love for you or even propose marriage or talk about having a family with you within weeks or a few months of meeting you. (This is a test to find out how committed you are and helps them guage how much abuse you will tolerate/supply you can provide).

If they actually follow through on their commitment (some will), it’s because they have decided you are perfect source of supply (you make them look good) they can keep tapping into on a permanent basis like a backyard well. Only unlike the well, you won’t keep refilling with water, but will eventually be sucked dry emotionally, mentally or even spiritually. A narcissist’s desire to marry or commit permanently to you has nothing to do with “love.”

3. Boredom and irritation.
Suddenly, for no explainable reason, your narcissist starts acting bored, distracted or vaguely annoyed. If you try to ask them about it, they will deny it, insist nothing is wrong, or act annoyed that you asked.

4. Badmouthing others.
At around the same time you start to notice their boredom and irritation, you will notice your narcissist seems easily annoyed in general, and starts badmouthing other people–his (or her) boss or employees, family members, other drivers on the road, but they save the worst badmouthing for their ex lovers or spouses, who were ALWAYS at fault for whatever went wrong.

5. Decrease or changes in sexual desire.
If your lover is a cerebral narc, they suddenly stop wanting to have sex with you and may resort to pornography or masturbation instead. If a somatic, the sex may become less personal and romantic and more “kinky”–for example they may say they want to try new things in bed to “spice things up” but being more romantic or tender isn’t one of them. They will no longer look at you when you make love.

6. Stinginess.
This formerly generous person who showered you with gifts of candy, roses and clothing suddenly stops buying you gifts or telling you they cost too much, or starts to complain about how much you are costing them in general.

7. Emotional/verbal abuse.
The verbal and emotional abuse starts. We all know the many forms that can take, since this whole blog is about that.

Some narcissists will, at this point, Devalue and Discard. This simply means they no longer need you as a source of narcissistic supply (they may have found a replacement) so they completely devalue and leave you. If they don’t leave, their abuse will keep growing worse. But whether they leave or not, they are still devaluing you.

8. Physical abuse.
Eventually, some malignant narcissists may begin the physical abuse, and again this can start with something as innocuous as a “push” or a single slap. If this happens, expect the abuse to increase in intensity if you stay in the relationship. Even if your narcissist never touches you physically, the emotional abuse will continue to increase until your self esteem is destroyed. In some ways it can be even worse, because there are no telltale bruises or scars, and your narcissist can easily tell others who could be of help to you that you are crazy or making it all up.

What if you decide to call their bluff and leave?

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If you decide to call their bluff and leave, there are four ways a narcissist will react:

1. They will try to “hoover” you back in through lovebombing similar to what they showed when you first met, make fake but sincere-sounding apologies and promises to change. Don’t fall for it.

2. They will act like splitting up was their idea all along because you were “too needy,” “too crazy,” “too high maintenance,” etc.

3. They will act like nothing happened and even have the chutzpah to keep calling you or texting you and act as if they’re your best friend. They may tell you all about their new lovers or dates, as if there was never anything between you at all. You can be sure that behind your back, they are trashing you to their new conquests–the same way they talked trash about their ex lovers to you.

4. Jilted malignant narcissists are likely to try to enact revenge, usually through badmouthing you to others, including possibly your friends, but their vindictiveness could take on more dangerous forms too.

“An Open Letter to My Abusive Husband”

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A very courageous woman named Samantha wrote this “open letter” to her abusive, narcissistic husband which appears on her blog The Narcissist’s Wife, which I recommend for anyone trying to divorce or leave a narcissist.

Her “open letter” had me on the edge of my seat because it’s so triggering and fits right in with the article I just posted about “Daniel.” Narcissists all follow the same rulebook: Idealization and promising you the world, followed by The Devaluation and finally straight up abuse.

I am only posting the first part; to read the whole article there is a link to read the rest on her blog.

An Open Letter To My Abusive Husband…
By Samantha Matthews / July 22, 2015

Things were bad right from the start, but I was too young and naive to see it. That’s why you picked me, isn’t it? I was so trusting, and innocent. I had no idea you were broken, no idea our relationship wasn’t normal. I believed you when you told me I was messing up, and I didn’t question you. You could control me, keep me at arms length, and enjoy all the effort I gave into making our “relationship” a success.

And then, one day, I started to notice. Notice how controlling you are, how you turned everything I had issues with back on me, and how you never admitted you were wrong. I notice how you never listened to me on anything, and would later tell me the same truth after you heard it from another source. I noticed how you discounted my opinions and called me a hypochondriac whenever I felt sick. I noticed how you kept me separate from your friends and your social life, and resisted any efforts on my part to make couple friends we could hang out with together.

I noticed how you left me to grieve my grandfathers death alone, and didn’t give me so much as a hug. I noticed how you hid my engagement ring and let me search frantically for an hour before you told me you had it, and how you thought that was funny even though I was in tears.

I noticed how you lied to your friends, your boss, and your family, easily and without a good reason, just because you didn’t feel like doing something. I noticed when you told me about the drugs you did for the entire time we were dating/engaged, how you changed when you stopped doing them. I noticed that I never even knew you had been lying to me then. And how you thought that that revelation shouldn’t change a single thing in our marriage.

I noticed when you complained about how boring the hospital is while I was recovering from having our first child and pushed me to rush us home, and how you discounted all my pain and discomfort during my second pregnancy even while I was working 6 days a week at our business and taking care of a four year old.

I noticed how you never helped me in our business, even as you yelled and raged at me for how poorly things were being run (in your opinion) and how I needed to do more at the shop. I noticed how even when you committed to doing something, I ended up being the one to take care of it. And I noticed how you took and took and took money without contributing at all. To the extent that we ended up having to close the doors. I noticed how you blamed me for that too.

I noticed how you have discounted, dismissed, and mocked all of my accomplishments over the last 13 years. How you tell me the things I’ve done don’t count because they weren’t as good as what someone else did. You tell me I don’t follow through with anything, but you sabotage my efforts and make me feel horrible, and then throw it in my face if I do anything different than what you would do.

I notice how you talk about people behind their backs and say horrible, judgmental things about them. And I checked your phone, I saw how you say those same things about me too. How you mock me and only refer to me as the wife, as though I am not anything more. I notice how you put me down in public and deliberately humiliate me in front of our friends, in order to tell a story or try and make yourself look good.

Read the rest of her article here:
http://www.narcissistswife.com/an-open-letter-to-my-abusive-husband/

“Ordinary People”: a case study in malignant narcissism.

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I remember when I first saw this 1980 Academy Award winning movie being quite triggered by it, because the main character, Beth Jarrett (played convincingly by Mary Tyler Moore) reminded me so much of my mother, all the way down to her impatient, flippant mannerisms, fake cheerfulness, and clipped speech. And at the time I felt very much like the teenage son, Conrad (Timothy Hutton), who was clearly suffering from a severe case of PTSD and depression, which no doubt had its roots in his mother’s emotional abuse and coldness.

“Ordinary People” (directed by Robert Redford) is about an upper middle class family from the Chicago suburbs, but the individuals involved are certainly not ordinary–or at least you hope they aren’t. Moore’s Beth Jarrett is a high-spectrum malignant narcissist who cares only about her social position and status and the appearance of having “the perfect family” and “the perfect life.” She is always perfectly dressed and coiffed, and can pour on the fake charm whenever she is trying to impress their friends and colleagues. Beth’s husband Calvin (Donald Sutherland) provides his family with their affluent lifestyle and is a good man who cares deeply for his family but is codependent to his narcissistic wife, who makes endless demands on him to keep up the image of perfection, and you can see from his demeanor it’s destroying him.

Their son, Conrad, is his mother’s scapegoat, and while she never actually says so, it’s clear that she blames him for the accidental boating death of her Golden Child, Buck (shown only in flashbacks). Conrad was with Buck at the time of the accident, and suffers from survivor’s guilt in addition to PTSD which was probably caused by his mother’s horrific treatment of him as well as his guilt over the accident, because he was unable to save his older brother’s life. The movie begins just after Conrad has been released from the hospital after a suicide attempt. I think there is more to Beth’s hatred of her child than her belief he is to blame for Buck’s accident. I think she hates him because he sees the truth about her, and calls her out on it. He is sensitive and able to see through her mask of perfection to the monstrous narcissist she actually is, and she can’t handle that.

From the very beginning, we can tell Beth despises her depressed remaining child. Her attitude toward Conrad is dismissive and impatient, and she makes no attempt to understand and appears to have no empathy for the emotional turmoil he’s in. She always puts her own needs ahead of her son and husband, and berates Calvin for attempting to understand his son’s pain. There’s not one moment where she shows the slightest shred of sympathy or love for him, and yet on the surface, no one would call her abusive, because of the mask of normality she always wears. Here’s a scene where Conrad attempts to talk to his mother about why they never had a pet–you can see how disconnected Beth is from Conrad’s (or her own) emotions, and Conrad’s hurt comes out as rage.

There’s a heartbreaking scene where the grandparents are present and Calvin is taking pictures. When he asks Beth to pose with her son, she glibly changes the subject to avoid having to SAY she doesn’t want her picture taken with him, but her disgust is obvious. Calvin insists, and Beth smiles with gritted teeth as she coldly stands next to her son. Conrad, who is sensitive, picks up on his mother’s hatred but tries to smile anyway. Beth, still smiling her fake smile, demands that Calvin give her the camera so she doesn’t have to have her picture taken with Conrad, but Calvin keeps insisting. Conrad, fed up and hurt, loses his temper and screams “Give her the goddamn camera!” It’s scenes like this that so brilliantly depict the subtle emotional abuse a malignant narcissist mother inflicts on her most sensitive child.


The camera scene.

Conrad begins seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch) who begins to get Conrad to open up about his feelings and show his anger. He also begins to date a girl he met in band practice (Elizabeth McGovern), who is upbeat yet understanding and helps bring Conrad out of his shell.

Calvin and his mother seem to be constantly arguing. Calvin tries to referree, but can’t seem to appeal to his wife’s loving nature, because she apparently has none. After one of these arguments, Conrad calls out his mother for never having visited him in the hospital, adding that “You would have visited Buck if he was in the hospital,” to which Beth retorts, “Buck never would have been in the hospital!” This is a clear implication of the higher esteem she held her older son in, who she believed would never have “gone crazy” and had to be hospitalized. Unlike Conrad, Buck would have enhanced, rather than diminished, the image she had of having the perfect life and perfect family.

Beth’s evil really comes out when they go on vacation to Texas to visit with some of Calvin’s colleagues. While golfing, Beth sweetly suggests to Calvin they go on another vacation–which would be during Christmas. Calvin agrees, but suggests they should bring Calvin along with them because he might enjoy the trip. To this, Beth flies into a narcissistic rage and loudly berates her husband for always trying to include Conrad in everything. During this rage, she projects her own anger and selfishness onto her husband, who unsuccessfully tries to stand up to her. Later in this clip, there’s a chilling scene after Conrad’s parents return home and Conrad tries to give Beth a hug. Beth’s face stays cold and hard and you can feel the hatred and disgust she has for her child while she barely returns his embrace at all.


The golf scene and “the cold hug.”

Conrad finds out his friend Karen from the hospital (Dinah Manoff) has committed suicide. Frantic, he makes an emergency appointment with Dr. Berger, and shows up in his office in a broken state. He rages and then sobs uncontrollably and everything comes pouring out: the whole story about the night Buck died and how he blamed himself, his mother’s hatred for him, and how he was never good enough. Dr. Berger listens and holds him like a parent would a child, and finally Conrad begins to calm down.

Gradually, Calvin becomes more aware of his wife’s malignant narcissism and is beginning to doubt her ability to love anyone but herself. One night Beth finds him crying alone and asks him why he is crying. Calvin asks Beth if she really loves him and she gives him a non-answer, saying “I feel the way I’ve always felt about you.” Calvin admits he is not sure he loves her anymore. He’s beginning to see the soulless monster she really is. Early in the morning, Beth leaves for good, not saying goodbye to her husband or son, leaving them to fend for themselves and try to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives together. No doubt both are much better off this way.


Calvin’s realization and confrontation with Beth.

This is one of the most convincing and well acted movies about the havoc a malignant narcissist mother can wreak on her family I have ever seen, and 35 years later, it still hits home because of the uncanny similarities I see to my own mother (who was not as outwardly rejecting or quite as malignant as Beth Jarrett). Every one of the 9 DSM indicators of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is evident in Beth. If anyone is interested in studying the myriad ways a malignant narcissist inflicts their abuse and scapegoats their children, this movie is the best case study I can think of, outside of having to deal with one yourself. Of course, not all malignant narcissists are upper middle class like Beth is, but even though the specific words and actions may differ from one social class to the next, the manipulations and abuse are always the same.


This trailer shows other scenes of the way Beth emotionally abuses, gaslights,projects, and triangulates against her surviving son.

A Beachside Affair (guest post).

Here is another guest post by the same writer who contributed “The Narc from Costa Rica.” Again she has asked to remain anonymous, but I think this story does a better job of describing the narcissism of a man who seemed to be extremely romantic. Talk about a whirlwind romance!

It’s common for narcissists (especially somatic ones) to act very romantic in the beginning of relationships. But the problem is, it’s an ACT. They can sweep you off your feet with their charm, declarations of undying love (which are lies), seemingly endless desire to make love to you, and gifts of wine, candy and roses. They also can move in very fast, and it’s not uncommon for one to propose marriage very soon into the relationship. (There are other narcs who are relationship-phobic, usually the cerebral type.). My ex proposed only three months after we met. He was cerebral though, so not all “romantic,” fast-moving narcissists are somatics.

The man in this story, Michael, seems to be a covert or “vulnerable” narcissist. They can seem to have very deep emotions and be quick to express their insecurities and vulnerabilities, but they’re still dishonest and manipulative, and they still have no empathy and will leave you in a heartbeat if a better source of supply comes along. Covert narcissists can be more dangerous than aggressive (classic) narcissists because you never see what’s coming. They can completely fool you because they seem to need you so much.

A Beachside Affair
By Anonymous

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My whirlwind relationship with Michael lasted for only 3 months. It was a summer love, like something out of the movies. Our affair ended abruptly, leaving me completely gutted emotionally and even physically. It was as if he’d ripped my heart out and taken it with him, leaving me with a huge hole inside my soul.

I met Michael on the beach. We quickly became obsessed with each other. He was like an addiction to me. I went to work during the day and all I could think about was Michael. I’d go home and polish myself from head to toe, making sure I looked and felt as beautiful as possible. Before I met Michael I just didn’t feel good. I was in a failing marriage to another narcissist. My husband ignored me. He never talked to me and I was dying inside. I remember that I’d go home and get drunk on wine, just to blur out the feelings of emptiness I felt from my husband’s coldness, on top of having suffered an empty childhood and adolescence due to having been raised by a narcissistic father and a borderline mother who wasn’t much better.

I knew having an affair was wrong, but at that point I no longer cared. I needed to feel loved and needed. Michael fit the bill perfectly, at first. I remember the day I met Michael. He was beautiful, his tanned muscles shimmering and rippling in the sun. We talked for a little while and before long he started to kiss me and held me for 4 hours straight, as the sun went down over the ocean.

After that heady experience I made a decision to leave my husband because I no longer could stand being with him. There was just no comparison.

I’m not sure why Michael had me under such a powerful spell. I’m not sure if it was inverted or covert narcissism or codependency on my part that made me so attracted to him. I know he mirrored my own narcissism and I think that was part of the attraction. Or (in my thinking at the time) maybe it was just that we were both artists that craved something more and we needed attention and had a burning desire to express our vision of life through our art. All I know is that when the two of us got together we melted together like butter. All the love that I never got, all the love I craved and all my neediness was being filled by Michael and I couldn’t get enough of him. He was everything to me.

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Michael had an apartment in a very famous town in coastal New Jersey that was known for its rock n roll legacy, especially Bruce Springsteen. Famous bands played in a place called The Stone Pony in Asbury Park. Back then, over 30 years ago, the town was run down and almost abandoned. The Stone Pony was the only thing that held the weak fabric of this town together. But I loved it there. This run down seaside town was always beautiful to me because I always felt like this was my home. I still do. I knew that one day I’d play up on the same stage where other famous artists had played. There was fire in my belly. A void that needed to be filled with a whole lot more than a man’s love. If there was an Angel on Ocean Avenue, she was certainly watching over me.

Micheal was an art student who had nude sketches of himself all over his wall. He played the guitar too and we often played music together and I would sing. I use to stay at Michael’s house every night. We went to parties at the homes of mutual friends we had met out on the beach. The bonfires were wonderful and we would all sit around and sing songs. We sang Beatles songs and Bowie songs and I felt like a reincarnated hippie. My favorite song we sang was David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

“Tell my wife I love her very much…she knows.
I’m here and I’m floating in my tin can.
Far above the world. Planet earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.”

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There was magic and presence and energy and the love in all the people we met at these parties and on the beach. People liked to watch Michael and I, because they were intrigued by our obsession and need for each other. We vicariously fulfilled their need for romance. I felt so validated, loved, sexy and happy. It seemed too good to be true and it was. This couldn’t be real life. It was too perfect.

We were a study in contrasts physically, and I think that’s another reason for the fascination our friends had for us. Michael had beautiful blue eyes and long blonde silky hair, and a great body. I had long black hair and lots of curves. People liked to photograph us together. We use to sit down in front of a long mirror in his room and stare at the contrast. We made each other feel beautiful. And together, we were. At that time it seemed we were good for each other’s self-esteem. At the county college Michael was studying for an Associates degree in graphic arts we were both asked to pose nude for $10 dollars an hour for the students who sketched still lifes in the human anatomy drawing class.

Michael’s background was sad. He told me that he was beaten by his father with a belt consistently during his infancy and his dad was also an alcoholic. Michael was depressed and he had to take psychiatric medication to fight his depression from the abuse he endured as a child. I remember watching him go into this weird state where sometimes seemed almost frozen and off in some other universe (dissociation is a common symptom in people with NPD and BPD). When in these near-catatonic states, he’d punch the floor or the wall over and over again, sometimes lasting for up to 20 minutes. It was sad and very scary. He was not mean or malignant though. He seemed like a gentle, artistic soul who just couldn’t take care of himself. He was never controlling, but seemed very needy for my constant attention and love. I think he was a covert narcissist.

Our affair came to an abrupt end at the end of that summer, because Michael left me for another women who said she was in love with him. She was willing to pay the rent on his apartment. So in the end, he chose money and security over me. I was devastated because the drug of my addiction to him filled me all summer and was suddenly ripped out of my heart in an instant and the devastation and grief was almost too much to bear.

But if I’d known about narcissism, I would have known Idealize and Devalue is all part of their game. They can’t help it. Even covert narcissists are at heart predators out to use you and throw you away when you’re no longer of use to them.

My next phantom lover was a drummer named Karl. I was so needy that I of course fell into the hands of another narcissistic man. And so it goes on…

The incredible shrinking world of the narcissist’s victim.

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When I was still with my ex, I became a recluse, holed up in my small room when I wasn’t at work, never venturing out even into the living room or kitchen. This was because he had taken over the whole house to the point I dreaded leaving the safety of my room, because of how obnoxious, loud, abusive and demanding he was.

He was sleeping on the living room couch (I was “nice” enough to let the parasitic loser crash there for almost 7 years–but that’s a whole ‘nother story) and he was extremely messy, loud and dirty–overflowing ashtrays, trash all over the table, plates left crusted with food or day old coffee, crumbs on the furniture and floor, and he never, ever cleaned anything. His idea of washing the dishes was letting them soak in soapy water and they’d sit there until they began to stink or someone else (usually me) washed them. He also talked loud, discussed inappropriate things with my daughter’s young friends (she was living here too at that time), and blasted his death metal and riot girl music (which he knew I couldn’t stand) just because he knew it would piss me off. Whenever I complained or even politely asked him to stop or turn the music down, he told me (in front of his friends and my daughter and her friends) that I was “crazy.” He’d announce to everyone things like, “oh, well you know Lauren’s a BORDERLINE, so that’s why she acts that way.” He also was deliberately loud when I needed to sleep. I was the only one working at the time, and had to be up early. You think he cared? Ha! Not when he yelled at me for being “emotionally unstable” or “selfish” because I wanted quiet at night when I was trying to sleep.

I couldn’t stand leaving my room because he seemed to be everywhere in that small house. I was too depressed to go out, and didn’t have anyplace to go anyway. See, another thing that happens when you live with a narcissist is that you may not have any money. Some narcissists hide all the money from you, keeping it tucked away in their bank accounts where you don’t have access to it. If you work, they may demand you hand over most or all of your paycheck. Or they simply grind down your confidence in your abilities to the point where you only take jobs that are far beneath your actual ability. Or, in some cases, the narcissist simply refuses to work, while racking up the bills and then expects others to pay. This last type was what my ex was.

For seven years he didn’t work, but freeloaded off my good will and codependency. He was the worst kind of parasite. Yes, I enabled him so that was my fault. But in me, he saw an easy “mark,” someone who was a people-pleaser who could be easily taken advantage of. In the winter, he’d turned the heat register to the highest temperature, so the living room felt like an oven. If I tried to call him on that and remind him that I couldn’t afford to pay a high electric bill, he’d deny it was him. He’d blame his daughter, or even say I was turning the heat up myself and didn’t remember (this was gaslighting of course). I knew he was lying but couldn’t prove he was, because he’d crank up the heat when I wasn’t around. Another thing he did was order movies, sometimes porn, without my knowing and these charges sometimes almost doubled the cable bill. Of course I wound up having to scrape together the money to pay it. When I confronted him about the movies he’d ordered, he denied responsibility, saying it must have been our daughter (she was never home and barely watched TV at all so I knew he was lying).

He did get food stamps, but that was the only way he contributed, and the amount he was getting wasn’t very much. He’d complain about the groceries I bought because they didn’t include expensive steaks, legs of lamb, and condiments that he needed “for his diabetes.” I was trying to stretch the budget, and that meant buying inexpensive foods. These were not to his high standards though. You get the idea.

My job was low paying (and still is). So of course after taking care of all his needs and paying gigantic electric bills thanks to him, and never having anything to eat because he’d eat all the food himself, there was never any money. So I couldn’t go anywhere. Hell, I couldn’t even afford a movie or the $3.00 fee for the community pool, never mind ever being able to get away for the weekend to the beach.

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I also had no friends. He’d convinced me I was so unlikeable and socially inept that I had stopped even trying to make friends. People who approached me in friendship I kept at arms’ length and never accepted their invitations or phone calls. I was afraid if they got to know me, they wouldn’t like me. Being avoidant and terribly shy anyway, socializing was never something that came naturally to me. So any fun activities or getaways I might have gotten involved with through a friend just didn’t happen, because I didn’t allow myself to have friends. I was also too embarrassed to let anyone come to the house because of its filthy and disheveled condition (thanks to him) and the fact there was never any food to eat, not to mention the certainty that this parasitic loser would say something embarrassing or inappropriate in front of any friend I might have brought over. Also, never having enough money to do anything fun, made getting together with friends difficult. I certainly couldn’t expect them to always pay my way!

Some narcissists won’t let their victims have friends. They either forbid it, or manage to turn the victims’ friends against them with their charming triangulating. Mine never actually forbade it, but just made it so uncomfortable and impossible for me to have friends that I gave up on having any.

At age 45, i noticed I was living like an 80 year old, pretty much confined to the house, and dutifully going to my job (which I hated) every day. I had no life at all, no interests, no hobbies, no money, no friends. All I had was TV, my computer and books. So I holed myself up in my little room and read and slept a lot. I didn’t even have the motivation to do something creative, like start a blog. I just vegetated in there, pigging out on junk food and snacks and growing fatter every day. I slept a lot during the day. Not long ago I posted a photo of what I used to look like. I can’t believe the difference–I don’t look like the same person.

That’s what living with a narcissist will do to you: destroy your looks, your motivation, your self esteem, your interest in anything, your pride in your own body and mind, eventually your sanity. I actually thought I had lost all my creativity and intelligence. I thought I had nothing left to offer to anyone, and my sole purpose in life was having to put up with the narc in the house who was sucking me dry like a vampire. He reminded me every day it was his right, and that I had no choice because if I tried to make him leave, he would kill himself and possibly take me with him. I was terrified of that possibility, but I now know he was full of doggy doodoo and just said that to manipulate me because he knew I’d fall for it. That man would never kill himself. That I know. If he was going to, he already would have.

Oh, there was more, so much more, but I’ll stop here before this turns into a book.

Don’t let a narcissist shrink your world and reduce you to living in a self-imposed prison. You deserve better than that. I know if I hadn’t gone No Contact with him last year, I would very likely be dead or very ill by now. They may not kill bodies, but they kill souls, and you die a slow and painful death which could eventually destroy your body too.