These 7 Traits Make You Vulnerable to Narcissistic Manipulation

This article is a must read for empaths and HSPs, and anyone vulnerable to narcissistic abuse:

These 7 Traits Make You Vulnerable to Narcissistic Manipulation

By Kim Saeed

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She also has a great site!  Be sure to visit.

https://kimsaeed.com/

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Grey-rocking: if you can’t go No Contact.

This article has been picking up in views lately, so I decided to reblog it. Several people have told me they’ve found it helpful. I know this trick has helped me in dicey situations when I can’t go No Contact with a narcissist.

Lucky Otters Haven

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Lately I’ve been hearing a new term in the narcissistic abuse community: grey rocking.  I don’t know if it’s a new term or not, but I haven’t heard it before.

How to Grey Rock a Narcissist.

It’s always best to go No Contact (or Very Low Contact) with the narcissists in your life, if it’s at all possible.   But sometimes it isn’t.    For example, you may have underage children with your narcissist and shared custody of them.  Or your boss or a coworker may be a narcissist and you’re not willing to leave your job.  Or you may be in a marriage or relationship with one, have no options for leaving right now and are biding your time until you can save enough money to leave.    Or perhaps you’re still living at home with narcissistic parents and don’t have a place to go yet.

In these types…

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Oh, for the love of Christ. Fooled by another f*cking covert narcissist?

Crocodile Tears

This time it’s a damned covert narc.  At least I think that’s what I’m dealing with.  Do I sound mad and upset?  You bet I am.   I hope I’m wrong but I know the red flags when I seee them.  I’ve had enough experience with them.

Hell, about two years ago (as some of you probably remember) I spent many weeks and maybe even months reading and studying everything I could find about all the symptoms and signs of covert NPD because I was so certain I must be one myself.   I probably qualify for an advanced degree in this disorder.  (Happily, I finally realized I am not one, but CPTSD, an earlier diagnosis of BPD, and my narcissistic “fleas” had me fooled.)

You may be aware I live with my daughter, who is 25.   She’s a good girl, hardworking, sweet, empathetic, intelligent, and beautiful (and I don’t just say that because I’m her mom).   Sure, she has her bad, even bitchy, moments, but don’t we all.   She’s overcome a lot due to her father’s abuse, my complicity and enabling, and sexual abuse she suffered at school.  There was a time back during her teens both her therapists and I were afraid she was developing a personality disorder, probably ASPD (antisocial personality disorder) because she had a diagnosis of ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) as a teen.  She could not function in a regular school setting because she was in trouble constantly and suspended several times for things like stealing and fighting.

Finally, she went into residential treatment and was helped immensely (she was very cooperative with the very strict program) and today is a much different young woman. She has a ton of empathy I never knew was there.    I am beyond grateful for that, and today I can say we are the best of friends.   She is also clean and doesn’t do drugs anymore so I am incredibly grateful for that too.

But there’s a downside too.  Over the past several years, she’s been engaging in a dead end lifestyle I can only call serial monogamy.   She gets serious about one guy, they seem serious about her (for a time), and they even start talking about marriage, but things never progress any further.   There’s always something wrong with the guy: he’s too controlling, becomes abusive, or starts to see other people on the side, or she gets tired of them herself.   At least one who seemed too good to be true turned out to be a dangerous psychopath.

All of these relationships end, and then she quickly moves onto the next man (she’s attractive and personable so it’s easy for her to find new lovers).   I’ve talked to her about furthering her education, deciding on a career (she works in a series of dead end service jobs none of which last very long),  and focusing on just herself, but she’s just like I was at that age: she seems to lack the motivation gene or any idea what she wants to do in life (besides find a man she can marry and will support her).  She seems incapable of tolerating being single.   That’s how I was at her age and I will always regret never developing myself to my full potential and not being more serious about finishing a higher education and finding something I’m passionate enough to turn into a career.  She is certainly intelligent enough, but she’s emotionally damaged.  Getting her to go to therapy is futile.  She simply won’t do it.  But that’s a whole other issue I won’t get into here.

It’s painful watching her take the same non-path I took –a road to an adulthood of constant near poverty, frustration, lack of intellectual and creative fulfillment, relentless financial insecurity, and now, for me — a terrible dread of old age without any real safety net.  I may be living on the streets if Medicare and Social Security are abolished, and that is terrifying.  I don’t have a life partner to provide emotional support, since I never knew how to pick one who didn’t turn out to be an abuser.  I  feel like I’m way too old (and still too afraid) to enter the dating scene again (I hate dating with a passion).  I’d rather just stay single and see how things play out.

Getting back to my daughter, her latest paramour is a man 14 years her senior (he is almost 40).  He gives the impression of a very sweet, kind, and sensitive person.  In fact, he appears to be a very emotional person who shed tears easily and is constantly apologizing.   That should have been a red flag.

At first I thought, “oh, how sweet, a sensitive man not afraid of his emotions,” but I actually think he uses tears and emotion to manipulate others to get his way or to get attention.   Using pity is a red flag of a covert narcissist, especially one of the “fragile” or “vulnerable” type.   They’re common (especially in women but can be found among men too).  They’re dangerous because they’re so hard to spot.  We expect narcs to be mean, arrogant, verbally abusive, and never apologize for anything.  But not all of them are like that, even though on th inside, they are all pretty much the same and just as self obsessed and entitled.   No matter whether their style is grandiose or self pitying, there’s always a yawning black hole where their heart ought to be.

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The reason I came to the conclusion he’s probably a covert narcissist and not just a big softie with a huge heart is the way he appears to string both of us along, causing immense anger and frustration.

He has been promising to get her an engagement ring and propose.  He was supposed to do it on our vacation last week.  We had agreed ahead of time that he would give me  half the money for the hotel, plus half of all expenses (meals, etc.).    The tab came to over $400.   Originally he was supposed to have the cash for me when we got to the hotel and I would pay the whole tab on my credit card.   Well, it turned out his employer made a mistake on his check and he didn’t get paid.  How convenient.

His employer promised they would rectify this on Friday, the day we returned from our trip.    I believed him, sort of.  At least I wanted to believe him.   But there had been one or two other red flags previous to this, that I didn’t think much of at the time, but I suddenly remembered them and began to wonder if he was trying to find a way to get out of paying me, or if he was getting cold feet about the engagement, since without the money, he couldn’t put the final payment down on my daughter’s ring.

I wanted to have a good time, and forget about all this unpleasant business, and so we did.   It seemed worth it, since we all had a great time and he was nothing less than wonderful to both my daughter and me.  Not another sign of narcissism or abusiveness, covert or otherwise.

But after we got home, he called his employer and found out they “forgot” again.  He was promised they would write up a check from petty cash the next day, which was Saturday.  Something felt wrong.

On Saturday he had a sudden “episode” of fainting and an ambulance had to be called.   My daughter went with him to the hospital, which said he would be okay.  It had something to do with heat stroke from too much sun, plus another chronic medical issue he’s been struggling with.   It wasn’t that I wasn’t empathetic or thought he was faking, but the timing of this “emergency” was just really weird.  Of course he could not go get his check, so now it would have to wait until Sunday.    Even my daughter mentioned to me that she was afraid he might be faking so he could put off getting the money.   I have to admit I thought this was a possibility.

I was growing very angry over his failure to pay me back the $400 he had promised me almost a week earlier.    We had never agreed that the vacation would be a gift.  I also considered that this might be his way of getting “cold feet” since his inability to get the money meant he could not finish paying off her ring and therefore there would be no proposal right now, if ever.  What a cowardly way to call off or delay an engagement, if that was what he was actually doing.

Of course, when he got back from the hospital, he was all apologies and tears.   He was hugging both of us and saying “sorry” over and over again.  I felt a little nauseated by this over the top display of emotion because I felt it wasn’t really sincere and was just a way to keep stringing us both along and buying more time.

So last night, he was all happy and excited and told both of us his company had finally issued a check (it was handwritten).  He waved it proudly at both of us.   He wanted me to take today off from work to film him proposing to her (this was supposed to have happened at the beach, but oh well).  I agreed to do this because it seemed important and I didn’t want to miss it.  I had also promised them I’d film the moment.    He said he would cash it first thing in the morning and then he would go get her ring and then we’d all go out somewhere special where he would propose.

Well, guess what.    This morning when I woke up he was gone.  My daughter was in her room mad as hell (not crying, just furious).   I asked her what happened, and she said the check was postdated for next week!   I asked her if he had failed to look at the date and she said, no, he definitely had seen it but chose not to mention it because he was afraid she’d be mad at him and he “couldn’t bear to hurt her again.”    She said she was sick of his lying and game playing so she made him leave until he could get everything fixed and get the money for both her ring and the $400 he owed me.   She said if he failed to do that, she was done with him.   That’s a good decision on her part.   Meanwhile I’ll still be out $400 which he bilked from me to get a free beach vacation, but I guess things could be worse.   He promised her he had a way to get the money today.  We shall see.   I’m skeptical.

Anyway, I’m glad my daughter is beginning to catch on to when she’s being manipulated and abused, because this is abuse, even though this man hasn’t uttered one nasty word, called her any names, or physically abused her.

Abuse comes in many forms.  Covert narcissists (and many borderlines) often use tears, guilt tripping, begging, financial abuse, “stringing you along,” and other underhanded, insidious techniques to get what they want.  Because they are less obviously abusive and can seem so “nice” and even emotionally fragile and needy, they can instill guilt and pity to get their way.  Their marks are empaths who fall for that sort of shit.    If they never deliver on their promises, you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with a person who is never going to be honest with you and will make your life an endless carousel  of frustration and anger that’s difficult to target on that person because they “never mean it.”

So, at this moment, I’m (maybe foolishly?) waiting for him to come back with the money he owes and make good on the promises he’s so far broken.    But I’m not getting my hopes up, that’s for sure.

My codependent “marriage” to a narcissistic boss.

I completely forgot about this post! Unhealthy, codependent relationships with narcissists are not limited to romantic relationships, marriages, and familial relationships. You can definitely be trapped in a codependent “marriage” with your boss (or anyone else you have frequent contact with, especially when unequal balance of power is a natural part of the relationship, as there might be between therapist and patient).

Lucky Otters Haven

boss

In late 2004, I was hired as a cashier at a local convenience store. My boss, John, was a flamboyantly gay man around my age who seemed fond of me at first. He was friendly and likeable in a way that didn’t offend my Aspie social reticence. We often worked alone together, and because he spent most of the time talking my ear off, I wasn’t required to add much to the conversation. I was his captive audience when we weren’t serving customers. John was bright and I found his one-sided monologues interesting if sometimes a little strange.

I’d hear everything about John’s exciting life, from his four Shar-Pei’s antics (he was a huge dog lover) to his once-a-month visits to the spa for regular colonic irrigations–he discussed these publicly, in the most intimate detail, even with customers–as if he was talking about what he had for breakfast. Although John…

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HSPs and codependency.

Originally posted on November 8, 2015

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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.

“Let me be your voice” project – Sleeping with the enemy…

I don’t write a whole lot about sexual abuse — and the story told here may not qualify as what most people would define sexual abuse to be — but still, the woman who wrote this post had something that was precious to her stolen from her, and her boundaries were ruthlessly violated. This post is more explicit than what I usually post, but I think it’s important, because something so precious should be freely given, and boundaries need to be respected. I’m glad this writer ended the relationship because it sounds like her lover thought nothing of taking what wasn’t his, in essence, raping her.  At the very least, he was incredibly obtuse.  It sounds like the writer had a PTSD-like reaction to what happened.  Rape usually does have that effect.

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Also, please follow Cyranny’s Cove.  She has an awesome blog!

Cyranny's Cove

As part of my “Let me be your voice” project, once again, I am honored to host the story of a lovely reader who sent me a painful recalling of her past. I wish there were no such stories to share, but since there are… I hope letting it out at last will help and bring relief.

I’d also like to remind you that if you have a story you would like to get off your chest, but just don’t feel comfortable publishing on your own blog, I’ll be more than glad to help by posting it in the Cove, leaving all the credit to you!  Just write to me here.

So here is her story. And I’d like to thank the author for her trust. *Hugs, my dear!*


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I decided to talk today, because I kept this story for myself for too long. And I cannot believe I…

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Mr. Stingy.

An oldie but goodie about a complete tool and malignant narcissist I dated for a short time.

Lucky Otters Haven

stingy
I remember one of my narcissistic lovers. He was a textbook example of a malignant narcissist, and a mean one at that. Although he never became physically violent, I think he would have if I hadn’t ended that relationship.

One of the strangest things about him was the way he gave me gifts. The guy had plenty of money–he had a trust fund, for heaven’s sakes and owned his apartment free and clear, and he was always traveling. He never asked me to go with him though. Instead, he’d bring me back “gifts” from his road trips. I remember he’d make a big show out of presenting me with these gifts as if he was giving me the keys to a new car. They were never wrapped nicely, but always stuffed in a paper or plastic bag.

So what sort of gifts did this narcissistic trust fund jerk give me?…

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The Narcissist’s Fan Club

Grey-rocking: if you can’t go No Contact.

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Lately I’ve been hearing a new term in the narcissistic abuse community: grey rocking.  I don’t know if it’s a new term or not, but I haven’t heard it before.

How to Grey Rock a Narcissist.

It’s always best to go No Contact (or Very Low Contact) with the narcissists in your life, if it’s at all possible.   But sometimes it isn’t.    For example, you may have underage children with your narcissist and shared custody of them.  Or your boss or a coworker may be a narcissist and you’re not willing to leave your job.  Or you may be in a marriage or relationship with one, have no options for leaving right now and are biding your time until you can save enough money to leave.    Or perhaps you’re still living at home with narcissistic parents and don’t have a place to go yet.

In these types of situations, you probably are not able to go completely No Contact (or even VLC in some cases) but you still need a way to keep the narcissist and their manipulations at bay.    Fortunately there is a solution.   It’s called grey-rocking.

Grey rocking means acting like a grey rock: being completely boring and uninteresting.   It means going emotionally No Contact even if you can’t physically do so.   It isn’t the silent treatment though.  Giving a narcissist the silent treatment will send them over the deep end and they may up the ante.  You have to be more sneaky (you have to think almost like the narcissist!)

So when the narcissist is trying to get information from you or is love bombing or trying to hoover you, what you do is talk about something boring, like the weather, or how much your car needs an oil change, or how expensive milk is these days.  Change whatever sensitive or personal subject they bring up to something unrelated, impersonal, and dull.   If you can, try to make a getaway.  You can tell them you have an appointment and can’t stay around to chat.  If the narcissist has been eyeing you as potential prey, grey rocking them will make them lose interest and they will move on to greener pastures.   After a quick and boring exchange, POLITELY make your exit.

If you’re already prey (for example, if you’re living with a narcissist), grey rocking will be trickier and may take longer to work.  Don’t lose patience or give up.  Keep at it and eventually your emotional unavailability will frustrate them to the point they may throw a temper tantrum initially, but you’re not actually being mean or ignoring them so they can’t rage too much without seeming childish and unreasonable (yeah, I know, they already are).  Don’t allow them to push any of your buttons.  Show no emotional reaction to anything they say, no matter how hard this is to do.   If you keep at this, eventually they’ll grow bored, give up and discard YOU as they begin to look for a new source of supply (you have to be prepared for that).

Here are two examples of grey rocking in two different types of exchanges.

In a work/casual situation:

Narcissist Coworker (looking for a juicy tidbit to start a nasty rumor about you using triangulation):   So, how did you and Tim like working together?  Personally I can’t stand him.  I think he’s an idiot in over his head.    I hear he likes you though.  (winks on the word “likes”)

You:   Oh, do you know if it’s supposed to rain tomorrow?  I completely forgot to check the weather forecast this morning.

Narcissist Coworker:  (shrugs) I dunno…So, anyway, Martha was saying…

You:  Hey, listen, it was great talking to you.  (looking at your watch) But I have to run because I’m already late for my appointment.

Narcissist Coworker (perking up): Appointment? What kind of appointment?

You:  (pulling out phone and pretending to look for a number):  It was great chatting but I gotta make sure they hold my appointment.  (Wave cheerfully, turn around and walk away and start talking into the phone as if someone’s on the other end).

****

In a more intimate relationship:

Narcissist Husband:  You know, you really act crazy sometimes.   Even our neighbors noticed the way you acted at that dinner party last night and asked me if you had a “problem.”  I didn’t know what to say.

You:  Oh, really?   Well, listen, I’m on my way out to a meeting so I can’t stay and chat with you about this.

Narcissist Husband: Wait just one minute!  I’m not finished.  Why are you avoiding the issue.  This is very important!

You:   I feel just fine.  Don’t worry about me.   I really have to go to that meeting.  Let’s talk about this later.

Narcissistic Husband (projecting):  There you go, denying you have a problem.   Always thinking it’s me with the problem saying I’m worrying too much.  I don’t worry too much.  I love you.  I’m only trying to help you. You act like you’re afraid of me.

You: I know you love me.  But seriously, I’m required to be there in 15 minutes.  You know how much my boss hates it when anyone is late.  I don’t want to get chewed out.  (you turn to go out the door).

Narcissist Husband: Wait! (running after you).  I’m not finished!

You (getting in the car and waving): See you later!

Narcissist Husband turns around and storms back into the house, slamming the door.

Obviously, the second situation is a lot more tricky and you will have to face him later.  The “meeting” you’re attending is bogus, but it will give you a chance to get out and think about how to deal with him later. (You can also use these escapes to plan your permanent escape!)

When you get home, keep changing the subject or “getting distracted” by other things so he never has a chance to make any headway and eventually the subject will be dropped (saying you’re tired and going to bed is a good distraction–be sure to yawn a lot!).  Talk about things you know bore him, like your book club or the cute shoes your friend wore at lunch.  Always keep them impersonal–for example, don’t mention how much YOU want those cute shoes.

Naturally he will try to upset you or press your buttons. Count to a thousand if you must, but show no emotional reaction (remember, your reactions are his fuel).   Try to remain as calm and cheerful as you can (even if you want to throttle him, which is probably the case)–you don’t want him to suspect anything!   Remind yourself this is only temporary until you find a better solution (a way to leave).     Of course, this scenario will play itself out many times before he gives up on you.  But he isn’t going to stick around too long if you’re not giving him any opportunity to feed off your emotions.  But by the time that happens, you may already be gone.

****

Further Reading:

Going Grey Rock With a Narcissist

Narcissistic abuse: who is the real victim?

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Narcissistic abusers are great at charming people they want to impress, or those people they want to get on their side. When they have targeted an individual for abuse, they will stop at nothing to turn their friends, colleagues, even their families against them–and it’s not at all uncommon for them to claim that THEY are the ones being abused.   The process of using malicious gossip and lies to turn people against the victim is called triangulation and is well known in the narcissistic abuse community. Most of us who have been targeted by narcissistic abusers know all too well about triangulation and its close cousin, gaslighting. Both will be used in conjunction with each other to turn the victim’s potential allies against them, effectively isolating them and ripping away any support systems they could use later.

Those who have been turned against the victim by the narcissist are called flying monkeys. They may or may not be narcissists themselves, but they are duped and misled by the narcissist’s convincing lies and charm into believing the narcissist is the real victim and that the victim is the abuser. You can’t really blame them for siding with the abuser, since the abuser can be so convincing and often has a glibness that the real victim lacks. Complicating the situation further is the likelihood that the real victim indeed acts “crazier” or more irrationally than the abuser, usually because they have been driven half-mad by the abuse, which can be so easily hidden, even from those who are witnesses to it.

The good news is, there is a way the real victim can be discerned in an abuse situation, even if the narcissist complains loudly about how THEY are being abused. This isn’t something I thought of myself; it’s been described already by other writers and bloggers. Still, I think it’s something that isn’t given a lot of attention, so I want to describe in detail how this works because it may be the only way you can extract the truth in the evil mental clusterf*ck set up by a narcissistic abuser.

Isolating the victim.

In any abuse situation, there is almost always more than just two people involved. At the core are the victim and the abuser, of course, but chances are good the abuser has convinced other people–including friends and family members of the victim–that the victim is the real abuser, and recruited others as flying monkeys that collectively condemn and mob the victim. The abuser may have even convinced a mental health professional or pastor (or anyone else who works closely with a family) that the real victim is the real abuser, effectively turning everyone against the victim, so only the narcissist appears to have allies and the victim has no one.

This happened to me, when I was still married to my sociopathic MN ex. My ex was always more socially adept than me. He was always better at making friends and giving a good first impression than I was. He was very glib and could spread the lies on as thick and convincingly as a trial lawyer. In fact, I used to joke that he should have been a lawyer (no offense to any lawyers who may be reading this!)

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It wasn’t a joke anymore when he decided I was an easy target for abuse. We had several friends–mostly other couples–who suddenly seemed to want nothing to do with me, but still talked to him and seemed to like him. When I questioned my ex about why all our friends had cooled toward me, he said things like, “So-and-so doesn’t like you; I really don’t know why!” or “The Joneses told me they think you act kind of crazy and they don’t feel comfortable around you.”  I was even told our friends were “afraid of me.”  Even our children–who were middle schoolers at the time–had turned chilly toward me, as had several other family members. (It turned out later he was telling the kids I didn’t love them and wished they’d go away–of course, this was an utter lie). Meanwhile he had convinced our friends I was insane. If I questioned him about his treatment or if I seemed to be getting at the truth, suddenly I was called paranoid or too sensitive or even crazy. Or I’d get a non-answer like, “No wonder no one likes you. You’re so selfish. Everything is always about YOU.” He was projecting his own narcissism onto me, but I didn’t know it back then. I began to think there must be something very wrong with me that everyone else could see but I couldn’t.

The real abuser may act more sane.

It didn’t help any that my behavior around this time did in fact appear more insane than his did. I always seemed to be the one to act out or lose my cool, while he always appeared completely rational, cool and collected. Of course our kids were more likely to take his side–they looked at their dad and saw a calm, rational person who wasn’t raising his voice and who was telling them their mom was both insane and didn’t love them. They looked at me and saw a frazzled, half-mad, emotionally unstable woman who was always yelling, crying or locking herself in her room–and on two occasions had to be hospitalized. Why wouldn’t they believe him? What they–and everyone else–didn’t know was that his crazymaking behavior was driving me insane and I was already suffering PTSD due to the mental and emotional abuse. He always treated me well whenever anyone else was present, so no one would suspect what he was actually doing. If I tried to call him out on his abuse, I was gaslighted: “stop making things up,” or “that just proves how insane and self centered you are.” Everyone we knew believed him and I found myself all alone, with no one I could trust or confide in. He was able to use confirmation bias to his advantage–thereafter, anything I did became “proof” of my “craziness” or “unfitness” or “selfishness” and the more abused I was, the “crazier” I got.

At one point we began to see a marriage counselor at my insistence. My behavior in counseling was more volatile than his, and my ex also began to see the counselor in private. He was able to convince this therapist that I was the problem in the marriage and the less fit parent. Here was one more person who could have been a potential ally, but due to her ignorance of narcissistic abuse (and his attorney-like glibness and charm), became another flying monkey he could use in his smear campaign against me.

isolation
Click chart to enlarge.

I have read and heard about many similar situations described by numerous narc-abuse survivors, whether the narcissist was a parent who turned all their siblings and other relatives against them, or a spouse who turned all their mutual friends against them. It happens in the work world too, and online, and in schools, and anywhere where bullying can take place. In any bullying or abuse situation, there is one ringleader (or main narcissist) who has successfully used triangulation, gaslighting and projection to turn others against the abused person. The real abuse victim, who may lack the charm and glibness and manipulativeness of the abuser, has usually been isolated by the narcissist from anyone who could have been of support.

Identifying the real victim.

It doesn’t matter if the real victim seems “crazier” or more emotionally unstable or even more “abusive” than the abuser; they have become that way due to the abuse.   They may have a history of previous victimization which rendered them vulnerable to becoming an abuser’s prey and they may have pre-existing PTSD.   The real clue here is which person seems to have no one on their side? Which one has no friends or allies?  Who seems to be fighting a losing battle?  Who seems to have more “mental problems?” That person is almost always going to be the actual victim, no matter how much “evidence” the alleged “victim” claims to have.

If you are currently being victimized by an abuser, this knowledge may be the only way to be able to tell that you are actually the abuse victim and not the perpetrator, since chances are, your abuser has convinced everyone (including you!) that you are the one at fault. Hold onto this knowledge and remind yourself of it as you begin to disengage. Hopefully, knowing that you are NOT at fault and the narcissist is just a convincing liar will give you the motivation you need to get away. Or, if you are a bystander witnessing abuse, you may be able to help the real victim by keeping in mind that the one who seems to have no one on their side is the one you should be helping. Don’t let the narcissist’s convincing lies sway you over to their side.