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.

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The 5 stages of narcissistic abuse recovery.

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I went No Contact with my sociopathic NPD/ASPD ex in February, 2014 — almost three years ago. Enough time has elapsed that I’ve seen that there are several stages one goes through on the way to recovery and healing. There does seem to be a clear pattern that I’ve seen in both myself and in others. The order of these stages never varies, though the circumstances may vary. Unfortunately, many people get “stuck” at a particular stage and can’t seem to move to the next one.

1.  Numbness/codependency.
A person at this stage is still living with or involved with their abuser(s). They are in a state not unlike a victim of brainwashing or an active cult member. They have been led to believe (through the manipulations of the abuser — gaslighting, projection, isolation, and all the rest) that they are worthless, crazy, stupid, and the one at fault for all that has gone wrong. They question their own sanity because they have been told by the abuser that everything they believe is not true. They may even identify with their abuser (codependency) or look to them as their only reason for living. At this stage, they will do anything for the abuser, and can’t figure out why they feel so depressed and why their lives (and possibly even their health) is falling apart and everyone seems to have turned against them, sometimes even their own families.  They blame themselves, and have no idea that this is something being done to them by their abuser. A person at this stage may have shut off their ability to feel any emotions, and tell themselves (and may even believe) that this is normal.  Suicide is a real possibility.

2. Righteous anger and No Contact.
If an abuse victim is lucky, they will reach a point where they realize they have been abused, and that they are not the one at fault. Usually, this leads to righteous anger, and the victim may begin to express this. Because you can’t reason with an abuser, and they will not tolerate your honing in on the truth, in most cases the victim will realize they need to break away from the abuser. The anger the victim feels overrides the fear, depression, and numbness they felt previously, and gives them the motivation to do what they need to do to get away. In some cases, such as when there are children, going No Contact may be more complicated and it may be only possible to go very low contact.

The rage the victim feels may remain for a time (some longer than others). This is the stage that many narcissistic abuse bloggers are at when they begin to write about what happened to them. While unremitting rage will eventually poison the soul if the danger has passed and it has nowhere left to go, it’s still a lot healthier than remaining stuck in an abusive relationship and slowly dying a soul-death.

Unfortunately, many survivors seem to remain stuck at this stage. It almost seems as if the anger becomes a sort of addiction.  But I won’t write about that here;  I have other posts about that.

3. Asking questions, seeking answers.
At some point (for most people), the rage (which served its purpose) burns itself out. Some survivors grow weary of the unremitting hatred toward the personality-disordered and seek to understand the behaviors of those who caused them so much pain instead, while still remaining No Contact with abusers. They may spend time reading about the disorders of their abusers, and otherwise educating themselves. In time, this gives them a more balanced perspective, while they still acknowledge how dangerous such people can be. During this time, the survivor also learns how to navigate the world and relationships with better boundaries, practice being mindful, and also is better able to detect red flags to avoid being abused again (this may have begun during Stage 2).

4.  Looking inward, self awareness.
It’s not until a survivor can forgive their abusers (while never forgetting the harm they caused) that the healing can truly begin. Survivors continue to practice having good (or at least better) boundaries, and practice being mindful.

At the same time they may begin to look inside themselves to see what their own role(s) might have been in the abuse they endured. They may realize they tend to be codependent, or didn’t set good boundaries (usually because they were never trained to have good boundaries by their own abusive parents) or in some cases, may even be personality-disordered themselves (this kind of self-awareness can come as a huge shock but isn’t possible as long as a person is stuck in anger and hatred).

Though the survivor might have played some role in the abuse they endured, this doesn’t mean what happened was their fault or that they could have stopped it. The self-defeating behaviors and/or codependency that led to a person becoming a victim are almost always unconscious and programmed into the person during early childhood by abusive parents.

It’s during this stage that a survivor will often decide to enter therapy or some other type of psychological or spiritual counseling (this can happen as early as Stage 3).

5.  Coming together.
This last stage is when an abuse survivor begins to put all the pieces together, begins to understand the complicated dynamics between abusers and victims, and in some cases, becomes able to to use their own experience to consciously help others heal, even seeing what happened to them as a kind of blessing.   It’s at this stage that real freedom and happiness can finally be achieved  because the person has developed a sufficiently strong sense of self that is no longer attracted to (or attractive to) abusers.

I believe I’m somewhere between stages 4 and 5, though I have frequent relapses.  Remember: relapse is part of recovery!  Don’t beat yourself up.

5 Howling Wildernesses

This post has haunted me for months and I was thinking about it again today. Enter the inside of a malignant narcissist’s mind — a vast and bleak howling wilderness — if you dare. This is one of my favorite posts by HG Tudor, who is a brilliant and poetic writer.

Knowing the Narcissist

Five reasons it cannot work

1. Nothing about the golden period is real

It feels like every day is summer doesn’t it? Warm and wonderful. No rain clouds anywhere, just a cornflower blue sky. Not a cloud to be had. Everything is fantastic. We do everything together. We match on every conceivable level. I like what you like. We laugh at the same things. We enjoy the same books and films. I know what you are about to say. We like to cook together, try new wines and explore interesting places. Whether it is forest or foam, city or village we both enjoy going to these places and do so together. We are soulmates. I do not want anyone but you. You have finally met the person that you have wanted all of your life. You still cannot believe how lucky you are to have found someone like me, someone…

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Why empaths and narcissists seem to need each other.

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Credit: Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed

The concept of narcissism and HSP (highly sensitive person) or empathic traits coexisting in the same person is a matter that has very little research behind it, but I definitely think there is a strong case to be made for it. Hear me out before you hit the backspace key. I actually think it’s at the core of why empaths and narcissists are so uncannily drawn to each other.

In my article A Match Made in Hell: Narcissists and HSPs, I wrote about the tendency for narcissists and HSPs to form trauma-bonds with each other–that’s really just a fancy way of saying these two seemingly opposite types of people are often attracted to each other and form codependent relationships.

The trauma bond.

The narcissist is both attracted to and envious of the empath’s vulnerability and high empathy. They are attracted to it for a very simple reason:  they need it badly. As children, narcissists failed to be mirrored or loved unconditionally by their parents, and are love-starved, even though they’d rather die than ever admit it.   The empath, in turn, is able to love the narcissist without condition, to the point of allowing themselves to be sucked dry.

Narcissists also envy the empath’s ability to love unconditionally because on some level, usually unconsciously but sometimes consciously, they know they jettisoned their own ability to love and feel empathy a long time ago in order to survive.  Most were highly sensitive children but shamed for it.  Many were bullied.   So they learned to bury their emotions behind an invulnerable facade because continuing to be so vulnerable hurt too much. Empathy may be a gift, and I think most narcissists were born with that gift, but were never shown how to use it and were punished for having it.  It became a curse instead of a blessing, so they sent the gift into exile and shored up a false self to make sure it never saw the light of day again.

Knowing they jettisoned their ability to access their own vulnerability, combined with a continued starvation for unconditional love and acceptance, is what draws narcissists to empaths. They abuse the empath, either consciously or unconsciously, because they hate the fact they need their love so badly, and the empath’s sensitivity also unconsciously reminds them of their own sensitivity that caused them so much pain. It’s a constant reminder of the shame they felt as children for being so sensitive, but they also can’t live without it. So they punish the empath for reminding them of their own “weakness” and making them feel so needy.

The narcissist, in their neediness and simultaneous resentment of being so needy, feeds off the empath like a vampire. If they are malignant, they don’t care that they’re destroying the very person who gives them a reason to live. They may even get some satisfaction in knowing they are punishing them. If the narcissist is not malignant, they may feel some guilt over what they do to  the person who gives them so much love, but be unable to stop doing it. Or more often, they aren’t even aware they are doing it. They just seem like a bottomless well that can’t get enough and keeps on demanding more.

Of course such a relationship is extremely unhealthy, even deadly, for the empath, who will eventually either leave the narcissist or be completely sucked dry or in the worst cases even destroyed. But the empath does gets something important out of the relationship too. They truly believe that through their unconditional love, they are saving the narcissist from him or herself.

Common roots.

Empaths and narcissists often both come from abusive or dysfunctional families. Both started life as highly sensitive children. But at some point they diverged. While the empath embraced their own vulnerability and learned how to use their gift to help others and find joy and authentic connection with others, the narcissist rejected it because it seemed more like a curse and made them feel too much pain. If they were never shown any empathy or were shamed for being too sensitive, it’s understandable why they might have rejected their own empathy and covered it over with a facade of toughness.

Why are empaths drawn to narcissists?

Empaths, like narcissists, often have narcissistic parents, and are unconsciously drawn to those who remind them of their parents or perhaps a sibling or other close family member.  They are naturally drawn to those who seem to need healing, and in embarking on a relationship with a narcissist, they are unconsciously attempting to heal their parent or other family member. This is why empaths so often become codependent to narcissists.

Empaths are able to see through the facade the narcissist presents to the world, to their hidden true self. They can see the hurt, abandoned child that lives inside every narcissist. They truly believe they can “fix” them and transform them into authentic, feeling humans capable of returning what they have been given. Of course, this belief is almost guaranteed to end in disappointment (if the empath is lucky), and possibly much worse. For a narcissist to change and stop the pattern of abuse, the desire to do so must come from inside of them. They must be willing to drop their mask of invulnerability and do the hard work of reclaiming the vulnerability they were born with and gave up a long time ago. The empath can’t make a narcissist want to change. Just because they can see through to the sensitive true self doesn’t mean they will be able to draw him or her out. They can die trying, but it probably won’t work. The unwilling, un-self-aware (or malignant) narcissist is likely to punish them for trying.

Failed empaths?

There may even be a genetic connection between narcissism and those who become empaths. I’ll go out on a limb and even speculate that they might even be the same thing–the narcissist being a “failed empath.  It’s ironic but I definitely think there’s a connection.

But how can that be? Narcissists are incapable of empathy, have problems feeling and expressing deep emotions, and are incapable of loving anyone but themselves. Isn’t that the opposite of being an empath?

Well, yes and no. The explanation is complicated, so I hope you stay with me here.

As I’ve explained before, I think most narcissists began life as highly sensitive people who at an early age suffered trauma due to abuse. This caused them to shut off their too-vulnerable true (authentic) selves from the world and in its place construct an elaborate defense mechanism–the false self–initially meant to protect the vulnerable true self from further harm, which has no defenses at all. Even empaths who are not narcissists have some protective psychological armor, so they did not need to construct a false self to take the place of the true one. Healthy empaths are truly authentic people who feel deeply and are emotionally honest with themselves and others. Narcissists were born with no emotional defenses at all; the false self replaces the true one and appears invulnerable. But this is only an illusion. When you face a narcissist, you will never know who that person really is because all they will show you is the protective mask they have created. They are so terrified of being hurt again that they will attack with vicious ferocity if they think you pose any threat to its flimsy underpinnings. It must be a terrifying way to live.

The high sensitivity of a narcissist is retained in the way they react to personal insults or slights. They overreact when they feel like they are being attacked, ignored, or they perceive their source of narcissistic supply may be in danger. They are paranoid, touchy, and often lack a sense of humor about themselves. They may try to appear as if they don’t care, but if you know narcissism, it’s usually not too hard to see the emotional fragility behind their defenses and acts of false bravado. When it comes to other people, they can seem incredibly insensitive.

Narcissists who aren’t high on the spectrum and become self aware may be able to reclaim emotional empathy toward others, because empathy is a skill that can be learned.  A forum member on the NPD board I read (who has NPD) described something that happened with her husband that warmed my heart.  She said he had hurt her feelings, and she caught herself about to attack him.  She felt her defenses go up, but instead of acting out, she decided to NOT act out and just allow herself to feel the hurt.  Instead of attacking him as she normally would have, she cried.   He put his arms around her and she allowed herself to be held and comforted, to feel vulnerable and cared for.   She said at first she felt awkward and uncomfortable, but the next time it happened, she felt less uncomfortable.  Now allowing herself to be loved is becoming second nature and she says she is starting to feel some tenderness toward him too, and even moments of a new feeling that she thinks is real love, a warm feeling not based on getting supply from him or bolstering her ego.   So I think empathy takes practice.  If you were born with it, you don’t lose it, but it may be hard to access and takes a conscious effort to learn to reclaim and use.

But before a narcissist can really get better and feel empathy toward others, they first need to develop self-compassion (this is NOT the same as self-pity, but is actually empathy for the rejected child-self). They must also be courageous enough to stay in treatment and confront and release the traumatic feelings that lie hidden beneath the mask.

This usually only happens when the narcissist hits rock bottom and suffers a massive loss of supply, sending them into a depression.  At that point they may enter therapy or realize the problems they have are because of themselves.   The problem with this is once things begin to improve or they begin to feel better again, they are likely to leave therapy because the work to get to their authentic self is too painful.    It takes an enormous amount of motivation, courage and positive thinking for a narcissist to stay in therapy long enough to begin to access their true self and embrace their own vulnerability.  It can be done, but it’s not easy.

For malignant narcissists though, things are very different.  Stay with me here because things are about to get complicated.

The connection between malignant narcissism and high sensitivity.

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Warm and cold empathy.

In my research about NPD, there has been a lot of discussion about a concept called “cold” empathy.   Most of us associate narcissism with a lack of empathy, but this isn’t exactly the case. Most narcissists–especially malignant ones–do have empathy, but it’s not emotional or affective empathy; it’s cognitive or “cold” empathy. What this means is that a narcissist KNOWS what you are feeling, and may use what they know you are feeling against you. Cold empathy is “felt” on the cognitive (thinking) level, but not as an emotion, and that is why the narcissist can feel no compunctions about turning your feelings against you in order to punish or hurt you.

An extreme example of this would be the sadistic, psychopathic rapist. The rapist “smells” your fear and uses that against you to become even more sadistic. It *is* empathy, but it’s “cold”–the rapist understands exactly what you are feeling and your fear makes him feel powerful, so he increases the level of torment. He feeds off your fear like a vulture feeds on carrion. You don’t need to tell him you’re afraid; he KNOWS. He just doesn’t care and even derives pleasure from it.

Cold empathy is the twisted mirror image of warm empathy, which non-pathological people are capable of feeling on an emotional, not just a cognitive level. HSPs and empaths have an excess of warm empathy.  Here’s where things get complicated. If a narcissist is also a failed empath, their high sensitivity could morph into a quality that seems almost supernatural and is utterly chilling–a cold, sadistic form of “empathy” where they seem to be able to see into your mind. A non-sensitive person would not be able to detect your emotions without you telling them how you feel, and therefore not have that creepy, unsettling way of “seeing into your soul” that the malignant narcissist does. So, the higher the sensitivity a narcissist has (and the more the “warm” empathy has been shut out or turned “cold”), the more malignant they will be.

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Malignant narcissism is high on the HSP spectrum.
Credit: http://dondepresso.rujic.net/post/116940034025/manic-chart-narcautism-spectrum

This idea was actually illustrated in the humorous-but-true graph (shown above), where initially I wondered why malignant narcissism was showing so high in empathic/HSP traits. But actually it makes perfect sense. An empath who adopts narcissism as a way to cope and whose warm empathy all turns cold will become malignant. A less sensitive person (or a highly sensitive person who still retains some warm empathy) may still become a narcissist, but they won’t become malignant. Of course, at their core, all narcissists are highly sensitive. They just don’t want you to know.

In summary, then, empaths and HSPs can be the most kind and caring people you can ever hope to meet–or the most dangerous. A narcissistic empath is definitely someone you’d want to avoid.

They are two sides of the same coin. The tragedy is that a malignant narcissist can destroy a previously healthy empath, but it doesn’t work the other way around: a non-narcissistic empath can’t change a malignant narcissist into a good person.

*****

Further reading:

Narcissists and Empaths: The Ego Dynamic

H.G. Tudor’s theory of narcissism and codependency (trauma bonds).

HG Tudor has a really good blog. Don’t let the frightening appearance on the main page intimidate you. I’ve been following this blog for a while and it’s been immensely helpful to me, as it has been to many others. Please give HG’s blog a chance. You will learn so much about the mind of the narcissist, straight from the horse’s mouth. Sometimes it’s helpful to have that perspective too. Here’s a very interesting theory he has about why codependent types and narcissists are so drawn to each other.

Please leave comments under the original post.

The Toxic Attraction Between an Empath and a Narcissist.

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I have my own ideas about the complicated dynamics between narcissists and empaths, but I’ll just let this excellent article (written by an empath) speak for itself.  These two apparently opposite types of characters do often seem to be drawn to each other.

The Toxic Attraction Between an Empath and a Narcissist. 
By Alex Miles

We know that “narcissist” has become a bit of a buzzword recently, and some folks are quick to apply it to an ex-lover or family member or friend. While awareness of this concept is healthy, so is remembering that it is, in a mental health context, a serious condition that shouldn’t be applied to someone you’re mad at because they stole your mirror. ~ Eds. 

I am an empath. I discovered I was an empath after I got involved in a very deep and highly destructive relationship with a narcissist.

I am writing this article from the perspective of an empath, however, would love to read the view from the opposite side if there are any narcissists that would like to offer their perception on this.

Through writing about the empath personality type I have connected with many other people who class themselves as an empath and time and again I have heard people tell me how they have also attracted relationships with narcissists. There is a link. So, I decided to explore it further.

This is my theory…

From my own experience and studies on the narcissist personality type, there is always one core trait: A narcissist is wounded.

Something, somewhere along the line, usually stemming from childhood causes a person to feel worthless and unvalued and, due to this, they will constantly and very desperately seek validation.

Here comes the empath, the healer. An empath has the ability to sense and absorb other people’s pain and often takes it on as though it were their own. If an empath is not consciously aware of boundaries and does not understand how to protect themselves, they will very easily and very quickly bond with the narcissist in order to try to fix and repair any damage and attempt to eradicate all their pain.

What the empath fails to realise is that the narcissist is a taker. An energy sucker, a vampire so to speak. They will draw the life and soul out of anyone they come into contact with, given the chance. This is so that they can build up their own reserves and, in doing so, they can use the imbalance to their advantage.

Read the rest of this article here.

Nothing much to say.

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My daughter broke up with her boyfriend (the engagement has been off a few weeks) and she and her dad (my ex) are going to get an apartment. I worry about that, because it seems like he is freeloading off her the way he used to freeload off of me.  He uses her guilt and  feelings of duty to him to get what he needs from her.    She has a good job and seems fairly happy, and he isn’t abusive to her in the same way he was to me (he doesn’t dare and he’s too ill now anyway) but I still worry because that’s not much of a life for an almost 23 year old.  She seems incapable of maintaining a relationship for too long because she grows bored once the limerence wears off.

Sometimes I worry that she’s going to wind up being  one of those dutiful adult daughters who never marries or has a family of her own but devotes the prime years of her adulthood caring for her aging parent, in this case one who she has a very codependent relationship with and manipulates her to get his way.   I don’t want him to devour her soul, but ultimately it’s her choice.  She knows it’s not a very healthy relationship and she’s a codependent sort of person, but she loves him and feels like it’s her duty “because he has no one else.”

She’s spending a few days at my place, but she has to sleep on the couch because my housemate has the other bedroom.

I saw my therapist tonight and I wasted time talking about everything but my feelings.

Other than that, I don’t have anything else to write about tonight.

The One Who Got Away

Living with Narcissism is a new WordPress blog written from a man’s point of view. He suffers from C-PTSD and writes about his toxic relationships with character disordered women.

This is a highly readable account of his devastating breakup with a young woman who had Borderline Personality Disorder. While BPD is highly stigmatized, many women with active BPD behave just this way. I’m ashamed to admit I recognized some of Kerry’s behaviors in the ways I used to act in my relationships. This was an excellent post from a wonderful new blogger. Please go visit his blog and leave comments there.

Living With Narcissism

Even after 15 years of marriage there was this one woman who I just never got over completely.  In my mind, she was my soulmate.  The one who got away.  Leaving her was like an addict giving up their drug of choice.  She was my heroine.  My soul was so enmeshed with hers that it literally felt like a tearing apart inside my heart and soul when I finally left her.  After all of those years I still pined for her and yearned for closure.  I had no idea what I’d done wrong or why we couldn’t work out.  I felt like our relationship was just an innocent baby and she killed it.  I should have hated her for that.  If it had really been a child, no doubt, I would have.  But it was a metaphorical child.  I didn’t hate her.  I missed her and still loved her even…

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Narcissists *can* love…but run!

This article by psychotherapist Ross Rosenberg makes a surprising claim about non-pathological narcissists (those who are not malignant or psychopathic, which means high spectrum Ns having ASPD traits)–they CAN love. But the “love” is shortlived because it’s really intense infatuation (limerence) and depends on the other person fulfilling the idealized image of the person the narcissist has formed in their mind, and such a relationship is doomed to fail.

Narcissists Can Love–But Run! Understanding Narcissistic Codependent Love
By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT

narcissus1_caravaggio

Considering Narcissists have hurt and damaged the lives of so many people, it makes a great deal of sense why there is a proliferation of information, advice, articles and books on the subject of narcissism. There seems to be a surplus of people on Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites who are making it their life’s mission to vilify narcissists, while making themselves out to be specialists (or even experts) on the subject. Those who contribute are often victims of narcissistic abuse and want to help others avoid their mistakes. I am thankful for their efforts, especially since it is connected to codependency recovery, which is where I spend a great deal of my personal and professional effort. It seems to be one of the biggest psychological movements I have seen in recent years.

And there are well-researched and experienced experts in the area who have and are making valuable contributions to the understanding of narcissism. Sam Vaknin is one such expert on narcissism who, just by his own efforts, has almost made the term “Malignant Narcissist” a household term. But even with his contributions, and perhaps because of them, there has been a backlash of misunderstanding on the subject. By focusing on Malignant Narcissism (which happens to be the condition he purports to have), he has accidentally and unintentionally given the impression that “Malignant Narcissism” is the same clinical condition or psychopathology as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The truth of the matter is Malignant Narcissism is a subcategory of NPD. Moreover, those with NPD, or what I call “garden variety narcissists,” do not display many of the same characteristics as those with Malignant Narcissism.

One common mistake about Narcissism, which I see frequently on the Internet, about which there is now a deluge of articles, posts and blogs is that those with NPD cannot love and do not have empathy. This subject was discussed in detail in a recent YouTube collaboration video with me and Sam Vaknin entitled, “Can Narcissists Love and Do They Have Empathy?” Although Vaknin and I agreed it was a complicated question that has an equally complicated answer, we agreed for the most part that narcissists can, in fact, feel and express love and can be empathetic.

We also mostly agreed that Malignant Narcissists and those with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD or Sociopaths) cannot feel or experience love. Because Malignant Narcissism is often confused with ASPD, it is necessary to simply define it as a subcategory of NPD, which is not only a pathologically narcissistic disorder, but also combines traits of Paranoid Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder. For more information on Malignant Narcissism, consider reading Vaknin’s book, “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited” (2015). It is, therefore, correct to assume that Malignant Narc’s and ASPD’s cannot love as it is understood in our general culture. But it is incorrect to make that same leap for those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which will henceforth be referred to as “narcissists.”

Please read the rest of Dr. Rosenberg’s article here:
http://humanmagnetsyndrome.com/narcissists-can-love-but-run-understanding-narcissistic-codependent-love/

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.