Narcissistic abuse in Trumpistan.

Much has been written about Trump’s toxic psychology, specifically his malignant narcissism.  In spite of The Goldwater Rule (an agreement between mental health professionals to never diagnose someone they have not evaluated), so egregious is 45’s bad behavior that thousands of mental health professionals are breaking their own rule and speculating that he does indeed suffer from both Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Psychopathy/Antisocial Personality Disorder (the non-clinical term is “malignant narcissism” when both disorders appear together).

But the problem isn’t limited to Trump.  Our “president”  (I’m sorry, but I refuse to refer to him as president without adding scare quotes for irony) has surrounded himself with a cabinet full of people as entitled-acting and seemingly lacking in human empathy and devoid of conscience as he is.   If they are not sociopathic themselves, they are enabling cowards who keep making excuses for Trump’s horrible behavior and the toxic, abusive things he says.   Some seem like programmed robots with no minds of their own, and others actually seem terrified to ever criticize or disobey him.

As for Trump’s pathologically loyal supporters, they really do seem unreachable.   No amount of logic, facts, reason, or even appealing emotionally to their “better angels” seem to move them.   Like Manson’s young followers who continued to defend Manson’s evil behavior and insane beliefs even to the point where they were willing to murder on his behalf, to his supporters, Trump really could “shoot someone on 5th Avenue” and they would not budge from his side.    When presented with facts — even outright proof that their views are wrong — I’ve noticed a tendency for Trump supporters to double down on their pro-Trump beliefs (for example, if science has found that climate change is real, they will tell you that scientists are liars or are misinformed).   Much more so than his opponents, Trump supporters seem to resort to personal attacks or angry outbursts, and, when that fails, they will cut you off from further discussion, even blocking you on social media so they don’t have to engage with you further or have their views challenged.

There’s two other situations in which you see this unholy trinity of egotistic authoritarian leader, sociopathic or sycophantic lackeys and enablers, and followers who seem to have no ability to think or act for themselves:  in religious cults and in political dictatorships.   Trumpism resembles a cult, and in fact it is one.   Trump uses the same Machiavellian mind control tactics on his followers and those who carry out his bidding that cult leaders and dictators do.

I do believe we are being tested, and Trump is the logical conclusion of where we’ve been headed since at least the 1970s.   His election signals that we have reached rock bottom and are being forced to be accountable — or self-destruct.   If we are being tested, then it follows there is a solution, but it’s imperative that we do not allow ourselves to ever normalize what is happening or become so beaten down emotionally, mentally, and spiritually that we feel like there’s nothing we can do and succumb to the abuse — and yes, it is abuse.

The first step in fighting encroaching totalitarianism (let’s not mince words here because that’s exactly what this administration wants to install in place of democracy) is knowing the nature of the beast that threatens us, but to do that, we need to name it.

This is narcissistic abuse.   It’s just as incapacitating, soul-destroying, creativity crushing, sickness-engendering, trauma-inducing, and crazy-making as the kind wrought on us by malignantly narcissistic parents, teachers, “friends,” relatives, lovers, and spouses.

But it’s a lot worse than that.   It’s worse because it’s narcissistic abuse on a massive, nationwide, possibly worldwide scale.   Unlike a toxic family or workplace or marriage, it’s a lot harder to go No Contact when the leader of your country is an abuser.   In fact, going No Contact may not even be possible, should WWIII, enslavement, or internment in modern day concentration camps come to pass.  This is not hyperbole or conspiracy theory:   if things are allowed to continue the way they have been going since January,  a high-tech feudalism, modern day replay of Nazi Germany, or even a Christian Taliban with Old Testament law replacing the Constitution will be our new reality.

Because what we are enduring is narcissistic abuse writ large, the same terminology and lingo used by narcissistic abuse survivors to refer to abusive parents, coworkers, lovers, friends, bosses and spouses certainly applies here as well.

So I’m going to present some of these narcissistic abuse terms, define them for those who aren’t familiar with what they mean, and use examples of how they are being used by this administration in their attempts to control us, beat us down, and eventually destroy us.

Gaslighting.

Gaslighting is probably the most well-known term used by narcissistic abuse survivors, and can now be seen in many articles about Trump as well.   The term “gaslight” is taken from the 1942 psychological thriller of the same name, in which an abusive, sociopathic husband attempts to make his wife believe she is going insane by telling her she is imagining noises in the attic, the gaslights in the house going on and off by themselves, etc. when he is actually the one doing it without her knowledge.    Gaslighting someone is an insidious and cruel mind control technique intended to make the other person question their own observations and beliefs, and even reality itself.

Trump gaslights us all every day through his demonization of the press (it’s all “fake news” and journalists are “enemies of the people”),  liberals and Democrats, people who refuse to give him the worship he craves, and the truth itself, which he insists is a bunch of lies made up by the “lying media.”   Hitler did the same thing, calling the media “lugenpresse,” which literally means “fake news.”    He gaslights us by telling us that his abusive words and rhetoric are just “honesty” and that “political correctness” (avoiding abusive language and unfair policies) is the real evil that must be done away with.   The intention is to wear those of us who value the truth down mentally and emotionally, while at the same time normalizing and encouraging those who pacify him and believe or deny his lies.

Divide and Conquer.

Divide and Conquer is a technique in which a cult leader or other sociopath in a powerful position deliberately sets people or groups against one another, the end result being that once a large group is fighting among themselves, they are easier to control or unleash abuse on without them really being aware of what is really happening.

Divide and Conquer can be seen in this administration, in which Trump encourages aggressive and violent behavior by the supporters who attend his rallies against reporters, people of color, and non-supporters who disagree with Trump or his policies.

Language is a powerful tool and Trump uses it to divide and conquer.   Non-whites, Mexicans, Muslims, Democrats, and other groups Trump dislikes are dehumanized through language which normalizes aggression and violence against them.   “Rough them up,” he says when speaking about reporters, and then later defends himself by saying he’s “joking” (which is a form of gaslighting).    No other president has ever used language so destructively to deliberately encourage hatred and division, but it’s common among sociopaths and malignant narcissists like Trump.   It foments hatred among his supporters against “the Other,” and they begin to normalize aggression and violence, even acting out on it or threatening civil war against Trump’s enemies, since Trump seems to think it’s okay.    When a nation is divided in this manner, they are weakened and less unified, and thus easier to control and terrorize.

Projection.

Malignant narcissists have extremely fragile egos, and therefore cannot tolerate any criticism.  Deep inside they are actually painfully aware of where they fall short, but this will never enter their consciousness. Should you ever call them out on their faults, be prepared for them to retaliate against you or target you for abuse.    To defend against the knowledge of their own faults coming to awareness (thus destroying their image of themselves as perfect), they will project their worst traits onto others rather than admitting any fault in themselves.  The fact that they have an uncanny way of blaming others for the very things they themselves do indicates that subconsciously, they know where they fall short.

Trump’s projection onto others is most obvious in his tweets, in which he regularly blames others for things he himself is doing, or accuses others of having character traits he himself possesses.   Thus,  it’s others who are weak, who are obstructionists, who lie, who are “very bad people,” who are disloyal, who are not nice, or are “bad hombres” — never him.

Flying Monkeys.

Flying monkeys is another term borrowed from the movies — in this case, “The Wizard of Oz.”   When the Wicked Witch tried to keep Dorothy from getting to Oz by targeting her for torture and death, she enlisted the help of an army of flying monkeys to do her bidding.  At the end, after Dorothy accidentally killed the Witch, we finally found out the flying monkeys were really the Witch’s slaves and were actually grateful to Dorothy for freeing them.   In real life, flying monkeys may be lesser narcissists, or just normal but weak-willed people who are codependent to the abusive leader and become the leader’s enablers and cheerleaders.  Sometimes they are not aware they are being used as flying monkeys, especially if the leader has convinced them that the targeted person or group is the real enemy and they are the ones being victimized (see DARVO, below).

Trump uses his cabinet members, his family members, and his supporters, including the people who attend his rallies, as flying monkeys to normalize and defend his hateful rhetoric and policies that will hurt the rest of us, including the flying monkeys themselves, who seem like they’re brainwashed.   This was already discussed in the second paragraph of this post, so I won’t go into more detail here.

DARVO

DARVO is an acronym that stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.    It’s common for narcissists to deny saying or doing something, but then attack YOU for accusing them, thus making themselves out to be the victim, and YOU as the one who is doing the abusing.  It’s a form of both gaslighting and projection, with the added technique of feigning victimization to garner pity and support.

Trump is always playing the victim, complaining about how it’s always others who are obstructing him or lying about him, or who want to take him down.   One of the most infamous examples to date is when he addressed a graduating class of the Coast Guard and proceeded to whine about how he was the most persecuted politician in the history of our nation.   By making himself out to be the ultimate victim (and of course making everything about him and ruining these graduates’ special day), he also diminished the experiences of other politicians, war heroes, and former presidents who had suffered far worse.

Scapegoating.

This term is self-explanatory.  It comes from the field of family dynamics.  Malignant narcissists (and sometimes substance abusers such as alcoholics, who tend to have Cluster B disorders) almost always select a scapegoat to project the lion’s share of blame onto and thus the scapegoat becomes the designated carrier of toxic shame that the narcissist refuses to own.  In a family headed by one or more narcissistic parents, one child may be selected to be the family scapegoat.  That child is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family, and is told repeatedly they are stupid, worthless, evil, ugly, crazy, or bad.  They are punished more than the other children, even when they did nothing wrong.  Their achievements are dismissed or even treated as something bad that must be punished. The scapegoat may also be bullied and abused by siblings, who act as the parent’s flying monkey(s).   A scapegoated child tends to enter adulthood with depression, low self esteem, a pervading sense of danger, and other psychological problems that tend to reinforce their role as scapegoats even as they move beyond the family.   Because scapegoats aren’t quick to defend themselves, are fearful and lack self esteem,  predatory personalities seem to be able to smell them out and proceed to dish further abuse and rejection on them.

Scapegoats are usually the most physically or emotionally vulnerable, the most sensitive, or most thoughtful individuals in a toxic family or other group, and/or they are the whistle-blowers or the truth-tellers who refuse to become flying monkeys or enablers of the narcissist.   Ironically, in a toxic family, they may be the most emotionally healthy individuals.   Malignant narcissist parents or other leaders wish to silence anyone who tells the truth or blows the whistle — or who is a constant reminder to them of how dangerous and toxic they really are.    Narcissists hate the “weak” and vulnerable, and they also hate those who tell the truth and expose them for what they are.     They may also scapegoat those who disagree with them or criticize them.

Every week, it seems that Trump has a new scapegoat.   While mainstream or liberal reporters and journalists (the truth tellers and whistle blowers) and groups of people who are not white, male and Christian seem to receive the lion’s share of his abuse and vilification, from week to week, Trump also targets a new individual — almost always someone who he perceives as being critical of him or obstructing his harebrained and wrongheaded policies.   Obama is a constant target, since his very existence threatens his fragile ego  (it’s obvious to me Trump hates Obama for having the temerity to be both more popular than he is and black), but he has also targeted Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and John McCain, as well as former and current insiders like Sean Spicer, Mitch McConnell, James Comey, and Jeff Sessions for abuse, which he usually metes out on Twitter.

Blame-Shifting.

Similar to projection and DARVO, blame-shifting is when a narcissist or sociopathic person refuses to accept or own blame and instead shifts responsibility onto someone else.    Malignant narcissists will never ever admit wrongdoing or say they’re sorry, because to do so is admission that they are less than perfect and that is intolerable to them.    The abusive husband who makes excuses for beating his wife (“she asked for it because of her nonstop nagging”) is shifting blame onto his wife instead of owning the fact that beating her was wrong.

Trump is constantly shifting blame to others.   Not once during his entire 8 months in office has he ever apologized or said he’s sorry for anything.   He’s made a lot of mistakes, some pretty terrible — but it’s always someone else’s fault.     When his unpopular and unconstitutional policies fail to pass, it’s never his fault — it’s always the “Obstructionist Dems,” Mitch McConnell, the “FAKE NEWS” lying to the people, or whoever the villain of the day happens to be.   He even makes excuses for the deplorable behavior of some of his white supremacist supporters, as he did when he said there was violence on both sides in Charlottesville — which there wasn’t.   In so doing, he also sent a clear signal to his white supremacist and neo-Nazi supporters that Trump was okay with their particular form of terrorism (running a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a young woman).

Splitting.

People with Cluster B disorders tend to think in terms of black-and-white, us-versus-them. There are NO shades of grey, NO mitigating circumstances, NO ambiguities.  If a malignant narcissist has decided you are “bad,” there is NOTHING good about you.  You might as well be Satan himself.   If you have been labeled crazy, you are a word salad blabbering lunatic fit to be put in a straitjacket and locked up in the loony bin until the day you die.    If you have been deemed an enemy, you can NEVER become a friend, nor do you have ANY redeeming qualities.   Since you will inevitably disappoint the malignant narcissist, eventually he will turn harshly against you.

This is called splitting, and Trump does it all the time.   Trump is incapable of seeing how complex people are, because he has zero insight into himself or any curiosity about human nature.   If someone insults him, they couldn’t just be having a bad day, because Trump lacks the empathy to be able to put himself in someone else’s shoes.   He would never consider that they might be right, either, because doing so would be intolerable to him.    Insult Trump and you become the Enemy — fair game for dehumanization, vilification, and retaliatory abuse.   There is no in between.  If you are not loyal to him, you are Other — and Other is always very bad.

Devalue and Discard (D&D)

After a period of love-bombing (see below), in which you are the most perfect, wonderful, loyal friend or ally ever (because to the narcissist, you are either ALL good or ALL bad),   you will inevitably (because you aren’t perfect) do or say something that hurts the narcissist’s feelings or causes him narcissistic injury.  Once that has happened, they will turn on you like a pit viper and will proceed to make your life hell.   In relationships, this may be the point at which the person who yesterday showered you with roses, candlelit dinners, and love letters now refuses to take your calls and blocks you on Facebook.

Trump has done this with many of his staff members, who were once confidantes and allies, and who he now attacks and vilifies because they failed to be “loyal” to him or were critical of him in some way. To Trump, other people are objects to be used or to provide narcissistic supply (worship and adulation), not imperfect human beings with both good and bad points.

Love-Bombing.

This is the initial phase of a relationship with a narcissist, in which you are the most perfect person in the world, but really you are just a mirror reflecting back to them what they want to see in themselves.  Once that image is tarnished (because you found fault with the narcissist), the abuse and/or devaluation begins.

Trump employed love-bombing during his campaign, when he made all kinds of promises that “only he” could fix.  He promised “healthcare for everybody” when his real agenda was to give a huge tax break to the wealthy while taking healthcare away from the most vulnerable, which included many of his own supporters.   He promised lots of new manufacturing jobs, a border wall that “the Mexicans would pay for,” and all sorts of other things that he had no intention — or capability — of turning into reality.  The only thing he’s kept his promise on is his neverending war on political correctness, but that’s turned into a war on anyone who dares criticize or question him.

Narcissistic Injury/Narcissistic Rage.

When you point out a narcissist’s faults or failures, he will enter a state of narcissistic injury — which means he is suffering a massive blow to his ego.  Most people, when hurt, have a healthy enough sense of self that they will deal with the emotional blow honestly — by talking about it, admitting their feelings were hurt, making a joke about it, or just telling themselves it really doesn’t matter and trying to move on from it.   But a malignant narcissist is incapable of making a joke or moving on or God forbid, admitting their own vulnerability.  Because their sense of self is so fragile (and is really just an overlay for the emptiness within), the only way they can feel good about themselves again is to attack you and deflect blame.   This is called narcissistic rage.   Narcissistic rage can take many forms:  gaslighting, outright verbal or physical abuse, threats, triangulation (secretly ganging up with others against the perpetrator), splitting, bullying, blame-shifting, deflecting, denial, the “silent treatment,” and D&D.

Trump displays many or even most of these behaviors whenever he perceives someone or some group has insulted him.   You can see it in his face and body language when he’s enraged.  His lips purse, his whole body goes stiff, and his eyes narrow and turn almost black with hatred and spite.   He’s frightening to look at when he’s in the midst of narcissistic rage, which is often.  I won’t list examples here because there are simply too many.   Trump is paranoid and constantly battling real or imagined enemies.   Eventually, everyone becomes an enemy to Trump.

False Self.

Narcissists have  a very fragile sense of self and feel empty inside.   To compensate, at an early age, they develop a “false self” — a kind of mask that shows others what they want you to believe they are.   If this mask is threatened or attacked in any way, they risk their “real self”  (the vulnerable and insecure child the mask hides) being exposed.   This is why you cannot criticize a narcissist. Rather than listen to you and agree you may have a point, they will  fight you to the death to maintain their image of perfection.    Being seen as vulnerable or defenseless is simply too frightening to them.   That’s one of the reasons they hate the vulnerable so much — people they perceive as “weak” fill them with shame of that which they need to hide.

A false self can take many forms, but for a classic or overt narcissist like Trump, it’s usually invulnerable and appears tough and self assured.   If the mask isn’t challenged, this type of narcissist can appear to be very competent and confident.   Some male narcissists, especially if they’re highly malignant like Trump, maintain a mask of toxic masculinity.   Trump admires dictators and “strongmen” types like Vladimir Putin.  He admires authoritarianism and political tactics that intimidate, terrorize, and oppress vulnerable populations.   I don’t know the details of Trump’s early childhood, but I’ve heard his father was emotionally abusive and empathy and kindness were not qualities he valued in a male child.  Only financial and material success were valued and rewarded.    I wouldn’t doubt it if Trump’s desire to please such a difficult and unloving father is at the root of his narcissism and the “strongman” style of his false self.

Fear-Mongering.

Narcissists and sociopaths, in order to gain control over others, often resort to instilling fear and even terror in their subjects.   Cult leaders, some religious leaders (especially fundamentalist leaders, whether Christian or Muslim), and dictators (as well as abusive husbands and mean bosses) are all known for this.   They threaten and bully.   They demand obedience and “loyalty” — or else.   They believe their bullying behavior makes them seem strong and invincible, but anyone who needs to resort to threats and schoolyard bully tactics to get cooperation and support is pathetically weak in character and devoid of any real strength.

Trump bullies others and makes veiled threats against his opponents all the time on Twitter.   He demands loyalty and calls people names.   Many of his staff members seem intimidated by him and almost afraid to be honest or do the right thing.    I sometimes wonder what he has threatened them with if they fail to cooperate.

Worst of all, Trump also tacitly encourages bullying behavior by his supporters against his opponents by failing to criticize their violent actions adequately or at all (Charlottesville), and by “jokingly” encouraging terrorist-type behavior and violence against his detractors at his rallies.   But Trump is not joking.  He is quite serious.  Malignant narcissists are incapable of any real humor.

Obfuscation/deflection.

Another tactic malignant narcissists use to deflect blame or avoid responsibility is obfuscating — confusing the issue or creating chaos.   Trump does this in a variety of ways, but all are intended to instigate chaos or create a new crisis that serves to obfuscate (hide) something he wants to deflect attention away from (such as the Russia investigation).   Every day, some new drama comes out of this White House.   Every day, he’s fighting with someone else, threatening someone, or someone else has quit or been fired.  It’s like a reality show from hell.

All the constant drama is intended to create chaos and confusion, and keep both his opponents and supporters off balance.   Leaders like this can be extremely dangerous because they are likely to incite something serious (like nuclear war with North Korea) in order to deflect negative attention away from themselves and their dishonest, unethical, or illegal activities. I don’t know about you, but I don’t care for the idea of being nuked because a petty and childish old man’s ego was wounded.

Another way narcissists obfuscate is through a special kind of “word salad” in which nothing they say makes any sense, although on the surface it may seem to.   They leave you feeling confused and scratching your head, wondering what the hell they really meant by what they just said.   Of course, if you question them or force them to make their message more clear, they will blame YOU — for being stupid or not understanding.

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Gaslighting.

I’m pretty sure more people in 2017 know what gaslighting means than they did in 2016 or earlier.   It’s left the domain of the narcissistic abuse community and become a household word now that we have a leader who does it on a daily basis, largely via Twitter.   I see this term everywhere now.  In one sense, it’s a good thing, since people are becoming educated about what it (and malignant narcissism) looks like in a leader.    But it’s very bad that the whole world is being gaslighted now.   It’s even worse that so many people fall for the lies and act as flying monkeys who call those of us who value the truth ‘snowflakes.’

gaslighting_def

 

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!)

verbal_abuse

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.

Marriage counseling is another weapon a narcissist can use against you.

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If you’re still with your narcissist, you may be tempted to insist they attend marriage or family counseling with you. It’s a common error to believe and hope the counselor or family therapist can help the narcissist understand your point of view and, seeing the light, stop their abuse of you or the children.

This is a mistake. Don’t do it. Don’t drag a narcissist to a marriage counselor or family therapist. I have my own horror story about this, and I’ve heard many similar stories to mine.

My ex, “Michael” (not his real name) and I had not been getting along for some time. I won’t go into the details in this article, because I’ve documented his abuse elsewhere in this blog. Whenever a malignant narcissist (in his case, full-blown ASPD!) pairs up with a Borderline or a low spectrum covert narcissist (I believe I am both), the Borderline or covert N is almost always going to be in the supplicating, codependent, people-pleasing victim role. They will be gaslighted, projected onto, triangulated against, given the silent treatment, insulted, used, taken advantage of, stolen from, lied to, and possibly physically abused as well. A Borderline will rage and lose their composure under such treatment, while a covert N will try to “fight back” using more underhanded means such as passive aggression or the silent treatment. If you’re not disordered, staying around someone who’s doing those things to you long enough, you can actually become a narcissist yourself, or at least pick up a lot of narcissistic traits as well as severe PTSD.

Enraged by Michael’s constant insults, disrespect, and gaslighting using the children as flying monkeys, I’d react by giving him the silent treatment or make sarcastic remarks. Neither of these weak weapons made a dent in the impenetrable armor of this professional malignant narcissist, and the abuse just escalated. As a BPD, another thing I’d do was rage. I’d hold in my anger for days, and finally explode into a mighty dish-smashing, profanity spewing temper tantrum. Of course it was then that Michael told everyone–including our young children–that I was an insane c__t and bitch who should be locked up and the key thrown away.

Sure, we were both disordered, but in that relationship I was definitely the victim. I remember a couple of friends even told me on meeting him that they got “bad vibes” and thought there was something “evil” about him and to be very careful.

At one point I suggested we see a marriage counselor. At first Michael resisted, but he finally relented when a friend of his told him he should go just to get me to STFU. So he agreed to go, on the condition that HE got to pick the therapist we’d be seeing. The therapist he chose was a woman and she did seem very nice. I actually felt comfortable with her, which surprised me.

One of the issues we’d been having was the volume at which Michael played his music. He listened to music I did not enjoy–mostly death metal, thrash, and riot girl punk/metal (this was in the late 1990s). Now I’m an eclectic and open minded music lover, but those particular genres acted like assault weapons on my ears. He also liked to blast this noise late at night when the kids and I were trying to sleep. But whenever I asked him to turn the music down, he’d tell me to shut up and deliberately increase the volume.

So this was one of the topics that came up in marriage counseling. I was the one who brought it up. Michael always seemed calm and reasonable on the surface (he had a lot of charm back in those days which he never showed me when we were alone together) while I always seemed stressed, on edge, a raw nerve about to snap like a violin string (this was in fact the case–his manipulations and cruelty to both me and the kids were systematically driving me insane). After I told the therapist about how loud he played his music whenever we were trying to sleep and refused to turn it down when asked, Michael turned on the charm, smiling and in a very reasonable and calm tone of voice explaining to her that I was a “control freak” and hated music in general. He told her I never let him play anything, even during the day, which was a lie.

The therapist turned to me and told me I needed to stop trying to control my husband and allow him to pursue his interests. I looked over at Michael, wearing his most smug, self-satisfied grin. I wanted to walk over and smack him hard upside the head. I started to shake with rage. I couldn’t hide my frustration and anger the way he could. It took everything I had not to throw something at him or throttle him. I looked down at my clenched fists and my knuckles were so white their bones seemed to have popped through my skin.

marriage_counseling

Back in those days, my BPD symptoms were in full force, and so to the therapist, I probably did seem a little crazy. Michael, in contrast, had the composure of an attorney (I always used to tell him he should have been a lawyer because he always won every argument).

Other things came up too. But it always came back to the same thing–that I was trying to control HIM and he was just a reasonable man confused by my emotional instability and craziness. Michael had that therapist wrapped around his little finger. Once I tried to explain to her the way he acted in our sessions was not the way he acted at home, that he wasn’t showing her his cruel, callous and disrespectful nature. Of course he called me a liar, telling the therapist I had “mental issues.” Once again I got scolded by the therapist for trying to control him and making up stories to make him seem worse than he was. She asked me if I had delusions often.

Finally, sick of the two of them ganging up on me and blaming me for everything wrong in our marriage, I walked out in the middle of a session, which only convinced that therapist I wasn’t “serious about counseling” and should seek psychotherapy for myself (this is what Michael told me later).

I’ve heard this sort of thing happening to so many victims of narcissistic abuse. They go to marriage or family counseling, thinking it might help, and instead, the therapist gets turned into a flying monkey siding with the abuser and joining in the gaslighting and projection against the abused.

Malignant narcissists and psychopaths like Michael are good at convincing people they are perfectly sane and they will lie very convincingly. The real victim, probably suffering from PTSD and high stress levels, is more likely to “lose it” or act out, making it seem as if they are the one causing the problems with the relationship.

Based on this experience and those I’ve heard from others, I don’t recommend marriage counseling if your spouse or partner is a narcissist. But if you do decide to try it, make sure YOU choose the therapist, and pick one who has a background in Cluster B personality disorders and has a working knowledge of the way narcissists operate.

Even better, if it’s at all possible, lose the narc who’s making your life such a hell.

For more on this subject, please read my article, Narcs Who Use Therapy to Gaslight Their Victims.

For another blatant example of the type of gaslighting my ex liked to use against me (and get his way at the same time), see my article How My ASPD Control Freak Ex Used a Dog to Gaslight Me

Malignant narcissists practice black magic.

Witchcraft

This is a really powerful video by Smakintosh of Gospel Underground, who was the scapegoat and “black sheep” of his own family but because of that, is also the only one in his family who can see the truth about what their agenda really is.

I love listening to him speak, because you can tell he really feels what he is saying. He does because he’s lived it.

If your entire family has turned against you, it’s probably because one or sometimes two malignant narcissists have used cunning and deception to gaslight you and project their own evil onto you, while making themselves seem blameless and sometimes even getting others to believe YOU are the abuser and THEY are the victim. It’s a kind of sleight of hand or black magic they practice, even if they’re not aware they’re practicing it, that puts others under a powerful spell and holds them in thrall to the narcissist who has targeted you.

You may also have come to believe their lies that you are stupid, crazy, a loser, evil, abusive, or anything else that’s been projected onto you. You were the sacrificial lamb in their rite of deception.

You have been targeted because you–unlike the other non-targeted family members (or other members of a group) who are either flying monkeys or enable the narcissist–possess the ability to see the truth through the narcissist’s lies. They hate and fear that and that’s why they hate and fear you. They must diminish you and make you look bad and they are very skilled at convincing others what they say is true and you are the liar and sometimes even the abuser. They are very good at turning people against you so no one will believe you.

If someone is the black sheep of their family, or has been scapegoated or disowned, suspect a malignant narcissist in the background who’s succeeded in turning everyone against them.

The movie “Mommie Dearest” tells the story of how Joan Crawford targeted her daughter Christina and abused her for years, because Christina was able to see the empty void underneath her mother’s glamorous, “perfect” image. Ultimately, she was left out of the will and not in contact with anyone in the family except her brother Christopher (who was also scapegoated). At some point I’ll be writing up a review of the film.

The same sort of deception can be used to turn an entire community or even a nation against what is right and good, by just one or two evil people and their flying monkeys. Hitler’s Germany is a perfect example.

Snark is not funny.

snark_definition
Credit: The Urban Dictionary.

Snark. It sounds nasty. It even has the word “narc” in it. Maybe the spelling should be changed to “snarc.” It also closely resembles the term “shark.” What do sharks do? They are predators out for blood, and they can kill.

I think snark should be added as a 23rd way you can identify destructive narcissists online (see CZBZ’s awesome article about the 22 indicators of destructive narcissism).

I’m not talking here about humor. Humor lubricates social interactions and makes you laugh. It may poke fun, but when it does, it’s lighthearted ribbing. It doesn’t tear down or destroy. Having a good sense of humor is a great thing. It’s good to be able to take a joke at your expense too, as long as it’s lighthearted and you know the person means no harm. Friends rib each other all the time, and it shouldn’t be taken personally.

I’m talking here about mean-spirited snark. You know, the “I’m so cool/mighty/smart/right and you’re a worthless loser/idiot/lunatic/minion of Satan” kind of condescending “wittiness” that makes you feel like the most lowly piece of pond scum in the lake. You find yourself wondering whether the jokesters are really joking (and you’re just being too sensitive) or are just plain mean. Well, they’re actually both. They are trying to confuse you, control you, make you doubt yourself, and tear you down–all in the name of “fun.” Snark is not fun. It’s nasty and mean. It’s not a social lubricant-it’s a weapon.

snark_warning

Snark is a form of bullying. It’s usually is participated in by several people at one time against one person. It’s a favorite tool of narcissists, trolls and bullies, who want to appear as if they’re not attacking you, when really, they are. They are showing their “superiority” over you. A narcissist will not apologize or take responsibility for their cruelty. If you object, you will be told you’re “too sensitive,” have no sense of humor, or misunderstood what they said. You may be told YOU are responsible for your NORMAL reaction to their attack.

I would like to give an example of what snark is. One of the bloggers who targeted me after I wrote that controversial article they objected to wrote a post that copied mine word for word but replaced some of the words. The intended effect of the post was to compare me to Hitler. The post was removed by the author after I suggested I might have a case for plagiarism. I took screenshots of it, but I’ll spare you. I also don’t want to identify the blogger and thereby stir up the pot again. Of course, the blogger’s excuse was that it was a joke and I overreacted. The sycophants chimed in.

Comparing me to Hitler by using my own words against me and twisting them around and replacing some of them is not funny. It’s mean-spirited and nasty. It’s something a narcissist would do.

A person with a true and honest sense of humor would not laugh at something like that. They would be horrified.

snarky_woman

The Internet is full of snark. Sometimes snark is okay. If the snark is directed at a public figure, an institution, or someone most people perceive as an enemy (such as Osama bin Laden, Charles Manson, or Jodi Arias) then I say fine. It can be funny to laugh about the things that frighten us, even if the humor is dark or mean spirited. I have a whole page dedicated to jokes about narcissists. The intention isn’t to demonize narcissists per se, but to make them appear less frightening and thereby remove some of their power over us. It doesn’t target individuals–it targets a destructive way of being in the world. If you take offense to it, then you’re probably a narcissist yourself. But no one is calling you one personally.

Snark should stop there. It’s never okay to target an individual (who isn’t a public figure) just because you disagree with an opinion of theirs or don’t like them personally. If you dislike someone, it’s best to ignore them (or simply tell them you disagree with them) without attempting to tear them down through belittling “humor”, which is a form of gaslighting. Making someone question their reality or feel bad about themselves, or attributing evil motives to them when you don’t know their story doesn’t make you look cool. Intelligent people with a shred of empathy won’t be laughing. Using snark against someone you dislike or don’t agree with says a lot more about the perpetrator than it does about the target.

Objecting to snark directed against you isn’t overreacting. It’s normal. A non-narcissist will never target a person they dislike or disagree with using snark. They will disconnect from that person or explain in a civil manner why what you said offended them and leave it at that. They won’t start a hate campaign using “humor” against you. They won’t use others as flying monkeys to gang up on you.

ETA: a word about the flying monkeys.
Flying monkeys of the snark perpetrator may not be narcissists themselves. They could be friends or supporters of the narcissist who started the smear/snark campaign. They could fear the wrath of the narcissist should they not cooperate. They might perceive the narcissist as the real victim (because they were already friends with them in the first place or the narc is very glib and convincing). Or they just could dislike the target for their own reasons–maybe they don’t like the fact the victim’s blog uses a Times Roman font instead of Helvetica. Maybe they hate the fact you run ads or sometimes write about furries.

All this doesn’t mean what the sycophants and flying monkeys are doing is right. If they’re not narcissists, they probably feel some guilt about joining a hate campaign to victimize someone, but they also could be so brainwashed they’ve come to believe the target deserves the attacks on them.

Lies my narcissists told me.

lies_honesty

I was told many lies about myself while growing up within my my FOO (family of origin). I have no doubt this had everything to do with my developing Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD), and lifelong severe anxiety.

Why personality disorders are so difficult to cure.
Personality disorders (PD’s) are formed very early in life, normally before the age of six–which is the reason they are so hard to cure. Because the child’s personality is still in a malleable state (meaning it hasn’t fully formed) until around age 5, PD’s become an integral part of the personality and therefore can be extremely difficult to eradicate because they were formed so early the child doesn’t believe it’s a problem, just the way things are. Their misery seems normal to them. They know nothing else.

Of course some PD’s are more amenable to treatment than others, and sufferers of some PD’s, such as Avoidant, Dependent, and sometimes Borderline, are much more likely to seek treatment than those with, say, ASPD (antisocial personality disorder), NPD (narcissism), or Schizoid PD.

Lies I was told growing up.

sensitive_people
As the family Scapegoat (and occasional Golden Child which I’ll explain later in this article), here are some of the lies I was told while I was growing up:

“You’re too sensitive!” — This one’s the Big Kahuna for many of us ACONs, especially if we’re also HSPs (highly sensitive people) by nature. “You’re too sensitive” isn’t so much a lie as it is a verbal twisting of a wonderful gift and ability to see the Truth into something…more resembling an embarrassing defect. Narcissistic lies sometimes appear in the form of turning something good into something shameful and bad, and vice versa.

“You have no sense of humor.” (see above)

“You don’t really want that.” (the parent is telling the child what they really think–this will just cause confusion and identity issues for the child)

“No one wants to know how you feel.” (so we learn to swallow our pain and lock up our emotions)

“You cry too much.” (I had to unlearn this–unfortunately I unlearned it too well and now find it difficult to cry even when I know I need to)

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” (invalidation and devaluation)

“You know you don’t really think that.” (massive mindfuckery)

“You don’t really want to join the swim team. You know you don’t like competition.” (see above–the real message here being “you are a weak, pathetic, scared loser” to really drive the message home)

“You’re too fat/heavy/even ‘obese’ (I was never more than 120 lbs at 5’4” as a teenager)

“They don’t like you because you’re always so unpleasant to be around.” (Real nice)

“You never smile and it makes your face look unpleasant.” (Fake Narc smiles look even more ‘unpleasant’)

“You read too much.” (okay…would it be better if I snorted Smarties instead or went around throwing rocks through the neighbors’ windows?)

“You know you’re not really good at that.” (whenever I wanted to try something I hadn’t tried before)

“You know you can’t do that, let me do it.” (I wanted to wash the dishes when I was 6)

“You’re too idealistic” (mmmkay…and that’s a bad thing?)

Because I was raised as an only child (I had half-siblings who did not live with us), I also served as the Golden Child. So I also heard lies like,

“They’re just jealous of you because you’re prettier than they are.” (even as a first grader, I knew this was bullshit).

child_on_pedestal

“They’re just jealous of you because you’re smarter than they are.” (my grades weren’t much above average, in spite of having a high IQ)

“You are more talented than they are.”

“We have better genes than those other people.” (Narc genes?)

“You come from a better family than your friends do.” (I call bullshit on that.)

You were the best dancer in the school play.” (I have two left feet and even my dog would have known that was an outrageous lie).

It doesn’t stop when you go No Contact.

flying_monkeys

These are some of the lies told about me by my mother to her sycophants (the ones I’m aware of):

“She’s a loser just like her ex-husband” (Nice.)

“She always makes such terrible choices.” (True, but there were extenuating circumstances at those times she would never understand)

“If only she had done what I told her.” (If only I had had the courage to take a few risks-I am extremely risk-averse)

“If only she had listened to me.” (Again, if only I had taken a few risks and not been so afraid of my own shadow)

“She’s a nothing.” (I guess that’s why people tend to always talk over me, look through me, and never hear what I have to say in group or social settings–where I FEEL like a nothing)

“She was ruined by her ex” (this is a half-truth…but RUINED? Really? Let’s tone down the hyperbole, shall we?)

“She will always be poor.” (and the poor are always with us, right?)

“She will never achieve anything.”

“She can never stick with anything.” (This has actually been true but has gotten a lot better)

“She has mental problems.”

“She is sick in the head.”

Ad nauseam…

Conflicting messages as Scapegoat/Golden Child

ConflictingMessages

Black-and-white thinking (idealizing/devaluing) and outrageous contradictions prevailed in my FOO.
As both Scapegoat and Golden Child, I was receiving two sets of messages (sometimes both at the same time), such as, “You know you don’t really want that, because you’re too sensitive, you hate competition and you are smarter than they are.”
I think you get the idea.

Being raised with conflicting sets of messages and being treated as beloved/rejected child at once was incredibly crazymaking.

Borderline Personality Disorder (or even narcissism!) and Avoidant Personality Disorder (I have both BPD and AvPD) both seem like logical, almost sane reactions to having been raised with two conflicting sets of messages–I was either all bad or all good, with no in between.

And finally, it doesn’t end there. Raised by narcissists, I married one even worse. A narcissist so malignant he made my parents look like empathic light beings in comparison. I was trained to be Supply and was WAY too good a student. If awards were given for Learning How to Be Narcissistic Supply, I would have been valedictorian.

Lies my psychopathic narcissist ex-husband told me.

gaslighting

Following are the lies my malignant narcissist sperm donor told me about myself and also told all the flying monkeys he had succeeded in turning against me (some of who included my friends) over 28 years. This led to my PTSD and clinical depression (where I had to be hospitalized for suicidal ideation). Most of these were projections of his own character flaws onto me.

“You are selfish/self-centered.”

“You always overreact to everything.”

“You never listen to me”

“You don’t care about me or my problems.”

“You have no empathy for me.”

“You are narcissistic.”

“You are becoming just like one of them” (he was referring to Republicans, who he hates)

“Oh, so now you’re living the high life?” (when I took in a roommate while he was homeless)

“You are a b**ch, c*nt, Tw*t, whore.”

“You are stupid.”

“You have no common sense.”

“You’re insane.”

“There’s something wrong with you.”

“You’re just like your family–all crazy.”

…as well as a constant barrage of hateful sarcasm at my expense, whether there were people present or not. If I objected to this mean spirited “humor,” I was told–WHAT ELSE???–I was “too sensitive” or “have no sense of humor.”

Because of having grown up in the midst of a labyrinthine web of lies, and then marrying into another one, I have always valued Truth. That’s why I put a premium on complete honesty, at least in my writing.
Not that I don’t ever lie–we all do, it’s part of the human condition. But I am very aware of dishonesty when I see it and won’t hesitate to call it out in others.

My daughter’s sociopathic ex isn’t done with her yet.

audacity
Credit: Universal Republic Records.

Remember Paul, the psychopath who gave such a great impression but was actually a crackhead who was abusing my daughter while she was living with him? The one who gaslighted her and told me horrible lies about her smoking meth and shooting heroin (when she wasn’t doing any such thing) during their short relationship over November and December? The one who actually turned me into his flying monkey until I realized what this character was really up to?

Well, guess what. My daughter got a summons to appear in court about the “door she broke” (when he slammed her into it when she tried to leave) and the “money she stole” (the settlement money my DAUGHTER got for her car accident that I was foolish and trusting enough to let HIM hold onto for her because I didn’t trust HER).

I would laugh if it wasn’t so crazymaking for both of us. What a loser.

I was so much older then…

This photo was taken of me in 2012, while I was still living with and being gaslighted to death by my narc. At the time he used my daughter as one of his flying monkeys. They had me convinced I was the self centered narcissist and Michael would always set things up so he looked like the victim. A combination of triangulation, projection and gaslighting turned me into this sad, blah looking person you see here. As you can tell, I wasn’t taking care of myself–I was about 30 pounds heavier and wore just any old rag I could find around the house. I never wore makeup. My expression here looks depressed. I hid in my room with the door locked most of the time against my personal wicked demon and his flying monkeys trying to distort my reality and doubt my own perceptions.

miserable_me
Me during the time I was being mentally and emotionally tormented and suffering from severe PTSD, depression, and debilitating anxiety and paranoid ideation (some of which was based in reality) Although my health hadn’t started to go yet, it would have soon. If I’d stayed in this hellish mindfucking environment, I think I would have eventually become very ill, and maybe even died. I thought about suicide a lot.

me2
Here is me after separating from my narc (April 2014). I look a lot happier!

These next two photos were taken by me about a month ago. Even in the nonsmiling, pensive one, I look a lot better and a lot younger. I think I look much more relaxed too in both the photos.

I’m in good shape now and managed to lose about 30 lbs. so I am a healthy weight now. My hair also looks better and I have no idea why since I haven’t really done anything different with it. It just seems fuller and, well, happier?

me_chatting
happer_me2

A year ago, I didn’t want anyone to take my picture (because I thought I looked so fat and ugly); now I’m actually taking selfies!

Improvement in appearance and a more youthful look overall is a wonderful fringe benefit of separating from your abuser. When you start feeling more attractive you actually look more attractive, and will take much better care of your appearance and your health. I’m just naturally eating healthier foods and indulging in things like alcohol less. I’m also drawn to nicer looking clothes and even accessories, something I didn’t bother with for years.

I still haven’t managed to quit smoking yet. Maybe for Lent.

I don’t wanna join your circus.

Image

monkeys