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Navigating Narcissist: Part Two of Recognizing and Managing Toxic Relationships

In part one of “Navigating Narcissist”, I established that narcissism is not simply being conceited or attention seeking, but rather a deep rooted personality disorder, diagnosable by a professional. I discussed things to look out for and things that would indicate you were involved with one.

Missed the full article? Check it out here!

We talked about what to look out for and the nature of narcissist. But what is it like to be in a relationship with one? What techniques are used to suck people into abusive relationships and what makes people stay… for years?

What it feels like when you’re in:

They move very quickly, in every way you can think of. They have babies, get joint cell phones, buy property, joint bank accounts, find a way to write your name into a contract or legal document, move in together, marry you, overly sexual, ask for your social security number... the list can go own forever. The sexual references often begin early and escalate almost immediately. Narcissist recognize the physiological effects of intercourse and use that tactic as soon as possible. A narcissist will find a way to attach themselves to you in ways that appear to be permanent. Just remember, a healthy person will pace themselves and set healthy boundaries along the way. You’ll hear them say things like “one day at a time”, or “I like where this is going, let’s continue to build”.

Love bombing: This tactic is intended to make you fall in love, quickly. They intentionally study your likes and hurts to best play on your venerability. The goal is to have you release oxytocin in your system, which creates a drug like euphoria. They want you to think they are the most important person in your life, as though you have an immediate, deep connection. You associate this wonderful, euphoric feeling with them and eventually find yourself chasing this high. The truth is, narcissist don’t have the emotional capacity to love. They can mimic it and be quite convincing, but everyone in their life is for utility. Read: they do over the top acts to drag you into being in love with them while they themselves, are not even able to feel love. This may be over the top dates, promising you things that they know strikes an emotional cord with you, or simply flooding your with messages about how much the love you, flattering comments, texting you all day/everyday, telling you that you are the most wonderful person they have ever met, etc. The recipient often feels uneasy, suffocated, or as thought it is too good to be true, but they have difficulty stopping the aggressor.

Praise and Devalue: They begin with being everything you ever imagined. Showering you in compliments, being sensitive and attentive, bringing thoughtful gifts, being overly considerate and accommodating. Then the devaluing begins, “death by a thousand cuts”. Instead of telling you how pretty you look, they raise their eyebrows and say “is that what you’re wearing? Oh, ok”. At first they were impressed by your education but then it turns into “your degree is just a piece of paper, some of us are actually smart”. You want to start a business and the only conversation is about how you don’t have what you need and you’re not smart enough. You run the business and it’s constant jabs about why you aren’t on the next level. But because they started out being supportive and complimentary, you are holding onto that version of them in your head. Meanwhile, through the praise and devaluing tactic, you become confused and unsure of your self worth and sense of self efficacy. When it is effective, you will look to them to validate your entire identity. Instead of going to your partner to hear “yes babe, I know you can do it”, you hear “I mean, do you really think you’re even good at that? Maybe you should just leave it alone”. And, if the tactic is working, you believe it.

Gaslighting: Psychological manipulation intended to make you question your sense of reality, memory, and sense of self. It requires you to rely on their sense of reality and view of the world. Phrases like “that didn’t happen, I never said that, you’re crazy, I was just joking, you’re upset over nothing”. Having the abuser flirt with you and then calling you crazy when you attempt to be romantic or verbally acknowledge their behavior. Remembering details of the story differently and insisting that they are correct. If you feel confused, embarrassed, or just all around unstable, you may be a victim of gaslighting.

Illogical arguments: Circular reasoning: you realize they are talking in circles and connecting points that really aren’t valid. Rabbit footing: jumping from one topic to the next without ever resolving any portion of the argument. It only stops when you are exhausted and just stop arguing with them. Deflecting and blaming: finding something else to focus on other than their actions or level of responsibility. Illogical arguments are meant to exhaust you and prevent you from continuing to seek a mature solution to the problem. After a while, you accept that you won’t get anywhere with this person, so you stop trying. If you find yourself saying “You know you can’t say nothing to them, so why even try?” then they are wearing you down.

Silent treatment: This is a form of abuse in any relationship, but it is a special tactic used very often by narcissists. The goal is to use passive aggressive methods to make you feel guilty or bad for wanting to have a mature conversation. They know how hurtful it is to have their affection withdrawn and they use it as a form of punishment and control. If you feel emotional pain every time you try to ask them about the numbers in their phone or where the money went from the bank account, eventually you will stop asking. It conditions you to stop broaching topics that they do not want to discuss with you. It also serves as punishment for doing or saying something they did not like.

Stonewalling: Refusing to discuss a specific topic, either through silence or outright verbally rejecting the topic. For example, saying “I’m not going to talk about that”, cutting you off in conversation,or talking over you. It is also used as a delaying tactic, to put certain subjects off. Stonewalling is similar to the silent treatment, but differs in that it is usually reserved for individual issues. For example, I will stonewall you about our finances or the text messages in my phone, but 30 seconds later, I will have a full conversation about what you’re making for dinner

Oh but wait! Because the game changes when you're ready to get out

Gray Rock: This is when you stop engaging with the abuser in order to prevent yourself from being affected by their tactics. Instead of crying, arguing, or getting angry, you become solid, strong, bland, and uneventful. Notice it is gray rock- not gray pebble. A rock is large and strong, and can be difficult to move, depending on it's size. Your goal is to recognize the tactics they are using and be unmovable. You stop responding to their pokes and prods because it is hard to argue with someone that won’t argue back. When they begin devaluing you, you stop engaging. When they begin talking about how incompetent you are while you’re trying to work towards your goals, you smile and keep working. Solid, strong, and unmoved.

Flying Monkeys: This term is used to describe the use of triangulation through family and friends, abuse by proxy. It happens when the abuser is not close enough to have direct access, so they work through those around you. Just like the wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz, they use “flying monkeys” to gather information about you or to send messages to you. They share tidbits of information about themselves knowing it will be shared with you. For example, they tell your sister they will be in town fully expecting that she will share the information with you. This is done after you block them on social media, and ignore their calls and text messages. Your sister serves as the flying monkey by innocently sharing information about the person. On the other hand, the flying monkey may serve by innocently engaging with you, in order to gather information to take back to the abuser. Conversationally, they ask questions about your life (employment, dating, family, health, etc). They eventually share these tidbits with your abuser, who is working on keeping tabs on you.

So yes, we become gray rock for flying monkeys too.

No contact: Going not contact is just that: NO CONTACT. Block on all social media channels, block on your cell phone, mark their emails as spam, get a court order for custody and use Talking Parent (an app where all communication between parents is monitored by the courts). No contact is difficult. You are a healthy human being which means you do feel love and a deep connection to this person, even if they have been abusive. In fact, going no contact is especially difficult BECAUSE you have been abused. You were psychologically manipulated with the intention of hooking you in. And I know it feels like they are getting off too easy, but trust me, a narcissist thrives off of your attention: positive or negative. The only way to “win” in this is to starve them through no contact. It drives them crazy to not have control over your actions… to tap into their source for attention, and not receive it. Think about it: we all hate putting money in a vending machine and nothing comes down. It will get easier over time and in the long run, you will come out on top. As soon as possible, go NO CONTACT!

Hoovering: This is an attempt to suck you back in, like a "Hoover" vacuum cleaner. Sometimes we also call this hovering, as they are hovering with the goal of landing back in your life. When you try to go no contact, they attempt to reestablish contact by small, seemingly innocuous messages “happy birthday… I think you left something at my house… I’ll be in the area soon… Saw your social media post, is everything ok?”. See this as an attempt to reestablish control, and not an attempt to be nice. They don’t know how to be nice. {Let me say it again for the people in the cheap seats} These check in messages are an attempt to re-establish control and are not an effort to be nice or thoughtful. Abusers are strategic and every move is a tactic with a specific outcome in mind. Don't get sucked in by this! They are not concerned about you, your mama, or your Granny. They didn't walk by your favorite store in the mall and start thinking about you. Whatever you left at their house can be replaced. And if they’re coming into town, go ahead and hit them with a firm “I’m good luv, enjoy”.

Navigating these relationships are difficult, to say the least. They require bravery, consistency, but most of all, strength.

I would love to help you find your strength again. For individual services, click here to contact me directly.

Dr. Glenna


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