Narcissism is a diagnosis that is getting a lot of attention lately. When we think someone is selfish or acting selfishly, it is tempting to label them a narcissist. But there is a very real pattern of abuse that is experienced by people who struggle in repeated toxic and harmful relationships with people who are, diagnosed or not, truly Narcissistic.
In simplest terms, Narcissism is characterized by this:
“Lack of empathy, grandiosity, a chronic sense of entitlement and a chronic need to seek out admiration from other people and validation from other people”
Narcissistic abuse is a pervasive challenge for both men and women who find themselves in toxic relationships over and over again. That person is very often trapped in a cycle of powerlessness in relationship and repeatedly puts everyone else’s needs ahead of their own. This behavior is sometimes referred to as Codependency.
Both of these: Narcissism and Codependency are unhealthy and toxic and they typically magnetize each other into relationship.
Signs that you may be giving away your power in relationship:
- Low Self-Esteem. Feeling that you’re not good enough or comparing yourself to others, overwhelming feelings of shame, guilt.
- People-pleasing. Never say NO and often find yourself rescuing and saving others from their own poor decision making.
- Poor boundaries. Feeling responsible for the feelings of others, feeling like you have to fix everything for everyone.
- Reactivity. Take on the feelings of others and jump in to defend or rescue even when you aren’t involved or it is not your role.
- Care-taking. Enabling, making excuses, taking on responsibility for the feelings of others and allowing them to avoid consequences.
- Control. Feel the need to control as a way to avoid anxiety. You may be a great planner but find you start telling others what to do or pass judgment on what you perceive as deficiencies of others.
- Dysfunctional communication. If you can’t say what you feel or want, it may come out in ways that are “passive aggressive” or manipulative. You may keep secrets to avoid confrontation.
- Dependency. Avoiding rejection and fear of abandonment may cause you to stay in relationships too long, even when it is abusive. You may have sacrificed your own independence to get approval or love.
Signs you may be experiencing Narcissistic Abuse:
- Feel like you are always walking on eggshells. You feel like you can never do anything right. Are always waiting for the other shoe to drop and be called out for criticism. In the beginning of a relationship with someone highly narcissistic, you can do no wrong – then when you are committed things turn in a dark direction and you keep hoping you can work harder to get it back.
- You are embarrassed in public places. A narcissistic person won’t hesitate to inflict shame or humiliation on you in front of others. It often takes the form of joking or jabs often followed by “can’t you take a joke?” “See what I have to put up with?” or it could be expressed as rage and extreme anger. Either way it is abuse.
- They are always in control. You never choose or are offered the choice to take the lead – they control every aspect of every situation.
- Lack of empathy for your feelings, needs and wants. When you cry, they get irritated. When you laugh, you are put down. If you need anything they don’t want you to have you are made to feel guilty for not considering their feelings. Promises are frequently broken and excuses made that you are expected to understand and accommodate.
- It’s never their fault. Blame is always aimed at you, the boss, the weather, the traffic etc. etc. Nothing is ever their responsibility.
- Raging and extreme outbursts without warning. Narcissistic rage and extreme anger is a tactic often used to destabilize others – it works well because it is usually not reasonable or expected in the context of the situation. You never know when it is coming and it leaves you shaken and confused.
- Exploitation of people you care about. If you are with a narcissist they will allow you to have relationships with people, including family, who can do something for them as long as it doesn’t interfere with their need for control. There is no sense of fairness and is rarely reciprocated except in the tactic known as “love bombing” which is the seduction phase in new relationships. During that time, you, your friend or family member are idealized and worshiped. It is only an introductory offer, however and never experienced again no matter how hard you try to regain affection.
If you find any of the above descriptions familiar and you are struggling with a difficult relationship – whether it be a partner, parent or sibling – please seek help.
You can be happy and thrive again.