Sanctuary for the Abused

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The place of “Cognitive Dissonance” in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome

by Christine Louis de Canonville
(Miss de Canonville's great website has been linked at the bottom for a long time)

Understanding Cognitive Dissonance in relation to narcissistic abuse:

Stockholm syndrome involves the victim paradoxically forming a positive relationship with their oppressor; this is called “Trauma Bonding”. When victims of narcissistic are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, they are often seen by outsiders as somehow having participated in some bizarre way that seems to support their abuse. However, to understand how the trauma bonding occurs, it is especially relevant to understand what is involved in the decision-making and problem-solving process of the victim. This theory is known as Cognitive Dissonance.

If therapists are to understand the behaviour of clients who have been victims of narcissistic abuse, then it is crucial for them to appreciate why the victim combines the two unhealthy conditions of Stockholm Syndrome and Cognitive Dissonance as part of their survival strategy. When these two strategies are in place, the victim firmly believes that their relationship is not only acceptable, but also vital for their survival. They become so enmeshed in the relationship with the abuser, that they feel that their world (mental and emotional) would fall apart if the relationship ended. This explains why they fear those people who attempt to rescue them from their abuser, and how this creates the victim to develop cognitive dissonance and become protective of their abuser.

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term which describes the uncomfortable tension that results from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time, or from engaging in behavior that conflicts with one’s beliefs (Rational Wiki). Cognitive Dissonance is a communication theory that was published by Leon Festinger 1957, a theory that changed the way in which social psychology was to look at human decision-making and behaviour. The concept of cognitive dissonance is almost self explanatory by its title: ‘Cognitive’ is to do with thinking (or the mind); while ‘dissonance’ is concerned with inconsistencies or conflicts. Simply speaking, cognitive dissonance is the discomfort a person experiences whenever they are holding two conflicting ideas simultaneously (i.e. Shall I wear the red or the blue dress?). Naturally, people do not like the discomfort of conflicting thoughts; this theory proposes that when this happens, people have a motivational drive within them that allows them to rationalize and change their attitudes, beliefs, values and actions, anything that allows them to reduce or dissolve the dissonance they are experiencing (i.e Which makes my bum look smallest?) . When it comes to victims of abuse, there are several behaviours that a victim may use for reducing their cognitive dissonance. For a start they may try to ignore or eliminate it, or they may try to alter its importance, they may even create new cognitions, but most importantly they will try to prevent it from happening in the first place.

What part does Cognitive Dissonance play with victims of narcissistic abuse?

Victims living in a household where there is narcissistic abuse are living in a torturous war zone, where all forms of power and control are used against them (intimidation; emotional, physical and mental abuse; isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion etc.). The threat of abuse is always present, and it usually gets more violent and frequent as time goes on. The controlling narcissistic environment puts the victim in a dependency situation, where they experience an extreme form of helplessness which throws them into panic and chaos. The narcissist creates a perverse form of relationship wherein the victim has no idea of what will happen next (alternating between acts of kindness or aggressive raging). This prolonged torturous situation is likely to trigger old negative scripts of the victim’s childhood internal object relations (attachment, separation and individuation). To survive the internal conflict, the victim will have to call on all their internal resources and defense strategies in order to manage their most primitive anxieties of persecution and annihilation. In order to survive, the victim has to find ways of reducing their cognitive dissonance, the strategies they employ may include; justifying things by lying to themselves if need be, regress into infantile patterns, and bond with their narcissistic captor. Most defense mechanisms are fairly unconscious, so the victim is unaware of using them in the moment; all they are intent on is surviving the madness they find themselves in.

As you can imagine, these states of mind throw the victim into any number of inner conflicts where defense mechanisms are called for, cognitive dissonance being one. 

For example, a woman who is abused by her narcissistic spouse will hate the conditions she is living in. However with the real fear of a violent reprisal from her captor if she tried to leave, she will more likely choose to stay put. The cognitive dissonance shows itself through rationalization: On the one hand: she abhors her unhealthy relationship and all the abuse that goes with it; while on the other hand, she tells herself that he only fights with her because he loves and cares for her. This inner dialogue reduced her anxiety, allowing her to bond (Stockholm Syndrome) with her abuser, to the point that she will even protect him from the outside world if people attempt to rescue her or encourage her to leave. The result is that a massive draining conflict ensues between the person’s emotional self and their rational reasoning self. Their “cognitive dissonance” is a sign of the disharmony the victim is experiencing as a result of two conflicting ideas going on at the same time; i.e. the victim knows that they should get out of the abusive situation, but they also know that to do so will put them (and possibly their children) in great danger. While experiencing cognitive dissonance they may adopt a pattern of denial, diversion and defensiveness to control their discomfort. In the cognitive dissonance theory, the decision that decides which path the victim will take will be likely to be the path that causes the least emotional stress. In order to reduce the dissonance, the victim will choose the path of least resistance, and their motivational drive will support their beliefs and justify any decision that helps them stay safe. As you can imagine, the cognitive dissonance can lead to irrational decision making as the person struggles to reconcile these two conflicting beliefs. Researchers suggest that it is actually the cognitive dissonance that causes the victims to choose to stay put with their abuser. Furthermore, in order to support their seemingly irrational decisions to stay put in the abusive relationship, the victim makes heavy investments that almost cements them into the bad relationship forever.

There are six types of investment the victim may get embroiled in that helps to reduce their cognitive dissonance:-

Emotional Investment: Unable to get out of the relationship due to the fear of what will happen to them, the victim decides that they should stay, and see it through to the bitter end. The victim convinces themselves that “things are not that bad”, especially when the narcissistic abuser shows them acts of kindness. Their trauma bonding is interpreted as love. They use that love to feel compassion for their narcissistic abuser; they may even make excuses that their abuser suffered so much hurt and pain in their own childhood, that they cannot help the way they are. They convince themselves that by loving their abuser as much as possible they will heal their wounds, and then everything will be alright. They continue in this way, investing so much emotion in the relationship, (i.e. They shed so many tears, blaming themselves for upsetting their abuser, becoming responsible for their abusers feelings and behaviour. They worry for their abuser in case they harm someone and end up in jai. They even end up blaming themselves when there is another eruption (“I caused the upset, I should have known better”). They even go so far as to convince themselves that their abuser is the victim of society, and therefore must be protected from everybody.

Social Investment: The biggest social investment the victim makes is to the person nearest to them, their narcissistic abuser. The narcissist’s superiority will demand that they are the most important one in the relationship, and the victim (in time) will comply with that arrangement. It does not help that society in general has a matter-of fact attitude toward victims, they do not understand why a victim would stay in such an abusive relationship, let alone protect the abuser. This response can create a further helplessness within the victim, which leaves them feeling isolated and alienated. With a sense of damage to their pride, and deep feelings of shame, the victim begins to avoid further social embarrassment and uncomfortable situations, alienating themselves further with their abuser. Isolated, dependent and dis-spirited, the way is paved for more acceptance of the abuser, and the victim stays in the relationship. They become caught in a cycle with their abuser that involves a sequence of violent episodes, followed by an absence of battering, once again tension building, and finally tension escalating into another violent episode where they get hurt. Around and around it goes, and helplessly the victim looses all hope, so they settle for investing their loyalty there.

Family Investments: For a start, a narcissist is preoccupied in self investment, therefore they expect everybody to pamper to their false self (sadly their true self is in a state of atrophy). If the narcissist is a spouse, then the partner is going to have to invest heavily in their abuser until they are emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually bankrupt. The narcissist requires perfect mirroring and stroking continuously, when they don’t get it, they withdraw (this withdrawal is likely to lead to danger for the victim). Step by step the supposed closeness is disappearing, and the victim experiences this as a great loss (and fear), seeing this, the narcissist feels a sense of power and control. In their withdrawal state, the narcissist is going to loose their sense of specialness, power and omnipotence, this makes them very susceptible to narcissistic injury. When there is narcissistic injury, the terror monster is released, and all of the family is likely to encounter their rage. All of this is going to evoke anxiety on the victimized partner, not just around their own safety, but also for the safety of the children. The narcissist suffers from a chronic evasive pattern that does not change. Just as the narcissist is demanding of its spouse, as a parent they are also very demanding of their children, (remember that everything is about them). They see the children as extensions of themselves, representing them in every aspect. For that reason they expect their children to be high achievers, the very best in every thing that they do. However, the child is faced with a dilemma; If the child comes second best in any task, they will be perceived as being “the first looser” by their narcissistic parent. Silver medals are not seen as a reason to celebrate, they are are more likely to be perceived as a disgrace (looser). If they came first, they risk triggering the narcissist’s jealousy and envy; for the narcissist, envy always involves a comparison – they envy that which they lack. When the child shines, its success is always somehow due to the narcissist itself, but when the child fails, the narcissist takes the failure personally (narcissistic wound), and they will punish the child, whether it be by word or deed. Living with a narcissistic parent, so often the child finds it hard to get their own needs meet, which can lead to serious emotional problems for them. Because the narcissist parent is like a child their own self, there will be power struggles for attention between the child and the parent. All these dynamics are going to put strain on the partner of the narcissist, and they are likely to be the butt of all the narcissist frustration and anger, which will manifest itself as rage. Investing everything they have in their narcissistic partner is the only way the victim finds to keep the family going.

Financial Investment: Narcissist typically seeks to control the family finances, money is a love substitute for them. No matter who earn the money in their family, it is they who are entitled to control how the monies get spent. Often the victim finds themselves being put on an allowance to run the house, and the abuser closely monitors how it is spent. If there is a shortage of money, the narcissist will be stingy when it comes to members of their family spending, yet they will spend what it takes to get what they want. Where possible, the narcissist creates a complex financial situation where everybody is dependent on them, this keeps them in control. Without financial means and usually alienated, many victims are unaware of support resources they may be entitled to, they are trapped by the situation, finding themselves waiting and hoping for a better financial situation to develop so that they can make their exit and detachment easier. In the meantime they do what they can to keep their abuser happy.

Lifestyle Investment: When the narcissist is successful, they will use a lifestyle as an investment. Because they need to display their “specialness” to the world, they will want to display all of their wealth trophies (Narcissistic Supply): the big house, car, private school, business etc. All these things contribute to getting them the praise and adulation they feel they deserve. For the victim, sharing in this financial security, they may fear loosing their current lifestyle for themselves or their children. So they stay because of their fear of the poverty trap that awaits them if they manage to leave.

Intimacy Investment: Narcissism is a personality trait associated with an inflated, grandiose self-concept and a lack of intimacy in interpersonal relationships. The narcissist perceives themselves as being unique and uncommon. Being intimate requires that two people operate commonly with openness and truth (True Self) so that they relate as “equals”. The narcissist operates from a False Self, and becoming equal with anybody would only negate their notion of uniqueness, so they avoid that entirely. Unknown to them, narcissists are still held ransom to their unresolved conflicts with their primary objects (parents). Like the child, they are still harboring the deep wounds of abandonment they experienced back then. Afraid of their own negative emotions, unconsciously, they promise themselves that they will never put themselves in that position again, and they avoid further narcissistic injury by holding everybody at bay, this includes their partner and children. Unfortunately, they too, like the rest of us, are susceptible to loneliness, which is why they are always on the look out for “narcissistic supply” for attention. When they have a partner, they separate the sexual from the emotional and treat their partner as a sex object, and the typical cycle of frustration-aggression is set in motion. Unfortunately, in love with their own reflection, they are incapable of loving anybody else. Where the partner thought she had married the nice Dr. Jekyll, she now finds herself facing the raging maniac that is Mr. Hyde. In such an unhealthy relationship, she will experience the destruction of her emotional and sexual self-esteem. He is not a good father, rather than love his children he abhors them (they take the mother’s attention away from him), so they are confined to the role of being another narcissistic supply source. Furthermore, they use a type blackmail of intimacy against their partner (threatening to tell intimate detains about them that would humiliate and destroy their character). The partner finds themselves in a hopeless situation, broken, the only way out is for them to stay. This serves to send the message to the narcissist that they are truly unique and superior.

One would wonder how the victim tolerates living with an abuser who is so intolerant and hostile? For healthy relationships, tolerating intolerance is neither acceptable nor possible, but for the victim of narcissistic abuse it is vital for survival. Finding themselves in such an intolerable situation, the victim must calm the cognitive dissonance that rocks their self-esteem and self worth. The Dissonance Theory allows the victim to make their choice (even if it means lying to themselves), and gives them a way to justify that they can be happy about not making the opposite choice that would surely put them in danger. Once the choice is made and the cognitive dissonance calmed, the victim has all sorts of tools (unconscious defense mechanism) at their disposal to bolster their decision to stay in the relationship (i.e. Stockholm Syndrome, Infantilism, Trauma Bonding).


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shared by Barbara at 12:13 AM



wow this was really good information. thanks for sharing

8:18 PM  

this is fascinating because my ex wife has this type of relationship with her mother and sister and her family. They scripted our kids to claim I had abused them, and then threatened HER that they would take our kids away if she did not divorce me. And since then she did everything they told her to do, and now she still lives with them and finds herself in legal trouble because she keeps sticking up for them rather then leaving and doing whats best for her and our kids. very very sad.

9:38 PM  

There were so many shocking facts that i was not aware of !! All thank to you guys!! thank you for the illuminating post!

7:41 AM  

On New Years Eve (2013) when my husband treated me as a piece of garbage in front of his friends, while we were on holiday in the mountains with no means of living from there and I had to apologize to him,I had a shock ( I saw his hate for me, i thought that he loved me) and I new that something was terrible wrong, but I blamed myself, I felt broken and I got into a depression, I just wanted to die, I couldn't see a way out, how horrible I am that the only person left in my life hates me ( After being married for 5 and1/2 years with him, I got no more friends).
I realized that my husband is a narcissist, only in March as I did a course about abuse and more as I researched about the disorder, all made sense, all the lies. The way to recovering, I think that was the hardest thing that I have done in my life. Is November, 2013 and I feel free, my sadness had disappeared, I love life again and I 've learned a lot about myself, I came to terms with the abuse suffered in childhood and the fact that the narcissist did this to me and I praised him for that because I was still that child that couldn't escape and believed that the adults are good and if I will be good that will treat me nice.
From all the pieces, I build a stronger me and next step is my divorce, but I know that I will win officially ( in my mind I am already divorced).
Good luck to all that are dealing with this devil in human form, there is light after this and you can do it.

5:33 AM  

Its all so scary! Its my husband and I've reached out a couple times but never finished. I argue back but I'm trying to do it calmly etc. But damn.. my oldest son just bought the house next door... I'll be damned if I have to leave??!! No way.. he's in the wrong and he can go live w his mom. And I want all his quote "woodworking tools out unless a judge will let me sell them to finish the inside of our house.. for the past 24 years its never been finished and I want to sell that crap he doesn't even make money off of and get finished floors walls paint door trim etc etc!! That he said he would make sure I didn't get nothing! I want so bad to roll him over for all he's got stashed and alimony child support for 17yr. Old and half his disability so I can have disability Cruz I didn't work... I can't get it and I am way worse off than him. I want it all ... make him pay but I have no money for an a** kickin lawyer!!! He's taking advantage of my oldest son next door.. kitchen cab. For 2mons. Has turned into 9 so far and my son just gave him 400 more than the draw in hopes he'd hurry up and finish! Now he hasn't been doin any work till he talks to my son alone?? My son is aliile green.. but has taken so much shit from his step dad that when this is done.. my son won't have nothing to do w him again! Last straw. My husband won't tell me why other than I cant work any farther .. don't have enough money??!! I challenged him n said.. my son just gave u a total of 4000!! 400 more than he needed too and its not enough?? He walks out mad.. he wouldn't even give me 100 for me n our youngest son.. u don't deserve it u did nothing??? I shouldn't of given him the extra part.. but was trusting him to finish job and get it over with. He hates me questioning bout all the past due bills. Last yes. Tax returns. Came to tx. W me when it was only for me n daughter mothers day special from son in law... all the intrique details that go into everything.. smoking the powder of tobacco w not pipe Cruz he wouldn't buy any then got money n still wouldn't let me go buy it myself! I'm lucky he's still letting me go to physical and aqua therapy!!! Hate him. I can't work... I'm gonna try but ... I need him out ta here! He leaves not me!!!! Please help.. really detailed ruthless lawyer who hates abusive men!! Please ??? :-) so bottled up!! Sorry for venting. Thank you.

7:16 PM  

Extremely well articulated.
Precisely what happens.

9:19 PM  

One of the best articles I've read. I have been married to a narcissist for 19 years. But unlike most, he kept his true self mostly hidden until about 6 years ago. Now I face divorce with 2 kids, one of which is my 6 year-old autistic son. This article is so like my life, I could have written it myself.

4:57 PM  

My dear friend is married and abused by her narcissistic cop of a husband therefore complicated by the fact she cannot get help from the law. I want to help but am very cautious. What if I asked the police station in the town where we live what their domestic violence policy is for wives of cops. Even then I would never say my name or hers. We need to get her to a shelter however that is complicated by the fact she has many animals. What can I do as a friend. I continue to encourage her to get out....She is extremely fearful he will hurt her again and it will be deadly. Then what? It is too late. I cannot wait until she dies.

1:29 AM  

This is for Anonymous, whose dear friend is being abused by her police husband. I have been involved with helping to rescue someone from an abuser. I failed. May you learn from my mistakes and succeed where I did not.

A complete removal from the situation is necessary to allow the freedom for the mind to undo the emotional and psychological bond the abuser has established, to allow the pattern of emotional highs and emotional lows the abuser uses to keep their victim 'hooked' and to usher in normal brain behavior that results in rational thoughts.

This means cutting off all communication with the abuser. This is very hard to accomplish, especially when there are children and ample excuses for establishing communication can be rationalized by the abused. There are women's shelters that will provide security, housing, and a safe place to plan the next move; getting a victim of abuse to agree to uproot their life and go with the program is very hard, though. The hold the abuser has will likely cause the abused to stay in the situation, even if they admit treatment is best. Helping your friend escape is harder than it sounds, especially if she is reluctant to leave. But for her to escape means absolutely no contact with her husband and, unfortunately, to surrender trust in someone other than her abuser, to which his strategy is to prevent at all costs. Sick as it sounds, he does not wish to have his most prized toy stolen from him and has many strategies and ways to prevent this from happening.

I wish you luck. It is a very noble cause to try to rescue someone who has been abused, but it is also a very dark and lonely road that threatens your sanity, too. Please reach out to someone about this; it is too much to handle if you bottle it up and let it eat at you.

9:07 PM  

Reading this article made me realize how dire and hopeless my situation is. I've been living with a textbook description of a hard-core Narcissistic, vile and toxic parent all 28 years of my life (my low paying job wouldn't let me leave) and I can tell you it's been a hot hell for me, my younger brothers and my mother.
It took me many years of searching through psychology books and articles to finally realize what his mental issue  is. 
The descriptions in this article couldn't be a better match.
Only 3 things can cut ties between you and a narcissistic parent/spouse. Murder, suicide or total separation. The third option which I'm planning to do as soon as my finances are right.

11:36 PM  

I dated a narcissist for 2 years after my sweet loving husband passed away. He was handsome and charming and initially was very attentive. I remember the first argument we had on the phone and he immediately went into a rage. I was completely baffled by his sudden rage. I could figure out why our relationship just wasn't working. At first I thought it was the age difference, then I thought it was because he'd never been married, then I thought it was me. So I started trying to change myself. Then I started researching when everything was always about him. He fit the description to the bill along with traits of a psychopath. When I discovered who I was dealing with I was shocked that there was someone out there so hateful that he had set his sights on a grief stricken woman who had just suffered her husbands death. I blamed myself at first then I walked away. He saw him for the selfish jerk that he was. He had tried numerous times to contact me by using his six year old son to call (of which I never called back just sent him a card telling him I loved him) me. He's still trying to draw me back and had slightly intensified his efforts probably because the woman he was cheating on me with has lost his interest. I am so happy to be away from him and am praying and educating myself on who I was dealing with. The last time I was at his place God spoke to me to leave and not allow him to defile me. I listened and got out.

12:11 AM  

I've been married for 20 years. I got married when I was 16 years old, I just discovered 3 days ago from a friend who sent me this article. she was worried over comments I had made on things that go on in my house, I thought it was normal. I've read several articles now it's like hearing my life and feelings laid out there, I have 3 teen boys with this man, and he still doesn't know what I've discovered, I feel like I'm crazy! How could I not have seen this, I'm not allowed to express feelings that he doesn't like, if I'm upset? " it's my fault" he can't handle tears at all either so I never cry in front of him so he won't scream at me. I realize this is how he does my kids too. I've completely failed my kids.. I just know I want out right now but of course he has us in the red in the bank there's no money and I'm very scared to leave him, but at the same time I'm screaming inside! I'm so angry to now see in some of my most painful experiences with him how he was manipulating me and trying to hurt me on purpose... I just always thought "its my fault" and "if I just try harder", things will go back to the way they were... I've wasted so much on a man who verbally, emotionally, and sexually abuses me... Yes there's that too.. because I was brought up to never deprive your husband sexually... I always feel completely numb and empty inside.. I'm going to get myself and my kids out of this situation! Anyway Thank you for writing this article though without it I would still be living in complete denial.

8:15 PM  

This is a great article. The first therapist I had about 8 years ago told me I was 'deeply split'. I think this was what was going on.

I'm 8 months out of an emotionally abusive relationship. I was never happy. Yet I stayed. People expect it when you have kids. I always tried to make it better. But I could only change myself. Eventually I grew strong enough and things aligned in my life to create the opportunity to leave and I did it.

I still find myself wondering if I should go back to him and try to make it work. Fortunately I have a good therapist who challenges me. When she asked me why I wanted to be with him I couldn't answer. I couldn't say one thing about him that makes me want to be with him or even like him. And yet I stil get the strong urges to go back. But here's what I learned. I only get these urges when I'm feeling crappy. Never when I'm well.

He's still trying to control me, alienate me....he's playing victim because I met someone else. He uses the necessary communications about the kids to ignore or belittle me. And I have to keep reminding myself that his behaviour is not normal and not ok. Somehow in my mind I still accept that he's like that, and I expect it.....but it makes no sense because I know it's bad behaviour. And round and round it goes.

Something tells me I still have a long way to recovery in full.

It's just so sad that he couldn't be different. I never wanted to be a broken family. In 7 years our kids will be adults and we won't even need to speak ever again.

I just want to stop feeling so lost and so stuck and so sad. He's taken enough from me - I don't want to give him a second more.

If anyone has advice, please share.

3:36 PM  

WOW! I didn't even know what the work carcissist was till recently. Then months later I cracked, mentally and insanely cracked after he pointed the gun at me. Don't know what took over or what happened, all blurred, however two weeks later I was gone and now mentally insane I think. Its all so crazy to read what I have the past two days. Its like reading my story. So close in fact I see my lifes story flash back as its being read (my cousin reads to me as I cannot hold my thoughts as well right now). Im scared, disbelieve what I hear, see, and know, but still cant fathum. Guilt, hurt, fright....its a scarey time in my life and I don't know what to do. Know I have to do something but what, know I have to fight mentally, but how. Im going down fast and reaching out hard.....hopin and prayin Im not too late to heal.

3:24 PM  

I cut off communication with my best friend of nine years 2 days ago because I started realizing that she was in fact a narcissist. When I read this article all I could do was cry because she portrayed each of these strategies and manipulations exactly. I'm a psychology major and I just had to laugh as I cried because you think to yourself "how could am lover and a life studier of psychology be blindsided like this?" She met me in high school at a very weak and vulnerable time for me and I've been lying for her and covering for her wicked ways for so long. I was able to keep my other personal connections but recently they were starting to fall apart as well. My family suffered and so did my romantic life. I felt like I was crawling out of my skin from all of the cognitive dissonance I was experiencing. My values and morals were in question and I snapped. I guess along the way I never truly thought of narcissists as "real, everyday" people that you meet at your small town. She is as real as the oxygen you breathe. I always said to my family she had a terrible childhood and she had no one who truly cared about her and she was there for me when I needed her most. But she also raped my mental state and for nine years I never finished a story I was telling. I felt like I was gasping for air. So after cutting her off completely, I've experienced lack of appetite, night terrors at the same time every morning... Around 5 am. I'm second guessing my actions. I make sure I'm listening to my friends (which is a good thing) but I feel guilty if I sound like I'm talking about myself too much. I feel that recovery is around the corner but it's a time of great pain and there are a lot of feelings of insecurity. This disorder is absolutely soul sucking and quite frankly I find it to be mind numbing. Already I have found great pleasure in things i once took for granted like music and reading and researching interesting things. I feel hopeful in the sense that maybe one day I will be able to be my best self. The self I would've been if it hadn't been for meeting her black soul in high school. There is hope for a better future. I hope all of you find peace, solace, and confidence in your lives. You are all beautiful, sensitive beings and you get to deserve your best future.

7:46 AM  

I've read so many articles, and watched so many YouTube videos on narcissism, borderline personality disorder and anti-social personality disorder that I could probably open a practice right now. However, this article added elements about myself that I had not firmed up in my own mind.

My ex-husband of 10 years was (is) a master manipulator, pathological liar and cunning narcissist. For nearly a decade, he had me convinced that I was helpless and hopeless without him by pre-empting any relationships I might have with new neighbors, sneaking over to their house the day they moved in, and telling them I was "fragile" and "didn't have any friends", asking them to be especially careful around me (essentially telling them I was crazy). It was several years later, after his maniacal behavior became apparent to everyone in the neighborhood, that he was the crazy one. Each day was a living hell of depression, anxiety and brief moments of reprieve when my ex would throw morsels of kindness my way. Hoovering, it is now called. I was so confused, living in a fog of uncertainty and toxicity, that I am astounded to this day how I ever garnered the courage to leave this angry little man. All I know is that the day I did, I opened the floodgates of hell, and have been "hunted down like a dog", just like he said I would be if I left him.

My ex is no dummy, unfortunately, and finds new, creative ways to torment and harass me each and every day. Usually, it is through the children, who are oblivious to their father's psychosis. Other times, and often, it is through economic abuse, harassment through the family courts, which are ignorant and oblivious, as well. Lately, he's come up with a new way to keep me on edge in perpetuity, should he miraculously drop dead of a heart attack - my 15-year-old son. He has so poisoned the mind of this child, my oldest son, that I am forced to deal with defiant, oppositional behavior from an almost fully grown man, without protection. My son pokes, prods and taunts me, is disrespectful on a vulgar level, while constantly reminding me that he will call the authorities if I get angry or discipline him. He keeps his iPhone on at all times, ready to capture any justified outbursts I may have about his behavior. My ex has managed to clone himself and guarantee that I will have no peace for the rest of my life.

Meanwhile, i work to finish my degree in Psychology, then on to law school while working full-time and wrangling with the twisted family law courts on a daily basis. It is exhausting. But, I know that one day I will be a voice for those women like me who have somehow managed to survive the Seventh Ring of Hell that is a narcissistic.

I don't even know how I've managed to stay alive for so long.

9:54 AM  

This is my situation. Only i havent left due to emotuonal exauhstion, finances,and other issues. Hes pretty much destroyed any self esteem i had left and im starting to go between harming him back in my mind but i know if i do id damn well have to kill him for real. I dont need the stress of that . Ive no where to go but i stopped duping myself into believing i was in love ovrr a year ago. I know now he will NEVER ALLOW ME TO USE THID AS A STEPPING STONE TO BETTER MYSELF MY LIFE AND MOVE ON. I KNOW THIS NOW. IM ABOUT TWO STEPS FROM MAKING A SHIT LOAD OF MISTAKES BUT SOMETIMES RUNNING IS ALL I CAN DO ALL I KNOW
ILL RUN. Sara Radtke

12:13 AM  

Many things are certainly on the mark, but there are other types of narcissists out there, ones that don't rage but rather prefer to be passive aggressive, or that appreciate having children to manipulate to get further adoration and feel needed, instead of despising the children. They often talk of "love bombing", but they rarely talk about withholding attention, which I believe is much worse than the love bombing. I'm sure different circumstances alter dynamics of narcissistic relationships.

I wanted to say that another way to deal with the cognitive dissonance is just to control what you actually have control of... your own self. So, in my case anyway, I would just take the blame for everything and try to "fix myself" (as he would tell me to do often). Things don't add up... it's my misunderstanding things. He says he didn't say that (thing he DID say), well I must have misheard or taken it out of context. You name it, it was all thrown back on me, and I soon learned that trying to get him to admit to his conflicting stories or wrongdoings was an exercise in frustration and would end up being turned on me as my fault anyway. Eventually you just learn to skip the battle in the middle and go right to self blame. Boy was I trained well!

Something else that I believe contributed negatively to this dynamic was the whole marriage vows thing. I got married to stay married, to work things out always, so with this attitude one allows a lot of cognitive dissonance to exist while you try to stay married "for better or worse". I'm not overly religious, but I was raised as a Christian (my husband was an atheist), and this idea of staying together "for better or worse" hurt my life more than anything I think, because if I wasn't trying to stay married so much, I wouldn't have stuck around through all the abusive turmoil for so many years (over 30).

4:25 PM  

Ok, so I was physically and sexually abused growing up young. Then abused by a teacher and others. I put myself in situations that asked for it. I married a year ago and puss him off and react to him and his actions. Twice Noel I have been hit and the last resulted in me not being g able to go I public. Eye swollen shut.....I did hit him when I should not have, he said this was what was needed to diffuse the situation. Although when I tried my phone, and upsetting you enough, it cracked his windshield. I was in shock as it was not intentionally. However, he pulled over to open my door and spit and yell. Yes, not good on my part. But my eye is swollen shut and I can't be seen in public. So I did not call cops. My Mother who was also abused by my father for 9 years is not going to help my husband, who is known by many internationally. Two days have gone by and he has been catering to me. Today I talked to Mom again and I left conversation knowing this is not ok. So I tell him about this morning and he starts yelling again. I asked him not to yell but that is him, he said, by definition of being upset. He also said, day of incident, that he will get help but does not research it. Simply asks me what to do. I know it is over. He is 52, international musician and has never had a "real" relationship. Anyway, I will try but my gut says I must move on. I am 42. Much life ahead.

3:12 PM  

This is one of the most validating, helpful and insightful articles I have ever read about this subject. Very well written and thanks for posting this.

5:21 PM  

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