How Society Gaslights Survivors of Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths
How Society Gaslights Survivors of Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths
“There is a class of individuals who have been around forever and who are found in every race, culture, society and walk of life. Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought. These often charming—but always deadly—individuals have a clinical name: psychopaths. Their hallmark is a stunning lack of conscience; their game is self-gratification at the other person’s expense. Many spend time in prison, but many do not. All take far more than they give.” – Dr. Robert Hare, The Charming Psychopath
As an author who writes for abuse survivors, I’ve communicated with thousands of people who have been affected by malignant narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths as partners, friends, family members, co-workers, or even bosses. Throughout the course of my work, I’ve noticed a common theme: the societal invalidation and gaslighting of survivors.
This form of secondary gaslighting and invalidation is incredibly painful, especially when it comes from the very professionals, friends and family members who are meant to help support the survivor on their healing journey. Not only does secondary gaslighting from other people further isolate the survivor, it actually hinders the healing process. I can’t tell you the number of times a survivor has reached out to me to tell me the painful effects of being invalidated by a friend, a family member, a spiritual leader or even a therapist who dispensed ill-informed, sometimes even victim-blaming ideas.
This also contributes to a global Gaslighting Effect in which speaking out about abuse by covert manipulators is met with some form of backlash, victim-blaming, and victim-shaming by enablers of abusers and abusers themselves. Survivor Ariel Leve explains that this form of secondary gaslighting in incredibly traumatic to the survivor. As she says, “It wasn’t just that my reality was canceled, but that my perception of reality was overwritten…it wasn’t the loudest and scariest explosions that caused the most damage. It wasn’t the physical violence or the verbal abuse or the lack of boundaries and inappropriate behavior. What did the real damage was the denial that these incidents ever occurred…the erasure of the abuse was worse than the abuse.”
How Have We Harmed Survivors? How Do We Help Them?
I want to preface this by saying that there are many excellent therapists, life coaches, writers and advocates who are well-informed about the effects of being with a highly manipulative, narcissistic individual. Unfortunately, there are also professionals and laypersons out there who inadvertently retraumatize survivors because of a lack of knowledge about how covert manipulation tactics work – as well as the effects of this type of trauma. Some survivors are even misdiagnosed by therapists when they are in fact suffering from PTSD or Complex PTSD from years of chronic abuse.
It’s important to learn the appropriate ways of communicating with survivors of malignant narcissists – those who lack empathy, who exploit others for their own gain, who abuse others chronically, and who lack remorse and conscience for their actions.
Here are common mistakes people make when communicating with survivors of this type of insidious violence:
1) Treating the abuse as a “compatibility” issue, a “bad break-up” or minimizing the pathological behavior of the abuser by equating it to that of the garden-variety jerk.
What we need to understand as a society is that malignant narcissism is not an “everyday” problem. While narcissism does exist on a spectrum, many of the survivors who are reeling from the trauma of emotional abuse have encountered individuals on the extreme end of the spectrum. They have met predatory individuals who have systematically stripped them of their self-worth and confidence. Victims of malignant narcissists often undergo emotional, psychological, spiritual, financial, and sometimes even sexual or physical abuse.
Someone who is a malignant narcissist has characteristics that go beyond selfishness, self-centeredness, or vanity. They have antisocial traits such as a lack of remorse, a failure to conform to social norms, impulsivity, aggression, and a lack of conscience. This is someone who can engage in inhumane cruelty and acts of both psychological and physical violence just to get their needs met.
Dr. Ramani Durvasula (2018), an expert on relationship abuse, notes, “I’ve done research and work in that area of domestic violence or what’s also called intimate partner violence, and most people who perpetrate domestic violence are either narcissistic or psychopathic. So there is danger there, in other words, they will dispose of you if you get in their way.”
The narcissistic or sociopathic abuser is not “just” a cheater, a player, or a “difficult” individual – and you cannot approach them as such. They tend to be chronically abusive, manipulative, deceptive and ruthless in their mind games. They can even escalate into horrific acts of violence.
When unwilling to receive or unresponsive to treatment, the malignant narcissist is someone with hardwired behavioral patterns which cause irreparable harm to others.
Whether you’re a therapist, an advocate, part of law enforcement, a family member or a friend of a survivor, be wary of giving out advice or counsel that would apply to garden-variety toxic people. For example, sometimes “direct communication” or assertiveness can actually enrage an abuser or give them information these manipulators can use as ammunition. Survivors would need strategies which are tailored to the dangerous aspects of exiting a relationship like this.
The same advice you give to someone dealing with an empathic person does not apply to someone who is empathy-impaired and intentionally and sadistically posing harm.
2) Interrupting key features of the healing process by trying to get the survivor to “heal” quickly.
While every healing journey is unique, the journeys of narcissistic abuse survivors have many similarities across the board because the same manipulation tactics are being used. A survivor of habitual gaslighting by an abuser is suffering from the extreme effects of cognitive dissonance. They are trying to reconcile their abuser’s false image which “hooked” them initially with the abuser’s true callous and cold self.
As a result of this, survivors tend to ruminate over incidents of abuse as well as the initial love-bombing they received from their abusers. Baffled onlookers (counselors, friends, family members) may assume that the survivor is “stuck” or “can’t move forward” because they ruminate over the incidents of abuse.
What they fail to understand is that rumination and over-analysis are effects of the trauma they experienced.
Survivors of any form of abuse are always attempting to sift through the thoughts, feelings, and memories which have caused them this cognitive dissonance. That’s why they tend to tell their stories again and again – because they are attempting to provide a coherent narrative to the trauma they just experienced.
This narrative allows them to overcome the cognitive dissonance and dissociation (including the disconnect among thoughts, memories, emotions) they experienced as a result of the abuse. As Andrea Schneider, LCSW (2014), writes, “Cognitive dissonance is diffused and reduced when the survivor of narcissistic abuse is able to receive validation and confirmation of the reality of his or her circumstances.”
To interrupt the process of rumination in a way that is judgmental and invalidating is especially harmful to a survivor who is just trying to figure out what happened to them. While you can certainly provide tips on healthier alternatives to excessive rumination, do not judge the rumination as a “defect” or “flaw” on the part of the survivor. It is a normal part of the journey to healing. A healthy way to interrupt rumination might be to ask what the survivor can do to better reconnect with the reality of the abuse they experienced and guide them to reconcile their cognitive dissonance by acknowledging the abuser’s disordered nature or tactics. This will help to decrease the gaslighting effect.
3) Making the victim responsible for the actions of the abuser and failing to recognize the impact of the trauma bond.
I understand that mental health professionals may only be treating the victim, so some feel they cannot “speak” to the actions of the abuser. Some law enforcement officials may be confused as to why the victim does not “press charges” or even defends the abuser. Friends and family members may also hesitate to “judge” a situation they themselves are not intimately involved in. However, aside from guiding the survivor to leaving the abuser safely, placing a hyper-focus on what the victim must do in the early stages of healing can be detrimental.
Asking the victim to continually “look within” in the very first weeks of recovery can even cross over the line to victim-blaming. Therapists, law enforcement officials, and loved ones must acknowledge the effects of the trauma bond that survivors developed with their abuser throughout the course of the relationship. This is a bond created by the intense, emotional experiences in the abuse cycle. Giving survivors tips and tools to gradually break what Dr. Patrick Carnes calls “the betrayal bond” is essential to their recovery journey.
Victims of malignant narcissists have heard many variations of victim-shaming statements such as the following even in the very beginning of their healing journey:
“You have to let it go.”
“You need to move forward.”
“You might be codependent.”
“Let’s talk about you, not him/her.”
“Why did you stay so long? Let’s explore that.”
These statements may come from a place of wanting the survivor to own their agency. However, when said in the early stages of recovery, they can retraumatize the survivor. A survivor at this stage is usually heavily trauma-bonded to their abusers. This means that regardless of any codependent traits (which may not even apply to them at all), they have bonded to the abuser in the abuse cycle in an effort to survive the abuse.
Dr. Joe Carver (2006) notes the dual impact of this bond and cognitive dissonance in his article, “The Small Kindness Perception”:
“The combination of “Stockholm Syndrome” and “cognitive dissonance” produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival. The victim feels they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended. In long-term relationships, the victims have invested everything and placed “all their eggs in one basket”. The relationship now decides their level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health.
Importantly, both Stockholm Syndrome and cognitive dissonance develop on an involuntary basis. The victim does not purposely invent this attitude. Both develop as an attempt to exist and survive in a threatening and controlling environment and relationship…They are trying to survive. Their personality is developing the feelings and thoughts needed to survive the situation and lower their emotional and physical risks…The victim is engaged in an attempt to survive and make a relationship work. Once they decide it doesn’t work and can’t be fixed, they will need our support as we patiently await their decision to return to a healthy and positive lifestyle.”
This trauma bond is strong and demands attention. This was not a normal breakup. The survivor at this point has gone through a great deal of gaslighting and needs to work through what the abuser has done to them before they move onto actions which actively support their healing. They need to connect to a vocabulary of the abuse they experienced. That is why they need to talk about their abuser first – to establish the tactics used and the effects of these tactics – before even attempting to move forward in any tangible way.
4) Mistaking the abuser as well-intentioned and communicating this to the survivor.
Narcissistic or sociopathic abusers tend to be very charming and can hook, dupe and manipulate even the most skilled of professionals. Just ask Dr. Robert Hare, creator of the Psychopathy Checklist, who admits to still being duped despite his expertise!
I have heard many horror stories of what occurred when survivors of narcissists entered into couples therapy with their abusers. The National Domestic Violence Hotline actually advises against couples therapy because an abusive relationship has a severe power imbalance. To be in a therapy room with an abuser is to give the abuser access to manipulate the therapist and further gaslight the victim.
As The National Domestic Violence Hotline asserts:
“The primary reason we don’t recommend couples counseling is that abuse is not a “relationship problem.” Couples counseling may imply that both partners contribute to the abusive behavior, when the choice to be abusive lies solely with the abusive partner. Focusing on communication or other relationship issues distracts from the abusive behavior, and may actually reinforce it in some cases. Additionally, a therapist may not be aware that abuse is present and inadvertently encourage the abuse to continue or escalate.”
This is something to keep in mind when speaking about the “intentions” of an abusive individual, even if you are providing only one-on-one counseling. Attempting to divert from or detract the focus on the abusive behavior or misreading the abuser’s “intentions” can have the inadvertent effect of making the victim feel as if their reality is not worth acknowledging. For any friend or family members of survivors, communicating the idea that, “I don’t think this person meant to hurt you,” is not only harmful, but this also tends to be false.
An abuser always has an agenda of controlling the victim. Their intentions are clear in that respect. A normal “jerk” or garden-variety toxic person who is unaware may be different. However, when it’s clear that the survivor has been emotionally terrorized, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to “doubt” that the intentions of an abuser were meant to harm.
A healthier alternative to this claim could be, “This person seems to have harmed you tremendously and has not made any efforts at stopping, even when you call him or her out. Let’s explore how you can take care of yourself and detach from this toxic person.”
The Big Picture
Some abusers are more sadistic than others. Some lack empathy, while others also lack a conscience. If you want to help any survivor of psychological abuse by a malignant narcissist, you have to help them acknowledge the mindset of what it means to be a predator – not further gaslight them into believing that they are dealing with someone who possesses empathy or remorse. You have to extend empathy, compassion, and nonjudgment to the victim – not the abuser.
At the end of the day, all abusers have issues with their sense of entitlement, their need for control and their stunning lack of empathy. Rather than focusing on the victim, it’s time for society to wake up to the abusive nature of their perpetrators.
Carnes, P. (2015). Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. Health Communications, Incorporated.
Carver, J. (2006, March 6). The Small Kindness Perception. Retrieved October 09, 2018, from http://drjoecarver.makeswebsites.com/clients/49355/File/love_and_stockholm_syndrome.html
Durvasula, R. (2018, August 08). Part 3: Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How to Spot the Differences. Retrieved October 09, 2018, from https://www.medcircle.com/videos/53185-part-3-narcissist-psychopath-or-sociopath-how-to-spot-the-differences
Hare, R. (1994, January). This Charming Psychopath. Retrieved October 09, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199401/charming-psychopath
Leve, A. (2017, March 16). How to survive gaslighting: When manipulation erases your reality. Retrieved October 09, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/mar/16/gaslighting-manipulation-reality-coping-mechanisms-trump
Schneider, A. (2014, October 03). Unreality Check: Cognitive Dissonance in Narcissistic Abuse. Retrieved October 09, 2018, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/unreality-check-cognitive-dissonance-in-narcissistic-abuse-1007144
The National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2018, February 18). Why We Don’t Recommend Couples Counseling for Abusive Relationships. Retrieved October 09, 2018, from https://www.thehotline.org/2014/08/01/why-we-dont-recommend-couples-counseling-for-abusive-relationships/
Featured image licensed via Shutterstock.
Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author
“There is a class of individuals who have been around forever and who are found in every race, culture, society and walk of life. Everybody has met these people,
Lise, your entry here inspired my FB entry:
My ex-husband managed to convince all the therapists that I was in the wrong, I had to go into rehab to keep my kids, he had to do nothing, despite their knowledge of his verbal and financial abuse.
This Article resonates with me immensely. It was my life for over 21years.. I have become an avid Advocate for domestic violence domestic abuse and mental health AWARENESS. I hope to be able to advocate within different organizations and do training to teach our Law Enforcement, whom in many States and Countries have zero knowledge of how to deal. In my case they empowered my abuser.. Thank You For putting this in Writing in needs to be seen, read, heard all over….
Thank you. My primary abuser was my ex-wife but all of the ambient abuse from the people around me has been almost impossible to explain. Even the marriage counselors said we had a gender role reversal. And we are definitely seeing a lot of gaslighting from prominent political leaders. The behavior has almost become normalized. Thank you for writing about this
Very helpful article but I’m curious how one deals with this type of abuse from a son . As he’s barely 18 you cannot just remove him from your life and the thought of that is painful. Has anyone experienced this with a teenage child? He has threatened my job security , made false accusations about me resulting in CPS investigations , hides things to make it look like I lost them., damaged my property. Police have been involved many times .
In the wake of the Trump/Kavanaugh display of white male supremacy behaviour this is a welcome summary of the ongoing risk of rampant denial even in the hearts and minds of decent but ill informed people.
My worst tormenter was my first husband. Our couples counselor told me he was a narcissist. I didn’t know what that meant. All I knew was that living with him had left me feeling like an empty glass. I had very little will to live and may have given up if not for my daughters.
This is an EXCELLENT article. Thank you so much for articulating these incredibly important points in summary form. (Anyone who is familiar with the realities you touch upon knows that this only scratches the surface of understanding!) I wish every therapist, pastor, law enforcement officer, attorney, judge and human being could grasp these things. There is so much profoundly invalidating and re-traumatizing “expert” or otherwise authoritative advice and action out there, in the name of God, in the name of the State, in the name of society.
This will literally be my first public post on anything related to what you just wrote about.
After surviving and getting out of a 32 relationship with a covert, malignant narcissist, and then, sadly, marrying another(for the last year), this article has been invaluable to read! I can’t tell you how many counselors I’ve been to that do not understand any of this!!! I’m ever so grateful to the few that did and helped me get out of my last marriage!! Now if I can just get my 7 adult children to understand all of this mess. Sadly, their father is still manipulating quite a few of them. And much of what is discussed in this article is why I’m now struggling to get out of my current marriage and finally on the road to healing. Anyway, thank you for this validation!!! I can’t say enough how important this is!
The article is right on target! In particular, in my experience with a female covert narcissist, couples’ therapy was used to further devalue me both in and out of the therapy sessions. In therapy, I described, and my abuser even admitted to, conduct that constituted love bombing followed by massive amounts of devaluation and gaslighting. 2 different therapists put the blame on me for the relationship issues and said I needed to change by improving my communication skills (note that communication was a primary area of devaluation, sabotage and gaslighting by my abusive spouse, so this particularly hurt), and I needed to get over my resentment at all the abusive acts by my remorseless spouse who blamed me for letting it happen. I hope more couples’ therapists learn how to deal with relationship issues caused by narcissists.
This is such a great read. Thank you!
Unbelievably helpful article!! Found myself shouting “That’s right!! That’s exactly what happens!” Several times. Malignant narcs are SO incredibly dangerous… a relief to have validation of this kind.
Even the courts/mediators/judges in family court who are too stupid or not trained to see it. They believe the narcissist and completely invalidate you.
An excellent article thought provoking and in my opinion truly accurate. I deeply feel for people who are unable to find a place of comfort after they have been ill treated. I chose to move away from a hostile environment it cost me financially and the loss of many people I thought were friends. They were not friends so I support the concept of secondary gaslighting as this was my experience. I found reading this article to be healing as I was able to identify many situations I had actually found myself in and I had avoided thinking about.,. It was painful to address as you want acceptance and love by people you thought respected you. I have since built my confidence I still feel saddened by the fact that people found it necessary to belittle mock and insult me to achieve a small win. Yes it brought me down but this lady is not out I still trust and I still respect. I am the better person. Thankyou for publishing this/
I thought that at 55 years old (when I married my narcissist abuser) that I was mature and smart enough to not have someone else control me the way this article has described. But this article has helped me realize that it can happen to anyone at any age and any intelligence level. In fact, I’ve read that narcissists actually try to find someone intelligent and educated because then, when they can control such a person, they feel even more justified in believing that they are the exceptional person they believe themselves to be! May good insights in this article and sad that the mental health community isn’t like our criminal justice system–innocent until proven guilty, meaning that when a person claims that someone is abusing them, the mental health community should first assume the person making that claim is telling the truth, since the vast majority of the time it IS true and not exaggerated, or they wouldn’t be sitting in a mental health professional’s office!
Thank you Shahida for all your amazing books and wise articles about a huge problem re narcissists and more.As you have said before,it is doubly painful if you have been raised by a narc mother and then experienced the same abuse from a partner.You are so right to have discussed further damage from mental health people who know nothing about the toxic ploys of these abusers and end up hurting their clients through ignorance.The survivor only gets another battering plus more tears in the trust ability.As there is an epidemic in narcissism,maybe all health and care staff should learn about these dangerous people while they train for their profession.As a survivor I feel as if I am a psychological torture victim who is digging a tunnel out of the prison camp with the light of Shahida’s brilliant words.
This is one of the best articles that I’ve read that so clearly defines the relationship. It’s a silent, invisible abuse that can’t always be seen .. only felt by the recipient. Insidious.
Thank you,! Thank you!! Thank you!!! This article was sent to my local DV center. (Which I feel lost their sense of purpose) I hope they read it, nobody should ever leave that place feeling mislead.
Thank you for posting this I have recently discovered that my mom is toxic and a little narcissistic and my dad is an enabler and I live with both of them but my i am on my way out of their house only six more months to go
It’s nice to see someone who understands. I left my abuser 3 years ago. I thought I would be free. He is still hurting me through my children, the courts, my current relationship, his current relationship and social media. He has manipulated things to the point of my life is still being controlled by him. I fear it will be this way until my children turn 18. I wish there was help out there, but there isn’t.
I have cryed my eyes out, of how many times I experienced all the above…
I was born into a gaslight situation: My father, who is a malignant narcissist, who is also independent and powerful, with no one to correct him, thought that my mother had trapped him into marriage with me, and that I was someone else’s child, and hated us both for it. He abused both of us terribly, continuously, both drunk and sober, until I left at the age of 16.
Wow. Finally someone saying something about my experience and responses to it that makes perfect sense.
I told a psychiatrist my story of growing up in a toxic family with a narc mother and he said: “She should have known better… and that I need to forgive her”. I knew that many psychiatrists are simply pill pushers, but it was hard to believe that after all that training and practice he’d be so unknowledgeable to say something like that.
Finally someone understands. I’ve hidden myself for the last few years since my divorce to a covert narc. I was told by lawyers and councillors and medeators that my stress was due to my inability to be a normal person. He made them all focus on my rage as a testament that I was indeed crazy. Thank you for this.. the quiet introverted time i have spent made me realize i have value and i will never make the mistake of living a man who is incapable of returning it. I thought i could get him to .
This article is very informative & insightful! I am still learning a great deal about the abuse I endured. Regaining my self worth & esteem has so far been my largest hurdle in my healing journey. I began journaling, then began self education of it all reading everything I find, watching videos, etc.
Having been raised by a malignant narcissist mother, standing up for my kids against the predatory behavior caused a (now) predictable volcanic eruption of accusations and character assassination. 23 years later, she began trying to bribe my now-30’s daughter into admitting she lied to meet my need to have something to hold against her and keep my children from visiting her. It was a nightmare for me. Fortunately, my children were raised with no contact from an early age, and only began to see that side of the family again when they were nearly and newly 20. Every encounter since has started with a lie of some nature to elicit desired information, and then an attack on me and invitation to “learn the truth” if they will “come clean” about the past. This last bout was very helpful to me because follow-up conversations showed the children were not fooled in the least, never expected the promised gift, and were willing to reach out to see if it might be possible something had changed. (It hadn’t, for the better at least). I’ve been reeling from it and castigating myself for having been so deeply effected by it. Reading this and a few other entries have helped me to reorient to truth, and get back to reality in a way my other efforts have failed. I am so grateful to my friend for sharing them. This one in particular has broken through a cycle started by a former therapist who doubted my mom would target my kids, since they were not really in direct contact often. I am glad I didn’t listen, and they have expressed gratitude that we broke contact when we did because now they can see what they missed and they are grateful they did not have to deal with it while they were young and dependent.
To read the texts of this author in here was a cure. My heart is weightlessness as I didn’t feel in years. I thank you very much.
OH Gawd, Yes. Lots of rapes in this area or met the sex abuse at school/work are labeled schizo due to amnesia/PTSD/insomnia/psychosis. Let’s the rich sex abusers follow the women around for decades+ terrorized at their homes by vandals/burglars, then abused by community discriminating against or harassing sex abuse victims’ family and herself. Police try to lock these up in mental hospital for months even acting OK for complaints about trespassing at their homes or HUGE amounts of ruined belongings. Even have several mental care workers who spend their off hours verbally harassing anyone in community they catch out in public discussing #METOO in order to cover up their neighborhood’s own secret. Some of these rich abusers like Mr. Cosby can spend most of their time following around victims and never had to hold down work…ACLU doesn’t care. NO restraining orders available here and COPS cover up this abuse group again and again without intervention. Just told not allowed to organize with other victims or you will be charged with misdemeanor. Media won’t assist with organization either after too many law suits for slander by other ??? situations. This abuse situation is running in many places regionally.
I do so feel for all of you as I read through the litany of abuse and harm you have all endured at the hands of these individuals. They are everywhere! and yet so dangerously well hidden.
Your past couple of articles have been perfectly timed for me in my healing process. I’ve been addressing a lot of issues over the past year and your articles have helped me confirm a detail about my childhood emotional neglect and my mother. I was a girl who was “parented” by a malignant narcissist. Faaaaaaantastic.
Your making these people far to important.
Be certain when selecting an attorney to represent you when divorcing a narc that he/she understands NPD and that it is not the run-of-the-mill situation. I made a poor choice and he was not understanding of what I had been through and left me feeling like I was fighting him, too.
Important message thank you so much!
I am a survivor of domestic violence. My ex fits the mold of a narcissist and a psychopath, although he had not been diagnosed professionally. Once, I asked him if he had ever had a psychological evaluation. He looked at me with a smug sneer that was always on his face when he spoke to me, he stated, “what would be the point? You know I could bluff my way through any test to get the answer I want.” Ugh. The approaches recommended in this article are excatly what I was hoping for when I finally left my ex. My hope is that anyone who has to untangle themselves from the nightmare inflicted by these types of individuals, is met with an approach mentioned in the article. Thank you for getting the message out there.
My abuser wasn’t someone from my family. Instead this was my boss that I worked for over a two and a half year period. Someone who was very successful and had a proven record of doing great work. Why would you not want to work for someone that wants to achieve great things?
My observation of *Society shutting down/up Victims of Narcissists* is that society supports *WINNERS*…i.e. aggressors who TAKE the money, the job, the reward and shut down those who are hurting, are peace-makers, and those who prefer to avoid confrontation. This is why it keeps happening that Narcissists *WIN*…they can pretend that the world is all about them (and seem to believe it). ….You are talking about Narcissists here, but this is true of most rapists and molesters and war-mongers, imperialists and despots. Why they call themselves leaders is beyond me.
This article is right on the money. I would just like to add to it. The narcissist takes total control of you till you have no control over anything. Your not allowed to have any say about anything, or give any ideas about anything. Your taught to keep your mouth shut and just agree to what every they say or else they will make you pay dearly. So when you have left and you are trying to heal, having others trying to tell you what you need to be doing FEELS like they also are trying to take control of you. Let the abused person have control and just love and understand them and have patience. Having your own control goes a long way in recovery. I lived with it for 32 years and just got out. I haven’t been able to think or do for myself for a long time. Don’t need to be pushed to hurry and recover. I might not ever. But I can’t stand to even hear someone say…..lets explore how to help you recover. I want to say……lets not. I don’t want to discuss, it makes me relive it. I just want to hear someone say I UNDERSTAND YOUR PAIN, and let me think for myself!
When I finally confronted my husband in front of his parents, the attack turned on me. That we are both apart of the issue, both to blame and my mother in law claimed I was making myself sick and to stop it. That’s when I started to distance myself from them, depression and anxiety is what I have from this, and now some mild PTSD. It was all verbal and emotional abuse, never any signs of bruises, the only proof I had and confronted him with in front of them was a shirt he slashed up with a knife. Which of course he denied. I can’t just make myself “well” until I can get out of this, and even then it’s going to take time and counseling.
I was with a narcissist for 25 years and just recently divorced. I’ve been away from him, no contact, for almost a year now. I’m in a new relationship with someone that is the opposite of my ex. He’s a fantastic guy. I have not seeked any type of counseling for the abuse I had for 25 years. I am worried it may hurt my new relationship in some way. Would you recommend that I seek counseling even though I feel like I’m fine and don’t need it?
You must find a lawyer that understands NPD if divorcing. I recently went to mediation and the mediator, a former judge, said the following while my lawyer sat and said nothing to defend me.
BRILLANT, BRILLANT, BRILLANT!!!!! YOU ARE WONDERFUL. YOU ARE LIKE A BREATHE OF FRESH AIR. YOU GETIT. YOU REALLY REALLY GET IT.
I have read and know my own truth after what happened to me. I have also been abused by the legal system due to the fact that my ex’s father was a judge. I proved how my ex moved funds and even proved other bank accounts. What happened, nothing. I couldn’t fight him, the area where I live is the worst area to get a divorce in. Nothing needs to be accounted for or discovered. The divorce master who is a lawyer had business dealings with my ex. I didn’t stand a chance. Why are there no government agencies to oversee this second type of abuse? There is no where to turn and these psychopaths walk away smiling.
Great article. I can relate to it quite well. I too have went through the system and came out of it alive but that’s about it. I never would have guessed in a million years that I could speak to so many people yet go unheard. They cared so little that it appeared we followed a script. Unbeknowngst to me going into it, the system from attorneys and judge to counselors and social as l workers, had no concern for the truth. They held me accountable for my exes actions. The judge blamed me for her absense. My attorney bent me over the barrel, holding back as if to be wotking for her side. The judge also took 2 yrs of holiday time with my son and gave to her “to make up for lost time (the nurturing years, which SHE took away from herself).” Counselors and social workers were only interested in me admitting to “my role” in the sense of admitting my flaws, my guilt I suppose. I was guilty of nothing but being a dad and never stopping (like she did). I did not expect a parade through town but I sure did not plan on being dumped on by not just his absent, technically abandoning mother, but also by everyone that should have been in my corner. I finally accept that no one cares. It’s a pitiful system that failed my son and I miserably.
Although I filed for divorce in September, the isolating effects of my gaslighting situation continue. Close friends and family believe that I’m crazy. My boys, 8 and 11, see their mom disrespected and dismissed. It’s all so painful and I often wonder if it will ever end.
Thank you so much for this article. I was once married to a malignant narcissist, but back then (1972 – 1975), we didn’t know what we do now and therapy really wasn’t available as it is now. I buried the abuse in my mind – I specifically remember saying to myself, “I’m just going to put this in this box and then I won’t need to deal with it.” I had a job, a baby and a house. I had a lot on my plate and I was 25 years old when I divorced him. I remarried 5 years later to a wonderful man and we had a great life together until he passed away in January this year. At work, I had a very stressful job in a hierarchical environment. I was constantly treated poorly and threatened with being fired. I was a good employee and had excellent reviews and regular raises. But I was very unhappy. I was treated like a know- nothing when in reality, I had more experience and a longer time doing the type of work than anyone else in the department. Eventually, the constant toxic environment caught up to me. I suffered a breakdown at work and could no longer do my job. I went on short term disability and eventually, long term. I have clinical depression, PTSD and chronic anxiety. I’m grateful for the excellent care I’ve received from my therapist and my Psychiatrist. It’s been 5 years and I’m doing much better. My husband’s death was sudden and happened in front of me and so, that has been a setback. I have been realizing of late, at 68 years of age, how much the abuse hurt me and affected my entire life. My team tells me I am very resilient but, believe me, I have plenty of days when I don’t feel it. I let myself do whatever I need to do and don’t beat myself up about it. I have just sold our home and will be moving to an apartment soon. That will be yet another adjustment. Life does go on, and you just can do the best you can. Don’t let ANYONE try to devalue you. If they do, get that person out of your life. Everyone has suffering in life, but I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. It’s very hard and added to the other things we all must face, death of loved ones, financial hard times, etc., it’s just overwhelming. If it wasn’t for my two sons and grandchildren, my Mom, sisters & brother and my best friend, I don’t think I’d have survived. Depression is not an easy thing to live with. My best wishes to all of you who have suffered with this, It’s always comforting to know you aren’t alone!
Polly A Magena
Thank you Shahida for another amazing and wise article which many people still lack knowledge about.These toxic people almost function as a one-person invisible cult.A law unto themselves,only their traumatized, exhausted victim sees their true self so that the real psychopathology remains hidden to the outside world.Sadly,this often includes mental health clinicians who work to improve the victim’s ‘ dysfunction’ instead of recognising the narcissist.It is now imperative for all doctors, psychologists and therapists to be trauma- informed about narcissistic abuse when they are training and beyond.Obviously this kind of abuse psychology is complex and requires rigorous study.Furthermore,this abuse seems to be increasing.
It has only been since July that everything escalated and evolved. I went into a complete downward spiral and almost completely self destructed. I could not comprehend what was happening, it completely was surreal. My head spun and spun and spun to the point I constantly woke up at night with it continuosly spinning. How did I get here “again” why is this happening. Who is he. I did so much reading to trying to figure out why, every conclusion I thought I came to my mind kept saying ok but why. I got to the point that i was emotionally and physically sick it was not making sense. I finally accepted and calmed down and accept excuse that all though not my fault Gave me a way to accept faults. But something In me still knew that was not right. When I received the last to pieces of my puzzle my mind went immediately to psychopath. I reached out to my adult children and told them, they had already thought I had lost my mind through my breakdown and the basic response was… yeah ok mom, love ya, stay safe. I went and searched physcopath when that was thier reaction and the article was spot on with every description of what was happening in “my world” forwarded to them and they still did not really believe. Someone mentioned gaslighting and looked it up, again spot on at every bullet point. That sadly enough has given me some piece because I know who they are and how my husband blindsided me. I say that because I know it is my husband and his twin brother that just moved onto the property, I am thinking his wife is a current victim also at a higher level because they have children together, I see some signs but I don’t know and they won’t let me near her. But then I wonder if she may be part of it. Were her very suptle hints a cry for help as she watched me crash or was it her assist in my breakdown?
Thank you for writing this article, Shahida. The first I have seen of its kind. Maybe new laws are the answer.
EXACTLY! You hit the nail right on the head! This seems to be the first article I’ve read on narcissism and gaslighting that has really hit home for me… The “flying monkeys” are EVERYWHERE in my life it seems. Even my financial advisor or financial manager. He once said it was “both our faults” that we didn’t get along. But he really has no idea. He wasn’t there. But lately, they seem to agree that my brother (the abuser) is the narcissist, and agree that I want to stay away from him. Maybe watching how my brother treats them is “validating” what I’ve been trying to tell them. Who knows. But I’m my friendly self towards the financial advisor and his staff. I don’t do anything to make them think otherwise. The problem WASN’T me. It’s my BROTHER who treats people badly. My problem is, I’m learning disabled and on the autism spectrum. I was gaslighted all the time by my mother. My brother is like our mother, so the narcissism came from her. My dad maybe had narcissism, but in the end, my dad and I were really close in the years before he died. Also he and I were more alike. But he and I liked people and liked to be friendly. He might have had a little narcissism, but it wasn’t the sick kind my brother and my mother had that was emotionally abusive.
I’m scared because I am in this place now and don’t know how to get out. I went through DBT but don’t think I am borderline, I have some of the traits but I am beginning to understand I have developed some sort of antisocial personality and avoidant personality disorder through chronic abuse. It strips away at my humanity everyday. My therapist insisted I was speaking to my boyfriend incorrectly, I can’t even fully think about it because of the panic I get from it. I’ve been disbelieved everytime I tried to get help. I think I’ve accepted I need to do this on my own but everyday is so hard I don’t know if I will make it. Thank you for this validation. It’s hard to believe, I still think I must be wrong and this doesn’t really apply to me but I know it does.
shahida seems to be the one person that can completely explain the habits and behaviours of the narcissist and totally gets the affect this person has on the victim. i’ve read a few different books but nothing compares and makes me feel like you get it the way shahida does. everything written, i’ve pretty much experienced even this last part about how therapists and family/friends contribute to the gaslighting.
If I’d been told I was being abused while it went on, I wouldn’t have believed it. It has taken me nearly two years to recognize that my narcissistic ex was not some broken man I could help “fix” or heal. I was the one being broken on a daily basis.
89 thoughts on “How Society Gaslights Survivors of Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths”
I wasn’t ready to say, “Yes, he is a monster and he is doing that.” I just fled.
We ended up in mediation which was also awful.
Couples therapy was disastrous because my ex used it as a means to try to “proove” that I was crazy and needed to be “fixed.” Now, I find that I can spend most of my day living instead of being filled with dread. Though it was damaging to be discarded, getting a life-threatening STD and being subjected to the continual abuse would have been more so.
You have been through a great deal. Your self awareness and growing understanding of this toxic abuse will aid your route to recovery. More power to you. You are a wonderful lady. Hugsxxx
Thanks for sharing your experience, strengths and hope. I too witnessed someone die in front of me, my father when I was eleven, and didn’t know that it caused me to have PTSD, but I am learning to deal with it today, 45 years later.
1. Go out and get a job.
I started a company 3 years ago and it was doing well. My husband stole my funds, he took my trucks and tools that I need for my job and even took my car one week so that I could not get to my job site. He ridiculed my business and accused me of sleeping around every time I would go to a job site. In essence, he was preventing me from obtaining money to be independent, but somehow swayed the mediator to think I was a kept woman who was unwilling to work. When I had jobs out of town, he would not show up to get our son. I would have to reschedule work for myself and for my staff which would delay payment. He did everything he possibly could to keep me from being successful. I suffer from PTSD from the constant verbal abuse and binge drinking episodes. I decided to take care of myself and my children this past year. Recently, I have started secretly taking on work. I will be successful.
2. It is your fault for staying so long.
The mediator made a mockery of my commitment to my marriage and to my children. I was scared to leave.
3. The mediator tried to intimidate me by telling me that my case was normal and that he sees it every day. He wanted me to give up my home, my beach home and take $5000 per month for 5 years. My husband makes $400,000 per year. I have been married 18 years. My husband threatened me with guns on 4 occasions. Is this normal? He hid money. He is addicted to alcohol and porn. He berated me and made fun of me daily making me question myself in every way. Is this normal? He would not allow me to work. He controlled me financially. I couldn’t even get my nails done. Is this normal?
4. You don’t look like you are abused.
No, I don’t. I have been conditioned to put on an act and make all look okay. I was never able to have a normal reaction to my husband’s bad behavior because if I did, I would be punished by the silent treatment and/or his raging.
Because I have PTSD, I could not say anything back to the mediator. I froze. The mediator got too close to me. He tried to intimidate me and raised his voice to me. My lawyer should have intervened. My lawyer even defended my husband saying he did not want to make him mad when I asked to have the mediator explain to my husband my reasons for wanting to keep my home.
On the occasions that I felt threatened by my husband, my lawyer advised me not to call the police because I would jeopardize his job. If my husband is threatening me, isn’t it him that is jeopardizing his job?
Shahida, I follow you on Instagram and I read all of your articles. Your writings have validated me and I think you are an angel on this earth. Thank you very much for helping me.
I wish that there were attorneys truly knowledgeable about sophisticated NPD to even be found! Not to mention mediators, co-parent counselors –therapists generally, unfortunately– judges, and police. The disguised realities and the “nice” presentation as if someone operating within a normal range of empathy and authenticity, unfortunately, are just counterintuitive to what all of these professions are trained to discern. Their unwitting complicity is so incredibly re-traumatizing or newly traumatic for victims, particularly since most of us dealing with sophisticated N’s will be dragged to court repeatedly, have police called on US, bogus charges filed…
They had a reputation in the industry of leaving destruction wherever they went, but I chose to ignore this and rather saw it as a challenge instead. And then slowly but surely the game started and I was in the middle of a web that I knew not how to get out.
All other employees that worked there (the majority of these were people that had worked with him before or were those that were not targeted in the same way that I was) made it out that the problem sat with me. “Look inside”, “It’s his company and he can do what he likes”, “you have to let it go” or “he just lacks empathy so that’s why he treats you in this way” we’re common phrases that I had heard over a long period of time from these people. One of them being my longtime friend from my industry that I had initially moved with when joining the agency. It messed with my head in ways that I can’t explain.
I was severely depressed for a long period of time. I had thoughts of taking my own life, I felt trapped and worthless. All I wanted was this guy to genuinely give me approval so that I could tell myself that I was enough.
The working relationship came to an end and I left the company after he decided that this was no longer working for him.
He had said that people at the company were starting to question his leadership. It looked as if he wasn’t in control of the situation which did not look good for the owner of the company. Even when I asked to leave, he did not take an ounce of responsibility and made it out that the problem was entirely me.
He created the picture that my abilities and talents were below par and that I just wasn’t suitable to work in my industry any longer.
And so the process began where I had to analyze the situation. Can you imagine working for someone who constantly ignores you, while laughing and speaking to your co-workers, right in front of you? Someone who excludes you on projects that you are involved in, so that you feel like you are not adequate to do them? Someone who calls you into reviews and literally tells you that “You drain the fuck out of me” and expects this kind of feedback to have a positive affect on ones ego.
Having endured this has changed me.
I’m not sure to the extent of the damage just yet, but 6 months later I still find myself thinking of this each and every morning when I wake up.
What is even more crazy is that individuals like this one are still able to do what they do, and getting away with it. There are no ramifications for this person. No consequences.
abusers get away with has triplicated. I’ve become an avoider, rather than fight with a
world of Narci’s …Once I realize who I’m dealing with I make no excuses and tell no lies…
I LEAVE. I once had a much more positive picture of the world before I realized how much abuse
is downplayed or twisted back at the victim.
By saying that their dangerous etc. your giving them power.
Cut them off, thats what I do, I cut them off, off their source of power and then they wilt and die and enjoy watching it.
You woudnt believe how many I have destroyed that way.
Your article is amazing, I wish I could make my friends and family red this!
I constantly get told that I need to just “get over it”, to stop thinking about my ex and how he made me feel, especially by my current partner. I feel like I can’t tell him why I’m feeling certain things because, as an example, he gets offended that I react negatively about certain things he does to me because it reminds me of bad things my ex did, he gets cranky and keeps telling me that he’s not like my ex and wouldn’t hurt me…. I just wish I could get him to HEAR me when I talk and say that I CAN’T HELP MY REACTION or the way I feel even though I know he’s not the same.
Worst thing is its been 5 years since I escaped from my ex and he is still effecting so much of my life negatively, I just don’t know how to be free of this overwhelming feeling?
I have survived and now have a great therapist, but this article was so true to me. Thank you for writing it.
It wasn’t until 10 years ago [when I was 52 and this whole sordid part of the story was hitherto unknown to me] that Mom forced him to get a DNA test to prove I was his [because he was still tormenting her, in their 80s], but by then it was too late. Since Mom died, he has become even more hateful, and on Christmas eve, 3 years ago, he told me he hated me and that I was the exact opposite of what he would ever want in a son.
At this point, I had spent decades gaslighting myself, doing therapy and creating a false relationship with my father, which had been possible with my Mom’s diplomacy and by virtue of us communicating only in short phone conversations every six weeks or so, year after year. I stayed in the relationship with him because of the almost hypnotic tool he had planted in my head since birth, that if I pleased him, I would inherit his great fortune.
Mom had died about 2 years before that Christmas eve, and he had lost all forms of “check and balance,” and so when we were in an extremely rare face-to-face setting, in front of my younger brother and his seven year old daughter, he chose to let his true self show, and unload his huge backlog of venom and bile as close in my face as he could get.
Something finally snapped in me at that point, and I looked him in the eye, and told him that when I was seven, I wanted to kill him, because he had broken my mother’s arm with a lamp. That in 8th grade, I got excused from gym class multiple times because of bruises all over me from his belt.
He went crazy, screaming that I was a liar, that Mom brainwashed me, that she was a slut – stuff that only a Kafka or a Tennessee Williams could come up with – and refused to admit that he was an abusive drunk. I didn’t mention the weeks long silent treatments directed at both Mom and me, the fact that I would almost puke with fear every night when I heard his car pull into the garage, and a whole raft of other stuff, but neither did I back down. I continued calling him a liar as I walked out the door, with him spitting in rage like an alley cat.
The next 18 months I was a basket case, working as many hours as possible to block it out of my mind. He had opened ancient, scarred-over wounds, and rubbed salt in them. I found Pete Walker’s “Complex PTSD,” which saved me. It’s the quickest way out of the horror, and between online forums dedicated to Narcissistic Abuse, dear friends, validating articles like this one by Shahida, and comments by other survivors, I’ve healed.
I am retired now, and am quite comfortable without his fortune. The decades of depression, suicidal obsession, and half-successful therapy were just what they are, that’s all. Probably useful as a cautionary tale to anyone that it’s better to address the problem sooner rather than later, much later in my case. And also, that no matter how badly destroyed we are, we have to rely on our own determination more than anything else. And simple basics, like exercise, sleep, drink lots of water, provide for yourself.
He sent an email a couple months after that Christmas, just after his 90th birthday, saying that if I would retract my accusations to him, that he would consider continuing to stay in touch. I responded that “if I had to lie, it wouldn’t be worth it, so no thanks.” What a wonderful feeling! And now, after 3 years of never having to hear his voice or him baiting me about climate change or Hilary Clinton, or about how great tRump is, every day is better.
Needless to say, today’s political climate is so my like my childhood, with everybody at each other’s throats and mass shootings every 6 weeks, I’m finding it difficult to be here, so I’ve been spending lots of time in Thailand, which helps.
Finally, I’d like to address a particular style of gaslighting that Shahida didn’t mention: the whole “You chose your life, your parents, your karma” thing that Eastern religions in particular espouse. And this doesn’t just pertain to trendy facebook memes, I met many folks in Thailand who are cordially unsympathetic on the same grounds. They’re lovely and sweet and kind, but if you did something stupid, they aren’t too sympathetic about it. “Life is Tough.”
Still, it’s super annoying. I just don’t get how a child born into a hellhole bears any responsibility. We don’t know – and so I just pretend that I’m burning off Karma from some terrible person I was long ago, and hope that’s how it works.
Anyway, shared stories help, I know the comments here and Shahida’s article did me, and I hope my overly long winded story helps others.
The term “narcissist” has come into the general lexicon, and is now used as a synonym for someone who is selfish or has a big ego, in the same way “borderline” has come to mean someone who is overly dramatic, and “gaslighting” often means just lying.
But these words actually MEAN things, even outside a clinical diagnosis. Being in relationship with someone who is really narcissistic or borderline and is gaslighting is being abused, by definition, and in ways society doesn’t understand.
I especially appreciate the reference to people who have been gaslighted needing to share their personal stories again and again. I know from experience this is discouraged in group therapy and other recovery settings, and I realize it sucks to hear this again and again. In fact, I was kicked out of a divorce support group when I wasn’t moving on after 2 months (while dealing with C-PTSD from 20 years of malignant narcissistic abuse, a divorce, a bankruptcy, a foreclosure, a car accident, a layoff, the death of my father and my mom having a stroke all at the same time!)
But it does serve a healing purpose. The person needs to validate that these things happened, because it’s often unbelievable and she no longer trusts herself. That is the hardest part. In the science fiction movie “Minority Report,” a character has to ask, “Is this now?” Someone who has been gaslighted needs to ask, “Is this real?”
I’m struck also by the extent to which society and even immediate close family and friends are ignorant that 1/ these behaviours are playing out before their eyes and-because 2/ the abuser is not what he/she seems. Abusers are so manipulative and so self-serving that I have had better validation from a complete stranger in the park than I have received from court, barristers and powers-that-be. Especially friends who knew my Ex and I as a couple. They struggled with the cognitive dissonance of what he presented outside of the house and what I experienced during our marriage. It IS so much harder to pull yourself through the healing process when you feel judged. Language is sooo important. Feeling like you are being heard by an empathetic listener is key. Validation of your experience is essential to be able to process it and move on.
And in the early stages of separation from the abuse, I did not even realise that I had been abused! I knew that my 20 year marriage wasn’t working out and that my husband would not change, so I acted on that knowledge. Thank God that I had managed to move closer to my own family and that I had new friends who saw him for what he was and did not hold back from saying so. Despite this, I struggled in the early days to accept the truth; I just wasn’t ready to accept it. It felt like it must somehow be my fault, too, that my marriage was a failure.
It took a long time – years – for me to see to what extent my daily perceptions of behaviour and words had been gaslighted and used to belittle me. I would feel stupid and incapable, pull myself back to the present for the sake of my three small children, and carry on. I see now that his parents and he have a toxic family dynamic, but they always succeeded in making me the problem. “Oh, that’s just the way we are! That’s how we communicate (abusively?!). What’s wrong with your sense of humour??”
Well, today, more than 4 years since I escaped that mindset, I find myself laughing and enjoying life like I never could then. My body is relaxed, the chronic headaches have vanished, and I’ve been cured of breast cancer. I still feel depressed sometimes, but I pull myself up more quickly than I did now that I have agency over my own life.
Sadly, 4 years on from initiating divorce, i am still in limbo while I wait for a final hearing date. My lawyer gets information only when we threaten court orders, and then only at the 11th hour. My kids and I live on maintenance payments and what I earn from my admin job. They want a relationship with their father so they push to see him. He’s always amenable to them visiting and arranges flights etc, but might not be there all the time that they are. They probably spend more time with his new partner, who is half his age and Vietnamese. And I have to steel myself for the inevitable barrage of abuse when they return from these visits. My kids are all mid-to-late teens, and are trying to make sense of what Dad says (he made Mum an offer, can’t imagine why she wouldn’t accept it, she cancelled the mediation that was booked etc etc) and what Mum does (raised them single-handedly while he travelled the world developing his career, manages the house, their lives and their difficulties-all see psychologists). I’m the “safe” parent, so I cop the abuse and the accusations. They would never dare speak to their father the way they habitually speak to me.
For the Mom with an abusive son – I’ve had similar with my now 20-yo. I think he’s borderline High-functioning Aspergers, but that doesn’t excuse or negate how he made me feel when he was still living at home. He ascribed to his father’s version of the divorce story from the beginning but was especially toxic after my Ex told him that he was “entitled” to 25% of my maintenance and that I was therefore stealing “his” money.
The only way to change his behaviour was to get him to move out. Turn off the home internet, stop paying for his cell phone, whatever you can think of as CONSEQUENCES for disrespect of you. It is NEVER acceptable. He cannot live in your house and behave abusively. Get your support team together, get help with a plan of action but please put yourself first-you deserve better. I had not realised how beaten down I was till my eldest moved out, and took his toxicity with him. Our family life is so different now. I want to come home after work.
It is not over yet. The impact of this person on our lives has been and continues to be significant and negative. The more I move away, the more he ramps up the abuse wherever he can influence. I will be in therapy and taking anti-depressants for years yet. But in a way it has been the making of me. I can already see the absolute truth in the saying, “the best revenge is a life well lived”. I am the winner. I have broken the cycle of abuse.
I’m standing for the Senate in Australia as a male DV Victim together with a female DV Victim. I use the word “Victim” because the abuse continues and is supported by naive police who require little evidence to support a woman who claims to be a Domestic Violence Victim while ignoring evidence to the contrary.
very well written.
Have you ever heard of a victimized extreme narcissist? I’ve heard them called Extreme victimized narcissist as well. Either way, they have to be on the highest level of malignant level of narcissists.
I will sum it up by saying she faked pancreatic cancer to the point of me setting up hospice care, even after the relationship had ended (hoovering), in my house so she can die with a view of the Puget sound and be guaranteed to not be alone when the end comes.
She faked it to the point of peeing on my furniture and my floors because I’m guessing she read an article that said that’s a normal symptom when you’re close to the end from pancreatic cancer.
I have come a long way since the atom bomb (the truth) went off in my old life.
I am currently at the point of having to apply my boundaries to mildly toxic Narcissists, by comparison, from my past. This includes several family members.
I understand what happened to me, I am healed as best as I could have expected at this point, and I’m living true to myself. In a weird way, I’m at a point where I’m grateful for what I went through but ironically I would never wish it upon anyone else.
Perhaps that is a great irony in life. To understand what we have gone through, you would have had to have experienced it yourself, and I would never wish that upon you.
About my alcoholic father’s covert incest he said: “He did those things when he was drinking.” So on top of the mother thing he is defending my Dad – huh? Completely overlooking that when we was sober he’d still be having fantasies.
I was very upset by this and stopped seeing that psychiatrist. And I haven’t felt inclined to see any other therapist after that. I realized in retrospect that he was automatically defending my parents because of how cultures across the world always hold the parents, and especially the mother, as blameless. This mindset is deeply ingrained in society. After all, one of the 10 commandments is to honor thy father and mother but nothing is said about respecting and validating their children.
I’ve twice married narcissist. I didn’t know about narcissism until the past few years. Many things from my first marriage were simply supressed and forgotten because I thought it was all due to my failings. After all that’s what he said. It was in the last 6 months of our marriage that I realized that I did not respect the person he’d become. Apparently as respect faded so did my love. I realized that I loved the person he’d been not the person he became years later. There had been physical abuse before and a year after he left. The last act was the worst. He stabbed a 7 inch hunting knife into the wall barely missing my face. My friends and family had thought he was the greatest person. I was the problem because I wasn’t making him happy. None of my family was local so their judgement was hurtful.
Now I’m in a second marriage to another narcissist. This relationship is more emotional abuse. Things that I hadn’t thought of pertaining to my first marriage are periodically coming out. Now my children from the first marriage say I should never bring it up becsuse it’s over. The first narcissist died of cancer after two more marriages.
His method of parenthood was to give them whatever they wanted and leave any discipline to me. He wasn’t a Father but more of a buddy. They don’t recognize that he denied them college education because he was afraid I’d find out his income.
I use to think one day they’d ask him why did you hurt my Mom. Instead he died and became a martyr.
I’m so sick of people saying maybe you weren’t well matched. Or oh, everyone has an argument once in a while
People do not understand and its like living in a silent prison. All I wanted to do was love and care for them.
Oddly, I began doing many things mentioned such as no contact before I even learned I survived the abuse.
I wasted almost 28 years on a covert narcissist who put me through so much as he played the self righteous victim.
When I first learned of it I became paranoid, then the rage hit. I’d never felt such evil within myself! It horrified me! It was never my nature to feel such negative emotional behavior. I do know that the first thing I had to do was accept all of it. Next was accepting how I felt about it all & be ok with how I felt. Knowing how I felt was normal gave me a huge steppingstone! Finally, I knew I wasn’t crazy like my ex tried to convince me of! This also helped me to remove the rose colored glasses & see the mister behind the mask. Each baby step forward gave me new strength to keep my focus.
Therapy gave me coping skills & a better perception of what I needed to do for my own sanity. Crawling out of the dark abyss, wanting to actually live life, etc.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to tell my family & quickly learned many wouldn’t understand. Support groups were great yet overwhelming at first & I’d have to take breaks to cope & then as I became more involved in them I opened up more & desired to help the newbies that joined the group. I’m a work in progress & I’m still healing from the damage & residual effects. I’m no longer a victim but a survivor. I’ve come a long way from where I was. Some of the stories are far worse than mine & some not as long term. I have survived all 3 types of abuse & emotional is by far a different animal altogether. My heart goes out to each victim & survivor! We will prevail & be the wiser!
Rumor in 1990s was Mr. Cosby was doing mental abuse after his show closed down in order to silence the kids from show and staffers about his sex abuse racket.
Paranoid schizo can start for telling any of the wrong thing to leave you alone or complain to cops about him. Strangers start to bother you. Lots of places only give temp restraining orders anyway. Just better to move and don’t discuss it again. He didn’t follow you for stalking visits and house is left alone while at work, you are blessed. Probably don’t want to live alone again as situation will drive the weirdos crazy around you and get scams/harassed/worse for living alone elsewhere. Better to move to live with friends or family after meeting one of these situations, especially wealthy bragging about harming people or making threats to your face. These ladies get targeted by every weirdo and POS in community sometimes if alone and NOTHING to stop it in city or rural except family/friends in community. May be mistreated by Protestant churches later if directed there by invite, most of these are a predator attack by wrong people who may keep you from working locally or defame you from discussing the past so use caution.
The assumption that someone must be weak, unintelligent or naive to be pulled into this adds an extra little dusting of invalidation and insult on top of the whole hell, doesn’t it?! Most people have no idea the level of nearly flawless sophistication that some sociopathic N’s have cultivated, nor the depth and destruction of the abuse. The more intelligent and special the target, the more delight and sense of power and control they experience in destroying them.
I have watched some of the most shrewd, tough, and intelligent people I know get totally owned by the sophisticated narc in my life– AFTER I showed them clear evidence of his destruction, tried to tell them who he was, how he operates, and some of his tactics, and they confidently assured me that no, they’ve seen all of this before, know how to handle all kinds of people, they’re a professional, they’re too shrewd and smart to be taken…. Nope, down they go. They are simply avoided if possible, neutralized, or completely deceived and turned. He’ll even seemingly defer to authority and stage some compliance or humility, all while studying them to learn how to best control them. Then, plays them like a fiddle, and makes them feel happy, relaxed and competent while doing it, often becoming complicit in his abuse.
People just cannot conceive that someone who never hits, yells, overtly name calls, etc and seems like the most excellent human in the world can be more devastatingly destructive than any of the above. My N is a very studied expert in the use of Neurolinguistic Programming and body language for control on top of it all– the closest thing to live hypnotism there is.
My ex admitted he used people for what he could get from them and tossed them aside when he was done with them.
He admitted to trying to drive me insane so he could leave me without people thinking he was a jerk. Because driving someone insane is so much better than abandoning a pregnant woman and a toddler? His mental torture (gaslighting) lasted 3.5 years – when I mustered up the strength to leave him.
What kind of a monster wants the mother of his children committed to an institution just so he doesn’t have to look bad to their friends and families? Our daughters have no idea.
From family, friends, family friends, psychologiests, psyciatriests.
SO INCREDIBLY ACCURATE!!!!
I WISH ALL THE WORLD WOULD READ THIS ARTICLE!!!
When kids get bullied in school, treating victims does not work in terms of lessening the bullying or changing the problem of bullying. Schools finally had to start making perpetrators more accountable.
Ask yourself: Is bullying and cheating acceptable behavior?….because this is what you are saying if you accept Trump and accept DICTATORSHIP….you are choosing bullying as your model for human behavior.
Bullies lie, cheat, steal, humiliate, and ridicule (and victimize) others to lord it over them. This is what this Impeachment of Donald Trump actually about, Mass-Narcissism. Is this negative behavior set optimal in creating a balanced and peaceful world?
If it’s not your choice, then IMPEACH, REMOVE, FINE, and IMPRISON…really–unless you prefer a disempowered life.
Not much helps to take the edge off of the fear, dread and depression, but this article helps a lot. When I read it, I feel “heard.” I come back to this article when I need to remember that I’m not crazy and that there are people who understand.
I have filed for divorce but I am still in the house. We have along way to go. I know it is not over, I know there is more to come, I know to remain watchful and vigilant and pay attention more to actions and subtle change in direction. I know they are always manipulating and I know he knows he has not won yet. I recovered to quickly from my breakdown and still standing strong. I know I should run, but I want to walk, I don’t want to hide, I want to live life. I know there is more coming, I can feel it.
I have been reaching for answers, resources, professionals online, but there seems to be no true help out there for the people in my position. When it is happening just inside the walls of your home and you try to explain to anyone, your not believed, it is unreal and you get to the point that you feel you do have to run and leave everything behind as well as your job, and friends that you thought you had, your life, everything. Everything will be gone and you will literally have nothing while thier life and world does not skip a beat, they have gained everything you had and already working on their next victim and they will do the same to her and to everyone after her and will forever get away with it. Because you can not prove what is going on behind closed doors. And nobody will listen and thier are no true resources except a lot of articles on what is happening to you and how they will always win. It is not right. I am tired, I am concerned, I dont know the true depth of what I am facing, I see and here them manipulating something new and all I can do is watch and wait because I known they know I know. This is so not right.