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Divorcing the Narcissist and Protecting Your Children

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20 Diversion Tactics Used by Narcissists Sociopaths and Psychopaths to Manipulate and Silence You

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20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths Use To Silence You

Written by Shahida Arabi for Thought Catalog

Toxic people such as malignant narcissists, psychopaths and those with antisocial traits engage in maladaptive behaviors in relationships that ultimately exploit, demean and hurt their intimate partners, family members and friends. They use a plethora of diversionary tactics that distort the reality of their victims and deflect responsibility. Although those who are not narcissistic can employ these tactics as well, abusive narcissists use these to an excessive extent in an effort to escape accountability for their actions.

Here are the 20 diversionary tactics toxic people use to silence and degrade you.

1. Gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that can be described in different variations of three words: “That didn’t happen,” “You imagined it,” and “Are you crazy?” Gaslighting is perhaps one of the most insidious manipulative tactics out there because it works to distort and erode your sense of reality; it eats away at your ability to trust yourself and inevitably disables you from feeling justified in calling out abuse and mistreatment.

When a narcissist, sociopath or psychopath gaslights you, you may be prone to gaslighting yourself as a way to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that might arise. Two conflicting beliefs battle it out: is this person right or can I trust what I experienced? A manipulative person will convince you that the former is an inevitable truth while the latter is a sign of dysfunction on your end.

In order to resist gaslighting, it’s important to ground yourself in your own reality – sometimes writing things down as they happened, telling a friend or reiterating your experience to a support network can help to counteract the gaslighting effect. The power of having a validating community is that it can redirect you from the distorted reality of a malignant person and back to your own inner guidance.

2. Projection.

One sure sign of toxicity is when a person is chronically unwilling to see his or her own shortcomings and uses everything in their power to avoid being held accountable for them. This is known as projection. Projection is a defense mechanism used to displace responsibility of one’s negative behavior and traits by attributing them to someone else. It ultimately acts as a digression that avoids ownership and accountability.

While we all engage in projection to some extent, according to Narcissistic Personality clinical expert Dr. Martinez-Lewi, the projections of a narcissist are often psychologically abusive. Rather than acknowledge their own flaws, imperfections and wrongdoings, malignant narcissists and sociopaths opt to dump their own traits on their unsuspecting suspects in a way that is painful and excessively cruel. Instead of admitting that self-improvement may be in order, they would prefer that their victims take responsibility for their behavior and feel ashamed of themselves. This is a way for a narcissist to project any toxic shame they have about themselves onto another.

For example, a person who engages in pathological lying may accuse their partner of fibbing; a needy spouse may call their husband “clingy” in an attempt to depict them as the one who is dependent; a rude employee may call their boss ineffective in an effort to escape the truth about their own productivity.

Narcissistic abusers love to play the “blameshifting game.” Objectives of the game: they win, you lose, and you or the world at large is blamed for everything that’s wrong with them. This way, you get to babysit their fragile ego while you’re thrust into a sea of self-doubt. Fun, right?

Solution? Don’t “project” your own sense of compassion or empathy onto a toxic person and don’t own any of the toxic person’s projections either. As manipulation expert and author Dr. George Simon (2010) notes in his book In Sheep’s Clothing, projecting our own conscience and value system onto others has the potential consequence of being met with further exploitation.

Narcissists on the extreme end of the spectrum usually have no interest in self-insight or change. It’s important to cut ties and end interactions with toxic people as soon as possible so you can get centered in your own reality and validate your own identity. You don’t have to live in someone else’s cesspool of dysfunction.

3. Nonsensical conversations from hell.

If you think you’re going to have a thoughtful discussion with someone who is toxic, be prepared for epic mindfuckery rather than conversational mindfulness.

Malignant narcissists and sociopaths use word salad, circular conversations, ad hominem arguments, projection and gaslighting to disorient you and get you off track should you ever disagree with them or challenge them in any way. They do this in order to discredit, confuse and frustrate you, distract you from the main problem and make you feel guilty for being a human being with actual thoughts and feelings that might differ from their own. In their eyes, you are the problem if you happen to exist.

Spend even ten minutes arguing with a toxic narcissist and you’ll find yourself wondering how the argument even began at all. You simply disagreed with them about their absurd claim that the sky is red and now your entire childhood, family, friends, career and lifestyle choices have come under attack. That is because your disagreement picked at their false belief that they are omnipotent and omniscient, resulting in a narcissistic injury.

Remember: toxic people don’t argue with you, they essentially argue with themselves and you become privy to their long, draining monologues. They thrive off the drama and they live for it. Each and every time you attempt to provide a point that counters their ridiculous assertions, you feed them supply. Don’t feed the narcissists supply – rather, supply yourself with the confirmation that their abusive behavior is the problem, not you. Cut the interaction short as soon as you anticipate it escalating and use your energy on some decadent self-care instead.

4. Blanket statements and generalizations.

Malignant narcissists aren’t always intellectual masterminds – many of them are intellectually lazy. Rather than taking the time to carefully consider a different perspective, they generalize anything and everything you say, making blanket statements that don’t acknowledge the nuances in your argument or take into account the multiple perspectives you’ve paid homage to. Better yet, why not put a label on you that dismisses your perspective altogether?

On a larger scale, generalizations and blanket statements invalidate experiences that don’t fit in the unsupported assumptions, schemas and stereotypes of society; they are also used to maintain the status quo. This form of digression exaggerates one perspective to the point where a social justice issue can become completely obscured. For example, rape accusations against well-liked figures are often met with the reminder that there are false reports of rape that occur. While those do occur, they are rare, and in this case, the actions of one become labeled the behavior of the majority while the specific report itself remains unaddressed.

These everyday microaggressions also happen in toxic relationships. If you bring up to a narcissistic abuser that their behavior is unacceptable for example, they will often make blanket generalizations about your hypersensitivity or make a generalization such as, “You are never satisfied,” or “You’re always too sensitive” rather than addressing the real issues at hand. It’s possible that you are oversensitive at times, but it is also possible that the abuser is also insensitive and cruel the majority of the time.

Hold onto your truth and resist generalizing statements by realizing that they are in fact forms of black and white illogical thinking. Toxic people wielding blanket statements do not represent the full richness of experience – they represent the limited one of their singular experience and overinflated sense of self.

5. Deliberately misrepresenting your thoughts and feelings to the point of absurdity.

In the hands of a malignant narcissist or sociopath, your differing opinions, legitimate emotions and lived experiences get translated into character flaws and evidence of your irrationality.

Narcissists weave tall tales to reframe what you’re actually saying as a way to make your opinions look absurd or heinous. Let’s say you bring up the fact that you’re unhappy with the way a toxic friend is speaking to you. In response, he or she may put words in your mouth, saying, “Oh, so now you’re perfect?” or “So I am a bad person, huh?” when you’ve done nothing but express your feelings. This enables them to invalidate your right to have thoughts and emotions about their inappropriate behavior and instills in you a sense of guilt when you attempt to establish boundaries.

This is also a popular form of diversion and cognitive distortion that is known as “mind reading.” Toxic people often presume they know what you’re thinking and feeling. They chronically jump to conclusions based on their own triggers rather than stepping back to evaluate the situation mindfully. They act accordingly based on their own delusions and fallacies and make no apologies for the harm they cause as a result. Notorious for putting words in your mouth, they depict you as having an intention or outlandish viewpoint you didn’t possess. They accuse you of thinking of them as toxic – even before you’ve gotten the chance to call them out on their behavior – and this also serves as a form of preemptive defense.

Simply stating, “I never said that,” and walking away should the person continue to accuse you of doing or saying something you didn’t can help to set a firm boundary in this type of interaction. So long as the toxic person can blameshift and digress from their own behavior, they have succeeded in convincing you that you should be “shamed” for giving them any sort of realistic feedback.

6. Nitpicking and moving the goal posts.

The difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism is the presence of a personal attack and impossible standards. These so-called “critics” often don’t want to help you improve, they just want to nitpick, pull you down and scapegoat you in any way they can. Abusive narcissists and sociopaths employ a logical fallacy known as “moving the goalposts” in order to ensure that they have every reason to be perpetually dissatisfied with you. This is when, even after you’ve provided all the evidence in the world to validate your argument or taken an action to meet their request, they set up another expectation of you or demand more proof.

Do you have a successful career? The narcissist will then start to pick on why you aren’t a multi-millionaire yet. Did you already fulfill their need to be excessively catered to? Now it’s time to prove that you can also remain “independent.” The goal posts will perpetually change and may not even be related to each other; they don’t have any other point besides making you vie for the narcissist’s approval and validation.

By raising the expectations higher and higher each time or switching them completely, highly manipulative and toxic people are able to instill in you a pervasive sense of unworthiness and of never feeling quite “enough.” By pointing out one irrelevant fact or one thing you did wrong and developing a hyperfocus on it, narcissists get to divert from your strengths and pull you into obsessing over any flaws or weaknesses instead. They get you thinking about the next expectation of theirs you’re going to have to meet – until eventually you’ve bent over backwards trying to fulfill their every need – only to realize it didn’t change the horrific way they treated you.

Don’t get sucked into nitpicking and changing goal posts – if someone chooses to rehash an irrelevant point over and over again to the point where they aren’t acknowledging the work you’ve done to validate your point or satisfy them, their motive isn’t to better understand. It’s to further provoke you into feeling as if you have to constantly prove yourself. Validate and approve of yourself. Know that you are enough and you don’t have to be made to feel constantly deficient or unworthy in some way.

7. Changing the subject to evade accountability.

This type of tactic is what I like to call the “What about me?” syndrome. It is a literal digression from the actual topic that works to redirect attention to a different issue altogether. Narcissists don’t want you to be on the topic of holding them accountable for anything, so they will reroute discussions to benefit them. Complaining about their neglectful parenting? They’ll point out a mistake you committed seven years ago. This type of diversion has no limits in terms of time or subject content, and often begins with a sentence like “What about the time when…”

On a macrolevel, these diversions work to derail discussions that challenge the status quo. A discussion about gay rights, for example, may be derailed quickly by someone who brings in another social justice issue just to distract people from the main argument.

As Tara Moss, author of Speaking Out: A 21st Century Handbook for Women and Girls, notes, specificity is needed in order to resolve and address issues appropriately – that doesn’t mean that the issues that are being brought up don’t matter, it just means that the specific time and place may not be the best context to discuss them.

Don’t be derailed – if someone pulls a switcheroo on you, you can exercise what I call the “broken record” method and continue stating the facts without giving in to their distractions. Redirect their redirection by saying, “That’s not what I am talking about. Let’s stay focused on the real issue.” If they’re not interested, disengage and spend your energy on something more constructive – like not having a debate with someone who has the mental age of a toddler.

8. Covert and overt threats.

Narcissistic abusers and otherwise toxic people feel very threatened when their excessive sense of entitlement, false sense of superiority and grandiose sense of self are challenged in any way. They are prone to making unreasonable demands on others – while punishing you for not living up to their impossible to reach expectations.

Rather than tackle disagreements or compromises maturely, they set out to divert you from your right to have your own identity and perspective by attempting to instill fear in you about the consequences of disagreeing or complying with their demands. To them, any challenge results in an ultimatum and “do this or I’ll do that” becomes their daily mantra.

If someone’s reaction to you setting boundaries or having a differing opinion from your own is to threaten you into submission, whether it’s a thinly veiled threat or an overt admission of what they plan to do, this is a red flag of someone who has a high degree of entitlement and has no plans of compromising. Take threats seriously and show the narcissist you mean business; document threats and report them whenever possible and legally feasible.

9. Name-calling.

Narcissists preemptively blow anything they perceive as a threat to their superiority out of proportion. In their world, only they can ever be right and anyone who dares to say otherwise creates a narcissistic injury that results in narcissistic rage. As Mark Goulston, M.D. asserts, narcissistic rage does not result from low self-esteem but rather a high sense of entitlement and false sense of superiority.

The lowest of the low resort to narcissistic rage in the form of name-calling when they can’t think of a better way to manipulate your opinion or micromanage your emotions. Name-calling is a quick and easy way to put you down, degrade you and insult your intelligence, appearance or behavior while invalidating your right to be a separate person with a right to his or her perspective.

Name-calling can also be used to criticize your beliefs, opinions and insights. A well-researched perspective or informed opinion suddenly becomes “silly” or “idiotic” in the hands of a malignant narcissist or sociopath who feels threatened by it and cannot make a respectful, convincing rebuttal. Rather than target your argument, they target you as a person and seek to undermine your credibility and intelligence in any way they possibly can. It’s important to end any interaction that consists of name-calling and communicate that you won’t tolerate it. Don’t internalize it: realize that they are resorting to name-calling because they are deficient in higher level methods.

10. Destructive conditioning.

Toxic people condition you to associate your strengths, talents, and happy memories with abuse, frustration and disrespect. They do this by sneaking in covert and overt put-downs about the qualities and traits they once idealized as well as sabotaging your goals, ruining celebrations, vacations and holidays. They may even isolate you from your friends and family and make you financially dependent upon them. Like Pavlov’s dogs, you’re essentially “trained” over time to become afraid of doing the very things that once made your life fulfilling.

Narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths and otherwise toxic people do this because they wish to divert attention back to themselves and how you’re going to please them. If there is anything outside of them that may threaten their control over your life, they seek to destroy it. They need to be the center of attention at all times. In the idealization phase, you were once the center of a narcissist’s world – now the narcissist becomes the center of yours.

Narcissists are also naturally pathologically envious and don’t want anything to come in between them and their influence over you. Your happiness represents everything they feel they cannot have in their emotionally shallow lives. After all, if you learn that you can get validation, respect and love from other sources besides the toxic person, what’s to keep you from leaving them? To toxic people, a little conditioning can go a long way to keep you walking on eggshells and falling just short of your big dreams.

11. Smear campaigns and stalking.

When toxic types can’t control the way you see yourself, they start to control how others see you; they play the martyr while you’re labeled the toxic one. A smear campaign is a preemptive strike to sabotage your reputation and slander your name so that you won’t have a support network to fall back on lest you decide to detach and cut ties with this toxic person. They may even stalk and harass you or the people you know as a way to supposedly “expose” the truth about you; this exposure acts as a way to hide their own abusive behavior while projecting it onto you.

Some smear campaigns can even work to pit two people or two groups against each other. A victim in an abusive relationship with a narcissist often doesn’t know what’s being said about them during the relationship, but they eventually find out the falsehoods shortly after they’ve been discarded.

Toxic people will gossip behind your back (and in front of your face), slander you to your loved ones or their loved ones, create stories that depict you as the aggressor while they play the victim, and claim that you engaged in the same behaviors that they are afraid you will accuse them of engaging in. They will also methodically, covertly and deliberately abuse you so they can use your reactions as a way to prove that they are the so-called “victims” of your abuse.

The best way to handle a smear campaign is to stay mindful of your reactions and stick to the facts. This is especially pertinent for high-conflict divorces with narcissists who may use your reactions to their provocations against you. Document any form of harassment, cyberbullying or stalking incidents and always speak to your narcissist through a lawyer whenever possible. You may wish to take legal action if you feel the stalking and harassment is getting out of control; finding a lawyer who is well-versed in Narcissistic Personality Disorder is crucial if that’s the case. Your character and integrity will speak for itself when the narcissist’s false mask begins to slip.

12. Love-bombing and devaluation.

Toxic people put you through an idealization phase until you’re sufficiently hooked and invested in beginning a friendship or relationship with you. Then, they begin to devalue you while insulting the very things they admired in the first place. Another variation of this is when a toxic individual puts you on a pedestal while aggressively devaluing and attacking someone else who threatens their sense of superiority.

Narcissistic abusers do this all the time – they devalue their exes to their new partners, and eventually the new partner starts to receive the same sort of mistreatment as the narcissist’s ex-partner. Ultimately what will happen is that you will also be on the receiving end of the same abuse. You will one day be the ex-partner they degrade to their new source of supply. You just don’t know it yet. That’s why it’s important to stay mindful of the love-bombing technique whenever you witness behavior that doesn’t align with the saccharine sweetness a narcissist subjects you to.

As life coach Wendy Powell suggests, slowing things down with people you suspect may be toxic is an important way of combating the love-bombing technique. Be wary of the fact that how a person treats or speaks about someone else could potentially translate into the way they will treat you in the future.

13. Preemptive defense.

When someone stresses the fact that they are a “nice guy” or girl, that you should “trust them” right away or emphasizes their credibility without any provocation from you whatsoever, be wary.

Toxic and abusive people overstate their ability to be kind and compassionate. They often tell you that you should “trust” them without first building a solid foundation of trust. They may “perform” a high level of sympathy and empathy at the beginning of your relationship to dupe you, only to unveil their false mask later on. When you see their false mask begins to slip periodically during the devaluation phase of the abuse cycle, the true self is revealed to be terrifyingly cold, callous and contemptuous.

Genuinely nice people rarely have to persistently show off their positive qualities – they exude their warmth more than they talk about it and they know that actions speak volumes more than mere words. They know that trust and respect is a two-way street that requires reciprocity, not repetition.

To counter a preemptive defense, reevaluate why a person may be emphasizing their good qualities. Is it because they think you don’t trust them, or because they know you shouldn’t? Trust actions more than empty words and see how someone’s actions communicate who they are, not who they say they are.

14. Triangulation.

Bringing in the opinion, perspective or suggested threat of another person into the dynamic of an interaction is known as “triangulation.” Often used to validate the toxic person’s abuse while invalidating the victim’s reactions to abuse, triangulation can also work to manufacture love triangles that leave you feeling unhinged and insecure.

Malignant narcissists love to triangulate their significant other with strangers, co-workers, ex-partners, friends and even family members in order to evoke jealousy and uncertainty in you. They also use the opinions of others to validate their point of view.

This is a diversionary tactic meant to pull your attention away from their abusive behavior and into a false image of them as a desirable, sought after person. It also leaves you questioning yourself – if Mary did agree with Tom, doesn’t that mean that you must be wrong? The truth is, narcissists love to “report back” falsehoods about others say about you, when in fact, they are the ones smearing you.

To resist triangulation tactics, realize that whoever the narcissist is triangulating with is also being triangulated by your relationship with the narcissist as well. Everyone is essentially being played by this one person. Reverse “triangulate” the narcissist by gaining support from a third party that is not under the narcissist’s influence – and also by seeking your own validation.

15. Bait and feign innocence.

Toxic individuals lure you into a false sense of security simply to have a platform to showcase their cruelty. Baiting you into a mindless, chaotic argument can escalate into a showdown rather quickly with someone who doesn’t know the meaning of respect. A simple disagreement may bait you into responding politely initially, until it becomes clear that the person has a malicious motive of tearing you down.

By “baiting” you with a seemingly innocuous comment disguised as a rational one, they can then begin to play with you. Remember: narcissistic abusers have learned about your insecurities, the unsettling catchphrases that interrupt your confidence, and the disturbing topics that reenact your wounds – and they use this knowledge maliciously to provoke you. After you’ve fallen for it, hook line and sinker, they’ll stand back and innocently ask whether you’re “okay” and talk about how they didn’t “mean” to agitate you. This faux innocence works to catch you off guard and make you believe that they truly didn’t intend to hurt you, until it happens so often you can’t deny the reality of their malice any longer.

It helps to realize when you’re being baited so you can avoid engaging altogether. Provocative statements, name-calling, hurtful accusations or unsupported generalizations, for example, are common baiting tactics. Your gut instinct can also tell you when you’re being baited – if you feel “off” about a certain comment and continue to feel this way even after it has been expanded on, that’s a sign you may need to take some space to reevaluate the situation before choosing to respond.

16. Boundary testing and hoovering.

Narcissists, sociopaths and otherwise toxic people continually try and test your boundaries to see which ones they can trespass. The more violations they’re able to commit without consequences, the more they’ll push the envelope.
That’s why survivors of emotional as well as physical abuse often experience even more severe incidents of abuse each and every time they go back to their abusers.

Abusers tend to “hoover” their victims back in with sweet promises, fake remorse and empty words of how they are going to change, only to abuse their victims even more horrifically. In the abuser’s sick mind, this boundary testing serves as a punishment for standing up to the abuse and also for being going back to it. When narcissists try to press the emotional reset button, reinforce your boundaries even more strongly rather than backtracking on them.

Remember – highly manipulative people don’t respond to empathy or compassion. They respond to consequences.

17. Aggressive jabs disguised as jokes.

Covert narcissists enjoy making malicious remarks at your expense. These are usually dressed up as “just jokes” so that they can get away with saying appalling things while still maintaining an innocent, cool demeanor. Yet any time you are outraged at an insensitive, harsh remark, you are accused of having no sense of humor. This is a tactic frequently used in verbal abuse.

The contemptuous smirk and sadistic gleam in their eyes gives it away, however – like a predator that plays with its food, a toxic person gains pleasure from hurting you and being able to get away with it. After all, it’s just a joke, right? Wrong. It’s a way to gaslight you into thinking their abuse is a joke – a way to divert from their cruelty and onto your perceived sensitivity. It is important that when this happens, you stand up for yourself and make it clear that you won’t tolerate this type of behavior.

Calling out manipulative people on their covert put-downs may result in further gaslighting from the abuser but maintain your stance that their behavior is not okay and end the interaction immediately if you have to.

18. Condescending sarcasm and patronizing tone.

Belittling and degrading a person is a toxic person’s forte and their tone of voice is only one tool in their toolbox. Sarcasm can be a fun mode of communication when both parties are engaged, but narcissists use it chronically as a way to manipulate you and degrade you. If you in any way react to it, you must be “too sensitive.”

Forget that the toxic person constantly has temper tantrums every time their big bad ego is faced with realistic feedback – the victim is the hypersensitive one, apparently. So long as you’re treated like a child and constantly challenged for expressing yourself, you’ll start to develop a sense of hypervigilance about voicing your thoughts and opinions without reprimand. This self-censorship enables the abuser to put in less work in silencing you, because you begin to silence yourself.

Whenever you are met with a condescending demeanor or tone, call it out firmly and assertively. You don’t deserve to be spoken down to like a child – nor should you ever silence yourself to meet the expectation of someone else’s superiority complex.

19. Shaming.

“You should be ashamed of yourself” is a favorite saying of toxic people. Though it can be used by someone who is non-toxic, in the realm of the narcissist or sociopath, shaming is an effective method that targets any behavior or belief that might challenge a toxic person’s power. It can also be used to destroy and whittle away at a victim’s self-esteem: if a victim dares to be proud of something, shaming the victim for that specific trait, quality or accomplishment can serve to diminish their sense of self and stifle any pride they may have.

Malignant narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths enjoy using your own wounds against you – so they will even shame you about any abuse or injustice you’ve suffered in your lifetime as a way to retraumatize you. Were you a childhood abuse survivor? A malignant narcissist or sociopath will claim that you must’ve done something to deserve it, or brag about their own happy childhood as a way to make you feel deficient and unworthy. What better way to injure you, after all, than to pick at the original wound? As surgeons of madness, they seek to exacerbate wounds, not help heal them.

If you suspect you’re dealing with a toxic person, avoid revealing any of your vulnerabilities or past traumas. Until they’ve proven their character to you, there is no point disclosing information that could be potentially used against you.

20. Control.

Most importantly, toxic abusers love to maintain control in whatever way they can. They isolate you, maintain control over your finances and social networks, and micromanage every facet of your life. Yet the most powerful mechanism they have for control is toying with your emotions.

That’s why abusive narcissists and sociopaths manufacture situations of conflict out of thin air to keep you feeling off center and off balanced. That’s why they chronically engage in disagreements about irrelevant things and rage over perceived slights. That’s why they emotionally withdraw, only to re-idealize you once they start to lose control. That’s why they vacillate between their false self and their true self, so you never get a sense of psychological safety or certainty about who your partner truly is.

The more power they have over your emotions, the less likely you’ll trust your own reality and the truth about the abuse you’re enduring. Knowing the manipulative tactics and how they work to erode your sense of self can arm you with the knowledge of what you’re facing and at the very least, develop a plan to regain control over your own life and away from toxic people.

Shahida Arabi is the author of the book POWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse

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Masterful Advice for the Energetically Sensitive

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You don’t need to hide from the world in order to find refuge from it. The solution to being energetically sensitive is learning to be even more sensitive, and if you simply embrace and welcome everything in your experience and learn to step toward things instead of pull back from them the whole polarity of this will shift in the opposite direction. Then all of a sudden you will be communing with the light of others instead of just being inundated with what others have yet to release out of their field. ~Spiritual Master Matt Kahn

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Grieving the Loss of Your Abusive NPD Relationship

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Grieving the Loss of Your Relationship

Excerpt from Randi Fine’s Upcoming Book, Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Guide to Healing

There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go. ~Author Unknown

It would seem that letting go of a relationship with someone who used, abused and objectified you, whether parent, friend, sibling, partner or spouse, would be a huge relief—a monumental weight off your shoulders. From a logical standpoint, freedom from years of control and oppression should feel good—and it may for a short period of time.

Whether your abuser leaves you or you leave your abuser, whether you choose measured contact or no contact at all, there will come a time when the relief you initially feel disappears and is replaced by a range of disturbing emotions.

Ending a relationship with someone with whom you were emotionally invested is always painful. But realizing that the relationship you thought you had never existed and that you meant nothing at all to the person you trusted and loved is completely devastating.

While coming to terms with what happened to you, you may experience periods of unexplainable loneliness, emotional wavering and deep depression that lasts days, weeks or months. You may experience bouts of sadness, denial and anger, in no particular order. This is all part of the grieving process.

Though your abuser may still be alive, the idealized relationship you hoped for is not. Your belief that the person will change is gone and a huge void remains that hope used to fill.

The grieving process is painful, but it is an integral part of your healing. It is important that you let yourself experience all the feelings that come up—cry when you need to cry, allow whatever anger you feel to rise to the surface. Anger is a necessary part of the healing process. It is the vessel through which your wounded self regains its voice.

Be gentle and accepting of your thoughts, feelings and emotions even if they seem illogical. Take care of your physical needs—eat healthily, drink lots of water, exercise, rest when you are tired, get plenty of sleep. Surround yourself with love and support.

It may seem as if the suffering will never end, but it will. Do not set a time limit for your grief. It is different for each of us.

There are five stages to the grieving process as outlined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in her 1969 groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying. Since Kübler-Ross’s grieving stages apply to death and dying, not abuse recovery, I have modified the explanations. The stages are still perfectly relevant.

You may experience the first four of the grieving stages in any order and may go through each of them more than once. Acceptance always comes last.

  1. Denial:
    • You find excuses and reasons to hold on to the relationship.
    • You want to believe, against all logic or rationale that things can change.
    • You do not want to believe that the relationship is actually over.
    • You refuse to accept the reality of what happened to you.
    • The bad things that happened don’t seem so bad and the good things seem much better than they actually were.
    • You isolate yourself from others.
  2. Anger:
    • You are angry at yourself for putting up with the abuse.
    • You are angry at your abuser for ruining your life.
    • You are angry at other people for letting you down.
    • You are angry at God or the Universe for punishing you.
    • You hate your abuser for everything he has done to you and fantasize about ways to get back at him.
    • You hate yourself for being so angry and blame your abuser for making you feel that way.
  3. Bargaining:
    • You feel desperate about losing the relationship.
    • You suffer from anxiety over the loss.
    • You are willing to change your ways or give your abuser another chance to change his.
    • You are willing to forgive and forget what happened and start with a clean slate.
    • You are willing renegotiate the boundaries you set.
    • You ask him to agree to counseling or offer to go yourself.
  4. Depression:
    • You are overcome by feelings of profound sadness.
    • You feel hopeless and helpless.
    • You are unable to snap out of it.
    • You cry often and are inconsolable.
    • You are unmotivated and lethargic
    • You have disturbed eating patterns.
    • You have disturbed sleeping patterns.
    • You self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
    • You withdraw into yourself.
  5. Acceptance: Always the final stage
    • You come to terms with the loss.
    • You feel peaceful.
    • You are able to let the relationship go.
    • You accept the limitations of your abuser.
    • You accept the choices you made.
    • You let your resentments go.
    • You are ready to move on.

    The Yugoslav writer Meša Selimović summed up grieving the loss of a relationship beautifully in this quote:

    “Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love, but in reality love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again. Love is the only thing in this world that does not hurt.

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Let Rage Go and Choose Love

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A Wake-up Call for Humanity

Written by Randi G. Fine

Before the United States election took prominence in the mass consciousness, our greatest concern was all the hate, fear, anger, negativity and darkness expanding in the world. So many of us wondered where all the negativity was coming from and why so many were jumping on the bandwagon to become part of it.

Now that the United States election has occurred, many of the people who were tirelessly working to spread love and light in this world in an effort to extinguish all the hate and darkness, have succumbed to the same dark thinking and have jumped on the same bandwagon.

Where did the worldwide love movement go? Have people forgotten that hatred and fear only produce more hatred and fear? Darkness cannot be extinguished by darkness. Darkness is fed by darkness. The only thing that can possibly extinguish hatred, anger, negativity and fear is love and light.

Emissions of both love and hate ripple eternally in the Universe. Darkness is a crafty, scheming force that when permitted can easily take us over. It only serves to make the human condition weaker and more vulnerable. Rage, a blinding emotion, breeds more rage.

Love is a much more powerful force than hate, but it takes a conscious effort on our part to focus our energies in that direction.

Why do so many believe that one human being is more powerful than the mass consciousness. That is impossible. The only thing that can possibly make one human being supremely powerful, more powerful than the collective consciousness, is to feed that person masses amount of fear, anger, and hatred. That is how to give power to that which we despise.

Resistance never works because it is restrictive. It creates far more problems than it solves. Love is expansive. It only creates solutions–never problems. Hate divides, love unifies.

I ask the raging masses to please snap out of the mindset that has overtaken them. If you wish to make a difference in the world, please let your rage go. Choose love and light instead.

 

 

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Valentines Day 2017

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Adult Children of Narcissistic Abuse

npd abuse10 Adult Children of Narcissistic Abuse

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO VERSION

A Preview From Randi G. Fine’s Upcoming Book

Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: Surviving Pathological Narcissistic Abuse

This is copyrighted material. It may not be reprinted, or used in whole or part by anyone other than the author.

As an Adult Child of Narcissistic Abuse you can learn about your past, you can validate your past, you can heal from your past, you can make peace with your past, but you will never make sense of your past.

Being unable to make sense of your past is very hard for the rational mind to accept. How many times have you looked back at your childhood, trying to figure out why your parent treated you the way he did? You want to know why—what was it about you that never measured up to your parent’s expectations and why were you so impossible to love?
These are painful and illogical truths you have spent years trying make sense of, only to have gotten more confused. The rationale you keep coming back to is that you were somehow to blame.

Logic tells you that you must have played a role in the way you were treated. After all, you were not the perfect child. But logic is wrong. You had nothing to do with it. You were only a child. No child is perfect, all children make mistakes, all children act out; these are expected behaviors that come with job of parenting. Good parents love their children no matter what they do..

It has been hard for you to pinpoint exactly why you feel the way you do, why you think the way you do, or why life seems so easy for others and has always felt so difficult for you.
You are not alone in this conundrum.

Adult Children of Narcissists (ACON’s) all struggle with similar issues:

  1. They are always searching for the self. Deprived of autonomy by parents who dictated how they should act and feel, they never became their own person. They do not know who they are as individuals or what is best for them, therefore allow others to define them.
  2. They believed they are flawed, not good enough, not smart enough, not good looking enough and socially unacceptable. They are never sure how others will perceive them or if they fit in. Since they place a great deal of emphasis on what others think about them, they often get taken advantage of. These insecurities make them vulnerable to victimization by other narcissists or those with similar agendas.
  3. No matter how old they are they never feel like “grownups.” Since their parents sabotaged their stages of emotional development, they did not mature in ways other children did. As adults they continue to be treated like children by parents who still take ownership of them.
  4. They experience bouts of extraneous anger, anxiety, depression, or other emotions. Being overcome by thoughts or emotions unrelated to their current reality is a constant reminder of how broken they still are.
  5. They have issues with self-love and self-esteem. Feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy are difficult to overcome after years of being told that they were not good enough.
  6. They are prone to self-blame, shame and feelings of humiliation.
  7. They tend to be over-responsible, often taking on more than their share.
  8. They often wonder if something is wrong with them or if they might be going crazy. It seems no one is able to understand their feelings or relate to their experiences. People get impatient when they talk about their childhood. They are told to “grow up already,” or “just get over it.”
  9. They are conflicted about not liking or wanting to be around their parents—often feeling protective over them. It is socially unacceptable to not love their parents, yet hard to love ones who have treated them so badly. Terrible guilt feelings arise out of this emotional tug-of-war.

It is important to understand that your narcissistic parents suffer from a mental disorder for which they will never seek help. Whatever love seemed real or hopeful was an illusion. That love never existed and never will. You will never have a healthy or satisfying relationship with your parent; he will never change. For the sake of your own sanity you must try to come to terms with that fact.

Accepting that reality means grieving the loss of a parent you never had. The process can be equal to grieving an actual death and therefore very painful. Allow yourself as much time as it takes—days, weeks, months. Do not set expectations for the process. It is different for each of us.

There will be times when you may feel hopeless—when it becomes hard to imagine ever feeling free of the burden of your childhood. Your past is not something you will ever outgrow nor will you “just get over it.” But with the awareness gained through this book, the determination to create a better life for yourself, a good support team, and patience with the process, you will heal the festering wound. A scar will always remain, not to remind you of your suffering but of your hard-earned triumph.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough how invaluable counseling or therapy is in the process of healing from this type of abuse. If you want to put your past behind you once and for all I urge you to get help. Without professional help you will make some strides, but it is likely that you will fall back into your parent’s same manipulative traps over and over.

If you have children of your own, you must see this process through to completion. If you do not, I guarantee that your kids will somehow suffer for it. This is something I see over and over in my counseling practice, so do not fool yourself into believing this is not so. You may not think your pain negatively impacts your children, or may believe that their other parent compensates for what you lack, but you are wrong.

The damage is not likely to be apparent when they are young, but your children are certain to experience difficulty in their adult life when it is too late for you to do anything about it. If you do not want to heal for yourself, then at least heal for your children.

As an Adult Child of narcissistic abuse you have a great deal to overcome. The pain you feel is real. You were severely abused and as a child you could do nothing about it. But the picture is entirely different now. You are an adult. It is time to reclaim your life as your own. Your parent is not the omnipotent figure he always appeared to be nor does he hold any power over you. As a full-grown adult you do not have to answer to anyone but yourself. Your parents can only hurt you if you allow them to.

If you have siblings who have yet to recognize the nature of their childhood abuse and who may be receptive, hand them this book. Reach out to them. Give them the opportunity to understand what they have endured. This is in your best interest.

This may be an opportunity to bond with each other and create trust among you—to join together for support and become allies against your abuser(s). A formidable opponent such as your narcissistic parent will stand no chance against a united sibling infantry.

You have suffered long enough. It is time to embrace self-love, to nurture your inner child and to take good care of yourself.

You have the right to progress, grow, and thrive in your life. You have the right to love and honor yourself. You have the right to psychological freedom and inner peace.

You are worthy, you are lovable, and you matter.

Randi Fine is available for counseling by telephone for your narcissistic abuse issues.
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Breaking Up With a Narcissist

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Breaking Up With a Narcissist

Ending a relationship with someone with whom you were emotionally invested is always painful. But realizing that the relationship you thought you had never existed and that you meant nothing at all to the person you trusted and loved is completely devastating.

~Randi G. Fine, Close Encounters of the Worst Kind

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How Narcissistic Abuse Causes Complex PTSD

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Complex PTSD in Abuse Victims

Great show with stress expert Dr. Mary Wingo about how Complex PTSD forms in abuse victims and what it takes to heal from it. I learned a lot and you will too!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/randi-fine/2017/01/03/relationship-between-domestic-abuse-and-stress-response-with-dr-mary-wingo

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