Effects of Emotional Abuse on Adults, by Natasha Tracy.
The effects of physical abuse are obvious – a black eye, a cut or a bruise – but the effects of emotional abuse may be harder to spot.
Emotionally abusive husbands or wives can affect mood, sex drive, work, school and other areas of life. Make no mistake about it; the effects of emotional abuse can be just as severe as those from physical abuse. And perhaps even worse is the fact that victims of emotional abuse tend to blame themselves and minimize their abuse, saying that it was "only" emotional and "at least he/she didn't hit me." But minimizing adult emotional abuse won't help and it won't hide its devastating effects.
Short-term effects of an emotionally abusive husband or wife often have to do with the surprise of being in the situation or the questioning of just how the situation arose. Some emotional abusers don't begin their abuse until well into a relationship. Husbands or wives may find themselves shocked to see the new, emotionally abusive behavior. The behavior and thoughts of the victim then change in response to the emotional abuse.
Short-term effects of emotional abuse include:
- Surprise and confusion
- Questioning of one's own memory, "did that really happen?"
- Anxiety or fear; hypervigilence
- Shame or guilt
- Aggression (as a defense to the abuse)
- Becoming overly passive or compliant
- Frequent crying
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Feeling powerless and defeated as nothing you do ever seems to be right (learned helplessness)
- Feeling like you're "walking on eggshells"
- Feeling manipulated, used and controlled
- Feeling undesirable
A partner may also find themselves trying to do anything possible to bring the relationship back to the way it was before the abuse.
In long-term emotionally abusive situations, the victim has such low self-esteem that they often feel they cannot leave their abuser and that they are not worthy of a non-abusive relationship. Adult emotional abuse leads to the victim believing the terrible things that the abuser says about him/her. Emotional abuse victims often think they're "going crazy."
Effects of long-term emotional abuse by significant others, boyfriends or girlfriends include:
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- Emotional instability
- Sleep disturbances
- Physical pain without cause
- Suicidal ideation, thoughts or attempts
- Extreme dependence on the abuser
- Inability to trust
- Feeling trapped and alone
- Substance abuse
Stockholm Syndrome is also common in long-term abuse situations. In Stockholm Syndrome, the victim is so terrified of the abuser that the victim overly identifies and becomes bonded with the abuser in an attempt to stop the abuse. The victim will even defend their abuser and their emotionally abusive actions.
Tracy, N. (2017). [article]. Retrieved 12.1.2017 from: http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/emotional-psychological-abuse/effects-of-emotional-abuse-on-adults/
Early Warning Signs
Domestic Abuse - Early Warning Signs, by Lee-Anne Van Den Broek.
People that abuse others are masters of manipulation, and generally do not want their abusive behaviours displayed for all to see. The mask worn by these people ‘sucks you in', they feel so right in the beginning!
Behind that mask lies ugliness that has no boundaries, and does not care about yours. Relationships don’t become abusive, they always have been abusive, but the tactics used are less severe in the beginning of the relationship. So, what are the early signs that a person may be setting you up for abuse? Strong signs of an abusive (controlling) disposition might be apparent even when the person is ‘being nice.’
Controlling disposition in early days might include:
- Flattering (but a little overboard).
- Planning fun outings or getaways where you feel a sense of obligation to look forward to, or enjoy their plans.
- You may be kept busy so that your usual activities can’t be pursued.
- He may assume levels of intimacy that you don’t feel.
- Gifts and other nice things are given but there is a strong pressure to accept and like his gifts.
- Needing constant contact (calls, texts, insisting on accompanying you to all appointments and interviews, visiting your place of employment etc.).
- Jealousy without reason (this is not love, this is angry attachment for all women expressing itself).
- Pressure for early commitment (desire to marry, move in together, buy property together, or have a child). The abuser may assume or insist commitment exists even when it does not. This is evidence of a desire for complete and total control.
- Blaming everything external for his feelings, life situation, disturbing actions toward other people, particularly previous partners as this is closely linked to abusive behaviours.
- Too good to be true and claims of grandiose can be a warning.
- Name calling (especially in fields of your interest).
- He shows a strong and manipulative interest in managing impressions on other people-if he is doing this to them, he is doing it to you.
- Isolating can be a gradual process, but can also show up at lightning speed when someone expresses doubts or a critical view of him.
- Suggestions of people being a bad influence on you.
- Frequent talks and argument about trust and betrayal. This indicates the abuser believes others are not doing what he wants them to, and this is a crime. This is the beginning of justification of abuse.
- Ingratiating manner when he wants something. Friendliness is common when requesting something, but ingratiating is not sincere and overdone by friendliness. This is a will to get what he wants at all costs.
- Claiming previous partners cheated on him. While this might be true, it is likely to be his imagination rising from pathological jealousy.
- Secretiveness. Next to brute forces, the second most effective building block of power is to know what someone else doesn’t. Secretiveness in relationships, is an attempt to create the feeling, or reality of power by compartmentalisation, a mild state of disassociation.
- Showing up unannounced or uninvited. This is to keep you off balance. It is also a sign of pathological jealousy and an act of stalking.
- He has few or no male friends.
- He has difficulty cooperating with others.
- Mood swings (Jekyll and Hyde behaviours).
- He has to be right.
This is an effort by the abuser to make what he wants into something more, he feels it is something others must give him. While some of these behaviours may be difficult to detect, if you do observe any potential warning signs, please take heed.
The abuse within unhealthy relationships increases over time. Being in an abusive relationship will eventually suck you dry, in every aspect. It will damage you until you are questioning your own sanity, yet you were never to blame for any of it, your abuser was.
Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. Domestic Abuse – Early Warning Signs. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
Samsel, M. (2013). [article]. WARNING SIGNS: Abuse and Relationships. Retrieved 16.2.2017 from:https://www.abuseandrelationships.org/index.html
Grooming, by Lee-Anne Van Den Broek.
One might question why individuals stay in abusive relationships when they had a life before their partner, free from abuse. Many wonder why anyone would continue to allow someone to treat them badly. People who abuse others know exactly what they are doing and groom potential victims from the dating phase to the early relationship stage. Tactics used by perpetrators of abuse are generally subtle in early days, and are designed to slowly desensitise natural reactions to abusive behaviours.
Grooming works by mixing elements of abuse with positive behaviours. Early in the relationship all behaviours may indeed be positive, but slowly abusive behaviours are added, which often sends the one living with abuse into a confused state. However, the one inflicting abuse will not allow their behaviours to set off alarm bells, and over time the abuse begins to feel normal.
The one inflicted with abuse never truly understands their abusers actual goal, and as a result often dismisses internal alarm bells. As the desensitisation continues, shame and secrecy trap the abused partner, and often instils the belief that it is too late for them to walk away from the relationship. Desensitisation goes together with the illusion of something special in the relationship, this illusion is created by a mix of false affection and positive behaviours.
As time goes on, the one inflicted with abuse may believe that there was some sort of agreement, or understanding in the relationship, until they see it was their abuser that was solely responsible, and they had indeed been living with abuse. By the time the person sees this reality, not only have they been groomed (or set up) for abuse, over time many more abusive behaviours have been inflicted on them, changing their lives, changing them.
Most people living in abusive relationships will be subject to stonewalling, discouragement, gaslighting, social abuse, financial abuse, coercive control, stalking, rage, pathological jealousy, and isolation. Many also endure sexual abuse, and many watch as their children are abused too. All resources are stripped from the abused person, and they cannot meet their needs expect through their primary abuser, who has manipulated the relationship so their partner is totally dependent on them. Many want so desperately to leave, but with little or no resources, particularly financial, these women are faced with a very difficult and intense situation. These tactics wear even the strongest of people down, they feel drained, often helpless and alone. Every day is spent walking on eggshells not knowing when peace will turn to hell.
Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
Gaslighting, by Natasha Tracy.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where the abuser manipulates situations repeatedly to trick the victim into distrusting his or her own memory and perceptions. Gaslighting is an insidious form of abuse. It makes victims question the very instincts that they have counted on their whole lives, making them unsure of anything.
Gaslighting makes it very likely that victims will believe whatever their abusers tell them regardless as to their own experience of the situation. Gaslighting often precedes other types of emotional and physical abuse because the victim of gaslighting is more likely to remain in other abusive situations as well.
The term "gaslighting" comes from the 1938 British play "Gas Light" wherein a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy using a variety of tricks causing her to question her own perceptions and sanity. Gas Light was made into a movie both in 1940 and 1944.
There are numerous gaslighting techniques which can make gaslighting more difficult to identify. Gaslighting techniques are used to hide truths that the abuser doesn't want the victim to realize. Gaslighting abuse can be perpetrated by either women or men. "Withholding" is one gaslighting technique where the abuser feigns a lack of understanding, refuses to listen and declines sharing his emotions.
Gaslighting examples of this would be:
• "I'm not listening to that crap again tonight."
• "You're just trying to confuse me."
Another gaslighting technique is "countering," where an abuser will vehemently call into question a victim's memory in spite of the victim having remembered things correctly.
• "Think about when you didn't remember things correctly last time."
• "You thought that last time and you were wrong."
These techniques throw the victim off the intended subject matter and make them question their own motivations and perceptions rather than the issue at hand. It is then that the abuser will start to question the experiences, thoughts and opinions more globally through statements said in anger like:
• "You see everything in the most negative way."
• "Well you obviously never believed in me then."
• "You have an overactive imagination."
"Blocking" and "diverting" are gaslighting techniques whereby the abuser again changes the conversation from the subject matter to questioning the victim's thoughts and controlling the conversation.
Gaslighting examples of this include:
• "I'm not going through that again."
• "Where did you get a crazy idea like that?"
• "Quit bitching."
• "You're hurting me on purpose."
"Trivializing" is another way of gaslighting. It involves making the victim believe his or her thoughts or needs aren't important, such as:
• "You're going to let something like that come between us?"
Abusive "forgetting" and "denial" can also be forms of gaslighting. In this technique, the abuser pretends to forget things that have really occurred; the abuser may also deny things like promises that have been made that are important to the victim.
An abuser might say,
• "What are you talking about?"
• "I don't have to take this."
• "You're making that up."
Some gaslighters will then mock the victim for their "wrongdoings" and "misperceptions."
The gaslighting techniques are used in conjunction to try to make the victim doubt their own thoughts, memories and actions. Soon the victim is scared to bring up any topic at all for fear they are "wrong" about it or don't remember the situation correctly. The worst gaslighters will even create situations that allow for the usage of gaslighting techniques. An example of this is taking the victim's keys from the place where they are always left, making the victim think she has misplaced them. Then "helping" the victim with her "bad memory" find the keys.
Are You a Victim of Gaslighting Emotional Abuse?
According to author and psychoanalyst Robin Stern, Ph.D., the signs of being a victim of gaslighting emotional abuse include:
1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
2. You ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
3. You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
4. You're always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend,, boss.
5. You can't understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren't happier.
6. You frequently make excuses for your partner's behaviour to friends and family.
7. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.
8. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
9. You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
10. You have trouble making simple decisions.
11. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person - more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
12. You feel hopeless and joyless.
13. You feel as though you can't do anything right.
14. You wonder if you are a "good enough" girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
Tracy, N. (2017). [article]. Retrieved 13.1.2017 from: http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/emotional-psychological-abuse/emotional-abuse-definitions-signs-symptoms-examples/
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
How is NPD linked to domestic abuse?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, by Thowfeek, T., and Aames, M (2007-2015).
People that live with narcissistic personality disorder display many of the following traits, all of which contribute to dysfunctional relationships.
Abusive Cycle - This is the name for the ongoing rotation between destructive and constructive behaviour which is typical of many dysfunctional relationships and families.
Alienation - The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual's relationships with others.
"Always" and "Never" Statements - "Always" and "Never" Statements are declarations containing the words "always" or "never". They are commonly used but rarely true.
Anger - People who suffer from personality disorders often feel a sense of unresolved anger and a heightened or exaggerated perception that they have been wronged, invalidated, neglected or abused.
Baiting - A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.
Belittling, Condescending and Patronizing - This kind of speech is a passive-aggressive approach to giving someone a verbal put-down while maintaining a facade of reasonableness or friendliness.
Blaming - The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.
Bullying - Any systematic action of hurting a person from a position of relative physical, social, economic or emotional strength.
Cheating - Sharing a romantic or intimate relationship with somebody when you are already committed to a monogamous relationship with someone else.
Chronic Broken Promises - Repeatedly making and then breaking commitments and promises is a common trait among people who suffer from personality disorders.
Denial - Believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.
Dissociation- A psychological term used to describe a mental departure from reality.
Domestic Theft - Consuming or taking control of a resource or asset belonging to (or shared with) a family member, partner or spouse without first obtaining their approval.
Emotional Abuse - Any pattern of behaviour directed at one individual by another which promotes in them a destructive sense of Fear, Obligation or Guilt (FOG).
Emotional Blackmail - A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviours.
False Accusations - Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.
Favouritism and Scapegoating - Systematically giving a dysfunctional amount of preferential positive or negative treatment to one individual among a family group of peers.
Frivolous Litigation - The use of unmerited legal proceedings to hurt, harass or gain an economic advantage over an individual or organization.
Gaslighting - The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.
Grooming - Grooming is the predatory act of manoeuvring another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behaviour.
Harassment - Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behaviour by one individual towards another.
Hoovers & Hoovering - A Hoover is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship, gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behaviour.
Imposed Isolation - When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.
Impulsiveness - The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.
Intimidation - Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.
Invalidation - The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.
Lack of Conscience - Individuals who suffer from Personality Disorders are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others. This is sometimes interpreted by others as a lack of moral conscience.
Low Self-Esteem - A common name for a negatively-distorted self-view which is inconsistent with
Manipulation - The practice of steering an individual into a desired behaviour for the purpose of achieving a hidden personal goal.
Masking - Covering up one's own natural outward appearance, mannerisms and speech in dramatic and inconsistent ways depending on the situation.
Narcissism - A set of behaviours characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centred focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration for others.
Neglect - A passive form of abuse in which the physical or emotional needs of a dependent are disregarded or ignored by the person responsible for them.
Normalising - Normalizing is a tactic used to desensitize an individual to abusive, coercive or inappropriate behaviours. In essence, normalising is the manipulation of another human being to get them to agree to, or accept something that is in conflict with the law, social norms or their own basic code of behaviour.
"Not My Fault" Syndrome - The practice of avoiding personal responsibility for one's own words and actions.
No-Win Scenarios - When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options
Objectification - The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.
Parental Alienation Syndrome - When a separated parent convinces their child that the other parent is bad, evil or worthless.
Pathological Lying - Persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.
Proxy Recruitment - A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”
Ranking and Comparing - Drawing unnecessary and inappropriate comparisons between individuals or groups.
Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression - Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute. Rages threaten the security or safety of another individual and violate their personal boundaries.
Relationship Hyper Vigilance - Maintaining an unhealthy level of interest in the behaviours, comments, thoughts and interests of others.
Sabotage - The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.
Scapegoating - Singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.
Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia - The use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief or desired outcome.
Self-Aggrandizement - A pattern of pompous behaviour, boasting, narcissism or competitiveness designed to create an appearance of superiority.
Sense of Entitlement - An unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favourable living conditions and favourable treatment at the hands of others.
Sexual Objectification - Viewing another individual in terms of their sexual usefulness or attractiveness rather than pursuing or engaging in a quality interpersonal relationship with them.
Shaming - The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.
Stalking - Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.
Targeted Humour, Mocking and Sarcasm - Any sustained pattern of joking, sarcasm or mockery which is designed to reduce another individual’s reputation in their own eyes or in the eyes of others.
Testing - Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.
Thought Policing - Any process of trying to question, control, or unduly influence another person's thoughts or feelings.
Threats - Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.
Triangulation - Gaining an advantage over perceived rivals by manipulating them into conflicts with each other.
Thowfeek, T., Aames, M. (2007-2015). [article]. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Retrieved 23.1.2017 from: http://outofthefog.website/personality-disorders-1/2015/12/6/narcissistic-personality-disorder-npd
Living with someone with NPD
Living with, or being involved with a narcissist can be mentally and emotionally exhausting, by Thowfeed et al (2007-2015).
It can feel like you have to perform "mental gymnastics" from dealing with the lying (even when confronted with undeniable proof ), the gaslighting, the triangulation, the projection, the constant contradictions, the manipulation, blame-shifting, the charm they lay on, the inflated sense of self.
Even subtle forms of torture, such as sleep deprivation, these people inflict on their victims; appears to be conscious and calculated to push the target of their "affections" past their limits, into surrender - and ultimately into total compliance - as a source of Narcissistic Supply.
Children, spouses, friends, lovers - those closest to the Narcissist - are not considered individuals in their own right by the Narcissist - but rather extensions or, in the worst cases, the property of the Narcissist.
Even after finding out that you are dealing with a mental disorder, if you don't protect or remove yourself from the situation, you may find yourself entering into a state of mind where you instinctively try to fix or fight the narcissist's illogical attitudes and behaviours.
You may find yourself becoming hyper-vigilant, trying to second guess them, trip them up, lay down ultimatums, call them on their lies, or constantly trying to stay one-step ahead of their ever-changing rule-book. You may even find yourself trying to mirror their behaviours to some extent in order to manipulate them, as they have manipulated you. This can be both futile and attractive to the narcissist, as they often relish the challenge.
If you ever do manage to get "one-up" on a narcissist, it is likely to be a hollow "victory" at best. They may rage, play the victim, or disappear. None of these outcomes gives the victim any true satisfaction. More than any other disorder on the PD spectrum, narcissists are like psychological vampires, attaching themselves to you in a way that drains you of your resources (emotional, mental and financial) and leaves you questioning your own worth and sanity.
Often, narcissists are able to imitate or approximate caring about others when it is convenient for them to do so. However, they typically do not perceive that anything outside of their own sphere of wants and needs matters.
It simply doesn't occur to them to consider the needs of anyone else, or the long-term consequences of their own behaviours. Narcissists can be highly intelligent, witty, talented, likable, and fun to be around. They can also elicit sympathy like nobody's business.
Narcissists are opportunistic. They can make a show of being "generous" but their generosity usually has strings attached. They tend to isolate their victims, sucking up their time and energy, many times robbing their own families, spouses and partners of an external support system. Narcissists are excellent liars and many prefer to lie even when telling the truth would be more beneficial to them; which suggests that lying is a hallmark of this pathology.
They are often highly competitive and argumentative. They lash out when presented with opinions that contradict their own or when confronted with their own lies or bad behaviours.
They can be calculating and extremely persuasive and susceptible to erratic thinking and impulsive decision making. Narcissists can be self-destructive as often as they are destructive to others. They have a great deal of trouble accepting responsibility for their own actions, under any circumstance. Narcissists are addictive personalities and narcissism is commonly co-morbid with addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, spending and gambling. It has been suggested that Narcissists have a higher rate of ADHD than the general population.
Narcissists are rarely alone. They like to feed on the energy of others, and to have an audience to reflect back to them the person they want to see themselves as.
Narcissists are good at pretending, but typically do not feel compassion or empathy or consider the feelings or well-being of others. They tend to be singularly focused on getting their own needs met, at the expense of the needs of others. While narcissists generally portray a lack of conscience, they typically have an intellectual awareness of what they are doing and how they hurt others. They simply do not care. Being kind to a Narcissist in the face of their maltreatment is a common approach of family members and partners. However, this can result in further frustration as it is rarely reciprocated and tends to feed their sense of entitlement, opening the door for more abuse.
Here are some other feelings that you may experience when dealing with a narcissist in the home or at work:
You may feel like this person readily puts you down just to elevate themselves.
You may find yourself avoiding them because trying to communicate with them leaves you feeling confused, put-down, reduced to a lesser status and emptied of all that you know you really are.
You may feel overwhelmed, "out-gunned", tongue-tied or overpowered in the presence of this person.
You may feel blown away by their powerful personality, self-assuredness, self-belief and self-confidence.
Your own legitimate needs may be taking a back seat to their own frivolous, self-serving ambitions.
When receiving a compliment or apology, you may be left feeling patronized, demeaned, brought down to size and even humiliated.
You may attempt to compromise with them only to realize later that you are the only one who gave any substantial ground.
You may feel like your hard work and contributions are only being used, abused and and distorted to meet the selfish ambitions of another.
Living with a person who has NPD can have a devastating effect on the self-esteem, confidence and quality of life for family members, friends and partners. People who live with an individual with NPD sometimes feel as though the Narcissist is refusing to "grow up" or will revert back to childish ways whenever it suits them to do so. The Non-Narcissist often feels used, cheated and taken advantage of by the NPD in their life.
Thowfeek, T., Aames, M. (2007-2015). [article]. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Retrieved 23.1.2017 from: http://outofthefog.website/personality-disorders-1/2015/12/6/narcissistic-personality-disorder-npd
Narcissistic personality disorder will suck the life right out of us - IF we let it, by Natasha Tracy.
The Narcissist is intentionally distorting and debilitating your reality through extreme manipulation so that you will become isolated and dependent on them as the center of your universe. It is a tangled mess for the victim/target to discern reality from all of these mechanisms that are in place for the Narcissist to succeed at doing what they are doing – or using abusive conditioning TO GET SUPPLY!
One of the main operating tactics used by narcissists is to obliterate our boundaries and begin to control everything they can about us for the purpose of extracting “supply”. It comes natural to the narcissist, possessive and having non-existent boundaries, not to recognize the separation that exists between themselves and others. To a narcissist we are simply an extension of themselves. Many of us were raised to believe that we didn’t have the right to create or assert our boundaries to the narcissistic leaders in our family or at school or work. We weren’t to have opinions of our own, but rather look to the narcissist to formulate opinions for us.
When we establish our right to stand up for ourselves in the beginning, the natural attraction between an alpha narcissist and beta target would not be able to take hold and flourish. A narcissist will sense that we won’t be an “easy mark” and will move on to someone more easily controlled.
Boundaries are limits that we set about behaviors and treatment that we are or are not comfortable with. Boundaries are the dividing lines between our responsibilities and those of others. Boundaries surround our identity; the parts of ourselves that involve our physical body, emotions, spirituality, thoughts and behavior. Boundaries keep us sane.
- Having different opinions, recognizing that our feelings and thoughts are unique and are acceptable even if someone else doesn’t understand or agree.
- Making choices that pertain to our lives, who we think we are vs. who someone else thinks we are.
As you can see, there are so many boundary variables that this can quickly become an area of confusion. Narcissists, are experts at plowing over boundaries without concern for consequences. They are hard wired and hard driving to disregard every limit you set for yourself even when it is entirely reasonable and within your rights to do so. However difficult, it is IMPERATIVE that we protect our precious worth by developing limits about how we allow someone to treat us. The practice of genuinely loving ourselves and recognizing our worth is the basis for developing strong boundaries.
When you love yourself, you desire to take good care of and protect yourself from harm. Once your self love is flourishing, a desire to assert what you like or don’t like comes a little more naturally. Speaking up for ourselves, sharing our voice, telling our stories, exclaiming our truths, our hurts, fears, inadequacies, owning our stories, saying “No” more often; all of these healthy habits are the seedlings of our boundary system. With the absence of someone telling us who we are, we become experts on ourselves.
The bottom line is we want more of what makes us feel good and less of what makes us feel bad. Boundaries help us do that. We keep the good close and expel the bad, away from us by saying yes or no or “asserting our boundaries."
Tracy, N. (2017). [article]. Narcissistic personality disorder will suck the life right out of us…IF we let it. Retrieved 14.1.2017 from: http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/emotional-psychological-abuse/effects-of-emotional-abuse-on-adults/
Emotional Detachment:Surviving Ongoing Abusive Relationships, by Dr Tara J. Palmatier.
Emotionally detaching from an abusive relationship can be extremely difficult. Many men and women believe they still love their abusive husbands, wives and exes. Therefore, developing indifference and detaching from their abusers, even when they’re a consistent source of pain, seems antithetical. Nevertheless, learning to detach is vital if you ever hope to regain your health, happiness, sanity and sense of Self. This also applies to people who have divorced or broken up with their abusive spouse or partner but have to maintain some degree of contact because of shared children, working for the same company or attending the same school.
Emotionally detaching requires that you change many of your attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. Detaching is not about enabling your abuser; it’s about disarming your abuser by eradicating her or his ability to hurt you. It’s not about changing your behaviour so that you don’t trigger your spouse; in fact, if you successfully detach it will probably provoke him or her to become even nastier and controlling for a while.
When your spouse takes an ugly turn into consistent abuse and other controlling behaviours, attaching your self-worth to how they treat you and placing all your effort into them and the relationship guarantees exploitation and self-destruction. For your psychological survival in this kind of relationship, you need to develop and feel indifference and emotional detachment.
Before you can begin to detach, you need to accept the following:
- Love does not conquer all. What you’re experiencing in your relationship probably isn’t love; it’s a distorted, twisted version of it.
- You can’t fix or rescue someone from being abusive, sick, dysfunctional and lost in their own highly distorted reality. In fact, trying to rescue an abuser—particularly if they are a borderline personality, a narcissist, a histrionic or a sociopath—is akin to trying to rescue a drowning person who’s crying for help and then holds you under water until you begin to drown. The more you try to rescue them, the more they’ll drag you under.
- You give your abusive spouse or partner the power to hurt you.
- You can survive and thrive without your abusive relationship. You don’t “need” her or him. You had a life before this person and eventually you’ll have a much better life post Ms. or Mr. Crazy pants.
- You’re not responsible for your spouse’, partner’s or ex’s happiness, failures, shortcomings or bad behaviours.
- The person who you want your spouse or partner to be is in conflict with the person she or he is in reality.
- Continuing to hope for the best from someone who consistently gives you the worst is a set-up for more pain and disillusionment.
- You are not helpless, powerless and incompetent. The relationship with your abusive spouse or partner causes you to feel that way, which is why it’s often so difficult to take care of yourself and break free.
There’s no shame in admitting that you need to walk away from a relationship that’s destructive and toxic. It’s vital that you begin to develop a rational perspective and distance yourself from an ongoing hurtful relationship that you can neither control nor change. Many people remain in abusive relationships well beyond a point of personal pain and devastation that defies reason. You need to come back to your senses and see your partner for who he or she is.
Here are some detachment techniques:
1. Make yourself solely responsible for your own well-being and happiness. Catch yourself when you begin to utter, “If only he/she could . . . If only he/she would . . .” and knock it off. Coulda, woulda, shoulda is the language of regret and pipe dreams. Keeping you in a beaten down and depressive state makes it easier for an abuser to control you. Feline predators don’t target the swiftest and strongest impala in the herd; the one with the limp usually becomes lion lunch. Take back the control you gave them over your feelings, happiness and well-being and start meeting your own needs by making different choices and acting on them.
2. Accept that you can’t fix, change, rescue, save, make someone else happy or love someone enough to make them be nice to you. Don’t just pay lip service to this. Really wrap your brain around the fact that no matter what you do, it will never be good enough. Understand that no matter how much you do for them; they’ll always expect and demand more. Acknowledge that the more you appease, compromise and forgo your own needs; the more entitled, demanding and ungrateful they’ll be: you’re throwing good energy after bad with no victory or end in sight.
3. Eliminate the hooks of your abuser. A hook is typically an emotional, psychological or physical stake that you have in the other person and the relationship. For example, GUILT is a big hook that keeps many men and women in abusive relationships with destructive narcissistic, borderline and histrionic partners.“I don’t how they’d take care of themselves. What would they do without me? I’d feel guilty if I left because of the kids.” The flip side of guilt is EGO. If you leave an abusive person, they’ll do just fine without you. They’ll probably try to suck you dry financially while lining up their next target to control and abuse. It’s not personal—especially if your spouse is BPD, NPD, HPD, ASD and/or APD.
These neurological/biological disorders view others as objects to be used. They’ll simply replace you with another object and do the same damn thing to the next guy. Guilt is a control device they use to keep you in line. Other hooks include shame (e.g., of failing or not being strong enough), loss of status (e.g., being perceived as a nice or good guy), loss of material assets or access to children, perfectionism and your own need to control others, situations and outcomes.
4. Learn to control your body language. Your body language and facial expressions can betray what you’re feeling and thinking on the inside without you saying a word. Your spouse’s covert and overt attacks are designed to elicit a reaction, you need to learn how not to give them the reaction they are seeking.
5. Lower your expectations. Ordinarily, people expect the best from others to create a positive self-fulfilling prophecy. However, expecting the best from an abusive person will result in you feeling broadsided, perpetually disappointed and hurt most of the time. For all their crocodile tears and hyper-sensitivity, abusive narcissistic, borderline, histrionic and sociopathic people are emotional predators and bullies. If you stay in the relationship, the best you can expect is more of the same. You may achieve some periods of “peace” (remember, they say they are not responsible for their behaviour; you’re responsible for their behaviour and your behaviour and all the other problems in the universe), and maintain your boundaries. “Happiness reflects the difference between what you expect versus what you actually get in life—so if you keep expecting good things to happen, but they never do or take a turn for the worse, you will suffer constant unhappiness.” (Sutton, 2007, p. 134) Your spouse is abusive. They probably have significant characterological pathology and are unlikely to change. Therefore, keep your expectations for their behaviour low, but continue to believe that you will be okay once you remove yourself from the situation and/or stop giving them the power to hurt you.
6. Do something that removes you from the abuse and centres you. Meditate or whatever your version of meditation is—reading, walking, woodworking, painting, music—anything that’s restorative. Find pockets of sanity and safety with friends and family or physical spaces like your office, the gym, the pub or social/professional organizations. Find activities that will take you out of the line of fire and minimize your exposure to them and their abuse. Find a hobby or activity that makes you feel good about yourself and restores your confidence and esteem. Ignore them when they become jealous or puts down these new activities and friendships. They do so because they see them as threats to their control.
7. See the big picture and don’t get distracted by their minutiae. The ultimate goal is to not let their abusive behaviour effect you anymore and to end the relationship. Expect them to hit even harder—emotionally and/or physically—when you stop reacting to their tried and true button pushing. It seems counter-intuitive, but if they become nastier in response to you setting boundaries and detaching, it means your new behavioural strategies are working because they are fighting harder to retain their control. By detaching, you’re taking back the power that you unwittingly ceded to them. These new behaviours will take time for you to learn and perfect. It takes a while to develop indifference. It runs counter to our fundamental beliefs about love and relationships. However, if you’re in a relationship with someone who verbally and/or physically attacks you, devalues you, makes you feel less than and who raises themselves up at your expense, you must learn how to make yourself less vulnerable and eventually immune to them. Abusive neurological/biological disorders have no soul and they will destroy your soul if you let them.
Palmatier, Dr. T, J. (2017). [article]. Emotional Detachment: Surviving Ongoing Abusive Relationships. Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services. Retrieved 17.1.2017 from: http://www.theneurotypical.com/emotional-detachment.html
Breaking Free From a Destructive Relationship, by Lee-Anne Van Den Broek.
People stay in bad relationships for thousands of reasons. Sometimes they are afraid to be alone, or they are afraid of starting over. Sometimes they are afraid of what their partner will do, or that they will end up broke and hopeless.
Often people assume the old saying “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”. But, the truth is: life is precious and it is short.
Don’t waste a minute more of your time being in a relationship that is damaging or destructive. The people we love are meant to lift us up, to make us our best selves, not to tear us down and leave us broken. So if you are thinking about leaving, or preparing to leave, check out Lee-Anne Van Den Broek’s advice below on breaking free from a destructive relationship.
And remember, it’s better to be by yourself and working on your own happiness, than to be with someone who makes you feel bad, scared or alone.
What is an abusive relationship?
Abuse comes in many forms, not just physical. An abusive relationship can include one, some or all of the below symptoms:
Physical abuse: If your partner is violent towards you, or threatens violence towards you. Physical abuse may also include the destruction of property or harming of pets.
Emotional abuse: This can take many forms and can include humiliation, yelling, insults, criticism, judgement, domination, control, shame, rejection, discounting someone’s opinions or value, threats, accusations, blame, unreasonable demands and expectations, emotional distancing and the ‘silent treatment’, emotional abandonment, neglect, bullying, and co-dependence.
Financial abuse: If your partner controls your finances, limits your access to funds and makes you financially dependent on them.
Social abuse: Happens when your partner limits your contact with family and friends. It can also happen when they insult you, or are cruel about you in front of other people. They may also try to control where you go, when you go and who you see. For more information on the definition of an abusive relation visit Reachout.com.
Taking the first step
Leaving a destructive relationship is not easy. Often the person that you are leaving will place blame on you, and will try to get you to question your own feelings and judgement.
They will often make you think that your leaving will have serious consequences, and you may begin to minimise the seriousness of your situation.
Don’t underestimate your situation
Never underestimate the seriousness of your situation. If you are in an abusive relationship, you need to keep yourself (and your children) safe.
The hardest decision you will have to make is the initial break, from there you will find there is both social and financial support that you can access.
So how do you break free from a destructive relationship? The first step is realising the abuse is not your fault and that you are not to blame. The next is to realise you are not alone and there are measures that you can take to ensure your safety.
Getting away safely
Setting up a safety plan is useful and allows you the freedom to leave at the drop of a hat.
A safety plan might include;
- Having an emergency bag of belongings that you can leave with someone you trust.
- Setting up a code word that lets your friends and family know when you feel unsafe. This way, if you feel worried about your safety, all you need to do is call someone that you have shared the word with, and speak that one word. It’s simple, quick and easy, and can have someone on their way to your place in no time at all. Children can also be given the code word as a warning if a quick exit is needed.
- Decide on the best exit from your home. This may be a window or a door, and always have a safe hiding place for your spare car key.
- Always ensure you have emergency numbers programmed into your phone.
- If you feel like you are in danger, speak to the police about your options.
- You can find a detailed safety plan by visiting Relationships Australia.
Once you have decided to leave, you will need to work out where you will go to. You may want to stay with family or friends for a while, or you could get temporary accommodation at a shelter or a refuge.
Resources once you’ve broken free
There are a number of legal, financial and emotional resources available to you, both before and after you have left your relationship, these include:
Legal: Lawstuff – for information about your rights and the law as it applies to you.
Financial: Centrelink can provide crisis payments in times of distress.. If you are financially dependent on your partner, they can also help you with payments until you find work.
Physical: If you have been hurt or injured by your partner, head to your local GP or the nearest hospital for immediate medical assistance.
Emotional: There are several fantastic support services which will help you access emotional and mental support, including:
- 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
- Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT: (02) 6280 0900
- NSW Domestic Violence Line: 1800 65 64 63
- QLD DV Connect Women’s Line: 1800 811 811
- VIC Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service: 1800 015 188 or (03) 9322 3555
- WA Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline: (08) 9223 1188 or 1800 007 339
- SA Domestic Violence Crisis Service: 1300 782 200
- Domestic Violence and Aboriginal Family Violence Gateway Service: 1800 800 098
Whether or not you feel it, there will be lingering effects from the abuse that you have suffered. You may feel guilty, scared or down on yourself.
For your wellbeing, it is essential that you seek out some counselling or therapy. It will help you sort through your emotions, get you into a better headspace, and ultimately help you to leave the past behind and walk into the bright new future that’s waiting for you.
And please, always remember that you are not alone and help is always available.
Van Den Broek, L. (2015). Breaking Free From A Destructive Relationship. [article]. Retrieved 14.1.2017 from: http://blog.opencolleges.edu.au/2016/05/02/mhm-breaking-free-destructive-relationship/