Published on HuffPost 12/28/2017 at 7:53 pm ET Even if you don’t “do” New Year’s resolutions, if you are in a debilitating relationship with a narcissist partner, parent, friend, or other person close to you this might be a good time to start.
Identify the Signs
Wondering if a manipulative and/or abusive person in your life is a narcissist? Diagnosing someone can be dicey business without professional input, but in the case of narcissists it is usually necessary because they rarely seek therapy and when they do often manipulate the therapist into missing the madness behind the mask. Narcissism is a disorder where overwhelmingly the victims are the ones who seek help.
According to The American Psychiatric Association, those afflicted with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) meet five or more of the following nine criteria:
- have an exaggerated, grandiose sense of their capabilities and self-importance
- are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- believe they are special and should associate with other high-status people, institutions, and the like
- demand excessive admiration
- feel entitled to unreasonably favorable treatment or automatic compliance with their expectations
- exploit others to serve their own needs
- lack empathy
- are envious of others or believe others are envious of them
- are arrogant and/or haughty
Accept That Things Won’t Get Better
Once you’ve identified someone close to you as having NPD, it is important to understand that such people are developmentally stunted as very young children and fail to learn empathy or form a stable identity. They have a primitive emotional capacity, are delusional, and rarely change for the better. Here are stark facts that you need to accept about people with NPD:
- They abuse others emotionally, psychologically, physically, and/or sexually.
- They do not feel remorse.
- They cannot love. What may feel like love is temporary and highly conditional idealization.
- Their idealization always gives way to disillusioned rage and possible discard.
- They are viciously defensive.
- They are prone to fury, manipulation, and punitive behavior.
- Malignant narcissists are aggressively brutal about asserting their alpha status over others and lash out routinely to punish and control, often with sadistic pleasure.
Commit to Moving On
Particularly if you have been treated to the narcissist’s intoxicating idealization, it can be disorienting and devastating to face her devaluing behavior. You may believe you did something wrong that you can “fix.” You may seek to regain her “love.” You can’t. It was never about you.
In the narcissist’s childlike mind, others are desired targets to be won over, compliant objects, or enemies to be vanquished. The “love” you thought the narcissist felt for you was a passing infatuation, a mirage. If you are the narcissist’s golden child, you may remain on your pedestal as long as the narcissist somehow benefits from keeping you there. It is not love, but rather a projection that has nothing to do with who you are or what you need.
Make a Plan
If you are romantically involved with the narcissist or are his adult child, breaking away can be especially painful and complicated. You are likely to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including hypervigilance, depression, fear, anxiety, self-blame, and a host of other deeply ingrained emotional and physiological symptoms. You may be trauma-bonded to the narcissist, feeling a codependent addiction to him. You may be isolated from support, even within your own family, by the secretive and controlling narcissist. You may feel responsible for the narcissist’s well-being, having played his caretaker. Making a plan for how to leave the relationship or limit contact is essential for gaining independence and control. If you are a spouse/partner, it is probably wise to plan your departure before speaking to the narcissist about it. For adult children, it may be best not to attempt to explain your reasons for limiting or cutting off contact.
Gathering resources for yourself in advance is the most important part of planning your escape.
- Find friends and/or family who you know will support you.
- Put away money and other necessities privately.
- Find a therapist who understands narcissistic abuse.
- Document, document, document the abuse you have endured.
- Particularly if you have kids, get a good lawyer who understands narcissism.
- If needed, seek domestic abuse assistance.
- If needed, find a new place to live.
- If you don’t have a job, get one.
- Find a safe place to protect your animals if you have pets.
- Prepare to cut off lines of communication, such as blocking phone and social media contacts.
Be Prepared for Retaliation
Narcissists take rejection very badly. It triggers their worst feelings of infantile neediness, vulnerability, and inferiority. And since they need to shield themselves from those unbearable emotions and lack remorse about harming others, they tend to be vindictive, often ruthlessly. You should prepare for some or all of the following retaliatory punishments:
- smear campaign
- flying monkey attacks
- stealing your things
- withdrawal of financial support
- legal maneuvers
- coparenting manipulation
- silent treatment
- physical and/or social media stalking
Your 2018 New Year’s Resolution: Get Out!
Leaving a narcissist can be difficult, but it is far preferable to enduring long-term abuse and potentially exposing your children to it. Make 2018 your year of freedom from someone who will never love you, someone who will only bring grief and regret into your world. Reclaim your health, happiness, and sanity. Get out!
Related Articles by Julie L. Hall
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