Narcissistic abuse is a particularly hard form of abuse to identify and recover from. Abuse runs in a pattern and narcissistic abuse follows suit. However it is hard to spot this cycle because it’s not circular like other forms of abuse (verbal, physical, emotional). Narcissistic abuse is linear. Generally it runs its course one time with each victim. The exception to this rule is that a narcissist will return to an old victim if they run out of supply. Supply comes from a person. Narcissists get what they need (supply) from various people. A narcissistic abuser will drain a victim of supply. This can be a lengthy cycle. As long as the abuser is getting what they need (supply), the relationship will continue. Once a person has been drained of supply, the narcissistic abuser will end the relationship.
Narcissistic personality disorder is found in a small percentage of abusers. Not all people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are abusive by definition. Narcissists have character traits that make a relationship with them difficult. But this doesn’t always mean they will be abusive. Following are some traits of NPD.
• A grandiose attitude
• Difficulty in sustaining important relationships
• Lack of empathy
• Inability to handle criticism
• Taking advantage of people
• Always being the victim in every circumstance
• Lying but believing the lie to be truth
• Twisting every conversation topic back to them being the focus
• Having great charm
• Inability to sincerely apologize
People with NPD have severe attachment issues. At some point in their lives they suffered emotional trauma that damaged them deeply causing a fracture in the personality. They are incapable of trust and bonding. These character traits that are exhibited serve dual purpose. 1) It draws people to them. 2) It drives people away. NPD’s are deeply afraid of “not existing”. They have no real sense of self. Equally terrifying to them is the prospect of bonding. Bonding means trusting and it isn’t in their personality to be able to trust. A basic behavior of NPD is “Come closer, now get away.”
An abuser with NPD follows a cycle of worship, devalue, and discard. Initially you are adored and put on a pedestal. The term “love bombing” means they shower you with compliments, loving attention, and gifts. You are seen to be perfect in their eyes. You can do no wrong. Because of their ability to mirror what they see, they seem to be your perfect match. The one you have been looking for all your life. The purpose that this phase serves the NPD abuser is to make THEM feel worthy. Your adoration of them gives them the sense of self-worth that they so desperately need. Since they don’t have a sense of self, they borrow yours. It also hooks the victim into a relationship. A deep attachment is formed from victim to abuser.
The devalue phase comes when the shine wears off of the relationship. Eventually reality sets in and they see you aren’t a perfect person as they had needed you to be. You make mistakes as humans do. This puts cracks in their sense of self. If you aren’t perfect then they aren’t perfect. They were borrowing your personality. As they see your flaws it once again makes them recognize their fractured personality at an unconscious level. The discomfort this creates inside of them leads to abusive behavior. At this point the relationship is failing to give them the supply that they need to feel whole. Insults, degradation, silent treatments, and general disapproval are directed at you.
A new supply will need to be obtained so that they can once again feel secure in self. The eventual discard is inevitable. Being discarded from an NPD abuser is abrupt and brutal. In their eyes you truly cease to exist. Attempts on your part to obtain an explanation as to why the relationship has ended, or closure will more than likely be completely ignored. You can no longer serve a purpose for them because of your human imperfections. You are sent into a tailspin because you had been so highly regarded, then abused, then abandoned. Narcissists generally will not leave an old supply until a new supply is established. You are broken hearted but they have moved on to the next victim.
Recognizing the pattern of NPD abuse as well as the symptoms may help protect you from becoming involved with a narcissistic. If you are recovering from a relationship with an NPD abuser getting help from a counselor or support group is very beneficial. Continuing to educate yourself is also very important to your recovery. “When Love is a Lie” by Zari Ballard is recommended reading for dealing with narcissistic abuse.