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The religious narcissist will see God as perfect, infallible, the all-powerful figure, not unlike how they see themselves.

Beware of the spiritual narcissist who wraps themselves up in the mantle of Godliness. They may go to their place of worship every week and fool the congregation into believing that are a good person with high morals. They can quote scripture and act righteous. They may even be the minister, the pastor or the priest. Being the head of the church, they would have many followers, obedient people who hang on their every word and people who look up to them for guidance. What a wonderful source of narcissistic supply! (Of course, I am not saying that all people who are preachers or who go to church are narcissistic, but there are some!) Not everyone who claims to be a follower of The Church, Synagogue or Mosque is a good person.

‘Proverbs 4 v 16
For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.’

The religious narcissist is the greatest of hypocrites, judging others and preaching about fire and brimstone for the wicked and for the unfaithful. Everyone appears to be bound for hell, except them. They use religion for their own ends, to build themselves up whilst tearing others down. If they are your parent you will undoubtedly hear, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’. Now that’s a difficult commandment for anyone to abide by if they have a narcissistic parent.

Narcissists use religion to control and manipulate by inducing fear. Children of narcissistic parents are forbidden to hold their own views on religion. There is no room for differences of opinion. These children often grow up scared witless, fearing death believing they are destined for an eternity in hell.

The spiritual narcissist may:

  • Not practice what they preach. (Their behaviour is not likely to match their words.)
  • Want to be at the heart of church activities such as prayer meetings and services.
  • Display extreme devoutness.
  • Put others down by pointing out their shortcomings all in the name of God.
  • Think they know the Bible. (Quoting verses from the Bible which back up their views, feigning an excellent knowledge. They will recite verses which point out how right they are and of course, how mistaken you are.)
  • Tell you that the Bible teaches you to forgive and forget.
  • Make you feel that your opinions aren’t worth considering. They are right. You are wrong. There’s no happy medium.

Many people stay in toxic relationships because they believe that their religion demands that they should forgive. They have been conditioned to believe that they should turn the other cheek.

Perhaps this verse from the Bible will let people see this logic from another angle.

‘2 Timothy Ch. 3 v 1-7
But understand this that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of Godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.’

Written by Anne McCrea

Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse, Shattering the Illusion, now available on Amazon

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Maybe you’re the sort of person who always tries to see the good in others. You have a heart that forgives people time and time again hoping that they will see the error of their ways. You find it hard to comprehend the fact that some people are inherently bad to the bone.

People are drawn to you because you’re kind, warm and caring, you’re like an open book, you’re the one people turn to for love and support and you give it because that’s your nature, that’s who you are.

Sadly, there are those who will take advantage of that big heart of yours. You’ll give them more chances than they deserve to get it right, but they won’t. They’ll take all you have to give, drain you until there’s nothing left and then they’ll leave or maybe you will get to the point where you’ve had enough and you’ll close the door and walk away. Either way, that big heart will be shattered into a million pieces, you’ll wonder what you did wrong and you’ll wonder if your love wasn’t enough.

Some people will never appreciate the love you give. Some people don’t understand the meaning of the word. They have never matured emotionally and will never be able to reciprocate the love and kindness that you so readily give. That is their problem, not yours. Nothing you could have said or done would have changed the outcome. They will live their lives repeating this pattern of behaviour over and over again, never being able to form a deep and meaningful relationship with anyone they meet.

Each and every one of us deserve to be respected and valued. We need to understand that some people are not good for us no matter how much we love them. We need to learn to love ourselves enough to let people go. We need to learn to close doors that no longer lead us to where we want to be. Your heart will heal but it will never heal in the environment in which it was broken. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your heart.

Written By Anne McCrea

Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse, Shattering the Illusion, now available on Amazon

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No amount of makeup can cover up an ugly personality.

We often read stories of women being abused by men but what about the other way round? The narcissistic woman is every bit as evil as their male counterpart. Until recent times men were reticent about coming forward and admitting to being abused by a woman. Perhaps this has been due to the fear of not being believed. For centuries men have been perceived as the stronger sex. Admitting to being abused by the fairer sex may have been seen as a sign of weakness. Thankfully this train of thought is changing. There is nothing ‘fair’ about the female narcissist.

If we look at statistics, we will read that there are more male narcissists than female, but surely statistics are only as reliable as the information provided. Mark Twain once said, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” I am not sure that the statistics in relation to the male/female ratio of narcissistic personality disorder would be an accurate reflection.

How many narcissists actually present themselves to a medical health professional in order to be diagnosed with this unappealing label? Narcissists tend not to blame themselves for their noxious behaviour. They do not hold themselves accountable and shift blame onto others for the very things they do themselves.
I asked men on the Facebook page, Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse, to send me their stories relating what had been done to them at the hands of a female abusive personality.

Below you will find some of those accounts…

John’s story

As with any traumatic relationship I was completely torn apart when my very short one year relationship and engagement ended with my Bi-Polar ex in January 2016. She was a very violent person who physically threatened me numerous times. I took 15 months off of dating to spend time recovering and trying to find myself. I read many self-help books and books regarding normal relationships and what to look out for when you meet someone.

I thought I had truly found my inner self and could love myself once again. I decided to go on a dating website in March 2017 and explore the option of dating again. After a few normal dates that did not work out for one reason or another I met “JS”. She seemed like a fantastic woman who had a great job as Director of HR for a nationwide law firm. We started to messages on the dating app and that quickly turned into exchanging phone numbers to text and call all within an hours’ time or so. She called me that same evening to chat and we decided to meet up at church the next day as we attended the same church.

The second date was just one day after that at a local bar (pub). FAST RIGHT? At this point she said to me that I was her type because there was a certain smell about me that she liked. I went on a work trip to Boston that Monday and Tuesday and when I came home we had set up the third date at her home on Wednesday evening.

I arrived at her home and walked in the front door to see a rifle sitting by the door. I inquired about the gun and she said that her ex had PTSD and she and her daughter were afraid of him. She left him “or so she says” in December or 2016 after Christmas. She also later gave me a story that he walked out her door and ghosted. I told her to put the gun in the closet and she ask me to help her change the locks on the house at some point in the near future.

The dysfunction of the house was noted by me on the first evening there when her 16 year old daughter walked in the living room to ask her a question and JS told her to please not interrupt our conversation, that they would talk later. Elizabeth stormed up the stairs to her room and slammed the door very hard.

Long story short, I went over the next night to watch TV and talk and the exact same thing happened with a little more aggravation on Elizabeth’s and JS’s part.
Elizabeth stormed upstairs and slammed the door to the point the house shook. JS went up after her and screamed at her.

I returned to her house with an invite that Saturday late morning. We talked all morning long on the sofa and she was very affectionate to me sharing life stories about her ex’s and family. Sunday was the same experience but with a little more sharing, kissing and eventually sex. She told me that she was in love with me after only knowing me a week or so and that did make me a little nervous at the time but I quickly overlooked it with the attention and love bombing at the time. It was wonderful to have someone so interested in me. Really lifted me up and made me feel good. The next night I went over to watch TV and chat and she said that she wanted me to stay the night and that it felt comfortable and convenient having me there. After that night, I do not think I ever slept at my place again except for my daughter weekends which were only four to six nights a month.

Soon to follow in July there were many trips planned with her and her daughter to Montana, Kansas City and Florida for that Christmas. Everything felt so fast but I was swept up in the excitement and attention of it all. Shortly thereafter we started talking about eventually getting married and when we retired moving to Fort Myers.

The lavish gifts started the following week with her buying me anything that I talked about. Expensive back pack for work several $200.00 pairs of dress shoes and so on. I felt so blessed and treated well.

About two months into the relationship something happened that reminded me of turning off a light switch. The emotions and feelings (communication) just stopped. I pointed it out to her and she said that she was just not an emotional type of person and that she liked to take relationships day by day. I found myself asking for reassurance in the relationship on a weekly basis because I never knew where she stood because of the lack of communication. We hardly ever went out or visited friends at all. The days of attention and normal relationship conversation had stopped and were replaced by a little frustration on my part. By then stories were repeated over and over again with a different ending. One day I talked to her about feeling lied to and I let her know how I did not appreciate always feeling like I was wrong. That’s the first time she got really upset and asked me to apologize to her, so I reluctantly did. How could a woman that was so amazing lie to me just about anything over and over and always change the story? I could not understand. I would correct her when she would do it and she would always tell me that people have a selective memory and I just didn’t remember what she said. (I was totally in love with this woman and my memory was always spot on.)

Shortly after celebrating our year anniversary is when the cracks started to appear even more. Her anger got worse when I would remind her of stories that she had told me in the past that had different endings. Things would always change.

I walked by her open computer sitting on the bed one morning while she was getting ready (Gmail was open) and noticed an email from Niteflirt.com. I was shocked so I took it upon myself to type Niteflirt.com in the Gmail search bar and she had been getting messages every week or so for 4-5 years. At that point I decided that I needed to give her more attention and do more things for her around the house so she wouldn’t have to look elsewhere for it. I would hardly ever get a thank you when doing chores for her or buying her things. It’s almost like she expected it.

She told me that she was not a communication person and that she would never be. She then told me that she would never want to marry me and she would not go and see a councillor about her communication problems. That’s when I told her I had to leave the relationship. I packed my things and walked out the door.

I know this sounds like a lot of rambling with no physical abuse, but the
gaslighting and silent treatment that I experienced over the two years just tore me down to a shell. After returning the next Saturday to get my things she told me that she wanted to be friends someday, but she did not think that we should even talk for a long time.

She encouraged me to be mad at her. It was actually funny to hear her say, “You need to be mad at me and I would expect you to hate me for leading you on for two years.” How could a woman that wanted to marry me and retire to Florida just change her mind so fast? It was all very confusing to me until I started reading books on Covert Narcissism. Finally, everything made sense.


David’s story

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about this and possibly finally be believed and understood. I’m a big guy, 6’5″. She is 5’4″ so of course everyone thought, ‘How could she get the better of you?’ but she did in more ways than you could imagine. She played me big time. She got into my head and played with my feelings and my mind. I fell in love with her pretty quick. She told me of how she had been treated badly by her ex-boyfriends and I had no reason to doubt her. Those first few months were heaven. She said she loved me like no other and I thought I had met my soul mate. I never noticed at first that she didn’t have any friends. I thought that she had been burned by people before and decided to be choosy with the people who she allowed into her life. I was flattered that I was one of the chosen few. About nine months down the line things started to change. I bought her a handbag. She didn’t seem to appreciate it at the time and tossed it aside. I was hurt and asked her if she didn’t like it. I was berated for buying her a colour that she didn’t like and told I should have known that she didn’t like brown. She huffed and hardly spoke to me for the next few days, not answering my texts and calls. Four or five days later she called me and acted like nothing was wrong and the handbag was never seen or mentioned again. I was so happy that everything was fine between us again. That was my first experience of the silent treatment. Of course it happened again and again over the next seven years and as you said in one of your articles on the silent treatment, every one of those episodes lasted a little longer than the one before. I never knew what I had done to annoy her to bring on these periods of silence. I tried endlessly to talk to her, ask her what was wrong but was ignored until she saw fit to talk to me again. Throughout our years together she managed to cut me off from my friends, criticising them and telling lies about them. Foolishly I had believed her. It was only when I started to read about narcissism that I realised the type of person I was dealing with. I was a shell of the man that I used to be and I finally woke up to the fact that it was all down to her. I went to a therapist who confirmed what I had thought. I knew that staying with her would destroy me so the last time she gave me the silent treatment I returned the favour. I am sure she expected me to try to contact her, to try to put things right again but I’d had enough. I couldn’t take it any more. It hurt so bad but I knew it was the right thing to do. I’ll admit that as a mature man I was devastated. I read up on narcissism for months and months hoping to find something that would make me think I was wrong, that I should give her another chance to change her destructive behaviour but deep down I knew that she would never change. She moved on to another man and she has done exactly the same thing to him. I have PTSD and am still seeing my therapist but I’m getting there slowly but surely. I have never dated anyone since and to be honest, I don’t think I ever will. I am content on my own, no more walking on eggshells. People need to realise that men can be victims too.

Doug’s story

I had been attacked by my ex-wife several times before I finally called the police on her. What came of that was I wound up being charged with domestic violence because she gave a false statement to them. The last time I defended myself (yes, defended myself, she threw punches at me and I pinned her down to stop her) and she told the police I pinned her down for no apparent reason. So I served six months of probation because I took the plea bargain, I didn’t want to lose in a trial by jury and lose my job. Counselling helped, I still think about it but not as much. I went through this in the fall of 2016, started divorce proceedings during my probation, and divorced her in May of 2017. I’m glad to have never seen her since, I’ve been single since then.

Jason’s story

I’m an ex-doorman. My partner for over 3 years accused me of cheating all the time. I got accused of cheating with people on my Facebook and Instagram so I took all my female friends off social media. I gave up my job to make her happy. I couldn’t do right from wrong. Constantly getting accused. I finished my day job, gave up my pension and stability because she said that she wanted a child with me. I got a higher paid job. Then 2 weeks later she decided she didn’t want a child. I sacrificed everything for her and she still wasn’t happy. Always picking faults and always comparing me to her ex. I felt like I lived in his shoes. . In the end it finished about 2 months ago. She wanted friendship, I didn’t. She kept playing the head games. I had enough and took her stuff to her house. A few days later I had the coppers at the door. (For me harassing her.) Wtf. But the weirdest thing is I still can’t get her out of my damn mind. She damaged my self-worth and my confidence. I second guess my self. I’ve even had to start counselling for it.

This lady has always been perfect to me with all her flaws and I always told her that I feel like every relationship I’ve been in I’ve attracted partners with problems and feel like I’ve got to help in one way or another. I know I’m a sincere and compassionate person and I know, when I’ve been pushed, I can become a people pleaser. I know I’m a strong minded person. Is that a strength people can see or a weakness they can see? Is that why I attract people with problems? How can I hide that if it is a weakness so it can’t be used against me? I know I used to have a lot of friends and I know they used me for their own benefits so I decided not to have friends. I feel happier in myself that I don’t have friends because I know I can’t get used again. I know I had to sacrifice myself for her to get help because she wouldn’t get help while we were together. She says that she is getting help now that we have split. I’m happy she has taken that step because I know that if we were still in a relationship, she wouldn’t have taken that step. It hurts, what has happened and I had to sacrifice my own future with her so she could get help and have a better life and not live in her past any more. I didn’t want to leave but the accusing and assuming was pushing me away.

Groot’s story

About five physical assaults, all in the chest by elbows or punches. Still doesn’t make sense really. Financially, mostly everything in the relationship always seemed to fall on me there too. I enabled that too I guess. So my visa is just screwed. Emotionally, a lot of belittling, and snide remarks that seem irrelevant or harmless and “joking” but really were taxing. Mentally, the “crazy making” amplified an otherwise well managed depression and anxiety disorder, created a lot of mistrust and gaslighting.

How it all affected me? I got run down. My entire narrative became fixate with obsessive rumination of a pretty cookie cutter victim mentality mixed with Stockholm syndrome. My physical health declined. Suicide became a recurring idea as an actual option. I was kind of a shell for a good two and a half to three years after the four year relationship. It felt like it boiled over and completely turned me into a profoundly weak and shattered person like my sense of self, my sense of efficacy. My inner dialogue, my inner narrative felt like it was competing with itself to lose. And I got stuck there. So, financially exhausted beyond my means, emotionally unstable, confused, absent, self-absorbed, depressed, that was the worst. Mentally disoriented and foggy for so long and not even present in my own everyday life. And I hid from the world in plain sight. I have PTSD I guess now and still focusing on recovery. So how it affected me? It felt like someone stole my essence you know. In a sense, in a weird Jungian twist, looking over the brass tacks of it, it was like I became a reflection of her true ego. A fractured, fragile, little person you know? I didn’t externalize it as narcissism but she has psychologically wounded my spirit man. The backhanded remarks and seemingly irrelevant comments I can still hear sometimes. Those were the worst and most corrosive to my sense of self.

Dan’s story

I currently got discarded by my girlfriend of two and a half years. I knew there was an underlying issue with her after apparent depression and suicide attempts so I researched. I was not even aware of the meaning of narcissist/sociopath or psychopath/bpd…. I have never read anything that is so dead on with all of everything, I mean word for WORD!

It’s really too bad, I had been so brainwashed, I thought it was all me. She made me leave all of my friends while she kept hers in a separate life. It’s so confusing how I still even hold feelings for this woman. I hope the best for her supplies. It scares me because she just moved her mother into the spare bedroom in the new house she just bought and also her 19 year old daughter in the basement apartment. I stuck with her throughout all her stress and drama, selling her home she built with her ex-husband. Renovations at the cottage, let my own home go almost abandoned because she required me to be with her. I helped her move everybody in and out of their old places to new. I was always hoping that things would wind down once the stress was gone. Wrong: Once I had done everything she completely left me, blocked me from everything. Now I found out she is with a woman that had been dating her best friend. She kept me around until things got settled. She invited me to a magic show and dinner in town with her daughter and her friend probably because she knew I’d pay for dinner… was so affectionate. Once we got to her place she started an argument over nothing and said I’d better leave. I went to leave and she said I could sleep on the couch or her bed. I was tired of getting kicked out numerous times, out for just standing up for myself (recently I have started) and went home. That didn’t go over so well. She was used to me kissing ass to just enjoy the night without drama.

I am currently recovering from the “abuse” and it’s really hard. I have been told over and over that I am a huge empath. This is the most confusing thing I have ever dealt with in my entire life. Even after writing this I feel guilty judging her as I am not qualified to do so and I don’t know whether or not to believe she knows or not. That is the reason I had stuck around for so long. I feel I had seen the good part and feel it’s still in there somewhere but the more I read I’m thinking it all was her game. I can’t believe how people actually do these things. I really feel for her because I think everybody has a right to be happy but I don’t think she ever will be now that I am more educated. I really need help and I think that this may be my opportunity to get it all out. The things I could write down are endless. It is really hard to believe how I stuck around and let myself get beat to a pulp physically and mentally.

I can’t wait for time to heal these wounds. I am so disturbed with myself. Why is it so hard to recover from this sort of person?

Anonymous writes…

I was in a seventeen year long relationship, three of which were dating. It started in high school, and I didn’t know what a narcissist was, much less that people could be that evil. I was always told that relationships and marriage were hard work, so I needed to stick it out and stay in the relationship. Church pastors and members encouraged me to not end things, no matter how bad it seemed.

No one took me seriously, and I resigned to the fact that it’s simply hard work, and this was the way life being married was. I was cheated on so many times, nothing I could prove physically, but multiple times she left me emotionally for other men that I could prove. One time I was so fed up that I actually encouraged her to meet her online fling.

I know now, that she is a covert narcissist. Anytime that I’d catch her, she’d find some way to avoid taking responsibility for her actions, to the extreme of an “attempted suicide”, taking a bottle of pills while at home alone with our then, infant daughter. She simply used this to cover up me finding her the day prior talking to someone online about their hopes and dreams of their life together, and her carrying his baby. I took a screenshot of her email that she was working on as proof to confront her with.

I felt alone, lost, a roommate, a whipping boy, someone to do her bidding and if I didn’t, I’d get rage or the silent treatment. I saw how she treated others that “wronged” her, and would get me to believe that she did nothing wrong, and I ended up being her flying monkey.

Fast forward to the end of the relationship, I had enough, but couldn’t break free. She made me pay for new boobs and a tummy tuck, and later found out that this was her way out, getting confidence in her looks to sleep with as many men as possible. It took a friend who knew what she was to break me free of the seventeen year bond that was there.

Almost six years later, non-stop legal issues with the three children, and the oldest is now estranged from me. She was brainwashed and alienated from me. I attempted to catch her in this with a counsellor, psychiatrist and a guardian ad litem, all of whom were manipulated, and I ended up losing 50/50 visitation with the oldest child to the point I don’t see or hear from her at all.

To this day, I have to guard myself because she could easily manipulate law enforcement into thinking I did something to her, and end up in jail for doing nothing. So there is contact via email only, and there is little to no contact in person unless we can’t help it. She has manipulated doctors and nurses in two instances. My oldest was hospitalized for an attempted suicide (just like dear old mommy) and a back surgery. During her stay at the hospital for the back

surgery, I was kept away by her mom’s flying monkeys, and the attempted suicide was hidden from me. It took my legal team contacting the hospital’s legal team to let me in the door to see her. I was told my daughter had taken a bunch of old pills, but found that was untrue. She had overdosed on cocaine, Adderall, and had marijuana and alcohol in her system. I recently found a GoFundMe page, begging for donations for this, but under the disguise of some disease that she doesn’t have. My new wife carries insurance for her, and my daughter is not taking anything for this purported disease.

John’s story

The relationship with the female narcissist in my life can be very confusing and quite difficult to put into words. EVERYBODY Loves her! I loved her, still love her and have empathy for her. When I attempt to explain it to others, they tell me, “I don’t think you’re being fair. Everybody has a past.” She broke up with her first secret boyfriend, began dating me from within the church, and at the same time was sleeping with a married man. And then moved in with that man and his wife and child. She became a part of several weekday ministries..

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Letting go doesn’t mean giving up, but rather accepting that there are things that cannot be.” ~Unknown

You two are family. Maybe you grew up with them and were by their side for a huge chunk of their life. There was a lot of laughing, crying, and sharing. Some fighting too.

You know how their brain works probably better than anyone else. But sometimes, in adulthood, those closest to you can become unrecognizable—estranged, cold, and careless. For no apparent reason, you find yourself shut out of their life. Your peace-feelers are increasingly rejected. You’ve been left out in the cold.

There is always a reason why people turn out the way they do. But, sometimes the metamorphosis is so gradual that it sneaks up on you, and one day, you wake up and wonder, “How did it come to this?”

You want them back. So you start to question and blame yourself. Was it the time I chose to go to the party instead of keeping her company? Was it when I used his things without asking? What did I do to deserve this? What can I do to make it better?

While it’s good to ask yourself such questions, sometimes the lesson you are meant to learn is to let go of the memory of who they were and accept who they have become.

This is based on my own relationship with my sister. We’d always been close, and when I was growing up, I looked up to her as my role model. I was shy, nerdy, and runty. She was pretty, popular, and good at sports.

But after she went to college and, four years later, I followed suit on another continent, our lives didn’t really intersect. When we did meet, we’d butt heads about a lot of things. She had grown bitter in the years post high school, while I’d grown up, become assertive, and was impulsively exploring the world. Still, despite our differences, I thought we’d always be there for one another.

Then she got married to a man who doesn’t get along with me or our parents. They began living in a strange emotional autarky.

She grew very cold, defensive, and resentful toward our family and began to cut me out of her life. I tried to reach out and mend the relationship, but she refused to open up. She’s always been proud that way.

One day when I told her I loved her and wished we could be close like before, she replied, “That was a long time ago.”

Over the last few years, the relationship has really gone downhill. I’ve struggled with the hurt of “losing” my sister, as well as feelings of self-blame as I struggled to find a reason for her change. I have racked my brain for memories of what I could’ve done wrong, but my mind draws a blank.

Then, I decided I didn’t want to dwell on feeling hurt any longer. I didn’t want to keep longing for and trying to rekindle the sisterhood we once had.

I have come to realize my sister is not the person I once knew, and I have to accept that, learn to let go, and move on. That is how I decided to take certain decisions for the sake of my own happiness and mental health.

I hope this advice can help those who may be experiencing a toxic and estranged relationship with a family member with whom they had once been close.

1. Identify in what ways the relationship may be toxic and how it makes you feel.

A toxic relationship can manifest in many ways. Perhaps your relative always puts you down, lacks empathy, acts passive-aggressive, or ignores you when you speak.

Once you have pinpointed the person’s patterns of behavior, become aware of how this affects your mood, body language, energy levels, self-esteem, and peace of mind. Knowing how to recognize toxicity and its effects is the first step to understanding your feelings and empowering yourself to deal with the situation.

2. Accept that you may never find the root cause for your relative’s behavior.

People do therapy for years—there’s never a simple answer. You may be able to talk to your relative to find out why s/he acts a certain way. You may not. Sometimes, the reason why a person treats you badly may not have anything to do with what you’ve done, but might just be the way they process and respond to their own life experiences. Hardships may strengthen one person and make another bitter.

In any case, try to reframe toxicity by understanding it tends to come from a place of unhappiness or discontent. People’s hurtful actions will then become less hurtful to you when you realize they reflect their inner state rather than you.

3. Do not normalize toxicity.

If you have done nothing wrong, don’t forget it is not normal for anyone to continually be negative, inconsiderate, and hurtful toward you. It is very easy to lose perspective about what is right and wrong, especially when you are constantly justifying a person’s behavior with stories of their past traumas or hardships.

People tend to make concessions for difficult or estranged loved ones because they wish to forgive and forget, avoid conflict, or do not want to push the person farther away. Empathy is good, but it cannot be used to keep making excuses for terrible behavior. Sometimes you need to set limits and say “enough!” before such behavior becomes the new normal.

4. Don’t expect anything from your estranged relative.

Yes, you might expect your family to have your back because you’d do the same, but don’t count on it with an estranged relative with whom you struggle to maintain a relationship. I’ve learned not to be dependent or expect any help from my sister, even though I grew up believing that’s what siblings should do for one another.

5. Realize it takes two people to fix a relationship.

As much as you try, if the other person is not ready or not willing, you may not fix much. The relationship will remain toxic for as long as the person is unable to change. You cannot blame yourself for it. You have done your best.

6. Decide how much space you want to give them in your life.

You will probably encounter your relative again at family gatherings, or you may need to communicate with them about family matters. In this case, minimize the amount of time you spend in their presence and keep communication to a minimum.

Sometimes, though, you may need to cut them out of your life entirely, whether permanently or momentarily. Keeping a space open for them and constantly making the effort to reach out is emotionally exhausting.

Once you have deemed you have tried enough and done your best, don’t feel guilty about drawing the line and deciding that enough is enough.

7. Don’t bottle things up.

Communicate your feelings to people you trust. If the person knows your relative, you may learn that they also share the same feelings of hurt and disappointment in dealing with him/her.

Talking through your feelings is therapeutic and helps you acquire perspective about the situation.

In my case, my parents also have a toxic relationship with my sibling, and I found that letting them talk about it and encouraging them not to bottle things up has been a great release for them.

8. Refrain from frequently gossiping about your relative, especially to a wide circle of people.

There is a difference between sharing your feelings with people you trust and constantly focusing all conversations on this individual and what s/he did or said. You risk getting into the habit of speaking badly of someone, and the conversation will often just keep going around in circles. Also, the negative talk can return to your relative’s ears and feed the cycle of negativity and estrangement.

Instead, decrease the mental and emotional energy spent thinking about your relative, and focus on the positive aspects of your life and your loved-ones’ lives.

9. Don’t give your relative an opportunity to blame you.

People like my sister are often extreme narcissists who blame everyone but themselves. It is important not to give him or her ammunition for this blame-game. If he/she always shows up late, acts rude, never tidies up, or uses your things, resist the temptation to do the same in return. Do the right thing and s/he won’t be able to reproach you for anything.

10. Accept you may not be able to have a frank, heart-to-heart conversation.

My sister goes through life demonstrating a character devoid of vulnerability or weakness. If you are faced with an emotionally inaccessible and excessively proud individual, you may have to accept the fact that you may never have that cathartic moment of truth you so crave. Strive for closure on your side and move on.

11. Shift your focus.

Do not dwell on the pain and hurt of “losing” a relative. Don’t focus on trying to grapple with the toxic relationships in your life. Build upon the positive ones you have instead. Accept the cards that life has dealt you and make the best of them. Live your life and cultivate your soul. Be content and grateful for what you have and who you are, for that is more than enough to fill a heart with happiness!

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Many people spend a lifetime blaming themselves for everything that has gone wrong within their family.  From a young age they were conditioned to accept responsibility when they had done nothing wrong.  They were the family scapegoat.  From the day they were born they were never given the love and respect that their siblings received from their mum.  There was the golden child in the family who could never do anything wrong and then there was the scapegoat who never did anything right.

The reality of this family dynamic is that this scenario is played out over and over again within the dysfunctional family unit.  The scapegoat child is usually the kindest, empathetic member of the group, always helping others yet constantly being taken for granted.  They have carried a burden well into adulthood holding on to blame for all that went wrong, a burden that was never theirs to carry.

The narcissistic mother will never accept blame for the harm that she does.  Instead she will make the designated scapegoat carry this unacceptable load.

The author of the following article is not known but it is an accurate explanation of the characteristics of the typical narcissistic mother:

Everything she does is deniable. There is always a facile excuse or an explanation. Cruelties are couched in loving terms. Aggressive and hostile acts are paraded as thoughtfulness. Selfish manipulations are presented as gifts. Criticism and slander is slyly disguised as concern. She only wants what is best for you. She only wants to help you.

She rarely says right out that she thinks you’re inadequate. Instead, any time that you tell her you’ve done something good, she counters with something your sibling did that was better or she simply ignores you or she hears you out without saying anything, then in a short time does something cruel to you so you understand not to get above yourself. She will carefully separate cause (your joy in your accomplishment) from effect (refusing to let you borrow the car to go to the awards ceremony) by enough time that someone who didn’t live through her abuse would never believe the connection.

Many of her putdowns are simply by comparison. She’ll talk about how wonderful someone else is or what a wonderful job they did on something you’ve also done or how highly she thinks of them. The contrast is left up to you. She has let you know that you’re no good without saying a word. She’ll spoil your pleasure in something by simply congratulating you for it in an angry, envious voice that conveys how unhappy she is, again, completely deniably. It is impossible to confront someone over their tone of voice, their demeanour or the way they look at you, but once your narcissistic mother has you trained, she can promise terrible punishment without a word. As a result, you’re always afraid, always in the wrong, and can never exactly put your finger on why.

Because her abusiveness is part of a lifelong campaign of control and because she is careful to rationalize her abuse, it is extremely difficult to explain to other people what is so bad about her. She’s also careful about when and how she engages in her abuses. She’s very secretive, a characteristic of almost all abusers (“Don’t wash our dirty laundry in public!”) and will punish you for telling anyone else what she’s done. The times and locations of her worst abuses are carefully chosen so that no one who might intervene will hear or see her bad behaviour, and she will seem like a completely different person in public. She’ll slam you to other people, but will always embed her devaluing nuggets of snide gossip in protestations of concern, love and understanding (“I feel so sorry for poor Cynthia. She always seems to have such a hard time, but I just don’t know what I can do for her!”) As a consequence the children of narcissists universally report that no one believes them (“I have to tell you that she always talks about YOU in the most caring way!). Unfortunately therapists, given the deniable actions of the narcissist and eager to defend a fellow parent, will often jump to the narcissist’s defence as well, reinforcing your sense of isolation and helplessness (“I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that!”)

She violates your boundaries. You feel like an extension of her. Your property is given away without your consent, sometimes in front of you. Your food is eaten off your plate or given to others off your plate. Your property may be repossessed and no reason given other than that it was never yours. Your time is committed without consulting you, and opinions purported to be yours are expressed for you. (She LOVES going to the fair! He would never want anything like that. She wouldn’t like kumquats.) You are discussed in your presence as though you are not there. She keeps tabs on your bodily functions and humiliates you by divulging the information she gleans, especially when it can be used to demonstrate her devotion and highlight her martyrdom to your needs (“Mike had that problem with frequent urination too, only his was much worse. I was so worried about him!”) You have never known what it is like to have privacy in the bathroom or in your bedroom, and she goes through your things regularly. She asks nosy questions, snoops into your email/letters/diary/conversations. She will want to dig into your feelings, particularly painful ones and is always looking for negative information on you which can be used against you. She does things against your expressed wishes frequently. All of this is done without seeming embarrassment or thought.

Any attempt at autonomy on your part is strongly resisted. Normal rites of passage (learning to shave, wearing makeup, dating) are grudgingly allowed only if you insist, and you’re punished for your insistence (“Since you’re old enough to date, I think you’re old enough to pay for your own clothes!”) If you demand age-appropriate clothing, grooming, control over your own life, or rights, you are difficult and she ridicules your “independence.”

She favouritizes. Narcissistic mothers commonly choose one (sometimes more) child to be the golden child and one (sometimes more) to be the scapegoat. The narcissist identifies with the golden child and provides privileges to him or her as long as the golden child does just as she wants. The golden child has to be cared for assiduously by everyone in the family. The scapegoat has no needs and instead gets to do the caring. The golden child can do nothing wrong. The scapegoat is always at fault. This creates divisions between the children, one of whom has a large investment in the mother being wise and wonderful, and the other(s) who hate her. That division will be fostered by the narcissist with lies and with blatantly unfair and favouritizing behaviour. The golden child will defend the mother and indirectly perpetuate the abuse by finding reasons to blame the scapegoat for the mother’s actions. The golden child may also directly take on the narcissistic mother’s tasks by physically abusing the scapegoat so the narcissistic mother doesn’t have to do that herself.

She undermines. Your accomplishments are acknowledged only to the extent that she can take credit for them. Any success or accomplishment for which she cannot take credit is ignored or diminished. Any time you are to be centre stage and there is no opportunity for her to be the centre of attention, she will try to prevent the occasion altogether, or she doesn’t come, or she leaves early, or she acts like it’s no big deal, or she steals the spotlight or she slips in little wounding comments about how much better someone else did or how what you did wasn’t as much as you could have done or as you think it is. She undermines you by picking fights with you or being especially unpleasant just before you have to make a major effort. She acts put out if she has to do anything to support your opportunities or will outright refuse to do even small things in support of you. She will be nasty to you about things that are peripherally connected with your successes so that you find your joy in what you’ve done is tarnished, without her ever saying anything directly about it. No matter what your success, she has to take you down a peg about it.

She demeans, criticizes and denigrates. She lets you know in all sorts of little ways that she thinks less of you than she does of your siblings or of other people in general. If you complain about mistreatment by someone else, she will take that person’s side even if she doesn’t know them at all. She doesn’t care about those people or the justice of your complaints. She just wants to let you know that you’re never right.

She will deliver generalized barbs that are almost impossible to rebut (always in a loving, caring tone): “You were always difficult” “You can be very difficult to love” “You never seemed to be able to finish anything” “You were very hard to live with” “You’re always causing trouble” “No one could put up with the things you do.” She will deliver slams in a sidelong way – for example she’ll complain about how “no one” loves her, does anything for her, or cares about her, or she’ll complain that “everyone” is so selfish, when you’re the only person in the room. As always, this combines criticism with deniability.

She will slip little comments into conversation that she really enjoyed something she did with someone else – something she did with you too, but didn’t like as much. She’ll let you know that her relationship with some other person you both know is wonderful in a way your relationship with her isn’t – the carefully unspoken message being that you don’t matter much to her.

She minimizes, discounts or ignores your opinions and experiences. Your insights are met with condescension, denials and accusations (“I think you read too much!”) and she will brush off your information even on subjects on which you are an acknowledged expert. Whatever you say is met with smirks and amused sounding or exaggerated exclamations (“Uh hunh!” “You don’t say!” “Really!”). She’ll then make it clear that she didn’t listen to a word you said.

She makes you look crazy. If you try to confront her about something she’s done, she’ll tell you that you have “a very vivid imagination” (this is a phrase commonly used by abusers of all sorts to invalidate your experience of their abuse) that you don’t know what you’re talking about, or that she has no idea what you’re talking about. She will claim not to remember even very memorable events, flatly denying they ever happened, nor will she ever acknowledge any possibility that she might have forgotten. This is an extremely aggressive and exceptionally infuriating tactic called “gaslighting,” common to abusers of all kinds. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up without any confidence in your intuition, your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the abuser.

Narcissists gaslight routinely. The narcissist will either insinuate or will tell you outright that you’re unstable, otherwise you wouldn’t believe such ridiculous things or be so uncooperative. You’re oversensitive. You’re imagining things. You’re hysterical. You’re completely unreasonable. You’re over-reacting, like you always do. She’ll talk to you when you’ve calmed down and aren’t so irrational. She may even characterize you as being neurotic or psychotic.

Once she’s constructed these fantasies of your emotional pathologies, she’ll tell others about them, as always, presenting her smears as expressions of concern and declaring her own helpless victimhood. She didn’t do anything. She has no idea why you’re so irrationally angry with her. You’ve hurt her terribly. She thinks you may need psychotherapy. She loves you very much and would do anything to make you happy, but she just doesn’t know what to do. You keep pushing her away when all she wants to do is help you.

She has simultaneously absolved herself of any responsibility for your obvious antipathy towards her, implied that it’s something fundamentally wrong with you that makes you angry with her, and undermined your credibility with her listeners. She plays the role of the doting mother so perfectly that no one will believe you.

She’s envious. Any time you get something nice she’s angry and envious and her envy will be apparent when she admires whatever it is. She’ll try to get it from you, spoil it for you, or get the same or better for herself. She’s always working on ways to get what other people have. The envy of narcissistic mothers often includes competing sexually with their daughters or daughters-in-law. They’ll attempt to forbid their daughters to wear makeup, to groom themselves in an age-appropriate way or to date. They will criticize the appearance of their daughters and daughters-in-law. This envy extends to relationships. Narcissistic mothers infamously attempt to damage their children’s marriages and interfere in the upbringing of their grandchildren.

She’s a liar in too many ways to count. Any time she talks about something that has emotional significance for her, it’s a fair bet that she’s lying. Lying is one way that she creates conflict in the relationships and lives of those around her – she’ll lie to them about what other people have said, what they’ve done, or how they feel. She’ll lie about her relationship with them, about your behaviour or about your situation in order to inflate herself and to undermine your credibility.

The narcissist is very careful about how she lies. To outsiders she’ll lie thoughtfully and deliberately, always in a way that can be covered up if she’s confronted with her lie. She spins what you said rather than makes something up wholesale. She puts dishonest interpretations on things you actually did. If she’s recently done something particularly egregious she may engage in preventative lying: she lies in advance to discount what you might say before you even say it. Then when you talk about what she did you’ll be cut off with “I already know all about it…your mother told me… (self-justifications and lies).” Because she is so careful about her deniability, it may be very hard to catch her in her lies and the more gullible of her friends may never realize how dishonest she is.

To you, she’ll lie blatantly. She will claim to be unable to remember bad things she has done, even if she did one of them recently and even if it was something very memorable. Of course, if you try to jog her memory by recounting the circumstances “You have a very vivid imagination” or “That was so long ago. Why do you have to dredge up your old grudges?” Your conversations with her are full of casual brush-offs and diversionary lies and she doesn’t respect you enough to bother making it sound good. For example she’ll start with a self-serving lie: “If I don’t take you as a dependent on my taxes I’ll lose three thousand dollars!” You refute her lie with an obvious truth: “No, three thousand dollars is the amount of the dependent exemption. You’ll only lose about eight hundred dollars.” Her response: “Isn’t that what I said?” You are now in a game with only one rule: You can’t win.

On the rare occasions she is forced to acknowledge some bad behaviour, she will couch the admission deniably. She “guesses” that “maybe” she “might have” done something wrong. The wrongdoing is always heavily spun and trimmed to make it sound better. The words “I guess,” “maybe,” and “might have” are in and of themselves lies because she knows exactly what she did – no guessing, no might haves, no maybes.

She has to be the centre of attention all the time. This need is a defining trait of narcissists and particularly of narcissistic mothers for whom their children exist to be sources of attention and adoration. Narcissistic mothers love to be waited on and often pepper their children with little requests. “While you’re up…” or its equivalent is one of their favourite phrases. You couldn’t just be assigned a chore at the beginning of the week or of the day, instead, you had to do it on demand, preferably at a time that was inconvenient for you, or you had to “help” her do it, fetching and carrying for her while she made up to herself for the menial work she had to do as your mother by glorying in your attentions.

A narcissistic mother may create odd occasions at which she can be the centre of attention, such as memorials for someone close to her who died long ago, or major celebrations of small personal milestones. She may love to entertain so she can be the life of her own party. She will try to steal the spotlight or will try to spoil any occasion where someone else is the centre of attention, particularly the child she has cast as the scapegoat. She often invites herself along where she isn’t welcome. If she visits you or you visit her, you are required to spend all your time with her. Entertaining herself is unthinkable. She has always pouted, manipulated or raged if you tried to do anything without her, didn’t want to entertain her, refused to wait on her, stymied her plans for a drama or otherwise deprived her of attention.

Older narcissistic mothers often use the natural limitations of aging to manipulate dramas, often by neglecting their health or by doing things they know will make them ill. This gives them the opportunity to cash in on the investment they made when they trained you to wait on them as a child. Then they call you (or better still, get the neighbour or the nursing home administrator to call you) demanding your immediate attendance. You are to rush to her side, pat her hand, weep over her pain and listen sympathetically to her unending complaints about how hard and awful it is. (“Never get old!”) It’s almost never the case that you can actually do anything useful, and the causes of her disability may have been completely avoidable, but you’ve been put in an extremely difficult position. If you don’t provide the audience and attention she’s manipulating to get, you look extremely bad to everyone else and may even have legal culpability. (Narcissistic behaviours commonly accompany Alzheimer’s disease, so this behaviour may also occur in perfectly normal mothers as they age.)

She manipulates your emotions in order to feed on your pain. This exceptionally sick and bizarre behaviour is so common among narcissistic mothers that their children often call them “emotional vampires.” Some of this emotional feeding comes in the form of pure sadism. She does and says things just to be wounding or she engages in tormenting teasing or she needles you about things you’re sensitive about, all the while a smile plays over her lips. She may have taken you to scary movies or told you horrifying stories, then mocked you for being a baby when you cried; she will slip a wounding comment into conversation and smile delightedly into your hurt face. You can hear the laughter in her voice as she pressures you or says distressing things to you. Later she’ll gloat over how much she upset you, gaily telling other people that you’re so much fun to tease, and recruiting others to share in her amusement. . She enjoys her cruelties and makes no effort to disguise that. She wants you to know that your pain entertains her. She may bring up subjects that are painful for you and probe you about them, all the while watching you carefully. This is emotional vampirism in its purest form. She’s feeding emotionally off your pain.

A peculiar form of this emotional vampirism combines attention-seeking behaviour with a demand that the audience suffer. Since narcissistic mothers often play the martyr this may take the form of wrenching, self-pitying dramas which she carefully produces, and in which she is the star performer. She sobs and wails that no one loves her and everyone is so selfish, and she doesn’t want to live, she wants to die! She wants to die! She will not seem to care how much the manipulation of their emotions and the self-pity repels other people. One weird behaviour that is very common to narcissists: her dramas may also centre around the tragedies of other people, often relating how much she suffered by association and trying to distress her listeners, as she cries over the horrible murder of someone she wouldn’t recognize if they had passed her on the street.

She’s selfish and wilful. She always makes sure she has the best of everything. She insists on having her own way all the time and she will ruthlessly, manipulatively pursue it, even if what she wants isn’t worth all the effort she’s putting into it and even if that effort goes far beyond normal behaviour. She will make a huge effort to get something you denied her, even if it was entirely your right to do so and even if her demand was selfish and unreasonable. If you tell her she cannot bring her friends to your party she will show up with them anyway, and she will have told them that they were invited so that you either have to give in, or be the bad guy to these poor dupes on your doorstep. If you tell her she can’t come over to your house tonight she’ll call your spouse and try get him or her to agree that she can, and to not say anything to you about it because it’s a “surprise.” She has to show you that you can’t tell her “no.”

One near-universal characteristic of narcissists: because they are so selfish and self-centred, they are very bad gift givers. They’ll give you hand-me-downs or market things for themselves as gifts for you (“I thought I’d give you my old bicycle and buy myself a new one!” “I know how much you love Italian food, so I’m going to take you to my favourite restaurant for your birthday!”) New gifts are often obviously cheap and are usually things that don’t suit you or that you can’t use or are a quid pro quo: if you buy her the gift she wants, she will buy you an item of your choice. She’ll make it clear that it pains her to give you anything. She may buy you a gift and get the identical item for herself, or take you shopping for a gift and get herself something nice at the same time to make herself feel better.

She’s self-absorbed. Her feelings, needs and wants are very important; yours are insignificant to the point that her least whim takes precedence over your most basic needs. Her problems deserve your immediate and full attention; yours are brushed aside. Her wishes always take precedence; if she does something for you, she reminds you constantly of her munificence in doing so and will often try to extract some sort of payment. She will complain constantly, even..

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Divorcing or separating from someone who you once thought you would spend your life with is never easy. We give up on our dreams, the happy ever after kind of dreams. If there are children involved, two normal healthy adults will seek to co-operate and co-parent and give their children a happy, loving childhood free from disharmony and bitter squabbles between their parents. I’m not sure that there is such a term as co-parenting when it comes to a split with a narcissistic partner. Some would call it counter parenting. Cooperation, compromise and teamwork are not part of the narcissist’s vocabulary, so don’t expect them to play fair. The narcissist is not going to put the needs of their children before their own. Their maternal or paternal instincts are not normal by any stretch of the imagination.

If you walked away from a dysfunctional relationship with a narcissist, they will not want to lose you as a source of supply. They will not want to lose control over you and one way of maintaining that control is through your children. When children are involved in a break-up it is impossible to go ‘no contact’ with the narcissist and they know it! The presence of children will force you to keep contact with your ex for many years after the ink has dried on your divorce papers.

It is difficult to understand but your narcissistic ex doesn’t love your children like you do. In fact, they may not love them at all. They may simply be seen as pawns to be manipulated, little people who can be used to hurt you. The narcissist may manipulate your children’s thoughts. They may lie to the children to turn them against you. When a narcissist experiences loss such as a divorce, they will experience a narcissistic injury or wound and will often react by making the other parent look bad. If they believe that you have wronged them, they will seek revenge by hurting you in the most painful manner possible, alienating you from your children. Children are easily influenced by this covert manipulation.

We know that narcissists love to push you to your limits and create chaos in the lives of those around them. Just because you are no longer together, don’t expect this behaviour to stop. In fact, it may escalate. If they can rile you enough so that you react, they can prove just how unbalanced and crazy you are. So, for your own sake, keep calm, don’t react and never give them that pleasure.

If you are trying to maintain a semblance of control over your independence, expect a counterattack from your ex-partner. They will not take kindly to your new-found freedom and may try every trick in the book to draw you back into their sphere of influence, such as switching on the charm, looking for your sympathy, threats or hostility.

Since no contact is not an option, minimal communication is advised. Keep contact in writing by text or email where possible, keep it short and to the point. Firstly, this will give you time to think what you are going to say, and your words cannot be twisted when they are there in black and white. Secondly, it leaves a paper trail that may be used as evidence if necessary. Try not to discuss topics about anything other than your children and don’t give out any unnecessary information about yourself. If they go off on a rant, disengage and ignore them. Whatever is going on in your life now is absolutely none of their concern.

It is important to set boundaries and stick to them. For example, when your ex is picking up your child, they have no reason to come in to your home. If there are set times for them to see the children, don’t let them chop and change arrangements for no valid reason. They may be doing so simply to annoy you, to make you change your plans or provoke a negative reaction from you. Remember that negative attention is still attention to the narcissist.

Hard as it may be, try not to run your ex-partner down in front of your children. As they grow and become adults, they will form their own opinions about their narcissistic parent. Let them do that without any help from you. That way they can’t blame you for turning them against their other parent.

Difficulties that may arise when co-parenting with a narcissist may include:

  • Telling your child things about you, whether true or false, in the hope of turning the child against you.
  • Refusing to pay child maintenance. Narcissists want the very best for themselves. Their children are secondary. The children’s needs will not be as important as their own.
  • Making you feel guilty if you refuse them more time with your child.

They will appear to be the ideal parent in public. Remember it’s all about appearances. I once heard a narcissist described as a street angel and a home devil. To be seen as the perfect parent is paramount. Once again, this is not about the child but how they look to others.

Unfortunately, the behaviour of the narcissist is not likely to change. During this toxic union, you probably felt under their control and always tried to please. Remember that now you are no longer in the grasp of their clutches. You are your own boss. You have control of what you will accept and how you will react. You have the power to keep this person at a distance and not put up with their nonsense any longer.

For your own sanity:

  • Keep communication to an absolute minimum.
  • Document everything.
  • Keep strict boundaries and don’t let the narcissist cross them.
  • Have faith in yourself, your strengths and your parenting skills.
  • Accept that you have no control over your ex’s parenting. (Unless of course you have evidence of abuse.)
  • Ignore your ex’s threats and don’t rise to baiting.

Focus on the needs of your children and show them how a loving parent behaves. Over time the narcissist will see that their behaviour is not getting the results they desire. They can no longer push your buttons. Without the attention they so crave, with any luck they will eventually seek their supply elsewhere.

Written by Anne McCrea

Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse, Shattering the Illusion, now available on Amazon

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Even good people have their limits.  Narcissists overstep boundaries time and time again.  They will push and push until you respond and then they’ll blame you for over-reacting or for being abusive.  The real abuser now has all the evidence they need.  Unfortunately, their constant needling, provocative words or acts that have led to a reaction from you, are often not seen or heard by anyone else but your response is often witnessed by every Tom, Dick and Harry.

The aim of an abuser is often to make you look bad and themselves look good.  They have achieved what they set out to do.  You have been manipulated into reacting to their abuse.  That’s what people witnessed, not their endless baiting and goading.  When the narcissist tells everyone their tales of woe in their premeditated smear campaign, it is you who will look like the guilty party and not them.  You’ve played into their hands and they now have everyone’s sympathy because they are the true victim of your abuse and instability.

Regrettably, the real victim in these scenarios, often believes that they have acted badly and blames themselves for over-reacting.  They have often be told that they over-react, they’re too sensitive and in time, they start to believe it.

Sadly, once these seeds have been sown in the minds of by-standers, their mind-sets are very difficult, if not impossible to shift.  They saw your behaviour with their own eyes and there’s very little you can do to swing their train of thought in your favour.  People are very quick to judge without knowing the full facts.

The true casualty is regularly wracked with guilt at their own behaviour.  However, the narcissistic personality, never admits to their faults, will feel no remorse for pushing you over the edge.

If someone in your life continuously pushes your buttons to hurt you and get some sort of reaction from you, reassess your reasons for keeping this person in your circle.  Don’t waste your life trying to fix someone else. There are some people who just can’t be fixed.  Don’t waste your life waiting for change that will never come.  Remove toxic people from your life and never, ever feel guilty for doing so.

Written by Anne McCrea

Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse, Shattering the Illusion, now available on Amazon

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During these past few years I have been in touch with thousands of people whose lives have been shattered by emotional abuse.  Some of this abuse has come from within the family unit, from people who should have had their back but instead were the ones holding the knife.  Others have experienced abuse from ‘friends’ (I use that term lightly) or within the workplace.  Regardless of where this abuse comes from, the effects can be absolutely devastating.  To add to the pain that each and every one has suffered, these people often reach out to friends, family or professionals only to find that they are not believed or that the abuse they endured, is played down and considered trivial because there are no visible marks or scars.  This invalidation adds further pain to the individual who has suffered more than enough.

Unfortunately, people who have not experienced emotional abuse, have little understanding of the devastation caused by this form of maltreatment.  Sadly, this applies to many psychologists and therapists whose knowledge of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is somewhat limited.  These counsellors can do more harm than good.  In the cases of couples counselling, the therapist is often taken in by the narcissist and blames the target, not the perpetrator.  Narcissists are pathological liars who show no emotion when lying which is why they are so often believed.  They will also tell the truth in misleading ways giving the therapist an incorrect perspective, for example, telling part of a story where they talk about your behaviour, leaving out their provocation that made you react to their abuse.

‘In order for couples counselling to be successful, both partners must be willing to take responsibility for their actions and make adjustments to their behaviour.  Abusive people want all the power and control in the relationship and will focus on maintaining that imbalance, even if it means continuing unhealthy and hurtful behaviour patterns.  Many callers to the Hotline have related stories of trying and ‘failing’ at couples counselling because of an abusive partner’s focus on manipulating the sessions to place blame, minimize the abuse and attempt to win over the therapist to their side.’  (The National Domestic Violence Hotline)

It is imperative, when searching for a therapist or counsellor, that you ascertain they understand this dynamic and are up to speed on the subject of NPD.  There are many excellent counsellors out there.  Make sure you engage the help of the right one.

It is estimated that one in three targets of abuse will develop PTSD as a result of what was done to them. This is treatable with the correct help and support. Please click here for  more information on PTSD.

Society in general needs to be educated about narcissism, including therapists, law enforcement officers, judges, attorneys, and barristers.  Sometimes their lack of knowledge and understanding of malignant narcissism results in a target of such abuse being further abused by the judicial system or counsellors who are supposed to help them.  The uneducated tend to think that a narcissist is someone who loves themselves and have no insight into the long term psychological damage these people often cause.  This disorder goes way beyond selfishness and self-love, in fact, narcissists are often plagued with self-loathing and self-doubt. Although this type of personality frequently displays an air of grandiosity and arrogance, behind the false exterior there often lies a vulnerability and such a very fragile ego.  Their overreaction to some perceived slight can be absolutely devastating to those they target.

Professionals and the general public need to educate themselves on terms such as:

GASLIGHTING which is an insidious process which occurs over a period of time resulting in the person being gaslighted questioning their own reality and/or sanity. Please click here for more information on Gaslighting.

PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOUR such as the silent treatment which is a favourite tactic of an abuser where all attempts at communication are met with deadly silence.  Please click here more information on The Silent Treatment.

Experts throughout the world use criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) which is published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental health conditions such as NPD.

The Mayo Clinic sets out the criteria from the DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it.
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents.
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people.
  • Requiring constant admiration.
  • Having a sense of entitlement.
  • Expecting special favours and unquestioning compliance with your expectations.
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want.
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you.
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner.

Diagnosis is by trained mental health professionals.  To be diagnosed with the rather unflattering label of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, one must possess at least five of the traits mentioned.  A common and very important trait, which is not mentioned in this list, is that of little or no empathy.  There are many who believe that as this is such a key aspect in people with NPD that it should have been included in the diagnostic criteria.

Many people have no understanding of why someone would remain in a relationship with someone who is abusive either emotionally or physically.  Some well-intentioned individuals will ask questions like, ‘Why did you not just leave?’  If only it was a simple as that.  Targets of abuse may be beaten down over time with neither the desire nor strength to fight.  They may be tied to their abuser by a psychological phenomenon known Trauma Bonding.  Please click here for more information on Trauma Bonding.

People need to understand that recovering from narcissistic abuse is a lengthy process.  Never put a time limit on your recovery.  For some, this will take two or three years but sadly for many, much longer.  Give time, plenty of time.  Education is a key part in recovery.  No blame should be placed on a target of abuse. There is light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.  We just need to know how to switch it on.

Written by Anne McCrea

References

Mayo Clinic Staff, (2014), Mayo Clinic: Narcissistic Personality Disorder, [Online], accessed Feb 2016.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, (2014), Why We Don’t Recommend Couples Counselling for Abusive Relationships [Online], accessed December 2018.

Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse, Shattering the Illusion, now available on Amazon

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The ideal family consists of a group of people we can depend on, people who love us, nurture and care for us, people who offer their guidance and support as we go through life, people who we trust. Family is the most important influence in the life of a young child. We usually think of family as blood relatives but sadly not all blood relatives have our best interests at heart. Some of the most toxic people we know may share the same DNA.

A dysfunctional family background often leads to a child believing that their opinions, needs and desires are unimportant and meaningless. As they mature they often lack confidence with low feelings of self-worth. Depression and anxiety are commonplace. Adult children from a narcissistic family need support to make them understand that they are not inadequate and to help them develop healthy self-esteem and build strong and healthy relationships.

In the toxic family neglect and abuse are often a daily occurrence. This family may look good from the outside but it’s a different story for those who live within this dysfunctional family dynamic. Everything is about image. The narcissistic parent will likely put on a display in public and be seen as generous, personable and charming whereas behind closed doors they are abusive and controlling. The house where abuse takes place, whether mental or physical, will never be a home. Talking about their issues is forbidden. (Let’s just pretend everything’s perfect.) Family members who thrive on drama, negativity, jealousy, criticism and denigration will never make a child feel good about themselves. Children from narcissistic families rarely grow up to be close to their brothers and sisters in later life. They have often been pitted against one another in their childhood. Unless the child holds the position of the ‘golden child’ within the family unit, they will be seen and not heard, blamed and shamed. Nothing they ever do will be good enough and they’ll soon learn that their value depends on their achievements, how they can make the family look good and not for who they are.

Signs that you are dealing with toxic family members

  • They are verbally or physically abusive.
  • They make you feel that you can never do or say anything right.
  • They gaslight you. (Sometimes described as ‘psychological warfare’ gaslighting is an insidious process of mind games that occur over a period of time resulting in the person being gaslighted questioning their own sanity and/or reality unable to trust their own judgements.)
  • Lack of empathy.
  • They play victim to circumstances they create.
  • You feel uncomfortable when they’re around.
  • They put you down more than they lift you up.
  • They use personal information against you. (Information you gave them in confidence.)
  • They try to control you.
  • They are judgemental. (Unjustified criticism is healthy but constant criticism will destroy anyone’s self-esteem.)
  • You feel like you are walking on eggshells so as you don’t upset them.
  • They have anger issues. (Explosive rages.)
  • They exhibit passive aggressive behaviour. (Invoking the silent treatment for some perceived slight will create tension and uncertainty.)
  • There are endless and unnecessary arguments. (Disagreements are normal. Frequently provoking and initiating arguments is not.)
  • They try to isolate you from your friends or other family members. (Once isolated, you become easier to control with no one to turn to but the abuser.)
  • This person uses manipulation tactics for personal gain. (Exercises unscrupulous control or influence and emotional exploitation over another person.)
  • They spread malicious gossip. (They turn people against each other creating jealousy and disharmony.)
  • They make you unhappy and feel bad about yourself. (You may be convinced that there is something wrong with you and that everything that goes wrong is your fault.)

How do you deal with toxic family members?

The worst thing you can do is do nothing. By doing nothing you are giving them the impression that their behaviour is ok. Your mental and physical well-being may suffer as a result. Stop giving up a part of yourself to keep the peace and please someone who is impossible to please. Behaviour such as the behaviour mentioned above, will drain you emotionally. Something that I hear so very often is, ‘I wish that I had done something sooner,’ and ‘If only I’d known that this wasn’t normal. I thought all families where like this and I blamed myself.’ For your own sake, establish boundaries sooner rather than later. You teach people how to treat you by setting healthy boundaries.

Your boundaries are a set of limits or rules where you decide what is acceptable and what is not. They’ll differ from person to person. Normal healthy people know not to cross the line and should have a reasonable idea when not to intrude. On the other hand, the narcissist personality, will have absolutely no respect for the boundaries you set. They have an extraordinary knack of pushing people to their limits for their own amusement, to create friction or drama or to test you. Setting boundaries with a narcissist will not be a one off thing. Expect it to be something that you will have to address time and time again. Communicate your wishes firmly and directly and don’t let them push your buttons. Remain resolute and leave them in no doubt that you mean what you say or things will go back to the way they were before.

Healthy boundaries include ‘alone time’ and time to spend as you see fit. Never let anyone make you feel guilty for setting standards. If they get angry with you for setting standards, they’re not giving you the respect that you deserve. They are the one with the problem, not you.

Some people will never respect the boundaries you set and will not change their behaviour. If they don’t respect your boundaries you may need to examine what position this person will play in your life. You may find that you need to create some distance between you and family members. You are not being selfish or demanding, you’re simply practising healthy self-care. Not every toxic person needs to be cut out of your life but sadly sometimes, someone may be too toxic to you for you to justify keeping them around.

You can’t change the past but you can take control of your future. It’s not easy distancing yourself from family but sometimes this is the only answer and absolutely necessary. The key is in the intent. You’re not doing this to intentionally hurt or punish someone but to protect yourself so let go of the guilt.

When you cut out toxic people from your life, they will often turn the story around and blame you for the conflict. Hard as it may be, ignore their behaviour. Those people who believe their lies and pass judgement without proof, may be best avoided too.

Never give up on your own emotional and physical health by tolerating disrespect and abuse by a toxic family member. Sharing the same bloodline simply means you are related but it doesn’t make you family, love does.

Written by Anne McCrea

Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse, Shattering the Illusion, now available on Amazon

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‘Manipulative, abusive, controlling people and the weak people who are afraid of them, their enablers and flying monkeys who blindly follow them… will say and do almost anything to keep you quiet. You are going to get labelled as crazy, angry, jealous and hateful, to name but a few, when you stand up to them and call them out on their behaviour. Be strong. You can handle this. The truth is always revealed to those who have learned to see.’

Let’s look at what is meant by manipulative behaviour;

Psychological manipulation can be described as exercising unscrupulous control or influence and emotional exploitation over a person or situation with the intention of gaining power and control at the expense of their target. A world-renowned expert on manipulators, Dr George K. Simon has cited three necessities to successfully manipulate someone:

1. Concealing aggressive behaviour and intention.

2. Understanding the psychological shortcomings of a victim in order to determine which method will achieve the best results.

3. An uncommon degree of ruthlessness, having no reservations about inflicting harm upon their unsuspecting victim.

Who do they target? Anyone can be a target of an emotional manipulator.

• Empathetic, kind and easy-going people who try to avoid conflict. These kind and considerate people are likely to forgive the narcissist time and time again for their monstrous behaviour.

• The independent, accomplished person will be a great source of narcissistic supply once they have fallen under their spell.

The narcissist has mastered the art of deception. Although their intentions may initially appear to be honest and sincere, their ultimate goal is to deceive, exploit and manipulate. Whatever the relationship with the manipulator, be it parent, spouse, partner, sibling, child, friend or co-worker, this relationship is unbalanced from the beginning. Their aim is to, by any devious means necessary, gain control of your mind, resulting in you becoming an unwilling participant in their schemes. How can any such connection not be doomed from the outset?

As discussed earlier in the book, narcissists are known to be very observant at the start of any relationship. They listen intently as you reveal details of your past, your feelings and vulnerabilities, to use this information against you for their own gain.

Narcissists are adept at distorting the truth. Manipulators are often compulsive and pathological liars. They will twist events, things you’ve said or done, turn them around, and maybe add a few lies so that their version becomes a far cry from reality. Of course, their target is left feeling confused and full of self-doubt.

Manipulative people will often play the victim to circumstances they have created. They lack accountability for their words or actions and twist the situation round to blame you.

A common form of manipulation is that of turning people against each other, creating jealousy and disharmony. They talk behind backs spreading false information so that people become distrustful of one another. Splitting, as this is sometimes called, puts the narcissist in a position of power.

Passive aggressive behaviour is common. They go between being pleasant one minute to refusing communication the next (the silent treatment). Their target is left reeling, wondering what they have done wrong when in fact, the answer is, absolutely nothing at all.

Explosive rages and personal attacks and criticism are another favourite tactic. They are relentless in their pursuit of grinding you down until they get what they want. Your emotional health and well-being are of little importance.

Targets of such insidious manipulation unintentionally give up a part of themselves to keep the peace and please someone who is simply impossible to please. Unfortunately, once these twisted individuals succeed in taking advantage of your kind and forgiving nature, they are likely to repeat this behaviour over and over again until you put a stop to it once and for all.

We all have the right to be treated with respect and set boundaries as to what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Learn to be assertive. You have the right to your own opinions and values and the right to express these without being put down by someone whose moral values are sub-standard to say the least. Never be afraid to say, ‘No’, and don’t feel guilty for doing so.

Remember that someone who feels the need to manipulate others has failed to mature emotionally. Although they may appear to be strong and in control, there are often underlying insecurities and self-doubt. What you see is not what you get. Their dysfunctional behaviour is likely to tumble over from one relationship to the next. They absolve themselves from any responsibility in their continual failed relationships. Narcissists’ failure to hold themselves accountable for their behaviour is in complete contrast to them holding you accountable for yours.

• Do you feel you are constantly walking on egg shells around this person?

• Do you feel as good about yourself as you once did?

• Do you feel taken for granted?

• Do you feel that whatever you do, it’s never enough?

• Is it always you who is doing the giving and them the taking?

• Are you losing friends, acquaintances without knowing why?

• Are you subjected to their passive aggressive behaviour?

• Does this person try to tell you how you should think or feel?

• Do you feel that it is all about their needs whilst yours don’t matter?

• Do you feel pressured into doing things that you are not happy with?

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to some of these questions, it may be time to re-evaluate what part, if any, you want this person to play in your life.

‘Make today be the last day that you care about people who have shown you that they don’t.’

Written by Anne McCrea

Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse, Shattering the Illusion, now available on Amazon

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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