Apr 24

“It’s Not You”: It’s Your Narcissist

Clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula has a new bestseller: It’s Not You: Identifying and Healing from Narcissistic People. Previous titles by this expert that also tackled issues of narcissism are Should I Stay or Should I Go?: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist and “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility.

Durvasula, by the way, not only has significant experience working with survivors of narcissistic abuse, she’s also confronted it in her own life.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Narcissists can be charming and seductive, often attracting partners with ‘love bombing,’ but soon their self-serving behavior surfaces. As her detailed case histories reveal, among the traits that mark a narcissistic personality are a craving for constant validation and admiration, delusional grandiosity, a sense of entitlement, and a lack of empathy. They abuse those close to them with behaviors such as gaslighting, dismissiveness, rage, threats, revenge, isolation, and betrayal. Victims of this abuse, she has found from her patients, tend to blame themselves and feel shame, confusion, depression, and anxiety.

Selected Quotes from It’s Not You

Identifying a narcissistic person is far less important than understanding what qualifies as unacceptable behavior and what it does to you.

I am tired of people calling those of us who get stuck in these cycles “codependent” or “addicted” to the narcissistic relationship. It’s not that. If you have any empathy, have normal cognitive functioning, and were shaped by societal and cultural norms and realities, it is not surprising that you would get stuck. The narcissistic relationship is like a riptide that pulls you back in even as you try to swim away. The intensity, attentiveness, and highs and lows are why you swim out to where the riptide is. The abusive behavior makes you want to swim away from the riptide, but the guilt and fear of leaving, the practical issues raised by leaving (financial, safety, cultural, family), as well as the natural drive toward attachment, connection, and love are what keep you stuck in the riptide’s pull.

Selected Quotes from Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The narcissist is like a bucket with a hole in the bottom: No matter how much you put in, you can never fill it up. The phrase “I never feel like I am enough” is the mantra of the person in the narcissistic relationship. That’s because to your narcissistic partner, you are not. No one is. Nothing is.

Gaslighting qualifies as a form of emotional abuse that involves denying a person’s experience and making statements, such as “that never happened,” “you’re too sensitive,” or “this isn’t that big a deal.

Selected Quotes from “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”

…(I)f a person leads with charm and charisma and plenty of confidence, sit up straight and pay cautious attention. Make sure that there is empathy, that entitlement is not at play, that the person is genuine, that there is respect and, frankly, that he or she has the goods to back it up. Don’t let the charisma and charm blind you and stop you from looking deeper for the rest of it.

Narcissistic and toxic relationships leave you feeling depleted in a variety of ways: feeling like you aren’t good enough, chronically second-guessing yourself, often apologizing, and/or feeling as though you are losing your mind, helpless, hopeless, sad, depressed, anxious, unsettled, no longer getting pleasure out of your life, ashamed, guilty, and exhausted.

In fact, the best narcissist repellant out there may not be yelling or screaming or revenge but simply indifference.

May 18

“Whole Again” After Abuse: Jackson McKenzie

Contained within Jackson McKenzie’s 2019 Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse are strong quotes to help you heal. The following are some I’ve selected.

Note: References to C-PTSD below are about complex PTSD. See this link or this one if you’re unfamiliar with the diagnosis.

From Whole Again:

You’re so preoccupied with trying to make sure you’re reasonable and seeing all perspectives that you fail to throw in the towel when people are blatantly mistreating you. Oftentimes you notice something seems “off” for the longest time, but you feel guilty and dismiss it because the person is nice to you, or because they aren’t rejecting you.

…(T)he best gaslighting victims are those who doubt themselves.

Their partner can say and do unacceptable things on a daily basis, which the codependent will try to explain and understand (“they had a difficult childhood!”). But the moment codependents make a single mistake, they berate themselves for it, obsess over it, and wonder if they’re crazy. For this reason, they come up short in relationships, over and over again. Because they’re unable to recognize that the balance is skewed, and unable to recognize that they’re not getting what they deserve from a healthy relationship. Their self-doubt keeps things forever skewed in their partner’s favor.

How to Win Against an Abuser? I get this question all the time, and my answer is always the same: Don’t try to win. As soon as we engage in this win/lose mentality, we abandon our hearts and forget what’s really important: vulnerability and love. Yes, absolutely you should remove toxic people from your life, but it should be from the perspective of self-love, not “winning.” As long as we maintain this false illusion of control, we’re still connected to the person in our psyches. A hallmark of C-PTSD is fantasizing about gaining some power over an otherwise powerless situation.

If at any point your forgiveness process convinces you to invite an abuser back into your life (or even talk to them), this is not the kind of forgiveness we’re looking for. It will actually impede your own progress.

People cannot go from abusing and manipulating you one day, to magically being healed a week later. This is simply impossible. Especially when this change occurs as a response to possible abandonment or rejection, there’s just no chance this is authentic change.

Codependent forgiveness is this fantasized tear-filled beautiful reconciliation where everything is magically cured by love and compassion. As with most codependent issues, it’s focused on other people. Their problems. Their childhood. Their past. You think you understand them so much, maybe even more than they understand themselves! You make up excuses and reasons for them, your heart melts, you take them back, and then they hurt you again.

C-PTSD sufferers who experienced abuse may engage in mental arguments with their abusers long after the abuse has ended. Most people with C-PTSD experienced ongoing abuse from someone (or multiple people) who repeatedly betrayed their trust, and blamed them for this betrayal. They were made the scapegoat of someone else’s shame, which eventually caused them to absorb this shame themselves.

Dysfunctional Healing Approach: C-PTSD causes the sufferer’s thinking to become very rigid and analytical. This was (at some point) a necessary survival skill in order to identify threats and stay safe. However, once the threat is over, those with C-PTSD may still have a lot of trouble “feeling” emotions, and may end up trying to “think” them instead. As they begin recovery, they are likely to use this same analytical and rigid thinking against themselves, embarrassed or impatient by their inability to get in touch with their own feelings. They are also likely to have an extremely negative reaction to the idea of forgiveness, equating that with “letting them win,” and seeing forgiveness as something that abusers use to keep hurting victims.