The Secret Lie of Narcissism

secret

Beneath all of that bravado and charm lies a hidden secret the narcissist doesn’t want you to find. They will do anything to protect their secret from you.

They might lie about it.  Or they might divert your attention with an innovative story. Or they might project their secret onto you. Come close to figuring it out and the result is warfare for control.

Narcissists will use all types of abuse to dominate you. They use verbal (i.e. threats, intimidation), physical (i.e. restraining, choking), emotional (i.e. fear or guilt tactics), mental (i.e. gaslighting, silent treatment), financial (i.e. withholding, exploitation), sexual (i.e. forced, coerced) or spiritual (i.e. isolation from family, legalism) forms of abuse.

Their fear is this… information equals power. If you know their secret, you will then embarrass or humiliate them. This is the worst thing they can imagine… others thinking less of them.

So what is this precious secret? Hidden deep inside, all narcissists have an overwhelming feeling of insecurity. Their lack of self-worth stems from some unmet need. Find the unmet need and you have discovered the Achilles’ heel. Here are a few examples.

Need for love. Many narcissists are raised by narcissists who practice conditional instead of unconditional love. This uncertainty of love often manifests in the insatiable desire for affirmation, attention, intimacy, or sex. When they don’t feel loved, narcissists seek out anyone who will satisfy their need.

Need for safety. When a narcissist has been traumatized as a child and hurt by someone they love, the need for future safety becomes myopic. They are consumed by the need for security and protection for themselves and family members.  Unsafe environments breed the desire for greater control and stronger intensity.

Need for acceptance. Repeated bullying at a young age can cause a narcissist to feel like they don’t belong. This can create a sense of isolation in peer groups. Or instead some narcissists strive in vain to appear to be all things to everyone in order to be accepted. A lack of acceptance often brings out offensive behavior and overreaction to others.

Need for respect. Over use of the phrase, “That is disrespectful” indicates the narcissist feels everyone is against them. Their strong sense of entitlement and favorable treatment creates a tense atmosphere whenever they feel impertinence. Whenever they report being disrespected, expect a verbal or even physical attack as demonstration of their intolerance.

Need for fundamentals. This is not as common in younger narcissists because they have not endured an economical depression. But for the older generation who grew up during the Great Depression, the need for food, shelter, and clothing became a driving force. Not having the fundamentals leads to hording and miserly attitudes.

So what do you do with the new found Achilles’ heel? Recognize that at the heart of a narcissist is a very broken person with the same needs as everyone else. The difference is that their secret need is concealed because of their deep shame and guilt. This is no way justifies their poor behavior but it can help to explain it. How you handle the information is your choice.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How Narcissists Use Emotion to Abuse

narcissist abuse

narcissist abuse

The conversation with your narcissistic spouse starts with good intentions over some issue needing to be addressed. Knowing the propensity of overreaction, you gently proceed. At first, your spouse takes everything in stride so you relax. You let your guard down. Then it happens.

An insignificant comment (not the main point) suddenly ignites a firestorm. Instantly, you are being accused of things far out of your scheme. You become emotional and react.

Your spouse, in turn, uses your emotional reaction to justify further control, power, dominance, and superiority. It is emotional blackmail. However, they take no responsibility for igniting the flame. You are to blame.

This is emotionally abuse behavior. But just how does a narcissist use your emotions to gain further control? Beside each emotion is an example of how that emotional reaction can trap you into a cycle of abuse.

Nitpicked: If it feels like you are being picked apart bit by bit, most likely you are. Narcissists say your feelings are wrong, your behavior is inappropriate, or you are too sensitive. Whatever is important to you is minimized in comparison to their own agenda.

Surprised: You are surprised by their behavior in treating one child as a favorite while discounting the others. You are shocked that they accuse you of things they are guilt of. And you are stunned when they sabotage a calm atmosphere with unnecessary conflict in order to get attention.

Embarrassed: Narcissists detest being embarrassed but they love to embarrass you. They do this by sharing your private information without consent, treating you like a child in front of others, or exposing some shameful event.

Anxiety: It is easy to become anxious when you are questioned about your every move, motive or aptitude. Yet, their poor behavior or your important conversations are conveniently forgotten leaving you to question yourself. To top it off, their insecurity demands that you prove your love or commitment over and over.

Overwhelmed: You feel overwhelmed from the excessive responsibility a narcissist dumps on you. A narcissist expects you to drop everything to “cheer them up” when they are depressed, angry or anxious. You are frequently blamed for their problems or unhappiness as they bombard you with unnecessary and irrelevant information.

Ridiculed: A narcissist belittles your accomplishments, aspirations, or personality in front of others. They minimize their words by saying, “It was only a joke.” Teasing or sarcasm is commonly used to degrade and mock you.

Guilt: As soon as you try to do something positive in your life, a narcissist stops you though the use of guilt. They claim that they should be the most important person in your life, you owe them your unwavering loyalty, or you are being selfish for taking care of yourself.

Insecurity: First the narcissist holds you to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard. Then when you fail, you are treated as inferior. Your thoughts, beliefs or values become insignificant, incorrect or worthless. They may even become verbally abusive at this point.

Confused: A narcissist confuses you by treating you as an extension of themselves, not as a separate person. This becomes justification for their acquired “mind-reading” skills and general over-reaction to nearly everything you say and do. Your words become twisted into something you never meant. The narcissist uses these incidents as rational for withdrawing from you, chronically sabotaging and then re-establishing closeness.

Shame: When manipulated right, shame is a powerful motivator. A narcissist shames you by constantly reminding you of your shortcomings, often in a passive-aggressive way. Or they complain about how badly you treat them compared to “great” they treat you.

Alienated: A narcissist has a better chance of power and control if other people aren’t influencing you. So they belittle your friends and family and make your social engagements a nightmare (by contrast, they will be amazingly charming at their social engagements). They also restrict your normal communication by interfering in your relationships unnecessarily.

Scared: A narcissist uses intimidation to scare you into compliance. You become so frightened of what they have threatened to do that you choose the path of least resistance. This is often a reluctant agreement to a lesser issue to avoid the larger threat.

Anger: A narcissist generates an angry response by acting immature and selfish but accusing you of behaving that way. Then, they divert the discussion thereby preventing any real resolution, especially anything involving action on their part. Finally, you are set up with only you lose-they win options. Your anger is a response to feeling like you are fighting a no-win battle all the time.

Hostility: It’s difficult to think of your home as a hostile place but a narcissist sometimes creates that atmosphere. For instance, they constantly interrupt while you are talking so you feel unheard. Or they stalk you both at home and away from home. Or they restrict your sleep cycle so you are increasingly tired and frustrated.

Rejected: If you hate to feel rejection, a narcissist will prey on you. They begin by denying the relevance of your point of view. Then they refuse to acknowledge your worth even withholding love or intimacy to prove their point. Finally they threaten to abandon when you refuse to comply.

Fear: It can be a powerful motivator or a terrorizing experience. A narcissist will use intimidation, threats, frightening behavior, or destruction of your treasured possessions to incite fear. You become paralyzed, feel hopeless, and therefore rely (without questioning any further) on whatever they say.

Don’t let these emotionally abusive tactics get the best of you. Instead learn to recognize them in the moment so you can keep your emotions in check. The best way to stop emotionally abusive behavior is to not let it get to you in the first place.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Narcissistic Sexual Abuse

sexual abuseHas sex become something you just do rather than enjoy? Do you feel pressured into having sex? Is it possible to be sexually abused in a marital relationship?

Sexual abuse can happen to both men and women in and out of a marital relationship. In a relationship with a narcissist, however, that abuse becomes magnified. For the narcissist, sexual abuse is used to control your behavior, elevate their feelings of superiority, reenact their fantasies (not yours), and paralyze you. Not all narcissists use sexual abuse as a means of domination. But if you are in a relationship with one, knowing even the subtle forms of sexual abuse can be freeing.

  1. The Early Stage. A narcissist begins the abuse by grooming you. They do a mildly abusive act to see if you acquiesce. For instance, they might fondle you in front of your mother or demandsexting while you are at work. These unwanted or embarrassing sexual acts are designed to catch you off-guard and create a feeling of trepidation. It is also a subtle message to others that you belong to them. Not in a comforting way, but one that leaves you feeling like a possession. Be warned, sometimes narcissists share yoursexting photos with friends further adding humiliation. When you confront the narcissist, they minimize, deny, or blame you.
    • Verbal Assaults. In the beginning, the verbal comments are amazingly flattering. You are the person of their dreams. You meet all of their sexual needs. But as soon as you begin to disagree with a sexual preference, you are accused of being manipulative and controlling. You are openly criticized for your sexual desires or lack thereof. Then the comments turn vulgar. Sexual insults or debasing comments about your body become more common. You begin to feel not good enough, being called both a whore and a prude. Narcissists do not see partners as individuals with feelings and opinions. Rather they are pieces of meat. This is apparent in the general way they talk about the opposite sex.
    • Jealousy Rages. The narcissist demands that you tell them everything about your previous sexual partners and encounters. Then they use the information to call you a slut or use your encounters as rationalization for their own indiscretions. When you become jealous, they claim you are being irrational and domineering. Some narcissists want you to cover up in public while others want you to wear provocative clothing beyond your comfort level. No matter what the outfit, you are accused of being attracted to others, flirting, flaunting your body, and cheating. The narcissist will use these accusations as justification for further sexual abuse. “You deserve this,” or “You asked for this,” are typical narcissistic responses. They can also be jealous of children or pets, basically anything that takes your attention away from them.
    • Coercion Tactics. To persuade you into having sex, the narcissist uses harassment, guilt, shame, blame, or rage. For them, this is not sexual abuse. Yet it is; any coerced sexual act is abusive. For example, they insist on sex after an argument to prove your commitment. Or they will play the victim card and compel you to have sex so they feel safe, secure, or validated. They nag and insult you, become angry and disruptive, refusing to allow you to leave or sleep until you concede. When you do finally give in, you disconnect emotionally and hurry up just to get it over. It is not satisfying for you but for them.
    • Threatening Infidelity. The narcissist threatens infidelity if you don’t comply with their escalating sexual desires, change your appearance, or gain weight. They might dangle another female in front of you to bully you into doing sexual acts that you are uncomfortable performing. To isolate you from friends, they might openly talk or joke about being attracted to your friend. When verbal threats fail, the narcissist will be unfaithful to prove their point.
  2. The Pushy Stage. It’s never enough. No frequency or style of sex is ever enough. Just when you believe that you have reached your boundaries, the narcissist pushes you further and further. When you object, you are ridiculed for your stance and all of the tactics in the early stage are condensed into one rant until you concede. Just to prove their dominance, they use your opposition as an excuse for pushing you even more.
    • Inciting Fear. You begin submitting to unwanted sexual acts out of fear that the narcissist will hit you, leave you, humiliate you, punish you, betray you, or withhold money. To reinforce this fear, the narcissist will do these acts, blame you for “making me do it,” and then demand you have sex to prove your loyalty. The pressure to have sex is unrelenting and unforgiving regardless of your physical condition and sexual desires.
    • Selfish Appeals. A classic example of selfish sex is unprotected sex. Because intercourse is all about how the narcissist feels, they refuse to use condoms and insist you take full responsibility for birth control or STD/STI protection. It is not uncommon for a narcissist to lie about having STD/STIs, refuse to be checked, and then blame you when you contract it. Your concerns over unprotected sex are belittled and minimized. It is all about them.
    • Sexual Withdraw. Some narcissists completely withdraw all sex from the relationship. Any requests you make for sex are met with ridicule, rants about your performance, and excessive excuses for abstinence. You are to blame for their lack of desire, it is never their fault. They will also oscillate between excessive sex and complete withdraw to maintain control and manipulate you into doing whatever they ask.
    • For the narcissist, your body is theirs and their body is theirs. Therefore they feel entitled to give ultimatums about your body. You have to lose weight or exercise more or groom yourself in a certain way to keep them satisfied. You could be in the hospital sick and if the narcissist wants to have sex, you are required to meet their needs. You are forced into pregnancy or an abortion because it is what they want, not what you want. You are not allowed to breast feed your baby because they don’t like how your breasts look.
    • Destroying Principles. Prior to meeting the narcissist, you had standards of what was acceptable sexually. For instance, participating in pornography, prostitution, having multiple partners at one time, or sex with animals was completely out of the question. But now, the narcissist’s argument for bending your principles seems compelling. You begin to believe the lie that if you will submit to the act just one time, then they will be satisfied and not require more of you. So they persuade you into have sex with someone else while they watch or have you watch them having sex with someone else. They might record you having sex without your knowledge and then beg you to watch it with them. But it is not enough. If you withhold sex out of disgust over bending your principles, they become angry, belligerent and sometimes violent.
  3. The Violent Stage. Once the narcissist reaches the violent stage, sex can no longer return to an expression of mutual love or commitment. They are not able to be excited by such menial emotions or simple intimate acts. It is now about intimidation, control, domination, power, torture, and terror. Not every narcissist escalates to this level; many just remain in the pushy stage fully content. But for those who do advance, these acts are often criminal. It is the act that is criminal not the nature of your relationship. You can be married and a victim of sexual crime.
    • The FBI defines rape as “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” This is a good time to take a break and reflect. You might have made excuses for the narcissist’s actions in the past but rape is rape no matter what the nature of your relationship is. Take a deep breath and have a good cry before reading on.
    • Degrading Acts. Degradation is in the eye of the beholder. The narcissist would not view these acts as degrading but you might. You might even be okay with some of these acts or not. Without getting into too many specifics, here are a couple of examples: urinating on you, having sex while on the toilet, or sex in public places. Degrading acts are done to humiliate you and cause you to feel trapped in the relationship. The narcissist will say, “Who would want you but me after you have done this.”
    • Sadistic Sex. There are two forms of sadistic sexual acts: mild (also known as S&M) and severe which can lead to death. Mild examples include: master-slave role-playing, immobilizing you through drugs or alcohol, administering pain (whipping) during sex, confining you to a cage, typing you up, blindfolding you, or clamping your sexual organs. It is important to remember that any sexual act which is not consensual is considered rape. The severe examples include: physical beatings, psychological torture, burning, cutting, stabbing, vampirism, and murder before, during or after sex. A narcissistic sadist will not stop their behavior even when it is identified as such.
  4. The Exit Stage. You can choose to exit the relationship at any of the above stages, it is all sexual abuse. Understandably, some of these abusiveacts you might not want to share with others as a reason for your departure. It can cause you unnecessary embarrassment, increase your humiliation, and prolong the healing process. You are not obligated to explain to anyone why you leave. But it is likely that you will need some professional help in order to heal. Sexual abuse leaves scars that frequently are not fully seen until you are in a healthy sexual relationship.
    • Post-Relationship. Be warned, even after you have broken off the relationship with the narcissist, they do one of two extremes. Either you still belong to them (even after divorce) or they act as if you never existed. Since you are still theirs, they are entitled to continue to demand sex even if you are in a relationship with someone else. Or, they will wipe all memories or pictures of you out of their life pretending the relationship never happened. This is a narcissist phenomenon which can oscillate between the two extremes.

In the beginning, it is common for you to be in a state of shock and have intense fear about leaving. Just reading the information here may increase your anxiety or cause a panic attack. This is normal. You are coming out of the fog of abuse and it is a sign of health for you to react that way. Alternating mood swings of anger and depression are also typical as you begin to see your partner for the person they are rather than the image they have created. Just because a narcissist has an unrealistic image of themselves does not mean that you have to believe it.

 

There is hope for your exhaustion.  Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

10 Steps to Back Away from Religious Abuse

Religious abuse

Religious abuse exists in every type of faith. Oftentimes, it is not the religion itself that is the problem but the people within the practice. This is precisely why it is hard to get away.

Most likely it began with an attraction of sorts, a need being filled, companionship, and a sense of belonging. But those positive feelings were soon met with conflicting emotions of isolation, inadequacy, guilt, shame, and distrust. The confusion feels like physical abuse without the marks.

Others who have left the religion are shunned, disgraced, and humiliated. You want to pull away but are unsure of how. Try these steps.

  1. Learn the signs of religious abuse. Memorize and identify when they are being used against you. Saying in your head, “This is abusive behavior,” promotes awareness and empowerment.
  2. Get a new perspective by sidestepping religious rituals. This is not about abandoning your faith. Rather it is about viewing things from a different perspective. Are you condemned for stepping back? Or is there grace?
  3. Make a personal commitment not to engage or tolerate the belittlement of others who don’t believe as you. Instead show compassion. Not everyone has the same level of knowledge or understanding.
  4. Study your faith for yourself. Read and learn directly from the original writings instead of trusting individuals or institutions to interpret. Abusive behavior discourages such practices.
  5. Make friendships with people outside your faith. This reduces the dichotomous thinking (us versus them) and the isolation that often accompanies religious abuse.
  6. As you learn more about your faith, intentionally question one of the accepted extraneous rules. Learn all you can about it and stand your ground. Safe individuals will welcome the discussion; abusive individuals will not.
  7. Refuse to put on a false front. Be consistent and honest about who you are and what you are going through. “Faking it” cultivates fraud and deception.
  8. Don’t make quick commitments. “I need to pray/think/meditate about that,” are good phrases to use and practice. Abusive individuals try to force immediate decisions before you can evaluate.
  9. Find a friend who has gone through religious abuse or seek out a professional counselor. You can’t do this alone. You will need someone to remind you of past offenses and hold you accountable.
  10. As you step completely away from the religion, remember that it is not the faith that caused this but the people in the religion. Healthier versions of your faith do exist.

When you seek out a new religious organization, remember your experiences so you don’t fall into the same mistake as before. Your new level of knowledge from your studies will help you to better evaluate safe institutions. In the end, your faith will be stronger because of your perseverance.

 

There is hope for your exhaustion.  Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How Healing Emotional Wounds is Like Healing Physical Wounds

Physical wounds are easy to spot as they usually leave physical evidence of an injury such as a broken bone or blood.  They also leave emotional evidence such as anxiety or pain.  Emotional wounds, like physical, can leave physical evidence such as loss of appetite or sudden sickness.  They also leave emotional evidence such as depression or anger.  However they do not always leave evidence.  These wounds are much harder to spot because they have been hidden or denied for so long but far more devastating in the end if not properly addressed.

To heal from a physical wound such as a large cut, you must begin by realizing that you have a wound.  Then you need to asses if it is a wound you can manage or if it is a wound that you need help managing.  Your next step is to clean out the wound, stitch the wound up if needed, and finally bandage the wound.  Failure to clean out the wound effectively can lead to infection.  Healing from an emotion wound works much the same way.

Realizing you are wounded.  Emotional wounds are not as obvious as blood pouring out of your body but they do have some familiar signs.  They can stem from any number of traumatic situations such as a death of a loved one, sexual or physical abuse, car accident, divorce, unexpected pregnancy, bankruptcy or witnessing a crime.  Common signs of emotional wounds are depression, anxiety, anger outburst, isolation, change in interests, lacking enjoyment from life, and change in personality.  Realizing you are wounded and by what is the first step.

Assessing your abilities.  One of the hardest steps is to asses if you are able to manage the emotional wound yourself or if you need help managing it.  It is extremely important that you accurately assess your abilities as in the example of a large cut, if you are wrong about your ability to manage the wound, the consequences can be lifelong.  It is much harder to clean out an infected wound that has already been improperly healed than it is to deal with it when it is fresh.  If you have recently experienced a traumatic situation, being honest with your abilities can be a life saving event.

Cleaning your wound.  Thoroughly cleaning out a large cut can not only prevent infection but it will also help the wound to heal faster than if you left it alone.  Cleaning out emotional wounds means revisiting the traumatic event and allowing yourself the freedom to feel the emotional pain.  It is also a time to confess any responsibility you may have in contributing to the trauma.  In the event of a large cut, you may have been handling a knife improperly; in the event of a traumatic situation, you may have ignored warning signs of danger.

Stitching your wound.  Sometimes cleaning a large cut is not enough, you might need a few stitches to facilitate the healing process and ensure that it heals properly.  Stitching up emotional wounds means you recognize how other areas of your life have been affected by the trauma.  For instance, if your traumatic moment was verbal abuse by a parent, a spouse yelling at you could cause you to get overly angry and have an outburst.  The wound of verbal abuse needs to be stitched up before dealing with your spouse.

Bandaging your wound.  The last step in the physical healing of a large cut is to bandage it up to keep from re-injuring the area until it has fully healed.  Emotionally speaking, bandaging up wounds is granting forgiveness, accepting a loss or gain of life, being satisfied with less income or being peaceful in the midst of a storm.  Not that the pain has fully gone away or that there won’t be a scar left after the bandage has been taken off but rather there is calm where there used to be trauma.

All of these steps require time and patience with yourself and others as you begin to work through them.  The best part of reaching the end of this journey is the ability to guide others along the way because it is in watching their healing take place that you are able to find meaning in yours.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How to know when your child needs therapy

When your child struggles for a period of time, has difficulty in school, seems different at home than at school, or acts inconsistently with their personality, therapy designed specifically for children can help them overcome these challenges.  Most children experience difficulties from time to time while growing up.  Some of these challenges are physical (their changing bodies), some are mental (their school work), some are social (their friendships), some are environmental (their home life) and some are spiritual (their religious affiliations).  For some children, these challenges are easily faced and they continue to have a positive outlook on their future.  For other children, these challenges become road blocks and they seem to be stuck in a negative cycle.

As a parent, understanding your child’s challenge and how to best motivate and encourage them is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship with them.  Children take their cues from their parents so if a challenge is overwhelming for the parent, the child is likely to respond similarly.  However, if a parent is understanding, concerned and empathetic the child is likely to respond positively.  Sometimes just becoming aware of your child’s challenges and how best to deal with them will make all the difference in your relationship.

If your child has been dealing with abuse, developmental issues, attention deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorderoppositional defiant disorder, mood disorders, or post traumatic stress disorder then therapy is beneficial for both the parent and the child.  Other struggles include social pressure, divorce, depression, anger, eating disorders, addictions, self harm, and grief.  Some of the indications that your child may need therapy are:

  • change in appetite
  • nervous more than usual
  • difficulty concentrating
  • problems at school
  • aggressive or angry
  • nightmares
  • trouble sleeping
  • mood swings
  • seems depressed
  • loud noises are bothersome
  • regressing to younger behavior
  • refusing to talk
  • fears separation from parents
  • change in friends
  • socially withdrawn
  • personality change
  • problem with life transition (death in the family, divorce, move, new school)

Most of the time, therapy is not a long process for a child as they adjust and adapt more quickly than adults.  The combination of therapy for the parents and the child is doubly beneficial as it helps the entire family unit to be on the same page.  If therapy is not timely, some of the challenges can be so overwhelming for a child that they feel defeated and this belief can last a lifetime.  It is never too late to begin the therapy process with your child; it is only too late if never started.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.