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.

How Narcissists Use Money to Abuse

money power

“Money is a mechanism for control,” David Korten, a former Harvard Business School professor states. And narcissists know this all too well. Even a little bit of money gives a narcissist a sense of power and domination over others. It starts off small with the little things like removing your name from the accounts and then grows into stealing, threats, and extortion.

What are some of the warnings signs of money being used as a mechanism for control over your life? Read on.

  • Assets – narcissists will:
    • Be generous in giving presents but then expects you to submit without question and to immediately comply with their demands.
    • Flaunt their money and use it as a weapon against the less fortunate, including you or other family members.
    • Forbid you to have access to your money or possessions so that you are entirely dependent on them for food, clothing, shelter, and any necessities.
    • Steal from you or your family and expect everyone to be ok with it.
    • Defraud and /or exploit your financial resources for their financial gain (not yours).
    • Destroy your personal belongings without remorse, especially items that have great significance prior to your relationship.
    • Prevent you from acquiring assets, insisting that you be solely reliant on them.
    • Demand that all financial gifts or inheritances be placed in their name.
    • Refuse you access to money to pay your court-ordered child or spousal support because it is not their problem or the other party doesn’t really need the money anyway.
    • Coerce you into selling or signing over any financial assets in only your name. Yet they have many financial assets in their name.
    • Pressure you to agree to a power-of-attorney so they can sign legal documents for you without reciprocation.
    • Cancel life, health, car or house insurance without your knowledge leaving you vulnerable and then claim that the expense is unnecessary.
  • Banking – narcissists will:
    • Open bank accounts in their name and/or yours but won’t give you access or allow you to see any records.
    • Force you to hand over your paycheck, deposit it in their account and then deny you access to the money.
    • Forbid you from maintaining a personal bank account, insisting that you are incapable of managing such things.
    • Own investment accounts at various financial institutions that are unknown to you and have secret stashes of money. They become angry when you confront them and claim that you are hiding money from them.
  • Credit – narcissists will:
    • Put all the bills or credit cards in your name. The assets are in their name but the debt is in your name. This keeps you hostage.
    • Increase debt without agreement and then lie about it when discovered.
    • Max out credit cards without your knowledge. They will blame you when confronted.
    • Ruin your credit rating and ability to obtain credit in the future by not paying the bills. This move renders you powerless financially because you have no assets and now no ability to obtain credit.
    • Claim the credit card companies make enough money and therefore they don’t deserve to be paid.
  • Taxes – narcissists will:
    • Use your or your child’s social security number without permission to claim additional income tax refunds. Often this is done in a fraudulent manner.
    • Falsify tax records to show greater reductions than is true than expect you to sign tax documents without question. They justify the behavior by saying everyone does it.
    • Deplete tax sheltered money such as retirement without your knowledge and expect you to just “trust” them.
  • Budgeting – narcissists will:
    • Shame you for how you spend your money while elevating their superior spending habits.
    • Put you on a strict allowance with an impossible “budget” thereby setting you up for failure in order to justify their refusal to give you access to money.
    • Force you to beg for money for clothes, food, medicine, or personal hygiene. And then claim you don’t really need the item.
    • Spend money on them but not you claiming that you don’t deserve it because of your poor budgeting abilities.
    • Punish your spending with verbal, physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
  • Work related – narcissists will:
    • Prevent you from using the car by taking your keys. They insist that they are more important than being on time.
    • Force you to work in a family business for little or no pay while tightly controlling all other budgeting.
    • Forbid you from earning money, attending school, or advancing your career. They demand total financial dependence on them.
    • Interfere in your work environment by calling your boss and demanding you be treated a certain way.
    • Insist on having access to your work emails and calendar knowing details about your job that is excessive, unprofessional, and violates confidentiality.
    • Harass you at work through unannounced visits, excessive phone calls or texting to negatively impact your job. They claim that they are in charge of you not your boss.
    • Force you to leave your job or cause you to get fired. Work is than blamed, not them.

Knowing the signs of financial abuse by a narcissist is the first step. Not falling into the same trap is the second. Begin by setting small boundaries to reestablish some financial independence such as opening an account and having your paycheck deposited into that account. Then build on that by attending a financial class that promotes balance, not financial dictatorship. Have a conversation with them about what would happen if…(death, disability, or sickness). Calm reasoning mixed with compliments is a better way to confront a narcissist and stop the abuse.

 

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.

Narcissistic Verbal Abuse

yell-classroom

Narcissistic verbal abuse is powerful. A talented narcissist can wear you down and then spin you around so fast you hardly know what has happened. Before you realize it, the narcissist has convinced you that what is up is really down and their verbal assaults are actually your fault.

For this reason, verbal abuse is a favorite tactic of narcissists. It very quickly intimidates the target while simultaneously establishing their dominance and superiority. The attack usually catches the target off-guard thus assuring victory. All of this is done to gain control and manipulate you into doing something.

The pattern is similar whether the narcissist is a spouse, parent, employer, coach, manager, or preacher. It first begins in secret, is infrequent, is mild in tone with minimal use of abusive language, and sometimes is followed by a shallow apology. Then it escalates to public humiliation, is more frequent, shifts blame to you, and is excessive in tone while denying abusive words.

  • Narcissists use the volume and tone of their voice to subconsciously establish dominance over you. They do this through two extremes. One way is to increase the volume by yelling, screaming, and raging. The second is equally effective through complete silence, ignoring, and refusing to respond. Their tone reiterates the abusiveness by combining petulance and pompousness.
  • Words have meaning beyond their definition. For a narcissist, words are used to instill fear, intimidate, manipulate, oppress and constrain. Swearing and threatening language comes easily to the narcissist when you refuse to do what they want. But if you try to use the same method, their verbal assault will amplify.
  • The manner of a narcissist’s speech is argumentative, competitive, sarcastic and demanding. They will frequently interrupt, talk over you, withhold key information, bully and interrogate. Many times the verbal assault will be so rapid that you will not have the time or energy to fight point by point. This is precisely what they want.
  • Mixed in with the assault will be personal attacks such as name calling, mocking your response, defaming your character, berating your feelings, and judging your opinions. To further add to the confusion, the narcissist will mix some truth with a lot of criticism. This condemning tactic leaves you feeling inferior and defeated.
  • A narcissist will do anything to avoid embarrassment, including going on the defensive over minor infractions by blocking and diverting your remarks. Their self-inflated perception is so skewed that they frequently accuse you of making them look bad. When they perceive an attack, they refuse to take responsibility, become hostile, invalidate or dismiss your feelings, lie, and conveniently forget promises or commitments.
  • Narcissists are masters at the blame game; anything that goes wrong is your fault. They will accuse you being too sensitive, will be overly critical of your reactions, one-up your feelings and oppose your opinions. In essence, you are to blame for the negative condition in which they find themselves.
  • Typical sayings include: “I’m critical for your own good,” “I was only joking when I said that…,” “If only you would…, then I won’t have to be this way,” “You don’t know how to take a joke,” “The problem with you is…,” and “That (verbal abuse) didn’t really happen.”
  • As a result of the verbal abuse, you feel you can’t ever win, are always in the wrong, have a loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, constantly walk on eggshells, are fearful of their response, and are embarrassed by their behavior.

You are not going crazy.  Verbal abuse is real and can leave you confused and frustrated. Be careful not to agree to anything the narcissist insists on during the verbal assault. Wait at least 24 hours before making any decision and get counsel outside of them. You do not have to jump through every hoop the narcissist requires.

 

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.

15 Narcissistic Religious Abuse Tactics

religiousIs spiritual perfectionism demanded?  Are you terrified of not being accepted? Does the narcissist in your life have crazily ridiculous implausible spiritual expectations?

There was a time when your religious beliefs brought you companionship and peace, but now you struggle with intimacy, insecurity, and comparison. You used to find security in your faith, but now there is only sanctuary in ceremonies and rituals. How did you get here?

A narcissist uses their religious belief to manipulate, control and dominate you through fear. They systematically take the life out of your faith and replace themselves in the center.

It doesn’t matter the religion. Major organizations such as Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish or even minor sects such as Mormon, Taoism, Confucianism, New Age, or Rastafari can be used. Even those who do not profess a belief in God such as Atheistic, Agnostic, or Satanism can be included.

It is not the type of belief but rather how the faith is used that makes it abusive.

  1. It begins with dichotomous thinking, diving people into two parts. Those who agree with the narcissist’s beliefs and those who don’t. Interestingly, only the narcissist is the judge and jury of who belongs on which side. Your opinion is insignificant.
  2. Then the narcissist makes fun of, belittles, and shows prejudice towards other beliefs. This tactic is done to remind you that if you change your views, you will be treated likewise.
  3. Suddenly the narcissist becomes elitist and refuses to associate with people or groups they consider impure or unholy. They prefer isolation and insist you do the same while condemning others who don’t.
  4. Next, the narcissist requires that you completely adopt their point of view. There is no room for differing opinions or questioning their authority. Any voicing of opinions to the contrary are met with threats of abandonment or divorce. There is no free will for you.
  5. Demands of total submission without question follow. You are not free to question their authority and any attempt to do so is met with spiritual, physical, and/or verbal discipline. Name calling, chastising, and the silent treatment are common maneuvers into compliance.
  6. The narcissist is no longer satisfied with private dominion but instead needs the appearance of power in public. They expect strict adherence to whatever image they have created regardless of the accuracy of that image. Even the slightest hint of challenging their façade is met with quick and cruel reprimands.
  7. To further intimidate, the narcissist labels people who don’t comply with their beliefs as disobedient, rebellious, lacking faith, demons, or enemies of the faith. This is done in front of others to reinforce their opinions and instill fear inside and outside the family.
  8. There is huge emphasis on public performance. They demand perfection and happiness at all times. Religious activities such as attending church have extreme demands, excessive expectations, and rigidity. No allowances are given even for grieving over the loss of a friend or relative.
  9. Strict adherence to their rules and regulations are commanded with absolute statements about insignificant issues such as hair color or style. Non-compliance is met with severe discipline and even excommunication.
  10. To further segregate, the narcissist uses secrecy or withholds information to a few select worthy individuals. Sometimes they require proof of advanced spirituality or some deeper level of commitment before they will share.
  11. Questioning the narcissist is worse than questioning the religion. Blind obedience to the narcissist is expected as their opinion is more important than the religion. In essence, they have replaced your religion with themselves and you are expected to worship them.
  12. The narcissist frequently uses their religious position of authority to connive for their own personal benefit which is often financial. They will justify this behavior by saying they deserve it because they are better than others. You, however, will not be included because even your best is not good enough.
  13. For the narcissist, the end justifies the means. They may engage in criminal misconduct or cover up the transgressions of others in the name of their religion. This includes covering up sexual abuse, physical abuse, financial felonies, and misdemeanors. They believe they are above the law and therefore can subvert it.
  14. To complete the isolation, estrangement from extended family members and friends outside of the religion is mandatory. This includes shunning, alienation, or persecution. You are completely alone now with only them as the voice in your life.
  15. At the end of this, you find your own beliefs have lost their vitality and your religious growth is stagnant due to the constant abuse by the narcissist. It is not unusual for you to question you faith and even abandon it due to the sadistic behavior.

You don’t have to be subject to religious abuse. Study these steps and refuse to be part of any organization that encourages this behavior. Your faith is far too precious to be destroyed by a narcissist. Don’t let them steal your joy.

 

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.

Eight Mental Abuse Tactics Narcissists Use on Spouses

narcissismHave you experienced intentional exploitation by your spouse? Regularly endured insults mixed with rejection and alternating with affirmation? Feel manipulated into doing or saying something out of character? Then you might be experiencing abuse.

But is it really abuse without bruising?  Abuse is not just physical. There are many other forms of abuse such as sexual, financial, emotional, mental, and verbal. While some of the other forms of abuse are obvious, mental abuse by a narcissist can be difficult to spot.

It starts simply with a casual comment about anything: color of the wall, dishes in the sink, or the car needing maintenance. The remark is taken out of context by the narcissist to mean that you disapprove of them in some way. You try to explain that wasn’t your intention but they are off on a tirade which ends in you feeling like you are losing your mind.

How did this happen? Here are several favorite narcissistic mental abuse tactics:

  1. Rage – This is an intense, furious anger that comes out of nowhere, usually over nothing (remember the wire hanger scene from the movie “Mommie Dearest”). It startles and shocks you into compliance or silence.
  2. Gaslighting – They lie about the past making you doubt your memory, perception, and sanity. They claim and give evidence of your past wrong behavior further causing doubt. You might even begin to question what you said a minute ago.
  3. The Stare – This is an intense stare with no feeling behind it.  It is designed to scare you into submission and is frequently mixed with the silent treatment.
  4. Silent Treatment – They punish by ignoring you. Then “lets you off the hook” by demanding an apology even though you aren’t to blame. This to modify your behavior.  They also have a history of cutting others out of their life permanently over small things.
  5. Projection – They dump their issues onto you as if you were the one doing it. For instance, they accuse you of lying when they have lied. Or they make you feel guilty when they are really guilty. This creates confusion.
  6. Twisting – If you confront your narcissistic spouse, they will twist it around to blame you for their actions. They will not accept responsibility for their behavior and insist you apologize to them.
  7. Manipulation – A favorite manipulation tactic is for the narcissist to make you fear the worst such as abandonment, infidelity, or rejection. Then they refute it and ask you for something you normally would reply with “No”. This is a control tactic to get you to agree to do something you wouldn’t.
  8. Victim Card – When all else fails, the narcissist resorts to playing the victim card. This is designed to gain your sympathy and further control your behavior.

Don’t let your narcissistic spouse get the best of you by using these tactics. Instead memorize these maneuvers, remain silent when they are being used, and end the conversation as soon as possible. This will keep you from being a victim of mental abuse.