Wednesday, April 27, 2011


The Recovery Process of the Ex Partner of the Person Suffering from a Narcissistically Impaired Personality.*

N = Narcissist
P = Partner of Narcissist

(*Many online predators/cyberpaths have a Destructive Narcissistic Pattern. This article is to help victims understand and start healing - EOPC)

In the past few years I have come across an increasing number of persons suffering from NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and also an increasing number of individuals whose partners seem to be narcissistically disordered. Through my practice I have met clients at the various stages of this process and each stage has its characteristics as regards both the state of the relationship, and the emotional state of the partner. I will be using the masculine pronoun, as most Ns are male.

Narcissism is usually described by a list of behaviours most of which involve the individual himself.
Here I will focus more of the way narcissism interferes with relationships. I believe that there is no better way to diagnosis a narcissist than to look at his relationships and at how his ex-partners have been effected by him.

In describing the victims of narcissists Patrick Hurst's has suggested the diagnosis of EPD, Echo Dependent Personality to describe type of person who is so good at reflecting and affirming another but is lacking in a solid sense of self. "Echo has been captivated by the voice of another of which she is a mere reflection. Echo and Narcissus fit together perfectly; neither is able to initiate and sustain dialogue".

A characteristic predisposing background of EPD involves individuals being parented by caretakers who are themselves self-absorbed, narcissistic, or overly punitive. In the words of Joanna Ashmun
: "Narcissists are so much trouble that only people with prior training (i.e. who were raised by narcissists - i.e. ACONS - Adult Children of Narcissists) get seriously involved with them." In this kind of environment the child learns that asserting one's 'true self' will be met with (often serial) rejection, to which the child responds by substituting 'compliant' behaviour in place of true selfhood. Such compliant behaviour can then be witnessed as a stable feature throughout the child's growing-up years, with other school children, and within the family. These may feel "at home" with someone who takes control, belittles and is emotionally cut off. (Hurst, 1998).

Types of "Echo"
In the introduction to commentaries about the story from Greek mythology we find the appropriate warning: "It is important to note that Narcissus had many lovers, both men and women, so this treatment of Echo is not meant to be a description of every person who has had a relationship with a narcissist. Echo can be seen as just one of a myriad of different personalities who found herself caught within the spell of Narcissus."

Some persons may find themselves drawn to one N after another, perhaps unable to learn from the experience, or alternatively needing to work something out intrapersonally through being with an N. Having been parented by an N often predisposes an individual to seek this dynamic again with a partner.

I have also met many altruistic, empathic rescuers in this situation. While some of these can be seen as suffering from EPD others are well defined individuals; I believe these get in touch intuitively with Ns need for love and self-acceptance, and think they can heal this person if they only love them enough. The implication of this, of course, is that if he does not improve it is their fault. So they try even harder.

The need for someone to idealize, admire, look to for guidance is perhaps an especially. dangerous one. When these persons are let down by their Ns they may sink into a loss of hope wider than pain of the abusive relationship itself.

However I wish to emphasize very strongly that being in relationship with an N changes a person (momentarily) and it is easy to become dependent, insecure and clinging.
I recommend that counselors and psychotherapists withhold diagnosis of a person in this situation unless they knew her before or until they have seen the "freed" version of the individual. The contrast is sometimes striking. I have seen spirited, assertive, self-assured young women fall under this spell.

"I became this dependent, fearful, insecure person about one year into my relationship with my N. I did not trust my thoughts, my feelings, and my
intuition. I shut off all of these so I could fit in with my N. and become what he wanted of me. Just a year before I had been this confident, self-directed, independent woman. None of my friends would ever have described me as
I will now describe the seven phases I have observed whilst working with this type of client and reading the support group contributions. (IMPORTANT!! PLEASE READ):

Phase 1: Flying to the stars
The attraction to the N. is easy to understand. They are often competent, energetic, persons in positions of responsibility. They put themselves across as knowledgeable, interesting, and well connected.
The N may be intimidating, mesmerizing, and even larger then life. Or they may be haughty but quiet. But have many skills which are minor manifestations of their disorder: An ability to see things in a new way, a freedom of thought; creativity even, a way of looking at things from a distance.

Seeing the whole picture instead of getting lost in the details, or in emotions.

Their need for control has often led them into positions of leadership. This same need for control makes them question the usual status quo and many are rebels or freethinkers. But all secretly seek acclaim and recognition.

These are some of the comments made about the relationship with the N. in the initial stage:

"When I met my N I thought I had just met the most wonderful person ever born! Nice, kind, talented, intelligent, even caring and concerned."

"In the beginning he was treating me like a Queen. He acts like I am 'the one', the 'kindred friend' that he's never had before."

"At first the relationship with the N was too good to be true".

At this stage it all looks like a fairy tale come true. Both the N. and the partner are idealizing the other, as is the case in most new relationships. They have made each other gods, the answer to all their searching for the perfect mate.

"My heart was his and I was overwhelmed by loving feelings. He seemed the same expressing his emotions and feelings and making me feel I belong ever so much."
Using other people as her "blood bank" or as S. Vaknin refers to as "narcissistic supply" (N.S.) requires that the narcissist be a human emotional radar. He must be psychologically astute and shrewd so that he can "size up" everyone he encounters for his or her potential to be his 'blood-donor'; the one who provides adoration and admiration in vast, unconditional amounts. Often this involves making the partner feel that she has unusual qualities that make her irresistible to the N; e.g. that they are soul mates, uniquely able to understand and support him. This feeds on the narcissism of the partner as she wishes to be like the esteemed loved one.

Cynically using other people also requires that the narcissist be lacking in empathy. A test suggested by Dr. Maria Hsia Chang is to withhold approval and compliments from the N. She predicts that
"You will discover that, overnight, the narcissist has lost her/his kindness and even simple civility. Do not be fooled by her simulations at empathy."

More than to lure people into his web, the narcissist's mask also conceals the false self from scrutiny. Concealment requires secrecy, evasion, dishonesty, and lying.

The main method of concealment used at this stage is "not saying the whole truth" and evasion of questions about his past.

From my experience this stage will last as long as the uncritical admiration on the part of the partner continues. However others (e.g. J. A. Ashmun, 1998) have commented that to bring this stage to an end, it is enough for the victim to become devoted to the N and to declare her love. This will make the N. feel he can now drop energy draining pretences." And if you object to being treated like an appliance then they will say that obviously you don't really love them or else you'd let them do whatever they want with you."Two years after a partner wrote of her experience:
"It is clear to me [now] how I had been the one to offer unconditionally all that he needed to fuel his false self!!"
Phase 2: Becoming a Satellite
The next stage is a bewildering one.
The N seems to absorb their partner into their intrapsychic world. Some partners find themselves practically mesmerized by the N.

The Ns are mirror hungry and they cause the other to be their idealizing mirror. The focus on himself that the N. forces is very seductive. She fades into the background. She is only there to help the N.to express himself, to admire him, and to support him.

One of the features of this world is
indifference to social norms.

Being grandiose and superior, the narcissist refuses to subscribe to society's moral rules and ethical standards. Instead, morality is subjective: "Nobody can judge me."; another characteristic of modern western society.
"They think they are untouchable, inhabitants of a special world, one parallel to ours but never touching. Outlandish behaviour is the N's hallmark. They can draw other unsuspecting, and usually respectable, people into their criminal or pseudo-criminal activities."
The partner of Ns. find themselves also adapting their lifestyle to the wishes of the N. Many loose contact with friends. Friends may see through the N. more clearly from a distance and warn the partner.(to no avail).

Lost in a cloud
The partner is in fact losing contact with herself. But she does not realize this yet. In the words of an ex-victim:
"The asymmetry is visible only when you're out though ... my experience whilst in the 'fog' was of something weird but boundary-less, maybe even a bit mystical. What an illusion! The illusion of mutuality, I call it!!"
My guess is that there are some types of personality that do not allow this to happen and they move away from the relationship at this stage with only a sense of having met a weird guy, but others remain seduced, trapped in the web.

The next point is made by a support group member reply to another:
"What you are saying here is SO important -- how your energy became enmeshed with his until you could not tell whose feelings you were feeling, his or yours. I used to work on this same thing every single day, but it made me feel like I was insane. After all, do "normal" people not know whose feelings they're feeling?? Once or twice, I tried to explain it to my sisteror to a friend, but when you say it out loud, they look at you like they haven't a clue what you're talking about and you have just maybe gone off the deep end! I don't think I've ever gotten enmeshed like this before in any other relationship, to the point where I didn't know where I ended and the other person began, have you? I think you're right. A lot of the misery and unhappiness and guilt I felt were the N's projections onto me. What amazes me is how totally open and receptive I was to that. I was like a sponge. I just sucked it right up and thought it was ME. Or was it me?"
The blurring of personal boundaries that happens to a certain extent in all relationships happens here in a lop-sided manner with partner of the N. identifying too fully with the Ns world.

"Ns install a mental filter in our heads a little bit at a time. Before we know it, everything we do, say, or think, goes through this filter. 'Will he get upset if I do/say/think this? Will he approve/disapprove? Will he feel hurt by this?' Until we can uninstall the N-filter, our actions are controlled by N to some degree."

"It was the losing of myself that caused me the most anguish. I could feel it, like a brainwashing, like a vampire, and he claimed he didn't know anything was wrong, didn't know what I meant when I said I was sad all the time and couldn't trust a word he said."

Some partners of Ns. sense the hidden vulnerability of the N. and wish to heal the wound that they intuit. This again is very seductive for some and is one of the main reasons for the difficulty in getting free from the relationship.
"I know "now" helping them the best I can is a big part of my life mission. They are like autistic children. They stare at you blankly, don't appear to understand emotions, have conversations that make no sense, and are non-relational."

"The point is, I was getting sick and mad, was losing weight and concentration at work. I'm the typical co-dependent, I know. and I really thought the power of love would help."
One manifestation of this inability to accept themselves is an inability to talk openly about themselves. As S.Vaknin observed one can discuss all the aspects of the intimate life of a narcissist, "providing the discourse is not 'emotionally tinted'. If asked to relate directly to his emotions, he will, probably, intellectualize, rationalize, speak about himself in the third person and in a detached "scientific" tone or write a short story with a fictitious character in it, suspiciously autobiographical." It is notoriously difficult to get the N to talk about his painful past experiences, as long as the N does not sense that if he does it will increase his N.S. This can be understood by a sensitive, responsive partner as an invitation to coax the N. to befriend himself more and be more "in touch" with himself. She may see herself as uniquely capable of this. Thus the web is wrapped ever more tightly.

The combination of the previous two points leads to the next one: made by a wise support group member:

"I also think a good portion of your feeling wounded might possibly really belong to him, meaning you are feeling his woundedness, not to say that "you" aren't wounded too, For myself, what I have experienced is a sense of dooming that my ex dumped on me, in a sense I was feeling his longing and neediness more then my own for a long time. I went through a time where I was so confused about what I was feeling period, his stuff or mine. It's taken time and learning to calm down with in myself. I took on his problems."

This phenomenon is what we sometimes refer to as projective identification.

"One partner wants to get rid of or destroy in the other, what the one partner does not like in the self and sees in the other" Lochkar, 1991) e.g. dependency needs.

The N does not know himself, and knows his weaknesses even less. Instead of the insecurities of normal human beings, the narcissist exhibits an impassive and uncritical acceptance of himself. And projects much of his real self onto his partner. The partner is receptive for whatever reason.
"It's like the N's are vampires, feeding off our souls. They cannot acknowledge that they are wrong just as a vampire cannot face the sunlight. It would destroy them."

"One thing I do have to remind myself of all the time is this. They are always looking for who they are in someone else."
Phase 3: Confusion Reigns; Riding the Roller Coaster
From my experience many of the victims of Ns are decent, trusting, caring individuals who are perhaps a little naive about the worse sides of human nature.

They are in for a shock when they try talking thing over openly with an N:

From a support group
"I believed that if truthful words are spoken, written, shared, they will be heard, and they will be answered. Not with a narcissist. You get sucker-punched in trying to explain something. There is no response to what is said. Words are deflected, twisted, questions answered with questions, non sequitors abound."

"Some Ns like to be MYSTERIOUS because it keeps them in control while you're dancing to FIGURE them out."
Trying to engage a narcissist in serious dialogue is a disconcerting experience because nothing he says makes sense. The N. will often talk in cryptic and confusing messages in order to remain vague and ambiguous. The latest: e.g. of this I heard is of a N. telling his latest victim who has just confessed her love for him "I cannot be in love but I love" and he would not explain further. "The inability or unwillingness to be introspective, in turn, results in cognitive dissonance, cognitive gaps, and non sequiturs." (S. Vaknin).

Sudden shifts between sadism and altruism, abuse and 'love', ignoring and caring, abandoning and clinging, viciousness and remorse, the harsh and the tender produce in people around the narcissist emotional insecurity, an eroded sense of self worth, fear, stress, and anxiety , the feeling of 'walking on eggshells' (S.Vaknin).

A male support group member replies to another:
"That's exactly how it was! Vagueness, lack of commitment, rejection, hope, abandonment --- a crazy, uncertain roller coaster ride. I never knew where I stood, but when I was so rude as to ASK, I got only disgust and anger and blame. I was supposed to be some kind of perfect smiling plastic person who had no needs and made no demands. It wore me down so much. I kept trying, though --- trying to be perfect and sweet and uncomplaining, even when hurt and dumped and blamed. Isn't it right and normal and even healthy of me to want to shake her and scream at her and demand that she SEE what she has put me through."
On the other hand: "When I don't go back and "oblige" everything is O.K."
"I went back to him a dozen times, each time somehow thinking it was different, that maybe now that we had addressed all the issues and brought everything into the open, and he admitted he had treated me badly it would change. And it WOULD go back to (almost) how it had been, but each time that honeymoon period would last a shorter and shorter amount of time. It absolutely wrecked me - my self esteem has never been lower than during my years with him."
The relationship is changing. The leopard is starting to show his spots.

Nothing is equal in the relationship. He expects the partner to submit. It becomes slowly obvious that he cannot conceive of a "we". He gets very annoyed, even rageful at a lot of things the partner does or thinks. This he would vigorously deny if asked...to the great confusion of the partner. A very controlling aspect is starting to emerge, but again the N. is unaware of it and talks of himself in a way that portrays a very different person.
"It wasn't until a few months had passed that I began to feel something wasn't right and I was confused. I felt like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown but couldn't put my finger on the problem (because I thought it was me) until I came here'."

"My life depends on how he is feeling, if he is in a good or bad mood. I am in constant fear."

"Judgmental behaviour began to appear all too soon though and with hindsight it should have been clear that my partner was not ready to accept views that were different from his own even on minor matters. A clear controlling aspect began to emerge"."
If it makes him feel better about himself to belittle you, he will do that, but the ultimate goal isn't to make you feel bad, the goal is perpetuate the myth of his own perfection and simultaneously control you. If by hurting you it gets you in check, makes you take on his failings as your own, and make you work twice as hard for his approval, it's a bonus for him. If he doesn't need to employ cruelty in order to accomplish either of the above goals, he won't. It's that simple."

The N often picks victims who have to keep the relationship secret because, for example, it is an extra-marital relationship. This provides them with a double advantage. They will not have to commit thus they will avoid being controlled in that way, and secondly they will have more power in the relationship. A person having an extra-marital relationship or a relationship with someone who is not available e.g. a catholic priest, is very vulnerable. She cannot speak out about the abuse she is experiencing.

She cannot get advice and an outside perspective on the relationship from her friends and family. She has to look happy and "normal all the time at home causing her great psychological stress. And her isolation means only the Ns. Influence will prevail."

N's count on our shame to keep their secrets. They know that exposing them means exposing our own failings. That's what makes them so powerful. They manipulate us into these situations then sit back and watch us squirm between protecting ourselves or blowing the whistle."

Issues of Fidelity
One thing that often jolts the P into facing the situation is the discovery of repeated infidelity.
"He would tell women he loved them all at the same time, keeping each woman separate from the others."

"He will have a new female N supplier ASAP and you can bet he'll be parading her in front of you too."
Narcissist's sexual infidelity is notorious. Flirting and using their sexual attractiveness is a wonderful way of getting what they need most - admiration and devotion. And a secondary gain will be putting the present partner in her place.

It is not because they value sex that much. In fact many can go without sex for months or even years without problems. They also can tease and frustrate their partners with this aspect of a relationship.
Often they withhold sexually and relationally as a way of asserting their power and inflict pain.

Hated and Envy
Theorists say that Ns harbor a hated for women which is only thinly veiled.

They also become envious and destructive of anything good that another has.

So if their partner is feeling secure and satisfied he will feel compelled to change that. His affairs may be secret and he will deny their existence very convincingly but he'll make sure you find out about them.
"Yes I told him exactly what I think of him, his lies, his deceit, his lack of emotions, he is just an image not a real person. And I realize that not only did this not bother him, it actually made him feel great! He knows that he has a dramatic impact on my feelings and since he won't let me love him anymore, now he makes me hate him. This must really make him feel like he's one damn special and unforgettable person!"
Ns. prefer to be notorious than to be ignored and hated.

If they have many enemies, if they are feared and avoided, they take a preserve pleasure in this. Besides they can tell themselves that no one can understand them as no one can reach their level, thus taking pride in being different and unpopular.
"Only the most discerning individuals can know my worth and value."
By this time the partner of the N. has noticed that something is amiss in the relationship! But nothing is clear.

Phase 4: Hitting the dust
The change in the narcissist is too obvious to take all the blame for.

If she expresses this as a complaint, a request for something different or especially as a criticism she is in for trouble. This will probably set off the Ns's worst self. He will suddenly feel exposed.

Seen for who he really feels he is deep with in himself. It may provoke the deflation of the grandiosity or set off efforts at warding off the threat of a more accurate view of the self. Whichever way it goes he will devalue the partner and start treating her like an enemy.
"He was mad at "me" for wanting something I had every right to want from him considering the time factor of our relationship and the closeness he led me onto. I was the bad person because I was scared to death about my future since he wasn't giving me anything to really hang onto that I could trust. And he hated me for laying the rope down on the line about commitment, no matter how many times I pleaded and tried to explain to him that I needed to have a future too."

"The most you can do is just accept that they blame you for things. It's one of the easiest things N's do, "blame". You're going to have to know that you are NOT to blame!"
The N. when he "changes" does so often suddenly and dramatically. In the words of a client:
"From being totally in love with me one day this person could just drop me the next, belittle me and put all blame on me over one episode where I disagreed with a decision (which involved both of us), he took on his own accord."

"I suddenly realized that I wasn't as stupid as I had grown to believe."
From the point of view of the N. his sense of pride or integrity has been wounded. This N. rage is a response to personal injury, a statement like "Here I've tried so hard and you make me look like a fool! You never appreciate all the things that I have done for you." At this moment they are expelled from their womb of self love and plunged into a free fall of destructive and uncontrollable impulses, awash in long repressed insecurity.

They quickly recover however, defenses coming to the rescue, helped along by their next N.S.

Narcissists are likely to treat people inconsistently because they are susceptible to "splitting", or projecting everything good on some people and everything bad on others. In other words, narcissists "divide the world into famous, rich, worthy and great people on the one hand, and the despicable, worthless 'mediocrity' on the other. They quickly pass a person from the "in" category to the " out" one, this especially in intimate relationships.

The false self must be impervious, which requires the narcissist to resist self-examination and introspection. Doing so would open the narcissist to reality-based assessment--a dangerous undertaking because the false self is, by definition, unreal. As a consequence, instead of the insecurities of normal human beings, the narcissist exhibits an impassive and uncritical acceptance of himself.

The maintenance and protection of the false self also requires constant vigilance against attack. This is why the narcissist overreacts with rage and humiliation to any perceived criticism, no matter how minor or justified (S. Vaknin)

Taking the blame
"And finding fault constantly, excessively and yes, making me out to be the one with the unforgivable faults and the one who isn't normal. All my efforts to do things properly were in vain."
This feeling that as a partner we have done something unforgivable is very common.

Many partners of Ns. at this stage would do anything to return to how they were.

They will take the blame for anything and everything if only the N would love them as he did in the beginning. There is no way out of the narcissistic catch: the narcissist despises, in equal measures, the submissive and the independent, the strong (who constitute a threat) and the weak (who are, by definition, despicable).

No one will measure up to his standards and if they do they would threaten him. Ns seem to prefer those inferior to him to make his self-aggrandizement easier, but then he despises her as she puts him in a bad light.

"this is the only partner that you can attract," says an unconscious nagging doubt.

If she is his equal he will try and destroy her even faster, to show his superiority.

"As I got to know him, the uneasiness shifted to a feeling of walking on eggshells since I never knew what action or word I might do would trip over one of his innumerable emotional landmines."

Trust betrayed
"I can recall so vividly his change, like a blade cutting sharply through me, like meeting another self!!!"

It often comes as a shock, a trauma the realization that the one the partner loved so much can be so feelingless, so cruel, so detached. It may become obvious that he does not consider the partner at all when important decision-making is concerned.

And he does not seem to understand why that bothers her. He may suddenly disappear from her life.in one of the mostpowerfully painful experience ever. It is a though he has exclaims as in the myth; ""Hands Off!" Embrace me not! May I die before I give you power o'er me!"
"And then I feel there is a time of confusion, maybe for me that was the beginning of breaking the illusory shell, and then the space of non-understanding, of not being able to make it."
"I suddenly realized that I wasn't as stupid as I had grown to believe."
The realization that the relationship is over because the N has devalued the partner is often experienced as a trauma. Partners often remark that this final realization came suddenly and
as a consequence the partner of the N has many symptoms of PTSD including sleepless nights, flash backs, startle reflexes, and uncontrollable crying fits. These symptoms may last for months or years.
"The brutal change in him was all the more shocking because of what he had appeared to be. The devaluation was indescribable, unnerving, horrifying, frightening."
His N rages used to burst forth several times a day. I found I was married to a total stranger, a Jekyll and Hyde who sometimes looked at me as if he didn't even know me. Exhausting is an understatement - it was like clinging to the edge of a cliff 24 hours a day."

Difficulty in explaining what happened
One painful fact is that when the experience is shared with friends or sometimes-even counsellors, it is difficult to communicate what has happened. The confusion that the P experiences make it difficult to recount things clearly.
The P. is still emotionally connected to the N, thus protecting him and accusing him alternatively. Many Ps will not name their Ns. to counsellors or other helpers, thus protecting their identity. The hook, which the N has implanted in their heart, is hard to remove.

Also the break up is more painful then an ordinary one. Friends may find this difficult to understand. There is something devastating about the aftermaths of a relationship with an N.

Phase 5: Breaking the Spell: Run Trying Not to Look Back
Feeling the power he still has over her some Ns. will keep on pursuing their partner after she has left him, as illustrated below. He may feel she still has a soft spot for him and that she will take him back. He exploits this, maybe to exercise his power. Maybe he also misses the early moments of "Flying to the Stars" and hopes his ex will again provide that magic mirror.

Or the reasons may be more utilitarian e.g. a place to stay. Whatever the reason the effect is an increased confusion and ambivalence in the ex partner. The personal boundaries of the partner were often not strong before the relationship started...and are weaker still after some years of self-confidence erosion.
"I stayed far away from him. But he would not leave me alone. I was extremely violated by this person and it took 7 years of intensive therapy to overcome the injuries I suffered because of him."

"It's a very good thing to be scared sometimes, especially when tempted to N-dip. It's not only our emotional well being at stake here. It can be our physical (health included) safety as well."

"My self esteem has never been lower than during my years with him".
The greatest temptation at this stage is to give him another chance. I have met partners of N who are cyclically hoping that he will see the light and change his ways. The power of their early experience with the N, when he was warm, perceptive, caring and protective prove to be a powerful hook; one that is very difficult to remove from one's heart.
"He was so convincing in his gentle, opened sensitive "mode". I still can't quite believe that that is not the real him, not the devil I have met in the later years. He seemed so sincere, so genuine; like a hurt but hopeful pure being. I cannot give up hope.."
When 'Trying' is not successful
Others, for whatever reason, choose not to leave the relationship but continue to struggle within it. I received this feedback from a close friend in this situation when I was drafting this paper:

"Struggling to break the spell"
This has certainly been my experience: struggling to not only see the reality of my husband (which I do only too well) but also, I guess, I have struggled to make him see himself as I see him - which is not something that has helped the relationship of course!" A question which keeps on coming up both in the support group and from my clients is: "If I tell him that he has a disorder will he accept it, will he change, go to therapy, work to change the way he relates to me". The sad answer is that Ns will not recognize themselves and will deny what you show them about themselves. They will, most likely, make the partner think thatthere is something wrong in her, that her perception has been distorted, that she, moreover, has betrayed their unique understanding.

Phase 6: Picking up the Pieces: Trying to make Sense of the Experience and Coping with the Loss and Anger
Making sense is pretty complicated emotionally but can be summarized in one sentence rationally: In the words of an experienced partner:

"NPD is actually quite simple. When they want supply (adoration/veneration) they put on the whole show to obtain that supply. As the supply wanes, because no one can sustain all the time that high-octane adoration the N requires, then the N begins to get uneasy and devaluation sets in, followed by confusion and bewilderment on the part of the spouse/partner, who thinks s/he has done everything 'right'."

"The key for you is to learn as much as you can as fast as you can, and protect yourself financially and emotionally. Not too many people survive the devastation of a tornado. The N will not change, you must absolutely keep this before your mind."

"I know it is hard for you right now.... But, with this time you can concentrate on getting back to You! Focus on all your good points, you inner strength and beauty. It will come back. I think it's something we all are struggling with, trying to figure out just who we really are. It's our inner light that keeps us strong."

"It is excruciating pain. It is the pain of separation, the pain of loss, the pain of dreams and expectations unrealized. It is the loss and death of a mirage."

Anger at what is finally Named as Abuse
At last the anger can be released...as the hope of getting back the "Garden of Eden" days fades. With distance the Ns games and manipulative ways can be seen more clearly.
"Maybe it is bad for me to wish her unfortunate times, but that is what she deserves I have never met anyone more evil than she is. It's the kind of evil that masquerades as good. I swear I met the devil."

"If you want something to cry about, cry for the N's new victim(s), the innocent, unmarked, un-inoculated prey. The victims are carefully chosen, and I feel sad for them."

"About every three months I'd hear about some treachery he was inflicting on someone, somewhere. This helps remind me NEVER to go back"
The key, as in all break ups, is to avoid contact. This physical distance is especially important in break-ups with an N as psychological distance and freedom is very difficult to achieve.

It's important not to blame yourself but get on with detaching both physically and mentally. Not easy and not pleasant.

Anger towards herself
Anger is not only felt towards the N but perhaps felt in equal measures towards one's self. The partner sees herself as an idiot for having fallen for the N, and for not having seen through him earlier. She is angry and disappointed with herself for having done things, even become a person, who she did not want to become, though the N's influence. She experiences a great loss of self, a loss of boundaries, and a loss of self-trust. The re-finding of herself has to begin.
"And when the crack is too big to keep holding with an elastoplast stick, then came the shame and humiliation for the victim (me!) and then the self-addressed anger- how stupid could I have been to trust!!"
Exhausted by years of self-doubt, emotion abuse, confusion and perhaps indecision the partner sees herself as a fool. She sees the ways that she has denied reality to herself; the ways she has ignored her 'inner small voice of wisdom' and allowed herself to be taken over by a sick person, and the self-blame can precipitate her into depression.

"I am worried that I am the kind of person who will always end up in a relationship like the one I had with Peter. I gravitate towards that type of person, I can see it now...all the men who attract me were Ns. I feel powerless to do anything about it."

When the anger cannot be expressed, as is often the case in this type of situation, the energy attached to the experience remains locked up and can become self destructive.

Phase 7: Moving on, without closure
To come back to the ever-seductive pull of the N, the partner finds she has to do all the work of putting an end to the relationship herself. The N will always want to keep it open-ended, to keep his hold on the partner.

"When you try to break off, then, it's like they have a way of keeping you locked in their gaze. In fact, I think the image of the gaze is appropriate. You're locked and you cannot be freed. And when you force yourself to look away, for a time, until the hope ends, it's like you know you're somehow still present in that gaze, that somehow you still are obsessed with him, and it is only when you can break it off, sharply, that you can be free. But he will keep looking!!!"

"I am ready to move on, but some things are proving harder for me to cope with than others.
One thing is knowing that N has always blamed me, is blaming me now, and will continue to blame me silently, from a distance, even if I never see her again, for EVERYTHING that ever happened. This haunts me. I want to find her, shake her, make her realize and admit that she DID do some destructive things that made our relationship impossible, and she IS responsible for doing those things. Everything was not my fault!"

"Closure is something that is foreign to us here (in the support group); I doubt that any of us really feel that there was ever true closure when dealing with our N's. This wish for closure just keeps this person in your life"

"I feel like I have extricated myself from a cult."

The support of friends and especially sharing with people who have experienced the same thing that allows the partner to keep a sense of sanity and of hope. This is why I refer all my client to support groups; either the on-line variety or face-to-face versions. The dynamics of this type of relationship are unique and to see another pass through what you have lived is a uniquely liberating experience.

There is uniquely strong sense, after a partner has detached herself from the N., of having met evil personified. Scott Peck in his book "The People of the Lie" also talked of some types of narcissism as being an expression of evil. I think that this is because the N. first portrays himself in such a good light and then reveals himself as being someone so damaging and ruthless that we get the sense of our goodness, and belief in goodness being threatened to the core.

Thus the sense of 'evil being made visible'. Also I believe, the lack of empathy of the N. so injures our social bonds that the N. is by nature an outcast and an aberration.

For some this experience of having been "taken over" by a N. can lead to a self-questioning which in turn can lead to deeper self-knowledge and understanding. The ex-partner of the N can start the process of re-integrated the part of herself that she disowned, and needed the N. to express for her. This could be the more dynamic, more confident part. Or the part that wants to be seen and recognized. The possibilities are many. But through this experience she can re-integrate "shadow" aspects of her personality. She may realize that she is drawn to an N. because it is a familiar role. One which she adopted as a child with her father or mother.

She may want to learn how to put better boundaries so that con men can no longer impress her and invade her world. This work cannot be done till all the above phases have been worked through and she can take a certain distance from the trauma.
"I didn't honour my intuition, gut feelings and instinct. The truth is that I had almost no experience setting healthy boundaries."

"Remember, the trip through the pain will bring the emergence of a stronger you who will have acquired a self-awareness you never dreamed possible!!!"

"Through my self-education I've experienced opposite ends of emotion. On one hand it's been enlightening, cleansing, joyous, and uplifting. On the other hand it's been revolting, heart-achingly painful, gut-wrenchingly toxic, and horribly embarrassing."
Tasting a different kind of relationship
The overwhelming relief felt when a partner of an N enters into a different type of relationship is in striking contrast. It may not be so exciting, the non-N may not take his partner to the stars. But what a relief to be able to be yourself, not be constantly on guard, unafraid of doing something wrong.

Gone are the fears of being unworthy of the great man, doing something unknowingly that will earn you months of detached disdain.. and will leave you feeling worse then shit.

Alternatively the partner may remain crushed and shattered by her experience with the N. She may have lost her self-esteem to such an extent that she becomes self destructive through relationships or otherwise. Or she may fear all relationships fearing that all men are wolves in sheep's clothing. A person who has been a victim for many years will have, in all probability, lost all sense of herself and be simply a bitter extension of the N.

The intervention one makes as a therapist is always influenced by the readiness or psychological state of the client. This is perhaps especially true in this type of situation. If the client is in phase 1 or 2 nothing will be clear enough, in the client's mind, to communicate to the therapist that the person she is taking about is an N.

In stage 3 on the awareness might be greater but very mixed. The client is likely to go from thinking something about the way he interacts with me is unacceptable...

to "I have to find a way to get back into his good books."

to "he is right I should not have asked where he is going that night three months ago".

I have found that giving the partner a very tentative indication that she may be in relationship with someone who has personality difficulties opens a door. At times I give the client (those in the middle stages of such a relationship) a handout that describes the feelings and experiences of the partner of an N. I ask her to check if she can identify with any. If she does I may give her the address of the support group so she can further compare her experiences with those of the members there.

Whether or not she does it is often a matter of accompanying and supporting the process. This often includes witnessing the partner's return to the relationship with the N. These clients need to be sure that what they saw at the beginning (the prefect partner) is no longer there and be sure they cannot somehow make that state re-happen. A lot of the rest is helping rebuild the self-confidence and self-respect of the individual, and later to understand why this attraction took place. This involves rebuilding appropriate boundaries and recognizing, and resisting the inner temptation to give over control of one's world to a narcissist.

As a psychiatrist was once heard saying "Ns. are the bread and butter of the therapeutic enterprise, not because they so often seek professional help - they are too impressed with themselves to ever think they have a problem - but because they drive so many people around them crazy."

Vaknin, S. (1999, 2001) Malignant Self Love; Narcissism Revisited, Narcissus Publications, Skopje and Prague.
Lachkar, J. (1992) The Narcissistic/Borderline Couple; A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Marital Treatment, Brunner/Mazel Inc. New York

Copyright 2002 by Mary Ann Borg Cunen.

REPLACE the words Narcissist and N. with CYBERPATH/ ONLINE PREDATOR - there you have it! -- EOPC


Anonymous said...

I love this article....my "cyberpath" did all of these things to me exactly the same way. I am now 100% sure he has a narcissistic disorder, but he will never admit it to anyone, including himself. Thanks for putting this article up! It is incredibly insightful.

Unknown said...

Fighter, this is a truly remarkable article. On many levels. It describes exactly what I experienced. Exactly. I resonates totally with how I felt. I knew that the way I felt was not normal. I knew that the emotional rollercoaster was unusual. I just had no idea why at the time. I tried desperately to understand. I actually sought counselling during the relationship and the best advice I could get was that "love means acceptance - if you love unconditionally you must accept" - That was a great help.

I was wounded spiritually, emotionally and mentally - so what did this advice do? It sent me into a tailspin of believing that I was failing him because I didn't "Love unconditionally - Love with acceptance". I spent hours, through self help books, trying to rise above "mere thoughts" and be "in the NOW" and realise that the depth with which I loved this man, this magnetic mine field, was not ENOUGH. I had to love him more. I had to accept the lies, cheating, betrayals, deception, belittling, silent treatments, denial of my feelings and ACCEPT. This is who he is and if I love him I must accept.

I nearly lost my sanity thanks to that help.

To read here, so expertly portrayed, the massively destructive power of these N people over your mind, emotions, feelings, and thoughts is something I would have given my right arm for instead of the well meaning, but totally unrealistic bit of counselling.

For what it's worth, when I got to the point where I had nothing left to give, say, do or feel and was an empty vessel, I ran. I had moved to a foreign country to live with him, and to leave meant I had to leave that country, which I loved and dearly wanted to stay. I lost my dream of him, but more my dream of what our lives were going to be. But I ran away. He came home and I had stripped the place of all my clothes and left. No note. Nothing. I hid out at a friends for 3 days before finally flying home to the UK a broken woman.

That was 18 months ago. And as described in your piece, it didn't stop there. That last part about being "trapped within their gaze" no matter where you are was so familiar a feeling. I felt as though I had him trapped inside my head, still policing my thoughts, feelings, emotions and I could literally feel his disapproval or disappointment. For many months, everything I did or said, in the back of my mind would be "what would he make of this then?" or "if you could see me now, now I am healing, you would see a different woman to the mess I became" and in a peverse way, I wanted him to. From a distance. I wanted him to see me stronger, and getting better, and hope he realised what he had missed. Of course, then, I didn't know about NPD.

It is a terrific help to me, even now, 18 months further on, to read this and know that I was right to go, right to run, right to feel the way I did, because even though somewhere in that mixed up world that became my mind I knew it deep down, I still doubted it. He did such a phenomenal job of taking over my mind, I could doubt myself with his doubts long after I was physically removed from his power.

And in reference to your earlier comment at the beginning, I too was a very strong, intelligent, capable woman. I had been through a divorce and brought up my son through it all, got my feet back on the ground and survived a lot of hurt to come out much stronger. At the time I met this horrible man, I was back at my pique. I was on a high and feeling great. My weakness? My target? I was desperate for a romantic partner as I had got a bit tired of being on my own.

His hook? He was lonely and tired of being on his own. He wanted a partner to share his life with so he could "live out his remaining days in happiness instead of alone".

Worked a treat on me that did. Worked a treat.

Thank you for validating what we deep down know, just can't seem to make sense of.


Anonymous said...

Wow! A fantastic piece- the accuracy of it takes my breath away. I'm not sure how I discovered NPD, but it came when I played around with google and it has been the most extraordinary relief! As soon as I began looking into it I realised that this was exactly (to the nth degree) what I was dealing with. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted from me.
The N I was involved with is my boss, married and "successful". For the past eighteen months it has been a cat and mouse game, with him leaving his wife twice, expressions of a unique and infinite love, and (several times now) an abrupt and frightening change to total coldness and cruelty.
The last abrupt change came two weeks ago and was an utter about- face. Things are of course compounded by work, and I am now actively seeking new work to enable me to totally break free.
Discovering what the deal is has been liberating- I am no longer internalising it, wondering what I could have done differently, thinking "what if?"
Some research on the net has been powerful and enlightening. He was utterly convincing in his sensitive, caring, charming stage, but I can see with clarity now that this was a mask, and I have been a classic "supplier"/ "source".
I am handling work by being totally indifferent to him, despite provocation by unwarranted criticism of my work, rudeness and aggression. I am there until I am ready to go because it pays my bills and I have two young daughters to support. He is swinging between nastiness and niceness in an attempt to get my attention, but armed with the knowledge I have gained, the more he tries to get a response, the more determined I become not to respond. I am able to see all the patterns and behaviours, and am just so glad he can't get to me now.
It has been a galling and dispiriting experience. When he ended it I said "I don't really know you at all, do I?" How true. I actually feel slightly fearful at the thought that the person I felt such love for doesn't really exist, and who is behind that mask?
Thank God I am free of it now barring work. It is his own business, he only employs women, and at present we are all weathering his mood swings. I have clued the others in on what I have found out, in the hope that now, and after I've gone, they will be equipped to handle him.
I accept that there will be closure, that this is not someone who can be reasoned with or whose words carry any meaning. I am focussing on me and my daughters, and on not looking back....God bless all of us that have lived this nightmare xxx