Narcissistic abuse syndrome is something I know all too well, as I grew up with 2 parents that are on the spectrum of narcissism, one of them having Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the other having a mix of Narcissism/Histrionic and Borderline Personality Disorder.
I have suffered from depression, anxiety, ptsd & low self esteem since I was a child and I never understood why I always felt so sad and so different to other children.This was the result of the abuse I suffered from my mother & father who didn’t know what ‘normal or healthy’ looked like. I was always made to feel like I was too sensitive, too weak, too stupid or too opinionated. I now know that I am none of those things! I did however carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, as my parents trained me well ‘to cater to their emotional needs ahead of my own’.
As an adult I still struggle with all the above, only that my post traumatic stress has become more complex due to other traumas and I am currently on the very difficult and courageous journey of recovering from my trauma.
Narcissistic abuse syndrome is a relatively new term and with the help of the below website, all will be explained!
As taken from the very useful http://narcissisticbehavior.net
Lets look at the meaning of Syndrome and what Narcissism means.
First, What do we mean by “Syndrome”?The word “syndrome” comes from the Greek “syn”, which means together, and “dramein”, which means to run. So a syndrome is a set of signs and symptoms that tend to run together in a cluster that can be recognized as causing a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse. In order to be able to diagnose a client suffering with Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, the therapists needs to be able to gather together the signs and symptoms and access the client’s psychological make-up as their story unfolds. That way they will be in a position to know if the person is suffering from Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, or a lesser form of abuse on their mental well-being.
The spectrum of narcissism exists on a continuum, from healthy narcissism, to unhealthy traits, and all the way to pathological Narcissistic Personality Disorder. By the way, the narcissist does not have to display all of the traits associated with the full blown pathological stage of narcissism in order to do untold damage to their victims. For that reason, therapists need to familiarize themselves about narcissistic traits and the relationship dynamics between the narcissist and their victim. I am talking about the narcissists overwhelming need for entitlement, control, power, grandiosity and specialness, and how they use these traits to keep their omnipotent fantasies and their vulnerable ego in tact. Due to their own lack of receiving reasonably attuned care-giving as a child (whether it was being under protected or over protected), the narcissist does not develop the authentic “True Self” that is necessary for confident living. A disregard of the child’s basic needs disturbs their development of self-esteem and the ability to function effectively. In order to protect themselves, they invest a lot of energy building up defenses One of those defenses to is develop a “False Self”; which is a mask of behaviour that allows them to put on a show of being real in public. However, this pretense leaves the narcissist constantly guarding themselves from being “found out”, making them overly sensitive to narcissistic injury. Narcissistic injury is any perceived threat (real or imagined) to the narcissist’s self-esteem or self-worth. So in order to maintain their illusion and protect their false self from any fluctuations of a disappointed ego-ideal, the narcissist demands that they receive perfect mirroring, stroking, and responses from their victims; this attention is known as narcissistic supply.Narcissistic supply is anything in fact that shields the narcissist from feeling a sense of shame or abandonment, and this is an integral part of narcissism. The narcissist needs narcissistic supply in order to preserve their fragile ego, and this can be provided by two distinct sources:-
- Primary Narcissistic Supply provides all of the attention that the narcissist addict craves. The nature of the attention can be experienced in either a public form (such as fame, celebrity, notoriety, or infamy etc.), or in a private form (such as admiration, flattery, acclaim, fear, repulsion etc.).
- Secondary Narcissistic Supply alludes to those people or things that provide supply on a regular basis (such as a spouse, children, friends, colleagues, partners, clients, etc.). This latter form of supply allows the narcissist to lead a more normal existence, it provides them with pride, financial safety, social distinction and the alliance that they need.However, narcissistic supply is not confined to people only, it can be applied to any inanimate object that has the ability to attract attention and admiration to the narcissist, (for example, a flash car, property, clothes, being a member of a church, cult, club, or a business). In short, anything that acts as status symbols for the narcissist is “narcissistic supply”. Obsessed by the illusion of a False Self, and an inflated sense of their own superiority, power, and control, the narcissist renders himself susceptible to all sorts of obsessions, compulsions, and addictions; such as, addiction to Narcissistic Supply; to Grandiosity; to Control, to Power; to Rage; to Perfectionism; to Attention; to Fame etc. Without a comprehensive knowledge of narcissism, a therapist has no way of understanding the devastating effects of the narcissistic abuse on the victim they are treating, effects that are so crippling that they can result in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome.
What is Narcissistic Victim Syndrome?First, what is the definition of the word “Victim”? – “A victim is a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action”. So I think we can safely say (using this definition), that any person who has experienced narcissistic abuse has been harmed, injured, and in some cases, even killed as result of the narcissists behaviour, then they are indeed victims.When working with individuals who are displaying symptoms of narcissistic victim syndrome, the thing that I notice most of all is that the person feels so torn because they don’t understand what has happened to them. Before they can begin to put themselves back together, I believe that it is vital that the therapist must, through the process of the therapeutic work in progress, educate the individual in the area of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (the What, the When, the How, and the Why of the abuse etc) so that they can begin to make sense of what was really happening as their story unfolds. Without such information it is virtually impossible to build up their self-esteem to healthy levels, thus leaving them vulnerable to further re-victimization, and future entrapment with other narcissists.Once a person has become a victim of a narcissist (whether it happened in childhood or later on in life), the victims are already unconsciously primed to enter the narcissist’s “convoluted dance” that opens them up to further abuse. It is necessary for the therapist to gently shine a light on what they are doing in the dance that makes them a victim. Once again, a “Narcissistic Victim” is any person who is harmed, injured or killed by a person who displays pathological narcissism (which can occur on a spectrum of severity).The victim needs to understand that this “dance” of codependency requires two people: the pleaser/fixer (victim), and the taker/controller (narcissist/addict), together both partners dance beautifully in perfect step, and the madness begins. The consequences for the victim not understanding the intricacy of the dance, is that, no matter how often they try to avoid “unhealthy” partners, they will find themselves habitually returning to the same dance floor; the only thing that will change is that they will find themselves dancing to a different tune, but always the personality of the dance partner remains the same.Therapists need to be seriously aware that narcissism is a very complex disorder that creates a lot of suffering, both to the person who has the disorder, and to those people who have to live with the disordered narcissistic behavior on a daily basis. When I speak of narcissistic abuse, (abuse that can lead to Narcissistic Victim Syndrome), I am speaking about a form of abuse that is very insidious. What I mean by insidious is that the abuse is covert, cunning and often indirect. This form of abuse is often carried out in a subtly and clandestine manner, because narcissists go to great pains to avoid being observed publicly as being abusive. This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde behaviour of the narcissist (loving one minute and totally enraged the next) can inflict great harm on the victim. Understandably, the fear, distress, confusion, inner turmoil, and chaos that they experience leaves them “walking on eggshells” in order to avoid further conflict with the narcissist. The effect on the victim over time can be very crippling indeed. I liken narcissism to a parasitic worm that manages to penetrate under the skin, where it is out of the sight of witnessing eyes, but is free to injure or consume its host slowly, leaving trauma or disease in its wake. By the way, the narcissist can manage to live on inside the victim even after they manage to escape; it is as if their “seed” goes on.
However, when we speak of Narcissistic Victim Abuse, we are speaking of an abuse that has been caused by someone with a personality disorder, and more often than not, their personality disorder has not been medically diagnosed, therefore the narcissistic individual goes undetected in society (i.e. in the home, the work-place, in organizations, in social settings etc.). It is vital to understand that narcissistic personality disorder is a serious mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, and a deep need for attention and admiration. The narcissist believes that they are superior to others, and have little regard for other people’s feelings, regardless of whom they are (i.e. spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, peers etc.). Other people are merely object there to serve their every need as narcissistic supply, and they will use every form of abuse, without guilt, empathy or conscience, in order to make sure that their needs are served.
Clients who have suffered narcissistic abuse are likely to demonstrate feelings of shame, and humiliation, this is partly due to the narcissistic abuser projecting their shame on to them. They also tend to be over responsible, and apt to self-blame, this is because they learned to take responsibility for the narcissists behaviour. Whenever the narcissist’s rage is triggered, without any doubt the victim is told it is their fault (i.e “It’s your fault, you should have known that was going to upset me, now look what you have done”)
When I first read the above text by Christine, I felt like I had finally connected the pieces of the puzzle. I felt understood, validated and good enough. It is so important to have therapy when you have been in contact with such pathologically sick individuals, especially when they have been very close to you (as in my case with my parents, as a partner or both). When you grew up with this type of abuse, you are then more vulnerable to attracting more of these types of people as they feel familiar. We always follows what feels safe and familiar, even if that familiarity is ‘toxic and very harmful to us’. As a teenager I was attracted to narcissistic guys and in my twenties I suffered heartbreak after heartbreak with constantly picking the wrong partners. I also realised that my 2 best friends from school were also narcissistic and now that I am healthier, I have had to distance myself from these girls too. It has been very hard to move away from everyone familiar to me but over a few years this gets easier and then you start only wanting healthy relationships.
The codependency dance [ (the pleaser/fixer (victim), and the taker/controller (narcissist/addict)] as written in the above article, is something that I finally resolved after years of therapy, group therapy and luck. I had a therapist who helped me understand codependency back in 2008 and from that day forward I have continued to make progress.
In 2011 when I decided to return home and spend time with my father (in the country I had spent the first 18 years of my life), I found another therapist who taught me a lot about self-compassion and kept reminding me that my parents were emotionally disabled. I had got caught up in another dramatic situation with my father and had been on panic mode for weeks.She didn’t mention the word narcissism back then, probably because it might have been too much for me to handle at the time, but this woman saved me!
It is a long journey but now 7 years later I am happily married to a wonderful man who is an empath like me! Hoorah! I am now still struggling with estrangement from my narcissistic father and this will be my first Christmas back home, where we are no longer in contact. I do however know that it is better this way! I deserve a break! I have grieved my mother and made peace with her illness and now I am grieving my father.
It does get a little easier over time, but you need a supportive network of ‘healthy’ people around you, to get you through the darkness of the ‘Narcissistic victim syndrome’.
Best of luck to you x ❤