Rethinking Narcissism in Domestic Abuse: The Playbook
According to Goldenson, Geffner, Foster & Clipson, Narcissistic traits that may be high enough on the subscales to be constituted as NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) are highly associated with individuals that have or are currently committing domestic abuse, both emotional and/or Physical (2017, p. 535). This article seeks to describe the deception techniques that are frequently used by those with Narcissistic traits. This research intends to get partners to consciously identify these techniques in their Narcissistic partners to liberate themselves from the deceptions being used against them and to help their partner.
The issue with tackling Narcissism is that the issues surrounding the disorder stem from a particularly large stigma within society. As described by Orloff, Narcissism is often known as the “Social Vampire Disorder” (2011). This stems from the idea that those with Narcissism, tend to feed off their victims in order to obtain a larger sense of grandiose (2011). Commonly associated with the fictional idea of “Vampires”, Narcissists, also, often hate the reflection themselves in the mirror. This is largely due to a technique called “Mirroring”, causing the Narcissistic to mirror the positive traits of its victims. Therefore, glancing in the mirror, they do not see themselves; They see only the traits acquired by its victims (Well, 2018). It can be argued, that it is because of these traits or traits of a similar nature, that narcissists are often seen as negative in the moral compass imposed our social constructs.
Although narcissists are often seen as fictional monster’s (Orloff, 2011), they are in themselves victims of abuse; They have been constantly “Belittled, bullied and rejected by those should have offered love and acceptance”; Unfortunately, individuals that have developed these traits, suffer greatly, and they are usually more vulnerable than that of a Neurotypical individual. (Robins, 2018). They use their victims to cope with the burden that they hold, and unlike the Neurotypical, Narcissist’s cannot release that burden and therefore, project them onto their victim’s (2018). It’s difficult to say, whether a personality disorder that is as deeply embedded as Narcissism can be cured. There are no known cases of an individual’s changing their personality, but there is evidence that a romantic partner can greatly aid in relieving their symptoms as well as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (Ambardar, 2018). It is also very difficult to find conclusive evidence of whether an individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can ever selflessly love their romantic partner, considering that they use them as victims to fulfill their sense of grandiose.
This article proposes a different approach. It proposes the idea that Narcissism should be treated with empathy rather than hostility. Those with Narcissism, have a defense mechanism that they have sub-consciously implemented as a consequence the abuse they have received; Therefore the individual suffering from the disorder, could potentially not be aware that they are committing such manipulative tactics (Robins, 2018). The theory proposing, that by adding empathy, the individual’s defense mechanism, will fade away. It is also important to note, that other strategies must be implemented when adding empathy; This is due to victimization, Narcissist’s tend to prey on their victims and if strategies are not put into place accordingly, the Narcissistic will keep attempting to raise their abuse, this is often how they reach the physical abuse stage (Barth, 2017).
It is important to briefly mention that Narcissistic personality disorder, is extremely variable and subject to change with each individual. There are vast amounts of branches & Sub-branches to the disorder, in order to be more conclusive, this article shall stick with the broad idea of Narcissism and present only the more generally used techniques amongst all branches. All those with the disorder share similar traits but may show them in different ways depending on their nurture environment and genetical make-up.
The Playbook: Strategies implemented by the Narcissist (Arabi, 2019). It is important to note, that there are more methods used by Narcissist, these are the most commonly used, and can be used as a guideline to finding others.
1 – Gaslighting:
The most dangerous of techniques. This technique has been proven so effective, that it is currently used by government agencies to interrogate those with a high threat to national security. The narcissist will slowly attempt to fade their victim’s reality. The Narcissistic will attempt this by describing or using passive aggression to remodel your perception of events. Once you’ve lost perception of your version of your events, the Narcissist will have complete control of it. Making sure that your reality only reflects their version of events. Unfortunately, are the expense of the victims’. Gaslighting is so powerful, that victims can often commit suicide and/or lead to clinical depression. Unfortunately, Gas-lighting is done very subtly and can often take a long period’s of time, therefore, victims are somewhat unaware of the manipulation. A narcissistic will always start small, by picking at your version of small scenarios which seem irrelevant, they will eventually move up to bigger scenarios which matter.
A good way to fight back Gas-lighting is to ground yourself in reality. Do not allow and the Narcissistic to persist and ensure that you are conscious at all times, never doubt yourself. If you must, write your experience of the previous event on paper so you can return to it later.
2 – Projection:
Narcissists are incredibly vulnerable. They seem to have a tough exterior, and that is because they project their insecurities onto their victims. A narcissistic, will hardly if ever, apologize (Unless part of a manipulation). Furthermore, Narcissist’s cannot take responsibility for any action that they may have caused. A Narcissist may have a particular trait about themselves that they do not like, therefore they will project it onto their victim instead of admitting the need for improvement. For example, the Narcissist may have been told or has done something horrible that they do not like, so they come home and tell their partner that they are horrible people and that they need to change. In this example, the narcissist feels bad about what they’ve done, but they cannot apologize, so it is easier to use their victim. Unfortunately, Narcissist’s are so focused, that they will end up believing in the projection they have created, thereby alleviating themselves of their sadness.
If your partner does this to you, just ensure that again, you are grounded and that you believe in yourself. Be aware that your partner is the one feeling tremendous pain, and that’s what has caused them to do that to you. If you know what your partner is doing to you, do not call them out on it. Narcissist’s hate being caught out, and this could spark rage or further disagreements.
3 – Idol Worship:
At the beginning of the relationship, Narcissist’s will tend to love everything about you as an Individual. This is called the Idol Worship stage. They believe that you are perfect, that is why they have chosen to be with you. They believe that by being in a romantic relationship with you, they are also assumed to be perfect by society. This is the perfect disguise for a Narcissistic (Especially a Covert Narcissist). Unfortunately, once they find the slightest imperfection surrounding you as an individual, they will walk away as this will no longer enhance their image.
Make sure that you become of aware of the Idol-Worship if your partner seems to be over-infatuated with you as an individual, make sure that you remind them that you are not perfect and that you show your faults as soon as possible in order to prevent further damage or gas-lighting. Though it may feel nice to be perfect, when dating a narcissist, you must admit to yourself that you have faults, just as every individual does. No one is perfect.
4 – Triangulation:
The Narcissist will have tried to discard you, however, they have left things unfinished in a small way or a big way. This is when they have another victim to fuel their narcissistic supply. However, as the title suggests, triangulation is about keeping two parties involved at the same time, always having an unlimited narcissistic supply. By keeping one party interested, and being with the other, the Narcissistic can switch backward and forwards. Another reason for triangulation may be punishment. The Narcissistic is reminding you that they are wanted and desired, therefore diverting your attention from their vulnerability to not be desired and punishing you in the same game.
Once you see someone triangulating around you, ensure that you relieve yourself of any contact with the Narcissistic. At this stage, they have discarded you, therefore, any more interaction will only attempt to punish you. The other option, is that you show empathy for the Narcissist within certain boundaries, remind the person that it is not okay to triangulate, and they are crossing the boundaries of your relationship. They will then have a choice. If you are dealing with a Narcissist, the trick is to be strict within your boundaries, if you promise to walk away, you must walk away, otherwise, the Narcissist will keep building abuse.
5 – Smear Campaigns:
Narcissists adore smear campaigns. Be aware of the Ex-partner stories. Covert Narcissism, perhaps the most dangerous of Narcissists, mask themselves in a way that makes you pity them. Not to say that everyone who is insecure is a covert Narcissist, but the covert narcissist will run a smear campaign against its victim once that victim has been discarded in order to get a new source of Narcissistic supply. In this manner, they are professional actors, acting as introverted or hurt. Unfortunately, they are doing this to both punish their victims and increase their sense of grandiose whilst maintaining a source of fresh supply.
Unfortunately, there is no solution to this. If you find yourself involved in a smear campaign from a previous partner, the best thing to do is ignore it. Do not partake in anything that the Narcissist has created, they are doing it so they can feel powerful by hurting you, they want you to be upset, the best thing you can do is moving on as if nothing has happened.
6 – Unpredictability (Hot/Cold):
One of the Gas-lighting techniques used by narcissists is the fact that they are unpredictable and can switch from hot to cold if you fail one of their tests. A relationship with a narcissist revolves around tests, and if you fail their tests, you may be subject to punishment. By going cold, the Narcissistic is essentially telling you that you’ve done something wrong. It may be something as small as asking you a question.
Do not partake in these tests. If someone with NPD has gone cold on you, which they will, a lot, you must apologize, if they choose not to accept it, and keep punishing you, cut off contact until they are calm. If they choose to discard, accept the choice and move on.
7 – Diversion:
If you consciously become aware and tell the Narcissist that you are aware of their manipulations, they will usually lash out, however, in some cases, they can use something called diversion. This is when they attempt to gas-light you in a certain aspect of your life, they will do so with no subtlety to ensure that your attention is focused on it, but manipulating another aspect of your life whilst you are defending yourself from the first manipulation. By dragging your attention into an aspect of your life, they are diverting your attention to control another.
Do not partake in any of the games constructed by the Narcissistic. If you see an abruptly looking manipulation, then retreat and regain your focus before attempting to talk to the Narcissist. You must keep control of your own reality at all times.
8 – The biggest solution:
Despite all these techniques, there are far more. Individual’s with NPD are master manipulators. This is a defense mechanism imposed on them by their parental nurture. It might seem hard to love someone with NPD, but many individuals with this disorder are suffering. They are natural domestic abusers, but this is not their fault. If you are in a relationship with someone with NPD, you can still enjoy a healthy relationship with them, as long as you research and set firm boundaries. In this theory, it suggests that we should break the vicious cycle of hostility and accept, that this is not their own fault, but the fault of the circumstances in which they grew up in. We should accept them for who they are. We can break the cycle through empathy so that they don’t have to use their defense mechanism.
I’ve been in a relationship with several individual’s who have been officially diagnosed with NPD, and we have managed to have both great both Romantic & Social Long-Term Relationships. As long as you are willing to put in the work to love your NPD partner, you can still be happy. Do not leave your partner just because he/she has issues, the brain works just like any physical organ, you’d be considered negative on the moral compass for leaving someone at their most vulnerable with a physical illness, so why treat the brain any different? Just put in the work, and enjoy a great relationship.
Arabi, S. (2019) 20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths Use To Silence You. Retrieved from http://www.thoughtcatalog.com
Barth, D. (2017) In Love with a Narcissist, six ways to make it work. Retrieved from psychologytoday.com
Depression Alliance. (2019) Vulnerable Narcissism: Understanding its role in today’s society. Retrieved from http://www.depressionalliance.com
Goldenson, J. Geffner, R. Foster, S. Clipson, C. (2007) Female Domestic Offenders: Their Attachment security, Trauma Symptoms, and Personality Organisation. Retrieved from http://www.Researchgate.net
R, A. (2018) Trapped in the Mirror: The Pain and Performance of Narcissism. Retrieved from Psychcentral.com
Zareva, T. (2018) Researchers say we have a “Narcissism Epidemic”. So what’s causing it? Retrieved from http://www.bigthink.com