Recovery in the time of Covid-19 can be challenging. Let’s face it, this has been a year like no other. 2020 has challenged every person I know in ways that were simply unimaginable before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Uncertainty, restrictions, and fear have impacted our mental and physical wellbeing.
In the time of Covid-19, simple tasks like going to the shops, throwing away the trash, or taking a long walk can cause anxiety and strike a chord of fear in us as we try to guard our health while avoiding a virus some experts say is airborne.
I live in a country that is an outlier in that it’s coronavirus strategy is to remain open and not lockdown. The government has left precautionary measures largely to the devices of people at the local level. Initially, there was a lot of criticism as the death toll soared until, at one point, it was the highest in Europe. However, over time some have come to view this relaxed strategy as a success.
Unique health challenges for survivors of narcissistic abuse
All over the world, survivors of narcissistic abuse are facing unique challenges in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Some of us are still in relationships with the perpetrator and the health crisis may have made escape more difficult or even impossible at this time. Others have gotten out of the relationship with the narcissist and must navigate recovery in the midst of a pandemic that has transformed our ability to socialize, earn a living, and care for ourselves.
Many survivors of narcissistic abuse have a tendency to put the needs of others ahead of our own. For some of us, this is the residue of childhood conditioning in which we learned that the practice of extreme selflessness was a virtue. For others, it is part of the ever-changing rule book we were coerced in to obeying in a relationship with an abusive partner. Either way, the reality is that self-sacrificing behavior can cause serious harm to our wellbeing.
Part of building healthy boundaries is recognizing that we matter, our needs are important, and getting our needs met first should be our main priority. Part of our recovery is embracing the fact that if we do not take care of ourselves first, we will fail in our efforts to take care of others.
This is especially true when it comes to looking after our health.
Re-grouping after disrupted self-care routines
Even though many years have passed since I lived in a narcissist matrix, I am still managing a chronic illness. I developed asthma in adulthood, which may be due in some part to long term exposure to narcissistic abuse.
As a child, I was a fiery ball of energy and fit as a fiddle. Today, I must be selective about what I eat and which cardiovascular exercises I engage in because of my condition. Few things can slow you down like an asthma attack.
Covid-19 has meant long stretches of self-isolation for me. Initially, I devoted myself to baking and trying out new recipes which was incredibly fun!
But over time I found myself struggling to adjust to the new habits I was forming. I started having asthma attacks daily, my energy levels were dropping and I was becoming a lot less productive.
With this realization, my goals have shifted and now my focus is on achieving optimum health.
Small consistent wins can be transformative
My strategy is to start the day by taking care of myself first. This means nourishing my body with high quality foods that fills me with energy.
Everyone is different and what works best for me in terms of generating energy is a vegan diet.
I start the day with a cup of black coffee. Black coffee is great as it tends to kick start my metabolism.
If the weather is warm, I’ll make a smoothie but if it’s cool, I’ll use the same ingredients to cook high protein oatmeal:
1 dl oats
A handful of blueberries
1 tablespoon flax seeds
1 tablespoon hemp seeds or hemp powder
I choose this meal because it’s a bit like a wet log that is easy for my body to burn but will still power me through the morning until my first snack: crisp bread with lots of sliced tomato or cucumber.
My next priority is making sure my surroundings are clean and organized which is a bit of a warm up for the thirty minutes of cardio I do to get the ball rolling before I start work.
Simple, small changes done with consistency can lead to transformative results over time. I’m sharing this example of self-care because these are things many people can do, whether you are still in a relationship with a narcissist or if you have managed to escape.
Tell me, how have you been managing your recovery during the corona virus pandemic? Please share what works best for you in the comment section below.
On September 15, 2020, Hawaii became the first US state to adopt legislation against Coercive Control. Governor David Ige signed into law a historic amendment expanding the definition of domestic abuse to include “Coercive Control between family or household members for the purposes of insurance and protective orders.”
Coercive Control is the first step in domestic violence
Rep. David A. Tarnas introduced House Bill 2425, which expands the concept of domestic violence to include Coercive Control.
“HB2425 adds Coercive Control to the definition of domestic abuse. It is a useful term to help strengthen our statutory basis for preventing domestic violence”, Rep. Tarnas said at the bill signing. “We need to address domestic violence because it is pervasive in our community. It is even worse now because of the economic impact fo the COVID pandemic.”
Coercive Control is the first step in domestic violence. If we can identify it and stop it there, we can save lives.
Rep. David A. Tarnas
Rep. Tarnas described how he learned about Coercive Control through the advocacy of two constituents. “Officer May Lee in Waimea, first introduced me to this whole concept and educated me about how Coercive Control is the first step in domestic violence. If we can identify it and stop it there, we can save lives.”
The bill was inspired by Scotland’s domestic abuse prevention program, widely praised as the most cutting edge in the world.
“I want to acknowledge another constituent, Barbara Gerbert, [professor emeritus and chair of the Division of Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco] who has been working in domestic violence prevention research for years”, said Rep. Tarnas. “She was the first person to tell me about Scotland, where they incorporated Coercive Control into their statutes. It has shown to be very effective over time at reducing the incidence of domestic [abuse] cases that escalated into violence. They feel that it did prevent homicides from happening in an area where they had significant problems.”
Superintendent Gordon McCreadie, the former national lead for domestic abuse for Police Scotland, was delighted by news of Hawaii’s new Coercive Control Bill.
“When appointed in 2017, I never imagined that Police Scotland and partners including Medics Against Violence would influence legislative change in Hawaii on coercive control.”
Under the leadership of Superintendent McCreadie, 25,000 police officers were educated about domestic violence and coercive control in Scotland.
The groundwork for Hawaii’s Coercive Control bill
Through her extensive domestic abuse research, Professor Gerbert is a key figure in the advancement of the understanding Coercive Control in Scotland today.
Professor Gerbert explains, “In my research at the University of California, San Francisco, I developed a model of steps people could use to reduce domestic violence. AVDR: Ask Validate Document and Refer. My goal was to support and simplify what law enforcement, health care professionals, veterinarians, etc., could do.”
“In 2009, the newly formed Violence Reduction Unit in Scotland asked me if they could use my AVDR model,” says Professor Gerbert, “Scotland had a very high rate of all types of violence. In 10 years violence rates have decreased dramatically.”
In 2017, the short film Harderwasproduced as part of the training program. The clip illustrated some of the red flags of domestic abuse, specifically the omnipotence aspect of Coercive Control and what professionals can do when they spot it.
After many years of tireless research and advocacy, a broader understanding of non-physical abuse was achieved, pinpointing coercive and controlling behavior as well as ways that members of the community and law enforcement could intervene.
If you would like to see the definition of domestic abuse expanded to include Coercive Control in your state, reach out to your local representative. Write and tell them about the historic Coercive Control Bill in Hawaii and how you think it could benefit your state.
Insidious is a word we often hear to describe psycho-emotional abuse because it is deceitful, underhanded and cunningly disguised loving-kindness. For this reason, most people who are targeted for this kind of aggression do not realize it’s happening to them until long after the fact. It is only when the damage has been done to the individual’s well-being and quality of life, that they discover that trail of exploitative tactics used to take advantage of them.
This book helps men reflect on their lived experiences and recognize how subtle patterns of abuse can manifest in relationships with manipulators.
Holding space for male survivors
Some of the unique challenges male survivors face are gender stereotypes, specifically that men cannot be abused and in domestic abuse discussions men can only be the perpetrator or the aggressor but never the recipient of abuse. In reality, some men experience domestic abuse in interpersonal relationships in the context of family abuse and intimate partner abuse, both in heterosexual and same sex relationships. Therefore, it is essential to hold space for male survivors of domestic abuse.
What you will learn in ‘Are I In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship? (Special Edition for Men)’
While the focus of the first half of the book is on recognizing patterns of emotional abuse in men’s interpersonal relationships, the workbook section helps men tap into their agency and opens up vistas for healing and growth.
After the relationship health self-assessment exercise, the workbook uses your discoveries to help you gain fresh insight about where you are today and what actions are necessary to help you reach your goals.
I would like to end this post by reiterating the message I shared with Veronica in the interview: I developed this tool for male survivors in the hope that men and boys will know that they are seen, they are loved, and they can heal.
You Get To Be YOU This Time is a new podcast series by Veronika Archer that aims to help people transcend and overcome long-term abuse in toxic relationships.
I am proud to be participating in a discussion on the topic of Male Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse. This is a topic that’s very close to my heart and I hope to provide as much useful information and resources as possible.
30 Internationally Recognized Experts
Veronika’s passion for helping survivors is contagious and she has organized an amazing and informative series with over 30 internationally recognized experts to help you break free from negative relationship patterns.
Some of the other speakers included in each 30-minute episode are:
Dr. Brenda Wade
Dr. George Simon
Dr. Gary Sayler
Katherine Woodward Thomas
Dr. Marni Feueman
Dr. LeslieBeth Wish
Melanie Tonia Evans
Dr. Michael Kinsey
Dr. Ramani S. Durvasula
I share Veronika’s belief that we all deserve a life where we can be our authentic selves, free from fear or shame. It’s time to start learning how to trust our instincts and applying them to our decisions so that we can attract healthy, loving, liberating, and supportive relationships.
30 FREE ‘You Get To Be YOU This Time’ Recovery Tools
Special gifts will be provided for survivors throughout the ‘You Get To Be You Series.’ These include recovery tools and strategies created by the expert panel.
Learn how to access your intuition, deepen self trust and create the relationship you secretly desire, without wasting any more time analyzing your ex and living in the past.
You will receive 30 free gifts (valued in total at over $3,000) to help you get to be you the next time around.
The sign up page goes live on August 18, 2020. Log on to join me and this extraordinary group of speakers here.
CO-PARENTING WITH A NARCISSIST is often said to be impossible. A popular quote by A. Price asserts that “A narcissist will never co-parent with you. They will counter parent. They don’t care about the emotional damage that the constant drama inflicts upon the children as long as it causes emotional damage to you.”
He received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the New School for Social Research and he is a specialist in the dynamics of personality, intergenerational trauma, and parent-child attachment.
In addition to his distinguished background, Dr. Kinsey is in private practice in New York City.
N.B. This interview aims to provide general information, not advice one should rely on. Please get the relevant professional or specialist advice before taking or refraining from any action based on the information in this interview.
Preventing personality disorders in children
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Welcome to Narcissistic Abuse Rehab, Dr. Kinsey, it’s an honor to have you here today to talk about co-parenting with a narcissist!
The first question is “I’m co-parenting with a malignant narcissist who was verbally & physically abusive to me in front of our children is it possible that my children risk developing personality disorders as a result of exposure to pathological narcissism?”
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Children learn first and foremost by what they see and what they observe. There are going to be lasting impacts of trauma in a context where there is emotional and physical abuse.
The question you’re asking is, “What are going to be the long term developmental impacts of that trauma?”
That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many variables. I think there are things people can do to buffer against the permanent arresting of development that can happen as a result of witnessing or seeing that type of abuse.
The first thing I would say is creating meaningful narratives around the experiences. Not walking away from it, not silencing it, not pretending as if it’s not happening. That’s a really important thing for kids. Kids need to know that they’re not experiencing an alternate reality from their parents.
And especially when the parent who is experiencing the abuse is the same-sex parent. There is a strong identification, i.e. the classic example of a husband abusing his wife emotionally or verbally. The child who is going to be most greatly impacted by that is going to be the one who is identified with the one who is being abused.
Of course, there are other problems in continuing the line of abusers down the line when the observer is identified with the abuser.
So I guess what I would say, going back, is just sort of validating the experience. Letting the child know that what they saw was really disturbing and it’s not okay what happened and that something is being done to protect or insulate the child.
One thing I can think of just at a very practical level [would be to say], “I know what you saw was really scary. Do you have any questions for me? Do you have any feelings about it?”
And also for younger kids watching for signs of the impact of the abuse in play is super important and not silencing the play when it shows up and saying in the language of the play, as well. So, if toys are fighting then you can sort of say, “Oh my gosh, they’re fighting. How scary.”
Things like that and just sort of validating that the child is seeing something that’s very hard.
Emotional abuse is a little bit more abstract and harder to pin down. But the other thing I would say, too, is that one of the biggest buffers against personality disorder development is having some sense of understanding of one’s feelings and the feelings of someone else.
And, I think a theme that we’ll touch on quite a bit throughout this discussion is the fact that narcissists are not devoid of feeling states.
To optimally protect kids, we need to help them develop an understanding of who that person is and what their emotional system is like and give them a context for understanding the behavior.
This is different from condoning the behavior. We can hold intention that the behavior itself, that the abuse itself, is unacceptable.
But, if a person is staying in that relationship despite the abuse, there’s already a way in which the abuse is being condoned.
So, at the very least, the child needs to have an understanding of who the narcissist is, why they are behaving the way they are and how it’s possible to still maintain a loving understanding of that person, even though they do very bad things.
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: This is important because I think you saw yesterday on Twitter we were talking about gaslighting and having your reality invalidated. I think what you brought up is important because a lot of the times survivors who are co-parenting with a narcissist try to overcompensate for the dysfunction in the family. What I see when the overcompensation happens is that it feeds into creating a false reality for the child. Down the line, what I’ve seen, is that it affects the child’s judgment – it skews things because good becomes bad and bad becomes good.
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Absolutely.
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: That can become very problematic. But, let’s go over to question two because it gets a little bit deeper into this. I hope it’s not…well, it is probably a hardball question.
Dr. Michael Kinsey: That’s what I’m here for.
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: The question is, “I am a survivor of narcissistic abuse and the atmosphere between my adult children & narcissist ex is cult-like. The children participated in the abuse when they were younger and refuse to have contact with me today. I’ve never met my grandchildren.
Why does my narcissistic ex have such a hold on my children when they know they abused me?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Hm.
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: It’s a tricky one.
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Yeah, and it’s much easier to understand intellectually than it is emotionally.
I think any time you try to put forth problem-solving strategies or easy ways of understanding these kinds of things it can almost invalidate the difficulty of the situation.
When you have children that you’ve nurtured & that you have loved with all of your heart & in some ways built your life around it’s almost impossible to come up with some emotion or visceral understanding of the situation. It’s so difficult to do.
I think it does help to have some context. The context that I would give people who are alienated from their children or who are caught up in the narcissist’s version of reality [is that] I think what you have to understand is the nature of the narcissist’s defensive structure. And we’re mainly talking about splitting, projective identification and these are kinds of jargony terms. But splitting means that the world to a narcissist and other borderline personality structures is divided into good and bad and the narcissist distances himself or herself from the bad as much as possible.
There is intense profound disgust for the bad & the bad always has to be outside of the narcissistic personality that means that there are scapegoats, it means there are demons, there are devils, there are people who are completely unworthy of association. And it goes back to what I was talking about before about how an identification often develops, especially with the same-sex parent.
If the same-sex parent is a narcissist then there is a tendency to emulate that way of dealing with problems, difficulties, and emotions. so, functionally, what this means is the bad that exists in everyone and especially exists in the narcissist is displaced or it’s placed into the other parent. Usually, these are things like vulnerability, weakness, unworthiness –”
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: You mentioned – in another discussion we had on this topic – you mentioned tenderness.
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Tenderness, absolutely. Even really positive things, too, can be disowned in that way
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: And you described it in such an interesting way. You didn’t call it parental alienation at all. You described it as being “exiled from the narcissist child dyad.” I thought that was really interesting.
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Being within the dyad is, obviously, a very coveted place. You know with both of our parents there is such a deep need to be loved and accepted.
If a child is forced to choose they might choose the person that they feel they are most like or they’ll also choose the person who they feel is safer or who they feel is the more desirable one to follow.
In the case of the kind of scenario you’re discussing, it’s really a matter of survival. Being in the “in-group” of the narcissist is so essential to survival.
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: That’s very true and I think it’s a great answer. I think all of these questions I have for you are kind of hardball. I hope you’re ready for question three! And it’s about–
Dr. Michael Kinsey: –Well, you know, these are…in some ways… I was observing your twitter yesterday and there is so much terminology within this community that is new to me and I find it fascinating!
The softball questions aren’t going to help anyone and hopefully, there’s something in there that will be of use to people.
I think we were also talking yesterday about how in some ways these are going to be overgeneralized answers there’s so many nuances and variables and double binds that are built into these kinds of dynamics.
If something I say just doesn’t fit or it sounds like I’m oversimplifying things it’s because I am. What I encourage people to do is…I’m available online, you can reach out to me, you can touch base with me. Additional information is available on mindsplain.com.
Triangulation with the narcissist’s new partner
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Let’s get into question three about counter-parenting or co-parenting with a narcissist: I am being triangulated with my ex narcissist’s new partner. They are telling our children that the new partner is a better parent because they are carefree, while I have been battling anxiety & depression. Ultimately, they want the children to move in with them. In your opinion, what is the best course of action for someone in my situation?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: I think that there’s the short view and the long view here. The short term view can be pretty discouraging. The kids may be believing it, they may be acting in line with what the alienating or narcissistic parent is feeding them.
But the thing to keep in mind with narcissistic people is that if you have an estranged relationship with them you are one of many people. The hallmark of narcissistic personality disorder is there are chronically strained relationships.
And the reason for this is that everyone ultimately has a fall from grace with a narcissist. So if you kowtow and you ingratiate yourself back into favor things can continue peacefully. But it will always happen.
People will always see through the façade at some point. Maybe at first just for a few moments. Maybe there will be a prolonged estrangement that develops between the narcissist and the kids. But there will always be an opportunity.
And so what I would advise people is to create a very welcoming, open, accepting, non-contentious environment for the kids to return to.
In many ways, that’s the best you can do.
You stay above the fray.
You don’t comment on it.
You don’t respond to it.
You speak to the kids.
You don’t speak to the narcissist through the kids.
You speak to the kids and you say, “It really hurts that it feels that way to you, that this other parent is better, but I’m your mother or father and I’m always here for you.”
Part Two of ‘Co-Parenting with a Narcissist’ will be published on May 22, 2020. You can find Dr. Kinsey on Twitter at @mindsplain He can also be reached through his website mindsplain.com.
IT IS NOT UNCOMMON FOR NARCISSISTS to manipulate others into relationships by making fraudulent claims about who they are, what they stand for, and by mirroring the goals of the targeted individual.
They deliberately make promises they don’t intend to keep and spin webs of deception for the sole purpose of exploiting the target and their resources.
In popular psychology, this deceptive tactic is called future faking. Narcissists profess a desire to build a long-term relationship with the target to obtain short term gain.
Once the target has extended trust to a narcissist, their good faith is weaponized and used to access their assets, e.g. sex, connections, status, goods, and services.
The narcissist’s agenda
Narcissists enter relationships with a self-serving agenda. In their estimation, whenever they interact with another person, they are either gaining power or losing it.
Once they have made up their mind to exploit someone, they disguise their malicious intentions by mimicking love for the person they are targeting.
Early in the relationship, they spend hours asking the target about their hopes, dreams, and goals. The target mistakes this for interest when, in fact, the narcissist is data mining to discover the target’s likes and dislikes. With this information, the narcissist can craft a tailor-made false persona in the image of the target’s soul mate.
Misled by the narcissist’s pretense, the target invests themselves and their resources in the relationship. They may move in with the narcissist, marry them, and have children with them. All the while, though the narcissist is going through the motions, they remain detached.
The discard phase of the narcissistic abuse cycle
The discard phase of the narcissistic abuse cycle often comes as a complete shock to the narcissist’s partner. While they are blindsided by the narcissist’s betrayal, the biggest shock is the ease with which some narcissists abandon their progeny.
So why do some narcissists discard their children?
The reasons why may be rooted in the narcissist’s dysfunctional family of origin. These are high conflict family units with power imbalances, rampant denial, low empathy, and little to no boundaries.
Children not accepted or loved for who they are in a narcissistic family. They live in a gaslit reality where the only love they receive is conditional upon their performance in the roles assigned to them by the narcissistic caregiver(s).
In a dysfunctional family, these roles are:
The Caretaker – this child is given adult responsibilities at a young age and parentified.
The Hero/The Golden Child – this child tries to make the family seem normal and trouble free.
The Lost Child – this child is introverted and flies under the radar.
The Mascot/The Clown – this child distracts from the issues in the family,
Psycho-emotional abuse describes any non-physical pattern of behavior that intentionally harms an individual’s mental state and undermines their ability to reach their full potential. It is a portmanteau of psychological and emotional abuse.
This kind of abuse can occur within a variety of contexts. For example, it can take place in intimate partner relationships, in family relationships, in friendships, in the workplace, etcetera.
Above all it is used to manipulate and control another person or people.
Other definitions of psycho-emotional abuse
Dr. Marti Tamm Loring defines psycho-emotional abuse as, “An ongoing process in which one individual systematically diminishes and destroys the inner self of another.”
Professor Dorota Iwaniec describes it as hostile or indifferent behavior which:
Damages the individual’s self-esteem,
Debases their sense of achievement,
Diminishes their sense of belonging,
Prevents their healthy and vigorous development, and
Takes away the individual’s well-being.
Characteristics of psycho-emotional abuse
Psycho-emotional abuse is subtle and can be tricky to spot – even by the person experiencing it!
Abusers often disguise their malice as good intentions, which confuses the person they target and deceives most bystanders.
At times, the aggression is overt and takes place in front of witnesses. However, in these instances most people do not understand the nature of this kind of aggression and so they fail to recognize that abuse is taking place.
Some of its characteristics are:
It is a pattern of behavior.
The harm it causes is deliberate and intentional.
The target experiences the behavior as harmful.
The abuse may be overt or covert.
It may or may not occur in the context of conflict.
It may not immediately seem aggressive.
The aggressor may camouflage the abuse as caring, love, or humor.
The targeted person’s vulnerabilities are exploited to cause them to feel confused, insecure, and unsure of themselves.
It may manifest as neglect.
The abuse causes harm to the targeted individual’s well-being.
Abusers are cunning enough to understand that psychological abuse is a bloodless crime which usually enables them to escape accountability for the harm and devastation they cause.
This is because the theatre of the abuser’s aggression is not visible to the naked eye.
While the recipient of the abuse has no physical symptoms, the emotional wounds may be catastrophic.
A common occurrence is when an aggressive and/or narcissistic person feels intimidated by the presence of someone who they believe has qualities or privileges they do not. They may seek to resolve these painful feelings by asserting dominance over the person they regard as a threat.
In some instances, the abuser is externalizing their toxic shame and placing their burden on the victim. In this way, the abuse strips away the authentic identity of the target and assigns to them a new one that encompasses the parts of the abuser’s persona which they despise and reject.
What are the effects of psycho-emotional abuse?
The cumulative effect of psycho-emotional abuse is the erosion of the recipient’s self-worth and trust in their judgment.
They use a variety of tactics to convince the person they target that they brought the abuser’s aggression on themselves.
They defend their aggression and escape accountability through the process of scapegoating. This is done by using the targeted individual’s vulnerability to excuse the abuse. By blaming the person they victimize, they absolve themselves of any wrongdoing.
Abusers often silence targets by using threats and intimidation. They enlist agents to gang up on the target. The result is that the targeted individual may experience fear, anxiety, dread, and panic.
Prolonged psycho-emotional abuse can lead to adverse health outcomes. It may cause chronic anxiety which can impact the targeted person’s physical and psychological well-being. Over time, this may cause depression, complex post-traumatic stress, and auto-immune disorders.
Comparisons to Coercive Control
Coercive Control and psycho-emotional abuse are both power- and control tactics.
Psycho-emotional abuse may refer to harm inflicted on men, women, and children by abusive men, women, and children.
Coercive Control originated as a descriptor, Dr. Evan Stark, used to describe the entrapment and subjugation of women. It points to a specific kind of gender-based violence, namely how abusive men prevent women from “freely developing their personhood, utilizing their capacities, or practicing citizenship.”
Coercive Control may include isolation, monitoring, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and bodily harm.
Dr.Stark underscores that Coercive Control is more akin to hostage-taking and kidnapping.
“We must stop characterising Coercive Control as only psychological abuse,” Forensic criminologist Dr.Jane Monckton Smith of Gloucestershire University explains, “Psychological abuse is a method used by controlling people to exert and maintain control. Coercive Control is a campaign made up of any or all of these things which then trap people in a relationship, and make it impossible or dangerous to leave.”
Gaslighting is the distortion of another person’s reality. It’s purpose is to undermine their sense of self-mastery. It is a feature of Coercive Control and psycho-emotional abuse.
The United Kingdom recognizes Coercive Control as criminal behavior. Laws prohibiting coercive and controlling behavior came in to force in 2015. The legislation is gender-neutral and applies to anyone experiencing entrapment and domination.
A child’s construction of a false self is an adaptive process. Children may develop it to cope with unmet needs, especially the absence of support the child requires to differentiate themselves from their caregivers.
When a child is unable to successfully evolve as a separate individual, a profound wounding occurs. It is this wounding that severs the child from who they really are, causing their true self to retreat into the mist of toxic shame.
Enter the false self
Once the child’s damaged true self is subverted, the false self is developed as a protective fortification. It is the psychological armor the child creates to survive in an oppressive climate of family dysfunction.
The false self is a façade that disguises a vacant, inert, embryonic true self. The true self becomes an unrealized seed with its innate ability to develop roots and nourish the spirit with a rich emotional life unrealized.
Because the disconnected false persona is bankrupt of constructive emotions, it is unable to experience or genuinely express love, trust, or empathy – making it impossible to establish authentic bonds with others. Instead, the counterfeit self relies on subterfuge and predation, mentally spinning deceptive webs to capture its sustenance.
Over time, the false self becomes a prison where the child’s true self is held hostage.
The false self and pathological narcissism
Pathological narcissism is a traumatic stress response that manifests as ego distortion. It is the invention of a fake persona as a coping mechanism for abysmally low self-esteem.
The child’s deformed ego may present as collapsed or inflated, or it may vacillate between these states depending on circumstances.
Narcissism as ego collapse: I am unwanted
The child who develops a collapsed false self learns to obtain the conditional love of their caregiver(s) through compliance and submission. Pleasing their caregiver(s) keeps them safe from harm and so their best defense is to be infinitely agreeable.
To survive in the dysfunctional family they must show up as vulnerable, weak, and co-dependent. They are only acceptable if their ego is collapsed.
Narcissism as ego inflation: I am perfect
Sometimes children react to their caregiver(s) conditional love, neglect, and/or abuse by withdrawing.
Instead of collapsing into compliance, they balloon with contempt. In other words, the child adapts by concocting a counter-dependent false self with a glaringly inflated ego.
Both the inflated and collapsed egos remain undifferentiated, having internalized a tyrannical inner judge that is a facsimile of all the worst elements of their rejecting caregiver(s). Both ego structures are slaves to repetition compulsion in their adult lives.
The false self and addiction
Because the counterfeit self is emotionally isolated from the true self, it is also cut off from meaningful, authentic connection with others.
No matter how masterful it may be in its manipulations, the false self is a solitary figure. The consequence of this disconnected existence is that the false persona is prone to binging on poor substitutes for unconditional love and acceptance i.e. alcohol, narcotics, sex, gambling, work, gaming, adulation, people, etc.
Freedom from the false self
Only an apocalyptic psychological event can shatter the cruel defensive armor of the false self which is every bit as oppressive as it is protective. To relinquish it is to experience the sum of all fears: ego death and the resurrection of the true self.
FLYING MONKEYS ARE ENABLERS who act on behalf of narcissists. They are usually friends and relatives who serve as surrogates, emissaries, fixers and drones in the narcissist’s network. Moreover, they make it possible for narcissists to carry out their campaigns of abuse by proxy.
A person may rationalize playing the flying monkey role for a variety of reasons. Here are some examples:
Necessity – They may feel beholden to the narcissist because they are a relative or friend.
Acceptance – They may long for attention and validation from the narcissist.
Avarice – They may benefit from enabling the narcissist.
Schadenfreude – Some people genuinely enjoy inflicting pain and suffering on others.
Manipulation – They may be empathic people with poor boundaries who buy into the narcissist’s schemes and mischief-making.
Flying monkeys and the cycle of narcissistic abuse
Flying monkeys are usually active in every stage of the cycle of narcissistic abuse:
In the idealization or love bombing phase, flying monkeys may be used to provide social proof for the narcissist. At this stage, it’s their job to convince the target that the narcissist’s false self is real.
Flying monkeys help the narcissist accomplish this by vouching for them and helping them appear to be believable, trustworthy and stable. Flying monkeys also provide false verification for the scapegoat stories/smear campaigns the narcissist has crafted to discredit their previous victims.
During the devaluation phase of narcissistic abuse, the behavior of flying monkeys is similar to canned laughter on a sit-com. In other words, the flying monkeys encourage and echo the abuser’s negative sentiments about the person the narcissist is denigrating.
They also cover for the narcissist while they are grooming a new source of attention and adulation i.e. narcissistic supply.
In the discard phase flying monkeys enable the narcissist to control the narrative and escape accountability. Once again, this is done by providing the narcissist with social proof of their scapegoat story/smear campaign which is now directed at their current target.
Flying monkeys provide a narcissist with an alibi for whatever narrative they invent about themselves or the people they target.
They enable the narcissist to use a gaslighting tactics like DARVO against the target. DARVO is an acronym for:
Deny the abuse took place.
Attack the individual confronting the abuse.
Reverse the roles of
The final stage of the cycle of narcissistic abuse is the hoover maneuver. In this stage the flying monkeys enable the narcissist to hook the target and reel them back into the relationship so the cycle of narcissistic abuse can begin again.
This may be done by carrying messages from the narcissist to the target. For example, flying monkeys often surface when the recipient of abuse has ended contact with the narcissist. The flying monkey may befriend the target to extract information about them for the narcissist.
Alternatively, malevolent flying monkeys may slander, harass, stalk and assassinate the character of the target to such an extent that the recipient of the abuse may feel that the only way to put an end to their torment is to resume contact with the narcissist and plead with them to make it stop.
Types of flying monkeys
Narcissists assign different kinds of flying monkey roles to people depending on the individual’s motives.
There are two main subgroups of flying monkeys: benevolent and malevolent.
Benevolent Flying Monkeys
Benevolent Flying Monkeys have four main characteristics.
The harm they inflict is largely unintentional.
They are susceptible to manipulation.
They have poor boundaries.
They are people pleasers.
As people pleasers, it is easy for narcissists and psychopaths to manipulate benevolent flying monkeys into doing their bidding. All they have to do is appeal to their empathy and/or fear.
The benevolent flying monkey turns a blind eye to the narcissist’s history of odious behavior. They justify this action with self-deception and put their trust in platitudes like everyone makes mistakes, everyone deserves a second chance, they’ll grow out of it someday, and love conquers all.
Benevolent flying monkeys are likely to be triangulated because have a desire to be seen as heroic. They are blind to the true nature of their role as flying monkey. Instead, they view themselves as the peacemaker, the rescuer or savior.
The Meddler is usually someone seeking the thrill of the rescuer role. They are usually reacting to the theatrics of a narcissist. To cast someone in the role of Meddler, a narcissist may go to them and claim that their target has abused them. Because Meddlers lack boundaries, narcissists can easily overwhelm them by pouring out a never-ending litany of woe peppered with threats of self-destruction.
Meddlers are often in awe of narcissists and find their endless drama titillating. However sometimes exhausted Meddlers interfere in an attempt to stop the narcissist’s whinging.
The Empath can also be triangulated by a narcissist. An unseasoned empath is easily be seduced by the narcissist’s manipulation tactics, especially pity plays and love bombing
Highly empathic people often have a blind spot for the scheming nature of a narcissist as they are unable to conceive that anyone would deliberately conjure up the mischief and mayhem that narcissists revel in.
Narcissists corrupt empathic people by mirroring their good-natured persona back at them. Thus, empathic people identify and bond with narcissist’s false persona. Seeing their reflection in the narcissist, the unseasoned empath extends trust but fails to verify the facts. In other words, they do not do their due diligence and dismiss the other person’s side of the story.
When a narcissist is mirroring an empathic person, their empathy can be weaponized. The Empath believes, “this person is similar to me, therefore I will treat them the way I would like to be treated, I will give them the kind of support I would like to have if I were in their shoes.”
To live a life free from manipulation and enabling toxic people, Dr. Paul Bloom’s proposes rational compassion as opposed to unbridled empathy.
Empathy is a disaster in this complicated and interesting world. It has several problems. It is biased. We feel more empathy toward people who look like us, who share our skin color or our ethnicity; who are attractive rather than ugly; who are close rather than far. It’s innumerate. We feel empathy for the one but not for the hundred. Thirdly it can be weaponized.
Paul Bloom, Yale University.
Dr. Bloom points out that empathy can be biased whereas compassion is just.
The Coward is recruited to do the narcissists bidding because they feel intimidated and afraid of the narcissist. The Coward may feel that they stand to lose some advantage by failing to keep the narcissist happy. Their self-interest readily overrides their conscience.
In many instances, the coward relies on the narcissist in some way i.e. they may be employed by the narcissist or they may wish to access privilege through their connection to the narcissist.
Malevolent flying monkeys
Malevolent flying monkeys share several common characteristics, as well.
The harm they inflict is intentional.
They take genuine pleasure in destroying other people.
They have are amoral.
They are highly anti-social.
Malevolent flying monkeys are divided into three common classes: the Scandalmonger (Sadist), the Narcissist, and the Psychopath.
The Scandalmonger is always up for the sadistic power trip of destroying another person. They are recruited into the narcissist’s triangulation efforts because they relish the thrill and brutality of scapegoating.
Scandalmongering is antisocial behavior and it is done without conscience. This type is callously treacherous. Often they make a pretense of sympathy and solidarity with the target in the aftermath of the devaluation or discard stage of narcissistic abuse.
Their aim is to weaponize the trust of the target. Anything the target confides in them will immediately be conveyed to the narcissist and used to inflict greater harm to the target.
If the scandalmonger believes that the narcissist has a high enough status, they don’t bother pretenses and go straight for the target’s jugular by gleefully participating in the narcissist’s smear campaign and assassinating the target’s character.
In both instances, scandalmongers are uninterested in the target’s point of view because their goal is to silence them. Scandalmongers don’t care about what is right or what is fair. They are happy to shoot first and ask questions later – if at all.
Scandalmongers experience a profound Schadenfreude at being able to participate in the destruction of another person.
The Narcissist often finds themselves in the role of flying monkey because they are part of a narcissistic collective or hierarchy and thus barter their loyalty in exchange similar favors from their brethren.
A narcissistic collective is elitist in nature and operates under the belief that its members are superior to others. Examples of how this plays out on the can be seen in tribalism, racial superiority, sexism, gangs, sororities, fraternities, cliques, etc.
Narcissists participate in drama triangles because they wish to be in the good graces of a narcissist overlord and/or they are buying insurance for the day they may need social proof from the narcissist collective when they wage a smear campaign of their own.
Furthermore, narcissists may be triangulated if the target has special traits or status triggers a narcissistic injury. Narcissists delight in the destruction of people for no other reason than the fact that they have qualities or a position that the narcissist covets. Ganging up on such a target with another narcissist allows them to feel superior to the target. Thus, they are able to resolve the envy that triggered the narcissistic injury in the first place.
The Psychopath is recruited by the narcissist to play the role of enforcer. They know exactly what the narcissist is doing to the target and they know it’s wrong. They are enlisted to slander, harass, stalk, smear, bully and, often, physically assault the target on behalf of the narcissist.
They are the most dangerous of all the flying monkeys.
Common Flying Monkey Behaviors
Have Your Say
Now, it’s your turn! What is your experience of flying monkeys? Were they benevolent or malevolent? Do they fit any of the descriptions of the flying monkeys in this post? Share your experience in the comment section below.
IMAGINE LIFE WITHOUT the ability to generate authentic joy, love, or compassion. It’s hardly a stretch to suggest that one’s internal ecosystem would be a bleak and desolate landscape. However, if you were to open up the mind of a pathological narcissist and look inside, what you would find is a psychological wasteland riddled with persecutory objects.
The ambiguity of malignant narcissism is that its outward manifestations are often the opposite of the internal reality, which is a gaping void. The gnawing emptiness within is a catalyst for narcissistic pretensions that serve to preserve their idealized false self. Chest thumping boasts of supremacy are a safeguard against the toxic shame that has engulfed their true self.
Where others have a conscience, the pathological narcissist has a vacuum. For this reason, they are on a constant hunt to consume anything that might fill the void. Alcohol, narcotics, pornography, sex, gambling, people – you name it, the narcissist ravenously devours it. But it doesn’t fill them up because they are bottomless pits.
When narcissists encounter people who are able to manifest constructive emotions the narcissist cannot, it wounds their pride, stirs their jealousy, and causes a narcissistic injury.
What is a narcissistic injury?
A narcissistic injury is a threat to the narcissist’s false self. The threat may be real or imagined. What matters is that the narcissist’s steely psychological armor is penetrated and they experience a painful reminder that their false self is an illusion.
Sensing danger, their ego sends all hands on deck to rescue the false self from annihilation. For this reason, narcissistic injuries go hand in hand with narcissistic rage.
The narcissist’s first line of defense is a disavowal of reality. They devalue the threat, stripping the individual of their humanity and reducing them to the status of object. The narcissist’s ego then fractures the object as it resorts to primary defense mechanisms, such as splitting and projection.
Someone who was once all good is now all bad. A person once hailed as the light of the narcissist’s life becomes the very heart of darkness. The threatening object is made wrong so that the false self can be right. Thus, the narcissist vindicates themselves from any criticism, wrongdoing, and – most importantly – shame.
The more the narcissist uses splitting as an ego defense, the more anything resembling a cohesive identity unravels. Whenever the ego splits an object, an identical split takes place in the ego itself, causing it to become fragmented. The more a narcissist splits off from the abuse they inflict, the more it escalates.
The narcissist is a paper tiger. Their psychological structure is too feeble to grasp a self-concept with any complexity. They are satisfied to worship an illusion of their perfect false self. This disposition is common in toddlers, but it’s crippling in adults.
The construction of a false self may have shielded them from adverse childhood experiences in their early years, but it is maladaptive in adulthood as it prevents them from living authentic emotional lives.
The need for emotional bonds disgusts them. Yet, paradoxically it is also something they covet.
While the false self mimics edifying emotions, it does not experience them. A kind of emotional rigor mortis defines the narcissist’s existence.
How do narcissists cope with narcissistic injuries?
Their fragility sends them on predatory crusades to boost their ego. They may sustain their insatiable false self with adulation or attention or with cruel power trips utilizing coercive control, and psycho-emotional abuse.
Narcissists believe that by destroying a person or thing, they obtain power over it. They accomplish this through deception, seduction, and psychological cannibalism. To the narcissist, this affirms their imaginary superiority.
It is their way of making the false self appear real.