Narcissistic Personality Definition

Narcissistic Personality Definition

Narcissistic personality definition is exquisitely distilled into a simple explanation by Dr. Craig Malkin as, “an addiction to feeling special.”

Dr. Malkin is a clinical psychologist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. He is also the author of the book Rethinking Narcissism. Decades of clinical experience, research, and distinguished analysis have made him a world-renowned expert on the topic.

Indeed, it is useful to conceptualize narcissism in succinct terms because it encourages us to take the next step to a greater understanding and a clear definition of narcissistic personality disorder. This is important because many people experience prolonged interactions with pathological narcissists as relationships of inevitable harm.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) defines narcissistic personality disorder as:

  • Possessing a grandiose sense of self. In order words, narcissists boast of exaggerated accomplishments and expect to be viewed as superior without commensurate achievements.
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of limitless power, success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  • The belief that they are special and should only be associated with other special or high-status individuals.
  • A need for excessive admiration.
  • A sense of entitlement. 
  • Interpersonal exploitation.
  • Lack of empathy.
  • Envy of others and a belief that others envy them.
  • Arrogance and haughtiness.

How narcissists groom people for exploitation 

In the idealization or love bombing phase of the cycle of narcissistic abuse, narcissists have an uncanny ability to disguise themselves as your soulmate.

It is a bit like being caught in the high beam of an oncoming vehicle on a dark night. Idealization is the first instance of gaslighting in the cycle of narcissistic abuse. It distorts your vision. The euphoria of the love bombing is designed to override your instincts.

A love bombing narcissist tends to have an uncanny ability to identify the places in the human spirit that are unnourished. They know that a hungry heart is willing to sacrifice a lot to experience satiety.

To learn more about how pathological narcissism can play out as aggression and abuse in the context of romantic relationships, I reached out to Madelaine Claire Weiss. She is a Psychotherapist and Executive Coach trained in Organizational Dynamics at Boston University and Psychodynamics at Harvard University, where she was the Administrative Director of Group Mental Health Practice. She was also the Associate Director of the Anatomical Gift Program at Harvard Medical School. In addition to this, she delivered training programs at the Center for Workplace Learning and Performance.

Understanding narcissistic personality disorder

Madelaine Claire Weiss | Love Bombing | Narcissism | NPD
Madelaine Claire Weiss

Manya Wakefield: In your opinion, what are the most important things to know about narcissistic personality disorder?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: When we talk about narcissistic personality disorder, we are talking about specific patterns of repetitive behavior that are destructive to self and destructive to the well-being of others. It is a mental condition that presents as:

  •  an inflated sense of importance,
  • a craving for excessive attention and admiration,
  • dysfunctional relationships,
  • and low empathy for others. 

Manya Wakefield: Can you describe why people targeted by narcissists may have a blindspot for the manipulation taking place in the early stages of the relationship?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: It starts deliciously! You are certain the universe put this person on this planet just for you. This is the one you have been waiting for forever, who finally gets you like never before.

Manya Wakefield: How do narcissists ingratiate themselves with their targets.

Madelaine Claire Weiss: The narcissist lures and lands the giver of narcissistic supplies with incredible charm.

Narcissists seek supply to stabilize a fragile self

Manya Wakefield: Can you describe how narcissists extract ego boosts or narcissistic supply from the people they target?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: Narcissistic supplies can include attention, admiration, approval, adoration, and other forms of sustenance essential for the narcissist to stabilize the fragile self and fill up the emptiness inside.

Manya Wakefield: Most survivors are radiant people. What makes someone bright and talented susceptible to the manipulation of a narcissist?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: There may be gifts, endless compliments, so many calls and texts, so much gorgeous attention, that you have no reason not to believe this person isn’t crazy about you. You have finally found your soulmate, and nothing will ever take you apart.

Manya Wakefield: How can someone tell if they are experiencing narcissistic abuse?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: It starts to hurt. Little by little, this person invades your life until it shrinks so small you can’t even find yourself in it, let alone the family, friends, outside activities, and interests you used to enjoy.

The aftermath of narcissistic abuse

Manya Wakefield: What is the most harmful aspect of narcissistic abuse?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: Narcissistic abuse becomes a physiological peptide addiction – an addiction that must be broken.

Manya Wakefield: What is your best advice to someone caught in the grip of narcissistic abuse, who is essentially battling an addiction?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: Break the addiction in the best way you can. There are techniques for this. Good health and happiness are waiting for you on the other side.

Manya Wakefield: After narcissistic abuse, people tend to blame themselves. What do you think is the most important thing for them to understand about what happened to them?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: It’s not just you. It happens to many people – up to 158 million Americans.

Manya Wakefield: Is there an empowering central lesson survivors of narcissistic abuse can take away from their experience?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: Know this: the charming narcissist doesn’t target just anyone. Typically, you have to be pretty amazing in some way that the narcissist is not, to make the narcissist look and feel good. So go ahead and be flattered, but know this, too. 

Madelaine Claire Weiss’ new book ‘Getting To G.R.E.A.T.’ will be released in 2021. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

How To Answer Your Child’s Questions About A Narcissistic Parent

mother and daughter on grass

Knowing how to answer your child’s questions about a narcissistic parent is essential to their healthy development and wellbeing.

The reason for this is that narcissistic abuse commonly falls under the umbrella of domestic abuse in families. Raising children in an environment where domestic abuse is normalized can seriously impact their physical and emotional functioning.

Research shows that exposure to domestic abuse affects kids to the same degree as if they had experienced the aggression first hand. In many instances, children may suffer psycho-emotional abuseexploitation, and manipulation by a narcissistic parent. 

By witnessing abuse, they may be quietly conditioned and even encouraged to use the same power and control tactics in interpersonal relationships as their abusive parent.

How exposure to narcissistic abuse can impact children

Witnessing or experiencing abuse in infancy and early childhood can produce elevated levels of emotional stress, which in turn can damage a child’s cognitive and sensory development. This can lead to a reduced ability to concentrate and result in poor academic performance from the child.

Children exposed to abuse in the home may experience difficulties distinguishing right from wrong, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and suicidal ideation.  

Research also shows that children from families where abuse is normalized risk perpetuating the cycle of abuse by falling into and repeating the familiar roles of victim or abuser.

Helping your child navigate the narcissist’s gaslit reality

It is imperative for parents who are raising children with narcissists to be able to answer their child’s questions in a way that validates the child’s experience and edifies their level of self-trust.

For answers, we reached out to Clinical Psychologist Michael Kinsey, Ph.D., a specialist in the dynamics of personality, intergenerational trauma, and parent-child attachment. He is also the author of  Transcendent Parenting: A Workbook For Parents Sharing Children With Narcissists and the children’s’ picture book Dreams of Zugunruhe.

N.B. This interview aims to inform, enlighten, and provide

accurate general information on the topic of narcissism. It does not provide medical, psychological, or other professional services. If you determine that you need professional assistance, please seek the relevant specialist advice before taking or refraining from any action based on information in this interview. Thank you.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: What is the best way to answer my child’s questions when they are at an age when politician style answers won’t cut it anymore? This kind of speaks to what we were talking about before, about the gaslit reality children of narcissists find themselves in.

Dr. Michael Kinsey: Yes and kids are such good BS detectors even from a young age. One of the amazing things about our brains and how we are wired is simply that we can decode – maybe not consciously – but we can decode guarded answers from free, authentic ones. We can tease these things apart with great precision. I suppose any parent really knows, whether you are involved with a narcissist or not, that kids don’t buy politician style answers.

The best advice I can give is something that I mentioned earlier which is that you really have to understand in a compellingly authentic way why the narcissistic person acts the way they do. That might be hard to hear and it might sound like you’re doing the work of condoning their behavior. It’s important that I say that’s not the case. You can understand something without condoning it.

The more you are able to understand it the more clearly it brings in to relief why it doesn’t work or why it’s dysfunctional or why it shouldn’t be the way it is.

You know for a lot of narcissistic people that explanation could be something like, “Your father or your mother had this experience growing up. What’s closer to the truth is they are feeling vulnerable, sad, disappointed, hurt, other way. It would be much better for all of us if it happened differently but this is the way it is. And there’s a lot of people you’ll run into in life who act this way because it’s very, very hard to feel sad, hurt, humiliated, etcetera.”

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: It’s interesting because many of the people who get targeted for this kind of abuse are highly empathic and the way you describe this particular course of action allows people to use their empathy to push through is I think that it’s an interesting, solid way to go forward.

Dr. Michael Kinsey: Keep in mind that this is a totally different strategy than you would use with the narcissistic person. Once a relationship has gotten to a point where it’s beyond repair, you can speak respectfully and assertively without needing to empathize or condone their behavior whatsoever.

But when you’re talking about children, you need to understand that you cannot pit yourself against a child’s love for their mother or father. You will not be well received and you’re putting yourself and your relationship with your child at great risk but trying to, in some ways, stand in between them and one of their parents. Because children always love their parents even if it’s unhealthy in many ways.

So when you’re dealing with your kids you really have to be respectful of that love that they have for them. Acknowledge the shortcomings, but also make it okay for that child to maintain some sense of loving connection to them and not make it a sort of zero sum game where it’s either him or me or it’s either her or me.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Right, by giving the children these sort of impossible choices.

Dr. Michael Kinsey: Absolutely.

Read the first part of our series Co-Parenting with a Narcissist and check back for the next installment soon!

Links

This interview is also available on our podcast on these fine platforms:

Co-parenting with a Narcissist, Episode 2

Resources

Osofsky, Joy D., ‘The Impact of Violence on Children’, The Future of Children – Domestic Violence and Children, Vol. 9, no. 3, 1999; Koenen, K.C., et al., ‘Domestic Violence is Associated with Environmental Suppression of IQ in Young Children’, Development and Psychopathology, Vol. 15, 2003, pp. 297-311; Perry, B.D. ‘The neurodevelopmental impact of violence in childhood’, Chapter 18 in: Textbook of Child and Adolescent Forensic Psychiatry, (Eds., D. Schetky and E.P. Benedek) American Psychiatric Press, Inc., Washington, D.C. pp. 221-238, 2001; James, M., ‘Domestic Violence as a Form of Child Abuse: Identification and Prevention’, Issues in Child Abuse Prevention, 1994.

Baldry, A.C., ‘Bullying in Schools and Exposure to DV’, Child Abuse and Neglect, vol. 27, no. 7, 2003, pp. 713-732; Fantuzzo John W. and Wanda K. Mohr, ‘Prevalence and Effects of Child Exposure to Domestic Violence’, The Future of Children – Domestic Violence and Children, vol. 9, no. 3, 1999.

Fantuzzo John W. and Wanda K. Mohr, ‘Prevalence and Effects of Child Exposure to Domestic Violence’, The Future of Children – Domestic Violence and Children, vol. 9, no. 3, 1999; Kernic, M.A. et al., ‘Behavioral Problems among Children whose Mothers are Abused by an Intimate Partner’, Child Abuse and Neglect, Vol. 27, no. 11, 2003, pp. 1231-1246.

James, M., ‘Domestic Violence as a Form of Child Abuse: Identification and Prevention’, Issues in Child Abuse Prevention, 1994.

Is This Coercive Control? on BBC Three

woman covering her face with her hand

A new documentary that focuses on coercive control will air on BBC Three on October 27, 2020. “Is This Coercive Control?” brings together twenty people between the ages of 18-30 together for a social experiment.

Hosted by journalist Ellie Flynn, the group of young people view the story of Alex and Rachel over two days. The story unfolds in 6 parts and ends with an accusation of coercive control.

What is coercive control?

Coercive control describes a pattern of behaviour by an abuser to harm, punish or frighten their victim.

Coercive control was criminalized in England in 2015.

Over the last 18 months, coercive control has hit the headlines following the re-trial of Sally Challen over the killing of her husband.

In Hawaii the definition of domestic violence was expanded to include coercive control and on September 15, 2020 and in California coercive control was added to the Family Code on September 29, 2020.

During the coronavirus pandemic, called to the UK’s National Domestic Violence helpline rose by 49% percent and incidents of intimate partner homicide rose by 50%.

Different perceptions of coercive control

After viewing the story of Alex and Rachel, the group are asked if they can identify any signs of coercive control and vote on whether the behavior they are watching fits the crimes.

To some members of the group, the behavior the witness in the story of Alex and Rachel seems typical of any relationship but other participants think it crosses the line.

Do any members of the group have a good enough grasp on what coercive control is that they can to spot criminal behavior?

The program found that 70% of participants weren’t able to spot the red flags of coercive control.

After viewing and discussing each segment of Alex and Rachel’s story, barrister Clare Ciborowska, analyses the film the group has viewed and explains what coercive control is according to the law. She also answers questions from the participants.

Watch Is This Coercive Control? on BBC Three.

Watch the Trailer

Resources

Recovery in the Time of Covid-19

Blueberries Eat Healthy Nutrition

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.

In the aftermath of narcissistic abuse, survivors often battle health consequences ranging from inflammation in the body to chronic illnesses like post-traumatic stress and autoimmune disorders.

Prioritizing health and fitness

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.

Health and Fitness | Covid 19 | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

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
  • 1 banana
  • 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.

Your’s in recovery,

Coercive Control Bill Signed Into Law in Hawaii

Hawaii Signs Coercive Control Bill Into Law | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

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.” 

The bills were supported by the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women as well as the Hawaii’s Women’s Legislative Caucus.

Among those present for the signing of the historic bill via Zoom was Hawaii State Senators Laura H. Thielen and Rosalyn Baker, and Members of the Hawaii House of Representatives Linda IchiyamaDavid Tarnas, and Linda Cheape Matsumoto.

Domestic abuse costs the USA 3.3% of its annual gross domestic product 

Research shows that Coercive Control legislation makes fiscal sense for the United States.

According to the World Health Organization, the annual cost of domestic abuse in the USA is an average of 3.3% of the gross domestic product in the form of direct and indirect costs. 

According to the National Violence Against Women Survey published by the Center for Disease Control, domestic abuse causes a loss of 32,114 jobs and 8 million hours of paid labor every year.

In addition to this, every year there are 486,151 emergency room visits by people seeking treatment for rape and physical assault.

By expanding the definition of domestic abuse to include Coercive Control in every state, the USA stands to save billions of dollars as shown by the 1994 Violence Against Women Act sponsored by Joe Biden, which led to an estimated net benefit of $16.4 billion, including $14.8 billion in averted victims’ costs

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.”

Hawaii Coercive Control Law | Rep. David Tarnas

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.

Superintendent Gordon McCreadie | Coercive Control Bill Hawaii

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.”

Her model laid the foundation for Scotland’s Ask Support Care training on domestic abuse from Medics Against Violence and the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit. Through this program, over 2000 professionals were taught to spot the signs of domestic abuse in patients and clients.

“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 Harder was produced 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.

In summary

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.

Coercive Control FAQ

What is criminal coercive behavior?

Coercive behavior is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

What is criminal controlling behavior?

Controlling behavior is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behavior.

Are there coercive control laws in the United States?

Yes. In Hawaii and California.

Resources

Lee, C., Takumi, R.M. (2020, September 15) “HB2425: A Bill for an Act Relating to Domestic Abuse”. Committees on Consumer Protection & Commerce and Judiciary. Retrieved October 3, 2020.

Tarnas, Brower, Creagan, Lee, C., McKelvey, Mizuno, Nakamura, Nakashima, Perruso, Takayama, Ward, Yamane, Lowen, San Buenaventura, Say. (2020, September 15). Hawaii House Bill 2425 relating to Domestic Violence: Coercive Control. Retrieved October 08, 2020.

Tarnas, Brower, Creagan, Lee, C., McKelvey, Mizuno, Nakamura, Nakashima, Perruso, Takayama, Ward, Yamane, Lowen, San Buenaventura, Say. (2020, September 15) “HB 2425 HD1 SD1: Relating to Domestic Abuse”. Hawaii State Legislature. Retrieved October 3, 2020.

Ige, D., Thielen, L.H., Baker, R.H., Tarnas, D.A., Ichiyama, L., Cheape Matsumoto, L. (2020, September 15). “Bill signing ceremony for the Women’s Legislative Caucus Bills.” Zoom. Retrieved October 3, 2020.

Max, W., Rice, D. P., Finkelstein, E., Bardwell, R. A., & Leadbetter, S. (2004, June 19). The economic toll of intimate partner violence against women in the United States. Retrieved October 05, 2020.

Cassidy, P., Thomson, J., Mitchell, J., Media, P., & STV News. (2020, September 17). Hawaii’s new domestic abuse law influenced by Scotland. Retrieved October 05, 2020.

Medics Against Violence. (2017, June 25). Harder. YouTube. Retrieved October 5, 2020.

Are You in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship? (Men’s Edition)

Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship (Special Edition for Men) | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship? (Special Edition for Men) is an updated and expanded version of the recovery tool I created last year to help people assess their relationship health. This version is specially crafted for men seeking to determine whether or not they are experiencing psycho-emotional abuse in interpersonal relationships with family members, intimate partners, peers, and colleagues.

The creative inspiration came when Veronica Archer reached out to me and invited me to speak on the topic of Male Survivors at the ‘You Get To Be YOU This Time’ online conference, I wanted to contribute a recovery tool tailored to the unique needs of men and boys.

Why is emotional abuse difficult to spot?

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.

In conclusion

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

You Get To Be You This Time | Veronika Archer

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:

  • Ashley Berges
  • Dr. Brenda Wade
  • Caroline Strawson
  • Darlene Lancer
  • Duane Robert
  • Dr. George Simon
  • Dr. Gary Sayler
  • Katherine Woodward Thomas
  • Laura Charanza
  • Dr. Marni Feueman
  • Dr. LeslieBeth Wish
  • Melanie Tonia Evans
  • Dr. Michael Kinsey
  • Dr. Ramani S. Durvasula
  • Randi Fine
  • Tracy Malone

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, Part One

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

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.”

A distinguishing feature of narcissistic family dynamics is dysfunction. The more malignant a narcissist is, the more they are prone to ignore healthy boundaries to satisfy their need for control. Narcissists think nothing of using their children to dominate and manipulate the other parent

Children are frequently exposed to or experience psycho-emotional abuse and coercive- and controlling behavior from narcissistic parents who seek to dominate the child’s perception by distorting their reality.

In many instances, children are made to navigate disruptive patterns of intermittent reinforcement, which narcissists use to bring the people they target under their influence.

A narcissistic parent’s oppositional behavior and mischiefmaking can have serious consequences for their children who often struggle with feelings of anxiety and depression.

So what is the best course of action for people who are co-parenting with a narcissist?

For answers, we turned to Dr. Michael Kinsey, founder of the mental health blog mindsplain.com. Dr. Kinsey is the author of the children’s picture book ‘Dreams of Zugunruhe’  and ‘Transcendent Parenting: A Workbook For Parents Sharing Children With Narcissists.’

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.

Parental alienation

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.

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist | Counter Parenting

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

‘Dreams of Zugunruhe’ is available on Amazon. 

Transcendent Parenting: A Workbook For Parents Sharing Children With Narcissists is available at mindsplain.com

Watch the Co-Parenting with a Narcissist video

Podcast

This interview is also available on our podcast on these fine platforms:

Narcissists and Love Fraud

Narcissists Love Fraud | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

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.

In a narcissistic family, there will be a lot of psycho-emotional abuse and coercive and controlling behaviors. Anger, hypocrisy, envy, and betrayal contaminate the ecosystem beneath the façade. The toxicity between the caregivers trickles down to their children.

Why dysfunctional families discard their own

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,
  • The Manipulator/The Mastermind – this child is an opportunist who exploits the vulnerabilities in the family to serve their own needs.
  • The Rebel/Problem Child – this child acts out the families dysfunction and is frequently punished.

    The Scapegoat/Black Sheep/Truth Teller is an alternate version of The Rebel and is distinguished by the fact that they are innocent and wrongfully blamed for all of the dysfunction in the family.

Why do narcissists discard their children?

Narcissists may discard their children when the child poses a threat to the narcissist’s narrative or the narcissist’s false self.

In Summary

When a narcissist discards a innocent child it’s likely that the child has been cast in the painful role of family scapegoat because they are not like the narcissistic parent(s).

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Psycho-Emotional Abuse: The Essential Guide

Psycho-Emotional Abuse | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

PSYCHO-EMOTIONAL ABUSE: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE was made to provide you with greater knowledge of this fundamental component of narcissistic abuse.

This information will give you a clear understanding of:

Let’s get started.

What is psycho-emotional abuse?

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.

Neglect, hostility, sabotage, indifference, false concern

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.
Dorota Iwaniec

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:

  1. It is a pattern of behavior.
  2. The harm it causes is deliberate and intentional.
  3. The target experiences the behavior as harmful.
  4. The abuse may be overt or covert.
  5. It may or may not occur in the context of conflict.
  6. It may not immediately seem aggressive.
  7. The aggressor may camouflage the abuse as caring, love, or humor.
  8. The targeted person’s vulnerabilities are exploited to cause them to feel confused, insecure, and unsure of themselves.
  9. It may manifest as neglect.
  10. 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.

Pattern of behavior, malicious, deliberate, exploitative, camouflage

What causes psycho-emotional abuse?

There are many reasons why psycho-emotional abuse may occur. The abuser’s behavior is often rooted in envy, fragility, and aggression.

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.

Some of the specific consequences may include:

  • Confusion
  • Self-blame
  • Depression
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of motivation
  • Procrastination
  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of failure
  • Hopelessness
  • Worthlessness
  • Self-sabotage

Abusers often compound the damage they do by refusing to recognize the right of the targeted person to feel hurt, wronged, or angry.

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 fearanxietydread, 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 depressioncomplex post-traumatic stress, and auto-immune disorders.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

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.

Psycho-emotional abuse has legal status in France and Canada as harcèlement moral and harcèlement psychologique ou sexuel. It was criminalized in 2010.

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.

The Kingdom of Sweden recognizes Coercive Control as the crime våld i nära relationer.

Relationship to narcissistic abuse

Psycho-emotional abuse is one of the two fundamental components of narcissistic abuse. The other is Coercive Control.

Now It’s Your Turn 

That wraps up Psycho-Emotional Abuse: The Definitive Guide.

Now, it’s your turn to have your to say:

What part of this guide resonated with your lived experience?

Do you think you have a better understanding of this kind of abuse after reading this guide?

Do you understand how it works in the context of narcissistic abuse?

Share your insight by leaving a comment below.

Bibliography

Loring, Marti Tamm. “Emotional Abuse: the Trauma and Treatment.” San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass Publishers, 1998.

Iwaniec, Dorota. “The Emotionally Abused and Neglected Child Identification, Assessment and Intervention; a Practice Handbook. Chichester: Wiley, 2008.

Strecker, Peter John. “I Wish That He Hit Me: The Experiences of People Who Have Been Psychoemotionally Abused and Have Psychoemotionally Abused Others.” Victoria University, March 2012.

Stark, Evan. “Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Monkcton Smith, Jane. “Coercive Control is Not Just Psychological Abuse.” Forensic Criminology: Working in Homicide Prevention, 2020.

“C-PTSD Academic Research Material.” Out of the Storm. Accessed May 5, 2020.

* Editor’s Note: This is article is an except from the book ‘Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship.’ To download your FREE copy, subscribe to our Mailing List.

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