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.
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.
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.
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,
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hosted by journalist Ellie Flynn, the group of young people view the story ofAlex 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.
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.
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?
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.
I guarantee there is an entire generation that will instantly relate the word isolation to the 2020 COVID-19 crisis.
I do not.
I will not.
Every time I hear that word, my past haunts me.
Images flash in my mind.
But they are not of the present social distancing, wearing a mask, quarantine, and antibody testing. The images brought to my mind remind me of a different place, a different time when I was a different person.
The smaller a malignant narcissist can make your world, the more you will feel dependent on them.
Isolating the victim makes it easier for the manipulator to distort the third partys’ perception of the victim and dominate the narrative.
An Invisible Prison
The last few months of social isolation have been extraordinarily difficult for me. I am reminded of my current strengths daily, as well as the person I used to be. In the blink of an eye, I remember things I wish I could forget.
When I was a married woman, living in a New York suburb, we had an electronic gate at the end of a very long driveway. Located in a well-to-do, bucolic neighborhood, the gate was attached to a concrete wall separating the house from the road – from the world.
There was a large metal box on one side of the front wall, which contained the gate’s motor and electronics. I did not know how to open nor operate the secured machinery. And there were video cameras everywhere. An ordinary person would think they were for security purposes — but I will get to that.
You can be living in the dark hole of abuse – and not realize how bad it is until you start telling other people what is happening.
The man I was then married to was in total control of operating the gate. On good days, I had a code to get in and a motion detector operated to let me out. However, on bad days when he felt I was disobedient when I had not been silent or had not worshipped him accordingly – he disconnected that gate when he left for work, abandoning me in a home with what I believed was no way out.
My sons would have to walk around or climb over the gate to get to the cul de sac for their school bus. When the gate was rendered inoperable – my world shrank and became even more restricted. I was ordered to remain at home until further notice.
Isolation was a punishment. It was deliberate. It was a minute component in the cycle of abuse.
Survival Mode in Coercive and Controlling Relationships
Looking back, I wonder: who was that woman who received such punishment?
I could not drive a car out of the driveway with that damn gate stuck closed – but why didn’t I walk around it like my sons?
I never even considered it. I obeyed him. I lived in constant fear.
I was married to a man for almost two decades who used isolation amongst other Coercive Control tactics to dominate me. In the years since my divorce, I learned that his behaviors are consistent with narcissistic abuse.
In my case, other kinds of harm were added to the mix, such as domestic violence, and financial abuse.
During my lengthy, high conflict divorce, the man who would later be known as my “ex” was diagnosed by several forensic psychologists as:
having anti-social personality disorder, and
being morally bankrupt.
Did I ever hear of those terms before court-ordered reports?
For almost 20 years, I was so deep in survival mode, that I did not even consider there to be personality disorders and distinctions. It was just my way of life, a way of life I needed to survive for my children.
How Coercive Control Destroys Support Systems
Gradually, friends left my life, my family became estranged, people I had known for years stopped contacting me.
Eventually, the only human contact I had was with my children’s teachers and occasionally parents of my children’s classmates. But even those contacts diminished.
I tried socializing with other people in our community – as couples normally would – but that never lasted too long.
My ex-husband would tell me that people didn’t like me or only bothered with me because they thought I had money, convincing me that all break downs in communication with the outside world were my fault.
For many years, I never questioned it.
I was a class mother for my sons in school, an assistant soccer coach, a softball mom, etc.
I lived my life day to day as a mother of two sons whom I cared for and practically raised alone as their father showed no interest in them until I began to stand up for myself, mentioning divorce.
Throughout their childhoods, my sons learned that the only time their father showed them attention was when they would mirror his interests. My sons eventually understood how the equation worked, dropped their interests and passions, and reflected their father.
No more soccer, softball, or basketball. Playdates were few and far between.
Getting back to that gate at the entrance of my home address — everyone thought it was to keep people out when, in reality, its purpose was to keep me in.
There were days I just stayed at home, often recovering from bruises, with no means of escape.
I guess I was so traumatized, controlled, and terrified that I did not dare climb over that gate to get out. I remained at home, in fear, until I had a release date that my then-husband determined. The security cameras were strategically placed around that gate to allow him to keep an eye on my comings and goings, recording it on six small television screens within the home and backed up on the Smart House computer system.
There were years of physical, psychological, emotional, and financial brutality. I would be locked in a bathroom, locked in a closet — a prisoner in my own home — all to disarm me, to break me.
But here I am, despite it all. My life turned out to be one of survival over adversity. It is not one of victimhood.
Little by little, I mentioned what was going on to people, I started to read, and believe I deserved better.
You can be living in the dark hole of abuse – and not realize how bad it is until you start telling other people what is happening.
The Effects of Coercive Control on Children
Here is a shout out to anyone married to a narcissist.
They will not want you to leave them, not even when they have a backup plan waiting in the wings in the form of their new supply.
As much as they use isolation to control their victim, narcissists fear abandonment.
If you have children with a narcissist, be prepared for the brainwashing of those children. The narcissist’s lies will be spewed and repeated, eventually destroying the relationship between you and the very children you love so dearly.
When a narcissist knows you are on to them, they will use whatever will hurt you the most to get you back in line.
You can become isolated from the children who were once your entire world – alienated.
During the last few years living under the same roof, my ex did all in his power to separate and isolate me from the children I cherished. He wanted me to be as alone as possible.
Isolation in a COVID-19 World
That word again – isolation. It is a gate that separates you from your children and the world.
Lately, I’ve gotten so tired of hearing people complain about not seeing their families, not seeing their friends, not going out to restaurants, or on vacations. I’ve become inundated with people whining about how they can’t hug their grandchildren or go on their beloved shopping sprees.
Of course, these times are a challenge. But honestly, I think I’ve lived through worse. I often thank my Higher Power that at this very moment, at this very time – I am not in isolation with the man I was once married to.
During this harrowing time of health crisis in our world, I am not isolated as I was in my past. This time, my isolation means I choose to stay safe.
Intoxicated by your love Or what I thought was your love Reciprocated with my love True, accepting, encouraging My all-encompassing love
And it was amazing Walking on air All guns blazing No need for sleep Because you would keep Me going Just the thought of you was enough to sustain me Just knowing I was yours You were mine No need to keep track of time
Then you changed Or what you presented to me Changed Looking back there were red flags flying high You were the victim, so meek & shy How could he treat you like this? I understand why you cried You So pretty, so innocent For him to do all these things Well, it was just a sin.
But then the mask did begin to slowly slip And words were exchanged To me, just a blip I want the best for you For you to be happy You told me Yet when we came to it And when I needed to see my kids You punished me Went silent on me Cold & distant You imprisoned me But I tried to reassure you To constantly reassure you You told me you broke up with me in your mind Without even giving me any time
Your energy changed Never the happy, loving woman Was I to see again As you started to harvest your crops & grain Of seeds sown during our relationship You never stopped
Our routine changed And distance grew I was never enough Deep down I knew You would never talk Engage or discuss Anything important relating to us
You never wanted to accept Your failings, your feelings Of inadequacy, inept So you breadcrumbed me along This whole time Dancing to your song Planning your discard No matter how hard I would take it You knew I’d be devastated.
Because I gave you everything I defended you to my family To my children To all I would stand up to every wrong word For which I would ultimately fall You manipulated And gaslighted me And when I asked You said it was me
But I ignored the red flags lying about messaging guys On Twitter, on Facebook I didn’t even have to look Again I didn’t want to look You played me for a fool And I naively fell for you And that makes me angry Angry and sad Disappointed and mad At myself Not at you
You wasted my time you took it away With each passing day You drained me You hurt me And then faster than light You desert me Shame on you Shame on you Goddamn shame on you
But I know your time will come You can hide You can run From the twisted lies That you tell yourself But you can’t hide from the Universe Who knows who you are And you cant hide from God Who sees you as you are
Inside your heart Unlike mine, full of passion & fervour Yours empty & cruel The truth’s in the mirror Because the mirror doesnt lie And like a true coward You couldnt look me in the eye
Your eyes they betray you They slice & they slay you For they scream the lies You try to hide But it doesnt matter Because I knew I could read you I could tell you What you were hiding
And when I did then your rage came fighting But it only masked And confirmed The reasons for your deception Which now lie in wait For another poor soul’s devastation As you hunt and you weed To get the supply for your need
So now I have comfort I have freedom in forgiveness In knowing my heart is good I know my heart is a loving heart Deserving of more than what you did to me But with yours With yours? You can never love You will never know true love God help you God bless you I forgive you
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.