What is Narcissistic Abuse?
Narcissistic Abuse is a covert and insidious form of domestic violence where victims may spend years not realizing what is happening to them, unaware that their abuser has maliciously and intentionally created a world to coerce, control, isolate, demoralize, and dehumanize their victims in order to feed and supply their disorder, known as narcissistic personality disorder.
People with narcissistic personality disorder believe they are very important and that the world revolves around them. They’re self-absorbed and don’t have time or interest in others unless it serves a purpose for them. Narcissists don’t have empathy and they don’t have the ability or desire to understand what another person is feeling or experiencing and why.
Narcissists crave attention, praise and they can be demanding. They have grandiose views of themselves, their lives, and their futures, and they use manipulation as a way of achieving their goals.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder may:
- project an inflated sense of self-importance
- exaggerate their achievements
- respond to criticism with anger
- use others for personal gain
- expect special consideration or special treatment
- be highly critical of others
- become envious and jealous easily
The narcissist views people as objects which can feed their needs (known as ‘sources of narcissistic supply’). The narcissist will use any tactic, without guilt, empathy or conscience, to make sure they get their narcissistic supply and their needs are met. The Narcissist projects their disorder onto the people they spend time with, including their partner, friends and family.
The Narcissist creates carnage for those around them (spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc) using techniques such as “gas lighting” and projection.
These techniques result in immense confusion for their victim. It’s crazy-making. The narcissist knows that a divided and conquered mind is their most vulnerable and susceptible target.
Victims tend to ‘dissociate’ or detach from their emotions, body and surroundings. Living in a war zone where all forms of power and control are used against you (intimidation; emotional, physical and mental abuse; isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion, control etc), the threat of abuse is always present.
What is gas lighting?
Gas lighting is a form of emotional abuse where the manipulator undermines your entire perception of reality by causing you to second guess your own thoughts, memories and reality and the events occurring around you.
Gas lighting can occur in many types of relationships, including bosses, friends and parents but the most devastating form of gas lighting is when it occurs between two people in a relationship.
People who gaslight will intentionally push your buttons, they know your sensitivities and vulnerabilities and they use that knowledge against you, to manipulate you. They make you doubt yourself, your judgment, your memory, and even your sanity.
Red Flags for gas lighting and narcissistic abuse
You may not recognise gas lighting and emotional manipulation immediately as it is often covert.
Some red flags to look for, which are signs you are the victim of narcissistic abuse are:
- You often feel tricked or pressured into doing things.
- It seems as if you can’t do anything right.
- They guilt trip you and make it seem impossible to say no.
- They often twist the truth.
- You often feel guilty or confused.
- Your efforts never seem good enough.
- They invalidate your feelings;
- They use emotional blackmail;
- They gaslight you (emotional manipulation);
- They withold affection/give you the silent treatment;
- They take on the role of victim and turn situations around to make it seem you are to blame.
- They attack your character, shame, mock, blame, insult and threaten you and rationalise the verbal abuse as being for your benefit.
- They shift the goal posts so you can’t meet the goals they set, no matter how hard you try.
Some specific examples of gas lighting include:
- Trivializing how you feel: “Oh yeah, now you’re going to feel really sorry for yourself.” or “your just being overly sensitive” or I don’t know why your making such a big deal out of this.”
- Telling you that people are talking behind your back: “Don’t you know? The whole family talks about you. They think you’re losing it.”
- Saying things to you that they later deny having said: “Oh, come on, I never said that.” “I didn’t say I’d take the deposit to the bank. What are you talking about? Thanks a lot for the insufficient funds fee we’re going to get.”
- Hiding objects from you, and then deny knowing anything about it: “You seriously can’t find your sunglasses again? That’s alarming.”
- Insisting you were or were not at a certain place, even though it’s not true: “You’re crazy. You never went to that show with me. I should know.
For more information on gas lighting, including how to recognise gas lighting and how to respond to it, Click here.
What are the Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse syndrome?
Narcissistic Abuse syndrome is a condition that occurs when a victim spends a significant amount of time with a narcissist.
People who are struggling with narcissistic abuse syndrome often doubt their own self-worth or their mental wellbeing. They are usually very concerned about their flaws, failures, and other shortcomings – regardless of whether or not these issues are real. In many cases, they are simply ideas that were planted in their mind by their abuser.
Those struggling with narcissistic abuse syndrome often have a hard time identifying with reality. Since their minds will be so distorted and confused from the constant abuse and emotional manipulation, they may begin to question what they know to be real.
There are a number of symptoms that can affect someone who is struggling with narcissistic abuse syndrome. Many of these symptoms mimic those that are seen in people struggling with post traumatic stress disorder, a condition that affects people who have lived through serious traumas.
Symptoms that you are suffering from narcissistic abuse personality syndrome include:
- Intrusive, invasive, or otherwise unwanted thoughts
- Triggers,which are physical or emotional responses to situations that are similar or reminiscent to traumatic situations
- Flashbacks – recurring instances in which the individual feels like they’re reliving a traumatic experience
- Avoiding people, places or situations associated with the narcissistic individual
- Feeling isolated, alone, or detached from others
- Feeling extremely alert or vigilant all the time
- Extreme fear for their personal safety
- Highly strung or nervous
- Constantly scanning environment for potential threats
- Depression, irritability, and guilt
- Multiple physical complaints
- Might engage in self-harm
- Panic attacks
- Numbing and shock
- Impaired concentration and memory
- Feeling they are going mad
- Insomnia and nightmares
- Obsessive compulsive behaviors or eating disorders
- Suppressed anger
- Might be dissociative
- Might be suicidal
- Constantly second guessing
- Difficulty making simple decisions
Many victims of these toxic relationships attend counselling with their narcissistic partner. The narcissist puts on their mask, manipulates the session, and the victim becomes re-victimised all over again.
Courtney Barton, Brisbane Family Law Expert and her mother, Nova Gibson, narcissistic abuse counselling specialist, work together to assist people who are victims of narcissistic abuse, to process the abuse they have been exposed to and to take their power back.
Courtney Barton advocates on behalf of victims of narcissistic abuse who have separated from the narcissist to free themselves from the narcissist’s grip. Courtney ensures that her clients can negotiate with the narcissist on an equal playing field, free from coercion and control and without being re-victimised by the process. Courtney’s priority is to ensure that her client’s achieve a resolution of all issues quickly and at the least possible financial and emotional cost.
Nova Gibson, Narcissistic abuse counsellor, has a wealth of professional knowledge around narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse. Nova speaks with victims of narcissistic abuse on a regular basis to help them to pick up the pieces of their lives, to take back control and to move on with a Brighter Outlook.
If you are separating or thinking of separating, contact Barton Family Lawyers on 3465 9332 to book a reduced rate initial consultation with one of Courtney’s experienced Brisbane Family Lawyers who have special expertise and experience dealing with narcissistic abuse.
If you are struggling following separation to free yourself from the grips of your abuser and to take your power back, please reach out to someone you love and trust and ask for help. Your mental health is priority. You can’t be a good parent to your children until you look after yourself first. To put yourself first, book a counselling appointment with Nova, narcissistic abuse counselling specialist of Brighter Outlook Counselling. You can contact Nova to book an appointment by calling 0433 317 580 or click here to email Nova.