The client I was speaking with was struggling with the injustice of being demonized by her narcissistic, fast becoming ex-partner. He is just cycling through his narcissistic end-game routines. Having performed “I’m leaving you FOREVER” to mediocre response, he transitioned – after due consideration of his finances and creature comforts – into realising just how much he loved her. Except that, after a few weeks, he resented having to be nice and cycled into his diminishing and demonising routine.
Unsurprisingly, she really struggled with being demonised.
When you have done everything you possibly can to love someone and make them happy, it feels horribly unfair to be demonised.
How you cope with being demonised by someone that you love(d) is what I want to look at in today’s article.
The demonization process beloved of all Narcissists
The demonization process, beloved of all Narcissists, really is a virtuoso performance. It can start with any pretext – in my ex-husband’s case, my failure to ball his socks to his satisfaction produced a spectacular riff.
The Narcissist starts from the pretext to claim that you are a decidedly substandard partner (the “substandard” judgement also applies to other relationships). You let the Narcissist down, allegedly, let them down in one specific situation because that is what you always do – you always let them down.
They then expand on this to state that they are a victim of your
- Controlling ways etc.
By rights, it should be funny.
They are, after all, projecting their modus operandi onto you. Having bided their time, with only a few minor eruptions of rage, until they found their perfect trigger, they then throw a load of absurd accusations at you.
Everything that you have ever done for them is forgotten.
Their victim routine
The omission, mishap or malfunction is blown up into a Situation that triggers their deep wounds. I have yet to hear of them claiming that they have CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as a result of living with you but I certainly would not exclude that.
This minor mishap has suddenly become a huge trauma that you are meant to apologise for. After all, they are working their socks off to “save” the relationship while you are sabotaging everything that they care about.
Of course, this is all crazy and totally untrue.
But still, the injustice of it can land horribly badly with you.
The bottom line is that you have been gaslighted so often that it can be very hard to hold onto your truth in such situations.
Especially if you have been criticized and demonized from childhood on, it can be really hard to hold onto the reality.
Who hasn’t struggled with this at some point?
Why it is so hard not to believe them
When you have been taught by Narcissists to believe the worst about yourself, it becomes incredibly difficult to believe that you are so much better than they paint you.
The head knows one thing.
But the heart is still fighting old battles.
At the level of your feelings, you are still fighting that old battle from a long, long time ago. That battle of losing control of how you are seen by others and, thereby, losing a sense of your own worth.
My client was battling to hold onto a sense of being a good person while her husband trotted out his Professional Victim Story.
Her logical mind knew that, in reality, the Wrongs that he was complaining of were miniscule. Compared with what he has put her through – and denied, of course – the “facts” underpinning his Professional Victim Story were negligible. Those “fact” included such heinous crimes as,
- A look here
- A sigh there
- A failure to get the dinner on the table exactly on time.
- A focus on small children which most people would deem responsible
- The occasional request for support…
A skilful Narcissist adds the necessary damaging judgements to prove the heinousness of the crimes.
How Narcissists gaslight you
Narcissists are very good at interpreting everything in the most damning possible way.
The look becomes complaining. The sigh is interpreted as conveying a world of negative judgement. The missing of the Dinner Deadline becomes rank selfishness. The focus on small children could be excluding, controlling, or toxic. The occasional request for support figures as Black Ingratitude and the invalidation of Everything That He Has Ever Done for the Marriage and Family.
Those barbs, ludicrous as they were really hit home. Just as the Narcissist knew that they would.
Another way to view the Narcissist’s judgements
The good news is that you really don’t have to limit yourself to seeing your reality through the Narcissist’s eyes.
I commented that she could also wear those judgements as a badge of honor since she, like so many other survivors of Narcissistic abuse, had been unfairly labelled by people who were in no position to judge.
Narcissistic abuse is designed to isolate you from the world. Toxic people labor the point that your unworthiness sets you apart from other people in a bad way.
Certainly, after I left my horrible husband, I found the stigma incredibly isolating. So, not uncommonly, when I did have to go among people, I did so with a carefully sanitized narrative about my past that was my best approximation of “normality”.
What happens when you see yourself differently
Listening to my client, I couldn’t help but think of a live webinar that I ran last week. The women on it all had been through horrendously tough times. All of them had incredibly painful and damaging back stories. But for all that, it was a joyful occasion with a good dose of laughter.
In part, because it was a meeting of peers.
And, in part, it was a case of looking at all the other women on the webinar and thinking, “Wow! You are amazing! What a delightful woman! Is that what someone who has been abused really looks and sounds like?”
In order to find your way through the tunnel of abuse and, eventually, out the other side, you have to be an extraordinary person. You have to be an emotional mountain climber.
And that makes you very special indeed.
As I pointed out to my client, in reality she belongs to the secret society of survivors of Narcissistic abuse. I take the point that few would be in a rush to qualify to join that society – if they had a choice.
Still, it is a pretty awesome society composed of very impressive women and men.
The group you really belong to
Narcissistic abuse happened to you and it happened to you – by design – in such a way that you were led to believe that it was a singular disgrace caused by some hideous character flaw that is unique to you.
In reality, Narcissistic abuse happens to an awful lot of innocent, awesome people because there are a lot of Narcissists around – according to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) it could be around 6% of the population, with significantly more of that number being male than female.
You belong to the secret group of awesome survivors of narcissistic abuse.
Given that Narcissists tend to get around rather a lot, that makes you one of a very large secret society indeed.
So, the next time that you feel like berating yourself and feeling hopeless and helpless because you fell for a Narcissist, please try to hold onto the fact that you are one of many, many others who belong to the Secret Society of Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse. They are all very impressive human beings.
You are, too.
Hold that thought.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
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