“How do I become unshakable?” my client asked me. Newly separated from her narcissistic partner – who sees no benefits to himself in ending the relationship – she was reeling from his constant mind games.
Like all Narcissists who are not ready for the relationship to end, he is throwing everything that he has at her, in quick succession. The standard Narcissist’s ploys that he is using include:
Standard Narcissist’s ploys
- He is “proving his love” – by suddenly wearing the wedding ring that he never bothered to wear when they were together. (Maybe he didn’t find it worked to his advantage when he was cheating on her.)
- He is a totally reformed character, having seen The Error Of His Ways.
- He is also – allegedly – The Real Victim of her Narcissism.
- He is looking forward to fighting this divorce, he is entitled to 100% of the joint assets etc. – that she worked so hard to create – and he will fight her for EVERYTHING. Including the children and the family pet.
- He will prove to the world that he is the sole Good Parent – despite having shown precisely no interest in his own children until as the relationship unravelled, he finally noticed them and decided that they could be useful pawns in his game.
- He is proclaiming his account of how badly he has been abused, and how poor her mental health is to anyone and everyone who will listen – his community, her family, his lawyer etc. He has even taken a trip to the police station to bring charges against her for a physical attack that he suddenly “remembered” a couple of months after it allegedly (In the absence of any proof – or truth – he is just doing the Narcissist thing of shouting his story from the rooftops.)
Best of all, he can cycle through all of these different hyper-dramatic standpoints in a day… or even an hour.
Why Narcissists don’t always worry too much about credibility
When you stand back and think about this from an objective point of view, none of this is very credible.
Like all Narcissists, he doesn’t worry too much about credibility. What matters is if he thinks he can make it work.
Clearly, he believes that he can make it work.
He reckons that he can trounce her the way that he always has.
Why does he think he can do that?
Because he always has until now. He has always psychologically beaten, cajoled or manipulated her into submission.
He goes into this battle – which is a huge battle for him because it is about status and supremacy – with an unbroken record of wins behind him.
In reality, the cards in his hand are not great.
What matters is the way that he plays them.
The Narcissist’s trump card
When my client asked me, “How do I become unshakable?” what she was really saying was, “Help! I feel scared out of my brain. How do I stop myself from caving in?”
The trump card in the Narcissist’s hand – which is only a trump card if he manages to play it well – is always the psychological hold over you.
When a Narcissist triggers your fear effectively, it becomes very easy for them to win.
I could see my client on the verge of making an error that could have cost her dear.
Like all of us, she was starting to slip back into the old patterns of self-doubt and thinking:
“Well, yes, I did do some things wrong. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe he is not so bad. Maybe we could shut this whole divorce down and get back together. Maybe…”
The Narcissist’s trump card is always their perceived power and superiority in the mind of the victim who once loved them. That perception does not just disappear overnight, unfortunately.
So, my client’s request to become unshakable was not one that was going to work for her in her ideal timeframe – which was within the next hour.
Had I attempted to comply with it, I would have been setting her up for failure.
How NOT to set yourself up for failure
If there is one thing that a survivor of narcissistic abuse doesn’t need in the early days of healing it is to chalk up another failure in dealing with the Narcissist that they are trying to distance themselves from.
In order to escape the ever –present spectre of failure, the neo-survivor has to step away from the old beliefs about the relationship.
First of all, they have to understand that the Narcissist is highly motivated because they are experience a serious challenge to their power. Their response is to become even more florid.
Second, the survivor has to react compassionately to their own response. They have to understand that their fear is a very deep, patterned response. That is not going to change in 5 minutes. It certainly will change over time.
However the Narcissist programmed you really well. He or she worked it so that just one Look, just the way that they pursed their lips or a shake of the head was enough to send you spiralling into intense anxiety. That anxiety has gotten into your physical muscle as much as your emotional muscle.
It will take a time to pass.
You are not powerless
Happily, however, that does mean that you are powerless in the situation. That is just another construct that the Narcissist has led you to believe.
What it actually means is that Narcissists are very good at knocking you off kilter.
So, the issue becomes, what happens next.
At this point, given half a chance, the Narcissist steps in and holds you down until you feel that the only way you will ever get up is by clinging to them.
That means that the very first thing you have to do is make sure that you leave no opening for the Narcissist to rush in. When you do that you are already half-way to winning.
Then you have to spend a little bit of time unscrambling your own head.
Plus, you need to develop a new narrative about yourself.
A new narrative about yourself
At this point, I have to admit that I have only ever had a very brief – and strangely aggressive – experience of the toys known as weebles. All, I know about them is that you can slap them around and they will wobble and list in one direction or another and then they will come back up to upright.
As the Weeble jingle says,
“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”
Survivors of narcissistic abuse wobble, too. They can wobble massively. But once they start to see themselves as weebles, they start to see that they don’t fall down.
They can just take a little while righting themselves.
When you start out in your new post-abuse career as a weeble, you have a bit of learning to do about wobbling.
Human weebles get better at wobbling and coming back to upright as they go along.
Practice breeds confidence.
Some Narcissists are, unfortunately, able to exert real power over you after the breakup. But most are not. Most rely on the psychological power that they retain over you. You need to bear that in mind.
And remember, in all of your dealings with a Narcissist, that you have learned something new about yourself: you have become a human weeble. You can wobble but you don’t fall down.
Sure, you might spend a fair bit of time wobbling before you can right yourself but your Ex doesn’t need to know that.
As for you, all that you need to know is that you are still standing and they will not win with you ever again.
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
Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse. Starting with the basics.