An important learning for survivors of narcissistic abuse from the story of The Three Pigs

13 Oct 2021

What do you think is the biggest hold that a Narcissist has on the people who love them?

In the end, it comes down to fear. That fear manifests in a multitude of concerns including:

  • I won’t be able to cope on my own – financially or emotionally.
  • They’ll replace me effortlessly thereby proving how worthless I am.
  • One way or another it will be revealed that it really was all my fault.
  • They will hate me / judge me.
  • The world will hate me/judge me.
  • I’ll never find anyone else who means as much to me again.
  • My children will hate me.
  • Everyone will see just how unlovable and unworthy I am.
  • I’ll be alone and emotionally abandoned for the rest of my life.

That all comes down to fear.

So, the next question has to be,

Where did you learn so much fear?

Where did you learn so much fear?

The answer to that question has to be that you learn fear from Narcissists who certainly have their own  – not inconsiderable – anxieties. But more than that, they are the most accomplished fear-mongers you will ever meet.

That in part explains why so many of us lurch from the Narcissists of our childhood into the arms of a narcissistic partner.

We have been trained to fear.

That explains why we resonate so deeply with someone who knows how to communicate so effectively with us in the language of fear – even as they position themselves as our savior.

Narcissists just love that narrative that goes:

“It’s a big, bad, old world out there and only I can keep you safe.”

(Someone from a more emotionally secure background would be inclined to say, “I can’t be doing with someone who is always creating nightmare scenarios out of minor mishaps.)

Narcissists make your world a frightening, hostile place

Narcissists are so good at what they do that they can make you overlook the fact that what makes your world – with them – such a frightening, hostile place is…. their constant fear-mongering.

Being in a relationship with a Narcissist means living in a constant state of fear. From early on in the relationship  they train you to walk on eggshells.

You end up in an impossible predicament. It’s incredibly hard to stay and almost unbearably  hard to leave. While the prospect of divorcing a Narcissist ratchets up your fear levels to a whole new level.

And this is where the story of the three little pigs comes in – at least, as I see it.

As a child, I particularly disliked the story of the three little pigs – I was such an anxious child that I actually felt triggered by it. Plus, my mother, a woman who had strong opinions about everything, hated pigs with a particular passion.  It wasn’t as if she had ever had a bad encounter with a pig, she was just wildly prejudiced against them.

When I became old enough not to have to sit through the story of the three pigs any longer, I forgot about it for the longest time. Until today.

How Narcissists divorce

Earlier today I was working with a client who is divorcing an extremely unpleasant, highly narcissistic husband. There are children involved and financial assets.

The husband and biological father of the child never took much interest in the child for as long as the marriage held together. But once he had pushed my client so far that she finally realised she needed to divorce him, the father suddenly recognised the strategic importance of the child.

For narcissistic parents, children represent leverage.

Narcissists know full well how much the children matter to a non-narcissistic parent. Therefore they use their “parental rights” as a way to control you – and discourage you from fighting for your rightful share of the financial assets.

To that end, they will often ratchet up the fear of “proving” you to be an unfit parent.

That is what is precisely what is happening right now with my client. Her still husband has demanded a psychological evaluation of her physical and mental health for the court.

He even found a psychiatrist to assess her who sounds as bullying and narcissistic as himself.

It made for a gruelling experience for my client.

Re-enter the three pigs

As we were working through the emotional fall-out of her interrogation by the hectoring psychiatrist, the story of the three little pigs came back to my mind.

Legally, her husband doesn’t stand a chance of convincing the court that my client is an unfit mother. He likely knows that. But he also knows that he has had a long, long history of psychologically intimidating the living daylights out of her.

So what he is doing here is trying to make it work for him all over again.

Now, I could be reading more into the story of the three little pigs than was actually there, but this is the way I see it.

The Big, Bad Wolf was nasty but he wasn’t entirely stupid. In the final scenario, he stands outside the house of bricks and says he will huff and puff and blow the house down.

Who does Big Bad Wolf really think he is?

Does he really think he can?

I suspect that he knows that he can’t blow the house of bricks down. But he also knows that he has had prior encounters with two of the three pigs, in which he has made good on his threats. So, he knows he has a fair bit of psychological leverage.

He also knows that it is smart move to ask them to open the door to him.  He knows that when you ask – even for something that is not in the other person’s best interests – you may well get lucky.

The pig who built the house of bricks declines to open the door. The huffing and puffing didn’t work. But the wolf has a Plan B.  He will get into the house via the chimney. Because once he gets inside the house, those three little pigs will cave. They’ve never been a match for him before. So why would that change now, right?

Wrong! Because the wolf, just like any common or garden Narcissist, ultimately underestimates the intelligence and resilience of his adversaries. Pig #3 has a nice big pan of boiling water waiting for the wolf.

Do you see what the Big Bad Wolf and the Narcissist have in common?

They huff and they puff

Both try to huff and puff to intimidate you into giving them exactly what they want.

For a long time, when you are with them, you – like the first two pigs – build boundaries, first of straw and then of sticks.

Once you get round to divorcing, provided you live in a country where women have rights, you can finally build a house of bricks.

So, what does the Narcissist do?

He (or she) circles it again and again – possibly offering intermittent promises of undying love  but certainly trying that “Open the door and let me come or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down.”

He can’t.  His best hope is to intimidate you into caving in.

Your job

Your job is to be as smart as Pig #3. Keep the doors and windows firmly shut. And if you are fortunate enough to have a big pan of boiling water ready for him, go for it. If not, you do have a mobile phone and can get the police to deal with him.

The point is, nobody likes having a Big Bad Wolf outside the door huffing and puffing and threatening to blow the house down.

You need to hold on to the reality that he can’t do it and not let yourself be intimidated.

When my client could see her husband’s use of the psychiatrist as a Big Bad Wolf manoeuvre, it reassured her. She started to see how much better she was holding up and holding on than she had realised.

If you struggle to hold up in the face of a narcissistic Big Bad Wolf in your life, get in touch.

P.S. I’m not suggesting here that Narcissists are physically harmless. Some don’t resort to violence, while some do. Either way, in order to get free you will almost certainly have to do battle with them through the legal system. In that case, you have to remember that all their verbal huffing and puffing must not induce you to cave in. Although, if you fear physical violence, you have to take every step you can to  protect yourself even while you pursue the legal battle.


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.

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