If you have not yet read last week’s blog, part 1, Death by 1000 Papercuts, go back and read that one first and then come back here. This is a continuation of that post.
I am a life coach who works with people who have experienced covert narcissistic abuse. I am here to coach the victim/survivor. It is not my job to, nor am I capable of, diagnosing a narcissist, or any other condition. If you are seeking a diagnosis please contact your healthcare provider. If you are looking for emotional support please read on.
I have already covered Love Bombing and Devaluing in last week’s post. However, before I move to The Discard phase of Covert Narcissistic Abuse, there are a few things I want to add about Devaluing.
One trait that Covert Narcissists (CNs) have is that they project their behaviors, thoughts, and feelings onto their victims. They want the victim to think everything is their fault. And for sure if it’s the narcissist’s fault, they definitely want the victim to think the victim is at fault. The way they do this is called projection. They accuse the victim of being manipulative and calculating, or cold and distant. For the victims of CNs, this is particularly damaging because they are highly intuitive and introspective people. I’ll list the traits most victims have in common, but these are 2 of them. After being accused of the thought, feeling, action or intention of the CN, the victim will spend time really trying to get clear in their mind if they are in fact manipulative (or whatever they were accused of). Sometimes they will even ask their friends if they think they are a narcissist. The friends are always sure the victim is not, but they don’t always pick up that the CN is a narcissist. Not yet at least.
I would classify much of the CN’s behavior as “crazy-making” behavior. It is so many mixed messages!! And because the love bombing and devaluing happen interchangeably for years, the victim can get to the point where they really don’t know what is real anymore and they truly feel crazy. This kind of emotional and mental abuse can wreak havoc on your mind, heart, and body!
Victims are often more tired than their peers. And the longer the abuse continues, the more likely they are to develop physical ailments too. (On a side note, I think it is really fascinating how the body translates mental pain into physical pain. There are multiple books I love on this topic, and really it’s a topic for another post. But what I will say is that I have personal experience with this. For years I stayed silent in my first marriage and ended up with cancer on my neck. The doctors were baffled, I was not. I feel like the pain of holding in my truth (not letting words out) for so long by staying silent had metastasized in my neck. I also wrote an earlier blog post about needing heart surgery during that first divorce. I literally felt like I was dying of a broken heart and my heart was in fact literally breaking.)
I have noticed that the exact things that happen in this phase of the relationship can really vary from couple to couple, but one thing stands out above the rest. The CN wants their victim to know that they have moved on, and are so much happier without them. They say things like, “I never needed you anyway,” or, “I only stayed with you this long because I felt sorry for you,” or, “I can’t believe I was stupid enough to marry you.” All cruel, and all untrue. Really the CN needs a new target that they can abuse, so they often move on, and start dating again very quickly.
The CN will act as though they need to “teach you a lesson” and tell you how you’ve been doing everything wrong. They will say the most cruel things, and not just tell you that actions you are taking, or words you are saying are wrong, but that YOU as a human are wrong.
If the victim does come forward and tell family or friends the kinds of things the CN is saying, this is often some of the first times they have people tell them their partner might be a narcissist. This can feel confusing to the victim because although this behavior is amplified, it really is a lot of the same things they have been dealing with for years, yet no one told them before they thought the partner was a narcissist.
Let’s imagine this another way. Let’s say the victim has been walking around for years with a couple feathers stuck to their clothes. Maybe friends notice the feathers, maybe they don’t, but it’s no big deal, and no one says anything because it’s just a couple feathers. The CN’s words and actions towards the victim are the feathers. Friends and family don’t speak up until all of a sudden the victim is on the ground and being crushed to death by the pile of feathers. To the victims’ loved ones they feel caught off guard by the crushing amount of feathers the victim is under, but they have been piling up for years.
The CN is often the one to initiate the discard, or ending of the relationship, but not always. However, even when they are the ones to initiate it, it is almost always the victim that is the one to file for divorce. This is both because the victim is used to having to do everything to take care of the relationship and home, and because the CN wants to be able to tell people a story that they were left/abandoned/abused. The narcissist PLAYS the victim. They benefit from telling people in their lives a sad story of how the real victim left them and the CN is so sad and heartbroken. It is all calculated lies that are part of their plan.
Sometimes the victim will get enough strength and courage to end the relationship. In those times a couple things will often happen. The CN’s behavior can become quite unpredictable. It can sometimes be violent. I kept having the thought, “If he’s capable of this (insert any of his new behaviors), what else is he capable of?” Once I had told him I wanted a divorce, I felt like I had to be on my toes even more, and be very careful for my safety. There was a cold and distant look in his eyes when he would talk to me, and I truly wasn’t sure what he was capable of.
The other thing a CN will do, once they know for sure they can’t pull you back in, is let you know they have moved on and are so happy now without you. This can be very confusing for the victim because they are not moving on. They are incredibly hurt, are not interested in new relationships, and are doubting and recounting their memory. This is a time of even more self-reflection for the victim, wondering if they are crazy or not. Meanwhile the CN is off on dates and acting as though they are having the time of their lives. They are able to move on like this because the truth is, the victim never mattered to them in the first place. Once they can no longer abuse the victim, they have no need for them, and will quickly move on.
For many couples The Discard is fast, and brutal. The harshness of their words increases and the CN is almost unbearable to live with, and the victim never knows what they will get from moment to moment. The projection from the devaluing phase continues and amplifies. They want their victim to know EVERYTHING is their fault. They know their time is limited to get to abuse the victim, so they pull out all the stops, and are incredibly cruel in every way.
I love the advice Debbie Mirza gives in her book “The Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissist.” She says “You may feel shocked, full of anxiety, alone depressed. You may be having suicidal thoughts. Your body may feel like its deteriorating. It’s hard to focus at a time when you are making big decisions. You may be feeling reactive and impulsive. It’s probably been a while since you were able to get a good night’s sleep. This is all so common.”
“You have been through a lot,” she continues, “and are still in the thick of it. You will get through this. You have come to the right place and will someday see things clearly. Breathe. Reach out to friends and family who love you. Keep learning. Join a support group. Give yourself permission to fall apart, sometimes. Hire a good attorney who knows about narcissism if this is a divorce situation. Above all, know that you deserve kindness and respect.”
Traits of their Targets/Victims
I often hear women tell me “I can’t believe I fell for this!” or “I just don’t see how this could happen to me.” But the more I hear of their story, and the more they tell me about themselves, the more I can tell them, “I can see exactly why this happened. It happened because you have the traits that a CN is looking for in a victim.”
Instead of explaining exactly why a CN wants each of these traits in their victim, I will write a list of many of the common traits. Because before understanding the WHY, victims want to know if it describes them. So if you are wondering if your partner is a CN, seeing if you match the list of traits can be a good indicator that you are on the right track.
Victims are often:
Have a nurturing heart
Willing to give the benefit of the doubt
The ones who hold things together
The heart of the family
Do almost everything in the home and as parents
Optimist-seeing the good in others
Trust the word of others, because they themselves are trustworthy
They thrive as they love others
Honest and real, showing up as their authentic self
Flexible and easygoing
Easy to work with
Not interested in drama
Thrive on peace and harmony
Interested in self-development
Don’t blame others, and take responsibility for their own behavior
Don’t tell others what they think is wrong with them.
Does that list describe you? Do you feel like your partner is always taking advantage of your empathetic nature? Are you always getting blamed for things you know you didn’t do? If so, you might be in a relationship with a CN.
I love Debbie Mirza’s summary of what the victims are like. “I will say again about targets I interviewed and observed; they are smart individuals. They have been manipulated to think they are not, but these people are intelligent. Most of them could have their master’s in psychology after all their research and experience. Many of them are now helping others who are going through their own pain. These are beautiful souls. They love solutions where everyone wins. They are team players who will have your back and be your biggest fan. I have experienced such love and encouragement from each and every one of the targets I’ve met. I feel grateful to know them. They are wonderful listeners, independent, hard-working individuals, although most of them have been told they are lazy by their CN, which is a common putdown and the furthest thing from the truth.”
I was filled with self-compassion and hope as I read that. This IS why I became a certified life coach. This IS why I talk about hard conversations on social media. I want to help other victims who are just coming up for air after feeling like they have been drowning and don’t know where to turn. I will never say I am grateful for the abuse I endured. I personally don’t agree with professionals who encourage their clients to find gratitude in the abuse. However, I do want to turn my pain into purpose. Although I was a victim to his abuse, I do not stay in victimhood. I move forward empowered to help others find healing and freedom after this ugly abuse.
I help my clients process emotion and clear their mind after this trauma. I teach them to recognise the difference between fact and story. I guide them as they get to know their brain and how it works. This is important so that they don’t keep repeating past behaviors, some generational, and instead move forward creating a life they choose.
I help my clients gain sure, immovable self-confidence, sometimes for the first time in their lives, so they forever create safe spaces for themselves to feel and process any emotion. I teach healing victims not to be afraid of emotions, which helps them with stress and trigger resiliency.
I create a safe space for victims to tell their stories, so they know they aren’t alone and no longer feel like they are going crazy. I help my clients learn to make decisions and take action, trusting themselves that they are capable of making the best decisions for themselves.
I help my clients gain mental independence as they make their own decisions following divorce, or leaving an abusive relationship. Above all, I believe my clients to be their own expert of themselves, guiding them to see that the answers are already inside them. I give them tools to use to gain confidence in decision making, that will guide them long after coaching is finished.
If what you have read has resonated with you, and you feel like this might be describing your current or past relationship, and are looking for help and guidance as you heal, I am here to help you. I invite you to schedule a consultation call with me where you can experience life coaching and decide if you are ready to work together. This first hour of working together is only $17. And if at the end of our hour together you do not feel like it was helpful to you, I will gladly give you a full refund. If you are wondering if you are ready to take this step, I will say yes. If you are even thinking about it, it means it is time. Coaching spots are filling quickly and I only have a few spots left. Don’t put off your healing any longer. You ARE ready for this next step in your life. Go HERE to schedule your consultation call now.
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