Exploring Anxiety, Uncertainty, and “Narcissistic Victim Syndrome” w/Bonus Haiku

Tony talks more about anxiety, uncertainty, and the brain’s adorable desire to make sense of things that often don’t make sense. He reads a haiku and a poem from the women’s private Facebook group, and then he references “Narcissistic Victim Syndrome” from the article “12 Signs You’ve Experienced Narcissistic Abuse (Plus How to Get Help) by Crystal Raypole https://www.healthline.com/health/narcissistic-victim-syndrome#freezing

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WUTN Episode 69 Transcript

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 69 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist. And host of the Virtual Couch podcast and the Waking Up to Narcissism Premium Question and Answer podcast, and soon to come Murder On the Couch, therapy meets true crime. And if you want to find out more about any of the podcasts or the Magnetic Marriage workshop, which is a $19, you didn’t know what you didn’t know about marriage and relationships workshop. It’s an hour and a half long. If you go to the show notes, there’s a link tree link, it’s link.tree/virtualcouch. And there you can sign up for the newsletter and you can find the links to the courses and programs and all the things that are coming up, that would be wonderful. And if you would be so inclined, if you are one who would write a review or subscribe or rate, wherever you listen to podcasts, that is always something that will be appreciated. And I’m trying to do more with clips on the YouTube channel. So if you find the Virtual Couch YouTube channel, subscribing to that would be wonderful as well. 

And I think I mentioned in the past that I’m putting up more reels on Instagram and those are making it up, so if you find it’s Tony Overbay underscore LMFT, and a lot of content going up on a pretty much a daily basis over on TikTok. The world of TikTok therapy is pretty fascinating. So let’s get to today’s topic. We’re going to talk about anxiety, but one of the things I want to do first is I just have so many poems now from the women’s Facebook group. And I would love if any of the men listening that are poets as well, that would like to express maybe the frustration that they’re having, whether it’s in their own relationships to emotionally immature or narcissistic women, or if they are poetic and waking up to their own emotional immaturity, please email me at contact@tonyoverbay.com. And I continue to get a few more emails this week from therapists, which is wonderful because I want to do more with that, therapists who are referring people to the podcast. Or a therapist who is also working in the world of emotional immaturity or narcissism and men who are ready to group, then that would be wonderful. So please continue to reach out at contact@tonyoverbay.com. 

So let me start. Well, actually, before I start with a poem, I just want to take you on a little train of thought. I think this will have to do with the topic today. Today, we’re going to talk about anxiety. We’re going to talk about uncertainty. We’re going to talk about the unknown and that plays, I think a much larger role in the world of emotional immaturity and people that are in relationships with emotionally immature people because they are continually trying to manage other people’s emotions or manage their own anxiety, which doesn’t allow a lot of space or opportunity for people to just be for people to just be and explore and do and figure out what matters to them when they don’t even realize how much emotional bandwidth is being spent on trying to manage their emotions, manage other people, but then when you do have people that start to recognize that they are enough, they start to recognize their own worth. They start to recognize that it’s okay to tap into what they want to do and how they want to feel. Then I find that people will just start to say, okay, I don’t even know what to do next. And I remember a time long ago, I was working with a guy and he loved movies. He loved movies and TV shows. And we were talking about movies and TV shows often because that was, you could tell it was his happy place. And for me, growing up, movies were just, they were an escape. They were a retreat. I just, I loved everything about them. And so he would just give me these in-depth movie reviews as if he were a real Siskel and Ebert. And if you know who they are, then you’re probably of my age. If not, I don’t know who the normal or who the current movie reviewers are. 

But he would just go in depth about movie reviews. And so when he started to really feel like, okay, I want to figure out who I am, but I don’t even know what to do first, you kind of go for a little bit of what seems like the low hanging fruit. And I said, what would that look like if you wrote movie reviews and at the time everybody had a blog, I think the sites were called blogger, I think maybe Google bought that out, but you had a blog. And then he said, well, I don’t know. And nobody would listen. Nobody would read it. And I don’t know if it would go anywhere. And that’s part of the yeah, buts. Yeah, but maybe I would want to, but yeah, but nobody’s going to care and I don’t know how to promote it and that’s not even the point. So if the point is that you start doing instead of ruminating or worrying, then we suggested that this guy just start writing reviews. And so then we just had a, we were kind of having fun, just Googling different review sites. And then he was saying, okay, I wonder if I could pack in the review to just a few lines. Because he was a man of few words, a lot of depth, but few words. And so just joking, I said, what if you did a haiku and you did haiku movie reviews. And then he said he joked and he said, oh, they’re probably already being done. And then I really did think to myself, man, in this day and age, and this was years and years ago, I thought he’s probably right. So we Googled and sure enough, we found a review site that the reviews were all haikus. So I’m going to read a haiku from the narcissistic women’s Facebook group, which is so simple, to the point, but yet beautiful and profound. But before I do that, let me read you a couple of haiku movie reviews. 

So the first one is about Pixar’s “Up”. “Love, loss, and regret. All in the first 10 minutes. Better pack Kleenex.” That’s it, but boy, it kind of encapsulates everything. There’s another one. Haiku from “Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King”. Not only that, but the extended edition. “Couldn’t the Eagles simply fly the ring, bear all the way to doom.” That is deep and it is true. I’ve wondered the same thing. So here is the haiku from the Facebook group. And actually what I should do is it’s going to sound like I’m doing this in real time, or I already know this, but I am going to pause and remind people and myself what a haiku consists of. So I Googled what is a haiku and it is a Japanese poem of 17 syllables in three lines of five, seven, and five. Traditionally evoking images of the natural world. And now let me tell you what ADHD looks like. There was a haiku generator and I’m doing everything within my power to not just go play with that because I only have a few minutes before my first client arrives and I would like to lay down some of this content, so I can come back and finish it in the not too distant future. So back to the haiku, the haiku from the women’s narcissistic Facebook group. Just simply says, “I was so alone waiting for him to love me, now I love myself.” So I believe that just is so powerful and so simplistic and it fits the five, seven and five lines of syllables. 

If that really resonated with you, and you feel like, man, I don’t know how to do a lengthy poem and share the depths of my soul. It’s really interesting because I feel like just even taking a look at something like haikus could be something that could raise your emotional baseline and just even starting to do, do what, start to read haikus, learn what they are, start to try to write haikus. It’s all better than ruminating and worrying. Let me get to the full poem that I want to read, this is also from the group. “When darkness comes, that comes quietly. It tiptoes inside, slipping through the doorway. Tip tap tip tap, the faint sound of bare feet on the wood floor. It creeps its way in finding a way into every crack and crevice. Slowly, deliberately methodically. It wraps its long twisted gnarled fingers around my neck and I cannot breathe. It claws and tears at my heart, leaving me in agony like a parasite that infects my mind. It controls me. I cannot think. Bewildered and confused. I stagger up the stairs. The hallway mirror startles me. And I see gaping holes in my reflection. Where have I gone? What has become of me? Barely anything recognizable or a value, a stained and tattered t-shirt tossed into the corner of the dirty bathroom floor.” 

I feel like the poetry just so resonates. And I think in the last three or four weeks of the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast, that poetry really has just expressed how people feel this loss of self. And then recognizing that they are no longer, they don’t know what it truly feels like to be the person that they were or want to be. And so I feel like this act of poetry truly is this expressing the fact that these people that are in these relationships start to just slowly but surely recognize this, this dying on the inside. And then, this desire or this now opportunity for new growth or rebirth. So today I want to talk about anxiety and I want to talk about uncertainty. And I think that you’ll see how these really play into where many people are, especially when they find a podcast like Waking Up to Narcissism or somebody that likes to talk about interacting with emotionally immature people, whether it’s a me or a Dr. Romney or a Ross Rosenberg. Whoever it is, Christine Hammond, but at that point, there’s a lot of anxiety that has led the person to finally look for more or look for answers. And then the answers come. And here it begins that narcissistic awareness, grief, where the answers can often feel overwhelming and cause even more anxiety because the certainty that people were trying to cling onto or hope for in their, their marriage or in their lives of that, it will get better. And it will eventually look like this and he, or she eventually will get it. 

That’s seeking certainty and the brain desperately wants certainty. But then when things aren’t playing out the way that we hope that they will, then that uncertainty absolutely will cause just more and more anxiety. And it’s so hard at first to try to just say to somebody, hey, let’s just accept the fact that things might not be certain because then if we’re understanding that they aren’t what we thought that they were, now we can just truly be in each moment. And instead of trying to manage anxiety around trying to alleviate anything that will cause additional anxiety or will, that will cause additional pain, then we just accept the fact that there will be moments of anxiety and there will be moments of pain. But then what also comes along with that is the opportunity to have moments of joy, moments of calm, moments of peace. And I did an episode a few weeks ago, I think on the Virtual Couch, just talking about acceptance. And this isn’t that acceptance of something like anxiety or acceptance of something like uncertainty. It doesn’t just mean that I just given that I just acquiesce and that I am just saying, okay, I give up. But acceptance means to take in. And it’s in its entirety without defense. So I’m accepting in the world of acceptance and commitment therapy. There’s this principle or this concept that if I am unwilling to have it, I will. Meaning that if I’m unwilling to be anxious, then I will be spending so much emotional calories and bandwidth trying to make sure I am not anxious, that that alone will cause more anxiety. So, if I am unwilling to have uncertainty, then I will have even more because the desire to make sure of things or try to make sense of things or find certainty in every bit of my life is going to cause more anxiety and more uncertainty. 

So I’m going to use, here’s where I feel like the, about as creative as I get, I’m going to use this, my muse today, an article from healthline.com, it’s medically reviewed by Daniel Wade. Who’s a licensed clinical social worker. And written by Crystal Raypole and it is called “12 signs that you’ve experienced narcissistic abuse, plus how to get help.” The article begins with a definition of narcissistic personality disorder, talking about it being a complex mental health condition. This typically involves a grandiose or inflated sense of self extreme need for admiration and attention among other symptoms. And so this is where I want to jump off the map a tiny bit and talk about, again, I think that narcissistic personality disorder is being talked about a lot, but it’s a pretty small percentage of the population. But if we talk about emotional immaturity and start with a place where we are pretty much all emotionally immature in so many different areas, but then those who are seeking help are looking to become more emotionally mature. And that requires a lot of introspection, a lot of self confrontation. And so if you are asking yourself again, if I am the narcissist. If you were literally asking yourself that you’re probably asking, because you’ve been listening and researching and wondering, and doing, and trying to read and discover and find out. 

And those are not traits or characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder. So there may be some emotional immaturity on the way to maturity. But definitely not, not narcissistic personality disorder at that point. She says that common types of narcissistic manipulation include triangulation, which is somebody who is trying to pull someone else, a third person, into your conflict. And that is trying to reinforce their own opinion or their position. And this can happen in so many different ways. Once you’re aware of triangulation. One of the examples that I will often give is somebody coming into my office and saying that they were talking with their friends, they were talking with a coworker, they were talking with their doctor at, and their doctor even agrees that their wife should change her behavior, or, you know, was talking to my doctor about my wife and even the doctor thinks that my wife should get on antidepressants. And I remember that one in particular, that was a very real scenario. And at the time I didn’t stop and say this. And in hindsight, I wish I would have, but if you just break that one down, so, okay. So you, the person in this situation, the more emotionally immature narcissist was the male. So he then goes to his doctor who in this day and age, it takes a little while to get an appointment for a doctor. You’re probably going to have five or 10 minutes to lay out. And then in those five or 10 minutes with your doctor, you laid out a scenario so, so perfectly that then your doctor, who does not know your wife, was able to diagnose your wife with depression or major depressive disorder, including which medications that your wife should take. So triangulation just makes no sense whatsoever. And that was one of those things as a therapist, that the more that I was working with clients over the years, and couples where that was one of the situations where that was just not the way that we normally work in couples therapy where someone’s coming in and saying, yeah, I was talking to your sister. I was talking to your brother. I was talking to my friends at work and it was all about, I was talking to them about you. And I mean, they agree that you should get help. You should change. And that’s just not the way an emotionally mature person interacts. 

Actually, talking about the narcissistic manipulative tactic of gaslighting, someone trying to gaslight you tries to get you to doubt your own perspective and reality often by twisting facts or insisting things you remember that didn’t actually happen. Hoovering, we don’t talk about this one very often on the podcast. And I would like to give this one a little more attention. But this tactic involves attempts to reconnect or pull you back into a toxic or abusive relationship. So in hoovering, the emotionally immature and narcissistic person, they feel so uncomfortable because they have lost. Even if it’s temporarily that ability to manipulate you, because if you’ve just had enough, you’ve shut down. You’ve started to withdraw or retreat, then the hoovering will just be just hanging around and just wanting to get you to engage, trying anything. And this is where I’m trying to push the positive buttons if they can’t even to try to get you to think, okay. He gets it. This one feels a little bit better. The silent treatment. This is one that I think is more common than we know. And in the world of emotionally mature relationships, I’m sure there can be some time that people need to step back and get their bearings, but then they come back because they have the tools to communicate effectively. And the silent treatment and especially in the, some examples that are given in my women’s Facebook group, where the guys in those scenarios can go days, days without communicating with their spouse. 

So this behavior becomes manipulation. When somebody purposely ignores you to control you or to make you feel isolated. So then at some point the discomfort becomes so intense that then the more emotionally mature person finally will just say, okay, I apologize because I don’t like the way this feels, but unfortunately to the more emotionally immature or narcissistic person that can, the more palpable you can feel that tension. It’s almost as if they are gathering more power. And so that when you do finally go and apologize as the more emotionally kind person, pathologically kind person, then it gives you a sense of relief, but then it also gives them more power and they now have more data that says the longer I hold out, then I will eventually get my way. Scapegoating parents who use narcissistic manipulation may place all the blame on one child that they designate as a scapegoat. And in the world of narcissistic family systems, you’ll start to see that there’s typically a scapegoat and there’s typically a golden child and you may even have different golden children depending on what the scenario is. But typically there’s just one scapegoat and that can be really difficult. And because that scapegoat then is the one that is more than not trying to show up and be the best version of themselves that they can be in hopes that it will change the dynamic in the family. But if they’ve already been deemed the scapegoat by the emotionally immature parent, and then passive aggression, indirect blame shifting, sabotage, sarcasm can all point to covert narcissistic manipulation. And those passive aggressive ways that people interact with one another can really be the point where people will sometimes say, and of course, if you are in a emotionally or viewer in a physically abusive relationship, then by all means there’s absolutely no reason to put up with that at all. And please seek help. Safety, a safety plan. A domestic violence shelter, whatever you can do. But passive aggression can be that emotional abuse. 

And you’ll hear people often say that at times they almost wish that their partner would hit them because then they would at least know, okay, this is what this is because the passive aggression or covert narcissistic manipulation can just be part of it just helped you, you lose your soul, you lose your sense of self because the words can just be so cutting and the things that are really important to you, the narcissist will then criticize and attack you for. You know, you’re a horrible parent. You never show up for me. You don’t do enough for the family and those things that will just hurt because they truly don’t see you, but they know that those are the things that will get you to react. But she goes on to say that these tactics will confuse you. They can make you question your sense of reality. They damage your self esteem. So Crystal brings up a term that I haven’t used on the podcast. It’s narcissistic victim syndrome. And he said, it’s a term that collectively describes the specific and often severe effects of narcissistic manipulation. So while it isn’t a recognized mental health condition, many experts acknowledge narcissistic abuse can have a serious, long lasting impact on mental health, which it can. It absolutely will rob you of your sense of self. 

And she said keep in mind that abuse and narcissism aren’t always related to diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder and don’t automatically translate to abusive behavior. Many people who engage in abuse don’t have narcissistic personality disorder, but regardless of mental health diagnosis never excuses abusive behavior. She said that people choose to abuse and manipulate others. And it’s possible to live with traits of narcissism or any personality disorder without becoming abusive. And I think that what can be really difficult in that scenario is if somebody is opening up about their own emotional immaturity, and then they hear a phrase or a sentence like that, where it’s people who choose to abuse and manipulate others that is true by definition. It’s true. And it can feel really difficult for somebody that has extreme emotional immaturity, bordering on narcissistic traits and tendencies or personality disorders. When in those moments they feel as if they do not have a choice. But that is often because they weren’t modeled the correct behavior. Or they weren’t modeled a healthier coping mechanisms or ways to communicate or ways to self-soothe or self-regulate or self-control. And so when they feel this deep wounding or they feel this deep abandonment issue, then instead of being able to sit with that discomfort and self confront, then that’s where often they will abuse to try to get somebody back into that in measurement or that codependency. And so then, you know, again I’m not trying to split hairs here, but I feel like I do have people that are listening to the Waking Up to Narcissism podcasts that are starting to do a little self confrontation. And so if you feel, if you almost feel offended when you hear that, well, I’m not choosing to abuse or manipulate. I’m just now starting to understand or wake up. 

Well, I’m grateful that that’s the place that you’re at. But that’s even more of a reason to try to go find help from somebody that knows a little bit more about emotional immaturity or narcissistic personality disorder or any of those narcissistic traits and tendencies. Because, yeah, it might be something where before, you know, if you’re in this amygdala hijack state because of this deep fear of abandonment. But then that’s the area to self confront. That’s the area to sit with that discomfort. And then and really you can grow from there. So she said with that in mind here, 12 signs that might suggest you’ve experienced narcissistic abuse. The first is that they seem so perfect. At first narcissistic abuse tends to follow a clear pattern though. This pattern might look a little different depending on the type of the relationship. Research from 2019 suggests that in a romantic relationship, this abuse typically begins slowly after you’ve fallen hard and fast, we call that one the love bombing. She said, it’s no wonder you fell during the love bombing phase, they seem loving and kind and generous. They made you feel special and adored with gushy compliments, affectionate displays. And expensive gifts. And I often add that in that love bombing phase, this is where the person is, in essence, trying to consciously or subconsciously become the person that you hope that they are, because then they like that dopamine dump of this connection as well. 

And I give those examples of, if you say, I like whatever, I like country music. And if they are not country music fans, rather than being where they are stepping into their true self and saying, yeah, I’m not a big fan, but tell me what you like about it. It’s like, I love country music, but then because in their mind they think, oh, I really liked the feeling that I’m getting right now with this person. And if they like country music, then I’m sure I’ll grow to like it. But if that’s something that they don’t really enjoy. Then they’re right out of the gate. They’re being insincere or they’re or they’re not being willing to confront and say, hey, it’s okay for me to have a different opinion or a different thought. And so it can be as simple as a different music taste or a different type of food or movie that you like. And the person is unable to express an opinion that they feel like someone else might disagree with. She said the early stage might’ve felt so intense and overwhelming that you never stopped to consider whether they might be too fantastic. Then slowly these other manipulative tactics begin to replace the gifts and declarations of love. And narcissistic parents might also offer love or adoration, praise, and financial support. Until you do something to displease them and then lose their favor. And then they too often turn to those tactics, like the silent treatment and gaslighting. 

Next, she says that people doubt that the abuse took place. Narcissistic manipulation and abuse are often so subtle that in public, these behaviors might be so well disguised that others hear or see the same behaviors. And they failed to recognize them as abuse. This is where we come up with the death by a thousand cuts episode. She said you might not even fully understand what’s happening. You only know that you feel confused or upset or even guilty for your “mistakes”. And even in the scenario of parenting, a narcissistic parent might gently say, are you sure you want to eat dessert? Or they might turn a broken dish into a joke at your expense, man, you’re so clumsy. You just can’t help yourself, can you? And they laugh with everybody in the room while patting your shoulder to make the insult seem well intentioned. And she said that you would hope that friends and loved ones believe you, but unfortunately it doesn’t always happen. Your loved ones might not doubt your belief that you are abused, but they might question your perception of the events and assure you. You might’ve just misunderstood those things. I’m sure that they never meant to hurt you. And that’s where we get back into that world of the Switzerland friends, well, at least it wasn’t this bad or I’m sure you’re not remembering everything correctly. And this doubt that people instill can be harmful. Because not only does it dismantle your faith and your loved ones, but it can also lead you to wonder whether the abuse took place at all. 

She said, maybe you did read too much into their words, or just imagined that look on their face. And this is where it’s so difficult because I want you to start to trust your gut. And operate from a place of, here is my memory. This is what happened. Crystal talks about the other sign of this narcissistic victim abuse that they’ve started a smear campaign. She said people with narcissistic traits often need to maintain their image of perfection in order to keep earning admiration from others. And to do this, they may try and make you look bad. And once you begin pointing out problems or questioning their behavior, then they may lash out by openly directing the rage toward you with insults and threats. Or here we go back into triangulation involving others and criticizing you by telling stories to your loved ones that twist the facts about your harmful or your unstable behavior, the narcissist tries to discredit you and even worse when you then act or react angrily, because who wouldn’t, if you’re being accused of these things that you know, to be false or you believe are false, then they use your response, your getting frustrated or upset the backup there lies. She said people with narcissism often have a knack for charming others, that persona that they showed you in the beginning, that everybody else still gets to see on a day-to-day basis. So then they can often win support from your loved ones who haven’t seen through that facade by insisting that they only have your best interests at heart. And then when you try explaining the abuse, then your loved ones might side with them. She said that part of this narcissistic victim abuse makes you feel isolated. She said, if your loved ones don’t understand, you’ll likely feel pretty alone, which only increases your vulnerability to further narcissistic manipulation, because then the person that’s abusing you may pull you back in with kindness or even apologies or pretend the abuse never happened. 

And there’s that cycle, that continued cycle of abuse. So hoovering, as it’s often called, tends to work better when you lack support, you’re more likely to doubt your perception of the abuse when you can’t talk with anybody about it. So if your loved ones reach out to tell you that you’ve made a mistake and they encourage you to give the abusive partner another chance, then you might end up doing so to simply regain your closeness with your family and friends. Because one of the most difficult things is that person that continues to go back into the trauma bond is that they may not have those skills from the factory to stand on their own. And we are again, while I love the phrase where we’re designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human, but it’s another emotionally mature human being, not someone that’s going to take advantage of or manipulate you and the things that you hope to connect on. She talks about one of the signs that you freeze up. People respond to abuse and other trauma in so many different ways that you might attempt to confront the abuse of a person, which is the fight. Or escape the situation, which is flight. And if these methods don’t work, you may feel unable to use them and you might respond over time, especially by freezing or fawning. And that freeze response usually happens when you feel helpless. And it often involves almost this feeling of disassociation because you’re trying to emotionally distance yourself, but from the abuse and often you don’t feel like you can even leave. 

That freeze response, you may just be battening down the hatches internally and waiting for this emotional storm to end. And so when you distance yourself from the abuse, it will help decrease its intensity, in essence, effectively numbing some of that pain and distress that you experience. She goes on to talk about freezing can have some benefits in certain situations, but it doesn’t help when you can escape from danger. But if you believe there’s no way out of the relationship, then you might remain in it. And perhaps even to respond by fawning, which is working to keep your partner happy. So we get that fight or flight. We’ve got the freeze, then we have the fawn, the fawning is where it’s, so, yeah, you’re right. Just to try to get that out of that, that uncomfortable moment. Here’s the stuff that I start seeing as a therapist, she talks about one of the results of this narcissistic victim abuse. As you have trouble making decisions, she sets a pattern of devaluation and criticism can leave you with very little self-esteem and confidence. This narcissistic manipulation often involves frequent implications that you make bad decisions and you can’t do anything right. And aren’t you glad that you have that narcissist in your life? 

So an abusive partner may call you stupid or ignorant outright, or often with a falsely affectionate tone, honey, you’re just so dumb. How will you manage without my help? I don’t even know how you’d make it through a day. And over time, you might start absorbing these insults and attaching them to your perception. And then constantly second, guess yourself as a result. And unfortunately I see that in my office so often. Where people even say, I don’t know. I didn’t even know if I’m making any sense. I don’t know if I’m right. I don’t know what the right thing to do is because his gaslighting tactics can also make you doubt your decision making abilities. So if somebody is manipulating you into believing that you imagined things that actually took place, you might continue doubting your perception of events. And then this uncertainty can affect your ability to make decisions well into the future. And I want you to, even if you’re doing this on the inside, start recognizing how you feel, what you think. And we want to get to this place where you eventually, we’ll start trusting your gut. We want to operate from that place of trusting your gut and emotionally healthy and mature relationships. That’s where we start. I may have my opinion, but my wife is certainly going to have her opinion. And I want to say, tell me more. What’s that like, because we’re in this together. It’s this edification one plus one is three. Not, the person is right. Therefore the other one must be wrong. She said one of the other traits of this narcissistic victim abuse is you always feel like you’ve done something wrong. This key characteristic of narcissism is difficulty taking responsibility for any negative actions or harmful behaviors. 

If your partner literally doesn’t say, I’m sorry. He hasn’t said I’m sorry. Or that’s the one of the narcissistic apologies of, okay, fine. I guess I’m sorry, but then you are going to feel like you’re the one that has done things wrong. And so often the pathologically kind person will then apologize in hopes that they are modeling behavior to their spouse of saying, you know what I am sorry about what I said or how I showed up and hoping that the, even a spouse at that point will say, you know what, I’m sorry to, but not okay. Good. I’m glad you are acknowledging that. So these abusive partners typically find some way to cast blame on you. And they might accomplish this through the seat. And she gives a couple of examples often by insisting that they said something that you have no recollection of, or getting so angry that you end up soothing them by apologizing and agreeing that you were wrong. And so often again, this is just to get out of the discomfort of the moment. Unfortunately, a narcissist can just be so fascinating that they can either sit with this incredible discomfort of things like the silent treatment. Until then you finally break. Or they can’t sit with a millisecond of discomfort and that’s where they have to then get angry or take the complete victim stance. 

She said, say you suspect that your spouse or your narcissistic partners cheat on you and you explain the concerning behaviors that you’ve noticed and ask if something’s going on. A partner using narcissistic manipulation might respond with extreme anger. They may respond with accusations of their own, redirect the blame saying that these things that are intended to hurt and belittle you. So that then the focus is off of them. So these barrages of rage can leave you feeling helpless and dependent and grateful that they’re willing to remain with somebody who makes so many mistakes. So then even after leaving the relationship, you might carry forward the belief that you can’t do anything right. That when things go wrong or in other areas of your life, that you might start to blame yourself for causing those problems. I appreciate that. She was so brought up that one of the traits of this narcissistic victim of abuse is you have unexplained physical symptoms, and we talk so much about “The Body Keeps the Score”, Bessel van der Kolk’s amazing book. But you’ll find that when people are starting to just lose themselves, that they will often have a lot of aches, a lot of pains, a lot of things, everything from fibromyalgia, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, backaches, neck aches, hypertension. You name it, there are so many things. Is chronic fatigue, or why am I drawing a blank on migraines? There we go. But she says that abuse can trigger anxious and nervous feelings that sometimes lead to physical symptoms. You might notice appetite changes, upset, stomach or nausea. Stomach pain and other gastrointestinal distress, muscle aches and pains, insomnia fatigue. And then she said using alcohol and other substances can sometimes seem like a helpful way to manage these symptoms, especially insomnia. So then as a result, you end up consuming more than you’d like in an effort to manage these unwanted feelings of physical distress. 

And I have this co-occurring situation where you are. I mean, I’ve worked with people that are drinking heavily. They’re turning to smoking pot. They’re doing these things to just try to tune out of life. Because they just feel so off. So imbalanced. Which leads to another form of, another symptom of narcissistic abuse as you feel restless and unsettled because she said it’s so unpredictable. You may not know whether they’re going to criticize you or surprise you with a gift. And if you don’t want some, if you don’t really feel like there’s consistency or know what someone will do or say at any given moment, you may start to develop a lot of tension from needing to regularly prepare yourself to face conflict. And there’s almost this just insane tension. And then there’s this feeling of relief, but over time, that relief when they’re, when they aren’t being mean. It starts to just become this flat affect or this feeling of what’s called this Anna Donya, she said, worries about the constant stream of criticism and how to best handle the abusive behaviors that you’re beginning to recognize constantly leave you on edge and you may not even know how to relax anymore. Since you might not feel safe, letting your guard down. And I think that’s one of the difficult things is people start having trouble with things like sleep and sleep is where you reset those cortisol levels in the brain. And so even if you’re just having these fits and spurts of sleep off and on, and then you’re hitting the next day and your brain hasn’t fully had a chance to recuperate and to flush out the, you know, the bad things from the day before. 

Then it’s as if your baseline of cortisol or this stress hormone, the stress drug in your brain is operating from a higher baseline. So then you may just snap or respond. It’s the, you have a very small runway until you’re at that place where you just feel like you are going to lose your mind. So she said you don’t recognize yourself when facing abuse. Many people eventually adjust their self identity to accommodate the abusive partner. So she said, say your partner insists that when you go out with your friends, you’re telling me that you don’t love me. You’d rather see them instead. She has, of course you love him. So you stopped going out with your friends. Next, you give up your hobbies. You skip after work happy hour with coworkers, eventually you cancel your weekly visit with your sister. You spend time doing what your partner wants to do. So that they really will feel like you do care. So then she says these changes often lead to a loss of your sense of self, which can leave you feeling lost and empty. And you might have a hard time enjoying life and losing sight of your sense and your purpose. And that’s the situation where in healthy relationships, people both are enjoying a vibrant version of life. And then we are coming together. And with curiosity, we’re having shared experiences and it’s all part of the maturation process. That of course we’re gonna have relationships with other people that are healthy, that are empowering, that are emboldening, that are helping us raise our own emotional baseline. 

And our spouses are saying, tell me more, what’s that like? What are you learning? And then how can we create meaning or shared experience together? She said that you have trouble setting boundaries. This is such a big one. So someone engaging in narcissistic abuse often has little respect for boundaries. And so when you try to set or enforce limits, they might challenge them. Completely ignore them, or even give the silent treatment until you do what they want. Eventually you might give up on your boundaries. And once you end a relationship or you get distanced from a narcissistic parent, for example, you promise yourself that you will not answer their calls and texts, or you won’t see them at all. But if they know that they can eventually wear you down though, then they may or may not let you go easily. Instead, they’ll keep calling they’ll texts in hopes of getting you to set aside those boundaries again, because it’s like saying a boundary, unfortunately in the world of narcissism is a challenge. It’s almost as if you are handing the narcissist some food here, here you go. Here’s my boundary. And as you can just run right through it or devour it, then it gives them more power of, okay see, you don’t even understand yourself because you try to hold these adorable little boundaries, but I know best. 

And so if you’ve experienced that narcissistic abuse, you might also have trouble setting healthy boundaries in your relationships with others. And here’s kind of wrapping things up. We get back to that concept around anxiety. As that she said that this narcissistic abuse can lead to these symptoms of anxiety and depression. That anxiety and depression commonly developed as a result of this narcissistic abuse. So the significant stress that you face can trigger these persistent feelings of worry, nervousness and fear. Especially when you never know what to expect from the behavior of the emotionally abusive, the emotionally immature. You might feel hopeless. You might feel worthless. You might lose interest in things that used to bring you joy. And you have a hard time seeing a hopeful outcome for the future. And I would just want to say in that moment that your, you know, your brain again, is this don’t get killed device and it’s trying to just manage and it’s trying to manage relationships and situations. And so when you start to notice that you are losing just any joy in your life. I don’t believe that it is your brain saying, okay, let’s shut it all down. But your brain wants to live. And so it is, it is telling you, okay, I’m trying to use anxiety for good. I’m trying to make you aware. And if that isn’t working, then let’s, they may turn your brain to a little bit of depression and say, okay, let’s, let’s sit this one out because you going in there is not making you feel better going in there, meaning interacting with this emotionally abusive person. 

And at some point, I think your body, your brain is trying to tell you, hey, do something help me out here? I feel like even the manifestations of pain from these emotional situations when the body then takes that emotional pain. And then almost as if it transfigured it to physical pain is saying okay, you’re not dealing with the emotional pain. Maybe if I give you this physical pain, then you’ll, you’ll take care of it. You’ll address it. Because your body doesn’t want you to be emotionally abused. It doesn’t want you to shut down. It wants you to live. And once you find your sense of self, your sense of purpose and so that you can just be, be in the world and just enjoy and just let your light so shine and lift others around you and all those wonderful things. So if you find that you are overly anxious, trying to predict what can happen next, or if you find that you are depressed and just continually wanting to sit this one out, then I really believe that that is your body saying, hey this is hard and I want you to do something to take care of yourself. 

She said it’s also common to have a lot of confusion over what caused them to change so abruptly, especially if you don’t know much about narcissism and manipulation. This is part of those popcorn moments where if the narcissist can then find whatever button works, if all of a sudden they pushed you too far, you withdraw and then they come back and love bomb. Well, whatever works. If that doesn’t work now, they may even go with the pull, push new buttons. Now go back to the you’re a horrible person or I know you’re an unfit father or mother. And so it’s a continual battle to find the right buttons to get you back into enmeshment. She said you might even shoulder the blame for the abuse, perhaps believing their accusations, that you must not care about them enough or blame yourself for falling. For their deception in the first place, but either can add to feelings of worthlessness and further diminish your self esteem. So, what do you do? How do you find help? Any kind of abuse can take a real toll on your mental and physical health. In her article, Crystal said if your loved ones still doubt you or tell you to just move on, you may feel unheard and unsupported. A lot of the basis around the entire Waking Up to Narcissism podcast is that when you start feeling these things, hearing these things that when you talk to somebody and if they are not being a Switzerland friend, they may just say, well just get out right now. But I know it’s not that easy. And you still, for most of the time, want to determine, okay, but is it me that’s one of the number one questions I get, but is it me? And what would it look like if I change. 

She said, if your loved ones again, still doubt you, or just tell you to move on. You feel unheard and unsupported. That can make it really hard to trust people again, leaving you feeling isolated and alone. So, whether you’re just beginning to notice the first signs of narcissistic manipulation are still trying to make sense of an abusive relationship that you maybe even already left. Then therapy can really help you begin healing. And she said, therapy offers a safe place to learn coping strategies to manage mental health symptoms. Practice setting healthy boundaries, explore ways to rebuild your sense of self. But it’s really important to find a therapist who specializes in abuse, recovery. Because that can validate your experience. It can help you understand that you aren’t at fault. And offer support through these early stages of recovery. So it’s important to get help and there you can get emergency support 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the national domestic violence hotline. There you can text a love is. L O V E I S to 8 6 6 3 3 1 9 4 7 4. You can call 1 807 9 9 7 2 3 3. This is again, the national domestic violence hotline. 

Or they even have an online chat available. But one of the most important things that you can do is start to find help in that might even be just a phase of you starting to listen to more podcasts and watch more YouTube videos and read more books. And that is being you’re on the path of awareness of a light enlightenment. You didn’t know what you didn’t know. And now you’re starting to learn. You’re starting to learn more about what is happening in your life, but it’s still gonna be really hard to do anything about it. And just know that that’s a really difficult place to be, but it’s a real normal place to be. And eventually you’re going to have more of a path of knowing what to do and you’ll do it more than you don’t. And eventually you’re going to become, you’re going to become this person that now is aware, is helping yourself, helping others, which is eventually going to help your family, your kids, those around you. And boy, I see you and I know that it’s hard to be on this path or this journey. 

But just know that I’m glad you’re on the path and I’m not just going to drop the old, well, at least you’re on the path because that might feel invalidating, but I’m grateful that you’re on the path. So reach out if you have additional questions, comments. Share this with somebody if you think that’ll help. You can contact me at contact@tonyoverbay.com or through a verite, whatever the various social media platforms are as well. And, hang in there. I, again, I see you. I know the work you’re doing and I’ll see you next week on Waking Up to Narcissism. 

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