Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome

Imagine having few friends and being socially isolated with your family or loved ones. Your daily interactions and conversations are with the same people. You listen to their word view, the way they perceive things, why things are the way they are, what people are thinking when they say or do things, what you have to do to get along in the world, what skills people need to do this or that, etc. Your whole view and understanding of the world is affected by what is said in the house. 

Then imagine they tell you, in an innocent way, who you are and are not. You are so this... or you're not like that, these are your skills, this is what you need to work on, you don't have these talents, you are more like this, on and on, acting as if mirroring to you who you really are. Telling you, you will need this to get along in the world, you will need that to compete, etc, etc, and you are more like this, not like that. 

Imagine the person who tells you these things is confident and unwavering in their view. You are uncertain, is this all true? But they are steadfast and certain, any contrary information can immediately be twisted into proof of their correctness. Everyone goes along with them... this must be reality. 

Then one day you go out in the world, and look around confused and bewildered. Nothing makes sense. Everything you were taught and believed seems wrong. You interact and do things in the way you were taught, and people think you are weird and don't fit. You can not make sense of anything and feel constantly on guard and afraid. It is like you are in an entirely different world and don't get it, but it is just outside the front door of which you were raised. You feel alien, petrified and don't know what to do or how to act. You have no self esteem, because you were bolstered in things that weren't true, brought down in any attempts to individuate, and belittled and smacked down for any words or actions that did not fit the mold. You are an expert at stifling yourself so that others may exist as they like, not you. Now your strange interactions and constant misunderstandings of the world bring you down even further. You look around and see regular people living normal, happy lives, and you just don't get it. 

Nothing makes sense. You don't even know who you are, because from birth you were told you were one thing, and that thing doesn't feel true. Are you that thing or not? It doesn't feel right. But nothing feels right. You can't get a handle on any true feeling of your core identity, because your true identity was never mirrored to you, never allowed to develop, it was stifled and twisted, you were raised to something another person wanted, and any desires or volition of your own was quickly snatched from you and you were put back on the path that was planned. Now you are on your own, alone and helpless, with no support system around that could possibly being to provide the extreme sort of help that you need. You need to be re-raised, from scratch. But it is not so simple, because now with each step you fight with cognitive dissonance, and have to battle each and every new piece of information.

I could go on, but that's some of what it's like to have narcissistic abuse syndrome. Like being let out of a cult, but the cult is your own family and loved ones. 
  • 10 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • I don't need to imagine it, as I have already been through it for real. I'm guessing you have too?  Your description of narcissistic abuse is very clear and concise but still many people will fail to understand it.  I have never heard the term Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome before, but I have heard of the term Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, which was coined in 2010 by Medical News Today.
  • This sounds horrible. this could be narcissistic parents or a religious upbringing of some sort. I don't think parents realize how they can affect their children. I really like Alice Miller's work on this topic...or the topic of the "drama of the gifted child". good read for those who are struggling with inner wounds from childhood.  i also found john bradshaw to be a godsend as i journeyed to get closer to my inner child and heal from old wounds.

    Thanks for sharing
  • @dominica
    You are absolutely correct. Narcissistic parenting is a major problem which can cause their children to become narcissistic also and so wrapped up in themselves that they become unable and unwilling to consider other people's feelings. Instead, the focus is constantly on the self and on material possessions rather than being concerned with true emotion and well-being. Narcissistic parenting can go either way - they see their children as extensions of themselves and either they neglect the emotional needs of their children or they overly smother them leading to inverted narcissism. There is also such a thing as religious narcissism, which seems to be quite common, especially amongst Christians.
  • I agree narcissistic parents can cause a lot of narcissist-like traits in children. But not all these children are true narcissists in the sense that they lack empathy. It can be more that they have grown up in a narcissistic environment and are modeling the only way they have been taught how to interact. In short they have no role models of regular positive interactions to know how to have those interactions themselves. So they end up with other narcissists because they know how to behave in the complementary role, or they act in the role of the narcissist themselves. It's not exactly true narcissism and I believe it can be helped with therapy. 

    Thanks for those author's and book title Dominica, I just started reading the Miller one.
  • @Diane
    True, not all of them become narcissists themselves but, as you mentioned, many of those children end up in relationships with other narcissists because they know how to behave in the complimentary (i.e. co-dependent) role. To the extreme, this would be inverted narcissism. Inverted narcissists have a lot of empathy and are highly attuned to the emotions of others and are the 'pleaser', whereas the other party is the 'controller' (or vice versa depending on the situation).
  • I guess this title is a bit misleading because it makes the assumptions that you need to be a child of an adult narcissist in order for there to be an abuse. This is really not true at all, anyone at any age can fall prey to narc abuse. You can inadvertently find it in schools, in the workplace just about in any situation.

    @diane ; you opening narration can apply to over building the ego as much as tearing down individuality. A sort of generic stamping happens that wipes away anything that is not part of the narcissists game plan, it is learned through a very difficult series of manipulations that set up so much dissonance in the receiver that they will grasp toward any reaction that seems to resemble an acceptance or positive reaction. As far as the outside world goes it is only scary until the receiver can locate another person the same way. Little worry of that though, like a shark attracted to blood others narcs can see the signs and will home in. This is the true abuse because there just is never enough time out of the situation to truly find ones own autonomy.

    I was always under the impression that an inverted narc was just one that used more covert less assuming tactics to manipulate to their own means. They are trhe ones that will disarm you with a smile and could sell ice to Eskimo's. It is not the same as a victim that is preyed upon.

  • @SunnyDaze
    Don't confuse inverted narcissism with covert narcissism - this is what Sam Vaknin wants you to think because he is intentionally trying to portray his own covert narcissism as something positive. Inverted narcissism (which Vaknin coined) is the same thing as co-narcissism (co-dependent narcissism). It didn't need another name but Vaknin coined it to misinform people about covert narcissism which is completely different. Covert narcissists are insidious, controlling and manipulative in an under-cover, exploitative way which people around them very rarely pick up on (covertly abusive). Inverted narcissists do not control in such a way and would rather be controlled instead (co-dependent). Inverted narcissism can be compared to Dependent Personality Disorder. Inverted narcissists do have empathy, they are just very introverted.
  • I am extremely worried about perpetuating the cycle of narcissistic abuse onto others. my entire sense of self has been oppressed and overwhelmed by my fathers. any act of identity that i had towards my own beliefs about myself and bettering those around me has been brainwashed into a degredation of sense including taste, smell, and touch. especially hyper sensitivity and hyper sexuality. my father would frequently use key phrases i have later learned as commands like "little girls" when refering to me trying to get womens attention and that i am "too sensitive" i have been through some pretty horrible things outside of the house hold although all those experiences now belong to him and i am just a shadow of a weaker self. even in no contact if i violate and standard that he has set for "himself" i am disciplined in some horrible taboo way. especially through hyper sensitivity. it is destroying me. especially when i am trying to be myself around my friends and their children. i am a very friendly person and a firm believer in altruism or the good feeling that you get when doing something you find morally correct. but am compelled to act ways in situations less i apparently discipline myself as if i were a weaker version of my father. this is very hard to find a reasonable explanation for friends if i act out of line from my fathers view and the first act of discipline is to intimidate and accuse that i am going to hurt their child or violate them in some way. has anyone ever experienced this form of brainwashing before. i spoke to my mother and we both somewhat acknowledged the cold air in a part of the room and smell of socks as my father told me he could just leave as a puff into thin air many times. i do not want my body to be controlled in such a way that i make others uncomfortable while i do something correct because i am not intimidating or accusing others in the same manner as him. please if anyone has any how to correct this situation. he is constantly in my thoughts and the tactile sensations are completely overwhelming. i am on the brink of suicide as i can not be this burden to any aspect of social life i have or once had. i cant exactly continually explain or make excuses for the horrible sensations that occur because of someone else's "mistake" such as opening or closing a door. and now i am the one disciplined in a such a taboo manner. please help as this is a horrible way to go about life. i am at a loss. ive been diagnosed as schizo affective but at times think its just a further form of the abuse. if you put yourself in the shoes of those around me you could see how you would not want your most precious people to feel like a target for whatever wrong doing is occuring. abruptly leaving seems to work best but how much of a life is that to begin with? i feel i wont be right unless i give up every value i have or once had. it is an ongoing battle every second. i used to have the preface of "if you know jeremy you know he really isnt like that" but as the abuse perpetuates it has gotten worse and worse, even as i type this i hear his voice over mine twisting any sense of security or reinforcement as meant for him since i am now the villain that he must watch...help?
  • @altrusticstudent May I ask how old you are now? Where do you live now? Are you saying you actually threaten your friends' children? Do you hold down or a job or are you in school? And would describe the hypersexuality as sex addiction, masturbation addiction or something else? Your tale is very toxic and heartbreaking, but i need to know more about how it has affected you on a daily basis,
  • @altrusticstudent... Welcome to the community. I'm so sorry that you're struggling so mightily. If you are in the U.S. and considering suicide or harming yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

    @JoshuaShea has asked you some excellent questions. Are you willing to give some answers so he can provide you with some support? Please consider it, okay?

    We're here to help you however we can. We truly care.

    Sending you love, light, and hope.
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