OK, here’s the deal. If you’ve clicked on this article, there is a high chance you are in a relationship with an abusive narcissist AND, you are holding out hope that one day they will change.
You may be scanning the web seeking evidence that your narcissist isn’t as awful as that little voice inside you sometimes begs you to accept.
If you could just find the right magical solution they will change and be the amazing person you know they can be. You just know this can happen, because surely they don’t mean it when they do the horrendous things they do? Surely no one would. And they must be completely unaware of what they are doing…does this sound familiar?
Well the plain, horrific truth is, they do mean it. Their actions are entirely calculated. The narcissist abuses you intentionally.
Whilst many say that people never change. I don’t believe this is true. People can. They do all the time. There are however necessary conditions for this to happen. These are awareness of the behaviour they want to change, and the will to make it happen. This is how I define intentionality.
Equally, intentionality also applies to identifying what I call acts of evil. One who is aware of what causes harm and intentionally chooses to make this happen, in my book cannot be excused. And one who repeatedly chooses to cause harm is at the very least, comfortable with their actions. They have in essence, no intention of changing.
This article is a big, fat reality check that the narcissist acts from a place of intentionality. They make deliberate choices to cause harm to feed off your pain. The raw truth of these facts are evidenced in their own actions.
Stop making excuses for the narc now.
In the words of Maya Angelou: ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time’.
Submission 1 – Breaking you down
Let’s start off with a reminder of what makes the narcissist tick…controlling and dominating you as a form of supply. These driving forces underpin the need to devalue & diminish you.
All sorts of mind warping strategies are used to make this happen: gaslighting, projection, smear campaigns, threats, exploitation, twisting of the truth or outright lying, circular nonsensical arguments, shaming etc. ad infinitum…
Why? To have power over you and to feel ‘more than’, by making you feel ‘less than’. This is central to their needs. Feeding on others is all about reinforcing their beliefs that they are superior which necessitates that all others are, of course, inferior.
Given you are a fabulous human being (why else would they have chosen you for supply if you were not!), this means that they need to break you down to feel superior. They do this, systemically through their abuse. Pause for a second and reflect on how you are feeling. Small? Worthless? Unloved/unlovable? Deeply flawed? Crazy? So, fair to say it’s working right?
The other motivation for breaking you down is that they need you to buy into their ‘more than’/’less than’ dynamic. When you do, this fortifies your dependence on them and consequently their power over you.
At this point you may be thinking ‘yeah maybe this isn’t right, but maybe my narc can’t help it, or doesn’t mean it, I need to allow for these possibilities’…let’s move on to the incontrovertible proof.
Submission 2 – Hiding the truth
Exhibit A – Isolation
A popular method of control is to isolate victims. This can be from human, physical, emotional, psychological, or mental resources. This is a classic tactic used as the less external resources you have available to you, the more you are dependent on the narc to get by.
There are also other reasons, particularly regarding isolating you from other people. The narcissist fears that people who care about you will notice the detrimental impact the relationship has on you.
They also fear that others will validate the reality of the situation which undermines the ardent work the narcissist has been doing in convincing you that it is all in your mind.
Furthermore, they fear others who are concerned will influence you by saying ‘what’s going on is not ok’, and you may just flee.
The fear here is all about being caught out. Either by you saying no more & walking away, or by others calling them on their behaviour.
Exhibit B – The two faces
Similarly, the narcissist will show different faces, one for when in public and the secret one kept just for you.
The secret face is the one stripped of the mask, the real person. This person uses you as supply, feeding off the process of you losing yourself, getting a payoff each time your heart and soul breaks a little further.
This is the person you can no longer pretend is simply misguided, or unaware of their behaviour. This is the person you are trying to excuse but can do no longer.
In contrast, the person they become in public is the one you are holding out they can become consistently, eradicating the monster who abuses you.
This is the one who keeps you feeling hopeful because they show you they can be good right? This is the one you fell for when you were being idealised and worshipped at the very beginning. Charming, witty, generous, attentive, kind, full of smiles and laughter – rainbows, lollypops, and unicorns are everywhere when this person is around.
Well, this person is still the one of the ‘secret face’ who abuses you for kicks. They’ve just popped on their mask. They do this because it is the perfect cover for what really lies underneath. This way, your truth is harder to believe if you dare share their secret.
Exhibits A & B unequivocally demonstrate the narc knows that they are abusing you, and that they are aware that by normal standards of behaviour, this is unacceptable. Hence the duplicitousness of hiding their own behaviour from outsiders.
They know what they are doing is wrong. They know is it causing you harm. Yet, they are choosing to do it anyway. In addition to ensuring they can continue to do so into the foreseeable future by establishing conditions that protect the truth from being surfaced and being caught out.
Submission 3 – The body does not lie
The narcissist is clearly a master of control, of both you when suffering their manipulation and devaluation, and to a certain extent of themselves. Established above is their ability to pick and choose which persona they share with whom and when. There are a few things within themselves that are however beyond their control. One of these is the powerful truth of physical tells.
Exhibit C – Joy at the pain of others
I refer to evil once more. Many argue that there is no such thing as evil, and that all people are essentially good. I will admit to having held and defended this belief the majority of my life until the devil looked me in the eye.
Those at the malignant end of the narcissistic spectrum and individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) will show you what they are physically. That lack of congruence between words, actions, and behaviours, also extends to body language.
Two distinct signs are:
- Occasionally when hitting the bullseye and causing you deep harm, you will catch them smiling. They may even let a laugh of delight slip out. Yes, these reactions are from pleasure at your pain.
- The same applies when harm occurs to others. When involved in gossip, smear campaigns or hearing of the genuine misfortune of others, you will notice the narc is strangely animated, excited. The pain of others quite literally lights them up.
Individuals who receive a pay-off from the misery of others are unlike the rest of us. They will not give up the behaviours, because they like being that way. It is in fact, what they live for.
Submission 3 – In their own words
No intention of changing will ever eventuate. This would be completely contrary to all the beliefs and behaviours that make them an individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. They consider themselves to be superior, omnipotent, special, gifted, and are arrogant and entitled.
Using their own words, they will tell you all this about themselves.
Firstly, listen to the underlying premise of all their devaluation strategies: “in order to be good enough for me, you need to change xyz…”.
Then, listen more broadly, this same view applies to everyone that surrounds them. Nobody is good enough. All must change to be worthy of the narcissist in their unhumble opinion.
Finally, again, if you happen to be with a malignant narcissist or an individual with APD, they will just come right out and say it. “I like who and what I am. I know I get off on causing pain. I will never change”. True. Believe it or not, I’ve heard these very words.
Why continue to try and disprove what they proudly own?
You may still be dismissing the psychological theory of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or their very own testament to their truth when they tell you what they are. In a way you kind of need to because of the brainwashing that has occurred. Denial is a necessary survival defence mechanism.
But isolating you, the public vs. private personalities, and the glee written on their body from your pain are unequivocal evidence the narc is fully aware they are destroying you.
Can you really continue to forgive, excuse & defend a person who is aware they are causing you damage, and deliberately chooses to do so?
These truths can’t be ignored*.
You must accept that the narcissistic abuses you intentionally, and will not stop. You must let go of any residual denial that things just might work out if you stay with the narcissist.
Step out of survival mode and into recovery. It’s time to turn all this gorgeous hope, energy, commitment, unconditional love, and optimism on someone who deserves it: you.
Shatter the narcissistic bonds now and start feeding your own soul (check out Why is it so hard to leave an abusive relationship with a narcissist? for more info on trauma bonding). Do this for you. Freedom & joy are waiting for you, but you must release yourself first by walking away.
Please share your insights or questions below on breaking through denial and seeing the narc for what they really are. Sharing and encouraging others is so very necessary to help all of us on our journey of recovery.
*For those hungry for more jolting facts to help you move out of denial, I highly recommend Dr Martha Stout’s book The Sociopath Next Door.
In this book you will learn to recognise who to stay away from. Dr Stout explains why malignant narcissists and those with Antisocial Personality Disorder are the way they are.
She also provides clear details about the characteristics and warning signs of these dangerous people so recognising those who get their kicks from causing pain, is easy. This is a significant achievement given they are so gifted at hiding their truth!
The language is easy to read, and it is both fascinating and so practical – a bit of a ‘how to protect yourself guide’. This book helped me heaps and is one that has had a major impact in my own journey.
(Note – if using link/s provided to purchase, you’ll receive free shipping and title heavily discounted. You’ll also be supporting my work in providing you free resources on this site, by earning a very small commission, at no extra cost to you – thank you )
- Bancroft, L. (2003). Why does he do that? Inside the minds of angry and controlling men. New York, US: Berkley Books.
- Dutton, D., & Painter, S. (1993). Emotional attachments in abusive relationships: A test of traumatic bonding theory. Violence and Victims. 8(2), 105-20.
- Reid, J., Haskell, R.A., Dillahunt-Aspillaga, C., Thor, J. (2013). Contemporary review of empirical and clinical studies of trauma bonding in violent or exploitative relationships. International Journal of Psychology Research, 8(1), 37-73.
- Stout, M. (2005). The sociopath next door. New York, US: Harmony Books.