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  Recovering from Narcissistic Abuse

Sad Portrait
What are characteristics of a narcissist?
  • Grandiose Self-View: Narcissists exaggerate their achievements and expect recognition, even without proportional accomplishments.

  • Preoccupation with Success: Narcissists are obsessed with having the perfect life, including, financial achievement, power, social status, and physical attractiveness.  

  • Believe Special: Narcissists believe they are so special/unique that only other special/unique people can relate.

  • Need Admiration: Narcissists have a fragile sense of self and require constant admiration to boost themselves up.

  • Entitlement: Narcissists believe they deserve special treatment and that others should automatically comply with their demands.   

  • Interpersonally Exploitative: Narcissists tend to form relationships that benefit them, using others for their own gain and showing little genuine care for others.

  • Lack Empathy: Narcissists have difficulty recognizing and caring about others’ emotional needs.

  • Jealous/Envious: Narcissists often compare themselves to others and are envious of others’ success. Similarly, they believe others are envious of them.   

  • Arrogant: Narcissists project a sense of superiority over others and act condescending, rude, or snobbish toward those they perceive as lesser.

What does a narcissistic parent look like?

  • They have to be the best

  • They take credit for your accomplishments

  • They need to maintain a perfect family image

  • They guilt trip to get what they want

  • Their love feels conditional

  • They’re critical and controlling

  • They play favorites as a way to maintain power and control

  • If you want to spend time with them, it’s on their time and their terms

  • They embarrass you to boost their own ego

  • They don’t respect your boundaries

  • They expect you to take care of them

What does a narcissistic partner look like?

  • They can be charismatic and charming, at least in the beginning

  • They provide lots of affection and gifts, particularly in the beginning of relationships (sometimes called ‘love bombing’), in an effort to build intimacy and trust quickly

  • They gaslight and invalidate your feelings and experiences

  • They have a tendency to hold grudges and seek revenge

  • They’re co-dependent

  • They’ll use your friends or kids against you in an argument

  • They talk down to you and treat you like a child

  • They try to control your relationships, finances, and decision making

  • Their expectations constantly change and nothing you do seems good enough (i.e., constantly changing the goalposts)

  • There’s no room for disagreement and definitively no criticism

  • Your world revolves around them

  • You can never win

How does this affect you?

  • Always focusing on your narcissistic parent/partner can lead to:

    • Loss of self/individual identity

    • People pleasing / Tendency to focus on other’s needs

    • Loss of connection with others

  • The need to be perfect and meet the narcissist's expectations can lead to:

    • Competitiveness 

    • Overachieving

    • Perfectionism

  • Repeated criticism, striving for perfectionism, and failure to meet unreasonable expectations can lead to:

    • Anxiety

    • Low self-esteem

    • Depression

  • Conditional love and emotional abuse can lead to:

    • Co-dependency

  • Being on the receiving end of narcissistic rage and emotional abuse can lead to:

    • Difficulty managing and expressing emotions

How can therapy help?

  • Process the relationship and emotional trauma

  • Explore emotional triggers and how this may impact current relationships

  • Learn to recognize signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships

  • Set boundaries and prioritize your own needs

  • Build other support systems

  • Learn radical acceptance. This doesn’t mean accepting the narcissist’s behavior as okay, but accepting that they’re unlikely to change

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