Narcissistic Abuse: From Victim to Survivor in 6 Steps

Uploaded 11/22/2014, approx. 9 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

So you have been abused, maltreated, harassed and stalked. You feel that you fell prey to a narcissist or a psychopath.

But you must move on from victim to survivor. No one will do it for you. No one can do it for you. Not your therapist, not your best friend, not your nearest family.

Only you can choose survivor over victimhood.

There are a few steps to this.

The first one is abandon the narcissist.

The narcissist initiates his own abandonment because of his fear of it. He is so terrified of losing his sources of supply and of being emotionally hurt that he would rather control, master or direct the potentially destabilizing situation by causing, precipitating and engendering his own abandonment.

Remember, the personality of the narcissist has a low level of organization. It's chaotic. It is precariously balanced.

Being abandoned could cause a narcissistic injury so grave that the whole edifice of the narcissist can come crumbling down.

Narcissists usually entertain suicidal ideation in such cases.

But if the narcissist had initiated and directed his own abandonment, if it is perceived by him as a goal that he had set to himself, he can and does avoid all these untoward consequences.

The next one is moving on.

To preserve one's mental health, one must abandon the narcissist.

I have said that, but one must also move on.

Moving on is a process, not a decision, nor is it an event.

First, one has to acknowledge and accept painful reality. Such acceptance is a volcanic, shattering, agonizing series of nibbling thoughts and stronger intrusive resistances.

Once the battle is won and fresh and harsh and agonizing realities have been assimilated, one can move on to the learning phase.

What is a learning phase?

We label. We label everything around us and everyone around us. We educate ourselves. We compare experiences. We digest. We have insights.

Then we decide, and then we act.

And this is what it means to move on.

Having gathered sufficient emotional sustenance, knowledge, supportand confidence, we face the battlefields of our relationships fortified and nurtured.

This stage characterizes those who do not mourn, but fight, do not grieve, but replenish their self-esteem, do not hide, but seek, do not freeze, but move on, move on.

This is your motto. This is your mantra. This is the key word.

But of course, abandoning anyone and especially the narcissist.

Horses want to go through a phase of grieving or mourning, having been betrayed, having been abused.

Inevitably, we grieve. We grieve for the image we had of the traitor and the abuser, the image that was so fleeting and so wrong.

We mourn the damage that he did to us.

We experience the fear of never being able to love or to trust again.

And we grieve this loss of innocence.

In one stroke, we had lost someone we had trusted, and even love.

We had lost our trusting and loving selves, and we had lost the trust and love that we had felt.

And anything the worse?

The emotional process of grieving has many phases.

First, we are dumbfounded, shocked, inert, immobile. We play dead to avoid our inner monsters.

We are ossified in our pain, cast in the mold of our reticence and fears.

Then we feel enraged, indignant, rebellious, and hateful.

And then we accept.

And then we cry.

And then some of us learn to forgive and to pity.

And this is what we call healing.

All stages are absolutely necessary and good for you.

It is bad not to rage back, not to shame those who had shamed us, to deny, to tend, to evade.

But it is equally bad to get fixated on our rage.

Perpetual grieving is a perpetuation of our abuse by other needs.

By endlessly recreating our harrowing experiences, we unwillingly collaborate with our abusers to perpetuate their evil deeds.

It is by moving on that we defeat our abuser, minimizing him and his importance in our lives.

It is by loving and by trusting anew that we are known, that which was done to us.

To forgive is never to forget, but to remember is not necessarily to re-experience.

Forgiving is an important capability. It does more for the forgiver than for the forgiven.

But it should not be a universal, indiscriminate behavior. It is absolutely legitimate to not forgive sometimes.

It depends, of course, on the severity or duration of what had been done to you.

In general, it is unwise and counterproductive to apply to life universal and immutable principles.

Life is too chaotic to succumb to rigid edicts and rules. Sentences which start with I never or I always are not very credible or clever, and they often lead to self-defeating, self-restricting and even self-destructive behaviors.

Conflicts are an important and integral part of life.

One should never seek them out, but when confronted with a conflict, one should not avoid it.

It is through conflicts and through adversity as much as through care and love that we grow.

Human relationships are dynamic. We must assess our friendships, partnerships, even our marriages periodically.

In and by itself, a common past is insufficient to sustain a healthy, nourishing, supportive, caring and compassionate relationship.

Common memories are a necessary but not a sufficient condition.

We must gain and regain our friendships, our love, our relationships on a daily basis.

Human relationships are a constant test for religions and empathy.

But can you remain friends with the narcissists? Can't you act civilized and remain on friendly terms with your narcissistic acts?

Well, never forget that narcissists, at least the full-fledged are nice and friendly only when they want something from you.

Narcissistic supply, help, support, votes, money or sex.

They prepare the ground, manipulate you and then come out with a small favor they need or ask you blatantly and surreptitiously for narcissistic supply.

Sentences such as, what did you think about my performance or do you think that I really deserve the normal price?

Narcissists are nice and friendly only when they feel threatened and they want to neutral the threat by smothering it with oozing pleasantries.

Narcissists are nice and friendly when they have just been infused with an overdose of narcissistic supply and they feel magnanimous and they feel magnificent and ideal and perfect.

To show magnanimity is a way of flaunting one's impeccable divine credentials.

It is an act of grandiosity. It is an act of humiliating giving.

You are an irrelevant prop in this spectacle.

A mere receptacle of the narcissist overflowing, self-contented of an infatuation with his false self.

But all these beneficence is transient.

The narcissist victims often tend to thank the narcissist for little graces.

And this is the Stockholm Syndrome.

Hostages tend to emotionally identify with their captors rather than with their beliefs.

We are grateful to our abusers and tormentors for seizing, even for a moment, their hideous activities and for allowing us to catch our breath before the next blow descends.

Some people say that they prefer to live with narcissists, to cater to their needs and to succumb to their whims because this is the way they had been conditioned in early childhood.

It is only with narcissists that such people feel alive, stimulated and excited. The world glows in technicolor 3D in the presence of a narcissist and decays into sepia colors in the absence of a narcissist.

I see nothing inherently wrong with such an approach.

The test is this. If someone were to constantly humiliate and abuse you, verbally, using archaic Chinese, would you have felt humiliated and abused?

Probably not. You don't understand archaic Chinese. He can't get to you.

Some people have been conditioned by the narcissistic primary objects in their lives, parents, caregivers, to treat narcissistic abuse as if it were uttered in archaic Chinese to turn a deaf ear.

This technique is effective in that it allows the inverted narcissists, the codependent narcissists, the covert narcissists, the narcissists willing to mate, to experience only the good aspects of living with a narcissist and ignore the bad ones.

It's the narcissist's sparkling intelligence, the constant drama and excitement, the lack of intimacy and emotional attachment which some people prefer.

Every now and then the narcissist breaks into abuse in archaic Chinese.

So what? Who understands archaic Chinese anyway?

Says the inverted narcissist to herself.

And she survives.

Even so, I have one begging question. If the relationship with the narcissist is so rewarding, why are inverted narcissists so usually unhappy, so egodystonyic and comfortable with who they are and what they do?

So in need of help, professional or otherwise. Aren't they victims who simply experience the stop-home syndrome, identifying with their kidnapper rather than with the police? Aren't they victims who deny their own torment? Aren't they victims who fail to make the transition to survivors? Don't fall into this trap. Move on.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

Victim of Narcissist: Move On!

The narcissist lives in a world of ideal beauty, achievements, wealth, and success, denying his reality. The partner is perceived as a source of narcissistic supply, and the narcissist pathologizes and devalues them to rid themselves of guilt and shame. Moving on from a narcissistic relationship involves acknowledging and accepting painful reality, educating oneself, and gaining emotional sustenance, knowledge, support, and confidence. Forgiving is important, but it should not be a universal behavior, and no one should stay with a narcissist.

Forgive the Narcissist?

To preserve one's mental health, one must abandon the narcissist and move on. Moving on is a process that involves acknowledging and accepting painful reality, learning, grieving, and forgiving. All stages of grieving are necessary, but it is equally bad to get fixated on rage. Forgiving is an important capability, but it should not be a universal indiscriminate believer. Human relationships are dynamic, and we must reassess and reassess our relationships on a daily basis.

Love Your Narcissist? Make Him Stay, Depend on You (Tips, Resolutions)

In a relationship with a narcissist, it is important to know what not to do and what to do to maintain the relationship. Avoid disagreeing, contradicting, or criticizing the narcissist, and never offer intimacy or challenge their self-image. To make the narcissist dependent on you, listen attentively, agree with everything they say, offer something unique, be patient, and be emotionally and financially independent. It is also crucial to know yourself and set personal boundaries, treating yourself with dignity and demanding respect from others. If the relationship becomes abusive, consider going no-contact and ending the relationship for your own well-being.

Mourning the Narcissist

Victims of narcissistic abuse often struggle to let go of the idealized figure they fell in love with at the beginning of the relationship. When the relationship ends, they experience a cycle of bereavement and grief, including denial, rage, sadness, and acceptance. Denial can take many forms, including pretending the narcissist is still part of their lives or developing persecutory delusions. Rage can be directed at the narcissist, other facilitators of the loss, oneself, or be pervasive. Sadness is a paralyzing sensation that slows one down and enshrouds everything in the grave veil of randomness and chance. Gradual acceptance leads to renewed energy and the narcissist being transformed into a narrative, another life experience, or even a tedious cliché.

Parent Your Orphaned Self After Narcissistic Abuse

The text discusses the aftermath of narcissistic abuse and provides a four-stage process for self-parenting and healing. It emphasizes the importance of seeing oneself, creating boundaries with the internal parental figure, being one's own secure base, and reintegrating with reality. It also highlights the significance of self-love based on self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-trust, and self-efficacy. The overall focus is on reclaiming one's identity and well-being after narcissistic abuse.

Adapting to the Narcissist

Professor Sam Vaknin explains that it is impossible to change a narcissist, but you can adapt to them by modifying their more abrasive behaviors. He suggests determining your limits and boundaries, accepting what you can and rejecting the rest, and concluding an unwritten or written contract of coexistence. Vaknin warns that sacrificing yourself for someone else is not love, and that it is crucial to understand the complex dynamic of a relationship with a narcissist for your own survival as a psychologically functioning person.

Narcissistic Abuse is Never Your Fault! (Sam Vaknin in Serbia)

In a relationship with a narcissist, there is nothing you can do to please them. The narcissist's behavior is determined from the inside, and you are not relevant to them. They try to convert you into an object and take away your independence and autonomy. Narcissistic abuse is about making you disappear.

Narcissist's Insignificant Other: Typical Spouse or Intimate Partner

Living with a narcissist can be exhilarating, but it is always onerous and often harrowing. Surviving a relationship with a narcissist, maintaining a relationship, preserving it, insisting on remaining with a narcissist, indicates therefore the parameters of the personality of the victim, of the partner, of the spouse. The partner, the spouse, and the mate of a narcissist who insists on remaining in the relationship and preserving it is molded by it into the typical narcissistic mate, spouse, or partner. The two, the narcissist and his spouse, collaborate in this dance macabre.

How To Love the Narcissist AND Keep Him?

In this video, Professor Sam Vaknin discusses two contradictory solutions to the question of how to love and keep a narcissist. The first solution is to emulate the narcissist's dead mother, which creates a reverse trauma bonding that keeps the narcissist coming back. The second solution is to conform to the snapshot of the narcissist's ideal partner and never deviate from it. However, Vaknin warns that being in a relationship with a narcissist is a form of self-harm and that the narcissist is an absence, chaos, and unadulterated anguish.

Tips: Can't Live without My Narcissist

Professor Sam Vaknin advises those in a relationship with a narcissist to count their losses and blessings and get away, but if they insist on staying, he offers advice. He suggests never disagreeing with the narcissist, never offering real intimacy, and admiring the narcissist for their achievements. He also advises being patient, emotionally and financially independent, and treating the narcissist like a spoiled brat. Finally, he suggests knowing oneself and developing strategies to minimize harm.

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