The Motivation for Narcissistic Abuse
Remember that narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and abuse exist on a continuum, ranging from silence to violence. Rarely will a narcissist take responsibility for his or her behavior. Generally, they deny their actions, and augment the abuse by blaming the victim. Particularly, malignant narcissists aren’t bothered by guilt. They can be sadistic and take pleasure in inflicting pain. They can be so competitive and unprincipled that they engage in anti-social behavior. Don’t confuse narcissism with anti-social personality disorder.
The objective of narcissistic abuse is power. They act with the intent to diminish or even hurt other people. The most important thing to remember about intentional abuse is that it’s designed to dominate you. Abusers’ goals are to increase their control and authority, while creating doubt, shame, and dependency in their victims. They want to feel superior to avoid hidden feelings of inferiority. Understanding this can empower you. Like all bullies, despite their defenses of rage, arrogance, and self-inflation, they suffer from shame. Appearing weak and humiliated is their biggest fear. Knowing this, it’s essential not to take personally the words and actions of an abuser. This enables you to confront narcissistic abuse.
Mistakes in Dealing with Abuse
When you forget an abuser’s motives, you may naturally react in some of these ineffective ways:
- Appeasement. If you placate to avoid conflict and anger, it empowers the abuser, who sees it as weakness and an opportunity to exert more control.
- Pleading. This also shows weakness, which narcissists despise in themselves and others. They may react dismissively with contempt or disgust.
- Withdrawal. This is a good temporary tactic to collect your thoughts and emotions, but is not an effective strategy to deal with abuse.
Confronting Abuse Effectively
Allowing abuse damages your self-esteem. Thus, it’s important to confront it. That doesn’t mean to fight and argue. It means standing your ground and speaking up for yourself clearly and calmly and having boundaries to protect your mind, emotions, and body. Before you set boundaries, you must:
- Know Your Rights. You must feel entitled to be treated with respect and that you have specific rights, such as the right to your feelings, the right not to have sex if you decline, a right to privacy, a right not to be yelled at, touched, or disrespected. If you’ve been abused a long time (or as a child), your self- esteem likely has been diminished. You may no longer trust yourself or have confidence.
- Be Strategic. Know what you want specifically, what the narcissist wants, what your limits are, and where you have power in the relationship. You’re dealing with someone highly defensive with a personality disorder. There are specific strategies to having an impact.
- Set Boundaries. Boundaries are rules that govern the way you want to be treated. People will treat you the way you allow them to. You must know what your boundaries are before you can communicate them. This means getting in touch with your feelings, listening to your body, knowing your rights, and learning assertiveness. They must be explicit.
To respond effectively requires support. Without it, you may languish in self-doubt and succumb to abusive disinformation and denigration. It’s challenging to change your reactions, let alone those of anyone else. Expect pushback when you stand up for yourself. This is another reason why support is essential. You will need courage and consistency. Whether or not the narcissist makes changes, you’ll get tools to protect yourself and raise your self-worth that will improve how you feel whether you stay or leave. CoDA meetings and psychotherapy provide guidance and support.