The narcissistic cycle of abuse is one and the same among all narcissists. It’s a surprisingly similar set of stories and actions that they all tell and do in order to manipulate the people around them. When you are able to recognize and understand this pattern, you will be able to escape and avoid these people in the future.
Below I am going to explain the cycle and provide examples from my last situation with a narc, in which I used his own game against him in order to leave safely with my cat.
The narcissistic cycle of abuse is as follows- 1) feels threatened, 2) abuses others, 3) plays the victim, and 4) feels empowered. It usually happens so rapidly that the victim is left feeling vastly confused, exhausted and hopeless.
1) Feels threatened – An upsetting event occurs and the narcissist feels threatened. It could be rejection of sex, social embarrassment, jealousy of another’s success, disapproval at work, or feelings of abandonment, neglect or disrespect. The abused becomes nervous, knows something is about to happen and walks on eggshells around the narc. Most narcissists repeatedly get upset over the same underlying issues (they obsess over the threat), whether the issue is real or imagined.
2) Abuses others – The narcissist engages in some sort of abusive behavior, whether it be physical, mental, verbal, emotional, sexual, financial or spiritual, and it can be more than one of these. The abuse is customized to intimidate the victim in an area of weakness, and it can last from a few minutes to several hours. Example: The narc may begin with verbal belittling to wear out the victim, followed by the projection of their lying about an event onto that person. Tired of the assault, the abused defensively fights back.
3) Plays the victim – This is when the switch occurs, and the narcissist uses the abused behavior as further evidence that they are the ones being abused. The narc believes his/her twisted victimization by bringing up past defensive behaviors that the true victim has done as if they initiated the abuse. Because the victim has feelings of remorse and guilt, they accept this skewed perspective and try to rescue the narc. This may include giving in to what the narcissist wants, accepting unnecessary responsibility, placating the narc to keep the peace and agreeing to the narcissistic lies.
4) Feels empowered – once the victim has given in or up, the narcissist feels empowered- this is all the justification he/she needs to demonstrate rightness or superiority. The abused has unknowingly fed the narcissistic ego, and only to make it stronger and bolder than before. But this sense of power is short-lived and will only last until the next threat to their ego appears.
Once the narcissistic cycle of abuse is understood, the victim can leave the cycle at any point. Begin by coming up with strategies to handle future confrontations, know your limits and have an escape plan in place. This cycle does not need to continue.
An example of this cycle and how understanding helped me escape my last situation:
1) Feels threatened – I made a clear roommate agreement with a guy, and I had a place to sleep. Soon enough unwanted sexual advances were made and I rejected them. This was not part of the agreement!
2) Abuses others – Next, I’m being yelled at for being a ‘worthless c*nt’ because I refused sexual relations and that hurt his ego. He even threatened to kill my cat! This went on for hours, which I recorded with my phone in case something terrible happened and the police needed evidence.
3) Plays the victim – “I should have known nice guys always finish last!” But he wasn’t a nice guy and I told him that.
4) Feels empowered (DENIED) – My self education and practice allowed me to skip this step (however not comfortably!) because I never gave in to the ‘poor me’ tantrums, even when he faked a fall down the stairs later that evening. I asked if I should call for help, he declined and so I went back to what I was doing- disengaging and secretly trying to come up with an escape plan. Because he was literally insane, and dangerous, and I wasn’t falling for it. He eventually retreated after quietly walking over to peek at me and gauge my reaction, and I had pretended to be asleep (with a knife hidden in my hand just in case). Creepy, right??
The next day, the cycle repeated:
1) Feels threatened – I kept my distance and offered him no attention, which made him feel rejected and abandoned.
2) Abuses others – He cornered me in the kitchen and followed me around the apartment, making sure I knew I’m a ‘worthless c*nt’ yet again.
3) Plays the victim – “You left me lying there at the bottom of the stairs! How could you?!”
4) Feels empowered (DENIED AGAIN) – “Because you’re clearly faking and will do just about anything to get what you want,” was my only response. “You’re a total psycho and I can’t believe anything you say.” He eventually retreats, defeated once again. I was not going to give him the satisfaction.
I had arranged to leave that afternoon, without him knowing until I put my shoes on, to avoid him trying to get the upper hand in my situation. I waited until the last second to drop the hammer, because that’s the only way you will win against a narcissist- catch them by surprise. I also made sure to bring my friend into the apartment to ‘help me with my bags’ because the narc always presented his best to save face in front of other people and this was no exception. I made a clean escape with my cat, and maintained complete control of the situation to ensure all of our safety.
You need to have a strong mind to outsmart those who spend all of their time mindfucking others! Knowledge is power.
Does this story sound familiar to you?