Trauma Bonding With A Narcissist
Bonding with a narcissist can be detrimental to one's mental health and stability and can take a toll on the relationship. Narcissism—not to be confused with sociopathy—is but a heightened sense of self-grandeur. You may find yourself in a trauma bond, a bond that forms between an abuser and their victim, usually reinforced by occasional reward. Having a firm foundation as an individual will help when coming across a narcissist where the narcissist might not have control over you.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder involves a pattern of self-centered arrogance, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. The narcissistic tendency is to turn the blame on others. They are extremely sensitive and react poorly to even the slightest criticisms, or disagreements, which they will view as personal attacks and may turn to aggression. Their grandiosity frequently leads to gaslighting, patronizing, intimidating, or belittling others.
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This behavior extends from work and friendships to family and love relationships. Listen to how they talk about their family, coworkers, and a previous boss. You will notice there is zero empathy for anyone. You might even recognize similar patterns when asking about their past relationships where they refuse culpability.
LIVING WITH A NARCISSIST:
“As a relationship expert, I can say that the ability to bond with a narcissistic person depends on the level of tolerance and firmness of the mindset of a person,” says Michelle Devani, founder of lovedevani.com. It is incredibly important to hold strong boundaries with a narcissist so that you're able to keep yourself safe, ignoring it will only worsen it.
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Narcissists prey on empathetic people and high performers. If you are an empath, a narcissist will love the ease in manipulating and faulting. With a high performer, they will see it as a challenge and this can be a dangerous collapse. Claire Pearson, a life coach, states that most of her clients are high-earning women and it is shocking how even strong women can be easily tricked into that spiral. “This is a great topic because when you are used to being successful, you trust your judgment. So when you end up in a relationship with a narcissist, it's really difficult to come to terms with because a) the narcissist will gaslight you and b) you are so used to having good judgment that YOU gaslight yourself.”
HOW TO COPE WITH TRAUMA:
The first step to coping with the trauma of this type of relationship is by getting out of it. If you decide to stay it's important to evaluate your ability to create and maintain healthy but firm boundaries.
Coping with trauma is never easy. Sloan suggests that there are two ways in which one can walk into this situation; avoiding it or facing it, and she recommends doing both. “First, avoid it and build yourself. Clear your mind and reclaim your self-esteem. Work on making yourself feel appreciated and better. Then, face it. If you know that you are ready to try to measure your improvement, try mingling with a narcissistic person.” This can be tough to approach but if you successfully overcome it through this method, the result will be worth it. Dealing with such a person can mean that you accept it and can endure it.
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REMOVING YOURSELF FROM THE SITUATION:
The rule in removing yourself from the situation is to cut off all contact with the narcissist. Sara Sloan, a Sex and Couples Therapist recommends for anyone coming out of a relationship with a narcissist, begin with individual therapy. “If you have recently ended a relationship with a narcissist, you'll want to practice grey rocking.” Grey Rocking is a technique for interacting with manipulative and abusive people where you keep your effect and responses flat. The end goal here is to not give off any emotion since even the negative emotional responses will prolong the abuse. Narcissists thrive in chaos and appearing disinterested will result in finding you less appealing for manipulation. Have a close circle of people you trust, it can be friends or family. Approach it at your own pace and only if you're ready to talk about traumatic occurrences. If you are uncomfortable, seek out professional help.
LEARN AND BUILD HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS:
For someone who comes from a narcissistic family, it may be difficult for them to have a good sense of what a healthy relationship is. This person may become accustomed to the pattern of dysfunction and may struggle with dissociating themselves from it. If this is a similar situation to you it is best to remind yourself that as familiar as it feels, in a reciprocal relationship, you will feel respected, listened to, and free to be yourself. If you decide to stay in a relationship with a narcissist, be realistic with yourself about what you can, and can’t expect. People with narcissistic personality disorder are extremely resistant to changing their behavior and so it's important to set boundaries and stick to them. Don’t set a boundary unless it's realistic and you’ll be firm to keep it. A narcissist will test your limits as they will feel threatened by your attempt to take back control of your life.
All breakups will hurt, especially one in which you felt was always your fault, ending a toxic relationship will leave you with the same feelings of confusion. Healing can take time, and while it may feel like a long recovery, it is not impossible. Allow yourself to grieve but remember that a narcissist will never share your grief or reflect on who they were in the relationship. Don’t expect the person to reach self-actualization after a breakup. Work on rebuilding yourself, know your worth and practice a lot of self-love and self-acceptance.
Written by Kimberly Perez