Don’t most, if not all victims of Narcissistic Abuse feel like Humpty Dumpty? In the beginning of any relationship with a narcissistically disordered person, the target is idealized by the Narcissist. So much so, that it seems as if the Narc is actually infatuated with the target. Infatuation is a great description because it means “to make somebody behave irrationally as a result of a great, often temporary, passion” (Encarta Dictionary). Similarly, “idealization” is what narcissists are known to do. Idealization is to, “represent somebody or something as being perfect, ignoring any imperfections that exist or may exist in reality”. When the narcissist perceives through idealization, that the target is perfect, the narc becomes infatuated. Terms to focus on within idealization and infatuation are, “temporary” and “reality”. Narcissists do not live in reality and all of their relationships are temporary.
As time goes on, the target becomes more attached to the narcissist and the target assumes that the narcissist is becoming more attached to it. One would assume that each is the priority of the other as the relational bond grows and deepens. Eventually, as the narc spends more time with the target, the narc starts to get bored. The target is eventually covertly removed from the pedestal. Removal from the pedestal also happens because the target’s humanity starts to emerge (it was always there but idealization by narc blinded the narc to it). The narc claims that the “target has changed” and starts to lash out at the target in order to protect the narc-self. It must feel to the narc like the target is abusing or betraying the narcissist because the target no longer fits snugly into the narcissist’s mold; it is like the target becomes almost defiant in the narcissist’s eyes when all the target did was be him or herself and did absolutely nothing wrong.
Now that the target has been shoved off of the pedestal, it attempts to climb back up. The target, having not changed at all, gives more of itself because it is all it can do in order to feel loved again. The target loves the narcissist. Since the target hasn’t done anything wrong, but just follow the course of its normal relational patterns, it digs deeper to give more of itself in order to please the narcissist. But nothing seems to please the narc anymore. Every time the target starts to crawl up the pedestal (adore the narc) to get back on top, the narcissist steps on its fingers, or moves the relational goal posts, and the target loses its grip and falls back down. The narcissist looks down on the target, disappointed, as if to say “keep trying”; and that the target does.
The target is unsuccessful in its many attempts to return the relationship to the infatuation/idealization stage (the target is not aware of any stages but is sure he/or she can get the narc to treat it better) and is convinced that there must have been something it did to cause the narcissist to shun it like she did. The target seeks advice and support from long-time mutual friends within the narc and target’s social circle. The target also tries to talk to family members, but any support is denied. Nobody seems eager or willing to listen to the target and when they do listen, they are not “seeking to understand”, so the target, already exhausted, is forced to defend itself. Nobody can believe that the narcissist keeps stepping on the target’s fingers. Some even laugh in disbelief at the target’s tall tale. Everyone sees the Narcissist as being friendly and caring toward others. The target wonders why everyone is so blind. Doesn’t anyone see the target climbing out of the hole, physically and emotionally exhausted, trying to get back in the relationship (on the pedestal)? It seems that everyone is actually blaming the target for falling off the pedestal (treating the narc poorly, jealous).
The target finally gets out and looks for the narcissist and the pedestal, but both have disappeared. The narcissist is now infatuated with someone else and the new target is now on the pedestal. Everyone is happy for the narcissist and has left and/or rejected the former friend/target. Since the target/victim has no one to turn to for help, it has no other alternative but to seek out a professional, someone who is not familiar with the narcissist; someone unknown, someone the target has never met; to now observe and listen to the target turned victim. The victim spends months, maybe years in therapy. The victim must say good-bye to its previous life. The target turned victim now a survivor, realizes that it will never be the same (scars and a broken heart) and is now forced to live the rest of its life from a whole other perspective.
Just like Humpty Dumpty, friends and therapists cannot put the target, turned victim, back together again. The therapist shows the victim where the pieces are and it is now up to the victim to put itself back together again. The victim becomes a newer, stronger, and emotionally smarter version of its prior self before being removed from the narcissist’s pedestal. The victim turned survivor, having experienced the abuse from a narcissist, becomes a healer and educator to others. It is in the validation of outsiders (strangers), that the survivor can heal finally itself.
Once you determine that you have been in a one-sided, crazy-making relationship with a narcissist, then chances are you will also learn that you been the victim of a smear campaign. After narcs are secure in knowing that you are emotionally involved with them, you get transferred to the devalue stage and the emotional abuse starts. Their sadistic nature rises to the surface and they cannot help themselves any longer. They have hid this side of themselves for too long and its oozing from their mouth, body language and by their sudden lack of communication with you. Noticeably, they start to withdraw affection and concern. You start to feel distant from the narc, but you don’t know why.
Part of the devaluation stage is where narcissists ruin your reputation by stabbing you in the back and telling lies to mutual friends and relatives, anyone that knows you. The narc knows that they are going to discard you soon because they are either bored with you, you have called them out on some weird behavior or hurtful thing they have done, or a new supply (target) is ready to move up from the perimeter supply. Calling the narc out has somehow bruised their ego and ruined their image of themselves and you made them feel shame or less than perfect. But, since they cannot dump you instantly because the have no socially legitimate reason to do so, they start smearing you to your mutual friends so that when you are finally discarded, the narc will appear to be the victim whilst referring to you as “crazy”. They will tell others that they cannot be your friend any longer because you are so “jealous”. They will overtly dramatize these conversations so that they can have sympathy and pity from the listener. Always second guess any “pity party”.
How do I know this to be true? Because it happened to me, that’s why! After almost one year of socially isolating myself after leaving the narcissist, I ran into a mutual friend and I asked what the narc said as to why we are no longer hanging out. “What did she tell people regarding the whereabouts of me and my family over the last year?” I asked this because our families were intertwined for almost nine years. Surely someone had to wonder what happened to me, us….. “Oh, she said that you went crazy”, was the response of the mutual friend. I was not surprised at this answer because most, if not all internet articles on narcissist’s smear campaigns inform us victims that we will be called “crazy” and “jealous” by our abusive partner or friend. Somehow the narcs omit the part about what they manufactured to create the jealousy or the craziness. People just don’t wake up crazy. Why would anyone believe this to be true?
Keep in mind that a relationship with a narcissistic mother is drastically different than what is described above. Daughters of narcissistic mothers don’t experience the idealization, devalue and discard stages like someone would in the typical relationship with a narcissist. Sadly, narcissist’s daughters never experience unconditional love let alone any short term idealization. Remember, idealization is a “mental defense mechanism in which the narc attributes exaggeratedly positive qualities to self or others” (Wikipedia). Idealization is also defined as “a mental mechanism, operating consciously or unconsciously, in which one person overestimates an admired attribute of another” (dictionary.com). Instead of idealization, narcissistic mothers use their daughters as mirrors. The role given to us is to only reflect perfection at all times. Our hair and clothes are of upmost importance. Anything less than perfection will undoubtedly tarnish the mother’s flawless image and we will be punished. As children, we were to be “seen and not heard” when around other adults. Why? Because we might tell someone about the lives we lead behind closed doors; behind the spotless image of the family. This is impression management at its finest, all controlled by the narc. Controlled by them through fear, obligation and guilt.
As a daughter of a narcissistic mother, I felt my whole life was in the devalue stage. Dictionary.com defines devalue as “to deprive of value; reduce the value of”. I was put down, rejected and smeared most of my life. I was taken out of the will depending on who I was dating. My picture was removed from the stairway wall. Years of intermittent silent treatments could be considered to be my never-ending discard phase. But, like clockwork, a holiday, funeral or out-of-town visitor would cause us to get back together again. There was never any conversation or apology from her for any wrong doing or for the smearing of my name to other family members. She lovingly just asked me to “agree to disagree” on any abusive interactions on her part, or she would say, “now, I don’t want to re-hash what happened, let’s just move forward”. This was in no way her acknowledgement of any type of abuse, nor was it a sign of her remorsefulness. What it was though, was her way of avoiding being held accountable for her unacceptable behaviors, lies and smear campaigns, and it assured her that the family would still appear intact and totally functional for all to envy.
Before going no contact with my mother I wrote her a letter. I hadn’t spoken to her for eight months prior to the letter. In the letter, I asked her why she was still smearing and belittling me to our family and her friends after not talking to her for so long. What did she actually have to complain about? I explained to her that it was not my fault that she couldn’t see any value in me or my worth as a person, let alone her adopted daughter. I asked her why she abandoned me by moving twice with no forwarding address or phone number. I explained to her that this letter is my last attempt to salvage our relationship. Deep down, I was hoping for an apology, or at the very least, a heartfelt conversation. I didn’t get either of them.
Months later after no contact, I received a call from a family friend. She told me that my mother did get my letter and that she described it as extremely rude and that I “told her off”. In true narcissistic fashion, my mother continued her legacy by referring to me as “ungrateful” and said that I “didn’t appreciate anything she had ever done for me”. Let’s not forget her most famous quote, “doesn’t she know what she put me through as a child”. I’ve had the lifelong debt of repaying her for changing my diaper, feeding me, and keeping me out of harm’s way, my entire life. I owe her for driving me to school, buying me clothes, and having to sit in a lawn chair to watch me play softball. I owe her for adopting me. I owe her for not being like her. I was always told that, “I was special”. Well, if I was so special then why was I beaten so badly that I had belt buckle welts on my legs and hand prints on my face from being slapped? God, it didn’t feel good to be special….
It has been over two years since I have seen my mother. Mutuals are informing me that she is telling everyone that my brother and I have abandoned her. She literally has nobody, but this is by her own doing. She said she is afraid of dying alone because if left for dead too long before being found, she will not look good. That’s her biggest fear, how she looks when she is found dead? Her relationships, her accomplishments, her legacy, are not a concern to her at all. Sadly, she has spent a lifetime of smearing me and I have spent a lifetime of making excuses for her and defending myself.
Once victims of abuse start searching the world wide web for answers as to why their partner, spouse, friend or lover never apologize, continually lie, talk behind their back, casually reject them, and expose them to days, sometimes weeks of the silent treatment, they stumble upon the personality disorder of “narcissism.” Victims learn that they have been exposed to the stages of “idealization,” “devalue” and “discard” when involved with a disordered person and instantly see a vignette of their current, or even past, relationship.
The idealization stage or “love-bombing” stage is when you are bombarded with a narcissist’s version of love. You get their undivided attention and endless conversation. If they have something to say and news/gossip to share, they will hunt you down, calling every phone number you have and they don’t stop until they connect with you. A noteworthy subject would be about how they were slighted by someone or how somebody didn’t acknowledge them the minute they entered a room. When not on the phone, the two of you are side-by-side at every party, family affair and social gathering. Everybody around you admires your friendship/relationship, refers to it as “special” and tells you how lucky you are to have found the relationship of a lifetime. You “check in” on Facebook, tag each other every chance you get, comment on each other’s photos and inside jokes. You take vacations together, spend holidays together; discuss your illnesses and marital problems; become almost like extended family. Life cannot be any better.
Further down the line, you notice that you don’t feel right. You have this little ping of anxiety but don’t know why. The feeling is a familiar one; it feels like the first time, like it did with your parent, when you were young. But as usual, you shove this feeling down and ignore it. As time goes on, the feeling keeps returning, only more frequently. “Surely, it must be me. There must be something wrong with me. It has always been me. I must be insecure. But, I don’t feel or act insecure. I have hobbies, lots of friends, a life-long career and an intact, healthy family. Maybe I’m jealous. But I am not jealous. In fact, I pity the narcissist’s lifestyle. How could anyone be jealous of someone whose tells me her life is so horrible? Her abusive husband and in-laws? Jobless? I have heard countless hours of the “woe is me” stories. I feel so sorry for my partner/friend. Surely, I cannot be jealous. Nobody could.” But, what is it then? Why do I have this weird feeling?
Like clockwork, you always get the morning phone call. How lucky you are to be able to receive the morning unloading of their emotional baggage. After the phone call, you hang up feeling weighted down from their verbal diary and they go about their day, smiling, shopping, lunching, and checking in with all of their minions. This can be assimilated to being “compartmentalized.” Narcissists do this within their social circle and they do it well. Everyone has a little room or compartment and the compartments never merge. More is not always merrier with a narcissist when it comes to social gatherings! Everyone is kept separate, that way the target/scapegoat/emotional punching bag cannot see how the others are treated. You now find yourself asking to spend time with the narc, “can we at least do lunch or shop once in a while?” Eventually you are “uninvited” everywhere. What do they have to hide. you ask? The abuse, that’s what! They don’t know what mask to wear when in a crowd where the target/victim is. The target notices that the narc is never abusive to it in front of everyone else. In fact, the narc is extraordinarily nice and the narc’s personal problems are rarely discussed or not even known by any of the others. The target wonders how the narc can have so many friends when the narc is so negative, belittling, abusive and with so many problems! The target wants to privately discuss her feelings of rejection with the narc and wants to ask the narc why she can do things with other people but not the target. The truth is, the narc is always cultivating and securing new supply. Eventually, new names are dropped in conversation, but you really have no idea that another intimate relationship is simultaneously paralleling yours. Your need to meet the narc is granted, but not for open and honest communication, no sir! The narc shows up haughty and defensive. Somehow, you end up apologizing for accusing the narc of anything other than perfection. The narc feels smothered by having to respect the feelings of others. You leave the conversation feeling worse than when you arrived. Your self esteem reduced to worthlessness. Your feelings suppressed, again….
Once the narcissist latches on to a new target (fresh supply), you are unceremoniously dumped. Its been a year since narc and I have done anything together but talk on the phone. The target is afraid to even ask to get together, she is always too busy. Again, you question the narc one last time about her elimination of wanting to get together. The narc then accuses the target of changing (spoke my mind, started to self-preserve) and informs the target that the target is no longer privy to the sharing of information by the narc. That is projection at its finest because the target didn’t change at all, the narc did! Without the sharing of information, there is no friendship or any type of a relationship for that matter! The narc just wants you to serve her, shoulder her pain and to be her emotional punching bag. At this point, you realize that you can no longer be a puppet and you decide to finally distance yourself emotionally. You leave communication open (low contact), but you feel you are in a “no win” situation and start to walk away. Now, when you do get together, which isn’t often anymore, you are asked to “untag” them in any photos. Nothing is shared and being with you is now a secret. This is because they have undoubtedly smeared you to your social circle and close, mutual friends and family, so now they can’t let anyone know they are still in contact with you. But, they haven’t fully dumped you because the next supply isn’t totally lined up and considered reliable. The new target is still being groomed. You are now a secret until you get so hurt that you walk away (no contact) in order to protect yourself, and you never look back. You never, ever find out just how long the smearing had been going on though. But, you can assume it was for as long as it took the new target to become primary or secondary supply.
All of this feels like the first time, the time when you were being raised by your narcissistic parent/parents. Any love you gave, not enough and any love you thought you experienced (manipulation), ripped away. Your needs rarely considered or barely met. Your “YOU” never even acknowledged. The treatment you have endured is covert abuse at its finest. How dare anyone make the narc accountable! How dare you make them see that they aren’t as perfect as they portray themselves to be! You are unable to stand up for yourself by questioning the narc on her behavior because you will be punished, just like the first time, with your disordered parent.