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Trying to UNDERSTAND and LEARN from relationship with a narcissist (and not/ no longer spew vitriol about them)

I’ve listened to the first few minutes, and she’s saying what I was saying? That you know how you feel. That you feel “something is off”. And you abandon that feeling to go along with the relationship. Which brings me back to what I had previously said.
focus on you. And how you feel.
Heh, yeah, I still disagree. There's a reason why that video isn't just 5 short miuntes of "trust your feelings" but goes on for another hour and a half.

Anyway... everyone can use their own standard... For me, given what I've experienced, "trusting my feelings" is not enough for me to feel safe/ comfortable.

One thing I'm starting to work out is an aspect that makes me vulnerable... When this particular aspect isn't part of the equation, I think I'm quite a good judge of character, but when this element is in play, my jugdement skills suck.

That aspect is this: when it's someone that I really admire... to the point where I think they're "better" than me.

And yeah, that's sort of a self-esteem issue... But I don't think it's as simple as that. I think we all fundamentally have certain people that we're kind of star-struck by... that we admire so much that we think/feel "I could never be that... successful/ smart/ skilled/ whatever". I'm pretty sure that most people have that with at least some people - whether it's some legendary sports person, whether it's a star from music or the big screen, or whether it's someone who's really moral and inspirational who's doing amazing charity work or whatever...

So yeah... when I meet people that I think are "amazing" and kinda "out of my league" and somehow "better" people than I am... Then my discernment and judgement skills are fried.

And my ex was one of those people. He totally amazed me. I've known him since we were children and I found him amazing even back then. I'd never in a million years would have thought that he wanted to be in a relationship with me. That just didn't even compute.

I'm gonna have to reflect on that some more and mull over it.

But I think it's definitely a huge red flag - one that doesn't necessarily have to do with the other person - but with the dynamic between me and them - tho it could also be due to the other person if they're someone who's really success-driven and who places a lot of value on good appearances etc - someone who creates a persona that other people are impressed by/ amazed by/ intimidated by.

So yeah... I thought he was the man of my dreams and then some... And that made me totally miss the warning signs. (And it also made the shock of him turning out to be this horrible monster who was utterly dysfunctional and fake and a liar and a coward and who first wanted to marry me and be together forever and then turned around on his heels and treated me like the dirt under his shoe and assumed that I would put up with it.)
It sounds like you're agreeing though! As you notice that you abandon yourself if you think they are more than you, for whatever reason. That's not them. That's you. A narcissist might agree with you! Which might spur on the feelings you have and spur on their behaviours to reinforce that etc etc etc. but fundamentally, it's about how you view yourself. Now you're aware of that , you can work on changing that.

I was brought up by a narcissist (I've labeled her that), so I know the number they play on you. I was gaslit and manipulated throughout my childhood. So I get it. And now I feel removed from narcissistic games. Because they are very predictable. And I have learnt about me. Which is why I say focusing on you, your feelings, is key.
Abuse is abuse and whether you're a victim of it as a kid or an adult
Not at all. Not even close. A ridiculous notion. The power imbalance, the way a kid can’t meet their own needs. Not the same. You have animals do you think if someone was abusing them it would be the same as if they were abusing you?
What's your contribution to this thread? Do you have experience with narcissistic abuse in adulthood? I've not seen you commenting anything relevant to that tbh.
Ouch, good to know your feelings on how others answer you, I’ll go ahead and expect the same. Yes, for the record I have experience with narcissistic abuse.
So I'm in the situation where I'll be a) signing a contract and b) moving myself, my belongings, the animals into a situation that's not easily flexible/ I can leave easily.
My suggestion would be to change the equation. Ask for a clause that if it’s not working for YOU that you can move without penalty after x amount of time. This would be a good test of whether they’re willing to bend. You won’t be any worse of then you are now, looking for housing. Yes you’ll still have to move and resettle but honestly you’re dealing with someone else’s possible narcissism so there are no guarantees. Despite what anyone here has offered as a possible way of checking for it, there simply are no ways of being sure. Plus given your history, you’re not going to feel safe until you’ve lived there awhile and even then you’ll be wary. The life of someone who was victimized, you either choose to trust or not.
Yah... I'm doing my due diligence with all of this, but I don't agree that that's enough. At all.
It isn’t, there won’t be enough, it isn’t possible for you to feel safe, you’re either going to need to take the leap or not. The bright side is you aren’t marrying these people, simply living alongside of them. Stay aloof for a while and you’re unlikely to be victim of a narcissist because you won’t be easy prey. When you’ve decided to trust them based on their interactions with you and others over time, let your guard down and enjoy your housemates.
when I meet people that I think are "amazing" and kinda "out of my league" and somehow "better" people than I am... Then my discernment and judgement skills are fried.
Something that is popping into my head is that *maybe* when you think people are amazing and better than you maybe you *are* tapping into your discernment, but not interpreting it correctly. What do I mean? Well, you (and I and others on here) were conditioned to accept narcissistic traits as something other than damaging. Like the baby geese imprinting on the human, we developed an attraction to what “should” have been avoided. Its possible that when you think someone is amazing and better than you, that they *do* think they are amazing and better than you, and what you’re experiencing in your mind is somewhat akin to when a therapist experiences counter-transference. The person with narcissistic traits projects themselves onto their object of desire and the bait (if properly conditioned) allows the exaggerated projection and even encourages it. (The ironic thing is that the object of desire can not see themselves as subject due to their conditioning and depends upon the person with narcissistic traits objectifying them in order to affirm their internal schema.)

So maybe instead of feeling like you can’t trust yourself when you think someone is amazing, shift your position to asking what might you be picking up that the other person is projecting onto you. I think it is well understood that if you have been conditioned to engage in the narcissist-enabling dynamic that “normal/healthy” relationships will seem underwhelming, boring, even undesirable. I think this is where the self-work comes in of patience and sitting with yourself.

In terms of it taking two years to know, and your need to find housing… I think the interview idea is gold. What are your standards and expectations and are you willing to voice them? Are you willing to be patient with yourself during this challenging transition? Are you willing to forgive yourself for inevitable mistakes that you will make? Life is hard enough; don’t be a jerk to yourself. And celebrate the tiniest of wins.
now I feel removed from narcissistic games. Because they are very predictable.
What a relief! I agree that it can get easier, particularly with people that you know well. And then in general it can be fun to see if you can spot traits from afar. But the best feeling is the warmth from the care of carefully cultivated slow (and boring to the old you) friendships that are opposed to transactional communication.
if a trained expert needs 4 to 5 sessions, then what the heck chance have us normal folks got at being able to "spot" a narcissist early on...
You’re not going to. If that’s a goal you have, toss it out!! You won’t know anyone after just a few months - the same way that no one could possibly know you after just a few months.

The relationship you have with people you’re rooming with is vastly different to the intimate relationship you had with your ex. It’s going to need different boundaries - but boundaries are your best friend! Good boundaries, and the ability to change boundaries to fit different types of relationships, are an immensely helpful protective factor. Give yourself more credit - you can protect yourself from abuse now, by recognising it when it starts to happen.

The number of people in this world with the kind of pathology of your ex is teeny tiny. Most people who are nice, or kind…are actually just nice people.

And they’re shitheads.

We all are. We are all mostly kind, mostly nice people, but also with times when we are absolute shitheads!

If you know that people who you have huge admiration for make you lose your judgment? That’s crazy helpful. That’s something you can work on. Rather than avoiding nice people, or admirable people, dive in. Chances are they’re actually just awesome people.

But always (always) preserve healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries don’t just protect you individually, they protect the relationship itself. So even if you do happen across the kindest person in the world who you end up rooming with? You will still need good, healthy, relationship-appropriate boundaries for that relationship to function in a healthy way.

You can direct energy towards trying to recognise an abusive person before they start being abusive, to try and avoid further pain. But, personally, I think that’s a hopeless endeavour. If you’re all about avoiding narcissists, you’ll crash headlong into an alcoholic, or a pervert, or a fraud, or….

You’ll also likely get confirmation bias, which is a neurological masterpiece of our problem-solving brains where, when it’s hyperfocused (or even just particularly skilled) at looking for a specific pattern, it will start seeing that pattern anywhere and everywhere, even if the pattern isn’t actually there.

This is an important protective skill the brain has to problem solve situations extremely quickly and efficiently. But it very often becomes maladaptive. You’ve already noticed your own brain starting to do this, with its “Nice person…oooooh, I know what that nice thing is about, that’s a narcissist getting ready to explode!” Next thing we know, we’re avoiding rooming with anyone who has the capacity nice during an interview process!!

The important skill isn’t seeing abuse before it happens. The important skill is managing yourself. That alone? Gives you a much better chance of not being abused, and if you are abused, helping you extract yourself in one piec.
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Thank you for all the input so far!

I'm processing this stuff, crying a lot, but it feels healing.

I've been watching a ton of videos that explain narcissism and NPD really well in psychological terms. I think I'm literally starting to understand it now.

I'm still finding it hard to put a lot of it into words... I'm going to have to process it more before I find the right words.

One thing I'm starting to get a sense of is how attachment trauma in childhood can lead to narcissism and how those early "narcissistic wounds" to the ego are what drives and defines these people. And in some weird way, they're so in the psychodrama of those core wounds, that it's actually a part of what they do to you as their partner/ victim too - that thing of being overly charming and love-bombing - that's full-force ego manipulations, as is the later devaluing, and the switch is so quick, it's such hot-cold/ up-down manipulation of the ego... And while it's happening, you don't even know what is happening... And once you realise something is wrong, you're only starting to get the first glimpse of what on earth has happened, and one of the effects is that this person has put your self-confidence, your self-worth, your self-trust, your ego through the wringer, nuked in in the microwave... and you're just left with nothing... self-esteem at rock-bottom, self-confidence at an all time low, ego wounds that you didn't see coming and don't understand... It's like your self-worth and your ego have been in a head-on car crash and are just a bloodied and bruised mess and basically the paramedics are thinking that they're not going to be able to save this one...

I think like anyone who went through childhood abuse and neglect, I've struggled with self-esteem issues to some degree - I think that's pretty normal and to be expected. But my self-esteem wasn't soooo bad... I was doing pretty well for someone who had walked out of childhood with PTSD to deal with... And one of the things that I've kept trying to explain to people is that the abuse and neglect I went through in childhood... It was bad, it was awful, but it wasn't the kind of anihilatingly awful that I wasn't able to "cope" in at least some ways... Sure, I learned to dissociate 90% of the day... sure, I developed an avoidant attachment style and learned to make do on my own and be totally self-reliant, etc, etc, etc... Those are all adaptive/ maladaptive coping techniques... But the point is that I did cope... The abuse and neglect in my childhood... It was shitty but it wasn't the kind of vicious and horrific so that I was totally overwhelmed by it... I developed defenses, in the trial and error ways that kids who are going through trauma do... And I coped.... And I was proud of coping and proud of surviving...

But this narcissism mindf*ck relationship in my adult years... this f*cked me over far far worse than childhood trauma did, because due to that f*cked up love-bombing/ adult-grooming phase... ALL my defenses were down... totally down... I didn't see any of it coming at all... And while a lot of the trauma in my childhood sort of... got deflected by the defensive armour I had up... I mean, I got hurt, badly hurt... But it was like I was wearing an emotional bullet-proof vest that protected my vital organs... So metaphorically, the rest of me got torn to shreds during childhood trauma, but I managed to keep my vital organs safe and that's what got me through... Well, in this adult relationship, I took off the bullet proof vest (wich is both stupid but also good because it's trusting... I don't want to be the person that never trust and never opens up... I think that's an understandable but massively maladaptive coping strategy in and of itself...) So yeah, I took off that bullet proof vest and omg, he f*cked up all my internal organs... Tore them to absolute shreds and ever since I've been bleeding out and clueless as to what happened and why and what on earth to do about it, it's been absolute torture in a way that *my* childhood abuse wasn't (AND NO I'M NOT COMPARING OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDHOOD ABUSE HERE - I'm well aware that for 99% of people, their childhood abuse is far, far, far worse than anything they go through as adults in terms of abuse, but for me personally it wasn't the case, even tho I recognise that usually it would be the case.)

But the specific circumstances (defenses vs no defenses) is what made all the difference in my case. And yeah, for most people it's probably the opposite - as a child they have few defense and then learn to improve their defenses as an adult... For me it was the opposite... I went through childhood like one of those child soldiers you see in war zones... I was armed to the teeth defensively as a child and it did protect me... But then, as an adult, I could see how those massive defenses were also keeping out joy and love and connection and stuff like that and I acutally learned to LET DOWN my defenses in therapy, which was a good thing... Well, it was, until suddenly it wasn't because I met a perp and fell for his routine...)

Anyway, that's all I can verbalise for today...

These are a selection of the videos I've found helpful so far, in case anyone else who's dealing/ dealt with narcissism and NPD and is interested in understanding the mechanics of it:

(I think one of the most helpful insights for me so far has been really understanding that it's a spectrum and that there's "healthy" narcissism that we all (and especially children) have and then there's degrees of toxic narcissism that go from mild to bad to really bad)

(Oh and another personal take-away (that others may disagree with) is that I think for many narcissists, they're a) having a miserable time, no matter how grandiose and confident they appear outwardly - they are NOT happy people, and b) for many of them, "using other people" is basically a compulsion, not something they're doing for fun or for shits and giggles... they're kind of like vampires - they can't *survive* without sucking the lifeblood out of people, because they don't have any lifeblood of their own... (And sure, the very, very malignant ones may be getting some kind of sadistic satisfaction out of what they're doing too, but as with other malignant psychologies, luckily those extreme cases are statistically rarer, so most of us will run into shitty but not extreme narcissists... tho those statistics may be skewed on this forum, given everyone's got PTSD...))

(Oh and I think the reason that I *need* to know the "why", even if other people don't find understanding narcissists essential for their healing, is that for one thing, it's how my brain works, always has and always will... I can't make peace with a situation until I understand the why... And the other is that I've literally not "understood" what had happened to me... It's been like trying to fight a ghost who everytime I reach out to try and defeat it, just evaporates and then turns up again somewhere else... I need to understand the "why" because it's like my psychological immune system can't produce any anti-bodies to this threat, until I know what the threat is exactly, so that I can construct the anti-bodies to fight it off and to get it out of my system.)

The Arc of Successful Treatment of Pathological Narcissism - DIANA DIAMOND

Narcissism & Insecure Attachment - DIANA DIAMOND

Narcissism & 3 Types of Empathy - DIANA DIAMOND

Master Lecture 1 - Diana Diamond

Self-Assessment of Pathological Narcissism - DIANA DIAMOND

The Torture of Pathological Narcissism - DIANA DIAMOND

The Spectrum of Narcissistic Pathology - DIANA DIAMOND

Treating Two Cases of Pathological Narcissism - DIANA DIAMOND

The Difference Between Borderline and Narcissism (NPD) - FRANK YEOMANS

The Key to Treating Malignant Narcissism - FRANK YEOMANS

The Malignant Narcissist's Internal World - FRANK YEOMANS

On Narcissism 3: Jay Greenberg

On Narcissism: Sheldon (Shelly) Bach

On Narcissism 4: Nancy McWilliams
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Watched this documentary about 3 victims of narcissistic abuse last night... It's really good. (Not the "usual type of narcissist bashing".)

To me it's sooooooo uncanny a) how similar these 3 cases are, b) how similar they are to my case and c) how similar they are to other cases people have described to me.

It's as if there's this secret playboook that narcissists use and follow to the letter... I mean, of course, such a thing doesn't exist... But the similarities are so striking and so uncanny... It's crazy that their minds are wired the exact same way that makes this particular set of behaviours exactly what their "go to" strategy is. (And yes, I realise there's also other narcissists that don't follow this specific pattern, but the point is that there's such a large number that do.)

Anyone who doesn't understand how narcissistic abuse in adult relationship works or how the love-bombing phase is a deeply disturbing grooming phase that's requisite for the later abuse and which stops as soon as the narcissist can tell you're "trapped" can watch this and easily understand it. It describes it better than I could do.

Also, it shows quite well (as explained in one of the other videos above) that it used to be assumed that victims of narcissistic abuse were all "co-dependent" and had "low self-esteem" going into the relationship, which is why they were vulnerable to a narcissist's abuse in the first place. It seems that data is showing that that's not the case. People who are doing well, who are independent, who are confident are getting caught in these dynamics and *then* their self-confidence is destroyed and they end up in a co-dependent pattern with the narcissist.

Quick note about an important insight (no time to write it properly right now)

The "love-bombing" phase is the narcissist flipping around, what they expect you to do in the second phase. They want undivided attention, affection, understanding, care, affirmation... they know the power of it and so they "use" this dynamic on the other person. They "provide" the type of mirroring, that they later demand from you. The read your every micro-cue and pander to it "perfectly". It's so entrancing. It has a primal power because it's behaviour that meets primal needs that are not fully fulfilled in any of us. (Apart from the gruesome damage that's done later, this phase is a fascinating one to experience. Not just because it's "nice" but because it's truly fascinating to experience what these positive-triggers set loose inside your own psyche.)
Another therapy session today, trying to process this stuff.

The trauma bond still seems to have been dissolved, which is a massive relief.

Today we were speaking about what narrative to give this whole great big clusterf*ck and "how it fits in my life" and "what I've learned from it".

I still think it's to early to say "what I've learned from it" because my mind hasn't even really begun to process it properly - the potential things to learn from it are all over the map and at least half of them are due to total cognitive distortions and maladaptive coping strategies.

So, I have to try and sift out all the chaff, to hopefully be left with some wheat...

I guess one thing that I can take away from it is how childhood trauma makes us much more susceptible to relationships f*cking up, for a very wide variety of reasons.

I feel like my childhood trauma and PTSD and his childhood trauma and narcissism were this weird, complimentary fit that glued us together like the opposite poles of two magnets. It's an intense dynamic and unfortunately a painful and unhealthy one.

I assume other people get into similar kinds of relationships dynamics when both have experienced childhood trauma... Where some "complimentary" need is pulling them together.

I'm not sure what this whole experience leaves me thinking about (romantic) relationships in general. I don't want to belong to the "never again" camp and avoid and reject all potential future relationships. At the same time, I never want to go through something as damaging as this, ever again.

I'm not sure if I have to re-think romantic relationships, generally.

I've been working a lot on accepting my PTSD and the trauma that caused it recently. Which has made me try and be more realistic about what I can achieve in terms of my life, a job, financially, etc. In the past I've often pretended that my PTSD is "fine" and tried to live a "normal" life. Now, instead, I'm trying to view it as the very real disablity that it is.

I wonder whether I need a similar reality check re relationships. Maybe having a "normal" relationship (whatever that means) is not an option, with my childhood trauma background. Maybe I have to work out some sort of scaled down version of that, that's more realistic?

For a few years now, I've been thinking that I don't want to co-habit with a partner anymore... That's too exhausting for me. I think I would prefer just to "spend time together". I don't know whether that's maybe a "scaled down version" or whether I have to think about it differently.

Sigh... I don't know.

I don't know who I've become, from all this. I don't know what I think or feel. I don't know what I want. I don't know what I'm able to do. It's a really confusing mess.
I've read through most of the thread before posting my two cents. Ecdysis, what I'm hearing from you is a lot of fear of falling into the same narcissistic trap you have been in before. And it was hellishly painful, so you want to protect yourself from future pain. Very natural and normal response.

What I think is important to remember is that you can never fully protect yourself from pain. Life, by it's very nature, will deliver pain. What you can do is work on empowering yourself and remembering that you're existence has purpose and you deserve to treat yourself in a manner that reflects that. That means, tuning into your feelings and your body and going with what feels right. It doesn't have to make sense logically, as long as you aren't purposely hurting someone else.

For myself, sometimes I get so caught up in the analysis of myself and others that I forget that it's all labels that will never fully portray a person. Sometimes I act codependent, sometimes giving, sometimes empowered, sometimes I act like shit. Those are all parts of me(plus many more). I'm not just a person with PTSD. I have so many more parts.

When I meet someone else, I try to remember that as well. I want to interact with people in a way that continues to nourish my soul/spirit/emotional and mental health first while also trying to be a good person. The bottom line is, keeping the focus on myself.

So while you want to protect yourself from love-bombing and mindf*ckery, you can only do your best. There are no guarantees. But as others have mentioned, tuning into your feelings and not pedestalizing people to the extent that you lose your sense of self are good starts. CODA (a 12-step program for codependents) can be very helpful...