10 Minutes

By THE BALANCE
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The narcissistic cycle refers to the series of events that take place during a relationship with a narcissist. A narcissistic cycle is emotionally wrecking and mentally draining causing immense trauma and pain to the victim. 158 million Americans suffer narcissistic abuse and deal with the enormous pain and hurt that comes with the abuse. A narcissistic cycle can be seen in a relationship with a narcissistic partner or narcissistic parent since both are equally damaging for the victim. 

Since narcissists are very self-centered individuals who lack empathy and are masters of deception, they make their victim go through the cycle of narcissistic abuse which is difficult to spot in the beginning but the red flags alert the victim of something being wrong in the relationship because a healthy relationship does not go downhill as seen in a relation with a narcissist.

The cycle of narcissist abuse goes through three stages: idealize- devalue- discard

Idealize

Idealization is the first phase of the narcissistic abuse cycle and perhaps the most dangerous since this is the time when the narcissist individual finds their prey and tries their best to trap it. Idealization is the initial stage of the relationship and during this time the narcissistic individuals engage their victims and sometimes their friends and family in the deception of what a fine human they are. They cultivate a sense of trust and commitment and garner empathy from the victim by excessively sharing stories from their past. 

In addition, the narcissistic individuals are very generous during this phase, also referred to as the ‘love-bombing phase’ since they are seen giving expensive gifts and taking their partner on dinner and fancy vacation to make them feel loved and special. The victim lives under the trance of a fairy tale life with their perfectly charming partner not knowing that this phase is a mere deception and is short-lived. The initial infatuation, premature promises of the future, and early commitments with a narcissist can make one doubt about the speedy progress of the relationship which seems too unreal and out-worldly but the victim is under such a high and ecstatic state after being love-bombed that they tend to ignore the signs that hint them otherwise. 

Devalue

During this stage, the narcissistic abuser makes subtle changes in this behavior, and their generous loving remarks are replaced by degrading, humiliating insults and name-calling that is disguised as humor but the intention is downright degrading. The abuser also isolates the victims and reduces their activities and even invades their personal space. Sometimes the narcissistic individuals give their victims a silent treatment, by completely ignoring them emotionally and also withdrawing from them socially. This treatment is known as ‘stonewalling’ and is quite draining and exhausting for the victim. 

The victim is in denial at first of the change in behavior of their partner since they are unable to process the sudden change in attitude. Slowly and gradually the reality sets in making the victim believe the trauma that has befallen them. 

Mental Health Issues due to Narcissistic Abuse

The victims drown in a sea of miseries feeling depressed and anxious at the abrupt change of events. Due to constant gaslighting by their narcissistic partner, the victim has a sense of self-doubt which is later replaced by loss of self-worth. The victims are so severely manipulated by their abusive partners that they lose their confidence and are constantly walking on eggshells out of fear of doing anything that might infuriate their partners. 

Discard 

The narcissist individuals thrive on praises and appreciation to feed their ego, however, when their mask falls off, revealing their true self to their victim they feel enraged and may either intensify the abuse or seek the love of their partner by manipulating them with love-bombing again- a tactic known as ‘hoovering’. During this stage, the abuse that the victim has to endure escalates by many folds and the abuser engages in physical, verbal, and emotional violence that leaves the victim shattered. 

In addition, the narcissist individual also shifts the blame on the victim, commenting that they are crazy and are the root cause of all the problems in the relationship. The victim takes the blame and tries hard to please their abuser but all in vain since their narcissistic partner is never satisfied and they always find something to shout at and to humiliate the victim making them feel at a complete loss. 

The end-stage is that either the victim parts ways from the abuser or the narcissistic abuser discard the victim and hence the shaky and unstable relationship with a narcissist ends but the victim lives long under the haunting memory of the trauma that they have faced at the hands of their narcissist partner. 

A relationship with a narcissist is often short-lived since narcissistic individuals have difficulty sustaining a relationship for more than 6 months to a year. The initial weeks and months pass by in the love-bombing phase where the narcissist is busy attracting the victim to gain their attention and when everything falls as per their desire they start criticizing and ridiculing their partner.

A narcissist partner prefers power over intimacy and bonding which is why they find it hard to continue the relationship if their power dynamics are not fulfilled. They want their partner to be completely submissive and dependent on them and to never ask or question them. Narcissistic individuals desire appreciation and empathy but do not return these favors and continue taking pride in their achievements as they mock their victims of any progress they might have made or any milestone that they have achieved.

Apart from being mocked, victims of narcissistic abuse also feel controlled by their abusive partner when they are told not to meet a certain group of friends or their family members; isolating the victim from their support circle. Thus a relationship with a narcissist crumbles within 6 months or a year. However, those who tend to overlook the red flags in the relationship, enduring the abuse silently might stay in the relationship much longer. 

Breaking free from a narcissistic abuse cycle is very difficult yet liberating at the same time. However, the narcissist partner does certain things at the end of a relationship to make the victim feel bad. Following are the events in the breakup cycle with a narcissist:

  1. Narcissist blames the victim
  2. A narcissist might say that you were the best thing that happened to them but when tension escalates reaching a breakup, they will blame you for crumbling the relationship and making it fall. A narcissist will say that you are the sole reason for the ending of this relationship not realizing that they had the major part to play and have contributed to all the trauma that the victim had to endure.
  3. Narcissists make the victim feel guilty 

Narcissist individuals make their victim enter a guilt trap and remind the victim of all the wonderful time they have had in an attempt to not let them leave because if the victims break free from their abuse and power they will feel like they have lost control and it is a severe blow to their ego.

  1. Narcissists demand attention even after the relationship is over
  2. To fuel their ego and grandiose self, narcissist stalks their victim even after the relationship is over and demands their attention by calling at night in a drunk state, or breaking in the house claiming to collect their belongings. Narcissist individuals are also seen calling the victim countless times in a day and dropping emails, to get their narcissistic supply for the day.
  3. Narcissists make false promises that they will change
  4. In an attempt to make their victim stay, the narcissist often makes lovey-dovey false promises claiming that they will turn into the way their partner wants them to be. Nevertheless, these are all empty promises that are made for the satisfaction of their egotistical self.

Many people are deceived by their partner’s charm and charisma at the beginning of the relationship and they do not realize that their partners are narcissists and when they do, they are already dealing with narcissistic abuse. 

Following are the stages of narcissism:

The great profession of love and commitment

Narcissists are known to be great at expressing love whether true or not and are great players of words of affection. Narcissists can pull people in their charm and effortlessly hide their flaws thus garnering admirers which boosts their already inflated ego.

Dependency on narcissist individuals

Narcissist individuals make the victim fall completely in love with them and make the victim dependent on them. The partner of the narcissistic individuals feels completely dependent on them and are reliant on their opinions and are committed to them wholeheartedly. The dependency of victims on the narcissistic individual fulfills their desire of being in control and the narcissist uses their partner for their motives such as for financial gain, and for their time, etc. 

Mistreatment by criticism and humiliation

Narcissists often use backhanded comments to subtly humiliate their victims. They use verbal and emotional manipulation to abuse their victim by criticizing them for every act. This plants a seed of self-doubt in the victim and they start second-guessing their choices. At this stage of narcissism, the victim will be found to be hyper-vigilant to not cause anything that might upset their narcissistic partner and become the cause of abuse for them.

Gaslighting 

Narcissists are experts at the art of gaslighting and no one does it better than them. They manipulate the victim into believing that the victim has done something wrong when they have certainly not. They do it so seamlessly that victims start doubting themselves and take the word of their narcissist partner as true. 

Devaluing their partner is a part of the cycle of narcissistic abuse. However, if the survivor starts devaluing the narcissist the tables will turn and will rob the narcissist of their power of dominion and control. When the narcissist learns that they have no influence over their victim, their personality crumbles and they feel quite weak. You can devalue a narcissist by not considering their remarks for you when they belittle you. Do not treat yourself the way they want you, do not lose your self-worth, and stand for yourself. By adopting this attitude you will prove that the narcissist has no control over you and this is enough for them to feel devalued.

Examples of devaluing someone

There are plenty of ways to devalue and belittle someone and narcissist uses a plethora of ways to devalue their victim. Calling someone names, stonewalling, gaslighting, and planning smear campaigns against someone are the commonest ways to devalue someone. 

The cycle of narcissistic abuse is a whirlwind of emotions and one can come to the verge of losing their sanity at the hands of their narcissistic partners. It is vital to break this cycle of abuse and to take all measures to reduce the trauma that is inflicted upon you by your abuser.

Accept the fact that you are being abused

A lot of people stay in denial about the abuse that they are facing, however, this tactic does not help and they need to understand that they are being abused. This will help them to break free from this abusive relationship 

Define your boundaries

It comes as no surprise that a narcissistic individual is often intruding on the personal space of others. You need to set some rules and regulations with the narcissistic individual so that he or she may respect your personal space and do not use any of your information against you.

Stay guarded 

You need to be hyper-aware of what the narcissist is planning against you because often the narcissist is seen launching fake cases against you to destabilize your reputation and to cause you to hurt. It is necessary that you take basic care in keeping yourself guarded and making sure that the narcissist has not launched any plan against you.

Get help for yourself- consult a therapist 

Getting help from a therapist or a professional counselor is your right. It is imperative that you go to a therapist to discuss your mental and emotional state since living in narcissistic abuse has a profound effect on an individual’s health mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Narcissists also follow a trend while abandoning their partners. The narcissistic abandonment cycle is as follows:

  • The narcissist feels shame: Narcissism or narcissistic attitude stems from deep-rooted shame from past trauma, childhood abuse, socioeconomic status, lack of intelligence, and fraud. To hide this shame, narcissist adopts an egocentric attitude that is devoid of empathy for others. This attitude causes fragile relations since healthy relationships demand empathy and love that narcissists are incapable of giving.
  • Narcissist avoids the situation and leave: Narcissists tend to avoid the situation where their true identity is revealed or when their partner question something that they did. They avoid intimacy and when they face any discomfort they leave the scene.
  • Narcissists fear abandonment: As soon as a narcissist leaves they return in a short while this is because they fear abandonment more than embarrassment because this means they won’t get their narcissistic supply of affection and admiration since they can’t imagine living without fueling their ego.
  • Narcissist returns and makes promises: Eventually the narcissist returns and makes false promises that they will be a changed person and will not disappoint them. They manipulate their spouses with expensive gifts and impressive statements so that their past behavior can be overlooked.
  •  Narcissist repeats the pattern: Narcissist repeats this cycle in due time because they don’t know how to change since they don’t find anything wrong with themselves. This abandonment cycle continues till one of the partners part ways.