More and more frequently, I’m hearing that Narcissistic Abuse is a global epidemic and I believe it is, and a growing one. Licensed Clinical Social Worker Bree Bonchay, in her article on Psych Central, does some fascinating number-crunching on people who are potentially damaged by Narcissistic Abuse, and she comes out with a staggering 3.4 billion people. That's the shocking truth - nearly half the population of the planet! And you know what, I don’t think she’s wrong.
She bases her calculations on just 6% of the population known to have NPD, and if those only affected 5 people in their lives… but I already know without a doubt, that your average NPD person will target a far greater number of victims to feed their insatiable hunger for narcissistic supply during their lifetimes. You can read Bree's full article here: https://psychcentral.com/lib/narcissistic-abuse-affects-over-158-million-people-in-the-u-s/
Because NPD is typically so insidious in nature, and because narcissists themselves don’t see themselves as people who need help, I’m speculating that millions of them go undiagnosed for their whole lives… so the number of people who are affected could be far higher still. It’s a frightening thought.
But, where there is darkness, there is also light, and one such light is that there is now a World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day now, established in 2016 by the aforementioned Bree Bonchay. It’s a much-needed movement to raise awareness about this form of abuse and it will grow exponentially year on year.
So, who is the narcissist in your life? He (or she), could be anyone. Your love interest, spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, boss, work colleague or even a friend. Narcissists are hiding in plain sight everywhere.
If your narcissist is a covert, this makes them very hard to spot because they exude charm, intelligence, wit, and people like them. They can be so attractive that you’ll easily fall for them, and when they turn the full force of their charm on you, you’re bowled over, but really, you’ve just been out maneuvered because you have no idea what you are really dealing with.
There are a ton of ‘red flags’ you can watch out for, to protect yourself from falling for one ever again. Just about every client I've ever worked with, and everyone I've talked with in my Facebook Groups, said that they saw the red flags, they heard the alarm bells, they felt the warning signs... but they ignored them. So painful and all as the relationship has been, heeding your gut and trusting your instincts can protect you from falling for a Narcissist a second time. It doesn't always... but it can.
So what about non-love interest narcissists? These are much harder to deal with, if for example, you’re born into a family with a narcissistic parent or sibling.
If either parent is, or was, a narcissist, they will have done serious damage to your developing psyche. When you grow up constantly exposed to an abusive parent, the way your mind develops is different from that of a child growing up with caring, nurturing parents.
What happens is that you see abnormal behaviour as normal, because you’ve not experienced anything else. The psychology behind this is very complex, but in a nutshell, if you’ve been exposed to this abuse as a child, you’re far more likely to attract a narcissistic partner into your life as an adult. If you've been raised by Narcissistic parents, it can be very difficult to break that pattern without professional help.
Most of the clients I work with have grown up with narcissistic, dysfunctional parents and have been in one or more subsequent narcissistic relationships. They have to relearn the rules for what is ‘normal’ as a first step to breaking the cycle for themselves.
Covert narcissists are cunning, manipulative, and clever. They can easily fool ‘outsiders’ into believing that they are loving, doting partners and parents. They slap on their big smiles, praise their partner or child in front of others, but behind closed doors, the monster reappears. How confusing this must be for any child growing up with this conflicted behaviour, but that confusion carries on into adulthood. So being a 'grown up' doesn't protect you at all from the abuse. Learned behaviour runs deep in your subconscious.
Very often, most often in fact, abused people think that the fault lies with them. As a child, they feel that they must be bad… something must be terribly wrong with them if their mother (or father) treats them so badly every time they are alone, yet that parent is so nice with OTHER people… it can take a long time for the child to realize that it’s not them that’s wrong, it’s the parent. By the time that has happened, so much damage has already been done.
If there are other siblings involved, the dynamic becomes even more complicated. You may become the scapegoat, constantly pitted against the ‘golden child’.. you may even be subjected to additional abuse by a bullying sibling. It’s an awful situation to grow up in and little wonder that you are suffering the emotional fallout.
In fact, it often amazes me that the people I’ve worked and who other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapists have worked with didn’t turn into raving lunatics themselves.
What inspires me is their courage, their deep compassionate hearts, and their deep inner knowledge that they didn’t deserve this, that it’s wrong, and that they desperately want to heal.
These people are realizing that the damage can be undone and they’re healing from it every day, and so can you, do don’t despair. There is light at the end of the tunnel and you CAN heal.
If you’re dealing with an overt narcissistic, the are easier to spot as they are usually loud, in your face, full of themselves, and everyone can see they have egos the size of houses. You’ll encounter them in schools, where they often show up as bullies, and later on they can show up in college, work, social groups… they need to be the centre of attention, they think they are better than everyone else, they will think nothing of stealing your ideas or trying to discredit or undermine you at work, and they too can make your life absolute hell.
But there are ways to deal with them too, and I’ll talk about how to deal with a narcissist at work in a separate blog post. For now, if you’re dealing with a narcissist of any kind, take a deep breath, and tell yourself that this IS going to end. This is not a life sentence. You’re not going to have to put up with this for the rest of your life. You deserve better – a whole lot better and regaining your self-worth is what it always comes back to.
Knowing that you are unique, valuable, worthy, and deserving of love is the most important lesson you can possibly learn, and I want you to really hear these words now – loving yourself, unconditionally, is where to start. So just take a moment now to sit back and make a decision that you are going to love yourself. Don’t judge. Don’t question. Just say ‘I’m going to love me’…. Feel into that emotion… how does it feel?
If it feels awkward, alien, unattainable… accept that that’s ok. Then put those thoughts aside and say it again. I’m going to love me’… and do this several times a day. Let it start to become a new possibility. After some time, it will feel right, and you will have taken a very important step on your journey to healing and infinite self-worth after narcissistic abuse. It's not an easy road, and I recommend learning all you can and finding a therapist who understands what you are going through, to help you work though the healing and recovery process. You deserve love, joy and happiness. Make that you new mantra, and get the help you need.