Since writing about gas lighting and toxic relationships, I have received numerous messages from people who are either currently in, or have been in, relationships with narcissists or sociopaths.
Even once a relationship has ended the twisted dynamics that are associated with narcissists and sociopaths will likely continue and they are not always easy to understand. It can be impossible to see if the abuse will come to an end or if the conflict will ever resolve.
The most essential thing to remember when involved with someone with a personality disorder is that to them other people are a major source of energy. If we imagine that we have an electrical cable that is connected to our core we can see how an abuser will plug in the feed to their core and drain every drop of fuel until we are empty.
If we do not offer them the connection, they will have no use for us and will look for the source of energy elsewhere.
Sadly abusers are all too often highly addicted to drama. If we react dramatically our energy levels go into overdrive. Even though the energy we are sending out is negative, it is still going to feed them. Abusers aren’t so interested in positive energy anyway, so the anger, frustration, resentment and aggression that we give out are a perfect and satisfying meal for an abuser.
The end result is that we are left exhausted, debilitated and drained—the abuser is nourished. It is that simple.
When we refuse to role-play the abuser eventually has no choice but to end the role they play too.
Abusers will try every tactic in the book to push buttons in order to gain a reaction. It is our responsibility not to give them what they are looking for.
What happens is with everyone we are connected to a dynamic is in place. Patterns, routines and habits all form an existence and people with a personality disorder will be highly skilled in working out our next move before we have even considered it.
Therefore an abuser will put on various masks in order to trick and manipulate us into responding.
They will sway from being seductive and charming to pitiful and tearful in a matter of seconds. There are not two sides to these types of people, there are as many sides as it takes to get what it is they desire. These methods leave us in a spin, as we often will not know which side of them is the truth and which side will be coming at us next.
The truth? There is no truth with an abuser. Every liaison will be finely tuned to garner the best outcome for themselves. The attacks will be premeditated, delivered with a deceitful intent and specifically designed to cause us to destabilise so that they are in control and have every ounce of the power.
It is also imperative to remember that abusers aren’t always acting from a conscious level and can be wholly unaware that they are causing any harm. Sometimes it is their inner, wounded self that sub-consciously behaves in ways that cause great distress.
We must try to remember not to take their words or actions personally, we are simply a pawn caught up in their game and often they do not realise the damage and destruction they are causing. By taking responsibility for our own part in the dynamic we can cut the cords that are attached to them and remove ourselves so that we are no longer an entertaining puppet controlled by its master.
It is not the kind of game where one can win and one can lose. There are no winners in a game with an abuser. By refusing to partake in the challenges that an abuser puts out does not make someone weak, it makes them stronger. There is no need to prove a point, have the last word or over-explain anything. The one thing an abuser wants is attention, they will take it in whatever form it is given. Therefore choosing not to respond is the only way to show that the game is ending.
It will take a little while for an abuser to realise that things have reached a head and that they are no longer in control. They will work on the most probable outcome and think that as they have been able to achieve a response in the past, their skills are still sharp and they can work out new ways to cause a reaction.
History has shown abusers time and again that they are very capable at getting what it is they set their minds to. History has also shown them that the person they are abusing eventually reacts. This is why it will take a little time for them to realise that those days are coming to an end. Or, have come to an end. They will not want to believe it at first and may frantically try different tactics to cause as much frustration as possible, and to create drama.
Remember, a narcissist or sociopath finds it exhilarating to be on centre stage and with an audience watching the performance. This is when they feel most alive. If no one is watching and no one is interested, the performance they put on will have no purpose. It will be boring and fruitless and will rapidly end.
Those with an abuse personality may become nasty, vindictive and even dangerous when they realise they cannot trigger a response. Like a child having a terrible tantrum they will hurl everything around trying to intimidate and put fear into the other person.
They are also very aware of where other people’s vulnerabilities lie and they will rip and tear at old wounds to cause trauma, pain and distress. When we are triggered we must remember that this again is responding in exactly the way the abuser wants us to. The constant opening and closing of these wounds is what is giving the abuser all the power. When we heal ourselves and also understand ourselves better others will have little effect when they target our weaker spots.
They may also turn on their full charm so that they mesmerise their victim once again. Narcissists and sociopaths are capable of swinging from one persona to the other until they find one that works. They may also try to use the sympathy or guilt card and easily turn on tears to get the maximum amount of tug on the heartstrings.
Remember “love” should always be shown, not merely spoken.
When they realise the illusion of what they had created is turning to the truth is most often when things will be at their most difficult. It may also be the time when additional outside help and support may be necessary.
Often someone who has been in a relationship with an abuser gets to a stage where they desperately seek peace and they may not have the energy to deal with all the fireworks that are exploding. It is perfectly natural and okay to seek guidance and advice from other sources.
When trying to unravel the abuser’s hold, the main thing to focus on is consistency as when an abuser sees the faintest sign of what they perceive to be weakness they will up their game to a new level in hope that the insidious dance will begin once again.
We have the option to remove ourselves at any time. When we do it is vital to remember that we will need a great deal of time to recover. We have been subjected to round after round of psychological, emotional and sometimes even physical beatings.
The thing that a narcissist or sociopath will not be expecting is for the person they have overpowered for so long to find the strength and determination to walk away. The human soul is very resilient and even after extremely tough times we can bounce back stronger than ever before.
When we end the dynamic once and for all we will begin to see ourselves and also narcissists and sociopaths through a very different light. There are no greater lessons that are learned than ones that have been taught the hard way. These relationships provide some of the most difficult life lessons of all.
We will have been shown areas of ourselves that need healing the most. We have been given a great opportunity so we know where the work needs to be done to seal the scars for good. One thing is for sure, “once bitten, twice shy” and it is very unlikely a narcissist or sociopath will so easily sneak under our skin again in the future.
Temporarily weakened but permanently strengthened.
For those who endure and get through—and out—of these relationships they will have learned a lifetime of lessons and also gained an incredible amount of personal knowledge that will aid them through many happier future years. They will also be sure to spot a narcissist or sociopath from a safe distance, so fortunately another intimate and abusive relationship with these personality types can be sharply avoided.
Not all narcissists and sociopaths deliberately intend to cause pain and destruction. However, the fact is that due to their inability to empathise fully or have a clear understanding of other people’s emotions they will significantly hurt loved ones, play deceitful games and cause deep trauma.
These things and more will very likely be par for the everyday course when loving a narcissist or sociopath. This type of relationship is something that most who have experienced it would likely refer to as a succession of never ending battles that replicate a deeply personal war—but one that can be survived and won.