Revised and updated on May 17, 2022.
The following post is an original work by Joyful Alive Woman. Please link or attribute. Thank you.
Realize, admit and change the things you’re doing that initiated and are perpetuating your problem.
When we have a potential Narcissist in our lives, (or we’ve already let the jerk in), the things we say and do will usually facilitate and perpetuate the Narcissist’s abuse of us. This, of course, will not be true of every victim of Narcissism. It’s helpful to examine which category you fall into, especially if you are unsure or new to the issue of narcissistic abuse and dysfunctional relationships.
There are some things to consider in order to avoid inviting and/or allowing family, friends and co-workers to abuse you. One thing I learned when I began recovering from narcissistic abuse relationships is that I needed to stop certain behaviors that invited abuse in the first place. There were things I was saying and doing, often subconsciously, that attracted the negative feelings of others and left me wide open to disdain and disrespect.
It led to more than a few people abusing me. I was pretty angry about it, because I knew that I was a good person and did not deserve that treatment — especially since I was having so many challenges.
What took me a long time to understand is that people who are basically good people still have unresolved issues. If we are saying and doing things that trigger their unresolved issues, or their actual personality disorder (which we may or may not be aware of), we are leaving ourselves wide open for abuse and/or betrayal. See my case in point below the following list.
1. Notice what is their usual m.o. Is it cheerful? Is it easy-going? Is it friendly? Forgiving? If it’s mostly negative, avoid them.
2. Are they a loyal, circumspect (discretionary) type of person? If so, they’re a keeper.
3. Are they overly controlling? Do they always need to “be the boss?” Do they talk “at” you? Are they intimidating, especially to you? Do you allow all of this behavior while being very uncomfortable and knowing full well that it is wrong? These are major red flags that someone has issues you don’t want to take on. It only gets worse with time.
4. Don’t engage in too much self-disclosure, even with close friends. When people know your private business, especially the negative stuff, they often judge you and start thinking of you differently and treating you differently. Some even start thinking you’re a jinx and will avoid you and even gossip about you.
5. Don’t be a downer, and don’t complain about stuff too much: politics, societal deterioration, your crazy family, the weather… whatever!
6. Don’t reveal too much about your personal challenges. Do so, if you must, by talking about it generally or vaguely, and always with a rational tone and a positive end note.
7. Don’t be too self-deprecating, except in a humorous way that is silly or preposterous. If we denigrate ourselves, we are only revealing our low self-esteem, and giving them permission to disrespect us.
8. Don’t talk about your fears too intensely. Speak generally and rationally. Joke about fears. (“Hey, I might end up a bag lady, but probably not. There’s always a way out.”)
9. Don’t disclose private details about relationships, or financial and legal details. When we’re having trouble, we’re tempted to confide in people. Don’t.
10. Don’t trust people with your secrets. Like them, engage with them, but don’t expect people – even your best friends – to keep secrets. They can’t. Secrets are always juicy. It’s human nature to feel compelled to share something juicy. People will use secrets against you more often than you believe. You’re setting yourself up for betrayal if you think you can control a secret once it’s out there.
11. Don’t trust people too much. Don’t engage in naive trust. Don’t kid yourself that people will take the high road. These days, you never know what you’ll get. Practice healthy discretion, Don’t get too attached too quickly or easily. Look and listen for the right cues. Make good choices.
12. Don’t use friendships or romantic partners for therapy. Work on your difficult challenges with a professionally trained counselor.
13. Stop being a “truth-teller.” Meaning: (1) only tell your own truths; and (2) choose your battles. Kellevision has written an excellent article on this issue: Scapegoats: Stop Telling the Truth. If you’re the Family Scapegoat, you need to read that article. Many victims of Narcissistic Abuse are the Family Scapegoat and have been for many years.
14. Last but not least: GET OUT OF “VICTIM CONSCIOUSNESS.” Stop playing the victim. People don’t give a shit. They really don’t. They’ve got their own problems. This isn’t 1970. This is the Brave New World. Get with the program — especially if you’re over 50 and remember a kinder, gentler world. If you don’t know how to do it, learn. There is a wealth of material everywhere about moving out of victim consciousness.
15. Remain positive and upbeat as much as possible. Life is for enjoying!
My own case in point about attracting abuse:
In 1996 I met “S,” a woman who became my friend for 6 years until I finally ended the friendship. I have not had contact with this former friend since mid-2002. I cut off the friendship when I realized that somewhere along the way she had become quite verbally abusive. She was very critical, judgmental, intolerant, closed-minded, and stubborn. I knew that it was only going to stay the same. Indeed, it was getting worse.
In the beginning “S” was jovial and a lot of fun, therefore our friendship developed easily and quickly. The first couple of years were fairly abuse-free. However, after about 12 months of knowing each other, we made plans to share a home together a couple of different times, several months apart. Both times “S” backed out at the last minute, vehemently denying that she had ever agreed to such a thing, causing me inconvenience and financial and emotional stress. There was never any accountability on her part.
After the second time you’d think one would dump such a friend, but I forgave her and carried on with the friendship. That is a clear message — indeed an invitation — to someone that you are willing to accept whatever they dish out. And let me tell you: they lose respect for you and the abuse escalates. The longer you give these jerks a pass, the worse the abuse becomes.
“S” was very spiritually oriented in a metaphysical way. Sometime during the final 2 years of our friendship, “S” was told by a “metaphysical healer” from South America, a woman who called herself Maria Christina, that she was “karma-free.” “S” had paid a lot of money for this information via an elaborate ritual whereby one is put into a deep trance-like state and then given information afterward.
People, don’t EVER believe that ANYONE on the face of this planet is free from issues! As long as we are alive, to the day we die, all of us – every single one of us – faces issues and challenges. It’s the nature of life.
It was after being told that she’d resolved almost all of her issues that “S” became particularly arrogant, argumentative and difficult to deal with, although there had been signs of these things much earlier. “S” actually had a lot of self-loathing and unresolved issues, like many of us do to varying degrees. At one point about 3 years into our friendship, she started carrying on about her teenage grand-daughter and complaining about what a loser she was. (Interestingly, the grand-daughter was exhibiting all of the same behaviors and circumstances “S” had engaged in and brought upon herself in her own youth.)
We had both studied Scientific Prayer Treatment (Religious Science by Ernest Holmes — NOT Scientology). I suggested to ‘S” more than once that we become prayer partners and do some prayer treatments about her grand-daughter. She didn’t want to do that. She didn’t want to stop criticizing her grand-daughter and complaining about her. “S” wouldn’t even think a positive thought about her own grand-daughter or try to help make things better! Finally, I told “S” that I couldn’t force her to be a prayer partner to try and support her grand-daughter, but I no longer wanted to hear her incessant criticism and complaints about the girl.
Then I began having some very serious employment and financial challenges due to the recession and my attempts to be self-employed. I was also having trouble disentangling from a very narcissistic and abusive lover. That’s when “S” began abusing me verbally. It was subtle at first. Still, I didn’t make any attempts to avoid her. What I ended up doing was constantly complaining and fretting to her about the events and circumstances of my life.
It became a very unfortunate habit, and went on for far too long. This was during a time when the father of my children was behaving very badly, and I was dealing with things like death threats, etc., things for which I should have been seeing a counselor and disengaging from several toxic people, including “S” and the abusive lover.
A few years later I became involved with a man who was a self-described black sheep of the family. He turned out to be a loser and a con artist. I began to try and disengage with minimal damage, and it wasn’t working. “S” actually took his side in our dispute without knowing the full story – indeed, hardly anything. She revealed to this person a lot of my personal history that was none of his business, nor was it moral or ethical for her to reveal those very private things she’d been told by me in confidence.
“S” also had a female neighbor who held herself out to be a psychic. I did not like this woman’s energy and I didn’t care for her attitude and demeanor at all. This woman, this self-described “psychic,” told me after hearing all the gory details about the man, that I would end up marrying him and be very happy. Huh? (I was not in love with the man, nor was I intimately involved with him and I certainly did not want to marry him.) That woman had an agenda, and it definitely was not in my best interests. I was a sucker back then (a masochistic glutton for punishment), but not that big a sucker.
Looking back, I see that things I had noticed when I first got to know “S” were actually Red Flags. First of all, “S” had become a 16 year old unwed mother in the late 1950’s and had been been kicked out of the house by her moralistic parents. She’d gone on to marry the high school boyfriend, and had another child. She became a single mom, a drug addict, kicked the habit fairly soon, had a third child out of wedlock and gave her up for adoption, became an alcoholic for a while, met a guy at AA who was a drug addict/alcoholic/con man bum, proceeded to marry him, got Hep C from him, got cured… there’s a whole lot more… you get the picture.
Another thing comes to mind that was a huge red flag, had I really paid attention: “S” told me that when she was much younger she regularly used to steal others women’s boyfriends and not give a damn about it. She was quite cavalier in describing the various scenarios. Looking back, it is obvious that “S” was bragging.
I ended up dumping my friendship with “S,” because her level of verbal abuse and betrayal was over-the-top. I had done nothing to deserve this treatment. The last time I ever spoke with her on the telephone was July 2, 2002. I realized that I never wanted to speak to “S” or see her ever again. I couldn’t believe the barrage of venomous abuse and put downs that were coming out of her mouth while I was going through an extremely challenging, devastating time.
She was literally kicking me while I was down and refusing to listen or stop. I happen to know that the con man moved in on “S” (and likely her “psychic” neighbor) after I dumped him and her. I don’t know the details, but I’m certain that “S”… let’s just say… “learned her lesson the hard way.”
In recent years I’ve occasionally wondered why S’s attitude toward me changed as time went on. She had gone from a really fun friend to a critical, nasty, verbally abusive jerk. There wasn’t any reason in her life that had caused this. In fact, “S’s” life got a whole lot better while we were friends. She’d received an inheritance, bought a nice mobile home in a nice area, bought a new vehicle, got a better-paying job. Her life was going very well, while my had gotten worse.
I finally realized that I had to take responsibility for how I had conducted myself in the friendship with “S”. Even though “S” had some nasty consciousness and very unpleasant attitudes and behaviors (and she’d likely been told bogus things about me by the “psychic” neighbor which no doubt contributed to S’s change in attitude and behavior toward me — the neighbor clearly had an agenda, which was to get rid of me and have S to herself; those details are not described here) I still had to realize, admit and change the things I was doing that initiated and perpetuated the problem.
By the time we realize the extent of such a problem, it usually means we have to move on. Once patterns become ingrained, relationships are very difficult to change. My pattern had always been to stay in abusive relationships and try to make the other person be better; to see the error of their ways and change. I always cut them a lot of slack and I was afraid to confront them (and they never apologized for their behavior. Therefore, the abuse continued to the point where things were so bad that there was no hope of improvement and the relationship or friendship had to end.
To tell the truth, there never was any hope of improvement in those situations. That’s because I was drawing a certain type of person to me, over and over and over again. There are several such people in my past, and none of them are still in my life.
As long as we are stuck in victim consciousness, and our lives are in chaos and actually in need of a miracle, we draw people with their own issues and they become psychic vampires for us.
We allow these psychic vampires to feed on us, often unaware that they are doing so. Then we discover what’s happening. First we make excuses. Then we try to get them to change. Then we finally realize that these people don’t belong in our lives, and we’re left picking up all the pieces while wondering what happened and why.
I mourn many of the friendships I’ve had, and the vision of enjoyment and fulfillment I had for each and every one. Sometimes I wonder what might have been, but now I know better than to believe that things ever could have worked out.
The friends I have now are very different. That’s because I choose my friends better, I choose my battles more wisely and I choose what information to share, and how I share it. I also don’t give people more than one or two chances. (Pay attention to Reg Flags.)
It’s as simple as that. They abuse, you’re gone. They behave properly, you continue to nurture the friendship.
One more thing: S had several female friendships in which she did not behave like she did with me. That is another thing that made me sad and confused. (The same was true of H, the reason I started this blog.)
When a person stops respecting you and starts behaving badly, it is often because they don’t really want your friendship anymore, and perhaps never really did except for the Narcissistic Supply they crave. They don’t have the courage or the integrity to just say it, so they mistreat you in order to make you go away (this is often done subconsciously). It’s either they’re looking for Narcissistic Supply and doing things to keep you tied in, or abusing you so that you’ll go away. (Or both! That dichotomy is part of their dysfunction.)
Usually it is both, because the Narcissist (1) wants you for Narcissistic Supply and (2) despises the sight of you. They usually consider you an inconvenience and an annoyance, but they’re addicted to the Narcissistic Supply they’re getting from you. They are co-dependent with you and you’ve been allowing it. Stop the dynamic (dump them/go No Contact) and the abuse stops. Sometimes it takes a while (practice perseverance), and sometimes the Narcissist fades away quickly.