Narcissistic abuse in intimate relationships is the systematic destruction of a narcissist’s partner for his/her personal gain of narcissistic supply. Victims supply a narcissist in various ways, e.g., attention, housing, transportation, money, sex, food, status, jobs, etc.
Narcissistic abuse follows a universally recognizable pattern divided in the four phases:
- Idealization or Love-bombing
- Discard or Escape
Through various grooming and manipulation techniques in the early stage of a relationship, a narcissist makes a usually vulnerable and thoroughly selected target dependent on him/her (most of all emotionally). The target will be idealized and literally bombarded with attention, affection, and artificial love, which he/she believes to be authentic, often, due to a lack of self-love and an inability to recognize or interpret true love.
Once the now victim shows his/her commitment to a narcissist, the devaluation process begins. In most cases, a narcissist has isolated a victim from a valuable support system by that time to execute complete power and control over him/her.
During the devaluation phase, the victim may experience various types of abuse such as emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, financial, or spiritual abuse, leading to mental and physical depletion, and in some cases even death.
Over time, a narcissist deems his/her victim useless, as he/she becomes more and more unable to cater to his/her ever-changing demands and insatiable needs, leading to the discard and replacement of a victim with another target, who will soon become the next victim. Some victims manage to escape the devaluation phase before the narcissist is able to discard; a dangerous time in which most narcissists try everything re-gain power and control over the victim, engage in stalking, and monitor the victim’s every move.
Once, a victim has been discarded or escaped, he/she enters the final stage of narcissistic abuse, hoovering. The term is named after the Hoover vacuum cleaner and just like it, a narcissist tries to suck a former victim back into a toxic dynamic with him/her to repeat the endless vicious cycle of idealization and devaluation.
Victims of narcissistic abuse often receive stern looks and harsh criticism for staying with or returning to a narcissist. What outsiders do not understand is that due to the ups-and-downs of re-idealization and devaluation, the victim develops a so-called trauma bond (commonly known as Stockholm Syndrome) – a deep psychological and emotional connection, keeping him/her hooked and dependent upon the abuser’s validation.
Since narcissistic abuse is insidious, invisible, and personalized, one must have experienced it in order to fully understand the effects of it.
Narcissistic abuse is not only a problem within intimate relationships. It can also occur within family dynamics, among friends, or at the workplace.