Narcissistic Abuse in Your Relationship. What is a Narcissist? Are you wondering why your narcissistic partner always blames you, even when it’s obvious that it’s not your fault?
Why do people with narcissistic personality disorder care so much about who is to blame?
Here are some concepts that can help explain why blame plays such a big role in relationships with Narcissists.
Our Inner Guiding Voice
As humans, we come equipped with the capacity to develop an internal guiding voice that praises and punishes our behaviors. This inner voice is programmed during our childhood based on a combination of three things:
1. How our parents treated us.
2. Our inborn temperament.
3. Our interpretation of what our parents thought worthy of praise or criticism.
This inner voice is realistic and rewards us with praise when we do the right thing and punishes us with shame or guilt when we do something wrong. The rewards and punishments are proportionate to the behavior. Our inner guiding voice is substituted for our parents’ guidance and thus allow us to live independently.
Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the “Father of Psychoanalysis,” called this voice our Super-Ego. Some people think of it as their conscience.
The Narcissist’s Inner Voice
Unfortunately, people with narcissistic personality disorder have internalized an overly harsh, perfectionistic and devaluing internal voice. This voice rarely doles out praise. Nothing is ever quite good enough to win its approval for very long, to the narcissist—and no mistake is too trivial to punish severely.
You, the victim, will be blamed for things you didn’t do (or think of doing), shown NO EMPATHY (narcissists have little to no empathy), they will not recognize when you are hurt or depressed, and only care about themselves for the most part. Narcissists accuse you and put blame on you, saying it is all your fault. The narc refuses to take blame. They will even go so far as calling you toxic, when, they are the toxic ones. Narcissists never apologize for anything. If you attempt to apologize, it is quickly dismissed with attitude, leaving you to feel worse than you did before. A narcissist is a master manipulator, a control freak. They keep you where they want you with mind games. You will find yourself walking on eggshells, as these people have very quick tempers and are set off without warning.
What is Narcissistic Abuse
Abuse may be emotional, mental, physical, financial, spiritual, or sexual. Here are a few examples of abuse you may not have identified:
- Verbal abuse: Verbal abuse includes belittling, bullying, accusing, blaming, shaming, demanding, ordering, threatening, criticizing, sarcasm, raging, opposing, undermining, interrupting, blocking, and name-calling. Note that many people occasionally make demands, use sarcasm, interrupt, oppose, criticize, blame, or block you. Consider the context, malice, and frequency of the behavior before labeling it narcissistic abuse.
- Manipulation: Generally, manipulation is indirect influence on someone to behave in a way that furthers the goals of the manipulator. Often, it expresses covert aggression. Think of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” On the surface, the words seem harmless – even complimentary; but underneath you feel demeaned or sense a hostile intent. If you experienced manipulation growing up, you may not recognize it as such. See my blog on spotting manipulation.
- Emotional blackmail: Emotional blackmail may include threats, anger, warnings, intimidation, or punishment. It’s a form of manipulation that provokes doubt in you. You feel fear, obligation, and or guilt, sometimes referred to as “FOG”
- Gaslighting: Intentionally making you distrust your perceptions of reality or believe that you’re mentally incompetent.
- Competition: Competing and one-upping to always be on top, sometimes through unethical means. E.g. cheating in a game.
- Negative contrasting: Unnecessarily making comparisons to negatively contrast you with the narcissist or other people.
- Sabotage: Disruptive interference with your endeavors or relationships for the purpose of revenge or personal advantage.
- Exploitation and objectification: Using or taking advantage of you for personal ends without regard for your feelings or needs.
- Withholding: Withholding such things as money, sex, communication or affection from you.
- Privacy invasion: Ignoring your boundaries by looking through your things, phone, mail; denying your physical privacy or stalking or following you; ignoring privacy you’ve requested.
- Character assassination or slander: Spreading malicious gossip or lies about you to other people.
- Violence: Violence includes blocking your movement, pulling hair, throwing things, or destroying your property.
- Financial abuse: Financial abuse might include controlling you through economic domination or draining your finances through extortion, theft, manipulation, or gambling, or by accruing debt in your name or selling your personal property.
- Isolation: Isolating you from friends, family, or access to outside services and support through control, manipulation, verbal abuse, character assassination, or other means of abuse.
Narcissism and the severity of abuse exist on a continuum. It may range from ignoring your feelings to violent aggression. Typically, narcissists don’t take responsibility for their behavior and shift the blame to you or others.
Narcissism and Sociopathy
Someone with more narcissistic traits who behaves in a malicious, hostile manner is considered to have “malignant narcissism.” Malignant narcissists aren’t bothered by guilt. They can be sadistic and take pleasure in inflicting pain. They can be so competitive and unprincipled that they engage in anti-social behavior. Paranoia puts them in a defensive-attack mode as a means of self-protection.
Malignant narcissism can resemble sociopathy. Sociopaths have malformed or damaged brains. They display narcissistic traits, but not all narcissists are sociopathic. Their motivations differ. Whereas narcissists prop up an ideal persona to be admired, sociopaths change who they are in order to achieve their self-serving agenda. They need to win at all costs and think nothing of breaking social norms and laws. They don’t attach to people as narcissists do. Narcissists don’t want to be abandoned. They’re codependent on others’ approval, but sociopaths can easily walk away from relationships that don’t serve them. Although some narcissists will occasionally plot to obtain their objectives, they’re usually more reactive than sociopaths, who coldly calculate their plans.
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, it’s important to get outside support to understand clearly what’s going on, to rebuild your self-esteem and confidence, and to learn to communicate effectively and set boundaries.
Self-Blame Leads to Shame
Because narcissists’ inner guiding voice is so critical and harsh, narcissists try to avoid all responsibility for anything that goes wrong. In order to avoid self-hatred, they project the blame onto someone else. If they do not successfully shift the blame, they find themselves drowning in a pit of self-loathing and shame. This usually leads them to spiral down into a shame-based self-hating depression. In addition, they unconsciously fear their mistakes will be used by you or other people to publicly humiliate them.
Once narcissists sink into a self-hating depression, they lose touch with anything good about themselves. Some see themselves as bad, worthless, defective losers.
Naturally, with deep shame always lurking around the edges of their psyche and an inner critical voice that unfairly and severely punishes them, narcissists learn early in life to never take the blame for their mistakes. Instead, when anything is amiss, they quickly blame someone else. If you are their lover or friend, you are the one that is likely to be blamed—no matter how far-fetched this seems.
Gaslighting is when someone screws with your reality, and then says you’re mad. This is a common way narcissists break you, justify their abuse, and tell you you need help.
When you stop trusting your own senses, you become beholden to the version of reality the narcissist paints.
Narcissists convince you to doubt your own hunches, before you eventually learn to abandon real data.
“In the hands of a skilful psychopath or narcissist, our hunches are the only weapon we have, and gaslighting isolates us from our own common sense”. – Dr Jonathan Marshall
Common methods include messing with the way you arrange your environment, insisting you did or said something else, and telling you you’re abusive.
A narcissist will corner you and force you to repeat details, before laughing and saying “Look at you, you’re crazy”, or they’ll say YOU’RE THE ONE who needs help or YOU’RE THE ONE WHO NEEDS TO SEE A PSYCHIATRIST. These people are toxic.
In such instances, black becomes white, and vice versa.
How should you handle the situation?
The unfortunate reality is this situation cannot be solved by logic or arguing about who is right or wrong. This type of blaming has nothing to do with external reality or fairness. It is about self-esteem maintenance. Your significant other is unfairly blaming you for something in order to avoid self-blame. They project their inner critic’s opinions onto you and then see you as overly critical.
What Happened When You Spilled the Milk?
If you want to understand more about the origins of someone’s blaming behavior, there is a simple question you can ask:
When you were little and spilled your glass of milk at the table, what happened?
The people I know who are relaxed and realistic about their mistakes, report something like the following:
My mother got up and said: “Don’t worry. Get the paper towels from the kitchen and I will help you clean it up.
Clients with Narcissistic Personality Disorder report a very different response:
How could you be so clumsy! You make all this extra work for me because you are so careless and irresponsible. That’s it! Dinner is over for you. Go to your room. And don’t expect to watch any television tonight either. You need to learn to be more careful.
A childhood full of harsh criticism for mistakes teaches children to find a way to shift the blame in any way possible and make the error someone else’s fault.
The reason the narcissist automatically blames you for things that are not your fault can be expressed as a simple equation: Blame + Shame = Self-Hatred. They shift the blame onto you to avoid being condemned as worthless garbage by his or her own overly harsh and devaluing inner voice.
There are things you can do to minimize fights, but unfortunately, they all focus on making you more uncomfortable. If you do not want to spend the rest of your life helping to manage your mate’s self-esteem at your own expense, being accused of things you didn’t do, and constantly judged, you should probably seriously consider leaving this relationship.
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