Emotional abuse and covert narcissism

By Kim Saeed | Narcissism

May 02

Covert narcissism (or any covert, cluster B personality disorder) is very difficult to put your finger on. Many people waste years of their lives with covert narcissists trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Once they discover that it could be covert narcissism, they waste further time questioning if it’s really the case or not.

The reason for this is that many of us do not have clear in our minds what abuse is. We often think of abuse as only being physical and don’t clearly define what emotional abuse is. On top of this, covert narcissists are very good at covering up emotional abuse, denying that they are being emotionally abusive and actually projecting it on to you to the point where you doubt your own instincts and start to believe that it is you who has the problem.

Covert emotional abuse is very real and once you have identified it you must treat it with the same severity as you would physical abuse.

We may not clearly recognize emotional abuse for many reasons. These reasons include not having a strong sense of self, which is common in empaths and highly intelligent self-taught people, growing up to put another person first, being covertly emotionally abused as a child or simply not having your unique abilities nurtured and valued. There are as many reasons as there are people that make us vulnerable to emotional abuse, but all of the reasons have the same result. Having no boundaries or having flexible boundaries and a tendency to put other peoples’ needs first.

Highly intelligent and successful people often fall victim to covert abuse because of flexible boundaries.  Flexible boundaries are common in intelligent people who like to keep an open mind and not be judgmental and who often learn and grow by doubting and questioning themselves and the environment around them.

In addition to this, covert abusers are experts at probing, testing and reducing personal boundaries little by little over large periods of time.

Following, I will cover how we develop boundaries and give some examples of techniques used by covert emotional abusers to test and reduce boundaries and examples of emotional abuse.

Boundaries and emotional abuse

Let’s start by looking at what personal boundaries are. Personal boundaries are normally established when we are children.  We learn by the examples set around us of what type of behavior is acceptable and just how much we should tolerate in given situations.

Instead of being taught to have very strong personal boundaries, we are often taught that it is better to forgive, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to be understanding, to help others as much as possible and to accept that everyone makes mistakes. These are all valuable and important qualities and should always be employed with other people who share the same values. However, something that we are not taught is the very sad fact that there exists a growing number of people in society who cannot feel love, do not have empathy and use these qualities in other people to their advantage. This of course does not mean that we should not continue to have these human values and qualities, but it does mean that we have to start being taught the importance of personal boundaries in conjunction with these valuable qualities and to realize immediately when these boundaries are being crossed. Putting boundaries in place and not allowing people to cross them is the development of self-respect. This starts by recognizing that your qualities are valuable and are not to be squandered on people who will not value them and then to recognize very early on when you are being abused.

Narcissists, sociopaths, histrionics and psychopaths will, without exception, push people’s boundaries to the limit, break them, extract what they need from the person, then leave them feeling as they have no self-worth and obsessing about the person who did it to them. If they come across a person who has strong boundaries they will either have nothing to do with them, as they cannot extract what they need from them, or they will see it as their greatest challenge and set to work at chipping them away, thus providing them with the buzz of a lifetime when they succeed.

Breaking down a confident, successful person with strong boundaries is the ultimate in narcissistic supply.  It is, however, quite hard work and so they will have be working on an easier target simultaneously or on targets who are at different stages of being broken down.

Once a person is completely broken down, they will abuse them until they have nothing left to give or offer, then leave. They will then return when their target has begun to heal and/or has something further to give or something further to break down.

You should not underestimate the danger of having one of these types of disordered person in your life and the damage that they can cause. It is important to recognize them, name them and keep them away from yourself and the people that you love.

Leave a Comment:

(22) comments

S March 24, 2017

I am trying to come to terms with my partner treating me this way. I have given in so many times…who wants to believe it?! Everything is good when I bolster his frail ego. If I dig my heels in, everything turns to sh!t. He gaslights me, everything is my (or someone else’s) fault. He has no shame in being a massive hypocrite. He treats my emotions like dirt and justifies his actions. He turns disagreements into character assassinations. I have had several very traumatic life events in the past few years before we got together, yet he uses me as an emotional dumping ground. I unconditionally gave him everything I had and he took me for granted. I have lived in hope that he will change his ways. I don’t want to accept that he won’t, even though deep down I know this is true. It destroys me that he can treat me this way. He says he loves and needs me and wins me round. I have never come across anyone so selfish and immature. I truly wish that I had never met him as I struggle to see a way out.

Reply
puameliaclinic May 4, 2015

Reblogged this on It's All In The Head.

Reply
Dealing With the Fallout of Emotional Abuse | Unrevandalized May 4, 2015

[…] friend just sent me this article. I don’t care if you don’t finish reading this post, please just read the article! So […]

Reply
irene May 4, 2015

This was really helpful. I’ve been a long time member of a group that has been meant a lot to me . A few years back the leadership changed and gradually things started to go down hill. It took a while but I finally began to “see” some of what was happening. The new leader seemed really nice but had a hidden, ugly side…drove me crazy cause i kept questioning myself and what I was seeing.many friends have left and I’m angry at his actions..wondering if I’m being stupid, but I want to hold him accountable for what he’s doing..we have a group that handles complaints/evaluates people in leadership…wondering if it’s worth the ugliness, but frustrated that he’s getting away with psychologically hurting/messing with so many people.

Reply
Anna May 4, 2015

I went no contact 6 and a half months ago. I made sure my abusive ex would have no way to contact me. However, everyday I have this deep fear of him coming back around, of him finding a way to contact me or find me. We were never married and have no children together. But literally everyday I still live in fear that it isnt over, that he isnt truly gone.. One of the last things he said to me was. “You don’t decide when this relationship is over, I do!!” When do you know that you are truly free and can stop living in fear everyday?? I know there may not be an answer to that but it plagues me on a daily basis.

Reply
    Danita December 10, 2016

    Hi, three days ago I did the no contact with my ex. We were married but no children. I also live in fear that he will hunt me down. My ex raped me after he walked out for the 8th time during our time together. I tried to keep an emotional distance from him, thought I was looking at him with eyes wide open. But he still wore me down emotionally. I have put my story put there to let other woman know the are not alone. Its a struggle everyday not to fall into old patterns. I have to remind myself that I am worth it, my feelings do matter, I deserved to be loved. Your not alone and one day you will realize there is no more fear. DLM

    Reply
      soria February 25, 2017

      Lawyer up and fuIle a rape report. He will pee in his pants when you take all of his moneyvin the divorce while he gets to warm up Bubbas bed.

      Reply
Lisa G. May 3, 2015

Excellent post and so informative and true. Thank you Kim ~

Reply
    Kim Saeed May 3, 2015

    Thank you, Lisa! I’m glad it resonated with you…

    Reply
anonymous May 3, 2015

I totally resonate with this post. They also use others to gain information. Trust few… even those you thought you could trust are often turned and play into their game.. only those that have mistreated someone will continue behind your back to find out information when there is none, to make you appear the disordered one….

Reply
Angie May 2, 2015

After 28 years, I am just now discovering and realizing that is what I have been living with for 28 years. I have three beautiful children whom are sadly being emotionally abused by my covert Narcissisist. I am so sad for them, they didn’t have a choice, I did. Hopefully my learning will help prevent a repeat generation of this chaotic mess!

Reply
    Mary May 3, 2015

    I hope someday there is a way to either treat this disorder or better yet, make this a criminal offense. The damage that is done is mind boggling.

    Reply
    Silvia May 3, 2015

    Hi Angie, I am about to seperate from my N. after been married 19 years. As Mothers we have the responsibility to protect our children from abuse, also the emotinal one. We had 5 children. 2 of them did suicide. He thinks he has nothing to do with that, says it was there own choice. But that they have been emotinaly damaged through toxic thinking, his toxic behaving,…I will not close my eyes from this anymore. Finally I woke up and now I can see clearly what is EVIL. I will not spent the rest of my life with him cause he takes no responsibility. Just demands that we would forgive and forget. No remorse ever. I understood about N. to late, thought I could fix things. They were already screwed up and his sister got mental ill. I will not be an enabler anymore. Wish you the best.

    Reply
      M.C. March 11, 2017

      I’m just trying to admit to myself that I married a narcissist 15 years ago and had 5 children with him. I’m so scared to walk away, and I don’t really know where to start. I have felt crazy for years, been on depression meds, and now my thyroid and adrenals are not functioning healthily. I know my husband wants the world to believe I’m evil, crazy, ungreatful, spoiled, and a terrible mother. And sometimes I believe him. I’m scared to face divorce and famity court, as he will sabatage me. How do I get out and get free? I am emotionally and psychologically drained, but even scarier, I am completely financially dependant on him, as I have been a stay @ home mom for almost 14 years.

      Reply
    Robbie June 10, 2015

    Oh the pain to watch my 2 grown children be emotionally abused by my ex. 22 years I protected them without knowing that was what I was doing. They sort of “get it”.

    Reply
Deb May 2, 2015

I am still married to mine. I wish I had known this information years ago. Things would be very different now.

Reply
Karin May 2, 2015

*Shudders* So insidious and incredibly difficult for a normal, compassionate person to identify, let alone comprehend. NC is the only way and to allow oneself the full measure of the grieving process. For me, it was for both men, the one I knew and the one I thought I did. Life does go on.

Reply
K May 2, 2015

Kim,

This is another one of your awesome, therapeutic, and relevant ” works of art”. It is so spot on technically that it should be a PSA! Please keep your blessings flowing to us out here that you are touching every day. May you receive double in return!

Reply
JR May 2, 2015

I am currently 1 week NC. So many silent treatments ,push and pull,putdowns and lies. I literally can not understand how someone can pretend to love you so convincingly and fool a person into giving the most sacred part of themselves knowing it’s all a fraud. Thank you for these blogs Kim, you are a gifted writer and you are helping so many people that have gone through this insidious abuse. As usual the timing of this piece was perfect.

Reply
    Anonymous January 30, 2016

    I agree. Good job nc!! It’s hard. .

    Reply
Mary May 2, 2015

Better late to learn this than never. No matter how much love you have for them. As I stated a long time ago in an email to my ex narc, “abuse is abuse whatever form it takes, and I cannot tolerate it ever”. I unfortunately let him suck me back in, and he went for the jugular, with a smirk on his face, and the onslaught was amazing. I never knew anyone so ruthless, even my ex husband who would beat the liver out of me on any given occasion. The ex narc, who never physically abused me, played mind twisting games that literally blew my mind. I’m still struggling with this, it’s hard to get away but after over 6 months NC it’s easier to realize what a devil spawn this guy really is. I feel for his new victim(s) but I suppose it’s their turn to begin to learn this very hard lesson.

Reply
Add Your Reply

Leave a Comment: