8 Ways Narcissists Can Alter Your Perception of Reality

By Kim Saeed | Contemplating No Contact

Jul 07

Being in a close relationship with a narcissistic can be more than just hurtful – it can be dangerous.

If you find yourself in constant doubt, self-blame, and confusion, you may just be the victim of errors in thinking – fueled by a malignant narcissist in your life.

Are You in an Abusive Relationship with a Narcissist?

If you think you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, watch to see if your partner exhibits certain traits. A  narcissist is someone who has an inflated sense of self, a deep desire for admiration, and a total lack of empathy for other people.

Narcissists have a strong desire to impress other people by making themselves look good on the outside, from the way they look, the kind of car they drive, and everything in between. Although they can be very charming, they expect preferential treatment and will often lose interest in people who don’t treat them with the reverence they feel they deserve. At worst, they’ll punish people for it.

These traits are more than just an annoyance or something to be dealt with. If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, the narcissist’s need for adulation can corrode the relationship. An abusive narcissist can turn on you and use blame, insults, and gaslighting to destroy your self-esteem.

Constant Criticism Can Cause Errors in Thinking

When a narcissist becomes abusive, it’s likely you will start having errors in thinking because of the way you’re being treated.

You might never feel like you can get a word in and that you’re never really heard. Your comments are likely to be ignored or invalidated.

Narcissists truly believe that the rules don’t apply to them, including respecting your boundaries. They believe they are not at fault for anything and will often blame you, even if you’re done nothing wrong.

You have likely been ridiculed, judged, and criticized by your partner. It’s also likely you’ve been used and manipulated in various ways so your partner can get what he or she wants. It’s difficult to be in a relationship with someone like this without suffering from cognitive distortions.

What Are Cognitive Distortions?

Cognitive distortions are distorted ways of seeing and thinking about reality. They’re always negative and happen automatically. Real life situations will be exaggerated and distorted as you create support for your negative outlook.

It’s not surprising that people involved with a narcissist would be dealing with these kinds of issues. If your partner is a narcissist, likely your needs are being ignored, you’re being criticized and invalidated, and your boundaries are constantly being pushed. You may have a hard time seeing the world as it is because you are constantly being told that you’re not important.

8 Common Examples of Cognitive Distortions 

Psychologists have identified as many as 50 types of common cognitive distortions. Some specific examples you might be coping with if you’re dealing with a narcissist are:

1 – Overgeneralizing.

You apply the outcome of one isolated event to all areas of your life. For example, if you burn dinner, and the narcissist tells you that you’re a horrible cook, you believe it is true: You must be a horrible cook because you burned dinner.

2 – Seeing things as “all or nothing.”

You see everything in black and white without any grey. For example, you might call and leave a friend a message. If she doesn’t get back to you right away, you’ll start to believe that she’s never there for you. Or maybe you’ve broken up with your narcissistic partner once or twice in the past, but rekindled the relationship. You might start to believe there’s no point in ending it because you always take your partner back.

3 – Having a negativity bias.

You always notice the negative things around you but are unable to appreciate any of the positives. While you’re always hard on yourself for your negatives, you never feel good about yourself for all the good things in your life. This is made worse by the fact that the narcissist is likely pointing out all the bad things.

4 – Catastrophizing.

You always anticipate the worst in every scenario and create consequences that are completely unreasonable. For example, if you get a phone call from a number you don’t recognize, you might assume it’s someone calling to tell you that there’s been a horrible accident, or that you’re losing your job.

5 – Having double standards for yourself.

Everything that you do has to be perfect, or it’s not good enough – but you would never judge other people so harshly for their imperfections. This is likely fueled by the criticism of the narcissist in your life.

6 – Jumping to conclusions.

Notice if you are assuming you know what other people are going to say, do, or think and that it will always be negative. This can be a very dangerous way of thinking because it can prevent you from doing the things you know are necessary to improve your situation.

For example, if you’re in an abusive relationship with a narcissist and need help, you might be afraid to ask for it, because you’ll assume no one will believe you and no one will be willing to help.

7 – Focusing on “should.”

You believe things should be a certain way and that people should behave as expected. You might keep trying to get through to your narcissistic partner in the hope that he or she should change. The problem is when you go into denial and cannot accept that it is unlikely that the narcissist will ever change.

Notions that people “should” or “ought” to behave a certain way are almost always due to a cognitive distortion. For example: “I should have given them another chance,” or, “I must figure out why they’re acting this way so I can change my behaviors.” These thoughts may provoke feelings of guilt or shame. “Should” statements are typically used in reference to how other people should act. These thoughts may go something like, “He should respond to me sooner when I text him,” or, “She ought to thank me for all the times I helped her out.”

Such thoughts can lead a person to feel disappointment and indignation when others fail to meet their specific expectations. No matter how much we’d like for it to be true, we cannot control the behavior of others, so thinking about what others should do serves no beneficial purpose.  We can only accept people the way they are and decide whether to keep them in our lives.

8. Taking everything personally.

When a narcissist is constantly critical, you might find it difficult not to take things personally. It is especially destructive when it comes to being in a relationship with a narcissist because you might start to believe all of the negative, hurtful things your partner is saying to you. You might even believe that you are somehow causing the narcissist to behave poorly towards you.

Self-Awareness Is Key

Not everyone who experiences cognitive distortions will exhibit the same signs. Some of the examples on this list might apply to you, some might not.

In order to start assessing the damage that a narcissistic partner has done to you, you must first be able to recognize these errors in thinking. Then, you can take the necessary steps to see things as they really are. Having a trusted therapist, coach, or friend to help you spot your errors in thinking can make a difference.

Kim Saeed and Let Me Reach – Copyright 2017

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