(Read Time: 1-2 mins)
The narcissist reveals his true nature gradually to his victim, while using her as the supply he needs to continue to cultivate, maintain, even strengthen his image of being a thoughtful, considerate, all-around great person to others. This is one of the most invalidating, distressing, unjust, and profoundly frustrating aspects of being involved with a narcissist.
Narcissists are expert manipulators, and they are subtle in their approach. The initial love-bombing secures the victim. She believes she’s in paradise. Then, the “death by a thousand cuts” begins – the “I’m just trying to help” criticism, followed by affection and looks of approval when the partner accepts and appreciates the “helpful” criticism. This emotional manipulation and conditioning primes the partner for the devaluation and abuse to come.
It is the narcissist’s pattern of behavior over time that ultimately reveals his true nature. His criticism escalates to total devaluation, verbal/emotional/psychological/in some cases physical abuse, gaslighting, continual invalidation, coercive control, sneers, cold glares, and looks of contempt, with randomly occurring intermittent periods of love, approval and affection. This process dismantles the partner’s sense of self. She becomes her own harshest and most unforgiving critic, conditioned into this role by the narcissist’s emotional manipulation and abuse.
It is within this this toxic dynamic that the narcissist unfurls his true self: a controlling, punitive, manipulative, abusive tormentor, and one day – it could be months, it could be years – the partner looks in the mirror and sees nothing but the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cuts, gashes, bleeding wounds, and scars. She sees a sad, insecure, beat-up, faded, black-and-white version of someone she used to know. She does not recognize the landscape she is trapped in. She does not recognize herself.
As difficult, shocking and painful this realization is, it is a moment of mind-saving, soul-saving, lifesaving clarity. When she looks in the mirror and sees the cut-up, beat-up, faded, black-and-white version of someone she used to know, is the moment she recognizes the narcissist, sees his true colors, and realizes she needs to break free.
Partners get entrapped by narcissists because it’s not easy to know from the “get-go” if you’ve gotten involved with one, because they are so manipulative and adept at love-bombing their victims. Sticking to the following three guidelines in a relationship will help you get out before the narcissist’s toxic reveal of his true nature progresses any further:
- Know your non-negotiables, i.e. what you will tolerate and what you won’t tolerate in a relationship. Do not make exceptions.
- Establish and maintain strong personal boundaries. Do not accept violations. Violating a personal boundary = bye bye
- Trust your gut
- When someone shows you who they are, believe them first time – Maya Angelou
*Please note: All of my articles are written with the use of masculine pronouns to describe the narcissist. This is solely due to my own experience, and not meant to imply that men are not also victims of narcissistic abuse, as they are too.