Relationships with narcissists are complicated, weird, and toxic.
This is because there is no “ordinary" bond, but one based on trauma (its origin, in many cases, involves a traumatic childhood experience with one or both parents and/or caretakers) that is hard to recognize and heal.
That is, the victim will unconsciously choose a partner who is a projection of their mother/father. They seek the unconditional love that was not given during childhood.
Yet, with the narcissist, obviously this love will not be offered.
On the contrary, the victim will experience a repeat of the abuse/mistreatment that happened to them in childhood.
The story will repeat over and over, relationship after relationship, until the victim starts on the journey of recovery and healing.
Narcissists try to make their victims feel a certain way in order to keep them isolated and defenseless.
The narcissist will provoke these feelings in the victim, manufacturing them within the victim’s mind.
Before any healing can take place, the victim must recognize that these feelings are not their own. They must see them for what they are – chains around their ankles and bars on the window of their mind; part of an elaborate prison.
Some of the most potent feelings include:
Internally, narcissists feel a lot of shame. Under the image of superiority and grandiosity there is a “poor self" that cries.
Specifically, one person is chosen to represent that shame. It is usually someone who is close to the narcissist and in a position of complete dependency, whether this is real, like in a son or a daughter, or just perceived as such by the victim, like a partner, an employee, or a friend.
He/she will project this shame with statements that convey the message that the target is inadequate, faulty, and unworthy of love.
Narcissists are very good manipulators and will try to make their victims feel guilty in order to control them and have the upper-hand in the relationship.
The message conveyed is that the victim deserves something bad that is happening to him/her, that he/she owes a lot to the narcissist, or that his/her behavior will “compel" the narcissist to punish them.
By making it seem as though the fault lies with the victim, the narcissist avoids their own behavior from coming under too much scrutiny.
Narcissists are like spoiled children that want everything to go their way. When the victim tries to give an opinion, express himself/herself, or disagree, the narcissist will cultivate a sense of self-doubt in them, so that they can’t rely on their own perception and beliefs.
With narcissists, relationships are based on control and submission/domination.
They constantly look for emotional reactions from the other person to make sure they know what “buttons" to push. This way they can elicit a response at will to always keep the other person on the back foot.
They also have a lot of unresolved rage/anger of their own that they will throw at the victim to their own relief and to exert further control over the relationship.
Narcissists are insatiable perfectionists, never satisfied with anything. They lack compassion and acceptance of themselves and the world just as it is.
In their pursuit of the fantasy of perfection, they will be destructive and highly critical of everything around them, especially the victim.
The victim, until they begin to understand what is really going on, will try to achieve that perfection to, at last, be loved by the narcissist.
The narcissist’s ego makes them seek total control in their relationships. One way to achieve this control is to undermine the victim’s self-esteem so that he/she is docile, submissive, and obedient.
This creates a crazy scenario where the narcissist is the master and the victim the slave (financially, practically, and emotionally).
The victim actually is a slave to all intents and purposes until they summon the strength and courage to break such a toxic bond.
The “Something Is Wrong" Feeling
Narcissists have no empathy whatsoever and they feed their ego at the expense of the people they have around, especially the person they are in a relationship with.
After prolonged exposure to their treatment, the victim feels sad, lonely, and hopeless without always being able to pinpoint exactly what is going wrong.
It feels like a void inside that has no solution, no possibility to heal, and makes the victim feel that “something is off."
When he/she tries to convey this, the narcissist’s answer is that if anything is wrong, it is, of course, the victim.
Being in a relationship with a narcissist is a very toxic experience. It is compared, by some trauma experts, to that of being in a war or a sect.
There is a level of brainwashing that takes place which aims to make the victim feel useless and hopeless so that he/she stays with the narcissist.
Breaking the bond is very difficult, since it is often linked to childhood issues. It is worth it, though, since it brings back something essential to the victim: hope in life.
Knowing the types of feelings that a narcissist will try to manufacture on their victims is helpful in identifying when you are getting too closely involved with one.
If you notice yourself experiencing any of these feelings more frequently or with more intensity than you have before (after all, we all experience some of these emotions from time to time), you might want to ask where they have come from.
If a new person has entered your life – particularly in the case of a new romantic partner – you may want to tread carefully and look for other signs that they might be a narcissist, whether malignant, covert, or moderate.
If you think you may be involved with a narcissist, the best way to escape their clutches is to cut them off entirely and go no contact.
Patricia Armesto Corral is a blogger specialized in narcissism and abusive relationships. Gestalt therapist to be, she already offers therapy to survivors of dysfunctional families, either personally where she lives in Barcelona, or online. When she is not writing, she likes walking in the nature, watching old movies, and taking care of her plants.