Unabashed Emotions

What Is a Narcissistic Abuse Cycle & Its Effects

By unabashedemotions


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What is the narcissistic cycle of abuse?

The narcissistic cycle of abuse is a term that has been used to describe a harmful pattern of interactions between two people where one person (the narcissist) behaves in a way that is designed to exploit and control the other person. The narcissistic cycle[1] has three specific phases: the honeymoon phase, the devaluation phase, and the reconciliation phase. 

During the honeymoon phase, the narcissist exhibits a lot of love and affection toward their partner. They lavish them with attention and make them feel very special. However, this is not genuine affection, and it is only meant to prevent them from realizing just how toxic the relationship is. 

The narcissist also devalues their partner[2] during this phase. This means that they undermine them and make them feel like they are not good enough for them. This is often done through verbal abuse or emotional manipulation. 

Finally, in the reconciliation phase the narcissist tries to win back their partner’s love and trust. However, this is usually just an empty promise and they will soon start exhibiting the same manipulative behaviour again.

A person who has been[3] subjected to narcissistic abuse can become distressed, angry, depressed and anxious. They may also develop physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches. 

It is important to remember that narcissistic abuse can be extremely destructive to the victim and that it often causes lasting psychological damage.

5 Ways the narcissist abuse cycle impacts you

The narcissist abuse cycle is a dangerous and often repeated pattern of behavior between the narcissist and their victim. The cycle can be extremely damaging and often leaves its victims feeling hopeless, helpless and alone.

Here are 5 ways the narcissist abuse cycle may impact you:

1. Feels threatened

The narcissist abuse cycle begins[2] when the victim is caught off guard by the narcissist’s sudden shift from loving partner to hateful aggressor. This is commonly caused by some perceived threat to their sense of self or ego. The narcissist uses fear and intimidation to exert control over their partner and coerce them into doing what they want.

2. Feels empty

When in a narcissistic abuse cycle,[3] the victim feels empty and isolated. Their sense of self-worth is completely destroyed and they are forced to deny their own needs and wishes in order to keep the peace with the narcissist. They stop taking care of themselves and become completely dependent on the narcissist in order to feel safe and loved.

3. Feels confused

After a period of time of being subjected to narcissistic manipulation, the victim finds themselves altering their identity to fit[4] the wants of the narcissist. They are unsure of who they are and are plagued by feelings of confusion and shame. The narcissist makes sure that the victim is ashamed of themselves and dependent on them so that they feel they need to stay and endure the pain and abuse.

4. Feels trapped

The narcissists abuse[5] is continual and relentless. The victim is left feeling trapped with no way out. They struggle to survive each day not knowing if it will be their last or if they will ever find a true measure of happiness. 

The abuse only gets worse as time goes on and the narcissist makes sure they intimidate and terrorize their victims so they will continue to stay.

5. Feels isolated and alone

When stuck in a narcissistic abuse cycle, the victim spends a great deal of time isolated from others and feeling alone. They often have difficulty confiding in friends or family for fear of being rejected or scorned by the narcissist. 

This isolation can lead to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem which can further isolate the victim and make the abuse worse.

6 ways to break free from the abuse cycle of a narcissist

Narcissism is a personality disorder that can be very hard to break free from. If you are in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, here are 5 ways to break free and start fresh:

  1. The narcissistic cycle[1] of emotional abuse crushes your self-worth because you can never be enough for a narcissist. Spend some time working on yourself and gaining self-confidence instead of focusing on what your partner wants or needs from you. Try meditating to help you focus on yourself so that you can regain a sense of inner peace and self-assurance.
  2. Focus on yourself. Because people often lose themselves[2] in relationships with narcissistic abusers, when you do break free, focusing on yourself can aid in your recovery process. Read a good book or take a relaxing walk in nature to clear your mind and gain a new perspective on life. Engaging in these activities will help you heal from the trauma of your past relationship and give you the tools you need to build a new, healthier life for yourself.
  3. Fill your cup. Narcissistic abuse can drain[3] you emotionally, so try filling your cup with things that help you feel joy and happiness. Spend time with supportive family and friends who love you unconditionally and encourage you to be your best self. Join a local club or organization that interests you or take a class to increase your knowledge and skills.
  4. Practice self-forgiveness. Research shows that practicing self-forgiveness[4] reinforces your emotional well-being, healthier relationships, and a more positive attitude overall. This can be especially beneficial if you are recovering from a traumatic event like a break-up with a narcissist. As they say, “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” It is important to take care of yourself and be kind to yourself so you can continue to heal from your past experiences.
  5. Learn to forgive.[5] Sometimes, forgiveness is necessary in order to heal from narcissistic abuse.[6] Learning to forgive the narcissist[7] can help you move on and break the cycle of abuse. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay in contact with the narcissist or that you will allow him or her back into your life. However, forgiving them does allow you to let go of the past and accept what happened without carrying around the baggage of guilt and resentment.
  6. Find meaning from your pain. Narcissists often leave people[8] feeling empty and alone. By finding meaning in your pain and pain in others, you can establish stronger bonds with others and create a more satisfying and fulfilling life for yourself. Through the process of personal growth, healing and learning to overcome obstacles, you can identify your own strengths and values and live the life you’ve always wanted.

How long does each phase of the narcissist’s abuse cycle last?

Narcissists exhibit a pattern of abusive behavior that can last for years. The cycle of narcissist abuse typically begins with verbal abuse, often in the form of insults and put-downs. The abuser may move on to emotional abuse, which[1] includes gaslighting and scapegoating. 

Over time, the abuser may begin physical or sexual abuse, and at this point the victim may be too terrified to leave. 

As time goes on, the abuser may use threats and even physical violence to ensure compliance from the victim. Eventually, the abuser will stop his or her destructive behavior and apologize in an attempt to maintain control over the relationship.

The abuser will convince the victim that their abusive behavior was[2] justified, and that the victim provoked it in some way. The victim may agree with the abuser at first out of fear, but eventually they will realize that they are the victim of abuse and that something needs to change. 

The abuser may also say that he or she will change his behavior, and that things will be better in the future. Victims of narcissist abuse[3] may try to justify their abuser’s behavior and attempt to minimize the severity of their actions in order to ease their guilt and avoid confrontation. 

Some victims even make excuses for the abuser in order to keep the peace, such as saying things like “it was his alcohol” or “he didn’t mean to do it.”

Victims of narcissistic abuse may[4] end up suffering from hypervigilance or racing thoughts. They may begin to feel depressed and hopeless about the future. They may also experience anxiety or panic attacks as a result of their past experiences. 

Over time, they may begin to trust their abuser less and begin to look for alternative partners in their lives. They may also suffer from narcissistic victim syndrome,[5] a condition in which the victim blames themselves for the abuse, and believes that somehow they deserved it. 

Victims may also be haunted by negative memories from their abusers, and may have trouble sleeping or concentrating.

Fortunately, there are ways for victims of narcissistic abuse to recover. One of the best ways to do this is to confront the abuser and encourage them to change their behavior. Other ways to help[6] include: reaching out to friends and family for support, attending support groups, getting professional help, etc. It is important for the victims of narcissistic abuse to get help as soon as possible in order to prevent any further damage to their lives. 

It is also important to remember that narcissistic abuse is never the victim’s fault, and that it is never acceptable under any circumstances.

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