Vampires do exist.
If you’re lucky you’ll never see one. And if you’re not, it may be some time before you truly recognise them.
Not while they stay hidden behind their smiling masks of generosity and fun. Not while they seem honest and self-sacrificing and truly devoted to you.
And yet when the mask eventually slips – which inevitably it will – it is too late to simply turn and walk away. By that time you could be isolated and lonely, trapped in an intricate web of guilt and low self-esteem.
They may have not sucked the blood from you, but they’ve taken so much more.
In psychology, they go by the term Malignant Narcissists.
I never really believed in their existence until a person close to me met one. And I watched the person change, give up so much of themselves; become completely consumed by another being.
I wanted to write this post to raise awareness about mental abuse in relationships not only because I’ve seen the fallout firsthand but speaking with other women surrounding me, I began to realise how many have been directly affected.
They described to me how hard it’s been to heal since they broke up – or in some cases escaped – from the vampire. In the article below I’ve actually used some of their descriptions to assemble the profile of the Malignant Narcissist. I also researched, and talked to psychologists to understand in depth the pathology.
Here is what I found out.
How does the Narcissist gets his victims hooked?
A narcissist cannot just be loved. They need to be admired, adored, the unwavering focus of their partner’s attention. And the way they secure all of this? To make their partner’s fully dependent on them. To humiliate and diminish them, to suck out their self-esteem so that what is left is insecurity and doubt.
You might think, you’d be too clever to fall for it.
All the women I’ve been spoken to and have been victims of a narcissist are smart and successful and I have lots of respect for them. So how did they fall in the vampire trap?
Firstly, narcissists are so driven to prove themselves, they often accomplish great things. They can be brilliant and brilliance is sexy. It draws you in, seduces you.
And brilliant or not, to begin with they may be everything you ever wanted in a partner. They shower you with attention, affection and all manner of stuff to make you feel special.
The change in this behaviour can be so imperceptibly slow that the warning signs pass you by. And if you do catch them then all the magic that has come before is enough for you to excuse them away – just a dark spot an otherwise perfect picture.
And with every excuse, your self-esteem is chipped away at a little more.
Then, once they know you’re dependent on them and have made a commitment, the pretence stops completely. The vampire starts to feast.
“Once they have secured the relationship with their significant other, what invariably surfaces is their incessant drive to denigrate them, to assert superiority over them,” explains Doctor Leon F. Seltzer.
It could be taunts, insults, lies, cheating. There may be guilt trips, public humiliation, blackmail even. They make you question your own behaviour, punishing you if it falls beneath their ever-shifting standards. It is your fault if they are hurt or angry. In some extreme cases they might even be violent, but more often than not emotional abuse is their weapon of choice.
And you’re left trying to figure out what happened, doing everything in your power to restore the relationship to what it was, blaming yourself.
Typically victims of emotional abuse isolate themselves, refuse the help of the family members or friends. It maybe that they can’t tolerate the suggestion, can’t even process the notion, that their abuser is anything less than perfect.
Even if the victim will acknowledge their abuser’s behaviour, it’s hard to accept that everything which came before was a fiction. It is virtually unbelievable that someone would cause them this sort of pain without feeling sorrow or regret.
And so they refuse to leave, determined to prove to themselves and others that they could never be so stupid to fall for such an ass-hole.
Or they hope they can fix them, bring them back to the person they once believed them to be.
They can’t of course – that person never existed.
How do you help someone escape the vampire?
One of the most awful, infuriating aspects of watching someone you love fall victim to a narcissist is the change you’ll witness in them. They isolate themselves, refuse your help, they come across changed for the worst, arrogant and selfish. I know, I’ve seen it and I’m guilty of becoming angry and upset by it. But this is not who the victim is. It’s just a reflection of their abuser. You have to remind yourself of that all the time.
And the other uncomfortable fact you need to accept? That you have no power over them. Just like a drug addict seeking the fix that will destroy them, they’ll make decisions that will leave you weeping for them. You’ll feel helpless and frustrated. You’ll want to give up or to serve them an ultimatum or to drag them away. But you can’t do any of that.
All you can do is stand fast. Show them love and understanding. Refuse to judge them for their choices. Tell them you will be there when they need you most.
And you wait. Until they are ready.
How to come out of a relationship with a Narcissist?
Apparently when someone ends a relationship with a narcissist the immediate feeling is relief, the anxiety that has ruled their behaviour is suddenly so much less.
But, according to the experts, often leaving an emotionally abusive relationship is not the first step on a linear path to happiness. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is common with victims of mental abuse. This can show itself in a number of ways, including anxiety attacks, an inability to concentrate, obsessive thoughts about the ex-partner, and any range of emotions from fear to despair, anger or sadness.
It is largely due to a process known as ‘deprogramming’ – basically where the victim values his or her partner so much more highly than themselves that they have become detached from their own needs and wants.
Dr. Marietan, an Argentine psychiatrist who has worked with narcissist victims offers some advice on helping someone move on following a break-up: “Only with ZERO contact will you begin your restoration: the victims are de-programmed from having their own thoughts, everything revolves around him for the good and the bad. They will not convince him to admit the bad he has done to them and if he did so, he would only wanted to trap them and hurt them again”. – Dr. Marietan continues –
“The first thing to do is to try and rebuild the victim’s self-esteem and explain the personality of the partner. Once the person understands this, a member of the family or a friend that the victim truly trust should make sure that the zero contact rule is respected, as if the victim will contact the narcissist the circuit will be reinstalled”.
They have to learn to respect themselves again, to give themselves the love that they gave once to a person who exists only in their minds.
And all we can do is to support them in their journey out of the darkness and be ready to help when they’re ready to seek help.
Be patient. It could take months, years even.
But there is always light at the end of a tunnel.