We are living in a complex and complicated world. In our daily exposure to people, ideas and media, it is sometimes difficult to escape the predators lurking in all sorts of places. From the street to the office, narcissists are everywhere, with the estimated number around 10% of population. In my humble opinion it is higher, but I digress…
With such high risk of being exposed, assaulted and undermined to negative people who exist to pimarily suck energy from others, we need to know how to protect ourselves. Here are five ways in which you can spot abuse in real time and remove yourself before your peace is compromised and your precious attention gets sucked into another person’s agenda.
1. You feel like something’s off.
You can’t quite tell what it is, but you feel it nevertheless. Did you know that our gut has more neural connections than the brain? Therefore, the messages that go from the gut to the brain contain massive amounts of data. We therefore are armed with intuitive tools to tune into cues, like eye contact, subtle movments and nuanced speech to dicern whether the person we are facing is genuine or not.
When you feel something’s off, trust it. You are likely right. And even if you’re reading too much into it, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
2. You get obsessed.
Shortly after walking away from an encounter, be it in a club or a conference, you cannot get the person and the conversation out of your head. Your mind is caught in a loop. You are rehashing what happened over and over and over again, which makes it hard for you to focus on everything else going on. At this point, you are essentially running on auto pilot, which makes you vulnerable to negative outside influences.
There are cases in which we have a healthy obsession about something. It could be an inspiring speech, article or visiting with an awesome friend who shared interesting stories that are relatable to you. This is different. Unhealthy onsession is tinged with something that feels like a drug has just been released in your bloodstream. Because it has. It’s likely a combination of dopamine, adrenaline and cortisol, a powerful cocktail stimulated by the predator love bombing you.
3. You’re confused.
This one is closely tied with obsession. As you are mulling over what just happened, your brain is trying to signal to you that there is lack of congruence here. On one hand they said this, but their tone and body language communicated something else. It’s a lot like that fake smile — the lips are stretched but the eyes are stern.
Cluster Bs, which include personality disordered people such as narcissists, borderlines, psychopaths and sociopaths, are split inside. They wear two masks, the kind — that is rehearsed over years of practice, and the cruel, which is natural to them, as deep inside they carry loads of unresolved anger, fear, shame and resentment from childhood. Such people have had their development arrested and so they don’t know how to feel empathy, which is a quality that develops later in life. Worse, because their feelings are so limited, they feel better than everyone else and entitled to use them for their purposes.
Being in their company creates cognitive dissonance in healthy people, which severely stresses the brain. This is because they force you to reconcile the two opposing sides of their personality: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide. If it sounds like a mind fuck is because it is. Our subconscious mind knows that things just don’t make sense and it surges cortisol to prepare you to face a threat. And yet…they are so nice to you! Super confusing.
4. You second guess yourself and feel icky after.
This is the stage at which you begin to turn the confusion and criticism that should be directed at the predator towards yourself. The cognitive dissonance described above gives rise to rationalization. Even though your body is already signalling that something is off, you are using your thinking brain to your detriment, making excuses for the predator instead of listening to your intuition.
This can give rise to emotions that make you feel tainted and icky inside. That’s is how they get under your skin and begin to inject their poison into you after having hijacked your brain. The intial idealization creates an opening. Once your heart and mind are unlocked, the smallest criticism or dig on their part can set of a chain reaction inside your head in which your most sensitive vulnerabilities, whether connected with how you look or how smart you are, come to the surface and haunt you like hungry ghosts.
5. You feel bad about yourself.
This is a more advanced stage of psychological and emotional abuse. Narcissists excel at this. Once you’ve been sufficiently exposed to their twisted minds, whether at work or at home, you have internalized the smallest criticisms to the point where you berate yourself, even when they are not around. You stop liking the way you look, you question your intelligence and perhaps even sanity.
This creates an exorbitant amount of mental and physiological stress. You get exhausted and it becomes hard for you to focus on anything. The self-esteem that you worked so hard to cultivate is eroding right before your eyes. You are also likely losing self-respect.
What to do?
If you recognize any of these abuse stages, do everything and anything you can to get out of the relationship or at least minimize exposure. With Cluster Bs, things only get worse overtime. So the sooner you spot abuse and red flags of a narcissist trying to weasel himself or herself into your life, the better.
If you have been a victim of narcissistic abuse, please know you are not alone and there is a way out. If you know someone who currently suffers from it, please pass this article along.
If you’d like to work with me, I offer email and Skype support.
Click below for the video companion to this article.