Truth: you are unbreakable.
I hear this often in my coaching practice.
I’m exhausted. And yet, I can’t sleep.
I can’t work or focus on anything.
It’s like I’ve become a zombie, a shell of myself.
Yes, the exhaustion... It turns out it’s an effective tactic that pathological manipulators use to control, possess and eventually break you.
In this article, I will break down the process of how they do this. But first, I want you to know something very important. The truth is that while abusers can push you to the edge of exhaustion and sanity, they can never break you. The True Self that pulses within you is indestructible.
The Abuser’s Secret Agenda
The abuser thrives on drama. This started years before you met them. Years of living an inflamed existence had conditioned their body to adapt. It’s like their nervous system is part burnt out and part addicted to the adrenaline.
So in order to feel anything, and therefore connect to their sense of ‘self’ (or more accurately, self-importance), they need to constantly stir up drama and arguments. And they don’t care what time it is or that you have a life with a list of responsibilities to attend to. No. From the abuser’s perspective, your life belongs to them.
When you get involved with a pathologically self-centered person, you can be sure that your whole world will soon be revolving around them. They will begin their courting process, aptly called love bombing, to hook you in on fleeting pleasures and empty promises, and then use a slew of tactics to groom you to become the person that they want you to be.
One thing is certain. It is very difficult to sustain a level of sanity and maintain your self-care when you are being woken up at 4 am with a cry wolf phone call, coerced to having sex or pulled into a word salad argument. But. When you are tired, you get desperate and are much easier to manipulate.
This is what’s used in military training and cults. They push you to a breaking point, until you willingly surrender to their orders and suggestions. Until you give away your power. Some may even tell you that you need to give up your ego because it is bad and in the way. Truth is, your ego is not in your way but in the way of them having their way with you. What you need is not a weaker but a stronger ego, so that you can maintain your sense of self and uphold your boundaries when an abuser is trying to take you down by implying that there is something terribly wrong with you. You get my point?
I want to add a quick note here that abusers such as the pathological narcissist, charming psychopath, people using their victimhood to control and manipulate, and extreme control freaks out out to destroy anyone who disagrees with them come in all shapes, sizes, genders, races and ages. There is no one particular ‘type’ of a person who does this. Same for recipients of abuse. It can happen to anyone.
So how does the abuser do this? How do they turn a confident person into a pile of mess? Let’s break down the process into 5 steps.
One. They make you feel needed until you desperately need them back.
Abusers have a knack for telling sad stories that tug at your heartstrings. They will manufacture moments of intimacy to share with you the things they allegedly never told anyone before. Because you are so special. Because you care. Because let’s face it, you are clearly their soulmate.
By doing this, the manipulator ensures that all your empathy and attachment channels are wide open and you are fully receptive to their suggestions. This is the hook. The beginning of a fairytale from hell.
And because it feels so good to be needed and wanted and seen and heard and met on what feels like a really deep level, you answer the barrage of calls coming in. You reply to the hundreds of text messages that keep rolling in like a news feed. Heck, at some point you are the one who feels like a stalker, checking their facebook or instagram or whatever.
As your attachment grows, so does your insecurity. Your fear of loss and abandonment rears its head. The need to have them close deepens… Without them next to you, you feel purposeless and empty. Your sense of identity is on a shaky ground.
Two. They need to possess/groom you.
Now that they know they have you in their grasp, they will withdraw a bit, just to test you a little. To see at which point you react. They are looking for hot buttons they will push to push you into panic to prevent you from gaining clarity. Because when you are in an emotional turmoil, your intuition and reason are harder to access.
The grooming process is a stage where by using a variety of tactics that induce pleasure or pain, the manipulator molds you to become the person that they want.
And who is it that they want? They want someone who will cater to their every whim. Someone who will listen but not say much. Someone who will anticipate and fulfill their needs but not have any needs of their own. Someone with a weak ego and soft, permeable boundaries.
But here’s the kicker: once they have you do all that, they’ll quickly get bored and lose all respect. Because now they want someone strong, confident and secure. They want someone independent but also who will need them just enough, so they can maintain control.
Do you get where this is going? They want the perfect partner that doesn’t exist. More. They want you to be able to read their mind a change on a dime to adjust to how they feel. They want you to be available 24/7 and give them all you’ve got. There is no room for the real you. Forget it. That has to go.
Pathological abusers do not treat people like human beings with feelings and needs. To them, they are objects, extensions of their own weak ego that never had a chance to properly develop.
Three. They deprive you of your right to have your own life.
While most of the people I work with admit that before they got into the toxic relationship, they knew how to care for themselves and had a supportive social circle to boot, they lose the ability to self-care and connect with people in a healthy way for some time after.
Why does this happen? Because you were systematically punished for having any life that was outside the abuser’s control. S/he ridiculed you for drinking your green smoothies, you couldn’t go to the gym because it was full of sluts or horny men who will hit on you, your parents suck and all your friends are all jealous freaks who are trying to destroy your special relationship so you should just ditch them.
This is why it is so hard to practice self-care while in the relationship and after it is over. You got punished for it, so your subconscious mind associates things that used to nurture and sustain you with fear and danger. The positive is cancelled out by the negative, neutralizing your self-care into oblivion. It’s easier to just stay in bed and beat yourself up for being a bad person.
And while you’re at it, since your cortisol levels are through the roof, you can’t even get a good night’s sleep… So your exhaustion deepens.
Four. They make you addicted.
This is where their own need to feel needed gets its fix. You remember, at first they will appeal to your need to feel needed and wanted. That’s their way in. But in order for them to really get to the gold, it’s critical that the tables turn as soon as possible and now you are the one needing them. It takes way less work on their part, can you see that?
They make you addicted to them by making you feel and think that your life will be meaningless without them in your life. That no one will ever love you the way they love you. That you are worthless unless you are with them. They will implant these thoughts within you by serving you with criticisms you take in because you trust them. Another way they will do that is by implying this with their hot-cold relating patterns.
So, if you fail to be there when they need you, you will suffer the consequences by having to feel he pain of abandonment. This will play on your deepest vulnerabilities we all have, as we have all been afraid of being abandoned when we were little and wholly dependent on our caretakers. This is an old wound the abuser exploits.
The manipulation can be easily decoded when you gather enough strength and resolve to leave. They will flip on a dime and revert to step one of this process, showering you with praise and reaffirming your specialness. You see, the truth is that they are the ones deathly afraid of losing you. This is why they need to constantly stimulate your fear of abandonment and keep killing your identity so you put up with their endless bullshit behavior and continue to serve them.
Five. They want to destroy you.
The core toxic emotion motivating abusers is envy. In other words, if they can’t have what you have, you shouldn’t be able to have it either. Doesn't that sound like a kid who wants the other kid’s toy and because she can’t have it, she will break it and cause the other kid to cry?
Except, we are not dealing with toys here. We are dealing with layers of being that comprise your core identity. We are dealing with your values, character traits, qualities of spirit. Since abusers don’t have access to those things inside them, they seek them outside themselves in other people. They want to steal them, absorb them. But because they can’t absorb your innate joy, integrity or appetite for life by osmosis, sooner or later they will get pissed.
After they put you on a pedestal, they will relish taking you down. They will devalue and denigrate you. They will make fun of you in front of other people. They will make you do things outside of your comfort zone to prove your love for them and then shame you for it. They will argue with you at 4 am in the morning so that you can’t function and will flunk that exam or job interview. They will sabotage your relationship with your child. They will alienate your friends and make you so exhausted and afraid, you won’t be able to function. They will destroy your sense of self-worth.
You see, no wonder your brain feels foggy, you are stressed and depressed and feel like your life it not worth living. Your mind has been hijacked by negative thoughts, your emotions have gone haywire and your hormones are dysregulated because your body has been running on cortisol.
But this is not the end of your story. In fact, it is only the beginning.
This horrific experience can become a catalyst to your greatest transformation. I know this may sound like a long stretch from where you are now, but trust me. I’ve been there myself and have come out stronger, calmer and more confident than ever.
What can you do to come out of this? The answer will depend on you. It is your journey after all. The place where you want to get to is calm and balance so that you can reconnect with your intuition and be able to think clearly. You also need to feel safe so that your healing can begin.
Here is the good news. No matter how much the abuser tried to destroy you, they simply can’t do it. Inside you is an ever alive, pulsating essence of your True Self that no amount of manipulation can ever touch. Sure, the experience will cloud your vision and obstruct the view of your inner sun. But these are just clouds. Clouds based on lies and with time and healing work they will dissipate and you will be able to return home — back to yourself.
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If you are suffering from the shock of being subjected to narcissistic abuse, have a look into my FREE three-step SOS program available on my website.