Why is it so Difficult to Stay Away from the Narcissist?

Lisa E. Scott's picture

Many of us don’t understand why it's so hard to stay away from the Narcissist even after we learn how toxic they are to us. Aside from their obvious charm, it's important to recognize how the Narcissist brainwashes us. I know it sounds dramatic, but it's true. Narcissists literally brainwash us. They know exactly how to keep us coming back with the lure, the promise and the hook. Understanding how they do this is helpful to your recovery.

Narcissists are master manipulators. They know how to make us feel guilty, so we will come back for absolution. They know how to make us feel sorry for them, so we will offer to help them. They know how to promise great things, so we will return in hopes that it will be different this time. They know how to make us doubt ourselves, so we will seek validation from them. Ultimately, they have trained us to return to them over and over again.

There is a principle in behaviorism called Random Reinforcement, which explains how inconsistent responses to identical behavior can lead to addiction. This same principle is precisely why slot machines and gambling are dangerously addictive. You get a big reward for a certain behavior on one occasion; other times that same behavior leads to a huge loss or punishment.

The thrill that the next go-around might be the big pay-off or reward for a certain behavior keeps us coming back for more. We chase that high from the last time we were rewarded. Being in a relationship with a Narcissist is like a roller-coaster ride with incredible highs and unbelievable lows. It is exhilarating and exciting one moment, and demoralizing and demeaning the next.

We get caught in a cycle of chasing that next high, hoping that if we weather the storm, the next moment will bring the return of the good again. Unfortunately, the good never returns permanently. The Narcissist knows by rewarding us intermittently, we remain hooked. They keep us on our toes guessing and always ensure we are left wanting more from them.

Narcissists are brilliant manipulators and know what they’re doing every step of the way. They enjoy punishing us more than they enjoy rewarding us. It is all part of a master plan to keep us under their control. It is part of the lure (the hook) and they use it to play us like pawns.

After spending years with a Narcissist, we begin to doubt our ability to make decisions. The Narcissist has controlled and directed our every move for years. They train and condition us to look to them for answers, which ultimately strips us of our ability to make any choices for ourselves. As a result, we become terrified of being alone and don't trust our own instincts. Narcissists also isolate us from our family and friends so we become dependent on them and have lost our support system.

Stockholm Syndrome is a term used to describe a psychological phenomenon where hostages bond with their captors. The syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm where bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to August 28, 1973.

In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors and even defended them after they were released. The term Stockholm Syndrome was coined by the criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot who assisted the police during the robbery. Frank Ochberg originally defined it to aid in the management of hostage situations and describes it as: “A primitive gratitude for the gift of life.”

There is still debate as to what specific factors contribute to the development of Stockholm Syndrome, but the goal of every abuser is the same – to ensure the victim becomes reliant and dependent on him for survival. Continued contact between the perpetrator and the hostage, a long duration before resolution and emotional abuse vs. physical abuse are key components. These are the very components at play when in a long-term relationship with a Narcissist, which helps explain why it is so difficult for us to stay away.

This dynamic is also often referred to as "Trauma Bonding" because the Narcissist has conditioned us to believe we can’t live without him. He wants to keep us confused and coming back to him so he can keep using us forever. Here, on The Path Forward, we were refer to it as "Crazy-Making." Bottom line, because of this phenomenon, it takes a lot of time and effort for us to finally realize we are actually better off on our own.

It is precisely why "No Contact" is the only way to break free from the hold the Narcissist has over us. No one understands like those who have been through it themselves and the support we give one another here is essential to our recovery. We must deprogram from the Narcissist in order to move forward and No Contact is the only way to do this.

Celebrate every moment, hour, day and week you maintain No Contact from your ExNarc because it brings you one step further to the freedom you deserve. Do not punish yourself for setbacks as you are only human. Recovery is not perfect. It's about progress, not perfection. If you step off course, do not dwell on it, but instead be honest about why you think it happened, forgive yourself and quickly get yourself back on track.

“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
― C.S. Lewis

Comments

caseykc's picture

same town

I'm new to this site. It amazes me how the stories are so similar and describe the patterns as if you knew my narcissist.
No contact is very difficult when his family and new girlfriend are on the same and next block. I stopped sending angry texts, deleted phone numbers and e-mails but passing him and seeing him parked at those locations still upset me. As a matter of fact all of his ex's are in the same town. I'M SURROUNDED. He finally stopped driving by my house. I act like I don't know him when I pass him on the road. I hate seeing him happy playing family with his new victim when he discarded me and disregarded my feeling. Any suggestions?

Butterfly1313's picture

Wrestling with this right now

My N did a great job of convincing me that he is the most wonderful man on earth. I know now it's not remotely true, but I still struggle with wondering how I will ever find anyone to compare with him. During the honeymoon phase we were so compatible, so in sync, and we laughed so much. I told a friend that I felt like I had been having steak for two years and now I was doomed to a lifetime of baloney. She reminded me he is NOT steak, more like Spam masquerading as steak. Thank you so much for this reminder that it was all an act, and that he was simply a masterful manipulator.

kelliejean123's picture

I feel the same!

I feel as if my narc was perfect and it was my fault. I keep saying maybe if I stopped nagging I would be changing him, maybe if I did this or that etc it would fix things. I keep thinking hell change for the next woman and she'll never see the sides that we saw and it gets me anxious too. It's nice to know how similar we all are to eachother. I'm on this site everyday because it helps me feel better.

Amberstone's picture

I feel like I am in the same

I feel like I am in the same boat there were times when I didnt know if I was going to be able to go on after him. I wonder if I will ever find anyone like him at least the fake part of him, which in the beginning was great. I still cry alot because a part of me want him back even though I know he is no good for me

Lisa E. Scott's picture

I love your friend's advice, Butterfly!!!!

Ha, your friend is spot on when she says he's not steak, he is "Spam masquerading as steak." So true!!!!

It's so important to remember that what we do not miss him. We miss the idea of him. We miss who we thought he was and who he pretended to be and nothing more. We do not miss him. He is nothing more than Spam...baloney because he is a fake, a fraud and a phoney.

Like you said, Butterfly, they do a great job of convincing us of how amazing they are, but it's all an act. Good for you for finally seeing through his true colors. Eventually, they expose themselves for who they really are because keeping up an act like that forever is not possible.

Trust me, you will find someone who is capable of real, genuine love who deserves you as much as you deserve him. As Janie says, stay true to you and it will happen. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love your friend's description of him. Please don't forget it! You deserve nothing but the best.

Love & Light,
Lisa

Crw's picture

Lisa, I am new here and to

Lisa, I am new here and to the narcissistic world. I come here and read every day. I am inspired by the women who have come so far and I so badly want to be one of them but I am so scared . . Terrified. I stayed married for fear of putting myself out there but when I finally made the choice, which I do not regret at all, I found exactly what I was looking for. Even though I know it's wrong, I'm again scared to move on. The thought of not talking to him puts me in panic mode.

Lisa E. Scott's picture

Crw

Hi Crw,

Welcome to the Path Forward. We're so glad you found us and are on the road to recovery now. We all know how you feel right now as we've been there ourselves. The first few weeks and months out of the narcissistic relationship are terrifying because we've become so reliant on the narcissist to validate us. Trust me, I know exactly how you feel.

Do not be ashamed of this or feel as though this will never change. It will change, believe me, it will. It takes time, but you can deprogram from the narcissist. They do such a brilliant job of brainwashing us that we believe we need them in our lives to validate everything we do. However, the longer you maintain No Contact and work the steps here, the sooner you will realize that you don't need the narcissist or anyone else, for that matter, to validate you.

The key to recovery is to discover ourselves again and trust our own instincts and judgment again. We lose ourselves in the narcissist because they cause us to doubt ourselves. They do this on purpose - it is how they hook us.

Trust me, if you work on finding yourself again, you will realize you do not need his validation any longer and you will no longer long to talk to him. In fact, you will find his opinion to be worthless and begin to see how horribly he manipulated you in order to maintain control of you.

We all know how difficult it is to break free from the hold the narcissist has over you, but trust me, stay here and trust the process and the people here who are cheering you on. You are never alone. Together, we can help one another find the path forward.

Love & Light,
Lisa

kelliejean123's picture

Extreme relief.

Being on your blog Lisa brings me extreme relief. Not to mention this is the third time my narc had put me through this, but I decided that it will be the last. Of course I still have the urges to contact, but I keep telling myself that if I contact I'm going to have nothing but sadness and rejection from the narc because it's part of his ploy and manipulation. He told his friends he can never have kids with me because I'm not "genetically fit" I do come from a family that has problems but I'm completely normal and strong. I remember how I spent hours writing paragraphs to him on what needs to be fixed in our relationship and communicating and working in our relationship and his response was, "we'll really the problem is your freakouts, calm down" or hed say, "the reason for breakup is tiredness let it go Kellie" even after telling him how isolated and lonely I felt while I was with him and that I was scared of loosing him. Then the next day we finally talked about it and he said he would give me flowers and let me talk to him all night but he needs a coffee first because I'm too fast to keep up with and he's too "slow and calm" then I said you don't have to spend your money on me just please fix the issues. (He never spent his money on me anyway, or took me to dinner etc) 5 minutes later he tells me we either take a break (which he took from me every other week) or breakup and see other people. And I said no I'll slow down I'll give you your break if you want just please don't throw away a year relationship on this. And he said "your young Kellie go to the bar and meet people I know that's what girls do" and I said but I want you, not them please j** don't throw this away. And he said if I want to see other people Kellie I will, goodbye. Then stopped talking to me. It's been a week and 3 days since NC with the narc, last time he waited a month to try and hunt me down. and what's worse is he deleted all of our pictures of us on his Facebook except for 3: the promise right he gave me, (which was fake), the picture of me kissing his cheek, and the picture of me sitting next to him. But he blocked me and everything. But I just don't know why he kept 3 of the 6..? This is a struggle that I'm trying to get through. I keep telling myself he won't change for the next woman and so on because no one will be good enough to him. I wake up sad but I distract myself by working, going out with friends, and school. I know I have a lot of work to do, but I'm trying my best. Much love, -kell.

Crw's picture

Lisa, Thank you so much. I

Lisa,

Thank you so much. I hope one day I will be able to look back on this and not feel the sadness or embarrassment but rather smile at my strength.

Queenbee23's picture

The first steps...on my own again.

So, this is my first post. I cannot begin to describe the feeling of relief that came over me when I started reading all this valuable information on your site. I am buying your book, Lisa.

So, that's what that inconsitency in his treatment of me is all about!

I was and still am a very independent woman--Thankfully, I never totally surrendered.. However, I have been in a relationship with a MASTER Narc. I thought I was "stronger" than the other women he was with. Boy, was I wrong. I never doubted myself or had any ill feelings toward myself until the 4th year into my relationship with him. Soon after I moved in, he systematically started to break my spirit and took my independence. I was headed down a lonely, dark road of a whimpy and formless woman.

Until, the ultimatum. The manipulation and challenge of the century.... You see, I'm a single Mom, and my son lived with his Dad for a few years, while I lived with the Narc. This past summer, my son asked me if he could come live with us. He's my son, of COURSE he can live with us.

NOT ok with my Narc. He has to be front and center and I didn't even see it.

He actually asked me to choose between my son and himself. As soon as I chose my son full-time, he asked me to "get your son and get your own place". WHAT? That's my son. Well, I don't believe he thought I would actually go through with it. So, I did.

Exactly 30 days later, Mr. Big Shot corporate executive, lost his job. Karma.

I am moving forward, but have moments when I miss and love what I thought I had. One foot in front of the other.

I have one question. Once I start asserting myself with my Narc, what type of treatment should I now expect from him?

Lisa E. Scott's picture

Good for you, Queenbee!

I'm so glad you got away from him, Queenbee! Good for you!

Isn't it mind boggling? To think, a grown man would make you choose between him or your son is so inconceivable, yet so typical of a narcissist. What a pathetic child Mr. Big Shot is and now that he's lost his job, he must be dying for someone to mother him. Karma is definitely a bitch, isn't it?

I'm so sorry for what you have been through, but so glad you have now seen his true colors and can get away before you spend another day with this child of a man.

Now that you have started asserting yourself, he will try everything in his power to make you question yourself and shift blame. I suggest reading our blogs on Hoovering and be prepared for all of his attempts to get you to react to him.

The best way to respond is no response at all - No Contact. Indifference is the best form of revenge. A narc cannot handle the fact that he cannot control your emotions anymore. The reason for this is all covered in the blogs and hopefully will help you understand why this is the best approach to moving on. Please know you're not alone and we are here for you during this difficult time. You're on the path forward now!

Love & Light,
Lisa

TruthbeginsToday's picture

Took away something more while reading this again.

" to ensure the victim becomes reliant and dependent on him for survival. Continued contact between the perpetrator and the hostage, a long duration before resolution and emotional abuse vs. physical abuse are key components"

WOW, this is exactly what the psychopath wanted for me and so does my family.

This opens up a whole new perspective for me and I wonder.. HOW much more will there be that I could not see. YIKES what a long, eye opening, ever changing path this is!
I have work to do. It looks like more and more work everyday.
It's like, once they have their HOOKS in you .. it's nearly impossible to get out..unless someone helps you.

Thank you for all of your hard work.

TRUTH

MissDaisy's picture

I always prided myself on not

I always prided myself on not having an addictive personality ..... when it came to smoking, alcohol, gambling, etc.

I never realized how addicted I was to the N until I found this forum. It has been a hard road but at 7 months out of the relationship I now see what I had become - a relationship addict. It didn't matter how damaging the relationship was I needed my fix.

Today this blog helped remind me how sick I was in the relationship. Still have bad days but I always come back here to the Path Forward to regroup my thoughts and find the support I need to keep on the Path.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Mountain's picture

Caught in the cycle

Random reinforcement is so confusing!! He is withdrawn right now and acting very subdued bc he knows I am "on to him"...but the random reinforcement catches me so off guard. Dammit.

fjk's picture

reminder

This is the reminder I needed. I'm feeling great these past few days, taking back what I can control.
Your website and blogs are life savers, literally!
There are many smart women on here who have gone through the process and it's awesome to have access to their experience and coping strategies, and that they are willing to share them!
xx to everyone

Hopelessdenial's picture

This is a great blog. I

This is a great blog. I needed this today! It truly helps me to feel blessed also. I am trying to focus on the positives in my life instead of reliving my time with the N. Yes we are only human, we make mistakes but it is how we deal with these mistakes that matter. We cannot beat ourselves up if we fall off the path we just have to get back on it!

I no longer feel jealousy towards him and his continuing relationship. In fact when my mind wanders and I occasionally think maybe she is getting the good parts I remember his manipulation. I know he has no faithful bone in his body and no one can change this. Whenever I tried to break things off a couple of times he would say "But you cant talk to anyone about this, I am the only one who understands you". Master manipulation! He had me in a compromising position and knew I was too ashamed to tell anyone about it.

Dont doubt the power of their manipulation. It is so clear to me now that I am out. Wishing everyone strength today!

Better Now's picture

Hopelessdenial

I understand about being jealous over exN's new relationship. I have been doing NC and doing great until I heard he is engaged already . . . He fought committment with me tooth and nail, but is moving her right in. I started to remember the honeymoon phase and started obsessing . . . wondering why I could never do anything to make him happy and now this new girl is probably having the time of her life. My ego totally bruised -- how could he move on so fast . . . . anyway. . . I have forced myself to remember all the silent treatments, rudeness, manipulation, selfishness, etc. and know he can only be good for so long. I am still back and forthing, but it helps me at times to have compassion for new OW. I get to start healing now. It could be years before she breaks free.

ipodrunner's picture

Maybe your EXNC is desperate

Maybe your EXNC is desperate and doesn't want to lose his supply. Remember, they can't be alone so they move fast. I think after so many NC breakups they get more and more desperate and move even faster? I know mine was writing intimate emails with a woman right after we broke up. It made me sick to read. But again, they are in need of their drug. We can no longer give it to them. And that my friend is something to be thankful for:)

Lisa E. Scott's picture

Gettingbetter

Exactly, Gettingbetter! You are so much better off now and the poor OW is headed for months or years of prison in the chains of this narc.

Never forget how horribly he treated you and know that this is inevitably how he will treat anyone who tries to love him.

You deserve so much more and should be so proud of yourself for breaking free! It's your turn at happiness now. You go girl!!! ;)

Love & Light,
Lisa

Better Now's picture

Thanks so much Lisa! Just

Thanks so much Lisa!

Just seeing your comments now. It means a lot to me to hear your response and encouragement. So thankful for this site.

Lisa E. Scott's picture

GettingBetter!

You're most welcome and so glad you found us! Keep up the good work! You deserve it!

Love & Light,
Lisa

Lisa E. Scott's picture

So happy you're on the right path, ladies!

You should be so proud of your progress, Truth and HD!!! Thank you for your comments and sharing your experience.

So true, HD: "We are only human, we make mistakes but it is how we deal with these mistakes that matter. We cannot beat ourselves up if we fall off the path we just have to get back on it!"

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in life is that we CANNOT control WHAT HAPPENS to us in life, but we CAN control HOW WE RESPOND to it.

It is how we respond to what is thrown at us that matters in life. We have to let go of any illusion that we can control what happens to us. Life is messy and full of ups and downs. How we respond to life is what ultimately determines our long-term happiness and success.

We CANNOT control when the Narc will hoover or reach out, but we CAN control whether or not we choose to validate or respond to him/her. It's that personal decision we make that dictates how we will feel about ourselves the rest of the day.

We CANNOT control what someone says about us, but we CAN control how we allow them to make us feel. Focus on what you CAN control and let go of the rest. It is this acceptance that has helped me keep my sanity in life.

There's a saying that success in life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. Please remember this next time your ex-narc comes a knocking. Try not to get frustrated by the fact that it happened, but instead focus on the fact that you now have a choice as to how you will respond. Embrace your power to choose how you will respond and regain control of the situation.

Love & Light,
Lisa

Janie53's picture

Bump, Lisa!

Bump, Lisa, this says is all. We have so many healthy choices and choosing ourselves is the absolute healthiest! I will never have it any other way.

Stay true to you!
xoxo

Janie

TruthbeginsToday's picture

Interesting for sure!

After reading this, I can see how fortunate and blessed my life is now. I believe I am on the right path.

No wonder it's such hard bond to break!

It makes me wonder how excruciatingly difficult it would be to find freedom from the N's without help.

It makes me appreciate where I am and the help I've received all the more.

I could certainly relate to the part where you described and explained why I struggled with making decisions and became so confused.

I remember thinking that I was almost gone at that point.
My PTSD therapist recently confirmed that she also thought so.

I'm still here and making such good progress.
Thank you Lisa!

Truth

zeldasar's picture

When will the logic catch up with the heart?

It's has been over a month NC. Although, I have gone many more months in the past with NC, I know this one has to take for good. Why do I feel so sad when I know what how he tormented me and how out of control I felt? I definitely suffer from CD and feel like a need a "fix". I read and read, which helps reinforce NC but it still isn't easy. It's such a painful lesson to learn. The D&D is awful but in a way I know he is doing me a favor. I just want to be on the other side.

Having a bad day.

Lisa E. Scott's picture

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Retraining the Brain

Thanks for the bump, Janie, and thanks for posting such wonderful daily affirmations. You are so inspiring!

FKJ - You're right, there are so many smart women on here who have gone through this process. I'm so grateful they share their experience and stories with everyone here so we can learn from them. Knowing you're not alone and talking to others who "get it" is so critical to our recovery.

Zeldasar - You are right, he is doing you a MAJOR favor! You are so much better off without him in your life. Please remember that. You deserve so much more and I know you know it, but it does take time. I wish I could tell you exactly how much time you will need to get out of the fog, but everyone is different. Please be patient with yourself and trust the process. Work the steps and "stay true to you" as Janie says! ;) Finding yourself again is key to recovery, as well as retraining your brain. You must deprogram from him. I highly recommend "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy" in order to help you deprogram from his manipulation and begin to change your thought patterns. CBT is the best form of therapy for helping reduce your obsessive thoughts about him and begin to re-establish healthy patterns of thinking again. Please do yourself a favor and find yourself a licensed CBT professional in your area to help you retrain your brain. I strongly believe this will help you move your recovery along for sure.

Love & Light,
Lisa

teentsil's picture

CBT is the BOMB!

I agree fully about cognitive behavioral therapy! Coincidentally, the therapist I chose does CBT and it has been a HUGE help and inspiration for me. It's more of a common sense approach to life. I've felt SO empowered each time I left a session.

I'm finally feeling strong enough to take control of the train wreck that his my life and make something GOOD of it and move forward. It's scary. And I might be living with much less monetarily but I'm willing to give it a go! And I'm actually excited about it.

For anyone listening, don't be hesitant about seeking therapy and do look for someone who does CBT. As much as I've cried through my sessions, I never once left without feeling I'd gained something significant. It's worth every penny.

Lisa E. Scott's picture

Thanks for sharing, Teentstil!

Thank you soooooooooo much for sharing your experience with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Tenntstil. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

CBT is incredibly empowering and it works. I cannot recommend it more highly. It is different than standard psychotherapy and is exactly what I suggest anyone coming out of a relationship with a narcissist do immediately.

Why? Because it "retrains negative patterns of thinking" that we get into after being brainwashed by the narcissist. It is absolutely critical that we deprogram from the narcissist and "retrain our brain"!!!

Please do NOT be hesitant to try this, as Teentstil said. While it will challenge you, it works and you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Thanks again for sharing your experience and success with CBT, Teentstil. Very inspiring and so happy for you!!!! XO

Love & Light,
Lisa