“Retreat, rethink and only respond if you need to do so. “
Even the best of people have their limits. Those who are good, kind, generous, loyal, and loving people have their limitations. We are human, after all. When people chip away at you, push all your buttons, use all your insecurities and weaknesses against you, when people shame you and blame you, and send you into a state of fear, anxiety and depression, most people react to try and release all the stress, heartache, pain and emotional build-up, only this then ends up with us feeling worse, as we are left feeling like we are to blame, guilty, and more lost from who we indeed are.
Definition of reactive abuse. Reactive abuse happens when someone who’s been abused, mind games or controlled, either physically or psychologically, reacts to their abuser, standing up for themselves, either by screaming, shouting, slapping, spitting, throwing things, or throwing insults with the words or lashing out physically. That’s all the abuser needs to then blame it all on the one they’ve been provoking.
Why do narcissists use it?
A narcissist will provoke you to get a reaction from you so that they can blame it all on you.
From their reactions, the real victims often then believe they are at fault. The narcissist will only ever tell their side of the story to others in the smear campaign, the one where you looked bad, what you did to them, what you said to them. They’ll not tell people the lead-up to what happened. It’s just further manipulation for the narcissist to play the woe-is-me victim to those around them and make you feel like you’re in the wrong and need to apologise. Abusers love the reactive abuse as it’s proof in their minds that the person who reacted is unstable and crazy, that the one who’s reacted is mentally ill. They will use it against you for years to come. Narcissistic people rewrite their own history, and they change the stories they tell themselves. They are never accountable. They say so many lies they often believe their own lies and reality, and they will use reactive abuse against you for years to come.
They have been known to.
- Install cameras in the home, and edit footage.
- Film reactions and show others.
- Edit their messages out and show others yours.
- Call the family to come help calm you down.
- Call friends to come and help.
- Give you the silent treatment before a special occasion, then when you arrive, they are good, and you look grumpy.
- Threaten you.
- Take people to the doctors to get you on antidepressants.
- Call the police.
At the start, it’s often the innocent party who usually makes excuses for the narcissist’s behaviour and is often left blaming themselves. A narcissist might do this but in another twisted, manipulative way. Where the actual victim might say, In the beginning, “If I’d have not done this, then they wouldn’t have done that.” Or “They are tired.” Things like. “I’ve not been at my best.” A narcissist will say. “I did all I could. They just abused me.” Or “I tried to help. They are crazy.” A narcissist will always play the victim or the hero, yet never the villain for years to come.
Ways they will cause reactive abuse? First, they bait, provoke, then gaslight, project and blame shift. They will bait. Baiting is used by a narcissist to provoke an emotional response from us so that they can have power over our emotions and, ultimately, over our thinking to further their control over us.
Baiting is used to make people feel:-
Which makes it easier for the narcissist to manipulate them further. They will provoke, prod and chip away at you.
- They will start an argument out of fresh air.
- Say backhanded insults.
- Use your insecurities against you.
- Ignore you.
- Lie to you.
- Change events on you.
- Triangulation with other people.
- Say obvious hurtful things.
- Say subtle hurtful things.
- Upset the children.
- Upset you any way they can.
- Threaten you.
- Threaten family and friends.
Then when you get upset, they will escalate the situation until you snap. You’re then left feeling bad for lashing out, saying hurtful things, being angry, and you apologise and do your best to make it up to them. Even though you know, your reactions were wrong. You end up blaming it all on you, not paying attention to the part they played. We can not control what they say or do. Even when the relationships are over, we can, however, learn to control our reactions. They trick you into it.
The worst part is, your reactions are your reactions, fooled or not, and we have to own up and take responsibility for our actions as that’s something narcissists are incapable of and one of the many things that separate us from them. Who started what is irrelevant. If you are with someone who brings out the worst in you (even the most caring people have a breaking point.), a narcissist will argue with anyone and everyone if you’re behaving out of character around certain people, if they bring out a side you don’t like about yourself, it’s time to break free.
Narcissists will trick you into reacting so you are fully aware you are not perfect. ( no one is.) They will threaten to tell others about your reactions. As your Reactions are out of character for you, narcissists know you feel worse about yourself; they wear you down slowly over time, so you no longer feel good enough. You lose your integrity and stay trapped in the cycle of abuse.
Gaslighting is an insidious form of psychological manipulation where the abuser gets the target to question their reality and sanity, and they will gaslight you with things like.
“You’re just insecure.” If you think they are cheating.
“I was only joking.” They were not, but to escape accountability and pin the blame on you.
“It didn’t happen like that.” It did, but they want you to forget what they did.
“You’re losing your mind.” Again so you think you’re going crazy and blame it all on yourself.
“I never did that.” They did. They just want that part wiped from your memory.
Projection is a defensive mechanism commonly used by abusers. They are defending themselves against unconscious traits, beliefs, and actions to escape accountability. It’s a combination of blame-shifting and gaslighting, distracting the target from what is really happening while getting the target to blame themselves. Things like. “You started it, accusing me, who knows what you’ve been up to.” or. “If you didn’t talk down to me, you’re always having a dig at me.”
Blame shifting is when the narcissist has done something wrong. Then they dump all the responsibility onto the target to avoid any feelings of remorse or shame and also to escape accountability. They will play the victim, downplaying or avoiding what they did and making what you did to be far worse. They bring up your tone of voice or how you spoke down to them, as they know you have a caring, emphatic side. They will guilt trip or pity play. There could be the accusations, covert ” If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t.” To the overt ” You hit me, you abused me. I did nothing wrong.” After provoking a reaction from you, where you’d like to communicate with them, some will go into the silent treatment, either the one where they stick around ( the present silent treatment.) or where they disappear. They want you to beg and plead for forgiveness. Silent Treatment is psychological torture and causes great pain to the brain. You’re left looking to yourself as to what you did wrong and how you can make it up to them, and when you do, they’ll bring back the intermittent niceness as a reinforcement to your mind that you were wrong. They were right, leaving them to believe their realities and you questioning yours.
This all leads to cognitive dissonance. The target ends up full of self-blame, self-doubt, feeling like they are the narcissist, feeling unworthy, feeling grateful, that the narcissist who’s a bully and a con artist will take you back, changing who you are time and time again to please them, trying to help them while you slowly lose who you are. When you can see different realities, one that matches your beliefs and another that is continuously being rewritten on you, it’s hard to see it while you are living it. It takes time to work it out once you break free. Suppose you’re still with or around someone who brings out the worst in you when you think. “This isn’t me, and this isn’t how I behave.” That’s when you have to take note of the people you are surrounding yourself with and change something when you’re not true to yourself and when you are constantly questioning yourself. Your own integrity, this is what narcissistic people want. They want you to be confused, to feel like you’re going crazy, to keep you out of reality and in their reality, unfortunately, most become in such a trace that by the time they start to wake up, they are trauma bonded, scared, or don’t have the means to leave, plenty have left scared, got out safely, left with nothing and are living much happier lives, it’s all taking that first step, make a choice for you, for your health, wealth and happiness, change one thing at a time, and it’ll change everything for you.
What can you do? If you can no contact, get out safely and go no contact. If you are still with them, or for whatever reason can not go any contact, have children with them? Is a boss? (If you can change jobs, do.) or would mean cutting other family members out, respond, do not react. The best method is the three R’s, Retreat, Rethink, respond, and only respond if you really need to. Keep your response to the point, say it once and do not let them take you off-topic. Avoid being alone around them. Avoid spending too much time around them. Stop the blame game, and it’s the past. It’s irrelevant now. Blaming keeps it in the present. You need to focus on the here and now and create new visions and dreams for you. Holding onto anger and resentment, guilt, pain, and regret will only harm your future. Let it all go for no one else other than you. Learning all about the disorder, who they are, and why they do what they do, gives you a better understanding of healing and how to handle ones in your life on the low end of the spectrum, also how to avoid them in the future, you also need to focus on building your life back up, to who you want to be, and how you want to live.
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Elizabeth Shaw is not a Doctor or a therapist. She is a mother of five, a blogger, a survivor of narcissistic abuse, and a life coach, She always recommends you get the support you feel comfortable and happy with. Finding the right support for you. Elizabeth has partnered with BetterHelp (Sponsored.) where you will be matched with a licensed councillor, who specialises in recovery from this kind of abuse.