The narcissist craves attention, and they will go to great lengths to obtain it. Initially, during the idealisation stage of the relationship, they are loving, kind, and generous. They mirror your actions and shower you with positive attention to gain your admiration. They create an illusion of a perfect relationship where everything seems to align perfectly, and you are filled with positive emotions towards them.
However, as the relationship progresses, the narcissist devalues your positive attention. They begin to believe that it is not as good as it once was, and they place the blame on you. This marks the beginning of the devaluation stage, where the narcissist seeks negative attention from you. They may mistreat you, provoke you, shout at you, give you silent treatments, or engage in gaslighting to elicit a reaction from you. Their aim is to make you angry and frustrated, causing you to doubt yourself and your own sanity. By blaming you for their toxic behaviour, they manipulate you into thinking that you are the problem.
This leads us to the third stage, intermittent reinforcement. The narcissist doesn’t want to keep the devaluation up for too long because they fear losing you. They want to prevent you from realising the truth or leaving them. Therefore, they alternate between devaluation and idealisation. When they return to the idealisation stage, you feel relieved and thrilled that the person you fell in love with is back. Your positive attention towards them is overflowing, and your doubts are momentarily erased. The narcissist capitalises on this relief and intensifies your efforts to please them, slowly causing you to lose yourself in the process. They manipulate you into thinking that the rough patch was your fault and that the person you initially met is still there. This alternating pattern of stages two and three can last for years, leaving you in a constant state of confusion.
The fourth stage, the preventive stage, is reached when you start to realise that something is amiss. You might begin researching their behaviour or seek professional help to understand what is happening to you. You may reach a point where you have had enough and want out. At this stage, you might inform the narcissist of your intentions, hoping that it will lead to positive change. However, the narcissist will go overboard with the idealisation stage, using guilt trips and promises to change. Yet, these are all just acts to prevent you from leaving. They cannot let you leave; instead, they plan on leaving you. While appearing to make an effort to work things out, they are secretly looking for a replacement behind your back, further confusing you when you discover their infidelity.
Stage five is the discard stage. The narcissist abruptly leaves, often because they have found someone new. You are left in a state of bewilderment, as you thought you were working things out together, only to be blindsided. If you try to warn the new person about the narcissist’s true nature, the narcissist will paint you as the jealous, bitter, obsessed, crazy ex, as they have already manipulated the new person’s perception of you.
In stage six, known as the hoover stage, the narcissist tries to return. They seek forgiveness and claim they were not thinking clearly. Their aim is to convince you to give the relationship another chance. If they ended the relationship, they believe you want them back, and if you ended it, they assume you will want them back.
Stage seven occurs when the narcissist realises that you are not going to take them back. In desperation, they may resort to threats, smear campaigns, and various tactics to provoke a reaction from you. Regardless of the amount of time that has passed, they will make every effort to regain control over you.
It is important to recognise these stages and patterns of behaviour in order to break free from the cycle of abuse. Remember that you deserve better and that you are special and worthy. If you have managed to leave the narcissist, it is vital to maintain no contact and focus on your own healing and growth. Remain strong, believe in yourself, and take small steps towards building the future you desire. You are capable of overcoming the pain and starting anew.
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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.