If you have ever had the misfortune to be in a relationship with a narcissist, you will know that the narcissistic abuse cycle is painful and confusing, and that it can be tough to break free and heal.
In this blog post, I will explore the three stages of the cycle: idealisation, devaluation, and rejection.
The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle Step One – Idealisation
During the idealisation stage the narcissist puts the victim on a pedestal and treats them like they are the love of their life.
This initial stage is based on tactics known as mirroring and love bombing.
Mirroring is when the narcissist copies the behaviour and values of their target.
For example, if you love animals, they will declare that they do so too. They are also likely to share a touching story of their beloved childhood pet. This will be totally fictional, but when has honesty ever come in the way of a narcissist achieving their aim?
If you are an independent person, they will initially give you space. They will also praise you for all your hobbies and pursuits, saying that they admire how active you are.
And if they find out that you love Chinese food, they will claim that their favourite restaurant ever is the local Chinese food joint.
The narcissist is essentially trying to make themselves out to be your perfect match. They find out what makes you tick, and mirror it back at you in order to gain your trust. In the process you are swept off your feet, totally convinced that you are soul mates.
This mirroring is accompanied by love bombing. The narcissist will shower you with compliments, gifts and attention, and will also make grandiose gestures to impress you.
Obviously the victim is totally unaware that this honeymoon phase is just a ploy to get them hooked. They cannot fathom that what they think is a relationship is in fact just an act. As a result, they fall head-over-heels in love with the narcissist.
In truth, however, what is happening is that the narcissist is simply grooming them for the next stage of the cycle.
The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle Step Two – Devaluation
The second stage of the narcissistic abuse cycle is devaluation. During this phase, the narcissist begins to take their partner for granted and starts to treat them badly.
The mask finally slips and the narcissist shows his or her true face. They will also open their toolbox and start using different narcissistic abuse tactics, including:
- Gaslighting: This is when the narcissist starts to play mind games with you, making you question your own sanity. The narcissist will lie, deny and distort the truth in order to make you doubt yourself. For example, if you confront them about something they did wrong, they will insist that you are mistaken or that it never happened at
- Abuse by proxy: The narcissist starts using other people to abuse you, either physically or emotionally. For example, they may get their friends or family members to criticise you, or they may use your children as pawns in order to manipulate and control you.
- The silent treatment: The narcissist withdraws all communication from you, either as a punishment or simply because they are not getting what they want from you. This can be extremely painful and confusing, leaving you feeling isolated and abandoned.
- Fauxpologies: The narcissist will say they are sorry, but their apologies are always empty and insincere. They may also blame you for their bad behaviour.
- Future faking: The narcissist will make promises about the future in order to keep you hanging on. In truth, however, they have no intention of following through with them.
- Verbal denigration: The narcissist will start to put you down and criticise you, in order to make you feel inferior. There is no limit to what they will say in order to retain control over you. They will insult your body, your intellect, your family and even your friends. Everything is fair game for the narcissist in their campaign to dominate and control you.
- Narcissistic rage: If you dare to challenge the narcissist or threaten their ego, they will fly into a rage. The attack can be either verbal or physical, and it is always disproportionate to the situation. The narcissist will also try to make you feel guilty for their behaviour, saying that you made them do it.
- Controlling behaviour: The narcissist will seek to control every aspect of your life, from finances to what you do in your free time. This could include withholding money, preventing you from working, or spending money without your consent.
As you can see, the devaluation stage is when the narcissistic abuse really ramps up. This phase is the most difficult to deal with, because it can be so confusing and unpredictable. The narcissist may seem like a totally different person to the one you first met, and it can be hard to believe that they are capable of such cruelty.
However, it is important to remember that the narcissist is not actually changing. They are simply showing you their true colours. This is why it is so important to be aware of the narcissistic abuse cycle, so that you can recognise it if it happens to you.
The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle Step Three – Discard
Discard is the final stage of the narcissistic abuse cycle.
In the narcissistic discard phase, the narcissist will suddenly and without warning withdraw all contact, support and love from their victim.
They will discard you as if you never meant anything to them. and as if you were never even part of their life. They may break up with your callously via text, or even ghost you completely. You will later discover that they already had someone else waiting for them behind the scenes. This new “love interest” is a new source of supply who is currently experiencing the heady idealisation stage.
The discard phase is usually extremely painful, and it can take a long time to recover from.
The narcissistic abuse cycle can be devastating for victims, both emotionally and mentally. They are left feeling insecure, worthless, and ashamed. Survivors often find it difficult to trust other people after being in a relationship with a narcissist, and may struggle with PTSD or depression.
It might not feel that way when you are going through the breakup, but you are actually fortunate to be rid of the narcissist. The person you fell in love with never really existed. They were just a mask that the narcissist wore in order to control and manipulate you.
It is important to remember that the narcissist is not worth your time or your energy. They are toxic and abusive, and they will only bring pain into your life.
A vicious, recurring cycle of abuse
The narcissistic abuse cycle often repeats itself, with the victim going through the idealisation, devaluation and rejection stages over and over again. Each time, the abuse becomes worse and the victim’s self-esteem is eroded further.
It is therefore crucial for victims of narcissistic abuse to break the cycle, and to build the strength and boundaries required in order to resist the overtures of the narcissist when they try to hoover them back into their twisted world.
When you are finally free from the narcissist, you can start to heal the wounds that they inflicted on you. This process will take time, but it is important to be patient with yourself.
You will get through this, and you will come out the other end stronger and wiser than you ever were before.
For Further Reading:
You might also want to check out the following posts about the different abuse tactics in the Narcissist’s toolbox:
- Abuse by Proxy
- Ambient Abuse
- Coercive Control
- Divide and Conquer
- Flying Monkeys
- Future Faking
- Love Bombing
- Narcissist Discard
- Narcissist Hoovering
- Narcissistic Triangulation
- Narcissistic Abuse
- Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome
- Narcissistic Family Roles
- Narcissistic FOG
- Narcissistic Grooming
- Narcissistic Projection
- Narcissistic Rage
- Narcissistic Smear Campaign
- Narcissistic Word Salad
- Parental Alienation
- 7 Types of Narcissistic Abuse with Practical Examples
- The 10 Stages of Healing After Narcissistic Abuse
- 13 Warning Signs of Narcissistic Abuse: How to Deal with It and Get Help
- Flying Monkeys in the World of Narcissism: What They Are and How to Deal with Them
- Gaslighting Defined – How Can You Tell If Your Partner Is Gaslighting You?
- Why Narcissists String Along their Exes and Never Cut Them Loose
- Understanding the Cycle of Emotional Abuse – The Red Flags of a Toxic Relationship
- Narcissistic Abuse Examples – How to Recognize the Toxic Signs of Narcissism
- What Does Gaslighting Mean – The Ultimate Guide
- What Is Narcissist Abuse Syndrome and How Do You Recover from It?
- Manipulative statements a narcissist will say to pressure you to stay
And finally, this is my story. I was the scapegoat daughter of a narcissistic father.