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Narcissism by Proxy

Content note: Mentions abuse, grief, shame, depression, suicidal ideation.

Narcissism brushes off…Gradually, the narcissist distorts the personalities he is in constant touch with, casts them in his defective mould, limits them, redirects them and inhibits them. When sufficiently cloned the narcissist uses the people he affected as narcissistic proxies, narcissistic vehicles of vicarious narcissism

Sam Vaknin: Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited. Photo by Pixabay on

In other words, the abused becomes the abuser. They may have vague memories of being a person who could laugh and smile, one who was decent and kind and knew joy. But now, in this putrid place they wonder what poison they must have imbibed to become so toxic. It is an indescribably stressful life. And utterly hopeless. The abuser’s control is suffocating and the disconnect between word and deed, confusing. This results in all consuming chaos. It’s like living in a fog at best and a never ending nightmare at worst. It’s exhausting working out what’s real and what’s not. There is simply no energy left for their children. The narcissist scuppered any chance of that. I have written previously about the long game, how the narcissist has been working on his or her unwitting disciples for years, decades, even. They have been paving the way for discarding their partner by reporting to family and colleagues how they are being persecuted, stolen from and mistreated. To this they add that, being the good (if somewhat flawed) person they are, they stay for the sake of their partner and their children. This is his* false self. It is fake news. Away from view, his real self is actively engaged in destroying his partner. No longer idealized, she is being ridiculed, ignored, stonewalled, demeaned and deceived in many ways. The process of devaluation takes her to a very dark place. When she objects to obscene and violent language or criminal acts she will be called a prude and a hypocrite; when she asks about finances she will be told it is none of her business and when she asks where her partner has been for the weekend, – a well rehearsed and somewhat exasperated explanation will come back – it was work, stupid! She screams back and the misery go round continues, When the joint account statement identifies holes in his stories which she dares to voice she will be called crazy and ugly and irrelevant. She must be stopped. Broken – she becomes depressed and unable to access joy or relate to her children and family. She is lucky to have him, she is reminded. And yes, she is. Who else would want her? So she sips vodka in the morning or starves or overeats in an attempt to silence the still, quiet voice that tells her this is no life. She neglects her health. She spirals. She loses all hope. One day, out of the blue, there is a gift. And she is so, so grateful. He is good to her. Especially when they are in public. Oh, yes – an audience makes all the difference, For a while she feels hopeful. It doesn’t last. Her telephone calls, again, go unanswered and he is always working late. When he does speak to her he informs her that their children are frightened of her disregulation and outbursts. She despairs. She hates herself. She screams at the innocent. These children – she has been told – no longer love her and are scared of her. Whilst she finds this hard to believe – they show her such love – she begins to doubt her sanity. Paranoia may take hold and she feels fearful, anxious, angry and unable to cope. Add to that rage and shame. An awful, debilitating, tortuous shame. She behaves in a way that renders her unrecognisible to herself. And yes, she treats the narcissist very badly indeed. Her life, she feels, is not worth living. She is likely to think that the world would be a better place without her. It’s sepsis of the soul. She has become the narcissist. She rants and rages and explodes and vents. She controls and micro-manages. She says unkind and cruel things to her children which she desperately tries to claw back. But she cannot. It is too late. It’s carnage. She has caused irreparable damage. They are deeply, deeply hurt. The hostile takeover is complete and the narcissist fully inhabits his target. The corruption is absolute. She is “doing” his insanity for him. She, the vessel for his bile. And the abuser? He steps back and invites his entourage to support him in his hour of need, His narrative is duly shored up and he is assured of reinforcements when the time is right. If he has gone unchallenged the abused may be in rehab, sectioned or medicated. Being the martyr he is he garners sympathy and when his audience has left for the night, and delighted by his performance, he smirks. Over and over again this “tell” has become apparent in client sessions. The smirk – a split second long – is barely detectable. Those who have been abused have reported this repeatedly. The contempt of narcissists, easily missed by others, unmissable to the abused. Or enlightened couples therapists. The response is visceral. Other proxies are likely. Sadly, it’s usually children, parents, friends, colleagues and carers. Mental health professionals, even. The “bodysnatching” is not to the same degree as with the abused but narcissists plant just enough doubt and promulgate a just about plausible enough narrative to their apostolate. His doctrine will be disseminated by these believers. They have no idea how they have been manipulated and if they do suspect are likely to deny the facts and ignore contrary evidence, lest they suffer the same fate as the survivor. This has been a very hard post to write. When survivors realise what has happened they desperately want to turn the clock back. Knowing they can’t leaves them dreadfully sad. And so they mourn. They mourn the relationships they could have had with those they love, they mourn lost years and missed opportunities but most of all they mourn their lost self – the person they could have been had they not been conned. That said, I’ve witnessed much post traumatic growth. It’s inspirational what people can achieve in enlightenment and with insight. I’ve seen ruptured releationships repair and thrive. I’ve watched people physically change – standing tall and dignified free of the burden of someone else’s madness. If you recognise yourself in these words, please know your worth and learn more. It is important that you find the strength to reclaim your life and build bridges with those who truly care about you. As difficult as this has been to write I understand how difficult it is for many of you to read. Please be kind to yourselves. You’ve suffered enough. It’s time to begin your journey back to you. * Male pronouns are used for ease of reading only. Please use she/her/hers/they/theirs as appropriate.

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