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The Emperor’s New Clothes

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

On Exposing the Narcissist

“But the Emperor has nothing on at all!” said the little child.

Hans Christian Anderson


You are likely hurting, angry, broken, lost and in shock.


You want revenge – unsurprisingly – and exposing the narcissist is tempting.

Don’t.


Please.

Your mind is racing and you are incandescent with rage at being used, abused, gaslighted, stolen from and lied about. You want the world to know what you have been through. Surely, if his or her friends, colleagues, family and followers know what they are really like they will not be so easily swayed? In your imagination, they will flock to your side and offer support and sympathy. You play the scene over and over – the moment when you are vindicated, the truth is known and you find justice.

In my experience that is not how it goes. Try to manage your expectations regarding the support offered. Attempts to expose the narcissist often result in spectacular backdraft that leave the survivor more wounded and alone than ever. The narcissist operates a scorched earlh policy and is likely to spin these disclosures as an attempt to “discredit” or inflict “reputational damage” thus further corroborating their narrative that the survivor is unstable and that they are the real victim.


Sometimes, frustration at the blindness of others; outrage that they will not acknowledge this wolf in sheep’s clothing, results in the survivor becoming increasingly angry and very sick, acting in a way that confirms the abuser’s version of them. Rarely, are the mental health issues of a survivor understood in the context of an abusive relationship. It is an inconvenient truth.

You see, those around the narcissist want to believe what they are seeing. They may profit socially, professionally or financially from colluding with the facade. Children and family may find the truth unpalatable and choose to accept the narcissist’s narrative. All of this is part of the collateral damage that narcissists leave in their wake.

Children, especially, may be distressed by exposure. Not only are they dealing with the trauma of separation or divorce and this loss, but may also be affected by shame, anger, confusion and disgust at what is going on between their parents. In my clinical experience they just want the fighting to stop and be sure that, at some point in time, these two individuals loved each other enough to bring them into the world. Depending on the child’s age there may be a different understanding of who did what but the hurt is felt at all ages and on many levels.

Add to this an apparent protracted campaign against the other parent and this can be crushing.

That is not to say you deny your truth but when addressing an alternative version of events it is best done alongside recovery from the abuse, with insight and with dignity. It’s not easy, I know, but it is possible. If there is a legal or judicial process involved try to let your team advocate for you and ensure that they are well versed in coercive control and psycholgical abuse. It is likely that this very process will be traumatic for you so seek support at every stage.

Legal processes aside, consider carefully how any attempt to expose may backfire. By all means correct falsehoods if in conversation but taking on a narcissist can be socially, emotionally, spiritually, professionally, psychologically and physically, costly.

Instead, focus on yourself. You may need to rebuild on every level but that is where your energy is best spent. Continue to gather evidence of the abuse and assert yourself and remain aware of the obsessive compulsive behaviours that often result from this type of abuse. You may become increasingly depressed and suffer from PTSD symptoms and anxiety. Go gently and understand that in this context, these reactions are common.

Any indication of the narcissist’s life without you will only hurt more so try to avoid social media and, in some instances, mainstream media that indicate what is going on in their lives. News of new relationships, children and weddings may feel like a body blow. That is the intention. Strangely, the narcissist is likely to be less able to leave you than you were, them. This is especially the case in long term relationships and marriages, despite appearances to the contrary. Hard to believe, I know.

You have spent enough time and energy on an individual to whom you were invisible.

It’s your time to be seen.


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