The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle: A Complete Guide to Safety in 2022

It doesn’t matter how far along you are on your healing journey, attempting to understand narcissism, co-existing with a narcissist, setting boundaries and using the gray rock method, or even leaving the relationship altogether is an act of bravery. 

Being trapped within a narcissistic abuse cycle means that you wake up every single day and walk into the unknown. It is important to remember that you don’t have to physically be in the relationship to be caught within the narcissistic abuse cycle.

Things like rumination, flying monkeys, and enablers have the potential to keep you tethered to the abusive cycle long after you’ve escaped the narcissistic environment, and I will cover all of these in this article.

So, as amazing as you are for what you’ve done so far, you deserve so much more!

healing from narcissistic abuse

To break free from the narcissistic abuse cycle you need to acknowledge that what you’re experiencing is abuse, and be able to identify the specific behavior patterns and personality traits that coincide with narcissism. 

This article is going to give you all of the information you need to successfully navigate the complexity of the narcissistic abuse cycle.

While reading this article, keep in mind that there is a very wide spectrum of narcissism. Meaning that the personality traits and behavioral patterns among the different types of narcissism often overlap. 

Table of Contents:

How Did the Narcissistic Relationship Begin? 

One of the most important things that you can do to understand the narcissistic abuse cycle, is to have a clear understanding of how the relationship began.

The reason being that the beginning of narcissistic relationships lay a foundation on which you will be manipulated into justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing the forthcoming abuse for months, years, even decades.

By having a clear understanding about how you were pulled into a narcissistic environment, the probability of you breaking the narcissistic abuse cycle and beginning your healing journey shoots up substantially.

learning about narcissistic abuse

Love Bombing

The love bombing phase is a period in the beginning of the relationship where a narcissist will manipulate you into believing that they are the embodiment of your “Mr. or Mrs. Perfect.” 

Love bombing is one of the most powerful forms of manipulation in the narcissistic realm, and depending on the type of narcissism you’re dealing with, it can manifest in a variety of ways. 

This is important to remember because the love bombing phase tends to correlate with the way a narcissist accumulates narcissistic supply. 

examples of how different types of narcissists accumulate narcissistic supply

What Does the Love Bombing Phase Look Like With Different Types of Narcissism?

  • Grandiose Narcissism
    • An overwhelming amount of spontaneous gifts and trips, constant communication, and a lot of intimacy. It makes you feel so good because grandiose narcissists are usually the center of attention and very well liked, and here they are giving you all of the attention you could ever want. 
  • Malignant Narcissism
    • They’ll buy you a new car, phone, apartment, or house. They are very successful. They need to be updated constantly about where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing. This can be misread as someone who’s very interested in you but the big things they are buying you are a manifestation of their insecure need for power and control. You can’t leave them because they’ve bought the house you’re living in, or the car you go to work with, or even the phone you use to call your family.
  • Covert Narcissism 
    • You feel like you need to save them. They come off as very depressed and victimized by the world. They will be insanely grateful that you’re in their lives. It will make you feel like you have a purpose in life, saving someone else
  • Communal Narcissism
    • Their selflessness is captivating. They make you feel so good about yourself because they are always including you in their charitable actions. You feel like you could change the world together. The idea of traveling place to place changing lives for the rest of your life is addicting. 

The love bombing phase is so captivating because narcissists are masterful at learning your vulnerabilities, insecurities, desires, and goals incredibly quickly. This is called mirroring

A narcissist mirroring his partner to gather information about her

In a healthy relationship, mirroring allows both parties to see each other clearly. But in an unhealthy relationship, mirroring is used to gather data to weaponize against you in the future.

When you combine mirroring, a narcissist paying an incredible amount of attention to you, with the dynamics of the love bombing phase, it’s precisely what makes you feel as if you’ve met your “Mr. or Mrs. Perfect.”

With that being said, you still may be uncomfortable with how quickly things are moving, that is where future faking comes into play. 

If you remember, I mentioned that mirroring in an unhealthy relationship is nothing more than a collection of data they can use against you in the future, well, future faking is one of the ways they do it. 

The moment you try to set a boundary with the narcissist, they will take all of the hopes and dreams they learned about you while mirroring, and use it to manipulate you into abandoning your boundaries and falling back into the cycle. 

future faking

When you try to set a boundary or leave a relationship with a narcissist but experience an intense amount of future faking, it causes you to gaslight yourself. You begin to question if you’re just scared of commitment, judgmental, or even immature.

Future faking is a manifestation of a narcissist’s fear of abandonment and insecure need for control and power. 

Why Is This Important?

The love bombing phase is such a malicious form of manipulation because of how good it feels. It makes you feel like you’ve finally found someone you can build a future with, and the moment you settle down and get comfortable, they dropkick you off the pedestal you were placed on. 

It is very common for those who have suffered narcissistic abuse to endure the abuse for months, years, and even decades because they are waiting for the person they fell in love with to come back. 

It’s for this reason that it is incredibly important that you understand that the love bombing phase can manifest in different ways depending on the type of narcissism you’re dealing with. To break a narcissistic abuse cycle, you need to be able to acknowledge that what you’re experiencing is abuse.

If you were to believe that you didn’t experience the love bombing phase, it would be impossible for you to understand how the relationship began, which will likely lead you to rationalizing, justifying, and normalizing the abuse for the foreseeable future. 

after months, years, even decades of abuse, victims become accustomed to rationalizing, justifying, and normalizing narcissistic abuse

Family of Origin & Low Self-Esteem

An upbringing in an unhealthy/abusive environment can be devastating to one’s cognitive development. In fact, many researchers believe that narcissists are created by an unhealthy/abusive childhood. 

With that being said, an unhealthy/abusive childhood also has a very high probability of causing you to gravitate towards similar environments in adulthood. From a very young age we are shown healthy parent-child relationships through movies, comics, cartoons and so on.

If you combine this with the natural innocence of a child, it is nearly impossible for them to be able to acknowledge that what they are experiencing is abuse. 

As a consequence, they accidentally equate the dynamics of a healthy relationship that they’re shown through various media platforms, with the abuse they are enduring from someone who is supposed to love them unconditionally. 

how are narcissists made

Meaning that without therapeutic guidance, the child could gravitate towards abusive relationships in adulthood simply because it is familiar. 

This is very dangerous because under these circumstances, the child has been rationalizing, normalizing, and justifying the narcissistic abuse cycle their entire lives. 

In other words, they don’t have an incentive to acknowledge what they’re experiencing is abuse because it’s what they’ve experienced their entire lives.

This has a direct correlation with another devastating reason that you might be dragged into a narcissistic abuse cycle, a low self-esteem. 

Low self-esteem is one of many psychological consequences of growing up in an unhealthy/abusive environment but it can also be caused by the manipulative patterns commonly seen in narcissistic relationships, like scapegoating. 

scapegoating

Due to the fact that narcissists are emotionally immature and inadequate, they are incapable of regulating their own emotions. They have so many negative emotions buried within their psyche that they’ll implode if they can’t regulate them. 

Therefore a scapegoat,  a person that a narcissist projects all of their suppressed shame, fears, insecurities, and vulnerabilities on, becomes a repository for a narcissist’s negative emotions. 

Being a narcissist’s scapegoat has many side effects, low self-esteem being one of them. 

It is incredibly hard to escape the narcissistic abuse cycle if you have low self-esteem. When this is combined with the other forms of manipulation narcissists use like gaslighting, intimacy avoidance, and rage, you develop conscious and/or subconscious belief that you don’t deserve anything more than the abuse you’re receiving.

Idealization

One of the strongest magnets for narcissistic abuse is being overly empathic. Being an empath means that you’re incredibly attuned with your emotions. 

You naturally put the needs of others before your own and it is an amazing quality to have, except when you’re dealing with a narcissist.  

Being overly empathetic in narcissistic relationships is incredibly dangerous. The reason being that you naturally put others needs before your own, which is exactly what a narcissist wants.

It’s very, very hard to escape a narcissistic abuse cycle as an empath because it requires that you understand that under no circumstances will a narcissist change their behavior. 

For someone with as much love and compassion as you, writing a narcissist off as permanently damaged is really uncomfortable. 

empaths have a hard time acknowledging that what they are experiencing is abuse

This doesn’t mean that as an empath, you’re immune to narcissistic abuse, it just means that you’ll be much more likely to rationalize, justify, and normalize the abuse because forgiveness is in your nature.

It’s because of this that overly empathic people have a tendency to idealize narcissistic relationships. Meaning that they ignore/minimize the red flags and portray the relationship better than it actually is, to themselves and to others.  

Overly empathic people have a difficult time identifying narcissistic behavior patterns and/or acknowledge that what they are experiencing is abuse without a significant amount of therapeutic guidance. 

What Should You Take Away From This Section?

The four possible scenarios you just read about (love bombing, family of origin, low self-esteem, and idealization) are the most common reasons people get dragged into the narcissistic abuse cycle, but I’m sure that some of you may have experienced more than one of the possibilities or another reason altogether. 

Nevertheless, it’s so important that you understand how and why you got dragged into the abuse cycle if you are to understand the next segment, which is the devaluation phase.

The Devaluation Phase

The ideologies behind the devaluation phase originate from the love bombing phase. If you remember, I mentioned that the love bombing phase is the equivalent of being placed on a pedestal and then being kicked off of it the moment you begin to feel comfortable. 

This fall from grace is known as the beginning of the devaluation phase. It’s where many of the manipulative tactics like gaslighting, scapegoating, and baiting are more noticeable.  

As far as the other scenarios, the beginning of the devaluation phase varies. I’ve met a handful of people who experienced the devaluation phase for the entirety of the relationship, and others who experienced it within a few weeks or months of meeting their abuser. 

The devaluation phase is the most psychologically torturous phases in the narcissistic abuse cycle for 4 reasons: trauma bonding, intermittent reinforcement, intimacy avoidance, and stonewalling.

Trauma Bonding

A trauma bond is a very deep emotional attachment between two people that is developed through emotional and/or physical abuse. 

The emotional and/or physical abuse is the “trauma,” and the scenarios you learned about in the previous section (love bombing, low self-esteem, family of origin, idealization), is the “bonding.”

Regardless of what scenario characterizes the beginning of your relationship, trauma bonds are incredibly difficult to break because the manipulation narcissists use, and the scenarios above manipulate your brain into rationalizing, normalizing, and justifying the abuse. 

5 Signs You’re in a Trauma Bonded Relationship

Justification 

The hardest part about acknowledging the abuse in narcissistic relationships is that the relationship isn’t always abusive. We’ll speak about it in the next section but intermittent reinforcement plays a major role in the continuation of abusive relationships. 

The random moments of empathy, compassion, and intimacy that narcissists strategically use, causes you to justify the abuse because you want the relationship to last so badly. 

Believing the Future Faking

There are going to be times where part of you is able to acknowledge that what you’re experiencing is abuse, which will most likely lead you to trying to set boundaries or leaving the relationship altogether. 

When this happens, a narcissist will take all of the information they learned about you throughout the entirety of your relationship and use it to create very appealing promises for the future. 

This becomes a sign of a trauma bonded relationship when you believe the future faking. It’s a form of justification but with a little twist to it. 

Vague and Predictive Justifications

When you’re in a healthy relationship and someone on the outside of the relationship questions the reasoning for your commitment, your response will circulate around concrete reasons like kindness, respect, mutuality, and growth. 

In a trauma bonded relationship these reasonings are nonexistent, so you’re much more likely to give very vague and predictive reasons instead.

Self Doubt and Self-Blame When Leaving

The behavior patterns of a narcissist are designed to engulf you in self-doubt and self-blame. One of the most common fears when leaving a narcissistic relationship is the fear of making a mistake by leaving your abuser. After months, years, even decades of manipulation, invalidation, neglect, and confusion, leaving someone who has such a significant role in your life can be terrifying. 

Neglecting Your Feelings, Emotions, Needs, and Thoughts

Gaslighting is a hallmark of narcissistic abuse. It is by far the most devastating form of manipulation in the narcissistic realm, because of how many different ways it can manifest. 

2 of the 5 Types of Gaslighting

  • Minimization 
    • When you talk to a narcissist about your feelings, thoughts, needs, and emotions and you’re met with a statement like, “… you’re so damn sensitive, it’s exhausting to constantly have to listen to your complaints…” this is called gaslighting through minimization. It makes you feel very selfish and ignorant for “complaining about small things,” and you’ll eventually remain silent instead of voicing your concerns.
  • Ultimatums  
    • When you confront a narcissist about your thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs and are met with statements like, “…If you keep bringing this up, I’m going to leave you…” this is called gaslighting with ultimatums. What the narcissist is essentially doing is forcing you to associate your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs with fear. By doing this, you’ll eventually remain silent out of the fear of your abuser’s rage.

I used these two forms of gaslighting because it depicts a very clear picture of how neglecting your own thoughts, emotions, feelings, and needs is a major sign of being in a trauma bonded relationship. 

When you stay in a relationship where you feel like you don’t have a voice, there is a high probability that you are trauma bonded. 

By neglecting your emotions, needs, thoughts, and emotions it’s a form of justification because if you pretend that the narcissist in your life isn’t making you feel the way you do, finding reasons to stay in the relationship by holding onto the good memories becomes much easier to do.

You need to ensure that you’re kind with yourself. While many of your behavior patterns are contributing to the strength of the trauma bond, it is not, nor will it ever be your fault. 

The biggest reason for getting caught in the narcissistic abuse cycle is a lack of knowledge about narcissism. 

By learning about narcissism, you can put yourself in a position to break free from the narcissistic abuse cycle faster than you could ever imagine. 

Intermittent Reinforcement

One of the most common phrases a narcissist enabler will say to you is “why don’t you just leave?”

By saying this they’re questioning your reality because they’re implying that if the abuse was really as bad as you say it is then you would just leave the relationship. 

If you’re on the cusp of acknowledging what you’re experiencing is abuse, you might not have a concrete response to a comment like that, and in all honesty, you don’t need to because nobody has the right to validate your reality except you. 

But if you do want to respond, let me tell you about intermittent reinforcement and how it manipulates the chemicals in your brain. 

Intermittent reinforcement is the delivery of a reward at irregular intervals. 

Examples of Intermittent Reinforcement In Narcissistic Relationships:

  • The narcissist in your life didn’t check his/her phone during dinner. 
  • The narcissist in your life didn’t compare you to his/her ex when he was angry. 
  • The narcissist in your life didn’t yell at you for an entire weekend. 
  • The narcissist in your life took you out for dinner and didn’t make a side comment about what you ordered.
  • Complimenting you 

Those examples may seem incredibly insignificant but because of how emotionally starved narcissistic relationships are, the slightest amount of empathy is exhilarating. 

In fact, the feeling you get from intermittent reinforcement in narcissistic relationships activates your brain’s reward sector and floods it with dopamine. 

Dopamine is associated with pleasure sensations, meaning it makes you extremely happy and for those who have suffered narcissistic abuse, it’s very addictive. 

So addictive that it makes the narcissist your only known source of happiness, therefore you remain in the relationship because you’re constantly chasing the feeling that the ”reward” gives you. 

Intimacy Anorexia 

Intimacy anorexia is a very complex, yet common aspect of the narcissistic abuse cycle. When this article mentions the word intimacy, it is referring to the ability to maintain a close relationship in all aspects in one’s life, not just sexual. 

Meaning that the ability to maintain a close relationship with a coworker, friend, or family member falls under the umbrella of intimacy. 

The ideologies of intimacy anorexia originate from the brilliant work of Dr. Doug Weiss, a psychologist and the founder of Heart to Heart Counseling Center. 

Intimacy anorexia is when someone will actively withhold emotional, spiritual, and sexual intimacy from another. 

While Dr. Doug Weiss doesn’t connect intimacy anorexia directly with narcissism, he connects it to many hallmarks of narcissistic abuse like manipulation, coercion, financial abuse, and attachment issues.  

According to Weiss, people with intimacy anorexia typically:

  • Busy – Intimacy anorexics stay so busy that they have little time for their spouse.
  • Blame – The intimacy anorexic will blame their spouse for the problems in the marriage.
  • Withholding Love – Intimacy anorexics actively withhold love the way their spouses like to be loved.
  • Withholding Praise – Intimacy anorexics do not regularly give praise to their spouses privately.
  • Withholding Sex – Not all intimacy anorexics withhold sex, but most intimacy anorexics withhold intimacy during sex when they do have it.
  • Withholding Spiritually – Intimacy anorexics can be very religious or a spiritual leader, but they rarely connect spiritually at home.​
  • Unable to Share Feelings – The intimacy anorexic is someone who is unwilling or unable to share their feelings with their spouse.
  • Criticism – Ongoing or ungrounded criticism toward their partner or spouse is another characteristic of intimacy anorexia.
  • Anger / Silence – An intimacy anorexic can use anger or silence to control their spouse.
  • Money – This is the least common feature of intimacy anorexia, but when it’s present, it is really strong. The intimacy anorexic will use money to control or shame the spouse.
  • Roommate – The spouse of the intimacy anorexic feels as if they are a roommate rather than a spouse. This is common with intimacy anorexics because they avoid connecting emotionally.

I’m sure many of you who’ve experienced a narcissistic relationship are familiar with one, if not many more, of the possibilities above. 

So I went ahead and conducted a study among 231 survivors of all types of narcissistic abuse to find out how many of them have experienced the behavior patterns listed above.

Because Dr. Doug Weiss portrays intimacy anorexia and a behavior pattern between two partners, intimacy avoidance has emerged as the official term to describe a narcissist’s inability to maintain close and healthy relationships. 

Intimacy avoidance is a manifestation of the transition from the beginning stages of narcissistic relationships to the devaluation phase. It’s incredibly confusing for those who have suffered narcissistic abuse because by and large narcissists, except for covert narcissists, are extroverted. 

This manifests in their naturally high levels of grandiosity, sexual intensity, spontaneity, success. Unfortunately, this outgoingness is a manifestation for their dire need for narcissistic supply, the validation and admiration they receive from others, not intimacy. 

Stonewalling 

Those with a narcissistic personality are manipulative by nature. Their behavior patterns are driven by their emotional immaturity and inadequacy.

Researchers have different beliefs on the specifics of a narcissist’s creation, but it is clear that they originate from an unhealthy/abusive childhood.

Two of the side effects of their upbringing are an incredibly fragile ego and an inability to regulate their own emotions. Out of all the inadequacies they possess, I chose those two because they have a direct correlation with stonewalling. 

Stonewalling is the refusal to participate in communication and connection in a relationship. It can manifest in a variety of ways in things along the lines of walking away while you’re trying to have a conversation, ignoring your calls and text, or constantly keeping you at a distance. 

An argument could be made that stonewalling is a descendant of intimacy avoidance because it is a form of controlling and manipulative behavior.

It is conducted by withholding something rather than physically doing something. It is one of the most passive aggressive behavior patterns in the narcissistic realm. 

With that being said, the two most common forms of stonewalling are the silent treatment and gaslighting with ultimatums. 

Silent Treatment 

In the face of criticism, something that contradicts their sense of specialness, or anything else that makes them uncomfortable, many narcissists will simply stop speaking and communicating with you. 

The silent treatment is incredibly destabilizing because it’s a very subtle form of gaslighting. When you confront them with a criticism, concern, emotion, or feeling you may have, being met with silence is incredibly invalidating. 

Their silence is essentially telling you that whatever you had to say isn’t worthy of their attention. 

After months, years, or even decades of a pervasive environment of guilt, shame, and manipulation, the silent treatment could cause you to severely second guess yourself and remain silent out of the fear of their silence. 

Gaslighting With Ultimatums

When you confront a narcissist with a thought, feelings, emotion, concern, or anything else that challenges their sense of specialness, they’ll often say things like the following:

This form of gaslighting is one of five types of gaslighting that we covered in How to Deal With Gaslighting

Gaslighting with ultimatums attacks your identity because overtime you’ll begin to question your capability of interpreting your own reality, and it forces you to associate your voice with punishment by creating consequences for standing up for yourself.

With enough repetition, the narcissist will be able to successfully stonewall you because you’ll remain silent instead of risking the possibility of the narcissist in your life following through on his/her ultimatum. 

What Should You Take Away From This Section? 

The devaluation phase is nothing more than a manifestation of a narcissist’s emotional immaturity and inadequacy, fear of their own insecurities and vulnerabilities, and insecure need for power, control, and narcissistic supply. 

The Discard Phase

The discard phase is a very, very significant phase in the narcissistic abuse cycle because you could either escape or be trapped in the cycle for the foreseeable future. 

Let’s talk about narcissistic supply…

Narcissistic supply is the validation and admiration a narcissist receives from others, and depending on the type of narcissist, it could manifest in different ways. 

Narcissistic supply is incredibly important because it helps uphold the narcissist’s falsified reality and sense of specialness. Without narcissistic supply, a narcissist would be forced to address their insecurities, vulnerabilities, and inadequacies, which is impossible.

Why? 

When you drop a pack of Mentos into a soda bottle and tighten the cap, it will explode because the soda will have no place to go. The bottle doesn’t have the ability to control the reaction that the soda and Mentos has when put together. 

Narcissists and their suppressed negative emotions are the exact same way. Their emotional instability, immaturity, and inadequacy prohibits them from regulating their own emotions, so they use relationships to do so.

Without someone to project their negative emotions onto, they’ll implode. 

To better understand the discard phase, take a moment to remember all of the different manipulative behaviors I wrote about in the previous section. 

  • Love bombing
  • Gaslighting
  • Trauma Bonding
  • Stonewalling
  • Intimacy Avoidance 

These, along with the many other manipulative behaviors we haven’t mentioned in this article, are designed to erode your emotional stability. 

After months, years, even decades of this level of manipulation and emotional corruption, the narcissistic supply you provide becomes stale. 

Meaning that eventually you become so exhausted from constantly walking on eggshells, trying to cater to their every need, being manipulated and abused that you can’t constantly validate and admire them anymore. 

This is when the discard phase begins…

What Should You Expect During the Discard Phase?

As I mentioned before, you could either escape the narcissistic abuse cycle or fall back into it. But on the bright side, the decision is entirely up to you! With that being said, it is not an easy decision but I hope this section offers you some clarity.

Moving On Too Quickly

The first thing that you can expect is for the narcissist in your life to move on incredibly fast. Regardless of the type of relationship you have with the narcissist, intimate, professional, family, they’ll find a new source of narcissistic supply quickly.

In our article, How Can a Narcissist Move On So Quickly, we conducted a study among 67 survivors of narcissistic abuse to find out how quickly their abuser found a new source of narcissistic supply after the relationship ended. 

That study was specifically for intimate relationships, so for this article, we conducted the same study among 231 survivors of narcissistic abuse which included all types of narcissistic relationships and this is what we found:

For narcissists, relationships are nothing more than a tool to mask their insecurities, vulnerabilities and a way to regulate their emotions. Moving on quickly is a natural behavior pattern for them.

It can be very tempting to try to warn the narcissist’s new supply, but in our opinion, you shouldn’t. The reason is that it is almost guaranteed that the narcissist has initiated some sort of smear campaign about you. 

A spear campaign is a tactic designed to destroy your reputation with lies and gossip. 

This is a very controversial topic though because many survivors of narcissistic abuse feel that they would have wanted someone to warn them, and understandably so. At the end of the day, the decision is yours to make. 

I’ve met one woman who was just hired at a new company in 2016 and the person who worked at her desk before her arrival left a ton of files on her computer about narcissism.

So, when her boss began to show all of the narcissistic traits commonly seen among malignant narcissists, a complete disregard for the safety/wellbeing of others, she was able to manage the situation much more quickly than if she didn’t have the information. 

It was a really subtle way of warning the new supply and I can see how it was important, so again, the decision is up to you but please make sure you have a comprehensive grasp on your own trauma before attempting to do so.

Rumination

When someone obsessively over thinks the same thoughts, it is called rumination and it is a huge part of narcissistic abuse. Rumination could manifest in you blaming yourself, wanting revenge, wanting justice, or even wanting to warn the narcissist’s new supply. 

The problem with rumination is that it keeps you trapped within the narcissistic abuse cycle, even if you’ve left the relationship.

 A large part of your time is consumed with thoughts about the “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve” of your relationship and it isn’t helping your healing journey at all. 

Rumination is the secret weapon of narcissistic abuse. If you aren’t able to control the rumination in a timely manner, you could find yourself physically and/or emotionally trapped in the narcissistic abusive cycle.   

Hoovering

Hoovering is a term used to describe when a narcissist tries to suck you back into the narcissistic abuse cycle and it is a hallmark of narcissistic abuse. 

Regardless of who left who, narcissists will often use their charm, charisma, and intelligence to manipulate you into giving them a second chance. 

Examples of Hoovering:

  • I miss you so much.
  • I made a mistake, I’m sorry.
  • You won’t find someone who loves you like I do.
  • I am going to therapy to get better for us.
  • If you stay, I’ll pay for your college tuition.
  • Leaving the company is a horrible decision, you were just about to get a raise!

By the time the hoovering phase begins, whether you’ve experienced the love bombing phase or not, the narcissist has already been able to gather enough information about you to be able to incorporate mirroring and future faking in the hoovering phase as well.

Hoovering is a very seductive part of the narcissistic abuse cycle, much like the love bombing phase. Narcissistic relationships are plagued with tactics designed to engulf you with self-doubt and self-blame. 

If you don’t address your neglected trauma immediately, the narcissist could suck you back into the narcissistic abuse cycle by something as simple as a text message, flowers or phone call. 

Enablers & Flying Monkeys

Sadly, there is one more obstacle you’ll have to jump over on your way out of the narcissistic abuse cycle, enablers and flying monkeys

Narcissist enablers are people who don’t understand narcissism so they approach the situation as they would a healthy relationship. This leads them to giving horrible advice and accidentally gaslighting you. 

The best way to defend yourself against narcissist enablers is to learn how to explain narcissism to others. This technique teaches you how to focus on the behavioral patterns and personality traits instead of calling your abuser a narcissist.

This is a very effective tactic because many people don’t understand narcissism and scold/shame those who define others as narcissistic. 

Flying monkeys are people narcissists will manipulate into turning against you. They do this when they’re on the verge of being exposed as an abuser because public image is everything to them. 

They spend their entire lives formulating a superficial public image that allows them to be accepted, admired, and validated by society, so being outed as an abuser is very dangerous to their sense of specialness and fragile egos. 

So, when they are on the verge of being outed, they’ll spread demeaning lies and gossip to those close to you. This usually manifests in close family and friends but it can also happen with authoritative figures like therapists, doctors, law-enforcement, and the judicial system.

If a narcissist is able to successfully enlist a flying monkey, you’ll no longer be able to confide in that person because they’ll believe the narrative the narcissist sold them that portrays you as the abuser and them as the victim. 

The best way to defend yourself against flying monkeys is to use radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is when someone who has suffered narcissistic abuse stops fighting reality and acknowledges that their abuser will not change their behavior. 

In all honesty, this is one of the hardest things to do because it requires you to give up the wish for things to be different.  But the truth is that like the narcissist, flying monkeys aren’t going to change their behavior.

Waiting for them to do so will do nothing but destroy your mental health.

What Should You Take Away From This Article? 

The complexity of the narcissistic abuse cycle has the potential to keep you trapped within its grasp forever. The importance of learning about the cycle is immeasurable. 

With that being said, this article was written for those who can break free from the cycle, but not everyone is in the position to do so. 

Some people are co-parenting with the narcissist, financially unstable because of financial abuse, not ready to acknowledge that what they are experiencing is abuse and won’t change and so on. 

The good news is that you don’t have to physically leave the relationship, to escape the narcissistic abuse cycle. Our article, Living With a Narcissist When Leaving Isn’t An Option is a complete guide for those who are unable to leave the narcissistic relationship but would still like to learn how to manage it. 

Whether you’re able to leave the relationship or not, The Essentials For Managing Narcissism is a must read if you are to preserve your emotional stability and rebuild your identity.


This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

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Sources:

We relied heavily on the interviews with 231 survivors of narcissistic relationship that have agreed to work with us.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist” by Ramani Durvasula

Narcissist Abuse Recovery: The Ultimate Guide for How to Understand, Cope, and Move on from Narcissism in Toxic Relationships, Jean Harrison and Melody Dixon, Bernard Pardieu 2019

Suggested Readings

DISCLAIMER

THIS INFORMATION IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL CARE.

IF YOU’RE IN THE UNITED STATES AND ARE SUFFERING DOMESTIC ABUSE, PLEASE CONTACT THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE AT 1.800.799.7233 OR YOU CAN VISIT THEIR WEBSITE FOR MORE HELPFUL CONTACT METHODS.

WE URGE YOU TO ENSURE YOU’RE IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT WHEN YOU DECIDE TO REACH OUT FOR HELP. FOR THOSE WHO CURRENTLY RESIDE IN THE UNITED STATES, VISIT NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE’S LOCAL RESOURCES TO FIND HELP IN YOUR AREA.

FOR THOSE OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES, BE SURE SAFELY REACH OUT TO THE PROPER AUTHORITIES. 

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