After the Love is Gone
By: Gina Valencia
This is the third post in a series on narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and narcissistic abuse and recovery. Each month we will take a deep dive look at these topics, as well as attempt to decipher the actions and impact of narcissistic abuse.
First comes ‘love,’ then comes….devaluation?
In our last post, Love Bombing: The seed of the narcissistic abuse cycle (theescapedgoat.com), we discussed the first phase of narcissistic abuse. This month, we move into the second phase, devaluation.
According to SimplyPsychology.org “the ‘devaluation’ phase is when the dynamics of the relationship start to shift dramatically, and the intense affection and positive attention give way to more negative behaviors. The narcissist will become critical, dismissive, and potentially even emotionally or verbally abusive towards their partner.”
What provokes the devaluation? When the narcissist no longer sees the victim as ‘perfect,’ it triggers in them the gaping emptiness they have deep inside, the insecurities, the shame. Their inability to self-reflect and seek a healthy form of help for their own issues, causes an almost angry reaction towards the victim, for it is the victim that awoke in the narcissist this uncomfortableness. It leads the narcissist to behave in a passive aggressive way, and suddenly magnify all the victim’s flaws and shortcomings, because to a narcissist, their partner is either ‘all perfect’ or ‘nothing,’ just as they subconsciously believe of themselves. The narcissist can only see in black or white. Little by little, the once amazing partner (the narcissist) turns into the victim’s worst nightmare, known as the Jekyll and Hyde complex. This leaves the victim confused about the relationship and unsure of themselves. The victim will berate herself for being the cause of the fractures in the relationship and will vow to try harder to please the narcissist, not understanding that nothing they do will ever be ‘good enough’ for the narcissist.
Once the narcissist’s perception of the victim as being perfect is shattered, the narcissist will devalue the victim by using such tactics as gaslighting and blame-shifting (‘What are you talking about? Everything is fine. You must be having a bad day and are blaming me for it.’), withdrawing affection (‘Why are you being so needy?’), criticizing (‘Is THAT what you plan to wear?), isolating the victim from friends and family (‘You really shouldn’t talk to them so much; they’re a bad influence on you.’), and even resorting to a real or perceived third party to ‘prove’ their belief that the victim is the cause of the failures in the relationship, something called triangulation (‘Even so-and-so thinks you’re an over-reactor’).
The Void: But why?
What inside a narcissist makes him react this way? According to Narcissistic Personality Disorder expert Professor Sam Vaknin, devaluation stems from the narcissist’s deep void of nothingness that prevents him from being able to connect in any meaningful way, and the victim was simply caught in the ‘crossfire.’
The abuse is internal, for the narcissist has a problem with identity. He never developed an independent voice and opinion of himself, and is out to ‘remedy his upbringing, in hopes of obtaining a successful separation from his mother, the one who devalued and discarded him as a child.’ Since he had no way of dealing with this dynamic, he needs to ‘relive’ the relationship with someone so that he can control the narrative and the outcome, this time, in his favor. He gets to decide when he leaves, as opposed to being the one left behind.
The victim as an individual is irrelevant. It is all about what the narcissist can get from the victim. Is the victim rich/attractive/successful/can he reach a certain status with this person/etc.? He becomes interested in a victim that can represent all the things he wishes he could become or have, however, ‘the victim is totally replaceable, interchangeable, [the abuse] is not about the victim.’
He therefore “teams up with the victim in a shared fantasy,” that could last months, years, even into marriage. Once the narcissist has pulled from the relationship everything he can, he becomes disinterested, distant, passive aggressive, nit-picky, critical, etc. Yet, this isn’t his ‘voice’ criticizing you, this is his mother’s voice, talking down to him. He speaks his oppressor’s voice, something, Professor Vaknin calls ‘introjection, a defense mechanism posited by Sigmund Freud’, ‘that occurs when a person internalizes the ideas or voices of other people-often external authorities,’ according to the Therapist Development Center. Once the narcissist launches a full attack on the victim, he will use different tactics to pull away and devalue, in preparation for the next phase, discarding the victim.
The Black Hole in the Soul
The outward tactics of devaluation include gaslighting, triangulation, smear campaigns, and affairs.
The inner reasons and the psychology for this behavior are so malignant to both himself and his victim, the depths to the reasons of which are so vast, that we must address these topics more closely in future posts. Stay tuned...