The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle can be fertile ground for the development of trauma symptoms. But the dynamics of a relationship with a narcissist can confuse you. Wrapping your head around the thinking style of a narcissist can be quite hard. After all, the term itself brings up an image of someone whose life is centered solely on themselves.
However, things are not as obvious as they may appear to be. This is especially true regarding how narcissists approach relationships, in particular, romantic relationships.
It’s a phenomenon called the narcissistic abuse cycle. This cycle is broken down into three important phases: idealization, devaluation, and rejection.
By understanding these key points, people who are struggling with narcissism or those who are in a relationship with a narcissist can get the help they need. Let’s take a closer look at the narcissistic abuse cycle.
Idealization: When the Relationship Starts
Everyone who has been in a romantic relationship can recall those initial feelings of joy and happiness when they meet someone new. For instance, did you feel a sense of euphoria when you began dating your partner? This is pretty common. In fact, it’s usually referred to as the honeymoon stage in relationships for a reason.
However, in the narcissistic abuse cycle, things go to a whole different level. A narcissist will idealize their new partner and put them on a pedestal. This is more than just thinking they have found the “right” one (although that is part of it). Rather, they feel they have found perfection, and so, they pour their affections on their new partner.
For the person on the receiving end, this might feel great at first. However, it can quickly become overwhelming.
Devaluation: When the Narcissist Begin to Deprecate Their Partner
For most couples, when the honeymoon stage wears off things begin to fall into a predictable pattern or routine. You can and still do love your partner dearly. However, that initial euphoria usually wears off. And yet, this is the time when most couples start growing closer in many ways and learning how to work together as partners.
However, in the narcissistic abuse cycle, this phase of the relationship is quite different. It’s when the narcissist begins to devalue their partner instead of growing closer. They realize that their partner is actually not perfect (who is, after all?!), and they don’t see them as having any value. The value of a person being only to fuel their own self-image and importance.
Hence, the narcissist begins to put their partner down or holds back on being intimate or showing their affection. When their partner pushes back, the narcissist might turn things around—perceive themselves as the victim and blame their partner, which allows them to further devalue them.
Rejection: When They Push Their Partner Away
Typically, successful couples reach a point where they not only get along but actually thrive with each other. You might have seen this in other couples or experienced it yourself. Partners can complete each other’s sentences, know what the other is thinking, and just seem to “click.” Of course, they have disagreements and even conflicts. Yet, they are capable of communicating and resolving their differences.
A narcissist, on the other hand, begins to reject their partner and finally discard them in favor of a new relationship that fulfills their needs.
Keep in mind that this need isn’t for love, belonging, or caring. These would be the qualities that most couples strive towards. In fact, they are the bedrock of long-lasting relationships. A narcissist, though, only wants relationships to fuel their ego and sense of importance. So, they will reject and discard whoever doesn’t fill that need in favor of another person.
With that, the narcissistic abuse cycle is complete, and another cycle begins. The result is a series of broken relationships.
How to Break the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle
There is really only one way to break the narcissistic abuse cycle and heal from it’s impact; that’s through therapy. However, recovering from a trauma of any kind requires more than simply talking about one’s feelings. If you have been in a traumatic relationship with a narcissist, your nervous system has probably been though the ringer. Clients I have worked with who have survived the narcissistic abuse cycle often struggle with trauma symptoms such as:
- Boundary problems
Sometimes, even years after the end of the relationship with the narcissistic partner, clients report stress related symptoms that disrupt their day to day lives. These can also be symptoms such as:
- Sleep problems
- G.I. difficulties or somatic pain syndromes
But it’s possible to recover from the traumatic impact of being intimately involved with a narcissist. People bounce back when they have the right kind of help.
What’s needed is retraining your nervous system and your brain. With the help and guidance of a good therapist you can learn to better regulate your emotions, develop new thought patterns and change self defeating behaviors. And that’s exactly what Neurofeedback therapy is all about.
But what if you are the one with a narcissistic streak? And what if you don’t want that side of you to run your relationships anymore? Then, the issue is understanding why you act the way you do. Many factors can create a narcissistic personality. It might be that you were indulged in ways that are harmful for children. It might be because of years of trauma and abuse that you experienced. If that’s so, a logical treatment method is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR). This therapeutic approach helps to resolve traumatic memories, which in turn might be the source of the narcissistic behavior.
The narcissistic abuse cycle is damaging and unhealthy. It creates a lot of pain. The various phases that lie at its core—idealization, devaluation, and rejection—are the very opposite of what it means to be in a caring and loving relationship.
However, despite these issues, it’s still possible to recover. It’s also possible for a narcissist to get help, although often narcisstic people don’t really seek growth healing and transformation. If you or someone you know struggles with the effects of the narcissistic abuse cycle, please contact me and find out how Neurofeedback or EMDR for trauma therapy can help.