If you have clients who are intentionally exploited by their spouses; endure regular insults and rejection, alternating with affirmation; and feel manipulated into doing or saying something out of character, then they might be experiencing abuse.
Abuse is not just physical. There are many other forms of abuse, such as sexual, financial, emotional, mental, and verbal. While some of the other forms of abuse are obvious, mental abuse by a narcissist can be difficult to spot.
It starts simply with a casual comment about anything: color of the wall, dishes in the sink, or the car needing maintenance. The remark is taken out of context by the narcissist to mean that their spouse disapproves of them in some way. She tries to explain that wasn’t her intention, but they are off on a tirade, which ends in your client feeling like she is losing her mind.
How did this happen? Here are several favorite narcissistic mental abuse tactics:
- Rage – This is a fit of intense, furious anger that comes out of nowhere, usually over nothing (remember the wire hanger scene from the movie “Mommie Dearest”). It startles and shocks the victim into compliance or silence.
- Gaslighting – Narcissistic mental abusers lie about the past, making their victim doubt her memory, perception, and sanity. They claim and give evidence of her past wrong behavior further causing doubt. She might even begin to question what she said a minute ago.
- The Stare – This is an intense stare with no feeling behind it. It is designed to scare a victim into submission and is frequently mixed with the silent treatment.
- Silent Treatment – Narcissists punish by ignoring. Then they let their victim “off the hook” by demanding an apology even though she isn’t to blame. This is to modify her behavior. They also have a history of cutting others out of their life permanently over small things.
- Projection – They dump their issues onto their victim as if she were the one doing it. For instance, narcissistic mental abusers may accuse their spouse of lying when they have lied. Or they make her feel guilty when he is really guilty. This creates confusion.
- Twisting – When narcissistic spouses are confronted, they will twist it around to blame their victims for their actions. They will not accept responsibility for their behavior and insist that their victim apologizes to them.
- Manipulation – A favorite manipulation tactic is for the narcissist to make their spouse fear the worst, such as abandonment, infidelity, or rejection. Then they refute it and ask her for something she normally would reply with “No.” This is a control tactic to get her to agree to do something she wouldn’t.
- Victim Card – When all else fails, the narcissist resorts to playing the victim card. This is designed to gain sympathy and further control behavior.
You can teach your clients to memorize these maneuvers, remain silent when they are being used, and end the conversation as soon as possible. This will keep them from being a victim of mental abuse.
Note: This article is written about a narcissistic husband married to a woman but the reverse is also equally valid.