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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Narcissist’s Mixed Messages

It goes like this, consistently: “I love you! I think you’re awesome!  Change! Go away!  It’s your fault!”

The irony is that narcissists are consistently inconsistent.

If you are in love with someone who sends you constant mixed messages, it can be emotionally damaging to you personally, even causing you to lose your sense of self.  The constant sending of mixed messages causes you to lose trust with your own reality and intuition. You start walking on eggshells because you want to prevent the constant shifts from occurring, not completely realizing the power is 100 percent outside of yourself.

Other terms for this type of experience are “ambivalence,” “gas lighting,” and “mind f%$#ery.”

Mixed messages can come in the following forms:

  • False promises or statements; examples would be telling you they’ll take you somewhere or buy you something in the future, and then it never happens.
  • Doing something mean to you and then acting as if it didn’t just happen and if you try to bring it up, they’ll say something like, “Quit living in the past,” or, “Why are you always so negative?”
  • Taking you out on a fabulous date Friday night and then giving you the silent treatment on Saturday.
  • Promising you your heart’s desires and then withdrawing the promises, blaming you for the change, making statements such as, “You shouldn’t have done ‘such and such,’” or, “I didn’t realize you were so…” or, “You should have thought of that before you did ‘x, y, or z.’”
  • Lying. Emotional abusers seem to be chronic liars. If you try to hold them accountable, they simply deny saying whatever it was you know you heard them say.
  • Using the “Bait and Switch” approach. They act like one person and then become another. You keep wondering, “Where did he/she go?  I know he/she’s in there somewhere.”
  • They don’t “walk the talk.” You hear a lot of words coming out of the abuser’s mouth, but you don’t see any concrete results. It’s always easy to talk about anything; much harder to actually do something meaningful. Narcissists are master false promisers.
  • Having double standards. Here’s a perfect example. A narcissist will lecture you about how you’re dressed – even though you look terrific and are in great shape – while he/she’s 50 pounds overweight and does nothing to take care of his/her appearance.

 

The truth is, emotional abuse is very destructive.  It is particularly destructive because it “falls under the radar.” Others don’t see it, or get it, and oftentimes, neither does the victim. If you are subjected to emotional abuse in the form of mixed messages you most likely don’t even realize you are being abused.

If you are the victim of this experience, then you will experience the following symptoms:

  • Confusion. You will find yourself continually wondering – What happened? Where is he/she? What went wrong? What did I do? How can I fix this? And you look to the abuser for the answers. Yes, he/she will give you answers, but only ones that hurt and confuse you further.
  • Extrinsic Focus. You spend countless hours focusing on the other person – his/her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In the process, you aren’t checking in on your own internal voice, feelings, and intuition. You begin measuring your life based on the other person’s actions. Since the other person has a fragmented personality you will never find the stability you need by focusing in that direction.
  • Loss of Self. Because the other person never validates your reality, you stop validating it yourself. You begin to doubt your own experience, and finally lose your sense of reality altogether.

What do you do about it?

If you are subject to this type of problem then you need to do something to rescue yourself. First and foremost is to stop listening to the other person and start listening to your own inner voice. It is important for you to learn how to change the communication patterns you have been conditioned to.

Over time, while in a relationship with an emotional abuser, you have fallen in to a way of relating that is not healthy. In order to survive you have been taught and have taught yourself to turn off your own voice, listening only to the voice of the other person. Make your voice the compass, not the other person’s.

As you start listening to yourself instead of the other person, you will most likely face resistance from him/her. Don’t let this trouble you. Realize this – you haven’t been able to please this person anyway so you might as well stop trying. This is step three – stop walking on eggshells. Simply walk. Just be yourself. Say what you want to say and do what you want to do. As the other person loses control over you, he/she will be angry. He/she will “up the ante” and start doing retaliatory behaviors.  After all, you have dared to rebel!

Once you listen to yourself instead of the other person and stop walking on eggshells, realize you have declared war. I know it seems ridiculous that these two simple acts are hostile – because they really aren’t – but the narcissist will feel and believe that these acts are hostile on your behalf. He/she will panic because of his/her loss of control over you. This is detrimental to his/her side of the relationship.

In order to survive this war declaration, you must be at a place where you are no longer dependent on the other person for anything – emotional, financial, or physical. The narcissist will retaliate by taking away anything that you value, especially him/herself. As he/she loses grips on you, he/she will frantically search for a new victim. You will probably experience the silent treatment and “ghosting,” followed by a discard. You will be discarded. Mark my words. The narcissist sees no other alternative.

Yes, it is crazy. Yes, it makes no common sense to the average person who simply wants a loving relationship that is mutually satisfying. Afterall, you have no need to control other people in order to survive. But the best thing you can do for your recovery from this insanity is to rescue yourself. Take care of yourself. Walk away. This is the last step.

Walking away is hard, but what else can you do? Do you want to spend the rest of your life subjected to warfare just because you want to express your autonomy?  Is there any value in any relationship where you can’t be who you are?

Even if you don’t physically walk away from the relationship entirely; say you are married to this person or it is a parent and you are still tied to the person structurally, then you are still stuck with a discard situation. Don’t lie to yourself.  In this case, you will have to mentally detach from the relationship if you want to be yourself. You will have to live a life without having any needs met by the other person because he/she is incapable of meeting them. especially on your terms.

 

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Narcissist’s Mixed Messages

APA Reference
Stines, S. (2019). Narcissist’s Mixed Messages. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2019, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2019/04/narcissists-mixed-messages/