If you’re reading this post, you may be seeking to understand and heal yourself from a present or past experience with a narcissist.**
You should know, one of the biggest hurdles, in restoring your sense of self and sanity, lies in letting go of certain disbeliefs and fantasies you were socialized to cling onto as a woman.
The narcissist consistently tells you who he is in what he does. Repeatedly.
You, on the other hand, are socialized to deny what your gut feelings are telling you. He reveals his aims in the heartless actions and treatment of you overall, however — and not his words. Any chaos or inner confusion you feel, doubts and craziness, and the like, all reveal the destination of the train he’s on.
Instead of getting off this train, certain fantasies entice you to see what you want, to believe in his words, the promises, the illusions and the traps he sets. As a result, you’re left spinning your wheels, making excuses for him, trying to reason or get him to understand the extent to which he’s hurting you, then wondering why nothing you do works to make him happy, why he continues to be so miserable, insecure, mistrusting of your love and loyalty, and so on.
It’s the fantasies! Believe your gut. It’s telling you that it was never your job to rescue him from himself, and never will be. It’s his job alone!
(To attempt to save him from his misery is to fall into the trap, where the fantasies allow a narcissist to have a crazy-making effect on you! Hint: It’s not possible to save another person, much less a narcissist. It’s all illusion.)
Your job now is to own your power, as a human being, to heal you, to restore your sense of self, mind and body, heart and soul, and break free.
It is the fantasies, and not just the narcissist, that predisposed you to excuse his wrongs to begin with, to minimize the abuse, and to not hold him responsible for his own arrested emotional development.
He hides in plain sight. And the fantasies make it possible. Narcissists are like Pied Pipers, they well know what tunes to play that effectively lure women into their traps.
Fantasies are lies, by the way. In this case, they are “feel-good” illusions, intentionally misleading. They enable narcissists and psychopaths to gaslight the vulnerable — as well as the strong yet unaware — and to imprison their minds with the use of tactics of fear and confusion, thought patterns of self-doubt and self-blame, even for the wrongful acts of abusers.
Why do their tactics work? Amazing as it is, the human brain is not wired to “explain” and “reason” with gaslighting or other linguistic mind-games and word-plays in general. These are scientifically proven methods of thought control, developed with intent to cause disturbing PTSD-type effects, some refer to as narcissistic abuse syndrome, which shares common ground with Stockholm syndromein, specifically, for the purpose of obtaining conformity and control over another’s mind.
Note however, these tactics mostly work on the unsuspecting and the disarmed. An NPD or APD relies on the fantasies, but also may use “love bombing,” that is, acting and promising to make a woman’s every romantic wish and dream come true, all the while, merely doing so as part of their strategy to build a disarming sense of trust, which allows them to hide in plain sight!
The origin of these fantasies? They stem from gendered norms. It’s impossible, in my opinion, to understand the disorders of narcissism and psychopathology unless we examine the direct links between social ideals for “masculinity” that, in certain early childhood contexts, legitimize violence as a necessary “means” for establishing male dominance.
Overall the values for toxic masculinity fit like a glove with the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (or NPD), and even more so with its more extreme manifestation, antisocial personality disorder (or APD; also known as socio- or psycho-pathology). .
Overall women are socialized to romanticize male dominance, leaving them overall susceptible to codependency, whereas men are socialized to eroticize proof of male superiority and entitlements to exploit and subjugate the weak, and thus susceptible to narcissism or toxic masculinity. Even in cases where NPDs are women, though comparatively few in number, nevertheless, these women self-identify with those entitled to abuse and violate, and a belief system that values the traits associated with masculinity, while scorning the traits associated with women
As Terry Crews noted in his memoir, Manhood, his early experiences taught him to not take women seriously, to regard them as not fully human, rather objects for the pleasure and comfort of men. His father made domestic violence against his mother seem normal. From boyhood, the men around him groomed him to lie, abuse and exploit women and “the weak and “inferior” in general, and to do so, feeling entitled to impunity as one of the side benefits.
The links between psychopathology and toxic masculinity are real, and vital to understand. In a ground breaking study, titled Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, celebrated Swiss psychologist Alice Miller concludes the following from her research into the connection of psychopathology and the harsh parenting practices, in particular with boys, that prevailed in the decades leading to the Nazi Germany:
“The capacity of the human organism to bear pain is, for our own protection, limited. All attempts to overstep this natural threshold by resolving repression [of core human emotions of compassion, empathy] in a violent manner will, as with every other form of violence, have negative and often dangerous consequences.”
In different ways, these gendered fantasies promote notions of codependency for women and narcissism for men, giving legitimacy to violence as a means to maintain hierarchical relations between those arbitrarily deemed strong and superior versus weak and inferior, and thus, potentially, most social problems of violence in our society — all waiting to be solved, one child, parent, couple and family at a time.
These fantasies also form the basis for cults, both secular and religious, which organize to lure unsuspecting women, men and children, into traps of participating in their own inhumane enslavement, abuse and exploitation.
To disentangle yourself from a narcissist’s traps, a key first step is to identify and understand the fantasies that can make even strong women easy prey for narcissists.
There are at least 3 fantasies:
Fantasy 1: A woman has to prove she is “a good woman” by promoting sexism and misogyny as norms — otherwise she’s evil and dangerous.
There’s no black and white for a woman. She either works as an accomplice against her own gender to be declared a “good woman” or she’s declared “evil” and dangerous to men, thus society. A “good” woman is always supposed to: (1) be nice, selfless, never threatening to the “entitled” partner’s right to deferential treatment; (2) refrain from making demands or requests that ask men to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatens their manliness; (3) do her part to keep other women in their place, as she does herself; (4) condone the use of violence, physical and, or emotional, as necessary, to maintain the supposed “morality” of the status quo; (5) act as an accomplice to silence and, or smear women who complain of abuse, rape, assault, unjust treatment etc.; (6) accept the notion that a woman’s wants and needs have little or no significance in comparison to a man’s; (7) indoctrinate the young to give precedence to the needs and wants and comforts of the “entitled”; (8) regard enforcing the “morality” of male dominance and superiority as a mission that “rescues” society from evil. And so on.
In other words, a “good” woman serves as an accomplice to maintain a social order that values male supremacy, privilege and dominance. She is approved and rewarded if she “sacrifices” her self and wellbeing, meaning she accepts the double standard treatment, that treats her as if she is not fully human, as if she’s a mere extension of “entitled” others, and as if it’s only normal for her to men to feel and “think highly of themselves,” never women, and so on.
This fantasy forms the basic belief system of every cult, where the highest crime is disobedience of the “non-entitled” group to the “entitled” group. And whether the cult is religious or secular, based on this fantasy, all cults claim that male dominance either biologically-determined or god-ordained.
In contrast, a non-conforming woman is regarded as “evil” and dangerous, at best “emotionally crazy” and “wild” or out of control. In contrast to “good” women, they have no approval, are accused of being controlling or emasculating when they stand up for themselves or speak their mind, and refuse to stop believing all human beings, male and female, yearn to be treated with dignity, to express their feelings, wants and needs, and to make requests, without being accused of being selfish, demanding, controlling, rebellious or threatening to men and masculinity.
The truth about this fantasy!? This fantasy is a hook. Like a drug, it lures unsuspecting women into participating in their own abusive, inhumane treatment; simultaneously they are enticed to “feel good” about denying their own wants and needs, and “sacrificing” themselves to make others happy, as proof of a “good” woman’s unconditional love to others. Contributing to others is one of the most rewarding and meaningful of all human endeavors! It should not surprise us that women get hooked on codependency, refusing to let go of the responsibility they’ve learned to give themselves, deep down, for taking care of others’ pain. This explains why a narcissist plays victim; nothing makes a woman fall back faster into their traps.
This fantasy also reinforces the “boys will be boys” ideology, which emotional arrests the development of boys and men in varying degree. It’s a set up for men and women to fail in their relationship. Men are woefully unprepared to listen for understand when their female partner wants to share her feelings and wants; they’ve learned to perceive this as a threat to masculinity, something women do, not men! This pressures men to lie or gaslight women in order to guard their “masculinity.” One-sided giving, however, is detrimental to both persons in an adult relationship. The narcissist derives pleasure by intentionally depriving his partner of what would life her spirit or make her feel-good about herself; the codependent derives her pleasure by depriving her self, wants and needs to make others happy by her selflessness.
Fantasy 2: A woman’s value accrues to the extent she accepts responsibility for moral conduct in relationships and society.
Based on this fantasy, it falls on a woman is responsible for making men feel masculine by deferring to men, hiding her strengths, never taking credit, and owning all responsibility for moral conduct. This fantasy sets up inhumanely “high” standards of conduct for women in couple relationships (or the one deemed “inferior” in same sex couples), and literally anything goes for the conduct of men.
A woman has value to the extent she uses her power to prop up a man’s ego, never threaten, and minimizing herself to make him feel comfortable and important. She is responsible for passing on these “moral” values to children, and younger women in particular, keeping other women in check. She believes the fantasy that a man only feels manly to the extent the woman hides her voice, strengths, needs, wants and dreams. And a valuable woman surrenders her power to prove she’s not a threat. The only thing she wants is what her man, or men in general, want.
This belief is really crazy-making. It claims women are dangerous to men in that they can make or break a man’s masculinity. Women and men have to pretend and act and hide from a woman’s intelligence and strengths to keep relationships in tact. It is hate propaganda, conditioning men to think of women’s strength as a threat. It makes no sense. Strong men value human strengths, regardless of gender, age, race, in the same way strong women do. Narcissists cannot handle evidence that disproves their superiority, and that’s an illusion of strength, which hides severe fragility and weakness. For healthy humans, the capabilities of one person enhance and never diminish another’s! This myth objectifies women, teaches both genders to think of women as having no feelings, able to endure all pain and abuse without protesting.
Truth about his fantasy!? This fantasy explains why men get easily addicted to pornography. In pornography, female actors (mostly sex slaves and prostitutes exploited by narcissists and psychopaths) act as if they derive pleasure from being used as sex objects, in many cases, abused and assaulted. Pornography is responsible for spreading the eroticized fantasy for men (lie) that women “find pleasure” in being dominated, abused, mistreated, etc. Regardless the popularity of books such as “Fifty Shades of Grey,” or the fact that it was written by a woman, no healthy human being derives pleasure from being hurt and abused, or hurting and abusing others! Women and men who were traumatized in childhood by neglect, sexual assault, however, do form toxic conclusions about themselves in order to survive. For example, it’s common for a sexually abused child to conclude they are “valued when they are sexual.” This is a symptom of trauma and abuse, and not a reality about women or human beings in general.
Fantasy 3: A woman proves she is deserving of a love relationship by taming the beast with unconditional love.
Based on this fantasy, men are biologically prone to violence and aggression, and thus to the extent a woman’s love is real, she sacrifices her well being, puts herself in harms way, always forgives, and blindly trusts that, somehow, her love and sacrifice will eventually tame the beast in her man. Based on romanticized notions of dominance, women are led to believe in the illusion that, one day, he will miraculously appreciate her, become her prince, treat her like a princess, but only, of course, once she succeeds in proving her love are good enough to take him out of his misery, and win him over, by silently enduring, ignoring, and forgiving the way he mistreats her in the meantime, regardless how much he intimidates, demeans, abuses her. This reinforces the double standards for men to feel entitled to abuse with impunity, and women to prove themselves, spinning their wheels to keep their love relationship in tact.
Based on this fantasy, women are responsible for making a man feel loved, secure, happy, regardless the costs to her. If he’s a beast, well “boys will be boys”; she is supposed to see this as her failure, never his, her deficiency or inadequacy, never his. She is supposed to believe that a worthy woman, regardless what he does, forgives and makes excuses for him, and makes sure he never feels bad about anything he does. He does the wrongs; she has to somehow right the wrong but do so in a way that keeps his ego propped up? And this is supposed to heal his insecurities at some point, her giving in to whatever he says he needs to feel loved and secure? What lies, illusions, a set up to exploit the kindness and love of innocent persons.
Truth about this fantasy!? Truth be told, giving in and going along with abuse, out of fear, escalates abuse, making the abuser more and not less dangerous to others. He will not “magically” appreciate her each time she forgives and gets conned into staying. He will instead start to really believe his false-self illusions about his own superiority, entitlements to abuse with impunity! This lie is an enabling drug for NPDs and APDs. The more a woman gives in out of fear when a partner acts like a beast, the more likely acts of domestic violence or narcissistic abuse will worsen, with greater intensity and frequency. Unwittingly, this contributes to the notion that “real” men are not “emotionally developed” and “empathy” is feminine trait.
** The word “narcissist” in this post refers to persons meeting the criteria for either narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) on one end, or the more extreme behaviors of antisocial personality disorder (APD), overall a set of overt and, or covert behaviors that display a sense of superiority and scorn, lack of empathy or regard for another’s rights or feelings, and a set of deliberate acts of violence, physical, sexual and, or emotional abuse via malignant tactics such as gaslighting.