The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

The narcissistic abuse cycle typically works in the same way, once understood, their traits are quite predictable.

The narcissist abuse cycle occurs in three phases. The idealisation, devaluation and discard phases. Each is done very methodically, with the motive to emotionally manipulate. Understanding each phase ensures those experiencing narcissistic abuse will recognise the signs and not enter the narcissist’s trap.

Initially, the narcissist typically works in these three phases in sequence, in order to emotionally manipulate you.

Narcissistic abuse cycle: First is the Idealisation phase

This is where they make you the centre of their world. They make you feel like they can’t live without you… and in time, make you feel like you can’t be without them. They usually put you on a pedestal. Everything moves way too fast. They bombard you with flattery – and fool you into thinking they want you. They basically want to make you dependent on their praise, acceptance, and “love.”

Things they will do during the idealisation phase are:

  • They’ll start rapidly planning a bright future, taking into account everything you’ve dreamed of. 
  • They’ll tell you that you’re soul mates, that you were meant for each other, and profess undying love for you. 
  • They’ll ensure every part of their personality caters to your needs. 
  • They’ll put you on a pedestal and constantly praise you. 

The idealisation phase is all about the narcissist’s hunger for supply hunger for supply and to regulate their fluctuating sense of self worth. 

Your gut instinct may tell you that it’s moving too quickly, and how can someone claim to be in love with you in such a short space of time. Trust those instincts, they’re there for a good reason. 

Narcissistic Abuse Cycle: Next is the Devaluation phase 

The devaluation phase where they directly and indirectly put you down. They give you the silent treatment and they blame you for everything – which is called blame shifting. 

When you don’t allow them to treat you the way they want to treat you, you’ll face narcissistic rage. If you question them, they’ll gaslight you and make you doubt yourself. They’ll make you doubt the things you do, and the reality of the situation you’re in. 

This phase is actually the perfect time to leave the relationship. Well,  the beginning would have been, but they trick you at the start to gain emotional control. In the idealisation phase, the narcissist puts you on a pedestal. In the devaluation phase, they throw you off it. They will hate all the things they used to love about you. In reality though, they never did love those things.

Envy During The Devaluation Stage

In this phase, the narcissist will also experience pathological envy – they’ll be jealous of anything you’re good at, or your good characteristics. They will use what you’re better at than them to put you down. 

This may come in the form or negative comments about those things, or they may put you down in a subtle way.. and then say, “I’m only joking.” This is to plant that seed of doubt in your mind about you abilities and to sabotage your life and potential. 

In the devaluation phase, they’ll make you feel like everything is your fault. They’ll give you inconsistent doses of nice and horrible responses and reactions. They’ll manage down your expectations – giving you less, but getting more from you.

This is called breadcrumbing, where the narcissist will give you crumbs of affection. This works because over time, they will have eroded your self-esteem and self-confidence to the place where you seek their approval and validation. 

You’ll feel confused and wonder where has this person gone that you knew in the beginning? That person  never existed – and you’re left trying to reconcile the image presented in the beginning with their current behaviour.

The last stage is the Discard phase 

This is where the narcissist abandons you in an attempt to make you feel absolutely confused and worthless.They will demean you by leaving you in the lurch – simultaneously implying that you aren’t important. 

They’ll move onto their next supply quickly – leaving you in shock because one minute they’re with you.. the next with a new person- someone they were grooming long before they left you – There was no forewarning. You had no idea. Even though they discard you, that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily disappear.

The majority of the time, after a period of time, they will attempt to provoke and hoover you – it’s all about control. Once they see you thriving they’ll want you back just to do it all again – this time around much worse than before. 

They want to keep you in the abuse cycle by hoping you hang on to the potential of the relationship and what they could have been. This is when many survivors relapse and get back into the relationship. The only reason the narcissist reaches out is for validation and to prove they still have some sort of emotional control over you. 

You have to understand that the narcissist can’t stand to see you doing well, and given the opportunity, they will sabotage everything.

How To Break The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

I know that you’ve come to this article to gain more understanding and awareness of the narcissistic abuse cycle. However, I have to be clear in saying that because narcissistic abuse entails so much, the most effective way to break the cycle is with therapy/coaching/counselling.

It should be with a trauma-informed expert as survivors can be retraumatised by therapists who don’t have an expert understanding of this type of abuse.

Narcissistic abuse is done very methodically and usually over a long period of time. Your mind, body and physiology are all affected. It usually takes so deep inner work to counteract and heal the effects of abuse. 

You also need to take into account any past traumas that may have contributed to you being in a toxic relationship in the first place. Often, survivors of narcissistic abuse have past inner child wounds that have not been healed. There may be existing symptoms of PTSD or CPTSD. 

Narcissistic abuse needs to be healed with outside support. I know there are pages on social media and blogs like mine, as well as YouTube videos. These are all great to bring you to awareness, which is key. In my experience, they can’t help you heal long term. 

With therapy, an expert can help bring to your awareness things you weren’t aware of. They can help you look within using different proven methods such as CBT, EMDR and other effective forms of therapy. 

Conditions such as PTSD and CPTSD have serious symptoms which can be exacerbated or brought on by narcissistic abuse. So in order to address these, therapy is the best option. 

Other ways to help break the narcissistic abuse cycle 

Except therapy, journaling can be a very effective additional way to help combat the cycle. Journaling can help you uncover repressed emotions in a safe way. The power of writing down our emotions is that it tends to bring issues and questions up that expose our inner emotional landscape. 

This information can be used to find out why you respond in certain ways, and what your core beliefs are about yourself. Journaling can also help you to keep a diary of what’s happening in the relationship. This can particularly help with gaslighting, as it keeps you rooted in your own reality, not the narcissist’s. 

You can break the cycle of narcissistic abuse, whether it’s from a partner, parent or even in your workplace. It will take relearning the dynamics of a healthy relationship as well as doing the inner work. It is possible with help and support. 

If you are stuck in the cycle of narcissistic abuse, please contact me with regards to CBT therapy and journal therapy. 

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