Are you being manipulated?
Manipulative people are like parasites: they feed off your living energy and steer you towards behaviors that are meant to benefit them at your expense. I'm sure we have all heard of them at some point in our life but chances are you are not able to identify them (and you won't even bother scanning for them) until you become one of their prays.
Now, this might sound very counter intuitive but the best way to identify a manipulative person is to look at yourself. Why is that? Because manipulators are experts at hiding themselves, they have been honing their abusive skills for years and years and unless you are a professional psychologist specifically trained to identify them (or you are an ex-pray who decided to get educated on the subject), it is REALLY hard to uncover them.
The points below are excerpted from the youtube video "Narcissistic Victim Sindrome - 20 Signs you have" from the amazing youtube channel called "From Surviving to Thriving".
The author, Michelle, is an ex victim who provides invaluable insights and one-on-one coaching lessons if you are interested in getting some help. She does not sponsor me or vice versa, i simply believe she is a well of knowledge and she deserves to be talked about. So, back to us, these are the symptoms you have to look for:
1) IDENTITY DISORDER: You start looking, feeling, acting, talking less like you. This comes from being dictated constantly who you are. Sharing your feelings and thoughts with an emotional abusive person typically leads to answers like "This is not how you feel" or " This is not who you really are, this is who you are...I know you better than you". Often times conversations with emotional abusers are twisted and turned to the point that you might have hard time recalling the purpose of the conversation in the first place and you will end up feeling confused and disoriented.
2) INDUCED EXHAUSTION and ADRENAL FATIGUE: When you are in a relationship with a abusive person you find yourself spinning a wheel like a hamster. Abusive people usually demand more and more from you while lowering the bar for what you expect from them. Their exploiting nature leads you to take on all responsibilities (from financial to emotional to physical) while little or nothing is given back from them. They complain as if what you do is never enough and your constant attempts to show you are doing your part will always remain unnoticed. However, this constant giving, coupled with lack of self care, will drive you towards self destruction and complete exhaustion.
3) COGNITIVE DISSONANCE: This is a state of confusion caused by conflicting and contradicting thoughts such as "He loves me but he ignores me for weeks, he loves me but he never validates my feelings". Any attempt to solve this paradox with the abuser through confrontation will result into a shift of focus that usually involves shaming the victim (for example "How could you think I don't love you or i don't care about you? That is such a cold thing to accuse someone of, I would never say that about you regardless of what we have been through. " So within minutes the attention is shifted from the abuser to the victim.
4) CONSTANT RUMINATION: Your mind is so busy trying to make sense of the situation you are in, that you just cannot stop thinking. Maybe you are trying to find the formula to please this "unpleasable" person or you are thinking about something that happened before trying to make sense of it. You are so wrapped up in thoughts that you have no room left to think about what you need or what you want. You are missing the joy of living in the moment.
5) CONSTANT BRAIN FOG: Your ability to concentrate, your memory, your understanding of relationships are gone. You have difficulty learning new things or even just focusing on a task. You don't feel centered and you feel as if nothing makes sense.
6) DOUBTING YOUR SANITY: Emotional manipulators are attracted to people that are peaceful, kind, forgiving but because they view their significant other as competition they have this intense desire to take on all the good qualities of the other person, erase them from them, and take their bad qualities and put them into their victims. Little by little the manipulators will teach you to be them. That's how they do it: when you forgive and you are kind they don't give you peace, they continue the fight, the stress and turmoil until you blow up. Only then they calm down and they will tell you thing like "Everything will be fine". If this is done consistently, your brain will make a connection that the fastest you blow up the fastest you will be at peace. You will begin to act in this way seeking peace without realizing that you are being manipulated within and then when you blow up the other party will say: " Look at you, you are the problem. Look at how you are reacting. I am calm so you must be the problem. I am not trying to be mean or rude when i say this, you need help and i'm only saying this to help you because i care". So they are creating a situation and then claiming to be the ones who know how to solve it and that's by you accepting this is all your fault and the issue lays within you.
7) PTSD: You are in an emotional warfare every day, you never know what bomb is going to go off because that person experiences narcissistic injuries for reasons that are only in their minds and they are hard to predict. Everyday of your life you are charged with anxiety, fear and you never have a chance to have emotional downtime where you actually feel relaxed. This ends up creating post traumatic stress disorder.
8) DEPRESSION: Little by little you will start losing your shine and the joy for the things you were passionate about. When you try to do them you don't enjoy them anymore because in the past a toxic individual has criticized you, often in small ways. Maybe you are doing an activity you love or you are giving yourself love (for example painting your nails, having a pedicure, etc) and they will tell you something like "You are spending so much time on yourself instead of spending time with me" or "That's all that you can do, you are so superficial and such a bad wife". Done over a long period of time your brain creates an association of bad emotions with that passion, so little by little you loose the joy of it.
9) YOU FEEL AND LOOK LIKE AN EMPTY SHELL: Your personality has been erased, you are not really present and even the tone of your voice changes because you become afraid of your own shadow.
10) FEELING EMOTIONAL DISCONNECTED WITH YOURSELF: You feel as if you are not connected to your emotions. Good emotions and good vibes make the abuser feel bad so they teach you through criticism that emotional disconnect is good and they will reward you when you show signs of it. There is no excitement in your life.
11) DEVELOP LOW SELF ESTEEM: Maybe you already came into abusive relationships with low self esteem but that didn't dominate your everyday life. Now that you are in an abusive relationship you have someone systematically chipping it away from you to the point that it now affects your every day life and your power to take any decisions.
12) YOU FEEL ADDICTED TO YOUR ABUSER: Even if you are aware that this person is toxic for you, you feel a need to gain this person's approval even if it costs you your physical health, psychological health or your life. That's your whole focal point.
13) YOUR DOMINANT EMOTION IS SHAME: Toxic people have a shame-based identity but instead of dealing with it they project it on to their loved ones. You become the garbage pail for all the bad qualities that they feel inside.
14) NIGHTMARES: They don't have to be about the abuser, they can be symbolic such as tornadoes.
15) DISASSOCIATION: It's a coping mechanism that makes you feel disconnected from yourself, almost as if you are not living your own life. You are so overwhelmed emotionally that your body is there but your mind in not there. It's a way to reduce the pain from the emotional difficulties.
16) YOU ARE EASILY TRIGGERED: You tend to burst in anger very quickly and very frequently and it is increasingly difficult to bring that stress level down. The recovery time is every time longer and longer. This is because the emotional abuser feeds off your emotional responses and that is more easily achieved if you are in a heightened state of anxiety and frustration. It takes one little dig to set you off and provide them with what you need.
17) DEVELOP ADDICTIONS: It is usually a destructive addiction that stems from internalizing the destructive behaviors of the abuser and you now begin to do it to yourself.
18) DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIORS: This could be financially or emotionally like sabotaging your job, your relationships with family, friends or even your own children. This might happen because the abuser got you to believe that you have no value and now sadly you are finishing the work that they have started.
19) PHOBIA OF SOCIAL SITUATIONS: The difference between anxiety and phobia is that phobia is when you begin to avoid what gives you anxiety. People with narcissistic personality disorder use their family members to emotionally regulate themselves so before a family event they will create an extreme catastrophe, a huge blow out or stressful situation with their significant other that makes no sense at the time. This is intended to release their emotional garbage so now they can operate as if nothing even happened while their significant other looks like a mess without having anyone knowing what happened before entering that social situation. The brain makes an association with those intense situations and being around other people and over time it becomes a real phobia. These changes in a person's personality are unfortunately used by abusers to reinforce the concept that the victim is the problem. A lot of people, including family members, friends and very often even professionals fall for this trick and wind up thinking the victim is the issue when in reality there is a definite root cause to those behaviors.
20) PANIC ATTACKS: This is a response to the extreme emotional state that is kept for prolonged periods of time. The body cannot longer cope with the level of stress it is going through.