Book Club Notes on Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare by Shahida Arabi

becoming-the-narcissists-nightmare

Questions for Book Club Discussion on Shahida Arabi’s ‘Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare’

Book Club Live Stream Discussion January 31, 2017 6:30pm EST on my YouTube channel “Thrive After Abuse”

  • Narcissists and sociopaths are aware of their actions and the impact of their actions – we know this not only from the voices of narcissists and sociopaths themselves but also in the way they smear their victims and the various methods they use to escape accountability such as gaslighting and projection.

 

You cannot plot to blame someone else for your actions if you are not aware of your own blame and are attempting to escape exposure. You also cannot switch your mask rapidly from the true self to the false self when there is a witness if your behavior is not under your conscious control.

 

How does this statement make you feel? Does it help wipe away some of the cobwebs and doubts you had about yourself? Can you remember examples of this type of behavior from your own past where others were blamed?  Can you also see how trying to pin down this behavior is like trying to pick up mercury from a broken thermometer? That there will always be an excuse or it will always be someone else’s fault? And that they will always squirm and wriggle and evade open honest communication, and that you will always be left feeling resentful, with unfinished business between you, or else you will be handed the responsibility? Does this help clarify how No Contact will solve this problem?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 1089-1094). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • I believe there is also a difference between an addict who has become dependent on his or her addiction and a narcissistic abuser who uses alcohol and/ or other substances as a means to abuse and escape accountability – this means that their substance use is comorbid and co-exists with their narcissism. Many survivors meet narcissistic partners who used alcohol or drugs as an excuse to engage in verbal and psychological abuse.

 

What’s important to remember is that there are many people who abuse alcohol or other drugs but do not abuse others when they do. Those who abuse alcohol and abuse others are often the ones who are using their addiction as an excuse to hurt others without having to be held accountable for the abuse they dish out while under the influence.

 

Does anyone know a Narcissist who abused a substance, and then blamed their behavior on the substance? Can you see how this is a cop out and another example of failing to take responsibility for one’s own actions?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 1103-1113). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • Many trauma survivors were afraid to become abusers themselves and were extremely careful about their behavior. They would often reach out to me, scared that their abusers had rubbed off on them, when in reality, they were coming into terms with the legitimate anger they felt at the injustice of their abusers and consciously made efforts to be self-aware of any maladaptive behaviors.

 

Can you begin to feel how your anger is justified? And how anger is a signal to us there is a problem?  Do you think you could harness your anger, and use it as a force of conviction and as an aide to make changes that will bring peace into your life? Can you see that making changes to yourself and turning yourself into a pretzel to try not to provoke the abuser does not solve the problem? But that using anger to fuel your belief in yourself can help you make a plan, and to make your own life better?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 1146-1149). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • The more we justify any form of abuse, rationalize it, minimize it, or attribute it to anything other than the abuser, we fail to support the victims who actually need our compassion and empathy. We cannot expect change in any society where an abuser is not held accountable for his or her actions.

 

We cannot change “society.”  But at the same time we ARE a part of society.  And if we change ourselves and provide support and encouragement to other victims, then we ARE changing society one heart and one mind at a time. And sometimes holding an abuser accountable is as simple as refusing them entry to our homes or our lives. It is exercising a consequence to their behavior. We cannot control the abuser’s actions.  But we can deny them entry. We can draw the line in the sand and say, if only to ourselves, If you choose to act that way, then you may not be a part of my life. Can you see yourself saying:  Nothing justifies abuse.  And believing it? And then refusing entry in your life to a committed abuser?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 1156-1158). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • We do not fall for the narcissist – we fall for the person they pretend to be. There are many survivors who are able to run quickly in the other direction when they interact with overt narcissists, but the problem is that there are many covert narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths who manipulate and deceive individuals very well, deceiving even the most intelligent and competent of mental health professionals.

 

Does this help you with self forgiveness? Can you feel compassion for yourself if you realize that you were deliberately and intentionally deceived about someone’s true character? Does it help you to know that someone has spent years perfecting their image, and that it is not your fault if you bought into it? Please try to realize that if someone else deliberately lies to you about who they are, it has nothing to do with you. It is their problem and their issue.  You are not to blame, and you are not stupid. If someone hides their true character and nature from you and does it well, then it is not your fault. You had no part in forcing them to do this.  It was their choice to do it, and it was done intentionally to deceive you.  To steal from you, to take from you, to con you. How does that make you feel?  To know you were not in any way responsible for what they chose to do?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 1239-1242). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • Self-care, self-love and success are in fact the best revenge. Take it from someone who’s been there: true revenge, the type that enables you to move forward and use your experiences as fuel to achieve your big dreams, is one of the most satisfying things you can experience in your life. A narcissist’s true nightmare is a survivor who is able to transcend the abuse and use it to empower himself or herself. That is the type of revenge that lasts a lifetime.

 

Do you see glimmers of possibility about how to do this? To take your experience and use it for your own and others highest and greatest good? That by rejecting the poison, you cling ever more closely to your true self? Can you feel the power that comes from setting the boundary, saying no to the poison, and walking towards a future filled with others who also value honesty, truth, and your dreams? Towards people who are like you?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 1321-1325). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • Remember that anyone who has abused you in an intimate relationship does not deserve to be your friend. At the very least, you should maintain No Contact for at least 90 days before making the decision to reengage with anyone who has abused you. According to TIME senior science writer Michael Lemonick (2007), the 90-day rule appears most effective regarding addictions to drugs. Thus it should be applied to the addictive biochemical cocktail that is produced in a relationship with a narcissist. Their behavior will most likely not change – but yours can.

 

History is the best predictor we have of the future.  If this is true, then how could a person who has abused you in an intimate relationship stop abusing you in “Just a friendship”?  How do you think they will just stop manipulating if they are “just a friend”?  What process will they use to become trustworthy and dependable?  We must harness our feelings and join them with our logic.  Together, using our feelings as a springboard, and then validating the feelings with our logic, there is a much better chance of making useful and accurate predictions about our future. Can you see how logically a person who has abused you cannot be your friend unless they are willing to undertake concrete and serious action to change? Can you feel the strength that comes from both observing your feeling and validating it with your logic?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 1342-1354). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • Most abusive people do realize when they are stonewalling. They are conscious of when they need to defend themselves from what they perceive to be an attack on their sense of entitlement and false sense of superiority; they feel the need to punish their victims for the perceived attack – even if it’s a simple request to talk about the victim’s emotions. They gain satisfaction and regain a sense of control when they are able to shut a conversation down and escape accountability for their actions while also making their victims feel guilty for questioning them in the first place.

When a victim goes No Contact on an abuser or avoids them after an incident of abuse: this is not the same as stonewalling. Rather, avoiding an abuser is a form of self-protection and self-care.

Can you remember a time when this happened to you?  When an abuser simply refused to address your legitimate questions and gave you the silent treatment?  Can you see and feel the difference? Can you see that their tactic is a manipulative one?  But when you go choose to go No Contact it is not to manipulate them, but rather to protect yourself from further injury?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 2085-2091). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • Although it may seem counterintuitive, leaving a long-term abusive relationship can actually be even harder than leaving a nourishing, supportive and positive one. This is because narcissistic or antisocial abusers are masters of playing mind games and covert manipulation, are able to deny the abuse through gaslighting and present a false image to the world which supports their denial. Survivors are then subjected to a battle within their own minds about whether the reality they experience is truly abuse – a type of cognitive dissonance that society seems to encourage by engaging in victim-blaming.

 

If you have had difficulty leaving an abusive relationship, does this statement help you feel some self compassion? To understand that you were dealing with an individual who is incapable of relating to you in an honest and open way, and who is using all of their powers to deceive you and convince you that you are imagining things or are to blame for their treatment of you?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 3234-3239). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • After the ending of an abusive relationship, survivors have the challenge of uncovering their past traumas and the trauma they’ve just experienced and begin to work through them. The ending of this relationship is actually a golden opportunity to heal from the wounds that were never healed in the first place. The fear of being left alone with the pain now has to be overcome – the survivor now has the space and time to independently act, think and feel outside of the toxic dynamics of the previous relationship.

 

Though it is difficult to see at the time it happens, can you see how ending this abusive relationship in the present can give you an opportunity to heal wounds that go all the way back to childhood and is an opportunity to become a whole and integrated adult person who will never again settle for an abusive relationship ever again?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 3332-3335). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • By invalidating the survivor’s experience, people are defending an image of themselves that they identify with strength, not realizing that abuse survivors are often the strongest individuals out there. They’ve been belittled, criticized, demeaned, devalued, and yet they’ve still survived. The judgmental ones often have little to no life experience regarding these situations, yet they feel quite comfortable silencing the voices of people who’ve actually been there. While being a survivor can sometimes alienate us from society, it can also give us an intense connection with other survivors, in interactions filled with understanding and compassion. We have the ability to offer empathy and insight to others on a level other individuals aren’t capable of. Survivors on the healing journey learn how to use their voices, connect with alternative communities and reach out to those who have been there.

 

Do you see the strength and the compassion that can come from this experience?  And how your naturally occurring giving nature can be used for other’s highest and greatest good? Can you see how you are now uniquely trained to support others who are going through the same experience? 

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 3351-3358). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • Recovery from narcissistic abuse usually involves the following steps:

*Identifying narcissistic traits and behaviors that are pathological and abusive.

*Breaking the habit of projecting your own morality and ability to empathize onto the abuser. *Validating your reality as opposed to the one the abuser has created and distorted for you through gaslighting and projection.

*Creating a solid support network of validating people who will hold you accountable for detaching from and leaving the relationship.

*Maintaining No Contact or Low Contact, depending on whether you share children with your abuser or have other legal matters that require communication.

*Extreme self-care to begin to heal from the effects of abuse, encompassing physical, emotional and spiritual methods.

*Creating a “reverse discourse” to rewrite the scripts the abuser has written for you, which is especially helpful for victims who suffered have severe verbal abuse.

*Reconnecting with the “lost” pre-trauma identity or a spiritual identity that transcends trauma if there is no pre-trauma identity, while permitting post-traumatic growth.

*Healing subconscious programming and addictive or self-sabotaging behaviors during the period of recovery through alternative and traditional methods.

*Constructively reframing the experience to benefit your personal development and the larger society around you. This can include sharing your story with other survivors and channeling the experience into the greater good.

*Realigning yourself with your purpose, goals, hobbies, interests and passions to rebuild an incredible life while using your adversity as fuel for your success.

 

What do you think about this list? Have you tried any or all of these and what was your experience?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 3604-3627). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • In her book Shahida talks about many ways to heal: Reverse discourse, meditation, CBT therapy, DBT therapy, hypnosis, positive affirmations, Reiki, acupuncture, chakra balancing, healing the Inner Child, yoga, cord cutting, aromatherapy, nature, music therapy, art therapy.

Have you tried any of these or combination of these and what have you found helpful in your healing journey?

  • Narcissists don’t work on our logical, thinking minds – they appeal to the emotional parts of our brains which are hard-wired to respond instinctively to avoid abandonment. We haven’t evolved beyond the “if I am out of the tribe, I won’t survive” mentality unfortunately – and the narcissist can target the very wounds that make us fear abandonment – tricking us into believing that their discard of us is a life and death situation. Unfortunately for many victims, it can be and that is why I want to make sure you know that a narcissist’s pathology is not your responsibility.

 

Does understanding this help you with getting clarity and understanding? Does it help with understanding what happened to you and why healing is so difficult?

 

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 4341-4345). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • The best therapy in my opinion is with a trauma-informed mental health professional who demonstrates empathy for the client’s pain, is able to understand the depths of trauma in the client’s life, and gently guide the victim towards self-compassion, which I personally believe is in the root of true change – not judgment and timelines for healing. A client will be more likely to leave a toxic situation when they are validated in their pain and secure in the fact that there is someone who understands them.

 

What has been your experience with therapy? Has a therapist helped you leave your abuser and to feel good about yourself for doing so?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 4539-4542). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • 111 Alternatives to Breaking No Contact

 

Shahida offers a great list of 111 ways for us to avoid breaking No Contact.  What are some ways you’ve supported yourself and maintained No Contact?

 

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Location 6002). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • Choose one powerful mantra or positive affirmation you can use to ground and center you. This is a statement that can counteract any anxiety you’re feeling. Write it down on a piece of paper and carry it with you wherever you go. The trick is that you must feel comfortable saying it. Words like, “I am beautiful,” “I am worthy,” “I am calm,” are powerful and true, but you must be willing to feel that they are true. Choose something you can say and feel the truth of as you say it.

What are some of your affirmations or mantras that help you stay focused on the life you are choosing to live?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 6265-6269). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • Once you start viewing narcissists as “predictable” characters with unpredictable masks and as shapeshifting chameleons that will stop at nothing to get a reaction, you will understand the need to step back and see the narcissist’s ploys as what they truly are, rather than focusing on the emotional reaction you have to them. This will make it easier to establish firm boundaries with them without making excuses for their behavior or invalidating your own feelings in the process.

 

How have you struggled with this?  What are some ways you support yourself in this stepping back process?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 7023-7027). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • Make a list of boundaries you absolutely need the narcissist to abide by. Boundaries like, “Do not call me after midnight” or “Do not speak to me in that condescending tone.” Since narcissists will try to break boundaries, take control by making sure you are not receptive to this boundary-breaking when it occurs. When the narcissist speaks in a certain tone, smile, make an excuse and walk away before he or she continues. When the narcissist calls you after midnight, turn off your phone and don’t be available. The key is finding ways that you can establish your boundaries without having to force the narcissist to honor them, since he or she is unlikely to do so.

 

Boundaries are crucial for dealing with Narcissists and as well there must be consequences that you are in control of when they are not respected. Consequences such as hanging up the phone, or walking away. What are some boundaries you have implemented and did this process help you?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 7027-7032). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • In the context of intimate relationships, survivors of narcissistic abuse may be stalked, harassed and cyberbullied for years even after the ending of the relationship, especially if they were the ones to discard the narcissist first. When a narcissist suffers from a narcissistic injury, this can lead to narcissistic rage. This rage is a result of an injury to their ego when something or someone threatens their delusions of grandeur and “false self.” Since survivors often implement No Contact with their abusers, narcissistic abusers feel a loss of power and attempt to regain that power through tactics like provocation, hoovering and post-breakup triangulation techniques.

Have you experienced long term stalking or cyber stalking from someone you’ve implemented No Contact with and how did you handle it?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 7047-7055). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • What has been the most powerful tool you’ve used for healing?

Please share your favorite healing tools.

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 7248-7249). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

  • Abuse survivors are used to being blamed for not being good enough and the mistreatment they’ve suffered convinces them they are not enough. The truth is, the abuser is the person who is not enough. Only a dysfunctional person would deliberately harm another. You, on the other hand, are enough. Unlike your abuser, you don’t have to abuse anyone else to feel superior or complete. You are already whole, and perfect, in your own imperfect ways.

How does thinking about this statement make you feel?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 7366-7370). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

You are not the crazy one. During the abusive relationship, you were gaslighted into thinking that your perception of reality was false and told that you were the pathological one, that your version of events was untrue, that your feelings were invalid, that you were too sensitive when you reacted to his or her mistreatment of you. You may have even endured a vicious smear campaign in which the charming abuser told everyone else you were “losing it.”

 

Losing it actually meant that you were tired of being kicked around, tired of being cursed at and debased. Losing it actually meant that you were finally starting to stand up for yourself. The abuser saw that you were recognizing the abuse and wanted to keep you in your place by treating you to cold silence, harsh words, and condescending rumor mongering.

 

It’s time to get back to reality: you were not the unstable one. The unstable one was the person who was constantly belittling you, controlling your every move, subjecting you to angry outbursts, and using you as an emotional (and even physical) punching bag.

 

Who are you? You were the person who wanted a good relationship. The one who strove to please your abuser, even at the cost of your mental and physical health. You were the one whose boundaries were broken, whose values were ridiculed, whose strengths were made to look like weaknesses. You attempted to teach a grown person how to behave with respect – often fruitlessly. You were the one who deserved so much better.

 

It may have seemed this relationship was like a “waste of time” but in changing your perspective, it can also be an incredible learning experience. You now have the agency to create stronger boundaries and learn more about your values as a result of this experience. As a survivor, you’ve seen the dark side of humanity and what people are capable of. You’ve recognized the value of using your time wisely after you’ve exhausted it with someone unworthy. With this newfound knowledge, you are no longer naive to the fact that there are emotional predators out there. Most importantly, you can share your story to help and empower other survivors. I know I did, and you can too.

 

Do you see your strengths now and how they can be used?  How do you feel about your future after reading this book?

Arabi, Shahida (2016-04-23). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself (Kindle Locations 7427-7455). Self-Care Haven. Kindle Edition.

 

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Dana

I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse.

My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.

Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.

It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
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About Dana 254 Articles
I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse. My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life. Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics. It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.

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