Is Fear of Abandonment the Root of Narcissism?

No one talks about it this way, but lots of people selfishly sabotage their relationships. Lots of them are called narcissists. 

But most of us have some kind of damage… How do we know who’s who?

Watch Them Fight

Sometimes, I think you’re both jerks!

Narcissistic people, who appear grandiose but are actually cripplingly insecure, usually follow a cycle in relationships.

One big tell is that the Narcissistic Cycle dominates a person’s life. All their hang-ups, all the time. Abandonment phobia is only triggered in certain circumstances.

But both people enter relationships with high expectations that they can’t help – They are needy to a fault, and they don’t see it.

At the beginning, they Idealize you. ‘Love-Bombing’ is beautiful, but shallow. You are their most perfect person in the world.

This is hard to think about, because normal love makes us crazy! We do weird things and aren’t looking for red flags. The Cycle is cruel, and beginnings can be terrifying for anyone bitten by emotional vampires before.

Because the downturn is insidious. You are Devalued slowly, until the one who said they’d always be there seems completely uninterested.

In her article on GoodTherapy.org, social worker and therapist of 20 years Andrea Schneider explains how it works: 

“By being in a relationship with such a nurturing, loving person, the narcissist is able to consume that person's authentic love and extract narcissistic supply.”

You give them your energy, and they happily take it. As much as you’ll give them.

But when you are inevitably revealed as imperfect, your dysfunctional darling begins magnifying and imagining flaws. Little things you don’t even think about, a tone of voice, suddenly canceled plans, sow seeds of doubt in your flawed flame. 

If you’re not paying close attention, before you know it you’re rehearsing how you will account for your time when you get home. Reassuring him about that male friend, again. Your own point of view can begin to drift as keeping the peace takes over.

This is commonly known as Gaslighting. After a while, you can start to go a little crazy.

Big Black Dog

This is the only position I can sleep in anymore!

Your volatile valentine may show symptoms like, “intermittently lacking emotional or physical intimacy, withdrawing affection, seductive withholding, inexplicably disappearing from contact, or blaming [you] for [their] issues (projection).” It’s important to mix in crumbs of that old affection – You don’t get to leave until they’re through with you.

It’s all a setup for the final phase, where you are Discarded like rubbish.

Now that you’re all shook up and insecure, your weirdo is on his merry way. He’s drained his victim and will use his charm (and maybe the sob story of this break-up) to hook someone else.

Demanding better treatment can drive your broken boo away faster. Pleas for support are met with temper tantrums. “Inevitably, the discarding occurs when the narcissist either disappears or orchestrates his or her own abandonment by engaging in some form of egregious emotional abuse.”

Basically, they turn on you. Suddenly everything you do is wrong, and the only sensible thing to do is cut your losses. My ex and I went through this three or four times.

Wait… How do you do it more than once? 

Part of it was me refusing to walk away. Part of it was him refusing to be alone.

If you hang around long enough, eventually you slip into the last phase of the cycle, called Hoovering. It’s not always officially included, but I think it’s the most important.

Hoovering (like the vacuum cleaners) is where real confusion can set in. The storm clouds suddenly seem to part!

Making Up

This time, you swear you’ll be home at least three nights every week!

You’ve been torn down, rejected, abandoned. Then, the minute you start to get your head together, he’s back. Apologizing and saying everything you want to hear.

He’s sucking you back in. The moment you begin to play along, the whole thing starts over.

Pathological neediness is created by abuse. Whatever label you choose, dysfunctional people usually raise more dysfunctional people. We can’t teach what we don’t know, and most people would rather have a dozen root canals than examine their own shit.

Let loose, abandonment phobia plays out the same pattern. Without self-awareness and support, your phobic paramour will quickly spiral into survival mode. 

Verywellmind.com steps us through escalation of abandonment phobia:

  1. Getting to Know One Another
  2. The Honeymoon 
  3. The Real Relationship
  4. The Slight – Imperfections revealed, paranoia is triggered
  5. The Reaction“If you have this fear, you are probably completely convinced that the slight is a sign that your partner no longer loves you…. Some people handle this by becoming clingy and demanding, insisting that their partner prove her love by jumping through hoops. Others run away, rejecting their partners before they are rejected.”

In my experience it’s usually one, then the other. 

The moral of the story is that, although your defective darling is showing these signs, that doesn’t (necessarily) mean he’s narcissistic. It works like a phobia, hibernating in an otherwise reasonable person.

A person who is able to look at his own behavior and see where he could improve. Narcissists are incapable of this. They may talk the talk, but they will never walk the walk. They talk themselves out of things just as quickly. The other big tell, way more obvious but takes time to see, is change. Real, positive growth over time is a very good sign… for anyone.

Narcissists will never really take responsibility for anything. Admitting weakness exposes them to the judgment they are so afraid of. They will spin and spin until you’re so dizzy you forget why you went in there.

Swinging Sixties

Do you love me now??

Even the most loving and patient person will be exhausted eventually, and unable to take any more. That’s when the true vampire ghosts like a pro.

They can’t take any responsibility because they are extremely insecure. I think it’s what happens when abandonment phobia totally takes over.

Narcissists create baby narcissists by teaching their children not to rely on them. Usually, they’re not even reliably unreliable. Sometimes, they love you.

And then, they emotionally abandon you over and over.

Narcissism sometimes looks like abandonment phobia grown so big, they can’t even open up to themselves.

Myself, I do get a knot in my stomach that every little argument is the beginning of the end.

I’ve been left out and left behind more times than I could possibly count, and I almost never understand it. 

After a while, you start assuming there’s something wrong with you.

Everyone is temporary, they come and go, you see them on Facebook. And maybe, once in a while, a relationship starts feeling stale. The downslide to the inevitable is like nausea before vomiting, and you just get it over with.

You learn a lot if you pay attention to patterns. Taking responsibility for your own lets you grow beyond the ones who can only criticize.

You may get a little old and a little misty, wondering where someone is now. Hindsight shows you what a shithead you were, things you totally misunderstood.

Life can seem like one long ending. Lots of people are gone. But so is lots and lots of awful bullshit. Maybe, most of the time, when someone leaves they are doing you a favor.

It’s never too late to do better. I want to fill my life with sound, kind people. And then keep from driving them crazy.

Comments

  1. I’ve been in a similar area of thinking. I’ve conceptualized narcissism as validation deprivation that is perpetuated by the acquisition of stigma of one’s identity. Stigma is anti-validation. Those who feel rejected, feel so because of disagreement very often. I use the example of vegans, where their identity is considered invalid by the majority of the society they walk through. There are stereotypes of vegans that appear to be narcissism. The superiority complex. The evangelizing vegan culture exists because they are attempting to validate their position to others. When a vegan comes into contact with a nonvegan, the nonvegan feels instantly invalid as well. Both sides feel attacked. This occurs with atheists as well. Atheist culture sometimes looks at christians as “idiots”. I’ve basically realized that narcissistic reactions are very normal in the face of disagreement. A person loses empathy once someone appears to be a threat. Then we speak in ways that strawman the opposition often times. This strawmanning is condescending. The NPD type is someone who has identified with this pattern of disagreement. This is why the personality trait of disagreeability is correlated to narcissism. The person is nonconforming to society on some level and feels insecure about the fact that society is against them in this way. I’ve noticed that normal people will bash and abuse narcissistic people in chat rooms. They will act narcissistically towards the narcissist and insult them. They are often unaware of their own condescending behaviors. I’ve written about this in depth in a piece titled AntiNarcissism, I think you’d find it resonating.

  2. Trust me, when someone leaves, especially in a grand fashion from your life, let them. If they wanted to be there, they'd make an honest effort. I've had to realize this myself. I think about how I've been fortunate enough to have some close childhood friends that have grown with me and so many people I've had to walk away from or allow them to walk away from me. I don't want to waste any more time fighting to make something exist when that something was never meant to be permanent. It's easier letting people go now, but it can sting when you felt the person in question wouldn't turn into a seasonal item. [sigh] I do fear from time to time that perhaps I'm becoming too cavalier about people exiting my life, but it's well-founded after realizing that I too suffered from thinking every small conflict was the beginning of the end, and that everyone one that enters my life doesn't always deserve a seat in my heart.

    • BrazenShe -

      Yeah I have a couple good, old friends. And a great husband. And several good acquaintances that are sort of an ever-shifting lineup. I think one or 2 good friends and a good partner is about all anyone really needs, and I feel lucky to have a few more great people around 😉

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