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I was chatting to a friend the other day who is reinventing herself after breaking a long-term cycle of entering narcissistic relationships.

She was a new person.  She was vibrant, excited and free.
Wearing what she wanted, going where she wanted and spending time with whoever she wanted to.

She had tried for many years to leave but always found herself back in the relationship, feeling more powerless each time.  She couldn’t understand why she fell for her partner’s apologies, pleas for forgiveness and promises to break the cycle of control. But, hey, we’ve all been there, abusive relationship or not.

Once she did find the courage to leave for good, she found herself being drawn to the same people again.

She hated it but was powerless to stop it.

It was like she was programmed to suffer in love.

In the end, she decided that she needed to be alone for the rest of her life, because she couldn’t trust her ability to make good, relationship decisions. 

Anyway, once I explained to her what was really going on in the mind of a narcissist and what they required their partner to be, a light came on for her and the tables turned.

So, I’d like to share this knowledge with you as well, in case you, or someone you know could benefit from the insight.

I’d like to preface this by saying that there are many types of narcissism and I’m not suggesting a one-size-fits-all approach. But, with a little education, partners of these abusers can take back control of their lives, not by changing their partner, but by changing their own awareness and tapping into their own power source.

Five little-known facts about narcissists.

1. A narcissist is so afraid of their own failure, that they’ll make a career out of pointing out everyone else’s.

Their self-talk is SO crippling, that the only respite they get, is focussing on how other people are letting the side down instead.

You’ll know if this is the case because their rants often include tirades about how other people are treating them like they’re stupid.  Because of this, they’ll wax lyrical about how they hate technology, online banking, policies, paperwork yada yada yada.

Their other favourite gripe is that people are not appreciating, acknowledging or respecting them enough.

(The key takeaway here, is that this is simply a reflection of their own self-talk … they themselves think they’re stupid and feel they are worth nothing – but blaming this on other people and things, makes the bite a little less painful.)

2. A narcissist and a people pleaser are running the same belief.

(But they demonstrate it in different ways).

Both have what we call a trauma bond.  This trauma bond is the result of early childhood patterns that imbed a belief that other people determine their worth – that’s the trauma part.  The bond part is the need to extract reinforcement, or approval from another person.

To put it simply, a people pleaser feels they are of no value, so they offer something, in return for approval.  If I do this for you, then, in return, I’ll feel valued. They give, in order to get.

Whereas a narcissist, who also believes they are of no value, uses control, and demands approval. You must give, so that I get.

Both methods are designed to meet the same need, but in reality, never do … which is why these feelings escalate as time goes by.  This need for validation is like a drug, but like any addict, they are on a constant quest to satisfy a craving, that cannot be satisfied by anything or anyone but themselves (if they ever decide to learn how, that is). 

3. A narcissist has no idea they’re a narcissist.

They don’t know what they don’t know.  They are simply repeating a pattern that played out in front of them as a child.  This does NOT mean they are not at fault; it is not an excuse for their behaviour, but the more that people challenge them on their behaviour, the greater the trauma bond becomes, the bigger the need for validation grows, and the smaller their capacity for empathy becomes.

Interestingly, I find that people with control issues are incredibly easy to work with, because once they are educated, without prejudice, on the drama cycle (persecutor, victim, rescuer) they absorb the knowledge as information rather than an insult or threat.  It’s not uncommon, in our corporate training, for a narcissistic leader to become quite emotional, finally having clarity on decades of (personal and professional) behaviour in a way they never saw it before.

The great thing about this, is that once they have the awareness, they become hungry for knowledge on how to break the cycle (which is way more effective than simply being told to break the cycle because it’s being driven by the person themselves, not by someone else).

4. A narcissist is only a narcissist to some people.

You would have seen this for yourself.

The reason why a narcissist demonstrates respect to some people, is that these seemingly immune people are not residents of the drama cycle.  They don’t buy into or deliver what the narcissist needs, so control isn’t a currency of any worth.

A narcissist requires their prey to bounce between the victim and rescuer roles, because it’s these that satisfy the controller’s need for subservience.

As a victim, we tolerate and accept the behaviour, then we’ll take on the rescuer’s mindset, and go to great lengths to win back favour and ‘keep the peace’.  As a result, the controller (aka persecutor) feels validated, obeyed, and righteous.

5. And this is the MOST important point of all – A narcissist cannot be a narcissist in a room on their own.

To exert control and be powerful, they require an audience. Therefore, it is NOT the narcissist that has the power in a relationship, it is the person being controlled, for they deliver the one thing the narcissist needs – attention.

Without you, they have no control.

Without you, they have no power.

Without you, they are powerless.

Contrary to popular belief, a narcissist does not rely on control, they rely on fear.

When you get support to release that fear, the narcissist no longer has power … so they stop being a narcissist.

A narcissist’s WORST NIGHTMARE is an educated empath. 

And it was this final point, that the friend I mentioned earlier, said gave her the biggest aha moment when I shared it with her a few months ago.  She had never looked at it like that before and in just one sentence, she was freed from another sentence.

I completely get that.

When I was in my late 20s, early 30s, I had a friend who controlled every minute of my every day.  I felt like I was in a cult.  I wasn’t the person I am now, and simply did what I was told, because I was so fearful of the consequences if I didn’t.

Yes, my friend, it’s true!  I haven’t always been a badass!

She controlled how I parented, who I spoke to, how I dressed, who I was allowed to like and who I had to dislike etc.

I used to go to the gym twice a day with her because if I didn’t, my life wouldn’t be worth living. I even went one time when I had gastro, because it was easier than incurring the wrath of not going.

I was divorced and whenever I met someone I was interested in, she would muscle in and claim her territory to such an extent that these people would walk away from me.

But I felt trapped.  Terrified, controlled and powerless.

I couldn’t find the strength to do anything other than submit.

There was no way I could confront her.  I didn’t have it in me.

And then one day, she said to me … and this is one of my JFK moments – “I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you. I could handle losing one of my kids, but I couldn’t cope with losing you.”

I felt revolted, disgusted in her and horrified at her lack of warmth towards her children. I felt sick!

But, that night, it hit me.

She needed me.

I was the one who held the power in the so-called friendship.

So the next day, I ended it.

I went to see her, but she wasn’t home so I left her a note saying that I had no further interest in having anything to do with her, that I was no longer her friend and never wanted to hear from her again.

What happened?


I never heard from her again.


Easy! I no longer had anything to offer her.

So, if you are in a narcissistic relationship, friendship or work environment, don’t spend your time trying to work out what to say, how to say it or when to say it.

Simply remove yourself and the one thing they want from you.

Your attention.

My friend, if you had the slightest inkling of just how powerful you are, you’d be in awe of yourself.

Leanne Shaw
Senior Coach/Trainer
Leanne Shaw

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