Reclaiming Family Bonds: Overcoming Narcissistic Smear Campaigns and Family Cut-Offs, Part (2)
The destruction of families through narcissism
Dealing with the devastating effects of a narcissist’s manipulation that leads to being cut out of your own family, including your children’s and grandchildren’s lives, can be a heart-wrenching experience. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the painful reality of such situations and provide guidance on reclaiming your family bonds, identity, and decision-making power.
Understanding narcissism and the subsequent impact on familial relationships
Before we delve into solutions, it’s vital to understand the dynamics of narcissism, smear campaigns, and the impact on the targeted person. When I use the word, “targeted person” I am in essence referring to the one who is being victimized by the narcissist. Because we at Waypoint work with our clients in overcoming a “victim mindset,” we do acknowledge that the victimization is real, has occurred in the past or may continue to be occuring in the present.
Please note: there are places within this article that I am going to highlight that have to do with the narcissist view of the world, and it will be these precise areas that I will expand on later in the article that will hold essential keys to your personal empowerment and recovery.
Our goal with our clients’ suffering under this burden is to support the client in helping them distinguish the abusive behaviour from what they believe they deserve.
Abused people do not think clearly as they have been gaslit (lied to), as well as, severely manipulated and degraded over time. Depending on how long they have endured this level of abuse will often determine how quickly their deeply held beliefs about themselves will adjust to reality. Our professional work is to poke holes in the mistaken beliefs that were often reinforced by the narcissist. The ingrained belief system that these clients’ often hold dear to their reality is essentially a false narrative masterminded by the highly manipulative narcissist. So let’s begin with a quick simplistic refresher on narcissism.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) often involves an inflated sense of self-importance and a relentless need for admiration, leading to manipulation and exploitation of those around them. Because narcissists’ are extremely self serving they use people to prop themselves up. The thing that makes them so dangerous is that they resort to behaviours and tactics that destroy others in order to get what they want. What they want is not good. They want to be in control, on top, and the best at all costs. It is the “at all costs” that is the problem as they stop at nothing to get their insatiable need for affirmation met.
They create illusions in order to garner validation, attention, and favorable public opinion that will essentially put them in the limelight and mirror back to them the parts of their personality and life they wish were real. In a nutshell they are looking for mirrors to reflect back to them what they want to think about themselves. Think on this for a moment. I know I might sound redundant, but think about this. They spend their entire lives and precious moments seeking mirrors that will mirror back to them what they wish were real. This is extremely sad. Imagine play acting everywhere you went, never being authentic, constantly lying, pretending, fabricating the truth and manipulating those around you in order that others might reflect back to you what you want to see, hear or feel. This is a terrible way to live life. I might think this person never feels known, loved for just being themselves, and that they might be exhausted for constantly be putting on a show with everyone they encounter.
So are the narcissists’ sad deep down? Do they know they are being fake? You would think they would feel internally sad in their life right? No, this is what you and I would feel, because we are not narcissists. The narcissist doesn’t care enough to feel sad about their behaviour. They believe their own delusions of grandeur. They believe they are special, entitled, and deserve unique status within any given group and that includes their family. What they seek is to look for people like you and I, those who possess honest caring traits, such as empathy and genuine love. They view us as stepping stones to their own end. They use us and anyone else that has a heart in order to get what they want. When you no longer have what they need they discard you and go on to someone else. Remember they are constantly roaming and seeking ways to exploit others so that they can continue to delude themselves. Narcissists’ are on a continual quest to manipulate their world so they can convince themselves of who they believe they are, that is extra special. They live for the opinions of others.
Smear campaigns and family cut offs
Smear campaigns are a malicious tactic used by narcissists to destroy relationships and isolate their targets. One of the questions that you might ask yourself when someone creates a smear campaign against you is what would make them do so? You may fall into thinking is there something wrong with me? Maybe I deserve to be spoken badly about to my adult child, or perhaps I deserve this as I did something wrong in my past after all. This is a common response to someone who has been narcissistically abused for a long time. The truth of the matter is that everyone has done something wrong in their life at some point or another. Forgiveness is for everyone and with time and consistency trust can always be rebuilt. Human frailty is just a part of life. Just as the narcissist has deluded themselves into thinking they can never do anything wrong you have deluded yourself into thinking you are responsible for all that has gone wrong.
So what makes a narcissist devise a smear campaign against you? They may be telling those you care about actual truths, half truths, truths out of context, or flat out lies about you. In reality it doesn’t actually matter what they are saying about you to those you love, but rather the point is they are talking about you to promote a negative spin on an aspect of your life in order to elevate themselves to the person (s) to whom they are divulging this information. What never ceases to amaze me is how people fall for this tactic. When I hear someone slag on someone else a red flag goes up for me. I wonder what they might be getting from sharing this information? What is it doing for the sharer? The sharer of information always has motives themselves, but it appears that others are not so aware of that fact. Perhaps some people are just given gossip. They feast on it like “tasty morsels.” We’ve all engaged in gossip, and need to be mindful not to participate or even listen to it, but this kind of smearing goes extremely far in the wounding.
I will share, with permission, a true example of a narcissist wrecking havoc in one’s life. A client of mine which I will call James (for the sake of his privacy) was going through a very painful divorce. His narcissistic sister seized the opportunity to wreck significant havoc into his life as much as possible. Remember here is the litmus test for a narcissist when they are the sharer of information, that is, how do they represent their target (the person they are wanting to destroy) and how do they represent themself? At one point in James’ relationship with his sister he made the mistake of sharing personal details about the unhappiness in his marriage as well as his own contributing behaviour. Once his separation and divorce were under way the narcissistic sister went out of her way to meet with the ex wife. The narcissistic sister divulged all of what was shared from her brother in private, and upon leaving from this visit her parting words to the ex-wife stated “take him for all you can get.”
The above example underscores how a narcissist will inject themselves into the life of another with the sheer motive of causing harm. This not only harmed James, but also this harmed his ex-wife. The marriage was over so what was the point in flinging so much mud in the process? Why add insult to injury during such a difficult time for people. Enter the narcissist, as seasons of vulnerability in a person’s life are the perfect opportunity for the narcissist to inject themselves onto the stage to act as a hero of the story. The narcissist suddenly shows up seemingly from out of the blue to garner whatever status and accolades they can squeeze out of any situation. They especially do this when it isn’t their story to begin with. Let’s face it, the narcissist has to tap into your story, because they do not have a story. Have you noticed that narcissist’s do not have a life of their own? They just tap into other people’s lives, achievements, families, children, grandchildren, workplaces, and the like. Narcissists’ are the ultimate thieves, that is, they covet what you have, who you are, who you love, your personal style, what you know and how you fit into the world. One way to do this is to smear your name and character so that they can replace you in the eyes’ of those you value the most. They want what you have so they smear you to those you love so that they can convince others that they are better suited to be the hero of your loved one’s story. Notice that they inject themselves into everyone’s stories. They will be the saviour, the white knight, the hero or in part 1 of this series we talked about how narcissists will also play the role of victim. In reality they are actually the villain, but they will convince those in your circle that you are the villain, they are either the hero or the victim, and if they play the role of the victim you better believe that they will blame you.
The point is to cause further damage and harm regardless of who it hurts. Watch a narcissists’ face when they are waiting to see how their words of pain land on people. They often get a little smirk as they delight in having the power to inflict pain and heartache. James ended up losing his relationship with his adult daughter, thus access to his grandchildren. He also lost former friends who were also attached to the narcissist. You may assume that James deserved it, and I will tell you that James thought so too as he was conditioned to believe that he didn’t deserve a good life. This deep rooted belief system is what helped the narcissist fold James’ life in on itself. As James came to know the truth about the deviant manipulations of his narcissistic sister, as well as the dynamics that he was complicit he was able to alter the way he saw himself in the world. He created better boundaries, he worked hard to capture and keep his own integrity, and he went forward doing what he was great at, that is creating a great life outside the circle of the narcissist. You can do this too.
The first thing I think of is when hearing this kind of backstabbing is what would possess someone to go out of their way to interfere in someone else’s life like this? For one thing James shared that his narcissistic sister never did like his ex-wife and complained about her incessantly. It wasn’t until he was to separate and divorce that the sister took it upon herself to inject herself into the equation. So this is another tell tale sign that a narcissist is on the loose. When someone doesn’t show any care, concern, or empathy until they want to inflict pain you are unfortunately dealing with a person who has a motive to cause harm. Healthy people are not motivated to cause harm to another person and interfere in their personal life not even if they are angry for whatever reason.
Keep in mind that smear campaigns are just that. They are meant to smear a person to the people that matter most. A narcissist is motivated to smear your character and person hood in order to dehumanize you and create an allegiance that upholds the narcissist. It does not matter that they may be telling the truth about you the point is that they want to ensure that they highlight you in a negative light and highlight themselves into an elevated status above you. It is specifically this act of “elevating” themselves is what motivates them, inspires them, and causes them to get up in the morning.
To identify a smear campaign and its effects, watch out for these signs:
- Gaslighting: Narcissists use gaslighting to make you doubt your own reality, facilitating their manipulation.
- Character Assassination: They create false narratives and exaggerate incidents to paint you as the villain, often using partial truths or outright lies.
- Recruitment of Allies: Narcissists enlist allies, known as flying monkeys, to further their smear campaign, including family members or close friends.
- Isolation: They may successfully isolate you from your family over time, leaving you feeling estranged and alone.
Reclaiming your family bonds and healing from the effects of a narcissistic smear campaign is a challenging journey, but it’s possible:
- Self-Awareness: Recognize the situation and understand that you’re not alone. Many have faced similar challenges and emerged stronger.
- Professional Guidance: Seek help from a certified and experienced coach, mental healthy professional who understand the dynamics present in narcissistic abuse to receive tailored support and guidance.
- Establish Boundaries: Create distance between yourself and the narcissist, setting clear boundaries to protect your emotional well-being.
- Build a Support Network: Connect with friends, family members, or support groups who haven’t been influenced by the narcissist. Surround yourself with positive influences.
- Self-Care: Prioritize self-care through activities that nurture your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
- Reclaim Your Decision-Making Power: Reconnect with your inner strength and intuition. Regain confidence in your decision-making abilities and reconnect with estranged family members when it’s safe to do so.
Let’s take a look at what we have learned about the narcissist and reflect on the ways you can truly recover. There are similarities and differences between yourself and the narcissist. These similarities and differences are what are keeping you stuck, targeted, and abused by the narcissist. In order to change your life regardless of the narcissist you need the following in terms of level of commitment. What is exciting is that each criteria listed below is within your control. You cannot control the narcissist, but you can control you. Are you ready? Please know that I say all of this with compassion, but I will always tell you the truth. You can’t fix, work on, or move forward with a yes person coach. It is time you heard the truth.
Criteria for recovery
- You need to want to change and will do anything to make that happen
- You have to be dissatisfied with how life is going for you right now
- You have to be ready to commit to the process.
Putting the puzzle together
So what do you have in common with a narcissist?
- You have unhealthy mistaken beliefs about who you are and your worth
- You value the opinions of others more than is healthy
- You have a blurry line about responsibility
So let me break this down further. As you read the following break down of mistaken beliefs, the opinion of others, and roles and responsibilities note the distortion that you have and compare it to the distortion that the narcissist holds. Notice that you both are holding a distortion. In other words you both hold an inaccurate perception of yourself in the world.
- YOU: don’t know how incredibly valuable and important you are and that you have a God given purpose in this world
- THE NARCISSIST: believes that they are more valuable and important than others and that they themselves are God
Opinion of Others:
- YOU: Don’t know that that the opinion of others doesn’t define your worth.
- THE NARCISSIST: Believes they can control the opinion of others so it can define their worth
Roles & Responsibilities:
- YOU: Take on responsibilities for other people’s bad behaviour and continually seek ways to be better as you are always trying
- THE NARCISSIST: Blames everyone around them for their bad behaviour and do not take responsibility for anything that might be perceived as wrong
What can you do?
I am hoping that you are seeing how your similarities actually fit like a puzzle piece when you have a narcissist in your life. So what can you do about it? So how do you and people like James get healthy and better? You start by digging down into the beliefs you hold about yourself, what you deserve and how you define yourself. You let go of the opinions of others and I know that can be really difficult, especially when a narcissist has smeared you to someone you love. I have to bring it back to the fact that if someone you love is going to be swayed by a narcissist that you are probably better off not being close to that person, at least for a season. In time the narcissist will wreck havoc in your loved one’s life and hopefully like a prodigal child your loved one will return to you. It does happen that they come back. In the meantime you have a lot of work to do although you may be doing some serious grieving work at the same time. You do need support to work through this stuff, but I can promise you that you can change the extreme mistaken beliefs that you currently hold. When you do so you won’t change into the narcissist, but instead you will hold a realistic, compassionate, and hopeful view of yourself deserving of love, care and true friendship. You won’t be shaming and blaming yourself, but instead you will have a more healthy, realistic perception of the parts you have played in your life as well you will be able to hold other people accountable to the parts that they played. This will give you a new perspective on yourself and how you fit into the world. You have so much to offer, and if you have been abused by a narcissist in your life I can tell you the best is yet to come as you become who you were created to be. You have a purpose, a calling, and gifts to give this world. Take the time to work these things out so you can be like James and re-create a new life that will again be the envy of narcissists’ everywhere! I want to laugh at this, but the next piece is although you will re-create a new life you will have the best narcissist radar and won’t be a target for narcissists’ any longer. You won’t allow these unsavory people into your midst as you will be able to detect the pathologically unwell people who suffer with such defective character.
Surviving a narcissists’ smear campaign and being cut out of your own family, including your children’s and grandchildren’s lives, is a painful and challenging journey. However, there is hope for healing and reconnection. By reclaiming your identity, decision-making power, and family bonds, you can overcome the devastating effects of manipulation. Remember that you are not defined by false narratives, and your worth is not determined by others’ opinions. Stay resilient, and over time, you can rebuild your family connections and lead a happier, healthier life. If you or someone you know is facing this situation, know that support is available, and there is hope for a brighter future.
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Until next time,