Break Free from the Shackles of Narcissistic Abuse

The Narcissist. You know him or her- they’re the arrogant, entitled, admiration-obsessed, power-tripping, envious, self-important person who is devoid of empathy and thinks they are better than (and takes advantage of) others in order to get what they want. If you were abused, chances are that much of this description sounds familiar when thinking of your abuser. Narcissists are, in fact, more likely to engage in intimate partner violence [1]. Of course, a person who is likely to engage in intimate partner violence may also engage in similar behavior with other relationships, like in the parent-child relationship, for example. Narcissistic Abuse, which affects about half of the U.S. population at 158 million people [2], can be characterized by various types of abuse along with lying, manipulating, threatening, gaslighting, isolating, neglecting, sabotaging, slandering, and competing and with their target.

One tactic that narcissistic abusers use to manipulate, devalue, and control their victims is called the “double message, double bind.” Think of this as a no-win, catch 22 with two contradictory options where you lose no matter which option you choose because it is in conflict with the other message. 
My memoir Fullness describes several of many ways my father used the double message-double bind with me growing up:

– “‘A wise man knows himself to be a fool,’ [Dad said]. This was one of his favorite lines and was so classically Dad in its twisted logic: to imply it would be a sign of intelligence for me to admit that I was stupid, but at the same time granting him license to call me stupid because, after all, I had admitted so myself.”

– “At our fast food stops, Jake[, my brother] and I were reminded that we were to order one item off the dollar menu, and then I was made to feel guilty for ordering whatever I ordered. ‘You won’t lose any weight eating that,’ he’d gibe, even though I’d be given no other option.”

– “Although my dad was now five hundred miles away, he still wielded control over my life, most notably, his portion of my [college] tuition. He devised a budget whereby he, my mom, and I would each pay a third of my education…[However,] I was also inexplicably expected to not work and to focus on my studies [even though his income] disqualified me from receiving any financial aid [either].”

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The double message, double-bind feels like crazy-making because it is a tool designed with just that in mind. The problem with the double message, double-bind (like other types of abuse tactics) is that the target can impose their own no-win, conflicting messages on themselves long after the abuse is over. 

Examples of how this may look include in one’s life:

– I want to be more financially successful, but being financially successful would make me evil because I believe money is the root of all evil.

– I want to lose weight because I’m afraid the excess weight will kill me, but whenever I do lose weight, I’m afraid it’s because I have a terminal illness.

– I yearn to have a successful romantic relationship, but I can’t stand anyone getting too close to me.

What is the antidote to these pathological internal conflicts?

  1. First to notice them and call them as the double message, double binds that they are.
  2. The second is to get more in tune with what you really value and what you really believe (releasing any conflicting beliefs you inadvertently adopted from your abuser).
  3. Work with a therapist or coach to help you get even more in tune with yourself and your beliefs.
  4. Eventually, these contradictory statements can be boiled down to a reasonable belief


Wishing you the very best in your healing journey from narcissistic abuse.











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Azure Moyna

Azure Moyna

Writer and Coach

Azure Moyna is a writer and coach about issues relating to food, body, mental illness, familial dysfunction, societal treatment of overweight people, and the healing journey. Azure is the author of her memoir, Fullness.

Authors express their own opinions which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Stop Abuse Campaign.