By Hope Jay
This column is for all of you who are entering into your first holiday season after the break up with your Narc. The holidays can be fraught with anxiety, emotions and stress even in a relatively good year where your emotional state is somewhat stable. But if you have recently ended a relationship with an NPD, not only are you suffering through withdrawal from the “trauma bonds”, and likely continued peripheral abuse by “flying monkey” relatives and friends of your ex; but you are grieving the end of a relationship that you were fully invested in but are now coming to terms with the reality that your NPD partner never was invested in at all. That is a crushing blow to be dealing with when the rest of the world is expecting you to be in the mood to celebrate.
Maybe you are far enough along in the process of healing from narcissistic abuse that you have realized your only real choice if you truly wish to get off the rollercoaster ride of horrors is to go “No contact.” No contact is what we in the field of recovery believe is literally the only way to sever the trauma bond between a victim and an NPD. Remember, you are not ending a relationship with an emotionally healthy person, or even a person who may have issues but recognizes and respects boundaries.
The very hallmark of a personality disordered individual is that BOUNDARIES DO NOT EXIST for them. If you suddenly expect a Narc to respect the boundaries you have set and care about your needs because the relationship is “over”, think again. Relationships are never “over” for an NPD. I once read an article which summed up nicely how a Narc sees time. Time stands still for them. It could be five minutes, five months or five years and it means nothing to them. They will attempt to waltz back into your life as if no time has passed at all, because for them it hasn’t. It is much easier for a Narc to return to “old” supply, which is why they never really want to “let go”. It doesn’t mean they love you, or care for you in the least. What it means is that they know it is easier for them to manipulate someone who is already under their spell and who they have a modicum of power over. Which brings me to the favorite trick of manipulation, especially at the holidays when you are at your most vulnerable: The famed “Hoover Maneuver”, named after the vacuum, as their very intent is to suck you right back into the drama.
When I talk to people who are just beginning No Contact, I ask them to visualize a bank vault. What I want you to imagine is a space where every point of entry is sealed. There is no door to slip under, no window opened just a crack-you have sealed off any possibility of the NPD being able to contact you again under any circumstances. This is where you need to be emotionally in order for No Contact to be a success. When I first went no contact I methodically blocked my Narc from any access point. All email accounts, social media accounts, and my cell phone was blocked and remains that way and I am over three years post break up. I know this is not an easy thing to do and many people have a great deal of difficulty because you are still suffering the withdrawal of the “trauma bonds” which feels very much like withdrawal from drugs, it hurts and its painful and you think never talking to them or seeing them again is the most painful thing in the world, but actually the opposite is true. No contact is going to save your life. I will elaborate more on the “Grey rock” method of No contact for people who have children with an NPD in a different column.
NPD’s despise boundaries, and when you begin to set them nothing angers them more so they will use all their powers of manipulation to try and break through your boundaries and break you down. This is where the “Hoover Maneuver” comes in. Hoovers come in different forms. Some Narcs may send you a sweet text message, a card, send flowers to your job, or leave gifts at your doorstep. Since Narcs have only two channels (Charm and Rage), if the charm doesn’t work, expect the rage and guilt to begin. Any contact from the NPD after you have clearly stated the relationship is over and asked them to STOP contacting you is a hoover and meant to disarm you into opening that window a crack or leaving open that door for just a moment-but a moment is all they need, and before you realize it you will have fallen right down the rabbit hole one more time and all the hard work you have put into growth and recovery will feel as if it was for nothing.
But please don’t despair, because almost everyone falls for a hoover at least once before they begin to recognize hoovers for what they are, just more attempts at manipulating your emotions. Hold tight to your newly won sense of self, and rely on your support system to get you through the sadness that you will inevitably feel. It is normal and healthy to feel sad, as long as you ensure the people who you allow to share your vulnerability are there to support you and not take advantage of you the way the Narc in your life most certainly will.