Narcissists are fragile beings

Five Worst Recommendations for Dealing With a Vulnerable Narcissist

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The internet has recently exploded with articles and other material about the vulnerable narcissist.  Reading them, you might come to the conclusion that vulnerable narcissists are sensitive and easily hurt, making it seem as if you should try harder to appeal to their emotional vulnerability and giving you hope that you might appeal to the narcissist’s “hurt inner self”, and possibly salvage the relationship.

It starts out innocently enough.  Your partner (or friend, coworker, family member) has been engaging in behaviors that are reminiscent of a tiny, innocent kitten suddenly attacking you with the ferocity of an angry mountain lion.  You turn to the internet to learn the reasons why and your search results in so many hits you feel like you’re in college preparing to write a dissertation. 

Most of the material written about vulnerable narcissists encourages readers to leave, if possible.  But then, you come across other articles and books that depict the vulnerable narcissist as a fragile human being who needs your sympathy and compassion.  This advice seems more in line with what you had hoped to find.  After all, leaving the narcissist and going No Contact seems so cruel and heartless.  There MUST be something you can do to show them you are trustworthy and reliable. 

Feeling determined, you vow to follow the seemingly well-meaning and hope-inspiring instructions doled out in the latest book written by a PhD.  There must be a way around this, right?

Perhaps, but it’s not likely. 

I’ve read material insisting there’s a way to “make it work with a vulnerable narcissist”, giving out advice such as “be strong where the narcissist is weak”, but I’ve yet to encounter a success story by someone who has followed this advice and came out unscathed. While anyone who’s involved with a narcissist is certainly free to make their own decisions, I don’t advocate trying to salvage the relationship. 

Below, I list the top five injurious recommendations for “making it work with a narcissist” and my interpretation of why they generally fail.

Five Worst Recommendations for Making it Work With a Vulnerable Narcissist

1 – You can deal with the narcissist’s entitlement and grandiose behaviors by meditating

Anyone who’s been following my blog knows I promote the use of guided meditations.  They’re a great method for dealing with stress, relaxing, and overwriting negative and false beliefs. 

However, they don’t do much in the way of helping a target of narcissistic abuse to deal with the narcissist’s entitlement and grandiose behaviors.

Targets of narcissistic abuse generally have their own core wounds which are made worse by trying to direct their energies into the narcissist’s core wounds.  Victims of narcissistic abuse are triggered frequently, staying in a near-constant state of panic and fight-or-flight.  It takes great effort to overcome the physiological effects of this repeated trauma – which leaves little room to be someone else’s hero.

Energy cannot continue to flow in one direction over large periods of time, without negative consequences for the giver.  Energy needs to be grounded, to find a healthy source to grow, to flow and to ebb or to be reciprocated. With a narcissist, it just disappears into a black hole, and such nutritious valuable energy is consumed without gratitude and with no appreciation of its value.

2 – It’s critical to know whether a narcissist is grandiose or vulnerable so you can cater to their needs accordingly

People tend to put far too much focus on “what kind of narcissist” they’re dealing with.

Ultimately, knowing whether a person is grandiose or vulnerable might satisfy one’s intellectual curiosity, but continuing to perform painstaking research into the subject and substantiating a person’s behaviors and traits to make sure they fit into a particular category is a waste of time.  Why?  Because this does nothing to erase the abuse or to change the outcome of the relationship.

Believing you can help someone who doesn’t want help is a self-defeating illusion.  Narcissists, in general, are stuck in a state of arrested development.  They care mostly for how they feel in the moment, which explains their erratic behaviors.  They generally don’t reflect on the future or ways they can improve themselves to be better partners or friends.  What they do reflect on is how they can better manipulate people in order to fulfill their own agendas. 

In short, determining whether a narcissist is grandiose or vulnerable might help you understand their behaviors, but trying to appeal to their needs based on what kind of narcissist you think they are will only leave you feeling drained and unappreciated. 

3 – The narcissist’s feelings of shame and inadequacy are unconscious and they can’t control themselves

It’s one thing to take the high road and let someone else have center stage, but another entirely to give up your sense of self so someone else can feel better. 

The reason it’s detrimental for abuse targets to cater to the narcissist, believing they simply cannot control themselves, is because there’s no balance or reciprocation.  Sure, there may be so-called good times in the relationship, but they’re so few and far in between (and often with an underlying motive), that by the time the narcissist is showing their “good side” it’s too little, too late.

This is precisely how targets of narcissistic abuse end up with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, and develop clinical conditions such as depression and learned helplessness.  Trying to compensate for the narcissist’s feelings of shame and inadequacy only leads to their targets adding to their own such feelings, especially given that narcissists are prone to verbally abusing their targets. 

What happens after months or years of catering to the narcissist because of their “unconscious” behaviors and being their emotional punching bag?  Many people who attempt this end up losing their jobs because they become dysfunctional, they lose their homes, custody of their children, or worse…they may develop terminal illnesses. 

Is it worth it?

4 – It’s possible to set boundaries with a narcissist to counter their aggression and indifference

If you’ve come across material suggesting that setting boundaries with a narcissist (including couple’s therapy) can help counter the narcissist’s aggression and lack of empathy, you’ll soon discover how futile this suggestion is should you choose to follow it.  

In my experience working with clients who have been narcissistically abused–as well as the hours of research I’ve conducted–I’ve not come across one success story as it relates to setting boundaries or couple’s therapy with a narcissist.  It sure did nothing to help me!

For starters, setting boundaries with a narcissist typically results in narcissistic rage directed towards you or their pretending to go along with you, only to come back later with a devastating sucker punch when you least expect it.

Further, narcissists don’t go to therapy with goals in mind (such as improving their relationship with you).  They go to therapy with agendas in mind.  Therefore, setting boundaries and going to therapy with the narcissist will accomplish three things: 1) waste time and money, 2) keep you in a relationship that is doomed to fail anyway and 3) likely result in your feeling like more of the “crazy lunatic” the narcissist keeps claiming you are.

It’s important to realize that narcissists can be convincing in creating the illusion that they’re on board with the whole therapy idea, but this is often to keep a source of supply strung along, to learn the lingo in order to later use it as ammunition and to project the image that they’re the victim of abuse instead of the other way around.

When it comes to therapy, you would do well by finding your own therapist to overcome your progressive anxiety and depression, but don’t bring the narcissist into the picture if you truly want to improve your well-being.

5 – Narcissists are emotionally impoverished and desperate for your help

While this statement may be true, the irony is that no amount of help offered to the narcissist results in a positive outcome for the giver.  Many wish, hope, and try fervently to make a positive difference in the narcissist’s life, but all they are left with is a gaping void.  And since narcissists are such skilled actors, they keep their targets believing they are making progress, only to experience deep betrayal and disappointment down the road. 

Throughout my years of coaching, those who chose to stay with the narcissist in their life – or broke up with them and got back together later believing time had changed things – have always regretted this decision. 

Does this mean all narcissists should be shunned and made to live out their lives in solitude? That’s for you to decide.

The Catch-22 is that only people with a strong sense of self, who have healthy levels of self-assurance, emotional resilience, and a secure attachment style would have the reserves required to attempt to make things work with a narcissist.  Unfortunately, these same people generally possess healthy boundaries and would quickly leave the narcissist due to the narcissist’s selfishness, exploitative traits, and various forms of abuse.  Because of this, narcissists seek out those who are themselves vulnerable, who have inner wounds they try to rectify by garnering the narcissist’s approval, who have an insecure or anxious attachment style, and who are fixers/rescuers.  

If any of these latter descriptors sound like you, you should not remain in a relationship with a narcissist.

It’s my belief that keeping space open for the narcissist to be themselves only leads to self-destruction for their targets.  The most loving thing you can do for them is leave because this is the only way they will recognize that their actions won’t be rewarded, forcing them to seek out a different way of life.  However, keep in mind that even then, this so-called shift is often short-lived and they revert back to their manipulative and exploitative ways because they don’t spend time self-reflecting or putting in the effort it takes to be a better person…and they generally don’t give two hoots about it.

In closing, vulnerable narcissists appear to be vulnerable, yet they are as dangerous as any other emotional predator.  Everything is executed subtly, in stealth mode.

How To Protect Yourself Against the Narcissist and Stand Strong

Everyone has the innate capacity to heal themselves. But it’s likely you will need external support to heal the traumas that get in the way of your ability to tune into this gift. Our beautiful community includes people in varying stages of their healing, and several who are celebrating their anniversaries of no contact!

I cover the applications and theories in all of these areas in my narcissistic abuse recovery program, which has been voted a favorite by professionals in the psychological community.  Therapists refer their own clients to this program.

Discover the strength inside you to overcome crippling emotional pain, defeat helplessness, and create a meaningful, fulfilling life.  The Break Free Program will give you the exact strategies to help you discover the key to transformational healing and overcoming the addiction to drama and trauma.

See what students and mental health professionals have to say.  

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Leave a Comment:

Carolyn says December 20, 2019

You’re so right. Therapy taught ex how better to exploit me & our children.

Anonymous says October 20, 2019

I fell hook, line and sinker for his sad story of divorce and lost custody. It didn’t take long to see why his family had to get away. God bless them! Wow mine could turn on you in a split second and make you feel like their worst enemy. I don’t have any enemies so this was hard to understand. This behavior would crush me time and time again. I am at 60 days no contact. I can’t sacrifice my happiness for someone like him. He deserves someone miserable like himself.

Nikki says October 18, 2019

I think money turns alot of people into naraccists are their power is available while they have money they are unstoppable but when they haven’t the money they are normal people.Its greed and selfishness that having money provides them with a powerful position that they then abuse. Take the money away they then conform so are they really naracissists?

Izzie says October 18, 2019

My sister is a covert narcissist with schizophrenia. I’m her only relative. If she didn’t have schizophrenia I’d go no contact. I’ve limited contact and set boundaries. Anyone else have experience of this form of co-morbidity?

Katja says October 17, 2019

Dear Kim, thank you for keeping those blogs coming always exactly when I need them, they keep me going. I am 51 years old, was raised by at least two N. and a grandmother with severe narc.traits and lived for 22 years with husband with severe N. traits. I survived by beeing a gray rock. I am now 10 month after breaking contact with husband and mother. Your programs and blogs helped me profoundly and I am now a completely changed human beeing. Depression, anxieties, anger, low self-esteem are all gone and during those 10 month I learned the most important lessons for myself. For that I am very thankful . Everything you write is very true and it is very sad to say this. I want to add something, which I have observed and sensed with my mother. She seems to need to trigger negative emotional reactions from her in order to be able to feel herself beeing alive. It is almost like a mirror for her and without it she feels severely threatened. I could not witness any progress or self reflection in 51 years and beeing the gray rock almost got me killed.

Narcissists attract the vulnerable – Emerging From The Dark Night says October 17, 2019

[…] ‘Narcissists are Fragile Beings’ and Other Fallacies […]

girl says July 18, 2018

This is so disappointing. I keep showing my abuser my core self – my most honest self, in the hopes that true love will affect him and lead him to choose love. I want him to turn to God, and, through God, love me. I fear the worst about him… That he is… I fear he’s… That he “likes” little children. I want to leave him. I want to turn to God. But I’m so afraid… I don’t even know why. He’s been my best friend and soulmate. He really understands… but that’s a lie right? He’s only placated and functioning because music calms him. Music is what he loves and it keeps him from the violence he seems passionately allured to. I’m a musician… He targeted me, but I feel as though he isn’t aware he’s done so. I think, to him, the zealousness seems like love. I’ve been treated this way before, by my mom. I met him after I drastically diminished contact with her (I respond only to holiday-time greeting texts, with no information) one year ago. Having him makes me feel less guilty over cutting my mother off. I don’t feel I deserve more. On one level, I’m disrespecting him because I’m involved despite recognizing his lowness. He feels low, and dark. He wants me to degrade, but also wants me to leave so that I’m not degraded. We both know he abuses me although sometimes he will act shocked and deny it. His masks are varied, with layers. He isn’t mine. He’s married to a woman with a beautiful soul, who he hates, I think because she loves him and has gotten old. I’m nearly 20 years younger. He prides himself on youthfulness. Sometimes his age shows, and his extreme severity – like Hitler – shows… and I crave that. He sometimes uses his belt during sex to hit me. My father was mostly absent, avoiding my narcissist mother who abused him. He knowingly allowed her to abuse me and never helped me or disciplined me one way or the other. I crave the authority of my lover. He is so rigid. I have a deep fantasy that he’s my father who has the ability to save me from my mother and all those who would hurt me, and have, if only by hurting me himself. He knows this.
Thanks for listening.

Dawn says July 28, 2017

Thank you for this article. I have been stomped on toxic men on and off since my first love in high school. Which now I look back in retrospect and know he was a narcissist. I dated him all through high school, amongst coming from a seriously dysfunctional family of alcohol and drug abuse and both my moms and my dads side, I also lost my only sibling, my brother to a drunk driving accident when I was 15 and he was 17. That to me was seriously painful, and miss him till this day. I tell my children about their uncle Sophia memory lives on. Aldo to give awareness of a teenagers thought process seems to think that they are immortal beings and hopefully through communication and awareness of this incident sheds light on their teenage years, still for my oldest is a couple years but I want my children to know the reality at hand and that they can always come to me with feelings. Anyways, I’ve unfortunately have a lot of broken in me that is like human blood to a shark. My ex-husband I believe after living through the toxic and honestly never knowing what had happened that last 2 years of our marriage, until after dating now my ex-boyfriend of on and off for 3 years, I am currently done, no contact. But because of his moodiness, rollercoaster ride from hell ups and downs and eventually after I believe 9 months and crying to him regarding my brother and he didn’t even flinch with an emotion or an empathetic gesture shocked me to say the least. He actually cracked at joke and I was silent in thought cause at this point with us I was highly depressed, he made me feel that I was holding him back in regards to his spiritual development. I told him that I couldn’t see him anymore, that he needs to find a happy women, someone that isn’t depressed and feels like I have too many issues. Which btw in very under the radar commenting after I came out of that zone he impeded on me in his very subtle character degradation. It was subtle but I certainly felt it but never confronted him, I was always walking on eggshells because of his. Moodiness. My question is this; I was in a behavioral group setting to get into another program that is called DBT therapy. But my group counselor after meeting her the 1st 5 minutes said to me I bet you don’t have PTSD, which btw another therapist the other day says I have C-PTSD. From ongoing adult trauma and serious childhood trauma, I went to her cause she practices EMDR therapy. I want so much you heal, so I can’t attrack anymore toxic men, or women in my life. These people well my ex-husband promised me we would ruin my life saying I gave no idea what he’s capable of. Let’s just say 4 years after leaving him, and also dating this man 3 out of the 4 years,do I was getting abused terribly from both. I can’t believe I’m still alive, with the amount of suffering and ongoing mental, and. Traumatic episodes which have transpired. Long story short, slander campaign no friends my children traumatized at their dads and gf after visitation from alcohol and unsafe driving and inexcusable abusive behaviors, and more mental abuse where dcf was called in 3 times on my ex husband not me, I begged the therapist please do not do, kids will be yelled at threatened, and he will think it was me. Well after the 3rd case dcf turned it in me I’m substantiated with abuse and. Neglect I no longer have primary residence with kids they now reside with my ex-husband and bitchy mean girlfriend. I lost my home cause I became unfunctionable after being substantiated, which was because he lied and denied his behaviors and dcf believes the kids lied to protect me seeing I’m so stressed out. I was fine, just can’t get enploymred there is so much more. I’m innocent I love those Kids, I am now controlled by my ex as to when and how Long I see the kids, his. Girlfriend treats me like I’m a monster or criminal, my family, parents, my. Closest childhood friend won’t talk to me or look at me, I’m blocked from work now 2years. I never did anythung i live by the golden rule, practice, love honesty and kindness. Also the ex-boyfriend low blow the other day saying I’m hiding the truth for dcf to take kids from me and why his gf doesn’t want me around. But, he’s never supported me ever. I labeled him a narc at this group and the counselor said not to label unless diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional, Also my sociopathic ex husbanrd, then she wants me to get re-diagnosed saying I’m paranoid. I ended up not going back after 4 classes. I’m not paranoid. I’ve lived toxic for so long that I am very aware or wtf has happened. I see all to clearly as my entire world imploded on me. Anyways, the ex-boyfriend, he quite drinking like 5 years ago, he’s into yoga, sound mediation for healing, and walks every morning at like 5:00 am for bringing enxiety down and health purposes. Idk his daughter has had serious issues and 16 now, liar raped twice, a cutter, has ptsd, depression in and out of psychiatric ward, but he’s the parent that always participates, and ex-wife has had numerous dcf investigations on her due to drinking and driving and drinking and abuse. She cheated on him supposedly. But, he has the text book narcissism with me, unless he thinks I’m a true mental case cause of my childhood, and it’s only me that gets treated with very little regard. I tried communicating with him in a heartfelt manner, and he shredded me to pieces. I’ll never contact him again, I hope, the last time it was 3 months and I broke down and texted him. Maybe I’m the narcissist and he’s the nice one. He tells me after all my nasty emails, and all I’ve done, which I haven’t done anything. Idk when I get blocked after sharing like 3 great amazing data together, I was shocked. What am I missing? Am I the narcissist? I mean it makes sense I’m labeled thr abuser, I’m according to my ex boyfriend always mean, and I ûse him, this is painful. I’ve always been sensitive, over the top kind to others, loving too! Idk I’m so confused I can’t deal anymore. I want to not go thru anymore pain. I’ve lost everything. My. Babies I’ve always had, since I got pregnant. I didn’t do anything to deserve this

Sandra says June 9, 2017

Having lived with my N for 25 years, I feel somewhat qualified to speak to their nature. I do not believe there is a distinction between Grandiose and Vulnerable – they are whatever they are or need to be with whomever they are with or around and develop their relationships accordingly with each person or group. My H is Vulnerable – to me. He is Grandiose to just about everyone else on the planet. Except when he needs to be vulnerable with someone to get some sympathy/empathy. There are many shades in between. Just my opinion but when I tried to apply Grandiose/Vulnerable to what I saw going on, it was confusing. Once I saw he could be anything with anyone just depending on his need at the moment, it fell into place.

    Kim Saeed says June 10, 2017

    This is an astute and profound observation, Sandra! I’d love to share this with my readers if you wouldn’t mind. I could list your first name or list you as anonymous. Either way, this is too good to leave sitting here unshared 🙂

    Samuel Vain says June 10, 2017

    YEP! It all really depends on what they want from who at that time to dictate their behavior. Whatever they have to say or be as long as they get what they want. No matter who it screws, or how much it hurts their target.

    Andrea says November 28, 2018

    I can totally relate to this

Kim Washburn says June 7, 2017

Everything that you have said is true. I have been married to my narcissistic husband for 28 years. I finally had enough and left him six months ago. Now he is being super considerate (for him) and wants to take me to different places all the time (he was too busy before) We have a 13 year old daughter that he uses every chance he gets to manipulate her and tell her that he loves me and wants me to come home. I am actually getting tired of it ( he will only revert back to the way he was).

Samuel Vain says June 6, 2017

After what my wife Barbara did in her abuse it’s clear there is no relationship and I will not try. SHE left being deceitful leaving a cruel note for me to find later, most merciful thing she did for me! Anyone that really thinks they can have a loving relationship with a narcissist will find how mistaken they were after much pain and waasted effort.
Luckily I am a retired nurse with a gift for psychology so she was never able to get her tricks over on me, I called her on every game she played when she did it and will use that knowledge to heal myself of her. It’s working well, I see her clearly, only want the divorce now. Sad since I don’t like having to divorce.
Great article, Kim!

Katie says June 6, 2017

But how do I know if my partner is a narcissist? He has some characteristics as many people have. . But he was never rude to me, never shouted and he is generous. This goes against what I can see about narcissists.
He just made me feel unimportant, minimised my feelings, made me feel bad about myself.

Carl says June 6, 2017

There is a book, “Loving the Self-Absorbed,” that I purchased and studied every night while my narc wife pursued her new life away from me. I applied every suggestion in the book when we were together and treated her like a queen. It was all forgotten when she decided it was time to discard. Looking back on the last year, I realize I wasted my life trying to help her find real love, accommodate her every whim and validate her emotions. In the end, she actually did a 180 and all the trash that she’d dumped on me as my fault for the marriage failing, she ended up embracing because it suddenly served to provide supply. Once she had new supply, it was over. She no longer needed my health insurance or my presence. She had a new set of powerful friends, people she told me she loathed, but when they provided a path to a wonderful job in a place that she also loathed, they were so much better than me. What makes me so sad is that I gave up four years of my life and our marriage trying to make things better for her, only to have her embrace the things that made her life so miserable. I impoverished myself of time and finances trying to make her happy, and she turned and walked away from me like I was a panhandler when it came time to kiss up to her narcissistic queen bee. Kim is right on. There is no fixing the devil. There is no fixing that whose only purpose in life is to exalt self. As targets, we can love unconditionally, we get the value of love. Leave the narc, find another one of us. It is time the media stop glorifying the d….’d narcs and start honoring the empaths that really make this world turn. We are the ones who do the real work, who get the job done, while the narcs take all the credit. Get out of the relationship NOW. It will hurt like hell, but do it because you need to learn to LOVE YOURSELF more than the narc. No narc is worth losing your life, your morals, your family or your wealth for. Jesus died for them and they reject him, so do you think they will do differently for you? It is time the empaths and the INFJs unite, form a dating site and build walls around ourselves and take care of each other. Thank you Kim for this site and building a community.

Laura says June 6, 2017

What is not talked about as much is the fact that the person whom got involved with the narcissist did so for a reason, unconscious at the time it may have been, we have to take responsibility for the shame, self loathing, and projection that we caused in the relationship with the narcissist. My toxic relationship has ended but in a hopefully beneficial way for both of us. We are both doing the work, however separately, to take 100% responsibility for our 50% of the relationship. I chose a relationship with a narcissist, seeing the red flags, understanding it was unhealthy due to my own fears, shame, lying to myself so that I could be punished, abandoned, criticized, and abused. People are told to leave the relationship, that these people are not savable or there is no reason to have these people in our lives. That is just not true. Every relationship with a narcissist is a chance to look at ourselves, many just don’t take the inward look at how you are responsible for how the Narc makes you feel. Not the Narc! No one can make you feel anything,you can turn around and be thankful for what the Narc reveals about yourself, you can start to heal the reasons you are in this relationship that has nothing to do with this relationship and all to do with your fears, defenses, traumas, and past. I have heard Narcs described as dark angels, I would not put the dark connotation and agree, my Narc was an angel, without him I would not have understood how lost and mentally sick I was. If he can also learn from our relationship, perhaps I was his angel too. I accept it and I let it go. He did not make me feel anything I did not create for myself, he did not abuse me in anyway that I did not abuse myself, I take full responsibility. When you don’t question your feelings and thoughts, you suffer. When you question your feelings and thoughts, you do not suffer.

    Glen says October 18, 2019

    We can view everyone in our lives as our teacher. Narcissists aren’t some special teacher above anyone else in our lives, in fact they manipulate us to limit our growth. You seem to be glorifying the narcissist to me.
    Also, we should never question our feelings. Our feelings are there to protect us. I don’t have a good feeling about your take on how angelic the narcissist is…unless you are comparing them to the fallen angel that is Lucipher, who wasn’t a true angel in the first place if you consider what he turned out to be.

Rebecca says June 6, 2017

So TRUE Kim! Even if we think we are SAVING the narcissist we are NOT, and they will prove to us each and every time that they are not capable or worth being saved.

Let’s not waste our time ladies (and gentlemen). Life is way too short for that!!

Keep up the wonderful work Kim!

    Samuel Vain says June 6, 2017

    Thumbs up, like! Little heart icon. LOL

    You’re so right!

Sandy says June 6, 2017

Everything, and I mean everything you’ve cautioned about here is so true. Some are stubborn though (I was) and believe their situation will be different. I researched long and hard, and tried several different ways to conquer the terrible thing our once happy “love” had turned in to. Working so hard to fix something that can’t be fixed only served to draw things out and make it way harder to face the truth. I remember the day I asked him to come retrieve his belongings. I’d been reading one of your posts which gave several examples of traumatic discards. I actually told myself he’d NEVER do something that mean to me, he just wasn’t that cruel. I was stunned when he pulled in my driveway, and he had another woman by his side. Absolutely stunned. That was the day I really was able to face the truth of all the things you warn about. I am so thankful to have learned so much here, Kim, and I often post a link to your blog and say you have the very best info to be found. Thank you so much! I’d like to say one more thing to those who think they can “fix” their narcissist~~~The harder and longer you try, the more painful it is to not only face the truth, but realize how foolish it was to believe you knew better than the expert(s) who’ve dedicated their lives to educating folks about narcissistic abuse.

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