When researching narcissistic abuse, you’ve no doubt run into some of the new age self-help articles that blame your wounded inner core and the forces of the universe for your trauma.
These articles claim that you’re attracting narcissists by being caring, compassionate, and empathetic. And worse, that you have no hope of avoiding narcissists if you still have traumatic wounds!
You’re just a natural magnet for narcissists and their narcissistic abuse, they say.
Honestly, these hot takes are kind of offensive because it’s no one’s destiny to constantly bear the brunt of narcissistic abuse. What did you do wrong for the universe to decide that you must carry the weight of a narcissistic abuser?
Not only that, but these articles also completely neglect YOUR control over the situation. Of course, it’s not your fault for winding up in an abusive relationship – romantic, parental, or otherwise.
But it is your responsibility to learn and grow from them so you can stop repeating the same patterns that got you into that mess.
You’re not “attracting narcissists” – you’re experiencing repetition compulsion by being drawn to a familiar dynamic. In fact, the subconscious mind will lead you to precisely the kind of people you’re trying to heal from until you break the patterns that are hurting you.
You’re Not Attracting Narcissists – But, Maybe, Narcissists Are Attracting You
No, you’re not attracting narcissists. But narcissists are experts at sniffing out your weaknesses to burrow their way into your life and exploit you.
Like anyone else, narcissists crave comfort. They seek out what’s familiar to them so they can launch their abuse unnoticed. By then, it’s often too late and you’re stuck.
And when you’re stuck, they’ll keep you in the cycle of love-bombing and hate bombing: Giving you false hope that they’ll change for the better before going straight back to their put-downs and verbal assaults.
You can’t identify narcissism unless you know what you’re looking for and the narcissist relies on your ignorance to solidify an emotional connection in the early stages of a relationship.
If certain people were “attracting narcissists,” then only specific types of people – like empaths – would find themselves stuck in relationships with narcissists. And that’s absolutely not the case: Everyone is at risk of narcissistic abuse because of a phenomenon called ‘repetition compulsion’.
Many psychologists and thought leaders have recognized a tendency for humans to be drawn to situations that trigger unresolved traumas from earlier in their lives. A child who has an abusive parent may later be repeatedly drawn to abusive partners. Someone who was often abandoned may be drawn, unconsciously, to people who will become close to them and then suddenly detach and leave.
In the world of psychotherapy, this tendency is referred to as repetition compulsion, which was coined by Sigmund Freud as “the desire to return to an earlier state of things.”
According to psychiatrist and researcher Bessel van der Kolk, “Many traumatized people expose themselves, seemingly compulsively, to situations reminiscent of the original trauma. These behavioral reenactments are rarely consciously understood to be related to earlier life experiences.”
The Only Sliver of Truth to the Idea of Attracting Narcissists
Just like you should look out for red flags, narcissists look out for green lights in the preliminary stages of a relationship that signal you’ll be a good supply. These often include:
- Giving you backhanded compliments and gauging your response.
- Embarrassing you in public and noting how you react.
- Asking intrusive questions about your sexual history or past relationships and shaming you for it.
- Manipulating you into paying for things/calling out of work/abandoning plans with family or friends for them.
- Asking intrusive questions about who’s texting you or commenting on your Facebook posts.
- Suggesting that you move in together right away, even though you barely know them.
If you put up too much of a fight in any of these situations, the narcissist may simply hide their abusive traits until they have you in a more vulnerable position.
Unless you stick to solid boundaries, you’re at risk for narcissistic abuse – no one is immune.
You’re Falling into Repetition Compulsion from Past Trauma
The reality is that you’re a victim of a concept called repetition compulsion.
Humans seek out familiar situations. Familiarity is comforting – even when it’s abusive – and change is scary.
When people build genuinely healthy romantic relationships after suffering through narcissistic abuse, they usually don’t know how to behave because the healthy situation is so foreign to them.
You’ll put up walls and quickly get defensive with your partner. You’ll walk on eggshells because you’re afraid of angering your new partner. Sometimes, you’ll even sabotage the healthy relationship.
That’s why a comprehensive narcissistic abuse recovery program is so important to long-term wellness.
You’re not attracting narcissists – you’re seeking out what’s familiar.
Repetition compulsion is the reason sons of abusive fathers become abusers themselves and daughters become victims. At some point in your past, you suffered abuse that mimics that of narcissism.
Maybe one of your parents is a narcissist or your first relationship/crush was with a narcissist. Maybe you’ve always been a caregiver-type and you feel it’s your duty to nurture, guide, and help narcissists change into their “true self.” (Hint: It’s not.)
Either way, the abuse is normal to you. You ignore the red flags. You make excuses for them. Then you ask yourself, “how the heck did I get into this AGAIN?”
How to Set Up Boundaries to Prevent Attracting (or being led to) Narcissists
“If I’m not naturally attracting narcissists, then what’s the problem? How do I avoid this abuse before it’s too late?”
By noticing similarities and implementing heavily fortified boundaries.
It’s easy to look past major red flags at the beginning of a relationship when you’re infatuated with someone, but setting boundaries and sticking to them is the ONLY way to avoid narcissistic abuse for good.
Understand That It’s Not Your Job to Fix Everyone
A narcissist will always paint themselves as a victim. They’ll tell you all about their abusive parents, how their last partner cheated on them and crushed their dreams, and bla bla bla.
The narcissist wants you to feel sorry for them. They’re banking on you falling for the lie that you’re “fixing” them.
It’s not your job to fix anyone. You’re not their therapist.
Learn about Yourself to Set Boundaries
A narcissist will always seek loopholes to exploit your boundaries.
To prepare yourself, you’ll need to figure out what your boundaries are exactly and that requires learning about yourself.
You might set unique boundaries for yourself in relationships – like being aware when someone is pressuring you into having children or moving far away.
Going through your phone, cheating, violence, implying or directly calling you worthless/lazy/stupid – these are all blatant lines you shouldn’t let anyone cross.
Don’t Take Them Back
If you take the narcissist back once, they’ll assume you’ll do it again. They’ll know that they have you hooked and feel smug that they can treat you however they please.
If Someone Disrespects Your Boundaries, Take a Hint
In the beginning, a narcissist will subtly test your limits. They’ll want to see how much abuse you’ll put up with before giving them any pushback.
They aren’t going to suddenly change and start respecting your autonomy. It will only get worse – much worse.
Stand Firm When They Press Your Buttons
A narcissist will try every trick in the book to find weak spots in your resolve.
They’ll call you a hypocrite and point out your own flaws, claiming you have no moral right to set such boundaries.
They’ll say, “We’re not like other couples. We have a special bond that no one understands.”
It’s way too easy to fall for these tricks but you need to be strong and stand firm at this point. Cut off contact, ignore their inevitable love bombing, and don’t look back.
Liberate Yourself from Narcissistic Trauma Today
Again, you’re not attracting narcissists. Giving narcissists an ego boost isn’t your destiny. It’s not anyone’s destiny or life purpose.
The key is to identify your own repetition compulsion and learn about yourself to put up effective boundaries. Don’t let your guard down: Narcissists will try to test your limits and find weak spots to break through your boundaries.
Don’t let them for a minute. Simple to talk about, less simple to execute, but it’s the only way to break out of the pattern of toxic and painful relationships.
Anyone worth entering into a relationship with will respect your boundaries. They may admit that they don’t like it, but they’ll respect it because they respect YOU. That’s the difference.
You don’t have to be a chronic victim of narcissistic abuse. It’s not easy but you can make it out stronger than ever before.
Recovery involves rewriting everything you thought you knew about yourself. It requires rebuilding your identity – or in many cases building an identity for the first time.
Like someone suffering from substance abuse, you need a narcissistic abuse recovery program that can help you avoid relapse by learning about yourself, habits, and triggers.
The Essential Break Free Bootcamp may be the missing piece of the puzzle.
I know what you’re going through and I’m here to help. Learn more about the course and see what my students and neuroscience experts have to say about it.