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  • Writer's pictureDana Arcuri

The Cunning Masquerade

Have you suffered narcissistic abuse? If so, you know from personal experience that narcissists are cunning, covert, and quite cruel. Today's blog post is from chapter two in my book, Soul Rescue: How to Break Free from Narcissistic Abuse & Heal Trauma.

The Cunning Masquerade

In order to lure people into their web and get this narcissistic supply, they put on an attractive social mask.” ~ Patricia Armesto Corral

To understand a narcissist and their cunning tricks, it’s important to educate ourselve's about who they truly are. To look beyond their masquerade. In this chapter, we will take a deep dive into the psychology of a narcissist.

The narcissist is quite clever. They conceal their true identity. They are masters at pretending to be someone who they are not. In the early stages of a relationship with a narcissist, especially when dating, they will appear attentive to you.

At first, you may think they are charming, charismatic, and kindhearted. They may shower you with gifts, compliments, and praises. During the beginning, they will be there for you to comfort you, to support you, and to listen to you.

Do not be fooled. It’s a devious act. The narcissist is such an expert at fooling people. Hook, line, and sinker! They are so good at playing ‘make-believe,’ they could win a Hollywood Oscar for best actor or actress.

The narcissist is terrified of being exposed. This stems from their childhood wounds, fears, and inability to be transparent. They lack empathy, integrity, honesty, and authenticity. Underneath their false bravado, they are insecure cowards.

According to the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is defined as, “A personality disorder with a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. People affected by it often spend a lot of time thinking about achieving power or success, or about their appearance. They often take advantage of the people around them. The behavior typically begins by early adulthood, and occurs across a variety of social situations.”

The Mayo Clinic defines NPD as, Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. People with NPD may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they're not given the special favors or admiration, which they believe they deserve. They may find their relationships unfulfilling. Others may not enjoy being around them.

Have you questioned if your family member, intimate partner, or spouse is a narcissist? Are you feeling as if you are losing your mind? If so, here’s a list of signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. People with this disorder may:

· Have a ginormous ego

· Crave to be the center of attention

· Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance

· Have a sense of entitlement

· Desire excessive admiration

· Believe they are superior to everyone else

· Tear others down in order to puff themselves up

· Expect to be highly praised & recognized without achievements to warrant it

· Take advantage of others to get what they want

· Have traits of a pathological liar

· Have an inability to recognize the needs & feelings of others

· Have sinister motives

· Be envious of others

· Not living in their conscious reality

· Inflict harm on others without any guilt, shame, or remorse

· Be arrogant, haughty, & boastful

· Have a domineering & aggressive personality

· Be a control freak who abuses their power

· Expect the scapegoat to be compliant, cooperative, & submissive

· Have cruel words, actions, & behaviors

The Narcissists’ Jekyll & Hyde Persona

The malignant narcissist has a split persona. They are like Jekyll and Hyde. One minute, they are sweet as sugar. The next minute, they fly into an uncontrollable seething rage! The narcissist loves playing mind games with you. They are clever to conceal who they are. Wherever there’s a narcissist, you can find a false mask plastered upon their face.

Up until my early forties, I didn’t realize that my own mother was a narcissist. During this time, I didn’t connect the dots. I felt perplexed. Her words, behaviors, and actions had significant discrepancies. Despite her claiming to love me, her evil actions proved otherwise.

I will never forget the evening when my daughter’s and I had dinner at my mom’s home. It was August 2006 when we finished eating a delicious meal. Following supper, my daughters ventured off to play, while I helped my mom to clean her kitchen.

As I opened the refrigerator door to place the dishes inside, I could see out of the corner of my eye a bizarre look on my mom’s face. Her expression was extreme fury. It made no logical sense. Silently, I thought, “What in the world’s going on with her?

Puzzled, I didn’t understand how she could abruptly shift from being happy to flying into a frenzy. In the blink of an eye, she went from calm to being furious. What brought this on? We were simply tidying up her kitchen. I never said or did anything to provoke her. As I closed the refrigerator door, I looked at my mother and said, “What’s wrong?

My mom charged over to me, screaming and cussing at me. Unexpectedly, she flung her hand out to slap me in the face. Before she could physically assault me, I quickly stepped back. I raised my hands in the air, blurting, “Hell no! You will not put a hand onto me.”

Promptly, I marched into the TV room, asked my girls to gather their toys, and we drove off into the night. For days after this disturbing event, I didn’t contact my mother. Something inside of me knew intuitively that she was mentally unstable. It upset me that I couldn’t trust or feel safe around my own mother. I could no longer unsee the horrifying things she said and did to me.

A week later, my mother contacted me by phone. She acted as if her Jekyll & Hyde incident didn’t happen. She behaved friendly and cheerful, inviting to take me out to lunch. She let on as if everything were rosy between us.

No matter how troublesome this situation felt, a part of me wanted to trust her. I wanted to believe that she didn’t mean to hurt me. I desperately hoped that my mom would treat me better. Over and over, I fell for her masquerade. Hook, line, and sinker!

Looking back, I now understand why it’s so hard to leave a narcissist. I now know why it’s incredibly excruciating to accept that our loved one is a narcissist. Because the truth hurts. The truth runs deep. The truth cuts like a knife. If we are not willing to accept the truth, it will hold us captive. It will keep us in bondage. And the cycle of abuse will continue on.

Myths about Mothers

Our society has a twisted sense of motherhood. They believe that all mothers are kind, tender, gentle, and loving. Unfortunately, not all women who give birth to children are a good parent. Not all women are fit to be mothers. Just because someone gave birth to you doesn’t mean they are capable of caring for you. Just because a woman had a child doesn’t necessarily equate to being safe, respectful, or healthy. NOT ALL MOTHERS CAN LOVE.

Most certainly, the narcissistic mother cannot give her child unconditional love. She’s not capable of being self-less, devoted, warm, mature, or attentive to you. Instead, everything is about her. Life revolves around meeting her unrealistic, immature needs.

She expects your undivided attention. Your admiration. Your praises. Your loyalty to her. She demands you to meet her needs no matter how ridiculous they can be.

The narcissistic mother is a lethal force to reckon with. If you don’t give her the flattery she craves, she will lash out at you like a rattlesnake. Unraveling, she has an emotional meltdown. She flies into a frenzy, shouting at you, bullying you, gaslighting you, and manipulating you. If she’s anything like my mother, she will victim-blame you with F-bombs flying!

One of the challenges adult children of narcissistic mother’s face is the myth that every mother is giving, nurturing, and gracious. Worldwide, this is a false notion and taboo topic. For many adult children, they are scolded by our society who chides, “But it’s your MOTHER!

Despite the fact that we’ve spent a lifetime suffering chronic mental abuse, rejection, criticisms, and scapegoating by our mothers, most people don’t believe us, don’t understand us, nor have they personally experienced narcissistic abuse by their mothers.

No doubt, this is what keeps us silent for decades. We become isolated and alone. We are blamed for our mother’s neglect and abuse. People refuse to believe that mothers can be toxic. We don’t discuss it because we grow weary of naysayers accusing us of being ‘bad people,’ that we ‘imagined it,’ or we ‘must honor thy parent.’

One of the trademarks of a narcissistic parent is they have a limited capacity to feel empathy. Most don’t feel empathic at all. They don’t care about how their children feel, nor do they care about their kid’s basic needs, such as nutrition, shelter, clothing, medicine, healthcare, appropriate education, and safety.

Narcissistic mothers are only concerned with how the rest of society views them. All eyes must be on them; not on their children. Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, a licensed therapist and expert on codependency, sums up the facts of a narcissistic mother. This applies to narcissistic fathers, too.

On, Lancer states, “Our mother is our first love. She is our introduction to life and to ourselves. She is our lifeline to security. We initially learn about ourselves and our world through interactions with her. We naturally long for her physical and emotional sustenance, her touch, her smile, and her protection. Her empathetic reflection of our feelings, wants, and needs informs us who we are and that we have value. A narcissistic mother who cannot empathize damages her children’s healthy psychological development. Like Narcissus in the Greek myth, she sees only a reflection of herself. There is no boundary of separateness between her and her children, whom she cannot see as unique individuals worthy of love. Symptoms of narcissism that make up narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) vary in severity, but they inevitably compromise a narcissist’s ability to parent.

Recovering from the trauma inflicted by our narcissistic mother (or father/spouse/partner) takes time and effort. For some, it can take decades to understand, process, and unpack it. Healing isn’t a marathon. Rather, it’s a daily journey. We gain more insight. We educate ourselves. We process our painful abuse. We know that we are worthy of being loved, respected, and cared for. Signs You Have a Narcissistic Mother: (This applies to most narcissistic relationships.)

1. The Narcissistic Mother Lack’s Boundaries – Whether you are a man or woman, your mother does not respect you, nor your boundaries. At the drop of a hat, she expects you to stop everything and come to her rescue. Even if you are at work. She will publicly criticize you, harshly judge you, and humiliate you on purpose. If you go grey rock or no contact with her, she will disregard it and trample all over your clear boundaries. She will repeatedly contact you by phone, mail, text messages, social media, and/or use other people to gain access to you.

2. The Narcissistic Mother is Emotionally Unavailable – Through your childhood to your adulthood, your mom is not emotionally available for you. She may have been physically present, yet she was cold, distant, or distracted by her own life. Despite your yearning for her comfort, attention, and affection, she is aloof. When you may have gone to her for advice, to talk about your troubles, or concerns, she harshly scolded you for being difficult. She may have hissed, “Get over it! Stop talking about it.” You’ve come to realize that something is vitally missing from your relationship with her.

3. The Narcissistic Mother is overly Controlling – Your mother controls you, controls how you look, what you wear, what you say, what you believe, your health, your emotional wellbeing, how you decorate your own home, the job you have, what you eat, and how you live your life. She will make extreme attempts to control not only you, but also your intimate partner, spouse, children, grandchildren, friends, and even your pets. No matter what you choose, what you say, or what you do, she will undermine you. When your mom can no longer control you, she will try to control how other’s see you and what they think about you. This goes hand in hand with her manipulative tactics in triangulating each of your relationships. She aims to destroy you and your relationships with other people, including your own siblings, parent, children, spouse, and/or intimate partner.

4. The Narcissistic Mother Dumps Toxic Shame onto Her Children – According to, “Toxic shame is a feeling that you’re worthless. It happens when other people treat you poorly and you turn that treatment into a belief about yourself. You’re most vulnerable to this type of poor treatment during childhood or as a teen. When you feel toxic shame, you see yourself as useless or, at best, not as good as others.” Your mom may have used guilt tactics, stonewalling, manipulation, and projection to dump toxic shame onto you. The false guilt tells you, “What you did is wrong. You are a bad person.If you were raised as child by a narcissistic mom, you may have spent a lifetime being mistreated and shamed for things that you never did. Toxic shame is a result of being told you are not enough. You may feel worthless and unlovable.

5. The Narcissistic Mother is Self-Absorbed – Whether you are young or old, your mom may have been self-involved. She thinks life revolves around her. She may have not attended your PTA meetings when you were in school. She may not have showed up for anything pertaining to your educational pursuits, including when you graduated from high school or college. My own mom skipped my sister’s high school graduation. Instead, she stayed home and became intoxicated with alcohol. When I graduated from beauty school and medical school, my mother refused to attend my special events. During my childhood and teen years, my mom spent most of her time at work, with her friends, bar hopping, and jumping into one destructive relationship after another. I spent my childhood unsupervised and neglected by my mother. In your case, your mother may be a workaholic, a shopaholic, an alcoholic, a pill popper, or consumed in her life. Your mother’s motto may be, “It’s my way or the highway!

6. The Narcissistic Mother is Highly Competitive – Due to her insecurities, intense need for praise, and her lack of self-esteem, your mother will compete with you. She will try to outdo you. She will compete with your appearance. She may compete to her long list of admirers with you, accusing you of not being “slim enough, pretty enough, smart enough, or handsome enough.” She can compete with you in the workplace, with money, materialism, and with objects, such as her car, home, jewelry, and her high-end designer fashion to boost her inflated ego. In my case, my mom became furious when I started growing my author and speaker platform. Following my public speaking event in 2018, which was the hallmark of my speaking career earning excellent income, my mom blasted nasty remarks to me. She acted ticked off that my career was going well. She complained, “When will you get a REAL job?” This resulted in her hurting me for my awesome accomplishments. She intentionally excluded me from family functions. She gossiped to my siblings about me. And she called me on the phone screaming profanities.

The trauma recovery with a narcissistic mother (or father) is not an easy one. There may be bumps in the road. You may have grown up feeling rejected, ostracized, or condemned. You may have moments when your inner critic screamed awful words to you.

Essentially, healing means you must release codependent relationships with toxic folks. It starts by identifying and understanding the shameful messages and beliefs that were transferred from the perpetrators to you, which are false. In effort to heal your mother wound (or father wound), it requires you to replace the negative, internalized messages to be transformed into positive self-talk that is kind, loving, nurturing, and respectful.

The Silver Lining

After suffering years of narcissistic abuse, there is a silver lining. According to Free Dictionary, “A silver lining is the potential for something positive or beneficial to result from a negative situation.

Here is our silver lining… One day, we wake up to the narcissist’s cunning masquerade. We watch their fake mask slip off their face. Everything becomes crystal clear. We see right through their phony disguise.

To anyone who’s dealt with the pain and torment of a narcissist, a silver lining is a sign of hope.

Hope that someday you can break free from the abuse. Hope to rebuild a better life. Hope to find comfort and peace within. Hope to recover from your trauma. Hope to embrace a brighter future.

We can no longer unsee their hideous charade. We accept how lethal a malignant narcissist is. We actively set healthy boundaries. We walk away from hurtful relationships. Like the Phoenix, we rise above the fiery ashes. We stand up, dust ourselves off, and march forward.

For those interested in reading my book, Soul Rescue, here is the link on Amazon.

Soul Rescue Description: Trauma is soul crushing. It pierces the heart. Transparently, Dana Arcuri bares her soul to support other abuse survivors. Together, they link arms as they say, “Me too.” Her true crime story is sprinkled with suspense, drama, and romance. Her gripping message shares unspeakable things that she's suffered. Child abuse. A dysfunctional family. Sexual assaults. The toll of compounded trauma, including Fibromyalgia, wicked drug withdrawals, a near death nightmare, and Complex PTSD. Bravely, Dana tells her real, raw story. For anyone battling deep wounds, she hears your soul cry. She gives a powerful voice to the voiceless and hope to the hopeless. She empowers you to courageously release and heal your trauma. Dana's captivating memoir will help you to learn: • You are not alone. • The abuse was not your fault. • Your story matters. • You deserve to heal.

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