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Energy Vampires: Emotional Sadism and the Narcissistic Relationship by Dr. Roberta Cone

Narcissists are sadistic in their rejection of others and feelings of superiority. What is a narcissist? Narcissism is a condition in which a person feels pathological self-hatred and is preoccupied with projecting a lovable image. They are obsessed with this false image and put tremendous energy into other people’s impressions of them. Because the projected image is so loveable, they effectively elicit real love from others. People’s impression of the false image feels like self-love to the narcissist. They want to be loved but are incapable of loving themselves or others. The narcissist craves admiration and will manipulate the needs and wishes of everyone to obtain it.

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When a partner falls for the “lovable” image, the narcissist acquires a sense of self through the look of love reflected in the eyes and actions of the other person. The narcissist’s need for constant attention and caretaking takes center stage as the desires of others are neglected and denied. As a relationship progresses, the narcissist will ignore you in social settings and not compliment you on anything nor celebrate your accomplishments. They genuinely don’t care about your needs and are experts at pretending they do until they gain control. Then the self-involved energy vampire punishes you for having desires because they demand that you focus all of your attention and energy on them. They suck the life force and joy out of everyone they can take hostage. They prefer your admiration and awe, but eventually, their behavior destroys any feelings of love, and they will then settle for negative attention. This makes the emotional sadist feel all-powerful and capable of any cruelty.

The narcissist slowly progresses from minimal emotional assaults to intentionally deliberate attacks. Distancing and aloofness are their favorite weapons. It doesn’t matter to them if you cry because they are not affected and do not care. They feel nothing and are not concerned about what you are feeling. The energy vampire is not interested in your character. The emotionally sadistic narcissist derives enjoyment from hurting someone. More than physical abuse, they are experts at manipulating people’s emotions until they feel broken. They intimidate their partners to prevent them from expressing criticism or disapproval of their actions and decisions. Partners and children quickly learn the triggers for temper and rage attacks that make the narcissist argumentative and hostile. Their extreme reactions are a punishment for what they perceive as their partner’s lack of consideration and sensitivity. The narcissist blames their partner for their behavior, accuses them of provoking the outbursts, and believes the partner deserves punishment for their misbehavior. Apologies, unless accompanied by requests for forgiveness, are not enough.

The fuel of the narcissist’s rage is expended mainly on bizarre verbal accusations directed at the made-up and imaginary intentions of the victim. If you question the appropriateness of the behavior, no longer mirroring admiration and submissiveness, this causes them to doubt their illusory self-esteem. You are then subjected to a period of terror where they try to hurt you for not recognizing their entitlement to your utter obedience. You will be belittled and humiliated with displays of aggression and emotional violence in countless forms. Their behavior changes from putting you on a pedestal to ultimately devaluing you as a person. The narcissist is now repulsed by you and deems you useless. These extreme contrasts between seeing you as flawless to completely unworthy make long-term relationships with the narcissist all but impossible. They will exploit you cruelly and severely. They will use you to get confirmation of the accuracy of their false superior image.

The emotional sadist’s abuse is kept secret by conditioning their partners, children, and sometimes colleagues or employees not to tell. People often find themselves emotionally involved in an intimate or employment relationship before discovering the narcissist's true nature. Their victims typically come from abusive family environments with a “don’t talk” rule. This is especially true in families with sexual abuse and alcoholism. Secrecy is a major weapon in keeping mistreatment confidential. They keep up a public façade appearing non-threatening and even generous, yet are evil and aggressive in private. The victims keep their secrets safe by constructing an explanation to make sense of the cruelty, “They just can’t deal with intimacy” or “They had a bad childhood.” The victims that were raised to not “air dirty laundry” keep silent about the abuse to family and friends. The victim is held in traumatic bondage by being convinced they are the problem and deserve to be blamed for the misconduct. By the time the victim discovers the truth, they find it difficult to leave the relationship. The emotional battering renders the wounded with feelings of helplessness and shame for not seeing through the angelic façade.

Dealing with a narcissist’s sadistic behavior is pretty dismal. Their numbers in society are great, and it is imperative that this personality disorder becomes readily identified. I have worked with countless narcissists, who have surely escaped my clinical recognition at the onset. If you have found yourself living in quiet desperation or working with an emotional and/or physically abusive narcissist, please educate yourself and others about the abuse.

Do you struggle with abusive relationships, or do you know someone who does? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.

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