Shifting Sands


You feel like you are trying to deal with an opponent that always seems to be one step ahead. It is like trying to tie down a vapour or stop the tide from advancing and engulfing your sand castle. No matter what you do, we always seem to have a way of squirming free, walking away and carrying on as normal. It is like trying to fight a battle with a rusty and nicked sword and one hand tied behind your back. It is akin to those dreams where you try to run but find you cannot move. You try to scream but no sound come from your throat. Every move you make appears to have been anticipated. You play a full house in poker and I produce a royal flush but where did that extra king appear from? I always have something up my sleeve. You are chasing the end of the rainbow but it always keeps shifting, just a little bit further away. You are getting nearer, closing on your goal and then it moves again. You think you have mastered the rules and then we introduce a new one which suits our purposes.

Last week we complimented the steak pie that you made. Our praise was effusive and it was a delightful hiatus in the otherwise unpleasant treatment you had been receiving. You decide to play this winning hand again and proudly place it in the centre of the table only to be met with a sigh and a roll of the eyes.

“What’s the matter? You loved the steak pie I made last week.”

“I don’t want to eat steak pie.”

“Why what’s wrong?”

“Why must there always be something wrong. I do not want steak pie.”

“But you did last week?”

“That was then and this is now.”

Cue scathing put downs and storming from the table leaving you bewildered and upset. You don’t make steak pie again only to be scolded the following week.

“What’s happened to the steak pie? Why have you stopped making it when you know that it is my favourite?”

You dress up to the nines and you are called slutty. You dress down and you are upbraided for not putting the effort in. You try to cuddle us in the night and an elbow is jabbed into your chest because you are making us too hot. Two hours later we wake you up and ask you why you stopped hugging us. We tell you that we will be in by seven and then appear at nine. You are forbidden from questioning us about this. You are not entitled to do so. We do as we please. You buy an expensive gift for our birthday and you are told that it is not as good as last year. The following year you really push the boat out to be told you have spent too much and we just wanted something simple. You re-decorate and select a rich chocolate brown. We declare it to be the wrong shade and point to a colour that looks no different. We will not let the matter rest until you have changed it. Once applied it appears the same. We declare we want to go out for dinner and you get ready only for us to decide we would rather stay in and watch sport.

Whatever you do it is always wrong, never correct, not good enough and an erroneous choice. No matter how many times you ask what we want, you still make the wrong choice. You suggest that we do it ourselves and you are accused of not caring. You confirm you will deal with it and you are a control freak who will not allow us to breathe on our own. Whatever you decide to do or say we will find a way of twisting it around so it suits us. Our logic seems entirely warped to you but to us it makes perfect sense because the only logic we adhere is that which means whatever we say is right, even when we show rank hypocrisy or we contradict ourselves. We can reason away every contradiction you point out to us and if you somehow back us into a corner then we will just accuse you of badgering us, change the subject or walk away. In our minds we win every single time.

We cast you aside telling you that you have let yourself go and we cannot be with you. You see us the next week and we are with someone less attractive than you, carrying more weight and who holds down a job less prestigious that yours. You cannot comprehend why we let you go and chose her instead, especially after what we said. You stare open-mouthed and scratch your head. To us we win again because we have acquired someone new whose fuel is better than anything you have ever provided and in addition we have got to you, so you pour out the negative fuel. If we had suddenly appeared with a supermodel instead you might talk a small degree of comfort in thinking that you could not compete with this person but do not let that think you have secured some kind of small victory. In our minds this just reaffirms that we were right to leave you and trade up.

You catch us in bed with someone else. It is not our fault. If you loved us properly we would not have to stray. You show us complete love and devotion and nobody could ever accuse you of selling us short in the bedroom. We accuse you of having too high a sex drive because you must be getting it elsewhere. If you apply reason and logic, especially towards one of our lesser brethren, then they will ignore the force of your words and instead accuse you of trying to belittle and bamboozle them with long words plucked from the dictionary and why do you always have to patronise them with such words and sentences. Whatever you choose, whatever you decide, whatever you do it will always be wrong and whatever we do will always be right. Accuse us as much as you like for being twisted, illogical and difficult and we will be in your face pointing out how you always have to try and get one over us. Black becomes white and then becomes yellow. Nothing makes sense with us but that is because it makes complete sense to us. Our approach is to gather fuel and that means we can and must do so through any means even if that does not stack up when looked at from your point of view. This warped and stretched approach allows us to achieve our aims, we confuse and bewilder you, we upset and anger you, we control you and each and every time we know that we have succeeded. Like the most deluded Minister of Propaganda we claim to have defeated you even as your tanks roll past us in the background. We see only what we want to see and we are impervious to all of your reason. We will never accept what you tell us because that does not accord with what we set out to achieve and what we must achieve. Of course this will not stop you trying. You try to defeat us as we replace your arrows with celery sticks and your sword with a stale baguette. We never fight fair. Your frustration, annoyance and inability to comprehend why we do this is what keeps you bound to us and allows us to keep on doing what we must keep on doing. Extracting fuel.

So, go ahead, build that tower, build it high with the stones that adhere to your beliefs and principles, from stone that is beautifully cut and polished, that anybody would admire and cherish, but let us see how you build that tower was the sands beneath constantly shift and alter. This is what it is to be entangled with us.

31 thoughts on “Shifting Sands

  1. wounded says:

    Thank you so much Caroline. Ok. No more apologies! And would love a cup of tea.

  2. MB says:

    “It is like trying to tie down a vapour”
    Perfect analogy HG.
    I say “It is like trying to hug smoke.”

    1. Caroline says:

      ‘squirming free’ is right.
      Trying to love a N is like trying to give a cat a bath in a small sink. The resistance to intimacy, closeness and relationship is directly proportional to your desire of and efforts to have it.
      And you end up with bleeding wounds and cat fleeing.

      1. windstorm says:

        Ha, ha! I’ve actually bathed cats in a sink and gotten scratched to pieces! I found I needed someone else to hold their feet, while I washed. It’s still hard but doable.

        Dealing with narcs is the same. You need someone else who understands the problem and is willing to stick with you and help you.

  3. Insatiable Learner says:

    A question for all former IPPS’s. Is it really this awful?

    1. windstorm says:

      I’d say yes. My exhusband never left me, but living with him was like HG described. Being constantly run down and criticized no matter what I did. My efforts, my job, my beliefs all constantly denigrated. They can only feel superior if they keep us put down.

      1. foolme1time says:

        So true Windstorm! I could of written that word for word, it’s as if we lived the same life! 😘

    2. Pale Horse says:


    3. Getting There says:

      My ex, who I would consider a Greater, didn’t do everything HG describes but he geared his tactics to what worked on me; and what maintained his image and maintained being on a pedestal above others. I am still very impacted by that life and very much act/react in a way conditioned from it. One small example is that I am scared of any type of good time/experience; I get anxious waiting for the shoe to drop and hell to begin.
      I since got involved with a possible MRN narcissist (although not sure my role to him).His tactics in manipulations, control, lies, triangulation, mean words, putting me down were so different from my ex that it lends to the doubt of narcissism but also made me think I could definitely handle his ways more – I am codependent. Even if he isn’t narcissistic, he is not the best to me – but it is a way that is still a breath of fresh air compared to being the IPPS to my ex.

    4. Melinda says:

      Yes. It was a 5 month nightmare, resulting in my going Supervova several times. Especially the sleep rape was awful. The last month was sickening to say the least.

      1. Caroline says:

        Just read this post. I ‘m so sorry to read that you were sleep raped. What a diabolical violation. I’m in process of recovering from rape while conscious, and that has made me want to die at times from the emotional pain.
        You deserved to be protected, loved and treated with respect.
        I hope you have a good counsellor/psychologist that you feel comfortable with.
        I hope you have also been able to pursue justice.

    5. K says:

      Yes, horrific.

  4. nunya says:

    Why are they so terrible?

    1. NarcAngel says:

      Because no matter how hard they try, they cant get into E club and they are not used to being denied. The motto on their members only jackets is: If you cant join them bed and beat them.

      1. Caroline says:

        E club!
        Ha ha!

  5. wounded says:

    What sickens me is I witnessed this. The panic attacks over what to wear. The confusion over unanswered messages, unanswered calls, taking the blame when things went wrong. The stories of being kicked out of bed, expected to clean.

    And I used the same bullshit lines of all the do gooders. Can I apologize on behalf of all the blind and uninformed?

    1. Caroline says:

      That’s quite enough apologising from you!
      I’m sure that you’ve over-apologised for everything.

      Now here’s a cup of tea, and then you’re coming out with us to a club to dance all night. The blind and the uninformed are going to meet us at the bar.

    2. Caroline says:

      In all seriousness, I agree Wounded.
      One day a strange man ran over my roof and jumped over my back fence, treating me to a view of plumber’s crack. I looked out the front door and saw a line of police cars pulling up for the woman next door.
      I couldn’t understand why an attractive young woman would have a deadbeat man in her life. I knew nothing about trauma bonds and dom. violence. Now I do.
      Now I’d go & give her a hug.

  6. Quasi says:

    I found this article really emotive. It is a very good piece.
    I found it emotive from a different perspective, not in regards to putting myself in the ipps’s shoes ( thankfully not my role) as I have at times.
    This time my mind stepped into the narcissists shoes in thinking that this is learnt patterns of behaviour, and that the narcissist does this to themselves too.. always shifting the goal posts, I achieved this aim, now I need to go further, to get further.. I can be more then this..

    I thought damn that is also reliving what was done to the narcissist potentially in childhood, be that at the hands of a narcissist care giver, or through abuse/ neglect and under or over validation…
    The concept that what they for is never good enough, and the goals moving and the high expectations that shift constantly.

    It made me think of an intense conversation I had with the narcisfsist I knew, he rarely spoke of his father ( sounded Like a lesser narcissist/ very violent/ explosive in reactions)
    One statement he made will remain in my memory, I remember is vividly because I felt the pain from him when he said it, it was more prominent because I remember thinking wow I can feel it, it’s a horrible pain..

    “ I just want him to be proud of me, just once”

    It broke me a little hearing him say that, because I knew that this was a goal that is not achievable, it will never be in his reach.

    ( his pity plays were notably different and easy to differentiate down the line as no emotions were felt with them)

    So this article took me to another place of contemplation, one which reminded me that what the narcissist does – was done to them.
    What the narcissist does was learnt as a defence mechanism.
    What he did was relieve the psychological manipulation and emotional neglect he endured as a child – projecting this to others, repeating it..

    He can be violent and is know for this in the town, I do not know if he was physically aggressive to his partners, he definitely preferred the cold fury methods from observation. Physical abuse was very prominent in his childhood from a toddler.

    maybe he thinks that one day it will have a different outcome, or that degrading someone else in the way that he was, will somehow cancel out what he suffered, maybe wipe it away.
    I don’t think he realises that he is reliving it and that he is his own torturer also.

    1. windstorm says:

      I agree with what you said about abuse and how abusing others is a defense method they have adapted. However, I have zero sympathy for them. Lots of people were abused and treated poorly as children. They don’t abuse others now.

      Being hurt in the past doesn’t give us an excuse for abusing others today. It’s a crappy defense method of the weak. Strong people rise above their childhood and make themselves into better people that make the world better than they found it.

      1. Quasi says:

        Hi windstorm,

        I wrote this post when I was very Tired- just re- read it and spotted all the spelling mistakes etc..

        When I read this article I thought of him, and how he is reliving his abuse by being abusive, how he has become his father. How he has copied and mimicked to become the thing he once feared and how he has no idea that this is the case. My comment was in my mind case specific to the narcissist I knew and not a generalised comment about all narcissist’s, having sympathy for them.

        I work in public services, my working day is spent with people who are recovering and rebuilding their lives, and people trying to just survive life. My day is often spent listening to their stories, their traumas, and feeling their pain.
        I do not sympathise with their abusers past or present because I can identify that their abuser was also subject to abuse.
        I advise the amazing people that I work with that there is no excuse for what they have endured, but we do discuss the links to learnt behaviour at times as many find this helpful at times. Not in approving of what has happened but as a part of acceptance ( very different to approval) and acknowledging that it is not their fault, and ultimately trying to move forward.

        I absolutely agree with you that abuse does not make all sufferers into abusers.
        My thought process is based in where you are born on the sliding scale of sensitivity (empathy) and early life experiences and attachment. I also believe it is intrinsic to what coping methods are adopted as a child and this is individual to each child.

        A hypothetical example of this could be –

        In one house hold a narcissist parent, partner and 4 children.
        Eldest child born high in sensitivity (empathy) subject to physical, and emotional abuse from narcissist parent,
        Other parent does not prevent or respond to this abuse.
        Coping mechanism developed was to try and prevent situations which she knew would raise risk of abuse. She would clean and make everything perfect, everything in its place so that the narcissist parent was less likely to rage. This empathic child absorbed it all and protected her younger siblings by taking the abuse first, by enduring the physical violence so that a younger sibling did not have to for that moment. This child’s coping mechanisms were to minimise risks by trying to please the narcissist, and also to stay out of the way where possible not to be seen, and when risks high she protected others. She is strong and her high empathy she was born with leads her to protect others she loves. She feels intensely and picks up the pain of others, she would never cause it to others.

        Second to youngest sibling born lower on the sensitivity/ empathic scale, more in the normal to low end – this child learnt how to reduce risk of abuse by watching, being observant, not hiding but watching and learning. Displaying some of the same behaviour, mimicking the narcissist parent to an extent. They numbed their already lower emotions to cope with the abuse, and felt little for their siblings, their coping mechanism was self protection driven.
        Same abuse different coping mechanisms. One child grows up with high levels of empathy and no ability or intent to hurt or abuse anyone. But with high anxiety and difficult emotional regulation.
        One child grows up having learnt a defence coping mechanism lead in self protection and adopts the same behaviour and abusive approach- they become a narcissist also.

        I agree with you that it takes strength for people to rise above their childhood experiences, but I recognise that this is also related to what mechanisms they developed when they were children. Which path was taken – copy ? Or avoid/please the abuser. ( generic examples)

        I guess my comment may read as sympathetic for the narcissist, this may be the case as I was in emotional mind at the time, and putting myself in his shoes/his perspective for a minute. My comment was relating to my thoughts of him, what he lived though he is reliving in a never ending Groundhog Day. Although I do not believe he is physically abusive as his lesser father was. He is a mid range victim narcissist and is more about cold fury and manipulation keeping within his “good guy” facade to the rest of the world..

        I think my sympathy for this specific narcissist comes from knowing him how I could and caring for him. It also comes from my experience of a very different childhood and knowing what it feels like to have the things that he seeks from a parent that he will never get. As a mid ranger he is clueless as to what he is and why he feels as he does or acts as he does, he just knows that he needs to do certain things to lull the painful emptiness and survive.

        My comment was trying to depict my thoughts on the fact that the narcissist becomes what they are created to be, but they did not choose this with knowing, they didn’t know that the defence mechanism that they were developing as a child was a bad option longer term, they just knew they had to do something to cope in that moment. Not many people who have become a narcissist know what this is, and the ones that do are unlikey to realise this as a child, but more like early adulthood if at all.

        The narcissist I knew suffered bad reality gaps, and then yes i sympathied with him as he felt pain and grief for the things that others take for granted. Having a parent love and nurture, and be proud of them. He is human and I felt his pain in these moments, so for him yes I felt sympathy. Do I approve of his abuse of others including me – no.

        I do not approve it but I have accepted it, as for me personally, in my situation as a secondary source and not experiencing the level of abuse others did, accepting my experiences with him, and him as he is, was integral to my current journey in letting go. It is not acceptance for his benefit but for mine, for my emotional well-being, so I am not tied to him with residual resentment or unprocessed pain.
        I hope this makes sense.
        Thank you for reading my comment and for your thoughts, I agree with your words and hope that my elaboration on the meaning of my comment is helpful.

      2. Quasi says:

        Hi windstorm, I have also just thought that there is More to why my mind went to place me in my narcissists shoes when reading this article. I had seen him on the Sunday before and he had made a point of touching me ( by stroking his fingers across my lower back) when walking past me.
        In the moment I did not respond or react, but of course the possible aim of putting himself in my head again was effective.
        As I reflected on it and thought of him again. So when the poll was published my mind was already primed to think of him, and this article appeared to Be a continuation of this.

        On other occasions I have read articles such as this and have put muself in the ipps’s shoes as the person this interaction is aimed at in the narcissists world.

        But on this occasion it went to him as I perceived that the statements being said to the ipps were statements that the narcissist heard, and what he learnt to be effective, as they we’re effective on him; which took my mind to abuse he suffered. Which reminded me of the conversations we had about his father and so on..
        A nexus of memories catapulted to the fore front of my mind , which lead to the expression in my comment.

        Which I concluded with an observation that the narcissist his own torturer now, he continues his own abuse to himself also, as he is reliving and repeating what he Learnt as child.

        Apologies for the over explanation. I think it helps me a great deal to look at This as I can see more and understand more about myself and why I express myself in this way at times.

        I also respect you very much and like conversations with you about different perspectives. Thank you again.

        1. windstorm says:

          I enjoy talking with you, too and love your cheery outlook!

          I guess when it comes to narcs I’m more jaded and cynical. I know my parents and exhusband had rough childhoods and their fathers were narcs. I feel sympathy for them, but that does not excuse them for making my life growing up and marriage a living hell. As adults we must all take responsibility for our own lives and behavior.

          Maybe one reason I feel so strongly about this is because it was my mothers response to any complaint i made about my childhood, “you’re a grown woman. It’s time you stopped blaming your problems on what happened to you as a child. Grow up and take responsibility for your life!”
          That advice should apply to all the narcs, too. And part of that responsibility is our behavior to our families and society.

          Don’t let my difference of opinion bother you and certainly nothing you say ever bothers me. We learn the most by talking to people with different opinions to our own. Considering differing viewpoints is a big part of what makes us grow as people. ❤️

          1. Quasi says:

            Thank you windstorm, your comment did not bother me, it caused me to look at my comment and think about what I meant with my words – this is a good thing, and I really value this in our conversations. As I have said before you have never made me feel bad for what I write, you just rightly challenge some elements with a different perspective or ask for an expansion of my view point. I value this a great deal, as you say this is how we learn and grow as people.
            I think I over explain a little with you as I regard you highly and like to know that your understand the meaning in my words and perspective, as I do yours.
            I think we do this quite well, if not without brevity in my part.

            I can absolutely see why my comment caused a discomfort for you in the memory of your mother’s words. I totally agree that narcissists are responsible for their actions, and others should not accept responsibility for what they do, just because their defence mechanism prevents them from taking accountability in their perspective.
            I guess my overall view was one of acceptance, of who he is and understanding why he is who he is. But without approving of what he does or taking any responsibility for it.
            I will always take responsibility for me and my actions, which are many but not his.

            Thank you so much windstorm. I appreciate your words and everything that I feel I have learned from you.

        2. SMH says:

          Hi again Quasi, I just read your post about how yours touched you. That is a direct hoover if I ever saw one! It must have been very startling and could be lodged in your head for a very long time. I hope you got past it.

          You made me really think about the narc’s perspective and childhood abuse. One of my jokey pet names for mine was ‘superhuman’ because he was always travelling and working in ways that I could never tolerate for myself. He was chuffed and reacted as if someone had told him he was a loser. I thought maybe it was IPPS but maybe it was his parents. It seemed he was beating himself up all the time as well as the people around him who loved him or wanted the best for him – as you say, his own abuser now.

          Much later I ‘gave him permission’ to do something different because his job was taking everything out of him. During my escape I said you’ve given IPPS and the kids everything. It’s your turn now. I even lightly went through expenses with him – you can do this!!! A few weeks later, to my shock, he suddenly quit his job and turned to me for support. I wasn’t even sure he had yet told IPPS. I said I was proud of him and he said that meant a lot to him.

          I think he listened to me and confided in me in his own way. He just didn’t want me to know he was at all dependent. I wanted to support him and for him to be happy. I didn’t need to be IPSS to want that for him.

          It’s all just too sad when you think about how broken these people are, which you can do if you don’t personalize it too much.

          1. Quasi says:

            Thanks lovely,
            Oh yes I was fine, but it did prove effective in putting him back in my head for a time, and my emotional mind has been more prominent over the last couple of weeks also.
            I think you are spot on SMH, you gave him a sincere caring validation that was probably not common in his upbringing.
            At that time you were supporting him to do something for him, so I’m sure he would have liked this time period very much so.

            I agree with the ability to see more when your not personalising it, you can step back and see more angles, including the underlying motivations and understanding the creation of the construct and facade and why it’s so intrinsically important to them.

    2. SMH says:


      I totally get this too!! And that is a really sad and telling comment about wanting to make his dad proud. My MR talked about everyone in his family except his parents – sister uber controlling, brother caught having a four year affair, nieces, nephews, kids, etc. When I escaped and went supernova, I said what happened to you in your childhood? Are you just like your father? (I was not being kind.) Then I saw a few pics of MR’s father and bingo – just like my narc, down to the poses and accessories. I am sure not only did MR’s father do a number on him, but his IPPS is probably just like my MR’s IPPS. MR’s father probably had loads of IPSS’s when they were growing up. How else would it be that both brothers are long-term cheaters? Who was their model?

      Come to think of it, my Lesser (pre MR – the one I mostly talk about here) had the same problem. His father abandoned him and his brothers when he was 12. He then abandoned his first wife and two kids when the youngest was 15. He repeated this pattern with me, though we did not have children together and he claims I abandoned him (typical L). Like father, like son. I knew his father because in his old age his father returned and made L take care of him. L hated him but took care of him anyway. When I met L, I did not know this whole story and thought it so sweet that L was taking care of dad. Dad was a narc extraordinaire who needed someone to lean on as he aged but had no one left but the sons he had abandoned. Two of them wouldn’t have anything to do with him.

      Do I feel sorry for MR? I think I do (I don’t for L because he was violent – MR was not). My father did things to me too that I can’t forgive him for but I am not a man and so my relationship with my father is different than, say, my brothers’ relationships with him. I was not socialized to ‘be a man’ and my father is not a narc, just anger management issues growing up. In many ways I think men have it way worse than women do – there is a lot more pressure on them to conform to a masculine ideal – hence the repression of ET. Women have a lot more options.

      Maybe HG’s relationship with his father rather than with his mother holds clues, though I know mum is the narc.

      Many thanks, Quasi. It really pulls together a lot of my feelings about MR. xx

      1. Quasi says:

        Hi SMH,
        Thank you for this.
        His comment was very telling, the pain with it was more so in that there was real wanting there. He essentially stated what was in the article- he was never good enough, nothing he did was ever good enough, he could never prove his worth to his father – to him this is even worse as he has no idea of what he or his father is, he could not cognitively process it, so he sits with these ruminations of never being good enough… not a nice existence..

        It sounds similar with your MR and L. Learnt patterns reliving what they experienced- but becoming the person that they probably hated.
        The narcissist I knew hated his father for what he did but desperately wanted his approval, acceptance, and any validation of worth.. he was stuck in this dual feeling for the person who was meant to love him.
        I agree with you re – repression of ET or emotional mind for a lot of male narcissists more so re – Masculinity.
        The only time I saw the mask slip ( or shutters rise up) was when he had been drinking and he could not maintain it, that is when I could see and feel his “real” pain and when I learnt the most about him and his past.
        When the mask was in place and not under influence he was as cool as they come, no emotion no problem as far as he was concerned. ( literally two different people- facade and the real)
        Thank you for your reply SMH, I like reading your comments and sharing views with you as always…

      2. Caroline says:

        Hi Lovely.
        That’s very interesting to think about male vs female socialisation in dysfunctional families. I agree, I think women have a slight advantage in that regard.
        Now I’m feeling renewed compassion for all my Ns. I’ll just feel it here though, well away from them.

  7. tigerchelle78 says:


    You owe him nothing.

    Starve his entitlement.

    Destroy his ego.

    Never let a confused man waste your time and energy.

    Let him go. Keep yourself!

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