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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Dimitrion, LCSW, CST

A Perpetual Storm: The Narcissistic Hurricane Effect



The narcissistic personality style is often stereotyped and misunderstood. In pop-psychology, someone who is considered a narcissist is often classified as self-involved, critical of others, and attention seeking. While these basic descriptions carry some truth, as mentioned elsewhere on my website, true narcissism is much more insidious than initially meets the eye. This article will touch briefly on what I like to call the narcissistic hurricane effect.

According to meteorology, a hurricane formation includes: a) Rain bands that spin out from the center of the hurricane, b) The eyewall, where the winds and rain are the strongest, and c) The calm eye of the storm (nationalgeographic.org). This description of a hurricane’s formation can easily be overlayed with the predictably unpredictable whirlwind that is narcissistic abuse.

 

The Narcissistic Hurricane Effect

 

Phase 1: The Calm Before the Storm

This is the phase in relationship where all is relatively well. The narcissist has yet to show their true colors, instead biding for your affection with praise, care, attention, thoughtful gestures, and superficial attunement to your thoughts, feelings, and desires.

Using our hurricane metaphor, we’re not wondering if a storm will happen because the gorgeous weather in the present-moment feels safe, warm, and inviting. We love soaking up the sun and exploring the lushness of nature. It’s relaxing, yet exciting!


There’s no need to bring a rain jacket…right?


…Wrong!

 

Phase 2: First Signs of Rain & Wind

It might start with a jab or two of criticism, maybe a twinge of unwarranted jealousy. Their once cheery mood now shifts like the wind from warm to cold. At times they feel more distant, and less connected. You make bids for affection, only to be brushed off or invalidated. Then the wind subsides, and rays of affection are briefly cast your way. The relational warmth of connection keeps your doubt and increasing hypervigilance at bay, but only momentarily.

 

Phase 3: Torrential Downpour – Part 1

The longer you remain in relationship with the narcissistic other, the more consistent and heavier the rains become. Thunder and treacherous winds occupy the sky. Their vacillating temperament and harsh-bordering-cruel treatment toward you is painful and confusing. This doesn’t feel like the person you thought you knew. They gaslight and manipulate you into questioning your sense of reality. They can treat you with little empathy or regard yet expect you to be attuned to their every want, need, and desire. Their feelings are precious while yours are irrelevant and often used against you. The storm has arrived in full force but is only visible to you.

 

Phase 4: The Clam Eye of the Storm

Just as you can bare the experience no longer, the clouds part and the sun breaks through. The charisma and affection that seemed lost to the wind has returned and stronger than ever. They apologize and express remorse for their actions, sentiments that you will soon find out are hollow. You take a breath and give yourself permission to release the tension pent up from the storm.

 

Phase 5: Torrential Downpour – Part 2

Just as you begin to feel safe again, the storm strikes in full force as if it never left. You get swept back into feelings of doubt, confusion, and anxious hypervigilance. The bracing returns as you ready yourself for more blows to your self-esteem and sense of reality.

 

Does the Storm Ever End?


Unfortunately in narcissistic relationships the end of a storm cycle often means the beginning of a new one. Like hurricanes, each cycle is different. Phases can blend into one another and occur at varying intensities and for varying durations. Often times superficial remorse, false promises, and spontaneous expressions of affection are the narcissist’s ways of luring the other back into relationship. Once the narcissist has reclaimed a sense of control over the relationship, they pull off the false mask of empathy and affection, revealing their true colors…another storm makes landfall.  

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