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Why I Believe the Narcissist's Enablers Are Also Guilty

Updated on April 12, 2017
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In my personal experience with narcissistic abuse, I've found that education is my best weapon.

What is Narcissism?

Malignant narcissism is a personality disorder, characterized by a flagrant disregard for the rights of others. Narcissistic individuals abuse those around them. In a group setting, such as an office, they typically select one person at a time for an extreme and intense form of emotional warfare. Social scientists call this "narcissistic abuse."

They are consummate and skillful liars. By spreading false stories about their target, they are able to win people to their camp. One characteristic of this personality disorder is apparent lack of conscience or remorse. Narcissists also have a difficult time with accountability — if they are confronted about their behavior, they will generally fly into a rage.

Psychologists believe that narcissism is a permanent, incurable condition.

The Role of the Enablers

There'd be no such thing as narcissistic abuse if it weren't for the enablers. These are the folks who sit on the sidelines and watch someone else being whipped. They could step in and demand that it stop. They have the power to do so. All it takes is one or two courageous souls to say, "No, this is not okay."

For various reasons, however, enablers elect to remain "neutral."

The narcissist depends upon these weak-willed comrades. Abusing someone isn't any fun if it's only a party of two. With a crowd, there's unlimited potential for drama. The narcissist can pull a lot more strings that way.

If it were just the abuser and her target, it wouldn't be worth it to carry out a full-fledged hate campaign. So, the narcissist works to get others to turn on the target. The collective betrayal, which comes from the camp of these enablers, is even more devastating than the primary source of abuse.

Targets—especially if this happens at work or in a social setting—watch as the people they thought were their friends slink away as the battle intensifies.

Not taking a stand to stop someone from being hurt doesn't absolve you of guilt. On the contrary, you become an active participant, whether you consider yourself one or not.

Some enablers even take it a step beyond, by switching from idling in neutral to all-out support of the morally disordered person. They may even turn into "flying monkeys" who carry out small attacks in order to stay on the bully's good side.

Enablers are Not Innocent

Narcissistic enablers are guilty
Narcissistic enablers are guilty | Source

Why People Become Enablers

  • Most enablers likely act out of weakness rather than malice. However, this doesn't excuse them. That's because enablers have a lot of power. The abuser relies upon them not to back up the target. Before any attacks begin, a morally disordered person will carefully plan the battle. This can take months to even years before direct hits are launched.
  • Warfare begins only if it's clear that there's an excellent chance of decimating a target. If there's a solid support system, the abuser won't make a move. This means the enablers are the variable, which can either make or break a plan. The narcissist knows this, which is why so much effort is put into creating chaos and confusion. This makes it easier for the enablers to rationalize their position. They may even begin to believe the target is getting the treatment she deserves, and that she did something to warrant the narcissist's extreme reaction.

Motivated by Self Interest

Enablers are guided by self interest. So, they choose not to help the victim.

  • In a social setting, such as in a neighborhood full of young mothers, a woman might worry about her own social standing. She doesn't want to be the next victim. She also wants to ensure her children aren't ostracized.
  • Narcissists are serial abusers. Once they eliminate one person, they find someone else to kick around. This is the unspoken threat that keeps enablers in line. The fear of ending up as a target is palpable and overriding.

Onlookers are Afraid of the Bully

Enablers are like blind sheep.
Enablers are like blind sheep. | Source

In the Workplace

A lot of emotional abuse among adults takes place at work. It seems as if every office now has a resident bully. Bully behavior is what narcissists excel at. Undoubtedly, a lot of these folks suffer from malignant narcissism, or a related personality disorder. Here is how it carries out:

  • The target receives no help. When an attack is carried out at work, it's a very rare individual who'll risk their job to defend a target. However, this is understandable considering that livelihoods are at stake. Although we are still called to do the right thing, putting up resistance could get you into trouble, while not doing anything can also be hazardous to your job.
  • The target ends up leaving. Workplace bullies attack with the aim of driving their target into the unemployment line. Usually they succeed. About 75 percent of the time, someone who's bullied at work moves on. This happens either because they are fired, due to trumped up charges, or they voluntarily resign.
  • Then, the attacker moves on to the next. Workplace bullies operate on a similar principle as serial killers — they are angry, bloodthirsty creatures who need fresh prey. Once the target leaves, they start hunting for another. This person is often chosen from their pool of enablers. In an especially ironic twist, a "flying monkey" may even find herself on the receiving end of a narcissist's wrath.

Narcissists are Seething with Rage

Enablers empower the narcissist.
Enablers empower the narcissist. | Source

Why People Fall for the Lies

Some enablers don't help because they have swallowed the stories concocted by the narcissist. But this doesn't entirely let them off the hook, because we're not supposed to listen to gossip in the first place. If someone is painted in an unflattering light, we should stop the conversation and insert a kind word on that person's behalf. It appears as if an enabler neglects this important step. Instead, they listen to the falsehoods being spread.

The fact that some people believe these tales says little about your character, but volumes about theirs. First, because they listen to gossip, they encourage this vice. They provide a comfortable ear for the tale-bearer. They also suspend their ability to think critically, and to form their own opinions about someone. This is why enablers are not so innocent. They've made a choice to support the abuse, even if they don't see it that way.

In my personal experience with narcissistic abuse, I've found that education is my best weapon. This is why I often recommend that targets read all they can about this disorder. The book Narcissists Exposed is an excellent introduction to the warped mind of a malicious personality. It clues you in to the game played by disordered people. Once you understand how they operate, you're not nearly as vulnerable to their attacks. After a while, with proper distance, it may even become amusing.

Suggested Alternative Behavior

Stand by the Target
Confront the Perpetrator
End the Gossip
Refusing to go along with the plan. If someone is mistreated or excluded, a true friend will work to rectify the situation.
Let a bully know that his/her bad behavior hasn't gone unnoticed should help reign in the abuse. Bullies rely upon lack of social sanctions.
Refuting the lies you hear frees you from the compromising position of being an enabler.
 
 
 
 
 
 

How to Support the Target

Targets often make the mistake the thinking that the enablers are their friends. However, true friends won't tolerate their buddy being mistreated. They will find a way to defend them, even if it means they take a personal risk. It's understandable that a workplace colleague wants to protect his or her position.

There are still ways to support a friend who's under fire:

  • You can walk away, or issue a strong defensive statement, when the trash talk begins. This sends a loud message that you're not going along with the program.
  • Or, if everyone is going out for drinks after work, and the target doesn't receive an invitation, a true friend will also decline. Anything else means lending your acceptance.

An Explanation of Workplace Bullying

A Painful Reality

If you're a target, it's a painful realization that the abuse kicked into high gear only with the help of enablers, some of whom may even have stooped so low as to deliver a few blows themselves.

Remember, their behavior is not a reflection of your worth as a person. Instead, they chose the path of least resistance, which underscores the fact they don't have much integrity. Now, they need to watch their own backs because they could be next.

A personal note: I am not a licensed mental health professional. I learned about malignant narcissism through first-hand experience.

Comments

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  • profile image

    Gsquesk 8 months ago

    Sadly, I work for a narcascitict entrepreneur who is out if the office much of the time attending to another business venture. She has hired a grossly narcascitic , vulgar bully as her internal conduit of information. I have expressed my concern over this bully's vulgar behavior which is totally inappropriate anywhere let alone in a business environment to my immediate supervisor who is the COO of the business. It has become obvious that this has been reported to the bully becasue now I am on the receiving end of her bad behavior. I haven't called her directly on any of it but that day is coming. I can't afford to lose the position but at some point my patience will run out.

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    Edith Hellyer Felker 9 months ago

    You hit the nail on the head...I am suffering repeated abuse spanning 40 years. Somebody help me. I suffered chronic and acute carbon monoxide poisoning and suffered brain damage, was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, had crystals in my blood, had half of my nipple necrose, had a double mastectomy performed on me without my permission, had my blood pressure swing wildly during surgery, had my body double in size after surgery at Scripps La Jolla (and these doctors are EXCELLENT!), was deprived of pain medication after vision surgery and cried all night long rubbing salt into the wound, had my reputation demolished, had our finances ruined, had family members turned against me, had pets and chickens poisoned or killed, was starved nearly to death (they claimed it was everything from AIDS to bulimia, but they did it to me) and this is just a little bit of what they did to me.

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    Chrissy 9 months ago

    Great article. Makes sense of a recent unpleasant business experience. I'll be watching to see which enabler becomes the next victim - I've a firm idea who it'll be. Now I'm aware of this type of behaviour I'm pretty sure I can spot similar types/situations. Sad that we have to stand back & be guarded rather than trust first impressions; but life's too short to waste on these self absorbed characters - or their weak "friends/colleagues". The saying "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" certainly rings true in my case. Education & awareness has to be the way forward - I'll be spreading the word!

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    10 months ago

    I was bullied at school by a narcissist, she had her flying monkeys and enablers after primary school she transferred the abuse to secondary school where she ensured that the abuse would continue by destroying my reputation with so many enablers. my home life was dysfunctional so I had no support system to fall back on and not fitting in school made the abuse and suffering worse, If karma exists this narcissist has suffered a horrific death for what she did to me. For some reason throughout my life I have always come across narcissists . My present narcissist is my mil she has been emotionally abusive towards me, my husband the golden child enabler and also has narcissistic tendencies. The last two jobs I had I left because the bosses were workplace bullies and narcissists treating all their employees like shit. As a result from all my dealings with these demons I now suffer from PTSD and I have told I also have mild cerebral atrophy. As far as my marriage is concerned It's been so hard with a narcissistic mil and a golden child mamas boy very bad. I have been stuck for nearly 30 years I just don't have any money to get out. I feel I will probably get a illness soon and die. Sometimes I wish I did die but I love my now adult children so much to even contemplate suicide. I can't get a job I'm too old for school and I am wallowing in severe depression because I am I so much pain.

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    Janet 12 months ago

    Just wanted to say keep posting and thanks for the website. I was involved with a narcissist in my 20s, am now 69. There wasn't much information about them in those days and its taken most of my life to understand what happened to me and my two sons. I did get him out of my life after about four years because I realised he only cared for himself and not us. Then the stuff happened where he lied about me and isolated me from my friends who I had though would be my support when I got him out of my life, one of whom was the father of my eldest child. We have never been able to repair that relationship. Thankfully I had a very supportive mother who helped us through. Despite trying a few times I have never been able to make a relationship work and my sons don't really understand what happened. However, while he caused a lot of destruction he did not destroy us and we have gone on to life unconventional interesting lives. It is good to know that the information is now out there now.

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    Claudia 12 months ago

    It seems to me by my experience that sometimes the Narcissist's Family Members can easily become Enablers of their behavior. I think that this is because since they are Family, they cannot just leave and get away from the Narcissist and so they feel that they have to just go along with everything, in order to keep themselves safe.

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    ologsinquito 15 months ago from USA

    Hi Misfit Chick, I totally agree that narcissists are probably very miserable inside and that they need to heal from a disorder where they try to solve their own problems, and feelings of emptiness, by hurting others. Thanks for reading.

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    ologsinquito 16 months ago from USA

    Hi lone female and Beth, thank you so much for reading. Lone female, I hope you can find new employment. I am so sorry this is happening. Unfortunately, most people do not have the integrity to stand up to a workplace bully. They are either enamored with him, do not know what is going on or choose to ignore what is happening, hoping it's an isolated case. There's also the underlying fear that they'll be next. They might be.

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    BethSeyah 17 months ago

    As an adult child if a narcissistic mother, I have struggled with coming to terms with my father's role in my abuse. As the scapegoat child, I was physically, mentally and emotionally abused by my parents. My father did abuse me, and I believe he did this with mother because of the chaos my mother created in the home. My siblings were encouraged to make fun of me on a regular basis. Although not healthy, I am certain their participated spared them from the physical abuse I endured.

    I do believe my father is an enabler and not a narcissist. I have gone no contact with my mother because of her ongoing verbal abuse throughout my adulthood. She will have no part of me having a relationship with my father. At times, when I miss my dad, my husband reminds me that he is also guilty of abuse. Regardless, it still hurts not to see him.

    Thank you for your article. It helps me to understand my dad's role in my abuse.

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    lone female 17 months ago

    I have been the victim of workplace mobbing. I am employed by a large factory with approx. 2500 employees. Out of that I am one of only 30 female workers. I work with between 40 to 70 coworkers in which 95% of the time I am the only female on shift. One of the managers never took me seriously, causing him to get pulled in for disaplineary meetings and by not listening to me caused the company millions. After the fact he started spreading malicious rumors about me behind my back. Causing who I thought were my friends at work to join in and believe the lies that were being spread. Even though I've known these ppl for years they still believed and joined in with the bullying. I feel as if I am being forced out of a very well paying job on account of me doing my job and others not doing their own. The stress has gotten so bad I am now suffering from ptsd and numerous physical symptoms (numbness, excruciating back/muscle/joint pain, muscle spasms, stress rash, numerous new allergies, IBS and can't forget the migraines that can last 20 days... etc. I have been battling with widespread pain for 2 years and always pushed through it seeing as most doctors I saw couldn't figure out what the problem with me. I've gone through every test that is at my disposal, yet none of them rendered any results. It's amazing to finally know what is wrong and to know it's not something even more serious. I never once would have thought all this pain and suffering I've been dealing with is due to stress, and unfortunately nothing I could have done differently would have changed the I've been treated. I was always taught sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. This is one quote I will not be passing down to my son, because words can actually be worse and leave you dead!! I'm just wondering if any others here have experienced pain caused by stress and have you found a way to manage it? I feel like I've tried everything I can. :(

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    ologsinquito 17 months ago from USA

    Hi Sarah, sorry you've been through this. Life will be much better going forward, trust me. Just surround yourself with goodness.

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    ologsinquito 18 months ago from USA

    Hi Mary, thank you so much for reading. It sounds as if you've experienced this as well.

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    Mary 18 months ago

    Wonderful article!

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    ologsinquito 19 months ago from USA

    Hi Sally, these are my own thoughts exactly. So few people have the integrity to stand up to a bully. In a group setting, it would take just one or two strong friends and it would all stop. I know what you mean when you say this can only happen when no one helps. Thank you so much for reading.

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    ologsinquito 19 months ago from USA

    Hi GregH, thank you for reading. Your store is a good example of why more light needs to be shed upon females who have no regard for others. We need to bust the myth that all females are nurturing, so men and women can recognize the signs of this disorder and run in the other direction, before a romantic or a platonic relationship becomes too involved. I wish you the best of luck.

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    ologsinquito 19 months ago from USA

    Hi Theresa, I am so sorry to hear about this, and how you most likley had a terrible time growing up. Narcissists are extremely divisive. If they weren't, people could get together and compare notes. I'm convinced that the best thing we can do is to educate ourselves about this disorder, so we can spot it in future relationships. Then we need to decide how much distance we need. We won't heal ourselves unless we forgive. God Bless you.

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    ologsinquito 19 months ago from USA

    Leslie, thank you so much for reading. I hope to help others. Jacklee, maybe I can do that. My first goal is to get this featured again.

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    ologsinquito 19 months ago from USA

    Kelly, I don't know what to say except maybe evaluate the relationship with your boyfriend, and decide if this is what you want, because this woman is going to be a part of your life, for what sounds like a long time. She's not going to go away and she's not going to change. She's part of the package. If things are this difficult now, they will only get more difficult later. This might not be what you want to hear, but I have to be honest. Best wishes.

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    ologsinquito 22 months ago from USA

    Hi Karli, thank you so much for reading. It is miserable dealing with a malignant, malicious narcissist. But it also helps you to better appreciate all the good people out there.

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    ologsinquito 23 months ago from USA

    I will pray for your daughter. I'm so sorry to hear about this. We are living in a terribly troubled world right now.

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    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi FreeSpirit, I couldn't agree more, which is why I believe the targets who pray need to pray for these pathetic adult bullies and their weak-willed enablers.

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    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Becki, a clear conscience is priceless. In the long run, the narcs only hurt themselves. The enablers have very weak character and, oftentimes, issues of their own. Sorry this has happened to you.

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    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Jenn, thanks for reading.

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    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Mr. John, this disorder does seem to becoming more prevalent. What a great idea for training in the workplace, because a toxic work environment is very costly to the company.

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    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Shelly, thanks so much for reading. Believe it or not, many blessings have come from the experience.

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    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    I've also read that book and I agree that it is a real eye opened. Thanks again for reading this.

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    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Digital, I am so sorry to hear about this. It appears as if malignant and troubled personalities gravitate toward volunteer groups and churches. (I'm not saying this to discourage anyone from going to church, as I go myself, but to avoid becoming too involved, and to make sure you don't "trample" on the territory they've marked out for themselves.)

    Of course no one is going to believe you, because the bully has them in his or her pocket. Once something like this happens, the best bet may be to move on and find a place where your talents are appreciated. Good luck.

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    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Teaches12345, thanks so much for reading.

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    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi Brooke, thanks for reading. I'm of the mind that increased awareness may possibly help curb this plague.

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    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi Sam, you've raised an excellent point. When I write about my own experience with malignant narcissist, whom I met at church, I realize that some her her enablers also had personality disorders. These folks definitely do work in packs, and it does get quite toxic. I'm sorry you had the experience. It's an absolute nightmare while you're in the midst of it. Thanks for reading.

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    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi Alicia and MsDora, thanks so much for reading. It's quite alright about the personal experience because it was a lesson I had to learn, and, now, hopefully I can help others.

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    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi grand old lady, thanks so much for reading. I also believe they are oftentimes fooled, but weak nonetheless.

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    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi FlourishAnyway, a true friend like the one who didn't attend is a treasure. These people are rare, and priceless. It sounds as if that one person at your company had more integrity than the others. What a sad story, and how pathetic that the managers went along with it, and that no one could see through the childishness of the "certain people" clause. But you can bank on the fact that this whole clique eventually dissolved.

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    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi Eric, I know you're not an enabler. I can tell because you are not afraid to say whatever's on your mind.

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    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi suzette, thanks so much for reading and for the support.