Because "Narcissist" and "Narcisstic Cycle of Abuse" is a little challenging to say (and spell), I use the term "Spindlers" instead. I use the term "Spindling" because Spindlers shamelessly try to wind up the emotions and livelihoods of others to control them as "objects" instead of nurturing them as living people with lives full of potential. (1) (2)
Everything a Spindler does is to draw the victim in for torture/control. EVERYTHING. Make no mistake. It's all about the cycle of: abuse-draw back in-control-abuse-draw back in....Knowing about this cycle can be like having a crystal ball.
As part of the cycle a Spindler will ignore their victims boundaries. They will attempt to invalidate their victim's feelings, pain and progress. They will project shame, guilt and blame onto their victims. They will discourage. They will distract. They will gaslight. They will mock. They will undermine. They will sabotage. They will use selective memory. They will ignore truth. They will ignore context. They will put words in their victim's mouths. They will control, minimize or eliminate a victim's finances if they can. Sometimes they will claim to be supernaturally favored and that the victim should adhere to their supernatural powers regardless off the victim's own feelings. They will do all this and worse in public or private. They have no awareness. They have no filter. They are likely psychopaths who have avoided being diagnosed and treated (or even healed). (Varying data from different emotional healthcare reports claim that as many as 200,000 people are diagnosed as psychopaths each year and not all of them pursue treatment.
To try to control their victims, a Spindler will try to attach invisible strings to them. Sometimes this is tragically minimized by others as the Spindler just playiing "mind games". One way a Spindler does this is to appear to do "nice" things to the victim or people the victim knows but the nice things always have some sort of string attached. This includes gifting. This is especially apparent during holidays and is why many victims are uncomfortable receiving a gift from anyone for anything. They are afraid of what invisible strings are attached if they accept it. Because of this fear, for many victims, it's easier to just not accept gifts from anyone. For some victims, holidays and the fear of "strings attached gifting" that comes with them can be emotionally debilitating and is why many victims seem to avoid holidays altogether. A Spindler will also attach strings to things they appear to do for the victim's family, the victim's friends (and even the victim's children) to deceptively try to control or influence these people against the victim.
Being aware of these strings is critical if the victim is also a child of the Spindler because when the Spindler attaches these strings to the basic needs the child is entitled to such as food, an abuse free home, a bed, encouragement, acknowledgement, validation, school, friends, innocent childhood experiences and more the child victim is likely to begin avoiding these things. By avoiding these things the victim is attempting to control or minimize the pain associated with the strings the Spindler attaches to them. This can happen to a child of any age.
A consequence of this ongoing, insidious, criminal level of psychological torture against the child is that in attempting to minimize or control the pain from the invisible strings the child is likely to experience and suffer from eating disorders, depression, self-harm, running away and worse. This suffering is not always visible to others.
A profound and insightful presentation by a brave female doctor who is a pioneer in researching suffering like this by child victims of abuse can be found here. A link to a movie about a victim tragically running away from everything to flee a Spindler's mind games and invisible strings can be found here.
Regardless of how visible the child's desperate attempts to survive in private or public are, Spindlers will continue to go to great lengths to superficially project that they are "perfect parents" or "perfect people". (This is one form of "virtue signaling"). Because of this it is critical to be aware that at any age (even in adulthood) the tortured child of a Spindler may be surviving these things privately but will publicly downplay or go along with the Spindler's torture out of fear of what will happen to them if they don't. Most victims, especially children, will have no idea what they are attempting to survive is really a criminal level of torture and they need to tell someone, anyone until people start listening to them and they can get help and the Spindler can eventually get treatment and guidance. This is also where "self-rescue" is validating, relieving, rewarding, profound and critical.
Without awareness and intervention, the Spindling abuse a victim is surviving may contribute to the victim maladaptively interpreting the abuse as "affection" and the victim then pursuing abusive partners, friends or even religious groups. This contributes to why in some families and culture's self-destructive Spindling behaviors can sometimes be passed on from one generation to the next.
When it comes to Spindling behavior you may identify and be concerned about, do not make the mistake of overlooking, justifying or excusing any possibility of any behavior regardless of how unbelievable it may seem. Sometimes behaviors by Spindlers are actually veiled confessions of even darker actions. Other times, a Spindler's behavior may be because of their own unhealed trauma or unacknowledged deeply personal feelings. For some Spindlers this unhealed trauma can become a self-destructive crutch as they lean on it to justify horrible things they do. For example a Spindler may say to themselves, "I had a hard life so it's okay for me to tell this lie or do this evil thing and pretend I didn't." For Spindlers caught in their own web, coming forward to their victims is the key to transformation no matter how bad the things they did were.
When you identify Spindling behavior, consider pointing out the behavior to the Spindler and inviting the Spindler to talk about it. For example, you could say to them "What you just said is a from of "invalidating", "guilting", "shaming", "projecting", "gaslighting" etc... and that is part of the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse or something known as Spindling..." If they're not willing to talk about it, that's a confirmation of the behavior. If the Spindler refuses to pursue healing for themselves then it's likely that the Spindler will attempt to provoke a reaction out of the victim that they can publicly use against the victim to justify their own actions and escape accountability once again. Don't fall for it. Remind the Spindler that pursuing healing is a strength! Not a weakness. It is a "right"! Not a "wrong". It is intelligent. Not foolish. It is rewarding, not limiting. Continue to raise awareness and take action. As transformation happens, a much brighter light begins to shine.
Sometimes it can be helpful to meet in the presence of an emotional healthcare provider where conversations can be guided and recorded during the awareness, treatment and healing processes of the behavior. Openly recording the conversations or taking notes every one can share is important because as part of their Spindling behavior Spindlers will often double back on their words, contradict themselves from one conversation to the next, deny they are doing something even as they are doing it, refuse to participate and on and on and on (kind of like a petulant toddler). Depending on the life experience of the family members, it can also be common for there to be more than one Spindler in a "family". If pursued, this healing process can eventually bring about transformative family bonding experiences. When healing is not pursued and as awareness continues about the behavior it's highly likely that the Spindler will simply begin minimizing contact with their victim(s) or move on to other victims. Sometimes, a time like this is more productive than the victim choosing to go "no contact" with the Spindler due to the unpredictable, uncomfortable challenges that can sometimes bring.
If you do meet with an emotional healthcare provider, regardless off their different costs, do not make the mistake of believing that all providers know all these things and will guide you in this healing process if you pay the most. Tragically, some providers will even excuse, justify or enable spindling behavior by suggesting that the behavior is just the way the Spindler "does things". Know without a doubt that it is not just "their way". "Spindling" is a predictable, terrifying cycle of abuse that is being identified and transformed out of humanity one Spindler at a time. (Don't worry, good therapists around the globe will still have plenty of reasons be good therapists.)
To children who may be surviving a Spindler or a Spindling culture and your options seem limited for now, continue to pursue awareness, knowledge and "self-rescue" and to share it with others. Be smart. Be safe. Talk and talk and talk to people in your own way until more than one person hears you and a plan can be developed to constructively promote healing.
Self-destructive behaviors like these exist in all cultures. As you pursue "self-rescue" and you encounter them consider asking yourself "am I making an excuse or am I making a way?"